Monday, March 30, 2020

How Tall the Ladder, How Far the Moon by Dave Henson

Dave Henson's lighthearted tale of a man obsessed with measuring.

According to my mother, I quit squalling soon as the doctor recorded my birth weight and length. Mom always has been prone to exaggeration... prone to a lot of things. But it's certain I had a fascination with measuring. OK, I'll admit it: I teetered over the boundary into compulsion at a young age.

One of my first memories is from 20 or so years ago. I determined Miss Gilbert's desk was 22 first-grade hands wide and 11 deep. Billy Johnson's blue eye was less than a hand from his brown one.

My itch to measure intensified the older I got till - shortly after my tenth birthday, when I threatened to run away from home because I didn't get another ruler for my collection - my parents took me to a child psychologist.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Steffiology by Harrison Kim

Steffie is a newly qualified counsellor with a dubiously intense approach to the client-therapist relationship; by Harrison Kim.

Lived experience is the best teacher, and I have been a student for too long. I studied my way to becoming a brand new counsellor through Phoenix University online. I wanted to connect with people through the exploration of mutual traumas. Client relationships start with role plays. The client plays his or her part, I play mine. We begin with formalities, end with catharsis.

My first counselling client, Chris Auger, was in a car accident last night. Apparently he drove his vehicle straight into the Yao Ham restaurant. I knew he had a thing for the waitress, but he seemed too much of a wimp to do something like that. At least it was 4am and no one but Chris was hurt. I will visit him in the hospital, despite and maybe because of all the personal things he said about me.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Crosscut by David B. Barnes

A youth offender in North Carolina decides to deal drugs, but needs to find someone he can trust; by David B. Barnes.

Looking west, Crosscut saw the mountains were just gaining the sunlight that had been warming the ridge to the east of Crosscut's cabin. Standing on the front porch and looking back to the south he examined the gravel road as it descended to the edge of Sylva and the by-pass around it. It was a terrific view. One Crosscut had been enjoying each morning, with a hot cup of fresh coffee in his hand, since early September when he had first moved into the cabin. In Crosscut's business it paid big to have forewarning of approaching police cars or cars belonging to people he didn't really want coming to his home.

Crosscut was a drug dealer.

His real name was Sylvester N. Mull, Junior, a twenty one year old who looked every bit of sixteen until you looked closely at his eyes and saw that though his mouth smiled his eyes never cooperated. His long dark brown hair did nothing to make his age more apparent. Crosscut wasn't just a drug dealer, he was a smart, cagey dealer.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Barbarian Reed by David W. Landrum

A lonely flautist is cast back in time as a test of his strength and compassion; by David W. Landrum.

The night Carson went back in time, he had pretty much given up on Ling. She did not seem interested in dating him and the one night they went out had been - well, not exactly a disaster, but discouraging as only a date gone wrong can be. He sat next to her when the symphony performed, saw her at rehearsals, and encountered her at social events connected with the symphony. Like most musicians, he and Ling supplemented their incomes by giving lessons; both taught flute at a local music store, often in rooms right next to each other. Still, she made it clear, non-verbally, that she had no interest in a relationship.

It chagrined him. He had other women with whom he regularly went places. He wanted to be married and was "looking" (as some people termed it). He knew Ling dated. Once or twice he had seen her in public places with men she obviously did have an interest in. He was not among them.

One weekend she invited the winds section of the symphony to a party at her house. His attempts to talk with her largely fell flat, except the time he saw her standing beside a bright brass statue of a woman, dressed in traditional Asian garments, standing on the back of a dragon. The sculpture caught his sense of beauty. She noticed his attention to it.

"That is Kwan Yuan, the Chinese Goddess of a compassion."

Monday, March 16, 2020

Number Seventeen by William Falo

William Falo's character is appalled by the treatment of racing dogs in Alaska.

Ten dogs pulled the sled toward me and the checkpoint as the musher urged them to go faster. Usually, they were slowing down. A checkpoint was a chance for the dogs to rest, but he kept urging them to go faster despite me waving at him from the side of the trail.

"On by," he called out.

I stopped waving when I saw the lead dog starting to pull the sled toward me.

"Whoa." The musher yanked the sled back toward the center of the trail, but the lead dog's legs gave out and it slid sideways causing the ones behind to trip over it. The sled spun sideways and headed straight toward me. I froze unsure of which way to go. How do you stop an oncoming dog sled? The answer was that you don't even try. In a feeble attempt, I put my hands up. The mass of dogs and sled took out my knees and I became part of the sliding wreck.

By the time we stopped, there was a pile of dogs in the snow with me on top of the sled. The dogs slowly got up except for the lead dog. It whimpered and stayed down on the snow.

"Damn you." The musher pointed at me. Steam came out of his nostrils like a bull ready to charge.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Death in Bloom Kelcey Davis

Life has been created on Mars to terraform it before the Earth becomes uninhabitable; by Kelcey Davis.

It was hours before his alarm would go off. Henry pulled off the sheets and sunk into his house shoes, careful not to disturb Carol. He accepted that sleep had escaped him, and extra time to pack would not be wasted. In the cabinet above the dishwasher he found a packet of noodles and tossed them into the microwave, waiting to open the door until just before the timer. They would not bother to pack the food.

They had not intended to abandon this place when they moved in, now almost a decade ago. Henry couldn't believe he had managed so long. Now, the neighborhood was a ghost town. The suburbs of Los Angeles suffered a quick and steady decline in population, and today the homes on Huston Street contained only a few reluctant owners. Five years ago had marked the beginning of a migration Northward and Eastward. At least, for those neighbors who could afford to move.

Monday, March 9, 2020

The Tree Planter by Spencer Sekulin

Kusuma is alone in a nightmarish world in which she is hunted by fleshers, until she meets a world-wise companion; by Spencer Sekulin.

Kusuma cowered in the ruins as the fleshers ghosted past.

Their footsteps were silent, as if even the ground was recoiling in fear. Guns and masks and jagged blades gleamed in the veiled sunset, as did lambent, feral eyes. Kusuma held her breath and tried not to make a sound as they stalked by, but her heart was beating so hard she could hear it.

They would eat her if they found her.

Fleshers were demons disguised in people's skin. Real people weren't evil. Kusuma had known no one but her parents, and they were as kind and gentle as flowers - at least, she thought flowers were like that. She'd never seen one before. The world was all dust and grey, nothing like the stories she'd been told - stories of lush meadows with dew-jeweled flowers. Kusuma focused on those stories now, in hopes of keeping her heart from racing faster. It felt as if it was about to jump out of her mouth and pulsate on the ground.

Friday, March 6, 2020

I Felt the Earth Move by Gary Ives

Gary Ives' character persuades her grandmother to tell her surprising life story.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th 1941 would take the lives of over 2000 sailors, soldiers and civilians but would also alter the paths of nations and the lives millions, some for the better, some for the worse. Who could have predicted that attack was actually the beginning of drastic changes that would bring the end of old imperial Japan, and that after much suffering democracy and prosperity would quickly emerge, or that the United States would ascend from the war the undeniable leader of the free world, and that former enemies would become allies and important trading partners who would come to admire each other's cultures. The surprise attack that no one suspected, not even the military, caught everyone off balance. If you ask any old timer where he or she was, or what they were doing when they learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor, they'll all remember clearly their circumstance at the time of the news. So the December that I turned seventeen I asked my granny Ginger if she could remember the moments when she first learned of the attack that brought America into the war. It came as no surprise to see her head tilt back and release a sigh with the hint of a smile. Oh yes, honey, I remember it well. Sure, I do.

So Granny, tell me.

Some other day, perhaps.

No, now please. Next week I'll be off to the university and will have no grand raconteur to satisfy me. I'm a big girl now. It's not just Pearl Harbor, either. Please, Gram, I want to know all about you. I've been asking your history for years and you've been putting me off. C'mon Gram, I've shared some pretty hot stuff with you. Suppose you were to croak on me while I'm away at the university. I need your story, Gram. You know mom doesn't give a shit; it's me who'll carry on. I'm the only one because I'm the only one left who cares and who truly loves you.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Swimming and Stealing by Edward Black

A scuba-diving scavenger finds a supernatural treasure; by Edward Black.

Human waste burst into a cloud of brown filth from the through-hole in the sailboat above her and began to slowly dissolve in the water. Ana's scuba gear covered her entire body, protecting her from the foul sewage, but that did not make it any less disgusting to have been blasted with human excrement. It was illegal to discharge your holding tank within three miles from the coast, but that did not dissuade the lazier folk from dumping it into the marina waters anyway.

Treasure hunting is much less disgusting in movies, Ana mused as she forcefully kicked her feet to propel herself away from the miasma. She returned her gaze to the seabed, resuming her search for any valuables accidentally dropped overboard.

She'd enjoyed a blessing of luck that morning, discovering a woman's wedding ring tucked into the sand below a full-keeled sailboat in urgent need of new bottom paint. The diamond tucked into the prongs was hefty; she knew she'd be able to pawn a good price for it. But the sun hadn't even crested the sky and there might still be other people's possessions to be salvaged from the water, so she had pocketed her treasure and resumed her hunting. Perhaps, if she were doubly lucky, she might find another wedding ring.