Sunday, April 27, 2008

Love is Forever

She found Khalid on the steps of the Winter Palace Hotel talking with a young woman. When he saw Sandra approaching he leaned over and said something to the woman and she turned and went into the hotel. Khalid reached out to take Sandra’s hand as she climbed the steps to where he was standing, leaning nonchalantly against a pillar.

Sandra let him kiss her hand and looked into his face as he brought his head up. His green eyes caught the sun. He had a puzzled smile on his handsome face.

“I thought you were leaving,” he said.

“I had to find you. To say goodbye.” She was still holding his hand and searching his face. Looking for something besides the detachment in his gaze.

“I have something for you,” he said, reaching in the pocket of his galabea.

“Khalid…” Sandra hesitated. Her mind replayed last night’s caresses, his strong arms, the feel of his breath on her neck.

Khalid brought out a small, white box and handed it to her, making a small bow as he did.

Sandra continued searching Khalid’s eyes for a minute before she opened the box. It contained a gold cartouche and chain. She’d seen similar ones in the hotel gift shop. The cartouche was inscribed with hieroglyphics.

Sandra looked up at Khalid. “What does it say?” she asked.

“Love is forever,” he said.

Sandra studied the cartouche.

“I can give it to you for sixty pounds,” Khalid said. “Because it will make me happy for you to have it.”

Sandra looked out across the street and beyond to where graceful feluccas sailed the Nile. She turned back to Khalid.

“I’ll give you forty,” Sandra said.

“You are taking food from my table,” Khalid said, as he pocketed the notes.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Getting Personal

I scratched my head and thought about what to write in the Guest Book. I’d known KT for close to 20 years. I scanned through the obit and visitor entries. The usual mix of prayers and memories. I wanted something more personal, so I wrote, “Hey KT, you are AWOL. WAYN? XOXO,” and clicked submit.


Very short fiction, variously known as flash fiction, micro fiction, or nano fiction, among other things, is a kind of genre all its own. The form challenges the writer to capture the essence of a story in the minimum number of words possible. Pen Pricks carries the challenge one step further, requiring its authors to write a complete story in exactly 55 words.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Signs of Spring

It snowed, then hailed, an hour after I took this picture of tulips basking in the sun. Ah spring.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Lion and the Sun

Captain Rappe raised his finger to his lips, “Shh.” He turned to move away and suddenly there was a tremendous flash of fire, no sound, just a blast wave moving over me. I fell to my knees; stunned. There was fluid running down my hair into my face. I ran my hand over my face and looked at it. It was too dark to see it, but it felt heavy and slick. Then there was another flash and kneeling there on all fours I saw in the brief illumination Captain Rappe’s face looking up at me. And as I stared at it, the eyes rolled back, the mouth fell open, and then the face began to fall apart. I reached down and tried to keep the pieces together, but my hands were covered in goo; and eyeballs, the nose, ears, and pieces of flesh slipped from my hands. I screamed “Medic!”


Daniel Cantantenero is a field agent for an intelligence agency that operates as a secret extension of the CIA. As a Special Forces officer in Vietnam, he experienced some of the most brutal episodes of that conflict, sustaining serious physical wounds, and lasting mental ones. The excerpt above is a dream sequence from my novel, The Lion and the Sun.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Milky Way Black Hole

In the middle of our own Milky Way Galaxy, lies a black hole. Two hundred billion stars revolve around it, drawn by its inexorable power -- a power driven by a mass four million times that of the sun. No one has ever seen a black hole, for no light can escape their boundless depths, but they do emit X-rays. The photo above shows X-rays made visible in an image of the Milky Way’s black hole, with matter swirling towards it. Have you ever wondered what's on the other side of a black hole?


For more on the story, see the April 2008 issue of Smithsonian

Thursday, April 10, 2008


We watched this giant bird

soar so far above us

Surely its wings

would shade us from the sun

and beating the air

would cause the birch to sway and bend

the leaves to flow along the dry river bed

and soaring into the heavens

would bring us rain

So great a creature

we made it a god


The California condor is an impressive and ugly bird -- with a bald, leathery head, red eyes and a big, razor-sharp beak. It's the largest living thing flying over North America -- with a nearly 10-foot wingspan. Listen to a special report and read about it on NPR.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Gray Water

He stood at the rail shivering and watched the seagulls glide along the gray water. He pulled his coat tighter and raised its hood. His core body temperature was plummeting as a result of the three Mai Tais he'd downed at the ship’s lounge. In another minute or two though, it wouldn't make any difference.


Very short fiction, variously known as flash fiction, micro fiction, or nano fiction, among other things, is a kind of genre all its own. The form challenges the writer to capture the essence of a story in the minimum number of words possible. Pen Pricks carries the challenge one step further, requiring its authors to write a complete story in exactly 55 words. Gray Water is my attempt to do this.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Lunar Eclispe

There, on the surface
Gazing at you

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Enhanced Interrogation

Captain Schmerz watched from the observation room as Sergeant Phelps and Corporal Jackson dragged and pushed the prisoner into the interrogation room. The man was hooded, his hands were tied behind him, and he was hobbled, so that he shuffled, crab like between Phelps and Jackson. Once in the room, Phelps gave a slight push and the man lost his balance and fell heavily to the floor. Jackson placed his foot in the man’s back and kept him pinned there while Phelps knelt besides the prisoner, took a box cutter from his belt and began to cut and rip the man’s clothes from his body.

Jackson and Phelps took the prisoner by the feet and arms and carried him to a low, inclined stainless steel autopsy table. Captain Schmerz heard the man’s head clang on the table as Phelps and Jackson dropped him on his back. Schmerz had instructed his men to set favorable conditions for the prisoner’s interrogation and they seemed to be doing that with enthusiasm. Schmerz had acquired a well-deserved reputation among members of the EIT -- the enhanced interrogation team – for the deft way in which he administered the WB technique. It was simple really. Schmerz took a toothpick and poked a small hole in the cellophane that covered a WB subject’s nose and mouth. The subject invariably gasped for breath when a stream of water was poured over the cellophane – after all, the poor schmuck thought he was drowning – and as he did, fine droplets of water were taken into the subject’s nose and mouth, enhancing the exquisite sense of asphyxiation as the gag reflex kicked into hyper drive. Schmerz smiled as he opened the door to the interrogation room. It was rewarding to know that you were really good at something.

Read the full story. Click on Enhanced Interrogation under My Writings.


Torture Memo: Re: Standards of Conduct for Interrogation under 18 U.S.C. 2340-2340A from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel for Alberto R. Gonzales, counsel to President Bush.