Masques for the Fields of Time 

Joe Taylor


   Skewed, that word best describes the characters and situations and time frames in Taylor's fourth story collection, Masques for the Fields of Time. Takes the opening story, where a dance seems to be taking place during the narrator's youth, for his baby-sitter is busily flirting on the dance floor with another teenager. But then time skews and the dance is taking place—when? And those puppets in the rafters, seemingly pulling strings on all the dancers—what are they doing? Well, maybe the collection’s last story will clear things up…or does it only skew matters further, for this story’s protagonist is swimming, yes swimming, on a mission to obtain headstones—now irritatingly called “grave markers,” he complains. Okay, then, in another story we at least have the comfort of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus confronting Simone de Beauvior—but why do tiny voices haunt the trio with religious barbs? With humor both grim and playful, all the stories in this collection explore the twists human perception can take.

ISBN: 978-1-60489-033-4 Library Binding $26          Sale $13.00

ISBN: 978-1-60489-034-1 Trade Paper $15.95         Sale $8.00

180 pages

About the Author: 

Joe Taylor spent a good part of his life in Kentucky, where he earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy at UK. He worked as a waiter in West Palm Beach before moving to Tallahassee to earn his Ph.D. in creative writing.

 Excerpt From the Book:

A Masque for the Fields of Time

      It’s a movie, see, ’cause all life’s a movie, struttin’ across the silver screen, full of sound and fury and pain. Some monkey wrote that at his typewriter a long time back. Like I said, it’s a movie, so let me give you a panoramic shot, ok? I mean, you can live with that, right?

      So let’s start with this field at evening. There’s going to be some nuns moving queen-sized air mattresses onto it soon in a goofball mystical charade, but for now, just see the field and its grass, scorched tan from the summer’s heat, and already trampled—in an Einsteinian timewarp anticipation of the nuns, I guess. This already-trampled field, it’s enclosed by imposing rows of large water oaks on two sides, a dirty granite building on a third, and you on the fourth. Place the granite building silver-screen right, the oaks silver-screen left and back. This near side you’re inspecting the field from is important, so dolly the camera back until a stone footbridge with two supporting arches comes into sight. See yourself leaning hunch-backed over the bridge’s low stone wall? That quaint stone bridge leads into a portico between the granite building and a new building that’s just appeared as the camera keeps backing—Whoa! That’s enough retreating for now or things will become too real, like a damned maze.

The new building that appeared is constructed with dark maroon bricks. Now, if you’ll just forget the camera and turn your hunched-over body and cross to the bridge’s other side, you can resume your hunch and glance down to find that you and the bridge span a cobblestone square with four long rows of oaken tables and benches. The tables are skinny, as if purposefully constructed to warn diners against gluttony. To the right of the tables, level with you from atop the bridge, is something of a natural cliff with discretely embedded boulders and scrub brush to baffle erosion. Atop this cliff runs a narrow street. No cars on it, though. Save that for later. Okay? To your left—now that you’ve turned—is that same portico the bridge leads to, plus the same two buildings, one granite, one dirty maroon brick. Un-hunch yourself and scramble up to stand on the sturdy rock wall. Now do a half gainer, jumping to catch hold of the airborne camera still hovering above. By helicopter, does that make you happy? Now let it pull you away, flying backward over the square, away from the bridge and the field and the picnic tables. You’ll soon see a large red-, blue-, and yellow-tiled house to on the corner of two streets. The kind of old house that someone who made money from bootlegging in the 1920’s might have built, or maybe someone who held stock with the railroads in the late 1800’s. Something shadowy on the opposite side of the street obscures this mirthful house from anyone sitting on the picnic benches down in the cobblestone square. Well hell, of course! It’s the maroon brick building, two or maybe three-stories. If not for those maroon bricks and three filmy windows I’d guess it to resemble the windowless, blank granite marvel where the Spanish Inquisition was held in Madrid. Not as tall, but as austere. Screw verisimilitude. See, it’s all become too real already. Like I warned you, life’s a goddamned maze. And look, a declining cobblestone road runs by this maroon building, descending alongside the four rows of skinny picnic tables and heading under the bridge you were standing on. Who knows where this cobblestone road might lead? The field? Another town? It’s vague like the other end of the bridge, the one away from the portico and two buildings. Let’s keep it vague. The simple life, the simple life, a daisy, two kids, and a wife. Some monkey wrote that too, no doubt. Maybe on the same typewriter.

Come on, forget the lousy poetry and keep hovering in that dolly with the camera; hell, flap your arms like Icarus if that makes you feel secure, though I thought the helicopter would solve your qualms. The four-bladed ones are more unstable and are prone to internal stress fractures, did you know? No, don’t look up! Too much verisimilitude will turn this into a maze. Keep staring below: there’s just one more panorama we need, so pull on back. There, see? It’s the shore of a large lake. Don’t worry about how this fits. Remember that we’re talking movie, right? The lake’s just one more set. Its shoreline is important, though. We need that shoreline for a scene that’s going to stir you spiritually, a scene that’s going to inflame our semi-protagonist—of sorts—emotionally.

      OK, got all that down now? A field, a bridge, two narrow streets on either side of four rows of picnic tables—one street going up, one street going down—a mirthful tile house, two austere buildings hodgepodged together, lots of cobblestone, and a lake. Ready? I hope so, ’cause we’re jumping in, in media res. That means in the middle of things, which is where things always start if you think about it—unless we’re talking Big Bang, and even that must have interrupted some one’s or some thing’s Big Sleep.

      The Masque Cometh:...