Phil Mader ≈ Three Stories



Security Scanning


I was removed from an airplane for asking unusual questions such as, “Why do bananas turn black?” and “Why does sand get into my sandals?”. I was told those questions were appropriate on a Greyhound Bus, not on an airplane.

This is a machine that essentially views you naked. It sees through your clothes. It’s the best airport security scanner in the business.

I asked quietly: Does it scan for insecurities, fears, panic attacks, the ravines of despair?

Yes, it does Mr. M. and it’s scanning you right now. You have now got yourself in a jumble, in a state of manic anxiety. Your back is against the wall, again. The machine sees everything.

Who gave you the right to treat me like this.  You don’t know me. I’ll complain.

We have a track record. We’ve scanned the following world chess champions. Have a look.

But, why, the dates here go back in some cases to the 19th century, and in one case to the Renaissance.

We’ve been around for a while, far longer than most people think. Their grandparents were scanned; their great grandparents, without really knowing about it, in train stations, on one-horse buggies, on sleds, in boats of every shape. We go way back.

He read the names of the departed world chess champions and I was shocked to read that a good number had perished in sad or shocking, or sometimes horrible circumstances.

* Georgy Agzamov (1954-1986) – Russian GM fell between some rocks at a beach and died

* Alexander Alekhine (1892-1946) – choked to death on a piece of meat in 1946

* Curt von Bardeleben (1861-1924) – threw himself out the window of his boarding home at age 63

* Thomas Barnes (1825-1874) – too much weight loss at one time

* Joseph Blackburne (1841-1924) – heart attack

* Claude Bloodgood (1924-2001) – lung cancer while in prison for life

* Paolo Boi (1528-1598) – poisoned (murdered) in Naples

* Boris Kostic (1887-1963) – blood poisoning from a scratch

* Nikolai Krylenko – executed in Stalin’s purges in 1938.

* Leonid Kubbel (1891-1942) – executed by firing squad in Leningrad

* Salo Landau (1903-1944) – gassed by Nazis at a German death camp

* George Mackenzie (1837-1891) – suicide: took an overdose of morphine

* Vera Menchik (1906-1944) – died in the German bombing of London

* Alexi Troitzky (1866-1942) – died of starvation during the siege of Leningrad

* Abe Turner (1924-1962) – stabbed 9 times in the back by a fellow employee at the Chess Review office

Somewhere I’d read that certain tribesmen boiled their friends but roasted their enemies. In other words, they prefered to eat their friends as smoked meat, while eating their enemies as roast chicken.

Any world chess champions eaten by their opponents?

Not according to our records.  Oh yes, one.  He was eaten by his opponent for supper. But why, I asked.  The explanation came at full throttle. While playing the match, the later-to-be-digested chess competitor recited the entire minutes of the Proceedings of the Eighteenth International Seaweed Symposium.

 No kidding, I replied with a chill down the spine.

 No kidding.

But why didn’t the chess-champion-turned-cannibal just swear at him or something. He didn’t need to eat the man.

I totally agree. Swearing on the job can reduce stress and boost employee morale, The cannibal chess champion was perhaps also a psychopathic killer, a drug merchant, a pimp, a kidnapper, a loan shark and an extortionist but look, like everybody, he had to have good sides too.

Our machine tells us you too are swearing right now: Fuck, shit, mother fucker, damned existence!

Ok, ok, I’ll buy two scanners.

You get one free if you go on television in support of the product. Also you’re required to say, “The external-internal security scanner should not be used as a substitute for watching television.”

 We could get in trouble with our backers, otherwise. A game of chess?



While Slouching on a Rock Outside the Holy Smoke Mission Shop


The warmth clamps to my back as I climb Herridge  Lane under an autumn sun that makes curled rusty leaves glitter in the light.

I arrive at the Holy Smoke Mission Shop to ensure that I’d have sufficient of the small amount of herb I need to get me through the winter months  in this mountain enclave so perfectly draped in darkness in the hibernal days to come, especially as the shop’s now going the way of the dodo bird.

Inside, I make a gesturing sign towards the vending room, which I think communicates well enough that I’m interested in a purchase, but I’m wrong. “You gotta use your words” is the instruction given to me in mild  sassy annoyance. So I do and am admitted to a room with a desk weighted down with scales.  And I make my selection and the sale is made.

Outside on the tiny charming stony piazza, I sit slouched on a rock munching on the kind of potato chip I normally rail against.  Suddenly a woman propels herself from the shop out into the open howling hysterically.  A man emerges to console her.  When she’s calmed, she climbs the steps up to the deserted lane and disappears, only to return after a short absence.

This time I get a better picture of her, a troubled woman disheveled with the baggy crows feet eyes of an insomniac.  As she descends the stairs I offer her a small carton of apple juice to help alleviate her apparent suffering, whatever might be the source.  Presently, she loses her step and has a fall and begins balling in a high pitched whine you normally expect of a distressed child.  And she whips around at me wailing, “You made me fall—you made me fall with that apple juice,”.

I say nothing and move back to the flat stone I was sitting on.  The same man as before returns to soothe her, this time forcibly whispering things my deafness won’t allow me to hear.  Abruptly she turns towards me and half crying proffers, “You were trying to help,” then follows the man down the steps, his arm around her, like a warm blanket.





Dust rises like the dead

on a bare hill

Simple rodents with tails

like whips slither.

Teodoro tastes his blood.

Magnificent caterpillar trucks plunge

Into dark ravines

Construction helmets burst

Flames lick the sky

Race along high dry grass

Teodoro bathes his tired body

among reeds and lilies.

Masked men burst into huts.

Ancient grave stones hide villagers in the night.

A marble staircase ascends towards the heavens

Teodoro’s ears are tickled by cricket symphonies

Stadium stage microphones announce to massed

thousands packed inside

Trucks rumble over stones in the valley of the Gods

Mayan skeletons reveal themselves under antediluvian temples

Teodoro stumbles along the highway under crashing showers

A mouth tugs on an erect nipple

Sperm jettisons into cavernous quietude

Dainty blue bottles in shapes of flowers sit prettily

War planes thunder overhead

Teodoro slaps down a peso in the empty cafe

Small bananas are peeled under the huge eyes of the little

Rusting jeeps languish like carcasses

Steam rises like dancing fingers

Teodoro is half naked

Concrete sidewalks shatter

Mechanical shovels drag their giant claws through mud

A rich soft rug is surrounded by pearl white walls

Mango juice slinks down a tense chin

Haze hides volcanic mountains

Teodoro wakes up for his 5 a.m. shift

Coffee plants undulate under the touch of a leisurely wind

Orange fireworks light up a teeming sky in the mind’s memory

A warm horse blanket ends a chill

Teodoro is flung against a wall

The market place carpenter completes another casket

Apples roll underneath a table

Stillness in the chapel

A distant strumming of guitars

Sizzling on a hot stove

The village priest whispers

Soil is thrown

A new cross stands erect… among the ancient and the stooped.


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