For Monday Flash Fics: An Encounter With Frivolity, by Jeff Baker. January 21, 2018.

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                                               With Bells and Motley

                                                           By Jeff Baker                                                                      

            The city is old and familiar. But all cities, all places are familiar to me. I glance casually at the people walking along the street. Some of them eye me curiously, some of them are smiling. I smile to myself at that.

            Fashions have changed (of course) and at times I feel there is as much difference between different countries and different centuries. I have worn the most outlandish outfits as well as sober grey flannel. I have been plainly seen presiding over my special area of human frailty and strength. In the days of knights in armor I was in bells and motley, but I also was seen in ermine robes as well as running naked in the woods. I have been to funerals in a burst of sudden good feeling and nostalgia and once, in this very city, I was in the wings on opening (also closing) night of an unfunny stage comedy, where the conversation between the playwright and the stagehand was funnier than anything the audience was being subjected to. I hope the playwright took what little hints I could give as to subject matter for a next endeavor. I don’t drop hints very often, though I have dropped people’s pants unexpectedly.

            I am an Embodiment, what some called a Teraphim, a personification, of something considered insubstantial. The depiction of Death, with a skull-face and black hooded robes is one such being. Father Time is another. I am laughter. I am humor. Frivolity and satire. And I take many forms in many places. I have been in hospitals, on playgrounds and in prisons of all sorts. I have literally been gallows humor.

            So, why am I here in this place at this moment? There. That young man at the table, at the outdoor café. The one with the drawing pad. He has drawn me here.

            Because he is thinking about me.

            He is talking to his friends about me. And he has drawn a picture. It doesn’t look like I appear now, nor is it dressed like I do today. No white jacket, no hat, no carrying bag. In the drawing I am wearing bells and motley, the exact same pattern as I wore long ago. The drawing is not a surprise. We are not entirely unknown, and there are some people who are sensitive to us. This young man is one of them I am certain.

            In the drawing, I am behind the wheel of a fancy car, a convertible. A well-drawn car, a car of at least four decades earlier. My drawn counterpart is laughing, and so is the young man at the table with his friends as he points to something.

            The license plate at the rear of the car. It does not have numbers, but is one of the recent, personalized variety. The term on the plate is a new one, just a few years old; LOL.

            It makes me smile.

 

                                                —end—

 

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Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Monday Flash Fiction, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

A Song for a Shutdown

With the current government shutdown, I’ve been thinking about the one about 1991 during the first Bush administration. Congress looked silly and petty and the president came off smelling like a rose. And I did this song at a comedy club in town which went over well!

                                           Shutdown 

                               By Jeff Baker, circa about 1990

                        (To the tune of T.V. theme from “Rawhide.”)

 

            Keep Movin’, movin’, movin’

            Voters disapprovin’

            Incumbents they’re removin’

            Let’s hide!

            We’ve been enterprisin’

            And we’ve been compromisin’

            But Bush has the veto on his side

            Federal employees-a-waitin’

            For paycheck satiation

            They’ll vote us out by-and-by.

 

            Keep rollin’, rollin’, rollin’

            Budget bucks are swollen

            Looks like it’s been stolen

            Let’s hide!

            Not quite like we planned it

            In D.C. Boy Scouts are stranded

            Wishin’ that they could find tour guides!

            All the things we’re missin’

            That last week we were dissin’

            We’ll be voted out by-and-by.

 

            Vote ‘em in, vote ‘em out, vote ‘em in, save our butts

            Hopin’ it saves our hides!

            Veto in, veto out, veto in, veto out

            Hope that we can save our hides!

 

                        —end—

Posted in Political satire, Songs | Leave a comment

A Ride in the Sky for Friday Flash Fics, by Jeff Baker, January 19, 2018

                                           The Skycruiser

                                                By Jeff Baker

                                   

            “Woah! Hey! Lookout!!” Kyle-Four jumped in his seat and alternated between pointing and covering his eyes.

            “Relax! I’ve got this!” Scott-Two said, as the skycruiser moved into the next airlane. “I’ve been driving for a while!” He steered the skycruiser into position as they soared past the tops of the downtown skyscrapers. “It’s actually pretty easy!”

            “Keep your eye on the line, dude!” Kyle-Four yelled in near-panic.

            “Hey! It’s chillib, Bro!” Scott-Two said. “Besides, the monitor does most of the flying, remember?”

            “Oh, yeah,” Kyle-Four said, settling back into his seat. “I keep forgetting.”

            The skycruiser arced above the city, following the rest in a line.

            “I got my assignment this morning,” Kyle-Four said, staring out the passenger side window.

            “Yeah?” Scott-Two said, his hands clenching the control disc. “What did they say?”

            “Girls,” Kyle-Four said still staring out the window. “I’m gonna like girls.” He turned to Scott-Two with a sad smile. “For the rest of my life.”

            “When…when’s the…” Scott-Two started to say, his mouth hanging open.

            “Acclimation?” Kyle-Four said. “Mine’s set for Frostday at 11:16 in the morning.”

            “Two days. Aw, Horus, two days.” Scott-Two said.

            “Look, I’ll always remember what we, you know, had…” Kyle-Four said.

            “But you won’t feel it anymore!” Scott-Two yelled, banging his fist on the dashboard.  The monitor didn’t even let the skycruiser jiggle.

            “But I’ll remember,” Kyle-Four said again, wondering how he really would feel then. “How about you?” Kyle-Four asked. “I mean, any word when your, you know, Acclimation is gonna be?”

            “Already happened,” Scott-Two said. “I turned twenty-two last month, remember?”

            “And?” Kyle-Four asked, his jaw dropping.

            “Same as I always was,” Scott-Two said in a flat voice. “Same as the last time we…you know. That’s why I didn’t bother telling you.”

            The two of them sat back in their seats and let the monitor do the flying. Kyle-Four slid his hand across the armrest and touched Scott-Two’s hand. They flew in silence.

            “We…have two days before I have to…you know.” Kyle-Four said.

            Scott-Two turned to Kyle-Four and grinned, squeezing Kyle-Four’s hand.

            “You know, for now I’m happy with this.” Scott-Two said.

            “It’s chillib, Bro, It’s chillib.” Kyle-Four said.

             

 

                                               —end—

 

Posted in Fiction, Friday Flash Fics, LGBT, Science Fiction | 2 Comments

A Librarian Story for Friday Flash Fics., by Jeff Baker. January 12, 2018

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The Library of Babel                                                                                                                               (A Coffee Man Story)

                                                                      By Jeff Baker                                                                                              We were having our usual after-work beer and game of pool at Merle’s Bar when Billy started laughing about something he’d seen. Some guy walking down the street wearing a t-shirt that identified him as a librarian while his arms were covered in tattoos. He laughed saying he’d never seen a librarian who looked like he belonged in a biker bar before.

            That led to a loud “Harrrumph” from the far end of the bar.

            We called him the Coffee Man. Not to his face, but he was usually in Merle’s when we were, sitting at the bar and reading the paper over endless refills of coffee. He claimed to have been some kind of government agent and we had no reason to disbelieve him.

            “Young people today doubtless don’t even see the life of a librarian as full of intrigue and adventure,” he said, “but I had an experience several years ago that belies all of that.”

            It was just before I retired from the Company (the Coffee Man said) and I was attending a lecture at a public library. The speaker identified himself as the head librarian from a university I had never heard of and he said this made him an expert on his subject. That subject was; how libraries were now dangerous for children and they were sources of all sorts of inaccurate and politically slanted information. How these were not the libraries we had grown up with, and how the only recourse, unpleasant as it may be, was to shut down public and school libraries across the country.

            I realize how this sounds, but he came off as charming and presented his argument in a rational way, backed-up with charts and graphs full of numbers which I doubted most of the people in the audience were following. The speaker was of the most dangerous type; able to convince his audience of the most preposterous assertions by virtue of his credentials. Finally, after his seemingly interminable presentation he opened up the floor for a Q and A.

            Naturally, I was the only person who stood up.

            My question was simple; I asked him if he’d ever been aware of practitioners of Library Science. (A gamble, I realize.)

            He stared at me and then confidently stated that he wasn’t going to, as he put it, “bend to popular academic trends.”

            That was when I asked him about his University background. He gave another glib answer and mentioned some degree in some form of theology. And that was when I suggested to the moderator that the speaker was not what he was presenting himself to be and they should ask him to leave. And they did.

            “And,” the Coffee Man said, “As I’m sure you figured out why, I shall retire to my newspaper.”

            The Coffee Man turned back to the paper he had spread out on the bar, waving for another refill of his coffee cup. Billy of course, was demanding an explanation.

            “Okay, my Mom’s a school librarian, so I know what library science is, but he didn’t need a degree in it to be a real librarian. What made you think that guy wasn’t legit?”

            “As you explained,” the Coffee Man said, “it isn’t necessary to have a degree in it to be a librarian, but this man was not able to explain that as well as you. The fact that he could not exposed him to me as a phony.”

 

                                                —end—

 

 

 

Posted in Coffee Man, Fiction, Friday Flash Fics, Mystery, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

More Flash Fiction by Jeff Baker for ‘Nathan Burgoine’s first monthly Flash Fiction Draw Challenge; January 8, 2018.

‘Nathan Burgoine has started a Flash Fiction Challenge of his own, modeled after the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. The idea is; ‘Nathan draws three random cards which correspond to an object, a genre and a setting. Writers put those three things into a 1000 word story, due in a week. In this case, the three draws were for a tattoo machine, a fairy tale (as the genre) and a prison (as the setting.) Having written my share of prison stories, I couldn’t pass this one up! The object is to have fun, which I did! See if you can guess which fairy tale I’m riffing on! Here’s the story, all about someone called

Reynaldo

By Jeff Baker

Life in the Scolfield Correctional Facility was pretty much routine, but Joey figured he’d use his time to better himself.  Joey’s idea of bettering himself involved getting a new tattoo. He’d spent the last three years working out in the prison weight room, so he figured his arms were big enough for a major ink project.

“A motorcycle race,” he’d outlined to his cellies. “With bikes and smoke and speed and skulls.”

Unfortunately, the arts project Joey was outlining was beyond the scope of his circle of acquaintances, to say nothing of his budget. And that’s when he heard one of the other cons showing off one of his tatts and talking up the con that’d done the artwork.

Of course, it cost. Big. The tatt artist called himself Reynaldo and he only took people he wanted or needed something from.  After asking around and calling in some favors Joey finally got a message delivered, supposedly to Reynaldo. Reynaldo’s cell was in A-Block, the part of the prison reserved for “special care” inmates. The guard unlocked the gate to D Block and let Joey in without a word. Joey wondered what strings the other con had pulled.

Reynaldo’s cell was at the far end of the top tier. Blankets covered the bars and cell door, against the rules in the main part of the prison but probably not here. Joey stepped up to the cell and a hand shoved a fold in the blanket aside.

“You’re Joey, right?” the man said. Joey tried not to stare. Reynaldo was seated in a small wheelchair in the middle of a cell crammed with table, steel bunk and toilet. Reynaldo looked about seventy, he was short, and had no legs. His face was a mass of wrinkles, like a light tan prune.  And all around the cell hung drawings and sketches, some in pencil, some in pen, at least one that looked like it had been drawn in blood. Joey was no expert, but he guessed the drawings were of museum quality.

“Yeah,” Joey said. “You Reynaldo?”

“Who else would I be?” Reynaldo said. “You’re here for ink.” It was a statement, not a question. “What are you into?”

Joey outlined his idea of the motorcycle race, the smoke, the wheels, everything.

“Can you do that?” Joey asked.

“I can do anything,” Reynaldo said. He rolled his chair back (not a lot of room to wheel around in here, wonder if he ever gets out of his cell, Joey thought) and reached behind the toilet and pulled out a bag wrapped in dirty rags. Out of that he pulled a cylinder that looked like a thin metal box wired to a grubby tire pressure gage. He squeezed one side of the box and the machine buzzed. Joey caught a glimpse of a needle at one end of the tire gauge. “The consultation and this first bit are free,” Reynaldo said. “It’ll take a while, and you’ll pay as you go. Violate the rules and it all comes crashing down.”

Joey glanced down at the I.D. badge all the inmates had clipped to their shirts and read the name.

“Caesar Soler, huh? How’d you get Reynaldo?”

“So-LAR.   It’s Spanish. Like me. And it isn’t my real name,” Reynaldo said. “A sorcerer’s name has power, and he has to hide that power.”

“Sorcerer, huh?” Joey grinned.

“This is sorcery,” Reynaldo said, holding up the tattoo machine. It wasn’t buzzing but the needle seemed to shimmer and glisten like moonlight. “And sorcery can vanish. Poof!” He let go of the machine, caught it with a swipe of his hand in the air and placed it back in its bag. “Session’s over. Next one will cost you.”

True to his word, the next time Joey showed up at Reynaldo’s cell, he demanded payment. Payment in information.  “Knowledge is power to a sorcerer.” Joey was no snitch, but this was business. Besides, Joey kept his eyes and ears open and his mouth shut. He figured this was why he got accepted into Reynaldo’s exclusive little club. Besides, he figured Reynaldo was crazy. No harm done.

But Joey got curious. He started wondering about Reynaldo. From the prison number on Reynaldo’s I.D. badge, Joey figured out that he’d been locked-up for at least twenty years. From muttered hints during the tattoo sessions, Joey guessed he had taken another man’s name and was doing someone else’s time. Reynaldo had also muttered something about “location,” and “a sorcerer needs a cave.”

The bound copies of the newspaper in the prison library went back past twenty years so Joey figured he might be able to find what he’d hoped to find: NO CHARGES FILED IN MAN’S DISSAPEARANCE. Joey read through it twice. He glanced down at his arm and flexed his bicep. The tattoo was looking good. Bikes charging in and out of the smoke and dust. He could almost hear engines roaring

The next morning, Reynaldo quizzed Joey for the latest on a small-time drug dealer who had just bought himself a month in the hole. Joey looked up and grinned.

“How about we finish this and it’s on you,” Joey said. “Or I tell people you’re really a disappeared recluse from Ivor, Kansas named,” he paused for effect, “Vernon Glick.”

Joey didn’t expect the cold wind that ripped the drawings off the wall, his last backward glance was of Reynaldo screaming, slouching down in his wheelchair as if he was shrinking, waving the tattoo machine over his head, the silver tip shining like a sorcerer’s wand.

Word was that Reynaldo had left the facility. Official story was he’d been transferred out in the middle of the night. Unofficial story was that an inmate with no legs and confined to a wheelchair had vanished from a maximum security prison and taken all his drawings with him.

And the elegant tattoo on Joey’s arm now looked like a child’s drawing of cereal and spilled milk.

 

—end—

 

 

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Monthly Flash Fiction Draw Challenge, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Short, short story for Monday Flash Fics, by Jeff Baker. January 8, 2018

26166529_10155922295829787_614311529540696717_n                                                                                 The Cottage

By Jeff Baker

Years later I went back to Pending, Kansas and drove past the stone house. It was much the same; it still looked like a cottage in a fairy tale. I wondered if the new owners had made a lot of changes. I wondered if my old room was still upstairs to the one side. And most of all I wondered if the cistern in the back yard was still tightly sealed, the way we left it twenty years ago.

I debated about going around to the back and checking it but I thought the better of it. Besides, the sun was shining, birds were singing and life was continuing.

So I knew the cistern was sealed and what was in there, trapped under the ground was still there.

For now.

 

—end—

 

Author’s Note: The first lines are a variation on the opening of C.L. Moore & Henry Kuttner’s story “Call Him Demon.” I couldn’t resist that or the picture. I thought I was just going to do the opening of a story but this one feels complete! —-jeff baker, 1/6/18

 

 

 

 

Posted in Fiction, Monday Flash Fiction, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A Swap Meet for Friday Flash Fics, by Jeff Baker (January 5, 2018.)

26055805_322421618255416_3708938565997131904_n                                                                  Will You Still Respect Me In The Morning?                                                                                        

                            By Jeff Baker

            Luke stood in the doorway running a hand through the short hair. He looked down and flexed the right bicep, staring at the tattoos.

            “I don’t remember this one, the one of the face,” Luke said.

            “You should,” Johnny said, from in front of the mirror. “You used to like to rub it with one hand when I was on top of you when we’d…you know.”

            “I think I usually had my eyes closed by that time,” Luke said. He flexed the biceps again. “Seriously, you really took care of yourself. This body looks good.”

            “Thanks,” Johnny said with a grin. “Yours does too.” He grinned into the mirror. The face that grinned back was tanned and dark haired. The body was lean, not as muscular as the figure standing in the doorway but with some good definition. “How much do you weigh, anyhow?”

            “Mmmm…about 185 pounds last time I checked,” Luke said. “Be careful with that body; I get it back tomorrow afternoon”

            “Yeah, you take care of mine too,” Johnny said. “Hey, where did you get those shorts? The ones with the marijuana leaf on them?”

             “Office party gag gift,” Luke said grinning with Johnny’s teeth. Johnny’s body (which Luke was occupying) was muscular, tattooed with reddish brown hair. “This is crazy, you know.”

            “Yeah,” Johnny said. “But it should be worth it.” Luke grinned again; he was getting used to seeing his own face and hearing his own voice coming from over there.

            Johnny had inherited money, and he’d told Luke this was something he’d wanted to try. It was, he said, “a little faddish and kinky,” but it could be fun. They’d spent enough to have themselves transferred into each other’s bodies for 48 hours. Since they got back to Johnny’s apartment they’d spent about an hour gawking at each other. Since body transfer as a way to keep prisoners in line had been declared illegal in 2237 the transfer companies had gone private. It wasn’t legal to do permanently, say to extend life, but after filling out a lot of paperwork it could be done temporarily.

            “Hey, turn around,” Johnny said. “I want to see my backside.”

            “So, when are we going to, you know, do this?” Luke asked, facing the wall.

            “Um, well. Anytime.” Johnny said. “Whenever you’re ready.”

            Luke grinned. Johnny was getting cold feet. Maybe he was too. This was different. Essentially making love to themselves. Luke faced where Johnny was sitting and stared. Unabashedly checking out his own physique. Not a jock but still nice, in a way. Not super-hot like he thought the body he was in now was. But still…

            Luke looked down at his shorts. “Pup tent,” he said.

            “You’re actually blushing!” Johnny said walking over to Luke. “I didn’t think you ever did that!”

            “So, how are we going to do this?” Luke said with a grin.

            “The usual way.” Johnny said. “Let me help you out of those shorts.”

            “Be my guest,” Luke said, kissing him (Weird feeling—kissing your own lips!)

            “I could get to like this!” Johnny said.

            “Yeah, but I like you either way!” Luke said.

 

                                    —end—

Posted in Fiction, Friday Flash Fics, LGBT, Science Fiction, Uncategorized | 2 Comments