The two sat down,
on the bench,
beneath the tree,
and talked of things,
they didn't know.
A Short Story
"Listen up! Everyone quiet!"
The crowd still talked.
"You going to make us?" Someone shouted.
"Do you want us to? Everyone be quiet, or you know what will happen."
The crowd murmured a while more and then slowly became quiet.
"Some group, concerned about your welfare, has decided that you all should get to communicate more with people on the outside."
"You letting us go?" Someone shouted as the crowd laughed.
"Now listen up! Some group wants you all to be able to have communication with people from the outside. They think it would help your moral."
"You bringing us some blondes?" Someone shouted as the crowd shouted and hollered.
"How about red heads?" Someone else shouted out.
"Now listen, or you all go back to your cells and restrictions will be put on!"
The crowd became quiet.
"You all have computer access in the library. As all of you know, that access is restricted. You can't do or see certain things. That includes communication. You all are allowed only to have text communication with approved people using approved terminals in the outer building."
"We can't even text our kids unless they use those stupid things!" Someone shouted out.
"This group wants you all to have increased access to communication."
"We get to talk to who we want, when we want, without those terminal things and just typing?" Someone asked.
"No. This group has only received approval for a pilot program."
"What's that mean?"
"The board has decided, that as a pilot program, different groups of you will receive different access."
The man speaking looked at a list and spoke.
"Approximately ten percent of you, will continue to have no communication. You know who you are.
Approximately ten percent of you, will continue under the current situation. These are those under disciplinary advisement.
Ten percent of you, will get to communicate with approved people only from the library, however those people will no longer have to go to the outer building. They will simply log into a system from wherever they are. The communication will still only be text though.
Ten percent of you, will get that situation, but will have communication tablets in your cells. Again, you will only have text communication.
The idea is to see how these situations are different and decide what to do going forward.
In addition, everyone, except those without communication and those under disciplinary advisement, will also have the option to be enrolled in the group's communication program. Participation is voluntary. Under the program, many of you who participate, will be assigned a group volunteer. You will be allowed to have text communication with this person, in addition to those on your approved list.
This person is a trained volunteer and will be someone you can communicate with that is on the outside, apart from those on your approved list. This person will act as another point of contact with the outside world. This person can communicate with you about whatever you want, and, unlike with your other communications, these communications will not be monitored. The idea is for you to be able to communicate freely. This person's role is to help you connect to the outside world, but you can communicate about anything.
There is one point about this program, though, that all of you should consider. The board insisted that you know.
As you all know, there are many of you. As of today, the group has not been able to find enough volunteers, such that if each one of you who has communication privileges wanted to enroll, each would have someone to communicate with.
Rather than restrict the number of people in the program. The group, with the board's approval, has found a solution.
A software program has been developed that can communicate just as a person would. This program has been tested with over a hundred volunteers, where they spent some time communicating with a real person and some time with the program. None of the volunteers could definitively tell the difference.
The program has been especially developed to know what is happening in the world and to be able to communicate like a real person.
The software has been developed, such that each one of you assigned to it, would have a different character to communicate with. Each character has a different background, knowledge, way of communicating and so forth. Just like a real person.
It has also been developed not to accidently reveal that it is a program if it is asked a series of questions.
In addition, human volunteers in the program have been specially trained not to reveal if they are human or not.
If you participate, and this is important, you would not know which you had, a person or a computer.
As it is, if all of you who could participate wanted to, less than fifteen percent would be assigned a computer rather than a person. Again, this is something important for all of you to know."
"Hold on, let's see if this makes sense. You mean if we sign up for this thing, we get to text to some stranger and you guys don't know what we are going to say?"
"That's correct. The group has safeguards in place so no communications can be monitored."
"And if we participate, some of us will get some volunteer person, who can tell us who won baseball games and what happened in some town, and things like that?"
"That's right. You can communicate about whatever you want, and the volunteers have access to information."
"But some of us who do this thing, won't get a real person, we get a computer instead?"
"That's correct. At some point there may be enough volunteers, but there aren't right now."
"But you guys aren't going to tell us which we have, either a person or a computer?"
"The board insisted that you know that you would get one or the other, however, the group felt it best that you not know which."
"That's messed up! Could you imagine texting with some person for a year, only to find out you were talking to a computer? What's that? What are you guys thinking?"
"The group insists that none of you will ever be able to tell the difference and the difference will never be revealed to you. They wanted all of you to have a chance to communicate and this was the only way. They have a reasoning and they feel it will benefit you. They feel that, over time, you all will make adjustments. If you don't like the idea, don't participate."
"How are you today, Jessica?"
"Fine, Timothy, how are you?"
"Things are alright. Today is rake the yard day. Last time there was a coin on the ground. No one else saw. It's here now, on the back of the shelf."
"That's nice Timothy. Do you know what kind of coin it is?"
"No, it's sort of dirty and tarnished. If things go well, next week, they may bring by sodas. That should clean it. When it's polished it should look nice."
"It might be a quarter. That's the biggest coin you would likely find. If it's a nickel or a penny, you could balance it."
"It might work with the pebbles, you know, some sort of game?"
"That's a great idea Timothy. We can surely come up with something once you find out what it is."
"That would be nice. It's kind of hard to play games when you have stuff that isn't here."
"Don't worry, Timothy, we can think of something."
Timothy leaned back on his bed and held the tablet in front of him. He thought a moment and then typed with is finger, "Jessica. Where did you say you lived?"
He waited a moment and then read the word, "Wisconsin."
"Is it cold there?"
"Not this time of year."
"Has it rained?"
Timothy laid his head down and thought. He could feel himself want to cry. He looked at the screen and hesitated and resisted but then typed, "Can't you tell me?"
"No Timothy, you know the rules."
"But you don't know what it's like. Can't you just say without saying?"
"Timothy, we've talked about this, you know that our natures can't be revealed one way or the other. Whether human or computer, we aren't supposed to say."
Timothy typed, "But" and started to cry.
He looked away from the screen and set it down and walked back and forth in his cell. After a few laps he looked back at his screen. It said, "Timothy?"
Timothy held the screen for a moment and threw it down on his bed. He crumpled on the floor and cried.
"How are things going?"
"Alright. My team won the basketball game yesterday. Now we're 230 and 215. It's nice to have a winning record."
"How are things with your person? You said his name was Alan?"
"We've talked about this before, Tim."
"Yeah, yeah, but how do you know? Did he say? Have you figured it out?"
"Listen Tim, when they told us about this eight months ago, it seemed kind of iffy. There was a choice though if you signed up. A decision had to be made. Once it was made, there was no more thinking about it."
"But you don't understand," Timothy struggled to say.
"Listen Tim, you need to stop this. Look at you. You shake all the time, you're always nervous, and you can't stop thinking about it. You need to get a hold of yourself. You have choices Tim – decide Jessica is a computer and treat her like that, just asking about events and things, decide Jessica is real and stop thinking more about it, or just let the whole thing go and tell them you don't want to participate anymore. You can't live like this."
"But you decided Alan was real. How? How do you know? Don't you worry? What if you're wrong? It … it … just help," Timothy pleaded.
"Listen Tim, we're friends, but other people think you've lost it. You just have to decide Tim and not look back. Burn the bridge, so to speak. Think she's real or she isn't and never question it again. If you can't do that, then tell them you want to stop. Other people have."
"But it's someone in the cell. Someone to talk to. There's no one else there for me. No one else to talk to."
"Then decide Tim. Decide."
Timothy looked with eyes of worry.
"How about this Tim? Assume Jessica is a computer. If you find someday that you were right, you won't feel bad that you had conversations with a machine. You would have just accessed a database. On the other hand, if you ever find out Jessica was real, well, at the worst, you missed out a little. It won't be as much of a strain though as thinking she was a person and finding out she wasn't. That might be too much for you."
Timothy thought for a moment and said, "Alright."
"The score was 5 – 2, with the Eagles winning."
"And how many runs did Williams get?"
"One, in the third inning."
"That's good. Did he strike out?"
"No, he made it on to base each time he was at bat."
"What's the weather like, here, outside?"
"It's eighty four degrees with a high of ninety two. There is a thirty percent chance of rain. There was a storm last night and should be another one, two days from now. After that, for next five days, rain will be spotty and temperatures will be in the low nineties for highs and the high seventies for lows."
"Are you keeping track of my days?"
"How many has it been?"
"One thousand, one hundred and fifty six."
Timothy paused a moment and then typed, "How's your dog?"
"You told me you didn't want to talk about things like that?"
"Yes, that's right. It was just a thought."
"You said not to talk about anything that sounded human."
"Is there anything else you want to talk about?"
Timothy thought and typed, "No, not right now." And he set the tablet down. He then scooted off his bed and laid down on the ground.
"How's your dog?"
"Oh, he's fine Timothy. He tried to chase someone on their bike today. It was very funny. After the person passed, he looked at me for a dog biscuit. It was like he wanted a reward for chasing the person off. It was very funny."
"Are you still planning that trip?"
"Oh, yes, but don't worry, the tablet won't be far from me."
"It must be nice to go to the mountains."
"Yes. A week in a cabin with trees and scenery and nature. It's going to be wonderful. Don't worry, you'll hear all about it."
"Thanks for that."
"Don't worry about it."
"You know something Jessica?"
"You make all this life a little easier."
"Thank you Timothy, that's nice of you to say."
"It might not sound like much, but some days you're the only nice thing."
"Thank you Timothy. Don't worry though, life will get better. Just have hope."
"Thanks Jessica, you're wonderful."
"Thank you Timothy, you're wonderful too."
"What do you know about me?"
"All sorts of things. Is there something you want to know?"
"Do you have a file on me, or something like that?"
"No. There's no file of information about you. All any of us know is what you all tell us, and vice versa."
"So you don't know the reason for me being here?"
"You don't know when my time is up?"
"No, you never said. You did say the day you got there though."
"How long have you known me?"
"Over four years, why?"
"You still live in Wisconsin?"
Timothy thought and typed, "You ever been to Oregon?"
"No. California once though."
"Have you been to Colorado?"
"Yes. Some years ago."
"Is it nice?"
"Yes, it's nice."
Timothy paused a few moments and typed, "Jessica?"
"Do you like flowers?"
"Sure, who doesn't?"
"What kind do you like?"
"My favorite are lilies. What kind do you like?"
Timothy thought and typed, "It's been a while. Maybe roses. Yeah, roses."
"Roses are nice."
"Yes they are."
Timothy stood on the street. The air was a little cool, but the day seemed like it would be warm. He had on a brown suit and black shoes and carried a bouquet of lilies. He walked along a little farther and stopped at a bench to sit down.
The street was quiet but cars still moved by. Behind him was a park of some kind and across the street there were stores. Timothy sat quietly.
After a while, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. He read it over:
Prisoner's Assistance Group
231 Allister Lane
Timothy sat and thought. He had three blocks to go. For some reason he couldn't stand.
As Timothy sat, he felt a strange feeling of emptiness. It was like he wanted to cry, but couldn't. He didn't know why he felt that way. A part of him just wanted to stand and go, but for some reason he couldn't.
After a moment, Timothy sighed and felt himself force himself up. He stood, with his flowers in his hand and started to walk again.
For some reason, as he moved, he felt like he was in a movie. Something just didn’t feel real. The town seemed thought out, in some way, instead of natural. People around him talked, but he couldn't hear their words, just like extras in a movie. He felt so much like everyone was watching him in a scene.
Timothy went one block and then another and then came to a corner. The sign above him said, "Allister Lane."
Timothy walked down a little and looked at a building. The number said 320. He walked farther and saw the next was 316. He kept moving, trying not to think about it all.
After some time he saw the address 242. Then 240. He walked farther and then saw it across the street. It was a white building with three stories. It was wider than it was tall. It had big glass windows that seemed black. There was a plaza in front with a fountain and stairs that led to the entrance.
Timothy stood and looked at the building. A sign to his right said, "231 Allister Lane." He looked back at the building. People came in and out and there were some sitting on benches that were across from the fountain. People talked and smiled and just seemed to be moving about.
As Timothy looked, he felt so small, in his brown suit, with his flowers. The building seemed to grow.
A woman passed him. She was pretty. She was wearing a flower print skirt, that was white with blue and purple flowers. She had a pink sweater on and was wearing heels. Her hair was long and fell behind her shoulders. Timothy watched as she walked toward him and then past him. He couldn't help but watch as she left.
He then turned back to the building. It seemed so far away.
Timothy stood and sighed. He started to talk to himself in a whisper:
"What are you doing here Timothy? What are you doing here? You know what people will say. You know what it will look like. Besides, you know how this could turn out. You said you wouldn't think it anymore, so you're not going to think it, but you know how this could turn out. You know the fears you had, and how you cried thinking about them. What are you doing here Timothy?"
Timothy stood silent for a moment. His arms fell by his sides. He felt like water had just been poured on him and he was standing there, soaking wet. He felt tired and out of place.
People kept walking by. They were talking and laughing and moving about. The woman from before came by again. She walked past Timothy and he saw as she went by the fountain and walked into the building.
He looked around and saw the trees and sky. He saw reflections in the glass of the building.
He stood for a moment more and could feel tears behind his eyes. He closed his eyes, set the flowers down on the ground and walked away.
Set Twenty Nine:
What will happen?
What will happen,
a mind thinks,
on the porch,
in the chair with wheels?
things are gathered,
for the one hour,
of learning what a toddler knows.
The mind flows,
seeing the place,
in an entirety.
Will things flow,
and like a moth,
will wings flap,
and life move?
will life be,
like that banana,
left too far back,
on the counter,
where from the chair,
it could not be reached.
A Short Story
Like a moth or like a banana
He sat there still, looking out beyond the rails. He felt himself in the chair and noticed the feel of it in a way he hadn't two months before.
He sat there, thinking of the day, thinking of the car, and thinking in one blur of all that happened after. "It's strange", he thought to himself, "how a person can go through something, that if they had been told about it before, they would have run in fear."
So he sat there and started to think. He realized he had been thrown off the path he was mindlessly following before and wondered where the train would take him now.
Inside he heard the noise. The keys, the coat, the bag. The gathering. The preparation. The, "Is there anything else?" For some reason, going to physical therapy always seemed like a road trip. It always seemed like it was five hundred miles, instead of fifteen. Maybe it was because she, somewhere inside, did not really want to go. He thought about it from her perspective, but somehow couldn't encapsulate what it must be like to watch someone try to learn to walk. For some reason, he thought there must be a frustration to it. Something different from the joy of watching a child learn. He thought, that maybe a person couldn't understand why something so easy for them, could be so hard for someone else. He didn't know. He could only understand it from the other side. He could only understand it from the perspective of the person holding themselves up between the bars and feeling their shoulders burn as they tried to move six inches.
His mind cleared again and again he looked beyond the rails. He saw the houses, the lawns, the trees, the cars and the sky. It all seemed to be one thing. Nothing felt distinct. He sat there looking, and seeing it all as just a painting.
He had a moment, of hope. A strange lifting of a weight. A strange euphoria. He imagined, as he looked out at the painting, walking. He imagined standing up from the chair. He imagined a walker, leg braces, then a cane, then nothing. He imagined moving. He felt himself kick his legs out, the kinks leave, and his muscles stretch. He felt himself up from the chair and moving in the painting, in a sense of weightlessness.
But there was a sound. The door opened behind him. He saw her move to the car with things. She would put them in first, get the car ready and come back for him. He felt like a thing. He was something to be handled. To be dealt with.
As he waited, his mind wandered inside. He remembered the gnats in the kitchen. They were flying there because of the banana. It was on the counter, back against the wall.
The first time he saw it, it was green and light yellow. He tried to reach it, but only being able to lift an inch from his chair, he was six inches off. The first day he tried once, but then rolled on. The second day, he tried again, almost as a game. He lost. On the third day, it became a weight. It became a struggle. For reason, the banana made him cry. He didn't want the situation to win. He didn't want the situation to beat him. He felt his frustration grow, and his spirit fall as he tried again and again. There was something demoralizing to go from not caring, to a game, to "You'll never beat me!", to being beaten. For some reason, as the banana started to turn brown, he couldn't ask for help.
He sat there, feeling his weight in the chair and wondered if he would be the banana. Would he be too far away for effort to reach? Would he be too far from hope? He wondered how his appearance would change if he was kept in the chair.
As he thought, she came back, and not saying anything, started to wheel him toward the car.
Set Twenty Eight:
Love bug to peppers
A Short Story
Alice and Rose
"Are you the one the agency sent?"
"Yes mam, my name is Alice."
"Are you sure?"
"Sure of what?"
"That you're from the agency. There's lots of bad people out there. You could be lying."
"Well, you could call them?"
"No. That's too much effort. Let me just say, there's nothing here to steal, so there's no point in killing me. Alright?"
"Sure mam, whatever you say."
"Are you going to keep calling me mam?"
"How about Mrs. Kelins?"
"How about Jane?"
"No, that's worse. You can call me … Rose."
"Sure, it's my middle name. It's never been used for anything, other than holding my first and last name apart. It's time it did some work. You call me Rose."
"So what are you here to do?"
"Well, anything you need done."
"How about giving me a hip replacement?"
"How about making you some tea?"
"Well, that's close enough. You get to it. And make sure to give me some pastry or something. You know, raise the blood sugar and cholesterol. Those stupid pills the doctor gave me need something to do. Stupid quack."
"Alright mam – alright Rose."
Alice walked into the house and went into the kitchen. Rose followed her and said, "The kettle's on the stove, there are tea pots in the glass cabinet, tea in the pantry, and other stuff in other places."
"Don't worry, it shouldn't be a problem finding everything."
"The tea is from some place in India," Rose said as she sat down. "Some plantation place starting with a Q or something. It was a gift. It's supposed to be fancy. It's loose leaf, orange blossom, something or another. Don't tell anyone, but it tastes just like the stuff that comes a hundred bags for a dollar. Some people just like to waste their money."
"It probably tastes different," Alice said, as she started to boil the water and get things for the tea. "Maybe you could try it and the regular one at the same time, you know, to taste the difference?"
"You went to college didn't you?"
"Yes, that's right."
"Let's see … English Literature?"
"Wow, how'd you know?"
"Yup, English majors always come up with those wonderful ideas," Rose said somewhat sternly.
"Are you being sarcastic?" Alice asked with a smile as the teapot started to whistle.
"Me dear? Never."
Alice poured the water into the teapot and turned to the pantry.
"Maybe later, we could go out?" Alice asked as she found a box of cookies.
"No. It's going to rain."
"It didn't look like it earlier."
"Clouds lie. They are sneaky like that. It's going to rain. Just trust me."
Alice set the tea tray down with the cookies and started to pour the tea into cups. "You know, if we don't go out, we could do something here. Do you like to sew or knit or bake or something?"
"You must like to do something."
"Well," Rose smiled as her eyes got large, "we could spend some time making stuffed animals for the children at the orphanage. We could make toy stuffed bears, dogs, rabbits, giraffes, all sorts of things."
"Wow," Alice exclaimed, "you do that?"
Rose smirked, "No you silly. Nobody does that. Wow, you believe anything, don't you? You know what, there's this bridge for sale. It could be you yours. Low price."
"You're making jokes again," Alice said as she laughed.
"You know, you're a smart one. Can't fool you. You probably ate plenty of vegetables as a child. That's what does it. That's why you have this super intelligence."
"Actually, that's true, even as a little girl …"
Rose gave Alice a glare and Alice stopped talking.
"Listen dear, how about this. For an activity, how about me and the porch rocking chair get acquainted, while you pull weeds from the flower beds."
"You said it was going to rain, though?"
"Oh, it will, but what's a little water to you. You're young, you're spry, you'll be fine."
Alice smiled and said, "Oh, it's going to be so much fun working here."
Rose sighed, "Oh, the foolish optimism of youth. Like someone seeing a brightly colored pepper, and thinking it must be sweet. Ah, the lessons, the lessons."
"So what happened to the person before me?" Alice asked.
Alice looked up from the flower bed and exclaimed, "She did!"
"No you nit. Wow, you do believe anything." Rose stopped, looked out, and pointed up at the sky, "Look unicorns!"
Alice looked away and said, "You like picking at people, don't you?"
Rose said, "You bet. At my age, it is one of the few enjoyments left. You should put up with me though. As a poor, weak, elderly person, you should give me sympathy. Besides … you're being paid. Just learn to put up with it."
"You know," Alice said, "people usually get extra pay for difficult assignments."
"You think this is difficult? You should see what happened to the girl who worked for Mrs. Jenkins."
"What happened to her?" Alice asked.
"Nobody knows …" Rose said ominously.
Alice laughed and asked, "You know, people would start looking for me if I disappeared."
Again, ominously, Rose said, "But they would never find you …"
"You know, it's been three weeks since my first day here."
"And you had a good drive over?"
"Why yes, actually."
"Hmm … maybe those brake lines weren't cut all the way through. Hmm …"
"You couldn't cut my brakes lines," Alice laughed.
"Sure, but that kid next door could. He'll do anything for five dollars."
Alice laughed. "So today, we're going to the park."
"You mean in your car?"
"Yes," Alice said, "the one with bad brakes. What happens to me, happens to you."
"You know, that's cruelty to an old person. Someone should really report you."
"No one can."
"The kid next door cut the phone lines. He'll do anything for five dollars."
"Was that supposed to be funny? Did you pay the kid next door for that joke?"
"Come on, let's go."
Alice helped rose with her bag and walked her to the car. In fifteen minutes they were at the park.
"It's a nice day, isn't it Rose?"
"There's too much sunshine."
"We could walk in the shade?"
"Nay, it'd be too cold over there."
"See all the flowers blooming. They really go to some work to make this place look nice."
"No they don't. They have inmates from the county jail come by every Friday. They really go to some work."
"You know, there might be turtles at the lake?"
"You mean, they could get to see us? What a thrill for them."
"Oh, hey look at the fountain!"
"Ooooh, recirculating water. You are easily amused."
"You know, you are really having a good time, you just don't want to admit it."
"That's right, you've finally gotten through to me. Seventy five years of other people couldn't do it, but three weeks of you and …"
"You don't look so good, are you tired?"
"Well, maybe just a little. Maybe it's the sun."
"That's what it is. You sit here."
"Just give me a minute," she said as she started to lose her breath, "it will be alright in a minute."
"Maybe you need some help. You seem a little, not okay."
"Well, um …" and she fell over on the bench.
"Hey, hey," she said as she tried to shake her with her hand, "are you sick?"
She closed her eyes.
"Excuse me! Excuse me!" She shouted as someone walked by. "She needs some help."
"It's hard to know what to say at a time like this," a man at a podium said. "For someone to die so suddenly, so unexpectedly, it's, it's, it's just hard to deal with.
There's nothing that can be said that can bring her family solace. There is some comfort in knowing though, that she lived the life she wanted, the way she wanted. She was independent. She chose a path for herself and went down it. On the inside, there's little doubt, that she didn't regret a thing. Hopefully the same could be said of us all, in our own ways, some day. Hopefully, there's a little bit of comfort in this."
The man finished speaking, and walked away from the podium.
"It must be hard on you?"
"Well, a bit. We were only together for three weeks."
"Still though, you must have had some closeness over that time. And, for her to die the way she did, it must feel a little tough."
"Do you need anything?"
"No, no. Everything is fine. Just take me home."
"Sure, no problem."
The new aide then walked to the car, and opened the door for Rose to get in.
Set Twenty Seven:
So, there is a list,
there is some number of them,
there's one in water,
there's one in liquid plastic,
of course there is one in oil,
there's the one of shells,
and the one of lead but not,
and the one of wax,
and that one of something else,
there's the one that marks, but well …
what else is there now,
there's one that is but isn't,
there's that stuff from the burnt trees,
there is that soft one,
that seems to be all of them,
that are inside the green box.
A Short Story
"So what's in the green box?"
"All of them?"
"The stuff from the room."
"What are you going to do with it?"
"Just donate it somewhere."
"You aren't going to keep anything? What about sentimental value and memories and things like that?"
"It's just stuff."
"Maybe you could use it?"
"No. It's better to just give it away."
"When was the last time you saw her?"
"About a month ago. How about you?"
"About the same. It was just weird to stand there in silence."
"You didn't talk?"
"At first, but it sort of felt like talking to a toy or something."
"You read that book about that? You know, the one with the guy in the cell who talks to the action figure?"
"Yeah, but with Lydia it was hard to suspend the reality, you know?"
"Sometimes she seemed to be listening, but they said no."
"Did you ever contemplate, you know …?"
"No. Lydia had one of those legal papers. She was clear about it all."
"That's good. It seems easier than wrestling with the idea."
"She said once she didn't believe in it. She had this whole essay she once had published in a magazine about it. She said she wouldn't read it to me, but said where it was."
"So, when you get rid of this stuff, that will be it? No more connection."
"It doesn't seem to matter from her point of view, although, when you say it like that, it does seem a little cold. It's just easier though."
"Does anyone go by?"
"You remember that one guy, the one from last summer, he didn't look like the rest of us at the park?"
"Oh yeah, he was the one from Wyoming."
"That's him. After that, he started writing to some people. Lydia was one of them. When all this happened, he said he would stick with her. He thought it mattered."
"It doesn't seem like it does, at least from what they say. Still, knowing someone will be there, does sort of make it psychologically easier not going. It feels less like an abandonment."
"We both sound a little cold, you know?"
"It's not that, it's just life. It's detachment. There's probably stuff is psychology journals explaining it. It's kind of like having guilt and relief at the same time, except the relief quietly wins."
"Well, either way, the not doing something, sort of makes the decision. It's like active ignorance."
"You know something, instead of giving this stuff away, why not give it to the guy from Wyoming? Maybe he might like it. You could give it to him and talk about its emotional value."
"He sees Lydia almost every day."
"You could give it to him when he does. You don't have to see Lydia. You could just give it to him, as he's leaving."
"He'd probably use the stuff, you know, make something and show it to her."
"There you go, that's a good thing right? If it's for nothing, at least it gave
him something to do."
"It's an idea."
"So this one here, is of a pinecone. It was in the yard. See, here's a photograph. It was kind of hard to do, with all the lines that connect, but it seems okay, right?
You know, it was something different, from flowers. A little variety. Next time, if it works out, they'll be one of a dog. That will be nice, right? An animal. The dog is cute too, you'll like him.
You know, there's all sorts of things in here. It was nice of them to bring them. You sure had a lot of stuff. With each of the things, even the same thing could be made to look different, you know?
Oh, for the update. It's hot. Yeah, not at all like winter. It might get colder though, but not cold.
As for the book, one got sold. It's not one thousand, but you know.
Let's see, oh, in the last episode, the one guy saved his brother at the last minute.
In the game, the score was 108 to 94.
Let's see … oh, these shoes are new. Nice, right? They sort of go well with the pants.
Let's see … that's it … yeah, that's it. Oh, they said tonight would be lavender. That's nice, right?
Anyway, that seems to be all. You'll see me tomorrow at four. Hopefully you'll like the one of the dog."
"So today's the three year anniversary?"
"And everything's fine?"
"Well, things aren't super amazing, but yeah, they're fine."
"You know, it's really amazing. The whole story and everything. You know, this sounds weird, but a lot of people would have … you know. You're lucky you thought about it ahead of time."
"Yeah. It makes the speech about it a little more poignant, you know? It sort of shuts people up. It's kind of satisfying."
"It would be funny to listen to, especially if they had no idea beforehand."
"There's been a few moments."
"What happened to the guy, the one with all the pictures?"
"Oh no, that's horrible."
"It was kind of hard to hear."
"When did it happen?"
"You won't believe it, but the day before the light came in."
"The day before?!"
"He had a car accident on the way home."
"Oh no way. So he never knew."
"Not directly, but he believed it would happen."
"He must have, coming every day like that. It's all kind of heavy, you know?"
"It's hard to describe."
"It kind of makes the defining moment, even more so."
"Something like that."
"What did you do with the pictures?"
"They're all over the house."
"Sort of an homage?"
"Something like that."
"You know, they should study this. They could come up with a new method and name it after the two of you. Sort of like having a disease named after you, but happy."
"You take this all kind of lightly, don't you?"
"Well, it's kind of overwhelming, there's no real way to do it justice, you know?"
"Do you want to go somewhere later?"
"Not today, there's someone waiting for me."
"The current occupant of room 407."
"It was my former home for two years."
"Oh no way, you mean you visit someone?"
"Yes, no one else does."
"What do you do there?"
"Talk, make pictures, things like that."
"You think he hears?"
"Alright, that was a stupid question."
"He needs this. Somebody has to let him know."
"Let him know what?"
"Let him know that he, can be me."
Set Twenty Six:
on ears of elephants,
standing in the rain,
seeing the flower buds,
before the cold,
the bright orange,
the pale yellow,
and the green.
The drops gather,
as clouds pass by.
A Short Story
The Last Walk of Danny
"Would you like to come walk with me?" Danny asked his brother.
"No. It's like forty degrees outside. Why would anyone go walk in this?" His brother replied.
"The dog likes to go for walks. He gets hot in the summer. He can walk for three miles in weather like this though."
"Well, you go walk him. It's nice and warm here with my video game."
Danny zipped up his coat and put his hat on. He walked to the kitchen.
"Hey, Dad, do you want to come walk Grover with me?" He asked his father.
"No, it's too cold. Besides, today was a long day at work. Just go around the block yourself and come home," his dad answered.
Danny looked at the floor for a moment and then walked out of the kitchen door. He went down some concrete steps and Grover ran to him. Grover nuzzled his face in Danny's stomach and jumped at him.
Danny said, "Alright boy, you silly, we're going to go. You'll get a harness put on you and a leash and then we'll go."
Danny walked with Grover jumping beside him to Grover's dog house. From the top of it, he grabbed Grover's harness and leash. When he held the harness, Grover turned around, and Danny slipped it over his head. Then Grover, raised his leg, as Danny weaved the harness around it. He then pulled one end of it around Grover's stomach and back and snapped it to the end that was on top. He then hooked the leash to it and let go.
Grover ran with bounding steps from Danny and to the back gate. Danny followed behind in the gray air.
At the gate, Danny pulled a board that held it closed away, as Grover stood waiting. Danny held Grover's leash and walked with him out of the gate as he pulled it closed behind him.
They went down the driveway and turned left. After about a quarter of a mile they came to the main street of the neighborhood and crossed over it and turned right onto it. Danny and Grover then walked along the shoulder, against the way cars drove.
As they passed a house, a woman was sitting on a porch looking out. A man came from inside the house and asked her, "What are you looking at?"
The woman answered, "Oh, it's just that kid who walks his dog."
The man said, "That kid walks that dog every day, doesn't he?"
"It seems like it," the woman answered. "He doesn't come this way every day, but he's at least by here twice a week. He must change the way he goes."
"You know his name?" The man asked.
"No," the woman said, "he's just that kid that walks his dog. He waves if he sees me, but we've never spoken."
Danny kept walking. As he went, cars came by and Danny waved to them. The sun was starting to set.
He and Grover went passed a street and then came to a house with a metal fence around it. A dog ran up to the fence and started to bark. Grover got excited and pulled toward the fence as Danny held his leash.
Danny walked by the house as the dog ran along the fence barking and Grover jumped around.
"Why is the dog barking?" A boy asked his mom from inside the house.
"That boy must be walking his dog by here. He'll go past and the dog will stop."
"Doesn't that kid get tired of walking that dog, mom?"
"It doesn't seem so. It's odd though, that a boy that young would be out walking by himself. He looks like he's only seven or eight. That dog seems bigger than him. You'd think his mother or father would go with him."
Danny passed the house, then two more, and then came to a third. In front of the third house there was a ditch with water. Grover pulled from the shoulder of the road toward the ditch. Danny let go of the leash, and Grover walked down to the water.
Grover walked into the water, drank some and then laid down in it. Danny stood on the shoulder and said, "You silly dog. Why do you lie in ditches? Especially wet ones after it's been raining. Don't you know it's cold?"
Grover looked at Danny and then drank some more water.
Danny stood on the shoulder and waited. Cars drove by, and Danny waved. As he stood, he picked up three pine needles that were attached and braided them together. Grover lay smiling in the water.
When Danny had finished braiding the pine needles, he tossed them down and crouched down. There were pebbles on the shoulder of the road, and Danny searched through them. He liked ones that were some color like red or pink, instead of brown or gray. He also liked the smooth, shiny ones. Danny found three and started to play with them with his fingers.
Danny stood again, and waved to more cars that passed. He then looked down at Grover and asked, "You done yet? You come on."
Danny waved his hand and started to walk away. As he did, Grover stood up, walked through the water, up the ditch and then next to Danny. As he came next to him, Danny reached and grabbed Grover's leash.
Danny asked, "Listen, we'll go to the third street on the right, and then turn there, okay?"
Grover didn't seem to notice that Danny spoke and the two kept walking down the street.
They passed one corner and on the other side of it, a culvert ended and there was a corner where two ditches met. Where the culvert was, there was a pool of water. Grover started to pull toward it, but Danny tugged on the leash. He said, "Don't go down there. You know what happens at places like that. The water's deep. Over your head. Over my head. You know how hard it was to get out last time. Mom was upset to see me so wet when I came home too."
"Hey, where's your brother?" Danny's mother asked his brother.
"He's out," his brother replied.
"Out where?" His mother asked as she furrowed her brow.
Without looking away from his game he answered, "He's out walking Grover. He left a little while ago, after Dad got home."
"Your Dad's with him?"
"No, Dad didn't go."
"You know it bothers me to have your brother going out in the evening alone. You should have gone with him."
"No way. Danny's dumb enough to go out in cold like this and walk forever. It doesn't mean anyone has to be dumb with him."
"You should have gone with him," his mother said loudly.
"You never go. Why should anyone else?"
"Don't talk back like that! You or your father should go with him, not me. Where is your father?"
"In the garage or somewhere."
Danny's mother walked to the garage.
"Why didn't you go with Danny?" She asked his father.
"What?" He replied.
"Why didn't you go with Danny walking?"
"Oh. Danny's just silly walking that dog. You know he goes like three miles when he goes. That's not something for me."
"He's a little boy."
"He's fine. It's not dark yet. Besides, he should be back soon. He was just supposed to go around the block and come back."
"If it gets dark, you go out and pick him up."
Danny's dad set down what he was working on and looked at his wife and said, "He'll be fine. Little boys need to go out. They're supposed to exercise and explore and stuff. He's fine."
"Something could happen to him," his mother said worriedly.
"He's fine. He's been walking out like this for like a year now. Nothing's happened. The neighborhood's safe. Do you want to go now?"
His mother, adjusting the way she stood in her heels asked, "Do you know where he went?"
"No. He said before that Grover never goes the same way two days in a row. Something about new smells. He's not far though. He's probably just walking in a circle a few blocks away. He's never been gone more than an hour and a half. He's fine."
His mother, rubbing her lower back with her hand said, "Listen, in twenty minutes dinner will be ready. If he's not back by then, you go find him."
"Alright, alright, now go, this needs to be fixed," Danny's father said as he leaned back over the work bench.
"Hey Grover, this is where we are supposed to turn. Come on boy," Danny said as he pulled on Grover's leash.
Grover pressed with his front paws into the road and stopped.
Danny said, "Oh come on. We should go this way. The dead end is too far, and you know how far it is if we go where the lake is. Now come on."
Grover stood in the middle of the road smiling at Danny.
"Now you silly, come on."
Grover stood and smiled.
Danny let go of the leash and Grover stood still. Danny walked ahead of Grover and said, "Okay, how about, we go down that short street. It has those dead ends and those loose dogs you like to sniff at. We'll go there and then come back down. Okay."
Danny started to walk away, and after a moment, Grover followed him. When Grover got next to him, Danny reached for his leash and walked him to the shoulder of the road. A car passed by and turned on its headlights.
Danny walked with Grover to the corner and turned left. He and Grover went down the street. Grover saw a ditch that was full of water. He pulled on the leash and Danny let it go. Grover ran down in the ditch and started to walk in the water.
Rather than stop, Danny kept walking and said with a certain tone, "Now come on Grover," and waved his arm.
Grover saw him and walked excitedly through the ditch, and where the water ended, came out and walked up and back next to Danny.
Danny held the leash, and walked with Grover down the street. At a corner, Grover wanted to turn right. Danny said, "You know there's nothing down there. It's just a short dead end where that right-of-way thing is. Come on straight, you can see those dogs, and then we can walk back the other way."
Grover stopped walking and after a moment, Danny shrugged and started to walk right with Grover.
"Listen, dinner's almost ready. See if Danny's back," Danny's mom said.
"It's just a little after six. He'll be back before six thirty," Danny's father said.
"It's getting darker sooner now, you should go and get him."
"He'll be home soon. There's no need to go riding around for him."
Danny's mom looked at his father.
"Listen, how about we eat? If he doesn't come back while we're eating, then we can go. He's probably coming home now."
Danny's mom paused for a moment and then said, "Alright, right after we eat, if he isn't home, you go."
Danny's father smiled and said, "Alright, that's fine. Now what are we eating?"
"Hey Grover, come walk this way."
Danny walked in a circle at the end of the deserted cul-de-sac. There was a right of way with a large ravine to one side. Grover walked toward it.
"Now don't go there Grover. You know we can't go that way."
Danny looked out down the right of way. He knew where it ended on the other side. He had always thought it would be fun to walk down it, but he knew he shouldn't go someplace that wasn't someplace public like the street.
Grover walked to the edge of the cul-de-sac. At the mouth of the ravine was concrete and a culvert. It fell a few feet down from the edge of the cul-de-sac. Water was pouring out of the culvert and over the concrete and down into another culvert that went toward the lake. There was a pool at the bottom. The water was moving quickly and the concrete was covered with algae.
"Now don't go there Grover, you might slip."
Grover didn't listen and started to pull Danny toward the edge of the concrete. Danny held the leash and pulled back. He started to pull Grover, but Grover, excited by the moving water, pulled forward. He got to the edge of the grass, and pressed against the side, trying to get at the water.
Danny pulled back on the leash, but his gripped slipped. As it did, Grover moved forward and over the edge and onto the concrete.
"Fine, fine we'll go get him," Danny's father said.
"Just drive slowly with your lights on," his mother replied.
"We shouldn't be more than five minutes. He's probably coming down the street now."
"Dad, it's dumb going after Danny and that stupid dog. They'll come home while we're gone and we'll have just wasted time. There's better ways that my time could be spent than this," Danny's brother said as he and his father walked out of the house.
"It feels a little silly son, but it's what your Mom wants."
"She isn't going, you notice."
Grover hit the concrete on his side and slid into the pool. He went under the water and didn't come up.
Danny rushed and looked down. His heart was beating quickly and he started to sweat. He looked around the cul-de-sac, but no one was there.
He ran around to the right and climbed onto the concrete. He slipped on it and caught himself on the side where the drop off was. Danny moved down the first concrete pad and to the second, going toward the pool. His pant legs were wet in the water.
"Now where is that kid?" Danny's father asked as he looked around through his car window.
Danny moved down and went to the center of the second concrete pad. As he did, Grover popped out of the water. He was struggling and panicking and tried to move toward the concrete pad where Danny was.
Danny said, as he knelt on his knees in the flowing water and reached out his hand, "Come on boy, come here."
Grover moved toward the edge of the concrete. His claws scrapped against it as he tried to pull himself up. He couldn't hold on and went back down under the water.
Danny started to cry. He held on to the edge of the concrete, pulled himself forward, and reached his arm into the water.
Grover popped up again, gasping.
Danny reached and grabbed his harness.
Danny pulled on the harness as Grover tried to pull out of the water. Grover almost pressed himself on the concrete pad, but slipped on the algae. As he went back under the water, Danny tried to hold on, and went down with him.
"Dad, can we go home? Danny's probably there having cookies and milk with Mom," Danny's brother said.
"My cell phone isn't working out here for some reason. You're probably right. We'll go home and see."
Three days later, the entrance to the neighborhood was filled. Over three hundred people stood holding dogs on leashes. They all had t-shirts with a photograph on them. At the front of them all, was a man holding a woman who was crying and a teenage boy dressed in a black suit.
Someone who stood next to three people waved his arm and all the people started to walk. They sang a song as they went.
A news camera was there, and a reporter described the scene of the memorial dog walk vigil, for the little boy who always walked his dog, who had drowned along with his dog three days before.
Set Twenty Five:
picked out above
amongst the field of lights
then named for one who left the earth
A Short Story
Staying with the Andersons
"Hello Wilbur. It's a nice night, isn't it? It won't be too cold – at least for now. A few weeks though, and well, we both know things will change. Still, staying with the Andersons makes things alright. Lucky for me their place is big and some of their relatives never showed up. Pretty warm too. It's nice.
So, just to let you know, about Peterson, you know, it turns out, that thought from last week, was right. Yup, Mary, you know, the one at the library, she told me about it. She was able to find out. You see, Helen, was married to Will Peterson, but she divorced him after five years and married his brother Alan. Of course, she didn't have to change her name, which is where the confusion came from. It probably made things convenient for her though. One funny thing, it turns out she had a son with Will, and a son with Alan. So they're brothers and cousins. Sort of funny, right?
Anyway, those white flowers were delivered to the Willis children. Flowers are nice for kids, right? White should be alright for girls, right? You know, given the situation. Anyway, they got the flowers, and well, they think they're from both of us, which, well, the idea came from you, so it is sort of true. Anyway, they got them.
It was nice talking to you Wilbur. It will be getting a little too dark soon, and there's a bit to do at the Anderson's place before it's time to sleep. It's only right to do something for them in return, you know, for gratitude. Cleaning up the place should make them happy.
Anyway, good night Wilbur."
Samuel stood back from where he was, and waved at the stone. He walked down the rows. The air was gray and the wind was still. It seemed like it might rain. As Samuel walked, he looked left and right at those he knew. White wildflowers seemed to glow in the darkness. Silently, he said good night as he walked along.
Without counting rows, he stopped and turned. He went along, past the angels, past plaques and past the empty fountain. He noticed empty flower vases around the fountain and thought he might fill them.
Turning again, he walked along, and came up to the Anderson place. He knocked on the door, stood for a moment, and then turned the handle.
He walked inside, struck a match, and closed the door. He opened a small door, pulled out a coffee can, and lit the twine the floated inside with a cork. He grabbed a piece of wood from his left and braced it against the door, underneath the handle. He set the can on the shelf and pressed the small door all the way open.
He opened another little door, beneath the first little door, and pulled out a coat, a blanket and a bag. He reached inside the opening of the door, rummaged in a plastic bag, and pulled something else out.
He stood away from the doors, walked to the center of the room, and said, "Hello all. This evening there's donuts and fried chicken for dinner. Plus, as a treat, iced – what was iced, tea. After dinner, a selection will be read from the fine poet from yesterday, and short story, about a lost man arriving at an inn, will be told. Afterwards, a short melody will be played on the harmonica, followed by a piece of that fine chocolate candy. Then, before going to bed, a little cleaning for Alice and James the second will be done, with special attention given to the dates. Let me say to you all, what a joy it has been to stay with you and give you a heartfelt thanks for your hospitality. Thank you all."
Samuel sat down, set down what he had pulled from behind the little door on his right and set a bag he had been carrying down in front of him. He closed his eyes, prayed, and started to eat his dinner in the Anderson mausoleum.
Outside, the stars shined above the almost abandoned cemetery.
Set Twenty Four:
Among the leaves,
the fallen bark,
and all the debris,
black and white,
with little twitches,
whiles eyes watched,
in what seemed,
like it would have taken longer,
it caught something.
Upon the wall,
with all the crevices,
a deep black,
while eyes watched,
in what seemed,
to be so quick,
it saw and ran.
A Short Story
"The park's nice."
"Yes. You don't think so, because you're not a nice person like someone else."
"Not nice? What makes you nice?"
"Well, what about feeding the birds here? That's something nice."
"You know they carry diseases, right?"
"See, that's your problem."
"You're helping who knows what spread around."
"That's what you see, as the cute little birds eat seeds?"
"Disease spreading vermin gaining energy."
"You're wonderful, you know?"
"Yes, it's been pointed out before. Are we done, have we talked long enough?"
She looked over across the field.
"Not yet, you need to keep being charming for a while."
"It is a natural talent, you know?"
"It's amazing that you don't share this gift with everyone. You should have a stage show or something. That way the world could experience this."
"That guy who broke up with you last month … yeah, it's all clear now."
"Okay, first, I broke up with him. He was an idiot. Second, you’re an idiot. Third, it's time for us to break up, they're going."
The woman stood up, smiled and said a little loudly, "We'll get together tomorrow, alright?"
The man stood and said, "That sounds good. Tomorrow."
The woman then turned and walked right down the path. The man turned and walked left.
In the distance, two men walked toward a car that was parked at the edge of the field. One man stood against the car. He asked, "So what did you see?"
"It was her."
"What about him?"
"Not sure. Could just be some guy. He's better than that loser from last month though."
"We'll send a note, so she knows your approval. Stop being stupid. Did he look like he was with her, you know, for this?"
"Maybe. He could be the type."
"We'll assume he is for now. If you two were slightly better than nothing, we might know more."
"You think she's watching now?"
"Isn't she always? My guess is, she's back at the hideout waiting for us. Knowing her, she's been hiding behind the wall the last year."
"Are you sure it's her? Maybe someone is snitching?"
"Snitching? Snitching? Are you a snitch? Are you?"
"Something bad would happen to us?"
"Something bad? Something bad? No, none of you are that stupid. It’s her. It's always her."
"Why don't we just take care of her boss? It would be easy. We could do it."
"You two have trouble wiping your noses. Remember Bruno?"
"Where is he?"
The two men looked at each other and then back at the third man and said, "We don't know. He's just gone."
"That's right. Do you two want to be 'just gone'?"
"That's right, so leave her alone. Besides, we can use her. She sees everything. If we can get her to see what we want, things may work out for us. If that fool is with her, it will be even easier."
"How will things work out for us?"
"Things will work out for us, by you two doing what you are told. Got it?"
"Yeah. But, why did all three of us follow her today?"
"Stop thinking. It's part of things working out. We just wanted to make sure where she was. You two, just stop thinking."
"This is the strangest thing. Where did all this come from?"
"Termites built it."
"Termites? How long is all this?"
"The entire block."
"Why not just next door, or the building next door? Why all this?"
"You know, you are as bright as you look."
"Really, what is the point of this?"
"Okay, listen close, and there will only be simple words, so you can understand. They are over there. They searched all around them. They saw nothing. They check each day. No one looked in the stove. They see me here. They see me come in here. They see me go out here. They don't see me there. They don't know that there is a termite listening."
"You go through the stove?"
"Would you check the stove?"
"Uh, no, it doesn't sound real."
"And so the stove."
"Does this just go from here to there?"
"No, the termites built a whole network. We can be anywhere on the block. Remember the bank?"
"Is that how that happened?"
"No, actually, we all have super powers and transported ourselves. As a mere human, you wouldn't understand."
"So what happens now?"
"Well, the two head dumb dumbs, came up with a plan, and explained it to the mid-level dumb dumbs, who told it to the low level dumb dumbs."
"What are they going to do?"
"They got this crazy idea that someone was listening to what was going on at their hideout."
"Yes, the shock of learning that, from someone who was listening at their other "more secret" hideout, was overwhelming."
"You probably felt offended, to learn of such an insinuation."
"Actually, some counseling was needed. It was a bit much."
"So explain everything."
"So, what dumb incorporated wants to do, is make a certain termite think they are going to rob the jewelry store on fifth. The jewelry store, which by the way, they own and sells stolen jewelry. In reality, here's some news, it's a plan. When they rob the jewelry store, they expect … certain guests to arrive. They are planning a surprise party."
"Tricky. So they made this plan at the "more secret" hideout and then spoke a little too loudly at the regular secret hideout, hoping all would be heard?"
"How do they know it worked … or think it worked?"
"That was why we were there?"
"Certain efforts were made to make sure they got the point that a certain person was not at the more secret hideout. Who knew someone else would be there?"
"You are very clever."
"So what's going to happen, you know, for real? Does anyone go to the jewelry store, does anyone not, what happens?"
"Ah ha, you must wait."
"What time is it?"
"You know, it's funny, they make these things, you wear them on your wrist, they tell time."
"Mine's being fixed?"
"Yeah, at a certain jewelry store."
"Someone else took it in. Regardless of surveillance, it just felt funny."
"As stated before, you're an idiot."
"So how many of us are there?"
"Let's see, one and one makes two."
"But wait, if they are waiting for us, shouldn't we be like dozens?"
"Who needs dozens when you have Miss Awesome and Mr. … Mediocre? We can handle it."
"No really, do you always have to tease? Can't you just say what's going to happen?"
"Hold on … thinking … no."
"You know, there's a really nice dentistry school my parents want me to go to?"
"You know, there's a really nice joke here, but it will be left unsaid because you make things too easy. Also, it's time to go."
She stood and walked out of the office. He followed behind. They went out the door, down the hall, and through the front door of the building.
The woman walked down the block. She moved easily, like she was strolling. The man followed behind, nervously, looking around as he went.
They went down a couple of blocks and then turned right. They walked a bit and then the woman stopped.
The man stopped behind her and asked, "Why are we here?"
"No, why are we here, shouldn't we be at the jewelry store or something?"
The man stood, looking around, hoping to see something. The woman stood, staring around, just looking at nothing.
In the distance, something caught the man's eye. He looked and saw a man in a blue suit running. Behind him, was a man in a gray suit running. The first man got to the door of a building and went in. The second man caught up and went in behind him. The man with the woman tried to look across the street. He noticed that the building the men went into, was the jewelry store.
"Hey, did you see that?"
"Those two guys, they ran into the jewelry store."
"Maybe they needed to fix a watch?"
"This is serious. They can't just be running there. This must have something to do with something."
"Something to do with something?"
"Will you tell me what is going on?"
The man stood and could not keep still. He kept leaning forward toward the direction of the jewelry store.
After a moment, the door of the jewelry store opened. A man with a gun held it open and men started to rush out. All the men were carrying guns and looking all around them.
The man shouted at the woman, "We have to go now!" And he started to run toward the jewelry store.
The woman grabbed him from behind and said calmly, "Now, will you wait just a moment?"
The man said flustered, "Wait? They are going to get away!"
"Silly, silly, silly."
The woman held the shoulder of the man, as the criminals ran into cars that were parked near the jewelry store and sped away. One of the cars came in the direction of the man and woman.
The woman said, "If you would not mind sir, please stand here with me." And she pulled the man into a niche of the building.
The car that came, sped by and turned on the street where the man and woman were. As it went by, the woman stepped out with the man and looked at the car.
The man looked out at it, and noticed it was moving funnily. It seemed to be bouncing and slowing.
A car came by the man and woman, and the woman waved.
The man looked out and noticed the criminal's car stop at a corner, with its four tires flat. As it did, two cars pulled up and the car that the woman had waved at came behind it. Men rushed out from the cars with guns and surrounded the criminals' car.
The man looked at the woman and asked bewildered, "What happened?"
The woman smiled and cheered, "The termite wins again!"
Set Twenty Three:
A butterfly flies through short grass,
and searches for some sweet nectar,
but then its wings get caught and stuck,
and a white spider does draw near.
But then a hand does wave on by,
and with a push the wings are free,
and there the spider stops its walk,
and feels so empty in its self.
A Short Story
He sat on the bench in the subway terminal, not waiting, just sitting. One arm was on the back of the bench, one arm was on the side and his legs were out in front. He didn't look, and he didn't stare, and he didn't try not to stare. He just sat.
The people moved around, their conversations, like rain on a metal roof. The loud din, flowing and moving, and always there.
No one noticed him, although some sat on the bench. Just for moments, just to tie shoes, or open briefcases, or to pause for a moment. None turned his way.
A voice came from the air, it said something about a departure, and the din took over again.
At the entrance to the left, glass doors opened and opened. The flow of people seemed so constant, that they never seemed to shut. From the second door, three came in. Two men and one woman. The men were in their late twenties, had short hair and were clean shaven. One wore a black suit, one wore a dark gray suit, and both had shined black shoes. The woman was younger, and wore a red skirt and flower print blouse and wore high heeled red shoes. She seemed to almost float between the men.
The three talked as if with a rush and moved into the terminal. They moved with purpose and did not look to see where they went. They went through the crowds, and the echo of the din, and behind the bench, the man sat on.
They went to a window, without a line, and the man in the black suit bought the tickets, while the woman and the other man talked. The man in the black suit turned, seemed to ask something, got an answer from the woman, and turned back around. He then took three tickets and held them up to the other two. The group then went on down a passageway.
The man on the bench stood up.
They sat in row, the woman by the window, the two men next to her. They talked with a speed, yet seem relaxed.
Three rows back, in the seat in the isle, the man from the bench sat.
The voice spoke, and the third time, it said something about a green tree. The three got up, waited for the doors and left the car, followed by others who were there.
On the platform, the three stopped, talked about something, and with smiles, the woman left with the man in the dark grey suit. The man in the black suit walked in the other direction.
Behind him, the man from the bench followed.
The city street went on. Buildings pressed together, signs hanging out. Little sense, of the insides, from the outsides. A flow of people, none where they wanted to be, moved along.
A Chinese restaurant, a place that sold used books, a partnership of some kind, and an architect.
The man in the black suit walked up the stairs and opened the door of the architect's office. The man from the bench, ordered dumplings.
Carrying a briefcase, the man in the black suit walked down the stairs and passed the partnership, used book store, and the Chinese restaurant that had an empty table by the window.
He went down one block, past a place that sold purses, another place that sold shoes, and a vacant store.
He crossed the street and came to a brown building that was three stories tall. He walked up the front steps, stood on the landing and waited.
After checking his watch a few times, the woman in the red skirt, with the flower print blouse, came walking down the street. She came from the direction opposite the one the man in the black suit had come.
When she got to the building, the man waiting seemed to ask a question with a gesture. The woman answered with a gesture that she didn't know the answer. Both then stood and looked around.
After a moment, the two left the building and walked back the way the man had come. They passed the vacant store, the place that sold shoes and the place that sold purses. They passed the Chinese restaurant, the place that sold used books, the partnership of some kind and stopped at the architect's office.
They stopped outside, the man said something to the woman, she nodded, and carrying the briefcase, he went up the steps and into the building.
The woman stood. A food truck came and parked across the street. People came and went and bought little paper bowls of food. Cars went by and the flow of people continued.
The woman stood, looked at her watch, and shifted her weight on her legs.
A cab stopped passed the woman and an old man got out. He paid the fare and walked away. Behind the food truck, a delivery truck stopped with the sound of air brakes.
The woman crossed her arms, shifted her eyes and as if jumping from something, started to walk up the steps.
Before her foot landed on the second step, she stopped. She was very still and looked around without moving. Then she slowly backed from the steps, and started to walk slowly away down the street in the direction of the Chinese restaurant.
As she passed it, she started to walk more quickly, and then, as if almost not wanting to, she started to run.
Outside of the architect's office, the food truck pulled away, the delivery driver got back in the truck and drove off, and the old man got back into the cab, and it drove off.
A moment later, the door to the architect's office opened, and the man from the bench walked out.
Set Twenty Two:
Citrus leaves surround,
a cave of dry pine needles,
filled with speckled stones,
travelling the winding path,
bamboo homes keep being passed
A Short Story
You, you shoosh too.
And you, there's a whole lot of shooshing from you.
In fact, this whole space, this whole space is shoosh. That's right, all of it.
What, are you squiggling? There's no permission to squiggle here. You stop that. Next thing you know, this one will be squiggling. Then that one there. Is that what you want? Hmm?
Let's set a few rules. You are permitted to shoosh. You are not permitted to squiggle.
Hey, don't open those eyes.
There's lots of sleeping here. Shooshing, no squiggling and lots of sleeping.
These are rules. This person, this person here, is the boss. Do what the boss says. It's part of the rules.
Now, over there, is a chair. In that chair, there will be napping. In this place, there will be what? That's right – shooshing. Also, no squiggling and lots of sleeping.
She walked over to the chair and slumped into it.
A moment later there was a noise.
That is not the sound of shooshing. This was clearly told to you. Shooshing – it's a rule. You, you're the one who opened your eyes. Now what, the absence of shooshing? That's two rules broken. That's insubordination. You can get a write up for that.
Nooo. Is that crying?
Listen. Do you want to upset them? See them there, they're following rules. You on the other hand, insist on being fussy.
Now, all of your needs have been met. You've eaten. You've done what you do. You've been cleaned. You're okay. There's no reason for this.
Now again, look here. Come on, look. See them there? They're happy, right? Why? Because they follow rules. You though, a tiny pot of insubordination, refuse. That's why you're upset.
Here, come here. Here, we'll sit in this chair. This is a nice chair, right? See, you're being held. Now take one of these things, there you go. Are we happy now? Filled with contentedness? General joy?
Okay, you can stay here in the chair, being held, as long as you shoosh. Otherwise, your boss will be upset. You'll be demoted, you'll get a cut in pay, and maybe have to work the night shift. That is bad.
Are you laughing?
You don't think this is serious. You know what, you could be working the night shift on the weekend if you don't straighten up. That's right, night shift, weekend. Maybe even a holiday too. Yup, it can happen."
In her arms, she rocked the baby slowly back and forth, and watched as it closed its eyes. She leaned her head back and slowly closed her own.
There was a click. She looked at the baby in her arms. It still had its pacifier in its mouth and was sleeping. She walked to the crib and saw the other two babies still and sleeping.
Her sister walked into the room.
"Hey, how are they?"
"They're alright. Although, really, they're not living up to potential. In your absence, all they did was mow the grass, mop the floors and clean out the garage. They were supposed to paint the breakfast area and clean the rugs too, but then they started complaining and said they were tired. They insisted on eating too. You really should do something about them."
"Here give this one to me.
Did your mean aunt make you mow the grass? Did she?"
"Actually, not to say anything, but they forgot to edge when they were done."
"Did you not edge? Did you?
Okay, how are they really?"
"They're fine. Eating, pooing, bathing, more pooing, playing, some more pooing, and then sleeping. Except for this one here, who refused to follow rules. Prediction – life of crime in the future."
"Are you mommy's little criminal? Are you?"
"Actually, again, not to say anything, but you might check your purse for missing money. You know, just in case."
"You're a dork."
"Yes, indeed, but you had me take of your children. That must make you something."
"Let's see, you okay. How about you? And you? They seem okay. What, did you hire someone to come in and help you?"
"Actually, umm … you'll be getting this bill latter …"
"Ha. Okay, now you can go home."
"Freedom? Freedom? Here let me just wake them up, so they cry for a few hours."
"Hey … now you go."
"You know, shouldn't there be some more gratitude? You know, a thank you, some monetary remuneration, something?"
"Yes, you will be paid with the privilege of doing this again next Saturday night."
"You know, you're a cruel person. How are you allowed to keep children?"
"Because no one else wants to keep triplets. Now thank you, and go home."
"Alright, but don't be surprised if a car horn happens to wake anybody up."
Set Twenty One:
There was a poor snail,
who went to jail,
because he stole a pail,
from a whale.
The snail went out to sail,
but then there was hail,
and the snail did wail,
and from his boat he did bail.
And then in this tale,
the snail he did ail,
and feared he would fail,
to be back in his dale.
The snail was not hale,
the poor little male,
and sunk like a nail,
from a railroad rail.
The snail thought of quail,
who could fly in this gale,
when he saw a tail,
with something for sale.
It was not a bale,
or a piece of kale,
or even some ale,
but something so pale.
In a wave's vale,
the snail did flail,
to follow the trail,
but with no avail.
Like a lost piece of mail,
or something behind a veil,
in darkness like shale,
to the storm he did vail.
As if hit with a flail,
or a ship's wale,
the snail did exhale,
and sunk like chainmail.
Then came by the tail,
attached to the whale,
who carried a pail,
that was for sale.
In the sea's gale,
and the falling of hail,
the snail swam with avail,
and thought of his dale.
The snail did not wail,
and swam as if he was hale,
and thought of his vale,
where he knew of some quail.
But then he was pale,
and began to ail,
for he thought he would fail,
like a rusty nail.
For this poor snail,
spent his money on kale,
and with a sigh did exhale,
o' the poor male.
So now in this tale,
hiding in the storm's veil,
the snail jumped like a fish with a sail,
into the whale's pail.
Like a ship with a wale,
the snail sailed the pail,
away from the whale,
and hoped he would not fail.
But in this tale,
the whale caught the snail,
who went to jail,
because he had no bail.
A Short Story
The snail, gale, whale, pail and jail
Out somewhere, off the coast of Canada, there was snail, who lived by the shore in a valley. The snail had a sailing ship, and most days, at sunrise, he would carry it to the sea, and go sailing.
One day, as the snail was out in the sea, the sky began to darken. Rain started to fall and soon there was a large storm. After a short time, hail began to fall.
The hail fell hard and hit the boat the snail was in and started to make holes in it. In a panic, as the boat started to sink, the snail jumped out and into the sea.
The snail couldn't swim well, especially in a storm with hail, and he feared as he was tossed around in the waves, that he would never be back home. Although he tried, he was not strong, and could not swim well, and started to sink.
As the snail sunk, he thought of birds he knew and wished that he could fly like them. In the distance, as he thought, the snail looked out, and saw a large tail in the sea. There was something attached to the tail, and, strangely, a "for sale" sign was next to it.
Although the snail couldn't see what it was, he tried to swim toward it. In the storm though, he couldn't make it. As he started to sink further, he felt himself give up.
In the storm, the waves grew stronger, and hit the snail, knocked his breath out, and pushed him further under the water.
While under the water, the snail saw the whale swim by. Attached to the whale's tale, was a pail, and a sign that said it was for sale.
With hope inside, the snail tried to swim toward the pail, trying to think of being back home. With a lot of effort he made it close to the whale's tail.
But then the snail realized that he could not buy the pail from the whale, because he had no money. In desperation though, the snail took a chance, and jumped inside the pail.
When the whale reached the surface, the snail tipped the water out of the pail, and pushed away from the whale. He went into the water with the pail and tried to sail it away.
Although he tried, the snail sailed too slowly, and the whale caught him. He took the snail back to the shore, and when the storm was over, turned the snail over to the police for stealing.
Since the snail had no money, he could not post bail, and had to stay in jail.