Monday, January 18, 2021

Parkie, Tanker, Tiger of Tobruk by Tom Sheehan

World War II veteran Frank Parkinson tells a story he's never before dared tell; by Tom Sheehan.

Hardly with a hop, skip and jump did Frank Parkinson come home from Tobruk, Egypt, North Africa, madness, and World War II in general. A lot of pit stops were made along the way where delicate-handed surgeons and associates did their very best to get him back into working order. From practically every vantage point thereafter we never saw, facially or bodily, any scar, bunching of flesh or major or minor skin disturbance. There was no permanent redness, no welts as part of his features, no thin and faintly visible testaments to a doctor's faulty hand or to the enemy's angry fragmentation. It was if he were the ultimate and perfect patient, the great recovery, the risen Lazarus.

But he was different, it was easy to see, by a long shot.

Parkie. Tanker. Tiger of Tobruk.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Empathy by Christopher K. Miller

Emile, a teenage gun obsessive with Asperger's, connects with two suffering strangers at the Cordova Arms-Fair in Memphis, Tennessee; by Christopher K. Miller.

They met not at one of Memphis's over two-thousand Christian places of worship but at the Cordova Arms-Fair out on Trinity Creek Cove, a few blocks west of the old Walmart supercenter. Sally, who'd driven up from Germantown, was there to return a silencer she'd bought for her T4 Nighthawk. Not defective or anything. Made the 9mm semi-auto's ordinarily sharp report sound to her ears almost exactly like someone coughing spitballs through a fat plastic straw. But it also made poor little Chompy, her Doberman Shepherd cross, yelp and whine, and sometimes even squirt a little, with each wet splut. The sales associate, after explaining the only way Arms-Fair could offer rock-bottom prices on top-of-the-line ordnance was through a strict no-returns policy, admitted someone should've told her that that particular suppressor worked by venting gasses through a kind of ultra-high-frequency whistle. Suggested she try lightening her load, maybe go with the 105-grain Federal Guard Dog round. Safer for shooting home intruders, too. Designed not to punch through walls and such. Even offered to waive commission on a box. But Sally, having already spent over four grand on the premium handgun with optional aluminum frame and padded green carrying case, believed fervently that the store ought to, in her case, make an exception to its strict no-returns policy. Even went so far as to kneel down right there below the week's featured firearm, dubbed Second Amendment, a net-ready, laser-scoped, flash & muzzle-suppressed, self-propelled, .125 cal Barrett/Audi Model 6X6 military-grade sniper rifle with a programmable AI, four integrated 2420p x 1260p 120 fps webcams, a centimeter-level precision Trimble GNSS, and, best of all, remote aim & fire capability. "The drone you own," pitched the display's flawless female voice, engineered to project the same confidence and barely suppressed joy as (but come across a hint less authoritarian than) Walmart's "Please proceed to checkout..." lady. Overhead on an airscreen, a 20-point buck nibbled low-hanging acorns in the double crosshairs of a scope whose rangefinder's readout showed 2760' 7.5" through a 2.25 mph east-southeasterly cross-breeze, along with some barometric data. "Hunt anything anywhere from the comfort and safety of your home," prompted the display as Sally closed her eyes, folded her hands, bowed her head and asked Jesus to forgive this salesman his intransigence, show him the error of his ways, and let her at least exchange, if not return, the Osprey.

Monday, January 11, 2021

The Influential Amnesia of Mr. Billows by Matthew Shovlin

Phil suggests an unusual tactic for assessing whether Guy will make a good first impression on his date, and soon regrets it; by Matthew Shovlin.

In a two-bedroom Brooklyn apartment with no windows.

Guy emerged from his bedroom after an hour of preparation and asked, "How do I look?"

Phil gave him a quick once-over, said, "Good," and returned his attention to the television.

"No, man, for real though. How do I look?"

"What do you mean? You're in a white T and jeans."

"I know what I'm wearing, ass hat. I guess more what I'm asking is like is this a good choice?"

"I dunno, dude."

"Come on, don't be weird about it."

"I'm not pulling one of those quintessential '90s acts of sexual insecurity, Guy. I just have no way of knowing what this girl is gonna be into or not into, outfit-wise. Or anything-wise, for that matter."

Friday, January 8, 2021

A Commitment to Running by Laramie Wyatt Sanchez Graber

Johnathan is committed to running from his painful memories; by Laramie Wyatt Sanchez Graber.

People always say, "You can't keep running forever. Eventually your problems will catch up to you." Or at least that's what they say when they find it hard to look at me, when they sigh, when they shake their heads. But that's only because they've never committed.

When running is your way of life, the world is no longer static, trapping. It all becomes a blur, trees outside a speeding car window (like the pine trees in the Appalachians when Cynthia and I would go driving in the winter, windows unrolled, to feel the frigid blast, to celebrate that our bodies were warm and vibrant). And all the pine trees look the same, it's impossible to distinguish between them, so you stop trying. Then, you live only in the moment and you're free (there are no ends).

"Sir, uh sir, it's closing time."

Monday, January 4, 2021

Garden City by Sumita Sami

When riots break out in the futuristic city of Erva Bereo, a diplomat turns to a secret garden and its mysterious curator for help; by Sumita Sami.

In the evenings, when I'd dispatched my diplomatic duties of the day, I'd change out of my professional attire and take long walks around the city. It never really felt like a single city to me, this Erva Bereo, and the more I wandered around its neighborhoods, the less it seemed like a city and more like a collection of communities that happened to co-exist.

I found little nooks that I could call my own, a necessary and pleasant operation that helped me acclimatize to every city I visited. Small caf├ęs, friendly parks, large central locations where demonstrations usually occurred and which I could monitor in a passive fashion. I would know the layout of the city within the week, which helped me find lunch and, occasionally, safety when the gunfire started.

Friday, January 1, 2021

The Man Who Hid Music by Tom Sheehan

A traveller fixes up an old, abandoned house, and piques the curiosity of the locals; by Tom Sheehan. 

One day at the little house where the dowser used to live, a kind-looking man with a beard came carrying all he owned on an A-frame on his back. He set the A-frame on the ground and looked at the small house needing much work. Muscles moved under his shirt.

"Whose house is this?" he said to some children playing at an edge of a field. This was the place where the mountain came to a rest, but the river had not been found as yet.

One of the boys said, "It used to belong to the dowser, but he went away." The boy used a stick to walk with as one leg was slightly crooked and made him lean.

"Why did he go away?" the man said, looking closely at the stick the boy had to use.