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

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

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

Thursday, July 7, 2016

253. Oklahoma Encounter

The Black U.S. President, the man said, represented pure evil while the White Pope represented pure good. A red intervention came to mind as I listened dangerously. I couldn't quite see the mist that shrouded the man, but it was there, a product of mental illness, Whiteness (mental illness), racism, trauma, and failure. I was listening to him report from a terrible place he'd invented. A low branch from an oak sapling made me stoop comically, and I looked down at red dirt. Oklahoma City, Ralph Ellison's birthplace. A starting- and stopping-place for Charlie Christian's guitar. The look on my face had apparently provided a wordless, recoiling rebuke.  The man forced a trembling smile, and mumbled to cover his tracks as he moved away, as I moved away. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

252. Looking at What Came Out of My Nose

On Twitter literary opiners complained
about poems concerning petty crises.
More attention to broad social emergencies
is wanted. Makes sense. You know how
it goes sometimes, though. The admonishment
has an unintended effect sometimes, even
on poets who sympathize.  I blew my nose
into a red handkerchief, which I opened.
I looked at the snot.  Tapioca. The shape
looked like an obese number 1, with sarif.
The topic of this poem is less than petty.

hans ostrom 2016

Monday, March 7, 2016

251. Secret Autobiography

The purpose of being here is to experience being here. An attribute of being here is to speculate about other purposes, some of which we may select as valid, but these are not consistently resilient. "Well, I am here," said the troubled man to himself. He looked around and saw things and people. A red design on a white bowl. A woman with long black hair. "This is here, and I'm in it," he said, with the follow-up thought that the sentences we speak to ourselves compose a secret autobiography, oblique but meticulously accurate.

hans ostrom 2016

250. The Art of Losing at Chess

I'm partial to the droll yet revolutionary third (and last?) book published by the mysterious Mervlov: Losing at Chest (first edition, hardcover, red binding). Listen to me: many ways of losing he describes are bold, others intricate, not a few comical, and at least two, absurd. There is, argued Mervlov, an art to losing when and how one chooses, and losing thusly provides a sustained excitement far more satisfying than that experienced when winning.

Of course, with this book Mervlov enraged the chess community, and he disappeared--last seen in a corner of a bar, trapped by a figure garbed in Catholic vestments and an exquisitely dressed, alluring Turkish woman, whose gaze is described in accounts I've read as "poised and menacing."

Never heard from or seen again, was Mervlov, a genius to many of us who've grown accomplished at losing the grand game.

hans ostrom 2016

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

249. Dirk Deliwogg

I am Dirk Deliwogg, consulting poet, visionary, crafter of opinions, digger of holes, raconteur, and something of a legend.

I kind of hate stories even though I tell them when the work calls for it. That's about all the work calls for. People want to tell things and I listen.  They want to hear things in return. Ritual sayings like "the weather's been really weird lately." They want short comforting or alarming tales. And so on.

Relaxing at home (I'm a slow drifter, an artful squatter) with a glass of red--not wine, just the color red--I like it when a woman who is there (or not there) speaks in word-collages, such as "teek notoriety web-savvy certain cream-based personal responsibility agenda mais oui lime allergy connubial etch scar vivid zephyr, actually." I reply, "Indeed. Well put!!

Anyway, I am really nobody living in nothing, which, although nothing, is saturated with texts, symbols, and momentary tyrants. Great to meet you!

hans ostrom 2016