the detective 1: horizontal departure


I wake up slowly in the soft infinity,
to discover I’m a dried out coffee stain
on the office floor.

By eight o’clock, I’ve morphed into a forgettable insect;
in half an hour, give or take, I’m a currawong
with a broken wing that fluttered through a window;
and when a customer knocks at nine,
I’m vaguely human, vaguely a detective,
polite, denatured, and unnatural.


My client’s dressed in gray scale
with retrolescent highlights,
hand-tinted, frame by frame.

She asks me if I’m qualified,
and when I indicate my prized achievement,
she is not impressed.

This is a diploma in designing
counterfeit certificates,
awarded magna cum laude.

I have ready explanations.

It depends who reads it.
The quantum onlooker always changes
what’s onlooked.

And it was left here by a previous occupant,
an investment adviser, as I recall.

Let’s get down to business, shall we?
For everything we learn, a fantasy’s forgotten.

When I mastered quantum theory,
an important dream was lost:
I need to rediscover
what lies beyond the obvious sea.

Your case is curiously nonsensical, 
but I’m not the kind of detective
who rushes headlong into anything at all.
All of my decisions are based
on thorough mathematical reasoning,
and what my horoscope says.

I consult my diary, scratchings on the wall—
shaky rows of four with diagonal reinforcement.

With Aquarius ascendant,
I have a little brooding and moping
on my schedule for today,

but I think that I can fit you in.

Let’s take a walk in the world outside,
there are things you need to see.

I’m afraid I cannot go with you.

Before my revelation, I undertake
a brief but suspenseful study of my nails.

I’m imprisoned in this office,
and I can never leave.

Then how will you resolve my case?

A single phone call should be sufficient,
I’ll contact the Embassy of the Ocean.

My client taps a foot and paces,
fishes in her handbag and retrieves
an origami model of a crumpled
piece of paper, a Smith & Wesson .38,
and a fish.

She targets my crescent-moon glasses
with the fish,
and by unexpected oceanic magic,
invisible doors in the walls and in the ceiling
are restored to visibility.

After brief discussion,
counterpoint and rapprochement,
we agree that we’ll depart
in a horizontal and westerly direction.

(to continue)


Something I should have realized sooner: this piece does not display properly in the WordPress Reader (the web page is fine). The same thing applies to some earlier pieces as well. Unfortunately I don’t have a solution at present …

Maintaining the balance of fact and fantasy in the world is possibly the work of Jakaíra, the god of clouds and mist in the mythology of the Brazilian Tupi-Guarani peoples. She makes appearances here and here.

The Embassy of the Sea appears in China Miéville’s intricate and imaginative novel Kraken.

artwork  before and after facts (part above)

45 thoughts on “the detective 1: horizontal departure

    • Thank you so much for the feedback and kind comments. This is my third attempt at serialization, and to date I’ve been a little unsure about it. It does give the opportunity for a more complex narrative, but makes it harder to dip in in the middle. In any case, it’s fun to write and I’ll probably do a few more.

      Quantum mechanics seems to have a semi-mythical status independent of the facts, so I just stretched it a little further.😃

      Liked by 2 people

    • Glad you enjoyed. It may be a quantum mechanical stretch but close enough, and I think that “to onlook” is a sensible verb because that’s what onlookers do. Otherwise they’d be lookoners.😸

      Yes, we learn and our wonderful fantasies disappear and we can’t get them back. Unfortunately that’s how reality works.


    • Thank you for the kind feedback. To be honest, given that writing is a kind of reflection of the writer, from the inside, it feels like a bit of a jumbled mess. Still, I guess that’s better than being totally one-sided, and not even aware that the other side exists. As I may have been in the past.🤓


  1. More magic. The first two stanzas really hooked me. Pun intended.

    And this (can certainly relate!):
    With Aquarius ascendant,
    I have a little brooding and moping
    on my schedule for today…

    Priceless: “I take a brief but suspenseful study of my nails.” 🙂 The subtle humor and deep wisdom are a delightful combination, Steve. Your physics, engineering, Buddhism and humanity sure make an intriguing combination. All the elements of inner and outer.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha. I find it hard to choose between brooding and moping, but whichever, I make sure I have enough time available to do it properly. 😸

      Glad you mentioned the nails, easy to imagine, and I was pleased with those lines. Whatever mixture I might be, I have to admit it sometimes it feels like I’m inside a washing machine for the spin-dry cycle. Thank you, BG. 😃

      Liked by 1 person

    • What’s the line? The sincerest form of flattery. The fish was inevitable. (I find they often are.)

      As long as the brolgas are dancing, I’m good. My North Pole letter (assuming we still have a North Pole) asks for wise leadership and climate change reversal, and failing that, an Islay Single Malt. 🐒 Thanks Peter.


  2. Is the protagonist’s transformation into a forgettable insect an allusion to Franz Kafka’s story Metamorphosis? I read it not long ago, and the sorry fate of the protagonist weighed me down for a day or two afterwards (yes, I sometimes take what I read too seriously).
    I like the irony of displaying a diploma in designing counterfeit certificates. No wonder the client wasn’t impressed. 😉 However, the detective does claim to have mastered quantum theory … that’s quite the boast.
    Glad the lady didn’t use the Smith & Wesson .38. I’m generally not a fan of bloody endings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the feedback, Magarisa. I can see there’s a parallel, and maybe when I first started with insects in my fiction and poetry, I was thinking of Kafka, but now there are stacks: transformations in both directions, spiders, moths, wasps, ants… way too many. I prefer not to speculate on what that says about me. 😜

      The client must be very talented. I have to confess that as well as insects, I do have apocalyptic leanings which might involve a smidgeon of violence (sorry). 😸

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome, Steve. So your writing has metamorphosed in both directions of the biological spectrum – that’s peculiarly fascinating. Today, I saw someone drinking coffee from a cup with a huge cockroach on it. Just a static, 2D one, of course. Nobody else ever uses that cup.
        Violence has never appealed to me, neither in fiction nor in real life. I find it difficult to watch or read about physical pain and suffering. Trigger warning please? 😊

        Liked by 1 person

        • Magarisa, I fully understand. My work sold to publishers is definitely PG for all the standard reasons. Although inconstant light is rated up to PG, I don’t think it actually gets there. The most recent example of typical violence would be “Transit Authority” (two weeks ago), with an intentional drowning and a blackened skull indicating a a cataclysm. It’s fantasy/scifi violence, but violence none the less. PS: Once a vending machine discharged a dead cockroach swirling around on top of my coffee. I didn’t drink it.

          Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve been fortunate in finding a little relief in lecture theatres and laboratories (and now poetry 😃). I sometimes wonder whether our marvelous digital devices have helped with that aspect. It seems ridiculous, surely they have. That’s what I tell myself anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Fortunately I always go directly from WordPress Reader to browser when I find interesting pieces. So I got this in its full glory. Great storytelling. I’m looking forward to its continuation.

    Liked by 1 person

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