“The Switch.” Monday Flash Fics for February 19, 2018.

27752491_10156035917654787_7599880281512251410_n                                                                                          The Switch                                                                                                                                                 By Jeff Baker                                                                                                             “You’re going through with it?” I asked.

            “Yeah. This weekend,” Paul said. “I just got word.” Paul was lounging around in his shorts in his penthouse apartment reading the paper. He’d called me over saying he had news.

            “How much is this going to cost?” I said.

            “A lot,” Paul said with a grim smile. “Don’t ask.”

            “I still don’t see why you want to trade off like this?” I said.

            “Hey, look at me,” Paul said. “I’m skinny, geeky, clumsy, and pale. Dracula got more sun than I do.”

            “And look at what happened to him,” I said. Being geeky hadn’t hurt Paul, he’d gotten rich founding his own tech company; 23rd Century Tectonics. (“Play on words,’ he’d said.) But since I’d known him he’d had this terrible self-image. Some of the girls and guys we’d gone to school with had thought he was cute, but he’d been obsessed with studying over everything else. I’d thought he was cute, but we’d just stayed friends. Now he spent a lot of time worrying about his business. No social life. When they legalized the body-transfer technology a few years ago, Paul started talking about trading with some buff, young guy. I’d thought he was kidding. Apparently, he wasn’t.

            “So, how am I going to recognize you?” I asked. “I mean, after the switch what are you going to look like?”

            “You’ll figure out in a few minutes,” Paul said. “He’s coming here.”

            “Here? Now?” I said.

            “Yeah, I figured you’d better meet,” Paul said. “We switch next Tuesday, and we sign a bunch of papers before that. I’m still me; I still keep all my stuff. But changing all our I.D. is going to be a pain.”

            I was going to say something when the door opened and the guy walked in. Just like Paul had said; young, muscular. Cute Latino guy. I guessed he was a youngish 30. Just a little shorter than Paul was. I was gawking.

            “Oh, uh, James, this is, uh…” Paul started to say.

            “Alfredo,” the young man said, grinning and extending a hand.

            “James,” I said. “Look, do you mind if I ask you something?” His smile was dazzling.

            “Why am I doing this?” Alfredo said. “I need the money. I figure it’s worth it.” He grinned again, halfheartedly I thought.

            “This is why I’m paying him for this,” Paul said. “I mean, who wouldn’t want to look like this guy?”

            “Yeah,” Alfredo said.

            “Look,” I said. “Are you sure you want to do this?” I said. “I mean, you’re giving up a lot. Both of you.”

            “I’m not giving up anything,” Paul said. “Neither of us are. We have all the legal stuff ready.”

            “We’re about the same age,” Alfredo said. “And we had our physicals.”

            “Geez, did we have our physicals!” Paul said. “Every test imaginable!”

            “You checked everything,” I said, “like, you’re both gay, right? I mean if I was switching with somebody I’d hate to find out I suddenly didn’t feel the same about my boyfriend.” (I didn’t actually have a boyfriend.)

            Alfredo and Paul nodded. Then Alfredo sighed.

            “My Mom’s sick,” Alfredo said. “Real sick. This is the only way I can afford to save her.” He looked down at his shoes. “The thing is, Mom’s the one who always told me to take pride in myself.” He looked up, determined. “So I’m doing this for her.”

            I gave Paul a look. He was staring at Alfredo. Paul took a deep breath.

            “I’m not doing it,” Paul said. “Not going through with this.”

            “What?” Alfredo said. “But I need this…”

            Paul held up a hand. “You’re getting the money I promised you. But I can’t let you trade off even part of yourself.”

            We all shook hands and Alfredo left.

            “I’m crazy,” Paul said, sitting down again.

            “No you’re not,” I said grinning. “You’re you. “

            I hoped Paul’s image of himself had improved in the last few minutes. Mine certainly had.

 

                                                 —end—        

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Posted in Fiction, LGBT, Monday Flash Fiction, Science Fiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

J. Scott Coatsworth’s new book: Lander.

Lander-scott-author

My friend J. Scott Coatsworth’s new book “Lander,” (sequel to “Skythane”) is out, and from what I’ve read so far it’s damn good!

Book Blurb:

 

Sometimes the world needs saving twice.

 

In the sequel to the Rainbow-Award-winning Skythane, Xander and Jameson thought they’d fulfilled their destiny when they brought the worlds of Oberon and Titania back together, but their short-lived moment of triumph is over.

 

Reunification has thrown the world into chaos. A great storm ravaged Xander’s kingdom of Gaelan, leaving the winged skythane people struggling to survive. Their old enemy, Obercorp, is biding its time, waiting to strike. And to the north, a dangerous new adversary gathers strength, while an unexpected ally awaits them.

 

In the midst of it all, Xander’s ex Alix returns, and Xander and Jameson discover that their love for each other may have been drug-induced.

 

Are they truly destined for each other, or is what they feel concocted? And can they face an even greater challenge when their world needs them most?

 

The Oberon Cycle: Book Two

 

Series Blurb:

 

Xander is a skythane man whose wings have always been a liability on the lander-dominated half world of Oberon.

 

Jameson is a lander who has been sent to Oberon to find out why the supply of the psycho-amoratic drug pith has dropped off.

 

What neither knows is that they have a shared destiny that will change the two of them – and all of Oberon – forever.

 

500 Word Excerpt (Non Exclusive):

 

Jameson savored the kiss, his arms around Xander, the way they fit together just right. They were finally together, and Titania and Oberon were one again.

Erro, Quince had called this new world. Like the skythane god of the sun, the one Errian and the Erriani were named for.

For the moment, everything was right in his life, and he never wanted it to end.

A cold drop of water on his cheek brought him out of his reverie. He glanced up. Storm clouds were piled high, swiftly overtaking them. Rain began to pour out of the sky like a waterfall, and thunder echoed in the clouds as the valley went dark, sunlight smothered by the onrushing clouds. Nearby trees thrashed about in the wind, their purple leaves fluttering in distress.

“What the hell?” Xander said as the winds picked up and ruffled the feathers of his wings. He stared up at the black tempest.

“The Split!” Jameson shouted over the howling of the wind. He mimed the two halves of the world, each with their own atmosphere, suddenly being forced together in the middle. “When the Oberon half shifted, all the atmosphere it brought with it along the Split was forced up here!”

A bolt of lightning struck a nearby tree, crisping it to ashes and standing Jameson’s hair on end.

“Run!” Xander shouted.

Jameson’s vision swam, and a memory slipped into his conscious mind from that other part of him—a high-ceilinged cavern that was more like a faery palace than a cave—where he’d stolen away with a lover. More than once.

His stomach heaved at the displacement, and he clenched his hands. That wasn’t me. They were someone else’s memories.

“Follow me!” he shouted at his four companions—Xander, Quince, Kadin, and Venin—and ran toward the cliffs that were rapidly fading to invisibility behind the rain. He pushed down the memory-nausea, tasting bile in the back of his mouth.

Alia was missing. He’d last seen her as they had fled the Mountain, when it had begun to collapse. Jameson looked around wildly, but she was nowhere to be seen. “Where’s Alia?” he shouted at Kadin as they ran. Thunder shook the valley.

Kadin shook his head, mouthing, “I don’t know.”

Rain swirled all around them, coming down so fast that it pooled on the ground and ran in rivulets downhill toward the lake that was now half filled with the broken remains of the Mountain.

The mud made the footing treacherous. Jameson clambered up the hill, using roots and rocks that offered a firmer surface than the naked ground. The wind tugged at his wings, threatening to flip him over. He pulled them in tightly and glanced back to be sure the others were following him through the tempest.

Jameson reached the cover of the forest, plunging under the protection of the canopy. The trees here were tall and thin with white bark trunks and broad purple leaves that were being shredded by the storm.

 

1000 Word Excerpt (Non Exclusive):

 

Xander stared at the torrent of water pouring over the cavern entrance. Somewhere out there, Quince and the others were lost in the storm.

“What happened to everyone else?” Jameson shouted, putting his hand on Xander’s shoulder.

“I don’t know. Last I saw them was before the lightning strike.” How had things changed so quickly?

Jameson started toward the exit. “We have to look for them!”

Xander pulled him back.

Jameson’s eyes were wild.

He squeezed Jameson’s hands, trying to reassure him. “Hey, calm down. There’s nothing we can do right now.”

“We already lost Morgan.” Jameson’s eyes pleaded with him. “I can’t lose the rest of them.”

Xander shook his head. “It’s no use. We’ll never find them in this tempest. They’re seasoned veterans. They can take care of themselves. We’ll go looking after the storm passes.” The loss of Morgan weighed on him too, though he was less and less certain that Morgan had been a human boy at all.

Jameson looked doubtful.

Xander felt it too, but there really was nothing they could do. “Hey, it’s gonna be all right.” He pulled Jameson to him, enfolding the two of them with his wings. Jameson was soaked, but Xander didn’t care.

Jameson nodded against his chest. “You’re right. Gods, I know you’re right. I’m sorry. I thought we were done with all this.”

Xander held him out at arm’s length. “Gods, huh? We’re doing the plural thing now?”

Jameson gave him a half smile. “Trying it out? When in Rome….”

“How’s your hearing?”

Jameson cocked his head. “It’s better. But everything sounds muffled.”

Xander nodded. “I can tell.”

Jameson blushed. “Am I talking too loud?”

“Just a little.”

Jameson smiled sheepishly. “It’s weird. It feels like my ears are full of water.”

Xander kissed him gently. “It’ll pass.” He looked around the cavern at last, his eyes gradually adjusting to the dim blue light.

The place was a faeryland, filled with rows of golden stalactites and stalagmites, like the bulwarks of an eldritch castle. Each one was a miracle of minute detail, like candle wax dripped from above. The whole cavern was lit by a turquoise-blue glow.

Xander looked around for the source. It came from pools of water on either side of the cavern. The scintillating light shimmered along the walls, creating complex, ever-changing patterns.

“Look, Jameson… it’s beautiful.” They were both a muddy mess. “We’re stuck here until the storm blows itself out. Why don’t we get cleaned up and try to rest? Then we can figure out what to do next. We have a long flight to Gaelan.” He was still shivering from the rain.

“A bath sounds like heaven.” Jameson let Xander lead him to one of the glowing ponds.

“Do you think it’s safe to go in?” Xander asked, pulling off his boots and testing the water with his toes. It was warm.

Jameson looked queasy, but then he smiled. “They called them faery ponds. There’s a microscopic organism that makes the light. It’s harmless, but beautiful.” He grinned. “Romantic, even.”

Ah, that’s how you knew this place. “You’ve been here before, haven’t you?” he said, slowly and clearly, gesturing to indicate Jameson and the cavern. His own generational memories were still fleeting, occasional things.

Jameson’s smile fled. He shrugged. “Not me personally….”

“Shhh. I know.” If he closed his eyes and focused, he could see this place too, but he seemed to be able to block them out when they were inconvenient. “Too many memories.” Xander pointed at his head.

Jameson nodded. He looked relieved. He reached out and pulled Xander close, his hands warm on Xander’s waist.

Xander slipped his arms around Jameson and kissed him once, twice. He wrinkled his nose. “You’re filthy and you stink! So do I.” He held up his shirt as proof. It was covered in mud stains.

Jameson laughed. “We can fix that.”

He helped Jameson unlace the sides of his shirt, pulling it off to reveal the naked skin underneath. Jameson returned the favor, his hands lingering for a moment before withdrawing to pull down his own pants.

They shucked their wet and dirty clothes and descended into the water. It was surprisingly warm, silky and smooth around Xander’s waist.

The pool was about three meters across and sloped down to about a meter deep at the far end. There was a warm, gentle current drifting past Xander’s legs, and the stone beneath his feet had been worn smooth by water and time.

Xander washed the grime off his skin, and it drifted off into the water around him.

Jameson pulled him in deeper and gestured for him to lower his head.

Xander lay in Jameson’s arms, and warm water washed over him, carrying the mud and dirt out of his hair. Jameson massaged his scalp, pulling away the twigs and bits of gunk he’d accumulated on the mad run through the forest in the storm.

Xander’s desire threatened to overwhelm him at Jameson’s gentle touch. He dipped his face into the water and rinsed off. It was so fucking good to get clean.

He shook his head, splashing Jameson, who shot him an aggrieved look.

The look turned into a wicked grin, and Jameson splashed him back. Then they were going after each other and laughing, a fine mist of water flying through the air.

Damn, it’s good to hear you laugh again. Xander grabbed Jameson and kissed him, harder this time, and Jameson’s body responded. They fell back into the water, and Jameson was hard against him, his own need naked before Xander’s desire.

After all that had happened, Xander needed to feel human and alive again. He tugged Jameson back to the shallow part of the pool and pulled his skythane down on top of him, Jameson’s skin warm against his own.

He kissed Jameson’s neck and nibbled on his ear, eliciting a low moan.

Jameson wanted this as much as he did. He could tell.

For a long, slow, ecstatic hour, Xander forgot all about the storm.

 

1500 Word Excerpt (Non Exclusive):

 

Jameson kissed Xander again, his passion fading, but his ardor for the man still in full bloom. It was good to find time for the two of them in the middle of madness.

Xander was at rest, peaceful as he floated on the surface of the water, his eyes closed and his muscles slack. His black wings trailed off below into the glow of the pond. He looked more like an angel to Jameson than he had since the first time they’d met.

Images flashed in his head—this place, other people, other times. He squeezed his eyes shut, willing them to go away.

Reluctantly they subsided. Jameson stood to get out of the water, shaking his head as if to dry his hair.

Xander pulled him back down for one more kiss. “What’s the hurry? I can still hear the storm roaring outside.”

Jameson growled. “I’m hungry. Don’t you ever get your fill?” He should have told Xander about the memories. He knew Xander saw them too, sometimes, but Jameson didn’t want to ruin the moment.

“Apparently not.” Xander let him go. “But I like to watch your backside, so I guess this is some kind of compensation.”

“Pervert.” Jameson smiled to himself. He was still sore from their exertions, but it was a good kind of sore.

He climbed up to the rock floor next to the pool, using one of the columns to steady himself. Something skittered across the edge of his vision. A bat? Or something like it? He looked after it, but it had vanished.

He went to pull his pants back on and wrinkled his nose. His clothes were filthy.

He opened his pack and grabbed a fresh set. He pulled on his underwear first, then laced up his shirt while Xander watched appreciatively. Getting dressed had been a hell of a lot easier before he’d gotten his wings. To compensate for his lack of skythane clothing, they’d raided the king’s closet, and it had been a challenge to find anything without a fur lining or silver buttons. King Theron had been a big man too—thick in the middle, if his clothes were any indication. Frowning, Jameson cinched his belt tight to hold up his pants.

“It suits you.” Xander smirked, getting out of the water and giving Jameson a full-on view of his beautiful body. He was muscled, but not overly so, his stomach firm and his body sleek. He was perfect.

Jameson felt a surge of love for Xander. He took full advantage of the unguarded moment, enjoying the show. Xander’s well-defined abs and his lopsided grin were almost enough to entice Jameson to give it another go, but the memories were messing with his head, and he really was hungry.

“Let’s eat.” Xander pulled out his own change of clothes and sniffed them.

“A little damp?”

“Yeah. Mildew from all the rain. Still, it’s better than the alternative.”

He grinned. It was a shame Xander needed to wear anything at all. “Um, food. Yeah. Sounds good.”

“We need to be ready to leave as soon as the storm lets up.” Xander pulled on his pants. “That means keeping up our strength. Getting fed, getting some sleep…. I want to look for Quince and the others, and my people need me back home. Things will be confused in Gaelan after the shift.”

My people. Jameson had his own people too, somewhere across the continent. “Things will be crazy in Oberon City too, I’d imagine.”

Xander nodded. As he finished dressing, Jameson took a look around the cavern. It was maybe fifty meters across, and half that deep, and there were dark shadows at several places near the back, leading off to other caves or rooms.

He wondered how far this cavern system went. His new gift—or curse?—wasn’t specific on details like that, though sometimes memories sprang wholly formed in his head.

Back home on Beta Tau, caverns could stretch on for hundreds of kilometers. The Great Rift system went on for at least three hundred and fifty, meaning it was theoretically possible to get from New Davos to Arctus without ever going aboveground.

He closed his eyes, trying to remember this place. The ability seemed to come and go randomly, but there had to be a way to summon it up at will. It had come to him when he needed it, but not of his own volition.

Again, there was a flickering, like something fluttering past in his peripheral vision. This time it slipped past on both sides. He looked around wildly, but there was nothing there. Not bats, then. He was losing his mind.

“What are you thinking about?” Xander asked. “You seem a little… distracted.”

“You didn’t see that?”

“What?”

“Never mind.” He sighed. “It’s probably just this place. I… remember it, but I don’t.”

“I know. Since that kiss, it’s been hit and miss for me too.”

Jameson nodded. That kiss. The one at the House of the Moon, when memories had flooded through him, through Xander, like a torrent. It had been the second time for him, but for Xander….

“Do you ever… see things that aren’t there?”

“Sometimes. Quick images. Like brief overlays of the past on the present.”

“Do you see them now?”

Xander looked around. “No, nothing now. You?”

“No. I….” He stopped. Something was moving at the edge of his vision. He looked around. The cavern seemed to shift, becoming brighter. There was a weird fluttering, as if a hundred dark wings were flapping just out of sight.

“Jameson, you okay?”

Everything went fuzzy for a moment, and his stomach clenched in protest. When he could see again, golden light flickered from candles placed all around the room. Where had they come from?

He turned back to Xander, but Elyra stood there instead, grinning at him, leaning forward, her breasts like two perfect moons under her vest. “You came. I’ve been waiting for hours.” She pulled him close. He could smell her musky perfume, feel her long raven-black hair brush against his cheeks as their lips met….

The world shifted again.

The cavern was dark, lit by only the smallest blue illumination from the pool, and he was all alone. The deep, keening sadness of loss cut him with a sharp physical pain. In his left hand was a bloody dagger, and his right cupped his torn intestines.

Shift.

A massive furry creature with eight arms and long teeth like a saber-toothed tiger rose up with a growl, and six eyes stared at him over its wrinkled snout. It swiped at him with a hairy paw tipped with sharp claws and he danced away….

Shift.

He was out of breath, gasping for air, and covered in sweat. He held on to one of the rock columns for support, staring over his shoulder. Surely they hadn’t followed him all the way back here.

There were shouts behind him, in the main cavern, and he took a desperate gulp of air and pushed himself onward, toward the darkness at the back of the cavern….

Shift.

He/They/We were joined, feeling a sense of peace and harmony at their union. He/They/We fed on the nutrients in the water, joined body and mind, and mused about the world outside and the events of the last few days. Each part of He/They/We shared its experiences out in the world, the others they had encountered before returning with their knowledge to enrich the whole. The time of the Great Move was coming….

Shift.

Giveaway:

 

Scott is giving away a $25 Amazon gift certificate and three copies of his queer sci fi eBook “The Stark Divide.” Use the rafflecopter code:

 

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Or the direct link:

 

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Buy Links:

 

Dreamspinner eBook: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/lander-by-j-scott-coatsworth-9317-b

 

Dreamspinner paperback: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/lander-by-j-scott-coatsworth-9318-b

 

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Lander-J-Scott-Coatsworth/dp/1640804773/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

 

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lander-j-scott-coatsworth/1127876852?ean=9781640804777

 

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/lander-4

 

iBooks: https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/book/lander/id1333640753?mt=11

 

QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/book/lander/

 

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38088645-lander

 

Author Bio:

 

Scott lives between the here and now and the what could be. Indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine, he devoured her library. But as he grew up, he wondered where the people like him were.

 

He decided it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Waldenbooks. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

 

His friends say Scott’s brain works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He seeks to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

 

He runs Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction that reflects their own reality.

 

Author Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworth

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworthauthor/

Author Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/jscoatsworth

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392709.J_Scott_Coatsworth?from_search=true

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Author Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/J.-Scott-Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ

Posted in Books, Fantasy, Fiction, J. Scott Coatsworth, Lander, LGBT, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Monthly Flash Fiction Challenge for February, 2018 by Jeff Baker (2/11/18)

Note: The three items drawn for this month’s Flash Fiction Draw Challenge (by ‘Nathan Burgoine) were a compass, a soup kitchen and a crime caper. This is what I came up with—-jeff baker.

The Way Which Thou Shalt Go

By Jeff Baker

 

Pete stood in the line with Max and The Kid, hoping they looked enough like they’d been sleeping on the street. He stared up at the sign: Sup With The Lord, hoping whatever food and lecture they were serving was worth one-hundred-and-fifty-thousand-dollars. Pete sighed, he’d double-checked this time; this was the same soup kitchen started by Reverend George Paskey who probably didn’t realize the antique compass he had was worth a small fortune.

Pete shifted from one foot to the other, glancing back at Max and The Kid. Early spring but still cold. He pulled his coat around him and wondered what made an old compass so valuable. Maybe it was gold? Or maybe it pointed the way to treasure? Either way Pete was sure Rev. Passkey’s great-grandson didn’t realize what he had or he would have sold it, and Sup With The Lord wouldn’t operate out of an old building that looked like it was about to fall down.

Sup With The Lord opened for dinner at five p.m. and Max, Pete and The Kid filed in with the rest. Pete could whiskey breath and old clothes. He looked around; long clean tables, folding chairs, looked ready for bingo night. The kitchen was in the room behind the long serving table at the front of the room. And the office door was on a wall to one side, partially hidden by a large standing American flag. Pete glanced at Max and The Kid. He wouldn’t have brought them along except that it was their family’s story that had clued Pete to all of this. He sighed again and waited patiently for his turn at the serving table.

The room was a mass of humanity when Pete saw his chance. He nonchalantly wandered around the room and then tried the knob to the office door. It was unlocked. God bless good, trusting people, Pete thought to himself as he slipped into the small office.

Pete had checked the closet, riffled through the pockets of the jacket he found and was ransacking the desk when Max and The Kid slipped into the room. He swore under his breath.

“What took you so long?” Pete asked.

“There’s all kinds of people out there,” The Kid said.

“You find the solid gold compass?” Max asked.

“No, just papers and junk,” Pete said tossing aside a handful of pencils, pens and a tool with a pointed tip. “Maybe it’s hidden behind one of those pictures.”

“All right, boys, that’s enough,” Reverend Paskey said from the doorway, standing between two armed policemen.  Pete swore again, this time not under his breath.

“It didn’t help that the one guy was on social media, posting pictures of the outside of the building and bragging that he was going to heist a solid gold compass,” the officer said later. “But that’s not the kind of compass they should have been looking for, and it’s not gold.” He picked something out of the desk drawer. “Remember using these in school? To draw things like circles? This one may have more than sentimental value. It was given to Paskey’s great grandfather, his grandfather showed it to me a couple of times. Wasn’t a big deal then, but a collector might pay top dollar for it today. Look, there’s the name of the man who originally owned it.”

Inscribed on the side of the V-shaped tool was a familiar name; Frank Lloyd Wright.

 

—end—

Posted in Fiction, Monthly Flash Fiction Draw Challenge, Mystery, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Turn on the light for Monday Flash Fics for February 12, 2018 by Jeff Baker

27858356_10156016243254787_5951548315620653690_n                                                                                  Night Thoughts

                                                     By Jeff Baker 

            Liz sighed and switched on the bedroom light.

            “Are you awake?” she said.

            “No.” Carl said without looking up. “Is something wrong with the light?”

            “Something’s wrong with me.” She said.

            “What?” Carl said sitting up in bed.

            “That picture,” she said pointing at the wall. “Jeremy and Margie. When she was a few months old.”

            “What picture? What about a picture? I thought you loved that picture.” Carl said.

            “Our son has a baby,” Liz said. “We’re grandparents. We’re old. I’m old.”

            “Forty nine isn’t old.” Carl said.

            “Forty nine years, three months and six days.” Liz said, sulking. “Next come wrinkles, age spots, grey hair. I’m old. Oh, God, I remember ‘Your Show of Shows’ being on when I was a kid.”

            “Liz, you’re not old,” Carl said. “You just feel old. Because your son is changing diapers and we aren’t. Anyway, I’m fifty-one, I’m older than you. Only time I feel old is when I watch the ballgame and realize I saw some of those guys fathers play. Let’s go back to sleep.”

            “We’re both old,” Liz said. “There’s no way out of that.”

            “Come on, aren’t you proud of Jeremy?” Carl asked. “Single father? Magazine writer?”

            “Mmmm-hmmmm.” Liz said, settling her head back on the pillow.

            “Remember that big article he published last year that you framed and hung up?” Carl asked.

            “’Safe Sex in the Nineties.’ I remember,” Liz said with a smile.

            “Your sister didn’t know what to think,” Carl said.

            “My bridge club wanted to burn him at the stake,” Liz said.

            “Our gay, unmarried single-parent son likes to scandalize the neighborhood,” Carl said.

            “You mean, our gay single-parent son. ‘Unmarried’ is redundant,” Liz said.

            “Mother warned me about marrying an English teacher.” Carl said grinning,

            “I guess I’m just in one of those moods,” Liz said. “But I love that picture of Jeremy and little Margie. Oh, my God…My Little Margie! I just realized that! I wonder If Jeremy caught that?”

            “He’s gay, of course he did,” Carl said. “Turning out the light?”

            “Yes.”

            “Look, speaking of, you know, safe, you know. Do you want to…you know?” Carl asked, grinning again.

            “Oh, it’s late,” Liz said. “What is it, three in the morning?”

            “Eleven-fifteen,” Carl said.

            “What?”

            “We went to bed at nine-thirty, remember?” Carl said.

            “Since when do we go to bed so early?” Liz asked.

            “Since Carson retired. Nothing on T.V.,” Carl said. “It’s Friday,”

            “Besides, we’re old,” Liz said. They laughed. They kissed. “I’ve got the light.”

            In another moment the room went dark. After another moment, Liz spoke up.

            “Oh, God, I’m old; I remember ‘My Little Margie.’”

 

                                                —end— 

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Exercise, for Friday Flash, by Jeff Baker. Fics, February 9, 2018

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When We Hit The Strait of Gibraltar, Somebody Tell Ben-Hur                                         

                                                             By Jeff Baker

 

            With a clack and a buzz, the machine fired to life.

            “Oh, Geez, here we go again!” The voice blended in with the assorted grunts and groans in the long, narrow room. Patrick gripped the handles on the metal oars and grit his teeth as he pulled, leaning back on the bench, then leaning forward as he pushed.

            “That’s one,” he thought.

            The Restitutional Penitent Servitude Act had been passed five years earlier. It was responsible for Patrick and sixty-eight of his fellow convicts sitting in what was basically a glorified rowing machine. It looked like the metal frames for a weight set gone berserk. But the government felt this was more humane than having inmates working on a prison farm.

            “At least the benches are padded,” Patrick grumbled, listening to the loudspeakers keeping time so they rowed in unison, even though they were underground beneath a penitentiary, not on the ocean. Patrick threw himself into the rhythm, letting his mind wander. Pull. Push. Pull. Push. Pull. Push. His muscles burned, his butt chaffed.

            Three hours later, Patrick was drinking the water he’d been issued on their break when he heard the voice over the din of other inmate voices.

            “Hey! Up front! New guy!”

            Patrick turned in his seat.

            “Yeah, you!” Patrick could barely see the speaker, behind a steel girder angling up from the floor. “How you holding up?”

            “I’m okay,” Patrick said, with a caution born of time behind bars. “You?”

            “I’m all right. I get a workout. Never thought I’d miss sitting around in my old cell. I’m Julio.”

            “Patrick. How long you been here Julio?”

            “Here about two years. Been in the system about six,” Julio said. “You?”

            “Been down two years,” Patrick said. “Got rolled here about a month ago.  Armed robbery. Not gonna see the parole board for another three years at least. How ‘bout you?”

            Julio didn’t say anything for a moment. Then; “I killed a guy in a bar fight. I was stoned out of my mind. I barely remember it.”

            “When you up for parole?”  Patrick asked.

            “I’m not.” Julio said. There was another moment that seemed quiet, even with the yelling, talking, grumbling and threatening going on around them.

            There was the clack and buzz and Patrick felt the machine vibrate.

            “Back to work!” Julio called out.

            “You hang in there!” Patrick replied.

            “You too!” Julio said.

            Over the noise of the oars and the machine came an administrative voice:

            “Attention. Due to an attempted escape, you are now on twenty-four hour duty. Four-hour sleep breaks in place. You will row the equivalent of the distance from Athens to the Strait of Gibraltar before regular hours are resumed.”

            “Great,” Patrick grumbled.  “Somebody tell Ben-Hur.”

            Nonetheless, as he pulled back on the oars, Patrick felt lucky for the first time in a while.

 

                                                —end—

 

Posted in Fiction, Friday Flash Fics, Science Fiction, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Monday Flash Fics for February 4, 2018 by Jeff Baker–Something Ecco-Friendly

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Captain Ecology and the Cavern of Doom

By Jeff Baker

 

The Ecolo-Car in hover mode floated over the forest, just high enough for the two men to lower themselves in front of the cave entrance.

“Golly, Captain Ecology,” said the younger man, wearing inconspicuous yellow shorts, a purple shirt and a cape. “Are you sure The Asphyxiator has his hideout in those caves?”

“Positive, Compost Boy!” said the older man, wearing a similar outfit, except with long pants. “And if my sources are correct…”

“And they usually are!” Compost Boy said, grinning.

“…The Asphyxiator is in there, getting ready to launch his scheme for world domination,” Captain Ecology said. “To say nothing of ruining this pristine environment.”

“And really hacking-off the National Park Service,” Compost Boy said. “We’ve been trying to nail the Asphyxiator since he tried to wreck the first Earth Day celebration five years ago. So do we go in there and bust some heads?”

“We sneak in. Through the front,” Captain Ecology said as they stealthily slipped down the ropes and ducked behind the bushes next to the cavern entrance.

The cavern entrance was wide but the ceiling lowered after a few yards and became dark even though it was bright midday outside. Fortunately, Captain Ecology and Compost Boy were able to see in all but the dimmest light.

“You notice something?” Compost Boy whispered. “This is a super villain’s lair but it’s unguarded. No guards, no henchmen, no booby traps.”

“If he’s doing what I think he is he would have thought traps unnecessary and probably couldn’t hire any guards or henchmen.”

Oh, that just reassures me no end, Compost Boy thought.

They turned a corner and found a small door. Holding up a hand, Captain Ecology opened it, leading them into a large, vaulted cavern filled with cabinets, scientific equipment and a nasty-looking machine topped with what looked like four tubas pointing upward. Standing beside it, wearing a gas mask and standard black supervillain robes was The Asphyxiator.

“Hold it right there you fiend!” Captain Ecology shouted.

“Too late!” The Asphyxiator cackled. “I have already activated this device, one which shall let me rule the world! And you and your juvenile partner will be its first victims!”

“Hey!” Compost Boy yelled. “I’m twenty-six years old! I just look young!”

The machine was sputtering and shaking. Compost Boy’s eyes began to water. Captain Ecology let out a cough.

“What is that stuff?” Compost Boy said.

“A mixture of methane and other gasses,” Captain Ecology began. The Asphyxiator interrupted.

“All natural ingredients, I assure you! A more intense combination of the same ones found in the human body!”

“Oh, God! I thought this smelled familiar!” Compost Boy said, coughing. “Let’s get out of here and find some air!”

“The Ecco-Domine Serum that enhanced our own abilities unfortunately heightened our sense of smell, so I agree for the time being!” Captain Ecology said. “This way!”

The pair raced back out the door, as Captain Ecology kept talking.

“This cavern is perfectly shaped and positioned for those noxious fumes to be spread to the neighboring towns, then the cities beyond, unless I can remember where I; aha!” He stopped by an incongruous metal door to one side of the caverns corridors, and pulled it open. “Just as I thought!” He walked in and quickly pulled a lever. “Now, we wait outside.”

A few minutes later, The Asphyxiator, coughing and gagging staggered out the main entrance of the cavern into the waiting handcuffs of Captain Ecology and Compost Boy.

“Golly, Captain Ecology!” Compost Boy said. “What did you do?”

“Every supervillian’s secret underground lair is equipped with a functioning ventilation system,” said Captain Ecology. “I spotted the control and turned it off.”

“How did you know that would affect him?” Compost Boy asked. “He was wearing a gas mask!”

“A defective one,” Captain Ecology said. “I recognized the brand right off; they’ve been recalled by the manufacturer.”

 

—end—

Author’s Note: Influenced by a lot of the ecology commercials on T.V. in the 1970’s. I was reading a lot of comic books and I may have dreamed the characters up back then. I forgot about it all until maybe a couple of years ago. I may write up more about these two if I ever have the time!

 

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Monday Flash Fiction, Science Fiction, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Friday Flash Fics for February 2, 2018 by Jeff Baker

26908008_197050297704432_110624270397404164_n                                                            We’re All In Our Places With Bright Shining Faces                                                                                                      By Jeff Baker

 

There was something a little frightening about Doctor Straw, Arlecchino  Martinelli thought. Not just his ability to squeeze through the smallest opening as a seemingly wind-blown cloud of yellowish straw; more his grim appearance. The face like a shock of wheat with eye slits and a mouth. Arlecchino thought this as he watched Doctor Straw re-form inside the Teacher’s Lounge. Not as frightening as those kids in A-21. He suppressed a smile.

“I’ve had it,” Straw said in his hollow voice. “Absolutely had it! I fought the Villains United Coalition; even went up against the Crisis Squad that time they turned bad, but I refuse to spend another minute in there with those incorrigible delinquents.”

“I thought you said there are no bad nascent superheroes, only misunderstood…” Arlecchino began with a grin.

“Stuff it!” Straw said. “We should sic those, those, those…”

“”Youthfully exuberant…” Arlecchino began again.

“Oh, come on! Leave him alone!” Ezekiel Bert said, setting down his coffee. “You have a body that’s built like a tank, literally…” Arlecchino Martinelli flexed his right arm, watching the steel ripple. “…and I have my Leonine form. Doctor Straw is, well, straw. Give him a break.”

“Those kids barely have their powers and I became a strawstorm and I still couldn’t control them.” Doctor Straw grumbled. “Somehow, they ganged up on me.”

“They’re the remedial education class, remember?” Arlecchino said. “They’re irresponsible kids, not a grad school study hall. These kids aren’t used to knuckling down.”

“But you need to treat them like people, not like inmates,” Ezekiel said.

“Maybe you’re right,” Doctor Straw said. “After all, nobody ever said teaching kids at a High School for aspiring superheroes was going to be easy.”

“Tell you what,” Arlecchino said. “Keep your signaler on; if the kids become unmanageable, give us a call.  We’re not too far.”

“Darn shame Hypnos retired,” Ezekiel said. “Those kids wouldn’t give him any trouble.”

Hypnos had retired on the verge of having a nervous breakdown after a semester in A-21, Arlecchino thought. The year before they hired Doctor Straw and Ezekiel.

It was half-past one when the signaler in Arlecchino’s belt buzzed. He excused himself from his class and ran down the hall to Room A-21. He saw Ezekiel midway between his human and Leonine forms.

“They’re not there!” Ezekiel said. “The kids or Doctor Straw! The signal came from outside.”

As Ezekiel and Arlecchino ran outside, they were greeted by Doctor Straw’s voice.

“Heymph! Uffer hurrr! Uffr hurrr!”

Propped on the hood of a parked car, Doctor Straw’s straw head clenched the signaler between his teeth. He spat it out and glared at Ezekiel and Arlecchino.

“Don’t just stand there! Help put me back together!”

“What happened?” Ezekiel growled in his leonine form.

“What do you think happened?” Straw yelled. “Those kids happened! I turned into a strawstorm and one of them moved like lightning and scattered me all over the grounds! Too far for me to re-assemble by myself.”

“So what do we do?” Arlecchino asked, trying not to laugh.

“Go get the rest of me!” Straw snapped. “They threw my legs over there, and my arm over there, and my hand over there and my…”

And suddenly, the metal man and the lion began to laugh.

 

—end—

 

 

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