Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Sliding from one dimension to another willy-nilly can be dangerous for someone who doesn’t know the tropes. Phineas Pfefferkorn learned that lesson the hard way.

Expelled from his university computer class, when his eccentric attire and boredom-induced nonverbal sonic disruption of classroom decorum exceeded the intolerant professor’s quota of one “sigh per punk,” Phineas wandered aimlessly through the halls of the science building until he chanced upon a keypad-protected research laboratory.

Phineas hacked his way into the lab. He glanced at the labels on a variety of experimental gadgets before deciding to strap on a prototype time machine and trans-dimensional slider that consisted of a backpack and a utility belt with a control panel.

Although he had every intention of following the advice of Horace Greeley, “Go west, young man,” Phineas was thoroughly disoriented by having passed through a maze of hallways prior to his discovery of the windowless lab where the sun didn’t shine. He faced the nearest wall and pressed a button.

Phineas found himself a gandy dancer on a dilapidated railway line.

He pressed another button.

He found himself a Gandhi dancer in the chorus line of a Bollywood biopic.

Wherever he went, Phineas had trouble adjusting.

When in Rome he did as the Etruscans did

He was out of sync.

What could Phineas do when his experiences clashed with his expectations? He sought a palliative for cognitive dissonance. In other words, he changed his mind.

He decided to switch from the adventuresome, go-exploring philosophy of Horace Greely to the marginally more immediate mantra of Quintus Horatius Flaccus, also known as Horace: Carpe diem. Seize the day, or enjoy the day. Take advantage of the situation you find yourself in.

Phineas wasn’t sure which one of the buttons turned the machine off, so he pushed all of them at once.

Chaos ensued.

A steam powered velocipede collided with a triceratops. A super tanker ran aground on Mars. A reality TV show made sense. A super collider produced a particle that weighed less than the fart of an anorexic quark.  

What had gone wrong? The answer was simple.

Not realizing that he was in a no parallel (universe) parking zone, Phineas had caused a temporal traffic jam at the intersection of Then and Now by breaking the cardinal rule for amateur time travelers: “Don’t change Horaces while in the middle of a slipstream.”

AT SUNSET by Ken Goldman

“North . . . East . . . South . . . West . . .” Jimmy pointed to the sky as he spoke, his face beaming with pride.

“What you doing, sport?” his father asked.

“Pointing to where the four winds blow, like Miss Daniels taught us today.”

“Impressive. And what else did Miss Daniels teach you today?”

“That the sun sets . . . right there!” Jimmy pointed northward.

The father knitted one eyebrow. “Not quite, sport. Tell Miss Daniels the sun sets in the West. That way.”

Something seemed strange. Together both looked toward the sunset. The father stopped smiling. 

The sun was setting in the North.

And it seemed to be getting closer.

C.S.I. #3 by Kyle Hemmings

We scoured the neighborhood for clues. Who could have murdered a shy reclusive teacher of post-structuralist phonetics, named Hermaine Zedt? God, it was getting so hot and ugly-humid downtown by The Kick. Little kids played dropball, catching the sun in the slit between their runny lips, their noise, all high-wing vowel and soft plosive. We spoke to Hermaine's landlord, an old woman who had trouble hearing and remembering the last significant question. Finally, she admitted to Hermaine keeping a huge red sheepdog with eyes so human they could see through you.

Oh yeah?” said my partner, J.T., who lit his cigarette, some brand with a German name.

She rambled on about a man who came to visit Hermaine. She spun a finger next to her head. “The guy had problems. After awhile he only barked or whined behind closed doors. Had my suspicions about her too but she paid the rent. I remember the young woman yelling the night of her death,down, Wanton, down.’” Wanton, she then explained in a voice reminding me of damp basements, was the name of Hermaine’s dog that she put to sleep. “Is there anything else?” said the old woman in a voice reminding me of birds in the attic.

Yes,” said my partner who never slept on his beats, “you mean her dog was already dead when she said this?”

“Yes, said the old woman in a voice reminding me of the spaces between my dubious parents without prints.

 Later, in the car I asked J.T. what he made of it.

“Simple,” he said, “the phrenic is schizophrenic. Wanton was the name Hermaine gave to her boyfriend because she loved the dog she had to put down and this was her way of keeping him forever. The boyfriend came to believe he was a dog. When you act the part, you become the part. I mean look at the leash marks around her throat and the smile that is still there.

“You're right, Einstein,” I said. Now tell me another one. Like the dog that once dialed 911 just to get its fifteen minutes of fame on YouTube. The owner never found and the mutt is still a suspect.”

“Remember it well,” said J.T. in a voice of absent minds as he closed file keepers, “I was the one assigned to the case.

REGULAR by Jeffrey S. Callico

Martin finished with his dump then ventured back outside where everyone waited. They weren’t waiting for him, he knew that, but he pretended they were. He walked up to Ronnie, who always wore a red-and-white baseball cap backwards.

“What’s happening,” said Martin.

Ronnie turned. “Nothing, why?”

Everyone else was there, along with Ronnie and now Martin, who had taken his dump and showed up with the others. No one had been waiting for him, but he pretended they were. He looked at Martin.

“I don’t know about you but I’m starved. What’s to eat?”

Ronnie stared a moment.

Martin smiled and stared back.

“Do I know you?” said Ronnie.

Martin looked at the others, who hadn’t heard anything. He said, “I don’t know you, that’s for sure, but who says I have to.”

Ronnie lowered his gaze. “Tell me this is a joke.”

“It is,” Martin said. “It’s all a big joke and you caught on just fine. I took a dump a few minutes ago and saw you all over here and thought I would make my way, what with the smell of the food and all. What’s your name again?”

“I never gave it to you,” said Ronnie, his gaze still lowered and forming into a frown.

“Oh,” Martin said, “you’re right, absolutely right. I’m Martin.” He extended his hand to Ronnie who stood motionless, his frowning gaze unfaltering.

“You should go,” said Ronnie.

Martin diminished his smile and returned his unshaken hand to his side. “Right. Absolutely I should.”

Martin retreated from Ronnie and the others, still smelling the food, which made his stomach growl. It would be a long time before he’d take another dump.