Monday, April 9, 2018

thomas and samantha


by horace p sternwall




thomas and samantha lived for many years in the house left to them by their parents, attended by a painfully small number of servants.

they were both creatures of routine.

every morning samantha would come down to breakfast before thomas, and when thomas finally arrived, she would say to him,

“good morning, thomas. if you have nothing to say, please do not say anything.”

and thomas would nod, pick up his coffee cup and his copy of the times, and say nothing.


then one day, shortly after a war had ended, samantha made her usual statement, and themes responded,

“yes, i have something to say.”

“oh? and what is it that you have to say, thomas?”

“that you would look nicer if you smiled.”

“really? well, thank you so much for that astute observation.”

and they both resumed their breakfast.

thomas never again broke his silence at the table.

after a number of years samantha died of pneumonia during a bitter winter, and thomas followed her in the spring, of a heart attack which he had never attempted to forestall through healthy living.

they were both buried in the garden they had loved so well, though thomas had perhaps loved it a bit more than samantha.



Friday, April 6, 2018

two humans





two humans, not previously acquainted with each other, were walking down a street from opposite directions, about to cross paths.

one of them, charles darwin, was feeling pretty good about life. he had a new hat on, and a new pair of shoes, and he thought he was looking pretty good.

when the other human, george meredith, saw charles darwin coming towards him he burst into laughter.

“that is the most ridiculous hat i have ever seen!” george exclaimed. “and the shoes are even worse! ha ha ha !”


charles was stunned by this unprovoked assault on his persona and his existence, but recovered enough to try to assert his dignity by replying. “is that all, sir? are you quite through?”

to which the laughing george responded as he passed charles , “no, brother, it is not all. you’re fat! ha ha ha!”

but george was not finished. when he was thirty feet past charles, he turned and cried, “and you’re ugly! and for god’s sake lose that beard!”

charles walked on, stunned. he felt a ringing in his ears, and the world seemed to dissolve around him, but he managed to get back to his lonely room.

charles never recovered. he had trouble getting out of bed in the morning, and after being late for work several times, was fired from his job as a security guard. he became a drunkard and a porn addict. the drunkenness caused him to have bladder problems, and he was several times arrested for public indecency for relieving himself in situations in which he was too drunk to realize he was not alone.

eventually charles’s body was found washed up by the bay. it was not known whether he had jumped or fallen off the bridge, or if he had drunkenly decided to go for a midnight swim.


after his encounter with charles, george continued on his way, and met his friends rene descartes and thomas hobbes at a trendy cafe. they had a great time, and george never gave charles another thought in his life.

his friend thomas hobbes got george a job at a non-profit organization which specialized in providing musical and artistic training for third world and other disadvantaged children. george was a natural administrator, and he flourished in the job, eventually rising to the position of chief financial officer.



Friday, March 16, 2018

the pedestrian





a man was walking down a street.

the street was lined with tall buildings on both sides.

a few people, looking out of the windows of the buildings, saw the man.

a few of them saw him stop and adjust the cuff of his pants leg.

a little later a few people, different people, saw him stop and scratch his head.

then he disappeared from sight.

never to be seen again.

many other people also also walked down the street that day.

and were seen by other people from the windows of the tall buildings.

twilight came, and then night.

the sky was cloudy, but it did not rain.



Tuesday, March 6, 2018

the berserker





norris was just a guy

he went to work every day just like billions of other people

but he felt, deep inside, that he was different

one day he was on the train with his phone and his backpack, with a few thousand other people, when he began talking to the people standing and sitting near him

saying things like

i am different

i am the center of the universe

you will all hear about me someday

if i close my eyes i could make you all disappear

i deserve better than this

most people stared straight ahead and ignored him, but a few offered friendly or soothing words. like

you’ll be all right, or

just take your meds, dude

after a while norris calmed down

for a few days after that some people would recognize him and think, is that him?

is that the guy who went completely berserk on the train the other day?

but the incident was quickly forgotten

except by norris himself, who thought about it every day for the rest of his life



Thursday, March 1, 2018

the three clowns




a clown decided to try to make a few dollars selling neckties.

he set up a little table outside a subway station and carefully arranged the ties on it by size, color, and pattern.

a couple of sullen teenagers, a boy and a girl, came along.

what are those, asked the boy.

the clown explained what the neckties were.

sounds pretty stupid, said the girl.

the clown went down to the river and wept.

a second clown decided to sell horse collars, and set up his little stand.

a woman with a child came along.

what are those, asked the woman.

the second clown explained what the horse collars were.

what’s a horse? asked the child.

the second clown went down to the river and wept.

a third clown set up a stand to sell watermelons.

a small boy came along. he pointed to the watermelons.

what are you supposed to do with those , the boy asked.

eat them, replied the third clown.

what? you can’t fit one of those in your mouth, said the boy.

you have to cut them up, said the third clown.

cut them up yourself? asked the boy.

the third clown went down to the river and wept.

someday you and i will go down to the river and weep.



Wednesday, February 7, 2018

three riders





three riders appeared, outlined against a crimson sky…


they told me to get into the back seat of the car and i did.

there was nobody in the front seat, no driver, and there was not going to be. i had never been in such a vehicle before.

william the conqueror got in after me.

i shuffled over to the right against the window.

then al capone got in on the other side of william, so the back seat was pretty well filled with the three of us.

so you’re the great william the conqueror, huh, al sneered, but william just grunted.

the car started up.

i kept my eyes out the window, and was amazed at the precision of the car’s movement, especially at the way it stayed exactly two inches from the curbs, even when going around corners.

i expressed myself as impressed, but william was contemptuous of my enthusiasm.

you really think it’s great, huh? he asked in his deep voice.

we reached our destination, and the three of us got out on to the sidewalk.

the car compacted itself into a more or less human looking robot - it had two arms and two legs - and it led us into the building.

there was a guard seated at a little desk just inside the door.

there was a display screen on the front of the robot and the guard looked at it,

the guard looked at me.

so you’re jesse james, huh? the guard asked me. the great jesse james?

i did not bother to answer.



Thursday, June 8, 2017

the ogre, the tailor, and the minstrel






once upon a time there was an ogre.

the ogre set up shop outside a village, and began systematically kidnapping and devouring its inhabitants, one by one.

the strongest men in the village, including the woodcutter, the blacksmith, the sheriff, and the sergeant-at-arms, sallied forth to fight the ogre, but were quickly despatched and devoured.

a little tailor resolved to defeat the ogre. he found a stout stick and attached his tailor’s needle to it, and announced his intention to the village.

most of the villagers laughed at the tailor, although a few pious old woman told him they would pray for him.

as the sun rose in the sky, the little tailor set forth with his weapon.

what the tailor did not suspect, and what the villagers did not suspect, was that the ogre had grown weary of the village, and had decided that very morning to move on to fresh pastures.

the ogre was in the act of packing his knapsack with some of the bones of his previous victims, to gnaw on in his journey, when he saw the tailor approach.

the ogre made short work of the little tailor and devoured him in one gulp.

but the ogre was so outraged by the effrontery of the village in sending so feeble a champion against him, that he entered the village and completely ravaged and destroyed it, killing almost everyone in it.

the only survivor was a minstrel, who took to the roads, where he eked out an existence begging and singing for his bread.

among the songs the minstrel sang was the tale of the heroic little tailor, and how he slew the ogre and saved the village.