15-Minute Fiction

He stared at his coffee and swirled it around with the straw.
     “I was expecting more,” were the words coming from his girlfriend. It was a Monday and he was supposed to be at work, but he had allowed her to coax him away from it. She lifted up her purse and withdrew the ring. “This is it? This is all I’m worth?”
     “It’s a nice ring.”
     She didn’t say a word, simply held the ring in her hand as if offering it to him. He looked up at her.
     “I can get another, you know. It might take some time—”
     “I don’t want a-fucking-nother! I told you what I expected and you went and got this anyway. How stupid can you be?”
     There was a moment of silence and he looked away. Outside it began to rain.
     “It was too much.”
     “What do you mean it was too much? It was a simple request.”
     “Do you know how much work goes into getting one?” He looked back at her and tried to feign anger. “It’s not a simple matter. I have to find it first, then figure out the finances, then how—”
     “I don’t care what goes into it. Everyone has one and I’m not going to be left out. Just do it.”
     She put the ring back into her bag and began sliding out of the booth.
     “Bell, wait,” he said, reaching for her hand.
     “Don’t touch me. Don’t talk to me. Text me when you have it.” She flipped her hair and made her way for the door. Across the diner their waitress eyed them impassively.
     He watched her slip out the door into the overcast day, stopping momentarily to frown at the sky. She then dashed to her car while unlocking it with her remote key fob. Inside she drew out her phone and placed a call, exchanging some words before starting her car and pulling away.
     He sighed and looked back at his coffee, no longer steaming. He wasn’t going to get it; he didn’t want to. But he was stuck with her. It was now a question of how to remove her from the equation.

notes from a depressive – April 2015

numb, yet compassionate, unable to

move more than at a snails pace.
eyes heavy, with fear or fatigue I
do not know.

*

I’m feeling again, recognizing some humanity in myself. The patience returns, that eternal peace. Why—This is what I had lost, peppy and delusional as I was, buoyed by the onrush of chemicals, able to walk but without a sense of direction, consumed by god knows what to such an extent that I was no longer human. Life was too easy, too comfortable. Nothing drove me forward.

*

Mind slowing, causing a rift in my
     being,
I slog slog slog
     want to give in and sink
The voice there says nothing
     looks on impassively

     Young girl
If not for her, I might let
     myself go.

*

Somehow this feels better,
more stable and true.
What happens when the mirage fades?
What does one see?

*

Two years. I’ve been present the two years. But where have I been? Hibernating. Locked away in a chemical prison, fed the belief that I am doing myself good. My mind’s been altered, my body adjusted to what seems most acceptable for me, here, in this world. I lost something, though. Forgot what it was to feel; drugs, they are for numbing and forgetting, not for curing and fixing. Get back out there and do your bit, smile and nod while everyone else does the same, learn to turn a cheek, learn to look away.

  

 

Cushy lifestyle, going through the motions, unfeeling, undesiring, mute. mute. mute. That’s what I’ve been. Mute. Dumb. Removed from the world. Unfeeling. Better to suffer and feel than to be stable and empty. How long can I suffer before I crack?

*

Move from here                    to here
          What is in the intervening space?
               does it intervene?
                         or
                    is it born?
  

2013 JC van Staden Malbec

From the vintner:

Nothing. There is nothing on the label.

The (only available) truth:

This sumptuous, splendid, magnificent, heavenly, delightful wine came courtesy of NakedWines.com. For just $40 a month, you can buy discounted wines to your heart’s content. And rest assured, all of their discounted wines are sublime. (Please note: NakedWines.com has no idea I’m writing this.)

Despite this wine not being available on store shelves (presumably), I suppose it’s only fair to give it its due. Therefore, let’s discuss the label: I could have made a more interesting label. On to the next point.

The tongue is watery, which under normal circumstances would be unacceptable. But if we consider how ancient Greeks, recognizing the debilitating effects of full-strength alcohol, would routinely water down their wine in order to prolong their scholarly and intellectual discussions, then perhaps we will come to appreciate this current wine for what it is.

(As a side note, contrast this ancient practice with the modern practice of watering down alcoholic drinks to maximize profits. This practice of diluting an alcoholic beverage seems paradoxical considering that modern establishments are designed specifically for avoiding intellectual stimulation. One would therefore believe that such an establishment would shun dilution of alcoholic beverages, as doing so would promote critical thinking and discussion.)

The wine’s consistency is watery. Oh, who am I kidding. This isn’t wine; this is water.

Out of a score of “Will Buy Again” (WBA) or “Won’t Buy Again” (WBA), this wine definitely earns a WBA.

Yours,

IMG_3367

Forgotten Winter: The Untold History of the Russian Wolves’ Tragic End

The original New York Times article, published July 29, 1917 and buried amid other tales of woe.

The original New York Times article, published July 29, 1917, and buried among other tales of woe.


 
Lost in the history of man’s greatest global competition is the tragic fight and destruction of the Russian Wolves in the winter of 1916 and 1917. The only mention of their fate was a small article in the New York Times, published July 29, 1917, describing, in no vague terms, what was then considered to be the barbaric guerrilla warfare waged by the Wolves in defense of their homeland, and how the war between the Central Powers and the Allies was halted in order to end the nativist threat to their competitive jaunt through Europe.
     The First World War, affectionately called “The Great War” by its inheritors, was by the fall of 1916 nearing the end of its first half. It was during this period that the Allied Powers, captained by the Russian Empire, had finally managed to wrest the critically strategic yet amorphous region around Minsk, Belarus, from the Central Powers, then being led by the German Empire. Following the Russian Empires acquisition of this region, both they and the Germans fell into a stupor.
     While the war itself was fought along a vast European front, its outcome was ultimately determined by the localized battles fought by individual groupings of troops. Such was the case in what was to become known as the Kovno-Wilna-Minsk front, where the Germans and Russians vied for greater strategic footing in the landmasses of Eastern Europe. Today, the city of Kovno is called Kaunas and the city of Wilna/Wilno is called Vilnius, both in Lithuania. Minsk is still Minsk, Belarus.
     As “The Great War” raged across the Kovno-Wilna-Minsk front in the winter of 1916 and 1917, an unsuspecting local community found their homes being ransacked by the bored troops. These unwitting casualties were the Russian Wolf families who for centuries had called this ancient land their home.

front_simplified

Presumed range of Russian Wolf resistance during the Winter War of 1916–17
Key cities in the campaign for Eastern European domination, 1914–18

front_complexified

Presumed range of Russian Wolf resistance during the Winter War of 1916–17
Key cities in the campaign for Eastern European domination, 1914–18

     Most of what historians have been able to unearth about the Russian Wolves during this period has been drawn from verbally communicated stories from their remaining descendants. Because of the relative recency of the conflict—just under a century ago from the date of this writing—it is deemed that the verbal histories are accurate. It is also unlikely that there is any revisionist history involved as it is evident, based on extensive anthropological work done in the past few decades, that honesty was a central tenet of Russian Wolf culture.
     Russian Wolf life was rooted heavily in the gastronomy of the land, and over the centuries they had developed highly efficient tools and strategies to effectively take advantage of their local resources. By the time of “The Great War,” however, their lack of industrial infrastructure and their reliance on older technologies put them at a disadvantage when competing against the roving Huns and Ruskis. They were also entirely outnumbered; their culture revolved around nuclear families, each helmed by a paired patriarch and matriarch and supported by immediate family that generally numbered around 10–20 members. These families, colloquially called “packs,” were largely territorial, with each one staking claim to different areas of the region. To enforce these territorial claims, they developed complex methods of marking borders. The most common method was the use of scent markers, distilled or processed from the very same resources they used as foodstuffs. Verbal and visual signaling was also employed, but to a lesser extent.

wolfe_shits

     While verbal histories have proven adequate in expanding our knowledge of Russian Wolf culture, the same has not been true about what we know of their collective fight against man. To this end, historians have had to study German and Russian war maps of “The Great War’s” Kovno-Wilna-Minsk front. However, since hardly any mention is made of the Russian Wolves within those maps, historians have had to make unbiased suppositions from deductive research and analysis of the extant materials, looking for any unexplainable troop movements or seemingly arbitrary plays.
     It is known that during the summer and fall of 1916 the patriarchs and matriarchs of the various packs began organizing meetings in which resistance campaigns were discussed. The Russian and German combatants had reached a stalemate by that point, embracing a style of trench warfare that reflected their cultural life. It is unclear who, if anyone, took the lead in organizing the Wolf meetings, but by the winter of 1916 they began full-scale operations throughout their combined territory.

fuck_wolves

     Based on anecdotal evidence and salvaged correspondence from soldiers on the front, we now know that the first Wolf actions began in late October and early November. The Wolves had two key advantages in those early months of combat: first, the Russian and German troops were immobile and easily ambushed and flanked; second, said troops were unprepared for the cold winter. The Russian Wolves recognized these two distinct tactical advantages and, using the already established familial ties, sent a steady stream of small units into the trenches. While the overall campaign involved a mobile, almost roving strategy of constant pressure, the individual unit tactics embraced what would later be championed by Adolf Hitler in the Second World War as “Blitzkrieg”: fast, furious, and uncompromising.
     It is admittedly difficult to understand the rationale behind the overarching campaign movements as, at first glance, it looks haphazard. But as one begins to study the localized guerrilla tactics used—this is to say micro as opposed to macro—one can fully grasp the genius of the Russian Wolves’ campaign. Using their natural speed, stamina, and furor, they engaged in ingenious hit-and-run tactics all along the Kovno-Wilna-Minsk front, tangling with the entrenched Russian and German troops, tooth and nail.

wolf_strategy

Kovno-Wilno-Minsk front during the winter of 1916–17
Russian Empire lines   German Empire lines   Russian Wolf campaign strategy

     These continued small-scale attacks, aided by their familiarity with the geography of the front, led to early successes that left hundreds of Germans and Russians in bloody bits and pieces. As morale along the front plummeted at seeing the Wolves’ furious attacks and the consequent mangled bodies, troops began to debate whether it truly was undesirable to die by the bullet or the shell. One unidentified German officer captured the desperation in a communique sent to his superiors in December of 1916, simply writing: “There are fucking wolves eating us!”

wolf_tactics_1

wolf_tactics_2

     So effective was the Wolves’ guerrilla tactics, and so low was troop morale, that the German and Russian Empires finally called for a cease to their wrangling, uniting to plan a joint counterinsurgency effort. Their ultimate strategy was to unify their fronts into one long reinforced line supplemented with prototype German tanks, hindered only temporarily when traumatized troops from both Empires attempted to force their way into the safety of the few tanks available.
     But the unified German and Russian counteroffensive proved to be highly effective. Russian Wolves began falling in droves to the newly concentrated fire from machine guns and rifles, with tanks launching forward attacks which the Wolves were unable to counter. In a last ditch effort, the Wolves began sending their cubs to combat the tanks by attacking the wheels of the treads, apparently in attempts to disable the vehicles and force their occupants out. This generally proved futile, however, with most of the cubs being crushed, then shot.
     By February, with its warmer weather, the Russian Wolf offensive finally began to show signs of weakening. It was apparent that their numbers had been reduced greatly and their morale was almost non-existent, their attacks only occurring in the form of ravenous rages with little foresight put into them. Finally, the Russian Wolves dispersed in the face of overwhelming technological might, carried along with the retreating winter and never to regain their homeland.

wolf_retreat

Kovno-Wilno-Minsk front in the spring of 1917
Russian Empire lines   German Empire lines   Russian Wolf retreat strategy

     Still, the Russian Wolf winter resistance was not without long-lasting impact. It is now accepted that the Kovno-Wilna-Minsk front’s no-mans-land, originally thought to be a product of incessant bombing and shelling from both Empires, was in fact a product of Russian Wolf resistance. This is hotly disputed by the current governments in both Germany and Russia who seem remiss in admitting they were held back by what is still considered to be a primitive culture. German Chancellor Angela Merkel herself has contested the current understanding of the Russian Wolves’ campaign strategy.
     “Look at their movements. No one can say with any level of certitude that there was any method to it. It doesn’t even appear [the Russian Wolves] knew what the supposed ‘campaign strategy’ was,” she said in a press interview on August 9, 2013, bracketing “campaign strategy” in air quotes.

"Campaign Strategy" - Angela Merkel at a press interview, August 9, 2013

“Campaign Strategy” – Angela Merkel at a press interview, August 9, 2013

     One wonders if the great Russian Wolves would still be prevalent today if they had simply let the Germans and Russians complete their jaunt. You will notice that the historical maps in no way show the boundaries of their territory, such is the degree of indifference to their rightful claim to what is Lithuania and Belarus. Even today, these young nations refuse to acknowledge and respect the Russian Wolves’ long ancestry rooted to the lands of that Baltic region. The descendants of the Russian Wolves are now a marginalized minority, relegated to ever shrinking rural areas with few resources and even fewer prospects for work, unable to compete against cheap labor provided by more domesticated brethren.
     Fearing that to allow the Empires time would run the risk of there being one, clear winner, stronger than before and more difficult to defeat, the Russian Wolves waged a war to undermine both powers in their state of preoccupation and protect their homeland, a decision that ultimately proved to be fatally fateful.

This is not a Russian Wolf. It is a Finnish Wolf. And that is a Finnish Man.

This is not a Russian Wolf. It is a Finnish Wolf. And that is a Finnish Man.


 
Sources:
http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9E0DE3DD103BE03ABC4151DFB166838C609EDE (thank you /r/todayilearned)
http://maps4u.lt/en/maps.php?img=Rusija_europoje_1918_&w=600&h=400&zoom=&cat=19
http://www.westpoint.edu/history/SitePages/WWI.aspx
– Google image search
– A shit ton of Wikipedia

Two Little Butt Cheeks Bouncing in the Grass

The only thing that hurt worse than his leg was knowing the box in his pocket had now been destroyed. Lee had carried it for the past two weeks with strict orders that it remain intact. Yet here he was, halfway to his destination, with a sore leg and a partially crushed box.
     Seeing that he could not run from his predicament, and not knowing what else to do, Lee took it upon himself to find a secure place to deposit the item. He settled on a cranny in a weathered wall, attempting to shove the box far enough for it to not be visible. But whatever was inside was too bulky, and, his curiosity piqued, Lee decided to open the container and inspect its contents.
     In it he found a small human figure—a homunculus, in fact—likely extracted from the womb of some helpless woman. Lee could tell, by the fact that it was only three inches tall and visibly emaciated, that it had been removed at an early stage of its development.
     A wave of terror passed over Lee. Extraction of a homunculus before it had completed its full gestation was a high crime, one punishable by forcibly reinserting the homunculus into the criminal’s body. Whether the homunculus was alive or dead did not matter; the purpose was to punish, not to save. When alive, as was usually the case, the homunculus would scream and flail while being shoved into the equally panicked criminal, with the homunculus either drowning in blood or being crushed between convulsing bone and muscle.
     And then the creature in Lee’s hand moved. First it shuddered, and as Lee raised it for a closer inspection he saw two piercing green eyes appear from behind closed lids. The little figure stared at him for only the briefest of moments before opening its mouth and emitting a shrill cry. Lee pulled his hand away from his face, terrified that the noise would attract attention, and as he did so the creature suddenly stood and dove off of his hand. Dropping to his knees, Lee desperately attempted to grab the fleeing creature, but to no avail. All he could see were two little butt cheeks bouncing about as it ran through the grass.

Height of an Era

In the beginning there was life. When asked to recount what it was like, he demurred, unable to bring up concrete memories. There were the phantoms of experience, lingering—fleeting—sensations of a bygone era, or the beginning of an era, or maybe it was the end. He could not know. But there once was life. Vibrant, abundant life, unrestrained and laughing, the kind only seen in a child. With the years, the color faded, no doubt a consequence of weathering: erosion, compaction, fracturing, melting, solidifying. He wondered, at times, whether that old life remained, but in a new form. Or if it was possible for something to be lost indefinitely, to leave a space permanently empty. That life had been present once; if not now lost, then it was morphed or hidden. Both, perhaps. They’d ask him again, where, where is that life, to which he would shrug, maybe walk away, maybe not. They might stand and watch, shrug as well and go about their day. Sometimes they’d chase after him, tap him on his shoulder, lock eyes with him, and, when he failed to say a word, move on, just like the others. Occasionally they’d grab him and keep repeating, life, life, life. He didn’t understand. He likely was unable to hear what they were saying, or see what they were seeing.
     They saw remnants of a different day, and seeing this, they prodded him, lightly, indiscernibly, and tried to put those pieces together. These seekers, they’d look as deep as they could, into a void only barely illuminated by the distant life. They’d say, there, there it is. do you see? see, there, there, and in the great glare of their own awe, their fabricated, faint glimmer of life would burst into a sun, suddenly illuminating the great void and allowing them to see. But that light was their own, a reflection of themselves, a projection of themselves as they once were, or might be. The void remained, a porous vessel now, just barely retaining what was presented to it.
     Sometimes a looker would pull back, say no. More often than not they said this right away. They saw the void and chose to remain distant. Others, seeing the void for what it was and knowing exactly what they saw, chose to fill it as befit them. Not like the awed suns, those desperate voices digging about blindly. These others knew what was there, reveled in the ability to play as they wished, to lull and to sway it, to infiltrate and toy with the remnants of that bygone life. He’d stand there and watch with his glazed eyes, trying to make sense of what was being done and how it was being done. Yet every time he had, or thought he had, a grasp of what was there, it would all slip between his fingers and fizzle away. The others, by then leaning back and fiddling their fingers about in the void, would smile something of a knowing smile, but maybe not. They’d say, hey now, relax, we’ve got the reins. just go along, don’t worry, which of course he didn’t. But he did. He did that day. The day before, he did and he didn’t. The day after was the same.
     They said that life was like a parabola: it started at the bottom, where you were born and pure, then slowly climbed until it reached a peak, somewhere in the muddled years of adulthood, then flowed back down to the other end, gone and pure. Yes, he said, it is all a parabola. But that parabola was just the fantasy that they’d unburden themselves of the climb’s detritus—enough to pick up the pieces of what had been shed at birth—and that maybe, just maybe, there would be life in the end as well.

Robert’s (silent T) Lot

A Trial

Robert (silent T) could not make heads or tails.
     “You said once, not long before but sometime recent, that you were headed out to the barn, the big barn, the one with gold eaves and silver awnings.”
     “Platinum,” Robert (silent T) reiterates.
     “Platinum what?” It’s the judge.
     “Does it matter?” asks Robert (silent T).
     “No it doesn’t matter. Let me ask again.”
     . . .
     “Ask what again?”
     “The question I asked before.” The judge stares.
     “Yes, but which question you asked before. You’ve asked many questions.”
     “I have. Why don’t you recall them?”
     “I never said I don’t recall; I said I don’t know which one you are referring to.”
     “And why is it that you cannot recall which one I am referring to, Robert (silent T)?”
     “I didn’t say I couldn’t recall—”
     “Recall what?”
     “What are you asking?”
     “I’m asking the questions, Robert (silent T).”

An Arrest

Robert (silent T) had been picked up.
     “You’re under arrest, Sir Mister not-so-gentlemanly Robert (silent T).”
     “For what?” Robert (silent T) knew why.
     “You know why.”
     “No I don’t.”
     They cuffed Robert (silent T).
     “Would you like your rights?” The officer asked this morosely.
     “My last?”
     The officer stared.
     Robert (silent T) grimaced, said, “I want a beer.”
     “Rights served.”
     Robert (silent T) was shoved into the cruiser.

A Toke

Robert (silent T) was high that day.
     “Why?” asks Bethany (silent ANY).
     “No sense. None. I know.” Robert (silent T) exhales.
     “But why.”
     “Are you dumb?”
     “Are you a misogynist?”
     “Are you daft?”
     “Quit repeating yourself, Robert (silent T).”
     “Don’t call me dumb.”
     “Where are you going?”
     “I’m going to the barn.”

Passenger

For the Intermittent Writer

333sound

Short books about albums. Published by Bloomsbury.

The Wink

This Week in Kink