I was, at best, a mediocre student in high school and college. After college, I studied creative writing with Henry Taylor, Frederick Barthelme, and John Barth. They taught me a lot. My books are Sunset at the Hotel Mira Mar (Infinity Publishing, 2011) and Strange Encounter at the Shakespeare Motel (Finishing Line Press, 2015).
One Sunday when you're taking out the trash
you realize it's finally gotten too cold for shorts.
So you put on jeans, a flannel shirt, and sneakers,
don your leather jacket, and go out.
Your neighborhood is old; the houses, modest.
The sidewalks and the streets are strewn with leaves.
Smoke is rising from a neighbor's chimney
and the smell of burning wood is in the air.
You head toward the park and take the trail
that parallels the creek. You walk beneath
a canopy of red and orange leaves.
Leaves have fallen all along the pathway
and you listen to them rustle underfoot.
When you get home you notice something strange—
just as you're about to pet the cats,
you see that leaves are scattered on the floor
both in the foyer and the living room.
Your wife is cooking dinner in the kitchen
and leaves are on the floor in there as well.
She doesn't make anything of it,
says she's noticed the leaves
but they don't bother her.
Beyond that she doesn't comment.
The next morning when you wake up
your bed is covered with leaves.
They're like a second blanket
and they go flying everywhere
when you throw back the covers.
Downstairs in the living room
they're at least a foot deep.
Your cats plow through them
and chase each other about
as if nothing in particular is wrong.
The entire house smells like dry leaves.
You go to work.
In the evening
you open your front door
and a cascade of leaves
spills out onto the porch
You wade through them
and find your wife
busily answering emails on her laptop.
The cats are asleep on the bookshelf—
the only piece of furniture you can see.
you and your wife clear off the bed
as best you can
and settle in for the night.
But you feel uneasy
and find it hard to rest.
In the morning you go to work.
When you return home
you see that the house itself
a house of leaves.
Your wife is standing outside,
wearing her winter coat,
holding the cat carrier in one hand
and her computer in the other.
"We can't live in it now," she says.
"The whole place is made of leaves."
Just then you feel a blast of cold wind
and you watch as your house collapses and scatters.
"We'll have to go to a shelter," you say.
-first appeared in Chrome Baby.
I was napping in our bedroom when
I heard a loud crash and my wife screaming
Goddamn it! Shit! I sprang out of bed
and ran into the hallway. The noise was coming
from above my head. I looked up to see
a pair of legs dangling down
from a hole in the ceiling,
pedaling as if riding an invisible bicycle.
The whole thing looked crazy.
We don't have a real floor in our attic—just
plywood planks that sag under our weight.
And there are spots where the joists are
uncovered and there's nothing to stop you
from putting your foot
My wife stumbled moving boxes
in the attic. I have stumbled many times
I heat spaghetti in the microwave
and watch the timer silently subtract
successive seconds from my life—a grave
reminder that it's time to act.
Today my wife and I were clearing stuff
from drawers and closets at my mother's house.
(For thirteen months she's not been well enough
to live alone, cook supper, fold a blouse.)
Her bedroom is exactly as it was
the day she left. (She couldn't climb the stairs.)
For seven months she came to live with us
but now requires almost constant care.
The timer beeps. I stop and take a breath
as I await the chilling beep of death.
You stand at the edge of a floating wooden platform
and step onto the first rung of a ladder
that plunges straight down into the ocean.
They’ve told you it’s easy—
that even an eight-year-old can do it.
But you're strangely unconvinced.
After all, stuff happens. Bad stuff.
The helmet they place over your head weighs seventy-five pounds
but you won’t feel it, they’ve told you,
once you get below the surface.
You listen to the echo of your breathing
and realize that the air flowing in through a thin yellow tube
is probably the only thing between you and death.
When you reach the sea floor,
you’re down a mere twenty feet.
Still, that’s not bad for someone like you
who doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground.
The water is clear and blue at once.
Schools of fish swim by—
tiger fish with black and orange stripes,
pale translucent fish, fish of blue and silver.
You spend the next thirty minutes on a trail
that takes you past sunken helicopters, rock formations,
sea anemones, and living coral,
Scuba divers watch you,
making sure you and the others are safe.
One diver holds up a sea urchin,
places it in your palm,
then returns it to the ocean floor.
Another hands you a fistful of ground up something.
At the smell of it, a cloud of fish envelopes you,
eating from your open hand,
their tiny teeth scraping your palm.
In seconds, the food is gone.
Eventually, the scuba divers signal
that it's time to return to the surface.
You ascend the ladder.
At the top, someone lifts the helmet off your head.
You've made it.
The adventure has come to an end.
Everything else you're afraid of lies ahead.
-first appeared in Camel Saloon
The author underwater...
©2015 Herbert S. Guggenheim