Friday, July 29, 2011

Lara’s new day

The dawn brought a beautiful sunrise.  Shades of pink, coral, salmon shifting to tangerine and lemon as the sun rose.  The gentlest of breezes played a background to the song of the mourning dove outside Lara’s window.

Lara’s calico cat stood up at the foot of the bed, stretched and began to purr.  The thin shaft of early morning sun coming through the window formed a halo around her.  Lara covered her head with the pillow and pushed the cat off the bed. 

Nothing trumps the determination to be melancholy.

durer  Albrecht Durer
Melancolia I

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Choices are hateful things. 

Seldom will you find that you may choose one thing without saying no to other, equally enticing possibilities.

Or you may find yourself stuck between two equally repulsive choices.

And there is no getting out of it – as the band Rush once said “If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.”

But I want it all.

Choices are hateful things. 

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Regretfully yours,

Dear Jim,

I don’t understand how you have developed such a different view of reality over the years we’ve been together.  How is it that you recount the same occurrence with such a different slant?   How is it that you don’t even remember that I was there when telling that story?

I can’t fight this anymore.  Your reality no longer matches mine.  I guess this is what they mean when they say “we grew apart.”

Have the stories your way.  I have taken the job in St. Paul and leave on Friday.  I hope someday when you look back you’ll see that believing something is real doesn’t make it so.  I can’t fix this, and I can’t carry it with me anymore.  The pain is not mine if you lay your hand on the hot stove thinking it is a rock wall.

Regretfully yours,



Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A summer night

A locust splits his skin and bursts free

Into a brand new existence.

He sits in the tree and sings his song of triumph.

From the porch I wait and listen

Trapped in my skin, my life.

I sit in the rocker and hum an old folk tune.

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Monday, July 25, 2011

The subway encounter

Jane and her son boarded the subway train and found a seat.  It was mid afternoon, and the car was nearly empty.  At the next stop, the door opened with a whoosh.  In came a middle aged man, dressed in possibly every piece of clothing he owned, carrying a box.  Jane and her son looked at each other, eyebrows up.  The man sat the box on the bench opposite the door, jumped back and shouted “Whoa!”

Nothing happened.  After several moments, the man started a strange dance – part twitch, part bounce.  He seemed unaware that anyone shared the subway car with him as he began talking to the box in unintelligible tones. 

Jane and her son left the train at the next stop. They stood on the platform watching as the doors closed.  The dancing man, suddenly still, turned and looked at them for the first time, tears streaming down his cheeks as the train pulled away.  At the top of the stairs they heard the blast.

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Friday, July 22, 2011



The difference between literature and pop fiction. 


The difference between Glenfiddich and Wild Turkey.


The difference between a pas de deux and a dance.


The reason we yearn.  The reason we seek.  The reason we love.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ship of fools


Whither they go, they know not.  Whence they came, they care not. 

No concern have they but who is most fit to guide the rudder.

The shoals ahead whisper to deaf ears.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Near the end of a 9 hour drive (this last leg heading right into the sun), I prepare to merge onto the interstate.  Checking the side mirror the way looks clear.  I look over my left shoulder, drifting ever so slightly toward that lane, and see a small car in my blind spot.  Righting myself in my own lane I watch the young man speed past me yelling, bobbing his head, and gesturing wildly as he drives past.  His license plate reads AUNT BEBE.

With no one directly behind him, I merge in, just a little close for comfort (because I’m a jerk) and watch him looking in his rearview mirror, bobbing his head and gesturing at me.  I ride there for a couple of minutes enjoying the show, until the highway divides and he veers to the right.  As I pass him on the left, I see he has a peace sign sticker on the door to his gas cap.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A definition, because the search for truth is waiting for us.




1.  confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.

2.  belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.

3.  belief in god or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.


That’s all it is; belief or confidence or trust.  That’s it. 


It is not truth.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011


“Explain this.”  Frank threw the photo on the dining table.

Maura closed her eyes and took a deep breath.  “Where did you get that?”

“That really doesn’t make much difference, does it?  I have it, and I expect an explanation.”

Maura gazed out the french doors, watching the dragonflies by the koi pond.  How did it come to this?  If only she could go back, she would have been more careful.  If only she could go back, maybe she could have repaired the damage, or at least have been more honest.

“Maura, damn it!  Answer me!”

“Frank…”  There was no way he would believe that she broke his mother’s funerary urn by accident.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Because you loved me, I found a reason to keep trying. 

Because you believed in me, I strove to be more than what I was.

Because you wanted me, I cared for myself.

Because you accepted me, I am free to be an individual.

You took a pointless life and made it matter.  Thank you.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Heat waves

Sitting on the back porch, feeling a bit like steamed broccoli.  The hot, humid weather is seeping into my pores and washing away toxins, worries, and all traces of motivation.

On a day like this the speed of modern life, multitasking, rushing from one place to the next – those things become mere concepts, impossibilities that echo down the corridors of my mind. 

I wonder why they seemed so important yesterday.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Written just for you

Very short fiction is becoming more and more popular, I imagine because of the trends of social networking.  Communications everywhere are becoming more truncated.  People are less likely with each passing year to spend the time to read a longish short story, essay, or even a long blog post.  So one could view the challenge in terms of how to communicate what you want to tell someone in fewer words, while still keeping the meaning true to your message.  Alternatively, you could frame the challenge in an entirely different way.

That is my goal here – not to simply chop words off of sentences while still saying the same thing, but to find ways to communicate a story or the theme of an essay using language that implies things not spoken, providing information that would otherwise require more words.  I realize that by doing so, each person’s story/essay is different from the next person’s, depending on how their experience, education or culture colors their reading.  Some might consider that a problem, but I love that!  You could consider that every story I write was written only for you, because no one else will read into it the exact same details and inferences.

I hope you enjoy this method of storytelling and essay writing.  And by all means, please continue to leave feedback.

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Friday, July 8, 2011

A change

The interior of the car must have been 110 degrees.  He’d forgotten to leave a window cracked this morning.  Starting the car, four people on the nearby sidewalk turned and gave him a dirty look when his muffler roared to life.  Pulling out of the lot, the fuel light came on. 

“Peachy.  That’s just peachy.”  He flipped on the radio in time to hear the last 8 bars of his favorite song, and six minutes of commercials. 

At the gas station, he stepped in gum and spilled gas on the hem of his trousers.  He sighed.  If this was instant karma coming to bite him on the ass, he was having none of it.  He was a good man – considerate, thoughtful, always tried to do the right thing. 

As he started the car, Sheryl Crow’s song “A Change Will Do You Good” came on the radio.  He pulled out of the station, turned the opposite direction of home, and kept driving.

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Saving sanity


…a cool dip in a gorgeous seaside pool,

…an afternoon spent in the shade of a large maple tree,

…listening to fabulous live blues on Bourbon Street,

…taking the T to Fenway Park,

…curling up in bed with a great book,

…the scents of an herb garden in the heat of the day,

…bonfires and bourbon

…facing the dawn with no regrets.


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Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Marilyn and her carpool mates pulled into the driveway.  They met at Marilyn’s house.  Because of her trouble with motion sickness, Marilyn preferred to drive – besides, the mileage check from their employer was generous, and she had the newest car of the bunch.  Just about dinner time, they arrived back at Marilyn’s, and found that Kara’s car wouldn’t start. 

“Oh crap, I left the lights on!”

“Well, I’m pretty sure I have jumper cables.  Let me look.”  Marilyn said.  “Does anyone know how to use them?”

Jane blinked.  “Are you serious?”

“I have never used them – I don’t know how.”

“Well I do.  It’s not rocket science.”

Marilyn went in search of the jumper cables while the rest of the crew gathered around the comatose car.

Diane said, “How did you learn to use jumper cables?”

“You guys are kidding me, right?  It’s not something you have to take a class for.  You connect the red cable to the positive terminals on the batteries, the black one to the negatives.”

“Well, I guess you’ve always been so independent, you know how to do lots of ‘guy’ things.”

“Guy things?  Really?  When did knowing how to get your car started in the event of a dead battery become a guy thing?”

“You’re so touchy!”

“I found them!”  Marilyn yelled.  “Let me pull my car up next to yours.”

Marilyn lifted the hood of the car, and all four stared at the engine, utterly bewildered.

“Where the hell is the battery in this thing?” Jane asked. 

Marilyn pointed to a single red knob with a plus sign on top.  “I think that’s it.”

“That can’t be it!  Where is the negative terminal?”

“I dunno.  I think that’s it.”


Just then, the next door neighbor appeared on his porch.

“We need help!” Marilyn yelled in his general direction.

“What the hell are you doing?!?” Jane hissed under her breath.  “Isn’t that the guy you call the ‘banty rooster’?”

“Yeah, well he think’s he’s pretty hot stuff, but we need a man to take care of this.”

“Oh. My. God.  I think my ears are bleeding.  You know, having a penis doesn’t magically endow a person with mystical knowledge of all things mechanical!”

“Jane, you’re so coarse!”

The little banty strolled over, “How can I help?”

“Find the battery.” Jane spat out.  “And that’s not it, that box has fuses in it.”

“Jane, would it be easier to jump Kara’s car with yours?  Do you know where to find the battery in yours?” Marilyn asked.

“Of course I do.”  Jane brought her car over, and the struggle began.  “I’ll open the hood – the latch on this is different.”

The little banty didn’t move.  He kept fumbling around, trying to find the release mechanism.

“I’ll get it.  No really, let me.  Dude, how many times have you opened this hood before?  Why do you think you know more about it than I do?”

The little banty finally stepped aside and Jane opened the hood, but while her back was turned, the jumper cables were snatched up and one end attached to Kara’s battery.  Jane opened her mouth, but thought better of it, and got in her car to start it.

After a few minutes, Kara’s car was running, and the little banty solicitously unhooked cables and closed hoods.  “Anything else I can do for you ladies?”

Marilyn fawned over the little banty and thanked him profusely while Jane went in the house to wash her hands, shaking with annoyance - not at the little banty, but at Marilyn.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Atrum locus

There is a dark place in the heart of man.  It exists in everyone, no matter the race, gender, or age.  No matter the religion, creed, or philosophy. 

There is a dark place, where fears run to hide when the light of a new day breaks. 

There is a dark place, where insecurities breed like rats, and distrust eats at the structural confidence of a human life like rust on the girders of a bridge overpass.

The longer this dark place is denied, the deeper and darker it becomes. 

There is a dark place, and you must go there.

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Monday, July 4, 2011

Bel ennui


It seems that in conversation I find myself at a loss for words more often than I used to.  Maybe it’s just part of the aging of the mind, or a greater concern about making my meaning clear, but I think it’s more likely because our world speeds past at an ever accelerating rate.  There is no time to search for exactly the right word for a discussion, because by the time it is found, the conversation is light years ahead, subjects changed and forgotten. 

I ran across a marvelous article on Danse Macabre, an online literary journal, that represents an exquisite antidote to our “modern dilemma.”  I warn you it is not short; it breaks the rules that this blog established, but I live to break rules.  And you will be glad if you read it.


Bel ennui

La Sonnambula


We have come to a grim impasse, my friends. We are far, far too busy, so busy that many of us no longer remember how to daydream.
Our wretched American busyness is in part due to three-plus decades of bizarre political choices, a sort of Puritanical mass-mania that has allowed us to vote against our own best interests time and time again. Many of us now work two jobs or more to keep the creditors at bay. Mothers no longer stay home with their children, and the widespread expectation of comfortable retirement, it is now clear, was a historical aberration; the best investment you can make today is a down-payment on those titanium hips and nickel-plated knees you’ll be needing mid-century. Take care of your feet, too. You will be on them for a long, long time to come.
Economic factors are only one slice of this nasty pie. We are driven as a culture by unexamined values of busyness and positivism that have us crazed and exhausted half our lives, upbeat and grinning and foaming like blown horses even in those few moments when we’ve somehow slipped the harness. We have allowed ourselves to become so busy that those efficiency experts masquerading as self-help gurus, the ones who tell us how to maximize our time and our ambitions and the fearful greed pooling in the inky depths of our acquisitive, thieving, monkey-dark hearts, yes, even they tell us it’s time to slow down.
Do not be fooled. Their euphemisms for rest are “taking the machine offline” or “downtime” or “sharpening the saw,” noxious phrases that reveal our ultimate roles as units of production, personnel assets to be managed properly (read: worked not quite to death). They don’t want us to use this putative “downtime” to daydream, to imagine, to immerse ourselves in the wonder of this glorious life. Of course not. They want us to “cocoon” for the weekend in order to increase our productivity Monday morning.
Don’t blame them because it’s not their fault; it’s ours. They are merely opportunists grasping for bandwidth in the flood of infogarbage in which we willingly drown ourselves day in and day out. This is what we have done to ourselves, and it’s perhaps the most insidious part of our busyness; the time we could be spending in communion with our innermost selves and the rest of the cosmos is filled to the brim with ephemera that not only wastes our precious time but deadens our wits such that we can’t simply daydream. Unless there’s a damned app for it. I’m waiting for the app that kills the smartphone and the user himself upon detection of the death of the soul. KA-BOOM!
It’s all brave talk, but it’s all nonsense because we won’t act upon it. We know we won’t. We mustn’t let them catch us being dreamy. Whatever we do, we mustn’t buck this lockstep parade, this ruthless tooth-and-nail fight to the middle. Some of us do this maddened dance in paisley and turquoise, and some of us pretend we don’t care about money and fame, but “above-it-all” is perhaps the most self-revelatory imposture of all; mind well the poet who says she doesn’t care about wealth or recognition because she will chew her own arm off — or yours — for status in the critical semicircle.
The rest of us keep the idiot grins, put Bluetooth devices in our ears, and never admit that deep in our hearts, despite telling others that our true passion is our abstracted devotion to ideals of truth, justice, and equity in human relations, we really live for beauty (we must never say that out loud) and that we still live for our childhood dreams. No matter what, we do not get that faraway look, nor do we allow ourselves to appear unproductive or melancholy. If we do, they will convince us to medicate ourselves to within an inch of our lives.
We’ve known the dangers of being caught daydreaming since grammar school. We learned to hide our hearts by the time the adults finally convinced us to sit up straight and to hug our frightening and malodorous older relatives. We learned how to get along by watching performing chimps get gold stars. We observed that adults considered melancholia a foul, pernicious disease, perhaps the root of sloth and masturbation, and that melancholia, dreaminess, moping, mooniness — all such antisocial and counterproductive behavior had to be eradicated. In fear, in deeply intuitive and well-justified fear, we learned to imitate the ideal of perky, punctual realists, bright-eyed pragmatists armed with malleable ideals and a voracious capacity to accrue more than our neighbors in a world of constantly diminishing returns.
We’ve done it too well, my friends. Now, no one can show us the way back to our daydreams.
Getting off the grid does not ensure wonder, and simply opting out of the rat race does not quiet the mind enough to let it wander, to let it drift, to let it daydream. Distracting ourselves with writerly-workshoppe/retreat busyness hasn't helped, either, even though scribbling responses to “juxtaposition prompts” has prepared us to write submissions for those ¼-cent-per-word themed flash anthologies.
There’s always a silver lining. Now, get cracking on that.
Not even the French can tell us how to get back to our daydreaming. They’ve started to gather data on ennui as part of their annual labor stats because they understand that the creativity they want from their workers is born of a profound and beautiful boredom, a bel ennui. Even the French had to wait till Steve Jobs built a special room for daydreaming to admit the contradictory truth that boredom, sloth, doing nothing, being slightly empty, is the only way to become full.This is our wonder, the bel ennui that heralds wars in Heaven and exquisite ironies in Hell, all accompanied by the golden peal of trumpets here on earth, all while you’re standing there in a somnambulistic daze with fabric softener in one hand and a dustpan in the other, thinking: Jesus, that’s a good line. I’d better write that down…
That’s the grand reward, liebchen: emptying the mind such that something not quite you makes itself heard. If you’re like us, you live for those moments.
The French have been stymied in their research by Google’s refusal to give them stats on searches for terms like “nihilism,” so we shouldn’t wait for Sarkozy’s ennui squad to draw us a map.
Nor can we draw you a map to bel ennui, but at least here at DM, you’re free for a few hours of each month to be dreamy, to be hungry, to be somber, somnolent, or even melancholy. We encourage it, and we love you for it. We can’t draw the map, but month after month, we humbly present the works of those who have been there, and we hope their work will free your dreams and inspire you to seek bel ennui, the satiation that breeds appetite, the emptiness that fulfills, the gateway to the only state of grace we know.


James Kendley

Senior Editor

Danse Macabre

An Online Literary Magazine™


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Make me a life

Make me a cup of coffee
Make it strong
Serve it black, unsullied by decadence.

Make me a cake
Make it white
Serve it with buttercream and candied violets.

Make me a home
Make it warm
Serve it with friends and a calico cat.

Make me a life
Make it long
Serve it with joy, mirth and impermanence.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Ted and Karen

“You know this was his fault, I don’t care what the doctor said.  It couldn’t possibly have been unrelated.  Ted needs a 12 step program – that man needs some serious help.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, he’d quit after step ten when he ran out of fingers to keep track of them.  What he really needs is to meet a real bully in a dark alley to give him a taste of his own medicine.”

“He’d wet his pants.”

“If that was the extent of his humiliation I’d be disappointed.”

“Karen kept telling me it was her fault.  It makes me so mad I want to cut off his balls, put them in a pillowcase and beat him with them.”

“He would have to grow some first.  He beat her because of his own insecurities and self-hatred.”

“Well, it was a lovely funeral though, wasn’t it?”