Tuesday, September 22, 2015

THE DAYS OF A LONELY FISHERMAN - The Flash Fiction Challenge 2015 | Challenge #2 Assignment

Group 30 - Horror / A Marina / A can of soup


A fisherman is not as pleasant to visitors as he appears

The days of a lonely fisherman are spent sleeping. After a long moonlit night of hauling tuna, he stops his boat a bit outside the marina to dump out the rest of his chum and some bones, then he heads in to tie up and sleep. He passes all the other boats leaving the marina to begin their day. His eyes close around 6 a.m. and reopen around 1 p.m.. He will return to the ocean tomorrow night, in the silence, with nobody to watch him but the stars. The smell of the sea in the air is always dangerous. It is dry and harsh. The salt penetrates the senses. It is better to be on the ocean at night, guided by the moon and the smell of quiet romance.

Some days he is awoken earlier, however, by someone yelling at his boat, wondering if he is home.
A nuisance.
The fisherman has no time for such nonsense.
He needs to check his gear. He needs to check the forecast for the lower Florida Keys. He needs to go and get some…. bait.

His long gray whiskers lead his head out of the boat’s cabin and he sees a man in a bright white suit trying to affix a smiling, hopeful brochure to Wickedness.

“Hey,” the fisherman yells with a spirit of mock anger, jest and warmth. “What are you selling?”

“Why hello sir, I apologize I was unaware you were on the boat. I am part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” was the young man’s reply.

“Selling God huh? Too bad. That’s not what I need,” the fisherman says and turns to go back into the boat’s cabin.

“What do you need?” the young man asks the fisherman.

The fisherman stops, turns back to face the young man and laughs.

“How old are you kid? You’re asking what I need? You’re the kid passing out pamphlets to an empty marina in the middle of the day. I might surmise you need some direction in your life. My boat is the only one here at this time of day. Come back in a few hours.”

“But sir, have you heard that…….”

“I’ve heard it all kid,” the fisherman responds. “I need some food. I’ma heat up some soup. You want some soup?”

“I want to talk to you about the power of….”

“Do it inside kid,” the fisherman barks. He turns and goes inside the cabin of the boat. The young man looks around for a second, sees nobody, stuffs his brochure into his backpack and follows the fisherman into the cabin.

As the young man enters the cabin there is soup warming up on the stove and the fisherman is making his bed/futon. The loud tropical sheets on the fisherman’s bed match his shirt.

“Sir, I appreciate you inviting me in.”

“Not a problem, young man. The life of a fisherman can be a lonely one. When other people come around, I take advantage.”

“Why don’t you hire another fisherman to work with you?”

“I like to work nights. I am on the water from dusk til dawn. I haven’t found anyone who fits that schedule since I disposed of my last partner. Would you like some soup?”

“Sure,” says the young man as he sits down at the elementary school-sized table in the boat’s cabin. He takes off his backpack and sits in his freshly cleaned white suit and the fisherman hands him a dirty black bowl, of black soup that looks horrible, but smells delicious. The young man finds himself hungrier than he thought, after a long morning of selling God. The young man grabs the spoon the fisherman set down on a napkin on the table and begins eating the hearty soup greedily.

“What kinda soup is this?” he asks. Licking his lips and spooning more into his gullet.

“The can is on the table beside you,” the fisherman says. The young Mormon missionary turns the can to face him and reads Death Soup on the homemade label. “It starts as a simple, thick, scotch broth – I learned it as a child in Scotland, where I learned the sea years ago… I make it from an old recipe from my grandmother, it’s got that sweet liquor flavor, then I add in some more sweetness with a hint of cinnamon and a tremendous amount of tranquilizers.”

As the fisherman finishes describing the soup the young man falls from his chair. He crawls for the door. Fighting to make his body move. Fighting to keep his eyes open. Fighting to work his mouth. “What did you give me? You gave me…. You gave me…. Oh lord.. save your servant… help me ascend to greatness,” the young man mutters.
The fisherman shuts him up with a kick to the jaw.

The young man stops moving. The fisherman opens a drawer and covers the floor of the cabin with a plastic tarp he takes from the drawer. The fisherman uncovers a metal garbage can, stained red on the inside, and grabs a butcher knife, and a drill with an extra-long, industrial, extra-strength mixing attachment from under the sink. The fisherman moves the young man’s body onto the tarp. The fisherman grabs the knife and begins to make his chum … his bait.

Other fishermen always wonder what secret chum he uses to attract so many fish. His chum attracts an enviable variety of large fish and his nets are never empty. Some think his moonlight fishing routine contributes to his great hauls, and they are right, but fresh, thick chum is the main secret.

As sun sets the fisherman fires up the engine on Wickedness and unties the ropes holding the boat to the marina. The fisherman knows that tonight he will bring in a big catch of succulent tuna and tomorrow he will move on to a quieter marina to spend his day sleeping.

fellow nyc writerscan comment on this story in the nyc forum at http://forums.nycmidnight.com/rd1-ch2group-30-the-days-of-a-lonely-fisherman_topic11170_post123719.html?KW=#123719

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

ATTENDANCE - The Flash Fiction Challenge 2015 | Challenge #1 Assignment

Group 30 - Comedy / A morgue / A permanent marker

It is Friday afternoon, and it is a time for mourning.

We all kinda figured his wife would kill him eventually, but Dad seemed to be OK with the possibilities and the dangers of marrying Mia.
He met Mia in the basement of a funeral home, the same funeral home Jeff and I were driving to, at this moment, contemplating how long, or short, is acceptable to stay parked at a drive-thru funeral viewing window.

Jeff hadn’t really planned on attending the viewing, it was just kinda something I sprung on him. Friday afternoon as we carpooled home from the office - like we do most days, he drives half the time I drive the other half, sometimes other office members are involved – I took a turn on Grant St. and pointed the car toward the Saving Grace Funeral Home.

“Where you going,” Jeff inquired.
“I wanna grab a beer,” I said.

I pulled into a small, hole-in-the-wall tavern along Grant and we hopped out. This spot had a semi-sexy bar maid and we never stayed too long because Jeff got angry at the video poker machine and threatened to burn the tavern down after 30 minutes or so of playing, so we always got some beers to go and headed out, before the cops got called. Today was no different.

“Who in the Hell made this machine?” Jeff yelled. “This sure as Hell ain’t no machine made in the U.S. of A.”

That was my cue to settle up the tab and ask for a case of Bud to go.

I coaxed Jeff away from the evil, communist, fascist, socialist, money sucking, capitalist, contraption and we got back in the car. Jeff was a bit tipsy. I had only had a beer so I was OK to drive and felt enough liquid courage to attend the viewing, so we pulled out of the tavern and headed toward Saving Grace again.
There were at least a dozen cars lined up in the funeral home drive-thru viewing window lane. I cursed softly to myself, at this wonderful new drive-thru option now available at funeral homes to let mobility impaired individuals, people with oxygen tanks to lug around, people who can’t sit without help, people who get tired quickly, people who value a speedy viewing service, people who don’t have proper apparel for a funeral viewing, people who are afraid of public settings, people who are convinced ghosts are in funeral homes, people who are afraid of Gremlins waiting in hidden places in every room, people who worry the government will implant chips in their head if they are in the open too long, and sons who don’t care that much for their fathers and just want to drive-by the viewing to fulfill requirements for inheritance money.

Jeff leaned over from the passenger seat and pressed the horn on the steering wheel on my car. It let out a loud burping squeal that shattered the silence of all the mourners in the line.

“Dammit Jeff,” I screamed. “We are at a funeral.”
“Oh shit, who died,” Jeff asked, meekly, confused and trying to overpower the alcohol in his system.
“My Dad.”
“I didn’t know you had a Dad.”
“Shut up Jeff, open up that case of Bud and hand me one,” I said.

Jeff opened the case and handed me a can of Bud. Jeff began to drink his own beer. I recalled my Dad teaching me to drink and drive. He was so good at it. Music floated from a speaker above the drive-thru window.

We kept drinking and Jeff pulled a black permanent marker from the glove box and started doodling on the beer case, then started getting pissy, saying he was tired of waiting. I was getting drunk now, so I yelled back at him. We had the windows down and were cursing at a full ‘reality’ show level waiting in the drive-thru viewing line, ready to punch each other, just then the car in front of us drove off and I lurched our car forward.

The curtains on the viewing window opened as we pulled up, and I saw my dad.
I noticed the funeral home gave him a new fake eye for the funeral. It looked like a shiny hard marble. He had always used some squishy thing as his fake eye, like part of a potato or a squishy ping pong type ball, or he wore a patch, cause he knew Mia was just gonna stab him in the eye again anyway. Dad had come to Saving Grace Funeral Home to identify Mom, after she had left him and had died without telling him. Mia was a Saving Grace employee, in the morgue on her day off, stabbing dead bodies in the eyes. She was working on a new eye stabbing routine for the circus. The circus had become so bland and didn’t have any edge or bite anymore, she wanted to develop a new-agey extreme circus, like the ESPN X-Games of circuses, and was working on eye stabbing techniques for gross out horror, slight-of-eye, magic acts and such.

Mia stabbed Dad’s eye out on their one-year anniversary, and he started his fake eye/eye patch routine. The new-agey circus ideas Mia had didn’t really go past eye stabbing. She killed Dad after one of the eye stabbings caused a brain infection or somesuch.

Bette Midler “Wind Beneath My Wings” was playing over the speaker, Jeff threw an empty Bud at me, I pressed the gas, we sideswiped a parked car and ran into a tree. Jeff was laughing hysterically as the cops arrived to arrest me. As they handcuffed me he drew a smiley face on my cheek and started to walk home.
The cops took pictures of the accident scene and arrested me on various drunken and motor vehicle violations, giving me proof that I had, indeed, attended the viewing for 30 seconds.

fellow nyc writerscan comment on this story in the nyc forum at  http://forums.nycmidnight.com/rd1-grp30-comedy-morgue-marker-attendance_topic10857_page1.html

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Sons of Idioms

Sons of Idioms
by Mike Hammer

“You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?”
“Don’t say that shit man.”
The house shook and the front door exploded off its hinges, hurtling into the front yard.
“Speak of the Devil,” said Lucifer, a gorgeous woman, with colorless eyes and skin that was on fire and constantly burning, as she came into the house.
“Look at what you did, asshole.”
“Is that…..”
“The Antichrist, The Author of All Sin, Beelzebub, the Chief of the Demons, the Enemy of Righteousness, Azazel, Gorgo, Mephistopheles, Mormo, Yon-lo-Wang, Yama, O-Yama, Nihasa, Satan, Wicked One, Slanderer, PRINCESS of Darkness.”
“Yes, yes. I am the Devil. I have many names,” said Lucifer.
“The true Fallen Angel? What are you doing here?”
“You spoke of me, of course. You have done it before, and regularly, and this time I was close by so I have come,” Lucifer gently remarked, smiling slightly after being called the Fallen Angel. She moved closer to Jimmy Bob Joe and ran a finger down his arm, he screamed as a black brand was burned into his skin, but he didn’t move his arm. “To make a long story short, I have come to seduce you,” the Devil said, with such sex it gave me wood, and she took her finger off Jimmy Bob Joe.
Jimmy Bob Joe fell to his knees with a guttural shriek.
“Wait. What?”
“I have come to tempt you with the powers of the dark side.”
I laughed. She slowly turned her neck and looked in my direction. I pissed myself. My body trembled violently and I was forced to my knees by some power outside myself. I yelled in pain as I kneeled unwantingly.
“It does sound a bit like Star Wars these days,” she said, and licked her lips slow. “I think the new movie can’t be as bad as the last few, so I do have some hope that it won’t be such a waste of time. I always have some foolish faith tho, probably Jar Jar Binks will reappear and ruin the movie”
She told us of the Sons of Perdition, a true part of the bible, sort of. She said she and some other angels didn’t agree with god and they didn’t want to go along with his plans. Then god got all dramatic, like usual, and declared war on the angels who disagreed with him/
“What did you disagree about?” asked Jimmy Bob Joe.
“I wanted the angels to remain pure, undirtied by humans and physical limitations and crass and pitiful memories and no abilities and no wings, but god wanted to let you bastards become angels,” Lucifer told us. “And I walked out, and lost my wings.”
“But, god wanted us…………..”
Lucifer slapped Jimmy Joe Bob in mid sentence. The color in his face disappeared. I swear I could see his skull through his skin.
“I’m sorry, he’s not the brightest…”
“He will make a perfect soldier of the devil, a wonderful son of perdition. The sons are merely dumb physical bodies I use. The less they understand the easier they are to use. So, I am assuming Jimmy Joe Bob is in. He did speak of me and is a perfect tool of stupid violence,” Lucifer slowly sang to me - well it was speaking but it seemed like a gorgeous melody was rolling off her lips and I nodded and agreed and waited for more. “The question is, are all your ducks in a row now? Are you ready to join me?”
I kneeled before her.
“Of course you majesty,” I said.
She smiled, slow and wide, a huge wicked grin. It was beautiful, and terrifying. She reached under Jimmy Joe Bob’s chin, raised his chin with two fingers, looked him in the eye and asked “Are you ready to join me, or are you ready to die?”
“I will join you, your majesty,” said Jimmy Joe Bob.
“Excellent,” the Devil smiled, peppy and happy. “Off your knees boys, for now, we are going to war.”
“But your majesty, I just pissed my pants and I would like to…”
“Never mind that,” Lucifer sung to me, gently, cradling me, caressing me, making me feel wonderful with the slow soft tones of her voice. “You won’t have a body for long anyway. Let’s go.”

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

AArmond the Amazing

AArmond the Amazing – by Mike Hammer

“A-Armond, or is it Arghhhhmond, maybe A ron mon, all Jamaican-like:
“You know my name, you POET”
“Oooh a poet, wait…. What’s a poet Chester?
“A poet is a dream that……” CRUNCH
It was the worst sound ever - the sound of insecticide dripping down into your hill, the sound of a friend being dipped in chocolate then eaten.
“You ants get your act together and run,” yelled Mr. Kendra in our direction.
Kendra was a good 20 yards from us, scavenging near a tree when Chester got squished. A tiny meteor came from the direction of the smaller humans and drove him right into the ground, it pulverized him instantly and left a black slimy stain on the meteor. That was all that was left of him. He went to school with me, we learned how to build tunnels and find materials needed for a long winter, he dated my sister when we first came to this colony. Now I would have to tell his family that he died.
Any ant who left the colony knew that was a possibility. We always went out in pairs and swore to the other that we would tell their family what happened, if the outside got to us. Chester was my teammate, and now that he was gone I had to run alone, maybe that’s why I was unable to move when Kendra yelled at us.
There was a death machine starting up somewhere, ready to pass over the grass; we couldn’t be out in the open grass with one of those cruel devices slicing and sucking up and smashing any ant in sight. I saw pairs of ants scrambling, 4 legs blurring together, head bent down with mouths set in the determined way that would get them home.
My legs got tangled and I started off eating a face full of dirt, but then I righted myself and scrambled for the colony, I knew they would hold the hatch for the last ant. Dozens of them were disappearing into the colony and the sound of my death was growing louder. I had to make it home to tell Chester’s family about his death.
I slid inside the colony hatch and rejoiced. Happy I was alive. Then I started crying.
The colony rattled and we all headed deep inside as the death machine passed over. I went slowly, eyes blurry with salty water and heart heavy with the last words of a friend. The 1,612 – I mean 1,611 – of us stayed deep til the machine shut off. I spotted Chester’s family as they were leaving the shelter, and I froze, my brains went in 6 different directions, my breathing became shallow and difficult, I struggled to get enough oxygen, my mouth went dry and I turned, and followed my family to our living space.
“Son, you OK.”
“Yeah dad, can we do an extra long lesson tonight? I wanna get all this engineering stuff under my belt, asap.”
“Sure, we can work extra hard tonight.”
I did pretty well on each of the quizzes from Dad, but still missed some sections about possible replacement materials, so I wasn’t happy. Ever since we got transferred to this colony for my dad’s work, I been try to follow in his footsteps, be head engineer for a colony, inside, no more outside jobs, but I’m not as smart or organized as my dad. I’m pretty sure my future holds death.
The only way to avoid it was an inside the colony job, and I wanted to engineer better colonies and better defenses.
“So are you really Jamaican,” Jimmy asked me as we got ready to go outside for a run. He was my partner today, after being right next to me and Chester yesterday. I still hadn’t approached Chester’s parents yet, and I knew they were waiting.
“I’m actually from France, my dad got transferred over to the U.S when I was young, just starting tunnel school, and I started here, with Chester,” I replied.
We left the colony, and went off North, we were barely beyond yelling distance just wondering through the grass looking for bits of protein and nutrition. I saw a meteor that had landed and rolled a bit smashing down some grass, there were red strings making crisscrossed tracks up and around it. I got close to it, I was in it’s shadow, before Jimmy pulled me back.
“What are you doing,” asked Jimmy, his hand on me as I trembled slightly.
“I’m going back inside,” I said, and turned around and headed back to the colony.
All my hearts were heavy, and my feet would barely move, but I was done for the day. Jimmy stayed out. I wondered back, terrified with every step, checking the sky constantly. There was one time with Chester that we were outside working at night and all I could do was look at the sky, I was no help to Chester at all. The stars were huge that night and when I was sleeping I dreamt of ant colonies on the stars and dad to train me in engineering the next day.
As I approached the colony entrance I was smiling to myself thinking of a picture Chester drew of ants with space helmets on, then I Chester’s mom, and I tripped. I considered staying down and pretending I was invisible, or crawling back out with Jimmy, but Chester’s mom walked up next to me. I stared at her feet for a second and then righted myself.
“Was my son happy when he died?” she asked me.
“The last thing we did together was laugh, I… I guess it’s a good last thing to do.”
“He wasn’t in pain?”
“No, he was talking bout poetry, smiling, thinking bout something he liked,”

She touched my shoulder and said “I’m glad you were with him.”
And I was too.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Third shifts, first drafts (pretty much a monologue, for now)


I started constantly thinking about dying in the first grade.
A kid who sat in the back row of my homeroom class stopped showing up one day. There was no official announcement or counseling or anything back then, so it was a mystery when Daniel Rodus stopped being at school. After gossiping with each other and repeating the scuttlebutt from our parents, my classmates and I heard he died drinking purple poison by accident – he thought it was Kool Aid.
Our teacher dropped her lesson book and her voice cracked as she told us he was not coming back.
I have never been nervous about death. I researched it. I studied all the possible causes, probable and improbable, and made sure I knew how to be saved in every religion. I started always wearing black in middle school, to greet the Grim Reaper on his terms.

When my first cat, Rodus, died I realized I didn’t know enough about him to give him to death properly. I didn’t want that happening when I died, so I started documenting myself, with pictures and journals, and putting phrases about me in other people’s mouths.
I spent hours interviewing people who knew they were going to die – well, hell, we all know we are going to die, why not wrap our heads around it and plan for it - we plan for careers and families and retirements.

After I finished my Master’s degree in Mortuary Science from the Univ. of Minnesota I got my dream job in the city morgue watching the dead bodies overnight. I learned a lot about grief and fake grief, anger and hidden joy, and how people ignore the amount of dead bodies that go into the system each day. Thousands of bodies come into a county morgue each year - and those are only the officially processed suspect, unnamed or unclaimed ones.
I try to see all the dead bodies that pass through here. I look into each of their eyes, imagining what their last words were. That’s how I started my latest Death project - writing my last words.

I may not say my last words for 40 years, but I may say them tomorrow. I don’t wanna sound stupid, or be misheard or misunderstood or not even heard. I wanna sound poetic, respectful, thoughtful, not foolish or in a rush. I am gonna have the perfect last words written out and ready to go, memorized and practiced, and I will utter them with amazing grace and it will be the sparkle on my dark trip beyond, never to come back – probably never to come back anyway.

Lots of quotes from dying people seem bewildered or childlike, some are angry or happy - it depends on who surrounds you, I guess. I want my last words to start a party. My words will inspire a grand reflection and realization of beauty and loss and the future for those around me at the time that I run out of blood, or my lung collapses, or I’m trapped in a burning car, or slowly crushed by a circus elephant or trash compacter, or whatever. I may put them on a voice recorder and just press play on it if I need to, to sound right and give the situation the appropriate gravitas - I need to make a note to buy a voice recorder and carry it around.
However, most of my last words seem rigid and boring like a college professor or a financial planner. I have so many drafts, and barely any of them are fun – the best I can get is wistful with a tad melancholy.
My favorite last line, that I just wrote, the current perfect combination of nouns and verbs and emotions and memories to start a celebration, is this (