USPEND YOUR RATIONAL mind for a while, if you will, as you read the stories in this collection.
Let yourself enjoy the irrationality of a businessman who chucks
everything to go begging, a six-year-old boy who learns for the first time how it feels
to be late to school, a fourteen-year-old boy who builds his own catamaran with mixed success,
a young mental hospital orderly's rambling consciousness, a young rooster who refuses to accept
undeserved accolades from the hens, a half-human, half-motorcycle motorcentaur on a serious joyride
in the desert, a farmer who innerly berates his careless son for spilling a wagon load of corn on the road,
a waitressing farmer's wife who endures a truck stop robbery, and a young rural swindler who finds forgiveness among the surrounding farmers.
Several of these stories were written around 1968 and revised in 1996. If you can suspend your rationality
and disbelief, perhaps they will do something for you. Something good, let's hope.
Your feedback is welcome at
Short Stories in This Collection
In the words of B-17 Pilot Keith E. Harris (1919-1980)
Keith E. Harris (father of Alan Harris) of the USAF 390th Bomb Group recounts the B-17 bombing raid over Munster, Germany on October 10, 1943 in which he was flying on special assignment with the 100th Bomb Group. He tape-recorded this story in the 1970's, and the tape was discovered after his death in 1980.
In the words of B-17 Pilot Keith E. Harris (1919-1980)
Keith E. Harris (father of Alan Harris) of the USAF 390th Bomb Group recounts his unusual experiences on first joining the Air Force in 1940-1942 and the events which led to his becoming a B-17 pilot in World War II. He tape-recorded this story in the 1970's, and the tape was discovered after his death in 1980.
No Poem about No Good Sense
Presuming to outguess Illinois weather in May results in a soggy embarrassment which nevertheless stimulates a few poetic and philosophical thoughts.
A B-17 Pilot's Mementos from the War
Keith E. Harris (father of Alan Harris) of the USAF 390th Bomb Group had an eventful military career in World War II. Margie, his wife, kept newspaper clippings, photos, and other memorabilia in this scrapbook, scanned from original documents by another son, Dale Harris.
Ten Anecdotes from Childhood
Growing up in a small Illinois town was neither as safe nor as dull as one might suppose. Intended for both musing and amusement, each of these ten anecdotes not only tells a story but also concludes with a lesson learned outside of school. Some of the lessons repeat themselves in different stories.
A True Story of Ice Cream and Justice
On September 25, 1974 I walked across the street to Frank's Cigar Store during lunch hour to buy some ice cream, as was my daily vice. But this time, instead of the usual warm Mom and Pop reception, I was confronted by some detectives who were none too warm.
Fifteen Memorized Minutes
The Load of Corn
A piano student at a music conservatory has become disenchanted with the contrast between academic requirements and authentic quality. An unwelcome crisis looms ahead--his being required to play fifteen minutes of memorized piano music before a jury of piano faculty members. The unorthodox performance he stages, together with its Zen underpinnings, bewilders his piano teacher and the jury.
Errors and Ingenuity
The Time I Was Late
A feisty farmer discovers, to his intense chagrin, that his son has driven their tractor around a corner too fast
while hauling a wagon load of shelled corn, causing the wagon to partially break and spill corn onto
the gravel road. The farmer and his son match wits and mask their helpless feelings as they
attempt to figure out how to tow this wagon back to their farm with the least loss of
corn and self-esteem.
Initiation into Chronology
A six-year-old suddenly realizes that all of his carefully constructed goodnesses
are now at risk this snowy December day when he is leaving home too late to make it to
school on time. He has never been late, and he goes to great lengths to arrive on time
in spite of all the obstacles.
In the emptiness of the desert a strange creature, half human and half motorcycle, performs with chilling thoroughness a daring ritual designed to create pure nothingness. The ritual, however, does not quite succeed.
An Adolescent Noah
Across the River
14-year-old Tom Summers, bored during his summer vacation,
decides to build his own personal catamaran (a floating device) by following the plans in a library book. His eventual launch meets with mixed success, and
he chafes under his father's told-you-so reactions.
A Fantasy on Begging
Chester the Rooster
In this somewhat surreal story, a commuter who is fed up with his rigid routine suddenly "loses it" while driving home from work. He decides to renounce his conventional life patterns, abandons his car by the roadside, and walks aimlessly until he comes to a bridge and looks over the railing down into the dark water. But that's only the beginning.
A Fable of Chicken Bravery
and Seed Corn
Chester, a complex young rooster, finds himself praised for an act of bravery which
he committed while asleep. This story employs subtle humor and "gentle reader"
asides by the "voice" of the story to stimulate the reader's imagination.
A Rural Money-Grabber
Farmer Jack's son Clarence doesn't fit the mold of honest, laid-back farmers. He likes the
dollar a little too well. A neighboring farmer briefly tells the story of how Clarence operates.
A Truck Stop Adventure
Uncle Frank Atherton Recalls
Farmer Jack's wife Mabel feels obliged to make extra money when the farm income diminishes.
She takes a job at the local truck stop restaurant as a waitress, and soon experiences
a robbery which brings out the irrational in her.
Earlville IL Farmer Describes Life in the Old Days
Frank Atherton, my mother's mother's brother, was a farmer in Earlville, Illinois for many years. At 83 when this interview was conducted, he had a sharp memory for Earlville's and his own personal past. This story, which I wrote for the Ottawa, Illinois Daily Times in 1974, reveals little-known facts about farming in the first half of the 20th century.
A Morning's Mindstream
An orderly in a mental hospital arises in the morning, eats breakfast with his wife, drives to work in Peoria,
Illinois, and has a fender bender. However simple the plot, this story consists not so much of the externals as the stream of consciousness revealed by this complex young man.
HE WORLD hardly ever asks for more essays,
having plenty of them already.
Too bad, world. Here are a few more
of those "literary trial balloons."
No essay in this collection was written by request, either
academic or otherwise. Instead, each came as "required writing" from
some inner place that governs how a writer spends his time.
Subjects that are perennially significant to many of us (crisis, suicide,
peace, fame, love, indecision, and others) are
considered in these essays from psychological and spiritual
points of view.
Whether you are in the process of putting your mind
together by means of life's everyday education process, or putting back together
a mind broken by some mistakes or an illness, you may find here a few insights
that surprise, encourage, or inspire.
Most of the selections listed below are basically serious,
but humor has been allowed to poke its head into
the proceedings at any time.
Please enjoy these essays
in the spirit in which they were written,
if you can determine what that spirit was.
Your feedback is welcome at
Essays in This Collection
The Blessing I Would Ask For
The Gates of Consciousness
Contemplating September 11, 2001
The barriers between the higher mind and lower mind of a person are seen as "Gates" which need to open for inner spiritual communion.
Wiping Dust from Our Eyes
A Reply from the World Bureau of Fame
As we rebound from the attacks on America, this essay suggests that evil is self-limiting because of its blind assumptions, and that the unity of humanity is not just an ideal, but an emerging fact.
Advice from the Director
The Inner Web
I. M. Presser, through hard work and sacrifice, has applied for fame. A reply from the Director of the World Bureau of Fame informs the applicant of fame's prerequisites, and gives him an opportunity to reconsider his application.
A Communion of Aspirations
This essay examines the value of the World Wide Web and the Internet as tools humanity may use for growing into increased unity and mutual affirmation.
Quality: 11 Glimpses
In the course of this offbeat conversation, two people examine the value, if any, of seeking truth in the teachings of others.
Seeing the Unseeable
These eleven aphorisms do not define quality, but instead, suggest its nature through Zen-like poetic glimpses.
Are We Safe in Them?
Are emotions to be trusted to guide us through the vicissitudes of living? And if we are safe in our emotions, what is it that undergirds that safety? If we don't feel safe, is it a good idea to hold emotions at arm's length and not get involved in them?
Musing on flurries of cottonwood seeds in an irregular breeze leads to considerations of immortality. However encompassing or small we see our life's container, are we safe from the abyss? Or are we forever in it?
A Study in One Act
Questions for Making a Decision
This poetic essay follows some puffy clouds as seen through a window into fantasies on how trees and people may also be clouds freely drifting through their lives.
Crisis: Its Causes and Effects
Making good decisions often requires asking oneself probing questions. The ones offered here represent only a few of the many
which one might ask (sorry, no outcome guarantees).
From Ignorance to Freedom
Where is Love?
Crisis is treated as not only the painful outcome of unawareness but also a valuable opportunity for
deepening and strengthening one's character.
A Perilous Search
Suicide and the Agony of Separateness
A search for love of any kind may lead, oddly enough, to disappointments and
What is the danger in looking for love? Can love be found at all?
When the Ego Becomes an Eggshell
Often, suicide attempters suffer from separative assumptions that spiral them into an
agony which they feel can be more easily ended by killing their bodies than by modifying
their minds. This essay presents some alternatives to annihilation.
Its Inner Hiding Places
This lyrical essay suggests that peace may be fully experienced through opportunities
in one's everyday existence. The fountain source of peace, however, remains a beautiful mystery.
What the World Sees
This whimsical essay examines what people try to display to the world
contrasted with what feels more comfortable and genuine to them.
Trees versus Technology
Coming Home from the Parade
Twilight trees seen after several hours spent at a computer reveal a shallowness in high technology.
Can We Live Without Images?
The Scrooge Before Christmas
Images give life to our minds, but also trap our minds. How do we know
when we have been trapped, and
can we do anything about it if we are?
Crying Out for Breath Amidst the Tinsel
Intelligence "Out There"
The much-maligned Scrooge may be wishing and searching for something holier than the
suffocating superficiality he experiences during the Christmas season.
What does he seek, and does he ever find it?
Will Outer Space Be Found Within?
Echoes of Earlville
The nature of intelligence has long been associated with each person's separate body and brain.
This essay presents an unusual hypothesis which, if true, indicates that our current
well-publicized search for extraterrestrial
intelligence may be superfluous.
Home Town Hankerings
Thoughtlets for a Quiet Mood
Railroad sounds and rural scenes from Earlville, Illinois, the author's home town, fill this iambic essay with poetic reminiscences and a look ahead.
Ventilating the House of Knowing
Whether these musings seem surprising, wacky, useful, or inspiring, they may softly slip into your right-brain and make a home there.
To Know or To Flow?
Fiddlers' Campground Impressions
Knowing can lead us to crackups if it isn't irrigated from the universal well of unknowing. The "known" represents only a tiny percentage of reality, whereas almost everything that is fertile, creative, and beautiful emanates from the limitless "unknown."
Weiser, Idaho - June 20, 1996
Take a short guided tour through a campground that is dotted with pickup bands who strum and bow traditional country tunes for pickup audiences. Many of
the fiddlers are in town this week aspiring to be the National Grand Champion Fiddler. They won't all make
it, but their interim musical sharing in the twilight invites you to forget about competition and just drink
in the sounds.
To Take or Leave
Here are 18 two-word rules given more as proddings than as prescriptions.
Yes, the last rule is correct as it stands, being perhaps the most reliable of them all.
Aladdin's lamp at top by Martien Verbruggen.