All the City Feels Asleep

but I think you know it’s not
there’s no moon about, it’s already slid past
still, it’s pretty quiet
nowhere but the cold collapse of night
these slow building blocks of sleep
feeling that sleep creep up the cheekbones
toward my eyes
still for some reason
the slow crinkle in the neck
the ache around the corners of the eyes
the cold toes
the distant murmur of rockets
finding this dark quiet so charming, or alarming,
that I can’t quite let it go
not yet

Had a dream the other night that I’d lost my wallet. I wasn’t too upset about it, because I knew I was dreaming. Still, I went searching for my wallet anyway. For some reason, I went searching for my wallet in the forest. It wasn’t there, so I went home. My home was different than it usually is. I woke up a little later.

My son is obsessed with the idea that he can’t remember his dreams.

Who Knows More than the Muffin Man?

(No, not that one. The other one. We’re talking huckleberries, not raspberries.)

Stoov Rumpkin thought hard about the choice. It had even gone so far as charts, graphs, and spreadsheets. Not that that had added much clarity to the whole deal, but still, there was something satisfying about filling up little unreal boxes with cold, hard numbers. Not to mention all the delightful stylings that could be applied: borders, colors, angles, arrows, muffins, and crosshatching. Some of those numbers even related to real things! Like how many stuffed weasels lived in Aunt Augustina’s gold filigreed hatbox. Really, a surprising number.

It wasn’t every day that Rumpkin had to make a decision like this. There was a lot riding on it. The whole day might go pear-shaped if he made the wrong decision here.

Suddenly a hobgoblin writing on a scroll and riding a warthog leapt over the ottoman and presented Stoov with a bill for damages. He reluctantly accepted the bill ($4,372 for bent and broken cutlery; $572 for scorched linens; and, $17 to replace a nice set of gardening gloves that, inexplicably, were missing three fingers between them) and the hobgoblin rode off, ululating all the while.

Stoov stewed for a bit. Crumpled up the bill and tossed it on the pile. Of other bills. For damages. To things. So many things.

All the Fat Faces Need Feeding

(At least that’s what it says on the tin…)

“Poor little match girls bedamned,” Porkulips Troughswallower grunted, shoveling heaps of some kind of meat thing into his grotesque mouth, framed by a cauliflower chin and a potato-y nose, natch. “Never seen ’em do a lick of work, not one minute.” He waved his fat yet tiny hand toward the window, outside of which they’d stacked up the match girls like cordwood, for lack of something else to do with them. “Never worked hard like we’ve worked hard, amirite boys?”

All the boys (they weren’t really boys, but febrile men between the ages of 52 and 93) snickered and guffawed and snorted, messily spilling gravy and port all over their blouses (they really couldn’t fit into regular shirts anymore) and ties (clip ons). It’s fair to say that none of the boys (or “boys”) were much in the way of what one might call a self-reflectin’ type.  Some silent witnesses brought in the 17th course. One might suppose their tongues had been removed, but one would be wrong, thank heavens, they were merely the spies of a foreign power. None of them knew this of the others, but all thanked their lucky stars they’d landed such an easy gig (and on Craigslist, no less!), with secrets rolling out of mouths as easily as the food rolled in.

PT breathed heavily, because he always did, leaning down to try and reach his dropped fork, fallen out of his thick yet teeny fingers, until giving it up for a lost cause and grabbing one from his neighbor.

There wasn’t much talking after that (they weren’t big on words, you see) and the sounds of slurping and chomping echoed on long into the night. Their appetite, it would seem, could never be sated.

Glimmerings of Science

(It’s a kind of flash spectacle, otherwise, perfectly ordinary.)

Melthuse the Hotheaded paced back and forth in his dapper robes, belt tassel swinging ominously (or so he hoped), and sandals squeaking on the marble floor. “Oh my dolorous mushrooms!” he muttered. “Oh my squamush tornadoes! This won’t do, no it won’t do at all!” There were seven thousand three hundred and seventeen turkeys loose in the southernmost courtyard (“The Reclaimed Sump” or “Nackerlee”–no one could quite remember why they were called that). Melthuse had been tasked with somehow transporting all seven thousand plus turkeys into the North Bailey, which had been repurposed as a “turkey holdall” or so Baron Krunscheeplummz had called it. Well, sure, Melthuse was somewhat responsible for the surfeit of turkeys due to an itchy nose during the Calling of Morfrost Veeberfleen, a spell to clean all the windows all at once without any need of ladders. With the nose scratching, instead, Melthuse had inadvertently cast the Palling of Morfroomp Flundersteen, a spell to summon a large number turkeys (Melthuse hadn’t known the exact number until the spell had burned the number into his brain. Not only that, he now knew each turkey by name.) He sighed and then dashed after Yoorp Domildacile, a particularly spry turkey that had only just now hopped down from the astrolabe.

Three weeks later Melthuse was still at it. “Hey, at least it’s a job,” Melthuse thought, as he pounced onto Vicanta Poolflolloper. “Only three thousand six hundred and thirty-three to go!”

The Elephant Men

(No, they’re not literally men who are elephants.)

The Elephant Men closed the door behind them and took off their blindfolds. There were four of them (not six, as was popularly assumed–to be fair, the last two had retired and just never been replaced). They all shook hands. “Nothing is more important than understanding the truth about the Elephant!” they intoned, almost simultaneously. “Yes,” said one wearing a hat shaped like a brick, “truly this wall will endure forever.” “You’re funny,” said another, whose hand had been replaced with a spear, “I’ve never heard of a wall that’s pointy!” The third man, the one with the snakeskin pants, laughed uproariously and said, “I don’t know how that snake manages to stay so still every time you touch it. You’re lucky it hasn’t poisoned you with its poisonous fangs!” The fourth smirked, “You’re all fools. How you could mistake this thin pancake for all those other things, I have no idea.” The first one said, “Well, time to go on tv and tell people the Truth about the elephant!” The others nodded curtly and turned to leave. They all left out of different doors. On Facebook, two friends (who didn’t know the Elephant Men personally) got in an argument about whether the elephant was a wall or snake. They didn’t seem to care about whether it was a spear or pancake. Go figure.

(This humble offering inspired by

A Big Ball of Monkeys

(No, not that kind of ball, silly.)

Dunbar was annoyed. None of the other monkeys ever seemed to be able to remember his name. They kept calling him “guy” or “dude” or “man”. There was always that awkward silence shortly after he met another monkey for the second or fourth or seventeenth time when their eyes glazed over slightly and Dunbar could tell that they were trying and failing to place his face and trying and failing to recall his name. There was a brief period of time where he tried wearing a name tag, but the sticker and stickum kept getting caught in his fur in an unpleasant way. Oh, and don’t even get him started on the dating scene! Whenever he was down at the banana bar, the female monkeys just seemed to look right on by. If he left for a bit to pee, when he came back, it was like they’d completely forgotten him. Bummer! Well, one day Dunbar heard about this ball happening at the most happening club in all of Monkeytown. Dunbar didn’t get an invite (of course) but he decided to go anyway. He put on his best monkey duds (a white Nehru jacket with ivory buttons–donated by his friend, Harold, an elephant who NEVER forgot), slicked his hair back with some banana oil, and swung off to the ball. He showed up early. In fact, he was the first monkey there! Other monkeys started trickling in and, to Dunbar’s amazement, all the monkeys remembered his name (after reintroducing himself, that is) and chatted and laughed. Dunbar rolled out his sweet new dance moves (the Snake Charmer, the Grey Greasy Limpopo River, and the Greased Monkey) to much hilarity. Dunbar was thrilled. Soon the dance really got hopping. Dunbar was in the middle of getting down with some female monkey (whose name he couldn’t quite recall) when he felt a tap on his shoulder. It was the fire marshal, who scowled, and dragged him off the dance floor. “What?” Dunbar couldn’t hear himself say over the rockin’ tunes. The fire marshal grunted and pointed at the sign above the door: MAXIMUM OCCUPANCY NOT TO EXCEED 150 MONKEYS. The door slammed behind Dunbar. “Aw phooey,” he said.

The Well is Dry and All the Dogs are Crying

(Well, there’s that one piebald mutt over there who’s laughing.)

Gregor knew that someone was writing about him. He knew that his every move was being typed out on some vast machine hidden inside an even larger network of machines connected all over the world. No matter what, he couldn’t discern _how_ this was happening. He supposed that surveillance equipment had simply gotten to subtle and refined to detect. It’s not that Gregor could come up with any good reason why someone would by typing up his every move. He supposed there was a dossier about three boxes thick by now with all his comings and goings, his bags of (itemized) groceries from the grocery store, the route his each particular stroll happened to take as he meandered through his neighborhood, and etc, etc, etc. Some days he would try to do things that were especially hard to write up in text form, or so he imagined, like making odd, nonverbal shrieking sounds that (he hoped) would defy typing up in onomatopoeiac fashion. Sometimes he would talk quickly and only while others were talking to make transcribing his dialogue tedious and uncomfortable. Or sometimes he would speak in sentences that he imagined might be difficult to punctuate, by adding odd pauses and emphasizing words in all the wrong places. Yes, Gregor’s most cherished joy was imagining driving his watchers to distraction as they typed furiously away on their devices.

Figs and Other Nonsense

(I’m talking about figs! Sometimes you write about the thing you’re thinking about. Other times, you don’t.)

Caroline Squeed liked Moby Dick and The Old Man and the Sea and Don Quixote and Mrs. Dalloway and the way that Gertrude Stein would just write words over and over and then they’d start to feel like different words after awhile and then, hey weird, she’d wake up with drool on her cheek and those words were still there on the page, but also in her brain… somehow. There was no dissuading Caroline from it. Either she liked a book or she didn’t. Some books were terribly written but delightful. Other books were delightfully written but terrible. Some books were neither here nor there and there was no rhyme or reason why she liked one or not the other. Someone one book by an author would rock her world and then, later, another book by that same author would leave her cold. A 10 cent book down at the old user book store would fill her with glee and the latest from the most popular of authors would leave her with a hollow feeling inside. Reading upside down sometimes helped when a book was not to her taste (not the book upside down, her upside down–the book would be right side up, relative to her position. You know, like an astronaut would think of it). There were a few times when she even read books about readers, but they were mostly pretty dull. There was that one book by Calvino that was about a reader that kind of worked, if you liked that cleverclever sort of book. Still, Caroline wished she could figure out the Rosetta Stone for herself and books. It would certainly make finding new books to read a whole lot easier.

There’s No End to Space

(And other things to ponder while playing Uno or Too Many Monkeys.)

Klorb the Al’Ataxian came to the edge of space. There was nowhere else to go. So he turned around and went all the way back. Somehow, it seemed longer on the return journey. “Must be the constant expansion of the universe, assuming all those astrophysicists were right. Otherwise, it’s just my brain. My old alien brain, playing funny alien tricks on me. That are surprisingly like the alien tricks those funny human brains play. But what do I know? I’m just an alien.” He saw many strange and mysterious and wondrous intergalactic sights. But at a certain point, when you’ve seen 5,000 binary dwarf quasars, you’ve seen them all. But Klorb never got bored (or “borb” as they called it in his language). He credited his upbringing or perhaps it was genetic predisposition towards having a vast capacity to endure sameness. And space sure was mostly the same, with only a few, relatively speaking, bright spots of not-sameness scattered about. “Yup, it’s just a whole lotta nothing,” Klorb said for perhaps the 423,127th time.