Just Gone


The sheriff stood with his arms folded, dead cigar dangling from the corner of his mouth. “Dogs been all over the damned forest. Not a trace.”

The mayor sighed, ran his hand over his weary face. “Well, we gotta keep looking. That’s all.”

The sheriff shook his head. “It’s been almost three weeks. I think the parents are reconciled now. At least the father is.”

The mayor watched the dog handler  loading the bloodhounds into wire kennels in the back of a truck.  “What about the boy, then? The witness? Is he reconciled too?”

The sheriff stared a second, cleared his throat. “Well, no. He’s sticking to his story. Tells it the same way every time. Gets mad when people don’t believe him.”

“Why should they?” said the mayor, his voice hot.  “We ripped up the stump. There was nothing there. No tunnel. No fairy people. And no missing kid. Just a big muddy hole in the ground.”


Sunday Photo Fiction



Photo by Eric Wicklund


The Descendants


Everyone named Christian on this island descended from the same two bastard boys, Charles and Thursday. There are hundreds of us now, spread as far as Australia and the States.

When we recount the history, we agree Fletcher Christian seized the Bounty from Bligh and sailed it to Pitcairn, that he brought along the two native women he’d made pregnant and enough men to crew the ship, since many of the mutineers stayed on Tahiti.

But there the stories diverge. The Good Christians, as they call themselves, insist Fletcher was murdered by the jealous Tahitians. Our side knows that he got drunk and attacked Adams, who shot him in self-defense.  We’ve argued most bitterly for more than two centuries. There have been fights and even murders.

I’ve spend my entire life here and never said a word to a Good Christian, though they live right next to me.

They’re wrong.


What Pegman Saw


Thanks to Hollywood, part of the story is well known:  Master’s Mate Fletcher Christian led a mutiny against his captain, Lieutenant William Bligh, seizing the HMS Bounty and setting Bligh and eighteen loyal followers adrift in a 23-foot open boat. Christian sailed the ship to Pitcairn Island and burned it in the harbor.

But the rest of the tale is even more interesting. Bligh managed to navigate some 4000 miles, eventually reaching England. The Admiralty dispatched the HMS Pandora to track down the mutineers and bring them back for trial, but the shup wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef before it reached Pitcairn.  During the courts martial of the mutineers, Bligh seemed to find himself on trial. In the end, only three of the ten were executed.  

This story continues to fascinate us, spawning dozens of books and movies.  One of my favorite books, Patrick O’Brian’s excellent Desolation Island,  briefly touches upon it in this passage:

Yet in spite of their eagerness, they learnt little about Bligh. ‘He did not wish to say anything against Captain Bligh – a capital navigator – very touchy himself, but had no notion of how he offended others – would give you the lie in front of all hands one day and invite you to dinner the next – you never knew where you were with him – led Christian, the master’s mate, a sad life of it, yet probably liked him in his own strange way – never knew where he was with Bounty’s people – no idea at all – was amazed when they turned on him – an odd, whimsical man: had gone to great pains to teach Heywood how to work his lunar observations, yet had sworn his life away with a most inveterate malice – had also brought his carpenter to court-martial for insolence, and that after they had survived the voyage in the launch together – four thousand miles in an open boat, and you bring a man to trial at Spithead!’

He also brings to life what happened when the mutineers were captured:

Captain Edwards had commanded the Pandora, which was sent to capture the mutineers, and which found those who had remained on Tahiti. Heywood looked back to the boy he had been, putting off from the shore as soon as the ship was seen, delighted, and sure of a welcome: he emptied his glass, and with bitter resentment he said, ‘That damned villain of a man put us in irons, built a thing he called Pandora’s Box on the quarterdeck, four yards by six, and crammed us into it, fourteen men, innocent and guilty all together – kept us in it four months and more while he looked for Christian and the others – never found them, of course, the lubber – in irons all the time, never allowed out, even to go to the head. And we were still in the box and still in irons when the infernal bugger ran his ship on to a reef at the entrance to the Endeavour Straits. And what do you think he did for us when she went down? Nothing whatsoever. Never had our irons taken off, never unlocked the box, though it was hours before she settled. If the ship’s corporal had not tossed the keys through the scuttle at the last moment, we must all have been drowned: as it was, four men were trodden under and smothered in the wicked scuffle – water up to our necks . . . Then, although the wretched fellow had four boats out, he had not the wit to provision them: a little biscuit and two or three beakers of water were all we had until we reached the Dutchmen at Coupang, a thousand miles away and more: not that he would ever have found Coupang, either, but for the master. The scoundrel. If it were not uncharitable, I should drink to his damnation for ever and a day.’




The End of Everything


The cop clamped the cuffs so tight it felt as though they would pinch his hands off like clay, made him sit  in the back of the squad car while everyone waited for them to come and haul away his convertible.

It took a while for the tow truck to arrive, long enough for him to regain a semblance of sobriety that came in the form of a pounding headache and ashen mouth, long enough for his hands to go numb as wooden blocks.

He pressed his face against the glass trying to remember how he had gotten here.

The last thing he recalled was being at the birthday party, hating every minute. He’d volunteered to take his younger son home early, knowing  as he said it that he would stop to have a quick one at the Hideaway, where they never minded if he had the kids with him.


Written as a contribution to the Daily Post’s  Transient prompt.

On Bainbridge Island


“Are you done crying?” he says.

“For now,” she says.

In the back, Suzy sleeps fitful in her car seat.  He watches the tiny face in the rearview, the red stain of the taffy covering her cheeks like a rash.

“I don’t think giving her sugar is such a good idea,” he says.

“I’m sure you don’t,” she says, smearing her index finger down the window, trailing the raindrops outside. “Even if it was your idea,” she adds, almost under her breath.

The line of waiting cars inches forward. “Jesus, this is taking forever,” he mutters. “We’ll never get home.”



Friday Fictioneers

إن شاء الله‎‎


Abu bin Dasha sat cross-legged in the center of the gorgeous carpet. The fabric walls of his tent were affixed in such a way as to catch the slightest waft of breeze, should one appear. The desert was capricious with breezes and everything else.

He opened a carved sandalwood box and took out a pinch of tobacco gifted him by the British sea captain. As he packed the bowl of the bronze hookah, he surveyed his vast tent with complacency. The new Turkish carpet, the silken cushions from China, a delicious mint tea from India sweetened with Jamaican sugar.

Allah is good, he thought. Then, wickedly, but he can always be better.

“Pardon me, excellency,” said Omar, bowing in the entrance. “There is a boy here to see you.”

“What does he want?”

“He says he is a diver. And that he found something you might be interested in. An enormous pearl.”


What Pegman Saw


Though a thoroughly modern city, the earliest recorded mention of Dubai is in 1095 in the Book of Geography by the Andalusian-Arab geographer Abu Abdullah al-Bakri.
The Venetian pearl merchant Gaspero Balbi visited the area in 1580 and mentioned Dubai  for its pearling industry.

A Few Questions


“May I get you another?”

I picked up my glass, shook the melting ice. “No, I’ll wait. She’ll be here any minute.”

“Very good, sir.” He strode back across the patio, watching his tables. The place was filling up.

I glanced at my watch. She was taking forever. I watched the moon for a while, that familiar vertigo making it seem to be moving sideways through the clouds.

“Excuse me, sir,” said a man who had appeared next to my table. He took out a badge. “I am Mr. Norris, the hotel detective. I need you to come with me.”

Friday Fictioneers


Estos Días Van Despacio


Hector wipes his hands on his shirt before turning his newspaper page so as not to stain it with sweat. He is used to the heat.

Not so his nephew Martín, softened by the air conditioning in his mother’s apartment.  “Doesn’t this place have any customers, Uncle?” he complains.

“Some,” says Hector, not looking up. “Not like the old days. When Rios Montt was in power, I’d take fifty, sixty photos a day. Everyone wanted to leave.”

The young man fans his slick face with a  movie magazine. “I wish it was like that now. This boredom is torture.”

“I always took payment in advance,” continues Hector. “Because in that time, you never knew if you’d see a person again. Every night there were arrests and disappearances all over the city.”

“You made good money, though.”

“Oh sure. And you know the only man busier than me?” He laughs. “The undertaker!”


What Pegman Saw

Efrain Ríos Montt led the Guatemalan military regime in from 1982 to 1983. President Ronald Reagan praised him as “a man of tremendous integrity and commitment.” Infamous for telling the people “If you are with us, we’ll feed you, if not, we’ll kill you,”  Montt, now 90, is currently on trial for genocide and state-sponsored terrorism.

Guatemala’s 36-year civil war ended with the signing of a peace treaty in 1996. Huge numbers of civilians, both indigenous Mayas and mestizo Ladinos, were slaughtered as a matter of course. More than 200,000 Guatemalans were killed or declared missing during the long conflict, making it one the most bloody wars in Latin American history. Though the war has been over more than two decades, the violence in this Guatemala continues, especially toward children.



All living things. Animals and plants, but especially plants. Her delight. The house smells of moss and acorns, of blossom and verdant decay. Her apron still hangs on the hook by the door, the soil-stained pocket  sagging with the weight of  spade and wrotter and trowel. She favored hand-made tools made by her husband, the blacksmith. He feels about steel and iron the way she did about growing things, knows the magic of fire and air, the muscles of his arms like hawsers, his thick fingers amazingly deft.

He allows nobody into her greenhouse. He is mourning yet, perhaps will forever.


Friday Fictioneers



Windi leaned against the bar, sipped her ginger ale with a straw so as not to smear her fantastic lipstick. Her eyes coasted over the empty black vinyl booths, the vacant luminous disco floor blinking its random pattern, the polished brass pole.  Under the music she could hear the the throb of jackhammers shattering the concrete outside.

“This place is a graveyard,” she told the barman.  He was languidly polishing a beer glass with a white towel. “When is all the construction supposed to end?”

“More like de-struction,” he said.  “Mayor is sending a message to Mr. Loung.”

“He forget to pay his fees or something?”

He shrugged. “How long have you been in Cebu City, Windi?”

“This is my second day.”

“You’re from where?”

“A tiny village. Near Catmon.”

He nodded. He did not need to ask why she had come here or if she had any future plans.


What Pegman Saw

In 2013, it was estimated that there were up to 500,000 prostitutes in the Philippines, from a population of roughly 97.5 million.  Another study show the number  could be as high as 800,000. 

Die Todnacht


Graz the Ragman trundled his barrow through a landscape he did not recognize, though he had  lived all his life in Dresden. Where the Frauenkirche had stood was now a tumble of scorched stones, smoke and dust hanging in the air like a shroud. The baker where his mother had sent him for the Sunday loaf of rye had vanished altogether,  replaced by a smoldering crater.

In the haze ahead he a saw little dog trotting between piles of rubble. It was carrying something in its mouth.  Graz could see it now.  A child’s arm.

He could not unsee it.


Friday Fictioneers

Beginning on the night of February 13, 1945, more than 1,200 heavy bombers dropped nearly 4,000 tons of high-explosive and incendiary bombs on Dresden in four successive raids. An estimated 25,000 people were killed in the bombings and the firestorm that raged afterward. More than 75,000 dwellings were destroyed, along with unique monuments of Baroque architecture in the historic city center. The scale of the death and destruction, coming so late in the war, along with significant questions about the legitimacy of the targets destroyed have led to years of debate about whether the attack was justified, or whether it should be labeled a war crime.