The Parliament of Gulls. Friday Flash Fics by Jeff Baker for May 15, 2020.

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The Parliament of Gulls

By Jeff Baker

 

Since time immemorial, the seagulls have swarmed over the beaches, particularly near people, awaiting their food scraps or offerings of tidbits. But also, since seagulls took flight, there has been the Parliament of Gulls.

It meets rarely, for it is not easy for individual seagulls to co-ordinate travel to one point, even after the messengers, usually a swift-moving albatross brings word that the Parliament has been called, and representatives of the gulls must be chosen to convene and sit and hear and debate. Such was the time, one summer’s day.

“The matter before us is clear,” said the First Gull. “We have become too dependent upon the tall ones, They Who Walk The Beach.”

“They bring food,” said the Second Gull. “I am native to this very beach and I have benefited from our cooperation with the tall ones. We swoop and fly in a great tower and They Who Walk The Beach will throw food our way. Food is not always easy to find in this world.”

“There are fish,” said the Third Gull. “Readily available in most of the world’s seas and rivers. I myself have attracted fish with offerings of pieces of bread…”

“Bread deposited by They Who Walk The Beach,” the First Gull interrupted. “You have become dependent.”

“There is carrion,” said the Fourth Gull. “Death is ever-present with a ready supply of food. They Who Walk are just an addition to the world’s larder, a larder made for the race of Gulls.”

“There are others, remember,” said the Second Gull. “Bears, other birds, foxes…”

“There are no other birds save Gulls,” said the First Gull. “They Who Walk The Beach can destroy their fellows. They may one day destroy all of their race. Then where will we be if by that time we have forgotten all but how to perform for treats?”

“The young have their instincts,” the Fourth Gull said.

“The young have their hunger,” the First Gull said.

“We have adapted before…” began the Second Gull. Then they stopped. They could hear the crinkle of an opened bag; smell the tang of food bits. As one, they rose into the air, to swarm and drift above the Beach-Walker, and dive as she tossed the small chips of food.

 

—end—

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Progress Report by Jeff Baker, May 14, 2020.

Was lazy and well-fed and didn’t have any real intention of working on the WIP tonight (actually early this morning, around 2:00am) but I read through it and started re-arranging some of it. It exists in big chunks, labeled things like THEY FIND THE BODY, and INSERT HERE, and ENDING. (I do have the ending written at least!) Managed to fill a couple of plot holes. A lesson to writers to work on stuff even when you don’t want to work at it.

That’s all for now.

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Progress Report: May 11/12, 2020 by Jeff Baker.

Not much to report today: I proofread the Queer Sci-Fi column that needs to be posted. And I wrote the Friday Flash Fiction story for the week; probably influenced by my reading of some of L. Frank Baum’s short stories, especially the “Animal Fairy Tales.” As I said earlier, I have a longer story in the pipe also influenced by Baum’s prairie stories.

On the reading front, I have a few anthologies with some of Mike Resnick’s “Harry The Book” stories that I haven’t read. He wanted to put them all in a collection; it would be a short one, but it would be worth it. They are Runyonesque Sci-Fi, which could be a separate genre.

Also, I have NESFA Press’ collection of Walter Jon Williams’ stories from a few years back. I haven’t read a lot of Williams (although I think I saw him at Worldcon in KC a few years ago) and he is excellent.

Sad is the news that Marty Pasko has died: I first read his name in the letter columns of DC Comics in the early 70s, he went on to write for comics and TV. he was on social media, I wish I’d contacted him to say “Hi,” and tell him what an influence comics were on my budding writer’s imagination.

Didn’t intend to write this much, but that’s it for now.

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Caught a Goof! Progress Report May 10, 2020 by Jeff Baker.

Making serious progress on the historical mystery, just by plowing through it and not bothering to check through the MS for continuity, but I did tonight and I’m glad: I have our introduction to the suspects (soon-to-be-suspects) slipped in by having one character point them out to our narrator. But I earlier establish that they have all been together for several days! Phew! Tweaked it, fixed it! I figure I will have the first draft done by the end of this week (it’s Sunday right now!)

Also, I have been reading through two L. Frank Baum collections: “Animal Fairy Tales” and “American Fairy Tales.” I have a couple of things in the pipe influenced by these. “American Fairy Tales” was not well-received by the critics 110 years ago; probably because the stories that work play more like stuff for Unknown Magazine than little kids’ fantasies. “The Glass Dog” and “The Magic Bon Bons” are well worthy of being reprinted, and they have! (Baum probably drew on his stage experience for “Bon Bons,” he had been an actor as well as a writer.) “The Laughing Hippopotamus” was fun, but the original illustration shows a caricature of an African native which would not fly today. “Animal Fairy Tales” was assembled by Baum about 1918 and published posthumously. I mean, way posthumously: in the 1960s! “The Enchanted Buffalo” may be his best short-story, and I’ll give a nod to “The Stuffed Alligator” which I read in an anthology back in the 90s when I was trying to learn how to write short stories.

That’s it for now!

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Progress Report by Jeff Baker, May 9, 2020

Worked on the historical mystery short story tonight (okay, early morning.) Making a lot of progress with plot and the actual writing. Will need to do a major factcheck for historical accuracy as well as plot holes and the like. Otherwise it looks good.

That’s it for now!

 

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“The Further Adventures of Compost Boy,” by Jeff Baker. Flash Fiction Draw Challenge for May, 2020.

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(Note: The three prompts drawn by Cait Gordon this month were an Action/Adventure involving a silk garment at a Fandom Gathering. I actually had a sequel made to order for an earlier story. Here it is!)  

The Further Adventures of Compost Boy

By Jeff Baker

He’d posed for pictures, answered about a zillion questions, said his famous catch phrase about a zillion more times and signed probably about a hundred copies of his book: “Life In The Compost Pile, or My Life as Compost Boy by Benjy Howard” Now he had to go to the bathroom. He was glad he’d made sure this convention hall had a dressing room with a toilet. As he walked down the back hallway he realized he was answering all the questions in his sleep. According to his last two boyfriends, he was answering them in his sleep.

Which was easy, people always asked the same questions. Like;

What was it like playing a superhero on T.V. and being a real one in real life? (Answer: the studio paid to replace our costumes, in real life we had to do it ourselves: Silk capes aren’t cheap!)

How did you become a superhero anyway? (Answer: after I drank the experimental Ecco-Dominae serum by accident thinking it was gin. It was either pay for the serum or become a superhero.)

Whatever happened to your partner Captain Ecology? (Answer: he got sick of the grind and of replacing his costumes.)

Did you make a lot of money doing the show? (Answer: If I had I wouldn’t be doing all these convention appearances hawking a ghostwritten book, wearing this goofy costume.)

How old are you, really? (Answer: I’ll get back to you on that.)

Benjamin “Benjy” Howard, a.k.a. Compost Boy stared at himself in the bathroom mirror. Not bad, even considering the serum kept him from aging as fast. He looked like he was in his 20s, but still needed to work out. Not bad for a guy who was born in 1951. He grinned, the dark-haired kid in the mirror grinned back. Maybe that was the best thing about having been Compost Boy.

There was a loud crash from outside, accompanied by screams and maniacal laughter.

The worst thing was that supervillains kept finding him. Benjy Howard rushed out the back door. Just as he thought; somebody in a cape and globe-shaped helmet stomping a parked car into tinfoil. He’d hoped it was just an overenthusiastic cosplayer. Damn! Still, not his job.

The amplified voice reached Benjy’s ears.

“First I crush all the cars in this parking lot, and then I take over the world!”

Again, damn! A supervillain. Maybe he could slip back inside quietly.

“I will crush you, Compost Boy, as easily as I crush this Tarantula roaster!”

Benjy, alias Compost Boy, jerked into awareness; every muscle tensed for battle.

“My car!” Compost Boy shouted. He vaulted across the hood of the nearest car and did a mid-air flip. (“Thank you enhanced agility,” he breathed.) He landed with a CLUNK! In front of the masked villain. He stared down; he’d swiped the hood of his car and knocked off the antique hood ornament.

“I am Belaphrion,” he said. “Master of the force of inertia, mega-genius and future ruler of the world.”

“Register for the Primary, like everybody else!” Compost Boy quipped.

Belaphrion ripped off the hood of another car and used it to swipe at Compost Boy’s head, but he jumped over Belaphrion, landing lightly on the car’s roof, the green cape that matched his green tights falling over his head. He pulled the cape off his face in time to see the car hood tossed at his head. He ducked, but the hood clipped his right shoulder and he fell to the asphalt.

“Holeee FFFFF…” he started to say, then he bit his tongue; kids might be around. He’d be damned if he was going to spout out “Golly, Captain Ecology” again. You could get a plush doll of him which said it in his voice. He realized he was staring at a silvery object hanging in mid-air: he squinted. Enhanced reflexes tended to slow things down when he was hyper, like when somebody was trying to kill him. He recognized the silvery object as a metal hubcap and quickly rolled out of the way. The hubcap smacked the pavement where his head had been a moment later. He jumped up, only to see Belaphrion throwing another hubcap at him like a discus.

Compost Boy was ready. He jumped straight up, bending his legs under him in mid-air; the hubcap missing him by inches. As he fell back, he executed a pretty good kick, clipping Belaphrion’s jaw, as the villain darted his head back. The villain grabbed for Compost Boy who did another backflip onto the hood of another car, the villain’s clutching hand grabbing and ripping the hero’s cape. In that instant, Compost Boy glanced at his car and realized Belaphrion had been using his hubcaps like a discus, and his tires were flat; the rims ripped, the rubber torn.

“That costs money, dude!” Compost Boy snarled. Finesse be damned; he kicked Belaphrion in the crotch. Belaphrion doubled over and Compost Boy gave him a plain old punch.

In a few minutes, Belaphrion was laying on the ground, tied hand and foot with Compost Boy’s ripped, silken cape. Compost Boy pulled out his cellphone and called the police. He glared at the villain

.           “And the price of that cape is coming out of your pocket, dude!” Compost Boy said.

After the police left with Belaphrion, Compost Boy called his insurance company. Belaphrion had escaped from a maximum-security psychiatric facility; he probably wasn’t going to be held liable, and Compost Boy’s policy didn’t cover damage by super-megalomaniacs. He sighed. He’d better go back in and sell a few more autographs. As he walked back into the convention center, he saw a small crowd that had witnessed the fight.

They were applauding. Applauding him.

Compost Boy smiled to himself.

Oh well, he thought. I guess this day isn’t all bad.

 

—end—

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE: A follow-up to “Captain Ecology and the Cavern of Doom,” which appeared here and on Monday Flash Fics February 4, 2018. Click the tag to the right for “Captain Ecology and Compost Boy.”

 

Posted in Cait Gordon, Captain Ecology and Compost Boy, Fantasy, Fiction, LGBT, Monthly Flash Fiction Draw Challenge, Short-Stories, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A Little Bit of Progress for the Progress Report, by Jeff Baker. May 7/8, 2020.

Did more notes than actual writing on the mystery story (that’s progress too!) so I now know most of what’s going to happen. I just have to write it up. Also finished the flash fiction story for the May Flash Fiction Draw Challenge & will post it in a couple of days. It looks kind of goofy; there is no way I would climax a serious yarn like this, but the story IS kind of goofy! And I also sent off two stories to two different markets (both rejected stories, but still good, I think!)

That’s all for now!

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“Sojourn In Brooklyn” with Friday Flash Fics by Jeff Baker. May 7, 2020

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Sojourn In Brooklyn

By Jeff Baker

(A Bryce Going Story)

 

I hadn’t ever expected to see the Brooklyn Bridge again, let alone be back East but the job I had didn’t question my fake I.D. and they were paying me so I rode along in their truck to unload all the stuff. It was all legal (except for me) and they were paying me under the table so I was fine with it. I hadn’t been to New York since I was a little kid, driving up here one summer with my Mom and Dad when I was about nine. That had been about seven years ago, and I doubted we would run into anybody who knew my name wasn’t really Bryce Going. I wasn’t sure where any of my family here would be, as long as we didn’t go back to Philly.

“Too bad we weren’t here for the Bicentennial,” I said.

“Too bad, nothin’,” my boss said from the driver’s seat. “Bumper to bumper traffic, streets closed off, all to buy a cheap tri-corner hat from some cheap sidewalk salesman or a button from some girl who wants to sell ya something else. Trust me; you were better at home watching it all on T.V.”

Nat, the older guy lounging in the sleeper berth, laughed. They had taken turns driving since we left Colorado and I could have had worse company. Besides, they didn’t bug me with questions about “my girlfriend” so it was all cool. The job was pretty cut-and-dried; pick stuff up, drive it across the country and unload it at the destination. We did the loading and unloading ourselves. I wasn’t being too picky about pay but the money was good. We had won the bid, something that was new to me, and I wasn’t really ready to settle down anywhere. I’d slept through the part of the trip after loading all the boxes on the truck by hand. I was a little more used to it than I’d been a couple of months before when I’d started the job. But this was my furthest trip out from the home base in Boulder, Colorado, even though the boss I drove with had been out here in July, the month before.

We got there in the early morning and started unloading in the August heat. Fortunately, the loading dock had an awning and fans and there was a kind lady who kept us supplied with water. We were done by the late afternoon, and I sat on the dock with my shirt off, taking in the breeze and sipping water while my boss talked with the warehouse foreman and signed papers. I glanced around; some of the buildings in this area were probably about a hundred years old. Some of them even older.

“Okay, guys, here’s the news,” my boss said, folding papers and sticking them in his pocket. We’re going to eat and take it easy and head back tomorrow, but we’ll have to sleep in the truck again tonight. And we’ll be in this yard all night, they’ll lock the gate behind us but we’ll be safe. No problem for me; after being on the road for about a year, I was happy with sleeping in the truck, even if I’d had my turn in the sleeper berth the night before. Dinner was at a greasy spoon but it was turkey with all the trimmings as far as I was concerned.

The three of us sacked-out in the cab of the truck shortly after dusk, the windows partly open to let in the cool night air. I sunk down in the seat and dozed.

It must have been after midnight when I though I heard a noise. For an instant, I wondered where I was. I sat up groggily, just enough to look out the passenger side window. I thought I’d heard something. Then I saw a flash of moonlight on metal.

A rifle. Sticking up just a few feet from the window. I’d heard there were rough areas near where we were: Red Hook, somebody had said. That’s when I heard the noise again, that had woken me up. A gunshot. I saw a reddish flare in the dark. I ducked down and hit the floor of the cab of the truck. For the next few minutes I cowered there as I heard gunfire echoing all around us. It didn’t sound like it did on the T.V. shows; like a truck backfiring. It sounded, well, thicker somehow. Like it was coming from far away, but it was right outside. I glanced over at my boss; he was sound asleep. I heard Nat’s snoring from the sleeper berth. The gunfire went on.

When the gunfire stopped, I looked out the window and saw a couple of men in tall hats, carrying rifles running right through the fence.

I shuddered and huddled back down on the floor as the gunfire resumed again. I wasn’t sure how long it was before I fell asleep.

In the morning, I checked the truck. No sign of bullet holes. No sign of any disturbance at all. The Warehouse Foreman had arrived before we woke up and unlocked the gate. We were going to grab breakfast on our way out of the city.

“Hold up a minute,” the foreman said and walked back into the warehouse, emerging a minute or so later carrying three bottles of water. “My wife would never forgive me, she worries!” he handed us the water and my boss asked if he’d seen the celebrations for the Bicentennial.

“Yeah, Bryce here said he wanted to be here,” my boss said.

“They sure made it into a big production,” the Foreman said. “Traffic snarled up, half the city brought to a standstill. I’m just surprised they aren’t making a big fuss over the Battle of Brooklyn.”

“There was a Battle of Brooklyn?” Nat asked.

“Yeah,” the foreman said. “My Grandmother used to talk about hearing about it from her grandfather who heard about it from his grandfather who heard…oh, well. There was fighting all over this area for a while, right about this time of year and then they fought the big Battle of Brooklyn right at the end of the month, little more than a month after the Fourth of July. Then our troops retreated to Boston or somewhere. Exactly two hundred years ago.”

We drove back west and I stared out the window, wondering about ghosts that still fought long-ended battles with phantom weapons.

 

—end—

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Mystery Progress Report, May6, 2020 by Jeff Baker.

Worked on the mystery story tonight/this morning. Actually fixed a couple of little plot points. Progress! And, I finished the Flash Fiction story for Friday, titled “Sojourn in Brooklyn,” in which the wandering Bryce Going goes East and we find out exactly which city he’s from.

That should do it for now.

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Mystery and Progress Reports, May 4/5, 2020, by Jeff Baker

I realized that I haven’t been writing many mysteries in the last couple of years, so I wrote out a short list of some unfinished ones and plan to finish one or two by the beginning of Fall.  Did some writing on one of them and on the weekly flash fiction story for Friday. And I worked on the story for the Monthly Flash Fiction Draw Challenge. Very fortunately I have an unfinished story (part of a series) which fits all three of the draws (Location, genre and object.) Making it into a flash fiction (I only had about 300 words written in 2018!) is just a matter of finishing the tale and watching word economy.

As for it being part of a series, when I have a couple more, or one longer full-length story I may put them out as a ‘zine or chapbook. Nothing to lose!

That’s all for now!

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