Thursday, October 7, 2010

EVERY FIBER #FridayFlash & 3WW

A couple weeks ago, Mark Kerstetter wrote a #fridayflash called "Perched." In it, he wrote a line "...he loved her with every fiber of his tired old soul." I couldn't stop thinking about that line--how Mark chose "soul" rather than "being." Subtle, but inspirational. Here's my (finally!) new #fridayflash, and I also incorporated this weeks 3WW prompts.   

EVERY FIBER

He tapped on her bedroom door. After months of pursuit, Penelope had invited John to her bed. He took it as a sign that she was finally over her disappearing ex.

John turned the knob after her husky come in. Her diaphanous sheet covered just enough to give a hint of propriety; bare arms and legs glowed ephemeral in the flickering candlelight. Dark spots pooled on the bed, suggesting blood, but Penelope's inviting smile along with the rose-scented air erased his momentary unease. Lust propelled him forward. Rose petals fluttered to the floor.

"I've wait—," John cleared the huskiness from his voice, "I've waited so long for this, for you."

"Me too," Penelope whispered. Her voice sounded calm, but candlelight bounced off the perspiration sheen on her forehead. He kissed her forehead, combed his fingers through the thick cords of her hair. He marveled at her translucent skin, her fluttering eyelashes, her shallow breaths.

He glided his hand across the sheet, felt her nipples harden under the silky fabric. She unbuttoned his shirt, traced the line of hair to his navel. Like a seam, she whispered. He slid the sheet, revealing the swell of her breasts, his eyes hungry for what his fingers already tasted. She pulled the sheet until the hem touched her collar bone, intensifying his need. He wanted to rip the fabric shrouding her body, touch his skin to her skin, but her lip quivered, her body trembled.

John leaned closer, about to say it's okay if you want to wait, but all he heard was his own grunt. She wrapped her arms around his neck, pulled him closer, teased him by brushing her lips against his. The sheet chafed against his chest, but her tongue distracted him. She licked a trail to his earlobe.

"Tell me how much you love me." Her breathy words heated his ear canal. He felt her pulse in her temple. "Tell me."

"I love you so much—"

"How much?"

"I love you more than life itself. I love you with every fiber of my being."

"Do you mean it? Really, truly mean it? I need you."

"Yes I mean it. I'm all yours."

She shifted, flipped them so he was under her, his back against the bed. She straddled him, her thighs vice-grips against his hips. Penelope leaned close. The sheet molded against voluptuous form, defying gravity. "Thank you," she said, studying his eyes. The force of her gaze mesmerized him. Lethargy seeped into his body. She shook her head.

Her hair snapped the air, a thousand whips cracking before each lashed at John, securing his ankles, his wrists, his whole body immobile. The ties that bind he thought, then felt an insane urge to giggle.

"I can see them! Each and every fiber of your being. I need them, you know." She straightened, extending her hands in front of him. Each fingernail ended in a sharp point. With her index finger, she tapped at the soft dip in his collar bone. He gasped at the sudden puncture-pain, screamed from the sensation—the tugging of a tube out of the base of his throat.

"Got one!" She held a long iridescent string. She deftly looped it from her hand to her elbow, until she held a long coil, which she laid carefully on the bed. "This is the fabric of my life."

Penelope then touched her sheet. The thin covering slithered off her chest, revealing—nothing. Instead of breasts, a stomach, and hips John saw a shimmer, opaque air between the legs squeezing his body and the shoulders hovering. She touched the end of the coiled fiber to the top of her thigh, to where her non-existent crotch somehow rested on John's pubic bone. John screamed.

She traced around both his nipples, let her fingernails glide down the center of his chest, slicing the hair-seam down his stomach to his navel. John's screams echoed in his mind as Penelope tugged, her fingers racing to weave the fibers she extracted from his body into her body. Pale skin emerged, filling the blank space.


"Almost done. One last fiber and I'll be ready for his return." John slurred your ex? but felt his mind unravel. As sensation ceased, Penelope stood, radiant and whole.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

GOLDEN VISIONS MAGAZINE...

...accepted one of my stories and even printed it in their magazine. PDF is a mere $3, or the printed-on-real-honest-to-goodness-paper version is $11. Here is the link: Golden Visions Magazine.  Yes, you would make me very happy if you purchased a copy (either pdf or print) and read my story.

Cool cover, eh? "Memories Captured" on page 46. Maybe you first read it here on my blog, but it only stayed here a week before it flew away to a new home... and found one you-know-where.  Golden Visions, thank you.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

GAME ON

I couldn't let another friday pass without contributing something to #fridayflash. This one originally appeared last October at Long Story Short. Read other #fridayflash stories either through Twitter, or by going to the mastermind of it all, Jon Strother at Mad Utopia. I'll be around commenting; now don't you leave without adding a word or two.

GAME ON

"Five dollars apiece for those," Fay told the limping old man. He sniffed, picked up the commemorative Eagle-shaped liquor bottle, replaced it and then stroked the State House-shaped bottle. Six collector bottles were set among odd glassware on the make-shift plywood and sawhorse table. She ignored him. A young mother handed off her toddler to the dad before she plopped cross-legged in front of paperback filled boxes. The dad shifted the toddler to a hip and walked to the rusty tools.

The old man cleared his throat. "Ma'am! Will you take three dollars each?"

Two hours into the yard sale and so far, not one haggler. Fay turned toward him. He pushed his glasses up his nose. Suspenders held up stained khakis; rolled-up shirtsleeves revealed a Rolex watch on his bony wrist. Game on, she thought, as she cocked her head and countered, "How about four?"

He rubbed his grizzled chin and checked the sun. "I'll give you sixteen dollars for all of them."

He grimaced a crooked-toothed smile. She frowned and turned to the woman at the books. "JD Robb is really Nora Roberts. You'll love that one."

A lip-studded, black-fingernailed teenaged boy let his bike fall to the curb and ambled to the hanging clothes. The toddler arched his back and pounded his dad's chest. The father released the child, who then ran to a box of fast-food toys. His chubby fingers grabbed a Grinch figure and threw it across the lawn, followed by a Yoda watch. "Connor, NO!" shouted the boy's father.

Fay turned when she heard an impatient exhale and nodded to her opponent. "At four dollars each, it would be twenty-four dollars for the lot. I'll take twenty-two."

The old man snorted, stomped his gimp leg and shifted his attention to the costume jewelry. Limpy's not the faux pearl type, she thought. She flinched when the toddler shrieked so she missed the angry mumble. Fay figured he wanted to tell his social club cronies how he finagled a great deal, maybe even brag: She didn't know who she was dealing with! With her peripherals, she watched him sidle to the dusty exercise equipment, his magnified eyes fixed on the Schooner bottle.

"Holy shy-keys! '77 Aerosmith tour shirt!" exclaimed the teen.

Connor and dad moved to the plywood table. Dad picked up the Locomotive bottle. The little boy raised his arms and pouted.

"Seventeen dollars!" the old man shouted. He hobbled back as fast as his bum leg would allow.

Fay ignored his offer while she gave the teenager his change. The old man tugged his suspenders, scratched his chin stubble and repeated his offer; his stare drilled her. She enjoyed his discomfort. She watched the teen pedal away before she exhaled a heavy, theatrical, this-hurts-me sigh. "I'll take twenty-one."

He "humph"-ed and glanced at his wristwatch. She checked her cell phone. Ten twenty-two. If it were three o'clock, she'd give those ugly bottles away. It was early; she could wait. Another shopper might find those bottles enchanting, and she bet Limpy feared as much. He shook his head, he frowned, but he did not leave the plywood table. She had him! Fay bit her lower lip to prevent a smile.

He caressed the Minuteman bottle with the rifle pourer spout. "OKAY! Okay, eighteen." He opened his arms, palms skyward, as if to prove sincere generosity.

"I started at five dollars apiece! No way. My dad collected these when I was a girl. They have sentimental value AND…."

"If they're so sentimental, why are they in your yard sale?"

Fay "humph"-ed, and tossed her head. The toddler's, "up-up-UP, dada" reminded her of knives sawing through Styrofoam. "Twenty-one. FIRM!"

The toddler's dad shouted to the cross-legged woman. "Wrap it up! Connor needs a nap."

"We agreed today it's my turn. Five minutes watching your son too much for you?"

The mother rolled her eyes and continued to sort books. The dad grasped Connor's shoulder and guided him towards the curb.

The old man wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "You drive a hard bargain," he complained. He pulled a worn leather wallet from his back pocket and counted out ones. She coughed to squelch a smirk as she grabbed newspaper and an empty box.

Connor shrieked and kicked his father. Dad swore, released Connor's shoulder and rubbed his shin. Connor ran back up the driveway, stubby legs pumping; wide eyes intent on the ground.

His head cleared the plywood table--

--and his pudgy body slammed into a sawhorse. Crystal glasses, chipped mugs, cloudy vases and the commemorative liquor bottles teetered and swayed... and crashed.

Mom screamed, Dad yelled, Connor wailed, Fay gasped… and Limpy snickered. A pitcher and the Eagle bottle seemed intact. The parents' accusations interrupted Fay's damage assessment.

"This is YOUR fault! Look! An egg on his forehead. He needs an X-ray!" Mom spit her words at her husband. She marched to their car, sobbing Connor squished against her chest.

"My fault? MY FAULT? If we'd left when I said, this wouldn't have happened!" Dad gestured as Mom secured Connor in his car seat.

Doors slammed, tires squealed and then, blessed silence. Fay exhaled, relieved the young family didn't mention suing. Fay stretched her shoulders and turned to see--

--Limpy hugging the Eagle bottle to this chest and lurching across the lawn.

"Hey! Get back here! Five dollars or nothing!"

He limped faster. Fay ran and jumped in front of him. He clutched the bottle tighter to his chest. Game on, she thought, and grabbed the ceramic wings.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

DIMES

Six Sentences was the first ezine to publish my stories. Thanks to the encouragment of Rob McEvily and his New York Times recognized publication, I've been on this writing journey for 3+ years now, and accept my rejections, enjoy my successes, and savor every minute of this process. Having said that...


...with my new position at my restaurant (Moonstones in case you find yourself in Chelmsford, MA) I am finding it difficult to find writing time. I will figure this all out soon, trust me, but until then I've decided to showcase some of the stories Rob accepted. This one originally appeared as part of a 6x6 collection. This is a fictional, semi-autobiographical piece *smirk*.


As always, comments accepted and appreciated.



DIMES


I find dimes, and that makes me smile. Sometimes I find them in obvious places, such as under cushions or on the sidewalk or even on the window ledge, but always dimes; never pennies or nickels or quarters.


One time a dime materialized on the kitchen counter after I sponged it clean and another time one fell on my forehead as I sunned myself in the backyard. They arrive whenever I don’t trust my decisions, to assure me, as if to say, “That’s right!”


I just came back from putting down my sick dog, and a dime twinkles from her empty food dish. Sure, the dimes reassure when I decide to play hooky from work, or when I resist the urge to spend money on a frivolity, but hell, I want -- no, make that need -- that shiny Roosevelt comfort when I wield the power of life and death in my hands.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Control Issues

This one first appeared at Six Sentences on August 11, 2009. A late addition to #fridayflash.

CONTROL ISSUES

I had the radio dream again. I'm at the control board and U2 is warbling the last 10 seconds of "Out of Control" and I look at the empty second turntable and panic. The albums are all down the hall in the record room and I didn't pull them ahead of time. I grab a cartridge for an unscheduled commercial to buy sixty seconds but all I find are ten second public service announcements. Song ends, microphone on and my mind blanks. Dead air… until I awake and realize radio is all computerized now and I'm not a dj and I never run out of things to say.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pimento Fantasy

If you haven't yet, stop by the NOT and check out Mike Solender's echap-book, The Dog Days of Summer 2010. Many #fridayflash fav's are featured (sorry for the alliteration), and an honorable mention story from my new writing buddy, Jay Thurston. Oh yeah, if you search hard enough, you may even find a 101 word story from moi. 

In other news, Barry Basden of the Camroc Press Review nominated a story of mine for the "Best of the Net Anthology 2010". It's a long shot, but I am so honored to be considered. Thank you Barry.

Here's this week's 3WW and #fridayflash.

PIMENTO FANTASY


Carl stared at the bottom of his martini glass, wondering why his olive wriggled. Air bubbles rose from beneath the olive, as if his glass held carbonated water instead of gin with a whisper of vermouth. He knew better. From some physics formula he learned in his youth but forgot in the five decades since, he understood. Movement forced air bubbles to rise. What the hell moved his olive?


"Nurse!"


"I'm not your nurse Carl."


"Would you prefer 'bar wench'?"


"Would you prefer coffee?"


"Try it and I won't tip."


Tara scrambled for the remote, pointed it at the tiny box beneath the HD television. "Did hell freeze over Carl? I didn't think you knew the word 'tip'?" Tara laughed. The news anchor's blathering replaced Journey's believing-mantra fading from the jukebox.


Carl shook his head. "With that negative attitude, what do you expect?"


Tara shushed him, turned to grab a rolled up newspaper and swatted at a fly. Carl squinted at her tight shorts, thought about how much he wanted to do her and wished he'd thought even four seconds sooner you can't handle the tip I've got. That would have topped her. He would top her. Carl wanted to gulp his martini, but he forced himself to refrain; today was the only day in the month he could allow himself a martini. Tomorrow, and for the next twenty-eight days, he could only afford happy hour beer, and linger over those until they became piss-warm.


But today he cashed his social security check, and the gin glistened and the condensation dripped and Dan Fogerty warbled about something rising as Carl felt his own something rising that hadn't risen in a very long time, not since the government suspended the contract one month before his pension and he lost his house and lost his wife and lost his confidence, but now, right now, he could savor not only the rot-gut gin but his gut-growing lust for a young girl in tight-ass shorts who should consider him a sugar daddy instead of dismissing him as a lecherous grandfather and what the hell was bursting from the pitted hole of his olive?


Carl rubbed his face with both hands, cleared his throat, clutched the wet stem of his glass. "Tara?"


She swatted at the air, then sighed. "What now Carl?"


"What's in the olives?"


"What, you think this is the capitol grille? Nothing's in the olives. And for what you pay, you're lucky you get any olives."


Carl slammed his fist against the wooden bar. "Watch it Carl," Tara warned, but he ignored her. The vibration against the bar shook his glass; the olive spun.


A tiny girl burst from the pitted hole, arms raised in a celebratory "v". Her curly blonde ringlets floated in the gin as she popped then settled, her red halter top accenting her wee-shapely breasts which settled against the smooth green. Her miniature lips formed an oh, the liquid shimmering from a diffused buzz. "Are you talking?" Carl asked.


Carl lifted his glass to eye-level, the faint pine-y scent of juniper berries tickling his nostrils. She was beautiful, proportioned perfectly, a dream woman... except for the fact she fit inside a Queen's olive. Carl snorted. It could be worse, he thought, a manzanilla olive... wish I were a pimento right about now. Carl gulped, looked around the room and wondered if anyone else saw what he was seeing.


A skinny kid sporting spotty sideburns and raging acne fed dollar bills into the jukebox. Carl heard his damn! I haven't heard the chili peppers in ages. Aggressive chords filled the room, drowning out the buzzing fly and pimento fantasy. Carl returned his attention to his glass.


The olive girl hoisted herself out of the hole and balanced on the olive-edge. She bent her wee knees and sprung, arms swimming in an upward breast-stroke as her feet kicked. Carl marveled at the tiny red dots on her toes. She rose to the surface of his martini. Before olive-bursting girl was able to grasp the glass-lip, Carl's hand shook, plopping her back through the heady liquid and into her hole.


A fly landed on the bar next to Carl's elbow. Before Carl could react, Tara swatted with her newspaper, knocking Carl's drink out of his hand. "Ah!" Carl yelped, startled by the sharp slam of newspaper and the sharper sound of shattering glass. The skinny kid sang with the jukebox, twisting and turning as the olive rolled along the bar and cold gin shocked Carl's crotch and Tara shouted "damn!" and the living pimento crawled out of her hole and Carl heard you're feelings are burning and Tara raised the newspaper and olive thumbelina shook herself and Carl shouted "no!" and the off-key kid droned you're breaking the girl as Tara smashed the bar. To Carl, the smash echoed for a very long time.


"You okay Carl?"


Carl reached into his back pocket, mopped his face with his handkerchief. "Hang on, I'll make you another," Tara said.


"Nah, that's okay. One's enough." He got out his wallet, put a couple dollars on the bar. Tara raised her eyebrows. Carl turned away before he had to explain he planned on skipping tomorrow's happy hour.



Thursday, August 26, 2010

HALO

The 3WW words are abstain, halo, prayer. Play along one of these weeks. This inspires me to write at least one story a week, (as I flounder in my other wip) and keeps me involved in #fridayflash.

halo

The halo screwed into his head, long rods held him rigid. He lay still, monitor beeping, diminished inside the sterile. A wave, a stumble, a one-in-a-million accident. His brother bent to kiss him, left the room. She would not leave.

They kissed on the couch, side by side, his body held her still. He was the first to probe. Good girls' fingers tent for prayer; good boys' fingers seek the eternal. She could not breathe. His mother glided. I'm not that kind of girl, she told the closed door.

"You have to leave. Visit for a few minutes, then go. Displaying your misery does not help my brother." Offended, she stayed. His touch created a devoted girlfriend; she did not know how to leave. Unconditional love's condition. Her halo hovered.

The hospital released him. One prayer answered. She could live inside her anticipation for their again, abstain from his tangible. Six months was not forever.

The doctor removed his halo. His blond hair screened the holes. In time, they would diminish. "I am free," he said. She drove him home, to his life. He kissed his fingers, touched her cheek. "You are too," he said. He shut the door, her freedom locked inside her rigid halo.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

HUMBLE

This week's #fridayflash got about 20 rewrites but each one my friend Tim discarded and told me to stick with the original. So here's the original (almost), with maybe a name change, or two. 


humble

A flutter at the base of her neck woke Katie. His hand cupped her breast; his body molded against hers. She offered a moan, felt his tongue-stud flick her shoulder. She focused on the poster, his only decoration. JULY 5TH in bold, his band red arrow third on the roster. The night Rise Records signed the band. The night they met...

...he had looked so hot, sweat glistening his hairless chest, black-tipped fingers flying as he humped his guitar. She had been jealous of the girls gyrating at him. After his set, he whispered insults about those sluts while his hand strummed her thigh. She gasped yes.

He had washed off his make-up, put on a life is good tee, plucked a ballad on his ukulele. He became vulnerable; he became Stone. He talked about the label rep, promised he'd stay humble. She found the bed, he found her moaning-spot...

...her current shriek cut off her memory-moan as Stone's chin slammed her shoulder blade and her head slammed the bunk wall. The driver's muffled sorry, pothole came from the front of the bus. "Forget this!" Katie said, "I've got to pee, anyways." She thrashed at the tangled Egyptian Cotton sheets, inadvertently kicked the HD screen. Her four-carat diamond snagged on the privacy curtain.

The band manager winked at her from the office/kitchen/dining room/general hang-out space. The bassist sprawled along a leather couch, his armpits darker than his tee. The keyboardist balanced a beer can on his chest.

Katie slid the bathroom door shut, but still heard, "Remember! TP in the wastebasket."

CONDITIONAL LOVE

My 3WW for this week is short and sweet (excuse the cliche).

CONDITIONAL LOVE


Jackson chewed the raw chicken, did not grimace once. Bethany could not believe he took the joke so seriously. All she wanted was for him to say, no, I won't do it. But Jackson never said no; at least not to her. He held hope, gripped it in his sweaty palm and wrung it breathless. She held hope too, but caressed it, nurtured it—her hope embodied his surrender. Love conquered nothing, except for ill-conceived notions of two-dimensional greeting-card sentiments. Jackson believed those dimensions—the remedy for unrequited love dwelt inside the definition of "unconditional." Her leverage became his demise. If only he could understand; love-sick did not want a cure.

Friday, July 30, 2010

UNSUNG HERO

This week's story is based on a tweetale I wrote sometime ago and always wanted to expand. Thanks to 3WW and #fridayflash, I found the inspiration.

UNSUNG HERO

Troy watched the seagulls wheel above the ocean, dive for clams, then guard their catches from comrades. With tourist season a memory, the gulls had to work for their meals.

A runt gull burst from the surf with a large shell bulging from its bill. In his peripherals Troy noticed a gray-winged giant intent on the smaller bird's catch. The runt soared above the cottage line, hovered as if measuring the distance. The larger bird took flight. Troy shouted to divert gray-wing's attention, but the bird disregarded him and aimed for the roofline. It swooped in just as the clam crashed on the rooftop and stole the sweet meat. The runt screeched its frustration, but gray-wing ignored the tantrum and flew away. Troy understood gull law; every bird for himself.

Troy dropped his cooler in the sand, set up his beach chair, then placed his easel before the ocean, eager to draw uninterrupted. No sunburned brats asking mister whatchya doin' or couples begging please! a souvenir, we'll pay; Troy could stare at the horizon, replicate the trawler and lazy clouds and create artwork motels paid modestly for. Not quite the life he envisioned when teachers asked what do you want to be when you grow up? but, eh, it paid. Almost enough. As long as his buddy let him crash at the beach house, Troy could afford art supplies and child support. Child support for a daughter his ex rarely let visit. Bastard lawyer. Stole his woman, his daughter and somehow, most of Troy's income.

The trawler winked off the horizon. Troy sketched enough to paint the scene later, away from the breeze and sand. He settled in his beach chair, retrieved a coke and a snack and surveyed the encroaching tide for inspiration.

Sunlight glinted off distant whitecaps, rainbow hues danced above the water. Troy opened a bag of chips. The gulls heard the crinkle. Within moments, a flock descended. Several positioned themselves to dart for fallen chips. Gray-wing flapped and squawked, bullied the competition out of range. Troy broadened his hatred of lawyers to include bullying gulls. He took off a shoe and threw it at gray-wing. The flock dispersed. Troy sketched the stragglers, tried to capture their robot-like pecks as they waded in the rising surf. A huge wave sent the remaining birds airborne.

A child-sized creature with seaweed hair and glass eyes emerged from the receding wave. With nubby appendages, the creature dragged itself beyond the tide line, settled itself onto the sand. Troy flipped a page, sketched as fast as he could.

He filled the page with a blob-like form, no legs, but a growing extension. The nubby appendages ended in two projections, the rudimentary beginnings of a thumb and hand. The neck fused into the body. If it weren't for the face, Troy would have assumed the creature was a deformed seal.

Nothing outward indicated male or female, but Troy thought female. Maybe it was the seaweed tangles, clumped like his daughter's after a day playing. Maybe it was the way the eyes sparkled clear blue, like his daughter's, smiling eyes that made him feel loved. Troy rubbed his face, waited for his vision to clear, wished damn gray-wing hadn't reminded him of bullies.

Troy sketched in details as he watched her gaze settle on him. The creature opened her mouth, closed it, opened it again. Troy ventured a smile. She dragged herself closer to his spot. Troy noticed pink skin peeking underneath flaking scales. Troy drew her aquiline nose, dainty upon her amorphous face. She wrinkled her nose, moved closer and barked.

Troy retrieved the bag of chips. She opened her mouth, kept her gaze on him. "Are you hungry, little one?" She barked again, seemed to nod. Without thinking, Troy threw her a chip. The gulls descended.

"Get away you bastards!" Troy rushed in, kicked at the birds. The creature's bark sounded like a cry—less seal-like, more human. "Leave her alone!" Troy's action dispersed all but gray-wing. The giant bird opened its bill, clamped on an appendage. Before Troy could grab her, the bird flew with the creature in its mouth.

Troy chased gray-wing as the bird struggled to stay aloft. "Greedy bastard! Drop her!" Troy kicked off his remaining shoe, lobbed it at the bird. He missed. Gray-wing rose a few feet. Runt-gull dive bombed at the bigger bird, pecked at the creature dangling in the beak. Gray-wing faltered. The child-creature wailed.

He had to throw something else. Gray-wing refused to let go as the other birds tried to steal the prize. Troy strained to hear child-cries inside the gull screeches, prayed she could survive the abuse. The attacks prevented the giant bird from gaining altitude. Troy ran back to his cooler for the soda cans. Two full ones left; he hoped that was enough.

Troy ran towards the diminishing mob, thankful the child's weight kept the melee low. The fight drifted near the shore rather than the roofline. Troy prayed they'd remain near the water.

He ignored the cramp in his side, closed the distance, and lobbed the first can. Feathers and bird poop and soda fizz rained on his head. Troy wiped his face, focused on gray wing and hurled the second can.

Runt-bird dove at the same moment. The can hit the runt-gull, hurling its body into gray-wing, knocking both birds over the ocean. Three bodies plummeted into the water. Troy raced into the surf before another greedy gull dove for the child-creature.

Sunrays dazzled upon a sleek body as it dove into the water. Troy glimpsed flowing hair, long arms, a naked bosom and a sleek tail. Water exploded as the woman-fish broke the surface, hugging the child-like creature. The creature flapped a nubby appendage at Troy before the pair disappeared into the ocean.

Troy went back to his easel, flipped the page. He drew his daughter with seaweed hair and glass eyes. No one would ever believe he saved a mer-child.

*************
*************

The 3WW words were abused, cramped and hatred. Including those words, I took this story in a different direction from the original nano-fic piece I posted on Twitter on 1/23/10:

The wave receded, revealing a child with seaweed hair and glass eyes. It barked. Scared, I threw it a Frito. Thank god for hungry seagulls.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

WHITE HORSES FLOW

This week, I rediscovered one of my favorite albums, Jeff Buckley's "Grace". This album is so good, that if I had to play the game of "If you could only listen to one album for the rest of your life, which one would it be?" I would choose this one. Those who know me would assume a Goo Goo Dolls album, but for overall emotional and resonating content, "Grace" wins. He died before the world discovered him, but I'm sure this one rates on many critics top 100 lists. Jeff performing this song is included below (if I figured out embedding properly).

The song "Mojo Pin" combined with this week's 3WW inspired this #fridayflash. A different style for me, and I'm amazed that for once, I didn't push the limits of a "flash" word count.

WHITE HORSES FLOW


Tabitha grabbed the slimy worm, didn't flinch at all as she pierced its body with the hook. She looked at her daddy, basked in his approval.

~~

Scott paddled the boat to the still pool, pulled the oars into the keel. He laid the bait box between them, smiled at his daughter's beaming face.

~~

Tabitha felt the vibration from the pole. She set the hook, just like daddy taught her, then reeled the white horse into the boat.

~~

Scott jumped when the hoof kicked his chest. He worried the thin line of oozing blood would frighten Tabitha.

~~

Tabitha cried at the sight of her dad's blood. The red oozed bright in the gray twilight.

~~

Scott touched his daughter's face, promised daddy would stay near. He closed his eyes, a victim to the pain.

~~

Tabitha screamed herself awake, tucked tighter into herself. She willed herself back to sleep, back into the boat, back to before the white horse kicked.

~~

Scott watched his daughter sleep, apologized for leaving. The light beckoned, he couldn't ignore its call.

~~

Tabitha grabbed the slimy hose, didn't flinch at all as she pierced her arm with the needle. She looked at her boyfriend, basked in his approval.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

FABULOUS FLASH AWARD

John Wiswell bestowed upon me the Fabulous Flash Award, a Jon Strother creation. I am honored and touched to receive the recognition from John (@wiswell).  The whole point of the award is to introduce new readers to the works of deserving writers. 



Before I pass this on to four others, I want to also reciprocate this one to John (though I won't make him repost or repass to four more people).  He is someone I consider a friend, though I've never met him in person and I'm not sure if that will ever happen (though I hope we do meet).  He is talented, passionate, humorous, prolific, generous and one of the best writers I know.  He knows how to use minimal words for maximum impact, and layers his stories with so much.  I often laugh out loud at his writings, and then surprise myself when days later, a nuance of his story hits me.  He never makes me feel stupid but always makes me think. 

So, now that I have received the award, I must bestow it upon other deserving writers.  The hard part is only choosing 4.  The caveat is that this will be passed on again, so more of my favorites will get recognized, and possibly, you will discover their impressive stories too.

Timothy P. Remp writes in many genres, but his passions are science fiction and fantasy. He doesn't post as often as I would like him too (yes, I'm nagging him) but when he does, he'll blow your socks off (excuse the cliche).  On occasion, he can be found lurking by the pseudonym @Tim_Remp_writer (shh! don't tell him I gave you his real name). We met in a writers' group, became friends, even wrote a story together (and it's published!) and I would not be the writer I am today without his encouragement, insights and friendship.  Visit The Event Horizon and bring an extra toothbrush.  You should probably get your EVA suit back from the drycleaners first.

Cathy Olliffe portrays the most realistic characters with humor and compassion. Visiting life on the muskoka river is like dropping in on your favorite neighbor, sitting at her kitchen table and talking for the next hour.  Sometimes she serves coffee or tea; other times she giggles, says it's noon somewhere, and gets a bottle of red and two wine glasses and enthralls you with her stories.  She always makes you feel right at home. If you are a twitter enthusiast, follow @mattiasville

Linda Simoni-Wastila  She writes everything from six sentence stories to poetry to novels.  I met Linda (and John W) through Harbinger*33.  I am indebted to that project (hope H*33 fulfills its dream!) for introducing me to writers that I now feel I can call friends.  I just read at leftbrainwrite that she finished her first draft of PURE.  Often, through #fridayflash (follow @drwasy) she gives us glimpses into her fascinating characters and situations.  When it's published, I will be at the bookstore, waiting for them to unlock the doors so I may purchase one of the first copies.  Her writing often gives me chills (not the horror kind, the insightful kind). 

The fourth person is the hardest.  So many I want to recognize.  Some (phew!) already received this honor from either John or Jon; others I know will receive it through the inevitable chain this will create.  Therefore, I'm giving the fourth spot to someone I hardly know, but I love her words.

Diandra Linneman There is this woman who lives in Germany (I think she does--her blog and twitter page say that) whom I found through #fridayflash and I follow on twitter.  I've only exchanged a few words with her, but I read most of her posts, (follow @LaCaffetnatta). She makes me laugh!  Irreverant, a bit cantankerous, impatient with her co-workers and BF, her posts are hilarious.  She's resourceful, intelligent, wry, adventerous and totally real.  I'm glad she writes, otherwise I fear for the life of her boyfriend!  No, she's not mean, she is compassionate and her stories are sharp and witty, include a touch of dark humor and often involve killing a deserving individual. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

FALSE ALARM

FALSE ALARM

This story appeared here June 2010, but has found a new horror home at Trembles. I'm so excited! Editor Gregory Thompson compared "False Alarm" to Stephen King (what a compliment!) and is including this story in the premier issue, January 2011.

Friday, June 25, 2010

WALKING CLOSET

So this week, I'm watching The Ellen Degeneres Show and she does a feature called "Really Real Real Estate" and one of the laughs involved a "walking" closet.  That stayed with me for the remainder of the week.  Thank you Ellen for my #fridayflash inspiration.

WALKING CLOSET


Rose giggled at the typo, then swiped at her sudden tears. "Walking closet" reminded her of Papa, his gruff voice reading C.S. Lewis then taking her on an explore; his rough hand grasping her small one, his other hand navigating with a debarked branch, pipe smoke mingling with autumn fresh on their long walks. She substituted "walk-in" in her head. Lung cancer took Papa long ago; benevolent lions did not live in closets; and thanks to an overworked trucker cranked up on amphetamines, Rose did not walk.

She reread the listing. One level living at its finest. That phrase alone sold her, but the four bedrooms, three and a half baths, seventeen acres, mountain views and great privacy for less than $300,000 clinched it. Almost. For that price they probably moved the headstones, not the bodies. Still, privacy and a fresh start tantalized. A walk-in closet meant a wheel-in closet, and that meant independence. She reached into a side pouch for her phone and dialed her real estate agent, wishing a "walking closet" could be.

###

"The sellers are extremely motivated, though I'm not supposed to divulge that tidbit." Liz Quincy winked at Rose as she held open the door to the master bedroom. Rose wheeled herself into the room.

Liz's gaze darted from Rose's face to the chair's wheels, her expression passive as she said, "I think you'll find every room a perfect fit. And you can't beat the views!" Rose glanced toward the slider, murmured it was a nice view of Mt. Kinsey and rolled straight to the closet doors. "Oh, let me get those!" Rose heard. She tried not to giggle as her agent's heel caught on the threshold.

Shelves filled with walking shoes flanked the doorway. Rose wheeled past the shoes, swept aside garment bags to touch the back wall. Solid, nothing more than a closet. Rose snorted, angry at herself for expecting a fairy tale. "Is everything okay?" Liz asked.

"'Walk-in' closet doesn't mean a 'wheel-in and spin around' closet," Rose said as she backed her chair out of the space. Flannel brushed her cheek. A plaid hunting jacket, similar to her Papa's hung askew. "How motivated are the sellers?" Rose asked.

###

The Carvers looked exhausted as they entered the lawyer's office. Rose endured both of their wide-eyed gazes.

"A wheelchair, of course!" Mr. Carver said as he limped to a chair.

"Yes, Ms. Taylor is perfect," Mrs. Carver said as she fell into her seat.

Rose smiled, noting both Carvers bloodshot eyes. "Ms. Taylor is too formal. Call me Rose." The Carvers murmured "Joan" and "Steven." Ms. Quincy offered her hand and said, "Call me Liz." The lawyer passed out pens, Attorney James Nadeau emblazoned in gold.

Mr. Nadeau addressed Liz as he presented documents for Rose. "And your client's initials go here... and here... sign this one, and now, the funds?" The sellers seemed to hold their breaths. Rose signed a personal check; Mr. Nadeau raised his eyebrows.

"My injury lawyer was a tiger," she said and touched an atrophied leg. He shrugged as he presented a receipt for the Carvers. "Just this... and this." Rose noticed Steven's hand trembled as he signed the final document.

Mr. Nadeau slid the deed across the table. "Congratulations Ms. Taylor, you are a homeowner." Both Carvers sighed, their shoulders relaxed.

"Now that it's a done deal, may I ask why you sold your home at such a 'motivated' price?" Rose asked. Their lawyer shook his head at his clients.

The Carvers exchanged a knowing look. Steven cleared his throat.  A red-faced Joan stammered, "We are tired of walking."

###

With the Carvers clothing gone, the master bedroom's closet appeared roomier. Rose unpacked her Papa's red-plaid hunting jacket, buried her face into the flannel, caught the fading whiff of pipe smoke and cherry cough drops. He would have loved living in the shadow of a mountain. As she hung the jacket, she noticed a slight jog to the closet. She snorted; secrets weren't always at the back of closets; she should have known. Her chair just fit.

The space opened into a slightly curved corridor. Rose's heart raced, thrilled to find a secret passageway. "Walking closet" was not a typo after all. Her chair rolled faster, momentum helping the descent. She almost smashed into a door.

The brass knob turned easily. The open door revealed a small workshop, sunlight spilling in between wide planks. Canes and staffs and walking sticks leaned against every rustic wall. Rose pushed herself across the room, touched a knotty staff, oiled and smoothed to natural beauty. Goosebumps prickled her skin. Not her papa's walking branch, but he would have approved. Rose grabbed the staff and tucked it between her knees. She wheeled around, wanting to bring the treasure back with her.

A tool-filled shelf commanded the space where the door had stood. Rose spun her chair, looking for an exit. Claustrophobia threatened. She swept aside canes and staffs, the clatter deafening in the small space. One wide plank leaned outward, a hook and eye-latch keeping it in place. Rose yanked the hook, pushed herself forward into a meadow, gasping for air. A gradual slope led to a distant house, Mt. Kinsey filling the skyline. The looming presence reassured her.

Rose could understand the Carvers tiring of the ascent; the mere thought of rolling uphill almost daunted her. Once her breathing slowed to normal, she seated the walking stick firmly against her shoulder and aimed the wheels to her dream home. The prickly sensation washed over her again; from her scalp to her waist, from her waist to her thighs, from her thighs to her toes.

Tingling was a start. Rose dared to believe in magic.

Friday, June 18, 2010

TO TRICK A MOCKINGBIRD

Friday Flash. Done.

TO TRICK A MOCKINGBIRD


Brett waited to take a deep breath until after he crossed the manicured lawn and entered the tree-lined walkway. Green-scented air filled his lungs. Before he passed Nurse Riann wheeling a patient back to the facility, he ducked onto a footpath. Whether her contempt included all orderlies or just him, he didn't know; but he did not want to confront her scorn on his lunch break. Birdsong led him to the pond.

Brett ate his sandwich on a rock by the water. Goldfinches danced atop a broken fir as a bullfrog pinged its lazy song while long-legged insects skated across the surface. Brett savored his refuge.

A string of song burst from a nearby tree. Brett recognized a towhee-trill, as well as that of an oriole, a chickadee and a blue jay. He also identified a cat's meow and a warbled alarm. The mockingbird sang through its repertoire several times, enough for Brett to pick up the pattern. He mimicked the song as he returned to the footpath.

Dull silver glinted between leaves. White-patched wings bolted into the sky then swooped close, just clearing Brett's head. The bird's blue eyes flashed at Brett before he stumbled, falling through the undergrowth onto a crutch. Greenbriar marked the aluminum. He wondered how crutches landed so far from the nursing home. He brushed off his scrubs and scanned the upper branches for his blue-eyed attacker. The trees were silent.

###

Brett glided the mop into room 214. Less than two weeks ago, Mrs. Wilson had sat up in bed and complained to him about everything from food to dust bunnies. She'd given him her blue-eyed stare, waited for his, "May I do anything else for you Mrs. Wilson?" She demanded her crutches and he helped her hobble to her chair by the window. "Freedom," she had whispered, then stared outside.

He peered at her wizened face, her gaping mouth, her still body, willing her to complain instead of lying there catatonic. He wished her chart was wrong. Stroke victims rarely recovered a second time. He whistled softly as he passed the mop under her bed, then opened the blinds before he left the room.

A faint chirp stopped him. Brett glanced out the window. Distant tree tops swayed in a breeze, but nothing else moved. He heard the chirp again, faced the bed.  Mrs. Wilson opened her eyes and closed her mouth.

"Mrs. Wilson?"

Nurse Riann appeared at his side. "Other rooms need your attention, Mr. Norwood."

Brett stared at the bed as Nurse Riann injected medicine into the IV tube. Mrs. Wilson's lids fluttered. "MR. NORWOOD!"

"Yes ma'am," Brett mumbled and left the room. Mrs. Wilson's eyes were brown.

###

Brett entered Room 214 with his linen cart. Mrs. Wilson's mouth gaped open, her eyelids shut, her chest rising and falling with her shallow breaths. Brett whistled as he changed her sheets.

Mrs. Wilson's eyes fluttered open, revealing brown eyes. Brett wondered if he had imagined her with blue eyes. Her mouth pursed closed. Brett tucked a clean sheet over her and continued whistling. She chirped.

"Mrs. Wilson?"

She chirped an oriole's sound. Brett mimicked her. Mrs. Wilson whistled a jay. He mimicked again. They both whistled through the mockingbird's repertoire, matching sound for sound. She turned towards the window.

Brett opened the blinds to a flash of gray and white. A bird perched on the outside ledge, answering Mrs. Wilson's songs. The outside bird expanded the pattern; Mrs. Wilson repeated. The bird had brown eyes.

Chuckling to himself, Brett wondered what he was thinking. Whistling ability was not a stroke side-effect, as far as he knew.

The bird added a groan, closely mimicked by Mrs. Wilson, which resembled her former voice.  Brett rushed to the bed. The mockingbird on the ledge became agitated, then bolted into the sky. Brett rushed to the window in time to see the bird swoop at a person below. Nurse Riann swatted at the bird as her gaze swept the second floor.  Brett locked stares with her. She hurried into the nursing home.

Within minutes Brett heard the squeak of rubber soles against tiles. Nurse Riann entered the room.

"Mrs. Wilson didn't have a stroke," Brett said.  Nurse Riann stared at the patient. "Well?" Brett asked.

"Since when does an orderly demand?" The mockingbird returned to the window ledge, shrilled a piercing high-low call, then flew away. Mrs. Wilson's mouth opened and closed, soundless. "Get a wheelchair, Mr. Norwood."

Brett obeyed, hurrying back to the room.  He caught Nurse Riann cooing as she gently stroked the old woman's wispy hair. "Only a few days of freedom, she broke the rules. We'll get you back." Brett cleared his throat as he approached the bed.

Once outside, the mockingbird swooped close to the trio before it disappeared.  "That was the male," Nurse Riann said. "Mockingbirds are fearless, sometimes even attacking hawks. They are truly free."

She led them in the bird's direction towards the pond. Two mockingbirds landed on a close branch, one chattering, the other glaring.  "And they are monogamous." The glaring bird's eyes were blue. The old woman struggled in the chair. 

"Mrs. Wilson did not have a stroke," Brett said. Nurse Riann gave him a taut smile. "She's not Mrs. Wilson," she said.

Nurse Riann raised her hands, returned the blue-eyed mockingbird's glare. "Time to return, Mrs. Wilson." Nurse Riann began the repertoire of sounds, waved her hands, seeming to mesmerize the blue-eyed bird. It trembled, then alit onto the nurse's outstretched arm. In unison, the male bird, the woman in the chair and the nurse mimicked a human groan. The blue-eyed bird collapsed; the patient slumped under Brett's grip.

The old woman in the chair moaned, staring at them with blue eyes. "Freedom," she whispered. "Freedom," Nurse Riann whispered to the mockingbirds. Brett followed the birds flight over the pond.

Friday, June 11, 2010

CHARITY CASE

My #fridayflash came through after all.


CHARITY CASE


Gina stared at Max's armpits. The black curly hair looked damp. “I saw a beggar today,” she said.

Max got the remote off his nightstand, resettled against the headboard. "The one-legged guy?” he asked.

"Which one-legged guy?"

"The one at the Hudson bridge. He's out there every day."

"Do you give him money?"

"Damn straight I do! He's a veteran, lost his leg defending America." Max raked his fingers through this unkempt hair. "I admire him. He's at his spot every day, standing there with his sign. Society fucked-him over, but he found a way to say 'fuck-you' back. Made it his job. I'm proud to support him every day."

"Every day? You give a total stranger money every day?"

"What of it? He lost a leg defending me!" Max increased the television volume. "We owe him, Gina. He deserves our support."

"I wasn't in Hudson." Gina entered the bathroom. She shouted, "The one I saw had two legs."

She opened the medicine cabinet for her night cream. The new Right Guard Sport still had the plastic top. The Quattro razors were still sealed. So was the purple Trojan box. She slammed shut the mirrored door.

The opening music to Leno blared from the bedroom. “So where'd you see your beggar?" Max shouted back.

Gina went to the doorway, ignored the pile of dirty clothes on the carpet. "Trust me, he's not my beggar."

Max shifted to make room for her on the bed, then returned his gaze to the television. She breathed through her mouth as he crossed his arms behind his head.

"He was at the traffic light out of the Whole Foods' plaza. You know, catching all the shoppers, trying to make 'em feel guilty after spending too much money on grass-fed beef and organic chocolate chips."

"Is that where you shop? At Whole Foods? No wonder you always complain about money."

"No, that's where my dry cleaner is and Home Depot and Border's and, anyhow; I was doing my errands and I saw the this guy in an overcoat, sitting on the stone near the traffic light. The light changed to green and the SUV in front didn't move. I beeped and then saw the guy go to her window."

Max asked, "Did you give him money?"

"I didn't have to; the SUV in front of me did. The light changed to red and green again before she handed him a bill. She caused a back-up."

Max muted the television. Gina watched black bars bounce on a wild girl's chest. "While she was fumbling, someone yelled 'get a job fatso,' but the beggar didn't flinch. He just stood patiently as soccer-mom fumbled for her money."

"You mean someone heckled a homeless guy? That's low."

Gina winced. "I know! But, this guy sort of deserved it. His open coat framed a pot belly—a huge one. His cardboard sign read 'Hungry, Please Help.' My first thought was, 'how hungry can you be with a gut like that?'"

"How non-judgmental of you," Max said. The Tonight Show logo filled the screen. Max un-muted the television.

Gina fluffed her pillow, settled under the covers. "Today was the first day over 60 degrees and almost everyone walked around in shirt sleeves. People were all giddy and friendly and commenting that summer had finally arrived and then I see this guy, just sitting under the bright sun in a bulky gray overcoat. He stared at everyone with this expression... Max!"

"What?" He turned his head to her, but his eyes still focused on the screen. "You saw a homeless guy today, and had no empathy. You don't get the Nobel Peace Prize this year, big deal."

Gina reached across him for the remote. His once hard abs felt spongy under her forearm. She muted Jay's and an aging actor's repartee. "Why should I feel empathy for a guy with a beer gut holding a 'Hungry' sign? 'Liar,' that's what the sign should have read! He should have been job hunting instead of sponging off strangers."

Max frowned at her. "Don't tell me; you're the heckler?"

She stared pointedly at Max. "Well, instead of looking for work, he was looking for charity."

Max returned her stare. His stubble accented his clenched jaw-line. "Is that what you think I am? A charity case?"

"Come on Max, that's not what I said."

Max got out of bed, put on the jeans from a pile on the floor. "But that's what you think."

She didn't look at him. "Well, I am the only one supporting this household. I mean, you're out of work, but you could be doing more." She pointed to the clothes pile. "You could be helping with the household chores. Shaving. Showering. Doing something to say 'thank you.'"

Max held her stare, his resentment battering her. "Thank you," he said through his still clenched teeth.

"Max. I... I'm sorry."

"I am too." He left the room. She heard the screen door slam.

~~

Gina drove to Whole Foods' plaza, stopped at the traffic light. The sedan behind her beeped its horn. She rolled down her window, waved at the man in the dirty gray overcoat. He gazed at her, his expression still. "This is for you," she said, waving a wad of bills. The man put down his cardboard sign, braced his palms on his knees to rise. The car horn behind Gina beeped again. The homeless man limped to her window, his reek overpowering. She pushed the bills into his hand, held his stare, waited for acknowledgement.

The light changed to red. "Thank you, ma'am," he said, accepting the money. She tried not to flinch as his fingers brushed hers. Gina watched the light instead of the beggar, wanting to feel anything but his resentment.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

American Week

Cathy Olliffe of Canada has been featuring American writers at her blog, Life on the Muskoka River, including moi.  She made me feel special, and writer-special, which is extra spec... well, you get the idea.  Thank you Cathy.

Of course, the link I provided gets you to my interview and story.  Feel free to scroll around her site and find other great authors such as Carrie Clevenger, Mike Solender, Anthony Venutolo, Shannon Esposito, Eric J. Krause and the wanna-be-American, Alan W. Davidson.  More will be featured after I post this, and I am so looking forward to not only what they are offering, but what Cathy will ask them and how they'll answer.  Cathy is as much an expert interviewer as she is a stellar fiction writer.  (If Dave from my writer's group were here, he would get me for all the missing hyphens--but I will just go with it and say, hey! it's Wednesday!) 

I met someone through Cathy's features that somehow, despite me trying to get to everyone on #fridayflash, I missed his name and works.  When I say missed, I mean I never stumbled across his stories and by missing that, missed reading some extraordinarly touching, interesting, haunting, imaginative, artistic, honest prose.  I thank Cathy for featuring Mark Kerstetter, because now I've been exposed to someone and something wonderful, and look forward to the adventure of discovering more, whether from Mark or the other incredibly talented authors that Cathy featured, or maybe someone that none of us have met yet, but will participate in #fridayflash.  (#fridayflash is the brainchild of J. M. Strother--check him out too.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

SOLEMN'S VENTURE

I love Cathy Olliffe! If you haven't stopped by yet, do yourself a favor and check out her friends from her version of "down under" for American Week. The stories are great, but Cathy's interviews and chatty style of writing is stupendous!

For #fridayflash another visit to Mars for Chapter 2 of "Venture" (just a reference title for now). Check out Timothy P. Remp for another #fridayflash based on the same world. If you missed the first chapter "Repetetive Patterns", go here.


SOLEMN'S VENTURE

Keith arrived in sector forty-two. Norman Solemn's residence was located on the outer edge of the lowest tier. A sign announced Econo Bio-Domes, but Keith saw no evidence of the construction outfit. Before he could engage the security panel, the door lifted. A stout man with a greasy complexion clutched his chest.

"Jeez Floyd! You scared the piss outta me. What the hell're you doing here?"

"Hi Solemn. Good to see you too. Just thought we'd chat, catch up. You know."

"Yeah? About what?"

"You building Econo-domes anymore?"

Solemn squinted. "Outta business, thanks to you and that insurance bitch."

Keith raised his hands in the "surrender" pose. "No, not me. I was only the hired help."

Solemn's eyes gleamed. "Maybe I believe you, maybe I don't. Why don't you try persuading me over a beverage."

Keith took the hint. "How 'bout I buy a round or two, no hard feelings?"

Solemn winked. "Least you could do."

Keith followed the fat man through an alley, into a dim passageway. After a few more turns, Keith felt lost. He'd never been this deep into the lower sector. He looked up to get his bearings.

For the first time since settling in Venture, Keith couldn't see the dome. The city's upper tiers bridged over this sector, blocking the view of the Martian skies. He checked between buildings for any view. Even buried under a sandstorm in his hovercraft, he hadn't experienced such an acute sense of claustrophobia.

Solemn stopped before a flashing neon sign of a woman opening and closing a robe, conical breasts the same bright purple as "The Iron Queen." A statuesque redhead writhed on stage. Other tall women—mostly topless—mingled with customers. Keith found two empty stools at the bar. Hell-hole, Keith thought as he shoved an arm off his shoulder. He preferred his women without adam's apples.

Solemn gulped his first beer and insisted on a second before Keith received an answer to his question about the defunct business.

"Couldn't build the econo-homes without the bots. Your insurance-bitch ruined me." He drained his second beer and gestured for a third. The bartender shook his head. "I got to see your credit chits Solemn, you know that."

Keith nodded at the bartender and laid a stack of credit chits on the bar. "Get us clean glasses this time."

"You heard him dickwad, fill it up!" Solemn turned his stool to watch the stage. "Yeah, that bitch told Stella Insurance that I 'tampered with the hive master-mind.' She reported I 'caused irreparable damage' by vacuuming inside the Boyar's brain cavity." Solemn leaned in close enough for Keith to get a whiff of sour breath. "And if I didn't clean out the goddamn iron grit, the insurance would've said I didn't follow a 'proper maintenance schedule.'" Solemn's gesturing air quotes hit Keith in the face. Solemn mumbled an apology.

"She should've paid. Geez, I insured those bots to the hilt. If she'd paid—" Solemn finished his beer and wiped his mouth with his dirty sleeve. "I wouldn't be depending on the kindness of friends."

Keith asked, "So why'd you get the Boyar in the first place? That's an expensive investment for any construction outfit."

Solemn took one of Keith's chit off the bar, waved it in the general direction of a topless body. "Don't I know it! A human can't remain in that hostile environment. Come on Floyd! You know what it's like out there! Between the sandstorms and dust devils and tremors, only an artificial being can maintain any sort of schedule to get things done."

"Still, a Boyar with labor bots? I thought only scientists used Boyar's. Your basic A.I. could've done a construction job."

Solemn gave Keith a self-satisfied grin. "Your pal Norman here is just as smart as scientists. You see," Norman said, tapping his own temple, "it's called a 'master-mind' because the Boyar can control other bots by its artificial intelligence."

Keith frowned. "I don't get it."

Solemn sighed. Keith assumed his drinking buddy was implying he was teaching a slow student. Keith ignored the insult and only raised an eyebrow.

Solemn explained, "Okay, they call it hive-intelligence because the Boyar can control other bots by its brain powers, if you will. Telepathy. It sends commands and the labor bots tune in. Like bees to a queen bee. But there's a trick to it."

"What's the trick?"

Solemn pantomimed zipping his lips, then threw the imaginary key. He let his hand fall on Keith's credit chits. Keith smirked even as he slammed his hand on top of the fat man's greasy one. He admired Solemn's style, even if he abhorred the guy. Keith gestured the bartender for refills.

"Imprinting."

Keith kept his expression still, though his heart raced. He felt he was close. "And what is imprinting?" He released his grip on Solemn's hand. Solemn grinned, revealing a blackened incisor and helped himself to several chits.

"Okay. You get a Boyar and as many labor bots as you can afford. New ones, never used. It won't work with repurposed bots. Anyhow, I got myself twelve, hooked 'em all up to the Boyar's brain before I turned 'em on. Once connected, I gave the Boyar my programming, and it uploaded to the labor bots. Then the Boyar turned them all on." Solemn popped open his hands. "And poof! The Boyar is their 'mommy'. Imprinting. Those bots would've followed that Boyar into a volcano."

"Is that what happened?" Keith asked.

Solemn winked. "Was supposed to. My Boyar was the queen bee and was going to make me a king." Solemn waved the chits at a dancer. "It woulda worked too, if that insurance bitch hadn't recovered the goddamn event module. Who the hell knew Boyar's came equipped with little black boxes?"

"So Econo Bio-Domes was a scam?"

"Everyone knows the Arcadian Plains are unstable. Too many dust devils." Solemn grabbed the dancer by the crotch. The impersonator feigned surprise. "Speaking about queens—we done here Floyd?"

Thursday, May 27, 2010

REPETITIVE PATTERNS

My writer buddy Timothy P. Remp (@Tim_Remp_writer if you want to follow him) and I once wrote a story together titled "Claims" which was included in Absent Willow Review's Best of 2009 anthology (thank you very much).

Tim is writing episodes for a Pluto story, which when finished will probably become his first novella.  He tied it to Mars, the setting for "Claims". A week ago (like a fool) I suggested that we both write separate flashes, but relate them to Mars.  He was enthusiastic (manic!) about the idea and talked Mars with me all week. (Check out the "Prelude" episodes at The Event Horizon which he also writes in conjunction with 3WW and #fridayflash). 

Well, I couldn't not write a story based on "Claims", but apparently, I couldn't write a flash either (1800 words and not finished yet).  My offering will be serialized, if you will, over the next three, maybe four weeks.  We'll all be surprised by the ending ;).  Here's part 1:

REPETITIVE PATTERNS


Keith felt a feather's touch on his shoulder.

"You awake?" she whispered. Keith kept still. Her name began with an "S"? Sasha, Sarah... something like that. She kissed his shoulder again. "Keith?" It escaped him. He used his stand-by. "Hey Baby."

"The dust devils are scary," she said. She snuggled against his chest.

"They're just part of Mars. Sandstorms and iron grit and dust devils. I thought you said you've been here a while?"

She sat up and pointed out his window. Keith watched a couple cabs whiz past on Perimeter road. Tourists. They always opted for the scenic route. Insiders chose direct interior routes to get around Venture. Most structures had at least one view toward the dome and the Martian landscape, but that first dome view elicited awe.

Keith barely noted the looming silhouettes of Ascreaus Mons, Pavonis Mons and Arsia Mons below the twin moons. A red desert stretched between the domed city limits and the lesser volcanoes. Several dust devils battered the side of the dome.

"See what I mean?" she asked.

Sandy? Keith wondered. "Sandy" on Mars; Keith stifled his chuckle. Might as well name her Desert. Sierra! That was her name.

"Why are you smirking? I've never seen dust devils act like that," Sierra said. She got out of bed and searched for her clothing. Keith remembered more than her name. Yeah, he thought, I could do that again.

"Sierra, don't go. I've never seen dust devils form a pattern—" The pattern was familiar.

"I know! Watch." Sierra pulled her shirt over her head and walked to his window. He found his pants and joined her. The rust-colored sand gradually swirled into cones, aligned into precise rays—a sunburst pattern—and then en masse surged forward, ramming and collapsing against the dome. Transfixed, Keith watched several repetitions of this phenomena. Sunburst patterns niggled his memory. Where had he seen that happen before?

Sierra's voice interrupted his thoughts. "I've never seen dust devils together. They're supposed to be solitary. And random. This is bizarre." She leaned against the window to peer left, then right. "They're only doing it here. In this section."

The last time he'd seen so many dust devils was with the claims investigator. The insurance company that hired her also hired his company, K.F. Salvage Services to take her out onto the Arcadian Plains to locate Norman Solemn's lost labor bots and the Boyar master-mind. The labor bots had unloaded supplies into that pattern.

They had found pieces of those bots. He had kept the pieces for his salvage business and was able to get top dollar for parts. Settling the planet required almost an army of labor bots, and the grit did a number on them. He could have made a killing off the Boyar brain, even if it was fried, but he held onto the head and torso. I couldn't sell him—IT. I couldn't sell IT.

Keith remembered watching the event module with the investigator. The iron grit or something affected the Boyar. Instead of supervising construction, the Boyar abandoned the project after watching meteor showers. It had led the bots on a hike to a geyser. The retrieved holographic diary showed the Boyar frozen in terror as a wall of sand buried it alive.

"I've got to go." Sierra finished dressing. "Call me?"

"Sure, sure," Keith said. "Um, what's your last name?"

"Jenkins."

"Floyd."

"I know. We wouldn't have done it if I didn't know your name." She stood on tip-toe and kissed the scar above his eyebrow. A couple hours ago, she'd licked it, told him it was sexy. He didn't tell her he got the scar falling on his beer bottle.

Keith returned to the window after she departed. He counted twelve separate dust devils. There had been twelve lost bots. He ran his fingers through his shaggy blond hair. Before he could convince himself twelve was a coincidence, he heard muffled thumps and scrapes.

Keith followed the sounds to his storage annex, swiped his uni-card. The door-panel slid up.

The Boyar placed its fists on the threshold, then lifted and swung its torso forward, propelling itself gorilla-style through the open doorway. The Boyar's eyes shone with green lights. "All accounted for Norman. Ready for our next assignment."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

PIRATE GLASSES

This 3WW and #fridayflash could be considered another episode relating to "Unchained Feeling" from a few weeks ago.  This flash features the guitarist Stone and stands alone; but if you're interested, follow the link.  I like the band members, and they seem to like me. We'll see how much they tell me about themselves.  I think the band's name is Red Arrow, but they haven't verified that yet. Comments welcome.

Pirate Glasses

The phone buzzed and vibrated against the nightstand. Stone grasped for it, trying not to actually get up. He brought its small screen to his face and squinted at the display. He groaned. She was the last person he wanted to talk to right now. The never-never land between Saturday night and Sunday morning meant she drunk-dialed. He didn't need to listen to her slurring; a body warmed his back. Stone replaced the phone onto the nightstand... he didn't own a nightstand.

The body murmured. Think! He peeked. Her face was turned away from his, one arm flung over her eyes. All he could see was a halo of red curls, a creamy neck and his Heavy Metal tee covering a different chest. Oh jeez, it had been that kind of Saturday night. Sore muscles competed with his throbbing head. His tongue felt wooly. Stone was pretty sure the Captain had something to do with his evening.

Oh my god, did she take me home? Solo gig at Terrence's, red curls bouncing under a green plaid fedora. The hot chick swayed and mouthed lyrics in front of the stage. She'd sent him a Cap'n and coke during his first break, proving she made the effort to learn about him. Of course, he was obliged to show his appreciation.

Oh man, he'd appreciated her vintage Pretenders tee, the block-style "P" stretched over what proved to be much more than a mouthful. She'd laughed at his wedding gig story, begged him to play the Righteous Brothers. He acquiesced, and followed it with Joe Cocker's "You Can Take Your Hat Off"—which she did, as part of a slow grind, her gaze locked on him as he strummed and wooed. Those gray eyes sparkled and for Stone, Katie's moves were irresistible. Katie!

Stone eased out of her bed, relieved he remembered her name. Katie murmured again before turning on her side. Stone pulled on his jeans, held up her discarded tee, decided against it. His phone vibrated again. He dreaded answering it.

"You should get that," a soft voice said within a yawn.

He pressed a side button, shoved his phone into his pocket. "That's okay, nothing important."

Katie sat up. "Really, it's okay. If she's expecting you, you should answer."

"It's not what you think," Stone answered. His pocket vibrated. Shit! he thought. Not that he expected this one-night-stand to blossom into a relationship, but he'd like his baggage to stop cock-blocking him. He definitely would appreciate a second round with Katie.

"It's my mother. She won't stop if I don't answer."

"Sure, whatever." Katie reached to flick on a bedside lamp. Stone could tell from her frown that she didn't believe him.

He bolted from her bedroom, found his way to the kitchen. An almost empty handle of Captain Morgan sat on Katie's kitchen table, set between two pirate glasses half-filled with watery amber liquid. Stone emptied the rum into one as he waited for his mother to ring again. Before he swallowed one gulp, his phone vibrated.

"He'sh gone."

"Who's gone ma?"

"YOUR STEP-FATHER'S GONE! WHO HELL DO YA THICK?"

Stone pulled the phone away from his ear, shouted into the mouth-holes. "GOOD RIDDANCE. RAY'S A JERK!"

"HE'SS NOT A JERK! God yer'n ass."

"Is that why you called? To insult me?"

Katie stepped into the kitchen. His Heavy Metal shirt didn't hug her curves as well as her Pretenders one, but something about a chick in a man's tee got to him. He mouthed sorry.

Katie purposely walked to her coffee maker and pushed the start button. Through the earpiece he heard a click and a sharp inhale. "Ma, I thought you quit smoking?"

"I did, but I'm not a critter." Snorts filled his ear canal. The aroma of fresh-brewed coffee intensified Stone's headache. "I didn't quit, no sirree. Ray did. Ray'ss a quitter." Sobs replaced her bitter laughter.

"Don't mom. Please. He'll be back. He'll apologize and beg for your forgiveness. Just go to bed; we'll talk in the morning." Ray wouldn't apologize—it was his mother's fault, even if Ray was a jerk—but Stone had to say something to pacify her. He hated dealing with drunk mom.

The night faded to gray through Katie's sheer curtains. It was morning; he didn't want to talk yet.

"I don't wanna live alone" leaked into his ear. Me neither, Stone thought. He stared at Katie leaning against her counter, his tee draping her body, the hem caressing her thigh.

He wanted to caress that thigh. He wanted to ask her for his tee back, sniff it for her citrusy scent, forget about his needy mother. He fingered the pirate decal on the glass in his hand; different glass but still a pirate. Ever since he could remember, his mother drank from a pirate glass. If he visited now she'd be sitting at her kitchen table, clutching her jelly glass, amber liquid defining a faded red hat and hook; the vestiges of a movie promotion.

"Mom, you're not alone. I'm around. Go to bed. I'll be over later today." Katie cocked her head, blushed when she realized he watched her listen.

"Promish?"

Stone heard his mother's hiccup. He got up and placed his glass in the sink, motioned for a mug. "Promise. I just have to finish my Saturday night." Katie smiled and poured him a coffee.

"Whass 'at mean?"

"It means thank you mom. I'm—I mean, you're not alone."

Stone pressed "end" and took a sip. Katie's coffee sucked. She yawned then smiled at him. "Your mother."

"Yes. I have to go soon."

"I heard."

He winked at her. "I need my shirt." Stone tugged on the hem, leading Katie back to bed.