p. h.   m a d o r e

A Sparrow Challenging a Tornado



Outside, the days moved on and on. The young man grew older in a stationary way. So much of his time was spent in single places, by himself, forgetting to change the radio station, unconsciously memorizing every song.

The pages stacked up around him until he had to sort them. The sorted piles added up until he had to move them. Page upon page, day bleeding into bygone day, until one day he stopped.

His pen had gone dry again. He threw it into the bin with the others. In all these years his preference for black ink had not wavered, of this he was proud.

It occurred to him that he was surrounded by his brain, stretched across a million pages, etched out in a billion or more words, scattered and frenetic like a sparrow challenging a tornado. He stepped away from his desk, kicking take-out boxes marked in letters he could not read. He walked to the door of his office and stepped into the hallway. A cool breeze blew over his face. He noticed, for the first time, a sizable hole in his ceiling. He paid it no mind.


On his kitchen counter—unopened mail from several months of ignoring it all. He'd paid all his bills so far ahead the previous year that none of it mattered. Just updates of accounts, subscription renewal notices. This and that. Things which did not concern him anymore. Not since he'd had the question, the answer to which, he was convinced, lay somewhere between blank lines.

He hadn’t published anything in nineteen months now. Royalties still came in, and this is what he concerned himself with for the moment. Ignoring all the trash and dirty dishes surrounding him, he sorted through the unopened envelopes, scanning return addresses. New York, NY, was what he set his mind to finding. He found one, pocketed it, and continued on. After he'd found five of them, he called it good, and walked out of the house, leaving the door open.


He almost forgot to go to the bank. He was half a block from the drugstore when he realized he'd have to have money to buy pens and paper. He noticed himself in the side-view mirror of an expensive-looking car. A gaunt, wolf-man version of the man who was once a fixture in literary circles from New York to Los Angeles.

Somehow it had all gone out the window when the question had struck. Nothing else seemed important after that. He had, from time to time, wondered how long the girl had called him before giving up. Either until she found someone else to keep her entertained or until his phone had finally been cut off, he reckoned.

The bank was a bit further than the drug store. He changed course and went to it, deposited his checks and withdrew what they'd allow him to. Unusually, they asked him for identification. These customs had begun to slip from him. Luckily his wallet was in his sweatpants. He'd recently had to pay a delivery person, he remembered. Did he look homeless? Probably, he thought.


Back home, he continued his search for the answer. By his calculation, he could continue his search in just this way for at least as long as he’d been searching for it. He didn't know if he ever would find it. He liked that much about it. Sometimes he thought his lack of reading was slowing him down, but most of the time, he was too tired from prolonged writing, from searching, to worry about it.



P. H. MADORE (b. 13 Oct. 1987) is an American-born writer, publisher, infantry veteran, editor, father, husband, and software engineer living in Arkansas. He is the author of the books Da Vinci Died Before Cigarettes (2009, mud luscious), Here Lies an American Dreamer (2008, nonpress), The History of the World (2006, One-Legged Cow Press), SH!T: collected tales (2005, One-Legged Cow Press), Yearning, Corners, Utopia, Communication, Reason, and Hate (2010, self-published), and Hawthorne Lane (2014).

in issues three ten sixteen

I S S N     1 5 5 9 - 6 5 6 7