Some Days You Eat The Pelican

Saturday Stories #2

pelican with fish dreamstime_s_40779294

Once upon a time in a land where pelicans flew in V formation over a quiet bay, the fish were gone, as if they had gone on strike and refused to show up for work.

The pelicans were perplexed.

“This is perplexing, Poppy,” Percival, a pelican, pouted to his wife. “If we can’t find anything to eat, well, we won’t have anything for lunch.”

“Poppycock,” Poppy said. “The fish can’t all be gone.”

“All. Gone. See for yourself,” he said, and she did.

She looked and looked and looked and looked and looked. Continue reading →


Ditko: Struggling for words

Spider-Man 33 cover

The news of the death of Steve Ditko hit me hard – your greatest childhood heroes are supposed to live forever, right? – and I’m struggling to put the feelings into words.

For the moment, here are some thoughts I had a couple of years ago about Ditko’s most renowned Spider-Man moment, when comic-book story and art were as brilliantly executed as they ever have been. I re-read the three-part story again this morning, and the sequence is as powerful as ever.

Spider-Man’s finest hour shows us a way

Live forever!

Saturday Stories #1

park bench dreamstime_s_80248560

The old man stood next to the park bench making coins disappear and reappear out of thin air – air that smelled of diesel fuel and summer heat and a strange mix of chestnuts roasting amid sweat and smoke.

A battered fedora reclined on the bench, showing a yield of only a few bills and a pocketful of coins. It hadn’t been a good day so far. Occasionally a passerby would drop a dollar and glance at him, but not enough of a glance to actually catch the act.

“Ah, lonely is the life of a prestidigitator,” he said softly. He didn’t think of himself as a panhandler – he performed his tricks in exchange for donations – but he knew most of his clients walked away believing they’d done a good deed for a panhandler today.

He had switched to card tricks when he saw the boy – maybe 6 years old, blond hair, glasses – watching from across the walk with a light in his eyes. When he saw that light, his heart jumped. Well, what do you know. Continue reading →

I have been dying of thirst in the ocean for lack of strange wine


Strange Wine girl

Harlan Ellison died the other day, and the world grew more dull. I, of course, never met the man, but when I encountered his words I never failed to learn something, to be entertained, and/or to gain some insight into the human condition.

Oh, enough of that – the man was a hero to anyone who loves to see bullshit called out, grabbed by the throat and humiliated.

And he was, as the blurb on the cover to his collection Strange Wine, asserted, someone who “just could be the best short story writer alive today.” At least until Thursday. Continue reading →

Love anyway

love anyway

When weariness overtakes you

And your fuse is short,

Love anyway.

When the slap of reality hurts

So bad you want to lash back,

Love anyway.

When the loss is so deep

You can’t see straight,

Love anyway.

When you’re tempted to quit

And go running away forever,

Love anyway.

That’s what love is;

That’s why it’s called love.

Good morning, old friend

good morning old friend

A recently encountered statistic: Fewer than 50 percent of readers read the whole book. Any book, even the best sellers. That seems hard to believe, but if true …

Getting people to start reading the book is, well, just the start. The challenge is to get them to turn the page and keep reading, then turn the next and the one after that. Arouse their curiosity, get them to care enough to find out what comes next.

And no – it’s not about “their” curiosity or “them.”

The challenge is to arouse your curiosity, get you to care enough to find out what comes next.

We were taught in the radio business to talk into the microphone as if we were chatting across the kitchen table with an old friend. Radio announcing is not a public speech, the theory went, it’s a conversation. And so is writing, isn’t it?

The idea is to reach out as if it was one-on-one communication, because that’s exactly what it is: one soul talking with another.

Thanks for sitting at my kitchen table and caring enough to listen.