Category Archives: Fiction

La Obra


This is a short chapter from an unfinished novel I started about eight years ago, called The Four Seasons of July Grimm. It was a sprawly, ragged thing– a “flaneur” novel, so to speak– about a character  named July Grimm, a down and out drunken poet type (with no resemblance at all to the author, of course) who wanders around the city of San Francisco, soaking up the life of the city. In the course of his travels, he has a  series of bizarre encounters with a wide array of oddballs and misfits. Also, certain places he passes or visits will come to life in a chapter of its own– some event that happened in the past; or often something more surreal and imaginary. It is in some way, I guess, about all the layers that make up a city, and how they meld with the consciousness of its inhabitants. This is one of those interim chapters.

I just remembered that there are four sections of the novel, each taking place during a single day of a different season. The first one, which this chapter is from, takes place on April 19th, the day after the Centennial of the 1906 earthquake.

Which is, you know, kind of almost a neat coincidence.


Down below, Pepe makes his little “choo-choo” joke again and Diego laughs, his great head going back, his thick brown lips opening wide and showing his yellowed teeth.

“You useless tramp, Pepe. You tiny, brainless, mange-afflicted mutt,” he huffs and wipes the sweat from his brow. He pulls off his hat, and smoothes back his damp jet-black hair, and exhales deeply. Down below it is quiet, and he deduces that Pepe has gone into the other room to get something. “Come back, silly little Chihuahua!” he bellows and decides it is time to sit for a moment and have a cigarette. Usually he smokes while he works, instead of taking a break, but it is late afternoon, moving swiftly into evening, and he hasn’t had a break since breakfast. It is hot in the great room, the heat having had a chance to grow and build all day, and he has grown tired without realizing it.

He sits down on his stool and it creaks beneath his great frame, which he manages to balance somehow rather gracefully on the diminutive surface. He rests there, high on his scaffolding and smokes and looks up at the great wall above him, at the place where the paint encroaches on the charcoal outline like flames of something living–three dimensional cloud angels invading the territory of the dead. Continue reading


Love Tunnels

tumblr_mvyvk7zFOq1r4xtdqo1_500If you’re paying close enough attention in the beginning, you can see the writing on the doomed brick facade of every romance that has ever failed. There are no exceptions to this, and if there were, ours wouldn’t be one of them. Almost immediately after we met, the fear of losing her had closed its knotted grip around all of my thoughts and actions. When I wasn’t with her, my attention was ceaselessly interrupted by the recent memories of our previous interaction. All of my deeds were prompted by an anxious need to protect that one thing which I prized the most: a courtship that had not even reached its sixth month. If I were on the outside looking in, I wouldn’t have believed that the rot of insecurity and need could have penetrated so deeply, but the inescapable fact was that I had become tragically weak. I knew it, but because I was happy, I told myself that it didn’t matter. Continue reading

Alexander Schmalexander Jones

photo-3Everyone always said Alexander Schmalexander Jones had nine lives. Probably he had more. I don’t think he ever counted. Here are some I know: As a baby, Alexander jumped off the roof of his house and lived. As a child, he put stones in his pockets and floated. One humid summer day, Alexander and his one true junior high love took turns poisoning each other with everything they had around: insect spray stirred into chocolate milk, pills from their mothers’ purses crushed and deposited into peanut butter sandwiches. These episodes resulted in vomiting and a trip to the ER where Alexander had to drink a charcoal to hedge against kidney damage, but he didn’t die. His one true junior high love held his hand and looked at his test results hanging on the wall as if they were graven images.

In high school, Alexander wrapped his car around a tree and crawled right out through the shattered window. (He didn’t wreck because he was drunk; he wrecked because his idiot friend burned him on the back of his neck with a pipe). He carried his dead idiot friend for two miles down that road by the time a car passed by to help. Later he climbed through the window and got into the bed of his one true high school love and cried and cried for his idiot friend and for idiocy in general and death, and his one true high school love lay beside him and stroked his hair and caught his tears on her fingers. When it was time to go and Alexander crawled back out the window, he wished he was crawling back in through the window of his demolished car. He would stay there in the dark in the twisted, hot metal and he would do what it took to push and pull out his idiot friend before he started breathing the swarming black smoke that would smother him.  Continue reading