Empty Sky Chapter 8 – Earl Pangiosi

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

Read Empty Sky Chapter 7 – Joni and Honey Fitz

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

Earl Pangiosi sat in the Empire Builder‘s Superliner Snack Coach’s upper level, a pillow behind his head and a blanket covering his legs, peering through dark, wraparound sunglasses at people’s reflections in the round, full length domed windows.… Read the rest

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

Read Empty Sky Chapter 7 – Joni and Honey Fitz

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

Earl Pangiosi sat in the Empire Builder‘s Superliner Snack Coach’s upper level, a pillow behind his head and a blanket covering his legs, peering through dark, wraparound sunglasses at people’s reflections in the round, full length domed windows. When someone nodded off, he’d dip down his glasses and peer at them briefly, purse his lips then shove the glasses back up his face. Once in a while he’d catch his own red-haired, high colored reflection as he followed people walking past.

Earl liked being around people so he could practice. He had his own car — disguised as two back-to-back LandSea containers on a flatcar and marked “US Mail” — further back in the train. It brought a brief smile, the change in rail regulations that allowed all trains to transport freight and passengers simultaneously. It made his private car’s subterfuge possible.

But people were Earl’s focus. He tolerated the miasma of greasy hamburgers and soggy fries, too strong coffee and unwashed bodies, screaming children and louder screaming parents, and the occasional whiffs of diesel to indulge in a pastime he enjoyed since his childhood: watching people’s reflections in glass.

He first noticed his gift on an early Fall night much like this one.

Dad, suit and tie and freshly shaved and mustache neatly trimmed, drove their new, ’59 burgundy Lincoln Continental back to the old neighborhood. Mom sat opposite dad, wrapped in her furs, wearing her best clothes. Dad told her she wore clothes too tight sometimes but she told him to never mind, didn’t he want everybody to know what he had every night?

Mom and Dad left the old neighborhood a year before and never told Earl why. But once a month, maybe twice, he and Mom and Dad would get in the car and go back north to the old neighborhood with presents for everybody. Dad was in the meat business and he’d hand out steaks and chops and roasts and cutlets and hotdogs in summer and hamburger and ground pork if somebody wanted to make meatballs. Everybody was so grateful and Mom would smile and nod as she stood beside Dad, his hands reaching deep into the coolers in the dark of the trunk, coming back into daylight, his hands full of brown paper wrapped meats neatly tied with butcher’s twine. They asked questions about the new car and Dad would tell them it was a Lincoln and Mom would correct him with “Lincoln Continental.”

They drove home, the coolers empty and tucked in the trunk, heading south on a clear, moonless Sunday night. Earl saw the Rhode Island border sign. Soon Dad would slow for the Providence traffic and take the Federal Hill exit.

An only child, Earl had the entire backseat to himself. He could lie down and take naps if he wanted to. Now he sat behind Mom, his hands folded and face pressed against the rear passenger’s window, his knees pulled together and tucked under him because he had to pee but Dad said they weren’t going to stop, they only had a little further to go and Earl was a big man and could hold it, couldn’t he?

Sure, Dad.

Except Earl really had to pee. The leather seat sent shivers of cold up through his bare knees and that didn’t help. He had bare knees because he wore shorts. Shorts, a winter jacket and a hat Mom made him wear even though his cousins all wore long pants.

They already laughed at him because he had different color eyes: the right brown, the left blue. Mom didn’t say much and his cousins and some aunts and uncles said that made him a freak. She made him wear dark sunglasses and told everyone Earl had sensitive eyes.

His cousins would dance around him. “Earl has sen-si-tive eye-eyes. Earl has sen-si-tive eye-eyes.”

He caught his reflection in the window as his exhalations frosted the glass. Mom’s and Dad’s reflections, too.

He’d never noticed them before. Maybe reflections were something you only got in a Lincoln Continental? The dashboard gave off so much light.

He watched his father’s profile as they drove. Mother said things and Dad occasionally winced on the side mom couldn’t see as if somebody jabbed him with a little knife.

Mom would go ya ya ya and Dad’s nose would twitch and his mustache would rise a little then go back down. Mom would go da da da and Dad’s eye would wink shut quick and then back open to watch the cars on the road. Mom would go sa sa sa and Dad’s lips would move forward and back like he wanted to spit something out.

Earl watched his father and something happened in Earl’s head. His father stopped being a person and became a book, a map, a reference, something to be read. He tasted what his father felt. He did not know the word but he understood the emotion: despair.

“You don’t like what Mom’s saying, do you, Dad.”

His dad stared at him in the rearview mirror. He could almost feel his father’s thought; Are you asking me or telling me, son?

Earl opened his mouth to answer but Mom said, “Where does he get that, I wonder?” and looked out her own window the rest of the way home.

“That’s not a nice thing to say, Earl,” his father said. “You know that’s not true.”

Earl’s eyes left the reflection and looked at his Dad direct.

He knew what his father thought. Maybe not the exact words but he knew the feelings.

He was sure of it.

What he was most sure of, especially sure of, as sure of as he was sure it was cold and night and he had to pee, was that what he said was true: Dad didn’t like what Mom said.

He also knew that if he questioned Dad about it he would get a spanking when they got home, maybe before.

That’s when he saw the Void. He’d seen one once before but didn’t have a name for them back then, didn’t know they were just his and that no one else could see them. A little wink in the darkness of night.

The dashboard lit his father and mother and didn’t light the seat between them. He should’ve seen his mother’s purse pulled up tight against her and his father’s gloves on the seat beside him but there was nothing there. No seat, no gloves, no purse, just a child-sized bubbling hole where everything should be.

No face, no eyes, no hands or arms or legs, just a roiling blackness.

Yet he was sure it looked up at him. It knew he was there and it knew he knew it was there.

And it did nothing about it.

That made Earl glad. Finally a friend who accepted him. Oh, joyous day. Oh, happy, happy day.

“What’re you smiling about, son?”

“I like our new Lincoln, dad.”

Mom said, “Lincoln Continental.”

Dad said, “Good, son.”


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Empty Sky Chapter 7 – Joni and Honey Fitz

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

Read Empty Sky Chapter 6 – Al and Doc Martin

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

Joni stood across Beacon Street from the Brookline Abortion Clinic staring at the sign’s red and gold lettering.… Read the rest

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

Read Empty Sky Chapter 6 – Al and Doc Martin

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

Joni stood across Beacon Street from the Brookline Abortion Clinic staring at the sign’s red and gold lettering.

She shook her head in disgust. What betesticled marketing moron came up with those colors for an abortion clinic?

Two buses, one with a Boston’s Pro-Life Action Network banner and the other unloading Operation Rescue “sidewalk counselors”, formed a phalanx from the sidewalk to the clinic doors. Ever since John Salvi III opened fire here and at its sister clinic about a mile away, and now with most red states sending bus loads of safe sex refugees north, this stretch of Beacon Street became one of the safest most dangerous places in the greater Boston area. Police cars patrolled routinely. Male and female undercover cops chatted up anyone and everyone walking anywhere near the clinic.

The Supreme Court had created a safe zone for people wanting to enter and exit the clinics and this safe zone included quite a bit of the sidewalk and street surrounding the clinic. People on their way elsewhere learned to stay on the other side of the street, thus the only people nearing the clinic were those having business there.

Such as Joni, today.

Joni held a pencil in her hand as if it were a cigarette. She lifted it to her lips each time she felt her breakfast of barely thawed Brüdermann’s frozen pizza and cold Starbucks coffee coming back on her.

She belched. “Ugh. Morning sickness is one thing but you didn’t do yourself any favors here, Levis.” She checked her palm for escaping pieces of pizza. “I should never have given up smoking.”

Sitting in a safe haven of a sidewalk bench across the street from the clinic, Joni watched an obese woman with a video camera and two small children in tow. The children orbited the woman more like satellites than offspring; the woman was large enough to warrant a small planetary system of her own.

All the other people, all the other protesters and contesters, all the police, all the counselors, all the passersby and traffic in between, evaporated until only this one woman, video camera in hand, her greater and lesser moons of Phobos and Deimos orbiting via unseen gravitational umbilicae, spun away from the others, walking and talking her way into a universe of her own.

She held vigil under an ash tree, a cat waiting for a specific bird to arrive. She kept telling her kids to stay there. At least it seemed she was. She might have been saying, “Stay here until I move five feet away. No more. Five feet, do you hear? Then come running after me. Scream for me. Clutch onto my skirt, climb onto my coat, pull me down into the earth with the weight of you. Make sure you’re loud and obscene enough for all others to see. We are here to show them what it means to be a mother.”

Joni’s hand went to her stomach. She couldn’t feel any life there yet. “Small comfort.” Instead she felt the pizza and coffee making plans for a violent escape. She wanted to be prepared.

How did the woman pick her targets? Did she only go for women like herself? Like herself in what way?

Joni watched her walk back to her ash tree after each encounter, back to the bulging, plastic shopping bags she dropped there. She seemed confused by them, unsure of all they contained, some kind of alien cornucopia. One held extra video cameras, extra batteries, a voice recorder, an extra mobile, a portable hand-crank phone and USB port charger, and pictures her children waved at those who sought entrance. The next held sandwiches and Cokes, Hostess peanutbutter-cheese crackers, Twinkies and M&Ms, a thermos and extra cups. The last held disposable diapers, clothes, towels and a Gladlock bag of moistened handiwipes.

She had come prepared. Maybe Joni could bum a plastic shopping bag and a handiwipe when the pizza and coffee made their escape?

“Fuck that. Does she have a cigarette?”


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Empty Sky Chapter 6 – Al and Doc Martin

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

Read Empty Sky Chapter 5 – Jack Games

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

Al Carsons took off his shirt while Doc Martin read an official letter Tony sent to explain the situation.… Read the rest

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

Read Empty Sky Chapter 5 – Jack Games

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

Al Carsons took off his shirt while Doc Martin read an official letter Tony sent to explain the situation. He placed the letter on top of Al’s folder and placed both folder and letter on the examining room table. Next he reached into his pocket and pulled out some Post-It notes.

“What are those, Doc?”

Doc Martin patted the examining room table. “Up.”

Al sat on the table. Doc Martin read the Post-It notes, nodding at each as he shuffled them, then put the bunch of them in the sink. “You smoke?”

“You know I don’t.”

“Wait here.”

He went to his office and came back with a small box of wooden matches, lit one and held it to the Post-It notes.

“Doc?”

“You would like to test for a Class 5 HazMat TT license. I am going to examine you to make sure there is nothing to suggest you shouldn’t test for that license, but which would not stop you from maintaining your Class 4 Construction Vehicle license. Do you understand what I told you?”

Al smiled. He and the Doc went way back. On his first visit, Al was a strapping, blonde haired, cowlicked buck fresh out of high school who’d just started working for the county and, in the middle of his union physical, confessed he’d just met a girl and wasn’t she pretty? Al remembered the Doc talking to him, confirming and denying things Al had heard about but never experienced, things about being “safe”.

Doc had been a tall, lean, man about fifteen years older than Al. Tall and lean and wiser than anybody Al ever knew.

Now Al had gotten a gut and what hair he had he cut close. Still thin but now not as tall, Doc seemed more like a pussywillow stick bent with the weight of the silvery puff on top. The Doc seemed to be getting thinner and more hunched these days.

“Why, sure, Doc, I understand, but — ”

“Good.” Doc reached into a drawer and came back with a reflex hammer. He whacked Al square on the forehead hard enough to open the big man’s eyes.


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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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Together! Live and On Stage! Phoebe Darqueling, Empress of Steampunk, and Joseph Carrabis, Boring and Dull! With Special Guest Stars Michelle and Geoff Genge Joins Us!


Phoebe Darqueling, Michelle and Geoff Genge, and I are doing an author meet&greet at the River Bend Bookshop on Sunday, 10 Nov 2019, from 11:30am-2:30pm. If you’re reading this blog, you probably know something about me.

But what about The Mighty Phoebes?… Read the rest


Phoebe Darqueling, Michelle and Geoff Genge, and I are doing an author meet&greet at the River Bend Bookshop on Sunday, 10 Nov 2019, from 11:30am-2:30pm. If you’re reading this blog, you probably know something about me.

But what about The Mighty Phoebes?

 
Phoebe Darqueling is the pen name of a globe trotting vagabond who currently hangs her hat in Freiburg, Germany. In her “real life” she writes curriculum for a creativity competition for kids in MN and edits academic texts for non-native English speakers. Though her first love is Steampunk, she dabbles in a variety of speculative fiction genres. Folks can get a free copy of her reference book, The Steampunk Handbook, by signing up for her newsletter. Her novels include Riftmaker: A Steampunk Portal Fantasy and the Mistress of None series. You can find her short stories in the Chasing Magic, The Queen of Clocks and Other Steampunk Tales, Harvey Duckman Presents Vol. 2 and Vol. 3 anthologies right now, with upcoming stories in Taught by Time and Cogs, Crowns, and Carriages coming soon. She’s an equal opportunity Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, and Firefly fan, but her favorite pastime is riffing on terrible old movies like they do on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

She’s also one of the many wonderful, astute people who interviewed me.

And also Fantasy&Sci-Fi Life and Writing Dynamic Duo Michelle and Geoff Genge!

 
Geoff and Michelle Genge are a dynamic writing duo who live and raise their two amazing children deep in the woods of beautiful Prince Edward Island, Canada (and i’m jealous). Each brings unique talents and skill sets combined with a shared love of literature and great story-telling. They met in school and fell in love while travelling the wonders of the ancient world.

Michelle has been writing in her work-world for over twenty years and is excited to enter the creative fiction realm. Geoff brings his passions for comic adventure, classic sci-fi, and the weird realm of the paranormal fringe. Together they are embarking to create their own great escapist stories and share them with the world.

So come meet us and be greeted by us at the River Bend Bookshop! It’ll be fun!