1. I was raised by parents whose citizenship was brewed in post WWII patriotism. Voting isn’t just a right, but conduct a citizen must perform in a participatory democracy. My ancestors suffered for this right and today, unknown scores in the Middle East and elsewhere are dying to perform this duty.

    As the presidential elections arrive, I have a tough decision to make. I always strive to make informed decisions with enlightened purposes, but that is sometimes hard to do. You have to vote for something and decisions made out of prejudice and fear are unanimously bad choices. So I took some time to consider which candidate should remain president or to be the new president.

    Mitt Romney strikes me a thinly closeted pragmatic-conservative in a tent crowded with Dixiecrats, free market anarchists, Birthers, oil barons and flat earthers. Once, these fringe elements were kept in check by moderate or principled conservatives, but the back-benchers have taken over the party mainstream. To appease these tribes, Romney’s worn so many different wigs than a drag queen at a GLAD fundraiser. As Massachusetts governor, he enacted healthcare reform that is just like Obama’s plan.  He’s been moderate on social issues like abortion and gay marriage. Yet, he’s had to distance himself from his past in order to appease the 50 shades of crazy that the GOP has become.

    The current GOP believes rape is an accepted way to conceive. The free market means a cabal of speculators and flim-flammers with MBA’s doing the same to our investments and IRA’s. We need prayer in school more than we need qualified, well-paid teachers. Social security and Medicare, which helped my parents retire comfortably and augment their savings, is now an “entitlement.” And the poor? They can pull themselves up by the bootstraps. However, thanks to corporate tax exemptions  the United Bootstrap Company has moved its factory to China.

    The lunatics have taken over the asylum, now they want to make America they’re asylum.

    As for Mitt the man, he strikes me as a silver spoon constipated preppie who thinks hardship is carrying your own luggage at the Savoy, flying coach, or settling for a domestic wine. While George W. Bush was too cozy with the Oil Barons for comfort, Mitt’s relationship with Bain Capital and anarchistic speculators makes me suspicious. He’s the kid Bill Murray is talking about in the below video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STpd_VIZm-Y

    Barack Obama is the kid gunning for the rich kids. He’s a self-made man with an upright backbone who put himself through law school against factors that would break the Romney’s in the first semester. Single parent household, poor, and half Black – three things conservatives distrust. Yet, he became president despite those odds, and many Americans despise him for that. He was received with messianic revelry which he didn’t deserve, neither does any leader.

    Conservatives reacted as if the Beast 666 had arrived on a chariot of fetal skulls, and the reaction was that he became more endeared by those who voted for him. The silvery haired white men of all ages and sexes wept like the Hebrews at the shores of Babylon, as their fabled America fell to the black demon. And they were right to fear. Their cherished 1950’s paradigm of certain people knowing their place and men living the life of Don Draper died on those shores, and good riddance.  In a fit of madness, the GOP invoked the incubus named the Tea Party who threw every cruel ordinance at him they could muster - Muslim, left wing terrorist, socialist, communist, Nazi, talks in theaters.

    I voted for Obama in 08’ because McCain had compromised himself before the Silvery Old White Man, and he lost my trust and my respect. I took a risk and decided it was time to wreck the old club. I expected no miracles. May voters are disappointed that he didn’t fix the economy. Those who believe a president can heal the economy in four years are just plain fools.  Even Reagan’s economic plan took a decade to work, and unemployment was still high during his second turn.

    Obama has shown dignity and strength through one of our toughest chapters. He has shown leadership during Hurricane Sandra, and even gets accolades from New Jersey Governor Christie. Because of him, I will have affordable healthcare if I lose my job as will my Republican friends.  He’s rid the world of Bin Laden and DADT. While I am disappointed that he signed off on Patriot Act extension, I hope the next four years we will see the end of the War on Drugs, war on gays, and much needed reforms to the tax code which favor big business over small business.

    America is a work in progress and the finished progress won’t be Utopia. Yet, still its egalitarian principals are the model millions of people around the world strive for, even when we stray from them. For God’s sake and in the name of the Major and Minor Prophets, vote.

    Comments, of course, are welcome, but civil discourse will be enforced. My velvet elbow glove of correction is poised to strike, so be respectful.

  2. Again, I must pick three random story elements. Again, I pick a subgenre I’m not familiar with or would probably ever be. As a male, I’m too busy digging the Dorito chip dust from under my fingers to contemplate what part of the female psyche Paranormal Romance sates. The whole 50 Shades thing confuses me. So, deep down, women don’t want men who open doors, let them order from the menu and only wants to give you a nice back massage? So you like bad boys after all?

    While I contemplate on the mandala of jerkdon, here’s this week’s Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Challege.

    Subgenre: Paranormal Romance

    Setting: Paris,  1944

    Element to Include: Robots.

    La résistance est futile!!


    —-

    “We are betrayed,” Lysette whispered as German troops encircled them. An evening breeze captured the chill from the Lac du Bois de Boulogne and she let her rifle muzzle drop. “I will see my Steel Heart again, but only in the hereafter.”

    Obergruppenfüher Strauss broke from the line and strutted toward her. Her Resistance comrades grumbled at his presence. “My leben Lysette,” Strauss lisped. “Do you think we didn’t know of your garden party? Our gestapo had an agent implanted months before the invitation went out.” He laughed a few cackling notes.

    “But this was all in your Füher’s honor, mein freund,” she said. “And the party doesn’t end here.”

    Strauss puffed his his chest, turned and rejoined his men. “Execute them!” The soldiers brought their rifles about and awaited the firing order.

    Her Steel Heart was so far away, and she regretted the harsh one which they parted.

    “Ready, Aim…”

    A tattered chorus of “La Marseillaise” sprang from her men, defying the Nazi’s with their last living breath. But something else joined the chorus – a loud metal clang coming from the bushes.

    She heard a shout and a troop truck lifted into the air. The firing squad felt the wind change and before they could shout in alarm, it landed on six of them. From the darkness, two soldiers flew into the air and landed on the ground, their necks twisted like corkscrews.

    The stamping of metal feet came closer. Strauss barked an order to fire the oncoming piece of shadow. The soldiers cursed as their bullets couldn’t slow the oncoming figure now. Roy stepped into the moonlight.

    “My Steel Heart has come,” Lysette said, joyous.

    Lieutenant Roy Mitchell stood in the clearing, his gleaming steel frame a sight of terror to the Germans. Wheat colored hair flowed from his head. His dark blue eyes glimmered like sapphires in moonlight and his strong face looked as if cold chiseled by a master artist.

    A few of the soldiers dropped their rifles and fled, and they were wise. With his steel hand, Roy grabbed a soldier by the head, lifted and twisted it off as if were the heel of a baguette. With the other hand, he backslapped another fleeing soldier, sending him flying into trees. Strauss barked orders to his fleeing and dying regiment, but his mouth became wordless with terror.

    Roy clomped toward him. Strauss reached for his Lugar, but Roy grabbed it. He squeezed and it crumpled, crushing his Strauss’s hand with it. Strauss growled with pain. “What…are…you?”

    Roy grabbed him by his throat and spat a brown stream of tobacco into his face. “The last thing your sorry Kraut ass is ever going to see.” He crushed Strauss’s throat like a rose stem, and then tossed his body over the heads of the resistance force, where he landed with a splash into the lake.

    Lysette ran and jumped into Roy’s waiting arms. “My, Lys-Lys-Lys-Lysette.”

    “My Steel Heart, I should have known you would come for me.” They kissed as if eternity was theirs, as the gunfire and bomb blasts echoing across Paris was the symphony of their love.  “Someday, you’ll pronounce my name right.”

    “I thought you were organizing the Strike?” Lyestte said.

    “I was scouting out the Gestapo H-Q, but I saw your ex Marcel talking to an SS officer. I had a feeling that guy was a rat. I came here to warn you. Thank God I got here in time.”

    “You saved my life again. You fell into my estate in your billowing, white parachute like an angel. You gave me courage to fight.” Before his transformation, Roy was an U.S. Army advance scout to help prepare the Resistance for the Allied invasion. He found her alone, her family torn from her and wishing to die. His love restored her and lifted her courage. She called him Steel Heart, because he was so strong and never discouraged. One evening, he left on a mission and didn’t return.

    She found him where the S.S. had left him, riddled with bullets in a trash strewn alleyway and barely alive. Life under the Nazis was intolerable, but without him, so was her life. Her scientist father had forged the steel body before the Nazis took him away. Although barely a novice, she leaned the Practice from her mother. She invoked the magic to merge his broken flesh to the steel body. Yet, he began to fade and she lacked the experience to restore him. Desperate, she bound his life to hers.

    “Tomorrow, you’ll have your Paris back. I promise you,” Roy said.

    “Yes, my brave Oakie. We will share a bottle of champagne, and I will unlearn you of that nasty habit of chewing tobacco.” She kissed him on the cheek and he lowered her to the ground.

    She called to her troops. “The mission is still on. Tonight, we will hit the barracks at Champs Elysees.”

    “And do your worst,” Roy said. “My fellow Yanks have got two armored divisions heading this way. Just keep the Krauts off center until then, and they’ll finish the job. Vive la France.”

    “Vive La France,” the Resistance called.

    “And God Bless America,” Lysette said as she looked at Roy. Sorrow lined his face.

    “Stay. What if I lose you for real this time?” he said.

    “Our life is one. If I go, you will come with me.”

    “I’ll go willingly.”

    As Roy promised, on August 25, the Nazi’s surrendered Paris. As all Parisians gathered at the Arc de’ Triumph. Roy and Lysette embraced as celebration filled the air.

    “How long can I live in this can?” Roy asked.

    “As long as I live.” She drew close and whispered. “And I am 800 years old.”

    He smiled and someone handed him a bottle of frothing champagne. He drank a large draught and held it up. “I always had a thing for older broads.” They laughed as he poured it over them.

     
  3. I’m cowboying up and taking on this week’s Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Challenge. Using a random number chooser, I chose three words from three columns: subgenre, element to include, and theme/motif/conflict. My lot was Sword & Sorcery, Climate Change and Addiction. I haven’t read much Sword and Sorcery and honestly I’m not fond of the genre. I’m sure S&S writers can write compellingly about orcs, elves, bearded sorcerers and quests for magical bric-a-brac, but I prefer laser guns to wands and computer programs to spells.

    However, I accepted my destiny and wrote this little piece that is close to my heart. I’ve wrestled with the demon named Addiction and watched many who have beaten it (or at least contained it), and buried a few who succumbed to it. It’s best likened to a demon since it’s like another malevolent personality that coaxes you into kill yourself, one hit or one drink at a time. It trades a moment of escape for an hour of your life.  What’s inspiring is when someone confronts the demon, contains it, and then you see the life that has been saved. A great person has returned to the the living, his or her light shining brighter than before.

    Yet, the demon is only jailed, not dead. It pleads for release and uses every device to break free, run amok and snuff out the light. It’s truly a daily fight, but after a time, it’s voice grows dimmer.

    However it’s not you or me it wants to devour, its the essence of life itself. Enjoy and comment.

    ***

    Chime hunched her shoulders against the oncoming chill as she walked down the alleyway leading to the Lefty’s den. She found a familiar door, looked around in case Elemental Guards were about, and rapped on it twice.

    The door opened a crack. “I’ve come to burn,” Chime said to the guard that peered through the crack. The stern face slipped away and a grizzled, stubbly bearded man appeared. He looked her up and down. “Third time this week, eh?” The door opened wide. “Buh’s balls, come in. You’re letting the cold in,” the old man snarled.

    Chime whisked inside and the guard lumbered into her path and thrust out his fat hand. Chime reached into her jacket pocket and then pressed an octo into his hand. The guard groaned in appeasement and stood aside. The scent of opium, sulfur, piss and sweat milled among the shadowed figures that lay on mildewing bedding around the dim chamber that was lit by paper lanterns. In its better day, this had been a bakery that Chime recalled made fresh salt bread and cinnamon tarts. Her father used to bring her warm tarts on payday, when Alchemy was an esteemed art, when Promise was a civilization to be admired, not pitied.

    The door slammed shut, the sudden warmth shoved the chill aside. It made her body urge for the Burning to come.

    “Follow,” the old man said. Chime followed him through a path through prostate, near conscious bodies suckling on opium pipes. They entered a less filthy chamber that was once the bakery’s cooling room. A middle-aged man bedecked in a fine velvet cassock and thick leather pants languished on a threadbare chair. His mouth was agape in ecstasy, but his hand twitched as if in pain. Thin red and orange wisps of flames streamed from his body.

    The old man closed the door behind them and turned. “Thanks to last week’s Elemental Guard lab raid, I’m afraid the price has gone up – twenty angles.”

    Chime gasped at the price. The price had doubled and twenty angles were half of her weekly salary. She had pinched an angle or a octo from surprise sweeps of unlicensed alchemy shops and handmaiden mills. She would have to report fewer seizures on the next sweep.

    She fished into her jacket pocket and pulled out the last of her coinage. She opened her fist to see, to her disappointment, only twelve angles, four octos and a bunch of ten and twenty rounds.

    “Not nearly enough. Twenty angles. No bargaining.”

    The only things of value were her Elemental Inspector badge, which was hidden under her shirt, and her woven lead and willow cloth vest. The vest suppressed malicious spells and had saved her life many times. She had the option to reveal herself as an Elemental Guard and extort Flame Orbs in exchange for raid tip offs, but the guard could easily slip his dagger into her throat. Sexual favors wouldn’t do since the guard was a eunuch and the old man only desired opium and coin.

    “You’re wasting my time,” the old man growled and the guard advanced a step and grabbed the dagger’s hilt.

    “Wait,” she begged. “I have a spellproof vest. It should be worth something.”

    The old man considered the offer. “Okay, that might be worth it. Buh knows mine is all wore out. All the angles you got and the vest.”

    She turned her back and slipped off her jacket. She pulled her shirt over her head, and began unlacing the gray-brown vest. Her badge hung on a lanyard, which she was careful not to reveal. She peeled off the vest and the air hit her naked back like so many needles. With her free hand she put on her shirt and handed the vest to the old man.

    He snatched it from her and inspected it. “This is guard quality. Not bad.” He tossed it on a vacant chair. “Sit.”

    She backed into a greasy chair while the old man reached into a pouch tied to his belt. He pulled out a marble sized flame orb. Torrents of red and orange sloshed inside it – a piece of the Sun’s energy. Chime shuddered with anticipation.

    The old man approached her, spoke a spell in guttural Rokish and cracked the orb in his fist. He blew the orbs contents into her face and she breathed deeply. The World fell from under her and everything in her vision was traced with an orange glow which intensified to a white halo. Her pulse quickened as a burning pain flowed through her. When the pain rose to its apex, it gave away to an ecstasy beyond comprehension. The Flame consumed her, vaporizing all hope, fear, want, and memories good and bad. For an instant, she became the Flame, an essence of life, and the World died a little.

    The Flame’s effects withdrew and want, hope, fear and the dingy chamber intruded into her ecstasy.  The old man presented her with chilled white wine and she drank greedily. She rested a few more minutes and then rose from the chair and made her way for the door.

    Outside, the air was a touch colder. She looked toward the Sun hidden behind a bank of gray clouds. Night had fallen or morning was rising, but as of recent, it was hard to tell if it was dawn or dusk.

    She glanced down the alleyway and walked toward its opening as guilt panged at her conscience. With every hit, the World died. The Flame Orbs were created by the darkest magic imaginable, the kind that stole, not borrowed, nature’s benign energy. The Flame Orbs were made from shards of the Sun’s energy, and with each hit, the World inched toward darkness.

    What horrified Chime was her dying wish when the inevitable came – to get one last hit before the Sun turned black.

  4. I always try to look on the bright side of the moon. At least I only got a Con Cough, not the flu. At least my wife only broke one ankle, not two. I had expected to write about my wondrous Dragoncon experience, but this year was as pleasurable as a Swedish massage from The Thing.

    I’ll be begging off Dragoncon for a while, or until I find the right trail mix of anti-anxiety drugs that keep me from going Damien in large crowds. The unnerving press of tens of thousands of conventioneers, the cycle of Bataan Death Marches from event to event and hours on my feet waiting in line has broken me. My neurocircruity can only handle so much stimulation.

    However, I there were nodes of enjoyment.

    On Friday I enjoyed a panel on the Whitewashing of YA which focused on writers and heroes of non- Anglo cultures. Later, I saw Remembering Billion Dollar Babies where Alice Cooper and magician and debunker James Randi revisited the legendary and controversial tour that panicked a nation.  If you lived in the 70’s and didn’t see this tour, you heard about it. While grownup America relaxed to The Carpenters, Alice Cooper, the self professed Rock n’ Roll Villain, bathed the stage with blood and guts. James Randi designed the illusions used by Cooper, including the infamous guillotine act where Randi decapitated Cooper. He even presented Cooper with one of the original molds of Alice’s head. See a video of this panel here.

    Also, I attended The Good, the Bad and the Undead panel starring Laura K. Hamilton, Sherrilyn Kenyon and James Ray Tuck. The two former writers need little airplay since they are well established, but James Ray Tuck deserves all he can get. We both belonged to a writer’s critique group and I got an early glimpse at his now released Blood and Bullets series. The protagonist, Deacon Chalk is what monsters fear is hiding in the closet and the first of the series, Blood and Bullets, is a full-auto supernatural thriller I can attest will not bore nor ask nicely for your attention. Buy it now on Amazon»>

    On Saturday, my wife and I went to the MARTA station to catch the train to the con site on Peachtree Street. We were met with hundreds of con attendees queued to the ticket vending machines. Several more were right behind us. We did all we could do - get in line and wait. In ten minutes, a security guard arrived and announced he was just going to let everyone through the turnstyle and would call ahead to Peachtree station. We packed into the trains and we were saber to sonic screwdriver close.

    At each station, others piled into the already cramped train. One gothy girl in a lacy dress  wedged into the train and started having a panic attack. My wife and I consoled her and she calmed down some. I used to have crowd anxiety and had to learn to cope by staring at the ground or imagining I’m Laura Ingalls running carefree down that grassy hill in the Little House opening credits.

    Finally, the trainbot’s voice announced our arrival at Peachtree Street Station. We spilled out of the train and into the unwelcoming, dumpster stank of the Peachtree station. It’s three flights of escalators to the surface which reminded us that the station is a couple of hundred feet inside a mountain. When we finally breached the surface, thousands had lined Peachtree Street and Anna found a spot that left a dimeslot view of the street. My coffee jones was bringing the hurt and I found a Starbucks.

    I don’t like Starbuck’s roasted tarmac tasting coffee, but I respect that they provide great service and have cozy places choke down their mediocre java. I worship at the church Dunkin Doughnuts’s coffee, but when faced with lousy options, Starbuck’s is my emergency stock.  As to be expected, the line was out the door and into the street and I cowboyed up and expected a wait. I made conversation about how the same line wasn’t half as bad last year, but I was surprised how efficient baristas were. I mean Swiss efficiency greased with silicon based lubricant producing masterworks of caffeinated art.

    I rejoined Anna just as a guy in a knit shirt ran down the street waving a light saber as the crowd cheered him on. I’m a believer that SF cons are a not just a convention of like-minded aficionados of a branch of pop culture. It’s a Good Guy’s convention where the angels of humanity convene. These are the true family value bunch, who bring their kids and let them live out their superhero fantasies. The proof was when the streetsweeper drove by and everyone applauded their appreciation for keeping Peachtree’s asphalt clean.

    Slurping down my ice coffee, the caffeine demon appeased, I watched the parade through the coinslot view I had.

    The next hours were spent on my feet bailing out of lines, celebrity gawking and bouncing from hotel to hotel for events. I supremely enjoyed the 1982: Best Sci-Fi Movie Year Ever! panel. There were days before digital effects and Michael Bay’s fireball fests, sci fi movies had to survive on great storylines and cutting edge practical effects. I will separately blog on movies that you have to see and give you simple reasons why. To get started, have a look at The Secret of NIHM, The Dark Crystal and Blade Runner.

    Sore, stiff legged and sweat soaked, we returned home.

    On Sunday, the crowd was less severe but the line to the Stan Lee panel wrapped around the Hyatt. We got in line, chatted with a attendee with an excellent RobotMan costume. A few moments later a con staffer announced that the Stan Lee panel had been cancelled and he had left the con the night before due to medical reasons. Leaving the echoes of sighs and disappointment, my wife and I rescheduled our day. In short, my wife slipped off a curb and broke one ankle and sprained the other and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Again, I have to commend Starbucks, who fetched ice and delivered it to Anna.

    I had to leave my wife in the emergency room’s care and took a bus and MARTA back to my car to drive back to the hospital and pick up my wife. While this was happening, I felt phlegmy and fatigued.

    Presently, I’m just getting over a minor cold and caring for my wife. She’ll be okay in a few weeks and the pain is manageable. Sadly, my DragonCon experience has peaked and I’ll be bowing out of the next one.

  5. When the Wendig issues a challenge, I am man enough to accept. I chose four words from a list of eight: Cape, Senator, Motel, Funeral.

    —-

    “Senator?”

    Senator Harris heard his aide speak, but stood firm on the beach as the sun crested above the horizon, ignoring the Scourge that drifted over the Atlantic Ocean.

    “Y’know, O’Brian, as a kid, my family vacationed here every summer. Edge of the world as far as I was concerned.”

    The Senator kicked off one of his loafers, looked at it for a moment, and then kicked off the other one. A wave peaked close to the shore, and then spilled a blanket of gray water and sea foam toward his feet.

    “I lost so many things at this beach. Pails, change, cheap sunglasses. When I was eight, I lost my 99 cent flip-flops. My step dad acted like it was okay. But on our drive home, he stopped by the road, reached over the seat and spanked me. Whippings really smart when you have a sandy ass…”

    He picked up the loafers with two fingers. “He went about how hard it was to earn a dollar and how ungrateful I was. Well…” He winded up and tossed the loafers into another oncoming wave. They split off and fell into the water in two alternating splashes. “$200.00 loafers, Clyde.”

    The Scourge seemed to thunder in response. “Senator, we must go. The Scourge will be here in three hours. The chopper is leaving in thirty,” O’Brian said.

    The Senator squatted down, and then dropped his bottom onto the sand. “Go.”

    “Sir, the shelter’s HoloArk has thousands recordings of parks, beaches and monuments. Maybe Cape Hatteras is in the library.”

    “It’s not. I was on the committee that approved the HoloArk. It got outvoted by Senator Voller. Know what he approved?” He looked at O’Brian for understanding. “A mall. For some reason he wanted this mini mall in Phoenix. He said it was ‘one of civilization’s finest examples of Free Enterprise in Middle America’.”

    He pounded the sand with his fist. “A Subway and a head shop is the pinnacle of civilization. And Guggenheim Museum was left out.”

    “Sir, I will have to leave without you.”

    He tossed off his jacket. “I ‘m taking a walk. If I’m not at the car in ten minutes, then I’m not coming.”

    “I can’t leave without…”

    “Bullshit! You’re going to save your own sorry ass. Go ahead. You’ve taken good care of me. Go.”

    O’Brian stepped backward, and then turned and ran toward the car.

    The Senator walked down the shore, letting the waves wet his pants’ hem.

    He passed a square building with plate glass windows, now boarded up. He sniggered at the fact that it was boarded up, as if there was a chance it would still be there in 10 years. “Yep, I remember that,” he said to no one. “That was the shell shop that was owned by this grouchy old lady. She hated kids. She wouldn’t let us in unless we were with our parents. She about had a stroke when I broke one of the legs off a starfish. I don’t know how she stayed in business.”

    A gust of wind whipped sand onto the bare parts of his face, arms and feet. He turned his back to the gale and walked at an angle. He glanced over to the Scourge. It had finished with Europe and Africa and crept toward the Americas, a solar storm promising Death. Nothing on land would live and even the aquatic life towards the surface had an odd-even chance of survival.

    In lone compartment of his mind, a clock ticked away as the last minutes of human civilization. He was about as aware of it as his own heartbeat or the storm sirens howling warnings to the few humans left on the surface. The Senator took it like a suggestion from one of his constituents, and became lost in the wash of sound. Waves. Wind. Seagulls.

    He approached a three story motel with a flat roof. “The Castaway Inn. We stayed at that motel. I think it was 1978 or 79’?” Once it was painted a pustular shade of yellow, then coral, and finally sky sky blue.  He found a path between the sea oats and walked the cobbles to the rear lobby entrance. He pulled the door, expecting it to be locked, but it gave away.

    Inside, a few wicker chairs were set around a glass coffee table, shaded by a fake palm tree with shiny, obviously plastic fronds. The walls were painted light yellow. He noticed that the lights were on. He walked toward the brochure stand and noticed an elderly hotel clerk stood at the check-in desk.

    “Room, sir?” the clerk said.

    “Still open?” the Senator asked. He recalled when the clerk was younger, but wore the same blue vest.

    “You’re not the only one. Got a few old farts like us here. I guess it beats a funeral home. Personally, I always thought this place was a dump.”

    “Is 212 available?”

    “Yes, but it’s got a terrible view. I got three 3rd floor suites available.”

    “My family stayed at that room every summer. I’ll take it.”

    The gestured toward a hallway. “I turned off the keycards. Just walk-in. Ice machines are down.” He presented two blue pills. “Want a Safe Passage?”

    The Senator shook his head “Naw. I hear the Scourge don’t hurt much. You just…stop.”

    The room was exactly as he remembered. Two full size beds with nauseating green rainforest print covers lounged under coral walls. A white wicker dresser and desk lay against the wall. The only change was that a flat screen TV replaced the old tube TV.

    He sat on one of the beds. “Hated this place. Hated vacations.”

    He fell back on the bed, closed his eyes.  He picked one good memory from the heap of drunken fights, the police visits, and mother’s bruises. The white blonde streaks in Ian’s hair. How they shone in the sun.  Then, he wondered where those flip-flops were now.

     

  6. There is a day no more depressing as the last Sunday before school starts. It’s was my 12th last day to live.  Someday, I’ll write a story beginning with those sentences. However, my summer has been no vacation and I’m paler than ever.

    The final draft of Bee is under wraps. Bee is about Bogart Richardson, a dyslexic teen who competes in a spelling bee. I can’t wait to pitch it to agents and publishers because it has a “Snakes on a Plane” high-concept. This is no Rocky, but Bo does accomplish great feats in spite of the odds against him.  “Have unrealistic expectations,” has been my motto for the last couple of years. So far, I’ve written two books, one which has placed in a national contest, and I have struck the “aspiring” prefix from my “writer” title.

    Unless you’re reading this on mobile, you’ll see I’ve rehabbed the blog. My infinitely talented wife, Anna, gave me the idea for a logo. It suits me well since I’m perhaps the worst self-editor than most GOP candidates .  I’ve redesigned my business card as well, seen below:



    I will be blogging more on topics of writerly concerns. I’ve avoided the topics of religion and politics, but I’ve got opinion and concerns like anyone else. Writers have duty to sketch what’s in front of them and interpret what it means. It sort of reminds me of the Sufi parable about 5 blind men defining what an elephant is. We’re all snarling bigots when it comes to interpreting the present, rocking angrily in our chairs and bemoaning about good ole’ days of Neverwere. I just attempt to clean the spots off my glasses and expect to squint a lot.

    Summer’s gone…

    http://youtu.be/sg1rFsrCrZ8
  7. Chuck said to throw down on the Pulp craziness. I don’t know if this is pulp but I think I need to check into “Case del Loco” for a while and step into a nice Thorazine bath. This week on the Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Challenge…

    —-

    “This is all happened because they gave Giraffes the right to vote.” Mick said as he loaded a 50 caliber iridium shell into his hand gun. The gun itself had replaced his forearm, using his femur as its stock. It made aiming a dream, showers cumbersome.

    To prevent Dolly from going hysterical, he slapped her with his left hand. She then went hysterical so he slapped her again, kissed her hard, slapped her again and then smoked.

    At the gates of the Zoo the scent of burnt cotton candy and a menudo of animal shit assaulted his nose like a pack of starved weimaraners. “First you give them the same rights as a man, then they start doing crimes.”

    A pore on Mick’s forehead dilated, sending Dolly into another hysterical fit. He slapped hard.

    Mick existed the police van, leaving Molly to another hysterical fit. He stood 8 feet tall, his pneumatic stilts adding three feet to his height. He cocked his hand-gun and approached the Zoo gates. The Zoo had been off limits since Dr. Droidberg’s Awareness Bomb misfired and hit the Zoo. Intended to give all kitchen appliances intelligence and self-awareness, it gave the Zoo animals human intelligence and a misguided belief that they had the same rights. Like horde of pox infected Mongols, the insisted on the right to vote, self-determination, interspecies marriage and service at some of the city’s finer restaurants.

    “Giraffes, they’re just not good decision makers,” Mick mumbled as the gate neared. “Lions. Now they’re good Republicans.”

    A zebra security guard approached. “Halt. You’re entering an interspecies area,” he said through a vocalizer, a box attached to his thorax that translated his thoughts into human speech.

    Mick flashed his badge. “Animal Control. The Trans-Species Committeehas given me clearance to pursue an ostrich that had been lifting banks in Sapien territory.” Mick showed him his warrant.

    “Proceed, Sapien, but don’t forget here the Animals run the Zoo,” the zebra guard said.

    The Zoo was as he remembered it as a child. A brachwork of walkways extended through a variety of exhibits. The animals lived much like they did before and stuck to their areas. Lions lazed in their fake savannahs and the orangutans nattered suspiciously from their tree swings. The cages had no doors or bars. The Animals roamed as pedestrians.

    However, in the trees, the Chimp Police took the safeties off their poop cannons and kept him in their sights.

    Now past the mammalian district, he entered the avian district. A vile cacophony of screeches, sqawks and chirps played on his eardrum like Buddy Rich on a coke bender. The birds were especially territorial and had ditched singing for rapping.

    He passed a cardinal’s roost and it rapped, “Yo’ Animal Control, keep your presence on down low. Youse in Avian space, you don’t be showing yo’ face.”

    Mick swatted at the quatrain spewing turd bomber and it flew away. “Punk ass Sapien!” it screeched.

    He approached an area cordoned off by a chain link fence where a ragged sign read, “Ostrich Exhibit.” As he cautiously glanced around an authoritative looking ostrich approached the gate. “What’s your business here?” she said.

    “I’m here to apprehend a suspect in a bank robbery in Sapien territory.”

    “Banks? What do we need with money? We have our own grain and insect farms. We certainly don’t need your resources, except when I want to take my husband out for dinner.”

    “That’s for the judge to determine. I’m just here to bring him in.”

    Several other ostriches ran toward him. He looked at their long legs that ended with a  sharp claw. Once kick and he’d be picking up his intestines like greasy balloon animals. “I have photo of him.”

    He showed her the photo and she squawked in annoyance. “That’s not an ostrich. That’s an Emu. Can’t you sapiens tell your flightless birds apart?”

    Mick inspected the photo. She was right. “Can you tell me where the Emu exhibit is?”

    I used to catch real criminals. Real Animals. Damn those mad scientist with their bombs. Damn Professor Mask U. Lynne and the EstroBomb that made women go hysterical at the slights threat.

    Night was falling and the last thing he wanted was to be in the Zoo after dark. “Bats. Hate em’.”

    The Emu corral was next to the ostrich exhibit. Emus looked like palm fronds with bird feet and head. He looked at his photo and noticed there was only one Emu in the corral who was leafing through a pulp crime magazine, turning the pages with his beak. That simplified things.

    The Emu’s head shot rod straight when Mick approached. “You, by the authority of the Trans-Species Committee, I am placing you under arrest.

    “Oh, Shit.” The emu did and ran away toward the back of the corral. Mick pursued him and cornered him.

    “Look. I was just having some fun. I didn’t need the money. It didn’t even taste good. C’mon. I’m the last Emu here and I was bored. Gimme a break.”

    “Doesn’t matter. I’m taking you in.”

    The emu pecked at him, but Mick dogged each attempt. “I’m warning you.” Mick cocked his hand-gun.

    “You’ll never take me alive, copper!”

    “Your wish is my command.” Mick fired and the bird exploded into bits of bloodied feathers.

    “Presto!”

    Mick turned to see several animals surrounding him. Mick knew it was all over. Damn the liberal giraffe vote.

    “Never liked him much,” the ostrich said. “Always going on about being the last. They should’ve give the Emus the right to vote. Always voting for some ridiculous third party. And his table manners.”

    Back in the van, Mick cleaned himself up. “How did feathers get in the back of my pants? I’m never going to get that smell out of my fedora.”

    A leaf landed on the windshield and Dolly went hysterical. Mick slapped her and then drove back to the safe, warm and animal odor free auspices of Sapien territory.

     

  8. I made it far, but not far enough. I didn’t make the semi-finals in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. While I sulk in disappointment, I’m staring at the ground thinking of my next move. I made the top 5% in a very competitive contest, and I should be proud. Also, that’s bragging points on a query letter.

    Thanks to everyone who supported me and gave me great reviews.

    I didn’t like Publisher’s Weekly to begin with, so my lividity against them was no more or less tart. I didn’t get a scathing review, but it wasn’t glowing like this one.

    Win or lose, I heave forward to keep to my task. Harlan Ellison called writing a “holy chore” which is no exaggeration. It’s not as severe as kneeling on rice grains and lashing oneself with egg noodles, but it’s a daily routine of hammering lace from pig iron.

    I keeping with this task, below is this week’s Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Challenge. The challenge is to create a short-short story inspired from a random military operation title generator. Clutch your young-uns close and prepare for….

     

    "Operation Wrathful Kitten"


    Operation Wrathful Kitten

    “General,” the President said, “just where in the hell do you get the names for your operations?”

    General Leachy shuddered at the question. He resigned to his training. Keep your back straight. Remember there’s five stars on your lapel put there three presidents ago.

    The President steepled his fingers, awaiting an answer.

    “Well, Mr. President. We’ve been consulting a cutting-edge PR and advertising firm. They’re a media savvy, ingenious bunch of kids. They did that laundry detergent commercial they played during the Super Bowl.”

    The President leaned back in his chair, eyes wide. “You mean the one where it’s just one minute of skinheads torturing a homeless man? What’s company called, again?”

    The General recited their name. The President, the General’s assistant, Madame Secretary of State and the two Secret Service men gasped.

    “Can you even legally print such expletives on a business card?” the President said.

    “I know it’s provocative, but to reach Generation Y through Z you have to be. Now the Firm aren’t even outside-the-box thinkers. You can’t even say ‘box’ around them, because they don’t believe boxes exist. They put all their stuff in “cubic dream vessels.” I wish you could’ve been there during the meeting. Their office is a big treehouse. To keep the creative team on edge, they hired a violent schizophrenic to run around smeared in Marmite. To research the Hunts account, they flew their creative team to Saudi Arabia to watch an adulterers beheading.”

    “Madame Secretary,” the President said. “Was I sober when I appointed this guy?” The President stood, looked out the Oval Office window to contemplate on the hedges. “General, all we are doing is a goodwill mission to the African island republic of Djar-Djar to assist the transitional government until they can organize elections. Hell, even the UN favors the mission. And you want to call it “Operation Wrathful Kitten?” Why not “Operation Enduring Liberty” or “Operation Rising Democracy?”

    The General had to explain fast. After a President’s 2nd term, there’s always a round of housecleaning and he didn’t want to be put to the curb. No forced retirement to do some pussywillow motivational speaking tour about “integrity” or “perseverance” at network marketing seminars.  He was a born warrior even as he faxed orders to Kabul from the poolside comfort of his Virginia manse.

    “Who doesn’t like kittens? 90% of the Internet is all kittens. The team says we didn’t want to seem too aggressive, but not too tame either. And the youth today are wont to support another war. However, they like the idea of us helping the Third World. Anyway, this is just a housesitting job, with air cover.”

    The President turned. “The Republicans are going to shove those Kittens down my throat. All of the sudden they’ve turned dove when it comes to military engagements, at least from me. I’m doing this for the right reasons.”

    “And I’m with you, sir.”

    “Can you at least go back to that firm and ask for an alternate name?”

    “Can’t sir. They’ve already printed the T-Shirts, boonie hats, shot glasses and thumb drives. You should see the logo. It’s a fluffy Maine Coon wearing a beret chewing on former President-for-life Mohammed Abraham Haile Selassie Tromba’s head. I didn’t think you’d like “Operation Gnashing Cyclone” or “Operation Bowel-loosening Fire” much better.

    The President sighed. “Ok, Operation Wrathful Kitten it is.”

    The General breathed a sigh of “Hell, yeah.”

    “Thank you Mr. President.”

    “By the way, I could use some fresh ideas for the re-election. Does this firm have a card?”

    “Um, no Mr. President.”

    “Ok, what do they have?”

    The General reached into his jacket pocket and presented the President with a mewling kitten with the Firm’s contact info on its collar.

     
  9. Writing is not therapy and whomever says that is too mentally healthy to be  a writer. Nor is it a hobby and anyone who calls it that is no writer’s friend and usually thinks TV is a hobby.

    But every writer has a hobby. For Hemingway it was fishing. Faulkner adored horse riding and training. For Harlan Ellison, it is litigation. However, I didn’t have one and I had a big zit of angst and rage that was ready to either burst or replace my head. When I finally admitted I was miserable to my wife, she suggested I pursue a passion that I had talked about for many years, but never really gotten around to.

    I am a born-again Foodie. No matter how poor I was, I would scrape up enough shrapnel to dine at a local bistro or restaurant. The scent of butter-garlic overpowered the bitter herbs of poverty. I worked as a prep chef during my twenties but never really learned to cook.

    Most people tell me I’m a really good cook and I retort that I’m a good reader. I can follow a recipe and know the difference between salt and sugar and that the flame belongs under the pan. However, I can’t tell if a steak is rare or medium rare just by touching it. My omelettes were runny monstrosities. I have created trout jerky, blackened french fries and pasta chowder. I didn’t learn writing by reading a book, but by learing from better writers and eating my own bad meals.

    Walking into Willliams Sonoma makes me want to prostate myself in front of the $109.00 peppermills. The gleam of copper core stainless steel stock pots make my soul vaporize like finely diced garlic in reduced butter. Yet, giving me such instruments of pleasure is like giving a eunuch discount coupons in Amsterdam’s Red Light District. I wouldn’t know the first thing.

    So, I bought Jamie’s Food Revolution, a cookbook for absolute beginners and people like me who want to unlearn cooking. My goal is to learn all the recipes. Also, to augment my goal, I will be  taking classes in cooking basics like grilling, sauteing and baking.  I want to cook a steak to perfection and make my rice fluffy yet firm. I wan’t to cook so amazing that I never go to a fine restarant again.

    I will keep you informed on as I progress toward becoming a Gastromage.

  10. I’ve been slacking on the job. I used to do the TerribleMinds Flash Fiction Challenge every week, but the first quarter-year has been challenging so I had to re-prioritize. I’m suffering for it because a writer always needs to be challenged. Below is my contribution to this weeks challenge. May Lord Wendig be merciful.

     

    "What Would Death Ride?"


    “Are you looking for something sporty or business-ee?” Carl said to the hooded figure who seemed to glide an inch above the ground. In the used car trade, you met a fine sampler of America’s weirdoes and many of his customers wore hoodies, and paid in cash. Cash don’t discriminate.

    Carl looked for eyes within dark recesses of the figure’s hood. Eye contact builds trust. “I can see by that long yard tool you got that you must being in the landscaping business. Am I right?”

    A sound like air escaping air from an opened crypt hissed from the figure. I’ve offended him! “Okay, you’re not looking for a truck. My bad. Let me show you this.” Carl walked over to a 2007 Escalade with gold chrome rims and tinted windshields. He looked behind him to see the customer floating behind him, or seemed to.

    Carl positioned himself in front of the passenger door to hide the piss-poor Bondo job that covered three bullet holes. “This beauty right here only has 38,000 miles on it. We’ve cherried it out it even has a brand new interior. The former owner was a young businessman  who sadly passed away during a misunderstanding with some hoods.”

    Don’t tell him about the shooting you idiot!! He could hear his brother in law, Tripp, the owner of Second Chance Auto Sales, scream into his face.

    The figure made one comprehensible sound. “Hmmmmmmm.”

    “Oh, you like it? Plenty of room for your accessory there.”

    The customer’s hooded head turned toward a quartz-blue Mercedes E-Series coupe, and he moved toward it.

    “Now this one is a steal. 350 Horsepower. Only 8000 miles on it. And don’t mind that dent in the front bumper. I’ll knock a little off. Funny how the lady who owned it accidentally ran over her husband. That’s still in the newspapers. She thought her hubby was having an affair with her Mary Kay rep. I’m sure you can buff out that dent and no one will notice. And we got almost all the blood off the undercoating.”

    Shut up. You’ll queer the deal. The last thing I need is Tripp complaining how his sister could marry a spineless no-account like me. All I need is one sale. Just one sale and he’ll think there’s hope for me.

    “Hmmmmmmmmm,” the figure said. The figure approached the Mercedes. A long bony hand appeared from the billowing sleeve and felt the car’s hood. “Umnnnnnn,”

    “German cars aren’t your thing, eh. Not mine either given their history. It’s a good thing the Rwandans and the Turks don’t make cars.” Carl laughed at his own joke. The customers head nodded.

    I’m winning him over. Time for the upsell.

    “You know buddy, I got a car over here I usually don’t show the other folks. But I can tell from your fashion sense that you’re looking for something bold, fast and eye catching. Come with me.”

    On the far side of the lot past a row faded-to-the-primer junkers was a coal black Ferrari 458 Italia. Tripp was hoping he could move the car in this drive-by shooting gallery of the neighborhood. If not he’d make it his own car. Carl thought that if he could sell it, Tripp would be impressed, even proud to call him family.

    “I ain’t going to lie to you. This car isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s got more horsepower than the Kentucky Derby, and you get this.” Carl reached into his jacket interior pocket and pulled out a window scraper they gave to customers.

    He presented it to the customer. “Now I know you won’t be needing this in the middle of July, but you will need it to..” He leaned in close as he dared into the customer’s ear and tried the recite the line the smooth way Tripp did when he sold sporty cars to teenage chumps. “…scrape off all the pussy that’s going to throw themselves at this car. You like girls?”

    The customer stood, silent and unimpressed.

    “Guys, cause that’s cool. Oh, look at the interior.” He opened the passenger door and was hit with the iron scent of dried blood. Flowing from the trajectory of a self-inflicted headshot, the blood stain covered the interior. “Looks like the garage didn’t prep this for sale. We’ll get that stain off with a little lemon juice and you’d never know it. Well money doesn’t buy happiness. Rent it, maybe.”

    The customer turned and moved away, his robes twirling as if underwater.

    Carl ran to catch up with him “Wait, I haven’t showed you the BMW! Sure it’s got a leaky exhaust system but those kids didn’t feel a thing.”

    C’mon Carl, be aggressive. Carl overtook the customer and jumped in front of him, but the customer kept moving. “Did I tell you get a free gas fill up with ever purchase? And zero down payment. That’s zero with one zero,” Carl begged as he walked backward. “There’s got to be something you like.”

    The figure halted, released an acrid roadkill breath. His arm rose and a bony finger pointed at Carl. Carl shivered, but realized he was pointing to something behind him. Carl looked around and saw Tripp’s custom chopper parked beside the office.

    “That’s my bro-in-law’s baby. Sorry, but that’s not for sale.”

    The customer’s other arm rose. A bundle of one-hundred dollar bills six inches tall lay in his hand.

    “But I can negotiate.”

    The customer didn’t need any lessons. He mounted the bike, which started at his touch. He planted the yard tool next to the exhaust.   The customer’s head turned. “Thank you,” he said in a windy voice, then wrenched the throttle and made a rooster-tail in the gravel as h sped off the lot.

    Carl counted the money. There was more than enough to buy the bike five times over. Enough to pay off a mortgage or to live on until he could find a better job, something he liked.
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Anthony Ray Elmore is a Atlanta based writer sometimes spotted at Scene Missing Magazine (http://www.scenemissingmagazine.com) and has participated in Atlanta Write Club bouts (http://writeclubatlanta.com)

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