Monthly Archives: October 2008

49 04’ 55” N, 106 21’ 46” W

49 04′ 55″ N, 106 21′ 46″ W


Kenneth Burchfiel


Hello. Is this the support line?

Good. I’m sorry. For a second there, I thought the number would bounce back. Different country and all, you know.

Bryson, Dale.

See, that’s the thing. I’m not sure. I just thought… well, I had the customer support number on my phone. But I didn’t think you operated over here.

Well, the car’s another story, and I know your company is going to charge me by the minute. And that’s not good, because my wallet’s in the car, and—

Of course. I understand. But there’s not much information I can give you.

    Not even that. Let’s see. Is there a sign? No, not from where I’m standing. But I can say that I’m on Route 2, and it curves a little bit in front of me. There’s some grass to my left, and a field to my right. Already harvested.

    Of course. First name Dale, last name B-R-Y-S-O-N. I rented a little coupe.

    Tulsa? So you can pull up my account information. No, Tulsa was five days ago. That was when we left the airport.

    Well, that’s something of a private question.

    Don’t be concerned about the car. She—I mean, it’s in safe hands. It should be back in Tulsa by the 16th, unless she changed her plans.

    Can’t you guess who I’m talking about?


    You could try her cell, but she told me that she would have her number switched by 4. And I would trust her; she’s very resourceful. You wouldn’t believe how she got me into this.

    Look—I would give you the story, but I really am worried about the charge. They pay you folks fortunes for calls like these; I know it.

    Yes, we did sign up for the Premium Service. 10th anniversary, after all.

    Thank goodness. Fine. Well, the car’s somewhere north of me. I’m not sure just where, but she’s still on Route 2, for all I know.

    It terminates in Prince Albert? That’s—what, 200, 300 miles north of here? Well, we refilled it in Bismarck, so that’s probably where she’d end up, anyway .

    Yes, I realize the contract limited us to the Midwest. But she was the one driving, not me.

    So we were at our anniversary dinner the night before St. Paul, and one of us said something about the other’s clothing.

    Yes, it was me.

    Well, it comes back to the car. Trust me. So she says this will be the second anniversary I’ve ruined in a row, and starts shouting about one thing or another. So I shout back. It’s in my blood. The next thing you know, both of our drinks are staining the table and the waiter’s rushing to get my attention.

    Of course I was drunk. What do they teach you at the call center?

    No, really. It’s nice to have someone to talk to. At any rate, I slumped into the back seat and she rammed the car into gear. That was the last thing I remembered: the transmission shifting to “Reverse.” And you really do sell nice cars on the Premium Service.

    Not at all.

Eleven glasses of wine.

    St. Paul? No, we never made it there. When I woke up, there wasn’t a building to see. We had crossed into Montana.

    Well, I’m a heavy sleeper, and she’s a fast driver.

    Yes, pleaded with her. If it weren’t for the seatbelt, I would’ve been on my knees.

    I’m telling you, it used to be a happy marriage.

    She finally did open her mouth. But that was only to say, “No Items to Declare.” And that was to someone wearing the Red Serge.

    Right. We’re driving up Route 2, and all of a sudden, the car stops. She unlocks the side door and throws it open with her hand.

    Used to play basketball. I think that’s what gave her the flexibility.

    How could I have? She didn’t unlock the trunk.

    My arms are a little numb, but other than that, I’m hanging in.

    No, no. The sun set some time ago.

    That was my hope, at least. I’d be happy to pay the fee.

    You could get someone here from Lewistown? How far is that?

    3 hours? That’s fine. Might be a little chilly, but I’ll manage.

    Just past the Canadian border. I’ll be on the left side of Route ;2 if you see me laying down, just honk. I’ve been up for quite a while.

    Thank you so much.







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Faceless #1 (A comic)

You may have to click on the comic twice to expand it all the way.

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“Weather Talk” 1: A Circular Explanation for Arctic Cold

Writing is just one way to inform and educate. The following is a short and simplified version of a topic I’d like to cover more in-depth, but nevertheless, it’s an alternative to the usual text-block science article.

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Specialty Pizzas: A Newspaper Spread

The PDF link (see below) features a pizza spread that I worked on for the McLean Highlander, our student newspaper.


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War Stories

War Stories


Kenneth Burchfiel



The sun had gotten itself stuck on top of Old Rag. It shone an amber light onto the field before him and coated the river gold.

They had just held the 50th anniversary at Sperryville High. It was a short drive in the Mercedes for him, but others flew in from Munich, South Korea—even the Philippines. Much of the senior class had lived on military bases.

He had tried to tell them about his summer homes and his banking company, but nobody listened. Needless to say, the vets were the center of attention. Ryan Seawolf got a whole crowd to listen to his parachute descent into Cambodia. The Bryan brothers repeated their old story about landing in Korea during a rainstorm. All the men wanted to see were one another’s’ badges—which, of course, they had bought along on the ride. Nobody cared about his stock portfolio.

    He grew more jealous by the minute as they laughed about SOP manuals and boot camp. If only he had a war story of his own.


A wild-haired boy—Jason, he believed—sat down on the whitewashed stair next to him.

“Dinner’s ready. That’s what dad says.”

Dinner in Sperryville was a special occasion. His son had decided to start a farm—said banking was a greedy, wasteful way to spend a life—and now cooked the best chicken this side of the Shenandoah mountains.

“Jason,” the grandfather said, “did you know I fought in the Cold War?”

The boy blinked. “Dad never told me about that.”

“Well, it’s a long story. Do you want to hear a story?”

The child looked back inside and nodded.

“Good, because I want to tell it.” He pointed with a ringed finger to the field in front of him. “See this farm, uh,”

“Jason,” he said.

“I’m sorry. Well, Jason, it was the Bloc War of 1963, fought right when Moscow was ready to shell the United States. Our squadron saw a farm just like this as we headed into Vilnius. Our goal was to meet up with the Lithuanian Resistance, a group of rebels hoping to free their country from the hands of communism. The sun had already set, and we were hoping the Sov-yets wouldn’t see it.”

“Were you scared?”

He remembered descending into Vilnius for an international banking conference. The first class seat had almost put him to sleep, but he kept himself awake to watch the Neris snake under their plane. A flight attendant pointed out the National Library to him.

“Only a little. See, the Sov-yets had these big, powerful tanks that could reach every corner of Lithuania. If they came on us, the Americans wouldn’t have been able to advance into Belarus, which was the whole point of the Bloc Assault. We had to crouch real low—” he demonstrated on the steps “—so that we wouldn’t be picked up on radar.”

“Jason! Dinner!”

“One second! Grandpop’s telling a war story!”

No response came from inside. He could hear footsteps coming their way from the kitchen.

“So we advanced, step by step, up the Neris River. The Lithuanian Resistance was to our north. We had almost made it to the National Library when a barrage of shots came out from our left. So we ran up a road—Vytauto, they called it—with our packs shielding us from their guns.”
    He would never see his high school class again. But if he could get his son to believe this—even for a few years—it would make the difference. They would call him a hero here; they would make him the pride of Sperryville.

“Now, the Sov-Yet Union knows how to move around their troops. They had guns coming out from the south, the west, the east—even from above. Our cover was blown to nothing. So you know what I did?”

The footsteps stopped at the front porch. His son was watching them from behind—he knew it.

“I went out on my own. Stopped at a little place called Žvėrynas and ducked inside a cathedral. That was when I decided to go solo.”

Jason gave him the kind of stare that he had been looking for at the reunion.

“I crept around the western side of the city. A breathless hour later, I had made it to the White Bridge. They had it blockaded, but I shot down the defenses and moved my way across. You would have loved the sound my gun made.”

“Jason, remind your grandfather—”

“And once I made it to the other side of the Neris, I walked over to Lukiski Square. To my relief, there were about a thousand people standing there with guns. The Lithuanian Resistance had arrived.”

They had ended the banking exposition at Lukiski. But his grandson wouldn’t be impressed by currency discussions and stock trades; he wanted to hear about assaults and medals.

“And wouldn’t you know: we had a straight shot to Cathedral Square. I found myself at the front of the pack, shooting at all the soldiers that came our way, until—”

“There was no Bloc War of 1963.”


He turned around to see his son in the doorway.

“Excuse me?”

“There was no Bloc War. There was no Lithuanian Resistance.”

Jason looked confused. He turned to his father, then to his grandfather.

“What are you talking about?” The eldest of them laughed. “Why, I was right in the middle of the Neris river, looking out—”

“You were a banker. Your only goal was to grab up more money for your retirement fund.”

His grandson had lost his awestruck face.

“Didn’t you hear my story, Jason? I had almost made it to the Square, when…”

His voice trailed off. A bird called from a lone apple tree in the field.

“Come on, Jason. Your dinner’s getting cold.”

Jason looked at his grandparent, then stood up and walked through the door. The rest of the family had already begun eating.

The grandfather stayed outside until Old Rag mountain swallowed up the sun, and until the field and river had all but disappeared.

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A Certain kind of Salesman

A Certain kind of Salesman


Kenneth Burchfiel


A certain curtain caught my eye—the cheapest of the darker hues.

But then a certain curtain salesman ascertained I wanted to

Curtain my windows with a few

Of that certain curtain hue—so certain, yes,

He stood and said:

I’m a certain kind of curtain salesman—certainly, it’s rare;

The kind that cautions certain curtain buyers of the risk of wear

On curtains nearly sold for free—but, in actuality,

Will certainly split into three at certain opportunities.

I ascertained that he could name

A better curtain in the store—

And yes, he spoke of certain Corinth curtains costing dollars more,

And led me with a certain step to Corinth curtain styles galore.

A cirrus-quilted Corinth curtain certainly retained my gaze,

Yet certainly, the Corinth certain quilters had erred in such a way

That certain cirrus clouds looked more cumulus in form and shape;

And, tired with such certainty, I curtailed off my search for drapes.

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“Thundersnow Logo”–a look at simple design

When designing a logo or similar sort of graphic, there’s always the impulse to make it as complex and impressive as possible. (Seeing as my design abilities are quite limited, I don’t have much of a problem with this.) However, I find that some of the best designs are those that assume a simplistic, straightforward form. Just as conciseness is valued in writing, element management–making more out of fewer parts–plays an important role in graphic design.

My “Thundersnow” illustration (click the PDF link below) is one example of this concept. Perhaps I’ll find a use for the logo; perhaps not. Regardless, it represents the style that I’d like to become experienced in.


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