Stories

Dino Eggs for Sale

brontocopy

Check out my latest published story in the January issue of Jersey Devil Press.

Brontosaurus, by J.D. Hager

“Jacob found purpose in those eggs. He took them to his sandbox and buried them with exaggerated care. He constructed a small protective structure out of twigs and acorns, and guarded and doted over them like he himself had laid them.”

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The Countdown

 

Asteroids by Nicholas Wilson

Asteroids by Nicholas Wilson

Scientists had first observed the asteroid months ago, but most people didn’t comprehend the magnitude of the consequences. For the first few months after the discovery people suspected some sort of impossible scientific conspiracy, like the big bang, the Higgs Boson, or global warming. Many researchers and pundits were accused of conspiratorial motivations involving a far left or far right agenda. Christian theologians began preaching the coming of the Apocalypse, as if Jesus were somehow riding into town on the asteroid like a holy space cowboy, which in turn led to a dramatic increase in prayer and salacious requests of salvation. Most assumed that between the United Nations, the global industrial military think tank, and brainy scientific literati, some sort of solution would be proposed and executed before the impending strike. Blow it up with nuclear warheads, use rockets to alter its path, blast it to smithereens by lasering into its icy core, construct some sort of giant space blockade out of plastic bags and styrofoam. Human kinds brightest minds would undoubtedly surmise some sort of solution to this impending disaster. For most life went on in a predictable and routine manner, unfazed, despite the fact that asteroid P-52637 was hurtling toward Earth at 280,000 miles per hour, and though there was a level of unpredictability in its trajectory, most models and calculations seemed to indicate it would make a direct impact somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere on December the thirtieth.

After the brainiest engineers’ plans and calculations had proven inadequate in abating the large chunk of space dust’s path, the impending impact grew closer and more unavoidable. Some people became frantic, attempting to live an entire life in the course of a couple days. Others rioted in the streets trying to seize control of their destinies while they still had destinies to seize, looting things like high end liquor, big screen TVs, and surround sound systems, so they could watch the doom and gloom footage in 1080p while they got drunk and tried to forget about it. Not that the shop owners or police cared. Some of them were looting too.

Some people tried to frantically build catastrophe shelters or spaceships in hopes of avoiding the carnage altogether. Others grew despondent and fell depressed into a sort of paralysis, a state prevalent enough to be termed the comet coma. The whole of humanity seemed to be reaching a sort of emotional apex covering the spectrum of possible responses. Anger, sadness, denial, elation, regret, apathy, forgiveness. Most, it seemed, suffered from a strange combination of all these, inducing even more instances of comet coma as the impending impact approached with its promise of blasting life as we knew into the the nether regions of space.

While some became agitated and lashed out at the cruel absurdity of it, more and more fell into their comet comas, still alive on the outside, but lifeless and empty on the inside as if they were already dead. It was an inescapable and vacuous feeling of having everything we had worked for and dreamt of and aspired to accomplish in our lives suddenly taken. Sure we all die, but this felt so much more permanent than death. Most of us hoped that even though our time on Earth was limited to this one life, some small piece of us—a memory, a child, a resume of accomplishments, an obituary in the local paper—would live on past our temporal existence.

Knowing that there would be no tomorrow for any of us somehow made today so much more valuable. I lamented the fact that it had to take this impending catastrophe to trigger this realization. I did my best to avoid the coma and the comatose pacing the streets in despair like zombies. I tried to embrace the sanctity of this moment—of every moment—before these moments spiraled to their cataclysmic end. And as that fiery ball filled the sky and reminded us all of our impending mortality, I climbed onto my roof, popped my best bottle of wine, and lifted a glass to the heavens. It had been a good run.

Cheers!

Posted for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Countdown

Order of the Mustache

I had tried to grow a mustache many times, but my attempts had never proven successful. I could muster no more than a sparse collection of fuzz that resembled a teenager’s sad attempts at cultivating a crumb catcher. I had grown lambchops, soul patches, chin straps, and amish beards, but for some reason the skin between my mouth and nose was a barren wasteland when it came to facial hair. At some point I had relinquished hope, and all my sad attempts were forgotten and my future prospects abandoned. It was years later that I finally tried again, despite the vehement protests of my wife. She claimed she was allergic to mustaches, but I had already resigned myself to conquer this mustache barrier. I wanted to cross this off my list of lifely accomplishments, and scratch one more item off my bucket list.

I let the little patch of skin above my upper lip go unshaven for a week, and to my surprise a mustache began to form, regal, full, bushier than a wombat doused in rogaine. No more would I be labeled a failure of testosterone or male maturity. No more would I be mistaken for a grey haired teenager with a beer belly. My manly lip turf would prove my worth to society and assuage at least one of my childish insecurities.

It didn’t take long to notice that people treated me differently with a mustache. Older women and men began calling me sir. Children respected and feared me. People showered me with looks of reverence when before they had looked at me with a combination of disdain and pity, and sometimes disgust. My mustache made me feel more important, more manly, and more relevant than ever. My posture improved, my self esteem blossomed, and my head felt inflated with helium. I floated through my errands as if gravity no longer concerned me. The men either looked at me with envy, or if they had a mustache they stroked their stache and gave me a knowing nod of approval.

The cashier at the grocery store, a bald man with a nattily trimmed mustache gave me a wink and a nod, and touched his mustache. Then he called the manager over, a man with a bushy mustache that could have easily put Magnum P.I. to shame. He placed his right finger on his nose and then stroked it across his mustache much like every other mustachioed man had done, and then looked at me expectantly. Not knowing what else to do I mimicked his gesture. He smiled and proceeded to use his manager code to take twenty five percent off my grocery bill.

mustache2.2On the way home from the store I was so perplexed by what happened at the grocery store that I blasted through a red light and was pulled over by a police officer. The man had a mustache of special effects proportions, like some sort of computer generated super-stache. It seemed to command the entire lower portion of his face, covering up his mouth and wiggling back and forth when he spoke. He approached my car, and upon seeing my mustache repeated the same gesture as the grocery store manager, a finger to his nose and then a quick stroke of the mustache. I responded in kind and he laughed and told me to be more careful. We members of the order must be cautious, he told me. We must not abuse our privilege. Then he asked if I wanted a donut. Sure I told him. He brought me one with rainbow sprinkles.

When I got home my wife noticed the rainbow sprinkles littering my mustache. Yet one more reason why mustaches are disgusting, she told me. How in the world did I get rainbow sprinkles in my mustache, she asked, crossing her arms and glaring at me.

I just stroked my mustache and told her she would never believe it.

 

 

Mork from Ork

mork

This photo came to me in a box of my father’s stuff. My stepmom had collected a bunch of my father’s belongings into a cardboard box after his death, which she then gave to me. It was filled with some of the random and wonderful things he had collected in his later years, including autographed baseball paraphernalia, antique stock and bond notes, random old movie posters, strange prints and artwork, and some wonderful photos of him and me together. Most of these photos were framed and were pictures I had given him for his birthday or Christmas or father’s day. This one was a card I must have made him for Christmas, which explains the ribbons and frame made out of wrapping paper. I’m sure the inside read something witty, such as… like father, like son. You see in the picture we both have casts on, him on his ankle and me on my arm. Hilarious irony.

This particular photo sits on my desk, and seeing it everyday has somewhat diminished the memories it dregs up. So many memories I don’t really want to talk about. I don’t want to talk about my dad’s amazing red pants and matching turtle neck, or the crazy blonde mop of 80’s hair perched on my head like a wig, or my patriotic tube socks. I don’t want to talk about the thumb cast that I got after badly dislocating my thumb while trying to roller skate down the paved cliff in front of my house with ski poles. I don’t want to justify what I was thinking at the time, having witnessed my cooler than cool neighbor place skateboard trucks on an old Rossignol ski and go plummeting down that steep hill numerous times, and my own sad attempt to replicate the feat with cheap roller skates and ski poles, which ended tragically for both my thumb and one of the ski poles.

I don’t want to talk about the Mork from Ork shirt that I’m wearing, or the rainbow suspenders (thankfully not pictured in this photo) that I just had to have to show my affinity for the crazy alien from Ork. I’m guessing this photo was probably taken around 1980, and I don’t want to talk about how my father would have been roughly the same age as me now. Mork and Mindy was one of my favorite shows, not only because Robin Williams played this amazing and hilarious alien that made funny sounds and flew to Earth in a giant egg, but also because my younger sister’s name was Mindy. Hilarious irony once again. I would pretend I was Mork and then we would became our own sad little version of the show, even though my sister never wanted to play along. I would say things like nannu nannu, shazbot, fly be free while she played with her Barbie dolls. When Barbie landed on her head at least she didn’t break open like an egg. I don’t want to talk about my parents’ separation and eventual divorce, about how my father and mother argued so much and with such venom that I was glad when he eventually left. I don’t want to talk about how I saw less and less of him as time went on. I don’t.

I don’t want to talk about how much I miss my father , and definitely don’t want to talk about the bicycle accident in 1994 that left him a quadriplegic, leaving him bed ridden and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his days. I don’t want to talk about the grief and depression I felt after the accident as I watched him spiral closer and closer to the proverbial drain. I don’t want to talk about how he had such a profound effect on my outlook and life that went largely unrealized until it was too late. Sometimes we don’t realize how important such influences have been until they pass tragically out of our lives, and a different point of view provides us with perspective that is simultaneously enlightening and heart breaking. After they’re gone all we have left is a box of random stuff which we go through again and again trying to decipher some deep profundity and meaning. I don’t want to talk about that.

I don’t want to talk about how I was looking at this photo when I learned that Robin Williams had killed himself, or about how affected I was by it. I don’t want to admit that, much like my father, Robin Williams had a profound but unrealized affect on my perspective in life. Judging from the tributes and stories being shared across the interwebs I sense I was not alone in this connection. I don’t want to talk about how depression is an unrelenting bitchslap, or how someone that could have brought so much joy to so many millions of people could be so dark and troubled inside.  I don’t want to talk about how this makes me realize that our time in this life is limited and a thing to never take for given. I don’t want to talk about how the world can suddenly seem so much smaller when someone with such profound unrealized impact is suddenly gone, and all we are left with is a box of Mork and Mindy, Dead Poets Society, and Fisher King to sift through and try to remember and forget at the same time.

And above all, I don’t want to talk about how these two tragedies will now somehow be linked in my mind because of this picture.

I just want look at this photo and appreciate that moment, without all the other stuff it brings up.

Shazbat!

RIP Ralph Hager (1939 – 2006)

RIP Robin Williams (1951 – 2014)

 

Dad’s Castle

The land, willed to my father, had been in our family for generations. Everybody considered it useless and unbuildable. His dream became constructing something wonderful on the eroding bluff, somehow overcoming the treacherous pull of gravity. Every portion completed required constant reinforcement afterward. Even as the lowest levels crumbled away, more rooms and terraces were added on top. He was certain that one day a magnificent castle would stand atop this land.

When the land was willed to me, his dream became mine. Someday there will be a castle here.

I just hope I live long enough to witness it.

Björn 6

This week’s entry for the Friday Fictioneers, a 100 word story based on the photo prompt above.

Hosted by the phenomenal Rachel Wisoff-Fields. View other entries below.

Aloe Vera Love

aloe flowerI originally bought this little Aloe plant when I was a sophomore in college more than 20 years ago. I remember going down to the local Westside Santa Cruz Nursery and picking out two little succulent plants—a Euphorbia trigona that eventually grew about five feet tall (and I have no idea what happened to), and this little Aloe vera. I wanted to create an indoor plant haven in the breakfast nook area of the house my friends and I had just rented. Every plant placed in that space flourished wildly, and that sunny little breakfast nook soon became known as the jungle room. Every plant in the jungle room was so happy. I even had a coffee plant that flowered and produced about 20 coffee beans, something I’ve never been able to recreate.

Fast forward about five years. I was beating a hasty retreat, having purchased a van and dedicating myself to the lifestyle of a nomadic surf bum, I was finally moving out of that house and liquidating many of my assets. Not trusting this particular collection of roommates, I started giving away many of the plants in the house to responsible non-alcoholic types, including the enormous  Yucca I had brought to college with me.  I wanted to take the Euphorbia to live with me in my van, but its length and spines made it impractical in that small space. So I decided to take my Aloe vera with me instead. After about 2 weeks living in my van it became apparent that the environment was too extreme for the Aloe. It was not happy with the daily temperature swings, and a couple times it had baked in the direct midday sun, a definite no no for an Aloe vera. After only a couple weeks it already looked wilted and sad, shrinking a little everyday instead of growing. I realized I had to give it away if I wanted it to live, so I gave it to a friend that lived close to the Boardwalk. She planted it in sandy ground, in a protected little corner of her yard, and the plant grew with renewed vitality.

A couple years later, when I was no longer living in my van, I was presented with a gift from the same friend, a little Aloe vera pup she had dug out of her yard and potted. I have been doting over it carefully ever since, and it has grown large and impressive for an Aloe vera. It flowers 2-3 times a year, and usually produces about 7 seeds that never sprout. I have a large container full of frozen aloe leaves in my freezer, which has become my way of preserving the leaves broken off during the tumult of life.  I had loved something and let it go, and a little piece of it had made its way back to me.

I’d like to think it loves me too.

Posted for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Memoir Madness

Bartleby Snopes Issue 12

Attention people of Earth. My short story Droning was selected for the print edition of Bartleby Snopes – Issue #12.

Find out more info HERE.

Download your free PDF version HERE.

Read and enjoy all of the amazing stories published in this issue.

After you have completed this task, you may carry on with your Earthly lives.