This is part of serialized short story. I posted the beginning on 11.03.2012, and if you click on the label, “The Adventure of Alphus Gibb,” you can see all the available pieces together. I’ll be posting new segments on Sundays. I hope you like it.

            Alphus Gibb had heard somewhere that books were a window into the world. He had read few books, lest he be a peeping-Tom, and he wasn’t sure he was entitled to windows. But then, of course, there was Belle with her library! Her nose always in a book, and there was the way she was reading her own story without suspecting it.

            Alphus wanted to be like Belle, kind and lovely. Her library had windows, with little square panes like eyelids, from floor to ceiling. Alphus thought this gave credence to books being windows, at least to books being sometimes next to windows.

            There was one bookstore in snow country, America. The sidewalks were an aged and fuming shade of gray, clear of snow close to the buildings where it was forced back by the old awnings hung above storefronts. The sign in front read simply, “Used Books.” The diner across the street was the shape of a milk bottle. Through the window, red stools sat on the counters, upside down like stiff spiders in surrender.

            An elderly gentleman greeted Alphus as he entered Used Books. Alphus scuffled his feet and surveyed the room; it was stuffed from floor to ceiling with shelves of books. Alphus felt like he was breathing books or that the room was an artery pumping books from a deep dark heart of paper and binding glue and viscous ink, viral and worming, ink that oozed its way across pressed leather surfaces, infecting pages and scarring them with hieroglyphs.

            This is the way into the world? Alphus wondered.

            The gentleman behind the counter wore a pressed white shirt and a scholarly mustache. “Please, let me know if I can be of any service.” He said to Alphus. Another man sat opposite the counter in a folding chair. The cramped conditions coupled with this man’s unpleasant fatness made it so that Alphus couldn’t avoid squirming against his knees in order to get past him. His jeans were stained with black and connected to black suspenders atop a faded T-shirt.

            Alphus wandered through the stacks. Jannika Durby… Ross Troikin… Fisher Knox… Alphus recognized none of the authors. Although, he figured he should have: each had about a bookshelf and a half dedicated to holding his or her works alone.

            “—I’ve seen enough in my lifetime.”

            “But did you hear me? That’s some twisted shit.” Alphus could barely hear the men in the front talking to each other.

            “At this point, you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Nothing’s really new anymore.”

            “Yeah but -- --the poses and lighting –”

            “Of course, you know some of the best photographers in the world –”

            “I ended up talking those two girls who were in here the other day -- -- Anyway, I’ve got some for you to look at.”

            Alphus continued into the next room to keep himself from eavesdropping. This room was as clogged with books as the first. A deer-like woman sat crumpled on the ground amidst a skirmish of books. Her eyes were deep-set, her limbs were slender, and there were gray patches of wear on her tennis shoes. She would put a book on the bottom shelf, take it off, reconsider, put it back, and then slide a great chunk of them over. She did not look at Alphus. Looking at her made him tremble. She had one long braid that ran down the middle of her back. Between moving books she would tap her fingers on the wooden shelf, rapidly. As she tapped, Alphus’s body shook; his calves and fingers twitched; his vision became gray around the edges, like she was sliding away from him down a long blurry tunnel.

            Cold air burst into the shop as a large woman bustled her way in. Alphus returned to the front room feeling guilty for watching the shelving girl from high above her. The woman greeted the two shop men warmly. She was the picture of average – brown hair, a bit more girth than what’s healthy, and dressed in a neutral-colored rain coat.

            The deer girl mumbled something as she tapped Alphus to get out of her way. The gentleman introduced her to the newcomer as she approached.

            “Oh, this is the Jennifer you’ve been telling me about!” Said the woman.

            “No, we have lots of Jennifers.”

            Alphus smiled feeling directionless and uncomfortable.

            “In fact, this looks like a man who likes his Jennifers.” The gentleman said motioning to Alphus.

            “Let me help show you around. There’s a map on the wall for the cupboards of books. This room is for serials, the next is for authors with only one or two books, and the back room is our open jerkoff room. Back through that metal door.”

            Jennifer made her way past the two of them, also squirming against the fat man’s knees. She was very thin, tiny, Alphus thought. She looked like he could fold her in on herself until she fit in the palm of his hand. Or maybe she’d be altogether nothing.

            The fat man in the suspenders stood up and refilled the coffee maker. Its glass was stained a semi-transparent brown. It looked like it had been run out before its time, stained by the heat and neglect of half-filled pots not cleaned out until the next morning.

            Alphus left the shop. He was not so charmed by windows. 



This is part of serialized short story. I posted the beginning on 11.03.2012, and if you click on the label, “The Adventure of Alphus Gibb,” you can see all the available pieces together. I’ll be posting new segments on Sundays. I hope you like it.

            Few people worked in snow country, America. Few worked because the snow started a long time ago. The day after Alphus turned eleven there was a snow day, and no one had to go to school or work. The same thing happened the day after that and every day since. If anyone needed work to be done, they hired someone from the next town over. It snowed there too, but only when it was seasonally appropriate.

            Snow country was a snow-locked snow-infested snow-clad snow country. And in the next town over, Alphus’s sister was heavy with child. The prepostery! The nerve! Alphus thought upon his discovery of the human reproductive system. It was too messy and otherworldly, and who had the right, really, to come crawling out of anyone else?

            Once, when Alphus was eating an apple, he did not stop at the delicious sticky rubbing-alcohol cool flesh of the fruit, but continued to eat through the pale and sour core until the stem was all that was left.

            Oh no. He thought. He imagined the accidentally consumed seeds germinating and enlarging in his stomach. A sapling would start growing out of the top of his head; a pond with tiny goldfish would form beside it. In the spring, with its first blossom, people would come have picnics under it. In the desolation of night, couples would make love.

            One night, he had a dream that his stomach was ballooning as if he had gorged for days or as if a person from another dimension was trying to use his intestines as a portal into this world. He grew and grew in pain, his skin not sufficiently elastic. He struggled to a mirror. Through the hole of his gaping belly button he saw the hard shiny green of a granny smith apple. (This perplexed him as he had swallowed the seeds of a red delicious.) You can imagine his dismay when he saw his sister in a similar condition.

            How could the world be so deviant, he wondered. And to my sister!

            “I have a baby growing inside of me, Alphus.” Suzan had told him. “A little person.”

            Alphus imagined the cramped up little person supposedly inhabiting the skin of his sister. Something comprised of mostly limbs with gigantic elbows and knees. Two protruding eyes sat atop one of the bony stake-like arms. A parasite, an intruder.

            Life inside of life, Alphus thought. How disgusting. 



Newly Edited! (12.11.12)

I’d really like to meet someone nice and, you know, not terrible-looking… or not terrible-terrible-looking. And it’s not that I’m not pretty or anything; I’m alright-looking (especially considering); I get looks from men on the street; I smile. It’s just that when I go on dates with them, I…. it’s really embarrassing.

It’ll be going really well – we talk, tell stories. Maybe he’ll put his hand on my back when he comes back from the bar…. He asks about my family, maybe, and I tell him, “No, that’s a bad story; you don’t want me to go into that.” And then he says it’s alright if I want to tell him about it. I say, “No, no. It’s my goal not to horrify people.” And he concedes thoughtfully, and we start talking about our favorite TV shows or something, and I get half way through my second beer when I burst out – MY FATHER’S DEAD. My date says he’s very sorry; he maybe touches my arm. “How long?” he asks, and I say, “a couple months”, and he says “Gosh, that’s rough.” He pats my arm a little. He’s nice, my date. “And they wouldn’t even let me see his tomb!” I tell him. I have to concentrate on breathing in order to hold in the rest. And then I can’t stop myself; I tell him, “But that’s not the whole story.”

See, it’s bad. This happens at parties, too. And at the grocery store. I’ll have made a few fledgling friends, and we’ll be standing in a group, talking. They’ll ask me, “What were you doing before you came to Colonus?” and I’ll answer, “Taking care of my blind father.” They might then ask if he was blind since birth, or maybe I’d just offer all the information up on my own. It’s like the memories are burning into words in my throat. I feel like I live in a world completely different than other people, and I foolishly hope that if I tell people, they’ll maybe open the door to my world. They’ll maybe let me out.

So I tell them. I eventually tell everyone. I once broke down in aisle seven – just screaming to the other shoppers about the agony of my life.

I tell them, everyone, the whole bit. I allude to it. I write about it. I drunkenly cry about it. I use it to explain myself to me, to everybody. See: I found out I was inbred. I found my mother hanging from a silken cord. My father was… a great man. He thought his fortune was secure. He thought he knew who he was, but he didn’t. He was so clever, and yet he was wrong. 

And then my date takes his hand away. Shit, as they say, just got real. We awkwardly settle the bill, finish the last bit of our drinks. He holds my gaze a bit longer; he says the right things, but he looks scared. The door out of my world is opened, but I see that the doorway is too high for me. Way way up in the air. I’m sure my date would help me out if he could, but, as it is, I can only just barely see his face. See him watching me. And I think, again, that I’m going to need to be much tougher than this. Much tougher still.

And it’s alright, maybe. Maybe I’ll give this normal-life thing a rest for a while. I haven’t been to my hometown in ages, not since... But my uncle called, recently, telling me that the family misses me, and with my father dead, it would be alright for me to go back to Thebes. I think I’ll take him up on it this time…. Maybe things will be easier at home. 



This is part of serialized short story. I posted the beginning on 11.03.2012, and if you click on the label, “The Adventure of Alphus Gibb,” you can see all the available pieces together. I’ll be posting new segments on Sundays. I hope you like it.

            Gauss Anne Worlby shuffled her moccasin-clad feet down Alphus’s front path. She led him by the hand; she had to wrench her arm up and behind her because she was so much shorter than him.

            “Alphus,” Gauss Anne was saying, “the level of snow provides a very perplexing problem. I’ve been studying the rate of snowfall, and it has at least definitely existed. The rates themselves, though, have varied enough to give me difficulty in nailing down a good predicting average, but they have definitely been both non-zero and positive. That may not seem like much, Alphus, but this is science!”

            Alphus may or may not have been listening.

            “There hasn’t been a day of sunshine or one above freezing in 23 years. The divergence of the snow rate is non-zero meaning that, somehow, there is a sink. The snow does not appear to be conserved. But it has to be conserved! There are other forces at work, Alphus!”

            She’s holding my hand? Alphus thought. He fell through many parts of the snow that Gauss Anne could slide across. His body lurched forward every once in a while where the toe of his boot dug into the snow and his shin hit the side of the new hole.

            “Batsmitan Desert Mud Frogs survive long periods of drought by burrowing deep underground and hibernating. When the rains come, all of a sudden the ponds are full of frogs like they appeared ex nihilo. I am beginning to believe that something like that is happening here. Perhaps some long dormant animal is reemerging from the time when there were glaciers and plenty of ice. This animal must live under the snow, feeding on the frozen moisture. Something must be consuming the snow or else it would be thirty feet above our heads.”

            “Where are we going, Gauss Anne?”

            “The amazing thing is that these snow-eaters must do so at the exact same rate that the snow falls. As I said earlier, my tests show that the snowfall rate varies dramatically from one snowflake per square meter per second on average to about fifty. How is it possible that the consumption rates, the number of individuals, and the birth and death rates all combine to produce a drainage of snow exactly equal to what’s being added? Never before have I observed an animal so keenly aware of its environment. So keenly aware…. It’s almost as if their behavior has some predictive qualities. I am afraid it’s rather unprecedented in science and because I am without even preliminary findings, I’m sticking my neck out, here, just saying this – but the possibility is just too tantalizing to resist! What would Dr. Livingstone think? Perhaps, Alphus. Perhaps, the animal birth and death rates, their snow intake, and their number determine the snow fall rather than being dictated by it.”

            They had walked to the end of Alphus’s path and down the street half way to the corner. Then Gauss Anne let go of his hand and took off as fast as her short legs could carry her. Her hair stayed perfectly still as it always did even though she was shuffling at top speed.

            Alphus stood in the road, once again at a loss upon Gauss Anne’s departure. When she had stormed through the front door and grasped his hand to take him outside, he did not even have time to grab his burgundy robe. He stood shivering in his white T-shirt, blue sweat pants and boots. His tummy bulged over his waistband, and the taut skin on his bald head looked severely out of place – foreign and abandoned – being so exposed and so cold. Alphus held one of his arms in the other.

            I don’t know if I ever want to see her again, he thought. Why does she do stuff like this?

            He trudged back across the lawn and through the door that stood open. He had not realized that he could be so easily taken from his home and exposed to the cold. Gauss Anne had such a flora-like appearance that it seemed to Alphus that he was vulnerable even to the trees. 


It's the Little Things... That, When There are Enough, Explode

There’s this gun in Halo: Reach; it’s called the needler, and I feel very attached to it. I’m not a gamer, really; I don’t sit and play by myself or anything. But I grew up without any gaming systems (not any); we also didn’t have cable. My mother is fundamentally against sitting down, I think, and my dad is against spending money. So no Super Nintendo, no Sega Genesis, no Playstation, and only 2 ½ TV channels received locally over bunny ears. We barely had Gameboys. I read books instead, the one acceptable form of sitting. And anyway, there’s this gun called the needler.

It’s beautiful.

It’s a Covenant gun – which means, in this case, it's made by aliens – that you hold with one hand. It has fuchsia spikes (needles) coming out the top of it, which it shoots. When your reticle is red, these spikes will track on to your enemy, and if you shoot someone with enough spikes they’ll explode. That’s not the best part, though. The best part is how it reloads – you cock your wrist and jerk it downward, snapping more needles up into place. It’s fast and seamless, and I get enormous satisfaction out of it. (It’s unclear to me why this is. I have a vague memory of something, a toy, maybe, that made that same snapping noise. I’d flick my wrist and these things – I can’t remember – would snap into place. Oh! I know – I just now this second remembered. It was one of those camping cups, you know? Those collapsible plastic camping cups. It was yellow. And you’d hold the lip of it and flick your wrist, and it’d be a cup! Then you could press evenly on the ends and it would break down flat into concentric circles. Gosh, making that flicking motion, hearing that sound, and making something fall into place - that combination of things - feels like scratching an itch somewhere deep in my brain.)

I was going to expound upon how I think things like video games and television shows are on their way into becoming something like literature – I do think that. Or at least I think they have that potential. When novels, for example, started becoming easier to access and more widely written, it was believed that reading would rot your brain. Why shouldn’t other media rise up from such beginnings, too?

But instead of that, I want to say that sometimes (maybe most of the time) there are little things that people make that are transcendentally cool, and those things are really nice to come across. 



I'm in the process of applying to an MFA program in creative writing. For this, I've been putting together a portfolio - going back and editing my stories from the past couple years. Here's the beginning of a longer piece I'm working on. It's going to be called "The Adventures of Alphus Gibb" or something like that. Let me know about any edits/thoughts/comments that you have.

Update: I'll be posting new segments on Sundays. Click on the label to see all the available ones together.

Alphus Gibb lived by himself in a house with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a porch, a kitchen, and an antique fireplace. When it was snowing, and it was always snowing, Alphus would put on his thick burgundy robe with fur-lined hood and cuffs, and walk off the back porch into the snow to feed the birds. He liked to pretend that he was Belle from Beauty and the Beast, his favorite movie. He’d imagine that a fearsome, hairy but sweet monster was gazing down at him, seeing his goodness and generosity to the light and happy creatures and wondering how he would ever get the beast to fall in love with him to break the spell and turn his kitchen appliances back into people.

            Alphus lived to feed the birds. He liked best to watch them run; they’d slim down their feathers and straighten upright. The birds were quail, a whole cult of them, living in the long-dead raspberry bushes. The old raspberry stems had become a wooden lattice, hard and strong as any thatched Elizabethan roof or Indian longhouse. Here the birds communed. Scampering in and out, they’d always hit their head feather, the feathers bobbing and shrugging. Alphus thought they looked like arrows saying, “You can find me here.” He thought about getting one for himself, but he’d never be accepted into the quail cult, he thought. They were too impressive. From time to time they decided to take great flights into the air, up to seven or eight feet! No, he’d stay on the outside, feeding them, pretending to be Belle.

            Alphus spent a lot of time with his mother. His mother spent most of her time being in love with Jonny Kruszymkortcha, a Jewish Pole, or a Polish Jew, or a Jewish Polish person, living in snow country America, who told everyone the news. Eleven at night, five in the morning, he was on Masha’s flat screen, HD, really big television. He’d sit behind his wide desk like a peppy particularly consequential bartender. And did I mention he was handsome? At least to Masha. She used to have a smaller TV. It was more normal, and it sat in its corner of the room, more or less unimposing, humming always to commercials and sitcoms and the odd storm warning. Then Masha, and perhaps Jonny himself, thought it was time for the next step in their relationship. So now she owned the Mongotron300 – 87 inches and she loved every one of them. She used to tell Alphus how she was in love.

            “What does that mean?” He’d ask her.

            Being in love was being fixated on someone. Being interested in them, spending all your time watching them. Saying romantic things and layering regular conversations with the erotic. That’s what Masha would tell him, and she’d say how much it hurt sometimes. The person you’re in love with can inflict pain with just a twitch of an eyebrow. A small sigh in your company can tell you he might secretly be thinking about something else, about someone else.

            “Sometimes when Jonny looks away from the teleprompt I just break into tears! I could kill him during those times!”

            Ah yes, that was what being in love was all about.

            Alphus thought about being in love, but so far he had experienced none of the symptoms. Alphus was not in love with Jonny Kruszymkortcha. His eyebrow antics had never given Alphus so much as the hiccups.

            As much as Masha was for being in love she was, in no way, shape or form, in any year, ever, in support of marriage. “Do not get married, Alphus.” She would say. “Can you imagine what would have happened if I had married your father?” Alphus could not imagine. Not about that.

            Masha figured marriage was too risky – fifty percent of marriages ended in divorce, and the people who stayed married died. Divorce or death were not good options; it wasn’t logical to get married. And Masha thought that if your actions weren’t logical then you deserved whatever consequences you got. Hence, in her mind, married people deserved to die. In fact, Masha rejoiced in the rising divorce rate; it was driving the death-rate down. Alphus hated when she talked about marriage.

            It was snowing, like always, and Alphus was outside in his robe feeding the birds and thinking about Belle. He wondered if Belle got married. If she did, he wondered if the birds got hungry and froze after she died. Poor Belle. Poor quails.

            He looked up from these musings to see the snow falling more heavily, in big chunks. A gust of wind kicked the tops of the dunes into a white sheet. Alphus had to shield his eyes. When he lowered his arm, his white fur cuffs even whiter for the snow, he saw the most amazing sight that his eyes had yet beheld. A bird, two or three times the size of the quail, was standing to the side of the yard. Its feathers were bright shades of gold, red and purple. Its tail dusted the ground with grace.

            Alphus was interested. Alphus was fixated. Alphus felt that if the lovely bird so much as battered an eye in the wrong way, he would be in great pain. Alphus had read on the Internet how pheasants exhibited strong sexual dimorphism; he thought that sounded great. For that’s what this bird was, a pheasant. Alphus was in love.

            He noticed how the quails paid it very little attention. How could they just scuttle around like that when Dionysus herself was among them! The pheasant was the only thing in his world; he felt no cold, no hunger, no pangs of regret for past wrongs, no fear for the future. He was only aware of the pheasant, the great bird of bold colors.

            He thought to himself, a very honest thought that would only be appropriate in the presence of his great love. He took that thought and decided to hide it deep in his heart, so deep that his mother could not even find it if she looked. And Alphus did not know; someday she might be inclined to look. In a small dear voice, hard like a pebble cupped in the palm of his hand, in view of the pheasant of his affection, he thought: Someday, I would like to get married.