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—

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The Way of the Sea. Continuing a serial for Friday Flash Fics, December 7, 2018 by Jeff Baker.

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The Way of the Sea

By Jeff Baker

NOTE: A sequel/continuation of the stories that began with “The Flight Into Egypt.”

 

Forty-one years ago it was a lot easier to show up somewhere, lie about your age and get a job, if you found the right job.

I’d been working in the back kitchen of a restaurant just off the highway in New Mexico for four months. I’d told the owner that I was nineteen and that my name was Jack Bryce, not that I was seventeen and my name was Bryce Going. I don’t think he believed me but then he paid me in cash so I didn’t press him. Also, he let me sleep in a room over the back storeroom that had a bed, a toilet and electricity. I had to share it with stacks of boxes but I’d slept in enough fields in the last few months so this was practically paradise.

The new guy I was working with was named Aegir. He was about sixty, big with grey hair and tattoos. He said he’d been in the Navy for years. He said he was still part of the sea and that the sea would always be with him. I had always fantasized about Navy men, but not him. Nonetheless, I checked out the tattoos on his bare arms. I’d gotten pretty good at checking someone out without their knowing it, a survival skill basically, but Aegir caught me staring. He grinned and held up his arms.

“You’ll never see any tattoos like these,” he said. “I saved a man’s life in the islands and so he did these for me. He said he was last in a long line of artists who knew what he called ‘The Ancient Art.’ I never knew what he meant by that.”

The tattoos were done with thin, spidery lines. They looked like ripples until you looked closer and saw outlines of sea creatures hinted at in the lines. It was masterful. I’d never seen anything like it. If I hadn’t known better I’d have sworn the creatures had changed position from one time I saw the tattoos to the next.

It was one afternoon after the lunch rush that I was washing pots and pans in the big metal sink when I heard Aegir singing. A sea chanty, I supposed, about life on the sea, amid the islands. As I kept on washing the pans the water started to slosh around by itself, reminding me of the sea. I stepped back from the sink and watched the water move by itself. Aegir’s song kept rising and falling and suddenly I felt the floor move. Up and down as if we were on a ship. I splashed my face with water and shook my head to clear it. I wasn’t imagining things. And now the wind was rising and I could smell the salt air. I looked out the window. The back room was tilting like a ship at sea; the view from the window kept rising and falling. I quickly ducked out the back door and staggered over to lean against the dumpster. There was no wind, no sea-smell, no rising and falling. I stood there and took deep breaths. There was a clattering noise as the door swung open. A dirty pan that I had set on the floor was sliding back and forth on the floor as if the floor was tilting. I closed my eyes, and then opened them again. The floor inside wasn’t tilting anymore. I walked inside.

Aegir had stopped singing. He was checking something on the menu board. I stared. I was certain the tattoo on his right bicep had changed shape. I closed my eyes again.

“Hey, Jack,” a voice said. I opened my eyes.

“Yeah,” I said.

“I may need you to come in earlier tomorrow. Aegir says he’s quitting after today.”

I nodded and mumbled a “Yes.” I’d seen some damn strange things since I was on my own but this had to be a result of too much work and not enough sleep. I stumbled over something on the floor. The pan that I’d seen moving around on the tilting floor. I’d left it by the sink, now it was over by the ice machine. I picked up the pan and put it back in the soapy water.

“Jack, me lad,” Aegir said walking back in the kitchen. “It’s true; I’m heading back to the sea where I belong.”

“Hey, congratulations,” I said, busy scrubbing the pan.

“The way of the sea, there’s nothing like it!” Aegir said. He busied himself at the table and began to sing again. Another chanty. A chill breeze began to blow in the kitchen, accompanied by the smell of salt air. I glanced over at Aegir; he looked over at me and smiled. The tattooed lines on his arms were moving like rolling waves. His eyes had become a bright sea-green.

 

—end—

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Spirits of the Night, for Friday Flash Fics, by Jeff Baker. November 30, 2018.

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                             The Spirits of the Night

                                           By Jeff Baker                       

            After two weeks sleeping in fields and eating handouts from taverns, Prince Almazotz was beginning to realize that while the title sounded good, there were a lot of princes around and the title was no good without an army or money and he had neither at the moment. But for that evening anyway, he was the guest at a castle, or what was left of one. The main house may have been more comfortable but he wasn’t going to complain about a hot meal, or a room at the top of a tower with a comfortable bed, windows with shutters and a fine view and even a fireplace, if he needed one.

            Prince Almazotz rolled over, under the warm blankets and was still half-asleep when he noticed the pale figure half in, half out of the room’s shadows. He sat up in bed and reached for his knife. The figure was male, dark haired and very pale. At first, he thought the figure’s arms were covered in tattoos, but the moved and Almazotz realized they were wings.

            “I am one of the Spirts of the Air,” he said in a breathy voice. “A Spirit of the Night Air. I was flying past your open window and I saw you slumbering so peacefully, looking like a young god.”

            Prince Almazotz wiped some drool off his chin and hoped his hair wasn’t too much of a mess.

            “What exactly do you want?” Prince Almazotz asked warily.

            “To embrace you, to feel you, to evoke all the passions of this world, but I am not of this world.” The spirit spread its wings and flew over Prince Almazotz, landing on top of him. The spirit burst into a cloud which looked like someone’s breath on a frosty morning.

            The spirit re-formed beside the bed.

            “You see, I have no substance,” he said.

            Prince Almazotz pulled the blanket around him; he felt chilly.

            The spirit shrugged. “I am made of the night air, you see?”

            Prince Almazotz kept his hand on his dagger.

            “Allow me to caress you as a wind, as if we were both mortals. It is the thing most spirits truly desire and you, oh handsome one, are one that any spirit would desire.”

            Prince Almazotz shrugged and said “True.” He tossed the thick blanket to one side and lay down on his back on the bed, putting the dagger to one side. He was, he smiled at the thought, wearing nothing but his braccae. The spirit rose towards the ceiling and burst into the cloud of greyish mist which quickly swirled around the young Prince. He shivered with delight.

            There was another swirl of wind and Prince Almazotz’ braccae was quickly unwrapped and whisked off of him into the air, accompanied by laughter from the spirit.

            “Hey!” Prince Almazotz yelled. “Come back with those!” He jumped out of bed, tripping and landing face first on the crumpled up blankets on the stone floor. He heard the spirit’s laughter as a blast of wind pushed the door open followed by his braccae, just out of the Prince’s reach. He dashed down the short flight of stairs down to the courtyard and was immediately surrounded by gusts of wind and laughter. The ground floor tower door was slammed shut behind him as his braccae soared into the sky.

            He was locked out of the tower.

            He was naked.

            Great.

            He heard the laughter from the sky, becoming more distant as his braccae, lit by the wan moons, faded into the starlight. Prince Almazotz sighed, turned and walked towards the main building, a few yards away from the guest tower, looking for a bush to hide behind after he knocked on the door to ask his hosts for a spare tower key.

 

                                                         —end—

 

NOTE: A  braccae is a pair of underwear circa the Middle Ages. 

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My Latest Publication! Lambda Literary!

My latest publication is a review of the final “Wilde Stories” in Lambda Literary. This yearly anthology series only got better. Here’s the link to the article:https://www.lambdaliterary.org/author/jeff-baker/

Posted in Lambda Literary, LGBT, Non-Fiction, Reviews, Uncategorized, Writing | Leave a comment

Yellow Brick Road, Inc. Friday Flash Fics for November 23, 2018 by Jeff Baker

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                                             Yellow Brick Road, Inc. 

                                                        By Jeff Baker

            “Okay,” Hillerman said, seated behind the desk in the sunlit office. “Your credit checks out and your forms are all filled. Now all we need from you is a destination.”

            Dennis, a short, slender man with glasses and a tie seated in front of the desk looked up at the ceiling thought for a second. “Oh, London, Paris…”

            “Mr. Humphrey, any ordinary travel agent can book you to London or Paris. We deal in the extraordinary, not the prosaic.”

            “Like what?” Dennis asked.

            “Well, instead of Paris as it is today, you could go to a Paris that was always part of a still-thriving Ottoman Empire. Or a London where the advances of the Renaissance never happened and…oh,” Hillerman had been scrolling through a list on a screen. “I’m afraid that one is unavailable.” He shuddered. “Plague.”

            “What do most people ask for?” Dennis asked. “To go to, I mean?”

            Hillerman sighed to himself. A customer was a customer.

            “We had a gentleman a few weeks ago who wanted our Polar Package,” Hillerman said. “New York City under ice. And thriving as I understand. I took him there myself. He stepped through the portal (which in this case manifested itself as a curl of cold water) and found himself in what to him was Paradise.” He shuddered again. “Cold.” He smiled again. “You see, the limits are only those of your own imagination.”

            To himself, he thought; good luck with that.

            “Nothing with Nazis, I hope,” Dennis said.

            “Passage to any variants where the Nazi regime dominates has been effectively blocked,” Hillerman explained. “Too many skinheads, too many fetishists.”

            “I wasn’t interested,” Dennis said. “Thankfully.”

            “But you are interested in something? Otherwise you wouldn’t be at a travel agency.”

            “Yes,” Dennis said. “Someplace closer to here, with free drinks and cable. And no attacking giant insects or invading aliens.”

            “You want a staycation, I take it?” Hillerman said with a sigh.

            “Yes.” Dennis said. “Do you validate parking?”

 

                                    —end—

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Something on the Wall for Friday Flash Fics by Jeff Baker, November 16, 2018.

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                                      The Palimpsest of J. V. Leiberhofft

                                                             By Jeff Baker

                       

            Ian stopped dead and stared at the wall. His jaw dropped.

            “Oh…my…God…” he managed to say. “Is that what I think it is?”

            Corey nodded and grinned, letting Ian take it all in.

            The room was not that big and bare. Black vinyl floors, white walls, white lights on the ceiling, just the right brightness. The figure on the wall dominated everything. A young man, clad only in black shorts, his wrists bound in front of him with matching black leather bindings, head bowed, muscular arms, legs, abs, chest, the whole package. He was either backed up to or growing out of his back behind him two spreading bare branches from a small tree, giving the look of wings stripped of their plumage. The whole thing gave an impression of restrained motion and grace. Tension beneath a surface. Freedom cut short. It was only when Ian looked closer that he noticed the slight pinkish tinge on the pale flesh, the slight yellowish in the blonde hair. 

            “I thought, well at first, you had a model posed up against the wall,” Ian said, “but this is fantastic!”

            “Look a little closer,” Corey said. Ian nodded, still in a daze. He stared at the edges of the canvas that covered nearly the entire wall, held at the corners by white thumbtacks. In one corner was a small white card, tacked to the wall.

            “Hey, somebody tacked this card right on the canvas!” Ian said.

            Corey was pouring two glasses from a bottle on a table in the far corner of the room.

            “Take a good look,” he said. “I’ll have this ready when you do.”

            Ian bent down and read the card aloud. :”Flight. J. V. Leiberhofft (2107) Oil and Pastel on Canvas.” He looked up. “Yeah, Leiberhofft. I saw an exhibit of his paintings in New York a couple of years ago, but I didn’t…” He had reached out to touch the card. It felt flat and firm. So did the thumbtack. He cautiously ran a finger along the edge of the canvas. He looked up again.

            “This is all a painting…” he breathed. “All painted on the wall…even the thumbtacks are a painting…My God! This is the original!”

            Corey handed Ian the champagne. “Thought you’d want this.”

            “Yeah…” Ian said, sipping the champagne, “Thanks.”

            “And it’s not the original,” Corey said. “It’s a copy he did later after he sold the original.”

            “The New York exhibit called their copy ‘the single most erotic artwork that entered into mainstream America in the first part of the century.’”  Ian said, staring at the painting.

            “And that’s James-Steven Coe, he was Leiberhofft’s usual model,” Ian said.

            “I know,” Corey said. “I’ve spent my share of time admiring James-Steven since I got this.”

            “Where did you find this anyway?” Ian asked.

            “When I bought the house there was a mural on this wall,” Corey said pouring himself another glass. “One of those awful retro-abstract things. I wanted to have it painted over but luckily the painter scanned it before he started painting and told me there was something else underneath. Cost me about $100 to have the abstract thingie dissolved, but this was what was underneath. A genuine Leiberhofft.” Cory finished his glass. “And I checked at the Records Hall and then did a little research and found that the guy who owned this house twenty-five years ago had been a friend of Leiberhofft. So, he definitely stayed here.”

            “And he painted this right here,” Ian said, sipping his champagne.

            “He and James-Steven were here,” Cory said.

            Ian stared at Cory and broke out into a smile. “Did you buy the house and the painting just to get romantic with me?”

            “No,” Cory said, putting down the glass and kissing Ian. “But it’s a nice idea!”

 

                                                —end—

Posted in Fiction, Friday Flash Fics, LGBT, Short-Stories, Uncategorized | 2 Comments