3-minute story

Posted August 26, 2009 by Ed Scripsi
Categories: books, Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

Entry for NPR’s three-minute story contest, never submitted.  The rules: under 600 words and beginning with the sentence

“The nurse left work at five o’clock.  The sun had not yet come up, and as she waited for the bus, a man rolled his I/V out of the hospital entrance, fumbled under his gown and, realizing he didn’t have any pockets, asked her if she had a light.  Snow began to fall.  You spend your time trying to save peoples’ lives, she thought, and they’re intent on killing themselves, but then mused that she had her own fondness for the biscuits and sausage gravy in the hospital cafeteria, which, eaten over the course of several years, had their own cumulative deadliness.  She ate this comfort food to sustain her psyche while depositing cholesterol along the secret corridors of her arteries.  Despite the sausage gravy, she was very slim, and men often found her attractive, especially men desperate to evade the mortality which the hospital, a grim brick tower with a brightly lit apex like the snowy peak of a distant mountain, brought to mind.  The bus was late.  A car careened into the entrance drive, drunkenly swerved to avoid nothing, and collided with one of the concrete pylons defending the sidewalk.  The driver got the door open and fell out, his sport coat snagging on a handle so that he spun on his way down and went face first into the sidewalk.

“Holy Bejesus,” rasped the I/V toting smoker as he watched the nurse, already at the man’s side, open his collar to ease bloodflow to his head.

“Tell the desk we need emergency personnel out here, stat,” she shouted to the smoker.  Almost upsetting his IV, he called this loudly to the staffer at the desk.

“Can you hear me?” she said to the man, who seemed to be somewhere between consciousness and unconsciousness.

“Statim,” croaked the man.   Her fingers found his pulse, her mental rolodex spun through scenarios: head-injury, heart attack, hemorrhage . . . his pulse thrummed, his breathing spasmed, his eyes opened suddenly, wide and wet and blue, looked into hers.  Maintain communication.

“Huh?” she said.

“Stat. f- from Latin.  Statim.  Immediately.  Sss.  Ssss.  Sooo cold,” said the man.  She used her sleeve to wipe blood from his nose, which wasn’t really according to procedure, blood diseases being what they are these days, but she wanted to see his face without the blood, wanted the man not to have blood there, wanted to be speaking in a normal situation, perhaps over biscuits and sausage gravy in the hospital cafeteria with this man who had, despite its contortion, a kind face.

Help arrived.  The emergency room people took over, whisking him into the ER.  She followed along.

“Don’t go,” she whispered.

“Go where?”  The nurse replied:

“Don’t leave.  Don’t die.”

“’S ’ll righ-.  Jus’ if you.  Dine with me.”

“Are you asking me out?”  He was going into surgery and she couldn’t follow him there, only watch as his pale, supine frame slid behind the veil of uniforms and equipment.

After she left work at 5 o’clock, the nurse stopped by the room where the Latin teacher convalesced.

He confessed that it was awkward, going on a date while still wearing a hospital smock, especially with someone who already knew that he wore boxers with Latin expressions on them.  “Call me old fashioned,” he said.  “Where are you taking me, by the way?”

“It’s just around the corner.  The food isn’t great, and I doubt there’s much you’re allowed to eat, but it’s quiet and a good place to chat.”

You and the Law: A Guide to getting Robbed

Posted July 27, 2009 by Ed Scripsi
Categories: Uncategorized

Submitted to the biguglyreview.com as a nonfiction entry for their forthcoming “So I’ve been Robbed” *(or something to that effect) issue, (thanks, BUR for the nice rejection note) at the behest of a friend who knows just how many times we’ve been robbed.

You’re going to need a stiff drink.

So after the detective leaves, consider taking the half-drunk bottle of Tequila out of the trash, which is where you put it at his suggestion after he dusted it for fingerprints, “Because you never know what sort of diseases these scumbags are carrying.”  Between you and me, Tequila kills most things, even the fleeting thought that drinking out of the bottle that the thief swigged from is kind of like kissing him.  Better use a glass, just to be on the safe side.

No matter how hot it is, even if it’s so hot the walls are sweating, do not under any circumstance turn on a fan while the detective dusts for fingerprints.

Turning on a fan is counter-productive and detracts from the hard-boiled atmosphere of being visited by an actual detective on a ninety-nine degree day.  Our detective, Detective K, wore blue plastic gloves as he applied an adhesive film to the window sill where a partial finger print emerged in the powder—an entire hand print stood out in the dust of the sill of the open window where he or she had climbed in.   But any print on the outside of the building would almost certainly be useless, Detective K pointed out, because even if they got an I.D., a lawyer would argue that the defendant had simply leaned up against our house to urinate while passing through the alley.  “And that’s not a crime, right?”  I thought about all those times I’d slunk into alleys to pee, worried about getting caught and arrested, which I’m pretty certain is a crime. Read the rest of this post »

Bear Incident Report

Posted August 28, 2008 by Ed Scripsi
Categories: Uncategorized

Not  that you asked, but what could be worse than being subjected to vacation photos?  Why vacation photos embedded in a narrative of dubious informative value, with quotes from John Muir, of course.  Yosemite National Park.  After we parked our rental under a sheer, red cliff, in a field which would have been beautiful if it hadn’t been crammed with cars, lugged our backpacks to the backpackers’ camp and pitched our tent, like many of the other not-too-wildernessy campers, we went to get a beer and a bite to eat.  We returned to camp at dusk and had just gotten a fire started when this French guy came running up and asked if he could borrow our flashlight.  We gave it to him and he shone it on the shimmering fur of a black bear not more than 25ft away.  “Ze Bear, he eez not aferd ov uz”, said the French guy.  The bear snuffled around under the pines and trundled off in the dark toward French’s tent, and French and his girlfriend, who was speaking rapidly and fervently in her native tongue, disappeared after it with our flashlight.  We wondered if we’d ever get our flashlight back.  John Muir, in his diary of August 13, 1869 refers to the bears that plagued Yosemite shepherds’ sheep as “shaggy freebooters”, as in: “We also discovered another dead sheep half-eaten, showing there had been two of the shaggy freebooters at this early breakfast.”  Or, as he writes on the 14th:

“Up to the time I went to bed last night all was quiet, though we expected the shaggy freebooters every minute. They did not come till near midnight, when a pair walked boldly to the corral between two of the great fires, climbed in, killed two sheep and smothered ten, while the frightened watcher in the tree did not fire a single shot, saying that he was afraid he might kill some of the sheep, for the bears got into the corral before he got a good clear view of them. I told the shepherds they should at once move the flock to another camp. ‘Oh, no use, no use,’ they lamented. ‘Where we go the bears go too. See my poor dead sheeps, soon all dead. No use try another camp. We go down to the plains.’ And as I afterwards learned, they were driven out of the mountains a month before the usual time.” Read the rest of this post »

“A story never ends. The narrator is usually provided with a nice, artistic spot for his voice to stop, but that’s about all.”

Posted June 13, 2008 by Ed Scripsi
Categories: books, literature, reading, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , ,


Bessie Smith

It’s been years since I read the story below in its vintage format, a nicotine-yellowed Cosmopolitan magazine from 1948, from the Special Collections Department in the Thomas Cooper Library at the University of South Carolina, which I frequently visited as an ILL tech. One of its greatest patrons and denizens, my favorite Interlibrary Loan customer, recently passed away. The obits don’t adequately describe just the way Matthew J. Bruccoli, grouchy in his seersuckers and focused on some apocryphal mission would skid his rag top Mercedes into the parking lot and harumph upstairs to wreak havoc in Special Collections… His special collections–he’d sold them most of it, which includes many Salinger, Fitzgerald and Heller manuscripts, the typewriter on which Catch 22 was written, and many, many F. Scott Fitzgerald whiskey flasks, to the university for something like 2 million dollars, but continued to visit it almost daily. Bruccoli and those special collections were solidly connected to that Golden Age of the American Short Story, the first half of the last century.

Anyway, I’ve been struggling a lot with some sad sack attempts at short stories recently, and my struggles took me back to Blue Melody, from which the title of this post hales. I am convinced if this one doesn’t make you shed a tear or two, you’re deader than dead inside.

J. D. Salinger
Blue Melody
Cosmopolitan, September 1948, pages 50-51, 112-119

A saga of Lida Louise who sang the blues as they have never been sung before or since

In mid-winter of 1944 I was given a lift in the back of an overcrowded GI truck, going from Luxembourg City to the front at Halzhoffen, Germany—a distance of four flat tires, three (reported) cases of frozen feet, and at least one case of incipient pneumonia.

The forty-odd men jammed in the truck were nearly all infantry replacements. Many of them had just got out of hospitals in England, where they had been treated for wounds received in action somewhat earlier in the war. Ostensibly rehabilitated, they were on their way to join rifle companies of a certain infantry division which, I happened to know, was commanded by a brigadier general who seldom stepped into his command car without wearing a Luger and a photographer, one on each side; a fighting man with a special gift for writing crisp, quotable little go-to-hell notes to the enemy, invariably when outnumbered or surrounded by the latter. I rode for hours and hours without looking anybody in the truck very straight in the eye.

During daylight hours the men made an all-out effort to suppress or divert their eagerness to get another crack at the enemy. Charade groups were formed at either end of the truck. Favorite statesmen were elaborately discussed. Songs were started up—spirited war songs, chiefly, composed by patriotic Broadway song writers who, through some melancholy, perhaps permanently embittering turn of the wheel of fortune, had been disqualified from taking their places at the front. In short, the truck fairly rocked with persiflage and melody, until night abruptly fell and the black-out curtains were attached. Then all the men seemed to go to sleep or freeze to death, except the original narrator of the following story and myself. He had the cigarettes, and I had the ears.

This is all I know about the man who told me the story:

His first name was Rudford. He had a very slight Southern accent and a chronic, foxhole cough. The bars and red cross of a captain in the medics were painted, as fashion had it, on his helmet.

And that’s all I know about him except for what comes naturally out of his story. So please don’t anybody write in for additional information—I don’t even know if the man is alive today. This request applies particularly to readers who may sooner or later think that this story is a slam against one section of this country.

It isn’t a slam against anybody or anything. It’s just a simple little story of Mom’s apple pie, ice-cold beer, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the Lux Theater of the Air—the things we fought for, in short. You can’t miss it, really.

Rudford came from a place called Agersburg, Tennessee. He said it was about an hour’s drive from Memphis. It sounded to me like a pretty little town. For one thing, it had a street called Miss Packer’s Street. Not just Packer Street or Packer’s Street, but Miss Packer’s Street. Miss Packer had been an Agersburg schoolteacher who, during the Civil War, had taken a few pot shots at some passing Union troops, from the window of the principal’s office. None of this flag-waving, Barbara Fritchie stuff for Miss Packer. She had just taken aim and let go, knocking off five of the boys in blue before anybody could get to her with an axe. She was then nineteen.

Rudford’s father originally had been a Bostonian, a salesman for a Boston typewriter company. On a business trip to Agersburg, just before the first World War, he had met—and within two weeks married—a well-heeled local girl. He never returned either to the home office or to Boston, apparently X-ing both out of his life without a jot of regret. He was quite a number altogether. Less than an hour after his wife died giving birth to Rudford, he got on a trolley going to the outskirts of Agersburg and bought out a rocky, but reputable, publishing house. Six months later he published a book he had written himself, entitled, “Civics for Americans.” It was followed, over a period of a few years, by a highly successful series of highly unreadable textbooks known—only too widely, even today—as the Intelligence Series for Progressive High School Students of America. I certainly know for a fact that his “Science for Americans” paid the public high schools of Philadelphia a visit around 1932. The book was rich with baffling little diagrams of simple little fulcrums. Read the rest of this post »

Parking Meter Roulette

Posted June 4, 2008 by Ed Scripsi
Categories: Uncategorized

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https://i0.wp.com/p.streetsblog.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/07_30/parking_meters.jpgI should preface by mentioning The City of Cincinnati’s long-standing vendetta against me. I’ve been fined for jay walking, for getting hit on my bike by an SUV, and have also had the occasional displeasure of finding little orange slips of my windshield for “abandoning” a vehicle and for the occasional parking violation. Yet, when I am almost run down in plain sight of a cop, they do nothing. So today, it is with great relish that I say to the City of Cincinnati: “Up Yours, City of Cincinnati.” For today I played parking meter roulette and won.

It was pouring this morning when I was getting ready to bike to work (way too late to bus it). Also, the rain made my dog less than enthusiastic about taking his morning constitutional, thereby presenting the need for a mid-day walk, and while I sometimes ride home for lunch, Ravine Street hill makes me sweat like a fat man in a donut shop. So I drove. I parked in a 30 minute spot. I moved to a 60 minute spot, laying on the horn behind a couple of bankers having some sort of discussion about economics in their double parked SUV. I set my outlook calendar to remind me to feed the meter. I fed the wretched thing. I hustled. I waited one minute for my meter to expire so that I could get my free ten minutes. I returned to my vehicle to drive home on lunch to find the meter reading a satisfying zero. I drove home for lunch, took out Mose, put on my helmet, got on my bike and the sky opened up with a heavy deluge for my entire ride in (I’m still wet. Well probably not now, but as I was writing this).

I can see how easily this euphoria could become an addiction. In the tradition of Calvin Trillin’s Tepper, or that Seinfeld episode “The Dealership” in which Kramer explores the lower limitations of a fuel gauge, or George Costanza’s lascivious pursuit of perfect spots (which begs the questions, could there be a little Calvin in George? Or George in Calvin? And does city living make you petty?) Whatever the case, Parking Meter Roulette is a game of great rewards, but not for the faint of heart. From the New York Times February 12, 2002:

“Parking gives the parker a sense of power and territorial acquisitiveness, although temporary. Abjuring metaphorical implications, the fictional Tepper says, ”It’s just something I do.” After he finds a space, he generally remains in his car reading a tabloid newspaper until his time (on the meter, if there is a meter) expires. He always gets his money’s worth, which infuriates other drivers. Tepper couldn’t care less. He is doing nothing illegal. When asked if he is leaving, he wags his index finger, an all-purpose ”rule me out” gesture the author picked up in Europe.”

Bike Month, ya’ll

Posted May 10, 2008 by Ed Scripsi
Categories: Uncategorized

We’re really stepping up our biking at the Merc.


Posted April 19, 2008 by Ed Scripsi
Categories: beer

This is our new immersion wort (pronounced “wert”) chiller in action, transferring heat from a batch of “robust porter” (Midwest Brewing’s kit). Stuff took off like a racehorse. Four o’clock in the morning, I was awoken by a loud clatter to discover wort geysering forth . . . the top of the airlock blown out. I quickly fashioned (and sterilized) a blow-off tube with a wider aperture, capped it, and went back to bed. Have yet to check the specific gravity, but wouldn’t be surprised if it’s at target. Despite the trouble, the rewards of homebrewing are worth it.