Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Today's Word: Box

Sometimes it's okay to think inside the box, especially if you're a hobo.

-- david j.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Today's Word: Placate

In the center of the Plaza of Pride stood Nerl of Plint, a poor bean farmer who had died not ten minutes before, having run afoul of a mother bear.

"How did I get here?" asked Nerl of no one in particular since there was no one around.

"You died," said a thick, deep voice behind the farmer.

Nerl turned and found a skeleton dressed in a hooded shroud. Tall it was, probably near seven feet, and yet razor thin like a poorly stuffed scarecrow.

Nerl was not afraid. "Where's your scythe?" he asked of Death.

"I quit carrying it two hundred years ago. It's just not stylish these days."

Nerl nodded. He gazed around the empty plaza.

"Why did I come here?" he asked.

"You always wanted to visit the Plaza of Pride. And this is the best time, when you're first dead. You can't see the living folk, so the place isn't so crowded."

"So you grant wishes? I never knew that."

"No, Nerl, I'm just placating you for the moment."


"Well, you do remember how you cheated Ronel the swineherd out of his ten acres that time, don't you?"

Nerl swallowed.

"I'm to be punished."

Death shrugged. "Six hundred years in the third tier of Hades, nothing too terrible. After that you can work your way up for good behavior."

"Is the third tier hot?"

"Oh, no. It's filled with poison oak and you'll be naked."

-- david j.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Today's Word: Diffuse

The wedding picture created a clear metaphor.

The bride beamed, smiling her horsy teeth at the groom who lay abed out of frame. Light from a tenth story window cascaded the background, making the world seem to glow white, tinting the bride's curly locks a high shade of blonde, framing her face in its shine and setting off the vivid white of her dress. Monitors -- heart rate, pulse, and temperature -- glowed in red liquid crystal, showing the groom's heightened state of excitement. All about the bride, the world stood frozen in sharp focus, clear as her happiness and bright green eyes.

On her arm limped her father. His dull red and balding head, though out of focus, gleamed with sweat. In the shot, one can see, even in the two dimensional frozen frame, the man's pronounced limp, his dead left arm. A fuzzy aura of diffused light encircled him -- his life, his choices, his future death.

-- david j.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Today's Word: Number

Of course we can find you. We've got your number. We're the NSA.

-- david j.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Today's Word: Bagatelle

After surviving shrapnel in both legs during the war, cancer shortly after the war, the loss of his wife and a particularly painful motorcycle accident, Terry thought gallstones would be a mere bagatelle.

He was wrong.

-- david j.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Today's Word: Decrepitude

So worn down, turned-under and washed out were the villagers who survived the forced march that their bodies quickly fell into a bewildering decrepitude even after several days of rest.

-- david j.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Today's Word: Curmudgeon

At a time when the echoes of war reverberated near and far, casting all the land of Leros and Den into dark pools of doubt and fear, the robber bands of Zyflos the Really Smelly appeared. Of course, Zyflos wasn't the man's real name. He HAD been Zyflux the swineherd until he took up crime as a profession and gave himself a name befitting his new robber baron status.

Zyflos and his most trusted lieutenant, Mudgeon, cut a swath of terror a hundred miles long, robbing weak merchants and powerful army commanders alike in their quest for wealth.

But when Zyflos, making the mistake of many a wealthy bandit, first began to truly trust then rely upon his no good second, the rotten Mudgeon seized the advantage, attacking Zyflos with his own former cronies, catching him out in the open like a pilfering fox.

Bound hand and foot and staring down the pointy end of a spear, Zyflos glared at his former lieutenant, incredulous.

"How dare you bite the hand that feeds you, cur!" he screamed.

Mudgeon scratched at the black scruff covering his cheeks.

"Cur," he muttered, his eyes screwed up to the blue sky. "Cur-Mudgeon. I like the sound of that. Thank you Zyf, you've given me my baron's name. Curmudgeon it is."

-- david j.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Today's Word: Tyro

Dickie wore the red stripped coat, tie and hat which made him at least look the part of a soda jerk, though he was merely a tyro. School had just let out and he had run all the way to beat the traffic coming out of the cross town rivals, Westside and Eastman. Mr. Peterson, the shop owner, was in the back doing something and had left Dickie to "mind the store". Dickie hoped that meant serving soda pop.

Clarissa Bell and Mary Jones bunny hopped through the door, making Mr. Peterson's little door bell tinkle. The girls giggled behind their social studies books when they saw Dickie behind the counter.

"When'd you start working here, Dickie Goodman?" asked Mary Jones.

"Today. You two want anything, or you just here to make eyes at Tony Gerondi?"

They looked scandalized and they both sneaked a peek at Tony Gerondi who sat in a corner booth sipping a Royal Crown soda, talking around the straw to his football cronies.

"You don't worry about who we're looking at, Dickie Goodman. You're here to serve us," said Clarissa, smiling mischievously at the last statement.

"Yeah, soda jerk," said Mary and the girls laughed.

"What will you have?" asked Dickie. His face was turning red, he could feel it. What could be worse than a boy with freckles blushing?
"Chocolate root beer float," said Clarissa, her voice cold.

"Make it two," said Mary.

The girls turned away from him, flipping their hair to show their boredom with Dickie.

That was fine. With them facing away, the girls never saw Dickie reach for Mr. Peterson's tin case of Ex-lax he kept under the bar.

Two crushed chocolates, a good hard shake, and revenge was sweet.

-- david j.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Today's Word: How-to

The answer IS NOT in one of these how-to books on writing novels.

-- david j.
Today's Word: Novel

Novels are hard to write well.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Today's Word: Buergermeister

In the infinitesimal center atom of your eye dance the waves that form all things; little strings that curve and bind, sewing up the universe in patterns of life and muted elements: suns and rocks and beating hearts.

In this mix of gyrating vacuum, where all things come together, one string reigns -- the buergermeister of all string theory -- with supreme energy of life and substance.

The frayed knot of infinity.

-- david j.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Today's Word: Floccinaucinihilipilification

Astus hitched his powder-white skirt upward by the single strap cinched round his muscular right shoulder. Silver paint bled off his papier-mâché short sword, coating his palm, but the young actor ignored it.

His cue was coming. The Italian, Adolfo, had reached his single monologue, bellowing like a gelded bull before the lovely Celeste, the finest actress in the city-state. How Adolfo fawned over the young phenom. But to her credit, the buxom soprano ignored his sweaty backstage advances with the kind of cold scorn only achieved through breeding.

"What hero could save me from such a one as you?" asked Celeste, and Astus exited the dark wing, sword raised.

The crowd cheered.

It would have been a grand entrance -- his third of the day -- but the latchet holding Astus's right sandal chose that moment to unfasten. In the next horrifying instant, the young actor tripped. His fake sword slipped from his hand, spun through the air, and struck fat Adolfo in the head. The singer crashed to the stage like the very hammer of God.

Some people laughed, some screamed. But in the foremost center row the greatest theatre critic in all the world, Lord Gino Rolinsino Tremholm III, sat with his hands folded, his steely blue eyes fixed on the stage.

Astus stared into those calculating eyes and knew that, despite his many good showings in the last three seasons, all his work would be counted Floccinaucinihilipilification by this, the most influential man in any actor's career.

-- david j.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Today's Word: Penny

The saying, "A penny for your thoughts", must have been created by a woman.

A man wouldn't pay THAT much.

-- david j.
Today's Word: Pastiche

Larry brushed a lock of unruly dark hair out of his eyes revealing his thunderbolt-shaped scar. With a sinking heart, he raised his wand -- the one with the sphinx eye and wyvern scale center -- as the boogie-blight circled overhead, stealing all the joy from the world.

"Inconceivablous!" shouted Larry, with a flick of the wand.

The boogie-blight yelped as a ray of pure, white light struck him. Then he fell to the floor of the Chamber of Enigmas, dead.

"Bloody hell, Larry," said Lon. "Where'd you learn that?"

Larry shrugged. Could he really tell his best friend Lon about his secret classes with Professor Smartybore?

"I know where he learned it," said Dido with a prim turn of her nose.

"You do?" asked Larry, concerned.

"Of course. That was the inconceivablous incantation. We studied it two years ago at 8:15AM on a Thursday in Professor McMonical's class." Dido frowned when the boys looked mystified. "Honestly, I think you two never listen."

-- david j.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Today's Word: Numinous

No matter the subject matter; no matter the genre, all my stories eventually take on a numinous aspect.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Today's Word: Advection

Coker bent his brown body over the flames, his bone necklace dangling precariously in the heat. With one hand he sprinkled beach sand over the fire, mumbling the ancient Rite of Rain, swaying as the words escaped him like bubbles rising from a sink full of sudsy dishes.

He seemed so certain, with his nappy hair and thick beard that rendered his mouth invisible. I hadn't the heart to tell him advection brought moisture.

-- david j.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Today's Word: Gestalt

"I said we shouldn't box men into categories that restrict their free exercise of rights, even rights inside a maximum security prison," said Larry.

"Yes, but your point is silly, baseless, and ill-conceived. You're looking at this issue from a pea soup perspective," I said.

"What exactly is a pea soup perspective?"

"You see everything as clouded; all filled in with soup, but there are many, many extraneous factors shading this issue. It's a complex, gestalt problem that cannot be solved by addressing one or maybe a few of its periphery questions."

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Today's Word: Disease

For some women, pregnancy is a sexually transmitted disease.

-- david j.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Today's Word: Snap

Three more bolts snapped in half under the scaffold's flimsy rails. Terrence gripped the walkway fence like a man clinging to a rope. Finally, the last bolt gave way and the whole superstructure fell. For a moment al was quiet echos as pieces of bolt and loosed metal clanged far below, then the deafening crash of the silo's metal stairs hitting the firing pad far below.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Today's Word: Nugatory

Janet surveyed the near empty box of chocolates. Her fingers sifted the crumpled wrappers, seeking the telltale weight of chocolate encasing a mystery filling. Somewhere near the middle she found it, a gold foil surprise.

Cherry? Cream? Caramel?

With slow, sultry deliberateness, she pulled the edges, spinning the prize till it came free.

Toffee? Cocoa? Brandy?

Janet slipped the treat into her mouth, bit down and explored the center with her tongue.

Her eyes popped open; she breathed out her nose in disgust.


-- david j.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Today's Word: Captious

The imagination is a canvas on which one can paint the most vivid colors, record the most compelling sounds and mark the most telling emotions known to humanity. Its vibrant recordings keep all that is blessed, repugnant, defiled and sacred in life in sharp and murky detail to be experienced over again though the moment that held them is lost.

Then, when the inner critic reviews the sights, sounds, tastes and feelings, and renders some captious criticism to censure the free spirit, the imagination can be wiped clean in a breath like a new day dawned for adventure in every capacity.

-- david j.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Today's Word: Chilled

Seeing Madam Toots alive and well chilled Dana's heart to the last ventricle.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Today's Word: Punctual

Corporal Kain arrived at the post testing center twenty minutes early. It never hurt to be punctual, mom always said.

A cluster of men in plain clothes stood outside a steel door marked: Army Research -- No Admittance Without Authorization. The doctor, one Captain Robert Tensley, who had ordered Corporal Kain's physical after recovery from a running injury, had told him to wear loose fitting plain clothes. Since the guys here wore jeans and crew-collared shirts, Kain assumed they were also at the center for physical therapy check-ups.

A toothsome nurse dressed in white opened the heavy steel door from the inside. The men filed in, handing the nurse their medical records as they passed.

Wordlessly, she led them to a small room where they sat in silver chairs upholstered in thin Naugahyde. She left for about five minutes, during which Corporal Kain noticed the men around him seemed much older than he. Some of these guys had gray hair. No one spoke. They seemed intent on their own thoughts.

When the nurse returned, she took them to a larger room lined with hospital beds.

"Strip to your underware and lie down."

Everyone followed her orders without question. What choice did Kain have? She wore no rank, that nurse, but she was probably an officer. And lady officers were not to be trifled with in Kain's experience.

A doctor came round with a syringe. He was not Captain Robert Tensley. He injected each man in the arm, sparing them not a word -- tight-lipped as the nurse.

Corporal Kain, like the rest of the men he had accompanied into this silent experiment, fell asleep before he realized he was drowsy.

"Who's this kid?" asked Doctor Trevado, pointing at Corporal Kain's supine form on the hospital bed.

"We don't know. Somehow he got mixed in with the rest. Nurse Jones didn't know the subjects by face and she didn't bother to check their records until the trials were already started," said Doctor Caslow, the head of the Army's Ten-Man project to develop warriors far advanced compared to the common man.

Doctor Trevado checked Kain's chart.

"Looks like he is fairing the best of the lot. Can these results be right?" he said.

Caslow nodded. "This kid's going to be a superhero when he wakes up."

-- david j.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Today's Word: Progeny

That life is unfair is plain to see
Just have a look at our friend the bee
Buzz and work and carry all day
With no time to rest, tarry, or stay
Work for the queen and do her will
Until at last your wings will still
No sex, no mate, no progeny for you
Just another drone on the honey making crew

-- david j.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Today's Word: Foible

Royson, hero of the four day war of vermin, strained against the thick ropes binding his wrists and ankles. The fiber was far too thick, the knots too tight for him to break free, but he thought if he could only rub enough blood on them he might slip loose.
"No use trying to win free, boy," said the crone as she chopped mixed vegetables into her man-sized cauldron. "I've ensorcled those bindings. They'll not loose unless I command it."
Royson glared at the witch who had captured him unawares as he lay sleeping on the downlands.
"How can you do it, woman? How can you eat the flesh of men who are your brothers in humanity?"
The witch stopped, stared at him critically, and seemed to consider this.
For one brief moment, Royson believe he may have touched the ancient woman's heart -- roused some thread of sympathy and feeling within her shriveled soul.
Then she flashed a gap-toothed smile colored brown and yellow, and said, "Well, hero, we all have our little foibles."

-- david j.