Monday, July 31, 2006

Secondary Stars

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Despite the jeers of his colleagues at the Experimental Astrophysics Labs, Porter Mobal was certain that if he could only crash a red sun into a blue sun, he could make a purple sun. The arguments against such an undertaking were summed up by Dr. Guy Thoed thusly:

"Crazy asshole!"

Nevertheless, Porter was certain of the soundness of his theory, not because of any findings or theoretical work in astrophysics but because of his second grade art class. He stole a time/space warper after bribing the university guard with a cheeseburger (the extra pickles sealed the deal) and created a gravitational trough between two suns that sent red hurtling into blue like a bowling alley gutter ball. What he got wasn't purple. What he got was the deaths of twenty billion sentient beings and all of the culture and ecosystems that they had called their own.

The authorities found him without much trouble. They simply looked for the lone guy at the end of a series of gravitational anomalies. They charged Porter Mobal with the destruction of two star systems but he plead for a deal.

"Your Honor, you can't tell me that at least some of those billions of beings didn't have it coming to them," he reasoned. The judge saw his point, but even so, that only knocked a few million years off the sentence. By the time Porter got out, his own sun would be dead. And yes, he would see it come to pass, life extension being what it was at the time. There were deep breathing exercises and mineral water and such like you wouldn't believe.

"At least, Your Honor, allow me to atone for my sins while serving for the benefit of galactic civilization," Porter begged.

"That's already been taken care of," Judge Yori said. "You're scheduled for seven billion years of removing sticky stuff from surfaces across the empire and its outlying protectorates."

"Your Honor, I can do better than that. Allow me to do my work. I can create new suns to bring life where there was none before. The latest stellar inventory shows that we're short at least two."

The judge mulled it over for a minute before relenting. "All right. Make us lots of suns, but if you complain about putting your hands in anything sticky in the meantime, I will have your ass back in this courtroom in a heartbeat!"

The other prisoners always complained after that about the light and the heat emanating from Porter's end of the prison. Not to mention the severe radiation burns they were getting. And why did he get such a big cell? But hey, it was prison, you know? Not some luxury resort.

As for Porter, the work made him sweat like a mother. He probably could have sat out a lot of his sentence, no one would have hassled him about it. But he figured with a few billion years of practice, he'd have his purple sun.

He'd show them all.

FLCL Alert!

All six episodes of FLCL (Fooly Cooly) are being shown on Cartoon Network Saturday Night, August 5th from 11:00 P.M. to 2 A.M. If you’re not familiar with it, I urge you to check it out.
I’m not a big fan of Anime, but this series is unique. Very creative and very cool.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Barry Takes a Step

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

It was a long walk to her house and Len told him he didn't have to go.

"Why not go on Tuesday when the car's out of the shop?"

"You don't get it, Len," Barry said. "I gotta go now."

"Whatever, just call me in the morning, let me know."

"All right." And he was on his way, not even taking time to lock up the house. He had his coat on, he felt clean, freshly showered, a full belly and empty bowels. There wasn't a damned reason not to go. Nothing that had prevented him for the last seven years mattered anymore. His dad was gone now and Barry had just realized tonight that at twenty-five years old, he hadn't done a thing right with his life.

He went for the straightest line he could figure and that led him over a lot of hills and through a lot of trees. He watched the ground and held his arms in front of his head to stave off all those eye-poking branches that seemed to spring at him in the darkness. He crossed two brooks, Little Elmer Brook and Davies Brook and they were ice-fucking-cold, the both of them. His wet sloshing feet made him more than just a little nervous when he climbed between the wires of an electric fence and when he slipped climbing over a lichen covered stone wall.

By the time Kelly's house was in sight, the sky beyond it was growing lighter. He knocked at her window. If she were anyone else, she would've probably screamed her ass off and dialed 911. But she was used to him now and his window knocks, a holdover from when she used to live with her parents. The window went up and she assumed her position, robed elbows on the sill, woozy head slowly bobbing above them. And Barry looked at her for what he'd thought might be the last time. He'd planned to join the regular army and stay there until there wasn't enough left of him to be of any use to anyone and this would be his last look at her so he wanted to really take his best friend in.

"What's going on?" she asked, in a phlegmy voice. All those nights they'd gone out with their friends and she was all done up and gorgeous, Len and Trish were always telling him to go for it. And yeah, she looked great, but it was Kelly. They were buds, no matter how Barbied up she was (and she could really lay it on). Now he looked at her for longer then he normally would. The puffy brown eyes beneath her pillow ravaged hair. The face that hadn't seen make-up, in what, hours now?

"Jesus," he said softly.

"Well, how good do you look when some inconsiderate bastard wakes you up at five-thirty in the morning?" she said.

He wanted to tell her she was beautiful but he knew she'd never buy it. It was true though. The girl he'd known in school had grown into a woman while hidden behind a mannequin's face. Who would have guessed that her plastic skin could have hidden such softness beneath it?

"What the fuck do you want, Barry? You could have at least brought a newspaper."

"I just gotta say . . . " He looked at the grass where it met the cement of her basement. "I just now found out that I've fallen in love with you."

"Oh my god."

He managed to look back up at her. "That's . . . That's all I wanted to say. I'll go now." But he didn't move and he studied the grass against the cement again. He didn't know where to place his next step. Len wouldn't be up yet and the walk home now felt impossible.

"I though you were going," Kelly said.

"I'm sorry." And that started him on his way.

"Get in here, stupid!" she said. "You're a mess and you're cold and I thought your car was being fixed."

"I, uh "

"I'll meet you at the front," she said and slammed the window down.

At the front she met him in her ratty slippers. Her hands felt so good and so warm on his face. "Christ, you're freezing! Did you walk here from somewhere?"

"I don't want to go anymore," he said.

"You don't want to go where?"

He held her hand in place and hoped his stubble wouldn't scratch her hand. He watched her shoulder and said. "I don't want to cross an ocean and leave my skin to the bullets and the shrapnel and the fire anymore."

"You been drinking?" she asked. He shook his head.

"Come on in," Kelly said. "Come in out of the cold."

Saturday, July 29, 2006

A Slightly Exclusive Club

So, I've been thinking about these stories I've been posting the last couple of days. Should these count toward The One-Thousand? It would be great if they did, because this is something I could pull off on a daily basis, and hell, I'd hit one-thousand stories when I was forty, ten years early! But I went back and looked at what my criteria for inclusion in The One-Thousand were. The One-Thousand have to be stories that I actually tried to get published.

These stories that I've been posting here are more like practice (and fun) for me and something to fill up the blog from day to day, give people something to read and spark their imaginations, and give them an idea of what I'm about. So, for now, The One-Thousand sits at a mere fifty-two strong.

Another Batch of Spritz

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Joey grew his hair. Just a couple of inches at first, but then he decided to go for a foot. Before he got halfway to his goal he found he was addicted. He spent long nights fertilizing his scalp and thinking lush hairy thoughts because he believed that the hair originated in the brain. Before long, he grew impatient with the glacially-slow process. His body ached from hours at his vanity.

He began to grow other people's hair, on the sly, because he didn't know if people would want such a thing, but he had to do it. He just had to! He spritzed people at ball games and parks with his nutrient mix. He legally changed his name to Joey Hairfollicle after his inspiration, Johnny Appleseed. This destroyed his social life because, as much as any woman might want a rich, full-bodied head of hair, who could ever conceive of a long term relationship with the man? It could only end with a last name of Hairfollicle with a bunch of little Hairfollicles running around.

The whole thing left Joey crying himself to sleep at night, but he couldn't stop growing hair. It was his mission. When he tried stopping, he'd always catch hints of the remarkable lives of the people he spritzed. Reports and urban legends of those whose ear hair and nose hair had grown to disgusting lengths. Horrifying tales of tongue and eyeball hair.

One night, CNN carried a report of a woman who gave birth to conjoined twins, connected at the hair. Doctors were cautious, wanting to wait until the children were older before they attempted a risky separation procedure. Joey turned off the television, took a deep breath and wiped his eyes. He went into the bathroom to whip up another batch of spritz.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Three Little Girls

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

The three little girls, Ritzi, Mitzi, and Bellamora, spun in circles on the front lawn of their father’s estate. When the dizziness began to overtake them, they spun in triangles, which is really much harder than it sounds, especially for children. However, since these girls had no meaningful work in their lives and had downloaded their educations years ago, they had nothing else to do but spinning practice and triangles were second nature to them.

It was several hours before they became dizzy again and by this time they were more than happy to fall to the ground to watch the shivering clouds go by and breathe in lungs full of the
freshly-cut grass air.

Then it was up the trees in the late morning and onto the roof of the servants’ quarters. They made the weekly sneak into Sally’s room. Sally was the stable bride, the stable groom having passed away in a highspeed brushing accident (the unstable bride had been let go for improper behavior), and she was the only adult woman the half-orphan girls knew with more than garden party familiarity. Sally was now deeply involved in the horses’ algebra lessons. The horses still struggled with stomping out fractions and had been stuck on lesson four for twelve years. Thus, the three little girls could study Sally’s underwear drawer at their leisure. Before they left, they took great care to remove any errant strand of hair from the bra cups and return everything to its proper place.

Outside once more, they took down a miniature cow with their bare hands and grilled lunch beneath the great umbrella that stretched a hundred yards in every direction. Before the evening’s party, they had time to sail out to sea and found a colony on the ocean floor. They had time to do this, but in fact they didn’t. What they did do was fast-grow a small orchard so they could whip up their killer Waldorf salad for tonight. They always made the Waldorf salad when they wanted to attract a mother. It always went untouched and they always buried the remains out behind the pond and washed the bowl. If anyone ever tried their salad, the girls reasoned, they would have to be mother material.

That night, after washing the bowl and bathing in the pond, they climbed into bed. The bed was vast enough to hold a schoolhouse, but the girls always slept right up next to one another in the Northwest corner. Before sleep washed over them, they stared into the center of the slow, hypnotic ceiling fan and made plans to do tomorrow what they hadn’t done today.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


By Matthew Sanborn Smith

He had worked eight hours last week. After taxes, social security, health and life insurance premiums (not to mention vision and dental), dues for the International Brotherhood of Spaghetti Chefs, Local 219, and his two dollar donation to Hitching Unwed Mothers (HUM), Gunther’s first paycheck came to exactly seventeen dollars.

“Seventeen dollars,” he said, rolling the words around in his mouth. There’s something mighty sweet about such a round number, he thought. After a few phone calls with his tightly knit and rather odd circle of friends, they determined that such an amount of money was indeed sinfully delicious.

“I can build an empire with such riches!” Gunther exclaimed.

“You’re crazy!” Shooter said.

“No, wait!” Sissy, said. “I know where my mother keeps her coupons.”

“Coupons?” Shooter said. “What is ‘coupons’?”

“Coupons are pieces of paper that have the power to reduce everyday low prices on items that you may already be buying for your basic household needs, sometimes by as much as twenty-four cents,” she said.

“Twenty-four –! What madness is this?”

“It’s true! Just last week I witnessed my mother save twenty-four cents on Carter’s All- Weather Chicken Seasoning.”

“But . . .,” Shooter sputtered, “But I use Carter’s All-Weather Chicken Seasoning!”

“Ho-HO!” Gunther shouted. “Game, set and match! Come, my friends, it is settled then. We shall rendezvous at my abode. Sissy, that lamp in your bedroom –“

”The heavy one?” she asked, anticipating his need.

“The very one. It should make a fine tool for bashing in the head of someone’s mother before absconding with her coupons. Someone’s mother, like say . . . your mother?”

“Well, the coupons are right on the kitchen counter, I can just take them. My mother isn’t even home right now.”

“Good thinking. Take the coupons. We can always come back and bash in your mother’s head later.”

“My thoughts exactly,” she said.

After slamming the phone down for no apparent reason, Gunther remembered he had one more call to make.

“Hello? Mutumbu’s Spaghetti Barn? Well, you know who can fry up your spaghetti from now on? You can!”

“Sir, who is it that you wish to speak –“ But he hung up before she could finish her lame retort.


God that was sweet.

They came together finally, Shooter with his little brother, Dave, in tow.

“What’s he doing here?” Gunther asked.

“Mom said I had to watch him while she went to her bridge club.”

“But he’s thirty-seven years old! He doesn’t even live at home anymore!” Gunther and Shooter must have looked at each other for, like, a good four seconds.

“Mom said,” Shooter explained.

“Fine then!”

They took a cab into town and all the way Shooter gaped in wonder at Sissy’s ‘coupons’. Gunther was beside himself, trying to shield the treasure from the roving eyes of their cabbie.

“Will you put those things away? And don’t you say a word about these Dave Martin!”

“I have a doctorate in analytical psychology!” Dave said. “I would never say anything!”

They piled out of the little cab. Sissy crawled, after having to sit with the two-hundred and sixty-three pound Gunther on her lap for the entire trip. The fare came to exactly seventeen dollars. Gunther put his hands on his hips and said:

“Well that didn’t go nearly as far as I thought it would. Sissy, could you please call your mom and ask her to pick us up on her way home?”

Monday, July 24, 2006

Out of the Blue

 Sort of out of the blue. It’s not like inspiration struck me and I ran screaming to my keyboard. More like I said, “I’m going to sit down and throw some words down and see what happens.” What happened was “Passions in Orbit, a Stirring in the Pants.” I wrote it last night, revised it this morning and sent it out to seek its place in the world this evening. Number 52.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

I Can't Not Do It

A page. One page a day. As much as distraction threatens to wrest my life from me, I can do a page a day right? At least until summer vacation is over. Then I can do more. One page of original fiction each day. Not revision, not blogging, not the journal. None of that counts. One page of original fiction. Two-hundred and fifty words a day. How can I not do that? I can’t not do that!

This is a declaration of freedom. Of power. A grasping of dreams. A call to arms:

I, Matthew Sanborn Smith, won’t allow myself to keep from can’t not doing it!

Christ, that's powerful!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Off My Chest

The written words come fewer and farther between as the family is home for the summer and my little couch potatoes have discovered the wonders of Runescape and other internet games. Forget the fact that we have a tiny house (we’re expanding, but the plans aren’t done yet) and we normally have more television sets on than we have people watching them and their volume settings tend toward the upper end as they have to compete with one another. I can’t believe we don’t have more than one TV per room yet, but I won’t say this aloud for fear that someone will take my idea and run with it.

Other than that, everything’s great.