Dedicated to the Han Dynasty
Drabble: a short work of fiction of one hundred words in length. The purpose of the drabble is brevity, testing the author’s ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in a confined space.
Is Or Is Not
“It is what it is,” Max Penrose said when his father put a bullet in his head.
“It is what it is,” Max Penrose said when he was kicked out of school for fighting.
“It is what it is,” Max Penrose said when his car was impounded for failing to pay parking tickets.
“It is what it is,” Max Penrose said when the judge found him guilty of rape.
“It is what it is,” Max Penrose said rotting in his cell.
“It is what it is,” Max Penrose finally said before the Rehabilitation Committee, “but it didn’t have to be.”
Westward Down Wu Way
“The Way is the way,” said Walter Wagner. “Whether we know it or not, we walk it without worry. When a man or woman says, ‘My way is the way’ then surely we know that it isn’t. For all roads lead back home.”
Walter wagged his finger. Whirled it.
“Whether war, wealth or weather, we will walk it.”
It was Wednesday. The wind whipped westward. Walter walked down Wu Way.
“We’ve won when we know this.”
A woman watering her garden watched Walter curiously. His wise eyes. Heard every word, and wondered, “Who in the world is he talking to?”
People, Like Seeds
They put her in a box. I don’t know why they put her in a box but Pa says we was gonna have to dig a hole in the ground and put the box in it. I wondered if she’d grow like a tree. I asked Pa n’ he says people don’ grow like trees. William is tall as a tree and he was my size once so I don’ think Pa knows. Was Pa my size b’fore? Maybe he f’rgot.
“Pa, I’m gonna water her ev’ry day so she can grow bigg’r n’ William.”
My mama is a tree.
Past Midnight In Paris
It was early in the morning.
I walked down the Right Bank toward Le Marais past the old jewish district with its 14th and 17th century architecture walling me in down narrow rues and avenues.
At Place des Vosges I climbed the gate and entered the park.
An old drunk was sucking down a 2010 bottle of bordeaux. Chateau De Bourré. He looked at me and screamed, “Monsieur, je n’ai pas plus de vin!”
I handed him the longneck I’d been carrying around.
“My grandpa used to say, ‘You should never get drunk, unless you’re a drunkard’.”
Glory Of Her Father
Cleopatra was a living goddess. An icon for all women.
When she was alone she walked the Nile and wondered about Ptolemy, her brother, and how she might get rid of him. She was a survivor, and would do what was necessary to regain sole control of Egypt.
Cleopatra charmed the likes of Julius Ceasar and Mark Antony with her dark skin, dark eyes, and dark hair. All the mysteries of a woman. And drew them to her beauty like flies to a turd.
In the end, the venom of life would work through her body. As with all things.
A Taste Of Reality
It was a normal day in the city.
I sat at Central Station waiting for the Q train watching the madness like an anthill. A hip-hop artist spit poetry to people passing by. A bum shit in a corner and wiped himself with a week old newspaper. At the top of the stairs a short, round man hurried for the train. When he reached the bottom he tripped and SMACK! all 300 plus pounds flopped across the floor like a giant seal, his toupee and belly with him.
He got up. Saw the train leave the station.
It wasn’t his.
A Personal Matter
If you are reading this then you should know that I have gone from this place. I am no longer something you can touch and feel and hold. I am nothing you can see and smell and hear. Just another ephemeral thing. For rust is more permanent than bone, than soul. Like the great poet said:
Let the bones of the past surface, rise
up from the earth to be seen, oxidized
in the cool clean light of day, turn to
dust in our hands at the slightest touch.
Ye will not rust. ‖ Good deeds are the souls patina.
Easy To See From A Distance
The world is a paper cup.
That was Thomas Jenkins’ thought as he watched his house burn down. The flames licked the night air and laughed with little cackles and pops. And what remained after the fire department hosed it down was a steaming pile of charcoaled wood and ash.
It is a sad tale that a man can be so hopeless as to see everything as cheap and replaceable as a paper cup. But then again, when your father passes, car stolen, wife leaves you, and house burns down all in the same week, it’s easy to see why.
The day started out wrong for Marty Benton.
He slept in. Grandma beat him to the shower. The water was ice-cold. Toast burnt. No more coffee.
“What else can go wrong?” He thought.
It was the end of Spring in Elsinore. Poppies no longer bloomed on the hills. The wild sunflowers withered in empty lots. Local pariah stretched out by the lake.
Before Marty left for work he heard the bathroom fan still humming. He went in to turn it off. And there was grandma, pants around her ankles, squatting in the dark.
The ungodly image had made its mark.
Are You Henry Chinaski?
Both hands were nailed to a board.
Another ran the length of his body where his feet, too, were driven in by a nail. His body sagged. His gut barreled over his belt. A beedi dangled from his bottom lip.
“All those nights. In Atlanta. In Philly. Frozen in New York. The taste of a Payday like top sirloin. All those nights bent over the machine. All those words.”
His words like flowers in the dust. Like spiders on the wall. They had saved him, his words, they had put him on his cross.
Somewhere a phone rings for eternity.
When In Eden
On the seventh day Alan awoke.
He wiped the dust from his eyes and looked out over the East at everything green and good. Beside him his wife, Eva, lay at his ribs.
She looked up at him.
“I have something for you . . .”
A small fruit in the shape of a pinecone lay in her hand.
“What is it?”
“Shhhh . . . just eat it.”
Alan tossed it back.
An hour passed. The world undressed before his eyes.
He looked at Eva.
“Hey, baby. . .you’re naked!”
“I am?” She hurried to cover herself.
“No!. . .wait. . .lemme get a good look at yuh.”
Bill DeBurg had an idea.
He called together a secret meeting of friends at Tom Sandoval’s Barber Shop. Tim Calhoun, the mayor, was there. Mary Lewis head of House of the White Dove. Joe Williams, the sheriff. Martin Leevowitz who owned the bank. Dave Mitchell a reporter for the local paper. And Mabel Davenport, debutante.
“We’ve got to have order! We’ve got to take control of our town!” Bill pronounced.
Days later windows were shattered. Businesses ransacked. Houses Foreclosed. Riots. Blood ran like a river. Anyone of color forced out of town.
Headlines read: The Streets Are White Once More.
A Colorful Night
It was a colorful night at the Rainbow Club.
The light danced off the dark walls and in-between was a grey kinda thing full of vibration.
Yellow walked over to the bar. Mellow. Ordered a drink. Blue sat alone, moping over a gin and tonic.
“Why so glum?” asked Yellow.
Yellow put an arm around Blue.
Green saw from across the joint. Walked out.
Red came up behind Yellow. Threw a blow. Landed it.
“No! Don’t!” cried Blue, grabbing Red.
Violet sat regally in the corner.
The club owner came out. Looked around.
“Hue started it!?”
Is Something Missing?
I remember seeing these words written down. The essence of everything moves. You. Me. The wind. Trees. Birds. Life moves beyond sight, smell, sound. Whether we’re here or not.
The motion of our lives controlled by the essence of being. Choice. Choosing one thing over something else conducts the direction of my life. I believe this. Truly, I do.
I choose to be me in this music life.
My melody flows through me. Out of me. I dress myself in the rhythm of me. I choose to be me for infinity.
You should choose to be you, too.
Philip Wish insists kissing Iris Finch.
“Christ! Philip, it’s illicit!”
“Irith, ith it thith rift in lipth? Ith it thith lithp?”
Iris, rigid, sits. Thinks.
“Tis insipid, Phillip. Ill-fit. I’m Irish.”
“I think thith plight ith thivil. Right?”
Iris mimics. “Right.”
Philip irks Iris.
Six ibis’ lilt with Liszt midst this diminishing night.
Philip Wish is high, thinks Iris.
“This isn’t sci-fi, Philip.”
Philip licks his rift lips.
I’m pimpin’ Iris, thinks Philip.
Iris is Philip’s victim.
Philip hits Iris. Slips his ship in. PING!
His ship distills. Drips filth.
Iris whips Phillip. ZING!
For The Love Of It All
It was a bad day for John Marcson.
He skated through Los Angeles filming for his video part, and had a terrible time doing so; first he stubbed his toe, then was harassed by crackheads, and rolled his ankle, and smacked his head, and chipped his tooth, and hacked his shin; he fell, and scraped, and bumped, and bruised; and it had all been worthless after a cop showed up and gave him a ticket.
“Why do I bother,” he thought.
The next day he was back. His shins scabbed. Body bruised. Tooth chipped. And a smile across his face.
The Cannolis were an average immigrant family.
Joe Cannoli and his wife, Maria, married young and migrated from Italy to America. They worked 9 – 5 everyday, struggling to provide for their family. Joe was a carpenter. Maria, a seamstress. Together they sacrificed their lives so that their children could have the freedom to choose the course of their own.
Joseph believed in America and that unwavering idea of truth. To him, anything was possible: if you worked hard, stayed focused, never complained, did your best and loved every bit of the process.
There are few people left like the Cannolis.
An Honest Lie
“I remember Quick Hands McClemens. Shot down by Trigger Finger Charlie in El Paso. 1890, I believe. A terrible place El Paso. Bodies lyin’ around dead as corn beef. Couldn’t walk the town without smellin’ one.
“No one e’r saw Quick Hands shoot. Rumor was he’s quicker’n lightnin’. Word got around he said Trigger Finger couldn’t shoot a mule off a horse’s ass. So they had it out.
“Quick Hands’ gun got stuck in his holster. Trigger Finger took his time.
“Hell, a babe had shot a pistol more times than Quick Hands. An’ Trigger Finger had no trigger fingers!”
A Day To Remember
Lady Liberty walked into a bar.
She sat down and ordered a whisky. The patron at her side leaned in and said, “That’s a mighty stiff drink for a lady. You don’t like those foo foo drinks, do you?”
“I don’t like bullshit.” She responded.
The patron turned and stared at his Long Island.
“I’ll have a whiskey. Neat!“ He called to the bartender.
Some of the other regulars heard. They moved in and surrounded her. Lady Liberty was poised and dignified, a statue of truth towering for all drunks to behold.
One stood on the bar.
“Whiskey all around!”
The Indus Between Us
Dharmasa and his son, Moksha, sat watching a ship sail across the horizon.
“I want to see the world,” said Moksha.
“And what will you see, my son?” Replied Dharmasa.
“Many things, father. I will see the pyramids in Egypt. The Eiffel Tower in Paris. The Great Wall of China. America. I will see it all.”
Moksha’s eyes stayed on the white sails.
“Tell me, Moksha, is not the bridge already made? The house built? Wall constructed? In seeing, what does thou wish to find in that which is already done?”
“Inspiration, father. So I too may build something great.”
Let me tell you about Bartleby McPhee.
Many called him a wayfarer. A sojourner. A vagabond. A bum. . .But few knew him as a crusader. A man in search of truth.
Bartleby searched far and wide. He denounced possessions like the sages of Asia. Meditated in Lhasa. Took ayahuasca with the shamans of South America. Prayed at the Wailing Wall. Was baptized in the Tigris and Euphrates. He followed every word from The Sermon on the Mount. And yet, could not attain what it was he searched for.
Until, sitting on his couch, he looked inward and knew.
That’s what everyone called him.
He played penny slots for the drinks. Tipped a dollar every time a new one came around. Wrote his number in red over Washington’s head with the tag line “Odd Ends Don’t Crap Out”.
The casino machines sang and danced and whirled. Neons flashed. A dealer flopped 21. Dice laughed with snake-eyes.
The Gambler played it cool. Never broke rhythm. Penny. Pull. Sip. Penny. Pull. Sip.
Cash circulated to the pulse of the place.
Most people left with a hangover, if anything at all. While the Gambler waited for his phone to ring “Cha-ching! Cha-ching!”.
It was a Tuesday like any other.
I left the office a quarter to 8. Stopped at the taco stand at 5th and Main. Ordered two carne asada with pico de gallo.
When I heard the metal click of the hammer being drawn back behind me from a new Colt 45, a cold, ominous chill ran through my bones. Then everything went white. Bells rang in my ears. The smell of gun powder was on my last few drawing breaths. And although I could feel life fleeting from my body, the taste of death had put my appetite to rest.
There was a boy who crossed a desert in search of great fortune. He looked across the land, under the burning sun. Over every grain of sand. Beneath every stone.
For years he searched, on and on, until his body was burnt. His legs weak. Mind weary.
One day he came to a river, clear and shining like a vein of crystal in the dust. And once at its shore he fell to his knees to drink the purified water, only to find the reflection of a lonely old man he did not know, who’s fortune had passed him by.
Don’t Forget To Wash Your Hands!