The Margarita Philosophy

February 15, 2012

The Margarita Philosophy [PDF]

This is a novella I abandoned a few months ago. It’s based on a dream I had that seemed like a really fantastic idea the next morning. After a few weeks I realized, like many stories I’ve read based on the dreams of writers,  it just drifts along in a fittingly dreamlike state, not really going anywhere.

Also, I wasn’t really keen on how the central male character is the object of fascination for several female characters—it felt a bit too “Mary Sue” for my tastes.

So here it is as a short story, left on your doorstep, swaddled in a digital blanket (undoubtedly riddled with typos).

Glass fragments

May 19, 2010

There had been a storm the night before and she’d forgotten to close the window in the living room. On the floor, in a pool of water gleaming with morning sun, are shards of glistening black glass, the remains of a goblet she’d acquired sixteen years ago.

On the shards she can see fragments of silver text: Bea; mmer; ’94; and Th; uty; ea; e B; Su; st. She knows what the letters spell out. Despair. Doubt. Drama. Paranoia. Betrayal. Love. Friendship. Laughter.

Notes from a lesson. Notes she’s carried with her for a decade and a half for a course that only ends when you die. It doesn’t matter if you pass or fail the final exam, she’s come to understand. Only that you show up to class. Learn the lessons. Keep the notes.

Notes. Musical notes. Little black dots of glass on staffs of wood grain. A score. She scans the measures on the floor but happenstance hasn’t created a masterpiece. Only a chaos of discord. Much like that summer.

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Chocolate Bunny Fragment

April 30, 2010

They are lined up in the girl’s closet, a family of foil-wrapped chocolate bunnies. The boy stares at them in disbelief. It’s several weeks after Easter and the girl has refused to eat the bunnies.

“Are you saving them? We should eat them,” he says, “Ask your mom if we can eat them.”

“Noooo!” The girl steps in between the boy and the bunnies, carefully arranged among her stuffed animals.

“Why not? Don’t you like chocolate?”

The girl gingerly picks up one of the rabbit-shaped confections. This one is the papa and his foil wrapper is printed to look like it’s wearing a yellow and red plaid shirt and blue pants. The girl says, “I love my Peter Rabbit. I can’t kill him.”

“But you’re ‘sposed to eat him,” the boy reasons.

“No,” says the girl.

“You mean,” the boy’s voice takes on an incredulous tone, “you’re not going to eat them? Like ever?”

The girl shakes her head and cradles the chocolate bunny as if it were a human baby.

“He’s not a toy, y’know?” The boy says testily. He can’t believe how stupid she is being. Why wouldn’t she want to eat the bunnies? Doesn’t she know there’s chocolate under the wrapper? That must be it, he decides. She doesn’t get these aren’t toys. She must be stupid. They’re ugly and don’t even look like real toys.

He quickly reaches down and picks up one of the baby bunnies.

“Here. Look. It’s chocolate,” he starts to peel away the foil from the rabbit’s ear but he’s barely uncovered the waxy brown body underneath when the girl emits a terrified bleat and snatches the candy effigy from his hands.

“You’ll hurt ‘im!” she bellows.

The boy looks at the foil dolls in the girl’s hands and knows what has to be done if he’s going to get a chance to eat the chocolate. He grabs for one of the bunnies, the papa one, and they enter a frenzied tug-of-war. In the struggle he intentionally pokes his thumb through the hollow bunny’s head.

Suddenly the girl stops fighting and stares at the broken rabbit with her mouth silently agape. She can still see the bunny’s face on the foil where the boy pushed it into the thumb-sized wound. Behind its torn nose and eyes is a gaping, empty darkness framed by shards of milk chocolate.

She begins screaming again. This time it isn’t a short, sharp exclamation but a continuous shrill wail like a siren. The boy is genuinely surprised to see tears on her cheeks. In no time at all, the girl’s mother has entered the room and has the girl in her arms asking her what the matter is.

“He hurt Peter! He broke Peter!” the girl shrieks. The mother looks at the fragments of chocolate bunny in the boy’s hands and then into the boy’s eyes. He feels like he is about to get into a lot of trouble but instead the mother just closes her eyes like she might be feeling tired or sick and nuzzles her blubbering daughter. Then she opens her eyes, sighs and takes the broken chocolate from him with her free hand.

“Get washed up for dinner,” she says as she turns and carries the girl out of the room, “I guess you two can have some bunny for dessert.”

© 2010 Jakob Rehlinger

Photo Fragment

April 20, 2010

The man stood with his back against the wall. Only it wasn’t a wall (it was the edge of a bed), and he wasn’t standing (he was sitting) and it wasn’t his back (it was his buttocks). Really, he was facing his future. Except he was looking at his past. It had taken the form of an old box of photos.

But even as he thumbed through the assorted moments, jumbled together as if someone had scattered his life on the floor like Scrabble tiles, he was aware this wasn’t really the past he was confronting. It was only pieces of cardboard covered in a photosensitive emulsion.

The faded and creased smiles weren’t people, just faces wearing forced, joyless expressions. They weren’t even really faces, just images of faces. They brought back memories but the memories weren’t the same as the images of the faces worn like masks.

In one photograph his father stood beside the child that was once the man. They were wearing swimming trunks even though they were standing in the middle of their driveway with the door of the garage slightly out of focus behind them. The sun was making them squint. Had they been going to the beach? The swimming pool? The man couldn’t remember.

If you measured him in the photograph, the man’s father could be no more than two inches tall. He’d been so much larger in real life. In his memory, the man’s father had towered over him. Twelve feet tall at least. If his height had remained relative to the man’s own height as he grew to adulthood.

The memory must be false. If he did measure him in the photograph and he really was no more than two inches tall, that would prove it. Only, he must have been taller than that. If he were only two inches tall how had he ever impregnated the man’s mother? The last time he saw her, no more two or three weeks prior, she was at least four feet and eleven inches tall. The idea of her making love with a two-inch tall man was preposterous.

Unless, perhaps, there was a photograph in the box where she was also a mere two inches tall. It seemed likely. He dug through the crumpled leaves of pictorial fictions looking for a picture of his mother as a two-inch tall memory. He dug and dug but whenever he found the picture of a woman he thought might have been his mother, the head had been torn off.

He’d found the box under his grandmother’s bed. They, his mother and her mother, had shared what he thought must have been an unusual relationship. The old woman had seemed so devoted to her daughter but here it was, a sort of photographic proof of something deeper, always hidden from him.

There were also photographs in the box of cats. He didn’t know whose cats they may have been since his grandmother had never owned pets. His mother had been allergic to them so he’d never grown up with cats either. Were they neighbours’ cats? That seemed the most likely option since his grandmother rarely strayed beyond the confines of her small garden.

Underneath all the other photographs, taped face-down to the bottom of the box, he found one of what he assumed was a photograph of his grandmother, grandfather and his mother. He had to make the assumption since the little girl standing between his smiling grandmother and stern grandfather had no head. It had been torn away like with all the other pictures of the women he suspected were his mother. In its place, though, was pasted a cat’s head torn from another photograph.

He sat looking at the picture for several minutes.

He was fairly confident this was a picture of his mother. He measured her in the photograph and she was about an inch and half tall, adjusting for the disproportionate size of the cat’s head. She’d most likely grown to a full two inches and would have been able to mate with his father. This thought afforded the man a small sense of relief.

© 2010, Jakob Rehlinger


January 14, 2010

I’ve entered a short fiction contest at The Pilot Project journal’s website. Here’s the gist:

  • Step 1: Select an image from the surrounding collection (see website).
  • Step 2: Write a story for which the image could serve as an illustration. Your story should: have a plot; have a beginning, a middle and an end; be no more than 250 words.
  • Step 3: Check your spelling and grammar.
  • Step 4: Send the story to us at
  • Step 5: Tell all your friends about the contest. Because we will post entries as they arrive, you can show off your fine work by telling your friends to come to our website!

This is me completing Step 5 by telling you about the contest. My story is HERE under image #9 (the girl in the hat) and is called Alley.

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