Monday, June 1, 2009

A German, a Cliff, and Two Bow Ties

The German’s name is Jean-Luc. He is running toward a cliff. Then, comically, he trips. He gets up, dusts off one bow tie, then dusts off another. Satisfied with his appearance, he resumes running toward the cliff. Jean-Luc, the German, flies off the cliff and plummets to his death.

Seven people are saddened when they hear that he jumped off a cliff, but none of them allow the news to ruin their day.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mandrake the Complacent

Mandrake had always known he was better than most of the others. One day, as Mandrake walked down the street, an older man asked him how he had come to know this. Mandrake thought to himself: I am not any smarter than the others, or any taller, or any funnier. I am not more capable of making friends, or of kissing girls, or of gaining power. I am not any better at sports, nor am I any better at adding or subtracting. I cannot spell very well, and I know that my breath smells rather badly. I cannot paint a picture, and the essays I write are always only fair. I do not have as much money as many of the others, nor the desire to acquire any more than I have.

And at this point Mandrake looked up at the older man and said: I’m not quite sure how I have come to know it, sir, but I have.

Satisfied with his answer, Mandrake nods at the man and continues walking down the street.

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Phone Conversation

He tried calling her but she didn’t pick up. Hurt, he tried calling somebody else. She did pick up. She said, “Who are you?” And so he explained who he was. They hadn’t met, he explained, but imagine if they had. She had trouble imagining such a meeting. “What do you look like?” she asked. He couldn’t really say. This was of no help to the lady. Growing frustrated, she explained that she had to go. The man understood, and the two discontinued their conversation.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Mollusk sat alone in his room smoking. He didn’t have any windows, naturally, so the air became quite thick with smoke. If he extended his arm out in front of himself he could hardly make out his hand. Mollusk didn’t mind this, for he had always been embarrassed of his hand, and this impression, though he knew it to be false, brought Mollusk a small amount of joy.

Then somebody knocked on Mollusk’s door. “Yes,” Mollusk said as flatly as he could.

“May I come in?” It was his roommate.

“Of course not.”

After a moment, the roommate’s feet could be heard walking slowly from Mollusk’s door.

Mollusk hadn’t been outside in four days. He had left his room, of course, but not his building. After four days of being inside one tends to forget why one has decided to stop going outside in the first place. Or at least this was the case with Mollusk. On his fourth day of confinement Mollusk couldn’t say why it was he had decided to stay indoors. He tried to think of the reason, but like most things Mollusk tried to do, he failed. So, giving up on determining the reason, Mollusk decided he would sit smoking in his room until he could think of something better to do with himself.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Inside of a Room

There are benches inside of this room, and a bar. Two women are seated at the bar. One of them is wearing something the other finds unattractive. She does not tell the woman this, however. In fact, she says, “You look so attractive in that dress.” The other woman, not as stupid as she is unfashionable, says, “Thank you,” but she doesn’t mean it. Truthfully, she resents having to say it.

On one of the benches sits a man named Rut. There is another man sitting next to him. They are strangers. Rut considers trying to speak with the man, but then remembers that he doesn’t enjoy speaking with strangers. He is silent. After a while the man turns to Rut and says, “Excuse me.” But Rut, having already recalled that he doesn’t enjoy speaking with strangers, remains silent. The man turns from Rut with a sigh. Why are people in rooms always so rude? he asks himself. Then he stands up and walks over to the bar where he eavesdrops on the women’s conversation as he orders another drink.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Pins, Boxes, and Thumbs

Alfred Pin was not a curious man. His brother Franklin Pin wasn’t either. The Pins were simply not a curious family. Their neighbors, Pug and Brute Box, often commented on the Pins’ lack of curiosity. “Don’t you think it’s odd,” Pug would start to say to Brute, “how incurious the Pins are?”

“Yes,” Brute would reply, “I do.”

This engendered a certain animosity between the neighbors.

Across the street from both the Pins and the Boxes lived the Thumbs. The Thumbs didn’t bother with neighborhood politics. As a result, everybody on the block hated the Thumbs.

Alice Thumb, the Thumbs’ youngest daughter, is in the same class as both a Pin boy and a Box boy. These two boys, one incurious, the other slightly less so, are both madly in love with Alice. This, though, is really of no interest to this story. Which raises this somewhat troubling question: What is? And, lacking any very convincing answer to this, I will discontinue the story here.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Polymath, IV

An actress decided she would become a poet, so she took out a pad of paper and a pen and tried to decide upon the subject of her first poem. Nothing came to mind, so she decided she didn’t really want to be a poet any longer. She was going to become a pianist instead. No one she knew owned a piano though, so this was out of the question. She would become a painter, then. She went to the store and bought tubes and tubes of paint, a dozen brushes, one easel, and three white canvases. By the time she had purchased all these supplies, lugged them all home, set up her newly purchased easel, etc., she was exhausted. “Perhaps I’ll paint tomorrow,” she said aloud, though nobody else was around. The next day, however, the actress had lost all desire to paint, and so decided for the time being she would continue to be an actress.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Most Fun We Had All Day

I took this woman to a museum. Before we left, she said, “You know I don’t like museums.” I did not know this. Nonetheless, I thought she might like this one. “I doubt it,” she said, and then we set off for the museum.

When we got there the price of admission was slightly higher than I had promised her it would be. I paid the difference. We proceeded to the exhibit I thought might most interest her. It did not. Not even a little? I asked. “No, not even a little.”

Then we went to another wing of the museum. She didn’t care for it either. I asked if she’d like to leave. “Yes, of course.” So we left.

Once outside, I asked her what she might like to do. “I don’t know,” was her response. I asked if she was hungry. She was sort of hungry. Do you want to go to a restaurant? “Not if it’s expensive.” I knew the perfect place.

I took her to a restaurant downtown. We sat down and opened our menus. It was more expensive than I recalled it having been. I asked her if it was too much. “Yes, but it’s fine.” I stared down at my menu. The waiter finally came and we ordered our meals. She ordered a cup of soup. That was all. Are you sure? I asked her. “Yes.”

After our meal I suggested we go to a park. Those are free, after all, I joked. She didn’t seem amused. We walked to a park. “It’s too hot,” she said. Yes, I agreed, it was too hot. Would you like to go to a bar? I asked. “Sure.” We went to a bar.

After a great deal of time at the bar we were both somewhat drunk. She began laughing at certain things I was saying, though not many, and only rarely at the things I thought were amusing. Rather abruptly she said, “Let’s go home.” I acquiesced, imagining it to be the end of a rather unpleasant day, but was surprised to discover that she meant we ought to go home together. So we did, and it was the most fun we had all day.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Flann and Brian

Flann owes Brian a favor. Brian, intending to collect this favor, says to Flann, “Don’t you owe me a favor?”

Flann denies owing Brian a favor, and since Brian is a coward, he says, “My mistake. I’m sorry.”

“That’s ok,” Flann says, and he casts Brian a sympathetic smile.

Friday, May 22, 2009

9 Things You Should Know


Phalanx, a man of no real importance, arises. He looks about the room he is in. There is a woman sleeping on the bed next to him. What is your name? he asks. Lull, she replies.


Lull comes from a family of eight children. When her oldest brother married, he asked his sister Lull to move in with him and his wife. She complied, but did so with some reservations.


One evening Phalanx decided to get drunk. He went to a bar called Mudd’s. He got drunk.


Lull’s reservations proved groundless. Living with her brother was as miserable as she could have hoped.


Phalanx met Lull in another bar, this one without a name. They talked for several minutes, then agreed that they ought to go home with one another. Lull couldn’t take this man to her brother’s, so they agreed to go to Phalanx’s.


At one point Lull asked Phalanx what his name was. Embarrased, Phalanx refused to answer. Lull didn’t press the issue.


Lull’s brother’s wife is named Agent. Agent has been having an affair with a man named Treasury. Treasury is Phalanx’s neighbor. They have never met.


When Lull was four one of her sisters died. She was fine with this.


Lull leaves Phalanx’s shortly after being asked her name. She walks home. It is not a far walk but she is tired.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Been, né Ben

Been, né Ben, had once been full of promise. Of late, however, what latent promise there may have been within Been seems to have completely dried up. Others had been suggesting for some time that this might happen were he, Been, not to take some sort of action against this lamentable possibility, but he had disregarded these people. And now Been, a man once so full of promise, sits alone in his room grinning at just how silly the others and he had been for ever seeing anything of promise within his now patently unpromising self.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Recollections of a Person I Once Knew

A man takes out a small pad of paper and a pen. He writes:

I miss the whorl of her left ear. I think.

Then he sets his pen down. Was that what he missed? He takes his pen back up.

I miss the dots on her face. Or the ones on her back.

He puts his pen down. He can’t recall which dots he misses, or even if he misses any of her dots at all. He glances at the pen. Then he tears the sheet of paper off the pad and crumples it in his hand. He tosses it onto the ground. On a fresh sheet he writes:

There isn’t anything I miss. About her.

But was this true? He couldn’t say for sure. He writes:


Then he shakes his head.


Still not satisfied, he writes:

There is likely something. There is always something.

He sets his pen down. He takes his pen back up.

Not always. But in this case. It seems likely.

He tears the sheet of paper off the pad. He folds it into a small, angular shape. He places it in his mouth. With his pen he writes upon a fresh sheet of paper:

I’ve forgotten almost everything.

He seems satisfied with this. He places his pen next to the pad and stands up. He hasn’t been outside today. He decides to go peek out his front door. He does so. Then he does a number of other things, none of which have anything to do with recollecting others.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Taking an Elveator Together

She stood beside him in the elevator. He reached his hand out and touched hers. “My god!” she gasped. “He just touched me!” There wasn’t anyone else in the elevator. He reminded her that it was impolite to refer to someone in the third person when he or she was present. She consented to this, though mentioned that she’d prefer he not try to touch her hand again. He assured her that he would try not to, though he mentioned that he could not always control such things. She consented to the reasonableness of this assertion with a nod.

Although the rest of the elevator ride was filled with tension, nothing actually happened between the two. She got off on the 24th floor, he on the 26th.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Discomfort of Squatting

In order to see through the keyhole, the man was forced to squat. This caused him great discomfort, for the man rarely squatted. He began thinking about this discomfort as he peered through the keyhole. My thighs, he thought to himself, are experiencing a great deal of discomfort. My knees, he moaned to himself, are not at all in a relaxed position. Thoughts such as these ran through the mind of our hero, the one who is shown above, the one who is squatting so as to peer through a keyhole. After a while, two minutes and thirteen seconds, say, these thoughts become so overwhelming that the man, our hero, forgets why he is looking through the keyhole at all. Or rather he doesn’t forget exactly, but instead becomes aware of the fact that he doesn’t have any idea what he is supposed to be looking at as he peers through the keyhole. As a result the man stands up, quickly shakes out his legs, and then continues down the hall to his room.

Friday, May 15, 2009

One Conversation, the Details of Which Are Recorded Here, Amidst a Number of Different Characters

Conrad had met Gershman through Rowley. Rowley is a conductor. He conducts all sorts of things. Gershman, a technician, resents this, while Conrad, a librarian, is indifferent to this fact. Gersham and Conrad are friends, or rather they spend a good deal of time together. Rowley doesn’t care for either Conrad or Gershman, though he does take some pride in having introduced the two. A fourth and unrelated person, Ellman, is an arborist. His wife is named Boyle. They enjoy bathing, sitting, and sleeping. Boyle’s having an affair with a man named Butler. Butler enjoys sipping, chewing, and swallowing. He owns two boats but never boards either. Butler is hydrophobic. When it rains, Butler walks beneath an umbrella. Some people find this strange, but they are surely in the minority. One member of this small class of people, Thornton, sleeps in a room without windows. He finds this a suitable enough arrangement and only rarely complains. The woman who rents Thronton this room, Richard, she has a son named Howe. Howe is bald. He remembers how one time long ago he had let one of his fingernails grow longer than all the others. When someone noticed this, Howe grew so terribly ashamed that he nibbled the whole thing off. The person who noticed was a woman. Her name is Parkman. She is married to Thurber, a ne’er-do-well, and he is a friend of Isaiah’s, a dentist. Dentists are respectable people, though they occasionally make friends with reprobates. One reprobate, Toole, was stalking a woman named Ford. He liked her very much, or rather he liked following her very much. One day she spoke to him. The details of the conversation weren’t recorded. The content of another conversation, however, has been recorded. It was between Charles and George, two very old friends.

C: George, good to see you.

G: I suppose it is, yes.

And that was the conclusion of their conversation. George’s wife, Antonia, slept with Charles once. George does not know this. Charles thinks about it all the time. Antonia has forgotten that it ever happened. She is a drunk, and her memory is not quite what it might otherwise be. She likes to drink gin. So does her friend, Eliot. Eliot is living with Madox at present, though they are no longer sharing a bed. Madox has to wake up early and Eliot hates having to get up before noon. So does Franz, a man from Albuquerque. He likes sleeping, blinking, and watching others move about. His cousin, Greene, owns a boutique cheese store in a small town somewhere. His neighbor’s name is Edmund, but he prefers that people call him ‘dmund. When pressed for the reason why he prefers this nickname, he always responds, “Because I do.” People, accepting creatures that they are, tolerate this response. And this is precisely why people are such boring things, and precisely why we will stop discussing them any further.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

H.B. Isgood

H.B. Isgood wanted to find out what they had done with the girl. Had they taken her to their place up the coast? Or had they stowed her away in one of their cheap clubs downtown?

Then all sorts of other thoughts began trickling through H.B.’s mind, and he soon forgot all about the girl.

She was never found.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Minding Someone Else's Presence

As a result of having lost his shoes, Frederick’s feet hurt him a great deal. He wants to sit down. This is only natural. There is no bench in sight, however, so Frederick must continue walking. Finally, after a number of quite painful steps, Frederick comes upon a bench. It is occupied. Frederick speaks:

“Would you mind if I sat down next to you.”

The woman seated on the bench looks over Frederick.

“Where are your shoes?”

“I’ve lost them, I’m afraid.”

“That was foolish of you.”

Frederick admits that it was foolish of him and then repeats his initial question.

The woman says that she would, in fact, mind. She says that she was taught never to trust a man without shoes, never to trust a man that asks to sit down on a bench next to you, and never to trust a man who is known to do foolish things. Frederick thinks about this for a moment. Then he says, “Yes, I suppose you’re right. I would mind me sitting next to me too.” And, not having much more to say to this woman, Frederick, on pained feet, sets off to find an unoccupied bench.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A short story involving a caper

“Will you pass the salad please?”

“There is a caper in it."

“Never mind then.”

They ate the rest of their meal in silence.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Fillip the Talker

A man approached him. “Hello,” he said.

Fillip, for that was what he was called, responded, “Hello.” He was amazed at the presumptuousness of this response. Fillip did not typically let himself go in such a manner. He blushed.

“I was wondering,” the man began, “if you knew of a place where I might buy an umbrella.”

“Over there,” Fillip blurted out. What was happening? he thought to himself. What am I saying? How dare I!

“Thank you very much,” the man said.

“You’re welcome,” said Fillip. The gall! The nerve! The aplomb!

So as not to offend anyone else, Fillip put his head down and walked home before he offended anyone else with his presumptuousness.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Being Bothered

Not knowing what a boat was, she wasn’t bothered by the fact that she had never ridden in one. Other things, though, bothered her terribly. Her son, for instance. He was a painter. This, to her, was a bothersome fact. Brushing her teeth bothered her, as did forgetting words she had once known. She detested the company of others, as she did the company of very nearly all living things (cats in particular). She never expressed any of this to anyone, however. She never betrayed a hint of her disgust towards any of it until, one day, her son captured her in a portrait. The result is shown above.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Blind Date

Sue, a woman, meets Paul, a man. “Hello,” says the woman to the man.

“Hello,” responds the man.

Then, after about 46 seconds of standing and staring at one another, the man turns his back on the woman.

“What was that for?” she asks.

But the man, having his back turned to the woman, does not hear what she says.

After about 23 seconds of this, the woman extends her hand and taps the man on the shoulder. He turns around. “Paul?” she asks.


“My name is Sue.”

“Yes. I figured.”

Sue nods. 46 seconds pass. Sue turns her back on Paul.

“It seems only fair,” he says. Paul waits approximately 23 seconds, then extends his hand and taps her on the shoulder. She turns around. “Sue,” he says.


“This is becoming rather tiresome, wouldn’t you agree?”

“I could stand another 46 seconds of it or so.”

Paul nods in agreement. The two stand staring at each other for roughly 46 seconds, and then both turn their backs on the other and walk away.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Architects Really Ought To Know How To Swim

He put on his yellow hat. It was his because he had borrowed it from a friend long ago and never given it back. The friend, no longer in contact with the man who just put on what used to be his own yellow hat, has forgotten that he ever owned such a hat. To complicate matters, the original owner of the hat, the former friend who has forgotten all about the yellow hat, never really cared much for the hat. Now, the man who has just put on the yellow hat, the one who the hat, arguably, belongs to now, he decides he no longer cares for the hat either. He takes it off and sets it on a chair. The chair is blue. He bought it at a garage sale three summers ago. The former owner was a cop. The cop had purchased the chair from an architect. The architect had actually designed the chair himself, though he was unhappy with the results. As a result of this unhappiness, his blue chair, the architect’s, now has a yellow hat sitting atop it.

The architect died in a boating accident. He saw a fish in the water, leapt in after it, recalled that he had never learned to swim, and then drowned. It was deemed a tragedy by his family, an unfortunate accident by his colleagues, and a minor if somewhat comical event to everybody else. His boat, the architect’s, was designed by a man named Benson. Benson collected frogs. His favorite frog was named Tile. Tile was from Brazil. Benson thought Tile might mean something in Portugeuse, but he never bothered to check.

The architect was born in Portugal. His wife was not. She is a widow now, though she no longer wears black. In fact, her friends have been impressed by the range of color she has introduced into her wardrobe. One friend in particular, Peg, thinks that she looks ten years younger as a result of the colorful garments she has adopted.

Peg was herself adopted. Her real name is Leg. Leg was born to two Guatemalan immigrants living in Ridgefield Park, NJ. They commuted to work and were deeply, if dispassionately, in love with one another. When Leg came along, they decided they ought to give her up. When they brought her to the adoption agency they dressed her in an orange dress. “Here,” they said, handing over Leg. The woman at the agency looked at them suspiciously. “What’s her name?” “Leg,” they replied, but the woman at the agency misheard. “Peg, that’s a nice name, my sister’s named Peg.”

Peg, the sister, is malnourished. She looks terrible. Her cheeks are sunken and colorless, her eyes are bulging nearly out of her head, and her breasts have shriveled to nothing but nipples, little drooping gray buttons that stain the bars of her chest. She is tired too, all the time. She can’t ever seem to sleep enough. Her husband, Lisbon, works inside of a massive machine. When people ask him what he does he says, “I work inside of a massive machine,” and generally people nod at this response as if it were a reasonable explanation, which it is. The machine that Lisbon works inside of is owned by a fellow with a peculiar gait. People are always commenting on the peculiarity of his gait. His response:

Yes, I know, but that’s simply the way I was made.

People always shake their head at this as if it were an unreasonable response, which it is. He then drops his head in shame and shuffles off, fleeing from the unsympathetic eyes of the others. It is all really quite sad.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Cloid, like most people, owns a jacket. He, unlike most people, never takes it off. This is the single remarkable fact about an otherwise wholly unremarkable man.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Admiring Joseph

Joseph ate a small sandwich, stood up, walked to a museum, perused briefly the various things on display, left the museum, walked to a bench, sat down, and is, at this very moment, still seated.

A small group gathers about Joseph. They are all struck by something about him, though none of them are able to say exactly what that something is. One woman suggests that it is something in his eyes, but the others agree that that isn’t quite it.

Joseph stands up. The group emits a collective gasp. Joseph speaks:

It’s my hair you idiots!

Of course! They all shout. Of course!

And then the group disperses, and Joseph begins his walk home.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Gob of Gumjuice on the Roof of a Polite Man’s Mouth

A small gob of gumjuice is stuck to the surface of a polite man’s mouth. He doesn’t know what to do. He considers asking for help, but then realizes how ridiculous he would sound. Polite people do not like sounding ridiculous, so the man doesn’t ask anyone for help. As a result he dies, or at least is forgotten, for polite people always either die foolishly or are forgotten.