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I have a list. I think it’s complete.
1. To love.
2. To be loved.
3. There is no 3.
To be honest, there is no 2: to be loved is inconsequential. Even 1 is secondary to staying alive, but when we can achieve it, 1 is the list. Picture this trivial scene: we have wasted hours in the rain standing beside cheese that isn’t selling, on a plaza, near a parking lot, in a suburb, at a mall. Speaking for you, we are diminished when we fail to unite cheese with cheese-eaters to benefit the cow, the grass, and the sun; rain, bacteria, and enzymes; the farmer, the monger, the merchant, the merchandiser, the purchaser, the consumer, several species, and the culture. Beyond being employed by a cheese maker, we love what cheese can mean: milk made safe, then made long-lived, then rendered exquisite through craft, which is cultural genius. But we’re selling nothing while segments of beautiful rounds imperceptibly rot, dry, weep, and mold. Our engagement ends, as it were, without a wedding, and so we pack the truck with jilted brides. But Mrs. Kim returns. “I sampled a cheese,” she says. “Which one was it? I want some.” We’re wet, forlorn, and in no way will benefit from Mrs. Kim, but you’re evolved. Your head turns toward her, but you see cars in the lot. Where else on billions of planets, you wonder, are cars? Nowhere. When other than now have creatures discerned the beauty of bent metal (or the flavors of milk made solid)? Never. We’re alone. You drag out the cooler, dig in the bin, lay out sample cheeses, offer the fragile wonder of life on earth to Mrs Kim, without ever consulting “The List” because if you live it, you don’t need it.

Michael’s face was red. “OK, then, gun to your head,” he demanded, “what’s the best Christmas movie?” Though his tone suggested he might actually have put something to my head, he hadn’t. Well, first, I told him, with a gun to my head I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on movies; second, the category’s too broad: Christmas comedy? Christmas love story? Is Die Hard a Christmas movie for taking place on Christmas? “Completely irrelevant,” he said. “Best is best. But anyway, it’s a trick question. They all suck because they all lie.” I knew better than to take the bait but I told him anyway that all movies lie. “Well, I know actors wear makeup and play make-believe,” he told me, “but they do that to tell a truth; Christmas movies lie to lie.” He put his mug down hard as if he wanted to tenderize the coaster. Glasses clinked down the bar. He’d been pounding me the same way since we sat down, which was common, but his red face was not. He cared about this. I watched his eyes and waited. A string of lights twinkled behind his head. “You think Santa Claus is universal,” he told me,“and that finding out he’s your parents is a primal disillusionment. That’s Hollywood bullshit. Kids have dads who bring out guns on Christmas Eve and put them to their children’s heads one by one,” he said. That can’t be right, I told him. “One by one and pulled the trigger,” he told me, “year in and year out, and made them wonder if one year there’d be bullets. Why have I never seen that in a movie?” I waited until he was finished. Why are you telling me this, Michael? I asked him. What the hell are you telling me?

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This work by davidbdale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at davidbdale.wordpress.com.

The Deputy Assistant has died for an analogy. Some will recall four years ago his boss, the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, boldly revived the discredited effort to eradicate polio from the provinces west and south of the capital—bold because several children had been paralyzed by the vaccine given to protect them. Those precious souls with their bent frames were the statistical necessity of a cure for the world, but they were pathetic, and no matter what the Deputy Assistant said, their parents were impossible to answer. For several seasons after that, whole provinces of five-year-olds had closed their mouths against the disreputable sugar cube. An ambivalent man might have been daunted; instead, the Minister wept for an audience at the new sanitation plant, but warned that an excess of love for the stricken few unfortunates would cripple thousands of children. His Deputy was moved as well but understood the numbers better. Only one child would be stricken for every three million successfully dosed. “It is as if,” he told the Minister, and the comment has cost him his life, “to banish the scourge to oblivion, you sacrificed your three sons.” The details of how he fulfilled his accidental prophecy are appalling, and there is evidence he tried to sabotage it, but the clarity of the plan is as strict as a gem. In the capital today, the Deputy Assistant has eaten a phosphine tablet and died. The job is two-thirds done now, new cases are rare, and the Minister’s third son travels with him to the regions of greatest concern, where skepticism of the vaccine might nullify the nation’s triumph over disease. The boy stands straight and tall alongside his brothers in their chairs, and the locals decide for themselves the extent of the Minister’s nerve.

Creative Commons License
This work by davidbdale is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at davidbdale.wordpress.com.

I bought the newspaper out of pity before I boarded the local. It felt thin, and looked like nothing new. I swiped my card near the fare box and at the same time watched myself do so on a monitor showing me from behind, shot by the camera above the door. Read the rest of this entry »

I owe the Xuuxu my life but no gratitude. Once they flushed us from our valley and stood us naked, side by side in the long grass under the sickle moon, lowlands clansmen that the colonists favored Read the rest of this entry »

The water flows both ways through the tunnel of love, depending on which rusty lever I force! Like life, this tacky carnival ride with its soggy boats bobbing in a curving trough is not a circle but a figure-eight, or an eighty-eight, that doubles back and gives us second chances Read the rest of this entry »

Although I could be fired for asking out loud, your city council have all been wondering if other towns are shrinking too, and if so, what’s being done to stop the trend or reverse it. Read the rest of this entry »

He’s not always easy to see. I can be talking to him in my room on a rainy afternoon with the radio playing and sharing a blueberry pie, and my dad will open the bedroom door and Deuce’ll be gone and it looks like I’m eating a pie by myself and talking to the radio. Read the rest of this entry »

Some of my stuff I want to keep after I’m dead, but Ariel can pick out three things from my toy-box, not three of the same things, like not three ponies, or not even two insects, but a pony and an insect and a piece of furniture would be good, and she can ride my bike when she’s big enough. Read the rest of this entry »

We boys had a club in the attic of Mitchell’s garage, the whole time I knew him and until he disappeared. We had handshakes and irrelevant passwords to guard against infiltration attempts that sadly never occurred. Read the rest of this entry »

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299-WORD NOVELS

Character, conflict, emotional impact. And sentences! Everything you want in a novel, without one extra syllable.

Behind the Pseudonym

The pen name David B Dale honors my parents Beatrice and Dale. David+B+Dale = davidbdale

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