Category Archives: Stories


I was browsing YouTube mindlessly–as one does–and came across an adorable video of a baby elephant trying fruitlessly to help up a larger elephant which had fallen down. How sweet!

Skip to 2:16, by the way. The video is actually mostly boring.

But I could not help but be reminded of a passage from The Physiologus, a text  written in Greek in the second or third century as both a guide to animals, trees and stones, AND an explanation as to how each of these natural specimens can be seen as analogous to Christian theology and ethics.

Now, before you go and accuse me of being some sort of an intellectual or something, it’s not like I went and read The Physiologus myself! I just happened to read the passage in my copy of  Umberto Ecco’s On Ugliness, a lively exploration of the Grotesque in Western art and literature! I don’t even KNOW Greek, and my Latin is getting a bit rusty–difficile est tenere quae acceperis nisi exerceas, as they say! So, just to be clear: I’m just a REGULAR JOE.

Anyway, on to the elephants!

In the mountains

An animal known as the elephant exists.

…This is the elephant’s nature. If it falls down, it is unable to get back up again, because it has no joints in its knees. And how might it fall down? When it wants to sleep, it leans against a tree and hunters, who are familiar with the elephant’s nature, go and saw the tree trunk halfway through.

The animal comes to rest and then falls along with the tree, and begins to send forth loud trumpeting.

Another elephant hears this and comes to help, but it is not capable of lifting up its companion: therefore both begin trumpeting…

and another twelve elephants arrive, but not even all of these together can lift up the fallen beast; therefore they all start trumpeting: finally a small elephant arrives, puts its trunk under the fallen elephant, and lifts him up.

What I take away from this story is that elephant hunters need to follow through with the rest of their hunting plans, and that elephants are disorganized. Oh! Also that Europeans in the Middle Ages were pretty uninformed about elephants. What you SHOULD take away from this story, gentle readers, is that the Elephant is MAN, after falling into SIN…

Then the great elephant arrived, in other words the Law, and it was unable to lift him; then the twelve elephants came (in other words the prophets), and they weren’t able to lift the fallen man either; finally, the holy spiritual elephant arrived, and he lifted the man up.



We’re drinking coffee.
“It’s really a social drink, isn’t it?”
I agree.
“Or you can have it alone, but traditionally, I mean.”
I agree.
She’s telling me about this dream
She had
Which was disturbing for reasons unclear
“Dreams can be that way,” I say
And she looks relieved
I guess that means we’re on the same wavelength, she and I.
“I KNOW, right? And you wake up and you’re just—“
She waves her hands
I make a sympathetic face
I really should have gone for the chai, but I always get it
(Because I like it better)
But there’s still the ‘atmosphere’ here;
Really funky. Really fun.
A bit much.
“And when you think about it, nothing scary actually happened in them,
“Like this one, how there was just this,”
She polishes her glasses, “this completely empty stable,”
I interrupt, “And you were worried the horses would come back
“and they’d know you weren’t supposed to be there, yes.”
“Exactly! And they never even came back! Ha ha ha!”
The teenager at the next table has been trying to burst a pimple on his temple
On the sly
For the last three minutes. His date is answering a text and this may be his chance
At last. I notice my old friend’s friend has stopped talking (still smiling)
“Mmm,” I say, and she is off again
“It’s funny, because I actually really love horses!
“I actually tried to convince my parents to buy me one when I was a little girl
“But they said we didn’t have room,”
“Horses do need a lot of room” I say in a fair’s-fair way
(Shannon, her hostess, gets off of work when? 3:00?)
“Oh, I know that now,” She laughs
“I also tried to get them to send me to summer camp, just because I liked the concept,”
She rolls her eyes,
“I would have hated it, in retrospect, but I was so mad at them then!”
I have finished my coffee, but fein sipping from the empty paper cup, nodding.
“I actually hate camping,” She says, and, for a time, explains.
“So next time he offers, I’m just going to say ‘NO WAY, KENT!’ Period. End of discussion.”
“Okay.” Something in my tone gives me away.
“Oh! I’m sorry for rambling on like this, aww,” She pats my hand.
“So patient. How did we even start TALKING about camping? It’s just like a string of consciousness!”
God DAMN it
I can’t!—
She just!—
I spit out,

@Rory_Madden #beach #simile

I'm not sure it counts as a beach anymore, after doing such a thing.

If the Shoe Fits

So, I was in the restroom the other day. But wait! That’s not all!

While I was in my stall, I overheard a pair of women having a conversation at the sinks. It went like so:

Loud Woman: Oh my GOD. These shoes are LITERALLY killing my feet!

(Nothing like a figurative literal to catch my eavesdropping ears!)

Sympathetic Woman: Oh nooo! What’s wrong with them??

LW: I’m not sure! I’m hoping it’s just that I’m not used to flats, because I wear heels all the time.

SW: Aww

LW: Or maybe it’s just because they’re new and I’ll get used to them. Ouch.

SW: What part of your feet hurts?

LW: My toes. My toes feel really cramped.

SW: Ohh, that’s the worst. Where’d you buy them?

LW: Online. I’m a size 10 but they only had up to size 9, so I got that. They fit just fine–they just really hurt! Ah well.

(they leave!)

Diagnosis: An over-liberal interpretation of “fit”!

I also had the good fortune to endure a thirsty mom at the next table during lunch. The cashier did not hand her a cup for her soda because you are supposed to grab your own (they are RIGHT THERE). This thirsty mom spent the whole meal making smacking sounds and dry coughs and HINTING to her husband and teenaged sons to get her a cup, because she was afraid of the cashier. Not sure what the cashier would have done to her from the other side of a counter in the middle of the lunchtime rush. She kept shooting sour looks at the cashier, at the husband, at her sons’ bottled drinks. None of them took a hint. At least she got her husband to double check that she’d would be getting a quesadilla with chicken and cheese and NO OTHER STUFF in it, though the fact that her family all got hotsauce for their own meals seemed to trouble her.

Diagnosis: Cowardly!

Bat Man

The bat is still here.

Sometimes she flies around the house, but mostly she hangs in the corner by the refrigerator.  I think it must be warmer in the kitchen and that is why she goes there.

She was in the bathroom the other night. I didn’t notice at first, but she flew out into the hall when I flushed the toilet. I hope I didn’t frighten her. I was embarrassed that I had gone to the bathroom in front of her, even if she is a bat.

I am pretty sure she is a female bat, because I get that impression. I’ve started leaving the back door open to see if she’ll leave, but she doesn’t. Maybe she leaves at night when I am asleep and comes back. I never see her eat. So maybe she does go out at night and eats. At least I hope so. Why does she come back?

I researched bats and found out usually they live in large groups. Sometimes thousands of bats will live in one cave! Did she used to live with other bats? Did they leave her behind? Or did she leave them? Maybe she is lost. I wish I could ask her.

Il Ladro di Giornale!!

It’s amazing what a small spontaneous act can do to lift a stranger’s spirits. Last week, I was having a humdrum ordinary everyday kind of a day, and eating what was possibly the worst St-Patrick’s-Day themed hamburger I have ever had, when I spied a CRIME through the restaurant window.

A young man of about 19, pony-tailed and gangling,  VISIBLY spotted the newspaper lying outside the door. I had just been wondering what a restaurant needs with newspaper deliveries when this guy ambles up and pulls one of those double takes! Walking along, glances at the paper, registers it 2 steps later, and whips back around. Like a cartoon of a red-blooded everyman spotting a dame. My curiosity: piqued!

A couple entered the establishment at that moment, and our hero stared up at an interesting nothing in the sky. As soon as the couple was in, he proceeded to LOOK over one shoulder, and LOOK over the other (he did NOT look at ME, a yard away, indoors!). Finally, he steeled himself and scooped the prize right up, eyes bright and cheeks flush.

Paper in hand, he began to stroll away, acting “natural”. Then he started to speed up a little, in spurts. At the corner, he jogged across the street, looking behind him frantically, then slowed down for a few more feet. I watched him for another block, when he flat-out ran, like one of the servers was going to step outside and put 2 and 2 together that very second.

My friend missed it entirely, with his back to the window and Plants vs Zombies to deal with. I alone witnessed this rare-and-passing flower of a scene. Should I have tried to stop the thief? Maybe. But it all happened so fast, really! And it was so delightfully unrealistic! And a newspaper is probably cheaper than the corned-beef-and-fried-egg-burger with a maple-bacon shake I had, and which left me nibbling dry toast and corn flakes for 3 days. Therefore, I accept this merry crime as compensation!


Also I saw a possum tonight, and it was more cute than hideous, and it washed its eerie, spectre-like face with its little hands. Very satisfactory.


(note! if you are Local, keep in mind that overall I enjoy the establishment described; just use your–not my–judgment with specials!)

PS: I forgot the best part! After I described the event to my friend Rory, there was much speculation surrounding the crime. Did he close himself in his room and read the whole paper, before stuffing it in the recycling bin…where it rustled, a la The Telltale Heart, driving him mad with guilt? Was he terrified he would mention some local issue from an editorial and someone would say, “Heeeyy…YOU don’t have a subscription to the Hampshire Gazette!” Did he BURN the paper in the backyard? Did he call the police later and try to turn himself in? Or was this merely the first step in becoming what will turn out to be a criminal MASTERMIND?
My brother Sam suggested he was a student doing a project: “Conclusion: It is best to steal papers on Sundays because people sleep in later and also there are more funnies.”

@Rory_Madden #math #glasses #doomed