Sunday, October 31, 2021

a lost kingdom, part 2

by horace p sternwall

part two of two

click here to read part one

that fellow in the ragged cloak -, jezebel began.

they all had ragged cloaks, bursk interrupted her.

the one wearing a cloak that had a rip in in it shaped like the mountain of xu -

bursk looked around the dark room impatiently. is the rascal still here?

what do you think? he slipped out as soon as the game broke up. he could be two miles away - or two thousand miles away…

two thousand miles away? so he was…

yes, he was a god. he was none other than the trickster god, jerry the jumper…

but what he did want with me? i am a barbarian and a swordsman, not a clown.

jezebel shrugged. probably nothing, before the game began. but he seemed to take offense at an oath you swore when you won a hand from him, just as the slave was stirring the coals… just as you were taking your fourth sip of your grog… do you remember?

no, i do not remember such trifles! and what then?

you barbarians, you can not remember anything,,, what then? on the next hand, he lost to you again, and you swore the same tedious oath.,,, but this time he had contrived to lose to you an innocent looking coin which , if you had kept it and gotten up from the table, was the key to the kingdom of ka-lee, as i told you before…

pooh! and as i told you before, what care i for such nonsense? it is as if it never happened.

and bursk took another hearty swig of grog.

so! you make light of jerry’s jest? have a care, my friend, he may not be through with you yet. better to provoke the wrath of murz, the god of war…


the armies of the empire of vigargia and of the upstart kingdom of ju had been marching toward each for a week and would meet in the shadow of the great gray mountain in two days time.

here was an opportunity for a hired sword! bursk began riding across the plain toward the mountain. it would be an easy matter to cross the river boro, intercept the army of ju and offer his services, and if they declined, negotiate with the army of vigargia.

but a great storm caused the boro to flood the plain.

when bursk finally reached the base of the mountain the battle was over.

he was greeted by a single crocodile slithering back to the river after gorging on the bodies of the defeated…

the crocodile did not stop to talk.

neither did the birds flying overhead.

the clouds smiled, and the sinking red sun roared with laughter.

a week later, the kingdom of czarq declared war on the grand duchy of txukula…

the end

Saturday, October 30, 2021

a lost kingdom, part 1

by horace p sternwall

part one of two

the serpent laughed as bursk approached the deserted battlefield.

overhead a few crows and murder birds circled lazily.

the serpent, who was none other than eve the enchantress, changed into the form of an old crone when bursk drew even with her, and laughed in his flushed face.

late for the battle again! she croaked, this is most unseemly of you, my friend!

let me tell you i am growing weary of this, bursk growled. i have been tricked yet again!

bah! retorted the crone. who do you expect to believe that? tales will be told that the mighty bursk the barbarian has failed yet again to appear on a bloody field - one ripe with gold and plunder!

you choose to jest, mother, but rest assured, my day will come, and i will have the last say to those who would dare to mock me.

and with that, bursk gazed out across the field, over which the blood red sun was quietly setting.

it had all begun in a low tavern in a distant outpost of the messianic empire.

to pass the time, bursk had engaged in a game of cards with a few beggars, for a few coppers, the coppers not even the official coin of any of the many warring realms of the age.

bursk in his time had won and lost fortunes in gold and silver, as a mercenary in the service of all of them.

the game had broken up, the beggars had slunk away, and bursk, who had lost a few coins and thought nothing of it, returned to a seat in front of the fire with his glass of strong grog.

he became aware of a pair of mocking eyes twinkling at him from a dark corner.

they appeared to belong to a bent old woman dressed in black rags.

but bursk was not fooled. he knew it was a witch - a creature that could choose to take the form of a woman so comely as to blind and bedazzle the mightiest barbarian or the doughtiest soldier of fortune.

it was in fact jezebel the jestress, one of the most cunning and powerful of such creatures.

jezebel laughed her crone laugh.

bursk went along with the game.

does something amuse you, old woman? he asked.

indeed, something amuses me very much.

well then do not keep me and the rest of this distinguished company - bursk indicated the dozing tavernkeeper and a few ragtag vagabonds squatting in front of the fire - in suspense. what is that makes you laugh so melodiously, mother?

just this - that you have just won and lost the key to a kingdom!

bursk yawned. and what kingdom might that be?

the kingdom of ka-lee, the apparent crone replied.

ka-lee? a burning desert, barren of wealth, and ruled by a madwoman? i think i might well be rid of such a kingdom, bursk laughed.

but even as he spoke, a chill crept over his mighty frame. and his very sword seemed to grow cold in its scabbard.

part two

Friday, October 29, 2021

the idiot

by bofa xesjum

what are you doing, roger?

you can see what i am doing.

yes, but why are you doing it?

because i’m an idiot.

oh, so, you finally admit it! did you hear that, natalie, roger has finally admitted that he is an idiot!

hallelulah! i think we should celebrate.

very funny, you guys.

how should we celebrate? cake and ice cream? or pizza and fries?

why not all of them?

i like the way you think. did you hear that, roger? we are going to celebrate your finally coming out as an idiot.

keep riding me. keep riding me, see where it gets you.

but we are serious. we really are going to buy some cake and ice cream and pizza and fries. and since you are the guest of honor, we will let you choose what kind to buy.

i don’t want that stuff, i want some different stuff.

such as?

booze and drugs and guns.

booze is bad for you, we don’t know anybody to buy drugs from, and we are afraid of guns. do you want cake and ice cream and pizza or not? we are paying, so speak up now or forever hold your peace.

i was an idiot to say what i did. i never should have said it.

whatever. we will buy chocolate ice cream, all right?.

no, vanilla. but chocolate cake.

and what kind of pizza?

pepperoni. and extra hot fries.

see, that was not so hard. we will have a party, a good time will be had by all. it will be the first night of the rest of your life.

wait, we have to dance, what shall we dance?

what do you think, roger?

no, he doesn’t decide , we will decide. the charleston or the hully gully?

the mashed potato!

keep it up. i won’t forget this.

Thursday, October 28, 2021


by nick nelson

jared woke up in the middle of the afternoon and decided to go for a walk, because it was a nice day.

as he walked along, he did not meet anybody he knew.

he did not know a lot of people, and the people he did know he did not like very much, and they did not like him.

he had had a dog when he was a little boy and he had liked the dog very much.

but the dog had been dead for a long time.

the dog’s name was butch. jared no longer thought about him very much.

but when he did, the thought of butch still brought a tear to his eye.

jared had been married once, to a girl named pam.

he thought of pam even less than he thought about butch, but when he did think of pam it was always with a snarl of rage.

as jared walked along the street past all the people whom he did not know or care about, and who did not know or care about him, he thought of all the things he had never done.

he had never conquered the world. he had seen shows on the history channel about alexander the great and napoleon, and been impressed, but had never conquered the world himself

he had never saved the world. he had seen tom cruise and bruce willis save the world, but he never had saved it himself.

he had never hunted down any serial killers or other bad guys and delivered swift justice to them, although he had seen it done hundreds of times on various screens.

he had never killed anybody.

or any thing, except bugs.

he had never starred in a movie, or been in a movie at all.

he had never been a professional football player.

he had never played football even in high school, or gone out for the team.

he could not win for losing betting on football, or at cards.

he was afraid to try betting on the horses, after listening to stories about them from his dad and his uncle roy.

he had never had a mansion or harem of willing sex slaves, or even one willing sex slave, not even pam.

especially not pam.

he had never made a billion dollars.

or much money at all, and he owed a fortune to credit card companies, and probably would for the rest of his life.

he had never written a best selling novel, or any novel, but thought he might give it a try one of these days.

but he had a job.

with weird hours, but he had a job.

he was not a freak. people did not point to him in the street and laugh at him.

he was white.

life was not as bad as all that.

he would not even mind living forever.

maybe he would. scientists were working on it, weren’t they?

suddenly jared was hungry.

there was a burger king on the next block and he decided to drop into it.

maybe they would have some new kind of burger they had never had before.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

the experiment

by bofa xesjum

do you know who i am?

oh, i am afraid i do not. should i?

not really.

and yet you asked. why was that?

because i am making an experiment.

forgive me, but it does not sound like a very interesting one.

almost everyone i try it on says the same thing.

i expect that they would.

so much for me and my experiment. who are you?

i am one among many.

that does not tell me a great deal.

i am just a wanderer on the face of the earth.

as luck would have it, so am i.

i knew it!

i am also a devotee of the mundane.

in a quiet way, i take it.

yes, except when my passions are aroused.

are they aroused periodically?

to a slightly greater degree than you might guess.

look out - here comes our esteemed host.

is everything to your satisfaction?

as much as could be hoped.

par for the course?

oh, much better than than that. i had high hopes which have been greatly exceeded.

and how about you? are you content?

i am nothing less than keenly delighted.

well, then, i leave you to it.

this is saturday night, isn’t it?

Tuesday, October 26, 2021


by nick nelson

well, that is enough for today, the instructor told owen. we will try again tomorrow.

the instructor began putting her paraphernalia in her bag.

owen got up and left.

it was still only afternoon, so he walked the streets, wondering if he would ever learn.

he was lonely as a cloud, and free as a bird.

why lonely as a cloud, and free as a bird, he wondered.

why not lonely as a trash receptacle, or as free as a squirrel?

he started to cross the street, and somebody yelled at him, not politely, to watch where he was going.

he was almost through another day, without being hit by a car, or a bus, or a meteor.

tomorrow would be another day, and he would try again.

tomorrow would be different.

a whole different story.

he would finally be approved.

and his life would be a whole new adventure.

suddenly he realized he had stepped on a crack in the sidewalk

so there was no hope for tomorrow.

but maybe the day after tomorrow.

he couldn’t give up.

not with the fate of the universe hanging in the balance.

what did hanging in the balance mean anyway?

what was a balance?

somebody shouted - at him?

not twice in fifteen minutes!

Monday, October 25, 2021

in the rain

by bofa xesjum

i am a victim of the world’s stupidity, brandon thought sadly.

when he was young, brandon had been pretty stupid himself, he reflected.

outside, water was running in the streets due to the heavy rain.

as luck would have it, curtis had lost his umbrella just two days before.

curtis had never had any luck, and the same things happened to him over and over.

brandon and curtis both needed some sleep.

sleep can be therepeutic, but not always.

it all depends on how much space you have.

morris decided to get some fresh air.

he did not realize the gravity of the situation, with brandon and curtis both asleep in the rooms to either side of his.

morris just felt that his time had come.

in the room beneath morris’s, vera was doing some thinking.

it was past time for fred to walk past the building.

fred, like morris and vera, was a thinker.

fred had had some truly serious thoughts in his time.

but he was not very romantic, either in word or deed.

harold had a certain air about him.

some people laughed at harold’s certain air, especially rose.

rose also had a low opinion of harold’s taste in food, especially his propensity to add slices of banana to almost everything he ate.

nobody understood how grave the situation was rapidly becoming.

brandon, curtis, morris, vera, harold, and rose all felt that their luck would change.

only fred knew better.

but he was lost in the rain.


a great stillness settled over the building as fred walked past it.

but it was not hit by lightning - think about it.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

carol lewis

by nick nelson

carol lewis lived in unit 2336 of the 337 maxwell street condominium building.

she did not see much of the other people in the building but when she did she always greeted them with a big smile and commented on what a nice day it was (even if it was raining but maybe not if it was snowing) and tried to engage them in conversation, usually about nothing much but sometimes about an event in the news or even about politics.

some of the building inhabitants found carol’s comments and questions intrusive, and complained to the management company of the condominium building.

the subject was brought up at one of the regular condominium association meetings, which, curiously enough, carol herself never attended.

a few people vented.

doesn’t the woman have an internet connection of some kind that she can babble away on all day long if she wants to?

why does she always have to be bothering people?

one person suggested that the association set aside some money to pay for a therapist or counselor who might teach carol to better respect other people’s space.

but the proposal was quickly voted down.

the representative of the management company pointed out that carol was not breaking any laws unless she actually laid hands on someone, or followed them into their own units, and that they were free to just ignore her and pass her by.

some of the inhabitants found this hard to believe but were assured that it was indeed so.

everyone was left to their own devices in dealing with carol, a conclusion that satisfied nobody except one woman who said,

i think she is actually kind of nice.

but this comment was not acknowledged by anyone present.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

cynthia brown

by nick nelson

cynthia brown lived alone in an old house on the outskirts of town.

nobody knew anything about her, and she kept to herself.

she must have thought she was better than anyone else.

and she was nothing much to look at.

she had money, because she went to the general store every month and bought things, but nobody knew how or where she got it.

she never went to the bank, and she almost never got any mail.

so, naturally, folks figured she must have a big stash of cash in a safe, or hidden in the house.

she was just tempting fate, practically begging lowlifes and desperadoes to rob her.

sheriff jack floyd and deputy frank winters would go out and check on her from time to time because that was part of their job, but she was never friendly and never offered them coffee or tea or lemonade, let alone any pie or cake.

things went on in this way.

finally, the inevitable happened.

the two lowest rascals in town, young pete harmon (he was not that young, but his daddy had been old pete harmon) and dipso dave whistler, got drunker than usual and went out to pay miss cynthia brown what they said was a “little social call”.

nobody knows to this day exactly what happened, but they did not find any money and cynthia brown ended up with a broken neck, which the boys swore was an accident, when they were just “horsing around”.

be that as it may, the county district attorney charged pete and dave with murder in the first degree.

the trial was moved from the local courthouse to the county seat, where pete and dave would be tried by a jury of twelve complete strangers, instead of twelve good men and true who had known them all their lives.

lawyer jim scott from town defended them. he thought he had a good case, especially against first degree murder, because no money was found to prove robbery.

but then - dipso dave turned state’s evidence against young pete, who had always been his best friend!

jim scott did what he could and pete got ten to twenty for second degree murder.

dave slunk off and never showed his face in town again. good riddance, folks said.

pete got out on parole after twelve years. he still hangs out downtown, an embittered man, sometimes with a rough tongue for passersby. but folks cut him some slack, because he got a raw deal and because the harmons have lived in town for seven generations.

all in all, a sad story.

it goes to show you what happens when people think they are better than anybody else.

nobody in town ever found out just how much money cynthia brown had.

and nobody knows or wonders where she is buried.

Friday, October 22, 2021


by nick nelson

randall mortimer, a man who had inherited ten billion dollars and seen it grow to forty billion through luck and the skillful handling of his army of employees, struck and seriously injured susanna smith, a crack addicted homeless woman, when she dashed in front of his alfa romeo when the light turned green at a freeway entrance on a cold rainy night.

a lawyer for a downtown law firm, acting pro bono. sought a quick settlement of ten or twenty million dollars for susanna smith, but randall insisted that he was not at fault and instructed his lawyers to fight the case to the end and not offer her a penny,

in a period of slow news, the case was picked up by the national media, and randall, against the advice of his advisors, appeared on a couple of national networks, pleading his case to the public. he did not make a good impression, and became the fodder for numerous memes.


just because i am a billionaire it doesn’t mean i am happy and carefree all the time, doesn’t mean i don’t have feelings just like other people..

i think you have said that before, randall.

but nobody really cares, right?

you may finally be getting the message.

but am i not a human being?

of course.

just because i have forty billion dollars doesn’t mean i don’t have feelings, does it?

let’s talk about specfiic cases.

i know the specific case you want to talk about. susanna smith, right? just because she was a homeless person and i was a billionaire she got all the sympathy even though i was in the right.

you didn’t look good there, randall. i think you needed better lawyers and and better p r people.

there you go again! i don’t want to hide behind lawyers or p r people, i want people to see me as i am, a human being just like themselves.

well, if that is really what you want. here is one thing you might try. it is kind of extreme and even then it might not work.

and that is -

give away all your money - every last cent.

would that work? would everybody like me then?

i don’t think so. ninety percent of the population would think you were faking and were a ridiculous hypocrite and the other ten percent would think you were an idiot and and laugh at you.

how about this? - i give it all away and then i take a new identity and become a homeless person myself.

i don’t think you would be very comfortable doing that.

i don’t want to be comfortable, i just want people to accept me for myself.

well, if you tried it, you would be found out and it would be considered a publicity stunt and that you were just playing at being homeless - it would be cultural and socioeconomic appropriation - you don’t want to go there.

bur suppose i was not found out - suppose i had plastic surgery or extreme surgery to disguise myself?

this is the twenty-first century. there are no secrets. you will be found out.

are you telling me there is no hope?

no hope for what you want. if you have forty billion dollars, have or had, at any period in your life, even if it was for two days, everyone will hate you. and if you cry about it, they will really hate and despise you.

no matter what i do, everybody is going to hate me?


i am the most miserable human who ever lived!

yes, you just might be.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

trial and appeal

by nick nelson

the empire of zum had a population of 50 billion people, and these 50 billion people were in continual need of things to amuse and distract them.

seven persons were selected at random to be tried for conspiring to commit treason against the empire.

their names were alphonse, bobo, chesterfield, dufus, ectoplasm, fragonard, and gumdrop.

after a trial lasting ten years which was reported on extensively throughout the empire, all seven were found guilty and sentenced to death.

but each would be given a task to perform in a period of seven days, and if they performed it to the satisfaction of a panel of seven judges (each of the seven tasks had its own panel of seven judges) they would be spared, and allowed to resume their lives as citizens of the empires.

the seven tasks would be assigned at random to each of the seven defendants.

one would be given seven days to compose a haiku.

another would be given seven days to draw a three panel cartoon with a setup and punch line.

a third would be given seven days to cover a canvas measuring one and a half meters by two meters, with paint.

a fourth would be given seven days to write a novel of 40,000 words with a socko surprise ending.

a fifth would be given seven days to write a history of the empire.

a sixth would be given seven days to write a history of the world.

a seventh would be given seven days to write a book explaining everything.

the seven days passed.

dufus, who was assigned the painting, and alphonse, who had been assigned the history of the empire, were found by their panel of judges to have satisfactorily completed their tasks and were spared.

the other five were scheduled to be executed on the birthday of the great leader and first citizen.

a final appeal on their behalf was made to the supreme court by a single advocate selected at random from the 50 billion citizens of the empire.

the chosen advocate, a barber named harry, argued that since none of the accused had actually done anything and that none of them had known any of the others, they should not be punished.

the chief justice pointed out that the word “actually’ actually has no meaning, and that, by law, every citizen of the empire knew every other citizen of the empire, and the appeal was dismissed.


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

the apple

by genghis gilgamesh

an apple fell from a tree
and hit adam on the head
eve chased the apple as it rolled away
but adam was dead

a banana was picked from a tree
and loaded on a boat
it got no special treatment
as across the ocean it did float

billy the kid was waiting
when the market opened at dawn
all the bananas were there
but all the cherries were gone

cleopatra liked cherries
and commanded that they be grown
along the banks of the amazon
because the nile had turned to stone