Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Monday, December 31, 2007

library journal mentions my book

no star, though...

Library Journal

McDermott, J.M.. Last Dragon. Discoveries™: Wizards of the Coast. Feb. 2008. c.400p. ISBN 978-0-7869-4857-4. pap. $17.95. FANTASY

A journey focused on revenge becomes an odyssey of self-discovery and of the founding of an empire in blood and sacrifice. As Zhan searches for her grandfather, a creature no longer human that has killed his entire village, she travels in the company of Seth, a fire-breathing shaman; Korinyes, a gypsy who is more than she seems; and Adel, a paladin present at the slaying of the last dragon. McDermott's debut novel requires careful reading to piece together a story told in nonlinear form, as mercurial as memories and as visceral as death. This fantasy adventure belongs in libraries where literary fantasy in the tradition of Gene Wolf, A.A. Attanasio, and Gabriel García Márquez is popular.


Hey, they mention Richard Dansky's book, Firefly Rain!

I had the great pleasure of hanging out with Richard's wife at an airport in Saratoga Springs, as well as some of the Dansky conspirators, and I was most impressed with the overall awesomeness of everyone. Richard seemed like a nice guy on the phone, too. I'm looking forward to his book. It ain't easy to find decent southern gothic horror these days, and I've liked what I've seen of Richard's work elsewhere.

still no camera... drat!

a roadsign at the edge of a gated community where i have never, ever seen 1 child.

this sign has two silhouettes of children. one sits on the bottom of what appears to be a seesaw. the other sits at the top.

clearly, this means kids are catapulting each other into the road. one had best watch out for flying, catapulted children while driving.

either that, or the kids set up their seesaws in the middle of the street.

either way, i wish i had a camera for this hilarious road sign. i really need to snag that digital camera again for a little while...

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Pseudopod has gone live with "I Am Nature"

Want to hear my creepy little mood story read aloud by Ben Phillips of Pseudopod?

Sure ya do:

This one is most definitely r-rated. Most def.

a blurb for bicycle errands

i've been riding my awesome new bike - (thanks for the fantastic birthday gift mom and dad! you guys rock!) - to the grocery store and cafes and bookstores of late.

i have found this to be an excellent passtime, and recommend it to all impulsive shoppers of the world. resisting temptation only becomes easier when you realize you must haul whatever temptation you encounter home in a bag on your back.

even if you had the room for them, they will likely break!

speaking of which, my mom also got me this little device so you can carry a dozen eggs in your pack without any of them breaking.

this sucker is awesome. not a single egg broken in transit.

one problem, though:

whilst moving eggs from their carton to my container, i dropped one today on the concrete. it cracked. i had to toss it to the trash.

an egg libation to a bicycle goddess. blessings upon this journey, and may it continue for a long time.

if you're looking for a wonderful new year's resolution to improve your health, your wealth, and the awesomeness of your being, doing local errands on a bicycle instead of via car comes highly recommended by J M McDermott.

In fact, I'm an author, so I'm supposed to blurb things as if they are the most amazing thing in the universe, always. Here's a blurb:

"Experiencing your errands on a bicycle is a mind-blowing re-acquisition of true life in our helter-skelter post-modern condition! Two thumbs way up!"

Saturday, December 29, 2007

when people vote with bullets

everyone loses when people vote with bullets.

this bit of news threw me in such a black mood, i couldn't think of anything to post.

i wish people would stop voting with bullets. why do young men of pakistan swear revenge? don't take revenge with bullets. take your revenge with a vote, with due process, with uncorruptable law.

these monsters of chaos and pain deserve to be thwarted by justice and order.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

bees don't

bees don't see what glass is
what do we do when even air
betrays us?

bees don't know the bears
flattening the village like gojira
arrows glancing off fur like rain

bees don't know highways
fly what others show was safe
to splatter in a windy roar

bees don't know alone
when the veil drips over their geometric eyes
infinite points of darkness gaze back

bees don't know the devil
irrelevant of course since the devil
knows plenty of bees

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

gratuitious pictures of kitties

Merry Christmas, Ellen!

Here are your kitties, happy, healthy, and enjoying clam chowder for Christmas.

Merry Christmas to everyone out there. May your families be safe and happy and drunk.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

because i love my blog readers...

note: this is a notorious dance tune, yet there is no dancing in the video, merely strutting. And pointing. And some more strutting. And dramatic appearances in ruined windows. And some more strutting. And, then, a little bit more pointing. Finally, some strutting.

(Oh, and gazing off into the distance like the Brawny Paper Towel guy on LSD.)

Hm... My ears are bleeding. Let's chase the pain with something better.

Merry Christmas Eve Eve. Watch the fire as you grow old and stay alive out there.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Santa Claus is neither fat, nor red

i had the great pleasure of encountering Santa Claus after work, yesterday. he was gathering supplies at a liquor store for the post-christmas party.

i didn't know it was santa claus right away. he was actually quite thin, and hale. he was young-looking, too. he got carded immediately.

i struck up a conversation with him while we were in line. he introduced himself as Nick, and said he was throwing an after Christmas party.

we talked some more, and the truth came out.

you see, Santa is a fey of spring, not winter. in the summer, he grows thick, and heavy, and his beard whitens like snow, and his skin wrinkles up like death. his blood flows in sludgy ice and gets colder all summer until solstice, when he spends the whole long day stiff as death upon a hammock. he's a beached walrus with pale white skin and a long white beard and he's so cold that he has to smother himself in every blanket he can find.

but then solstice breaks, and the spellweather turns inside of him. winter comes down from the sky, and summer rises in nick's blood.

he drops weight. he wears bermuda shorts. his beard is a lustrous red, like a sunburst bobbing when he laughs - and he has the richest, halest laugh you've ever heard and it comes so easily to him.

when winter comes, santa claus is all summer, sun-bleached skin and warm, sweaty palms when he shakes your hand. i imagine a hug from him on a long winter's night would warm the coldest girl's heart. (and, of course, he's only married in the spring and summer, and in the autumn, the two fey drift apart. I didn't ask what his wife does all winter, because it didn't seem polite.)

a twinkle in his gleaming eye, and a sheen of warm sweat all over him, like a halo that smelled like curry and strawberries, santa claus wore only green, lustrous green. his hawaiin shirt was green and covered in blue flowers.

i asked him how come everyone kept seeing him fat and red, and he told me it was all because coca cola thought they'd take over the iconography. they'd wrap him in red like the soda, make him old, and fat like their CEO. They'd turn him into a creature of commerce, and greed.

and, he shrugged at me, because for the most part they did.

still, he's here, buying liquor for the post-Christmas party, when he'll bathe the hard-working elves and gnomes in mead. they'll burn a giant can effigy of a snow can, and dance around it like they used to do.

sometimes, they throw a delivery truck driver into the fire, if that one had been particularly bad to the ancients this year, but it's been a while since any delivery truck driver has had to be memorably bad to the ancients when everything's been so bad for so long.

still, santa claus assured me that times change, and soon a new company will snatch the icons from the soda company, and already signs of change fill the air with African drums and humanistic religious plurality.

Friday, December 21, 2007

CC and a link to Link

I'm getting to be more and more a fan of Creative Commons.

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find a Kelly Link anthology locally to browse?

This is wonderful, I tell you. Simply wonderful.

Over at AbsoluteWrite, the SF&F message board wants to put a list together of all the CC-Licensed writing we can find by authors like Cory Doctorow, Brandon Sanderson, Eric Flint, and Kelly Link. Please, feel free to drop a few links into the comments section.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

an older couple at a locked door

an older couple walked up to a locked door. the woman was a couple steps ahead of her limping husband. she pulled the door. she pushed the door. the door was clearly locked, and rattled and groaned and refused to open.

she stepped back from the door. "it's locked," she said.

her husband, reached out to the door, without saying a word, and pulled the door and pushed the door. he turned to follow his wife down another path.

what the fuck was that about? why did he try to open the door? he saw it was locked when his wife tried it. she turned around and told him it was locked. did he think she was trying to trick him? does he just distrust her in general?

perhaps he thinks his burly strength (something he hasn't had for quite some time, this withered old cornstalk of a man) will somehow bust open this door that his wife is just too weak to open.

she had this look in her face when he did that like it was just another slight in a long life of little slights. she turned away from him. she turned her back to him. she wrapped her face with a kind of sullen pride. it wasn't a large amount of pride. this wasn't a big thing, after all, but it was something, and it affected her as much as it affected me watching it happen.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

she didn't tell him the answer, though

-hey want to hear a joke?
-what has four legs and one arm?
-a very happy pit bull.
-you've told me that joke before.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

There's never a Camera around when you need one!

I just received, in the mail, hot off the presses, with that lovely new book smell, the very FIRST copy of my novel, exactly as it will be when you pick it up in the stores.

The digital camera is at my Mom's house right now, but let me describe the book for you.

It is approximately the same size as all the hardbacks next to it on the shelf on my mantel. It is, actually, printed on higher-quality paper than the ARCs, with much, much better binding - thank God: I didn't say anything, but I was worried about the ARC binding!

My name and the book's name on the spine are both utterly visible from across the room, on my couch. That's a good eight feet away. In fact, it really stands out among all the other books.

Also, it smells heavenly from here... Oh, wait, that's my birthday cake!

I got this book in my hands the day after my birthday.

Now, flashback a few years. I got the callback on this book, when Phil Athans first asked to get the full manuscript from me, the very day before my birthday. I was sitting in a car repair shop in the middle of a very unpleasant neighborhood. I had to step out to the repair shop because my car died while I was on my lunch break at an Automobile Tax and Title company. I had spent the last week doing odious data entry for a temp agency. I was mostly broke. I was single - I'm almost always single in December, don't know why - and I was in this repair shop dreading the bill I could barely afford.

I was watching Montel Williams on the grainy black and white, and looking at the most fly-riddled donuts you've ever seen in your life.

I was hating my life and everything about it. Another year of my life was about to close with no improvements, and no tangible hope for the future.

Then, in the middle of that waiting room in the skanky parts of Irving, Texas, my cellphone rang, and I didn't recognize the phone number, or the area code.

Today, the day after my birthday - and this one wasn't too bad, because my car didn't break down and I don't hate my job but I am single because this is December - this package shows up in the mail, and it's my book looking back at me.

I worked really fucking hard to get this book in my hands.

A lot of people, actually, worked really hard to make this happen.

There's never a camera around when you need one...

survived another birthday bender, and a poem

I think I survived another birthday bender just fine, though my stomach is a bit woogedy right now. Here's a little something I put together for yer reading pleasure. Tell me if it looks familiar to you.

I've accumulated some calories to burn and I need to go burn them, even if it makes me sick to do it.


Philly versus Dallas, Texas Stadium, December 25th 2006

just once i knew the way of all flesh
texas stadium was older than the players on the field.

the design was modern gladiator.
looking at the back, where huge concrete columns,
like stream-lined aquaducts, funneled the watery
beer and sewage hotdogs up and down
the coliseum stairs

the ceiling of the stadium was open,
but the sides had these wide curves to keep
the sound of the screaming fans from spilling
out onto the highways.

the sound was useful to the players on the field.
on the highways, fan noise was just more noise pollution.

the roof had this black sound-proofing sprayed all over it.
the black stuff had decayed beyond repair.
tiny torn fragments swam through the noise
to land on hooded sweatshirts

into plastic cups.

one piece as big as a black locust landed
on my leg, and i freaked.
i thought it was a bug.

my father picked thing on my leg.
he held it up. I told him that the sky
was falling.

just once i knew the way of all flesh

the black fibers sank in little strips
from the concave stadium roof
the stadium lights like noise
and the crowd still because the player
sank in little strips into their cups
of gatorade. (Philly kicked our
Cowboy asses that night)

a young woman held a sign
limp in her hand from the 30-yard line
an hour ago she was calling out to her own,
private celebrity an hour from now she'd
sit in her car in a muddy field and yawn
behind her headlights’ twin yawns.
her sign on the stadium floor
all the lights off
the little black ceiling fibers like black snow
and empty cups
and moonlight

just once i knew the way of all flesh

my father has trouble climbing stairs. he looks
up at the distance between the guard rail
and the row of seats. he has a look on his face
like he's an old man. he gets to the top just fine,
but i'm thinking about how in another ten years
i'm going to have to hold his arm. ten years ago
we were in martial arts together beating the shit
out of each other beneath kickboxing pads.

we climb over the legs of the people on our row.
we take a picture of the stadium for my mom.

he tells me about the last time he went to a football game.
he and my mom lived in denver (“This was 1975... 76?”)
and they went to a game between tampa bay and denver.
he couldn't remember the quarterbacks' names.
all anybody talks about
these days are star players, and he tells me
what he remembers about the snowy hooligans
in parking lots and the magic time
between weddings and children.

birds fly around the stadium lights, hunting
for the flies of winter.
black insulation from the roof
falls through the sky like moths. birds dive for the black strips
like taking bait.
the last time i was at a football game,
i was at a college game with a sousaphone on me
like an octopus in love.

a whistle blows.
i almost miss the kickoff.
and that's why the whistle blows:
everyone will stop talking, look up!


just once i knew the way of all flesh

some of the black bits are bigger, like large crickets.
most are just light black dandruff,
jarred loose from the stadium vibrations,
they drift into your cup of beer.

i recommend - until they build that new stadium –

drinking from the plastic bottles for sale all over.
or holding your hand over the cup
while microscopic flecks of your own skin
jarred loose in the vibrations of the screaming
blood inside of you falls into your cold beer

such tiny flecks,
you don’t even taste them

Monday, December 17, 2007

zombie and a twelve string

santa claus, will you bring me a twelve-string, the hat, the jacket, the pants...

oh, and about half that talent and cool?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

"Last Star" is up in the January(?) issue of "Coyote Wild Magazine"

Coyote Wild just went live with their January (?) issue.

New stories by Elizabeth Bear, Beth Bernobich, and... hey, some guy named J M McDermott!

Anywho, go check it out for your science fiction reading pleasure.

So, what will you do when the last star in the unvierse burns out? Will you be a Christian? A Nihilist? Will you turn your ship into the nearest black hole to die with the stars?

Or, will you drive into the long darkness, seeking a way to survive against all odds?

Me? I'll be playing guitar into the dark. My little sabbatical has already led to learning both "Look at Miss Ohio" and "Elvis Presley Blues" by Gillian Welch on my little stringy noisebox. Now, if only I had the talent of Gillian Welch, and the fingers of David Rawlins. Then I'd be worth a damn.

Anyway, I'm going back to the tequila and the Seagul S6 Folk Guitar I've been a-strummin and a-pickin and a-playin

must rest head

i'll truly return one day. one day, it will happen.
(i will return on an aeroplane that will curve gracefully around a volcano...)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

i miss my guitar

work picked up with the holidays, and a deadline or two reared their hoary heads, and i realize i haven't touched my guitar in about two weeks.

i'm going on sabbatical to do this (except on a guitar, not a ukelele, and totally without the talent).

Friday, December 14, 2007

aborted beginnings

My mother was pregnant.
The older women shook their heads and gathered round the rudder wheel. The engineers were busy making their calculations. Until then, my mother was locked up in the bilge. The ship’s crew and passengers gathered round the rudder wheel.
The pilot ignored all of it. He had to guide the ship through the jet streams, and had little patience for crowds clogging his viewports, thermometers, and turing engines. He pushed the elder women’s bodies away from the wheel lest one of them lean in a roll and push the wheel to our doom.
The crew and passengers waited for the engineers to return from their abacuses and papers and quills.
I abandoned them there. Nothing I did there mattered. I went down to the hold, to my mother. She sat on her haunches in the little cell. If they decided her crime was too much weight upon the helium,
“Will they throw you overboard this time?” I asked.
“Don’t be silly, Crumpet,” she said. “It’s all an act. The old birds are just trying to make a big show to scare all you children.”
“I’m scared.”
“Don’t be, Crumpet,” she said. She reached her fingers out from the cell bars. She ran her hands through my hair. “Everything’s going to be fine.”
First, the engineers measured the impact of the weight upon the hydrogen core. Then, they gave their numbers to the elder women that rationed food. The elder women made their recommendation based on a male or female child. The boys are bigger, with larger appetites. The women would set a weight limit for the new child that might be very high or very small. I had heard a rumor that once the weight limit was five pounds. When the baby was born, it was six pounds. It was thrown overboard immediately. No record exists in the logs because the child was never even given a name. It was just excess weight dumped into the endless sea.
All the people wait around the rudder wheel. They vote on their recommendation, and argue the numbers. The passengers and crew listen in utter silence as the women speak. There are no secrets on an airship, after all. Even I knew who my mother’s lover was, and I was only a child of nine.
When the elder women argued the number into a unanimous vote, they wrote their recommendation and amended it onto the form that would go to the Captain. They did this at the rudder wheel so their old legs wouldn’t have to travel far to the Captain’s tea room behind the bridge.
The bilge deck was at the lowest point on the ship, just below the bridge. I didn’t have many ladders to climb to abandon all the people crowded around the Elder women, cluttering up the ladder to the higher decks and the storage halls where the fishermen should have been busy on the calm day with their hundred yard twine and the gentle seas below their windows.
“How’s Jonathen doing?” she asked me. Jonathen was my little brother. I hadn’t seen him since my mother was taken to the bilge. The last I saw of him one of the elder women had carried him off.
“He’s fine,” I said.
“And what about Clarence?”
“I don’t know,” I said, “Shouldn’t he be here?”
“Of course not,” she said, “because he knows everything is going to be fine.”
Clarence was the engineer’s son that had done this to my mother. He was only ten years older than I was. The baby’s grandfather was right this second working the numbers to decide whether his family’s great shame was going to live or to be tossed into the sea.


okay, so I got the beginning down... Now I just need a middle, and end. Which don't seem to be happening at all worth a damn.

I suck.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

too tired for a real update

all i will say tonight is this. the kimbell art museum throws an amazing christmas party. i wish i had gotten more than four hours of sleep last night and hadn't spent all day working on my feet so i could appreciate it.

guten nacht, interwebheads.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

in case you hadn't heard about it:

banks are generally evil.

i won't tell you how i learned this today, but rest assured that if i thought a new bank would be less evil than the one i'm already stuck with, i'd switch banks.

banks are evil.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

and now for something completely different

with the writer strike going strong, will we have any new crops of celebrities to fill the reality television ranks? i hope not. that might be one good thing to come of the strike.

that said, i do hope hollywood bends to the will of the writers. the wga is absolutely correct with what they want, and they are getting unfairly cheated out of their hard-earned wages.

Monday, December 10, 2007

"Face Your Book Day"

Today, in case you didn't know, is "Face Your Book Day", which is a highlight of "Take Back the Endcaps Week".

On this special day, December 10, we all must go to a bookstore, and choose our favorite, lesser-known author to help by facing their book cover-out, instead of spine-out on the bookstore shelves.

I chose to "Face-Out" Jim Hines' latest book, "Goblin War". I happen to think Jim is freakishly hilarious. He does things to epic fantasy both wildly inventive, and poignantly human. And, did I say, hilarious?

Jig is the funniest anti-hero I've encountered on fantasy shelves in a loooong time.

I highly recommend picking up any one of the fine Goblin Quest books. Though you may have trouble getting your hands on earlier titles (Rrr! Must promote Jim Hines!) you can easily jump into the adventure late with no difficulty.

As far as endcapping a book, I decided that because I live in the Bible Belt, and because nobody told me about the incredible work of Hal Duncan until I met the guy at World Fantasy Con, it was high time to get Hal some much-needed end-capping. I noticed an empty spot under "Staff Recomendations". I dropped off two copies of "Vellum" where some hideous self-help book used to be. Who, on earth, buys inspirational self-help books? Icky. I'd much rather people be reading cubist literature by a Spectrum Award winning author, who should be nominated for awards that don't require homosexuality soon, because he is a wildly inventive literary stylist. Can anyone nominate him for an Anti-Booker Prize?

Ah, lovely holidays. "Face Your Book Day" is every December 10. "Take Back the Endcaps Week" is every week of December 10.

Who did you help promote this week?

"The Lovesong of Jack McNally" sold to Atomjack Magazine

Atomjack Magazine picked up my little tale about an insurance agent/alien abductee and his hipster friend, Jack McNally.

They're going to publish this story in February, I hear.

If you don't want to read about devouring women to save the human race...

Let's review:
"Man in the Mountain" in December issue of New Myths,
"Last Star" in January issue of Coyote Wild Magazine,
"The Lovesong of Jack McNally" in February Issue of Atomjack Magazine

Story-riffic couple months ahead. I'll keep you posted with any more news on this front. I should have some more news soon.

(Oh, and LAST DRAGON lands in February - though it should be bleeding into your bookstores as the printers ship out. When your name is neither Stephen King nor J.K. Rowling, books will ship out as they're ready. Thus, keep an eye out. If you see it on the shelves of your bookstore, dear friends, do let me know. I want pictorial proof!)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

exerpts from an architecture textbook, a little longer

Modern Plumbing in Old Buildings

classic architecture is special.

but, if we can't put plumbing in it
toilets, sinks, locked doors
air conditioning and central heating

if we can't line the walls with copper piping and pvc
electric outlets
cable television
high-speed internet
proper insulation
level foundations
glass windows

if you can't do that,
just call it a ruin
and leave it the hell alone
or, if you must,
tear it down
from the inside
and rebuild it behind
the mask
of the outer walls
and closed front doors

take the mummy mask
off the bones. give it
to your child to wear
to halloween, and declare himself
the Pharaoh, the Boy King!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Again, Excerpts From An Architecture Textbook

2.3 On Elevators

Louis Kahn,
when he built his famous little museum
knew he must include
an elevator for the elderly,
the lazy, and the ruined

with just two stories
an elevator was for the people
that can't take stairs

3000 pounds is not
much for an elevator
if you think about it

fat people ride the elevator
and fat people ride electric wheelchairs
with other fat people and they all
they weigh lots

and in the future
the dead people will be in tubes
they'll roll around in big, glass and metal tubes
with all-terrain tires that cannot climb stairs
they will refuse to stay dead
in their skyscraping mortuary dormitories

Louis Kahn was a visionary
3000 pounds is not really that much for an elevator
if you are planning on the future
when dead people will drive around art museums
in metal and glass tubes

to look at all these beautiful
ancient things

Friday, December 7, 2007

Even Further Excerpts from an Architecture Textbook

4.4 Food Services
the health inspector likes to keep everything under his lens.

be sure to place lots of cameras.
and those mirrors that bend
around corners so the health inspector
can stand in line and watch the precise way the trash compactor
smokes and the busboy smokes and the chef smokes.

ashtrays are useful, too.
make room for them next to the fryers
where no one will notice the smoke.

a happy kitchen staff is a calm kitchen staff.
a calm kitchen staff is more likely to make lewd remarks.
lewd remarks lead to lewd actions.


a happy health inspector makes for an anxious staff.
an anxious staff looks – constantly –
at the ash tray that they cannot use
but need with every atom in their fingers and then

they are on edge.
they will yell and scream at everyone.

and the food will be fantastic.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Further Excerpts From an Architecture Textbook, Translated into English for Non-Architects

4.3 Restrooms
be sure to include enough room for more pipes.

women need more room than men.
they like to talk. fix their make-up. sit in the stalls and cry.
men don’t need to wash their hands much.
two sinks is plenty.
and the single soap dispenser isn’t important.
acoustics are not a concern at all because men never talk to each other.

make sure the lighting is bright, and clear, so everyone can see themselves in the mirror.
it’s the only time all night they’ll be able to feel like they’re somebody,
because they’re looking at themselves in the restroom and thinking about
where they are, how they got there, and what they will do when they leave with perfect,

perfect hair.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Excerpts from an Architecture Textbook, Translated into English for Non-Architects

4.2 Instructions for Hospitals
hospitals are special
because the doctor wants it precisely this way or else someone will die
and the respiratory therapist needs enough gases or someone will die
and the nurse’s station needs a decent ethernet outlet or someone will die
and the break room needs a microwave or someone will die
and the crash cart needs to be exactly one hundred paces
from the meeting area
where the doctors like to yell at each other
because a doctor is going to die

natural lighting helps, because everyone is stressed
let the sun shine in
or else read the obituaries
and wonder if that father of three had a heart-attack
because you killed him
with bad lighting

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

LAST DRAGON advance reading copy poetry contest redux

This time, i want you to send me a GLOSA.

Dig through this blog. Find something interesting to riff on. Write a glosa about it. Send it to me at j_m_mcdermott (:a:)

winner gets a free, personalized Advanced Reading Copy signed by me.

What is a Glosa, you ask? Well...

Let's see... Today is December 4th, so let's give you until January 5th to get your poem in to the contest.

No reason to rush things just for Christmas gifts.

Since the book comes out on February 5, you'll have a whole month to lord your awesome-ness over your friends and close relations before they can read even the first page! (Unless you let them...)

Monday, December 3, 2007

on world of warcraft

for various reasons too numerous to detail here, i downloaded the ten-day free trial of world of warcraft. it doesn't run well on this little computer of mine, but it ran well enough that i could check out what all the fuss about the mmorpg is about.

it was fun, sure. but, it wasn't really that much fun that i'd consider paying for it.

i tried one of each race, and one of each class.

the two most fun i had were with the hunter and the mage. more specifically a troll hunter and a gnome mage.

i leveled them up doing quests and slaughtering pixels both to level eleven.

the gnome mage was the most fun, i should say. he was a cute little death machine of fire and ice. his spells were the most fun. i had more success solo-ing this character than any other, though it isn't supposed to be the class that solos well (?) because it can't go toe-to-toe with anyone.

i had more success going toe-to-toe with beasties with my little gnome mage than i did the hulking brute paladin. mage spells do very, very much damage. you don't need to spend any time going toe-to-toe with beasties.

anyway, gameplay grew tiresome after an hour or two. how many times can you polymorph an ice troll to pull it from its group, then back up and wait twenty seconds for the sheep to turn back into a very pissed off troll that will now chase you over hill and dale alone while you blast it with fire and ice?

how many times can you pop guilds onto your ignore list? how many inane discussions can you listen to about football in a dwarven castle while you are trying to find just that one stupid idiot to finish your quest?

i should at least peek my head behind the curtain of an RP server just for the sake of completion. who knows? maybe the tauren and night elf quests won't be completely and disappointingly lame if teenagers aren't hitting on my female-shaped avatar?

hm. a strange thing. i'm glad i didn't pay for it.

also, it's not as much fun, or as awesome as books.

books like this one:

Sunday, December 2, 2007

i use sea-turtle imagery too much.

The eggs still haven’t hatched, yet. They aren’t even stirring in their shells. I think they’re long dead. It’s been almost three months since I dug up the eggs in the dark.
I was still in college in Houston, and I drove half an hour to Galveston to fly kites on the beach when I was stressed out. This was always at night. My kite was 8 feet long and I kept it coiled like a sea monster in the trunk of my car. It had a picture of an alien and a mushroom in the rounded tip, but you never saw that thing at night. At night, all you saw was the silvery tail against the black night sky, unless the kite was flying in front of a cloud. Then the tail was a black ribbon. Silver rippling ribbon. Black rippling ribbon. Then silver, again.
I walked down the shore barefoot in the dark at 11:30 pm, trying my best to keep the kite from smashing into the side of the hotels that had pushed against the beaches.
One night, just before I was moving out of the dorms I got stressed out about the future. One chunk of life was over, and I was going north to Dallas from college to be another corporate drone. I was shit scared. I drove down to Galveston as fast as I could. I was walking along the beach staring up at my kite, and I tripped over a fucking sea turtle.
The creature didn’t make a sound when I did it. I felt like I had tripped over a large chunk of driftwood. It wasn’t driftwood. It was a big fucking sea turtle with a long, black, leathery shell like a gladiator’s shield and four large paddle feet. If I had stepped three feet to the right, I’d have broken an ankle stepping into the nest with the eggs. As it stood, all I managed to do was stub my toe on a turtle.
My kite drifted off into the dark. When I fell, I let it loose from my hand. When I saw the turtle, I stopped thinking about kites.
The turtle was laying eggs. I listened to the squishy plopping of an egg emerging from the turtle, and falling into the hole.
The turtle looked straight at me. I looked straight at it. I didn’t move. The turtle kept laying eggs.
When it was done – still staring at me – it dragged its long body down the beach towards the water. It hadn’t buried the eggs it had laid. I had scared it off from burying its eggs.
I took off my shirt and gathered six damp eggs in a wad of sand. I buried the rest like I figured the mother would if she could. I went back to my car, and took my eggs back to the dorm room, and put them in an ice chest and a little lamp inside to create some heat.
My roommate had already moved out a few days ago. Nobody really noticed anything.
I took the eggs with me when I drove north to Dallas and my new apartment and my new job.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

my electric range exploded!

i was cooking my ramen noodle soup last night, and BOOM! the coil shorted out, and then the place where the metal coil bends down under the range BLEW UP and sparks flew everywhere and I dumped water on the counter to put them all out in case they actually caught something!

What the hell was that!

I have never seen a random explosion like that!

Anybody with technical expertise know what happened, or have any advice about how to prevent? I'm not cooking anything until I know why my kitchen exploded in smoke and flame.

Friday, November 30, 2007

only a moment to spare

I only have one moment to spare before trudging off to work until late in the night.

I recently got wind of my very first review for LAST DRAGON. I won't tell you who, or where, but I am very, very pleased that this individual thought so highly of the book.

In April, 2008, you can read the review for yourself, if Wizards of the Coast doesn't plaster it all over the actual book before then.

If this particular phantom reviewer recommends the book, I assure you that you also should investigate LAST DRAGON for yourself.

Oh, and "New Myths" is live with "Man in the Mountain"! Click on the link to the right under "places to go, people to see".

hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work I go.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

met this girl once

I knew L__ had beautiful wings underneath her clothes, but she never showed them to me. “If I take my wings out, I’ll fly just fly away,” she said. We were on the front porch of her parent’s house in east Dallas. We were alone there, with the streetlamps behind us and the weather-beaten bric-a-brac her father had put all over the porch. Her parents had a tacky front porch.
I ran my hands through her black hair. “Are they feathered wings?” I asked.
“Of course they are,” she said, “What do you think I have, batwings?”
“Are the feathers white?”
“I’m Mexican. Why the fuck would I have white wings?”
“Because you’re an angel,” I said. I touched the side of her face even though she was scowling at me. “You’re so beautiful.”
“Only white people make white wings,” she said, “I’m no fucking angel, J__. And I don’t have white wings. Leave my wings out of this. I don’t want to talk about them.”
“Can I kiss you?”
“Not if you have to ask,” she said, “Good night, J__.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

six shots and the fire alarm

-i'm just sayin' if it takes six shots to kill someone, i'm probably already dead.
-yeah. naw, the fire alarm wasn't going off, now. the fire alarm wasn't going off.
-right, the light going off.
-i'm just sayin' the light came on and stayed steady. didn't make no noise, just came on. first time i ever seen it.
-right, the light going off. you hear me when i'm sayin' that if it takes six shots to kill someone, i'm probably already dead.
-i hear ya.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

imprtant things to count down

1) New Myths will post one of my stories in 3 days.

2) my birthday is twenty days away.

3) christmas is 28 days away.

4) Coyote Wild Magazine posts one of my stories in 34 days.

5) LAST DRAGON launches in 65 days.

everybody count down!

Monday, November 26, 2007

on the bathing of cats

you know, you don't actually have to put the cats in the water. if you get the cats close to the water, they thrash around so much that they pretty much bathe themselves.

oh, be sure to wear long sleeves when you bathe a cat. and, don't let them get anywhere near your face.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

“Portrait of a Woman, probably of the Lloyd family” – Thomas Gainesborough

(clickme for explanatory imagery from the Kimbell Art Museum website.)

I have decided, Mr. Gainesborough, that portraiture is too shameful an act for a woman such as myself.

I am no vain diplomat’s wife, no lord or lady with more titles than sense. I am afraid, Mr. Gainesborough, that I must insist that you do not paint me at all, no matter what you say about the immortality of my beauty.

This condemnation of your chosen art form by myself is harsh, I know. Yet, it is not every painting or painter that I find shameful and vain. For instance, landscape painting is a noble thing indeed, and I want to personally encourage you, my dear friend, to pursue that artform. I find great comfort in the gardens of summer when winter is dark, and the paintings in my father’s study grant me that window into the seasons of warmth. Brave adventurers wander to foreign shores and capture the images of our great empire.

As your dear friend, I want to encourage you to pursue landscape painting.

The most beautiful place in the world that I know is a small river near my father’s lands. I sit there in the summer evenings and watch the sun fall down behind the trees. I would love to see your brilliant brush touch this scene.

As someone of talent, I have spent time with canvas and brush myself. I would consider it a personal favor if you came to my little stream and let me watch your masterful strokes.

Mr. Gainesborough, I would be greatly offended if a great painter such as yourself did not come to the most perfect spot in all of England, to preserve the summer sunset for posterity. I so desire to carry that beautiful warmth with me into all the winters of life.

I, however, could never consent to a portrait of myself. I will just sit next to you. I will certainly smile. Certainly, watching you work will be a great joy to me.

Your Dearest Friend,

A____ L____

Saturday, November 24, 2007

about nanowrimo

have you heard of this thing, nanowrimo? it's "national novel writing month" in november.

everyone participating sits down and cranks out a novel in one month. it's probably not a very good novel because it was written very quickly with minimal editing. after a couple months of editing it might be good, or it might never be good enough.

regardless, lots of people participate.

i think, however, that december ought to have a special little gimmick, too.

december ought to be national read-as-many-novels-as-you-can month. (NaReAMaNoAYoCaMo?)

nothing will help your editing of your novel like spending a month digging in deep with novel after novel after novel.

who can read three every week?

spread the word. let's make busy, stressful december the month with the most reading. with the wga strike, it's not like there's going to be anything worth watching on tv, anyway.

Friday, November 23, 2007

black friday

this black friday, we must remember where the day's name originates.

the mad, awful elder gods dreamed of a holiday to celebrate their corpulance. they spread a tentacle into the minds of the evil marketing department of the evil coca-cola company to depict a creature so terrible, yet so lovable.

its beard is full of white twisting tentacles. its serpentine belly is shrouded in baleful red. its horrible, rollicking laughter is reserved for those times when it slips into homes in secret, and infests the children.

families, in their terror, leave offerings of milk and cookies, but they are no respite from the growing doom.

the silhouette of santa claus and cthulu is exactly the same, my friend. listen! you know this to be true!

our children are being corrupted! and we embrace the doom of the elder gods with smiles!

we go to the store, and exchange gifts with each other and run up credit cards as if this year - on January 1st - the new year will not come. we live like hedons in the last waning hours of the world before the new ones emerge from the ocean as the stars align.

jingle bells - if you listen very close - played backwards creates those awful, alien sounds that no human tongue can replicate.

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn"

black friday comes. the black void comes, too.

edit to add: i have located the true words of false christmas carols:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

this thanksgiving, for your feast

instead of eating some poor, dead turkey, try any of these fine main course selections instead:

exotic cactus-based salad
extra-special potatoes
spicy sweet replacement for your yams
special bread
hearty main course

and, let us not forget, a nice, patriotic pumpkin pie

remember: beer before liquor, never been sicker. liquor before beer, in the clear.

happy thanksgiving, everybody!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

important fact for thanksgiving celebration with vegetarians

I have deduced, after nine years of careful and extensive research, that no brand of tofu-based turkey replacement (a.k.a. "tofurkey") is edible.

Unless you enjoy the flavor of shoe leather, used chewing gum, and paste, do not attempt to eat any tofurkey.

If you plan on serving something to vegan or vegeatarian guests this holiday, I urge you not to serve them tofurkey.

tofurkey is very, very gross.

except, of course, the tofurkey that YOU served me that one thanksgiving. Mm, that was tasty. No, no I'm talking about all the other tofurkey I had that I had to politely stomach and pretend to like. Your tofurkey was excellent.

Also, and this is completely unrelated but very important nonetheless:

Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you, and without your love and support, I would either not exist, or I would be living under a bridge living off discarded tofurkeys.

Everybody wish my mom a happy birthday, or else I'll feed you tofurkey!

Monday, November 19, 2007

pirates and accidents and accidental pirates

my numerous technical difficulties with my wi-fi miraculously coincided with the presence of a large number of construction workers replacing the siding of all the buildings around the complex. it is at its worst during break periods (when the banging on my building ceases during the workday for lunch or whatnot).

funny, how that works.

i've changed the password, sure, a couple times. hasn't done much. i hope they didn't cut into a wire somewhere.

if i don't get back to you just be aware that my web is under assault.

i'll do the best i can, and be patient with me while i solve this problem - or at least, wait it out...

i shall cross my fingers and hope this message reaches the wires, and your eyes.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

frankenstein ghost

pieces of the latest art installation litter the walkways. careful lihting and crates and disembodied relics and disentombed funerary objects fill the halls like gutted organs of a living mechanical antiquity autopsied in an art museum.

in the darkness, all the spirit pieces of the tombs pull together into a mash. a remix of heroes and lovers and saints and peasantry melds together in the night.

the art pieces were carefully selected to represent a cross-section of history. the ghost, with they eyes of a king and the hands of a merchant and the farmer's tools and the woman's gentle jawline and all these sectioned pieces becomes a walking embodiment of the period of history.

this fragmented ghost staggers down the hall to the cafe, to the library, to the other ghosts of the museum that might enunciate the missing things of history.

a name. a curse to be lifted. an avenue through the tessaracts of life to a home of wholeness.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

experiencing technical difficulties

i'll be lucky if this posts at all.

my interweb is acting up.

i gots to go spank some bad electrons and use them to assault some bad software and maybe then i'll be able to update this darn thing today.

i sure hope this little note loads at all.

Friday, November 16, 2007

have you ever smelled a cathedral?

have you ever smelled a cathedral? have you ever smelled a tombstone? have you ever smelled a sarcophagus?

they smell the same, you know. all that granite dust, and bone dust, and dust and dust and dust.

people wander the halls holding handkerchiefs and rumpled tissues. people are sneezing. people can't stop sneezing.

i suspect that the moisture in the air is due to all that spittle spent by sneezes.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A rabbi was rich in wisdom. thus, he was poor in money and crippled with various illnesses of the flesh. he knew he would never marry and bear a child to carry his face and name into the halls of history.

he used his wisdom and learning to build the only child he could: a golem. he fashioned the clay with as close an approximation of the rabbi's face as could be discerned from a mirror.

the golem awoke, left-handed, and odd-looking to the rabbis friends. the golem, you see, looked like the opposite of the rabbi since it had been constructed with help from a mirror. the ears drooped in the wrong way. the sad clay eyes angled differently. the nose was definitely wrong, because noses are hard to carve to inexperienced sculptors. the hands and feet were also clearly off.

the golem was imperfect, then. the rabbi held the imperfect thing back from his heart. the golem, with a lack of love in his life, decided it was high time to find a child to be his own. alas, golems cannot create golems. the golem studied the rabbis tomes, and found nothing to guide his quest for a child. he turned away from holy books to alchemy.

the golem created a homunculus as best as the golem could. the gelatinous bulb took shape from a pool of lamb's blood and wormwood and the stolen hairs and urine of the rabbi - for their had to be a human component to anchor ethereal entities to this plane - the homunculus took the perfect shape of the rabbi.

however, this homunculus had no illness crippling it. the rabbi embraced his grandson and loved it like no other. no joy in life was had by the rabbi that did not involve the homunculus.

the homunculus did not understand this affection. the homunculus looked to his own creator, the sad-eyed golem with the misshapen nose, hands, and feet. the homunculus did not understand why the golem was always so quiet when the rabbi was lavishing gifts upon the homunculus. fine silks. fine clothes.

the golem had worked hard to provide for the poor rabbi. the tireless golem worked day and night to provide for both the homunculus and the rabbi. yet, the rabbi had no praise for the misshapen lump of clay. it was merely a thing to the rabbi - like a toaster that was doing what it had to do without a soul. the homunculus - to the rabbi - was full of sin and wickedness and blood, and all these things were just like what men were full of, and thus the homunculus - to the rabbi - was like a man.

the homunculus felt guilty about this - like any man would. the golem worked hard, and had created a homunculus to warm the stone heart's loneliness.

the homunculus took it upon itself to create a child, too. the homunculus went off to university, and studied hard in the nature's of automata. it got an engineering degree from MIT. it returned home, and commenced work on a replication of the golem: a robot.

when it was completed, the robot opened its eyes, called out for its father, its grandfather, its great-grandfather.

this odd family history shall end soon. i just wish to share one more little detail. the robot, when it came of age, was asked by the rabbi to create a clone of the rabbi that could in time create a golem which would create a homunculus that would create a robot that could clone the rabbi again to create another golem and another homunculus and another robot...

the robot ran away and away and away. it hid among the world of men and hipsters. it was so angry at its fathers. it couldn't explain exactly why it was so angry. it married a woman, and never told her a thing until long after their children were born.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

pretty polish girl - part 3

start here

Then go here

all right, you got that? let's pick up where we left off...


Billy drank a great deal of water, and he felt less and less sick with each sip. He answered all the questions with distant eyes. He stared off into the sky, into Captain Chekhov's buttons, into the black reflection of the room in the shiny rifles of the guards. Billy felt like he was being interrogated. He answered like he was being interrogated. He answered questions about his commanding officers, about his training, about his past. His birthday, his graduation, and the day he enlisted. The night of revelry at the Hawaiian restaurant again in greater detail.

The horrors of the concentration camp, too, where the POW's looked past a string of fences into the faces of the dead, spilled from Billy's lips. Billy stared into the woods through the window and pushed his mind away from his voice.

Captain Chekhov wrote frantically. After Billy’s description of the concentration camp, Captain Chekhov lifted his hand and said, "Stop. I am hungry, and have other paperwork to do. We shall finish in the morning. I wonder what Krupchik has prepared for our dinner. Believe it or not, he is quite the chef."

That evening, a meal of commandeered lamb and fresh vegetables was served on fine silver platters. Krupchik placed the plates in front of the two men with a grimace. He mumbled in Russian to Captain Chekhov, "Why do you spend so much time with this man? Is he the scientist?"

Captain Chekhov touched Krupchik's arm and said, "I believe he is, my friend. I still don't know for sure. I must hear his whole story before I check for discrepancies. He might be an American. His story is extremely good. Give him all the brandy he wants. Also, go to town, and find a young lady for our friend. Find one pretty enough for such a thing. Offer her food, but no money."

Krupchik nodded, with a wry smile. He said, "For the prisoner or for yourself?"

Chekhov smiled, "That is not your concern, Comrade. Perhaps she will have a friend for you. Be sure to ask. Do not worry about the waste of bread. We have much bread in the People's Army."

Krupchik laughed, "I'll be sure to ask about a friend."


After dinner, Billy took his first bath in years. Dirt that had become a part of his skin peeled off like old paint.

He had already given his first mission flight to the Russian Captain. He had been a co-pilot in a bomber. He hadn't told Captain Chekhov about that feeling of flight. Billy could still taste the high air on his lips, before the fighters' bullets burned through everything and the lazy parachute was so gentle and everything else in the sky was so violent.

Billy sipped warm brandy, and it didn't strip away that flavor on the tip of his tongue. Nothing could change that memory of flight.


Billy sprawled on a bed in an upstairs room, beneath an open window. A cool breeze lifted the delicate white drapes like a wedding’s ghost. He watched the drapes and drank more brandy. He was not fully drunk yet, only glowing.

The sun had set moments before, and it left the sky glowing, too. Already, the drowsy feelings of comfort pulled at his eyebrows. He struggled to recall a lullaby his mother used to sing, when she was still alive. It still worked, and his eyelids drooped into a light sleep.

There was a rap at his door. He bolted awake. He said, "Yes, who is it?"

A beautiful voice replied. A woman's voice. Billy did not understand a single word. It sounded Polish.

A young, slight girl slipped through the door. She had long hair that looked burgundy in the shadowed twilight, but would be copper red by candlelight. It curled down her clean, blue dress. She closed the door behind her and turned to look at Billy, sprawled out on the bed, with dusty American pants, and a clean Russian sweater. She cocked her head and breathed softly. She spoke again.

Billy said, "I don't speak Russian, or Polish, or anything. I can't speak anything." Billy stood up and took a candle from his nightstand. He found matches in the nightstand's drawer, and tried to light the candle. His hands trembled. He managed to light a match, but his hands trembled so much, and the night breeze was so close that the fire fizzled before Billy found the wick.

She came up behind him. He startled. She took the matches from his hands, and struck one. She lit the candle. She held up the soft light between them. She looked him up and down. Her lips cracked into a wonderful smile. She blushed.

He saw her skin, and the powdery clumps of cheap make-up. He saw the lines of poverty that crept at the fringe of her face, peeking around the edges of her youth. He ran his hands along her figure. He looked into her eyes.
He saw something inside of those eyes that he had never seen before, not in the eyes of a dozen of prostitutes across two continents. Innocence -- despite all she had done, all she had seen -- but not really innocence either, for she had actually done and seen many horrible things during the war. These horrible things hid in every corner of her face. They just weren’t on the inside of her eyes where she looked at Billy.

For a moment, Billy recalled a few of the faces that died in the camps, staring into the guns of their killers, or occasionally the boots and sticks. It was a familiar thing to him; he had just never seen it in one so beautiful and so alive.

He wrapped his hands around the candle, and around her hands, and his trembling hand steadied in her touch. He leaned over her, and reached another hand up her back to anchor in her soft hair. They kissed together, two strangers in an abandoned farmhouse, in a war torn countryside, who did not know each other's names.
The spark of life flickered between them for a few moments of bliss.


Captain Chekhov was downstairs with a nearly empty bottle of brandy preparing a letter for his son in code. He fell asleep at his desk. When he woke up half his face was stained in the ink of Billy's life story.


The pretty Polish girl had disappeared soon after Billy had fallen asleep in her arms. He hadn't fallen asleep in the arms of a woman since his mother died so long ago, and when he did wake up alone, a piece of the black returned to his soul, and he sighed like an old man. He dressed quietly, feeling the thin cotton pants move against his skin. He knew he would never pull his pants on again.

He came down quietly, and found Captain Chekhov eating lunch. Chekhov stood up at Billy's entrance, and they smiled at each other.

Chekhov said, "Good afternoon, Billy. Such a lovely day, too. I'm sorry you missed the morning."


Captain Chekhov motioned to the chair across from him. He sat down again. "Please, sit down, and we will enjoy a nice lunch together. I have only two or three more questions to ask you, and then we can finish our business together. Would you like some more brandy, or perhaps a little vodka?"

A Russian soldier adjusted his rifle on his back, and helped Billy with his chair like a waiter. The soldier reached for the brandy bottle and a glass. Billy waved away the drink. Billy said, "You know, I think I want to keep my head on for this."

Captain Chekhov waved the soldier back. Captain Chekhov said, "Alright. Fine. It will make the questions easier to answer properly. So, we have covered almost everything, I believe. The only question that I have left to ask you is about your actions afterwards."

"After what?"

"After the schooling and the training and the fighting and the POW camps and the concentration camps. You know, after the war.” Captian Chekov poked at the meat with his fork, pulling it apart into tiny fibrous strands. “Why did you never find any Americans? Why didn't you just find a place to wait for Americans? Why wander around the countryside so far for so long?"

Billy held his breath a few moments. He looked around the simple farmhouse, looking for inspiration. Where to begin? What to mention first? The leap in his heart when he woke up under the stars, walled only by trees and the darkness? The look on the faces of the Russians as they muttered and stumbled away from the gates? The Jews who had mysteriously disappeared in a night of sporadic gunfire and violence?

Captain Chekhov put down his fork. He said, "Well?"

Billy nodded, and looked Chekhov right in the face. His voice sounded different. Chekhov opened his eyes at the new words, and scribbled blindly all over the page.
Billy said, "Well, you know, it was just us four. Blake, Bugaboo, David, and me were sitting around playing cards in a big empty camp with the couple Russkies still sleeping nearby. Then we heard it from an old Polish fellow that wandered into camp. We were expecting the Germans to appear any moment, but they were all gone real fast. The Pole told us the war was over. He told us to get on out and go home. He cut open the gates for us, and we all of us - us and the bunch of Russians - stood outside for a while looking at each other. We didn't know what the hell to do. The Pole told us that the Americans should probably head west, and the Russians should probably head east. That's what we did. I don't know how long we walked out there, on all them damn roads. We stole food to keep alive.

"Bugaboo got sick and died just about right away. He told us not to waste any time on him. He told us to leave him. He died quick. It only took him two days to get sick and die. We buried him by a stream somewhere. It was real peaceful.

"David got it next, but it took quite a while for him to die. He didn't get sick, though. We spent days together, maybe weeks, I don't know exactly how long. He got caught stealin' some cheese from somebody's house and the people beat him to death in the streets. They just left him there, too, in the middle of the goddamn street. How can you just leave a person in the street like that? Well, Blake and I picked him up that night, and took him away. We buried him in an old churchyard. The church'd been blown away already, but at least we buried him on holy ground.

"Then it was just me and Blake for a while. God, that was hard, burying David. It was harder burying Blake, though. We had spent years together. We were in the same plane, and we were taken to the same camp. We were the only Americans who survived that place for the whole three years. We stuck together through thick and thin. I mean, we were just as tight as any brothers ever were, anywhere. Then I had to bury all of 'em. Blake was the hardest because I was really alone then, you know. I was so alone. I didn't know what to do.

"Blake was just like my oldest brother, too. Blake was one of them crazy-ass belly gunners. He was tougher than nails. They tried fighting him, but they couldn't do it. He was too tough. So they shot him. They threw him into a ditch. I had to bury him alone.

"Anyway, that's what happened after the war was over. Maybe it sounds silly sayin' it out loud. Hell, it does sound silly, doesn't it? Here I am whinin' because my friends and family died. Lots of people had friends die. Lots of people lost families. Poor bastards."

Billy paused, and then repeated his final words, "Poor bastards."

Captain Chekhov’s pencil moved quickly to copy it nearly word for word in shorthand. He looked up. He nodded, put the pencil down, and pushed his food away. He said softly, "Is that all you have to tell me?"

Billy looked up suddenly, and stared Captain Chekhov directly in the eyes. "No," said Billy, "You ever been in a plane?"

Captain Chekhov looked down and scribbled a few more notes. He said, "Yes, once. I didn't care for it. I got very sick."

Billy watched Chekhov's hand scribbling away. Billy said, "Well, I was a co-pilot. We flew one mission and bought it right off. I was in that big bomber I told you about. 'The Big Apple'. Well, we flew up in the air that first time, and we got up real high. I don't know if it was fear or what, but I tell you, Captain, that air was incredible. It was never like that on any training mission. It was so crisp and clean. It was like breathing pure, goddamned, heaven up there until we blew up."

Captain Chekhov finished his scribbling. He looked up and said, abruptly, "So, you have told me your story at last. Billy, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this gift of your own life you have given my family…"

Billy interrupted quickly. He said, "I don't want to die anymore, Captain. I've changed my mind."

Captain Chekhov leaned back in his chair and folded his arms. He sighed very deeply, and his eyebrows creased in concentration. He said, "Young man, this is not something we planned on. You asked me to kill you."

"I know."

"You insisted on your own death."

"I know, but…"

"Well, now you expect me to just push away this big plan we had?"

"Look, we can find a new plan. I don't really care about going back to America. Y'all can take my tags, and my goddamned uniform, and your son can pretend to be me forever. Just, please, don't kill me. I'll stay in Poland or something. I don't need to go back to America, not for nothin'."

Captain Chekhov picked up his fork and slammed it onto the table, "What do you think this was for? You think I wanted to hear your life story for my own benefit? What am I going to do with you now? Take you back to Russia as my American pet? You must be insane! I must either kill you, or send you off to America! Those are the choices before us!"

Captain Chekhov stood up and threw the table across the room. Plates shattered. The Russian soldiers stepped back, fingering with their triggers.

Billy looked up at Chekhov from his chair. He said, "Listen, y'all can have my dogtags, and my uniform. Y'all can strip me naked for all I care, and throw me in a goddamn ditch, and tell me a new name, any name, to go by from now on. I'll do something. I don't know the hell what, yet. Look, you understand don't you, Captain?" Billy took a deep breath, and almost whispered, "Don't you?"
Captain Chekhov sat back down on his chair. He pulled out his gun, and cocked it. He lifted the gun to Billy's calm, pleading eyes. Captain Chekhov dropped the gun again. He lifted the gun. He dropped it. The soldiers raised their rifles.
Billy did not blink. Billy said, "I want to live, Captain."

Captain Chekhov continued lifting his gun, and dropping it. Each time, his face twisted into confusion. The gun moving like a snake feinting and falling back to the floor. It was seconds that stretched to hours and years and decades.

Billy was an old man, now, in his chair, with fading bones and a bent back. His eyes pressed into the ageless Captain with the weight of a century.

"Captain?" said the soldiers around him, with their rifles, their tremulous voices.
Billy had a steady voice. "Captain," he said.


In Russia, many years later, the retired Colonel Chekhov sat alone in his house. He was a very old man now, far too old to run. He pulled out all the letters and pictures he had ever received from the people he had gotten out. He also had with him something else he wrote once. He read it, sadly.

Colonel Chekhov confounded his interrogators over this illegible shorthand. They spent days trying to wear him down. The Colonel felt that to tell the story would be fatal. As long as he had this story to hold on to, they would let him live a little longer. He desperately wanted to live.


not the best thing i ever wrote, but academically interesting for them that care to see exactly who and what i was before LAST DRAGON fell bleeding from my pen.

the canvas was so small, and none of the characters had room to be more than just a shadow of their true self. all of the plodding dialog needed more meat and bones and war to be felt true.

i've written thousands of words, since, and still i think back to this story as a turning point. i left literary fiction for good. i left academic writing workshops for good. the siren called me to another place, another time, in ages of wonder where the earth - like my canvas - is naked and new.

now go in peace, interweb, to love and serve your muse

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

pretty polish girl part 2

start here

Krupchik came by twice each day to force feed meager soup down Billy's throat. Billy didn't puke it up again. Billy spent three days tied to the same hard chair in the center of the barn.

Captain Chekhov did not return to the barn for three days. When he did, Captain Chekhov waved his soldiers away. He wanted to talk to Billy alone. He said, "Second Lieutenant William Burns, how are you doing this day?"

Billy looked up at the calm man. Billy growled, "I'll give you three guesses, you son of a bitch." Billy had insect bites along his exposed back. The night chills of the summer breeze hadn't made him sick yet, but it would soon if Billy stayed that way much longer. The barn was kept warm enough to keep the prisoners alive through the cool nights, but not much warmer.

Captain Chekhov smiled, "You know, I'll be honest with you, Billy. My gut told me right away that you are without a doubt an American. However, word got through that a particular young scientist, who fits your description, has been missing for some time."

Billy blinked, and then stared straight into his captor's eyes. "Huh,” he said, "you caught me. I'm that scientist."

Captain Chekhov cocked his head. "You are? Hm, I doubt that any prisoner would make their interrogation so easy." Captain Chekhov produced a flask from his coat, and a little matching cup. He poured himself a little drink and sipped it. It was water, but it looked like vodka to Billy.

Captain Chekhov said, "Is this for release? I know I am torturing you a little, but I have done this to many men, and this is only very mild torture. Is it some other physical pain that is causing this desire?"

Billy watched the commander drink, and his mouth watered. "Nope," he said.

The commander lifted the glass to his nose, sniffed, and grimaced. He tossed the liquid into the dirt, and poured out the flask next to it. Billy watched with dry lips.

Captain Chekhov said, "Well, that means you must feel guilty. This particular scientist has every right to feel very guilty. He has done some terrible things. He should want to die. His parents were immigrants to South Carolina from Germany. They moved back to Germany at the call of the Fürher. This could be you."

Billy stared at the puddle. "It’s me."

Captain Chekhov leaned forward suddenly. He snapped his fingers and aimed his index finger at Billy's nose in a burst of motion. Billy's eyes jumped to the finger and flinched. Captain Chekhov barked, "What is your mother's name?"

"Helga?" said Billy.

Captain Chekhov leaned back and frowned. He put the empty flask back in his pocket. He said, "No. No, that's not it at all. If you are the scientist, this is quite a brilliant ploy to get away. It would make a lovely story. I let you go to America as Billy Burns, and you infiltrate into their nation, start a new life for yourself. As you walk away with your Americans you smile contentedly to yourself. You wink at me. I raise my voice, but it is too late. The Americans have you. I am outsmarted. Quite a story, is it not?"

"Yes," said Billy, "It's true, too."

Captain Chekhov stood up and threw his arms in the air. "I don't just believe anything that sounds good," he said, "There has to be some facts and details that relate the truth of the story!" Captain Chekhov leaned over and got inches away from Billy's left ear. “Why don't you tell me your story, and I will understand you better."

"Nope," said Billy.

"Why not?"

Billy stared over Captain Chekhov's shoulder at the dark forest far past the farmhouse, and past the fields. "If I tell y'all my story, y'all won't kill me," he said.

Captain Chekhov pulled out his gun. He placed it on the desk in front of him. He said, "I'm not going to kill you now."

Billy smiled, looking at the gun.

Captain Chekhov tapped the gun with his index finger, and pondered just shooting the prisoner for no reason, reporting it as accidental.

Captain Chekhov leaned forward, again, with his hand ready to pick the gun up and shoot. Neither man spoke for a few minutes.

One of the other prisoners broke the silence. He jumped against the chains and shouted at Captain Chekhov a wordless, painful yowl.

Chekhov turned his gun and shot the prisoner between the eyes. The gun blast rattled the old wood of the barn. "You have to merit a bullet around here,” said Captain Chekhov, to Billy, “You have to be German, at least. I can pretend you're an SS Officer if you are at least German. Or you can speak Italian or French or Polish or something and I can pretend you're a bandit like that animal. But you don't speak anything, do you? You only speak English. Tell me your story."

Billy did not break his stare. "No"

Captain Chekhov scratched his head with the barrel of the gun. He grimaced. "This is getting to be very redundant, yes?" Captain Chekhov then frowned and pointed the gun directly between Billy's unflinching eyes. Captain Chekhov said, "Why don't you want to tell me your story?"

Billy leaned back in his chair, and smiled at the weapon

Captain Chekhov frowned, and put the gun back down on the desk. Captain Chekhov put his gun in his holster. “My friend, I think I shall leave you for a while longer. I must think more on you"

Captain Chekhov frowned down at the captive. In this light, even with the huge bags under his eyes and the insect bites, Billy looked like Captain Chekov’s son. Captain Chekhov opened his mouth. Then he closed his mouth. "Did you know that I have a son about your age?"

"He still alive?" said Billy.

Captain Chekhov smiled and looked off into the clouds as well. "Yes. Fortunately, my son managed to avoid his call to duty, as I was so influential in his favor within the Party. He even looks a little like you, in the right light. He speaks fluent English, like a native, better then his father by far. You know, that's a secret."

"It is?"

Captain Chekhov looked down at his prisoner again. “Yes,” he said, “We don't want anyone to know that he speaks only English, Spanish, and French at home, from native tutors."

"Why not?" said Billy Burns.

"You want to die?” asked Chekhov, “You really want to die?"

Billy willed the horror back from his eyes. He looked at Captain Chekhov's shiny buttons again, and squinted into them. Then he looked up at Captain Chekhov. He very calmly said, "Yes."

Captain Chekhov put his hands on his hips. "I want my son to go to America,” he said, “Do you have any family?"

Billy shook his head. "Not no more."

Captain Chekhov lifted his eyebrow. He said, with encouragement in his voice, "Do you have any friends?"

Billy shook his head, again. "Not since Blake was killed. No."

Captain Chekhov slapped him gently on the back. "You and I are friends," he said, "We are good friends."

Billy frowned. "Says you."

Captain Chekhov left his hand on Billy's back a moment. "Yes, says me," he said. He lifted his hand and rested it on the holster of his gun. He smiled as sincerely as he could, "I have a plan, and I need your help."

Billy looked towards the other prisoners that huddled around the fading fire. "Kill me," he said, "and I'll help you."

Captain Chekhov stared down at the American's eyes. Billy stared back, unblinking. Captain Chekhov lifted his hand off his gun.

Captain Chekhov pulled out a boot knife and cut the American's bonds. Billy fell forward into the dirt, weak and cold despite the summer weather. Captain Chekhov called to the soldiers playing cards by the fire. They untied Billy, and helped him to his feet. They held his arms while Billy walked painfully across the muddy fields to the farmhouse by the strawberry fields. The house was two stories, with three bedrooms upstairs, and three rooms downstairs. The house had simple Polish furniture, but no simple Polish people. The house only had a few soldiers, and most of them went to their tents between the jeeps and the strawberries at night, with the rest of the Russians.

Captain Chekhov dropped Billy on the couch. He sat down at a desk, wiped his hands on a clean handkerchief from his pocket, and rummaged through papers while he talked. The desk was covered with papers. "War does strange things to places," said Captain Chekhov, "Take this house. It is a nice house, in a nice place. No people. No animals, either. There used to be people here, and animals, but there aren't any anymore. We found it just after sunset, and knocked on the door, but no one came. When we came in, there was milk on the table, a cake burning in the oven, and candles lit for a pleasant dinner. People see uniforms and run. We would not have burned the house down, or raped any daughters. I will, in fact, leave a pleasant note when I leave."

Billy sat down on a small couch by the door. He yawned. He moved his joints a little, to get blood back into his aching bones.

Captain Chekhov brought him a glass of clean water. "We have much to discuss before tomorrow,” he said

Billy took a long drink of the water, wishing it was vodka. He said, "I bet I can guess the story. You want me to help you get your son into America, in place of me, and then you'll kill me."

Captain Chekhov nodded, and scribbled some more on pieces of paper on the desk. He said, "Yes, that is the brunt of it. No use dying without a good cause to die for. My son's life is a noble cause, I imagine."

Billy hadn't made up his mind completely. He stretched his arms and legs out on the comfortable little couch. He said, "Well, alright. How do you plan on pullin' this off?" He took another long drink of water. He felt a little nausea glow from his stomach. He held his breath until his guts calmed.

Captain Chekhov didn't notice. He kept scribbling away on papers. He said, "You will tell me about yourself, and your unit. I will write it down. Then I will send it to my son along with your dog tags and uniform. He will turn himself into the American authorities claiming to be you. He will escape to America, and no one will know any better. It is very similar to what I did for my first daughter."

Billy sat up and craned his neck. He wanted to get a good look at the papers, but it was all Cyrillic, and unintelligible to him. "Why don't he just defect?"

Captain Chekhov frowned. He put his pencil down and looked Billy directly in the eyes. He gestured like a father lecturing a son about economics, except Captain Chekhov had no newspaper and no tobacco pipe. "My son defecting wouldn't look very good in my national standing. I am an important man in my little town. I am a proud member of the party. I have met Stalin many times, and the great man has even managed to remember my name once."

Billy looked down at the ground. He said, "No, I guess it wouldn't look very good." He looked up again, "You could defect, too. Y'all could all go together."

Captain Chekhov retained his lecturer's tone, "And what of my remaining family? They will pay the price for any public escape."

Billy persevered, "Y'all could all do it, you know, together."

Captain Chekhov shook his head. He said, "I have a very large family, Billy. Many of them do not wish to defect. I can only carefully remove the ones that do one at a time. This is no small task with my duties during such a catastrophic war."

Billy looked out a window just over Chekhov's shoulder. Billy stared at the dark forest at the edge of the cleared farmland. He squinted into his own dark memories. "I never had a big family,” he said, “I had three brothers, but that's it. They're dead now, anyway. Never really knew my folks. What's so dangerous about the USSR? I mean, ain't you commies supposed to treat each other all equal? I mean, the Russkies with us in the camp always talked about how they were all equal, and we were racist, slaver pigs."

Captain Chekhov shuffled his papers on his desk. He continued writing on a new paper that was blank and fresh. He said, off-handedly, "Well, there is what is said, and what actually is. Have you ever met Stalin?"

Billy's eyes returned from the woods. He tried to get a look at the papers, but still couldn't make anything out in the foreign alphabet. "Nope," said Billy.

Captain Chekhov smirked. "I have, many times," he said, "He is a very dangerous man, Billy. My system of government is often circumvented by the wicked. I look in the mirror for the finest example of that. I cannot remove Stalin from power, and even if I did, another like him -- or maybe even worse, would take his place. However, I can certainly get my family out. I hope I can get them all out in time."

Billy nodded his head. "I guess I can understand that,” he said, “If it were my family, I guess I'd do what I could." Billy looked at the stoic guards in the room. There were two guards, with rifles strapped to their bodies, standing like suits of armor in the hallway. "I guess that's what brought me into this goddamn war in the first place. I mean, all my brother's dyin' like that so close together right at the beginning. I just had to go out and get me some blood in return"

Captain Chekhov clapped his hands and pointed at Billy. The pencil fell and rolled down the table. "Yes! Magnificent!” he blurted, “That's exactly what I need to know about! What brings you to this war? Where were you before? When is your birthday? I need to know the names of your brothers, and where they died. I need to know what unit you were in. I need to know about you. That way, I can pass this information to my son. Let me get a pencil and paper." Captain Chekhov pushed back from the desk and picked his pencil up off the ground. He shuffled more papers on his desk. He spoke as he did this, "If you need anything, by the way, just ask. You're doing me such a magnificent favor."

Billy laughed, haughtily. He said, "Can you get me a pretty Polish girl tonight?"


Billy smiled. "Fantastic. I'm hungry, too. I haven't had a good meal since the day I left goddamn Basic."


"Basic training. You know, where they teach you how to be a soldier. We all went to a fancy Hawaiian restaurant right after and I had shrimp. They're about as big as your fist, and tasted like crawdaddies. I was with my whole company, then. They kicked us out on our butts after we broke a table. They called the MP's on us, but we were gone too fast for those assholes."

"Oh, I see. Of course. Let me write that down"

***to be continued***

Monday, November 12, 2007

pretty polish girl part 1

over the next few days, i'll be posting a very old story i wrote in college that's a bit long for just one entry.

reason why this (admittedly) inferior story is being pulled up from obscurity:

this is the story i wrote just before giving up on short stories to write my novel. i felt claustrophobic the whole time, like my pictures were larger than the canvas.

anyway, enough talk. let's read some old crap.

The Pretty Polish Girl

Billy awoke in a chair with his back close to a source of heat. He heard the crackling, and smelled the smoke of a fire. The ash in the air reminded him of cigarettes. He hadn't had a cigarette in weeks. He opened his eyes. He focused. He sat near a doorway, and looked into a barn. Each of the stalls had been refashioned with barbed wire to make cages. Filthy men squatted in the cages. Some of them looked back at Billy.

After a few moments, Billy remembered that the war was over, and that this was not another POW camp. This was a prison in the Polish countryside.

He moved his head around, looking for his bearings. Something cold sat on top of his skull. Underneath the cold throbbing blasts of pain snaked through his bloodstream. He was hung-over. He remembered now. Men had found him sleeping off a bottle of brandy in a ditch. They had dragged Billy’s semi-conscious body to a truck. The truck had taken Billy here. They had tied Billy to a chair before Billy's consciousness lapsed.

Billy heard voices speaking behind him. He couldn't turn and see them because he couldn't bear to move his head around like that. Instead, he let his head hang down and he investigated his body. His body was still there, and still dressed. A bowl of soup, thin and greasy, attracted flies next to Billy's filthy right boot.
Voices called out from a farmhouse far off to Billy's left. The men behind Billy -- they were soldiers, in uniforms, and Billy could see them now with their muddy jackets and bored eyes -- obeyed. They picked up the chair, with Billy still bound into it, and they picked up his bowl of thin soup. They carried him and his soup inside the barn, and away from the fire.

There wasn't vomiting, just dizziness. Billy was feeling horrible, but he had nothing in his stomach to throw up.

The soldiers turned Billy's chair around so he could look out at the fire where the men in gray uniforms tossed cards around like mortal enemies. Past the fire, and next to the barn, a white farmhouse towered over the Polish fields. Three men and two pieces of furniture emerged from the house. One of them was clearly in charge. He was older, and walked like an officer.

That man was Captain Chekhov. Billy didn't know him, yet.

Captain Chekhov disliked leaving the farmhouse, especially when the ground was still wet from the morning’s rains. He was already ordering his attendant, Krupchik, to prepare a wash for the pants and a polish for the boots. Two soldiers walked behind Captain Chekhov, one carrying a small table, and another carrying a chair.

Captain Chekhov stepped inside of the barn, and looked his latest, muddiest prisoner up and down. Captain Chekhov walked around behind Billy's chair. He leaned in close. Much can be learned about a man by the stink that hangs over him like a cloud. Two days' mud smells different from two weeks' mud. Chekhov held back a cough at the stench of the prisoner. He walked back around to the front of the barn, where he could glower down on the young man in the chair.

Captain Chekhov covered his hand in a handkerchief and lifted the young man's chin up. Captain Chekhov winced. He dropped the tottering head and quickly shoved his handkerchief back into his pocket. Captain Chekhov turned to one of his soldiers and said, in Russian, "He looks very much like my son, Sergei. They could nearly be twins. Perhaps one of my secret bastard children joined the American army. I don't recall sleeping with any American women."

The soldiers laughed at this.

Billy did not acknowledge Captain Chekhov’s hands. The cold pack slipped, and landed on the thick clumps of dirt.

Chekhov said to one of his men, in Russian "Krupchik, Put the ice pack back on his head. The poor fool's got a hangover the size of Roosevelt's beard."

The Russian picked up the pack and put it on Billy's skull carefully, and the new grains of mud ran down Billy's filthy neck, merging with the mud of the ages on Billy's skin. The soldier re-tied the cold pack down lightly. Then the Russian soldier turned to Captain Chekhov and said, "Roosevelt is dead, and he had no beard."

Captain Chekhov shrugged, "So? Let us see if this American has a tongue."

Chekhov had been speaking in Russian. He continued momentarily, "What is your name?" Chekhov pulled dogtags from his pocket. They had Billy's name, and rank, and vital information. Chekhov said it again, "What is your name?"

Billy opened his eyes, and gazed at the stranger speaking gibberish in front of him. "I'm sorry, no sprecke German," said Billy, "No Dutch sprecken."

One of the two Russian soldiers sneered. "Shall I hit him?"

Captain Chekhov smiled, and spoke the two German sentences he knew.

The Russian pulled out a knife from his belt and lifted it in the air behind the prisoner, slowly, waiting for the final command in Russian.

Billy didn't notice what was happening behind him. "Listen, I don't know if any of y'all speak English, but I don't speak German. I'm sorry y'all lost the war, but it had absolutely nothing to do with me. Man, doesn't anybody speak English on this God-forsaken continent?"

Captain Chekhov lifted his open hand at his soldier. The soldier dropped his knife. Captain Chekhov said, "Yes, we speak some English here."

Billy smiled at him, sarcastically. "Are you a German? I don't think you're a Pollack. I know y'all ain't Pollacks."

Captain Chekhov shook his head and rolled his fingertips in a steady cadence on the table in patient boredom. "We are the People's Army of the United Soviet Socialist Republics."

"Russian? I spent a year or two with a bunch of Russkies. I only saw a couple pieces of a uniform. Mostly they had on the same shit we did. They didn't speak English. We didn't speak Russian."

Captain Chekhov cocked an eyebrow. "Are there more of you?"

Billy spoke with a pale smile. “Not anymore. What's with all these ropes and shit? Ain't we supposed to be allies?"

Captain Chekhov smiled back, with a wide open face difficult for anyone to trust. He said, "We are allies, which makes you and I friends."

“For the record, I'm a bandit."

Captain Chekhov smirked. "You are an American, yes? Americans are not bandits."
"Well," Billy paused, looked down at his feet, and looked back up into his captor's eyes, "just because I'm an American don't mean I ain't a bandit. I've been stealing chickens and liquor all over."

Captain Chekhov leaned back in his chair. "Do you really believe I am going to execute an American POW over a few chickens and a few bottles of schnapps?" Captain Chekhov shook his finger at Billy. "You are a soldier stranded and alone in a foreign nation. The war has ended, and you have no way of getting home. I can see your whole life before you, friend."

Billy looked down at the mud-stained boots of Captain Chekhov. The uniform was clean, buttoned to the top. The Russian's boots looked as if they were sewn together out of mud. "Nah, I don't think you can," said Billy.

Chekhov smiled and leaned further forward. The two men's eyes met. "I can," he said, "You joined the Army because you wanted to fight for your nation in these troubled times. You have an army air corps uniform. You wanted to fly. You did, too, didn't you? You were a pilot, and an officer. You probably lied about your age and provided many false documents to do so and no one stopped you because of the need. You flew and flew until your plane was shot down. You crashed, were captured, and spent too much time among the camps around here. You have decided to just live it up while you still can. You will walk out of this camp today, and steal more things to drink. You will screw more women, all of whom will pity you, and none of whom love you. When the Americans finally find you, you will be useless to them. They will pin a medal on your chest and you will go back to ditches. Women will fade as your medals tarnish. You’ll die alone and sick in the streets. You are not very original in these troubled times."

Billy smiled again, and for the first time he parted his lips when he smiled. His teeth were nearly pitch black. He said, "Well, that ain't it at all. End’s about right, I guess, but the rest is all wrong."

Chekhov leaned back in his chair and matched Billy's smile with clean nearly white teeth. "If the end is right, what difference does the beginning make?"

Billy snarled, his smile gone. "Everything," he said, "Listen, I can tell y'all my life story, but it wouldn't matter. I'm a bandit, now. Hang me high."

Captain Chekhov motioned to one of the Russian soldiers, named Krupchik, and Krupchik produced a piece of paper from his jacket. Chekhov scribbled furiously on the piece of paper and handed it back to Krupchik. Chekhov leaned back in his chair again, looking up and down the American.

Captain Chekhov twirled the dog tags in his hand. He stood up, and draped the dog tags back around Billy's neck. "I have decided that you are an American soldier," he said, "I will wire my commanding officers right now and tell them all about you. Perhaps they'll wire something back. Since you seem like a danger to yourself, I shall leave you here tied up. Krupchik shall make sure you eat your soup. Krupchik." Captain Chekhov snapped his fingers and pointed at the soup on the ground, with a dead fly now floating and bloated on the greasy surface of the broth.
Krupchik picked the soup up, brushed out the dead fly, and dumped the meager liquid down Billy's throat. A lonely chunk of carrot caught in Billy's throat, but after a moment of gagging it lumped down like a horsepill. Afterwards Billy threw up all over his chest. Krupchik left him there, tied up and covered in flies. Some of the prisoners inside of the stalls yelled out. Billy recognized a smattering of French, and Italian. He also heard some German. He knew vaguely what the Polish and Germans were yelling at him. They said that they wanted his chair for his mother. They said he had shit all over him. Billy didn't bother responding, even in English.
Captain Chekhov gestured at a prisoner inside one of the stalls. Russian soldiers dragged the screaming man into the yard. Chekhov walked behind him, lifting a small pistol from his belt as if it were a pencil from his pocket. As he walked, Chekhov looked up at the sun with a wistful smile. It was a beautiful spring day after a cool rain.

The prisoner had jaundiced skin and muddy hair. He struggled against his captors. He shouted "Hail Hitler! Hail Hitler! Hail! Hail!" Billy noticed the sweat. He had only ever seen German sweat before when the Germans were beating on the prisoners, or the sun was warm and the air was wet. This German was sweating in the cool afternoon air because he was about to die.

Captain Chekvov lowered his pistol against the prisoner's temple.

Billy didn't flinch when he heard the sound of the gunfire. The high keen of the wounded German replaced the fleeing birds. Chekhov fired again. All sound stopped.

***to be continued***