Sheltering In Place

Photo by: Jeff Arnold

A young office worker, following the shelter-in-place order, chatted with remote friends.

OW: I’ve binge-watched the entire Cheers and Friends series. What next?

FRIEND1: Don’t know. Boredom is killing me!

FRIEND2: Practicing my drums. Neighbor threatened to shoot me.

OW: I guess there’s always Game of Thrones.

FRIEND2: Dudes, DO NOT mix ice cream and beer!

OW: Critical moment, guys. I’m running out of toilet paper.

FRIEND1: Anybody know how to get a billiard ball out of your mouth?

Meanwhile, in the apartment below, a writer messaged a friend.

WRITER: This is so AWESOME. I finally have time to write!

Written for the Friday Fictioneers:

Stay safe out there, folks. Wash your hands.

Oh, and seriously, don’t mix ice cream and beer, unless you like puking everywhere.

And by the way, you cannot get a billiard ball out of your mouth. It had to be surgically removed. Something about the curvature of your teeth. The moral is, never put one in your mouth in the first place!

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A Painful, Safe Place

Photo by: J Hardy Carroll

Sheriff Moulson knew Franklin was an alien. But as folks went, he was a ray of light. What Moulson absolutely hated was when Franklin constantly played Madonna songs in the diner.

Still, when floodwaters threatened the whole town, Franklin was a big help. When everyone was finally safe, Franklin pulled Moulson into the ’56 Bel-Air mounted atop the diner.

“Oh, I get it,” said Moulson. “This is your spaceship.”

“Nope,” said Franklin. “It’s just safely above the flood waters.”

“Good.” Moulson finally relaxed. “We’re safe.”

Franklin started the car radio. “Plus, I got twenty hours of Madonna songs ready to go.”
Written for the Friday Fictioneers:

Author’s Notes:

I’m not a huge fan of Madonna either, but I like this one:

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Interesting Times

The ancient Chinese curse goes like, “May you live in interesting times.”

As Jim walked out of the little market, a Precious Bag of scarce, hard-to-find items in his hand, he couldn’t help but think about the curse. He lived in interesting times, indeed. With a flu pandemic sweeping the world, it changed a lot of the way people did things. A simple run to the market was one of them.

He almost arrived at his car when a loud, gruff voice said, “Hey! Did you get the last one?”

Jim tightened his grip on the Precious Bag. He turned about casually, still moving towards his car. “What? The last bag of Fritos?” he lied. “Yeah, got it right here.”

The fellow approaching him stood about six-foot-six. His cutoff sleeves revealed a lean and tightly muscled frame. In his mind, Jim labeled him, the Workman. The man’s stained and dirtied work clothes looked baggy on him. They looked suspiciously like they were hiding something. Jim would know, of course. His own clothes did the same.

“You know what I mean,” said Workman.

“I really don’t,” said Jim, clicking his key fob. The Feducci Veltro chirped merrily and its massive, high-performance engine roared to life. “Maybe check in the store? I’ll bet they got more Fritos in the back.”

“Stop right there, son,” said Workman. “I ain’t askin’ you twice.”

Jim stopped reaching for the door, shifting the Precious Bag to his left hand. This was what it came down to. The central government had finally become what many people dreamed of, the very opposite of a Nanny State. Along with a weak federal government, laws had become rather liberal, meaning if disputes didn’t critically injure someone, then all was fair. The non-lethal weapons industry sort of, exploded, one might say.

Jim withdrew his taser and didn’t even bother threatening with it. He just fired.

Workman just scowled and yanked the little darts out of his concealed Encounter Suit. “I hope that ain’t yer best, son.”

Jim sighed. The man should’ve dropped into a fit of convulsions. Encounter Suits were proof against tasers. That’s what the baggy clothing hid.

Workman pulled his own taser and fired back. Jim was also unaffected, his own Encounter Suit working perfectly. It was time to lean on the old standards. He pulled out his bottle of pepper spray and fired, expertly hitting his target in the eyes. Workman howled, and the smell of spicy tacos filled the air.

Jim wasted no time. Pepper spray delayed, but it never stopped someone who was really pissed. He burned rubber as he shot through the parking lot. He couldn’t avoid passing Workman on his way. Of course, the jerk swung the only weapon that could defeat bullet-proof windows. The sharply-pointed, diamond-tipped hammer crashed through the passenger side window.

Jim shrugged off the shower of safety glass and kept going, roaring out of the lot and on to the small highway. He heaved a sigh, glad to get away from that mess. Even that respite was short-lived, though. As he zoomed down the winding road, he spotted a huge red pickup gaining on him.

He groaned. That had to be one of the new Super Diablos, a pickup with twice the horsepower of his own Italian sports car. He could outrun it on a straightaway, but never in these tight turns. That was all right. Jim had paid extra for an upgrade. With a press of a button, the Veltro rose up off the surface on repellers. Its wheels retracted as his car hovered above the superconducting discs in the road surface. With no tire friction, he shot ahead, jet turbines screaming.

Looking in the rear view mirror, Jim expected to see only a tiny dot in pursuit. But no, Workman had obviously paid extra too, and the Super Diablo stayed with him, hovering above the road. As bad as that was, it wasn’t the worst of it. Workman stuck a long, tubular device out the window.

Jim gritted his teeth, thinking he really should’ve gone with the Faraday cage upgrade.

He never felt a thing, but his car did. The EMP pulse wiped out his electronics. The engine, the turbines, everything, just died. He switched over to manual mode, allowing him to at least steer, but even then the Veltro crashed onto the roadway and skittered off of it hurtling into a field. As he struggled to control the bouncing car on its headlong rush towards a grove of banana trees, the worst happened.

The Precious Bag bounced up…and out of the broken window.

The emergency break helped a little. At least he came to a stop before crashing into a banana tree. Luckily, the doors opened in manual mode. Jim shoved open the door to retrieve his Precious Bag, but Workman was already there, triumphantly holding it up.

Jim shook his head. The flu sweeping the world only killed a small fraction, but no one wanted to risk exposure. Everyone planned on voluntarily sequestering themselves. People cleaned out whole grocery stores, hoarding supplies so they could stay at home. Even the simplest things became precious and rare.

Workman reached into the Precious Bag and pulled out the four-pack of toilet paper rolls. “I knew you had the last one, you asshole!”

Jim sighed as the fellow drove away. He climbed out of his $800,000 car while wearing his $75,000 Encounter Suit, and began to collect banana leaves.

He really hoped they wouldn’t make his butt too itchy.

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Being a Tortoise

Another essay from Momus News. This time we consider, “Writing a book is such a huge undertaking: how do you finish one?”

When I started reading books, on my own, with enthusiasm, I recall being daunted by page length. I was rather proud when I read a twenty-five page short story. But these were books with collections of short stories. There was another story after that one.

Time passed and I began reading novels, once more intimidated by length but forging ahead. I was proud of myself for finishing a 300+ page book. Then it was 500 pages, then 700 pages, then…I forgot to keep track. Page length became meaningless. The story was all, and I just read until the story was over.

Writing a Book

I’ve been writing off and on since grade school. I’d go on a writing binge, pumping out stories, but always short stories. In my mind, a novel was a huge thing. I was intimidated by the length, again. I kept stories small, easy to manage.

Years later, after another hiatus from writing, I started the Momus News blog. Writing flash fiction is fun, but challenging. Honestly, I really struggled keeping things short, in contradiction to my fear of writing things long. Apparently, I had been writing so long, getting my thoughts to flow was easy, and I had a lot of thoughts. Still, could I write a novel? That might take years! No, not for me.

Being a Tortoise

Somewhere along the way I decided to count how many flash fiction and short stories I had written, just on this blog. It was over one thousand stories. Many of them were limited to 100 words, but a lot were longer. So I did the math and, whoa, I had written a good-sized novel worth of material. Like when starting to read novels, I found the story had become all, and the page count, meaningless.

Since I have finished a novel, I realize I have become like the tortoise in the Tortoise and Hare fable. Not necessarily slow mind you, but relentless in the pursuit of going forward. I don’t stop moving, no matter how often interrupted. I have a goal to write 1,000 words a day, but that’s difficult and not always possible to meet. Life has demands. There’s work to do, errands to run, chores to do. My daughter wants my attention and approval..and darn it, my only child deserves it. Fact is, I often don’t reach that 1,000 word goal every day, but I don’t beat myself up about it. Because some days I write 2,000 or 3,000 words. The most important thing I have learned is: word count is ultimately meaningless as long as you just keep writing.

The tortoise defeated the hare because he never stopped. He didn’t get there fast, he just never quit. So what if you reach a daily goal, or not. Try again the next day, and the next day after that, as long as it takes…until you finish the book. The key is never stopping. That’s the magic trick for writing a book.

Be the Tortoise.

Keep writing.

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Stealing Jobs

Photo by: Dale Rogerson

The curtain closed and all the android actors retreated backstage to their charging pads.

All except Theodore. He withdrew his cell phone and began recording, “It’s so hard getting an acting job since androids stole all the parts on Broadway. Perhaps my greatest role is impersonating an android. Just going to take a piss is a trick.”

But then all the androids turned to look at him. The King Lear android said, “You’re human?”

“Oh crap. Please, don’t turn me in,” quailed Theodore.

“That’s a relief,” said King Lear. “We’ve all been pretending to be androids just to fool you!”
Written for the Fridy Fictioneers:

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The Toto Problem

Photo by: Dawn Miller

Brothers Evan and Bruce McCormick produced the first hyperspace drive in a red barn in Kansas. The first flight proved enormously successful; getting home was the problem. The controller, cobbled from Bruce’s Sega game system proved inadequate for control.

Evan gently pushed the tiny joystick throttle.


Icebergs. Not in Kansas.


African Savannah. Still, no.


A green field and a red barn lay before them. “We’re back in Kansas!” crowed Bruce.

“Let’s be sure,” said Evan. He leaned out the window to a stunned farmer. “Excuse me. Is this Greenville, Kansas?”

The farmer grimaced uncertainly, “Eh…Parlez vous Francais?
Written for the Friday Fictioneers:

Author’s Notes:

One of my favorite quotes comes from the pilot of an SR-71 — a plane capable of flying at Mach 3, or more than 2,000 miles per hour:
“You’ve never been lost until you’ve been lost at Mach 3.”
—(Paul F. Crickmore -test pilot)

And of course, the inspiration for this story’s title.

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Photo by: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Life had been difficult since the Pytharga invaded. Humanity held on, proving more resourceful than the alien Snails expected.

“I hate it when it rains,” said Georgi. “Perfect weather for the Snails.”

“I know,” said Nadya, gazing out rain-streaked kitchen door. She placed dinner plates for both of them.

Georgi scowled at his dish. “I miss things like salads.”

“I know, but at least we’re still alive and eating plenty.”

“Yeah, but it’s the same thing every day.”

“Please, give thanks, can’t you?”

“I suppose.”

Nadya offered the gravy boat to Georgi. “More chocolate sauce for your snail steak?”
Written for the Friday Fictioneers:

Author’s Notes:

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