Sunday, August 26, 2007


I read in a book that truly crazy people don't ask, "Am I crazy?" Encouraged, I started asking this of everyone I met. The answer was irrelevant; the very act was reassuring. When I'd queried every person in town, I asked housepets, then cows. Now I talk to inanimate objects. I rest easy every night.

He drew two pistols. Spurs clanked like old silverware, announcing every step. In the distance a rusty herd of Mustang raced the roiling arms of an oncoming prairie t-storm.

"Jim," said Marsha from Marketing, waving a file folder before his eyes. "Jim?"

Jim blinked, and realised he was brandishing two staplers.

"Yeehaw," he said quietly.

When little Jack complained that his home was always full of fighting, filth and mess, his mother hauled him outside and showed him a bird's nest high in a tree. "At least," she said, "you weren't born in that."

Jack found it inspirational. He ran away from home and, years later, became a Nobel-Prize-Winning ornithologist.

"I feel stupid," she said. "It's just a ferris wheel."

He smiled reassuringly. "Tons of people are scared of heights. Just think how brave you'll feel!"

She clutched his arm as they swooped upwards. The panic in her eyes melted to awe, then delight. He grinned, and desperately tried to control his own tumbling stomach.

"Say that again," she whispered, tickling her fingers through his hair. "God you're beautiful," he said, gasping a little, watching the moonlight curve over her. "Say that again," she whispered. "God you're beautiful," he said. "Say that again," she whispered. "God you're beautiful," he said. "Say that again," she whispered. "Yadda yadda yadda," he said.

She coughed nervously. He fumbled with his napkin.

"So, you work in radio?" she said. "Um, how is that?"

"Uh, it's good," he said. "Frantic, though. You want constant, top-notch content, but most importantly you want to avoid dead air."

"Huh," she said. "Dead air."



They scanned their menus for the hundredth time.

He came home to find her curled on the rug, crying again.

"Happy birthday!" he said. "Fed your birds today?"


"Come," he said, "I got you a present." Gently he led her outside and poured seed into her hand. Soon, her favourite sparrow landed.

It wore a miniscule party hat.

Her face lit up.

The newly-appointed museum director strode into the collections department. "Here's the problem," she said, tapping lean fingers on a label. "These Latin names are intentionally obscure! Ornithorhynchus anatinus? Haliaeetus albicilla? Elitist! No wonder attendance is down.

"Fix it," she barked, and marched from the room.

"Canis familiaris," muttered a curator.

"Nephelopsis obscura," grumbled another.

"What did your mom send you?" she asked. He pulled the sweater over his head. "It's too big!" she exclaimed, laughing. "Your fingers barely poke out of the sleeves." He laughed too. She left later, and in the quiet winter night he snuggled into the warm wool, revelling in the long-lost feeling of smallness.

Paul considered himself an amateur marine biologist. By day he repaired photocopiers, but at night he devoured books on undersea life. Vigorously he memorized facts, until, one dark night, he read about the remarkable intelligence of squid. The paramedics found him comatose, rendered senseless by the chilling thought of millions of cephalopods relentlessly becoming smarter.

"I love her," the psychology professor thought, glancing across the faculty lunchroom at the archaeologist. "But does she love me, or is it mere psychological projection?"

"I love him. Does he love me?" thought the archaeologist, briefly meeting his eyes. After he left, she would sort through the remains of his lunch, hunting for clues.