Nightmare Beast

The nightmare
embraces her regularly,
a lover she does not want,
nor does she ever want the
beast of the dream
to catch her:
its thrashing
in the forest
is so loud
she can hardly hear
the heaving of her breath
as she runs/stumbles/careens
around trees,
always hoping
to find a safe place,
but the only thing seen
are the beast’s
glowing green eyes
when she glances back
which makes her
speed up in the
retreat into darkness.

copyright © 2021 Dave Williams

Send in the Piano Clown

“I don’t know if I should laugh or cry into my beer,” Leon said.

“Do both at the same time,” Samantha said.

“Feels like we’re stuck in limbo in this bar,” Leon said. “Like we need to do something to get to heaven.”

“That’s easy,” Sam replied. “Just walk out of here.”

Leon said, “But I’m riveted to this guy’s spoken-word poetry about his doomed relationship with Carol while he plays piano and sings ‘Send in the Clowns ‘and ‘Piano Man’ and tosses back cocktails.”

“It’s a weird mix, that’s for sure,” Samantha said. “Is this what people mean by ‘avant-garde’?”

Leon shrugged. “I think it means whatever you want it to mean.”

“That’s not helpful. Why is he dressed as a clown? Is it some kind of symbol for how he feels inside?”

“Maybe,” Leon said. “Or what if it’s a social commentary on being a performer? You know, like a trained monkey?”

Sam shook her head. “We’ll never know. Look at that. He passed out.”

“Poor bastard.”

“Him?” Sam said with a laugh. “We’re the poor bastards who had to listen to him. C’mon, let’s go. We’ve been granted freedom.”

As the couple walked toward the bar’s exit, they saw the other patrons were still watching the clown draped over the piano. Perhaps they wondered if the clown would sputter back to consciousness and continue to entertain them with his act. Or perhaps, after a rest, the clown would start the second act of his performance that was different than the first. Samantha and Leon would never know, as they left the bar and walked towards another bar across the street, their feet moving with the hope of a more “normal” situation in the other bar.

copyright © 2021 Dave Williams

Audio Story: ‘Away from the Orchard’

Introductory screen image for the video, with the title Away from the Orchard and a drawing of a smiling apple.

Now that we’re into autumn, it’s time for eating everything that’s been covered with pumpkin spice. (Isn’t that the same spice mixture for apple pies? Why not “apple pie spice” everything then? But I digress.)

Also it’s time for visiting your friendly neighborhood farm for enjoying a bumpy hay ride, choosing just the right pumpkin, trying not to get woefully lost in a corn maze, and apple picking.

That last activity occurs in the beginning of my short story “Away from the Orchard.” A boy is picking apples with his family and he drops an apple with the excuse that it’s too small.

The apple decides it would rather not stay on the ground in the orchard, so it moves along. A short, sweet story about that decision and the journey afterward.

If you’d rather listen to the audio on YouTube, click here.

Post Apocalypse

Signs of emptiness
and destruction
increased as they
approached the city
burned cars
houses of broken windows
and open doors.
People in masses
had fled
for what seemed safer places.
“The worst is yet to come,”
the group’s leader said,
and the followers
were on greater alert
for the swift
and deadly creatures.

Counting Cars at Lunch

Sitting on the front steps
and eating lunch on a warm day–
but not a hot day–
we picked colors
and counted cars
with those colors
zipping down the street.
(the cars zipping, not the colors)
Silver won a few times,
then we kicked silver out
and picked other colors.
The clouds filled in when
we grew tired of the game,
and we told each other
about the shapes we saw.
Dog to dragon to bear to evil monster.
There’s a whole busy world up there
floating along.
We left them alone as we went
back inside the house
to read and work.

Banned Books Week

Photo of double doors that are locked with a chain and padlock.
by Thom Milkovic/Unsplash

Today’s the last day of Banned Books Week, which was started by the American Library Association to bring “national attention to the harms of censorship.”

The ALA’s website lists the 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books from 2010 to 2019. Also, Goodreads provides a list of Best Banned, Censored, and Challenged Books. A nasty irony that books about restrictive societies are included among these restricted books.

I picked several books from both sources, and am including quotes to show just a sliver of the wisdom within these books. Of the lists, I chose books that I’ve read, heard the audio version, or seen the movie version.

“Better never means better for everyone… It always means worse, for some.”
― Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

“The longest way must have its close — the gloomiest night will wear on to a morning.”
― Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin

“There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.”
― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

“Well, I’d rather be unhappy than have the sort of false, lying happiness you were having here.”
― Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

“Although the villagers had forgotten the ritual and lost the original black box, they still remembered to use stones.”
― Shirley Jackson, The Lottery and Other Stories

“To love is to be vulnerable; and it is only in vulnerability and risk—not safety and security—that we overcome darkness.”
― Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

“There’s a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep ‘em all away from you. That’s never possible.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

“The community of the Giver had achieved at such great price. A community without danger or pain. But also, a community without music, color or art. And books.”
― Lois Lowry, The Giver

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”
― George Orwell, 1984

“Brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared. It means you go on even though you’re scared.”
― Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give

Cartoony Drawings & Sounds of Museum Lobby

Introduction screen that reads Cartoony Drawings and Sounds of Museum Lobby.

In my spare time, I’ve been working on videos to play with my writings and drawings in a different format. Narration, for example — you can check out my narration of 5 poems on YouTube.

Also, I had the idea of a video with a slideshow of my drawings, and the sound would be from the lobby of a museum. I went to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and sat on a bench and placed my phone, screen side down, next to me. The only recorded visual was darkness — no people.

I like that this was a sound recording of a specific time and place: Sunday, August 29, 2021, around 1 pm, for 7 minutes.

And I like how the video gives the illusion of a public space while I watch it. Not necessarily a museum, but a large space with people talking. Generic sounds from a public spot.

Please note that my drawings were not exhibited in the museum, nor am I implying the drawings belong in a museum. I was simply curious about the experience of connecting the drawings and audio.

If you want to view the video on YouTube, click here.