Tag Archives: short stories

Dizzying Thoughts

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

In the shadow of Mt. Hood, two women spend a head-spinning moment reflecting on the mystery of the self. Photo by Jeff Hollett, via Wikimedia.

“Post card view, isn’t it?” murmured Gillian. “Amazing!” sighed Michelle. They stood on a wooden platform overlooking Trillium Lake. “Makes me kinda dizzy,” said Michelle. “Dizzy? Why?” “Ever since I was little, I’ve wondered: Which is the real me, the one staring in the mirror or the one staring out? Crazy, I know. Always makes my head spin. Ever wonder things like that?” Gillian inhaled the sweet mountain air. “Use to. Why am I me and not my sister? That’s what I used to wonder. Weird.” “So’s the mountain there or in the lake?” “Let’s go before our heads explode.”

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Twilight of the Gods

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

Thamus receives a death announcement. Inspired by Plutarch’s essay “The Passing of the Oracles,” written by the famous biographer and essayist about 100 C.E. Image of 1899 oil painting “Pan” by Mikhail Vrubel, via Wikimedia.

The ship swept across the wine-dark sea. With a growing sense of unease and a fluttering heart, Thamus stood at the rail, beneath the vault of stars, inhaling the salt tang, listening. Suddenly, from the mysterious silhouetted island, the booming voice he thought he’d dreamed: “Thamus, do you hear me?” Clearing his throat, Thamus cupped trembling hands and rasped, “Hail! I hear you!” After what seemed an eternity of plashing waves against creaking timbers, the voice boomed again, grown more resonant, more god-like. “Thamus, go hence to Rome and proclaim Delphic Apollo’s final utterance: ‘Great Pan is dead!’”

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King of the Road

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

It’s all in the eyes: a story of hard-bought freedom punctuated by moments of the sublime. Photo of original oil portrait “Unidentified Homeless Man” by of my friend Vicki Brocksen De Ville.

He hooky-bobbed his first bus and swilled his first popskull before he was 10. Never looked back. By 17 he was riding the Southern Pacific between Portland and LA. Forty years’n nine knife fights scattered bits and pieces of him from Tacoma to Carlsbad. Back in ’89, a DUI left him for roadkill on 101 somewhere outside Brookings. He’d seen good times, too. In Redding, he saved Ray from his upside down perch on a cyclone fence. Living on beef jerky and summer runoff, they walked the Pacific Crest to Hood River under a sky graveled with silver stars.

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Future Past

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

A story about the persistence of memory, written on Mother’s Day 2017 and published while the holiday still looms large in the rearview mirror. Image via Wikimedia.

One sunny Saturday in June 1965, Ralph watched his mom mixing tuna in a bright stainless steel bowl and thought about the year 2000. Videophones, robots, jetpacks. He’d be, what, 45! Old! … Shortly after the dawn of the new millennium, Ralph took a stroll through the old neighborhood, delighted that time had left his childhood home untouched. Forget jetpacks. He could almost taste Mom’s amazing tuna sandwiches. … By 60, Ralph frequently woke at four a.m., haunted, bewildered, remote. Time, that cheater, had pulled his life out from under him. Where was his mother from that sunny June day in 1965?

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The Real Thing

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

A great teacher helps his biology class rediscover frogs as more than just the dead objects of a lesson to be learned. Photo “American Bullfrog” by Edd Prince, via flickr

“I thought we were supposed to be dissecting frogs today,” said Amy to no one in particular. “What’s with the field trip?” She was cuffing her jeans to keep off the pond scum. “Mr. Murray says you can’t see the real frog anymore once it lands dead on your desk,” said Jamil. “Something ’bout… context.” “What?” Jamil shrugged. “Hey, everybody!” cried Kyle. “Check it out!” He marched up gripping a slimy bullfrog in two muddy, outstretched hands. “Well!” said Mr. Murray,” A specimen of Lithobates catesbeianus.” “No, sir, not a specimen. It’s the big guy we heard from the bus.”

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Fateful Choice

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

Young Romeo trades his heart’s desire for a long, uneventful life of bitter strife. Inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Watercolor by John Massey Wright, via Wikimedia.

Romeo perched atop the wall. Upon a balcony, Juliet, a Capulet, addressed the stars, which twinkled in her eyes: “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” He paused. Beautiful and wise she was. Alas, he was a Montague, sworn enemy of her House. He cupped an ear. “Deny thy father and refuse thy name…” Could he do this thing: deny his name? Nay, make it hateful to himself? For a love that was but a dream, too flattering sweet to be substantial… Better Rosaline. And ere he answered his soul’s call, Romeo turned, leapt down, followed Mercutio into the night.

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First Martians

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

Mars-bound explorers shrug off their fear of death for the honor of being first to set foot on the Red Planet. Image via NASA.

Aboard Ares’ 0.376 g habitat. “We there yet?” asked Kit, dialing “Mountain” on the treadmill beside Mark’s. “Still ninety days out,” said Mark. Kit groaned. “I’m sooo bored. I mean, you can only watch so many chick flicks, eat so much rehydrated mac’n cheese, gaze at so many stars, right?” “Right. But there’s an upside to all this mere existing.” “What?” “The moment we began atmospheric entry things get a lot more interesting, but our odds of dying spike exponentially. Kit slowed, walked, paused… “Still, the opportunity to leave the first footprints, what a way to go.” “Absolutely,” said Mark.

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Service Dog

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

A boy recovering from his own brush with death knows puppy love is the best medicine for his new friend in intensive care. Photo by Steve Finegan.

Charlie looked forward to his daily visits to Olivia’s room. Last Friday, he’d wheeled down to the gift shop to buy a stuffed black’n tan dachshund toy to place beside her head while she slept. Her mother’d told him their little wiener dog, Zeppo, a wiggly ear licker, had been Olivia’s constant companion before… Anyway, Charlie’d never actually spoken with Olivia. She’d yet to wake up. That hadn’t stopped him from sitting beside her, as he was now—monitor beeping, ventilator tube hanging from her mouth like a clear fat licorice rope—puppeteering Zeppo II so he nuzzled her ear.

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Door to Door

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

Bill Porter (1932-2013) makes a house call somewhere in Northeast Portland. A work of fiction inspired by my childhood encounters with America’s most famous and beloved door-to-door salesman. Photos courtesy of The J.R. Watkins Co.

Little Kevin stood tiptoe at the window, watching the crooked man in the gray raincoat and hat lug himself and his sample case step-by-step up to the front porch; he listened to the sound of halting footfalls, coming nearer, bearing a whiff of fresh shoeshine. “Mommy! He’s here!” Kevin ran to the door, wrenched it open. Mommy came up. “Hello, Bill!” The man smiled crookedly. Kevin couldn’t understand his garbled words the way Mommy could, or why he teetered yet never fell, but he knew the crippled hand thrust just out of sight was really a broken wing.

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Martian Gardens

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

To the delight of her crewmates, including Adam, an expedition botanist named Eve plants her own garden on Mars. Photo by Dimitri Gerondidakis, via NASA

Eve shouted over the com: “Hey, everybody, get over here and check out the first garden on Mars, and don’t anyone say it, kay? “Say what?” laughed Karen. “Oh, you mean—” “Never mind,” said Eve. “That includes you, Adam.” “Roger that.” “Hey, our botanist plant any pomegranates?” asked Patrick. “See for yourself.” “How ’bout apples?” “I’m serious, guys, knock it off! Just get your asses over here.” … “Hey, check out all that beautiful green!” cried Patrick. “I’m homesick!” Eve pointed to racked sprouts. “Those are radishes, and kale—” “And tomatoes!” cried Patrick. “Fair warning, Adam, pick your own tomatoes.” “Guys!”

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Medicine Man

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

Fate pulls a U-turn on a man contemplating oblivion from a perch high above the Grand Canyon. Inspired by Photo “Contemplative Precipice” by Joshua G. Chang, via Wikimedia.

Dawn. The Grand Canyon. Nate sat the rim alone, contemplating oblivion. Creaking joints disturbed his reverie. An old man. Dark eyes. Gray Ponytail. rawhide complexion. A sudden calming influence beside him. Not unlike the candle Nate burned every night, for Maggie. The man doodled in condensed vapor, a mandala taking shape on the bench seat. “Medicine wheel?” asked Nate. “Happy Face,” said the man flatly. Nate laughed. First time in weeks. “Could use a ride,” said the man. “Where to?” “Albuquerque.” “I’m from Albuquerque!” said Nate, half-turning. … Nate glanced back at the rim as they walked to his car.

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Comic Con Incognito

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

Robert Downey Jr. goes for an incognito spin in an experimental remote-controlled Ironman costume. Photo by Richie S, via flickr.

“Crank up the fan, I’m dying in here.” “Roger, Bob… Better?” “Better.” “Okay, we’re gonna wave your hand at those hot girls.” “Which ones?” “Look for Daenerys Targaryen. Ten o’clock. Enormous stuffed dragon.” “Check. What now?” “Nothing. Relax, we’re driving. Okay, say hi.” “Hi, ladies!” “Hey, Ironman! Can we get a selfie with you?” “Sure.” “Pssst, Bob, They’ve no idea it’s you!” “One more!” “Whoa! Sorry, Scarlett, gotta go. Hey, slow it down!” “Confession, Bob, something’s wrong!” “No shit! I’m jogging.” “Mayday, Bob, controls aren’t responding.” “You’re kidding. Right?” “Bob! We can’t stop Ironman!” “Seriously, not funny.” “Wookie dead ahead!”

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The Mist

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

A hermit-poet wanders mountain paths in the presence of a mystery hidden in the mist. Image of “Poet on a Mountaintop” by Shen Zhou, via Wikimedia

From time out of mind the Hermit had wandered these mountain paths on sandaled feet, lingering on rocky summits to gaze upon a landscape endlessly rustling, swelling, writhing—tracing dragon-like arabesques in existence: autumn leaves drifting through slanting sunlight and shadow; winter snow pillowing on cliffside pines; icy waters rushing down into fragrant, spring-blossomed valleys; a thousand colors rippling in summer heat. But it was the mist that kept him up here. The way it clung to the peaks and pooled in the hollows, suggesting there was much more present here than met even his clear-seeing eyes.

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Secret Admirer

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

The 21st century incarnation of Sherlock Holmes becomes entangled in the case of the Woman with the Ruby Red Lips. Image by Tania Saiz, via flickr.

“Mail?” asked Sherlock. “Um, napkin,” replied Watson. Sherlock took it. “Lipstick,” he said, as if announcing an analytical finding. “Red.” He fingered, tasted. “Chanel. Passion.” “Sherlock?” queried Watson. “You get a girlfriend when I wasn’t looking?” Sherlock paused, stared. “Nope.” “Well then, you have a secret admirer.” “What’re you talking about?” “Like when someone anonymously buys you a drink—oh, why bother!” “Hmmmm.” Sherlock pressed the heel of his hand to the print. Sniffed. Puckered. Kissed. “What’re you doing?” “Molly!” “You know that how? ” “Easy. Her brand. Other… trace residues.” “Why would Molly…?” “We might have made out last night.”

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Standing Watch

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

The last of three stories inspired and informed by “Single Room, Earth View,” an article by the late Sally Ride published in Air & Space Magazine, July 2012. NASA photo of astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson via Wikimedia

“You remind me of Melville’s stander-of-mastheads,” said Vlad, squeezing in beside Carrie for a god’s eye view of the Pacific. “Cry out when you see White Whale.” Carrie didn’t laugh. “You know,” she mused aloud, “from space it’s a watery pasture, but then you begin to notice things.” “What things?” “Like the way glancing sunlight gives it a molten silver sheen. And swirling eddies, miles wide. And waves—long-ass waves, bearing down on Peru. Even a fishing fleet, like tiny stars adrift in the night…” Vlad shoved off. “As I say, shout when you see Moby Dick.”

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Twilight Zone

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

The second of three stories inspired and informed by “Single Room, Earth View,” an article by the late Sally Ride published in Air & Space Magazine, July 2012. NASA photo via Wikimedia. Look for the last story in this three-part series on February 22.

Racing across the twilight zone like a winged morning star, Randi pressed her nose to glass and looked back at receding night. Moonless. Inky-black. Punctuated by blazing strands, like earthbound galactic filaments, up the Eastern Seaboard. Below, lightning flickered beneath muffin-topped storm clouds. Ahead, sunrise swept over the shimmering Atlantic, beams glancing off tiny white hairlines, telltales of invisible ships, planes. Everything she knew, loved, hated abided in that diaphanous sea of air, passing from day to night and back every 45 minutes. Young, with her whole life before her, Randi leaned into the dizzying onrush of time.

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Loss for Words

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

The first of three stories inspired and informed by “Single Room, Earth View,” an article by the late Sally Ride published in Air & Space Magazine, July 2012. NASA photo (retouched) via Wikimedia. Look for the next story in this three-part series on February 15.

Serena slouched on her regular stool, finger-dipping Scotch, tracing islands on the bar. “So, our space tourist’s back,” said Max the Bartender. “You know,” Serena mused aloud, “from up there, Hawaii looks just like a page from an atlas.” “Really?” She nodded soberly. “Yup. Amazing. Yet far from the most amazing part…” But Max had hurried down the line, taking orders. Serena smudged out her sloppy sketch, fought the urge to scream, to rageanything to get past their indifference. It was hard being wide awake in a sleepwalking world… Where were the words? She should’ve read more poetry.

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Magic Hour

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

A desperate man is saved by a mirage—at least that’s the rational explanation. Image of 1882 lithograph “At Eternity’s Gate” by Vincent van Gogh, via Wikimedia.

Gregor stopped in the doorway and gasped. Winter sunset through a smoke-hazed window bathed his shack in dusky roselight. And there, on the rough-hewn chair before the hearth, sat his long-dead father with his distinctive bald pate and wiry beard, resting his head in calloused hands in seeming despair. Hesitantly, Gregor moved into the room. When he reached the chair, he found… only his loaded pistol. His father had been nothing but a trick of reflected light and shadow, a ghostly hodgepodge. And yet. Shuddering, Gregor drew back from the weapon, making the sign of the cross.

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Rare Books

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

A determined man searches the world over for the sole copy of a manuscript from a long lost library. Inspired by this photo of Grove Rare Books by Betty Longbottom, via geograph.

A book store. Bolton Abbey, North Yorkshire. Matthew opened the antique door. Bells jingled. Light pierced dusty murk, revealing ceiling-high shelves packed with ancient spines and the odd detritus of bohemian lives. Baroque portieres parted. A wall-eyed bookseller shuffled forward. “May I help you?” “I’m searching for the… Corvinus Grimoire,” muttered Matthew. “Lost with the Raven King’s great library.” The bookseller beamed. “Indeed.” “So, you know of it!” “It is our business to know of such things.” “Well?” “Perhaps—” “Is it here?” “Eventually.” Matthew blinked. The bookseller smiled. “All such lost wonders find their way here in time.”

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Tell the Bees

From a collection of 100-word stories & wonders

A beekeeper’s tiny charges stay loyal to the end. Inspired by a reportedly true story in keeping with folk tradition. Photo by Ken Thomas, via Wikimedia.

“The bees are comin’!” shouted young Christopher from the edge of the open grave. He pointed up through bare January branches, wind-rattled against a leaden sky. “Hush, boy,” sniffed Widow Hinton. “Bees don’t swarm this time o—” She sputtered, stopped, looked up. All eyes followed her gaze. A thrumming cloud swept in low over the treetops and down among mystified, flailing mourners. Thousands of bees. Gently alighting upon the flower-draped coffin of Charlie Hinton, beekeeper. “You didn’t tell the bees!” cried Christopher. A golden-jacketed outlier danced in his hand. “Now they’re goin’, and they ain’t comin’ back!”

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