2008/04, April 2008 Photofictional, A Daily Blog Posting By Bryan Costales

Man sits in window to enjoy the fresh air and smoke
(1 of 30) (27071 views)


The window was never found open in the morning. After all, the neighborhood was just a bit too sketchy. Hans Streiker ignored the open window, because he was too anxious to light up his morning smoke.

He opened the window every morning at dawn to enjoy his morning smoke. The fact that it was already open just saved him a bit of trouble. His next smoke was at sundown, not until 22:00, because this was summer. His wife made the rules, he didn't.

Hans sat in the open window and lit up. He marveled anew each morning at the effect of nicotine on his perception. The grey of the sky turned blue. The silence of the city gave way to the sound of distant traffic and the rush of trolley wheels on tracks.

Across the street in the narrow park, a squirrel looked briefly at Hans. Then the squirrel scooted around the tree to watch a woman snug in a babushka, walk her standard poodle.

Hans' wife, Lotta, said something that sounded like, "The TV is gone," from the other room.

Hans knocked off his ash and took another deep draw. He mused about his day. The morning, as usual, would be spent looking for a job. Then lunch of soup and a sandwich. Perhaps he would spend the afternoon in the train station watching people come and go.

"Hans," Lotta said loudly and a little impatiently. "Put that cigarette out and get in here. The TV is gone."

"Look," Hans said. "This is my only morning smoke. Your rules. And I intend to finish it in peace. Now go away."

Hans knocked more ash off and looked at the cigarette. It was almost gone. Cripes! He inhaled more smoke. His morning, interrupted, was ruined.

A police car pulled up in front of their house and parked. Hans pinched and snubbed out the spent cigarette in an ashtray. A policeman emerged from the car and looked at Hans.

"Good morning," Hans said.

"Good morning," the policeman said. "You reported a TV stolen?"

Hans hesitated. What was that his wife had said? "Just a minute," he told the policeman. "I'll get my wife."

Hans stood to get his wife, then paused. The lyrics of an old song played through his head. "I smoked and I missed it." No, that wasn't right.

"Hey!" Hans called as he went to search for his wife. "Who sang that song. You know, the one that goes, 'I smoked and I missed it?'"

Photo Posted Wednesday, April 23, 2008   •  (2008) Kaiser Straße, Karlsruhe, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

Woman kneels with pitcher to get water under trees
(2 of 30) (27094 views)


An earthquake rattled the town just before dawn. Brook of Sandy-Beach ran to the edge of town to get out from under anything that might fall. There she met Stone of Distant-Thunder, her to-be-wed.

"How exciting and such a lovely morning to find you here," Stone said and hugged Brook.

"I thought I heard a boom out that way," Brook said and pointed. "Toward the deep swamp. Shall we go look?"

"Yes. How exciting."

Hand in hand they went to investigate. When they arrived, the edge of the deep swamp was gone.

"Look," said Brook. "The deep-swamp has drained."

Careful not to slip in the mud, they made their way slowly to the center. Covered with muck, they found a statue of some kind.

"How exciting. Let's clean it," Stone said.

Using scrub bark and sand, they carefully cleaned the statue. It took them most of the morning, but when they were done, the statue gleamed white.

"What is it?" Brook asked.

"Hmm," Stone said. He examined the statue. "It might be a statue of the before-people."

"I don't think so," Brook said. "For the past thousand years, the elders have destroyed all images of the before-people. This must be something else."

"Hmmm. But look at the pitcher. Isn't that a tool?"

"Yes, I suppose. But look at the hand."

"Yes, hmm. That can't be right, is it broken?"

"No," Brook said. "It's whole."

"But it only has four fingers and one thumb. Where is the other finger and other thumb?"

Brook pointed at the statue's head. "Look at the neck. It's so scrawny."

"Where are the gills? How could it fish?"

Brook let out a squeak. "What's that on top of the head?"

"It looks like pre-wed hair."

"How ugly. I shave my top tuft every morning. Not this morning, of course. Because of the earthquake."

"You're just being silly. You know you'll lose it after we wed and have first-sex."

"Yes, your right." Brook smiled. "You remember those skeletons we saw in the museum? The ones with four fingers and one thumb. They were skeletons of apes."

"Yes. How exciting. You're right of course. This must be the statue of an ape."

"We should tell the elders. Maybe they'll want to put this statue in the museum."

"How exciting," Stone said. "Yes, let's do that and get some food too."

"You're always so hungry," Brook said and took his hand.

Side by side, they ran back to town. Each ran carefully, because of the mud. Brook careful with her four legs, and Stone careful with his six.

Photo Posted Friday, April 25, 2008 internal link   •  (2008) Schloßgarten, Stuttgart, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

Fake flamingos out for an afternoon stroll
(3 of 30) (27033 views)


On her 200th birthday, Emma Swanson took her great-granddaughter's great-granddaughter, Sophia Godi, to Lake Merritt, in Oakland. Emma thought she would begin the trip with a brief history lesson. So they made their way to the outdoor replica of a bird refuge.

"What kind of bird was that?" Sophia asked. She pointed at two plastic replicas of Flamingos, thick wire legs stuck in the mud.

"Those were flamingos, dear. They were pink like that because they ate shrimp."

"What are shrimp?"

"Oh, they were little animals that lived in the ocean. They had little pink shells and bodies, and were tasty to eat."

"Why were they pink?"

Emma frowned with thought. "You know. I don't really remember. I only remember that they were pink."

The bird refuge was littered with flat metal replicas of various kinds of birds. An owl wobbled on the branch of a tree. Sophia pointed at a model of a bird that appeared hunkered down. "What was that?"

"That was a night-heron. You know, they didn't really have short necks. When they flew, you could see how really long their necks were."

"Birds could fly?"

"Of course. Don't they teach you anything in school anymore?"

"Yeah. Only bats can fly. And insects, of course, but bats eat them."

"When I was your age, bats were ugly and feared. They only lived in caves and caused rabies."

Sophia sniffled. "That's not true. Bats are pretty. I love the way my canbat hangs upside down in its cage. It's such a pretty yellow. And it sings such pretty songs."

"But birds..."

"No, no. I don't want to hear about birds. Global warming made them extinct."

Emma sighed. "Okay. I suppose. Do you want to sit on a bench for a bit?"

"No, but you do. It's okay. I'll sit with you."

Next to the bench was a vending machine that sold packages of dried ants. Emma bought a bag, gave it to Sophia, then they sat down.

Sophia sprinkled ants on the ground. A half dozen pigeobats flew over to them and landed. They were a mottled grey and white with thin fur.

Sophia giggled with delight. "I love the way the yodel, coolalcoo. And I love the way they pick up the ants in their little hands and eat them."

Emma whispered to herself, "It's not the same."

"Did you say something?"

"Nothing dear. Go ahead and enjoy feeding your bats."

Lake Merritt Bird Refuge   •  Photo Posted Thursday, April 24, 2008 internal link   •  (2008) Oakland, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

Spider revealed by window in distance
(4 of 30) (27141 views)


Emma Jones, at 75 years, was fearful of most anything. She feared falling. She feared food too large to swallow. She feared traffic and bicycles of all kinds. She feared big dogs and little dogs too.

So it surprised Emma to find herself so calm, locked in the basement storeroom by a man with a grizzly beard and a gun.

"Stay in here," the man had told her. He held the gun pointed at the floor, not at Emma, but he seemed serious all the same. "I will release spiders outside this door. They are very toxic. So stay in here for your own safety. I'll send you help when I've gotten away."

Emma waited more than an hour. Finally the need to pee overcame her need to stay in the storeroom. She tapped on the door and called, "Are you gone?"

She listened but heard nothing.

Emma carefully pulled the door open a crack. The stale smell of the basement made her wrinkle her nose. She called again, "Are you gone?"

She put her ear to the crack and listened again. Silence.

Emma pulled open the door and stepped carefully into the basement proper. The light was out and the only aid to her vision was a single basement window. Emma looked carefully around but saw no spiders.

Shuffling quickly, Emma made her way to the bottom of the basement stairs. She stopped just a pace short of them when she spotted a spider. It came into view, backlit by the basement window, mere inches from her face. It so startled Emma that she let out a squeak and squeezed her legs together to keep from peeing.

Emma stepped sideways. "Mr. Bad Guy," she called. She felt foolish not having asked his name. But then he wouldn't give it to her, would he? She'd just tell it to the police.

At the top of the basement stairs, Emma looked both ways. Toward the front she spotted two large spider webs backlit by the etched glass of the front door. Toward the back, the hallway appeared free of spiders.

Emma hurried into the bathroom, and locked the door just in case. She soon felt hugely better.

From outside the bathroom door, Emma heard footsteps and calls of, "Police. Anyone here."

Emma was about to call out when she heard, "Hey, there's spiders in here." and "Yikes, one's on me."

Then she heard laughter, and "What a bunch of weenies. These are fake spiders."

Emma laughed too. Then she flushed the toilet to make sure the police would not confuse her with the bad guy. As she washed her hands she mulled over the morning. That had been a real spider in the basement, she decided. She's seen it up close and it had been real.

Emma splashed water on her face then patted it dry with a towel. She looked at herself in the mirror. The face that looked back at her was a brave face. She smiled, and the brave face smiled too.

Entomology Exhibit Hall   •  Photo Posted Friday, April 18, 2008   •  (2008) Stuttgart Zoo, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

Dimly lit stairway down into an unknown place
(5 of 30) (27207 views)


When Donna Fitzright died, she felt herself sputter and float. Barely aware, she flitted like a moth who was also the flame. A bright light loomed ahead of her and she wiggled slowly toward it.

The light was an incandescent bulb in a dim stairway leading down. Donna followed the light. Down, she thought, down down down into purgatory. But in actual fact, she hovered.

Mrs. Phitzrather brought her daughter home from recital. They descended the stairs into their basement home.

"Look," her daughter said. "A moth."

"Yes. They're drawn to lights thinking the lights are flames."

"My science book said they think lights are the sun."

"Whatever," said mom. "Turn off the light for me will you when we go in."


Donna was plunged into darkness. This is Hell, she thought. She felt warmth and moved toward it. Too hot. She moved back. She felt warmth and moved toward it. Too hot. She moved back. This went on for an eternity.

Eventually the world became light. The ghost that was Donna fluttered up and out of the stairway and found the sun. Up she fluttered, higher and higher. Ever upward she flew, always towards, but never into the sun.

Photo Posted Thursday, April 10, 2008   •  (2008) Karlsruhe, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

Delightful chit chat makes for a pleasant game
(6 of 30) (27129 views)


Tom Deismond was a superb chess player with a gimmick. He had developed the skill of holding his hand up, as if to make a point, and freezing it in place. No matter what he said, nor how he moved his pieces, his hand remained rock steady. Tom's gimmick consistently unnerved opponents. Tom won game after game after game.

Sunday afternoon, Tom sat across from his most skilled opponent, Allen. He held his hand up and moved his bishop out two squares.

An Asian man walked up to watch. Allan said hi and asked, "What's your name?"

"Geo Taki," he said. They shook hands.

Tom frowned.

"What do you do for a living"" Allen asked, then moved his queen knight out.

"I'm a Yoga instructor at the Rec Center," Geo said. "Yoga, you know, is the art of posing. A pose is taken that stresses one muscle set against another. That way a balance is formed and strength is improved."

Tom grunted. He castled his king on the king side.

"A bad pose can be dangerous," Geo continued. "Like sitting upright in a chair for a long time. Blood settles. Muscles are out of balance. Cramps can form."

Tom felt a twinge in his lifted arm.

Allen moved his king forward one square.

"I knew a crazy man once who liked to sit with one leg extended," Geo droned on. "No particular reason. Like I said, he was crazy."

Tom felt a spot of sweat run down past his right eye. He blinked it away and moved his knight out.

"That crazy man," Geo continued without seeming to take a breath. "Developed a clot in that leg. Muscles that are out of balance can develop clots. He was operated on before the clot moved into his lungs, brain, or heart."

Tom Felt his lifted arm starting to cramp.

Allen moved his rook sideways and said, "Check."

Tom blinked. He was starting to sweat more. He hesitated, then slid his bishop one space.

Geo continued. "Another friend drove a truck. He kept his arm elevated on the steering wheel eight hours a day."

Allen swooped his own bishop in and said, "Checkmate."

Tom stood suddenly and shook his arm to work out the cramping. With his other hand he knocked over his king. Then he reached out to shake Allen's hand.

To Tom's surprise, Geo took his hand and shook it.

"I'll bet," said Geo. "You've never played a shill before."

"A shill?"

Allen smiled. "Tom," he said. "I'd like you to meet my good friend Geo. He's a computer programmer and street performer. He's never done Yoga in his life."

It sunk into Tom's head that he'd been tricked. He smiled, a friendly smile, and asked, "Rematch?"

Photo Posted Wednesday, April 2, 2008 internal link   •  (2008) Schloßgarten, Stuttgart, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

Solace given
(7 of 30) (27123 views)


Linda McDermott could comfort others. She had this ability for so long as she could remember. A Star Trek fan, she thought of herself as an empath. She could sense the suffering of others, and by hugging them, transfer their suffering into herself.

Only this wasn't like a one way exchange. Linda always gave back happiness in exchange for the suffering she took. Each hug, made her a little less happy.

Now this didn't matter when she was young, because she had happiness to spare. But as she aged, and as her own life took the occasional bad turn, her happiness began to run low.

Worrying that she would someday run out of happiness, Linda avoided people as much as possible. Sure, she would still attend the funeral for a friend, or the occasional war protest, but she was frugal with her hugs.

At the lighting of 4,000 candles for the 4,000th dead soldier in Iraq, Linda noticed a woman weeping because hers was one of the 4,000 dead. Linda couldn't help herself. She hugged the woman and absorbed into herself a piece of the woman's grief. Then she gave back to the woman a piece of her own happiness.

Linda let go and stepped back. All her happiness, she realized, was gone. She felt numb.

A man with a guitar walked up to her. "Hello, m'am," he said. "You okay?"

The measured herself and could only say, "I am a world of sorrow."

"That so, that so," the man said. "Then I might just have a song for you."

The man played a slow march. A proper tune for a memorial event.

The man spoke slowly while he played. "My guitar is like a gas station. It fills the empty back up with what they have given away. Listen to the tune. Feel the tune. Feel the music fill you."

Linda closed her eyes and smiled. Yes, she felt her happiness coming back. All the happiness she'd given away over the years. Every bit of it.

The music stopped. Linda smiled and opened her eyes to thank the man. But there was no man there. He was gone.

Linda muttered to herself, trying to figure out what happened, "In the military, they have tanker planes to refill jets while flying. Why not people, that perform much the same duty?"

"Shame on you," a woman to her left said. "Shame on you for talking about the military at a time like this."


© 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

Trashcan waits to kiss the next passerby
(8 of 30) (27231 views)


Ten year old Klaus Kaltmann was taken by his mother to view free art. He remembered what his mother had told him just that morning.

"Art should be felt. If you look at art and feel nothing, the art has failed. If two people look at art and talk about the art, the art has failed. But if two people look at art and talk about how they feel, then the art has succeeded."

Klaus had listened and remembered, but her statement meant little to him.

His mother stopped in front of a trash can. "Students painted this," she said. "Free art for the public, like us, to view."

Klaus looked at the painted trashcan, then up at his mother.

"How does it make you feel?" she prompted.

Klaus looked at the painting again. "It looks like she wants to kiss me."

"And how do you feel about that?"

"Yuck! I wouldn't want to kiss a trashcan."

"Why not? Isn't the woman pretty?"

"No. Well maybe. But the trash smells bad. I bet something yucky was thrown away."

"You shouldn't judge a woman by the trash others have placed inside her."

"Still. It's scary."

"You mean it frightens you?"

"No. More like too big a slice of cake."

"Oh. Scary because it seems like too much to handle."

"No. Maybe."

Klaus's mother took his hand and led him along the sidewalk toward the next painted trashcan. "You know," she said. "Fear of too much to handle is an emotion. It's how you feel."

Klaus thought about that. "Okay," he said. "Maybe."

Photo Posted Tuesday, April 29, 2008   •  (2008) Karlsruhe, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

A reflecting pool
(9 of 30) (27391 views)


The reflection was perfect. Jerry Five had been born and raised on the moon and had never seen such a broad expanse of water before. He knelt down and looked across the reflecting pool with wonder.

"First time for a water display?" an older woman, standing next to him, asked. "This is my third."

Jerry looked up at her. "Yeah," he said. "This is really something isn't it?"

"They say they have miles of water on the Earth, you know."

"Naw. That's just a myth. I don't believe those old pictures. You can't see any water now because of all the clouds."

"No. It's true. I glimpsed a bit of blue once. It was near Earthset. I remember the clouds seemed to open up a bit near one end, and I saw a blue twinkle. Like a jewel. Just a tiny blue glow, then it was gone." The woman, smiled wistfully. "It was magical."

"This is plenty of water for me," Jerry said. "Three meters across. A few centimeters deep. Boy, this is really something. And look at how it reflects. Talk about magical."

"Don't they teach you about Earth in school?"

"I graduated."

"Oh. Sorry, you seem so young. I guess I'm just getting old."

"But, yeah. When I was in school they taught us about Earth. How it's covered with poison clouds, and nothing lives there."

"But not the oceans?"

"What are oceans?"

"Oh my. That's hard to describe. Tell you what. Next time you watch the Earthrise, try to picture a pin point of blue peeking through the clouds. Tiny but bright. That blue is water, lots of it. That's an ocean."

"A myth."

"Maybe. Maybe a myth. I'm getting old. My memory isn't what it once was. Maybe I never saw that blue. Maybe I am just mis-remembering it. Oh well. I should get back."

"Bye," Jerry said and watched the woman go. She hissed out the interlocking door and was gone.

Jerry gazed again at the reflecting pool. "Magical," he said. "Magical."

Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park   •  Photo Posted Wednesday, April 9, 2008 internal link   •  (2008) San Francisco, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

The Neckar river runs through town
(10 of 30) (27112 views)


The "I Can Walk On Water" disease struck so many that they had to shut down access to the river. As the disease spread, lakes and ponds became closed. The strange sickness moved through France, eventually causing the beaches to close.

Alicia Zimmer awoke on a floating dock in the river. She remembered she'd been sick and with a fever. She remembered fighting with police. She remembered being stuck in mud for hours unable to move.

Alicia stood and looked at herself. She'd lost a lot of weight and her clothes were baggy. Her shoes were missing. Her feet and pant legs were crusted in smelly dried mud.

She recognized the location. She was on the Neckar river, just down the hill from the zoo. She cinched up her belt and said, "I'd better get home. I wonder what day it is?"

She felt strangely energetic and almost ran up the hill to the U14 trolley station. Her purse was missing so she sat and waited without buying a ticket. After a few minutes, the expected bright yellow train pulled up and she boarded it.

There were only a few other passengers on the train and they all appeared disheveled and disoriented. "Hi," Alicia said, cheerfully.

"I woke up in a pond," said the woman across from her. "A duck was pecking my ear."

The trolley driver's voice came over the small speakers. "In case you are all wondering," he said. "I woke up this morning in my bathtub. I guess the authorities can't think of everything."

Alicia laughed. Her laugh infected the other on the train. Soon they were all chatting and exchanging stories. The trolley ride was smooth.

When the trolley slipped underground to become a subway, Alicia felt sleepy. She noticed the others on the train were yawning too.

Alicia thought she would just close her eyes for a minute.

Alicia awoke and found herself laying on her back in a shallow stream in the middle of a park.

Photo Posted Saturday, April 26, 2008 internal link   •  (2008) Stuttgart, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

The gift shop has much to see also
(11 of 30) (27037 views)


Margie Butternert and her teenage daughter Sue browsed the little gift shop. Like the entire museum, it too was dimly lit and a little dusty. Margie thumbed through faded antique cards while Sue gazed at an old doll.

Margie chuckled. "Look at these cards," she said.

Sue read both cards and chuckled too. "These remind me of Uncle Bob."

"That's what I thought too." Margie took back one of the cards and peered at the back. "Pretty cheap too. Let's get both."

"But his birthday isn't until December. Remember he was born the day after Christmas."

"That's okay. We'll put them in the card box and pull them out, one each year for his next two birthdays.

"He might not last two birthdays."

"Nonsense. He'll live for another ten or twelve years easy."

Sue handed the other card back to her mom. She frowned. "Didn't dad's brother Earl die when he was twenty nine?"

"That's right. Slid on the ice and hit a bus."

"On his twenty-first birthday you could of said he'd last ten or twelve years easy and you'd have been wrong."

"Your point?"

"Well, next week, Uncle Bob might fall out of a tree or swallow a chicken bone wrong."

"Don't be silly, dear. Well get both cards and put them in the card box and that's that."

"Look!" Sue said and picked up a glass thimble. "Grandma would love this?"

"Let's get it. We see her on Friday and can give it to her then."

"Why not put it in a box until Christmas?"

Margie frowned. "Why? We see her on Friday?"

"Never mind," Sue patted her mother on her shoulder. "I'm just being silly."

Museum on Main Street   •  Photo Posted Monday, April 14, 2008 internal link   •  (2008) Pleasanton, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

An Easter baby bunny wears a cap
(12 of 30) (27053 views)


Berger Stamreul awoke and crawled to his knees inside his cardboard box. He scratched because he itched like crazy.

All at once, the air around him seemed to speed by like a roaring jet. Berger felt something strike his eyes, so he closed them. The wind died. He opened his eyes and looked.

Berger found himself kneeling inside a large room. One wall was a window looking out at the darkness of night. The floor was dirt with a few scraggly plants. The walls were plain and white. He looked behind and saw the back wall was open and faced another darkness.

A voice inside his head said, "Welcome to the beginning of all time. Please approach the window."

Berger shuffled forward and stopped a pace from the strange window. He reached out and touched it. The window was cool and felt like glass.

The voice inside his head spoke again. It reminded Berger of the voice of a woman singer. Smooth and melodic. "Look out the window to your right. Curving into the distance are more and more advanced civilizations."

Berger looked and saw that his room was a single cell in a huge curved wall of zillions of cells. Those further away glowed brightly.

"We are the most advanced peoples from the previous universe, the one that existed before your universe. We are so advanced that, to you primitive civilizations, we seem to be gods."

The voice inside his head made Berger's ears itch. So he scratched them.

"We invited representatives from the new universe that will-be, to return to its beginning to witness its creation. It is our desire and hope that we may inspire you, the next civilizations, to create yet another universe when yours ends."

Berger wondered who was in the room next to his. He walked to the back of his room and stuck his arm out into the emptiness. It was really cold. He decided it was probably the vacuum of space.

Berger held his breath and stuck his head out and around the corner. He discovered the next room was lit with a dim yellow light. A large creature that resembled an Easter candy wearing a hat turned to look at him. From its base extended dozens of snakelike arms with long fingered hands. It appeared to be constructing something from stones.

Berger pulled his head back into his own room. He breathed in a huge breath and shivered. The voice spoke again.

"Come to the window and behold."

Berger approached the window and found a small glowing cloud outside. "What are you?" he asked.

The cloud formed itself into a human-like face and spoke. "I will become the speed of light."

Berger was impressed. "A universal constant in the making," he said. He was surprised how easily his college physics returned.

The cloud smiled. "Yes. Thank you. But I should warn you. Most primitive civilizations like your own seldom survive. For every thousand primitive civilizations that evolve, only one will survive to become advanced."

Berger thought about that. "Well please wish us luck," he said.

"God speed," said the cloud.

Berger understood the joke and laughed.

The cloud sped away, toward the center of the curve of the windows. Other super advanced people did the same. They glowed and twirled and sped. Mini-gods, thought Berger.

The advanced people combined in the center. All appeared to squeeze into the tiniest imaginable point. Then, with a bright explosion, the dot expanded and became the universe. Berger closed his eyes because the explosion was so bright. Berger covered his ears because the explosion was so loud.

Berger heard a bang, bang, bang over his head. He opened his eyes and found himself back inside his cardboard box.

Burger leaned forward and pulled aside the rag that was his curtain. A policeman's face appeared in front of his.

"You'll have to move all your stuff," the policeman said. "This street is being closed for a festival."

Berger scooted out of his box. With the difficulty of age and abuse, he stood. The policeman didn't look patient.

"I witnessed God," Berger said.

"I'm sure you did," the policeman said. "Now get your junk out of here."

Photo Posted Wednesday, April 30, 2008 internal link   •  (2008) San Francisco, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

Big yellow trams (trolleys) where seen everyplace
(13 of 30) (27211 views)


Polly Whanakraker had alway had a thing about the color yellow, so it was no surprise that she was influenced by the yellow of the trolley that afternoon. She debarked unaware she had been bent to the will of yellow.

Polly always shopped for a few groceries on the way home. But today was different. Without realizing she was doing it, she bypassed the grocery store and continued to the fabric store.

"I'd like 5 meters of that," she said to the clerk and pointed at a vibrant yellow print of sliced lemons. "And the same cut of that one with the yellow birds."

Polly arrived home her arms full of cuts of fabric. She heated a nice pot of tea and de-boxed a few crackers. Then she set to work. Using scissors and push pins, she cut and folded and hung and draped the fabric she had bought that afternoon.

At last, exhausted, Polly fell asleep. While she slept, she dreamt of yellow. She tossed and turned then, at last, fell into a deep sleep.

The next morning Polly woke up. She opened her eyes and looked up at her ceiling. The ceiling was gone, and in its place was a canopy of yellow birds. Polly sat up. She saw the corners of her bead set as posts, with rolled fabric hung from the ceiling. Every where she looked she saw yellow. Her walls were covered. Her dresser and bed tables were covered in yellow cloth.

Polly stood and put on her robe. She walked slowly, taking in all the yellow, and gradually left the bedroom. The rest of the house was normal and untouched. "Gremlins," Polly said.

Then she remembered her dream. She had been walking through a field of yellow mustard plants somewhere in France. At the far end of the field was a yellow house. On the front porch of the house rested a package. The package was yellow, with a yellow bow.

Polly blinked. She walked to the refrigerator and gazed at the small magnetic calendar stuck there. She traced the days with her finger to this day. "Oops," Polly said. "Today is my birthday. Silly me."

Stadtbahn Karlsruhe   •  Photo Posted Friday, April 11, 2008 internal link   •  (2008) Karlsruhe, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

Fluttering heart waits to be swatted
(14 of 30) (26971 views)


The moon moth was a tale of youth. It was a pure black moth that only flew when the moon was full. Nobody had ever seen a moon moth. If you saw its heart-shaped silhouette against the moon you were considered very lucky indeed. If you only saw a heart-shaped shadow cast in the moonlight on a wall or fence post, you were considered very special.

On the night of the summer's first full moon, young Billy Tuesday begged his parents for permission to find a moon moth. Reluctantly his mother agreed, but made him promise to be back by bed time.

Billy reasoned that a moon moth, being only a shadow, could only be captured using a shadow. He found a wide oak tree, well lit by the full moon. Using two sticks and a rock he arranged a trap. The shadow of the long stick was cast horizontally across the tree trunk. Billy sat back and waited.

Almost at once, the shadow of a small black heart fluttered across the tree. Billy knocked the rock out with his foot. The shadow of the stick fell, striking the shadow of the moon moth.

Billy crawled quickly to the base of the tree and searched. There at the very base, almost obscured by shadows of grass, Billy found the shadow of a fallen and broken moon moth. He tried to grab it, but it was only a shadow, so he could not.

Billy stuck a twig in the ground at that point so he could find it again. Then he ran home.

The next morning he announced his success. "But then I couldn't grab it because it was only a shadow."

His father paused with a fork-full of eggs held aloft. "You know, son. The moon moth isn't ...."

"Now hush. Just hush your mouth dear. Billy's still a boy and doesn't need his dreams shattered."

His father finished his breakfast in silence.

Later that morning, Billy finished his chores. With nothing left to do, he hurried across the field to the oak tree. He quickly found the twig he'd stuck there the night before. He removed the stick and examined the base of the tree.

There, where the night before he'd seen the broken shadow of a moon moth, Billy now found a smudge of black lichen. He scraped off a bit of the lichen with his finger nail. "Not a shadow after all," he said to himself.

Although Billy couldn't see it, that smudge of lichen was his future. Someday he too would be eating breakfast. Someday he too would want to tell his son that the moon moth was a myth. Someday he too would be hushed by his wife. Someday he too would finish his breakfast in silence.

Billy stood and kicked the tree. His boot left a smudge on the tree. It was a heart-shaped smudge. It was, and Billy smiled, the shadow of a moon moth. "Yes," he said. "They are real."

Photo Posted Tuesday, April 15, 2008   •  (2008) Pleasanton, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

Pro Chinese flags waived with gusto
(15 of 30) (27201 views)


The pro-Chinese were waving their red flags with gusto. The effect was dramatic. All the red flapping appeared like a fire. A heat became manifest from their energy.

A young boy, not quite tall enough to board rides at a circus, wandered toward the flapping flags. He stood, watching them from a polite distance, and began to cry.

Those behind the barricade, thought they were effecting the boy. They waved their flags harder, outward toward the boy, and yelled Chinese slogans in Chinese.

The boy yelled, "No, no, no!" and jumped up and down.

Two of the youths with flags began to flap them horizontally at the boy. The visual effect was quite dramatic.

The boy waved his arms and yelled, "Fire, fire, fire. No, mommy. Fire, fire."

One of the girls behind the barricade noticed the boy was unhappy. She stopped waving her flag and called to the boy, "What's wrong."

The boy appeared to want to move toward her, but seemed afraid. "Put out the fire," he yelled. "Put it out. Put it out."

The girl talked to her friends. She told them to stop waving so furiously. They stopped. The flags moved to the upright and began to wave calmly, as if in a breeze.

The boy clapped and smiled. Then he turned and ran to a man watching him from across the street.

"Daddy, daddy," the boy called.

His dad grabbed him, and picked him up in a warm hug.

The boy pointed back at the red flags. "I put out the fire," he said.

The man hugged his boy. "I know you did," he said. "And I miss your mother too."

Olympic Torch Protest   •  Photo Posted Saturday, April 19, 2008 internal link   •  (2008) King Street, San Francisco, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

Man rehearses in basement of Symphony Hall
(16 of 30) (27260 views)


Hans Greizlig couldn't afford an instrument of his own. So he would spend every night in the basement of Symphony Hall. There, the instruments were free to check out and use. The Symphony Hall intended this service for children, but adults like Hans were welcome too.

Hans always wanted to play the sax. Not the saxophone, because that was a band instrument. He wanted to learn the sax because the short name, he felt, implied the blues or jazz.

Generally, Hans played so poorly that he was always left alone in a room. While others would play in groups, Hans would make awful noise alone.

One evening, a woman leaned her head in the door.

Hans stopped playing and said, "Yes?"

The woman frowned. "Is that you making that awful noise in here?"

"My jazz, you mean?"

The woman stepped fully into the doorway and crossed her arms. "Not jazz. Certainly not jazz. I know jazz and that isn't jazz. What you are playing, sir, is noise."

Hans had been told this many times before, so he just shrugged.

The woman walked into the room and rummaged through the instrument cabinet. She pulled out a clarinet. "Your embrochure is all wrong for the sax. Your lips are much too tight. In fact," she looked him up and down. "You seem generally very uptight." She held out the clarinet.

"What do you mean? Too tight?"

"Just take it. Trust me. You will have more luck with the clarinet."

Reluctantly, Hans took the clarinet from her. "But how do you play jazz with a clarinet?"

"Don't tell me. Haven't you heard of Dixieland jazz?"

Hans had heard of Dixieland jazz and liked it. He hefted the clarinet. It was much lighter. He set down his sax, the put the clarinet to his lips.

"No! No!," the woman said loudly. "Wait until I've left the room and closed the door."

Hans politely waited, the clarinet to his lips, until the door closed. Then he blew. One clean note. That was all. But it was a clean enough note to make Hans smile.

Photo Posted Sunday, April 20, 2008   •  (2008) Waldstraße, Karlsruhe, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

The restaurant not yet open in spring
(17 of 30) (27102 views)


I am retired from the recycled steel game. Back then I was always amused by good steel being misused as decoration. On our various trips through Europe, I would too often see steel used for lattice work, wrongly in place of wood. I would inappropriately joke that they should sell me the steel, and I would ship them the wood to do the job right. My wife once told me I would buy the Brooklyn bridge if I was ever in Brooklyn.

Once, while visiting Karlsruhe in the south-west of Germany, we happened upon a closed restaurant caged by an elaborate lattice of pure steel. My wife was tired, so we sat there, under the steel, and sipped wine from a 1920's style hip flask.

A German fellow, in a long black wool coat, stopped by to say hello. "You American?" He asked

I almost said, "100%, true blue through and through," but my wife nudged me and said, "Yes. This is a lovely garden you have here."

The German pulled out a cloth handkerchief and blew his nose. "I not shake your hand because I am sick," he apologized with a sincere smile.

"Is this steel for sale?" I asked and my wife kicked me, no harder than usual.

He looked at the metal above and around us. "Steel?" He shook his head. "This isn't steel. This is cast eisen, er, iron."

I took out my glasses and looked again. And by George, if he wasn't right. "It is iron. Isn't it?"

My wife made a noise of superiority.

The German laughed and walked away. He muttered, "Americans. Silly Americans," just loud enough so we could hear.

But that was years ago and now, like I said, I'm now retired from the steel game.

Photo Posted Monday, April 7, 2008 internal link   •  (2008) In the Schloßgarten, Karlsruhe, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

Mustachioed pair in soft hats
(18 of 30) (27103 views)


Ellie and her dad liked to dress up resembling the French detective Clouseau. Her dad's mustache was real, albeit augmented upon occasion with black cotton. Ellie's was always fake.

She, and a bunch of her dad's friends signed up as a team for the Chinese New Year treasure hunt. They named their team, "Clouseau, but no cigar." Although it was their first year they signed up for the advanced clues.

They were wandering around Washington Square Park, looking for a bench with a view of a moose, when Ellie stumbled upon a small gold locket. She picked it up and examined it and discovered the latch was broken. The others gathered around to help. Finally her dad pulled out his Swiss Army knife and popped the locket open.

Inside was the picture of a woman about her dad's age, and a girl about her own age. But that was all. No other identification.

The next morning, Ellie put on her best pair of fake glasses with a mustache, and began to explore the Internet in earnest. She googled. She went to Flickr and tried to devise appropriate tags. She logged into Facebook, and finally, in an act of desperation, uploaded the photo to her page there.

A tip appeared in her inbox. A name and a phone number. Ellie called the number.

"Hello," a woman's voice greeted her.

"Hi," Ellie said. "I think we found your locket in Washington Square."

"Oh, that's not my locket. It's my daughters. She thinks she dropped it the night of the Chinese New Years treasure hunt."

"We were in that too."

"What was your team name?"

"Clouseau, but no cigar."

The woman laughed. "We were The Last Chans."

Ellie laughed.

"Hold on," said the woman. "I'll get my daughter on the phone. I'm sure she'd like to get that locket back."

"Thanks," said Ellie. She waited, then muttered, "They have a hold button and hold music at their house. Cool."

Saint Stupid's Day Parade   •  Photo Posted Sunday, April 6, 2008 internal link   •  (2008) Market at Spear Streets, San Francisco   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

Maze (foreground) insures pedestrian face oncoming trolley
(19 of 30) (27202 views)


Zelda's husband Ace walked with a cane. He generally didn't like to walk all that much, and preferred to ride the trolley whenever possible.

As they approached the platform for the U14, Ace asked, "Why do we have to weave back and forth to get to the platform?"

"Actually," Zelda put her arm through his to help steady him. "They make us turn left before crossing so we can see a train coming."

"But the cars on the road go straight. You never see cars made to zig zag so pedestrians can go straight. Do you?"

"Look. Facing this way we can see a train coming. That's for our safety."

Ace hit the rail with his cane. "What's wrong with a bell and a light?"

"The deaf couldn't hear a bell. And the blind couldn't see a light."

"The blind couldn't see a train either."

"Oh look. There comes a train now."

Ace pushed off with his cane. "We need to hurry across or we'll miss it."

With Zelda'a help, they made it across. The train sounded a loud horn to warn them it was coming. That was because they were on the tracks briefly as it approached.

Later, comfortably sitting on the U14, Ace said, "They keep it too warm in here."

Stadtbahn Stuttgart (the U14 line)   •  Photo Posted Saturday, April 12, 2008 internal link   •  (2008) Stuttgart, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

A Moorish design to the windows
(20 of 30) (27293 views)


"Isn't this nice," Sandy Wilson said to her husband Bob. "The way they emulated Moorish architecture."

Bob hadn't been right in the head since the "Incident," of some years prior. He took off his hat and rubbed his head. "You mean like all those Indian chaps calling for Mrs. Moore outside the courthouse?"

"No, dear. And besides, that was a movie. Not reality."

"I do like the shape though," Bob said and started to roll his hat.

"Don't roll you hat dear."

"The shape is kind of like an ice cream cone, the dipped kind, with chocolate. Sometimes they dip those in peanuts too."

"This whole part of the zoo is patterned around a classic Moorish Garden. It is not just the shape of the windows, but the layout of the grounds as well."

Bob put his hat back on. They were headed outside and the day was chilly. "An ice cream sandwich," he said.

"This is Germany dear, not Kansas. I doubt they have ice cream sandwiches."

"Wasn't the 'Hound of the Baskervilles,' located on the Moors?"

"Moors and the Moorish are two different things."

"Oh." Bob said. He walked side-by-side with his wife out into the garden. A picture of a normal couple out for a day.

"The Moor the merrier," Bob said. He smiled.

"Very good, dear," Sandy said and squeezed his hand.

Photo Posted Tuesday, April 8, 2008 internal link   •  (2008) Botanical Garden, Stuttgart, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

A street of curved buildings
(21 of 30) (27050 views)


Karl Zeiletz was a crooked man. Because of lower back problems that always caused him pain, he walked with his torso in a S shape.

"What could be more appropriate," he asked himself as he walked home. "A crooked man on a crooked street?"

You see, Karl lived on a curved street just behind the train station.

Karl stopped to watch a young man drawing in chalk on the sidewalk. "Your picture is all twisted and crooked. Are those people? Is that a building?" Karl asked.

"This is modern art," the young man said. Then he stood. "You old people are all the same. You think you know art, but you really know nothing. Here." The young man tossed the chalk at Karl's feet. "You fix it."

Karl looked down at the chalk, thousands of miles below, and up to watch the young man scoot down the block and around the corner. Karl looked back at the chalk and at the painting.

With great pain, Karl lowered himself using his cane as a support. Inside his back he felt pops and pings and more pain. With a harrumph, he dropped to his knees. He picked up the chalk.

Karl worked all the afternoon and into the evening. He erased with his hand and drew with the chalk. Gradually, very gradually, the buildings and people re-appeared drawn by him straight and even.

At last done, Karl dropped the tiny nub of chalk. He looked at the picture and felt proud for what he had done. Then he stood and looked for his cane. He found it laying near the gutter in the street. Karl bent and picked it up. "No pain," he said aloud. He bent his back this way and that. He jumped and skipped. The pain was gone. His back felt straight.

Karl walked home. And as he walked he whistled. Karl had not whistled in years. "No longer," he said. "Am I a crooked man on a crooked street."

Karl paused and looked at his street. "Next," he said. "I move to a straight street."

Photo Posted Thursday, April 3, 2008 internal link   •  (2008) Karlsruhe, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

A stunning view of San Francisco and the Bay Bridge
(22 of 30) (27135 views)


Only four of the travelers were allowed awake at a time. It was a great honor, and a necessary one, because the starship needed constant care. Toni5 and Bill34 alternated their time with the other two awakees. During their the current relaxation interval they toured the old exhibits.

"Why do we have to use these old Segways?" Toni5 asked.

Their guide in the exhibit was a projection. "Because," he explained in a soft, patient voice. "These were the actual mode of transportation back then."

"But the model twelve is so much better. We can fly when we need to."

"Please," said Bill34. "I really want to see the exhibits."

They rolled to the next sign. The guide pretended to read from it. "San Francisco was a small city at the tip of a peninsula."

The next display lit up. They appeared to be on a large island in the middle of a large body of water. The city was a long way off.

"How come we only get to see distant cities"? Toni5 asked.

"The Designers wanted to influence the sleepers as little as possible. Distant cities, they felt, were more mythic than real. All the exhibits are designed to inspire with awe, rather than to suggest solutions."

Bill34 laughed. "They didn't trust us did they?"

The guide fell silent for a moment, then spoke again. "This exhibit was created as a trust for all the generations to follow."

Toni5 winced. "This guide is a little creepy."

"What's next," Bill34 asked.

The guide gestured for them to follow. "Our next hall examines the animal life of the African continent."

"Oh good," Toni5 said. "Animals."

"Extinct, I would guess," Bill34 said. "Don't you agree guide?"

The guide answered at once. "All life on earth is extinct. Even humans. The Quezlapinaue found your planet and created this starship two thousand years ago. You are all cloned from human remains."

"Yeah, yeah," Toni5 faked a yawn. "Tell us something we don't know."

The guide was silent as they rolled into the next hall. Silent longer than usual. When he spoke, his voice was different. "This is the main computer speaking. The ship is preparing to land. Please return to your sleep module at once."

"Rats," Toni5 said. "I wanted to see the animals."

Angel Island Segway Tours   •  Photo Posted Monday, April 28, 2008 internal link   •  (2008) Angel Island, San Francisco Bay   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

Picnic area on section of small beach
(23 of 30) (27093 views)


Sitting around the Remembering Circle, it became old Jeffrey's turn to speak. He lowered the fur wrap from his mouth and felt the bitter cold sting his lips. Wood for fire was running low and nobody that was left could go out to chop trees.

"Firstly," Jeffrey began. "I want to say again that I'm not here by choice. I could have made it. I wasn't that weak, like some of you."

"Now, hush," old Ying said. She sat across from Jeffrey, wearing a tattered mink coat, and wrapped in blankets. "You tell us that every time we have the Remembering."

Old Mack barked a cough. Then he leaned forward, his finger over the record button. "You ready to start?"

"Yeah," Jeffrey said.

With a soft click, the recorder began. Mack said the date into it, then turned the recorder to face Jeffrey.

"My name's Jeffrey McBanks. And this is my Remembering for today."

Jeffrey cleared his throat. "When I was a boy, I thought the rising seas were the most exciting thing ever. All the land around us used to be housing tracts and hills. Then the water rose, and then we lived on an island. One that used to be a hill.

"My parents would pack a lunch of egg sandwiches and apples. Oh, I sure do remember those apples. We had an apple tree on our island. Anyway, we would head to the beach. Not a big beach, mind you, but a little sucker, maybe thirty feet or so wide.

"Frisbee still existed then. And footballs. We would run and play catch. I remember more than once that I got sunburned. I remember that day especially because that was the day the first boat came. A small sailboat, made of bamboo, I think. It looked all hand made and ratty. It just appeared off shore and drifted toward us. Eventually the wind blew it onto our beach.

"I remember Dad wouldn't let us kids look inside. A bunch of dead Chinese, he told us. A whole family."

Jeffrey rubbed his eye. "I remember how sad it was. We buried them in the small cemetery we'd set up and used their boat to build a new chicken coop. But that, it turned out, was just the first boat of thousands. After a while, we thought all of China was trying to escape the starvation there.

"Later, when I was an adult, we lived on our island with four Chinese families."

"That's it," Mack said. "No more batteries until tomorrow. Let's hope the sun will appear so we can re-charge"

Jeffrey pulled up fur to cover his mouth, then lowered it again.

"It ain't fair," he said for the umteenth time. "Just cuz the bay froze. How come they all had to head south over the ice, and leave us old folks here?"

"Now just hush," Ying said. "It's no use scratching an old wound. It'll just leave a scar. And we all know how bad scars can be."

Around the Remembering Circle, all the old people nodded in agreement. Outside, a cold wind howled.

Angel Island State Park   •  Photo Posted Sunday, April 27, 2008 internal link   •  (2008) San Francisco Bay, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

Dancing Trees In A Photo Album
(24 of 30) (27161 views)


Dancing Trees In A Photo Album

Some families dump all their old photos into a box in the closet, others into a drawer, and others into an old steamer trunk. In the attic of the old house just inherited, Toby Williams was bored one afternoon, and for want of an activity, discovered that very trunk.

Among the stale smelling albums and old documents, Toby stumbled upon an old wrapped set of drawings. Pencil sketches showed two trees beside a pond. Based on the dates on the back of the drawings, Toby concluded each had been drawn a year apart.

Later he pulled out a box of photos, a mix of box camera black and white prints and color slides. They too showed two trees beside a pond, and they too were taken a year apart. Curious, Toby dug through the rest of the box and eventually found more photos of the same trees.

Toby laid out the drawings and photos in date order and tried to see any connection between them. "Wow," he said when he saw it. "Those trees appear to be dancing."

Using a scanner and software on his Imac, Toby scanned all the images into his computer. Then he loaded them into his movie-making software. He watched the result and said, "Wow, they are really dancing."

Toby uploaded his film to It didn't take long for comments to arrive. "Where did you find these trees?" and "What park is this? In what city? In what country?"

Toby went back to the trunk and searched everything. Not a hint. "Nothing," he said. "You'd think there'd be a map or something."

A month passed. The video called, "Dancing Trees," was viewed one million times. Eventually a comment arrived the tickled Toby's interest.

"In Stuttgart," it said. "I think I know where these trees are. They are a short walk from the train station."

Toby exchanged email with the person from Stuttgart.

Toby soon planned his trip to Germany. He arranged to take his two weeks vacation in the fall. He had never traveled overseas before and was excited.

Toby paused on his way home to buy a map of Germany. He stood outside the bookstore and noticed something about himself. "I'm not bored," he said. "I haven't been bored since I discovered that trunk."

Photoblog 2008   •  Albums Of Photos external link Of Persons As People   •  Schloßgarten internal link Stuttgart, Germany   •  (Photo Taken in 2008)   •  (Photo Posted Monday 21 April 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

Symbolic of protests unvoiced by politicians
(25 of 30) (27364 views)


Mightier Then The Pen
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Sally Yee had always been taught by her father, Sam Yee, that, sure, the pen is mightier than the sword, but silence is even mightier than the pen. Sally witnessed this point on the one night her father came home drunk and smelling of perfume.

Sally's mother, Chi, was so angry she refused to speak in Sam's presence for a week. Where before, Sally's father had always been boisterous and confident. After, at least for a while, he became meek and apologetic.

Sally once told a classmate about her mother. "In my family," she said. "The approval of our mother is everything. If she disapproves, that stings. But if she withdraws affection, well that just plain kills."

Sally's sister, Toni, once came home and announce engagement to a man whose body was covered with tattoos. Sally's mother was disappointed and angry. She refused to talk to Tony for a month. The engagement was broken. Afterward, Toni became an obedient daughter, at least for a while.

So it is no surprise that Sally chose to protest as silent witness. "Yes," she said to her reflection in the bathroom mirror. "Silent witness, mightier than the pen."

At noon, Sally stood on the step of a trolley stop. Her mouth was covered with a yellow ribbon. On the ribbon words in support of Tibet. She thought calming thoughts. A small hum of contentment crept from her throat.

"She said something," a boy's voice intruded. "She's not supposed to talk. She's a mime."

"No," Sally heard the boy's mother say. "She's not a mime. She's a, well, a symbol."

"Like in a band."

"No, like the lady with scales. The one symbolic of Justice."

"I don't get it. But she's not supposed to talk. She's a mime."

"No dear. Not a mime."

"She is! She is! I heard her talk."

"Now bite your tongue young man. We're here to see the torch. Let's go find a place to stand."

The boy and mother walked off. Sally found she'd been holding her breath. She let it out and looked. The boy held a Chinese flag. Clearly his mother supported China. Perhaps someday, Sally thought. Someday that boy will look back on this and support Tibet.

Behind her, Sally heard a woman say, "That's my daughter and she makes me so very proud." It wasn't Sally's mother. The timber of her voice was too high and the accent wrong.

Sally thought of her own mother. She smiled under her ribbon. Unaccountably, she felt proud.

Olympic Torch vanished from the planned route   •  Photo Posted Wednesday, April 16, 2008   •  (2008) King Street, San Francisco, California   •  © 2008 Terry Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

A cowboy hat on a cowboy loading a horse into a trailer
(26 of 30) (27146 views)


John was a man with three last names. For most of his life named John Lobonski, he now struggled to pull his horse, named Tinfoil, aboard the horse trailer. "Git up," he said. "Come on now. Load up."

While tugging, John's mind wandered. Now understand that John's mind never wandered. "A wandering mind," he often said. "Is the mark of an immature fellow." But just the same, his mind wandered.

John remembered his first father, Henry Baker. An avid hunter, his father bled to death from a hunting wound to his groin. His reported last words were, "Make sure that boy of mine amounts to a hill of beans."

John's second dad was Troy Flashoper, a fisherman. He was a rough man who sometimes hit John's mother. But he was gone for months at a time, so John didn't mind. One fishing trip Troy reportedly fell overboard and drowned.

John's last dad was Zack Lobonski. John's mother had moved to Wyoming to take a job with the University in Laramie. She married Zack and began life as the wife of a rancher. Zack was bringing cattle in from a sudden thunder storm when he was struck by lightening and killed.

John's mother sold the ranch and used the money to buy a small horse ranch, the Bar None, in the central valley of California. It was on that ranch that John grew up. Forty years later his mother died of cancer and John inherited the ranch. Just three names, that was all. His mother had never married again after Zack.

John thought he heard his wife call, "Get the lead out. Load that horse so we can go." But his wife died last year. Childless, she died from the same cancer that killed his mother.

All John had left was his horse, Tinfoil.

From somewhere deep behind his eyes a flood gate opened. Not a physical flood gate, mind you, but an emotional one. John's mind filled to overflowing with love for his horse Tinfoil.

John felt the lead go loose in his hand. He opened his eyes, surprised they'd been closed. He watched Tinfoil load himself willingly into the trailer.

Saint Patrick's Day Festival   •  Photo Posted Thursday, April 17, 2008   •  (2008) San Francisco, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

Tiny, but fancy marmosets were there too
(27 of 30) (27119 views)


"Mommy. That monkey looks like grandpa."

"It's not a monkey. It's a marmoset."

"It still looks like grandpa. All hairy and small."

"How many times have I told you not to talk badly about grandpa and his dwarfism."

"But he's not here."

"But walls have ears. What you say here, may find its way back to grandpa."

"I don't mean that grandpa sits on a stick."

"I know you don't dear."

"And I don't mean that grandpa is hairy all over."

"I know dear. It's just impolite to talk that way is all."


"Let's go look at the big apes next."

"Can we get a marmoset at the gift store?"

"Very good. You learned a new word. And no we can't."


Zoologisch-Botanischer Garten Wilhelma Neckartalstraße   •  Photo Posted Friday, April 4, 2008 internal link   •  (2008)In Schloßgarten, Stuttgart, Germany   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

Graffiti inspires morning conversation
(28 of 30) (27072 views)


Their neighborhood had succumbed to a wave of graffiti, which upset Norma Slizika no end. "Damn it all to hell," she would lament to her husband as they walked to their places of work, "The place has fallen into a pit of disrespect. Kids nowadays will deface anything, no matter who owns it and no matter how nice the inhabitants."

"Calm yourself," her husband Bruno was wont to say. "Who are we to judge art? You remember how much we hated rap music when it began. Why, you yourself called it the sick rantings of the vacuous."

"But this isn't just new music that we can turn off. This is a broad defacement of all we care about. Beautiful little cottages turned into swear words. The school now mocking religion, education and the suffrage of minorities."

"If Picasso had been a muralist in the public, would you then have hated him the way you hate the art of our present young?"

"I can't know that. I can't go back then. I can only know what is now offal passing for art, but is really defacement."

Bruno paused and grabbed his wife's arm to stop her too. "Look," he said and pointed at the front of a house. "Isn't that our son's name?"

"Highly stylized to be sure, but yes, I believe you are right. It is Myp's name."

Bruno pulled his cellphone and hit a four to quick-dial his son. "It went right to voice mail."

"Of course. He's still in school. They insist the children turn off their cellphones during class."

A woman's face appeared in the window. She smiled and waved and pointed at her front door.

Norma asked Bruno, "I wonder what she wants?"

"I guess she wants us to wait."

The front door opened and a middle-aged woman stepped out. "Hi," she said. "I noticed you were admiring our art."

"Not admiring," Norma said. "We only noticed the name of our son and stopped to wonder about it."

"Was that your son?" the woman asked. "My gosh, you both must be so proud."

Bruno raised just his left eyebrow. "Proud. Why proud?"

"Haven't you seen his fabulous mural under the train over-crossing? It is stupendous, and original, and amazingly well drawn. I saw it and met him, and asked him to do the front of our house."

"That couldn't be our son," Norma said. "Our son has no artistic talent. It must be somebody else's son."

"Yes, surely not our son." Bruno took his wife's hand in his. "But thank you for the explanation. Alas, but we must hurry to work."

The woman smiled. "Thanks for admiring my art."

"Our pleasure," Norma said, but she didn't sound sincere.

Bruno led his wife away. "What do you mean our son lacks artistic talent? Our son is a fine artist."

"It was that woman. I didn't want her to know our son defaced the front of her house."

"But she thought it was art."

"Clearly she lacks taste."

"But our son drew it."

"His talent not withstanding."

Bruno paused in his walking and turned to his wife. "Tell you what," he said. "After work, lets visit the underpass under the railroad. Let's see what our son did. Let's reserve judgement until then."

"Okay," Norma replied but in a voice that sounded as if her fingers were crossed.

"Really Norma," Bruno said. They began walking again, a bit quicker because they were now running a little late. "Really Norma, sometimes I just don't know about you."

Norma sniffed in the manner that told Bruno she didn't want to talk anymore. They walked the rest of the way to their places of work in silent thought.

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

Add a comment or report a mistake

Teens hang out and smoke pot under the bridge
(29 of 30) (27156 views)


Carol Donley and Vince Westerman were teenagers and artists. They liked to just hang out under the road along Pleasanton's Centennial Trail. Carol was into odor art, like perfumery but broader. Vince was into wide markers and tagging.

Carol leaned back against the concrete upright and gazed at the creek. "I like the way it hesitates and becomes still just before it falls down the little embankment."

"I always wondered how to tag water. Maybe in a wide, still spot. You know, then dribble oil or something."

"That would need sun to work. Like, well, the rainbows on sidewalks after a rain."

"Or what if I used black sand to make a design under the water. You know, on the bottom."

"Too much sand, too heavy. I'm not carrying all those bags of sand for you."

"No. I meant just a little sand. You know. Like the Indian paintings. Little cups of sand."

Carol pulled out a vial and opened it. "Here. Smell this."

"Smells like pot."

"I call it, pot-pour-e."

They both heard voices at the same time. Other folks coming down the trail. Carol sighed and closed her vial.

The stood and held hands. The family passed them on the trail. They heard comments like, "Dirty kids," and "I smell dope."

Carol looked at Vince and smiled. He looked at her and laughed.

"Let's go," Vince said.


"Let's go buy some sand."

Pleasanton Centennial Trail   •  Photo Posted Sunday, April 13, 2008   •  (2008) Pleasanton, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

Irish wolfhounds enjoy the fair too
(30 of 30) (27386 views)


Nancy Freundlich took her two Irish wolfhound puppies, Donner and Blitzen, to all the fairs and festivals. They were just too cute for words, and provided her the means to meet people. That's how she met her husband Bob.

Nancy and Bob took their two three-year-old Irish wolfhounds to all the fairs and festivals. The dogs were handsom beyond words, and were always a hit among their friends.

Suzy was born when the dogs were four. Her parents took her to all the fairs and festivals. Their two large Irish wolfhounds would stand guard over her as she lay wrapped in a blanket and sleeping.

When Suzy was four, she liked to nap with her head on the soft fur of the two Irish wolfhounds. At fairs and festivals, they provide warmth and safety and made her the hit among other kids.

When Suzy was eight, the first of the two Irish wolfhounds died of cancer. The had Donner's body cremated and spread his ashes under an apple tree at the fairgrounds. A curious squirrel watched until Blitzen barked.

When Suzy was nine, the second of the two Irish wolfhounds died of simple old age. Suzy believed he died of loneliness, but her mother assured her that was not the case. Blitzen was buried in the pet cemetery under the bridge.

Nancy and Bob took their daughter Suzy to fairs and festivals. One day, Suzy found an ad in the paper for a dog show. So, instead of garlic fries that afternoon, they spent the day looking at dogs.

When Suzy left for college, she said a sad goodbye to her parents' two large Irish wolfhounds. She gave Donner-Dos a big hug. Then she gave Blitzen-Deux a hug. The two dogs watched from a window as Suzy was driven to the airport.

When Suzy was forty, she remembered with fondness the Irish wolfhounds of her youth. She researched on the web and found a breeder in the next state. Over the Easter break she drove east and purchased two fine Irish wolfhound puppies.

Suzy took her two Irish wolfhound puppies, Zeus and Apollo, to all the fairs and festivals. They were just too cute for words, and provided her the means to meet people. That's how she met her husband Juan.

Saint Patrick's Day Fair   •  Photo Posted Tuesday, April 1, 2008   •  (2008) Civic Center, San Francisco, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

Add a comment or report a mistake

Subscribe to our mailing list for a Sunday summary of the week's stories.
* indicates required
Email Format
home contact topic guide top 25 photos video writing blogs upload terms privacy