Thursday, December 31, 2009

Knitter's World

A response to "Aurélia's Oratorio".

Karen stood on tiptoes so she could see in the back of the merchant's wagon. At first, all she could see were the slat boxes stacked until they brushed the canvas ceiling, but then she saw the merchant, a short man with a wiry beard that descended to his waist. Karen said, "Excuse me sir, I'm looking for a ride to Xander." She spoke slow and hoped that the merchant might know her tongue.

"I'm no sir," chuckled the merchant. He jumped down out of the wagon and went from towering over Karen to now looking up at her. "What is a northern girl like you doing down here?" His accent was better than the other merchants Karen had queried.

"I've got business in Xander," said Karen. It was a lie, but she doubted the merchant would help her out if she told the truth.

"There is a war going on between here and Xander. A pretty northern girl like you shouldn't be down here."

She looked at the distant hills and the wind blew several strands of blonde hair into her face. She looked back square into the merchants brown eyes and asked, "Why are you crossing a war zone?"

The merchant laughed and held out his fist so that Karen could bump it. "I like you girl. I've got a bum wagon and a bunch of goods that aren't worth much over here but will make it worth my while to travel to Xander. My name is Jamaal."

"Come over here and look at this," Jamaal walked to the side of the wagon near the wheels and leaned to point under the wagon. "This axle isn't going to last much longer. If it goes out, the caravans going to leave us and that will leave us alone with the soldiers and it won't matter whose side they're on. I won't be able to help you then." Jamal looked her in the eyes and didn't smile and asked, "Do you still want to go?"


"Do you have anything of value to pay for the passage?"

"No," said Karen. "I do have these knitting needles," she held up a pair of ebony needles that were dark as midnight, "I could knit you some socks if you'd wish. But I don't have any yarn."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Degree Decapitator

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "A Matter of Degrees" in Mirror Shards.

"Behold, Bartlett," said Doctor Geisteskrank as he pulled back a dark green silk cloth with mud flecked edges from the back of the pygmy pig. "Truly, this must be my greatest moment of triumph yet!"

"Isn't it a little early to be making judgments? Of course, you might be right. We're not running for our lives, that's somewhat of a triumph for you." Doctor Geisteskrank's eyes bored into Bartlett like a consumer grade red-ion laser without enough power to burn the skin but might blind one's eyes. Bartlett looked away and said, "I'm just saying."

"Those who follow the steps of failure will find true triumph."

"Eventually." It wasn't so much the doctor's red-veined eyeballs -- they were pretty much always red -- but rather the flush that flashed across the doctor's forehead that warned Bartlett that he might be pushing Doctor Geisteskrank too far. "So what is it?"

"Behold the world's first heat pig."

"Heat pig?"

"You've heard about that global warming thing. How the oceans are getting warmer and the climate is going to change. Some former vice president made a documentary on this, what's his name?"

"Al Gore. But, you said it's all a crock of nonsense."

"Ahhhh, you've been listening to me." Oops, big mistake thought Bartlett. This might go to the doctor's head. "It is all a sham to make a select few rich and powerful. But why shouldn't we be that select few."

"Hmmm..." this could only end badly. "So what does the pig do?"

"It sucks the heat out of the air. The environmentalists will go wild over a natural air-conditioner."

"Where does the heat go?"

"I don't know. It shouldn't matter, we'll be rich and powerful by then."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Watching Through the Peephole

A response to RJ Clarken's "Monday Manhandling" in Flashy Fiction.

"Williams, we have another one," said Boss Perry over the intercom.

Williams switched to the LittleBrother application and scrolled down the active monitors until he found the row that blinked red. "Got it, boss."

"This one's coming from that farmhouse down in Paso Robles --"

"The one where the sensors drop out just a few hours after activation?" asked Williams.

"You got it. If you get anything definitive -- scratch that, if you see anything even a tiny bit unusual, give me a call even if I'm in a meeting."

"Okay, boss."

Williams maximized the video coming from the sensor placed his hands behind his head and leaned back with his feet rested on his desk. This one sure was a squeaker. He could see the healthy pink gums and only moderately yellow teeth working over the sensor's protective covering. William suspected he would have gone mad if the sensor had been hooked up for audio, but instead he just watched the silent video feed. Of course, there might be a clue if they got audio as well. Williams made a note to submit his idea of audio feeds into the corporate suggestion box. It wasn't a great idea, but you couldn't tell what ideas BizDev might decide to use and Williams could score some points with Sylvia if he got the bonus.


The video feed went dead black. Williams replayed the video segment. One second there was teeth gnashing and the next blackness.

Williams double-clicked Boss Perry's icon in the chat application. "Hey boss, the feed's dead."


"Yeah, it took less than fifteen minutes."

"Was it defective?"

"I double-checked the post-manufacture inspections but can't find any flaws or other leads that might indicate a weakness."

"Anything else?"

"Not really. Didn't even get a good view of the subject, just some brown and black fur. But boss, it looks like a small breed."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Hell Pigs

Michael laid back in the hammock and closed his eyes. He had an old book in his hand, "The Hunt for Red October", but it was too hot even in the shade to read and instead he listened to flies buzzing around his head over the drone of people sitting in their air-conditioned cars driving down the streets. Michael felt calm almost ready to fall asleep. He had a lot to do but the lack of wind resulted in a lack of motivation.

"Michael?" It was Kathy and it sounded like she had too much energy. The screen door slammed and even though Michael knew that he should get up and work on one of his chores, he stayed in the hammock almost in sleep's embrace. "There you are. What are you doing there?"

"I was almost napping."

"What about mowing the lawn?"

"It's hot. I'm collecting my energy before I get started."

"So you need it a little bit cooler?"


Kathy twirled -- Michael could smell her scent, a touch of jasmine -- and she headed back to the house.

"Hey, where are you going?"

"To take care of the heat so you'll mow the lawn. Be right back, honey."

Michael didn't like the sound of that. How could one get rid of this heat? Days like this just weren't any fun. However, Michael knew Kathy and she would find some technical hocus-pocus that would backfire on them. He was awake now, and worrying. He might as well mow the lawn.

Michael had only finished mowing half of the backyard with the manual mower when he heard the snap of the backdoor and Kathy's arrival with a small pig squirming in her arms. Michael let the handle of mower drop to the ground. It didn't matter that there had been no rain because Michael was sure his sweat was providing a good drink to the grass. "What is the pig for?" asked Michael.

"It'll suck the heat out of the air." Kathy set the pig down in a patch of mowed grass and patted its shoulder blades.


"It's a hell pig. I bought it down at Ken's Bio Shack, in town."

Michael walked over to the pig and felt a breeze stirring that seemed to be blowing right at the pig. He reached down to pat it like Kathy had, but she yelled at him instead.

"Don't touch him now. You'll burn yourself."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Who Wants to be an Emperor

A response to Casey McCormick's "Tuesday Prompt" in Flashy Fiction.

Charlie and Regis stood on the top of the wall that surrounded the pit of the Coliseum. Fifty Oompah-Loompahs waddled in quick runs to collect the scattered short swords, whips, and clubs that could be found around the ring. The crowd was screaming and yelling in a constant roar that made it hard to think and Charlie could see heads bob behind Regis as they did a human wave.

"Some of our audience may be just joining us," said Regis into his microphone which projected his voice across the Coliseum and over the roaring crowd. "Charlie has just completed his eleventh challenge and will win the prize of leading one of Rome's armies as its general or he can attempt the final challenge and if he wins become Emperor of Rome. For your last and final challenge, you will face fifty Oompah-Loompahs in a battle to the death. Few people have won the chance to become a general, and no one has become Emperor. Do you wish to attempt this final challenge?"

"Yes, can I use my final lifeline?" asked Charlie.

"Certainly, who would you like to call upon?"


"Through the help of the sorcerer's guild, one of our sponsors, we will bring Grawp here."

There was a flash of yellow light and a stench of sulfur that Charlie could smell even up on the edge of the pit walls. The yellow-tinged smoke dissipated in the center of the Coliseum to reveal a giant at least ten times the size of the Oompah-Loompahs. The giant's hair stuck out in a tangled mess as if he'd never combed it.

"Yaworr," yawned the giant as it pounded its chest with fists the size of an Oompah-Loompah.

"Welcome, Grawp. You are now on Who Wants to be an Emperor. Charlie here," Regis waved his hand that wasn't holding the microphone at Charlie, "has used a lifeline to ask if you will help him in his final battle. Will you agree to fight with Charlie?"


"Is that a yes?"

Grawp vigorously nodded his head.

"Well, Charlie, it looks like Grawp will join you in your final battle. Are you sure you want to battle for Emperor rather than settling for general?"


"Is that your final answer?"

"Yes, this is my final answer."

Monday, December 21, 2009

Trump Beast

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "On the Debate Floor" in Mirror Shards:

“The Senator from Arizona is out of line!” said Chairman Gordon.

“I demand the right to speak,” growled Senator Krantz.

“I invoke Rule 714-point-3,” said Gordon. He rose, his hand rising to the shimmering talisman at his neck.

“So be it.” Krantz narrowed his eyes and stepped from behind the podium. With a sharp gesture, he snapped the ruby off of his tiepin. It flared with crimson light, and the phoenix burst forth in a gout of flame.

Gordon clutched his viridian stone and the winged saurian form of his own guardian emerged, hissing. “Let us now debate!” he cried.

Gordon's dinosaur chased Krantz's phoenix through the dome of the Capitol building. The Phoenix glanced over its shoulder and spat a column of flame back at the dinosaur that deflected off the scaly hide, but the fiery blow left a scorch mark and seemed to slow the dinosaur in its chase.

Gordon and Krantz stood at the bottom of the room nothing between them and they paced around in circles. The Phoenix landed another blast upon the dinosaur and Gordon staggered with beads of sweat trickling down his bald forehead. Sen. Krantz screeched at the ceiling in a high-pitched caw that caused the other senators to cringe. The Phoenix flipped around in a barrel-roll twist that took it from fleeing from the dinosaur to a still glide. The Phoenix echoed Sen. Krantz's caw.

This time the flame came long and searing and the rest of the senators felt the air burn in their throats as sparks fell upon them leaving ash like black snow and scarred desks. The dinosaur closed the distance to the phoenix while not all of the Phoenix's flames reflected off the scales causing them to glow a pale orange. The Phoenix exhaled back and forth but the dinosaur shimmied so that its chest received the full brunt of the flames instead of its wings. With one final wing beat the dinosaur closed the distance between it and the Phoenix and it swiped a claw in an arc that came down diagonally across the Phoenix's breast leaving a trail of bloody feathers. The Phoenix's beak closed around the dinosaur's neck as the dinosaur's legs windmilled churning up a flurry of flying feathers. Both creatures hurtled now towards the ground as they concentrated more on each other and trying to keep themselves aloft.

At the last second, the dinosaur disengaged holding its wings out flat and coming to land hard. The Phoenix never got its wings open and crashed to the floor. Dazed.

Chairman Gordon looked down at Sen. Krantz who had fallen to the floor. However, Gordon's eyes were glazed and he leaned to one side as if he was going to fall over. One of the other senators, a first-term nobody from South Dakota, ran forward to place his hands upon the chairman letting his life energy soak into Gordon.

Gordon perked up and his eyes sharpened. He shouted, "As I said, the senator from Arizona is out of line!"

Sunday, December 20, 2009


A response to Deb Markanton's "Twas the Week Before Christmas" in Flashy Fiction.

It all happened years ago, but the memories come back to haunt me every Christmas. I'd flown to Sweden with Anna, my fiancée at the time who had relatives who lived over there, and we found ourselves in Umeå -- the middle of nowhere -- with no money left. We'd left her relatives to wander through what they call a Julmarknad. It was a perfect place to get a feeling of Christmas when you didn't have any money or at least it would have been if we'd known to look for the älvkors or elven crosses.

It was only early afternoon but already the cloud-covered sky dimmed towards darkness and the wind rifled through our puny American jackets. The booth filled with scarves and stockings looked inviting. An old man with his head stooped like a daisy following the setting sun approached us and we wished we had money for warmer clothes. Many of the booths had älvkors in front of them, but not this one.

"Welcome," said the old man, "I've got the warmest clothes in this market." He spoke to us in English. They all seemed to know that we were foreigners before talking to us. "Can I help you?"

"No, we're just looking," I said, because we had no money. The scarves enticed with their thick wool threads.

"Ahhh, but you are cold. Wouldn't your lady look beautiful in one of these scarves? And they will keep you warm."

"No, we're fine," I said with my teeth chattering.

"No money? That doesn't matter. I haven't met many Americans up here and if you sign my book over here, I will give you one of these scarves gratis." He hobbled towards the back corner of his stall and pulled out a book the pages yellowed and brittle. His smile disarmed us. "Sign here, my little godis," he said. Under his breath, he muttered, "Du kommer att bli min."

We signed of course, and the scarves were as good as he said. Or even better, because just the addition of the scarf was enough to make the cold go away. It wasn't until that evening that the mörkt älvor -- their skin black as a moonlit night -- came to take us away. We had signed our names into thrall and it took Anna's relatives much work to break us free. Those days were filled with pain and I am thankful that their memories haunt me just during the Christmas holidays.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Lions, Tigers, and Bears

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Infinite Possibilities" in Mirror Shards.

Dodd walked along the shore of the lake that was so large that the shimmering surface of the lake stretched out so that all he could see on the other side were the distant mountains silhouetted against all of mankind's thoughts and desires etched across the sky. Dodd thought on what the old man had said. Anything was possible.

Even the return of his dead wife? As if in answer, a woman walked along the shore with her hair dark in the dim light -- but Dodd knew that it had to be red -- with ends that curled back as if they were shy. Amy. He ran towards her and pulled her into an embrace, which lasted long and erased the last six months of pain or at least pushed them away for a moment.

They spent time together, but how much Dodd didn't know because the dim heavenly light never changed. It could have been only hours or could have been days, years, or centuries. They made love many times with her smell woven through him. But, nothing they did left any mark of permanence upon the lake or its shore.

Eventually, Dodd returned to the old fisherman without Amy and asked the old man, "How do I get back?"

"The same way you got here the first time."

"No, how do I return to my normal life?"

"You just have to want it deep down and click your heels together three times." The old man checked his line while keeping an eye on Dodd. "Why would you want to go back?"

"Have you caught any fish?" asked Dodd.

"No --"

"Exactly, you can't change anything here," said Dodd as he started to click his heels together.

"Ahhh... but I see and know everything."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Hunting the Shifted

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Shifter" in Mirror Shards.

Barb entered the dimly lit bar and nodded at Ross Mullins who sat at one of the tables while a half dozen other FBI agents scurried around like fleas on a mangy mutt. An agent standing near the door, someone Barb didn't know, turned to stand in front of Barb with his fists on his hips and said, "The bar is closed."

"Don't mind her," said Ross. "She'll be discreet, besides she's done us a favor in the past." The agent at the door let her pass and Barb walked around the edges of this working man's bar. The FBI agents in their crisp suits clashed like mud-flecked plaid on a society girl.

"As I was tellin' ya, I'm sure the girl's the one ya lookin' for," said a man, obviously the bartender, who sat across from Ross.

"How are you so sure?" asked Ross.

"Man, I ain't lost my marbles in my drink. She's been on all the milk cartons and plastered across TV news. Besides, it's kinda unusual for a guy to bring a little girl in here."

"And that's when you called us?" The bartender nodded. "You never recognized the senator?" Someone sneezed and Ross glared at the offending agent.

"Fuckin' chad. Haven't voted since the farce of an election back in 2000. Don't care about those piggies, they never done me any good."

"It doesn't matter if he can't identify the senator," said an agent with a laptop who sat at a nearby table. "I've got a positive match with Sen. Coulter's fingerprints on this glass."

"Okay men, we're done here. Time to bring down the senator," said Ross. Instead of leaving with the other agents, Ross walked over to Barb. "So what brings the vulture here?"

"Not a vulture, a hunter." Barb stood straight like an iron rod, and wished she was a little taller so she didn't have to look up at Ross.

"Okay," Ross smiled, "why is the Hunter here?"

"Looking for Philip Cortez."

"The shape-shifter?"


"Well, good luck," said Ross who followed the other agents out of the bar. Typical man, thought Barb, couldn't put one plus one together if his life depended on it.

The bartender still sat at the table.

Barb smiled at the bartender and asked, "Did the girl drink anything?"

"Yeah, why?"

"Do you mind if I have her glass?" Just like the sun would rise tomorrow morning, Barb expected to find Philip's fingerprints.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Scottish Sheep

A response to RJ Clarken's "Monday Maffle" in Flashy Fiction.

"What are you doing here?" I asked the stuffed sheep Dmitry had given me, which sat upright on its tail with its legs wrapped around the lamp's brass base. Of course, the sheep didn't answer me, it was stuffed. Of course, for that matter, it shouldn't have been able to move either. I carried the sheep back into the sitting room and set it on the shelf next to my Harry Potter books.

Dmitry held his smartphone in his hand and squinted at a webpage or book he was reading while outside snow skipped across the moor.

I plopped down in one of the antique chairs whose cushions were lower than was comfortable. I asked, "That sheep keeps moving from his place in the bookcase. Would you have anything to do with that?"

"Huh," he looked up and blinked at me for a second, "the sheep? No, haven't touched it."

I shivered. I trusted Dmitry, but that meant that the options left -- out here stranded miles away from the nearest person on the moor -- were unsettling.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Warroom

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Falling on my Head" in Mirror Shards.

General Myers paced the bottom of the amphitheater like a hungry wolf in a zoo where the enclosing pen walls have just disappeared. Soldiers stood at attention with their eyes locked forward and they didn't move like marble statues. Flatscreen monitors covered the wall behind the general.

"The enemy is insidious. We do not have accurate intelligence to collaborate the hypothesis that the intelligent water has been afflicted upon us by the enemy. But, who else would do this?

"These water creatures can only be terminated in nuclear power plants. Flames and high temperatures excite their molecules and the creatures fly throughout the containment zone. We don't need to kill these water creatures, we need to smash the enemy." The general scanned the troops as they stood at attention motionless.

A voice in the back said, "Whee! Time to report." A corporal frothed at the mouth and the soldiers near him backed away creating an obvious eyesore like a pimple on Heidi Klum.

"Didn't your orders instruct you not to consume water or other liquids for the last 24 hours? Get that man out of here and into the brig."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

God of the High Mountains

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Lord of the Greenwood" in Mirror Shards.

Garci Rodriquez de Montalvo, god of Kali Forno, climbed to the granite summit of one of the peaks that overlooked the ten kilometer long valley of the great scar. He clasped his son's hand and helped him scramble over the last jagged edge almost as tall as the little boy.

"Look at all of this," said Garci as he waved his hand at not just the great scar but also the rocky foothills that led out to the barren hills and dead grass valleys that undulated all the way out to the ocean. It wasn't much, not enough trees, thought Garci. "One day it will be all yours." Garci tousled the boy's hair.

"But why do I have to go?"

Garci didn't want to tell him about an old man's mistakes. Instead, he said, "The gods there tricked us and stole your inheritance. When you cross the great river, you'll see powerful trees unlike anything we have here. If you can conquer some of that land, you'll eclipse me like this peak over that valley below."

The boy was silent and together they looked at the sparse granite landscape punctuated by pine trees. The boy asked, "What if they kill me?"

"Remember what I taught you," said Garci. "Do not confront them directly but use your cleverness. The blood of the Amazons runs thick in you."

"I'll miss you. I don't want to go."

Garci knew that he would miss the child as well but he couldn't join the child's battles because his brother would know him if he set foot in the East. He rued the day that he had agreed to take the western lands and leave the eastern riches to his brother.

"Must I leave now?" asked the child.

"Yes, my son, you must go now before the power of our trees -- a power that wanes every day -- leaves me dead."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Golden Trousers

A response to Suzanne Young's "Friday Funkday" in Flashy Fiction.

While organizing the attic, I found it. It was a simple lock. For such an intricate box -- plated in gold, way heavier than its size indicated -- the lock was far too simple. Like it was asking to be opened. He wasn't home yet and besides even if he got home early from the office, which was not likely, she would hear his throaty Corvette arrive home with plenty of time for her to hide her snooping. The metal loop that interlocked with the box's clasp was thin like a willow branch and I imagined that I could break it with a single yank. Of course, it would have been obvious that she had snooped. Yet, he wouldn't have used such a simple lock if he truly wanted me to stay out of the box.

I didn't leave the box very long, just long enough to grab a bobby pin from the bathroom, but it felt heavier when I returned and placed it in my lap caressing the gold inlay. I may not have picked a lock since high school, but that didn't mean I had forgotten the technique. The lock clicked open and I discarded it without a glance. I'd know what the contents were soon. I paused before opening the lid. When I opened it, I merely found a dusty pair of golden trousers. They were filthy.

Coughing at the dust, I took the trousers downstairs to the laundry room and when I checked the pockets just before throwing them in the wash, I was surprised to find a handful of gold coins. I dropped the coins in a bowl and left them on the dining table.

When you came home that night, you shrieked from the dining room. I ran downstairs to hear you yelling, "Where did these come from?"

"The gold coins?"

"Yes." He stalked towards me a coin in his right hand.

"They were in trousers I found up in the attic."

"Gold trousers?" He was close enough to kiss me, but didn't.


"Where are they?"

"In the laundry room."

He ran to the laundry room and screamed, "They're being washed? They'll never work again." Of course, they wouldn't work until they'd been cleaned. "We're ruined." Ruined?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ectoplasmic Defender

A response to Heather Hansen's "Tell the Story" in Flashy Fiction.

"Why is my toothbrush wet?" asked Jimmy's mom who was silhouetted against the incandescent light in the hallway.

"Wet?" Jimmy squirmed under the flannel sheets that had started to pill from too many washings.

"Don't act innocent, no one else is here."

She wouldn't believe him, she never did. Perhaps, if he kept quiet she would just go away. But she didn't, the light from the hallway still snaked around her and flickered across the scattered toys as she fidgeted.

"You know I don't like it when you use my toothbrush."

"I'm sorry, Mama. That monster I told you about, the balloon blob, bubbled out of my closet and chased me through the house. I just got to the bathroom in time and grabbed for a toothbrush."

"Why a toothbrush?"

"Because the balloon blob can be hurt by the tiny brushes on the end. I got there just in time to grab the brush and slammed it down on the balloon blob and it vanished away." Jimmy's mom continued to stand in the doorway. "You did wash the ghostly goo off the brush, didn't you?"

"I wish you wouldn't lie to me." Jimmy's mom turned and walked down the stairs. Another green glow grew from the closet. Not another balloon blob, thought Jimmy.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Broken Windows

Response to Pia's blog post "When magic yarn turned into socks":

She writes about "Pojken med gulbyxorna”(The Boy with the Golden Trousers). Based on a Swedish book about a boy who finds a pair of pants in a storage and then discovers he is able to get an infinite amount of money from the pockets of said trousers.

"This isn't a good place to play baseball," said Rafael. "The house over there is too close."

Rafael was right, thought Nick. But, the city park was a long ways away and this vacant lot had been recently mowed and the freshly cut grass called out to him. Even better, the lot had a chain-link fence running along the house across from Ms. McMurtry's house.

"This'll do," said Nick. "Besides, we're not playing baseball we're just practicing pitching and hitting." Rafael stared Nick in the eyes but didn't say anything just as Nick had expected.

The fence rang as one of the balls got past Nick who had swung hard and expected to hit a line drive towards shortstop. Rafael picked up another ball and threw a soft curveball that cut just before Nick connected with his bat. The ball flew high into the blue sky and crashed through a second-floor window in Ms. McMurtry's house. They heard a high-pitched scream come from the house. Nick and Rafael scrambled to pick up a couple nearby baseballs, grabbed the backpack, and ran from the vacant lot.


Nick went into the shed behind his house and looked at the gold pants hanging from the rafters in the back. He stuck his hands in the pockets and pulled out two $20 bills. He hoped that would be enough to replace the window. He taped the $20 bills to a baseball -- crinkling the edges of the bills a little bit. He pulled out another $20 bill and wondered who he might bribe to leave the baseball on Ms. McMurtry's porch. Sam might be a good choice, he would appreciate the money yet was trustworthy enough to actually deliver the baseball without stealing the money.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Response to Dana Goodyear's New Yorker article, "Lady of the House":

Its chapters are organized by color: camellia, wisteria, vermillion; pyrite, alabaster, onyx; cerulean, tourmaline, peridot. The front door was open; sunlight splashed across an inlaid floor of Emerald-green quartzite and Calcutta marble.

Hank raced across the waves of the bay in the sailboat Empress of China while concentrating on manning the rudder and trimming the sails as he headed out to Fairview Island. As the boat cut through the waves kicked up by the winds squalling past the Marin headlands, the boat spit up salty splashes into the air and cold water soaked through Hank's linen shirt. Hank wasn't a fan of sailing. This meeting with Casper Agnew better be worth it.

The water calmed when Hank reached the lee side of Fairview Island. The noon-day sun felt like the heat from a black Rolls-Royce after a quick jaunt. Fairview Island was small, a bunch of craggy rocks and a handful of trees. The only spot to beach the Empress was on the sandy beach this side of the island where a motor boat was already anchored.

Hank dropped his own anchor and swam to shore. He was dripping salty water -- he felt completely out of his element for this meeting. He saw Casper stride forward from where he had been sitting on one of the rocks already dry.

"Hank, it's good to see you again," said Casper as he stuck out a hand. Casper wore a light violet silk shirt.

"Now about that Bhutan job," said Hank as he shook hands with Casper whose grip was strong. "I hope you're not desperate."


"We need to do the job right. It will take time."

Casper pulled a cigar out of his dry shirt pocket and Hank wondered again how Casper had arrived on the island dry. Casper said, "The deadlines the deadline. We can't change that because too many other things are dependent on the Bhutan job finishing before the deadline. If you want more money, I can get it."

Friday, December 4, 2009

My Speed Date

A response to Suzanne Young's "Friday Funkday" in Flashy Fiction:

"Anywhere?" I asked again. "You're sure about that?"

"I swear, if you go out with me, I'll take you anywhere."

I had written him off after the first glance but now I turned to scrutinize him. He wore a sports jacket that bulged out at the chest over a striped and wrinkled button-up work shirt and blue jeans that were just a little too pristine. His voice and swagger sounded like money to me, but he looked like a cubicle junkie. I could play his game, but wouldn't commit. "Would you take me to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre to see a play and then dinner at the French Laundry?"

"Yes." He didn't bat an eye.

"Have you made this offer to every woman in this room?"

"No," he said shuffling in his chair. "Only you."

He didn't look like a consummate liar, but this had to be his second lie. I upped the ante. "What about lunch on the moon?"

"Done. Second date." No blinks.

"Breakfast on the sun?"

"It will be more like breakfast in the sun and I will have to adjust your molecular structure, but should you wish, it can be our third date." He leaned forward at the table.

What if these weren't lies? What was the worst that could happen? Good theater and an awkward evening. Hmm... this had possibilities. No one ever said I let opportunity pass me by.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Lesson

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Dead Inside" in Mirror Shards:

“I look at the trees, green and growing, and I see a ruin of skeletal limbs, black bark against a stark white sky. Winter, forever. Or, worse, just a stump. Nothing left at all.” He wouldn’t meet her eyes. “It’s the same… with everything. Inside, there’s a death, clawing its way to the surface. Inevitable.” His hands wrung each other, pale fish writhing in a sunless well.

“Look deeper,” she said. She held out the bit of spongy wood she’d taken from the trunk. The soft white bulb of a mushroom clung to its surface. “Just a little deeper inside.”

Deeper, he thought, his skin crawled with a scratchy film of talcum. He felt like he was losing himself, the atoms of his soul dispersing across the forest. His only tie to his body a thin thread of a line stretched taut like a bit of spiderweb just before it was pulled too far and the silk ripped asunder.

He was frustrated and knew that Moonwalker Alicia had interrupted her work to spend the afternoon training him. How could one find life in this maelstrom of wind that buffeted him like a pebble falling off a cliff.

"You are almost there," said her voice a thrumming in his mind. He saw her wide shunt throbbing with the tree's energy but felt his own grasp slip as he was torn away and slammed into his body which rocked back against the ground. "Perhaps, you are growing tired. You can do this. You are almost there and tomorrow you shall succeed."

Or die, if he couldn't attach his life's thread to something live.

Augmented Loss

A response to Casey McCormick's "Tuesday Reminder" in Flashy Fiction:

Tony scanned the room one last time with his VR goggles to see if he had forgotten anything. A small virtual sticky appeared over Autumn's thigh reminding him that Autumn's birthday was tomorrow and Tony needed to buy a gift. Another sticky floated in the air with thick marker lines pointing down at his keys.

Tony grabbed the keys and another sticky appeared sticking perpendicular out of Autumn's cheek with an arrow pointing at her cheek and labeled "Kiss!!!" Tony pecked her cheek and strode out the door to his car.


Tony returned home and threw his keys in the general direction of the end table and carried the grocery sacks over to the fridge. As he filled the fridge with milk, apples, a steak, reminder stickies disappeared from the door of the fridge.

He turned to see Autumn and swore slightly under his breath to see the reminder still stuck to her thigh. He sighed, the glasses helped only if he passed the jewelry store on his way home.