A checkout story

I stopped in at Co-op to get some gro­ceries, and got in the short­est line I could find. The guy in front of me, man, he was a sto­ry.

He had a thin beard, grey eyes, and wore a bas­ket­ball tank-top and a ball cap. His arms were tat­tooed with num­bers and designs: a 12 on his left fore­arm, an ankh on one wrist, the word SATAN’S crawl­ing down the inside of his right fore­arm.

He had a 2‑litre bot­tle of store-brand cream soda, vio­lent­ly pink, and four pack­ages of Reese’s Peanut But­ter Cups. He paid his bill—$7.86—with a dou­ble fist­ful of dimes, and got 15¢ change back.

He’s got a sto­ry to tell. Prob­a­bly quite a few of them, real­ly. I just have no idea if I’m tough enough to hear them.


I dis­cov­ered on the track today that this song (“Super­beast”, by Rob Zom­bie) per­fect­ly match­es my run­ning* pace.

It’s extra fun­ny when you con­sid­er that, as I was leav­ing the house this morn­ing, my wife said, “Enjoy run­ning… for your life!


* Fine, jog­ging pace.


Sabotage (Memories of JJ, #8)

Dad loved cop shows from the ’70s and ’80s. He was­n’t a big fan of ’80s and ’90s music, though. So imag­ine my sur­prise, one day, when, home for a week­end, I heard the dul­cet tones of the Beast­ie Boys com­ing from the TV that he was watch­ing. It was such an odd occur­rence, in fact, that it took me a moment to rec­og­nize what I was hear­ing.

Then it clicked: it was the break­down in “Sab­o­tage”.

I came out of my room just in time for the lyrics to start up again, and Dad, real­iz­ing he’d been tricked, switched the chan­nel.

I get it, though. It sure does look like an ’80s cop show.

Some birth-year words

Thanks to Mer­ri­am-Web­ster’s “Time Trav­el­er” fea­ture, I now know that the fol­low­ing words’ and phras­es’ first record­ed use hap­pened the year I was born:

And dozens of oth­ers, too. How about you?

(Maybe lat­er I’ll indulge in a caipir­in­ha.)

Campfire Week

File Photo: Laundry

It was gor­geous out this week­end, sim­ply beau­ti­ful. Highs of 29°C Sat­ur­day and Sun­day. So I washed, like, all the laun­dry in my house and hung it on the line to dry on Sat­ur­day.

My neigh­bours decid­ed to have them­selves a fire in their back­yard fire pit, about an hour before I brought my laun­dry in.

Long sto­ry short, every shirt I put on now smells like camp­ing. Not that I’m com­plain­ing.


For a scene in my cur­rent work in progress, I want­ed to know what the prop­er term is for the skull­cap worn by bish­ops in the Catholic Church. So I Googled arch­bish­op skull­cap, as you do.

The word is zuc­chet­to. It comes from the Ital­ian for … Pump­kin. (Because, appar­ent­ly, the lit­tle caps—worn to keep the bish­ops’ heads warm—reminded peo­ple of pump­kins cut in half.)

I end­ed up going with “arch­bish­op’s skull­cap” in the man­u­script.


A cou­ple years ago, I had an epiphany while read­ing Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun, when the nar­ra­tor Sev­er­ian point­ed out that

It is always a temp­ta­tion to say that such feel­ings are inde­scrib­able, though they sel­dom are.

Today, though… Today I was fin­ish­ing Wolfe’s superb 1988 nov­el There Are Doors, and I hap­pened upon this on page 294:

"An indescribable sound filled the arena"

Which is it, Mr. Wolfe? Which is it?

I must admit, though, it’s nice that, imme­di­ate­ly after he calls the sound inde­scrib­able, he pro­ceeds to describe it with delight­ful econ­o­my. Wolfe may be fond of unre­li­able nar­ra­tors, but his prose is reli­ably amaz­ing.



Series: Gene Wolfe

The entire series: The Gold­en Sen­tence; A les­son in a line; Inde­scrib­able; My head­’s swim­ming now; The Island of Dr. Death.