Monday, November 30, 2020

Fast Times at Spiro Agnew High by James Blakey

High school student Michael Wimmer owes money to a dangerous acquaintance, and must undertake some detective work to make things right; by James Blakey.


I'm about to step off the bus and I make like a statue. Frank Samson is standing on the curb, between me and the school, dressed like an undertaker's apprentice: white shirt, dark tie, black slacks.

"Wimmer, you're blocking traffic," a voice says from behind.

Samson flashes a rat-faced smile and punches a fist into his open hand.

"Move!" Someone shoves me.

I tumble to the pavement. Frank takes two steps toward me, then I'm up and running for my life. I head left toward the staff parking lot. Two hundred yards and twenty-five seconds later, I look over my shoulder. No Samson.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Blonde Noir by DC Diamondopolous

An ageing actor-artist is interviewed for a talk show after an old video goes unpleasantly viral; by DC Diamondopolous.

Kit Covington sat on the sofa in her Pacific Palisades mansion with a cigarette lodged in the side of her mouth. A cloud of smoke floated around her head. She adjusted the oxygen tube in her nose, then brushed ash from her dog Muffin's champagne-colored curls. The miniature poodle dozing in Kit's lap startled when the camera crew from The Great Morning Talk Show banged equipment into Kit's antique furniture.

"Watch it! You scratch anything, you'll pay for the restoration." Since her left lung had been removed, Kit's husky voice had a rattle that lingered between words chaining them together like loose ball bearings.

"Sorry," the stocky, tattooed sound woman said.

Kit wondered if the all-female crew was a set-up - some kind of knife-twisting in the gut. She'd been anxious about the interview and now regretted it.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Survival by John M. Floyd

Four survivors of a cruise liner disaster compete for survival; by John M Floyd.

Ross and McLane stood together on the grassy ridge, looking down at the coastline.

"If he left this morning," McLane said, "he should be back by now."

"He'll be back," Ross said.

"I don't know. He told Susan there might be pirates about." McLane was leaning on a crutch he had made from a tree limb, and gazing at the spot where the beach disappeared around a peninsula a mile to the west. They knew which way was west, at least, from the sun. That was about all they knew.

"Let's just hope he finds the boat."

McLane nodded. "Or more survivors. Right?"

Friday, November 20, 2020

Scenario 67B - Dealing with Entitled New Hires by C.J. Heckman

CJ Heckman educates us on how not to deal with new space mining recruits.

The following transcript is provided as a training reference for prospective Corporate Family Liaisons. Let's take a look at what E[339033] did right with her orientation group and reflect on what she could have done better.

E[339033]: "Hello, Everyone! Welcome aboard Interstellar Extractions Mining Installation Maverick-34! My name is Interstellar Extractions Corporate Family Liaison Employee Number 339033, but my friends just call me Employee Number 339033. I am so excited to get to know all my new Corporate Siblings! Who here is excited to start their new life as a member of the Interstellar Extractions Corporate Family?"

The new hires cheer with an unacceptably low level of enthusiasm.

E[339033]: "Woah, sounds like some of my new corp-sibs are still waking up from cold sleep! Let's try that again. Who here is excited to become a member of the Corporate Family?"

The new hires cheer with a marginally acceptable level of enthusiasm.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Broken Shells by Bruce Costello

A woman attends her cousin's funeral and sees the kind of person he really was; by Bruce Costello.

Surrounded by daffodils and stillness, my cousin Billy lies in an eco-friendly willow coffin, serene as a wax doll. I run a hand across his once flaxen hair.

How strange. It's not him. Just a shell. Where's he gone? I bend down and kiss the shell's forehead.

We were playmates as kids. We didn't like each other much but played well together. Our families stayed the summer holidays in Long-Drop Cottage at Kai River Mouth. Billy was nearly a year older, and he was a boy, but that didn't matter to me. Neither of us had brothers or sisters. It was just the two of us, running around the sand hills, playing on the beach, looking for lizards, searching for pretty shells, mucking about, as kids do.

It came to an end when his mother and father caught us playing doctors and nurses.

"My own son... a sexual abuser!" Billy's mother shrieked.

"Hold on! They're only kids. It's just curiosity, what kids do," his father protested. But she pushed him aside, picked up a piece of driftwood and turned into a monster.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Death in Tesuque by Christie B. Cochrell

When opera singer Didi Vallance is found dead in her ex-husband's pool, handsome detective Gilbert Jaramillo investigates; by Christie B. Cochrell.

My father and I left Tesuque on Monday as soon as it got light. So when they found the body in the swimming pool later that morning, strangled and ingloriously dead, they guessed we'd had something to do with it - especially since the dead woman turned out to be my father's second and ex-wife, Didi. Diana Vallance, as the opera world knew her, the B+ lyric soprano famously given to temper tantrums in public places. She had been due to sing the following weekend, the opening of Tosca with the hot new Ecuadorian tenor, but would be singing only on pirate CDs from then on out.

We'd all been at my friend Francesca's wedding - my best friend from grade school, like a sister to me and a second daughter to Dad. We'd kept in touch when I left for college in Berkeley and then transferred to the Scottsdale Culinary Institute, wanting to be closer to home. Francesca had stayed in Santa Fe, started a small bookkeeping service in an old two-roomed adobe with fantastic light near the sometimes-river, and after a dozen defiantly feminist years scorning male company, fallen at first vexatiously then just as defiantly in love with Joseph Molino - the younger son of Didi's current husband. Which must sound both confusing and somehow incestuous, I know - though really it's just life in modern times.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Unprecedented by Adam Kluger

Bugowski tells the story of his eccentric friend Manfred Gogol, in this interview-style piece by Adam Kluger. 

F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, "If you are strong enough there are no precedents."

Manfred Gogol lived "off the grid" and was a person of many small mysteries, like Gatsby. Gogol's wealth wasn't money, though he somehow had acquired plenty of it from a mysterious trust fund that was established very early in his life. It was, in fact, his enviable ability to be completely mobile, free, unattached and without any marked responsibility whatsoever that was most singular.

Manfred Gogol's lifestyle was, as he liked to say on many occasions, "unprecedented".

Ostensibly an artist, a mimic, a raconteur, a cynic and an expert on countless topics, Gogol's antics in the art world were legend. Everyone had a Manfred Gogol story but like the blind men in the dark room with an elephant - very few could ever glean the true nature of the man, nor could any of them foretell his future actions or the bizarre events that would lead to this particular recollection.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Number 43 by Sheila Kinsella

Sheila Kinsella gives us a behind-the-scenes look at a busy restaurant, where waiters Charles and Anton are competing for a promotion.

Charles whisks the braised lamb from the serving window and marches to table two. On his way to pick up an order, Anton steps aside to allow him to pass, smiling as he does so. As the counter is empty, he pokes his head through to the kitchen. On his face he feels the steam billowing up from the boiling pans on the gas hobs. The whirr of the extractor fans drowns out his voice.

'Chef, table ten, lamb?' His voice echoes against the tiled walls of the kitchen.

'What?' Chef replies.

Anton repeats his request.

'Gone out already mate,' Chef says.

'Can't be right. Check again,' Anton asks.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Big Ma's Boys by Alexander J. Richardson

Agents Paul and Lydia respond to a shoot-out with a local gang matriarch; by Alexander J. Richardson.

Paul leaned over his desk, one elbow pressed against it. The knot of his tie was loose, and he scowled as he looked at the surveillance photos. Lydia rolled over in her office chair, grabbing Paul's desk to halt her approach.


"Yeah," Paul said. "Everything, in fact. All the pieces are here, the arms deal's supposed to be happening, but there hasn't been any chatter for weeks." He sighed and stood straight. "I don't know if she finally caught wise or what, but we're sitting on our thumbs until there's movement."

Lydia rotated a pen between her fingers. "You've been on this for nine months now."

"Yeah, Lydia, I'm perfectly aware of how long I've been working this case."

Paul went to the breakroom for a cup of coffee. When he came back, Lydia was at her own desk, reviewing Paul's photos. He walked over.