I’ve just published my first book on Amazon. It’s a collection of seventy-two stories written over the past fifteen years. I use the term “stories” as a catchall for what includes creative non-fiction, flash fiction, prose poetry, and memoir. All of the pieces are short, usually just a few hundred words.
I’ve tried to capture the interesting bits and pieces of life as I see it. I find it’s all interesting if you pay attention.
I opened the paper to the editorial page of the Salt Lake Tribune today and watched as a spider, not hairy or scary, ran across Donald Trump’s bare heine. The heine is on Bagley’s cartoon depiction of our emperor’s new clothes.
The spider continued down the page, through the public forum, and vanished while Donald trundled into the future.
My wife pauses at the door of Barnes and Nobles bookstore. A gentleman holds the door for her, she hesitates. He tips his head.
"I'm waiting for my husband," she says and enters.
He continues to hold the door for me, but when I get there, three young women are coming out. I wonder if he is holding the door for them or me.
And politics still on my mind I consider whether he is a Democrat being polite or a Republican feeling guilty. Just a nice guy I decide as I enter the store.
I pick up a copy of Short American Fiction to peruse while enjoying a cup of coffee. I read Erin Somers story "Canine" a contest winner. It features lemons an apt symbol for a marriage gone awry, and a tooth, the meanest tooth, a red lipstick covered canine.
There's a House Sparrow at our feeder. He sits there all day long eating sunflower seeds. Soon, like me, he'll be too fat to fly.
I was at Costco, checking off the items on my shopping list, when I remembered we needed eggs. I imagined the route I’d take to the giant cooler where the eggs are stored and started walking. I’d walked only a few steps when I saw a jar of raspberry preserves. I placed it in my cart imagining it spread lightly on my toast, the memory of a sweet crunch of goodness lingered on my tongue. I love jam.
Costco is a warehouse store with miles of aisles, bulk goods stacked to the ceiling, and an occasional sparrow checking out the inventory.
I reached the end of the aisle and turned left toward the. . .
I couldn’t remember.
I continued walking growing more anxious with each step. It wasn’t on my shopping list since the item was recently remembered. Thanks to the raspberry preserves and my short term memory it was gone. I took a few more steps and stopped. I searched my mind and found the bills I was supposed to mail sitting on the kitchen table. I found my coffee brewed but forgotten, and I remembered where I’d left the book I’m currently reading, but nothing suitable for a shopping list. I was ready to give up—and then I saw the giant cooler at the end of the aisle—and kaboom the eggs were back.
I once wrote a story about a lost dog. I asked a friend to read it. He said he liked it but suggested that the protagonist wasn’t the dog’s owner, but rather the dog’s guardian. I understand, PETA, Peter Singer, animals have rights. But the term guardian is fraught with problems. Say, for instance, a fellow’s dog is stolen. He calls the police to report the loss and says, “My dog was stolen.” But it isn’t his dog. He’s only the guardian. Does he say “A dog was taken, and I’m its guardian”? And do the police tell him he’s a lousy guardian and don’t see the problem since the dog now has a new guardian, the “thief”? Or the dog is hit by a car. The driver stops. “I’m so sorry,” he says “I’ve killed your dog.” What does he think when you correct him and say the dog isn’t yours, and before you can explain you are the dog’s guardian he asks if you know who the owner is. I ask my dog if he prefers the term owner or guardian. He rolls onto his back for a good belly rub.
Past plovers hiding in pickleweed
an airborne tilt-a-whirl of phalaropes pass by
while the Peregrine continues
his roller-coaster flight down the shoreline.
He dips, ducks dive.
The gulls rise and fall en masse
shouting a collective eek.
The Peregrine passes over the ghosts of Harlequins
taken shooting gallery style
by trophy hunters
We drive parallel to his line of flight
my speedometer reading 45
it’s a leisurely flight plan he’s filed.
We soon arrive at the end of the causeway
and the falcon having shuffled the deck on one side
like a boomerang
direction reversed he rises
then wings closed, dives
and a Ring-necked Duck too slow
is struck and seized
his prize accompanies him
under the big top
they take a lunch break.
In a most comfortable chair at the foot of my bed, I read. The dog, a shih tzu, is on the bed behind me, snoring. I laugh, and my wife, already tucked in but not yet asleep, laughs too. Later, with the lights out, we again share the moment and chuckle over the still snoring dog. Then she, being an expert on doggie ways, informs me that pugs snore more than shih tzu do. My friend Steve has three pugs. We imagine him in bed, the three pugs snoring while he tries to sleep. Do they harmonize? Do they snore in three-four time? We say our goodnights with audible smiles. I plan to write about it but don’t trust my memory, and so I record the incident in a notebook I keep on my nightstand. Finished, I hear my wife snoring gently, the dog sighing and then . . .
A young man more than six feet tall lopes by, his strides amazingly long. He covers the distance in front of our house in just a few steps. I could never match a stride like that. He’s chasing the sunset and seems to be making progress. Already, he’s in front of our neighbor’s house.
Perched atop the couch, Yoda, the neighbor’s pug, looks bored. He’s looking for adventure, so when the neighbor opens their door to let her mother in, Yoda darts off the couch to her side. Then, the dog sees the man whizzing past and bolts.
Yoda is on the move, like a little freight train, already at top speed. The man with his long stride seems out of reach, but soon, with a many-paw-thud-to-one-step charge, the dog is at his side and keeping pace.
The man stops. The dog stops. The neighbor comes out of her house. The dog stops, turns, and faces her, and the man stops and looks around too. Thinking she now has control of the pug, the man moves ahead. He takes two long strides, and again, the dog is at his side, barking. The runner stops once more and turns toward the woman. She calls again, but the dog sits beside the man and watches.
The man walks toward my neighbor, the dog in the lead, thinking, perhaps, an introduction is in order. Then, the dog sees me. I’m no longer an observer in my yard but part of the action. Yoda leaves the man, blasts past the neighbor, and starts barking at me.
He doesn’t bark long but, instead, passes me and continues running toward a nearby rose bush, under which he conducts an exhaustive investigation. The neighbor follows after him, apologizing. Yoda ignores her until she leans over and says, “Do you want a carrot?”
The dog looks up, then leads her home, checking often to make sure she’s following.
“Your dog likes carrots?” I ask as she passes.
“Loves ‘em,” she says.
We have a Scrabble set on a shelf in a cabinet, but we haven’t used it for years. I play “Words with Friends”—an online version of Scrabble—and until today that was enough.
I was reading when my wife showed me her latest craft project, a cool looking box.
On one side of the lid, on top, she’d painted a watercolor palette and brush. When I turned the box so I could see the other half of the lid, there it was: “CREATE” in block letters. She’d used Scrabble letters.
“Cool,” I said, not yet making the connection between our Scrabble set sitting on the shelf, waiting for a game, and her creation. “Where did you get the Scrabble pieces?” I asked.
“Oh, from the Scrabble game.”
“Our Scrabble game?”
All of a sudden, I wanted to take the game out and play. Now I couldn’t, because she had ruined it.
She could see I was upset and said, “You can get another set of letters. They’re not expensive.”
“Right, and what do I do in the meantime? Six missing tiles! What if I have an opportunity to play ‘QUICKLY’—triple letter triple word, and a bingo to boot—but you’ve used the other C in ‘CROOK’? I miss a 148 point play, and all because of the ‘CREATE’ you played on your little box!”
I want to play now. I want to shuffle the pieces in the rack. I want to place them on the squares—double and triple, letters and words. You spoiled it.
After my heart beat slowed, I realized that I’d overreacted a little. I ordered a full set of pieces on the internet. They were inexpensive, $2.99.
They’ll be here soon.