Flash Fiction (July 25, 2016) “My Object All Sublime”

Here’s the latest for Monday Flash Fics:

                       

My Object All Sublime

                                           By Jeff Baker

 

 

 

            Jimmy stood in the office, his hands at his sides, trying not to be nervous. The man behind the desk was reading a report out loud.

            “Disobedience. Slacking off on a work detail, showing disrespect to officers. You’re what? Twenty-eight?”

            “Twenty-nine, Sir,” Jimmy said.

            “You’ve been here three years. You should know the rules by now.”

            The man paused and pushed a small bowl across the desk towards Jimmy.

            “Here,” the man said.

            Jimmy took a deep breath and reached out for the dish. In it was a small, flat rectangle wrapped in foil. Jimmy unwrapped the foil and popped what appeared to be a flat piece of chocolate into his mouth. It tasted like chocolate, only tangy and bitter. Jimmy chewed and swallowed.

            The nausea hit him at the same time as the pounding headache. Jimmy didn’t even remember falling down.

 “Take this man back to his cell,” Jimmy heard, as if from a distance. He knew what was going on; what he’d taken was an encephalic reaction tablet. It had a long chemical name, but everyone called them “punish-mints.” He wasn’t really sick; his brain was just making him react as if he was. The trick was not to think about anything, clear his head.

“Don’t think about the work crew,” he thought. “Don’t think about picking potatoes. Don’t think about your sunburn. Don’t think about your churning stomach. Don’t think about not thinking. C’mon, Jimbo, make your mind a blank!”

He was dimly aware of one of the guards pulling him to his feet and making him stagger out the door. He saw the window where a few days ago he’d stood waiting to get into the showers and stared across the yard at the other cellblock. He glanced down and saw the band of chain tattooed on his left forearm with the sign for infinity above it—“duration permanent” it meant. He about fell over. Don’t think, just walk.

“Hey, I got him, okay?” The familiar voice, Ron. He’d been Jimmy’s cellmate for the last two years. The new regime had convicted both of them. Jimmy kept his eyes tightly shut, his head was swimming, he felt himself being handed over to someone else.

“Just lean on me, buddy. I got you. Just relax,” Ron said.

Jimmy forced his mind to become a blank as Ron half-guided, half-dragged him down the landing from the Captain’s office to their cell. Jimmy noticed a change in the sounds from the cell house to the small, steel-walled room they shared about fourteen hours a day. He opened one eye. The nausea was subsiding, but the glimpse made his head hurt worse.

Ron laid Jimmy down on the bottom bunk. Jimmy usually slept in the top bunk, but this was easier.

“Just relax, buddy,’ Ron said. “You’ll feel better in about four hours.”

Ron walked over to shut the steel door; it would automatically latch, locking them in until breakfast. Ron walked back and kissed Jimmy on the forehead.

Jimmy smiled. He was trying to keep his mind a blank, but all he could think of was Ron.

                                  —end—

 

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Monday Flash Fics (July 18, 2016)”The Creature of Wine Cooler Cove”

The Creature of Wine Cooler Cove

By Jeff Baker

 

I was having a beer in Demeter’s Bar when Marty started telling me about the sea serpent. He was sitting on the barstool next to me, and I thought for the umpteenth time I should stop sitting at the bar and stick with the back booth.

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 nudged Alex and pointed (with the hand that was holding the wine cooler) and said “Hey, look at that?”

“What?” Alex said.

“That big green thing in the water out there,” I said.

“It’s just an old tire covered with seaweed,” Alex said.

That was when the tire blinked. Alex stared. He finished his wine cooler and grabbed another from the big ice bucket.

“Did you ever hear the theory that a lot of dinosaurs never went extinct?” Alex said.

I admitted I hadn’t.

“A lot of them were underwater creatures to begin with and when the world changed they just stayed near the sea bottom. But there are exceptions.” He sipped some of his wine cooler. “You’ve heard of the Loch Ness Monster? It’s really a Pliosaur.”

Maybe I was drunk but this was making an awful lot of sense. That thing did look like a sea monster and I wondered if it was here because it was tired of fish. Maybe the tanned  gymbunnies at the party looked as yummy to it as they did to me. As if in answer, the thing’s head began to rise out of the water. It was huge and so far we were the only ones who noticed it.

I handed Alex my drink and I rushed over to the snack table and grabbing what I wanted I quickly hurled it over the heads of the partiers to the thing in the sea. Its eyes followed what I’d thrown and its mouth opened and snapped shut with the meaty missile in its jaws. It sat there for a moment, shook its head and sank back under the water. I could’ve sworn I heard a bellow which was drowned out as the music cranked up. Alex and I watched a shadowy, huge shape head out to sea. Then we cut out and left the party early.

Marty finished his story and finished his beer. I wondered how many he’d had that day on the beach.

“What did you throw at that sea monster?” I asked. “And how did you throw something that far anyway?” Not that I was ready to believe him, but he had me curious.

“Oh, I grabbed a hot wing and dunked it in the homemade extra-extra hot sauce they had. Wish I had the recipe, might make a good monster repellant. As for how I threw it so far,” he grinned and flexed his hand. “I was a pitcher in college.”

I caught the bartender’s eye, he bit his tongue.

“And that,” Marty said, oblivious to the bartender’s grin, “is why I stay away from beaches. All those shark attacks you hear about? They probably aren’t all sharks.”

 

—end—

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As Time Goes By (Monday Flash Fiction, July 11, 2016)

As Time Goes By

By Jeff Baker

 

“C’mere, soldier boy,” the man in the blue t-shirt said pulling him closer on the bench.

“Been waiting for this all day,” said the man in the fatigues.

They kissed and kissed again. There was a roar of applause from the crowd.

“It looks like a near-unanimous decision,” said the man on the side of the stage. “The two of you are this year’s winners and, may I say, very convincing.” The crowd applauded again as the two men stood up and bowed.

“This turned out better than the first time I entered,” the man in the blue t-shirt said as they collected their prize.

“When was that?” asked the man in the fatigues.

“About three-thousand years ago,” said the man in the blue t-shirt. “Amazing to think that millennia ago people like this,” he glanced down at himself, “they really felt affection for one another.”

“And reproduced,” the man in the fatigues said. “Don’t forget reproduction.”

“Yes, after kissing, one of us would become pregnant,” the man in the blue t-shirt said.

“It all sounds so awkward,” the man in the fatigues said. The other nodded.

The two of them collected their prize and began to walk towards their respective homes.

“I’ll call you,” the man in fatigues said.

“Yes. I’ll call you,” the man in the blue t-shirt replied.

It had been over a hundred thousand years since anyone on Earth remembered what those archaic phrases, now said reflexively, had meant.

 

—end—

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A Hierarchy of Widows (Monday Flash Fiction,7/4/16)

A Hierarchy of Widows

By Jeff Baker

 

Cynthia passed the closed, quiet apartment door on her way upstairs. She’d taken the woman in B3 soup a couple of times, but she wouldn’t leave her room. 25 was an awfully young to be widowed. She walked up the stairs to her apartment, but when she heard the rain on the roof she made her decision and went back to knock on the door.

“Shirley,” Cynthia said when the younger woman opened the door. “You’re coming with me.”

The younger woman made a few protests but Cynthia interrupted her, talking as she led her to the ground floor.

“Now, I know you’ve been a widow for two weeks now, but my George has been gone for eleven years. I outrank you,” Cynthia said. Shirley hadn’t known there was a hierarchy of widows. Cynthia went on.

“Now I found sometimes that it helps to do something the two of you used to do together, but I need two people for this.” Cynthia said as she opened the old wood framed glass door. They stepped down onto the sidewalk which, as usual during a rainstorm, was flooded with water.

“Shouldn’t we go back in?” Shirley asked.

“Nonsense, the rain is letting up. Now where, ah! Here!” Cynthia reached down in the water and picked up a rock. “What we do is play hopscotch.”

“In this water?” Shirley asked, taking off her shoes.

“See the cracks in the sidewalk, those are the squares and you imagine the numbers; one, two, three, four, see?” Cynthia said pointing. “You imagine the numbers, here we go.”

She tossed the rock which “Plooped” into the water and then, with slooshy splashes, hopped on the squares and bent over to pick up the rock.

“Your turn now,” Cynthia said handing Shirley the rock.

“But I really haven’t…” Shirley began.

“Come on! It’s easy!” Cynthia said, grabbing Shirley’s hand and tossing the rock again. “We hop like this, follow me.”

The two women hopped, hand in hand through the water.

“But what if we fall?” Shirley started to say. Then they fell, splashing in the water. Cynthia began to laugh and Shirley did too. She sat there wet and cold and laughed and when Cynthia held up her soaked, handbag, dripping water, she laughed some more.

And when Shirley realized for the first time in two weeks that she was alive, she laughed all the harder.

 

—end—

 

—–for Ray Bradbury

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“Life Is But A Dream” Monday Flash Fiction, 6/27/16

Life is But a Dream

By Jeff Baker

 

“Yup. Boat’s in the tree all right,” Lars said.

“At least the water went down,” I said.

“May as well leave the boat up there, water will probably be rising again soon,” Lars said.

Since the Moon had started twisting off its regular orbit, the tides had become like mini-tsunamis. Some weeks were fine, others…

“I heard there were two solar eclipses on the same day a few weeks ago,” Lars said.

“Mmmmmm hmmmmm,” I said, not listening. Someone had said that the Moon had hung in the sky over the Northern Hemisphere and run through all its phases in just two nights a while back. Someone was always saying something. The oddities for Moon-gazers really weren’t important anymore. I was worried about massive tidal waves. And earthquakes.

“How’s the house?” Lars asked.

“Humid,” I replied. “Full of water in the basement.”

“Stock it with fish,” Lars said.

We both laughed.

“You know, I hear the Maguire house up on Karlen’s Hill is staying pretty dry,” I said, staring up at the boat.

“Really?” Lars asked.

“Big bedroom,” I said. “Spare bedroom too, if you want.”

Lars stared out at the receding water for a moment. Then he smiled and grabbed my hand. Life was too short not to take chances.

We started walking towards Karlen’s Hill. I glimpsed the Moon out of the corner of my eye. It seemed to be smiling at us.

 

—end—

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He Knows If You’ve Been Bad or Good

More Monday Flash Fiction (Amazed I got it done, I actually lost the original manuscript of this!)

He Knows If You’ve Been Bad or Good

By Jeff Baker

 

Eddie pulled the boat up to the dock.

“About time!” Gene said, his glowering red face matching his red Santa Claus suit. “Hurry up and tie that thing to the dock. Did you bring any clothes?”

“Just mine,” Eddie said. Gene was six-three, Eddie was five-eight. The clothes wouldn’t fit. Eddie was trying not to laugh.

“One ‘Ho-Ho-Ho,’ and I’ll dump you in the lake,” Gene said.

“You know, I don’t get it,” Eddie said as he tied the boat to the dock. “Gwen’s brother had this place stocked with all kinds of stuff, canned goods, bottled water, liquor…”

“And several hundred thousand in cash remember?” Gene said.

“Can’t forget that!” Eddie said. “How much is left anyway?”

“A couple of thousand,” Gene said.

“Anyway, he has all that stuff here and the only clothes he saves are long johns and a Santa suit.”

“And the long johns are too hot, my suit I had on when I dumped the boat shrank and my other clothes are at the bottom of the drink,” Gene said. “You got your key?”

“Always,” Gene said, tapping the chain around his neck. They’d been meeting for three years while Gwen’s brother was in the clink, using their keys to unlock the two padlocks they’d put on the steel box in the back room. Taking small amounts of the money and spending it discreetly so as not to arouse suspicion. The cops didn’t know about the cabin.

Eddie grabbed a beer from the cabin’s fridge. They were both anxious to get at the last of the loot. They pulled the cover off the box and after a few fumbling moments unlocked the padlocks and opened the lid.

There was a cough behind them. They turned their heads.

In the door stood a man flashing a badge and a gun.

“Detective Frederick Sebastian,” the man said. “Hands up. We’ve been tracking you folks for months.”

As the detective led them into the waiting police boat, Gene asked how they found them.

“Following you after we found out you two were spreading that money,” the detective said. “It did take us a bit.”

“But how did you know that was the money Gwen’s brother stole?” Eddie asked.

“Stole?” Sebastian laughed as the other officer started the boat’s engine. “He’s not in prison for stealing; he’s in prison for counterfeiting!”

As the boat roared off, Officer Sebastian was humming “Here Comes Santa Claus.”

 

—end—

 

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Monday Flash Fiction

The Egg and We

By Jeff Baker

 

The girl in the egg suit looked them. The two men stood and stared at her. The wall she was sitting on and the house behind her hadn’t been there a moment before.

“You have to answer the riddle before you can pass!” The egg-girl was cheery and bright.

“Does this have something to do with the scavenger hunt?” Charlie asked.

“Don’t think so,” Skip said, looking around warily. The landscape had changed. Even the grass and the dirt road somehow looked old and abandoned.

“The riddle,” the egg-girl said leaning forward.

“You always get me involved in weird stuff, Skip,” Charlie said.

“Yeah, but this is way too weird,” Skip said, staring at the egg-girl who was grinning broadly, showing glistening teeth. “Hey, what’s this about a riddle?”

“All who come this way are asked the riddle,” she said. “Those who answer correctly will continue on from where they were. Those who don’t must wander out there.”

The egg-girl pointed at a vast, empty-looking field of stubble and brush. Charlie felt cold. Skip swallowed hard and grabbed Charlie’s hand.

“If we’re screwed, I’m glad I’m with you,” Charlie said.

“Yeah, me too.” Skip said. He’d heard stories of people accidentally walking the wrong way into other worlds. The word ‘widdershins’ went through his head.

“May as well get this over with,” Charlie said.

“What’s the riddle?” Skip asked.

The egg-girl’s eyes were gleaming, her teeth sharp.

“How does an egg walk across the road?” she asked.

Charlie opened his mouth; he was going to say something goofy, like ‘sunny side up,’ or ‘very carefully.’ Skip elbowed him and glared. They’d been together about three years; Skip figured he could apologize later.

“I know,” Skip said. “Inside the chicken.”

The egg-girl frowned. She looked for a moment like she was going to pout because she hadn’t gotten her way.

“Correct,” she said in a dull voice, a ‘yes, Mommy, I’m going to clean my room now’ voice. She and the wall were suddenly gone. The path they were standing on was the one they’d been on before.

“Sorry,” Skip said. “I thought you were going to…”

“It’s okay,” Charlie said. “As long as we get out of that, whatever it was.” He took a deep breath and kissed Skip. They lingered for a moment. Then Charlie pulled a list from his pocket.

“We going to finish the scavenger hunt?” Skip asked.

“Sure!” Charlie said, glancing at the list. “Let’s see, we need an advertisement from Christmas.”

“Christmas?” Skip asked as they walked on. “It’s June!”

“Early Christmas-in-July. Hey, why did that chicken cross the road, anyway?”

“We could go back and ask that egg-girl,” Skip said.

“No thanks,” Charlie said, grinning.

 

—end—

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