Oculus Drift

10eye colorA gnat flew into my eye. The involuntarily blink that followed undoubtedly crushed her to bits. What must that final flight have seemed like? Such a delicately small insect crashing into the impossibly immense glass orb of my oblivious eyeball and then having two monstrous flesh panels slam closed from both above and below like giant, steel shutters of impossible weight. Perhaps she never saw the larger world around her. Perhaps it was too incomprehensibly vast to be taken in with her limited arthropod mind and her even more limited point of view. Perhaps, in seeing a gigantic eye so close, so fast, so grand, and so near the end she felt she was looking into eternity and seeing God at the other end.

Then I remembered that gnat’s eyes evolved in a completely different manner and so my human eye more probably was just some weird, reflective, kaleidoscopic alien landscape that came and went in, quite literally, the blink of an eye.

No, sir. I don’t think she got much out of it.

Originally published for 10 Magazine January 2015 issue.


The Sticks

Bumping into the headlight of a parked 1972 Chevy C-10 pickup and losing a small chunk of flesh and fur, the rattled white-tail skittered passed the pumping islands and into the convenience store. The bell dinged above his antlers and two rounds from a Remington blasted out the window that marked the new price of chewing tobacco. Wounded and winded from the chase, the deer hunkered down behind the Frosty machine and checked his German Mauser C96. Fumbling with his ill-formed hooves to reload, he caught his battered reflection on the side of a biscuit tin. What horror.

Outside, Heck reloaded his Remington 870 Express. A projectile from the Mauser whizzed by Heck’s ear. He ducked down behind a flame-painted Ford Pinto. The Pinto took three more bullets before the firing stopped. Heck wiped the sweat that had been accumulating between his forehead and his John Deere cap. Silence. The cicadas uneasily started to murmur again.

“Walk away, man!”

Heck peered over the dented hood. The deer had the gas station attendant, the hot barrel of his pistol digging into his temple. Heck spat and frustratedly twisted the corners of his graying mustache. The deer had bandaged himself with gauze and duct tape. He was a handsome ten pointer. The hostage clerk gazed stoically ahead as the agitated ungulate aggressively muttered something into his ear.

“Just walk away!” the deer barked, his voice quavering. “Nobody has to die today!”

The 50 something with the hunting rifle steeled himself and raised his Remington defiantly. The deer, fearing he might have to shoot the clerk, backed inside. A moment later several distress flares were shot directly at the docked Pinto. Taking note of the gas leak that stained the pavement, Heck bolted for the Chevy. Six flares later the Ford erupted in a ball of fire, plexiglass, and metal. The blast knocked Heck to the asphalt. From this new coign of vantage he could see the deer running out the back of the convenience store. The clerk was nowhere to be found.

With the sure-footed maneuvering of a seasoned hunter, Heck stood up, took aim, and fired. The deer saw his own brains paint the oncoming treeline like a monochromatic Jackson Pollock before everything went black and still. Old Heck left the fiery carnage of the gas station and approached his quarry. The clerk emerged from the store and walked over to the corpse.

“Why’d you do it? It wasn’t deer season.” The clerk’s words were flat and emotionless.

“Deer season nothing. That son of a bitch slept with my wife.”

Alternating History

There was a group of ten people. Together they decided to create a society. Nine of them, above all else, desired peace and prosperity. The tenth wanted only destruction and death. He was a troublemaker and most persistent on this point. After some discussion the nine people who wanted peace decided their dedication to peace procluded them from action and agreed to ignore the tenth man. Every night he stabbed one of the nine in their sleep. When there was none left he built a house, set it on fire, and blew his brains out.

There was a group of ten people. Nine of them, above all else, desired peace and prosperity. The tenth wanted only destruction and death. He was a troublemaker and most persistent on this point. After some discussion the nine people who wanted peace decided to acquiesce the violent man and so they quietly smothered him in his sleep until he was dead. They had a proper burial for him the next day. The nine lived long, happy lives and procreated beneath a chocolate rainbow.

There was a group of ten people. Each was concerned only with himself (or herself in such cases). With little honesty between them and no thoughts to build community they segregated and isolated themselves. They lived in caves, fearfully looking out in distrust and anger at the outside world. Whenever one saw another one he (or she in such cases) murdered them. Within a few years all were killed but one. He lived a long but lonely life full of fear before he too died.

There was a group of ten people. Five liked trees and five liked the sun. These preferences were the fuel of much hot debate. One day a tree person changed his mind and joined the sun people. Now with a majority they effectively won every major vote and managed to alienate and exclude the tree people from most activities. After being unfairly persecuted for a long while the tree people staged a violent revolution. There were no survivors.

There was a group of ten people. All ten of them were peaceful and agreed on everything all the time. It so happens they had very little to talk about.Horse gas mask war

On the Rocks

Roughly 2,000 years after the Tower of Babel Incident.

The sea resembled black mashed potatoes sloppily piled upon an upturned fan by an angry drunkard with his bare hands. It was thick and it was warm and the black sky seemed impossibly close to the rest of the world. It was a dark and angry soup and the little boat was a tortured oyster cracker growing soggier and soggier.

Across the choppy, black sea advanced a thing. “A thing!” James cried. Was this torrential hell haunted? The crew of twelve began to panic. Much girlish screaming could be heard between deafening thunder claps.

“Do not be afraid. I am not a thing,” the thing said, “I am Jesus.”  And sure enough it was.

“What are you doing out there on the water, Jesus?” called a nervous Judas. “Tell me to come out there if it really is you,” Peter shouted.

Jesus rolled his eyes and waved his hand, beckoning the disciple hither. Peter stepped onto the steps of boiling liquid. The sea greedily gobbled up Peter’s right foot, but fearing Jesus would think him a coward he proceeded with his left. The water lapped up his ankles and then angrily splashed his knees like a low-browed prepubescent ginger in a public pool.

“Oh, you of little faith,” started Jesus.

“It’s cool!” Peter hollered excitedly. He began to jump as if the waters were a discount inflatable bouncy castle rented to entertain the younger kids at a quinceañera.

The Messiah opened his eyes. “Wait. What?”

Despite the raging storm the boat was soon emptied of its formerly terrified occupants. They ran, jumped, skipped, and laughed like absurd marionettes. The sea had transmogrified from a menacing nightmare into a quite large and inviting bowl of jello.

“Boingy! Boingy!” jubilantly exlaimed Simon the Zealot.

“Stop that.” Jesus muttered, but they were all having too much fun with this newfound phenomenon to notice Jesus standing alone in the dark distance. The violent waves seemed to be even pushing the two disconnected parties further and further apart. How far away the merry disciples and the boat seemed to be now. Thadeus and Matthew were tossing a giggling Timothy into the air.

It was July 21, 1969. Earth time. God woke up. His Rocky and Bullwinkle alarm clock had yet to go off, but His dream had given Him a jolt. Groggily He folded His arms and blinked while nodding His head, a la I Dream of Jeanie. A Washington Post appeared in His hands. “The Eagle Has Landed—Two Men Walk on the Moon.”

Stop that.

J. Burrello

The Final Movement

Her toilet had not flushed since February 21, 1997, two weeks after her husband died. Now 79, Marigold Fitzcummings had developed quite the landmark of fecal matter. It began without purpose. The old lady could no longer control her bowels. Incontinence coupled with the out of service lavatory led her to squat in the corner of her screened-in back porch. The BACK porch, because she was a lady.

After so many years the defecation formation had evolved to be the defining aspect of the house. In many ways it had its own personality. It towered and twisted like a huge earthen chimney imagined by a depressed Dr. Seuss. It was bedazzled with fungi of the most loathsome hues. A buzzing halo of insects incessantly circled it as if trapped in its odiferous orbit. The heat emanating from its core had melted the glass windows of the adjacent kitchen. There was a wreath of dead porcupines, raccoons, and stoats about its base. Many critters, curiously drawn in by the stench, had been done in by the same fatal fumes. The heat had accelerated their decomposition and all but the hardiest were skeletized within a week. The wooden beams and pillars that held the house together had warped away from the heap as if to escape it. There was a humid mist that engulfed a 5 mile radius around the overpoweringly fragrant epicenter. If one entered into this radius one would feel that same sudden hot gust of air one feels when one disembarks a plane in an equatorial country. Piles of bird corpses rakishly festooned the line of demarcation in a near perfect circumference.

One sparkling day in August, Marigold went out to the porch to add to the mound. As she let down her polka-dotted bloomers, the steaming excrement mountain did something new. A delicate poop appendage, not unlike a squid tentacle, reached out and affectionately caressed her, leaving a brown streak mark down her cheek. Marigold looked up at her grandest creation.

“No more,” flapped its featureless Muppet-like maw. It’s voice was a thousand beautiful, juicy breaking-of-winds, yet it somehow managed a whisper.

Bemused, Marigold began to release her waste uncontrollably on the floor.

“You’ve given me so much already,” it belched.

The rotted floorboards creaked and snapped and the enormously dense ordure mound lifted its immense mass and separated itself from the house. The entire porch violently tilted like a swing whose chain had just been cut on one side. Marigold watched on, unsure of her feelings, as the monstrous dejecta loafed off into the pines—which wilted as it sluggishly passed.

She gazed into the trees for hours, perhaps vainly hoping it would return. Her screen porch now a shambles, she was suddenly exposed to the elements she had previously shunned. Not fourteen seconds after the turd departed, Marigold was shot through the eye by her blind senile neighbor, Bernie Topplebin, who thought he was hunting arctic yaks.


J. Burrello

Little Left-Handed Rebel

a young girl in school…

I don’t like school anymore.

I used to.

But not anymore.

Sister Margaret says I’m a trouble-making nonconformist. My mom says I’m just left-handed. Sister Margaret swats my hand whenever she catches me switching my pencil back to my left hand. I draw pictures of Sister Margaret getting shot out of a canon. Then I draw X’s on her eyes, but then I get creative and make them into swastikas.

I honestly don’t mean to be a troublemaker. Maybe it’s just that my pencil wants to be in my left hand instead of my right. Sister Margaret can stuff it! I think God made me this way for a reason. I can’t just change because Sister Margaret says so. But her ruler is a little more convincing. If I’m gonna write with my right hand then God Himself is gonna have to tell me.

I use a red crayon to portray the blood coming out of Sister Margaret’s head wounds.

Sister Margaret says I had better shape up. She says I’m the only one in the class who writes with my left hand. She says she doesn’t like to look up and see all of the other good little children writing in perfect unison with their rights only to have her lovely ballet of scratching right pencils disrupted by the chaotic scribblings of a rebellious spirit. She says.

She also isn’t fond of my doodles.

Maybe I like being different. Maybe it’s good that we don’t all do the same thing…but I would feel a little more comfortable if at least one other kid would write with their left. I look around the room. Maria, Susie, Amy, Kiersten, Christin, Khristin, Christina, the other Amy, Alicia, Mayuko…they’re all writing with their right hands. I know they’re not looking at me now. They always turn and look when Sister Margaret scolds me.

They’re just looking at their papers and writing. They can’t see me.

They don’t care.

But what if they do notice my lefty writing? What if they don’t like it? What if they wouldn’t be my friend? Up until now no one has said anything. How much longer will it last? High school? College? Oh no!—what comes after college?!

“Calm down. It’s no big deal. You won’t lose friends over a silly thing like this.”

Thanks, Mortimer, my imaginary friend…who is also a walrus. You’re right. It’s no big deal…but then, if it really is no big deal…


I see now the error of my ways. Everything is fine and as it should be. I write…right. Nobody swats my hand with a ruler. Nobody judges me. And, according to Sister Maragaret, Baby Jesus doesn’t weep over my stenographic ineptitude anymore. Everything is normal. Nobody notices.
Sister Margaret doesn’t scold me anymore. Sister Margaret doesn’t even look at me anymore.

Sister Margaret’s perfect right-handed writing ballet is all in order.

I blend in.

I am normal.

Nobody can see me.

Beep beep boop beep.


J. Burrello