Tag Archive: short story


Gorman Fowley approached the check-in counter with a wry, minor smile.  Too much time had gone by since he’d flown out of Evil International Airport.

The over-rouged, middle-aged brunette at the counter narrowed her eyes, accented with mint green eye shadow.  She gave a quirk of recognition with her mouth.  “Fowley.  Haven’t flown you out in a while.”  Her voice was a croaky instrument, like that of a toad from a sparse woodland.

Fowley plopped his luggage, a large rectangular item in dried-blood red, onto the scale.  “I’ve been missing it, Runa.  Sitting in my apartment thinking of all those destinations.”  Fowley had an unruly head of brown hair that poked out in varied directions and wore a crumpled, thrift store suit in a shade somewhere between light brown and salmon.  His face was leathery, with the over-tanned tone of a man who spent many idle days on corrupt beaches.

“The Lost Isle of the Decapitated Children,” Runa said wistfully.

“The Canyon of Sacrificial Goats.”

“Bloated Crone Mountain,” continued Runa, glancing toward the huge graphic poster on the wall.

“Archfiend Archipelago,” countered Fowley.

Runa put an abrupt end to the dreamy recitation.  “What your final destination?”  Her fingernails, bathed in dark pomegranate polish, were poised to strike the dusty keyboard.

“Imp Town,” said Fowley triumphantly.

Continued: http://bit.ly/15U8PAt

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The Theater of the Tiny

As they made their way toward the Theater of the Tiny, Alan had to conceal his skepticism.  Deirdre was so excited by the entire concept of really, really small drama that it was almost infectious.  He didn’t want to spoil her enthusiasm with his well-honed, cosmopolitan world-weariness.  After all, he’d seen Japanese noh drama, Baroque French masques and Sino-Senegalese performance art.  The theater could hold few surprises for a man of his experience.

“I’ve always thought regular drama was too large,” Deirdre was saying.  “It was a theory of mine, ever since I was twenty-three.  So the subtlety of this tiny drama just blew my mind.”  Her eyes lit up at the memories of the spectacular tininess.  “Their revival of Anna Christie had this amazing miniscule seaport set.  I just imagined crawling into one of those tiny boats like I could sail off on a tiny globe-spanning ocean.”

“And I suppose they drink tiny drinks in the bar scene?”

“You have no idea how skillfully they do it.  A thoughtless actor would just down a tiny drink with one normal-size sip, leaving nothing in the glass for additional sipping through the remainder of the scene.  But these actors of tiny drama, they measure their sips ever so carefully to fit into the entire tiny world of the piece.  Yet they do it in a way that makes the sips look totally natural in their miniature plane of existence.”  Deirdre made size gestures with her hands, bringing her fingers nearly together to show various extremities of tininess.  “Watching the performance, I feel like I’m becoming a small ant, watching professional ant performers, only incredibly well-trained ant performers with great enunciation that have the emotional range of a Katherine Hepburn or a Robert Mitchum.”

Alan raised his eyebrows.  “How do these actors even get into tiny acting?  I mean, you must have to meet some demanding physical requirements…”

Deirdre grasped his arm quickly with the urgency of a girl thinking he’d completely misunderstood.  “That’s just it.  Everything is done with such mastery that the actor’s physical size is irrelevant.  Just through their performance they evoke in the audience the essence of the tiny.”

“So what you’re saying is that their motions…”

“It’s not even just in the motions.” Deirdre fixed him with an intense look, her eyes turning to him at the same time that they seemed to slightly recede.  “It’s in their entire persona.  They even have to make their eyes tinier, to psychically shrink down their corneas to an appropriate dimension, to match the tininess of the piece.”

“You say tininess of the piece, but surely the play’s the same size.  If they do Macbeth, the play isn’t any smaller.”

“Not in any textual way, no, but the characters are reflected through an entirely tiny lens.  It’s almost as though you need to squint a little to see the small Banquo getting murdered.”

Alan gave her a playful elbow jab.  “Yes, the sad death of little Banquette.”

Deirdre just looked at him blankly.  They were getting closer to the theater, the Tiny Drama banners popping up here and there, but Alan seemed no closer to understanding.  “You’re making jokes.  You just don’t get it, do you?  Tininess can be tragic, Alan.  In fact, Tiny Drama Macbeth was much more moving than full-size Macbeth when I saw it in New York, even with live horses and dogs.”

“Well, if they ever do tiny Death of a Salesman, let me know, because I’d love having the chance to overlook the entire inconspicuous thing.”

Deirdre was at a breaking point.  Her lipstick was just the right shade of livid red to express her outrage.  “You see these Tiny tickets?” she demanded, holding out the passes she’d acquired at a miniature price.  “There were two of them, but they’re so small, one just slipped through my fingers.”  Deirdre let a miniscule pink ticket fall from her hand down into the normal-sized, rain-filled gutter at their feet.  “I’d rather concentrate on this Tiny performance by myself than sit next to a snide, snipping size snob.  I’ll see you back in boring old regular-size world, Alan.  I’m going to the land of the tiny!”

With that Deirdre stalked off, joining the lively stream of enthusiastic patrons pouring down the ramp into the Theater of the Tiny like busy brown squirrels diminishing in the distance as they ran down an angular hallway.

Alan tsked to himself, checked his smart phone and smiled.  The Theater of the Tiny could wait.  He had a complementary ticket to the new Cirque du Chien show, Humongo Venti Grostesqurie.  “Now that’s entertainment,” he said in satisfaction.

 

 

Check out more absurdity in my collection Space Command and the Planets of Doom: http://amzn.to/atEZo9

 

She arrived in a dented white SUV and parked on the weedy street leaving one door open. Her coat was slightly moth-eaten and her sallow face with its poster smile tried to look its best without going for a cigarette. We sat on the porch and near the empty pool and inside at the white tablecloth dining set and she bulked up slightly as she talked, her cheeks puffing out, her hair taking on new puffs.
She’d been a survivor, with her husband doing things in the pool halls and gentleman’s clubs and ordering sleazy burgers at all hours of the night in the long motels that lined the motorways. She’d made an escape out of smoking and spending hours doing the laundry when it didn’t need to be made and her mouth still made random smoke-sucking motions. I tried to organize my questions about liberation and the tourism industry and the incapacitating darkness that was overtaking certain areas of the state, but she deflected my questions with a series of non sequiturs and ellipse-broken phrases about the things she had done for the snack industry and the pest-removal sector.
I was embarrassed when she didn’t get the proper respect from my family. When my father looked through the hallway in his favored faded t-shirt and salmon robe, reminding me of my chores. Or my unimpressed mother who interrupted the governor with insistent questions about what she was doing to thicken newspapers and put meatier vegetables into the generic soup. My mother had a preoccupation with carrots and their proper percentages and the governor became sidetracked trying to address these issues of roots and circumferences.
We were outside for a time in the hot tub, the one that we’d bought in bulk, under the unadorned branches of the walnut tree. The governor now talking in an unstopping explanation, unprompted, defending her positions on gas station toiletries, shopping mall concrete, paragraphs separating the institutions from fat and salt, library directories of unsanitary stopping outlooks and the institutionalization of interspersed parks for reviewing trees. The security she’d brought stood outside the hot tub, sometimes shuffling and desiring a hot dog, running a hand over his thin, plastered hair and adjusting his cheap glasses.
Despite everything, she was still the governor. She’d arrived of her own volition and she was answering the questions in the style to which she was accustomed, ignoring, shellacking over my hesitant hints about her past. All of her attention was on the rig-crowded highways of the state’s condition, all of her body was devoted to the policies generated and messaged to her from roadhouses and fishing holes. She had her preferences for coating over everything with layers of pebbles and macadam until it all matched the resolutions, the drafts, the bylaws that had been negotiated.
Finally, when things were turning the color of umber and we’d run out of the glazed pastries, she walked off of the patio and, with her coat clutched around her, she found her way back to the vehicle, the security bloated in his white shirt, with a Styrofoam cup, holding the door open, his shoes speckled with mud. I hadn’t remembered all of the answers I wanted to get, but I had a photo of the governor on the porch, her hair looking thin, gazing away at a sign on the road. And I had some excerpts of quotes when she made some candid remarks about the bakery outlet and her thoughts on teachers who hadn’t been inspiring to her. I watched her drive away down the dirt road, mother in the background, with just about the exact amount of ruefulness that I’d expected.

Bad Trees

By midnight, I knew all the trees were evil.  They were darker than before.

Shadow owls flitted confidently in the blackness.

I peeked out from behind the blackest shed, waiting for the obese man from number 328 to appear.

The obese man had told me about the secrets of the trees.  He had sat there in his cinnamon shirt in the dilapidated room, the creaking sounds of his rocking chair making the only disturbance.

“The tree killed my brother,” the obese man revealed, his shirt wrinkled with the folds of his stomach, the strands of his remaining brown hair dripping past his ears and onto his shoulders.  “The tree with the walnuts.”

I had endured plenty of dreams about the trees.  The dreams usually came at night, after I had drunk too much anise liqueur and watched old Shelley Winters movies on the small black-and-white TV in my room.  I knew about the dreams from my dream journal, where I’d written entries like, ‘Last night, I had a dream that a tree split down the middle and gave birth to a giant cocoon-like armless ghost that proceeded to disturb the entire neighborhood.’  And, ‘Last night I had a dream that I was lost on a deserted World War II beach when a group of trees blocked my way.  They bushwhacked me and humiliated me in front of the troops, and then I disgorged several oysters.’

It was a relief to hear the obese man confirm my fears.  My sister, Angelique, had just laughed at me.  She had interrupted my sleep, poking me in the stomach with a splintery broom handle.  “You freak, shut up!  Lionel needs his sleep.”  Then she would laugh her bitter laugh. 

As I peeked out again, I could discern the obese man.  He was where he had promised, crouching behind the doghouse with a Black and Decker flashlight.

I scurried over to his side.

“Did you hear them?” were his first words to me.

“The trees?”

“They’re onto us.”  He had explained his theory earlier.  That the revolutionary war ground that we lived on was dense with the bodies of decayed and unidentified British soldiers.  Desperate to regain access to the atmosphere, the buried soldiers’ souls had forced their way into the begrudging trunks of the trees, only to find themselves unable to extricate their spirits from the bark.  In the ancient, weathered trees, the spirits whispered to one another of their undying hatred for Americans and their American ways.

“I heard them,” he continued.  “If we try anything they’ve planned to do something terrible with their roots.”

There was then a sharp breeze, and the branches above us creaked and whispered, casting aspersions on our national pastimes and typical choice of dessert items.

“Blast you, blast you all to hell!” I cried, running with ill-considered ardor at the nearest trunk and beating on it with my frustrated fists.

It was then that Lionel, Angelique’s boyfriend, came running out of the back porch, his pajamas aflutter, firing his rifle in the air.  “Goddamn it!  Goddamn it, Anson, get your butt back in bed so I can get me some sleep!”

It might have been the report of the rifle, or the increasing shrieks of the Brits in the wind, or the loud howls of the poorly fed Labrador from the doghouse, but it was then that the obese man clutched his chest, dropped the flashlight, and cold beads of sweat began to make a slow dance on his forehead.

Angelique attended the funeral, with its large coffin and treeless grounds, but I stayed home.  I had to watch the trees, exultant in their moment of triumph.

When Allensford knocked on Thankless Joe’s door, he had high expectations.  Allensford had woman trouble and Thankless Joe was known far and wide for his songs about gritty love affairs and for the numerous encounters with notorious women he’d met on his hard-partying tours.  Women who’d been seduced by his gravelly blues voice, his surly, large-bodied sexuality and his frank, deep, heavy-lidded gaze.  Surely, Thankless Joe would be a fount of valuable advice on the tribulations of love.

            Allensford knocked again on Joe’s door when the first knock went unanswered.  Then he knocked yet again.

            After several more tries, and a near bite on the shin from Joe’s gray, flea-bitten mongrel hound, he walked around to the backyard and peeked through the kitchen window.  Through the dirt-smeared pane of glass, he saw Thankless Joe’s large, bald head lying on the kitchen table, his hands splayed out in front of him, one large, hairy thumb twitching aimlessly.

            Clearly, Thankless had spent a long night rocking some rough-hewn, seedy downtown juke joint and was exhausted.  It was only two in the afternoon and Thankless was nothing if not a night owl. 

Allensford tried the kitchen door and finding it unlocked, he went in and grabbed a soiled dishtowel from the counter.  Soaking it in cold water, he slapped it over Joe’s sweating head, taking care to first remove the half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels from the table so Joe wouldn’t knock it over.

            Thankless Joe shuddered into motion, his body jittering.  The large expanse of flesh that made up his stomach and arm fat jiggled and fluctuated.  He threw the wet towel off his head with a surprisingly vigorous motion and shuffled back in his rickety chair, the kitchen floor creaking.  Joe looked around wildly, his small black eyes blinking in the glaring afternoon kitchen light.

            “What the fuck?   Who the fuck. . . ?” Joe cried.  His voice was hoarse and harsh, ragged from a long night of screaming.

            Allensford was used to Joe taking time to gain a full awareness of his surroundings.  There were days when he visited and Joe was not completely coherent until shortly before Allensford took off at sunset for his night job at the Four Lips Motel.  “It’s Allensford, Joe.   Had a long night?”

            “Jesus Christ, you freaking fuck.  What are you doing in my house?”

            Allensford laughed an indulgent laugh.   Joe was nothing if not authentic, a truly gritty, down-home, plain-spoken, roots-music man like they didn’t make anymore.  “Remember how you told me that if I ever needed some advice, no matter when, no matter what the problem, I should come by?”

            “I say a lot of stupid shit.”  Joe looked around with narrowed eyes.  “Where’s my whiskey?”

            “Well, I’m having woman trouble.”  Allensford gave a self-conscious rueful laugh.   “And if there’s one man I know who knows a lot about a lotta women, it’s you, Joe.”

            “I gotta take a piss.” Thankless Joe stood up and stumbled toward the bathroom.  He tripped over an empty bottle of schnapps and banged his head on the doorframe.  “Goddamn!”

 As the sounds of Joe using the bathroom filled the kitchen, Allensford outlined his romantic situation. 

            “See, I’ve been dating this woman, Alicia.  You’d love her, Joe.  She’s smart, wears these totally cool glasses, makes an awesome patty melt.  Just a real classy, all-around authentic girl.  Totally authentic.  From Idaho.  The problem is, I can’t stand her taste in music.”

            Allensford started to take a seat at the kitchen table, then noticed the unidentifiable green stains on the chair and thought better of it.

            “You know me, Joe.  I’m a roots music man.  It’s gotta be real, or I won’t put it on my stereo.  But this Alicia, she listens to nothing but electronica!”

            Joe emerged from the bathroom and took off his black, tattered T-shirt.  “Where’s the refrigerator?”

            “Right here, Joe.  By the oven.”

            “Goddamn.  Over there.  Hand me a beer.”

            Allensford grabbed a can of beer and handed it to Thankless.  He took a good look at Joe’s face.  As expressionless as it was, as unfocused as his eyes were, as soggy and shapeless as his lips looked, Allensford knew that in that unique head little shards of lyrical greatness were stewing.  Bits and pieces of undeniably powerful, primitive roots-music melody and shards of poetic, hard-luck phrasing were cooking that would soon bubble up from Joe’s mouth, spew out and coagulate like chili in a bowl into a new Thankless Joe song.

            Thankless took a gulp of beer and stared at Allensford.  “Who let you in?”

            Allensford shook his head in amazement.  “When you’re brewing up a new song, nothing distracts you!  Amazing.  But seriously, Thankless, what should I do about this girl?  This electronica chick.”

            “You ever see my chuggy dance?” asked Thankless, his mouth gaping.

            “Only a thousand times.”  Allensford grinned at the memories.

            Thankless did it again.  He stepped forward, shook his belly, stepped back, shook his belly again, and then repeated the whole process, doing two steps forward and back, then three steps, then four.  During the whole dance, he kept up a blubbering beat with his lips and slapped his hands on his bare belly.

            Allensford played along, chanting ‘chuggy, chuggy, chuggy’, just like the grizzled fans always did at Thankless Joe’s gigs.

            Thankless shook and jiggled for a good three minutes, then took another gulp of beer.

            “Is that your answer, Thankless?”

            Joe narrowed his eyes.  “You been at my shows.  You know what it’s all about.”

            “I do.  I do know what it’s all about.  It’s all about the roots music, that’s what it’s all about.”  Allensford shook his head.  How could he have been so shallow?  “I see what you’re telling me.  In your poetic, musical way, you’re telling me it’ll never work out with me and Alicia.  How could I ever trust a girl who listens to electronica?”

            For an answer, Joe slapped his belly again and fixed Allensford with a bleary look. 

            “It’s like you say in that song, Joe.  ‘She left me like the squaw left the papoose.  She left me and she went on the loose’.”

            Joe bit his lip.  “Jesus, some of ’em are just that tawdry.”  He walked into the living room, slumped onto the dusty brown sofa, tossed some dirty undies on the floor and grabbed the TV remote.

            “I’m glad I came by.  Joe, thanks so much for listening.  Really, thanks.”

            “Don’t need to thank me.  That’s why they call me Thankless Joe.”

            “So right,” said Allensford.  A truer statement, he thought, had never been made. 
           “Why don’t this remote work?”

The Putrid Moon

“I hate living on the Putrid Moon,” said Commander O’Flaherty. 

He stared out at the deeply pockmarked surface of the unsightly moon over his cup of breakfast powder.

“Think about future generations.”  Second Officer Haifa Al-Rashid stored the packaging of her futuristic space meal for recycling.  As the first one-armed female Arab-American astronaut on the Putrid Moon, she was full of inspiring, optimistic ideas on the future of space exploration.  “One day, our children’s descendants will look back on us as moon pioneers.”

“I’m not having any children with you,” protested O’Flaherty.

“I was using the royal ‘our’,” explained Al-Rashid.

Just then, Ensign Bradley burst into the dining pod.

“Commander O’Flaherty, we’ve detected suspicious movement in the Crimble Zone!”

“You see what I mean!”  O’Flaherty seethed.  “Not a day goes by without some annoyance cropping up on the Putrid Moon.”

Second Officer Al-Rashid faced O’Flaherty with determination.  “You need to show grit, Commander!  The Crimbles could completely destroy our insulated, technologically advanced yet structurally fragile moon base with one well-organized attack!”

“Give me one reason I should care!” cried O’Flaherty.  “This moon is Putrid!  Why are we even here?  Have you taken a look around?  The Great Rundible Cleft is filled with half-solid gray slime that gives off the stench of burnt rubber.  The Wallinger Geyser shoots out burning plumes of orange-brown muck every hour that reeks of rotten potato. Last week, I fell into a gaping pit filled with decaying Crimble carcasses and I still haven’t been able to remove the stains from my uniform!”  O’Flaherty pointed to the seat of his silver moon-colonist radiation-deflecting pants.  “We can’t even invite any galactic dignitaries to visit our colony because the whole place is too goddamn smelly.  Face it people, this moon is putrid!”

Al-Rashid threw a saltshaker to the floor in fury.  “I can’t listen to this!  As the first one-armed female Arab-American astronaut on the Putrid Moon, I must set an example for all the space daughters who’ll follow my example.  This mission is not about nasal aesthetics!  This mission is about claiming a world for human habitation that on the surface is completely hostile and inappropriate for settlement and putting up with endless sacrifices, hardships and unpleasant odors to make that possible!”

Ensign Bradley pointed out the impressive picture window to a spot beyond the bubbling pits of devil-lava that lay around the compound.  “A Crimble scout!”

Bradley was undeniably correct.  In the distance, visible against an olive-ochre horizon spotted with tattered clouds, came the shambling, unappetizing shape of a three legged, large-eyed Crimble.  The Crimbles were yet another hazard of life on the Putrid Moon.  Using their sharp and pointed tusks and glinting titanium claws, a rampaging Crimble could do untold damage to the moon colony habitation with its fragile pink light funnels and architecturally renowned billowing canvas sails, reminiscent of the masts of a 19th century whaling ship.

“We’re doomed!” cried O’Flaherty.   “Doomed!  This ill-begotten mission is on a headlong collision course with a violent, smelly destruction.  All of us are going down to our putrescent unmarked graves on this godforsaken moon!”

“Perhaps the Crimble will stumble into one of the devil-lava pits,” said the inexperienced and recklessly hopeful Bradley.  He was a recent graduate of Space University and his grade point average had not been high enough to secure him a post on one of the less disgusting moon bases.

“Nonsense,” claimed Al-Rashid.  “We need simply to reach out to these misunderstood creatures.  I will go out and play the Crimble a tune of peace on my Earth-oud.  We must bridge the differences between our species if we ever hope to live in peace with the creatures of the Putrid Moon.”

O’Flaherty watched in seething frustration as Al-Rashid and Bradley set forth with the fragile oud to make peace with the Crimble.  As he could have predicted, Al-Rashid was quickly speared through the stomach by the Crimble’s tusk and Bradley fell headlong into a devil-lava pit.  O’Flaherty beat on the intercom in frustration as the Crimble lumbered ever closer to the compound.

“Behold the palpitating near-orbs of those magnificent jellies!”

Commander Mayfield stared out at the Sea of Impatience with the ecstatic gaze of a young boy in possession of his first yo-yo.  Swimming toward the shore in disciplined ranks, he could clearly make out the pulsating domes of the famed telepathic jellyfish that gave their name to the small, gray and reasonably mysterious Planet of the Telepathic Jellyfish.

“What’s our reading on the Telepathometer, Dr. Finbone?” Mayfield brusquely asked the bewhiskered scientist.  Finbone was diligently bent over his multi-leveled, large knobbed orange instrument with the intensity borne of years of study under the great Telepathometer specialist, Cravore the Brain.  Cravore’s research into detecting telepathic activity among aquatic species had brought him nothing but ridicule, catcalls and detention during his life, but posthumously he was now the favorite scientist of several paranormal fan boys and was featured on at least one neon, mid-galactic floating billboard.

“I’ve never seen results like this.”  Finbone couldn’t take his eyes off the pulsating dots on the Mentoscreen as he replied in his clipped voice, pickled in the brine of thousands of dry and vinegary facts.  “We’re picking up over fifty telepath transmissions.  According to my best calculations, the transmissions are all coming from that direction.”  Finbone pointed with a quavering finger out to the Sea of Impatience where the rows of fifty glowing jellyfish made their eerie, inexorable way ever closer to shore.

“Then the legends are true!” Mayfield cried.  “These creatures are among the only saltwater life forms in the universe who can truly communicate with one another via mental signal.”

“Don’t be too sure,” Finbone abruptly cautioned.  He tore himself away from the busy Mentoscreen, and faced Mayfield, all of his science seriousness focused on the goggle-eyed officer from Space Command.  “The creatures could be cleverly producing a screen of telepath-transmission-like signals, deceiving our primitive human equipment and deluding us into following a false lead, while they fiendishly conduct their real operations unbeknownst to us in front of, or behind, our very eyes!”

“A shrewd insight, Finbone.  But then, wouldn’t this planet be known as The Planet of the Jellyfish Who Produce Deceptively Telepathic-Like Signals?”

“Ha, ha, ha.”  Finbone laughed a hearty space laugh and shook his head, bemused by the eternal innocence of Space Commanders in their Space Commander suits.  “That is where you’re wrong, Mayfield.  Clearly, those who came before us were too literal-minded to penetrate the ruses perpetrated by these canny sea-jellies.”

Mayfield clenched his jaw.  Salty sweat poured profusely from his forehead.  Finbone’s rigorous analysis of jellyfish strategy had turned all of his preconceptions upside down.  If the jellyfish were not truly telepathic, the entire purpose of the mission was put into question.  What would be the point of capturing a jellyfish so that it could communicate with the unique telepathic giant squid bagged on the Planet of the Gargantuan Ocean Species if the shrewd invertebrates were not truly clairvoyant?  Yet how could he question the expert opinion of Finbone, the man who had written the definitive textbook on water-dwelling creatures who possessed thin, stinging tentacles: “Jellorama”?

“Those jellies are coming every closer,” cried Mayfield, the glowing translucent bubble-domes just yards away from the anxious commander.  Mayfield’s self-restraint was evaporating, like a spilled puddle of vodka being sucked up by a relentless desert sun.  He shouted out to his sea-borne antagonists.  “If you’re so telepathic why don’t you transmit to me, jellies?  Don’t you hear me, with your invisible ears?  Or do you ignore me to frustrate me in my land-based limitations!”  Mayfield fell to his knees on the pebbly beach, raising his fists skyward in supplication.  “Why do you torment me, ambiguous creatures of the Planet of the Telepathic Jellyfish?  Why do you mock my limited, non-telepathic human mind with your unfathomable contradictions?”

It was then that Finbone attempted to cry out, but instead could only stick his fingers anxiously in his mouth in a dry heave of fright.  Behind Mayfield a mammoth black Borfa Bear had unexpectedly appeared on the beach with all the stealth of a silent vampire creeping up to a night-blooming camellia.  With four relentless swings of his huge and effectively-clawing left paw, the Borfa pummeled Mayfield until the confused commander lay on the cold pebbles, his suit and dead flesh a messy set of intermingled, stringy ribbons.  Finbone, still silently shrieking, ran heedlessly into the ocean, fleeing the ravenous Borfa.  The scientist did not even consider that as he swam out into the chilly Sea of Impatience, he was heading straight for the deadly, stinging, pale-gray tentacles of the silent jellies, jellies that still ruled, in nearly unquestioned aquatic dominance over the waters of the Planet of the Telepathic Jellfyish.