Sketches of Winter No.1

A thin cardinal, red and black, perched silently on the  branch of a pine tree. And light sparkles of snow wandered down from under its empty, searching gaze. Mandarin felt his stomach tighten around a feeling. ‘Or is it the lack of feeling?’ he said. The words formed thick white waves of warm air in the green woods, then dissolved, and he wanted to close his eyes. But the muscles under his coat, and sweater, and shirt, and scarf, began to hurt from strain. It felt like hunger. It felt like fear. And he wondered if the red cardinal’s black eyes could see him, through him into the empty barrel of a place he protected so very well. The long fat tree he pulled behind him, its trunk carving a deep trail through the fine, icy snow, shivered and several brown green needles fell by his boots. ‘I forget, tree, are we going somewhere?’ he said. ‘Or are we leaving?’ The orange December sun was low behind the woods, and everything was a soft purple of winter and cold.  From a distance, beyond the woods and the field where Mandarin’s trail lay like an obtrusive cut, a dog barked. And then stopped. ‘We must be going somewhere? How could we not, tree? Everywhere is somewhere to someone. Or something. Let’s keep moving. You and me. Until we get there.’ After some walking and hearing the snow crunch under his boots, Mandarin slowed. ‘Keep moving, tree. That’s what I always say. Keep moving,’ though he knew it was a lie. He had never said that before. He didn’t believe himself. But hearing, watching his words affect the physical world, the air before his nose and eyes, distracted him. Kept his thoughts from going back to the empty barrel in his guts. He looked over his left shoulder but the cardinal was gone, out of sight under the dense pine branches. His tree trunk scraped over a large stone.

Mandarin walked on and put his one free hand inside his coat pocket. In his palm he squeezed a cardboard box of matches. He shook them. ‘Sounds like sleigh bells,’ he said and shook them again. ‘Too bad you can’t sing, tree. A carol would be nice. Maybe.’  Brown green needles fell to the snowy floor but Mandarin did not hear them, so great was the empty barrel in his chest. ‘Just like sleigh bells,’ he said and together the two walked on, deeper into the wide green woods.

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New Story!

It’s been a painfully long time, but… If you look on the Short Stories tab, there it shall be found: The Mint. A new tale, forged from the fires of a classroom final project. Enjoy with a milkshake.

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A Seasonal Interview

Here is a link to a recent interview about A Most Peculiar Christmas for my school’s website.

Many thanks to Catalin for the excellent questions. (English Translation at the bottom) 

http://scoala-mea.com/site/un-craciun-cu-totul-special-interviu-cu-profesorul-cameron-brunke/

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The Found Child

Wendy flew from foreign land
Destined to be Mother
For a boyish Peter Pan
Servant to none other,
Yet a Chief to Those and These
Puckish, knavish, waggish thieves,
Sons unwanted,
3-2-1’s,
With fingers red and painted guns.

Home!
Dearest Wendy take us home      
For white linens and a poem,               
Bars of soap for washing hands,              
To leave behind the merriment               
Of our lonely band.

Left, right, Mother hung their swords
And toiled about the room,
By candle light and wondrous words
She quelled the island’s gloom,
“Once upon a time,” she sung
As evening’s glow came undone,
Slumber, shadows,
A-B-C’s,
An infant cried among the trees.

Home!
Dearest Wendy take us home       
For white linens and a poem,               
Bars of soap for washing hands               
To leave behind the merriment               
Of our lonely band.

Lilly crept onto the ship
A knife between her teeth,
Tinker flashed white-hot right-quick
And clouted Mr. Smee,
Panthers pounced and Pirates bled,
Tattooed Jukes bumped his head,
Wendy shrieked at Canon’s boom
As Peter dodged a stone,
“Send’em down to watery tombs,”
He mocked the Captain’s tone,
And old man Hook raised his nose
As if the war were a rose,
“What’s that?” he cried.
“Tick-tock-tock,”
Popped the bubbles behind the Croc.

Home!
Dearest Wendy take us home       
For white linens and a poem,               
Bars of soap for washing hands               
To leave behind the merriment               
Of our lonely band.

Away next morn’ tip-toed three
Darlings forever more,
Back to London’s cobbled streets
With locks upon the door,
Towards home they flew through the cold
Twirl and spin of Christmas snow,
Past the tower
With hands that toll,
Except for one
Who will never, ever grow old.

Home!
Dearest Wendy took them home       
For white linens and a poem,               
Bars of soap for washing hands,               
And left behind the merriment
Of their Neverland.

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Off Highway Twelve – A Very Short Story

Hall Five could have been divided into three smaller rooms, but the accordion style partitions were not open and the unused area behind the trainees remained in darkness except for a red EXIT sign on the far opposite wall.  And though several vents in the carpeted floor clattered with warm air, Hall Five was too large and the seats of the chairs were cold.

Eaton Hudderson, who sat in the front row,  leaned back and looked up at the six fluorescent squares overhead. They hummed. And the bee like hum, common to long vacuum tubes, made Eaton Hudderson desperately desire to lay his head on the floor, curl up under his chair like a cat, and fall back asleep.

Before the hotel desk clerk rang his room, Eaton had been dreaming. It had been a very important, sensual dream and now, as he sat on his folding chair in Hall Five, Eaton tried to remember something of what the dream had been about. “The color blue? There was a boat. Two boats. I was swimming,’ he thought.

In front of Eaton was a wooden lectern and a whiteboard with the words DAY TWO written on it in green marker. Mrs. Ghaston did not use the wooden lectern.  Instead, she moved about in front of the trainees with her note cards in one hand.  And whenever Mrs. Ghaston moved her arms, she expelled a sweet scent of rose perfume from her entire body.

‘The Eight Pillars are essential to the performance of each trainee,” said Mrs. Ghaston. ‘Without them, your entire network is in danger of collapsing.”

She spoke at a steady, conversational level. She punctuated each sentence. And when Mrs. Ghaston completed a thought, she blinked terribly hard. And when she blinked terribly hard, she also contorted her face as if she had just bitten into a lemon slice or as if she had just seen a ghost which she absolutely refused to accept as having been seen.

“Each Pillar is equally essential,” said Mrs. Ghaston.  And she squeezed her face tight, shook her head left to right, and twice blinked.

“Of course,” echoed Agnus Dunfold, “Essential. Yes.”

Agnus sat directly behind Eaton and Eaton looked back over his shoulder.  She was the oldest of the trainees in Hall Five. She wore a heavy black dress and copper bracelets that clinked as she swept her long graying hair from off her shoulders.

“Essential,” Agnus repeated with great authority and then turned and nodded at the others in attendance around her. However, the other trainees were all in some state of drinking coffee from small white cups, or stirring coffee in their small white cups, or crossing and uncrossing their legs on the cold black folding chairs and so did not witness Agnus’ invitation for approval.  One woman, at the end of the second row near the double entrance doors, still had wet hair and was applying lipstick in a hand mirror that was discovered at the bottom of her purse.

Eaton turned back to face Mrs. Ghaston.

“We will start with Pillar Number One,” said Mrs. Ghaston. “Open your training guides to page twelve, please.”

“Page twelve,” echoed Agnus.

Overhead, the six illuminated squares in the long white sea of panels hummed with a bee like hum common to long fluorescent tubes. “If only I could doze off,” Eaton thought. “Just for a moment. I could remember. Was it my father eating a sandwich? On a blue boat? I was swimming.”

“Now,” said Mrs. Ghaston, “who thinks they can recall the Twelve Main Points of Pillar One?”

“Yes,” echoed Agnus. “Who can recall?” And her copper metal bracelets clinked approvingly.

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Eating Alone – A Modern Short Story

Upset at the lack of sunspot activity for the past few days, an event widely un-publicized in the mainstream, Franklin wrote a scathing review of the brunch he was currently not enjoying at Cafe Peeks. The critique started as a text to his childhood friend Tim Wonkowski who lived 5,000 miles away in Minnesota. The text read like this, ’20 mins 4 eggs? Come on!’

Tim answered Franklin’s text with an encouraging, ‘Bitch 2 manger’.

Franklin peered over the top of his phone at the closed kitchen door behind the barren restaurant counter. He typed without laughing, ‘Ha-ha!’.

Only a handful of round metal tables filled the one room of Cafe Peeks, tables not unlike what might be found in an English country side garden. The walls were white with fuzzy sequentially patterned wallpaper and knick-knack shelves littered with plastic flowers in blue vases.  A young woman sat alone with a book at the table opposite of Franklin. She had short red hair, black nail polish, and was waiting for a cappuccino she ordered just at the moment Franklin sat down.

‘Run!’ wrote Tim from Minnesota.

‘2 late,’ typed Franklin with his thumbs. ‘8 bredstik. Now stuck!’

The front door of the cafe opened and a thin silver bell at its corner jingled. Two men with starched collars and black leather shoes entered. They talked loudly, too loudly for Franklin, and stood by the barren counter. The young woman with the black fingernails looked up from her book. She had a soft distant expression on her face, the blind stare of one who had been reading for some time and needed a moment to realize where the sounds and lights came from.  She saw Franklin at the table across from her, sighed, and opened her book once more to begin the next page.

The kitchen door moved and a young waitress stepped out at a rapid pace. She carried before her a tall glass with brown creamy coffee on a white ceramic plate. Next to the glass was a cookie, a tea spoon, and brown sugar cubes in a white bowl. Franklin raised his eyebrows. The waitress placed the white plate and coffee glass down on the metal table in front of the red haired woman, wiped her left hand on her black pant legs and then returned to the kitchen. Franklin lowered his eyebrows.

“Excuse me? Lady?” called one of the men with leather shoes who wore a heavy watch on his wrist. The other man laughed and whistled after the waitress. The kitchen door closed.

“What the hell?” said the man with the watch.

“Come on,” said the other.

They left and the silver bell above the cafe door jingled.

“That’s it,” thought Franklin. “Time for a scathing review. I will destroy this cafe. Zero stars and four unhappy faces in a row. Not everything can be blamed on the lack of sunspots. Not everything.”

Franklin texted the idea to Timothy who wrote back that he should, once again, ‘Run’.

From behind his phone, as the red haired woman read and mindlessly stirred brown sugar into her coffee, Franklin glanced towards the kitchen door. It was closed. He opened the phone’s browser to access his free account at iFoodReview.com. The website remembered his user name and secured password and this made Franklin feel very pleased and self-assured. He pressed the screen where a blue button read, ‘New Post’.

5,000 miles away in Minnesota, Timothy turned off his bedside lamp and closed his eyes.

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A Most Peculiar Christmas now on sale

Officially set up a display for the novel today.

Well, it was actually Mihai, the owner of the bookshop,

who put it together and made it look eye-catching and knew what he was doing…

I mostly stood around, smiling at myself.  Regardless,

the doors of public criticism and praise are wide open

and there’s no turning back. Exciting. Unnerving. Peculiar.

Ancora Bookshop

Ancora Bookshop

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