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, February 1, 2010

106. Diesel

I've always liked the smell of diesel oil, even though I shouldn't--because it stinks, and because I don't know what "diesel" means.

The other day I was standing on a sidewalk in Tacoma, Washington, United States, when a large bus waddled by, giving of its diesel odor. There must have been something else significant in the air because the smell made me think of standing in Stockholm, and normally I don't associate diesel with Stockholm. Anyway I experienced nostalgia for snow, a certain quality of light, and a certain configuration of cold in Sweden. Indeed I named the experience "nostalgia" almost immediately even though I knew nostalgia has such a bad reputation that it's almost a sin.

Then a talker accosted me. He was the type of person who talks constantly to no one in a city, pretends to direct traffic, and otherwise carries on. He carried on to me.

"If you don't stop following me," he said, "you're going to get killed." I knew he was begging the question, but I also knew pointing out the fallacy would not be effective.

Unrhetorically terrified, I said, "Understood," and noticed the red woolen scarf around his neck. My heart-rate had accelerated, I noticed. I walked away. He came after me. "I know you're every move!" he yelled. He'd turned me into a coward. Apparent insanity, combined by such apparent aggression, has that effect on me and others. I went into a shop.

I told the proprietor, "That person is following me."

"Oh?" she said, and her face looked worried, as if I were the type of person who thinks people are following him.

"I don't know what to do," I said. She looked through the window carefully at him, his red scarf, his talking mouth, and sized up the situation.

"Go on down to the bus-stop and get on a bus," she said. "He won't have any money for the bus. Or he'll be afraid of the bus."

"Good idea," I said. Feeling obligated to her, I decided to buy something, so I purchased a small round tin container of a waxy, aromatic substance. I didn't know what one was supposed to do with the substance. Apply it to lips or automobiles? Apply it to a coiffure? It smelled like coconut. I wished she carried a kind that smells like diesel.

Followed closely by the man, I walked to the bus stop and waited while he upbraided me further. He appeared to be unarmed and chiefly a rhetorical assailant, so gradually I grew tolerant of him. Eventually a bus waddled up and stopped. I got on, paid my money, and sat down. The man's eyes followed me to my seat, and the last image I saw of him featured his yelling at the bus and me. I rode around for a while, thinking of Stockholm, and then I got off, leaving the tin of of wax on the seat.

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