Late One Night Near A Pinball Machine Over A Glass Of Wine

“We are all a little crazy, don’t you think? And the fact that we do think is why we don’t jump out of the chair and run down the street shrieking, ‘You’re all crazy, but that’s OK because I am a little crazy, too, and it’s the only thing that keeps us sane!’ We need that little bit of sanity to keep us on the edge instead of toppling over into the abyss.

“We set our goals and make our plans, and then all the pinballs start bouncing off of us and the flippers flip us in another direction entirely. But that’s all right, because we learn how to roll with the punches and the collisions that way.

“But seriously, don’t you just want to scream sometimes? Are you and I the only ones on the planet who’s not nuts? And frankly, I worry about you, because I’m pretty sure I’m a little nuts, too, and you’re the only sane one.”

As he continued along this merry line of thought, she twirled the wine glass between her fingers and started thinking about exit strategies. This would be very tricky, seeing as how she was married to him, but it would be of no benefit for the room to realize that they belonged together.

“You belong together,” they had said. Maybe that was when he started to believe everyone is a little crazy, because he must have seen as well as she did that they did. not. belong. together. He was a bit of a loon — a charming loon, she had to admit, but nonetheless a loon. She was rock solid cool reasoning in a smart and practical dress. But toasts had been toasted and winks exchanged and soothing coos kept cooing that they belonged together.

Maybe it was true, too. But not tonight. Not while he was rambling crazily about how we’re all a little crazy and on the verge of screaming down the street.

He stopped rambling long enough to look at her and say, “You’re awfully quiet tonight.”

And that was true, too, so she shrugged and said, “I guess so.”

“Do you know what I guess?” he said after a moment. “I guess there are a million million planets with some form of life or another, and on one of those planets — this very minute! — a couple of beings are having a conversation and one is saying to the other, ‘I think this whole thing is crazy, this nutty world where we’re always breathing ammonia and sitting on the verge of blowing each other up all the time, but don’t those seven moons look beautiful tonight?’ That’s what I guess.” He laughed. “Did you really just roll your eyes at me? You know, you are so cute when you roll your eyes, and I don’t blame you. I’m talking silly. I don’t know what I’m saying, it’s craziness, I sort of feel insane right about now, it’s like there’s this guy sitting with a beautiful woman and talking about going crazy in this crazy world. I can’t blame you for whatever it is you’re thinking.”

“Do you want to know what I think?” she said.

“Of course I do.”

“Do you really want to know what I think?” she said, a little louder.

“What you think is very important to me.”

“Do you really, really want to know what I think?” and now she stood and leaned over him, and she was so loud conversations stopped and people turned to hear his answer.

“Why, yes,” he said. “I really, really want to know what you think.”

She sighed. “I think they were right.”

“— about what?”

“We belong together.”

His eyes widened. “We do?”

“Yes, we do. I’m crazy about you.”

“And I’m just crazy.”

The room laughed, even though they weren’t joking. But no one went screaming down the street that night, and everyone went home smiling.

The Wings

Here is a little exercise I wrote a few years ago (Sept. 8, 2017), in which “I wrote anything until I found myself writing something.” It ended up in my little flash fiction chapbook, 24 flashes. The story begins as a conversation between me and Ray Bradbury, riffing on his wonderful writing advice, “Jump, and build your wings on the way down,” which, come to think of it, is a lovely way of saying the same thing. Later on, when he interrupts my fairy tale, I confront my mentor with another sweet Bradbury quote, this one collected in Zen and the Art of Writing: “Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together.”

He looked out over the horizon and saw vast possibilities. He looked down and saw a vast drop.

“Go ahead,” said the man in the tousled white hair. “Jump, and build your wings on the way down.”

“Can’t,” he whispered.

“Come on, buddy,” said the man, pulling off his horn-rimmed glasses and wiping them carefully. “What did the little elf say – ‘Do or do not. There is no try’? You haven’t even been trying lately, have you?”

“Too much to do,” he muttered. “And who’s listening anyway?”

“Whatcha got to say?” the man challenged. “Not gonna listen to white noise, are they?”

“OK,” he said. “Here goes. Once upon a time –”


“Shut up,” he told the white-haired man. “Once upon a time – oh, now I’ve lost my train of –”

“No, no, you’re right. I’m sorry. Jump.”

So he jumped.

Continue reading “The Wings”

Bunny’s close call

There was a rabbit who lived in a thicket by the side of the road. He loved Ms. Carol’s flowers, but she did not return the love.

She liked her flowers just fine the way they were, you see, but the rabbit loved to nibble on them because they were delicious.

One day, the rabbit was munching away when Ms. Carol walked out on her porch carrying a BB gun.

“OK, varmint, that’s all the flowers you’re going to eat in one lifetime.” She took aim and fired.

Fortunately for the rabbit, she didn’t aim quite perfectly, and the BB only skipped a pile of mulch into the rabbit’s face. This was alarming enough, however, and the rabbit jumped into the air and raced away as only rabbits can race, never to return.

A few days later, Ms. Carol’s puppy looked into the empty yard and mournfully back at her.

“I miss the rabbit,” the puppy whined.

“Don’t you start,” she replied. The flowers were pleased, though, and lived happily ever after, or at least for the rest of the bright sunny summer.

Fugue in Moose Minor


“Do you see it? Do you see it yet?

Do you see what I’m saying

And how I’m saying it?”


There is a place where it falls into place, where the tumblers tumble and the mysteries unlock, and all is plain to see.

Come with me now, take my hand, and we’ll walk this road going that way. I fear we may never find the place, but as long as I let the fear guide me, I know we won’t.

And so we walk through the fear with almost nothing but faith to keep one foot moving ahead of the other, and we walk until we’re weary and then an hour more until we can hardly stand, and then we’ll walk an hour more until we must sit, and we’ll think about crawling the rest of the way, but rest is what we will need and rest we will have.

Maybe, mayhap, perhaps at that moment we will look about and see that it has all fallen into place and the mysteries have indeed unlocked and we shall see all plainly, and we will understand at last that which we do not understand now.

But first we must take that first step, first we must walk together, first we must keep going until we think we can’t take another step and then an hour more.

Are you ready? Neither am I, but this appears to be the time, and so ready or not (as they have said since time began), here we go.


First on the way is a row of ducks, and the first thing we notice is the ducks are indeed in a row, without our intervention. The ducks have found their own way, and we were unnecessary this time.

Second, a figurine of a dinosaur, a movie monster who ravaged a city for no other reason than monsters don’t like cities, and it could be they know something we overlooked.

Now a snowman in sunglasses wearing a sly smile, a scarf, and a top hat singing an ancient song, if by ancient we mean very old, and how old is very old anyway?

Now a wood carving of a lion, and a wood carving of an antelope, and smiling-cow salt shakers, and at once I see we are knifing through knickknacks, and what to my wondering eyes should appear than a moose in a fedora on the top shelf?

The moose’s imperative

“Listen, you,” I hear a hollow voice say in my ear — or was it spoken from that top shelf and only seemed very near? “I have watched from this perch as you lurch through your rhymes, times after times until limes secrete juices and kiwis slide down sluices and the rhymes become crimes.

“Enough,” screams the moose, “enough and enough! Here in this august first company of clowns I declare nothing! I have nothing to declare and neither does this foolish band of declaimers. And so adieu to this ado.”

And so, with a flourish, he stops talking, nestles the fedora on his noggin, and resumes his quiet watch, as if daring me to stop walking and consider all I had seen.

But I know I dare not stop, because somewhere beyond these four walls is a danger of some sort, and only if we stop can it catch us. At least, that is what they seemed to be telling us when we started along the road.

“Don’t look back,” I heard an old man say. “You never know what’s about to catch up to you.”

Whether it made sense or whether it didn’t, we were bound to move on — bound and determined, even when we sensed it would be easier if we were unbound. And boundless possibilities rose from the horizon just then, fueling our ardor and giving us another round of hope for a better tomorrow around the next bend.

“Keep going and going,” someone or something whispered, then shouted. “Keep going and going! The journey has just begun, and here we now go.”

and stormy night

 © Hktelleria |

Darkness fell over the land early. A storm was coming. Thunder like distant cannon fire echoed from the sky.

She rolled the generator onto the porch; if the electricity went out, it would power the sump pump and a lamp — or maybe the Wi-Fi router — were all the devices charged?

After she plugged everything ins she picked up her book and continued where she’d left off. Some ancient royal was having his way with one of the ladies while her husband was off to war. A light rain began to fall, and the cat jumped into her lap. She stroked the little beast as she read about the royal tryst.

A sudden, nearby clap of thunder made her start, and the cat meowed and jumped for cover. It was only when the pounding on the front door was repeated did she fully realize that someone had knocked at the same moment as the thunderbolt.

Slowly she slid back the dead bolt and opened the door. A gray-haired man stood in the threshold, slightly taller than she, looking her over with a strange glint in his eyes.

After a moment, he spoke. “Do you believe in the hereafter, lovely lady?”

Her mouth twitched. “Why, yes. Yes, I do.”

He grinned a wicked grin and stepped toward her, raising his hands.

“Then you know what I’m here after.”

Another clap of thunder sounded nearby, and she slapped his hand away.

“Get in here, you idiot,” she said, laughing and pulling him inside. “That joke was old when Rowan and Martin used it in the sixties. Come on, I’ll pour you a drink.”

Meta physics on a deadline

Time was running out. The job needed to be done and nothing was working. He couldn’t let the job get away from him, but now he realized the horse was out of the barn and running wild down the lane and through the neighbor’s back yard.

This was all a metaphor, of course. The barn was resting in his lap, the horse was the assignment he eagerly accepted last week, and the equine’s path was everywhere except where he was supposed to be.

“I am screwed,” he said to the wall. No one heard at all, not even the ball. 

For a moment he stepped outside himself and saw a meta vision. Someone was sitting in a dimly-lit basement typing the story of his failure. What he would do to change places with that typist, not realizing they felt the same lost sensation but for opposite reasons.

There was no way out of this, the assignment was not going to be completed on deadline. He had understood that as soon as he began unpacking the problem, but he held onto hope that he could pull off a miracle. After all, he had accomplished miracles before. But this time — this time was not going to be particularly miraculous.

Suddenly three men walked in brandishing pistols.

“I’m here for the project,” said the largest of the three men. He was not an especially attractive guy, which is why he always liked to enter brandishing a pistol. No one ever said to a gunman, “Crap, you’re one of the ugliest guys I’ve ever seen.” For one thing, he has a gun. For another, you’re looking at the gun, not the guy’s ugly face.

But I digress. The three men were there to take the project. He recognized, even though there was a chance he might not be breathing in a minute, that his miracle had appeared.

“I was this close to finishing the project,” he would say, “but these three gunmen waltzed in and took everything.” And he would have the security footage to prove it.

“Fine,” he said, trying to look exasperated rather than relieved, and handed over the materials he was working on.

“You can call the cops in 10 minutes,” the ugly leader said. “If I hear sirens coming this way anytime before 10 minutes from now, I will hunt you down and you will not like what happens when I find you. Capice?”

That was when he knew the guy had watched too many old gangster movies. It was the first time in his life that he had anyone say in all seriousness, “Capice?” 

“Enough,” said the typist typing about the project manager and the typing man. “I am going to have to sleep over this. And if this ever sees the light of day, I’ll know just what kind of writer I am.”

He knew, however that it if it did see the light of day, he wouldn’t know any more than he did 10 minutes ago.

Still, when the boss came in that morning, she started to say, “So, did you finish that project for me,” but gasped instead and said, “Oh my gosh, are you all right? What happened?”

Across town, an angry mug was slapping the ugly man and saying, “This isn’t complete! What are you doing bringing me unfinished work?”

And the next time the angry mug sent his goons out, there were only two of them. 

Bus ride from Destiny

 © Hrecheniuk Oleksii |

He noticed her as soon as she got on the bus in a little town called Destiny in the middle of nowhere. A small-town girl had no business being that stone-cold beautiful, but he supposed that was why she was leaving town.

She took a seat three rows in front of him on the other side, so he could watch her satin hair and occasionally catch her profile when she looked to the right. He thought about striking up a conversation with her, but he was pretty sure he wouldn’t take the chance.

They rode that way for hours, three rows apart and never making contact, and when morning came and dawn broke, she stood to get off at a bus station in a medium-sized city hundreds of miles from Destiny.

He thought he saw her square her shoulders to take on the world. In his mind he told her goodbye and wished her luck in her new adventure. 

Over the years he waited to see her on a stage or a screen having become a star, and it’s possible he did and never recognized her. After all, he only knew the back of her hair and a glimpse of her profile. Still, he remembered her, and maybe that was enough.