Author Archives: unpublishedhack

Finial Fantasy

Learned the word “finial” today. I have titles!

  • A Flock of Finials
  • Finial Fantasy
  • Finials Off
  • The Finial of Doom
  • The Finial, the Wardrobe, and the Haberdashery
  • Twice Upon a Finial
  • An Infinity of Finials

Of Cats and Men

I’m sitting on the floor of the barn, Indian style, at the farm where I grew up. I’ve got literally four cats either on my lap or curled up directly next to me, and several more cats are nearby, because I’ve just put out food and the entire cat population is there to visit.

Suddenly a neighboring tomcat that’s a bit of a bully comes charging in at full speed.

All of my pet cats scatter.

Tomcat notices me and puts on the brakes. Tomcat just happens to do this while positioned on an empty feed bag.

Tomcat becomes surfer cat as the feed bag acquires tomcat’s momentum, and he skids the remaining six feet, leaning back, eyes wide … wider … super wide. Hair standing on end, ears laid back, horrified at the thing happening to him.

Tomcat and feed sack slide ever so precisely to a stop, roughly two inches from my crossed legs. Still leaning back, looking like he’d rather be anywhere but here.

I lean forward and, not sure what else to do, let loose with a single shout: “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!”

Tomcat disappears so fast, if we lived in a cartoon world, the shadow image of him would have hesitated and then snapped away after him like elastic, leaving a cloud of smoke in his wake.


The neighbor’s daughter saw me spraying a wasp nest and mentioned they had a nest above their front door. I said I’d spray that, too, but it got dark before I could get over there. So I’m wandering around on the patio with a flashlight and find the nest. I debate whether I should knock and tell the neighbor lady that I’m going to spray (I haven’t talked to her, just her daughter) and risk making the wasps angry, or just spray. I decide to just spray. I get ready, aim, and then come an inch from total disaster. Apparently I had the can nearly backwards, and as I press a jet of foam zips past the side of my head, just by my ear. Two inches more and I would have blinded myself, screamed in pain and terror, had the neighbor lady and her four daughters run out to find a red-eyed and sobbing maniac standing on their porch in the dark with a flashlight, at which point the wasps would have woken up and begun to sting us all.

Koala’s March

This isn’t my writing. It’s something from the internet a friend shared with me so long ago it’s not even on the internet anymore. I am doing my job to repost it.

Koala’s march:

The flavor of strawberry, of Koala’s march

Do you know?

In the inside of Koala’s march

A part of chocolates tastes of its flavor of strawberry.

Eat it,

And you taste giant strawberry pockey.

Therefore, next time, part 2 (last time)

I wish you are looking forward to.

I have what it must say to you by all means.

The koala’s march, the flavor of strawberry,

Is not sold in Hokkaido regrettably.

The taste was written last time.

But its koala has eyebrow,

And you may feel tasteless.


Possibilities and Chili Fries

I quickly put my newfound powers of possibility to good use. At Hollywood Grill with Adam and Moriarty one day, I felt a certain craving. I said, “What I’d really like are nachos, but not with chips, with french fries. I had some at ESPN Zone for a work party at the end of a huge project, and they were the best thing I’ve ever eaten. Crumbled bacon, sour cream, melted cheese, green onion, piles of olives, all seasoned and spiced. That would really hit the spot.”

The waitress came out. “What can I get ya, hon?”

“Look, I know it’s on the menu, but I have to ask. Would it be possible to get the nachos, but without the nachos, and with fries instead?”

She looked at me for a long moment.

I tried again. “I mean, all the nacho toppings placed on top of a big plate of fries.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

Adam clapped me on the back. “You really talked to her! You convinced her of the possibility, and she went for it! That’s how it’s done. Wrong on, dude.”

“Wrong on? What are you talking about?” asked Morty.

“It’s sort of an inside joke. Scott and I realized how much we both like to be right, so we decided to embrace being wrong to get over the hangup. See, there’s this racket about-”

“Wait, is this Landmark stuff? I don’t want to hear it.”

“All right. The point is, we say wrong on instead of right on, but it’s just a joke.”

A few minutes later, the food came out. Indeed I’d gotten my fries with nacho toppings. Sad, Hollywood Grill toppings, which meant cheap greasy cheese and a lump of ground beef along with a couple of wilted jalapenos on a plate of undercooked fries. No olives, no green onions, most definitely no crumbled bacon or sour cream, and I knew well enough that the fries wouldn’t be crinkle cut, not the way I really liked them, not the way ESPN Zone did them. I got exactly what I asked for, but not at all what I wanted.

When the bill came, I saw the waitress also solved the problem of figuring out the proper price by just charging me for both a plate of nachos and a plate of fries, no discount for the missing chips. Fair, I guess, but disappointing. Even worse, Adam kept talking about it for weeks, unwittingly reminding me about the bad outcome.

Bear Country

Bear Country

By the ember’s dying light,

Three campers had a beastly fright.

From the darkened murk out there

Came cries of “awk!” and “hss!” and “bear!”

Langston went forth to look about;

The others heard just a muffled shout,

Then silence—

Amy strode swiftly the other way

Hoping for escape that day

She made it out to the nearest stream,

But splashing turned to piercing scream

Then silence—

Scott stayed huddled in his tent

Praying that no harm was meant

But he, too, faced the fangs and rippers

The shriek of rending cloth, screech of zippers

And, eventually, silence—

Horseshoes in Aspen

Now I confess. I had played horseshoes exactly once, one week before, at my office summer picnic. And even then I’d been taught by someone who seemed to be making it up as he went. So with a complete lack of care I just made up whatever seemed fun. I knew about ringers, and the cliche about being close, and I may or may not have been fudging when I had special rules for leaners, danglers, sliders, burrowing bees, hellsmount footpads, and one special combination I liked to call a “reverse Mormon.”

All the same it was a good time, both our spirits brightened, and when Langston finally beat me 24a to seventy-blue, we agreed neither of us had had such fun since the Great Wumpus Rumpus of ought-four.

Dominick Sarch

Back in my teenaged years, when my literary diet consisted almost exclusively of fantasy novels, I once had a fantastic dream. It was lengthy, detailed, rich, and seemed to come directly from the Dungeons and Dragons source material I lived and breathed. All the action revolved around an evil cleric who was leading an army of terrible foes against a kingdom.

When I woke I was so enthralled by the dream I fought hard to remember and re-imagine the gripping dream before it faded the way dreams so often do. I took some notes, ran through the story several times, trying to commit it to memory. What I wanted to capture most of all was the cleric, who I’d felt in the dream presented an especially gripping villain character. But of course he was the part of the dream that seemed to be fading the fastest. It was all I could do to reach back and eke out just the characters name, which after some effort I suddenly recalled as …

Dominick Sarch?

In the dream it had seemed powerful, villainous, and most of all catchy. In the waking world I could accept the Dominick part, but Sarch just sounded like a mispronunciation of “starch” or something made up to rhyme with “march.” I immediately knew it would never fly, but figured if I could get the story down quickly enough I could patch up his last name at some point.

I’ll concede that, if the audience didn’t know any English at all, Sarch might have a certain ring to it that could pass for a valid sinister-sounding moniker, but you just can’t name your villain after a food staple. It just doesn’t sit right.

Decades later, the story is lost, the character has dissolved, but for some reason I still have a line in a miscellaneous file reminding me of Dominick Sarch, the one aspect of the dream I knew wasn’t any good. I couldn’t tell you why I’ve kept it, or why it’s stuck in my head this long, other than to say I’m generally so bad at making up names that when I’ve got one–even an awful one–it’s better than having nothing at all.

But Sarch? Really? My subconscious can dream in rhyme, and this is all the better it could come up with?

It’s Title Tuesday

The Great Toilet Paper Conspiracy

  • Inspired by the tendency for two-ply toilet paper to come arranged so that the layers are not in sync and everything you peel off falls in two. By the time you’ve discovered the problem and unwound enough material to put them back in sync, half the roll is gone. Conspiracy? I think so!

Falling Away from Myself

  • The impression given when you are driving a car and you stop behind a vehicle with a back end large and glossy enough to see your own car reflected in it. Then the light changes, the other car pulls away, and the smooth glide as your reflection floats off at an impossible and diminishing angle is fraught with sublime imagery. You can feel as if you are falling away from yourself.

The Book of Lost Things

  • Formerly intended to be a work of fiction titled The Book of Lost Souls, the Book of Lost Things is a nonfictional compendium of things which were once known but are now lost. This may include everything from scrolls known to have been burned in the Library of Alexandria right down to wherever my keys might be at the moment. One of the highlights of the book will be the herb silphium, which was once the prime seasoning of the Roman diet but only grew in a limited region of North Africa. In a fit of anger during a trading dispute most known plants were destroyed, and silphium was lost to the world. Now nobody even really knows what the herb looked like, let alone tasted or smelled like.

Redacted: The Novel

  • I’m not going to say that I’d tell you what this is about but I’d have to kill you, because that cliche stopped being funny a couple of decades ago. Instead, I can tell you what this book is about as long as you sign this NDA and submit to having 50% of your brain colored in with black sharpie.
  • Don’t worry. Due to inferior technology implementations if you buy the ebook version you can copy and paste the text layer right out from underneath the separate layer of black boxes and still read the entire thing.