“Joining the world of missing persons and she was

Missing enough to feel all right and she was”

— Talking Heads

Set used:


An airbrella sky slightly watered Seattle.

Ashes and a special April Sunday, a stone slung away, and Susan’s solar anniversary also — an Aries. A super afternoon, Sibelius and Strauss, symphony and a Starbucks — 60 smackaroos.

Shorty sable wires above aquamarine above scarlet, and a starry scarf, a Scottish skirt, she stretched a street along a skinny alabaster arm.

Also, some afternoon support. Susan’s anorexic sisters seldom worried about acronyms, although Anorexic Anonymous suited well. Well, almost anonymous. Also, Scarily Skinny Women’s Society (SSWS), Women Against Skinny (WAS), Start Acquiring Weight Association (SAWA), Salad Ain’t A Super, Stupid (SAASS), Sudden Stroke Survivor Society (SSSS), as well as Susan’s standard Anorexic Accountant’s Association (AAA).

“Summaries, women. As always, a slight statement about sustaining and adding weight. And…whatever.”


“Writing another short story. Skinny words. Sorta a silly story.”

“SILLY STORIES SELL!” screamed Screaming Alice, an anorexic and also a screamer.

“Well, a serious story actually.”


Wendy stroked Sylvia’s shoulder. “Any success at an agent?”

‘Seriously absent any agent still.”

“So sad.”

Another seat. “Stephanie?”

“Weight, adequate. Actually stored some suffering Aunt Ashley’s awful wedding. Second wedding. Also, Spring semester started. Studying art, anthropology, ancient Syria.”


“Ancient Syria, Alice.”


Another seat. “Susan?”

“Weight, well, sufficient.”

Some seconds whizzed along.


She was absent any socializing “and”. Always a secret, “and”. William, Susan’s sweet supporter, amongst walking shadows. War without sin although wounds scream agonies. And Susan, without anyone six seasons, anyone at all. Sex without sin although amourless sex wretched.

Absent any sustenance all afternoon, Susan walked. An anxious sudden smoke along an alley, a wisp above air. Ah, such a world, such an awful skinny world. Accusations, slanders, almost an answer, almost a smile, almost a sincere sensual stroke across Susan’s arm. Wrecked artifice sufficed.

A sudden sliced sun and some sky again, she walked. Suddenly, a sign.

Seattle Artfest. September. Siouxsie Sioux. “Seriously? WOW.”

Susan started spinning, arms slashing, singing, spinning, spinning, spellbound. All around stared. “Siouxie!” she said, spinning again. “Spellbound!” Some smiles. Acceptance. Seattle.

And another sign. Seattle Science and Art Academy. Study such subjects as:










She walked. Store after store. Selling stuff. Apple Air, so shiny white. A window selling women’s slacks, a sale. Shoes. Steak and whiskey. And suddenly, Steinways. “Awwww.” She should’ve studied. Aunt Susan’s stereo, shimmering Scarlatti, she was seduced. “Accounting’s an art also, sweetie” Susan’s step-dad said. “Study accounting.” After sixteen arguments, and an arm-snapping swingset accident, she surrendered. So she studied accounting. At age six. Addition and subtraction and accounting as a scale. Add weight, subtract weight. And Susan an amazingly swift student. “Step-dads are strange.”

And Alice’s Animals — same Alice actually as AA, aka Screaming Alice. Alice approached, an amazon at six-foot-six and a sometime supermodel. “SUSAN! SUSAN WALLACE! SWEETIE!” Alice’s arms surrounded Susan. A smooch.

“Amazing sweater, Alice.”


“Aquarium stuff” Susan said. “AWESOME! AQUARIUM STUFF! SUPER!”

Additional air stones acquired, and another smooch, Susan walked.

Sparrows ascending. Sandwich Slut sandwich shop. Susan stopped. A stromboli, serious weight stuff. Almost sickening appearance, sanguine, sagging skin. Susan ate some. A small some. Awful, sickening stuff. She sipped a Sprite. “Should’ve stopped at Sung Wa Seafood again.” Super shellfish. Small. Squishy. Some savory Asian sauce. Scrumptious.

Wandering. Susan stopped and stared and walked again, successive surrealistic windows. Windows severing automobiles. Seagulls spinning sweaters. An airliner, almost stationary seeming, above an azure ale sign. An aged woman’s wheelchair against a wooden armoire.

Still some sun, so she accessed a shuttle along a street. She sped south. Susan’s Solo Seaside Adventure. Soon, along Alki Avenue, she saw Seattle as some ancient sea. Straight ammonites. Squalicorax, Styxosaurus. Saecula Saeculorum. Ages and ages.

Alki at sunset. Alternating abysses. Sea and sky. Water and air. World and stars. Salty air. A walk along soft slightly sinking sand.

Suddenly, a whim. Arms above shoulders wafting swiftly, a sea anemone almost she was, a sea-spirit again, although several stones weightier a spirit still. An anemone spirit she was, and as the water’s surges advanced and subsided about where she was she sensed survival sing within. And suddenly she was ancient also, sealike, wavelike, amorphous, and above all wonderful she was, she simply was.


Cover photo: Joisey Showaa




[This story predates by about a year my two recent short stories in the new style, “Scots Wha Hae” and “Catalogue Aria.” It was originally done as a sketch to see if the new technique could be applied to a novel length piece of fiction. But whereas my new work, Hand Down Beside Her, uses 24 different letter sets, “Cards” is about as tightly controlled as it can get. The five letters of the word CARDS are the prime generator through most of the story. The letters of the phrase TWO COMMENTS are also used briefly to generate a few phrases in the middle section, and used again at length at the end. The original version of this carried two other historical sections, one dealing with the fall of the Romanovs and the other with Cleopatra. Due to work on the new novel, I decided to cut those unfinished sections and finally post the story.]


Letter sets used:



(Proof of May 17, 2013)



§1. Downtown Spokane’s Sputnik Cafe. Afternoon crowd. Aging alcoholics, rednecks, disabled roofers, dishwashers. Drinking rye after a rigorous reading day, Rilke and Rothke, Dostoyevsky, darkly serious confessions all. Cute sassy servers sit, converse, sip cappuccinos. A crowded, sophisticated dinner set comes afterward. A really dull rainy afternoon, already relatively dark. Sylvie, Carrie sit down, deal some cards. A relaxing distraction. Shuffle. Deal. Redistribute diamonds, spades. Draw, discard, draw. Sylvie slaps down six cards. “Suck’a dildo, slut!” “Shit!” Carrie says, “cause’a completely stacked deck, slut.” Distraction recedes, additional customers await. College athletes, confident, cocky. “Corona and Redbull, all ’round.” “All righty ‘den!”says Carrie.” “Remarkable rack, angel.” “Rrrrright” Carrie automatically replies, dryly. “Dickhead” she says silently. Still, somewhat cute, admittedly amazingly cut. Another rye. Darker still. Christmas approaching and afternoons run rapidly dark. Sylvie, Carrie still dealing some cards. A split second serving. Deal. Another rye against aching cavities. Specialists, doctors rejecting all relief. “Actually requires dental surgery,” seriously costly. Almost continuous agony absent codeine. “Cha-cha” addicts consulting sleazy doctors ruin any actual relief dispensing different drugs, dollar signs, societal disapproval, deserving sufferers don’t soon count. Selling codeine creates avenues, constant supply. Someone drinking some suds, staring constantly, suit coat cracked and revealing an automatic. A cop, certainly. Cards. A crazy cosmic alphabet rises, develops. Simple cards activating a really deep seated cabbalistic craziness. Chosen acronyms reflecting an assumed reality. Disturbing sentences. Sylvie could’ve called a cop acquaintance. Another cop arrives, a conference. “Crazy shit caught selling drugs.” Additional cops arrive. A recovered digital SIM card, somehow stupidly dropped right around August switching cards. A card containing semi-confessional annotations. “A real dumb shit” Detective Schnabel says. “Dropped some cell card containing accounts. Recording drug sales. Dumb shit.” Social deviance requires detention. Dedicated Spokane cops cuff and rough, drag scumbag suspects crudely, angled roughly down, sent crashing across a car seat. Detention. Can’t afford an attorney, a resourceful designated Defender argues rehab. Convicted. Sentenced. Steel doors slammed closed. Strip searched, de-loused. Darkness.

§2. Another century, another country. A royal affair, concerts symphonique. Sweet Cremona strings. Several chosen arias. Rameau’s decidedly sad Castor, syncopated Dardanus. An Austrian composer’s symphonies dramatically rendered. Added contrabasses solidly driving, development sections stunning concertgoers. “Such superb creativity!” An allegretto Antoinette admired, afterward remembered as “Reine.” Antoinette considered cold and aloof, another arrogant aristocrat, an Austrian chatte. A royal residence, all aurum and argentum, rococo art. A ridiculous diamond scandal. A Rousseauian addition, agrarian, courting simplicity. Decorous swans, sheep, ducks, dogs, rabbits, roosters announcing Antoinette’s completely average Royal day. Set comically against several decades repeated drought, skimpy crops. An Austrian conflict, annual revenues drop, slowly crumble. State deficits rise. Appointed Royal administrators rehired, dismissed. Soon commodities soar as Customs and Aides rise. Riots, angry rhetoric. Average citizens advocating reform, democracy. Revolution. Another calendar, another clock. Committees, courts. Aristocrats, anyone considered counter-revolutionary arrested, charged, summarily convicted. Serious disagreement straight-jacketed, Duchesne’s snide condemnations. At city center a Republican razor raised. Reason dismissing Death, Death destroying Reason. Antoinette and children also arrested, confined. A counter-revolutionary attempt, all afterward relocated. A cold stinking Conciergerie cell. Solitudinous, dismal. Chicken soup suppers, dysentery, sores, sanguineous cervical cancer. Soiled sheets, soiled damask dress, aging cranberry silk shoes. Children separated. An airy courtroom, so crowded citizens sit crazily atop rafters. Awful, crazy accusations. Abusing a child, spying. Conclusion certainly already arrived at. Conviction, swift sentencing — death. Dirty silver curls aggressively cut short. Dress swiftly changed, simple cotton. A country cart. “Antoinette’s carriage awaits!” Angry citizens shout, demand revenge. Another Capet smooching cold steel. Cold. Climb. Climb steps slowly. Antoinette’s resolve rapidly diminishing, stumbles, courteously apologizes. Chest suddenly slammed down, shins slid crosswise. Carriage slid swiftly. Sudden terror. No escape. Neck tugged sharply. The stockade shoved down. Stop. Drums snare some dark symphony. Staring down, staring down. Rope dragged, released. Swoosh. Decapitated. Dead. Startled cheers. Sans-coulettes carry away Antionette’s corpse. Cranberry shoes simply disappearing, separated somehow. Some crude anonymous cemetary, corpse slung down. Covered angrily, rapidly. Done.

§3. Reverse ahead across centuries. A really dark smelly cell, chlorine and cheap soap. Convicts clean crappy commodes, slam down supper. Days reading detective stories, Stoker’s Dracula, surprisingly sexy Carmilla. Some distracting cards, solitaire. Dangerous disagreements, someone stabbing someone. Sensitive smart convicts are raped daily, dominants demanding submission. Dragged, rammed down roughly against a cot. Spin, drift, separate self completely away. Alexandria, Russia, a cell a Conciergerie. Stay still darkness rests, remembering Antoinette’s cranberry shoes. That sad soul, still sojourning, transparent, the night triggers spirits that speak. “The shoes, they were on continuously over months. My executioners noticed the smell. Two women offered coins.” This wretched old carcass, this wretched old cage. Oh my Marie, every night the terror surfaces, the new trial starts, the nightmare never totally stops. The staircase to this wrecked world opens. Climb. Climb. Observe. Centuries of outright madness. Eighteenth, Nineteenth, Twentieth. Then the sad towers sink. The wars, the wounded, the widows, the speeches, the twenty sharp salutes. This tiny world, this world of cards, chimeras, of mere minutes, of memories entering evenings. Misty mornings, October comes. October writes the saddest thought. Then November, empty November. Early morning mists offer cold consolation. Old wintering trees, then snow. Then the solstice, the sun so seldom seen. The world’s order crumbles. Once we’re there the world’s too small to need. Escaping Earth, now the soul soars. Transfigured night, eternal night nurturing the stars. The Seven Sisters, the whirl of our Creator’s creation. “Of me, Master Edward, never think sadly.” Swoosh.

Catalogue Aria


[Another piece in the new style. The individual letters of the letter set
sliding consecutively left or right or up or down form the initial letters
of the story text.]

letter set:



(Proof of October 28, 2012)

“Catalogue Aria”

Alstair and Sheila studied Sybelle Clark’s SoHo condominium attentively. “Classy” Sheila said. Alstair simply smiled. “Classy? An overdone Parisian theme, actually. Chopin and nurturing Sand. Cherubs, angels, nymphs.” Arms crossed, Alstair then paced the apartment’s crowded salon, an intense Napoleon surveying an army. “Still, an admirable Steinway.” Alstair sounded some chords. “Sweetness and sin combined. Start notating, Sheila.” Sheila, Alstair’s sometime secretary, started scribbling. “An admirable Steinway” she said. “Sweet and…sinful?” Alstair smiled again. “Anything Alstair says, sweetness. Accurately appraising Sybelle’s art and such naturally is required running an estate auction. Add in impartiality, and I’m obviously nice Southeby’s choice.” Sheila snorted, curtsied sarcastically. “Sir Alstair, I am in awe! Southeby’s choice!” “Actually, nice Southeby’s choice” Alstair noted, amused. “Accuracy! Accuracy!” Alstair caressed Sheila’s shoulder. “Sweet signora, note…”

Alstair spoke confidently, cheerfully, sometimes singing aloud some notable item. A Stradivarius cello. A Chippendale chair. Seven small Nouveau statuettes — an arcadian shepherd, an immodest nymph, an almost aetherial Terpsichore, a tragic Orpheus remembering absent Euridice, an “almost erect” Satyr — laughed Alstair, “I adjudge it’s intoxicated” — Io imprisoned on the olive tree, and a “completely sad-seeming” Aoide. “It’s really obvious'” remarked Alstair. “An earthly existence summarized in statuettes.”

Sybelle’s incredible operatic rise amazed even Europe’s solid institutions. A totally outstanding Norma. Rosalina acquiring intense, almost riotous ovations. Tosca occasioning rave reviews. Increasingly admired, Sybelle courted society. Sexual conquests, and trendy opera occasions. Royalty issuing admiring invitations. Across six seasons, Sybelle soared. Now interminable airline schedules and sleepless nights. Amphetamines, cocaine. Old friends’ advice, concerned, suddenly shunned.

*”Our catalogue continues.” A Fragonnard. A Chromy copy “one-fourth from actual” called Commendatore Cloak of Conscience. And another Chromy, Anna’s “totally anguished” Leporello. “Sybelle simply sank, Sheila. Earth spins, seasons end. Although in opera they are always critical, a constant.” Sybelle’s coloratura-colored Salome called a failure. Only one opera found across a new season considered a complete success, Sybelle’s anxiety increased. A stagnant summer, not one recording. Another stage, another skeptical audience. Serious news services now noting suspicious cancellations.

“And continuing, Sheila. Certainly a nice Iranian rug. And another interesting statue, Shiva, Lord of Sleep, undoubtedly English era. And ah, excellent — an Elizabeth Sonrel. Extremely undervalued, Sheila. Southeby’s should love Sonrel.” Elderly Alstair reached over to a table. “Alstair thirsts. A nice scotch, Sheila? A small sample? No? I’ll research it alone. Silky smokey scotch, neat. It’s actually superb. Not surprising.” Sybelle’s considerable accounts notwithstanding, Swiss clinics and talented psychiatrists only avoided. Another trendy party. Another champagne, another oxycontin. Another coma-like sleep. And soon Sybelle laying across a tub, a corpse. A coroner called, family contacted, and news services. And inevitably ruled a regretful overdose of tramadol, alcohol, and cocaine. Archives checked and numerous old recordings resurrected. Interviews replayed. Introspective articles, individual remembrances. Orations, nicely stated summaries, choirs singing. “Still, so supremely stupid. Sympathy, Sheila? A suicide? Ah, Sybelle’s an idol. It’s acceptable. So admired. A suffering artist. She simply couldn’t cope. Sad? Still, a suicide. A senseless cemetary. Self-negation.”

One old Russian Orthodox triptych. A Napoleonic-inspired recliner. One oriental-themed table of Indonesian origin. “Our incredibly sane-seeming satisfying existence, Sheila, is attached to objects. Our intense acquisi-tiveness inebriates souls. Intelligent Alstair is attached to a trap. Although nice Southeby’s should appreciate selling Sybelle’s small Chagall. Angels. Always angels. Childhood cancer, Sheila — childhood cancer’s a true tragedy. Totally absent any choice. Alstair’s child, she…so swiftly succumbed. Sorrow’s a sacred niche I reserve, although imperfectly, I admit.” Alstair slipped a switch and awakened Sybelle’s stereo. “And, a stereo system. Arrakis speakers. Ah, simply amazing sound. And Anne-Sophie’s Sibelius CD spinning. Such sweet cold sadness. No one’s interpretation is nicer.” Sheila sighed. “Alstair, I’m numb. Stop.” Nodding, Alstair approached and closed Sheila’s notebook. “A catalogue. An aria. And… another night.”

(Cover photo: Commendatore: Cloak of Conscience by Anna Chromy.)

Scots Wha Hae



(Proof of September 12, 2012)

[A tiny piece, written in the new style. The individual letters in the title’s two sets, sliding sequentially to the right or left, or up and down, become the first letters of each word in the story.]

“Scots Wha Hae”

Scots wha hae, who have wrestled with sleeplessness, three o’clock comes swiftly, exasperatingly, and hangs. Absent any human weight, sheet then sinking slowly, softly, some strange wind whispering his ankle, he sensed her spirit there. She that of old, the Scottish witch, wonderful hair an auburn hue and eyes aquamarine, Ann’s energy spread, sweet consolation against his ache, a haunting. “Why here, Annie?” he whispered. “Solitude seeks solitude. Spirits seeks songs” she said. “Sing, sing to our time together of old.” How her absence had hardened his heart, held him all too tightly against any happiness. A’lack a Annie ten seasons since her agonizing headaches, her weight sinking, ten seasons since the oncologists, chemotherapy, Ann’s earthly end. A church. A cemetery. “Only twenty-seven…” Haltingly, he sang their song. “Scots wha hae…who ha with Wallace stood…” She smiled. “That’s the one.” Continuing on his agonized heart surrendered, sobbing softly. “Have strength, husband. Happy Annie has seen things only celestial spirits see. Eventually, soon Cuddy, comes our time to truly soar. Till then, taste some happiness again. Toss out this old caber, sorrow.” Cuddy opened his heart, held himself against her. And harmonious words where spoken ‘tween. Then towards sunrise she took off, circled overhead teasingly. Then spiraled straight to the stars, wanting Heaven again.

letter sets:


[Photo: “Lochleven” by Richard Keeling.]

Yellow Bows, Denim Jacket, Satin Slippers


, ,


(Proof of December 15, 1998)

[This is a serialized work using letters from the title, sliding back and forth. E.g. “w Bow” = becomes “Words beside other words”. The entire piece is like that with the exception of one paragraph toward the end, where I break loose a bit. Written in December 1998 when I had just returned to college (you will see an allusion to my chemistry class). Note: contains some sexual language.]

“Yellow Bows, Denim Jacket, Satin Slippers”

Words besides other words, words becoming other words, words bequeathing other words to the world, beginning, obviously, with: you’re essentially lazy, live off welfare, beat off while smoking. Your elegiac lines are lately overwrought, worthless bullshit. Old writers, i.e. you, love lust, old, lonely, lost, obviously without.

Beehives opened on winter streets, water buffalos, wild bulls, offensive water snakes, warbles, bullfinches, ostriches, weasels, young engineers let loose on Watteau’s birthday, old warlocks singing Yiddish elegies, lost love, lost light. Old words, old women with their brooms out, sweeping wet streets. Well, shit. Your early love lost obviously was beautiful, obviously was sad. Your elegy, your essentially encrypted lines limitless lately, obviously. Your early logic leaned on Wittgenstein (Wittgenstein – Boltzmann’s obviously wonderful student). Young Einstein learned light on wooden benches observing winter sunsets. Young Eliot’s early lovely lady obviously went batty opening the wrong suitcase. Yeat’s elegiac lines lasted out wonderful Byzantium (old words seduce). When Shakespeare wrote sonnets you essentially learned language. Old writings become other writer’s Stonehenge, wunderbilder others will stack. Young Emily, lovely, lonely, obsessed with beauty, old words bent with strain, sometimes wonderfully strained. Some logic is painful, painful especially regarding sizing up the self, looking inward. Leave it in.

You’re emotionally lifeless, look old, old worn boots, old worn shoe-strings. Your early life looked open, without bounds. Old writers sometimes become obsessives. Old wizened Berryman obsessed with sex, wicked satyriasis your element. “Look, little one: old wonderful Berryman’s original workbook for the Sonnets.” Your expected lady, Luck, obviously wanting. Obviously obviously went before, or will still.

Quit. Just quit. Obviously won’t. Best open William’s sonnets, you’ll eventually learn. Young Emily likely lost out, wasn’t beautiful, but obviously wasn’t stupid. Your Emily’s lost loves — obviously Wordsworth, Byron, or wonderful Shelly, early Latin lyrics, Ovid. Wild! Bright! Opals! White satin slippers! Wounded syntax, better off with slippers. Wittgenstein became obsessed with simplicity, better off without socks, better off with simplicity.

A lousy lie, that one will become one with someone. Struggle with suitcase. “One wonderful box of wonderful old swill your establishment lacks! A little old, obviously. Wonderful bargain! Suits you economically. Lovely label! Old winery between Oregon and Washington. Obviously a wonderful bargain. Last one!” Weary bartenders observing wretched souls obsessed with smoking, whiskey bottles, the year’s end. Lonely ladies obviously without boyfriends, beautiful once when springtime young. Yellow bows. Denim jackets. Satin slippers.

Wonderful, willowy, witty beauties on water skis, who obviously were screwed yesterday — you’re envious — obsessed with sucking young erect lovers long organs. Lounging openly in wonderful bikinis, open water, sunbathers, waiters…Sternenleer. Your early life left out something. Your endless longings left out something, left out words. One watch broken, one watch still winds. A situation your economic excesses engendered, that your egotism engineered. “Written beautifully. But, obviously, well, wearisome. Beckett, obviously. But senseless sometimes, obsessive (“obviously”). Without structure, obviously. Obviously wouldn’t sell. You evidently like literature. You’ll eventually learn.” Well, shit. You egotistical little editorial lackey. Linger on wonderful old Bach (old Bruch), the organ works — woops — Orgelbuch. Obviously worth studying, for years, except… Long lines of words. Lines and lines of lovely old words, lines of wonderful old books. Obviously wonderful bouquet. Obviously worth studying, one wouldn’t suffice, one book opens one book opens…without summation. Well, someday you’ll end. Latin ‘longa’ observation wonderfully ‘brevis.’ Weltsystemes…

Better off without school, better off without science — if you fail — better off without sumptuous young erotic ladies lingering on the wall. Better off without…you enjoy, perhaps later, perhaps lastly, perhaps… The still point of the turning world, you saw it in the center of the centrifuge. Manganese, spinning, you enjoy. Here is not the digression, but the essence, the still point, the soul, the merry-go-round spins and you are the center, and it all spins around you, like the atom, the valance shells around the proton, stat crux dum volvitur orbis, the still point. It is to be a good person. It is to participate in God’s creation. If you can. If you are able. If you are given the time — God’s great commodity.

Dark England now is my judge and court. Damn near everyone now is my judge and court. After Cromwell, a renaissance. Worlds spinning they enjoyed, when the King came up from his dark place, and was rethroned. The King come back up, dominant, and regal. Better off without socks. But you love socks. You love lovely ladies in socks. So take them off, renounce your nature, give up what has been given to you, what you have been accustomed to, take off your socks. Take them off.

And here, barefoot, I confess. Better off with socks. Better off with shoes. Better off with yourself, whatever self you happen to enjoy.

Looks like old worn briefs, obviously. Well swell. You’re essentially lazy, old lately. Look out the window. Beautiful orange winter sunset! Wonderful Strauss! You embrace the Letzte Lieder, old world beauty. O, Omniscient one. Worldstreams, spinning, you enjoy. The light lingers over western buttes. Better off with loneliness, better off with syntax. Better off with Saturn beating on the window sometimes. Wonderful songs, the Winterreise, Schubert, better off with sadness, better off with solitude. Better off with satin slippers. Better off walking slowly. Beauty opens with slowness. Life opens with silence.