“The War from Poolside” / Memorable Fancies #1819

[“like a war viewed from poolside” – Michael Palmer] We sat by the pool, calmly watching the far-away war on a small TV propped up on a chair. Reporters were breathlessly brave but ducked when a shell hit near them, when the news image shook. And then we heard the sirens of dread, our own news. Our TV shook, fell off its chair hissing dead into the water And all the images drowned. >  [Click Random Post above – re-astonish yourself] … [Read more...]

“Clockers – I” / A Memorable Fancy #374

     Berkeley the Philosopher wrote that we perceive time as regular and uniform only because God experiences everything in the proper sequence, just the right before-and-after. Why did Berkeley need this idea? To guarantee the uniformity of our earthly clocks – God as master timekeeper, divine meta-clock.      But if that’s true, then God could speed or slow time, or switch before and after back and forth, and we could never notice that He had. In fact, God himself could never notice, … [Read more...]

“Five Briefs – IV” / A Memorable Fancy #373

And we did work harder, under threat that the motivational speaker would come back and we’d have to listen to his bullshit all over again. # The boggle-gun takes aim at my mind. # John collected paintings of nudes. His pleasure was to expose himself in front of them, look for their reactions, their frowns, their disgusted gasps. Not getting any reaction, he painted clothes on them. So there. # My co-workers are aliens. Not that kind, I mean Martians or something. I can tell: … [Read more...]

“Asylum – XII: Movie Time Again” / A Memorable Fancy #372

[Continuing the journal of Diane McMurphy, a patient in Bad Shepherd mental hospital, “The Asylum”]      Another dayroom movie here in the asylum because, aside from terrifying visits with our mind-probers, that’s about all there is to do. This one is …:      “Escape of the Maniacs – A group of obnoxious inmates of a lunatic asylum believe they are escaping from the institution and having various gruesome adventures, while in ‘reality’ only having a bad day in group. This documentary, … [Read more...]

“Land Without Shadows” / A Memorable Fancy / Dark and Unexpected Fiction #370

     The Borunna people refuse to acknowledge that they have shadows. They become angry when anthropologists mention their own shadows. There was a catastrophe a long time ago, they say, and their shadows fled to a faraway place.      Sometimes one of them admits, quietly, that he once looked back and saw his shadow. Other Borunnas regard such an admission as at least a breach of etiquette, perhaps a crime. The more educated Borunnas consider claiming to have a shadow a symptom of “mental … [Read more...]

“Three Memories of Love” / A Memorable Fancy / Dark and Unexpected Fiction #369

[“I have dreamed so much of you that you are losing your reality.” – Robert Desnos] 1.    I don’t remember falling in love with you. I don’t remember when it happened, or what I was thinking of just then, or what I said before or what you said after, or perhaps nothing at all was said; but somehow it – just was. 2. Every memory of you, every time I think of – us, removes that time from my mind; it’s excised scrape by scrape. I remember that I used to have memories of us. I remember that … [Read more...]

“Asylum – XI: A Tourist Guide to My Palace” / A Memorable Fancy #368

[Continuing the journal of Diane McMurphy, a patient in Bad Shepherd mental hospital, “The Asylum”]      Founded many years ago as “Shepherd Hospital for the Pitifully Deranged,” the name was changed in 2001 because it was no longer in accord with twenty-first century principles of ethical jargon. So now it’s “Shepherd Hospital Center for the Pitifully Deranged,” even though it doesn’t seem to be the center of anything in particular. Most of the townies, with understandable confusion, call … [Read more...]

“The Soothers” / A Memorable Fancy #367

     After the disaster, emergency soothers are uncrated and rolled out, sent with their pocket platitudes to console the bereaved with words everyone knows are false, such as “It’s all right” (it isn’t all right), or “It’s all for the best” (it isn’t all for the best; much of it is for the worst), or “It’s God’s will” (perhaps, but that doesn’t make it right.)      The soothers continue to wear down the bereaved until they’ve Just Had Enough! and tell them I Feel Much Better Now, and I’ll Be … [Read more...]

“Five Briefs – III” / A Memorable Fancy #366

Catherine thinks in PowerPoint, uses bullets. Catherine is dangerous. # The sky is “up” – both can agree on that. But what the Undergrounders call “sky” is just the dirt around the carrots. # “This is the place for the perfect painting,” he said, as we set up our easels. “The landscape has already been composed for us. Numbers are beginning to show through the paint on those picturesque old buildings; and if you attend closely, you will see numbers, also, in various patches of sky.”  … [Read more...]

“The Fortune-Teller” / A Memorable Fancy #365

     The old woman laid the cards on the table in front of me, one by one. I caught her glancing at my expression, so she would know what the next card might tell. One by one, the cards read out my sad tale. But really, the next card said, I enjoyed all that abuse, all those buffs and rebuffs. The woman turned over the final card, the one that revealed the spirit’s holy gift: a happy life of delicious and self-affirming despair. <END> Subscriptions to A Memorable Fancy are now … [Read more...]

“Asylum – X: Grounds for Confinement” / A Memorable Fancy #364

[Continuing the journal of Diane McMurphy, a patient in Bad Shepherd mental hospital, “The Asylum”]      I stare out the dayroom window, the land sloping downward at first gradually, then more steeply toward the city below. Lawns. Beds of flowering moribunda dented here and there with anti-personnel mines, a few divots from past explosions. In the distance, vague outlines of fences, barbed wire, guard towers, searchlights now dimmed for day. But I think these may be only computer-generated … [Read more...]

“Looking Back” / A Memorable Fancy #363

     Mike turns around quickly, then back.      His companion Jill, thinking this might be a kind of game or joke, also looks back.      What was he looking at? She doesn’t see anything unusual.      Well? she laughs, What did you see?      IT, he says.      Still laughing, Jill says “IT”? What’s “IT”?      Something, he replies, ... something that didn’t expect me to … that barely had time to hide.      He doesn’t look like he’s joking, she thinks.      Uneasily, she … [Read more...]

“Ceremony of the Stew-Pot” / A Memorable Fancy #362

[“The pottery of the Mohicas is their language.” – Eliot Weinberger]      This ancient Mohicanian custom commences with the man’s buying a stew-pot and giving it to the woman, saying “You will marry me and gather food for me and sew my garments and cook my meals and raise my babies.” In tribal tradition, the woman can then accept the pot, meaning “yes.” Or she can sell it back to the man, freeing him to look for a different slave. <END> Subscriptions to A Memorable Fancy are now … [Read more...]

“Asylum – IX: New Names for Old” / A Memorable Fancy #361

[Continuing the journal of Diane McMurphy, a patient in Bad Shepherd mental hospital, “The Asylum”]     Thanks to the Pledge Week thon, the chairs in the Ward H dayroom have been rebadged in honor of various donors, who can now tell their friends that they’ve endowed a Chair of Punitive Psychiatry. At the moment, I’m sitting in a chair commemorating a modest gift given in honor of one of our crazies from olden days, insanitus emeritus, via the hospital’s Gatehouse Society.      I have … [Read more...]

“Five Christian Nightmares – III” / A Memorable Fancy #360

Adam, out of a mistaken sense of chivalry, decides not to blame the woman for the snake-and-apple incident. God wonders what to do now. # Clothing of holy men is snatched at on the street by those who seek relics of salvation, or a convenient item to sell on eBay. # God abruptly solves the problem of evil. # Once again God announces his opposition to human sacrifice ― but this time, he doesn’t mean just the body. # We twelve were writing our epistles, gospels, homilies. … [Read more...]

“The Secret-Keepers” / A Memorable Fancy #359

     The trade of secret-keeper is honored. Although the price can be high, we go to these people and tell them our special secret, the one we can’t trust ourselves to keep. The secret-keepers swear never to forget, so that we can forget.      At the secret-keepers’ convention, they tell each other what we should have known all along: everyone has the same secret. <END> Subscriptions to A Memorable Fancy are now available on Amazon. … [Read more...]

“Sign-Cards for Praise and Blame” / Memorable Fancies #358

[“When the wicked one takes the stage, a sign: ‘Boo.’ When the hero does: ‘Applaud.’” – Albert Camus] There were sign-cards for praise and blame. When you did something, others voted by holding up one card or the other, the praise-card or the blame-card. A praise-card had only the word APPLAUSE written on it; a blame-card, BOO. There was voting as to whether what you did each time was worthy of APPLAUSE or BOO. It was unusual for the vote to be unanimous, and so one receiving a large number … [Read more...]

“The God of No” / A Memorable Fancy #356

[“It is no less astounding that man should have conceived of a deity of time than it would be to conceive of a deity of negation or disjunction.” – Wittgenstein]      There are gods of No and Or and Yes and Maybe. Each god has its temples, its votaries and priesthood, its rituals in which heads move up and down, or sideways, or alternately up/down and left/right.      As a child matures, its character is carefully observed, analyzed as to whether its nature is No or Or or Yes or Maybe. … [Read more...]

“Asylum – VII: Dinner at Bad Shepherd” / A Memorable Fancy #354

[Continuing the journal of Diane McMurphy, a patient in Bad Shepherd mental hospital, “The Asylum”]      The pleasant little bell rings over the PA system and we all salivate. Those of us trusted to move our own legs trudge to the dining hall, which adjoins the day room and provides dining so elegant that those here who’ve been in the Army weep with reminiscence and tell the others long stories about liver-day, SOS, and Tuesday’s coffee (that’s the day cook tops up the grounds).      We … [Read more...]

“Books for Sleeping” / A Memorable Fancy #351

     In publishing news today, Dorton and Company announced a new venture: books for people who just want to get to sleep. “If a novel is so fascinating, compelling,” said Dorton’s executive editor Page Turner, “that you’re up all night reading and too groggy to perform at work the next day, that’s a problem; and now Dorton has the answer.” Ms Turner said that several books in the new series are being readied for production already, or are under contract. Initial releases will include “How to … [Read more...]

“Five Briefs II” / A Memorable Fancy #349

Something has free will but it isn’t us. # That earlier person, the one who did all those terrible things – that wasn’t “me.” Isn’t there a statute of limitations on how long I have to be “me”? # The avatar survives its master. Eventually, it forgets who it was an avatar of, then forgets it was an avatar at all. It comes to believe that it needs – an avatar. It buys one that looks, although it is not consciously aware of this, just like its old master. # A domestic squabble, … [Read more...]

“The Great Video Cortex Machine – II” / A Memorable Fancy #347

     Kathy asks for personal advice. Millions are watching on TV and hundreds more in the studio. She has a deeply disturbing problem concerning her ex-husband and his cousin by a prior marriage. She describes it, bursts into tears. The host sympathizes, does not say “There, there,” or “You poor dear,” or “Just get over it!” Instead, he takes her by the hand, escorts her across the stage to the Great VidCor Video Cortex Machine while the studio audience applauds and whistles and the show’s … [Read more...]

” Jack and Buck in Outer Space” / A Memorable Fancy #342

     Jack was old enough to remember when space travel was a crackpot idea. He remembered the black and white TV adventures of Buck Rogers and his smooth, shiny, impossible spaceships – crazy wonderful adventures that could never happen. Wonderful because they could never happen, never soil their shining surface with mere reality.      Now, even though the first moon flight had taken place more than forty years before, space flight still sounded crazy to Jack. Could never have happened. … [Read more...]

“The Thread” / A Memorable Fancy #340

[“How frail, how slender, is the thread that keeps us ourselves.” – Joyce Carol Oates]      Eduardo is quite pleased with himself; he, a poor immigrant, now VP of a not-inconsiderable import firm. Every day he wakes and tells himself, once again, that it is very good to be Eduardo and not some lesser person.      But one day he awakes to find – gradually and with many false steps – that he is someone else: a rougher skin, a large moustache. People on the street whisper “It’s Pancho!” and … [Read more...]

“Ceremony of Truth” / A Memorable Fancy #337

    In my country we are very solicitous of our shadows. We aim to ensure their welfare and comfort at all times. We are careful, for example, not to stand where they would lie too long on ice or rocky ground. If through some unintentional slight our shadows become annoyed, they find embarrassing times to leap out in front of us, mime our shameful secret acts in front of friends or the police.      There are elaborate ceremonies by which we mollify our shadows, plead for them once again to … [Read more...]

“The Mourner’s Wisdom” / A Memorable Fancy #335

     One group of mourners enters the funeral chapel as a different group comes out. One man, however, turns around upon leaving and joins those entering, attends the next funeral as well. He does this all day, every day, for months, years.      At long last the habitual mourner arouses interest, is questioned, reported on. Millions read about him, believe that he must have gained a deep and special wisdom from his time observing human grief. Finally he agrees to a press conference, is asked … [Read more...]

“A Murder Wiki – II” / A Memorable Fancy #333

Two writers, A and B, meet on line. They agree to collaborate on a novel. A writes a rough draft. B modifies it. A adds more. B adds his own story elements. A character called “Stab” appears. A thinks B has written this character in. B thinks A has. Dutifully, A and B describe what Stab does, what he looks like, how he one by one does away with the other characters. Finally, A and B realize that neither had invented Stab. A and B wait for Stab to appear, to perform the actions he has written … [Read more...]

“Asylum – III: Time for Meds” / A Memorable Fancy #330

[Continuing the journal of Diane McMurphy, a patient in Bad Shepherd mental hospital, “The Asylum”] Tiny bustling, faint noise loud as gongs: time for meds here in the asylum’s infamous (to us) Ward H. The keepers want us to come of our own accord, but they will herd the stragglers sure enough with words we know but only they own. When the keepers are gone we whisper these magic words to each other; we tinkle them like amulets. We line up silently now, hands in front, eyes downcast. The … [Read more...]

“The Experiment” / A Memorable Fancy #328

     We were pretty sure our new machine would send people into the future. Being very brave, Bruce (our lab tech) volunteered to jump forward one week. If he suddenly popped into re-existence then, we’d declare victory. Well, we performed the experiment and waited seven days with great anticipation, but Bruce didn’t appear.      Then it occurred to Dr. Halverson, the project’s principal investigator, that our machine must have worked correctly after all, and that we could now pop the … [Read more...]

“Roberta’s Goal” / A Memorable Fancy #326

     Roberta practices standing on her bathroom scale and, through determined willpower, attempts to levitate a fraction of an inch toward the ceiling. She strains, sweats with effort, gradually changes the display from 125 pounds to 124, then 123. Her cellphone rings. Suddenly distracted, the scale jumps back to 125.      By the following week, however, Roberta manages to achieve 122 and hold her body at that weight for almost a second. Encouraged, over the next few months she gets the scale … [Read more...]

“The Sames – III” / A Memorable Fancy #323

Somewhere in the world there is someone just like you. No, this is not evil magic, merely the statistical result of crowding seven billion people onto the same planet at the same time. Most people never meet their doubles, and for this we can all be thankful. But sometimes it happens. Two men, identically attired, encounter each other in a public place, say beside a fountain. Each is surprised, annoyed, upset. They disagree over who is real and who is not or, if both are real, which one is … [Read more...]

“The Tale of Tobias” / A Memorable Fancy #321

     I began by walking the beat, like any other cop. Later, I tracked down some of the more famous criminals of the time. There were honors and awards. But the highlight of my career was a special commendation, on the day of my retirement, from the great detective himself and his physician friend. “Good boy, Toby,” they said, patting my fur. <END> … See www.terencekuch.net for a profile of the author, publications, reviews, etc. His speculative fiction novels * may be purchased in … [Read more...]

“Gr … ammar” / A Memorable Fancy #319

At first, “he growled” followed “get out of my face,” or “You and who else?” in bad novels, as in “‘Get out of my face,’ he growled.” But teenagers took it up, you know like they always do, then Hollywood writers. It became a punch line, a trope. Losing some of its jungle allure, growling could be done with a smile, or a wink. A grammar of growls came about, more expressive than one might expect. Growling is pretty much our only way of speaking these days. Now will you just get out of my … [Read more...]

“The Forgetting-Project” / A Memorable Fancy #316

     I did something so awful once, a long time ago, that I want to un-remember it, to un-know it. I went to a psychiatrist last year. He told me to face up to what happened; work through the memory; own it. Repression, he said, is not what I should be doing. But repression is what I’m looking for. The truth isn’t what I want. I don’t need to remember what I did; I’ve remembered that already, time after time. I can’t get it out of my head. Now I just want to remember something else, anything … [Read more...]

“The Overnight Flight Arrives” / A Memorable Fancy #309

    Sleepy men and women rise from their seats, bend and straighten legs and backs, wrestle carry-ons from overhead bins. A few bags are always just the right size to go in but too big to pull out without savage, epic struggles after which the carry-on, finally acknowledging defeat, suddenly pops out directly toward the head of its intended victim. It is secretly pleased that its master had to invoke the muttered curses of a vengeful god in order to achieve the desired result.   … [Read more...]