28 February 2006


The Metaphysics of Nutrition

Seastack Powerloom used to make elaborate sandwiches involving sliced meat, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, mayo, several seasonings, and several varieties of cheese. She stopped this practice once she realized that when a sandwich reaches a certain level of complexity, it becomes haunted. It isn’t my fault, she used to tell people who ate her elaborate sandwiches and then wept uncontrollably, as though they were possessed. Seastack saw this chain of events repeated many times and decided it would be only simple sandwiches after that. Two slices of bread, a dab of mustard, a piece of sliced turkey, and she was done.


27 February 2006


The Metaphysics of Perception

Saltlick Carwax moved his living room furniture onto the street in front of his house. He spent most evenings on his couch in the southbound lane watching his tv in the northbound lane. Reception was exceptionally good. Saltlick was delirious with happiness. Traffic eased slowly around him and his coffee table. The drivers usually waved and smiled at him. At first Saltlick waved back. This got to be tedious so after a while the drivers just disappeared. Saltlick saw only empty cars negotiating the tricky route past his end tables. Amazing, muttered Saltlick. Never thought I’d see something like that.


26 February 2006


The Metaphysics of Gratitude

Efstop Supperclub recorded the termites eating his house. He slowed the tape way down, stretching ten seconds of termite chewing into half an hour of recorded sound. The result was a music of strange beauty, with surging rushes of resonance interleaved with contemplative stretches of a complex melody. Efstop offered the tape to a record company that featured the sounds of nature. They had previously released recordings of crackling cornstalks, chirping crickets, and horse hooves in full gallop. The suits listened with interest. Efstop trembled and mourned the death of his house. The termites sensed his discomfort. They chewed faster.


25 February 2006


This Sentence is the Title of This Post

This sentence opens this post with an arresting image and a startling narrative hook. This sentence elaborates the hook with an intriguing juxtaposition. This sentence scared the cat. This sentence foreshadows the end of the post by subtly invoking a differing point of view. .backwards written is sentence This This sentence was recycled from a deleted post. This sentence reminds you of a Zane Grey paperback. This sentence fragment. This sentence rails against the cold emptiness of metafiction. This sentence dreams of living in a remote cabin in Alaska. This sentence stunningly recasts the arresting image from the first sentence.

24 February 2006


Define Consciousness

The popularity of quilting waned. Our quilting bee, once thirty members strong, was reduced to four regulars and a few occasional visitors. We asked ex-members why they left. We received numerous replies, most of which were variations of the following: I kept dreaming of patterns and stitching and it got to be too much; I needed peace from the insanity. These replies disturbed us. We never dreamed about quilting. What was wrong with us? We increased our quilting time. We spent every waking hour either quilting or preparing to quilt. Soon our dreams changed. At night we saw only emptiness.


23 February 2006


Define Space

We moved to a colony on the moon. We fell in love, raised families, and grew old. In our spare time we bounced around on the moon’s surface like beach balls. Our kids often stared wistfully at the huge Earth hanging in the sky. Sometimes it filled them with such longing that it broke our hearts. We explained to them the weight of life on that world. How hard it was to live there. They understood nothing of what we said. It was all theoretical. We saw only a vast emptiness in their eyes which we avoided at all cost.


22 February 2006


Define Invisible

The neighborhood children wanted us to meet their imaginary friends. We were polite. Hello, we said to thin air, how are you today? The kids told us their imaginary friends were fine, sick, happy, sad, mad, glad, hungry, sore, crying, and green. We nodded sagely. Sure, we said, we remember when we felt like that. The kids looked at us like we were throw up. They can’t hear you, they said. They can only hear us. Right, we said, we should have thought of that. The kids motioned us closer. We bent down. They really don’t like you, they whispered.


21 February 2006


Define Flaw

We examined the theory of Incompetent Design. They blamed it on the creation of cosmic rays ripping through the dna of our ancestors. We learned that our teeth are too numerous for our mouths, our sinuses don’t have enough room in our heads, and our knees are not strong enough to support our bodies. And let us not forget the fragility of our spines. Among other things. None of it was our fault, but none of this information brought us any solace. We turned to the comfortable myth of perfection and searched for as many mirrors as we could find.


20 February 2006


Define Paradox

We were called to the deathbed of the eminent biologist, to witness her last words. We expected some kind of confession. Instead, she said she learned one lesson during her life: Natural selection favors a belief in creationism. People who buried their dead in prehistoric times probably did so out of a faith in some form of afterlife. Coincidentally, this practice protected them from the harm of living near rotting corpses. They flourished and reproduced, strengthening the presence of religion in the world. The biologist grabbed us, weakly, by the lapels. This knowledge, she said, fills me with unearthly strength.


19 February 2006


Define Logic

We were invited to participate in the following debate: Resolved: That the continued use of language stifles creative innovation. We were to take the contrary side. The invitation stated the evening would involve a formal argument. We therefore wore tuxedos and evening dresses. In the event, we spoke in a cultured and condescending tone, making it subtly clear that we had only contempt for our opponents. The opposing side, undertaking the task of confirming the proposition, remained completely silent. While we waited for their allotted time to tick by, we entertained ourselves with daydreams and mental games. Incredibly, we lost.


18 February 2006


Define Altruism

We note with interest the prevalence of hundreds of nearby stars with planets, an ancient conjecture now conclusively proven by numerous independent astronomical observations. We further observe that any hypothetical inhabitants of these planets could be spending their time observing us. We pause to allow the full ramifications of this possibility to wash over us in a frisson of wonderment. We then begin a public relations campaign on our world to spread the idea of accepting the potential existence of new and possibly disturbing alien forms of life. We achieve some small success and await the future with open hearts.


17 February 2006


Define Trance

We planned the trip as carefully as we possibly could by creating a detailed schedule and perusing tourist websites for so long that our eyes grew tired and we developed a serious case of carpal tunnel syndrome which was not mitigated in any way by our keyboard adjustments or our refusal to give in to the discomfort which is what our hypnotist recommended and led us to believe would be a simple matter of acceptance as a way to move beyond the pain to a place where pain not only did not matter but could be manipulated into non existence.


16 February 2006


Define Humor

Did we hear the one about the horse who walks into a bar? Wait a minute, we remember this one. How does it go? Horse says to bartender. No, wait, it’s the other way around. Bartender says to horse. Yeah, yeah, that’s it. Horse walks into a bar. Orders a drink. No no. That’s not important. It’s a one liner: setup, then punch line. Don’t need detail. Horse walks into a bar. Bartender looks at horse. Wait, wait. Too much about the bartender. Try again. Horse walks into a bar. Bartender says, Why the long face? Budda boom.


15 February 2006


Define Theft

We made a sweet deal on some land with a copse of trees and a view of the river. We built a house and moved in. The next day a storm dropped three feet of snow. Many mice escaped the weather by moving into our house. We asked them to leave. They told us we were the ones who should go. And we should take our pets with us. We could leave the house and the food, though. An argument ensued. Then a long discussion concerning the nature of ownership. The thaw came and the mice left. We missed them.


14 February 2006


Define Time

Our watch began running backwards. We took it to the repair shop. How long will it take to fix this? we asked the woman behind the counter. She weighed our watch in her hand. My spider senses tell me it will be ready in four hours and thirty minutes, she said. Spider senses cannot be trusted, we said. She held her hand up and spread her fingers, as though preparing to hold an apple. Spiders are the original clock makers, she said. For millions of years they have placed themselves at the centers of their webs like sundials.


13 February 2006


Define Excess

We had fast growing hair, up to half an inch a day. As a consequence we were something of a curiosity. For many years we were the subject of experiments and investigations by numerous scientists and journalists. Eventually we grew weary of their attentions and told them all to go away. They reluctantly agreed to leave us alone. Our hair grew and grew and grew. Once a week we cut it all off and donated it to an organization that makes wigs for cancer patients. We sometimes see our hair on the heads of passersby and are overcome with tears.


12 February 2006


Define Motion

We slipped on an icy patch of sidewalk at the top of the steps leading down to the subway. The tumbling seemed to go on forever. We did not find stillness until we were deposited on the platform at the bottom of the steps. A woman in a wheelchair stopped and offered us a ride. We looked at her. She could barely keep from laughing. I’m kidding, she said, let me call you an ambulance. She took out her cell phone and began punching in the number. She forgot to apply her wheelchair’s brakes and began drifting toward the tracks.


11 February 2006


Define Faith

We read some Descartes late one night, attempting to defeat a bout of insomnia. Bad choice. His massive ego inspired such shocked awe in us that sleep became impossible. We remembered his famous phrase: I think therefore I am, but could not find it. We pulled down his books from our shelves and methodically combed through them. The phrase had to be there, but we demanded more than mere intuition. We needed evidence. The search dragged on. The phrase became our holy grail. In the light of breaking dawn our determination began to waver. Breakfast became a particularly welcome idea.


10 February 2006


Define Life

We went to the blood bank, intending to donate a pint. While we waited we sat leafing through a magazine. It contained a short item stating that all the human blood in the world would barely fill one thousand Olympic sized swimming pools. The mental image this conjured—undulating red waves—made us so queasy we had to lie down on the waiting room couch. A concerned nurse approached and asked if we were ok. She quickly grew blurry. Just before passing out we asked for a cookie and some juice. The spinning room got very dark, then winked out.


09 February 2006


Define Silence

After the supernova lit up the sky, an epidemic of deafness swept across the globe. Historians informed us that periods of hysterical deafness, though rare, were not unknown in the past. We were skeptical of this statement, but the evidence before us was clear: the sense of hearing had suddenly become wildly unpopular. Many people took crash courses in sign language. The music industry almost completely disappeared. For those few of us who could still hear, the sound of fingers brushing against fingers soon became a source of profound discomfort. We approached nervously signing individuals and softly held their hands.


08 February 2006


Define Meditation

We visited a friend who had moved to Alaska looking for a simpler life. We found him starving and freezing to death in a makeshift cabin in the woods. We tried to talk him into coming back home but he refused, saying he had a cottage industry going making supplies for artists. There are lots of artists in Alaska, he said. I just need a little time to get established and then prosperity will be mine. He offered us a pen. You draw something with this pen, he said, and nothing else matters. That drawing will be your entire life.


07 February 2006


The Snoring Came Soon After

Dandelion Streetscape made temporary friendships with fleeting creatures and missed the sun. She held her breath for the duration of the journey up, which by her best estimate was close to ten million centuries. She always ate sparingly. Blackness surrounded her. The flesh of the planet pressed against her. Dandelion decided to fall asleep, but before she could she separated from the ground and emerged into the biosphere. The ground was cool and the grass was slightly damp. Dandelion crawled a few steps on her front lawn, folded her arms against her chest, and laid herself down against the grass.

06 February 2006


Define Enlightenment

Every morning we opened the dictionary at random, chose a word there, and said it aloud, repeatedly, for hours on end. In this way we divested the word of meaning. We estimated it would take several generations to remove all meaning from all words in the dictionary. It was a project we thought worthy of passing on to our children and their children and their children. And their children after that. And the children of those children. For generations of children, our gift would be the joy of pure being. Our children’s children’s children’s children’s children would know pure knowledge.

05 February 2006


Accepting the Inevitable

The car, a red 1991 Mazda Miata, followed us home. We shooed it away several times, firmly placing one hand on our hip and pointing a menacing finger with the other. But the Miata only paused for a moment, then continued following our path. We ducked down a narrow alley, ran up a flight of stairs, sprinted over several curbs, and trudged through a wooded park. We were sure we had shaken the Miata for good until we finally arrived home and found the impudent little sports car in our driveway, purring and humming contentedly. We feed it high octane.

03 February 2006



Flashlight Hypercube rearranged her furniture. She moved the couch and coffee table into her bedroom, and put her dresser, bed, and end tables in the living room. When her friends visited they didn’t say anything about her new arrangement, but they felt so uncomfortable with it that they never stayed long. Then Flashlight took all her pictures from her walls and placed them on the floor throughout her house. Her friends asked her if she was okay. I’m over here, said Flashlight, whose voice now sounded as though it was coming from the ceiling. What’s wrong with you? said Flashlight.

02 February 2006


Sailors Have Long Believed that Magical Things Happen When Ships Cross the Equator

Darwin awoke one morning to discover he was no longer aboard The Beagle. Somehow, overnight, he had been placed belowdecks on Noah’s ark. Noah and his family greeted Darwin warmly as a fellow archivist and collector of life. They offered him a humble breakfast of boiled grain and half a fig. Darwin accepted their hospitality with deep humility. Darwin and Noah discussed the technical aspects of collecting animals. It's devilish hard work, said Noah, but I’m saving the world. I can’t be sure yet, said Darwin, but I suspect that’s exactly what I’m being asked to do. Noah nodded gravely.

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