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

Thursday, December 27, 2012

215. Details of the Break-Up

O my generalissima, your voice
sounded like a lactating chainsaw
as you commanded me out of your life.

I retaliated by not renewing my
subscription to Piquant Living
magazine. Also, I swallowed

the key to your place and put on
red slippers.  On the street,
I looked up to see my things

falling. They piled up in drifts
of shame. The pleather underwear
had been a gift from you.

People gathered and laughed.
I taught them a folk-dance.
And now it is later,

and I work at a drive-thru
mortuary and am studying
to become a fish-whisperer.


Hans Ostrom, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

214. Certain Assemblages

Certain assemblages of words are deemed, in certain assemblages of words, "genius" or "enduring" by critics.  And so assemblages of people think they should read these "enduring" assemblages of words so as to read what is read or red or blue or acceptable or green or what-one-is-supposed-to-know, after all.

The coagulation of assemblages is so petty, corrupt, and formidable that you just have to ignore and write or read or both or neither, and whoever heard of a reading list saving the world?  After all.

Monday, September 24, 2012

213. Trees and Not-Trees

There are trees, and there are not-trees.

A painting or a photograph of trees
is not-trees.  So are salt-flats not-trees.

The distinction is crucial.

Ask the jay or the cardinal
that climbs a tree. Ask
the squirrel.  Not literally,
but ask. Advise the ground,
which is mottled,
not cast in full sunlight.

At a saloon, someone struck
a philosopher in the face.
Not-hard. But nonetheless.

The philosopher had said
there are no trees, only
ideas of trees, and he
happened to have stopped
in timber country. Also,
he hadn't bought a round
of drinks, which are not-trees
but which nonetheless
matter to people.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

212. Cocktail Bar Monologue

No, he was my ex-husband, not my father-in-law. I called him, it was my birthday, and he didn't sound right. So I went over there. He strangled me in the bed. He didn't choke me out. I woke up, and he said, "What are you doing?"  I said, "I'm going to the bathroom."

So I got up, and I went to his daughter's room, she wasn't there, and I covered myself with her red bed-spread and her stuffed animals and stuff, and I heard him out there, saying, "Where am I?!" And he was like destroying shit and he put a fist through a wall.

And a neighbor came over, and I stayed there the whole night.  I was in shock, so I couldn't call the police until the next day.  He got like third degree assault, and he spent time in jail, but he makes a hundred and fifty grand a year so he got out on bail.

Anyway, he gets to see our son, he's four, every other week. I have full custody.

I wouldn't be able to get health-care for my son except that I'm going to school, and Obamacare you know pays for that. I want to open a doggie-daycare center. My son's name is Lucas. He's four. Here, look at this happy face he drew, it's on my iPhone.

I live with my mother now. My dad died, so I moved in with her. I sold all his stuff in a garage sale. I made three thousand bucks. He was an electrician for thirty years, and if he didn't have a tool, he'd buy two of them.

You see Roger down at the end of the bar? He wanted to sell his Ford 500, so I put it on Craig's List. .  Then some guy called him and said Hey, I can advertise that, special.  So the guy took Roger for $500. And the thing sold on Craig's List the next day.  I think Roger was just drunk.

I'm impressed. Most people don't  know how to spell "Erin."  They spell it like the Bible, "Aaron," but I tell them, Hey, I have different parts.

My friend is in a Rolling Stones tribute band, and he's playing tonight, but I don't know where. He's supposed to text me.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

211. Erik the Red and Poetry

You know what
Erik the Red said
about poetry, don't you?


Nor do I. Maybe
it was something like
"Just get the fucking poem
written, okay?"


Leave the theory
to physicists and detectives 
in crime novels. A poem
is a made thing--spoken,
written, or both. Poet,


make it easy on yourself:
make that poem. Poet,
make that poem.

--Hans Ostrom 2012

Thursday, August 2, 2012

210. Let Them Have It

Sometimes the shuffling of playing cards sounds like the tearing of lettuce, my friend.

And sometimes the tearing of lettuce sounds like the crunch of snow underfoot, as you walk, fuzzy from drinking all night, on a ghostly white winter road.

And sometimes the weird smoke and light of a forest fire reddens the moon, making it look like a single blood-shot eye, the eye of a sad jeweler examining a ruined emerald.

And often people ask "Why?" when they know the answer, or when they know the one asked can't possibly know the answer.

And sometimes you just want to lie down, don't you?, in a room and have done with it, have done with it all, the infinite mess of the here and the now.

"Let them have it, let them have the mess," you may say to yourself, my friend. "I am going to rest here alone."

Sunday, July 29, 2012

209. A Simple Man

"I'm a simple man," proclaimed Hiram, not just to no one in particular, but to no one. He was alone in an alley. Urinating, as it happens. And it happens. Finishing, he said, "Thanks for the warm night, and for the laughs"--again to no one.

Then he affirmed his simplicity. "I like," he said, "to eat, sleep, bathe, piss, shit, laugh, read, fuck, write, cook, and dance.  Mine is largely a monosyllabic life."  He added, "I like to feel safe, even if it's an illusion. I like to work but mostly because of the money. And I like to surprise people with kindness."

No one responded.  It was an alley-thing. "That's about it," Hiram said. At the far end of the alley, a red neon light blinked on, blinked off, on, off.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

208. Financial Planning

I sought counsel from a financial adviser for a time, but then his business went in the red and failed.

Meanwhile, I just keep going to work. My first paying job was as a weed-cutter. That was 43 years ago: holy shit.

Sometimes I tell people that I chose not to be rich.  Sometimes they laugh.

Meanwhile, I just keep going to work. I see now that's the financial plan I've always had.

When it comes to accounting, I like the fact that red is bad and black is good.  Black has to be bad so often in our culture.  It must be a relief to black to be good in this case.  Thinking thoughts like this, I assume, has helped me maintain my goal of not becoming rich.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

207. Bluesy: Baby, Open Your Legs

Baby, open up your legs and let me lick your pussy. Baby, open  your legs, please--let me eat your pussy. I'll go all the way down and up and around. Baby, open your legs and let me lick your pussy.

Well, you have a red rose tattooed on your hip. Yeah, you got a red and blue rose right there on your hip. I have a tongue that's hiding behind my lips, so let me lick your pussy, please open up.

Baby, scream and holler if you've a mind to. Scream and holler when the feeling's right. Baby, holler and scream if the feeling's right. Moan and giggle when I get it right.  Smile and laugh in the night.  Baby, open your legs and let me lick your pussy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

206. Bee Balm and Women

Women smell just enough differently and think just enough differently and walk, look, dress, eat, respond, laugh just enough differently from men to fascinate me permanently and as the red bee-balm blossom attracts honey-and-bumble bees, my generalized interest is drawn to women, although I require no commerce, per se; let us say I am not after nectar; let us say the permanent instinctual intrigue is a reward unto itself. Let us say that.

Monday, June 18, 2012

205. No, I Don't

No, I don't want to register for the rewards program or the summer contest.

I don't want to hurry down for the red-label sale, or to come down there at all.

I don't want to sign up for a card that is alleged to give me cash back on my purchases, and I don't want to be a valued customer because I don't think that phrase means what you want me to believe it means.

I just want to work and to get enough food and rest and otherwise be left alone.  I don't want to be harried by the places where I get things when I need to get the things.

Friday, May 25, 2012

204. Ruby

Ruby was the wife. She'd grown up in Alabama, and her body had conveyed her through life until she had married Dan, a wealthy, large, fidgety man who had made a fortune and a half selling steel-framed windows in the era between wood and aluminum.

Ruby was what was known then as a party gal. She wore red lipstick and dresses that displayed a significant cleavage, which in turn alluded to large breasts and expansive aureoles. She liked men as much as men liked her.

There was nothing coy abut Ruby. At an outdoor party once, in California, she held and scratched the scrotum of a hound. Her husband Dan tried to laugh off the scene, the action taken by Ruby.  The women were repulsed and astonished, the men merely astonished.

Ruby and Dan used to travel to what they called "the Orient." They journeyed by freighter. No one knew exactly why. Because Dan was a rich miser? Because they were eccentric? Or because, on a freighter, there were fewer men for Ruby to astonish?

They led a boozy, stormy life, Ruby and Dan. Their various houses were decorated heavily, like the sets of the Perry Mason TV show. Wood, leather, slabs of slate, big paintings of horses, and of dogs.  Steel-framed windows.

As a child I visited one of their homes. It smelled of leather and wood, whiskey and roast beef.  Dan always wore some kind of tweed jacket.  And he made a monkey-face at children, like me, who didn't recognize it as a monkey face but as a repulsive grimace an adult male was making.

Ruby called all children "Doll." She didn't make monkey faces.  Her breasts were large. Her lips were red. She smoked cigarettes, she drank vodka, she laughed, and she gave off warmth.

Eventually Ruby left Dan. She died on Skid Row in San Francisco. By then Dan had remarried a woman who was manageable and who pretended to have a large vocabulary.

There aren't too many peopole left who remember the story about Ruby's scratching a dog's balls at a party. The vivid, the vulgar, the vibrant--yes, they go to dust like all of us, as does all memories every memory of them.

203. Sad Erotica

In the genre of sad erotica, people are tired and smell bad. They feel too fat or too thin, too old or too young or too middling.  They touch their bodies like they handle a heap of laundry.

They're hungry but too tired from work to cook, and no one's there to cook for them.  Oh, a bath would feel great but only after a drink or some weed and some food.  Hot food.

They fall asleep in front of a screen and wake up bewildered and vacant. They drag themselves to the shower, and as the hot water turns some body parts red, they think about sex, the relief it sometimes brings, the oblivion of lust, the good feeling of being something or someone someone wants to touch. 

In the genre of sad erotica, people get out of the shower and dry themselves off and put on cotton, linen, or wool. They walk slowly to bed and fall in the bed, exhaling like a beast.  They go to sleep.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

202. Sun and Sex In Mainz

I remember the sun rising over buildings at the university in Mainz.

I remember a desperate needing of sex in Winter in Mainz. After walking against icy wind, after drinking wine or beer or brandy, after music and debate and delusion, god how we craved the deep bodily drama of sex on cheap sheets next to a table loaded with books from the library.

Sunshine made the broad cobblestone-walkway blaze. I let the rock-reflected light cook my eyeballs and sear my thoughts, which craved the recall of going down on brown women in California seasons earlier.

The German Winter had been especially cold and heavy. I'd read Goethe, Mailer, Vidal, Baldwin, Colette--truly devouring books from the library we had to re-organize when we weren't teaching students who rightly loathed college.

German punks with black-dyed Mohawks as dense as zebra manes gathered on street-corners.  I remember the women didn't look happy: another male jeremiad.

I remember a voluptuous woman sucking my cock, riding my face, and wanting it hard and steady, and why wouldn't she?

I remember the sun rising over buildings at the university in Mainz. The German Winter had been especially cold and hard. The steps across the smoldering cobblestones were my first strides away from it.

Monday, May 7, 2012

201. Sex at the St. Francis That Time

He wonders if she remembers the time they were in San Francisco and they got a room they couldn't afford at the St. Francis Hotel and he went down on her and she came as she looked through the window at the Bay Bridge, sunlight turning a rust color as it hit the cables and under-girding.

He wonders if he should ask her if she remembers, for he sees himself going down on her, his back to the Bay Bridge, her legs open, eyes closed, eyes open.

He wonders if St. Francis would see the sunlight as sin-light, would have approved or not of intimacy and sex in the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco.  St. Francis would have approved he decides, deciding to decide in a self-serving way.  He wonders still, however, if she remembers the time they . . .

Friday, April 6, 2012

200. Mister Lincoln Rose

A wee fist comes out
of a Mister Lincoln rose,
taps your nose.

You hear a voice, which purrs,
slurs like a kind, formidable,
boozy perfumed aunt: "This,
kiddo, is what a rose
is supposed to smell like. Not
like the nothing-blooms in
the goddamned florist's deep-freeze."


Copyright 2012 Hans Ostrom

Friday, March 30, 2012

199. We Use Deep Blue . . .

We use deep blue to tell a desert canyon's depth at twilight. --Use warm red to remark upon a last sliver of dusk visible through haze, clouds, or diluted fog. --Use green to see where refugee groups of trees have survived that onslaught of our colorless phenomenon: development. --Use yellow so often for caution that now we see daffodils as warning: Here comes another Spring, which we'll fill with our history.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

198. Of Buzzwad Carsatchel

Buzzwad Carsatchel, CEO of Schmoozel Embroglios, LLC, is golfing with enormous marketers and marketeers who sweat scotch whiskey.

He hates them.

He hates golf.

He pulls out an enormous pistol and shoots it at turtles in a water-trap, also known as a pond.  He misses.  The turtles slip into the water.

The marketers and marketeers laugh.  "It's not funny!" he cries.

He throws the gun into the water. His wealth and all he traded for it have tracked him all the way to this humid, hissing golf course.  The world goes red, tilts.  Buzzwad 'Buzz' Carsatchel is experience a "heart event."

He lies down on the hot green grass.  It sweats. He sweats.  The marketers and marketeers madly phone.  They drip scotch-whiskey sweat on Buzzwad Carsatchel's ashen face.

Buzz remembers something about a lecture on the topic of absurdity, a lecture by a philosophy professor in his second year of college.

Buzzwad Carsatchel believes he hears the sirens he believes will save him.

197. Fate's Like That

I was walking down a country road. Dry yellow grass hissed on both sides of that road.  Heat gave the scene of trees and farms a vibrating cinnamon hue.

--Came upon a fellow playing blues harmonica on his porch, a glass of lemonade at his feet, red threads apparent in his overalls.

"Sir, have you seen my fate?" I asked.

He paused his playing, wiped his mouth with a flannel sleeve.  Men who wear flannel in the heat are to be respected, I have learned.

"It's right behind you," he said. I turned and look. Nothing.

"Oh! It moved," he said. "It's up ahead."

I looked up ahead. Nothing.

"Fate's like that," the man said. "Always slipping past you.  His brown eyes were red-rimmed.  "You thirsty?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," I said.

"Well, then, it seems your fate, which is here, is to drink lemonade on this porch with me. Come up."

"Thank you, sir," I said. Fate's like that.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

196. Those Bluejean Shorts

Those bluejean shorts, cut to the crotch, you wore that summer: I've sent the memory of them to my Hall of Recall Fame. There's going to be an induction ceremony, where I will speak about your brown legs, the red thread in the bluejean shorts, the shadow in your belly's button, what lay north of that, what lay south, what happened to those back pockets when your buttocks filled them, how we lay in all directions as the swamp-cooler rumbled and as little black waves of spinning vinyl delivered tunes we thought might cool our heat eventually.

It'll be a short speech at the induction ceremony.  But O my darling, the memory of you, of us, of heat, of those bluejean shorts you cut to the crotch, how "crotch" was never a crude word between us, how I--this is not too strong--worshiped your brown legs and your crotch when you took off the shorts and the bright, white panties.  O my darling, O.

195. R&B (Sex Is Clumsy)

Sex is clumsy. Everybody knows that,
especially the ones who portray it
otherwise: Hollywood, Harlequin,
Playboy . . . It's an awkward comedy,
part of its charm. We can overcome

the clumsiness--part of its grace.
Hey, look, it's a list of kisses, strokes,
talk, tastings, fittings of bodies, of
minds, of pleasures. Such elements
assemble. They're the improv troupe
of sex. And it's all right, it's good,
even very good. Great?


Well, sex is probably better
when it's good, not great.
Anyway, for now, let's talk
of something else (or not talk)
and sip red wine, maybe smoke
some weed, and listen to R&B.

Copyright 2012

Monday, March 5, 2012

194. Old Kisser of Women's Toes

There is an old, lascivious man in our village who sits on sidewalks and beside park-paths in the sunshine. Some of the young (and not so young) women know all about him, and they come up to him and stand.  He rouses himself from lethargy, gets on his knees, and kisses their toes protruding from sandals.  Some women take their shoes off for this service.

Often the women visit him in pairs or trios, and after he kisses their toes, they giggle and scamper away.  If they try to give him money, he refuses.  More than once he has said, "I'm neither a prostitute nor a destitute man. This is a hobby, and my gift to you. And to me."  He's oddly formal, this old man. But this doesn't keep him from savoring details, such as the color of paint on toes, a tender hammer-toe, a wee tattoo, the angle of the big toe, and so on.

At twilight the man often lies on a bench and sleeps deeply like a beast. I know because I am he.  No doubt this hobby of mine disgusts you. Technically, it's not a fetish, as I don't get aroused.  Difficult as it may be to believe this, I see this activity as a community service and a whimsy of my twilit years.

Last night as I was still dozing, one of the women left a red rose on my chest as I slept.

Later her husband--who had been spying on her--came and threatened to beat me up. He was at least 30 years my junior and in excellent shape.

I told him to go home and kiss his wife's body, starting with her brown toes, which, I said, had that lovely ruby paint on them today.  Hers are sweet toes, yes, coated with the finest summer dust, like pollen. By the way, for those of you obsessed with hygiene, I do rinse my mouth between toe-kissings. I hope this fact eases your concern.

Anyway, the husband's concern was not eased. That is, he knocked me down.  A few decades ago, I might have written, "He hit me in the kisser."  He left.  I lay and looked at the starts for a while, smelled the dew, listened to the complaints of a frog. I shivered, got up, found the red rose, and went home.

In the bath-water, I thought, not so much of the toes and kissing them, or even of the feet, but of the smiles of the women and their laughter.  Yes, I'm a lascivious old man, living in a village, looked at warily by police, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, and partners.  I am a toe-kisser with a bruised face.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

192. Incredible Deals for a Limited Time Only

The advertisers proclaim that their offers are for a limited time only.

I want offers to last forever.

I want a red sofa to be sale even after the sun is spent and has become a red dwarf.

I want that weary red dwarf to have the chance to get a free large cola to sip as it eats a specially priced astral sandwich.

No one, brothers and sisters, should feel compelled to hurry down to take advantage of deals that are incredible. 

If a deal is not to be believed, then I say let it be a falsehood for all time.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

191. Used Experiences

He needed cash, and he'd collected a lot of experiences in his life, so he took some of them to a Used Experience Store and tried to sell them.

The proprietor went through the experiences with the chill haste of the unsentimental expert. Then she said, "I'm afraid these aren't worth much. They're very common."

He didn't believe she was afraid.

He was tempted to protest but he knew doing so would only enhance humiliation.

She said, "I can't give you any cash, but I could give you a bit of credit to use as trade for other experiences in our store."

He said No Thanks and packed up his experiences in the brown cardboard box (with faded red lettering) of his memory and went home and felt bad about his life, parts of which had seemed vivid and rare to him before today. 

His place felt cold and drab.  He experienced that. He had no idea what experience he should have next.  He didn't really give a shit one way or the other now.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

190. In the Dream About Partying With Women

In the dream about partying with women, Hiram is high on hashish.  He dances on a terrace with different women, various women, who are deftly desirous unlike men.

Just off the terrace are apartments with red rugs and many bedrooms. In the dream, the hash has occasionally but subtly disoriented Hiram.  He experiences slight hallucinations that alter flow of time. It is of no concern to him. Now different women take him to different rooms, where nudity and sex realize ambitions that involve Hiram, who is amenable.

In the dream's last scene, Hiram dreams he is sleeping. A woman he vaguely knows wakes him by lying atop him, naked, in the 69 position. He responds.  He laps the lovely wetness of her secret place.

189. Politics

Visible only for a while longer: a white, blue, red political candidate's sign, the candidate's name now inscrutable, lodged under a green, brown, yellow mass of blackberry vines, black brush, and ferns.

188. Meatloaf Writers Conference

At the Meatloaf Writers Conference, famous authors call each other by nicknames and speak in complacent ironies.

A homeless man sneaks into the conference to get some food. He has blood stains on his soggy garments.

Security escorts him out. He says, "There must be some mistake. I write! And where's the meat loaf?"

A famous editor floats by in khakis and top-siders.  He knows exactly how to behave.  He knows exactly what to say.  He says nothing about the small disturbance--Security with homeless man.  How very strange!

The famous editor encounters some very old dear friends indeed.  Longtime shadows groan because they know he is about to tell a story.  A practiced story--well balanced, appropriate, and well capitalized. Everything is as it has always been.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Monday, January 30, 2012

186.That Town's Whistle

After the railroad company stopped sending trains through that town, the tracks got overwhelmed with red rust, gray grass, black brush, and green trees.

The townspeople eventually purchased a a big whistle--a horn, actually--that sounded like a train because almost everyone missed that sound.

Now people take turns.  One person goes down there one night a year and makes the horn make that sound. The horn is housed in a little shed, with ventilation to let the sound out.

Oh, now, if the train could only hear that sound, maybe the train would return.  But--no, it's been gone too long. It's too far away. In the town's imagination, the train passes through an eternal red-rock desert, hauling its steel boxes of freight to the lip of an abyss, unloading.

Friday, January 27, 2012

185. Migraine

After doing carpentry or carrying hod for 8 hours in summer Sierra heat, I'd sometimes know a migraine headache, which announced itself with a red curtain behind the eyes.

I'd go home and lie on the floor of a room built of concrete blocks: cool and dark: eyes ready to scream at any hint of light, head warning, "Don't move me."  Sometimes the headache subsided slowly, leaving a grudge behind, a thumping reminder. Sometimes I'd see an aura--white, tinges of yellow, faint threads of red....

...And the ache then would burst, eyes going grainy, sandy, and relaxed.  By then all the evening birds were singing, and swallows--black coats, rust-colored breasts--swooped gloriously over the pond as sunset came.

184. Sir Realism

Sir Realism, Knight of the Spherical Table, quested for pleasure, loved to watch orange of carrot vanish once it touched the elaborate mechanism of his horse's mouth, enjoyed kissing the red tongue of the queen. Self-knighted, he disliked juxtaposition of monarchy on the vibrant blur of masses.  One night a star morphed into a golden spoon and swooped to Earth.


Sir Realism, armored in found objects, jumped aboard the spoon, applauded frogs and their croaked chorus in luxuriant dew, and embarked--became a levitated image in someone's dream of a dream.