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When I was a boy every summer
we'd go down to Vero Beach
to visit my grandfather,
tall and smelling of pipe tobacco.
Some days we'd stop at the pharmacy
and I'd get a soda and a comic.
Along the way he'd point out
the Tropic Wash Laundromat
where he washed his socks.

"I was in there yesterday,"
he'd say, pointing one long finger
as we rode by in his Oldsmobile,
"and who do you think I saw?
Old Ming the Merciless
trying to wash the stench
of failure out of his fancy robes.
Figures that rat would end up
here in exile with me."

Another time he saw Tars Tarkas
the giant green Thark's head
scraping the ceiling
as he waited for the dryer
to finish with his loincloth
so he could make the trip
down the River Iss to the Lost Sea of Korus
to reunite with John Carter.

I snuck down there once
hoping to see someone I knew
like Captain Kirk getting blood
and dirt out of his uniform
or Darth Vader carefully folding
one of his long black capes.
But all I saw were two old women
reading Reader's Digest in a room
that smelled of detergent and lint.

Now years later I sit
in a darkened theater beside
my twelve year old daughter.
Onscreen the wizard returns
garbed in clean white robes
blinding heroes and audience alike.
My daughter taps my shoulder
and whispers in my ear,
"He used too much bleach."


Copyright © 2003 Jon Hansen

Reader Comments

Jon Hansen spends the vast majority of his time in the southern United States in the company of his wife Lisa and their small army of cats. His work has appeared in various speculative fiction magazines since 1996. Slightly more insightful details can be found on his website. To contact him, email

Bio to come.
Current Issue
27 Jul 2020

Stefan škrtl další sirkou a zapálil jednu ze svíček, které s sebou přinesl, pak další a další, dokud je neobklopoval celý kruh. Hanna nakrčila nos. Svíčky vydávaly zvláštní zápach, ale ne nepříjemný. Připomínal čerstvě posečenou trávu. I jejich tmavě olivová barva byla nezvyklá.
By: Amel Moussa
Translated by: Hager Ben Driss
Many things in my kitchen resemble me; I relate to them; we entertain one another. Water, fire, and electricity vegetables, water rich fruits, and dry fruits
أشياء ٌكثيرةٌ في مطبخي تُشبهني أتماهى مع هذه الأشياء ونُؤنسُ بعضنا.
He ignored her remark, ignited another match and lit a small candle. Then another one. He continued until a circle of candles surrounded them on the stage. Hanna scrunched her nose. The candles exuded a strange smell, but not an unpleasant one. It resembled freshly mown grass. The color was unusual too, a deep olive-green.
By: Eisuke Aikawa
Translated by: Toshiya Kamei
The translucent Ōe-san steps out of the bathroom and sits at the table as usual. He spreads butter on an invisible slice of bread, takes a bite, and chews it, holding the morning paper in his other hand. Just like a mime. I sit on the floor and observe his movements.
Issue 20 Jul 2020
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17 Jul 2020
Strange Horizons is now accepting fiction submissions for our Mexico Special issue, which will be published at the end of November 2020!
17 Jul 2020
Strange Horizons lanza su convocatoria en busca textos narrativos para su Especial de México, que se publicará a finales de noviembre de 2020!
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