Rendering Unto Friday Flash Fics, August 2, 2019 by Jeff Baker

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Render Unto Caesar

By Jeff Baker

 

“The University is up in arms,” Inspector Maguire said.

“I know,” said Professor Carrolton, sitting down at a desk in the University laboratory.

“The Mayor is asking questions, they want the Police Chief fired.”

“I heard,” Professor Carrolton said, wiping his glasses. “That’s the problem with medium-sized towns; everybody knows everybody’s business.”

“The statue’s picture was in the afternoon paper and now the statue’s gone,” Maguire said.

“I’m amazed we still have an afternoon paper,” Professor Carrolton said.

The statue, a bronze figure of Julius Caesar, big as life and a lot heavier and with the face of one of the University’s major donors had been relegated to a far corner of the campus where it was boxed in by tall hedges and an old, chipped sidewalk. Professor Carrolton stared at the photo in the paper; it had been taken that morning, the picture had appeared that afternoon and someone had noticed the statue had vanished that evening. The picture showed the statue, stern and imperious with a young man, grinning ear-to-ear in a Millington University tank-top flexing his muscles until his watchband nearly popped off.

“You questioned the young man in the picture I assume?” the Professor asked.

“Brian Knapp,” Maguire said. “Yes, we did. He and the photographer both. They didn’t see anything. Nobody lurking around with a forklift. No helicopter hovering overhead. Knapp was in class from nine in the morning until three that afternoon. Then he had basketball practice. And the photographer showed me the timestamp or whatever they call it on the digital camera. Hate those modern things!”

“The paper gets zapped onto our e-mail if we subscribe but some of us get a print copy,” the Professor said smiling.

“Anyway, the picture was taken at about eight-forty-five, and the photographer was downtown at the newspaper office right after that and stayed there the whole afternoon.”

“The last person to see the victim.” Professor Carrolton said as he walked across the room to a table filled with identical flasks of identical cloudy liquid. “The world is full of mysteries. Like which one of these flasks did I hide my car keys in so nobody would get them?”

“You hid your car keys in there?” Maguire asked. “Well, I guess if it works for you.”

“You should try not using the obvious places sometime,” Professor Carrolton said.

“Well, nobody would steal them or even look for them in there,” Maguire said.

Professor Carrolton smiled. “I didn’t hide my car keys in chemicals. I wouldn’t. But you believed I would for a moment. People can be led to believe all kinds of things with the right set up. Let’s get a close up of that picture. Where’s my magnifying glass?”

Maguire pulled out his cellphone and brought up the afternoon Millington News on the screen.

“Oh. Right,” the Professor said, smiling again, “Zoom in right there. There. Yes. Oh. My.”

The statue was found where it had been wheeled on a hand truck by Knapp, the photographer and two others the previous morning. Whether it was a prank or a heist Maguire wasn’t sure. But the time on the digital camera had been set back a day to make it look like the picture had been taken Wednesday not Tuesday, so everyone would have thought the statue had been stolen Wednesday when Knapp and the others had airtight alibis. The close up of Knapp’s picture in the paper revealed the face of his watch, what the Professor called “one of those digital thingies.” The display clearly showed Wednesday’s date and the time eight-forty-three.

“It was simple, really,” Professor Carrolton said. Nobody gave a second thought to the statue or even noticed it was gone until that picture appeared in the paper, documenting that the statue was there until Thursday morning. Like I said, people can be led to believe all sorts of things with the right set-up.”

It was only when Professor Carrolton got out to the parking lot that evening that he realized his keys weren’t in his pocket.

 

—end—

 

 

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“By the Light of the Silvery Moon,” shining brightly on Friday Flash Fics by Jeff Baker, July 27, 2019

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               By The Light Of The Silvery Moon

By Jeff Baker

 

 

Manuel stared at the bulletin board.

“You sure this is right?” he asked.

“Positive,” Alonzo said. “I’ve checked those calculations dozens of times.”

The paper full of figures was tacked over the copy of the old hand-drawn map from fifty years earlier. Photographs of the scientists from long ago surrounded it along with a diagram of the original spacecraft.

“There can’t be that much space in the cities. From what I’ve found, there is probably a city underneath the catacombs beneath the cities we found fifty years ago.”

There had been two big shocks after the first manned Moon landing. First, what they had assumed to be craters were actually dust-covered remnants of cities that pre-dated the ancient civilizations of Earth, the Israeli Empire, the Chinese Kite Explorers, the grand Aqueduct system of the Roman Triumvirate. Second; the catacombs beneath the cities with evidence that the cities had been evacuated, not by some plague or war. South Amerigo had beaten the North to the Moon, but only because the Northerners had been preoccupied with the War their President and Co-President (Buchannan and Douglas) were waging against the natives.

“Catacombs,” Manuel said. “Everyone says the cities were built on top of the older cities. Now…”

“Those cities beneath were built after the ones on the surface,” Alonzo said. “And, if I’m right, it’s where the original inhabitants evacuated to.”

“And they somehow evacuated the Moon from there?” Manuel asked. “And maybe came to Earth?”

“No. At least I don’t think so,” Alonzo said. “I don’t think they ever left. I think they’re still there.”

The two of them stared out the window where the Moon was ascending into the sky, its silver glow illuminating a square of floor.

 

—end—

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’ve had a fascination with ancient empires and cities for a long time and noticing how the rims of Lunar craters resembled buildings made me want to write this story, my way of celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Moon landing. ——-j.s.b.

 

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The New Moon rises (ominously) on Friday Flash Fics by Jeff Baker for July 21, 2019 (way late again!)

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Yesterday, I Saw the New Moon

By Jeff Baker

 

I was between jobs but I was seriously considering staying in town when things went all fuzzy. I was walking down the sidewalk in a crowd of people when the crowd blurred suddenly. I could see two different crowds of people, one set walking through the other, both of them vague and transparent. I didn’t feel dizzy but I grabbed the nearest thing, the door handle of a diner, and walked in. The diner was bright, the windows big and clear and there were few customers and a man in a chef’s hat arranging things behind the counter. There was a black-and-white T.V. sitting on top of a refrigerator. I sat down at a table and closed my eyes for a moment.

“Whaddya have?” the voice said. I opened my eyes. The cook from behind the counter was standing there.

“Uh, coffee. Black.” I said, pulling a dollar out of my wallet. “That’s all I got,” I lied. Since I’d been on my own, bumming across the country I’d gotten into the habit of keeping all my cash in my shoe, in an envelope under the pad. I had about a hundred bucks from my last job and I was saving it as best I could. I was just glad I looked older than I was. I’d been giving my age as nineteen. That was a few years off. I glanced outside through the window; there seemed to be less people on the street than before. And the blurring transparent effect was gone. I rubbed my eyes. The T.V. had the sound off but they were playing that really short Bicentennial show from a few years ago. They’d played it every night, but wasn’t all that over?

“Hi,” said a high wavering voice. The speaker looked to be about 25 or so, standing by my table wearing a green button-down shirt with a large collar and blue jeans. Nice, I thought.

“Mind if I sit down?” he said. “I think you’re…like me.”

I indicated the seat across from me in the booth. He sat down and grinned.

“I noticed you when you wandered in.” he said. “I’m Ray. Ray Scott.”

“Bryce Going,” I said. We shook hands. His hand felt funny, like touching something when you’ve been shot full of Novocain. “What do you mean, ‘like me?’?”

“The wild side. The other team. The third sex. In the life.” Ray was grinning broader. “But then, you’re not like me too.”

Rather than deny it I asked how he could tell, not “what makes you think that.”

The cook brought my coffee. I sipped. It felt good somehow. Good and normal.

“I can tell,” Ray said. “I mean, now I can. It would have come in handy about nineteen-sixty-nine, let me tell you.” He looked right at me. “You saw two different streets out there, didn’t you?”

“Yeah,” I said sipping more of the coffee. “I thought I might be passing out or something.”

“Not passing out, passing through,” Ray said. “You know what a double exposure is?”

“Sure,” I said. I’d taken a Photography class from Mr. Anders in High School. The darkroom had been built to one side of his science classroom, blocking off the windows. I’d made out with a couple of guys in there. “Double exposure is when you print frames from two different negatives on the same photographic paper. If you do it right, you can make someone look like they’re a transparent figure in a real scene, like a…”

“Ghost.” Ray was grinning broader. “Look.”

Ray raised his hand and put it in front of the window. I could see a couple of the buildings through his hand. I sat there and stared for a moment.

“I’m dead.” I said. “I’ve had a lot of weird things happen to me, and now I’m dead.”

“Naaaa! You’re not dead!” Ray said. “But you stumbled into a world of the dead. But you’re alive so you can’t stay. This world will force you out.”

I let out a long breath. “Do I have time for another cup of coffee?”

“Yeah. Maybe two,” Ray said with a laugh. I ordered another coffee.

“So, what happened in sixty-nine?” I asked.

“I picked up this guy at the showers behind the pool one night,” Ray said. “When the pool was closed for the season that was a local pickup joint. We were supposedly going to his place but when we went down this alley two of his buddies jumped me. They beat me up and left me for dead.” He sighed. “Which is how I wound up.” Ray shook his head. “I wish I could still drink coffee.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. What do you say in a situation like that?

“So, enough about me,” Ray said. “What’s your story?”

I told him all about my folks bailing out on me and how I ran rather than be a gay sixteen-year-old in a youth center. Ray listened attentively and then looked right at me.

“Listen; where I’m at right now, time has no real meaning. I can glimpse things. You need to be careful.”

“I know,” I said.

“No,” Ray said. “You don’t. There’s something coming, something bad. It could kill you. You need to take precautions.”

Ray outlined what he could as I drank my coffee. I didn’t quite understand, but I did listen. And afterward, I knew it was time to leave. Ray grinned again and waved as I got up. I looked out the windows; still bright, late-afternoon sunshine. When walked out the door, it was dark. Early evening I thought. I looked behind me; the diner was closed and shuttered and probably had been for a long time. I saw a crescent Moon on the horizon, and I remembered an old poem I’d read once:

Last night I saw the New Moon

With the Old Moon in her arms

And I fear I fear my Mistress dear

That we shall come to harm.

 

—end—

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“Reverse Sweep” for Friday Flash Fics by Jeff Baker, July 13, 2019

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                                                          Reverse Sweep

By Jeff Baker

 

Eli was sitting in the hotel window wearing just a pair of jeans looking buff and tanned.

“Over there,” he said pointing. “I lived there about ten years ago.”

“Yeah?” Mack said.

“Back when I was going to school,” Eli said. “I was doing graduate work but I never finished it.”

“Life takes some funny twists,” Mack said, pouring himself a soda from the small hotel fridge.

“Tell me about it,” Eli said. “I really never expected I’d be back here and, and, oh boy…”

Eli stiffened, suddenly doubled over as if he’d sneezed. When he stood up again, he had long hair and a complete female anatomy.

“This has got to stop,” Eli said. “All the people who are paying money to transition and it happens to me all the time.”

“Yeah,” Mack said. “But I’ll tell you one thing.” He stepped over and kissed Eli. “It sure comes in handy that I’m Bi!”

“Mmmm-Hmmmm!” Eli and Mack kissed again.

“Hey, maybe you should start calling yourself Elinore?”

“Shut up and kiss me!”

 

—end—

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“Invasion of the Saucer Men” by Jeff Baker, for Friday Flash Fics, July 5, 2019

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                                               Invasion of the Saucer-Men

By Jeff Baker

 

“They’re coming,” Greg said. “And we’re the only ones who know it.”

“What do you mean?” Doug asked.

“See that over there? The cloud, looks like a big saucer?”

“Yeah?” Doug said.

“It is a saucer, perfectly camouflaged,” Greg said. “Even the lightning isn’t really lightning. No lightning rod will deflect what they’ve got. And the Army, the Air Force won’t be able to do anything. That thing doesn’t just look like a cloud, it acts like one. Not solid. Planes, bullets, bombs will fly right through it. And we’re right here in the CN Tower. Sitting. Ducks.”

Greg stared out the window. The cloud was getting closer; they could see the flashes of lightning.

“Moooooooooom!!!!!!” Doug yelled. “Greggy’s trying to scare me again!”

And doing a darn good job of it too, Greg thought.

“Honestly!” Mother said from the next table. “We get all dressed up, you too, we treat you like adults, let you sit at your own table at the restaurant and now this. Greg, you quit trying to scare your brother. And Doug, quit yelling. You two are nearly ten and twelve years old for Heaven’s sake! Honestly, if I ever thought…”

Greg sipped his glass of soda and tried not to smile.

 

—end—

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Out Of the Freezer for Friday Flash Fics, June 28, 2019 by Jeff Baker

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Introducing Dave Danger!

By Jeff Baker

 

I thought he looked familiar when he sat down across from my desk and handed me the sheet of paper. First of all, hardly anybody does this on paper anymore. Second, he was wearing old-fashioned slacks and a tan tee-shirt. Most people opted for the formal robe and short pants. Of course, he would have looked good in short pants. He was one of those blond guys who gets a good tan and I was thinking that and staring instead of doing my job.

“Uh, are you all finished?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “There’s a problem. It won’t let me fill this out.”

“What, the tabla rosa?” I asked.

He thumbed over at the row of computers on the table.

“I can’t fill out this jobs form on that computer thingie,” he said.

“That’s the tabla rosa. What seems to be the difficulty?” I asked, trying to be professional and not look at how his chest filled out the shirt.

“I keep, uh, typing in my age and this thing won’t accept it.”

“Okay,” I said.

“’Too many digits,’ is the thing that keeps popping up.”

“What’s your birthdate?” I asked.

“January Eleventh, Nineteen-Ninety-Seven,” he said.

“Nineteen?” I blurted out.

“Yeah,” the man said. “I was in the ice chest for a while. That makes me one-hundred and sixty-one years old.” He saw me staring at him and grinned. “Yeah, I don’t look it.

Three digits. The computer thingie keeps saying I need the form for retirement, not taxes.”

“Oh, my Gault!” I gasped out. “I saw you on the news! Disarming that gunman and falling out that window, and grabbing that tree branch! You’re Dave Danger!”

“I wish they hadn’t started calling me that!” the man said, extending his hand. “Andrew David Llewellyn Ethan Piltzer.”

“Alberto,” I said. “Alberto Arrango. Uh, I’m sorry about, uh”

“When I was a kid, they called it going all geeky,” Andrew said.

The story had been all over the place; a convicted icer (that’s what they called them) had been released and thawed when some evidence turned up. Said icer was a sort of, what did they call them, free-lance adventurer for hire. I was never that great at history.

And now, history was sitting across the desk from me.

“When they put me in the Ice Chest, back in ’26, they thought they were getting rid of me,” Andrew said. “Which I guess they did. Maybe they should have had me fill out forms instead. Might have been more effective.”

“What happened?” I asked. “If you don’t mind my asking.”

“I was set up,” Andrew said. “By a guy named Magnus Hawke. The irony, I guess, is that I’m about the only person alive who remembers that name.”

“Magnus Hawke,” I said. “I’ve known that name since I was in school. Master criminal, regularly thwarted by Dave Dang…by you, I mean.”

“They teach espionage history in school now?” Andrew asked.

“No, I studied all this after class. I guess I got obsessed for a while,” I said. “I would have made a lousy adventurer or I would have tried to get a job doing that.”

“Most of the time it only paid under the table,” Andrew said.

“Look, I’m not really helping,” I said. “I’ll send you a copy of form A67. That one covers, uh, extenuating circumstances.”

“Thanks,” Andrew said. He stood up and shook my hand again.

“Well, I won’t need this,” Andrew said, waving the paper in the air with a flourish. He seemed to specialize in flourishes, I realized. “But maybe you do.”

He pulled out a pen (with another flourish) and scrawled something on the back of the paper.

“Call me,” he said as he walked off. “Or text me, message me, contact me. Whatever they call it these days.”

He was grinning as he walked out the door.

 

—end—

 

 

 

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’ve been watching a 1960s British TV adventure show called “Adam Adamant Lives” about a Victorian Era adventurer who is frozen by his enemies and thaws out just in time to see (and be appalled by) Swinging London of the 60s. I couldn’t resist trying my hand at it.

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The Lake at Evening; Friday Flash Fics for June 21, 2019 by Jeff Baker

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The Lake at Evening

By Jeff Baker

 

“Look! The lake’s receding. It’s starting!”

I pointed across the darkening sky. The lights of the town on the other island were twinkling. I could make out the spires of a couple of the buildings in the dim light.

“I see,” Kendall said, putting his hand on my shoulder. As we watched, the water silently pulled away, leaving the firm ground exposed. A yearly phenomenon that exposed walking paths to the island. Not as important as it had been in the days before air skimmers, boats and bridges. But the festival on the island city remained a tradition from ancient times, though sources were unclear as to whether the original islanders were celebrating the island becoming accessible to the mainland or becoming inaccessible when the waters rolled back in three days.

“Want to go over there?” Kendall asked. “Take in the city? Buy a couple of cheap souvenirs?”

I grinned. “Weren’t we just over there the other day?”

“Yeah, but this is tradition. And remember, we were both over there five years ago for the Festival?”

I remembered. I’d been eating sanded lakefish, he’d just bought a mug of Sarga and asked if he could sit down at my table. We got to talking and had walked around the city, taking in the sights and the street shows. We’d kissed for the first time during the fireworks.

“Maybe tomorrow,” I said. “I like where we are right now.”

We stood there quietly. We could barely hear the music, drifting across the lakebed.

“Lakefish for lunch tomorrow,” I said. “With Sarga.”

Kendall nodded and held me close.

The stars were coming out as we stood there and hugged and kissed, the popping of fireworks in the distance echoing in the air.

 

—end—

 

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