Short-short Stories derived from or expanded from a poem. “Directionless” from “Cherry Pie” and “When Mrs. Claus Mourns” from “Mrs. Claus Hates Sonnets”


Sherry had all the recipes and now she’s dead. I remember a cup of sugar, half a lemon, dark red cherries in a crust of pain crumbly falling into a hellish oven fired like she told me, 375.

In search of peace, I pray to forget the pain, remember a fragment, a recognizable fondness without stains baked in. Red stains.

Because in blood she’s gone, I’ve dreamt of her flying through the windshield, unsheathed grief a steel shard poking in the night, bladed blame stabbing me. I’ve fallen asleep too much, letting her wiggle back into my bed with screams driven around the maple red syrup on pancaked body splayed from brave speeding guts driving death too slowly for agony, her nerves still alive for howling pain mourning for morning in heaven, but she waits in dreams because she gone not far.

Awake, I still look for her charming me like all the times we drank together just fooling around. Directionless.

Steer me to insomnia and don’t tell me I shouldn’t have been driving around fallen leaves of growing blame. I can’t drive this hell away from the tree, because she was smashed in a pulp novel dream, all turned real like its leaf and chapter. Lord, I’ve dreamt of her because she’s gone. Don’t let me listen to her songs booming my soul sorry ways down.

Directionless I have gone down the road to regrets remembered, my friends who died in battle like period clumps the size of Seattle, and because of these, eating pie and beer suds, cherry filling that looks like blood, the sting cherries like sudsy guts. Restless.

I have rested in restaurants slicing beef filet like dicing shrapnel in war that beats down hearts in cherry rivers’ heat. These red rivers stain the brain though gaining ghosts have no beef with me — I was brave then to try to save them and me, but I will desert dessert.

Because I would not sell my music boom box for food, I had danced into sadness. Fresh batteries kept me alive for a journey, past the winter wheat, into the arctic without food where I danced for the Angel of Death.

She said, “Have you come to dance for me on an ice flow like an Eskimo, old and waiting for death?”

“Yes,” I said. “Freeze me away from red rivers, and…”

A voice said, “That’s not the line!”

A different booming voice: “Cut, cut, cut. Don’t improvise… stick to script. Memorize your lines, damn it! Wait… who the hell are you? You’re not the star actor… how did you wander onto the set? Damn…”

A voice said, “Why don’t we keep the scene… Charlie’s drunk in the trailer again.”

The Director said, “Hey you, do you belong to the Screen Actors’ Guild?”

“The what?” I said. “The screen actor’s guilt?”

“Never mind,” he said. “Bring in the clowns.”

The clowns danced across an ice flow past a polar bear and stage hands with rifles and paddles. The cameras rolled on their tracks.

The Angel of Death, sized by her anti-muses, danced her mocking prelude to my own booming grief. “Death is amused by lean harvests of thought and lost jobs, lost hope, and cherry pie…”

A voice said, “That’s not the line!”

“Oh geez,” the director said, “Angel of Death, who the hell are you?”

“I’m Sherry,” she said. “I’m a stand in.”


The clowns passed her a cherry pie and she threw it in my face. She said, “I forgive you.”

— Douglas Gilbert
When Mrs. Claus Mourns

Mrs. Claus mourned the child she gave up. She had always wanted to marry a prince and have lots of children, but she married instead a fat guy whose children were in faraway places. As a young girl, she was seduced by his charming-magical rhymes under a full moon. Even after the magic for her was gone, her jolly scoundrel, Santa Claus to the world, always wrote her a poem before he left as compensation, but she’s come to hate sonnets after this last one:

The romp of love beguiles, a playful horse
my heart a rider gripping spirit’s trip
a bit of banter falls from saddled lips.
A candor canters, musical in source
a clip-clop hoofing it, my fruit is tossed.
Her lust is cantaloupes so sweetly quipped
yet love’s a cherry deeply red of lip
outspoken rips in bound’ries’ gorgeous loss.

I know you love me mole and mountain bluff.
I show my cards, won’t raise to bluff a love.

…and more nonsense after.

It was a bluff again that a sonnet would satisfy a craving. She hated it because rarely did she see his cherry lips or cheeks. She could play with farce no more, for the fantasy wishes in unlabeled boxes would not suffice for Mrs. Claus who wrote free verse while Santa was busy in the world.

Santa answered delightful letters from giddy children, but she received letters of rejection from the poetry editor, he, a trochee donkey iambic like an ass. Santa could do no wrong; she could do no right.

Mrs. Claus hated when the big one went away on Christmas, when the snow looked like semen dried up and flaky, his departing stomach like a pregnant indulgence she could only wish for.

Finally, one Christmas, when no more could she count the melting snow flakes on her tongue, count the elves, the reindeer, the orphan toys, it was then that her emptiness overtook her sanity, and she took an empty sleigh drive into the city of sin, her naked body wrapped only in a fur coat with a pocket for the Santa cell phone.

She left the sleigh, tied the reindeer to a lamp pole, strolled the streets showing a leg, and sang “Ho, ha, ha”. She waited in the street, but in the midst of it all she saw a lost little girl wandering in the snow.

She hoo, ha, ha’ed the girl ‘till the crying subsided, asked her name and found a Lisa. “Where’s your Daddy?” The girl didn’t know but said he went for a quickie walk.

Mrs. Claus would look to find him as the snow thickened. Showing a leg, she waited. A man appeared from nowhere, laid his hand on her thigh like a roadway, following the ignoble path until he noticed her glistening tears. Looking into her eyes, he remembered the mother of his girl.

Just then, the Santa cell phone rang. The Elf Secret Service said that there’s been a sleigh crash, and Santa is dead. The world was wrapped in gloom.

Joy fell from artificial boons and wrappers filled the ocean. With a poof, unreal gifts vanished in a twinkle, elves all banished to a realm of puff.

Starlight appeared on Lisa’s tears, a word on innocent lips: “Can we all be married, Daddy?” With a ho, ho, ha and a ho, ho, ho, they vowed to do better with love, to listen to snow gust up and swirl, to see a gift like a crystal had already been born.

— Douglas Gilbert

Short-short Story attempt for the 600 word contest, ” The Excitable Arts “

I couldn’t figure out the waiting room idea, but I did this instead for 600 words. I don’t know, maybe I need something more compact, intense, and complete. This doesn’t quite do it. (and I don’t think the 600 word limit is really enough of an excuse. Oh well, back to the drawing board. But I submitted it anyway. I guess there’s nothing to lose by doing so. I don’t know where I’m going wrong… I thought I almost had something… maybe I give details in the wrong place? Oh geez, I’m tired, I’m lost. Well, still have until before Dec. 1 to think of something…

The Excitable Arts

Most of the guys had said that the stars were just far away suns. Nothing romantic in a hot ball of gas, nor in ethereal talk. Unexciting.

But Diana had wondered about the romantic poets she had read on the internet. Some were unknown in more than one way, but reachable if a person were crazy enough to take a chance on a stranger with pretensions to be a broken-vernacular Shakespeare. But she liked the most mysterious one who was unreachable, she thought. She’d felt him whenever she could stay in to read a verse or two.

Diana hadn’t planned to go out. She had been real comfortable in bed with her dog Charlie and her laptop, reading romantic poetry, mostly by herself since he didn’t seem that interested, nuzzling under her hand so she would pet him. Charlie was a black Labrador retriever, although Diana always said that when people talk about “black” dogs, their perception is from the black fur, but Charlie’s skin was actually gray. He had been a good lap dog, willing to stay in for a snuggle unless there were things to do.

Unreal things had begun when Diana stumbled upon a certain list of links. Charlie looked up with his nose on the screen. He made a truncated growl followed by a flick of his tongue like he was lapping up water: a sort of gurr-ick and a cough sound or something else.

“Whaa…?” she said. “Charlie, did you say ‘click’?”

“Erreff, woof,” he said. Charlie jumped off the bed and fetched a thin stick near his bowl where he had sequestered it.

When he jumped back onto the bed with the stick in his mouth, she said, “Give!” But he refused to surrender it, turned his head to the side, used the stick to push keys on the keyboard, and with his paw turned the scroll wheel on the mouse. The screen changed.

A star chart appeared. “Welcome to the ‘Mystery Poets’ Official Website,” it said.

Charlie scrolled down the page. He said, “Woof.”

“You want me to go here?” she asked in a quivering voice.

“Weff,” he said.

“Oh God, I’m going crazy,” she said. “You said ‘yes’, didn’t you…”

He barked like a dog and spoke like a dog. “Woof,” he uttered in normal canine parlance.

“Oh geez, I need fresh air,” she said. But she wrote down the information from the screen. There was a meeting that night of “The Romantic Poets Mystery Society,” and pets were welcome.” Her favorite mystery poet was listed as a featured speaker. She ran out the door imagining what she thought his voice was like: “You undress in my river and I kiss your thigh…,” she conjured of him.

Drifting into the night, she soon found herself standing in a clearing with Charlie and the fallen yellow leaves at her feet. Was it not the season for seasoning lust into love, a rare spice he sprinkled into his verses. They had corresponded a little and with a little luck, something could be born out. It was the season. She stared at the stars and remembered, “The romp of love beguiles, a playful horse; my heart a rider gripping spirit’s trip…”

Charlie barked. A large globe hovered over the trees, and a beam of light lifted them into the sky. Seemed a poetic mystery. She met him in the conference room on board the ship.

With the seasoning of desire there would be a hybrid of lust and love born in excitement.

— Douglas Gilbert

Another Short-short Story derived from or expanded from a poem. ” Adopt A Martyr Lottery Machine “

Adopt A Martyr Lottery Machine by Douglas Gilbert

Short-short Story Contest Entry

I’ve heard there are thresholds in the commerce of death. It’s difficult to know because I don’t think any of the lottery money ever reached my school where the teachers seemed brain-damaged, deranged, or deluded: maybe they used one hundred dollar bills as wall paper and plastered over it with lead paint, asbestos, and mercury. (The creative writing teacher always let us be wild and unstructured since discipline was not his forté, and he claimed he didn’t get paid enough to have a thought). I don’t quite understand it, but I think it’s similar to the workings of the stock market: you start with something that has actual tangible value, and then you write up some derivative documents that are like fairy tales that you can sell for entertainment. In a similar way, tyranny responds to market forces. The leader who supports a sufficient number of loyalists can safely kill a certain number of demonstrators, depending on how many photos and documents leak out into the propaganda market. Various entities issue their own derivative papers, and eventually the moral bubble bursts like a water balloon – you know, ‘kids will be kids.’ But I hadn’t cared anymore about these intellectual matters because I’d just been hungry all the time, and I had no fort to hide in.

I hadn’t known what I was going to eat, but on a whim I bought flour, bread crumbs, and eggs so that I could coat something and fry something. I didn’t know what at the time, because I didn’t have enough money for the object that was to be dipped and coated. The coating is like a shell, a spicy container for a food of more substance. It is something for a shell game before you find the pea, the tangible tangerine, and the princess.

The Supermarket is a sad place that makes me hungry if I only look at the food I can’t buy, but there is an M-tag Lottery Machine between the frozen vegetables and the fish monger concession. It takes credit cards or bills. For a modest price, one can choose a lottery card by surveying the many photos of women and children. I had really loved the charming photo on the lottery card of the family I adopted.

I saw my adopted family on the news: they were machine gunned to death which had meant that I won a prize: a million dollars. I’d think about where to invest later, but now I could afford sizable fresh fish to coat and I already had the shell.

The Supermarket was a happy place when I went across from the vegetables to buy a fish, and showed the aproned man a copy of my winning card.

He fell to the floor, flopping around gasping for air, whispered, “My daughter, my daughter… I told her not to join the revolution.”

I said, “How many pounds does this fish weigh?” He didn’t answer so I shot him dead, and several people had his card — they all cheered because some days are lucky. Someday we will cross the threshold and blow bubbles across the battlefield.

— Douglas Gilbert

Short-short Stories

Short-short Stories (600 Words or less)

Girl In A Rabbit Hat
Hunger comes in many forms and though there was little food in Sugar Ditch, I never learned to catch a rabbit. Every inhabitant here dreams of escaping, but those who remain must often hunt for luck under the rabbit moon beyond a fickle trickle creek.

Game can be elusive or curious. A trapped rabbit was in easy reach, twitching in fear. In hunger we prayed, I thought, and the rabbit hoped to hop from me, a foolish-stewing-hopeless human, who seemed to let luck escape to places where fecal creeks don’t drown perfumed hope.

Gone then. I was broken down in Sugar Ditch waiting for a scholarship, wheeling like lightning struck me down. But news people and scouts seem to descend with antennas and gear from The Place.

The documentary camera came just before a thunder wash, and saw the open sewer that’s home to family shame. I pulled out my crying rag, time moaning sack of clothes, and the man got to hear me sing while driving me away on lightning roads.

Honking horns daring me to dream away from poverty, I bent my trumpet to heaven’s ears. But no one told me evil flies to me every place I go, and King Sorrow would reign over sovereign hopes.

I reached the skyscrapers, a tourist of bad timing. It had to be the highest place to see heaven, I thought, but there are hungers of many kinds unquenched. More.

After lightning struck this New York place, I was lying under debris, my quilted sorrow bristling with cast off bricks.

Mortar thoughts around me, being so damn mortal, I could have been thundered away to the heavenly scene. But a steam pipe was hissing while lifted stones flew away like missiles whistling choruses of dusty blues.

Jaws of life jacking time, they slid my body out in time, and let the building collapse on through. Oh, but, I thought I heard old Joplin singing, more on Earth will be slapping you, if you dodge more bullets from another fool.

And when I sang right out across the clapping crowds, my best laid blues had gone right to you, New York girl in a rabbit hat, the one who waved at me, saved me, and nurtured that day. Did you bring me here? I know you did by a magic rabbit moon. Oh magical girl, my new love, you kissed the breeze, and made illusions fondle my wishes.

Now I dream of you deeply: my salvation laughing everywhere. To whinny, my dream horse gallops, your giggling jiggling in my cortex, cerebral fondness hunting for you in pulsing fibers embedded in desire, throbbing in crevices of nerve-cell books, passions hiding in no man’s nook.

I have found you in this place of luck and hope, and you journey through my mind, scampering mind dancer, doing wild animal tangos.

I embrace your beauty in the hunt to capture your essence; my dogs sense your scent, a presence so foxy, they transcend all knowing, rockin’ and rollin’ in serotonin.

I have traveled into you – touch me there where thoughts are real and lightning tingles fine: hats off to everlasting good times. I have traveled far in my dreams. When I awake to you now, I am in heaven.

Douglas Gilbert
The Last Thanksgiving

Because the ration coupons expired the day after Thanksgiving, it seemed like a perfect day for the Grand Thanksgiving Fund-Raising Dinner. The Congressman would be pumped, plump, and relaxed, easily impressed by the Graceron Mansion near the confiscated coal mine, and the sound system would lull him to sleep in the warm bath of his smugness. With his help we could endure the cold days ahead.

Congressman Jason was a pushover for our fawning, as we knew what was music to his ears, but one must say that the Dog of the House of Representatives could bark or howl like the devil he was. His security entourage was more of a challenge, but our inside man saw to it that we got the contract for all the bottled water and juice the firm bought for their employees. Mary’s father had bought the bottling company on a tip: he had sold the coal mine for a fortune just before the government seized it for pennies on the dollar. Nowadays coal is forbidden on the surface. Below the surface, schemes in the seams can bite.

Wine, women, song, and stun grenades – well, no, we decided on explosion-and-gunfire sounds pumped out over the sound system that would stump the band. Mary’s women were stunning and sexy. Poor Jason, the dog.

“Welcome Congressman,” I said. The band played a fanfare, followed by “Happy Days”.

“Thank you very much my good friend, and may I say what a magnificent place this is: marvelous marble, ha… and um, great band …” He listened carefully to the sax and the giggles of the women, asking his staff to send notes to one of them. He chose Joan, one of Mary’s girls.

Joan nodded at me. “Congressman Jason, and everyone, shall we be seated at the banquet table, please,” I announced. I escorted him to the head of the table with the glistening china and polished silverware under the chandelier past the grand staircase and Roman columns. Joan sauntered over. “Congressman, may I introduce Joan…” They sat down at the table and smiled at each other as Joan reached under the table.

The band played on and everyone feasted. Joan said, “So, um, Congressman, you have said that if elected you will abolish the Vegan Department of Security and …”

“Joan, such beauty and intelligence too – perhaps we should discuss this further in private…”

“Yes, what a lovely idea,” she said. Joan could be quite entrancing and efficient, but Jason was no challenge for her. She led him up the stairs to the special bedroom. He was happy to strip off all his clothes and she promised to give him a complete oil massage, front and back. As she massaged his back she said, “Give me your hands.” She quickly tied his hands behind his back.

After a few hours, everyone had had the correct wine or the appointed bottled water, and the secret ingredients took effect. Mary and I looked at our watches. The explosion and gunfire sounds sent the security people into a panic. The adrenalin in their bodies triggered the poison and they all fell as planned.

We all went upstairs with our chefs and gang to check on the Congressman. He was oiled and hogtied. We put him on the rotisserie spit, and carried him to the kitchen. Despite the Vegan laws, we’d have plenty of meat for the coming mini-Ice Age, and tons of coal for our power plant in the basement. We don’t plan to vote for him.

Douglas Gilbert

Nasrudin Becomes King

Mullah Nasrudin bounced into the room, his turban wobbling the way it always did when he had some major announcement to make that his wife would lovingly determine was minor, but not this time. The last time, he was appointed Prayer Leader for an empty room after a building collapse. This time, he was triumphantly excited but conflicted when he said to his wife, “The Supreme Leader has announced there will be a special election, but, but, um … as the presidential election caused chaos, the new election is for King, but there are, however, some special conditions …”

The Mullah’s wife didn’t wait to hear the conditions. “You’ll make a fine King,” she said, and kissed him on the cheek.

He was surprised and suspicious when she bowed. “But the King is to serve for one year and then is expected to martyr himself in a foreign war.”

The Mullah’s wife said, “Maybe you should run. I’ve always liked your brother – he could help you.” She scampered around the room, seeming to look for an address book, or perhaps, just performing a supplicant’s dance.

“Only a fool would run for this office,” Mulla Nasrudin shouted, trying to draw back her full attention.

The Mullah’s wife paused and smiled. “Yes, of course, but that’s why you could win. I’ll make you a robe.”

Mullah Nasrudin watched her dance to a sewing box. He tried to stitch together in his mind the proper words for an answer. He thought for a while and then said, “Yes, it’s decided: I will be King.”

Finding a bolt of suitable royal cloth, the Mullah’s wife swirled it out like a matador’s cape. But she was thoughtful enough to say, “You should write a will and I will marry your brother.”

“That won’t be necessary. I can be King and live a long life.”

She said, “You consider one year a long life?”

“No,” he said, “on my last day as King, I will make a speech at the U.N.”

Confused, she asked, “How will that help?”

Mullah Nasrudin stood up in a regal way and said, “I will abdicate and appoint the Supreme Leader as King.”

“Will that work?” she asked.

“No,” he said, “but you’ll love New York.”

Douglas Gilbert