After/Word – A Short Story by Richard Oyama

A Dash of Whimsy Series –

Start your day off with the amusing story by Richard Oyama! Take a look at his gripping work below!


AFTER/WORD

The Book first came into our hands as a typewritten manuscript on 20 lb. bond paper. It was composed on an IBM Selectric electric typewriter as there were occasional misspellings fixed with correction tape. The footnotes were laboriously lettered in a meticulous hand with a Cross ballpoint pen. Though the date of composition is inexact, the end date is consistent with its method. If the period is accurate, it was a serendipitous disaster, following upon Ronald Reagan’s ascendance and in the same month as John Lennon’s assassination.

The reproduction of the Mark Rothko painting at the end of the novel was cut and pasted from a catalogue of the painter’s work published by Yale University Press. A search of the 42nd Street Public Library’s holdings disclosed that an image of the painting was removed from that volume; formerly stored in a spherical reading room; the defaced book was withdrawn from circulation.

There is no official record that shows this book’s author checked out the Rothko book; however, a marginal note in the library volume reads, “Use this,” in the cut-out page that a handwriting analyst said matches the tiny lettering in the manuscript’s footnotes.

Little is known about the author. This biographical note was included at the end of the manuscript:

David Shimamura was born in Brooklyn before it was “Brooklyn.” His parents, aunts and uncles are deceased that allows him an impossible liberty. He attended neither Harvard nor Iowa Writers Workshop. His college transcript has been redacted. He prefers the company of roofers, engineers and grips to other writers. He has been a private investigator, an undertaker, confidence-man and cutlery salesman. He has walked a country mile on a moonless night and urinated on a red maple, making jagged striations like a Clyfford Still painting, and on backstreets where the shadows are thin knives. His fiction has not been published in The New Yorker or Paris Review but in Yellow Peril, Irascibles, Mumbo Jumbo, Insurrections, Sound Dada, Lonelyhearts, Red Armies, Intersectionalities and Hybridities. He knows nothing about Schrödinger’s cat or deconstruction. He notes that dogs romp and are still. It’s all in the letting go. He does not live in the academy but clings to the gutter, looking at the stars. Secrecy, exile and cunning; abstention, renunciation and withdrawal. No model no doctrine no exemplar. He would be Urashima Taro the Fisherman who rides a five-colored turtle to the Eternal Mountain on an island of jeweled palaces beneath a sea of green. The gods sing and dance like the waves. Urashima and his maiden make whoopy. He rows his boat and returns to Tsutsugawa. It’s 300 years in the future. Everything solid melts into air. He intends to save himself from drowning in the image-world. The American century ended around 1974 but in our innocence we prefer the myth of the city on the hill. This is the coda. “Birth of a Nation” established the country’s narrative practices, the black body is to be feared and happiness is, after all, a warm gun. He sees the devil’s compact of technology and capital. He has no wife, no children and no significant other. He is a monster of the imagination, a phantom, a ninja, somewhere you will not find him, nowhere and everywhere—in the subway, the park, the library, the basement, the encampment by the river as polar caps melt and the sea-level rises—waiting for a false dawn.

The book was delivered in a certified manuscript box with no return address. Rumors persist that a mimeographed, samizdat edition of the novel circulated underground among a coterie of fanatical readers in New York and San Francisco, primarily poor, neo-bohemian metropolitans—yes, such people live amongst us—and that excerpts were published in multiethnic small presses and literary anthologies like Mazes and Dark Fire in the ‘70s under the pseudonyms D. Shim or Divad M. Ashiruma, implying that the author wanted to bypass essentialist notions of race,  gender and identity, to be known simply as an American writer, Brooklyn-born, riffing jazz-like.

    “Scribes take a secret oath,” Jorge Luis Borges wrote, “to omit, interpolate, vary.”

    Three months after receipt of the manuscript, I took a phone call from an

unidentified caller. Our conversation proceeded as follows. He asked whether I had

received the book. What book is that? A Riot Goin’ On. I had. “And?” the voice said.

With whom I was speaking? “The dead author,” he said.

    Since the novel was unpublished, I asked the caller to verify specific details and incidents from the book in order to establish his authorship. He did so, citing in its particulars the water tower scene. Having identified the caller as David Shimamura, I told him our house planned to publish the novel. “Fine,” he said.

As for the novel’s composition, the voice on the phone said that it consisted of “five years of very intense work and multiple revisions—perhaps twenty or so?—and thirty years of pain, repression, psychic and linguistic blockage, incoherence, dreams of murder and suicidal ideation, magic, bridge-burning, malediction and love, duende, brainstorms, priapic convulsions, hallucinations, a tricked-up ebullience and a grim determination to amuse myself, come hell or high water. Think of the book as a graphic novel, a dimestore pulp, a cable mini-series, a critique of representations. It’s a post-revolutionary, hybrid work. It was written under extreme duress. I’m just a regular cuppa joe.”

There has been some dispute about Shimamura’s origins. A microfilm birth certificate exists at Brooklyn Hospital, but the birth name David is penciled in, whereas two other names, Cal and Stephen, were typewritten, then X’d out.

Next to the box marked RACE, “American of Japanese descent” is written on that line, although a genetic mapping based on a sample of Shimamura’s DNA obtained from a hair follicle, thick and unruly, in the manuscript box showed traces of Senegalese, Navajo, Irish, Thai, Cuban and Ashkenazi Jew. The test results also detected lineage with Otzi, The Iceman (not to be confused with soul singer Jerry Butler), a mummified, 5,000 year-old man discovered in the Italian Alps in 1991 and, further, an association with a “ghost population,” the genetic link between Europeans and Native Americans.

As for the premonitory gifts of the character “David Shimamura,” one can only speculate what in the novel is quasi-autobiographical and what fabrication, imposture and misdirection. Responding to our house’s Twitter solicitation asking for biographical facts about the author, an email from a correspondent in Tegucigalpa recounted a conversation with a Sensei Shimamura in a Nicaraguan bar. The author is said to have told him about his ability to move playing cards with his mind, read the secret emotions of animals and of his belief in Vico’s cyclical notion of history in Scienza nuova (New Science, 1725), but this testimony is suspect.

As to Shimamura’s present whereabouts, sightings have been reported by correspondents in Baltimore, Paris, Gaza, Prague, Havana, Hanoi, Tlön and Athens. These reports are sketchy and fugitive. The only known author photograph is a medium profile shot of a slim man, slightly balding, outfitted in black—black hat, black shirt, black pants—with a studded Western belt and hand-stitched cowboy boots in a hall of mirrors, but the endlessly receding images grow smaller and more indistinct as they approach the infinite. An art critic once wrote of Mark Rothko: “It is true that to enjoy [his] paintings seems less a thinking than a feeling process . . . One tends to enter into his canvases—not merely look at them.” Perhaps the same can be said for this book. As for the author himself, one may well begin to question whether the shadow-chaser David Shimamura exists at all.

—The Publisher


Artist:

Richard Oyama’s work has appeared in Premonitions: The Kaya Anthology of New Asian North American Poetry, The Nuyorasian Anthology, Breaking Silence, Dissident Song, A Gift of Tongues, Malpais Review, Mas Tequila Review and other literary journals. The Country They Know (Neuma Books 2005) is his first collection of poetry. He has a M.A. in English: Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. Oyama taught at California College of Arts in Oakland, University of California at Berkeley and University of New Mexico. His first novel in a trilogy, A Riot Goin’ On, is forthcoming.

The Shot – A Whimsical Story by Mark Jabaut

A Dash of Whimsy Series-

Mark Jabaut has brought us today a story of whimsy! So, go grab your coffee, curl up in your comfy spot on the couch, and take a read!


The Shot

             My son Aaron called on Thursday to ask us out to dinner.

            “No can do, kiddo,” I said.  “Your mom and I are pinching pennies, saving money for the Shot.  Thanks for the invite.  Maybe another time, Sport.”

            I call my son Sport sometimes.

            We had been saving for what seemed like forever – but what was, in fact, just a little over eight years – not taking vacations, not eating out, renting videos instead of going to the movies.  We discontinued the newspaper and cut the cable down to basic.  Who knew you still got over a hundred channels with basic?

            The thing was, the Shot was not cheap.  It was the exact opposite of cheap.  On a scale of zero to one-hundred, where cheap was zero and expensive was one hundred, the Shot was about one-hundred-fifty.  It was a bitch saving up that much money, excuse my French.

            We had even cut down our food expenses to the bare minimum.  We bought dented cans of soup at Mack’s, the discount grocery store, and an oversized box of saltines at Costco, and ate soup and crackers for every meal.  Almost every meal.  Sometimes we had PB&J if we wanted to splurge.

            The thing about the Shot, though?  It was worth it.  It was a vaccine against all the known diseases of the world.  So if you got the Shot, you would never get sick again.  And that could add up to twenty years to your life expectancy.  So that was worth eating soup every day, three times a day, with the occasional PB&J thrown in for variety.  For eight-plus years.

            Imagine never being sick again.  What a life that would be.  What a world!  Never having to deal with having that clogged-head feeling, where your brain is in a fog, and you have to blow your nose about a thousand times every hour?  Never having to trudge down to the drug store with a sore throat, wearing your coat over your pajamas, to buy cough syrup because your wife forgot to buy some the day before?

            Not to mention all the horrible diseases that are out there, even though it’s unlikely that you’ll ever get them, since they are so rare, but still, it would be nice to know that you never have to worry about getting them.  Like Ebola!  Or that sickle-cell thing with the blood.  And cancer, or course.  Everyone worries about cancer.

            Of course, just because you couldn’t get sick didn’t mean you would live forever.  The body ages.  Cells die.  But I can tell you this – you wouldn’t be dying from malaria, or cancer, or TB if you got the Shot.  No way, Jose.

            Lots of old people, they get pneumonia and die.  But it isn’t actually the pneumonia that kills them, it’s other things that the pneumonia invites in.  The pneumonia weakens the body, and then those other things get in and kill the old folks.  Sad but true.

            So if you’ve had the Shot, you can still die.  Just not from disease!  But you can still get run over by a delivery truck, or get stabbed by a mugger, and that can kill you, so once you’ve had the Shot, it behooves you to be extra careful about crossing the street and walking in dangerous neighborhoods.  It would be ironic to die by getting hit by a truck after you had your Shot that makes you immune to all known diseases of the world.  And an ironic death is the worst kind (aside maybe from burning to death, which I’ve always thought was the worst).

            Or, how about this? – you get your Shot, and get struck by a truck as you leave the clinic and walk to your car.  Talk about irony! I have to think that a lot of people, maybe even most people, take a lot of extra precautions when they leave the clinic after their Shot.  Maybe they stand just inside the door to the street, and watch the traffic for a while, worrying about the best time to make that dash to their car and home.  Me, I’m going to hire some armed guards and an armor-plated car to get me home.

            Just kidding – we’re having a hard enough time saving the money for the Shot.  Where am I supposed to come up with enough to pay for guards and military-style vehicles?  I’m not, that’s where.

            But that’s okay.  Just being able to afford getting the Shot will be enough.  Everything will be gravy after that.
            So, the point is, the wife and I were working really hard to save the money, and we were doing pretty good.  We got out the old calculator and made some projections, and we figured out that we only had to save for two or three more months to have enough to get us both the Shot.  Which was pretty damn good, right?  Two or three months of soup and crackers.  It looked like all of the sacrifice – the lack of cable premium channels and vacations, the intermittent PB&Js, the scrimping and saving, all of it – would be paying off soon.

            Then the bad news.  Carrie, Aaron’s littlest, comes down with some auto-immune thingamabobby that makes her very tired and causes her three-year-old little nose to run endlessly, and of course, the crappy insurance that Aaron gets through his work is only going to cover part of the treatment.  And can we loan them some money, they want to know?  Well, of course we can.  I mean, what are grandparents for, right?  If we can’t step in to help out little Carrie and her auto-immune problem, then who is going to?  Who is going to make sure she grows up healthy and happy and not lacking in the immunity department but us?  Not Aaron and his wife, that’s for sure.  They’ve never saved a penny in their lives. 

            So we say, sure, no problem, and how much are we talking about to treat this suspiciously fake-sounding disease with no real symptoms except for a general feeling of tiredness and an incessant runny nose, which I contend is a normal and constant condition in children this age anyway?  And Aaron mentions a figure which, if I were to say it here, would cause my blood pressure to soar and would make me yell all the swears I could think of, so suffice it to say, the figure is almost exactly the amount the wife and I have put away for the Shot.
            And so, after a spirited and half-whispered discussion in which the wife repeatedly uses the term “stingy ass-wipe,” we tell Aaron to meet us at the bank the next day when we will get him the money he so desperately needs to help little Carrie recover from this dreaded condition.  Because that’s what love is about. 

            Despite the fact that I have agreed to loan this huge sum of money to my son and his family, and despite the fact that when I say “loan” I really mean “give” because both Aaron and I know that he will never pay it back, I am drowning in second thoughts.  I mean, I’m really wallowing, here.  I’m wallowing and drowning in regret and the knowledge that I will have to start over saving money and spend the next eight-plus years eating soup three times a day, and will probably even have to waive the infrequent reprieve of a PB&J because things aren’t getting any cheaper, you know, they never do – and this wallowing and drowning feeling is making me resent my son for asking for the money, and resent my wife for talking me into loaning the money, and even resent little Carrie who really doesn’t have any concept of what is going on or the thousands of dollars that are being spent for her benefit in order to make her less tired and slow the flow of snot from her nose.
            And it’s then, when I start resenting Carrie, my innocent, snot-nosed granddaughter, that I realize that maybe I am a stingy ass-wipe.  What is eight-plus more years of nothing but soup when compared with the health of a young girl?  What kind of heartless grandfather would begrudge his little granddaughter a hand up in the world?  What kind of jerk would want a three-year-old girl who never did anything wrong except for the time she got snot all over the new sofa when she spent the night to have a less-than-optional shot at life? 

            Not this grandfather.  Not this jerk.  At that moment, I resolve to lose all resentment.  Things happen for a reason, I tell myself.  It will work out.  I like soup.

            And at the bank, everything is all smiles and happy tears, and the bank representative kind of grudgingly hands over the bank check that I’ve had made payable to Aaron, and I hand that to Aaron and he hugs me.  And I know, right then and there, that this was the right thing to do.  And I feel a sense of calm.
            We leave the bank, and the thank-yous are still flying profusely from the mouth of Aaron as we head to our cars, and I’m nodding and picturing Carrie, healthy and dry-nosed.  I stop for a final handshake with Aaron as the wife goes to the street to unlock our ten-year-old car.  And as I’m shaking my son’s hand, there is a squealing of brakes and a dull thump, and I turn just in time to see a city bus rolling over the wife.  Aaron runs over to her, and passers-by are screaming from the sidewalk and someone is shouting into a cell-phone about an ambulance, and I take one look at the wife and I know that no ambulance is necessary.  She is not going to recover from that. 

            I stand there, still as ever, and watch the activity whirling around me.  I’m still calm.  In fact, if anything, what I feel is relief.  Because I realize that, now, it will only take me four years to save the money I need for the Shot.


Artist:

Mark Jabaut is a playwright and author who lives in Webster NY with his wife Nancy.  Mark’s play IN THE TERRITORIES, originally developed via Geva Theatre’s Regional Writers Workshop and Festival of New Theatre, premiered in May 2014 at The Sea Change Theatre in Beverly, MA.  His 2015 Rochester Key Bank Fringe Festival entry, THE BRIDGE CLUB OF DEATH, went on to be featured at an End of Life Symposium at SUNY Broome County and is listed with the National Issues Forum for those who wish to host similar events. Other plays seeing the stage in recent years include THE HATCHET MAN, DAMAGED BEASTS and COLMA!  Mark has authored many short plays performed by The Geriactors, a local acting group.   Mark’s fiction has been published in a local Rochester magazine, POST, as well as The Ozone Park Journal, SmokeLong Quarterly, Spank the Carp and Defenestration. 

Follow This Artist:

www.markjabaut.com

The Rise of the Coconut – Poem by Adrian Slonaker

A Dash of Whimsy Series-

Adrian Slonaker presents to us the picture of a different kind of world. Take a look at his epic poem below!


The Rise of the Coconut

Cravings for coconut meat,
cries for coconut milk-
Are coconuts becoming the new cows?
Will belligerent bikers hog the highways
in jackets crafted from coarse coconut hides?
Will toddlers toddle into REM slumber
to accounts of coconuts
leaping over chalky lunar landscapes?
Will an unwatchful spouse’s coconut clobber a lamp,
beget a blaze,
and incinerate the Windy City?
Beware, Bossie and your bovine brethren-
and sistren-
your velvety ears may be tagged for Obsolescence.


Artist:

Adrian Slonaker crisscrosses North America as a language boffin and is fond of opals, owls, fire noodles and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Adrian’s work, which has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net, has been published in WINK: Writers in the Know, Page & Spine, EZ.P.Zine and others.

Danny Jack – Poetry by Daniel Miltz

A Dash of Whimsy Series –

Daniel Miltz brings us a playful poem to take a stroll through.


Danny Jack

Danny Jack –back in the day
Was a ‘rebel with a cause’ display
He had an entourage of superstars
He would ride around town in muscle cars
Go from one party to the next
Drinking and picking up chicks for sex
He had a great job
Making tons of money, tiptop
But he was living the wild life, nonstop
He was full of energy and rage
A self-glorifying big shot on stage
Thinking he belonged in every place
For a few years, he went through a phase
With a big messianic ego embrace
One day, he finally made a forecast
Go ‘west, young man, go west’
The result –a new conquest


Artist:

Daniel Miltz

Born in Michigan, resides in Hampstead, New Hampshire (U.S.A). He is a Freelancer Writer & Poet. Devoted 40 years to an Engineering career in Government Aerospace programs as a Mechanical Engineering Designer. He has won over 300 accolade awards from numerous Poetry Forums and has been in 29 published anthologies with two published books to date.

Jacko/Mr Taylor/This Is Not an Egg – Poetry by Lynn White

A Dash of Whimsy Series –

I invite you to take the morning to explore these poems of Lynn White and get lost in her stories. They might just have you leave with a smile!


Jacko

I saw him flapping around in the grass,

one wing at an improbable angle.

I chased him,

caught him,

wrapped him

carefully

in my cerise and navy school scarf.

Jack, jack, jacko..

Then it was a bus ride to the charity vet

who set the broken wing,

wrapped it

carefully

in plaster,

a heavy pot.

He was subdued on the bus home,

but still managed to greet my mother,

Jack, jack, jacko.

He perked up later after tea

and explored the living room

placing bits of straw artistically

and decorating them with pooh.

Which was why

he had to live

at school,

home

only for weekends.

Jack, jack jacko!

But he enjoyed bus journeys now

and greeted all the passengers,

hopping from shoulder to shoulder,

waking them up with a wang from his pot,

nibbling an ear here and a nostril there.

Most were

charmed,

but some

were not.

He was close to becoming

the only jackdaw to be banned

from public transport.

Jack, jack, jacko!!

And then disaster!

the wing had not healed.

There was decay

and gangrene

amputation

and the trimming

of his lovely long feathers

to balance him.

No more hopping

from shoulder to shoulder,

well, maybe later

with practice!

But no more

prospects of a wild life

for Jacko

Jack, jack, jacko…

And no more home with me

said my mum as the school holidays

loomed threateningly.

Jack, jack, jacko…..

But nearby the vet,

a budgie had died

and it’s owner,

bereaved,

had a need and

it was love at first sight

for both her and Jacko.

Jack, jack, jacko!!

There were photos

in the press.

He was famous!

A local hero!

Jack, jack, jacko!!!

First published in Scarlet Leaf Review, May 2016


Mr Taylor

Probably a polar bear was not a good choice

for my first attempt at whittling.

A hamster would have been simpler

and avoided the multiple leg fractures..

“Don’t worry girl, no problem”, Mr Taylor said,

when I showed it to him.

“Leave it to me.

Bit o plastic wood,

That’ll soon sort it”

and it did.

The tail was more challenging.

But all was not lost, just the tail,

and I managed to convince the Examiner

that polar bears don’t have tails.

Maybe they don’t.

I’m no expert.

I progressed slowly, and probably

a rocking elephant was not the best choice

for my Final Piece.

There was a lot to cut out,

a lot of curvy bits.

The huge electric saw bench

loomed ominously in the corner.

“Don’t you go near that, girl”

cried Mr Taylor if I glanced in it’s direction.

“Here, give it here,

Leave it to me.

There you are.

Now just a bit o plastic wood…”

And then disaster!

Someone stole the rockers.

Who the fuck would steal my rockers?

They never rocked very well,

but even so, they were better than nothing.

And Mr Taylor was hard pressed

to make new ones

in time for the exam,

even with multiple,

“No problem, don’t worry, girl”s,

I was concerned.

But in the end

we both passed.

First published in Algebra of Owls, November 2016


This Is Not An Egg

The egg box was so sculptural with it’s peaks and troughs

like a metaphor, a mirror of life in textured paper,

I thought a giant version could easily become

an acclaimed art installation

and I thought I could make it.

And then I remembered the glasses

left behind in a museum of modern art

by error or intent,

real glasses,

not the “ne sont pas les lunettes”

Magrittean sort,

I could feel some guerrilla art hatching inside me.

I fetched the pot egg from under the broody hen

and pondered the possibilities on the way to the gallery.

There, I placed the egg box on a table,

sneaked it in

between the other exhibits

then I placed the Magrittean egg inside.

Just the one egg seemed most fitting

especially since one was all I had.

I had already written the title card.

Such a work deserved two titles

one above and one below the artist’s name,

my name, of course.

First came: “THIS IS NOT AN EGG”

and underneath:

“THIS IS NOT AN EXHIBIT”

It was perfectly placed

and looked magnificently subversively ironic.

I think Magritte would be proud of my effort.

And now I must wait

to see if anyone notices.

First published in SurVision Issue 5, June 2019


Artist:

 Lynn White lives in north Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She is especially interested in exploring the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud ‘War Poetry for Today’ competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Rhysling Award. Her poetry has appeared in many publications including: Apogee, Firewords, Capsule Stories, Light Journal and So It Goes.

Follow This Artist:  

https://lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com 

https://www.facebook.com/Lynn-White-Poetry-1603675983213077/

One Act Comic by San Lin Tun

A Dash of Whimsy Series –

Artist San Lin Tun has created a comic series to fuel the funny bone:



Artist:


San Lin Tun is a freelance writer of essays, poetry, short story and novel in Myanmar and English. Sometimes, he draws cartoons for fun and for funny cards. His writings appeared in Asia Literary Review, Kitaab, Mad in Asia Pacific, Mekong Review, NAW, PIX, Ponder Savant, South East of Now, Strukturriss and several others. He authored ten books including ‘‘An English Writer’’. He lives in Yangon, Myanmar.

Follow This Artist:

writersanlintun.blogspot.com

http://www.facebook.com/san.lintun.12