11 December 2005
Everyone needs a vacation, so Conditional Reality is taking a break for some rest and recreation. Look for new posts here in late January. Until then, feel free to browse my archives or visit some of the sites to the left. They are all excellent endeavors, produced by talented people of exceptional taste (obviously, since they recommend and/or link to this blog). If you absolutely can’t stand to be without my writing for a month (I wish) feel free to buy any or all of my poetry books. (Links also to the left.) See you in the new year.
10 December 2005
When we were children we sometimes found dead birds or squirrels. We would then tell all our friends, who would come examine the body, completely spellbound by its other worldly appearance. Some of us had pets that died: small green turtles, or dogs or cats. When these creatures expired we felt sadness, the first inklings of the deep sense of loss that so many adults live with. But the death of wild things was different. Without the clouding effects of grief we saw clearly the clean and sobering stillness placed before our eyes like a promise of deep, unmoving loss.
09 December 2005
Ninety Percent Water
We were crazy back then, running experiments we had no business messing with. I remember the time we wanted to measure the story content of human beings by draining the narrative sense from various subjects. The ethics board rejected our proposal with prejudice. We took the project underground. We liked thinking of ourselves as rogues anyway. Before long we had enough volunteers for a proper experimental group and a sufficient control group. We were ready to run the trials when cooler heads prevailed. We never did take story away from anyone. I have no regrets but sometimes I still wonder.
08 December 2005
Gravestone Coldfront painted miniatures of famous paintings on people’s fingernails. Her customers loved seeing tiny replicas of Starry Night, American Gothic, Whistler’s Mother, or The Scream on the canvas above their lunules. Gravestone was busy most hours of most days doing her harmless forgeries. I could do my own pictures, she would tell her customers, but trust me, you wouldn’t want that. My pictures are too new. You would become ill just to look at them. These images you’ve seen a thousand times are much safer for everyone. It’s like seeing an old friend. A comforting scratch behind the ears.
07 December 2005
A Story From Yugoslavia, The Homeland of My Parents
Elenka met a stranger visiting from the other side. My sister died, said Elenka, how is she? Not good, said the stranger, she has no money for sweets. I have money, said Elenka. The stranger accepted Elenka’s money and left. Elenka told her husband, Simo, about the nice stranger. Simo mounted his horse and rode until he saw the stranger enter a barn. Simo dismounted and followed. The stranger came out the other side and took Simo’s horse. Simo walked home. Elenka, he said. That man who is helping your sister? I gave him our horse to take to her.
06 December 2005
This is What Happens When You Don't Have Time to Pack
The old ones returned and told us about their lives since their funerals. It’s not too bad, they said. We are very comfortable. Everyone is super nice. Lots of food and amazing levels of politeness. There are benefits to being dead, no doubt about it. We listened carefully and asked them why they came back if the afterlife was so much to their liking. Well, they said, we didn’t know we could take some things with us, so we came back for our anger, sarcasm, snobbery, greed, vanity, condescension, and rudeness. See, the only thing missing over there is fun.
05 December 2005
When We Slowed it Way Down it Sounded Like Bach
Gangs of crickets invaded our town, chirping wildly for hours on end. None of us got any sleep for days. We cursed our fate, then accepted the invasion as something we could do nothing about. Later we learned to sing with the crickets, a tactic they seemed to appreciate. When we stopped, they stopped, and moved on—to the next town, we could only suppose. We slept again, but missed the cricket music and shed a few tears when we found dead crickets on our lawns. We mimicked cricket music for years, then abandoned our town to the cricket ghosts.
04 December 2005
Splitscreen Ghosthunter turned the universe inside out. Not on purpose; it was just a dream that got away from her. When Splitscreen woke up the grass, trees, mountains, moon, planets, stars, and galaxies were all nestled within the confines of her skin, humming along like a little machine. Her capillaries, veins, heart, lungs, flesh, and bones were all on the outside, like jellyfish floating in an infinite sea of blood. Far out on the horizon she sensed the remnants of an ancient singularity, her first heartbeats, thrumming insistently. Inside her the voices began. The tiny people started talking to her.
03 December 2005
Halftone Quicksand lived in the spaces between comic book panels. She confused and confounded the regular comic book characters by lobbing empty speech balloons into the panels from her hiding place. The regular characters, who lived and thrived in the detailed and colorful panels, were mystified by the balloons. Some of them offered stark zen-like explanations for the speech that was not speech, expressing thoughts that were not thoughts. Eventually they stopped trying to figure them out. Probably just a subatomic anomaly, they said, or maybe something to do with sunspots. Halftone heard them and sunk deeper into the gutter.
02 December 2005
We uncorked all the bottles and left them out in the sun. Our neighbors watched at their windows, drawing back the curtains just enough to reveal their frightened faces. We waved at them. The curtains dropped back to their original positions. We brought out more empty bottles, filling our yard with them. Then we waited. In a few weeks the days got a little less bright and the nights stretched just a little longer. We recorked the bottles and took them to our neighbors. We didn’t understand, they said through barely suppressed tears, but thank you. Thank you very much.
01 December 2005
After the astronomers went home in the morning the telescope’s caretakers removed the big mirror and invited the assembled faithful to hold it steady while they polished its impossibly smooth surface. The faithful did not pray or genuflect. Neither did they cross themselves or place their foreheads on the ground. Instead, they were sustained by seeing their own reflections live, even for a brief time, where the images of stars congregated. When the astronomers returned the next evening and prepared the telescope for a night of observation, they noted a quiet air of reverence in the meshing of the gears.