Monday Flash Fic for August 29, 2016: “Atmosphere.”

                                             Atmosphere

                                              By Jeff Baker

 

            The evening was cool and starry, the grass soft and the blanket spread on the ground was warm as Bryan kissed Nico under the lighted canopy.

            “I could do this forever,” Nico said, in-between kisses and breaths.

            “Yeah,” Bryan said. “Me, too.”  But after a few minutes the two of them lay down on their backs, listened to the crickets and watched some of the other couples walking around the gardens,  some holding hands, some kissing, many of them passing couples kissing or making out on blankets on the ground. Some of the couples were male, some female some mixed.

            “You know, I don’t even remember how this weekend started,” Nico said. “I don’t even know how I could afford to come to a place like this.”

            “I remember,” Bryan said. “The acclimation thing didn’t work on me all the way. Sometimes it doesn’t.”

            Nico sat up on his elbows.

            “Wait, what ‘acclimation thing?’”

            “Programming,” Bryan said. “They hooked you up to an, an encephalic mind thingie. Programmed you,” he said flatly. “Me too.”

            “Programmed?” Nico asked. Bryan nodded.

            “We’re supposed to believe that this is really us, that this is how we really feel. It’s the programming. We were programmed to fall in love and get romantic and physical and, and, oh, God you have nice legs!”

            Bryan started rubbing Nico’s leg, and playfully stuck a thumb under Nico’s shorts.

            “Programming,” Nico said as he rubbed Bryan’s chest. “Like robots? Oh, God, we’re not robots are we?”

            Nico had a flash of an old black-and-white TV show where a character had discovered they weren’t human.

            “No,” Bryan said, in between kisses. “We’re not robots.” After a few more minutes of kissing, Nico pulled away and stared up at the sky.

            “But who did this to us?” Nico asked. “Who messed with our minds and our emotions and played with us like we’re, we’re…”

            Bryan laughed.

            “You did!” Bryan said. “We both signed up for this. We were hired.”

            “Hired?” Nico asked.

            “Yeah,” Bryan said, nuzzling Nico’s neck. “People pay a lot to come to this romantic resort. We’re hired to add atmosphere. They pay us pretty well. But we always stop just short of, well, doing what the customers do when they get back to their rooms.”

            Nico stopped. He didn’t really remember anything about yesterday evening after they’d spent the day making out.

            “You sure know a lot about this setup,” Nico said.

            “I’ve done this a couple of times before,” Bryan said.

            “Hey, what happens to us when this weekend’s over?”

            “Well, we get our credit receipt for our,” Bryan started to say.

            “No, no,” Nico said, rolling over on top of Bryan so he was staring down at his face. “I mean us. You and me. When this is all done? I mean, do we forget this or, or…”

            “No we remember,” Bryan said. “I’m not sure about our feelings.”

“So, do you want to go out for, you know, coffee when this is all over?” Nico said.

Bryan grinned and kissed him again. “It’s a date!”

             Over by the small Koi pond the couple in evening clothes pressed together.

            “You were right about this weekend,” she said. “Look at those guys on the blanket. Acting like teenagers.”

            “Maybe we should too,” he said as he smiled and gave her a long kiss that spoke of wondrous evenings and a vast expanse of starry, starry sky.

 

                                                         —end—

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Monday Flash Fiction for August 22, 2016 (“Deliveries In The Rear”)

                                     Deliveries in the Rear

                                              By Jeff Baker

 

            There was a line outside Deliveries in the Rear that night. The bar was always crowded on the weekends and Chris was leaning all over me smoking what I hoped wasn’t a joint. Jason was craning his neck looking to see if he knew the guy at the door. The three of us had driven out there that night our junior year of college.

            “Hey, Mickey, how much cash you got?” Jason asked me.

            “About twenty bucks, why?” I said.

            “Looks like they’re doing a cover charge. And I brought my I.D. but not my wallet.” Jason said. He was always forgetting his wallet.

            “Great,” I grumbled. This was 1982, and the only gay bar in the area.

            “I should have thought about bringing some beer to wait to get into a bar,” Chris said. “Hey, there’s a sign on the door.”

            “Lemmie check,” Jason said. He walked up to the front of the line for a moment. I felt like I was in the junior high lunchroom and they’d tell Jason to get to the back of the line.

            “Maybe it says ‘Closed for repairs,’” Chris said.

            “Cover charge is five bucks a head, it’s for some charity,” Jason said as he walked back. “Says something else; that slaves get in free with their masters.”

            “Kinky!” Chris said with a grin.

            I did some adding in my head. One of us was getting in free if we wanted to pay for a few drinks. By the time we reached the front of the line, we’d figured it out. Jason had said they were issuing “slaves” white tank tops. Jason had a shirt, Chris and I just had leather vests, but Jason didn’t have any cash. So, Jason, grinning, put on one of the tank tops with “Slave” written on it in magic marker. We sat down and I handed Jason a few bucks and told him to get us two beers apiece and that he was driving us home.

            “Yes, Sir!” Jason said heading over to the bar. I looked around in the typical dim bar light. I could make out several other guys in the white shirts, one giving his “master” a backrub.

Jason came back with the beers, bowing to us, playing the role to the hilt. A guy at the next table leaned over to us.

            “How much you think they’ll get for him?” the man said, indicating Jason.

            “Uh, he’s not for sale,” I said. Chris was snickering as he drank his beer.

            “They’re putting them up for auction later on for charity,” the man said, pointing to a sign by the stage. I stared at the sign; that was what it said.

            “Oh, I’m Steve,” he said.

            “Mickey,” I said, starting to laugh, imagining Jason being auctioned off to a bunch of little old ladies, none of which were going to be at the bar.

            About an hour later, Jason and the other “slaves” stood on the stage where the bands usually played as a drunken emcee in a top hat called out for bids, with all the money going to a local charity and all the “slaves” going home with their owners for the night, as the emcee said; “to do whatever you two want to.”

            When the bidding got to Jason I started laughing. He was mugging and flexing his pecs to the whistles of the crowd. There were a couple of bids and then Chris (who’d had a couple more beers) stood up and yelled “I bid five-thousand dollars!”

            Dead silence. Everybody stared at Chris.

            “Um, I don’t have five-thousand dollars,” Chris said. “I got twenty!”

            “Sold for five-thousand dollars,” the Emcee said.

            In the end, Steve offered thirty bucks and I put in some of my cash along with Chris’. Jason drove both of us home and Steve and I exchanged numbers.

            That was thirty-four years ago. Chris is gone now and I haven’t seen Jason in years. But Steve and I have been together thirty-two years now. It’s a heckuva way to meet, but hey! It worked for us!

 

                                                   —end—

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Monday Flash Fic.:Cutesy Bears and Intrigue.

Here’s the latest for the Monday Flash Fiction page for August 15, 2016.

                                         The Cutesy Bear Caper

                                                By Jeff Baker

 

            “Faster!” Donna said. “He’s getting away!”

            “I’m pushing as fast as I can!” Shawn said. “If his foot wasn’t stuck in that pumpkin he’d be gone by now!”

            How had they gotten into this mess?

            Shawn and Donna Reidel had been hired by the Eldrad’s chain of stores to supplant their usual security. Things had been disappearing and there was a funny feel to the thefts. If it was random shoplifters they had been successful dodging the security cameras. Most private detectives wouldn’t touch something like this, but the Reidels were eclectic. And broke.

            Dressing up as toy bears the store was promoting was definitely not the Reidel’s idea.

            “Little girls love them,” the store manager had said. “Right up until they discover boy bands.”

            Donna didn’t know whether to laugh or gag as they got into their costumes that matched the Cutesy Bear toys; pink for her, panda black-and-white for him. Ironically, the costumes made them inconspicuous unless some preschooler saw them and started pointing and shrilling that they wanted one.

            “We’ve probably cost parents a collective fortune,” Donna muttered to Shawn.

            “At least Nick and Nora Charles could drink,” Shawn muttered back.

            Donna kept a running count of how many toy bears had been sold; ten pink, eight panda on the second day. But around two in the afternoon, she grabbed Shawn’s arm and pointed.

            “Look! There should be only 32 bears in the display. I just counted 36!”

            “What?” Shawn said.

            “And that man was standing there; he must’ve put the bears in the display!”

            “Grab him!” Shawn said pointing.

            Donna had lunged for the man who had shoved a shopping cart in her way. Like the ex-gymnast she was she had vaulted over it and landed in it with a crash just as the man had stepped into a big plastic jack o’lantern (it was August, after all.)

            “I’m stuck!” Donna yelled.

            “I got him!” Shawn said pushing the cart at top speed after the man who was hobbling with a leg stuck in the pumpkin.

            “Never mind me, just get…whoa!” The cart Donna was in hit a speed bump and raced down the drive towards the lower level slamming into the pumpkin-encumbered man. He, Donna and the cart spilled into the ditch, a tumble of cart, broken plastic pumpkin and cutesy bears that fell from the man’s jacket. 

            “Hey!” Donna said. “I’m out of the cart!”

            The whole thing had been outlandish. The earlier thefts were done to see if they could conceal them from the security cameras. Then, carefully altered bears were placed in the display, to be picked up by special customers. Bears containing black market diamonds.

            Donna and Shawn weren’t paid in diamonds, just their regular fee. They were offered their own pair of Cutesy Bears, but they politely declined.

 

                                                       —end—

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Monday Flash Fiction for August 8, 2016: “Doctor Livingston, I Presume.”

(One note—I just glanced at the picture and saved it to my phone and wrote it on my lunch break. Somehow, I didn’t notice the buildings!)

                           Doctor Livingston, I Presume

                                           By Jeff Baker

 

            “I thought I’d find you here,” the first man said.

            “What? Oh, it’s you,” the second man said.

            “Who were you expecting?”

            “At least you didn’t ask me if I was Dr. Livingston,” said the second man. “That’s gotten old.”

            “Actually, it hasn’t been said yet,” said the first man. “Not for about another, let’s see, how many billion years?”

            “Millions of years,” said the second man. “It’d be on the display in your machine. You know, I’d almost forgotten we’d made the working prototype. Very cramped, but it apparently works if you’re back here.”

            “Tracking gizmo works pretty well,” said the first man. “It’s how I found you. “I figured you’d used the newer machine to cut out of there.”

            “All that fol-de-rol about paperwork and procedures. Of course I left!”

            “You came all the way back here to the Jurassic just to get away from the office!” The first man began to laugh.

            “Well, we’re not in the Jurassic,” the second man said. “We’re in the Cenozoic, I think. No big dinosaurs. And this view is worth it. The clouds, the hills, the lake.” He looked up and grinned. “It does get wet, though.”

            “I noticed your umbrella,” the first man said.

            “It poured a few hours ago. Look over there! A bird!”

            “What kind of bird?”

            “Not sure,” said the second man. “But I think it had feathers. Maybe the first one.”

            “We have to get back you know,” the first man said, staring out across the lake. “But not just yet.” He sat down.  “I brought coffee.”

            “Good,” said the second man. “I thought about it, but I was in a hurry. Pass the thermos, will you?”

            “Sure. Oh, look at those birds!”

 

                                                —end—

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The Princess and the Tree (Flash Fic. for Monday, Aug. 1, 2016)

Here’s the weekly story for the Monday Flash Fics page, August 1, 2016.

                                    The Princess and the Tree

                                            By Jeff Baker

 

            “Gramma! Gramma! Tell us a story! Tell us a story!” The two little girls were excitedly jumping up and down on the big bed in the guest room.

            “All right,” Grandmother said smiling. “But you have to get right to bed after.”

            “We will,” the girls chorused. “We promise!”

            “Once upon a time, a man lived on top of a…” Grandmother began.

            “Not that one,” said the youngest.

            “You know the one,” said her sister. “Pleeeeease?”

            “Well, all right,” Grandmother said. “Once upon a time, in a kingdom far out to sea, a young prince had been put under a spell and placed with the trees of the forest. One day a young princess came by and was told she had to find which tree was the young prince. Or else!”

            The girls on the bed giggled.

            “But the Princess was used to getting her way. She walked into the forest and ordered ‘Come,’ and the enchanted tree began to walk on its roots and followed the Princess to a boat on the water. The Princess stepped into the boat, pointed and said ‘Sit.’ And the tree walked into the boat and sat down, as best as a tree can.

            “The placard hidden on the tree began to glow and the boat pulled away from the shore. After a time, the boat pulled up to an island and the tree stepped out onto the shore and suddenly became a handsome young man and helped the Princess ashore.”

            “And they went and lived in a castle!” That was the youngest girl, interrupting.

            “Full of horses and gold,” said the other.

            “And they became a King and Queen,” the girls squealed. “Forever and ever!”

            “Well, no,” Grandmother said. The Prince was the youngest son, he never became a king. And they didn’t have a castle, they built a farmhouse and they…”

            “Awwww, Gramma! That’s not a story!” the girls said.

            Their Grandmother smiled. Listening from the doorway, their Grandfather smiled too. He loved her even more with silver hair, and he rarely thought of the years he’d spent as a tree.

 

                                                —end—

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Flash Fiction (July 25, 2016) “My Object All Sublime”

Here’s the latest for Monday Flash Fics:

                       

My Object All Sublime

                                           By Jeff Baker

 

 

 

            Jimmy stood in the office, his hands at his sides, trying not to be nervous. The man behind the desk was reading a report out loud.

            “Disobedience. Slacking off on a work detail, showing disrespect to officers. You’re what? Twenty-eight?”

            “Twenty-nine, Sir,” Jimmy said.

            “You’ve been here three years. You should know the rules by now.”

            The man paused and pushed a small bowl across the desk towards Jimmy.

            “Here,” the man said.

            Jimmy took a deep breath and reached out for the dish. In it was a small, flat rectangle wrapped in foil. Jimmy unwrapped the foil and popped what appeared to be a flat piece of chocolate into his mouth. It tasted like chocolate, only tangy and bitter. Jimmy chewed and swallowed.

            The nausea hit him at the same time as the pounding headache. Jimmy didn’t even remember falling down.

 “Take this man back to his cell,” Jimmy heard, as if from a distance. He knew what was going on; what he’d taken was an encephalic reaction tablet. It had a long chemical name, but everyone called them “punish-mints.” He wasn’t really sick; his brain was just making him react as if he was. The trick was not to think about anything, clear his head.

“Don’t think about the work crew,” he thought. “Don’t think about picking potatoes. Don’t think about your sunburn. Don’t think about your churning stomach. Don’t think about not thinking. C’mon, Jimbo, make your mind a blank!”

He was dimly aware of one of the guards pulling him to his feet and making him stagger out the door. He saw the window where a few days ago he’d stood waiting to get into the showers and stared across the yard at the other cellblock. He glanced down and saw the band of chain tattooed on his left forearm with the sign for infinity above it—“duration permanent” it meant. He about fell over. Don’t think, just walk.

“Hey, I got him, okay?” The familiar voice, Ron. He’d been Jimmy’s cellmate for the last two years. The new regime had convicted both of them. Jimmy kept his eyes tightly shut, his head was swimming, he felt himself being handed over to someone else.

“Just lean on me, buddy. I got you. Just relax,” Ron said.

Jimmy forced his mind to become a blank as Ron half-guided, half-dragged him down the landing from the Captain’s office to their cell. Jimmy noticed a change in the sounds from the cell house to the small, steel-walled room they shared about fourteen hours a day. He opened one eye. The nausea was subsiding, but the glimpse made his head hurt worse.

Ron laid Jimmy down on the bottom bunk. Jimmy usually slept in the top bunk, but this was easier.

“Just relax, buddy,’ Ron said. “You’ll feel better in about four hours.”

Ron walked over to shut the steel door; it would automatically latch, locking them in until breakfast. Ron walked back and kissed Jimmy on the forehead.

Jimmy smiled. He was trying to keep his mind a blank, but all he could think of was Ron.

                                  —end—

 

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Monday Flash Fics (July 18, 2016)”The Creature of Wine Cooler Cove”

The Creature of Wine Cooler Cove

By Jeff Baker

 

I was having a beer in Demeter’s Bar when Marty started telling me about the sea serpent. He was sitting on the barstool next to me, and I thought for the umpteenth time I should stop sitting at the bar and stick with the back booth.

It was about five years ago (Marty said) I was still with my ex-boyfriend Alex, and there was this big party on the beach near where we were living. Lights, surf music, a big archway like you were entering Wine Cooler World or something. We were standing around, drinks in hand, checking out the buff young guys in swim trunks. Then I looked out on the water and saw a lumpy green thing surface. I thought it was a log until it opened its eyes. I’d never seen a sea monster before, but it was in the sea and kind of green and monstery so that was probably what it was.  I nudged Alex and pointed (with the hand that was holding the wine cooler) and said “Hey, look at that?”

“What?” Alex said.

“That big green thing in the water out there,” I said.

“It’s just an old tire covered with seaweed,” Alex said.

That was when the tire blinked. Alex stared. He finished his wine cooler and grabbed another from the big ice bucket.

“Did you ever hear the theory that a lot of dinosaurs never went extinct?” Alex said.

I admitted I hadn’t.

“A lot of them were underwater creatures to begin with and when the world changed they just stayed near the sea bottom. But there are exceptions.” He sipped some of his wine cooler. “You’ve heard of the Loch Ness Monster? It’s really a Pliosaur.”

Maybe I was drunk but this was making an awful lot of sense. That thing did look like a sea monster and I wondered if it was here because it was tired of fish. Maybe the tanned  gymbunnies at the party looked as yummy to it as they did to me. As if in answer, the thing’s head began to rise out of the water. It was huge and so far we were the only ones who noticed it.

I handed Alex my drink and I rushed over to the snack table and grabbing what I wanted I quickly hurled it over the heads of the partiers to the thing in the sea. Its eyes followed what I’d thrown and its mouth opened and snapped shut with the meaty missile in its jaws. It sat there for a moment, shook its head and sank back under the water. I could’ve sworn I heard a bellow which was drowned out as the music cranked up. Alex and I watched a shadowy, huge shape head out to sea. Then we cut out and left the party early.

Marty finished his story and finished his beer. I wondered how many he’d had that day on the beach.

“What did you throw at that sea monster?” I asked. “And how did you throw something that far anyway?” Not that I was ready to believe him, but he had me curious.

“Oh, I grabbed a hot wing and dunked it in the homemade extra-extra hot sauce they had. Wish I had the recipe, might make a good monster repellant. As for how I threw it so far,” he grinned and flexed his hand. “I was a pitcher in college.”

I caught the bartender’s eye, he bit his tongue.

“And that,” Marty said, oblivious to the bartender’s grin, “is why I stay away from beaches. All those shark attacks you hear about? They probably aren’t all sharks.”

 

—end—

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