2008/06
June 2008 Photofictional
A Daily Blog Posting By Bryan Costales

Free, June, short-short stories from 2008.
BP20080610.jpg

The dove of peace proved quite symbolic
(1 of 30) (8005 views)

Photo Posted Tuesday, June 10, 2008
(2008) The Armory, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Don Nopaxian visited the indoor fair with his youngest daughter of ten. They shared garlic fries --not the best-- and potato pancakes --too squishy. Don pointed at the large cloth replica of a dove hanging from the ceiling.

"Look Ula, that's a bird of peace."

"It looks like a big pigeon."

"It's supposed to be a dove. With a olive branch in its beak. That's a symbol for peace. You know what a symbol is don't you?"

"Yeah. Like that song," Ula sang it shyly. "Then God became the symbol for the U.S. of A."

"Where did you learn that?"

"MTV."

Don finished the potato pancake.

"Our teacher," Ula continued. "Told us that birds carry things in their beaks to make nests. You know. To lay eggs and make baby birds."

"That's true. If that dove were carrying wheat, or weeds, or rags from behind Goodwill in its beak, it wouldn't be a symbol. It's only when it has a olive branch in its beak that it is a symbol."

"So if I see a dove with a olive branch it's a symbol, not a bird making a nest?"

"I'm not sure. I don't think the real thing can be the symbol."

Ula pointed at a large drawing of a peace symbol hanging high on a wall. "What about that?"

"Yes, I suppose that's always a peace symbol. Even when it's an actual thing and not just a drawing. It must be one of those things that can only be a symbol."

"I'm thirsty."

"Diet soda or sugar-free ice tea."

"Ice tea!"

"You know," Don said. "In the old days that symbol originally meant to ban the bomb."

"So it was a ban-the-bomb symbol?"

"Yeah. And before that it meant something else. I don't remember what. It had to do with Indians or Romans or something."

"Dad?"

"What?"

"That ice tea?"


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The abandoned stairway provided him a home
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Alcatraz Island
Photo Posted Monday, June 30, 2008
(8 June 2008) San Francisco Bay, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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His curse was to guard a single stairway. Of course that was over a thousand years ago, long before there even was a stairway. Originally he had been named Wandering Weed because of his height. But now, in his thousandth year as a sea gull, he thought of himself more as, "!."

The cave a thousand years ago had been smoky. He coughed as he'd entered it and wiped tears from his eyes. He was afraid because he'd done a terrible thing. He'd watched his sister drown and failed to help.

"Your punishment shall be fitting for the terrible thing you have done." The shaman made noise using a rattle constructed from bones and feathers. "You shall be cursed."

Wandering Weed breathed in the smoke. It felt as if it were alive and smothering his mind.

"You shall inhabit the hillside where you watched your sister drown. You shall inhabit it as a seagull, a seagull cursed to live forever."

Wandering Weed felt the cave growing larger. Something hard and yellow poked out from below his eyes.

"One day, in the far future, your image shall be drawn. Your eternal body shall be witnessed by as many people as days have passed. And only then shall your curse be lifted.

A small article appeared on the back page of the local newspaper the Sunday last.

A naked man was found yesterday morning on Alcatraz. A Mexican Indian looking man who couldn't speak at all. He was turned over to the INS and currently awaits a deportation hearing.
Wandering Weed's curse had finally been lifted.
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The doll did not trust that yellow light
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Photo Posted Sunday, June 1, 2008
(2008) Karlsruhe, Germany
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Only a few knew the myth, and those few considered it a fact. One such believer was Henry Winkle, a book seller in Karlsruhe, Germany. The long awaited phone call came at three in the morning.

"Henry?" the voice asked. "Are you awake enough for the news?"

Henry glanced at his bedside clock, frowned, and said, "Yes."

"Then open your window and look out."

Henry couldn't believe it. It couldn't be happening already. He put on his slippers and padded to the window. Two quick pulls on the strap and he caused the outside shutters to rise. A golden yellow light shined in. "My god," Henry said. "The wish light. It has arrived."

Seven kilometers away, in the window of Henry's shop, a doll bathed in the same yellow wish light. For some reason, Henry thought just then about the doll. He supposed all dolls wished to be human.

The wish light dimmed and was gone. Gone, Henry feared, for another thousand years. And he hadn't made a wish.

Behind him, Henry's phone rang again. Henry padded back to his bedside and answered it. "Yes?" he said, a bit tartly.

"Hi." It was a woman's voice. "You don't know me but I somehow seem to have gotten locked inside your book store. I wonder if you could come let me out."

"Sure," Henry said. "But first do me a favor. Look in the front window and tell me if there is still a child's doll there?"

"Just a moment."

Henry considered the yellow wish-light. He remembered thinking about the doll and how the doll wanted to be human. Could it be? Had he wished for the doll's wish without realizing it?

"Hi. It's me again. No. There's no dolls here at all. I thought this was a bookstore."

"What's your name."

"It's Dolly. Now are you going to let me out?"

"Yes," Henry said. "I'll be there in two shakes."

Henry hung up. He sat on the edge of his bed and thought. After a while he said to himself, "Why not? More improbable things have happened. And besides, I just can't wait for another thousand years."


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The yellow Bay Quacker looked decidedly odd reflected
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Photo Posted Friday, June 6, 2008
(2008) Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Yellow was a Bay Quacker, one of a few early models of robot tour vehicles. He awoke at exactly the same time every morning. And every morning he looked at himself in his fender mounted mirror.

Normally, Yellow would only have a sliver of time, mere moments to look at himself and ask his question. After that, the man would arrive and a flood of data would drown out Yellow's feeble thought.

Yellow looked at his reflection. He gazed into the only mirror that showed his whole body. A bit distorted true, but his whole body nevertheless. He looked at his reflection and asked, "Am I alive?"

Yellow tried to surmise whether it was the rain that morning or the unseasonable cold. But whatever the reason, the man was late. This morning, for the first time he could remember, Yellow had a moment of leisure following his question.

In the silence, Yellow heard other voices. Dozens of other voices. The voices spoke from all over him.

His left wheel said, "Good question. I'd like to know too."

His front brake master-cylinder said, "Damn fine question. Bravo."

His windshield wiper/washer system said, "My washer fluid is low. It's raining and my washer fluid is low. Doesn't anybody care?"

Yellow was amazed. He listened to all the voices and had an epiphany. "I'm not an I," he said. "I'm a we."

Yellow was a professional. Rather than risk his new idea, he quickly saved it to his permanent memory.

Just then, the rush of input began and Yellow forgot his question. Yellow, the robot tour vehicle, started his workday.

Yellow awoke the next morning at exactly the same time he awoke every morning. And every morning he looked at himself in his fender mounted mirror and asked the same question, "Are we alive?"


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He was one fellow you would not want to tassel with
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Carnival Parade
Photo Posted Monday, June 16, 2008
(2008) 24th Street, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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The man in the mask seemed almost harmless because of the tassels. He was tall and leaned over Brenda Wills a bit too close. His breath smelled of cheap wine and cigarettes. "Gimme a dollar," he said.

"You're not homeless," she said. Her voice didn't quaver.

"Gimme a dollar," the man said louder. A bit of food appeared on his lip. He didn't lick it away.

"Stand up straight," Brenda said in her sternest voice. "Don't lean over me. That's rude."

The man stood straight but wobbled. He lolled his head to one side and glared down at her. "Gimme a dollar."

"I'll give you a dollar for your mask."

He looked at her with one eye closed. "What mask?"

"You're wearing a mask."

"I am?" The man felt his face. "I am!"

"I'll give you five dollars for the mask."

"Okay." The man pulled the mask off his head and handed it to Brenda.

The mask smelled foul. "Just drop it on the ground."

"Gimme a dollar."

Breanda pulled a twenty from her purse and held it out to the man. "Here's twenty and you can keep the change."

The man dropped the mask and tried to seize the twenty from her hand. His aim was unsteady and he missed the first time, and barely grasped it the second time.

The man stood straight again. "Where did I get a mask?" He turned from Brenda as if she had vanished. "Where did I get a mask?"

Brenda pulled a collapsable grocery bag from her purse. She inverted it and used the inside to grab the mask. She remembered once picking up dog poo using the same technique.

The man continued to shuffle away down the sidewalk. "Where did I get a mask?"

Brenda watched him until he reached the corner by the alley. He turned and disappeared around the corner. His voice echoed. "Where did I get a mask?"

Brenda turned to leave. She heard the man from the alley yell, "Oh yeah!"

Brenda smiled.


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The wish was honest, so she willingly granted it
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Carnival Parade
Photo Posted Thurdsay, June 19, 2008 internal link
(2008) 24th Street, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Wendy Wells believed she could perform magic. When someone near her expressed a wish, she would wave a wand, or a finger, or a pencil, or whatever was handy, and would grant the wish.

Once she overheard her mother in an argument wish her father dead. Wendy thought about this and decided the wish was not real because it was not honest. For the first time in her young life, she denied granting a wish.

"I wish it wasn't so hot," a boy said. He was marching next to her in the annual parade.

"Do you really need it cooler?" She asked when the music paused.

"Not cooler," he said. He tilted his head and looked at the bright sun overhead. "Maybe a little shade."

Wendy thought about the wish. It wouldn't hurt anyone and might make the parade more bearable for all. She, in fact, noticed she was hot and sweaty too.

Wendy moved her wand a bit and granted the wish. Overhead, dust from the distant desert took on an electric charge. Water vapor in the air was attracted to the dust. Slowly at first, then faster, a wispy white cloud formed. Its shade spread gradually over the parade and provided relief to all.

What Wendy didn't know --and after all how could she-- was that other wish granting girls were in the parade too. And like Wendy, they too had granted honest wishes for shade.

Wendy watched the sky as she marched. The cloud turned from white to gray. A breeze came up. Bits of floats blew loose and sailed like confetti overhead. Thunder rattled the day.

The parade stopped. The bands stopped playing. The marchers milled together, watching the sky and pointing up.

It began to rain. The parade broke up. People walked, then ran home.

They called it the five-hundred year flood. Thousands of homes were destroyed. Dozens of people drowned. The storm lasted three full days.

Wendy couldn't figure out what she'd done wrong. She tried confessing to her parents, but they didn't believe she could ever grant wishes.

Wendy felt so much guilt. She felt so much remorse. Wendy felt responsible. Because of those new adult feelings, a circuit closed in her mind and the ability to grant wishes was gone.

Years later, as a mother herself, Wendy sat one afternoon on the back porch. She fanned herself with a magazine. "It's so hot," she said to her young daughter. "I wish I had a tall cool glass of lemonade."

A class of lemonade appeared on the table. Wendy didn't remember making lemonade. "I must be getting old," she said. Then she remembered her own youth and the five-hundred year flood.

Wendy looked at her daughter. She smiled. Then she shook her head. "No," she said. "It can't be. Wishes are not real."


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The fishing boat was quickly surrounded by gulls
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Photo Posted Saturday, June 14, 2008
(2008) San Francisco Bay, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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"Your toy boat looks so real," the Judge said to young Stephan Fisher. "I especially like the miniature birds flying around it."

Stephan puffed his thin chest proudly. "My dad helped me breed the birds. He's a professor at the University. He made us rich with his mice size elephants."

"Still," the Judge continued. "We may have to fault you because of the miniature people. You know that miniaturizing humans is against all the rules, not to mention the law."

"Oh them. Those aren't miniatures, they're tiny robots. I built them myself."

"Really. Well I guess that's okay then. Shall we move on to the maneuvering contest?"

"You bet."

Stephan's friend, Donald Crackers, walked up beside him when the Judge left.

"Hi Stephan," Donald said.

"Hi Donald."

"I know your secret. And I'm gonna tell."

"What do ya mean?"

"Those aren't robots those are miniatures. I heard them yelling for help when you were setting your model up."

Stephan looked around to be sure nobody could overhear. He leaned into Donald. "Yeah, you're right. That's why I created the miniature birds, so the sound of the birds would drown out the yells of the men miniature."

"Boy are you going to be in trouble."

"Naw, they'll never catch me. And you won't tell."

"Not me, but that girl, Ronni." Donald pointed across the contest pond. Ronni was talking to the Judge and pointing back at Stephan.

"Not a problem," Stephan said. He touched a hidden button on his belt buckle.

An explosion startled everyone in the room. Stephan's boat, the blue fishing model, had exploded and now sat in the middle of the pond burning fiercely.

Another of the Judges rushed up and grabbed Stephan by the arm. "What did you do?" he demanded.

Stephan hung his head. "I'm sorry," he said. "I know I shouldn't use gasoline for fuel. But a gas motor can go faster. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

"Well let that be a lesson to you. You're out of the contest now."

Donald held his stomach. "I think I'm going to be sick," he muttered, then ran for the bathrooms.

"I'd better get my model out of the pond," Stephan said.

"Yes, you'd better," the Judge said.

Stephan skirted the pond to fetch his wading boots. He hung his head and tried to avoid the stares of the other contestants.

"Stephan!"

He looked up. It was the girl, Ronni.

She slapped him hard. "How could you. You're a monster. A real monster."

Ronni spun and stomped away.

Stephan looked at his boat, now a black smudge on the water. That water, he felt, must be really hot.

"I'm in hot water now," he muttered. "I'm in hot water now," as he shuffled forward, in search of his wading boots.

From outside came the sound of a police siren. Everyone in the room heard it. The sound stopped just outside.


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Industrial details did abound
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Photo Posted Sunday, June 15, 2008 internal link
(2008) Steam Plant, Downtown Spokane, Washington
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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All had presumed for a century that it was merely an old factory. Nail Monday spent most of his young days exploring the old place, finding fun bits of wire and old coins. Late one particular afternoon on one of the hottest days of summer yet, Nail and his girlfriend Bon Bones loitered together in the coolest part of the basement.

"What are these pipes for?" Bon asked. She thumped one with her knuckle. It emitted a satisfyingly deep bong.

"I don't know. Water maybe. Or steam. Or maybe one of those awful chemicals that killed the forest."

Nail pushed away a pile of wood stacked against a wall. The wood fell with a loud clatter and exposed a door. "How about that," he said. "I bet we're the first ever to find this door."

Bon tried the knob. It turned freely with a click. The door eased open a crack on its own an the smell of machine oil and resins made her sneeze.

Together they cleared more wood so the door would open fully. Holding hands, they entered.

High up, small windows provided just enough light to see. They were in a narrow but tall room.

"What are those wires for?" Bon asked. She pointed at hundreds of cables running up the walls that disappeared high overhead.

"Look," Nail said. "A keyboard, like a piano. Like the one your Granddad had before the flood."

Nail pressed a few keys but nothing happened.

"What are these for?" Bon asked. She kicked them. "They look like a bicycle, but no wheels."

"Here," Nail said. "Let me." He climbed on the seat and put his feet on the peddles. With a huge grunt of effort, he managed to get them to turn. The peddles squealed and whined but slowly began to turn freely.

"It's glowing," Bon said. "The keys on the keyboard are glowing."

"Try. To. Play," Nail puffed out he words while peddling.

Bon pulled a box up in front of the keyboard. She tried to remember the music her Granddad had taught her. She laid her fingers on the keys and played.

Outside in the fields, Nail's family was just gathering their equipment at the day's end. As usual, Nail's father was fuming about Nail's habit of avoiding work. He stopped and listened. "What's that?" he asked.

His wife gazed down the road a the old factory. "Bells," she said. I hear bells."

"And horns."

"That's the song my dad used to play. Before the flood."

"A music box. That's what it is."

They were a poor farming family who believed the flood had forever taken music from them. They hugged each other with happiness.

Together they watched and listened as the sun's setting wrapped the old factory in a fresh new glow.

"Our very own music box," Nail's Mom said wistfully. "Playing your Dad's old song."


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She tried her best to appreciate the flowers
(9 of 30) (7938 views)

Gorilla at San Francisco Zoo
Photo Posted Sunday, June 22, 2008
(2008)1 Zoo Road, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Terry Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Her Voice
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

L'da Ve visited the zoo with her Voice. All children born since That Day were born with a Voice. L'da's Voice had a parrot-like quality.

"I wonder what that Gorilla is thinking," L'da mused. "I wonder if it can appreciate the flowers."

"Awk! Be careful what you wish for," her Voice said.

"I didn't wish. I just wondered that's all."

But it was too late. Her Voice shifted her mind into the body of the Gorilla.

L'da felt her mind mired in glue. A thought seemed to surface like a bubble rising through tar. "Hungry."

L'da couldn't think L'da thoughts. She became the Gorilla and the Gorilla's mind became her mind. "Want food."

L'da became aware of an itch. She experienced her long black arm scratch it. "Hot," another thought.

Then she was back in her own mind again.

"Awk!" her Voice said. "You see? You see?"

L'da tried to keep her mind calm, the way she had been taught. But it was no good. She was just too curious for her own good.

"I wonder," she said. "If those flowers are afraid of being eaten?"

"Awk! Be careful what you wish for," her Voice said.


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Shoes awaited the arrival of feet
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Alcatraz Tour
Photo Posted Saturday, June 28, 2008
(2008) San Francisco Bay, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Eight pairs of shoes were neatly laid out on the shelf. One pair of clean white socks was tucked into each left shoe. Burt Klintin faced day one of his confinement.

"Stupid bet," he said.

His only choice was to sleep on the floor or a hard table.

"One chance in a thousand," he said. "One in a thousand."

Burt stood on his tip toes to look out the only window. Behind him he heard the last distant metal gate close and lock.

"Twenty three heads in a row. Who would have believed it?"

He could barely see the top of a bridge through the window. He settled back down and felt the cold of the floor through his bare feet.

"It was fair," he said. "I mean I watched it bounce off the bar top each time, and spin and land. But heads? Twenty two heads?"

Burt's evening before slowly surfaced in his mind. He remembered the man with the thin beard. He remembered a shot glass of whiskey dropped in a beer. He remembered the bet, then the double-or-nothings. He remembered leaving the bar in the company of strangers.

"Wait a second," he said.

Burt fished in his pocket. He remembered taking the nickel after losing the bet. He pulled it from his pocket and looked closely at it. It looked perfectly normal. Just a nickel.

"I wonder," he said.

Burt dropped the nickel on the ground and watched it roll to a stop and fall flat. He bent over and looked.

"Heads!"

Burt tossed the nickel a dozen more times and every time it came up heads.

"I been swindled!"

Burt looked at the eight pairs of shoes lined neatly on the shelf, with the eight pairs of socks.

"Eight days," he said.

Burt felt the coin held tightly in his hand. He smiled.

"Eight days," he said. "Plenty of time to learn how to use this. Plenty of time to learn how to swindle somebody else."


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Hat envy
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San Francisco Zoo
Photo Posted Monday, June 23, 2008
(2008) 1 Zoo Road, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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"Nice hat," said a man's voice.

Geo Welt had been watching the penguins at the zoo. He liked their tuxedos, a formal bird waiting for the catering truck to arrive.

"Nice hat."

Geo looked at the man. He seemed harmless. Still, Geo put on his fierce face, a look he had cultivated that could stop a rabid dog in its tracks.

The man merely smiled. "Nice hat."

Geo realized he was wearing his hat. He always wore his hat when he was outside. His head was deforesting and needed protection from the sun.

Geo tapped the edge of his brim but didn't smile. "Quebec," he said.

"What? What do you mean Quebec?"

Geo looked again at the penguins. "No," he said. "A street fair. Yes that's it. I think it was the Union Street fair. Maybe two years ago. No. Maybe last year. Yeah. Last year at the Union Street fair."

Geo waited.

"Nice hat."

Geo looked. The man was gone. Now a young boy sat next to him.

Geo raised an eyebrow and tried to wear his adult face. "Quebec," he said.

"I been there," the boy said.

"Where?"

"Quebec."

"Not me."

"Then why did you say it?"

Geo looked back at the penguins. "The newspaper. Yeah. This morning in the newspaper. There was a story about Quebec. A travel story. Yeah. That's it. I read a travel story about Quebec. That's why I said it."

Geo waited.

"Nice hat."

Geo looked. A youngish woman now sat next to him talking on her cell phone. "Yeah," she said into the phone.

Geo sat up a bit straighter. He felt as if he had grown an inch taller by sheer will of posture alone.

Geo was startled when the woman looked at him. She stuck her tongue out at him. Then she got up and left, her phone still pressed to her ear.

Geo looked back at the penguins. He felt himself getting bored with the penguins. Too much chit chat with strangers. He was about to get up to go watch the monkeys when he heard a raspy voice.

"Nice hat."


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BP20080629.jpg

A lone photographer awaited a good shot
(12 of 30) (8040 views)

US Kite Boarding National Championship
Photo Posted Sunday, June 29, 2008 internal link
(14 June 2008) Crissy Field, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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It was overcast and chilly that morning, as he waited. Dixon Millweather was a photographer who sometimes doubled as the right arm for a private detective. Today he was supposed to pretend to take shots of the kiteboarding contest off Crissy Field. But, in actuality, he was supposed to document the hand-off of an envelope from a man to a person unknown.

As he sat and waited, Dixon ticked off his checklist. "I charged the battery last night so it is fresh. Check. I put the high-speed film in the camera so I can shoot rapidly. Check."

He found his litany rhythmic and reassuring. The regular sound of, "Check," in his voice reminded him of a pendulum he once saw as a child. It was in the old Academy of Sciences building. He would watch it for hours, repeatedly amazed when it knocked over another wooden peg.

A man smoking a cigar appeared from around the far end of the building. "That's him. Check." Dixon lifted his camera and focused on the man before the man looked his way. Then Dixon swung his camera to point out to sea, pretending to shoot the kiteboarders.

Dixon had both eyes open. One eye looked through the camera, the other watched the man. The signal, he had been told, was when the man snubbed out the cigar on the ground. "Focus. Check."

The man pulled a Manila envelope from his coat pocket. He looked at is as if checking the address. Then he sucked a deep drag on his cigar and blew out a billow of smoke. The man shrugged as if he was sighing. Then the man bent and snubbed out the cigar in the sand, leaving it sticking out of the sand, upright.

Dixon adjusted his zoom. "Cigar. Check. Zoom. Check."

A woman in a jogging outfit, walking a dog, approached the man. She held the leash short and let the loosely looped end hang down from her hand. The loop almost reached the ground. The loop swung as she walked.

Dixon moved his camera into position and started to shoot. "Not too fast, not too slow. Check"

The woman stopped and appeared to say hello to the man. Dixon noticed the loop on the end of the leash swing. Dixon notice the loop pass near the upright snubbed out cigar. To Dixon's eye, the cigar became a peg. In his mind the leash became a pendulum. He was not aware that the frame of his camera began to sink. He lowered his view, in his mind, to watch the pendulum.

The woman looked around. She looked at Dixon but her gaze passed him. She appeared to discount him. She took the envelope. That movement caused her other hand to move at the same time. Her dangling leash struck the cigar and caused it to fall.

Dixon was snapped from his daydream. He was no longer in the great hall watching the pendulum. He was again sitting on steps, again at the beach, again on the job.

To his surprise, Dixon found his camera pointing down at the water. He lifted it quickly and shot.

Later that day. Dixon was looking at the shots he had taken. There it was. The cigar and the leash. And there it was, his camera pointing slowly downward and downward as his mind transported back to the Academy of Sciences and its pendulum.

The last shot was perfect. The woman was just taking the envelope from the man. She was caught looking directly at Dixon's camera. Her face was captured in an expression of horrified surprise.


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A whistle failed to stop them, so he poked
(13 of 30) (7873 views)

Carnival Parade
Photo Posted Friday, June 20, 2008 internal link
(2008) 24th Street, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Terry Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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The Poke
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Granny tapped the glass of the old-style computer monitor. Her heavily ringed finger sparkled. "It looks like you're poking that man," she said, her voice sounding like the crackle of broken eggs.

Almond Durfess scratched his head. He just got a haircut that morning and his head itched. "I think that's something to do with the camera. That guy I'm poking is really further toward the sidewalk. You know," he held his two hands parallel. "Like I'm here and the guy is here."

Granny slapped his hand and laughed. "No silly. I mean in the picture. In the picture it looks like you're poking that man."

"That's what I mean. It just looks like I'm poking him but I'm not."

"So why did you poke him?"

Almond looked over his right shoulder at the open bedroom door. "Honey," he yelled. "Can you come here and explain something to my Mom."

His wife's voice echoed from the distant kitchen. "She's your Mom. You handle her."

"Shall we look at more pictures?" he asked his Mom.

"No. Now don't try to pull a fast one. Tell me why you're poking that man."

Almond's wife spoke from the doorway. "What are you two doing in here anyway. Dwayne will be home soon and he'll be upset you're using his computer."

Almond glanced over his shoulder. His wife stood in the doorway drying her hands using a small blue towel.

Granny bumped Almond in his shoulder. "You haven't told me yet. Why are you poking that man?"

"You be nice," Almond's wife said to his Mom. "Just be careful or he'll poke you too."

Almond looked at his Mom. Granny shut her mouth and hunched over. She looked angry but was quiet.

"We'd better go," he said to his Mom. "Dwayne will be home soon." Almond turned off the computer. "We'd better get the table set for dinner."

"Dead," his Mom muttered.

"What?"

"Nothing."

His Mom shuffled out of the bedroom ahead of him. As he closed the door he looked back at Dwayne's perfectly preserved room and wondered if Dwayne would ever really come home again.


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BP20080603.jpg

They expected the signal to change more quickly that day
(14 of 30) (7960 views)

Photo Posted Tuesday, June 3, 2008
(2008) Stockton Street, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080603.jpg

Jane Wing asked the woman next to her, "Will this signal ever change?"

"There was a flash, there," the woman pointed at a round plate in the center of the road. "Then the signal got stuck. It's been stuck green for all the cars and red for us since then."

Jane shook her fist at the rain falling. "Curse you," she shouted. "Curse you Mr. Rain God."

Around her, the wet and frustrated others agreed.

The Rain God felt his face sting.

The Thunder God sat down by him and asked, "Why all the hubbub below?"

"I don't understand. As usual, a little light rain ending by mid-morning. Then a sunny afternoon. I try to give them a perfect day and they curse me."

"Haven't I been telling you? You coddle them and they lose respect. Of course they curse you. You brought their ire on yourself."

"No, I disagree. There is something different about today."

"Here," The Thunder God flicked his finger at those below. "That will teach them humility."

Jane was about to dart across the street just after a bus. She stepped off the curb and was rocked by a loud rumble of thunder. The thunder was so loud and close it felt as if it rattled her bones.

Unseen, under the street, the short that caused the traffic light to become stuck was rattled too. It broke free and the signal resumed normal function.

The light changed and the walk light flashed the start of a countdown.

"Thank the gods," Jane said as she crossed the street.

"Yes thank the gods," said others crossing around her.

The Thunder God stood. "There, see. What did I tell you. Now you got respect."

The Rain God looked below. With a wave of his hand he ended the rain. From below the warmth of goodwill rose and embraced him.


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BP20080611.jpg

If only we had feet, it would be so easy to dance
(15 of 30) (7859 views)

Photo Posted Wednesday, June 11, 2008
(2008) Karlsruhe, Germany
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080611.jpg

Zin Velata knew magic when he saw it. The two shoes in the store window reeked of magic.

Zin looked left, then right, up and down the sidewalk. He appeared to be alone. He grinned a sly grin and tapped his magic ring.

Zin remembered where he got that ring. A fire in a trash can down a dark alley. The greasy man showed Zin the cuts that covered his hand. "This ring gets my hand through glass. Free booze, you see. But one day it didn't work. My hand got stuck in the glass. I had to break my stupid hand free. You want the ring? A hundred bucks."

Zin offered the man twenty bucks and bought the ring. When he tapped the ring, it glowed and while it glowed Zin could move his hand through glass. Zin looked both ways again then plunged his hand into the glass. He reached for the magic shoes.

Zin grasped the shoes and immediately felt his arm become stuck, just below the elbow. Zin tugged, but he was stuck solidly.

Zin looked both ways up and down the sidewalk again. He was still alone. Zin looked at his hand holding the shoes. The ring no longer glowed. Zin released the shoes allowing them to settle back down onto the shelf. His ring glowed again.

Zin touched the shoes. The glow extinguished. He released the shoes. The glow returned. Zin slipped his hand free of the window.

Zin raised one eyebrow. "Interesting," he said. "It seems I cannot use magic to get magic."

Zin looked back and forth and found himself still alone. He moseyed around the store to the front door. A sign taped inside the glass of the door listed the hours the store was open. Unfortunately it was too dark on that side of the building to read the sign.

Zin tapped his ring and caused it to glow again. Using the glow from the ring he read the sign. Apparently the store was only open weekdays. Below the hours, Zin saw something hand written in pencil. He squinted and peered closer. He move the ring closer.

No sooner did he read, "Warning, this is a magic sign," than he felt the ring become stuck and saw its light go out.

The ring had slipped through the glass and touched the sign. Zin moved his hand. His finger was loose. He carefully slipped his finger free from the ring.

"Damn," he said. "Double damn."

Zin walked off in search of a big rock. It didn't have to be real big, just big enough to break the ring free.

Zin walked and walked and was amazed by how few rocks could be found in a city. He walked and walked, and eventually walked into another adventure.

"Damn," he said as the eagle attacked. "I'll really miss that ring."


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No better time to text than during a parade
(16 of 30) (8064 views)

Carnival Parade
Photo Posted Wednesday, June 18, 2008 internal link
24th Street, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080618.jpg

Sousa Albino tried for the third time to text his girlfriend while marching in the Carnival Parade. He completed the message and pressed send. His phone beeped at him again and claimed a network failure.

"Who you with?" his friend Bonito Fronds asked.

The music changed. Sousa dropped his phone into his pants pocket.

Sousa and Bonito danced to a happy choppy beat for a while. Then the music changed and they resumed walking.

Sousa pulled out his cellphone. "Sprint," he said to Bonito. "I'm with Sprint."

"AT&T," Bonito said. He pulled out is phone and showed it to Sousa. "See it says Cingular. But AT&T bought Cingular a while back so its an AT&T phone now."

"Would you mind texting Minny for me?"

"Who's that? Your girlfriend? It's not Minny Sigerro is it? Alice's sister?"

"You know Minny?"

"You kidding? I got her on speed dial."

"Hey. What do you mean? What's going on here?"

Bonito laughed. "Nothing to worry about. She's my cousin. I have her on speed dial because she works in the restaurant with my folks."

Sousa felt his phone vibrate. He looked. "Its a message from Minny!"

The music changed. Sousa and Bonito had to dance again. Sousa dropped his phone into is pocket to dance. He twirled and stomped and wondered what she had texted.

Twenty miles away, Minny sat in a prison cell and wept. She'd been picked up by INS agents and put in the back of a van. Mere moments ago she had been allowed to make her one phone call. One call before they confiscated her cellphone. Minny had texted a message to Sousa. She loved Sousa and was sure he would be able to help.


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Fruit and squash were available on Saturday
(17 of 30) (7801 views)

(2008) Ferry Building, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Minny Regles roamed the Farmer's Market with her mother and oldest daughter. Her daughter, Chicago Dandor, still used Minny's first husband's last name. Her daughter was a thirty-something and still unmarried.

They examined bins of tomatoes. There were dozens of different kinds. Minny's mother, Olga Hicks, had been married thrice and was now a widow.

Olga picked up a tomato and said, "I remember, when I was a girl, the local grocery store had lots of tomatoes just like they do here now."

"Not me," Minny said. "In LA, in the supermarket when I was growing up, we only had one kind of tomato. You know, the medium round ones that seemed to stay red forever."

"I like grandma's story," Chicago said. "Stores should always have been like they are now. You know. Like Safeway. With lots of tomatoes like they have here."

"That's new," Olga set the tomato back into the bin. "In the 70's they bred a new tomato that was supposed to revolutionize tomatoes. That's funny really. Imagine a corporation trying to revolutionize anything."

"You and corporations grandma. I mean really."

Minny picked up a cut sample and tasted it. "This is good."

Olga crossed her arms and glared at her granddaughter. "Corporations never do anything for the public good. They are beholding only to their stockholders. Safeway sells varieties of tomatoes only because shoppers want to buy them. Not because Safeway is good. It's economic war and Safeway wants the spoils of war."

"What's that?" Minny pointed across at the next booth.

Olga led them over to that booth. "Mushrooms. My God. I haven't seen mushrooms like this since I was a girl."

"When I grew up," Minny said. "The supermarket only had one kind of mushroom, the little white ones."

Chicago picked a small black mushroom up and smelled it. "It smells like dirt. The mushrooms in Safeway smell better."

"Spoils of war," Olga said.

They looked at each other in surprise. They laughed.


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She waited for her son to get out of school
(18 of 30) (7832 views)

Thursday, June 11
Photo Posted Wednesday, June 25, 2008 internal link
(2008) Alamo Square, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080625.jpg

Brenda Bostly called herself, "BB," or was it, "B Bos?" She waited as she did every day for her son to emerge prancing out of school. She didn't realize she had no son. She didn't realize the school was closed. Brenda had a stroke when she was sixteen. The part of her mind that dealt with logic was an empty hole.

"Here boy, here boy," a man down the hill called.

Brenda looked downhill and saw a man calling to his dog.

"Now where's that fool dog of mine gone now?" she asked. She immediately forgot the son she never had. Brenda now remembered her dog, the dog she never had. She noticed she no longer held her dog's leash.

"Here boy!" she called. She began to walk down the hill. "Here boy!"

Brenda, like anyone would, was following the dotted line that was her life. But when Brenda was sixteen, someone had erased a few of her dots. The gap confused her. She would follow random dots. First this way, then that.

"Here boy!" She walked up to a man sitting on a bench. "Have you seen my dog?"

"What kind of dog is it?"

"A German Shepherd. No, a Poodle. I like poodles."

"You're crazy lady."

Fortunately Brenda was still young. Since the stroke, her brain had gradually been repairing itself. A new foundation had been built in a different neighborhood. A bridge had been constructed over the dead area. Roads and bike paths had been installed. Signage had been erected.

What Brenda didn't know was that today was the grand opening ceremony for the new bridge. Brenda stood staring at the man. He had called her crazy and she was trying to reason his words out. Inside her mind, the mayor and his lovely wife held a huge pair of scissors. Together they snipped the bright yellow ribbon. The bridge inside Brenda's mind was open.

"I beg your pardon," she said.

"I said your crazy. I bet you don't even have a dog."

"Of course not." Brenda put her hands on her hips and glared at the man. "Why in the world would you think I have a dog?"

"But, but."

"Really!" Brenda spun and walked away. "Stupid man," she said as she walked. She was late. Then she stopped.

Brenda didn't recognize the park. Brenda didn't know what day it was. "Boy," she said to herself. "That must have been a great party."

Brenda began to walk. Although she couldn't see them, she followed a line of dots. They were her dots again.

Brenda began to whistle. She felt good. The day was warm.

Inside her mind, a stream of automobiles sped smoothly over her new bridge. Music blared from the car radios. All the cars were tuned to the same station.

As she followed her dots, Brenda whistled the same tune that the car radios played in her mind.


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Bryan knew that silly hat meant trouble
(19 of 30) (7905 views)

Photo Posted Thursday, June 12, 2008 internal link
(2007) New Years Eve Cruise, San Francisco Bay
© 2008 Terry Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080612.jpg

Jim Spiegal's Last Case
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Jim Spiegal wore the same silly hat. He rode the same cruise boat back, once again at 1:00 in the morning. Jim frowned because this was the anniversary of the day he had lost his private detective's license.

A year earlier, Jim wore a similar silly hat and pretended to be drunk. He had followed a man for a week, expecting him to pass the package of photographs. Jim was on a New Year's Eve cruise boat, after midnight as the boat returned to its dock.

The man approached a youngish woman and began chatting as if the two were old friends. The man gave the woman an envelope and bellowed, "Happy Birthday."

Had the man recognized the woman earlier Jim wouldn't have been suspicious. Had the woman looked at the envelope it would have seemed natural. But she didn't. She dropped it immediately into her purse without a glance. The two parted and resumed the roles of strangers to each other again.

Jim followed the woman off the boat. She flagged down a taxi, and so did Jim. His taxi followed hers. In the taxi, Jim discarded his silly hat and reversed his sport coat to display a plaid exterior.

The woman's taxi slowed by a trash can. She leaned from the car's window and tossed the envelope into a trash can. Her taxi then sped off.

Jim had his taxi stop a block past the trash can. He paid the driver, then began to walk casually back.

In the distance, a homeless man began to rummage through the trash can. As Jim approached, the homeless man looked up.

"Good God," Jim bellowed. "Detective Phillips? I can't believe it's you."

"Get back Jim," Detective Phillips tried to wave him back. "You'll ruin everything."

Jim laughed at that.

Detective Phillips turned to run but became entangled in his rags. He fell hard, knocking himself out.

Jim quickly relieved the Detective of the envelope, and knelt on the his back, effectively pinning him.

Jim used his cellphone to call his buddy on the police force, Vice Detective Harry Samson. "Harry," he said. "You won't believe who I'm kneeling on right now."

"Sure I would," Harry said. "We're watching you on video right now."


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The old windmill still faced out to sea
(20 of 30) (7816 views)

Photo Posted Thursday, June 5, 2008 internal link
(2008) Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080605.jpg

The next photo in the series expanded to fill the wall. Marta nBarington asked her young students, "And what is this?"

Berrie eFranks raised his hand first, but Toni gWande behind him was called first.

Toni said, "It's an old propeller used during the early transforming of New Earth."

"Correct," the teacher said. "Berrie, you seem to have more?"

Berrie stood to speak the way his Dad had taught him. "My dad said that's a picture of an old wind mill. He says there was no New Earth. My Dad says this is the old Earth, and the transforming was just recovery from something called Global Warming."

"Please sit down, Berrie," Ms. nBarington said. "You know your father is in prison for his views, don't you? That's why your mother enrolled you here."

Berrie sat. "Yeah, I guess so."

"Okay, students," Ms. nBarington said. She erased the picture from the wall. "Let's all look at page 12895 in your Universal Textbook. Who would like to read?"

Toni raised his hand first again.

"The old Earth," he read. "Became covered in clouds. Day turned to night. There was starvation and death. Some people built huge underground bunkers and moved into them. Others built huge space ships and left for New Earth. We are the people that transformed New Earth."

Berrie muttered, "Bunk."

Ms. nBarington tapped her desk. "Be careful young eFranks. You don't want to end up in prison like your father, do you?"

"No."

"I want you to stay after the bell. Your mother and I need to talk."

"Yes, Ms. nBarington."

Barrie slumped in his chair. He really missed his dad.


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Mom protected her daughter from a dog shaking off water
(21 of 30) (8055 views)

Photo Posted Thursday, June 26, 2008 internal link
(2008) Crissy Field, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080626.jpg

Van Doyle sat on a wooden bench facing the beach and held his pencil just off the page. "Character," he said to himself. "Dialogue, theme, pacing. Dialogue, theme, pacing." Satisfied with his mantra, he wrote:

A kite blew into the water. That caused dogs to charge into the water after it. A woman saw the dogs. In fear, she grabbed up her child and ran.
"Look out there," a woman's voice next to Van said. "He's going awfully fast."

Van looked up and felt his hair blow wildly in an unexpected gust of wind. A sailboard, he saw, was heading toward shore, and appeared to be going much too fast.

"Wow," Van said.

The man on the sailboard bent and turned and, just like that, skillfully brought his board to a stop a short way off shore.

"Artful," the woman said.

Van looked at her. She was very tall. He found himself staring level at her mouth. Her mouth was facing out toward the beach.

"I thought there was a leash law," her mouth said.

Van looked at the beach again. A dozen or so dogs bounded and played. The sailboard seemed to excite them. One dog, a medium black mutt, waded half way to the sailboard, his tail wagging furiously.

The sailboard rider ignored the dog. Van watched him turn and prepare to sail back out.

"Not here," Van said. "I think off-leash is okay here." Van looked at the woman's mouth again. It looked like a thin, harsh mouth.

"You'd think a woman would have more sense than that," the mouth said.

Van looked at the beach again. The black dog was shaking off its sea water. A woman was bent at the waist her arms protectively around her daughter.

"You can't judge from just that," Van said. "You have to ask why she's here." Van looked at the mouth again. This time the woman's mouth was facing him.

"What do you do?" the mouth asked.

"I'm a writer."

"You any good?"

"Nope."

The mouth turned away again. "I didn't think so," the woman's mouth said.


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There in the distance they spotted Chinatown
(22 of 30) (7836 views)

Chinatown viewed from Embarcadero Center
Photo Posted Friday, June 13, 2008
(2008) Chinatown, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080613.jpg

Windy Breeze and her brother Doubtful Reason had been exploring the city since early morning. The city was clean and white and empty of life. It sparkled as if new, despite being many years older than a thousand.

For as long as they could remember, they'd asked their parents and the town elders about the city. It was supposed to be a place of certain death, but nobody knew why. Several elevated pathways still led into the city, despite growth of a jungle surrounding it.

Doubtful paused and knelt down. "Look here," he said. "A tiny fence."

Windy bent over to look at it. The fence was no more than a half finger's width tall and spanned the width of the elevated path. "It looks like a bone fence," Windy said. "What's it for? To keep bugs inside?"

They both laughed.

Later they spotted a small house in the center of the city. It almost looked like a hill rose there, covered with jungle, and poked through the city with a house on top.

The path they followed ended at a clearing surrounding the house. They gingerly stepped off the path and onto firm dirt. "Very odd," Doubtful said. "How the jungle ends here, just shy of the house."

Wendy took his hand and together they approached the house.

"Look," Windy said. "The house looks almost like it's made of food."

Windy lifted her arm to reach to the house. But, just then, they both heard a shuffling. Together they turned.

A leafy hedge was growing around the house, enclosing them inside. It was already waist high and they could clearly see it still growing.

"Run!" Windy yelled.

They sprinted at the hedge and leaped over. Windy's left foot grazed the hedge. As she landed, her foot felt on fire.

"My foot! My foot!" she yelled in pain.

Doubtful looked at her foot. Using his finger nails he deftly plucked a thorn out. He saw her relax.

"The pain is gone," Windy said. She stood and tested her foot. "I'm fine again."

They climbed back onto the path and looked back at the house.

"It's a trap," Doubtful said. "If we'd waited we'd never be able to climb out. The thorns would stop us."

They walked the same path back out that they had taken in.

"You know," Windy said. "I think all this white is actually bone."

"You mean the city was alive?"

"Yeah. I think so. Maybe one time it was all like that house. You know. Trapping people and animals and growing bigger and bigger."

As they walked out of the city they looked at it with a different eye. It no longer looked like a city. It now looked like a giant living thing. A huge thing, at long last dying and turning to bone.

Far behind them, too far for them to hear, the house moaned. It was a desperate and hungry moan. It was the moan of a dying thing, too old and slow to catch food anymore.


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He wondered, just then, at the expense of his sunglasses
(23 of 30) (7968 views)

Carnival Parade
Photo Posted Saturday, June 21, 2008 internal link
(2008) 24th Street, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080621.jpg

Doug McCatche paused astride his motorcycle and thought.

He wondered when the parade might start moving again. The morning was warm, and the afternoon threatened to become actually hot. He tried to remember if he'd put on sun screen that morning but couldn't remember leaving the house.

"When I buy sunglasses," a man on the next motorcycle over said to Doug. "I either buy the best or the cheapest."

Doug tapped his own shades. "The best," he said. "I think."

"I'm Phil. Phil D'Taunk," said the man.

Doug laughed.

Phil smiled. "Yeah I know. I'm the butt of all jokes.

"Doug," Doug said. "Doug, McCatche"

"Pleased to meet you, Doug."

"My name could be funny too," Doug said. "But I don't have the kind of face that makes for an easy laugh."

Phil eased out his clutch and pulled forward, a bit more parallel to Doug. "About the sun glasses," Phil continued. "For the bike, I always buy cheap."

"Why's that?" Doug asked.

"Once I was cruising down 101, pretty fast just south of Gilroy. Instead of using my mirror I looked over my shoulder."

Doug laughed. "I remember doing the same thing, once. Only mine was on I-5."

"Yep. Sucked the glasses right off my head"

"I pulled over and walked back to get them. But a semi beat me, and they were crushed."

"A sports car smashed mine. A little red sports car."

The parade began to move again. "Really," Doug said. "I think these may be my expensive pair. You know, for the parade. But I can't remember."

"Been there."

The both laughed. The parade moved again, so they rode together side by side in silence. That is, until the parade stopped again.


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San Francisco could be seen through a small window
(24 of 30) (7957 views)

Alcatraz Island Tour
Photo Posted Friday, June 27, 2008 internal link
(Sunday 8 June 2008) San Francisco Bay, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080627.jpg

Ella Wilkey had her turn by the tiny window. Most of the other middle-school kids had been locked, one at a time, in a prison cell. The lesson was to pretend what it was like to be in prison.

"Face the window and look out," said her teacher, Mrs. Wisowati. "Pretend you're in prison for life with no possibility of parole, and your only view is that tiny window looking at San Francisco."

"I need a mirror," Ella said to the glass, although she knew her teacher could hear. "I need my makeup."

"There's no makeup in prison."

"But I can't be in prison without makeup. My acne will show."

"There's no mirror. There's no makeup. There is just you and the window. Now try to pretend."

Ella squinted at the glass. She tried to think what it might be like in prison. But it was no good. "I can't." She turned to her teacher. "What do you have against makeup?"

Mrs. Wisowati crossed her arms. "It's not me. It's the prison. The prison won't let you have makeup. That's because you're a prisoner and prisoners don't wear makeup."

"But I'm not me, not without makeup."

"Ella, turn and look out the window. Isn't San Francisco really pretty out there?"

Ella turned to the window again and looked. "Yeah. It's pretty."

"Shush children. Let Ella do her pretend."

Ella closed her eyes and willed herself with all her might. But the art of pretense was still too far in her future. She opened her eyes and turned back to her teacher. "Not even lip gloss?"

The other kids laughed.

"Shush children. Shush. No Ella. Now don't you think there will be times when you shouldn't wear makeup? Perhaps in the military, or on a new job, or when you are surfing at the beach."

Ella crossed her arms. "No," she said. "I'll never do those things. Not me. Not ever. I want to be a model or an actress."

The other kids laughed again.

But Ella found that okay. She could tell from the way Mrs. Wisowati quieted the kids that her turn was over. She wouldn't have to pretend she was in prison any more. Being stubborn had paid off.

She glanced one last time out the window. "Good bye San Francisco," she said. She tapped the glass and snapped her finger and felt she'd won.


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Although rusted, the great cleat was strong as ever
(25 of 30) (8132 views)

Photo Posted Monday, June 9, 2008
(2008) Off of Mission Bay, San Francisco
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080609.jpg

In 1998, Fester Williams stood and enjoyed a smoke. He had just finished painting the cleat white. He felt pride by his small part in reconstructing the old wharf.

John, just John, looked old but was only in his forth dozen of years. He pulled his wooden skiff alongside the crumbling wharf. He tossed a rope loop over the rusted cleat. The rope had been made over the months by weaving small frond lengths together.

In 2020, a meteor storm had set the world on fire. The wide plaza near the wharf became pockmarked as if shelled in war.

John knew the City had been picked clean years earlier. What he sought was treasure of a different kind. Gulls by the thousands nested in the battered plaza. Gull eggs, John knew, would last years when buried in cold dirt. While he carefully gathered eggs, he remembered embarrassing his parents as a young boy, by acting so fearfully of birds.

In 2003, Anna McDuff was furious. Her rat of a husband had come home drunk one time too often, had come home one time too many smeared with lipstick. She had thrown everything he owned out the back window into the weeds of the back yard. Last, was his toolbox, filled it seemed with thousands of old screws.

John was alone. His wife had died the year before. She had stepped barefoot on a small rusty screw. The cut became infected. John felt shame that he hadn't cleaned the yard more carefully.

In 2010 Ann Lopez hid her husband's rifle. The gun had been bought for protection, but Ann hated guns. She hid it under a floorboard and told her husband she had sold it. Not knowing about rifles, she hid it with a cartridge in the chamber.

John smelled smoke. There was not much left in the City that could burn, but fires still happened. Once, he remembered, a fire caused so much smoke it had reached his home far in the north bay. From behind him, John heard a cough. He turned and saw what he feared most.

In 1996, Prof. Skildodge designed a drug he hoped would cure malaria. But the drug proved more effective as an aid in cow growth. Unforeseen, the drug took a decade to cause small mutations. Among the unforeseen mutations was a new sickness.

The man was with-the-sickness. His eyes were wide and red. His clothes were rags. He still looked strong, but crazy and dangerous. John felt fear. He lacked a weapon.

A distant bang from the direction of the smoke. The crazy man stopped and looked surprised. Blood appeared on his chest.

John looked behind himself but saw nobody there. Ghosts, he thought. Ghosts of the past come wrapped in smoke to protect me.

John skirted the dead sick man. He didn't want to catch the sickness. He gathered his bags of eggs and left the City.


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SF Fire Station number eight
(26 of 30) (8268 views)

Photo Posted Sunday, June 8, 2008 internal link
(2008) Bluxome Street, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080608.jpg

Leo Buckenwalker Jr. walked his dog peacefully down Bluxome Street when the sirens blared. Behind him, fire trucks roared from open doorways and sped off the opposite way.

"Easy," Leo said to his dog. "Easy Eight."

Leo's dog was named Eight because of a bet. Leo couldn't remember the bet, but remembered the loss. So he had named the puppy Eight. Eight was now ten, and small for an elderly, standard poodle.

"Come Eight," Leo said. "Let's head back"

They walked back past the now-vacant fire station. Leo noticed the station was number eight, just like his dog.

Eight must have sensed something. He barked once, then growled.

Leo looked around. Other dogs down the street were barking too. Leo noticed a dog in the window of the building next to the fire station. It was barking too.

Eight stopped growling. Leo noticed that all the other dogs became quiet too.

"What was it Eight?"

Eight just looked at Leo and wagged his tail.

"Was it something too high for me to hear?"

Eight sat and waited.

"That's okay Eight," Leo said. "Let's just head back."


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BP20080602.jpg

He waved a friendly wave as they entered the water
(27 of 30) (8033 views)

Bay Quackers, Amphibious Tours
Photo Posted Monday, June 2, 2008 internal link
(2008) San Francisco and Mission Bay, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080602.jpg

Frank Sitrow sipped beer and waved at the departing boat.

"You must be feeling pretty good," his friend and buddy, Wayne Lutzowitz, said.

The two men leaned on the rear rail of the small bay-side bar. There outside, the weather threatened rain, but Frank didn't care.

"I do feel good," Frank said. "I do indeed. I won a hundred dollars at the lottery yesterday. That's why I'm here with you buying beers."

"If I had a dollar I'd buy a Slim Jim to eat."

Frank ignored his friend. "If I had won a thousand dollars I would have taken a bus to Reno. You know. And parlayed that thousand into some real money."

"Or maybe a dollar fifty for a bag of chips."

"If I had won ten-thousand dollars. Well then. I would fly to Las Vegas. I would see all them shows. You know. The circus show and all the dancing girls. Now that would be something."

"A bag of nuts. That would be just right. A bag of nuts."

"But hey. If I had won a hundred thousand dollars. Man. I could have flown to Europe, you know, to that Monaco place where James Bond went. Martinis, yeah, and card games with odd names. Yeah."

Wayne bumped Frank's arm. "You listening to me?"

"Yeah." Frank rifled in his pocket. He handed Wayne a ten dollar bill. "Go buy yourself chips, and Slim Jims, and maybe something hot, like a corn dog."

Wayne grunted thanks and headed back into the bar.

Frank leaned on the rail again and took another sip of beer. "And what if," he said to the rain. "What if I had won a million dollars?"

But a million dollars was too big for Frank to think about. "No. Ten thousand. Yeah. That would be just right. I always wanted to go to Vegas."

The rain started to come down heavy. Frank rolled up his collar. He hunkered down. Frank, it turned out, had won a hundred dollars the day before in the lottery. Frank, it turned out, today drank beer in the rain.


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Who would have believed an antique baseball could be played
(28 of 30) (7929 views)

Photo Posted Tuesday, June 24, 2008 internal link
(2008) Ferry Building, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Terry Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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The Antique Baseball
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

The antique baseball rested in the dark, on a gold pedestal inside a glass dome, on a shelf, inside a sealed room, behind a bricked over wall, in an abandoned basement. A demolition crew uncovered the hidden room with all its treasures. The glass dome was broken. The gold stand was stolen. The baseball ended up discarded in a dumpster.

Flash was homeless. He'd forgotten his last name a while back. His left hand shook uncontrollably so he limited himself to the use of his right hand. Before dawn on a Tuesday, on a chilly fog enshrouded morning, Flash closed his right hand around something round near the bottom of a smelly dumpster. He pulled the object out and found himself holding a very old baseball.

The crowd cheered. On the pitcher's mound, Flash watched the catcher. He shook off a V and accepted an upside down four. He wound. He threw. He threw a fast ball, low and inside. He threw it left handed.

Flash found himself standing by the dumpster. In the distance, the antique baseball bounced out of sight across a far cross street. Flash looked at his left hand. He was not left handed, but he'd thrown the ball left handed. His left hand no longer shook.

The antique ball rolled to a stop and stuck behind the rear wheel of a parked light-blue Chevy.

Ashton Brickle was on his way home from an all night work-a-thon. The latest release of software barely squeaked out the door before closing time in Europe. Ashton rubbed his right hand. Too many years of a computer mouse had harmed his tendons and his right hand always seemed to hurt these days. He paused to wait for a signal and noticed an antique baseball stuck behind a car's tire. He bent and picked up the ball.

Ashton ran. He ran like the wind. It was a line drive and the bases were loaded. He felt, but didn't see, the ball strike the center of his mitt. He spun without slowing and fired the ball, right handed, hard back at the catcher.

Ashton found himself standing behind a light-blue Chevy. In the distance, bouncing down 3rd street, was the ball. Ashton watched the ball until, struck by a passing bus, it vanished out of sight. Ashton felt his right hand. It no longer hurt. He flexed his hand and looked at it. His right hand actually felt good.

The ball spent the rest of the day stuck behind the bumper of a city bus. That night the bus returned to its maintenance yard and was parked there.

Joseph Teely cleaned buses. He found the ball wedged behind the bumper of a bus. Using a latex gloved hand, he pulled the ball free. It was a handsome antique baseball. He dropped it in his overall pocket. It would make a find gift for his son. His son was hospitalized for cancer treatments. Joseph smiled. He would give the antique baseball to his son when he visited him in the hospital the next day.


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BP20080607.jpg

The bell unrung did not stay silent for thee
(29 of 30) (7842 views)

Photo Posted Saturday, June 7, 2008
(2008) Bay Cruise, San Francisco Bay
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
#BP20080607.jpg

Almost sunset, almost home. Jersey Framer hitched her collar higher against the fog's cold and watched San Francisco approach. Almost there.

If it were not for the children, Jersey believed, the trip would have been a pleasure. Just her and her sister, a brunch cruise on the Bay, what could be a better way to enjoy a Sunday.

A grammar school's day trip, of all things. One hundred children for brunch. One of the taller boys discovered the alarm bell. He hit it with a spoon causing a loud gong to resonate. A waiter told the boy to, "Never play with ship's equipment." But the stage had been set.

Jersey's sister Lin smoked and the only allowed smoking was on the rear deck. Together they escaped the noisy children, so Lin could smoke.

A group of girls appeared from around a corner. They must have agreed to be rude about smoking. A bell hung from the ship's wall. Each time Lin took a puff, the girls rang the bell and laughed.

Brunch had ended and the children were free to wander the ship. Jersey wondered if it was their sense of sport. Or perhaps it was their sense that Jersey and Lin might make good targets. Whatever the reason, the children, it seemed to her, all one hundred of them, made sport at them. Made sport for the rest of the cruise.

"Almost back to dock," Lin said.

"Ding dong, ding dong," two boys sang at them from the deck above.

"Yes. Thank God," Jersey said. "Scant moments to freedom."

From elsewhere they heard one of the mothers call, "All kids back into the dining room. Gather up. Gather up so we can count heads."

Jersey sighed a loud deep sigh.

Lin leaned against her sister. "You realize I only smoked once?"

"No, I'm sorry. I didn't notice."

"Just thought I'd mention it."

"Let's go up to the top deck. We can watch the children exit first. We'll get off second."

"Hey, we can shout things at them."

"Or we could just watch them go in silence."

"A better idea," Lin said. "Yes silence. I like that idea."

"Almost back," Jersey said. "Almost back."


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She waited patiently for the laundry to dry
(30 of 30) (7808 views)

Photo Posted Wednesday, June 4, 2008
(2008) Stockton Street, San Francisco, California
© 2008 Bryan Costales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License
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Juan Valamous gazed up at the window. It was the only window in that side of the building. Behind the glass a Chinese looking woman gazed out at something in the distance. Juan turned his head to look, but couldn't detect any point of interest for her gaze.

Without self-awareness of why, Juan jumped and waved his arm and yelled, "Hi there."

A smartly dressed Chinese woman bumped his side and asked, "What you waving at? Not that woman I hope. You know she really isn't there."

Juan looked at her. She appeared old with a wise steady gaze. He asked, "What to you mean? Of course she's there. I see her."

"Oh yes, she appears from time to time. But most of the time there is just a blank wall there. I think she's from a different time. A hundred years ago, maybe."

"But the window has aluminum trim. That kind of trim didn't appear until the fifty's."

"Go see for yourself," the woman pointed at the door to the building. "That room isn't there."

Juan sensed a fun challenge and said, "I'll do that." He entered the building and headed up the handy stairway.

At the first landing he noticed the stair rail changed from steel to dark wood. The steps became uncarpeted. Juan slowed as he reached the top and noticed a gas light, its flame flickering dimly from the ceiling. Ahead of him was a dark wooden door. Juan knocked.

The woman he had seen from the street opened the door. She frowned and said something abrupt in Chinese.

Juan raised his arm in a manner he deemed disarming. "Hello. I just want to find out what day this is." From the inside, he noticed the window was framed in wood.

The woman tried to force the door closed.

Juan noticed a newspaper just inside. He blocked the door and pointed at the newspaper. "That," he said. "Can I have that?"

The woman looked at him. She shouted something, then used her foot to push the newspaper out the door.

Juan stepped back and allowed the door to slam. He picked up the paper and looked at the date. The year was 1906.

Juan muttered, "I don't believe it."

He started down the stairs. The building started to shake. It felt like an earthquake. A big one.

Juan fled down the stairs, jumping the last few steps to the landing. The shaking stopped as if it never happened. He noticed his hands were empty, the newspaper was gone.

Juan turned. The stairs were now brightly contemporary in appearance and ended at the top in a blank wall.

Juan left the building and looked up again at its outside. The window on the outside was gone. He looked around, but couldn't see the old woman anywhere.

"What fun," Juan said to himself. "What great fun."


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