Aaron Cael

Category: old writing

Cutting Room Floor: Make Bad Bread


So this first issue of TITLE was originally going to be about bread. The staff of life. Gluten-free or otherwise. Still is, in some ways. Bread being a metaphor for the means of surviving in a very nitty-gritty, dat-to-day basis. The money behind the art. The things you do to keep the lights on.

Part of this was my mother’s recipe for pita bread. I was on a bread-baking kick for awhile there and I still advocate it to anyone who hasn’t made a loaf or some flatbread. It’s an experience of demystifying some of the basics, getting a feel for the intersection of art and science in any act of creation. What’s great about bread is that it’s very much an artifact of it’s inputs, craft, and setting. The yeast, the flour, and water interact with the kneading the humidity and the heat to produce something that is unique to that time and place. It’s a food and a photograph.

At any rate, here’s the missing recipe. It’s not an ideal recipe it’s just the bare minimum of something functional that will make an edible product. The idea is to cross that line and make something Not That Great but to Make Something. The perfect is the enemy of the good and all that.

So here’s a recipe for some reasonably edible pitas:

Pita Recipe

3 cups flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp yeast
1.5 cups water

combine. knead.

put in bowl.

Let it rise.

45 minutes

Punch it down, knead it out. Wrap it up and put it in the fridge.


Go directly to dividing it into 5 pieces. Make pieces into flat circles. Think pizzas or pitas. Flatbread. Spritz with water if you have that ability.  Let that rise in a warm space. Should take about as long as it takes to preheat your 500 degree oven. Bake 5 minutes, check it at 3 min. (Your oven temp is probably wrong, no matter what. Whatever)

Pull them out, put them on a cooling rack if you have one or just some place that is not an oven. There you go, you’ve got bread. Dip it something, slather it in butter, or just eat it in miserable poverty.

Old Writing: Onsen and Bear, 2006

Yeah, this never saw print for obvious reasons. Was going through a deus ex machina phase.

– – –

I turned away from the bear in the onsen, him glowing beatifically as only one ensconced in the perfection of a blank mood can be.  What is the word for that?  That blankness shot out of just a little too much eye contact like one caught but not bothered, in repose but not loose.  I’m looking for something that would describe a spiritual variety of smug.  I pressed my tiny towel tighter to the front of my thighs as I made eye contact with a stranger in the middle of his life and I said, “This bear.  He is.”

These words solved nothing, nor provoked more than a sharp exhalation from the man, who made the briefest of eye contact before shooting half a look to where my towel did an amateur job of covering my genitals.  As a round-eyed, bulge-cocked uninvited barbarian, I accepted my position as an object of knee-jerk fascination.

Once outside the baths, toweled, dressed, and flushed, I sniffed the air and walked the lanes of the town, breathing hazy particles flaked from walls older than me by 30 years but designed to look older by 600.

Seconds later, robots came through and just fucking annihilated everything.

MIAR: Most Inconvenient Augmented Reality System

One failed novel ago–working title “出口 DeGuchi”–I was fooling around with a plot point that relied upon an interface somewhat like Google Glass but without the glass. This was 2006 or so, VR headsets and bulky sunglasses with little screens in them were out there but not suitably satisfying/immersive for something that would be a convincing additional to daily reality. Not to mention they were expensive, dorky, and very obvious that you were using it. And they took you out of the reality you were in, rather than adding to it. An interface for ubiquitous computing would have to be cheap, durable, and subtle.

Synesthesia was also on my mind. How it worked, how we interpret sensory input and either categorize it or let it all come rampaging in to overturn the furniture in our mental rooms. I was living in Japan at the time and had one of those 3 am chats at the bar about how Japanese stoplights were the same shades as the ones in the rest of the world but they called the bottommost color “blue” rather than “green”. Again, 3 am profundity aided by far too much Carlsberg. But it got me thinking: what if you could figure out the language of the raw sensory input before it was received and interpreted by the visual cortex? Or the auditory cortex? Could you spoof input, send errant signals? Could it be controlled well enough to make it an interface? Could you play Quake?

So I started writing about such a system. Cheap, subtle, crazy. A wearable computer generating audio cues that are interpreted by a hacked brain as visual input. Nothing more obvious than a smartphone and headphones.

The key thing, of course was using some powerful drugs to induce a synesthetic state in the user.

MIAR_drugsOh and of course, figuring out what that raw audio input would be, what it would produce. Likely, every human brain is significantly different. i.e. we’re all seeing a different blue, just it’s close enough that we can all call light of those wavelengths reflecting back “blue”.

But I’m a writer. I can write a fictional team of researchers smart enough to get around that. Thank god I don’t have to actually make such a thing.


And what would you use it for? Well, the first generation would likely be a toy. Put color overlays over things. Low resolution graphics. All part of the discovery process of what parameters you can tweak for what result. Since the human head doesn’t come with a video-out port (not even a goddamn USB), this might be the sort of thing the user has to tweak for themselves, knob twiddling to change the nature of the audio to create certain test patterns.


And of course, the sci-fi plot twist: BUT WHAT IF THE BAD GUYS GET AHOLD OF SUCH GREAT POWER? Well, then they’re most likely going to put up ads for Nabisco products and online Masters degree programs in your peripheral vision. Y’know, the Faustian bargain of modern civilization.

Anyway, since this concept was woven through the standard Holden Caufield in Osaka first time novel writing bullshit, it went down with the ship. Might have to pull this idea back out for something more interesting and shorter.


“Gilby, Later Than Now” – Short Story Fragment, Summer 2005


A year after college, I spent a few months living alone in an apartment in downtown Osaka. Having not yet succumbed to the nightlife and possessing very little Japanese for getting around, I spent a lot of nights drinking cup sake (always the red one with the calligraphy O on it) and writing short stories or scripts. This is a product of that, something I thought I’d revisit and turn into something very different but probably won’t.

– – – –
Gilby, Later Than Now

Gilby checked the locks on the house again, yanking on the handle until the wood groaned to his satisfaction.  All said and done, it would have been easier to kick a hole through the wall of the crumbling shack than to monkey with the locks but a fierce and abiding notion of the virtues of defending personal property prompted the locking ceremony every time Gilby passed the threshold of his tired clapboard domain.  Two ancient deadbolts and the click lock on the freshly installed brass handle were snapped into place.  Feeling the difficult bending of finger joints wrapped in a dirty t-shirt, Gilby vaguely recalled stealing the ornate door handle from a sedan parked outside the Home Depot.  It had been locked too, but who could tell a thing about what had or had not happened.  He shifted his gaze out over the gully where there were snakes and Tanner’s body still lay.  These were the things he knew for certain; everything else had its own rules.  The presence of the body and the snakes were checked upon three times a day on the long looping path back from the outhouse. This was where he was headed, for trip number two of this day with no certain name.  He began walking, accompanied by a shotgun marked with the letters “T.B.”
Gilby lived alone.  There was a school of thought that contended that this had not always been so, that the body of Tanner used to also occupy the shabby frame house, used to, in fact, prepare meals and converse at length about topics of debatable value.  This school of thought, in the face of the overwhelming evidence in favor of absolute uncertainty was pronounced heretical in the mind of Gilby and summarily sentenced to a drowning death, a punishment commenced daily by a generous ration of bourbon infused slowly and constantly.  All schools engaged in speculation about the alleged state change of the body from living to dead were not only executed but all friends, acquaintances and relations were likewise submerged by strong hands into an aggressive riptide of high quality distilled spirits.

The spirits came from the boxes, stacked to the ceiling and occupying a full half of the interior volume of the cabin.  Besides spirits, the boxes held bottled water, dehydrated fruits and vegetables, small packets of unbleached flour, and assorted dried meats, including ostrich and venison.  One box found this morning contained nothing but freeze-dried astronaut ice cream in official NASA silver packets.  There were four shipping containers of similar contents arranged around the house and a few more caches of the stuff out in the eight miles of swamp likewise arranged around the house.  Gilby spent the majority of his non-outhouse hours opening boxes and sifting through their contents.

Every day when the breeze shifted from the warming swamps to the dry areas beyond the thin pines, more boxes arrived from the sky, lobbed down to earth from the bellies of pearly airships.  Tanner had once shown him through binoculars the Japanese women who piloted these half-size zeppelins, with their brown-tinted hair, blue eye shadow and impeccable khaki uniforms.  These women stood at attention at the cramped front of the cabin, holding boxy microphones and smiling broadly while they ran through their daily monologue.  The words were most often lost to the breeze and the trees but ‘love’, ‘peace’ and ‘humanitarian’ were spread throughout like punctuation and were the only ones Gilby would usually catch.  There were never hands seen tossing out packages but rather they popped out like eggs from a turtles ass end, deploying a limp silver parachute behind them that quickly tangled in the trees after a half-hearted deployment.  After gathering the boxes, Gilby would climb the trees to slice the cords and gather chutes from halfway up a pine or cypress while scanning the heavens for any sign of the pyramid of three red diamonds that marked the airships.

Scenery Interlude: Failed Novel 2006


I’m off roaming in non-city place this weekend so here’s a bit of scene-setting from a project seven years back that nosedived somewhere around connecting the late-middle to the end and the early middle to a beginning that didn’t feel like some guy chewing your ear off on a long bus trip.

– – –

At the hospital across the street, there’s a digital readout with a blinking center colon that hums faintly when it switches the minute.  There’s a parking lot, mostly empty, with yellow streetlights jutting up from concrete pylons amid the scattered compacts, sedans and minivans.  They all look either black or white in this light, with buttery tones from the overhead lights and faint pulses of red from the clock and the jittery neon cross on the building’s side.  Its eleven o’clock and I just got home from work.  I’m on the second-story porch, leaning on the wooden rail and looking into the hospital’s last lit windows.  The light inside is the yellow of old newspapers.  There’s no pattern to rooms lit and no movement inside.  I’m trying to remember what the halls looked like with double-swinging safety doors and parked wheel chairs outside every third room.  I unlock my front door, get a beer and come back outside.

The smell of vaporized asphalt from the day’s traffic drifts around the night breeze.  It dims the paint on my building, it settles in the grass and in my lungs and it mixes with vapor in the haze that hangs a corona around every streetlight like a paper lantern.  It gives a thickness to the air that makes the invisible seem more real, makes the past and the future more plausible in the still of the present for the marks they leave in the dusty air.  Everything that happens, its at least for moving these little specks around that we can barely see.

I squint to blur the scene, to refract the streetlights into long-armed stars and make a grid to see the path I’m looking for, one that snakes out from the avenue ambulance-sized and then shrinks to the diameter of a gurney from the overhang by the emergency room.  I want to see the wake of cleared dust disrupted by where they wheeled her in 3 months ago.  I remember getting the news after work and looking out the window at the hospital and thinking “Oh Jesus.  Life, I’m going to throttle you for making me move into a place across the street from the hospital where my grandmother is dying.”  That night I drank a half tumbler of whiskey with ice and jumped the fence to wander the hospital’s perimeter, looking for her window and vainly guessing.  After I had visited inside and taken notes on the subject, I would go over the fence nightly and sit under her fourth floor window and draw pictures of cardinals in my pocket notepad.  She loved cardinals.

I see none of this.  Right now she’s just more mulch wrapped in quilted oak, slotted in a wall someplace nondenominational where her life’s leavings will never fertilize new life.  I want to be buried under a green young tree.  I want to die under a dark young woman, in bed like all cowards.