All posts by Robert Boucheron

Architect and freelance writer

Belmont Sketches

Three short sketches of the Belmont neighborhood are in the current issue of Gravel, They are “The Livestock Market,” “The Night Roost” and “Flowering Trees.” Other sketches of Belmont have appeared, such as “Gibson’s Grocery” in Origami Journal, and “Belmont Park” in Bangalore Review, More are on the way.

Two new stories

Two of my stories just appeared in free online magazines. “The Man of Straw” is in StepAway Magazine (UK) at “The Choir Director” is in Origami Journal (Toronto) at I wrote “The Choir Director” as the opening of a mystery novel, of which other pieces have been published. The novel features Louisa Abernethy Jones as a newspaper columnist who investigates the life and death of church organist and choir director Ralph Willis, in Hapsburg, Virginia.

The Castle

“The Castle,” my story, is in the new issue of Short Fiction, published by Plymouth University, England. I have not seen the magazine yet–they say it’s in the mail. Leander Preddy, heir to a Gilded Age fortune, meets Heracles, a circus strongman. They form a “band of brothers” and move into a fairy-tale castle on the Blue Ridge. It’s a spoof on the Dooley family and Swananoa. If the Dooleys had a son, this might have happened.

Wind Chimes

Walk along any street in this residential enclave, a low-rise affair of cottages and garden apartments. Admire the well-trimmed hedges, the mature oaks and beeches, the pervasive sense of quiet. The occasional car glides slowly past, rubber tires on smooth asphalt. The vehicle, likely as not, is electric-powered. It sneaks up on you and passes, faintly whirring.

Hear the birds chirp and warble. Hear the squirrel sigh from the telephone pole, like a miniature hermit atop his column, doing public penance for private sins. Hear the pressure ease from your head like air escaping from a balloon, as you pause on the brink of communion with nature. “When to the sessions of sweet silent thought,” as Shakespeare says in Sonnet 30.

A mysterious tinkle steals upon your ears; a jingle-jangle creeps into your mind. Like a wisp of incense, it carries the hint of a Chinese temple, a pagoda wreathed in mist in a mountain landscape. Like a clash of finger-cymbals, it suggests a dancing-girl, a spirit from the desert sand of Arabia. Or you think of a glockenspiel gone astray, or an unhinged music box. What in the world is that tuneless sound?

Look right and left and furtively behind. Glance up at the sky, as placid as a pond. Then from the very corner of your eye, catch a glimpse of movement, a gleam and a tremble, a silvery flash. From the front porch of a bungalow, suspended from the beam that spans the stubby obelisks—yes, there, over the potted geranium, the wind chime dangles and dribbles its song.

A puff of breeze sets it in motion; a breath of air breaks its fragile peace. Then a rattle of spoons, a merry crash as of breaking glass, another chime in a discordant key. Once you identify the source of pollution, you hear it from all quarters. The neighbor’s porch has a wind chime draped from the wooden gingerbread. And the house beyond has three in front, two on the side, and at least one more on the deck in back.

In this oasis of calm, this suburban paradise, what demon suggested that a wind chime was required? To what troubled soul did it seem like a good idea? Surely, he will have his reward. People purchased these unmusical instruments; they ordered them from catalogs and hung them from hooks; they received them as gifts and put them on display. With good intentions, they were like settlers transplanting an invasive species.