August Story #2

Hah! So I’ve now squared my debts with August. Two stories in the bag. Rest assured, my dear reader, a great two many more short stories are in store for you. Whenever these past two stories become somewhat reasonable. I will give them their own pages in my great short story vault.

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A Future
by Yours Truly
~855 words
“Who can tell me about the downfall of the nation model?” Mrs. Traveras’s boot heels clicked against the classroom linoleum. No one spoke. Someone–probably Daniel Ozaga–rolled a pencil against a desk, the steady drum pacing the silent students. Mrs. Traveras glared in the direction of the pencil and it ceased. Definitely Daniel. She nodded perfunctorily.
            David scratched right above his ear then toyed with his curly hair. He had no idea what Traveras was talking about. He’d been daydreaming about something, about what he couldn’t quite remember any more.
Traveras patrolled the aisles. “I will wait until someone speaks.”
David sighed and looked at Lindsay. Now he remembered his daydream. She glanced at him and shrugged, her face drawn up in mock confusion. He slapped his palm to his mouth and stifled a giggle. Traveras’s heels struck the floor. She stopped behind David.
“You have the answer for the class, David? I believe everyone else is ready to hear it.”
“I don’t know the answer, ma’am.”
“Give us your best guess.”
“I don’t know, ma’am.”
Traveras stepped in front of David’s desk and stared at him. “Mr. Ramirez, your father works for Gascon Interstellar. I believe you have a healthy understanding of how we have arrived at our current governance system. We’d all love to hear what you think.”
“Everyone knows the answer, ma’am.”
“Then enlighten us, David. I am interested in what you have to say. Your classmates will listen attentively.”
 David sucked in a breath. He scratched at his ear again and peeked at Lindsay. She was smiling at him. He breathed out calmly.
“The nation model didn’t work kind of like… kind of like the religion model before it, I think. Mostly, it created divisions among people. Religion failed because these divisions existed even when people lived close together. Nations failed because even on the same planet people couldn’t be unified, much less once interstellar life became a thing. A norm, right? The company model has been successful because all the interstellar companies have an incentive to keep turmoil to a minimum. It also helps that everyone is, in some way, paid by the companies.”
“And what created the opportunity for the companies to take over?” Traveras’s voice was quiet but every student was listening. The pencil rolled somewhere, but a vigilant student hushed it. Traveras flashed a smile.
“Mostly, national governments sucked,” David said. “Their ability to rule effectively was hampered by the ideological divisions among each other. Competition with each other adversely affected their constituents, whereas in the company era, each giga-manufacturer has minimized those fallout events. At least, that’s what I think.”
“Very good, David, maybe you have been paying attention in class.”
“But, Mrs. Traveras?”
“Yes, David?”
“There’s something I never really understood.”
“About what?”
“About the company era.
“And what is that?”
David paused. He enjoyed the moment when everyone looked at him.
“If the company era is so much more effective than the religion and nation eras, then, ma’am, why are people still so fucking unhappy?”
The classroom erupted. The students thumped their desks and jumped from their chairs. They hooted and hollered. Someone–probably Ozaga–was whistling. David hadn’t been planning on swearing, but it came out of him like an ocean swell.
“David Ramirez! Language!” Mrs. Traveras looked at her suddenly untamed class.
She went to the front of the class, picked up her favorite stick, and tapped out a steady rhythm on the drawing board. Slowly and one at a time, the students hushed. Ozaga–that boisterous, inciting fool–was the last one to calm. Traveras approached him, and he saw her. He knew the gravity of the situation, out of habit and the gravity of Traveras’ face, and steeled himself. He laid his palms upright on his desktop.
“Thank you, Mr. Ozaga.” Traveras whipped her stick down and it snapped against his palms. His knuckles made a hideous rapping against his desk. He whimpered and was silent.
 Traveras turned back to David.
“Don’t think that I’ve forgotten about you, Mr. Ramirez. So you think you know everything now, do you? Well, then let’s hear what you’ve got to say.” She hoisted her stick onto her shoulder and leaned it there, building energy.
“Well, ma’am–”
“Don’t ma’am me. Get to the point.”
“Er, okay. It just seems to me that we’re learning that the company era is best because the companies are in charge of the schools. Everything I said was just what we’re taught to say. But it’s not the truth. I don’t know if people know it. I’m not sure if my folks know it, or even you, Mrs. Traveras. We’re just being taught what we’re supposed to know. I’m pretty sure that’s how it’s always gone, even way back to the other eras.
“The company era isn’t a solution to any of the old problems. You might think so. The people on newsscreens might think so. I’m pretty sure every adult thinks so. But it’s all the same as before, I think. I don’t know what else to say. That’s just how our galaxy has turned out.”

Deadline Failure!

So I know I said that I would write two shorts per month. That’s still the goal… basically. I have two shorts, but they’re not in a great condition. I’ll post one of them here, but it’s a ways off. And also, it’s Labor Day Weekend, therefore I’m just going to wrap this Monday into the month of August. I’ll post another short tomorrow. Maybe. Anyway, please enjoy despite the ruckus of grammatical issues and bad dialogue strings. This short story is 1,365 words long.

If you can think of a title, please post a comment!

EDIT: It’s Monday… 9pm. I’m tired. I know there are some of you hanging on my every word. Hell, I’m doing the same, but I ain’t turning one in tonight. I’ll do three this month if that’s what it takes. Much love.

————

Quinn pulled a thin twig from his pocket, jammed one end between his lips and ignited a lighter against the other. He teased the flame back and forth. When the tip finally reached an amber glow, he holstered the lighter.
“What’re you doing?” Mike said.
Quinn pulled the twig, eyed the snaking trail of gray, and smiled.
“I’m smoking.”
Mike pulled the cigarette from his mouth, blew out a smoke ring, and nodded. “You look like an idiot.”
They sat on a wood bench at the Misty Glades Plaza in downtown. A bus chugged past. Black exhaust guffawed from its tailpipe. A homeless man pushed a cart full of blankets, garbage bags, and smells. Tins and glass jingled with the metal frame. The black garbage bags shined like chunks of obsidian. The homeless man paused in front of Quinn and Mike. His clothes were smeared with brown, gray, and black. A jaundiced shirt collar stuck over his frayed red sweater that hid beneath a torn leather jacket. On his shoulder, there was an embroidered patch, reading: Not All Who Wander Are Lost.
“Spare some change for a homeless man just looking for a bite to eat and a place to sleep and some human kindness?”
Quinn stared blankly, “Ah, sorry, man, I don’t have any spare change on me.” It was certainly true–to an extent. While Quinn felt the hard coins in his back pocket, and knew he had three extra dollar bills, he didn’t enjoy the idea of giving away money. He would need it for something. That meant it wasn’t spare, right?
“Yeah, I got some change for you, old timer,” Mike said. Still sitting, he unzipped his coat, pulled aside the corner lip and reached into his pocket. He came up with a few bills and held them between his fingers.
The homeless man stepped forward. A day’s worth of sweat gleamed on his forehead. He looked between ages sixty-five and eighty with a white beard twice as old. He smiled without showing his teeth, the splotchy, cracked lips spreading dangerously against his jaw like worn rubber bands that discolor as they are stretched to their limits.
To Quinn, the three of them seemed in their own bubble of existence. Nothing and no one could interfere. A twister spontaneously breaching the overhead clouds would touch the ground beside them and leave only a small opinion. The laws of physics denied any and all new forces. The generation of free will, through the machinations of the universe, posed zero validity. They were quite stuck.
A mother, pushing a stroller and leading a small girl by the hand, rushed past. The girl stared until they were far away.
“I have a few questions first,” Mike said.
Quinn’s jaw went slack and the smoking twig between his lips rolled into a corner and nearly fell out. Extending a conversation with a homeless person went one of two ways: bad and a bit worse. What was there to gain? To what end could Mike’s questions possibly fulfill?
“You got questions,” the homeless man said. His voice was flat, unimpressed with its master’s rhetoric.
“Sure do,” Mike said. “It could only take but a good minute of your time. I hope that’s not too much to ask.”
“If you’s asking, is that the first question?”
“A fair point, but no, that is not one of my questions. You must definitely answer my questions to earnthe spare money I have in my hands for you. If you are fine with this agreement, then you should have a seat with us.”
A look of surprise flashed through the scraggly beard, bushy eyebrows and wrinkled forehead. The homeless man crossed his arms, as if to say, You think I’m going to walk away from free money? He left his cart in the middle of the park’s road and sat between Mike and Quinn.
The smell of the man nearly knocked Quinn over. He turned to his end of the bench and gasped for air. Vaguely, he heard: “First, it’s a pleasure to meet you. My name is Mike.”
The homeless man grunted. Maybe they were shaking hands.
“The first question is: What is your name?”
“My name?”
“None other.”
“What do you wanna know my name for?”
“How else would I address you?”
“We’re just talking at each other. You don’t need my name.”
“If you want the money, you know the deal.”
With a sigh, “My name is Jacob.” After a moment, “Grenstler.”
“Jacob Grenstler, it is nice to meet you. My distracted friend behind you is Quinn. We work together. And this is a bench that we come to often. It helps us relax, we think.”
How long had Mike been planning this? Always the diabolical schemer, Mike may have been working on this prank for ages. Quinn felt queasy. He yanked the twig from his lips, rubbed out the ashen tip against the bench rail, and glared around for help. But despite his goosebump-inducing urge to escape this homeless man’s reek, there remained an overwhelming curiosity to hear the rest of Mike’s questions.
“So what’s your second question then?”
“Well, Jacob, I’d like to know how long you’ve been asking for money from strangers.”
There was a rustling of clothing. “I guess something like ten years, give or take a year or so.”
“I see. Thank you for your estimation. Do you mind if I take notes?”
“You’re holding the money.”
“Splendid.” There was more shuffling, then the click of a pen and subsequent scratching against paper.
“Why have you struggled to earn money through working?”
“You think asking for money ain’t work? Man, how do you think a salesman makes money?”
“True, true. I like your thinking Jacob, but a salesman usually has a product. What are you selling?”
HIS STINK, Quinn thought.
“I ain’t selling nothing. (At this, Mike laughed a little, a short cough, but Jacob didn’t notice.)”
“So you could stop asking for money this instant, get a job, and be well on your way?”
A grunt.
“Fair enough. Now, what was your first reason to start asking for money?”
“I needed it.”
“And you had none from a job.”
“What’re you trying to say?”
“You had no job.”
“Yeah, I had no job.”
“So when you needed money, the first thing you thought to do was to start asking for it, not get a job?”
“That’s right.”
“Ever since you first started asking for money, has it worked well for you?”
“I get by.”
“You don’t ever wish to do better than get by? Don’t you wish you could make money by not asking for it?”
“Hell, Mike, all anyone’s doing is getting by. You all are just getting by, you just might be telling yourself otherwise. You got jobs, but you don’t think you’re not asking for money?”
“I do not, Jacob. I produce things. I create things and knowledge for other people to use. In exchange, I get paid. What is your exchange? What do you give people?”
“Why do I gotta give things to people?”
“You don’t.”
There was a pause, and Mike scribbled away on a notepad. The homeless man checked one of his pockets. Quinn’s body tensed. Was he going to pull a knife? Quinn scanned their surroundings. The park was full of people. But Quinn got the feeling that Mike was pushing up against the limits of normal interaction that this guy could handle. Anything could happen.
“When you first started asking for money, I asked what your reason was. You said you needed it. What did you need it for?”
“Why do you care?”
Mike’s voice was low and secretive. “Answer the question, Jacob. This is our exchange.” Quinn’s uneasiness doubled.
“I dunno, drugs and stuff. I guess.”
“And your reason now?”
“Only sometimes for drugs. Mostly it’s for food and normal stuff.” The homeless man sniffed. Something big was stuck in his nostrils.
“My second to last question, Jacob. Do you enjoy asking for money?”
“I don’t think I’ve ever met a happy salesman when he knew his product sucked.”
 Scratching against paper.
“Thank you, Jacob for answering all my questions. Lastly, when would you wish to stop asking for money?”

“When you live like I do, you don’t get to wish for anything.”

Oscar Gets Confused

Oscar gaped at the man sitting beside the curb and said, “My word, man, you’ve got a head!” Oscar swiped his sweaty hands across his thighs. The denim jeans sucked up the moisture.
            The headed man regarded Oscar with nonchalant eyes, lazy in their sockets. “Yes, what of it?”
            Oscar hiccupped with a scoff. “What of it? As if he has never seen a stranger sight!” He slashed his arm back and forth over his shoulders. “Look here, my man, no head.”
             Headless pedestrians crowded the wide sidewalk. The neatly laid bricks came apart for slender trees paced such that their canopies provided unblemished shadows. A cool breeze ruffled the light red leaves. Autumn blushed tremendously in its early weeks. Everyone sauntered by without a second look at the heady man.
            “I see that you have no head,” he said.
            Oscar rolled a wrist, “Yes, do go on.”
            “I don’t see what else there is to go on…”
            Oscar straightened up and chuckled, laughed, and held his chest as he guffawed. He shrugged.

“I’ve never seen such a hopeless case! Well, can’t help a man if he’s got a head about him.”
-end-

new short!

I’ve uploaded a new short story. You can find it HERE! Or somewhere else. I don’t know where that else would be, but it could totally be there, too.

In the space of time I’ve been away from the blog, I’ve finished the Dan Simmons’ books Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion. They’re good books, and I love how detailed Simmons universe is. His writing isn’t “literary” crisp, but c’mon, that’s not why I’m reading science-fiction.

Simmons’ imagination is epic stuff. Kind of like high fantasy, but crazier because there’s got to be some semblance of logic and real-world laws.

The best part? He got Hyperion published in 1989. Lots of the issues we see in techie society are addressed in his books and it’s a little chilling. The predictive nature of science-fiction novels are exactly why they can be so captivating.

I recommend reading Hyperion.

I’m currently reading The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays by Oscar Wilde, and I love it so far. He has an exceptional skill for writing distinct tones and personalities. There’s always a point to his writing but he’s not beating you over the head with it, sprinkling enough clues for you to see it, but only if you want to.

I don’t like reading plays too much, but Wilde’s such a notable writer, that I made an exception, and I’m glad I did.