2007/12, December Photofictional, A Daily Blog Posting By Bryan Costales

Bird wonders if rope and chain came from him
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Gary the Gull failed to see things as they really were. A philosopher might wonder if such a failing might prove his undoing. Gary, however, was capable of no such pretense.

Gary began that day flying high above Oakland. Ahead of him he saw a lake and flew across it. What Gary didn't know was that the lake was really the bay. Tired he finished crossing the bay and thought, "!."

All that flying made Gary hungry so he circled, looking for easy food. Gary was merely a gull after all, so work-intensive food was outside his realm of reality. Below, he saw a slice of bread.

Gary flew down and landed on the bread. It was a huge slice of bread. When Gary pecked it, the bread turned out to not be food. Gary had landed on an abandoned mattress. Gary pecked the large bread once again, uselessly, and thought, "!."

Gary flew again, in search of food. Below he spotted a fish floating on top of the water. Gary was a gull after all, so could not see fish under the water.

Gary dove and landed on the fish. Gary pecked it and the fish turned out to be hard and not food. Gary had landed on a submarine. The fish was so big it frightened Gary causing him to poop. Gary thought, "!."

Gary looked behind himself and saw poop extended in straight lines behind him. Gary was looking, without knowing it, at the docking chains and lines used to hold the submarine in place.

Gary flew again. In the distance he saw other gulls circling. This signaled to his brain that food was there. Gary flew into a cloud of hundreds of gulls hovering over the dump. Gary was frightened when another gull flew straight at him. Gary thought, "!."

Gary dove and landed on a roof. He looked up at the cloud of gulls. The fright had altered his thinking. A philosopher might say that Gary had undergone an epiphany. But Gary, merely a gull after all, simply thought, "...."

(2007) Pier 43, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Thursday, December 13, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Road ends where a bike/pedestrian tunnel goes under
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Frank Hibro was thirty five and walked his dog for miles every day. Frank's dog was a medium sized, mixed breed he'd rescued from the animal shelter. The dog's name was Bowzer, because the dog reminded Fred of a commercial he'd watched as a child.

Franked liked to drive to a new area each day, and perform what he called "Walks of discovery." And so it was, that Frank and Bowzer were in the pedestrian tunnel that morning.

Frank noticed the large signs as he entered the tunnel. "Walk Bicycles." And he'd noticed the bicycle barricades inside the tunnel. Frank found these reassuring, because he didn't like to walk his dog where bicycles were ridden, especially in tight places.

At the bottom of the tunnel and just starting up hill, Frank was startled by a series of loud squeaks behind him. As he turned to look, two kids, then an adult, then a stream of more kids rode their bicycles through the tunnel and past him. The last of the stream of bicycles clipped his dog who let out a screech of pain.

Frank looked down and saw that Bowzer was licking his haunch where he'd been hit. Frank saw no blood. Frank let out a breath.

The bicycle riders had all stopped and were looking back at him.

"Are you crazy?" Frank shook his fist at them. "The sign says, 'Walk Bikes'. What's the matter, can't you read?"

The kid just beyond the kid that had hit his dog said, "That's not what it means, mister. It means walk on the left and bikes on the right."

Frank glared at the boy as if the boy was an idiot.

Browser rubbed against Frank's leg. Frank looked down and saw the dog was standing and seemed fine again.

"I guess he was more surprised than hurt," said the boy who had hit Bowzer.

Bowzer growled.

Frank put on his mean face and took a step forward.

With crashing and banging, the bicycles hurried out of the tunnel ahead of Frank. All of them were walked.

When Frank and Bowzer emerged from the tunnel there wasn't sign of a bicyclist anywhere. Frank noted that the sign included the name of the city, Palo Alto. "What do you think, Bowzer?"

The dog sat and looked up at him.

"Let's write a letter to Palo Alto and see if we can put the kibosh on these bicycles."

Bowzer said, "bark!"

(2007) California Avenue, Caltrain Station, Palo Alto   •  Photo Posted Sunday, December 2, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Jenny hugs her newly married sister
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Mike Helix awoke to the the sound of surf and a breeze blowing through the palms. The smell of the sea surrounded him. As he awoke, the house sensed his movement and faded out the beach. Photo portraits appeared, tastefully placed around the bedroom walls. Mike's closet opened, and his freshly cleaned and pressed clothing was made available.

Mike, at a young 50, sat up and rotated his feet off the bed. He stretched and scratched his head and looked at the photos on the wall.

The photos showed events from his life, spanning from when he was a baby to the present. This morning he noticed one was missing. Which one? Mike realized it was the one showing his mother hugging her sister, his aunt, at a wedding long ago. "What happened to the picture?" he asked.

The house took a few seconds to scan the interior and determined that Mike was alone. It deduced the question must be for it, so it answered. "The site hosting that photo is down because a large earthquake hit the Pacific Coast."

Mike stood. "Show me," he commanded.

Dozens of images appeared on the walls, each showing a different news feed. "The building hosting that photo," continued the house. "Was crushed when the San Francisco Bay Bridge collapsed on it."

One of the news images said, "The quake devastated the entire coast from Los Angeles in the south to Eureka in the north."

"Coffee," said Mike. He pulled on a robe and walked out onto his porch. Coffee waited for him on the table there. He picked it up and sipped it. Below him sparkled Boston Harbor.

Mike's family had been large most of his young life. But with the advent of universal health care and universal DNA screening at the quarter century mark, he found literally thousands more relatives. In fact it was a fifth cousin on his father's side that landed him his first job as an architect in Boston.

"House," Mike said. "Please find that photo in an archive site and restore it."

"Working," said the house.

Mike returned to his bedroom to dress. He watched the news while dressing. "The electric grid is down across the west but, fortunately, three quarters of the west uses solar energy so is okay."

Mike was fully dressed when the house announced success.

"The Quantum Archive project at the Smithsonian had a copy. But, like all things in that archive, the odds of a full restoration are only about 99%. Shall I restore?"

"Please," said Mike.

The picture reappeared and Mike stepped close to examine it. It showed his mother hugging her sister. It looked okay, but somehow seemed to lack something. It seemed, well, kind of artificial.

Mike stepped back to the edge of his bed and looked at the photo again. That was better. It seemed normal from there, not reconstructed from theory.

"Thanks," said Mike.

The house took a few seconds to scan the interior and determined the that Mike was alone. It concluded Mike must have been addressing it.

The house said, 'You're welcome."

The house paused, then announced, "You have seventeen voice-only calls coming in, and twenty-six voice with video. In what order shall I take them?"

"Mother first," Mike said. "Mother always first, then for the rest, please take messages saying I'm okay here in Boston, and I will get back to them."

(2007) Dieter and Lizzy Wedding, Los Angeles   •  Photo Posted Monday, December 3, 2007 internal link   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Like an airplane sailing through red lights
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Juai B'Neust skated that night because the next morning the weather folk predicted a dust storm. The dust storms on Mars were huge and could last a week or longer. After the water wars on Earth in the 2050's, terraforming went into high gear on Mars. Currently, the air was thin, but enough for Juai to breathe.

Juai liked to skate under red lights and pretend he was flying a plane. The red lights reminded him of the red sunsets he used to see as a young boy, before the sky finally turned blue.

Juai was a fifth generation Martian. His great, great, great, great grandfather had piloted the first flight to mars. Because of Juai's last name, he walked with pride among his friends.

But this night Juai just wanted to skate. He felt the ice slip smoothly under his skates. He felt the cold breeze try but fail to bite him.

Juai closed his eyes and flew.

One hundred and fifty years earlier, on Earth, another Juai skated. He too skated under red lights and dreamed of Mars. He too felt the ice slip smoothly under his skates. He too felt the cold breeze try but fail to bite him.

He too closed his eyes and flew.

The Juai of the past did not imagine a future son on Mars skating like he. The Juai of the past dreamed of flying to Mars.

One hundred and fifty years later, another Juai did not imagine a father of old skating on Earth like he. The Juai of Mars skated and dreamed and worried about the coming dust storm. For him, the present was the moment.

(2007) Justin Herman Plaza, Ice Rink, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Tuesday, December 4, 2007 internal link   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Snow falls on Mission Street (actually soap)
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Luis Groops remembered the first snow ever in San Francisco. It drifted up against the stores and caused automobile accidents in the streets. His parents told him it was a fluke, a once in a lifetime event.

That was seventy years ago. Luis now sat comfortably in an over stuffed chair, his legs covered by a small blanket. He was surrounded by family. His oldest daughter's daughter had brought her baby. Imagine that. A great grandfather and still alive.

His grand daughter on his son's side sat on the hassock next to his slippered feet. "Hi grandpa," she said.

"A fine afternoon to you," Luis said and smiled. Della was his favorite grandchild, now an adult. "Are you having a grand Christmas?"

"I sure am. But I wanted to ask you about the snow."

"What do you mean?"

"What was San Francisco like before it snowed? Could you really go outside in shorts in January?"

Luis scratched the side of his nose. "I'm not sure. I never wore shorts, except in the gym. But I do remember that it rained all winter, a mild rain, not cold. And it never snowed."

"Dave," Della called to her husband. "Come here. Granddad says it didn't snow when he was a kid."

"Just a sec, honey," Dave said. He was looking out the window. "Somebody's being towed. He parked in a snow plowing zone."

Luis laughed, then coughed. When he recovered he said, "The risk when I was a boy was from tickets. They would ticket you if you were parked in a street-cleaning zone."

"Imagine that," said Dave. He walked over and stood next to his wife, Della. "Now all cars are towed. Parking tickets are a thing of the ancient past."

"Ancient past!" Luis said loudly, then coughed again.

Luis' daughter brought him kleenex and a glass of water.

"Shoo," she said to Dave and Della. "Your granddad needs his rest. Stop pestering him about his past. Take your kids outside and throw some snowballs."

Luis leaned back. The water helped soothe his throat. He leaned his head back and closed his eyes. "A snooze," he said. "I think I'll take a little snooze."

His daughter patted him on his arm the left him to rest.

If only that first snow had been fake, Luis mused. I would be sitting now in a lounge chair in the back yard. I would be sipping lemonade. There would be sausages cooking on the barbecue and it would be warm.

Luis pulled the small blanket higher. He sighed and fell asleep.

(2007) Xmas, Mission Street, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Wednesday, December 5, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Artificial city reflected in fountain
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Tony Toyo crept quietly up the small rise, then fell on his stomach to stay hidden and stared at the quiet river. Across from him was a small town, lit and inviting.

Tony was the sole survivor of a massacre. He was a rebel. Dressed like all rebels in bug suits, they'd crossed a wide area too soon and all but Tony had been killed.

Tony dog-paddled across the river, but felt odd dog-paddling in a bug suit. On the other shore he crept carefully from the water and hid behind a bush. A couple sat on the shore a short distance away, arms around each other, staring at the sky. They wore exo-suits which reassured Tony.

Tony entered the town from a darkened corner and found a back yard with clothes hanging. An exo-suit that appeared his size hung there. He quickly stripped off his bug suit and tossed it across the lawn. Then he struggled into the exo-suit.

Day glowed suddenly. Tony looked up, worried. He was having trouble getting the suit all the way on.

Two of the giants towered overhead. Tony's suit hardened as it should but left him oddly doubled over.

"Look," roared one of the giants. "Another insect. Isn't that a dead cockroach?"

"Kids," said the other. He picked up the bug suit and tossed it away. "And look at this." He picked up Tony. "Looks like a kid melted this one. Probably with a lighter."

"Toss it."

"No. I think it looks funny. Here," the giant set Tony down in a different part of town. "In the circus."

The two giants left. Day faded. Tony's exo-suit softened and he finished putting it on.

He'd been set by a two headed woman. "Hi," said Tony.

"Don't hi me," said the older head. "I got stuck here with this bimbo."

"Who you calling a bimbo," said the younger head. "I was just fine until you got stuck on."

Tony decided to move away from the two headed woman. He didn't want to spend the long day listening to them argue.

Tony found a post to lean against and settled into a comfortable position.

Day turned on again. But this time it was the big day. Tony's exo-suit hardened again. Inside, Tony though about the rebellion. Giant uncaring faces hovered in front of him. Someday, he thought. Someday we will overthrow you. Someday we will walk the day free and un-hardened. Someday, you just wait.

(2007) Hyatt Regency lobby, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Thursday, December 6, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Dry leafs above wet leafs
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The proto people were allowed to wander the fenced wooded area. The p3 and p7 groups mingled. Thus far, they were the only two groups that survived to childhood.

A slightly older p3 girl wandered separately from the group. She was joined by a slightly younger p7 girl. Together they found a patch of wet leaves and knelt by it.

The p3 girl started carefully picking the live green leaves and tossing them aside. The p7 girl watched for a while then put her hand over the p3 girl's hand and asked, "Why?"

The p3 girl looked up and met p7's eyes. She appeared confused. "Green bad," she said. "Brown good."

P7 picked up one of the discarded green leaves and held it up. "Soon dead," she said.

P3 still seemed confused.

P7 set the picked leaf down next to a still growing leaf. In turn she pointed at the living leaf, then the picked leaf, then a dead leaf. "Live," she said. "Un-live, dead."

In the research booth the engineer talked to a reporter. "You see," said the engineer. "The p3 series has no sense of time. They cannot conceive of future or past. Thus they have no way to perceive the consequences of their actions."

On the display screen the p3 girl picked another live leaf and tossed it away.

"We engineered the p7 group with a sense of time. We juggled their genes so that they can understand consequences."

On the display screen, the p7 girl picked up a picked leaf and set it back into the wet leaf area. The camera zoomed in on the leaf. As they watched, the leaf wiggled and moved, and reattached itself to its broken stem. Then it stood upright again searching for light.

"One problem with the p7 group is that they don't understand that time should only flow forward. Sometimes they make it go backwards. Naturally that's one of the problems we will fix in the next model, the p8 series. The p8 series will properly understand that time should only ever go forward."

(2007) Belgrave above Stanyan, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Friday, December 7, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Footprint on blue stained plywood
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Andy Tipps liked to kick things. Ever since he was a boy, he found sport in tagging his booted toe to someone's behind. As a teenager he liked to toss a quarter on the ground and when another kid stopped to pick it up, he would kick that kid in the behind.

Naturally, kicking made Andy disliked. In fact, in mid adulthood, he started kicking other things than people, mostly because he'd been slugged in the eye once too often by folks he'd kicked.

He was hauled before a judge because he was caught kicking the blue painted plywood that surrounded a construction site. He paid a small fine, but received a stern warning from the judge to, "Cut it out."

In his mid-years he kicked down the door of his ex-wife's apartment. That resulted in a restraining order. After the hearing his wife approached him and said, "Andy. You'd better watch out. That kicking of yours will land you in serious trouble someday."

On his 50th birthday, Andy got tipsy and kicked down the fence his neighbor had just erected to separate their yards. His neighbor didn't appear angry, but a lawsuit soon resulted in a major financial loss for Andy.

At 55, Andy got an epiphany of sorts. He realized there were other things to kick that would actually benefit him. To begin, he vowed to kick his smoking addiction and succeeded faster than he expected.

Over the next few years, Andy kicked coffee then caffeine in general. The he kicked salt and high sodium foods.

Before long Andy found himself on a health kick. He kicked meat and poultry and became a vegetarian. Then he kicked cheeses and milk.

Andy began to lose weight.

At 60, Andy caught the flu. After three days of high fever he came down with pneumonia. He was so badly weakened by his Spartan diet that he lacked the strength fight off the infections.

Andy's final act in life, almost perfectly appropriately, was to kick the bucket.

At his funeral, his coffin slipped and fell sideways. His ring slipped from his too thin finger and made a ping when it hit the floor. His ex-wife bent over to pick up the ring. At that moment his leg broke free and fell. I swung in an ark and booted his ex-wife in the behind.

Everyone at the funeral knew of Andy's habit of kicking and they all roared with laughter.

(2007) Howard Street, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Saturday, December 8, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Lobby sculpture under hanging strands of lights
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Hannah Glow was supposed to meet her blind date under the sculpture in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency only two weeks before Christmas. Just that morning she'd talked to her sister Lucy on the phone about that evening's date.

"How in the world could our mother have ever arranged such a thing?" Hannah whined to Lucy. "She has such an old-world attitude."

"Maybe," Lucy sounded like she was chewing on gum while she talked. "Maybe she thinks you need a guy. I sure think you do."

"But this close to Christmas? What is going on in that crazy mind of hers?"

"I say go for it. I mean. What do you have to lose?"

So Hannah found herself standing under the fountain, under amazing waterfalls of lights, waiting for a blind date arranged by her mother. Hanna looked at her watch. She'd been waiting half an hour. She finished the glass of wine she'd been sipping and walked with it back to the bar.

"One minute. Just one minute more," Hannah mumbled to herself. "And I'm history."

She set the empty glass on the bar.

"Another?" the waitress, who was standing there, asked.

"No thanks, I've waited long enough."

"A blind date?" the waitress asked.

"Yeah," Hannah said.

The waitress turned to the half dozen women seated around the bar.

"How many of you here?" called the waitress. "Are waiting for a blind date?"

Almost every hand rose. Even one man raised a hand.

"And how many of you have waited for over an hour?"

Only two hands dropped.

The waitress turned to Hanna. "Want that second drink now?"

Hanna smiled. "Yep. And make it a vodka this time."

(2007) Hyatt Regency Lobby at Xmas, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Sunday, December 9, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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A clear case of Santaphobia
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Bill Cutter had always been reckless and brave. He'd worked on the railroad for years and thought nothing of jumping off and on a moving train.

His vacations typically involved sky diving, or mountain climbing, or back country bicycling. He had always been athletic and active.

So, it blind-sided Bill to suddenly become afraid.

First, he developed a fear of heights. That fear caused him to quit sky diving and mountain climbing.

Next he developed a fear of crashing. That fear caused him to forgo bicycling and driving. Now he took the bus and train everywhere.

But the most startling development of all was the day Bill developed a fear of Santa Claus.

His kids made fun of him. His coworkers laughed and laughed. His wife felt sorry for him. Even strangers, he felt, looked suspiciously at him as he jay-walked to avoid street Santas.

"Let's go to Hawaii for Christmas," Bill said to his wife. "Let's go someplace warm where nobody would dare wear a Santa suit."

The hotel was on the beach. Bill lounged there all afternoon. He enjoyed the sound of the surf and the drinks with small umbrellas.

On his way to his room to find his wife, Bill rounded the corner to find himself facing dozens, no hundreds, of Santa's emerging from a double door. Bill gulped and turned to run. But behind him another double door opened and Santas were pouring out of it too.

Before he knew it, Bill was surrounded by milling Santa suited men. They brushed him. They bumped him. They ho ho'd him.

Bill felt himself boiling inside. He thought his head would explode. He felt as if he itched inside.

Then, just like that, Bill was calm. His fear of Santas was gone. "Merry Christmas," he said.

"Merry Christmas," a hundred Santas said.

Later, Bill's wife found him standing in the hallway. He was wearing a swim suit and carrying a towel.

"Bill?" she asked.

Bill's eyes were glazed. "Merry Christmas," he said to the empty hallway. Then he seemed to listen and smiled.

"Oh, Bill," his wife lamented. She put her arm around her husband and led him back to the room.

"Merry Christmas," Bill said and paused and smiled, over and over, as he walked. "Merry Christmas."

Caltrain Christmas train lighting ceremony   •  (2007) Caltrain Station, 4th & King, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Monday, December 10, 2007 internal link   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Fellini-esque family crosses lawn
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Sally Eternali was four hundred years old but inhabited the body of an eight year old. She wanted to see the reindeer exhibit at the zoo, so she arrived at the gate early that morning.

Sally spotted a childless couple and stepped between them. Taking their hands, she said, "I'm Sally, your daughter."

The couple smiled at her and squeezed her hand. The woman asked, "Do you look forward to the reindeer, Sally?"

"I sure do."

Once inside, Sally said to the couple, "Forget me."

As Sally ran off the couple looked at each other sadly, each sharing a quiet, forgotten loss with the other.

Sally saw the reindeer and found them boring. She looked around and saw a childless couple with a wagon.

"I'm your daughter, Sally," she told them. "Help me into the wagon and give me a ride."

"Hey Sally," the middle aged woman said. "Get in the wagon and we'll give you a ride."

Sally sat on a pillow in the wagon and held an umbrella over her head to keep the sun off. The man, much older than the woman, pulled the wagon.

After a short bumpy ride, Sally grew bored. She jumped out of the wagon and tossed the umbrella away. "Forget me," she said.

"But how could we ever forget a fine young girl like you," the woman said.

Sally thought she'd spoken too softly so said, louder, "Forget me."

"Yes, you'll do," the old man said. He smiled at Sally and put his hand lightly on her head.

Sally found herself in the body of an old man. An umbrella lay on the ground by her feet. "Forget me," someone said.

Sally stood on the lawn in the zoo and watched the crowd at the reindeer pen. She tried, but couldn't remember her name. "I have Alzheimer's," she said. "That's right. I forget things."

A woman and young girl approached. The girl took Sally's hand and said, "This is a great power you have. You're my grandpa. Let's leave the zoo."

That's right, Sally remembered. She was at the zoo with her grand-daughter and daughter. "I forgot," she said.

"That's okay," the young girl said. "When we get outside the zoo I'll let you remember everything."

(2007) San Francisco Zoo, Reindeer Romp   •  Photo Posted Tuesday, December 11, 2007 internal link   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Just not able to get into the mood
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Young Wayne Mobblie looked forward to Christmas break. He needed sleep and relished the thought of sleeping in each day of the break, except Christmas morning, of course.

Wayne was sleep deprived because he awoke every night at midnight to the sound of his parents fighting. They would fight loudly downstairs for two hours then go to bed themselves. But it wasn't just the yelling that kept Wayne awake, it was the breaking of dishes and the loud whip-like snaps.

But every morning, Wayne would stumble downstairs into the dining room to find a warm breakfast ready. His parents would always smile at him. His mother would always hug him, and say, "My sweet sweet son". His mom and dad would sicken him by being too lovey-dovey.

Wayne was reaching the age where he could think independently. Last night he had woken at midnight as usual. But instead of laying in bed, Wayne decided to confront his parents.

Wayne slipped out of bed. He put on slippers and a robe and snuck downstairs. Just outside the kitchen he took a deep breath. The sound of breaking dishes was deafening.

Wayne looked around the door's edge and was stupefied by what he saw. Instead of his kitchen he was looking down into a vast arena. Two hideous monsters were running around down there. Long noses shaped like horns blared random sounds that sounded like arguing.

Glass or ceramic disks were shot at intervals from the walls. Each creature would whip out a long tongue like a whip with a loud snap, breaking a sailing disk with a crash.

Wayne let out a yelp. The two creatures stopped running and looked up at him. One extended a horn-like nose in his direction and blared, "My sweet sweet son."

Wayne didn't remember going back to bed, but awoke the next morning sleepy as usual. He ate breakfast silently and flinched when his mother hugged him.

On his way to school, Wayne paused by a pre-Christmas display on a neighbor's lawn. Inflated figures and packages littered the lawn on both sides of the front door.

Wayne wondered if he was a monster like those he had seen. He closed his eyes and pictured a long tongue snapping. Suddenly he heard a pop and hiss. He opened his eyes and saw the snowman figure losing air and bending double.

Then, while he watched, a second pop and another figure hissed. Wayne turned and saw a kid with a pellet gun leaning out of an upstairs window across the street.

Wayne felt relief wash over him. It must just be a nightmare. I'm not a monster. Wayne skipped happily to school.

That night the fights ended. The next morning Wayne awoke refreshed for the first time in months. Then he felt something wet. Oh no. Wayne had started to wet his bed.

(2007) San Francisco Zoo Reindeer Romp   •  Photo Posted Wednesday, December 12, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Corn cooks
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Jack Hill lived at the foot of Bernal Hill in San Francisco. He and his wife Jill threw an informal barbecue every first Sunday of every month except December. It was their way to give back to all their fine neighbors.

Jack laid out a dozen ears of corn on the grill for the few guests he expected. Jack was getting sick of corn, but the neighbors liked it, so he continued to cook it.

The last few days had been bitter cold, so he could not believe many would attend. But Jack turned out to be wrong. Over fifty neighbors descended on their backyard that afternoon.

Jill put her hand on Jack's shoulder while he attended the grill. "We don't have enough food," she said. "I never expected so many people to show up."

Jack looked down at their small Sears grill and said, "I could cut the ears into thirds."

A shout went up near the side gate that lead to their back yard. Jack stood on his tip toes and tried to see. "What's going on?"

A half dozen of his neighbors were carrying something large and metal into the yard. The other neighbors parted and allowed the men through. With a loud clang, the men set a huge, brand new barbecue grill on the ground next to Jack.

Toni Tiger from next door announced, "Jack, Jill. Because of all the fine parties you have given all of us, we pooled our resources and got you a real barbecue."

The neighbors gathered around and applauded.

Jack glanced at his wife and saw she was so happy she had tears.

A couple of friends took them by the arms and lead them to the side. They were sat down in folding chairs and given fancy drinks. One by one, neighbors came by to shake their hands and thank them.

Jack smelled corn. He stood and walked to the new barbecue. It had been lined with foil and piled high with corn. Toni was wearing an apron that said, "Eschew Meat." She picked up and ear of corn with tongs and offered it to Jack.

Jack took the ear from her and peeled back the husk. He took a bite and decided it was the most delicious taste of corn he would ever eat.

That evening, Jack held his wife Jill's hand and they walked together up Bernal Hill. "You know," Jack said. "I was wrong. It turns out I still like corn after all."

"Is it the corn?" Jill asked. "Or is it gratitude?"

Jack didn't answer. Instead he simply stood, holding his wife's hand, and watched, with her, the sunset reflected by Oakland.

(2007) Bernal Heights Fiesta, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Saturday, December 1, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Old color on old stone bricks
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L'Moe Defoet was born and raised in Brussels. When he was eight years old, his father painted the tops of the stone walk in front of their house with bright colors. "These are marine-grade paints," he said. "They will last forever."

At 16, L'Moe survived the first great pandemic. His father died. He and his mother lost all their hair but survived. After that, L'Moe took to wearing his father's pea hat everywhere.

At 20, L'Moe survived the second great pandemic. His mother died that year. L'Moe was left alone.

It took almost six months of wandering the city for L'Moe to become convinced he was all alone. At home, he looked in the mirror. "Well, L'Moe," he said to himself. "I guess your name means Last Man On Earth."

At 25, L'Moe left home for the last time. As he crossed the stone bricks he looked back. The color atop the stones that his father said would last forever, was now nearly worn off.

L'Moe wandered zig zag down Europe. He passed through France, a bit of the Western edge of Germany, then proceeded down through Italy. In all the towns and countryside, L'Moe found nobody. The more he traveled, the lonelier he became.

L'Moe reached the southern end of Italy. The name of the town was obliterated so he had no idea where he was. He stood on a breakwater and stared at the Mediterranean Sea. L'Moe wondered if he should try to cross it.

The sun was setting so L'Moe returned to town in search of food. Along the way he happened on a house in front of which were stone bricks. The tops of those bricks, like those of his own home, so long ago and so far away, were once colored too. But these seemed recently worn.

L'Moe hesitantly stepped up onto the porch. The house was still and appeared empty. L'Moe knocked anyway.

Inside he heard steps approach. His heart began to race.

The steps reached the door and the door swung open. A woman stood there. Her mouth fell open in surprise.

L'Moe stood stock still, afraid to move, afraid any move might cause the woman to disappear.

The woman reached and touched his face. "You're real," she said.

L'Moe pulled his pea cap off and clutched it between his hands. "I'm," he hesitated. "My name's L'Moe. And for the longest time I thought my name stood for Last Man On Earth."

The woman laughed. "My names, L'Woe," she said. "And I thought my name stood for Last Woman On Earth."

(2007) Brussels, Belgium   •  Photo Posted Friday, December 14, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Make a wish
(15 of 31) (29146 views)

Two young girls were playing in the park when they happened to spot a dandelion. They ran over to it and plunked themselves down.

Nora Phibert was raised by new-agers that attended Burning Man every year. She lived in the big house at the end of the lane.

Betty Wellmast lived mid-block in one of the older houses. Her parents worked in blue collar jobs. Both got home late and relied on Betty to keep the house tidy.

Nora reached to pick the dandelion.

Betty slapped her hand down on top of Nora's. "No no," she said. "You mustn't pick it. If you do, your wish will not be granted."

Nora sat back and frowned at her friend. "What do you mean. It's just a plant. And besides, don't you pick a flower to see if your boyfriend likes you?"

"I don't have a boy friend."

"Didn't I see you talking with James Fong yesterday."

"We're just friends. And anyway, my folks said you have to blow all the seeds off without picking it."

Nora whistled. "Boy you sure have some strange parents."

"Don't whistle...." But, by then it was too late.

Brutus, Betty's family's dog, ran over with a bound. He skidded right up against the dandelion. Then, without taking a breath, Brutus gobbled up the fuzzy flower.

"Oh no," said Betty.

"Look," Nora said and pointed. "He only ate half the stem."

Betty looked and saw that too. She laughed. "So I guess its okay. He'll get half his wish."

"Which half?" Nora asked.

Both girls laughed.

Brutus barked and ran off to chase a bird. He would have caught the bird if he'd gotten a whole wish, but he didn't, which saved the life of the bird.

(2007) San Francisco, California   •  Photo Posted Saturday, December 15, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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White pipes used to freeze ice rink
(16 of 31) (29216 views)

Little Billy Moonsky crawled around the locked gate through a gap so small an adult could never follow. He slid over the edge to a gap below the ice floor. There he hid from his mean brother.

Under the floor the darkness seemed to suck all the warmth from Billy's bones. His eyes gradually adjusted to the dimness under there. Slowly hoses began to appear. White frosty hoses, like snakes frozen in time and cold.

Above him, Billy heard the bass booming of the music. Christmas music, he was sure, perhaps Jingle Bells or something else silly like that.

"Why did you have to punch me?" Billy asked his brother who was not there. "How come you always punch me?"

Above him, the music stopped.

Bill listened and thought he heard the announcer say, "Will the parents of Billy Moonsky please report to the office."

Curious, Billy crawled out from under the floor and peered through the gate. The ice rink was deserted.

Billy squeezed back through the gap, under the chain, then skated across the empty rink to the office at the end. He climbed up onto the rug covered floor and peered into the office window.

Inside Billy saw himself lying on a bench, his parents and brother gathered around him. His brother was crying. Billy noticed his own face looked awfully still. "Am I dead?"

Warm mittened hands pulled Billy from beneath the floor.

A voice said, "How did you get down there, little man?"

The man lifted Billy over the fence and set him on the ice.

The rink was full of people. The silly music played. Billy looked and found his parents stopped near the far end looking for him.

Billy waved and skated to them. His parents smiled and gave him a big hug. "Where in the world did you disappear to?"

Billy's brother skated up. Billy looked him in the eyes and saw hardness there. Billy grabbed his brother in a bear hug. He held on despite the, "Hey let go." from his brother.

"You cried," Billy said. "You cried when I died."

(2007) San Francisco, California   •  Photo Posted Sunday, December 16, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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A happy band of Jewish Santas
(17 of 31) (29077 views)

IHOP had been crowded, so Bill and Emma Cutter ate brunch outside on the patio of a surfer-style restaurant on Pier 39. Emma sat with her back to the street as was her usual habit, deferring to her husband's desire to watch the "goings on."

Emma had just finished her spinach omelet when she noticed her husband's hand shaking. She looked at his face. He appeared to be watching his plate. Then his eyes glanced up and darted back and forth nervously.

Emma turned and looked, but the street --actually a wide walk-- was occupied by ordinary tourists. She shifted back and looked at her husband again. He suffered from Santaphobia, she knew, but this far ahead of Christmas she thought he would be safe outside.

She tried to blow him a kiss, but he ignored her. His eyes grew wide and seemed to follow something behind her. To humor him, she turned again.

Emma was startled to find the walk behind her filled with people dressed as Santas. All seemed to be walking the same direction. Dozens, no, hundreds of them.

Emma stood, making her chair screech as she shoved it back. She turned, her hands on her hips and shouted at the Santas, "You should be ashamed of yourself."

From somewhere at the edge of the crowd of Santas a megaphone echoed in a mechanical way, "Ho, ho, ho."

Then the crowd of santas turned to her as one and all said together, "Ho, ho, ho."

A few of the Santas smiled at her. One in a flat hat played a few low, but joyful notes on a clarinet. Then the bulk of the Santa's passed.

Emma turned back to face her husband, His face was frozen in a strange grin. His hand, one finger through the coffee cup's handle, shook making the cup rattle on the saucer.

Emma walked around behind him and put her hands on his shoulders. "What's wrong?" she asked.

"Ho, ho, ho" boomed the departing Santas.

Her husband said something she couldn't hear. She leaned down and asked again, "What's wrong?"

"I peed in my pants."

"Ho, ho, ho," echoed the now distant santas.

"Oh sweetheart," Emma said to her husband and hugged him on his shoulders and kissed his head. "Hey, how about we order some wine and just sit here and get wasted and wait for your pants to dry?"

"Ho, ho," said Bill.

"Don't ho ho me."


"Don't call me a ho."

They both laughed.

She with cautious relief.

He with a desperate need to somehow hold onto his sanity. "Ho," he whispered softly so his wife couldn't hear. "Ho, ho."

(2007) Santarchy, Pier 39, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Monday, December 17, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Chrome helmet reflects the city
(18 of 31) (29393 views)

The Chrome Helmet
© 2007 Bryan Costales

George was the first to notice that the helmet was odd. He paid the kid in the parade $50 for the helmet.

"It belongs to the school," the boy said.

"Fifty bucks," George said.

That afternoon George studied the helmet in his living room. The reflection was different than the room it reflected. For one thing, the helmet showed the drapes drawn. But looking straight at the drapes, George saw they were open.

George, just then, was hit by inspiration. Now inspiration had only hit him one time before, so far as he could remember, so this was a rare and special event.

George hauled the helmet outside to the corner by the liquor store, where he knew he would find newspaper racks. He peered into the helmet at the newspapers. The date on every one of them was two days in the future. But the rest of the paper was too small in the reflection to read.

George, just then, was hit by a second inspiration. He hurried home to his garage. Rummaging through old and mostly rusty tools he found a pair of large tin snips. George, it seems, was inspired to flatten the helmet so he could better read the future newspapers.

George locked the helmet in a vice. Then, with great care, he centered the tin snips on the helmet and cut.

A bright flash momentarily blinded him. When his vision cleared, the helmet looked different. Studying it carefully, George confirmed his worse fear. The cut had somehow broken the helmet. It no longer showed the future.

What George couldn't know, and didn't discover until he left the garage, is that the helmet had projected him two days into the future.

Later that day, just before sunset, George returned to the newspaper racks on the corner. The date still showed two days in the future. That struck George as odd, because he'd left the helmet in the garage.

George gradually realized he'd lost two days. But it wasn't until a week later that George finally made it to the library. He looked up the newspapers from the missing two days. There, he found one event he'd wished he'd attended. But that's a story for another day.

Veteran's Day Parade   •  Photo Posted Tuesday, December 18, 2007   •  (2007) Market Street, San Francisco   •  © 2007 Terry Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Yeah, and just who you calling a powder puff?
(19 of 31) (29488 views)

Santa Junior
© 2007 Bryan Costales

Dave Claus looked up to his old man. "Dad," he would often say. "I want want to be just like you someday."

But his desire to become a Santa played ill while he was in school. He was beaten by student thugs so often he became numb.

In college he was safer, because there the students simply thought he was gay.

As an adult, he managed a toy store in a mall. Each year as Christmas approached, he would beg the owner to let him be the store Santa.

"You're too damn thin," the owner would say. "No kid would believe you for a minute."

But Dave would wear a Santa hat all season, and remain in the Christmas spirit anyway. He enjoyed ho, ho, ho-ing with the hired Santa. And enjoyed helping kids and adults shop for toys.

One evening, as Dave was closing the store, his dad, Santa, appeared next to him.

"Ho ho, Dave," Santa said. "You look healthy."

"Hi Dad," Dave said. He looked his father over. "Boy, dad. You look really winded."

"That's why I'm here Dave. I want you to take over as Santa."

"But I'm too thin."

"Ho ho," Santa said. "You just need to eat more ham and turkey and potatoes. You'll plump right up."

"I can't, dad. I've been a vegetarian all my life. I can't change now."

"Ho there. Who ever heard of a vegetarian Santa?"

"Well just look at you," Dave poked his dad's belly. "How old are you anyway? Fifty, fifty two?"


"Look dad," Dave poked him again. "You have to change your diet. Cut out the red meat and carbs. Lose forty or fifty pounds and you'll get your strength back. You won't get winded anymore. Lose a little weight and you can continue as Santa for another twenty or thirty years."

Santa pursed his lips and thought. "Ho," he said. "I guess your right. Nobody would believe a vegetarian Santa anyway. I'm tickled I came here to visit. Bye son."

"Join the Y," said Dave.

And with that, Santa vanished.

Dave clicked the lock in the door and tested it by pushing. It was solidly locked.

A kid pulled on his coat. "Hey mister. Is your dad Santa?"

Dave looked down at the boy. "He sure is."

The boy ran off to his mother, shouting, "He's Santa's son. He's Santa's son."

The boy's mother mouthed at Dave, "Shame on you."

But Dave merely smiled at her. He smiled his secret smile that meant he'd someday be Santa. Not soon, of course, but later, depending if his dad heeded his advice.

(2007) Santarchy, Pier 30, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Wednesday, December 19, 2007 internal link   •  © 2007 Terry Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Two boys in search of a hood
(20 of 31) (29273 views)

Bullets in the Fog
© 2007 Bryan Costales

Alan Dexter and Phil Morris were half brothers with a common mother. Alan was older and taller, but not the wiser of the two.

When they had left for school that morning, the weather was clear as a bell and sunny. But half way there, while crossing the pedestrian foot bridge, a fog arose.

"Wo Bro," Alan said. "This fog be gettin' thick."

But his brother was unusually silent.

"What's a matter with you? You scared?"

The fog was now so thick the two had trouble seeing each other.

"My dad done told me about this fog," Phil said at last.

"What he say?"

"That sometime, when the fog is thick like this, bullets fired into the air over the years fall at last."

Alan heard a plunk in the water next to the walk and flinched.

Phil continued, "And sometimes one hits a kid top the head and kills him."

Another something splashed nearby.

"Jeeze," Alan said. "That was a close one."

Then something metal fell on Alan's head with a thunk. It bounced off and landed on the wooden walk with a metallic thunk.

Alan let out a frightened yelp. "I'm hit. I'm hit." Then he bent over and picked up the thing. He stood and looked at it. It was a quarter.

"Hey," Alan said. He grabbed Phil's hand and pried it open. Several quarters fell out.

Pill pulled his hand free and laughed. He laughed and laughed.

"Damn you," Alan said. "Damn you for tricking me."

Phil stopped laughing at last.

Then the two boys walked the rest of the way to school in silence.

(2007) Palo Alto Duck Pond, Palo Alto, California   •  Photo Posted Thursday, December 20, 2007   •  © 2007 Terry Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Strawberry and grape snack
(21 of 31) (29274 views)

Laughing Hubb, the clown, threw a party for all his so-called friends. Mostly the gang he called friends were customers who hired him to perform. Other than that smallish group, he'd never made any lasting friendships.

Because Laughing was a bit on the poor side, he decorated by coloring newspapers with paints he'd found set on the sidewalk outside Goodwill. He held the decorations up with an old roll of masking tape, that no longer had the will to stick.

He tossed trick handkerchiefs over his few lamps to help set the mood. With the light dimmed, the room appeared raggedly festive.

For food, Laughing bought discounted grapes and a block of Velveta at Safeway. He cut his precious loaf of sliced bread into little squares and put a slice of Velveta on each. Because he lacked a tray, he covered a piece of cardboard in tin-foil and used that instead.

In his one combination cereal/soup bowl, Laughing placed the washed grapes. He had a few strawberries left over that he'd picked outside the Precidio grounds the week before. He sprinkled them on top of the grapes to make it appear as if they were mixed throughout.

Laughing had half a jug of cheap Burgundy left. He filled it to the brim by mixing in water and red food coloring, then added a little Everclear he's been saving for such an occasion.

The first guests arrived early. The Marlory's from Pacific Heights. They always liked Laughing and tried to ensure his well being.

"Good evening Laughing," said Mrs. Marlory. She handed him a bag of food. "You look like you may have lost a little weight."

Laughing looked in the bag and discovered fresh vegetables and oranges over what appeared to be cans of soup.

"You shouldn't have," Laughing said with a big smile, made bigger because of his makeup.

"And I brought a bottle of the good stuff," Mr. Marlory said. He handed Laughing a bottle of expensive brandy.

The Dixon's arrived next. They ran a restaurant in Sausalito and hired Laughing occasionally for children's parties.

"We thought we would throw out this old toaster," Mrs. Dixon said. She handed Laughing a six-slice toaster. "But we talked it over and decided you could use it instead."

The party turned out to be a delight. Laughing told and heard jokes. Laughing demonstrated his collection of honking noses and was amused my Mr. Dixon's demonstration of his fake right leg.

After the party, Laughing was a little tipsy. He sat in one of his many metal folding chairs and looked around the room. It felt good. Then his eyes fell on the toaster. "Toast," he said aloud.

Laughing got up and looked around the kitchen. He found his package of bread behind some trash. Inside were just the two ends.

"Toasted ends," Laughing said and laughed. "With strawberries. No. With one strawberry and a few grapes."

Then Laughing remembered the bag of groceries Mrs. Marlory had given him, and said, "A perfect end to a perfect party."

While the toast toasted, Laughing took off his red nose and set it in the box with the others. Then he stood at his kitchen counter and feasted.

(2007) Los Angeles, California   •  Photo Posted Friday, December 21, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Delicate blue surrounded by gray
(22 of 31) (28998 views)

"Just look at that," Sam said. He was gesturing at the base of the back window. "Somebody screwed that window shut."

Leonard finished pouring a cup of coffee and walked over to join Sam at the little table that bordered the back window. "What do you mean?"

"Just look outside. That's your fire escape. What happens if you have a fire? How will you get out if the window is screwed shut?"

Leonard sat, then leaned to look at the screw. "Hmmm. Looks like you're right."

"You got a screw driver?"

"Don't think so. Never had much use for tools."

Sam leaned back in his chair causing it to squeak. He rummaged in his pocket and came out with a dime.

"That looks too big," Leonard said.

"I can make it work," Sam said. He leaned over the screw and tried to turn it with the the dime. "There, I think it moved a bit."

"But won't the landlord be angry if we take it out?"

"Why would he be? There, it moved a little again. After all isn't this a fire trap?"

Leonard frowned. "Maybe it's screwed shut to keep burglars out."

Sam stopped trying to unscrew and looked up. "Maybe," he said.

Leanard laughed. "After all, this is not really a safe neighborhood."

"I suppose you're right." Sam put the dime back in his pocket.

"The screw didn't move at all did it?"

"No. You really need a screwdriver."

Leonard laughed again. "It's too early to drink."

They both laughed. Then they both sat silent for a while.

(2007) San Francisco, California   •  Photo Posted Saturday, December 22, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Two chairs beckon entry into a tent
(23 of 31) (29135 views)

"What time is it?" Nancy asked her sister.

"Mrful Shoffy," Vicky answered from well tucked into her sleeping bag.

Nancy shook her sister gently. "It's light out."

Vicky's head poked out and sleepy eyes cast about for a reason. "Too early," she said and pulled her head back into the bag again.

Nancy sat full up and peered through the screen-window of the tent. "It's light but there isn't any sun yet."

Vicky pulled her sleeping bag tighter around her head.

"I wonder why. Maybe it's because we're in the mountains." Nancy waited, but her sister didn't budge. "We're really high up here in the mountains, so the sun must shine up first and miss us. It's probably full sun at the beach right now, shining sideways."

Vicky's head emerged a bit again. "What in the world are you talking about?"

"The sunlight. You know, that the sun isn't high enough to shine straight across at us yet. Sunrise must be later up here in the mountains."

Vicky glared at her sister. "How many bottles of soda did you drink last night?"


"So just put on your pants and big coat and go to the outhouse. And let me sleep."

Nancy sat silent for a moment. Then she said, "Okay."

Nancy made more ruckus than necessary pulling on her pants and putting on her coat, hat and gloves. But she finally finished and left the tent.

Vicky pulled the sleeping back over her head again and mumbled, "Mrfo Nashoo." Then she fell right back to sleep again, despite the bright dawnlight.

(2007) Capp's Campground, California   •  Photo Posted Sunday, December 23, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Huge, glorious bubbles
(24 of 31) (29232 views)

Michael Spinnley disliked his name. He preferred to be called Mike. Most of his friends called him Mike, but his parents insisted on calling him Michael. Mike was only twelve, so that was a huge problem.

One blazingly hot Saturday, Mike bought a plastic bottle at a flea market for a quarter. He thought it might go well with his pirate costume, the one he was assembling for a party that fall.

Mike pulled open the top and it slid smoothly. The inside appeared to be covered with soap, so he blew and produced a huge bubble.

This was not an ordinary bubble, however. Mike stood agasp and watched the bubbles grow and darken and form into a tall, thin man wearing a black suit.

"Who are you?" Mike asked.

The man bowed to Mike. It was a formal bow, bent at the waist and with the man's arm sweeping to one side. "Greeeetings," The man said in a deep voice.

The man straightened and now towered over Mike. He seemed to have grown a couple feet in just that instant.

The man spoke again, "I am the great Zezeolmanstupeous. Having freed me, you may have one and only one wish."

"What a gyp," Mike said. "Why not three wishes. A genie would grant three wishes."

"The great Zezeolmanstupeous is not a genie."

"Get back into the bottle." Mike held the open bottle out to the man."

"No. I cannot return to the bottle until you make a wish. What do you want? What do you want most in the world?"

Without thinking, Mike blurted, "I want my folks to call me Mike." Mike slapped his hands over his mouth, trying to block his already spoken words from being spoken.

The man made a little flourish with his hand and said, "Done." Then he turned back into a huge bubble and burst.

Mike sealed the bottle back up and dropped it into the nearest recycling box.

Later that afternoon Mike threw open the back door of his house and yelled, "Mom, I'm home."

His mother called back, "Be sure to wipe your feet, Mike."

"Dang," Mike said. "I should have wished for a puppy."

(2007) How Berkeley Parade, Berkeley, California   •  Photo Posted Monday, December 24, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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A rainy night in the city
(25 of 31) (29592 views)

Little Sammy Sandstrum looked out the window at the rain. "Mommy," he called. "Will the rain keep Santa away?"

His mother walked into the small front from the kitchen. She wore a flour dusted apron and wiped her hands with a dish towel. "No," she said. "Santa will be here, rain or snow or shine."

"I don't think so," Sammy said. "Come look."

His mother moved up behind him and looked out the window. "What?"

"There on the street." Sammy pointed. "Santa's dead."

His mother spotted a man in the Santa suit laying on the sidewalk in the rain just outside the corner liquor store. "That's not Santa," she said. "That's just one his assistants. He has lots of assistants. An besides," she placed her hand on Sammy's shoulder and squeezed. "He's not dead, he just fell down."

Almost as if on cue, the fallen Santa figure crawled to his feet. Once he was standing, Sammy could see that the red suit was just a red rain coat, and the beard had just been a white plastic sack laying near the fallen man's face.

"That's not Santa," Sammy said.

The fallen man staggered around the corner and out of sight.

Sammy continued to look out the window. He leaned close so his breath would create a round area of fog on the glass. "I'll stay up all night so I can see Santa," he said.

"We have to get up early," called his mother from back again in the kitchen. "It's off to bed with you soon. Go brush your teeth and floss."

Sammy drew and S with his finger in the center of the fogged area. "Sammy," he said. "And Santa. Both start with an S."

"You know what?" Sammy called to his mother.

"Off to the bathroom with you," his mother said. "I mean right now young man."

Sammy erased the fogged S with his hand, then got up and headed to the bathroom. "S," he said to himself, as he walked back down the hallway. "Both our names start with an S."

(2007) Main Street, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Tuesday, December 25, 2007 internal link   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Tall bells gather for warmth under glassed roof
(26 of 31) (29151 views)

Dqaw was one one of the youngest members of the Bell clan. His arrival late that day for the afternoon rest strangely offended one of the oldest elders.

"Bong, bing, ding ding, ding," bellowed the oldster who let go of the sky and floated down to Dqaw. "Ding ding ding!"

Dqaw, being among the youngest, had not learned to be civil to his elders yet. So he floated right up to the height of that eldest. "Bong," he said in a firm but young supercilious tone. "Bling, bong bong."

The eldest quivered at the effrontery. Shards of age fell off him and began the long fall into the unknown below. He sucked in the thin-air with a loud whistle until he was three times his original size. Then he let out a single BONG so loud it rattled poor Dqaw down to his core.

Dqaw grew feint and fell. He felt his thin-air running out of cracks in his outside. He barely managed to remain upright. And then he passed out.

When Dqaw awoke he found himself resting on a hard surface. He had never experienced a surface before and didn't know what to make of it. It appeared brown and un-smooth. Dqaw tried to ring but only managed a weak tinkle.

Strange creatures gathered around him. The poked him and pushed him back and forth until he fell over. Then they crawled around inside him.

Dqaw tried to talk to them but only managed weak cries of, "dink, dink, dink."

After a while, he was stood upright again, but this time on a strange flat thing with round things at each corner. The round things rotated and the flat thing moved Dqaw over the surface.

As he moved, Dqaw felt hard tings strike his exterior. He looked and saw small creatures hurling small hard objects at him. As each hit, his outside emitted a soft thunk sound. Dqaw realized he had allowed his exterior to soften. Quickly he sucked in air, surprisingly thick air. His exterior hardened and the thrown objects now produced a pleasing GONG sound.

The large creatures stopped moving him. The small creatures stopped throwing things at him. Dqaw remembered the GONG and used that sound to re-tune himself. Soon he was making his usual soft dingle, dingle, dingle sounds and once again he was producing thin air.

Dqaw rose quickly into the air. Below him, the small creatures threw more objects at him but they didn't reach him. Dqaw rose and rose, and eventually reached the sky again. Friendly, stranger bells greeted him. Dqaw tried to tell them the story of the creatures below, but he lacked sounds for the concept. The best he could do was to soften his outside and produce a thunk, thunk sound.

A few of the stranger bells caught on and thought he provided great entertainment.

As Dqaw aged, he became a master of his story. The story of the creatures that inhabited the unknown far below. He called his story, "Thunk thunk, thunk."

(2007) Crocker Galleria, San Francisco   •  Photo Posted Wednesday, December 26, 2007 internal link   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Richardson's Bay at sunset
(27 of 31) (29259 views)

"I guess, when sails get old, they can rip," Phil said to Bob who was steering the boat back home.

"Damn my dad," Bob muttered. Then looked hard at Phil and said, "Course you being drunk didn't help."

Carol, Phil's girlfriend had just emerged from the companionway. "Hey," she snapped at Bob. "Phil's only been sipping beers. That's pretty tame compared to you."

"Come on," Phil stood and hugged Carol. "Let's go sit on the front stoop."

"The bow!" Bob yelled. It was far to easy to poke fun at Bob. "It's called the bow."

Carol held Phil's hand as they walked along the lifeline. "And then almost running on the rocks when the engine wouldn't start," she said. "I was really frightened."

Bob said loudly, "But I got it started didn't I."

Phil looked back at Bob. "Barely in time. If that other sailboat hadn't come by and tossed us a rope we might have drowned."

"Look," Bob said. "Richardson bay. We're almost back."

"I'm never going sailing with Bob again," Carol said to Phil.

"Come on. He's not that bad."

"He's a train wreck waiting to happen."

At the wheel, Bob called to them, "You'll need to man the lines. And, yes Carol, you can person the lines."

But Phil and Carol were now huddled at the bow of the boat and could no longer hear him.

"It's my dad's fault," Bob muttered to himself. "He abandoned us. He let the sails rot. Damn him."

Photo Posted Thursday, December 27, 2007 internal link   •  (2007) View from Christmas Cruise of Sausalito, California   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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South tower viewed from bay side
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Wayne the sea gull was, perhaps, one of the dumbest birds ever hatched. He weighed less than other birds because he had a harder time finding food. His feathers were a mess, because he was always flying into things he shouldn't. But because Wayne was a sea gull, all he could conclude from his life was, "!."

One day, Wayne was flying over the bay because other sea gulls were flying over the bay. They swooped and dove, so he swooped and dove. They landed on the rail of a passing ferry, so he landed on the rail of a passing ferry.

A young human girl came walking by. The other gulls, one by one, flew off as the girl approached. But not Wayne. He watched the girl approach and thought, "!."

"Hey," the girl said and waved her arms at the gull on the rail. "Fly off stupid."

Wayne cocked his head and watched her. No thoughts moved through his head. His eyes watched. His mind only conceived of, "!."

The girl pulled a cookie from her pocket. It was wrapped in a napkin. She unwrapped the cookie and threw it at the gull. "Go away," she shouted.

Wayne's eyes saw the cookie approaching and triggered his mouth to open and catch it. The mind was bypassed. Wayne thought, "!."

Other gulls noticed that Wayne had a cookie in his mouth.

Wayne's eyes noticed other gulls notice he had a cookie in his mouth. Wayne felt fear.

"Shoo, bird," the girl said and waved her hands again.

Wayne flew.

Other gulls flew at him and tried to snatch the cookie from his mouth.

Wayne crunched down and swallowd the tiny bit of cookie actually caught in his mouth. The rest of the cookie fell into the sea.

The other gulls followed the falling pieces down and left Wayne alone.

Wayne hovered and thought, "!."

The girl watched Wayne hover. "Stupid bird," she said. And how very right she was.

Golden Gate Bridge   •  Photo Posted Friday, December 28, 2007 internal link   •  (2007) Christmas Cruise, San Francisco Bay   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Boy ponders past self in mirror
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John looked in the mirror and immediately his brain went in two completely different directions.


John remembered that it took time for light to travel from him to the mirror and back. Not much time, to be certain, but a tiny bit of time. This caused John to conclude that his refection was older than he was.

"So that's what I looked like back then," John said. And so did his reflection.

What if, John wondered. What if a mirror was on Mars? It would take light many minutes to go from here to there and back. He could step in front of the mirror, say something, and step aside. The future him would see the old (by many minutes) him, enter the mirror then move aside.

"What if the-past-me left the-present-me a message?"

Then John realized the old him was in the past and wondered how he could tell if he was the past him or the present him.

So John pictured someone else looking in a mirror while he watched. In his mind, he saw that person looking at a reflection of that person's self. Clearly, he thought, the viewer was in the same time as he, so had to be in the present.

"Dang. So I can't use a mirror on Mars to win the lottery."


John looked at his reflection in a mirror.

"I wonder when the cookies will be served?" he asked himself.

(2007) Main Street, San Francisco, California   •  Photo Posted Saturday, December 29, 2007   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Gloria Graves with daughter Terry
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Secret Snow
© 2007 Bryan Costales

One day, high in the mountains, a mother and daughter were out for a walk. Snow was plowed high along the road's edge, but the sky was clear. The mother, as always, wished to prove herself superior to her daughter.

Despite the bitter cold, the mother wore no coat and wore her pant legs rolled up. "What a lovely summer day," she said despite the snow and the cold.

"I have a secret," her daughter said.

Now this was unexpected. The mother paused and looked down at her daughter. "How could you possibly have a secret on such a lovely summer's day?"

"My secret is hidden in the snow."

"But there is no snow, dear. This is the tropics and we are on our way to the beach for the day."

"Then I guess you are right," the daughter said. "I must not have a secret because there is no snow."

Months later the snow melted. A glass jar was exposed in the family's back yard. In the jar was a dollar bill. It was the dollar bill the girl had received for Christmas.

The mother found it and thought it had just been placed there. She brought it in and rinsed it off under the faucet. And set it, unopened, on the kitchen counter.

Later, when the daughter returned home from school, she saw the jar. "My secret," she said to her mother. "You found my secret."

"We have no secrets," her mother said. "We have no snow, and we have no secrets."

Photo Posted Sunday, December 30, 2007 internal link   •  (1951) McCloud, California   •  © 2007 Terry Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Jonathan and Candace view a hologram
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John, while gazing at a hologram with is mom, had two distinct, simultaneous thoughts that morning.


The flat picture seemed to have depth and movement. "I wonder," he said inside is mind. "I wonder if the person in that picture is real and is looking out at me?"

John thought that perhaps the person in the picture was also at a party like he. "Look at the funny people in the picture," the person might say. "They look so real. They have depth and movement and seem so lifelike."

Perhaps, thought John, the person in the picture is living in a world so much slower than ours, that we are just a blur on this side. That person, making a face at us, might only see a picture of an empty hallway. Perhaps with whispers of ghosts haunting it.

"Perhaps," John wondered inside his head. "Perhaps we are the ghosts for the people who inhabit holograms."


John gazed at the hologram. "Gee, mom," he said. "That's really nice."

Photo Posted Monday, December 31, 2007 internal link   •  (2007) Main Street, San Francisco, California   •  © 2007 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License #a_hologram
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