Sunday, July 29

Shutting Down


A grid flashes across his vision.


The afterimage lingers like the ghost of an executioner. It fades from sight, replaced by the teasing blue sun sparkles of Hanauma Bay.

“Honey? Are you okay?” He shakes his head, aware now that the blip in his sensory perception had affected his hearing as well. He turns to her and pats her hand.

“Yes. Just a little pause in the implant. Nothing to worry about.” He smiles. She smiles back, shining brighter than the Hawaiian sea. She reaches across the arm of his beach chair and kisses him.

“Go slow. The doctor said not to push yourself.” She smells of salt, coconut oil, perspiration, and the singular scent of a woman who has agreed to be his for a quarter of a century. She pushes his hair back with a small hand. The butterfly sweetness of the touch arouses a primal feeling of possession, wonder, and contentment.

“Really. It is nothing. Shall we go snorkeling?” he says. Before he can stand, she grabs his mask with an impish grin and runs to the gentle surf. Puffs of sand play tag in her wake in apparent delight of her beauty. With a chuckling sigh, he picks up her mask and follows.

Despite the tropical warmth, the water stings. It infuses him with its vigor, charging his very bones with life and desire. Donning the snorkeling gear, he plunges headlong into the life and death world of the reef. It doesn’t take long before he is surrounded by swirling, glinting clouds of fish, grey and purple and yellow and blue. Next to him she floats like a mermaid. He reaches for her hand, feels the laugh of the young girl he knew vibrating in her fingertips.


The fish dissolve into a mass of nonsensical shapes.


She becomes a blur of conflicting colors.


The grid appears again. In its unnatural regularity he sees a mocking smile, hears an empty laugh, feels an icy uncaring of all ending.

It is as the physicians had warned. Despite all the knowledge, all the skill, and all the miracles, chance would play its final card. The languishing disease would win, slowly at first, but with inexorable stealth. The technological marvel of the implant that promised to keep his brain connected to the rest of him would fail. In bytes and pieces he would lapse into a mind trapped in an unresponsive shell.


He treads water. She holds his hands, pulls him close, and throws her face to the sky, giggling and precious.

He blinks, capturing a picture he will hold, and hold, and hold tighter, and never let go.

Saturday, July 28

Score Bored

Challenge courtesy of Wordsmiths Unlimited.

This is a work of fiction. Copyright © 2007 Bolt, Ink. All Rights Reserved.
No portion of this work may be copied, retransmitted, reposted, duplicated,
or otherwise used without the express written approval of the author.

Score Bored

“God damn it!” Eddie had cursed both the offending scoreboard and me in the same breath. “This is the second time! San Antonio is in town again. I’ll never live it down. Fix the fucking thing or find a new job!”

I stand at the pitcher’s mound. Looming over center field is a $100,000 hunk of technology that refuses to work. No numbers, no letters, no nothing, just a matrix of squares flashing multicolored jibberish. Every random twinkle is a dart in my confidence, a refutation of my assurances that Boulder Field is now part of the twenty-first century. Eddie, the owner of our minor league Mountaineers, is furious. I can’t blame him.

Beside me Gus the groundskeeper spits. His expectoration describes a glistening arc under the late spring sun, ending with a muffled splat on the grass near first base. “It was better when we turned the score tiles by hand,” he says.

“Maybe,” I say. “But Eddie will have my head if I don’t fix this before the Generals game.” Gus spits again.

“Screw the Generals. Nuthin’ good ever came outta San Antonio. Eddie can suck my balls.” Gus folds his thin creaking frame behind the wheel of his handyman’s golf cart. The wheels leave barely perceptible tracks in the diamond’s clay. Tools clatter in the handmade wooden totes.

I have checked every wire and every bulb. I have discussed problems of timing, compatibility, and reliability with our vendors. I have made lists of connections and fuses and transformers. I run them all through my mind. I must have missed something, but standing in the middle of Boulder Field brings no answers.

I hike the stairs to my office. The bunker-like quality of concrete and overhead conduits always makes me smile. The fans know the grand green view and hot dog smells of the stands. They would never guess the bland and boring everydayness of operations. It is part of my job to perpetuate that illusion.

In my office I check the scoreboard software for the hundredth time and find nothing again. After two hours of pondering, my stomach reminds me it is time to eat. I munch a bland sandwich in the employee lounge. It is located high above third plate, affording a view of the entire stadium. I watch the sprinklers make their familiar chk-chk-chk sound as they water the outfield. The answer hits me like a bump to the funny bone, both painful and obvious, and I laugh out loud.

I will talk to Gus, the old cuss, and tell him I know about his irrigation patterns. I will talk to Eddie, the owner, and describe the solution. Gus will keep his job, Eddie will keep his pride, and I will keep my reputation. We will all win.

Go Mountaineers!

Thursday, July 12


I heard the familiar alien sound yesterday for the first time this year.

There are hundreds of species of cicada. I don't know one from another. I do know they are big noisy bugs, scary to some, beautiful to others, loud in their proclamations of six-legged love. I am fascinated by them, not only because they are delicate and strong, but because they are an annual miracle. They are a reminder of the world's incomparable wonder and delight, if one uses the gift to see glory in small things.

I have often wondered why life is so prevalent, so tenacious, on this little ball of mud we call home. I believe the question answers itself; life is prevalent because it is tenacious. However life came about, a conundrum I will not debate here, it is everywhere because those aggressive in their perpetuation have dominated those lackadaisical in their amorous pursuits. In other words, it is not dog eat dog. It is breed or disappear.

Nature doesn't care about the individual, only its ability to contribute to its species. Many species risk predatory attention and death in their reproductive displays, all to prove skill and persistence in the continuation of their kind. The bird's feathers, the frog's voice, the deer's antlers, the signal scents, the obvious calls, the gaudy floral excesses all blare two messages: 1) I can do this and still survive so I am worthy of your time and energy, and 2) Time for sex!

Some cicadas, as I understand it, spend seventeen years underground until they become adults. That's a long time. What do they do? Sit and turn and pupate and whatever cicada kids do. Meanwhile we humans, for our first seventeen years, create aggravation and confusion and waste.

On this day in July, when cloud barges navigate the currents of an impossibly blue sky, when desert rains announce their maybe arrival with ancient aromatic resin smells, when the temperature hovers between one-hundred-and-hot and unbearable, on this one day perfect for creatures more adapted than we, the male cicada emerges from his dirt nest, climbs the gnarled arthtritic branches of a mesquite tree dangling its succulent seed pods, and screams his lust.

Go horny little cicada! Bzzzzzzzzzt for the mate you so desperately need, giving the insectoid middle finger to your enemies, and proclaim your desire and ability to procreate, fulfilling the millions-year premise and promise of your forebears. Remind us of these most important lessons, these realities, these truths, that we may share them with our children and our fellows, thereby increasing the chances for our kind.