Monthly Archives: September 2011

New post

I’ve added a new post, an excerpt from a short story called “A Zoo Parting,” which will be included in my next collection, an e-book undergoing final preps for publishing this year, I hope by late October or early November. I like this story quite a lot and will probably type up another excerpt from it down the road. But I’d like to provide more samplings of the upcoming book and add stuff I’m currently working on. Thanks to everyone who’s taken time to read these posts.



“A Zoo Parting” (excerpt)

(copyright 2011)

The rookery when she arrives there encloses her. Always in her own world, she nevertheless finds herself eerily alone in what was once, way back in her girlhood, young womanhood, a haven for ducks and mute swans, pigeons of course and fox squirrels that let you feed them. She follows a path through scrubby untended brush attentive to her stomach and her breathing and an occasional chickadee and stops on a platform of limestone a dozen paces long that appears to float on the murky water, she sees a few mallards but no swans, not even Canada geese, where are they she wonders, they used to be here by the dozens. She feels quite suddenly agitated, the scene isn’t the way it used to be, something’s different, the whole scene, she wants to remember, it’s all scraggly and empty, where are the trees she wonders, where’s all the shade. There used to be woods here, oaks beeches, hickories and laurels, big full maples, even some thick birches here and there along the water’s edge. There were bushes to nestle under with your boy where to the soft murmuring of a variety of ducks you could grope and giggle and pant to your heart’s content until you heard approaching voices or swishings of grass or . . . the boy, what happened to the boy, she tries to think, she wishes for some Black Velvet.

The trees are sparse now compared with back then, almost all of them grown since her youth, she feels no nostalgia, just a bit of perplexity. She takes a few steps to a wooden shelter in the old prairie style, a holdover, it was there in her romping days, she’s glad to see it, she sits on a woodslatted iron bench to allow thoughts to maybe take shape and scans the dense reeds that extend outward from the pond swamplike and the broken canpy of young hickories and maples, a few thin birches. The place used to be a waterfowl odeon filled with a wide range of quacks and honks, now it’s silent, even the ducks keep to themselves. She unzips her purse and reaches in and withdraws a small shiny object, it’s a pistol, a Ruger 380, she looks at it then seems to study it for a minute or so, switching it from hand to hand feeling its weight, just a couple of pounds. She sets it in her lap and gazes at it, all black steel, shiny, lethal. She feels detached. As the minutes pass the gun loses outline and dimension on her worn wool slacks and seems just a blotch. She has no concern that someone will appear on the path to her side and witness this tableau with alarm.

Abruptly her head twitches, just slightly, like a spark, and her heavy eyelids yawn wide, veins taut and fragile. Inside her sodden head, still a bit dizzy with the morning’s allocation of whiskey and beer, she suddenly feels touched by a familiar calling, soundless and empty, that (      ) and that (      ) and that (      ), that joyless voiceless evocation thrumming softly in her hollow mind, intended, if intended at all and not just rising as a random beat from a capricious mental bongo, for someone something somewhere, but trapped and hurting and powerless, and ultimately shot through with sadness and resignation. She sits there at the brownishgreen water’s edge under a fastchanging sky her hands limp alongside her gun, feels tears coursing down her cheeks and dripping onto them. All she can do is shake her head listen to the emptiness gaze at the pondwater. Let it play out. It always did before.

Something whizzes past her ear and splashes into the water, her heart skips,, she feels the sounds, sniffs back a sob, doesn’t flinch. In here head, in her being, the calling has ceased. For now. And maybe forever. Maybe this is the last time she thinks, she always thinks that, she always has a nice big drink to celebrate that cessation, but of course there’s no bottle around here, this fact is confirmed by a quick survey of the area, the hard bench she’s sitting on, the stillopen purse beside her narrow hip, the limestone surfaces, the water still rippling from the object that just missed her ear. She stares as if from inside a cocoon at the lambent wavelets, her mind starts sliding forward, water she thinks, water — water its just there it never strides water, it doesnt seek, its just there, always there, it falls and it seeps and it lies there, it trickles and flows, it swells and recedes with the moon it rushes and ripples. but it never strives. it never tries to be more than what it is, as an acorn or an egg or a child or even the earth does, it just is, its just there. and its never faceless either, sunshine is just there too but its faceless, pleasant inspirational but faceless and water? green or blue or oily or scumcovered it always has a face, its in a place, in a bathtub its the same as in a mountaintub or a deserttub, a tarn or an oasis or an eave, an old horsetrough. a toiletbowl. when its flushed its no different from a stream dropping down a cliff into a cold mountain pool, and when youre flushed down the toilet or you jump into that icy water naked and scared, whos gonna hold your hand.

She looks down at her hands cradling the Ruger, picks it up with one of them and uses the other to release the safety, she knows well how to use the weapon, knows the damage its little cartridges can inflict, has during brief sober intervals once a week taken advantage of policesponsored clinics on a suburban practice range fully aware that the day’s approaching to fulfill its purpose, to kill someone in defense of the life she seems foreordained to survive no matter how miserable and meaningless whether she wants to or not. She sets the gun back down and wipes her right eye still wet with the heel of her hand and the left eye with the back of her wrist, the sun shines forth through a fresh dispersion of clouds and deep shadows form on the ground under the trees, reflections of the trees shine in the water as if by magic. And then she feels a shocking thudding pain exploding in her left rear shoulder and doesn’t even hear much less see the source of the pain as it thumps to the ground and bounces only once. Her upper body doubles forward and the gun nearly falls as she instinctively reaches with her right hand to soothe the searing pain. She feels wetness on her upper back and thinks that’s the first time he’s ever drawn blood, her eyes search dartingly and jar wide open as they spot a heavymalleted meat tenderizer at rest a few feet behind her on the limestone floor. A meat tenderizer she thinks.

She gathers herself grips the gun hard swivels her head. A sharp intake of breath. He’s there. The sonofabitch is there not ten feet away, off to her side, another first, he’s never directly confronted her before. As always he’s absurd . . .

Footfalls on the Stairway — by Philip O. Jung

(copyright 2011)

Cyril Latchaw slouched on the patio chair all steel and vinyl and laid his head on the tight edge of the frame feeling smooth as the glaze on its rigid back, he gazed at the wispy clouds in the mostly clear earlymorning sky, small clouds visibly dissipating that would soon be gone, one resembling a sheepdog running, one a galaxy swirling, one a craterdotted piece of land surrounded by a periwinkle ocean seen through the camera of a distant satellite. He heard car doors slam at short regular intervals, pickuptruck engines and schoolbuses that rumbled like old semis, the constant rush of rubber on asphalt, beeps of service trucks backing up, the occasional call of a crow, the song of a robin when nearby traffic lightened, an abrupt cough in a neighboring yard, he heard these things and he sat up and saw two young women pass by pushing strollers soundlessly, a slender dark cat with brown stripes gliding ribbonlike through the young pines and rhododendrons, a thick dark halfsmoked cigar in repose on the edge of the low deck his chair and steeledged glass table rose from, the chesthigh arborvitae surrounding three sides of it save for the three steps that led down to the still grass. Inside his head no thoughts either rumbled or slid, his lungs were clear the air they sucked in light and cool and gentle, his liver was still and painfree, his intestines at rest. Today was his birthday, his tenth, it started early and quietly, it looked to be a day of rest, green as the lilac leaves and the hanging spruce boughs, sweet as the tchips of the cardinal peering at him from the far edge of the deck.
He expected nothing from life anymore, no longer searched for any meaning in its vagaries beauties or shabbiness, he swallowed his antidepressants twice a day and though he still felt cross occasionally, vexed at times, there no longer was any sign of rage and especially no slippage into that roiling noontime darkness that alone of all possible afflictions and conditions he still feared. The past for him was a fiction enclosed between lurid covers and set aside on a shelf, he could take it down open it up to any page read it maybe reflect then simply shake his head in wonderment and set it aside. No greater luck than this has any man that he lay down his life for some peace, Cyril thought with an aimless smile, it’s been good he thought, that is the last ten following his fifty shuttlecrashed years.
He rose, strode inside his remodeled centuryold farmhouse standing grandly on its urban corner lot, he refilled his coffee cup returned to the deck and heard the electronic melody on his cellphone, ah shit it’s inside he thought, should he go back in and answer it or check it at his leisure, then he thought of friends he’d witnessed casually and contemptuously dismissing calls even from other friends, oh hell they’d say, we’ll call them later or they can call back, and he knew he was at one time or another one of the neglected multitude, so he returned to the kitchen found the cell and answered. Cyril a familiar feminine voice questioned — he preferred his full first name, only those who knew him intimately called him that, he’d had other names, the shortened Cy and Sparky and Sweet among them, all given to him by others — he recognized the smoky contralto of Elaine his exwife and he felt an exhilaration like the rush during a good workout. I wanted to wish you a happy birthday she said. Ten years.
Ah thank you Cyril answered, he closed his eyes tilted his head back and inhaled slowly as if smelling a subtle attar, I’m so proud of you Cyril, ten years. You’re the only one who has an idea he said. Much more than an idea, she said, much more. Oh god he thought his eyes still closed, he saw in the blankness a history throbbing with elan and vomit, tears and sunflowers and cold clear tarns and purplish mottles, how I love that voice, the growls she made at night, the howls, like making love outdoos on a piney floor, resin and musk, moonlight dew, his greatest sin was losing her, can’t think about sin now it’s long ago over, yes yes you’re right he said, it’s not an idea, you of all people know, maybe more than I ever did, she’s remarried now, to a gentle man, I started gently too.
You going to celebrate? she said. I’ll go to a meeting and get a coin. She hesitated, ten years, can I have it? Of course he said, I’ll wrap it and box it and send it to you, I’ll take a photo and keep it for myself, maybe frame it, it feels good Elaine, these last ten years have been the best in my whole life, Yes I know she said. I started out an infant in a neonatal ICU and went through all the stages of growing up and here I am, I can’t say how good it feels, I know she said — gray now he thought, a bit softer, still smooth, lithe, same sharp nose and smart eyes, full lips, the image slipped by quickly, I lost a lot he thought, can we meet for a workout and dinner he asked. Of course, next Tuesday four p.m.
He hurried the conclusion at the sound of Candace’s footfalls on the stairway. No matter, the time was always too short, it belonged to someone else always, the succession of events, the appointment meetings schedules the accumulation of details all of it, all an intrusion sometimes happy others unfortunate into the twodimensional tableau, the unified field that constituted the past ten years of his time. As he listened to the padding of Candace’s bare feet and then the breathing — she’s sneaking vodka again he thinks — and wet kiss on the nape of his neck, his eyes strayed to the window and the cardinal out there on the bright lawn and longing arose for the bird’s little tchips to mask the odor of distilled betrayal spreading like a fog around him.


Welcome to my new front page, where I’ll be regularly posting updates about my writing progress and excerpts from stories I’ve either completed or am working on. I’m planning on publishing a new e-book soon and republishing my first collection of stories, first printed in 2006, as an e-book.