15 Days of Harveys Day 10 – Me! Four Flash Pieces

Yes, I’m blessed! Harvey Duckman Presents Volume 8 has four flash sized pieces from me (but be warned, Harvey doesn’t like the term flash).

It’s a Man’s World

 
“Where are you going?”
Susan’s face softened but she looked away.
All the women in the neighborhood were dressed in what we use to all “Easter Sunday” clothes; light dresses, bright, Spring colors of sky blues and yellows and whites, some with flower prints with big roses or tulips or daffodils or morning glories or black-eyed susans and all with long, lush green vines wrapping around them. All of them wearing wide-brimmed sun hats, many with scarves tying their hats around their chins. A few wore sunglasses. All had nice big purses, lots of different colors but most of them white, white cloth gloves covering their hands and all of them in either tasteful heels or flats. Nobody wore stilettos or CFMs of any kind.

Lessons Learned

They stood, coffee cups in hand, staring out the kitchen window. The radio switched from the news to two DJs joking about the lead story: an extraordinary meteor shower that wouldn’t be seen locally due to heavy cloudcover.
He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the sink. “Turn that down, would you, Love?”
She put her hand on his back and leaned forward beside him. “You think that squirrel knows we’re watching him?”
“How do you think he gets up there? That’s twice in two days I’ve seen him at the top of the bird feeders. He can’t be getting past the baffles on the poles and there aren’t any branches near by.”

Sanctuary

There is a planet on the scanners. It is large and round and red. The sun is yellow and warming, and the planet is in the sun’s life zone. The gravity is slightly stronger than Earth’s. The air is a bit richer, and there is abundant water under the surface.
The red coloring comes from two things. The surface of the planet is covered with red vegetation and their spores are everywhere. The ground is also red, although not with spores but with clay and slate like so faraway Connecticut.
The dog beside me raises his massive head and growls. I scratch behind his ears and his hind legs start thumping the cabin floor. I make him thump in time to songs I sing, switching legs as I go from chorus to lead and back.
“We’ll go down, see if this is the one.”

What We Saw at Bishop’s House

What’s become of Bishop’s house? This chamber is like the one I lay in moments ago but I know neither you nor your man. Outside the door, that’s not Bishop’s workshop.
I am William Bennett. Where is my wife, Chrysanthé? We are “The Dancers Extraordinairre.” There’s an advertisement in my breast pocket. See? “Dancers to the Crowns of Europe.”
Bishop’s told you of us? Where is he, then?

Each of the above is from Harvey Duckman Presents Volume 8 (the famous “No Dragons” issue). You can read the rest of each along with several other amazing stories between its captivating covers (and I hope you do!)

Have you been Harveyed?

The kind, wise, and wonderful folks at Sixth Element Publishing included four of my flash pieces in Harvey Duckman Presents Volume 8 and I’m repaying that kindness by showcasing the opening from each author’s work for the next few weeks.

 
Read

Next up, a taste of Kate Baucherel’s Firebird.

Enjoy!

Steam

Another flash piece (~430 words). Steam is my first attempt at the Steampunk genre and, being honest, I’m not sure it’s Steampunk so much as it’s Josephpunk.

The initial inspiration came pre-covid. I participated in a mostly steampunk con. I walked the hall meeting authors, asking questions, looking through their books, and wondering, “WTF is steampunk all about?”

My previous experience with anything steampunkish was several years ago reading Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine. A story (and sorry, I can’t remember the title) about a steam-powered airplane (and if anybody remembers its title, please share it in a comment). The technology was interesting, the aircraft feasible, and what caught my attention was the emphasis on character in the story. I read the story because I wanted the characters to succeed.

But none of the books I scanned at the con dealt with character, all focused on technology, and could probably be classified as “Tour of Wonders” stories more than anything else.

Not for me.

But as I stood beside my table signing books, I wondered, “What would a truly character-centric steampunk story be like?”

The concept came to me immediately.

This flash piece took about fifteen months to get to a first draft and a few more to polish.

Let me know what you think.


Steam

Arrival

 
The shrieking of my wheels on the tracks as I pull into the station, so like your screams when you realized what they’d done.
The hiss of my brakes, my body slowing as my heart began racing.
But could not; eyes on meters, release valves turn lest all their work be in vain.
Has no one told you?


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Rough Night

A flash piece (~1,000 words). I remember it came to me full bore but don’t remember what precipitated it.

Oh, wait, I do remember. Can you guess what brought it about? The answer’s at the bottom of the post.

As always, let me know what you think.


Rough Night

 
Haggarty’s feet seemed to argue with him about walking through the door. His five-o’clock shadow was well past midnight and he wore the same clothes he wore when I last saw him two days ago.

He grabbed a coffee and sat.

Lucello left me in charge and to be polite I said, “Rough night?”

He nodded, pulled his phone out of his pocket and thumbed up a few screens.

I tapped my pencil on the table. “Well?”

“I got home and all day my wife’s leaving me texts and voicemails that the dryer vent is loose and rattling so fix it when I get home.

“So I get home and I know I’m not gonna get any peace until I fix that dryer vent so first thing I go to the junk drawer for a screwdriver to fix the vent.

“But the screwdriver isn’t there. I’m thinking, ‘Oh, she fixed it herself.’ then I notice the little hammer isn’t there, either. I start moving things around. The pliers aren’t there and the Phillips head is missing.

“What the fuck? So I go into the bathroom where the dryer is and sure thing, the vent is completely off and there’s a hand there, the fingers clamped around the pliers, and I’m thinking ‘What the fuck?’


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Postcards

Not sure what caused this one to come out. It’s still a work in progress.

Let me know what you think.


Postcards


I picked a book from the carousel, something to read on the beach. I prefer the feel of a real book and, thanks to years of training and working in the field, I know “I prefer the feel of a real book” tells the reader so much about me. Just about everything you need to know if you’re paying attention.

My son, Jeremy, laughs at such statements. He has his ereader. Nook? Kindle? Android? Phone? I’ve lost track, he has so many devices. I’ll have read four to five pages by the time he’s found what he’s looking for on his various devices.

You would have thought my son would be more organized. I don’t mind him using devices, but for Chrissake organize yourself.

I’ve noticed that about younger people. They lack some rudimentary skills and my memory at twice his age is better than his. I remember where he put things better than he does, and they’re his things!

But a good book, a good cigar, a solid wooden beach chair with canvas strappings and a foldover shade to keep you out of the sun. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

The little bell over the door jingled and I looked up.

I know her. Or knew her. Couldn’t place her name. But my pulse quickened. Her, I remembered.


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The Last Drop

The following piece started life as an exericise in mood, atmosphere, and tone.

I’m waiting for some first readers to get back to me on it. One first reader offered, “I got a sickening chill when I got to the end.”

Hurray! I won!

Let me know what you think.


The Last Drop


People use to come from miles around to watch my father pour gas. He could pour gas through the eye of a needle into a siphon-tank without spilling a drop. They’d come, their near empty gas cans on the back of their buckboards, the cans braced all around so they wouldn’t fall over, spill, slosh around.

There were special gas pouring days back then and dad was the only one in our country who had a license to pour.

It was a wondrous thing to watch. He’d put one can on the ground in front of him, walk around it a few times, maybe put his hands on his hips or cross them over his chest and lift one hand to stroke the stubble on his chin, considering. Real difficult pours, he’d get down on his knees and hands, put his head down at ground level, looking around the can, checking for balance; would the can teeter as it filled? Would it slide as it neared full?

Then he’d start with a single, small, drop. A “test drop,” he’d call it. Everybody held their breath. He’d check the neck of the can after the test drop, make sure there was no spillage.

Warm days were the worst. Everybody’d have to stand back lest the fumes got inhaled. Couldn’t have that. Other pourers weren’t as careful as my dad. The fumes would escape and everybody’d have to go see the magistrate, explain what happened. Why weren’t proper precautions taken? My father never had to face that, never had to worry about asking the community to make a decision; make them decide what value would this person bring us? Is their contribution moving forward worth the gasoline fumes now resting in their lungs, in their blood? We can extract the fumes, reconstitute the gasoline, but the person would die.


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