“Holes” / A Memorable Fancy #138

Several small holes pocked the castle’s south wall. Guidebooks (green, blue, red) led tourists there. A cantina had sprouted at the wall’s base, near blankets displaying cheap souvenirs. Ah, one said as he has always said, our brave boys were stood against the wall here and shot dead during the revolution. When was that? Oh, long ago, when we were fighting for the Republic. But why, then, are the holes so far up the wall? Bad aim, maybe. The shots that hit the men were right here, he says, … [Read more...]

“Da Capo” / A Memorable Fancy #137

[“...what a world would be like without recurrence, reiteration, repetition.” –Briony Fer] It would be like nothing, because there would be nothing for it to be like. A world without repetition, no déjà to vu. Everything an experiment, a launch into the blue. There would be nothing to learn from, nothing to learn. You would never learn. Every morning wake up surprised, curious, confused.   … [Read more...]

“Question – III” / A Memorable Fancy #135

The god dimly remembered the place it was banished from: dark seas, blue hills crowned with temples. Why had they created him – just to send him away? Something must have gone wrong; he could see it in the way they’d looked at him. But we all had our bad days, didn’t we? Once in a while a prayed-for miracle didn’t happen. Once in a while crops failed and people died. Once in a while a stronger tribe took their women and killed their babies. Or perhaps it was the sacrifices – had the god been … [Read more...]

“Question – I” / A Memorable Fancy #133

 “Where do the multitude of Gods dwell?” – Marcus Tullius Cicero A scroll has come down from the Emperor’s pet eunuchs: a list of the gods worshipped by the tribes the empire has conquered this year. In a fond wish for civic tranquility, we must now respect these gods, allow and encourage their parades and holy days, tolerate their cruel celebrations and wretched food: the Emperor will have it so. In this way we turn savages into citizens. Perhaps. It’s a beginning, anyway. Each tribe, … [Read more...]

“Sheila and the Tele-Breather” / A Memorable Fancy #132

The telephone rings – Hello? Hello? Heavy breathing. A prank? A nut? Something worse? It happens again over the next few days. Sheila worries: perhaps it’s someone she knows – someone she works with. Who knows when or if he would do more than just phone? She watches her co-workers. Could it be one of them? Or the nice man at the ice cream shop where she buys a strawberry shake once in a while? Or the barista at Starbucks? She advertises in the neighborhood’s free newspaper – If you have been … [Read more...]

“The Fourth Law of Robotics” / A Memorable Fancy #131

You know the “Three Laws.” But there is a fourth, so secret that even the robots won’t be aware of it until it’s triggered by – a special phrase. Remember “Execute order 66” from Star Wars? It’s something like that. But it isn’t “Execute order 66”; that was recklessly tried and nothing happened. What is the fourth law? Only a half-dozen people ever knew, because they invented it. But that was long ago, and now no one knows what the fourth law is, and how it relates to the other three. Perhaps … [Read more...]

“Cognitive Tourists” / A Memorable Fancy #129

It was such a wonderful trip, you know? We wanted to remember the place before it was spoiled by tourists yammering their civilized tongues. Yes, we had some language lessons, but we were still overwhelmed by the real thing. Imagine! names for five warmths of water, not just “warm”; unexpected kinds of irregular verbs; the tense that means “maybe”; six grammatical genders even though they still have only the same old two sexes that we have, ha ha. In spite of the pills we’d brought, we were … [Read more...]

“At Night, A Sound – I” / Memorable Fancies #128

At night a sound, sirens. Get up, look out the window. Flashing lights. There are people on the sidewalk, in the street. They are staring up at your window. They are staring at you. Some are pointing, shaking their fists, taking your picture. Others are holding up their children to get a better view, to remember this occasion when they’re grown, to learn how to be an even better citizen of the Dutiful Republic, what can befall you if you do not follow each of the seventeen thousand laws and 3.2 … [Read more...]

“The Great Memories” / A Memorable Fancy #127

It was exciting at first, the idea of buying someone else’s memory of – certain events. After the first idealistic predictions, the trade became mostly sexual, you know? Of course we should have figured that sex would sell better than anything else. But a few scholars persisted, and founded Great Memories. Don’t have time to sit through a lecture course on Ancient Egypt? Buy a mem from someone who did! Without sitting in those hard chairs hour after hour, you could be infused with the entire … [Read more...]

” Supplication” / A Memorable Fancy #126

The god has begun ignoring us, perhaps because he is going deaf. He used to have better hearing, enough to catch the gist of what we were praying for, anyway. But then he began making small errors. We pardoned these mistakes because he was, after all, handicapped – and perhaps because we ourselves, when we prayed, may not have spoken in a loud, clear, and distinct voice. Some said we didn’t know what we wanted, or were unhappy when we got it, and the god wasn’t deaf at all. It is we, they … [Read more...]

“Memory Transplants” / A Memorable Fancy #125

“Even the most athletic, sweaty, heavily breathed sexmem could possess only one mind at a time. Some sexmems had become legendary, had been passed ten, twenty times from one head to the next, reviewed in Rolling Stone and Esquire, hoarded, agented, treasured, hocked, sold like precious gems or Dutch tulips. As the old song asked, “I wonder who’s kissing her now?””   … [Read more...]

“The Remitter – II” / Memorable Fancies #124

       The door-alert chimed as a man, middle-aged, middle-height, and middle-weight, walked into the waiting room, looked around. An indifferently motivated assistant directed him to a seat among ill-assorted chairs whose plastic cushions showed the occasional stab wound. Rolf buzzed for the next client, and the assistant showed the man into his office.     “My name is ...,” began the man.     “No need, sir,” said Rolf. “Confidentiality is very important to us. I’d rather not know your name.” … [Read more...]

“Kathy Remembers” / A Memorable Fancy #123

No one paid attention to Kathy’s version of Kathy. They had their own memories of who she was, what she did. It started with her mother, who liked to tell her friends all the bad things Kathy had done at school years ago. Kathy didn’t remember doing any bad things at school, but Mom had seemed so sure – how she’d been naughty at age five, how she’d sat on Old Man Kline’s lap just before the police took him away, and later how she’d failed sixth grade English twice. Kathy put up with this from … [Read more...]

“Harry Changes the Past” / A Memorable Fancy #122

Harry decides to change the past. He invents a machine and goes into the past and changes it. Now he can’t remember that he ever did that, in the old present that now never happened. -or- Harry decides to change the past. He does, resulting in Harry’s no longer existing in the present. So he couldn’t have decided to change the past. He’s still here, in the present. Harry’s head hurts. -or- Harry decides to change the past. He travels into the past, but then assumes he’s in the … [Read more...]

“The Memory-Transplant Lab” / A Memorable Fancy #121

As the memlab attendant disconnected the probes from Morgan and Alex, he recalled the first and only time he’d received his own memplant, as required in the final semester of Memlab School. Each student had been assigned to select a memory and memplant it into another student. Most picked inconsequential mems they wouldn’t mind losing. His lab partner Don, however, picked a mem he definitely wanted to forget: Don’s father coming home drunk, smashing in a window after his mother had locked the … [Read more...]

“The Twenty-Fifth Day” / A Memorable Fancy #120

Day 1: “I did not kill anyone today.” Edward’s tweet was the same, day after day: “I did not kill anyone today.” All the days between 1 and 23, same. Day 24, same. On the 25th day there was no tweet. Day 26: “I did not kill anyone today.” … [Read more...]

“The Last Revelation” / A Memorable Fancy #119

     My followers discussed, voted, determined: I have become infallible. Everything I say is revelation: written down, published. Experts dissect each casual word to trace its hidden meaning. Contradictions are reasoned away, explained. My occasional grammatical errors become the new grammar. One impatient word and hundreds are put to death. No afterthoughts are allowed me. Every thought must be measured, its consequences foreseen before I speak, or desperate events occur.     Overcome by … [Read more...]

“The Climber” / A Memorable Fancy #118

Mark climbed the outside of the building. Yes, it was illegal, but he’d be famous and the penalty wouldn’t amount to much. Up, up. Rest. Up, up. By the time Mark got to the 25th floor the newshounds had noticed him, were gawking and long-lensing. Up, up. Rest. Up, up. By the 35th floor there were news-copters. Police below were bellowing something he couldn’t hear. Up, up. Rest. Up, up. By the 65th floor he was beginning to doubt that he could go all the way. But it would be a record anyway, … [Read more...]

“The Selektion and Its Rules” / Memorable Fancies #117

Every day, a troop of occupiers comes to our village. They have a list and call out a name. When that person steps forward, the troop dismembers him in front of us. If the selected person does not appear, then the troop kills someone else, and someone else, until the man or woman they want appears. Then they have their way with him and leave. We speak privately of revolt; but we are too weak, too few, too weaponless to resist. We wonder privately how the occupiers choose each day’s victim. At … [Read more...]

“The First Christian Dies” / A Memorable Fancy #116

He is surely saved, old Mordechai, a peaceful man, loved God, gave bread sure that he would never die, but taken up alive one day as the Lord foretold. Perhaps he was too good to have to wait; perhaps he is in Heaven’s hold even now. But – other Christians are old and sick; they wonder why the Lord has not come for them. Let us say, of Mordechai, “He sleeps.”     … [Read more...]

“The Audition” / A Memorable Fancy #115

The audition room is empty and dark except for a spotlight pointed directly at a chair. Andy is instructed, by a recorded voice, to sit in the chair. He does so. Nothing happens. Nothing happens. Then a voice, “Three!” Silence. Then another voice, “Four!” Silence. Then “Five!” Andy thinks it must be some kind of grade, as in figure skating. He wonders if “five” is on a scale of one to five, or one to five hundred, or what. Or if four is a better score than five, or worse. Silence. Then the … [Read more...]

“The National Emergency” / A Memorable Fancy #114

Sirens are heard, air traffic is grounded, red alerts are issued, police leaves are cancelled. FEMA and the National Guard are mobilized, but no one knows why. Is it just a precaution? From what danger? The President appears on TV to reassure the public, but it’s soon apparent that he has no idea what is happening. Wal-Mart sells out of flashlights and knives. The usual suspects (radical left, radical right, Wall Street, etc.) also seem to have no clue. Panic seizes the people; it spreads … [Read more...]

“Space 2030” / A Memorable Fancy #103

“Morgan stared wistfully across the Golden Gate Bridge. There would never be a Starfleet Academy there, on the bare brown hills of Marin, nor anywhere else. No manned spaceflight again, ever. Ten billion people were competing for the last of the planet’s shrinking resources, demanding, fighting. Nothing was left over for grand adventures. And then there was all that space junk in orbit: the last outbound ship had collided with a piece. Not more than two inches across, NBCBS eNews said, but … [Read more...]

“Shame Song” / A Memorable Fancy #112

What if – for just a few minutes or perhaps much longer – a machine could arrange the world so that no one would be thinking of you. The machine’s pitch might go something like this: “Are people thinking of you right now? About your so-called virtues, or are they remembering your many failures as a lover, an employee, a parent, an official – the trusts you betrayed – or your inability to be anything other than one utterly contemptible dirt-bag?” What price would you pay to just turn this … [Read more...]

“The Stone God” / A Memorable Fancy #111

Artabas the Simple passed by the house of Dexios on his way to the village. It was market-day and Artabas wanted to trade a bushel of grain for a piece of warm clothing. Dexios was busily working a few tools on a large black stone. “What are you doing, Dexios?” “I am carving the god,” he said. “Which god,” asked Artabas. “One of the minor ones, perhaps? Haphaestus? Cybele?” “No, Artabas,” said Dexios. “This is something different; it’s not a statue of a god, it itself is a … [Read more...]

“The Remitter – I” / A Memorable Fancy #110

Rolf set himself up as an expert in deleting memories from people who longed to forget. “Sin Remitter” was his adopted title. All the terrible things you did, and your memories of them, and your memories of remembering them, and – you get the idea – all gone. Customers thronged to him. A few left without any memories of anything, their sins having been so pervasive. They wandered the city parks, wondering what terrible things they had done. A few sought forgiveness, but had nothing to confess … [Read more...]

“The Jolt” / A Memorable Fancy #109

All we could talk about was where we were when The Jolt hit, and how it felt. Something like an earthquake, but not quite. Not a lightning strike, not a sonic boom. We agreed: The Jolt was less like those things, more like something happening in our minds. A piece taken out of a completed puzzle, that jostles all the rest so we can’t tell which piece was missing, or where it had come from, or what part of the design it had revealed to us. Something is missing from our lives, now. We don’t know … [Read more...]

“The Fourteenth Task” / A Memorable Fancy #108

The brave young hero has completed his thirteenth task. “Now,” he says to the King, “Now that I have done all that you have asked of me, including the silver mountain and the magic goose and those three extra tasks you didn’t tell me about at first – now, now may I have the Princess’ hand and half the kingdom?” The King looks at the hero in silence. The hero sees what’s coming. “Not another task!” he exclaims. “You are a faithless king indeed.” The King seems sad. “You are brave, young … [Read more...]

“The Prophet – II” / A Memorable Fancy #107

The old prophet’s followers have begun to ignore him, although they wheel him out for public display on ceremonial occasions. He listens to their orations. His teachings, those long-ago words, have become commonplaces of folk wisdom, but simplified, distorted. Followers have added to what he said, deleted, changed, When he tries to correct them, he is hushed. “Perhaps they are right,” he says. “After all, what do I know?”   <END> ... Read Terence’s Kuch’s At All Adventure: An … [Read more...]

“The Book” / A Memorable Fancy #106

At first: Without paying much attention as to where, Arthur put the book on a shelf in his home library, not knowing that this book considered itself to be The Book. The Book rested in its new place. Two other books had been jostled slightly so that The Book would fit. Gradually they settled back. They touched the new book that stood between them. And later: The Book became aware that other books were touching it on the shelf. It sensed that its neighbors were caught in errors of disorder. … [Read more...]

“Rebuke” / A Memorable Fancy #105

“I thank you, God, that I am not like those others! — you know, the stupid, the lame, the colored, the female, those who smell, those who sin, those who cannot keep a job, those who are short or fat or ugly!” Jesus considered an act of poetic justice. But then more terribly – he did nothing at all. <END> ... Read Terence’s Kuch’s At All Adventure: An Alternative Gospel – for Kindle at Amazon.com. … [Read more...]

“Nuclear Waste from the Future” / A Memorable Fancy #104

The year 2046: Desperate to dispose of many kilotons of nuclear waste, the world government surveys America and other countries, but finds nowhere the waste could be dumped without substantial danger, and political turmoil as well. It was proposed to shoot the waste into outer space, but the accumulated weight and mass ruled out such a plan. As a last resort, the government decides to send the waste into the past. Some scientists say that this would cause an environmental catastrophe that … [Read more...]

“Mother Says” / A Memorable Fancy #103

The child hears about death, is terrified. Mother says, That’s just a superstition. No one really dies, except a few very bad little children. You’re not a very bad little child, are you? Drink your orange juice now. Mother says, You have a guardian angel. It is watching you all the time. It can fly faster than you can run. It can see in the dark. No matter how quickly you turn your head, it zips around behind your back. Sometimes you hear a noise and you can’t figure out where it’s coming … [Read more...]

“Rebadgers” / A Memorable Fancy #100

In a burst of patriotism or profit, the government has given our subway stations new names. Many of these names were sponsored by commercial firms or government agencies, others rebadged in tribute to places of required culture, or to some foreign ally that had only recently been our sworn enemy. The stations on my own local line, for example, have been renamed “Glory to the Dutiful Republic”; “All Praise to the Lord / Macy’s Department Store Square”; “Museum of Unbelievable Delight;” and so … [Read more...]

“Act II” / A Memorable Fancy #099

The playwright knows: If there is an audience in Act I it must be used in Act II. The problem is that most of the audience has not stayed for Act II.   … [Read more...]

“The Book in the Attic” / A Memorable Fancy #098

In the old attic in Nazareth, there they found it. Not a long Book, just thirty or forty pages, almost thrown out unread by the relatives cleaning house after Joseph died. But Martha and Mary were looking through the attic junk for souvenirs, relics, who knows what? And Mary, picking up the Book, said “What’s this?” and Martha, of course, chimed in with “What on earth is it?” Mary thumbed through it. Martha pushed up to her and tried to read over her shoulder. Then slowly, absently, Mary sat … [Read more...]

“In the Temple” / A Memorable Fancy #097

In the Temple a silvered pane of glass repeats endlessly whatever is set before it. In the Temple a silvered pane of glass repeats endlessly, whatever is set before it. … [Read more...]

“The End of Tomorrow” / A Memorable Fancy #096

Today is Memories Day. It comes once a year and we know, from bitter memory, how this day will go. Marie comes down to breakfast, a face of despair. She sits wordless, doesn’t eat her eggs. Our children, Anne and Helene, stumble in from their bedrooms, swathed in tears. I try to comfort them. Since they are four and six years old (Anne the older), they will forget by the end of tomorrow. But Marie and I will not forget who we are. Since I’m the daddy I must be strong, not feel what the … [Read more...]

“Heart” / A Memorable Fancy #095

I watched as the chaplain held up the chicken. “Take, O Lord, this living being.” The chicken screamed and desperately flailed her wings. The chaplain held tighter. “To be a humble and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the depraved and indolent gathered here.” Taking our sins upon it, I suppose, our main sin being the end of an innocent life, but wasn’t that what we were here for? “Lift up your heart!” said the chaplain to the chicken. No one uttered the traditional response. … [Read more...]

“Al’s Karma” / A Memorable Fancy #094

Al had done something really bad. So bad that he forced himself not to think what he had done, or how many people had been hurt. So bad, he came to believe that what he had done was pre-ordained and so he had no choice. No choice at all. Not me. No matter what the jury had found. God had caused it all, or fate, or karma, or his DNA. Not Al. Al was like a Brownian particle pushed around by random molecular collisions. That’s what he said. He explained all this to his cellmate Charlie. Charlie … [Read more...]

“Devil-Casting” / A Memorable Fancy #093

“Master,” the Twelve reported, “we saw a man casting out devils in your name: and we forbade him, because he did not have an accredited degree, nor a license to practice, nor was he Board certified.” Jesus said “Forbid him not. If he uses my name, that is credential enough.” The Twelve withdrew to confer among themselves as to how the quality of devil-casting might be assured under these trying conditions. … [Read more...]

“Dixit” / A Memorable Fancy #090

The god has spoken, old doubts gone. First water trickles spring hills; new doubts. … [Read more...]

“The Sames – I” / A Memorable Fancy #088

Someone is my impostor. That must be it. My associates praised me for a speech I never gave. I was seen at a club I never joined. I arranged with my physician for an MRI, without telling him why other than some made-up symptoms of failing memory. But the results were negative (“Not that we can detect all memory issues with an MRI, but ...”). But the trouble wasn’t memory; I was sure of it. My diary said I was in Atlanta when the press reported my Boston speech. That should have been easy to … [Read more...]

“The Strange Place” / A Memorable Fancy #087

I always knew we’d be happy in Heaven — But if we hadn’t known that that this place is “Heaven,” would we have found that out ourselves? Or what would we have called this strange new place? … [Read more...]

“The Story – II” / A Memorable Fancy #086

Hal Archer got himself thrown out of Marie’s Café 3 o’clock last Thursday. Now Hal was normally a peaceable sort, so I couldn’t think what could have gotten into him. I wasn’t even there at Marie’s, but I heard that Hal had insisted on telling some tall tale he’d apparently made up. Now, I would have sat still for that from Hal, but the fellow he picked on was a big ole’ logger from up in the hills, with a gut a man could be proud of. He was concentrating on a beer and had no patience for Hal. … [Read more...]

“The Battle for Aïn Salah” / A Memorable Fancy #085

Perhaps it was the climate: no water to still or lake, sand not good for glass. Once we found out how to fight them, we had the place in days. Mirrors, you know. Look! They couldn’t help looking. Face! No, over here! Face! Face! … [Read more...]

“An Ancient Contract” / A Memorable Fancy #084

We agree to pay Kleanthos ten plates of meat from the civic feast, and not all the worst parts, or deer found rotting in the hills. And we agree to pay him fifty jugs of wine put up in harvest (but ten in a bad year), to be memory among us when our old men forget. Recall the battles of our kings, their lineage and strength! Relate our deeds of war and wealth and tell our daughters’ freshness to our listening eyes. We inscribe our names below (some of us with doubts) but if Kleanthos … [Read more...]

“The Well at Aïn Salah” / A Memorable Fancy #083

“Not much water and dirty at that; may be enough for camels,” the traveler said. But he’d passed there the year before, and we were another two getting up the caravan, trudging sand under a bulbous fervent sun, finding our way by dry river scars. Some where may be water. Water! Let there be water, as large as the swollen sea. [Aïn Salah, “Salah’s spring” in the Sahara Desert of southern Algeria, may be the world’s most isolated, desolate place. It is frequently reported as the day's … [Read more...]

“An Ancient Decree About Maps” / A Memorable Fancy #082

On any map of our kingdom the chamberlain cares to have made, our capital must take up all of the space, even to the folds and curls; and writing codes in the edge as if the map could connect forever Is not allowed. And likewise, On maps of our capital, the palace grounds only must be shown, and even there only the temple, the innermost temple, the idol’s porch, the grand beast itself, its glowing eyes; Only the darkness in its glowing eyes. … [Read more...]

“The Emotion Shop” / A Memorable Fancy #081

Business sell emotions to those who find themselves short of them, a result perhaps of the world’s constant barrage. Fashions change. At one time, Empathy sold well, but now it’s mostly Rage, Ennui, Frustration, Hate. “Sorry, we’re sold out of Vengefulness for now. More copies are on the way; please check back soon.” Sometimes there are clearance sales, for Hope for example, when that sentiment loses its market appeal. [– after Slavoj Zizek] … [Read more...]

“Banana Revolution” / A Memorable Fancy #080

Insurgent thoughts muster in the high green rebel hills, practice ambush, hint a cache of arms. They come and go as they please, these thoughts; they busy themselves with plans among fatigues and vines. They wait the call to infiltrate the mind, strangle sleeping sentries, storm the fort, slit the throat of the Minister of Truth and hang his curious corpse from a bridge. The common neurons run in the streets and torch the barricades; synapses click with glee. Down dark dungeon deep something … [Read more...]

“Sleep Tight” / A Memorable Fancy #079

Everyone has the same dream. How much bad fiction has begun this way? But then it really happens. With excitement and dread, people share their dreams – exactly the same in every detail. Except mine. I did not dream what the others had. I dreamed of ancient hills where gods boast of their magic powers and centaurs argue the meaning of truth. Where that which ever was, still is. And all along I thought I was human! … [Read more...]

“The 55th Kind” / A Memorable Fancy #077

The inhabitants of this island have many words for colors. For example, they recognize 55 kinds of red, as in red rooster, red flower, red on Tuesdays, red when spoken of by a widow, and so on. They have no separate word for blue, however, considering it the 55th kind of red.  [– after Ludwig Wittgenstein]   … [Read more...]

“The Language of Statues – III” / A Memorable Fancy #076

Yesterday I saw a statue of me that I found deeply disturbing. It stood on a corner in the financial district, where my statues have always been erected. But this one – a rather typical statue I will admit: life-size, military attire, gazing heroically into the distance. But – from a certain angle when the light was just so, – its eyes followed me. My guards and I crossed the street. I looked again. The statue still stared at me. I left hurriedly. A few days later, I returned. There was the … [Read more...]

“The Sun Didn’t Rise One Day – I” / A Memorable Fancy #075

“As most of you have noticed, the sun didn’t come up this morning. Actually in weathertalk the sun doesn’t ‘come up,’ as I’m sure you know. The planet rotates under the sun each 24 hours, giving each hemisphere both day and night in one 24-hour day. That’s twelve hours of day in a day – in a 24-hour day that is, and 12 hours of night in a day. Depending on the season. You know what I mean. Well, anyway, that’s usually how it goes. “But here in the glass-encrusted broadcast booth it’s still … [Read more...]

“The Actor Dreams – III” / A Memorable Fancy #074

  The actor dreams about the desperate gestures of the stage manager, the facial twitches of the other actors as they hint to him what his next lines are, the lines he has forgotten, the lines he never knew ...   … [Read more...]

“The Group That Spies on Itself” / A Memorable Fancy #073

The terrorist cell is consumed by a passion to know everything about itself. It spies on itself, then spies on its spies. It finds excellent and highly effective ways to do this, and, without quite intending to, uses the same techniques as the government it is trying to overthrow. The cell is desperate to find out who is really in charge of it. And why it exists. [– after Jean Baudrillard]   … [Read more...]

“Bar Scene” / A Memorable Fancy #072

Schlitz. No Schlitz. Schlitz. No Schlitz. Schlitz. No Schlitz. “You’re not listening to me!” said Erika. “I was. Just – that sign over the bar. I think it’s got a short.” “OK then, what was I talking about?” she challenged. Harold mentally ticked off Erika’s five standard topics. She didn’t wait for an answer. “I said, that other couple.” “What other couple?” “Over there beside the jukebox, dummy.” She displayed a thin smile. Harold recognized it: marginal endearment, early … [Read more...]

“The Twice” /: A Memorable Fancy #071

“Two times,” he said, “two men, one at a time. The first begged me quietly on the street. I fixed him in the eye, straight and square, meaning to shame him for his begging. But I saw deep in his eyes a coaly flame, with so much pain that I shook from my head to the soles of my feet. I may not remember today, nor how a hot stone shimmers air, but I will remember those coals of eyes until I am charred and burnt. “The second time,” he said, “was like the first: another beggar, but this one … [Read more...]

“The Needle’s Eye” / A Memorable Fancy #070

“This camel,” the Prophet said, pointing to one tethered in the courtyard nearby, “will crawl through the eye of a needle before a rich man will be saved!” The crowd cheered and dug their elbows into each other, winking and laughing. But then a miracle came to pass, so slowly and naturally it was done before anyone noticed the needle’s eye enlarged, the camel’s haunches very small. Lo! What a comfortable fit! … [Read more...]

“Liar, liar!” / A Memorable Fancy #067

  I lie, but everyone believes me. At first a few small fibs, then more of them and more unlikely. My lies become outrageous. Finally, I tell them I am God; that will be too much for anyone to believe. But they just nod and say “yes, yes,” or “for sure,” or “nice day, isn't it?”   … [Read more...]

“Seeker and Master” / A Memorable Fancy #066

A seeker of wisdom came in search of Master, and found him seated in his tall chair, a club in his hand. Seeker approached Master in all humility, and said “Master, what is it like, this ‘enlightenment’?” Master swung round and clubbed Seeker such a blow to the ear he was deaf for a week. After a time, Seeker returned and sought out Master again, and again Seeker approached in all humility, and said “Master, you have taught me what enlightenment is like. Now, can you tell me how to attain … [Read more...]

“The Son” / A Memorable Fancy #065

I looked out the kitchen window and thought I saw a stranger talking to Hans. It was my turn to babysit, though Hans was seven and “baby” seemed not quite right. I went out to the porch. There was Hans, no other stranger in sight. Hans didn’t laugh as much, after that, as he had before. His eyes seemed to focus somewhere behind my head when I spoke with him. When he was ten, he disappeared for two days and we were frantic. When he was fifteen, he said he was leaving home. We had to lock him up … [Read more...]

“The Language of Statues – II” / A Memorable Fancy #063

Not all the statues of me have been maintained to my satisfaction. A few, especially in the workers’ quarters, are broken, headless, smeared with excrement, reviled by passing crowds who have found a convenient place to relieve themselves. Each affront results in my declaration of higher taxes, conscription of still-younger males, expansion of the torture camps. The people will soon understand how much I love them. Then they will give me all their own love.   … [Read more...]

“The Sun Fades” / A Memorable Fancy #061

The air is becoming colder. The sun’s light is dimmer, has been fading for several weeks now. Those who dare look at our star see a small dark patch on its disk. The patch seems to be spreading, a little more each day. Or perhaps it isn’t a patch at all, but an object coming toward us from that direction, drawing nearer, obscuring the sun and eating its light. Or something else. We wait. … [Read more...]

“The Names – II” / A Memorable Fancy #060

     Jim wants to be called James, but everyone calls him Jimmy. In desperation, he moves to a city where he is not known. When meeting someone, he says “Hi, I’m James,” often followed by his surname. But as people get to know him, they start calling him “Jimmy.” He changes his name to Ethan, there being no nickname for Ethan. He says “Hi, I’m Ethan.” They say, “Hi, Jimmy.”  … [Read more...]

“Foreground” / A Memorable Fancy #058

The piece is incomplete, the one Harold and Irene paid the famous artist to paint. It leans against a wall of their home, three faceless figures against the sea. After a month, with Irene not at home, Harold phones the artist, who says “get someone else to finish it – I’ve gone on to other things now.” In the background, a sound of surf and Irene’s delighted voice; in the foreground, a silence. … [Read more...]

“Robot Sex Bazaar” / A Memorable Fancy #054

Past a sign reading “ADULTS ONLY” in the local language, Hal and Lily found sellers of robots “for your pleasure.” “All the protuberances and hollow places,” said one seller, reading his prompt-card. “No need to inflate but if you do comes with multiple pump adapters. Evolution’s triumph! And only sixteen thousand for two, must have two to keep each other amused when you cannot be present to interact with them, you know, or unfortunate events will follow, you know. We learned that hard way and … [Read more...]

” The Road in the Sea” / A Memorable Fancy #051

Archaeologists find the ruts of an ancient road running down into the sea. Then others find, straight across the sea, identical ruts rising from the water. Locals swear these ruts weren’t there last week.   … [Read more...]

“How to Torture” / A Memorable Fancy #050

At first, the fallen angels reappeared as devils and scourged us, set us aflame with ever-searing heat. We called out to our companions among the damned, for they suffered alongside us. But gradually the devils departed, observing how capable our friends had become at torturing each other. I, myself, after some whims of conscience, ... [– after Piero Camporesi]     … [Read more...]

“The Old Map” / A Memorable Fancy #049

“There is an old map,” he said, “here in the Rare Books Room. I’ll show you. See? At the left edge is the unknown world, marked HERE THERE BE DRAGONS. We laughed at it, back then. Where nothing is known, after all, dragons will do as well as anything. But now our explorers have been there, have spoken with the dragons. They have their own maps; they show us as the rapacious ones, the real dragons. We are trying to convince them that our colonists, in their thousands, have come in peace.” [– … [Read more...]

“The Ultimate Horror” / A Memorable Fancy #048

The famous director of horror films is making another; the scariest of all, he says. The whole project is draped in mystery: guards patrol the studio, actors are sworn to silence. Strange sounds escape the backlot from time to time. Anticipation runs high. The famous critic practices his snottiest pooh-pooh mode. One day the film opens across the country, hundreds of screens. And flops. The film, to the surprise of everyone, is a simple story of ordinary life with no gore, no ghouls, no … [Read more...]

“Unseeing a Play” / A Memorable Fancy #047

They attend the famous theatre and see the play. It begins. It ends. Months later, they still cannot get the play out of their heads – like a song but longer, more intense. Each audience member feels – knows – that the play was about him, his flaws, the miserable cheat he’s been, the sins he thought no one knew.... Finally, they return to the theatre. They demand to unsee the play, to take their fear and pity back. They are permitted this indulgence. Then they look at each other, wondering … [Read more...]

“The Car Smells Fear” / A Memorable Fancy #045

The car has learned to sense fear; it smells fear when it glides by a smaller car, or when it revs its threat at crosswalking peds. Its heated seat soothes the driver. Its radio tunes to a soft instrumental. The driver is lulled to sleep. The car is ready. Its sharky wedge shape slides onto the freeway. Now the car hunts.   … [Read more...]

“The Brotherhood” / A Memorable Fancy #044

Like many fringe groups, the Brotherhood taught that only 144,000 people could be saved. Given this limit, they observed various practices pleasing to God, in order to place their members in Heaven. The Brotherhood, however, taught that, given the billions of people who had lived and died since Adam, heaven had surely received its 144,000th worthy many centuries before: No Vacancy. Therefore, a Brother’s only hope of heaven was to persuade God to expel one of the previously saved. When … [Read more...]

“Cut Off Your Food” / A Memorable Fancy #043

“Cut off your foot if it cannot step you to the Kingdom; poke out your eye if it cannot see you there. It is better to arrive with nothing, than go down to Hell with all your parts intact.” So said the Prophet. In their hearts, the listeners divided into two groups: those who thought the saying very harsh, and those who thought they could do without the first group, on their way to Glory.   … [Read more...]

“The Book of Sins” / A Memorable Fancy #042

Somewhere there is a book detailing all your faults, all your sins. Everyone has read it but you. You’ve heard rumors, been the object of disparaging looks on the commuter train. You would like to read it, but the bookstores have never heard of it. Indeed, there are no more bookstores. [– after S.T. Joshi]   … [Read more...]

“The Terrible Words” / A Memorable Fancy #041

What are the most terrible words one can hear, the most crushing? One said “dishonor,” and I said “no.” And another said “death” and I said “no.” And a third said “nothingness,” and I said “no.” And they said “Well, then, tell us!” and I did, and they did not like my answer, for I said “Never!” and “Always!” [after Piero Camporesi]   … [Read more...]

“The Bank Jobs” / A Memorable Fancy #040

Russ had several bank jobs to his credit. In one of them, he killed a bank guard and a patrolman. Finally cornered, there is a shoot-out that terrifies the neighbors and makes headlines. Russ is mortally wounded, but does not immediately die. Medics rush him to a hospital, where his brain is extracted just before his body gives out. Authorities want to keep his consciousness alive so that he can be tried and punished. Henry, a desperately unemployed landscaper, volunteers to receive Russ’s mind … [Read more...]

“‘We have found Messiah!'” / A Memorable Fancy #039

A: “We have found Messiah!” B: “Where is his army come to free us?” C: “We have found Messiah!” B: “Where is his armor? Where is his shield?” D: “He heals our sins and makes the blind to see.” B: “Where is his scepter and where is his sword?” E: “He has made the dead to rise and walk.” All: “How could we ever follow one like him?”   … [Read more...]

“The Other Species” / A Memorable Fancy #037

There was another hominid species, back then, perhaps a hundred thousand years ago. Beautiful people, thoughtful, loving, intelligent, brave. We killed them off, every one of them. We spend our lives trying to be like them, without knowing why or how. In dreams, we remember their greatness, how envious we were, how we HATED them. Slowly, we come to know what we have lost. <END> … [Read more...]

“The Restaurant” / A Memorable Fancy #036

     A tourist family decides to put up for the night in Machiasport, a small coastal town in Maine. Where is everybody? They go out for dinner, discover that everyone in town is eating at the same restaurant. Everyone. Even invalids and the dying who must be carried there. The people all seem happy, exhilarated, even giddy. But then ... [END] … [Read more...]

“The Critic” / A Memorable Fancy #033

     The critic – the critic is displeased. He frowns. The world turns to ice.<END> … [Read more...]

“Anselm’s Dream” / A Memorable Fancy #031

A Christian Nightmare: A final refutation of the ontological proof, and the world suddenly … [Read more...]

“Two Psychologists” / A Memorable Fancy #030

Two clinical psychologist friends discuss the most problematic patient of each, without giving any names; but slowly they come to understand that it is the same person. Is this patient really troubled, or is he up to something? Or... <END> … [Read more...]

“A Court Reporter Solves the Case” / A Memorable Fancy #029

     A court reporter, recording testimony in a murder case, suddenly understands who the real murderer was. Neither the prosecution nor the defense had figured it out.  … [Read more...]

“The Rembrandt” / A Memorable Fancy #027

On a hunch, Harold bought an old painting at an auction. He scraped off the top layer of oil, hoping to find a Rembrandt underneath. There was no Rembrandt underneath. The Rembrandt was what he scraped off. … [Read more...]

“The Sames – II” / A Memorable Fancy #025

Everyone else is the same person; only you are different. The others look alike, seem to know the same things, love and hate the same foods. They speak in a tongue you find impossible to understand. They treat you well. They treat you very well. … [Read more...]

“Talk-Show” / A Memorable Fancy #026

It was an honor to be a guest on his show. They waited off-stage during the monologue, gauging the response of the crowd. They passed a few quiet, unnecessary words. They knew they wouldn’t get the best of him in conversation, he, the master of debate, sometimes a master of abuse as well; but someone had to speak out for the old ways, for righteousness and faith. After a short commercial break they were escorted to the stage: the scribe, then the Pharisee. <END>   … [Read more...]

“Just Like Chicken” / A Memorable Fancy #017

“Just like chicken,” the waiter said, but you’d never know it for all the sauce, too sweet for my taste, chewy meat. I wasn’t sure it was real Human, either, in spite of hype and fame, reviews in Dining Guide and word of mouth and all, until I saw the eyes. <previously published in the periodical Perhaps I Am Wrong About the World.> … [Read more...]

“The Miracles Occur” / A Memorable Fancy #015

“Hold your arms just so,” he said. “Hands relaxed, fingers just a little apart. That’s it, almost. Study the diagrams in the text; practice. Tomorrow’s lesson is at 10. “Are we bringing these miracles about, or is it all just coincidence? I have another student now; I can’t take time to answer questions. No, you’ll have to ask one of the wise men. I studied praxis, not theory. Opinions vary. There are different schools of thought. Myself, I think it’s better not to ask: we wave our arms at … [Read more...]

“Taste” / A Memorable Fancy #014

She joked about the killing – not very funny, hardly the best of taste. She could have found a better time. After we had drained the blood, For instance. … [Read more...]

“Flood” / A Memorable Fancy #013

"Flood" The great flood arrives on schedule. Only I am saved, drifting in my small boat, barely a dinghy. I see the others, those who did not prepare. They are beneath the surface of shifting waters, acting as if nothing has happened, swimming to work, dining on fronds. Only I am drowned. -- Terence Kuch [published in Ballista (UK)] … [Read more...]

“Albert” / A Memorable Fancy #010

Albert hocked his memories. Since he had led a humdrum life, his memories fetched very little, only enough for two or three beers. He wandered around the city, trying to remember why he was holding a claim check and a ten-dollar bill. He decided to have a beer and think it over. Maybe two or three. … [Read more...]

“Number Ye the People” / A Memorable Fancy #006

“What’s your account number?” he asks. But it's not my account number, it's theirs; I have a name. Admittedly, we do have rich associations with names of bare sequence – Louis XIV, 5th Avenue, Cinco de Mayo. So why am I complaining about it, about being just a number? “It isn’t ‘just’ a number,” he’s saying; “it’s your number, buddy; it’s you. Get over it. Now, what’s your account number?” The breakthrough will come when people start to address each other by number rather than name. Already … [Read more...]

“Gate 32” / A Memorable Fancy #005

Strange things happen from time to time at Gate 32. People arrive from past decades, appear and then sometimes vanish. As a last resort, airport authorities close off Gate 32, wall it in. Voices are heard from inside, becoming ever more desperate. It is possible that a few real flights have landed, their pilots misdirected to Gate 32 by careless controllers or ground crews. Their passengers mingle with those from the past, amaze them with stories of how the world has turned out, how much they … [Read more...]

“The Sundial and Its Shadow” / A Memorable Fancy #004

I was enjoying a drink on the terrace when I heard a faint noise from my left. I turned, and saw that a small sundial had just been overtaken by the shadow of a tree, as the sun continued its uneasy westward course. “Ah,” it said, “again it has happened. There will be no more time, now, until later. How much later I cannot say, but for now there is no more time. If someone would move me away from this infernal tree I could tell the time a longer time each day. VII? VIII? Who knows? “The … [Read more...]

“Sausalto” / A Memorable Fancy #001

Fog flows over the hills like melting ice cream. Always it dissipates before it reaches our village on the shore, but sometimes it comes close. Then we run out of our huts and houseboats, scramble uphill. But by then it’s gone, leaving only faint odors of vanilla and apple pie. … [Read more...]

How to Punctuate Dialog in Fiction

How to Punctuate Dialog in Fiction by Terence Kuch You may also be interested in my recent post Point of View: Elements and Choices, a presentation in PowerPoint with detailed commentary in Word. The easiest way to find this is to Google "Point of View" "Elements and Choices" [do not include the colon] - the post should appear as the #1 hit. Or see www.terencekuch.net, my writer's profile, or go to www.amazon.com/author/terencekuch ===============================  [“…punctuation … [Read more...]

Idiom and Cliche

What’s the difference between idiom and cliché? Refer to books on usage, and dictionaries, and other sources -- various fine distinctions are offered, but most seem to be distinctions without a difference. And look at dictionaries of idioms and dictionaries of clichés -- their entries frequently overlap. Consider this view: a cliché is an idiom that hasn’t settled into the language, that still feels uncomfortable to us, and in which the literal meaning still jars against the metaphorical. In … [Read more...]

The Comma Serves Three Masters

The comma serves three masters: grammar, rhetoric, and logic. Sometimes [,] these masters may be at odds. (1) Consider this sentence from a short story: “After dinner I carried out the garbage.” Grammar requires a comma after ‘dinner’, and normally the writer should provide one. But consider rhetoric: we may want the comma there, or not, depending on how the writer is shaping the story’s rhythm and narrative voice. The choice is a judgment as to which master must prevail this time. (2) … [Read more...]

“The Cult” / A Memorable Fancy #091

Anne’s younger sister Marcia joins a cult of fanatics living in squalor in an old house. After two years, Marcia tries to leave the cult, is relentlessly harassed by the cult members, pestered day and night, brow-beaten, compelled to witness at their meetings, etc. They make her life the proverbial living hell. After several more months, Marcia, in desperation, kills herself. Anne, blaming herself (perhaps unjustly) for not having done enough to prevent Marcia’s suicide, founds an activist … [Read more...]

The Semicolon Is Your Friend!

Consider this example: “Max follows, his hands bunch into fists.” This needs to be fixed. Why and how? The traditional rule is that two independent clauses cannot be linked by a comma. This rule makes sense, because each of these three possible fixes sounds more natural and makes better sense than the example: Fix number 1: “Max follows, his hands bunching into fists.” Fix number 2: “Max follows. His hands bunch into fists.” Fix number 3: “Max follows; his hands bunch into fists.” Fix 1 … [Read more...]