2008/05
May 2008 Photofictional
A Daily Blog Posting By Bryan Costales

Free, May, short-short stories from 2008.
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Monte exhibited disdain for back seat shooter
(1 of 31) (6988 views)

© 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Sure, Dad was a slow driver, after all he was very old and just getting older. Gina in the back seat was late to her soccer game. She knew she shouldn't talk to her Dad when he drove, so she asked her older brother, "Manny? What time is it?"

Manny glared at her. "You have lots of time."

Dad spoke up, "The faster you drive, the more likely it is you'll have an accident. It's a proven fact. I read it in the newspaper."

Manny glared at her again. "Now see what you did."

"It wasn't me. I only asked you for the time."

Dad liked to pontificate while he drove, but seldom began speaking unless prompted. "Before we moved here we lived in San Francisco. Gina, you were too young to remember that. But there it wasn't highways like it is here. There we had buses. I wouldn't have to drive you everywhere. You'd just take a bus."

Gina bounced in her seat. "I see the field!"

Dad flipped on his signal to exit the highway. "We should get one of those hybrids. You know, fifty miles to the gallon. With gas this pricy it costs a lot to haul you around. But we can't afford it since Mom died and can't work anymore."

"I should have enough money saved for a car soon," Manny said.

Dad stopped at the red light. "That may be true, Manny. But you won't want to haul Gina around any more than I do."

"I'm still sitting back here."

Dad turned right when traffic cleared and pulled in to the Recreation Department's soccer field parking lot. "Please don't slam the door."

Gina shot out of the car and slammed the door.

Manny watched her run to join her friends. "Mind if I listen to the radio?"

"NPR?"

"Yeah," Manny said. "That will be good."


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BP20080514.jpg

The conversation became lively, then frantic
(2 of 31) (6959 views)

How Weird Street Fair
Photo Posted Wednesday, May 14, 2008
(2008) Howard Street, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Stella Tsaf noticed she was talking awfully fast, so she stopped. She listened to her friends chatting around her and they sounded normal. Stella spoke again and felt like she was rattling out words at a machine gun pace.

Her friend, Bob Namwols, looked at her oddly. "Why are you talking so fast. Are you on meth or something?"

Stella clamped her hands over her mouth. No, she hadn't taken any drugs. She couldn't imagine what could be happening to her. She looked at Bob and noticed that his blink seemed to take a little too long. It looked more like he was winking at her, than like he was blinking.

"What are you doing?" She asked. Her ears heard it as "zzz."

Bob said something but it sounded to Stella like he was playing back at the wrong speed. Much too low and slow.

She tried waving her hand in front of Bob's face. The action caused her hand to warm up. "Ouch," Stella said to herself. She paused. She could hear herself again. To herself she sounded normal.

All the friends around her were moving in slow motion. The fair was beginning to be not fun. Stella decided to head home.

She tried to jog home, but the air seemed to thick. So she walked.

Stella stood at the corner of Seventh and Harrison and waited for the light to change. Suddenly the sounds of the city returned. Traffic began to run at its normal speed again. The air no longer felt thick.

Stella heard her cellphone ring and answered it.

"Where did you go?"

"What do you mean? Who is this?"

"This is Bob. One second you were there in front of me, and the next you just vanished."

Stella found that funny. Bob was always vanishing on her. "What comes around goes around," she said. "What's good for the goose is good for the gander."

Stell stopped talking. The air felt thick again. "Oh, oh," she said. But her voice sounded to her like "zz."


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BP20080509.jpg

Horse inspired design for future carrousel
(3 of 31) (6975 views)

Photo Posted Friday, May 9, 2008 internal link
(2008) Zoo in Karlsruhe, Germany
© 2008 Terry Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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The Horse
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Brenda E. Quine remained after the other art students had left. She'd sketched the pretty horse several times but couldn't get her concept down on paper. She flipped to the next page and there found a drawing of a pole.

"That's strange. I don't remember drawing a pole. It's my style, alright. Maybe my memory is starting to go."

She considered turning the page again, but decided to draw her horse over the pole. It was more of a whim than a decision.

She creased her forehead the way she always did while drawing. She drew fiercely and with abandon. Soon she completed her drawing and stopped to look at it.

A man's voice intruded. "Is that a carrousel animal?"

"No," Brenda looked and saw one of the Zoo workers, an older man with a full brown beard. "At least that wasn't my intention."

She looked at her own picture again and saw what the man saw. "Gosh," she said. "You're right. It is a carrousel animal."

"I've seen a lot of carrousels. Here and in France, and I don't think I've ever seen anything like that before."

Brenda blushed. "Thank you," she said. "But it's just a sketch. You know, a sketch for art class."

The man rummaged through his jacket pockets and pulled out a pencil and a slip of paper. "I'll give you my phone number. The Zoo is planning a new carrousel and is looking for designs. Call me," he handed her the slip with his number, "And I'll let you know who to send your sketch to."

"You mean a student can submit?"

"Anyone can." The man bowed a little bow, and left.

Brenda looked at her sketch again, then got the idea for another animal. She flipped to the next page and found a pole already drawn on that page too.

"What's going on here?"

Brenda flipped to the next page, then the next, and kept flipping to the end and found a pole drawn on ever page.

"Spooky," she said. "I don't remember drawing all those poles."

She closed her book then flipped it over to its cover. She hadn't looked at the cover before and was surprised by the text there."

"A Carrousel Design Book," it read. "Twelve blank pages, followed by thirty-six pages with poles."

Brenda blushed again. She looked around but nobody seemed to be looking her way. "Stupid," she said and shook her head. But in the back of her mind she thought, "Kismet."


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BP20080517.jpg

Fog began to roll in near sunset
(4 of 31) (7024 views)

KFOG Kaboom Concert and Fireworks
Photo Posted Saturday, May 17, 2008 internal link
(2008) Piers 32-34, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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"Fog schmog," Del Woxman said to his date. "So far today, you've complained about the heat, complained about the noise, and complained about the crowds. Now, if I hear you right, you're about to complain about the fog."

"Would you really talk like that if I was a real date?" his wife Toni asked. She pulled the collar of her leather coat up to counter the chill.

"Hard to say. I mean, after twenty years have I forgotten what a date is like?"

"Trust me," Toni said and put her arm through his. "You wouldn't last a second out there with an attitude like yours. You need to mellow."

"Mellow Schmello," Del said.

"And you'd have to stop schmelowing all your answers. That's another thing that can be a real turn off."

"Hey, what's going on here? Are you planning on leaving me. Grooming me for the world after you go? Twenty years. I mean twenty years ought to count for something?"

"No, silly. You know I could never leave you." Tony pulled Del close and gave him a warm kiss.

"Then what's going on?"

Tony stopped and turned to face Del. "It's me. I want to go on dates with my husband, and I don't want him to be a frump. That's all. I'm being selfish. That's it. That's all."

Del looked at Tony thoughtfully. Then he said, "Can I get my pretty date a drink?"

"Make it a double."


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BP20080502.jpg

Three benches huddle against a brick wall
(5 of 31) (6976 views)

Photo Posted Friday, May 2, 2008
(2008) Karlsruhe, Germany
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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The old, abandoned hospital was full of operating equipment, chemicals, and powerful drugs. Knives, saws, and cutters of all sorts littered counters, tables and floors. The hospital was a perfect place for children to play.

Jason17 sat on one of the three reanimation benches behind the hospital. The last time he had registered his body was two years ago. He had the body of a thirteen year old then. Now he was more of a fifteen year old. He realized he should register again to come back as a fifteen year old. If he died now, he would come back as a thirteen year old, and that would stink.

Jason17 decided he would find Hana and Tony and let them know his decision. On the way in through the back door of the hospital he remembered what he'd been taught. When death became obsolete in his parents day, children inherited the right to remain children for as long as they wanted.

He found his friends in the old lobby. The had both burned their faces with acid and wore torn, blood stained orderly uniforms.

"We're zombies," Hana4 said. Her voice slurred as if she'd taken powerful pain pills.

"We'll chase you and try to kill you," Tony23 said.

"Okay, but just for a little while. I decided I need to register my body again. I want to do that today."

"Okay," Hana4 said. "I get it. We won't kill you when we catch you."

"We'll count to 100," Tony23 said and started counting.

Jason17 dashed back through the hospital. He found the stairway and took steps down two at a time. The morgue was down there and the smell alone would hide him.

It had been years since he'd been down there and hadn't realized how full it had become with the bodies of dead children. The corridor was too full for him to pass. Before he turned back he noticed one of his own bodies. It looked old. Had he once been twenty years old?

His downward path blocked, Jason17 dashed up stairs. He was in good shape and made it to the roof without breathing hard. Up there he was surprised to find Hana4 and Tony23 waiting for him.

They raised their hands like ghouls and walked stiff-legged toward him.

Playing along, Jason17 walked backward and said, "Stay away, stay away." But his heart just wasn't in it.

He stopped and announced, "I don't want to play anymore. I want to become an adult."

But his friends were too stoned to listen. They continued to march toward him.

Jason17 took another step back and rotting concrete gave way. He fell over backward and down off the roof. "No," he screamed. "Not now!"

Jason18 reanimated on a bench behind the hospital. "Dang," he said. "I must have died. I bet it was Hana and Tony. I'll show them."

With the body and mind of a thirteen year old, Jason18 dashed into the hospital to play.


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BP20080515.jpg

The mayor's car was strangely absent a mayor
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Saint Patrick's Day Parade
Photo Posted Thursday, May 15, 2008
(2008) San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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The Mayor rode in the back of his limo. He was on his way to the Saint Patrick's day parade. For some reason --perhaps it was the soft rush of air-conditioned air, or perhaps it was the dim flicker of sunlight beyond the tinted windows-- but whatever the reason, he closed his eyes and melted into solace.

The Mayor felt the weight of a large insect on his shoulder and moved automatically to swat it off.

"Hey buddy!" a tiny voice yelled in his ear. "Watch who you swat."

The mayor opened his eyes and looked at his shoulder. A tiny man stood there. Except for silken wings, the man looked like any homeless man from the city. "Who are you?"

"Today I'm a leprechaun. Tomorrow I'll be a pixie. Tonight I might be the tooth fairy. Whatever you need me to be, I'll be."

"Why would I need you?"

"Why to receive a wish of course. One wish, just one. For whatever you want."

The Mayor thought about it. "Okay," he said. "I wish for...."

Someone shook his shoulder. The Mayor opened his eyes.

It was his assistant. "Wake up Mr. Mayor. We're here."

The Mayor stepped from the limo into the bright sunlight and heat. He waved at the crowd of well wishers. Surrounded by police he hurried to his parade car. He stopped just short of the car and looked at it. "It's empty," he said and realized that was a foolish thing to say.

"Of course it is, Mr. Mayor. You're not in it yet."

"I wish I was."

The next thing the Mayor knew he was sitting in the back seat of his parade car. He didn't remember walking to it. He didn't remember climbing in.

The Mayor remembered the tiny homeless man and felt a sour taste in his mouth.


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BP20080524.jpg

They sailed under the bridge without seeing it
(7 of 31) (6984 views)

Golden Gate Bridge viewed from the bay
Photo Posted Saturday, May 24, 2008
(2008) Hornblower Cruise, San Francisco Bay
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Sally McPhano was very old. She sat on the back of an San Francisco bound ferry wrapped in her warmest coat. She watched a sailboat in the distance traveling the other way. "That's like my life," she muttered. "First sailing toward oblivion, then motoring back into life."

Sally had spent the last fifteen years in a home for the elderly. She was eighty-nine year old and felt she had wasted those last fifteen years. "Somalert," she said. "Like all the King's men. Only this time they put me back together again."

Sally was on her way to Colma. Her mind completely reconstructed by the miraculous drug, she could travel on her own now to visit the graves of her family.

A man sat next to her.

She saw a paper cup of hot tea cupped in his gloved hands and realized how cold she was. She shivered.

"Somalert?" the man asked.

Sally looked at him. He had a full grey beard and wore a tightly checked wool coat and matching hat. He was handsome and appeared her age.

"Yes Somalert," she said. "A week ago. Three years too late for my kids."

"Dementia can be wicked," he said. "I only remember being terribly confused for the last ten years. I guess my family dumped me into a home, but I don't remember. I don't even recall if I knew I was going to die."

"Me too," Sally said. She was tempted to ask for a sip of that hot tea. "And then came Somalert."

"And then came Somalert," the man said and held up is tea as if to toast. "Oh," he said. "Would you like this tea?"

"It's your tea."

"I can get another. I'm back again. I can do anything I want."

Sally took the cup from him. It felt warm in her cold hands. "Thanks."

"Nomad," said the man.

"What?"

"Nomad Salimano, that's my name."

"Sally. Sally McPhano," she said. "Pleased to meet you."

"I'll be right back," Nomad said. "I'll just go get another cup of tea."

"Wait up," Sally said. "I'll walk with you."

They stood together. Neither had to help the other.

Sally noticed Nomad was the right height for her. She smiled at him.

He smiled back.


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BP20080512.jpg

The next morning always caused her amazement
(8 of 31) (6945 views)

How Weird Street Fair
Photo Posted Monday, May 12, 2008
(2008) Howard Street, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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"Damn," Charlene Tahcigam muttered on her way home. She'd lost her bus pass and all her cash so had to walk home. The sun had risen an hour ago, but Sunday morning found south of Market still vacant.

Charlene recalled Bullwinkle and his magic hat. "Watch Rocky, while I pull a rabbit out of the hat." Bullwinkle never found a rabbit because his magic hat was a dud.

Charlene took her hat off and looked at it while she walked. "No rabbit in you either. Damn!"

Charlene remembered when she had first bought the hat. She was with friends in a used clothing store near Church Street at the time. The hat felt old to her, really old. It felt right in her hands and fit her head. Her friends oohed and ah'd at her hat.

Charlene believed her hat was magic. But, like Bullwinkle, she failed to ever pull a rabbit out of it. Last night she wanted to pull love from the hat. But she instead witnessed two guys fight in the street, swiping at each other with pool cues.

It would have been okay if they had been fighting over her. But they weren't. They fought because one accused the other of cheating at the game.

Charlene turned the hat over and over in her hands, thoughtfully. She paused and looked closely inside it. There, inside the top, she saw a thin slit. She turned the hat one way then the other. Yes, definitely a slit.

Using just her finger tips she pried the slit open and pulled out an old business card. The card was brown and had faded black ink. The writing was fancy and appeared ancient.

Aloud, she read, "Whomever wears this hat shall be granted one wish. But woe betide any who wish for more."

Charlene flipped the card over. The back was blank. "Damn."

Charlene kept walking. She was almost home. She tucked the card back into its slit. She wanted to put the hat back on. The morning was chilly and she was getting cold. But she didn't put it back on.

Charlene paused by a parking meter, its tiny green eye blinking. She set the hat onto the parking meter. She stepped back and looked. The hat was a perfect fit. "Damn."

Charlene walked home and tried not to think about the hat. But her mind kept wandering back to the day she first bought the hat. What had been her first wish? She couldn't remember. Did it come true? Yes, it probably did. She couldn't remember. "Damn."


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BP20080526.jpg

The leeks grew old waiting to become soup
(9 of 31) (6958 views)

Photo Posted Monday, May 26, 2008
(2008) Ferry Building, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Basta Jolinni, in the darkness before dawn, found the back door to his cafe unlocked and partly open. The words, "I been robbed," leapt from his lips before he could stop them. Worried the thieves might be inside, Basta opened the door slowly.

His cafe was small. On tiptoe in the doorway he could see everything. The counter was empty. The kitchen was unoccupied. The cafe was safe.

Basta entered and smelled immediately the pungent aroma of leek soup. "I'm sure," he said. "I didn't leave the stove on last night." Yet, sure enough, a large pot was simmering.

Basta lifted the lid and smelled. The soup, he sensed, was perfect. He stirred the broth and sipped. The taste was exquisite.

Puzzled, Basta put the lid back and looked around the kitchen. Stuck to the refrigerator with a piece of tape was a folded note. Basta plucked the note from the refrigerator door and opened it.

"Sir or Madam," it read. "I broke in here to rob you but I found a bunch of leeks hanging. They were almost too old to be used. You should be ashamed. The leek is God's gift to soup. A leek must never be wasted. I did my best to save them before they went bad."

The note was unsigned. Basta looked at the soup then back at the note. He sighed.

A rumbled sound came from just beyond the counter. Basta set the note down and cautiously peered over the counter. On the floor, asleep, was a homeless man. The oder of the soup masked the stink of the man.

Basta noticed the man's hands were spotlessly clean. Clearly he had washed before making the soup. "Like the movie Ratatouille," Basta said. "A man became a rat and broke into my cafe to rob me. Instead he made soup and slept."

The man's eyes opened quickly and went too wide. A look of surprise and fear on his face, the man scooted back. "I'm sorry! I'm sorry," he said in too loud a voice. "I'll go. I'll get out of here."

Basta remained calm and silent. He just smiled at the man and waited. Slowly the man calmed.

"My name's Basta," he said at last. "I own this cafe. Can I offer you a nice bowl of delicious leek soup?"


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BP20080508.jpg

Graffiti on wall spoiled his idyllic walk
(10 of 31) (6880 views)

Photo Posted Thursday, May 8, 2008
(2008) Karlsruhe, Germany
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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On warm afternoons, Hans Ledom liked to sit on the bench in front of his house. There he would lean on his cane and watch the people walking past.

Occasionally, a walker would pause and point a camera at him. Hans would always stand, turn sideways, and walk towards his garage door. He felt this pose would look best on camera.

But today, the man across the street did not simply take his picture and yell, "Thanks."

Instead, the man lowered his camera, frowned, and walked across to Hans.

"Is something wrong?" Hans asked. The weight on his knees from standing so long began to bother him, so returned to his bench, and sat down again.

"My name's Joseph Manswen," the man said and extended his hand. "I'm with the newspaper."

"Pleased to meet you." Hans shook his hand then looked at Joseph's face. Hans had to shade his eyes because the sun was high in the sky behind the newspaper man.

"That graffiti on your wall," Joseph pointed. "Can you wash that off?"

"Why?"

"This would be a stunning shot, if not for that little bit of graffiti. It's a shot I'd really like to publish in our newspaper."

"Can't you use Photoshop to erase it? Another photographer told me he would do that."

"I can't use Photoshop. The newspaper won't allow it. I can just crop the shot or fix color balance."

"A Japanese tourist told me I should leave the graffiti. He said it was wabi. A Japanese term that means --now let me get this right-- the one flaw that makes perfection."

"Yeah. I've also heard that called wabi san."

Hans raised his hand palm up as if to say, "Why not?"

"Okay," Joseph said. "I suppose I can take the shot as-is."

Joseph crossed back across the street and raised his camera to shoot.

Hans rose with the help of his cane an stood. He walked forward and posed again. But the graffiti caught his eye. He looked at it and frowned. Then he called to Joseph across the street, "Wait a minute. I want to clean off this graffiti."

Joseph lowered his camera again. "What happened to wabi?"

"I don't care much for that Japanese mumo jumbo. I'm going to clean the wall."

Joseph watched the old man hobble back into his house. The fellow looked pretty frail. "He won't be ready today," Joseph said.

Joseph walked off, swinging his camera. He went a half block, then stopped and turned back to look again at the old man's house. "You know," he said. "If that old guy erases the graffiti, then that old man himself will become the wabi."

Joseph laughed at his own joke.


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BP20080531.jpg

Last call
(11 of 31) (7164 views)

Grand Aleutian Bar
Photo Posted Saturday, May 31, 2008 internal link
(2008) Dutch Harbor, Unalaska, Alaska
© 2008 Denver Welte
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080531.jpg

Shanghaied
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

The last word Bob Devlin heard were, "Last call." Then he was blinded by a bright flash.

The next words came through a pounding headache. Gruff words, spoken harshly. "Time to get up, my new husband."

Bob knew he wasn't on his boat because nothing outside his head moved. He shifted off his numb arm and found the bed soft. The smell of coffee tried to sneak past his guard. "Coffee and codeine," said the gruff voice. "And another foggy morning in San Francisco."

Bob eased open one eyelid and saw a bearded man in a purple robe holding a tray filled with coffee and toast. The beard seemed familiar. "Hey," he slurred. "You're the man I met at the bar last night."

The man smiled a wicked smile and set the tray down. "Yes, that's right. But that was a week ago. Don't you remember flying down to San Francisco? Don't you remember the big wedding yesterday and the huge reception last night?"

Bob sighed and breathed in the coffee smell. It smelled like expensive coffee. The good stuff. "But I'm not gay."

The man laughed. "If you're not gay, well then I just don't know who is. Now come on, you butch husband of mine. Rise and shine."

Bob closed his eyes and tried to remember. He had a bad feeling about this. "Hey," he said without opening his eyes. "If this is a week later, that means I missed my birthday."

"He's awake."

Bob heard the door open and a crowd sound enter. He opened his eyes and found the room filing with all his Alaska friends.

"Happy birthday," came from many lips. And, "Boy you look bad," from others.

The bearded man in the robe was laughing. "Boy we had you fooled. You really thought you'd been Shanghaied to San Francisco and married to a man." The man laughed louder.

Bob sat up in bed. His headache was fading. He waited for the laughter to subside. "Hey," he said. "Is that coffee for drinking?"

Someone tossed a present on the bed. The bearded man handed him a cup of coffee. A few friends sat along the edge of the bed. Bob sipped coffee and smiled. "I'm really glad," he said. "That I really didn't lose a week."

The room became suddenly quiet.

"I didn't lose a week? Did I?"


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BP20080516.jpg

The drinking fountain was disguised as art
(12 of 31) (7111 views)

Photo Posted Friday, May 16, 2008
(2008) Lytton Avenue, Palo Alto, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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The heat that day weighed heavily on old Ben Haad. The sun seemed a hot frying pan in the sky. Ben was bent from age, but felt bent further by the heat.

Ben walked up Lytton Street toward the Caltrain station. The going was slow. He paused every now and then to rest on his cane. At rest, he smacked his lips and realized he was very thirsty.

Ben stopped a stranger and asked, "A drinking fountain? Is there one nearby?"

The stranger pointed in the direction Ben had been walking and said, "That way. Half a block up. You can't miss it."

Ben disliked Lytton Street. It was spotted with modern art. Ben despised modern art. No that was not right. Ben was terrified by modern art. Not classic art. Just modern art. He was phobic.

He walked up Lytton that half block toward the drinking fountain. Part way, the corner of his eye tripped over modern art. Ben unconsciously turned his head away and gazed across the street as he walked. Once past the offensive art, he looked again for a drinking fountain.

He reached the end of the block without having found a drinking fountain. He stopped a stranger and said, "I thought there was a drinking fountain in the middle of this last block behind me. But I didn't see one."

"Yeah. It's easy to miss. It looks like a waterfall or hair. It's part of art. You know, modernistic art."

Ben felt a thunk inside his mind. "Oh. Thanks."

Ben decided to cut over to University Avenue where he could buy a bottle of water. As he walked, he remembered Derrick, a man he worked with at the old factory.

Derrick was one of those men who couldn't pee when other men watched. He couldn't use a urinal because someone might walk up and watch him. Derrick became phobic. He couldn't look at urinals. He would walk into a men's room, turn his head away and wait for a stall to open.

One day, during a retirement party for someone Ben didn't know, Derrick became drunk. Ben followed Derrick to the men's room because he had to pee too. But Derrick entered the women's room. Ben waited, expecting Derrick to immediately notice his mistake and exit. But Derrick didn't. He used a stall in the women's room and never noticed that urinals were absent.

Ben paused and leaned on his cane. "I wonder," he said. "Suppose I've become Derrick?"

Ben considered returning to Lytton to look for the drinking fountain. "Now that I know it's inside modern art, I should be able to spot it for sure."

But Ben remembered Derrick in the woman's room. "Who am I kidding? I'll never see that drinking fountain. For me that drinking fountain is like a urinal was to Derrick."

A couple brushed past Ben. He overheard the woman.

"Yuck," she said. "I hope I don't talk to myself about such disgusting things when I get old."

"You'll never get old," the man said to her as he passed.

Ben shook his head and mumbled, "You wanna bet?"


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BP20080519.jpg

Beyond the door she wished for tropics but found Alaska
(13 of 31) (7029 views)

The land around Dutch Harbor
Photo Posted Monday, May 19, 2008 internal link
(2008) Unalaska (aka Ounalashka), Alaska
© 2008 Denver Welte
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080519.jpg

The Doorway
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

The man guarding him turned his back. Jeff Hayjack was ten years old and was beginning to feel a little chilled. He watched the man from the dimness just beyond the light from the doorway.

The man continued to look away, so Jeff made his move. He skirted the dark rectangle of the doorway so he could remain in its shade until the last moment.

Jeff paused just inside the door. He quickly peeked outside with just one eye. The man was still facing away. It was time to move.

Jeff slipped silently around the edge of the doorway then outside. His right foot stepped on a twig and snapped it. He froze.

The man turned quickly and spotted Jeff. "Hi son," he said. "So that's where you were hiding."

"Ah, Dad," Jeff moaned. "I wanted to escape."

"Next time. The burgers are almost ready. Let's head back to camp."

"I'll follow, okay?"

"Sure, but don't take too long."

Jeff watched the man walk down the trail. He'd better hurry. Jeff moved quietly but swiftly from tree to tree following the man. Treasure, he sensed, could not be far away.


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BP20080504.jpg

Ball lamp hovers over exhibits
(14 of 31) (6870 views)

Railroad Museum
Photo Posted Sunday, May 4, 2008
(2008) Old Town, Sacramento, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080504.jpg

They danced the night away. Each so in love with the other that nothing could possible intrude into their universe.

Unknown to them, however, the lamp overhead was a camera. Every kiss, every flirt, every attention was recorded and stored.

On her way back into the U.S. from Paris, Mr. and Mrs. Callwell were stopped by customs agents. Bob Callwell was taken into one room, and Sally Callwell was taken into another room.

"Mrs. Callwell," a lean black man in a uniform, possibly Nigerian, said. "Take a seat please. I'm with Homeland Security. We have a bit of video to show you."

Mrs. Callwell said, "Call me Sally. No need to stand on formality."

The man cleared his throat but didn't answer. He pivoted a flat screen monitor for her to view, then hit a key on his computer.

The video was dim and shot from overhead. Sally wasn't certain what she was watching at first. Then she remember. That night. That party. Good god. They'd taped it!

"Recognize anyone?" the man asked.

"No. Not anyone."

"So, Sally. You did say I could call you Sally."

Sally smiled a thin, tight smile.

"Would you be surprised if I told you that you are the woman in that video? The man is not your husband. He is Don McBane of the CIA. Yes, the same Don McBane that was killed in the Congo last week."

"You are mistaken," Sally said. "That is my husband."

"We have other proof."

"Do you," Sally said. She sat up straighter. "Do you indeed. But did you take the time to find out who my husband was? No? I thought not. It's too bad you decided to interview us separately, or we could have cleared this up in an instant. You see, my husband is Don McBane. Don McBane and my husband are one and the same, and neither is dead."

"Not so fast Sally."

"No you may not call me Sally. What was I thinking?" Sally pulled a card from her purse and slid it across the table. "Call this number."

The man picked up the card and looked at it. His eyebrows rose. "But this is ...."

"Yes I know."

"I. I can't really ...."

"You opened this can of worms," Sally said. "Make the call."


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BP20080505.jpg

Gondolas suspended over churning water
(15 of 31) (7007 views)

Spokane River and Falls
Photo Posted Monday, May 5, 2008 internal link
(2008) Spokane, Washington
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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"How long have we been stuck here?" young Nellie Erusserp asked her mom. "I gotta pee."

"An hour and thirty-five minutes," Ben Erusserp, her dad, said. "Nope make that an hour and thirty-six minutes."

"I'm not sure what we can do," Ellen Erusserp, her mom, said. "The nearest bathroom is at the end of this cable and it isn't moving."

"Stupid gondola ride," Nellie complained using her high pitched frustrated tone. "I never should'a come in the first place. And I gotta pee."

Her dad peered out one of the narrow slide-down windows in the door. "I could hold you up here and you could pee out the window."

"Jeez, Dad. I'm a girl. I can't do that."

Her Dad picked up her empty Big Gulp cup and said, "You could pee into this."

Her Mom laughed. "The people in the next gondola will watch. I cannot imagine anything so embarrassing."

"But dear. You're wearing that full skirt. Can't you spread it to make a curtain."

"Dad!" Nellie yelled. "You'll see and so will the firemen up there." She pointed up hill at the fire trucks all lined up, their lights flashing, firemen standing around talking among themselves.

"Tell you what," her Dad said. "It must be the roaring water below that's making you want to pee. Lay down on the bench and look up at the bridge. That will take the edge off."

Her Mom made a harrumph sound.

Nellie didn't think it was such a strange idea. "Okay," she said. She laid down on the bench, her arms crossed behind her head. She looked up at the concrete bridge and distant blue sky.

"Yeah," she said. "I think this might help."

The gondola gave a lurch. Then another. Then began to move. People on the shore cheered. Her parents cheered.

Nellie felt her bladder release. She looked up at her dad. "Sorry," she said.

But her dad was paying no attention. He and her mom were dancing with joy.

Nellie smiled, then closed her eyes and enjoyed the ride back. That is until her mom said, "Good God Nellie."


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BP20080522.jpg

A stunning view for visitors of the dead
(16 of 31) (7109 views)

Photo Posted Thursday, May 22, 2008 internal link
(2008) Graveyard in Unalaska, Alaska
© 2008 Denver Welte
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Damn You Ace
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

The view from the cemetery had always seemed just too spectacular for words. Fran Corbran walked up the hill one last time before flying back to the mainland. Her husband, Ace, had died the year before of heart failure while captaining his boat, the Dugan Royal, on a fishing trip.

It was early summer so Fran spread a blanket on the still green grass and sat down comfortably. The water off shore appeared its usual deep blue. Fran remembered the last year. Her husband had been buried at sea per his last will. His marker in the graveyard meant nothing to Fran. In fact she could barely remember where it was.

"Damn you Ace," she said.

She remembered trying to run the fishing company herself. But she was just not cut out for that kind of a life. She ended up selling it to a corporation formed by her former employees. In fact she had just signed the last of the papers that very morning.

"Damn you Ace."

Fran looked at her watch. 10:00 a.m. Still plenty of time. She opened her purse and pulled out her only remaining photo of Ace. It showed him drunk in the Sports Bar, his hat on upside down.

"Damn you Ace."

Slowly and carefully, Fran tore up the photo. She tore it into smaller and smaller pieces. At last, a handfull of confetti, she let the photo fly free into the wind.

She wanted to say goodbye, but her voice still said, "Damn you Ace." She lacked courage.

Finally free of Ace, all cords cut, Fran stood and looked one last time at the view. The distant hills, still snow capped. The black beaches full of stones.

Inside her purse she heard her cellphone play music.

"Hello?"

"This is Betty. Duncan's wife."

"Oh. Hi Betty."

"We just wanted to let you know how much we miss Ace, and how much we'll miss you too."

"Thanks Betty. That's very kind of you."

"When you get back to the mainland, use your computer to visit flickr.com. We uploaded a bunch of photos of you and Ace. To help you, you know, remember."

"That's nice. Bye."

Fran snapped her phone shut. She looked at it for a moment, then dropped the phone to the grass by her feet.

"Damn you Ace."

Fran started walking down the hill. Away from Unalaska. Away from the blanket given to her one Christmas. Away from the cellphone and the wrongful kindness of others. Away from the view, always ever so spectacular. Away from Ace. Away from her life.

"Goodbye," she finally had the courage to say. "Goodbye Ace."


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BP20080523.jpg

The tuba was caught trying to crawl away
(17 of 31) (6931 views)

Saint Patrick's Day Parade
Photo Posted Friday, May 23, 2008
(2008) Main Street, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080523.jpg

"Yo, that's some green hair. Whatcha gonna do? Smoke it?"

Danny Dixon was always such an ass. He stood almost seven feet tall when he didn't slouch. He played on the basketball team, and was drummer with the band.

Wendy Childs played the tuba. She hadn't chosen the tuba. It was one of the only free instruments left when she'd signed up. The other was a xylophone of course, an even more uncool instrument. She was average height and build, yet looked top heavy when she played the tuba.

"Popsicle on a stick. Green popsicle. Ha ha."

Wendy had been told to ignore Danny. "He's harmless," they said. And, "His dad might be mayor next election."

Wendy was growing too hot. She found it hard to just stand patiently waiting for the parade to begin. A drop of sweat fled down her forehead, past her nose. She slipped off her strap and lifted the tuba.

Danny played a stripper rhythm on his drum. "Go green. Take it off. Take it all off."

Wendy set her tuba on the street with a clunk. She didn't mind denting the instrument because it was just a loaner. She stood and glared at Danny.

Danny played a joke-ending riff on the drum, then flipped Wendy off using a drum stick as an abnormally long middle finger.

Wendy had enough. There was no way she was going to march in a parade with such an unforgivable asshole like Danny.

Wendy turned her back on Danny and ran. She ran away from the band. She ran away from Danny. She ran through an alley and across a street, then down another alley.

Finally winded, she stopped. She was in a small park. She was breathing hard, bent slightly over.

"Someone chasing you?"

Wendy looked around and saw a scruffy man digging through a garbage can. "No. I'm running away."

The man stood and looked at her. His body moved like he was middle aged, but his face was that of a ninety year old man. "I ran away once," he said. "I left high school and joined the army."

Wendy waited. She watched the man scratch his beard as if thinking.

After a tick of time the man continued. "I left the army too. Went AWOL. Moved to Canada and lived there for ten years. Then I came back and got married. I ran away from that too. Left my wife and kid and my job too." He swept his hand in the direction of the garbage can. "I ended up here. And hey," he smiled at her. "You ended up here too."

Frustrated, Wendy growled a loud scream. Then she said, "Thanks."

Wendy turned and ran again, this time back toward the parade.

"Danny, you asshole," she said as she ran. "You can't make me run away." But of course, she realized. He already had. Once.


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BP20080520.jpg

A block inside was the starting chute
(18 of 31) (6932 views)

Start of Bay to Breakers Race
Photo Posted Tuesday, May 20, 2008 internal link
(2008) Around Howard Street, San Francisco
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Carol peered down the road at the starting gate. "I guess this is the closest we can get."

Ted had knelt down and was stuffing his camera back into its case. "This situation stinks."

"I know. I hate it when the government closes down its roads and keeps the public out."

"You mean the publics' roads. You're on the west coast now." Ted stood and stuck his hands in his pockets.

Carol laughed. "That's where we from the east coast have it over you other-coasters. We know the difference. The government owns the streets. They can lease those streets to private companies and keep the public out."

"But the streets are public. We, you know, the people own the streets."

"You poor duped west-coaster."

"Eight years ago, there weren't any fences. Anyone could mingle with the runners and take pictures. But, now they put up a tall fence and keep the public out. Only runners and certified press are allowed in. That stinks."

Carol threaded her arm through his. "Your photos are good enough. Why don't you get a press pass?"

"But wouldn't that be playing into the hands of the government?"

"I thought the public owned the roads?"

"Yeah. Ironic isn't it? I can get a pass to go into a private event on a public street. But you, who believe the government owns the streets, can't get a pass."

"Shall we go find Sunday brunch?"

"You bet."

The walked in silence toward downtown for a while. Then Ted said, "That wasn't really irony was it?"

Carol chuckled. "No, it wasn't. But that's okay."


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BP20080528.jpg

As it aged, sadly lavender began to leak
(19 of 31) (6874 views)

Ice Rink, Justin Herman Plaza
Photo Posted Wednesday, May 28, 2008
(2008) San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080528.jpg

Joan Filbert remembered the stage, half built for the play "Yerma," by Federico Garcia Lorca. The sound of hammers and saws, the smell of paint.

"Turn out all the lights. Just leave that one on," he had said, the Director.

"Hey, how about the work lights? We won't be able to see to work."

"You," he, the Director, had barked. "Get up there and re-aim that light."

"Ow. I hit my finger," a carpenter yelled from backstage.

"Quiet. Everyone quiet. I need to ponder. I need ... mood."

Joan felt her attention pulled back to the present. Her son walked around the grammar school stage dressed like a chicken. Her son, her third, had been born unexpectedly late in her life.

"Cluck. Cluck. Where's my egg. I can't have Easter without my egg."

Joan watched her son strut upon the stage and wondered what happened. At one time, she had wanted to become an actress. At one time she too had performed on stage. At one time.

Joan remembered again, the one stage light overhead. She remembered him, the Director. "Turn that light. Yes, all the way. Point it into the audience. There."

The lone yellow light shined in her face. Joan noticed a bit of lavender leaked from the lamp's side. She wondered why.

He, the Director, stepped up onto the front seats, up onto the top of the seat backs. He strode confidently from row to row, stepping from seat back to seat back. He stopped in front of Joan, towered over her, like Atlas she remembered thinking.

He, the Director, knelt. She, for the life of her, could not remember how he could kneel atop the chair backs. He knelt and offered her a diamond ring. The ring, she remembered, appeared lemon yellow in the stage light. The diamond, she remembered, appeared small but magical.

In the present she heard the audience laugh. A child in a rabbit costume had appeared on stage. It was a girl rabbit carrying a huge colored egg.

"Cluck, cluck. My egg, my egg," her son said.

"I colored it for you," the rabbit said.

The audience stood all around Joan to applaud. Joan used her cane and stood too. She ached. She had been sitting too long in a school's folding chair.

Her son was among other kids bowing. Joan watched him bow. She felt an old echo of muscles in her back and stomach. She remembered what it felt like to bow.

A lone stage light, she remembered. With a hint of lavender.

And now her son bowed on stage like she had once done. Bowing, she felt, in her place.

Joan experienced, just then, regret, then decided she was too old for regret. She smiled at her son. She tapped her cane on the floor because she couldn't clap while holding it.


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BP20080510.jpg

While afloat, the pine needle had befriended feather
(20 of 31) (7031 views)

Photo Posted Saturday, May 10, 2008
(2008) At the Zoo, Karlsruhe, Germany
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080510.jpg

His edge was gone. He felt it float away. Spiny had been his nickname. He remembered that but not his real name. His eyes remained closed but he saw anyway.

Spiny looked up through water at the tiny sun, wavering and unfamiliar. A feather floated past his face. The a pine needle. One raced the other, or did they just float? Spiny wasn't sure.

He felt the belt tight around his neck. He could see it as if looking outward at it. It crushed his windpipe. No pain. Just a brown belt, not the sort he would ever wear, cinched tight.

Spiny decided he was dead. Or, did he realize he was dead? He couldn't tell. He felt his hair float. Had it had only been longer, the way he used to wear it, it might have floated to the surface. Might have touched sunlight.

Spiny wondered why he was dead. Then he wondered why he wondered? He was dead and that appeared to be that. But what next?

Spiny was pretty sure he was supposed to stop existing once dead. He'd learned that once, somewhere, from someone. Spiny found it dismaying to continue.

Spiny felt the water. It was cold and full and distant. The gray water became his world. The gray enfolded and wrapped him. The gray water became him.

Spiny focused on the little bit of himself that remained. He sensed a change. He sensed himself merging with the water. He thought and his thoughts became the water and the water became him.

He was surface and sunlight and depths and darkness and cold. Spiny was water. Passive water had conquered Spiny and rendered Spiny no more.

Meanwhile, above the dead body of Spiny, where the living could still observe and imagine, a photographer captured the surface of the water. Had captured, while afloat, a pine needle who had befriended a feather


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BP20080503.jpg

A plant with hundreds of peace signs
(21 of 31) (6877 views)

Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park
Photo Posted Saturday, May 3, 2008
(2008) San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Julie Renetsil concealed a tiny digital recorder near the base of a thorny tree. She hid it as a class project but without permission from the Conservatory of Flowers. After editing out the awkward silent parts, she played a selection for her psyche class.

Man's Voice: I really tied one on that night. When I tried to get away, the cops chased me and I ran over a board that looked just like this. Damn cops blew out all four of my tires. Brand new ones too.
Boy's Voice: Look mommy. That tree is showing the peace sign.
Man's Voice: Yes son, best road to peace is a strong defense.
Woman's Voice: Keep your balloon away from that tree. I mean it. Keep your balloon away from that tree.
Woman's Voice: If those thorns were a little longer we could hang wine glasses from them. Of course we'd have to put protector nubbins on them or the staff would get hurt.
Teen boy's Voice: Dude. When I entered the second level of Wolfen, I saw a tree just like that. It was poison. And hey, if you touch it your protection turns off.
Child's Voice: I don't like that tree. It reminds me of Sunday School.
Man's Voice: Here is definitely a case of its bark being worse.
Old Man's Voice: I remember being stationed in Africa. A tank shell hit a tree like this. (cough) Thorns were blown everywhere. One even punctured my canteen. I had to fix it (cough) with chewing gum.
Woman's Voice: Funny how a thorny tree can remind me of a smell. You remember that chili you made? You left the burner on and when we got back from the movie the house smelled like burned metal and beans.
Woman's Voice: Did you remember to shave this morning? Your face feels kind of rough.

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BP20080530.jpg

The champagne pleased her greatly
(22 of 31) (7023 views)

Photo Posted Friday, May 30, 2008
(2008) Hornblower Cruise, San Francisco Bay
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080530.jpg

On her eleventh birthday, Delta Mellodi's father gave her a single sip of champagne. It tasted tart.

Delta celebrated her twenty-first birthday on a Bay cruise with her friends and parents. She drank champagne for the second time in her life and got drunk. From within that haze, she spoke longingly of her future, of adventures ahead, of lovers to be found, and of life yet to be lived.

Delta celebrated her thirty-first birthday amid friends in a warehouse loft. She drank champagne for the third time in her life. The room filled with smoke, she became drunk and there spoke of an education wasted, of travel cancelled, and of early regrets.

Delta, now Delta Drango, celebrated her forty-first birthday at home with her husband and seven-year old daughter. She drank champagne for the forth time in her life. She became tipsy and spoke softly of her happiness, of her daughter, and of a future at last looking so bright.

Delta celebrated her fifty-first birthday in a motel with her teenage daughter. They shared a bottle of champagne. It was Delta's fifth time to become drunk on champagne. She spit as she spoke and breathed fire. She railed against the husband that left her, against the lawyers that stole her home, against the state that denied her aid.

Delta, now Delta Zhavermanksi, celebrated her sixty-first birthday in Paris. She had spoken to her daughter using a mobile phone. Her new husband offered her champagne for the sixth time in her life, so she became drunk. She spoke of a life mistaken but now repaired, of a daughter with a doctorate`, and of a present so rewarding and fine.

Delta celebrated her seventy-first birthday in a wheelchair still not fully recovered from a new hip. She invited a neighbor from across the hall to join her in champagne. Together they became sloshed and sloppy. Delta moaned about that fool husband of hers and his terrible risk and death. She wished her daughter would call. She wished she had true friends again.

Delta celebrated her eighty-first birthday on a cruise on the Bay. She had hosted and paid for the celebration herself. Her granddaughter had just turned twenty-one and was celebrating too. Delta and her granddaughter shared champagne. This was Delta's eighth time, her granddaughter's first. Delta toasted the wonder of her new knees and her anonymous liver. Then she spoke of the possibilities. She pined romantic and spoke eloquently of a future, of adventures ahead, of lovers to be found, and of life yet to be lived.

"Grandma?"

"Yes dear?"

"How come it sounds like you are talking about yourself? Not about me?"

"Why yes. I suppose you're right. I guess I'm talking about the both of us."


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BP20080507.jpg

A tiny plaque shows the carrousel was built in 1909
(23 of 31) (7068 views)

Historic Looff's Carrousel
Photo Posted Wednesday, May 7, 2008 internal link
(2008) Riverside Park, Spokane, Washington
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080507.jpg

First snow fell softly on the crazed group of starving people frantically pulling washed up logs away. Under the rotting branches they'd spotted a section of white wall and broken glass.

"A grocery store," one called and dashed to the branches.

"A supermarket," another cried, a weak voice full of hope.

Enough branches were pulled aside to make a thin gap. Skinny Bob crawled through. "Watch the glass," he called from inside.

Wendy followed, because she too was thin, and because she doted on Bob. She scooted past the broken glass and found Bob standing on a concrete floor.

"Where's the food," she asked.

From outside other voices called, "Is there food?"

"Not sure," Bob said. He tended to be of few words. "Roof fell."

Wendy looked past Bob and saw a clutter of roof tiles and canvas. It did kind of look like a market's ceiling.

"Help me," Bob said.

Together they moved the roof tiles and ripped back the canvas.

Wendy stopped helping and knelt down. "What does Looff mean?"

"A sponge."

"I don't think so. It just says 'Looff 1909,' and has a picture of a horse above the words.

Bob grunted and pulled away a large hunk of sheet-rock. "Yikes!" he said.

"Really?" Wendy stood and let out a soft squeal of joy. "Carrousel animals."

"No store," Bob said.

"No, no store. But wouldn't a place like this have a snack bar?"

"Yeah," Bob sounded a bit excited. "Yeah."

They waded past broken and twisted animals of all sorts. Monkeys with wings, goats, tigers, and more horses. After a while they found the snack bar.

"Bags of potato chips," Wendy said. "And packages of cookies."

"The motherload."

"For us."

"For the group."

Wendy squeezed Bob's hand and said again, "For us."

Bob looked her in the eyes. "For the group."

Wendy shrugged then helped Bob gather the packages. "It's not a supermarket," Wendy said. "But it's food. And that makes me happy."

"Me too," Bob said. "Me too."


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BP20080501.jpg

Frightened bird hides below a bar
(24 of 31) (7022 views)

Photo Posted Thursday, May 1, 2008
(2008) Karlsruhe, Germany
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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A poet and an artist were on their way to the train station for holiday. Carrying overnight bags, they descended the steps leading to a tunnel under a busy road. There the artist stopped.

"Wait," he said to the poet. "Look at this sticker."

"You mean that stick figure drawn with a black marker?"

"Yes. I contend that figure is art."

"That's not art," the poet said. "That's a doodle."

"Okay then. How would you define art?"

"That's a good question. I suppose art must be original. And it should be unique. Usually, like a painting, it will be one of a kind. Or, perhaps like a photograph, with many prints made from one negative."

"You do betray your age. A negative indeed!"

"Still, you get my point. Art is good. This is a doodle."

"But by your own definition this is art. It's original. It's one of a kind. And for what it is, it's well done."

"Oh look," the poet said and pointed at the sticker. "Isn't that the ad for Josh Ruin's book of poetry? There under the doodle?"

The artist stooped to look. "Why I think you're right." He stood straight again. "So is that advertising or is that poetry?"

"Well. It's a complete poem. So in that regard it's poetry. But those stickers were plastered all over town. And in that regard it must be advertising."

"So is it original art over a mass produced advertisement, or a doodle --as you say-- over a poem?"

The poet pulled out his mobile phone to check the time. "We'd better get going or we'll miss the train."

As the pair continued through the tunnel their argument continued.

When they were completely gone, two punk boys crawled from behind a bush. "Did you hear that?" the punk holding a black marker asked. "They thought my drawing was art."

"Bullshit," the second said. "I heard the whole thing too. They called it a doodle."

"Lean close," the first uncapped the marker. "And I'll show you a doodle on your face."

"Hey!" the second exclaimed. Then he took off running while trying to rub marker off his face.

The first ran after him, brandishing his marker like a sword, and yelling, "Doodle! Doodle! Doodle!"


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BP20080506.jpg

Car parked at the edge of town
(25 of 31) (6896 views)

Photo Posted Tuesday, May 6, 2008 internal link
(2008) Spokane, Washington
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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In 2010 the cost of gasoline hit $12.00 per gallon. Geo Adnoh decided on that day to park his old car at the back of his apartment building. He looked at it, swore he would never drive again, then walked away from his car feeling lucky.

That winter was colder than normal and the cost of gas and electricity were higher than normal. He lost his job at the tin factory and took a lower paying job in a fast-food restaurant a good walk further out of town. Then he lost that job too.

Spring found him broke. He faced an upcoming month without any way to pay the rent. He was behind on his utility bills and they threatened to turn off soon.

Geo remembered his car.

Armed with the old key still on a key-ring with a brown and white rabbit foot as a charm, Geo went to find his car. He'd expected there to be many cars parked in back, but his beige station wagon was still the only one there.

As he drew close, he noticed that his car appeared to be filled with newspaper. "I thought I left it clean," he said, more to break the tension he felt than to communicate with anyone.

Geo tapped on the filthy windshield with his key. "Anyone inside there?"

The newspapers moved. A tied bundle looked like it was pulled back leaving a gap like a missing tooth. A face peered out. The mouth in the face moved but Geo couldn't hear anything, so he tapped again.

The gap was filled with the bundle of newspaper again. Then several bundles were taken away from the driver side window. After what seemed to Geo like too leisurely a pace, the driver's window rolled down.

A grizzled man's face peered out. "What'd'ya want?"

"This is my car."

"No it's not. It's my house."

"My key," Geo held up his key. "So it must be my car."

The face withdrew then appeared again. A dirty hand wagged a key. "Found this in the ignition. My key. So it must be my car."

"The registration. It's registered in my name."

"You looked at the tags lately. I bet they're expired. Go ahead. You find an owners certificate. Then update the registration. You go ahead and do that."

Geo's shoulders slumped. He was broke and couldn't afford to register his car. Geo realized his car was gone too.

The grizzled man smiled. "Need to move into a car too, huh?"

"Yeah."

"You go more towards downtown. There's thousands of abandoned cars there. I bet there's a bunch that ain't taken yet."

"Uh. Thanks," Geo said.

"And make sure you get bundles of newspaper. It makes the best insulation you can find. Newspaper and string."

Geo smiled weakly then turned and walked away. He didn't look back. He didn't answer when the grizzled man yelled, "Good luck." He didn't turn back toward his apartment.

Geo figured he had the afternoon's daylight left. Four hours easy. He headed downtown in search of his new home. He hoped it would be a Honda. He liked Honda's and Fords too. He rounded the corner at the end of his block and stopped in his tracks.

Like the grizzled man had said, there were thousands and thousands of cars abandoned along the streets and in the parking lots. Some, he saw, had been arranged into villages. Some had been stacked with ladders for multi-levels. Geo wondered if any cars would be available at all.

His future seemed suddenly daunting. But he squared his shoulders and kept going. There was after all, he figured, no going back now.


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BP20080513.jpg

The tour ended back at the wharf
(26 of 31) (6854 views)

Electric Tour Company, Adventure Segway Tour
Photo Posted Tuesday, May 13, 2008 internal link
(2008) San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080513.jpg

James Dorfs had turned 64 just that summer, but his mind fled years before. Bad alcohol they thought. Or maybe siphoning gas. "Yes, yes. I'm wrong. I remember now. It was bowling balls. Yeah, that's it. Bowling balls."

His son, Hale, named after Nathan Hale, sold cars during the week. Sunday was his day to watch his Dad. "Okay, explain."

James waved his arm to indicate the huge ship tied to the dock where they stood behind Fisherman's Wharf. "See them dents. There at the bow. I made those myself during the war. I worked where they built them in Sausalito. Course I was stronger back then. I would throw the bowling balls at the ship and dent it."

"Dad! Don't you ever listen to yourself? You didn't build ships, you worked in the White House during the war. You answered phones at the switchboard."

In the silence Hale listened to the huge cables complain. A seagull swooped in and squawked.

"Yes, yes. I'm wrong. It's this noggin of mine." James tapped his balding head. "Blew a tire in there. No. It was on Route 66. No. I remember now. It was on 101 near Gilroy."

"You hungry Dad?"

A group of tourists on Segways pulled onto the wharf and parked. Hale wandered over to them and chatted for a bit. While he talked he kept his eye on his Dad.

His Dad would sometimes skip like a bad DVD. Stutter inside his mind and suddenly fast forward. Taking care of his Dad, Hale concluded, was like trying to balance on two wheels. Without modern technology, it wasn't possible.

Hale walked back to his Dad and took his arm. "Dad?"

"Yes, yes. Food sounds good. I ate a horse once. No. The enlisted men ate the horse. No. It wasn't a horse. I remember now, it was a deer. On a hunting trip. In Alaska."

Hale led his Dad back toward crowded Fisherman's Wharf. "I was thinking about crab."

Hale heard music. Tinkly, mechanical music. Then he heard folks speaking Chinese.

"Yes, yes. Crab sounds good. I remember now. It wasn't bowling balls, it was baseballs. We practiced pitching. It was the ball team. I remember now. I played second base. No. It was right field. No. I was catcher."

"Let's eat," Hale said. "Then I'll get you back to the home."

A man on the corner played inverted cans like drums. A man with a sign passed them, mumbling about the end of the world. Tourists chatted with each other and with distant friends glued to their ears.

Hale glanced at his Dad. He saw an old Ford whose engine caught fire every now and then. A previously owned lemon. He squeezed his Dad's arm. "I miss you Dad."


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BP20080529.jpg

The platforms were long, wide, and covered
(27 of 31) (7019 views)

Photo Posted Thursday, May 29, 2008 internal link
(2008) Frankfurt HFB, Frankfurt, Germany
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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The train, the sign told her, would be five minutes late. Dina Sontag set her lone suitcase by a bench and sat down. She had plenty of time. The transfer in Stuttgart to the Berlin train left twenty minutes to spare.

A ball rolled up to Dina's boots. It was red and water specked as if it had come from outside in the snow. She looked both ways down the platform but saw nobody missing a ball.

Dina thought about her younger brother, now twenty-five. Ralph lived somewhere in California in America. As a boy, he used to play with a ball much like the one at her feet. She picked it up.

"Where did you come from?"

She turned the ball and discovered writing on the back. "Property of Ralph," it said. Surprised, Dina squeezed the ball. It hissed and deflated.

"Oh my." Dina felt a chill. She dropped the ball. It hit the platform with a hissing thunk.

A symphony erupted from her coat pocket. She rifled through her pocket for her mobile phone and pulled it out. The photo displayed on its face was that of her brother. She flipped the phone open and shouted, "Ralph! You're safe!."

"Of course I am. Don't be silly. I just called to let you know I'm getting married. I so hope you can come to the wedding."

Dina sighed from relief. "Yes. Yes. That's exciting. What great news for you. I don't know right off if I can come, but email the details and I'll really try."

"Thanks, Sis," Ralph said. Dina noticed how he always used the American Sis. "I have to go. I still need to call mom and dad."

Dina said her goodbyes and dropped the phone back into her pocket. Married, she marveled. Her brother was finally getting married.

Dina looked down at the ball and noticed it was inflated again. The train was just pulling in and the breeze from it nudged the ball. Dina reached for it, but was not quick enough. It blew ahead of the train along the platform and into the arms of a young boy. He was with his parents and seemed very excited to have found his ball.

Dina stood and picked up her suitcase. The train slowed to a stop. A paper cup blew across the platform and struck Dina's boots. She looked at it, curious. The train doors opened.

Dina scooped up the cup with her free hand. As she entered the train car she wondered what writing she might find. Another "Property of Ralph," or something else.

Dina felt as if she teetered on the edge of an adventure.


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BP20080518.jpg

David Lopez about to ride Funny Papers in the 6th race
(28 of 31) (7022 views)

Bay Meadows Race Track last day, 11 May 2008
Photo Posted Sunday, May 18, 2008 internal link
(2008) San Mateo, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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"Who'd you bet on?"

John jumped at the voice so close to his ear. He turned and found an elderly woman in a bright green outfit sitting next to him. People, he noted, seemed to come and go from the bleachers with no apparent pattern.

John sat in a row low enough to see the race clearly, but high enough to be out of the sun. He glanced at his ticket. "Twenty dollars on number ten. To win."

"A fools bet," the woman said. She showed him her ticket. "Number one. He's got it in the bag."

John whistled in appreciation. "A hundred bucks. You must really like that horse."

"Nope. Just rich. Since my old Manny died. But tell me. Why did you pick number ten?"

"I liked the name. It reminded me of Garfield the cat, or Doonesbury."

"That's a bit racist sounding. Don't you think? A jockey named David Lopez reminding you of a cat."

John blinked. "Jockey?" He opened his program and looked at number ten. "Oh, gosh. I see what you mean. No, I meant the horse's name, Funny Papers."

"You must be new at this."

"Yep, my first time. I'm here because this is their last day. The racetrack I mean, to be open."

"Where will we go?"

"Emeryville. Isn't that where Golden Gate Fields is?"

"Albany, but too far." The woman smiled at John. "Maybe I'll plunk a C-note on your number ten. There's still time."

The woman stood with an ease that surprised John.

John called after, "It was just a whim. My bet I mean."

The woman exited the row to the stairs at the end. She turned to look back at John. "See you in the funny papers," she said.

"I don't know what that means."

She blew him a kiss then descended the stairs.

John watched her until she was lost from view.

He looked at his ticket. "I'm not racist." Nevertheless, his number ten didn't win.


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BP20080525.jpg

She exhibited an early taste for carrousels
(29 of 31) (6867 views)

Photo Posted Sunday, May 25, 2008
(1983) Sacramento, California
© 2008 Terry Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Snapshot
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Alex TheWhistle found the old snapshot behind the rail yard. The picture had been lovingly wrapped in faded pink cotton, and outside that, had been wrapped five nested plastic bags. Finally the wrapped photo had been sealed in a metal box, thickly coated with red wax.

Alex had been digging for tubers to eat when he had unearthed it. At first he thought it might be blood. He feared an infected tuber.

Alex whistled to himself as he held it up in the sunlight Unopened, he knew the red find would be worth a week's good meals somewhere. But Alex was a curious lad. He'd opened the box and found the photo.

"What you got there?" Old Sam OfYearsGone walked up behind Alex.

Alex showed Old Sam the photo. "I found it buried in this box."

Old Sam kicked the box. "Might be worth something. Probably more if you hadn't opened it."

"Yeah." Alex handed Old Sam the photo. "What does it say on the back?"

"Let's see." Old Sam fished a scratched lens from his pocket and held it in front of one eye. "It's just a date. 1983."

Alex whistled. "That's a hundred years ago."

"A hundred three to be exact."

Alex whistled again. "Look at the picture. What's that the little girl is sitting on?"

"That's a carrousel horse. A merry-go-round. A machine that would spin with animals on it, you know, for fun."

Alex took the picture back and looked at it. "I don't get it."

Old Sam put his lens carefully back into its pocket. "Hm," he said. He looked around at all the junk of the old rail yard. "I wonder."

Alex whistled. "You sure wonder at a lot."

Old Sam smiled at him, a warm smile. "I wonder if we could use this junk to build a carrousel? I wonder if folks would come to ride it? I wonder if maybe they would be willing to pay with food to ride it?"

Alex looked at the photo then around at the junk. "I don't know."

"Sure," Said Old Sam. "We'll call it the 1983 Carrousel. It'll be easy and fun. And I bet we can get others to help too."

Alex looked at the photo. "Why not name it after the girl in the picture?"

"We don't know her name."

Alex kicked the red-wax encrusted box over. There inside the lid, a name had been scratched in large letters.

"That's a good idea," Old Sam said. "We'll call it the My Baby Carrousel."

Alex whistled. "I like it."

"Me too," Old Sam said. "Me too."


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BP20080527.jpg

The monkey aided the camel for a gentler ride
(30 of 31) (6992 views)

Looff Carousel, Zeum, Moscone Center
Photo Posted Tuesday, May 27, 2008 internal link
(2008) 4th and Howard, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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"So children," Miss Jillian the teacher said. She pointed again at the picture of a monkey on the back of a camel's saddle. "What is the moral of the Aesop's story about the monkey and the camel?"

Lindy Lattoa raised her hand and blurted, "Don't monkey around with a camel."

Billy Caterieux said, "No, no. It means that camels are too ugly to dance."

Miss Jillian tapped her desk. "Now children. One at a time please. Okay Tina, what do you think it means?"

"My dad smokes camels. He says that smoking is a monkey on his back. I can't see the monkey but it seems like a mean monkey."

Jin Tao said, "Gosh. Your dad must be rich. My dad stopped smoking because it cost too much."

Miss Jillian tapped her desk again. "Now try to focus on the story. What do you think the story means?"

Nika Knosos said, "A camel shouldn't try to be a monkey?"

"Very good, Nika. Does anyone else have an idea."

Tina raised her hand and said, "My mom threw Dad's camels in the trash. Then Dad threw twenty dollar bills in the garbage. After that my mom stopped throwing his camels away."

Jin said, "My Dad took a pill."

Nika said, "Just because a monkey smokes, a camel shouldn't try to smoke."

"Do any of you," Miss Jillian asked. "Know what it means to modernize an old fable?"

The class became quiet.


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BP20080521.jpg

He was surprised to find the mouth so soft
(31 of 31) (7097 views)

Wild horses in the back country
Photo Posted Wednesday, May 21, 2008 internal link
(2008) Unalaska, Alaska
© 2008 Denver Welte
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080521.jpg

Inverted Planet
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

The new planet was full of surprises. Dave Hogan marveled at the soft lip of the horse-like creature, when the creature opened its mouth and bit off his hand.

That evening around dinner, the group discussed the strange animals they found that day. Dave ate with his left hand. His right arm ended in a machine that was slowly re-growing a new hand.

Abu Wessi, with his long black beard, spoke first. "The bird life here appears inverted. I saw a flock of small wren-like birds attack a large animal. They pecked it to death and ate it."

A grunt of agreement came from the others, still busy eating.

"Then, toward sunset, I saw an eagle-like bird. It strutted around a clearing, pulling up and eating roots."

Dave looked up. "It's not just that herbivores are carnivorous. But carnivores are herbivorous. I saw a large cat this morning with flat teeth, eating grass. Then a horse, this afternoon, bit off my hand. The relationships here seem inverted."

Judy Timber kept her head shaved so she would only ever need one sized hat. "The numbers are inverted too," she said. "There should always be many more herbivores to carnivores. But here, it is backward. Lots more carnivores than herbivores. How come the food supply didn't run out long ago?"

"Cannibalism," said Dix Lander the pilot and entomologist on the team. "I saw a nest of carnivorous ants attack and eat a neighboring nest."

"Then why," Judy asked. "Isn't this a madhouse of plants? With no animals eating the plants, or only a few eating them, why hasn't there been an explosion of plant growth?"

Reese Smatts, the cook and microbiologist burst through the door. His arm was scratched and bleeding. "I've discovered the secret."

Dix jumped up and grabbed the first aid kit. "I better take care of that arm."

Reese pulled up his shirt sleeve so Dix could treat it. He looked at the group. "I was taking vegetable waste from dinner out to the big cat. The sun was just setting. I tossed the pile on the ground and the cat looked up at me. As the sun set, I saw its face change. It's flat teeth grew into long sharp teeth and its hooves turned into clawed paws. It took a swipe at me then went running after the frightened horses."

Dave held up the hand-regeneration machine. "You mean I was bitten by a were-horse? Does this mean I'll become one, like in the werewolf stories?"

"The odds are against it," Judy said.

"Don't jump to conclusions," Reese said. "Not until I get a chance to look at some samples under a microscope."

Dix told him, "This will hurt."

"Ouch," Reese said.

Outside the night echoed his pain as it filled with the somewhat-normal sounds of life.


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