This story started as some simple background information for vehicle designs in Concept Art. Obviously I got a little carried away.
the estate

25th of August:

Summer days are growing shorter now. Had some luck the past few months. Managed to convince the local farmers returning from the city markets to bring a few papers from the University. Not much to work with. Curse this exile to the coast and this dreary estate. No matter, with Autumn chill fast approaching I fear even this window to the scientific community will soon close.
Sent word again to the Chancellors but to no avail. Even my few allies hold out little hope for my reinstatement. Frustration is so great I think I may be frightening the household staff. Have taken to long walks in the woods surrounding the estate to keep my wits.


11th of September:

Most troubling news. Got word from the city today that the last of the laboratory staff from the accident, a Mr. Farthing, has passed on. I will remember him as a truly capable man, though I doubt his family will remember me as kindly, thanks to the Deluvian Professor and his friends in the Chancellory. If only they had not interfered this all could have been avoided.
Must keep up the spirit. Another chambermaid gone this week, decamped in the middle of the night, in tears the poor thing. Can I really be that unsettling? Mrs. Devereux has made herself clear that such turnover in the staff will not be tolerated. A veiled threat I assumed, but several of the kitchen staff warn me otherwise.
Of a brighter side, I think my frequent constitutionals have done wonders to clear my thoughts. Set out to the cobbler at the cockscrow to acquire a right and proper pair of woodsman’s trompers. Anything would be preferable to these flat city soles. Heard the sounds of rushing water several hours to the North but the way was thick with underbrush and well off the trail. With these new boots hope to investigate, and look smart doing so.

pool in the woods

18th of September:

Quite a discovery to the north. Following a small brook I navigated to its headwaters, a large pool fed in from the hills. What’s more, ruins all around! Quite overgrown and covered in scale, hard to estimate but certainly back to Roman times, or earlier. Have sent the stable boy to the University’s library with some rubbings, my seal, and hope. Certainly my former office still carries enough weight to bring back a few references. If nothing else that old librarian Wenfrow won’t be able to resist those rubbings.
The site is something of a huff and a hike, especially with no beaten path or pack animal. Still, a cursory examination is just not enough. Once the boy returns I shall pack a few nights worth and make an expedition of it. Noticed plentiful greens about the pool, the cook thinks them watercress, and a perhaps a few fish besides. Should be adequate. Quite excited.
Two more missives to the Chancellors but still no reply. Blind fools the lot of them. And to each in kind I say!

26th of September:

Set out before the dawn and made straight for the site, but hit bad weather not an hour past the edge of the forest. Downpour and dour spirits, but pressed on. Slow going in the mud. Just made camp, but exhausted and losing light rapidly. Too wet even for a proper fire. Nothing but to rest now and wait for the morning.

glowing fish


Awoke thinking it morning, but stepping from the lean-to and the pool is aglow! So bright I sit by its light and write these words without lantern or candle. Fish are the cause of it. Small diaphanous things, their organs glow right through their flesh as they flit about. Quite a sight. No doubt my pagan friends thought the same, so much so to build these monoliths all about.

fish dissection


1st of October:

Four days at the site. Wanted to stay longer but supplies began to run low and the nights are turning colder much sooner this season. Have rubbings of most of the carvings, and even managed to translate a few thanks to Wenfrow’s tomes. Worth the sweat effort to get them out here I confess. Mostly about forest spirits and the like. Also some interesting mechanical figures, that’s more in my bailiwick. A few slides and stains prepared from a fish, crudely dissected. Will get a better look at them under the scope once I’ve returned.
I suppose there will be a letter waiting for me from the Chancellory by now.

5th of October:

Stopped at the lab just long enough to resupply. Mrs. Devereux was quite shocked to see me, but seemed just as happy to set me on my way again. Even had the kitchen make me up some meat pies. Shall have a scope now, and the right stains and solvents to prep slides. Also a potpourri of new books from the city. Oh, and a jar. Mussent forget the jar to take back a specimen. The stable boy’s already laid claim to any exemplar I bring back. He has in mind to name it Gustav.
Mrs. Devereux informs me that no letter has arrived from the city, but a messenger sent word that the Deluvian Professor and the Antitherian Professor will be traveling to the estate in three days time to discuss the matter in person. I’ve left instructions to give them tea and curt looks and little else.
Rain continues but I shan’t be unprepared this time.

6th of October:

The hills abound with mudslides and progress to the site has slowed to a crawl. Have pitched camp less than half the distance to my goal and will make another go of it tomorrow. I feel as the target of some angry god. The trail, or what was made of it, seems all but lost now under the damage.

8th of October:

Disaster! Finally reached the site as the sun fell behind the western hill line to find the angry deity besetting my Odyssian hike. The rains have overwhelmed the burn of earth holding back the pool. Let loose, the torrent likely caused the mudslides that blocked my path. What cruel fate that it should last these thousand years only to be cut down so soon after I had found it. This was my earnest thought, but as I survey the damage I can see it is my careless clearing of the trail that has laid the seeds of this destruction. Monoliths are toppled and mostly buried. The pool a shadow of its former self.
I doubt spirits could be lower, even if I had stayed behind to meet the Chancellory’s sower vanguard. I long for a walk in the woods, but felled trees grow my ire like mushrooms on their rotten bark, and I see them all around me. Nothing now but to sleep.

10th of October:

Three restless nights collecting what I could. Tried to right a number of the stones but their girth is impressive. By what stroke of luck I dare not say, the mechanical notations on the western monolith have landed face up. One of the few. A flywheel design is described, though for what purpose I cannot say. Its mechanics are stirring.
Also made a go at shoring up a bern at the pool’s windward side, but without tools or shovels I fear my meager patch will never hold out the season. With the water so low, I fear too that winter’s chill could reach to the depths of the pool where it had not in the past. A lake frozen over insulates its residents in the liquid depths, but a puddle frozen through makes only stagnant pools come the thaw. I have scoured the ichthyological references brought along, but I see no mention of this species, marvelous and perhaps now doomed. I have collected as many as I dare carry and will set back for the estate at daybreak.



13th of October:

Stumbled in to the main house quite breathless well after the witching hour. Apparently gave the night butler quite a start as he fainted clean away and now rests in the drawing room under smelling salts and the scullery maid’s bitter root tea. Violent rains the final night at the site cleared my makeshift earthen dam. The pool is gone, and its ephemeral inhabitants with it. May God forgive me for what I have caused. The dozen or so specimens collected did not fair the journey well, three being the soul survivors. I awoke late this morning to learn only one has made it the night. Gustav it shall be.

cookies and a letter

In all of the excitement my grim callers were all but forgotten, but this morning Mrs. Devereux relates the episode. Snubbed by my absence the Deluvian Professor made quite the nuisance of himself, seeing fit to castigate every member of the staff until Mrs. Devereux herself beat him down the front path and back to his carriage with a broom, where he sulked for some time. As she recounted it her ladies in waiting could hardly contain their simpering smiles. I regret having missed it though I suppose had I been there things would have gone quite differently.
Indeed, though the Antitherian Professor was in a similar mood his manner was apparently more swiftly mollified by the kitchen’s sweet biscuits, of which I’m told he partook with a rapacious character. Having sampled the recipe myself I wonder if it was their flavor that swayed his conscience, or rather the threat of Mrs. Devereux’s broom. More surprising, with him was another gentleman who I take instantly from the butler’s description to be old Wenfrow, who was most excited to speak on matters of the rubbings. Perhaps I still have friends in that camp. They leave behind them a letter with the Chancellor’s seal. The day’s events casting about my conciseness I have set it aside for the present.

15th of October:

I have sent the stable boy, who has been most especially dutiful after I presented him with Gustav, to the city with the remainder of my rubbings for Wenfrow’s review. With him I have sent another long list of documents to acquire as I begin to study the mechanics of the flywheel design. Its form is quite ingenious, and though the pagans seemed interested in little more than its novelty I believe with the proper modern materials it could make a superlative clockwork mechanism.
And yes, the letter remains as it has. I am sure I will come to it just as soon as this matter of the device is more thoroughly settled.

stable boy

11th of November:

After several weeks work on the device I still find myself somewhat thunderstruck. Calculations make little sense and a working model still eludes me. Though I know there is something here. Is it simply my guilt at the price this knowledge cost me? Cost the world?
My brooding is again affecting the staff, and perhaps thinking the letter was its cause Mrs. Devereux took the missive from my desk and forced me to hear it read aloud. I don’t know what made me laugh louder: to hear the Chancellor’s words in her Scottish brogue, or to hear them intone such obsequious offers of grants and assistants to study the ruins, of all cursed things on God’s dower little sphere. I fear my cackling may have verged the preternatural, as Mrs. Devereux is now weary to be left alone in my presence. The vicious demons those dusty old professors bring forth from my soul are but the final blow in this whole affaire. A few short months ago I would have leaped for such a scrap, today I turn my nose up, and far worse. To blazes with them all.

23rd of November:

Little progress is forthcoming on the model, though I think of little else. The staff and I are at a bit of a standoff, and I have barricaded myself in the laboratory as not even my constitutionals ameliorate the stress. Deverex has threatened to force the door and shower me with buckets like the stablemen do with the horses. Or at least this was the gist of her shouts.
My only visitor is the stable boy, they call him Ansel, and of course little Gustav, who against all odds is thriving.

cat with frog

2nd of December:

A breakthrough! And well too near the precipice for my comfort. This dawn as I stirred about the front of the estate the yellow tabby, one of the stable cats, appeared from the hedge and placed before me the limp rag of a captured frog. A gift perhaps? As swiftly as I stopped to examine the item the cat darted away. Holding the poor thing limply I had a mind to dispose of it towards the wood, but as I lifted it the extent of the damage became apparent. The cat had been most gruesome with its surgery and as the thing’s body rose, the entrails did not follow. Most ghastly of all, among them could be seen the creature’s heart, the organ still pumping away the creatures vitality, if only for moments.
I rarely count myself among the squeamish, but on this occasion I made an exception. However as I turned away, the sight of that beating organ struck something in my mind. I had assumed the device a flywheel like those I had studied before, but nothing could be further from the case. Spun in one direction the wheel quickly destabilizes and fails, but set back and forth at a steady beat!
In a scarce 16 hours today I have constructed five prototypes, the last three more than functioning. It is all I can do to record these thoughts before I rest. Finally rest.

fly wheel tests

10th of December:

A week of the most marvelous progress. A visit to the local blacksmith and I’ve returned with a number of alloys to try out on the device, and what’s more, the promise of time at the smithy’s furnace as soon as the morrow. Have already made models from nearly anything I could get my hands on here at the estate. Wood from the pile, an iron shovel head from the stables, Kitchen staff was kind enough to donate one of the chipped china pieces. Have found that, quite against odds, the wheel seems to function better the smaller I can make it. Thanks to the oscillations the system is self sustaining as long as not disturbed. Accepting of course minor losses to entropy, I predict that a properly balanced and lubricated model could spin for days on end at no apparent reduction in power.
One model already drives a small fan at the corner of my laboratory. Too cold for it really, but I’ve kept it running for the novelty. Also rigged up a small clockwork mouse for Ansel and the other lads to drive at the stable cats. Have heard their shouts all day. Recall reading of a motorized carriage in some work from the continent. I believe a denser wheel could supply sufficient torque. Shall take it up with the smithy when I see him.
Another missive from the city two days past. Yet to read it.

fly wheel clockwork mouse

fly wheel gears

18th of December:

Much headway made on the subject of the carriage. The wheel is forged just this morning, and with it gears, traps, rods, and the like. They rest in the smithy’s annealing furnace for a fortnight. A model in wood sits upon my workbench and though a bit unpredictable when destabilized I believe it sound. The wood’s density is far from uniform.
Ansel and the lads have proven lose of lip with the clockwork mouse. My journey into town this morning was waylayed not twice but thrice by those looking for oscillators to drive every manner of thing. Some of the docksmen were most intrigued by the mouse, and I have agreed to look in to mechanical bate for their lobster traps as soon as work on the carriage permits an idle moment.

fly wheel bait

Scottish Sour

23th of January:

Tested the carriage today, or rather attempted to do so. Vibrations became violent before the wheel reached half the intended velocity. The device is undamaged, though the carriage wood creaked and cracked most concerningly. I fear my pride suffered far worse, and with it a number of window pains in the carriage house. Mrs. Devereux has instructed the kitchen to deny my supper, to what I believe to be their great relief as I fathom not one would venture down to my room, even on threat of termination. I have, in fair turnabout as I see it, instructed Ansel to fetch for me a mouse or frog or other small denizen of the grounds to be cohabited in Devereux’s living quarters. Thankfully, I suppose, the winter’s chill shall make the errand all but impossible, as my ire has near fully subsided and Ansel is
yet to return.

flywheel carriage

Concerning the boy, I have these past few months found him to be quite indispensable. Though unschooled, his mind is a pliant one, and he quickly grasps the odd topics I have raised. I have begun to set aside an hour most evenings to converse with the boy, and have begun to instruct him on his letters and basic calculations. His progress has been remarkable.
And of course so too thrives little Gustav. Overgrowing the sample jar I have procured from the kitchen’s storage the large crystal punch bowl to serve as his domicile. Chef protested, but soirees are few and far between here at the residence. The bowl proved a simple trade at the mention of my uncle’s bottle of Scottish Sour. Ansel has taken to appointing the dish with various water flora and silts to see to Gustav’s comfort.
Another letter from the city, this one delivered by courier. It sits with its sibling unopened.

11th of February:

Have devised a system of coil springs to isolate the oscillator’s vibrations from the carriage, and hope to make another attempt to bring the device to full rotation in the coming days. The effect on the model is subtle, but I feel that it shall prove workable. I have also procured a new alloy from the smithy with a considerable density. In Ansel’s toy it can run the wheel for what seems like weeks on end.
Mrs. Devereux again discovered correspondence from the University, and took her usual actions at reading them. The Chancellor has become quite insistent but I am unwavering. My work is here now, and with a recent sale of clockwork baits and decoys to some of the townsmen I have satisfactory resources to continue in earnest.

28th of February:

Most tragic news. What a fool I have been. Attempted a new test of the carriage oscillator again today, but words cannot describe the disaster that has resulted.
Worked? I can but laugh. Of course it worked. And glorious it was as well, just as I had seen it so many nights in my dreams. A steady state, that was the key. As it has been with every aspect of this damnable contrivance. As before the vibrations grew violent, but my coil springs performed their part flawlessly, holding the entire device until a sufficient speed could be achieved. Then, like a tempest’s calm, as the revolutions reached their zenith a quiet came over the carriage. Over the carriage house for that matter, and all of us in attendance. A transcendent moment of clarity.
But as a frequent student of weather I should rightly have known, a tempest’s calm is but a brief reprieve. I have envisioned the events in my mind’s eye countless times since the morning, but I still cannot fathom the cause of it. Other than, that is to say, the violent cracking and splintering of wood that was its vanguard. Loosed from its moorings the oscillator’s great wheel struck the cobbles of the carriage house most violently, and then it had but to spend its pent up inertia on whatever poor soul was within its reach. The stable master and his assistant are cleaved in twain even now before my eyes each time they close. Behind them three columns of the structure are splintered to bits, and then horrifying sounds as one of the quarter horses is beset. Struck so swiftly it remained standing to receive a second blow on the things return.
By what providence I know not, and fear to speculate, I dashed beyond the wheel’s reach mere moments before it passed me to play out its rapacious energies on the front gardens. Though not before it struck the final pillars of the carriage house, brining much of the masonry down upon my worthless head. My injuries were not grave, but my poor Ansel has payed that price in my stead. The remaining horses driven to a froth, broke free from their stables, one striking the boy’s temple with its hoof for good measure. I have brought the boy to the library and Mrs. Devereux stays by his side as the physician does as he can. The man’s face is most doleful.
Even Gustav has not escaped the miasma of misfortune that surrounds me. As if I had not visited upon him more sorrow and destruction than is deserved by any creature in such a short lifetime. His crystal bowl smashed I found him gasping in the rubble of the carriage house. He floats now in his specimen jar, but is too weak to swim. His diaphanous body crossed with haggard red lesions.


Ansel drew his final breaths moments ago. The doctor will take him in the morning. My words fail me. But to say this: To declare with what hubris, what foolish pride I drove towards this with what I see now was a full knowledge of what might happen. And now it’s not I that has wagered a pound of flesh, but those about me. And I am left to sit and suffer unscathed. Perhaps that is the crueler torment.
I can but sit here in my darkened laboratory and pen these words by Gustav’s fading light. I fear that he too will pay my toll to the ferryman before the night is through. I will watch over him as Ansel did. I owe him that much. Owe them both.


A fitful sleep at my workbench vigil has struck me with a monstrous idea. But if I dare to try it I must be swift. Gustav’s light fades. In my dream I have seen the workings of the clockwork bate I designed for the docksmen. Even now they sit all about me in stages of construction, and at the center of each a compartment for bait bits, and the wheel, beating away like a heart. Like the tiny heart that now grows slower and colder within Gustav’s chest.
The principles are the same. Nearly identical. And with the smithy’s alloy it could run for, for longer than I can surmise. But dare I take this any further? If only there were time to think.


The deed is done. I worked through the night with thread and leather and sinew. I can no longer consider what I’ve done. I function now on grief and instinct, and little else. Gustav, if he can still be called it, rests now in his specimen jar, encased in the carapace of my handiwork. If you are to be my judge then know my conscience: what further harm could I have done?

15th of March:

Another letter today from the University. Perhaps my warning on these Ides of March. I have not read it, but I know its content. Know enough of that lot to know that when word reaches them of what has transpired their encomium will dry up like so much spilled milk in the sun.
The constable has taken an inquest to my actions, and I suspect the University will best be forwarding my future correspondence to Stockmore, if not the gallows. It’s more than I deserve. If nothing else, it should keep the Deluvian Professor from calling on me.
If there is but one brightness from this sordid affaire, it shines from little Gustav, who seems to thrive in his new suit of clothes. By my reckoning he can expect to outlive us all.

Gustav in his new clothes

ex :: Glimpse

Writing Exercise: (one page) Write a scene of a story from a glimpse you have had of a group of people—in a café, zoo, train or anywhere. Sketch the characters in their setting and let them interact. Do you find that you know too little? Can you make up enough—or import from other experiences—too fill the empty canvas?

        The team filed into the hospital lobby to the concerned looks of people waiting in the atrium chairs. Coach Brenum’s warnings from the bus ride over still ringing in their ears the boys kept their usual banter to a dull roar, but they were boys after all and young and riled up and so it was inevitable when their chatter began to grow again, prompting the receptionist to cast dirty looks at the group over the telephone clasped between her neck and shoulder.
        The small waiting area had only a hand full of chairs, too few for the team even under the present circumstances, and not helped by the fact that several people were already scattered about the lobby. Robby, Sam, and some of the other younger boys had already stacked out a set of chairs in the far corner by the window and were now already well into flipping through the month old magazines, snickering at the expressions on peoples faces in the advertisements and acting out exaggerated pantomimes of rapturously enjoying paper towels or fat-free salad dressing.
        “Boys,” Robby’s mother snapped at them from across the room in a forced whisper, “show some decorum, this is a Hospital.”
        From the boys looks it was clear they had no idea what ‘decorum’ was, but Mrs. Simon’s tone left little to the imagination and the small group renewed their social commentary in the form of empathic silent pointing, stifled snickers, and screwed up faces.
        Candice said she would call down from the ER when they had more about Luther’s condition,“ said Mrs. Simon, turning to Coach Brenum and two other mothers who had just walked in from the parking lot, ”But did you see these signs.“ She motioned to a large printed sign near the entrance that read ”Please Turn Off All Cellular Devices Within the Hospital, Thank You.“ ”I don’t know if they’ll even let her call. And if she does I sure as hell can’t answer. Do you think one of use should wait outside?“
        At her suggestion the other mothers began to look contemplatively at their shoes, no doubt running the hundred degree temperatures outside through their minds. Coach Brenum looked cooly down at his watch, as if not listening to Mrs. Simon’s question, and then spoke abruptly.
        ”Candice knows the drill, they can send a page down to the receptionist when things are ready.“ His tone was one of someone who had obviously spent more than one Sunday afternoon in a hospital lobby, and it was a bit comforting to the other mothers, though it didn’t seem to have much effect on Mrs. Simon.
        ”I don’t see why you’re so cool about this. That medic said that gash on Luther’s head might need surgery.“
        ”Sutures, Melony. Sutures aren’t surgery, its just another name for stitches.“ Coach replied, still looking at his watch. ”Its just a superficial wound. He’s bleeding so they’ll see him pretty quickly, have ‘em sewn up in about 20 minutes and then we’ll be out of here with a bottle of antibiotics and a bunch of rowdy soccer players all wanting to hear what it was like in the ER. It’s the quietest you’ll ever hear them.“
        Mrs. Simon wanted to argue the point further—to go on about how she hoped he had insurance for the team and how traumatic the ER had been for Robby when he was 4—but the coach’s steady tone made her think twice. She sat back in her chair and turned towards the boys who had moved from the magazines to critiquing the paintings of rural doctors offices and country landscapes.


        Sara never believed in fate. The whole idea of it seemed sort of lazy to her. Like it didn’t matter what kind of effort you put into your life because everything was just going to turn out, or not, no matter what you do. Her mother could not disagree more, which was probably the second reason why Sara found the topic of fate so distasteful. When she was just 4 years old, Sara and her mother were running errands in downtown Hanover when they were in a terrible car accident. While driving past the park a man dashed out of a cluster of high hedges near the road, and her mother ran the station-wagon head long into the brick edifice of an old dry-cleaner. Truthfully Sara remembered very little about the incident other than the chinese owner of the dry-cleaning shop cutting away her seat-belt with a pair of pinking shears, and his wife hugging her and saying things in chinese, obviously distressed that Sara wouldn’t stop crying. Thankfully neither Sara nor her mother were hurt other than a few bumps and bruises, but it was soon after that her mother began talking about fate.
        At first it was little things. Sara’s mother would lose her car keys and then find find them in a drawer sitting on top the bank statement she had been looking everywhere for. Or the motor in the refrigerator would break down, spoiling all the food inside, and on the trip to the mini-mart to pick up a small carton of milk to last through the next morning Sara and her mother would happen to see a rainbow, or an owl, or a salamander.
        ”Pay attention,” Sara’s mother would say, “the Fates are putting on a show for you.” She talked about fate like this often. She got the idea from a book they often read together at night about the Gods of Ancient Greece. On page 13, just after the picture of Apollo driving a chariot pulling the sun, but before the picture of the 9 muses where Calliope looks like a witch, there’s a picture of the three Fates, sisters who decided what your life would be like before you even started living it.
        The whole idea that three little old women were orchestrating her life never sat right with Sara. Sometimes Sara and her mother would go to visit a strange old woman and her fiends at the big park near her school.

After all, as far as she could tell Sara had never met these people, never talked to them or given any hint as to what she was supposed to be doing. But then again, Sara never gave much thought to what she was supposed to be doing.
        Sara mulled these ideas over from time to time when her mother would point out another coincidence, but never gave them much thought until she started school.

The Captain was Stymied

        The Captain was stymied. Bloodthirsty cut-throats were one thing, but the bitter teasing of Ms. Walling’s 2nd grade class was more than he could take.
        ”Class, please, is that any way to treat a new friend!” Ms. Walling snapped at the children, standing from behind her desk to rap her knuckles against the chalkboard over her students stifled laughter. “Now William, your doing just fine, please continue.”
        The Captain nervously adjusted himself in the tiny seat he had been given. Though he wasn’t a large may by any respect, the chairs, desk, pencil sharpener, even the door knobs in the entire building were obviously built with someone of a much smaller stature in mind. He swallowed hard and, wiping the sweat from his brow, he cleared his throat and began again reading from his essay.
        It had been a long time since the Captain had written something. Sure there was the occasional letter to be passed along when the ship reached port, and of course the daily entries in the ship’s log, but compared to the writing he had done in school as a boy it hardly seemed like writing at all, at least at first. Ms. Walling had asked for everyone to write a three page story about something they had done on vacation. While most of the other students described trips they took with their parents to some place called the Grand Canyon, apparently quite different from the Grand Cayman’s from the sound of it, or to a strange country in the West ruled by a Mouse, the Captain decided to write of the three weeks he spent marooned on Easter Island. He described how the 5 new crewman he had picked up in Gibraltar had locked his senior men in the hold, and insight them men to mutiny. And how they dropped the Captain along with his mates on the Island to die in the sun.
        His story seemed to be going over well until he mentioned the giant stone heads sprouting about the island like huge plants. Despite his instances to the contrary, Susan Jerkins rejected the whole idea of giant heads outright, and her resolve seemed to spread through the ranks with astonishing speed. Questions quickly precipitated into jeering rhymes from a group of boys in the back corner next to the globe. It was all very strange after all. How was an island full of giant stone heads any less believable than an Kingdom of Magic with giant spinning tea cups.
        When the Captain finished, Ms. Walling lead everyone in a short round of clapping, and then she called the next student’s name, Tommy Larch, to read his essay aloud to the class. As Tommy spoke, Summer, the little black haired girl with the the desk next to the Captain’s tugged on his sleeve. As the Captain looked down, she handed him a drawing in crayon of a small green island with big red heads like tomatoes lining its edge, and a small bearded figure with a red scarf and a captain’s hat standing besides them.
        ”That’s you,” whispered Summer as she pointed at the page, “Did the heads look look that? Red like the Grand Canyon?”
        The Captain smiled. “Aye, tis a fine render’n of the ol’ Captain lassie. A, no, the great heads were tall and thin, like, like an egg plant. And as grey and cold as weather worn wood of a ships hull.”
        Summer passed the Captain a sheet of her paper and a package of crayons.

Bathing Fish

Susie – Age 8
        Jeremy says the fish in my classroom are dirty. He say they swim around in the same water all the time, so they can never get clean. I told this to Ms. Greenly, but she said that’s what the filter is for. That’s the noisy thing that is sitting on the back of the tank. She says that the filter cleans the water, so its like the fish are always taking a bath, and so they’re always clean every day.
        I wish there was a filter like that in my bedroom. Then it would filter the air, and I would always be taking an air bath and I would never have to take one in the bath tub again. But I bet it would be kind of loud. The filter I mean. The one on the fish tank makes noise all the time. I wonder if it makes it hard for the fish to sleep. I never see them sleep, not once. Even though one time I was there really late at night. There was an open house and mom and me and Jeremy went when it was dark out. Mr. Greenly hanged up all our art projects and the picture of the two horses I drew and the one that Tammy drew that was a copy of mine. They had cookies and stinky coffee in the gym, but I don’t like that stuff. Daddy says its a grownup drink. Grownups like gross things. I went down to the classroom and looked at the fish, but they weren’t asleep at all, they didn’t even look tired. They just swimmed around like always. The filter must be keeping them up at night. But then how come they don’t get sleepy and swim really slow stuff? Maybe they just have a really late bedtime like Stephanie. She said sometimes her mom lets her stay up and watch TV until its really late, but she said that the TV at night is bad and people use swears all the time. Sometimes Stephanie uses swears too and she gets into big trouble. I hope that’s not what the fish are doing.
        The fish must be really clean if they stay in the bath all the time. When I stay in the bath for a really really long time, my fingers and toes get wrinkly, but the fish don’t because they don’t have fingers and toes, just fins.


        Spots was born on October 11th in the middle of the night. No one quite remembers her mother coming into the hospital that night. After all it was quite some time ago. Most of the doctors were medical students and have since left the hospital for others, and the nurses all say they see too many pregnant mothers to remember just one so long ago. In any case, though few can recall her mother, everyone remembers Spots. One can scarcely forget a child like that one.
        Spots wasn’t her real name of course. Her mother named her Molly, she said after a ship she had once seen in the harbor in New York. One of the nurses there at the time, Nurse Franklin, was something of an artist and wrote the name out in beautiful block letters with an old style calligraphy pen on the birth papers. It was Molly on her papers, and her charts, and a small card on her bassinet that was printed up by the hospital, and even on a tiny plastic bracelet they gave her. But to all of the staff, at least when not in her mothers presence, she was Spots, and for obvious reasons.
        They started on the top of each foot, no larger than the dot at the base of a question mark, but as they moved up, they got bigger. The larger ones were nearly the size of Molly’s thumb nail, which being only hours old was admittedly small, but certainly larger than your average freckle or beauty mark. Each a sort of creamy coffee color. On her right foot there were only two, but the left had three in a sort of oblong triangle. One of the doctors called it isosceles but he was always saying things like that. Such a technical term didn’t seem fitting.
        Once several of the nurses tried to match up the pattern. One though it looked like a cat, but the others all agreed it was far to disorganized. Another mentioned a dappled horse she had seen as a child, while still others found better models in nautilus shells or strange asian goats with funny sounding names, but none of the pictures ever seemed to fit quite right. As the spots grew up her legs and across her back and arms, each larger spot took on a character of its own, some more of a ring shape with a light patch in the center, others like drops of paint that had been spinning when they struck a surface. As if some fish swimming in coffee had skipped up the placid river of her skin, leaving dappled rippling patterns as it dove into the surface at acrobatic angles.
        When the nurses gave Molly a bath, or took her weight, the name seemed to placate her, and it quickly spread through the ranks until even the doctors were using it. Finally, one of the new nurses, unaware of the unspoken rules, used the name in her mothers room while changing Molly’s diaper. She could tell from the shock on the faces of the doctor and other nurses in the room she had made a serious mistake, and began to cry. Molly’s mother just chuckled. “Oh Nurse West, you gave away my secret pet name for Molly to all your friends.” She gave the nurse a quick wink, and the whole room burst out in the giggles they had been holding in for days. From then on, even to her mother Molly was Spots. On the day Molly and her mother left the hospital, one of the nurses brought in the department camera to take their picture for the big wall in the corridor where they put each new baby’s photo. So many doctors, nurses, and staff wanted in the picture that the nurses had to take thirty in all. So many that Spots got her own section on the wall.

Fake Mustache

        ”That one.”
        ”Don’t look! He’s three rows up. The one with the news paper.”
        Mary craned her neck to get a better view.
        ”See,” said Judith, “look when he takes a sip of his coffee.”
        ”You’re seeing things. Why would he be wearing a fake mustache?”
        ”That’s what makes it so strange, what could he be up to?”
        ”Maybe he’s an actor,” Mary smiled and began to giggle, “or an actress.”
        ”No no, look at his hands. Definitely a man.”
        ”It looks normal to me, how do you know it’s fake?”
        ”Just look at it, the color is all wrong.” Judith ducked down and began digging through her backpack, emerging a moment later with her cell phone.
        ”What, are you going to call the cops?”
        ”No, a picture.” Judith seritpiciouslly held the phone just above the rim of the row of seats in front of her, peaking out just enough for the small lens of the camera to peer over the seat-back. CLICK

Mammoth Traffic Jam

        Eliza slowly leaned forward onto her knees and peaked over the door handle out the window of the car. Just as her eyes got high enough to see the pavement below the car, she saw a streak of brown hair zip out of sight, moving very quickly past the car. She pressed her face against the glass, trying to see where the shape went, but could only catch glimpses of it as it darted and weaved through the lines of cars that backed up as far as she could see.
        ”There it went honey, did you see it?” Eliza’s mother asked.
        ”I saw it mommy, I saw it. But it was too fast.”
        Soon several men in blue city uniforms came running from the same direction the brown form had come from. As they came closer, Eliza’s mother motioned to them the path the thing had taken. As they passed, Eliza waved, but the men were too focused on their work to notice.
        ”Will they hurt him mommy?”
        ”No honey, they just need to get him back onto the truck so he doesn’t get hit by a car or something. It’s very dangerous for him to be running out on the roads like this.”
        Eliza sat back and looked through the windshield at the large truck the men had come from. It was very large, like the trucks that brought food to the grocery store, but instead of being white with a picture of a cow or some cereal on the side, this truck was metal colored, and had lots of little holes in rows along each side. The front driving part of the truck was laying on its side, and lots of white steam was coming out from under the hood, but the back part of the truck, the metal part with all of the holes, was still standing up, because it was stuck under the low bridge. There was a large door on the back of the truck which was bent open like a soup can, and Eliza could see some large piles of hay inside.
        After a long silence, Eliza tugged at her mother’s arm. “What’s his name?”
        ”Who’s name honey?”
        ”The mothman, what’s his name?”
        Eliza’s mother chuckled. “It’s a mammoth honey. A wooly mammoth. I don’t think he has a name.”
        Eliza considered this for a moment. “No name? How does he know when they are talking to him?”
        ”Maybe they just call him ‘mammoth’, or ‘wooly’.”
        ”But if he doesn’t have a name, and they are running after him and want to make him come, then he won’t know they are calling him, and he’ll never come back.”
        ”That’s a good point. Maybe you should give him a name.”
        Eliza leaned forward again and took a long look back at the men in blue suits moving in between the cars. It looked as if they had lost sight of the little mammoth and were now each going in a different direction, looking here and there behind and under cars and around the signs and tall bushes along the roadside.

The Trained Duck Store

        Sandy took several paper napkins and her ice cream cone from the counter and went to sit by the window while Michael, Dani, and Simon made their orders. “Hey guys look, someone is moving into the old arcade.” Sandy called out.
        ”Is it another arcade?” Asked Michael. “I hope they have Ridge Racer. When I went to Texas last year they had Ridge Racer in the hotel game room, and it had seats and a steering wheel and petals and everything.”
        ”I don’t think its an arcade. The sign in the window says ‘Norlen and Associates’.”
        Dani rolled her eyes as she pointed to the container of mint choclate-chip through the display case to the woman behind the counter. “That’s the real-estate agent’s name dummy.”
        Simon and Michael picked up their orders and joined Sandy at the window to take a look. Simon pressed his face against the glass, bending his glasses and squashing his nose into a funny shape. “Nope!” Simon said with authority. “It says Morlen and Associates, and it has something else underneath. ‘Trained Ducks for Sale or Rent’.”
        ”Trained Ducks?” Asked Michael. “That doesn’t sound like any arcade I’ve ever heard of. I was really looking forward to a new arcade.”
        ”That doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever heard of.” Said Sandy as she ate her ice cream.
        ”Let me see.” Dani placed her ice cream on the table next to Sandy and walked over to the entrance to the ice cream parlor. She opened the door slightly and slowly leaned her head out, careful to balance against the door handle. She made a show of how far she could lean out the door, and then she read the sign out aloud. It was just as Simon had said. “It’s probably just a pet shop or something. They put that stuff on the sign so you’ll come in and then they tell you it’s just a joke, and try and sell you some old hamster or something.”
        Sandy became very excited. “Wow, a pet shop! Let’s go look at the animals.”
        Dani protested. “I’m allergic to animals. They make me all itchy.”
        Michael began to laugh. “That’s just because you don’t take baths.”
        ”I do to! It’s the dandruff.”
        ”I think you mean dander.” Corrected Simon. “Animal dander causes allergic reactions.”
        ”Whatever it’s called it makes me sneeze whenever I’m around animals.” Dani turned up her nose and continued eating her ice cream.
        ”Do ducks have dandruff? Birds don’t have any hair.” Said Michael.
        ”Well I don’t care what they are. I’m not going in there. Besides, I have to finish my ice cream.”
        Simon sat back in his seat and took another bite of his ice cream. “I don’t think you need to worry Dani, it doesn’t look like it’s open yet. It’s still dark inside.” Simon took several more bites of his cone, and then wrapped the remainder in a napkin and placed it in the nearby trash can.
        Sandy also finished her cone and placed it in the trash. Michael had eaten the ice cream from the top of his cone, and then bit off the cone’s point, and was now making a slurping sound sucking the melted ice cream from the bottom of the cone. Dani gave Michael a dirty look before taking another dainty bite of her cone, conspicuously dabbing the corners of her mouth with her napkin.
        ”Well I’m go’nna go have a look.” Said Sandy. “You can all sit tight, I’ll be right back.”
        Michael and Simon looked at eachother and then spoke in unison. “Hey, wait for us.” Sandy spun out of her feet and bolted through the door. Simon quickly followed, and Michael took several final slurps of his cone before tossing it into the trash and following his two friends.
        ”Humph!” Snorted Dani.
        Sandy ran up to the window of the closed shop and examined the sign as Michael and Simon cupped their hands to the windows to see into the darkened building. The glass door was completely covered by the sing and the two large windows were obscured with thick brown paper, but the smaller window at the end of the building was unobstructed.
        ”What do you see?” Asked Sandy.
        Michael leaned into the window, placing both arm against the glass in an effort to shade his eyes. “I can’t see anything, just a bunch of boxes and a lot of dust.”
        ”Look there, in the far corner.” Said Simon.
        Sandy hurried down the sidewalk towards the two boys. “What is it?” She asked.
        ”Eggs.” Said Simon.
        ”Where, I don’t see them.” Said Sandy.
        ”They’re right there.” Simon motioned with his finger against the glass. “They’re stacked inside that big glass machine in the corner. The blue things.”
        Michael stepped away from the window and gave Simon a puzzled look. “Eggs are supposed to be white.”
        ”Not all eggs. Robins have blue eggs. And some chickens have brown ones. You can even buy them at the store.”
        ”What about duck eggs?” Asked Sandy.
        ”I don’t know. I guess they’re blue.”
        Michael looked back into the darkened storefront. “Maybe they’ve been painted, you know, like on easter.”
        Sandy started to giggle.
        ”What? I don’t hear any better ideas. Maybe it’s part of the training process.”
        As they talked, Dani came out of the ice cream shop. She looked around until she spotted the trio kneeling at the end of the sidewalk peering in the window of the new shop. She called out. “Hey guys, I’m all done. Let’s go all ready. Are we going to the movies or not?”
        Sandy stepped back from the window and examined the ring of condensation where he nose had been pressed against the glass. “Her highness is calling.”
        Michael stepped back from the window and snapped to attention. “My leigh! Fear not, the enchanted house of moving pictures awaits.” Michael cut the air with an imaginary rapier. “Come comrades, lest you incur the ire of her majesty.”
        Dani wrinkled her nose and gave Michael a dirty look.
        Michael galloped towards Dani and Sandy and Simon soon followed.

Front Shirt Pocket

        Sam climbed up into the seat in the row of connected chairs next to his mother. The chairs were made of wide tubes of shiny metal all stuck together in a row, and each with two pieces of stiff leathery stuff string between them. One for the seat and one for the back part. The seats were very low to the ground, so Sam had little trouble climbing in, but they were also quite slick, and when he tried to lean over against the arm rest, his new dress pants would slide his lower body out from under him. He tried the right arm rest, and then the left, digging his free hand into the shallow groves pressed into the material, but it was no use.
        ”Honey, try and sit still. The plane will be landing any minute now.”
        ”Mommy, I can’t. These dressed pants are too slippy. I wana wear my other clothes.”
        ”Slippy?” Sam’s mother smiled and began rummaging through her bag. “You look very dressed up in these clothes. Very hansom.” She brought a folding hairbrush out from her bag and began to fix Sam’s hair which had been mussed by sliding against the seats.
        Sam held onto the arm rest with both arms to keep himself up. He wrinkled his nose at his dress clothes and then pushed his feet against the opposite arm rest to wedge himself in. Finally in a stable position, Sam leaned back a bit and looked down at his outfit, examining each piece of unfamiliar clothing. When he came to his new shirt he noticed the large flap of fabric on his chest with a button in the middle. “What’s this, mommy?” He asked.
        His mother turned from fixing her own hair with the brush. “It’s a pocket honey.”
        Sam gave his mother a puzzled look but she was too focused on his hair, which was again being pressed up against the chair back at an odd angle. “Here honey, look out there. See? Thats where Ceci’s plane is going to land. The plane will come right up to the window, and that long ramp will move out to meet it, and then Ceci will walk through the ramp and come out that door, and then she’ll see how dressed up you are.”
        ”Where, where’s the plane?”
        ”It’s not here yet, the plane is still flying, it’s in the air somewhere.”


        Ms. Stevens had not been a teacher for long, granted. But in her so far short career, she had certainly grown accustom to the job. She could still remember the first day of teaching 2nd grade all by herself. She had of course worked in classrooms for almost two years, first as a student teacher and then as a teachers aid. The weekend before her class started she hadn’t given it a second thought. Even leaving for work on that first day he roommate was practically a wreck, but not Ms. Stevens. The full impact of her situation wasn’t apparent until she arrived at the gymnasium to collect her students and lead them to the classroom for the first time. She was petrified, and the kids knew it instantly. While other teachers ferried their classes in neat and tidy lines down the halls like something out of Madline, it took Ms. Stevens nearly 45 minutes to make the journey, collecting stragglers from every side room, lavatory, coat closet, and hallway as she went.
        Things eventually calmed down, and Ms. Stevens was generally comfortable with her position. She had even dealt with a few crisis―when Nathan fell from a stool hanging open-house decorations and broke his wrist, when Samantha, a little girl with a neurological disorder confined to a wheelchair, had a seizure and they had to call an ambulance. Despite her short time in teaching, she had gained a reputation for working well with difficult kids and situations, and the district would often send children with troubling family situations or medical conditions to join her class from other teachers who could not handle them. She was happy to take them on board.

        Although it was almost half way through the semester, Ms. Stevens was told that she would be receiving a new student. Usually after about 3 or 4 months of classes the district would not let a student transfer until the next academic year, but an exception was being made for Scotty, then there was some talk that very high level strings had been pulled to make the transfer happen. This small breech in protocol didn’t really concern Ms. Stevens, after all she was always happy to have new faces, and she began to prepare for Scotty’s arrival.
        At first she considered informing her class. maybe they could put together some kind of welcome party, but she soon decided against it. Although the district hadn’t given her any details of his case, her experience told her that if someone was transferring this late in the year, then something must be up, and it would probably be best to keep the excitement at Scotty’s arrival to a minimum, at least until there was more information.
        Scotty arrived on a Thursday. Ms. Stevens came to the principle’s office to meet him and bring him to class at about lunch time. She was hoping to have a short talk with Scotty’s parents, but by the time she arrived, it looked as thought they had already left. She smiled at Susy the receptionists as she entered the office and made her way to the back conference room. She was about to knock when the principle, Mr. Green came up behind her and tapped lightly on her shoulder.
        ”Oh, good morning,” said Ms. Stevens, “where’s Scotty.”
        ”Good morning, he’s right inside. He’s been in there for about an hour.”
        ”Oh my, I thought you said to come at…”
        ”No, no, its not your fault, I had him come in a little early so we could talk before things started.”
        ”Oh, good, are his parents still here?”
        ”Well I’m afraid he hasn’t got any. I meant to get you a copy of his file. Scotty is transferring from the children’s ward at county west. He’s a ward of the state.”
        Ms. Stevens was a little troubled. “Is he sick?” she asked.
        ”Not as far as they can tell. He just doesn’t talk.”
        ”Doesn’t talk? You mean he’s mute?”
        ”They think he can talk, throat and all is just fine. He just doesn’t want to. He seems to understand just fine. Can even write his name.”
        ”Does he write anything else?”
        ”Not so far, but he’s in there drawing right now. Quite prolific at it actually. Has a thing for cats.”
        ”You just left him sitting in there for an hour by himself?”
        ”I tried talking with him, but it didn’t seem to do any good. Maybe you’ll have better luck.” Mr. Green handed Ms. Stevens a manila file bristling with papers and began to leave. “Oh, the transport service from the hospital will be here to pick him up after school. Just have him wait here in the conference room. And ahh, well … you’ll see.”
        Ms. Stevens leafed through the file she had been handed. A medical release, immunization records, some standardized testing scores. Then tucked the papers under her arm and knocked lightly on the door to the conference room. She could hear the light tap of crayons on paper inside the room, but nothing else. She opened the door and stepped inside.
        Scotty was sitting in the high backed chair at the end of the table, the one Mr. Green usually sat in during staff meetings. He liked to let new kids sit there while he talked with their parents. In-front of the boy was a haphazard pile of finished artworks, and next to the pile was a short stack of blank copier paper and an open box of crayons. Scotty had removed the crayons from the box and lined them up above his current picture, all facing the same direction and in order like a rainbow. When Ms. Stevens entered, Scotty didn’t look up, but continued working on his picture.
        ”Good morning. You must be Scotty. My name is Ms. Stevens, I’m going to be your teacher.”
        Scotty continued drawing for a moment, and then placed the purple crayon he was using back into order with the others a looked up at Ms. Stevens. As he did, Ms. Stevens had to bite her tongue not to gasp. Above Scotty’s eyes were two large black marks. At first Ms. Stevens thought maybe he had gotten crayon all over his face, but as Scotty continued to look up at her, she could see they were his eyebrows. They were black as ink, unlike his hair which was a brownish blond color, and from across the room it gave Scotty an almost cartoonish look. They were each nearly an inch tall, but the hairs must have been very short, because they seems to lay flat against his face.
        Ms. Stevens suddenly realized she was staring, and tried to move the conversation along. “Well, Mr. Green tells me you quite the artist, are these drawings all yours? Can I see them?”
        Scotty stayed silent, but seemed to be considering her request. After a moment, he picked up his purple crayon once again and continued with his drawing. Ms. Stevens walked in from the doorway and sat down at the table. “Well if you don’t mind, then I’m just going to take a look at these.” She reached over and gather the stack of finished works and began to leaf through them.
        ”You know, my brother is an artist too. He paints murals on the sides of buildings.” There was still no response from Scotty. As she flipped through the drawing, Ms. Stevens was amazed. There must have been over a dozen pictures, each meticulous and detailed. There were quite a few cats, as Mr. Green had said, but there were also giraffes, elephants, buildings, plants and trees, all drawn very realistically for a 2nd grader.
        ”Wow Scotty, your drawings are very good!” There was still no response from Scotty.
        ”Well, I’m sure your going to love my class. We do all kinds of fun art projects. Last year we made African tribal masks, and about a month ago we all designed and painted our own t-shirts. This year Mr. Green asked if we could decorate the set for the rain-forest play the 5th grade is putting on. Would you like to help?” Scotty was still silent.
        Just then the warning bell rang. Both Scotty and Ms. Stevens looked up as it chimed over the intercom system. “That’s our warning bell Scotty. It means that the lunch period is over and class is going to start again in 10 minutes. That’s how you know when it’s time to come in from the playground after lunch.” Ms. Stevens gathered Scotty’s drawings and placed them into a stack along with the file Mr. Green had given her. “Alright Scotty, would you like to come back to my room with me. I already had a desk set up for you, and I will introduce you to your classmates.”
        Scotty carefully gathered his crayons back into the box and placed the box neatly in the center of the stack of blank paper. Then he placed the drawing he had been working on on top of the other pile and quietly got out of his seat to follow Ms. Stevens.


        Jeffery was late. Jeffery was always late, or at least that how it seemed to Jeffery’s mother, who was now also late.
        Jeffery’s mother was late, which was the primary cause of Jeffery’s sister Lisa also being late, which had a direct effect on Sara’s lateness, who, being Lisa’s friend shared Lisa’s distaste for her little brother Jeffery.
        Jeffery was late so Jeffery’s mother was late so the girls were late, and in turn their fashionably late arrival at school would now be unfashionably late, though not yet inexcusably late.
        Jeffery was late so Jeffery’s mother was late so Maggy the dog was now late for her grooming appointment, although in no way upset about it, or at least not outwardly so.
        Jeffery was late so Jeffery’s Mother was late so Jeffery’s mother’s meeting would now be late, which would push back her morning phone call, her first and second lunches, her 20 minutes of sitting in her office after lunch trying to look busy but thinking about the boats in the harbor out her window, and the extra 20 minutes she schedules at the end of the day for when Jeffery is running late.
        As Jeffery was only 8 years old—or more precisely 8 and three quarters as he would on occasion point out, and being that Jeffery had neither power nor influence over space and time, to the casual observer it might seem astonishing at how such a seemingly ordinary boy could single handedly disrupt the timelines of so many. Indeed Jeffery often though to himself, usually as such points were being made abundantly clear to him by most everyone he came into contact with, that perhaps he was something of a scientific curiosity.
        He could imagine the government scientists arriving at his door one day and stepping out of a large unmarked white van. As they exited the vehicle, Jeffery would see the large cash of blinking computer equipment and monitoring stations in the back. The scientists would come to the door with monitoring equipment and hand-held sensors. Several men would make their way around the outside of the house, stopping here or stooping over there to examine a bush or a lump in the yard with a concerned look. The more clean cut of the bunch would approach Jeffery’s parents and explain in as much technical jargon as possible why his associates needed to dig up the azalea bushes and put them into biohazard containers, or how the large blinking comb the men were running through Maggy’s coat was “simply for her protection”.
        Jeffery could picture how eventually one of the men would come upon him, and after checking his equipment, would likely say something like, “My god, it’s worse than we thought,” or “I’m surprised the satellite monitors didn’t pick this one up, he’s off the scale…” or the like. The man standing over Jeffery would wave over the team, and after wrapping him in aluminum foil and explaining to his parents that he had to protect the timeline from further degradation, they would quickly hustle Jeffery away in their van to the government monitoring station where he would be given a comfortable but confined existence for the rest of his natural life.
        Despite Jeffery’s concerns, his lateness was nothing astonishing, as any mother of an 8 year old could tell you. And in fact, it was not so much that Jeffery was generally late, but that he was constantly losing things – his shoes, his books, his toys – and spent a great deal of his time looking for them. And oddly enough, it was in his capacity to misplace things that Jeffery was one of a kind. It was not just that Jeffery would forget to put something away, or leave it somewhere, it was almost as if Jeffery could cause something to simply cease to exist. Blink, gone. Jeffery would usually find whatever it was eventually, but on more than one occasion objects in Jeffery’s care would go missing for months, or even years.