2008/12, December 2008 Photofictional, A Daily Blog Posting By Bryan Costales

Later that afternoon the event began to wind down
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Looking For Dad
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Bess Castleman and her brother Dutch knew their dad was crazy as a loon. But they never --not even in a million years-- expected to find him dressed in long red underwear, wearing a Santa hat, yelling at passing cars.

"Oh, good God no," Bess spotted him first.

"Is that dad?" Dutch was always a bit slow in the uptake.

They just happened to be walking to brunch to discuss what to do that afternoon, when they spotted him.

"Hey Dad!" Bess yelled across the street. Then to Dutch she said, "Is that a beer? He's not supposed to drink beer."

Dutch squinted and shaded his eyes with his hand. "That beard looks fake."

"You know, I think you're right. That couldn't be dad."

"I know. Dad's beard is real."

Bess crossed her arms and looked at Dutch. "I sometimes wonder," she began. She glanced at the not-dad across the street once again. "If I'm the crazy one. I mean, I'm the one that spots dad in every derelict man we see."

Dutch scratched behind his ear. "Not every derelict."

Bess felt unhappy. "Maybe I should never have invented dad."

"Oh no. You're getting in a mood again."

"I'm fifty one," Bess said. "You're fifty three. Maybe it's time we stopped looking for the dad we never had."

Dutch stuck his hands into his jacket pockets. "Gives us something to look forward to."

"It was supposed to be a game. Remember. To keep our minds agile. But lately it's become more real. What if one of those derelict waves back. What if one of them claims to be our dad?"

"Maybe when we find him the game's over."

Bess thought about that. Maybe that was good. Let the game play itself out. "Yes," she told Dutch. 'Let's see what happens when we actually find him."

"Okay," Dutch said.

They walked quietly to brunch.

That was until Bess yelled, "Look. Isn't that dad?"

Santarchy 2008   •  20th Street, San Francisco, California   •  (Photo posted Saturday 20 December 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Friday 12 December 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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David was thirsty that hot afternoon
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Cool David
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

David Gapps didn't see or hear the truck overturn. It was too far up the hill and around a bend. And besides, the day was too hot and too humid. David was too hot. He couldn't remember when he been so damn hot before.

It was all David could do to remain hydrated. He was busy chugging an icy bottle of water, eyes closed, simply enjoying the cool moment, when he first heard the rumble.

David lowered the bottle and looked uphill. "What the heck?"

The road at the top of the rise looked like it was boiling. David blinked. He removed his sunglasses for a clearer view. At first he thought an army of rats was loose on the road. But that made even less sense to him. He shaded his eyes with his free hand. "Balls? Tennis balls?"

David began to walk uphill toward the descending mass. He was curious. "Fruit," he said and gestured with his bottle. "It's a bunch of fruit."

David began to wonder if maybe his brain had finally decided to boil in the day's heat. What would fruit be doing rolling downhill on a clear afternoon for no reason? David took another chug of water and rubbed the cold bottle on his forehead.

"Oops." David noticed the fruit was headed downhill faster than he thought. And it looked bigger than he expected. He looked right, then looked left. The left side of the road and its rise seemed closer. He turned to move left when the first melon hit him with a splat across his leg. He stumbled.

A dozen more melons rumbled past either side of him. The big mass of melons was getting close. Its rumble began to resemble thunder. David decided to hurry.

He ran and stumbled over the low rail at the side of the road and landed hard on the low berm there. He sat up quickly to make sure he was out of harm's way. A couple dozen of the hardier melons leapt the divider and smashed into David with enough force to knock him back over.

The sound of melons faded. From uphill David heard someone shout, "Are you okay?"

David sat up. He discovered he was covered head to foot with mashed melons. The moisture of them was soaking into his clothes. David realized the melons were cooling him down.

David smiled. "Yes," he yelled back. "I think I'm finally cool enough."

Somewhere on the road, Costa Rica   •  (Photo posted Tuesday 23 December 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Tuesday 16 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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This was the former entry from the train station
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Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Rita and Bob Samuelson leaned on the low fence and looked at the rubble.

Bob spoke first. Rita expected Bob to always speak first. She was never tempted to compete, especially now, afterward.

Bob cleared his throat and said, "It still amazes me. So much rubble and not a single person hurt."

"Thank the Lord for that young girl."

"With her dying breath. Isn't that what the newspapers said. Used her dead mom's cellphone to warn everyone."

Rita looked at Bob. He had been there that day. She felt blessed by every day she spent with him. He was one of those saved that day. By that girl. "What was her name?"

"It was a flower name. I recall. Rose perhaps?"

"Or Daisy?'

"Becky! That was it. I remember now."

"That's not a flower name."

Bob winked at her. "It's how I remember."

Rita looked back at the rubble. "You'd think mother and daughter would have been safe. I mean on a tour bus through Paris when they overheard what was going to happen."

Bob cleared his throat again. "I heard they were going to put a statue of her here."

"That doesn't seem like enough."

Rita noticed Bob stand up straight. That was usually his signal to move along. "Lunch?" she asked.

"Yeah," he said. "I'm getting a bit hungry."

They walked together silently back down the narrow path.

Bob spoke first. "Why do you suppose nobody comes to visit here?"

Rose looked up at Bob. His striking hawk-like face. His still alive face. "Guilt," she told him. "Or amazement maybe. Yes. That's what I feel. Amazement every day."

Rita felt Bob take her hand. She smiled. She waited patiently for Bob to speak again, first.

internal link Bay Meadows Race Track, a footnote to history   •  San Mateo, California   •  (Photo posted Sunday 7 December 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Friday 5 December 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Four cranes lined up and ready for Monday
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Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Bud White worked as a guard in the new FlexCo Building. On his way to work he stopped at the model airplane store in the strip mall near Signal Road. The store had just opened.

Bud thought the man behind the counter looked a bit like a hick. A long beard and sun ravaged face made him appear like a back woods yokel. "I'm here for my son," Bud said.

"I don't have your son," the man said with a smile.

Bud felt himself blink. It was the kind of involuntary blink he did when hoodwinked. "I'm shopping for a present for my son," he offered in clarification.

"If your son wants a model, this is the place."

"We visited my brother in San Francisco last summer and, while we were there we took a ferry to Oakland."

"Your brother a fag?"

Bud felt himself blink again. He didn't like being verbally sideswiped like that. "Not fairy, ferry."

Bud saw the man blink and felt better. "Anyway, my son saw those big cranes on shore and was really excited."

"We have model birds, but no cranes."

Bud blinked again but this time pushed on. "Those huge container cranes. The ones used to load boats. You know, the ones that look like the Star Wars Imperial Walker."

"We got those!"


"Sure. Model and ready-made too." The man nodded at the far end of the room. "In the Star Wars area, Imperial Walkers, big and small."

"No. No." Bud waved his hands. "Container cranes. The kind used to load and unload ships."

"Nope," the man shook his head as if sad. "We don't have anything like that. We have model trucks with containers on back. And an HO train with container cars, and even a model of a ship with containers on deck, but no cranes."

Bud looked at his watch. "Thanks anyway, gotta get to work."

"Any time," the man said. "Come back anytime."

"I'll do that," Bud said. But he didn't mean it. On his way out of the store he noticed a model pirate ship. "How much?" he called back to the man. "For this ship?"

"Got one!" the man said.

Bud blinked again. He turned and saw the man holding up a box. The man waved the box. "A model of a container loading crane."

Bud smiled. Maybe the man didn't look like a yokel after all. Bud felt in his pocket for his wallet, but it wasn't there. He must have forgotten it at home. Bud blinked again. Good God, he realized, he just managed to hoodwink himself.

From inside the Alameda Channel facing Oakland   •  San Francisco / Alameda / Jack London Square Ferry   •  An afternoon trip across San Francisco Bay, California   •  (Photo taken Sunday 2 November 2008) internal link   •  (Photo posted Sunday 14 December 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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A floating hotel lay docked at night
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The Smell Of Coffee
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

The written directions were hen scratches again, almost impossible to read. "Damn Neanderthals and their seniority," the ghost of Jack Fenn said. "I wish they'd learn to write clearly."

He floated twenty feet up near the river and gazed at a converted riverboat. In the dark it was hard for him to make out Wanda McFeverston floating just below and to his left. She was a ghost too.

Wanda floated up next to him. "Yon boat must be the one," she told him. "Looks to me correct for the instructions."

"You know," Jack said. "I think that's the same boat where I saw a ghost when I was alive."

"Impossible," she appeared to glow brighter then dimmed again. "Since the events of 1623, no co-hauntings have been allowed."

"First hand knowledge?"

"Please," she glowed a deep red. "I've asked you never to discuss my age."

Jack looked up at the sky. "Looks like we're early. I sure wish they'd give us watches. Telling time by the stars just doesn't make sense anymore."

"Neo Ghosts," Wanda sounded like she spit when she said it. "No patience. No sense of the long view."

Jack tried to glow a different color but still couldn't. "Anyway," he said cautiously. He knew from bad experience that Wanda didn't like to deviate from the plan. "I thought we might find an open restaurant to haunt until the time is right. You know. Then come back here."

To his surprise, she glowed a pleasant green. "That might be nice."

"I like to smell the coffee," Jack said as he floated toward downtown.

"I never tasted coffee." Her voice came from above now.

"There's so much you never had the chance to experience. All the modern things. All the new flavors. All the wonderful images, sounds, touches, the rush of wind on a motorcycle."

Somewhere overhead he noticed Wanda glow red again, "There's so much you have left to learn," she said with a strange sadness in her voice. "Remember," she continued. "You're not human anymore. And you never will be again. You're a ghost now and will be a ghost forever."

Jack didn't like it when she reminded him about what he already knew. He wasn't a child for cripes sake.

"The long view," he muttered. "I miss coffee."

Above him he sensed her amber glow. "You won't," she said, a touch of kindness in her voice. "Eventually you won't miss anything anymore."

"Swell," Jack muttered. Being dead was the furthest thing from fun he could imagine. "Just plain swell."

Sacramento Riverfront, Old Town   •  Sacramento, California   •  (Photo posted Thursday 11 December 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Saturday 15 November 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The first step a power meter, the last a clock
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Dad's Clock
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

When Joe Samosa was a young boy of seven, his Dad installed a clock on the front of their house. It was a large analog clock that could be seen a block away. As Joe grew older, the one thing he could always count on was that the clock was exactly right.

Joe was in his last year of high school. He'd lost interest in after school events. His buddies were currently into dirt bikes, but Joe didn't own a dirt bike. His girlfriend had recently dumped him and no next girlfriend had yet appeared on the horizon.

Bored, Joe came home right after school for once. He stopped at the front gate of their house. The time on the clock looked wrong. It couldn't be that early. Joe pulled his cellphone out and looked at it. Yep, the house clock was wrong. Really wrong.

Joe hurried up the front steps and through the front door. He found his mother standing at the stove. A big pot of soup steamed. His Mom stirred the soup, slowly, almost idly.

Joe approached his Mom and saw she'd been crying. Joe put his hand on his Mom's shoulder and said, "The clock is wrong."

"I know," his Mom said. "I'm not your Dad. I miss him."

"It's been two years Mom."

His Mom stopped stirring the soup. She turned to face him. "Don't you miss your Dad? Even a little, still?"

"But the clock, Mom." Joe gave her a gentle hug then stepped back again. "That clock is the only thing we have left of Dad. Would it hurt to keep it right? When I see it wrong, like today, I worry. I worry something has happened to you."

"Oh my sweet Joe," his Mom took his hand and patted it. "I'm so blessed to have a son like you."

Joe looked his Mom seriously in the eyes. "I'll set it right today. But Mom, you have to promise you'll keep it right again, from now on."

"Okay. I'll do it for you," his Mom said. She let his hand drop and turned back to the soup. "I promise," she said, her back to him. "I'll keep the clock right from now on."

Joe set the clock that afternoon. He set it to match the time on his cellphone.

But the clock was never right again afterward. His Mom gradually faded into a constant memory of grief. His Mom eventually died in her sleep. She died one week to the day after Joe was married.

Joe and his wife visited his boyhood home one last time. They were there to collect mementos. Joe had picked up a screw driver and was trying to disassemble the clock.

"No," his wife said. "I don't want that old thing."

"But my Dad made it. It's all I have left to remember him by."

"I know," his wife draped her arm over his shoulder. "I don't want it to be the only thing I remember you by."

Joe looked at her.

She kissed him.

"Okay," Joe said. He set the screw driver down. "I know exactly what you mean."

They left the house. Joe never came back.

Monteverde, Costa Rica   •  (Photo taken Saturday 13 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Posters advertised many events around town
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Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

After school, Juan Batists lead his most recent girlfriend, Mora Dimoster, to a wall covered in posters.

"How about this band?" Juan asked. He pointed to a small poster high up. "I heard they were good. I heard they have a great lead singer." Juan was self pleased when his sleeve fell back exposing his muscled arm.

"I mean, like," Mora crossed her arms. "When you asked me out, I thought like you'd already have tickets. And you know," she waved her hand in front of Juan's face and pantomimed holding two tickets.

"You like wrestling?" Juan pointed to a lower poster. He liked wrestling and imagined all girls like wrestling too. Juan liked to wrestle. He was strong.

"Ew," Mora squeaked. "All those sweaty stupid guys. I mean. You know. Pretending. Ew."

Unfazed, Juan merely moved his hand to another poster. "How about a play. Oops. It's ended already."

"No," Mona said. She gazed hard at the bottom of the poster. "Look. Another play. Isn't that today?"

Juan bent over at his waist to look at the same part of the poster. He liked the way his butt looked when he bent at the waist. "A musical! What a sharp eye you have. I love musicals."

Mora stood and crossed her arms again. "Hey," she said. "I mean. You like to watch wrestling and you like to watch musicals. What's up with that? You do like girls don't you?"

Juan felt surprised by her question. He stood up straight and put his arm around her shoulders. He gave her a gentle hug that way. "Of course I like girls." But her question made him self aware. He noticed he mostly felt his strong arm around her shoulders. He also noticed he wasn't all that aware of her shoulders touching his arm.

Mora smiled. "Good," she said and twisted out from his arm. "I have to get home. Tonight," she raised one arm and put the other to her mouth and pantomimed singing.

Juan watched her walk off. He waved a friendly wave briefly at her retreating back. Then he crossed his own arms.

"Good," he said. "A musical. I like that. A musical."

San Jóse, Costa Rica   •  (Photo posted Thursday 18 December 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Sunday 7 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Two horses ignored the conversation above them
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Three Dots
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Gina Zarchroff broke the teen barrier a scant two weeks earlier on her thirteenth birthday. So it was with new maturity and chagrin that she walked her much younger brother Ron, whom she called Runt, to the public bathrooms. She'd been asked to take him by her Mom, but she really needed no excuse to get away from their dork of a new step-dad.

They were attending the How Berkeley Can You Be parade and fair. Ron stopped and, because Gina was holding his hand, she stopped too.

"Lookie," Ron exclaimed. "Horses dancing!"

Gina watched the two riders take their horses through a few rehearsed moves. Then she said to Ron, "No Runt. They're not dancing. The riders train them to do that. The riders tell them what to do. The horses are just puppets."

Ron yanked hard on her hand. "No! No! Horses can dance!"

Gina wanted in that moment to drag him to the bathroom. She was tempted to act in anger. But then she thought about her mom and that dork of a new dad and how her mom put up with him. She thought about the band that had been playing and how good they were. She remembered herself dancing to that music.

"No...," she began to say, but stopped. Gina thought about the time she'd told Ron there was no tooth fairy. She thought about how much he cried and how afterward he ran to their Mom. Gina remembered being grounded for a week and blushed at the memory. Then she realized she had just connected a dot, just like her mom had always told her to. Dot A to dot B like in school.

"They don't ...," she began again. But this time Gina thought about the time she told Ron that the Easter Bunny was a myth. She'd gotten in trouble for that misstep too. Another dot.

For the first time Gina realized there might be connections, patterns, consequences. She looked at Ron. "You're right," she told him at last. "They teach the horses how to dance. And after that the horses can dance anytime they want to."

Ron smiled at her. "I knew it. I knew it. I have to pee."

Gina sighed. "Okay Runt," she said. "Let's get you to those bathrooms."

As they walked, Gina wondered. Had she lied to her brother to keep herself out of trouble? Or had she just fibbed. Or maybe she had only made up a story, like on TV, just pretend.

She was puzzling out a third dot when a dangerously cute boy emerged from the bathroom. His surfer blond hair glowed and his amazing smile dazzled. Gina stared at him. And in that moment all her dots, all three of them, blew away on the wind.

How Berkeley Can You Be Fair   •  Civic Center Park, Berkeley, California   •  (Photo posted Wednesday 17 December 2008)   •  (Photo taken Sunday 28 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Bird watchers spotted birds from just off the path
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The Birds
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Wendy tried to forget her last name. She'd filed for divorce from that idiot and immediately set out on a leisurely drive down the coast. Along the way she'd rediscovered the joy of walking on a beach.

Wendy parked in the public lot at Doran Beach Park. Before cutting over the low hill to the beach she spotted a smallish group of people looking through small telescopes.

Curious, she wandered over. "What are you looking at?"

Without looking up, the nearest man said simply, "Birds."

Wendy looked around. The only birds were really far away, floating in large flocks on the bay. Across the bay on the far shore was a small town. "Say," she said to nobody in particular, "Isn't that the town were Hitchcock ...."

A short woman in a warm looking coat interrupted Wendy. "We don't talk about that movie here."

"Oh. Because you're bird watchers."


Wendy nodded at the telescope. "Can you really see anything? I mean, those birds seem really far away."

The woman tapped the man. "Honey. Let this lady take a look."

The man grunted and stood. Wendy was surprised by how tall he was. He seemed much shorter when he was bent over looking through the telescope.

The man pointed at a knob on the telescope. "The focus is here. Right now it's pointed at a grebe, but they dive and it may disappear quickly."

Wendy took that as a hint to look quickly so she did. "Wow," she said. "It looks so close. Oops. It dove."

Wendy stood. She felt like she had an idiotic grin on her face. "You do this every weekend?"

The woman answered. "Not when it rains hard. But most weekends. Not here, of course, but all over the state."

Wendy thanked the couple loud enough to thank the entire group. She turned and continued her walk to the beach.

As she walked she said over and over to herself, "Birder, birder, birder." She liked the way the word felt on her lips. She stopped at the top of the hill facing the beach. Sea gulls swooped. In the distance a buzzard ate something dead. She smiled and asked herself, "I wonder how much one of those telescopes costs?"

Cheney Creek Bridge and Trail   •  Doran Park, Bodega Bay, California   •  (Photo posted Thursday 4 December 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Saturday 8 November 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The gauges on the firetruck were complex
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At Four
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Duncan Reese stood on the cold loading dock and watched a workman, who knelt on the floor, refill fire extinguishers. Duncan had recently become Junior Manager for the store and so got to take over oddball duties like this one.

Duncan folded his arms for warmth and shivered. He'd forgotten his coat and the loading dock was cold. At the other end a door was up and a truck was being unloaded. Beyond the opening he could see flakes of new snow blow past.

Duncan asked the man, "When you were a kid, did you ever want to be a fireman?"

The man glanced up at him. It was not a friendly glance. "Why?"

Duncan took a step closer and rocked heel to toe to get warm. "When I was four my dad took me to see a fire truck. I saw all the gauges and knobs and decided then that being a fireman would be too hard. Imagine that. Deciding when I was four." He laughed a polite laugh.

The man sat back on his heels and looked at Duncan. "When I was four I watched my mother burn to death. My dad pulled me out first, but the fire was too big for him to go back after my mom. The house burned to the ground. It was out and cold before the fire department finally arrived. That's why I never became a fireman."

Duncan stopped rocking. The man shrugged then leaned over again and resumed refilling fire extinguishers. Duncan watched him but didn't say any thing.

He wanted to answer, of course. But he felt bested. What could he say? Sorry for your loss? Nice to hear we both had the same dream. So that's why you refill fire extinguishers?

Finally, Duncan said, "I have to get a coat."

The man ignored him.

Duncan walked back through the swinging doors and into the store. He paused there, just inside, and felt warmth return to his arms and legs. He said, "Damn."

In the aisle next to him a lady was examining socks. She looked at him with a look of distaste.

Duncan smiled at her and said, "Excuse me." Then he walked the other direction to find his coat.

San Francisco Readiness Exercise Two   •  Main Street between Harrison and Folsom Streets   •  San Francisco, California   •  (Photo posted Wednesday 10 December 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Friday 24 October 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The juvenile gull was not about to abandon the table
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Stupid Bird
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Jill Tuffwull watched her husband Frank approach the picnic table. A heavy cooler in each hand made him stoop. To her eye, that bend accentuated his hairy back and made him seem to her more that day than others like an ape.

"Shoo," he said to the sea gull standing on it. "I want this table."

Jill set her bags of food on a different table, one without a bird. She called to her husband, "This table's available."

But Frank stood his ground and ignored her. "Shoo. Go away."

The sea gull squawked a loud squawk at Frank. Jill watched him take a step back. She wanted to ask him, are you afraid of a bird? But she knew that would just cause him to attack the bird. So instead she said, "Bring those coolers back over here. I need a beer."

Frank turned his back on the bird and lumbered back to Jill. "Stupid bird," he told her.

Jill noticed the bird watching Frank. It tilted its head like it was thinking. Jill wondered if she was witnessing a contest of minds.

She took a cooler from Frank and set it on the table. "Ah," she said as she opened the lid. "You want a beer too?"

Frank set the other cooler down and looked back a the bird. It squawked again and this time flapped its wings a couple times.

Frank grunted that grunt that told Jill he was hankering to fight. She put her left hand on his shoulder to distract him and handed him a beer with her right. "Have a beer," she said. "It's just a stupid bird."

"Yeah," Frank said. He turned to look at her again. "It's just a stupid bird."

All around them, dozens of sea gulls squawked and took off in flight. They all swooped and swirled and appeared to be flying away toward something unseen. "Must be a fishing boat," Jill said.

"The bird's gone," Frank said and pointed at the table where the gull had stood. It was empty. "We can move there now."

Jill put her hands on her hips. "You what? You want to move to that table just because a bird had it?"

"Sure, why not?"

"If we move that sea gull will eat lunch before we do. It's already flying toward fish or something. If we stay here, we'll eat first. Don't you want to be smarter than the bird?"

It didn't take Frank long to agree. "Okay," he said. "Let's eat here."

Jill gave Frank a peck on the cheek. "You get the barbecue going, and I'll set the table."

Jill wondered if he'd realize that starting the barbecue would allow the bid to win? But his mind had finally wandered elsewhere.

"Glad I remembered the starter fluid. I forgot it last time. Remember how I had to siphon gas? What a mess."

Jill began to prepare the table. She glanced up at him and said, "That's nice dear."

Bodega Bay, Bodega, California   •  (Photo taken Saturday 8 November 2008)   •  (Photo posted Friday 12 December 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The setting sun reflected off the APL China
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Member When
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Dan Fastern thought a Troika was a Russian horse with three legs. Nancy Wells knew better and told him it was a carriage pulled by three horses. Bill Shootz liked the concept and thought they should call themselves the Digital Troika, because they were a team of three digital photographers.

They were together on a ferry passing the Port of Oakland on their way to Jack London Square. Bill liked to shoot boats so was busy clicking away as they glided past huge docked ships.

"MW?" Nancy asked.

"I never understood that one," Dan confessed. "I mean, shouldn't it be RW? For 'Remember When?'"

"Naw. RW means 'Really? Why?', that's why we say MW for 'Member When?'"

Dan shook his head. "For someone as smart and work-wise as you, I can't understand why you use txt-speak so often."

Nancy ignored Dan as she normally did. "I'll start." She turned her camera off and capped the lens. "Remember when," she winked at Dan. "Remember when that Indian lady invented the Kali battery?"

"Yeah," Dan turned off his camera too. "That's when electric cars became cheap and could go a thousand miles on a charge."

Bill stood up and switched off his camera. "Yeah. And remember when the blind changed the law?"

Nancy clapped her hands. "I remembered that just yesterday when I shopped for Christmas. All those electric cars tinkling their little bells when stopped. I tell you, those bells really reminded me of Christmas."

Bill said, "I remember the seas rising when I was a boy. Five feet in one summer. You remember those aircraft carriers air lifting people off their sinking islands?"

"And the dikes!" Dan became worked up when politics was discussed. "Why didn't we just abandoned the land? Why spend trillions to build thousands of miles of dikes?"

"I remember the final Burning Man," Bill said. He was the only one of the three that had ever been to Burning Man.

Nancy shook her head. "All those people killed."

Dan said, "On the news they called it a freak of nature."

"I was there," Bill said. "Remember?" He looked sad. "The first and only tornado I've ever seen."

"Remember when," Nancy smiled a weak smile. "We used to only remember happy things?"

Bill and Dan both shook their heads. Dan spoke first, "No, I don't ever recall that."

"Neither do I," Bill said and turned his camera back on. He lifted it ready to shoot. "Neither do I."

Hornblower Christmas Cruise   •  Piers of Oakland, Alameda Estuary   •  (Photo posted Sunday 28 December 2008)   •  (Photo taken Thursday 25 December 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The wall of a rundown house
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Art Shoes
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Soma Sousa was older than his brother Doug by four years, but was also a foot shorter and frail. Soma always thought they had different dads but their Mom denied it. It was Saturday, so the two were walking together to the library. That is, Doug was walking and Soma trailed him.

Soma leaned against a wall to rest. He jumped when his brother threw a tennis shoe against the wall. "Careful," he said. "You might damage the wall."

"You're nuts," Doug said. "That wall's wasted. Nothing I can do can make it worse."

Soma looked at the wall. "Pretty wall isn't it."

"Naw, a wall's a wall. It'd be better if we had both shoes."

Soma looked at his brother who had picked up the shoe and was now tossing it from one hand to the other and back.

Soma asked, "What would you do if you had both shoes?"

"Toss 'em over a wire of course."

"Too bad," Soma said and resumed walking.

Doug remained quiet. He was busy kicking the tennis shoe down the street as if it were a soccer ball. Kicking then running. Kicking then running. "Hey," Doug said after a while. "Another shoe."

Soma caught up with his brother. "A dress shoe. How about that."

"No good," Doug said. "They're not the same."

"No good for what?"

"To toss over a wire of course."

"Why? Because they're not the same?"


"Let me have them," Soma said.

Doug handed them to Soma. Soma noticed Doug's eyes roving, looking for something else to do.

Soma unraveled the laces and tied the two shoes together. "Sometimes you have to be different," he said. "What would you have if you tossed two of the same shoes over a wire?"

Doug hadn't been paying attention. "Don't know. Two shoes hanging from a wire?"

"If they were two different shoes, like say this...," Soma held up the tied pair. "Why then you'd have art."

Doug didn't get it, but he agreed to help Soma toss them over a wire.

Between tosses, Soma would add, "Art you know creates peace." And, "Art is what sets man apart from the animals." And, "Through art maybe we can end all wars."

Doug's efforts were half hearted. He didn't really like the idea of two different shoes.

Soma was too weak to throw. His tosses were consistently three feet short of the wire.

Finally Doug gave up. They left the tied together shoes by the side of the road and walked the rest of the way to the Library in silence.

The next day was a rainy Sunday. Two other kids found the tied together shoes. They untied them and threw them at each other in mock battle. One got a badly bloodied nose. The other fell and scraped his knee.

San Jóse, Costa Rica   •  (Photo posted Monday 22 December 2008)   •  (Photo taken Sunday 7 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The bucket contained American flags for sale
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Two Flags
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

A bucket of souvenir-sized American flags rested just to the left of the hardware store's front door. To the right were stacked sacks of fertilizer. An oldish man wearing overalls was bent over, reading the label on the top fertilizer bag when Dell Cakeman walked up with his young adopted son Carl.

Carl didn't get out often yet. Still a bit young he hadn't yet learned to mind his peace. "Look!" he squealed with delight. "Stars. Lots of stars."

Dell looked around. He didn't see any stars. "Where Carl? Where are the stars?"

Carl pulled Dell to the bucket of American flags. "Our flag doesn't have that many stars," he said, plucking at one of the American flags. "Our flag only has two."

The man in overalls stood up straight and asked Dell, "What'd your boy mean by that?"

"Hard to explain."

"Try me."

Dell dreaded moments like this. Moments when he or his partner Bob would be dragged into the wrong conversation. But never one to duck a confrontation, no matter how uncomfortable, he asked, "You remember when women got the vote?"

"I'm not that old." The man frowned. "Do I look that old?"

"You don't look a day over fifty."

The man smiled and that gave Dell the confidence to continue. "Well before the women got the vote nationally, they fought for the vote state by state. First they got. Oh hell, I don't remember exactly. But say they got Massachusetts and Connecticut first. They could vote in two states out of forty eight, so they created an American flag with only two stars."

"I see," the man said. He continued to smile. "Like the gay marriage thing."

"Exactly the same."

"You a fag?"

Carl yanked on the man's overalls. "He's my dad!"

"Still," the man looked Dell square in the eyes. "You gotta show respect."

"You against gays?"

"Me?" The man smiled again. "Nope. My son's gay. I'm just pro flag."

"So am I," Dell said, but felt foolish saying it.

The man barked a laugh, said, "Good luck with them stars." Then he turned and went into the hardware store.

Dell looked at Carl.

Carl said, "I wish our flag had lots of stars."

"So do I," Dell told him. "So do I."

Martinez, California   •  (Photo posted Tuesday 16 December 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Sunday 6 July 2008)   •  © 2008 David Graves Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Cigarettes were for sale on one corner
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Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Fran DeWorthy made a special run to the corner store every Saturday morning to buy a carton of cigarettes for her crippled mom. She dreaded Saturday mornings because the man behind the counter, Darron something, had a crush on her.

"You know," he leaned on the narrow counter as he spoke. His tiny patch of a moustache wiggled under his pock marked nose. "Eventually my discounting cigarettes for your mom will wear you down. I'm a patient man."

Fran slapped a twenty dollar bill down on the counter. She always selected the grungiest twenty she had for Saturday. In fact, she had once sprayed one with pepper juice, but to no effect. So now she just left the dirtiest one. "Just the cigarettes, okay?"

"You haven't told me what you did this week, yet." Darron stood. He wore a tight T-shirt stretched over his boney chest and pot belly. "Meet anybody famous?"

Fran couldn't understand Darron's preoccupation with fame. All he ever asked was, "Meet anybody famous?"

Once she'd claimed to have met a famous movie star, but Darron pestered her into telling the truth. Embarrassed then, she now only told the truth to him. "No," she always said. "Nobody famous."

Darron laughed his delighted laugh that sounded like he had something stuck in his throat. "Okay," he said. He handed her the carton of cigarettes. Like always the carton was wrapped like a present with a little bow. "I'm a patient man. Here, take your carton and skeedaddle."

Fran snatched the carton and turned and left without saying goodbye. Once she had the carton, she felt released. His hold on her finished.

On her way home, Fran noticed the local newsman recording an interview on the sidewalk. His assistant flagged her down. "You want to be interviewed by Bob Carlton?"

Fran stopped. The newsman looked like maybe she'd seen him on TV. "Is he famous?"

"Yeah. Kind of. Around town anyway."

Fran said, "No thanks." She scooted around the interview. She continued down the sidewalk a ways then looked back. Yes the newsman did look familiar. Yes he did look famous.

Fran shook her head. "That was a close call," she said aloud. "I almost met somebody famous."

I Street, Sacramento, California   •  (Photo posted Friday 19 December 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Saturday 15 November 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The Halloween car had a mascot
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The Straw
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Buzz Randles liked his wife because she would do most anything he wanted. Just yesterday, for example, she walked the entire parade while he drove it. Buzz liked his wife a tiny bit less as he sat in the restaurant suddenly alone, with a steak knife stuck in his leg.

Around him waiters fussed. Conversation at other tables began to resume. The maître 'd stood a discrete distance away and talked to 911.

"Did you hear them?" A man at the next table asked his dining companion. "Have you ever heard a couple argue like that?"

Buzz wanted desperately to order a strong drink, but he suspected the waiter wouldn't get it for him. He realized his heart was beating fast. He looked at the knife in his leg. "A steak knife," he muttered. "And she's a vegetarian."

A waiter leaned close. "Did you wish something sir?"

"A stiff drink," Buzz whispered, a little ashamed.

"Do you think that's wise sir?"

"She took the car. No worry about me driving drunk."

"No. I mean because of you leg sir."

Buzz looked at the knife again. He realized his blood was dripping onto the floor. "Sorry about your rug."

"I'll just get you that drink sir."

The waiter stood and left. Buzz was alone again. He looked around at the other diners. They whispered to each other and glanced at him.

Buzz thought about his life with his wife. They never argued. Not once, not ever. This was a fluke. This was an aberration. What had set her off? What had he said? Oh yes. Buzz blushed. Was he mad? Why had he told her to do that?

The waiter set the drink in front of him. It looked like whiskey in a short tumbler with ice. Buzz wanted gin, but he'd forgotten to specify. "The straw that broke the camel's back." he said to himself. "Yeah, that's it. The straw that broke the camel's back."

"I'm sorry sir," the waiter leaned in again. "I don't understand."

Buzz lifted the glass, and with a gesture, silently toasted the empty chair across from him. He drank, just a sip because he didn't like whiskey. Buzz notice the waiter was still leaning in, waiting.

"Neither did I," he told the waiter. "I didn't understand either."

Art Car Parade, part of How Berkeley Parade   •  Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, California   •  (Photo posted Saturday 6 December 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Sunday 28 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Terry Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Terry loved to toast the photographer
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On The Moon
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Evan and Bonn, twin boys, celebrated their seventh birthday by rolling out the family album and dancing on it. PrunePit's new song was great fun and had a wonderful beat. Sock footed, their dancing caused random photographs to surface. Evan pushed Bonn off and jumped off himself. A photo had surfaced that puzzled him.

"Who's that?" he asked their mom who had been watching them play.

She stood and looked. "That must be your great-great-grandmother." She touched her ring and the picture floated up out of the roll and hovered in front of them.

Bonn asked, "Why is she wearing that funny hat?"

His mom appeared unsure. "That's what women used to wear back then, at Christmas time anyway. I think."

Evan said, "We learned about Christmas in school. And how houses used to burn wood for heat."

Bonn added, "And they thought reindeer could fly. And without wings!"

Their mom touched her ring and the photo fell back into the swirling mass of a million family media moments. "Christmas," she continued. "Used to be a Christian holiday. Can either of you tell me what a Christian was?"

Neither of them had an idea. Bonn spoke first, "Were they the ones that thought it was okay to eat animals?"

"Sort of," their mom didn't sound sure herself. "I think they ate Turkeys and Pigs as part of their celebration."

Bonn made a retching sound. "How could they?"

Evan added, "Our ancestors were evil."

"No," their mom said. "They were just ignorant. That's all." Then she brightened. "Hey! Do you two want to have your birthday dinner on the moon?"

Evan got so exited he tripped and fell onto the family album. A video of a dog, its mouth open, its eyes fierce, surfaced under Evan and appeared ready to swallow him.

The two boys just laughed at the video. Together they rolled up the family album and put it away. This, they felt, was going to be a great birthday, a birthday on the moon.

Hornblower Christmas Cruise and Party   •  From Pier 3, San Francisco Bay, California   •  (Photo posted Tuesday 30 December 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Thursday 25 December 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Her bright orange parasol provided broad shade
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Donna Woke Up
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Purely on a whim she peeled her first orange and ate it in pieces. Before that, she'd sliced an orange with a knife, a technique taught her by her mother. But at fifty, exactly at noon on her birthday, Donna Shipley woke up.

Before that day her past had been a muddle. Like mud covering everything after a flood. Like the dark when the power failed unexpectedly. A noon on her fiftieth birthday, Donna realized she had not lived her life. Donna stood at her kitchen counter, her knife poised over an orange and paused.

She remembered the men she'd dated. None of whom she had loved. There was Drake, her favorite of course, but now as she looked back, she couldn't remember what his face looked like.

She remembered dropping out of college so she could travel. She drove as far as Modesto and gotten a job as a waitress in a cafe that didn't exist anymore. She remembered thinking she'd served one thousand slices of peach pie. She remembered feeling proud. Now she wondered why?

She remembered her fads to get fit. She remembered learning to swim then taking up the bicycle instead. She remembered jumping off her bike just before it was hit by a car. Scraped up and hurt, she never rode a bike again after that. Now that she reflected on it, she realized she'd stopped trying to be fit.

Donna set the knife on the counter. She looked at the orange.

Its color reminded her of an orange parasol she had once owned. It had been her favorite for fairs and festivals. But now that she thought about it, she couldn't remember what had happened to that parasol.

Donna picked up the orange. Using her nail she started a peel. She remembered her father. When she was a little girl she watched him peel an orange. One peel. One continuous peel round and round the orange and then the bare fruit to eat. Why, she wondered, had she forgotten that?

Donna peeled the orange, slowly, carefully. One slow peel. One continuous peel round and round the orange. And then.

Donna held the bare fruit up and gazed at it. Something new. She felt oddly free. She broke the orange open and ate it a slice at a time. The experience felt completely unprecedented.

Donna licked her fingers and thought. Anything! I can do anything I want. I can swim. I can go back to school. I can date again. I can buy another orange parasol and go to fairs again. I can become me again. Donna smiled a weak smile at first, but gradually her smile became strong.

On her fiftieth birthday, exactly at noon, she finally woke up.

Sausalito Art Festival, Sausalito, California   •  (Photo posted Friday 5 December 2008)   •  (Photo taken Monday 1 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Bryan wore his Tilley hat while shooting a spider
(19 of 31) (29132 views)


Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

The last known photograph of Lewis Coattails showed him taking a picture of a spider. What was not known until years later was the power of that spider's bite. Within seconds it could rewrite a person's personality, or drive a sane person mad.

Early in the new century, Rod Scales, retired private eye, was on an adventure tour of Costa Rica. After a long day of hikes and canoeing, Rod retired to the hotel bar for a drink. The bar was small, only two stools, so he sat next to an old gentleman wearing a ratty old Tilley hat and nursing a bottle of Imperial beer.

"Evening," the old man said after a while. He spoke without looking at Rod.

Rod looked at him. The old man's shirt was missing buttons, and its sleeves were tattered. His beard was unevenly cut. He appeared impoverished. But Rod couldn't look away. There was a strange sparkle in the man's eyes.

Rod spoke cautiously, "You sound American."

"Maybe," the old man said somewhat sadly. "I don't remember." He sipped his beer and continued to stare ahead. "I seem to have lost my way."

Rod sipped his own drink, a vodka and prune juice. "You have amnesia or something?"

The old man reached out and touched something that wasn't there. "A spider," he said. "I remember a spider."

Rod remembered, years ago. Where was that? An article in Time Magazine perhaps? Or was it National Geographic? He looked at the old man again. "You wouldn't happen to be Lewis Coattails? Would you?"

The old man took another sip of beer. "No. I'm Sousa. Sousa Monroe. Born in Egypt and raised in Columbia. I remember that for sure now."

"You wouldn't happen to have any ID would you?"

"Not my own. Lost it when I was with the Contras in Nicaragua. That's right. I was born on a farm. I must have found these clothes somewhere along the way. They have someone else's ID." The old man fished a bent passport from his pants pocket and handed it to Rod.

Rod opened the passport. "This says Lewis Coattails."

"Yeah. Like I said, I found it."

Rod felt excited. Had he really found the missing Lewis Coattails? "Mind if I take this to my room for a few minutes. I need to check something on the Internet."

"Keep it," the old man said. He finished the last of his beer. "Like I said, I found it. I remember now. It was in Africa."

Rod slapped a twenty dollar bill on the bar top. To the bartender he said, "As many beers as he wants. On me."

It took Rod a mere four minutes to get to his room, validate his findings on Google, then return to the bar. The old man was gone.

"Where did that old man go?" he asked the bartender. The bartender just shrugged. Rod noticed the twenty still lay on the bar.

Rod ran out to the street. He looked both ways. There was no sign of the old man anywhere.

Rod hefted the passport. "I've got your passport!" he yelled to the empty road. "I'll find you again!" Rod smiled. He felt revitalized, "The game," he yelled. "Is afoot!"

Monteverde Nature Tour, Monteverde, Costa Rica   •  (Photo posted Saturday 13 December 2008)   •  (Photo taken Saturday 14 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Terry Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Each room offered comfortable seating
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Chair George
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Ron Greysmyth had been in grammar school when his Granddad died. The folks bundled he and his older sister up for a visit to his Grandma.

Ron remembered that visit and asking, "Grandma, why does this chair say George on the back?"

"That was your grandfather's name. George."

"Can I sit in it?"

"No!" She had sounded angry. "That was your grandfather's chair. I don't want anyone to sit in it. Not ever. It was his."

Ron's mother asked Grandma, "Do you miss him?"

"Yes. A little. But it's a good thing he died when he did or he would have outlived his usefulness."

Ron remember that answer years later in college. His mother had just emailed him that his grandmother had died. He wrote back to her, "Its a good thing. Or she might have outlived her usefulness."

His mother had emailed back in anger, "What godless evil have they been teaching you at that school? Have you lost all compassion?"

Ron graduated and got a good job. He moved back to the town where he grew up, but on the other side of the Interstate. On the good side, on the side with a view.

Ron learned to collect antiques. He browsed the local Goodwill Store one Saturday morning. To his delight he found an old easy chair with the name George embroidered on the back.

The clerk said, "That's a king's chair. You know, that King George guy. A steal at $10."

Ron bought the chair and had the gardener pick it up. The gardener was intercepted by Ron's wife so the chair ended up in the basement game room along with the other "misunderstood" furniture.

Over the years the chair became hidden under boxes of old books, too small clothes, old CDs, and other discarded but someday-useful junk.

Ron's son left for college so Ron and his wife decided to move into a smaller place. His son came back over spring break to help them pack.

"Look," his son said. "This chair has the name George on the back. It must be my chair. I'm George."

"That was your great-grandfather's chair," Ron said. "My grandmother never let anyone sit in it." Ron thought about that. "Not, even me. I never sat in it either."

"Now's your chance dad."

His wife said, "Go ahead, dear. You know you're dying to sit in it."

Ron stepped up to the chair and sat in it with a comfortable sigh.

Ron heard ripping and tearing. Metal poked him in his back and in his butt. He stood with difficulty and looked back at the chair. The fabric had torn in dozens of spots and metal springs poked through. An oddly rotten smell caused him to wrinkle his nose.

"My chair!" his son wailed.

Ron's wife shook her head. "I think that chair has outlived its usefulness."

Ron remembered his grandfather. He remembered that his grandmother had said the same thing about his grandfather. He dropped to his knees and hugged the arm of the chair. "Grandpa," he said. For the first time ever, he finally missed his grandfather. He wept, but became embarrassed and wiped his eyes.

He felt his wife put her hand on his shoulder. He thought about his son, about his job, about his wife. He thought about his parents and his grandparents. He wondered if he would ever outlive his own usefulness.

Embassy Suites Hotel, Sacramento, California   •  (Photo posted Wednesday 3 December 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Saturday 15 November 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The photographer shot a mime in the park
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Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Joey Cloperd stopped his bicycle to watch. As a young teen he was often bored out of his mind and at wits end for want of something fun to do.

A middle aged woman rolling a baby in a stroller stopped next to Joey. The baby looked asleep. The woman had a happy look on her face as if the world was an endlessly interesting place.

The woman spoke first. "What do you see?"

Joey looked back at what he had seen that caused him to stop his bike in the first place. "A man taking pictures of a mime."

"And what do you hear?"

"Just the clicking of the camera."

"Think about it," she said and walked on.

Joey remained were he was for a while. He watched the woman greet the man and mime. He watched the photographer take pictures of the mime silently entertaining the baby.

Joey got back on his bike and peddled the other direction, more towards downtown. A few blocks later he rolled to a stop outside a small food store. He was thirsty and thought about buying a Coke.

Joey paused there, on his bike, outside the store. He paused and remembered the mime and the photographer and the woman and the baby. "And what do you hear?" The woman's question echoed through his mind.

Joey remembered the clicking of the camera. Joey remembered the woman's delighted laugh. Joey remembered the mime silent the whole time. But no. Now that he thought about it, there was a rustle. Like leaves across a sidewalk, he thought, the rustle of the mime's clothing.

Joey laughed. And then he wondered. "Why is that funny?"

Without realizing it, that afternoon outside the store waiting to buy a Coke, Joey began to think about things, and because of that Joey became just a tiny bit less bored.

and not a sound was heard   •  Parque Nacional, San José, Costa Rica   •  (Photo posted Friday 26 December 2008)   •  (Photo taken Sunday 7 September 2008)   •  © 2008 David Graves Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Breakwater rocks made an attractive place for fishing
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Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

"What are you looking for?" Ralph Emerson asked as his wife Sue rummaged through his right coat pocket. "I keep my handkerchief in the left now."

"Oh," was all she said. They were both getting old. Ralph seemed to be growing more loquacious. Sue less.

Ralph handed his wife the handkerchief. "Chilly out here on the breakwater, isn't it."

"I find it nice." Sue blew her nose and handed him back the handkerchief.

Ralph helped his wife step to the next boulder.

Ralph was surprised when Sue let out a little scream. More like a mouse's eek.

"What's wrong?"

She held up her left hand for him to see. "My diamond!"

Ralph's vision wasn't what it was, but he could tell that her wedding ring was missing it's diamond.

He looked around. Nothing but cracks and crevices. "We'll need some help." He looked up and saw a family approaching.

Ralph helped his wife back down off the rocks and onto flat land. They approached the family and showed them the missing diamond. "I'll pay $100 to the person who finds it."

The two kids smiled at him, then shot past to look for the diamond. The kids' parents looked at each other, dropped their fishing gear, and followed their kids onto the rocks.

Ralph helped his wife to a nearby bench. The sat and waited. Pretty soon all the people on the breakwater were looking for the lost diamond.

Two men shouted and started clambering toward Ralph. They pushed each other as they climbed. It reminded Ralph of the old Roller Derby show. The two men, puffing out of breath, stopped and stood in front of Ralph and Sue. As if rehearsed, they both said together, "I found it." and both held out identical diamonds.

Sue looked at the two diamonds. "They're both too big."

"Yeah," Ralph said. "Those are a lot bigger than we lost."

The two men looked at each other, turned, and ran back toward the breakwater.

Ralph noticed it was starting to rain lightly. "Let's go home," he said. He stood and rummaged through his coat pocket for his keys. "Mm. What's this?" He pulled a small pebble from his pocket. He held it up for Sue to see. It was the lost diamond.

"In your pocket?"

"Must have fallen off when you wanted my handkerchief."

The next morning, Ralph went for his morning walk while his wife slept. He picked up a morning paper and returned home to find his wife up and making french toast. The house smelled good of cinnamon and coffee.

"Look at this," Ralph held up the paper for her to see.

His wife squinted. "No glasses."

"I'll read it to you," Ralph cleared his throat and read the headline. "Thousands fooled by fake diamonds."

Sue laughed.

Ralph smiled, his smug smile.

Doran Beach, Doran Regional Park   •  Bodega Bay, Bodega, California   •  (Photo posted Monday 1 December 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Saturday 8 November 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The tire was slowly being mashed flat
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Idle Word Games
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

"That tire looks tired," young Robby Waxman said, his nose pressed flat against the bus window.

His brother Tim, in the seat just behind him said, "That wheel looks weary."

Tim was a bit older so could use a bit larger words than Robby could. It wasn't a matter of pride. He was only older, that was all. But his vocabulary could sometimes bother his younger brother.

Robby tapped the glass and asked, "What does weary mean?"


"So the wheel is tired?"

"Yeah." Tim laughed. "That's funny."

Their Mom got back on the bus. Her first words were, "You two stop fighting. I swear, I can't step out for a minute."

Robby sat up straight. He drew an X in the part of the window where his breath had fogged it.

"You are there," Tim said. "X marks the spot."

Robby looked around the seat. He was too short to look over it. "No," he said. "You're back there."

"I swear," their Mom said.

Tim laughed.

The bus started. Air conditioning erased the X from the window.

"Square one," Tim said.

"Buckle up," their Mom said.

Robby said, "You're square too."

Tim laughed.

Near the Tárcoles River, Costa Rica   •  (Photo posted Thursday 25 December 2008)   •  (Photo taken Tuesday 16 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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The bench was a bit too close to the curb
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Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

She missed her dead husband so desperately, she could not let go. The former Mrs. Wendy Franks saw aspects of her husband in all men she passed. A young man's full mane of hair reminded her of her husband when he was young and spirited. A bald man made her miss all the more her last moments with him.

Months like this passed. Her women friends told her to travel. "Costa Rica," one friend said between bites of gourmet vegi-burrito. "It's a gentle country. A good place to heal."

Wendy flew south just as the snow at home was beginning to melt. Armed with one carry-on and an old guide book she'd found on the dusty floor of her closet, she arrived in San Jóse, Costa Rica at dawn, grief still tied tightly to her heart.

The guide book suggested a "diversionary," walk past "floral gardens." To Wendy, that sounded just right. The walk, however, was not as advertised. She passed a new, huge jail building gray and imposing, then crossed a busy street filled will cars, trucks, and brightly colored buses. Mid day, and overly warm, she arrived at a small rundown park.

Two men played chess. Her husband liked to play chess, and now Wendy felt guilty she had never learned. Another man walked a large dog. Her husband had grown up with dogs, but they as a couple never owned dogs. Dogs made her sneeze.

Wendy spotted a concrete bench on the edge of the lawn too near a road. It looked suspect but she was really tired, more than tired she felt worn, and needed rest.

The concrete of the bench was cool. In the street, mere inches from her feet was a puddle. It must have rained last night, she mused. Imagine that. Rain in February.

Something moved in the puddle. Something caused tiny ripples. Wendy stood and looked. Just below the shallow surface swam a tiny goldfish. The kind one might win at a fair. The kind her husband had once won tossing rings over Coke bottles.

It was tangled in something. She bent closer to look. A scrap of thread, blue thread. Her husband's eyes were blue. She reached and, carefully using one finger, she eased the thread loose.

The fish took off like a shot. Wiggling furiously it swam along the gutter. Wendy stood and followed. The gutter met a creek. Wendy watched the fish swim and slide down a rivulet into the creek. Then it was gone.

Wendy stood there. She watched the creek. Inside herself she felt her own thread. It was caught she felt on her heart. She saw a fleck of gold in the creek, an echo of the little fish.

Inside herself. Perhaps it was in her soul, she couldn't tell. But somewhere, somehow, the knot she felt around her heart became untangled. As if on a river or a breeze the ache that had haunted her all the many months finally floated away.

Wendy nodded thanks to the fish.

Wendy walked back to her hotel. She was surprised and sad and happy all at once when she saw another man. That other man, she smiled as she realized it, no longer reminded her of her husband.

San Jóse, Costa Rica   •  (Photo posted Sunday 21 December 2008)   •  (Photo taken Sunday 7 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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She wore earphones while playing loud music
(25 of 31) (28342 views)


Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Lunch at the Streetfront Restaurant on the second story of the New Montgomery Hotel was always delicious. And it didn't hurt that the senior menu was dramatically cheap.

Norma Birdie and her dear friend Lena Yanershin met for lunch in the Streetfront early every Saturday for lunch. They'd just started to sip their soup when Norma noticed the bouquet water.

"Look," she nodded at the vase in the center of the table. "The water is dancing."

Lena swallowed her soup and patted her mouth with her napkin. "Must be something shaking. An earthquake?"

Just then a series of loud booms intruded. Norma and Lena both looked out the window. There, on the street just outside, a strange parade passed by.

"It's music," Lena said. "See how they're dancing in the street? And that woman with the earphones. Can you imagine, piercing and tattoos!"

Norma looked at her friend. "You know you sound really old when you say something like that."

"I am old. And so are you. Seventy-one next week if I'm not mistaken."

Norma shrugged and looked back at the parade. "You know," she said. Her words seemed to match the rhythm. Each fell into the holes between the booms. "I seem to worry these days. Like today. In the back of my mind I worry that this will be the last parade I'll ever see." She looked back at Lena and found Lena staring at her.

Lena nodded. "Me too. I worry that tomorrow I might slip. Maybe I'll break my leg and be put into the hospital. Maybe I'll get an infection there and fall into a coma and die."

Norma looked back at the parade. "They do seem to be having a fun time."

Lena looked too. "The rhythm is infectious."

Norma laughed. "Nice choice of a word."

Lena chuckled. "You want to go down there and dance too?"

Norma leaned on the table. She never leaned on tables. "You may have an idea there. We really should, shouldn't we. This might be our last chance."

Lena plucked the napkin from her lap. She patted her mouth then folded the napkin and set it on the table. "Yes. Let's."

Norma sat up straight and noticed herself. "That's right. I forgot for a moment. My hip has been bothering me lately. Maybe we should just finish our meal."

Lena looked at the parade then back at Norma. "You're right." She unfolded her napkin and set it back on her lap. She smoothed the napkin in place and said, "But if anyone asks, let's say we went down and danced."

Norma smiled weakly. "Who will ask?"

Lena picked up her spoon. "Oh yeah. I forgot." She sipped a spoonful of soup and idly watched the parade. "What a shame."

Lovefest Parade on Market Street   •  San Francisco, California   •  (Photo posted Tuesday 2 December 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Saturday 4 October 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Chia became lost in fascinating conversation
(26 of 31) (28188 views)


Fred Mc-something
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Daphne Wallenbrook despised parties, yet found herself always invited. She couldn't stand idle small talk, chit-chat, or opinions about the famous. She liked even less the ramblings of the drunken whose population always seemed to swell as the evening faded.

So she was taken by surprise. Ambushed as it were, at the company Christmas party at the boss's home. Fred Mc-something from accounting brought her a drink, uninvited, and sat in the chair next her. He held out the drink for her to take.

"No thanks," she said as pleasantly as possible.

Fred continued to hold out the drink. His hand appeared steady. "I've done my research," he said and smiled. "You only drink cosmos, and only those made with Grey Goose vodka."

Daphne sensed this wasn't smalltalk and might, in fact, become something more dangerous. "You researched me?"

Fred gestured with the drink. "A Cosmo just they way you like it."

"And just why could you possibly want to find out what I like to drink?"

"You see," Fred began. He held up his other hand. It too held a drink. "I didn't research you. I researched me. I like the exact same drink. So I got to wondering, who else in the company might like the same drink I do?"

"Only me?"

"You and the boss's wife."

Daphne began to relax. "Still," she said. "What you've done is a little creepy."

"You want the drink?"

"Sure," she told him. But she still felt a little unsure so she reached for the one he held in his other hand.

Fred laughed and let her take it.

"So tell me," Daphne said. She took a sip of the drink and smiled. "What is your favorite book? Let's say the best book you've ever read? No, let's say the book that did the most to change or make you who you are?"

His answer of course surprised her.

Angela's Christmas Party 2008   •  Hayes Valley, San Francisco, California   •  (Photo posted Saturday 27 December 2008)   •  (Photo taken Wednesday 24 December 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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An outside fruit stand was open
(27 of 31) (28348 views)


Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

"How about a banana?"

The question got Abe Wiscouski thinking. Abe wrote "non-fiction" books, so tended to over-think the simplest of questions.

His wife Matilda was aware of the street noise, so simply asked again, "Abe. Should we each have a banana to tide us over till dinner?"

"The banana's the best choice to buy from a stand like this. You can peel and eat it without need to wash it first. The apple, on the other hand, would have to be washed first, and there's no place to wash an apple around here. Not to mention the water. How pure is it? And is it well water or water from a dam?"

"Is that a yes?"

"Sorry dear. Yes."

Matilda bought two bananas and handed one to Abe. They were on vacation in Costa Rica. Abe was between books and they'd decided pay for this vacation with his next advance. Anyway, that's how she viewed it. She was keenly aware that there would be no next advance if Abe didn't come up with a next book idea. Sometimes she worried. Worried lots. But not yet. They were on vacation. There was still time.

Matilda peeled back her banana and took a bit. "Mmmm," she muttered. "Fruit always tastes best when it ripens on the tree."

Abe hadn't peeled his yet. "You remember that banana factory we visited?"

Matilda could sense when one of Abe's questions was rhetoric, so she took another bite of banana and abided.

Abe continued. "The bunches of banana's hauled on a conveyer contraption sweeping across the road dressed in their blue bags. Almost like the ghosts they could later yield. And that night-tour of the sea turtles laying their eggs, the one we went on. Remember how we learned the blue bags killed turtles."

Abe rubbed his chin they way he did when an idea was churning. "Seems that jelly fish are the favorite food of sea turtles. Seems too that the blue banana bags look like jelly fish when they blow into the ocean. A sea turtle eats a plastic bag, gets it caught in its throat and drowns."

Abe held his banana up and looked at it. "I wonder how these are shipped?"

"You want to find out?" Matilda sensed the vacation might be coming to a close.

"I wonder what the environmental cost of shipping bananas is?" Abe finally began to peel his banana. But his mind appeared elsewhere.

"Yes," Matilda said. "I think the vacation is coming to an end."

Abe looked at her as if emerging from a daze. "Did you say something?"

San Jóse, Costa Rica   •  (Photo posted Wednesday 24 December 2008)   •  (Photo taken Sunday 7 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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With cries of "Beer Beer!", bars were invaded
(28 of 31) (28387 views)


Infectious Tunes
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Fran Mox encountered an odd protest while walking home along 2nd Street in the SOMA area of San Francisco. The protesters held signs that read, "Repeal Prohibition." As she passed the protest, she heard them chant, "Beer, Beer, Beer. We want Beer."

Fran emerged from the far end of the small protest and continued her walk home. But the chant stuck in her head. It reminded her of the Asylum Street Spankers' song that went, "Beer, Beer, Beer, Beer. Beer, Beer, Beer."

Before long, Fran was singing that song --the simple parts anyway, because she couldn't remember the hard parts.

* * *

Lucy Dougan was out to celebrate her fifty-ninth birthday with her new beaux, Charles Childes. A woman passed them singing an unfamiliar song about beer. Lucy stopped, took Charles' hand and said, "Let's just pop into that little bar for a drink."

Charles would never admit it, but he liked his women liquored up. "Okay," he said. Then he sang a few bars of, "Put the rum in the coconut." Not too many words, because he couldn't remember them.

Lucy took Charles arm and led him toward the small bar. She suspected Charles would order a beer or a whiskey. She intended to have a Cosmo.

* * *

Ace Tinderbolt guarded the small mall and business park. He had stepped outside for a smoke when an elderly couple strolled past. The man half sang, half talked, a song about rum and coconuts.

The song reminded Ace of a song he used to like back when he was still married. It went something like, "Some surf, some sand, my love, your hand." He tried singing a little bit of it, but mangled the words and tune hopelessly.

Ace took a last puff, dropped the butt on the ground and stepped on it. Why, he wondered, couldn't he remember the words? He tried humming it instead, but that didn't work either.

So Ace stopped trying. The night around him became awfully quiet. He unlocked the door to go back inside. He paused, with the door open. He felt frustrated. Why the devil couldn't he remember that song. Then, just like that, the whole song popped into his mind.

Ace locked himself back inside the building. He sang the song to himself. He had a fine tenor voice well practiced from Sunday choir. Ace had the best night's work that night. Better than any night he could remember.

* * *

Larry Saxons rolled to a stop on his skateboard. Another cigarette butt. He picked it up and put it in his pocket. He was collecting cigarette butts for an art project.

Inside the office building just to Larry's left, he noticed the guard inside singing. The song was old-time, but the singing was nice. Larry didn't recognize the song but it reminded him of a song he knew.

Larry took off again on his board in search of more cigarette butts. But this time as he skated, he hummed a happy tune.

21 Amendment 75th Anniversary Parade/Protest   •  Sponsored by the 21st Amendment Bar and Restaurant   •  2nd Street, San Francisco, California   •  (Photo posted Monday 8 December 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Friday 5 December 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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A garden at the lodge was a medical plant exhibit
(29 of 31) (28318 views)


Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Tom Reómun and his sister Sal Duncan had different dads but were otherwise similarly rebellious. Tom dyed his hair blue on a dare. Sal wore a silver wig all day long. Their common mom, with whom they lived, drank all day at the hotel bar.

Tom filled three balloons with water and sought Sal. He tried to juggle them and dropped the green one, so continued with two. He wore a Hawaiian shirt and jeans with one knee ripped open.

Sal wore an ipod on her arm with white wires dangling from her ears. She was rocking to "It's Alright" by Big Head Todd. She was dressed in shorts and a torn T-shirt because the resort was hot and humid. Her blue eyes appeared black through her blue-tinted sun glasses.

"Sal!" Tom yelled and tossed a balloon, the yellow one.

Sal didn't hear him. The balloon broke across her back.

Tom watched her stop and pull her ear buds out. She turned to look at him but instead of appearing angry as he'd hoped, she smiled.

"Tom," Sal said. "You have to see this. It's amazing."

Tom walked up to where she'd been standing and looked. A simple sign said they were in a garden with examples of medicinal plants. "Pharmaceuticals?" He asked.

"I don't think so. More like spices."

Tom bent and picked up the spent balloon husk. He didn't like to litter. When he stood, Sal was facing him.

She asked, "What are you going to do with that last balloon?"

"Don't know. Water a plant maybe."

"Mind if I throw it?"

"Sure." Tom handed her the balloon, the red one. Then he looked around the parklike area and spotted a likely target. "That one," he pointed. "I bet you can't hit that one."

Tom felt the balloon break over the top of his head. The rush of cold water felt good. He turned to look and found Sal running away. She appeared to be laughing.

Tom turned his attention back to the park. "Spices my foot," he said. "I bet there's pharmaceuticals here."

Turtle Beach Lodge, Tortuga, Costa Rica   •  (Photo posted Monday 15 December 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Tuesday 9 September 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Peace word and symbol on a purple guitar
(30 of 31) (28362 views)


Video Nut
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

As a young boy, Dole Eppler believed he was God's gift to music. On his sixteenth birthday, Dole concluded he was a musical maladroit who couldn't play his way out of a paper bag. Later, married and working at a good job, he began to collect musical instruments merely for their value as art.

Dole's second wife, Mary, was a video nut. She liked most to record embarrassing moments. Dole wasn't sure how he felt about that. He supposed he just put up with her videos.

Dole sat opposite Mary on the sofa. He sipped a whiskey and water. "You remember that purple guitar?" he asked Mary.

"The one you saw in Macy's window last year?"

"Yeah. The fake one that turned out to be real."

"That's right. I remember when you sold it." She picked up a remote and selected a disk to play.

Dole remembered the money. That was the point. How a cheap instrument can turn out to be a real one with good value. "What did you remember?"

"The dining room."

Dole drew a blank. "Must be my age," he told Mary. "Don't remember everything I used to."

"Just watch," Mary said. "You'll see."

On the screen, Dole walked to the front door and opened it. "Molson," he said on the video. He shook hands with someone unseen. Then he and Molson walked in.

"That's right. Molson of the Cheep Chiggers. He bought the purple guitar. $1500. That's right. I remember now."

On the screen, Dole said, "Hey don't film us." He moved sideways to get out of the frame.

Mary's voice came from off screen in the recording, "Hey. Stay in frame."

Dole moved farther out of frame and bumped in to the bamboo divider. He appeared to trip. He put his arm out. He and the bamboo screen tumbled over into the dining room, sending lamps and bowls of candy sailing.

The video clip ended as it zoomed in on Molson who laughed.

Dole looked at Mary.

Mary looked at him. She smiled and asked, "How about I show a clip where I fall down and get embarrassed?"

Dole sipped his whiskey. "Okay," he said. But then he remembered why he sat down in the first place. "You remember that squeeze box I found last summer in a flea market?"

"What about it?"

"A guy called. He want's to buy it."

Mary was fingering the remote. "You remember when you bought it?"

"Not exactly. Why?"

"You'll see."

"Hey. I thought you were going to show something where you were embarrassed."

"I'll do that next," she said. "I promise."

Macys, Stockton Street, San Francisco, California   •  (Photo posted Tuesday 9 December 2008)   •  (Photo taken Saturday 2 August 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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Cranes extended all the way to Jack London Square
(31 of 31) (28986 views)


Late Idea
Copyright 2008 Bryan Costales

Ezra Lewis leaned on the fore-rail of Hornblower Princess. He felt too full from the Christmas meal he'd just eaten. Turkey with dressing and pie. He felt a full belly energized his brain cells, so he watched the Port of Oakland drift past as the boat motored forward through the chilly evening air. He watched and waited for an idea.

"Rod Scales," Ezra said aloud. "And the mystery of the smuggled U-235."

Ezra returned and sat across from his wife at a long table surrounded by friends. She sipped a purple drink that looked potent. She looked at him and frowned. "You didn't," she said and set down he drink with a tipsy thunk. "You promised you wouldn't work tonight. You promised this would be a night off."

Ezra shrugged and pointed at the Santa hat he forgot he'd been wearing. "It's my brain. It double-crosses me every once and while. Like out there," he nodded at the passing Port of Oakland. "Rod Scales popped into my head. And a new case. Smuggled U-235 for an A-bomb."

Ezra's brother sat diagonally across next to his wife. His brother looked skunked. He wore reindeer antlers and had a pink ribbon around his neck. He looked at Ezra and slurred, "But you killed Rod Scales. I remember."

Ezra ignored his brother and spoke to his wife, "Rod was shot and killed, sure. But he was really only wounded and lost his memory. Amnesia. He's spent the last five years working on a series of tramp steamers."

"This is your captain," an announcement blared over the ship's PA.

All around Ezra conversations stopped. Even his.

The Captain continued, "First let me wish you all a very Merry Christmas. But all good things must end eventually. The Coast Guard has asked us to leave the estuary. We'll be heading back to port a bit early, but will make it up to you with free drinks. Merry Christmas!"

Ezra stood, like dozens of other around the wide banquet area. He stood and looked around to see what might be happening. The ship was turning. Ezra decided to wander back out on deck to watch.

The sun had set and the fore-deck was now facing a chilly sea breeze. Ezra huddled in his too-thin coat and watched. Two Coast Guard ships rushed past at high speed.

Overhead the spotlight below a police helicopter blazed brightly and shined down on the retreating dock.

On shore, dozens and dozens of police cars appeared, their colored lights flashing.

A man standing next to Ezra bumped him. Ezra looked at the man. He saw a balding middle aged man wearing white earbuds. The man held up a small device. "FM radio," he said, a bit too loud. "The news," the man nodded toward the shore. "They found U-235 being smuggled. In a container. If you can imagine that."

All Ezra could think to say was, "Damn."

Ezra leaned on the fore-rail again. He began to feel hungry. His brain cells felt sluggish. He watched the Port of Oakland ablaze with police drift past as the boat motored back to its port. In the chilly evening, Ezra watched and waited for another idea.

Oakland Container Piers, Oakland, California   •  (Photo posted Monday 29 December 2008) internal link   •  (Photo taken Thursday 25 December 2008)   •  © 2008 Bryan Costales Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License

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