Odd – Short Story

police lights

   Ksshhhkk! The CB burst into life again. “Another one? Yep. Rosalita Avenue? House 46. Mhhm. Three of them?! We might have to call in the big guns.”

Sitting at the helm of the police car, Rick Valente looked over at his partner Danzig, sighing, eyebrows raised, that What can you do? look they both knew too well. If they couldn’t find them, their necks would be on the line. Which was bullshit. But they liked to think that way to glamorise the job.

Rick unhooked the CB and radioed Units 2 and 3. “This is Unit 1. I repeat 1..” Rick always emphasised it. Being Unit 1 let them know he was the leader of the Division, a fact the other units were all too aware of. “We’re going to head over to Rosalita Avenue, house 46, something sinister is going on, I need all units there pronto!”
Kssshhk! “Copy that!” “Copy that!”

Rick and Danzig had dealt with thousands of missing cases over the years, ever since they’d been demoted. What lay ahead at Rosalita Avenue, only time could tell, but if Rick’s instincts were right they were all in for a busy night.

“Three of them?” Danzig reiterated, thumbs tucked into his vest. “We’ll be lucky to find one.” Rick nodded, smoothly turning the steering wheel as they took a right onto Rosalita, with no sign of the other units on the treelined street.
Rick scanned the doors on the one stories looking for the right number. It soon became apparent.

Parked up, Rick and Danzig slowly got out of the car, anticipating the worst as a woman came running towards them wailing, in tears, hysterical, while a man and a kid stood on the porch looking anxious. Or were they bemused? Rick shook it off.

“You have to find them officers!” the woman said beseechingly, running towards them bare foot, along the lawn in her summer dress.

“Don’t worry Maam, I can assure you we will do everything in our power. Right now I need you to calm down, and give us all the information we need.” Danzig typically the silent partner, opened up an empty notebook, the only trace of ink on the first page formed immature stickmen cartoons.

“Please, please help me!” The woman broke down and slumped onto the lawn. Her husband broke away from the porch to offer support.

Units 2 and 3 turned up simultaneously, haphazardly parking in front of Rick’s vehicle, and four officers burst out, hands ready to withdraw their pistols.

Rick ignored them and kneeled down to talk to the woman. “There are three missing correct? Can you tell me the last place you saw them?”

Between sobs she managed to compose herself a little as her husband arrived by her side, reaching for her hand.

“We don’t know! They could be anywhere!” she replied, as her makeup was being destroyed by her crying.

Rick’s face turned serious. He meant business. “Don’t worry folks, we’ll find those missing socks if it’s the last thing we do!”

A Dark Night – Short Story

batman a dark night fan fiction
WHAT A PRICK!!
I’d heard he wasn’t the most punctual of people, but a second past fifteen minutes is the beginning of unforgivable tardiness. Teetering on the edge of giving up hope I suddenly saw something above. A shadow in my peripheral attracting my attention to a building nearby. Latching onto the lamppost above me a thin line; he swung down landing soft as a kitten from a foot drop.

“You took your time!” I said, tapping at the face of my watch for emphasis. As if the saviour of the city would fail to comprehend words alone.
“I apologise. Bad stomach. Something the butler made. Chef’s on holiday.” He clutched a gloved hand at his midriff.
“Well, you are human after all.” I flicked a half smoked cigarillo into the drain nearby. A disappointing light rain began it’s descent, the clear blood of dark skies. “Looks like you brought the rain with you.” Again I gesticulated, as if a man of his intellect was unable to grasp the effects of gravity. Pointy eared he looked skyward, an expression on his face like he might take off into it, leaving nothing but breath behind.

“Right, let us proceed.” Gotham Blues Bar it was. About as far away as possible from the city centre. The owner didn’t even bat an eyelid as we walked in on account of him being a snake hybrid, a genetic experiment gone wrong. The skin of a snake, the eyes of a snake. Somehow he’d managed to get some arms out of the misfortune, disproportionate like the claws on a T-Rex. Needless to say he had a lisp and avoided the letter ‘S’ like the plague.
“Good evening gentlemen. Drink?” he said surprisingly normally, omitting the s.
“Not for me,” said my stomach cramped friend. “Got any milk?”
“I’ll have three fingers of the worst scotch, cos’ I know that’s all you’ll have!”
Obligingly he began slithering to the back room to get the milk. I helped myself to a bottle behind the bar and rinsed out a dirty glass, failing to remove the grime and somehow making it worse. From the bottle it is then. With a deep swig…
I spat out the contents. Vile! “Jesus!”
Of course he just happened to be lounging in the corner in a dingy booth. “Yeah?”
“No, never mind!” I waved. The oily taste was repulsive. I’d need something stronger than absinthe to purge the putrid remains from my mouth. The proprietor slithered back in with a milky glass contrasting against his brown scales. Seeing the bottle on the bar he stopped.
“That’s my oil! That’s my oil for my skin you stupid fool!” The lisp returned when angry. “Do you have any idea the cost? I’m going to have to charge you for it,” he said defiantly slithering closer.
“Ha! A snake oil salesman too!” Revelling in my quip and momentarily forgetting I wished for nothing more than a vat of Listerine, I heard a chuckle. Fucking hell! Even Jesus was laughing. The saddest most lonesome sort of a laugh, but I’d take it, especially from him.
“Are you going to pay for it?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Several large notes flew on to the bar from my money clip acting only to absorb the left behind alcohol that slicked the wooden surface. “And I’ll have a bottle of scotch too. With a clean glass,” I emphasised, laughing inwardly at my ability to say glass without embarrassment.

My compadre was still hunched over, gingerly hanging on to the glass of milk, while a white moustache had evaded being wiped away.
“And get him something too would you?” I nodded, in Jesus’ direction.
“Ok.”
Finally we managed to grab a seat, a cracked leather booth. Hell, we had the pick of the joint. Sipping periodically was a depressed looking hero, eyes fixed on the milky white. It was half empty by the look in his eyes. Just as I was repairing the damage done earlier to the insides of my mouth with a quarter bottle of scotch, in she walked. It was like Casablanca – only more neon and less piano. Of all the bars..

“Jesus Christ!” muttered Batman, cocking his head slightly as if he might have overheard. Picking the tumbler up he drained the contents slamming it down as if it contained alcohol. A backhand wiped away the residue.
There she was. Tail up and eyes glaring. She turned, leaning against the bar in her leather clad outfit which was at least two cows worth, grinning like a mad woman with a barely audible purr emanating from her. Of course to Batman it was like a bloody crescendo.
“I thought you might be here!” she said, seductively flicking her tail almost knocking over the pricey skin care range.
Strangely I found the whole thing quite arousing but she wouldn’t even give me a digit were I to ask.
Batman sat there staring into the middle of the table as if he’d detected the chewing gum stuck underneath and it’s mintless masticated form had shot his parents. A rage was forming behind those eyes. Still clasping the glass he continued to look upset until eventually the glass shattered in his palm.
“For fucks sake Catwoman! I’m not interested!!!”

WordPress Plugins

SOME OF YOU have dabbled in Plugins which can help you increase web traffic, speed up your website, compress your pictures and a whole lot more.

But if you are like me, and you’ve paid for hosting through WordPress, you’re going to feel shafted and crippled. Never good. Unless that’s your thing.

I signed up for a .com WordPress site, which believe it or not (Ripley!) is different from a .org WordPress site. Incredibly, if you have a .org site, you have access to a plethora of Plugins, such as SEOYoast which you can install to optimise your site, increasing traffic being the obvious imperative. But if you signed up with the .com WordPress, in essence the exact same thing, you cannot install Plugins AT ALL. The option isn’t there on the menu, and never will be, see WebTegrity video below. Supposedly WordPress optimises .com sites but we have zero input.

I’m not sure if by registering my site with a .org domain as well would solve the issue, but I’m not impressed either way. There is no warning from WordPress that .org might be the better option when initially signing up to create a site or blog. Back to writing!!!

Urban Survivor: Short Story

sas survival

   I READ A survival manual. Not like you’d read a novel. Slowly, dipping in and out. There were no gushing reviews on the back page. Not many people care about what poisonous mushrooms look like, and the subtle nuances you need to be wary of, to avoid a slow painful death from liver failure. Because like mushrooms, toxic people aren’t always that different in appearance from the good ones.

Few libraries probably stock it.

I read it here and there. Ten pages at a time, sometimes less. It was a consumption characterised by erratic reading habits; how to snare a rabbit using bits of wood and string; which poisonous berries to avoid, and which ones to eat when there is no Sainsbury’s nearby. Useless information really. I live in a city.

Still, I continued to read. Thumbing through, bit by bit. Soon I wanted to witness someone having a choking fit so I could use the Heimlich on them, to pass out so I could put them in the recovery position, to drop dead… No, not really?!

Where are the snake bites? Broken bones poking from skin? Tropical diseases? Are all the dangerous animals in another land? Make life dangerous, and my book useful!

Then I read page 264. If I ran out of water, should the tap run dry, and the bottled water evaporates, this, this was my survival strategy no doubt. The illustration showed a hole dug into the earth. You place a container in the middle and get a sheet of plastic or similar material and let it hang down above the receptacle, weighed down by stones on either side. Condensation is your pal here. Over a 24 hour period you can expect a litre to have collected. I like to think I’d use a battered mess tin.

But then I read some more.

Not only does this method collect water, it can also collect insects and animals, trapping them in some sort of plastic open grave. Food and water, with one method, what genius.

Then I thought about it some more, imagining the scenario: Tragically, I’m in Australia. There are venomous snakes, the most venomous of all continents. My body is spent, my thirst is driving me mad, but finally after a patient night of staving off mania with an invisible stick I can reap my rewards. A litre will save my life and deliver me to unsuspecting Aborigines who will nurse me back to full health, Hollywood style.

Surprise! In the water trap there are three snakes. When dying of thirst the last thing you need are venomous snakes stopping you from reaching the lifesaving water. But then, isn’t that life in a way?

Short Story Compilation: Do’s & Dont’s

short stories published authors

   LOOKING TO PUT together a short story compilation? If you are self publishing then you can be more cavalier than if you want a book in print, but there are some general guidelines to adhere to.

  • Length: Most publishers want around 40,000 words for a compilation or more.
  • Genre: The general consensus is that you are better to compile a number of short stories that fit into a common theme. Horror, fantasy, surrealism etc.
  • Sales: There is conflicting data on the short story market, and some websites appear to discourage the notion of even trying to get published in that format which is ridiculous, ask Alan Rinzler. There is definitely a market for short stories, just ask George Saunders, although you are not going to acheive the sales of a full length novel in all likelihood. Additionally, I believe publishing a short story collection is a great way to dip your toes in the cold waters of publishing, if nothing else you have published writing, an acheivement in itself, and it can propel you on to write bigger and better things. Potentially you might get noticed as well.
  • Story Selection: Be VERY selective about the stories you do include. It is easy to carried away and add in nearly every story you’ve ever written regardless of quality. Learn from Amber Sparks. When I look back on some of my works, my maxims are: Does it stand the test of time? Also, did I enjoy reading it? Yes? Good. Chances are they are solid works that others will enjoy reading too.
  • Story Order: How are you going to order your stories? Don’t just randomly smush them together. Ideally start with one of your strongest shorter works to kick start the book. Then introduce longer stories later on. That way the reader can be hooked in.

Remember, all of the above is advice, it isn’t chiselled into a stone tablet that all publishers use as reference. I like the general notions, but as in anything creative, rules can be destroyed. For instance, I quite like compilations with numerous genres; sci fi and horror for example.

From a marketing perspective it’s a tougher sell I guess. Self publishing gives you more freedom however, so there is always a viable option to get your book on shelves or on screens no matter what.

Got Any Squawk? Short Story

conforming-quotes-1

   Squawk. That’s all my buddies talked about. Do you want some? Do you need some? Yeah you need some! More importantly, do you have some? I never did. When not in person, I’d imagine their faces turning sour on the end of the line, or sense the disappointment in a replied text when I didn’t. I was a loser. No squawk? No friendship. Today’s forecast: Cold shoulders one day, and warm fronts the next. It really is unpredictable this coming week. Add in Hurricane Certain-Death and life looked challenging.

Hardly as troublesome as differentiating between my friends. There was Clay, Clay, Clay and Clay. In such a small town, it was incredulous that all of the Clay’s had united. Luckily they had different last names, but refused nicknames, visibly angry when not addressed by their christian name, on the verge of fisticuffs every time.
I wasn’t Clay. I was Rigby. The odd one out, a divisive element.
Can we trust him? He isn’t a Clay.
I dunno man…does he have any squawk?
That’s the head-movie that played out in my mind.

First time I tried squawk was in a bar, specifically, in the graffiti scarred, rotting hell hole of the lone toilet cubicle. Totally unnecessary. But it added to the danger element, so said Clay…one of them. Nobody gave a shit that five of us would lock ourselves in there, not the owner not the bar staff. They did squawk too. But there wasn’t room for six.
“Come on Rigby! Time for your first squawk!”
So I squawked. We squawked. Therefore we thought.
“Whoooo! That’s some good squawk! Holy shit!” said a Clay.
“Haha! Look at Rigby! He’s going under!” said a different Clay, pumped on the fumes of effluence.
I couldn’t feel a thing. No difference.
“Feels good doesn’t it?” said yet another Clay, grinning manically.
“Sure.”

Ever since then, I’d been ‘hooked’. Squawking was all the rage. “Coming around to squawk?” Clay’s would enquire. Yet more of a demand. How could I refuse.
“Whoooo! That is some good squawk. I’ve never squawked like that before!” Followed by cheers, high fives and in depth descriptions on how off their tits they were. I concurred of course.

One night in the toilet cubicle, with four overbearing Clay’s espousing the virtues and damned excellence of the latest batch of squawk, I cracked.
“This is the best squawk ever maaaan!” The Clay’s howled and agreed, laughing, chuckling, wide eyed on squawk.
“Aren’t you having some Rigby?”
“It doesn’t do anything for me. Seriously: Clay, Clay, Clay and Clay. I’ve just been pretending. I don’t get high off it.” I shrugged, resigned to my fate.
Eight Clay eyes bored into me, they pushed closer. “TAKE-the-squawk-RIGBY!” An order, not an option.
“No.” I unbolted the flimsy door, and strolled back to the bar. “A double bibbleboop please!”

The Clay’s followed me out and they had an announcement for all four patrons. “Rigby won’t do squawk!”
At that, the owner shuffled over to the entrance, and slammed the door shut.
“EVERYBODY DOES SQUAWK!!!” he said. “Rigby! You’re not leaving until you’ve squawked!”
“Sure! I was just messing guys!” I lied.
A smile tsunami rippled outwards from where I stood, relief softening Clay faces, and the rest.
One of the Clay’s wagged a finger at me. “That was a good one!”
“LET’S SQUAWK!” I roared, disgusted with myself.

50 Word Short Story: The Future

THROUGH THE Scottish Book Trust as detailed in my previous post I entered the following into the short story competition based on the writing prompt: The Future:

the future galima

What a nap! Wait. I don’t remember having a preference for hospital beds. Octopus-tubes were attached to my skin. A heart monitor registered my panic. Scared, sore necked, I sat up. The calendar read 2045. Outside, nothing had changed. Typical. Reflected in the window I saw a robot looking back…