2008/11, November 2008 Photofictional, A Daily Blog Posting By Bryan Costales

They tried to hide behind the mirror
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Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Mole Son Of Whisker was the youngest of twenty sons. They'd walked for three days behind the ox cart that carried their three mothers and two sisters. Father led using a switch-reed to keep the ox moving.

They slept that night in the forest at the edge of a clearing.

On Mole's last morning, he awoke to find a traveling festival had set up. Men and women and tents and banners had appeared as if by magic.

"Rin look," he shook his brother. "Look what came while we slept." His brother grunted and rolled away.

Mole stood and looked at his family. They all still slept, even his father.

Mole recognized an opportunity when he saw it. Smelling fun, he walked quietly away from his sleeping family and into the fair.

One booth filled the air with smoke. Mole approached and smelled the delicious aroma of meat cooking. He stood on tiptoes. The man behind the counter saw him and smiled. The man cut a bit of useless fat from a pig and handed it to Mole.

Mole walked and chewed the small strip of fat and felt as if he was in heaven.

He next stopped at a booth where a man with a long black beard hung paintings on the booth's canvas walls. Mole noticed one painting still leaned against a corner post. Curious, he stepped around to look at it. But it wasn't a painting it was a mirror.

Mole looked at his own reflection. He'd never seen a real mirror before. Before this he had only seen himself reflected in still puddles.

He was startled when three men passed in the reflection. They were strangely dressed in bright colored clothes. Mole spun in place to see them but they were not there.

Puzzled, Mole reached to touch the mirror. He heard the man with the long black beard yell, "Don't touch that."

The man's shout so startled Mole that he stumbled. He tripped over his own feet and fell into the mirror.

Mole landed on grass and rolled. He had managed to miss the mirror. He sat up and found himself in a different world. All around him were colorfully dressed people. All of them were clean and rich looking. There was no sign of the first festival. Here, in its place, was strange music and young people juggling clubs. All around he heard people speaking a strange language.

Mole looked and found the same mirror behind him. He was about to reach for it when he heard a shouted sound of, "Oops!"

One of the juggling clubs flew past him. It struck the mirror and shattered it. Pieces of sharp glass flew in all directions. A piece struck Mole in his arm and stuck there.

Mole looked at the sharp piece of mirror in his arm. It started to hurt and a drop of blood oozed out and fell to the grass.

One of the young juggling folk knelt in front of Mole and said something he didn't understand. The juggler reached and plucked the glass from his arm.

Unseen by them both, a tiny piece of the mirror broke off inside Mole's arm. A piece smaller than a gnat. The piece that broke off was the magic part. It was the tiny bit of magic that had transported Mole here in he first place.

The tiny piece entered Mole's bloodstream and, all at once, he could understand the language. "Gosh," the juggler said. "I'm really sorry. You look homeless. Where are your folks?"

Mole remembered his family. He thought about them. He thought about where they were when he'd last seen them. The magic in his blood heard his thoughts and immediately and instantaneously transported him to England.

Mole found himself sitting in a field by a forest. The place felt right, but the forest looked wrong. Cows grazed in the field. They grazed alone with no one to watch them.

Mole spun in place but found no sign of his family.

Another ten years would pass before he could visit his family. He had to grow up first and discover art, literature and history. Eventually it would dawn on him that he'd moved not just in place, but in time too.

When Mole finally visited his family again, he found a dirty, stupid people who thought Mole had died that morning or had been taken. They didn't care which and felt themselves better off with one fewer mouth to feed.

He tried to hug his dad but was pushed away. He returned to his own, modern time. He carried with him only memories, sad memories and, as it happened, a few souvenir head lice.

How Berkeley Fair   •  Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, Berkeley   •  (Photo posted Friday 21 November 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Sunday 28 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Big puddles remained in an equipment yard
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Nat and Dave
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

The truck was just where he had left it. A terrible rain. He'd parked his truck and ran to a nearby restaurant for shelter.

Nat Biggs was tall and muscular. He sported a dozen tattoos. He drove a truck for a living. But Nat was deathly afraid of rain.

He stood in sunshine opposite a large puddle from his truck. He held a lit cigarette in his left hand and a Styrofoam cup of black coffee in his right. Nat gazed thoughtfully at his truck. It looked okay.

When Nat was a young boy he and his brother Dave played Cowboy and Indian. Nat, the younger, was usually the Indian. Dave had tied Nat to a post. Nat thought the post might have been to hold up the lines for hanging wash. But his memory was fuzzy. His brother had run to hide. That afternoon his brother had fallen through a hidden well and died.

Nat had waited. Dark clouds moved in. It began to rain. It began to pour. The rain lasted forever. Finally his father had rescued him. His father asked, "Where's Dave?"

Nat remembered all this. He tossed his lit cigarette into the puddle. It hissed. Nat asked himself, "Where's Dave?"

Like back then, like now, he had no answer.

Nat skirted the puddle and approached his truck. It still looked okay.

Sometimes, in the rain, Nat would see the face of his brother floating behind the glass of the windshield. Dead and ghostlike, his eyes open, looking at Nat. That's why he had to escape his truck in the rain.

The rain had ended back then. He and his Mom and Dad had found his brother. Nat had looked through the broken boards and seen Dave. Had seen his brother floating, face up, dead, looking at him.

Nat set the cup of coffee on the ground. He unlocked the truck. He swung the door open. He sighed. When, he wondered, would he be able to forget his brother. He picked up his coffee. He thought about Dave. Never, he realized. He never wanted to forget his brother.

Point Reyes Station, California   •  (Photo posted Wednesday 26 November 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Sunday 9 November 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Poor sick Vicky was escorted ashore
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One Thing
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

"Mom," Linda Winkles shouted. She'd been digging through old photographs and found one of her mother. It said she'd been sea sick. "You never get motion sickness. What's up with this?" She held the photo up for her mother to see.

Her mom leaned out the door. She must have been baking something because she had flour on her face and she was drying her hands with a red and white candy-striped towel. "What did you say?"

Linda waved the photograph at her mom. "This picture. On the back it says you got sea sick." Linda flipped the picture over. "And on the front is a picture of you much younger, maybe fresh in college."

Her mom stepped fully into the dining room. "It's true. Of course I never told you kids. But when I was really young I got motion sick all the time. Car sick, sea sick, lake sick, merry-go-round sick. You name it, I got it sick."

"But what happened? How did you cure yourself?"

"Why I had you girls of course."

"Really?" Linda tossed the photo back on the pile. It had served its use. "So when and if I have kids, I'll start getting sea sick."

Her mom laughed. "Of course not. Now you're just trying to bait me into idle conversation. If you want to talk come into the kitchen and help me bake."

Linda's mom turned and disappeared back into the kitchen.

Linda carefully scooped the photos back into their box. Then she returned the box to the window seat where they were kept. "Learn one thing at a time." That was her motto. One thing at a time.

Linda stood, pulled her shirt down and went to the kitchen. She found her mom rolling out dough. "What are you baking?"

"Cookies," she said. "For Christmas. Gingerbread men to be exact."

"But it's only November."

"They're not for us, silly. They're for your sister's school."

Linda mock wiped her head. "Phew!"

"What's that mean?"

"I almost learned a second thing."

"You and learning. I'll never understand you." Her mom held out the rolling pin to her. "Here. Grab an apron and help."

"Okay," Linda said. "I've done this before. It's not new. Okay, this should be fun."

Boat trip part 1 of two   •  Photo Posted Saturday 8 November 2008 internal link   •  (Photo taken 17 September 2008) Quepos, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The outdoor area where AA met weekly
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IQ Test
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Too warm in his cotton shorts and t-shirt, Roger Franks sat well back in the unlit patio area and watched the others swim. He'd started with red wine, then said, "What the hell," and now held a double vodka in is hand.

This was Roger's first foreign trip. He had never made friends easily. Despite touring with a group, he sometimes felt alone. Times like this, for instance. He felt the cold glass in his hand. He swirled it and listened to the ice tinkle.

"Say mate," the lanky Australian towered over him.

Roger watched the Australian's loose, black-and-white striped swim suit, water dripping, dripping. What was the Australian's name? Oh yes. "Hi Dane."

"Sitting by yourself I see. What say you join us in the pool?"

"Not wearing a swim suit." Roger finished the vodka. The bit of remianing ice felt good against his lips.

"Buckets of time," Dane said. "We'll be here for a while. Then we'll all head out to dinner together. Why don't you join us?"

Roger noticed Dane's swimsuit had stopped dripping. Maybe Dane will get too warm now. Maybe Dane will head back to the pool. Roger held out is glass. "I need to get a refill."

"Amazing mate!" Dane said. "See that?"

Dane was still standing in front of him. Roger couldn't stand yet. "What's that?"

"You're sitting in the middle of the AA meeting area and drinking."

Roger really needed to stand up. "Excuse me," he said. "I need to stand."

Dane backed up, then turned and walked back to the pool.

Roger stood. He felt himself wobble a little. Not too bad.

Dane's voice intruded. "Look at Roger," Dane said to the others in the pool. He pointed at Roger. "He's getting drunk in the AA meeting area."

The others laughed. Roger watched Dane dive into the pool.

Roger looked at the empty glass in his hand. He held his other hand, palm up, next to the one with the glass. He hefted the glass. "To drink." Then he hefted his empty hand. "To change into my suit and swim."

Roger weighed his choices. He weighed his choices a couple times. Then he muttered, "An IQ test."

Roger dropped his empty hand. "I must be really stupid," he said loud enough for anyone to hear. Then he headed for the bar to get another drink.

Mono Azul Hotel   •  Photo Posted Tuesday 11 November 2008 internal link   •  (16 September 2008) Quepos, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Another tour thundered past
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Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

He was a mote. Smaller, he believed, than the one in God's eye. Once his name had been Golden Frey Habinger and he had owned all the land anyone could see from his highest mountain. Then an arrow had pierced his heart, and he had died. And ever since then he had been a mote.

Because he was so small, he tended to blow where the wind took him. He'd blown at one time over the Steepes of Russia and the lush valleys of India. Cyclones and monsoons had for a while embedded him in mud. But now he was free again and had blown into the Americas.

"What's that?" a voice outside him asked.

"I don't know. It's really small. Is it a bug?"

"Maybe a gnat?"

He floated and wanted to scream at them, "I'm a mote!" but couldn't.

"Here," a man's voice. "Let me shoot it with my macro lens."

Glass hovered in front of him. A loud clack.

"Look at this. It looks like a tiny glass ball with a man inside."

"That's just a reflection of one of us."

"No. It doesn't curve like that."

He felt a breeze. He moved a bit off the path and up.

"Where did it go?"

"Damn! It's gone."

"Hey, group," called a distant voice. "Come here. I found a three-toed sloth."

A crowd of people thundered away from him. The breeze from their passage moved him higher.

He floated and wondered. Am I a tiny man in a glass ball? He tried to look at himself but couldn't.

He shrugged in his mind. He floated and waited for a fortunate wind.

Nature Hike, Reserva Biologica, Bosque Nuboso   •  Photo Posted Saturday 1 November 2008 internal link   •  (14 September 2008) Monteverde, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The bus stop was oddly unoccupied
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Four Screws
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

"Your mind is like an empty bus stop."

Al Troudeux finished chewing his Corn Flakes and looked up. The woman was looking at him, waiting. Al cleared his throat and asked, "How's that?"

The woman smiled. It was that nasty little smile that meant she tricked him into conversation. She gestured with the butcher knife. Milk dripped down the knife and over her hand. She said, "You know. At one time the bus ran once per hour. Regular, like a clock, tick tock. So there were always people there waiting for the bus, waiting."

Al considered what to ask. He watched the knife. The woman ate her Corn Flakes with the butcher knife. She said it helped her lose weight, but Al knew better. "Did something happen to the bus?"

The woman scooped up a few Corn Flakes on the tip of her knife. She looked at them then dropped them back into the bowl. It looked to Al as if she was searching for a story.

The woman looked at him again. "It wasn't the bus. It was my husband. He boarded the bus at that bus stop. Hey! he yelled at the bus driver. Hey you. Hey you. You messed around with my wife." The woman pointed the knife at Al and said, "Bang! Shot him dead. Shot him dead."

Al paused. He considered his options. Sometimes he asked the wrong question. He became aware of his arms and legs. Some of the cuts still hurt. He glanced at his coffee cup. Half full. "We're out of coffee. You'll have to get more or we won't have any coffee tomorrow."

The woman blinked. Al could almost see the squirrel in her mind. It ran madly around its wheel. The woman blinked again. Al began to worry. Then the woman smiled. "Yes," she said. "Coffee. I'll just get my coat and go buy some. Buy some coffee."

The woman set her knife on the table and walked out. Then she said, "That won't do, won't do." She came back in and picked up the knife. "Gotta clean up after myself," she said and left the room again.

Al listened. He listened until he heard the front door slam. Al smiled. He slipped the dime from between the two pieces of sewn leather that formed his belt. He listened again. He figured he had two minutes as usual before she returned from wherever she shopped.

Al carefully worked at loosening the second screw holding the chair's arm together. Four screws total. Almost half done. Four screws were all that stood between him and freedom. Four screws and he'd be able to slide the handcuff off. With a grunt, the screw broke loose.

Al heard the front door open. He hid the dime.

"Coffee," the woman said. She dropped a large can on the table. "Enough for a month at least," she said. "A month."

Bus trip from Monteverde toward Manuel Antonio   •  Photo Posted Monday 3 November 2008 internal link   •  (Photo taken 16 September 2008)   •  Road from Monteverde, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The cockpit was eerily lit
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Ghost Light
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Wendy Linders reported for the Vodont internet channel. Her show was called, "Odds and Ends," and dealt with anything from a two-headed snake to a government coverup. An odd email drew her to Ed Duggan's home.

Ed sat calmly across the table from her. He looked old, perhaps in his late fifties and was well dressed in a neutral coat and tie. To his left he had a laptop computer, which she presumed he would use for notes.

"We know," Wendy continued. "That one cargo plane was shot down and a second abandoned. We also know that soon after that the Iran Contra Affair began to unravel. In your email you said you were pilot of the second plane?"

"I was and wasn't. That's the whole point. I arrived at the airport as usual just before dawn. As pilot it was my job to inspect the plane before flying it. Well that morning turned out to be my last morning. Working for that company, I mean."

"Tell us what happened when you inspected the plane."

"I looked up and saw a light in the cockpit. It might have been a spy, or maybe a worker, but the light was all wrong for that. It didn't look like a flashlight, you know, a circle of light moving around. It was more like a glow."

"Like a lantern or a candle?"

"Yes, and no. More like a glow. It's hard to describe. The way it moved, like it was something alive. Anyway," Ed sat up straight. "I called security and we inspected the plane together. Found nothing, of course. Not squat. But that spooked me good, I tell you."

"You think perhaps it was a ghost?"

"I didn't want to guess then and I don't want to guess now. You know how it is. Superstitious like. Best not to second guess. Best not to take chances."

"So what did you do."

"I refused to fly the plane of course. That's all. That and got fired for refusing. Turns out that day's flight was the plane's last flight. It landed in San Jose, Costa Rica's airport and was abandoned there.

"So it didn't crash or anything."

"No it didn't crash. More importantly I didn't have to fly home using a fake passport. If you ask me, that light saved me a pile of trouble."

"But what caused you to email me all these years later. I have to tell you it doesn't really sound all that spooky."

"It's that plane, you know, that's why I called you. It was torn apart and shipped to the west coast of Costa Rica. Then it was reassembled into a restaurant and bar."

"I'm afraid I don't understand."

"I found a photo of the plane on-line. I could tell at once it was the same plane." Ed pivoted the laptop so Wendy could see the screen. "See. The same ghost light. This picture shows the exact same ghost light I saw all those years ago."

"It looks like a work light."

"Maybe. Maybe not. What if I saw that same work-light all those years ago? What if, back then, I saw the future?"

Wendy thanked Ed and closed the interview. The tape with his interview sat on a shelf for three years, then was recycled when the station converted to digital memory.

On his sixty-fifth birthday, Ed visited the airplane. It was still used as a restaurant and bar. The work-light still shone in its cockpit.

The El Avion Restaurant   •  Photo Posted Monday 10 November 2008 internal link   •  (Photo taken 19 September 2008) Quepos, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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At first they appeared somewhat shy
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Pop Tarts
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

"I dreamed I was a monkey," Ann Pennski muttered through the steam rising from her dark roast coffee. "I dreamed I was hungry and hiding. I wanted Pop Tarts and Big Macs. I wanted human food but couldn't have any."

Her roommate, Fanny Flame --her blog name, not her real name-- looked up from her laptop. It always took her a beat to change gears. A heartbeat later she asked, "What color was the monkey's face?"

Fanny always asked the oddest questions. Ann set down her coffee and flexed her fingers. They still hurt from her bike accident the day before. "How would I know? Monkeys don't have mirrors."

Fanny typed something quickly into her computer. Then she smiled, moved her pot of tea aside, and spun the laptop to face Ann. "I like the white faced ones."

Ann looked at the photograph on the laptop. "No. I'm pretty sure I didn't have a white face. All I knew was I was hungry for the wrong kind of food."

Fanny spun the laptop back to its original utility position. She frowned, leaned back and scratched her nose. Fanny always scratched her nose when she was trying to solve a hard problem.

Ann picked up her coffee. She took a sip then said, "Maybe I wasn't a monkey at all. Maybe I just thought I was. I mean if I was a monkey, I wouldn't know I was a monkey. You have to be human to know you're a monkey."

Fanny laughed. "You're logic is always funny when you haven't woken up yet. How do you know a monkey doesn't know it's a monkey?"

Ann didn't have a ready answer so she just said, "Common knowledge."

Fanny laughed again.

Ann set her coffee down with a clunk. "I'm going to go out and buy some Pop Tarts."

Fanny glanced at her laptop. "Too early. The corner store won't be open yet."

"Safeway will."

"But that's a trolley ride."

Ann pushed the wooden kitchen chair back and stood. She flexed her knee. "I can do it. I mean I'm taking the day off because of my bike accident. I'll do it. I'll go to Safeway and buy Pop Tarts."

The sun had finally risen and glared through the dusty windows at Safeway. Ann held a black plastic basket and wandered the deserted aisles. So far she had selected red grapes and a sweet looking squash. She'd passed by the Pop Tarts without even glancing at them.

Iguana Tours, Mangrove Tour   •  Just north of Quepos, Costa Rica   •  Photo Posted Wednesday 12 November 2008 internal link   •  (Photo taken 18 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Terry Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The town nestled right up to and over the bay
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Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

The laser pointer shook, so young Ann McFridae braced it with stones. She desperately needed to talk to her friend Sally Tu, but didn't want to phone because Sally's Mom might get involved. So instead, she shined her brother's red laser pointer across the small bay at her friend's window.

Ann's phone vibrated. She deftly snatched it from her pocket and read the screen, "Red?" It was from Sally.

Ann quickly thumbed a reply. "Yr mom noz," she wrote. Ann freed the laser pointer and turned it off. Her phone vibrated again.

"Yks! How?"

Ann looked across the water at her friend's house. Ann remembered the night before. She remembered the college boys. She remembered the beer and the pot. She remembered Sally saying and doing things she shouldn't have.

"My bro saw us."

Ann wished at that moment she could be with her friend. Her phone vibrated. She read, "Bye. Mom yell."

Ann frowned. She dropped her phone back into her pocket. She wondered if her brother had told their mother too. That would be really bad.

"Ann!" She heard her mom yell her name. "Get your butt in here right now! And I mean right now!"

Ann wondered if she should hide her phone so her Mom wouldn't take it away. But she decided that was the least of her worries. She hated her brother, at that moment, too much for words. "I hate you," she muttered.

She felt just then like a convict on death row. She walked slowly up their porch steps. She counted the steps as she climbed. There were only nine, but she counted thirteen.

Bodega Bay Wharf, Bodega, California   •  (Photo posted Thursday 27 November 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Sunday 7 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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A Super Joseth was open for business
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The Woman
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Joseph Wendegon set the last of the soup cans on a low shelf. He stood and wiped his hands on his apron. The little store was neat, well stocked, and comfortable. He liked being its owner.

He walked up to the register and there noticed a woman waiting outside. "Who's that?" he asked Nan Feur, his check out worker.

Nan glanced out. "She's still there? How about that."

"How long has she been there?"

"I don't know. Twenty minutes. Maybe."

Joseph leaned against the register. "You think she's a prostitute?"

Nan glanced out again. "I don't think so."

"Sure. I mean she's wearing tight pants."

Nan squared up a pile of paper bags. "No. Her clothes are all wrong. I think she's just waiting for someone."

Joseph looked at the woman again. Maybe Nan was right. The clothes were wrong. The woman wore a nice white blouse and contrasting pants. She looked too ordinary to be a prostitute. "Maybe she's a drug addict waiting for a fix?"

"You must watch TV every night." Nan gestured with her head at the woman. "Does she look strung out to you?"

"No," Joseph admitted. "She doesn't. So what's she doing out there?"

"Why don't you just ask her?"

Joseph stood. "I think I will." He stuck his hands in his pockets and moseyed outside.

The woman ignored him. "Morning," Joseph said.

The woman looked at him then away again. "You hitting on me?"

Joseph was flustered. "No. No. I mean no. I mean I just wondered what you were waiting for."

The woman appeared to ignore him. Then she said, "I'm waiting for my brother. He drives taxi twenty four."

A beep sounded from down the street then a red taxi drove into view and pulled up in front of the woman.

Joseph watched her open the door. "Hi," she said to her brother. "The store guy was hitting on me," she said and slammed the door.

Joseph started to raise his arm to object, but realized it might look like he was waving. He let his arm drop and walked back into the store.

"What did she say?" Nan asked.

"It was her brother. He drives a taxi."

"See," said Nan. "Not a prostitute, not a drug addict, just an ordinary person."

"I suppose," Joseph said. He shook his head. "But rude, really rude."

Nan raised an eyebrow.

A tourist walked into the store. "You got any of that salsa?"

"We do," Joseph said. "Right back here." And just like that Joseph forgot the waiting woman. Just like that he was a small store owner again.

Road from Quepos to Manuel Antonio   •  Photo Posted Wednesday 5 November 2008 internal link   •  (Photo taken 18 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Dave just drank a beer
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Bad Beer
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Dave McGee was thirsty in the heat. He drank a manly swallow of Imperial beer. It was cool, having been iced. He smacked his lips and smiled sensing fun. Then he frowned.

"Hey," there's something wrong with this beer.

The waiter, a young fellow with too much a sense of care, took a polite step forward and asked, "Is there a problem sir?"

Dave held out the offending beer. "There's something wrong with this beer. Here, you taste it."

"No need," said the waiter. He reached to take Dave's beer. "I'll just get the sir a fresh can."

Dave didn't like the way the waiter said, "can." It smacked to Dave's ear as supercilious. So Dave didn't let go of the can.

"I don't want a fresh beer. I want you to taste the bad beer. I want you to agree that it is bad."

Dave felt the waiter politely tug at the beer can. "Taste it," Dave said using his mean voice. Then he released the can.

The waiter stood, a look of distaste on his face. He used his free hand to snatch a small fruit-juice glass from a sideboard. He pored a little beer into the glass. The beer was purple.

"My word," the waiter said. "This beer is purple."

"Hah!" said Dave.

The waiter hurried away with the offending beer.

Another waiter set a bowl in front of him. Dave looked into the bowl. He saw a fly. He sensed more fun.

Boat trip following detour of sea sickness   •  Photo Posted Sunday 9 November 2008 internal link   •  (17 September 2008) Quepos, Costa Rica   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The bike was casually leaned against a slanted palm tree
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Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Raul Gomez overslept and was late to work again. He rode his bike onto the hotel grounds and parked it by hastily leaning it against a handy palm tree. His waiter clothes in his backpack, he dashed for the hotel bar.

"Hold it right there young man," it was the voice of the Hotel Manager.

Raul froze. He knew he was in trouble now. This was his third time arriving late. Please, he thought to himself. Please don't fire me.

Raul turned. The hotel manager stood with his arms folded. "How many times do we have to tell you youngsters," he gestured at Raul's bike. "We have a bike rack. Use a bike rack and save a tree. Remember that. Use a bike rack and save a tree."

Raul hung his head and shuffled back to his bike. "Sorry," he muttered. But inside he wanted to shout with joy. The manager had said nothing about him being late.

Raul grabbed his bike and started to roll it toward the nearest bike rack which was at the other end of the hotel grounds.

"And don't think," it was the Hotel Manager's voice again. "Don't think I didn't notice you were late again. This is your third time. I have my eye on you young man. Remember that. I have my eye on you."

Raul kept walking as if he didn't hear. But he just knew the back of his neck was blushing a bright red with embarrassment. Man, he thought to himself, I gotta get myself an alarm clock.

Turtle Beach Lodge, Costa Rica   •  (Photo posted Saturday 22 November 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Friday 19 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Next came the police station to file reports
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Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Ellen Annsin was bored. The train had been stopped between stations for almost thirty minutes now. She spoke more to hear herself speak than to be heard. "My dad used to spank me when I was bad. He stopped when he wrecked the car and lost the use of his right arm."

The woman next to Ellen nearer the window, lowered the book she'd been reading. She looked at Ellen and asked, "Are you talking to me?"

Ellen looked down at the book on the woman's lap. "What are you reading?"

"A mystery. What was that you said about you dad?"

"I was just remember how he changed after the accident."

"My dad used to punish me by sending me to jail."

Ellen wasn't sure she really wanted a conversation. But she'd started one, that was for sure. So she decided to see it through. "Is that why you read mysteries?"

The woman laughed, and when she laughed, Ellen noticed the her jewelry tinkled.

The woman held out her hand. "I'm Fran," she said. "Fran Williams."

Ellen shook Fran's hand. It was a polite shake. Ellen noticed that Fran dropped the shake first.

Ellen asked, "What do you mean your dad punished you by sending you to jail?"

"Oh you know. If I did something that might cause another dad to spank me or send me to my room, my dad would drive me to the police station. He would obsess about how little wrongs could turn into real crime later in life."

Fran showed Ellen her finger tips. "These fingers must have been fingerprinted twenty times when I was a little girl. In a box at home I still have all the mug shots."

Ellen felt the train move a little bit then stop again. "Did it work. Did it keep you from a life of crime?"

The train started to move and this time kept going. A voice announced the next stop.

Fran closed her book and placed it in her purse. She looked at Ellen. "I'll let you decide. Remember my name and look me up on the web. Fran Williams." Fran stood. "This is my stop."

"Nice to meet you," Ellen said to Fran as she left.

Fran, her back to Ellen, laughed again.

"Pssst." A man's voice intruded from across the aisle.

Ellen looked. A man in a nice suit said, "You know who that was don't you?"

"No. Who?"

"The mayor."

"Oh," Ellen said and leaned back. "That makes sense."

Crime while returning to San Jóse   •  Policia proximidad Orotina   •  Photo Posted Saturday 15 November 2008 internal link   •  (Photo taken 20 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Six small holes formed a restroom window
(14 of 30) (26024 views)


Six Holes
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Brothers Sam and Larry Stackworthy stood next to each other at the long metal urinal and peed into it.

"Odd window," Sam said.

"Six holes like a pool table."

Sam was the older of the two by twenty years. His brother had been born unexpectedly. "Or the sixth hole in golf."

"Yeah, Dad did take you golfing."

"I tried to teach you golf. Don't say I never tried."

Larry zipped up. He always seem to finish two days before Sam. Larry turned to wash his hands and said over his back to Sam, "Maybe those six holes are your six wives."

"Hah," Sam laughed a mock laugh.

Larry continued, "Or maybe they're they're the eyes of our ancestors watching us."

"Watching us pee?" Sam finally finished and zipped up. "Is that three ancestors or six one-eyed ancestors?"

"No towels," Larry complained.

Sam turned and found his brother fishing with wet hands under an air dryer on the wall. "I think you push the button on the front."

"Ah," Larry said and the machine started with a whir. "Three ancestors, I would think. Mom, Dad, and Uncle Dave."

"You were the one born too late. Or maybe I was just born too early. Come on. I have hand sanitizer in my backpack."

The two brothers strolled out together. As they emerged into the sunlight Sam overhead voices from inside the restroom. "Look Dad," one voice said. "Six holes."

A deeper voice answered, "Like a pool table."

Sam looked at Larry. They laughed together. Then the two brother went in search of a snack, all memory of hand sanitizer forgotten.

Candy bus stop, Costa Rica   •  Photo Posted Sunday 15 November 2008 internal link   •  (Photo taken 16 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The small store featured Coca-Cola
(15 of 30) (26081 views)


Pillows For Sale
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

James Maxwell walked the edge of the deserted Interstate. He walked alone, one of many all walking south towards a warmer climate, each spaced well apart. A line of individuals like dots on a ribbon. None touching. Never touching.

James felt tired all the time. He was low on food and had run out of vitamins the week before. But mostly he seemed these days to never get a sound night's sleep.

As he walked he remembered. He remembered the old corner stores so common in the city. How he could pop in any day or night to buy whatever he wanted. Fresh fruit. Loaves of bread. Soup.

A voice intruded. "Pillows," it called. "Pillows for sale. Three for an apple. Six for an egg."

James stopped walking and turned. Down the middle of the interstate rode a thin man on a bicycle. Piled high on the back of the bicycle was a tall stack of white pillows. James thought about how he couldn't sleep and stepped forward.

The man pulled over toward James and stopped. He set his kick stand.

James notice the man was a teenager. He wore an old-time railroad hat with a square bill. On his face was a surgical mask and on his hands blue latex gloves. "How much," James asked. "For two pillows? One for me and one for my wife?"

The man raised an eyebrow. He looked James up and down. "What do you have to trade?"

James reached in his outer pocket. He kept it in his outer pocket so that it wouldn't look like he was reaching for a weapon when he reached for it. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small Snickers bar. It was one of the bite sized ones that kids used to get at Halloween.

The boy gently plucked the candy bar from between James' fingers. James noticed his own hand was trembling.

The boy examined the candy bar carefully. "The wrapping is intact. I don't see any tape or signs of glue. It feels right." The boy smiled. "Okay you have a deal. But tell me. Where did you find it?"

James understood. The fear was always that he'd taken it off a dead body. "In a field," he said. "Behind a house. I found a partly buried tin box. Inside were a few trinkets and this candy bar."

The boy whistled and said, "Sweet."

"I need a pillow," James explained. "Because I haven't been sleeping well."

"That," the boy said. He slipped the candy bar into an inner pocket. "That and the sorrows."

James understood. With so many dead, everyone, and he meant everyone knew at least a few people that had died. James wondered who the boy had lost. James understood the sorrows.

"Choose," the boy announced with a flourish of his arm. "Choose your pillows."

James eyed the boy's latex gloves. But he knew better than to ask for them. Instead he said, "A feather pillow for me and a foam pillow for my wife."

The boy frowned and looked around as if they might be overheard.

James looked too. Behind, everyone had stopped walking. Everyone, as far as he could see, was standing still and watching him.

The boy wrestled a pillow off the bottom of the stack. "I only have one feather pillow. You can understand why."

James understood. Because the birds had caused all this death. Because of them nobody trusted feathers anymore.

The boy handed James the pillow. James smelled it. It smelled of peroxide. Good. It had been disinfected. James pointed to the top of the pile. "I'd like that king size one on top."

"You have a good eye." The boy said. He slipped the king sized pillow out and handed it to James.

James watched the boy re-tie his load.

Then they faced each other, not too close. James didn't try to shake the boy's hand. Nobody shook hands anymore. Nobody got close anymore. Instead they just nodded, agreement that a deal had been made.

The boy remounted his bicycle and rode off. "Pillows," he called. "Pillows for sale."

James noticed the sun was low. He decided to find a bedding place early. He turned and walked off the Interstate and into the surrounding woods. He paused at the edge of the woods and looked back. The line of individuals was walking south again.

It took James only a short while to find a bedding place. It was a flat area behind screening trees, cushioned with leaves. It felt safe.

James spread his plastic tarp and set his feather pillow on it. He laid down and settled his head onto the pillow. He emitted a sigh. Tonight, he felt, tonight he would get a good night's sleep.

James pulled the king-sized foam pillow next to him. He hugged it the way he used to hug his wife. Then the sorrows took him. He remembered how she died. He squeezed the pillow tight and wept quietly into it.

Quepos, Costa Rica   •  Photo Posted Thursday 13 November 2008 internal link   •  (Photo taken 18 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The old bridge used to carry the train
(16 of 30) (26189 views)


A Bump In Time
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

The bus bumped over the narrow bridge causing Hank Granger to wake up. "Where are we?" he asked. He lifted his SF Giants baseball hat, the bill revealing his eyes.

"Almost to Quepos," his traveling companion, Roger Copeone, answered. "You must have been tired." Roger wore a Tyrollean hat, complete with a feather.

"Too much to drink last night. And the hot tub. It didn't do me any favors either." Hank looked around. "What's with this bridge?"

"Where were you when the guide explained it. Oh yes. Asleep!"

Hank felt Roger's hand on his shoulder and braced for a shake. But Roger dropped his hand without shaking.

Roger turned toward him. "This used to be a train bridge. Built by the United Fruit Company, I think. Anyway, they tore out the railroad so they could widen bridges for cars. See over there. The pilings for a wide highway bridge."

"Time travel," Hank said without looking at Roger.

"What do you mean?"

"Like the 50's back home. All big cities had trolly systems. Passenger trains ran back then, connecting small towns to the big cities. But then Eisenhower had the bright idea to put in the Interstate Highway System. And poof. Just like that, all our passenger rail vanished."

"That's not really time travel."

"No, I mean here. Us being here is like traveling back in time."

"Oh. You mean them tearing out the railroad now is like the states in the 50's."

"Exactomundy!" Henry sat up. The bus had driven off the old railroad bridge and onto the paved road. He looked behind.

"You think they'll keep the old rail bridges?"

"No. The guide said they'd tear them down."

"A shame," Henry said. Now that the road smoothed he felt sleepy again. Henry slouched back down in his seat and closed his eyes. "Wake me up if we hit bumps again." He pulled the bill of his baseball hat down to cover his eyes.

"Wake yourself up. I'm busy watching the scenery and learning some history."

"So you say," Henry muttered as he fell asleep. "So you say."

Road trip from Tárcoles River to Manuel Antonio   •  Photo Posted Tuesday 4 November 2008 internal link   •  (Photo taken 16 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Across the street the house appeared deserted
(17 of 30) (26137 views)


Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Rob Phlems got mildly tanked nightly at the Sour Barrel on Beach Road. Just drunk enough to drive home, as he liked to phrase it. But on Tuesday night, as he left the bar, Rob noticed an orange haired woman walk past.

Rob followed her at a polite distance, curious where she might live. Her hard shoes made a defined whack whack on the sidewalk, amply masking his shuffle.

Ahead, the woman rounded the corner and disappeared from sight. The sound of her shoes ceased.

Rob rushed ahead. He paused at the corner and looked around. The woman was gone. Rob spun in place. There was nowhere for her to go but into the house across the street. But that house was dark and looked deserted.

Wednesday night, Rob left the bar and saw the same woman pass by. He again followed her and again she disappeared.

Thursday night, Rob left the bar early. He hurried up the street to the corner where she had disappeared before. He looked for a place to hide. The nearest place was a telephone pole a third of the way down the block across the street, on the same side as the abandoned house. Rob shrugged and hid behind that telephone pole. He was keenly aware of his beer belly sticking out beyond the pole's edge.

Rob peered around the edge of the pole as the woman's footsteps approached. He watched the corner for the whole time. Finally the sound of the steps vanished but the woman never rounded the corner.

Friday night, Rob left the bar early again. This time, he decided, he would hide in plain sight. He rounded the corner and crossed the street to the old house. There, he sat on the front steps and waited. The steps were dry and cracked. With his hands he could feel the paint peeling.

Just like the three prior nights, the woman's steps approached the corner. Rob gazed hard at the dark corner. He didn't want to miss what happened again.

Rob was blinded by the brightest light he'd ever seen. He clamped his eyelids shut and covered his eyes with his hands. What had that been? He wondered, an explosion?

But the only sound he heard was made by the footsteps. They continued, he heard, around the corner and down the street. Rob cautiously removed his hands from over his eyes. The inside of his eyelids looked bright red.

Carefully, he eased one eye open only. Duh, he realized. The bright light was daylight. He opened both eyes but continued to squint. Off to his left, almost all the way down the block, the woman continued to walk away.

The area looked wrong. There should have been a warehouse across the street. Instead, a field ran all the way to Highway One. He stood. A boy on a bicycle rode past and tossed a newspaper at Rob. Rob had to reach to catch it. "Hey," he yelled. "Learn to throw straight."

Rob unfolded the newspaper. The date was November 27, 1950. With a sinking feeling in his stomach, Rob realized he could not go home. His apartment building, he remembered, had been build in the 1970's.

Rob sat back down on the steps and thought. He thought about the advent of the microcomputer, like the old Apple. He thought about the Internet, like AOL and Google. He thought about how cheap property was now. And mortgage interest, what had it been in the 1950's, two or three percent? Rob set the paper on the step. The wood, he noticed, appeared freshly painted.

Rob smiled and said, "I'll be rich."

Rob heard footsteps. He looked up. It was the woman again. She was coming back. Rob stood. The woman stopped across the street from him. She frowned and wagged a finger at him. It was the kind of wag his mother used to do when Rob had been bad, which seemed like it had been all the time.

Rob was struck blind. He rubbed his eyes. Vision began to return. The street lights. The security lights on the warehouse across the street. There was no sign of the woman. It was night again.

Rob pulled his wad of money from his pocket. "Three bucks," he said. "I could have been rich. I could have been a contender."

Rob calculated in his head. He smiled and said into the night, "Three bucks will buy me a beer."

Valley at Dillon Beach Rd., Tomales, California   •  (Photo posted Monday 24 November 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Sunday 9 November 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The taxi driver waited for passengers
(18 of 30) (25976 views)


Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Joe Hamash drove a taxi. After the election he had a low opinion of plumbers named Joe and said so to his passengers.

"You heard of Joe the Plumber?" he asked while driving a young couple into town from the airport.

The man answered. "Sure did. Seemed like a weak ploy by the Republican's. Notice he stopped appearing toward the end."

Joe swerved the taxi left around a slow truck. "You think Joe the taxi driver is as good as Joe the plumber?"

The woman spoke next. Her voice was nasal so Joe had to listen carefully to hear her over the traffic noise.

The woman said, "Our pool cleaner is named Joe. And he's an alright guy. Yeah. I think all Joes are alright."

"Honey," the man spoke to the woman. Joe watched in his mirror.

"Honey," the man said. "Our pool cleaner's name is Jose."

"Same thing. A Joe is a Joe. What about your tailor in the mall? Isn't his name Joel?"

"Joel isn't Joe. They're completely different."

"What about that gay couple that lives upstairs? Isn't their dog named Joe?"

"Now you're being mean to our driver."

"Oh God no."

Joe felt the woman touch his shoulder. He heard her nasal voice say, "You're a perfectly good Joe."

Joe pulled to the curb and told them how much. The couple left amid apologies and an extra large tip. Joe didn't pull away right away. Instead he sat and thought about Joe the plumber.

"You know," he said to nobody. "Maybe it's time to put that baby to bed. Yeah. That's it. I'll talk about something else.

A man dressed like a mime tapped on the glass. He pretended to wash Joe's windshield. Joe laughed. "You!" he yelled. "You ever hear about Joe the plumber?"

The mime shrugged and walked away.

Joe laughed again. He pulled away from the curb in search of another fare. As he passed the mime, he honked and waved and laughed again. And when he later found a fare, he talked about mimes.

San Jóse International Airport   •  (Photo posted Monday 17 November 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Sunday 7 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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A former but very odd machine
(19 of 30) (25943 views)


Rootbeer Barrel
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Bob Smalls and his son Andy were sharing a Saturday afternoon walk. The sun was encompassing and warm, and Quepos was quiet. Bob's wife, he believed, was in town finding a divorce lawyer.

Andy tugged at Bobs hand and asked "What's that?"

They'd approached the new marina area and ahead was a large old machine. It looked like an old crane resting on an old round drum. "You mean the big round thing?"

"Yeah. The thing that looks like a root beer barrel."

Bob stopped walking. He never allowed Andy to eat candy. "Where did you get a root beer barrel? They only sell those in the states."

"Jimmy brought some."

That made sense. Andy's cousin was a hefty lad. They'd visited the month before. Bob scratched his head. "Root beer barrels don't have a hole in the middle. That thing has a hole."

"It's a doughnut!"

Bob started walking again. He felt Andy keeping up. Andy kept him on his toes, that was for sure. "Well it's like a doughnut. They both have a hole. But a doughnut's made of dough and that thing's made of metal."

"It's full of honey for the bears."

"What bears? There aren't any bears in Costa Rica."

"Polar bears."

Bob stopped again. He couldn't remember if polar bears were in the south or the north pole. Then he remembered polar bears eating garbage in Alaska. That's right, he saw it on TV. "Polar bears are in the north pole, not here."

Bob stopped a foot from the large round thing. He reached out and knocked on it. His knock produced a booming hollow sound. "See. It's hollow."

Andy knocked on it too. He looked up at his dad. "It's full of love."

"But it's hollow. It's empty."

"Love doesn't weigh anything. It's like air. It's empty."

Bob let go of Andy's hand and patted him on the head. "Sometimes you say things way beyond your age." He took Andy's hand again. "Let's go look at the new breakwater."

"Okay Dad."

Together they walked along the road toward the new marina.

Bob felt Andy lag. He looked. Andy was waving at the big drum. "Bye-bye love," Andy said and waved. "Bye-bye love."

Former United Fruit Company   •  South end of Quepos, Costa Rica   •  Photo Posted Friday 14 November 2008 internal link   •  (Photo taken 19 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Graves laid out on a gentle hillside
(20 of 30) (26071 views)


Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Let me tell you about a conference I attended in the mid 90's. It was at lunch on the second day. I sat at a table with two men and a woman.

I recall the man on my left was from Poland. Now I don't remember what he said, but my reply was, "If my grandfather heard you say that, he would have rolled over in his grave."

The sour looking man sitting across from me was from Costa Rica. I remember because I always wanted to visit there. Anyway, he said, "My grandfather was buried in a cloth bag. I don't see how anyone dead could roll over. When they flooded my town for the new lake we had to dig him up and carry his bones in a new bag up to the new town."

The man from Poland said, "My grandfather was buried in a carved oak box. It may have been pine or ash because they were poor. For a while, I suppose, he might be able to roll over. He was dead. So maybe an earthquake or a bomb."

Rising to the challenge I recall saying, "We in the States fill our dead with chemicals so they will never rot. Then we put them in bronze sealed caskets that are air tight and water proof. We make it really easy for any dead person to roll over. Even if they don't want to, they might when the coffin is shipped."

The woman spoke last. She was from India, as I recall, or maybe Cambodia. Anyway she said, "My grandfather told me that a woman should never hear such things. If she did, she might give birth to a dog."

I recall everyone at the table nodded then continued to eat the rest of lunch in silence. All except me, of course. Toward the meal's end I piped up, "When I was young I had a German Shepherd dog. I remember he would only ever bark at brooms."

Cemeteries shot from a moving bus   •  Ride from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica   •  Photo Posted Monday 16 November 2008 internal link   •  (Photo taken Tuesday 16 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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A few found it easy to nap while waiting
(21 of 30) (26139 views)


Deja Vous
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

The grass was just too damn soft. Or he was just too damn tired from a late night. Rick Jameson couldn't decide. He laid on his back, his hands folded under his head, and gazed skyward. The concert would start soon. Rick closed his eyes. Just for a moment.

Rick dreamed about an airplane landing in a jungle. He saw the jungle through the airplane's window. Strange tall animals gazed back from the jungle's edge. Their eyes. They looked frighteningly intelligent.

Rick opened his eyes and sat up. He was still in Golden Gate park like he thought. Crowds were streaming in. A band was setting up on the stage.

Rick dropped back onto the grass again. He closed his eyes again. Just for a moment.

Rick heard a railroad train rumble past. He heard men yelling. "It won't stop! We'll never get out of here." But it was dark. Too dark to see.

Rick was afraid. He couldn't tell what was happening.

More sounds. Water now. Like waves breaking against a wharf. A woman shouting, "Hurry Rick! They're going to raise the gangplank. Run Rick, run!" But he couldn't run. Too much rain. The planks were slippery and dangerous.

Rick opened his eyes. Blue sky. He sat up. People were seated all around him.

A woman on a blanket next to him was staring at him. She had black hair and a nose like a beak. Her large hoop earrings struck Rick as being too big for her face. He blurted, "What are you looking at?"

"You have to stop it," she said. "This dreaming forward you do. It's not healthy."

Rick thought about that, but he didn't understand. "What do you mean?"

"Your dreams. They're about things that haven't happened yet. You're dreaming forward. You see, you dream about the future." She rummaged in her purse and pulled out a plastic baggie. "A little pot," she said. She extracted a brownie and broke off a piece. "Eat this and it will restore balance to your dreams."

Rick never turned down free dope. He gobbled down the piece. It was bitter, not sweet like he expected. Rick clambered to his feet. He thanked the strange woman and went in search of a porta-potty.

Rick enjoyed the concert until it became too crowded, then left for home.

Rick never dreamed about the future again. From that day forward he only dreamed about the past like everyone else.

That is, until his future became his present and he experienced his first of many disturbing Deja Vous moments.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival   •  Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California   •  (Photo posted Friday 28 November 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Sunday 5 October 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The spider hid behind a plexiglass sign
(22 of 30) (26072 views)


Fussy Bucket
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

His wife called him a, "Fussy Bucket." Dave Manx managed a restaurant and drove his employees crazy. If it wasn't dust found in the most obscure places, it was a fold just slightly off center.

Being a fussy bucket, Dave was always the first to arrive in the morning. He pulled his spotless, red convertible into the driveway where he parked with the engine running. He got out, neverminding the ding ding his car made, because that sound would surely drive unwanted critters away.

Dave thumbed the combination on the front gate. It popped open with a satisfying click. Dave swung the front gates open and pegged them in place. He had just pegged the last gate when he noticed the restaurant's sign.

A spider had crawled behind the sign and now waited behind a pale blue stripe. If it weren't so obvious, Dave might have simply told one of the gardeners later that morning. But the spider offended Dave's eye. With the spider there, the sign was imperfect.

Dave popped open his car's trunk. He searched with his eyes for a tool. But the trunk was spotless. Clipped to one side was a tire iron. Dave unclipped it, hefted it and looked at the spider. "Maybe," he muttered.

Carefully, so as to avoid scratching the plastic, Dave lowered the pointed end of the tire iron. One poke, he felt, should do it. Dave positioned the tire iron and poked.

More quickly than he would have thought possible, the spider climbed the tire iron. Dave let out a yelp. He dropped the tire iron and heard it catch the sign and scratch it. But the spider was already on his hand and headed up his arm. Dave yelled and stumbled backward. He fell back against the open door of his car, then over backwards onto the seat.

He yelled and flailed. He was terrified the spider would bite him. His arm hit the shift lever hard, just hard enough to pop the car out of park and into drive. Dave flopped and flailed. He thought he felt a bite. He thought he saw the spider fall to the car's floor. He tried to stomp on it. He stomped with both feet. His feet tangled and became stuck holding the accelerator peddle down.

Later, when Dave became conscious again, his face burned. He opened his eyes and saw that his air bag had deployed. The car wasn't running. He looked over the dash. His car had smashed through the front of the restaurant.

Dave tried to sit up, but he hurt. He looked around for help and discovered all his cooking and waiting staff surrounding the car. They stared at him with worried looks on their faces. And nobody leaned in to help.

Dave was about to yell at them. But then he looked at their faces again. Why were they worried? Dave recognized that look. It was the look his wife had on her face sometimes when he came home and the bed hadn't been made. My God, Dave realized. His employees were worried he would blame them.

(Note that the squares are 1x1" or 2.5 c.m. square)   •  The road uphill from Quepos, Costa Rica   •  (Photo posted Tuesday 25 November 2008)   •  (Photo taken Friday 19 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Several wheel chairs lined up for early boarding
(23 of 30) (26294 views)


Mr. Velvet
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

The four Morrow sisters were on their way home from Costa Rica. Emma, Ella, Esther, and Bonnie. Bonnie was the youngest by a year and had a different father than the others. Being all very much over the hill, the four sat in wheel chairs and waited for the next flight.

Bonnie had always been the default leader. She called out, "Heads up ladies. The plane will begin boarding soon."

Ella second from the back asked, "You remember that cruise to Europe?"

Emma at the back wagged her hand weakly. "That was a really long time ago. I mean really long. Last century even."

Esther craned her head back. "Yeah. I remember. All the dancing. The wonderful food and music. And, oh yes, that singer. What was his name?"

Emma seldom spoke these days. But this conversation interested her, so she added, "I danced with him you know."

"You didn't."

"I did. And I remember how nice he smelled. A real gentleman."

Esther rotated her wheel chair so she could see the others more easily. "Yeah. He was skinny and young. I remember now. He wore a blue velvet suit."

Bonnie said, "I kissed him."

Emma didn't hear Bonnie, so she answered Esther, "No it wasn't velvet. I felt it when I danced, remember. It was a regular suit."

Esther snapped her fingers. "That was his name. Mr. Velvet."

Bonnie called out, "Get your tickets out ladies. We're close to boarding."

"Dreams," Esther said.

"What do you mean?" Bonnie asked her.

"You remember. We shared two big bottles of Guaro last night. And the dreams. Vivid and real. Didn't you dream?"

Bonnie was about to answer when she heard a phone ring. She reached out and picked up the receiver. "Hello?"

It was her wake up call. She opened her eyes and found herself in bed. She sat up. She looked at her sister Ester sleeping next the her. She looked at her own hand. She was young.

Bonnie tapped her sister on her shoulder with the phone. "That was the wake-up call. Time to get up."

"Leave me alone."

Bonnie remembered her dream. She tapped her sister with the phone again. "Do we still plan that cruise to Europe next year?"

"I need to sleep. Leave me alone."

Bonnie tapped a bit harder. "Are we still going on that cruise?"

"Yeah. We are going. Next year. Oh I had great dreams. Must have been the Guaro. Let me sleep a while longer."

Bonnie sat up straight. "Guaro," she said to herself. She remembered getting drunk on Guaro the night before with her three sisters. Then she remembered the dream.

"A strange dream," she said. Then she asked herself, "But what if it had been real?" She hugged the phone to her chest. "If it was," she smiled. "That means next year I get to kiss Mr. Velvet."

SAL San Salvador International Airport   •  San Salvador, El Salvador   •  (Photo posted Tuesday 18 November 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Sunday 21 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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He told how much he wished to ride a bicycle
(24 of 30) (26208 views)


New Bell
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Carson Carcón was fat and lazy and he didn't care. He was sixteen, not old enough to drive, and too old to learn how to ride a bicycle. At least that's what he told himself, because he was also too poor to afford to buy a bicycle.

Carson lounged over the metal table and watched his friend Jim Williams sip a coke. "Hey," Carson said. "Is that a new bell on your bike."

"Yeah. My Mom got it for me. I think it sucks. It looks like a girl's bell."

"I wouldn't mind having a bell like that."

"You don't even own a bike."

Carson rolled a bit to lean on his other arm. "Oh yeah. I'm supposed to get a bike for Christmas. My Uncle who works in America said he would send me one."

Jim blew bubbles in his coke, then looked up again. "My brother is eighteen and has a motorcycle."

"My Uncle said it would be a mountain bike."

"It's a dirt bike but he can ride it on the streets too."

"What are you going to do with your bike when you get a motorcycle?"

"Give it to Danny, my younger brother."

"If my Uncle doesn't send a bike again can I have yours? You know, when you get a motorcycle."

"I might be able to sell it to you. My folks would never let me just give it away."

Carson rolled back to his other side again. The steel table was hard on his elbows. "My mom says I should write my Uncle. If I write him, she says, its more likely he'll send me a bicycle."

Jim made slurping noises at the bottom of his cup finishing his coke. "So why don't you write him?"

"Don't feel like it. You know. It would sound like begging."

"Don't be stupid. You don't ask him for a bike. You just say hello or something. Greet him, and don't mention the bike."

"What good is that?"

"You want the bike don't you?"


"So just write him a letter. Or even a postcard."

Carson sat up straight. "You sound like my mom. Say. Do you want to go throw rocks at birds?"

"No. Did that yesterday. You want a coke, I'm getting a refill."

"No money."

"I'll get an extra straw and you can share mine."

"Okay." Carson leaned over on the table again. He just knew. Knew with absolute certainty. he would never get a bicycle. Not ever.

Leaving Queupos, Costa Rica   •  (Photo posted Thursday 20 November 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Saturday 20 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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For some the wait might be too long
(25 of 30) (26048 views)


Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Jeff Marcos and his school friend Tom Sibbanski were flying home from the Pan American Triathlon. They had both competed and both lost. A hurricane on the other coast had delayed flights everywhere. Their flight was two hours late already.

Jeff looked at Tom, his arms folded, his head drooping, his eyes closed. Jeff gave Tom's shoulder a little shake. "I need to get some coffee."

Tom's eyes opened just a little. "Let me nap," he mumbled. "Wake me when it's time to fly again."

Jeff just nodded. He was pretty sleepy himself. That's why he wanted coffee.

Jeff wandered over to the aptly named Coffee Station. There was only one short line, so he got in it and waited.

"You look beat," a man's voice intruded from behind.

Jeff turned. The man was older, graying at the temples. He wore a nice suit. "Yeah. We entered a race and lost. Now we're trying to get home."

"You in school?"

"Yeah. I'm a senior at Mountain Valley High. I plan to go to U.C. Berkeley."

"What's your major?"

"Math with an English minor."

"A mixed bag."

"Yeah. Maybe. I love math but I love to read too." Jeff shrugged. The conversation was getting boring and he needed that coffee.

The man fished in his pocket and handed Jeff a business card. The card was a foggy plastic. Jeff turned it over. The words appeared to float above it.

The man leaned in and whispered. "We're still in the R&D phase. We probably won't become commercial for another four or five years. When you graduate from U.C. give me a call. We'll want to license your patent."

The counter opened and the lady behind the register called, "Next."

Jeff bought a large cup of strong coffee. After he paid he turned to thank the man but there was nobody in line behind him. "That's odd," he said.

Back in his seat he sipped his coffee and turned the card over in his hand. Not only did the words float, but held in one position, he could almost see an animated scene somewhere through and behind it. Then he remembered what the man had whispered and asked himself, "What patent?"

Tom woke up then and asked, "Has the plane started flying again?"

Tom dropped the card in his backpack and forgot it. "Not yet," he told Tom. "Go back to sleep."

(LAX) Los Angeles International Airport   •  (Photo posted Wednesday 18 November 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Sunday 21 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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A washing sink rested in a muddy clearing
(26 of 30) (26118 views)


White Bread
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Dan Granger recently inherited nine million dollars of farmland just north of Goodland, Kansas. Ruth Bixbe had been born in Kansas but now studied English Lit at U.C. in Berkeley, California and fancied herself a writer. They met while on a tour of Manuel Antonio Park in Costa Rica. They discovered they were both from Kansas so drifted together away from the tour.

"We're two pieces of white bread," Ruth said. "Toasting in the sun and rum."

"Look," Dan pointed at a sink basin standing by itself in the clearing. "Somebody wrote something on it."

"Tagged it, you mean." Ruth patted her sweating forehead with a green bandana. "Defiled it with graffiti."

Dan pulled of his baseball hat. He held it by its bill and swatted stuck sand away from the writing.

Ruth watched him and said, "He held the duck by its bill. Its flapping wings blew sand away from the secret."

Dan laughed. He laughed hard.

"What is it?" Ruth asked. "What I said wasn't that funny."

Dan laughed some more, then got his laughing under control. "It," he barked another laugh. "It says whites only."

Ruth crossed her arms and glared at Dan. "That's racist. Racism is never funny."

Dan stopped laughing and looked at Ruth. "Course it its. I mean here we are in the middle of Costa Rica and we find a whites only sign. Now that's funny."

Ruth folded her bandana into a triangle. "I'll erase it."

"I don't think you can. It looks indelible to me."

Ruth moistened the tip of the bandana and used it to wipe away the silver ink. To her surprise the writing came completely off with one wipe.

"You should have licked it off," Dan said.

Ruth folded her bandana and frowned sideways at Dan.

"Because you have that damn silver tongue."

Ruth laughed. Not a big laugh, but a laugh as if she'd heard something funny. "Now that's funny," she said.

"It wasn't supposed to be funny. It was supposed to be mean."

"I know," Ruth said and laughed again. "That's why it's so funny."

Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica   •  Photo Posted Friday 7 November 2008 internal link   •  (Photo taken 18 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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An Obama fan cheered her way down the street
(27 of 30) (26258 views)


Roger Voted
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Roger Evans stood in the voting booth, pen poised and remembered the month before. Like most of his life, the month had been filled with parades, and concerts, and parties. Not that he felt involved but neither did he feel bored.

He'd been at the How Berkeley parade with conservative co-worker, partly on a date. When the Obama bunch came past, his friend/date said quietly, "Don't they know he can't be trusted."

"What do you mean?"

"What do we really know about him anyway?"

"Have you read his books? Have you visited his website?"

"I don't need to. I know the issues."

Roger chuckled there in the voting booth. That date hadn't really work out anywhere near as well as he'd expected.

Roger remembered the Halloween party. Sure he'd gotten excessively twisted, but so what. He remembered an argument breaking out and fists thrown. He wondered if the interlopers had been party crashers? He couldn't remember.

"I won't vote for that nigger."

"What did you say?"

"You heard me."

"Take it back."

"Make me."

Roger rubbed his chin where he'd received a glancing punch. He remembered the pen in his hand and wondered if he'd just scribbled on his face. Why, he mused, don't they have mirrors in voting booths?

Roger remembered helping his 70 year old mother fill out her mail-in ballot. They'd shared the same opinion on all the candidates and all the issues but one. She couldn't bring herself to support gay marriage. Roger knew better than to argue with her. He couldn't stand it when she cried.

Roger unfolded the ballot.

Roger voted.

2008 13th Annual How Berkeley Can You Be? Parade   •  Photo Posted Sunday 2 November 2008 internal link   •  (Photo taken 28 September 2008)   •  University Ave., Berkeley, California   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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He manned the table with no need for a shirt
(28 of 30) (26075 views)


Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Samson Samosa never cut his hair. As a young boy he had read the stories of Samson and Delilah and feared, like the myth, he would lose his strength if he ever did.

Samson lay in a hospital bed. He had just turned fifty and he was there because of a brain tumor. Radiation treatments had cost him his precious hair. Chemo had cost him his weight and his strength. He lay in bed, bald and skinny and weak.

A nurse walked in and looked at a small card she held in her right hand. She was dressed oddly for a nurse. Her uniform was pink. She looked up and smiled. "Are you Samson Samosa?"

Samson didn't answer at once. He reached for the knit cap that lay on a rolling table just to his right. He couldn't reach it easily and instead knocked over the photograph he kept there.

"Here," the woman said. She hurried to his side. She handed him his hat and said, "Go ahead. Hide that beautiful head of yours."

Samson muttered, "Thanks." He slipped on the hat. When he wore it, he missed his hair a little bit less.

The woman set the photograph back up. "Is this you when you were young. Boy! You were quite the young hunk weren't you."

Samson looked up at the woman. "Who are you?"

"Oh, I'm sorry," she said. She pointed at the badge on her shirt. "I'm your cheering-up nurse. My name's Delilah."

"Really? Delilah like in the myth?"

"No. That's just a story. I'm real."

Samson lifted a weak arm to shake her hand. "Pleased to meet you."

Delilah shook his hand. Her skin was soft and her hand warm.

Samson let his arm drop because he was tired. But Delilah kept hold of his hand and kept it from falling too. The gesture made Samson smile.

Samson asked, "What is a cheering-up nurse? I don't think I ever heard of such a thing."

Delilah smiled. "I just made it up. I found the badge in the gift shop. I'm not really a nurse." She leaned in close and whispered, "Some people say I'm crazy."

Samson heard people outside in the hallway. He watched Delilah stand. "Gotta go," she said. She let his arm fall. Then she leaned in and kissed him on the head. "Bye," she said. Then she turned and walked to the door. At the door she turned and blew him a kiss.

"Bye," Samson said. But by then she was already gone.

Samson touched his head where she'd kissed him. He frowned. The spot seemed familiar. He reached and picked up the photograph. It showed him standing by a table at Manuel Antonio Beach. He'd sold T-shirts back then. His hair back then had been really long.

Samson took off the knit cap because it was wool and it itched. Then, using the photograph's glass as a mirror he looked at his head where the woman had kissed him. There, at that exact spot was the tattoo target used for his radiation treatment.

A month later, Samson was discharged from the hospital. His brain tumor had cured itself. He had a stubble of new hair on his head. He didn't feel quite so weak anymore.

At the entrance he paused. The gift shop was right there. On a whim he walked in. A tall, grey haired man stood behind the counter.

Samson asked, "Do you sell nurse badges that say cheer-up nurse?"

The man snorted. "Nope. Never have, never will. We aren't permitted to sell fake nurse badges."

Samson thanked the man and walked outside to get a taxi home. The day was warm. Samson felt good. He wondered if he would ever meet the woman again. "No," he told himself and watched for a taxi.

Manuel Antonio Beach, Commercial side   •  Photo Posted Thursday 6 November 2008 internal link   •  (Photo taken 18 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Each room had a balcony, and each balcony a view
(29 of 30) (26078 views)


The Dive
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Dot crossed awkwardly into middle age. She stumbled badly when she discovered she, and her four sisters, were each conceived in a different hotel.

She and her older sister Lee walked side by side along the gravel path outside the old Bodega Bay Lodge. Because the day was chilly, Dot gestured with a gloved hand. "Which room do you think it was? And, why this hotel?"

Lee was the steady sister. She had agreed to this tour of hotels more to satisfy Dot's discomfort than to discover anything about herself. "Don't ask me. I mean, Mom should have put more details in her diary."

"She said she had a view of the bay. But all these rooms face the bay. How can I possibly know which room it was?"

"At least the restaurant hasn't moved. We know Dad and Mom ate dinner there."

"A full belly. Yeah. That's how I was conceived. On a full belly."

"What do you suppose she meant when she wrote this was going to be the last hotel?"

"You know," Dot stopped walking so she could face her sister. "It's always bothered me that she first used the D word after this hotel." Dot laughed. "She couldn't even say divorce in private."

"Still. You were born, then Win, then Mom and Dad died in that crash. She never had time do divorce Dad."

"Weird how Mom didn't name the hotel for Win. She just called it a dive."

"Is it any wonder Win didn't want to join us on this trip?"

Dot turned and looked back up the path. "I suppose we should get back to the car."

Dot started to walk but felt Lee's hand on her arm so she stopped.

Lee asked, "What would you have done if you'd been conceived in a dive?"

"I would have lived my life differently. That's for sure. I wouldn't have married so young. I would have traveled. I would have gone to college."

"You would have been Win."

"Maybe. But I would have been a well adjusted Win."

They laughed together, then walked in silence back to the car. It was still early and Lee had an idea where they might find that dive.

Bodega Bay Lodge and Spa, Bodega Bay, California   •  (Photo posted Saturday 29 November 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Saturday 8 November 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The earlier storm had washed kelp onto the shore
(30 of 30) (26113 views)


Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Little Tommy Dangreto was always the preferred target of his two older brothers. Mel, the second oldest, was just plain mean. Andy, the oldest, drew the line at just teasing. That is, unless they teamed up, like they did today.

"Eat a piece," Mel said. "It won't kill you. I'll let you use my knife to cut off a piece."

"It's kelp, for Christ sake," Andy crossed his arms as he said it. "You eat seaweed at the Japanese restaurant. Kelp is just like seaweed."

Tommy had made the mistake of asking what kelp tasted like. He just assumed that one of his brothers had tasted kelp before. But no. Instead they wanted him to be the first.

"Name one animal that eats kelp," Tommy said. He had to shade his eyes because his brothers stood with their backs to the sun.

Mel answered right away. "Otters. Yeah, that's right. I heard that otters eat kelp."

Andy looked at Mel. "I don't think so. I heard that otters live around kelp, but I think they eat crabs and clams."

"Seals then."

"No. Seals eat fish."

"Sharks?" Mel was beginning to sound uncertain.

Tommy sensed an escape. "Shark!" he yelled and pointed past his brothers at the sea. "There's a shark out there."

Mel spun and yelped, "Where?"

But Andy didn't fall for the ruse. "Nice try, squirt."

"Shark!" Mel yelled. "I see it. I see it."

Andy frowned and turned away from Tommy.

Tommy saw his opportunity emerge and grabbed it. He spun and dashed for home. But his foot caught in the kelp and he instead sprawled face down in the sand.

"Wow," Andy said. "Did you see that? It took that seal. And in one bite."

Tommy crawled to his feet and dusted sand off. His curiosity overcame his sense of opportunity. He walked over and stood next to Mel. "Where? Where's the shark?"

Mel grabbed Tommy around his shoulder. "There's no shark." Mel laughed and held his knife for Tommy to take. "You can use this to cut yourself a piece of kelp."

The beach, Stinson Beach, California   •  (Photo posted Sunday 24 November 2008)   •  (Photo taken Sunday 9 November 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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