Archive for December, 2011


I had the pleasure of recently attending a book launch in Dublin in The Winding Stair, an independent bookshop where books were hung like wind chimes or dream-catchers in the window, exceptional for its picture-window view of one of the capital city’s most attractive landmarks, the Ha’penny Bridge.  Garlanded with icicle-blue Christmas lights, the view stretched over the dark waters of the Liffey, reflecting the festive lights back at us on the double, while inside the store it was warm and companionable with red wine flowing freely; the air rose with the melodies of flute and harp in accompaniment to a poet’s reading.  It was one of those evenings where people say, ‘You should have been there’.  It was a brief reading but one that would leave you with a desire to read more.  They say good wines don’t travel, that ambience is inseparable from the experience – but Michèle Vassal’s A Taste for Hemlock is one of those rare exceptions. (more…)

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Poetry # 140

I was standing in front of Bar 107 on 4th Street in Downtown Los Angeles, smoking. A man approaches me, admits he’s homeless and asks if I would like him to write me a poem for a modest contribution. The idea struck me as sad and beautiful (although, admittedly, if you are going to offer your services, writing poetry for strangers is probably not the most sought after service; maybe if he could sew or cook, he’d be better off, but, alas, some talents you do not ask for; they follow you forever like an unwanted child). (more…)

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Prose 129

Issue 129 of fabulous fiction brings you great distractions.  From life’s misfortunes to  frightful fortunes, these stories take you away from the here and now.  Sit back and let Neil Robertson, Andrea Danowski, and Eric Hawthorn take you on an out-and-back that may just leave you out there.


Fortune Cookie

Eric Hawthorn 

That woman across the restaurant—dark hair, eyeliner, velvet blouse—yeah, her. She’s been watching you for the last 20 minutes with a mix of curiosity and desire.

Thomas sits more upright in the booth of the Chinese restaurant. He reads his fortune again, just to be sure: dark hair… velvet blouse… watching you

This may be the most specific fortune cookie ever.

The restaurant resembles an airplane cabin. On the other end of this noisy fuselage, the woman in question—Velvet, he’s named her—is sitting with her friends. She and her friends are finishing their meal and laughing about something. Lacking anything better to do, Thomas polishes his glasses on his faded Iron Maiden t-shirt. With his glasses off, the woman is a velvety blur. Glasses on, she’s—incredible.

Thomas works to fit his glasses more comfortably along his temples. He needs new glasses. Not a new prescription, but a new frame. As Mother puts it, he’s “gained a little weight around his head.”

Thomas doesn’t usually read his fortune—he’s just here for the orange chicken—and he only read it this time because he’s waiting for Mother. Still, he’s never known a fortune cookie to display such awareness. How could a fortune cookie know who’s looking at him, let alone what she’s wearing? The fortune is 100 percent correct: dark hair, eyeliner, velvet blouse (skin-tight, plunging neckline, Thomas confirms with another glance). Maybe some bored members of the kitchen staff enjoy spying on the patrons, printing out custom fortunes and slipping them into the cookies right before the waitress, who’s probably in on it, brings them out with a quartered orange and their check. But if that were the case, how would these pranksters know which cookie Thomas would open? There were two: one for him and one for Mother, who’s using the ladies room. Thomas is dying to open Mother’s fortune cookie, but she’ll want to do that when she gets back.

Thomas reads his fortune once more:

That woman across the restaurant—dark hair, eyeliner, velvet blouse—yeah, her. She’s been watching you for the last 20 minutes with a mix of curiosity and desire.

Curiosity and desire? What does that even look like? Thomas imagines Velvet gazing in his direction. Once they lock eyes, she’ll do something really provocative, like scoop an ice cube from her water and roll it across her tongue (which is pierced, Thomas decides), the melting ice dripping past her so-red lipstick and down her chin and neck, over her bosom.


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