2008/03, March 2008 Photofictional, A Daily Blog Posting By Bryan Costales

A bust of Handel stands just outside a store
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Henry Wösig contemplated opening his umbrella in the light but cool rain. He hesitated, because he would just have to fold it again when the trolley arrived. Umbrellas were just a bother.

From behind, he heard a distinct whistle. The lewd kind of whistle rude construction workers might make. He turned, curious. The couple outside the store door to his right seemed oblivious to the whistle. Directly behind him stood a bust of Handle the composer.

Henry turned to face the street again. The rain eased, erasing his concern about the umbrella. Now he worried about the walk home, and if he had dressed warm enough for such a day.

From behind, he again heard a whistle. This time, like a bird call.

Henry spun in place, quickly. Again he found the bust of Handel facing him. Henry had never really examined the face of Handel before. Now that he did, however, he decided Handel possessed a disrespectful look.

The statue whistled at him again. This time the whistle seemed to beckon a cab.

Curious, Henry walked behind the bust. Taped to the back of the head was a small box with a speaker in it. A thin antenna stuck straight up a few centimeters.

Henry glanced up, using just his eyes, and scanned the far side of the street. There, beside a kiosk, he spotted two young boys. One held a radio control. He appeared to be controlling something, but there was nothing in the street nearby. Neither a model car nor a model airplane.

Henry took his reading glasses from his inside coat pocket and put them on. Then he carefully peeled off the tape, freeing the box.

"Hey, mister," A young boy said nearby. "That's my box."

Henry slid his glasses down on his nose and peered over them at the boy. The boy was alone and held the remote control.

Henry looked at the box, then at the boy, then asked, "Did you whistle or did the box?"

"I did. Can I have my box?"

Henry handed the boy the box, but didn't let go right away. "You whistle good. Pure tones."

"Thanks," the boy said. Then he tugged the box free and ran off down the street.

Henry whistled a few notes to himself as he boarded the trolley. He whistled a few more later when he walked home from the trolley.

The next morning, Henry whistled all through his shower and while he dried. He felt cheerful and delighted but he didn't know why. "I must have gotten a good night sleep," he said to his reflection as he combed his hair. Then he whistled as he combed.

Photo Posted Sunday, March 30, 2008 internal link   •  (2008) Karlsruhe, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Viewing lions that have gradually bent bars outward
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Joan and her pre-teen daughter Margo quietly watched the lions pace at the Karlsruhe zoo. They were inside because the morning was still early and the outside exhibits had not yet opened.

"Look at the wire of the cage," Joan said. "It bends outward."

Margo slid to the side to look. "Wow. It is really bent. That much." She held her hands apart to show the distance.

"I'll bet," Joan raised her voice a bit because Margo was now a little ways distant. "I bet those lions, walking back and forth, over a long, long time, have gradually bent the cage wires outward."

Margo approached her mom. "Naw. I bet some boys brought in meat and made the lion excited. Then, BOOM, the lion leaps and bends the cage."

"Do you know boys who have done that?"

"No. I was just making it up."

"You heard of those boys in San Francisco. One was killed. I heard they were taunting the tigers."

"I said I was just making it up."

"Well just be careful. This may look like an old, lazy lion, but wave meat at it and you'll be surprised how fast it can move."

"Mom. I said I was just making it up."

Joan grew silent. She watched her daughter. "Of course dear. I was just making a point." She waved her hand at the cage. "My point is that the pacing of the lions has gradually bent the cage out over time."

"No," Margo said. She enunciated her words. "It must have happened fast."

"Let's go look at some bugs."


"A different time span. They live faster. You might appreciate their quick changes better."

"Yuck. Bugs."

Stadtgarten (city park) and Zoo   •  Photo Posted Thursday, March 20, 2008   •  (2008) Karlsruhe, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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German spy on way to work
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Hans Pfugler walked to work every morning at 8:00 precisely. Rain or shine, wind or snow, he never varied his routine. Sometimes he over slept and couldn't take his morning bath. And today was one of those days.

Hans told everyone he worked at a bank. But in actuality, he worked for the government as a spy. Not a cloak and dagger spy, like in the cinema, but rather a modern spy, who ferreted out attacks against the money system.

Hans was an accountant of rare caliber. He could scan a row of a thousand numbers and in a glance tell if anything looked suspicious. As it so happened, on this particular Monday, a cool Monday in spring, while walking to work, Hans remembered a sequence of amounts that now struck him as odd.

He picked up his pace. Odd was not the correct word. Perhaps curiously too ordinary might say it better. Hans felt his fingers itch to get near a computer. "Yes," he muttered to himself. "Oddly ordinary."

Two gun shots rang out. Hans paused. Someone fell from a balcony in his building. He looked up and saw two men with guns. They saw Hans as Hans saw them. They yelled at him, "Take cover. Take cover."

Hans paused, then turned right and dashed behind some trees.

Sirens whooped from up the street. Hans leaned against the tree and thought again about the ordinary amounts. "Too ordinary," he said aloud.

Hans heard two more shots. Then a burst of machine gun fire. More sirens. And he thought. Hans thought about those amounts. Then, in the blink of an eye, he understood. "Monstrous!"

Wanted to peak around the tree but didn't. "If I'm right. They'll try to blow up the whole building."

Hans picked himself up off the ground where the explosion had thrown him. His ears rang. The air was filled with dust. He looked at his hand and they were scraped from being run across the paving stones. His jaw hurt.

A man in a police uniform helped him stand. The police man said something to him, but Hans only heard a loud ringing in his ears.

"Home," Hans said to himself, but could not hear himself speak. He took a hesitant step and found he could walk.

"Home," he said again. "Home to a hot bath."

Photo Posted Saturday, March 22, 2008   •  (2008) Karlsruhe, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Ducks float near boy on shore of lake
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Weather ClearEyes emerged from the dark woods into a clearing. Ahead he saw a small lake and, at the edge of the lake, a platform on which to sit and rest. He walked out onto the platform and sat.

Weather had traveled for days and days through the dark woods. He'd found other clearings. Some with fruit trees serving a strange green fruit that was sweet. Others with fields of roots, like potatoes, but orange and tasty.

Weather noticed that the platform appeared man made. It was hard like rock, but obviously made or sculpted. This observation clashed with the preaching of the Elders back Home. They pontificated that Home was the only place that man lived, and had ever lived. All things made, were made by the men of Home.

But here he was, many days far from Home, and sitting on a man-made platform. "I wonder," Weather said. "I wonder if there might be other men inside the forest."

A few ducks flew in and landed on the lake. Weather leaned back and enjoyed the warmth of the sun. He remembered his family and how they had been killed by giant bears when he was young. His parents, brother and both sisters had been killed and dragged away. He, mysteriously, had been spared.

Weather opened his eyes and looked across the lake. On the far side he thought he saw an opening in the dark forest. "I have nothing to go back to," he said. "I guess I will go on. Perhaps, contrary to what the Elders say, there are other people somewhere out there."

Weather stood. The ducks flew. He noticed dark clouds in the sky. Behind him he heard the distant roar of giant bears. Confident, Weather left the lake and entered the dark forest.

Karlsruhe Schloßgarten   •  Photo Posted Tuesday, March 25, 2008 internal link   •  (2008) Karlsruhe, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Small flamingos dine inside
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Young Mikie stood holding his mother's hand and watching the flamingos at the zoo. Mikie knew from television that flamingos were pink because they ate shrimp.

"Mom," Mikie asked. "Do flamingos have heart attacks?"

"Hmm," she squeezed his hand. "I don't think so. I've never heard of a bird having a heart attack."

"But they eat shrimp. Isn't that why dad's in the hospital?"

"No, he's there because he had a heart attack. Oh. I see what you mean. Because shrimp has so much bad cholesterol."

"Yeah. Cuz they eat nothing but shrimp. Shouldn't they have heart attacks?"

"Well no. I don't think so. Birds must have a different kind of heart than we do."

Mikie could sense when his mom was on unsure footing. "Huh?" he asked. "I don't get it."

One of the younger flamingos in the pen flicked one leg to fold it up under its body. The remaining leg was supported by a foot standing on plastic trash that had blown in. The unsure footing caused the young flamingo to slip and fall. It let out a raucous, honking sound and flapped its wings.

Mikie jumped up and down. "Heart attack! Heart attack!"

His mother knelt down beside him and gave him a hug. "Hey, big guy," she said. "You want to visit dad in the hospital again?"

"I sure do!"

"Look," his mother pointed into the pen. "The flamingo's standing up again."

Its pink feathers tipped in mud, the young flamingo stood and tried to tuck its leg up again.

On the way out, Mikie dragged his mother into the gift store by the zoo's entrance. "Let's buy this flamingo." He held out a small stuffed flamingo to show her.

"What for?"

"For dad," he said. "So the flamingo can eat dad's shrimp so dad won't have to."

"But that's not why dad had a heart attack. It's because he smokes and sits in a chair all day. And because he quit his good job and pursued his mid-life dream. And because he still insists on riding a motorcycle even though he is forty. And because he drinks beer and watches sports every Saturday. An because he won't join me for Yoga lessons. And because he won't ride bikes with us on weekends."

Mikie could sense when his mother was on unsure footing. "Huh?," he said. "I don't get it."

Stadtgarten (city park) and Zoo   •  Photo Posted Wednesday, March 19, 2008   •  (2008) Karlsruhe, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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How to loiter correctly in a mall
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Digby Flemming leaned against a railing on the second floor of the indoor mall, and mused. He was seventy years old and found indoor malls, well, just plain wrong.

Digby noticed a young boy lean against the same railing to his right. The boy appeared to be sucking a lollipop and watching him.

"When I was a boy," Digby began, but immediately winced. He thought he would never hear himself say those words. "When I was young like you," he began again. "We didn't have indoor malls. We didn't have malls at all, indoor or out. Instead we had individual stores, one for each thing."

Digby glanced at the boy and saw he was listening. So he continued. "I would follow my parents from store to store. We would buy sausages for dinner in the sausage shop. Then we would buy cheese in the cheese store, and vegetables in the open air farmers-market stalls. And finally we would stop in a chocolate store so they could buy me a small chocolate treat. Chocolate stores, back then, only sold chocolate."

The boy removed his lollipop and stuck it to his shirt. The lollipop had been blue, but quickly transformed to match the boy's shirt color. "A Chameleon sucker," he said.

The boy turned to fully face Digby, then leaned back on the railing again. "I like shopping in the mall. I like it because here we have individual stores, one for each thing. I bought this sucker at, like, a candy store. Before that I shopped for Nike shoes in, like, the Nike store. When we first got here my dad bought Bose earphones in, that's right, the Bose store."

The boy unstuck his lollipop and resumed sucking it. He watched Digby.

Digby rubbed his chin. "When I was young like you I had to walk a mile in the snow to get to school."

The boy spoke around his sucker. "It doesn't snow here."

"It used to. When I was a boy."

"It's never snowed here."

"How can you talk about never? You too young to know. How old are you? Ten?"

The boy made a gesture at Digby.

Digby wasn't sure, but the gesture seemed rude.

The boy turned and walked away.

Digby continued to lean on the rail. After a while he noticed a young girl lean on the rail to his left.

"When I was young," he began.

Photo Posted Wednesday, March 26, 2008 internal link   •  (2008) Karlsruhe, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Woman is a natural on a Segway
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Tracy Coatalils traveled the country in her Airstream mobile home. She went from town to town looking for Segway tours. They were always a bit pricy, but that was okay because she had invested wisely when younger.

She became hooked when she took her first Segway tour in Sacramento, California. The instructor had warned her to step straight onto the Segway and to avoid moving the handle while doing so. She'd seen others try the same feat and wobble, or oscillate, or shake nervously. So she stepped up carefully.

"Some people are a natural," the instructor said to the others about Tracy. "See how she stepped straight on, like going up a step in a stairway."

Tracy was quickly rotating in place and practicing panic stops.

By the end of her first day's tour she was truly and completely hooked.

"How much would it cost me to buy one of these?" she asked the instructor.

"Five thousand for the base unit, then another thousand for all the extras. And you'd need the extras."

Tracy performed a quick calculation in her head. "I'd have to rent eighty-five times for it come out to a purchase. Hmmm."

In the months that followed she rented and rode three dozen times more. Riding Segways was becoming old hat.

On a visit to Pacifica, California, she saw people sitting in chairs and floating high in the air under what looked like parachutes. "What are those?" she ask another man nearby that was watching too.

"Those? Those are paragliders."

That afternoon, Tracy lost interest in Segways.

Photo Posted Saturday, March 1, 2008   •  (2008) Sacramento, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Parked bikes line an entry-way
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Wendy Griffs waited in the hallway. Her son, Jeffrey, had passed through the doors at the far end almost four hours earlier. He was being interviewed for special placement in an advanced school program.

Wendy looked at her watch for the hundredth time. What was taking Jeffrey so long?

Four bicycles indicated that other kids were being interviewed too. They must be local kids, because they could bicycle directly here. Wendy had to drive Jeffrey in, because they live far outside of town.

Wendy's feet were getting tired and her nose itched from the dry air and dust in the hallway. She complained to herself about the lack of chairs. She began to pace to keep her legs from cramping. First a few steps, then more and longer strides, bringing her closer to the far doorway each time.

At last, Wendy ran out of patience. She tried the door knob and the door opened easily. She stepped outside into a delightful garden with tables and chairs. Other parents sat in the chairs. Some had iced water in glasses and little muffins on plates.

Jeffrey spotted her at the same moment she spotted him. She hurried to him. "How did it go?" she asked.

"Mom," Jeffrey sounded irritated. "Where did you go? I expected you to pick me up at the front entrance but you never showed up."

"I waited where I dropped you off."

"Geez mom. You were supposed to go around to the main entrance."

Wendy felt her face flush from embarrassment. "Sorry," she said. "So how did you do?'

"I got in!"

"Super!" Wendy said and gave him a light hug.

"I'm hungry," Jeffrey said. "Let's go get some lunch. Can we have pizza?"

"Sure," Wendy said. She started for the door through which she'd entered.

Jeffrey took her hand. "This way mom," he said. "Let's go out the main entrance."

Photo Posted Saturday, March 29, 2008 internal link   •  (2008) Karlsruhe, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Yellow sea horse rocks
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Yellow Sea Horse
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Several sea horses were on display in a clean, well lit aquarium. One was a bright yellow. While most floated upright, the yellow sea horse flipped over. Once.

"Did you see that? That sea horse flipped over."

"Sea horses don't flip. Not unless there's a current."

"Come here. Come here. I will show you. Hey! You! Sea horse. Come on, flip again."

"Don't tap on the glass. One of your rings could scratch it."

"But I saw it flip. I swear on my poor dead mother's grave that it flipped."

"Sea horses are not really horses you know."

"Of course I know that. They're fish. I think. Hey, you know I once found a plastic sea horse in a box of dry cereal. Back then, when I was a kid, they put toys like that in boxes of cereal."

"I remember those. But those were smaller than the real thing. And plastic."

"And lots more colors."

"I wonder if, back then, they knew about land fill and plastic? You suppose they would have ever thought that their plastic sea horses might some day be found floating among trash in huge islands of trash in the middle of the ocean?"

"Recycling didn't start until the '80s, or was it the '70s?"

"What if poisons, in those plastic sea horses, caused mutations in real sea horses."

"You mean like giant sea horses hopping over the land, eating people and cows?"

"Maybe just smarter, or more yellow, or easier to catch."

"Oh, look. Over there. An Octopus and its making a peace sign."


"Come on. It's in that tank."

The yellow sea horse had floated upright throughout all this conversation. Now the yellow sea horse flipped over. Once.

"Mommy! Mommy! I just saw that sea horse flip over!"

Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde   •  Photo Posted Monday, March 31, 2008 internal link   •  (2008) Karlsruhe, Germany   •  © 2008 Terry Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Car accommodations are comfortable in second class
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Johann Dietzen fell asleep on the inter-city express between Berlin and Frankfurt. He had reserved seats and slept with his ticket exposed between his thumb and the book he was reading. So when the conductor came by to ask for his "fahrkarten," the ticket was in plain sight and there was no need to waken him.

Johann awoke to someone banging against metal and shouting at him in English. "Hey. Hey you buddy. Wake up. This is the end of the line. Forth and King Streets."

Johann stumbled bleary-eyed down the aisle, an aisle that looked totally wrong. He stepped off the train and found himself in bright sunlight under blue skies. "This is not Frankfurt," he said. "Where am I?"

A young man with spiked blond hair stopped next to him and asked, "You lost?"

"I should be in Frankfurt. Frankfurt Germany. Where is this?"

The young man laughed and touched his hand. "You're about six thousand miles off the mark. Your in San Francisco."

Johann looked at the young man, surprised. "San Francisco? Really? I've always wanted to visit here."

Someone came up on his left side and roughly shook his shoulder.

"Aufwachen. Wir befinden uns in Frankfurt. Dies ist das Ende der Zeile."

Johann looked at the blue skies. Felt the warm breeze. Appreciated the friendly smile from the young man. Then opened his eyes.

Johann had been dreaming. He disembarked in Frankfurt and took an underground trolley home.

Sipping coffee in his own living room, Johann thought about his next vacation. San Francisco, he mused. My next vacation, for certain, will be to San Francisco. And who knows, maybe I will meet that handsome young man with the spiked hair. Who knows.

Johann sipped his coffee and smiled.

Frankfurt(M) Flughafen Fernbahnhof   •  Photo Posted Sunday, March 16, 2008   •  (2008) ICE train bound for München via Mannheim   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Skull fell far too fast into a sidewalk
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Grodendask was pure evil. He flew through space from planet to planet and devoured all life he encountered.

As he approached a new planet he would assume the appearance of the dominant species. Then he would softly land and begin a hundred years of death and destruction.

Grodendask approached the Earth and sensed from afar he should resemble mankind. He morphed into a human and sped inward face first.

At a secret base in Siberia, the Russian military used that moment to test a new particle beam weapon. They pointed it in a direction that they felt minimized any chance of detection and fired a full-power test burst.

Grodendask was blinded by a bright light. He blinked and rubbed his human-like eyes but felt disoriented. He continued to speed inward.

Grodendask finally cleared his vision when he was a mere few feet from a sidewalk in San Francisco, California.

Grodendask, in that last moment, tried to morph back into his true form. But velocity won and Grodendask's face became embedded in the concrete of the sidewalk. Grodendask had at last died.

The news that morning spoke of an earthquake of modest proportions centered in San Francisco. There was no significant damage, and only minor injuries. The quake was so minor, in fact, that the news of it quickly gave way to the news of a secret Russian "Death Ray" test in Siberia.

Photo Posted Saturday, March 15, 2008   •  (2007) San Francisco, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Shadow of man hangs among the weeds
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Bob Wonyhw lost his shadow one sunny afternoon. He noticed it first when he turned away from the sun and noticed everyone around him had a shadow, but he didn't.

But this is not Bob's story, it is his shadow's. Let reverse his name so the shadow will have a name. The shadow named Whynow Bob, escaped when nobody was looking. It was in a crowd so nobody, not even other shadows saw him get away.

Whynow approached the river. He hugged the curb to blend with the shadows of an old tree. As he ducked behind a low wall the tree's shadow spoke.

I a low, resonating voice, the tree's shadow said, "Yooou knooow thaaat aaa freeee shaaadow dieeees aaaat niiiight."

Whynow paused. "What did you say. Did you say I would die at night. How could that be?"

The shadow of a small weed chipped in, "After sunset, a free shadow is absorbed by the night."

Whynow hadn't thought there would be such a harsh penalty. Fearful he raced back to find Bob. But Bob was in a cab on the way to the Airport. Poor Whynow raced as fast as he could. He startled crows, and caused leaves to scatter as if by the wind. But Whynow was not fast enough.

The night came, and as the tree had spoken, Whynow was absorbed into the all darkening night.

The next morning Bob arose and opened his curtains to view the sunrise. He had a shadow again, but didn't notice that the shadow was breathing hard, having barely managed to attach to shadowless Bob before nightfall.

His new shadow was not his own, and his new shadow was not about to spill the beans.

Photo Posted Thursday, March 6, 2008   •  (2007) Piling on Sacramento River, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Young boy with protective eyewear dines
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Little Billy Cutter didn't like fish. His mother thought he was just being silly. His dad would often become angry and say, "Eat what's on your plate and like it."

One afternoon, his folks took him to a fancy restaurant with table cloths on all the tables and cloth napkins. Little Billy tried to be on his best behavior, but when his mom insisted on ordering fish for him, he folded his arms and refused to participate.

The waiter said, "I think we have fish your young lad would enjoy."

Little Billy's parents thought it was worth a try so they gave the waiter his head. The result was scallops sauteed in butter.

Little Billy eyed the low toad stools and sniffed them. They smelled like butter. He cut a tiny piece of one of them and tasted. It tasted good.

Little Billy enjoyed that meal so much, he decided he would order that every time. But, of course, his mother had other ideas. Sadly that is a story for another day.

Photo Posted Monday, March 3, 2008   •  (2008) Skates Restaurant, Berkeley Marina, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Electric high-speed train arrives at station
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iEzat materialized on a hill expecting another dead planet. Instead he found himself looking down on a populated city. He held fast to the surface on which he landed because it was curved.

iEzat marveled at the level of technology. Electric driven vehicles sped into a terminus of some kind. Small personal vehicles zipped hither and fro. He could even spot a flying machine in the distant sky.

iEzat noticed beings on the path below him. The beings pointed silver and black machines at him. Some strobed brightly. iEzat, in defense, changed his color and rematerialized higher. From up high in the large plant in which he had landed, iEzat could see even more of the city.

iEzat pulled out his personal recorder and began to document his find. His recording was interrupted by a loud screech and a whoosh of wind. iEzat turned just in time to find a huge winged creature flying at him. The creature's talons grabbed iEzat and lifted him high.

Fortunately, iEzat's body armor switched on automatically. He delivered an electric shock to the creature which dropped him. As he fell, he decided to return again later but better prepared. In a blink, he dematerialized and was gone.

On the path below where he had landed, an argument had erupted.

"That wasn't a bird at all. It was some kind of mouse."

"A bird. A blue tit, I say. Because of the yellow."

A young boy's voice spoke up. "It was a tiny alien." But the adults ignore him.

Karlsruhe Haubtbahnhof (HBF)   •  Photo Posted Friday, March 21, 2008   •  (2008) Karlsruhe, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Toilet seat people wait patiently outside hotel
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"The gall of them," Urinal Man said to his wife. "Imagine what it would be like back home if they were allowed to beg on the streets."

"Yes dear," she clanked on his pipe. "Now don't start to get worked up."

"Just yesterday, it was in the news. A gang of them in Germany chained themselves to our embassy. I mean, what could they possible want?"

He led his wife into the expensive hotel.

"We give them all the water they could possibly want. We have established lime deposit clinics all over the country. We have even set up lid exchanges, and all with not one dime's cost to them. It the life of Lavey, I tell you. I wish I had life that easy."

"Now calm down," said his wife. "We don't want you to blow a gasket. We don't know what repairs are like outside our own country. Suppose you got cork instead of the qualty neoprene we deserve. I mean really."

As they approached the elevator, Urinal Man looked back. "Still there," he said. But he sounded like he was calming down. "Where do you want to go for dinner tonight?"

"Really," his wife said. "I mean we just had our second lunch of the afternoon. I swear you must think with your drain."

Photo Posted Sunday, March 2, 2008   •  (2007) Furbo, Ireland   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Palm trees basking in the sun
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Despite graying at the temples, his long black hair flowed like water in the light wind. His muscles moving greased with sweat, Jero Famotte, neared his final goal. He carried a heavy pack filled with supplies and wore weapons on his waist.

Jero rounded a bend in the path and stepped nimbly over a downed tree. His goal, at last, came into view. Palm trees lit, as if by magic, nestled in a glade.

Jero shed his pack and walked forward. At first the bright light was blinding, then his eyes grew used to it, and he could make out details. A dozen young people loitered under the trees. They were dressed oddly, men and women alike dressed in trousers. They drank from bottles made of glass, a luxury, but the ground around them was littered with dozens of such bottles.

Jero raised his arm and said, "Greetings, children of god. I have traveled far to find you." Then he fell to one knee and bent his head. "I am here to beg you for life, for the life of my loving wife."

The kids stared in wonder at the homeless black man kneeling before them. Jenny spoke first. "Man, he's really in bad shape. Look at those sores on his legs."

Freddy rummaged in his back pack. "Hey you," he said. "You speak english?" He pulled a bottle of pills from his backpack.

"Careful," said Don. "He might be dangerous. Look at that knife on his belt."

Freddy approached the bowed black man. "Here," he held out the pills. Penicillin. Take one per day." He dumped one into his hand and pantomimed putting it into his mouth.

The black man looked up and again spoke in a strange language.

Freddy pantomimed the movement of the sun, and tried to convey the idea of one pill a day.

Jero didn't understand the speech of these strange children of god. But the hand movements of the one made sense. He was to use one small white dot per day. "Yes," he said. "I understand." He took the bottle and stood.

The young god scuttled back as if afraid.

Jero turned and walked away. He picked up his pack and placed the strange vial inside. He walked for another two weeks back home. There he found his wife still abed with a fever. "The children of gods gave me this vial," he said. Then he spilled one of the dots into his hands. "They told me to give you one dot a day."

He lovingly placed the dot into his wife's mouth. Fourteen days later he gave her the last dot. Her fever was gone. She was up and around and healthy again.

They placed the vial on a small shelf in the hut and worshiped it for years afterward. That is until the day a huge storm blew the hut over and the vial was lost.

Jero's children and grandchildren told the story of Jero, the man who spoke with the children of gods and saved his wife's life.

Four thousand years later, a distant relation of Jero sat under palm trees in a park, on a warm day, drinking beer with friends. His name was Freddy and he was a doctor who recognized infection, even in a foreign homeless man, and felt compelled to help.


Photo Posted Friday, March 14, 2008   •  (2008) Lake Merritt, Oakland, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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A traveler about to enter the station
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The last photo we ever saw of dad was sent to us in an unmarked envelope postmarked Stuttgart, Germany. It showed him mounting the steps into the train station. A large clock overhead showed the time. In his right hand he held the large suitcase that once belonged to our mother.

That suitcase sat in dad's closet for twenty years after her death. We thought he would never travel again. But there it was, gripped tightly in his right hand. Traveling again.

We telephoned the police and hospitals in Stuttgart to try to find him. But there was no record of him being injured or harmed. My brother flew there to try to find dad, but he too failed.

At the annual great Xmas gathering we all agreed to contribute to a fund to hire a private eye. Together we raised over four thousand dollars. It took the private eye a few months, but eventually he reported that dad had disappeared without a trace.

I am writing this because, last night, my wife woke up because the phone rang. "It was an old man's voice," she told me. "And a bad connection. I asked who it was, but he kept going on about the pyramids. Visit the pyramids, he said over and over. Visit the pyramids before it's too late."

"Did it sound like my dad?"

"A little. But older. Then he just hung up."

"Did he mean the pyramids in Egypt?"

"He didn't say. Maybe he was talking about the pyramids in South America."

I feel a little guilty, actually. I am pleased that he may still be alive, and I wonder about the pyramids.

But I wonder most what happened to mom's suitcase. Does dad still carry it? Is it dusty and beat up and covered with stickers now? Has it seen trains and junk steamers? Or is it now in a landfill. Perhaps in Europe, or Africa, or South America. Harbored by the poor. Filled now with treasures that were once the junk of others. A table for a few beans. Or flotsam on a distant ocean.

I feel guilt. I wonder more about that suitcase than I do about dad.

Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof   •  Photo Posted Thursday, March 27, 2008 internal link   •  (2008) Stuttgart, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Note wall (to right) that morning
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Frieda Alwerken rode her bike home after a terrible night out. She'd woken in a strange house, curled against the side of a cold fireplace, her blouse crusted with her own vomit.

As she peddled she recalled getting up and looking for a bathroom. Instead she found two other girls obviously taken advantage of, awkwardly sleeping in the bed. Frieda realized she was still fully dressed and concluded her vomit had saved her.

"Date rape drug," she muttered.

Peddling down Brauer Strasse, she came across older folk she knew. Members of the Ver Di Union, they worked for the garbage department with her dad. They were dressed in white plastic pull-overs for a strike.

"Guten morgen," she called.

A woman she knew walked over. "Hi Frieda," she said. Then she wrinkled her nose. "Do you know you really stink?"

"I know, Donna. Thanks for noticing."

"Well I hope you had a good time and stayed safe."

"Safe? Why yes. I suppose I did." Frieda smiled. "Have you seen my dad?"

"Not yet, but he might be with the planners. I'll say hi for you when he shows up. You go get cleaned up."

Frieda thanked Donna, then continued to peddle home.

As she peddled she thought, "You know. I was really lucky. Lucky and safe." She began to whistle as she peddled the the same rhythm, a Beatles song she liked.

Photo Posted Tuesday, March 18, 2008   •  (2008) Brauer Straße, Karlsruhe, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Grounds are littered with blooming blue flowers
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Freda and her husband Dan walked the palace grounds. He was color blind so seldom enjoyed the sights as much as she. One Sunday morning, the lawn was awash in bright blue flowers.

"My God," Freda said. "These flowers are the most amazing blue."

"Tsk, tsk, dear," her husband paused and turned to her. "To me they are a dull grey. Could you perhaps describe this blue to me?"

"What do you mean? You've never asked me that before."

"This is the first time you use God to describe a color."

"Did I?"

"You did. Let me help. What would this blue be if it were a texture?"

Freda laughed in delight. "Why it would be like plunging your hand into a cool mountain stream."

Dan closed his eyes to help him imagine the color. "And what would it be if it were a number?"

Freda hesitated, then said, "It would be the two the burly bad-guy said while holding a deuce card out and pointing a gun at Daffy Duck's head."

Dan chuckled, but kept his eyes closed. "And what if this blue were a child?"

"That's easy. It would be our son when he was ten, racing the dog through the snow."

"And what would this blue be if it were an adult?"

Freda kissed her husband on his cheek. "This blue would be you. A loved and loving blue."

Dan opened his eyes and looked at the flowers again. "Yes," he said. "The grey seems a bit bluer now."

Dan took his wife's hand and together they continued their walk.

Karlsruher Schloss (Karlsruhe Palace) built 1715   •  Photo Posted Monday, March 24, 2008   •  (2008) Karlsruhe, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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So many flowers, so little time
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Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Gerald Jans was a man of precise habits and a personal schedule. He awoke every morning precisely at six a.m. At nine a.m. he had bathed, dressed and eaten, and answered the few email messages he received from friends and his agent. He finished his morning cup of decaf and set his cup in the sink.

Normally he would return now to his computer to continue writing his novel. But this morning he noticed a hummingbird outside his kitchen window.

Gerald stood, his empty cup in his hand, and watched the hummingbird, enthralled by its energy. After a while, he noticed the empty cup in his hand. Instead of setting it in the sink, he poured another cup of decaf and took that hot cup outside into his back yard.

The humming bird was gone. Gerald sat down on one of his redwood benches and waited. Eventually the bird returned and continued to feed at the tall flowering bush.

Gerald noticed the weather had turned warm. He stood and stretched. The air smelled good. He set his cup down and decided to go for a walk.

Normally Gerald would finish writing for the day at noon. But this day, he walked to the park at the end of the road and watched migrating ducks in the lake. At noon he just arrived home.

The walk had filled Gerald with energy. He sat at his computer and began to write. He wrote an entire chapter that afternoon and finished late in the evening.

The next morning Gerald awoke at eight a.m. He lay in bed and wondered what had happened. Had he abandoned his schedule? Or had he invented a new schedule? After a while, Gerald got up and bathed. Then he went out to look for the humming bird. He found two hummingbirds.

Gerald watched the two hummingbirds and how they interacted. He found himself thinking about his wife and how she had dumped him. Two hummingbirds conspired to spoil his morning. Instead of going for a walk and then writing, Gerald spent that day sitting in his sofa, watching sports and drinking beer.

That evening, Gerald set his alarm for six a.m. A schedule, he decided, might be a good idea after all.

Anna's Hummingbirdexternal link   •  Photo Posted Monday, March 17, 2008   •  (2008) Palo Alto Duck Pond, Palo Alto, California   •  © 2008 Terry Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The parade makes ready on First Street
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bZilboly47 materialized in the air slightly above a heavily constructed area on the third planet of the 1932-965-2E5 system. Below he found underway a celebration of sorts. bZilboly47 dropped lower and approached within a polite distance from one of the larger of the residents of this planet.

Before he spoke he displayed an obvious appreciation of the resident's servants. Surely, he felt, a race with so many well trained organic servants must be a superior race indeed.

Of the hundreds of thousands of inhabited planets in the galaxy, none, not a single one, was found to be populated by intelligent organics. Intelligent life was universally restricted to the inorganic like bZilboly47.

bZilboly47 projected a polite telepathic image of universal greeting at the largest resident. Then he waited the polite interval for a reply. None came.

Unfazed, bZilboly47 formulated a query using heat. He projected the request using a tight beam. A few of the resident's organics were caught in the beam and swooned, but were otherwise unharmed. bZilboly47 waited again and again no reply came.

bZilboly47 consulted his protocol data stream and found a warning. Any race that refused telepathic and heat communication might be a far, far superior race. For such races, a greeting of color sometimes succeeded.

bZilboly47 formulated a greeting, then displayed it. He used greens and yellows and whites and blues. The resident's organic servants became agitated, jumping and striking appendages together.

bZilboly47 waited again and again there was no reply.

bZilboly47 decided this race must be a far, far superior race indeed.

Just out of curiosity, bZilboly47 turned on his audio receptors. He heard rhythmic sounds somewhat musical and babbling resembling a primitive audio speech. The more he heard, the more he appreciated the versatile nature of these residents. They must be superior indeed to have created such complex organics.

bZilboly47 dematerialized and returned home. He annotated the universal record for the third planet of the 1932-965-2E5 system. The residents, he entered, were a class three intelligence or higher. No need to revisit, he stated, until we achieve level 3 ourselves.

On the other side of the galaxy, on the third planet of the 193-965-2E5 system, in the city of San Francisco, the organics celebrated Saint Patrick's Day with a parade. They didn't know their floats were superior inorganic beings nor did they know they themselves were servants to the floats. Nor did they care. Organics, they believed, were superior in all ways to inorganics like floats. Silly servants.

Saint Patrick's Day Parade   •  Photo Posted Friday, March 28, 2008 internal link   •  (2008) Market and First Streets, San Francisco, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Coca Cola, Kebab, and Pizza
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The note just said, "10:00 at Coca Cola, Kebab, and Pizza, Brauerstraße." That was all. No hint of why, or who, or even the day. Not that this worried Paul and Brenda. They were only in town for the weekend so this was their last and only morning.

Brenda found the note tucked under their hotel room door. At first she thought it was the bill, but she realized it wasn't when she opened it. It was hand written in a floral-like font, large and confident.

Paul spotted the restaurant first. "There it is. Just over there. Across the street."

They dashed across hand in hand. Brenda was the first through the door.

The place was empty except for the man behind the counter. "Gutten morgan," he said with a broad smile.

"Morning," Brenda said.

"Okay, English," the man said. "What can you want?"

Paul held up the note. "What do you know about this note?"

"Oh good. You found it. That note gives you to one order of pommes frites gratis with your order."

"What!" Brenda shouted. "You mean this note is an ad?"

"No," the man said. He continued to smile. "Not an ad. An invitation. My papa's idea. Good one huh?"

Brenda grabbed Paul's hand. "Come on, we're getting out of here."

But Paul held his ground. "Look," he said. "The meals on the menu look pretty good. And we haven't even had breakfast yet."

"Don't be a shill," Brenda said. "Don't be a patsy to this scam."

"But free french fries?"

Brenda started to calm. "I am hungry and we haven't eaten yet. But, but...."

Paul put his hand on her shoulder. "Free french fries."

"Oh, Okay." Brenda leaned on the counter and spoke to the man. "I hope your fries aren't made in animal fat. We're vegetarians."

The man's smile faded.

Photo Posted Sunday, March 23, 2008   •  (2008) Karlsruhe, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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