Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Sapiens: In the Midst by Rick Ewing

Rick Ewing's bizarre tale of an intelligent monkey with a fondness for Shakespeare, fishing and booze.

Often, in my ministry, I counsel congregants and friends to bear realities that are unpalatable - but also unyielding. Experience at home and overseas teaches me we profit, in every way, by denouncing what is false and declaring, in full voice, always and everywhere, what is true.

In that spirit I call to mind an old anecdote about 100 monkeys deployed in a room with typewriters. How long, it was asked, would it take to produce a play of Shakespeare's? The experiment, everyone knows, was never conducted; this was merely a math teaser and rhetorical bombast to illustrate the superiority of human intelligence and inspiration.

Too, most are aware that scientists have endeavored to allow our primate cousins - let me tread deftly on heretical ground - to express whatever mental acuity or creativity they possess via artistic media and on keyboards... and the results were laughably chaotic.

All the monkeys failed. The clinicians had a rip-roaring good time saying so.

Well. Each of the above is untrue. The Shakespeare Experiment did occur - and one monkey did not fail.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Weekend in Chelsea By Mark Tulin

Teenage boys find sexual awakening on an outing to Chelsea; by Mark Tulin.

I had been a loyal follower of Kevin. He was the kid with the nice curly hair, well-chiseled nose, straight teeth, and deep brown eyes. I, on the other hand, was average looking with hair that never laid right, tinsel teeth, and bugger-green eyes. Kevin was the smart one, the strong one, and the person who called me every Saturday morning and told me what our plans were. I was like his obedient dog, anticipating my master's call, never straying too far from the phone.

"You wanna to go to Chelsea this weekend?"

"Sure," I said. "How much shall I bring?"

"At least fifty," he said. "We're going to stay over; find a cheap room somewhere."

"Groovy."

Friday, March 25, 2016

Three Marvins in a Diorama by Nancy Lane

Nancy Lane's surreal story about a man with a strange obsession over a Marvin Gaye diorama.

Vincent glances toward the apartment door to confirm the door is locked and the front window mini-blinds are closed tightly. He pulls the white, cotton cover from the bell jar in the middle of his dinette table and then folds the cover and tosses it on the back of the nearby recliner chair.

The rent's not bad for the studio apartment within walking distance of work and near all the essentials. For Vincent, age thirty, the essentials are the market across the street and the two cheap eating places anchoring the ends of the tree-lined block. He buys a bottle of Sangria and a box of wheat thins every other night, adding toothpaste, soap, cereal, milk or other items of daily living as needed. On shopping nights, he stops in for Salisbury steak or meatloaf at the Fine Time Cafe. On alternate nights he dines on pulled pork or grilled tilapia at the New Penny Kitchen.

Vincent pushes the start button on the cassette player next to the diorama under the bell jar. His third glass of Sangria is full and at hand. The plateful of crackers is half empty or half full, depending on Vincent's frame of mind after fielding customer service calls all day at work.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Larry Comes Round by Tom Harrington

Tom Harrington's flash about an embattled husband and his dog.

Larry stretched to drag his fingers through the stuff on his dusty night table. The pain in his shoulder screamed for relief, forcing him more awake than he wanted to be. He knew he'd put the 750mg codeine tabs there somewhere -maybe next to the Viagra on the green saucer. No, all he found there was the diamond shape of male America's favorite supplement. He thought the painkiller was white, but color was no help with the lamp off. He couldn't reach the pull chain without hurting more so he continued his tactile quest. His fingers stalked the tabletop, careful not to tip over the water cup, the lamp, or the gild framed picture of his daughter.

What shape was that last batch of codeine I got? He wondered. Oval, he remembered - or was that the statins, or the niacin? His fingers touched on a familiar form and he propped himself up on his right elbow. Bolts of pain streaked down his arm. He yelled and almost missed when he flipped the pill into his mouth. He took a quick gulp of water, then collapsed on his back. I could choke doing this, he thought. Next time I'll dose up before dozing off.

Maybe I should take a Viagra too, he laughed, half asleep. He felt the space next to him on the bed wondering what his chances would be. Not even warm - he reached a little farther - it was a big bed and sometimes she liked to lie near the edge with his dog Roxy. Nothing out there either - empty. He was in bed alone, without her soft nakedness next to him. Not even his dog had stayed close. Had they left together?

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Purr by David W Landrum

 On diversely populated space station Brahmadanda, Wallach sets out to confirm an erotic rumour without causing a diplomatic incident.

"It's a myth - just one more space myth, and I've heard a lot of those - or you're trying to pull one over on me for a laugh."

Garnett smiled. "I can see you've not been on this side of Alliance space before."

It was true. Wallach had spent his short career as an A.I. technician in the Beta quadrant of the Terrance Alliance where most of the planets were colonized by the Alliance or by populations from the nation states that still existed on Earth (Italy and China). Some remote Omrite worlds lodged there, and the Renant and Geren had scattered colonies in the area, but he had never worked in the Gamma Quadrant, which swarmed with a menagerie of beings: Barzalians, Omrites, Geren, Saulli, Housali, Golorians, Glinn - and Mervogians.

"No, I haven't," Wallach said, "but I've heard enough tall tales there and found out it's the same in all races of beings."

"Mervogian women are different. And they do -"

"Purr." He laughed. "Oh, sure. Do they also have fur and tails?"

"They have both - though not the kind you mean."

Friday, March 18, 2016

Liberty by Susan D. Harper

Shawn is starting a new life away from her abusive husband, and seeks a new companion; by Susan D. Harper.

The rhythm of the turn signal sliced through the silence in the car as the air conditioning blew lightly onto her throat, drawing goose bumps. When the light turned green, Shawn left the interstate exit ramp and headed east. Sunlight, then shadow, then sunlight played across her as she went under the overpass. Sighing heavily, she wondered if she had completely lost her mind.

She told the woman she'd come and look. The more she thought about it, the more uncertain she was about doing it. She shook her head.

"I'm barely able to take care of myself right now, let alone a dog," she whispered.

Her life was far from settled. Her mouth set into a frown as she thought of the restraining order she had recently filed against Jake to keep him away. And now she was considering a dog?

Her eyes drifted to her slender fingers gripping the steering wheel and her left ring finger, where the skin was just a little lighter.

He wasn't always so angry, Shawn thought, looking out the driver's side window. The first few months after the wedding had been good. It was after she miscarried that things had changed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Danny's Dilemma by Sean Lindsay

Danny wakes up in the night, desperate for the toilet at the worst possible time; by Sean Lindsay.

Danny was lying in bed on this warm night, his window open, anxious about where his mother was, when he heard a car pull into the driveway. Then he heard a key slide into the lock, and the front door swing open and bang against the wall. He heard his mother laugh, and knew she'd been drinking. He heard a man's voice try to shush her, and it wasn't his father's.

They came straight up the stairs, banging against the walls, tripping and falling, admonishing each other. Danny pictured her on the man's back. Piggy-back. That's what it sounded like, the way they were tramping on the stairs, then staggering across the floor. He lay quietly in his bed through all this, his body rigid, his mind bewildered. He was desperate to use the toilet but afraid to move. It was a Saturday night, and she wouldn't know if he was home. She could have opened his door a crack and peeked in at him, but she didn't.

He lay there and listened, and, of course, he knew they were having sex, or making love, or whatever, because they were loud, and moaning, and laughing, so what else could they have been doing, his mother and this stranger.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Helper by Gregory A Powell

Gregory A Powell's slapstick comedy about failure, racism and suicide.

Dave placed the bag over his head and shoulders, cinching it with the plastic drawstrings that he so liked about this brand of garbage bag. He was sitting on a couch astride a rather large, metallic cylinder that was propped between his legs. Inside the garbage bag with Dave, was the top half of that cylinder.

Samir asked, "You all right in there? Have you started it?"

"Of course I haven't started it yet," replied Dave, tersely. "Do you hear anything?"

"Well, what do I know? I've never been involved in anything like this," responded Samir.

"You know, Samir, you don't have to be here," said Dave. "All you need to do is clean up after."

"Oh, I know, but it will be my honour to be watching you asphyxiate yourself," replied Samir.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Shaken Then Stirred by Don Herald

Don Herald's character visits the cinema and memories of his father-in-law come flooding back to him.

I arrived at the movie early to make sure I'd get a good seat. The theatre was in semi-darkness. I stood briefly at the bottom of the rise of stairs and rows of seats, letting my eyes adjust before I started my climb.

I was shocked to see my father-in-law sitting several rows up. He was smiling broadly at me. This is quite unexpected because he rarely goes to a movie. And certainly he would have absolutely no interest in the latest James Bond adventure.

Yet there he was in an aisle seat, quite relaxed in his favourite grey-checked flannel shirt. As usual, his hair was slicked back with that strong, precise part down the middle. Bright blue but somewhat rheumy eyes twinkled at me behind the memorable wire framed glasses he always wore. And that smile. I would recognize it anywhere!

Suddenly I knew what was wrong with this picture. He died a few years ago.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Good Man by Phil Slattery

On the day before her death from lung cancer, Christopher's mother tells him a secret about his father that may change his perception of his parents forever; by Phil Slattery.

Mom had come home to die. Lung cancer had taken a lot of her weight and the oncologists at the hospital had said there was nothing more they could do for her.

From her bed, Mom could look out over the snow-covered New Mexico hills to the rolling desert to the south. As I was sitting with her on the day before she died, she saw my wife in our red Jeep Grand Cherokee turning into the driveway, bringing more groceries.

"White," she said.

"What?" I asked, lifting my head from prayer.

"Everything's snow white like a new t-shirt. Julie's Cherokee is red like a spot of fresh blood on a snow white t-shirt."

"I suppose it is," I said. I was perplexed, because Mom never spoke so grimly.

"Christopher, I want to tell you a story. Promise not to be upset."

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Honey is a Dish Best Best Served Cold by Christa Carmen

Chloe McLachlan's work life is blighted by an insufferable colleague; by Christa Carmen.

On a particularly terrible day, a day where she did not know if she could stand listening to him another second, she coped by googling 'narcissistic personality disorder in the workplace.' She'd remembered her sister complaining about a narcissistic boyfriend she'd had, and the traits she'd described him as possessing, and this recollection prompted the internet search. The results were so spot-on, it was almost a comfort to know that there was a name for what he was, and that there were others suffering through the same torturous behaviors. But then he opened his mouth, and the comforting feeling dissipated like shadows chased away with a spotlight.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, or the DSM-5, to diagnose narcissistic personality disorder the following criteria must be met: Significant impairments in personality functioning manifest by either impairments in identity (exaggerated self-appraisal) or self-direction (goal-setting based on gaining approval from others), and impairments in interpersonal functioning such as empathy or intimacy.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Stoned Love by Michael McCarthy

Michael McCarthy's character sees a Greek couple relaxing by the pool and imagine that they represent his and his girlfriend's future.

How the hell am I going to tell her?

There's an old couple, mid seventies at least. They're like us, not age wise, but in their habits. Every evening we all wait until the other hotel guests have gone in to get ready for their evening meal. Then we go into the pool. That is me, my girlfriend and the man. He reminds me of a Greek shipping magnate. Maybe it's his chiseled features, deeply tanned, dried out skin and floppy, grey, slightly too long hair. So we swim, the three of us, I'm usually in the middle, for some reason, while the man's wife sits on a lounger, swathed in some garish, multi-coloured voluminous garment, reading a book through her huge wrap around shades under that old beehive hair style, a wobbly, towering edifice of rigid, sprayed, blonde locks, like the leaning Tower of Pisa.

She's a voracious reader. I don't know what she's read since I first started observing them, but I do notice that every evening she has a different book. There's something about measuring your life by the number of books you've read or even that the type of books you read has some bearing on your longevity or your health. Yes, it's ill formed as far as theories go, but I'm working on it. Every now and again the man's wife looks up and watches her husband, sometimes they exchange glances. I don't detect any great feeling in these glimpses, but they seem to be important to them.