i left my glasses in the cretaceous period

A traveler of time, all chagrined,
Requested to borrow a pen.
“My troubles all spring
From that Heisenberg thing:
I know where my things are, but not when.”

My entry for the Scottish Book Trust’s March 50-word fiction competition. Prompt: Write a story featuring a time traveler.

Pocket watch in sand

Image by annca, Pixabay


i can climb a mountain


18-03-11 I Can Climb a Mountain


“I can climb a mountain,”
Said the young boy, looking up.
“A heap of rocks is no big deal
So long’s I don’t let up.”

Yet though undaunted he did climb,
The slopes were slick and steep.
Again, again, he slipped and fell
And landed in a heap.

With fierce determination
He sprang back to his feet.
“One day,” he vowed, “I’ll reach the top.
No mountain’s got me beat.”

“I can climb a mountain,”
Said the young man, narrow-eyed,
“But first I need some numbers
on other who have tried.”

“I need the cost analysis,
the value and reward.
Else what’s the point in climbing,
If there’s no win in store?”

“Besides, I have some chores to run
And overtime at do.
But let me check my schedule
And I’ll get back to you.”

“I can climb a mountain,”
Said the old man, thin and grey.
“Or once upon a time, at least,
I thought there was a way.”

“It’s all because of others
Who tried to hold me down.
It’s not my fault, I swear to God,
I never left the ground.”

“In fact I still would climb it,
Except my memory’s no good.
You see, I can’t quite recollect
Just where that mountain stood.”


Through the glass I watch his hands on your body, molding to those curves that I once knew so well. Towards the end of things those luscious curves were stone to the touch, and I was slowly coming to see just how much they matched what was inside.

That poor, blind, besotted fool. I don’t envy him the slightest bit.

secondhand smoke

i know you can taste it,
the poison that I swallowed down.
you like it, don’t you?
(i know you do.)

the bitter taste that coats your throat
(but so good, it burns so sweet)?
how it makes your stomach burn
(but warm, like whiskey neat)?
yeah i know you like it,
this medicine i drink.

you feel it, don’t you,
how i tingle when we kiss,
i make your sense going dead,
just like you like it, no?
you want more? (i know you do.)
come here, baby, i’ve got something else to show you.

box prize

I remember the cereal my brother and I ate growing up. The name on the box was Teeny Wheeties, or something that rhymed the same way, bubbly letters splashed across a sea of green and gold. Mom didn’t like buying it. She was a generic-brand, wholesale-gallon shopper, and Teeny Wheeties came in boxes that only ever lasted from one Sunday cartoons session to the next. In the end, though, she capitulated more often than not, and on the ride home we would fish the box out of paper bags soggy with frozen-vegetable condensation and rip it open, then and there, scattering crumbs all over the seats.

The reason we loved Teeny Wheeties wasn’t the taste–it had the texture and consistency of stale cardboard–but the box prizes. Teeny Wheeties always had the best box prizes. Over the years our collection grew with additions of decoder rings, neon flashing necklaces, and promotional action figures whose paint wore off the molded white plastic after weeks of constant handling. We made ridiculous promises to each other in exchange for the prestige of being the one to rip open the plastic packaging and hold our newest treasure, triumphant, up to the open air. For this we would have gladly eaten any amount of cardboard.

I found the toys again when I was cleaning out my brother’s room. I had lost interest in children’s toys before him, so he’d ended up claiming them all. They were in a shoe box in the back of his closet, beneath a pile of T-shirts from every summer tennis camp he’d ever gone to.

I opened the box sitting cross-legged on his bed. It released the smell of Teeny Wheeties into the air. The prizes were shabbier than I remembered; none of the batteries worked anymore. All they looked like to me were trash. Yes, they were trash. But my brother must have seen something of value in them still, to have kept them all these years.

I considered taking them downstairs to show mom. We could reminisce. More likely though, she would only cry. And she had cried enough already.

In the end the box prizes came with me, stashed in the bottom of a cooler of casseroles that neither of us wanted, but we didn’t like to waste food. When I got home I put the box on the top shelf in the closet, just one more shoe box among the dozens my wife owned. Every now and then I take it down and look at the toys that we at one time wanted more than anything else in the world, and I remember.

dinner with my mother’s daughter

how undeniably correct we sit,
elbows off the linen and backs molded into the shapes of our chairs.
face to face for the first time in years, we reach out across a gulf of soup tureens.
see: you and i, our glasses laced with cultured rot,
and our mouths pressed tight against an accidental intake of nourishment.
between us lies an immutable hardwood slab and its forest of china,
candle flames wide-accusing eyes glaring in all directions.

the invitation, extended; the acceptance, inevitable.
decorum dictated our responses.
we did not want to be here, we could not refuse.
the careful avoidance of bad taste, the manners that offended and enraged–
overwhelming trivialities that cannot, that have to be, ignored.
hunger gnawing me to the bone, i had to relearn how to play nice,
and all the while sharpened silverware inches from my hand.

how easy to to sip in small spoonfuls, to remember which hand holds the knife.
you–the flawless visitor, the perfect dinner guest–
are so exactly the way i remember.
your manners make it so very easy to be polite,
so very easy to scoop you onto the flawless tablecloth and serve you whole,
my steak knife carving roasts from your thighs,
my dessert spoon gouging sweetbreads and viscera for a palate cleanser,
my salad fork buried in flesh that shrieks, writhes, and erupts with an aroma of mesquite-grilled pork.
no, it doesn’t pain me at all.

i devour you in small, neat bites, exactly as we’d both been taught.
it’s not murder, it’s an act of mercy,
your skin flensed back in artful patterns
and your flesh floating in red wine sauce pungent with too few years.
pain toughens the meat to bitter string and yet i choke you down,
weeping, belly bloating until i can’t stand the taste of you.

how still you lay, how neatly arranged for my consumption.
unresisting but reproachful, eyes accusing as you smile and chant,
it’s okay/i don’t blame you/it’s all your fault.

i never wanted to do this to you, but it had to be done.
i didn’t choose to be here, but mother made me come.

high stakes

“Bet high,” his Avatar of Dice whispered.

Jace folded his hands casually on top of his flush. Across the table, his opponent mirrored the action, though hers was obscured by the bastion of chip towers arrayed around her. Her Avatar swung from one ear, a heart-shaped diamond stud. It flashed with computations.

Sweat dripped down Jace’s nose. “How high?”

“Depends on how you time it. Fifteen seconds from now.”

Right on cue, a fireball hurled up from the surrounding moat, lighting the game table up with lurid red. Unwillingly, Jace’s eyes strayed to the empty seats at the table. Even the chairs had been obliterated, along with the losing players. Scorch marks streaked the green felt. The sight of them filled Jace with fear, but beyond fear, something more hypnotic as well.


Jace stared straight into his opponent’s eyes and shoved his meager pile of chips forward. All in. She copied him at once, with no hesitation. Cocky bastard.

He traded in two cards, to no improvement. She did the same, her expression never changing.

The moment of truth. A smile cracked her face as she showed her hand.

Royal flush.

Jace shot out of his chair and hurled towards the exit as a fireball erupted from the moat and streaked towards him. Ten seconds to make it. Behind him, his opponent howled with giddy laughter. Jace was laughing as well, flush with the thrill of it all, as his Avatar whirred with frantic recalculations of odds rapidly approaching zero.

He was at the door now. He flung himself out and wrenched it shut with less than a second to spare. The force of the fireball’s impact shook his arms. Flames licked around the edges of the door.

“Now that,” Jace panted, “is my kind of woman.”

His Avatar flashed. “The odds of her drawing that hand were practically zero.”

“She knew she was going to win. You could see it in her eyes. Hell of gambler,” Jace said in awe. He wiped the sweat from his face and straightened up. “So, what should we play next?”

“There’s blackjack, baccarat, Texas Hold ‘Em, and craps.”

“What are the stakes at baccarat?”

“An ice floor that cracks on losses. And piranhas.”

“And the win rate?”

“Single digits.”

Jace grinned. “My kind of game.” He set off towards the baccarat room, trailing smoke and soot, while his Avatar of Dice recalculated the odds of his survival on his left shoulder.