Book Awards E-MAIL US

Reginald Blisterkunst, Ph.D.
Among the Remembered Saints: My Life and Subsequent Death
Pluto Wars

Greg Chandler
"Bee's Tree"
"Local Folk"
"Roland's Feast"
"Pond Story "

Doug Childers
"The Baptism"

Gene Cox
The Sunset Lounge

Clarke Crutchfield
"The Break-In"
"The Canceled Party"
"The Imaginary Bullet"

Jason DeBoer
"The Execution of the Sun"

Deanna Francis Mason
"The Daguerreian Marvel"

Dennis Must

Charlie Onion
"Love Among the Jellyfish"
Pluto Wars
"Feast of the Manfestation"

Chris Orlet
"Romantic Comedy"

Daniel Rosenblum
"A Full Donkey"

Deanna Frances Mason
"The Daguerreian Marvel"

Andrew L. Wilson
"Fat Cake and Double Talk"


Pond Story
Greg Chandler

Marker's shed, set in a secluded grove of fig and mayhaw trees, had been rained on every night for two weeks straight, until, finally, some of the sandbags he'd placed around his little house split open, and a muddy stew of rotten fruit, tree branches, and dead gophers, seeped under the walls.

Marker, doer of odd jobs, lay on his cot nine inches above the mud, too tired from work to reach out the window for a fig. Caressing the moss on the aluminum wall, he noticed a sulfurous stench had wafted in, an odor he found both repulsive and enticing. After awhile, he rolled onto his side and saw the dirt floor had gone to mud, and worms, many over a foot long, were erupting from it. A closer look, with candle in hand, revealed toe-biters, beetles, leather-wings, and roaches battling for the dry spot at the center of the room.

Marker watched the spectacle for over an hour, until random gunfire and garbled walkie-talkies roused him—a pack of hooting RamCo security guards on their way to the night shift at the furfural plant. Rumored to be former mercenaries, as well as skillful torturers, Marker hoped they never came knocking at his door. Hugging his pillow to his chest, he blew out the candle and rolled against the wall.

The guards moved on. He sat up and looked around. The mud had stopped flowing, the insects had dispersed. Listening to a toad croak, concentrating on it, eased his mind. The toad, pulsating on top of a book on the night stand, was brownish green with an orange spot in the center of its back. Marker petted its head. Suddenly he was very thirsty. A moth sputtered in his drinking water; he picked it out and drank from the jug.

Marker spent his free time making pen and ink drawings of animals and insects which he stuck to the walls and ceiling with rubber cement. In one drawing, a stampede of slugs on camelback crushed haloed rats. In another, ax-wielding cardinals baptized June bugs in boiling lava. On the ceiling, worms with heavy human genitalia soared upward on Judgment Day.

A childhood song popped into his mind, something about an orange peddler, and he tapped the melody on his sweaty belly. It was a silly song, he recalled, but the words wouldn't come.

He set the toad under his cot and picked up the book. He'd discovered the book, Bats in Your World, propped against a trash incinerator in a vacant lot in town, as he walked home from Zulchy's Wig Shop earlier that night. A much needed surprise after ten hours of painting, and repainting, a Christmas mural on Zulchy's front window (although it was only September 3, all the shopkeepers were starting the season early to help business). Thumbing through its mildewed pages, a drawing started to form in his mind.

Written by Dr. H. Lloyd Humphrey, a professor of Chiroptological Research and Exploitation at RNET-CO University, the heavy opus covered bat morphology, physiology, ethology, and the crucial role bats were soon to play in the State's economic and military affairs, due to their sophisticated radars.

Marker opened the book to a photo of a bat giving birth, and set it at the foot of his cot. On a soggy piece of cardboard he drew a leafless oak tree with rings of bats flying around it, and titled it "The Maypole."


The next morning, after shoveling mud and dead creatures into the woods, he found a note glued to his aluminum door. Marker Earns, your presence is requested by the Mayor at the pond underneath the roller coaster at the Good Times Park at 9 o'clock in the morning, today. The Council will deliver payment at the usual payment rate upon completion of the task. The Council.

Standing before a small mirror on the inside of the door, Marker dipped his comb into a jar of orange blossom water, slicked his lobe-length black hair behind his ears, and wiped a green smirch off the bridge of his nose. "A fine Roman nose," his mother used to say, "like Hadrian, one of the five good emperors."

At a few minutes past eight he set out for the Good Times Park. He snaked through the forest of oracle oaks following the usual route to town, passing the furfural plant and its workers' quarters, the RamCo silo, and alongside the creek, until the creek disappeared into a culvert at the beginning of the two-lane road everyone called "Aorta."

On the corner across from Zulchy's Wig Shop, he stopped to inspect his mural, and to see what was happening in the heart of town. Miss Zulchy was inside her shop on a ladder hanging garlands. She was the only person in sight, since most residents either worked computers all day in office buildings, or sat in recliners at home. A few of the better hewn worked at the State compound on the edge of the woods.

As Marker started across Aorta, the Shazer Christmas Cottage pick-up truck came skidding around the corner, its passenger side a foot off the road. Marker jumped onto the curb. "Stupid fool!" he shouted, shaking his fist, "crazy Christmas idiot!" On top of the truck's cab, the Shazer's notorious eight-foot Santa Claus swayed like a stop sign in a hurricane, its rusty springs screeching, scratching, drowning out a mumbling voice box: mer-mer-mer istma-istma-istma. In the truck bed, a fake Christmas tree—the lone green among several red—toppled over, rolled to the edge, almost fell out, and rolled back.

Marker followed the street for several blocks until he reached the hovel that had once housed the library; here, in the forgotten part of town, he turned left. A few minutes later, standing on craggy sidewalk in the long, morning shadow of the loop-the-loop roller coaster, he remembered good times had as a boy with his mother at the Good Times Park; the long Saturdays spent languid in the grass with sandwiches and fruit, fabricating outrageous private lives for the dull amusement-seekers. People stared and snickered at Marker and his mother, for she always tried to shock, to provoke, like the time she drooled cotton candy onto her fingertips and smeared the pink goo on Marker's lips, inserting her fingers into his mouth.

Just then, longing for his dead mother, Daisy Smithey swerved her bicycle into the middle of the road as Mrs. Bola Shazer, wife to Mr. Jesus Shazer, who'd been driving the Christmas truck, sped past in an unadorned, electric subcompact, missing Daisy Smithey by an inch. Daisy screamed, and with an expression of abject horror on her face, pointed a rigid finger at Mrs. Shazer's car. Daisy's wispy auburn hair fell back exposing her ears—unusually round, and unusually pink, like folds extending from her brain. The rumor was that at a tender age, sunlight could beam through one ear and out the other, until young Daisy was taken away for an expensive operation.

Daisy spotted Marker on the sidewalk and dashed off like a rabbit, much to his disappointment. The revolution of her green rain boots pedaling down the road mesmerized him. He wanted to meet her, to know her, but she was always busy with civic affairs, not to mention her importance in the community. Daisy was powerful, yet unpopular with the locals.

Recently, the mayor divulged to Citizen Watch, a column in the newspaper, that "Miss Smithey, proprietress of the Sewing Hut and treasurer of the Curtain Club, often telephones members of the Standards Committee, of which she serves as presiding officer, threatening them with acts of violence, such as torture, if they don't vote her way."

Was Daisy afraid of him? he wondered. Had she heard stories about his mother that left a bad taste in her mouth? Did she know that his mother had ran off never to return, leaving twelve year old Marker to fend for himself on the streets and in the forest?


Marker noticed a small vehicle coming towards him from the park's interior. It had oversized wheels and was open like a golf cart. The driver stopped on the opposite side of the pond, stepped out, and waved his fist in the air. Marker walked over to him.

"You the pump boy?" the man, who looked to be about Marker's age, shouted.

"Pump boy?"

"Council hired you to get all that shitty water outta there."

"Oh, I didn't know what they wanted me for." Marker shaded his eyes to get a better look at the guy. He stood taller than Marker, at least six foot, and was prematurely bald with only a few orangish tufts left over the ears. His yellowish-white jowls drooped, giving him a waxy appearance. "Is there a generator? a hose?"

The man pointed over his shoulder. "See that big pile of shitty trash all different colors?"

Marker nodded.

"That's the snack shack. Behind there you'll find a hose and a generator. Drag the hose out to the middle of the pond and wait till the water's all down the sewer."

"Okay, I can handle that no problem. By the way, when's the coaster coming down?"

"I'm demolishing it tomorrow. I'm in charge of the whole operation."

"Well, I think it's a big mistake.. They should open this place back up again."

"You nuts? This is gonna be a big fuckin' biolab. So unless you got something wrong with you, you better get to work."

Marker snickered and walked away.

The man got in his buzzing machine and drove into the street.

Alone, Marker stripped to his shorts, tossing his sweaty clothes over a pile of disemboweled fuse boxes on the pond's slimy banks. He scanned the once festive grounds and saw amusement debris in every shape and color. Cotton candy drums piled up like pyramids. The Ferris wheel lying on it's side, crushing several trees. Marker was sad to see the park in ruin, if only to know the ruins would disappear too, leaving no reminders, no memories of the past.

Behind the brightly painted remains of the snack shack he found the hose. He took hold of its weighty steel lip and lugged it out to the center of the pond, and in the shadow of the loop-the-loop, plunged it underwater. The water gurgled and purled, loudly at first, then softly, as a powerful foot-wide whirlpool took shape. It consumed leaves, twigs, dragonflies, and baby snakes. Once the hose felt secure, he waded to shore through algae-thick water and swarms of flies.

Three hours later, asleep on a scrap of drywall in the noontime sun, he awoke to a terrible sting on his scrotum, sprang to his feet, and yanked down his shorts. Between the folds of hairy skin, he found a mosquito and crushed it between his fingers. Examining the mess, he saw the blood that had been sucked out of him. This made him think about sex. Already naked, he dropped to his knees in the remaining two inches of pond water and splashed funky chemicals and warm greasy scum all over his body.

After pleasuring himself, he put on his shorts and squatted on shore. Several feet away, a crow pecked at some unidentifiable carrion. Dogs growled in the distance. And an image came to him, that of his mother in prison camp, her face waffled against a chain link fence. She told of a city in a cave one mile underground, where people slept all day in big heaps on carpet remnants and scavenged all night for insects and bats. This image, the only time he saw her after she ran off, always filled him with anger and hatred, toward her captors, her oppressors, and her. Before the anger had a chance to set in, he saw the last drops of pond sludge shimmy up the hose. "Work's done."

After lugging the hose back to shore, Marker returned to the center of the pond where one of his sandals had gotten stuck in the mud. Bending to retrieve it from the gunk, he noticed that a set
of teeth had grabbed onto it. He jumped. On closer inspection he realized the teeth were false, they were dentures. He polished the teeth with his shorts until the moss and mud gave way to a grayish-white glow. He fondled them, pondering their origin. Was this odd find a missing link of some sort, or had they sprung from the screaming mouth of someone looping the loop?

Despite unbearable heat and humidity, sore muscles, encroaching wild dogs, Marker forced himself to search the area for more teeth. Maybe they were worth something. Using his sandal for a shovel it didn't take long to unearth a loot stranger than dentures—wigs. Matted, caked with mud, flecked with shimmering fish scales, he found four long blondes and two short curly grays. Then more teeth, eleven sets in all. He felt as if he had discovered a secret passageway to another world, the intimate detritus of those who came before, the real treasures of the past. It was amazing, he thought, that all these fake parts, worn by people he may have known, people he probably disliked, should wind up in the mud under the roller coaster.

He dug faster, deeper, until he saw something glimmer like a jewel. He'd found a glass eye; an entire nest of them, thirteen to be exact. Sky blue, cobalt, hazel, gray, each as cold and clear as if they had just lopped out of a socket.

He carried the wigs, eyes, and teeth to shore and lined them up. They made such an uncanny display that he knew he had to assemble them into works of art. Flattering busts of the mayor and his cronies, the Town Council, seemed the appropriate thing to do, considering his low standing in the community. And the eyes would surely lend the kind of realism leaders admire. At home he had scissors and paint and the ingredients for papier-mache. Selling them would be easy, for he was well aware of the Council's vanity.

Marker gathered his exhumations into a plastic bag and started for home. On the sidewalk he paused for a final look at the Good Times Park. For a moment he thought he might cry, then reminded himself of the art project he had to get to, and hurried on his way.

The streets were silent. He detoured past the steps of the Council Building hoping to glimpse an important face—it had been so long since he'd seen one up-close—but the place was deserted. At the Food Window at the rear of the food processing plant he stopped to buy a turkey leg from Penny, a retarded teen, to eat as he walked.

When he got home he thoroughly soaped and scrubbed the parts. Delicately combing his fingers through the longest blond wig, he pictured his mother stirring soup, patching a hole in her bicycle tire, clipping his toenails. As horseflies dodged his face, he could almost hear her laugh at the pond's gruesome gifts.

Marker eased his sore back against the warm exterior of his shed. Between his muscular legs he held a plastic bucket of water, wood shavings, and glue. After whipping the rancid smelling concoction with a thick branch, he was ready to sculpt. Indoors, he made a workspace by covering the floor with cardboard, and with only dim memories to guide him, began to manipulate shredded newspaper and gooey papier-mache into five individual busts.

On top of the mayor's head he glued the long blond wig, cutting the hair just so, until only a few sprigs remained. The mayor's ski slope nose, weak chin, bulbous Adam's apple, it was all there. And Mr. McCone, with his messy gray hair, hazel eyes, flat nose and thin lips, looked on the verge of making one of his cruel rulings. To recreate Mr. Zulchy's hair color he had to work late into the night. Once the hair was the proper shade of drab, he secured a set of dentures in the mouth, then knocked out the three upper front teeth with a ball peen hammer. Mr. Henty and Mr. Creab were easy, both had anonymous, expressionless faces.

At four in the morning, he finished the sculptures and set them on the stove to dry. Unable to sleep, he wrestled with his pillow, until he felt the stare of the Council. Mayor Heenwiss, the others, looked so lifelike, chills ran up and down his body


Marker spent the next three days on a rope hoisting himself up and down the RamCo silo, whitewashing it for mediocre pay. When the job was done, he went home and wrapped each one of the sculptures in a towel, loaded them into a wheelbarrow, and headed for the Council Building. The mayor's secretary, a young woman bitter beyond her years, led him to a small waiting room. Gnawing on her fingernails, hissing under her breath, she ordered him to leave the wheelbarrow in the hall. He sat on an uncomfortable, high-back dinette chair facing a wall of framed photos of mayors and council members past and present, ugly men hugging the city's key to their chests and snipping ribbons with gardening shears.

After a two hour wait, Marker was finally called into Mayor Heenwiss's office. The mayor sat behind his desk. Marker sat on a vinyl sofa alongside a cinder block wall.

"Now what is it you want to see me about? I'm very busy what with the new biolab and all the other hub-bub. My secretary tells me you did some work on the site."

"Yes," Marker replied, "I did. But what I came about today is a different matter, sir."

Incessantly, the mayor ignited his clown face desk lighter and pushed the buttons on his phone. "Different matter?"

"I've brought you something. I've brought something for everyone on the council."

The mayor lit a piece of paper on fire, wafted it about, then crinkled it in his hand, letting the ashes fall to the floor. "A gift?"

"Sort of. You see, what I've done is sculpt you. I've sculpted all of you."


"Yes. I do drawings most of the time. I can copy you, anyone—"

"Really?" The mayor was somewhat alarmed. "I should know about this."

"I don't have any drawings with me, but I have sculptures...you know, 3-D. They're here, out in the hall, and I was hoping you'd look at them. If you like what you see, maybe the council could give me a donation...I do odd jobs."

"It's not my fault you do odd jobs. No one has to do odd jobs if they don't want to."

"I'm not complaining, I just want you to see what I've made."

"Okay, let's take a look."

The mayor followed Marker out to the hallway where the secretary had already uncovered the sculptures.

"Oh dear God, E.H., these things are really yucky. Disgusting. What are they?" she said.

The mayor, looking quite perplexed, inspected Marker's work. "This boy says they're sculptures of me and the Council. Hmm, they look pretty nice, I suppose. I dunno. I sort of like them. You don't, Nella?"

"I don't know. If you do, I suppose they're all right. But...don't you think they're scary and sick?"

"Mayor, sir, I put a lot of time and effort into these, into making them very realistic to please you." Perspiration beaded on Marker's brow. "Don't you like them?"

"I can't make a decision either way. But I can say they're mighty accurate representations of me and the boys." The mayor blithely dabbed the nose of his likeness. "Look here, Nella, it's me, it's definitely me. And Rory and Al and Fred and Stan. I bet they'd get a kick out of these. But Nella, you're the woman, you're supposed to know about this stuff."

"Cripes, E.H.. They look like something the cat dragged in from the graveyard. They're putrid."

"Really?" The mayor was silent for a moment. "I do trust your judgment Nella," he said, massaging the back of Marker's tense neck. "I'm starting to surmise a problem. Nella's right, there's something, I can't put my finger on it, unflattering and sacrilegious about these things. Now excuse me for a moment while I have a private meeting with my secretary. Don't you move, friend."

Marker pounded his right thigh with his fist, and shut his eyes as tightly as he could till he saw stars and planets swimming in the blackness.

"Eh, Marker," the mayor called out, "you run on home and we'll contact you at a later date."

"But my sculptures?"

"Leave them with us. Like I said, we'll contact you later."

Marker's face was on fire as Nella led him down the hall. "You're not too bright, are you?" she said. He didn't respond. Stepping through the final doorway, he turned, looked her straight in the eye, and without hesitation, spat on her shoes. She smiled and kicked him in the shin. He ran off, knowing trouble would soon follow.


Early the next morning, Marker's freedom came to an end when security men busted down his door, tore off his sheet, and hogtied him with plastic chains. Before the chains were secure, he elbowed one of them in the testicles while growling like a rabid dog. They tried to suffocate him by pinching his nostrils and covering his mouth. A finger slipped inside his mouth and he bit it to the bone. Warm blood filled his mouth. Then a metal rod touched his bare shoulder, electrocuting him into unconsciousness.

The security men locked him in a cell under the Security Building and told him to prepare a written statement. The sculptures are to honor the council, not to disgrace them, was all he wrote.

Weeks passed. His only contact the guard who slid food under the steel door. At ten AM and six PM, heavy footfalls preceded a brown hand with fleshy fingers that snapped for Marker's attention. The meals never differed—crackers, a square of sweaty orange cheese, a paper cup filled with bitter vitamin tea—but the gifts did. Marbles, fool's gold, seed pods, snail shells, gumballs. Marker always thanked him and tried to engage in conversation, but the guard was silent. Although their relationship was nonverbal, at least on the guard's side, they developed an intimate, physical bond. Through the three inch space at the bottom of the door, they clutched hands, massaged knuckles and palms, and caressed each other's wrists.

After a month of waiting, they took him before the Town Council and Standards Committee. Of the guards who escorted him, none had brown hands with fleshy fingers, a bad omen for sure. In a hot, windowless room, Marker sat handcuffed on the floor, as the members glared at him from a single row of folding chairs against the back wall. In the center of the all-white room, between Marker and his accusers, were the sculptures. Imprisonment had made him forget the eyes, teeth, and wigs he'd fashioned into the Town Council, but there they were, the reason he was arrested in the first place, and he couldn't have been more proud.

Daisy Smithey, presiding officer of the Standards Committee, looking quite unlike the woman Marker was used to seeing, wore a long plaid dress over her bony frame, and her hair in an elegant bun. She commenced the trial by asking each Council member to express his opinion of the sculptures.

The mayor spoke first. "I was appalled when the boy brought them to my office. I was sure it was a prank, maybe something one of the Council had cooked up. I was wrong. I think this is called slander. That's it, Miss Smithey, I feel slandered. I think the person responsible for this degenerate stuff should spend a good while locked away. Imagine if everybody started to make this kind of stuff."

The Council members repeated verbatim the mayor's statement. Daisy called a recess; everyone left the room but Marker. When they reappeared, Daisy went to Marker's sculptures, fondled the hair, rubbed the faces. "Mayor, Council and committee members, I believe Marker Earns has been wrongly accused."

Daisy's sideways glances and breathy voice were comforting to Marker. He felt great relief, and utter surprise, knowing she was trying to save him.

"His attempt at art is unmistakably bad, yet it's obvious he tried to make these in your likeness. All along we've thought that something subversive was in our midst, perhaps a maker of effigies, or an inciter of revolutions. Having gone over the accused's history, I find him to be subversive only in that he's reclusive and strange; these are not crimes. Therefore, how can we conclude that there's anything more to his sculptures than what we see? And what we see is simply what's here, and, I can assure you, nothing more."

Now it was clear to Marker what made Daisy special, her nerve, her audacity, her courage to dissent.

"Miss Smithey," the mayor growled, "are you the only person in this room who's forgotten that this boy's mother was a terrorist?"

"Miss Earns paid for her criminal activities with her life," Daisy proclaimed, staring into Marker's eyes. "That is an entirely different matter. Furthermore, Marker was only twelve years old when his mother joined the Glowing Path. She has nothing to do with this hearing."

"I'm worried, Miss Smithey, very worried this boy is trying to avenge—"

"Avenge nothing! Marker Earns wanted to make a little extra money. He wanted to honor the Council. Is that a crime? Certainly not. And Marker Earns is certainly not a criminal. He should be released at once."

After another recess, the mayor began, "I'm not entirely convinced of this boy's innocence, and that troubles the hell out of me. I want to believe anarchistic uprisings are a thing of the past. I want to believe Marker Earns has nothing up his sleeve, and, Miss Smithey, I hope I'm right. But the Council and I have decided that, for now, we don't have a strong enough case against the accused to continue. But don't think for a minute, Miss Smithey, that we won't be making up some new laws."

The mayor left the room, the Council followed, and Daisy handed Marker a glass of water. As he drank, he tried to formulate the best words to express his gratitude, but before he could say anything, she was gone.

That evening, while Marker was safe in his shed, hundreds of citizens assembled in front of the Security Building to watch the mayor douse the sculptures with gasoline and set them on fire. It was the closest thing to a festival anyone had seen in years, and a first for many young people.

Marker resumed his quiet life of odd jobs and drawing. All was routine until one morning he found a note under his door that read: Mr. Earns, please meet me at the oracle oaks tonight after the rains. Cordially, Daisy Smithey.



About the Author

Greg Chandler recently completed his first novel, Bee's Tree, born from a short story that appeared in WAG. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California and holds an MFA from Columbia University. His stories have been published in WAG, The Barcelona Review, Christopher Street and Southern Ocean Review, among others. He also wrote Soda Pop, a short film that's been screened at over fifty film festivals on five continents. He lives in Pasadena, California.


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