Thursday, January 26, 2012


I wear a canvas shopping bag over my head. The rain, like waves of storm troopers, sweeps through the streets. The makeshift umbrella presents a navigational problem. I lift the edge of the bag just far enough above my eyes to narrowly avoid stepping into the path of an onrushing garbage truck. Like the wild-eyed bulls that careen through the streets of Pamplona, the stench transport is oblivious to everything in its path.

Murky, mud-laced water splatters my trousers. My middle finger springs into action (a knee-jerk response) and already the day is off on the wrong foot. I hurl some choice obscenities at the Salad-Shooter from hell. The driver eyes me through his side mirror. I jerk the bonnet back over my face, in case his buddies from the Teamsters come looking for me.

Embarrassed by a large, accusatory wet spot in the worst of all places, I grab the handle of the nearest door. The wind propels me inside. Once the bag is off my head, I suspend it strategically in front of my crotch. I case the joint. Ah, yes--the Mystery Book Store. A quiet, brooding little place. Smells like an attic.

The woman behind the counter is young--probably a student. Her hair is short, witch black. Razor straight bangs lick her eyebrows. She wears pasty white makeup and thick brown lipstick. Glancing up from the book she is reading, she says, "Is there a particular mystery I can help you with?" Her manner is genteel, a bit exaggerated--a diaphanous swan sculpted from a block of ice.

"Yes," I reply. "Why did the chicken cross the road?"

"Because the light was green."

"What is the sound of one hand clapping?"

"Much softer than that of one foot stomping."

"Okay, about the meaning of life?"

She searches for her place in the book. "I figured you'd get around to that one. Einstein said the only thing that matters is whether the universe is friendly."

Resisting the urge to challenge her on the capitol of North Dakota, I retreat to the bookshelves. So many mysteries in life, and now I am faced with about a thousand more.

Scanning one wall, I lose track of how many times "murder" and "death" appear in the titles.I go for broke and select a paperback titled Death Is Murder. I flip through the pages, periodically casting a wary eye upon the dark circle between my legs that shrinks with glacier-like speed.

How long have I been standing here? Is she watching me? Of course she is--I'm the only refugee in the place. What the hell, buy the damn book. On my way to the counter, I reach for my wallet and absentmindedly drop the shopping bag to the floor. The girl glares down at my pants.

"Hey, you one of them sick muhfuggahs man?" (Out of nowhere, she has developed a Brooklyn accent.)

"N-no," I say. "Th-the rain!" I whirl to face the plate glass window, but the storm has subsided, sunlight glinting off the last rivulets trickling into the gutters.

"I get all kinds in here," she says. "I got pepper spray in my purse."

I lay the paperback on the counter. "I'll take this one and be on my way."

My hand clutches the doorknob when she calls out. "So...what if we knew, ya know?"

I turn, "Beg your pardon?"

"The game would be up, wouldn't it? The end of  THE MYSTERY."

I smile. She returns to her reading. This is where I came in.

Outside, I breathe in the clean, sweet air. My trousers are nearly dry, and at last I carry the bag containing the book at my side in a manner befitting its original purpose. day you head for the corner market and the next thing you know you're jostled about like a pair of stained jockey shorts in the spin dryer of life--disjointed, as on a morning when you wake up sneezing.

Two sullen looking men in brown leather jackets scrutinize me as they pass by. They glance down at the bag. They glance up at my face. I jerk my head around to get another look at them, only to catch their eyes shooting bullets back at me.

Universe, let's be friends.  


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed your story, Tim :) You have taken "one of those days" and made me smile. We can all relate but you've told your story in such a wonderful and funny way. I am charmed with this one...I hope your evening is muuuuuuuch better! ;)
    Hugs :D

  2. I really like this. It is very noir. I like how the sales assistant almost seemed to be expecting him. I love the description of her, particularly her witch black hair. Her philosophizing is a great touch and the speed with which she anticipates his questions really adds to the almost spooky tone.

    To top it all off the title of the book is priceless.
    'Death is murder.' Such a treat!!

  3. I love the "spin dryer of life" line. This was a great one. You have such a knack for putting so much in such a little package.

  4. Very enjoyable...i just loved reading it, Tim :)

    The question whether the universe is friendly or not has come quite a few times -- why should it be unfriendly if you are....

    I loved the ending, confirming my thought, Tim :)


  5. I was trying to find the words to describe how this tale washed over me and I think Selma nailed it. It's very noir. I know I've seen something before with the same snappy dialogue but I just can't think of what it was. I'll let you know when it comes to me.

    You're very clever and unique and I enjoy your writing very much.

  6. KELLY,
    I've always found it interesting how events unfold and the chain reaction that results--bringing in questions of how much does fate plays a role in things.

    I'm glad those things stood out for you, and your use of the word "noir" to describe this tale is right on the money!

    Thanks for that...feeling like a pair of stained jockey shorts in the spin dryer of life can be a little disconcerting!

    When I think about that line from Einstein, it really puts things in perspective for me.

    Knowing that you enjoyed it makes my day!

  7. yes, Thanks Tim :)


  8. Ooh, rule number one: NEVER piss off the guys who pick up your trash! Haha, nice touch!

  9. That was great Tim!! You are a very intelligent man :) I so look forward to seeing your post, cause I know it will never be boring!!!

  10. KOBICO,
    Now that i think about it, that whole idea stinks!

    Thanks so much. I'm blushing now!

  11. This was compelling and evocative. Wonderful.

  12. SLOUCHY,
    Thanks so much for visiting!

  13. I like the chain of events, the ordinary way he goes about, and that's life, the people we come across are either friends or foe, I like that Einstein quote

  14. LISSA,
    Insightful observations!

    Thanks so much for inflating my ego! :)

  15. Very interesting... I really like it... Thank you so much.

  16. I looked at the length and almost passed over this but I'm glad I didn't. Thanks for the laugh!

  17. interesting story, very detailed descriptions.

  18. This grabbed me... Made me laugh, but also gave me pause. I agree with Booguloo... Really glad I didn't pass it over because of the length.

  19. this is so totally frickin awesome it...and hey...einstein was a wise guy...smiles

  20. man - i read it top to toe and didnt once divert - identified with much inside, smiled a couple of times and finished up not wanting it to end - long as it is - it maintains your vibe and its the best thing i've read all day.


  21. I'm just in awe, mate...awesome!

  22. friends it is...with pepper spray....ha fabulous story telling watch your back for those mens bullets...

  23. I really enjoyed this one. What a wonderful message-let's be friends.

  24. Love your humor, great descriptions and...well, where do all the missing socks go? That's the question I would have asked the mystery woman. :o)

  25. You never fail to entertain, astonish and amuse, my friend, and somehow you slip a rather neat bit of philosophizing in there as well. I always enjoy dropping in to see what condition your condition is in.

  26. ROFL

    " day you head for the corner market and the next thing you know you're jostled about like a pair of stained jockey shorts in the spin dryer of life--disjointed, as on a morning when you wake up sneezing."

    Stained jockey shorts in the spin dryer of life.... oh man that is awesome! ROFL


  27. EVELYN, BUSANA MUSLIM, BOOGULOO, SUMMER RAIN, CCCHANPAGNE, TAYLOR, CLAUDIA, ARRON, LOUISE, BRIAN, TERESA, OTHER MARY, (Oh, you're that OTHER Mary...NOW I know who you are!) HEDGEWITCH (Kenny Rogers & The First Edition...back in the days when he still wanted to be a hippie!)
    Thanks so much, y'all, for your lovely comments!