Monday, January 29, 2018

The Unintended Consequences of Driverless Cars by Charlie Fish

The aforementioned consequences include London burning, Amazon making fridges, and the main character's wife having an affair. Best read out loud in a Cockney accent.

I reckon me wife's having an affair.

Sharon and I got together back when I was boning up to be a London cabbie. I was always hunched over a map, or going out for runs on the bike, or sitting there reciting every shopfront from Marylebone to the Old Kent Road. If it weren't for her I'd have forgotten to eat. How she had the patience to stick with me I'll never know.

But I passed the Knowledge in the end, and bought meself a beautiful black TX4. Filled with pride, I was, to be me own boss, to be driving such an iconic symbol of London. We used to call ourselves Cromwell's Army, a nod to 400 years of shared history.

I paid off the cab in three years. After that Sharon and I would take a month off every year and take the kids to Benidorm. That was the life. Sure, I occasionally took a fare that didn't make it onto me tax return, but I was fundamentally an honest cabbie. Not like those bloody Ubers.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Philip's Beaches by Bruce Harris

A British diplomat drops everything to rescue his reporter brother from a war zone, and reflects on their relationship; by Bruce Harris.

The door to the pilots' cabin is slightly ajar, to enable immediate communication if it becomes necessary, and I am only a few yards behind them, so any crisis arising can be dealt with. At last, that sense of events hurtling rapidly out of my control has subsided a little. I have even occasionally managed something like dozing in the last twenty minutes, a rest for my aching body and mind.

The big air ambulance has one patient centrally placed and medical equipment, including monitors, on both sides. Incongruous as an armed ambulance may be, we are still in dangerous country and we do have a few sophisticated armaments, including machine guns and even a few small missiles, the airborne equivalent of mortars. My sister in law Ellen, along with Olawale and Kebe, a doctor and nurse respectively, are in the centre with me; at the back, in front of a complex dashboard, a thin young guy called Peter Gibson is keeping a careful eye on what's happening on the ground and in a twenty mile radius around us. Though he looks only recently emerged from adolescence, Peter has already demonstrated his considerable tracking and hacking abilities and he has had a lot to do with our success so far. Olawale and Kebe are Nigerian, as are the pilot and co-pilot; Olawale is once again checking his patient to ensure he is moving as little as possible, even though the best of pilots cannot avoid causing some movement.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Symphony by Chloe Nakano

Jocelyn faces up to her grief at the loss of her husband; by Chloe Nakano.

Time heals all wounds.

Over the past month, Jocelyn's family and friends had offered her so many different variations of the popular phrase, that she now found herself hating it. 'Does it?' she wanted to yell at the next unlucky person who dared say it. 'Because it sure as hell don't feel like it.'

Even now, something simple like the doorbell ringing made her feel like she was suffocating beneath memories of her late husband, Charles. He was a cellist at a lounge downtown. After work he'd come home, hands full with his cello and papers or sound equipment, unable to open the door; he'd ring the doorbell to get her to open it for him. She'd sometimes get annoyed because it would interrupt her writing.

Friday, January 19, 2018

A Farewell to Bikes by Frank Beyer

A delivery of Paxter electric carts changes up the bicycle-riding routine of a group of New Zealand posties, and they wonder what else the future holds; by Frank Beyer.

1

The exercise on the bike was something to appreciate. Twenty-odd hours of fat-burning a week - hard to replace. My direct manager was measured and fair, not a bully like at my old branch. She was going to go on maternity leave soon though, and so this purple patch wouldn't last. Things are always changing as people love to say, one has to stay flexible... 'Within five years it'd be drones delivering Chinese Rolexes to agoraphobes, everyone on a universal income, slurping low fat milkshakes... In the meantime the current technological issue was a sorting machine in Auckland that refused to count mail. We had fun messing with each other while counting thousands of letters.

32, 33, 34, 35...

Hey listen to this... 35, 36, 34, 35, 32, 96, 96.

You bastard... I've lost my place!

Monday, January 15, 2018

I Didn’t by Mary Kaye Valdez

Mary Kaye Valdez's flash about a schoolboy's regret.

When you’re sitting next to your Emilio Mercado for the first time on Monday morning, make sure you pay attention to him. I didn’t. I was too upset about separating from my friends to care about him. The last thing I wanted was to sit next to someone I didn’t know, but you shouldn’t ignore your Emilio Mercado. Don’t only think about yourself, and start a proper conversation with him.

“Mr. Santos really separated everyone,” I said.

“Yeah,” he replied.

“My friends are all the way on the other side of the room.”

“Oh.”

“I think it’s the same for everyone. Everyone is yelling across the room just to talk to their friends now. I hate this.”

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Heist by Beryl Ensor-Smith

Small-town South African couple Bennie and Elaine get a taste of the big city high life in Waterfontein; by Beryl Ensor Smith.

When Bennie and Elaine Ferreira returned from their six-week cruise, there was much talk among the villagers, most of it less than kind.

"They're very full of themselves," Marion Klopper said indignantly, "not at all interested in what's been going on here, just go on endlessly about all the exciting things they've experienced since they left."

"That's probably because nothing much happens here," Rina van Wyk sighed, "and from what Elaine's told us about their cruise, it sounds heavenly."

"If you ask me," Christina du Plessis sniffed, "she was hoping to meet up with that singer from a cruise ship that she once had an affair with."

"That was just gossip," Helga Swanepoel reproved. "There wasn't a grain of truth in that rumour. Elaine and Bennie are devoted to one another."

"Perhaps," Christina replied sulkily, "but you can't deny that since they've been back they are more interested in the friends they met on the ship than in us!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Getaway by Bill Vernon

An Ohio couple travel to a country retreat, but Marcie does not feel at ease - and for good reason. By Bill Vernon.

Frank said, "Marcie, let's take a little hike and look the place over," and I let him lead me through the large parking lot onto a trail that began just beyond the cars. It went a hundred yards, then started up a mountain and narrowed so much I had to walk behind him.

Climbing, we made three U-turns, and I already felt as if we were deep inside a mysterious forest. Skinny, whitish trees shrouded us with tons of little spade-shaped leaves.

"Can't see much," I said, looking downhill. The lodge and its lake, in which we'd watched a moose feeding, like a big horse with oddly humped shoulders, lay hidden behind foliage.

I was breathing hard, but stretching the muscles felt good after driving here from Missoula.

Friday, January 5, 2018

A Case Study of Post-Necrosis Development in the Domesticated Feline by Daniel Olivieri

Young Tara loves her smart cat Socks so much not even death can come between them; by Daniel Olivieri.

Professor Socks was a cat of few words. No words, actually. In addition to being mute, he was also illiterate. Illiteracy is rampant in the cat community. Despite this, Tara had decided that Professor Socks was one of the foremost intellectuals of his generation. Occasionally, she would treat her parents to a lecture on Professor Socks' achievements. They were numerous. He was tenured, to start with. Tara's parents shared a wry smirk when they heard that. Both of them were professors. Neither had tenure. Professor Socks, Tara would continue, had a litany of publications. He even had a teaching position at Tufts, Tara would add. Once, Tara's father asked, "What field does Professor Socks work in?" This question threw Tara. She was pretty sure that farmers worked in fields, not professors. She responded, "You know... all of them. Left field, infield, cornfields, wheatfields."

"Your father means," Tara's mom jumped in, "what does Professor Socks study?"

"Oh," Tara said. "Biology, mostly. He specializes in viruses."

Monday, January 1, 2018

Shag DeBrillen, Brickie (or The Usual Flat-out Failure at Most Things Unexceptional) by Tom Sheehan

A lowly bricklayer witnesses a possible crime and hears the voice of his mentor in his head coaxing him to rise to the occasion; by Tom Sheehan.

As Shag DeBrillen was about to turn the corner in the suburban area where he lived, he spotted a lone car a short ways down the town road. He whistled. It was an Impala, an oldie, an olden golden, a gem of an antique. With the six ports in the rear end looking like gun ports on a fighter aircraft, he affirmed it was a '63. The car was parked at a siding and the driver, leaning out the window, was talking to a young girl of ten or so that Shag assumed was on her way to school.

An illusion? An old car, a young girl, not much else to look at, or take your eye to the quick. Sometimes what you see is not what you see.

It was early October and school year had recently started. Soon, he thought, the leaves would begin to change color, the big silver maple directly across from him soaking up the early sunlight, the threat of change poised and real in its broad cast of leaves. The nights would come cooler in a matter of a week or so, the year looking at its cold ending.