2008/01
January 2008 Photofictional
A Daily Blog Posting By Bryan Costales

Free, January, short-short stories from 2008.
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George Retired
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© 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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George McPhee had worked the docks his entire life. He sported dozens of tattoos, a half dozen scars, and an artificial knee to prove it.

The company for which George had worked the last thirty years was gone. Just like that, a Saudi company had taken over the port and hundreds of dock workers were out of a job.

Monday morning, while heading to the port to see what was up with work, George was joined by a dock buddy of his, Joe Bizookly.

"Morning Joe," George said.

"Morning George," Joe said. "You think they're hiring?"

"Don't care."

"What'd'ya mean you don't care?"

George glanced sideways at his buddy as they walked. "I'm sixty-five. My retirement kicked-in a week before the company closed."

Joe whistled. "Sweet, man. So why you still walking to work?"

George smiled. "My blog. I'm still writing daily about the docks and the people who work there."

"Really, still? Even though you're retired?"

"Yep. And I've started a novel."

Joe punched George in a friendly way. "No. Don't tell me that. What's it about?"

"A mystery/adventure. You know, about two men who worked the docks all their lives then find out the company has been smuggling drugs."

"Am I in it?"

"Sure, why not."

They paused at the door to the hiring hall. George shook Joe's hand. "Good luck," he said to his buddy.

"Thanks," Joe said. He opened the door and looked inside. He whistled. "It's packed."

"You go in," George said. "You still need to work."

"What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to go across the street to Peets to have a decaf, soy, mocha latte, and a scone."

Joe whistled again. "The life of Reilly."

"Maybe," said George, as he walked away from his buddy. "And maybe not. The proof is, as they say, in the pudding."

Joe whistled and disappeared into the hiring hall.

George smiled. "In the nick of time," he said to himself as he walked. "Just in the nick of time."


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Posted Rules
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Wendy was at the carousel with two friends and the French daughter of her parent's friends. The French girl's name was Eva and she spoke pretty good English.

The other two girls, Donna and Sue were in the same grade as Wendy at Rosemont Elementary.

The sign on the carousel ticket machine said that children under forty inches must ride under the supervision of parents.

"How many feet is forty inches?" Donna asked. "I'm four feet, two."

"Three feet is thirty-six inches," Sue said. "Add four and you get forty inches, so that's three feet, four inches. You're, like, way tall enough."

"You're too darn smart sometimes," Wendy said.

Eva, the French girl, said, "You're as bad as the English. I'm one oh two centimeters, how tall is that?"

Wendy noticed that she and Eva were nearly the same size. "I know," she said. "Stand back to back with me," she told Eva.

The two girls stood back to back.

"Eva is a hair shorter," Donna said.

"How much?" asked Eva.

Donna held her fingers a little apart. "This far."

Sue said, "There's two point five centimeters to the inch."

"Excellent," Eva said. "Finally an American that knows something."

"How do you know that?" Wendy asked Sue.

"My dad explained it to me." Sue said. She frowned, clearly calculating. "That means like twenty five centimeters in ten inches. Or one hundred centimeters in forty inches. So if you're one oh two centimeters, you're two centimeters over the limit. You're, like, really tall enough!"

Wendy shook her head sadly at the display of arithmetic.

"Wow," Donna said.

"Cool," Eva said. "Thank you."

"So let's go on the merry go round," Donna said.

"You mean carousel?" Eva asked.

The girls laughed.

"This is boring," Wendy said. "Let's go window shopping instead."

Sue put her hand over Eva's mouth. "Don't say it."

Eva pushed her hand away. "What?"

"We're not going to shop for windows."

The girls laughed again. Then they like, all dashed as one back down the mallway is search of fashion and snacks.

END


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Diamond Fork
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© 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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This is the last photo ever taken of Stan Graves. That is, of course, in this reality.

Just before this photograph was taken, Stan rounded a corner in Paris and spotted a twinkle in the gutter. He paused. It was a twinkle like glass or a shard of crystal. He paused only briefly.

At that moment, his life forked. The him we know, investigated the twinkle. The other him, the one we will never know, ignored the twinkle.

Stan bent and picked up the piece of glass. It looked like a diamond. But surely, he thought, it could not be a real diamond.

Stan stuck the diamond in his pocket and went to have his photo taken.

Afterward, Stan stopped at a jewelry store and asked if the diamond was real. The proprietor called the police. Stan was arrested.

The trial was swift. Stan was convicted of robbery and murder. He was imprisoned for life.

In both realities, he asked the photographer to mail the photograph back to his fiance in the States. In this reality, he never followed that photograph home. In the other reality, he returned home and married and had two fine children.

In this reality, Stan was released when he was seventy years old. By then, he spoke French comfortably so decided to remain in Paris.

In 2007, his daughter from the other reality visited Paris. She rounded a corner and happened upon a twinkle. She paused. But here, her life did not fork. She would never pass up a twinkle. She picked it up and looked at it. A diamond, possibly, or a crystal. She gazed at it, and thought for a moment that she saw in it the young face of her father.

She was surprised and mystified.

"This," she said. "Must be a magic crystal. I should leave it here. After all, it is not mine."

When his daughter placed the crystal back into the gutter a strange think happened. The fork in reality that Stan had created, crumpled on itself. Stan had never picked up the diamond. Stan had never gone to prison. Stan in this reality never existed. This reality collapsed inward upon the second.

Only one reality existed from that moment onward. And in it, his daughter existed and had a father.


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Egress To Birds
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© 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Wendy Roy exited the Sacramento Amtrak station when an elderly woman in a bright pink sweater just stopped in front of her. Wendy stopped too and a man bumped her from behind.

"Don't stop in a doorway," the man said as he brushed by her.

Wendy put her hands on the old woman's shoulders and gently guided her out of the doorway. Then she stepped in front of the old woman to speak to her.

"You need to be careful to not stop in doorways. You might get hurt."

"Is this heaven?"

Wendy looked around. "No, this is Sacramento. That's I street and Chinatown."

The old woman's eyes rose to look at something in the sky. "Is that the face of God?"

Wendy looked over her shoulders. Thousands of crows had taken off from the trees in Chinatown. Wendy turned and watched the display. "No," she said over her shoulder to the old woman. "That's not the face of God. It's just stupid birds. Crows, I think."

"I once," said a man who stepped up to Wendy's left.

Wendy looked at him and saw a mid-aged man, well dressed in a suit and tie, also watching the crows.

"I once saw starlings take off from trees near I-5. They flew in designs and swirls so complex they could easily remind one of God."

A young woman appeared on Wendy's right and looked at the birds too. "I'm from San Francisco," she said. "And sometimes we get sea gulls and pelicans and crows and parrots and tiny birds all mixing it up in the sky at once."

Wendy looked over her shoulder to see if the old woman was still watching. But the old woman was gone. Wendy turned completely around and looked all directions. Not a sign of the old woman anywhere.

Then Wendy noticed the old woman's bright pink sweater lying on the ground. It almost felt to Wendy as if the old woman had discarded it then, ascended, to fly with the birds.

"There go the birds," the man said from behind her.

Wendy looked around again, and everyone appeared to be walking off.

Wendy shrugged. Then she continued on her way to her morning's first appointment.

END


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School Girls Race
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Nancy Dibbs was the ring leader. "It's so cold out, so lets hang in the train museum." The other four girls thought that was a fine idea, so they all went in at student rates.

"We'll take turns," Nancy told them. "Each of us will lead an act of fun, so real we will all be entertained. Something using trains, of course, cuz we're here."

"Oh, oh," Sally waved her hand. "I have one. Let's all get on the sleeping car an pretend we are in Some Like It Hot, that old movie."

It was agreed, that would be worthwhile to pretend, so they piled into the sleeping car and began to camp up and clown around. It wasn't long before they were all laughing. Then a guide happened by and told them to stop "Horsing around."

Kelly was next. She suggested, "We have been kidnapped and escaped. We have to hide behind an engine so the kidnapers won't find us.

They spent twenty minutes behind a greasy smelling locomotive, talking at first how terrible it was to be kidnapped and how lucky they were to be free at last. But the conversation slowly turned to the topic of boys and then it became Nancy's turn.

"You hear that whistle?"

The other girls pretended they did.

"That's the two-twenty for Baltimore. We are on our way to a modeling gig. We need to catch that train to get there in time. If we miss the train we will lose out on the job."

"Where's the train?" Sally asked.

"This way," Nancy called and waved her hand. "Follow me."

They dashed across the floor of the museum. They rounded one parked train and jogged across fake gravel. Through a cardboard doorway, then up a platform and alongside the waiting train.

The doors were open and, in the distance, a man called, "All 'board."

The five girls piled onto the train and found seats at the front together. They plopped into them, exhausted. They felt the train lurch and move.

"Who has the tickets?" Nancy asked.

The others looked at each other, but nobody had tickets.

"We'd better get off," Nancy said.

They left their seats and made their way back to the door. Outside the countryside was whistling past. Trees, then fields, then trees. The wind from the doorway was cold. Nancy peered out around the corner. "We'll pass over a river soon. Get ready to jump."

The girl's held hands.

"Now!"

They jumped as one. They sailed through the air and landed hard in the ice cold water. None of them was afraid because they were all good swimmers and the shore was near.

"Wow," Sally said. "Nancy, you really do great pretends."

And all the girls laughed.

END


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Mental Energy
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© 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Wayne the sea gull was flying alongside a boat when something stopped him in mid air. He just hung there, suspended and helpless. All he could think was, "!!."

Evil genius Jesse had recently mastered the art of mental control. He had practiced it on dogs and cats with great success. This cruise provided him with the opportunity to try his control on birds. Jesse believed, if he could control birds, he could control the world.

Wayne flapped his wings furiously, but they didn't move.

Jesse released the bird, happy with his progress. He then turned his attention to the people on the shore in Sausalito. "I will make them all jump in the water and drown," he said to nobody in particular.

Wayne thought, "!!." He flapped and found he could move again. Afraid, he flew higher and higher. Then he paused and looked down. Far below him he saw a man on a boat and thought, "!!!."

Evil Jesse felt his mind wrap around all the people on shore. He saw them all stop moving and stiffen. Evil Jesse smiled his evil smile.

Wayne became angry, or as angry as a sea gull could ever become. He dove, flying fast, then faster. He dove straight at the evil man.

Evil Jesse formulated the thought in his head. I will have them all run and dive head first into the bay, he thought. Yes, that will be wonderful.

Wayne's beak struck the man's head so hard it broke Wayne's neck. Wayne tasted blood in his mouth and, as he tumbled into the choppy water, his last thought was a peaceful, "."

Evil Jesse was startled and knocked back from the railing. A bird had knocked his head hard, drawing blood. Evil Jesse shook his head to clear it. Then he noticed all the people on the shore were moving again. He concentrated and commanded them to stop. But his command didn't work. He tried to freeze a bird in flight, but that failed too.

Evil Jesse had lost his evil powers. The world had been saved by a heroic sea gull named Wayne. But nobody knew it but Jesse, and soon Jesse forgot the event too. He became normal and lived out an interesting, pleasant, but not-evil life after that day.

But those of us who write of Wayne will remember him. The hero that saved the world and in so doing, gave his own life so bravely. So to Wayne, and to all gulls, we say, "!."


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Mail Car
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Paula Baystone whispered to her baby, Sally, while touring the old mail car. "Hard to believe," she said softly. "It took four weeks for a letter to cross the country by train. Imagine that."

Her husband, Jack, put his hand gently on her shoulder. "Talking to Sally again?"

"Mmm. Just musing about mail."

"You know, of course, when Sally grows up, there won't be any letters anymore."

Paula turned to her husband. "You're always so pessimistic."

The other tourists behind them paused to listen.

Jack smiled and said, "So when was the last time you received a letter? I don't mean a bill or an ad, but an actual letter?"

"At Christmas. We got three Christmas cards."

A man behind them said, "That's true. We got a few Christmas cards too, but only bills the rest of the time."

Another woman said, "Yes, yes. And we got less cards this last Christmas than the Christmas before that."

Paula hefted her baby into a more comfortable position and said somewhat sadly to her husband, "I guess that means you're right. Letters will vanish."

Jack pointed out the window of the mail car. "Look there. That girl is texting on her cell phone. That's our future."

The woman behind them lamented, "But I like Christmas cards."

"So do I dearie," Paula said to her. "So do I."

Baby Sally made a gurgling, nonsensical sound, which seemed to all as if it summed up the future of letters just right.

END


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Irish Green Accent
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Patrick Finn believed himself to be Irish through and through. So it came as a wee bit of a shock for his wife to announce otherwise.

It happened on New Years Eve of all times, during a cruise of San Francisco bay. Elaine, his wife, leaned close and said, "We're going to have a baby."

Fireworks went tat tat tat and that's what Patrick felt in his joyful heart. "That's super news, dear."

They hugged and kissed.

Patrick saw a burst of fireworks light the city green, so he said, "A child of Ireland."

"Er, not exactly," said his wife.

"What do you mean?"

"Didn't I tell you? I talked to your mother on Christmas." A loud boom echoed across the bay. "She told me you were only half Irish."

"What do you mean?"

"She told me your dad was English, not Irish."

"What do you mean?"

The finale lit the sky and loud booms prevented her from speaking. Then the fireworks ended and they found themselves moving with the crowd back inside the boat.

Back at the table, Patrick looked unhappy. "I alway thought I was 100% Irish."

"I know dear," his wife said and patted his arm. "That's what your mother said. But she also wanted me to know the true makeup of our child, her grandchild."

"Half English," Patrick said and spit symbolically at the floor.

"And what about me," Elaine said. "Half Russian and half Mexican? Did you ever think that our child would be full Irish?"

"I guess not."

Patrick leaned across the table and kissed his wife. The need to be Irish was rapidly dimming to the growing light of his first child.

"Let's blow this pop stand," he said at last, using his best Irish accent.

His wife laughed because it sounded so damn funny.


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Boat Out Back
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Ted Knowbote loved boats but had never owned one. He lived in the Richmond district of San Francisco and often saw the ocean but seldom saw boats. On a whim, one day, he decided to visit the houseboats in Sausalito.

He strolled out Issaquah dock, enjoying the sun and the art and the beautiful house boats. He paused and pulled a real-estate ad from a box and was startled to see the price. A smallish houseboat was selling for $700,000.

He almost turned to leave when a man approached him.

"Hi," the man said. "Would you like to buy a sail boat?"

"What? Sure," Ted confessed. He'd always wanted a sail boat. Ted sized up the man. He appeared honest and well dressed.

"My wife and I have split. You know. She locked me out. But I have a boat out back and I need the money."

"Can I see it?"

"Like I said, I'm locked out. But, yeah. Let's go down to the end of the dock. You can look behind and see it."

The man led Ted down the dock to the end where it turned right. Along the way the man complained without pause about his wife and the terrible things she had done to him.

"Here," the man said. "Look down there." He pointed over the railing at a red sail part way down the row of houseboats. "A 28 foot sloop. Fiberglass. Needs lots of work. You see that sail?"

"Yeah," said Ted.

"My wife is doing that. Leaving the sails up so the sun will ruin them."

"How much you want for the boat?"

The man rubbed his chin. "How does $700 sound?"

"Terrific," Ted said.

"You have an ATM? I can take you to get cash. What kind of bank do you have?"

"Wells Fargo," Ted said.

A woman's voice yelled at them. "Hey you," she called.

The man looked up and appeared a bit uneasy.

"Hey you, you there."

The man spotted the woman. "Oops," he said to Ted. "I gotta run."

The man patted Ted on the arm then ran.

"But the boat...," Ted called after the man.

The woman approached. Ted looked her over and classified her as elderly but well appointed.

"That man is a scalawag," the woman said. "He's been caught a few times selling off art from these houseboats."

"You mean he's a crook?"

"A grifter, a con artist, a thief."

"But he was going to sell me a boat."

The woman laughed. "Sell you a pig in a poke."

The woman laughed again, and walked off.

Ted leaned on the railing and gazed at the red sail. "Too bad," he said. "That would have been a fine boat."

Ted didn't realize speech carried a long ways on those quiet docks.

The woman called back to him, "Better no boat, than no boat and no money." He heard her laugh again.

Ted sighed.


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Stout Steel
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Steve and Stuart Eisen were into the stoutness of steel. The brothers were on a bicycle tour (riding aluminum bikes, go fig) around the great state of California. They intended to visit all things built of steel. One sunny Sunday in Sacramento, the brothers happened upon the Tower Bridge, glowing golden above the Sacramento River.

"Good golly, Stu," Steve said as he dismounted. "This is one hell of a bridge, located in almost no-wheres-ville."

"Oh contrary," Stu spoke as he too dismounted. "This is, after all, the state capital. I would hardly call that nowhere."

Steve gazed up at the center control room. "Even the control room is made of steel. Perhaps it was designed to withstand a battle or a flood."

Stu leaned over the edge of the bridge and looked down along the river. "Look," he pointed at the base of the bridge. "A depth gauge."

Steve looked too. "Oh, I see. The water, at flood height, would be right up to there. Just kissing the base of the under-part of the roadway."

"Yes, and then the bridge might topple."

"Surely not this bridge, it is so certainly stout."

"I contend that even this bridge could topple given a powerful enough flood."

"According to the GPS," Steve changed the subject. "There are some bars and restaurants just over there."

"I propose we find Mexican food and beer and discuss this matter further while seated in comfort."

"I concur." Steve re-mounted his bicycle then lead his brother the rest of the way across the bridge and into Old Town, where beers and brurritos awaited and talks of stout steel could continue.

END


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Music In His Head
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© 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Dahl Robertson sat on an abutment and awaited his train's arrival. He thought of Janis Joplin and the music she sang. Too bad she died young. Imagine, he thought. Being blind-sided by death like that. Dahl hated to be blind-sided.

Dahl closed his eyes and tried to picture Janis on stage like he'd once seen in that documentary about Monterey Pop. He thought of her singing "Me and Bobby McGee" one of Dahl's favorite songs.

Dahl started to hum along. He started to tap his foot. Dahl smiled.

"Hey mister," a young boy's voice intruded.

Dahl opened his eyes and saw a boy dressed in a pea hat and thick coat. "Yeah?" he asked.

"Where's your ipod? I don't see any wires."

Dahl glanced up and noticed the boy's father standing nervously a few paces away. "I don't have an ipod," Dahl said to the boy.

The boy looked at both Dahl's ears. "You don't have a blue teeth either."

"You probably mean a blue tooth," Dahl said. "No I don't have one of those either."

The boy folded his arms which made him look belligerent. "Then how are you listening to music?" the boy asked

"In my head."

The boy frowned. "What do you mean?"

"I picture the music in my head. It's like I remember a singer and picture that singer singing. You know, kind of like watching a TV in my head."

The boy ran back to his father. "Dad, dad," he called. Then he pointed back at Dahl. "That man has a TV in his head."

The father put his hand on the boy's shoulder and said as much to Dahl as to his son, "You should stay away from people like that, they are not right in the head."

Dahl frowned at the father. "Oh yeah! Someday your son will grow up and they'll put his brain in a jar, and fill his head with Chinese electronic gadgets."

The boy wailed, "Dad!" And hugged his father.

"How dare you," a woman's voice intruded from his left.

Dahl looked up and saw an angry woman. Dahl hated to be blind-sided.

"How dare you," she said. "My son has a Cochlear implant and is very sensitive about it. Have you no compassion?"

Dahl grabbed hid bag, stood and grunted. His eyes on the ground he walked deliberately away from the woman, her son, and the father, to the other end of the station. There, he stopped and looked around. No kids.

Dahl sat on an abutment and closed his eyes. He pictured Janis Joplin singing on the stage and heard her singing "Me and Bobby McGee" again.

Dahl hummed along and tapped his foot, and waited for his train.

END


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Creepy Crawlies
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Dr. Dan Flemmer, or at least he recalled once being a doctor.

Dr. Dan Flemmer awoke wrapped in cardboard on the sidewalk under a bright, too bright, mural.

"Great God almighty," he said, as he set eyes on the mural. "What in God's name did I drink last night?"

The creatures on the mural just smiled back at him. Silent smiles. Deep, perhaps meaningful smiles. Dr. Dan Flemmer couldn't tell.

Dr. Dan Flemmer pushed the cardboard off himself and sat up. His head spun. His vision blurred. His ears rang. His head and back hurt.

"Flaming balls of yogurt," he said. "Just how old am I, anyway?"

Dr. Dan Flemmer felt a cold chain around his neck. He followed it with his hands to his chest. There he found a plastic holder of some sort. He held the plastic holder far from his eyes to focus on it.

"Jumping jehosephat!," he said. "I'm going blind."

The plastic holder contained his ID. It said his name was Phil Browning. The word doctor didn't appear on it anywhere.

"Not a doctor?" Phil looked at the mural. "You mock me."

Phil gathered his gumption and managed --using the mural for support-- to stand. His legs shook then steadied. Be brave, the mural's creatures seemed to him to say.

"Too old," he said. "Too old to be brave."

Phil looked at his ID again. The picture was that of a young man. Phil flipped it over and looked for an age. He found it and marveled at it. "I'm only twenty-nine."

"Hey Jack!" called someone from a window above. "What in tarnation you doing sleeping on the street?"

Phil looked up and saw a face he recognized as his roommate. "What did you call me?"

"Did you do drugs or what, Jack? Get up here and take a shower."

Jack scratched his head. "Okay."

Jack looked at the mural again. This time he seemed to understand why the creatures were smiling. "I'd smile at me too," he said. "Don't even know my own name. What kind of a dufus am I anyway?"

Silently the creatures smiled. They mocked anyone. Even Jack --who this time-- actually deserved it.


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Trapped In A Photo
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© 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Who would have ever thought that those primitive natives would prove right. Not Granny, of course, raised by a preacher father during the great depression. But there she was, her ghost trapped in the photograph nearest her when she died.

A native man on television objects, "No, no. No photo. We believe that photographs steal our souls."

Granny was trapped in a photograph on a shelf facing a large screen television. This would have been good enough for her, but she was not alone. Behind her, and so out of focus he was invisible, a man was trapped too.

"Someday," he would pontificate. "All the people will die. When that happens we ghosts will be freed."

Granny was about to answer him when she was frozen again. A human's eyes must be looking at her. When ever a human looked at the photo in which she was trapped, she would become paralyzed, unable to move a muscle.

Suddenly her view changed. It hadn't changed in years. She heard the human's say, "I hate moving." Then she found herself face up looking at the ceiling. Other objects piled on top of her and she unfroze.

The man said, "We're being put in storage. We will never see light again."

"Blazes," Granny said. "You always lie. When our glass broke you said it would never be fixed but it was. When we were put in a photography studio to be copied, you said we were abandoned, but we were not. You always lie."

"Mark my words," the man said.

"Mark your own words. I wish I had arms. If I did, I'd punch you in your out-of-focus face."

Granny lived in darkness for a day than emerged to light again. She was set on a shelf facing a window. Outside the window was a hill. And what a hill it was!

People walked on the sidewalks. Cars zipped by on the road. Kids paused and peered in the front window.

Granny felt herself a part of civilization again.

"Hey, out-of-focus man."

"Mark my words."

"Say anything you want. For the first time in a long time, I feel a little bit alive again."

Some would find it ironic. Some might find it prophetic. But all would agree that Granny's photo looked better than it ever had, sitting as it was now, in daylight, on a shelf, in an antique store, with a sign, frame for sale, $5.00.


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Fake Horse
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When Terry's family returned home from their Disneyland vacation, Terry button-holed her mother at once.

"Mom," Terry said. "Please don't let anyone see that picture of me on the horse. I would be embarrassed to death."

"Why dear? It's a very cute shot."

Terry scrunched her face at her mom. "The horse," she said. "The horse is fake."

"Oh don't be silly. Of course the horse is fake. It was Disneyland after all. They wouldn't let children ride real bucking broncos, would they. And besides, if you think that is embarrassing, imagine how embarrassed your brother will be later, when he grows up. Imagine his mortification, being hugged by a giant Micky Mouse."

"Ah mom," Terry complained. "But the background. I mean, it's fake too."

"A hundred years from now what difference will it make. They'll look at that picture and only see a cute girl in a cowgirl hat. I guess they may get better at drawing backgrounds, but they will never be able to draw a real background. No, I'm afraid that's the best it will ever get."

"But mom," Terry's lip had begun to quiver. "My legs. They look so pale."

"Oh that. I thought that might be what was really bothering you. So I'll tell you what. We'll tell all your friends you are wearing tights."

"My friends! You're not going to let my friends see this. No. You just can't."

Terry's mother laughed. "Off course not, silly. We'll just toss it in a drawer with all the other photos. And we'll never pull it out. Not ever."

"Never?"

Yes, not ever."

"Thanks mom. You're the best."

"But remember this, Terry. Someday you will find that photo. Someday when you're older and wiser. And I bet anything that when that day comes, you will share this picture with the whole world."

"Geez, mom. How could you say such a thing? I'd burn it first."

"Now just leave it alone. Help me fix dinner will you? I'd say the boys must be getting pretty hungry."


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BP20080118.jpg

Sub-Sub-Basement
(15 of 31) (6792 views)

© 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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When the elevator opened in the sub-sub-basement, Bob Temple stepped off and found himself in a long, dim corridor. He heard the elevator close behind him and said, "Strange. I didn't know this store had a sub-sub-basement."

Bob was a bit of a milk-toast. He pushed the elevator call button but it would not illuminate and would not return. "Oh no, I'm stuck here."

The corridor was wide enough for a car to drive down, but dim because it was only lit by an occasional caged bulb in the center of the ceiling. The walls were painted a smooth glossy white. A black chair rail ran along both walls at waist height, and the floor was linoleum patterned with tiny flowers. "Oh my."

Directly across from Bob, and every so often in either direction, were closed, black doors. There was no sign or number on any of the doors. "I wonder what's in there? Should I?"

Bob stepped up to and opened the door directly across. He found himself facing a small bowling alley with only two lanes. It smelled old and abandoned, and dust was everywhere. "I wonder why there's a bowling alley here?"

Bob rubbed his hair then turned and left to discover other doors.

He discovered a barber shop, a static weight room, a storeroom full of barrels, a library with books locked inside cages, a small zoo full of empty cages, and an empty swimming pool. All were abandoned and dusty.

Eventually he found a short corridor with a brown door at the end. Behind the brown door was a brightly list restroom. Bob realized he'd been holding his water for a long time and needed relief. "Where are the urinals?"

There were none, so he used a stall. Afterward he washed his hands at one of the many sinks that stood in a formal line across the wall.

"What in Lord's name are you doing in here?" A woman's voice intruded as he dried his hands. "You have no business in the women's loo."

Bob turned, about to defend himself, when he felt the woman grab his ear and haul him unceremoniously from the room. "The men's is across the hall," she said and let go.

Bob found himself back in the Notions department in Harrods. "How did I get here?"

Bob spent the rest of the afternoon trying to find his way back to the sub-sub-basement. But none of the elevators possessed buttons for such a basement, nor did any of Harrod's employees ever hear of a sub-sub-basement.

At closing time, Bob found himself outside on the sidewalk of Brompton Road. "Was that real?"

Real or not, the sub-sub-basement gave Bob a taste for adventure he'd never had before. He began to travel. Day trips at first, then over-nighters. He began to try new things. He began to meet strangers and make new friends. Bob emerged, it would seem, from the sub-sub-basement into a new, daring life for himself. "Wow, the Amazon is really wide!"


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BP20080131.jpg

Pyramid-like building across river
(16 of 31) (6939 views)

Photo Posted Thursday, January 31, 2008
(2008) Old Town, Sacramento, California
© 2008 Terry Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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The Pyramid and the Buddha
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Stan was a friend of mine who worked in Old Town. He wasn't the sharpest stick in my quiver of friends but he was loyal. So it never surprised me when he would telephone with odd news. As it happens, it was news that led up to the strangest occurrence I ever saw.

"Ben," he said that morning. "Get your butt on your bike and join me across the river."

"Why?" I asked.

"You'll see."

Stan never steered me wrong so I jumped on my bicycle and headed over Tower Bridge. I was only half way across when I noticed why Stan had called. On the other side from Old Town, a huge pyramid had appeared. It was fuzzy and difficult to look at despite sharp sunlight.

As I drew closer, I saw it was floating a couple feet over the ground. As I drew alongside, I saw Stan.

"Ben," he called. "There's gold under there."

"I wouldn't do that," I yelled. But too late. Stan had dropped to his knees and already crawled under the pyramid.

I peered under and noticed that despite the huge apparent weight of the pyramid, the grass under it was not bent at all. I saw Stan and maybe two dozen others crawling under it toward a mysterious gold glow.

I heard sirens and soon police arrived to shepard everyone back from the pyramid. But by then, at least a couple hundred folks had crawled under to find the gold.

I, like most folk, was a hundred feet away, behind the police line, when the pyramid vanished. There was a collective oooh, in which I participated.

Then I heard, several loud calls of "Hey look." So I stood on tip toes and looked. In the middle of the field where the pyramid had floated, stood a gold statue. It appeared to be almost twelve or so feet tall, and was the spitting image of a sitting Buddha.

Then I noticed that all the people who had crawled under the pyramid were gone.

Months passed. The military hauled the gold statue away over the screaming of the Governor. A permanent fence was set up around the field to keep the tourists out.

I remember it was Sunday, the middle of the night, when Stan next telephoned.

"Ben," he said. "Where did everybody go? One minute I was crawling under that pyramid, and the next we were all stuck here inside this fence. And it's night time!"

"Where are you now?"

"On my way to your place if I can get over this fence. Oops. Hey! Look at that!" And his phone went dead.

I never saw nor heard from Stan again. And, like I said, it was a very strange occurrence.


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BP20080107.jpg

Puddle In Pothole
(17 of 31) (7082 views)

© 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Ace reporter, Jerry Watchly, was hit by the death ray and reduced to a puddle in asphalt.

"Hey," objected Billy. "That's not fair. How can I finish the story when your turn does that?"

"Lack of rules," Fanny, his girlfriend, said. "As I recall, it was your idea to free us of all rules."

Billy lifted his baseball hat and scratched his shaven head. Then he continued.

What the aliens didn't know. What they could not know, was that that very piece of asphalt had been seeded. Not by plant seeds. No. But by seeds of DNA. The most diabolical DNA of all.

Fanny tossed her decaf, soy latte in the garbage can. "You ready to leave?" she asked.

Billy guzzled his and said, "Yes dear."

"My turn," said Fanny, as they exited Starbucks.

That night it rained. The rain was driven by winds from the south. So it was a warm rain with lightening. A bolt of lightening hit a PCB filled PG&E transformer on a pole overhead. Sparks fell in the puddle that used to be Jerry Watchly, ace reporter. Something grew. Something new, something evil.

"Hey," Billy said. "No fair. Why make it evil. Couldn't you end with just 'new'?"

"No rules," Fanny said.

"Here comes the trolley," Billy said. "Let's run for it."

"Let's not," Fanny said and grabbed Billy's arm before he could dart off. "There's lots of time before it starts. Let's walk and finish the story."

Okay," Billy muttered.

"Don't pout."

"I'm not pouting. I'm thinking." Billy stuck his fists in his coat pockets and continued the story.

The thing grew. Green and fuzzy. It was an aggressive mold that dissolved everything in its path. All life. All metals. All stone. It grew and Terra-formed the planet into a huge, green fuzzy ball. Because the ball was hostile to the aliens, it saved the planet from invasion. The end.

"Now whose being unfair," Fanny said. "Ending the story early like that."

"No rules," Billy pointed out. "It's your turn to start a new story."

"No," Fanny said. "Let's just catch the Trolley."

"Now, whose pouting?"

"I'm not pouting," Fanny said cheerfully. "I'm trying to remember which theater it was."

Billy held out his hand and looked at the sky. "I think it's starting to rain."

Fanny cocked her head and listened. "I think I hear thunder."

They both laughed.

"Here comes the next trolley. Let's run."

"Okay."

So they ran for their trolley, made it to their movie in time, and returned home hungry and tired.

Neither of them had noticed the pothole between the trolley tracks. Neither of them had been aware of green growing there. An evil green, a mutated, green moss bent on taking over the world.

"Not fair," Billy complained.


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BP20080121.jpg

Monkey's Fist
(18 of 31) (6980 views)

© 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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During a far past, before humankind walked this earth, a monkey god ruled over all monkeys. A particular monkey, let's name him Bob, awoke in a tree.

Bob slipped from a wet branch following a storm. He fell with an awkward thump on soft dirt. This angered the monkey unlike any monkey had been angered before. Bob bounced and shook his fist at the sky.

The monkey god interpreted this as an offense. Without the ability to think why, the monkey god caused Bob to lose his hand. The hand fell to the ground and became a knot made of plant material.

Years later, when humans walked the earth, a similar knot was named a monkey's fist. The monkey's fist was used to toss a light line from one ship to another, so that a heavy line might be hauled after.

When human kind first walked the earth, they created their own gods. These human gods quickly subjugated the animal gods, including the monkey god, to a second tier. A less powerful level.

Eventually humans invented a dictator god. This male god was jealous of its power and would do anything to insure continuation of its rule. Its power was derived from the vast number of humans inhabiting the earth.

Early human gods were turned into angels. Early animal gods were tuned into daemons.

A couple of thousand years passed.

The monkey daemon visited a laboratory and there found monkeys used for research. The monkey daemon noticed that one of the monkeys lay with its hand removed, a robotic hand nearby about to be attached.

Deep in its memory and far ago, the monkey daemon remembered another monkey. An angry monkey whose hand it had removed. Although the monkey daemon could not articulate the thought, it felt remorse.

The monkey daemon reached back in time and plucked Bob from is place under that wet tree. He pulled Bob forward in time and placed him on a dry tree in the middle park of a City.

Although the monkey daemon could not know it, Bob carried a virus. Bob's virus was instantly fatal to humans.

Without the ability to think the thought, the monkey daemon had thrown down the first gauntlet in a war. The number of humans would decline. The power of the dictator god would decline. Eventually the other human gods would overthrow the dictator and restore the god/world relationship to balance.

A 15 year old boy hit a home run. The ball sailed over a high fence and hit an animal in a tree. The animal shouldn't have been there. The animal was knocked from the tree and landed on soft dirt. It was a monkey who became angry and waved its fist at the sky. Nothing happened. The monkey felt hungry so it began to wander in search of food.

END


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BP20080110.jpg

Ball Noses
(19 of 31) (6869 views)

© 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Every Saturday night, the elders of Church of Gea would gather all the balls and globes in town and lock them up. It was, under their religion, forbidden to play or study with any likeness of the Earth on Sunday.

A few found this ban awfully silly, especially Velt Floimeur, the town clown. In fact, Velt found almost everything the Church did, silly.

"What's that you have there?" asked Rev. Blossom. "A square nose?"

"Why yes," Velt said. He squeezed his cube shaped nose and it honked."

"Marvelous," Rev. Blossom agreed. "I'm so pleased with your adjustments to the ball ban."

Velt just honked his nose and smiled.

"Marvelous," Rev. Blossom said again, and walked away.

Velt hurried cautiously, in the other direction. He was a bit late but didn't want to draw attention to himself.

Velt arrived at a large house at the edge of town, with a plain white door. He knocked twice, then thrice, then twice again. A voice on a tiny loud speaker said, "That you Velt?"

"Yes, and I'm alone."

The door opened and Velt slipped in.

A tall man in a white, hooded robe greeted Velt. "Welcome," he said. "Welcome to the new Church of the Cube."

Velt smiled and honked his cube nose. He felt right at home, at last, on a Sunday. "Ball ban be hanged," Velt said and honked again. "Now all I need to figure out is how to blow square bubbles."


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BP20080130.jpg

clowngirl
(20 of 31) (6808 views)

© 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Mary Turgen's handle on the makeadate.com web site was clowngirl. She had arranged to meet her date, a shaggy haired lad named Dave, whose handle on that dating site was nonbeliever.

She waited at the top of the steps of the capitol building on its south side. She had colored her hair special for this date, a bright orange. Her nails and lips were green. She wore a short black dress over tight black denim pants. A red cape formed counterpoint and accent to her red running shoes.

Mary checked her red cellphone and saw she was two minutes late. She mumbled to herself, "Not a sign of my date yet."

From the corner of her eye, Mary glimpsed another woman coming up the same steps at the far other end. Mary looked and saw what must have been herself. The other woman could have been her twin.

"Who are you?" asked the other woman.

"Mary," Mary said and crossed her arms. She glared at the other woman. That other woman was dressed and colored the same as Mary, but appeared somehow cheaper, less genuine.

"Hey," said the other woman. "My name is Mary too."

"What's your handle?" Mary asked.

"It's clowngirl on the dating site."

Mary felt an intense itch in her right knee but didn't scratch it. "That's my handle too."

The other woman crossed her arms and said, "Hey. What the heck is going on here? I'm here to meet a guy named Dave whose handle is nonbeliever."

Mary opened her mouth to say something biting, but was interrupted by a man coming up the steps. "Which one of you is clowngirl?" he asked.

"I am," both women said in unison.

The man stopped and looked at both women. "With makeadate.com?"

"I am," Mary said.

"With dates.com," the other woman said.

The man stepped up to Mary. "I'm Dave."

"Pleased to meet you," Mary said. She was not disappointed.

"Which of you girls is clowngirl?" another shaggy haired man asked as he walked up the steps.

"I am," said the other woman.

"Hey," Dave said to Mary. "That other woman has the same handle as you. And you look alike too."

Mary slipped her arm through his and led her date down the steps away from the other woman. "Just another ordinary coincidence in another ordinary day," she said.

"Why do you call yourself clowngirl?" Dave asked.

Mary laughed. "I'll be changing that when I get home," she said. "How about you help me think of a new handle?"

"What fun!" Dave said. He smiled.

Mary smiled.

Together, the new couple walked happily away from their cheaper imitations.

END


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BP20080108.jpg

Skate Board Dreamer
(21 of 31) (6855 views)

Photo Posted Tuesday, January 8, 2008
(2007) Bridgeway south, Sausalito, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Drad Simons didn't like living in Sausalito. He hated his small school. The town was boring to death. Drad longed to live in San Francisco just across the bay.

Drad's folks were Franciscofobes. They never, ever, visited the city just across the Golden Gate. All trips were north, to the coast or to the wine country. Drad had never flown on a plane, ridden on a ferry, or taken a train or trolley.

Drad liked to skate board along the sidewalk on Bridgeway Road. On a calm day, he could watch the ferry heading to distant San Francisco. And on such days, he would dream.

Drad, in today's dream, stood before a large pane-glass window looking across the bay at Sausalito. He was high in a tall office building.

"Take a memo," he would say to his secretary. "To my parents."

"Yes sir," his secretary would say.

"Mom and dad," he would begin.

Then his skate board wheel hit, of all things, a pine cone, which stuck and caused an annoying squeal.

Drad cleared the pine cone and tossed it into the bay.

Drad stood, holding his skate board under his arm, and stared at the City. He sighed.

His cellphone rang. It was his mom.

"Drad dear," she said. "Dinner in a half hour. You better head right back home now."

"Aw mom."

"I mean right now. And don't argue with me."

Drad wanted, in that moment to throw the phone into the bay, just like he'd thrown the pine cone. He wanted to run away from home. He wanted to visit the City, just across the bay, yet so perpetually distant.

But the moment passed.

Drad skate-boarded home. Along the way he dreamed. But this time he dreamed of pirates swordfighting somewhere off Cuba.


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BP20080117.jpg

Sally's World
(22 of 31) (6807 views)

© 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Sally Fielding ran up steps to the top deck of the ferry. She found a bench to sit on and sat and pouted. Her parents were going to buy a Sausalito houseboat and that made Sally unhappy.

"Why would I want to move?" Sally muttered to herself. "I have friends in San Francisco and there's so much to do there. Sausalito is just plain dull."

The Ferry docked and Sally's parents found her. They met the real-estate salesman at his car at Bay and Bridgeway streets. Sally rode next to her mother. She didn't watch the town as it passed. The town didn't interest her.

The real-estate salesman apologized, "Sorry that the houseboat is so far out. It's almost at the end."

Sally knew her father was rich so could buy any houseboat he wanted. And that made her even sadder.

They entered the houseboat and the inside took Sally's breath away. It was beautiful. Lots of windows overlooked water and the bay. A circular stairway rose through the center of the living room.

Sally followed her parents around and looked at everything.

Walking back to the car afterward, Sally pulled her mother's sleeve and asked, "Are we going to buy that houseboat?"

Her mother laughed and and said to the salesman, "You have to forgive her, she lives inside her own reality."

Something in that statement struck Sally as wrong. She'd heard it said lots of times before, but today it felt so very wrong.

Sally started to pay attention. The salesman, she realized, was really the owner of the houseboat. Her dad, she remembered, was not rich, but was a cabinet maker there to bid on a job. And she didn't live in San Francisco, she lived in Hayward.

Back on the ferry, Sally ran to the top deck again and pouted. Try as she could, she could no longer believe her old reality. This reality was now real. "Not fair," she wailed.

Others on the ferry were too busy taking photographs to pay Sally any attention. They didn't know that they, too, were a part of Sally's new reality.


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BP20080104.jpg

Un-Wined
(23 of 31) (6943 views)

© 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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The late afternoon sun cast shadow light across the marina. Betty and her pal Paula were late because two accidents had impeded the bridge traffic. Betty felt frazzled. Paula felt the worries of the day fall from her shoulders like a duck shedding spring rain.

Paula was first aboard their small sloop. "I don't care," she said. "All I have to do is step aboard and, poof, there go all my cares."

"I really don't understand how you can get over it so easy. I mean, two hours stuck, not moving on that bridge. The swaying of the bridge alone made me want to throw up."

Paula whistled the bosun's call. "Permission to come aboard granted."

Betty hopped into the small boat and plopped down to sit on the bare fiberglass. "We got any wine left?"

Paula unlocked the door to the companionway and opened it. From inside she pulled out the cushions they'd tossed there when they last returned to dock. "Here, have a cushion to sit on."

"I mean," Betty continued. "How could a truck jack-knife? I didn't think they allowed trucks on the Golden Gate bridge."

Paula had crawled inside the small cabin and was rummaging. "Neither did I," she called. "But we're here now, at the marina, so relax." She emerged carrying an unopened bottle of wine, a cork screw and two plastic cups. "I found wine."

Betty looked at her watch. "Four-thirty. We'll get out there by five-thirty, at the earliest, and it gets dark at six."

Paula pulled the cork and held up the bottle. "It's red. I hope that's okay."

"It could be Red Mountain for all I care."

Paula poured two glasses and handed one to Betty. Paula took a sip. Betty guzzled hers down.

Paula watched Betty. She saw the wine take effect. Betty appeared to relax.

A much calmer Betty said, "Let's skip sailing. I always wanted to eat dinner at Scoma's. What do you say?"

Paula held up her glass in a toast, "I'll drink to that."

Betty looked at her empty glass. "Oops. Looks like I need a refill."


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BP20080109.jpg

Chipped Fairy
(24 of 31) (6811 views)

© 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Little Sally Saltnick stood with her mother outside the junk store window. Sally lived in a magical city somewhere in the west.

"Look," Sally said to her mother. "A fairy, a fairy. Can I have it? Can I?"

"You don't want that dirty thing. Look at it. It's cracked and one of its wings is torn."

"Oh mommy. Please, please, please. I can fix it. I really can."

Her mother sighed and led Sally into the store.

"Good afternoon," said the proprietor. "What can I do for you today?"

"How much is that fairy in the window?" Sally's mother asked. "The one with the crack on her head?"

The proprietor leaned over the counter and looked at Sally. "Is this fairy for you?"

Sally knew better than to talk to strangers so she only opened her eyes wide and smiled.

The proprietor stood and turned. He plucked the fairy from the window behind him. To Sally's mother, he said, "For you and your lovely child. Only a half a buck."

Sally's mother paid the half buck and thanked the proprietor.

The proprietor put the fairy in a paper sack. For in this magical town, not a single store would ever dare use a plastic bag.

That evening, Sally stood and looked at the fairy on her dresser top. The fairy looked so sad and broken it made Sally sad. A single tear ran down her cheek.

"Are you thirsty?" she asked.

The fairy seemed thirsty so Sally scooped up her tear on a finger tip and pressed it to the lips of the fairy.

Sally felt herself rush forward in time. She stood in a kitchen. She felt fear.

"Babe!" a man's voice called. "Get me that damn beer!"

Sally felt hatred. She pulled a beer from the fridge and opened it. She heard herself think, I'll kill that bastard. I swear. Some day I will kill that bastard.

She entered the living room. A handsome man was sprawled on the sofa. He had a tattoo on his arm and wore a white tee shirt. Sally felt fear again.

Like a yo-yo, Sally came reeling back in time to her bedroom again.

"You lie," she sad to the fairy. "You lie. I could never hate a handsome man like that."

Sally grabbed the fairy and carried it downstairs to the kitchen. She opened the lid and tossed the fairy into the recycling bin. For in this magical town, not a single house would ever dare put anything into landfill.


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BP20080122.jpg

Rightmost Door
(25 of 31) (6765 views)

© 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Carley Bennet bore her wealth and advanced age well. She dismissed the nurse from her aged mother's room and stood holding a child decorated box of old photographs in her hands. She placed the box on the end table and withdrew the first photo.

Carley held the photo carefully upright and square to her mothers glasses corrected eyes. "Our pool, at our second home in Los Angeles."

Her mother blinked but appeared to stare beyond the photo. "Pillow too hard," her mother said.

Carley was tempted to recall the nurse, but dismissed the idea as foolish. She ignored her mother's complaint and displayed the second photo.

"This shows you and father at the Grand Canyon. I believe this was taken before I was born."

Her mother sniffled.

Carley, reached for the next photo and hesitated. She grew impatient. Carley had previously seeded the box with a particular photo. She withdrew that photo now and displayed it to her mother.

"This is the front door to our first home. Remember? Father lost his job and you feared it would be repossessed. You let us decorate the outside. But then the factory reopened and father was promoted. I decorated this door on mother's day."

Carley's mother cocked her head.

Carley felt hope. "You replaced these doors with real doors and stored them in the garage. Then we moved. You remember?"

Carley's mother said, "Jello. I want some Jello."

Carley replaced the photo and closed the box. She walked to the bedroom door and opened it. Open wide the drawing was visible upon it.

"Look mother," Carley called. "The door we painted as kids. The door we painted on that mother's day long ago. I had workmen install it here while you were last at the hospital for tests."

Carley saw her mother's eyes move to the door.

Carley approached the bed. Her mother's eyes seemed to clear.

"Carley," her mother said. "Thank you."

"What? What did you say?"

Her mother's eyes defocused again. "Jello. I want Jello."

A bit of drool appeared at the edge of her mother's mouth.

Carley patted her mother's mouth dry with an old, often washed, handkerchief. Moved beyond words, Carley quietly wept.

END


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BP20080106.jpg

A Good Jog
(26 of 31) (6895 views)

© 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Donny Dasher knew that his red umbrella would protect him from rain. But he had no idea that it would also protect him from fate.

Donny went for a combined brisk-walk and periodic jog every morning as soon as the sun was fully up. This schedule insured it was always light enough to be safe, yet early enough to still get to work on time when finished. Some days, like the present day, Donny had to leave before the sun emerged. Today, for example, the sun hid from a day of rain.

Donny was brisk-walking up 9th Street. The rain was a little on the heavy side, so he dipped his umbrella forward to keep the rain off his face.

The leading edge of Donny's umbrella bumped a tree, so Donny stopped.

"I wonder why they plant tree's so far into the sidewalk," Donny said to nobody in particular. "The sidewalk is not wide enough in the first place. Lucky I'm alone, or else we would have to walk single file here."

Donny sighed at the thought of, "we."

A terrible crash of glass tore open the morning. Not more than ten feet ahead of Donny a large, tempered glass window had fallen and exploded on the sidewalk.

Donny looked up at his red umbrella. "You wouldn't have been able to save me from that," he said.

Then he looked at the tree. "Hm. Maybe you did. Maybe you did."

Later that day, while eating a tuna melt for lunch, Donny wrote a letter to the City complaining about tree's planted in the middle of sidewalks. He finished it, and signed it. Then he looked at his red umbrella leaning against the table. "Sorry," he said. And he tore up the letter.


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BP20080114.jpg

Fire Plug Rain
(27 of 31) (6864 views)

© 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Wayne the seagull passed away as a hero. Because of his heroic status, he was bumped up one notch when reincarnated. Wayne was reborn as a brand new, shiny fire plug.

At first, he could only think as he did as a seagull. So he said, "!." But, later, as he grew more comfortable in his new body, Wayne began to think in small sentences.

"I cause the rain," He said. "I cause the sunshine."

Fireplugs are renowned to be the most obstreperous of all the creatures. Each thinks he is the cause of everything.

One rainy day, Wayne saw a man with an umbrella. "I cause the rain," he said. And it rained harder.

The man opened his umbrella.

"I cause the wind," Wayne said.

Wind buffeted the man's umbrella.

"I cause the wind," Wayne aid.

The wind almost blew the umbrella out of the man's hands.

The man rounded the far corner, leaving Wayne alone.

Later that day, the sun came out.

"I cause the sunshine," Wayne said.

A man walking a dog approached. Wayne felt fear. Perhaps his prior life as a seagull caused him to fear dogs.

"I cause the sunshine," Wayne said.

The dog paused, sniffed Wayne, then peed on him.

Wayne became confused. "I cause the rain," he said.

The dog, you see, is the holiest of creatures. When a dog pees on a brand new fire plug, that dog is performing a baptism. The fire plug, Wayne, had been blessed.

On the down side, the normal state of a fire plug is to be inanimate. The dog's blessing allowed Wayne to, at long last, become one with the fire plug he had inhabited.

"I cause the rain," Wayne said.

"I cause," Wayne said.

"I.", Wayne said.

Then Wayne became inanimate. He almost ceased to think. Slowly, very slowly, he formulated a thought. Slowly, very slowly, that thought became speech. "!." Wayne said.


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BP20080128.jpg

Human Size
(28 of 31) (6801 views)

© 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Tom Filworthy approached the building where he worked. Out front stood huge vertical rulers used to measure the growth of young giants. Tom entered through a door in the center that was his size, human size.

Tom worked in the twentieth sub-basement, the lowest of the sub-basements. He worked alone to clean and dust the old books stored down there. This day Tom worked extra fast so that he could attend that evening's Summer celebration of the full moon.

Tom never wondered why they created giants, nor why, after the giants were old enough, they were sent into the great forest beyond the city wall, to live with other primitive giants.

Tom liked to read. He would often eat his sack lunch while reading an ancient text. He never wondered why the language in books ten-thousand years old should be legible to him today. He never wondered why books were still printed despite the digital revolution five hundred years ago. Tom never wondered about much at all.

It was during this fateful lunch, that noontime, the first month of Summer under the first full moon that Tom made a discovery. In one of the oldest books he'd found so far, Tom discovered the reason for giants.

Long ago, it seems, the population of the Earth had grown too large. Plague and starvation were everywhere. The fish were poison, birds carried terrible sicknesses, even some food plants had turned deadly.

It was in this world, in the days predating the fall and extinction of mankind, that a plan had been devised. A race of tiny people was created. These people were barely the height of an almond. They were housed in an artificial city made to last forever. They were given the complete DNA record of all humankind. They were charged with repopulating humanity after its fall.

Tom looked at his own hands. They seemed normal and and human sized to him. But the thought percolated through his mind, could it be? Was he one of the miniature people? Were the giants the actual humans?

Tom put the ancient book back on its shelf and resumed dusting. He tried to push the thought from his mind.

But, alas for poor Tom, the idea took hold that summer day, under the first full moon. Tom conceived an idea that would someday save the race of primitive giants and threaten with extinction his own race. Tom dusted and thought, dusted and thought. And for the first time ever, Tom wondered.

END


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BP20080115.jpg

Posh Posh
(29 of 31) (6978 views)

© 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Wendy and Rick Locke approached the houseboat at the end of the narrow dock with trepidation. They didn't know what to expect. Whenever they bought an item off craigslist, the trip to pick it up was always an adventure.

Rick looked over his shoulder and noticed fog rolling in over the hills. "Look's almost like the hill's are boiling over," he said.

"Watch your step," Wendy advised and took his arm.

They crossed the short gangway and knocked on the front door.

"Did you remember the cash?" Wendy asked.

"As always," Rick patted his jacket pocket. "As always."

The door opened to reveal a middle aged woman with green dyed hair. "You here for the pictures?" she asked. She was well dressed, like she was on her way to a formal dinner.

Wendy reached to shake the woman's hand. "First let me say how sorry we are for your loss."

"Posh posh," the woman said. She shook Wendy's hand lightly.

"I thought your husband was killed," Wendy said.

"Posh posh," the woman said. "I'll just go get the box of photographs."

"How insensitive," Wendy said to Rick after the woman was gone. "You'd think she'd miss her husband or something. I mean, really! I heard he was shot down in the street."

"Like water off a duck," Rick said. He always had a homily handy to assuage his wife. "Like water off a duck."

The woman returned with a shoe box. "You have the money?"

Rick pulled the envelope from his jacket pocket and opened it for the woman to see.

The woman smiled a wicked smile. "Is that the whole two hundred dollars?"

"Spot on," Rick said.

"Tell you what," the woman said. She withdrew the box and set it on a table just out of sight inside. "You give me that two hundred dollars and this house boat is yours."

"What?" Rick said. He didn't like to be kidded. He looked over the front of the house with an exaggerated movement of his head. "This place must be worth a million bucks easy."

"Posh posh," the woman said. "Come with me to my lawyer. Once I am free of all ties I can return to France, to my home. The house is yours, with everything, even the box of photographs."

"This is crazy," Rick said. "How can you give away a house?"

Wendy placed a hand on his arm. "Like water off a duck," she said.

Rick met Wendy's eyes and realized what she meant.

Later, the woman, Wendy and Rick walked back along the dock toward the parking lot. The fog was fully in and the dock appeared dark and ominous, like in a horror film.

"Spooky," Rick said.

"Like water off a duck," Wendy said.

"Posh posh," the woman said.


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BP20080120.jpg

Thawed Cat
(30 of 31) (6831 views)

© 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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One day, long, long ago, a cat slept on the deck of a boat. Back then, it was not uncommon for Medusa to stroll among mortals. Her snakes were mere worms, so by keeping her head covered, she appeared normal. It is just too bad the cat slept where it was when Medusa lifted her veil to sneeze.

The cat remained stone for thousands of years. It's surface eroded over time, making it less valued as sculpture than as kitsch. It is in this way that it made its way from Africa, to Europe, and finally to the sunny climate of California.

Resembling the art of a child, the cat was by this time sadly more cartoon-like than cat-like. So it came that Donna Frost spotted the cat in a flea market and bought it for a dollar.

Donna lived in Sausalito just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. She lived on a houseboat, the color of which nearly exactly matched the color of the cat, and visa versa. She arrived home and set the cat in its new home on her deck.

Further up the dock, in a purple houseboat, lived the great, great, great, grandson of Medusa on his father's side. Being male, young Mel carried the thawing gene, rather than the freezing gene. It was weak, so many generations from the original, so the effect was slower.

Mel always walked the dock early weekdays to catch his school bus into Mill Valley nearby. The day after the cat's arrival, Mel stopped and noticed something new. It was a crude statue of a cat, almost like a cartoon.

A week later, the day after a hard rain, and a chilly morning, Donna awoke and went out to the dock to see if any of her plants had been damaged. A few flowers drooped, but otherwise all appeared fine.

Then she noticed her cat was gone. She assumed someone had filched it, probably one of the many tourists that came by. Then she noticed the dew on the deck. Clearly visible were cat paw prints. They led from where the cat statue had rested, to the edge of the houseboat near the gangplank, then disappeared.

She rushed back inside to find her camera. But by the time she found it and returned, the sun had warmed the air enough so that the dew had evaporated. All she saw when she returned with her camera, was a bare deck.

That boy from up the way walked by just then on his way to catch the school bus. "Morning," he said.

"Morning," Donna said.

The boy smiled, then hurried past to catch his bus.

END


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BP20080119.jpg

Mid-Block
(31 of 31) (6818 views)

© 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Bryan and Terry were dressed to the nines in tux and gown. They stood mid block, waiting for traffic to clear so they could jay walk. They had tickets to Man of La Manchaexternal link and were running a bit late. They felt the ground shift, and thought a small earthquake had struck. Power failed and the street went completely dark.

Bright sunlight blinded them. They found themselves on the same sidewalk as before, but thrown back forty years into the past.

"Yikes," Bryan said. "What the heck happened?"

"Look," Terry said. "I'm in my original wedding dress." She spun in place and held out her bouquet. "It's magic."

Bryan pointed across the street. "The theater is gone. It's hard to believe that house on a hill with become a huge theater complex."

Terry plucked his sleeve. "And look at you. You look like a little boy. So young. And in such a young man's suit. So cute."

"And the cars," Bryan said. He bent and looked into one. "A steel dash and no seat belts. And look, an ash tray overflowing with cigarette butts."

Terry batted Bryan in the butt with her bouquet. "Hey, don't you get it? We went back in time. Isn't that amazing?"

"Huh?"

Terry shook Bryan's arm again. "You better turn off your cell phone. The play is about to start."

"Huh?"

"Are you living in the past again? I mean really." Terry, sitting next to him, patted his arm. "What reminded you of the past this time?"

"The sidewalk."

"What sidewalk? We're sitting in a theater."

"The sidewalk outside. You know, the one we stood on just before crossing at the middle of the block. Isn't that where we got married?"

"Good gosh," Terry said. "I think you may be right. It all looks so different now. But I think you may have hit on something." She patted his arm. "Nice."

"Did you remember to turn off your cell phone?" Bryan asked. "The play is about to start."

The lights dimmed in the theater and the play began. From inside the theater, the sidewalk outside was, again, forgotten. At least, that is, until the play ended and they once more crossed mid-block.


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