Monday, December 27, 2010

Disembodied, Backwards

More backwards! The idea is to take a small work and reverse the sentence order. The story I've used this time is Disembodied, another from Thinly Sliced Raw Fish, found here.

The new "backwards" version:

Fractured formulas of identity.  Why.  Where.  How.  Memories of rain on flowers and the cold steel of buildings under construction.  I’m thinking in hazy.  I’m floating in nebulous.  I’m here but don’t know where.

The original version:

I’m here but don’t know where.  I’m floating in nebulous, I’m thinking in hazy.  Memories of rain on flowers and the cold steel of buildings under construction.  How Where. Why.  Fractured formulas of identity.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Leviathan: A Dream Fragment

Extra Casolaro related material. This is not directly related to the 64 stories, but represents the beginning of a second chapter after those stories. 

Dr. Erik Vondeer, acclaimed marine biologist, known for his seminal papers on distribution of sea kraits on the Great Barrier Reef and the evolution of chondrophores in the Indian Ocean among other works, hunter of deep sea creatures, surly lonely old man that some were now calling kook landlocked at a mid-sized midwestern college known more for basketball feats than what its grizzled old professors are conjuring up with their stale labyrinthine minds, woke from his recurring dream, ready to bounce from his lonesome bed over to his bedroom desk and write notes in his journal, as he’s been doing for years now, the “journal” itself not just one book but a collection of them, the ever-expanding library of what has been his life’s thoughts and dreams.  His recurring dream was as such: he’s on an expedition boat somewhere in the seas, the landscape changing from, in no particular recurring order, the icy cliffs of Antarctica, the sunny smooth surface of the south Pacific, the raging cold waters of the North Sea with oil platforms the statues of modern civilizations off in the distance, the green and rocky Grecian coastlines with the ancient crumbling buildings and monuments secluded on hilltops or partially hidden by untamed green growth and some of the residue of dead civilizations still lurking beneath the waters, the Galapagos Islands a litter of rocks like a mouth of broken teeth, generic night time waters that could be anywhere, a full moon illuminating eerily still waters that suddenly erupt into tossing storms, the very stability of the ship called into question, the craft itself on the verge of being shattered into thousands of shards and scattered in the waters.  He’s the captain of the ship, and he’s surrounded by dozens in his crew, the faces constantly changing; and in some iterations of the dream, the crew are not providing physical boat assistance but rather are reading passages from the Book of Job, may those who curse days curse that day…can you fill his hide with harpoons…here is the ocean vast and wide, teeming with life of every kind…and Melville’s tome, the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them, from hell’s heart I stab at thee, all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain.  Eventually bodies go flying off the deck into the sea; voices say, where is the great—don’t say it, he’ll scream, catching a mouth of salt water, don’t say the word, and then what will appear to be a land mass springing from the ocean’s floor, bursting through the water’s plane will become the thing he has long sought, the thing that has many appearances, many faces.  A massive shark, a prehistoric megalodon launching itself in the air with a cave for a mouth; a kraken with dozens of tentacles that are whipping in the air, snagging hapless crew members and tossing them about, itself posing for an early nineteenth century type of drawing that would be used in a natural history treatise; a sea serpent, a serpentine dragon with evil red eyes that rises high above the ship’s mast.  A unique, gigantic prehistoric monster that has managed to survive eons in the depths, or a mythological creature that is real and is an eternal dweller in the seas, or a variation of a presently existing marine apex predator that is afflicted with some sort of gigantism, or a heretofore unknown species that, despite being one of the largest creatures on the face of the earth, has escaped detection for centuries.  The thing that he has been searching for his entire life now, both in his academic work and mind, and that he believes must be out there in the world’s seas somewhere lurking in its darkest depths, the vast terrain not yet explored.  This iteration of the dream presented something new; whereas usually he stands on the ship’s deck, frozen in awe of the emerged creature and waits as if a sacrificial virgin to be destroyed by the attacking beast and waking just before it happens, here he waited and the beast spoke, saying in a roaring metal-grinding growl, “I’ve been searching for you,” just before he woke. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Gravity Gone, Backwards

Backwards! The idea is to take a small work and reverse the sentence order. The story I've used this time is Gravity Gone, another from Thinly Sliced Raw Fish, found here.

The new "backwards" version:

She rests her forehead on the window, inhales.  Between them there are stories, there are years. He wants to say, what are you thinking, but he can’t. They’re looking out an 18th floor window. He stops, thinks about unbound bodies floating upward, colliding with rising cars, street lights and wires, stuff.  If gravity were gone, she said, the world would be a better place.

The original:

If gravity were gone, she said, the world would be a better place.  He stops, thinks about unbound bodies floating upward, colliding with rising cars, street lights and wires, stuff.  They’re looking out an 18th floor window.  He wants to say, what are you thinking, but he can’t.  Between them there are stories, there are years.  She rests her forehead on the window, inhales.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Eggplant

This presentation is a warning on eggplants.  Travel world cuisine and you will see eggplant prevalence: ratatouille, eggplant parmigiana, moussaka.  Delicious meals, surely, but eggplant, as a nightshade plant (like tomatoes, potatoes, peppers) can cause various health problems.  Stomach lining irritation, gastritis.  Worsening of arthritis.  Consider that some weigh two pounds, large enough to cause head trauma, or other parts of the body if grouped in blankets and used as beating instruments.  Have I mentioned that this presentation has been funded by the Citizens with Concerns About Eggplants, a public advocacy nonprofit?  Visit their website and you will see photos of Indians, such as these, doubled over in the streets of Calcutta, eggplant victims, their arthritic wrists at their sides unable to support their weight.  You will see people in your country, facing similar fates in hospital waiting rooms, further burdening our overtaxed health care system.  You’ll see head trauma injuries, apparent accident victims, their heads suspiciously looking as if they’ve been clobbered with eggplants.  Have I mentioned I’m an eggplant victim?  Debilitating arthritis, after years of an eggplant-a-day diet?  I can barely stand here, support myself at this lectern, click the button for this slide presentation.  My advice to you?  Please avoid the deadly eggplant.  Don’t become a statistic.  Thank you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Clam Bake

Car breaks down on a road near the Chesapeake Bay.  Looking for help, the driver hears distant voices, walks through a corn field and some trees to a beach.  Sees people gathered around a crackling beach fire, the smell of corn, seafood cooking.  He approaches the crowd—long-haired bearded men, women with long hair, some with bandanas holding their hair back.  Several look at him, wave.  My car broke down out on the road, he says.  A shirtless man, leathered chest, gray hair in ponytail, stands.  Come, have a bite to eat.  I just want to be on my way.  Get this man a plate of food, someone says.  Soon after, a young male in red shorts approaches with fractured crabs, potatoes, oysters, corn.  He shrugs it off, but the guy is persistent, standing before him unblinking.  He eats the food, feeling as if everyone’s watching him do so.  About my car, he said.  Why don’t you join us, the shirtless man says, forget that car.  He doesn’t answer, realizes no one there will help.  Looks to the sky. Realizes dusk is coming.  What happened to the time?  Our cars broke down a long time ago, shirtless says, followed by laughter.  You should join us, he hears again, walking away, night coming.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Watching the House Burn, Backwards

The return of backwards fun! See previous entries here.

The idea is to take a small work and reverse the sentence order. This story I've done this with this time is Watching the House Burn, another from Thinly Sliced Raw Fish, found here.

So, here’s the new “backwards” story:

You clutch my hand, won’t let us leave. We don’t believe in this stuff. We’ve come here since childhood, stealing kisses in the shadows. I stare, transfixed, think I see silhouettes, black snakes of smoke moving uphill through bare trees.  We watched the flames, screaming demons eating oxygen.  The house sat on the grounds of either a prison cemetery, a typhoid-ravaged boarding school, or an abandoned psychiatric hospital.  Every other family moves in, stays awhile, abruptly leaves.   A psycho father kills his family, hangs himself.   For years we talked about its history.  We watched the house burn, holding hands.

The original:

We watched the house burn, holding hands. For years we talked about its history.  A psycho father kills his family, hangs himself.  Every other family moves in, stays awhile, abruptly leaves.  The house sat on the grounds of either a prison cemetery, a typhoid-ravaged boarding school, or an abandoned psychiatric hospital.  We watched the flames, screaming demons eating oxygen.  I stare, transfixed, think I see silhouettes, black snakes of smoke moving uphill through bare trees.  We’ve come here since childhood, stealing kisses in the shadows. We don’t believe in this stuff. You clutch my hand, won’t let us leave.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Blue Cotton Candy

Standing at her kitchen window, she drowns in the sky and ocean’s blue. His favorite color, the world bursting with it. No escape, not even the islands. Blue lollipops, cotton candy, popsicles—anything that painted his tongue blue. Whatever it was, however unnatural, his little fingers wanted it in blue.

She had recurring dreams of their last day together. Walking through carnival gates. Calliope music, game barkers. A collection of rickety rides plopped down on once green grass turned yellow. The roller coaster creaking as it rumbled over the track’s highest part, fears of it collapsing into a scrap heap. The next day’s real life nightmare: a thumping knock, the long faces of officers who must be fathers. Falling to her knees.

The village nearby full of kids, their eyes a painful reminder. This tropical paradise, water so clear you could see the sand. Fluorescent fish swim in lazy schools. Gentle breezes, the caws of bright-colored birds, the horns of departing cruise ships. Her house, painted in coral pink and teal with spotless floors, a museum of his pictures, memories.

In the distance a ship moves patiently through time. She imagines him standing on the deck, looking to shore, his lips smeared in blue confection. She waves, hopes maybe he can see.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Avocado

Appearing previously in the Fall 2007 edition of JMWW, here.

I’m not a ripe avocado, H told L, I won’t yield to pressure if you squeeze me in your hand.  No, said L, I didn’t think you were.  Avocadoes are fatty and you aren’t so in any way, he thought.  But he didn’t say it.  I am a mean guacamole, she once said, after a glass of wine, but meant she could make a mean guacamole.  They laughed about this, and he often called her a mean guacamole for giggles, but sometimes, late at night, it wasn’t funny, and she wasn’t ripe.  She looked at him funny, her eyes slicing deep.  Time to stop squeezing me, her eyes said.  You don’t know what’s inside.  He thought of it as her mean guacamole look.  But he didn’t say it.  Once, while they were drinking tea on a Friday evening drenched in storm, he rubbing her socked feet, he said, do you know that domestic animals can die if they eat avocado?  She looked at him funny.  She, the mean guacamole.  Was this squeezing, he thought, was this pressure?  She was thinking, how does he know, has he killed an animal by avocado?  He was thinking, I’m not an animal killer, if that’s what you’re thinking, you mean guacamole.  But he didn’t say it. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wish You Were Here!

Clear sky, foamy surf, untouched beach.  An obnoxious relative, likely drunk, is bragging about how the sand burns your soles, how laidback each day is, how margaritas magically appear before you wherever you are.  Meanwhile, here, it’s -34 degrees and snowing eighteen inches per hour.  Mom says, nope, don’t wish we there, striking this relative’s name from the Christmas list. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Who Is Without Flaws

On the company’s last day, I stuffed black bags with file folders, broken staplers, wires, plastic shelving.

We ate takeout Chinese. Two days before, we learned the feds were coming. Two months into this job, it was time to call my parents, say, I’m jobless again.

We learned the news in a group meeting. Some assertive types raised their hands, gleefully asked, how can we help? Me, I pondered my stupidity working here.

I piled kung pao chicken onto wobbly paper plates, then talked to Jill, who, industrious as ever, was shredding papers. I asked, what’re your plans? She said, maybe get margaritas. I meant like, long term, but just nodded, depressed about our differences. See Ted for your last pay. She didn’t look up.

Ted had Eddie Vedder hair, never wore ties. He sat cross legged in a barren office. Before him, a laptop and accordion folder.

He looked up, said, Bell, retrieved an envelope from his folder. Cash--you’ll understand.

Ted, what’s next?

Well, we’re gone by 5:00, then detail guys hit this place with Q-tips and toothbrushes.

That’s not what I meant. But I just nodded.

I always stumbled explaining my job. It’s varied--database, spreadsheet, support. Dad never understood. You need goals, mom would say.

Back on the floor, shredder hum meditation was broken by packing tape screech.

Soon, I’d return to resumes, Careerbuilder, interviews with bad-breathed sharks. For now, I read my fortune cookie: who is without flaws? I tucked it into my pocket.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Danger Man (additional Casolaro material)

Extra Casolaro related material. I have more extras like this that I may post occasionally.

Danger Man flew to Iran in 1980 and handed their leadership promises to $40 million to not release the American hostages until the election was over and the next President was inaugurated. Danger Man spent his time on Native American reservations, working on new weapons systems and improvising new airborne explosive devices. Danger Man also dabbled in the software, the modified backdoor program that allowed rerouted spying that sort of started the whole thing, became the single dot starting point of the investigation of the Octopus. Danger Man was a drug dealer. Anything to make some cash, the dirtier and shadier the better. Danger Man was a dangerous man, as his name implied.

Danger Man eventually got busted for the drugs. A phony charge, even though he was dealing methamphetamines, but he felt that he knew too much, he was too far involved, and he had to be neutralized. When he went down, he told the court about INSLAW. They’re tracking other governments, people they think are subversives in this country. They’re tracking everyone. They know what you do.

Danger Man said that the investigator and his Octopus were nothing more than what a particular intelligence faction wanted to be revealed and there was nothing there that was revolutionary or should cause any particular uproar. It was inevitable the investigator would be done away with. That’s how these things played out back then, he said, before the current setup, the assassination by mass media. He played a part in feeding information. He knew about the hit that ended the investigator's life, framed it in a suicide.

Danger Man claimed he witnessed an alien autopsy once. His connections were that deep that if such a thing were real it would be believable he’d be a part of it.

Danger Man had seen anti-gravity technology made by the government. He’d seen scientists back track alien technology. He’d seen a manmade version of a UFO. Completely functional, unlike any other technology on this planet.

He was a danger man when he was a child (Danger Boy?). He rewired his neighborhood’s phone system, circumventing the big monopoly system, his first crack at undercover subversion. In eighth grade he created a three-dimensional sonar system, winning his school’s science fair.

Danger Man sits in prison. He’ll tell you that he’s there because they want him to be viewed as a petty drug trafficker with a devious smart mind. But he insists he’s more than that, and that you should know better.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Real Fun of Vivian Darkbloom

I am a weakish speller.

In the department, I bury messages and play games. I talk quarks and hadrons, quarks within hadrons, and the flavors of quarks. Up, down, charm, strange, top and bottom. Hear me speak. Watch me. My hair stands like burning flames. My mouth is crinkled, eyes slipping downward like melting candlewax. I start off with something like, I have observed the most distant planet to have a triple form. There are a few chuckles in the crowd, those whom I’ve slipped into their mailboxes Torchwood and King’s Lead Hat, and more people get it each year. It beats talking gluons and vector gauge bosons, inverse beta decay and electron antineutrinos.

Call me Vivian Darkbloom. But I know nothing about butterflies, or that young girl. Humbert Humbert is an anagram either way. People ask me if I take drugs and the key there is the tense; present no but the past? The future? Hmmmh.

A colleague from biology walks into my office. Moon starer? No, that’s not me, go up two, take a left, take your first right, then go straight until the moor at the end. Room? Yes, but the guy is also a moor, believe it or not. We have a good laugh. This guy’s straight and narrow, pens in front pocket, but we get along. Coffees, lunches, spitballs from the math building roof.

There’s someone out there anagrammatizing your dissertation. Did you know this? He’s starting, “Though this is the air where Quentin takes the hodge of the podge. There is no amity, only that queer shake.” It’s not sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph. He’s going beginning to end, so he indicates online. The whole 160 pages. Says there’s an experimental work in there, a greater meaning. A never-ending cycle, are words he used. Circular, revolving.

Who is this guy? Suddenly I’m unnerved. This treatment—it’s, there’s a word for it, I’m sure.

Greg House? Sound familiar? Didn’t indicate he was a former student, someone with an axe to grind. The worst thing to fear is the bored anonymous soul out there who somehow has picked you to exact his boredom upon.

House? Never heard of him. That shipwreck of a dissertation though. Death, it starts in ice. I wrote it and didn’t know what I was talking about. That was my true defense. So, why is he taking my penchant, turning it against me? I suppose I should be amazed someone picked it up, read it.

Maybe you could cease and desist.

There’s a word for that in biology, isn’t there? Tip of my tongue.

Yes. The word’s death.

Voices rant no more.

Later I ponder that it’s all over. All coming apart. Higher mass decaying into lower mass. The constituents falling apart, moving toward free existence, everything moving to liquid, formlessness. End is a car spin.

I find this anagrammatizer, his project. His site, hinged on my dissertation, expands daily. Page by page, a meter like a thermometer tracking blazing fever showing progress, hit counter increasing, the turnstiles of curiosity, leaving quark epoch in dust. Hey, you coward, I shout at the flickering screen. There’s a brief write-up in the odd news. He’s a mini-celeb. No one contacts me.

Down this hole, frightened, I stop circulating my anagrams. People stop by, call, e-mail: what’s wrong? A rope ends it. I focus on lectures, papers. It’s all bad news because I know where it all leads.

I see now after the final explosions, the winter over all. Here come dots to spell out the last epoch. The fine game of nil. A weakish speller, I am. Not anymore.

Now—I’m a dot in place.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mind Meld

This is just me rambling on about movies from the 80s. There is no coherence here.

I was eleven when I first saw Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in the movie theater, and I was devastated that Spock had died at the end. Look, I was just eleven at the time and I didn’t know about that mind meld stuff, Spock putting his fingers on Bones’ face and saying, remember, and that meant in the next sequel he’d come back to life. My friends and I went around putting our fingers on each other’s faces and said, remember, not knowing what the heck we were doing.

Stuff like that that made absolutely no sense to my eleven year old mind was said all the time. Like in The Empire Strikes Back—Yoda says, no, there is another, and like I’m supposed to know that little line meant Luke and Leia are siblings, or Darth Vader telling Luke that he was his father was supposed to be real? Back then, we were debating whether or not Boba Fett was really Luke’s dad. Then, in The Wrath of Khan, you’ve got Khan quoting Moby Dick throughout and I’m supposed to get that? For Spock, I figured, you killed someone, he stayed dead, which I think was the big reason why my father was a big Dirty Harry fan.

Anyway, Spock dying was upsetting, but the really disturbing thing was when Khan planted those bugs into the ears of Chekhov and that other guy. I was freaked out, and there was no way any bug was getting within a foot of my ears. It was sort of like when I saw E.T. soon after. I loved E.T. but I was afraid that long glowing bony alien finger that looked like white hot metal you’d pull from a foundry would pop out from under my bed and say, ouch!, and I would scream and no one would hear. A couple years later there’d be Temple of Doom—don’t get me started. Even as a grown up I can’t even watch the scenes of the room full of bugs and the meal with snakes and monkey brains.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Baked Apple Pie

The composer was confounded by baked apple pies left outside his door.  In his place composing music, his mind and compositions growing more paranoid over time.  Concertos and string quartets that no one would hear; he kept them secret, not making public appearances, concerts of these late stage works performed only in his mind.  Days with ears to the wall, quick peeks through the shades and the door peephole to see a still life hallway; nights he’d sneak out to jazz clubs, lose himself in formlessness, drinking whiskey as he blended in with the room, leaning against a cold brick wall.  Then the pies appeared.  The first one he saw when he opened the door, looked down at the doormat.  There it was.  A pie.  Apple filling showing through a lattice-topped fence.  He picked it up—the bottom still hot, the smell intoxicating.  It sat in his kitchen untouched; he stared at it each time he went for coffee.  The next several days later.  His resistance broke; he ate a slice.  It freed him, paranoia fading the more he consumed, the forms of composition losing hardness, his works growing fluid, boundless.  The saxophone of night entered his mind, the day something he no longer feared as he waited for his benefactor’s return. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Thinly Sliced Raw Fish

New one today, here

Fiction under 100 words.  New post every other day.  50 posts total.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Annus Mirabilis

Part 15 of the Griffin series.  It follows Gravity's Rainbow.

Almost one year after Helena’s death, Griffin meets another woman. She is nice, intelligent, beautiful. They have good conversation at dinner. They can laugh about things. After the fourth date, he’s home, in the dark, crying. They don’t see each other anymore. Griffin removes his mind the idea of new relationships, instead focuses on filmmaking.

***

Griffin’s fifteenth film, Annus Mirabilis, focuses on a physicist who’s writing a book about Albert Einstein. The physicist, whose own scientific career has stalled as he’s focused on teaching, finds himself rejuvenated as he’s writing the book. He becomes happier, and his relationship with his wife improves. The film alternates between present day and the early twentieth century, one of the rare times Griffin has gone deeply into the past.

***

I have accepted, he wrote, I have come to terms. She can’t be replaced. For a reason she departed. I must go on. I am working on Annus Mirabilis, he said, translated as the “year of miracles,” and I declare that this, for me, will be a year of miracles. I will lift myself from darkness. I’m keeping on. I have my whole life ahead of me.

***

The year of miracles came to an abrupt halt on October 14, at 10:14 p.m., when he heard and felt the explosion, windows rattling, the shrieks of people, car alarms and police sirens, then, for a moment, silence, a winter storm at full grip. Then the chaos returned. Richard finds him, says, what the hell? Ambulances and fire engines filled the night. Outside flashing reds and blues everywhere. He turned on the tv. A courtroom drama interrupted by live news feed. Raging fires. Witnesses crying and screaming. All signs of terrorism. Throughout the city and the country, tvs are turned on. They don’t go off.

***

Griffin postpones all filming activities after the explosion. The city grinds to a halt. Richard spends most of his time holed up in his room. When he emerges, he’s a funeral mourner, dressed in black, head hanging down. They don’t talk about the explosion, even as they watch the coverage together. On the phone, Griffin’s assistant says, odd about the date and time, isn’t it? Until that point, it hadn’t occurred to him. Later, though, he thinks, how lost in his head was he that couldn’t put these things together?

***

Griffin has regular dreams of Helena. She’s lying in her coffin, her body and appearance as it was when he first met her, and she’s wearing a red dress. They’re at the table together having breakfast but she’s a skeleton. He wakes up in the middle of the night and the television is on. Construction lights illuminating the rubble.

***

The police had reached the conclusion that two buildings had been rigged with explosives. After three days, 141 confirmed dead, with another 178 missing, and 206 injured. Griffin, watching television, has an Einstein quote pop up in his head: imagination is more important than knowledge.

***

Four days in, the actor playing Einstein phones Griffin, asks if he can stop by. The man has the Einstein hair he’s been growing, has the eyes and the nose that are almost carbon copy. He’s been in fourteen films, but this is the first with Griffin. They have coffee. They talk. In times like these, the actor says, people need to get together, be community. After a few hours, he leaves. Griffin doesn’t want him to. The apartment becomes closed doors once he’s gone.

***

Six days after the attack, the police reveal that they’ve received an anonymous letter. It indicates that a group calling itself Black Thursday has claimed responsibility for the attack. Griffin, taken aback, drops the glass of water he’s holding. The commentators mention Griffin and his film from eight years before. No, he says, to the television, to the apartment’s closed doors, to himself. They are now talking about him. They are now talking about his films. They say the words inspiration, copycats. They mention an increase in confirmed dead. He closes his eyes. He can hear his heart. He can feel himself shaking. The phone rings.

***

That night, Griffin is writing in his journal. Scribbling furiously, burning through pages, his words losing cohesion. Richard emerges from his room, dark circles under his eyes, his hair madness. The tv is off because Griffin is now the topic of discussion. Griffin writes in his journal, I should’ve become a watchmaker, then shuts it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Kindly Redirecting You

Thanks for stopping by, but you should really go here

Thinly Sliced Raw Fish = fiction under 100 words, new post every other day, 50 works total.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Return of the Fish is Imminent

Thinly Sliced Raw Fish will be up and running again starting this Monday, October 25, 2010, with post #51 (picking up from the previous run).

It’ll follow the same setup as before. One post per day every other day, 50 posts total. Each post will be a work of fiction under 100 words.  Follow along, if you choose.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Roast

The wake for J’s mom was too much food: roast, turkey, boiled potatoes, casseroles, cakes, puddings.  Neighbor E, lifelong friend, prepared the food, feverish cooking pushing back tears.  She even invited the people, many of whom were J’s relatives.  J sat stunned in a corner, as cold air accompanied feet through the door, as friends and family offered handshakes, hugs, shoulder pats.  This room he was in—when he was a kid, sitting in pajamas watching Saturday morning cartoons.  He’d sit too close to the tv.  She’d sit on the couch with a coffee mug near her face, dad upstairs sleeping off a long work week, her peering over the steam as if the cartoons mattered.  The corner where he was seated: the Christmas tree spot.  He thought about her in the hospital, dying, frail body attached to tubes and machines, eyes barely registering life.  The end—she might not make it until morning.  She didn’t.  Before she died, she gave him an old LCD watch on a necklace.  A Christmas gift from him 25 years before.  It still worked.  He hadn’t realized she still had it.  Days later he still clutched it.  Her last words: no one else knows.  He pondered the phrase, wondered what the rest of that thought was.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Casolaro 64

After years of trying not to think about it, Bill started having dreams: there was no conspiracy, is what they told him. Repeated over and over, as if a wire had been connected to his head, data streams feed to him while he slept. His mind broke everything down, recalculated suspicious elements to plain coincidence, a stilted point of view. Danny committed suicide; he must’ve been unbalanced, evidenced by spending a good deal of his life tracking down something elusive. The mind links together things it wants to, creates conspiracies out of missing spaces, coincidental links. Yes, that’s all it is, he thought. Newly dumb, brain reformatted, air had more oxygen, food tasted better, sleep like stepping off a boat, floating in a gentle river.

Then the phone rang. Cesario, a smoky voice said. The line went dead.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Casolaro 63

One day an official that no one can seem to photograph, remember his name, identify exactly what he does decides there are certain goals that need to be met, certain strategies that need to be employed to achieve certain ends. He’ll talk to someone else who will say, there is an apparatus in place, a system that will do what you need it to do. Chuckles about law, oversight, accountability. There’s money to be moved, people to be removed. We can operate in secrecy, sovereign borders of nations are only guidelines to be adhered to. Does the administration support such operations? Neither confirm nor deny.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Casolaro 62

One season Internet rumors abound that Casolaro was alive, that he had faked his death to work on his investigation. Now, his investigation supposedly complete, he was returning, ready to present his findings to the world, a press conference scheduled for May 17. Whispers in the dark corners of chat rooms and message boards and Facebook and MySpace pages. Then, as the date approached, the details dissipated into multiple stories, new rumors. Casolaro wasn’t actually alive, but someone else had picked up the reins of the investigation. A grand jury was about to indict someone high up in the government. Or, it was all a publicity stunt, fake news set up to promote a new book or movie. The day came and nothing happened. People began to notice. May 17, 5/17, 517—the hotel room number where Casolaro died. Filed under the “Casolaro Resurrection Hoax.”

Monday, October 11, 2010

Casolaro 61

On the last night of his life, Casolaro opened the door to his hotel room. In that brief moment of darkness, the hall lights gave the room the light of dawn. For a second, it looked like home. He thought he heard something sliding on the carpet. A brief moment of, something’s not right. But he rationalized it was his mind, or a sound fragment from elsewhere.

The door would shut for the last time. The details of what’s to come were already in place. Inside his next life awaited him.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Casolaro 60

In a dark motel room in a God-forsaken strip of America a man who’s not Casolaro sits. The monster has chased him here. The stunning coincidences, the phone calls, the look-alikes, the poorly lit meeting places, the scribbled notes under doors. The man is unfamiliar with Casolaro but he’s hit upon a similar line of thought, similar obsessions, a similar distrust of the narrative that’s been feed to him. There’s nothing but to sit there, still, listening to the sounds of footsteps and parking lot cars and doors opening and closing and waiting for when the door opens and light bursts through and destroys him.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Casolaro 59

Olivia, now married, was traveling with her husband, making their way to Ohio. They reached Martinsburg of all places, late at night, looking for a place to stay. Cell phone calls to various places, only the Holiday Inn, the former Sheraton where Danny was killed, had a room available. In her mind, she talked herself into it. It’s only a hotel, she said, sterile rooms made for sleeping and bathing, and it was a different place now, many years have passed, everything redone. At the front desk, the receptionist, a scruffy headed male who looked no older than 20, checked them in, the last room they had. Room 517, he said, handing her husband two card keys.

She trembled. No, she said, looking down at her feet, I can’t do this. Her husband said, what do you mean, this is all there is. She said, no, I can’t, and walked away. He knew better than to say anything. They drove silently through the night as she held back tears wondering why, even in a new life, death kept following her.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Casolaro 58

On the fifteenth anniversary of Casolaro’s death, Bill pondered his friend and the case again, after what seemed like years of not giving it much thought. On a pad of paper he jotted down notes, tried to recreate some of those he had discarded years ago. After a few minutes, his energy was gone, his thoughts drifted elsewhere. A true disservice to you, he whispered, I should’ve stuck with this before, made what I’d known public.

There were other books out there about the case, and on the Internet there were many sites that mirrored each other word for word the same passages of text related to the case, no one coming to any new conclusions that made sense. He could’ve been another voice among many, the hints of truth that circle but never hit. He also thought, I could’ve become Danny Casolaro, he had thought, picked up his case and explored this thing to the ends of the earth.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Casolaro 57

A dozen years later, Olga was living in Central America. Remote village, no phones, a new identity. She was still afraid that they would come to kill her. Under her bed, she kept a gun. She would wake up at nights, sweating, thinking that a phone was ringing. But there was no phone. In her mind she could see Danny walking away that last time, his briefcase clutched in his hand, walking to his death.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Casolaro 56

Near Christmas 1992, not long after Bill Clinton won the presidency, Bill thought about Casolaro, how he might’ve felt about the election. Perhaps a new era of daylight was emerging. More investigations into Iran Contra, October Surprise, and maybe, someone out there could push the Octopus line and vindicate Danny, get to the truth. Then the pardons came. Astounding and flagrant. Then Clinton’s pledge to not investigate further, to extend a reconciliatory hand, to let bygones be bygones. Even more astounding. Danny would say, the Octopus just got away, it just submerged again. But it’ll be back because it wasn’t killed.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

More Thinly Sliced Raw Fish

I’m continuing Thinly Sliced Raw Fish with 50 new works. New posts will begin on Monday, October 25, 2010. So much for the end of that blog, which I declared when I finished the original 50.

It’ll follow the same format as before. One post per day every other day, 50 posts total. Each post will be a work of fiction under 100 words.  Post numbering will begin with 51.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Casolaro 55

Late at night near the end of a fall semester, a student intern at a large Midwestern university is combing through a closet, dusting off items covered in dust just to see what’s there. Professors and assistants are closing things up, students are packing up their dorms after finishing exams, outside snow is falling on brick walkways. He picks up a package in a plain brown box, blows at the dust that is maybe one-quarter of an inch thick, turns his head as it comes back in his face. The university’s address in typed letters. What could be inside, he wonders. He closes up the closet, walks the empty hallway. The package is in his hands. His thoughts change to his upcoming English Literature exam: Shelley, Tennyson, Byron, can he remember who’s who?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Casolaro 54

There’s a man on the National Mall in DC handing out literature on Danny Casolaro. He’s there among the activists, peace and anti-immigration and anti-tax and anti-everything-you-can-imagine. He hands out a crudely printed pamphlet detailing the Casolaro story and the Octopus. People pass him by, tourists and workers, unconcerned about what he has to offer. Other activists drown his voice out advertising their causes. The Washington Monument looms over him in the background. At the end of the day, his feet are sore and his voice is lost.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Casolaro 53

Years after Casolaro’s death, a man searches the Internet on conspiracies, comes across Casolaro’s story. He reads it, intrigued, searching deeper and deeper for more details. He orders a book. He finds a discussion group, joins it. He starts compiling his own notes. He gets into lengthy discussions with some members in the group. He starts turning his notes into a book. One of the group members asks him repeatedly for a face-to-face meeting to discuss ideas. Concerned, he disengages from the group. Work on the book fades.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Casolaro 52

About a month after Casolaro died, Bill went with some members of the Casolaro family to Martinsburg to claim Danny’s car and personal items. While they waited at the police station, two men who said they were detectives came in, asked questions about the Casolaro case. They said they were investigating the murder of an Alan Standorf earlier in the year. Standorf—the name sounded familiar to Bill. Then he recalled that it was one of his sources from within the government. Danny hadn’t mentioned that he’d been killed. The coincidence at the police station startled Bill. He had trouble sleeping for several nights. He found that for months after, he was on high alert, listening for other connections, patterns, wondering when it would all circle back to him.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Casolaro 51

The man who was Casolaro now wanders the streets of Prague, holding a job doing menial labor. He spends his idle time at a cafĂ© near his apartment, looking into his coffee, hearing dishes and cups clanging together, having the vague sense that something isn’t right, chalks it up to man’s existential dilemma, trudges to work through soupy morning fog.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Casolaro 50

If you stand at the shore line long enough, things will wash ashore. Fragments of sunken boats, dead cephalopods, human corpses or extremities. It could take eons, but mathematically, at some point, it’ll come. You can seek it out and find out, but eventually, it will find you.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Casolaro 49

Casolaro didn’t actually die but was kidnapped, brainwashed. His mind completely reformatted, like a computer hard drive, sent back out into another part of the world as someone else. New memories, new personality, new person. The scene in Martinsburg was a staging, the dead body Casolaro clone probably a homeless person, someone who was fresh at the morgue.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Casolaro 48

There will be a phone call placed, a letter sent. An anonymous posting on a message board, a cryptic e-mail that will be processed as spam. Someone with a vested interest will program a computer to fish for a new Casolaro, find the right person, lead them to investigate. Probe for specific characteristics: intelligent, obsessive, defiant. Resurrect the Octopus investigation so that it can be discredited, the new conspirators can work free, moving in a cloud of uncertainty and cynicism. When the time was right, this new person would be sacrificed, using whatever method was in vogue: radiation poisoning, suicide by gunshot, automobile accident, suicide by prescriptions pills, drowning.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Casolaro 47

Casolaro’s son visited his father’s grave once, on his birthday, and was beset by curiosity seekers, those who found his father’s grave a tourist attraction. Four people, all male, probably in their early thirties, quickly deduced he was Danny’s son.

What was he like as a person? Do you think he was murdered? Are there any more clues? Have you taken up the conspiracy investigation?

Interrupted in mid-thought concerning his father, he walked away from them. They followed, crossing through other people’s graves, until he reached his car and drove away.

It wasn’t enough that he was dead. It wasn’t enough that he moved, changed his phone number, lived as quiet and unintrusive life as possible. His father told him once, I should never have gotten involved with this. It’s a debilitating disease, a stain that can never be washed away.

In the mirror, his son could see his father in his face more and more as the years passed. With me forever, he thought.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Casolaro 46

Tidbits of information gleaned from conversations with Casolaro swirled in Bill’s head. Inslaw. PROMIS. Data mining. The CIA. Manipulation of world markets. Iran Contra. IBM. Project Echelon. The Mossad. Lockheed Martin. October Surprise. Back door espionage. The NSA. BCCI. Shadow government. The World Bank. The JFK assassination. Caribbean islands. The flow of global information. The catalyst of major world events.

The Octopus was certain corporations and certain elements of government intertwined, Danny had said, vague and ridiculous but that’s the way it’s supposed to be so you never catch it, never pin it down, and you just give up, turn your mind off because it sounds preposterous.

Bill spent a day or two writing down the names, the information, drawing lines of connection, erasing and writing different names in different places, drawing new lines. The paper he was writing on looked like abstract art, a crinkled ruin that in places looked like someone was trying to clean up stains. He looked at it, thought, this is the culmination of death, as his friend was gone, this is the rest of us trying to make sense of it, as Casolaro was buried in the ground.

He gave up. This is not a place I should be, he thought. He set fire to the paper in his kitchen sink. The burning embers blackened, the mass turning into itself, disappearing into many chaotic points.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Casolaro 45

Anthony was startled seeing doubles of Danny after his death. A person driving behind him, cloned from his brother’s driver’s license and implanted into that car’s driver seat. A day after his funeral, a man leaving an all-night diner. They were popping up everywhere, mocking his death. Some replicant virus, gone into hyperdrive to spread confusion and misery.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Jokerman

This story is the 12th part of the Griffin filmmaker series. It follows Black Thursday.

Nine hundred fourteen years after its release, the last existing copy of Griffin’s twelfth film, Jokerman, was destroyed. A fire swept through an underground archive long ago abandoned. At that time, the world had been chaos for decades. The world’s remaining people knew nothing of film, only the frenzy of immediate survival. If one could compare that reality’s view with the current one, it would look as if the future world had been fitted with a yellow lens, blue sky burned into ash.

***

For Griffin, the immediate aftermath of Black Thursday was awards. A catalog list of nominations for the picture, his lead actor, technical aspects. The major ones didn’t come through, though he picked up some more obscure ones. They sat in boxes, turned on their sides on tables. Helena, one day, cleared a living room shelf, lined them up so they could be seen.

***

The prevailing film criticism became that Jokerman had to be viewed and considered in conjunction with Black Thursday, the work that inextricably became associated with Griffin. One film scholar said that the two films lined up like yin and yang. Consensus formed that, in both films, Griffin takes the pacing to beyond that typical of an arthouse film, yet still maintains his artistic sensibilities. Jokerman, in its time, was overlooked, did not receive the acclaim or eventual notoriety that its predecessor did.

***

The film’s main character, never named, was a raging lunatic. Here you had not the beleaguered aging detective of Black Thursday being chronicled but a raging lunatic. How does the lunatic, borderline homicidal, exist. Here was Henrick’s existential dilemma turned upside down. Rational thinking in a solitary world was gone. The nameless protagonist searches not for resolution.

***

Forty years after the film’s release, the government launched war on its people. San Francisco became the first casualty. The government proclaimed that a sizable revolutionary force had taken root in that city. Chinatown and Market District were assaulted in swift order. The military imposed martial law, extended it to other cities where protests formed. There were massive arrests. Universities were closed. Hundreds were killed.

***

During the filming of Jokerman, Griffin one day sees Richard, now 13, in a moment of adulthood. The boy was sitting on the couch, still, filling out a Sudoku grid. The boy’s usual boundless energy was sedated, teenage anarchy funneled through numbers. Richard looked up, caught his father gazing at him, and forced a quick smile.

***

Twenty years after San Francisco, you had to know secret knocks. You had to be on lists. You had to know people. Film became more than entertainment. It was a silent whisper, subtle nods in public, political statements held deep within the mind. There were people who insisted the world was being bleached of color, regressing to black and white.

***

Thirty years after filming Jokerman, Griffin would be working on his twenty-fifth and final film. The film was completely non-narrative, the most experimental of his canon, and he knew viewers and critics would be scratching their heads. Time-lapse photography. No actors or dialogue. Footage from cameras stationed throughout the city. He had words prepared. There is order in this though you don’t see it. You’ll be tempted to call this documentary or pure cinema but don’t. I want to show the world that’s unconscious of film, the swirling chaos that is itself order. He died, though, before he could say these words.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Casolaro 44

We will cut you up and feed you to the sharks: a line from a threatening phone call Casolaro had received. In Casolaro’s surviving notes, he had written it more than once. He appeared to be fascinated with the threat, a trait of his that his ex-wife described as morbid curiosity when something truly frightened him. She said he was afraid of drowning, of the ocean and the creatures that lurked in the seas, which was probably why the “Octopus” name for his conspiracy fit well.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Casolaro 43

In some of Casolaro’s surviving writings, he demonstrated a fascination with artificial intelligence, most notably with the idea that, sometime in the mid-21st century, technology would surpass the human brain, eventually become sentient, create their own thoughts and ideas.

He wondered how this would affect human conspiracies. Would computers be able to interpret them, deconstruct them, use quantifiable facts to hold people accountable? Would they create their own conspiracies? Or would the future intelligence be borne without skeptical thoughts about conspiracies, the product of current conspirators working diligently to save themselves from the future?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Casolaro 42

After Casolaro’s death, Bill tried to synthesize the information that Danny had given him. But Bill was being stonewalled wherever he turned. He managed to contact some of Danny’s sources but got nothing, they would barely acknowledge Danny’s existence. The massive amount of investigative work and notes—Bill had no hope of recreating it, didn’t have the know-how or stomach for retracing his steps.

Bill wasn’t buying the suicide verdict—Casolaro had primed him before he was found dead that if he did indeed die, that it was at the hands of those he was investigating. He told an investigator this. The man just nodded his head, eyes glossed over, taking no notes.

He inquired about the Time article but found that wasn’t even true—he wasn’t sure why Danny lied to him on this. Perhaps it was some sort of coded message.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Casolaro 41

In the weeks after Casolaro’s death, his housekeeper Olga grew afraid that she would also be killed. She answered some of the police’s questions. She told them about the phone calls. But they didn’t talk to her much—their minds were already made up. She insisted that she knew Danny for a long time and that she just did not see him as someone who would kill himself. This did not seem to concern them. Why would he kill himself, they asked, not, it doesn’t make sense.

A week after his death, the phone calls started again. Silence on the other end of the phone. She stopped answering the phone. She changed the number. Soon she left the house, moved far away from Arlington. Still the sound of the phone ringing scared her. Still silence on the other end or a wrong number or crank made her think of Danny who never returned, the Octopus he talked about, made her fear that even years later someone would come kill her too.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Phantom Snoozer

In literature classes, you’ve probably heard the Latin phrase, in media res, which means, in the middle of things. Novels, stories, and dramas, we’re taught, began in the middle of things, meaning that crucial things happened before the story’s start and the reader is entering in an in-process, unresolved state. Often, these things are alluded to during the course of the story, and they can be essential in advancing story plot and developing character and creating the illusion that the reader has entered upon a fully realized world.

In writing, it’s easy to fall into the trap of starting a story before it should start. I’ve written longer stories where I’ve realized the story doesn’t truly start until page five, and the first four pages can be, painfully, cut out. Maybe your antihero’s tale needs to start when the cops are chasing him after the bank robbery, not the day before when he’s planning it. Perhaps your protagonist’s story starts at his mother’s funeral, not when she was diagnosed with cancer six months before.

Switching to pop culture, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is, to me, a good example of something where the beginning of the story needs cutting. While Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul were cool characters, I could care less about Anakin Skywalker at 9 years old. It doesn’t help that the Jedi as characters are boring. Qui-Gon is interesting because he’s a rebel Jedi and all hideous looking evil guys holding glowing swords are inherently interesting, but Yoda, Mace Windu, and Obi-Wan Kenobi (at this point) are sleep inducers.

Anyway, Anakin when he’s older is interesting because he’s the chosen one and he’s struggling with the conflict of good and evil. But since Anakin is, in essence, what all six movies are about, he needs to be interesting from the get go in Episode I. Forget all this 9 year old child’s play and fast forward him to his late teen years.

Lucas has some unconventional built-in back story going into these prequel movies—the future. We know what becomes of Anakin, Obi-Wan, and the Jedis and galaxy itself. But the linear storyline needs something more. Sure, there are plenty of things that have already happened, but are any of them critical? The first film in 1977 was so successful and mesmerizing largely because of it starting firmly in media res. The opening words show “Episode IV,” which instantly puts you there, right where you need to be.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Casolaro 40

Casolaro’s papers were tossed into a dumpster 20 miles away from where he died. The briefcase and accordion file opened, the papers loosened from their collection so that they’d be scattered, their order destroyed. Black garbage bags piled on top, seeping brown liquids ruining the papers, ink bleeding away.

Casolaro’s papers were locked in a large metal box. They were taken on a cruise ship, dropped over the side in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean where they plummeted for hundreds of feet, a sinking stone that curious fish poked as it descended and finally rested on the ocean floor. There, one flake at a time the metal corrodes. Eventually it will be absorbed by the ocean.

Casolaro’s papers were taken to the Pentagon, placed in a sublevel archive of lore. The heartbeat of apocryphal tales, the epicenter of conspiracy theory. Something held so that it can never be seen, only exist in the world’s collective imagination, keep the conspiratorial waters flowing. The archive chamber initiates the whispers.

Casolaro dropped his papers in a FedEx box the day before he died, shipped them to his friend Bill. But they never arrived, were lost in the company’s system. They sat in a holding room buried in other packages for one year and were destroyed.

Casolaro’s papers were placed in a vehicle minutes after he was slain, driven east to a point along the Atlantic Ocean. A small island connected to the mainland, a secluded beachfront traveled only during the day by intrepid tourists. Under the moonlight, they were placed on the beach and doused in gasoline, set ablaze. Crackling flames near rotting fish carcasses, washed up seaweed and shells. The molecules of paper and ink burned away into the atmosphere. The remnants were covered with sand.

Casolaro’s papers ended up at a library of a large Midwestern university, stored in a closet with other peculiar items that somehow ended up there. It sits in a plain brown box, unopened, the university’s address typed neatly on the mailing label with no return address. There is no trail of how they arrived there. There is no record of them even existing.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Don't Forget Zitana

Zitana, my psychic advisor, was old school. Crystal ball, gypsy clothing, stiff Tolkienesque speech. She looked ancient but was mentally keen. I wasn’t sold on psychics. So, why see her? Well, because of Mom, of course.

Last week, Zitana gave me six losing numbers. For the Mega Millions, she said, untold riches await you! I followed her advice. Not one number came up.

Occasionally, she was right. She said once, you will soon meet someone special. Four months later, I met Lara. For five months, we were ferocious. Then she ditched me for her financial advisor.

Dad disliked Zitana. He said, you’re wasting money. They would argue. When a stroke killed Dad, Mom said, Zitana predicted this! Mom, though, never relayed this dire forecast.

So I returned to Zitana, bogus numbers on newspaper, said, not even close. She was at her desk, Maury on rabbit-eared television, half-eaten cheeseburger Happy Meal before her. Her usual garb had been replaced by jeans and Disneyland sweatshirt.

Unconcerned about her character breach, she studied the paper. Well, I didn’t mean this week. Keep playing.

On Maury, a woman had nine children by eight fathers. When will I win, I asked. The crystal ball doesn’t reveal that, she laughed, biting her cheeseburger. Otherwise, I’d be in Tahiti.

Mom died ten years ago. Pharyngeal cancer. I never knew if Zitana had predicted it. Near the end, unable to speak, Mom handwrote on paper, don’t forget Zitana. So, I haven’t. Maybe one day, those numbers will hit.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Casolaro 39

Olivia the viola player learned about Casolaro’s death a few weeks after it happened. She couldn’t fathom his suicide. She replayed their conversations over in her head, their shared horror over their sisters’ suicides. Maria—the pain revisited, the jagged knife within, twisting, a corkscrew of misery, joined by Danny. Her dreams of teeth pulling, dismemberment returned. She’d awake, unable to fall back asleep, and instead played sad notes on her viola deep into the night. A new song didn’t find her.

In the days after she found out she performed in two concerts, thought about how she was becoming surrounding by death, her playing mechanical, her music absorbed by the symphony.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Casolaro 38

Casolaro had difficulties separating reliable information and sources from the unreliable. He collected a lot of garbage: Illuminati theories, the Christic Institute, even stuff from Lyndon LaRouche surrogates. He was a garbage collector, a sponge, collecting every tidbit he could get to work into his theories. Nothing was too preposterous, it seemed, if he gain anything from it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Casolaro 37

In Martinsburg, Casolaro happened to meet the guy staying in the room next to him, Mike Looney. The two had drinks in the hotel lounge the night before Casolaro was found dead. I’m supposed to be meeting a source at nine, Casolaro said, but I’m getting the impression he’s standing me up. He left Looney at the bar, said he went to make some calls. Came back, told Looney that, I think I got blown off.

Casolaro talked to Looney about his work in mostly vague details, saying he was doing a criminal investigative story. He mentioned a book deal might be in the works.

Looney recalled him being a bit frayed, a little frantic. He scribbled stuff on cocktail napkins as they talked, almost like messages were being sent to his head as they talked and he had to transcribe them. He seemed like an odd person, a mad scientist type perhaps, but he seemed to have a good streak to him.

Looney seemed visibly shaken when he was informed that he was probably the last person to spend time with Casolaro. He tried not to contemplate the idea that perhaps he was murdered while I was asleep in the next room. The other possibility, that he killed himself, was no comfort either.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Casolaro 36

The flip side of the story—the narrative of accepted truth—is that Casolaro committed suicide in his hotel room. He used a straight razor to slash his wrists. There were partially consumed containers of alcohol in the bathroom; he was found to have alcohol and traces of painkillers and antidepressants in his system.

He left a suicide note, an analysis of which showed it was in his handwriting. There was no forced entry to the room, no signs of struggle.

The bartender at the hotel lounge, one of the last people to see him, recalled that Casolaro seemed depressed, he didn’t seem like a happy person.

His investigative notes were gone, but who can say what a depressed person who becomes a suicide would do with his personal belongings. If he killed himself, is it inconceivable that he would also destroy his life’s work?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Casolaro 35

His suicide note read, “To my loved ones, please forgive me—most especially my son—and be understanding. God will let me in.” Uncharacteristic for Casolaro because he was given to wordiness, and he wasn’t religious, rarely mentioned God in any personal way.

His brother Anthony said he could imagine his brother working on his suicide note for months, collecting ideas and thoughts, writing and rewriting. It’s just the way he was. He was a bit of a wreck, he said, a bit chaotic at times, but even if he did do it—hard to even think, given who he was and what happened to our sister—he would’ve mentioned something about his work. He was obsessed with it. It was everything he was doing right before he died.

His ex-wife said, I’m trying to think of him talking about God, about getting into heaven, and I just don’t recall it. Not something we talked about together or with our son really. He might’ve said vague stuff like, thank God for this, or God willing I might be able to do such and such. I wouldn’t characterize him as an atheist. But he wasn’t religious. I’m not sure he even owned a Bible.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Sampling of Complaints

She said, the coffee tastes like cigarettes, pushing it across the table, offensive. Over there, pock-faced man sad, the pot roast was stringy, conquered carcass hoisted by fork, lame with gristle. A sampling of complaints written on paper scraps: the bathrooms smell like urine, the pay is meager, the owner has octopus hands. Two youths sat across the street, heads full of unwritten grievances, spray paint cans in backpack, lighters in back pocket and pondered, who will they deface, how will they burn.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Casolaro 34

You’ll see something in the news and feel it’s not quite right. You’ll grow angry, frustrated; you’ll turn to this because it makes sense, it forces a framework on it even if you can do nothing about it. You will find comfort in these ideas, in these narratives. Someone out there, you’ll think, can scratch my itch. Someone out there understands the way I think.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Casolaro 33

On the morning of August 10, 1991, Danny Casolaro was found dead in his hotel room bathtub in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Naked, with twelve slashes to his wrists. Blood on the wall and floor, a scene that made one of the housekeeping staff faint. Paramedics found a beer can, a half-full bottle of wine, two garbage bags, and a standard straight razor.

A detail revealed later: several towels were found on the bathroom, looked as if they had been used to wipe up blood, someone doing so using their foot, according to one of the housekeeping heads at the hotel. The blood smeared in a trail, leading to the disposed towels. These towels were thrown away.

The death was ruled a suicide. A Martinsburg undertaker embalmed Casolaro’s body that night, before Casolaro’s family had been notified of his death—a crime in West Virginia.

Some of his fingernails were broken--no one looked under his fingernails for residue or skin fragments, any sign of a struggle. No bath water sample was taken. A bruise was found under the top of his head that could have induced moderate hemorrhaging.

His briefcase and accordion file of notes on the Octopus, including the related manuscript that he was working on, were not in the room. They were not in his car. The immediate area was combed. Nothing.

The Octopus descended into the waters, its prey left spent, washed up on shore. No photographs, only anecdotes, a fluid story.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Casolaro 32

Casolaro was talking with his friend Bill once about the evolution of conspiracies. Over the years, they’ve gone from outright killing people through stabbings, explosions, and rifle shots to mysterious though explainable causes of death to staged suicides to assassinating someone’s character or reputation. I think we’re in the last stage.

Deaths create martyrs and leave lots of messy questions. Destroying someone’s reputation will stop them from becoming a martyr; there will be no questions because there won’t be anything to ask. It leaves the person humiliated, the destroyed having to live a neutered existence. This is probably worse than death itself. The media can be effectively manipulated to do all your work for you. If you’re a part of the conspiracy, you make some calls, mail some evidence, and sit back and watch it unfold.

If you die at the hands of the conspiracy, he said, you become part of a lore. A collective storytelling that mixes fiction and fact, tangible evidence and interpretable evidence. Basically, you get devoured by the conspiracy and become a part of how its story is told. You become a piece of information.

What happens if you expose the conspiracy, Bill said. What if you’re the one that lays out the truth, and everyone sees it as irrefutable, and you’ve basically changed the course of history through your exposure?

That never seems to happen anymore, does it?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Casolaro 31

After his sister Lisa’s death, Casolaro’s father said to him, in a certain light, you look almost like her. As much as you could expect from a brother and sister. More so than your other siblings. The facial bone structure, the eyes. It’s uncanny.

Casolaro didn’t know what to do with that. I miss her, too, Dad, is all he could come up with. Later, he looked at himself in the mirror. He couldn’t see any resemblance.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Casolaro 30

One of Casolaro’s contacts, over sushi and plum wine, said, would your Octopus exist if you did not write things down, collect notes, make connections, give it a name?

Of course it would, he said. Maybe it just would not be called “The Octopus” because that’s what I named it.

But you would consider the act of writing, collecting, connecting the dots—these are acts of creation, no? Your Octopus is a conceptually realized product, wouldn’t you agree, an order created out of what could be seen as chaos, parts that would exist by themselves but not as one unit.

The contact was supposed to have information on Hughes Aircraft, but was elusive. Philosophy over facts.

You have no way of knowing that every piece of information that you juxtapose with the next is true or false, do you? And even if it were all true, not every piece has to be necessary to make this concept true. Some pieces are more necessary than others. This is something wholly new. Another investigator might come up with a different concept, his own story to tell. It’s interpretation. One of perhaps infinite.

Casolaro’s mind drifted away from the conversation to his briefcase of notes. He could envision them in his mind. He was thinking of possible connections, things that might be missing.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Casolaro 29

One morning, Casolaro woke, looked into his bathroom mirror with double vision. An early symptom of multiple sclerosis. Two Casolaros in two mirrors, living identical lives. Somewhere, he thought, they split along the fourth dimension; one of them ceases to be Danny Casolaro and goes off into the ether, becomes some sort of phantom that haunts the shadows of this world. For a moment he felt nauseous, as he could feel the duality split at his eyes. He sat on a closed toilet and waited for it to pass. Two of me and I could finish the investigation, he thought, be in two places at once. If one of me was killed, I could still carry on.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Casolaro 28

When he was in Martinsburg, Casolaro thought he should send his notes to Bill. Just drop everything in a FedEx box and have them delivered for safekeeping, pick them up later. After meeting the Iranian, he got a little spooked. The guy was repeating certain words. Octopus, tentacles, prey. He knew stuff about Inslaw and PROMIS, details that were recurring in his notes. He was familiar with Nichols. Told Casolaro this is the kind of investigation where you end up dead, where your friends and family end up dead too. More and more lately people were telling him, you’re going to end up dead.

We will cut you up and feed you to the sharks.

Casolaro decided to hold onto his notes. I’m being paranoid, he thought. The notes—I need them for the investigation. I would be—I would be like an octopus without tentacles, he thought, without them. In his room, he went to the desk, opened the file and pulled out a handful of papers, had an idea, began scanning for patterns.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Casolaro 27

Toward the end, Casolaro went by the name Cesario as an alias, the person someone confused him with once. He dropped the Hector, because he didn’t see himself as a Hector, and just went with Cesario. Checked into a hotel with it, talked to some leads using the name. It was a moment of panic when he was in the hotel parking lot, thought someone was tracking him; the first name that came to his mind.

After checking in, he sat on the edge of his room’s bed, thought, this is dumb, now I’m paranoid. But he repeated the name a few times. Cesario, Cesario, Cesario. He remembered the supermarket incident, but the name was familiar in some other context. Cesario, Cesario, Cesario. Now, I’m like the people I’m investigating, he thought. False names, double lives. A knock on the door made him jump. But it wasn’t his door, rather the one across the hall.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Casolaro 26

One night over beers, his friend Bill looked through his collection of notes. Typed pages with handwriting on the margins and blotches of white-out. Lined loose-leaf pages, some with neat almost mechanical handwriting, others with furious cursive scribbles, words written at odd angles. Cocktail napkins with notes, crude drawings of basic geometric shapes. Newspaper clippings, some with particular words circled in pen, some held together with tape. Bill was stunned by the volume, hundreds of pages, the chaos of the collected archive.

How you can get a conspiracy out of all this, just by looking at this stuff as a whole, I don’t get it.

There’s an order here, Casolaro said. It might not look like it but there’s an organization to it.

It’s an overload, is what it looks like. It’s like someone tried to overwhelm you with information just to keep your wheels spinning. So you’d never get to the true answer.

It feels like that sometimes. He took a drink of beer. My ex-wife once said I wasn’t a detail person. Here’s evidence otherwise.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Update

Danny Casolaro: 64 Stories is moving right along.  Check here for all of the pieces so far. It runs until mid-October. This introduction is probably a good place to start. This story is also good to check out, as it's where I got started. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Casolaro 25

Within a year before he died, Casolaro learned that he had multiple sclerosis. Very early stages, starting with some general weakness, some double vision. He kept it hidden, only told a few people. He was upset, envisioning himself physically and mentally deteriorating slowly over time, unable to continue his investigations. Also, his love life would suffer, he’d become unattractive, not able to perform, as his body turned on itself, made him a prisoner.

His physician told him, we can mostly control it now, with a proper regimen. You can live for a long time like you always did. And medicine will keep improving as you age. This seemed to calm his fears.

His physician confirmed that, yes, the disease was much more common in women than men, and there’s no real sign that it’s hereditary. There might be some environmental factors but we’re not sure.

So, he asked him, it’s random, coincidence, no real reason? His physician shrugged his shoulders.

Friday, August 20, 2010

McMurdo Station, Antarctica

It was late May--the harshest dead of winter down on the ice--when Jon and Aria brought unity to the United States and New Zealand. Not that there was a divide: the winter residents of neighboring stations often mingled when there was a weather break: chess tournaments, dining, talking, bringing the world above to its very bottom. In late April, there was a lull in the wind and snow. Other than the darkness, it was almost like summer. This is when Jon and Aria caught each other’s eyes in the common room, never noticing each other before. Each would think, where were you all this time? Then, the fury came. Winds, snow drifts, whiteout. Everybody was frozen in place. They talked, gazed, became the nearby volcanoes Erebus and Terror. Ice, nowhere, space--there was nothing but them.

***

Scott sat in his dorm, wrote letters to his wife. Over and over and over. His first winter in Antarctica. The darkness, the wind. He imagined the world around him shrinking and shrinking until he too shrunk and he could fit on the postage stamp that he put on the envelopes. The envelopes piled up. Nowhere for them to go until there was a weather break. He loved his wife. She was a universe away. Her face faded from his memory. He would stare at her picture and, after awhile, his eyes tricked him into seeing her face disappearing. He was scared. He slept with the lights on.


***


Tess fell asleep on the common room sofa one night. She awoke, everyone gone, the place silent except for outside wind and sprinkling of blown snow against windows. She walked back to her room, as she did countless times, socked feet sliding across the floor, but her room wasn't there. She swiveled, looked every direction, turned corners, walked other hallways. But it was gone. Science told her that solid structures like this don't change without intervention. But either it changed or her mind did. She went back to the sofa, slept until morning, and everything was right again.

***

Ray, when not studying the resident whales, played sleuth to discover a practical joker. One year running and no luck. The joke played on him was every now and then, he'd be walking down a hallway, alone, when he'd hear something rolling. He'd turn to find a billiard ball sized crystal ball moving his way. He collected them in a shoe box--nine total so far. All identical. He asked around, showed them to people, who shrugged, gave him puzzled looks. One day, he whispered to himself, I'll figure it out.

***

Jan found herself bouncing, a ball in an endless pinball machine game. Rebuffed by her boyfriend in Iowa, through email no less. Then by Scott. Well, he was married--he had principles, an admirable trait. Then Blair. The resident hotshot surfer dude—okay, maybe not. There was Jon, but now he was attached to this New Zealander. Jan danced around other eligible men. She talked. She played cool. She moved closer. She got nowhere. She grew frustrated. Her work suffered. The ice was cold and lonely, more so everyday; were others magically impervious? If she had a mirror, she would make advances at herself, take the bait, fall in love all over again.


***


Sam walked away from his radio monitoring station for coffee and blueberry pastry. Scratched his head, spooned powdered creamer into Styrofoam cup, talked to Blair about football, and flights home. What he missed was a transmission from space. Scratching, hissing voice filled with consonants--it was brief, almost a hiccup. Unrecorded—the McMurdo Station crew wasn't looking for extraterrestrial life. You walk away, you miss everything. He shuffled back, blueberry on his chin, sipping coffee, looking forward to another long boring day of nothing on the ice.

***

Out beyond Erebus and Terror, in the frozen fields where nobody traveled, there was a man frozen face up in the ice. The sound of his name cast into space, a weak radio signal, floating in the void, never to be heard. His ice cube eyes stare out the bottom of the world. If he were to be found, people would theorize about what brought him here: conquest, a woman, insanity. Running to, running from, running. The mind's eye would trick someone into seeing him twitch, his eye blink, a tear stream down his cheek, and think briefly, somehow, he was alive, trapped in ice, nowhere, space.