6.

The truth is, it was evening when it happened, not noon. And they shot the Stranger in the back. Never gave him a chance to draw that ivory handled gun of his.

I remember that he mainly look surprised. I caught a glimpse of the whites of his wide eyes, his mouth open in an o, before I got myself behind a barrel and stayed.

Someone left a flower on the fresh earth of his grave. It wasn’t me. I swear it.

5.

The last note had been a sustained B flat, floating over the audience.

Then it was all the clatter of secret compartments being opened and sword canes being unsheathed, and unmusical screams as the strings fell upon the woodwinds.

4.

The very last frog on planet Earth was squashed, unintentionally, by Ms. Sarah Lee Blake, 3 yrs old, on a warm Saturday afternoon, overlooking the flooded ruins of New York. Ms. Sarah Lee would remain unaware of her role in the extinction, beyond a yucky smear she found on the bottom of her sneaker some time later.

She herself would live a long life, through interesting times, indeed.

3.

Omar had an immortality strategy. Every time he passed a beggar, he’d give them the contents of the billfold in his wallet.

You never knew, Omar would say, when you’d run into a fairy prince or a sorceress, dressed as a beggar, a dram of immortality swishing around in their pocket. Surely they’d share a such a thing with a worthy soul who was generous to all, regardless of their station.

Omar died at the age of 76, his three score and ten lived, and then some. In his wake, he had left a trail of plastic wrapped sandwiches bought, and swigs of cheap liquor downed with a nod to his generosity. One prince and two sorceresses attended the funeral, well dressed, but otherwise incognito. They left roses on his coffin, and whispered prayers to old gods as he was lowered into the earth.

2.

With a great cracking crash, the base of the vine split and sundered. Old Bonegrinder found himself falling, his great stomach lurching, anger and hunger stolen by the sudden terror of the howling wind, the great expanse of field rushing toward him.

The impact knocked seven cottages off their foundations. No one down here knew Old Bonegrinder’s name, but that didn’t stop the story from spreading.

1.

Ms. Chai Tanbin has made an impact on several thousand art students, one husband, a private number of lovers, and some millions of visitors to various art galleries, museums of modern art, and trendier offices.

She has made exactly two perfect paintings, and approximately one dozen more that come close.

It is on a summer afternoon that the brush falls from her fingers. She is found one hour later, by someone who counts among that private number of lovers. Ms. Chai’s eyes are vacant, mouth open as if in surprise, arm underneath at an awkward angle, deep blue paint dabbed on her chin.

On the canvas are three flowing strokes of indigo: the beginning of the third perfect piece.