Category Archives: Flash Experimental Fiction

My New Book is Out!

string-leavesThe Palm Reading after The Toad’s Garden (Is a Rose Press 2016), my fourth book, gathers flash fiction written in recent years (much of it for this blog)—from a series of surreal memoryscapes (featuring the woman with a beard and her friend, the metaphysical toad) to flash thrillers to psychological experiments. This hybrid writing, as regular readers of my blog have come to expect of my flash pieces, blurs genre lines across poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and cultural criticism in what I hope you will find an entertaining montage of imagery. The woman with a beard—the unnamed main character of the first series of stories and familiar to readers of my blog a few years ago—travels as much in her mind as in the world around her, but somehow all merges with her memories to reveal emotional realities of being human. She and the toad commune somehow, through magical surrealism and mystical physics. The toad provides theoretical commentary, at times.

long-silhouetteThe garden may or may not exist. The palm reader in the second series of stories predicts the uncertainty of multiple futures which unfold in the following stories—less connected than The Toad’s Garden, The Palm Reading follows many lines of possibility through a collection of slightly more conventional tales. Yet, any conventionality is only on the surface—just beneath, under the cracks in everything, the stories remain surreal, mystical, strange, while—again, I hope—entertaining readers and exposing the characters’ performances of our odd humanity.

Ayelet Cohen, a filmmaker and artist who is a good friend of mine, lovingly illuminated the book with silhouette art. The illustrations that grace this blog post provide an example of her marvelous visual art.


Find The Palm Reading after The Toad’s Garden at Shop Indie Bookstores or on Amazon.

Earlier versions of some of the individual pieces in this book appeared in Bluzog and Meat for Tea: The Valley Review. Both The BeZine and The Woven Tale Press included more than one of my flash works.

Almost all of the pieces in The Toad’s Garden section and many in The Palm Reader section originated from experimental writing. The best experiments came from open invitations I posted on social media and this blog for readers to post five free-associated words for me to use. I would use them in groups of five contributors, for twenty-five words per piece. Contributors, in alphabetical order, include (apologies if I missed anyone): Stanley H. Barkan, Lucile Barker, Michele Baron, MaryLee Brag, Paulette Buche, Joanna Chen, Carolyn Hoople Creed, Cathy Crossan, Aviva (Frankel) Dekel (my loving wife), Jacqueline Dick, Rivkah Dickel (one of my amazing daughters), Paul Dickinson, Christine A. Farley. Jonathan Freed, Gabriella Garofalo, a blogger known as “godess of small things,”, Jeffrey M. Green, Zena Hagerty, Lisa Holden, Chinedu Jonathan Ichu, Jerry Ingeman, Jonathan Jones, Ampat Koshy, Donna Kuhn, Elena (Zykova) Lacy, Kate Lamberg, gary lundy (my beloved fellow traveler in poetry and beyond), Aviva Luria, Mamta Madhavan, MaryAnn Franta Moenck, Alan Nettleton, Martina Reisz Newberry, Bozhidar Pangelov, Anna Patterson, Jen Pettit (one of my sisters-by-choice), Agnew T. Pickens, Lynn Pries, Nalini Priyadarshni, Louis Profeta, Donna Pryor-Foote, Julia Raymond (another of my amazing daughters), Steve Silberman (fellow photographer-hiker), Mike Stone (brother poet), Uwe W. Stroh, Susan Thornton, Jason Topp, Rayona Tuneelo, Monika Ashwin V (a strong supporter of my work), Peter Valentine, Michael Veloff, Steven Wadey, Eileen Walsh, Clare Washbrook, Nicholas Whittaker, Dane Zeller, and Verica Zivkovic.


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The Woman with a Beard Again

She’s slept for a couple of years, nearly, but the woman with a beard has asked to return, and I have obliged her and the toad whose garden she sometimes tends. They can be most insistent. If you have not read some of her history, you can search the blog (see the side-bar to your right) for “woman with a beard” to learn more about her. The toad has his own thread, so you might search for him separately if he piques your curiosity.

Dream Fishers

The woman with a beard dreams constantly of death. Stone shadows stretch to luminous horizons held at bay by bestiaries embroidered into tapestries tap-dancing tangents to King Carol’s ballad ballast. She would sink rather than throw over the weightiness of such formative songs sung blue, everybody knows that, except the dream weaver whose catcher’s net fell on the bed one sultry-sex night. Whether death comes for her or her mother, she could not say, but so far no lover has died and her mother forgets her way forward in the timeline left her.

Who would blame her this anxiety balanced on the beam of a toad’s leverage, the fulcrum of the reflecting pool calculated somehow using pi, imaginary numbers, and theoretical physics? She wakes, shudders off the spider webs of Thanatos and lights the fires of libido, id, and ego. Bee supers buzz around her head as she tries to avoid the traps of dull songs numbing the inside of her brain, stuck in frenzied repetition.

She lived among many lovers, each fallen by the shore of the Fisher King. Galahad never existed except in legend, and even then only as a flawed reflection of ideal gender expectations. So philosophies flower in the hedgerows alongside the tawny rose petals preserved in the summer heat.

The toad calls her to the garden and she would rather join him than linger in linguistic memories that try but fail to recover the essential oils of moments long gone. She steps into her cotton skin, drinks coffee cold-brewed.

When she goes outdoors, she finds blue sun and yellow sky splendor, a reversal of color a gift of imagery from the toad. Another day unfolds, and this day she chooses to let the sabbath arrest her, to drink wine and eat bread on the porch. She thinks, dear Saturday, let me rest with you.

Thus she enters the court of the Fishers, trying to wake them from their somnolence. The land dries out, the people cry out, the blood flows out from the wounds of war.

Wake, Fishers, wake! She thinks. But they do not.

Moon Glow Cemetery Row Digital art ©2015 Michael Dickel

Moon Glow Cemetery Row
Digital art
©2015 Michael Dickel

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Flash Surrealism

Programming cultural DNA

The troglodyte tree emerged from its cave exactly when three lights lit the evening sky on the New Moon that fell before the birth-month of mother owl. Just a hatchling of course, in her first month, and a growth to maturity away from motherhood—but she arrived in the world as an archetype of herself. The tree prepared nesting branches, anticipating need layered behind an urge, urgently rooting its words to the future. A dance of hikers climbed out of the wadi, cars lost in gloom when the sunset faded, but they failed to notice the rhymed shout of the waddling crow or the emergent present of a deciduous hermit. Shadows slid like blackhole-mercury over rocks to escape the leaden footfalls, but caught the corners of eyes just enough to pull at small fears caught in past anxiety. Branches snapped in bushes to the counter-rhythm of hikers’ hearts as the circadian cycle wheeled around the corner into mythic headlamps. The schism parts a sea of rock that waved out from the mud under great heat and pressure, a rift that shifts semantic considerations into syntactic synapses sparkling with possibility. The owl mother raises her brood in the arms of the old woman while the dark ink-stains test the psychological nature of night in Rorschach irregularity. The hikers dream strange narratives disrupted by correspondence to rather than with, while the flight of lava spans only a second of memory, seconded by the sergeant-at-arms who grew tired of standing at attention. The rhetor no longer senses anything and begins to tongue language into a frenzy of aurora borealis framed by a moonless expanse above a dwindling plain, matted with a white foam of stars. Thus, a scroll, parchment from a cracked amphora, unrolls a story about raptor rapture, tree delight, and generations of sublime song—a cultural blueprint that makes us (again).

Cultural DNA ©2015 Michael Dekel

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Flash Fiction—Words

Flash Fiction Month IconAnother, very short, entry for Flash Fiction Month. This micro-fiction edits itself down to atomic-fiction (or, perhaps, molecular-fiction, given that it does have a sentence, and not just a word or two). Many levels, however, can be discovered if you count on it, so to speak.

Comments welcome, as always.

Please share my blog on your social networks. The more readers, the more inspired I am to write.

Thank you.


Lately, the writer deleted more than she typed. She’d write something, then bang, delete most of the remaining text. She left three words of thirty-six, just under ten-percent.

Those three remaining words weren’t gold or silver pounded into jewelry by a hammer. They didn’t excite her. They just weren’t dead.

The thirty-three words she cut annoyed her, as school had. They didn’t cohere. No living scene emerged from them.

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Flash Fiction—Political Philosophy

Flash Fiction Month IconThe conventional narrative structure could not hold, at least in my poetics, and collapsed on itself into another bit of philosophical experimental writing. The woman with the beard returns, and in a somewhat masturbatory burst of thought experimentation, she explores conspiracy-theory political philosophy while reclining in the toad’s garden.

Please leave your comments below. A few posts back I mentioned my thoughts about gathering this spring-summer writing into a book. For those who didn’t already respond, what do you think? Would you buy the book? Print or e-Book? Or is the blog sufficient publication for these little forays?

Political Philosophy

The woman with the beard didn’t care much one way or the other about her hair, even though she preferred smooth-faced lovers. The day bent like a knee around the heat of the sun. She sipped Coca-Cola slowly, just to please her friends.

Without warning the filter of memory collapsed around her, a kaleidoscope of indecency exciting her erotic fantasies. Her lovers came back to her, their best orgasms, their lingering foreplay, each of their singular fires burning bright, like a comet in the night.

So she tossed the football around in her mind, catching it this way and that way until she dropped her hands to her sides.
At moments like this, the toad invited her to his garden. Mathematically imaginary numbers slipped into the square root of negativity while reeling fishing filaments through wrinkles of time-space reality. With the toad, it all came down to gravitational fields distorted by speeding photons collapsing time into.

No, she thought, stretched out in the lounge chair amid the sunflowers, tadpole pool, and morning glories. Another mind experiment only leads to intellectual emptiness, a European philosophy of theoretical nothingness derived from envy of Buddhism. Empirical error aside, the escape from metaphysics into socio-linguistic parameters scratched into the wall of a prison cell burned the flesh of the pan-hopping flea.

In the end, it came down to a group of industrialists and financiers attempting to overthrow Franklin D. Roosevelt and install fascism in the U.S., just before the Second World War. The scions of the conspirators followed the thread more patiently, the filament of time allowing three generations to do their work.

By the time the third generation arrived, the stars reflected across the waves of space-time, and the right-angled mirrors found smoke to create the necessary illusions. Here, she thinks, we find the divergence of politics from history as it settles around the dust of religion.
The politician she once shared a bed with died in a calculated plane crash for his sin of believing in the process. She still sometimes drops a tear or two for him.

She stopped worrying about all of this when she realized that the enemy shot real bullets through proxy warriors’ guns.

She didn’t used to believe in conspiracy theories, then took them on as a cause, but now considers how to change the consciousness of the train wreck when the locomotives all have dead men driving them and the radio controls remain set on kill.

Once, on her farm, she constructed a sculpture from junked appliances, rusted tractor parts, car body parts left on a junk pile.

Benjamin’s Angel of History shoved car-door wings against a train wreck of discards. A bit of hose and a solar-powered fountain pump provided tears to drip down its face, over a bent fuel tank that resembled a gas mask.

When the politician came into her life, he insisted she had to take it down.

The electorate would rebel, he said.

Let them make war, she answered. We’ll make more than enough love to win.

His plane crashed three weeks later, and she pulled the sculpture down a few days later.

The train had overtaken her angel’s wings and wrecked any last illusion she had of historical progress.


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Flash Fiction—Out for a Walk

Flash Fiction Month IconThe last post featured the Washington Avenue Bridge connecting the East and West Bank Campuses of the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities across the Mississippi River, which makes an unrelated appearance here. Well, mostly unrelated. Flash Fiction Month continues, hot July experimental flash awaits your reading pleasure here. I’d love to see some comments.

Out for a Walk

The boat streaking down the river, spewing a fountain of water behind, interrupts his reverie as he strolls across the Washington Avenue Bridge. A newspaper blows across the pedestrian deck, launches into flight and slowly glides over the water, spiraling down into it near the shore. The clouds remain indifferent to the fact that the news has gone.

A ghost of unwrapped fish, the newspaper floats until it absorbs enough water to drown the sorrows of its pages. It sinks slowly as the current carries it south, toward the ever distant Gulf. A bicycle coasts by, two students debate some ephemera of a course as they stride passed, three birds swoop to the railing and land.
Where had the frightened night gone, the one weaving dreams through each flowing day so that he could no longer tell mine from not-mine and read minds of passersby? What name, whose number, could look him in the eye and not hear the evening welcome up above the world so high.

He stands still, another tripper, thinking, please, please make it easy, a way out of the Sunday driver steering his thoughts on a sight-seeing tour without benefit of trampoline to catch his horses as he fell through the hoops.

The hogshead opened its mouth, let the apple drop, and played fair tricks with cards. The kite soared above him as he jumped on the trampoline, the horse jumped into the ring, and the public failed to rise to heed the call of the changing times.
Oh, let me walk and talk, he thinks, like normal people do. I’d like to eat a bowl of rice, put pennies in a jar, wash the dirt out of my socks, without thinking of Eleanor Rigby or Father Mackenzie as he walks from the grave duty of visiting the sick-in-the-head man he never knew.

Well, with only forty-six words in his vocabulary he prompted a revolution among tattooed gymnasts trying to find the right moves to unlock the Kabbala on a good day. No miracles can save lives now ready to depart their orbit, a polar shift, the axis pointing to Texas as his mind races to understand new meanings for the woman with the beard.
Who can float in a river and not absorb the news that the course of time eddies and swells to the rhythms of unconscious rocks and debris strewn across the bed like his clothes the night he started to pack to travel to the Holy Land. Anointed by olive oil and dancing on the head of a pin, he realized the words of the messiah were his own.

That’s when he noticed that his voice was not his own, but belonged to the argot of Beatles songs, New Age tricksters, Holy hucksters, and frequent flyers enlarging their portfolios. Call me Legion, he thought, hybridity of socio-cultural construction work signaled ahead in the traffic lane below.

Meanwhile, he dog-legged logic, coming to a hypotenuse conclusion in less time than it took for the tail to wag the dachshund: entangled light provides synchronicity through inter-woven troughs and peaks of critical curiosity. He need not move for generations, but his message would change instantaneously with each quantum shift and the legions of messiahs would speak in unison.
That was then, this is definitely not now. He continues to stroll across the bridge, headed to the West Bank, watching the sun set over the city. The flow of the Mississippi so far below him soothes his anguished beast of a mind with its seductive siren call.

He read in the newspaper that the Palestinians and Israelis might sit down to talk again, sometime soon. One of their agents was overheard saying “let’s do lunch” to the other. Hollywood is never stable, and not even a stable could produce a sure thing.

Hark, the Herald newspaper continues. Another article reported that still too few people observe Shabbat. The Messiah has yet to come.

The comics weren’t funny, but the editorial page was.

And Nobody, the only politician to have kept a promise, prayed for peace, knowing it would profit Nobody.

So, with these thoughts for his boat crew, he found himself heading toward Cedar Avenue on a cloudy day, sailing along in the breeze.20130722-232147.jpg

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Flash (fiction?)—Globalization

Flash Fiction Month IconFlash Fiction Month seems to stretch longer and longer on the calendar, and here I am again with another post. Except, it might not be fiction. How does one define fiction? Is it even prose? What is prose? Poetry? The meaning of life? I’m back to experimenting, my favorite writing style in nearly stream-of-loose associations, not-quite word salad, associative mood painting. With a lot of weird stuff going on in them. Or something like that, if not very much like that. Comments welcome, as always. If you like this, or feel provoked, or even find merit in it, please spread the word. Thank you.


The Aztec calendar owned the land. Sun and rain paid the rent, although the camera she used to take the picture zoomed in from some satellite, bouncing its digital projections like a ball over song lyrics at a sing-a-long party.

The point, or thesis of this exploration, would pivot around ground zero gravity, a sort of optical lens they all knew in Cosmopolitan Berlin between the wars, where another rodeo dancer at the coffeehouse spoke American ex-pat French to an Italian Bourgeois painter while at the next table the Yiddish-speaking playwright held forth on the Russian Revolution now that he was beyond the Pale.

An actress who accompanies him nods on cue during his monologues as they travel the international Yiddish theater circuit. Vienna next, then they travail in London, Buenos Aires, New York—but try to stay away from the Soviet Union.


A bull’s eye tracks down Johnny-on-the-spot, another satellite image telegraphed into the train depot. Listen up, you gloved foxes of the NSA, digitalis in too high a dose poisons. The flower looks nice, but watch out for the potentialities. I don’t know what you expect me to write—a probability of narrative or possibility of poetry or standard deviation of sense—but if you peer through the spyglass of Renaissance perspective you might find yourself looking into the Eye of Horus, hours ago sold to the highest bidder.

Free Masonry aside, all thirteen doves flew the coup d’etat and haven’t been heard of since the renovations of the Annapolis chapel. The high priest, known as Rav Cohen, suggests they have caught, sold, and bought the Holy Dove. And will again.

So where do we go from here? To another time and place where the clocks tick irregularly and every one has a different expression on its face. Some stop, some go, some enjoy summer vacation—cations fleeing solutions of unresolved inequalities, dissolving into linear trajectories.

The NRA learned the Alchemists’ secret and turns weapons-industry lead into gold everyday. The lobby of the sacred secular halls never heard a whisper of democracy, and the Iroquois shake their heads at the foolishness of it all with Athenian smirks that would weaken the Cheshire Cat when they wink and hint at the decadence of Rome to come.

Try as I might to connect the dots, I’m tired of being your ingenious djinni artist. I want to lay down in the shade alongside the woman with the beard and hear her story, listen to the toad and the hairless tortoise revel in revolutionary theory, speak with a lovely lizard that crossed the street this afternoon, and leaves a green nothing in my mind.

I forgot in my mindless state the codes that unlock the cultural texts slipping between the lines on my face, my palms wrinkled into spiderwebs of uncertainty.

Look carefully at those signs. They reveal a stranger scene than any I could write. Someone, a painter, once told me the meaning of the Aramaic. The potter spun his wheels.

In the lines of the date palm, watch as an inn fills with travelers covered in dust from a long day walking next to laden donkeys and camels. See them drinking and eating, talking loudly or quietly as may befit their mood.


A small, dark man has a map of the world tattooed over his whole body, but not just a map, for it is both a map and images from scenes of each place on the map, a stunning canvas greater than Bradbury’s Illustrated Man. This man somersaults like a chariot wheel through the inn, down and up the uneven spiral-armed lacunae left around the travelers, and each revolution reveals whole new sets of images, a new possible world at each turn.

20130721-001826.jpgThe travelers ignore the foolish gymnastic artist. The writer describes him incompetently and some reader becomes mired in deciphering. The effort of understanding turns elaborate, interactive sculpture into a few pencil sketches. And I have just shown you one or two of these, left-over scraps from a feast of dreams, an old notebook nearly erased by light, distance, and time.

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