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

Friday, January 26, 2018

268. Ménage à Trois Lunch

I made two sandwiches. Of the same type: wheat bread, lettuce, tomato, red onion, mayonnaise, turkey. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, I won't stand in your way. Replace the turkey, even the mayonnaise. It doesn't matter.

(Incidentally, for those of you expecting something else from this narrative, don't worry; it will arrive shortly.)

What does matter is I hadn't wanted two sandwiches. Distracted, I made a second one by accident. But now here they were, plated. Two lovely, alluring, and nourishing sandwiches.  What a privilege.  I felt profligate. I began to think of the situation as a ménage  à trois.

How sad is that?

Well, I ate lunch alone--à  un.

I finished one sandwich and gave up.

And that's when the two women wearing bikini bottoms only (I told you to be patient!) came into the apartment from poolside. It wasn't really my apartment. I was house-sitting, to some extent. All right: I was squatting. 

One woman was brown and black hair, and her name was Arli.  the other was white and had red hair, and her name was Cynthia. The former was as well endowed as Harvard, the latter as well as Princeton.

I told them, "I just made two sandwiches by mistake.  I hate that."

Arli said, "And I hate that I just dropped War and Peace into the pool--and it's the Peaver-Volkhonsky translation, too."  I saw that he book was not with her.  Apparently it had drowned. 

"There's no time to waste," said Cynthia.  "Arli, let's split the sandwich." I poured them glasses of white wine that did not belong to me. 

At some point, their remaining bikini parts fell, and eventually we had the kind of sex that's much appreciated, except all three of us were just a little burpy because of the sandwiches.  Red onion, you know. 

hans ostrom 2018

Friday, October 13, 2017

267. Snow and Light in Uppsala

Walking in the dim glow of snow in Uppsala when Winter noon, a miser, let a cup of sunlight through made  my chest fill with oxygen, the huff and puff, but also with something sweeter than sadness, more tart than joy.  Sometimes a band of pink would tinge a building's edge, and sometimes a woman, her hair and her red scarf fluttering sensibly, would pedal by on a bicycle.

I use the old tool memory to access the restrained pleasure of such an interval of some days in Sweden. Sweden keeps occurring to me.  Sometimes I wish it were a book and me a character--that awkward American--so I could live forever there, so snow and light in Uppsala could become a setting for scene including me.

In fact, right now I'm drinking coffee in that novel.  I'm not important enough to advance the plot much. But I can see you peeking through the cafe window, imagining the warmth, the aroma of pastry and delicate perfumes, and the murmuring of conversation.  It's cold out there.  Come in. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

266. As If You Were Different from Them

You're in a forest, so weary you wedge yourself in the hollow of an old-growth red cedar tree. You sleep deeply and wake to black darkness.  You hear raccoons and foxes, coyotes and bobcats--they're all commuting to work.

You climb out of the tree and stand in a city: noise, rain, crowds, stench, neon, fluorescence, larceny, fraud.  You're leaning on a metal light-pole.  And now you remember: it took years but the city finally broke you by revealing how absurd it is.  You saw how you'd betrayed yourself by living, working, there.  You began to suffer spells, every day, so that you might find yourself on a sidewalk when your mind takes off and flees to a forest, sleeps in a tree, and leaves you looking quite mad.  "Disoriented," they call it, although your state has nothing to do with East.

You know none of the people passing by.  They stare at you as if you were different from them. Your struggling scares them momentarily.

hans ostrom 2017

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

265. Grace and I

I am the bull charging toward me. Grace is the red cape and the sidestep. I am the boulder in the middle of my road. Grace is ways around. I am the iron door locked. Grace is removable hinges. I am the long, bad winter. Grace is April. I am accident. Grace is pattern.  I am pattern. Grace is serendipity. I am full. Grace, empty. I am empty. Grace?

hans ostrom 2017

264. The Placers

I would thank them but I don't know
how to contact them--the ones
who have placed books where I'd
find them at just the right time
over the years. In childhood, the
affordable hardbacks, Westerns,
on the family bookshelf, published
by E.P. Dutton and Doubleday,
red, blue, or green colors, wispy-
light pulpy pages, always an illustration
or two.  The Complete
Sherlock Holmes at age 15,
The Fire Next Time at 17, Snow
Country at 19, and so on. Most
recently, the Collected Stories
of Marquez. Each one adjusted

my perspective, often jolted it.
The secret network of book-placers
is vast, superbly trained, and precise.
Sometimes they enlist parents.
Usually it just seems like serendipity.

Oh, yes, I've tried to place books
myself, as a friend, a parent, a teacher.
Clumsy, amateurish, inconsistently
effective.  I hope one day to visit
the headquarters of the Secret
Book Placers International and
get the proper training.

hans ostrom 2017

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

263. Tiger in the Light

Tonight a tiger's in the light. A windstorm leaves red rose petals on frozen lakes. An old man finally gives up thinking he's younger than he is and locks up remnants of his lust. Overcome with relief, he weeps as he waits for public transportation. But enough about all that: what I really wanted to tell you is that I've never seen an angel. This is an important fact because I want very much to see one.  See an angel, there, in reality. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

262. Veldaro the Younger and the Brick Missile

Veldaro (the Younger, since we're making things up) was sitting on the balcony of a run-down hotel one morning writing a poem about palm trees and women when he was struck in the head by a piece of red brick.

It wasn't a direct hit, nor was it an indirect one.  Shock, terror, pain, disorientation, blood, and rage ensued, all in their particular Veldarosque manifestations.

Why, who, and what to do informed his interrogative response.  Veldaro would never find answers to these questions, except that, regarding what to do, he sought first aid.

He would bear a small scar (and a chronic loss of confidence regarding writing outside) for the rest of his life.  He would save the piece of red brick, however, and become fond of it.  He would wonder, too, about the efficacy of writers' deploying the future conditional tense.

Like him, the piece of red brick had been ill used, concluded Veldaro.

Veldaro the Younger's poetry lost much of its exuberance after the incident.  It became saturated with absurdity and gloom, and its epistemology slipped and staggered between melancholy fatalism and morose despair.  He did not associate himself with the truly oppressed; he knew better than that. Yet he also knew that often our defeats spring from circumstances less than tragic but, in the long run, as corrosive in their effects.

hans ostrom 2016

261. Looking for Stephen Crane

"I want to know where Stephen Crane is!" shouted a man in the desert, which was not obliged of course to reply. "Get back in the car--let's go!" cried a sensible woman sitting in a red, courageous Buick on the shoulder of the highway.

hans ostrom 2016

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