February: The Heroic Journey


Welcome to the February issue of Synchronized Chaos! Happy Chinese New Year/Martin Luther King Day/Valentine’s Day/Black History Month!

This month we’re exploring various aspects of the primal and modern heroic journey. What would a hero, or heroine’s adventure look like in modern society? Do we still have frontiers, wide open spaces, places to challenge and find oneself in the wilderness? What does it mean to be a hero in these changing, uncertain economic times, when many people find themselves less capable of risk-taking or altruism than they expected?

We received a good number of submissions this month, some from previously published authors who wish to continue as part of the Synchronized Chaos family, which we strongly encourage, and others from talented newcomers.

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Faracy Grouse: Childhood Vignettes



Whenever I’m sad, bored or just at a loss for funny thoughts to make others smile with a mixture of disbelief and morbid curiosity, I comb through my thick, matted, flea infested creature of a past.
On a recent shopping trip to the European Mega-store Carrefour “the French Wal-mart for those of you who might need a little pick-me-up by way of shaming me for my lack of morality,” I spotted a familiar orange and green logo while searching for a suitably exciting weekend beverage. Four block letters, spelling one unmistakable word. TANG! In fact, it was an economy pack of pre-made “juice” boxes of TANG.

My gut reaction was to fill my cart with as many crates of it as I could find. It seems that the longer I live the glamourous life of an expat, the more comforting and thrilling little reminders of my childhood in the urban American Midwest become. Then I remembered why I remembered TANG, and the lust died out.

Read more of “Tang” and her other stories, “Dance as Revenge,” and “Mosquito Ranch” here: http://ladycatherina.livejournal.com/334914.html

Faracy’s biography and artist statement:

Faracy Grouse is an American writer originally from Minneapolis. She just moved to Britain after four years in Seville, Spain as the resident foreigner in a neighborhood where a man being seen hanging out laundry could cause a building wide sensation.


 As a child she was slow to read and write, unable to do either until the age of eight. Instead she would make up the rest of the story or draw pictures to remind herself what she was supposed to have written if asked to read aloud. Dyslexic and excruciatingly shy, she was not able to take refuge in books the way that many quiet children do. Where she excelled was in drawing and creating worlds in her mind.


 However, by the age of 11 she was a voracious reader, particularly of non-fiction books about foreign cultures. She knew from a very early age that she wanted to see the world.


 She first discovered a love for poetry at the age of 13 through an article on Russian poet Alexander Pushkin in an issue of National Geographic.


With the encouragement of a few creative English teachers, she began to write prose and poetry as a teenager.


 After studying voice, she went on to complete a degree in Anthropology and European History, marrying a man she met in Spain and having a child in the process.


During the breakdown of this marriage, she took up writing once again. This time it was to survive. She felt that she could write her way out of a terrible situation, and in the end she did.


 She has written a full-length screenplay, numerous short stories and put together several collections of poetry. She is currently working on a memoir.


Faracy would very much appreciate hearing your input about her work, and would be more than happy to discuss publication with any who may be interested.

You may contact Faracy at alumine3@gmail.com


David Mitchell’s short story “Untitled”


“Untitled” by David Mitchell

For Synchronized Chaos, posted here to get around WordPress’ post size limits.

Joe had argued, insisted that the color scheme for the bathroom be muted whites my argument was that no matter what the color, mildew would make it a nice, even shade of green. He’d seen some brilliant use of eggshell white in a do-it-yourself book, or maybe on TV, I don’t know. We compromised: he got to do the bathroom in whatever way he wanted, and I didn’t have to lift a hammer during the whole project. When he was finished every surface was a different shade of white; antique white for the tub and toilet, cream white for the counter tops and sink, and eggshell white for the tile floor and walls. White as a color scheme is tranquil, but hard to keep clean. Something else we would argue about, and make up for afterwards.

Please read more here:


David Mitchell says: As with all good writing, there is a bit of truth to the lie. As for writers I enjoy, it’s complicated. I read a lot of genre stuff like The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, The Ice and Fire Series by George R. R. Martin, that man can write characters so real and sympathetic it makes me cry! Other writers: Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Michael Chabon, Neil Stephenson, Cory Doctorow, H.P. Lovecraft, you get the picture I think.

You may reach him at dbmitchell@gmail.com and he occasionally visits the Crosstown Coffeehouse in Alameda, California. Open mic events there (music and spoken word) every Thursday at seven. I also occasionally attend these and would love to see more of the Synchronized Chaos family!

Family and tradition…Fran Laniado’s Memory Jug


                                            The Memory Jug


My mother died in her sleep last week. She was 78 years old. My brother and sister came for the funeral, and to get her things in order. My brother came from Washington D.C., my sister from Los Angeles, and I from New York City. My brother handled the legal stuff, my sister dealt with the friends and mourners that my mother left behind, and I made a memory jug.  It was something our family had done for loved ones for years. Our ancestors acquired the tradition from the slaves they once owned, who had brought it from Africa. It would carry all the pieces of her life. I used a vase I’d made for her when I was in my high school art class. It sat in the foyer, in the place of honor, where you could see it right when you walked in the front door. My mother saved everything I ever made. Each crayon drawing and lump of clay. My siblings and I were her greatest source of pride. I covered it in red clay, and while it was still soft and malleable I pressed objects into the clay. I pressed the objects that made up my mother into the clay. I pressed my mother into the clay.

This is what I put in my mother’s memory jug:

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Donna Arkee’s “Hollow”



i don’t get enough sun in the land of the sun-
it’s threads have worn and i untangle wildly, dancing,
loosening from a cosmic umbilical grasp…

how can you remember your hurt so well?
i don’t even know the path to my own

i constructed damascus steel out of the
frothing of a play-full jellyfish i wove my roses
from the paws of lions, i held my self swiftly, tightly,
my veins streaming, my ribs a comb for demons,
when i was rendered into two.

i squirmed under the solar columns, i shirked
from the rays, i peeled my aura away when it became sun-
burnt. my shrieks became leopards that wove my guts into a tapestry
of gore.

i feasted on dead spirits, that night.

i drank from the honey suckles that bloom at night.

i made a wreath of mist and i lay it on a silver fawn.

i drank from a turquoise lagoon during the mid day.
i shivered.

i dreamt.
i had undone my own blood and i was undoing my arteries-
i had slept for many years and i awoke-
with a lion’s bite.

i am undone in the land of the sun.

You may find Donna Arkee online here:  http://www.myspace.com/yoursoutherncanismine

donna arkee is an observer and neither a follower or a leader.
her dream occupation is to open a bath house in the czech republic so she can legitimately say that she launders czechs for a living.

Prologue to literary/magic realist/adventure/fantasy novel, the Legend of Jimmy Gollihue


PROLOGUE to George LaCas’ novel The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue:
Tell us, O Sorceress,
of Jimmy Gollihue, man of such cunning and trickery that his exploits shine
like the stars of the sky, a firmament of tall tales eternal.  Tell us of a great pool hustler, and what horrors led him to battle the red-haired man, the monster, in New York City.  Many were they whose pool halls he
played in, many who lost their bankrolls as Jimmy journeyed forth.

Jimmy missed Iris, Jimmy missed his girlfriend, his mind mocked him with the phosphorescent memory of her naked form kneeling before him, her green eyes upflung and wicked, aglow in motel room dusk.  Even when the man he was playing lifted his blue work shirt to show the butt of a gun nested there in his happy trail, Jimmy missed his girl.

“I’m here to play pool,” said Jimmy.  “I don’t want no trouble.”
    “Well, kid, sometimes you get a two-fer,” said the delivery man.  “You come through my town lookin to hustle honest workin men, reckon you got to roll with it.”

“I ain’t no hustler, mister, hell, I’m just out of high school.”
      The man with the gun in his belt smiled an ugly smile, full of mangy fossil teeth, the best looking ones, Jimmy thought, the ones that was missing.  If this dude is an honest working man, he thought, then I’m the tailgunner on the space shuttle.
      “Uh huh, and the check is in the mail,” said the man with the gun. “All three hundred dollars of it.”  Then he wasn’t smiling anymore.
      The three hundred dollars was in Jimmy’s pocket, which was why the man was moaning and crying, but under the circumstances Jimmy didn’t mention that.  Not because he was afraid, though he was, but because he wasn’t done yet.  Three hundred wasn’t enough.  The man had more. 
And damned if Jimmy was running out of there before he had it. 

Sing of the road and a boy on the road, and how your knight in shining armor wandered through days dark as Hell.  Sing of a knight benighted
by thoughts of glory, and deluded by hubris, whose beacon was the memory of a pool room sprite—sing, fair witch, of money lost and money won, of money plundered and in fury flung down upon green baize. 

Sing, O Iris, of Jimmy, and his journey down the crucible road.

Old Cody sat in his skiff in the middle of the river.  His
old fishing pole lay alongside the splintered oar.  A pieced-together line dipped baitless in the murmuring water, offering only a rusted hook to whatever fish were down there. 
      The old man lifted a half-gallon of Wild Turkey to his quivering lips, one gnarled thumb hooked through the glass ring, and as he swallowed his gullet jerked and not a stray drop of whiskey was wasted.  The old man drank, and when he was done he spun the cap back on the bottle and stashed it in the cool under the skiff seat.
      “If you only knew what I used to be,” he muttered darkly to the river, to the dusk in the woods around him with its strange figures lurking in the Spanish moss, the looming elephantine kudzu shapes.  “If you knew what I once was, you wouldn’t never cross me.”  Not a voice was raised to disagree, but every figure small and large, every windblown ivy visage, waited in judgment.
      An alligator rose beneath the boat.  A purple-black cloud passed in
front of the late afternoon sun. Old Cody floated along.  In the growing darkness he didn’t notice when his line snagged the bottom and his old fishing pole flipped over the side.

Tell us, O Iris, you Tinker witch, you angel of Travelers, you dowser of forest shadow:  tell us about Jimmy, who became your knight in shining armor, and of his keen hound dog, who never left the noble knight.  Tell us, you trafficker in shades and faeries, tell us of the dream you dangled before him, and how you made him run the Devil down.
      Tell us, O Iris, about the great hunter.

The alligator rose to meet him, and when it broke the surface and opened its jaws to receive Old Cody there was no one to see its mythic size, its mossgrown embarnacled hide.  Seeing judgment rendered, the figures
withdrew into the forest, and the breeze brushed the kudzu back into vapid
vegetable life.  Old Cody’s skiff floated to one bank, and the bottle rolled in the muddy water of its bottom.
      A few birds flew at Old Cody’s scream.  A possum ran behind a palmetto
at the crunch of the brittle old skeleton.  In the wide strip of sky above the river, a black buzzard circled briefly, but he was no fool—he saw the size of the monster, and he flew off to the west.
      The giant alligator, if that was what it was, slid back into the river and headed upstream.  North.

Tell us, O Iris, you weaver of wicked tapestries, you penitent of foxfire light:  tell us of your Knight, the dragon handler.  Tell us of the road you laid
for him, buttered in blood.
      Weave, witch, a tale of Jimmy, and how he battled in your name, tireless and true.  With colors fair and foul, dark dabbler, weft with thy bobbin of bone on the cartoon of night, and show him of proud visage even in the heart of thy rainbow smithy.

They stood by the river, Jimmy and Iris, and the night drew down upon them.
In the west, past the field of dead yellow grass and the thick woods beyond, the orange coin of the sun melted into dark red and pooled at the bottom of black trees, a jagged horizon of blood.  It was getting cold,
and Iris nudged up against Jimmy in the dark.  Above them was blue-black, and a sky that gave nothing back—no sign of a cloud, no moon or stars.
He knew he should say something, that she wanted him to, he felt her frantic heart beating against him.  But all around was the sound of the
river, its coming and going, its sinister flowing, murmuring messages only for ears that could hear them.  The light in the west was a purple echo, and then nothing.
Like a shroud, the night fell down upon them, and in the river was the whisper of some dark seamstress, muttering behind lips pursed with pins and needles.

Tell us, O Iris, you Tinker Goth, while you have us here waiting, for the dusk is drawing down like deadly nightshade, and the foxfire light is dawning.  Sing gently, you fey and reckless spirit, as you forge rainbows across the Lucifer night.
    Tell us, O Iris, about Jimmy Gollihue, and smooth the cobbles of his road.

Artist’s statement, from George LaCas:

If I can offer one clue to the writing process from my own experience, it’s this:  don’t lose sight of your vision.  The writers know what I’m talking about.  By vision, what I mean is that picture in your mind, or your soul, of the book you’d like to see, of the book you’d like your dreams to turn into.  It doesn’t have to be clear as a photo, or anywhere close.  It can come and go.  It can change, or grow, or die and be reborn.  When I wrote The Legend of Jimmy Gollihue my vision of the book changed three or four times.  

In the book, a young pool player named Jimmy becomes his girlfriend’s knight in shining armor.  The story is a variation on the heroic quest, and it takes place in the present.  The structure can be considered mythic, though I decided to twist up the narrative, in places, into a tug-of-war between competing narrators, one of whom is a confirmed liar.  Though there’s plenty of raw humor in the story, the overall tone is dark, and it flirts with such questions as identity, good vs. evil, dream vs. reality, the scary power of love, and the way in which we can become blinded and misled by obsession.  If the reader comes away with the suspicion that she/he has been conned into accepting a bizarre and unlikely fairy tale, then I’ve done my job.”

For more, including additional excerpts and author information, visit LaCas’ website:   magic9realist.com

At present THE LEGEND OF JIMMY GOLLIHUE is available only in a signed, numbered limited edition (trade paper).

Life and times of the unjobbed: Matt Baxter’s reflections


Unemployment soars, citizens rejoice!

by Matt Baxter

More people are jobless than there should be; at least that is what I keep hearing on the news. Fired, laid off, misplaced, downsized, reorganized or disorganized, removed for cause, or locked out. A veritable storm of working individuals prevented from doing their job, or any job for that matter. They hammer at the doors of employment like flesh-hungry zombies but are denied entrance. Maybe because they look like flesh-hungry zombies.

It turns out that there are acceptable numbers for unemployment, and then there are unacceptable changes in unemployment. When the workers (our team) far outnumber the non-workers (their team) the status quo is upheld. If their team grows in size, however, they are actually taking members from our team. We fear the competition and begin to believe that we’ll lose the next Big Game.

We are displeased when their team drafts other players because we secretly wish we were the chosen ones. The grass on their playing field really is greener, and they don’t have to wake up every morning to go to work like we do. We wouldn’t even care if we were third string sleepers-in, so we jump up and down, waving our hands and crying, “Pick me! Pick me!” [End of uncomfortable sports metaphor.]

An unacceptable change in unemployment is usually when it increases precipitously. If too many people are freed from their shackles at the same time, the ones left behind wring their hands as if they were sad for their former coworkers. In truth, they are just jealous. No one ever complains if unemployment declines by a large amount because they are happy to see all of the new faces at work, miserable just like them.

Still, some remain unemployed. When I am out walking the streets of my city, I wonder who these jobless folks are. Are they the people I see on the midmorning bus, or are those faces pressed against the glass headed to a job behind a counter, behind a grill, or at a desk? Are the jobless citizens the individuals shoving in front of me at the grocery, or the post office, or the barber during my daytime visits? Or are my fellow first shift non-busybodies on lunch break, preparing for their swing shift job, or on a much-deserved day off?

People who see me probably ask the same thing. I spend the morning packing my three children into the car, and then I stand on the front porch watching the oldest drive them all to high school. Out and about between eight and five, I am not old enough to be retired, I am not dressed as though I have anywhere important to go, and I do not appear to be a tourist. What is the explanation for my lack of participation in the economic machine?

I am newly a writer, unfettered from gainful employment. After my kids leave for school I write for a while. Two whiles if I am feeling particularly productive. After that I am out the door with the wife and we are walking the dog. If it is Wednesday we might walk to the nearby park to watch senior citizens play softball. That’s always a hoot. The run from home plate to first base can last as long as a meatball hoagie. The players don’t seem to worry about whether they are unemployed, they are so old they are just happy to be alive.

I quit my fifth-grade teaching job last spring so I guess I am jobless. But can that be true if I don’t want a job? I might be unemployed, or just unemployable. Maybe I am unjobbed. I write a monthly column for a local newspaper and get paid sixty bucks for the privilege of seeing my words (and a snappy little headshot) in print, but that doesn’t exactly make me employed. Not when the credit card bill comes in the mail.

At some point I very well might seek paid employment again, because I’ll need the money or to fill the endless hours of my life or because I feel like a slacker. Each of us, my children will tell me when they become cogs in the great economic machine, need to contribute to full employment. That way the economy will improve, and consumer confidence will soar, and I won’t be so embarrassing to them.

The last point is, of course, the most important.

But, I will respond to my lovely and gainfully employed children, full employment doesn’t even imply zero percent unemployment. That’s what award winning economists say. Full employment occurs when everyone in the economy who is willing to work at the current market rate for someone of his skills have jobs. Full employment does not imply that all adults have jobs. Some have said that an unemployment rate of 3% was full employment. Other economists have provided estimates between 2% and 7%, depending on the country, time period, and the various economists’ political biases.

So if it depends on so many things, how about we just decide that we are at full employment right this very second, even if the unemployment rate in my county is 7.9% (the worst since 1983), in California it is 8.2%, and for the U.S. it is 6.5%. That seems to fall within the parameters of the vague and varied numerical facts from the previous paragraph! Hallelujah! We have achieved full employment, despite what you and I have heard in the news!

If you don’t like those numbers, do something about it. Round up all your lay-about friends and drag them down to the first place you find with a Help Wanted sign. Then again, perhaps you should first go out and get a job yourself if you are without. Perhaps you think I should.

But I don’t want to. For now I shall remain unjobbed.

Work continues to confuse most people. Originally it was designed to provide income, allowing citizens to trade their human capital for the funds that buy the things they didn’t make themselves or get for free. Then, when cocktail parties were invented in the 1970s, work turned into human definition. No longer you are what you eat, but rather you are what you do. If your job wasn’t interesting or compelling, the other partygoers would shun you and you would drive home in miserable silence, plotting revenge by seeking promotions and pay raises that would only further your devotion to work and your lack of a life.

Work is overrated. Let’s be honest. We wouldn’t do it if we weren’t getting a paycheck. So let’s stop acting like unemployment is a bad thing. Rejoice! Use your free time to learn tae kwon do, or put crazy photos of your cats online, or call your friends to borrow money because you can’t pay the electricity bill.

In these times of economic peril, I urge you not to go back to work. For your own sake.


Author Bio

Matt Baxter is a humor columnist and author who dabbles in the art of wordsmithing because gainful employment took up too much of his time. His wife and children do support his efforts, but his unconventional approach to life sometimes makes them wonder. Read more at www.mattbaxx.com.