Category: Memoir & Fiction

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An open sign with an unlit hanging lamp to stylize legendary poet Don Moss's short story, "Breakfast Stories: OPEN Sign".

Breakfast Stories: OPEN Sign

Joel knew brief little fantasies about other women, of real, but mostly of imagined ones. This one was real, had sat across from him in the same office. Aalis, might as well say her name, was one of four nurses he had to assign patients at the university. These nurses were remarkably organized, well beyond his slovenly habits. Aalis carried herself a little more upright than the others, meant what she said, was the only nurse practitioner among them. He’d not worked with all women before and her manner appealed to him from the outset. He soon learned her manner was polished from her years as a commissioned Army reservist, a Major, no less.

Aalis mentioned she had two young daughters and a husband named Mark. There was something about how she spoke of him that hinted they weren’t doing so well. She didn’t disclose many details, other than Mark was too settled with his job, not pushing for advancement at the insurance company. He was a good father to the girls, and he and family would manage them during Aalis’s Army weekends and when she had longer deployments. Joel had told her his own marriage needed to begin, a curious way of putting it, she thought.

Four years she sat across from him, but for the past two years she’d moved to another campus office, and he wished he saw her more often than an occasional lunch. […]

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A black and white photo photo of a Joshua Tree in the Mojave desert. Captured by Jay George from Pixabay.

Breakfast Stories: In a Box

“We will show them Our signs in the universe and within themselves…” — 41:53, Quran

Having no street legal car or bike to race, Rob and I were to race each other—not what we’d expected at this once noticed-in-the-mags, Ramona drag strip, aka, San Diego Raceway. We both knew Rob would likely win, his having the newer bike, better tires, but racing each other at least met the first rule of adventure: wasting time in a manner that could kill you.

And kill it might have had Rob not noticed that my front tire was nearly flat and a danger at speed, even in a straight line. No alarm, though, a pump was available and I was near certain the air would hold for the run. […]

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A stylized shot of French toast on a cast iron skillet.

Breakfast Stories: Toast, French

I’ll admit I wasn’t then a particularly sensitive human being. I should say “yet” instead of “then,” so you won’t think that my growing up in Queens excuses or explains my being like that. There are plenty of good people living there, but this happens to be a story about a pimp. When was it? That would be 1983. I finished high school that year, so I must have been eighteen. I was eighteen, I’ll swear to it.

I had stayed over with my Puerto Rican call girl girlfriend. She was no streetwalker. A call girl’s got a lot more class. A streetwalker’s got it rough, standing out in the weather (she only walks when a cop happens by), and, often as not, working fast in some alley or in the seat of a trick’s car. A trick, I hope you know, is not just what a guy wearin’ a cape does with his hands. You might still say that whorin’ is whorin’, but with a streetwalker that’s nearly all it can be. She’s got no time for conversation. You’ve seen her. She’s the one waiting at the bus stop, only, when the bus stops she doesn’t get on. Another difference for a streetwalker is that her working numbers increases her chances of trouble, of disease, of mixing up with some bad-ass dude, or with cops, who’re mostly son’a-bitches. The literal-minded will like it that call girls, as the name implies, might work up their business on the phone. Even call girl language has more class: client instead of trick. And when it comes to sex, that’s going to happen inside somewhere probably on a bed, not in some family sedan. […]

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A stylized image of an older, serious man in a suit presiding over a meeting, with others around him.

SHORT STORY: “James (Continued)”

“Committees should be dissolved,” James stated.

He hadn’t put it that way before, a good summary, though, of how his mind had come to operate. “You mean the department committee that denied your master’s proposal?” I said.

“That’s the latest—my fault for loitering where I don’t belong?” he replied. “Things need to be pure.”

“Pure?”

“Yeah, tired word. Can’t think of a better one that captures it.”

“Would an example serve?” I said.

“OK, in the religion class, not just western faith, but several; I told you a little about that over the phone? The professor was classic, recited long passages in translation, his own, in Latin, in Greek, in Hebrew, and other dead tongues.” […]

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Two sepia side-by-side photographs of Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein.

DRAMA: The Tobacco Pot – A Play in One Act (1996)

SETTING: Einstein’s office at Princeton, desk, with large tobacco pot, two chairs, stacks of books and papers everywhere, half erased equations on chalkboard, Lighting slightly dimmed.

AT RISE: The two men have been life-time theoretical competitors; this competitiveness shows in all their interactions, though good naturally, as if acting out how media sometimes pits them against each other. NEILS BOHR, lost in thought, stands in profile by the desk fumbling to fill his pipe. The pipe, unfilled, unlit, he moves toward back, toward the window of the large office, walking furiously left to right, his hands clasped behind his back.

BOHR: Einstein, Einstein. [BOHR’S hands fidget with the pipe. Einstein enters stage left on tiptoe. He pauses only an instant to watch BOHR and smiles. He heads silently for the tobacco pot] Gezukenakken, pond scum. That means “pond scum” in Danish. He’s always late. Oh, Einstein! [BOHR picks up chalk, announcing as he writes] E … = … m … C … squared. [Just as EINSTEIN’S fingers eagerly touch the tobacco pot, BOHR suddenly spins round. The two men pretend to glare at each other.] Stealing from my pot again, Herr Doc-tor Albert? […]

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A stylized portrait of Lord, a lilac-colored Scottish Fold with orange eyes who lived between 2010 and 2023.

Like The Last Words Of A House Cat (Lord’s Story)

After Lord had made his decision, he wished to see the world a little. One might as well, he thought. Ever since the arrival of Cookie, he felt agitated, if only with himself. Lord had never been a jealous cat, but watching King—his older brother—groom Cookie, and chase her, and beat her up, he suddenly missed the rough of King’s tongue. He missed the sound of Dad cleaning loosened hair. He missed how Mom would separate them, for he never took this as a punishment. After all, Lord loved to think, and right now, the season was pensive. Yes, summer was ongoing, but the longest day was long behind, and each sunrise felt a little colder. It would soon be Grandmother’s birthday. Had it really been that long? A cat uses up its days so quickly, though there is still so much to do. Lord understood he would not have time to start anything new, but why, he wondered, is everyone obsessed only with beginnings? His mind was of one project—one map—and he intended to complete it. […]

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A stylized cartoon image of a blonde man of uncertain ethnic background in sunglasses, as if overlooking a physical education class.

BOY’S MEMOIR: Physical Education

Let’s call him LJ. He was tall and pale and kept his blonde hair buzz-cut. Stubble-faced, stud earrings, early to mid-thirties. His constant white t-shirts (maybe just the one, worn every day), as well as the basketball shorts, were always oversized, which made him seem larger than he already was to us children. He hid his eyes behind black shades and his voice was quiet, grumbling from low registers.

We were instructed to sit in an even block, straight-rowed, as he sat atop a red rubber ball and waited for chatter to die. His patience was overpowering, and instructive in how much a man could relate of himself without a word or noticeable motion. He’d sit there, hands folded together, until we were cowed, and when all was noiseless save for the dim sounds of the surrounding neighborhood floating over elementary barriers, some untraceable counter inside him would finally ding and he’d say, sans inflection: “Three laps.”

And so we’d run. There was a huge chalk-drawn ring by the space LJ had us congregate and we’d circle that however many times he’d arbitrarily declare. When that was done, and we were once more before him, gasping on the block, he wasted no time in saying: “Twenty-five jumping-jacks.” […]

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A stylized image of a sepia-toned, short-haired woman looking down in thought, ostensibly depicting the prostitute in Ezekiel Yu's short story, "A Separate Pace".

SHORT STORY: At A Separate Pace

When she arrived, there was some confusion over the identity of her client, as there was another man at the hotel bar, beside a few others, who met her gaze and made a small gesture at the empty seat beside him. He was older, maybe in his early-to-mid fifties, with greying hair and eyes the color of old dollar bills; and since she was used to seeing men who looked like that, she smiled and waved, depositing herself on the chair without a thought.

He asked her what she wanted to drink and she said, “Gin and tonic, please,” and to the nearby bartender he replicated the same, almost dismissive, gesture he’d made earlier to indicate the empty seat. They resumed conversation, with the man even laying a proprietary hand on her bare shoulder in the midst of complimenting the dress. But when several minutes had passed, the man asked for her name, and she knew some misunderstanding on her part had occurred. […]