Joseph Carrabis signs and discusses The Augmented Man at The Barnes&Noble in Nashua, NH

I keep on keeping on.

The good folks at the Nashua, NH, Barnes&Noble bookstore invited me to do a book signing on Saturday November 23, 2019 2:00 PM.

Please attend. I’ll be so lonely otherwise…

 
A bit about The Augmented Man
The US Military concedes that any kind of combat leaves soldiers psychologically damaged and makes reintegration to society difficult.

The solution is to find individuals who are already so psychologically damaged the most horrendous combat experience will seem trivial by comparison. Better, find individuals psychologically damaged who’ve also experienced massive physical insult and trauma. Best, individuals psychologically damaged, physically traumatized, and emotionally vacant.

But where to find such individuals?

Captain James Donaldson suggests using massively abused and traumatized children as the basis, arguing “…they’ve already experienced more at home than they’ll ever experience in the field. All we need to is help their bodies catch up to where their psyches and emotions already are.

Nine individuals are selected for Augmentation and entered into combat.

One survives.

And comes home.

Anecdote
I recently took part in an authors’ reading and used the Surface section of The Augmented Man as my text.

One of the other author’s partners said, “I’m uncomfortable with your subject, but your writing pulled me right into the story.”

YES! Thank you, that’s what it’s all about.

To me.

When the power of the writing overcomes the reader’s objections to the story’s content, take a moment and be proud. You’ve done good work.

About me
You can find out more than you need to know at my About page.

Empty Sky Chapter 5 – Jack Games

(final edit before the proofreaders (he said). You can read the previous version here.

Read Empty Sky Chapter 4 – Joni Levis

Creator and above level members can download a PDF of the first five chapters to read offline

Jack Games leaned against Room 343’s window.… Read the rest

(final edit before the proofreaders (he said). You can read the previous version here.

Read Empty Sky Chapter 4 – Joni Levis

Creator and above level members can download a PDF of the first five chapters to read offline

Jack Games leaned against Room 343’s window. 343 was the largest private patient’s room in his clinic and the only one with a picture window overlooking the University of Chicago Medical Center’s quad. He watched some med students play hackeysac on the lawn while others sat on benches soaking up the early Fall sun. The quad was surrounded on all sides by the Medical Center’s white, gray and tan facades. The university hospital stood just out of sight off to the side.

“What are we going to do, Tom?”

Tom MacPherson snored, a gentle hnnh sound.

Thirty PhDs, MDs, DScis and related specialists worked for Dr. Jackson Arthur Games. He chaired the University of Chicago’s Neurosciences Department, co-chaired the Center for Narcolepsy Research at the University of Illinois, Chicago, was on the board of the Defense and Civil Institute of Environmental Medicine in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, unofficially owned the third floor of the Brain Research Institute, sat on the board of the BRF Center for Molecular Neurobiology, and on Monday afternoons held an online, invitation-only Sleep Disorders Specialty Clinic.

None of which meant shit right now. Jackson Arthur Games had come a long way from DC’s Prospero House, the largest orphans’ home in the tri-state area, and most of it with the MacPherson family’s financial backing.

“Smart investment, eh, Tom? You spent how much money on my education and I can’t do a frickin’ thing for you now?”

Tom hnnhed. Tom hnnhed in his sleep for as long as Jack knew him.

He remembered one day when he and Tom were in Jack’s college dorm room. Jack got dressed while Tom sat on the bed, watching Jack’s silhouette against a not quite as large window.

“Holy shit, Jack. You’re black.”

“All the way down and for most of my life, smart ass.”

“No, I mean, I’ve always known you were a ‘black man’, but I never noticed your skin. It’s black. Darker than mine anyway. Wow. That’s neat.”

Jack held up his hand as if to check Tom’s statement then caught himself. Tom’s sincerity was both stupefying and contagious. But Tom had always been innocent and naive in ways Jack couldn’t quite fathom.

“You are truly color blind, my friend.”

Their bond cemented in their junior year.

Tom was packing his car for Christmas break and Jack blocked his path. “Hey, fuckhead.”

“What?”

“How come you never ask me home? What’s the matter, you a closet racist? You got something against orphans? Did you think I had someplace to go?”

Tom made no comment. He picked up a laundry bag and put it in his trunk. “None of that’s true, Jack. You know that.”

“Well, you never ask me home. What’s the prob? You got a crazy uncle locked in the attic?”

Tom stopped mid way to his trunk with a box of books in his hands. “No. Go get your things. I’d love to have you with me for the holidays.”

They drove two-hundred highway miles in silence. They exited the highway and traveled some low mountain roads until they came to a old village built along a river.

Jack said, “Is that a waterpowered mill?”

“Yes. Still operational. Doesn’t power anything, just something to look at and remember.”

Jack looked at the company store turned country store, the hitching posts, rail guides, and water troughs still prevalent along Main Street. “Wow, what a sense of history.”

Tom snorted.”You got that right.”

They rode another twenty minutes in silence. Tom turned up a gravel drive hidden in trees at the far side of town. The drive stopped at an ivy covered mansion buried in a copse of oak, ash and pine.

“Tom, I’m sorry. This was a stupid idea. I’ll head back to town and hitch back to school.”

“Why?”

“I’ve been here before, Tom. I’ve made friends before whose family thought the darker the skin the darker the man. I don’t need to be your proof that desegregation doesn’t work.”

“You think that’s why I never asked you home?”

“Well?”

“Come on.” They walked through the front doors, their arms full. Tom headed up some stairs. “I’ll get you settled. Then you can meet Mama.”

“Mama?”

“Yeah, Mama. You’ve gone this far, you might as well get the whole show.”

“Look, Tom, just tell me. Am I going to be the show?”

“What are you talking about?”

“I can imagine it now. The sweet smile, the warm handshake, the genteel and curious questions. Then when you and Mama are alone, ‘Get that nigger out of my house.'”

They dropped their packs and books in a room with aircraft models hanging from the ceiling and ship models on the shelves. Superhero and car posters covered the walls.

“No Farrah Fawcett poster?”

“A, she was before my time and 2,” he pointed, “it’s hanging in my bathroom.”

Jack stared, unmoving, unbelieving he was this close to the Grail. “You got a private bathroom?”

“Sure do.” Tom headed out the door. “Follow me.”

They walked down a thickly carpeted hallway of heavy wood paneling. Every few feet there was a picture of an old white guy. Tom opened a door.

Jack took a deep breath and followed him in.


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Empty Sky Chapter 4 – Joni Levis

(final edit before the proofreaders (he said). You can read the previous version here.)

Read Empty Sky Chapter 3 – Al Carsons

Creator and above level members can download a PDF of the first four chapters to read offline

Joni Levis rolled over and buried her head against Virgil’s pillow.… Read the rest

(final edit before the proofreaders (he said). You can read the previous version here.)

Read Empty Sky Chapter 3 – Al Carsons

Creator and above level members can download a PDF of the first four chapters to read offline

Joni Levis rolled over and buried her head against Virgil’s pillow. Still asleep, she settled herself into the bed and inhaled deeply, pulling in his aromas, his shampoo and sweat, and smiled.

She felt a trill, a tingling contraction, a brief muscle spasm in her vagina. A moment later there was another quiver and she half opened her eyes. Awake, the contractions became more immediate and demanding. She looked at the large, red numerals on her clock: 4:35AM.

Fucking time.

Virgil always woke her up within a few minutes of 4:35AM for a little lovemaking. It didn’t matter if she was turned away, on her back, on her stomach, curled in the covers, facing him or what; always the gentle nudge, the liquid parting, and his lips would be on her, his penis in her. Busy-busy-busy for a few minutes and then asleep once again.

She reached for him and her hand closed on empty sheets. Her eyes opened wide. No Virgil and the bathroom was dark.

“Virgil?”

She turned on the lamp beside her bed. His clothes were gone. The only part of him remaining in her Boston BackBay condo was his scent on her sheets and his necklace around her neck.

“Fuck you, Virgil.”

Her eyes darted around the bedroom and stopped on her reflection in the mirror. “Ugh.” She turned away, pulled her nightshirt down — again! — and crossed her arms over her chest, her body reminding her of a little girl’s that had suddenly sprouted too much boob. She stopped wearing t-shirts with sayings on them because the punchlines were always hidden in the shade.

She pulled her knees up under the sheets and held them tight against her, flattening her chest and checked herself again. “Ugh.”

Her hand reached to her nightstand for a cigarette and came up empty.

“Guess today wasn’t the day to quit smoking.”

She’d replaced the ashtray with bowl of cherry Tootsie-Roll Pops. Rocking slightly, she unwrapped one, crinkled the wrapper, tossed it down on Virgil’s side of the bed, and sucked hard on the round head of candy as it entered her mouth.

“What’re you going to tell me this time? You going to tell me you had to go feed your dog? You going to say your friend, ‘Sarah’, couldn’t take care of things tonight and you had to get home?”

She took the lollipop out of her mouth and jabbed it like a pointer at the vacant side of the bed. “You know, people have been telling me to hire a private detective to find out about you. I’m thinking about it, you know.”

The necklace’s cheap stone pendent slithered between her breasts.

“And this fucking necklace.”

She laughed. Virgil called it a fucking necklace because “I like you wearing it when we fuck.”

She lifted the stone to her lips. “Come in, Virgil. Six-O-Seven-Niner on the old Ten-Four, good buddy.”

She snapped it off and threw it across the room. It banged against the wall, shattered, and let out a dying squeal.

“What the?” She retrieved it and held it under a light. A tiny circuit board grew dark. “You bastard. I was kidding. You fucking bastard.”

Another twinge. This one deeper, higher. In her womb. “I’m a month late, Virgil. Did you hear that? Is that why you left? You always seem to know these things. If I have it, will it be a lying little bastard like you?”

Outside and several stories below, a tractor-trailer headed east through Boston along Interstate-90. A car horn screamed and the big truck’s airhorn drowned it out briefly. The car horn became stationary while the truck’s horn continued on. “Yeah, that’s right,” she nodded. “That’s exactly right.” She reached again to her nightstand, opened the drawer and lifted out a vibrator. Black letters on its white side read “DaVinci’s Personalé Vibrateur“.

“Fuck you. Just fuck you.” She put the wet, sticky lollipop on the nightstand, turned the vibrator on, and shut off the light. “Fuck you.”

The vibrator quaked between her legs and her bedroom door opened. She walked through into her parents’ house in Denver.

Her mother walked out of the kitchen wearing clothes and a hairdo straight out of the early 1990’s. It was like watching a home video. Joni kept looking for her twin sister and brothers to enter the frame.

Her mother held a broom and swept between Joni’s legs.

“Scat!”

“Mom?”

Her mother turned into Shakespeare complete with long hair, ruffled collar, puffy shirt, tights, beard and everything. Shakespeare pointed out the door Joni had entered. “Out, foul thing.”

Joni walked out the door into heavy rain. No, not rain. A shower head hung directly over her in the sky. Water poured down but only wet her groin. She reached down. She was soaked. There was something else, something hard and unyielding.

“What the…” She woke quickly, the dildo still in her hand, her body shaking with the last pulses of her orgasm.

Something moved at her window.

She saw it again. A black silhouette, like a small man’s shadow. It walked through her window and up into the sky.

***

Dr. Honey Fitz watched for reactions. “So you say this is the first time you’ve had this dream, and you think it has something to do with your boyfriend?”

Joni sat in a plush, comfortable highback chair that belonged in a wealthy family’s sitting room, not a psychiatrist’s office.

But this was McLean Hospital, and this was Belmont, Massachusetts, and Dr. Fitz got three-hundred dollars an hour to sit on her skinny, old, Boston Brahmin ass and listen, so the furniture had better be damn nice. For that matter, the whole damn office looked like it should be a wealthy family’s sitting room. Everything matched: the chair Dr. Fitz sat in while she listened to Joni, the dark rosewood desk and chair beside it, the oriental rug that hushed the steps of anyone entering her office, even the painting of her namesake, Boston’s own Mayor Honey Fitz, smiling benevolently as his great-granddaughter listened to secrets he would’ve used to make himself rich. Hell, even the coat rack matched the chairs and desk. How many places did you know did that?

Joni stared out the window to the beautiful lawns and sculpted arborage guarding the hospital’s eastern wing from the citizenry beyond. “I don’t like calling him my boyfriend. He has a name. Virgil. The Virge.”

“You’re objectifying him.”

“I object to him, period.”

Dr. Fitz flipped through some notes. “Before you referenced him as your boyfriend.”

“Things change.”

“What’s changed?”

Joni’s thumbs spun the rings on her fingers like a magician practicing coin tricks. She pursed her lips and continued to stare out the window.

“Well?”

Joni ran a slim hand down the green silk of her blouse as if to straighten the pleats. Would her bosom grow larger or shrink to nothing if she had the child, or even if she waited too long before aborting it? Her mother’s breasts had shrunk to hanging prunes. But she’d breastfed four children. Her sister’s boobs had ballooned to the point she couldn’t go anywhere without men and women tripping on curbs or running into store displays when she walked past.

Funny. Her mother had breasts and both she and her sister had boobs.

Boobs. Tits. Knockers. Masougas. Momboes. Hangers. Hooters. Kleevcos.

That last one came from a website Virgil talked about.

“I’m pregnant.”


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Empty Sky Chapter 3 – Al Carsons

(final edit before the proofreaders (he said). Noticeable rewrites here. You can read the previous version here.

Read Empty Sky Chapter 2 – The Clarity of Night

Creator and above level members can download a PDF of the first three chapters to read offline

Al Carsons’ leathery, calloused palms pushed down on the white, threadbare vinyl of his ’77 Ford F-150 pickup’s benchseat.… Read the rest

(final edit before the proofreaders (he said). Noticeable rewrites here. You can read the previous version here.

Read Empty Sky Chapter 2 – The Clarity of Night

Creator and above level members can download a PDF of the first three chapters to read offline

Al Carsons’ leathery, calloused palms pushed down on the white, threadbare vinyl of his ’77 Ford F-150 pickup’s benchseat. It crackled as he slid out into the knee-deep, Hallock, Minnesota snow. He liked the crackling, the cold.

He reached back in for his lunchbox and blew a kiss to the empty seat. His lunchbox whacked the gearshift as he lifted it over the front seat rifle mount. He tapped the shift, making sure his old rig was still in gear and wouldn’t slip.

He kept his pickup all these years because of that benchseat; he and Effie could sit side by side and not have to reach over an armrest to give each other a little pat or sneak a little kiss. He brought it home to show her, a long time ago, half a century ago in fact, when he and Effie were just starting out, all shiny new, red with white trim, a five-speed half-ton longbed and they went for a drive, my god did they go for a drive, he with one hand on the wheel and one around her, holding her close, only letting go when he had to shift.

He could drive forever like that. She even joked about it, calling him her “Forever Man.”

He patted the seat where Effie’d sit. She told him they made Charlie that day they went for their first drive in their new pickup. He taught Charlie and Ben how to drive and hunt in that same pickup.

Now, like him, the hinges squeaked a bit.

He closed the door and patted the windshield. “Just you and me now, huh, old girl?”

His green wool pants swished between his thighs as he waded through low drifts, sounding almost like breaths against the shhsing whispers of the falling snow. His black workboots cut a path towards his plow and he thought of explorers in the Arctic. He slowed passing under the maintenance depot’s one streetlight to watch his shadow shift from tracing back to his truck to stretching out towards his plow, all in one step.

Except a little piece of his shadow moved off to the left and stayed as Al moved on.

He liked being called for double-overtime during storms. Storms were great. Especially late fall, early winter storms. A mess of whirling winds, little specks of light bouncing back as his headlights fought the darkness, black night sky slowly gaining color as if slowly gaining sight.

And the cold. Cold that made vinyl crack. Even with the big plow’s defrosters on full he could still see his breath misting at the end of his shift.

And the solitude. Quiet. Nobody to listen to him go on when he talked to the wind, telling Effie what he’d been up to, what he’d done, asking how the boys were and all.

Effie’d gone to that drunk driver five summers back and the two boys, Charlie and Ben, left him, one to a holdup and the other in Afghanistan.

He knew something was wrong when the Death Notification Officer showed up in his Class A’s. He’d seen Ben in his Class A’s once. He and Effie were so proud, their Ben in a parade in his honor, one of our own being deployed to the other side of the world.

Effie kept hugging Ben and messing up his uniform and saying, “If only Charlie were here to see you. He’s so proud of you, Ben, you know he’s smiling down on you waiting for you to catch the football.”

“I know, Ma. I know.”

“And you make sure you come back home to us, you hear?”

“I will, Ma. I will.”

But that drunk driver took Effie and a week later the Death Notification Al’s door and they talked and shook hands and the Death Notification Officer explained that the bomb that took Ben out didn’t really leave enough to ship home but Ben was going to get a proper military funeral just the same and Al shouldn’t worry about anything, Ben was coming home.

When Al couldn’t see the Army car anymore, when it had passed through the fields and trees and into the night, he went to his closet and got out his deer rifle and put one shell in the chamber and locked it in the front seat rifle mount and drove a little west because any further north he’d be in Canada and Al didn’t want to cause any international incidents.

He parked in the morning light, put the rifle over his shoulder and marched up into the tree-covered hills until he found a nice rock he could lean against and watch the sunrise, the muzzle tucked under his chin and his finger ready to push down the trigger.


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Empty Sky Chapter 2 – The Clarity of Night

(final edit before the proofreaders (he said). Chapter 2 use to be “Children of the Moon” followed by Chapter 3 “The Clarity of Night.” During the rewrite, I couldn’t see a point to keeping the chapters separate so combined them into this single chapter.… Read the rest

(final edit before the proofreaders (he said). Chapter 2 use to be “Children of the Moon” followed by Chapter 3 “The Clarity of Night.” During the rewrite, I couldn’t see a point to keeping the chapters separate so combined them into this single chapter. This also marks the start of some noticeable rewrites (maybe))

Read Empty Sky Chapter 1 – The Cabin

Read the original Empty Sky Chapter 2 – Children of the Moon and Empty Sky Chapter 3 – The Clarity of Night


Jamie slept with Shem beside him. Both lay quietly, resting between dreams.

The Moon, her light walking through the forest on white-slippered feet, lifted her arm to better see.

Tom slept opposite Jamie and Shem, on the far side of the cabin in the bed once shared with Ellie. He’d twitch, kick off his covers, grow chill and pull them up, repeating the pattern while The Moon watched.

Her children, the Oneiroi, little black silhouettes, shadows in the darkness of night, came and went, opening and closing their multicolored, multifaceted, crystalline eyes, kaleidoscopic Gates, little rainbow bridges allowing humans passage from one dream reality to the next.

Above Tom’s bed, a dot, smaller than a piece of dust, winked into existence. It floated down, riding the heat eddies of the woodstove, as if wanting to rest in his ear. Once beside him, it grew horizontally, becoming a slit, then vertically as something stretched it open, spreading it wide. A deeper blackness, an emptiness, a hole in the night, difficult to see and unheard, formed legs, pulled itself free, walked through and stood beside Tom.

The Moon held herself motionless in the sky, her light growing from crescent to full.

“Wake up, Jamie,” beamed The Moon. “Wake up, Shem! Wake! Wake!”

The creature formed amoeba-like pseudopods ending in reaching hands and grabbed the Oneiroi hovering over Tom. Its silhouette crumpled like wadded paper, its life drained from it.

Tom moaned in his sleep, “Ellie…”

Shem stared at the creature and growled.

Jamie woke wide-eyed, his face cold with the damp night air. The smell of heavy, dying earth surrounded him like an unwelcome blanket. The Moon’s bright light screamed full upon his face from the cabin’s window.

“Dad?”

Tom’s twitching stilled. The Oneiroi rose like mists from the cabin floor, fleeing, escaping the searching emptiness.

One Oneiroi remained to ensure Tom’s safe return from his dream.

The creature grabbed it.

Tom kicked off his covers.

Jamie sat up.

Shem stood over him, not letting him off the bed.

“Shem, get off me! Dad’s having one of his dreams.”

The trapped Oneiroi’s eyes grew dull then dark, its supple shape becoming hard and angular like flint being struck. A crystalline eye burst from its skull as its little body shattered into black flakes.

Tom hadn’t returned from his dream. He let out a quiet sob. “Ellie.”

The opening in the night winked itself shut, closing horizontally then vertically, space folding like a napkin until only a pinpoint remained, then it, too, disappeared.

Dark night filled the cabin.

Shem leapt to the floor, sniffing the air and whining as they neared Tom’s bed.

Jamie’s stood over his dad, curling his feet against the cold wooden floor tendrilling through his thick wool socks, the cold October night reaching through his longjohns, listening to his father whimper, and tucked him under the covers.

Shem put a paw on Tom’s cot and looked at Jamie.

“It’s okay, Shem. He’s dreaming about mom again. He’ll be okay in a minute.”

Shem went to the door and whined.

“You’re a pee-bucket, Mr. Shem. Come on, you old dog.”

Shem and Jamie stood in the cold in the clearing in front of the cabin. Jamie’s shadow stretched out long and full as the moon grew from crescent to full, his shadow’s lines given sharp edges by the moon’s intense light. He’d never seen his shadow like that, not even in the noonday sun.

He stood silent for a moment and watched it echo his movements, waving its arm when he did, walking when he did. The intense moonlight even shadowed the mist from Jamie’s breath as if his shadow breathed when he breathed.

It even turned back to the full mooned sky when he did.

The moon’s face changed as he watched. Mom told him about Rabbit and Mouse, about The Old Man in the Moon, all sorts of stories people believed about the moon. This was the first time he clearly saw a woman’s face, though. Mom never told him anything like that.

She looked down at him and shed a tear, turned her face away and went from full back to crescent.

“Have you ever seen anything like that, Shem? We’ll have to tell Dad.”

He looked around. Night frightened most of his friends, even Bobby Games, but it didn’t frighten Jamie. Not even full mooned nights. Uncle Jack told stories about werewolves, shapeshifting people who howled on bright moon nights. Bobby hated those stories but Jamie just sat and listened. Bobby asked, “Aren’t you scared?” and Jamie shook his head, no.

He’d always been more comfortable at night. He didn’t know why. Maybe because with the moon so bright everything could be seen, clearly revealed in black and white.


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