This One Time
Each piece is a short description of a single moment in time from the viewpoint of some seemingly random person. The moments described all tell a larger story that none of the individuals will ever see in total, in a kind of spatio-temporal pointilism. Because that’s how the world works sometimes.
If you end up skipping around or missing pieces, it won’t ruin it for you. You’ll just get a different idea of what the story is. That’s life. Just pick one that looks cool and click the number.
I write them and post them one per day, flash-fiction style, having started on Jan 1, 2011. I’ll stop when the larger story is fully told. In the meanwhile, enjoy, and share it with your friends. Theories and feedback are welcome.
1. This one time a flaming yellow snarling thing came down out of the sky and quenched itself in the e. colerific river I can see from the fire escape.
2. This one time I was sitting in a little cafe/restaurant thing that was about as wide and long as the main hallway in the house where I grew up — and it really wasn’t a big house.
3. This one time I knocked a letter opener off a desk and it dropped right through the top of a leather loafer and nailed itself into the top of my foot.
4. This one time I threw a ratty old green tennis ball for my dog Alf to catch and another dog just flew in out of nowhere and swallowed the damned thing whole.
5. This one time I was sitting in this cafeteria place and I had no idea where I was or how long I had been there.
6. This one time I was shopping for shoes to replace the ones that had the blowout.
7. This one time I was at work and it was creepy and pitch black, maybe three hours before sunrise, and it sounds stupid to say it was one time because it was pretty much every frickin’ day of my adult life.
8. This one time me and the boys were sitting around the boardroom table pretending to be important at one another, gauging the uniform subtle shininess of cloth and width of lapels and weaponized neckwear and cufflinks and all the usual bullshit to cover for the fact that we’ve all seen each other naked at any of a number of those parties, each of those parties being an expression of the risk of doing business with partners overseas who have successfully been sold on the idea that they can launder all the money they like by buying consulting through us and letting us write checks back to their favorite projects and lobbying firms and influence outlets and scholarship funds for their children and the usual whatnot
9. This one time I was sitting on the train getting my work done, and by that I mean I was sleeping.
10. This one time I was on the phone with my mother, back in Ssese.
11. This one time I had this dream – I don’t want to talk about it.
12. This one time on the bus I sat very still.
13. This one time I was reading the Franz Kafka Quarterly and I was laughing my ass off.
14. This one time I was hiking up what passes for a mountain around here, having hit that part where each inhale makes it feel like stabbing icicles into your lungs through your bronchial plumbing, hoping any gnats or mosquitoes or whatnot that I accidentally suck down have the good grace to climb out on their own so I don’t have to have a coughing fit and pass out.
15. This one time I was sitting on my porch in the rocking chair, bourbon lemonade in one hand, my pipe in the other, and my second-favorite 10-gauge lever-action single-barrel shotgun across my lap.
16. This one time I blew a note so pure it cracked my skull.
17. This one time I died for two months and then came back from the dead.
18. This one time I was lying on my back on a blanket up on the roof looking at the clouds.
19. This one time I was sitting on my ass in an alley between two of the four storey buildings in this town where that’s what the locals think of as tall.
20. This one time I’d been at my computer for about maybe the sixteenth straight hour.
21. This one time I was standing in one of the rooms upstairs in the church adjacent to the baptistry where new Christians change into baptismal robes and dry off afterward.
22. This one time I was sitting at my desk talking to myself.
23. This one time I … heh. Did I say “this one time”? Yeah, it was this one time. It’s also right now.
24. This one time I was walking home from work — second shift at the textile mill where my mother had worked until she died and where my husband had been a shift manager until he he got singled out to take the fall for some merchandise theft.
25. This one time I was at a rock concert with my boyfriend of the hour.
26. This one time I was sitting in a old wooden boat that wouldn’t have been allowed to do time as a dinghy where I used to work, not that there was any ocean within a thousand miles of here.
27. This one time I was sitting on a sidewalk bench outside a club at maybe two in the morning.
28. This one time I got a pretty strange email from a woman I’ve never met, a woman in a different country, asking if she could meet me for a drink sometime.
29. This one time I was sitting zazen, listening to the noise inside and outside of my head, just letting it be noise.
30. This one time my cat came in from outside and brought me a present.
31. This one time I read about this thing, this ritual.
32. This one time I was in that area of the world where the local civilization had, counter to popular belief, actually invented wheels — but used them only on toys.
33. This one time I was a lizard, a gecko, running around on a stucco wall of a tiny church stalking moths and houseflies.
34. This one time I was driving to work and it was taking forever.
35. This one time I was out on the prairie in the department’s secondary (and therefore crappier) blind, checking the mixing board and the microphone and speaker hookups, contemplating the end of my academic career.
36. This one time I was buried up to my knees in shaded, cold loam full of wriggling life, wrapped by green vines covered in tiny yellow flowers, with my face pressed into the flank of an antelope.
37. This one time I sat on my naked ass on a beach with black sand.
38. This one time I was rereading a book I know I had read maybe thirty times, and I couldn’t remember what was going to happen next.
39. This one time I looked up and saw the Earth hanging in the sky, right above the horizon, backlit by the sun, which had set a week or more ago.
40. This one time I was standing over the monitors at the security station with the head of building security, the head of HR, and that dumb mouthy bitch from inside sales that everyone always tells all the stories about.
41. This one time I had this dream that there was a kind of rattle-sound in the box at the bottom of my closet.
42. This one time I was repacking my meager bag under a bridge over some west-bound Interstate highway or other. Maybe.
43. This one time I was in the park with my camera, trying to take pictures of the old shut-down museum across the street.
44. This one time I brought out all the house goblins and arrayed them on the table for review of the troops and a lecture.
45. This one time I decided to take a complete vacation from who I was and, you know, left the house.
46. This one time I was standing on that level that overlooks most of the action at what has to be the busiest train station in the world and, therefore, the absolute worst place on earth to try to meet someone.
47. This one time I was holding a baby that didn’t belong to me, looking up at a moon that would be full in a couple of days, and wondering how much time I had left.
48. This one time I was sitting in the jury box for a simple civil case — a suit to recoup damages from some fist-fight that had gotten out of hand when someone’s brother came over to beat the crap out of his sister’s abusive boyfriend.
49. This one time I noticed that whatever it was I was noticing I started noticing more of.
50. This one time was actually thousands of times, tens of thousands of times, simultaneous only when seen through a perspective granted by one eye ninety degrees out of joint.
51. This one time I was warm and toasty up in the fire tower, which almost never happens during the winter months.
52. This one time I was walking out along the cliff, pushing the baby in the huge-wheeled off-road stroller.
53. This one time I was maybe on my third day out in the woods.
54. This one time we were all on the stage pretending to be all musical and stuff, because that’s how we get paid.
55. This one time I had a vision of fire.
56. This one time the old fear came back — the fear of getting lost someplace familiar.
57. This one time I was watching a tiny plum-and-scarlet crab move into a sandcastle and I had this thought about entropy.
58. This one time, about six days into the massive solar flare-up, I was laying out up on the roof getting a moontan.
59. This one time the rain was coming down in buckets and I couldn’t even see the street from my front door.
60. This one time us trogs were on an extended twenty-day exploratory and mapping jaunt.
61. This one time I read this fairy tale about some kid or other who was playing chase with his sister.
62. This one time I was sitting on a bench in the mall having my usual fantasy about a zombie invasion.
63. This one time I was out making rounds on the farm, scratching at some kind of new infection on my gills, and coming to the conclusion that porpoises are freaks — and I do mean that sexually.
64. This one time I had the breeder reactor going full blast, which basically means I was producing U-233 slightly faster than I was producing lead.
65. This one time all of us dead people were hanging around on the streets of a city most of us remembered, even though many of us had never been there in life.
66. This one time the lethargy was pretty strong and I was having trouble finding the motivation to do anything.
67. This one time, after cleaning out the recently vacated jellyfish tank, I was faced with the realization of the sheer number of pet deaths I had fostered while the little things were in my care.
68. This one time I was on this date thing with someone I had met through a friend-of-a-friend scenario.
69. This one time, just after the close of a recitation on stage, the stadium was roaring and flashing with applause.
70. This one time this entire town was a meadow, full of waving grasses and grazing deer and bison.
71. This one time I was working on evaluating algorithms for solving mazes.
72. This one time I was visiting my grandmother in the apartment we rented for her by the park with all the cherry trees.
73. This one time I was trying to read a graphic novel — yes, Mom, that’s like a comic book, but thicker — and the cat was trying to convince me I should do otherwise, like cats do.
74. This one time I was wondering what I would do if the world was about to end.
75. This one time I was running through the airport and everyone was screaming.
76. This one time I was on the sofa in my pajamas — if that’s what you want to call what I was wearing — and trying to decide how to kill the time until it was no longer too early to go to bed.
77. This one time I was flying back to the city.
78. This one time I was with my hypnotherapist, doing past-life regressions.
79. This one time the world was without form and void and darkness covered the face of the deep.
80. This one time I was sitting in the park, minding my own business, when I had a visitation from the present.
81. This one time I was having my doubts about fire.
82. This one time we were listening to the rain drip through the hole in the roof and soak its way through the acoustic tile.
83. This one time I was going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it.
84. This one time the world was beautiful and filled with a constant buzz of wonder at all the inexplicable delight — or so I was told.
85. This one time a bunch of us were sitting in the hot springs, some of us up to our chests, a few of us up to our nostrils or eyeballs, letting the heat soak in and pump throughout our bodies via our blood and breath.
86. This one time a team of ants were dragging me through the rainforest, their aggregate tugging no more effective than the tidal tug of the invisible moon — but also no less.
87. This one time I was facing the wall of a cell, trying to see if I could see through it into any kind of future worth inhabiting.
88. This one time the expo I go to every year had hit one of those lulls where it seems like everything’s frozen and time has stopped.
89. This one time I was looking at my pipe, a meerschaum that had certainly seen some action, stained black and mahogany brown with a hundred years of nicotine and handling, but beautiful, and in beautiful condition.
90. This one time, back when I was a little elf, I was chasing grasshoppers out in the fields behind the little subdivision my family lived in.
91. This one time I was listening to the drums from the lot next door — “Mama”, with her deep voice, the alto tones of “Second”, the quicker rattle of “Bowl”, the insistent ting of “Organ” (these are the names as I heard them from someone whose accent put any certainty about what I was hearing just out of reach) — as the sun was going down.
92. This one time I was staring at the corpse of my future, hoping beyond hope that I had the capacity to bring it to life.
93. This one time I was dragging the next roller forward, having already cinched and pegged to keep the god from slipping backward.
94. This one time I was sitting on the wall down at the park with a couple of my, you know, the guys I hang out with.
95. This one time a handful of pigs built houses to live in and then a wolf with really bad breath came through town and knocked them all down except for one or two, and everyone tried to move into those houses simultaneously, and then there was what you might call a bit of basic unrest.
96. This one time I was headfirst up past my shoulders in the guts of one of the most overdesigned inkjet printers it has ever been my distinct lack of joy to service.
97. This one time the twins were both sitting up on the sofa and trying to give each other this ratty old stuffed bunny.
98. This one time I was sitting at my desk waiting for the phone to ring.
99. This one time I was lying on my back in bed, doing the usual thing I do when I can’t get to sleep, which is nothing.
100. This one time I was running through the park on the track they’d put in around the athletic fields.
101. This one time I was walking along a small town’s downtown streets looking for an all-night laundromat or, I dunno, someplace else that I could beg or steal some clothes.
102. This one time the moon was bobbing along in the sky like a child’s balloon on a string.
103. This one time a small lizard was climbing up the wall, stopping periodically and chirping.
104. This one time I was at a university in Italy, in a room that was called — and I’m translating here, but only barely — the Visualization Lab.
105. This one time I was sitting in my veal pen, going through the desk drawer for all the scraps of papers and scraps of pens left for me by the previous resident.
106. This one time I was sitting quietly, eyes closed, listening but not paying attention, breathing but not making a chore out of it.
107. This one time I was at a baseball game, supporting our local Boys of Summer, I suppose, just like I had done as a little girl.
108. This one time I was fixing breakfast and I found an owl in my orange juice.
109. This one time, in the city of the dead, some of us were having a picnic.
110. This one time I was sitting out one of our every-other-day thunderstorms, watching from under the awning on the restaurant’s patio.
111. This one time we were all sitting around the boardroom table, enjoying a catered breakfast of coffee from a cardboard box poured into cardboard cups accompanied by another cardboard box full of cardboard donuts.
112. This one time I was standing on the pier watching the sunlight wash in as the tide limped away.
113. This one time I was having one of those days when it seemed that no decision I made was the right one — and things were snowballing.
114. This one time I was in the catacombs under some old, old buildings in an Italian metropolis, half-blind and hallucinating.
115. This one time I was lurching through these underground catacombs, wrapped in shredded rags, and apparently scaring the bejeezus out of everyone I met.
116. This one time I was up at Dogtown North with the recording equipment, listening to the stories the prairie dogs were telling.
117. This one time I was sitting around in the studio, talking to some old dude whose name you’ve probably have heard but who would really rather me not mention it here.
118. This one time I was on the subway, zoned out and occasionally napping, headed home from working the overnight shift at my weird job that I really don’t feel like explaining at the moment.
119. This one time I was in the room with the trunk of everything, the one that took you strange places every time you opened and closed the lid, and I was at the workbench I had installed with all of my little bottles on it.
120. This one time it was raining down fire and brimstone from the sky and ash plumes ascended to the heavens like the pointless prayers of the damned — but that’s nothing new.
… and that’s a wrap. When this is all bundled into another form for purchase or download, I’ll make sure the details end up here!
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This One Time, 103
This one time a small lizard was climbing up the wall, stopping periodically and chirping. I was back in church, communing with the horrible paintings on the walls and the wasps with their separate shrine hanging on the armpit of the crucifix. I wasn’t sure why the gecko was singing, unclear whether it was a […]
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