My Second Anniversary Weekly Flash Fiction Post, for Friday Flash Fics May 25, 2018, by Jeff Baker.

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AUTHOR’S NOTE  from Jeff Baker: May 25, 2016, I did my first flash fiction post for Monday Flash Fics. (As I recall, a couple of days early!) I had been wanting to use this blog to regularly post fiction and promote myself, maybe by posting a serial version of a novel-in-progress as J. Scott Coatsworth has done (my novel stalled, glad I didn’t do that!) Instead I began posting flash fiction stories, one a week, (sometimes more!) with varying results. The best result being that I have exercised my writing muscles and maybe become a better writer as well as developing better and more regular work habits when it comes to writing. (Skills that would have served me well had I developed them and started regularly writing in College about 36 years ago!) I’ve written the weekly story when I was eager and motivated and when the words flowed as well as when I didn’t feel like writing. I’ve written standard stories as well as taken the advantage of the form to experiment with themes, styles (drabbles?) and new or series characters. Plus, I have written about a hundred stories, most for Monday and Friday Flash Fics, a handful for ‘Nathan Burgoine’s monthly flash fiction challenges and a few for submissions calls. A few of them are out in submissions right now, some originals, some reprints of stories posted on this blog. I owe a lot of thanks to Helena Stone, ‘Nathan Smith, Brigham Vaughn, Kelly Jensen, Elizabeth Lister and others too numerous to mention for their encouragement in maintaining these prompt sites. Again, many thanks!

            Ray Bradbury and Anthony Boucher were both believers in writing at least one story a week, although I usually don’t have time to pull off a full-length one each week, I hope they’d approve of my efforts and persistence.

            Without further ado, I turn this entry over to my occasional pseudonym and examine an entry from:

The Biffle Papers

By Mike Mayak

 

“All right, Mr. Biffle, where were we?” the interviewer said.

“Chicago, 1962,” Biffle said.

The interviewer riffled through his notebook. “You weren’t in Chicago in 1962,” he said.

“Oh. New York City then,” Biffle said, looking out the window of his penthouse.

1962, late spring, (Biffle said.) I had a cheap little walk-up in the Village, working a couple of jobs and getting by. Had a roommate who was in the theatre and in a drag show but he was never there, so I largely had the place to myself. And I kept to myself, mostly. I was working in a back kitchen straight out of a gangster movie when I met Rico. We spent our spare time wandering the streets, eating or ducking in somewhere for a drink and a new adventure despite both of us having to work second jobs at night. But we were young and tough; we’d both been in the Army in the late ‘50s,

“Uh, Mr. Biffle,” the interviewer said, “I think Rico Mangini was in the Navy. You were in the Army.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Biffle said. “Well we both wound up in New York, back when Greenwich Village was a village of dreams.”

That year we took it easy (Biffle said.) We spent our afternoons walking around the Village. We saw them tear down a section of the Highline over at Perry Street. We ate lunch in the shadow of the old Gothic building that had been City Hall and was now a Public Library.

One afternoon I got off work at my day dishwashing job and was gonna kill time with Rico until we both had to go to work that night so I walked over to where Rico worked to wait for him. One of the guys comes out of the back of the place, into the alley where I was smoking a cigarette and tells me ‘Your boyfriend never showed up for work.’ Well, Rico wasn’t my boyfriend, neither one of us was out. Not in 1962; but it wasn’t as much of a secret as you would think it was. They had no idea where Rico was, just that he hadn’t shown up for his shift and so he didn’t work there anymore.

I had a couple of ideas where he was; I found Rico in a bar rambling about how his life had gone down the toilet. I paid his tab, becoming officially broke and helped him out of the bar. Thank God I was bigger than he was because I wound up carrying him down the street to my apartment. It was closer and I had a key. And I was glad I’d done a lot of heavy lifting in the Army.

I managed to get him to walk up the stairs and he just staggered into the apartment, muttered “Thanks, Biff,” and collapsed on the couch (the only other furniture besides a table and two beds we had.)

That evening, I showed up at his night job and explained that Rico had been called out of town and couldn’t make it in and I was filling in for him.

“And they let you do that?” the interviewer asked.

“The guy who ran the kitchen knew me. He liked me. His boss was an idiot who was probably passed out on somebody else’s couch at that moment. Besides, the kitchen was short-handed even with Rico. Of course, in saving Rico’s night job I couldn’t show up for my own, so we were both down to one job apiece, so Rico moved in with me for a while. Saved money. Like I said, my official roommate was never there, so I don’t think he even noticed.”

“And this was all Greenwich Village, right?” the interviewer asked.

“Yes,” Biffle sighed. “I thought I’d made that clear. Greenwich Village, 1962. Maybe part of ’61, I’m not sure. Oh, well. It was almost sixty years ago. Turn off the recorder, we can do more later.”

 

—end—

 

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“The River City Chronicles,” J. Scott Coatsworth’s new book!

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“A group of strangers meets at Ragazzi, an Italian restaurant, for a cooking lesson that will change them all. They quickly become intertwined in each other’s lives, and a bit of magic touches each of them…Everyone in the River City has a secret, and sooner or later secrets always come out.”

River City Chronicles started as a serialized story on Coatsworth’s blog, set in Sacramento, California. The local paper favorably compared it to “Tales of the City,” likewise a story that began as a serial. River City Chronicles, however, includes a dash of magic. Done with Coatsworth’s usual style and sense of place, whether that place be the alien worlds of his Skythane series or in contemporary California, River City is a damn good read.

“River City Chronicles,” by J. Scott Coatsworth, is available for pre-order now. It’s worth it.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-river-city-chronicles-j-scott-coatsworth/1128593446?ean=9781732307506

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-river-city-chronicles-1

https://geo.itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-river-city-chronicles/id1381215078?mt=11

 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29246443-the-river-city-chronicles

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The Passing Parade—Friday Flash Fics by Jeff Baker, for May 18, 2018.

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            The Long Island to San Francisco By Way of Alexandria Blues

By Jeff Baker

I’d been staring at the parade for a while and my eyes were starting to frizz over. The drag queens and shirtless guys were starting to look alike. I glanced to my left and saw the folks at the other window. Three, no, four guys with a rainbow flag. I glanced above them; guy in a leather harness who had the virtue of being kind of buff. With another rainbow flag. I smiled to myself. I needed to work out. But I was in pretty good health for my age. I looked across the street, over the rooftops. Coit Tower was off in the distance, hidden by one of the buildings. I smiled. I remembered when the tower had been shiny and new, when the bridge had been just a fantasy.

I glanced to the left again; the youngish guy in a white t-shirt was staring over at us. I focused on the parade; a line of men and women in business attire were marching past, waving at the crowd.

“Oh, yeah!” came a voice from the above window. “Cubicle-dwellers! My people!”

I laughed along with several others. Good to see the Pride parade wasn’t dominated by the nudists and whackos that gave video ammo to the homophobes.

I heard a measured “thump, thump, thump” behind me. I turned. There was a guy in white t-shirt and jeans, the guy from the window at left. There was a thick cast on his right foot. He grinned at me.

“Sorry about the noise. I should be using that damn crutch but it makes me feel like Tiny Tim. I’m supposed to be marching in that parade, but I busted my foot a week or so ago. I mean, well, aren’t you Matthew Reynolds?”

He held up the book; “Missouri-To-San Francisco-by-Way-Of-Nevada: Mark Twain in the West” with my name underneath the photo of Twain.

“Yes,” I said smiling. At least it had been my name for the last several decades.

“I actually work in one of the offices here,” he said. “I had this book in my desk and I, oh gosh; I’m Barry Osaka.” We shook hands. “I recognized you from the book jacket. I loved the book by the way, and is there any way I could get you to, you know, sign this?”

I grinned again. “Seeing as how you bought the book and helped pay part of my cable bill, how can I say no? I didn’t just come here from Long Island to watch the Pride parade.”

After I signed the book we stood at the window and watched the parade. It was a beautiful, sunny day.

“Wow,” Osaka said softly. “It’s like, well, I’m thinking about…well…”

“People who should be there.” I finished. “Ghosts.”

“Yeah,” Osaka said. “I just turned forty, and I still remember the nineties pretty well. I grew up around here, and I lost a bunch of friends.”

I hadn’t been back here for years, but I still knew all about losing people. I sighed and smiled and closed my eyes, remembering the beautiful men from the decade I’d lived in Alexandria. But I still preferred the present.

I fished in my pocket for my cellphone.

“Zap me your address,” I said to Osaka. “I’ll e-mail you a picture of Twain and my great-great Grandfather the family had. Probably taken not too far from here, maybe around 1864.”

Definitely 1864, probably near where Market Street is now.  I thought as he tapped out his e-mail. I smiled again. This kid and his friends were the future.

 

—end—

 

 

 

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Murder Above the Clouds; May Flash Fiction Draw story by Jeff Baker

May 8, 2018: for ’Nathan Burgoine’s monthly Flash Fiction Draw Challenge. This month’s prompts; a science fiction story involving a dog whistle set “above the clouds.” This put me in mind of a sci-fi riff on “Burke’s Law” I dreamed up a few years ago. As good a time as any to pull the idea out of mothballs to tell the tale of…

The Murder of Cumulo Nimbus

By Jeff Baker

 

Cumulo Nimbus was one of the richest men in the solar system. But he was as dead as anybody I’d ever seen, despite the elegant surroundings. The place had cost a fortune, the bullets that killed him probably cost a lot less. I stared at the body; silk bathrobe, silk pajamas, tassled slippers. Seeming out of place on a floating platform designed to look like a cloud, several hundred feet off the Earth’s surface.

“No sign of the gun yet?” said Captain Aimes, Chief of Detectives of the Air Police, and my boss.

“No sir,” I said. “Little hard to find anything with the ground covered by this fake cloud stuff.” It wasn’t like dry ice but it did look like cloud covering the edges of the platform. The whole thing was the size of a huge yard, with the 18-room mansion at the center completing the image of a grand estate. Green grass and a fence around most of the property.

“Fence is a good idea,” Captain Aimes said. “Keeps somebody from sleepwalking off the edge. Didn’t help Nimbus much.”

Cumulo Nimbus wasn’t his real name, but he’d had the clout to keep his biography off the regular channels, but now that he was dead, the barriers were being taken down and details were being snapped up by newshawks.

“Ah, here they come,” Aimes said. “Right on time.” He pointed to the pad opposite the mansion where three small coupes were landing. “The grieving relatives and the lawyer. I called the lawyer as soon as I got here.”

“You called the lawyer?” I asked.

“The better to get the magpies up here,” Aimes said. “As soon as they found out Nimbus was dead and somebody was going to inherit his vast fortune.”

“Took them all of an hour to get here.” I said.

“Yes,” Aimes said. “And one of them was here before. Nimbus’ killer.”

The survivors of Cumulo Nimbus, nee Jake Hanlon, gathered in his palatial living room, watched over by the framed portrait of the deceased. We were quick to explain our presence and that nobody was supposed to leave until we were through. Tellingly, nobody asked to see the deceased. They were already arguing; Price Hanlon saying that his cousin Allen Boyd had almost run them out of the sky in his coupe with tinted windows.

“Who found the body?” asked an aging woman in vermillion. This was “Peaches” Melba Hanlon, Nimbus’ estranged wife.

“Nobody,” Aimes explained. “When his vital signs ceased, his saver automatically signaled the authorities.” I’d been using my saver to get a rundown on the suspects, ut the screen kept flickering.

“Speaking of savers, mine’s not working.”

“They don’t, at least not in the house,” said Price Hanlon. “Uncle Jake, uh, I mean, Uncle Cumulo had a baffler put in. Awfully hard to get a signal in here, and sometimes on the, uh, grounds. He was kind of paranoid.”

“It would seem he had a reason to be,” Aimes said. “But he still carried one around?”

“Had to,” said Melba. “His I.D., his credit. All those stories about Cumulo carrying around old-fashioned cards were baloney. He was an eccentric nut but he wasn’t that nuts.”

That was when one of the uniformed officers walked up to Captain Aimes, whispered something and placed a small object in his hand. Aimes looked at the object, whispered something else and nodded. And I thought he smiled. And then he asked everyone to step outside.

“When he struck it rich, Jake Hanlon took the name Cumulo Nimbus and decided to live above everybody else,” Captain Aimes said. “He added the cloud effects out of ego but it does lend atmosphere.”

“The only way he’d ever lend anybody anything,” Price said. The others laughed and so did I.

“As his only surviving family, you are all considerably richer upon his death. And one of you hastened that death,” Aimes said. “Jake Hanlon’s saver registered his death at 1100 hours. It didn’t take us long to get here and we had a clear view. No other cruisers or coupes in the area, according to the scans. But that didn’t make sense. Somebody had to get here today, kill Nimbus/Hanlon and, most importantly, leave undetected. The only conclusion is that someone got here much earlier and never left. Ms Hanlon, could you activate your coupe from here. Just to demonstrate something, please?”

Puzzled and dismayed, “Peaches” Melba Hanlon clicked on her saver and keyed in her code for her coupe. No response.

“You see, thanks to the baffler, remote activators don’t work. You would have to operate a coupe manually to arrive and to leave, unless you had an accomplice, to make it look like our killer had only just arrived and was not hiding here. And our killer, you will agree, had a perfect accomplice.”

Captain Aimes put the small object he had been handed to his lips and puffed his cheeks. Three things happened at once: One of the three heirs made a panicked run for the house, only to be tackled by a uniformed officer. Captain Aimes began telling how in the 21st Century home connection systems could be tapped into by sonics inaudible to human ears, “like this dog whistle,” simple enough to program a coupe to leave and then fly back here at an ultrasonic signal. Thirdly, the sight of  Allen Boyle’s coupe rising into the air, tinted windows hiding the fact that it was driverless.

“You know,” Aimes said when Boyle had been taken away, “I remember watching those ancient movies from, what, two hundred years ago, where someone would step out of a hotel, whistle loudly and get one of those old cabs right off. And you know, I never believed it until now!”

We walked across the yard to where the police cruiser was parked, clouds from the ground curling around our feet.

 

—end—

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“The Only Begetter,” Friday Flash Fics by Jeff Baker for May 11, 2018.

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The Only Begetter 

 

By Jeff Baker

 

“Hey how long do I…”

“Hush! Don’t move!”

“Okay, I’ll…”

“Uh! Uh! Uh!”

Willie sighed to himself. He shifted just a little in the chair. He talked without moving his lips. It came out. “Whurgga grro grffrmm?”

Dennis sighed and set down his paintbrush.

“Okay, what?”

“When do I go to the bathroom?” Will said.

“Now. Take five. We’ve been at this since nine,” Dennis said. “But hurry! I don’t want to lose the light from the window.”

“Yeah, that’s the one thing I’m not paying for.” Willie said. Yeah there were cheaper anniversary gifts, but after sharing anniversary dinners of cheap burgers, it was nice to do this.

He was lucky he’d remembered Dennis and that he was still doing portraits. Will wondered if he should have shaved off the beard. He stared in the bathroom mirror as he washed his hands. Nah, he thought, the beard matches the bow tie.

Five minutes to get Willie positioned back in the chair exactly right. Willie had made the mistake early on of saying something about Norman Rockwell working from photographs. Dennis had grumbled that he couldn’t work that way, not for something special.

“And you think Thomas is special don’t you? That’s why you want this for him?”

Willie had smiled and nodded.

“I read where Shakespeare dedicated; I think his sonnets, to ‘the only begetter.’ Everybody wonders what he meant by that. I think it was to the guy the sonnets were dedicated to, y’know. Not Shakespeare’s boyfriend, but the boyfriend of the guy who commissioned the sonnets. They’re really erotic and powerful and I’m glad I don’t write dangerous potent stuff like that.” Willie grinned.

“Okay, now, quit smiling,” Dennis said. “This should look good. Your anniversary’s when?”

“Next month…” Willie started to say.

“Don’t talk!” Dennis said. “We’ll have this done by then, but only if you don’t talk. All right?”

“Mmmmmph!”

“Good,” Dennis said. “You know, I heard when Michelangelo sculpted David he actually had the guy stand still for hours at a time, and wearing clothes, (he added the nudity in later) and when the kid’s parent’s saw the finished product they were shocked. All they wanted was a little cameo for their son’s graduation before he went off to make his fortune, but you know what artists are like, right? Well anyway, Michelangelo…”

 

—end—

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“To The Ends of the Earth,” by Jeff Baker. Friday Flash Fics for May 4, 2018.

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                                         To The Ends of the Earth

By Jeff Baker

It isn’t even like “The Jetsons.”

No moving sidewalks, no flying cars, no robots everywhere. I got a big payment (we all did) after “The Incident” (as they call it) that slipped the flight to San Francisco I was on ahead twenty years. The card the airline gave each of us gave us access to any cash we had left in our savings accounts (assuming we hadn’t been declared dead when the plane disappeared from radar back in 2018) and also gave us a large settlement from the airline. I was glad for the settlement, because the first part was pretty much worthless to me as I’d spent everything following Kyle to Japan and then back to the U.S. when I heard he’d left.

If only we’d gotten on the same plane.

I stare out the window. I’m amazed they still do passenger trains. I can at least afford that, the airline is giving the passengers a settlement. I spent the last month trying to track Kyle down. I even went to Greenleaf Produce, where he’d been working when we met five years, I mean, twenty-five years ago. They didn’t have any address in their files, and couldn’t give it to me if they had, but one of the managers (who had been a forklift operator when Kyle worked there) remembered me and gave me Kyle’s address off a Christmas card Kyle had sent the company about ten years ago. I’d gone to the address, an apartment, and had stood there for five minutes before I’d pressed the buzzer.

The woman who answered the door proved to me that women still wore hair curlers and kept cats in the year 2038. I asked if she knew a Kyle Carruthers, as I was thinking: please don’t be his wife, please don’t be his wife, please don’t be his wife.

She wasn’t. She said she didn’t know Kyle and she slammed the door in my face even as I was showing her the plane ticket I’d bought in 2018. I figured I had nothing to lose and nothing else to do, so I started knocking on the doors of the apartments on that floor and asking until I found someone who knew Kyle. It took me about an hour, but I lucked out. I found somebody who’d known Kyle when he’d been living there. And, yeah, they got the address with a Christmas card.

That’s why I’m on this train; it’s about the last thing I can afford after using the rest of the airline’s money to search for Kyle. I called him up. Yeah, called him. Something simple and it worked. He was living out in Colorado. We talked. A lot. For about a month and a half. He had been married to a girl he’d met, he was bi after all. He got divorced a few years later. He blurted out that the problem had been she wasn’t me. (I actually blushed when he said that!) So, I got on the train and moved out there. Of course, there was an age difference, something there hadn’t been the last time we’d been together. I was glad I’d been a couple of years older; it meant I was now only about eighteen years younger than Kyle.

The instant I kissed Kyle we knew all that wouldn’t matter.

So, I’m out here to stay and we’re happier than we’ve ever been. Of course, I was flat broke, but I won’t be for long. My kid brother (who now has a son who’s eighteen!) had my car put in storage when I disappeared. He said he couldn’t bear to look at it. It’s still in my name and it still works although, of course, they don’t let me actually drive it anymore. But I go around with it to car shows and somebody made me a pretty good offer for it. I guess I didn’t waste my time restoring the thing we found in a barn just out of high school. I laugh sometimes at the idea that I own the last ’57 Chevy since they took all the cars off the road. And that an eighty year old car that still runs would be a cash cow.

Enough cash for Kyle and me to honeymoon somewhere. Maybe Illinois.

I’ve always wanted to see the East Coast.

—end—

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE: A lot longer than it should be, but this is a slightly disjointed version of a story I started writing for a theme anthology I found out about right before the deadline. The theme being that a jetliner en route from Tokyo to L.A. gets in a time warp and lands in the L.A. of 2037. I figured someday I would re-do what I had and write up the full story, but for now here it is. I am too much a romantic not to want to present this version of this tale!  

 

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“The Miracle of the Palm Tree,” by Jeff Baker for Friday Flash Fics, April 26, 2018.

30708617_10157445579381110_4740399120345940865_n                  NOTE: A sequel to “The Flight Into Egypt,” a Monday Flash Fics story from a few weeks ago.

                                       The Miracle of the Palm Tre

By Jeff Baker

I spent my seventeenth birthday on the road, walking across a railroad bridge with images of Bill Bixby running through my head. I’d gotten off the bus at the last town, not wanting to ride back the way I came. Fortunately it wasn’t too warm or cold and I was still headed west. But I was getting hungry. I’d bought lunch and a dinner roll in the little town and while I still had money stuffed away in my shoe and the money belt I’d bought there was no place to buy anything to eat. I was beginning to realize I’d made a big mistake not finding a bus that would just take me across country. I probably could have afforded that but I didn’t want to be broke again.

Besides, I really didn’t know where I wanted to go.

I hopped off the bridge and looked around. Then I saw what looked like a water tower in the distance. Worth a chance. I started to cut across a field of some growing stuff that was up to my hips. I didn’t know what it was, maybe tall grass, or if it was supposed to be growing this high this early. I was a city kid. I’d thought following the railroad tracks had been a good idea.

I’d walked a ways across the field when I saw the first man, just standing there. There was another man ahead to my right. I hadn’t noticed them before.

“Uh, hi!” I said. “I’m kinda lost. My name’s Bryce. Bryce Going.”

No reaction. I got closer. His eyes were closed. I reached out and touched him. He gave just a little. I squeezed his arm. No muscle. No firmness. I liked muscle and firmness in guys, but this wasn’t it. Somehow the man was hollow. Like the cardboard roll under the toilet paper. As if something had somehow taken out his insides. I heard a rustling behind me. I turned.

The grass was twitching and almost parting behind me as if something was burrowing or crawling behind me. The thing that had propped up the two now-hollow men. I had nowhere to go but forward. I ran.

I glanced back. It wasn’t the wind. It was coming after me just beneath the grass. Ahead I could see the distant water tower. I was breathing hard. I looked back again.

I tripped. I was sprawled in the grass. The thing was coming. Hungry.

I remembered. I felt in my jacket pocket. A dinner roll wrapped in a napkin. I threw it where the ripples in the grass were, where the thing was. It stopped moving. I heard a crunching.

I felt sick but I got up and ran. I didn’t look back. In another few minutes I was at the other edge of the field. I stood there on a gravel road and looked back, my lungs burning. No sign of movement. Maybe the thing couldn’t follow me outside the grass.

I saw a sign ahead, one of those green signs pointing towards a town. I was going to get there, find something to eat and find a way of getting away from here.

I could see the little town as I got closer. To me it looked like a refreshing oasis with the water tower as a palm tree.

 

—end—

 

 

 

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