Archive for the ‘Noises in the House’ Category

STORY – Public Speaking

Thursday, March 8th, 2012


When called upon to express himself in a timely manner, the rather embarrassed full-length midget of uncertain parentage came forward to the microphone in front of a quiet audience of lots and lots of people.

He stood and glanced up at the microphone. He licked his lips and they licked him back. No faces were seen through the bright hiding glare of the lights right in front of him and at the sides of him and then more lights further out, out there. But lots of people were somewhere there, beyond the lights. He heard coughs and shifting bottoms in comfortable seats.

Unaccustomed as he was to speaking in public, or, indeed, speaking at all, he launched manfully into his much rehearsed outburst, which consisted, spasmodically, of three syllables in the wrong order.

Silence greeted his immense effort.

He should have known better, in fact he did know better, but was talked out of this knowledge by someone backstage who was in it for the money.

Emptied of effort, he turned to walk off, or was it waddle off, it was hard to be exact about a full-length midget’s gait, while detecting, or so he imagined, almost wished, some distant though heart-felt boos coming from the Great Out There. If no one liked him, then he would never have to think about doing this again, which would give his limited expectations but immense imagination much time and opportunity to think of nothing but nothing at all, for as long as he wished, or as long as his heartbeats held out, as long as he lasted. He would not ever have to do anything ever again.

His immense imagination was already imagining he heard a wall of nasty boos washing up from the unseen audience, overwhelming, over-stating their distaste for his brief effort at speaking what was on his mind, in public, on stage, when, he knew, he had little to say, declaim or state.

This was now officially becoming a rough day for him. He would take a pill to sleep this evening. After he dealt with his three wives, especially the one who had been particularly demanding in sexual matters, and those two second cousins who’d shown up out of nowhere, and then, of course, feed the cats. Always, endlessly, the need to feed the cats.

Someone or two, out there, damn them, applauded, briefly, three times, like syllables said, in, of course, the wrong order.

He halted, hips turning forward, stepping toward the edge of the stage, moving his face beyond the bright, blinding light, beyond the few dying boos, beyond this point in his life, to see into this impossible sea of darkened, demanding souls, seeking that face, perhaps brighter than the rest, the one with the hands still in a phase of three-syllabled clapping, waiting eagerly to be seen by him, so he could say, without hesitation, beyond three syllables, into the dark, with a darker hope, to the person with applause in his or her hands, “Is there someone out there who wants me to go on?”

A third person applauded. A fourth. More? Was there more yet? Perhaps the sound would soon be deafening. And he would need to imagine more syllables, more than the three he had memorized and already used up. His face went through the curtain of light and into the dark, where he squinted, trying, as always, as forever, to see beyond what he had got used to seeing.

A video of my story RED BALL

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012


A couple of years ago I posted a short-short story called Red Ball, which became rather popular and got comments like “breathtaking” and “This is great. Really creepy!” and “YES! Creepy… for sure.” and “Creepy is the word! Especially the 4th corner.” You can read the original story here.

Now I have gone and made a short video of it. I narrate it. You can see it by clicking on this sentence.

That’s it. Thanks for coming by. V+

STORY – A Last Artistic Statement

Thursday, December 15th, 2011


Experimentally, gingerly, for the first and last time in his life, the artist known as Smithy lifted his right eyelid, placed his right forefinger near the top of his left eyeball and gently but firmly drove that sucker around the orb and smack into his brain.
Once there, he tickled the frontal cortex gently. Something somewhere in him giggled. It was painful but that was where the jokes were located.
He pushed on.

As his finger dug toward the middle of his brain, he began to loose control of his legs. He sat, suddenly, down. His finger, playing at being a brain elevator, rose to the top of his brain, his skull, pushing lightly at various stimulating gray matter as it went, replaying his many memories. His past, his present, not much of his future. Many of his past pleasures were tucked up in there and he briefly fingered their joys, disappointments and the why why whys that still echoed and generally fumed darkly in there.
He moved on, his finger making a left turn at the rear of his brain where he came into a dense layer of smut he had always kept hidden, tucked back in there, just for emergencies. It throbbed and mutated and performed a lascivious dance just for him, as it always reliably did.
But he had no time for these varied once happily anticipated stimulations, as the thrusting journey his finger was taking had made his groin unresponsive, as his dick, his anus, his flaccid sack of lazy balls lolled lackadaisical, finished for good.

He did manage, before passing out of this life and into esoteric choices he would be surprised he would have to make on the other side of this worldly existence, he bumped up against the back of his skull. His fingernail scraped here, against the skull, and, as a last treat, and as a last idea, he went in for some inner urban art.
With his fingernail he scratched letters. It was hard going as his body was now giving up major motor functions at an alarming rate. He was blind, could not speak, and the hearing was dimming—no, there, it too was now gone.
As he died, as he slumped, as his spirit floated, as required, above his body, looking down, his finger gave up its ghost and slipped out of the gray matter, falling out of his head, his eyes boggling, leaving behind, distantly, on the inner wall of his damaged, lights-out brain, the simple ego words on the inside of his skull,
“Smithy was here.”

STORY – Weird Weather

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011


Woke up to some more weird weather today. Hot and sticky in the morning, thundershowers by mid-day, some ice in the evening.

We looked up from the balcony of our third floor apartment.
“What’s it going to do next?”
“Melt.”
She held my hand. We kept looking up.
“It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
“I don’t think it’s going to get better.”

I put a sweater on; she took her sweater off.
“What’s the forecast for tomorrow?”
“More.”
“More what?”
“More of the same.”
“Same what?’
“They don’t know. Anything the sky thinks of.”

We looked down and saw some children with a mother pass by.
“Don’t envy them. The kids.”
“The future is not what it once was.”
We looked at each other.
“Used to be able to depend on the future.”
“And now it is the least dependable thing going.”
It began to rain. Hard, cold rain with some chunks of ice hidden in-between the drops; she began to get little welts on her skin, sort of mini-burns.
“Ouch,” she said over and over.
“Burr,” I said again and again.

We went inside.
“The weather’s broken. I’m going to put something on my burns.”
She left to go to the medicine cabinet.
I said, “I’m going to put a second sweater on.”
“What? Speak up. There’s this frying sound in my ear.”
“I’m cold.” I brushed the ice from my hair.
“Turn on the television!” she yelled. “See what they are saying.”
I did.
“What does it say?”
I listened.
“Forecast is constant.”
“What’s that?”
Expect anything, they reported.
I didn’t want to tell her this news for a moment. Let her live in hope for a few seconds more.

Story – A Couple of Doors Down

Thursday, November 17th, 2011


A couple of doors down the street, there’s a guy who’s dead. He was that way for a while, dead, but nobody knew. He hardly showed his face before that. He was around but not around. The background on him was that he had been an architect, moderate to OK successful in his time, who had retired some long while back. Since then he had just stuck to himself and his four walls. Four walls in a high four story house.

He went urban hermit and eccentric. Besides not showing up on the street much, it was noted he did not throw stuff away, no trash, no nothing. He burnt his waste in mini-bonfires in his smallish back yard. The most nearby of neighbors got a whiff of it, week after week and went and rang his bell to complain, but he was now pretty much entrenched and hole up and he didn’t come to the door. So the local city authorities fielded the incoming complaints, eventually showing up with their slow power to settle issues and rang the bell of the front door. No one came to the door. They insisted, as only those in authority can. Finally, the door did get open after they yelled they were the police through the letter slot. A scrawny aging man stood before them, in un-ironed, somewhat stained clothes and he took the heat silently, only quietly saying that his burning of trash would not be repeated.

The fires ceased, but still no trash appeared in the street to be hauled away on appointed, weekly days. Unknown to all, he began keeping his crap and the trash in his five-room cellar and left it there. Various vermin began to call it home.

Some rumored that he had family, a couple of daughters somewhere, but he had chased them away with some letters he had written, the severe content of which kept him isolated from family ties. Which was what he seemed to want.

Very occasionally he was spotted going out to get some food locally. He dragged it behind him on a little board with two creaky wheels he pulled with a cord. Some neighbors, the same ones who would “smell something” coming from the house once in a while, said hello, and the architect nodded at first, then gave up even that after a time.

He went his way and everyone else did too.

What types of buildings his architectural mind had been responsible for in the past were unknown, but evidently he had been semi-successful, enough to buy a big roomy house and slum his last years away.

Until he hadn’t been seen around for a while and people began to smell something. Curious questions were traded between neighbors.

“When was the last time you’ve seen him?”

Same answer came back after a pause for thought, like trying to remember if you had ever seen a ghost.

“Not for a while.”



Once more, the authorities were called, ones with different responsibilities. Ones that came to knock and knock again. Then reinforcement authorities showed up, cop-types who could break the lock on the front door and walk in. They stepped in the house then stepped back out.

The stench was wicked, and the first two things these authorities saw were three piles of papers reaching up to a tall man’s nose, and a couple of startled rats skedaddling away.

The authorities gathered some breath in their lungs and went in. The whole place, every wall, every floor, every nook, every cranny, had stuff, had trash, had piles, had junk, had material, had empty food containers, had mounds of dust, had broken objects, had all this and more, everywhichwhere. They could only move through the whole house sideways, sucking in their stomachs, taking tiny ladylike steps between and around piles of things and piles of stuff.

Four floors of this. At the top, the street hermit aka retired architect was discovered. Unfortunately, the rats, which had had a population explosion over the months, maybe years, had been picnicking off his body for a while. Mostly the soft, moist places, face, groin. He had ended as rat snacks.

The authorities called in other authorities. Body packing authorities. Later, rat-killers came to clear out the riffraff. Everyone in the neighborhood were informed to lock their doors, closed their chimneys and windows, shut everything up because the rats would probably be abandoning that particular ship shortly. Food supply gone and chemicals sprayed, rats move on.

The house stands empty and crumbling as the city decides what to do with it. The door is and has been rotting through. The windows are impenetrable with dust. It’s inert, empty, just full of a single mysterious ex-life of sketchy details.

The neighborhood’s been pretty ordinary for a while now. Except for the homeless lady with the scabs on her legs who stands at different locations on the street depending on the time of day, smoking half a cigarette and keeping to herself and her three bulging plastic bags, sometimes vomiting through the grates in the street or yelling at the stones of passive buildings. Everyone on the block is pretending not to pay much attention to her now.

Story – Some Animal Warmth

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011



The man shuffled into my office to tell his troubles. He sat down where I had to look at him.

Taxes were ruining him, his wife didn’t understand things, his bills were piling up, he didn’t like the weather, his car was on the bum, his children avoided him, a pet hamster had died.

“Even my cat committed suicide,” he said. “He went in the road during the night to fight a truck. The truck won. Found him next morning, his head all flat, his brains shooting out his ear holes like grey toothpaste. It nearly broke my heart. We buried it and the hamster together in a spot in the backyard. My kids prayed, and then looked at me as if it were my fault. I didn’t know what to tell them. God, why …why my cat?”

He sat there, waiting for an answer.

“Did I ever tell you about the dog I had when I was a kid?”
I didn’t want to hear this.
“He was a big cuddly mutt named Elmer.”
Now I really didn’t want to hear this.
“Fred,” I interrupted. “You’re in no state to talk about a dog from your childhood. Especially if his name was Elmer. It’ll only depress you further.”
“Old Elmer,” my friend mumbled, as though he hadn’t heard my warning. But something must have gotten through, because he changed the subject. “They say it’s going to rain.”
“They’re often as wrong as they’re right,” I said.
“I know,” he replied. “Can’t trust anyone these days.”
I tried to change the subject. “How’s—?”
“Don’t ask,” he interrupted. “Don’t make me think about it. Let’s just sit here in silence in some animal warmth.”

We were sitting together like that for about five minutes, me getting impatient to get back to my work, Fred comforted by the warmth, when the boss walked in and said,
“Say, have you seen the report on … oh, Fred, hello. How are you?”
“My cat’s dead,” Fred said. He got up and walked to the door. “Elmer’s long-gone, too.” And he left.
My boss said, “Who’s Elmer?”
“You really want to know about it?”
He did. He was the boss. It was his job to know about such things. So I told him.

After hearing everything, he was silent for a long while.
“I had a dog named Buster who died when I was a kid.”
Sharing some more animal warmth was about to happen in my office again, and it wasn’t even nine thirty-five in the morning on a Monday.

Story – “The Mouth on Her”

Thursday, October 13th, 2011



“I love you, Mam. Oh how I looooove you. So much and double so much.” The daughter opened her mouth for more.
Mam said back, giving her more, “And I love you. You are so perfect.”
Daughter ate it up and said right back, “Mam, you can do anything. Just anything.”
They wanted to hug, but couldn’t because the daughter did not have arms. Or legs. Or any appendage. She was simply one big mouth with lips, tongue, teeth, moisture and love. Love for her Mam.

“I looooove you, mam.”
And needs.
“I waaaaaaant, mam.”
“What do you want, my dearest of dears?”
The big mouth smacked its lips.
“I want something you can get for me.”
“That’s why I’m here.” The Mam beamed. She could not help herself, she had to say it again. “You are perfect. Just perfect.”
“And when I do something wrong, mam? When I’m older and am bad, what will you do?”
“I will scold you, correct you, teach you, forgive you, and everything will go back to what it was before you were bad.”
“You’re the best mam ever!”

Mam went out and bought three books, a pair of gloves, five pairs of shoes, eyeglasses in a fancy frame, chocolate bars, four types of cakes so she could have a bite of each, and a new toothbrush and toothpaste.
“Oh, Mam, stuff! Stuff! Lots of stuff! You thought of me! But mam. Mam! Shoes? Eyeglasses? Gloves? What are they for?”
“For when you grow older and develop.”
“Oh mam! Mam, you think of everything! Everything!” The mouth loved using exclamation marks. She couldn’t help it if everything was wonderful. Wonderful! “Feed me, Mam. Feed me everything. I am made for it. One big happy need! You fulfill me!”

Mam went to the kitchen, stayed there a while, came back with three mounds of food, which she spoon and fork fed to her open-mouthed daughter.
“Mmmmm, Mam. You’re the best!”
“No, you’re the best.”
“No, you’re the best.”
And so forth until Mam went to get dessert.

And mam asked, defining future needs she looked forward to providing, “And what does my perfect baby darling forever want from me?”
“Hug me, give to me, forgive me, buy for me, feed me, squeeze me, fulfill me, shape me, take me, make me.”
“Oh my daughter!”
“Oh my mammy!”
“We were made for each other.”
“Oh, yes, mammy! Oh! Yes!”
And the daughter began hungrily nibbling her mother and the mam said, “My darling. My perfect, loving little girl. Ouch.”

Story – Dolly, et al.

Thursday, September 15th, 2011


Bernard took the car out of the garage and rolled it slowly backward, looking left and right and checking in his rear-view mirror, then sped up slightly and ran over four cats, two dogs, one puppy, three hamsters, a frog and fourteen confused snails.

This was a pain. Because it meant Bernard would have to get out of his car, get the hose, turn it up full blast and wash down his driveway. Aiming the water, he watched the dogs, puppy and cats turn limp somersaults moving toward the gutter.

Then, inevitably, the neighborhood kids came to gather round to look. Some pointed their phones to take photos and send them to their friends with remarks like, “Cooooool.”

Then one kid pointed and sobbed, “My dog Fido!” Another kid screamed, “Dolly! Dolly! Dolly!”

Soon parents gathered around to make caustic remarks.

“You can’t keep doing this,” one said to Bernard.
“I don’t mean to,” Bernard answered as two of the dead cats finally made it to the gutter and flopped over into it and out of his sight. “They all just rushed under my tires I backed out.”
“You said that yesterday,” said another parent, not believing a word.
“And the day before that,” reminded another.

“Dolly!” bellowed the kid again and again.
A damp, fur-matted dog disappeared over the curb.

“I check,” Bernard said. “Every day, I check. Is there another animal out there, is there something I don’t see? The driveway is always empty when I roll out. Then, all of a sudden, they are there, diving under my tires. It happens so fast I can’t stop in time.”
“Dolly!”
The frog fell on top of the dog.

The last dog fell into the street gutter, then a cat. Barnard was going to be late for work again.

Three parents crossed their arms tight over their chests.
“So you’re saying you think this is some sort of unexplained natural phenomenon where domestic animal life commits suicide under your car wheels?”

Bernard turned off the water, tossed the hose aside. “I didn’t say that.” The animals were gone from his property now, bodies resting floppy and over-flowing in the gutter. “But I wouldn’t rule that out.” Most traces of the animal blood was also gone from his driveway. “I don’t know, really. It just happens.” He got into his car.

“Dolly….” It was more a whimper now, the boy already half-wondering whether his mother would buy him another dog. Bigger. So it wouldn’t get run over so easily.

“You like to kill animals,” someone shouted.
Bernard rolled down his window. “Maybe they are not happy.”
“Who isn’t happy?”
“Your pets.”
“What are you talking about?”
“So they come over here and kamikaze themselves under the wheels of my car day after day.”
“You saying we’re lousy pet lovers?”
“I’m saying maybe you should try feeding them better food on a regular basis. Talk to them more often. Pet them. Be better humans.”
“Damn! He’s lecturing us and he’s the murderer.”

Bernard shouted as he drove off, “And how many pets do you people have, anyway? I’ve run over at least eighty this month!” He glanced at his watch. He was going to be twenty minutes late. Again. He rolled up the window, swerved around a cat that threw itself in front of his car, and started making good time as soon as he left his neighborhood behind.

STORY – Somebody’s kitty went for a swim in my water barrel

Friday, May 27th, 2011



I do gardening. I tell myself I do gardening. I have a shed full of implements of good intentions; rust has had its way here and there, on both the tools and the intentions. Under the slanted roof of the veranda in the backyard there’s a blue water barrel standing under the drainpipe so it fills will rainwater for future plant thirst. Some cats use the pipe to scrabble up unto my plastic veranda roof to romp in the night, chasing each other in play or with territorial snarls.

Supposition enters from here on in. Because one of these cats, either running away, or running up, or down, the pipe, slipped, misjudged, something cattish and forever unknowable, and dove, plopped, found itself in the water barrow. The barrel was fairly full, but not full to the brim. Did the cat swim some? Did it yowl? What day, what night—when did it slip and go splash? Whenever, it could not reach up to get a toehold, or clawhold, on the edge and pull itself out. And from exhaustion, it must have horribly ended its time on earth, paddling in small and then smaller circles, miserable, tiring.

I only noticed it today, because one doesn’t often, during the winter, peek in water barrels to see how things are going.

There was something mossy-like floating on the top. Odd. There had been more than enough rain to break up any organic growth that might want to settle and spread there. So I leaned forward, spotted a collar around the muck and instinctively jerked back, stepped away, stepped further away. The mental processing going, already knowing, but just double and triple checking in order to let my mind take it in, realize, and not go into a brief shock, occupying itself instead with double looping checking, cushioning the reality.

I looked again. The moss was really fur. Much of it floated at the top, but which end of the cat was front, which back, could not be figured. I didn’t stare. I let it rest in there and returned to my computer. To build up a head of steam. Get myself prepared. Then, later in the afternoon, I finished something on my computer, stood, stretched, said, Do it.

I marched straight to the end of the garden, yanked out the metal rake, returned to the house, the veranda, the barrel. I dunked the end with the teeth in. Maneuvered, reached under, lifted. A dank, sopping mass, beyond description. I did not look, nor study. Cradled on the rake’s teeth I hauled it into the garden—the water pouring off in streams—and over to the far side of the back yard, near the high bushes, in the area I’d once buried my own cat. I dropped the body on the ground. It’s water-logged gut split, exposing pink. I swung my head away, going back to the shed to lift out the shovel that was wedged in behind all sorts of summer chairs and tables and such. I banged about. I lifted it out, turning things over in there. Turning, I went straight to where the dead thing lay and next to it dug quickly, messily, hitting roots, chopping, finally satisfied with a shallow hole.

I maneuvered the end of the shovel till it was up against the one side of the cat mess and pushed it over. It rolled like a boneless damp rug and sluggishly slopped in my minor hole.

I covered it up, quickly. Patted it once, twice. Looked at the newly torn ground. There was no loving former owner to linger, say a few words, have a few memories.

I put the tools away, back to their rusting hibernation. Glanced in the water barrel on my way back. A film of loose fur floated.

I went inside.

STORY – Juggling

Friday, February 11th, 2011


During her noon lunch break, she went to the local park, nibbling a sandwich while glancing at the actions of others. People sat harmlessly on benches, in ones and twos. Some guided dogs along paths, and off paths. Some listened to music with things stuck in their ears, staring into mini-screens before their faces, absorbed in their self-created world sitting there running away from any possible stray thoughts.

She came upon a young man who had staked a solitary place on a modest circular area of grass. He held four balls, and was moving them meditatively around with his fingers. A sack lay limp behind him. He stood for a moment looking pensively down at the four balls, weighing them in his hands, two balls clutched in each hand, now moving them slightly up and down. Without warning or obvious preparation, he tossed them up, one at a time, in an arc, ready to move them about through the air.

She observed the excitement, enjoying the circular whirl of balls for five, maybe six seconds. One moment they were in the air, trading places, then suddenly the next, with soft thuds, the three balls had landed at the juggler’s feet. He bent down from the waist, no leg bending, to pick them up, then straightening and without any obvious preparation tossed them up, began juggling, five, six seconds later, three balls, a simultaneous single thud, all at his feet. Again he bent, retrieved, made them dance in the air for their hopeful six seconds, before the three balls, always three balls, equally and at the same time, hit the ground as one at his feet.

The juggler did not curse, did not look around in shame, did not recognize any form of public humiliation. He calmly repeated. Picking up, tossing, the inevitable falling.

She continued looking from a distance, waiting, sandwich nibbling, half-hoping for a sudden miracle of artistic coordination, some internal click that would allow all the balls to remain in the air, like rapid satellites circling this young man’s head, a triumph, a break-through, foretelling a real true future as a juggler.

Three balls again thudded to the ground, and she could no longer take the pain and turned away and walked away and resisted looking back at the eternal hope of mastering a creative act fighting a clear lack of talent.

Thud, she heard in the distance back there. Thud.