Finished the Friday Flash Fiction story for the week: “Long Ago and Far Away,” named after the song from WWII. Set it in Ramble, MO a fictional town I’ve written about before. Probably influenced by seeing “Back to the Future” (again) a few days ago and watching the Twilight Zone episode “Back There.” I have family in Missouri, so I’ve used the locales before. ADDENDA: I posted this, found & posted the prompt pic for Halloween and the new story breezed out of me!
Just realized I’ve written three flash fiction stories in the last few weeks dealing with time-travel.
The painter finished the house today. Not much to do, but looks nice.
My Dad took me out for my first legal beer the weekend after my twenty-first birthday. We’d actually gotten closer since I’d opened up about having a boyfriend in college. We were visiting family in Ramble, Missouri, where he’d grown up, so we just had to walk a couple of blocks downtown to the old brick building where the bar and grill was next to an empty storefront. We sat down and I sipped my first beer (which wasn’t really my first!) and my Dad started telling me that when he was about fifteen he’d snuck into this bar and he’d traveled in time.
My Dad wasn’t drunk, he’d only had a sip and he said he didn’t expect me to believe him. He’d snuck into the bar, he’d looked older than fifteen in 1980 and ordered a beer and got one. Then he’d gone to the men’s room in the back but when he came out, he’d turned left instead of right and walked down a long hallway before he found himself in what he thought was another part of the bar. The bartender looked at him suspiciously so he’d ducked out the front door and quickly realized something was wrong: vintage cars, advertisements he recognized from old movies in the windows and old music playing from a loudspeaker in the record speaker across the street. Yeah, straight out of Back to the Future, a movie that wouldn’t be made for four more years. Or forty-some more years, because the copy of the Ramble Gazette my Dad saw had the date June 17, 1946.
My Dad stared down at himself; he was wearing a suit that looked like it had been made during World War Two. He also noticed a cop across the street eyeing him suspiciously; he had, after all, just walked out of a bar. He quickly (not that quickly) walked down the street, turned down an alleyway and ran. Explaining who he was and why he was here was not something he was ready to do, especially since he had no idea of the why or how. He quickly turned another corner and ducked through the first unlocked door he found; (“One of those old iron doors with a metal handle,” he said.) He ran up a flight of stairs and somebody stopped him and asked who he was. He told them; Charley Watkins. These days, he goes by Charles.
He was apparently mistaken for some kid they were expecting who hadn’t shown up. He was ushered into the room and found himself in an old-fashioned recording studio. A tall man in a genuine zoot suit was standing by a microphone; there was a small orchestra to one side and a couple of other kids that looked to be my Dad’s age by the man in the zoot suit.
The zoot suit guy asked him if he knew the song, my Dad asked which one, and the guy glared and said “Long Ago and Far Away.” My Dad grinned and nodded, not mentioning that his Dad in the 1970s had played an L.P. with the song on it all the time. The conductor of the orchestra said “Okay, Mister Carey,” and they started playing.
It took them a couple of takes, but they got the song “on wax,” as they said back then. That was when my Dad suddenly felt funny and rushed out of the room and down the stairs, through the metal door and onto a back street in 1980. He looked behind him, the door had been bricked-over and at the same time he noticed he was wearing his jeans and his Mork From Ork T-Shirt. He walked back past the bar and headed home.
My dad took another sip of his beer and said “And here’s a late birthday present. Just be careful with it.”
I wondered why he’d brought his briefcase with him, but he opened it up and pulled out a brown, square envelope wrapped in towels. It was a 78 RPM record. The label read: “Long Ago and Far Away; Slick Carey and His Swinging Septet.”
“Carey Watkins was my Grandfather,” my Dad said. “He died before I was born but we have a few of the records he made when he was a singer as Slick Carey. His full name was Carey George Watkins and I was named Charles Carey Watkins after him. I don’t know why but that day in 1980 I went back to 1946 and got to sing with him.”
For some crazy reason, I believed him.
My Dad smiled. “And he didn’t have a bad voice. Neither did I.”
Worked of the Flash Fiction Draw Challenge story (which I’d forgotten we were doing!) Also did the Friday Flash Fiction story this morning (Friday, Oct. 16th) and posted it! Another adventure of the wandering Bryce Going; I have at least eleven of these short-shorts finished so far and have a longer one that may go into a book if I ever write a few more longer ones.
Been a busy week; had the roofers out Tuesday, got it all done in about eight hours.
When your I.D. is fake and you’re being paid under the table, you don’t ask a lot of questions. I was paid a week’s salary to spend a weekend painting a three story building in Lincoln, Nebraska and Mr. Gillman didn’t ask me any. I had a driver’s license that looked real and said I was Bryce Going and I was nineteen, and I’d been born in 1958 and I did have some painting experience so I took the job. There were a couple of other guys working on it too so I had some company. One of them, “Ernie” said he’d worked for Mr. Gillman before. That was about all I found out about the job, other than it had to be finished by Monday morning.
We started Friday evening and up ‘till noon everything went well and we had the top half and one side of the bottom painted the bright yellow Gillman wanted. One of the other men was standing by the ladder staring at the fresh paint. He took a couple of steps back and then fell over. We ran over and he was breathing and in a few minutes, he came to.
“Too much Sun,” Ernie said.
“Shouldn’t we call a…” one of the others started to say. Ernie glared at him.
“Too much Sun.” Ernie said.
I glanced up at the yellow paint. For a moment there were funny ripples on the side, like the funny rippling shadows my Uncle had said he saw during a solar eclipse. I closed my eyes for a minute. Maybe I’d gotten too much sun. Or maybe something strange was going on again.
We started in painting, made more progress. The three of us got everything done but the base of one wall, when Mr. Gillman came by and told us that was enough for the day, and to come back tomorrow and to go unwind at a bar or something. Even with the fake I.D. I didn’t want to go into a bar, so I walked down the street and grabbed a burger, and then started worrying about a place to sleep. Mr. Gillman let me store my bags in the building we were painting so I snuck back in as it was getting dark. I grabbed my bag and went to the top floor. It was cool with the windows open and once I made sure I’d locked the door I laid down on the floor, using my gym bag as a pillow and drifted off to sleep.
When I woke, it was moonlight and there were voices from outside. I went to the window and looked down. Mr. Gillman and Ernie were there, Ernie had a bottle of beer and Gillman’s shirt was unbuttoned. They kissed in the bright moonlight and Gillman pushed Ernie against the side of the building. I heard laughing. They kissed again. For a moment, I thought they might try to come in here, I hadn’t asked permission to hole-up in the building for the night. Then they walked across the parking lot, got into the car and left.
Next morning, I painted over the silhouette left by Ernie’s leaning against the fresh-painted wall. I thought the wall would have dried enough by the time he and Gillman had made out last night, but I must have been wrong. I’d finished and was starting on one of the other, unpainted walls when Mr. Gillman drove up. A couple of minutes later I saw the other two guys walking up, but I didn’t see Ernie.
“Morning, guys,” Gillman said. Getting an early start this morning, Bruce?”
“Bryce,” I said. “Yeah, I figured I’d better.”
“Well, here. I’m gonna play early Santa Claus and pay you three early.” He pulled out a wad of bills; we were all being paid under the table.
“What about Ernie?” one of the others asked. Gillman glared.
“He don’t work for me no more.”
And that’s the end of that, I thought.
“Oh, and one of you got a little careless,” Gillman said. “You need to paint over this wall here.”
I walked over and looked at where I had finished painting. There was a full-sized silhouette of a man on the wall, not just the smudged imprint of Ernie’s back. I walked over and grabbed the paint when I heard a gasp. I looked up: Gillman was staring openmouthed, wide eyed at the wall I’d painted over. I rushed over; the wall had changed. Now there were two figures on the wall, male silhouettes kissing. I looked at Gillman for a moment; he could have been the second figure. Suddenly he gasped in horror. I looked at the wall, the figures had changed. The shorter of them was recoiling while the taller had apparently just smacked him in the face. I heard a sound behind me; Gillman was running to his car. I glanced back at the wall; it had changed again. The smaller figure was lying crumpled at the base of the wall. The taller figure was holding a gun. The other two painters walked around the corner, asking where Gillman went in such a hurry.
I couldn’t tell them. The wall was back to being covered by my paint job, the figures were gone. We finished painting the other walls by late that afternoon. Gillman didn’t come back. I wasn’t surprised.
Lodovico Senarinz and his (Grandfather’s) Steam Powered Hyperdrive
By Jeff Baker
“There it is! There’s the barn!”
Johnny Reade pointed his flashlight at the dark bulk in the dusk. It looked like something out of the 1800’s but was only about thirty years old. “The stuff’s inside.”
“Okay. Got the key?” Luis looked around carefully; over to the sign that read “Wichita’s Old Cow-Town Museum.” All the buildings on the dusty main street straight out of “Gunsmoke” were shut down for the year. Unless they were filming a commercial or on days when the shops would be filled with Wild West Reenactors. But not at nine p.m. on a weekday in October.
Johnny grinned and held up the steel key which glinted in the moonlight.
“An advantage of working security here,” Johnny said as he fiddled with the lock. With a POP it opened and they pulled open the door, ducking inside. He fumbled and found the light switch.
“Woah!” Luis said. In the barn there were several large contraptions dating back over a century; examples of plows, combines and a Model T.
“It’s back here,” Johnny said. They walked around the other machines and saw a low-slung cross between a stagecoach and a Stanley Steamer. Luis leaned down and read the plaque on the panel beside the machine.
“Early automobile designed by Lodovico Senariz in 1889. His original design may pre-date Benz’ automobile. Senariz (1858-1929) Latin-American inventor and scientist lived in Kansas in the 1880s.” Luis looked up and grinned. “My Great-Great-Grandfather. And namesake.”
“No wonder you go by Luis,” Johnny said. “What did your Grandmother tell you?”
“That Great-Great-Grandpa said that this car could run faster than anything on Earth, travel across water and reach other worlds.”
“And you got the key?”
“Yup.” He held up what looked like a twisted fork. “Hidden in the old broken pot in my Dad’s garage.”
“So, it’s a crackpot invention, huh?” Johnny said.
“Yeah, right,” Luis said with a grin. Truth to tell, he wasn’t sure. “Let’s try this out, okay.” He opened the door to the cab of what he had to call a car and the two of them got in.
“Fasten seat belts,” Johnny said, fumbling around in the seat.
“There aren’t any,” Luis said. “We’ll just have to hang on. If this works.”
He ran a finger around the dashboard and the big lever that served as the steering wheel until he found the raised round panel, about the size of the dome of a pocket watch.
Maybe it came off of a pocket watch, Luis mused to himself. Luis flipped it open and there was a strangely twenty-first-century-looking ignition. Luis took a deep breath, glad he’d found and studied Great-Great Grandpa’s plans for the vehicle.
“Shouldn’t we open up the doors again, maybe move this thing out from behind the other machines?” Johnny asked.
“If I read the plans right, we won’t need to,” Luis said putting the key in the ignition. “Hang on.”
Luis turned the key. The old car shuddered and began to sputter and then whir. It was surprisingly quiet. Its lone headlight came on, illuminating the back wall it was facing. Then it lurched forward and Johnny screamed. The wall seemed to fade, like a dissolve in an old movie and they were outside and it was daylight. Johnny glanced behind him: the big shed was gone. So was the asphalt parking lot. The big, red barn where they recreated a farm in the 1800s for the schoolkids was smaller and faded and the chickens in the yard were squawking loudly. Ahead of the a genuine old codger on a horse struggled to control the animal as it reared out of the way of the car which was heading forward at about three miles an hour. Luis caught a glimpse of a dusty main street with low, painted buildings, not the peeling paint on some of the museum’s recreations.
Then the car shuddered again and the scene blurred. For an instant, there was a tall, spired city in the distance and then the car shuddered violently, stalled and with a bang from the engine stopped as the sky once again went dark and they recognized the familiar surroundings they had just left.
Johnny came close to kissing the ground when he nearly fell out of the car. He and Luis began to frantically put out the smoking engine. Johnny stared around at the outdoor museum, comparing it to the glimpse of Eighteen-something they had just seen.
Luis stared up at the stars. The future lay ahead.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: The prompts for this story were a western, set in a museum involving a cracked pot. I probably stretched the definition of “Western” in this, but the outdoor museum version of frontier Wichita, Kansas “Cowtown” is a real place. And I’d been reading an old dime novel story by one of the US’s first POC Sci-Fi writers, Luis Senarens (1865-1939) who wrote under a house name. My Luis here is named after the real one. And Johnny Read is named after dime-novel hero Frank Reade. (My story may play too much like a certain movie from decades ago, as well as my recent Friday Flash story “Messing About in Boats.”)
The balding man sipped on his Bloody Mary and looked around Demeter’s Bar.
“I don’t care what the city fathers are trying to do. I’m not going anywhere near the old boathouse at Riverside Park. Not again.”
Mrs. DeLeon had heard a lot of people at the bar talk about politics or government, especially regarding LGBT issues. But something in this man’s tone seemed different.
“You weren’t mugged were you?” she asked.
“No,” the man said. “But I was kidnapped, I think. Sort of. Almost.” He sipped his drink and explained.
My name (he said) is Jonathan Rutherford-Briggs. If that last name sounds familiar, my Great-Grandfather Henry Rutherford-Briggs donated part of the land the park sits on. The old stone boathouse at the river, not the new one, used to be his. It’s all that is left of his property; his old house was torn down in the fifties. But the boathouse is still there with his name carved above the doorway. Nobody has been in it for a long time, as the floorboards probably aren’t safe anymore. But the family, meaning me, still has the key. And this morning, I got curious.
My business keeps me out of town but I came back to Wichita for a few weeks and got nostalgic. My sisters and I used to play in the park; my Grandmother had a house over on Lieuenett Street when I was a boy. We ran races; re-enacted movies went out on the boats from the new boathouse with appropriate adult supervision. And we pretended the old stone boathouse was a castle or a space station, but we had never been inside. And I made out with a boy my age in the bushes in the shadows of the boathouse when I was about sixteen.
Great-Grandfather Henry had gotten rich of his inventions back at the turn of the last century and as a kid I had wondered what he might have left in the boathouse. Family legend had it that he used it as his laboratory until he disappeared sometime before the First World War. I stood there this morning. Looking at the steel door and the big lock, which was supposedly of Henry’s own design. It took me a moment to find the keyhole. After a moment’s effort the key turned and the old door opened with a push.
The room was small, about the size of a one-car garage and I could see light through two narrow windows at the top of the west and east facing walls. I glanced around. There was a workbench against one wall and a small wooden stool that looked to shaky to sit on. There was a corner at the far end of the room and I walked over and found another door. I turned the handle and with a creak and snap it opened and I stepped out into bright sunlight. I was momentarily blinded and I felt slightly dizzy. I was standing near the riverbank and I stared up at the green leaves of the trees and the green plants growing at the edge of the river. Then I suddenly realized; it was October, leaves were either turning orange or falling from the trees. I looked around. I sat a few buildings rising over the trees in the distance but instead of the familiar buildings of downtown I only recognized clock tower of the old County Courthouse and the spire of St. Anne’s Church. I pulled out my cellphone, it read: no service. I heard laughing voices and I saw a boat with a number of people riding, the ladies in long dresses and big hats, the young men wearing white pants, bow ties and jackets, of a style I’d only seen in old pictures and on the internet.
Then, I heard singing. A canoe paddled by, a young man in a red and white striped jacket was rowing the canoe while a girl in a white, frilled dress, wearing a large flowered hat laughed, the term would have been gaily in Henry’s day. The boy paddling the canoe was singing an old song I recognized; “A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight,” badly out of tune. The girl laughed harder and the boy smiled broader. I saw the street in the distance on the other side of the river. Trees blocked my view but I was sure I saw a horse hitched to one of the stone hitching posts they had torn out when I had been a boy in the 1960s.
I had seen enough movies to realize what happened to me. Great-Great-Grandfather Henry had opened up some time warp, maybe he’d built a time machine in the boathouse and that was a side effect. I reached for the door, I had no desire to lose myself in 1910 or 1900 or 1896 or whenever this was. I ducked back into the boathouse, pulled the back door shut behind me and was locking it again when another wave of dizziness overcame me and I passed out on the floor. When I awoke, I left the boathouse the way I had first came in, vowing never to return.
Rutherford-Briggs sipped his drink and stared wistfully into the mirror. “This world isn’t perfect, but I have no desire to forsake it for another era.”
Mrs. DeLeon had dealt with enough inebriated customers to know that Rutherford-Biggs wasn’t one. Plus, she’d heard some very odd stories in her tenure as bar owner.
“Do you think you’ll ever go, well, back…through the boathouse?” Mrs. DeLeon asked.
“If fiction has taught us nothing, it’s that the past and the present should not be mixed,” Rutherford-Briggs said, finishing his drink. After I locked the boathouse for the last time, I bent the key and tossed it in the river. Let the past stay the past.”
Nonetheless, when the song the boy in the canoe was singing would sometimes play in his head, he would think of the looks on the boy and girl’s faces and smile.
Surprised myself and finished “Messing About in Boats,” the new Friday Flash story, and a Demeter’s bar story at that! Looks better than i thought it would! Also worked on the Monthly Flash Fiction Draw story which will be finished in a few days. Tomorrow, i have to do something on the long WIP i want done by Halloween to send off—a pulpy fantasy/adventure which has it’s origins in a Flash story from about three years ago.
Also tomorrow, I have to walk my flat-tire bicycle down a few miles to have the tire replaced and ride it back. I’ve missed riding the darn thing!
My reading for this evening was from a collection of three dime-novel sci-fi stories “Edisonades” they came to be called; “The Steam man of the Prairies,” edited with an informative introduction by John Spencer. Sci-fi has matured in the century or so since these Y.A. stories were serialized, but still kind of fun. The one I bummed through “Jack Wright and His Electric Stage” was by a Cuban-American sci-fi writer (maybe one of the first!) Luis Senarens, who wrote under the shared pen-name “Noname,” and was nicknamed “The American Jules Verne.”
I love 19th-Century Sci-Fi and named the character in the Flash Draw story after Senarens!
Worked on the Friday Flash Fics story for a bit this early morning. After a day where things were turned around waiting for the plumber. Everything turned out okay, but we wound up napping until about 6:30pm!
It’s fun to return to Demeter’s Bar, a fictional watering hole being the only safe establishment these days. Hadn’t done one of those stories in a while, again always fun to do.
In addition, I got to lift the title “Messing About In Boats,” from one of my favorite books: Kenneth Grahame’s “The Wind In The Willows.”
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This one will need a rewrite if I ever publish it elsewhere, but it was fun writing! Once again, a tale of 20-something Prince Almazotz; youngest son of a youngest son on the run from an arranged marriage to a guy he wants nothing to do with. (He probably didn’t have money!) On an unearthly fantasy world, the possibilities for chaos are endless. The title is from an old Renaissance-era song; the setting made me think of Renaissance Faires.—jsb.
Prince Almazotz breathed deep. The air was full of the scents and spices of the weekend festival, which had been going on since before dusk.
“Where too first?” he said aloud. “Find some place to spend this money or maybe make some more.” He jangled the gold coins in his pocket and wandered down the hill to the array of booths set up in the streets. He wandered around, looking from side to side, not looking like a runaway lesser member of the royal family, actually enjoying himself. Anything beat working but that helped him pay for his room a few blocks away.
Nothing at a Festival is cheap, especially if it’s cheap, watered-down wine. Three pieces of gold later, Prince Almazotz leaned an elbow on the booth and sipped the stone cup of wine as he looked around. His eyes rested on a sign towering over the booth across from him: FREE MONEY. He gulped the wine and with his lighter pockets rushed to the next street.
Under the sign was a buff young man in a loincloth, standing on a large platform. The sign read in full: MONEY For Those Who Challenge The Strongest Man Alive! He eyed the man up and down, lingering for a moment on his biceps and shoulders, and then he glanced back at the sign and the word in capital letters.
“Here! Over here!” Prince Almazotz said waving a hand. “I challenge! I challenge!”
“Wait your turn,” a man to one side of the platform said.
The man strode to the platform as the shirtless man flexed his biceps for the small crowd. The challenger pulled off his shirt, revealing an equally huge set of biceps. The crowd gasped their approval.
The first man sneered openly at the challenger. He then leaned down, picked up what looked like part of the trunk of a large tree and hoisted it over his head. He plopped it down as the crowd applauded. Then the challenger reached down, grabbed the tree trunk with both hands, pulled and…nothing. He grunted with surprise and frustration. Prince Almazotz’ eye was caught by a movement of shadow behind the curtain that backed the platform. He stepped away from the crowd and caught a glimpse of the full scene reflected in the metal side of the next booth, not too visible unless someone was looking at it right. And the Prince was. It showed a blue robed man making gestures through the curtain at the stage—a Sorcerer! Prince Almazotz had studied about magic, just enough to recognize some basic types, even though he couldn’t do any of them. This was not an advanced mystic, but advanced enough. He felt for the white-blue metal amulet under his shirt and pulled it out: Moons-Metal was a supposed counter to this form of enchantment. As the challenger left the stage, Prince Almazotz bounded up, handed the muscly guy a coin and gave the assumed name he was using that week. He stood as the man hoisted the tree trunk over his head again, fingering the amulet with one hand. Then it was the Prince’s turn: He grabbed the trunk on the platform, pulled at it and when it didn’t budge, the Prince let the amulet fall on its chain down to touch the trunk. He wasn’t anyone who was going to throw boulders around, but he figured the trunk was hollow anyway. There was a sizzle and a snap. The trunk suddenly flew over his head, his hands stuck to the sides. He hung there for a moment, then there was another crackle, the amulet popped off the log and flew across the platform, snapping the change and Prince Almazotz and the log crashed to the floor, thankfully not on top of one another. He managed to jump up and pull open the curtain.
“See! It’s rigged!” Almazotz yelled. “Sorcery!” He awaited the cheers of the audience.
When the Sorcerer, the muscle guy and the audience had tired of chasing him around the festival grounds, Prince Almazotz bought another cup of wine and watched the moons soar into the sky.