Canis Major

You’re tired of being alone and afraid and once, just once, you want to hold someone and not be afraid of their fear.

Canis Major originally appeared in the April 1996 Tomorrow Magazine appears in my Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires anthology. You can also read the separate ebook singlet at Canis Major: A Tale Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires.

The story is a simple one. Imagine you’re a WereMan, human when the moon is full, a beast when not, and your father died before explaining your gift to you. Your fully human mother did the best she could but couldn’t really understand your needs.
Now you’re tired of being alone and afraid and once, just once, you want to hold someone and not be afraid of their fear.

The song lyrics in Canis Major are used courtesy of John Pousette-Dart and Debbie Rose, from The Pousette-Dart Band’s “Next to You.”

Creator and above level members can download the Tales PDF version here


Canis Major

Iggie dropped from the tree onto the fawn, his weight breaking its two hind legs. It tried to run anyway but its forelegs only clawed up the moist, dark forest floor, clouding Iggie’s thoughts as the rich earth aroma wafted into him. Iggie didn’t want the animal to suffer and bit into its throat, tearing out esophagus, jugular and various muscles. Still the fawn tried to escape. Iggie grew nauseous by the mix of his needs and the fawn’s attempts to break free. This wasn’t what he wanted. His father had told and taught him to make his kills quick and clean, to spare creatures any pain. Iggie curled one forepaw into a fist and punched through the fawn’s ribs, crushing the heart. The fawn stopped moving and Iggie, gazing up at the dark, star filled sky, let the blood trickle down his muzzle, dribble into his nostrils, and cover his fur from flews to belly as he dined.

***

TALL, HANDSOME, good build, good humor, able to stand on a rocking ship with my hands at my sides. Brown hair, brown eyes, black beard, white skin. Have been mistaken for a brown bear when I bathe in mountain streams, well educated (past 6th grade), still have all my teeth but not all my marbles. Looking for a well-rounded, buxom woman. Buxom men need not respond. Applicants should know by this that brains are more important than brawn. Dinners, dancing, demitasse, and dramamine. Send resume and salary history.

The ad sat on Iggie’s desk for two months. The first month he’d written it by hand and crossed out several portions. The second month he’d typed it into his computer, made several more edits, and returned to the forest.

He stared at the screen for some twenty minutes this time, ran the spelling checker over it four times, read the ad backwards to check for additional misspellings, and printed it out.

He lifted the paper in his hand, his eyes examining the grain of the page as his fingers felt the texture. A mirror on the wall next to his desk echoed his movements. All the walls in his house had mirrors: mirrors framed in gold, mirrors framed in window panes, hand-held mirrors, mirrors simple and ornate; every room had at least one. He gazed into this one, opened his eyes wide and stared into them. Large, brown eyes stared back. Eyes a little too large, a little too far apart, with pupils a little too large. He rocked back and his focus changed to his nose, too thin on top with nostrils too wide on the bottom. He smiled, his face growing light and his lips parting to show strong, even, white teeth. He abruptly opened his mouth until it became a mucus laden cavern in the mirror, leaned closer, and inspected his teeth, one by one, finally running his tongue over them like a barber testing a razor’s edge, and closing his mouth. Next he studied his narrow, dark-skinned, clean-shaven face, the thick brown-black hairs framing his high forehead and peering out from his open collared shirt.

He checked the calendar beside the mirror. A red line cut through most of the month save the current week plus a day on either side.

“Today is Friday,” he told his empty house. “I could submit the ad online but online readers want things too quickly.” Iggie wanted a woman who still read print. “Print readers still take their time.”

He flipped months on the calendar. “It’ll be a month before this even sees print. Another month or two before any responses arrive. March, April, May. Maybe a first date in June? It would nice to have someone during the cold months.” He shuddered with the thought. Someone to hold him? Someone to warm him?

New life burst through old snow outside his window. He glanced down the his hallways and sighed.

He folded the ad into thirds, included a check to cover its cost, sealed the envelope and walked the several miles down the mountain into town.


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“Cold War” is in Daikaijuzine Sept 2020!

Those wonderful, brave, and intelligent folks at Daikaijuzine are publishing my short story, Cold War, today.

 
I first wrote the story in 1987 and it lay dormant for a long time. It originally appeared in Midnight Zoo, October 1992 and was reprinted in Horizons Science Fiction, April 1999, and my self-published anthology, Tales Told ‘Round Celestial Campfires V1 2016.

Fortunately, Daikaijuzine’s editors and publisher have exquisite taste.

Don’t you think?

 

Don Quitamo Sails

This story appears in the Harvey Duckman Presents Pirates issue.

 
I explain the story’s genesis here. Subscribers get to read the full story below and should also pick up a copy of the Harvey Duckman Presents Pirates issue. All others, here’s a taste…and do pick up the Harvey Duckman Presents Pirates issue, as well.


Don Quitamo Sails

Don Quitamo rested his head on fine silk pillows and pulled the most excellent satin sheets over his body. Waves rocked his ship lulling him to sleep.

“Sleep well, Lord Quitamo.”

His cabin door closed quietly and latched, secured. He relaxed and allowed his mind to wander. Seldom did The Lady Eglesia’s captain get a full night’s rest.

Behind closed lids the cabin grew dim. He thought ‘She snuffed out the candles’ and soon slept.

How long he slept he wasn’t sure. The ship chronometer’s eyes glowed in the dark, moving back and forth as they ticked off the seconds of the watch, its tail swishing rhythmically as if time, too, obeyed the sea’s waves.

First Mate León, his shoulders like a lion’s and his hair a golden halo about his head, called through the horn. “Your forgiveness, Lord Quitamo. The Merchant Vessel Tyree hails us from the shoulders of Orion.”

He shrugged off sleep with his satin sheets, rising and reaching for his cutlass in one continuous motion. “I know no Merchant Vessel Tyree. What colors do they hail?

“They hail safe and well, Lord Quitamo. They say they’ve been followed through four starfields but the other ship won’t identify.”

“Call for full sail.”

His command spread like fire. The Lady Eglesia spread her wings until so much white filled the sky nebulae grew jealous.

The Lady Eglesia, the smartest ship of the fleet, emboldened her icon and stood it before him. “Where are we questing today, Lord Quitamo?”

“Show me suns I’ve never seen. Show me skies that have never known man.”

The Lady Eglesia’s ports opened. Energies spread along her sides like water spilling from a deck’s good washing. In a moment her hull hardened such that no life, no forces, weapons neither energy nor mass driven, could penetrate her.

“Now, my lord?”

“Now.”

Once again her wings lifted, filling with so much sunlight she rose from the oceans and gravity no longer claimed her.

“Prepare me for the bowsprit.”

He strode confidently, knowing The Lady Eglesia would protect her Good Captain, and in a moment felt her energies caress and cover him with a second flesh. Seals opened and closed as he walked until he stood with nothing but space under his feet.

The Lady Eglesia sent her energies forward, questing like dolphins in the night, leaping above the surface of the space-time continuum until they found entry, and diving they pulled her through the folds of space to the Tyree, her aft guns blazing at a ship flying no colors, dark in the night, the Tyree’s shells falling far from their mark.

The Lady Eglesia surfaced from deep space, Lord Quitamo’s Golden Sunfish on her prow.

The Tyree’s mainlight signaled: May the Tides of Space befriend thee, Lord Quitamo.

Don Quitamo gave the order and The Lady Eglesia’s lights signaled back: And you as well, Good Captain.

Quitamo called into the horn, “Bring me along side her.”

First Lieutenant Oso, The Lady Eglesia’s gunnery officer, called back. “The far ship won’t answer a hail, Good Captain, and her battledoors are open. She could be preparing to fire.”

“Lady Eglesia, rig for battle. Prepare the batteries. Strengthen your sides and hull.”


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“Don Quitamo Sails” is in Harvey Duckman Presents Special Pirates Issue!

C.G. Hatton, the gracious and EverWise editor of the Harvey Duckman Presents series, mentioned a few months back that Harvey was planning a special Pirates issue. Would I be interested in submitting a story?

 
My immediate response was “Sorry, I don’t have anything in inventory even remotely to do with pirates.”

But then I remembered a story idea I had almost two years previously. I was driving around back country roads (a favorite pastime of mine. Gives me a chance to relax, think, flush out some cobwebs, work out story ideas, plots, develop characters, refine dialogue, all those good authory things. And smoke a cigar), turned around a bend in the road and BOOM! I saw a ship plying the ocean, a man straight out of Procol Harem‘s Conquistador, one foot up on the gunwhale and staring ahead from the bow, humanish creatures racing about the deck, the ship, The Lady Eglesia, under full sail and suddenly her sails became wings as she lifted from ocean to air and then changed again to a hull as she slipped through the atmosphere into space.

 
I literally pulled over to the side of the road and made notes. A full page and a half. The opening straight through to the introduction of the Merchant Vessel Tyree calling for help as a dark ship pursued her through space. Even the title, Don Quitamo Sails.

Wow.

I mean, just wow.

“Yeah, sure, I may have something for you. Give me a bit.”

I had no idea where the story was going. Truth be told, I had no idea what the story was about.

And aside from a few books I’d read researching anthropology and linguistics issues, I didn’t know much about pirates, ancient through modern (although they are a fascinating study, I’ve come to realize).

So where did the story go?

Stop being the author, start being a character.

 
My studies of storycrafting and storytelling caused me to create helpful (to me) adages. Example: when you’re stuck, stop being the author of the story and start being one of the characters in the story.

Another great one comes from Cozy author Donna Huston Murray; when you’ve run out of things to do with your protagonist, write about what the antagonist is doing.

Thankee, Donna, works every time.

So I became Don Quitamo for fifteen-twenty minutes.

And the story revealed itself to me.

And here’s what author and fellow Harveyist Mark Hayes wrote about Don Quitamo Sails:

Joseph Carrabis first came to my attention in the third Harvey Duckman volume with one of the oddest and in many ways most beautiful short stories I’d read in an age. In this regard he represents all that is great about been involved in the Harvey Duckman Anthologies for me, because they give the reader (and the writers for that matter,) a chance to discover new authors they would never otherwise have come across. He is not alone in capturing my interest, he is one of several authors that I have been lucky enough to discover through Harvey and while not every Harvey author may have become my favorite, every one of them has becomes someones I suspect. Joseph in this regard, is one of mine, (but don’t tell him that…) mainly because I never know what to expect from one of his stories.

Yeah, I’m liking it.

And thanks to #weareallharvey for signing me aboard.

Other fine authors are in the Pirates issue include Liz Tuckwell, R. Bruce Connelly, Nils Nisse Visser, Mark Hayes, Peter James Martin, C.G. Hatton, Andy Hill, and Kate Baucherel (and you should read them all).

Empty Sky Chapter 1 – The Cabin (28 Aug 2020, Audio)

The version of the chapter presented here is a far cry from the version currently in print (and I have a standing offer regarding the current version; Buy a copy, leave a review, I’ll send you a signed copy of the rewrite when it’s published). For that matter, the version presented here is a stretch from the previous versions posted on this blog (most recent here).

The version here is my reading at a Read ’em and Weep online workshop I recently attended.

Fascinating experience.

Creator and above level members can listen to the reading here.


Chapter 1 – The Cabin

Jamie reached for Shem’s tail. The big golden sat on Jamie’s bed staring out the cabin window. His coat glistened in the moonlight, his tail thumped with excitement. Peepers and crickets chirped outside. Raccoons chittered. Opossum and skunk barked. Owls hooted. Loons called. Far off a wolf howled. Another answered in the distance.

Jamie caught Shem’s tail and held it motionless. “What is it, boy?”

Shem looked back at Jamie and whined softly.

Jamie ran a delicate hand through his ginger hair. He looked past Shem to the oak, elm, and pine of the northern Michigan forest. The Moon, full and bright, illuminated the trees and the small, one-room cabin at their center.

“Do you have to pee?”

Shem jumped off the bed and scratched at the door to go out.

“Shh.” Jamie glanced at his parents, Ellie and Tom, asleep on the other side of the cabin. “You want to wake mom and dad?” He crawled out from under the covers and tip-toed to the door. Standing on a chair, he drew back the bolt and lifted the latch.

Cool winds changed rustling treetops into brooms sweeping low-hung clouds from late September skies. Dust devils spun mists where night air met day-warmed rocks. Trees bowed to the rising Moon.

Shem walked into the night. Jamie followed.

The Moon continued her ascent. The woods fell silent.

Silent.

Ellie sat up in bed, her hands clenching the blanket, holding it tight against her. A cold, dank wind swirled through the cabin, lifting things slightly, inspecting them, putting them down, drawing a musk of old earths in its wake.

Moonlight entered the cabin’s single room.

Her eyes fixed on Jamie’s empty bed.

“Jamie! Shem!”

Tom rose and put his boots on in one motion. “Where are they?”

Ellie pointed at the open door.

Tom threw Ellie her coat. “They must be together. Shem won’t let Jamie out of his sight.”

“Something’s got them. Some wild animal.”

“There’s no blood anywhere, Ellie. Shem’d raise hell if something got in the cabin or near Jamie.” He grabbed an iron poker from the woodstove.

Ellie stopped at the door, a silhouette against the night. “Shh.”

Tom came up beside her. “What the…?”

“Shh!”

“What are they doing?”

“It looks like they’re playing.”

“With whom?”


Greetings! I’m your friendly, neighborhood Threshold Guardian. This is a protected post and requires either General Membership (free) or a Subscription (various levels). Members and Subscribers can LogIn. Non members can join. All posts are free to all members save certain posts in the My Work category. Enjoy!