Tag: 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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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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The white scorpion in Barstow, California, as imagined by poet and critic Ezekiel Yu when recalling his childhood.

MEMOIR: A White Scorpion In Barstow, California

Our house in Barstow, California was small for a family of seven but its backyard was quite sizable, except there was no grass. It was all sand, like the desert that surrounded us, and featureless save for a pit in the center packed with stones. We didn’t really play in the backyard, even when we had friends over, because there was nothing to do there and it was always hot. Barstow is a small city scoured by the Mojave sun and for the year we lived there I quickly learned that I was not one for deserts and never would be. Nor was I one for small cities. Certainly not this one, full of old buildings, lean against their own shadows, and people just about as destitute as we were, who regarded us with mean amusement and called us names.

I don’t recall them with hatred because I know that there weren’t many who looked like us in that city and it’s easy to react harshly to the unfamiliar face. Even then I was more confused that they’d treat with such cruelty those who were clearly afraid of their own strangeness and more a threat to themselves than others. No hatred, but I recall them (and they were mostly other children) not without certain pangs: walking home from school, many would jeer at us in mock-Chinese, which we didn’t speak, and on the playground some would stretch their eyes out narrowly enough so as to not resemble a human face at all. […]

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A stylized portrait of a smiling Shirley Hazzard, author of the novel "The Transit of Venus", in 3 different colors.

Bolt of the Average: On Shirley Hazzard’s “The Transit of Venus”

In historical study, certain individuals and/or classes are made distinct from the passive mass by the degree of their protagonism; charting their prominence through an era, it becomes clear that such activity is as much a testament of the human will to signify one’s own existence as any well-articulated primary account. For the self, however, protagonism is simply its indigenous function, motivating one’s behavior from the get-go. Already so distinct, so distinguished, to ourselves, how could we ever be of that vague crowd whose actions are mostly homogenous, and whose culmination for some historian of the far-flung future amounts to nothing more than sheer statistical data?

About three-quarters of the way through Shirley Hazzard’s 1980 novel The Transit of Venus, a character of up-till-then secondary (tertiary, even) significance finds himself protagonized, and here is how Hazzard illustrates the beginning of his centrality—or the delusion of such […]

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A mirrored image of a child jumping down a staircase in post-impressionist style, perhaps taking place in the 1960s.

SHORT STORY: Don Moss’s “Down The Stairs”

Our large farmhouse had an oak staircase that descended eight or nine feet to the landing, then offered five steps to the right and left, to the dining room and to the parlor, respectively. At age four or five, I would stare down to the landing and imagine a perfect leap to the precise center of the landing, absorbing the fall with no harm to body or to the parquet oak landing. Since the basement stairs were directly beneath this stairwell, I just knew any imperfection in the act would send one through the landing to the basement and to my demise. That last detail was of no interest, simply the consequence of imperfection. This fantasy felt more like a message built into the stairway and landing itself.

Evidence of my never attempting the jump is the fact that I sit, seventy-some years later, now writing these words. I was neither gifted with any useful athletic abilities, nor plagued with innate daring to attempt such a stunt. I didn’t take the fantasy literally, even years before I knew of such a word as literal. The image of the stairs, leap, and perfect landing did not abandon me. The image did now and then vanish, drifting below conscious recall. […]

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Two AI-generated images of East Asian men smoking cigarettes, done in a neo-Impressionist style.

In Memoriam: Carcinogens and the Common Isopod

I must have been younger than ten. These were the days of unanswered questions and rooms that dwindled in size and quantity the more we were tossed about the Greater Los Angeles Area. My father had lost his job, again, and I’d forgotten what he was doing for money when the man with the cigarette arrived on our door.

Was I home alone with my father, or were my mother and other siblings with us? It shouldn’t be difficult to remember, for we were always together, separated only by school or the occasional extracurricular activity, but for whatever reason, I see just my father and me in our cramped second-level apartment. It was summer, perhaps, as the air conditioner was on, although inconstant, and I can feel the sweaty doze of day when sunlight fans downward and blanches one’s musings, with nothing to do but await my older self’s dubious remembrance. […]