A Romanian sentence

Electronic dog that barks when someone walks by –
in a white Sprinter van with Bucureşti license plates
parked along the shore of Lago Maggiore.

– James Steerforth (© 2021)

Based on true events. Has the form of an American sentence but Romanian content, hence called a Romanian sentence.

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Full circle

“Let’s go to the beach,” Arturo said.
“And do what?” came Luis’ quick retort.
Arturo gave him a look from down under.
“What we always do.”
“Why should we do what we always do?”
“Any better idea?”
“It’s just that nothing ever happens here. Not here, not on the beach. Same old water, same old waves, same old fishermen with their nets.”
“And same old us.”
“Right. Same old us.”
Arturo turned to the other two, Joaquim and Pedro, who sat on the low wall phlegmatically, squinting into the sun.
“What do you two think?”
“About?”
“What we should do?”
“Let’s go to the beach. We can get into the water,” Joaquim said.
“Yeah, we could do that,” Pedro echoed. “Or play.”
“Like what?” Luis the skeptic said.
“Now that we’ve wasted time and achieved nothing, we’ve truly come full circle,” said Arturo. “As usual. I’m going home. Drink something.”

– James Steerforth (© 2021)

(150 words)

Photo credits: Artur Pastor, Póvoa de Varzim, Portugal, 1950s/60s

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The unknown engineer

Seagull and crane

On the imaginary tracks of his life

And no – this working life is not enough.

Sets out to the factory in the morning. Work. Not very exciting. But one does what one must do.

Wednesday lunch at a restaurant for a change. Took a picture of the menu. The usual black-and-white style, a bit blurry, a bit unfocused, a bit retro. Can’t make out what’s on that menu except it’s pictures of dishes.

Ah well!

The streets of Toyama. Cars. Houses. Legs. People, not recognizable. Backyards. Machinery. Birds in flight. Sky with clouds. All black and white. Grey. Tristesse. It’s a way of life.

Tristesse! How nourishing. You can survive on that in the societal drought.

“Bonjour, tristesse!”
“Bonjour, monsieur!”

Nice to meet you, especially for a prolonged weekend of walking around with a camera.

– James Steerforth (© 2021)

 

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After bathing at Baxter’s

Always a great place to relax, recharge and get some heat during the cold season, and just half a block from Jack’s, where Grace treated us to some of her finest albeit eclectic California cooking. Lots of Lone Stars, tequila shots. But boy have we become old! Midnight’s the limit…

– James Steerforth (© 2020)

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From the memoirs of an addict II

Fair-Cats-Prowl

In the late eighties I was addicted to crime novels, basically of any style – police procedure, noir, hard-boilt, single shamus, animal detectives, stuffy British, you name it. Even though I usually had plenty of work as a language traitor, I’d find any excuse to put it down. For example, “Oh, it’s eleven, time for a cup of coffee” … and of course I needed to read while I was sipping the coffee for an hour or so. My office was upstairs. Whenever my wife came up, I’d quickly drop the book and start hammering away on the keyboard. I’d inevitably show up for lunch with the maximum excusable delay, chomp it down and go back to work ASAP. My wife, of course, saw right through my shenanigans. “No need to put on that pretend work routine, my dear,” she said one day. “What’s with all that mystery trash you’re devouring anyway?” “Well,” I said with some hesitation, “I’m planning to write a book about the state of the art of crime fiction. So it’s all studying.” “Ha! I’ll be Agatha Christie if that book ever sees the light of day,” was all she said. Needless to say, I never wrote a single line of such a book. And my wife remained her usual lovable self that put up gracefully with some of my shortcomings.

– Tommy H. (© 2020)

(Tommy H.’s book From the memoirs of an addict, “due out some time this decade” – if we can believe the author –, is a romp through the various addictions he has gone through from the 1980s to now.)

First excerpt

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A nice ending for a novel

And so they stood there hand in hand watching the waters of the river flow by until they got bored and left.

– James Steerforth

Author’s note
Novelists usually attempt to wrap up the novel with an ending that packs some sort of punch – at the crudest level, this might be a couple that finally manages to kiss or drives away after successfully having committed murder – or leaves the reader hanging with some future possibility. But then, of course, there is also the typical novel ending that does neither. Like the one above, for which there isn’t even a novel.

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Why the Catholic church?

“Why on earth did you drop off a dried-up Christmas tree with some ornaments still in place on the front steps of a Catholic church in April of 1978?”
“Well, in an odd way we thought they’d be blessed.”
“Blessed?”
“Yes. Because, after all, it’s sort of a Christian symbol.”
“More pagan for all we know.”
“And then we thought it would provide a welcome distraction from worrying about sins and confession and not being allowed to use birth control.”

– James Steerforth (© 2019)

(80 words)

Author’s note
Mostly based on events that actually occurred.

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Striptease

I swear to God I didn’t want to go. My mother told me that those things are sinful and play on the desires of the flesh. I really didn’t want to go. But the guys in my department said don’t be a stick in the mud, get out of your sorry pitiful self, do something different, dare to live. Then when we got there there was a woman in full process of denuding herself, hardly anything was left, and customers kept inserting bills in her panties. We all sat down, and the only girl who had come along, Allie, came to sit next to me. Jack ordered a round of drinks, shots of tequila, and Joe ordered a second one. By then the first woman had walked off with swaying hips and another one came out with her hips swaying and shouting something at the crowd, I don’t know what. I think it may have been something obscene. Terry ordered the third round. They’d taught me how to drink it with the lime and salt, so I knew the motions by now. The woman had taken off her black bra and thrown it at somebody. She had silvery metal triangles dangling from the tips of her breasts. Do you like it? Allie asked, leaning towards me. Well, I don’t know, I started, but before I could continue she had leaned over all the way, touched my lips with her open mouth and inserted her tongue and wound it around mine.

– James Steerforth (© 2019)

(250 words)

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You can be damn sure

it’s going to be a slow movie if the hero takes about ten minutes to enter the place, drag his feet across the floor turtle-like and sit down on the sofa sloth-like, eventually putting his mustachioed head in his hands. And the villain comes in through the other door just as slowly, holding a long knife with blood on the tip, ultimately settling on the two-seater opposite the hero at snail speed. They look so much alike one might think it’s before and after. More I won’t give away for now. You’ll need some suspense to sit through this one.

– James Steerforth (2019)

(100 words)

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Trans Europe Express

I boarded the train in X. Smoking was much more common in those days. In France, in particular, some people would smoke even in nonsmoking compartments. Even though I had a seat reservation, I changed compartments after two men, who both looked more or less like Jacques Brel, lit up their Gauloises and merely laughed when someone pointed out this was a nonsmoking compartment. In the other compartment, I came to sit next to a young Spaniard who started a conversation. I could tell he liked me. We shared a sandwich and exchanged addresses. I got off the train in Y. Those were the milestones of this eight-hour train ride. Z., a lesser known nouvelle vague director, turned it into a ninety-minute movie which, someone told me, won an award at a festival. I was, at the time, the girlfriend of the director’s camera man, who suggested to the script writer who wrote all the scripts for Z.’s films to write a script based on what I’d told him about the train ride. The writer added a few things to make the movie more palatable. The sex scene with the Moroccan in the toilet did not happen. The only Moroccan on the train I remember was asleep standing up in the aisle outside the compartment. He’d been riding trains for twenty-seven hours, someone said, all the way from the south of Spain. There was an Algerian across from the young Spaniard and me, who kept butting in on our conversation and was giving me smoldering looks under hooded eyelids.

– Jacqueline Maisdemois (© 2019)

Note
This text was submitted by the author, who is unknown to me, in English in the form of a comment to a previous blog entry. – James Steerforth

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Daisy said

Where would I find glass slippers nowadays? – I’d make such a wonderful cinderella!

– James Steerforth (© 2018)

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Oh memory

Trieste, somewhere near Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia, a youngish woman exiting a gelateria with a cone stacked high. Made me think of a sack due to the shapeless brown dress, which seemed to cover a heavy structure. And immediately I thought of someone in a movie recently seen who wore sack-like clothes until the very end, when she revealed herself as quite shapely in something much more revealing. All premeditated audience goading, of course. But not so likely to happen here.

– James Steerforth (© 2018)

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For hire

For hire - photo by Johannes BeilharzYou see, my immense success is all due to that watch – it all started with that watch, which projects just the right image of wealth and manliness. And now I’m the owner of a nice red car, a monkey and two slaves … err … employees. And have been touring the world teaching and enabling personal success. Call me at 1-800-C-O-A-C-H.

 

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The WTF poem

“WTF – I wonder how that is pronounced…”
“Not that easy to say, it being Proto-Srpko-Pannonian.
Not at all what you would guess from the spelling.
Probably sounded like hwiss, the final f generally
being mute for all we know.”
“And, pray tell me, what does it mean?”
“Something like What the heck.”

– James Steerforth (© 2018)

One of the pieces from the forthcoming Erudite Matters.

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Happy ending

That’s what YOU call a happy ending: you plundered our joint bank account, maxed out our credit cards and ran off with the Austrian masseur who looks like Arnold reborn and is twenty-eight years younger than you. While I’m home with the debts and three hungry children. Thank you, Lucille!

– James Steerforth (© 2017)

Flash fiction in 50 words.

Loosely based on a song by Kenny Rogers:

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A confession. Sort of.

I know it’s not really an excuse, as if I gave a damn anyhow, but one night when my dad had grounded me and both my parents the jerks were out I got fucking drunk while listening to music and snuck down to the car park around 3 or 4 in the morning with the baseball bat and smashed that old German guy’s car window on the driver’s side, fucking mad at him because he’d complained to my dad about me playing music too loud in the middle of the night. Made me fucking mad. These old fuddy-duddies with their boring lives and need to sleep. I’m a free spirit and I need my rock, and I mean as loud as I like, whenever I feel like it. Nobody knows who I am on the Internet, that’s why I’m publishing this.

– James Steerforth (© 2017)

Notes
By no means recommended for copy-catting!
It’s been said about me that I can creep into anyone and speak as if I were them. This is an exercise in precisely that.
What inspired this story – besides some similar real events to those related in it – was the 2016 Italian film Fiore that portrays a girl about the same age as the first person narrator above (i.e. about sixteen, seventeen) who earns some spending money holding up people in dark passages by putting a knife to their throat and demanding their cell phone, including the password. She ends up getting caught and going to prison. The interesting thing about the character is that there is no indication whatsoever that she regrets these robberies or feels that there’s anything wrong with them. It is likely that she’ll continue where she left off once she gets out of jail.

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I could definitely like that cutie

“Hey!”
A short-haired blonde with freckles and a turned-up nose had come to a stop to let her Labrador or whatever that big black thing was take a dump at my entrance.
“Yes?”
“Better clean that up!”
A mischievous nod of obedience.
Real or fake?
I’d see in a minute. But now I had to go inside to answer that insistent phone.

– James Steerforth (© 2017)

Woven around mischievous, nod and obedience from 3WW, week 521.

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The target

“Target is crossing street. Following.”
“Love that swaying little ass of hers.”
“Shut up, Jeremy.”
“Wonder what she’s done that we’re going after her.”
“Target keeps looking back, seems nervous.”
“Reminds me of Diana. Lady Di.”
“Don’t need your puerile phantasies, Jeremy.”
“Just saying. She’s definitely cute.”
“Target turned left into 10th Street. Staying behind.”
“Are the Russians after her?”
“What Russians? You been watching too many stupid movies.”
“The Russian mafia. Maybe her boyfriend’s involved.”
“Target is walking faster, keeps looking around. Not at us, I don’t think.”
“Or the IRS. But she doesn’t look like big fish.”
“Black Audi, Jersey license plates. Target looking to cross street.”
“Feel completely superfluous, John. Just following you, taking orders. Complete waste.”
“Shut the fuck up, Jeremy. We’re on a job.”
“I’ll bet you anything she’s on to us.”
“Target crossing.”
“Wanna bet?”
“Audi speeds up. Target hit!”
“What the fuck!”
“Audi speeds off. Target motionless on ground.”

– James Steerforth (© 2016)

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From the memoirs of an addict

… so I found myself taking trains, hopping on buses, taking my car through streets where I knew I’d get stuck in jams to have that extra time I needed for smartphone activity that I could not justify otherwise.

– Tommy H. (© 2016)

(Tommy H.’s book From the memoirs of an addict, due out some time in 2017, is a romp through the various addictions the author has gone through from the 1980s to now.)

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The claims to fame contest

“So what’s your biggest claim to fame? I mean, meeting a famous person, something like that.”
This seemed an odd question considering we’d just met, having cocktails on adjacent stools at a Bahamas beach bar, but I decided to play along.
“My biggest claim to fame may be to have picked up John Ashbery at the Denver airport in my 1964 Cadillac Sedan de Ville.”
“I agree that the Cadillac is famous, but who’s John Ashbery?”
“Never heard of him?”
I could tell she never had.
“And your biggest claim to fame?”
“I was one of the people singing whimaway on –”
“The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”
“Wow! How’d you guess?”
“It’s the only whimaway that’s famous as far as I know.”
“Right.”
“And you were one of the girls singing that?”
“I was!”
She sucked on her straw and gave me a bright sunshiny smile.
I could tell this impromptu communication was going places. Heck, it might even develop into a deep relationship, and all because of fame.

– James Steerforth (© 2016)

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