Monday, May 25, 2009

A Request To The Readers from The Editor-in-Chief

Dear Readers, 
The Staff of the Particular has decided to send a story up the river to another, more illustrious publication. However, we're flummoxed as to which story to send. This is where you come in, we'd like to hear from you. What is your favorite story we've put out so far? Why? 

Please reply with a comment on this post. Our staff is standing by and we're anxious to read your thoughts and opinions. 

The winning story will be submitted to, and probably rejected by, literary magazines all across the country. 

The Staff of the Gin Mill. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

That Thanksgiving The Oldest Man in the World Had Us All Over For Dinner.

When those brown envelopes came in the mail it was a surprise to everyone. A lot of people thought it was a clever advertisement, but when they all called their relatives to prepare for thanksgiving, well the only thing anyone could talk about was the strange letter handwritten on a piece of legal paper. 

Everyone got a letter. Expecting mothers got two or more depending on how many they were expecting. In a couple of cases the mother didn't know how many children were growing in her, but in nine months the number of letters proved accurate. 

The letters were all politely addressed to whatever name we each preferred. The return address read simply Great-Grandpa. A lot of people, I'm told, opened their letters wondering why their great-grandfather had written them a letter, seeing as they hadn't spoken since their eighth birthday. 

The letters all had the same text too. Each one invited the addressed to join the mysterious sender for a holiday dinner. Eventually our Great-Grandpa called a press conference. He explained that he wasn't really our Great-Grandpa, there were a lot more greats. A lot of people didn't believe him when he said he was the founder of the human race, and a lot of people pointed at the bible and their old pictures of Adam from the fifties. "But he's not white!" they'd say. Great-Grandad would just chuckle and say "who knows what color I am, if you spent as much time in the sun as I have you'd be tan too." Eventually some team of scientists proved Great-Grandad right, everyone on the whole planet was related to him. 

Our Great-Granpappy just got lonely, he'd been in a nursing home for thirty or so odd years and no one had visited him. So he had decided to invite us all to dinner. Every last one of us.

Of course, not everyone made it, and there wasn't enough room for everybody. Instead of cramming into some building we decided to set up tables along the highways. Everyone brought more food than they could eat, and we all ate more than we thought we could. As I asked a homeless man to pass the plate of dinner rolls I realized that I passed him everyday on my way to work. Then the thought struck me at how ridiculous it was that I never gave him a dollar. We all ate together, everyone, and then when we were all too full to eat anymore we went and shook hands with our great grandfather. He was an old black man with a big white beard. 

A lot of people asked him why it took him so long to get everyone back together. He would answer shyly "You know how it is... trying to get everyone together... big families just have troubles like that sometimes. 'Course I would have wrote to you all sooner if you all hadn't been so damn angry at each other."

After dinner everyone went home and for a couple of months the whole country was happy. People hugged each other when they got off the subway. Airports were jam packed with people welcoming and hugging strangers. It was great: people didn't rob or kill each other, nobody got too drunk or took too many drugs. Everyone just wanted to be invited to next years Thanksgiving. 

But then Christmas came and when everyone didn't get together we were all pretty disappointed. Then Valentines Day rolled past, and everyone started to forget the reason why they didn't cut in line anymore or cheat on their taxes. Soon everything was back to the way it was, and nobody talked about who they saw at Thanksgiving. Like the old man said "some families just have their problems, especially big families... but still its family." 

I waited all year long for that envelope, me and the homeless guy who passed the rolls, we waited in the worn down benches at the post office. To pass the time we told each other old family stories. We waited another year, but those brown envelopes never came. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Part of Me Will Float Forever At The Bottom of the Ocean

When that man from Denmark approached me, well it didn't make any sense. Why would I lock myself in a steel tube at the bottom of the ocean? The bigger question really was why I would lock myself in down there with five thousand other people. I imagined it after a couple of days, our bodies coming free from the restraints, bumping into each other in suspended animation. 

But then, I thought about it. I thought about how really I'm locked in a steel tube anyway, only the sun shines on me and I don't feel weightless. I imagined how great it would feel to have even a part of me, just a single part of me floating down there with everyone. We'd all be free from worry, and we would drift endlessly through the currents. 

When the time came I paid that man from Denmark, and he put me, well part of me, just some hair and blood, in that steel canister. Then the man from Denmark took a boat to the middle of the ocean and threw me and everyone else in the cylinder overboard. My friends and family tell me it is a sham, they ask me how I could pay a hundred dollars to have some of my hair put at the bottom of the ocean. 

I don't care what they say. They will never understand how I can still feel that little part of me: down there at the bottom of the ocean I am drifting endlessly through the currents, free from myself and everyone else. 

Monday, May 11, 2009

Everything We Lost in the Fire

Twenty three napkins and fifteen napkin rings, twelve place settings, and everything else in the buffet. The insurance company still wants to know how much we lost, and I can't tell them everything. There are some things still smoldering in there. Underneath the ruin of our lives, burning in the wreckage of the cellar, there are still some embers glowing. 

I know you want me come to the store with you, so we can buy all those things that made up our home. You should know we lost more than things. When the fire came through the walls, you didn't even turn to watch me get trapped beneath the ceiling. From inside I heard you screaming, somehow over the roaring flames I heard you yelling for me. 

I saw the panic in the fireman's eyes when he cleared the rubble off my body. I watched his face as he picked me up, as gently as he could. Both he and I were afraid that I might turn to dust and ash if he held on too hard. All the while the world went blank and there was only me breathing in the smoke and your voice screaming in my ear. For some reason I always thought you would turn back and look for me as we ran out of a burning house. Instead you ran on ahead without me. 

We lost everything in that fire. 

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Birds in the Darkness

In her sleep Aderyn could hear the birds chirping outside her window. Her dreams were filled with the echoes of birds chirping and singing back and forth to one another. Of course, this made her hours of rest much less restful than they should have been. How can a body perform the necessary functions of sleep with a constant chorus of songbirds outside the window?  Aderyn's days were long hours spent aching for the rest of sleep, knowing that it would find her and leave her unsatisfied, like so many lovers. 

In the daylight hours Aderyn had the habit of singing. She sang songs with out words, sometimes without melodies, and more often than not songs without repetition. She would sing fluidly from one song to the next, never knowing when or where the music came from. 

When her therapist, who happened to be an avid amateur ornithologist, heard her singing one day he instantly recognized the song of the common Bewick's Wren. He then asked her a series of thinly veiled questions about the fauna and insect activity surrounding her house. After responding to the question "What mood do the azaleas, that is if you have azaleas, put you in, in the morning?" she answered "sleepy." At this moment, Aderyn realized that her therapist was an idiot. Despite her immediate disappointment in his skills, the fact remained that he had identified the, until then, unknown source of her problem. 

She hoped with the birds gone that lethargy and crankiness would leave her, and she could continue on as she had before, blissful and rested. An exterminator was called. It is surprising the sort of things people will do for money. The morally flexible exterminator proceeded to send a cloud of poison into the nests and branches of the trees outside Aderyn's window. 

Her nights were silent. Her days too fell silent. She found that instead of brighter days and darker nights her future consisted of grayer, duller, days, and an endless series of forgotten dreams. She sang no songs and ached to be tired again. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

You were right, it is good to just sit down.

Staring up at the clouds we could smell the grass growing around us. We could smell that sharp silica, and the long ages the grass had grown on that hillside. Somewhere across the field a pine tree was growing. In the air between us and the tree, riding on the gentle currents of wind, was a saffron sea of pollen. When the wind picked up it looked liked the tree was evaporating into the blue sky above. 

We didn't talk about anything for a long time. Words came out, there were topics and sentences, but we might as well have been quiet. Eventually we were. We fell silent, staring up at the clouds. I knew you were trying to figure out roles for the clouds to fill. You're always finding, or trying to find, patterns in things. Remember that time you went through Jean Dutourd's The Horrors of Love? You circled every first letter of a page and told me it meant something. In the end you couldn't find an anagram for anything meaningful, but that didn't stop you believing.

In the silence of the clouds we didn't need to care about our lives. We didn't need to care about the war, or your father's drinking. I didn't feel those uncomfortable desires to move closer to you, to run my hands through your hair, and try to kiss you on the cheek, and then maybe the lips. All the problems of the world melted away into the blue sky above. The gun felt lighter in my hand than it ever had. There was no meaning beyond the moment. There was nothing to attach to the memory except the memory itself.

When I look back on it now, sitting in my prison cell, I wonder where you've gone. To pass the long endless nights I remember that day in the field. I stare up into the blue sky of my memory and everything falls away, up past the clouds. 

Monday, May 4, 2009

Fires of Synchronicity

Ten years ago I swallowed a handful of popcorn. After a half hour I vomited, what came up was not popcorn but thirty-two pernicious violet butterflies. I haven't understood that moment until now. At the same time I vomited the butterflies a mine shaft collapsed in Virginia. No one was in the mine, but two types of rare flower went extinct. 

When she walked in the room, somewhere in africa a baboon began mating. My memory is more beautiful than the moment itself, even as I look at it now, I still prefer to remember the way her hair fluttered around her shoulders in the afternoon light. I know that seems disconnected, but looking back now, events seem to have a certain glow about them when they go together. When you watch the earth spin from my view you can see these fires light up the darkness of chaos. A statue topples and an infant nurses, and the universe glows brighter. 

Every time I sneeze, I notice that a bus stops in Chicago. I've never been to Chicago, and I don't know if I could go in the spring. Traffic would become tragically backed up. I've also noticed that right before I sneeze a man in Hong Kong usually breathes in. 

Last year, before this all happened, I would have told you that the world has rules and laws. Everything in nature works one way, because that's the way it works. I'm not so sure any more, being able to see all of time, I'm not so sure that gravity isn't just an illusion caused by the profusion of the color red in crayons. 

Very recently I've started questioning a lot of things. As you can tell I have no more faith in the red giant gravity. It is a pretty thought to think that it can escape us at any time. On some rainy days, I like to think that when we push down hard enough we hurt the earth's feelings and it runs away from us for a second. But because we are her favorite children, she cannot stay mad at us and rushes back to hug us. 

Everything is different now. It has become hard to think straight through things. Someday I hope time will go back to the start of things, or before I could see everything. If I could jump into the burning brilliance of every moment, I would, but now I'm stuck floating through time and space watching the fires burn brighter and brighter. 

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Death of St. Bartholemew the Merciful

He was found in a small church near Boleradice, in the country we now call the Czech Republic . His body was laid out on the altar, as if in his dying moments the young priest had offered his body to God. Maybe it was out of fear that they were wrong, or simple superstition, but the enemy never touched his corpse. They left him to die the painful death he had chosen for himself. On his lips was a smile, and his eyes stared coldly at the remains of the ceiling. 

As the townspeople fled for their lives, the young priest had fired thirty-two bullets at the advancing soldiers. With each shot he recited a short prayer. In the end the young priest killed thirty-two of the enemy's men before a bullet found its way to the Eucharist in his stomach. Each man the priest shot died with a smile on his lips, perhaps with the knowledge that they would not have to kill anymore.

The first miracle of St. Bartholemew occurred when the bullet penetrated his stomach. The desperate men that advanced upon his dying body found that what poured from his wound was not blood, but wine. They found him laying on the altar, with his arms spread wide. His white robes were stained red with wine. 

The second miracle occurred in a small cafe on the south side of Berlin, when a survivor of the conflict found St. Bartholemew's head floating in his soup bowl. Of course the size of the soup bowl was much too small for the head to float, but there it was floating all the same. The head spoke to the former sergeant, but no one around could hear the words that made the guilty man begin to weep. 

The third miracle the saint performed was when he delivered a small german child to her grandfather. The girl had been missing for three days, there was no explanation for her disappearance. One minute she had been clutching her grandfather's hand, and the next thing he knew her clothes lay empty on the train station's platform. The little girl was returned to her grandfather in perfect health. She appeared in his attic wearing blood stained and bullet ridden clothes. There was the faint smell of wine around her.

The old man explained to his granddaughter that he loved her very much, he then returned her to her mother. After a meeting with his lawyer, he packed a small suitcase and made arrangements to travel to Boleradice. He was found stretched out on the altar of a ruined church, smiling. Around the body there was the smell of wine.