PRESS RELEASE, Trenzalore (14th August) — The Parker Institute for Time Travel Studies (The PITTS) has annouced that it will delay publication of the next issue of its popular Fish and TARDIS Sauce (FATS) newsletter until the staff’s mass lethargy has worn off.  The sadness, first reported in the month following Matt Smith’s retirement from the BBC’s Doctor Who, seems to have become a deep-seated melancholy that has caused FATS employees to seek solace by playing music of Karen Carpenter while sharing Grumpy Cat photos on Facebook.  The PITTS seeks to reassure all employees of its sister organization, and let them know the company’s health care plan will provide counseling, doctor recommendations, and whiskey as needed for self-medication.

Placid Savage, spokeswoman for The PITTS, said the current sadness is not unlike the anguish, grief, and heartache that can be seen on any sensible synonym search for words like sadness.  Savage, in a moment of unusual candor, rebuffed a reporter’s suggestion that running her operation from a graveyard at the end of time might be contributing to low employee morale.  She shrugged. “I don’t know.  Who give a shit?”

This prompted Herb Wells, Chief Technology Officer for Steampunk Technology, to later tweet:

  • The fucking 70s were happier than this! #disco #MoralEquivalentofWar

Wells has been suspended without pay pending a formal review of his communication skills.  He was last seen in College Station, Texas.

Meanwhile, The PITTS cancelled its 2014 plans to test the grandfather paradox and Shrödinger’s Cat experiment until the Institute has had time to consult with Peter Capaldi and Stephen Moffat.

At the time they went to press The PITTS’ calls to Kurt Cobain had gone unanswered.  The PITTS also reached out to Joplain and Morrison, but results have been a real letdown.

Until next time … if there is a next time … peace from Eeyore Keith

Copyright © 2013 Keith Parker.

Rocky Edge (A Short Story)

rockYou are standing at the edge of a cliff and looking out at the gray, churning water 30 feet below as waves crash over jagged rocks.  You back away, half-dizzy, stomach pumping with vertigo.  Behind you to your right is an outcropping of grim boulders, weathered from wind, flattened by time.  You thrust your hands into the pockets of your Levi’s and wince as your dry knuckles scrape against the hemline of the blue jeans’ stitching.

You shuffle and slide across black soggy leaves over to the boulder that grows out of the ancient Alabama mountainside.  Your hiking boots give you footing, but you still feel uneven, with pressure in your ears.

You turn and sit on a tongue of rock that forms a chair unusually well-suited for your thin frame, one of those natural seats that doesn’t seem real somehow, but that you know has been there since prehistoric times, before anything that we know as intelligent walked or slithered on earth.  And for some reason you remember a children’s bible illustration where Jesus, sitting on a similar rock, gestured His eight beatitudes to a throng.  You  can’t remember the commandments, but you know you are not among the blessed.

But thinking of childhood Sunday school does make you think of the word love, and you know you didn’t love Allisa, and you know that you never really loved her, that you were merely


obsessed by her.  And it was not even by her looks per se.  While not ugly, she would never pass Madison Avenue’s tests for looks.  Her crystal blues under those thinning black bangs turned you on.  But did they work on others?  Her Cuban accent and cravings for Thai food, her encyclopedic knowledge of architecture multiplied your


romantic longings, which she did not reciprocate.  Not until that final night.  Not until her passion boiled over and set you on fire.  Her friendship had been platonic and yet, and yet … there was always the “ooh ah” factor in your favor.

Allisa had giggled at the first sight of computer eye candy.  When was that?  1990? ’91?  You’d shown her the shiny new Windows 3 splash screen as it zoomed across your monitor.  Techie stuff won her heart as often as roses.  She broke out in a huge grin when you told her you were going to email something to yourself.   That was her first Internet epiphany, circa 1994.  Years later, last week to be exact, she texted a picture of herself to you.  In the photo she stood beside a mural at the art museum — a mural of a twisty mountain road — hand on her hip, a smile in her eyes, one black pump up in the air.

The fundraiser at the museum had gone well into the night.  You waited up for her.  She’d texted around 11:00 or so, admitting she’d had three glasses — and counting — of Merlot, admitting her date was a creep, admitting she really wished you were there.

Drunk yourself from a twelve pack of beer and no food, you called her cell an hour later.  She’d answered on the first ring with a sweet, “Hell-lloo.”

“I only have sex with good-looking guys,” she’d told you. “That son of a –.  It’s always like that, isn’t it?  They’re always like that.  Sex.  Drugs.  Rock-and-roll.  All of them.”

You didn’t follow her train of thought, muddied by wine, or yours, sullied by beer.  But your eyes had lit up.  Your face had brightened.

Unlike now.

Now your face sags, hangdog eyes.  You feel scaly, eyes bulging like a fish’s.  What was it the nerd said in the office last week?  The guy with the letters MISKA-some-shit-or-other on his sweatshirt that casual Friday?

“You’ve got that Innsmouth look going, buddy.”

You had no idea what that had meant.  You didn’t care.  You didn’t care then, and you don’t care now.  Your mouth is hanging open, though, so you can take in big gulps of air.  Mouth-breather.  You roll your


eyes.  Well, you are from Alabama.  That’s what people expect to see.  Mouth-breathers.

You sigh.  Your thoughts are gloomy, pre-winter clouds, roiling like a too-hot November day that presages tornado outbreaks.

You snap out of your daydream when you realize your hands are tingling.  They’re still in the pockets of your jeans. You’d sat down with them like that.  Now you wiggle them out, and the dry skin on your hands finally cracks, and two of your knuckles bleed.  You grip one hand with the other, worried you’ll get blood all over your North Face jacket and people will stare at you later.  Either that, or the coroner will ponder your bloody hands after they fish your body from the waters below.

There isn’t much you can do, is there?  Your mind is numbed by data entry and bad nutrition and subtle musings about madness.

“Do you want to come over?” you had said to Allisa Fuentes that night.

And Allisa Fuentes, from Santiago de Cuba, where communist revolution had been born, had giggled like a conservative white American schoolgirl of the 1950s.

“Sure!  I’m turning around now, and we can –.”

The phone had gone dead in your hand.  You gawked at it, a stupid grin on your face.  You tried her number again.  You tried it over and over, assuming she just hit a dead spot in coverage.  No signal.

“I’m turning around now, and we can –,” had been Allisa’s last words when, distracted, she lost control of the car, and plunged 1000 feet into the roaring mountain river below.

She was still holding the phone when they found her.  It was her right hand.  You’re looking at your own right hand now.  It’s still bleeding.  And scaly.   It’s the color of a fish.

You stand, roll your head, and shuffle away from the rocky edge of the cliff, wondering if the words “Innsmouth look” have any real meaning.  Maybe they do, but weird crap like that doesn’t matter.  You walk back and get in your car, a high-tech SUV that’d been idling, waiting for you, and when its display lights up, telling you your own cell phone has been detected by its Bluetooth rigging, you grind your teeth, take the phone and sling it as far as you can out the car window, over the bluff.   As you put the car into drive you think you hear the goddamn thing die on the rocks below.  You hope so.  You’re going to pretend you do, anyway.

The End

Copyright © 2013 Alan Keith Parker.  This is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Depression and Fire

Depression burns.  Have you ever looked at somebody was who was zoning out?  Seen a friend or relative completely out of touch?  Been around someone who just wasn’t quite “there,” quite “with it,” or quite lucid?  Ever feel like you’re dealing with somebody in the twilight of his day, and you’ve seen this for a week, maybe two, maybe longer?

Maybe that someone has been you.  Have you sat alone in a darkened room, your face all angles and facets, rigid lines replacing the dimples where your smile should go?


Depression stuns.  It burns.  It rattles the mind.  It takes the very thing that makes you you and turns it into a feral swamp.  Depression makes you empty, dry, fatigued, angry, and nervous.  Your thoughts are scattered around your brain like seeds on rocky earth.  You have no focus, no energy, and no reliable or rational thoughts.  Strangely enough, you’re probably not sad.  But you do hurt.

It hurts bad, doesn’t it?

Depression and its in-bred cousin, anxiety, take their toll on you physically, causing joint pain, muscle aches, frightening chest tightness, dull headaches, throbbing behind the eyes, sleep loss, and makes your ears feel like they’re stopped up.

The author William Styron said depression was the worst possible name for this disorder.  Paraphrasing him, “You’re not depressed, you’re mad.”

Depression is a madness

The novel I wrote back in 1999 addresses these issues through the protagonist, Dylan Delaney, and his would-be lover, Zelda Wilcox. I drew upon personal experience to help flesh out Dylan’s character so my readers might gain greater insight into the day-to-day agony of this disease.  While the novel is no longer available in print, I have published it for the Kindle.  And it is available here –> Fire Always Burns Uphill <– for only 99 cents.

If you’re curious about the plot, it’s an adventure and a love story

with sex

and quite a bit of humor, set against the backdrop of a mountain canyon.  I’ve also had curious reactions to the two main characters; men seem to prefer Zelda, while women seem to hate her.  I’d be curious to hear your reaction.

But more importantly, the novel is my attempt to socialize the anguish of depression, anxiety, ADHD, and panic attacks.  If I’m able to convince just one person that these illnesses are not character flaws, then the novel has been a success.  Millions of people suffer; none of them is not worthless, lazy, cowardly, faithless, or weird.

The stigma of mental illness haunts all of us, and the results can tear family and friends apart.  A word of advice before I let you go today:

  • First, if you know someone suffering, get medical attention.
  • Second, do not ever tell him or her to “snap out of it” or “chill out.”  Doing so is the moral equivalent of offering a diabetic a milkshake.

Thanks for listening.  Back to science fiction, fantasy and humor next time, I promise.

Until then, peace be with you.


Fire Always Burns Uphill

Fire Always Burns Uphill: A Novel of Mental Illness, Love, Lust, Betrayal, Revenge and Hay Fever.

** Would-be Lovers Trapped in a Remote Alabama Canyon **

** With a Psychopath on their Trail **

This is the premise of my first published novel, which started to catch on right before humanity wiped itself out in the catastrophe known as Y2K.

Now, 11 years later, Fire Always Burns Uphill is available as a Kindle e-book.

And do you know why?  The reason is quite simple: Money.

I’d like to make money.  A lot of money.  And the best way to do that is to tap something deep and unshakable in the human spirit that simply makes people want to hand you cash out of their pockets and purses.

Thus, this: my first blog post, which will be used to shamelessly promote the e-version of Fire Always Burns Uphill.

My creative writing, which started in earnest in 1992, has not existed in a vacuum, whatever the heck that means.  In addition to quite a few short story publications, the manuscript for Fire was resoundingly rejected by every respectable literary agency on the Island of Manhattan.  But I was not rejected in the typical form-letter manner.  Oh, no.  Instead, I was pulled from the brink of success and then yanked back by the scruff of the neck.  Up and down New York City, the men and women who buy great literature read my manuscript with an enthusiasm bordering on psychosis.  Here – finally – (they said in snail mail replies) was a writer who could generate characters on par with Pat Conroy, Joyce Carol Oates or Stephen King.   And these agents, obviously composing their rejections on cocktail napkins at the same happy hour, wrote these words same words in their respective rejections:

“As much as I’d like to represent this work of obvious talent, I simply cannot.  Perhaps I’m the wrong agent to be reading this.  Perhaps I’ll regret this decision.”

Well, I don’t know whether any of them regret their decisions.  But I know that I regret it.

After collecting enough of these “good” bad news pieces of parchment, my novel was accepted for publication by a weird print-on-demand company that sprung up and later crashed like a dot-com.

But that doesn’t change the fact that a dead tree version of my book actually existed (and may still).

And it doesn’t change the fact that I had multiple book-signings in Huntsville, Birmingham, and, yes, Fayetteville, Tenn.

And it doesn’t change the fact that I was interviewed by the local CBS affiliate.

And it doesn’t change the fact that my novel rocketed to #3 on the Amazon.com regional bestseller list.

The novel, it seemed, was about to go viral.

Or so I thought.  What really happened is that everybody was getting their souls and houses in order for the global catastrophe that did not happen on January 1, 2000.

Which brings me back to the e-book.

Fire Always Burns Uphill now available from the Amazon.com Kindle Store!

And, again, the reason is simple: money.  A lot of money.