Becomes One Hundred Stories #8: Bears Down Grubs

This is a piece of short fiction in the style and universe of three of my novels: Becomes the Happy Man, Becomes God’s Silent Prophet, and Becomes the Meaning Blossom.

Bears Down Grubs

The bear stood beside the water.

The bear on the small island of the northern sea stood beside the water and looked out to sea. The bear saw nothing unusual.

The bear walked along the path at the water’s edge and looked at fallen trees for signs of food. Grubs. The bear liked grubs. Somewhere was that one tree under which the bear always found a whole feast of grubs. Always found when the bear could find the tree. The bear could not always find the tree, but when he did, he always found a feast of grubs.

The bear stepped off the path and approached the sea. The bear put his front paws in the water and sniffed the water. It was not the kind of water the bear could drink. The bear looked out to sea once more and saw nothing unusual once more.

The bear stepped back on the path and continued his search for the tree with the feast of grubs. The bear searched for any fallen tree that had a promise of grubs, but particularly he looked for the fallen tree that always had a feast of grubs. Whenever he could find the tree.

The low, gray sky comforted the bear as he walked down the path in search of his morning meal. The bear hoped it would rain that day. The bear liked the rain. The rain softened the ground and made it easier to look for grubs.

The bear wondered why it always came down to grubs.

The path turned inland, into the brush and away from the sea. The bear stopped and looked out to sea once more to find nothing unusual once more before he ambled into the brush.

The bear did not mind walking in the brush, but he preferred walking in the brush at the end of summer. At the end of summer, the brush had berries that made the bear forget about grubs. A feast of berries that made the bear forget even about the feast of grubs he always found under the tree that he sometimes found. But late summer had yet to arrive so the brush did not have any berries as the bear walked through the brush. But the bear still did not mind walking through the brush.

The bear thought about berries as he walked through the brush. He thought about a feast of berries and then realized it didn’t always come down to grubs. Sometimes it came down to berries too. And sometimes it came down to—but the bear did not like thinking about the more gruesome meals he had enjoyed. The bear preferred grubs and berries, but when he was hungry in the extreme, he could devour a large living beast. Never premeditated, but sometimes it just happened. If he was hungry. If the large, living beast appeared, he would devoured it without a second thought. But when he had had his fill, he always felt remorse. Remorse and a measure of repugnance that he could do such a thing. But then he would reflect that he was no longer hungry and would likely make it through another long winter of sleep. So his guilt would lessen, although his repugnance never did.

The bear did like to eat the smaller living beasts that he found in the stream on the far side of the island. The bear thought of those creatures as very big grubs, so the bear had no qualms about eating those delicious creatures that tasted even better than the grubs and berries. But the stream on the far side of the island was not yet teeming with those large, delicious grubs. The bear had checked earlier that morning.

So the bear walked down the path along the sea on his favorite part of the island, and he walked through the brush on the part of the path that went inland away from the sea.

When the bear came out of the brush, he was in a small clearing. The bear stood at the edge of the clearing and looked into the sky, high above the trees. The opening in the trees above the clearing made a circle. A circle filled with gray sky. The bear imagined that if he were in the sky, the clearing would look like a circle. A circle with high walls made by the tall trees. Tall trees all around the clearing except where the brush led off to the sea.

The bear looked around the clearing, and it seemed familiar to him. He had been on the island long enough so that every part of it seemed familiar to him, but this clearing was especially familiar to him.

The bear stepped into the clearing. The bear walked along the path that cut through the clearing, and in the middle of the clearing, the bear found a tree. A fallen tree. And the fallen tree was especially familiar to the bear.

The bear smelled grubs.

The bear pounced on the tree and found his favorite part of the tree, and the bear enjoyed his feast of grubs. The bear did not mind that it had not rained in awhile making it a little difficult to get at the grubs. The bear did not mind because each time he succeeded at turning over a piece of ground under the tree, he found mouthfuls of grubs waiting to appease his hunger. His especially familiar hunger. His especially familiar hunger that always disappeared when he found the fallen tree and its feast of grubs.

The bear had nearly eaten his fill when he smelled something awful.

The bear rose on his hind legs and sniffed the air around him.

The sea. The awful smell came from the sea.

The bear was afraid. The bear moved away from the tree toward the far side of the clearing. Far from the smell.

The bear stepped into the trees on the far side of the clearing, away from the brush that led to the sea. The bear hid in the trees on the far side of the clearing and waited for something unusual to appear through the brush that led to the sea.

Nothing appeared.

The bear waited a long time, and then he entered the clearing once more. He could still smell the smell, but it was not as strong as before.

The bear’s heart beat faster as he approached the brush that led to the sea. He was certain some monster was about to jump out of the brush that led to the sea. Some dreadful sea monster he’d had nightmares about since he was a cub.

The bear’s curiosity got the better of his fears, and he stepped into the brush. Into the brush and through the brush. Step by fearful step, the bear pushed through the brush toward the fading but still awful smell.

When the bear broke through the brush near the sea, he closed his eyes. He closed his eyes and listened. He didn’t hear anything unusual. He didn’t hear anything unusual, but he still smelled the smell.

The bear peeked open one eye. He saw nothing unusual with that eye. So the bear opened the other eye, and he still saw nothing unusual. Not with that eye and not with both eyes together. But he still smelled the awful smell.

The bear stepped out of the brush along the path. Along the path toward the water. Toward the water of the sea.

The awful smell grew stronger as the bear walked along the path along the sea. The smell came from around the rocks up ahead near the bend in the path along the sea.

The bear walked up to the rocks and looked around.

On the other side of the rocks along the path along the sea, a narrow strip of sand led into the sea. And on this narrow strip of sand lay one of the large living beasts the bear sometimes ate when he was hungry in the extreme. The bear had almost had his fill of grubs, so he had no impulse to eat this large, living, awful-smelling beast.

The large, smelly beast had no fur, and the fur it sometimes wore lay in a heap on the sand beside it. The bear could not understand what kind of magical creature could take its fur off whenever it wanted.

The bear wished it would rain. The bear could not imagine such a beast lying on the sand without any fur in the rain.

The bear wondered if the large, smelly beast would smell better if it wore its fur, but then the bear remembered his past experiences with such creatures, and he remembered they smelled even worse when they wore their fur.

The bear made a slight movement that brushed a rock, causing it to fall.

The noise alerted the smelly creature, and the smelly creature looked at the bear. The smelly creature yelled at the bear. It told the bear to go away and stop staring. It asked the bear if it had any decency then it would leave the smelly creature alone. The bear did not understand anything that the smelly beast yelled at him, because the bear did not know the language of the smelly beasts, but the bear interpreted the message from what he remembered another bear saying to him once when he had found her lying on the sand near the sea long ago and he had stared at her a little too long.

The smelly beast motioned sharply for the bear to leave.

The bear thought about the grubs. He had not yet had his fill. So the bear returned to the clearing and finished his feast of grubs.

The bear left the clearing through the trees on the far side of the clearing opposite the brush that led to the sea. That led to the smell from that smelly creature.

The bear returned to his den on other side of the island thinking about the female bear he had surprised long ago while she lay on the sand beside the sea. The way she wore her fur. The pose of her head and her hips. The angry spark of recognition in her eyes when she discovered she was being watched. And her heated words. The bear was surprised to find he enjoyed this memory.

And the bear wondered why it always came down to females. Females and grubs. Oh, the difficult life of a bear.

To read more stories in the series, see the Becomes One Hundred Stories page.

Becomes One Hundred Stories #7: Sees Apparitions at Sea

This is a piece of short fiction in the style and universe of three of my novels: Becomes the Happy Man, Becomes God’s Silent Prophet, and Becomes the Meaning Blossom.

Sees Apparitions at Sea

The man sat in the boat. The boat sat in the sea. The sea was calm, and the man sat in the boat that sat in the calm sea.

It was night. It was night, and the man was alone, and the man could not sleep.

The sky was filled with brilliant stars. The man could see the outline of the boat in the starlight. He could see the outline of the boat, but that was all he could see. The starlight was light, but it wasn’t bright. The man could see nothing of the sea. The man could see nothing inside the boat. But the man could see the outline of the boat against the sea.

The moon was new. The moon did not shine at all. It was too late in the night for the man to look for the black disk of the new moon against the starry sky. The man could look, but he could not find it. The new moon had set early at night, and now it was late at night. The man decided that the next night he would see the small sliver of the waxing moon low in the late evening sky. And he would.

The man tried to pick out as many constellations as he could. He counted fifteen. He counted fifteen, but a couple of them he was not sure if he had correctly identified. None of the constellations seemed very clear to him. The man wondered if he had enough imagination to enjoy stargazing as others seemed to have. The man enjoyed stargazing, especially when he was alone in the middle of the sea late at night during the new moon, but he did not find the constellations to be the vivid stories others saw.

The man was hungry, but he did not eat his food. He had brought plenty of food, but he never ate after midnight. He never ate after midnight and before sunrise. Whenever he ate at that time, he woke the next morning with a heavy stomach and a headache, so the man no longer ate during that time.

But the man was still hungry. He was hungry, but he did not eat, and he would be glad of it in the morning.

The man thought about the woman he would see the next day. He thought about the woman he had seen the day before. They were two different women. He had seen the woman he had seen the day before in the place he had been the day before. He would see the woman he would see the next day in the place he would be the next day.

The man sat in the boat that sat on the calm sea in the night between the day before and the next day. The man sat alone. The man sat alone without a woman—between the woman of the day before and the woman of the next day.

The woman of the day before had been demure. Demure and hard-to-get. So the man had stopped trying to get the hard-to-get woman of the day before, and he set off in his boat across the sea from the place he had been the day before to the place he would be the next day. He set off alone. Alone without a woman in the night.

The man wondered why everything always came down to women.

The man always liked to be alone, but sometimes he wished he could be alone with a woman. The man pondered for a long time what it meant to be alone without a woman and what it meant to be alone with a woman.

The man was alone with a boat and with a sky full of stars. The man was alone with a full bag of food that he would not touch until sunrise. The man was alone, but he was alone with many things. He thought about the next day when he would be alone with the woman he would see the next day in the place he would be the next day, and he wished he were alone with her this night under the brilliant stars, sitting in the boat sitting on the calm sea.

Then an apparition appeared. The man did not believe in apparitions, but he had enough sense to let things play out before he passed judgment.

The apparition appeared over the bow of the boat. Over the bow in a bright light that washed out the stars in the sky before him. The apparition appeared as an angel. The man did not believe in angels, and he had no idea why he understood the apparition to be an angel considering it had no characteristics in common with the mythical description of angels from any culture he was aware of. The man was in no mood to quibble with his own judgment, so he decided to let things play out before he passed judgment.

The apparition of the angel was a female angel. She seemed to try to speak to him. Her lips moved as though she was speaking, but the man heard nothing. The apparition of the angel continued with her monologue apparently unaware that the man could not hear her.

The apparition of the angel held forth on her silent soliloquy for more than half an hour, and then she nodded her head curtly and disappeared.

The man was unfazed. He stared at the bow of his boat and tried to understand what had just happened. He was ready to pass judgment, but he had no frame of reference from which to judge such a phenomenon. So he waited, his mind blank, to see if the apparition of the angel would appear again with an audible voice.

It did not. Neither with an audible voice nor inaudible. It never appeared again.

The man could see the stars again, the stars that the apparition of the angel had washed out. The stars were still brilliant, and the man could see the outline of the boat again, but no more than that. The brilliant stars were still light, but they were still not bright.

The man half-expected a mermaid to pop up beside the boat, but he decided he was not the kind of man who had that kind of luck.

So the man went back to thinking about the woman he had seen the day before and the woman he would see the next day. A woman in the flesh beat an apparition of an angel or a mythical mermaid any day—or night. But the women were not in the flesh. They were in the man’s mind. They existed in the man’s mind just as the apparition of the angel and the fantasy of the mermaid did.

The man was startled when a heavy shock shook his boat accompanied by a sharp noise of wood thumping against wood.

A voice called out from a short distance away telling the man he could have it if that’s what he really wanted but the curse would sit on his head forevermore.

The man saw the shape of another boat that had abruptly pulled up along side his own. Then the man saw the sailor of the other boat rowing his boat furiously after having delivered the ominous message.

Another thump—a softer, lighter thump—came from the bow of the man’s boat. The sound of the sailor rowing the other boat faded into the distance, and the sea was calm once more.

The man found in the bow of his boat a wrapped package, just bigger than his hands. He could not see it. The brilliant stars were light, and they were still not bright.

The man thought about the apparition of the angel, and he thought about mermaids, and he thought about strange sailors who accosted him in his boat in the middle of the calm sea in the middle of the night and left strange packages and delivered strange messages.

The man did not believe in any of it. He tossed the wrapped package into the sea, and he fell asleep under the starry sky.

The next morning, the man arrived at the place where he would be that day. He found the woman he would see that day, and he saw her. He was alone with her.

The woman he was alone with asked him if he brought the package.

The man said what package.

The woman the man was alone with told him what package.

The man said he had thrown it into the sea the night before.

The woman the man was alone with said it was about time someone had the sense to end that silly game.

And the woman the man was alone with disappeared, leaving the man alone.

To read more stories in the series, see the Becomes One Hundred Stories page.

Becomes One Hundred Stories #6: Smiles Big Smiles

This is a piece of short fiction in the style and universe of three of my novels: Becomes the Happy Man, Becomes God’s Silent Prophet, and Becomes the Meaning Blossom.

mouthSmiles Big Smiles

The boy almost smiled. The boy rarely smiled, but when his did smile, it was usually an almost smile.

The boy saw the girl’s friend and he almost smiled. The boy could not help himself because the girl’s friend smiled a big smile at him.

The boy did not know why the girl’s friend smiled a big smile at him. That was why he only almost smiled. He was confused.

The girl’s friend had never smiled at him before. Never smiled a smile, and never smiled a big smile. So when the girl’s friend smiled a big smile, the boy was confused, and he only almost smiled.

The girl’s friend had returned to the school, and the boy had not left the school. The boy had remained to finish his schoolwork that the teacher sent the children to work on at home. The boy found it better to do his work for home while he was still at school. And while he worked on his work for home at school, the girl’s friend returned to the school and smiled a big smile at him.

The boy tried to ignore the girl’s friend. He continued his work, but he could feel the girl’s friend smiling a big smile at him even when he did not look at her.

So the boy asked the girl’s friend why she smiled at him. Why she smiled the big smile at him.
The girl’s friend said she had a secret. The girl’s friend stood at the entrance to the room but she did not enter. She said she had a secret.

The boy sat on the other side of the room and listened to the girl’s friend tell him she had a secret.
The boy looked at the front of the room. He looked at the place where the teacher sat. The place where the teacher sat when the teacher was in the room, but where the teacher did not sit because the teacher was not in the room at that moment. That moment when the boy looked away from the girl’s friend who had told him she had a secret. Had told him with a big smile that she had a big secret.

The boy asked the girl’s friend why she had told him she had a secret.

The girl’s friend said it was about her friend the girl and wasn’t the boy interested in hearing her secret.

The boy said he was not interested, and he tried to ignore the girl’s friend, and he tried to continue his work.

The girl’s friend said everyone likes to hear a secret.

The boy said he wasn’t everyone. He said if she told him her secret, then it wouldn’t be a secret anymore.

The girl’s friend said she had already told the secret to the girl’s brother and the other boy, so it wouldn’t hurt if she told the boy too.

The boy wrote something on a piece of paper. The boy wrote something on a piece of paper, but he did not give it to the girl’s friend as she had expected. The boy had written some part of his school work, not a note for the girl’s friend. The girl’s friend liked to pass notes, and it looked to her as though the boy was writing a note after she told him she would tell him the secret. But the boy took too long if he was just writing a note.

The girl’s friend still stood at the entrance to the room and asked the boy what he was writing.

The boy said he was writing his lesson. He said he was doing his school work. His school work for home.

The girl’s friend asked the boy why he was working on his school work for home when he was still at school. She said she never did her school work for home while she was at school. She laughed and said she seldom did her school work for home at home either. The girl’s friend smiled when she laughed and she smiled a big smile.

The boy asked if that was her secret.

The girl’s friend entered the room. She entered the room and said it was not a secret. She said everyone knew she seldom did her school work for home.

The boy said he was not everyone.

The girl’s friend said the boy knew it now, though, so that made him part of everyone who knew that she seldom did her school work for home.

The boy said he did not know. He said the girl’s friend had just told him, but she could just be telling him that to make herself sound interesting. The boy said he knew a few boys who always bragged about never doing their school work at home, but they always had good grades, and they always did their work even though they said they didn’t.

The girl’s friend sat in the seat in front of the boy. She pouted her lower lip at him. She told him he wasn’t much fun was he.

The boy said it wasn’t the first time someone told him that.

The girl’s friend said well, and then she flipped her hair, and then she said she could see no reason why the girl liked the boy. No reason at all. And the girl’s friend looked at him out of the corner of her eyes, and she waited for the boy’s reaction.

The boy did not react. The boy did not react to the girl’s friend except to look down and continue his school work for home.

The girl’s friend slapped her hand on his paper. She slapped her hand on the boy’s paper and said that was the secret.

The boy said that was no secret. He said everyone knew the girl liked the boy—for that week anyway—and even the boy knew it even though he was seldom part of everyone.

The girl’s friend asked the boy where he heard it. She asked him who told him the secret.

The boy said he could see it in the way the girl smiled at him, and he said the girl’s other friend had said something about it earlier in the day.

The girl’s friend said what did she say. The girl’s friend faked a look of panic and said what did she say.

The boy said he forgot. He said he forgot the exact words, but it was pretty close to what the girl’s friend had just told him.

The girl’s friend said she had wanted to be the one to tell the boy the secret.

The boy continued writing on his paper.

The girl’s friend stared at the front of the room. She stared at the place where the teacher sat when the teacher was in the room. The teacher was still not in the room.

Then the girl’s friend smiled her big smile again and asked the boy if he had kissed her.

The boy said who.

The girl’s friend said the girl of course, and she said who else could she have meant.

The boy said of course he had not kissed her.

The girl’s friend asked if he would kiss her. Not the girl, but the girl’s friend. She wanted a kiss for herself.

The boy said he thought the girl’s friend was a friend of the girl.

The girl’s friend said if he wasn’t going to kiss her (the girl) then maybe he would kiss her (the girl’s friend).

The boy said okay.

The girl’s friend was surprised that the strange boy who didn’t like anyone had agreed to kiss her.

The boy kissed the girl’s friend.

The girl’s friend blushed afterward. She blushed and said she had another secret. This time she did not wait for him to tell her he didn’t want to know her secret. She just told him. She told him that was her first kiss.

The boy just nodded.

The girl’s friend frowned and said didn’t that make it special.

The boy said it was a nice kiss.

The girl’s friend stood up and said at least she had a secret now that she could tell everyone. She said she could not wait to tell everyone that she had gotten the boy’s first kiss.

This time the boy smiled fully. He smiled and he laughed.

The girl’s friend asked the boy why he laughed at her.

The boy said it had not been his first kiss.

The girl’s friend said that was impossible. She asked who the boy had ever kissed before.

The boy said it was none of her business, but he would tell her the most recent. The most recent kiss had been with the girl’s other friend earlier in the day when she had tried to tell him the secret that even at that time was not a secret.

The girl’s friend left the room.

The boy finished his school work for home, and then he walked to the place where he lived with his mother before the man the boy was to call father appeared. And while he walked, he thought about all three kisses he had had that day, and he wondered how many more friends the girl might have who could not wait to tell him the secret that was not a secret.

To read more stories in the series, see the Becomes One Hundred Stories page.

Becomes One Hundred Stories #5: Climbs a Distant Mountain

This is a piece of short fiction in the style and universe of three of my novels: Becomes the Happy Man, Becomes God’s Silent Prophet, and Becomes the Meaning Blossom.

Climbs a Distant Mountain

The young man went for a walk.

The young man left the place where he lived in the loft of the place where he stored food for the beasts in the enclosure outside, and he went for a walk to the mountains. The mountains of his homeland. The young man went for a walk from the place where he lived to the mountains of his homeland. And it was a long walk.

The young man walked across farmland, across meadows, along rivers, and through forests. The young man slept at night and walked during the day.

The girl in the pink dress had recently left the young man’s homeland to marry her man in the neutral land where the young man would one day fight in the war and become wounded and recover from his wounds, but where he would not fall in love.

The young man missed the girl in the pink dress, although he did not want to admit it.

The young man arrived at the mountains of his homeland after four days of walking. After four days of walking and three nights of sleeping.

The young man arrived at the mountains of his homeland and he began climbing one of the mountains of his homeland. The young man climbed the mountain until it was too dark to climb, and then the young man slept through the night.

The young man dreamed of the girl in the pink dress. The young man dreamed his normal dream about the girl in the pink dress, but this time the young man also dreamed that the young woman was with them.

The young man woke from his dream in the early morning before sunrise. The young man woke from his dream and wondered why the young woman had appeared. The young man had no special feelings at that time for the young woman.

The young man ate some of the food he had brought with him for his morning meal, and he sat on the side of the mountain and waited for the sun to rise.

The sun rose.

The sun rose, but before the sun peeked over the horizon, it already lit the sky. The sun already lit the sky and the earth and the mountain. The sun already lit the mountain, and the young man had already resumed climbing the mountain by the time the sun peeked over the horizon.

The young man climbed to the top of the mountain. He arrived at the top of the mountain at midday. The young man sat at the top of the mountain and he ate his noon meal. He ate his noon meal from some food he had brought with him.

The young man thought about the third girl. The third girl who still lived and worked in the place where the old woman had lived before she died. The third girl who had asked the young man when he was a boy what he was doing with the container of strong drink before he had used it to take care of a difficult problem. The young man did not think about the container of strong drink or about the difficult problem he had solved when he was younger. The young man only thought about the girl. The third girl. The third girl who still lived and worked in the place where the other girls lived and worked after all those years had passed.

The young man had met the third girl the morning he left for his walk to the mountains of his homeland. The young man had met the third girl in the place where the girls and the young man prepared food. In the place where the young man usually was the only one who prepared food but where he usually prepared enough food for himself and the girls.

The third girl had said she missed the girl in the pink dress.

The young man had not replied. He had continued preparing his food for his long walk.

The third girl asked if the young man missed the girl in the pink dress.

The young man said he didn’t think much about it, and he continued preparing his food for his long walk.

The third girl said she wanted the young man to know he could have her any time he wanted.

The young man said he didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but he didn’t want to have any of the girls who lived and worked in the place where the girls lived and worked. The place where the old woman had lived before she died.

The third girl said didn’t he like her.

The young man said yes, but not in the way she meant.

The third girl said to pay no attention to her. She said she just missed the girl in the pink dress.

The young man left extra food for the third girl, and he said she could share it with the other girls.

The third girl said she would share it, and she thanked the young man for the food.

The young man approached the door and the third girl tried to kiss him. She landed an awkward kiss on his cheek as he shied away from her sudden movement.

The young man apologized, and he kissed the girl on the forehead, and he said he didn’t feel that way. He gave the third girl a tepid hug and he left.

The young man had always been awkward around girls. Except in his dream. His dream with the girl in the pink dress. The dream with the girl in the pink dress and this new version of the dream with the young woman joining him and the girl in the pink dress.

The young man looked out at his homeland from the top of the mountain, and he forgot about the third girl. He mostly forgot about the girl in the pink dress. But he did not forget about the young woman. The young man thought about the young woman from the top of the mountain, and he could see the sea from the top of the mountain. He could see the sea, but he could not see the islands beyond the horizon of his homeland that he would one day swim to. The islands were even beyond the horizon as seen from the top of his homeland’s mountains.

The young man saw the sea, but he could not see the beach where he would one day meet the young woman and arouse the temper of the other young man before swimming to the islands beyond the horizon of his homeland. He could not see the beach because it was too far away and the strand was too narrow, but he could feel it. He could feel something important would happen in that place he could not see. He could feel the future even if he could not remember the future.

The young man walked down the mountain. The young man walked to the bottom of the mountain before night. When night fell, the young man slept. The young man slept a dreamless sleep. When the young man woke from his dreamless sleep, he walked home. He walked back to the place where he lived across from the place where the girls lived and worked where the old woman had lived before she died. The young man walked four days and slept three nights on his walk from the mountains of his homeland to the place where he lived. The young man did not dream in any of his sleeps on his journey, but he could feel the future, and he could feel much would happen, both good and bad, in the years to come.

The young man entered the place where the girls lived and worked, and he went into the place where he prepared food. He had eaten the last of his food the day before, and he was hungry.

While the young man prepared his food, the third girl entered the place where he prepared food, and she held the hand of the other young man. The other young man had come for the third girl to do some work for him. The young man and the other young man avoided eye contact.

The third girl smiled and said she was sorry. She said she didn’t know the young man had returned.

The young man could see she knew very well he had returned.

The third girl beamed at the other young man and then whispered to the young man that she didn’t miss the girl in the pink dress anymore.

When the young man climbed to his sleeping place above the place where he stored food for the many beasts in the enclosure outside, he realized he didn’t miss the girl in the pink dress anymore either. Mostly.

 

To read more stories in the series, see the Becomes One Hundred Stories page.

Becomes One Hundred Stories #4: Toy Soldier

This is a piece of short fiction in the style and universe of three of my novels: Becomes the Happy Man, Becomes God’s Silent Prophet, and Becomes the Meaning Blossom.

Toy Soldier

The boy opened the gift.

The boy opened the gift that his mother had given him for his birthday. It was his fifth birthday. It was the boy’s fifth birthday, and the boy was alone. The boy was alone except for the gift that his mother had left for him the night before near the place where he slept. The place where he slept in the small place where he lived alone with his mother. Where he was often alone. Where he was alone again on his fifth birthday except for the gift he had just opened.

The gift was a toy soldier that had movable hands and feet and arms and legs. Its head could turn around completely. The boy turned the toy soldier’s head around completely a few times and wondered what it would be like if he could turn his own head around completely. The boy turned his head as far as he could one way, then he turned his head as far as he could the other way. But the boy could not turn his head around completely as the toy soldier could.

The toy soldier wore the uniform of the army of the boy’s homeland. The boy recognized the uniform of the army of his homeland because two soldiers from the army of his homeland had taken his mother out the night before so she could do some work for them. The boy’s mother had yet to return home. The boy’s mother had yet to return home, but the boy still admired the dress uniform of the toy soldier. The dress uniform that matched the dress uniform that the two soldiers wore when they had taken his mother out to work the night before.

The boy’s mother had left the gift with the boy near his sleeping place the night before and told him not to open it until the next morning after he woke up. The boy’s mother made him promise not to open the gift until the next morning after he woke up.

The boy promised.

The boy’s mother made him swear that he would not open the gift until the next morning after he woke up.

The boy swore.

The two soldiers laughed.

The boy’s mother said the gift would be empty if the boy opened the gift before he woke up the next morning.

The boy asked how he could open the gift before he woke up.

The boy’s mother said what.

The boy said he would be asleep before he woke up, so how could he open the gift in his sleep before he woke up.

One of the soldiers laughed. The other soldier helped the boy’s mother into her coat.

The boy’s mother said just be a good boy and do what she said and don’t open the gift until the next morning.

The boy said okay.

The boy’s mother repeated that the gift would be empty if the boy opened the gift before he woke up the next morning.

The boy’s mother left with the two soldiers.

The boy’s mother left with the two soldiers, and she had not returned by the next morning. She had not returned by the next morning after the boy had woken up. After the boy had woken up and had not yet opened the gift just as his mother had told him not to.

The boy had not even thought once about opening the gift the night before after his mother had left with the two soldiers. The boy was filled with wonder about what kind of gift his mother had given him that could disappear if he opened it too soon. The boy tried to imagine what kind of gift could do that. But the boy had a limited imagination at only five years old, so he settled on the gift being a plant or animal that needed to grow through the night and would not be large enough to see until the next morning. The boy certainly did not yet have enough imagination to consider that his mother had told him what she had told him to make sure he did not open the gift until the morning of his birthday. After he would wake up the morning of his birthday all alone. All alone except for the gift that the boy waited to open until after he woke up.

After the boy played with the toy soldier for a time, he remembered his mother’s warning about the gift disappearing if he opened it before he woke up. The boy wondered how the toy soldier in the dress uniform could have disappeared if he had opened the gift before he woke up. At first the boy thought the toy soldier might be magic. Then the boy thought maybe God would have made it disappear if he had disobeyed his mother and opened the gift before he promised he would.

Then after playing with the toy soldier a little longer, the boy realized that his mother had probably told him the gift would disappear if he opened it before he woke up the next morning just to make sure he opened it on his birthday.

The boy was disappointed. The boy knew his mother knew that he would have done what she told him even without that special threat, and the threat had made the gift seem more special than it turned out to be. And the boy had been full of intrigue about what kind of gift could make itself disappear if opened too soon—even though he had forgotten his intrigue after waking the next morning and before opening the gift.

But the intrigue remained with the boy long after the disappointment wore off. Long after the boy forgot that his mother had made the gift seem more interesting than it was. Even when the boy became a young man and a man and an old man, he continued to think about things that could exist in a closed box in many states and appear in a different state when the box was opened depending on whether the box was opened at one time or another time. And he continued to think about how a closed box could determine the state of its contents based on moral considerations such as promises made regarding the box’s opening. The boy, the boy as a young man, the boy as a man, and the boy as an old man all pondered such things throughout their long lives, particularly on the day they celebrated their birthday, but at other times also, now and then. The boy, the young man, the man, and the old man never did discover anything clever or elaborate about the nature of the universe based on these musings, and they never told anyone about what they thought. But such thoughts challenged the boy’s imagination throughout his life, and they kept his mind occupied now and then and reminded him of the toy soldier he received as a gift from his mother. A gift he had received the night before but waited until the morning of his fifth birthday to open because he was the kind of boy who did what he was told whether or not his mother made intriguing threats about special properties of her gifts.

The boy put down the toy soldier and made his morning meal. He made his morning meal, and he ate his morning meal. The boy went about his daily routine, and he brought his toy soldier along. The boy did the work that he always did on days he did not have school, and the toy soldier accompanied the boy while he worked. The boy did not work very long. He did not work very long compared to how long he would work as a young man and as a man. But the boy could work more than most boys his age whether he was accompanied by a toy soldier or not.

At night, the boy was tired. He took his toy soldier to his sleeping place. His mother had not yet returned home. The boy guessed she was still working hard with the two soldiers, and he wondered if she would return home the next day.

The boy made the toy soldier comfortable, and the boy made himself comfortable, and the boy started to fall asleep.

In the moment before the boy fell asleep, he wondered if the toy solder would disappear before the boy woke up the next morning.

It did not.

To read more stories in the series, see the Becomes One Hundred Stories page.

Becomes One Hundred Stories #3: Wakes Later than Usual

This is a piece of short fiction in the style and universe of three of my novels: Becomes the Happy Man, Becomes God’s Silent Prophet, and Becomes the Meaning Blossom.

Wakes Later than Usual

The young man woke up later than usual.

The young man lay in his sleeping place in the loft of the place where he stored food for the many beasts in the enclosure outside, and he felt the sun shine through the small window. He seldom woke up after sunrise. The young man did not understand why he had woken up so late.

The young man knew he would have to rise and feed the many beasts in the enclosure outside, but he decided to stay in his sleeping place a little longer.

The sleeping place was warm. The sleeping place was warm, but the place where he lived in the place where he stored food for the many beasts in the enclosure outside was warm too. In winter he was often tempted to stay in his sleeping place at least until sunrise because his sleeping place was so much warmer than the cold place where he lived, but even in winter he always roused himself before sunrise to feed the many beasts in the enclosure outside and then get on with his other daily chores. But on this day, the place where he lived was not cold because it was summer, and yet there he was, lying in his warm sleeping place long after the sun had risen.

The young man listened for the many beasts. They always grew restless near feeding time, anticipating the young man’s arrival with their feed. But the many beasts did not make any noise. The young man listened harder, and the many beasts remained silent.

The young man tried to think about what he had done the night before that might have put him in this unusual frame of mind. But the young man could not remember anything about the night before. He had probably spent the evening reading and preparing his food for the next day of work. He had probably done that because that was what he did most evenings. What specifically he had read and what specifically he had prepared to eat the next day, the young man could not remember.

The young man looked out the window at the deep, blue sky. The young man liked to look into the sky. But he seldom looked into a deep, blue sky from his sleeping place. The sky was always dark when he was in his sleeping place.

The young man also saw out the window the top of the place where the girls lived and worked. The place where the girls lived and worked was on the other side of the enclosure where the young man kept the many beasts for the owner of the place. The owner of the place where the girls lived and worked, and the owner of the many beasts, and the owner of the place where the young man stored food for the many beasts and where the young man slept. The young man looked at the top of the place where the girls lived and worked, and he thought about the girls. He thought about how they were probably all asleep at the end of a long night of work by the time the sun had risen this far in the sky. The young man wondered if one of the girls had perhaps done something to him in the night, but when he looked at the door of the place where he stored food for the many beasts in the enclosure outside, the small piece of cloth he always wedged in the door was still in place. No one had entered the place while the young man slept.

The young man lay back in his sleeping place and he felt the warmth of his sleeping place and he stared at the inside of the roof of the place where he stored food for the many beasts in the enclosure outside. The young man’s mind was blank.

The young man tried to sleep again. If he could not rouse himself from his sleeping place, then he would try to thwart his condition by going to the opposite extreme. He would try to return to sleep.

The young man tried to sleep, but he could not sleep. He just lay in his sleeping place with an empty mind, staring at the inside of the roof and wondering why he could not get himself up to feed the many beasts who did not seem too interested in being fed that morning.

The young man tried to remember if he had any dreams in the night. Any strong and restless and ominous dreams that might have cast this paralyzing spell over him. He had often found himself suffering from weariness after a night of particularly vivid dreams, but he had never before succumbed so completely. And yet the young man could not remember any dream he had had that night. Not a vivid, arresting dream, and not even a vague, benign dream.

The young man tried to think of what other work he had to do that fine summer day. What other work he was neglecting by lying in his sleeping place long after the sun had risen. What other work he would have to catch up on after he had fed the many beasts too late and then arrived at the place where he would do his work too late. But the young man could not think about what other work he had to do that day. He could remember nothing. He thought perhaps he would know what he was supposed to do that day after he had fed the many beasts, but he still could not rouse himself even to feed the many beasts, and the many beasts still were silent, so the young man still lay in his sleeping place looking at the inside of the roof, then at the small piece of cloth on the door, then at the deep, blue sky outside the window, then at the top of the place where the girls lived and worked in the place where the old woman lived before she died on the other side of the enclosure where the many beasts did not wait for the young man to bring their food.

Then a door slammed. Not the door to the place where the young man stored the food for the many beasts in the enclosure outside, but the door to the place where the girls lived and worked. The young man could not see that door from his sleeping place, so he rose on an elbow and looked down past the enclosure where the many beasts calmly milled about. He looked past the enclosure to the place where the girls lived and worked. The girl in the pink dress stood at the door and looked off into the distance.

The young man wondered why the girl in the pink dress was awake so late. The young man wondered if the many beasts who visited the girls for their feedings had all been satisfied just as it appeared that the many beasts that the young man had to feed were satisfied. The young man was about to ponder the vagaries of metaphor when the girl in the pink dress called his name.

The young man looked at the girl in the pink dress, but the girl in the pink dress did not look at him. The girl in the pink dress still looked off into the distance. Another young man approached the place where the girls lived and worked, the place where the girl in the pink dress stood calling his name. The young man realized that the young man approaching the place where the girls lived and worked had the same name as him. The girl in the pink dress had called his name, but she had not called him. She had called the other young man who shared his name.

The young man wondered why the girl in the pink dress was working so late. Then the young man no longer wondered why everything had been so strange since he had woken up. He no longer wondered because the sun fell lower in the sky. The deep, blue sky darkened, and the young man realized that the shadows had been wrong all along for morning. The morning sun never appeared in the window where the evening sun now appeared before it set.

Then the young man knew what he had been doing before he fell asleep. He had finished the last of his summer work. He had finished the last of his work earlier than he usually finished his daily work, and he had returned to the place where he lived in the place where he stored food for the many beasts in the enclosure outside, and he had lain down to rest after his long summer of hard work.

The young man had taken a nap. The young man had not taken a nap for many years, and he had been disoriented upon waking in the evening instead of the morning.

And the girl in the pink dress shut the door behind her. And the many beasts milled about their enclosure. The sun set, and the young man thought about his long summer of hard work until he fell into a long, deep sleep full of vivid dreams. Vivid dreams that he would forget when he woke up before the sunrise to feed the many beasts in the enclosure outside.

To read more stories in the series, see the Becomes One Hundred Stories page.

Becomes One Hundred Stories #2: Reads in the Light

This is a piece of short fiction in the style and universe of three of my novels: Becomes the Happy Man, Becomes God’s Silent Prophet, and Becomes the Meaning Blossom.

burning-candleReads in the Light

The man turned on the light.

The man turned on the light, but the light did not turn on. The light did not turn on because the light no longer worked. The light no longer worked because the place where the man lived had lost power. The place where the man lived had lost power, but the man did not know why. The man tried to turn on the light again, but it did not turn on.

The man did not know why the place where he lived had lost power, but it did not matter whether he knew why. All that mattered was that the man could not turn on the light.

The man had wanted to turn on the light because he had wanted to read. The man still wanted to read. The man could not read in the dark, so he needed to find another light.

The man found another light. The man found a candle in a box. But the man could not find a source of fire to light the candle.

The candle was long and thin. The man touched the wick at the end of the candle and tried to think about how to light the wick. The man succeeded in thinking about how to light the wick, but he still did not know how to light the wick. So the man continued to think about it.

The man continued to think about how to light the wick of the candle so he could read in the darkness. The man continued to think until he thought of a possibility.

The man went outside.

The man entered the darkness outside the place where he lived. Outside the dark place where he lived. The dark place where he lived in darkness. The man entered the darkness outside and looked up at the starless sky.

The starless sky was empty. It was not the first time the man had looked into an empty, starless sky. The man did not even try to think why the stars had lost power. If he had thought about it, perhaps he would have concluded that the stars had lost power for the same reason that the place where he lived had lost power. He would have been wrong had he drawn such a conclusion, but he did not draw such a conclusion because he did not even try to think about it. The man only thought about finding a source of fire to light the candle so he could read.

The man walked through the darkness under the starless sky and found his way to the small building where he stored his tools.

The man entered the small building and turned on the light. The light did not turn on. The small building where the man stored his tools had also lost power.

The man tried to think about how he could light the small building where he stored his tools so he could find a source of fire to light the candle in the place where he lived so he could read in the darkness.

The man carefully moved around inside the small building where he stored his tools. The small dark building. He was glad he always kept his tools well-organized in the small building because he found his way around the inside of the small dark building without stumbling over tools and without hitting his shins on objects that cluttered the floor. Objects that did not clutter the floor because the man kept his tools and his objects well-organized in the small building.

The man stopped in the middle of the small building and closed his eyes. He did not need to close his eyes because the darkness inside the small building was just as dark as the darkness the man saw when he closed his eyes. But the man always thought better when he closed his eyes. He always could make a mental model better when he closed his eyes. So the man closed his eyes and made a mental model of the inside of the small dark building where he stored his tools.

And the man found in his mental model the place where he stored the sources of fire to light candles. He did not keep the sources of fire to light candles but rather to light the fire outside where he sometimes cooked meat. The fire that started as a small fire and then grew into a large fire then died into coals over which he cooked his meat. He usually cooked such meat in the space between the place where he lived and the small dark building where he stored his tools, but sometimes he made such a fire in the forest when he went into the forest to spend the night.

The man found the place in his mental model where he stored the sources of fire in the small building to light the fire over which he cooked his meat. The man opened his eyes and went to the place in the small dark building that matched the place in his mental model where he stored his sources of fire. And in the place that matched the place, the man found the sources of fire. The sources of fire that he usually used to start the fire over which he cooked his meat, but with which he could also light the wick of the candle so he could read in the darkness.

The man took one source of fire and turned it on. But that source of fire did not turn on. The man wondered if the sources of fire that he stored in the small dark building where he stored his tools had also lost power. Then the man thought that was impossible. The only way he could think such sources of fire could lose power was if they were wet. These sources of fire were dry. So the man thought perhaps only the first source of fire had lost power, and he tried to turn on a second source of fire. And that second source of fire turned on. It turned on brightly, then dimmed to a stable light from a steady flame. Then the man turned off that source of fire and he took the container of the sources of fire out of the small dark building where he stored his tools. He took the container into the darkness outside under the starless sky. He passed the place where he sometimes made a fire to cook his meat, and the man entered the place where he lived.

The man entered the place where he lived, and he turned on the light. The man turned on the light out of habit. And the light turned on. Perhaps it turned on out of habit, but more likely it turned on because the place where the man lived had found its power.

The man entered the darkness outside once more and did not notice that the sky was still starless. Had he noticed that the power to the stars was still lost while the power to the place where he lived had been found, he would have concluded—correctly—that the stars and the place where he lived had different sources of power.

The man entered the small building where he stored his tools, and he turned on the light. The light turned on. The power in the small no-longer-dark building where he stored his tools had been found too.

The man put away the container of the sources of fire, but he put a few sources of fire in a smaller container to take into the place where he lived so he would have them at hand in case the place where he lived lost its power again when it was dark and the man wanted to read.

The man turned off the light in the small building where he stored his tools. He turned off the light, and the light turned off.

The man entered the darkness under the starless sky and crossed the space between the small building where he stored his tools and the place where he lived.

The man entered the place where he lived and he turned off the light. The man turned off the light, and the light turned off.

The man turned on a source of fire, and the source of fire turned on.

The man touched the small source of fire to the wick of the candle, and the wick caught fire. The candle lit the place where the man lived.

The man turned off the source of fire, but the candle continued to light the room. The man took the candle into the room where he usually read.

The man placed the candle on a table next to the place where he usually read.

And the man read in the darkness. In the light.

To read more stories in the series, see the Becomes One Hundred Stories page.