Handy Household Hint

Dear Mig,
Silver nitrate solution sloshed out of my dipper tank the last time I was making wetplate collodion photographs in my backyard and by the time I noticed I had dripped a trail of photosensitive heavy metal solution down the cellar stairs, across the big room in the cellar into my workshop, which exposure to ultraviolet light was rapidly turning black. What should I do?
Sincerely, Photosensitive Heavy Metal Solution Stainer Dude

Dear PHMSSD,
Easy peasy. Take some sodium thiosulfate fixer solution, wet a paper towel and use that to wipe it up. Wear gloves, because I think I remember hearing it’s carcinogenic. Works like magic on tiles. Pets and carpet, not so much I figure. Under no circumstances use cyanide fixer, because that contains cyanide and will kill you. And safety goggles, because silver nitrate in the eyes will blind you. And remember this is time-sensitive: you must get it all cleaned up before your wife notices, or she will ask you to finally get all these funky chemicals out of the house and into storage somewhere with better fire insurance.
Regards, Mig

Viennese politics

Man 1: Apparently, to be considered a down to earth politician in Vienna, you have to be overweight and look half-drunk.
Man 2: So you mean I could go into politics?
Man 1: Your hair’s too long.

Guided meditation

Is everybody comfortable?
Tea okay? If anyone needs a blanket, just tell me. Or they’re over there by the window.
Is everyone comfortable?
Okay.
Namaste etc etc.
Relax. Concentrate on your breathing for a few breaths.
In through the nose, out through the mouth.
In through the nose, follow your breath on its journey through your body.
Trading those little oxygen molecules for those little carbon molecules or whatever.
Here is the scene.
You are a rugby player.
Or an American football player.
Big game.
Someone hands you the ball. You cradle it in your arm. Leap, fly over opposing players, crash into the end zone, ball cradled safely in your arm.
Score!!
However many points that is! Enough to win the big game, anyway!
Okay, except one thing: you’re not a ball player, you’re an old guy.
And it’s not a ball you’ve got cradled in your arm, it’s a tortoise.
Okay, and a few other things: it’s not opposing players you fly over, it’s a low fence you put up around the flower bed to keep the tortoise from running away. And you don’t crash into any end zone, you hit the slate tiles by the driveway like a ton of bricks.
Safely cradled, though: you bet. Tortoise looking at you like, my dude, wtf?
But he’s okay.
That’s important, because you had the old red cat put to sleep the day before and you don’t want to hurt any more animals for a while.
Okay, we’re not naive, Easter ham, someone gave their life for that, but you know what I mean.
Double check everything. Tortoise, fine, runs laps in the house. You: was I this sore before? Is the headache new? Did anybody see? Am I dizzy or just tired?
Breathe.
Or is it all the sugar?
Breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth.
Let your mind wander.
Have some tea.

Following a fox into darkness

Morning, so early the only light is along the eastern horizon, and fog like the ground is breathing, the grass and pavement, warm earth breath condensing and a fox flashes across the street and I follow it as it flits from ivy into shadow along shrubs into darkness and I follow it into the dark.
In this neighborhood of mansions, it must have its den in one of the parks, the Sternwartepark is the most likely, it grows wild behind high brick walls, the other parks in the area are manicured.
The fox’s tail flashes one last time and it is gone and the darkness seems darker as if it’s not morning at all, or was morning but turned around and I wander through this odd night, Mercedes parked on the edges of the streets houses dark but it can’t be a blackout I hear music.
But then I don’t hear music.
This building is vacant.
This building has been gutted for renovation, outside walls, roof, load-bearing walls, stairs and floors. Windows out, everything out. Wiring gone plumbing gone. A crow watches from a window sill in back.
Someone rich lived here once, the place is huge and it will be grand again but first, insulation, paneling, wiring, plumbing, tile and floors, ceilings, doors, lights all that stuff.
Right now it’s just, who is the ghost here?
The ghost never thinks he’s the ghost, right crow?
Crow flies off to report back somewhere.
Still foggy out, no moon.
Still foggy out.

Can I have a cui bono?

Me: Whenever crazy shit, or stupid shit, or baffling shit, or shit in general, happens, I always ask myself, who is this good for?
Kid: Cui bono.
Kid: Cicero.
Me: I’m not the first one to think of that?
Kid: Uh uh.
Me: But I did think of it.
Kid: You did.
Kid: But.
Me: Why is it, everything that happens benefits either Putin or the Koch Brothers.
Kid: Beware…
Me: Or both.
Kid: Of nutty…
Me: Trump is nothing but a big red herring…
Kid: …conspiracy theories.
Me: …for the klept.
Kid: Quod erat demonstrandum.

One final question

Man: (refreshes his glass of Midleton) So, before you kill me, how did you find me?
Two strangers: (look at each other with puzzled expressions)
Man: I changed my identity ages ago. I went off the grid. Were you clicking through old bookmarks from blogspot.com days? Do you even remember that “last updated” feed they had? I’m still friends with people I found that way. That was the best.
Man: Or was it a random social media link?
Man: Or something more sinister?
First stranger: I did a search for facts about the grunion, actually.
Second stranger: Names for electric cars, here.
Man: (takes sip, says nothing).
Man: Ah.

They sit that way for a very long time. The strangers glance at the bottle of Midleton now and then, but the man ignores them. They will be drinking this soon enough, he thinks, when I am dead.

First stranger: Actually, we’re not actually here to kill you.
Second stranger: No.
Man: Ah.
Man: (Pours himself a fresh glass, and puts the bottle away)
Man: (takes sip) Then you will be going soon, I imagine.
Two strangers: (Shrug, look at each other)
Man: Before you go, I want you to know one thing.
Man: All I want is for you to be happy.
Man: That’s all I want. But I realize that just saying it is useless.
Man: I mean, there used to be people who wanted only for me to be happy, and it had no effect. I disappointed them and myself. Happiness is an elusive target, anyway. I suppose what they wanted was for me to achieve a situation, a mental state and social/economic situation conducive to self-actualization and a condition of agency in life, and here I am, the same lost bobbing cork as always.
Man: But I am content.
Two strangers: (Give each other puzzled looks. One glances at the glass in the man’s hand)
Man: I am sitting in a garden, petting a cat and waiting for death. I have not achieved all I dreamed, but it no longer matters.
Man: All that matters is that you are happy. That you attain a state of agency and personal power. That you can speak of yourself with honesty. (Drinks the last of the whiskey, sets glass on table.)
First stranger: (Licks lips involuntarily)
Man: (Looks at the sky outside) Now I wonder if, when someone told me “all I want is for you to be happy,” they really meant “all I want is for you to have a life of your own and get out of my hair”.
Man: If, when they said, “Do anything you want,” they meant, “do something.”
Man: Hrm.
Man: (Notices the strangers have left)
Man: (Pets cat) (Drinks the last drops of liquid in the glass)
Man: (To cat) I wonder if that is what I meant.
Man: (Sighs, begins typing fresh story)

Love, a play in one act. One scene, actually

Curtains open to reveal a kitchen.
Man: Dude, are you fucking your lettuce?
Tortoise: What? No.
Man: Cause it looks like it.
Tortoise: Erk, erk, erk.
(Woman enters)
Woman: Good morning.
Man: Good morning. Would you like a cup of coffee?
Woman: Sure.
(Woman sits down at table)
Woman: Is the tortoise stuck on his lettuce?
Man: That’s what I thought at first. Remember when he was little and he tried to walk over a leaf of lettuce and it rolled up into a cigar and he got high-centered on top of it?
Man: Here’s your coffee.
Man: But he doesn’t appear to be stuck this time, strictly speaking.
Man: I mean, I think it’s optional.
Tortoise: Erk, erk, erk.