At the Border between Cause and Effect by Randal Houle

Last we saw Tom, he had swiped a package of snickerdoodles from the Lake City Walgreens. You may think it a small thing, but I disagree. Soft on the inside with a crunchy cinnamon-sugar outside, and these slightly larger in diameter than your fist, but you’re right, not a major crime to be sure.

The air outside is thick with fog. Small shampoo and conditioner bottles spill from an ice bucket. When the fog clears, there is a view of a large rock painted white and he remembers something about the town’s name. All the signs in the motel are in French and English. He lives on the border between cause and effect – an object in motion stays in motion, unless something acts upon it, or him.

You mustn’t judge: me for telling the story, or Tom for his actions. Neither are you responsible for suggesting he try the cookies. You didn’t say that to him, not directly. Nor did I tell you to tell him, although I nudged you a little and that caused you to ask the question that made him think to do it.

Look, the snickerdoodle package remains unopened. I tell you, he has big plans for this one. Don’t think him crazy. There, he crinkles the package in his hand, just at the edges where the cookie tapers. He won’t touch the cookie, not yet. He still needs it. Why? I’ll tell you tomorrow.

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “At the Border between Cause and Effect by Randal Houle

  1. Not sure yet what this all means, but I did enjoy reading it–and will again!

  2. Missy

    You mustn’t judge: me for telling the story, or Tom for his actions.

    Good transition line!

  3. Very compelling point of view, and I admire the gradual reveal: the ‘you’ is a third character, not a figure of speech, not an address to the reader. Sends me right back to the beginning to read over when I finish. The fog is perfect for the obscure, complicated sense overlaying this simple action being recounted. This story hooks me, makes me curious.

  4. Kelly

    it’s the narrator’s interest in the character that pulled me right in, the straightforward and passed on curiosity about Tom’s peculiarities, and even in a place where walmart is the backdrop of the action, there are still mysteries.

    why does he need the cookie?? is it tomorrow yet? hehe

  5. love this. my kind of story. don’t blame me for using my own associative space to interpret this. do you want to join us at kaffe in katmandu? just send me your email in a note and don’t forget to mention your own email or else i cannot contact you. cheers!

  6. Clever, kooky, multi-faceted, contains depth and veneer both. I am captivated by this one, read then read again. And one more time!

  7. you made me read it several times. very complex and quirky.

  8. A bit more cohesive than most pieces I would call ‘dada’, or slipstream, but that’s what comes to mind (maybe it’s the, ‘You may think it a small thing, but I disagree.’ or ‘He lives on the border between cause and effect – an object in motion stays in motion, unless something acts upon it, or him.’). Anyway, good confusing fun.

  9. Pingback: Week #37 – Border town | 52|250 A Year of Flash

  10. The tone and voice in this one are so intensely conspiratorial, and for snickerdoodles! Love it.

  11. Pingback: Flash Favorites! | Wink/Nudge

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