christmas gift

MorgueFIle March2020 7ddd67d4e32d3a43dd30410548fcc7f1

i grew up in a remote area of southeastern utah, near the goosenecks of the san juan. this was ninety years ago. we were pretty much a self-sufficient family except for occasional trips to the reservation general store. we did have a sears catalog. everyone in the family peered into it at one time or another, us kids dreaming of the toys we saw there, mom and dad the tools and appliances and fabrics. Mostly we all just looked.

my best, most favorite, most anticipated present on christmas morning every year was the orange each of us received in our stocking. so sweet, so strange, so delicious. but one year the orange in my stocking was much larger than usual and yellow.

mom explained it was a grapefruit, not so sweet as an orange but she’d cut it in half and sprinkle some powdered sugar on it. we had to carve all the little segments free with a paring knife before eating them one by one with a spoon.

It was different but still magical.



January MorgueFIle a2fcb55ca5db1109b34c023e488b84fc

i live in a cave and i have one candle. i want it to last a year.

why use a candle when i have a fire? less smoke. don’t have to feed it. votive purposes. keeping a vigil. i light it for one hundred breaths, then pinch it out. will it last a year? i can always breathe faster.

i’ve made candles. cut the hard fat off a deer. render it down. hard fat is tallow. don’t use fat from a wild pig. that’s lard.

cut the tallow into 1″ cubes. remove any meat, blood, tendon or sinew. grind it up. you’ll need more than a pound.

boil and simmer out the fat. strain it off. Let it dry overnight. rinse it. break it up in a pan sitting in a pan of boiling water to melt it. run it through a filter. let it cool.

now you can use some false tinder fungus as a wick and make some candles.

i wouldn’t use a candle like that for votive purposes because it is made by the hand of man. I want a candle made by a machine, so it isn’t contaminated.


after the plague


when the pandemic struck and people started dying in large numbers, i expected the cities to empty. I expected chaos and roaming gangs, but no, none of that happened. folks hunkered down. they went without food. they respected each other. very few filled a backpack and headed out into the countryside.

so when i left the city and avoided the suburbs and towns and villages, traveling into the wilderness, away from the pestilence, i found myself alone, somewhat untrained and unprepared. where was i to find water and something to eat? that was the main thing. i had brought some provisions but these were quickly exhausted. i had parked my truck and went on foot up a game trail, to avoid any contact with folks on the road.

fortunately, i met a homeless geezer, a hermit, a wanderer, a hobo, a loner who was willing to abide a single partner, me. His name was Eben, short for Ebeneezer, and he knew how to survive alone in the woods and he found the act of mentoring agreeable.

whence i came to be a homeless geezer, a hermit, a wanderer, a hobo, a loner looking for one companion after Eben passed on.


Lost ac202c61c80fec9586572a44529a012f

I realized that our eight-year-old was missing when lunchtime arrived. My wife summoned me back from the play area with Becky, our three-year-old, and asked me where Dan was.

“I thought he was with you,” I said.

We hurried about and discovered a gap in the row of canoes on the lake shore.

“Oh my God,” said my wife.

We stared out over the lake. The canoe was nowhere to be seen.

“I’ll go after him,” I said. I pushed a canoe out into the water, jumped in, and snatched up the oars.

“Run tell the park rangers,” I shouted as I began to row.

Suddenly I realized I didn’t know what I was doing, where I was going. Water all around and no canoes in it but mine. Had the boy capsized in the wake of a motorboat? Should I stand up for a better view or would I capsize as well?

I cursed myself for my helplessness. My haplessness. I wiped sweat off my face. I heard faint cries. Dan?

Back on shore, I could see my wife and Becky and Dan, side-by-side, waving to me.


Hole in the Wall 3bd328e827ad878ce609dad27ac2c21a

We built a clubhouse on the edge of the woods. Boys only. We used scrap lumber from construction sites around town. It had a single room and a door with a padlock on it.

We left some holes in the walls for communication with anyone outside. Kept the holes covered otherwise. Brought some old chairs and a table and made some shelves for our stuff.

We had a thing with the girls where they could bring something to trade through the hole in front. Candy, prizes from the gumball machines, comic books, trading cards. Like that.

One day Evie came needing a present for her brother. I had a bag of marbles, which she thought would be perfect. All she had to trade were some movie magazines that I didn’t want. She didn’t beg or plead, just gave me a look.

I’ll give you the marbles, I said, if you’ll have a coke or some ice cream with me down at Milly’s.

She thought about it and I noticed my heart start thumping.

When she agreed and left, the guys started kidding me. It was my first date and it went ok.


My Plot 4c4928a285b4288e16e0ca39cda46911

At the age of eighteen, I was given a wife, farming tools, a hut, and a plot of land equal to that of all the others.

I was given a choice of bok choy, amaranth, water spinach, or Napa cabbage to grow. I chose water spinach.

My plot was a success, year after year. I learned much from the old man keeping the plot to my left and the younger man keeping the plot ahead of me.

I did not like the man keeping the plot to my right. He grew amaranth. Its leaves are healthy but its blooms irritated my nose and throat. I called it pigweed.

I asked him to choose a different vegetable. He laughed at this. He had no respect for my crops. He had no respect for my skills as a farmer.

This man was too familiar with my wife. I quarreled with her, disturbing the peace of our home. I quarreled with him, disturbing the peace of my plot.

When my son became eighteen, he was given my plot because my back no longer allowed me to use my hoe effectively. My son ripped up the water spinach and planted amaranth.

for Flash Fiction for the Practical Practitioner


I consider myself something of an outdoorsman. When my wife kicked me out of the house and I no longer had someone handy to cook my dinner, I began taking my meals at outdoor cafes.

This is not an efficient way to meet a new mate who will provide your meals in a home setting. Not an efficient way, at least, on days of tolerable weather. However, I discovered that on marginal days, days with rain flurries or coldish winds, days when the dogged cafes kept serving its outdoor customers, few though they may be, on those days solitary hardy souls like myself are easy to spot and some of them are female,

I met one and then another and another and men too. We dined with umbrellas handy. We caught colds together. Kept warm using alcohol. Commiserated. Outcasts. Outliers. The obnoxious.

We pooled our resources and moved into a renovated loft with roof access. We installed a rustic farmer’s table on the roof, six stories up. Hired a woman to come in every evening and cook our dinner for us. Her daughter served it on the roof rain or shine. (Mother and daughter lived across the street.)

for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner

Free _DSC7913

Until recently, my father and I would climb into our pickup each morning and drive our route for the day. Between Sunday and the following Saturday, we covered every one of the better neighborhoods in the area, street by street, block by block.

Every day as we motored slowly along, we came upon objects put out along the road with a Free sign attached to them. We would pick up those item that we deemed salable at one or another of the metropolitan flea markets.

It was a living. We were essentially hauling stuff away that folks didn’t want anymore, for whatever price we could get for it.

Unfortunately, folks started putting out more and more free stuff. Too much for scavengers like us to handle. Finally, instead of leaving things on the curb, folks began abandoning it in a variety of public spots, near Goodwill or wherever. Then other folks from the neighborhoods would come, browse, and take the best stuff home with them.

Whatever happened to the American Dream?

for Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practioner

inflection point

Crispin and his parents were not getting along. At fourteen, without being aware of the fact, Crispin had begun the task of separating from his parents.

“You don’t listen,” his dad said. “You think you know it all. What makes you think you’re so special?”

Crispin didn’t think he was special but he thought he was ok.

“Please don’t keep this up,” said his dad, voice rising.

Then, just like in the movies, his dad grabbed his chest and collapsed. Crispin’s mom and sister weren’t home. He pulled out his phone and dialed 911. While completing the call, he raced to the front door and flung it open. Then he returned to his dad, knelt by him and put one hand on the other on the man’s chest, as he had been taught. His dad’s eyes were closed. He wasn’t breathing.

Crispin pushed his dad’s chest down an inch or two, roughly twice a second. Every sixteen seconds, he stopped and forced air into his dad mouth-to-mouth. He continued thiis for five minutes, which seemed like an hour, until two EMTs appeared by his side and took over. Then he wept.

He got along better with his parents after that.

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tainted air

“Come in, my boy,” said Professor Goldbaum. “I have a new invention to show you.”

He indicated the gramophone sitting on his workbench.

“We have one of those,” I said. “Lots of people do.”

“I’ve added something to mine,” he said. “I’ve told you before that the air is full of words and music. This machine can pull them out.”

“How do the words and music get into the air?”

“People in the future put them there. My discovery of time-overlap allows me to grab them. Listen.”

He strode to his machine, twiddled knobs and levers, and suddenly a talking-and-singing voice filled the room.

The voice was harsh and annoying. So were the words:

“Marco got that big blast
When I blow it at your back
You don’t got a xxxx-xxxxxx chance
A full clip up so close flame touch you
Colors, uh huh, ragged up, uh huh, how I live
Call a Lyft with my piece
With a xxxx MAC-10 we jus’ do this
Claim they killing xxxxx while I really xxxxxxx do it.”

“Geez, Professor,” I say. “Can’t we just listen to your Au clair de la lune again?

photo: _DSC7987