Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Tag: Fiction

The Man Who Spoke the Law

My short prose piece “The Man Who Spoke the Law” is up over at qarrtsiluni. It’s part of the “Words of Power” issue, which is running through December. There’s lots of great stuff over there so check it out.

Transcript of a Recording Found in a Briefcase Abandoned on the Plains (c. 1977)

It’s hot here.
I don’t mind.

Was it in Memphis?

No. You know. Where it happened.
Not Memphis. No.

Where? If you don’t mind.


You thought it would be somewhere else,
but things can happen anywhere.

You left there and came here?
Pretty much.

Is it true you won the lottery?
Just a scratch-off.

But you did win.
It was cursed.

Don’t laugh at me.

Sorry. Cursed how?
I see people as they really are. Their true faces.

What do you see when you look at me?


Is that really what you want?
You’ll understand what… happened…
better than you might really want to.

Tell me.
Can I tell you a secret first?

This was inspired by the latest image prompt at Read Write Poem (prompt #81). To see the photo (“XX” by nwolc), which is really cool, follow the link to the prompt or go straight to its Flickr page.


I jogged on the treadmill in front of the big window at the gym, watching cars pull in and out of the lot, people coming and going, little brown parking lot birds flitting from tree to tree.

A sports car pulled up and a middle-aged woman emerged with a cigarette in her mouth. She adjusted her ponytail, fighting the hair that had been sneaking out since she tied it before work that morning. She stared up at the sky for a few minutes taking deep drags on her cigarette like someone about to go underwater, and she watched the smoke swirl away into the trees.

She glared at the gym with a sour look on her face, flicked her butt onto the concrete and marched toward the door, her face a yin yang of determination and premeditated defeat that clearly said, “Here we go again.”

This Thing of Darkness

I realize it’s been nearly a year since I posted one of my old short stories. Strangely, “This Thing of Darkness” is one of the first I ever posted, back during an older incarnation of this site. It was originally published on a now-defunct online literary journal called TheSoundOfWhat?

I wrote it in 1997 when I was living in south Austin, and it’s a south Austin kind of tale about bad neighbors, roommates and a giant mushroom.

Like many stories, “This Thing of Darkness” contains elements that are based on my own experiences. In this case, the more fantastic elements are the ones I didn’t make up. Everything about the fungus is true.

You can find “This Thing of Darkness”on the Sories & Poems page or link directly from here.

Treading Water

I don’t write autobiography or memoir, but I often use real events as a start point for my fiction. I’m sure most writers do. Sometimes memories come floating along without context, without rational explanation, they’re just there, triggered by a smell, a sight, a feeling, the minutiae of life. These pictures appear vivid, bright as day, begging to be recorded and then they’re gone like waves receding from shore.

“Treading Water” came about as a sort of experiment in capturing these memories. I wanted to take a collection of scenes and connect them not so much through narrative, but rather through context, jumping from one to another the way the mind wanders in those wonderful moments of quiet reflection.

I decided to use scenes that take place near the ocean. I started writing the memories as they came without knowing how or if I would connect them. Eventually a story of two people standing on a beach watching the waves roll in emerged, and it became the frame for the scenes I ultimately decided to include.

I think it plays out sort of like a short film or a prose poem.

Here’s the link: “Treading Water”


Meat and Potatoes

I’ve now added “Meat and Potatoes” to the stories and poems page. It’s pretty funny. Feel free to comment here if you like.

Here’s a bit of background:

I originally wrote this as part of my application to NYU’s film school. They wanted a story about gluttony. I sent them a story about giant hamburgers in a Texas BBQ joint. I don’t know what they thought of it, but after choking in my interview, they wait-listed me and then accepted me a few months later. By that time, I was working in the Austin film scene and leaving to rack up huge student loan debts wasn’t so appealing anymore. When I finally did go to grad school at UT, I rewrote the story into its present state for a writing seminar. The teacher, a serious and talented writer named Zulfikar Ghose, asked me to read this to the class at the end of one meeting. I read it, wondering why he had selected this one. By the end, everyone was laughing and Ghose was in tears from laughing so hard. Over the next few semesters, it wasn’t uncommon to be approached by people who were in that class and would laugh when they saw me and reminisce about the day I made Ghose cry.


Kimberly Road

As part of my site redesign, I’m reposting all the short stories I had up on the old site, but because of some reformatting, I’m doing them one at a time and adding some commentary about them as well. I’m starting with “Kimberly Road” because it seems to get the most traffic. It comes up when people ask Google or Jeeves how to compose blues songs, which surprises me. But it is about the blues, so I guess it fits.

The idea for “Kimberly Road” came to me as I was driving from Dallas to Austin back in 1994. I was listening to a Lightnin’ Hopkins CD and the story just started forming. It was one of those instances where I stepped on the gas to hurry home and get to my computer while the story was still coming together in my head. I worked on it for a few days, and the day I finished turned out to be a good day. It was the day I met a woman who would introduce me to one of her co-workers whom I would eventually marry.

I picked the story up a few years later and re-wrote the character of Jake, basing him heavily on a man with whom I worked for a short time. His name was Willie and almost everyday he’d say, “Now see here young man, der’s two kindsa people out there. Them that’s happy at home, and them that ain’t. Them that ain’t is about ten percent and they like to make ever’body else unhappy. So you got to watch out for that other ten percent, see?” Everyday. Some days it would go up to 20%, but usually it hovered around ten.

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