“Before The Circus”

Little about the market would have surprised a resident of Ancient Rome. Not the name – derived from the Latin mercatus, meaning trade or marketplace – nor the pull down steel gate or guard dog.

‘They are thieves everywhere,’ muttered with a stroked chin and furrowed brow. ‘Only a foolish merchant would fail to protect his wares.’

Electric light… possibly, but mention Jupiter and thunderbolts… probably not. The alcohol for certain would pack a more powerful punch, but likely it would be the consistency and the perfect glass containers that would invoke the most awe. And then to point out that the coliseum was merely a few stadia away: Well, any Roman sportsman worth his salt would have no problem whatsoever appreciating the cleverness and convenience of a one-stop shop for all things projectile – plus tasty sundries.

And pocket lighters? Oh my! There was a very good reason torches were not allowed inside the gates. Pyrotechnics were the Emperor’s exclusive fiat, not destructive toys in the fists of the baying mob. Blood [and notes from fiddles] tended to flow copiously whenever the plebeians got rambunctious.

All in all, he thought, life was good. Claudius Servious was quite content to play the vigilant shopkeeper raking in more denarii he’d ever believed existed. The green paper with tyrant’s busts had taken a bit of faith to accept, even more so than the stiff ‘plastic’ rectangles; but the bank gave him an ever-increasing balance book without demur. Saving for retirement was now even feasible.

He chuckled dryly. As a soldier/slave-cum-gladiator, a pension plan and health care wasn’t something included in the recruitment package. He looked around at the crowded shelves. These Americans had such a comfortable life. Soft and squishy they were: like those vile white sponges called marshmallows. He shuddered. ‘Give me skewered songbird tongues any day of the week.’

The buxom Gaul hanging on the wall – ‘Hey! That alliterates.’ – drew a longer stare, not only for the flaxen locks artistically flowing around the banner titled, Oktoberfest. ‘And the calendar?’ He rolled his eyes in exasperation. ‘What kind of culture ignores the Gods by pretending the world and cosmos is “all natural”, moving like some super water-clock?’

He moved his attention to stare through the open door to the brilliant night as another customer briskly strode in bringing the clamor of the streets with them. Claudius had learned that his customers wanted to be acknowledged with a brief nod and/or grimace, but not watched nor pestered. That was fine by him. The gladius under the counter was still sharp and his muscles still rippled. The ladies liked that. Some things at least hadn’t changed through the eons.

He had to hand it to Pluto; the Underworld was nothing like he’d imagined it would be. Being dead was the best gig he’d ever had in his entire life.

Just Another Invasive Species

Whirring wings. Ragged V’s black against westering pink and orange skies, slate thunderheads crumpling as sea breeze fades away once more.  Seedpods cease rustling. Night critters scurry amongst tall-grass stems, high in mossy live oaks invisible owls hoot.

            Glancing out through glass grimy from lack of ambition, the scowl is directed not towards the fall of night, but the white house next door. The white house with drooping yellow tape draped across the porch and stretched around the walls. The wall facing the grimy window is missing a rather large chunk. There’s a fluorescent orange X spray-painted on the front door, the bulldozer dropped that day to complete the destruction come morning. 

            The media. Gone. Police and fire departments: Gone. The county and state bean counters: Gone. The biologists. Gone. All gone. All concluding the damage was “natural”. A termite swarm; samples taken, pesticide sprayed: conclusion? ‘Just another invasive species.’ Nothing to see, move it along.

            Tapping now. Steady clicking. Gnawed fingernails and callused tips pounding keyboard, the cursor blinking steadily, eyelashes less so. Hands even worse, the beer warm, the basement stifling, but driven by the ‘truth’, typing ever onward as the crushed aluminum cans pile higher.

            The missive? Or maybe: screed?

Dear Editor,

Not that you’ll publish this. God forbid you media trolls would ever stoop to tell the truth. As your readers know – those few poor saps that still actually pay for paper news – the events of June 4th at 1569 Oak Street have been deemed a non-event. This despite evidence I collected under the very upturned noses of those learned persons of the ivory tower persuasion. I refer of course to the biologists and other so-called science types who swarmed over the property like cicadas and then disappeared just as quickly. Undoubtedly to slumber for another decade or so until kissed awake by another crisis.

Crisis I say, and crisis I mean. Forget about the iguanas, cane toads and pythons. Those may kill and/or eat your pet Fluffy, but this invasive species will come for you and yours. Load up the shotguns, folks, this looming catastrophe is not what you’ve been told. The “official” report [note the sarcasm here] stated the gaping hole in the white house – not the ‘White House’ – [although that has more than a few holes in the occupants] was caused by a heretofore unknown strain of infraorder Isoptera – that’s termites for you laypeople – over a period of time resulting in the wall crumbling into sawdust.

All well and good on the surface you would think. After all, any homeowner in Florida understands that termites are everywhere and will devour any home given unfettered access. I do in fact – color you surprised – agree that infraorder Isoptera was responsible for the damage. And, that it is a species unknown. But… They never found any specimens. ??? You say? No traces of a colony? How is that possible? Wouldn’t they – the termites – go on happily munching away on the rest of the house like a casino busload at an all-you-can-eat happy hour buffet? One would think so.

So: Sloppy science or cover-up? Cause I found stuff. Particles and flecks of wings and legs and other goop: What goes in gotta come back out you know. I also found a trail. Not a teensy-weensy insect trail. No siree, this was a bush hog trail vanishing into the mangroves. Did ‘they’ care? Nope. “Just kids messing around”, was the conclusion. Jerks. What are people learning today? Not a damn thing if you ask me.

This wasn’t a swarm of termites, folks. It was one. One. The big enchilada of bugs bit a hole in that house. I took pictures. Blew them up. Measured the diameter and radius. Used π even to get the area. That’s ‘pi’ btw. Math. Whatever. The point is. One set of jaws chomped a big hole in the side of that house. Just reared up and tore it a new one. And it’s still out there and it’s still hungry. And that’s the facts, Jack.

            This post has been flagged as violating community standards and has been removed per our civil discourse policy against unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. Please contact the administrator with any questions.

            “Not again!”

            Screams bounce off unfinished drywall: The frustration going unheard and unnoticed.

            Also unnoticed:

            The owls no longer hoot. The rodents no longer scurry. The ornamental grasses are no longer silent.

            Above the grimy window, outside, tapping now. Steady clicking. Something is gnawing the wood siding.

The bottom 6 of the Top 10

This past fall, a local weekly newspaper offered a writing contest based on photo prompts. Started as a diversion during the initial pandemic lockdown, the 2021 version offered sixteen photographs two at a time spread between August and November. I wrote and entered a total of fourteen short fiction for the prompts. The maximum word count was 750 with no minimum.

Out of my fourteen entries, one story was selected as part of the overall Top 10, but not the overall winner nor the three runners-up. In other words, the bottom 6 of the Top 10. There is no ranking below the top 4. I will be posting the other thirteen stories here on this blog in the future, although without the photos that were the prompts. Copyright and all that.

This post contains the link to the newspaper website where my published entry can be read. The article also contains a short interview. It’s factual but there are several misconceptions in terms of the timing of past endeavors, but not overly detrimental to the scope of the article.

If the newspaper does the writing contest next year, consider entering the contest, there are no geographical restrictions.

This is the link to my story, “Out of the Closet“.

The white falling in Winter

from seaward it spins

through mangroves teeming with life

aluminum swirls

I wake about quarter after seven as the sun peeks over the eastern edge of Florida. Here, on the west coast, we are in the path of an approaching cold front on this warm January morning. Yesterday, at the Art Fest, vendors speculate on whether or not to pack up and leave before the strong winds and rain hit on Sunday. I mention that in Florida, tornadoes are possible in winter when squalls and embedded cells made landfall. Only three weeks prior, a tornado touched down south and east during another such weaker storm front. Now, as I ponder breakfast and power up the desktop, my phone gives a loud audio alarm with text.

“Tornado Warning in your area. Take shelter immediately.”

I open my front door.

The roar is unmistakable.

The tornado is only a mile away.

I step outside, amongst my neighbors, and begin videoing.

Tornado on Jan 16, 2022. Moving NE. View is facing due north.

I posted about this event the day after. The link is here. As I mentioned then, despite over 100 homes either damaged or destroyed, there was no loss of life and only a few minor injuries.

Near miss tornado Jan. 16, 2022

I’ll start this by saying that the EF2 tornado that struck Sunday morning at 7:35am in Iona/Fort Myers, Florida, did not have any direct impact or damage to my area, other than a power outage of 90 minutes. This is also not an account of what actually happened, but rather a general overview and some still pictures from the 3-minute video I took as the tornado passed a mile away to the west in a northeasterly direction. I was never in any danger from winds or debris. 

The forecast was for strong to severe storms Sunday morning, January 16th, as a cold front moved through the Florida peninsula. Less than a month prior, another cold front had spawned a tornado in Fort Myers that passed to the south of my neighborhood. In Florida, tornadoes are common in winter as cold fronts pass through. They often start as waterspouts that make landfall. Over 60% are weak EF0 with fewer than 7% EF2. Since 1950, only one EF3 has been observed in Florida, and none stronger. During hurricane season – April to November – tornadoes are common during interactions with tropical storms.

I checked the weather radar on my phone about 7:25, and saw a compact storm squall racing in off the Gulf of Mexico about to make landfall a few miles away. It was a single cell, well out in front of the main line of storms, and certainly appeared ominous. In the back of my mind since yesterday on Saturday, the possibility of tornadoes had been a low hum, when around 7:30, my phones went off with a ‘tornado warning in your area alert’. I put some clothes on and went outside. This is the first time in real-life I’ve ever seen a tornado, but having watched countless videos online, I knew immediately a tornado was very close.

The sound was unmistakable.

A low frequency roar like an industrial fan or vacuum cleaner.

The clouds off to the southwest were swirling like a whirlpool.

The neighbors started coming outside as well and I pointed to the sky. “There’s a tornado. Right there.”

I also knew we were not in the path. The tornado was rapidly moving left to right. From my vantage point, looking due west, the twister was a mile away and racing northeast towards heavily populated areas. A blue flash lit up the base as it hit power lines.

1st power flash

Looking due west at tornado moving left to right


About 30 seconds after funnel touchdown

As I continued filming, the base was hidden behind homes and trees. About one minute into the five minute long tornado track, there were three rapid power flashes within five seconds. These were caused when power transformers blew as the 118 mile-per-hour winds swirled through neighborhoods of mobile homes. I’m not going to link to articles, you can find plenty by searching “Iona tornado”.


1st power flash


2nd power flash


3rd power flash


Mobile home debris swirling

About 45 seconds later, the last picture I’m going to post, shows more debris and larger cone forming. Within another 40 seconds, the path had moved far enough away to be lost in the overall clouds overhead and I stopped filming.

Although about 100 mobile homes were either destroyed or heavily damaged, and numerous other dwellings impacted along with trees down, there was no loss of life and only a few minor injuries.


Looking due north.

****Update 1/19/22***** Changed the date in the title, put Saturday’s date in error.

Also on the 19th, the National Weather Service updated their estimate of the tornado’s path. Based upon ground surveys and video evidence, the NWS concluded that the tornado in fact had started as a waterspout over San Carlos Bay and then moved onshore. The path of the tornado was upgraded from 1.8 miles in length to 7.9 miles and the duration was changed from 5 minutes to 16 minutes on the ground/water.

My Wife’s Ashes

Sanibel Island, FL 3/1/21

Reading “My Wife’s Ashes”

first rays race across the peninsula
westward bound
lemon and orange
light without scent
scent without sound
the condos cast upthrust fingers upon the brooding bay
filled with sleeping tourists
-the buildings that is-
not the gentle tumbling waves
of energy and spume
flashes of manatees, dolphins and sharks
all dodging wave runners and speedboats
polyfilament lines spin after the receding night
as dawn fruitlessly chases in the golden chariot of myth
spurred to endless unrequited passion
day after day
settling for dragging people in its wake to the sandy beach
all desperately fleeing work,
locked down in their thoughts
walking and running and strolling and burning
while the pipers and plovers
scurry for breakfast
little bobbing windup toys cast aside the week
after a bleak
as was for so many others
for locked too am I, like them
in dreams
the past that never was
the future that will never be
in the present I turn my face, the sun caressing where once fingers roamed
no more, never more shall it pass
ash plume seized
by the sea breeze
flowing ever outward
diffusing towards the vanishing point
where memory meets endless time that both began
now ended
fifty-seven years prior
farewell beloved, farewell

Today, March 1st is her fifty-seventh birthday. It was a perfect morning, 70 degrees – 21C, a brisk southwest breeze and low tide. I scattered her ashes in the surf and read the poem aloud through my tears.

Scattering ashes

Hurricane Irma: Still have power

It’s just past 7pm and in our area of north-central Florida, the rain has settled in to moderate/heavy rates of 2 to 4 inches per hour in quick spurts. Since this morning when the first rain bands swirled in as Hurricane Irma passed through the Keys, we’ve gotten about 4 inches of rain. The east coast has been pounded all day with heavy surf, large amounts of rain, and at least 50 tornado warnings over the past nine hours. We haven’t had any severe weather yet, but that will change starting in a few hours.

The center of Irma is currently moving past Fort Myers headed north, so we are expecting wind gusts of 75 to 90mph likely between 2 and 7am Monday morning. The rain will stay heavy with additional accumulations of 6-12 inches. I don’t see any way we’ll keep power on through the height of the storm as Irma races by to our west. It won’t be until Monday night, 24 hours from now, that the winds will finally drop below tropical force. We won’t have flooding in our immediate area, although roads and retention ponds are likely to have minor overflows.

If we have power sometime on Monday, I’ll update as to any damage or significant impacts in our area. Southeast and Southwest Florida including the Keys, will have severe damage and some loss of life once daylight allows surveys.

Hurricane Irma: Florida impacts

Update 11/5/17: Several changes in the past 24-hours to Hurricane Irma. The most serious is the upgrading to a Category 5 storm with current maximum sustained winds of 185mph. That was not forecast and is likely due to the above average surface ocean temperatures. Those temps will only get even warmer as Irma moves closer to Florida. Hurricane force winds extend out 60 miles from the eye, and the storm is 350 miles in diameter. The other slight change is that the 5-6 day track has shifted to the east. The current projection center-line has the eye of Irma tracking north along the east coast of Florida on Sunday and Monday. In this scenario, there will be no direct landfall, however, the storm surge and flooding will be immense from the Keys all the way to the Carolinas. Expect rainfall amounts between one and two feet in localized areas throughout the all of South Florida.

I’ve mentioned before in comments that I live somewhere in Florida. I’ve been watching the track of Hurricane Irma since the Tropical Depression formed August 30th, off the Cabo Verde islands near the west coast of Africa. The early models had it tracking towards the Leeward Islands and that projection has been fairly accurately maintained. The long-range forecast has always stated that Irma would eventually take a right turn and head up the Atlantic Seaboard of the United States near the coast. The steering currents which will dictate the direction of Irma, depend on the strength of the Bermuda [or Azores] High and a low pressure trough across the central portion of America. With each passing day the 5-day forecast track pushes that turn closer and closer to the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos, Cuba and Florida.

As of the evening of Sept 4th, that forecast looks very concerning for all the aforementioned areas with Irma as a Category 4 Hurricane passing near or over numerous heavily populated island groups. The projected turn now takes the center of the storm directly over Florida starting with the Keys and/or Miami and traveling up the Peninsula between Sept. 10th and 14th.

I will be updating daily until or unless Irma misses Florida completely. The graphs will be changed with each updated post. This has the potential to be worse than Harvey in terms of wind damage and loss of life. This is a very dangerous hurricane.