Archive for the ‘WordPod’ Category

Fracture and Cleave

by Joshua Siegal

Fran made feldspar her daily query.  Having read that the mineral sometimes emits an invisible light, and that it both fractures and cleaves, she had come to regard it as the perfect stone to adorn the pendant she was crafting for her own eightieth birthday.  Each morning, she fastened her favorite grey bonnet to her head, and, with creaking elbows, wrapped apron strings around her waist.  She tied them in front, deliberately weaving a careful bow.  Into her apron went her geologist’s tools, really dental picks she’d found at a garage sale.  She scoured them lovingly each evening before bed and left them on a kitchen towel for herself to find gleaming fresh each morning.  A plastic water bottle went next into her apron.  It was neon-pink, and Fran considered it very hip.  It was followed by a cellphone that she only answered, never dialed, and then a pocket geologist’s field book.

Fran stepped out on the porch of her dilapidated home and looked at the sky.  It was a glorious day for rock-hunting; lumbering cumulus clouds volleyed the sunlight and threw the terrain into relief.  Fran stepped down her walk, studiously placing one slip-on workboot after the other.  At the street, she looked both ways, then crossed over to the house opposite her own, an abandoned wreck with charred-up boards over the windows, not unlike many of the former dwellings on her block.  Fran steadied herself against the still-proud porch rail of the building and lowered herself down into a painful hunch.  She brought out her picks and scraped at the scrabble of loose rocks and broken bricks.  A glint winked at her.  From under a half-buried chunk of lumber, she unearthed a piece of rose quartz.  Something for another project, maybe.  She tucked it into her apron pocket.  But wait: was quartz a kind of feldspar?  She couldn’t remember.  Perhaps they were related, as many rocks seemed to be.  To retrieve her field manual from the folds of her apron she’d have to stand up.  Fran grasped the porch rail, and pushed the ground with her boots.  There were the clouds, batting away the sun.  She held a piece of the rail in her hand, she could see it – then a flash, a pain she didn’t feel.

Fran woke in an amber sort of darkness.  Evening on the block.  She wiped her nose; damn her allergies.  She most wanted the familiar dry waft of her air conditioning unit.

“Hello!  Are you alright?”  Eyes peered down at her.  They were set in a handsome young face.

Fran was surprised to realize that she was horizontal, resting in the shape of a fissure along a rotted old stairway.

“Don’t try to move; I’ll call for help,” said the voice, overly loud.

“Don’t worry,” Fran creaked.  The young man pulled out his cellphone and started dialing.  After reporting her condition to the paramedics, he leaned over, and with deft fingers, searched her apron.  He pulled out the quartz.

“Neat,” he said.

He dropped the rock into his pocket and strode away.

Damn poachers, thought Fran.  No professional courtesy.  A geologist’s honor was all that separated scientists from claim-jumpers and slant drillers.  She would have to be more careful the next time.


by Joshua Siegal

An ant with a red pepper flake in its mandibles wanders the tabletop.  I set down a glass of water in his path and he dodges.  He could probably walk over the surface tension of the drops pooling there, drop his pepper flake, and drink.  Instead, he wants his roundabout patterns and his fiery morsel.  Most ants will avoid black and red pepper, but this one lifts his trophy proudly above his head, walking his wobbly circle.  Could he be punishing himself, or is some supposed sustenance slowly poisoning him?

I gaze down at my plate of food.  Over at the microwave.  I think of the convenience store freezer.  With my fingernails forming a tiny clamp, I try to wrest the pepper flake away from the ant, pulling down and away.  I drag him for a moment, and he releases his charge, then lunges forward and bites my thumb.  I pose my fist above him and he stares up, dumb, and antlers twitching.  I place a crumb from my plate before him, but he continues to stare, his head a tiny arrow focused on the pepper flake between my thumb and forefinger.  Curious, I place the pepper flake down beside the crumb.  The ant scampers over and grasps the pepper flake, picks it up, and resumes his debilitated wandering.

A day later, I find him on the kitchen floor, dead.  His mandibles still grasp the pepper flake in a kind of rigor mortis.  I clean him off the floor with a paper towel and unwrap my microwave dinner, throwing his carcass in the trash with my meal’s plastic wrapper.

In The Machine

by Joshua Siegal

Earlier in the world, I would have been a crouching gear manipulator, my den a cabinet, and I’d have ducked spokes and cams, pushing rods up through a mechanical man with wooden eyes who played chess for money.  These days, there’s so much more room.  Prickly green and sliver motherboards tucked respectfully aside.  Wires, neatly bundled.  Cool plastic case.  I have room for a little drink cooler inside the ATM machine.

The people come up and insert the cards, and I watch their chins through my pinhole.  You need a shave.  Your chin is pointy.  Tuft of hair, another ten-year-old with a credit card.  I take DNA samples off their cards, then let their transactions go forth.  You don’t need a person inside an ATM machine to steal mere money.  I’m logging bank accounts and genetic samples in one swoop.  Someday we’ll need these things; visionary theiving requires forethought, technical prowess, and it helps if you have access to an old junked ATM machine, some machine tools, and a DNA testing lab.

I have my claustrophobia now, but one day soon it will be writ large and people will carry their claustrophobia around on them, like their clothes.  And I’ll be living on the open sand, a millionaire bum scamming tourists for change.