by M.V. Montgomery
A woman claimed to live “catacorner” from my parents. She looked vaguely familiar, with startling green eyes, but I couldn’t really picture the place where she lived. So she led me there—we had to duck through another yard first.
From her porch, where a lazy cat was curled like the letter C, we had a perfect view of my parents’ backyard. Not only that: every sound from the yard was enhanced by the surrounding shrubs and fencing. I thought I could even hear conversations going on inside the house. Then the woman surprised me by climbing partway up a tree. She said, You can hear even better from up here.
To run an errand, I left my daughter Rina at home. Almost immediately, I regretted she wasn’t with me. I passed by a park where I saw families gathered for a spring festival and thought back to all the events we never would have missed before she was a teen.
This had been the annual egg hunt. People were already streaming back into the parking lot, but I briefly wished it was not over yet, and that I could drive home and pick up Rina, who mysteriously would be a kid again. Instead, I got out of the car and walked through the park alone.
In the play area were small kids scurrying around, their baskets left behind with parents. In the middle ground were open fields with carnival games already being broken down.
I walked around the corner of the park building. There was no one on the other side. This would have been the area for the older kids—I saw many half and cracked shells left behind. Woodchips thickly covered the ground, and as I continued around the building, I began to hunt.
Sure enough, I began to find stray eggs buried here and there. I placed them into the pockets of my fatigues. I also found a couple of other strewn items, a plastic bird whistle and a ball. Wedged in a bush were torn wrappers and a small stuffed animal that looked like the remains of a prize cache.
Near the entrance to the building were broken strands of beads and silk that might have been part of a decoration. I wrapped these up, too, and began to head back to the car.
I was happy, thinking I could hide all this junk for Rina later, and that for some reason, she would appreciate it.
the hill people
By a roadside gas station, many miles from here, I saw a large lobster-like creature giving birth. Dozens of purple pods started appearing on nearby bushes as it gasped and heaved. As I watched, the purple pods began subdividing into two colors, red and blue. Then the proprietor came out and poured gasoline over the blue pods.
I later learned that I was in a small town settled by the Hill people, who had sprung from the red pods. They displayed no discernable differences from humans other than that they were remarkably large and hale. On second thought—they might have had an extra propensity for violence. I saw a television ad for “Hill basketball” that involved a fist fight between players, coach, and even a father-son pair. But it was hard to tell whether this was a real game or a parody.
Their sworn enemies were the blue faces. I witnessed a hunt for one. The blue face was squatting in a deserted shack and ended up killing a Hill deputy.
The blue face had red markings around one eye. They found him in a heap of furnishings. When shot, he bled a purplish blood which he vengefully smeared over the fallen deputy, burning blue circles into his skin.
the hotel refugees
Staying at a hotel during a rather routine academic conference. It is hurricane season and a furious storm is blowing through the Gulf, causing the place to fill up quickly. As I head back to my room following the day’s lackluster events, I see a line of miserable-looking refugees at the front desk by a No Vacancies sign.
Suddenly feeling out of touch, I go back to my room, take a quick shower, dry off, and wrap the towel around my waist. There is an urgent knock at the door. I cross over to open it.
A family of refugees stands outside, shivering, soaked from the storm. An elderly man, looking very needy, points to the towel I am wearing.
Some neighborhood kids over to play with my daughter were proving difficult to amuse. I was on the verge of shaving my head so decided it would do me no harm if they wanted to give me a haircut. I lay back by the sink in the kitchen while they happily made their preparations, taking out bottles of mayonnaise, spaghetti sauce, and an egg, rubbing them into my scalp in preparation for my “makeover.” My daughter found scissors and began to cut around the mess.
Then a little boy who had toddled in behind the others began to whine that he needed someone to change his diaper. I told him to run along home—there was no way I could have gotten up even if I tried. But he was already lying down in the middle of the kitchen floor and taking his diaper off, and there was no way of telling which of the two messes was going to be worse.
the red planet
I have just gotten back from a summer trip. In my e-mail inbox I see page after page of unexpected mail. All the messages, which are flagged “urgent,” concern a last-minute assignment to teach a new course far outside my discipline area, to be titled “The Hematonymy of Mars.” It is supposed to have started this week.
warrior koan (with questions)
I am trying to get back to college by bus with a transfer because I am out of money. Another passenger hands me her baby to hold for a moment. I worry that the child might be mistaken for mine and I might have to pay an additional fee.
I mention this predicament later to a colleague, who tells me that once, en route to her church pageant, she had been charged extra for carrying a doll representing the Christ child.
1. Does the bus driver accept Christ? Answer quickly!
2. Spiritually speaking, can one person ever “pay for” another?
M. V. Montgomery is an Atlanta professor and writer. He is the author of two books of poetry, Joshu Holds a Press Conference and Strange Conveyances. His first collection of flash fiction, Dream Koans, will be published this month by Fast Forward Press.
Where do you get the ideas for your stories? What advice do you have for other fantasy writers?
It's all you--your dreams, unconscious desires and wishes. Writing doesn't always originate from the conscious self, and while I do exercises with my students and am always on the lookout for new ideas, my best source is usually my dream journal.