Category Archives: Fiction

Riau in the eye of the day

English: Bintan Island

Image via Wikipedia

Wednesday came fast tonight. Time for some more microfiction.

This one is part of a mosaic narrative I’m working on. It suffers from the lack of past tenses that French would provide for it. Proust got lucky in that way. I hope you can make some sense of it.


Riau in the Eye of the Day

Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss, Though winning near the goal—yet, do not grieve; She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair — Ode on a Grecian UrnJohn Keats

I’ll love you forever, she never said. In richness and in wealth, for better or else. How could we speak the law we live? Truth is Ugliness and Ugliness Truth; more than we imagine. Keats, you are salt to wounds. Yes, all I do is quote. At a banquet, do you pass the plate that is offered to you or vomit up your own half-digested thoughts?

Kinski says [the jungle] is full of erotic elements. It’s not so much erotic, but full of obscenity, Werner Herzog spoke from deep in the jungle. Nature here is vile and base. Asphyxiation and choking, fighting for survival and growing and just rotting away. The trees are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I don’t think they sing; they just screech in pain. It’s the harmony of overwhelming and collective murder. It’s not that I hate it. I love it. I love it very much. But I love it against my better judgment. 

I can see you are in pain, she might have said but didn’t. You need someone. That someone cannot be me. Come to bed.  Of course I went — an infinite amount of times. In the absence of love, the silent freeway is less burdensome.

The warmth of the sun, the waves on the pier, Tiger beer on my tongue and the innocent orangutan gnawing on my fingers. It’s over now and I’m sitting on a pier in the Riau. The purring archipelago yawns and stretches out toward Indonesia, where somewhere there is a hut with the girl who couldn’t be. Inside the hut, under mosquito nets, with her long legs and saltwater, she is sleeping. She is not dreaming of me. Meet me in Bali, she said. Of course I went.

Bintan lies in the heart of the Riau, an island no more than an outrigger reach from Singapore. Yes, ship to Surabaya, I take you, the withered man assures me. He shows me his pistol and grins rotted teeth. The warmth of the sun, the wailing of prayers, the bite in my mouth from the heat of the peppers of Nasi Lemak. It will be three days on the Java Sea to Jakarta, then a bus on a boat to Bali. And then…? And then…?

I did not crash in Kuala Lumpur for her. I came for Malacca, for the Hikayat of Hang Tuah, for the blood-soaked keris of Hang Jebat and deadly betrayal of his closest friend. They dissipated like heat mirages on the Straits and suddenly meant nothing.  In KL, I wrote to her from an internet café. Love to see you again. Could not put the word “I” in my own sentences. Meet me in Bali, she wrote.

Long before, we had been sitting too long in a café in Copenhagen, her flight waiting, snow and wind against the glass, spiced wine between us. That and the smell of her hair.  Hot places are happy places, she said. Ring me if you drop by my neck of the woods, hey?  The freeze in the air, the shuttering glass, the dull of the wine, and her walking away.  If we disappear into an infinite moment when we die, this is where I will go.

On the tanker to Sunda Kelapa, the ghosts won’t leave me alone. They take my sleeping to be a desperate cry for attention. They want to shake my hand in the toilet. Longnose! Where are you going? Three aeons on the tanker to Sunda Kelapa.

The sun is now rising over Ubud. Bali is dancing for matahari, the eye of the day. Children play soccer in the graveyard. Carnivorous lizards writhe up from the marketplace. It is always morning in Bali. I am always drawing back the mosquito nets.

Indonesian friends who treated me well, no I won’t tell you about them. Not now. Not with her lost to me for the rest of my life.  How can you love a thing that brings you only pain? I’m losing all the countries of the world.

I don’t want to hear about it, she said. The maddening wind and snow outside her bedroom window, the trembling candlelight, the hyggelig Danish gløgg. You jaw on your past like it’s some kind of kino. She pulled her jumper. It’s not cool, hey?  Nick off now, my shof’s gone wonky.

What the hell are you even saying? I laughed.

I quieted and held my mouth shut.

I’m still in the Riau. Even now on the pier, in the warmth, with the Tiger. I’ll always be there if you need to reach me. I don’t believe the orange ape child will ever stop chewing down the remnants of my hand.



Filed under Fiction, Travel

The Red Sea of Ixtapa

English: View of the mainland from an isolated...

Image via Wikipedia

A piece of flash fiction today. Maybe the kernel (maybe the operating system) of a story. Perhaps best left alone. Based, as they say, on a true story.


His shadow crossed her naked back in Mexico. She lay in the sand on her belly, straps undone. Massive rocks, anchored in the bay, watched immovable and impassive.
“Tell me why, Carla.”
Her smooth skin never rippled. A sigh alone escaped.
“I can’t talk to you like this, Frank. I need space.”
“You ran to the other side of the planet. I don’t have any more space to give.”
She still hadn’t looked up at him. Her eyes were closed behind designer shades. An issue of Soldier of Fortune lay curled by the wet tangle of her hair. “I can’t connect with you anymore, Frank.”
“You stabbed me! I nearly died!”
“Oh, so I can’t do anything right, is that it?”
“That’s not what I’m… Carla…. The Federales are up there in the lobby right now. I had to beg them for a minute alone with you. Tell me where the money is and I can still get you out of this.”
A translucent scorpion crawled by her mouth. She crushed it between her fingers. “You’re just not there for me emotionally.”
“Don’t you see? I searched the world for you. I never stopped thinking about you.”
“And that’s another thing: you’re too obsessive.”
“I’m not… That’s not the point. You stabbed me, Carla! How could you just walk away, leave me lying in a pool of blood in some godforsaken airport, screaming your name?”
“Why is everything always about you?”
His next sounds were not speech. “Just forget it. I can’t talk to you. Best of luck in prison.”
He said nothing. He surveyed the rocks, shifting his weight in the sand.
“Frank, put some oil on my back?”
“No way. Not this time. You know I know it’s a trick.”
“Frank, please. Don’t do this, not now. The sun is hurting me.”
He looked from one rock to the other. He cocked his head. A gull screamed, skimming the surf. “OK. Five minutes.”


English: View of the mainland from an isolated...

Image via Wikipedia

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Filed under Fiction, Travel

The Detourists

Rock River at Grand Detour, Illinois.

Image via Wikipedia

We came to Davenport, across the Mississisppi from Rock Island, down from Grand Detour. The village is named because of an odd turn in the Rock River. Grand Detour is the site where John Deere invented the first successful steel plow. Many of the village’s founders came from Vermont, and in the sunset of the 1800’s, artists were rumored to live here.  They said that Orson Welles spent several summers here as a boy at a family hotel.

What they called the Grand Detour was honestly only a blip.  A common oxbow on the Rock River, looking from above for all the world on the plain like the manifestation of the alluvial hiccup.

We came from Chicago along the riparian margins.  We sluiced ourselves from the world.  Turbidity like smoke in the air. The hyporheic zone is a region beneath and lateral to a stream bed, where there is mixing of shallow groundwater and surface water. The flow dynamics and behavior in this zone (termed hyporheic flow) is needful for handshakes between the surface water and groundwater, as well as fish spawning and other unspoken things.

We came from St. Anthony where The Falls no longer fall, now called St. Paul, now called Minneapolis.  We came from a place where a city swallowed a forgotten city, named for a sickly hermit drowned forgotten and was too soon made the saint of lost things.

They say he died of too much water.  They called it dropsy then, an abnormal accumulation of fluid beneath the skin.  Perhaps he never recovered from his shipwreck.  Maybe working as a cook put too much salt in his kidneys. Nobody knows. He drowned inside his own skin.

The Falls were born 10,000 years ago, rivaling her Oriental twin Nigara with a sheer drop of 50 yards, turbid as smoke in the air, with a storming roar roiling miles across the open plains, terrifying the short-faced bears and sabretooth tigers.  The Falls were monstrous then — tearing off, spewing out monumental chunks of limestone as it chewed through North America at blinding 4 feet per year.

Only 150 years ago, a capitalist won his first claim on the land by the falls, a lumberjack with his sawmill and his dam plans.  Within six years, when the Excursionists straggled by to see them, The Falls were gone.

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Filed under Fiction, History