Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mr G's

Ben Gemel was hungry. He stalked past darkened storefronts, stared down a dazed hobo, and stood starkly at the corner of 5th and Elm. Ben Gemel had never been here before. He had only been in this city for a few hours. He looked south down 5th, east on Elm, north up 5th, and west on Elm, looking for some glow that might call out 'food sold here'. It was just after four in the morning. Ben Gemel saw a yellow glow, on a corner two blocks west. He read the letters on the sign, block letters arranged in two lines. "MR G'S DINE IN". A sign in the window said Mr G's opened at 4am. The menu looked reasonable. Ben Gemel started walking.

Ben Gemel had superior visual acuity. When he entered the Service, he was immediately singled out. The staff optometrician determined that his acuity was on the order of 20/2. He could get by fine without binoculars. At night, Ben Gemel could read a menu in a diner window from a thousand feet away. He could recognize a face at 5000 feet. He could do better when both eyes were good.

Approaching Mr G's, Ben Gemel noticed that the sky had cleared. He could see stars, and the approach of sunlight. Venus was over the horizon. Ben Gemel thought of Dalen Rutger. Was he angry? He probably was. It would be hard to keep one's composure, after such a humilation. When Ben Gemel reached Mr G's entrance, he paused. He looked through the round window at the top of the door, and imagined that he saw Dalen Rutger sitting at the counter, staring into his cup of coffee.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


"Station eight. In the field."

"I don't understand," said Dalen. He yawned, and asked "What do you mean?"

"The field," gasped Vic Hoyle. "Field." Vic's eyes rolled back, and he choked on his last breath. Images, remembered voices, and fragmented thoughts flowed through Vic Hoyle's mind. He made a final effort to piece together what had happened. Dalen's face was still in shadow, and Vic struggled to recognize it. His grip on Dalen's collar relaxed, and released, and his hand fell to his side, arm across his belly. Dalen sighed, and he waited for Vic Hoyle's last paroxysms of thought to dissipate.

"The field," said Dalen. With enormous effort he stood, and looked at the envelope he still held in both hands. He folded it once, along the shorter meridian, pulled open his jacket, and tucked the envelope into a pocket. For a moment he paused, his hand still in the pocket, still gripping the envelope.

From the same pocket he produced a tiny bottle, smaller than any of his fingertips, stopped with an even tinier cork. Inside was a miniscule seed, like a miniature cumin seed, brown with black striations from end to end. Dalen Rutger gazed at the seed, momentarily forgot where he was, that he was on the deck of a sinking ship, in a freezing harbor under a starry sky. Behind him there was a crash, of a crane or some other massive thing toppling into the water, and his reverie was broken.

Dalen placed the bottle back in the pocket with the envelope. He looked at the sky, looked for a familiar star or constellation. He thought about Ben Gemel, and about how he would make him pay for this disaster. He would pay in blood, and in tiny seeds.

From the shore Ben Gemel watched the flames rise from the sinking container ship. He knew that Dalen Rutger would survive, and that they would meet again.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Train Ride!

(i never published this one for some reason; it's 3-26-12 now, here it goes, dated retroactively)

Vic arrived at work an hour late. He had been watching a stranger in the alley, from what he thought was a safe distance, through unusually heavy morning fog. He had missed his train, and had to wait on the platform with the front-end of the morning rush hour.

During his twenty minute wait, the platform had accumulated between fifty and sixty commuters, people who worked in the city in tall buildings. Most of them were supposed to be at their desks by eight o' clock. Vic was supposed to be at his post, selling tickets to travelers beneath the street at 9th Avenue Station, at seven o' clock.

As he boarded the 7:15 West Blue Regional to 9th Street, he glanced down the platform at all the commuters. Staring back at him from the same distance as he had been staring at the strange fellow in the alley a half hour earlier was the strange fellow himself. Ben Gemel caught Vic's glance and then quickly broke it, and boarded the train. As this is a common experience in public, and as he could not recognize the placid and anonymous face of Ben Gemel, Vic noticed nothing out of the ordinary, and boarded his own train car.

Ben Gemel took a seat in the nearly empty car. Lenape Station was the end of the line for the West Blue Regional, first and last stop. For the next twenty minutes, through six stops across the expanse of West City, the car was filled to capacity. Throughout his trip, Ben Gemel alternated between studying the attire of his fellow travelers and studying the smooth gray spot in the center of the palm of his right hand. At last, when the train came to 9th Street Station, Ben Gemel stood, thrust his hands into his pockets, and flowed out of the train with a third of the other riders.

Vic exited the train at the same moment as Ben Gemel, unknowing, and dodged across the station until he came to a door marked "MTA Personnel Only". He pressed his palm against a flat, black panel mounted next to the door, and pulled the door open. Inside, he was stopped at the security station, presented his credentials, and then rushed to his locker to retrieve his uniform.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Ben Gemel was the figure in the alleyway, the one Vic Hoyle had seen in the morning. Through the fog, Vic could see someone pacing back and forth behind the church. Vic had stopped to watch. He met others in the alleyway sometimes, but when they were nearby, near enough to make eye contact, he never stopped to watch. It would be asking for trouble. But this morning Ben Gemel was far enough from Vic Hoyle that Vic felt safe stopping and watching. The mist added distance, made Vic feel as if he were further from Ben Gemel than he really was. He didn't realize this at the time.

Ben Gemel was looking for something he had thrown out of a window a half hour earlier. He had been meeting with a deacon, had brought something to sell him, and had noticed something interesting on the deacon's desk. A little brass disk, the size of a dime, with a loop on one side as if it were meant to hang on a necklace.

As the deacon rambled on about some righteous thing or another, trying to convince Ben Gemel to lower his price, Ben had concentrated all his mental energies on the brass disk. It was as if there was nothing else in the room! When the deacon stopped talking, Ben Gemel named a price. The deacon paused, smiled, and nodded. Ben Gemel stretched out his arm and opened his hand, palm up, in the space between himself and the deacon. In his palm there was a seed, tiny, tinier than a fennel seed, and heavier than the shoes Ben Gemel was wearing. Ben Gemel smiled a toothy smile at the deacon, and repeated his price.

The deacon crept forward, seemingly repelled by the miniscule object in Ben Gemel's upturned palm. He spoke one word: "Paid". He licked the tip of his index finger with a dry tongue, and pressed the fingertip into Ben Gemel's palm. There was a flash of light and a loud pop, and the deacon was replaced in the room by a pile of green ashes and an aromatic mist. Ben Gemel went to the deacon's desk, to the brass disk, and picked it up. He went to the window, pried it open, and tossed the disk into the alleyway.

Ben Gemel paced in the alleyway, searching for the disk. Vic Hoyle watched him from a smaller distance than was in fact safe or advisable. Ben Gemel knew he was being watched. He saw a glint of metal in a tuft of grimy gray grass, and knelt to have a look. It was his treasure. He picked it up, held it up to his one good eye, and smiled. It was a toothy smile.