October 2023 - Issue No. 15
We’re in Casablanca. I’ve been here before but Derek has not. “It would be beyond belief to go to Casablanca and not go to Ricks Café,” he famously said when we planned this trip – and here we are. ‘Casablanca’ is his favourite film of all time, no question. He’s said it often and downloaded and watched it again on the flight from Paris.
It’s only a weekday lunch but the effect of Rick’s Café is immediate. Two men lounge in the doorway four or five steps up toward the entrance, as if dressed for the film itself. They welcome us with deference, then hand us off to the maître d’ who ever-so-politely hands us off to our waiter, Khalid.
We’ve been pitched backwards in time to 1942. The music swirls gently around us and through the alabaster columns that rise to a skylight far above. It’s Glenn Miller. “At Last. my lonely days are over and life is like a song.” Where is Bogey? Rick Blaine? And Bergman, who plays the deceptive but disarmingly gorgeous Ilsa Lund in the film? Will she rush in at any moment?
I’m dizzy. It’s the music. Derek orders a beer and I choose a sparkling wine. Nearby is a baby grand piano and a set-up to make it a trip: bass and trombone. Must be the real thing for evenings, we decide. Never mind. The scratchy old-recording sense of history is fine for me, I say. I grew up on...
We Can Be Friends
“Hey, fatso,” someone shouts, awakening Petticoat, the hippopotamus, from her snooze. She shakes her great head and bares her teeth and tusks. “I wouldn’t do that,” she says. “I'm unpredictable, you know, when I'm frightened.” She squints her tiny eyes looking for the culprit.
“Here, here!” A small black and white creature jumps up and down, higher each time.
She frowns. “What are you doing here? Don’t you know it’s dangerous in the hippo pen?”
He backs away from her, tail between his hind legs, and when he’s far enough away, he stands to his full size and glares at her. “I'm not afraid of nothing.”
She swishes her great tail and turns away. “Don’t.”
“Don’t what? What’s that mean?”
Now she can’t see him. “Don’t come too close. I may step on you.” She peers down at her great feet. Somewhere in her brain, she strains for a memory. It couldn’t be, could it, that this creature could be a friend. She’s been alone in this enclosure so long she’s nearly forgotten the etiquette her mother taught her. “I don’t remember seeing anything like you,” she finally says. “What are you?”
“A dog, silly.”
A dog. She’s never heard of a dog before. Zookeepers, yes. Veterinarians poking and prodding her, tickling her cheeks so she’d open her mouth and they could check inside. “I can’t eat you so what are you good for?”
“Sheesh! Don’t knock your brains out.”
This dog, whatever that means, is nothing more...
The Cat Days of Summer
Daniel Novak and Gerardine Gail Esterday
The long, slow climb to the highest branches stretching into an open sky.
Focusing on the ground, a cat, gray and white tiger-striped
Languid and lazy, sprawled across the golden rays
Slinking along the forest’s edge of gravel green
Alongside a gray and black, orange and white tiptoeing Tortie
Sun King, a golden avatar gracing the heavens
High above the humming metal boxes that lay scattered about the landscape.
Stopping, staring, a snake and bug wrestle just off the road
Bestowing red, orange, and golden yellow warmth gently down the patchwork of branches, Tiger tripping past, pouncing, and missing a mole
Flowing heat, flowing passion that melts as it touches the cold ground
Intent on the snake, intent on the wasp;
Intent on dinner, All separate. No one eats.
Swirling among the bursting flowers frozen in worship
Seeing a mask under the leaves. I hold back food,
Green, blue, and purple fields of vibrant lucidity stretching into the distance
Melting dreams, melting time, the cat wakes
Setting out a spoonful of potato salad ~
BIOs: Daniel George Novak (Dan Novak) is an American vrăjitor. Dan was born and raised in Chicagoland and now lives with his wife and children in Boulder County Colorado. His arguably relevant inquiries enable lucidity. However, Dan has no other currently published works. He spends most of his free time pulling on loose threads in the thin air. You can find Dan at craftersgate.com
Gerardine Gail (Baugh) Esterday is a nomad living for...