A Grand Slam for Friday Flash Fics, by Jeff Baker (January 18, 2019)

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Paolo MacGillivray and the Five Run Homer  

By Jeff Baker

 

You can say that there’s no such thing as a five-run-homer in baseball. You can even look it up if you can find a rulebook. But I saw it done. And it was Big Paolo MacGillivray who did it. Now there’s a whole lot of stories about Paolo MacGillivray and some of them are just stories. But some of them are true. No, not the ones like Paolo MacGillivray was so big that he stood up once during a game and blotted out the sun so they had to cancel the game because they don’t play games at night anymore. Or that when Paolo went out for a few beers with the team he drank his beer so fast it pulled in a brewery foreman from two states away. But the five-run-homer was true. I saw it.

I was equipment manager on the Mailingsbouro Marauders when Paolo showed up. The stories about his being big were true. He didn’t block out the sun, but that day in the locker room he bumped his head on a hanging light. He was brawny, had a reddish beard and holding the bat on his shoulder he reminded me for all the world of Paul Bunyan. He had a long first name that I couldn’t begin to spell, let alone pronounce and insisted we call him Paolo. He said he’d got the name playing in the Greater New Mexico Southwest League. I found out later that “Paolo” meant “small.” Anyway, after six years in the GNMSL, he decided to cross the Arkansas and try his luck in the U.S.

Being as big as he was, Paolo had a few problems. His uniforms had to be custom-made; he tended to break a lot of bats with his powerful swings; and most of all, when he really got to running he had trouble stopping. He smashed through the backfield wall trying to catch a ball. And once, while rounding the bases, he lost control and veered off course while rounding third and his momentum slammed him into one of the makeshift bleachers. So, one afternoon, late in the game, bases were loaded and Paolo came up to bat. Sometimes he held back but not this time. He swung, the bat shattered and the ball soared out of the park. The first two runners made it to home but the last one kept looking behind him, as Paolo was just a few feet behind him leaving a huge cloud of dirt in his wake. It was like watching an out-of-control atomic train. The runner touched home plate and he and the umpire dove out of the way as Paolo rounded home and kept running, aiming for first base again. I could tell from Paolo’s expression his momentum was carrying him and he was afraid of slamming into somebody so he rounded the bases again, and this time he dove into home plate. There was a loud WHOOOMPF! And when the dust cleared, Paolo was half buried in the ground, clutching home plate with both hands, grinning sheepishly. Everybody in the stands cheered and they gave him the second home run anyway, and not that long afterwards, Paolo left baseball to do something else. As big and powerful as he was, we all  figured he could do anything.

Now the story is that Paolo slid into home so hard he dug a trench that became the Great Northwestern Canal. I never saw that, but he may have worked on the Canal which was about a decade later. Like I said, you could look it up if you could find the record books.

 

—end—

 

AUTHER’S NOTE: The picture made me think of Paul Bunyan, and I may have unconsciously imitated Ring Lardner and James Thurber.

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“Sherlock Holmes vs. The Invisible Man.” Friday Flash Fics by Jeff Baker for January 11, 2019. (Okay, a day late!)

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Sherlock Holmes vs The Invisible Man

By Jeff Baker

 

(AUTHOR’S Note: This is a sequel to my story “Boot-Scootin’ Boogie,” from November 13, 2017.)

 

“Whatcha reading?” came the voice from over my shoulder. I was sitting in the overstuffed armchair and barely looked up. “Oooooo! Sherlock Holmes again! The original, too!”

“Mmmmmm yeah,” I said.

“There’s what, fifty-six original stories and you’ve been reading them all week? Over and over?”

I could hear the smile in the voice, even if I couldn’t see it at the moment.

“Why not?” I said.  “You watch the same thirty-some episodes of the Honeymooners all the time.”

“Okay, that’s different,” the voice said as a teakettle, seemingly by itself, poured a cup of tea which set down on my armrest.

“Should you be pouring hot tea naked?” I asked.

“Should you be keeping the empty cups on the floor in front of your chair?” the voice asked. “And I’m not naked and this tea isn’t hot. I let it sit for a couple of hours.”

The youngish-looking man with the reddish-brown hair suddenly appeared beside me, wearing sweatshirt and pants. Henry and I had been married for three months, having known each other since High School and the little accident that let him turn himself invisible.

“I’m doing an article on Doyle’s original stories and I thought I’d better read them first,” I said.

“Okay, but you ought to read The Invisible Man first,” Henry said. Kissing me on the forehead.

“Love the invisible man,” I said grinning up at him. We kissed. I lost my place in the book. I didn’t care.

“Hey,” Henry said after a moment. “I’d better let you get back to your reading.” He disappeared. An instant later, the two cups on the floor rose up and floated seemingly by themselves towards the kitchen. “I got those,” came Henry’s voice.

“I should never have bought you that My Favorite Martian box set for Christmas,” I called out mockingly,

I turned back to my book, hearing the laughter from the kitchen.

 

—end—

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“Camera Obscura.” Friday Flash Fics by Jeff Baker for January 4, 2019.

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Camera Obscura

                                                           (A Demeter’s Bar Story)

                                                                    By Jeff Baker

            The man who looked like he’d slept with his tie under his pillow looked up from the bar and ordered another drink.

            “Sure,” Zack said. “You calling a cab?”

            “Yeah,” the man said. “Next week I may not be able to pay for one. I just lost my job.”

            “Sorry,” Zack said, pouring the glass. “I know how it goes.”

            “Of course, it wasn’t my fault,” the man said, swallowing the drink in a couple of gulps. “But it’s what I get for saving the world. Just maybe not this world.”

He ordered another drink and went on.

I work, worked for an electronics lab whose name I won’t mention (the man said.) I was part of R & D. I worked in digital. I was trying to develop a new kind of digital camera. I know that sounds almost useless in our era of cameras in every mobile device, but we were certain we were on the cutting edge of a breakthrough in digital photography.

When the prototype was ready, I took it with me and started taking pictures around town. When I looked at what I’d taken, I was certain I either hadn’t aimed the camera right or there was something wrong with the device. Nothing was out of focus, but there was just a shot of cloudy sky when I’d taken a picture of the top of a lamppost, I took a shot of someone walking their dog in the park and when I checked the viewer, there were kids playing baseball. Likewise, the picture I took of my car turned into a picture of a new pickup truck. And then I decided to take a selfie. I’m not a damn teenager so it took me a few tries especially with the new camera, which was kind of awkward, but I got a picture.

It was sort of me. Me but not me. I looked the same but younger somehow. My hair wasn’t styled; it looked like I’d brushed it almost as an afterthought. And the color seemed lighter somehow. Almost as if I’d done a half-assed bleach job. And there was a smile on my face, kind of a cocksure grin. I don’t usually smile for pictures and not like that.

I was staring at this picture when I suddenly remembered my Mother telling me how close she’d come to marrying somebody other than my Father. That got me thinking: what if the camera was somehow taking pictures of a parallel world somehow? You can laugh but scientists are starting to believe that alternate worlds might actually be possible. For openers, it would put the camera way out of the average consumer’s price range.

So I did some more experimenting, taking some pictures downtown. The results were extraordinary. A big stone-and-glass building where the old concert hall is. A huge turbine windmill at the edge of town. A monorail humming through the city. This was when I started to worry about what my company would do with this knowledge. So, I went to my bosses and told them I’d broken the camera deliberately after realizing it didn’t work. They accused me of trying to pull some con job and that’s when they fired me, but I managed to get the rights to the camera design in my settlement. It cost me my severance pay but I think it was worth it.

The man held up a lumpy steel octagon the size of his fist. It had a lens sticking out of one side.

“So I still have this,” he said. “I’m not sure I should try to market it and I don’t really trust anybody else to take it over.”

“What about the government?” Zack asked.

“Especially not the government,” the man said. “So I think I should keep this to myself for a while. Hey, how about a picture?” The man raised the strange camera.

“No, not me!” Zack said with a grin. “How about another drink and I call you a cab?”

“Deal,” the man said.

Zack poured the drink, keeping a wary eye on the camera which the man had set on the bar.

 

                                  —end—

            AUTHOR’S NOTE: Wasn’t going to do another bar story this week, but it fit the picture. So, mix in a splash of Jack Finney and a title borrowed from Basil Copper.

Posted in Demeter's Bar, Fiction, Friday Flash Fics, LGBT, Science Fiction, Short-Stories, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Summation, 2018; New Year’s 2019…

                       …and a Happy New Year, 2019

                                    By Jeff Baker

            About 1:10 a.m. in the morning, January 1st, 2019. Good a time as any to do another of these yearly summations. First; how I spent New Year’s Eve…

            Ordinarily, I’m either struggling to stay awake until 12 midnight, but with the job I have now I’m already up as I get home around 11:00pm and we’ve been staying up ‘till early morning to watch “The Fugitive,” “Night Gallery” and others. So, this time we were both up and heard the fireworks popping off around 11:58 and going on until about 12:05. (Someone set off a few at one a.m. too!)

            As for the writing, I took advantage of being unemployed for about four months to do a lot of writing, and it may have paid off! I’ve had two stories published (another accepted) and I had one of my weekly stories read on Angel Martinez’ podcast. I was also interviewed in conjunction with the other story that appeared on another podcast. Also, I managed to do at least one flash fiction story a week, which I’ve done since mid-2016.

            I could ramble on, so I’ll stop here and say Happy New Year, January 1, 2019.

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“Tales of the Glories.” Friday Flash Fiction (on Saturday) for Christmas, by Jeff Baker. December 22, 2018.

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                                                         Tales Of The Glories

                                                               By Jeff Baker                                       

            It snowed the week before Christmas in 1977, my junior year in college. It was a few days before the start of winter, and somebody at school cracked that it had been winter for about a month and a half already. After finals week, I was one of a few people staying in the dorm over the break; a full week before Christmas on the weekend.  I had my job to go to, plus my Mom and Dad lived halfway across the country. I was in the old dorm; the jocks were in Rawson Hall, the new dorm. The basketball team had a game right before Christmas, and some of them had no place else to go, so I guess Coach had a Christmas dinner for them, which was fine.

My only interaction with them was checking them out when they did their afternoon run around campus, sometimes in their shorts (and sweatshirts.) The only other guy I knew on my floor who was there that week was Scooter Monroe. He said he didn’t celebrate Christmas and didn’t even bother much with Hanukkah, which had been a couple of weeks earlier anyway.

I was on my way home from work when it started to snow. This was about nine at night and I was trying to get the basketball game on the radio. No luck. When I pulled into the dorm parking lot everything was covered with about an inch of fluffy snow. I grabbed the little bag of groceries from the back seat and headed into the dorm and found Scooter inside looking out the window.

            “Wow,” he breathed. “I’ve seen snow in movies, but this is the first time I’ve ever been in it! I mean, been where it was snowing like this!”

            “There’s more on the way,” I said. “I heard on the radio that they were expecting at least a foot overnight.”

            “Phew!” Scooter said with a big grin.

            I shifted the grocery bag in my arms.

            “Listen, the cafeteria is going to be closed tomorrow and so will a lot of other places, so I’ve got some stuff here and a fridge so come over to my room and we’ll make a party of it.”

            “Sure!” Scooter said. “You know, I would have gone to school down in Florida if I hadn’t broken up with my boyfriend.”

            “I’ve never been in a relationship with a guy long enough to have a boyfriend,” I said. And we let that hang in the air. This was 1977, remember. I hadn’t known Scooter was gay or bi or what. I didn’t know whether he was making a pass at me or I was making a pass at him. So we said “See ya,” and went to our separate rooms.

            Later that night the snow and wind kicked in, I heard it as I was dozing. The next morning there were drifts of snow blown against the buildings, more than a foot of snow on the ground and the city was shut down. The parking lot was a thick covering of white with a few lumps here and there from the few cars still parked there. It was cloudy with a few flakes drifting down but it was still like looking at a big sheet of blank typing paper. Pine trees were covered with globs of white fluff. I’d put on my boots and jacket and went outside. It was like walking around in a Christmas card. I took it all in.

            Something swished past my head. A snowball. I looked up; Scooter was there laughing. He had a scarf and a jacket and was making another snowball. I grabbed a lump of snow and tossed it at him. It fell short. The next one I threw got him right in the chest. For the next few minutes the two of us exchanged volleys and I’ll always remember the sound of our laughter echoing in the snowy quiet.

            That afternoon Scooter and I sat in my room and listened to Christmas carols on the radio. I warmed up a few sandwiches on the stove in the kitchen down the hall. That evening I called in and they didn’t want anybody trying to get to work for the next few days. (We were closed on Christmas anyway.) So Scooter an I spent two days largely holed-up in the dorm listening to the radio, ambling down a block from the college to the convenience store for a six-pack or singing along with the Christmas music on the radio as best we could.

                        There’ll be hairy goats Torries

                        And tales of the glories

                        Of dorm messes long, long ago…

            That was after the beer. And yeah, Scooter and I kissed a few times. But it didn’t go any farther than that. Scooter transferred back to Florida to finish college that next semester. I was so busy I barely noticed. But forty-one years later, a December doesn’t go by that I don’t think of being in that snowbound campus with Scooter, looking out the window at the dark night and the Christmas stars.

 

                                                                     —end—

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A train ride for Friday Flash Fics, December 14, 2018, by Jeff Baker.

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                                     Boarding the Bedtime Train

                                                By Jeff Baker

            You hear the train whistle when you are between waking and sleeping. In those moments when you are partly aware of the waking world and partly imagining yourself somewhere else, you are in the Depot. Few people have ever noticed the Depot or ever remember boarding the train. But some people vaguely remember the train; an old-fashioned locomotive that somehow has an air of nostalgia.

            This is the conveyance that takes you to the Land of Dreams. This is The Bedtime Train. And though it has a name out of a story for children, its mystic function bridges generations. What manner of vehicle it actually is, no one knows. Certainly it did not appear as a train in the millennia before trains.  And there is no train that returns you to the World of Wakefulness. The awakening is so sudden that the sleeper is instantly, sometimes disorientingly dropped back into the Waking World without a gentle passage on a train.

            And those few people who remember the train have noticed that even when they slumber during the day, the sky above the train is a night sky, sparkling with stars.

            But even those who never see the train or the Depot may hear the distant train whistle as they pass from the familiar world to the world of sometimes-familiar images.

            The whistle of the Bedtime Train.

 

                                                            —end—

 

           

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“The Deadly Poppy Field,” by Jeff Baker. The last of ‘Nathan Burgoine’s monthly Flash Fiction Draw Challenges. December 10, 2018.

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The Deadly Poppy Field

By Jeff Baker

(Author’s Note: The three prompts for this, the last of ‘Nathan Burgoine’s monthly Fiction Draw Challenges were a comedy, a broomstick and a field of poppies. It’s been fun to do these every month and the prompts for this one serendipitously reference one of my favorite movies.)

 

“Okay,” Ollie said, standing in the not-too-big bar of their not-too-big restaurant. “We put the projector right here and pull the screen down and show the movie right there.”

“DVD player,” Spence said. “We need this on DVD. Who uses a projector anymore anyway?”

“Aw, but Spence, with this one it fits,” Ollie said. He was lean and lanky with scraggly blonde hair. “It’s not on DVD anywhere. It’s the ultimate bootleg. ‘The Girl In the Magic Land.’ It hasn’t been seen since 1918.”

“Because L. Frank Baum sued, that’s why,” Ollie said. He was short and his dark hair was receding. “Still, we do have the original prop.”

Proudly displayed in a glass case behind the bar was what looked like a homemade broomstick. A knobby stick that looked like it had fallen from a tree with a thick wad of bristles at one end. A certificate of authenticity proudly proclaimed it to have been used by Eleanora Aquitaine, nee Maggie Fink in the 1918 movie. Unfortunately, the movie screen hid the case from view. Nonetheless, it was a perfect accessory for a bar and restaurant called A Field of Poppies. And showing the movie was the ultimate promotion.

“Better move the broom,” Spence said. “I want to have it visible when we’re showing the movie tonight.”

“On it,” Ollie said. He opened the case and gingerly took out the old broomstick. The bristles almost looked like they were welded on. “Where do you want this?” Ollie asked walking out from behind the bar.

“I’ll take down that painting, and we can hang it up there,” Spence said.

“Okay,” Ollie said walking towards the wall. “I sure hope this gets the money coming in. If not we could be bankrupt in another month, and I’ll wish I was on a flight outa town.”

“Wha?” Spence said. He was busy unhooking the big painting they had bought from a motel’s closing sale.

“I said I wish I was on a flight outa town,” Ollie said.

A sudden rumble and low roar filled the room as the floor shook. Spence yelled something about earthquakes and Ollie suddenly felt the broom pulled in the direction of the door. He grabbed the broom with both hands, wondering if there was a wire pulling from the wall that he’d missed. But the broom dragged him across the floor towards the doors which suddenly swung open and the broom pulled him off his feet and soared into the morning air with Ollie hanging on for dear life. Spence ran out into the parking lot and watched Ollie soar into the sky over their little Kansas town.

“At least he cleared the power lines,” Spence said. He cupped his hands and yelled. “Ollie! Come down from there! Try to steer that thing!”

Ollie was about as high as a twenty story building and soaring higher. The broom was emitting a cartoony-sounding rocket noise. His fingers were numb from clutching the broomstick. And the bristles weren’t welded on, they were falling off. Ollie screamed as he wondered if a broom would fly without the bristles.

The last bristle fell off. The cartoony rocket noise abruptly stopped. The broom and Ollie abruptly began a nose dive to the ground. Ollie saw the ground heading towards him, clutched broomstick pointing groundward as he screamed “Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii…..”

There was a flash and a chord of music as an immense blob suddenly materialized beneath Ollie. He hit the soft substance and it broke his fall all the way to the ground, which he hit with a soft splat, still holding the broom.

Spence ran up, out of breath as Ollie pulled himself out of the stinking pile and stood up.

“You okay?” Spence managed to ask. He had run a full block.

“Yeah,” Ollie said. “This stuff broke my fall.”

“Where did it…Phew!” Spence said, holding his nose. He pointed to the pile. “Is that what I think it is?”

“Yeah!” Ollie said. “I said it and it appeared.” He held up the stick. “This isn’t a flying broom, it’s a magic wand! We can fix up the restaurant! We can get anything!”

“Including getting rid of this pile?” Spence said.

“Yup!” Ollie said, as a large clump of the glob fell and spattered Spence.

“Well, Ollie,” Spence said. “This is another nice mess you’ve got me into!”

The two of them laughed, smelling bad.

 

—end—

Posted in 'Nathan Burgoine, Fantasy, Fiction, Monthly Flash Fiction Draw Challenge, Short-Stories, Uncategorized | 4 Comments