“The Road Less Travelled.” Friday Flash Fics for August 17, 2018 by Jeff Baker.

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The Road Less-Travelled

By Jeff Baker

 

“Over there. To your right,” I said. “That’s Alpha Centauri. About seven light years from here.”

“I see it. It’s a triple star, isn’t it?” Zac said.

“Yes, but you can’t make out Proxima Centauri unless you’re a lot closer.” I said.

“And there’s Sirius!” Zac said, pointing to a bright spot in the gathering dusk.

“One of the brightest stars in our sky,” I said staring upward.

We had spent that late afternoon wading and swimming in the river. Now that the sun had gone down it had gotten dark quickly.

“Hey, did you see Proxima Centauri when you came here from Earth?” Zac said.

“I wasn’t paying attention to things like that when I was about, what, four years old?” I said. “Anyway, we didn’t just shoot out to Procyon all at once. That would be a long trip! We stopped along the way. Remember where I went to school?”

Zac laughed. “Nut. Orbiting Sobek.”

“Discovered by the freighter Atun in 2467, given its name because of its greenish tint.”

“Named after the Ancient Egyptian crocodile god,” Zac said. “And Nut…”

“Goddess of the sky,” I finished. “Our school slogan was ‘You gotta be nuts to go here.”

We both laughed. We stood there in silence for a while and listened to the breeze rustle the leaves and the tall grass. The only thing missing was a moon.

“You think I should stay, don’t you?” Zac said.

“It doesn’t matter what I think,” I said. “I mean, it’s your decision.” We stared at the sky. “Still, it’s a long ways away.”

“Yeah, Zac said. “I was remembering when the ancient Earth explorers used to go from one continent to another. Essentially it was a one-way trip.”

“They couldn’t make calls,” I said. “Or send Electron Notes to each other.”

“Which I will do,” Zac said. “I promise.”

I smiled and stared up at the stars again.

“Pete and I had you conceived on this planet,” I said wistfully. “I always thought you’d stay here.”

“So did I, when I was a kid,” Zac said.

You’re still a kid, I thought. 23 is awfully young.

But there comes a time to let go of your kids. You can raise them as best you can but you have to let them go. He’d be gone in two weeks. Off to his adult life. Best to enjoy the now.

“Look at that!” Zac said pointing. “Bleiler’s Comet. Right to the side of the Cohen Nebula.”

“Almost looks like two comets, side-by-side.” I said.

We stood in the darkness side-by-side.

 

—end—

 

 

 

 

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A Good Cigar. Story for August 13, 2018 Flash Fiction Draw Challenge by Jeff Baker.

NOTE: The three prompt ideas drawn a week ago for ‘Nathan Burgoine’s Monthly Flash Fiction Draw Challenge were  a ghost story, an earring and a tobacco shop. I’ve actually delivered to tobacco shops here in Wichita, and this is what I came up with. (The title is from an ancient and kind of offensive advertising slogan.) 

                       “…But a Good Cigar is a Smoke!”

                                       By Jeff Baker

 

            I lost my job because of the ghost. Before that it was the earring.

            I’d bought the earring for my last boyfriend right before we broke up. I never gave it to him, so I started wearing it myself. I was taking classes in the evening and working part-time in the morning. My boss at the sandwich place I was working at didn’t like the earring and I didn’t like the job, so we came to a mutual parting of the ways. I wasn’t too worried. I got the job at the smoke shop right after that. I knew the manager of the adjoining liquor store so I got the job running the smoke shop in the morning.

            Thanks to the laws of the State of Kansas, things like soda, candy, cigarettes, tobacco and the like can’t be sold in liquor stores, hence a lot of adjoining smoke shops. Mine was about the size of the men’s room in the mall; not too big. Shelves with shot glasses and the like for sale; the candy display; the cooler with sodas; the glass display counter with the electronic cigarettes in it and the register on top, and the cigarettes in cartons and boxes behind me and the walk in humidor with the cigars barely leaving me any room to move around. But the job was easy, the pay was okay and I usually could study when I didn’t have customers. Mr. Villareal didn’t mind that I usually had a textbook open on the counter next to the register. I got there about eight every morning, made sure the place was stocked up, wiped everything down, swept and put my homework on the counter and I was ready to open at nine. I was usually off-work by mid-afternoon, leaving the heavy lifting for the night clerk. But I liked working in the early morning. The Sun would start to come up while I was doing inventory and the orangey light always reminded me of early mornings on summer vacation when I was a kid. Only thing was I usually had to spray to get rid of the smell of cigar smoke, even in a no smoking building.

            If the liquor store was busy, I was busy. Right after we would open we had our regulars who would come in for beer or whiskey or whatever and they’d stop in the smoke shop for cigarettes or munchies. Some of them just off third shift. Some of them going to work. Maybe some of them had already been out drinking all night. One of those asked me for a couple of cigars.

            “Soon as I finish checking this guy out,” I said, punching keys on the register and smiling  at the joke—I was checking the guy out!

            “Naaa, your buddy there in the cigar cooler,” he said.

            I glanced over for a second; had somebody snuck behind the counter? Nope. Nobody. I finished ringing the order up and then got the guy his cigars. After they left, the sudden smell of cigar smoke filled my nostrils. I sneezed. I checked that the humidor was shut tight and then I made sure nobody had dropped a cigar butt on the floor. Nope.

            A week before finals, I got to the smoke shop as usual and did the morning cleaning and stocking, and when I was checking the cash drawer I glanced over at the humidor and saw a dark, shadowy man in a long coat reflected in the glass. I looked around. Nobody. I looked at the humidor again and the shadowy man was gone. I leaned against the counter; I was breathing hard. Trick of the light, I said to myself. Again, the smell of cigar smoke.

            We weren’t that busy that day. I got to study and said “yeah” when the manager asked if I could stay a couple more hours. I didn’t have my Wednesday night class that week and I could use the hours. So I was there when the delivery guy brought in the cases of chips and soda to stock up with.

            “So, you like this job?” the guy said as he was stocking the soda cooler.

            “Yeah,” I said. “It’s okay.”

            “You stayed a lot longer than the other clerks they had here,” he said. “They went through six in the last few months. One guy didn’t even last a day.”

            I was thinking about that when I opened my textbook and started reading again. Then I stopped. Someone had printed, in block letters along the bottom of the page: MYLUNGSBURST

MYLUNGSBURSTMYLUNGSBURSTMYLUNGSBURSTMYLUNGSBURST. In pencil.

            I leafed through the pages; it was there at the bottom of every page. I’d had my eye on the book all day, nobody could have done this.

            The air reeked of cigar smoke.

            I phoned the manager from my car and quit. I left the textbook in the smoke shop.

            I figured it probably smelled like smoke.

 

                                    —end—

Posted in 'Nathan Burgoine, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, LGBT, Monthly Flash Fiction Draw Challenge, Short-Stories, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

You have a ringside seat for Friday Flash Fics, for August 10, 2018, by Jeff Baker.

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                              Snoopy vs. the Masked Marvel                                 

                                             By Jeff Baker

 

            “Who you got?”

            “I got ten bucks on the big one.”

            “Which one’s the big one?”

            “Look at them! They both are!”

            “Hey, let me in on this!”

            “Still got time, how much you got?”

            “Twenty. On the big one. I used to work with him.”

            “Okay, here they go…I think…”

            “Nope. Just flexing.”

            “I used to wrist wrestle. When I was a kid.”

            “Grade school?”

            “No. High School. In the lunchroom.”

            “With the lunch lady?”

            “No, me and the guys on the team?”

            “Baseball team?”

            “Chess.”

            “Oh.”

            “Hey! There they go!”

            “Wow!”

            “Lookit that!”

            “Man! Look at those muscles!”

            “They’re not moving.”

            “Yeah they are! Look! Look!”

            “Yeah, just barely!”

            “Woa! It’s over! They knocked the beer off the table!”

            “No! It’s still going! His hand didn’t hit the table!”

            “Wow! Lookit them sweat!”

            “This is going to go on for a while!”

            “Yeah, I’m getting a beer!”

            “Get me one too, okay?”

            “Get it yourself!”

            “I’m staying right here, I got money on this!”

            “You’re gonna loose!”

            “Not gonna happen.”

            “Lookit them go! It’s a wonder they don’t break the table!”

            “I told you I did that in High School.”

            “Yeah, yeah.”

            “I gotta start working out.”

 

                        —end—

 

           

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

Something spacy for August 3, 2018 Friday Flash Fics, by Jeff Baker

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                                  My Favorite Aveldian 

                                    (A Demeter’s Bar Story)

                                        By Jeff Baker

                       

The man nursing a whiskey and soda at Demeter’s Bar caught my attention. Mainly because of his suit. I didn’t usually see somebody in a suit in this bar except after the summer musicals let out downtown. But this wasn’t summer and it was late afternoon. And the suit looked like something out of the garish 1970s: plaid pants, shirt with wide lapels; suit jacket a pale brown with big pockets and what looked like white stitching around the edges.

            I’d asked stranger questions, so I asked the man about the suit. I said it reminded me of pictures I’d seen of my Dad from around the Bicentennial when he’d been my age and asked if he was in a show.

            The man smiled and had me sit down next to him at the bar, and passed me the bowl of pretzels.

            “I’m Ahntreas,” he said. “Ahntreas D’Icha. I’m waiting for someone.”

            “Oh.” I said, wondering what they’d be wearing.

            “I know the suit is odd but I got comfortable wearing them. And with the royalties I can afford to be a little eccentric,” D’Icha said. “Did you ever see a television show called ‘The Man Upstairs?’”

            “Sure,” I said, munching a pretzel. “After school in reruns. The guy inherits a restaurant and a house in this town and finds the guy living in the upstairs apartment of the house is a two-hundred-something year old alien researching a book. The Wichita Eagle made a big deal about the show because it was set here in Kansas.” I grabbed another pretzel. “Syndicated about 1974, I think. What’s this about royalties?”

            “I created the show,” D’Icha said. “Or, more accurately, I inspired it. You see, it was about me.”

            Okay, a nut, I thought. He went on.

            I was born (D’Icha said) not too far from here, just about one hundred-and-six light years away on a world called Aveldia. We’re further out toward the edge of the Galaxy than Earth, but that isn’t as isolated as it makes us seem. It’s just a hop, skip and a jump to the major spaceways but my people have never been that motivated or really that bright in a lot of ways. That’s how I wound up here; doing some scouting to see how likely you people were to colonize your Moon. (We wanted a way station on the dark side, mainly because we’re really lazy and like to rest up on long trips.) But after they decided not to use the Moon, they forgot and left me here! That was about 1967, two years before Earthmen walked on their Moon.

            (D’Icha paused for a minute and sipped his drink. The young bartender stared and said “We walked on the moon?” D’Icha ignored him and went on.)

            So I was on Earth, but I didn’t have my radio or any other way of communicating with Aveldia. Fortunately I had resources. And a small supply of gold. I was able to get to Los Angeles and get in to see a Hollywood producer. I revealed who I was and told him my situation. And my plan; a weekly television series where Aveldia and other Aveldian concepts would be prominently used. One hundred eight light-years isn’t that far and eventually my world would intercept the series from television signals from Earth, realize they’d left me behind and return to pick me up.

            D’Icha sighed.

            “Of course, it didn’t quite go as planned,” he said.

            “The show ran back in the seventies, didn’t it?” I asked.

            “1974 to 1976,” he said. “Within a few years, an Aveldian freighter did pick up the signals, but…” He sighed again.

            “Look, this is interesting,” I said, “but I really have to…”

            “You don’t believe me, do you?” D’Icha gave a slight smile. Then he scowled at a point just past me on the bar. There was another plastic bowl of pretzels at the edge of the bar. In another moment, the bowl scooted over by itself, swerving past my elbow and stopping in front of D’Icha. He closed his eyes and several of the pretzels in the bowl vanished, one right after the other. D’Icha sat there placidly chewing. “Of course, I can’t do anything like the character on the show could, but this is pretty impressive.”

            I just stared. I think I was believing.

            “So,” I said. “Why didn’t that freighter pick you up from Earth? From some landing strip or something?”

            “Why do you think?” he said. “I told you they weren’t that bright. They saw ‘The Man Upstairs,’ found the actor who played me and took HIM back to Aveldia!”

 

                                                 —end—

 

 

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Happy Birthday Don Marquis! July 29, 2018.

NOTE: I had completely forgotten the date and I had also forgotten to turn off my word processor. The latter was a happy accident, as I found this when I woke up from my nap. I present it verbatim as it was apparently presented to me. —-jsb.

of times long passing

by archy

it is the twenty ninth again the one hundred and fortieth since the birthday of the boss mister don marquis and I imagine he still keeps up so I will leave this here

don let me use his typewriter and his column space for quite a while for those of you who remember the new york sun and the sun dial column he and sometimes I wrote about a hundred years ago a hundred years or a hundred forty is not a long time when you have been reincarnated as often as I have

about reincarnates I knew a cat who said she had been cleopatra I think she was just jealous and I recently talked to a rabbit who said he had been gershwin they never claim to be the guy who made gershwin his sandwich at a diner off broadway but I have been a poet and a cockroach and am a cockroach again so I hop on the keys of this typewriter but could never hold the shift key and letters down at the same time hence the lower case

so here is some verse I wrote for the boss

 

a birthday poem for don marquis

a man whose bite and then his bark was

never more than need required it

unlike others after listening to whom I feel like I need a big glass of

bicarbonate uh

 

happy birthday from archy

 

ps oh I am dumb I just realized this new kind of typewriter you can work the shift key with one finger or by jumping on the keys LIKE THIS if you are a cockroach

 

archy

 

 

NOTE: The missive ended here. Don Marquis’ poems about Archy and Mehitabel were published in several books, including the 1996 “Archyology: the Long Lost Tales of Archy and Mehitabel” a collection of uncollected verse, which are readily available and worth your time. 

 

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Lost in Translation for Friday Flash Fics 7/27/18, by Jeff Baker.

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                        Eye Before Eeee, Except After Si

                                                By Jeff Baker

 

            Okay, this is how it went down.

            I was supposed to meet the representative from the Urian branch of our supplier, which I did. Of course, I didn’t speak Urian and he/she/it (that is the correct pronoun grouping) didn’t speak any English. In fact it was his/her/its first time on Earth. Fortunately, the company had equipped me with the latest version (as of 2465) of IBIS, the Interplanetary Bridging Interpretive Selector. That’s supposed to translate for different species, you know?

            Anyway, the initial meeting at the spaceport went without incident. We made our greetings, he/she/it bowed, thinking that was what all Earth cultures do, and so I bowed back. But it was when we decided to stop in at the Spaceport restaurant things started to go wonky. I had read up on the Urian culture and so I gave the traditional Urian pre-meal salutation which is: “May Time and the Six Winds grant your feeding prominence.” But IBIS translated it as; “You prominently broke wind six times.” He/she/it attempted to respond by saying, I believe; “Have a nice lunch and day,” which came out as “Launch day will be night.” Then he/she/it tried to say “Eating this is delicious,” which IBIS rendered as “You are suspicious when you eat.”

            Then, I told him “We are looking forward to entering into further partnership with your association,” which came out of IBIS as “Your forward partner is entering into us without looking further.”

            Fortunately we realized were both having the same problem, so between IBIS and what little we knew of the other’s language and some hand gestures we were able to come to a mutual agreement which, as they say, should be mutually beneficial to both parties.

            That would have been all to report, except that a waiter with a thick accent came over and asked if we wanted our check, and one of the IBIS devices was still on and translated that as “We want to kick your cheeks,” so the guy punched me in the nose.

            So, after that, I decided to cash in my vacation points. I’m still at the Spaceport, now waiting on my flight to someplace far away and I may not be back. I’ll let you know where to transmit my check.

            Aloha.

            Or as they say on Urius: “HoHoHo.” (Translation courtesy of IBIS.)

                                                  —end—

 

 

 

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Submissions Stuff (July 24, 2018) by Jeff Baker

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Here’s an Update: 

Finished work on “Something In The Dark” a couple of days ago. Proofread it (glad I did, the oven in the story is working on page two but they hadn’t hooked the gas up on page seven!) spellchecked it and sent it off, just a few days ahead of the weekend deadline for the anthology. Also looked through the markets and zapped one of my short-shorts to “Daily Science Fiction.” Fingers crossed!

My thanks of course to all the Facebook people who post market calls. Much appreciated!

——jeff baker, july 24, 2018.

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