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


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?