Friday at Demeter’s Bar: “Shine on Harvest Moon,” by Jeff Baker. Friday Flash Fics April 20, 2018

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Shine On, Harvest Moon

(A Demeter’s Bar Story)

By Jeff Baker

 

The sun was streaming through the back window at Demeter’s Bar as the old man sipped his drink and started talking about genetic engineering.

“We were a lot more knowledgeable about science a few millennia ago,” he said. “There were ancient peoples that adapted themselves to exist in other environments. For example, why travel across the ocean when you can build a civilization under the ocean? That’s where the legends of mermaids and mermen come from.”

I sat at the end of the bar and gave a wink at Zack, the cute bartender with the long red hair. He seemed to be paying attention, but I knew better.

“Where did you find out about genetically-engineered mermen?” I asked, glancing at the poster on the wall of the stud of the month, wearing nothing but a purple G-string.

“Long ago, I used to go swimming with mermen,” the man said.

Yeah, that explains it, I thought. He went on.

I was eighteen years old and just out of school (the man said.) It was the summer of 1958, and I was living on the East Coast. Working at a resort in the evenings and exploring the beach and the occasional obliging man during the day. Not that my life was something out of a book by Greenleaf Classics. It was on one of those beach explorations that I heard the music, coming from an area I hadn’t been to before, mainly because of the rocky part of the coast. Nonetheless, the music seemed to draw me to it. Bell-like chords that seemed to echo. I rounded a rocky cliff and saw a group of nice looking, muscular young men out a ways in the water singing and harmonizing. Before I knew what I was doing I took a couple of steps forward and fell several feet down into the water, which thankfully was not shallow. I was lucky I didn’t hit my head but I had the wind knocked out of me. I was sinking to the bottom, stunned when I felt hands pulling me swiftly to the surface. I gulped air and stared at the quickly receding shoreline. I was being pulled out to sea with great speed! After a few minutes we stopped and I was let go as a voice said “You’ll be all right. Just tread water. We won’t let you sink.”

The voice was right, and I was able to catch my breath and get my bearings. We were a ways away from shore and I was able to examine the young men who had pulled me to safety. They were young, muscular and of various races and I was too stunned to be cautious and openly ogled them. They laughed, explaining that they were well able to tell my proclivities and they lived in (as the put it) a country where such things are not shunned but taken for granted. When I asked them how they were able to get this far from shore so fast, they laughed again and several of them flipped over in the water revealing that, yes, they all had fish tails, like an ad in the back of an issue of a very racy magazine the Mattachine Society would recommend.

In answer to my questions, they explained that their ancestors had been able to evolve themselves to live underwater and had founded a great civilization.

“Atlantis?” I gasped. This was greeted with more laughter, and they explained that the legends of Atlantis predated the mermen’s civilization, and may have been just legends. Nonetheless, the mer-people could live underwater and had keen senses and their voices had the power to attract land-dwelling humans with their less-developed senses, which was why I had been compelled to walk into the water, as they had been singing too close to the shore and I had been in earshot. They then revealed their great ambition; to take the greatest music of all back to their people. They had heard it from the beach, young men harmonizing. And they demonstrated with their version of what they had heard and I was stunned to realize that I was hearing mermen performing barbershop harmony! That was their other dream; to perform for humans. But, as they could not walk on land and as their singing would draw people hypnotically to them it seemed an impossible goal.

For the rest of the afternoon, the mermen and I frolicked, kissed, sang old songs I knew (I taught them “Shine on, Harvest Moon,” and several others) and swam at incredible speeds with me happily in tow until the sun began to dip towards the horizon and my new companions deposited me on the rocky shore and bid me farewell for now.

The next week, the last of the resort season, it stormed so I couldn’t get to the beach and by the next summer I was in the army. When I finally made it back to the beach, years later, the rocky area had been torn down. They were putting up a bridge from there to one of the islands. I had no way of knowing where the mermen had gone, and no real way of finding them. I certainly couldn’t put an ad in the local paper asking if anyone knew the whereabouts of a group of singing gay mermen, could I? Not even in the supposedly liberated 1960’s.”

The man finished his drink and stared off into space.

“And you never saw them again?” Zack asked. In spite of himself he’d been listening.

“No. But I did try,” the man said. “I’ve spent countless vacations combing beaches listening for that tell-tale harmony. And just to be safe, I watched every episode of ‘The Ed Sullivan Show,’ hoping Ed would roll a big tank on stage and introduce a singing sensation from near Atlantis. And, speaking of water,” he held up his glass. “Scotch and water. Again. Thanks.”

 

—end—

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Something for Friday the Thirteenth (okay, actually a week earlier) for Friday Flash Fics, April 13, 2018 (Friday, of course!) by Jeff Baker.

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Friday’s Child is Full Of                                       

                                                                  By Jeff Baker

                                      

            “You’re kidding!” I said. “You’re not going in to work today because of the date?”

            “I’m not kidding,” Oscar said. “And I freelance; I really don’t have anywhere to go.”

            “If it was Friday the thirteenth, I suppose I could understand, but the sixth?” I said.

            “I’ve never had anything bad happen to me on Friday the thirteenth,” Oscar said, “but I’ve had a lot of things go bad the Friday before. Friday the sixth.”

            “So, you’re staying here?” I said. “In the apartment? All day?”

            “I’m not even going to go near the window,” Oscar said.

            “All the better to keep a gang of shadowy boogiemen from grabbing you and dragging you out into the street,” I said.

            “Lucaaaaas,’ Oscar said teasingly.

            “Well, I does sound silly,” I said sitting on the edge of the bed pulling on my pants. Oscar may have been skipping work, but I sure couldn’t. “I mean, you are the least superstitious person I know. Certainly the least superstitious I’m married to.”

            Oscar leaned over and kissed me. “Awwww! You are so sweet. But better safe than sorry.”

            “Remember how we met? You were in that diner, it was two in the morning and you were telling that story about taking the pictures of that burning building?” I said.

            “Oh, yeah,” Oscar said grinning.

            “And you hadn’t noticed your pants leg had caught fire,” I said. “And you were…”

            “I was sitting there at the counter and I stuck my leg out to show the girl behind the counter my singed jeans,” Oscar laughed. “And I didn’t see you there!”

            “Yeah, I walked right into it and almost tripped!” We kept laughing and lay down on the bed. “Anyway, the guy who does stuff like that shouldn’t be hiding out from the date.”

            “Better safe than sorry!” Oscar said, holding up one finger. “You sure you can’t stay?”

            “I’m sure,” I said kissing him. “I’ll be back this afternoon. I won’t be late!”

            “How ‘bout lunch?” Oscar asked.

            “Sure. Why don’t we meet at…oh, that won’t work,” I said. “I’ll bring us a couple burgers.”

            “Okay,” Oscar said. “Love you.”

            “Love you,” I said opening the door. “Happy Friday!”

           

                                                                —end—

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All roads don’t lead to Rome; Flash Fiction Draw story for April 9, 2018 by Jeff Baker.

NOTE: The results of ‘Nathan Burgoine’s Flash Fiction Draw for April were a dirt road (setting), historical fiction (genre), and rat poison (object.) I have another note following the story, but here’s what I came up with; 

Murder on the Via Tullius

By Jeff Baker

It is a privilege to live around Rome, the most advanced city in the world. Not so much to work for Xanthus, even if he did pay me well. He had to; they didn’t call him “Xanthus the Misanthrope” for nothing. But he was rich and if he wanted to explore the roads and towns around Rome and drag me along as servant, secretary, what-have-you, I wouldn’t object.

We had walked so far away that the road wasn’t even paved. What I wouldn’t have given to be in a nice liter or chariot on the Appian Way. But no, we left the chariots behind to see “the real world.” Xanthus is as rich as a king and smarter than any scholar and yet he does things like this. It was almost fun at first, realizing that I was being paid to ride around and listen to Xanthus babble on about the Appian Way “a magnificent stone structure where there was nothing a mere fifteen summers ago.” But the walking, kicking up dirt and dust from the road, even when I knew there was a town ahead, was not how I wanted to spend my time. By now, Xanthus was rambling about our current destination; “the Aqua Tullius, the marvel of the age! Flowing, drinkable water moved to this dry region by the miracle of Roman ingenuity!” As he said this, he casually pulled off the bag he’d been carrying on his shoulders, his share of our provisions and handed it to me. I grunted as I re-arranged our bags on my shoulders. I wasn’t his slave, something most people assumed. Most slaves would not put up with Xanthus.

I had to admit, looking up at the stone archways supporting the aqueduct, it was amazing. Still in operation after all these centuries. And the dirt road had given away to stone. This was the fabled Via Tullius, a road whose reputation was far overshadowed by the Appian Way’s fame, even though it was far older, built toward the end of the rule of the great King Servius Tullius. Over to one side of the road were bushes and a villa or two.

And underneath the bushes was a man, face-down on the ground, a wooden pail at his side, a large ladle clutched in his hand. Not moving. Not breathing.

Xanthus stood over the man and stared.

“Clearly a landowner, a merchant of quality, certainly not a slave or servant.” Xanthus said. “Look at his tunic. Its length goes just below the knees. Not the garment of a working man or slave. Note the quality of the fabric. Also, it and his hands are clean. This man went out to get water and something happened.” He bent down and sniffed the bucket. He stood up and wrinkled his nose. “Sulphur. They use it to kill rats. The bucket smells of it. My guess is, someone intended to kill him, or maybe others. He must have been unwittingly drinking the stuff for days. You need a large quantity to get rid of a man that way.”

My mouth felt dry. I stared at the dead man in the warm sun. I prayed to Jupiter, Apollo, and the goddess Xanthus seemingly never listened to; Minerva. I did not want to be in this little town, Aqua Tullius or no and be blamed for possibly one killing while Xanthus tried to solve it like a puzzle a tutor would propose. The idea of winding up dead ourselves was one I found even less appealing.            Xanthus looked around and for one awful moment I thought he was going to start calling out for help, but instead he pointed back the way we came and said “This way.” For once, I followed without qualm or reservation.

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE; not sure whether this is a story or part of a chapter! Anyway, I’ve been wanting to write about Xanthus the Misanthrope, rich and annoying, and his unnamed narrator since dreaming them up for another (unwritten yet) story some time ago. This month’s draw gave me the unexpected opportunity to play with these characters and the world of 290-something B.C.

                                                                        ———Jeff Baker

                                                                                  April 5, 2018

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

Closeup for Monday Flash Fics., April 2, 2018 by Jeff Baker

29572294_10156160113379787_8914551438874050938_n                                        I’m Ready For My Close-up Mr. Del Fuego                                                                                                                       By Jeff Baker

 

            It was about 11:45 at night and Oscar was sitting on the edge of our bed with his camera, still talking about what had happened earlier in the day.

            “I was standing there out in the street by the police car y’know,” he was saying.

            I knew. He’d told me this story about four times earlier. Oscar free-lanced but mostly he took pictures for the local newspaper and a couple of news websites. Usually he didn’t bring his work to bed with him.

            “I’d gotten a call about three-thirty this afternoon,” Oscar said. “This girl, well woman, was on the fourth floor of her apartment building. She’d barricaded the door shut and was out on the ledge outside the window threatening to jump. Uh, Lucas, I told you this before, didn’t I?”

            I nodded. I was standing in a corner of the room in my jogging shorts, leaning against the wall, watching my husband jumping around as he was telling the story and loving every minute of it.

            “Okay,” Oscar said. “The cops had called their psychiatrist and he was trying to talk to the girl. They weren’t getting anywhere. I was staying back; I’d already gotten a couple of pictures. But they were getting nowhere with the girl. Then the psychiatrist grabs me and says to the girl ‘If you want your picture in the news, we have the photographer right here. But you’ll have to come down here, right?’ And the psychiatrist looked at me pointedly.”

            “Umm-hmmm,” I said, looking at Oscar and grinning. I loved him like this.

            “So, naturally I held up my camera and said ‘yeah.’ And after a minute, the girl went back inside and came downstairs, with the cops who were waiting outside here door. I did take her picture, but the thing is they said I was probably instrumental in saving somebody’s life.” Oscar shook his head. “Me, Oscar Del Fuego! Can you believe that?”

            I could believe it.

            “Let’s hit the sack,” I said. “It’s late.”

            We were pulling up the covers and Oscar was still talking.

            “I mean, I helped pull that kid out of the river a few years ago, but usually I’m just taking pictures after something happens and, and…I’m rambling, aren’t I?”

            “Yeah,” I said, kissing him and snuggling close. After a few minutes, he sat up in bed.

            “I’m not getting to sleep any time soon,” he said.

            “Well, I don’t work tomorrow,” I said. “And unless they call you in, you don’t either. We can watch a movie.”

            Oscar started laughing. He pointed at the T.V. “You know what’s on at midnight, don’t you?”

            “What?” I said.

            “Rear Window.”

            We both started laughing again.

 

                                                —end—

 

 

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Magic at Night for Friday Flash Fics, March 30, 2018, by Jeff Baker

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The Sphere

                                            By Jeff Baker

                         

            “I saw a blue light under Magnus’ door last night,” she said.

            “Blue light?” he said. “You’re sure?”

            “I’m sure,” she said. “Blue light.”

            “How old is he now?  Thirteen? Fourteen?” he asked.

            “Oh, you know! Fourteen. He was thirteen last year!” she said.

            “I know. I know,” he said. “Did you scan into the room?” he asked.

            “Of course not!” she said. “It’s just, well, you know.”

            “Scrying. By himself.” He sat back in his chair and smiled. “Any idea what he’s looking at?”

            “I said I didn’t peek,” she said. “What did you look at when you were his age?”

            “Oh, you know. Fourteen-year-old things,” he said. “Magnus will find he can’t get past privacy shields on most houses.”

            “I’m sure,” she said with a smile.

            “Where did he get the sphere? The one he’s scrying with?”

            “I don’t think it’s one of the school ones,” she said. “I don’t think they let those out.”

            “Making one or improvising one isn’t all that impossible,” he said.

            “When I was his age, maybe a little older, I think I used a punchbowl we had,” she said. “I filled it with water and spilled it all over the floor when I actually got a picture.”

            “What did you look for?” he asked.

            “Believe it or not, I don’t remember,” she said with a smile. “Except that what I got wasn’t what I tried to home in on!”

            “I actually tried for the Moon, if you can believe that,” he said. “My Dad was one of those who didn’t believe in teenagers utilizing what he called ‘an adult skill.’”

            “Adult skill,” she sighed. “I remember when Magnus was learning now to crawl, then walk. Now he’s scrying. It all goes too fast!”

            “I know,” he said with a smile. “But there’s no one better to be a parent than you.”

            “Or you,” she said. They leaned across the coffee table and were about to kiss, when they heard the voice.

            “Uh, Mom? Dad?” Magnus was standing there, barefoot, in pajama bottoms looking very worried. “I was kinda, well, trying to scry with one of my old marbles. We’ve been doing stuff like that in school and I…well…”

            “What?”

            There was a creak from upstairs.

            “You might want to come see. Fast.” Magnus said, pointing towards the stairway.

            The three of them rushed into the next room and stood and stared up. At the top of the stairs at the back of the landing was the doorway to Magnus’ room. Filling the doorway and growing larger, pushing against the doorframe was a huge, glowing crystal sphere.

            “I had a little trouble,” Magnus said apologetically.

            “They grow up fast,” his father said.

            “But not too fast,” his mother said.

            The two of them tried not to laugh.

 

                                               —end—

             

           

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Alone in the Big City; Monday Flash Fics for March 19, 2018 by Jeff Baker

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The Flight Into Egypt                                                                                                                                         By Jeff Baker

                                   

            I was on the street from the time I was sixteen until the time I was nineteen. I was probably lucky; I didn’t get abused or killed or turned in to the youth authorities. But I slept on the street, I ate out of garbage cans, stole food when I could and tried to steer clear of the cops.

            My Dad had disappeared when I was twelve. My Mom left four years later. I came home from school and she just wasn’t there. I didn’t want to wind up in a boy’s home or something, so I cut out, and somehow got a ride to the big city. The first day wasn’t bad. I hung out at the mall, ate in a sandwich place and looked at the guys. But the place closed and security ran me out and I was out on the street. I’d spent all my money on dinner. I spent the next few hours wandering around the city and going into convenience stores to use the toilet. I wasn’t sure what time it was but it was still dark. I thought I heard somebody walking behind me. I tried not to look, but I turned a corner in an area of old, brick buildings and walked faster. I glanced behind me; I didn’t see anybody but I ducked into an alleyway between two buildings and hid in the shadows.

            The air was stuffy. I could hear my heart beating. I couldn’t hear the footsteps. I looked around; the walls were brick and the darkness somehow seemed syrupy; the bricks weren’t just in shadow, they were dark and shiny like tar. And they were moving. Not dripping or oozing but pulsing. In a rhythm. I looked closer. The dark part of the wall was damp. It had been dry for the last few weeks, all over the state. I reached out to touch the black wall and then pulled my hand away. I looked ahead; pitch dark. I looked back the way I came; the blackness was closing in over the passage, like a curtain being drawn. Or like a throat constricting.

            I could see part of the lit street. I ran and dove for the light. Somehow I found myself on the sidewalk. I heard a slurping sound behind me. I glanced back; the opening to the alleyway was black and pulsing. I ran. If there had been a car coming it would have run me down. I don’t remember a lot else about that night, other than my new certainty that parts of some cities are alive.  I showed up at a shelter the next day and lied about my age, probably a lot easier to get away with thirty-five years ago. Stayed there for a few months, runny oatmeal for breakfast, sleeping on a mat, in my clothes, wallet-under-rolled-up-jacket as a pillow, being shooed out after breakfast, being let back in in the evening. That next spring I’d had enough. I’d gotten some money so I bailed from the city. I didn’t head back home, I headed west. I worked. I stayed out of trouble. I lived someplace other than the streets.

            And I was careful in the big cities. I knew the shadows hid more than punks with knives.

 

                                                    —end—

 

Posted in Bryce Going, Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Monday Flash Fiction, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Christmas in…March???!! Friday Flash Fics by Jeff Baker for March 16, 2018.

28951386_354126738418237_836919504846979072_n                                                                        Green Not Alone in Summertime 

By Jeff Baker

 

 

“I think it’s early,” Silvio said. “Way too early is why.”

“Of course it’s early,” Mitchell said. “But I didn’t want to wait until July or August this year.

“March is way too early to take Christmas card pictures,” Silvio said.

“Says the man who ordered his nephew’s Christmas present last week,” Mitchell said.

“This way we have it out of the way early,” Silvio said. “Besides, I found it in the storeroom this morning. I had to move it out of the way, so no sense letting it go to waste.”

“Hey, you’re not thinking of wearing those shorts are you?” Mitchell asked.

“You mean that underwear with Santa on it?” Silvio said. “Sure. If I lose a bunch of pounds and go to the gym ‘till I look like some buff gym bunny.”

They both laughed.

“Jeans and sweaters?” Silvio asked? “Not Christmas sweaters.”

“Deal.” Mitchell said. “Just make sure the sweaters don’t clash with the tree.”

“Now that sounds gay,” Silvio said. “Besides, the ornaments don’t come off this tree. It came that way, remember?”

“Oh, yeah,” Mitchell said. “I’m almost tempted to do something like in that book you got me last year. You know, where the guy was on his own and got a different ornament for his tree every year, to sort of symbolize the year.”

“We’d have to get another tree,” Silvio said. “And this apartment really doesn’t have room. We barely fit the couch in, remember?”

“Yeah,” Mitchell said. “And after we got it in here we collapsed on it, remember?”

“Mmmm-Hmmmm.” Silvio said, kissing him. They moved to the couch for a few minutes.

“Hey, I have an idea,” Silvio said. “Let’s pose in the buff, covered by the tree!” They laughed again.

“And we only send that card to us. Maybe get a couple of boxes with Santa or the wise men to send to everybody else.” Mitchell said.

“Deal.” Silvio said. “I feel like some egg nog now.”

“No rush, they won’t start selling it for about eight more months.”

 

—end—

 

Author’s Note: The title is from “Oh Christmas Tree.”

Posted in Christmas, Fiction, Friday Flash Fics, LGBT, Uncategorized | 4 Comments