Category Archives: Short story

Davey Dow and Lala, Part Two, by Theric Jepson

Part One here.

Lala sat down on the curb and motioned for Davey to sit next to her. As he slowly sat down and settled his feet into the orange leaves filling the gutter, Lala was opening up her laptop and getting it ready for a little presentation.

“All right, now first of all, look at this tree,” Lala said, indicating a photo of a windshorn lone pine in the top window of her screen. “I call it Jake. Good name for a tree, eh? Now Jake here is something of an oddity. Not only does he have his natural form (whatever that should have been), but the effect of a thousand winds has altered his form substantially.”

Lala looked to see if Davey was paying attention. He was looking intently at the tree and so, presumably, absorbing her ever word. Encouraged, she continued.

“Now let me make this tree a little smaller. Okay, great. Now watch: I’m pulling up . . . . Okay, good! Now, what do you see?”

Davey looked at her a little askew, then back to the cascade of numbers tumbling across the screen. “Black on white,” he said.

“Right! It’s the tree! See? This is one equation which captures the essence of the tree! I wrote the program that does this myself, and it’s so incredibly amazing what it’s teaching me! Now, as soon as I get this back inside, I’m going to contrast this bewinded tree with all the other trees of its kind I’ve collected. Now that will really say something! This is sort of like your nothing out of something, see? Do you see?”

“These numbers,” said Davey, “are like footprints. The footprints of a tree.”

“Yes!” said Lala excitedly. “Exactly!”

“Well, first of all, trees, not having feet, don’t have footprints. But even if they did, what would that mean? Footprints in the dust are temporary and fleeting. And even in the rare case where a footprint turns to stone and can be read millions of years later, it is still a footprint and not a foot. A footprint can never be a foot. Just as numbers black on white will never be a tree. Writing down numbers taken from the tree is as foolish as writing down every word as it falls from the mouth of an echo.”

Lala blinked at him.

Davey gestured at the small picture of the tree on her screen. “Look! You have captured a tree!” He reached out to touch it, and as his hand hit the display he seemed surprised. He tried to touch the tree twice more with the same result. He tapped it with his fingernails.

“Tell me,” he said, “is that a tree?”

Lala narrowed her eyes. “No, not really. It’s a picture of a tree.”

“Ah! A picture of a tree! But it looks so real! So lifelike!”

Lala smiled. “Yes, yes. Well, I’ve got a really high resolution, you know.”

“Oh really? And what is your High Resolution?”

Lala started to tell him some numbers but he interrupted her. “Ah-ah! Those are numbers! Are even your goals and desires shrunken down into simple numbers?”

Lala stared.

“Do you see numbers when you climb a mountain?”

“Not exactly, but the numbers are easy to find. Like the six sides of a snowflake. Or Fibonacci numbers.”

“Yes,” said Davey. “Snow is beautiful.”

“Yes, but that’s not all it is! Like everything in nature, Beauty is just the surface; there is so much more to be seen! So much more underneath!”

“Why do we have eyes?”

“Why do we have eyes? To see, I guess. We couldn’t see without our eyes.”

“If our eyes were made for seeing, is not then Beauty its own excuse for being?”

“What? Say that again . . . .”

“Oh, tree!” exclaimed Davey, not looking at the tree exactly, but somehow through it. “I never thought to ask, I never knew to know, but in my Simple Ignorance supposed that the Nothing that caused me here, caused you there.”

“Hang on. I’m sure I—”

“I think that I shall never see a Something lovely as a tree.” Davey abruptly turned to Lala just as she was again opening her mouth. “Can you show me in numbers?”

“What? ‘You’?”

“Can you show me in numbers?”

“Well, my stuff’s all designed for trees—especially pines.”

“But can you show me in numbers?”

“Well, yeah. I guess so. But it’ll think you’re a tree.”

“And I am a tree more that numbers, am I not?” asked Davey, nodding at the laptop. “Have you ever done yourself in numbers?”

“What? Me? You want me in numbers?”

“Have you ever done yourself in numbers?”

“Um, no . . . .”

“Why not?”

“Ah, I don’t know. I guess I just haven’t.”

“Because?”

“I guess because right now I’m interested in trees.”

“How many trees do you have in numbers?”

“Oh, several thousand I suppose.”

“Indeed!”

“Oh, yes. I have a great deal of them. I think I have enough to establish normalcy. So now I’m collecting deviants for comparison”

“Such as me. I am reminded of the tale of the Grasshopper and the Chicken. They were sitting together relaxing when a Frog hopped by.

“‘Hey there, now, Frog!’ called out Grasshopper. ‘From where are you coming?’

“‘From the Lake,’ said Frog. ‘It is a stretch of water so far I cannot see the far shore, just the mountains beyond.’

“Grasshopper and Chicken looked at each other and rolled their eyes. Every time Frog hopped by he had a story as ridiculous as this.

“‘Oh really,’ said Grasshopper. ‘And what did you there?’

“‘There,’ said Frog, ‘I met a creature called Swift. It is larger than you, friend Grasshopper, but smaller than you, friend Chicken. Swift told me how each year he would fly a thousand miles and then back again.’

“After frog left, Grasshopper and Chicken took to discussing Frog’s story. They both agreed that flying a thousand miles was impossible.

“‘Why,’ said Grasshopper, ‘it is all you or I can do to fly up to the first branch of that stately elm there. To fly a thousand miles—! Impossible!’

“‘Indeed,’ agreed Chicken. ‘A thousand kernels of corn I can imagine, but a thousand miles? I don’t know that there are a thousand miles.’

“Knowledge such as yours of trees gives no true understanding of the boundaries between fact and falseness. You may know a Something, but something is no more Everything than nothing is Nothing. You accuse me of being a recluse from people by living among nature, but you are a recluse from nature by living among numbers. Your knowledge, such as it is, is as substantial as the footprint of a tree, and trees do not have feet. The task of understanding Everything is utterly beyond your powers.”

Davey Dow stood up and stretched his back. “Much as your Something is not more than it isn’t, so is this town and the all of all towns everywhere. Much as it has been pleasant being with you and your numerical trees, I must be going.”

So saying, Davey turned and headed deeper into town, the town he knew as the nothing that never was a Something, to buy seed and to never return
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To read more of Theric’s writing on WIZ, go here, here, and here.

Davey Dow and Lala, Part One, by Theric Jepson

Eric-qua-pilgrim

Davey Dow was walking down the street a bit earlier and a bit happier than was usual for a Friday afternoon (Friday, usually, being the least halcyon of his days), and anyone on the street who may have known him would have swiftly gotten out of his way with that long and peculiar sidelong glance reserved for the irredeemably weird.

But as it was, no one knew him—this was not his town, though in feel, appearance and size are they not all about the same? The thing about Davey Dow was that every town was the same to him—stiffbilly and overpopulated—even relatively smallish towns such as this.

But while every town seemed the same to Davey, every square mile of wilderness was shingilly unique. Although he had his small farm tucked away into a hidden mountain valley, he took every possible opportunity to visit the vistas far and near. And it was his desires to know the surrounding wildernesses that made his occasional weekend town-trips so unpleasant. But as has been noted, this Friday he was both in town and happy. Someone in possession of all knowledge of Davey (knowledge in terms of court-worthy facts) might suppose he was happy because he was about to buy seed—quite possibly his final seed purchase as he was verging on self-sufficiency. A good reason, but not the reason. Indeed, no real reason existed. He was happy simply because he was. And it was in this frame of mind that he met Lala.

Lala was crawling out of her SUV after another dirty week in the mountains. She walked around to the back in order to dredge out her laptop, which had spent the week converting what it saw of the natural world into page-long mathematical equations. In the neverending search for knowledge and concreteness, Lala and her laptop were something of a heroic pair. In the laptop’s prognosis of nature, Lala saw an example for humanity. “Look at the patterns and their simplicity,” she would say to a classroom of graduate students, pointing at a projection covered in characters Roman, Greek and Arabic, representing a lone pine overlooking a glacial lake, calm as glass. “If only we lived that way.” And she would sigh a long, sad sigh.

“I don’t say anything new,” she would say after a lengthy schpill in that language called the math of science. “Everything I say comes out of antiquity. I look back to our Bacchusses and Waldens, and I know that what I say is not new. Humanity—civilization—should structure itself according to nature! Nature is the key!”
As Lala stretched behind her SUV, she squeezed her eyes shut and pushed against the small of her back. She had been gone all week. As she closed up the back of her SUV, the sudden noise made Davey jump, for he was walking past just that spot as the door slammed shut.

“Oh gosh! I’m sorry!”

Davey just shook his head in an attempt to gain his bearings. As he shook his head, Lala took the moment to notice his rough and undyed dress.

“Hey, aren’t you that mountain guy from up in the Green Hills or something?”

Davey, not yet ready to speak, simply nodded.

“What sort of philosophy for life makes you seclude yourself way up there? What’s to be said for being a recluse?”

Davey had been, as she asked her question, slowly, calmly, methodically—almost sherlockingly—observing her, trying to place her.

“Being a recluse?” he repeated, giving himself a chance to hear the question. “There is much I can say about what may be learned from the simplicity of nature.”

“Oh, I know!” she gushed. “There is such wonderful order in nature! Everything has its role and its time!”

“Mmm.”

“I study nature incessantly, you know. Made it my life’s work. Thank goodness too, haha; there is so much to know! Maybe someday I’ll narrow in on my grasp on everything, you know?”

“Everything?”

“Everything the natural world has to offer. I study everything.”

“Everything! Well! Now that’s impressive!”

“Well, nature is my subject, and that includes everything.”

“So do you plan on knowing Everything?”

“Knowing everything? Well, I suppose study everything at any rate. We can leave it at that.”

“If you study everything, then Everything has yet to be studied.”

“What? That’s illogical. The more you study, the more that’s chipped off that block of infinity we call Everything. The less there is still to study. Wouldn’t you say?”

“I study Nothing, therefore there is nothing left to know. Therefore the world is open and clear—mine for the understanding.”

Lala looked at him. “What?”

“I have been, of late, visiting the Beginning before the Beginning where Nothing’s the only Something, which Something had yet to produce the Nothing that is the Something that became the Beginning which followed the Beginning before the Beginning. While I was there, I saw the Elements which were not yet elements and I watched them be penetrated by Energies that were not yet energy. By seeing things that were not what they were, I did not understand what is understood; but I did understand what no one from the Beginning before the Beginning till now has ever understood.

“This is what I mean when I say that your studies of Everything leave everything to be studied. For I saw Everything when it was the Nothing that was not yet Something and I understood.”

“I see,” said Lala slowly after a rather long pause. Letting another pause go by before she spoke again, Lala said: “Well, be that as it may, I think I have had something of an experience like that. You see, I am a scientist and a mathematician. And to me, the beauty of nature is best understood in this way. Watch!”

To read Part Two, go here.

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Author’s Note: I owe a great debt to Arthur Waley’s translation of Chuang Tzu included in his book Three Ways of Thought in Ancient China. And, of course, to Chuang Tzu himself.

Theric Jepson likes both nature and laptops. Also: Chinese philosophers. He has appeared previously on Wilderness Interface Zone, viz. the essay “Communion with the Small,” the poem “Morning Walk, Spring 2009,” an excerpt from the short story “Blood-Red Fruit” (cowritten with Danny Nelson), and a reading from Nephi Anderson’s Dorian. He runs Peculiar Pages which will shortly be releasing the collections Fire in the Pasture (poetry) and Monsters and Mormons (pulp).

Editor’s Note: Photo above is of Theric himself.

The Diet Coke by Laura Hilton Craner

moon and mountains2

She was feeling vaguely seditious so she bought the Diet Coke. Any other night she would have gone with a Sprite, but tonight, Jen bought the Diet Coke.

Rebellion, huh? This is a new phase, she thought. Continue reading The Diet Coke by Laura Hilton Craner

Sirocco by Jonathon Penny

Dubai_UAE resized

A man could almost fall in love
With this sun-dyed black-gold place
Could go for arid mile on mile
And never see God’s face
And thus avoid disgrace.

A man could drift and wander
Change his shape like blood-red dunes
Pour his freedom out like water
And his faith like feckless spume.
After all, there’s ample room.

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For Jonathon’s bio and links to other poems he’s published on WIZ, go here.

Time for Love of Nature, Nature of Love Month on WIZ

Valentines1-0124

For the second year, we’re making February “Love of Nature, Nature of Love” month on Wilderness Interface Zone.  To celebrate Valentine’s Day, all month long we’ll publish poetry, essays, blocks of fiction, art, music (mp3s), video or other media that address the subject of love while making references to nature.  Or it could go the other way around: We’ll publish work about nature that also happens to give a nod to love.  That presents a wide field of possibilities.  We’re seeking submissions of original work or you can also send favorite works by others that have entered public domain.  So if you have a sonnet you’ve written to someone dear to your heart–even and perhaps especially your dog–please consider sending it to WIZ.  See the submissions page in the navigation bar above.

Also, February 24th is WIZ’s birthday.  We’ll be two years old—a toddler now.  To celebrate, a couple of posts will offer presents to our readers.  Because without you, dear readers, where would we be?

There’s more than a slight hint of thaw in earth and air.  The light is growing longer.  The first waves  of the Canadian geese migration are rolling through the southern Utah county where I live.  Hen-and-chicks and stork’s bill are beginning to preen.  The coyotes are pairing off.  February is a good month to warm things up.  Got love?  Celebrate it here on WIZ.

WIZ Kids: Why the Wind Blows Things Down by Virginia R.

Narrator: It was a sunny day in the town Pudding but no one could see it. There was a cloud in the way of the sun.

Boy: I can’t see anything!

The mayor: We must do something!

All: But what?

Town folks: Ask the king!

Mayor: Not the king!

Boy: That is a good idea.

Mayor: The king does not rule the skies.

Narrator: So, everybody thought…

Boy: We could ask the wind to blow the dark cloud away.

Town folks: Good idea!

Boy: Wind!

Wind: What.

Boy: Could you blow the cloud away?

Wind: If the king lets me blow down whatever I want.

Mayor: I’ll go ask the king.

Narrator: The mayor reluctantly goes to the king’s palace. He tells the king what the wind wants. The king agrees to the plan. So the wind blew the cloud away. But from that day on the wind blew things down.

End.

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Virginia is 10 yrs old and she wrote this for school. She likes reading. Her favorite thing to read is a series of books called Warriors, by Erin Hunter. She likes catching fireflies, too.

Guest Post: Excerpt from “The Faith of the Ocean,” by Arwen Taylor

As we join the story, Jonah has earned free passage onto a ship to Tarshish by means of winning a camel race; instead of taking his winnings and purchasing a ticket to Nineveh, he instead takes the free trip, upon which the voice of God leaves him.

The first three days on the way to Tarshish were beautiful. The sun played in a sky ornamented with the most delicate of cirrus clouds, and the water was a fortune in blues, purples, and greens, shot with gold where the light tumbled into it. Zabah lounged on the starboard deck, in a chair which he had specially constructed to recline and fold back up, sipped olive wine, and composed chiastic poetry to his favorite harlot back in Midian. The Amalekite who had come in third sat in his cabin sulking because he had lost to a crazy Israelite. Jonah paced the deck, distracted, usually in the way of the ship’s crew. Fortunately Zabah, with the very best of intentions, had inquired about a bit as to whether the Israelite camel champion might not be a bit insane, and so word was had around the ship that he was crazy.

When Jonah had said to get off, it appeared that the voice had taken him at his word, and stayed behind in Joppa. “I’m sorry,” he growled into the silence. “Look, as soon as I get to Tarshish, I swear, I won’t even race, I’ll turn right back around, I’ll swim to Nineveh if I have to.” His head stayed quiet.

“I don’t know,” Zabah told the sailors. “I’ve heard some strange things about the interior of Judaea. But still, he’s a phenomenal camel racer.”

“I know, I didn’t even win that race, you won that race, I’m sorry!”

“You’re no better than Abiezer,” a voice in his head told him, but it was only his own mind. He didn’t know how he knew the difference. His own thoughts were oranger, somehow. The other thoughts came in darker, and blue.          

“There may be something in the water there,” Zabah had said. “But he’s a good-looking kid.”

“Damn nutty Israelites,” the Amalekite said.

“I’ll go to Nineveh right now, just give me a way!” Jonah shouted to the ceiling of his cabin on the night of the third day, and promptly fell asleep.

The storm came up from nowhere. Zabah was nearly thrown off his chair by the wind and the Amalekite spilled ink on the angry epistle he was writing to the camel-racing commission. The ship rose high on a sudden swell of water. The rain came slamming down on deck like wheat dumped from a sack. Sailors swarmed and bounded from all corners to tie down the sails and bail water off the side. Zabah, in a hurried retreat below deck, chair in hand, heard them crying every man to his god, and went to find Jonah.

“Hey Jonah,” he said. “Sleepy boy. Jonah!”

Jonah woke with a start. “What? I won’t go to Tarshish!”

Zabah took his shoulder and shook him a little. “Is it your god you’re always talking to?”

“What?”

“You talk all the time, to no one. Are you talking to your god?”

Jonah shook his head. “God doesn’t talk back,” he said sadly. “I didn’t go to Nineveh.”

Zabah took a step back. “Your god is angry with you?”

“My God has left me,” Jonah said. “Or I left him.”

“Well, I think he’s back,” Zabah said.

Jonah took in the violent tossing of the room for the first time. “There’s a storm?”

“You might say that.”

A sailor burst into the room. “You!” He launched an accusing finger at Jonah. “Who are you?”

“Jonah son of Amittai,” Jonah said. “I am a camel racer.” He shook his head. “No, I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Hebrew God, who made the earth and the sea.”

“You’re fleeing the god that made the earth and sea,” Zabah pointed out.

“You’re fleeing your God? You’re bringing us to destruction!” the sailor shouted. “We cast lots, and it fell on you! Come on deck, both of you.” He wrapped a burly hand around Jonah’s wrist, lest he try to resist.

“How could the lot fall on me if I wasn’t there to draw one?”

The sailor shrugged. “That Amalekite camel racer stood in for you.”

“Convenient,” Jonah muttered.

“My will may be done even through an unreliable man of Amalek,” the voice said.

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Arwen Taylor’s “The Faith of the Ocean” appears in its entirely as part of Plain and Precious Parts of the Fob Bible (http://b10mediaworx.com/peculiarpages/fobbible/pppfobbible.htm#faith) or as part of  the complete Fob Bible (http://b10mediaworx.com/b10mwx/peculiar-pages/the-fob-bible/).

Guest Post: Excerpt from “Blood-Red Fruit,” by Danny Nelson and Eric W. Jepson

Satan and the snake had watched each other for a long time before either spoke. It was mid-morning—it was always mid-morning—and the breeze was pleasant and warm in the thick tangles of shining dark leaves. The snake, a long purple shadow, was hanging in negligent coils from a branch of the tree hanging with blue-spotted white flowers and dark red fruit. Her large head rested on her casually muscled form and she watched Satan, who was sitting on a rock in a dusty clearing, rubbing his shoulders where his large black wings sprung, grimacing from time to time and keeping a close eye on the snake. Continue reading Guest Post: Excerpt from “Blood-Red Fruit,” by Danny Nelson and Eric W. Jepson

Excerpt from “Speculations: Trees” by William Morris

II.

A FEW DAYS LATER, an old man—a carpenter—came and chopped down the fig tree. It took the better part of an afternoon. The bark and outer layer of wood easily flaked away, but the core of the trunk was almost rock hard. The rotten, withered branches rained powdery shreds of wood, as his axe chiseled its way through.

      By the time he finished, the axe had dulled, and the sun embraced the horizon. His son-in-law came to call for dinner, and they dragged the tree home. 

      The next morning, the old man cut off the remaining, scraggly branches and rasped away layers of trunk until only the heavy core remained. When he finished, the piece of wood measured two arm lengths and three hands in diameter. The wood was darker than fig wood usually is; its grain tight and mottled.

      The old man let the wood sit for weeks in a corner of his workshop.  But then, after his daughter’s latest disappointment, a thought entered his mind, a thought he couldn’t let go of even though it filled him with horror and awe.

      He planked the wood and joined the boards to make a rectangular box. He cut two green branches from an olive tree and began the slow process of curving them. When they were fully cured, he trimmed and sanded their edges. He fitted the bottom of the box with four short posts and added the runners. He sanded it and rubbed it with oil and resin until the oddly dark fig wood took on an almost silvery glow.

      When it was done, he set it down. The cradle rocked ever so slightly, slyly mocking his talents. His daughter was old, almost past childbearing years. He moaned, brushed at his eyes and held his palms to his temples in disbelief. This thing he created was a beautiful abomination, a piece of devilish craftsmanship borne of unrighteous yearnings and a cursed tree.

      He could not bear the thought of giving it to her. The look on her face. The look that would be filled with pain and that fierce hope that he might know something, that some small prophecy had been burned into his mind and heart.

      He buried it beneath a pile of scrap wood in a corner of his shop. Two months later he died.

      Six months after that, his granddaughter came into the world, crying, her skin dark and rosy, eyes deep and thirsty, hair thick and black. Her mother rocked her in her arms—her movements slow and tender; her rhythm even and precise.

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The elusive William Morris is the benevolent dictator-genius behind the Mormon arts and culture blog A Motley Vision and, truth to tell, WIZ as well.  He lives in suburban Minneapolis with his wife and daughter. Refugees from the insanely-priced, but lovely San Francisco Bay Area, the Morrises love their new life in the frozen north. And don’t pity them, William still takes public transportation to his work* (a position in higher education marketing/pr at a college in Minneapolis). William’s professional career has caught up with him and he now serves in a public affairs calling for the LDS Church. Which is great, but he misses teaching.

*This is very important because it a) keeps his blood pressure low, b) means that the Morrises can remain a one car family, and c) gives him time to read and write.

“Speculations: Trees” won honorable mention in 2006 Irreantum Fiction contest and was published in Irreantum (Winter 2007/Spring 2008–double volume), 93-96.

The Island for Poi: a short story by Lora

“The Island for Poi” is a short story written in the “And that’s how the fox got his red coat” tradition, except with a twist: this story is about how the fantastic and mysterious relics found on an island came to be there.  Also, the story is told by a first person narrator who learned the “truth” in parts.  It’s a fun and breezy rite-of-passage tale, as satisfying to read as a berry can be to eat.  Its nature overtones make it a good fit for WIZ.

Lora lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two children, dog and rat. She is currently reading Atlas Shrugged. Lora gardens, writes, and runs the household. She is also preparing for the next school year when she will have both children enrolled in cyberschool.  

 

“Poi Maluuma, you get in here!”

Poi was second oldest of us seven boys, and cursed with the curse of secondness, as everyone knew. As he slouched into the shade of the tree where our family spent our days, he dragged his big feet and hung his tousled head. It was much too hot for Momma to sit or cook in the hut until after dark, but that didn’t stop her from growling her command anyway. While Dad went fishing and could be anywhere at sea, everyone knew that home was where the Momma was.

She stared up at him from where she reposed on a mat in the shade of the tree. Momma was not your typical openhearted islander. Other women sometimes asked each other if she had even been born among the Friendly People. She was steely and flinty. I didn’t know these were the words for her until years later when I went away to Chile for school. Eventually it would occur to me that Momma might have been channeling the soul of some mean housewife from Detroit. She was bad for the tourist business. She didn’t care what others thought. She had seven boys and she always declared that she had been stricken enough. Continue reading The Island for Poi: a short story by Lora