Empty Sky Chapter 10 – The Arctic Night

It may be cold but you’re not left out in the cold

Read Empty Sky Chapter 9 – Earl Pangiosi


Tom, Jamie, and Shem followed Jack through the upper level of the Lake Shore Limited’s SuperLiner Snack Coach. “Come on, gang, it’s not much further to the Viewliner. That’s where we’re sleeping.” Some five steps behind them, a nurse and two attendants followed sipping rootbeers and munching potato chips from crinkling cellophane bags.

Tom sneezed at a sudden whiff of diesel fumes. Everyone stopped. With no rhyme or reason to his narcolepsy, everyone prepared for another cascade.

“I’m fine, I’m fine.” His head fell forward and his eyelids fluttered. The attendants hurried forward as Tom straightened up. “Ha! Gotcha!”

The attendants smiled. Shem wagged his tail at the sudden activity. Jack muttered “Asshole” and Tom whispered back “Shithead.”

Jamie remained silent.

Jack reserved the last Viewliner rooms for the seven of them. The one closest to the rear door and the diaphragm-engulfed platform between cars — Jack explained it prevented people jumping or falling from the train when they moved between the cars — was a bedroom suite for the attendants, base medical and ambulance grade EMT supplies and equipment. Jack took the furthest in-train of the four, a standard bedroom. Jamie, Shem and Tom shared the next in-train, another bedroom suite. The nurse had the bedroom suite between the McPhersons and the attendants. The suite also contained a Lexicor MedTech NeuroSearch-24, 19 AC-coupled amplifiers, an Autonomy’s Frontalis recorder and more dedicated neuro diagnostics than most hospitals could afford.

Jack refused to take chances. When Tom slept he demonstrated intermittent trains of rhythmic spiked morphology waves. Tom’s body slept but not his brain. He closed his eyes and his fronto-orbital regions lit up like aircraft landing lights desperately seeking safe ground. When no such place appeared Tom’s brain turned the lights on brighter, intent that it existed and waiting to be found. That much neural horsepower required his autonomic nervous system to take over body functions completely. No distractions, nothing to interfere with making the search. Not Jack, his team nor anyone he shared the data with had seen anything like it.

Tom stopped at the door to his suite while Jamie and Shem walked in. He smiled at Jack. “Alas, to sleep. Perchance to dream.”

Jamie, already in bed with Shem beside him, watched Tom clean up and get under the covers. He listened for changes in his father’s breathing as Tom drifted off, wanting to be sure his father was there when he woke up, until the train’s steady ruddaRump ruddaRump ruddaRump rocked him to sleep, Shem curled up beside him.

***
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Hannah R. Goodman Questions Me Nine Times!

You publish an exciting SF Thriller about Recovery from Childhood Trauma and Everybody Wants to Interview You. That’s what I’m hopin’

Everybody’s talking at me…
I don’t hear a word they’re saying…

Okay, I do.

The inestimable Hannah R. Goodman, aka WriterWomyn (you gotta love it, don’t you? I keep seeing Linda Carter bouncing bullets off her wrists.
yeah, I’m that old) asked me nine, count ’em, nine questions about The Augmented Man, what do I read (lots of stuff. Ever gone through my Goodreads listings?), my influences, the worst advice I received about publishing, my theory on rejections (THE FOOLS!), and what I’d do on a stranded island (aside from make sure there’s always a full moon so I can read before going to sleep).

Hope you enjoy.

Dove Winters Interviews Me

Bearded Scotch Toes? In 50 words or less, too!

Dove Winters (of Ember of the Planet fame) invited me to take part in her Questions that Matter Interview series.

These were not the standard interview questions and I decided to have fun with them. I get to tell the story of meeting Susan (wife/partner/Princess), some fascinating aspects of my physiology that (so far) are unique to me, my dream circus job, my favorite pair of socks, and you get to read a 50 word flash piece by yours truly.

It was a trip.

The interview, not the flash piece.

Hope you enjoy.

The Weight

Chance meetings leave us changed in unexpected ways

Creator and above level members can download a PDF of this file to read offline

“You’re a long way from home,” the waitress said. A little shopkeeper’s bell dingled as I closed the door behind me and I looked up it, wondering what kind of place this was.

“We’re more tavern than bar,” she said, answering my thought. She moved out from the shadows behind the bar to where I could see her clearly, her waitress’ apron tied neatly and knotted in front and a towel with blue edging slung over her shoulder. “More a way-station, actually.”

She was pretty in an older kind of way and I wasn’t sure I expected someone in their late thirties to – oh, even late – forties to be tending bar on an old country crossroads at the northern edge of the New York-Mass border. “With a name like The Mythic Center I’m not surprised,” I said.

I wasn’t even sure if it was a bar, but I’d gotten lost, it was nine-o’clock at night and this was the only place with lights on – hell, it was the only place, period – I’d seen since dusk. It was too dark, too late and I was too tired to keep hiking through country I hadn’t explored in thirty-five years.

“Been traveling long?” she asked, making conversation. I was the only other person in the place so I’m sure she didn’t mind the company.

I nodded and smiled back, rubbing my hands against the cold they’d gathered in the day’s walking. I could have sworn I left the city in late summer but Fall seemed to come fast in my wake. I stood by the door and looked around. The place had a look that made me feel comfortable. It wasn’t really a bar. Like she said, more a tavern and out here, I could believe a way-station. And it wasn’t yuppified. The tables and chairs were light maple – all local and hand made, nothing imported and nothing with a machined #7 of 7,000 look. The place had a good, solid, well-worn feel about it. Whatever wasn’t maple – the paneling, the bar and stools, the booths – was oak, ash or thorn. Whoever owned The Mythic Center meant it to last and I chuckled as I realized the oxymoron in that. But everything seemed a little lonely with only the waitress cleaning up to keep the furniture and walls company. There were chess and checker boards on some of the tables, some tables had cribbage boards on them. I could tell serious gamers came here because the gaming tables had green shaded, metal poker lights suspended from the ceilings over them. Between those and the bar and booth lights, the place was well lit without being blinding, what I’d call soothing and never too much light unless you needed it.

One wall contained several racks of books and the opposite wall sported a genuine British competition style dart board, well used. I stared at it and my face must have lit up because the waitress asked, “Do you throw?”

I shook my head, no, although I walked over and lifted a dart from its rack. I ran my fingers over the flight feathers – again, no plastic and the darts were competition weighted. “No, just an admirer of good things built to last.”

She stopped drying down a Monopoly™ gaming table and stood up to look at me, one hand on a hip and twirling the damp towel with the other. “Thanks.”

The light over the table captured her in a spotlight and she let me take a long drink before she reached up for the chain and turned the light off. Salt&pepper hair that made a long, thick braid down her back, cerulean blue eyes that my dad used to call “ice-eyes”, a wide face with lots of freckles but no wrinkles except laugh lines, and no makeup to disturb any of it. When she smiled there was a gap in her front teeth and I caught myself thinking of Chaucer’s The Miller’s Wife, then quickly shook my head.

It showed, I guess. The way she smiled at me, running her tongue over the gap in her teeth absentmindedly, looking down and to the side as she shook her head.

Under a full length apron she wore a blue tanktop matching her eyes. Her jeans were torn at the knees and faded from work, not from some designer’s idea of what work did to good clothing and red hightop sneakers like I use to wear as a kid.

She quoted Bob Seger’s Nightmoves, singing it like a question, “Little too tall? Could’a used a few pounds?”

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Peter Frampton – The Weight

His songs helped me write my history

Peter Frampton, in case you haven’t heard, is doing a farewell tour.

It seems many of the legends of my youth are doing farewell tours. Elton John comes to mind. The Moody Blues will never appear as The Moody Blues again. Such happens if you live long enough. Susan (wife/partner/Princess) and I are spending this year going to final tour concerts.

Bittersweet, that.

Eariler this week we saw Peter Frampton in concert. This is the third time for Susan, fourth for me. We saw him together when he played in David Bowie’s Glass Spider Tour, then long ago when he played at an abandoned drive-in theater in Ogunquit, Maine (the first stop in a comeback. He was testing material. And it was bittersweet then. In the middle of the concert he had to put on glasses to read something. He apologized to us. I remember everybody waving cyalumes, not lighters). He’s still got it. He has neurologic challenges that are making it difficult for him to perform. Couldn’t tell by his performance. And gracious as always…

He opened by letting everybody know they could video and take pix of his first three songs, then he’d prefer if we all simply sat and enjoyed.

We did.

But this post is about the first time I saw Frampton perform. I was already a big fan. I told anybody and everybody that he was underrated, that he had serious chops, pay attention.

And we’re talking the early to mid 1970s.

The first time I saw Frampton perform, I was hiking The Dragon’s Spine and came down to resupply. That meeting stayed with me and became a focal point in my Pushcart nomimated story, The Weight. Here’s the excerpt that deals with my meeting Frampton many years ago (read the full story).
Continue reading “Peter Frampton – The Weight”