Scintilla Whiff’s Short Day


No one’s perspective on the school’s collapse could be consulted since no one could have been awake in the vicinity between midnight and five a. m. on a Thursday, no insomniacs in this town.

     Scintilla Whiff was the first to spot the collapse, the moment she opened the kitchen door to let Banshee the Pomeranian bounce into her fenced-in yard just after 5:30. Most of the available light was from the rear, the distinct silhouette conveyed one sense while offering little detail of the topography of the collapse. Across the street low sections of brick walls stood, but most of what was left was a pile of deep rubble atop the low brick supports. No smoke, no fire, just a collapsed roof atop shredded sheetrock and rebar and lots of bricks and mortar dust. Scintilla verified the sight before and after coffee.

     When she emerged from her back door two hours later to leave for work, Scintilla halted suddenly: her Chevy Impala remained where she’d parked it the night before but it had become disassembled on the spot. All the pieces and components appeared present and accounted for, they simply were all discrete and disconnected, the tires and rims, the roof, the hood and trunk covers, the windshields and their wipers, the windows, the doors, the seats, the steering column, the dash, the grille and the bumpers, headlights and taillamps with their bulbs and assemblies, all the mirrors, the complete transmission, and all the engine assembly with the chassis, and the gas tank. All the car’s fluids had coagulated into one malodorous puddle, still creeping as she stepped out along the gutter to the drain a third of the way down the block.

     Intuition told her to stay home this one Thursday, she obeyed without protest.


strannikov thought of changing his name to Snaimthorpe but prudently decided against it, even though the optional nominative features the dog letter, too. Immediately afterwards, he elected not to alter his name to Selphrenia, even though it, too, features the dog letter. strannikov continues to search Latin literature for the cat letter, surmising without evidence that it might be “f” (felix, feline, pffft!).

Not from The Annals of Dental Hygiene, No


I am neither ‘pataphysician nor ‘pataphysicist: I do own a pair of ‘pataphysical binoculars, however, equipped with ‘pataphysical optics to permit both telescopic and microscopic viewing, sometimes simultaneously so. (Thus armed or equipped, you may begin to object, I might as well be a credentialed ‘pataphysician or ‘pataphysicist, since I bear all qualifications in my provincial and obliterative comportment, but I refuse to sit for the tedious exams. It also is true that I have composed both the ornamental Handbook on ‘Pataphysical Binocularity and the profuse Handbook of ‘Pataphysical Binocularity as well as both the popular Manual of ‘Pataphysical Binocularity and the stupendous Manual on ‘Pataphysical Binocularity, all of which have enjoyed sales requiring two printings: but these labors were but the products of an untutored mongrel, and ‘pataphysics professes no cure yet for doggery.)

Scanning the low horizon of a featureless plain one afternoon of a recent June, I had an unobstructed view of the desperado Clint Toothwood riding with malevolent zeal his spattered pony (a confusing horse to observe: his front half black with white spatters, his rear half white with black spatters, but Clint has always commented that at least with this horse he can tell whether he’s coming or going). As ever, Clint rode armed with multiple spools of floss, behavior conspicuously professional and becoming in a floss aficionado (don’t get pushy: even desperados can coincide with aficionados). Although his carriage of copious spools of floss might seem perfectly natural, in Clint’s case native aptitude was supplemented by diligent education. Clint had studied back east so diligently that he helped co-found the Graduate School of Flossing Technique at prestigious Prestigious University. Many required textbooks in the field were authored by none other than Clint Toothwood, who had meticulously inspected flossing techniques from both sides of the Alps to launch the discipline of ethnographic flossing studies before authoring the landmark Toothwood’s History of Toothpicking, now also available in its second printing.

At a misfortunate moment, however, the Listerine Kid enrolled in the acclaimed Graduate School of Flossing Technique. “Hogwash and mouthwash!” the Kid hectored Clint one cold morning from the dark recess of a cavernous auditorium, and boy did it hurt. Misgivings had preceded the Kid’s enrollment, notorious as he was for his practice of extracting every other tooth (scrupulously extracting only corresponding locations top and bottom), his people had been anti-floss campaigners from the sixteenth century.

“You’ll never get past sixteen,” Clint growled at the Kid.

“If orthodontists would just pull more teeth, nobody’d need dental floss!” the Kid spat back, all other graduate students of flossing technique withdrawing from around his seat on the back row with visible gasps and groans, but no hairballs landed closer than the row in front.

Clint had no ready answer for the Kid’s retort, which only steadied his aficionado’s resolve. “Hang ‘im!”

The Kid’s classmates strung him up with waxed menthol floss in short moments, the Kid didn’t even time to shout “gap-toothed baboon!”

Graduate students in flossing technique, now knowing the perils of second-guessing the curriculum, returned to studies with praiseworthy zeal.

The rancid carcass of the Listerine Kid was removed from the auditorium once class ended and knotted to the clapper of the Liberty Bell replica that graces Prestigious University Plaza. His transition to foul-smelling mess ensued with haste: fortunately, summer break arrived minutes later. By the time classes resumed early in September, the Kid’s noose of waxed menthol floss swung in the breeze in silent testimony to his academic perfidy.


strannikov continues to acquire unsavory habits. Some light bulbs he reads by go unchanged for years and acquire domes of dust. (Spiders strangle on the dust he permits.) What he does with his microwave oven is best left unmentioned, frankly (hint: rabbits do not share his bemusement). strannikov now defines “Death” succinctly as: “quantum oscillation stabilization effected by gravity”.

Tale from a Möbius Strip


“Infinity is no more than half of the Tao,” Francesca whispered, but when Paolo heard her whisper, he asked her to repeat in Italian—“L’infinito e’ non piu’ meta’ del Tao,” Francesca whispered, but when Paolo heard her whisper, he asked her to repeat in inglese. 

“Infinity is no more than half of the Tao,” Francesca whispered, but when Paolo heard her whisper, he asked her to repeat in Italian—“L’infinito e’ non piu’ meta’ del Tao,” Francesca whispered, but when Paolo heard her whisper, he asked her to repeat in inglese: “Infinity is no more than half of the Tao . . .” 

Paolo good naturedly kept asking Francesca to repeat herself, Francesca remained all too happy to oblige Paolo by whispering first in Italian and then in inglese. And this was just their first night together, early in the evening, at that.

When we checked back nineteen days later, the conversation continued unabated behind the closed windows they share (a nameless perch they found just south of Firenze, who would want to leave?). Francesca is a sweet girl and everything, but her incessant doting on Paolo is best left private, I don’t fault their judgment here: such performance (more or less continuous even as they tend throughout their days to other activities of cooking and eating, bathing and dressing, flossing and flushing, washing and copulating, et cetera) to others makes for no engaging public spectacle whatsoever. Some things just never qualify as a subject suitable for public spectacle: yet how this aggrieves some persons in unobtrusive places, that is, they are to a man, to a woman astonished that a distinctive but odd private event simply could never rise to the level of suitable public spectacle. 

The moment you begin trying to make a public spectacle of Paolo and Francesca, Francesca and Paolo, Italiano inglese, English Italian, whispers and whispers, what do you have? You have repetition, you have redundancy, you have continuity as long as you care to document it: you have time, don’t you know, they’re still going at it this very moment, this is the very beginning of their thirty-seventh week together, but the private phenomenon remains no more the fit subject for a public spectacle than when the circumstance blossomed unaccountably just over thirty-six weeks ago. 

You may wonder about these two by now, but I say: let them remain busy where they are. Of course their circumstance is not suitable as a public spectacle, it fails to qualify altogether, it is not a proper entry, even though no one’s saying that it could be, not in Italian, anyway.


strannikov has thawed just enough from the winter of 2013-14 not to be any more addled or stupefied by the present season’s cold than could be construed as “typical”. He has not altered his coffee consumption by one drop, but his coffeemaker is perhaps wearing out, and so a decision may be forthcoming. When not collecting wet mail from his leaking mailbox, he dispatches soggy correspondence with stamps nailed securely to their shredding envelopes.