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ralph robert moore


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ralph robert moore

Copyright © 2012 by Ralph Robert Moore.

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conscious of the clock
february 1, 2012

Q: So, did you finally get your dishwasher installed?

A: We did! And it's wonderful. As I said last month, we went to an appliance store, picked out the one we wanted from the pretty dishwashers all in a row, arranged for installation and haul-off off the old, nonfunctioning washer. The day arrived, the two installers arrived, Abbot and Costello, the old washer was hauled out of its square cave under the kitchen counter, the beautiful stainless steel one connected and slid in, but then Abbot cheerfully announced the new washer was no good. It leaked.

Wow. Disappointment. We had been taking turns hand-washing our dishes, pots, pans and silverware for a week, to where our hands were red, thought we were finally free of that, and it turns out we're not.

(I know, some people will say, "Really? You were upset about that? Your hands got red from washing dishes? Wait until you meet someone who has no hands." Okay, so what should I do when I meet them? Shake feet?)

The thing was, if they could have simply gotten a replacement dishwasher then and there, that would have been fine. But apparently the way the store works is, you have to wait 24 hours before you can order a replacement. And why would that be? Abbot and Costello explained the reason, a nice lady on the phone explained it, clearing her throat every half-minute, but their explanations made as little sense as the plot to the first Mission Impossible movie.

The woman I spoke to on the phone said she'd have a store employee call me the next morning to tell us the new delivery date. Now, if you're anything like me, your first thought is going to be you sitting in your home tomorrow, conscious of the clock, it's 11:45 in the morning, no call yet, and you're wondering at what point you should call the store. Now? Noon? Twelve-thirty? One o'clock? And what's going to happen when you do call? "Well I'm sorry, but I don't see any note here about delivering a new dishwasher. Our records indicate your new dishwasher was installed yesterday. Have you checked your kitchen?"

But actually, around ten that morning, a man who clearly had received excellent customer service training called, very polite and professional, and let me know our new dishwasher would be installed the following Tuesday.

I was reassured.

Later that evening, while I was working on a story, I got an 800 call. "Mr. Moore? This is so-and-so from such-and such. I want to start by expressing our apologies for the installation problem you experienced with your recent dishwasher purchase. I've contacted the warehouse, and we expect to have a replacement dishwasher installed for you this coming Wednesday." "But, the guy who called from the local store said it would be Tuesday." "Let me call that store. I was under the impression we were handling the replacement installation from our national call center." An hour later, I get a call from the polite and professional guy from the local store. "I guess evidently the national call center is going to handle this one." "So is the dishwasher being installed on Tuesday? Or Wednesday?" "Let me call them back and have them recontact you with a delivery date." I'm trying to get my attention back on the story I'm writing, no longer reassured, when Bringgg! "Mr. Moore, this is the call center again. I spoke to so-and-so at your local store, and want to confirm with you we do have you down for installation of a replacement dishwasher on this coming Wednesday. The installer will call you the day before to provide you with a four hour window during which he'll arrive."

Somewhat reassured.

We didn't hear anything from the installer by five o'clock that Tuesday, so I called him (I was clever enough to ask for his name and direct phone number from the national call center woman.) He answered promptly, background noise suggesting he was at a restaurant, surrounded by braggarts, waiting for a pick-up food order. "Moore, right? I have it down on my worksheet to check with the warehouse tomorrow to see if your replacement has arrived. Do you know which warehouse they sent it to?"

Oh, I am so not reassured anymore!

But it did get installed that Wednesday. By a short, slight guy who, working alone, had it hooked up, slid in, in half the time Abbot and Costello took.

And now we have a beautiful new machine in our home.

Q: Tell me something strange you witnessed recently.

A: Can it be from a few months ago? Mary and I were watching a show we had recorded, I think it was an episode of Breaking Bad, it may have even been the season finale, and once it had finished, we deleted the file and the DirecTV system defaulted to the list of recorded shows we still had on the hard drive. In the upper right corner of the screen, in the picture-in-picture box, it showed what was currently playing on the channel we were tuned to, which happened to be a local channel. That time of late morning or early afternoon it would usually be a court show or live audience show, but instead it was a Breaking News report.

Curious about what was going on, we maximized the picture-in-picture to fill the entire screen.

A fire had started in a large factory, and was rapidly spreading. Most of the coverage was from a helicopter.

It turned out the factory made flammable chemicals. The helicopter shot showed the lower edge of the factory (it really was a huge factory, like a small city), a parking lot, with large white upright storage cylinders, presumably filled with flammable chemicals, against the side of the structure, and dozens of other such cylinders, but on their round sides, across the parking lot (at the very bottom of the shot.)

As we watched, the orange and red flames spread across the outer walls of the factory, leftwards, climbing up the curved side of the first cylinder, heating it, until it exploded in a fire ball. The flames reached their red fingers to the next cylinder, another fireball. And so on.

A yellow firetruck pulled up, from the right side of the screen.

Tiny men in firefighting regalia hopped off the truck, walking towards the bay doors of the factory.

As we watched, a river of flame flowed out of the bay doors, cutting off the firefighters from their truck. Another orange stream of flames oozed across the parking lot pavement towards the firetruck itself.

The firetruck backed up rapidly, ooze of flames chasing its retreat. The firefighters themselves had to run in their heavy outfits towards the very bottom of the screen, to escape the lava flow.

It was one of those "It's happening right now" events which TV can be really good at showing, like OJ trying to flee in his white Bronco.

We switched around through different local channels. All of them were carrying the same breaking news, with similar helicopter shots.

At one point, the TV station we were on showed footage from earlier in the day, a much higher shot that revealed most of the sprawling factory, and you could see immense fireballs rolling upwards into the air, tall metal towers bending sideways, like looking down into Hell.

And it looked absolutely beautiful. The colors, the destruction. The thing is, if we see orange flames blowing higher and higher up a building, there is a part of us that wants to see that building slide apart, fall down into a chaos of bricks.

We don't turn away from seeing what a fire can do to a building, an earthquake to a city, or a tsunami to a coastline. There is something fascinating about being reminded we are not in control.

As the report went on, it occurred to Mary and me the fire wasn't too far from us. Miles and miles, but still. We went out into the relaxing greenness of our backyard garden, and indeed, high above the top of our rear privacy fence, in the blue sky, from the south, we could see the enormous, slanted billows of smoke from the fire, black and gray and yellow, reaching up towards the white clouds.

Q: How's shopping online at for household products going for you?

A: Fine. The only problem is you have to really stay on top of throwing away all the large, blue boxes in which the products are shipped. Our city switched recently from twice-weekly garbage pick-ups to once a week, plus it's been raining a lot the past few weeks, to where we don't want to leave cardboard boxes outside, they'd just dissolve in the downpour, and we know the garbagemen won't take the time to pick up the mess, so our downstairs rooms are piled high with all these blue boxes stacked on top of each other, like a maze we have to work our way through every day. It's beginning to look like an art installation. But the cats love it.

Q: You mentioned writing. How's that going?

A: Really well.

My short story collection I Smell Blood tied with I Wonder What Human Flesh Tastes Like by Justin Isis for noted British critic Peter Tennant's choice of Best Short Story Collection of 2011. He wrote, "…If I were to do a 'Top Thirty Short Stories of 2011' list, they would dominate it… Each is a superb stylist and each has a unique voice…[I Smell Blood] is as strange and unsettling as anything else I read last year."

My short story, "Our Island" will be appearing in the Eibonvale Press anthology Where Are We Going, edited by the great Allen Ashley. The anthology is tentatively scheduled to be launched in London Friday evening, March 2, 2012.

My short story, "Elephants on the Moon" is in the first print edition of Contemporary Literary Review: India, which also marks my first publication in India.

My short story "Daddy's Glad Hands" will be appearing soon in the anthology Writings on the Wall, published by Seven Archons.

I just finished a new story in the latest story cycle I've been working on, coming in at a little over 11,000 words. That means I now have seven of the ten stories in the cycle written, for a total of 74,000 words. The full cycle, once completed, should be around 100,000 words. All ten stories deal with death and the afterlife.