Something Tempting for Monday Flash Fics, May 29, 2017

Lady Play Your Mandolin

By Jeff Baker

 

The Slanderer (the name he was using that week) stalked through the cavern, lit by the glow from the fires.

“This one, Master?” Mara said, cradling an ornate violin embedded in the rock floor.

“No, he hissed. “That one is chained. And it was specially made. Look there. Kubelsky.”

“You mean, Kabala?” Mara asked.

“No! Inscribed on the fingerboard! It was supposed to be his! I went to see him; I offered him music, his heart’s desire.” The Slanderer’s face darkened and so did the cavern. “He laughed at me! Sent me away from that shabby hotel room! And I was left with another instrument that would work its wonders for only one person!”

The Slanderer spat on the ground. It sizzled when it landed and left a mark on the stone floor.

Mara looked around. There were violins, bass fiddles, guitars, trumpets embedded in rocks. Some of them chained where they were. But there were also spaces where instruments had once been. At the end of the cavern was a section of empty spaces and a few electric guitars standing upright out of the rock. Beside it was a long section full of electric bass guitars.

“Everyone wants to play lead,” Mara thought.

“Music is a wonder,” the Slanderer said as they walked through the cavern. “It can inspire but it can also entice, which makes it a useful tool for me.” He glanced at a small hill of rock surmounted by a golden lyre. “I might have realized I wasted my time making that one. When I offered it to him, he used the same sling he had killed…ah, here we are.”

Just past a lot filled with tubas and a near-empty plot with one or two saxophones standing out of the ground was a large tract of land with a miscellany of instruments, some chained to the ground, some not.

“There,” said the Slanderer, pointing. “The one in the far corner. Bring it here.”

Mara nimbly rushed over to the instrument, careful not to trip over a row of piccolos protruding from the ground. She grasped the instrument with both hands and pulled. It reminded her of a large guitar with a rounded body. She carried it out of the lot and presented it to the Slanderer.

“Ah, yes,” he said with a sulphurous grin as he fingered the instrument. “This will be perfect. It will be bait, the lure, the instrument, if you will, of its intended recipient’s destruction.”

And he and Mara began to laugh, their laughter filling the cavern, reverberating off the stringed instruments, creating a noise that almost sounded like weeping.

 

—end—

 

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Monday Flash Fics., Monday May 22, 2017; A golden afternoon.

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                                All In The Golden Afternoon

By Jeff Baker

 

            Sidney had been on Procyon II for twenty minutes when he saw his first rainbow.

            “You’ll get used to it,” Sokitu said as they walked along the tree-lined sidewalk. “Atmospheric conditions are a lot different here. More wind, more moisture in the air. The bosses like it though.”

            The bosses were the Namex, basically an intelligent plant species. The Namex were also wealthy; the claimants to the mineral wealth of this entire solar system. Trade was important and species from all over, including Earth, had established relations with the Namex as long as the visitors understood the Namex were in charge.

            “Believe it or not, the Namex used to say that a rainbow was bad luck, but they have so many of them daily you can probably blame anything you want on them,” Sokitu said.

            “I see what you mean,” Sidney said, gawking at another rainbow that had formed in the distance.

            “Like they say, it’s a nice place if you survive,” said Sokitu, only half-smiling.

            “What do you mean, if I…” Sidney began. That’s when he saw the twisting column of water spiraling out of the cloud near the rainbow.

            “Better take cover!” Sokitu said pulling Sidney behind a large boulder.

            “What is that thing?” Sidney asked.

            “Waterspout. Sort of,” Sokitu said. “The wind and the moisture produce them, they dangle from the clouds like a tail and usually break up and you just get wet.”

            “Usually?” Sidney asked apprehensively.

            “If the funnels swing toward the ground you could get smacked by a funnel of swirling water.”

            “So?” Sidney said. “I brought dry clothes,”

            “It would be like being hit by a redwood tree,” Sokitu said.

            “Oh,” Sidney said.

            “The water doesn’t bother the Namex, they’re pretty flexible and they thrive on the water,” Sokitu said.

            “Yeah, I see how green the place is, I…hey! Look out!” Sidney said.

            With a “Sploosh,” the water funnel burst directly over their heads. It took about a minute, but when the falling water finally reached them, they were drenched.

            “Amazing,” Sidney said, wringing out his tie. “Hey, look!”

            Over their heads, three more rainbows formed in the water and mist.

            “Where are we headed?” Sidney asked.

            “The Namex we want to meet are down there,” Sokitu said, pointing to a distant bunch of trees, highlighted by the glistening colors dropping from the sky. “Somewhere over by the rainbow.” The two of them started walking down the sidewalk. “You’ll like the Namex. They’re flat and green like big clams made out of palm leaves. But they have I.Q.’s in the 500’s. They speak English fluently but their own language is a series of buzzes.” He laughed. “And they don’t call this planet ‘Procyon II.’ Their own name for this place is ‘Ahhhzzzzzzzz.’”

 

                                                —End—

           

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“Razor’s Edge;” Monday Flash Fics, May 15, 2017

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                                      The Razor’s Edge

                                           By Jeff Baker

 

            The guards had marched them, hands on top of their heads out to the yard, and had them sitting on the ground, hands flat on the ground while the sounds of the riot continued from inside the prison.

            “Better than lying face down on the ground,” Matt said looking up at the blue sky over the barbed wire covered walls.

            “Yeah, but they ran us out of there so fast you didn’t have time to put your shirt on,” A.J. said, seated next to him. “Next time they may not let you in the yard without a suit and tie!”

            “Yeah,” Matt said. “No two drink minimum here.”

Matt looked around; a couple of the guards were standing together talking, hands on their rifles, eyeing the rows of seated cons. Matt had been here about three years, he hoped none of the guards had an itchy trigger finger.

“Hey, Matthews,” A.J. said. “What’s that tatt on your arm?”

“I’ve had that a couple years,” Matt said. “It’s a straight razor. It wasn’t my idea.”

“Was it your razor?” A.J. asked.

“Nah,” Matt said. “I’d been inside about four months and got into a couple of fights with this guy. He wasn’t leaving me alone, even after both of us got tossed in the hole for fighting. While I was there this guy I knew told me that the guy was crazy but if I got a tattoo of a blade on me he’d be afraid I’d pull the blade off and shiv him with it.”

A.J. stared. Matt shrugged.

“Like I said, he was crazy,” Matt said. “So I got the tatt done and the nut left me alone after that.”

“Hey! No talking over there,” one of the guards called out.

Matt nodded. He smiled to himself. He’d been locked up about a year when he’d lost a bet with one of his cellies trying to see who could solve the puzzle on the TV game show they were watching. Couldn’t buy a vowel when you were watching on a black & white TV behind the walls. Matt had lost and his cellie gave him the usual choice; pushups or get the word he hadn’t guessed tattooed on him. Somehow, a tattoo sounded cool; the word had been “straight razor.”

Matt smiled and rubbed his shoulder. He caught a whiff of tear gas from the cellblock and wrinkled his nose. Eight months left to go, he thought.

 

                                              —end–

Note: My previous two stories about Matt Matthews appeared in Over My Dead Body (online) Magazine in the June 2011 and May 2014 issues respectively.

Prison Glossary:

“Cellie”—Cellmate.

“The Hole”—Solitary Confinement.

 

 

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“Riders of the Purple Sea,” Monday Flash Fics for May 8, 2017

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                                  Riders of the Purple Sea

                                          By Jeff Baker

 

            “Wheeee! Look at me!” Snuffy said, balancing on the edge of the boat.

            “Hey, watch it or you’ll fall on the…okay, you did…” Scooter said said as Snuffy fell off the small purple rowboat onto the purple sand of the beach. Snuffy was laying there laughing by the purple water, staring at the birds soaring overhead.

            “Anybody would think you were drunk,” Skiffer said.

            “Hmmm…he may be,” Scooter said sniffing the purple water. “I think this is wine now.”

            “Hey, don’t look at me, it was grape soda last time I tried it,” Slinky said, sitting up on his beach towel. “Crazy place for a vacation.”

            “Well, we all voted for it, remember?” Scooter said. “Better than last year, remember?”

            “I remember,” Slinky said lying back on his towel shaking his head. “Soapy stuffed the ballot box with those cards that said ‘anyplace without snow.’ Spend my vacation in a desert motel playing pinochle again? No thanks!”  Several of the group laughed.

            “Well, I, for one, will be glad to get back to work,” Snooker said from his seat at the picnic table. “I mean, how long can you…hey!”

            The others in earshot had begun throwing things. Candy wrappers, pencils and paper cups. Lots of laughter all around when they finished.

            “Y’know, I kind of miss the old days, back when the kids wanted the easy stuff,” Snippy said. “Dolls. Hobbyhorses. Things like that.”

            “Hobbyhorse, geez!” Snooker said. “How long since any of us has made one of those? Me, I’m getting sick of building those drone things.”

            “You know what the Boss says,” Scooter said.

            “Yeah; ‘Whatever makes the kids happy, keeps us jolly.’” Snippy said.

            “I think the right jolly old elf has been wearing his jolly red hat too tight if you ask me,”

            “Guys, this is starting to sound like a labor meeting,” Stinky said. “Look, we’ve got a month of vacation left. Who wants to go surfing?”

            “Let’s sing!” Snuffy said. “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way…”

            The rest of them were looking for something to throw.

 

                                                —end—  

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Monday Flash Fics, May 1, 2017; “Footprints.”

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                                                Footprints

                                             By Jeff Baker

 

            “Shoes. All over the place,” said Kendall, idly kicking at a loafer lying in the street, a street filled with shoes of varying shapes, sizes and makes. “Where did they all come from?”

            “They fell from the sky,” Hoyt said. “We have witnesses. We have video.”

            “Shoes don’t just fall from the sky,” Kendall said. “They must have been dropped from some plane.”

            “There was no plane,” Hoyt said. “I told you we had witnesses. The shoes just fell.”

            “Like the rain of frogs,” Kendall said. “You hear about these things, but…”

            “We have a working theory,” Hoyt said. “Hundreds of people disappear every year without a trace. So, this is the trace.”

            “Shoes?” Kendall said incredulously.

            “Usually not on this scale,” Hoyt said. “Usually it’s one or two. Never a matched set. In America, the shoes sometimes wind up caught in power lines. I remember reading after they found the wreck of the Titanic there was a moment when they found a lone shoe at the bottom of the ocean. They realized there had been someone in it when it fell there.”

            “So, the shoes are shoes of dead people?” Kendall asked.

            “We don’t know,” Hoyt said. “But I’ll tell you this; some of the shoes are contemporary. Some of them are fashions going back a century or more. And some of them are styles no one has seen before.”

            “Do you, do you think this is some sort of message?” Kendall asked.

            “Maybe,” Hoyt said, staring out at the horizon, “maybe it’s a warning.”

 

                                                   —end—

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A Very Long Smackdown for Monday Flash Fics, April 24, 2017

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                                 Smackdown On Mauradus-Four

                                                By Jeff Baker

                                   

            We were a few days short and more than a few dollars short. The ship we’d booked (and paid a lot!) passage on was supposed to go to Mauradus-Three. Instead, we’d been dropped off on Mauradus-Four. This was a vacation so we were partying during the trip and got really bombed at the hotel bar after we arrived and so we didn’t notice our big mistake until we wandered outside the next morning and realized we were on the wrong planet.

            Mauradus-Three has a casino on every corner and would offer anybody credit, even for a ticket on a shuttle back to a space station on the main shipping lines. Mauradus-Four reminded me of all the stories I’d read of American mining camps of 300 years ago. They had electricity. They had plumbing. That was about it. No credit, no loans, don’t bother asking.

            We were just about broke and definitely stuck.

            Then Hank saw something interesting behind a wooden building that was asking outrageous prices for blankets.

            “Look at that,” he said, pointing.

The big sign read:

“Earn Big Money!

Stay Three Minutes In The Ring

With The Mauradus Mauler!”

So help me, at the bottom of the sign was an image of a gloved hand pointing.

“What do you think, Paco?” Hank asked. “You boxed in the service.”

“I almost got put in a box in the service!” I said.

“All you gotta do is keep away from the guy for three minutes and we’d have enough money to get out of here!”

There was no other way. We followed the pointing hand and found the fight promoter wearing, so help me, a top hat and a green tuxedo.

“So, ya wanna fight Gustaff?” he said, grinning like a cat who’d just found a wallet full of mice.

“My boy will be ready for your boy,” Hank said. Me, I bit my lower lip and tried not to groan. I signed the papers and the release forms and I didn’t see the Mauradus Mauler.

That evening the ring was surrounded by a paying crowd and I was being given a last minute pep talk in my corner by Hank. I still didn’t see the Mauler. The man I assumed was his trainer was talking to an empty stool in the opposite corner. Was there somebody ant sized on the stool? I squinted and for an instant I could see a blurry, full-sized figure sitting on the stool. Then I blinked and he was gone.

“Hey! He’s invisible!” I shouted. “There’s nobody there but there’s somebody there!”

Hank jumped up and confronted the promoter, telling him what was going on.

“You can’t have an invisible fighter!” Hank yelled. “That’s against every rule in the book.”

“Only if he’s fully invisible,” the promoter said calmly. “You said you could see him.”

“Yeah, but just for a second!”

“So, he’s not fully invisible!” the promoter said. “What Gustaff is, the technical term is Focally Unstable. He’s partly visible in the right kind of light or sometimes if you squint.”

“Hear that?” Hank said. “Keep your eyes shut and you’ll do fine!”

Hank’s smile wasn’t reassuring. I stared at the empty corner.

The bell rang. I was squinting, trying to see the Mauler when I tripped and about fell. I got my balance and was looking around when something slammed into my head. My ears rang, I saw stars and for an instant I saw the Mauler; tall, muscular and aiming another punch at me. I ducked and ran around him, or where I’d last seen him. And when I thought I heard his heavy breathing I ducked and ran again.

 Keeping moving was a good strategy until I ran across the ring and collided with the invisible Mauler with a crash. He fell down on top of me. I glanced over at Hank who was squinting, trying to see the Mauler. But I knew where he was; I didn’t need to squint, I could feel him. So, I figured if invisible wasn’t against the rules a knee between his legs wouldn’t be either. I heard a holler of pain and felt him roll off of me.

I stood up and was looking around for any hint of the Mauler when I was suddenly picked up and spun around over the Mauler’s head! I could hear him grunting and hollering and I was screaming as he dropped me out of the ring and I landed on the laps of three people in the front row. Looking up I was nose-to-nose with two elderly, identically dressed twin sisters who were just to the side of my landing area.

About two hours later I found Hank, spending the last of his money in the hotel bar.

“Hank!” I said, rushing in. “Lookit this!”

“Wha? Where’d you get that much money?” Hank said.

“You mean where’d I get more money in a night than we make in a month?” I said. “My new job! Working with the Mauler! The audience loved it! I get tossed out of the ring a few more times and we can buy our own spaceship! Barkeep! Two more rounds and two of the biggest sandwiches you’ve got! Oh, and a salad for me! I’m in training!”

                                         —end—

 

Supposed to be about 500 words or less, but it ballooned to almost 900! The story was too much fun to write!

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Monday Flash Fiction, Science Fiction, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

“McGuffin and the Shark,” Monday Flash Fic. for April 16, 2017

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                                   McGuffin and the Shark

                                           By Jeff Baker

 

            Before we could do anything, Old Man Plunkett spoke up.

            “So,” he began, ignoring our frantic attempts to hush him. “How did the deep-sea fishing go?”

            “Well,” McGuffin said, settling into his usual chair at the club. “It’s an interesting story.”

            I was two days out with nary a nibble, (McGuffin said, sipping his whiskey) and was seriously considering heading back to shore when I felt a sudden tug on my line. I gave the fish some play, hoping to tire my finny opponent. That was when the sea suddenly became choppy and the fish leaped out of the water in front of my boat.

            To my amazement, it was a shark, the largest I had ever seen! It continued to jump, the line unbroken as I let out some more of the line watching for signs of weariness from the beast. In the next moment, a huge wave hit the boat, breaking the line and tossing me into the air. To my horror, I landed on top of the giant shark! I determined to hold on for dear life putting to use my years of riding bulls in Texas, realizing that the shark was now playing me as I was his catch!

            With me astride, the shark jumped and thrashed for a few minutes and then, an immense wave carried us up, up, up and tossed us into the air! To my amazement, we did not fall! I realized that by some miracle of aerodynamics we were gliding in the jet stream and were now really flying. By grabbing hold of the shark’s pectoral fins I could steer the airborne shark all the while remaining astride.

            Swiftly we traversed the miles and when I saw land and a great coastal city, I aimed the shark downward. It made a nosedive into the roof of an abandoned building as I jumped off an instant before it speared the roof, landing in a consignment of feather pillows as soft as an egg in a hen’s nest.

            McGuffin finished his whiskey and called for another.

            “Oh, come now, McGuffin,” Aubrey-Smith said. “Even if you could ride a falling shark, jumping off wouldn’t have spared you the inertial…”

            “Yes, it’s a preposterous tale,” Delmar began, interrupted by a waiter carrying a glass of whiskey and a plate, both of which he sat down before McGuffin.

            “Fillet of shark, Sir,” the waiter said. “Compliments of the house, as usual.”

            McGuffin picked up his fork and smiled.

            “I suppose it’s the least they can do, as I was their supplier.” McGuffin said. “But, you know, I do get rather tired of eating the same thing every day.”

            The small group of us stared.

            “I wonder,” McGuffin added, “if that’s how the sharks feel?”

 

                                                —end—

                         

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