Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Boy With Wings

A One Hundred Word Story

Her sister told her: once she had seen a boy with wings. He didn't live very long. Afterwards, the family moved away. But he could fly. Her sister also told her that because she had swallowed grape seeds, wines would grow out of her eyes. The parents had a hard time keeping the boy out of the trees. He was always flying out the window. The wings weren't white like an angel's but speckled. He gathered twigs, built a nest on his bed. At night, because he was lonely, he flew around his room when everyone else had fallen asleep.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Marriage at Midlife

We start with the water boiling, add salt, enough to fill the well of my hand. Then the pasta--some wine to drink and some for the sauce. Onions, chopped so fine we are moved to tears. And garlic that lingers for days on the fingertips. I crush plum tomatoes, small hearts in my bare hands.

This is the ritual, me and you holding space between us like a child. Fresh herb and spice. Broken bread and sweet butter. Me loving you. Then past nightfall, savoring the aftertaste--the meal consumed. Dishes left in the sink.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Opening Day

Five more weeks until baseball....

An Excerpt from "In Dog Years"

She told her husband later that evening, told him how old she was in dog years. Three hundred and twenty nine. The magic number.

What does that mean? he said. He shook his head. No, no, he said. You can’t translate it like that. You’re talking apples and oranges.

They had a dog who during this conversation was lounging in the window seat. A small brown dog of unknown origins, wily-looking and thin with a curly tail. He was likely to live a good long time.

“A dog doesn’t perceive the difference. Think relativity here,” her husband said. He looked over at the dog as if for confirmation. The dog was nibbling intensely at the inside of his hind leg. He didn’t look up.


"In Dog Years," a short short story, by Jo Van Arkel, first published in Things That Are True: Ten Years Old, volume 1, number 3, 2005.

An Excerpt from "Door to Door"

....The Fuller Brush Man will place his battered suitcase on the table. He will wait for a moment, so that all the girls are in place, each holding her breath. The Fuller Brush Man knows what they want to see, but he makes them wait. He will show them everything else in his many-chambered case. He is the last of the traveling salesmen, the last one who is part magician.

Each girl touches her hair, draws her fingers through the brunette strands, waiting. The oldest has her mother iron her hair. They set up the ironing board, and she sits in a chair, lays back with her hair draped over the board, and the mother flattens her hair with the heated iron. Her head will know revolution by way of her hair. She irons her hair. Someday she will roll it in orange juice cans, wrap it all in tissue paper and sleep with her head propped up on a pillow, but not sleep only balance on the edge of sleep. Later still she will perm her hair. Dye it. Tie it up. Cut it. Grow it long. Wash and wrap it in a towel turban while she paints her toenails.

The others have their own hair history. One has hair that is silky and straight. The other has hair that is thick and curly. One braids hers, the other, the youngest lets her hair hang loose in wild tangles. It grows so long she can sit on it. One day, years later, she will shave her head to comfort herself for her broken heart. At one time or another, the mother has subjected them all to Lilt Home Permanents....


"Door to Door," a short short story by Jo Van Arkel. First published in Big Muddy, A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, Volume 5.1, 2005.

Willful Writing

A few years ago, Aimee Bender, author of the fantastically surreal Girl in the Flammable Skirt (stories), An Invisible Sign of My Own (novel), and the newly released Willful Creatures (stories) visited one of my creative writing classes. She had been to a writers workshop in North Carolina and was returning to L.A. where she lives and she agreed to stop over as part of an ongoing visiting writer's series we have at the university.

In class, she read her story from McSweeneys. It was part of the Twenty Minute Stories issue and featured a main character who was born with snakes for hair ala Medea. Later that night she read her story "Fruit and Words", which at the time had yet to be published but is currently featured in her new collection. She was very personable and genuinely interested in the students and their work. At the end of class, she gave the students one of her favorite writing exercises: Go to a book shelf and take the first red book you see. Turn to a random page (let's say page forty two) and find line twelve on the page. That is the first line of your story.

Try it and see what happens!

Philatelic Musings

I confess I have been to the philatelic window at the Big Post Office more than once.

There is something about the place: how the stamps are displayed inside the glass counter, how the post man pulls out sheets of new stamps for viewing. I've thought more than once about starting a stamp collection. It would be a good excuse to get one of those large magnifying glasses for one thing. Yes, for looking at stamps, but also for grossly exaggerating one side of my face. (Think performance art. Think Picasso.)

But I know I'm not organized enough. I would do better with the shoe box method of collecting which my mother followed. Tear an interesting stamp which happens your way from the corner of an envelop and toss it in a box. It's rare that I get a good stamp through the mail these days though. Mostly, I get bills. And they are all posted by machine. These days, few people select a stamp for its artistry and attach it to an envelop or card as a a tiny intimate gift.

They are small worlds, these stamps. Intricate. Elaborate.

Still Searching....

Man in Space