Gradients of Artichokes (Surreal Fiction)

[Rough dialogue where the detective finds the ‘Secret Manuscript’]

“It this really it?”

“You tell me.  It survived the fire, but it’s in bad shape.”

“I’ll need to take it to the lab.”

The detective opened the wooden box and lifted a corner of the paper.

“It’s soaked.”

“It can be dried out. We’re lucky to still have it.  Many of our documents were destroyed.”

“There’s much more here than I thought.  I really need to take this with me.”

“Alright, let me get you the forms…”


“We keep records of everything taken from our collection.”

She returned with a bent and broken binder, pulled out a group of damp pages and set them in front of the detective.

“What is all this?”

Three pages stuck together.

“Please fill this out.” She paused.  “A donation to the library is customary.”

“Lives hang in the balance, ma’am.  I can’t be delayed here.  Give the forms to my secretary.”


The detective leaves with the box.

[Note:  the detective has no secretary]

The manuscript is ‘A Gift Horse Goes to the Dentist’, which follows.

‘A Gift Horse Goes To The Dentist’

A fictional biography

based upon events that never happened

 by Jehosaphat Q. Blatt

translated from the original

which was spoken ‘in tongues’

by Chester Knight Lester III.


Adventures in Baby-Carriage-Tipping

“Never again,” he remarked and sat silent while Lady Gaga look-alikes plummeted Wall Street in hopes of a better yesterday.  The marching band performed man-made, orchestrated maneuvers in the dark until the symphony lost count of the crows and the masochists restored Shelby’s sagging faith in polygamists.

“Iced crustacea make strange chairwomen,” she said, having only a vague notion of what she was saying since she was only repeating something she heard once on a radio show late at night after meeting with Mary Margaret.  Then again, it may have been static.

Meanwhile, Count Drachma took cottage flakes to needy prodders, whilst Julie was having her lozenges removed by the tinsel doctor.  Unfortunately, the plane was Kojacked before a crowd of angry early settlers landed.  Indeed, after economies trickled down Jack’s leg, the jousting came in droves.

“How did semen get on the corpse, anyway?” It was the first time she had mentioned this.  Jack started getting nervous.

This did not, however, prevent pigs from hurtling down the runway like models out of a bad dream not unlike one might imagine Hell to be like, should one wish to believe in such things.  Lyle, however, relied on wolverines to spay him all nice and ladylike.  He was quite surprised, then, when he noticed at the corner of his eye that Ninjas were pouring out of every orifice and reamed pedestrians until intervening police cast bull-genitals at the bucolic mob.  Katrina is really open for business, particularly to her bedfellows.

“You couldn’t be more wrong!” she shouted.  Terry ducked just long enough for the utensils to clear his/her head.

Russian President Jerkov swore up and down that his main motive was only to squash those who longed for the day when Imperialists brought automobiles before the Senate and then masturbated.  We took him away anyway while Captain Kirkov spooled at the mouth at the mere mention of silkworms.

Suddenly, a knock on the door caused Lord Willingham to jump, so much so that he bumped his head on the overhanging petrified fruit.  The lawyers came forth from the den and made the following recollections, announcements, and simple gibberish, as per usual. Meanwhile, Lady Everly ordered one of the maids to fetch some ice.  Here are the aforementioned announcements and such things:

1st Lawyer:       “Imbedded copyrights hemmed and hawed over what not to do tonight.”

2nd Lawyer:    “Seven-Elevens will remain open until closed.”

3rd Lawyer:      “Elks greeted the dusk with unprecedented ennui, emus winced.”

4th Lawyer:      “Is there a doctor in the house?”

No longer able to read, Heather over-belated chunk-sucked the value-added renegade truncated appeasement ulcers (yet over) lordships con-questioned numerous a fortitude breach.  She rated, then, on the grey scale.  Trucks begged for an away station.  Shit missed the urinal in sheer curtains.  Question-mark-shaped penises make for strange, kinky bedfellows and rather odd-looking closed-circuit television cameras.  Many found this offensive and, for this specific eventuality, the lawyers jumped into a large vat of putrified rat dung and chanted “WE NEED YOUR VERDICT, FCC!”

Teamsters and Teamsterettes, meanwhile, struck lightning, not realizing that too many showers can wash away the pores.  No one noticed, however, when Jefferson’s promiscuous cooking earned him jail time and left his wife prostrate.  Gargoyles, during this same era, prompted new fashions in a denim world.

“Blow hard and you’ll scatter the pay dirt.  Step to!” He said this almost constantly, which made Robert more alert to the silence when it finally happened.  Mimicking Elvis, Terry Lynn Sanders popped her pelvis and shot her television due to strained nerves.  Paul swam in Julie’s Liverpool, whilst beetles grazed on juicy macabre-like stenches from exotic places, such as Guilana, Jizzerbom, and Quincy (Adams rather than Jones or anything to do with Mr. Krugman).

“The poet knew all along,” she insisted.

“Mermaids make good international spies,” he muttered to himself in response.  She certainly didn’t hear it being too busy watching a dark LCD screen on which was projected a series of words, which started with what seemed to be a title: “The Tale of the Seven Mystics*.”

Zoe, meanwhile, removed layer upon layer of phlegm from Zeke’s room only to find a pesky hardened floor beneath instead of the gold bricks promised by the loot fairy.  Death always did make her giggle and blush like a schoolgirl.  He saw this clearly.  It was either Jeremy irons or Woody coats.  Coincidentally, Geraldine collects team penchants.  You may wish to ask her about it.  She was telling Victor just the other day about how all of those blood-sucking dentists stormed the Bastille, or so they thought.  Queers, on the other hand, spat all over the sidewalk while erstwhile faggots continued to jut out from the wall.  Not a pretty sight, but there you have it.

“A bloodbath can cure the common cold,” Sir Walter Valet kept chanting, up and down the library halls.  Many put up Christmas trees in protest to decrying fowl.  For example, John’s scrotum leaked acid on the freeway, causing a seven-pound twenty-ounce bundle of joyful backup on Laura’s Nubian bypass.  After several group-therapy sessions, the squid were much calmer.  The clams, on the other hand, are still sick, sick, sick.

Chewing Pectoral Sticks Can Greatly Reduce The Increased Risk Of Heart Rate.  Or so the headline read.  From underneath the bunker, Jimmy mounted his horse gallantly upon the Arch of Triumph, underneath which undulating breasts, Big-Ben-like, swung from its pendulous, crum-sucking kickstand.

“I can see you through the Keydet hole,” she said seductively.  All the while he yelled, “Jocund one, jocund one, faites-moi rire, and at the same time, screamed ‘Papa!  Papa!’.”  He instructed her to do this while maintaining a healthy erection the entire duration.  And the beat stopped for a bit whilst the nation mourned its ability to make-over an over-sung Indian heroine/crooner called ‘The Black Bitch’.  Amazing how pop music can lead you to [redacted].

“Carry on until egg whites rule the sea, and we’ll settle for just the waterways for now.  But just you wait, heroine addicts.  Joan of Arc will resubmerge, and her vessel will purport one and all to Thunderdrone, where we will all feed the chickens freely and with grueling remorse.”  When she had finished she recorded her last hit which featured the backwards message (only audible when played underwater at 1/5th speed): ‘Don’tya just wanna [expletive deleted] me now?’  Though the villagers voted against wall hangings, they thronged to see Mother Theresa’s lynching.

“Effigy sucks!”  They chanted.  It had been decided, through silent ballot, just the fortnight hence against pussies in the precinct.  Analysts now believe they did this fearing it would jeopardize emergency-response time.  Effeminists, on the other hand, drafted referendums outlawing football which is why jocular straps help suppress the giggling, witty vagina.  Moreover, semicolons partially digest food; the rest is up to masticatory machinations.  Grammarians beg to differ.

The artist picked up his brush with Death and panted, “Nevermore!  I’ve had enough of this goddamn canvas.” What emerged was a large black circle filled in with sauerkraut, but not before Death announced… “[unintelligible]”.

CHAPTER II, titled (for now) A Tree Gets Really Pissed Off is forthcoming, in which it is revealed that the oil-company ecologists have been right all along.  This is followed by numerous chapters containing Infantile Tips for Adventurous Carriage-Making.

*The Tale of the Seven Mystics:

One day, far away where the mystics all gather, there was a great meeting of the Seven Greatest Mystics of All.  At the appointed meeting place, the seven magicians of old, wise men and women who had the eons to contemplate the mysteries of life, the universe, and all things that are hidden from the masses, were at last in one physical spot on Earth.  They had traveled far and were waiting for coffee.

All had brought the magical scrolls and parchments of their trade with the intent of sharing their collected wisdom.  Some of these papers were stapled.  Thus, the magician who brought the staple remover was most revered for copies would need to be made for all.

Yet, as they all gathered near the great copying machine which was to make copies for all of the many parchments and magical scrolls amassed by these great wizards seven, the magician with the staple remover, having pulled it from his cloak, accidentally dropped it to the floor.

And all the magicians were amazed.  And they stared at this, a wonder.  And they saw that it was a sign.  One by one they looked to each other for interpretation and one by one they sounded off as to the nature of this mysterious event.

“It means that the toothy ones, the destructors, will fall at our feet,” said the first.

“It means that the tools that are used for extraction will be ruined,” said the second.

“It means that clumsiness is a virtue because those with teeth have been dropped to the ground,” said the third.

“It means that we must beware of the biting animals lest they rend our shins with their sharp teeth,” said the fourth

“It means that the end times have begun since the strong jaws of the mighty have fallen,” said the fifth.

The sixth wizard looked at the others and pondered as the seventh wizard chuckled to himself and shook his head.

The third wizard then said to the sixth, “What do you say about this?  We have all opined.  Now it is your turn.  Or how about you?”  He asked the seventh wizard. “After all, you have dropped the instrument of stapling. You may at least provide your opinion of this wondrous sign.”

The sixth wizard stood silent shaking his head.

The seventh wizard said, “I believe it means you should be a little more careful.”  And he handed the staple remover to the 6th wizard, who had been the one to drop it.

Moral:  Bring donuts prior to any meeting.  Well fed people have less of a tendency to overreact to minor calamities.


A Fantastic Tale of a Breakfast Gone Wrong…

by J.S. Fowler

It was a small pot of boiling water.  The electric stove’s left front burner glowed red beneath it. One by one, he carefully placed the eggs.  Five of them.  He set the timer.

The coffee was already brewing.  He poured a bit of grape juice in the bottom of a glass.  He added a small amount of pure cranberry juice.  Then, the remainder of the glass he filled with freshly squeezed orange.

He waited a bit as his bread slowly became toast.  He moved the dial of the stove to the half-way mark, picked a butter knife from the drawer, pulled a can of blackberry preserves from the refrigerator. The reddish glow faded from the burner.  Then he heard a crack.

“What the—“ he said aloud.  He looked into the small pot.  The mass of the eggs caused the water to come less than half a centimeter from the rim.  Some of the water spilled over causing a sizzling sound as it hit the hot coil of the burner.

Still, the cracking sound.

He looked up at the ceiling where a small bit of paint had been peeling off ever since he and his wife had moved in.  He had patched it once and ignored the problem.  In the back of his mind, there was a latent idea that at some point it would need more work.  There was nothing new.

He opened the freezer.  Ice breaking into the bin from the ice maker.  It only sounded like the eggs since he was thinking about the eggs, he told himself.  A brief trick of acoustics in the kitchen.  Still, it was a strange cracking.  And he heard it again.

This time he noticed what it was.  One of the eggs clearly had a crack emanating from the smaller of its two convex sides.

Had he dropped it too hard into the pot?  He thought that he would have noticed the oozing white of the egg yolk as it escaped through the slivery crack and instantly cooked into a wisp of smokish mist clouding the water.

No.  There was no mist.  Just more cracking.  The egg was… hatching?

The thought was stupid.  These were regular eggs.  They came from hens.  Chickens.  He had purchased them from the farmer down at the market.  True, it was one of the new farmers, a beneficiary of one of the government’s new agriculture programs.  So what if they had not met before?  He had barely noticed and quickly discounted a somewhat eager gleam in the farmer’s eye as he had taken the credits and handed him the delicate bundle of eggs.  He had counted it as a quiet desperation, an almost radiant hunger for sustenance, a product of momentary gratitude in the face of the recent economic uncertainty.  That was all.  Even so, suppose there was something diabolical about this egg.  This was boiling water.  Surely, anything in the water would be killed.  He knew of nothing on Earth that hatched this way.

The egg’s shell splintered further.  He felt compelled to watch, amazed yet somewhat horrified as this newborn chick was to be boiled alive.  Could it be saved?

No sooner than he had began to think of the safety of the small chick, there was a stick-like spindle evident, poking out of one of the cracks, like a small spider’s leg.  He thought that now would be the time to fish the hatching chick from certain doom, but as strong as he felt the need to aid the chick, he felt a more compelling need to watch its death unfold.  What would he do with the chick anyway?  Sell it back to the farmer perhaps?

Bit by bit, the egg split open.  Stranger parts began to emerge that had no resemblance to any fowl he had ever seen.  It seemed insectoid, mutant.  He began to think it was a good thing he had yet not acted to save this… creature.

With no other warning, the egg burst open.  The egg timer began to chime.  The insect creature’s legs extended out over the pot.  It’s mouth far larger than what seemed possible for emerging from such a small vessel.  The creature’s entire body, amorphous, with strange hairs and antennae seemed to expand exponentially.  It was growing.

He let the egg timer alarm ring on.  He went to grab his phone, to snap a picture, but the clip wasn’t on his belt.  It was still upstairs from where he left it in the bedroom the night before.  He turned and made his way out of the kitchen.

He made it three feet before he felt a sharp sting in the back of his neck.  A pair of pincers sunk into soft flesh and folded itself firmly around the nervous tissue surrounding his spine.  In one, viciously elegant motion, the now gigantic mouth of the creature engulfed the top of his skull and was sucking him into to its growing gullet.  Rubbery expanding flesh in a thin coat of visceral moisture slid down his head.  He could suddently see nothing nor could he move.  His feet flailed momentarily.  He could feel the crushing force of its jaws clamp like a vice as he let out a brief muffled moaning scream.

The immense pain that he expected to immediately experience subsided quickly as he became aware that he was now completely inside the creature.  His first thoughts upon being attacked was, of course, the pain and then the speed-of-light images of sounds and visions – of his family, his life, the overwhelming cascade of the last moments of a life not quite yet wholly lived.  There were flashes of childhood moments, of familiar scents, of recent joys, of recent losses.  All this gradually faded.  His thoughts.  His memories.  The pain.  Even the memory of the crushing pain.  All feeling.  All movement.  All heartbeat.  All flutter of the eyelash.  Stopped.

There was no true feeling as we know it.  He was no longer alive in the sense that he possessed this jumble of thoughts and ideas that we call identity.  It was as if he had merged with a denser, more coherent whole.  There was no longer a life before.  Only a life to become.  For him, now, there was only one impulse, one compulsion to follow…

He never did see just how large the creature had grown in its first nanoseconds of life on our planet.  As the creature quickly assimilated the adult human male and crawled though the broken kitchen window, onto the patio and out into the wooded backyard, there was one mandate, one mission…

Lay more eggs.

The Hen’s Confession

She was no longer capable of hiding a vague sense of shame. It had started sixteen months ago when the Ox had come to visit. Sure, there were obvious size differences and his strange snorting always became a source of confusion. Sometimes it became a kind of language. Sometimes it was a series of emotive outbursts.  She seemed to understand the Ox after a time, though. So, a romance blossomed. Yes, she loved the Rooster. That had been since before the egg-laying days, but the Ox had a male mystique that drew her to him, forbidden and foreboding.

When the Ox would go out to the field to work with men, she knew he would come back to the pens wild-eyed and exhausted.  She often wondered why the henhouse had been set so close to the Oxen pens, but no matter. She found it relatively easy to slip out for her nightly visits. The Rooster slept soundly and only knew the call of the sun, upon its daily arrival. She relished this time. A luscious freedom. Beyond the Ox, beyond the cool evening air. She thought of her feelings, her memories as a kind of guilt at first. Then a kind of obsession.

She approached the Pig, to seek her counsel.  The Pig shook her head. “You have big dreams, Hen. That Ox has no good intentions. Rooster is no working farm animal. He tells the time. When he calls, the whole farm starts their day. Ox – he’s a hauler. Half the time you can’t understand all his snorts and snorts.”

“But I love Ox.” She heard herself say it as she thought it for the first time. “Rooster is a fancy barnyard animal, for certain,” Hen said, but for all his strutting around and big talk…” she let her thought die away.

“No matter about love,” Pig interrupted. “You’re a barnyard Hen. You belong to the Rooster and that’s that. Enough of your crazy thoughts about that Ox. He is not going to give you the right kind of life.”  Pig paused for just a moment. “And… hey… why are you not setting on those eggs of yours and getting them to hatch?”

“The eggs will be fine,” the Hen said.

“Sure they will Hen. Sure they will.” With that Pig closed her eyes and luxuriated in the many little nipple tuggings of her suckling piglets. “Good-bye Hen.”

“Good-bye Pig.”

For discussion:
1) Do you think that the Hen continues to see Ox? Using only evidence found in the story, explain your answer.
2) Do you agree with Pig’s logic regarding Hen’s relationship with Rooster? Explain your thoughts.
3) Can barnyard animals talk? Explain your answer using only academic sources.

Your Shoe As Seen From The Sky

Part One: Golden Nuggets of Wisdom With Toast

The coffee spoon donut latch egg smell undulated vicariously down to the brief dimension. No one could forget. Not because of emotion but because of the overwhelming of the senses.

“Fie! Fie!” The old homicidal man cried, spitting into his cereal. “This nonsense does not conform to the previously established brittles!”

I laughed. (So hard I almost lost my bonnet). He rose and came to where I was seated and stabbed me six times. I had to wait for the last one since it was so dramatic. He had used super slo motion and I just had to sit there waiting for the plunge. The pain was not as bad as I expected given that it was all happening in a strange reverie. After a brief mental visit to a metaphorical hospital later and plugged apolapsy viaconic I was right back there for lunch. He still had a queer look on his face but gone was the knife. I was disgruntled but jovial, for I knew the punch I had just given him would knock him out for the rest of the day. Then a voice interrupted my thought, like a peal of lightning. In fact, everyone heard it.

The voice said this: “Please fasten your seatbelts. You are now reading a Dadaist piece of literature.”

A can of corn beamed down ala’ Star Trek right into my right hand. I looked on the label and there was a description. It read: ‘Contents: Corn.’ Then, to my surprise, there was a warning label with a skull and crossbones. Though, when angled at a certain degree it shifted to a picture of a green face which was scowling and putting its tongue out, as if saying “Yuck!” He looked mean. The warning label read, in very small print, “Any and all reference to violence in this piece of literature are meant to be figurative. No intent to harm anyone is contained in this work nor is it meant to be threatening in any way.”

“Except for one thing!!!” The voice of a swashbuckler broke my concentration from the corn. Not just that, but the fact that the ceiling had caved in and pieces of dry wall and some form of insulation had landed on my head.

“And that was it!” the swashbuckler said, waiting for the rope he was swinging on to slow down a bit so he could jump off. And jump off he did. I offered him some tea, but he said he had another impromptu ceiling bust he needed to accomplish this afternoon and was already late.