Author’s Note: The prompt pic this week showed a Buddhist Monk rapt in study. I translated this to a different setting as I hadn’t visited my World of Three Moons in a while.
Iatros Ti-abb rubbed his eyes. He had been staring at the scroll for hours. He looked up. The candles had been lit, Iatros had not noticed the young servitus enter with the fire sphere.
He shook his head. Gods who speak only to slaves, gods who speak to kings, gods who devour their worshipers as sacrifices, gods who express displeasure at offers of such sacrifice. And nothing in the scroll of the gods who answer those who seek.
The Vengeful one, the Watchful Ones, the Knower of Many Worlds. There were scrolls covering all these and more. Iatros was just a few steps away from tossing the scroll he was reading into the corner. Nothing that could help him.
He glanced directly upward. The zenith of the dome had the carving of the three Moons ascendant. One of the thick glass panels to the side would let them get hit by real moons light every now and then.
“Names of the Moons,” Iatros whispered silently looking upward. “I seek. That is all; I seek.”
He closed his eyes and looked down. He hadn’t expected a response.
But there was one.
There was an echoing, booming in his ears.
After another moment he stood up, dropping the scroll.
One of the young servitus’ ran up to Iatros.
“Seeker of Wisdom, what is the matter?”
Iatros smiled and stared upward.
“Nothing is the matter,” he said. “For the first time in millennia, everything is right.”
Iatros looked around, seeing everything as if it was new.
“You may tell them,” Iatros said, “that the Enlightened One is here.”
Ron Goulart. Comic book historian, expert on pulp fiction and a master of blending humor with science fiction, fantasy, horror and mystery, has died just after his 89th birthday.
I never met Ron Goulart, never communicated with him on line but I heard him nonetheless. Sometime in the 1970s I read one of his histories of comic books. Then in the late 1980s I started reading genre short stories, and encountered a library book “The Best Horror Stories From The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.” In it was Ron Goulart’s story “Glory.’ I’d read funny vampire stories before. And I’d read stories that meshed vampires and Hollywood. But never one that blended them all into a screwball brew. In the decade or so when I read all the genre anthologies he became one of the influences on my writing.
Only Goulart would have written “Please Stand By,’ about a man cursed with turning into an elephant on national holidays.
The wink at Hollywood was practically a Goulart trademark. From his mystery novels with detective Groucho Marx, his mystery series about Hix, set during Hollywood’s Golden Age (Hix is after enough money to get married with!) Los Angeles was also a setting (and frequent target) of his stories.
He also blended fantasy, science-fiction and mystery and was nominated for the Edgar Award in 1971 for his science-fiction novel “After Things Fell Apart.”
Ron Goulart may be almost as well known for his opening lines in his stories and novels. He had worked in advertising and learned about grabbing the reader’s attention early on.
“Twenty-six million people saw them die, and that’s not counting reruns.”
“On the eleventh take, something made the assistant director float up in front of the camera.”
“I was hardly there when the electric dishwasher grabbed me.”
This is one from what has become my favorite series to write, about a kid who calls himself “Bryce Going.” When Bryce’s Mom bails out on him (his Dad is out of the picture) Bryce hits the road. He may be big for his age (about sixteen) but the mid-1970s are no time to be even a closeted Gay teenager in a boy’s home. So, he lies about his name and age and has a few paid-under-the-table jobs and a lot of very strange encounters. This one when he’s washing dishes in a back kitchen and living in a storeroom upstairs where Bryce has taken notice of the muscles of the cook Aegir, whose arms are decorated with tattoos with images of the sea.
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. As I kept on washing the pans the water started to slosh around by itself, reminding me of the sea. Aegir’s song kept rising and falling and suddenly I felt the floor move up and down as if we were on a ship. 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 probably talk too much about some of these, but I see the subconscious influence of Manly Wade Wellman, a writer I hugely admire and highly recommend.
The two young men walked down the New York City sidewalk, cautiously avoiding holding hands.
Trevor hadn’t been to New York City since he was about twelve. That had been in 2005 and he hadn’t seen the building then.
Patrick had never been east of St. Louis.
“I can still see the skyline,” Patrick said. “You sure we’re on the right street?”
Trevor, skinny with dark hair looked at his smartphone. “Yup. If the building is still here it should be right down this way.”
Patrick, short with reddish-brown hair glanced down the small hill. “This street still has cobblestones, I think.”
“Naaaa, those are old bricks.” Trevor said. “My Dad described New York as a very modern city that isn’t totally in this century.” Trevor grinned. “Where bits of the past sometimes stare at you from unexpected places.”
“Speaking of the past, what about 1912?” Patrick said.
“No, the address is…oh, yeah!” Trevor said. “Let me see that photograph.”
Patrick handed him the old photo, pulled from Trevor’s Mom’s crumbling family album. In it a very young seeming man and woman in black and white were kissing in a brick, arched doorway on a sunny day. The number on the door could just be made out.
The address was scrawled on the back of the photo along with the date March 30, 1912.
“Just in time to hear about the Titanic,” Patrick had joked when Trevor had first shown him the picture.
“It’s no joke,” Trevor had said. “Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa used to like to go to the docks and watch the ships come in. They were there the night the Carpathia brought home the survivors.”
They’d made the trip out from California and now were looking at house numbers.
“702…704…706…” Patrick counted. “Doesn’t look like the arched doorway in the picture. Are you sure about the address? Trevor stared at the picture. “No,” he said. “It says 706 but it could be…lemmie see something.”
He turned the photo over.
“I can barely make out the handwriting and only the 70 is visible in the picture.” Trevor said. “I guess it could be…”
“709!” Patrick cried triumphantly. “Look across the street.”
The row of brick buildings pressed together across the street were partially hidden by tall hedges, but they could see the arched doorways and the number 709 on the house on the end.
Okay, let’s do this,” Trevor said, taking Patrick’s hand as they darted across the street towards 709, glad there was so little traffic on the side street.
“Think we can scrunch up here?” Patrick said, snuggling next to Trevor in the doorway of 709 Branford Place.
“Just hold the photo up,” Trevor said, checking the smartphone screen. “Yeah, yeah. Right there. I’m glad I have long arms. Okay, hold it. Now…”
Trevor and Patrick kissed as the smartphone caught the two of them and the photo of Trevor’s Great-Grandparents in the same doorway so long ago.”
The draws for the January Flash Fiction Draw Challenge were a Westen, involving artificial grass set at the Tower of London. I’ll post them here as I get them, no rush! Here are the results! Thanks to everyone who played along!
NOTE: The Draws for my first month moderating the Flash Fiction Draw Challenge were a Western, set in the Tower of London involving artificial grass. Darryl helped by drawing the cards, and came up with the general idea.—–mike
“Over here!”” Chas said. “I found the door!”
“Shhhh!” Niles said. “Tourists.”
“Shhhhh!” Benny repeated.
The three boys stood by the ancient stone wall inside the Tower of London as the American tourists trouped by, a couple of them glancing at the boy’s school blazers. Niles (the tall one) watched as they turned the corner, heading to the rooms where the cool stuff was (crowns, swords and the like.)
“Coast is clear!” Niles said. “Let’s go!”
Chas quickly stuck the ancient key into the crack in the wall. In another moment, part of the wall swung open and the three boys ducked inside, shutting the door behind them.
“Turn on the light, oh hey it still works!”
The three boys stared at the small room, the unadorned wooden desk and the battered file cabinet. And the green plastic shag covering half of the floor.
“Oh, my God!” Chas said. “Dad’s old putting green!”
“Yeah.” Niles said. “Nobody else seems to know about this secret office. So, you got the stuff? The real grass?”
“Hell, yeah.” Benny said, pulling the rolled joint and a lighter out of his pocket. “Glad they let you guys use the employee entrance.”
“Glad my Dad kept this stuff here when they promoted him.” Chas said. “Don’t think a lot of people know about this private office.”
“Nobody who still has their head,” Niles said, taking a drag and passing the doobie.
“Must’ve been a dungeon cell at one time,” Benny said. “Hey, this stuff is strong”
“I know,” Chas said giggling.
Within a half-hour the sixteen-year olds were toasted. Niles was fondling the fake grass on the floor and humming while Chas started rummaging through the closet.
“I knew Dad stored some of this here,” he said. He stepped out wearing a cowboy hat.
“Hey, give that to me!” Niles said.”
“I got another one,” Chas said. “It was for some American Day they had here. Pain in the butt, he said.”
“I remember your Mum telling my Mum that there were more reasons than one they called it The Bloody Tower.” Niles said, grabbing the hat Chas tossed at him and putting it on. “Lookit us! We’re cowboys.”
“Yeah, reach for the sky hombre!” Chas said, miming a draw with an imaginary six-shooter. He almost fell over.
“This town ain’t big enough for the two of us,” Niles said.
“Hey, where’s my hat?” Benny said.
“You mean, this tower ain’t big enough,” Chas said.
“Where’s my hat?” Benny said.
“Only got two hats,” Niles said. “You can be the horse.”
Benny giggled and whinnied. The three boys laughed.
There was a clunking sound from the closet, like something thumping on the stone floor.
A white horse stepped out of the closet, ridden by a man in ancient dress with no head atop his shoulders. They were both faintly glowing like a half Moon.
“Clip-clop, clip-clop. The floor is stoned and so am I” Niles said.
“Guys, you see that?” Benny said, staring at the apparition.
“Yeah, it’s the sheriff,” Chas said. “Boy this room is tilting.”
The horse let out what would have been a whinny in the days of Tudor kings but sounded like skeletons dancing on a tin roof.
Chas, Niles and Benny ran out of the room and slammed the door shut behind them.
“Maybe that’s why your Dad doesn’t use that office anymore.” Benny said.
“Yeah,” Chas said.
“Now what do we do?” Niles asked.
“Just act natural,” Chas said.
The three of them wandered down the hall, whistling a cowboy song they’d heard in a movie.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: My apologies to anybody who knows how the staff at the Tower of London are organized.——m.
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 didn’t expect to be staking out a field of snowmen. Certainly not in a cold middle of the night in January but that was what I’d been hired to do. The College had a snowman contest and somebody had smashed a couple of the snowmen the last two nights. So they hired me to make sure nobody bashed any snow people.
I pulled my jacket tighter around me and shivered hiding in the clump of bushes. Another fun night for Andrew Navarro, private eye. I glanced around. The snowmen had been built on the far end of the snowy campus with the big stone wall to one side. It wasn’t too hard to keep an eye on everything. The lights at the edge of the sidewalk cast long shadows on the deep snow under the cloudy sky, making the snowmen look like they were in some secret meeting.
I’d had a better chance to check out the snowmen earlier in the day. Some of them were traditional, right down to the carrot and scarf (one rotund snowman in a snow armchair labeled “Nero Wolfe.”) Some were as finely sculpted as Michelangelo’s David. I could see that one and grinned as I found myself thinking of a hot snowman. Between two of the larger figures there was a small, traditional snowman about a foot high with a mini-carrot for a nose and a sign saying simply “dieting.”
I stared. The mini-snowman was moving.
It wiggled from side to side and then sunk into the ground. I stood up carefully from the collapsible stool I had brought with me. Then I saw the snowman and a chunk of the snowy ground rise again. Two figures bundled up in black pushed up from the ground, carefully setting the section of ground with the snowman on it to the side.
A manhole cover, I thought. Or some kind of trap door.
The two figures hoisted themselves out of the hole and one of them pulled out what I thought was a baseball bat.
I stepped out from the bushes and drew my revolver. Any other time what I said might have been funny.
“Freeze!” I yelled into the frigid night air.
I called Campus Security while I had them covered.
It turned out they hadn’t been in a sewer but in some old tunnel that had been overgrown and forgotten. The old tunnel had led from the administration building to the old gym that used to be on the site where the snowmen were now standing. The snowman-bashers had found out about it and took advantage of it. There were plenty of footprints right around the snowmen, so nobody could tell that they weren’t walking across the campus to do the damage.
They didn’t even have a snowman entered in the contest.
I sighed. I’d be paid, but for now all I wanted was to find a place open at one-thirty that sold coffee.
Or hot chocolate.
AUTHOR’ NOTE: My previous story about private eye Andrew Navarro “WRUD New Year’s Eve?” appeared on this site December 21, 2017. ——-j.s.b.
I’m the current moderator for the Monthly Flash Fiction Draw Challenge, which was stared by ‘Nathan Burgoine a few years ago and carried on by Cait Gordon and Jeffrey Ricker. It’s a monthly writing challenge mainly for stress-free fun that anyone can play.
Here’s how it works: The first Monday of each month I draw three cards, a club, a heart and a diamond. These correspond to a list naming a genre, a setting and an object that must appear in the story. Participants write up a flash fiction story, 1,000 words or less, post it to their website/blog and link it in the comments. I’ll post the results on January 10th. As I’m no good at making videos I did it off stage and the results were the Nine of Hearts (a Western), the Ace of Diamonds (the Tower of London) and the Nine of Clubs (artificial grass.)
So the stories will be a Western,
Set in the Tower of London
Involving (or including) Artificial grass.
(I didn’t see that coming!!)
So, I’m looking forward to the results! And I promise I’ll figure out a way to post my list so we can all see what we’ve used and what might be coming up!
Every week we post six lines from a work of ours, a work-in-progress or published or a recommendation of someone else’s work with at least one LGBT character. Posted at Rainbow Snippets here:https://www.facebook.com/groups/RainbowSnippets
Here’s my snippet this week, from one of the earliest of my weekly Flash Fictions. Andy is on a bus writing a letter to Jake with whom he has spent a relaxing (?) weekend. I didn’t think much of this one when I wrote it but now I think it has a kind of kinky charm! Happy New Year!
Thanks so much for everything, and I guess I’ll see you in a few weeks, huh? I could e-mail this, but sometimes the old stamp-and-envelope mail seems so romantic.
I didn’t even hear you get out of bed this morning. Oh, and after I got out of the handcuffs I took ‘em with me. They’ll be waiting for you up at my place, not sure about the key!