Deal Me In – Week 45 Wrap Up


New posts this week from the DMI crew:

Coincidentally, with me also reading The Martian Chronicles this week, two of us drew a Ray Bradbury story from their Deal Me In deck.

Dale read “Some Live Like Lazarus

And Randall read “Let’s Play Poison

The avalanche of stories from Returning Reader continues:
1) Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Eva is Inside Her Cat
2) the Ernest Hemingway classic “The Snows of Kilimanjaro
3) Anton Chekhov’s “Gooseberries
4) Dylan Thomas’s “A Child’s Christmas in Wales
5) Ungulani Ba Ka Khosa’s “An Unexpected Death

Katherine has exhausted her hearts suit after reading Robyn Carr’s “Natasha’s Bedroom There’s also a magic trick video featuring her card 🙂

I missed Halloween by one day in drawing Ambrose Bierce’s ghost story, “Beyond the Wall” (I got goosebumps)

Candiss posted about Margaret Atwood’s “Happy Ending

Some other short story content from the week that I found interesting:

Have you heard of author Ron Rash before? I hadn’t, but this collection sounds like it would be at home on my bookshelf

Great article about an event in NY where some of the authors featured in The Best American Short Stories (2014 edition) read their work at a Barnes and Noble. I’ve included some stories from The BASS series the past couple Deal Me In challenges. Looks like I may want to do so again. 🙂

I follow a couple Irish literary accounts n Twitter and they appear to have a thriving short story culture over there. The Davy Byrnes award is one of their prestigious writing prizes. (I’ve read one story from this source in a previous DMI, Claire Keegan’s “Foster”.
Here’s a collection of the cream of that crop.

“Strunke City Derail” – a short story by Murphy Edwards


Yeah okay, so I’m really late on posting this, but for this year’s R.I.P. challenge, I decided to read 13 short stories, 3 by “mainstream” (whatever that is) authors and ten by local, “indie” (whatever that is) authors. I blogged about one of the mainstream stories, Axolotl, previously, and this time I’d like to feature one of the ten indie/local author stories, Murphy Edwards’ “Strunke City Derail,” which I own as part of the “Terror Train Anthology.” (My list of stories I read for R.I.P. may be found here, but I’ll probably only end up posting about a few of them.

Strunke City Derail

There are some great moments in literature and cinema where machines have become our enemies. Somewhat rarer moments, however, are when beloved characters must enlist the aid of machines when they find themselves physically overmatched by whatever foe an author or film director has served up. For example…


(“Get away from her, you BITCH!” A machine-fortified Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in “Aliens” delivers one of the great lines in cinema history)

Anyway, on to this story…

“Ain’t every day you witness your own sweet Daddy swallowed up by some oozin’ stink-lump from a train wreck.”

This story is told in the first person by a young boy, and in a rough, redneck-ish patois that is likely common in the fictional “Strunke City” – “a little ol’ piss-hole of a town located just about twenty miles outside of Who Gives a Shit.” The boy rides along with his father (“Daddy-paw”) to retrieve a forgotten item at his job site at the railyard one day, and they arrive upon a scene of great carnage…

Seems there has been a train derailment, but there’s much more than that going on. Among the wreckage is a rail car unlike anything any of those present has ever seen before. It’s sides “was painted up all black and orange with an evil lookin’ silver quarter moon on each corner.” The lettering on the side of the car indicates its origin as “Shull Fruit and Vegetable Express,” though our narrator says that “I ain’t never seen fruit hauled in nothin’ lookin’ like this.”

(Below: the iconic quarter moon-face logo of Procter & Gamble. I searched online but I can find no record of a Shull Fruit and Vegetable Express anywhere in that conglomerate’s corporate structure. 🙂 )


Turns out the car contains an epic monster of unknown origins, one that makes short work of one of the rail yard’s workers, Jim Ed Sommers, and is partway en route to doing the same to the narrator’s daddy-paw. This is when the young narrator fires up “one of them big and dangerous track hoes what they use to dig at dirt and coal and such” and takes on the beast…

(Below: I’m not sure if this is what the machine looks like that the young narrator of this story uses to take on the monster, but I’m imagining it as something similar…)


I enjoyed the story a lot, in particular the written “voice” of the young narrator. Want to listen to this story? It’s available as an installment of The Terror Train Podcast at you’ll have to scroll down a bit to get to this particular story, and of the 27 minute audio, the actual story begins about 5 minutes in, after a lengthy introduction. And the story ends about the 22 minute mark, so that’s about 17 minutes of listening time. :-). The book itself may be found for sale on Amazon at – Kindle version only $3.99.

(Real world train derailments are nothing to be amused about – below From The Columbus Dispatch via a July 2011 derailment near Columbus, OH.


“Beyond the Wall” a ghost story by Ambrose Bierce


I’ve often mentioned how much I enjoy looking for or noting coincidences in the random order of short story reading that the Deal Me In Challenge provides. Lately in this year’s edition of the challenge, DMI has often just missed dealing me up a perfect short story for the week – e.g., just after Columbus Day, it dealt up a story with The Admiral of the Ocean Sea himself in the title. Then last Saturday, November 1st, one day after Halloween, it led me to a goosebump-inducing ghost story by one of the masters, Ambrose Bierce.

The narrator of our story begins by providing a lengthy sketch of its subject, a man named Dampier, a “strong fellow of scholarly tastes, with an aversion to work and a marked indifference to many of the things which the world cares for, including wealth.” (Though he has plenty of it, and is of the uppermost class). Our narrator is going to visit him in San Francisco after a long separation. While talking to his friend in a ‘tower room’ of his mansion (on a stormy night, of course) a pause in the noise of the storm is suddenly filled by a tapping on the wall:

“The sound was such as might have been made by a human hand, not as upon a door by one asking admittance, but rather, I thought, as an agreed signal, an assurance of someone’s presence in an adjoining room…”

There is no adjoining room.

Somewhat discombobulated, the narrator prepares to leave, as he has “no interest in spooks.” Dampier seems to wish not to be alone though and tells his friend that he has heard the sound before and “it is no illusion.” Urging him to stay, he says “Have a fresh cigar and a good stock of patience while I tell you the story.”

I continued reading (sans cigar, but with patience) and learned the sad and tragic story behind the tapping on the wall. If you possess a similar patience or a good cigar – or both – maybe you’d like to read this story as well. It’s in the public domain and available online in many places. Like this one:

Have you read any Ambrose Bierce stories? His most famous one is probably “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” – frequently anthologized and rightly so. I own this story as part of his book, “Terror by Night – Classic Ghost & Horror Stories” which includes about fifty tales.

Personally speaking, I remain fascinated by Bierce’s biography as well, as he is famous for having “Disappeared” about 1914. The last communication known to have been received by him was just over 100 years ago, when he wrote in a letter dated December 13, 1913. “As to me, I leave here tomorrow for an unknown destination.”


Below: From the Ambrose Bierce site one (of many) hypothesized resting place for the writer is in Sierra Mojada, Mexico. There is a marker set up in that location.


Non-Fiction November!


Non-Fiction November is hosted by Kim at her blog “Sophisticated Dorkiness,” and I learned of it via Katherine’s excellent blog “The Writerly Reader.” I always beat myself up about not including enough non-fiction in my reading, so maybe participating in this meme will help with my focus. For the first week, this is our directive:

“Your Year in Nonfiction: Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?”

And here are my responses. 🙂

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?

Probably Richard Storr’s “The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science” I’ve been trying to write a blog post about is one for six months and each time I keep going off on some related tangent. There was just so much fascinating material in this book, and though I didn’t quite trust the author’s own ‘scientific cred’ I learned for the first time about a lot of (apparently common) belief systems that are really out there. Maybe the most interesting parts to me were the physiological reasons often behind why we act and think the way we do. For the summary of this book click here


What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

I honestly don’t get too many requests from non-fiction readers for reading suggestions. One book I’ve recommended to several friends is Bill Polian’s “The Game Plan.” Polian was the President of the Indianapolis Colts for almost fifteen years and as a fanatical (yes, really) fan of that team I’ve been recommending to my fellow crazies that they read this account of how Polian built several championship teams including my Colts. The Buffalo Bills are his other main success story.


What is one topic or type of nonfiction you haven’t read enough of yet?

Probably history or science. I’ve been solicited to review a couple books on our economic future because of a post I wrote some time back about the book “The End of Growth” by Richard Heinberg It was a book about a subject so sobering I’m not sure I want to explore it any further, though. :-). For history, I’ve been chewing on a book about the history of The Ottoman Empire (“Osman’s Dream”) for quite some time now. I just can’t seem to make a sustained effort to stick with it.


What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

Just to meet some new book bloggers and to learn about some more great non-fiction books (that will probably also fall victim to my inveterate procrastination)

That’s me. What non-fiction treasures have you encountered in your 2014 reading?

Deal Me In – Week 44 Wrap Up


There are so few unread stories remaining in our DMI 2014 rosters that some of the “surprise” from the luck of the draw is fading. I mean, you know “it’s going to be one of these” and you wonder which one – as opposed to earlier in the year, when – if you’re like me – you’d already forgotten you’d even added some of the stories you drew. Please, someone, make me feel better and tell me I wasn’t the only one that happened to. 🙂

New posts this week:

We saw, appropriately :-), “the return” of Returning Reader, who posted about three stories, Alain Mabanckou’sThe Fugitive Doreen Baingana’s “Passion and Katherine Mansfield’s “The Stranger

Katherine read magician David Copperfield’s story “Snow”

Randall posted about William Faulkner’s “An Odor of Verbena”

I wrote about Edina Doci’s “Bear Dance

Dale drew the five of spades and was led to Ray Bradbury’s “Yes, We’ll Gather at the River”

That’s what the DMI crew read this week. What short stories have you discovered lately? Some of us are already pondering what to put on our short story reading list for 2015 and may be willing to be guided…

Bear Dance by Edina Doci (a good story, born from a great idea)


It’s week 44 of the 2014 Deal Me In Challenge. I drew the three of hearts and, referring to my short story roster, learned that Edina Doci’s story “Bear Dance” was up to bat. I own this story as part of the collection of nine stories titled “The Meantime.” I first heard about it via Alex’s excellent blog, “The Sleepless Reader” which, due to motherhood and other responsibilities, has largely fallen silent in recent months. I miss it. I’ve also read one other entry from this collection for this year’s DMI, Monica Westeren’s “From Brussels South to Ottignies.”

The story relates the deterioration of a relationship to the point where the sex is mechanical – and regularly scheduled – and the passion is clearly gone. I guess it would probably be better to say it presents a relationship that has already deteriorated to a point of no return. The writing is good, though, and the story interestingly opens with a first person narrative of an actual bear “couple” in the woods. They are “running out of berries” and contemplating leaving their safe haven in the forest. Why? The overt connection is that, later, in the “human” part of the story, told in the first person by the woman, we learn the man calls her “my little bear,” as one of his terms of endearment. But there are subtler reasons as well.

The story also contains a great interlude where the couple is mistaken for “young lovers” by an older couple who even ask them if they’re planning to have children. The narrator “cant stand the envy of these old folks” and realizes that she and her lover are “older in our love than they are.” – a uniquely clever way to put it.

In preparing this post, however, I have become more fascinated with how this story came to be published than the actual story itself. This collection of nine stories (of which Doci was one of the editors) grew out of a Brussels writing group, of which all the members were not Belgian natives but expats from “all over” (Doci is from Budapest and Westeren – whose story I read earlier this year – is from Finland. They got the idea to each contribute a story, either set in Brussels, or starring characters from Brussels, to a book which they would independently publish. From the results I’ve read, they took their task seriously and ended up producing a solid collection of stories.

I found an interview of the three co-editors online at “Fans of Flanders” and ended up watching the whole thing. It’s at if you’d like to view some or all of it.

Below : That’s Doci in the middle and Westeren on the right. Nick Jacobs is on the left – I guess I’ll make his story the next one I read from this collection. 🙂


For more information on this collection, try

Newer entries »