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

Sunday, August 31, 2008

18. Legend

Roland "Red" Redson, age 123, having coached at the University of West Central Tech State College (UWCTSC) for 98 years, announced his retirement at a press conference today.

Redson, the oldest living football coach in the United States and human being anywhere, told stunned reporters that his epic, successful career was the result of a scheme that he and God had cooked up. Redson also revealed that he "never liked football."

"As some of you may not remember, my daddy was a fine football coach last century," Redson reminisced. "I followed in his footsteps, but in my second game as head coach at UWCTSC, the whole thing seemed totally pointless. I lost interest."

Ironically, Redson that year led the Fighting Feral Housecats to the first of twelve conference championships and an appearance at the Mammal Bowl.

Redson claims he thought of retiring after that season but was visited by God. According to Redson, God expressed surprise at the existence of football in the universe, understood Redson's predicament, but told Redson that as long as he coached, that's how long he would live.

Asked why God would get involved at that level of detail in the universe, Redson would say only, "He has quite a sense of humor, That One."

As for Redson's decision to go along with "the gag"--"It was a no-brainer. I was guaranteed a long life, plus at least a 6-4 season every year, no matter what. I always had time for my family and hobbies--like orchids--and I did enjoy the pageantry surrounding college football."

A reporter asked if Redson had any regrets. "It's no fun outliving your grandchildren," he said. "Also, I felt sorry for all those coaches who imagined they could change the outcome of games against me by practicing and yelling. When we were to win, we won; when we weren't, we didn't. On the other hand, this knowledge of the machinery behind fate gave me a great sense of peace, especially in the fourth quarter."

After the press conference, Redson died.

Asked for a comment, UWCTSC President Wanda Oparto said, "Red Redson was extremely old, and he will be missed, sort of."

Redson reportedly left his retirement fund, totalling one billion dollars, to several great-great-grand children, to an orchid-preservation society, and to the nation of Chad.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

17. Labor

"Red, how are you?"
"Tired. The brakes went out on the Ford. I lost a whole day."
"That is the absolute shits."
They drank, the two men. They stared, and outside the tavern, heat still hit the day hard. Red spoke again.
"Are you about finished with the job on the west side?"
"Got about a week left. Danny's helping out."
"He's good help."
"Yeah, as long as you tell him what you want, he'll do it."
"Jill's sick."
"I'm sorry."
"Getting sick is expensive."
"I hear that. That's why I don't get sick."

They laughed. The beer had made both men give in to how tired they were. Life hadn't prevailed yet, but both men sensed the game had turned nonetheless. Not for want of energy and hope would they lose, but they would lose. It was a slowly emerging certainty in their minds, losing. It wasn't tragedy. Tragedy, in their minds, was for someone rich or heroic or at least well known. Losing was for everybody else.

But you had to keep working, thought Red. He stared straight ahead into the mirror behind the bar of the tavern He looked at the image of himself and the other man. You had to keep working. He looked at his watch, drained the glass (foam slid slowly down the inside of the glass), and said, "I have to get going. I'll see you."
"See you, Red."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

16. God

Our notions of God are sometimes like a matador's red diversion.

Wanting certainty, we charge toward our notions. We charge, desiring help and peace--and, occasionally, authorization for war.

For right and wrong and no and muddled reasons, we charge the red illusion.

Finished, we imagine, with belief, we imagine sometimes we gore God. Ludicrous us. Ludicrous premise: that God is premised on our belief.

If God is, God is not where belief has written God. God is, no, not there, but here; God is poised ubiquity. If God were not to be, our beliefs concerning God are at irrelevant.

The red cape disappears. The matador vanishes. There becomes here. That which is, becomes.

Monday, August 25, 2008

15. Care

Red City is, as you probably have already guessed, not red, at least not in obvious ways. None of the buildings is red, nor is red an official municipal color. Indeed, Red City gives the impression of being blue, gray, white, and green.

Nonetheless, there are stout and good reasons why Red City is so named. I cannot report these reasons to you because I have not discovered them. I believe my research takes me ever closer, however, to discovering the truths of Red City. As you have probably already guessed, Red City has become something of an obsession with me.

Let me say simply that I believe the great book about Red City has yet to have been written. Let me humbly add that I believe I have called to write that book.

That I can even express such beliefs--and express them so clearly--is a credit to the care I have received from the doctors here, where, from my window, I can see a red light pulsing at the top of a steel tower.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

14. Commerce

We sell only red capes. That's our business, our only business. Our business is called Red Cape Land.

Are you tired of going to places that sell thousands of products? Have you ever known a shop other than ours that specializes in red capes? Do you own a red cape? Would you like to own one?

If you answered yes to the first question, no to the second and third questions, and maybe to the fourth question, then you owe it to yourself to come down to Red Cape Land today. Or maybe tomorrow.

If you understand "Red Cape Land" to mean that our business is really not a land but a rectangular building in which red capes are offered for sale, then take an additional ten per cent off your initial purchase. Tell us we sent you.

Don't hurry down to Red Cape Land. Quantities are not severely limited, and to suggest to strangers that they hurry is irresponsible, in our view.

If you've ever dreamed of owning a red cape, then bring enough money with you to purchase one.

Red capes: Without them, our shop, known as Red Cape Land, would cease to exist.

13. Moby Don

No one wanted to spend a story, let alone a stout and serious novel, on Moby Don, the Red Whale.

I suppose to some he looked like an oceanic blemish or the largest mammalian equivalent of a clown's nose.

At any rate, Moby Don engendered fear, induced obsession, in no one.

Harpooners believed him to be diseased. Lookouts in the crows' nests cried, "There she blows--oops; never mind!" First mates labeled Moby Don bad luck. Captains wrote snide remarks in their logs whenever Moby Don had been sighted.

Moby Don was not a great whale, at least if measured by literary standards. But he was unusual, and he was a darned good whale. He fathered several whale children and sang in his migratory pod. In other ways, he contributed to his pod. For example, he sometimes breeched, spiraling exuberantly, sending up the massive, rubbery red signal of his body. He spoke out against whaling. He endured a lifetime of harassment from sharks and found the very idea of munching a sailor's leg to be distasteful.

He could have lied and said it was a bad sunburn, his color. He could have made up a tall American tale about being the descendant of the legendary red whales from Atlantis. But that wasn't Moby Don's way. He accepted who he was. He was okay with being red and a whale and a red whale. He was Moby Don.

Friday, August 22, 2008

12. Welcome

He wishes sometimes for what used to be commonly called the Red-Carpet Treatment (RCT) which is an uncommonly generous welcome. Never having received such a welcome, he covets it, of course; he wonder what it would feel like to have the Treatment extended to him.

He nudges his way in sometimes, tries to earn the RCT. He know it’s the wrong approach, has studied the Treatment’s particulars enough to know no one earns the RTC. That is the whole point. One cannot earn it.

He refuses however to remain completely ignored, uncalled for, excluded. So he buys scalped tickets, or writes on spec, or slides through the delivery-door, or makes himself useful . . . . There are thousands of ways to get around being unwelcome.

There is though no way to be welcome, except to be welcome: sweet feet planted belongingly in plush red carpet, gladness all around, so happy, so happy you’re here, for you are the one we’ve been waiting for! Welcome!

11. Selection

Evolution consisting of accidents that turned out all right, I might note the subtle red coloring of house-finches’ heads, the foggy rose stripe that runs along the sides of salmon, the deep pink of a cat’s tongue, and the strong leadership provided by the red in the old flannel robe I am wearing at 3:00 a.m., when somewhere in the city someone has eased an automobile to a full stop before a red traffic-light and feels slightly silly sitting in solitary compliance.

10. Regional Theater

The stage must be red—that’s all I know, all I see. So said Armick, the visiting writer-in-residence, grant-supported.

What, the others said, do you mean? Red as theme? As conflict? As motif? Symbol?

And Armick said he didn’t know from motif. The imagination is literal, Armick argued. I mean, he said, the stage. The floor, the boards, the set, curtains, costumes. That’s exactly what I mean.

What kind of red? someone asked, one who knew that to argue with the grant-supported Armick-in-residence at this point was not to argue but to feel the hippo-weight of Armick’s obstinance, which Armick preferred to think of as genius, and why wouldn’t he prefer the latter term? This someone also knew that to get the hippo-weight of Armick’s . . . genius moving, best to bait Armick with red specifics.

That’s your job, responded Armick, unbaited and unmoved. I will not tell you how to do what I ask. I will only ask you to do. Your profession is to execute the what of my wanting as you see fit. Ask only yourself what you want from my request for a red stage.

Our job, said someone else, our collective job, is to create theatre. For an audience. A paying audience in a medium-sized city. A medium month has gone by. All we have to go on is—you want a red stage. You want a red stage? Paint it yourself.

Armick: You refuse my request? You question--?

--Yes, I refuse, and I question. Give us a play. That is your job, paid for by a grant.

I wish to play with red, said Armick. That is the play. The beginning of play. You disgust me. Build a stage for the fourteen billionth production of Our Town. Build one for a Neil Simon package. So said Armick, haughtily.

We could do worse. So said the other.

But you will not do better! Cannot, apparently. You’re an idiot, apparently.

Perhaps. The sum total of a month’s work is . . . you want a red stage. Who’s the idiot?

You are, as noted, said Armick.

Maybe so, said the other. I’ll admit the possibility, considering what I do and where I do it. You must, by the same red token, admit the possibility that you’re a lazy fraud.

The combatants’ cheeks flushed. Shouting. Shoving. Intervention. Outside: rain, and a police car going fast. Siren. Whirling red light. Inside, Armick stalked off. The others slouched against gray surfaces of regional theatre, slumped in stained chairs of beige of brown, of green.

Finally someone said, I can get us a deal on red paint at the hardware store, for the owner is a member of our theater’s board of directors.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

9. Organized Angels

9. Organized Angels

The angels have unionized. The other day I ran into the Local #528 president in Tacoma, Washington (known to be a stolid labor-town).

Actually, I ran under her. She was sitting on a limb belonging to one of the massive trees in Wright Park.

“You look like you might have done some work in your life,” she said.

“Long ago,” I said. “Now I watch a lot of cable-television and worry and run errands and nap.”

“Sounds heavenly,” she said, “and that’s not a compliment. How do you make a living?”

“Oh, I work,” I said. “I just don’t work. It’s very stressful, the sort of unworkable work I do.”

She went on to explain about the union. Labor-strife with God, Who is shop-steward of the universe. Wages, hours, layoffs, out-sourcing. Scabs from polytheistic traditions. The whole bit.

“Let me guess,” I said, “—He thinks the union is the work of the Devil.”

“You got it.”

“I see your shoes are red,” I noted. “Any significance to that?”

“No. I thought they were cute, and they were on sale, as well as union-made. Well, affiliated-made, anyway.”

A gray squirrel approached. The angel and the squirrel spoke in a language I’d never heard. The squirrel departed then.

“That was an angel,” the angel said. “We come in all forms.”

8. Skin


The red people were never red, the black never black, the brown never brown, the white never white, the yellow never yellow.

To verify these claims, all anyone had to do was, really, to look at individuals. Observe. Or not look, and instead listen, smell, touch. But no. That would have been too informative.

Stupidity and the will to power over things and to power people into things shaped a prism refracting colors that never were. I say unto you the joy of alert and generous observation was absent in the land.

Skin, that is all. Skin, turned into symbol, symbol into history, history into hell. Red hell, and so on.

What is more, skin of individuals, skin intricately, unpredictably, variously, and I say unto you observably toned, variegated. Skin warmed with life, written by a life, particularized. Skin is never stupid, not to mention of a single color.

The red people were never red, and so on. And so on. And yet history cannot be denied, and if you say we are all the same, you must not say so so you can attempt to deny history.

For the future--remember the future?--shall we be very attuned to variegation? Yes, let's; why not?

7. Nothing

7. Nothing

When your red day comes, don’t be afraid. Or, be afraid but not only afraid. Be sanguine. Your time has always been running out of blood.

Be angry? Why not?! That will be your you complaining once more, and good for it. So wbat if outrage is late, ineffectual, pitiable? At least it’s a kick against inevitability’s brown cliff.

Terror? Most likely. A red tidal wave of fear, shaking you, taking you, taking all.

Breathe in last red breaths of surviving, remember some of the good you did, know regrets will go as you go, away. For it’s a clean sweep on your red day. Even the sky goes, and the sun—down, down, past sunset, on down to Nothing Town, where red original numbers and indecipherable symbols are warehoused.

6. Depression

6. Depression

I do remember the closing-in times when the doors of hope seem bolted shut and the other human beings are apparitions, mere decorations that happen to have opinions and faces and, in theory, lives and problems of their own.

I do remember the feeling that, no, there is no quibbling with the solid presence of experience, the sheer weight of It All, the all-aroundness of life, but also the feeling that weight and ubiquity do not purpose or pleasure make, and the head aches in some kind of existential, symbolic way, a cerebral emblem, a psychic bruise, a cranially enclosed fed-up-edness.

I do remember how the red velvety, thickly perfumatic rose once meant nothing in this circumstance, was a kind of old beauty-joke, a cheap Shakespearian souvenir, a trite thing on a stem, a waste of everybody’s time and certainly nothing to do with me.

You have to hand it to depression. It is professional, and it means business, and it thinks of everything, including a rose named Mister Lincoln, including Mister Lincoln, who knew depression, who called it the blue-devils.

Friday, August 15, 2008

5. Grief

The principle of the foreverness of death he understood well, especially insofar as fear can be said to mark, in some circumstances, understanding.

The application of the principle struck him afresh in each new instance, however.

His father for instance died; therefore, his father’s red blood would again never be. His father’s presence was now always past. Factuality of his father’s death shocked, became a chronic catastrophe. Understanding the principle of the foreverness of death proved useless. Specific death is unprincipled.

As his father lay dying, he held his father’s hand and noticed in a waste-can clues concerning the Code Crew’s bloody work to bring his father back from cardiac arrest so that his father might not just yet die.

Life is work and bloody response and the business of getting things done. One son holding one father’s hand is between the one father and the one son. It is the miracle and morose tragedy of the particular, overwhelmed by that-is-to-say life and its infinite particulars.

Be dutiful and sad and think of the red blood you share. Be shocked and afflicted and unprepared because you cannot prepare. Be quiet. Be all alone even as others might briefly grasp you or perform gestures of understanding.

Be briefly solid and here in your acute particularity. Weep at the agreed-upon time and place. Weep at an unexpected hour and inappropriate place. Stand dry-eyed, well soldiered. Lie in the state of grief.

Inter your memories. Move—you must and will—on, as blood moves on in you, amen, so long, it was nice and it was knowing and it was you, and he was father.

4. Gazes

She wore a red dress. She was across the room. He gazed. He felt. He named the feeling love.

The gaze is with him still as, forty years later, he tells of her standing across the room, and the red dress, and the deciding gaze. He says in so many words he loves her still, and she gazes, loving him still, and we are quiet and embarrassed and wondering how it could have been, whether it was, so simple.

The red dress made it simple, such power in the gaze across the room and lives. It must have been more complicated than that, but we have no proof. We have skepticism, routine ironies, and reflexive distaste for sentiment. They gaze.

3. Red Zaley

Some reflections, then, on a man who was likeable in his unlikeableness. Some reflections on Red Zaley.

Whose epidermis was angry.

Whose will was a kind of red pachyderm.

Who lived next to a graveyard, indeed the only graveyard in the town.

Who hired a man and the man’s brother to build hundreds of feet of stone walls, walls which became provincially palatial in contrast to the tacky shackiness of Red Zaley’s house.

Whose house seemed glum at best.

Who suspected everyone of plots against him.

Who became more facially red when drinking bourbon.
Who drank bourbon.

Whose property-line abutted that of the town’s graveyard.

Whose inflamed, suspicious, retaliatory concept of private property gave pallbearers pause as they packed their solemn cargo along the route of the graveyard fence, breathing more easily once inside the cemetery line, funereal circumstances somehow less threatening than Red Zaley and his angry potentialities.

It is too much but also pleasant to say that God was wary of, very wary of, Red Zaley, that even the Devil, that indiscriminate recruiter, regarded Red Zaley, ruddy virtuoso of ill temper and stone borders, as better left alone.

2. Faith, Science, and Crimsonology

If you believe in evolution, in Evolution, then you must believe we evolved with the capacity to want to pray, and with the capacity to pray. Prayer apparently helped to perpetuate us in our several niches. Otherwise we probably would have been perpetuated without the prayer-behavior.

If you believe in divinity, in creation by uppest echelon, then you must believe that the highest power approved a design which led eventually to the scientific method, which produced reasons to believe in Evolution. Or you must believe that the scientific method is the work of the devil and that God chooses not to put a stop to the nonsense. Or you must believe that, allowed free will, some chose the scientific method, and God may or may not like the choice. Or you must believe . . . .

Regardless of what you believe, you are permitted to consider red. Its origins. Its species. Its functions in nature. The extent to which it does and does not exist in pink and orange and purple. Consideration is not belief.

Red: a divine rage seething in lava. Red rhetoric: the wordless word of a bird’s plume. Red: ripe emergency of cherries, strawberries, tomatoes. Red exists within and without phenomena such as words, such as red.

Red of Communism, red of Christianism, red of Redism.

Professors of Crimsonology theorize ruddily at their annual Crimson Conference. The field of redonics is coming into its own. A red future lies before us. These are exciting, corpuscular times indeed.

Say your red prayers, red believer. Conduct your controlled red experiments, red scientist. Speak to us through your prophetic prism, red divinity. In the name of red, exalt red’s redness.
For thine is the red and the red. I am red that I am red. Red be with you. Jack be red. And also with you.

1. Power

Red: A Book of Crimson Tales, Sanguine Meditations, and Scarlet Exasperations

“I am the Emperor red,” said the Emperor, Red.
“So true,” responded the people.
“I am your Emperor,” he said.
“We know,” they said.
“Bow down,” he said.
“You bet,” they replied.
“Worship me.”
“Praise Red.”
“Admire me.”
“Respect me.”
“Yes, sir, Emperor Red, sir.”
“Fear me.”
“Duck! Here comes Red!”
“Remember me.”
“'Once there was an Emperor named Red . . . .’”
“Love me.”
“Happy Birthday, Emp!”
“Help! Save me from my rebellious military!”
“What was that? Could you speak up?”
“I said--.”
“'Once there was an Emperor. Emperor Red.’”