Strings On My Plate

A short story
by R. Virgil Ellis


Each string was about to be a thought. Each had letters, hidden variables, which if discovered would allow the thought to happen.


I almost solved some in one of the strings. The first felt like a crunch pain, a solstice in the rain. It flew like an argonaut, ergo naught. It would have had no effect on the possible thought except for a slight straining or bending.


Another variable had a freight load of crying, wire-strapped bales of punches and stabs, there would have been wailing and lamenting, purposeful grief that connected with rails and clashes of silverware, rusty cutlery.


Here's one coming really fast, a slider or base being stolen. Contraband hurtling down a gangplank, sacks of brown rice tumbling end-over-end landing with terrific thumps and clouds of dust in a freight car racing through Quebec, or is it Dubuque, clattering menacing anthems, crossing signals dopplering, six diesel engines rumbling under a full moon.


Now mercury vapor swirls around footsteps. A crossing guard waves children with pajamas and pale-blue skin on and on into cubes drifting and tumbling into specks in the distance.


These are all I may have solved in that string. It slipped from me then and another took its place, and then another. I tried to keep the progression orderly but the strings piled up on my plate like spaghetti. I sat twisting them in my fingers for a long time.


Copyright © 2010 R. Virgil Ellis
Image © Stitcherladyxx,


Ron writes: ronellis
"What a delight to again have a piece, new and unpublished, chosen for Cezanne's Carrot. It's such a pleasure to find editors with your view of "the spiritual." For me there is no distinction between physical and spiritual, for, in Buddhist terms, samsara and nirvana are one. Just as matter ineluctably slips out of the reach of our instruments, so does language slip our tongues into the meta-verbal, into frissons that vibrate at the same frequencies as the dimensions outlined in string theory, portents of our salvation which is always already here."

R. Virgil (Ron) Ellis lives near Cambridge, Wisconsin, where he and his wife are busy restoring fifty acres of wetland and savanna. He is an Emeritus Professor who taught writing, literature and media at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. For an exploration of his work see

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Skylar Smythe May 16, 2010 at 11:52 am

There is such a resonating poetic melody to the short story. Does Mr. Ellis also write poetry? I’m inspired!

Skylar Smythe
Toronto, Canada


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