About Red Tales

Here's an evolving electronic collection of short prose pieces, with a poem contributed occasionally. Brevity guides. Although sometimes a piece will run to 900 words, most pieces are much shorter. Here one may find erotica, flash fiction, brief observations, and modest improvisations. Another rule is that each piece must have something to do with"red"; at least the word has to appear in each piece functionally. . . . All pieces are numbered and titled, so there's a de facto table of contents running down the rail below, under "Labels" (scroll down a bit). Browse for titles that look interesting, if you like. Thank you for stopping by. Look for some red today, tonight.

"Flaming June," by Frederick Lord Leighton

"Flaming June," by Frederick Lord Leighton

Monday, December 5, 2016

260. Concerning Umberto Slovea

I am in a vast library, one of the few building complexes where activity still occurs in this abandoned city. Sometimes I imagine the river that passes through our wounded metropolis and past the library has had a deep rust-red caste for the past seven years.  It hasn't.

Today I learned that Umberto Slovea, one of our most senior and accomplished librarians, has been demoted because he often goes too far when research a question.  The more minute, oblique, or trivial the question, the more Slovea is compelled to doubt the most current consensus concerning the answer.  In established fact he sees a suspicious facade hiding a more pertinent factual version of the answer, or, more likely (in poor Umberto's mind) an aggressively rival answer.  I shall not give you an example because doing so might spread the contagion of his compulsion.

That Dr. Slovea (the Third) is a gifted researcher and archivist only feeds his mania.  I must visit him next in the basement of Building RQ, where he has been exiled, assigned to overseeing a collection of unimportant postcards from 19th Century Luxembourg. I shall make up a question for him to research and answer. That is something like the least I owe him.

I know that in the long term, he will transform the sad collection into something rare and splendid, and once again he will begin his rise to a position of considerable responsibility in the organizational structure of the library, and he will hold that position for approximately nine and a half weeks before he goes too far and gets mired in maniacal research, unable to extract himself from incessant seeking, even though a sound, acceptable answer has already made itself manifest.




hans ostrom 2016

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

259. The Hyper-Present

Red Alert: If the hyper-present hasn't already arrived, it is coming  It will be the enclosure of time in which people imagine they live. The irrelevance of the past to any now will become more extreme more quickly.  For example, any movie made within the previous year or so will be an old movie, perhaps even a classic, triggering feigned nostalgia and genuine disgust.

Phones will print new versions of themselves not when their owners want but when they want. People will undergo procedures in which vast numbers of their cells will be replaced, chiefly by synthetic cells. As robots simulate humanity more, humans will agree to become more robotish.

History will become a tired joke like a great grandmother's lingerie. Maintaining the same personal identity for over a year will be considered reactionary and dull.

I'll be stuck back here in some kind of past, invisibly wishing you all the best, and wishing the best will be obsolete.


hans ostrom 2016

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

258. What Some Rainbows Become

Yellow squash, red peppers, eggplant, green beans, blue potatoes. These are what some rainbows become after they ease their arcs, depart from mist and light, and return to ground. It is an unassuming, necessary pot of gold into which they transform. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

257. How I Like My Blue

I prefer blue to be chilled.  When blue gets too warm, it tends to turn purple, which is less appealing than blue, as you know.

Room-temperature blue? Tepid blue? Please. That kind of thing can make you want to run to red or green.

"What kind of blue"? You'd think that would be the more difficult question, perhaps. But it isn't. (Cerulean.)


hans ostrom 2016

Friday, October 7, 2016

256. Of Veldon Windright; or, Not

No one else seemed to perceive the intersection where I stood in the city. I saw it, and I stood there, waiting for a bus because I saw a bus sign there.

No bus came, at least while I waited. I walked home.

Weary, I climbed musty stairs toward my scuffed apartment. Mrs. Bile came out of her apartment, saw me, and cried, "Veldon Windright, you're a scoundrel!" In response, I merely told her the truth: that I wasn't Veldon Windright.  She used to know that.  At least she used to know I wasn't he. I don't know who he is.

A corner of a red envelope slid under my door protruded. Perceived as V. Windright, I uncoupled myself from the conversation with Mrs. Bile, and I went inside my place, where I picked up the red envelope.

Inside was a note on gray paper. It read, "Sir: We have good and bad news. First, we agree that there is an intersection and a bus stop where you waited recently.  We commend your powers of perception and your independence of mind. That said, and second, a bus will never pick you up there even though it's true you saw a bus sign there. It's all too complicated to explain, so just accept the fact.  In fact, accept all facts! Good luck. Sincerely, Your Friends at the Veldon Windright Foundation."


hans ostrom 2016

Thursday, September 29, 2016

255. Home, Home on Deranged

You touch the moon on the water, and a century collapses into a train. Its light shines on sea-tracks, which ladder up from night into blue dawn buttered.  And now unfixed factories march across a plain to kidnap fugitive workers. You've move to red rim-rocks' edge, watching all this--you, the tin-pot emperor of images, brewer of creosote beer, melter of topaz, sadly deposed sheriff of a county that never existed. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

254. The Sound of Hammers

The sound of two or more hammers slamming nails into lumber: I recall this; cabins going up in the woods near our place. The arhythmic syncopation fascinated me, and sometimes the hammers would seem to meet and  join into a single pounding, which then fragmented soon.

In our house, listening, I waited for that gathering of hammering. I was too dreamy and cerebral: this isn't news. At age seven, I didn't think of the structures.  I didn't think of work, the faulty aspirations that inform a cabin-building, but I did imagine men in white canvas coveralls on ladders or roofs, and in back pockets, red bandanna handkerchiefs full of snot and sweat.

I'd drawn and pushed into that kind of work, hammering for wages in my teens and twenties.  That sort of work will knock the piss, the vinegar, the dreaminess out of you. And provide cash.

Hammering, I was of course oblivious to the arhythmic beats, the noise, and focused on sending a nail-head home, finishing that day's set of work, the shift.


hans ostrom 2016