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Nano stories
By: Esther Powell
Posted on: Tue, October 16 2007 - 1:20 pm

The Lesson

The book-store aficionado was in a hurry, so this time he grabbed several bargain books and quickly departed.  A couple of days later he picked up a slim volume and plunged in.

"Peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee...." the first page began.  "What the hell?" exclaimed the reader, and scanned on..."eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee...."  When he riffled its pages, looking for something different, they all read the same:  "eeeeeeeeeeeeee..."  Impatient, he finally opened the last page.  "...eeeeeeeeeeeeee..." he read, down to the last line.


He put the book down and broke into a smile.  He did feel good! 

He Would Look Down and See a Mosquito on His Arm

The biologists were working in a frenzy.  There was a team of them, trying to breed the special variety of Anophelus designed to die rather than feed on blood not belonging to the one individual to whose DNA it was exposed as a larva.

This was biological warfare at its most specific.  It took years of research, but it made "smart" missiles look dumb.

The mosquitos would only suck the blood from one individual, and they held in their bodies a deadly virus that could only attack the cells of the same person.

All the assassin needed to do was get close enough to the target to release the insects.  Even if he was seen, so what?  He would be perceived as just another potty scientist.

In the next lab another team worked on another animal with the same goal in mind. 

Sure, they weren't medical scientists.  They weren't finding a cure for cancer, but there was precious little funding for that.

These scientists were happily employed.

After all, there's more than one way to save thousands of lives!


Love Wreath

Alicia loves Bertram with a passion.  Wealthy, young, and beautiful, she could be any man's dream mate.  Except Bertram's.  He comes from old money and scorns Alicia's middle-class background.

Bertram is in love with the fabulous musician Cecilia, whose vibrato makes him swoon.  Cecilia doesn't love him back, though.  She is in love with a fellow-musician, Damion.

Damion scorns her, he says because she isn't a good enough sightreader.  Really, though, she is just a little too dark-skinned for him.

Damion loves the up-and-coming composer Eleanor, who doesn't return his affection.  She scorns his instrument-bound limitations and worldview.

Eleanor loves fabulous amateur pianist (he could have been a professional!) diplomat Francois.  But Eleanor is too cerebral for the hot-blooded Francois, who fancies the sexual bombshell Glenda, floral designer to the rich and famous.

Unfortunately for Francois, he is not even a blip on Glenda's radar.  Glenda, a lover of beauty, has fallen for the spiritual loveliness of Hussein, a visitor from the East who has a local following that comes to her for flowers to lay at his feet.

Hussein, being very young, has fallen ardently in love (he is not so spiritual he is proof against that!) with Alicia, in whom he sees much spiritual as well as physical beauty.

This perception is accurate - Alicia does have spiritual beauty and power.  Unfortunately, she does not see the attractions of Hussein, whom she considers a charlatan.

Love wreath - crown of flowers, crown of thorns!


The Unnameable one expanded and fleered jovially at "his" promate, who responded in usual saturnine fashion.  "As they like to say, 'Children having children.'  Ho ho ho ho ho!"

The rolling thunder was so intense Bobby Bottoms decided to pack it in for the night.  It made him too jittery to work, and all this ambient electricity and lightning might ruin his pet robot's circuitry.  He was working on its sentimental capacity (what he chucklingly called its sediment), and he was afraid that an involuntary jump on his part or worse - a power surge - would mess up the little critter's inner wizardwy - his wizened innards!

Its response to the unthreatening unexpected, its response to abandonment - all of this must be perfect, if it was to be the best possible little robotic friend to Bobby's isolated daughter!

Bobby was turning to leave, simultaneously turning out the light, when an exceptionally close lightning bolt crashed nearby.  He stood erect, riveted by an unwelcome cold-blue-light-illuminated insight:

He, too, was nothing but a robot!

All we "humans" are!

(All around the region, which had had as many lightning bolts in three hours as normally experienced in six months, other people were experiencing the same chilling perception.  It would manifest itself in twenty domestic quarrels, thirteen poems, twisted lyrics in a local rock band's output, three short stories and a screenplay or two, sent to Hollywood moguls and most probably ignored.)


He stood there looking at his marble masterpiece.  All his best skill and love he had poured into this beautiful woman's likeness - as he had poured all into her being!

He had thought his love was for the ages, as was this masterpiece.  Would have been.

Now he stepped forward, and lifting his biggest mallet, struck off her head.

She had left him, and he would not have her beauty immortalized!  He struck off her arms that had desired a man other than him.  Let him have them!

Looking at the torso that he had created, the most beautiful body in the world, he was overcome by lust and rage.  He would have raped her if he could.

He could not.

Alas, he was not made from stone! 

The Clones

He was a serial killer.  He didn't know why, but he had heard there might be a genetic component to it.  Killing was what he lived for, and it was beginning to lose its thrill for him.

There had been so many victims that they were beginning to blur in his head.  But he still needed... something....

He didn't know when the idea first began to take root.  He could kill by proxy, by tens, by the hundreds!  His hands trembled when he thought of it.  The possibility of zest for life returned to him.

He cloned himself.  "The more the deadlier!" he always joked (to himself.)  The hope for future peaks kept him going when his present kills began to pall.

There were twenty of him now, hitting adolescence.  (Money was no object when you'd won the lottery!)  But he was concerned.

In spite of his best efforts to put each of them with a different kind of abusive caregiver (to maximize the range and types of future victims) none of them was displaying any of the triad of symptoms that identify a potential serial killer:  bed-wetting, fascination with fire, and torturing and/or killing small animals.

All the kids were good-looking and smart - like him, of course!  But one of them actually took in strays and cared for them!  Every one of his clones, who he had hoped would be his tools, was interested in something other than killing!  They laughed!  They played!  They enjoyed (he sneered inwardly) their food!  How could this have happened?

For the first time in his life, he experienced an emotion other than the heightened heart-beat and flush of power he felt when he killed.

It was a keen, little-boy-crying-inside disappointment.

Cry, Baby, Cry

The baby is squalling in his crib.

Go ahead, baby.  Cry, be comforted, eat, grow.

Grow up.  A LOT.

Only then will you even begin to understand the rage, pain, desperation and isolation that bring me to contemplate, pen in hand, this blank, white page.

Death in a Lutheran Family

"... put the best construction on everything."  Martin Luther

The sixty-year-old, moving around the house gathering together trash in a hurry, said, "Ow!"

She had gotten out of bed hastily when she heard the garbage truck and remembered she had not put out the trash last night because of the rain.

Something felt not quite right when she got up, and it felt worse now.  "Ow!"  The pain was equivalent to what she had experienced when her appendix ruptured, and seemed to be tugging at her surgical scar.

Her mother, 89 and failing, sat reading a book in the easy chair.  The daughter wondered how she could sit there reading when someone nearby was in obvious distress.

Must be deafness.  She didn't have time to tell her mother now, the trash had to get out!  Bathroom litter, kitchen garbage added to the upstairs take.  Out the door, into the trash can, out to the street - yay!  Beat the truck!   "Ow, ow ow!"

"Ow!"  In the kitchen, in front of the refrigerator, she collapses and passes out.

The mother, passing through dim light into the kitchen to stir up some breakfast, encounters an obstacle on the way to the refrigerator.  Grumbling and muttering, she kicks at it with her foot, shoving it out of her way just enough to open the refrigerator door.

"Must think I'm a piece of furniture I inconsiderately left in her way!" the daughter murmured groggily, to no one in particular.

Old Joke, New Twist

The gentleman leaned toward the attractive society lady on his left at the dinner table.  The event was a fundraiser for a very worthy charity, and cost $250 to attend.  After a bit of small talk, he asked her (after all, she was sitting on his left, and therefore no lady!)  "If someone offered to give your favorite charity one million dollars to sleep with him, would you do it?"

His tablemate bridled, then thought about the proposition.  "I suppose I would."

"What if he offered you $500,000?"

"Well, I would probably go along with that also - for charity."

"What if he offered you $75,000?  $10,000?"

She flushed angrily.  "What do you take me for, a whore?"

He:  "Oh, we've already established what you are.  I'm just trying to determine your price."

She leans in closer, her recent pique making her even more attractive.  "I don't know - how much do you think I'm worth?"

"Oh, I think you have got to be worth at least $100,000, you very attractive and provocative miss."


They shake on it, and as they do, their badges clash.

The people sitting at the other end of the table wonder what is so uproariously funny. 


What World Are You Living In?

The perfectly dressed man and his wife posed for photographs in their perfect Caribbean home.  Every thing in it was tasteful, everything was grandly conceived and executed.

They had big smiles on their faces.  They were evidently very happy.  "We never do what we don't want to do," said the woman archly, "and we do what we want to do."

A creaking made them look up.  Swinging from the glittering chandelier, their housekeeper, her skirts fluttering like a featherduster, made a whooping Tarzan call.

Across the floor rolled the housepainters, some somersaulting and others lying sideways as if they were propelled down a green dandelion-studded hill.  They, of course, were garbed in fashionable white spattered on white.

The chef and his prep crew were sliding in canola oil at top speed from the direction of the kitchen, juggling carrots and raw steaks at the same time.  Their fashion statement was --

In the midst of this chaos came the chaffeur in the couple's newest black Mercedes.  Right up onto the veranda and through the floor-to-ceiling window!  (But gently!  No one was really hurt!)

The cameramen, being used to dealing with the unexpected, kept right on rolling.  They captured it all, including the merry toast the whole household staff made to their employers that night.

"They are such an inspiration!" gushed their social secretary.  "We owe it all to them!" 

And made quick work of the couple's best case of wine, with another noisy toast to everyone, from the wine steward down to the lowest scullery-maid!

Autoeroticism (1972)

Lying stoned on the Mexican blanket covering her bed in her second story bedroom, she contemplated the sunlight streaming over its rainbow stripes, its highway ribbons, and listened to the sounds of the afternoon.  Cars driving by on the road beneath her window nudged off her shoes.  A late garbage pickup, whining insistently, pulled at her clothing and soon she was nude, enjoying the play of sunlight upon her body becoming the green hills out by the highway.

She could feel the trucks on her skin, refused to touch herself, left her arms limp at her sides.  The sounds were all over her, caressing her body like breezes, arousing her with their touches.  A truck crawled up the hill of her leg, downshifting seductively.  It was followed by another, then another.  A bicycle bell tickled her nipple.  She stirred and caused an earthquake, but the cars and trucks kept coming, grinding gears, roaring up to and into her body, turning it from earth to water, hills to waves.  Excitedly the water churned, wavelets rising up to meet the wind of sounds stirring it; a jet flying overhead broke the sound barrier and with a boom exploded water into a geyser.

She lay still in the sunlight, dreaming of white sails on a blue lake.


Angel in the Choir

Everyone's favorite soprano left the car with her daughter and her daughter's underfed friend, that alto's daughter.  She had nothing but disdain for the scruffy, altogether too casual look, speech and manner of her choral counterpart.  An alto!  Everybody knew that altos... well.  She patted her own hyper-controlled blond curls unnecessarily.

Her husband had gone ahead, as usual.  Laughing, she and her daughter turned up the volume of the car radio to full blast.  Maybe it would give him a heart attack, they laughed together.  The friend looked askance, but they ignored her.

Later, having met up with her spouse, she asked him to go ahead to the car and bring it to the entrance of the mall not far from where it was parked.  Standing there waiting, she could hear the radio blare, then immediately hush.

Oh well.  She shrugged, sneering meanly, then quickly covering the expression with a sweet look of bland innocence.

Maybe next time!

Soap Opera for Goody-two-shoes

Scene opens to schmaltzy Christmas carols played on the mushy clarinet:

"Oh, Stephanie, I wish you hadn't used indelible pen on this address list," grumbles Victoria querulously.

Stephanie dries her hands and goes over to look.  "That isn't my checkmark, that is yours - or at least it is not mine - that is a left-handed check!"  Indignant at the false accusation, she returns to her dishes.

After a while she goes downstairs and checks the washing machine.  It holds a heavy blanket, and even though she has added a couple of hand towels to balance the load, it has stopped, full of water.  Oh no, they are planning a trip soon!  Laundry must be done!

"We need to call a plumber for the washing machine.  It has stopped and I can't get it started."

Victoria puts down her (erasable!) pen, heaves herself up with a martyred air and heads to the basement.  She twists the dial from "Permanent Press" to "Regular" and the machine kicks back on.

Mother and daughter embrace with joy, as "Silent Night" swells in the background via mushy organ.


She had fought masterfully, but he had her down!  Her shiny sexy pants were too strongly-made to tear easily, but he did manage to stretch them out of shape and rip a couple of seams as he tore them off her.

She had been trained to stalk and deal with men who preyed on women, but the strength and violence of this attack had caught her off guard.

Now he was upon her, forcing her legs apart.

She made a mental calculation, and aimed her hips high.

He stopped dead.  Literally.

It took her a half a minute to extricate herself from under his massive weight.  It did not help that she had had to kill him.

She removed her ultracompact revolver designed to look like a tampon from her vagina, and inspected it.  Undamaged! 

She herself was not.  Her privates were singed a little, and definitely bruised.  Not to mention the bruises all over her body from the struggle!  Ow!

The kickback when she fired had provided quite a pleasurable jolt, though.


That was a fact she would keep to herself.


She drove her car, the Spirit of Sparky, down towards the house to get her mother.  On the way, she imagined a map of the beach, the island, and the knob of a hill near her house.

She thought about names.  Knob Hill, Fair Isle, and her car, named after a beloved dog.

"Hi, Mom!"  Her mother climbed into the car.  "I was just thinking about Sparky - about how we used to tear around here, running around in figure eights and up and down the hill."

"Sparky?"  Her mother echoed.  "Do you mean our little Scotty?  His name was Spocky!"



We went into the wilderness, Elija and I, to fast and pray.  Both of us, the two acknowledged leaders of your spiritual community.

I don't know exactly what happened.  I come out alone with a visionary tale and Elija's mantle.

When does ecstasy become delirium?  Fantasy, pychosis?  All I can say to you, my children, is that Elijah was swept up to heaven in a chariot of fire.  The fact that I saw this blessed me with twice his spiritual sagacity, for that is the gift I asked of him.

How did this happen?  God knows. 

You can look for his body if you want.  But I am a prophet as Elija was, and I tell you that you will not find it.  He was taken to God's breast alive!

And what of the chariot of fire?  Someday it might be called a whirlwind.  Or perhaps - a fire tornado! 




Rapunzel walked around her magnificent palace gardens.  She looked around her, and reflected on the fact that she felt quite as alone amidst all the grandeur of her court and courtiers as she had ever felt in her tower.

She often wondered at this fact.  Was the feeling of isolation and solitude a mental habit?  If you were reared from infancy to adulthood in a tower, did objectivity and dispassion become ingrained?

She loved many of the people around her, but it always seemed as if she did so from the upper level.  There was a distance there that made her wonder, sometimes, if she had ever left the tower at all.  Did it really matter, after all?

As she strolled she absently plucked a rose and crushed it against her cheek.

The scent of the rose hit her with a rush of light-headed life!

The Musician's Wife

Her brightly-clad body was laid out in the living room.  So young, so young!  Why had she thrown herself away on him?  He played the guitar, sang with passion and intensity.  With the same intensity he wooed her, then beat her.

Day after day, week after week, and still she did not leave him.  Inwardly, though, she left him farther and farther behind.  It was only a matter of time before her body would follow.

She had waited too long.  Now he had gone too far, and she was dead.

When he knocked at the door, they let him in.  Let him see his handiwork!

He threw himself on her body. "Forgive me, forgive me mi querida!  How can I go on living without you!"

Then he went rigid with horror and stared.  Out from behind one of her lushly fringed lids fell a large, clear tear.


Hallowed Eatin'

The guard tossed aside the book.  So Benjamin Franklin had a party where he electrocuted a turkey, huh?  He thought Franklin wanted the turkey to be our national bird!  Evidently the turkey made for very tender eating.  Hmmm...

He decided to have a similar party.  The guest of honor, the executioner, was also the chef and the provider of the main dish.  The guards were all gathered around the table in a back room, deep in the bowels of the institution.

The meat provided was made all the more tender by the sweetness of their revenge.  This particular bird had made their lives as miserable as possible for years.  Now he provided the main course for their Halloween dinner party.  Every guest had provided a special vegetable dish and brought his favorite sauce.

The guard whose idea this all was suffered a twinge of conscience.  The executioner had just been doing his job, paid for it by society.  The rest of them?  Well, they had all been taught that good food should not go to waste....    

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