I Really Gotta Be Out of My Mind Dept. by Jeff Baker (July 15, 2018)

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As I’m currently between jobs, looking for a job and have time I’m writing something for a submissions call that I just found out about. The deadline is right before the end of the month. Juuuuuuust about two weeks for a 2-4k word short story. I can do it if I polish off two pages a night. I’ve done it before. Between typing this evening and just after midnight I’ve got about 700 words which is just over two pages. Appropriately enough I started while watching “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken,” as it is a horror story. I first dreamed up the basic Idea following a call a few years ago from Vitality Magazine (which folded soon after)  for an LGBT themed ghost story. As I am a big fan of M.R. James and Ramsey Campbell I envisioned a Jamesean/Campbellian tale and wrote down a few ideas as to plot in a notebook, and a note to write up the story on a paper on the wall in my office. Fortunately, I put the title down there because there’s no way I could find it in the pile of notebooks I have. I borrowed a little from my own experiences and a few things I’ve noticed now and then.

Oh, and as for that title; it’s “Something In The Dark.”

I’ll keep you posted.

——jeff baker, july 15, 2018.

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Something Spooky for Friday the Thirteenth; Friday Flash Fics by Jeff Baker, July 13, 2018.

36732343_10157664182656110_6080759017720774656_n                                                                                 The Bus

By Jeff Baker

 

“Hey! Look over there!” James said.

“That bus looks like I feel,” said Francisco.

“Any more dirty and overgrown and it would be a garden,” Miles said.

“How long’s it been there?” James asked.

“Longer than we’ve been walking down this damn dirt road,” Miles said.

“Looks like a while,” Francisco said. “Looks like it skidded off the road and into the gully here.”

“Hope nobody was hurt,” Miles said.

“Geeez, will you look around!” Francisco said. “Everything looks green. Even the light!”

“Guys, maybe the bus still works!” James said. “If we could get it out of that ditch…”

The three of them looked at each other for an instant, and then rushed over to the bus door which was open. A few of the vines that grew around the bus’s sides were dangling in the doorway. Miles, Francisco and James brushed them aside as they stepped over the water in the gully and entered the bus.

“Phew! What smells?” Francisco said, pulling his shirt over his nose and mouth.

“Hope it’s not a body,” Miles said, shaking the water off his shoe.

“Stagnant water, I bet,” James said. “Yeah, look back there.”

James pointed to the back of the bus which was tilted at a slight angle. There was a small puddle of blackish water in a back corner of the bus.

“Forget that. Does it run?” Miles asked.

“Let’s see,” Francisco said, sitting down behind the wheel. “I drove one of these once.”

“In between making out with the drivers,” James snickered.

“Or with you!” Miles shot back.

“Hey, gimmie a minute,” Francisco said sticking his hand under the dashboard. “I think I can wire this if I…hey…look at this!”

“What?” James asked.

“The key.” Francisco said. “It’s still in the ignition. Why would they leave the key here?”

“Maybe it’s stuck?” James said. “See if it turns.”

“See if it runs,” Miles said.

“Here goes.” Francisco said, turning the key.

Nothing.

He pumped a pedal, held down the clutch and tried the key again. Still nothing.

“Not gonna work guys,” Francisco said.

“Too bad. I would have liked to ride the rest of the way,” Miles said.

“Hey, where are we going anyway?” James asked as he hopped out of the bus.

“Not sure,” Miles said following him.

Francisco stopped halfway down the stairs. “Guys,” he said. “Look at this.” His voice suddenly sounded hoarse.

Miles and James walked up to the doorway. Francisco was standing there, his eyes wide. Francisco pointed to the mirror by the door. It was dingy with dirt and Francisco spat on it and cleaned it off. It clearly showed the dirty side of the bus.

“So?” Miles said.

“Look at this, guys, don’t you see?” Francisco said. He was breathing hard. “Watch.” He reached behind him and slapped the side of the bus behind the door just below the passenger window. “Don’t you see?”

They stared. The side of the bus and the windows were reflected clearly, but there was no Francisco.

“What is this?” James said. He reached over and turned the mirror. The reflection’s point-of-view moved too. He held his hand in front of the mirror. It didn’t reflect at all. Miles grabbed the mirror and stared right into it.

“What the hell is this?” Miles said.

James had sat down on a step of the bus and was staring at his hand.

“Guys, what’s the last thing you remember before we were walking on this dirt road?” Francisco asked.

“We peeled out of the dorm parking lot, late at night,” Miles said slowly. “Yeah, it was almost midnight, and we were going real fast…”

“We wanted to get to the liquor store before it closed,” Francisco said. “And you were driving, James.”

“The train was coming…” James said. “I didn’t want to wait…oh, God…”

“Then we were walking along here…” Miles said. “This is your damn fault, you bastard!” Miles grabbed James by the collar and about stepped into the gully. Then Francisco yelled.

“Look there! In the water!” Francisco yelled pointing. “It…it…I don’t know what it was! It wasn’t a fish, it wasn’t a snake…it was a…a…”

The three of them jumped back onto the road.

“Let’s get out of here,” James said, pulling at his collar.

“Yeah, let’s get away from that…” Francisco said.

The three of them resumed walking down the road.

 

—end—

 

NOTE: Okay, a serious cliché, but I don’t care! Had fun doing it!——jeff

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Sometimes We Do It For Fun—-July 11, 2018

Sometimes writers do it for money. They go where the market is. professionals and working writers and we wannabes. But sometimes we do it for fun.

Case in point: I’ve been wrapping up my evening’s writing by writing a line or two of a historical mystery I am basically improvising as I go along. It may be a short-story it may turn into a novel (as I’m doing one or two lines a night it’ll be a long gestation for a novel!) It may become a novella(!!!) The rules are; it has to be fun and I’m not going to do a lot of research before I have something near a finished product. Plus, I don’t know the ending. Yes, it’s a mystery!

The impetus for this project was a recently-uncovered historical fact that contradicted something that had been established. I took that as my starting point and my first-person narrator just took over. This and my more “official” projects will keep me busy for a while! But those projects are fun, too!

—————j baker, july 11, 2018

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July’s Flash Fiction Draw Challenge from Jeff Baker, July 9, 2018.

The Missing Disc Mystery

By Jeff Baker

 

 

“Take this down,” Detective McNulty said.”

“Yessir,” young officer, Cowell said, pulling out a metal box from the back of the squad car.

“Tracked suspect through Benford, Missouri. Lost his trail at junction of…what are you doing?”

“Typing,” Officer Cowell said.

“Shouldn’t you be doing that on a laptop?” McNulty was trying to find his I-pad in his pockets.

“Sylvan County Sherriff’s Department is too cheap to spring for those. I’m lucky to have the car. This portable typewriter was mine when I was in college. It was my Dad’s before that.”

“Suspect  was described as black, white, male, maybe female, anywhere between 5’5” or 6’2”, early 20s, maybe 30s or 40s…” McNulty said.

“In other words, didn’t get a good look at him. Or her,” Cowell said. “What did he do?”

“Stole a couple of computer discs. Bunch of customer credit card information. Passwords. Numbers. The whole deal.”

“Okay. Got it. Now what?” Cowell said.

“E-mail it off to…to…” McNulty’s voice trailed off.

“Got a stamp?” Officer Cowell asked. Just then, McNulty’s phone rang.

Detective McNulty answered his phone. He said hello but mainly listened. After a minute, he blurted out “You’re not serious! How could they lose him?” He listened a few minutes, then put the phone back in his pocket. “That was Warren and Haid. They caught up with the guy but couldn’t find the discs. Searched his car, searched him. Couldn’t find them. They did say that he’d stuck them in some decorative wooden box he’d brought into the store with him. They couldn’t find him either.”

“Where’d they apprehend him? The suspect?” Officer Cowell said.

“Near the on-ramp to the highway. Over on High Street outside of town.”

“Just one question; you didn’t grow up around here, did you?” Officer Cowell asked.

“No, I moved here a few years ago. Hey, are you the detective or am I?” Detective McNulty asked.

“You are,” Cowell said grinning. “But I think I know where the discs went.”

A half hour later, Detective McNulty stood on the bank of the river while Officer Cowell surveyed the scene with his binoculars.

“Yes! I see it! Right there!” Cowell said pointing.

“What is that?” McNulty asked, a little surprised that he hadn’t known about the river outside of town.

“That’s a beaver dam,” Cowell said. “They build it every year. Blocks the river. Our perp tossed that wooden, airtight box out of the car and counted on it getting caught in the dam. He was going to get it later.”

“Not now he won’t,” McNulty said. “I’ll have Haid and Warren go get it.” He shook his head. “City kid. I’ve never seen a real beaver dam before.” He grinned at Officer Cowell. “You wouldn’t be trying to make Detective would you?”

“No, sir,” Cowell said.

“Well, you should!” Detective McNulty said.

 

—end—

 

For this month’s Flash Fiction Draw Challenge, ‘Nathan Burgoine drew a mystery involving a typewriter set at a dam. I usually plot out the mysteries I write out but I largely improvised this one. Also the word count came in pretty short! Fans of classic police dramas may find a couple of names here familiar.—-jeff

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Mystery in Missouri by Jeff Baker for Friday Flash Fics. July 6, 2018.

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Like a Thief in the Night

By Jeff Baker

Note: For purposes of this story, imagine the guy in the picture wearing something a lot less modern and urban. —–j.s.baker

 

The business at the bank had the whole county talking. We even had a reporter show up from Neosho. But that was after it was all over. My Aunt Lettie said it was a case of wagging tongues, but even she came into town to see where it had happened.

I should mention that it was pretty unusual for my Great-Aunt Lettie to leave the old farmhouse she’d lived in since she was widowed about 1872 to go anywhere except church. But this was fifty-seven years later, the October I turned fourteen. And everybody went into downtown Gamaliel to stare at the bank. The First Bank of Gamaliel was the town’s pride and joy. It had a vault, three teller windows and an upstairs. I know, that makes Missouri sound awfully hick, but there wasn’t much of a downtown, just a few buildings and we were lucky one of them was the post office.

My folks had let me borrow the wagon to take Aunt Lettie into town, as her house wasn’t too far from ours outside of town. When we got there the what-had-happened was easy to spot: There was a small crowd by one side of the bank which was at the end of the street. There was a low roof just under the big window of the bank’s second floor, a window facing east. And the big window had been shattered. There was glass scattered on the street and strewn over the low hanging roof which was low enough for anyone to reach over and touch. Clearly somebody had jumped out from the inside.

“They’ll either find a thick blanket with glass in it or a bloody person cut up with glass,” Aunt Lettie said.

I followed her reasoning; somebody covered themselves in a blanket and then jumped through the window and then off the roof. And she didn’t have to ask many questions; from the snippets of conversation we heard from the townspeople it had all happened after midnight. That was when Mr. Bodenhamer had left his General Store after cleaning up and probably fixing himself a late dinner in the back room.

Aunt Lettie walked around the bank building until she was sure there were no signs of any other broken windows or a door pried open.

“Maybe he fell,” I said. “I mean, by accident. Through the window. He didn’t mean to make a lot of noise.”

“Oath Offutt,” she said fixing me with her steely blue eyes. “You remember when you were seven years old and you fell out of that tree in the orchard and you took the long way back to your folks’ house so you could walk past the Taylor farm and the Ebner house and the Bailey house, bawling like it was the end of the age and the Lord and Satan were both following you with a flaming sword and a pitchfork?”

“I remember,” I nodded. Seven years old felt like a century before.

“But when you got to your Ma you stopped your crying and screaming and your arm wasn’t broke at all,” Aunt Lettie said.

“I hadn’t fallen that far, the branch was just off the ground,” I said.

“That’s it. You wanted attention,” she said. “You know why it says that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night? To remind us to be watchful. A thief in the night isn’t looking for attention. Whoever jumped out that window wanted attention. Nobody broke into the bank, if they had they would have gone out the way they came, and done it quietly. Unless they hid in the bank when Mr. Satter closed up yesterday evening. Or unless they didn’t need to break into the bank in the first place.”

Mayor George McAdoo was the closest thing to a law officer the town had so Aunt Lettie went to talk to him. But Mr. Satter must have gotten wind of it because he cut out before McAdoo could go to his house and ask some pointed questions. And they found some of the money in a suitcase he must have been busy packing when he skedaddled.

We wondered why he’d gone to the trouble to rob his own bank until about a week later when the big market crash happened. Satter must have known things were pretty shaky and decided to line his own pockets. Aunt Lettie said he was about the only one in town with a lot of money to lose.

 

—end—

 

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‘Nathan Burgoine’s First Short-Story Collection, reviewed by Jeff Baker.

o-of-echoes-bornOf Echoes Born

Reviewed by Jeff Baker

 

“Of Echoes Born” is the first short story collection by ‘Nathan Burgoine. (Bold Strokes Books, 2018.) Maybe better known for his novels, Burgoine has been one of the best writers in the shorter form working in the field of LGBT science fiction and fantasy in recent years. Now he has put together twelve stories linked together by theme and character, including the very clever idea of the story introductions being told by his character Ian through his unwanted gift of visions which include colors indicating emotional states or even sickness.

The deeper reds, the richer reds, the ones reaching within and spreading out like wings? Those reds change the world. People march with those reds, they defend with those reds, and they fight tooth and nail with those reds.

The bulk of the stories feature characters that may be semi-autobiographical; young men on their own after their families tossed them out for being gay. LGBT people living with the support of “chosen families.” And with a bit of magic, usually in the form of a character who has some form of prescient visions which sometimes help, sometimes can only offer comfort. Not every character gets a happy ending.

The stories, six new, six reprints, are linked though Burgoine’s use of his fictional town of Fuca, as well as locations which appear in other Burgoine stories (The Coffee shop “Bittersweets” appears in several stories in the collection as well as in Burgoine’s Christmas novella from last year “Handmade Holidays.”) Characters reappear as well; Bao, a high school friend of the protagonist in the opening story “There and Then” shows up in a few other stories, once referred to as “Officer Hotbody!” This feeling that it is all taking place in the same, real world works in the collection’s favor.

The plots run the gamut from a young man discovering that his unique powers can actually help; romance, both blooming and shattered; love and betrayal and even hope in the face of death. Characters run the gamut through the LGBT spectrum, ranging from clerks, writers, artists, Marion the mother hen to “The Village,” and, oh yes, Lightning Todd.

None of this would be any good if the stories and writing were not good, and ‘Nathan Burgoine is a magnificent writer. His storytelling ability fuels the collection, and he is able to pull off a very cool recursive bit which links the ending of the book to the beginning.

All in all, “Of Echoes Born” is an excellent first collection by a fine writer. Let us hope there will be many more.

 

—end—

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Friday Flash Fics, for June 29, 2018, by Jeff Baker. Fourth of July Weekend, sort of.

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Long Weekend In Hudson City

By Jeff Baker

 

Author’s Note: This is a companion piece to a series I’ve written (largely unpublished) which started off with a story called “Friday Night In Hudson City.” This story didn’t quite go where I’d planned. Still, Happy early 4th of July!—–Jeff

 

“Blazing fire in the sky,

Call the flame that does not die.”

The lanky young man in the welder’s goggles and rock & roll t-shirt grinned as his clenched fist burst into flame. He cocked his arm back and was about to strike when he was interrupted.

“Kip Starkwell! What do you think you’re doing?” It was Mrs. Pickney, coming off like she was in charge. Which she was.

“Uh, lighting up the grill?” he said grinning.

“Not by plowing that fist into the charcoal,” she said. “You’ll break something! Or blow up something.”

“Okay, okay,” Kip said as he wiggled his fingers and the flames dissipated. He blew on his fingers.

“Hey, help yourself. Got canned lemonade over here in the cooler,” said a young man covered in brownish fur.

“Thanks, M.K. Too bad there’s no beer,” Kip said as he reached into the cooler. There was a momentary hiss and steam rose as he pulled out a can.

“Long as nobody asks if I want a saucer of milk, I’m cool.”

“Speaking of cool, how ‘bout you change that super-name of yours,” Kip said. “I mean, ‘Mister Kitty?’ Come on!”

“Wasn’t my idea,” Kitty said. “All the good names were taken. Remember when that comic book company tried to sue the Crisis Squad over copyright a couple years ago? Anyway, all the good cat-related names were taken.”

“Hey, they saddled me with ‘Kid Aquarius,’” Scott Velez said from the towel he’d stretched out on the lawn, pitcher of water and a glass beside him. Young, tanned, buff wearing a purple tank top with dark glasses, Velez looked like the superhunk he swaggered around pretending to be. “Of course, Aquarius and me would have been, you know, simpatico.” He picked up his empty glass and glared at the pitcher. The water in the pitcher bubbled and swirled and filled again. He poured himself a glass and laid back. “This is living!” he sighed.

Kip grumbled and flicked a finger in Velez’s direction.

“Two-four-six-eight, c’mon towel, incinerate!”

There was a spit of flame from Kip’s finger and in another instant the towel flashed into ashes in a burst of fire. The glass, pitcher and Kid Aquarius were untouched. But Kid Aquarius was livid.

“Hey, what the hell! You think that’s funny?” Aquarius said jumping up clenching his fists.

“Yeah, you wanna make something out of it?” Kip said glaring. To himself, he wished he’d broken his habit of saying the supposed magic words to activate his powers. It was a crutch, he knew, since finding out his powers weren’t really supernatural. Still, he could paste Kid Aquarius, of that he was certain.

Yeah, I’m gonna make something of it!” Kid Aquarius said.

“Hold it right there, both of you!” Mrs. Pickney. An instant later, the concrete floor of the back porch re-formed into a wall between the two.

“Yowlp!” M.K. yelled.

“Both of you calm down,” she said. “This is our Fourth of July weekend and we don’t need the Crisis Squad Auxiliary Training Facility turned into a battleground. Or when Electron gets back, I could have him put you in separate corners. In separate countries. You understand?”

“Yes, Ma’am.” Kip and Kid Aquarius said.

“Good.” Mrs. Pickney left.

Kid Aquarius and Kip glared at one another.

“Electron,” Kip muttered. “He’s eighteen. Big deal.”

“We’re fire and water,” Kid Aquarius said. “Always.”

“Yeah.” Kip Starkwell said, clenching a fist. “Always.”

 

—end—

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