Thursday, October 12, 2017

A Fun Collection of Thought Provoking Stories.

Quantum Physics & My Dog Bob: storiesQuantum Physics & My Dog Bob: stories by Pat Rushin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Quantum Physics & My Dog Bob by Pat Rushin consists of 2 novelettes, 6 short stories, and 2 pieces of flash fiction. Throughout the collection, beyond-the-pale characters are challenged by the day-to-day struggle of being human. What they learn is often transferable to real life.

Piece by piece (word count):

"Vow" (2300) - a man makes a vow of silence and keeps it. The day I read this I experienced the frustration of how my spoken words were often banal. My thought that day: Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all speak in character dialogue and avoid life's clutter? I often wonder whether my voice adds anything to the discourse or whether I’m just speaking automatically, drawing feathery response after feathery response but never adding depth. Also, if you are searching for a story where the protagonist is essentially mute, look no further.

"This is Just to, Like, Clue You" (7100) - I love the characters. It’s written in 2nd-person which adds fun because of the roommate tension. The conflicts seem a little banal but it’s light-hearted with a deeper twist that I both anticipated yet still found surprising. It's a sweet story, though perhaps it’s dated a little: I doubt if young people buy dirty magazines with the entire Internet at their fingertips, but maybe Kyle is the exception to the rule.

"Quantum Physics & My Dog Bob" (3900) - So, I love the setup and the characters. I like the bet. I like the “Actions speak louder than blueprints” that foreshadows. I liked the inclusion of physics (actually there is a surprising number of scientific references scattered throughout the book), however… I still felt cheated at the end. I wanted to be there more and find a deeper reason. Also, the father is a strange figure: Is he the suffering man whose wife disappeared and isn’t coming home or the ‘not like people do’ fellow at the end? One of the weirdest coming of age stories I’ve ever read (that’s a compliment.)

"Way" (368) - sort of a flash fiction prelude to Spider Rock. The diction is beautiful: “cactus and creosote leeching rock’s blood” - I mean that IS New Mexico’s desert. And “chaps-slapping” & “spur-jangling”… damn.

"Spider Rock" (10300) - A novelette with panoramic cinematographic language. It feels open like the desert and you hear the crunch and taste the dust as you’re stepping through the town and exploring the canyon. It’s an artfully crafted piece that slows down and makes you take notice. I think it was in the alliteration of a dream sequence that I stopped to admire the beauty. It gave pause. The story is also compelling and, though placed in a setting of such endemic hopelessness that there is no future tense, the bonds between the characters overwhelm their struggles. Also, this was my favorite story of the collection.

"Every Goddamn Thing" (4800) - Pat Rushin writes a good alcoholic, especially one who is in denial. This story will turn you on your head, though. A beautiful, enriching piece that takes a cranky sniping character and leads them to the bottom of the pit before opening a door to a new life, one that is still on his own terms. I stopped a moment to consider the parable aspects of these stories. I remember thinking how this starts with the air of Stephen King’s “Road Work” and finishes like an Andrew Greeley tale.

"The Garden" (4100) - Wow. Heartbreaking. Simply heartbreaking. Believable characters whose flaws punish them.

"Call" (3700) - We already read “Call” and have seen Zero Theorem. We love that it’s included here. The sexy neighbor is a lot of fun for when our dirty mind is at play.

"Dig" (600) - This is like the same character from “Every Goddamn Thing,” but he’s having even a worse day.

"Touched" (11600) - This story moved the collection up to 5 stars for me. I love everything about it: the Committee, the Kesey references, and, especially, how the threaded nature of the tale is reflected in the story. I mean… Pat Rushin writing himself into this particular story is risky business. I hope he really does have those keys off his typewriter.

This book earns its blurb credentials without question, but it is also thought-provoking and will leave you thinking about what insane really means in a world where being crazy is a survivor’s trait.

Loved it.

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Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Obsidian Heart Brings Echoes of Empire into Focus!

The Obsidian Heart (Echoes of Empire, #2)The Obsidian Heart by Mark T. Barnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mark Barnes does incredible world building. It's extraordinary and many-layered, which can almost stun the reader with its complexity, at least that is how I feel reading the stories. On the other hand, there is no denying how many details he keeps in the air at once, and how they matter, which is a huge payback for the reader's investment.
I didn't connect with his characters in the first novel of the series but in Obsidian Heart, there is so much loss and suffering. Barnes kills several of my favorite characters in the story, and the others aren't in very good situations at the end either.
In fact, now I'm really looking forward to finishing the series because I'm worried about who will make it out alive. I'm also worried about the ambitions of characters I like. I'm stunned by the stupidity and greed of some characters, but more than that, it is the sacrifice of Indris's friends that mesmerized me. Also, I'm finally seeing an endgame that does not involve who rules Shrian (which only seemed of artificial importance to Indris, who has one foot on the exit pad.)
The other cool thing, which I expect to see in volume 3, is the real role of humans in the disaster.
Anyway, this was a fun romp. Warning: It's in media res, so there is a lot in the air.


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Two Appetites in Communion

FADE IN
INT. CLUB - NIGHT
It's a rave Halloween party at a club. In the pit, people
dance in a dazzling light show. Lithe DESTINY, dressed as a
psychedelic vampire, has captured the band's attention.
They play to her as she to them, thrusting her hips,
gyrating, flailing, all in perfect rhythm. She mesmerizes. A
pentacle hanging from her beaded bra top catches the light.
JON HARKER, 50ish, and his sidekick RENFIELD, a bit younger,
squeezed against the rail in a box above the dancers, flinch
as the reflected beam traces across their faces.
                    RENFIELD
          Thank heaven for little girls.
                    HARKER
          She's Felicity. Quincey dumped her.
          Said she was too slutty.
                    RENFIELD
          So I'm drooling over your son's
          reject. What does that make me?
                    HARKER
          Mortal and a man with great taste.
          Can you imagine riding her? Those
          legs clutching your back?
                    RENFIELD
          Dude, you can't be serious.
                    HARKER
          I can too be. 'Too slutty' sounds
          like a cure right now. I've been in
          fap rotation for months since our
          marriage hit the rocks.
                    RENFIELD
          Lucy will come to her senses.
                    HARKER
          Ren, Lucy lives with a broker in a
          Park Avenue penthouse. Mina says
          Holmwood licks champagne from her
          navel. I'm not holding my breath.
                    RENFIELD
          My wife told you Lucy's lover licks
          champagne from her navel?
Destiny hits a vape pen and becomes a dervish. The men sigh.
Renfield sees MADAME WESTERNA and squawks.
                    RENFIELD
          I'm out of here. That's the wild
          dominatrix who loves Of Montreal.
                    HARKER
          Didn't you say you enjoyed her--
                    RENFIELD
          Don't die regretting, Jon. Do it.
Renfield flees leaving Harker alone to watch Destiny's show.
MONTAGE - INT. CLUB - NIGHT
Destiny consumes prodigious quantities of joints, powders,
pills, drops, as well as one beer. Mostly she drinks water,
discarding plastic bottles helter skelter around her.
She takes many dance partners, men and women. Harker's
anxiety becomes ever more apparent. Finally, he races to the
stairs, pushing past a crowd descending.
INT. CLUB FLOOR - NIGHT - CONTINUOUS
And the show is over. Drained people search for the exit.
House lights come on. Harker sees Destiny near the stage.
She danced a lot, but didn't sweat. Her hair is wild and
pupils wide wells. Harker confidently angles towards her.
                    HARKER
          Hi, Felicity. You probably don't
          remember me but I'm--
                    DESTINY
          I'm Destiny. Felicity is my older
          sister. How do you know her?
                    HARKER
          My son Quincey... He, well...
               (stops, looks guilty)
          Hey, look, I'm sorry. I wondered if
          you wanted me to call you a cab.
                    DESTINY
          How sweet. I am actually here with
          some friends. So, don't worry.
She straightens the straps of her beaded bra top, twists the
pentacle above her pierced belly button, and frowns.
                    HARKER
          Quincey wouldn't forgive me, if I
          saw you so wasted and didn't--
                    DESTINY
          So wasted?
                    HARKER
          I watched you from upstairs.
                    DESTINY
          The whole show? You do care.
Her eyes draw together. She looks unexpectedly sober.
                    DESTINY (CONT'D)
          Even with Felicity around, Quincey
          used to say his Nebuchadnezzar would
          love a tumble in my lawn.
                    HARKER
          Oh, I wasn't--
Harker shuffles his feet, licks his lips, and swallows.
                    DESTINY
          Even I'm getting older.
                    HARKER
          You're really pretty.
                    DESTINY
          Uh-huh. You want to spear my shaved
          clam, pestle me to powder... You can
          say the word. I'm no lady.
                    HARKER
          Will you?
                    DESTINY
          No. Look, I'm sympathetic, but it's
          just disgusting. I'll tell you what,
          though. I am broke! For two hundred
          dollars I'll make your knob shinier
          than Croesus's.
                    HARKER
          Two hundred dollars.
                    DESTINY
          For your bodily fluids here.
She points to her pierced tongue.
                    DESTINY (CONT'D)
          What do you say, Romeo?
                    HARKER
          I'll just visit an ATM.
                    DESTINY
          Visit one in the bar. Bring me back
          something with vodka.
INT. BAR - NIGHT
He holds her drink in line for the ATM. When it's his turn,
he drops his card, kicking it into some fluid. He retrieves
it, dries it on a sleeve, and slides it in the ATM.
INSERT - TEXT OF ATM MACHINE
The screen shows an $881 opening balance, a $200 withdrawal,
and a $15 service charge. Ending balance is $666. He changes
the amount to $300 instead.
BACK TO INT. BAR - NIGHT
His happiness grows as each bill emerges. Destiny appears
and takes the drink.
                    DESTINY
          I assumed you changed your mind.
                    HARKER
          I should just drive you home.
                    DESTINY
          This is the beginning of my night,
          not the end. If you still want your
          scooby snack, meet me out front.
          I'll wait five minutes.
INT. WASHROOM - NIGHT
It's nasty. People gave up pissing in toilets hours ago.
Paper towels, used condoms, and toilet paper litter the
floor. Half the sinks are clogged. Harker faces the mirror.
                    HARKER
          You can do this. She's just a girl.
He performs quick ablutions and rushes out the door.
INT. HARKER'S CAR - NIGHT - LATER
They sit in the back of his wide sedan. Destiny stretches
out, relaxed, and rakes Harker's wrists with her nails.
                    HARKER
          Will you get naked too?
                    DESTINY
          So you can perv? I'm almost naked.
          Use your imagination, Mr. Harker.
                    HARKER
          Call me Jon.
                    DESTINY
          Strip for me, Jon.
Harker is so fast his clothes fly off. She traces her nails
across his hairy belly, letting her palm touch his abdomen
before drifting farther down.
                    HARKER
          Brrr. That's icy. It numbs me.
Her head disappears below. Harker's face transforms. He
shivers, tenses up, and then his breath comes hard.
                    HARKER
          You're sucking so hard.
                    DESTINY
          I drink from your core. I hope my
          teeth didn't hurt too much.
                    HARKER
               (dreamy)
          I am insubstantial, but my orgasm
          thrives. This is how I wish to die.
She giggles and looks up from her efforts, licking her
fangs, a lazy motion. Then she collects his spurting blood
with her darting tongue and smacks her lips together.
          DESTINY
You taste so hot and delicious.
          HARKER
Can we do it again? Maybe tomorrow?
          DESTINY
I'm sorry. Sometimes I can't stop
either. We're a little alike, Jon.
FADE TO BLACK

Monday, October 2, 2017

A Contrast in Appetites

Out in front of the band, art in motion, she dances, her rhythmic whirling mesmerizing me. The light plays off her serpentine curves, and I realize I’m no longer watching the Halloween show I paid $40 to see, but her, Felicity, once my son’s girlfriend, dumped for being too slutty.

I’ve been in fap rotation for months since my marriage with Jen hit the rocks. I begged her not to leave, swearing we could work out our troubles, but she moved in with a stockbroker a month ago. Since then, it’s been virtual dates with sympathetic social media friends, trying my luck (it is bad) with online dating apps, and that old standard: paying strippers for lap dances and pleading for more.

Seeing Felicity, though, my skin tingles and my mouth goes dry. 'Too slutty' sounds like a cure for everything ailing me.

From my vantage point, I perceive she is getting monumentally wasted. She dabs, hits g-pens, gobbles edibles, imbibes liquids, takes pills, smokes joints, and even has a beer. Conservatively, she has consumed more drugs in the last two hours than I have in the last two years. It’s impressive, tragic, and a little sad, but it serves my purposes well because, at the end of the show, I head to the pit to find her searching the dance floor littered with plastic bottles and miscellaneous trash. A used condom lies on the floor between us.

“Hi, Felicity,” I say.

Her laser gaze penetrates me.

“I’m Destiny,” she says. “Felicity is my older sister. How do you know her?”

“My son, Ali…” 

Just his name wilts my endeavor. What am I doing? She’s twenty-five years younger than I am. I decide to redeem myself.

“I was wondering if you needed me to call you a cab.”

“No. I’m here with friends.” I must look skeptical, for she adds, “Don’t worry. I do this a lot.”

“Fine. I wanted to make sure you were safe. My son wouldn’t forgive me if I saw you so wasted and didn’t make the offer, especially if something tragic occurred.”

“Odd, the Ali I know is different. He has a hard time seeing past his needs, and he really wanted me. He used to hit on me even when Felicity was around. That’s one reason they broke up.”

I am ashamed. The apple apparently didn’t fall far from the tree. She reads my heart and says, “Was there anything else?”

Mute, I swallow, hoping in vain for a thimbleful of inspiration from my empty well. I lick my lips, and her bright eyes hold me in their sway. Then she voices my thoughts.

“You want to fuck?”

I nod, feeling a mix of mortification and relief.

“That’s gross. Tell you what, though, if you have two hundred dollars cash, I’ll polish your knob.”

That seems a lot, but I know we aren’t negotiating.

“I can visit an ATM.”

“There’s one at the bar. I’ll tell my friends you’re driving me back. Then I’ll text my mom and tell her something has come up.” She gives a mischievous wink, her first overt demonstration of sexuality outside my fantasy. “Hopefully, something will.”

The ATM has a ten dollar service charge, which normally would disqualify it, but I have never been so happy to see those crisp bills sliding out. We make small talk as we cross town, both deciding we want to avoid a long uncomfortable drive after she pleasures me. We stop in an empty park about five blocks from her house.

It is quiet with the motor off. She’s no conversationalist and neither am I.

“I want to look first to make sure you haven’t got anything disgusting going on down there,” she says. “Let me inspect your goods.”

At once, I strip. She pulls latex gloves from her purse and slides them on with all the sensuality of a proctologist. Then her phone’s flashlight is shining. Her nimble fingers, cool through the gloves, explore my genitalia with expertise and purpose.

“It’ll do,” she says. “Show me my money.”

‘It’ll do’ isn’t exactly the pinnacle of eroticism, but blood rushes to my groin anyhow. My penis rises from its slumber, an encouraging sign. It twitches a few times which worries me. I want to last, not just for my fulfillment. No, I want to impress her.

I hand her twelve twenties and a ten-dollar bill, a $50 tip, which by itself is probably enough for a blowjob from half the women at the club where we met. She pockets it without counting, so now she doesn't know I have paid more.

“Can I see your tits?”

“Why? So you can perv on them?”

Her cool palm clutches my testicles, firm, but gentle.

“Oh, yeah, that’s what I want.”

My brain empties of blood, while she plays my rod like a piano. I stiffen with feverish desire when her lips settle upon my glans.

“You want this, right? You know there’s no going back?”

I understand or at least think I do, and when, ecstatic, I flail one arm and my hand finds her thigh unnaturally cold, I both know and cannot know. As I say, it isn't natural, but I am a man with nothing to lose.

Her mouth descends upon me like a frozen cavern, her breath ice, and my blood surges forth like air towards a vacuum. I barely feel that tease of her pointed teeth before they penetrate my flesh. Then we are in communion, two minds as one, and I know. Oh, how I know, and knowing, I surrender, both to her ecstasy and her hunger, more rapacious than even mine.

I peek once before surrendering to my unconscious. She is swallowing me whole, and her eyes roll in their sockets as she drinks deep from my core. My orgasm is ongoing, both distant and yet very immediate. I yearn for release, but I also never want the moment to end. It never does.

My last thought before my mind flees is that I've never seen so much blood.

Tonight and every night, I’m seeing her again.


Friday, September 8, 2017

Definitions.

Ah, success so saccharine!
Here I shake in the corner
sand off the sides of my hourglass, 
remembering those grains spent
carrying leaky buckets for gold 
while hungry mariachis dodge pelted fruit.

Lying on a park bench, eyes clenched
afraid of the spotlight, afraid it misses me,
here on this bold tarmac where I've tossed my dice.
What if there is nothing more than empty boxes, 
these presents I’ve laid at your feet, 
my gumdrops of suffering and blood?

If I respin this roulette wheel,
with my chips on odd instead of uneven,
tell me how it would be for me
to pledge to art's uncertainty.
Might I have profited more to revel
in the scent of every petal?

Or rather should my sand be spent
on gold-encrusted electronic gizmos,
ceiling-to-floor plasma-screens,
Versace Barocco pet bowls,
diamond-studded fish hooks,
and a never-driven Lamborghini?

No, I'm keeping my chips on the table
betting my life grain by grain,
knowing every moment I toil
passionate, committed, self-aware
exceeds the assurances of myth peddlers
and their close embrace of bucking finality.

I'd rather have dreams and uncertainty
than the certainty of lost possibilities,
letting fear of gatekeepers cripple my strokes
of pens, picks, brushes, sticks, and the very spit of my breath,
as I sing the song resonating in my core.
It defines the currents of my life, who I am.

OK. Perhaps the fruit I harvest is not as sweet
but it's mine
and at least I can taste it.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Irma, please don't destroy Florida. Instead, take the Holy Land Experience.

Here is Irma, a Category-Five hurricane barreling towards the Lesser Antilles, projected to arrive off the coast of Florida in three days:

 

 Irma is a horrible storm. It will no doubt cause horrible damage, and, for now, it's coming first to us.
 

 America and Florida, in particular, has a lot of reasons to deserve to be pummeled by a storm, but maybe one of our crassest places is this abomination, as seen in Religiosity.















I'm not even religious, and even I am offended by a cardboard Jesus in a lake. It just doesn't speak to my soul.

 

Every day Jesus is crucified.




And, this is a real-life theme park. Here's the map.



Please, Irma, be kind. Take your anger out on the Holy Land Experience and leave the poor people of Florida alone.


Friday, September 1, 2017

Dunk and Egg

The Hedge Knight (The Tales of Dunk and Egg, #1)The Hedge Knight by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A delicious short tale set in a brief hiatus of peace, a time when a knight like Ser Duncan (Dunk) could walk, ride, joust, and sell his sword to a worthy (or not) lord. This tale describes how he and his squire Egg attend a tournament, make some enemies and even a friend or two, and court danger and excitement. It's filled with the sounds, flavors, and smells of Westeros for good and bad. Martin's humor and narrative gaze are at their full strength. Great story too.


The Sworn Sword (The Tales of Dunk and Egg, #2)The Sworn Sword by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3 stars just for the world building. There isn't much plot here. Dunk is hired by a Useless lord who fights with a widower facing an unwanted marriage over water during a drought. There is unnecessary fighting and treachery. Dunk is gallant as ever. Egg is a boy with lore and a signet ring in a boot.

The Mystery Knight (The Tales of Dunk and Egg, #3)The Mystery Knight by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was pleasantly surprised about the depth of this story and the plot's many twists. D&E #3 succeeds in its own right but also pays off on some of the earlier plots of D&E #1 & #2. I had doubted that GRRM could make a series of this, but it's clear that you could mine quite a good tale, if not from D&E, then from the events around the Black & Red Dragon tale that precedes D&E.

The world building as you might expect is excellent. The dialogue is so delicious. The humor, though, is the best, especially the wedding scenes. A must read for any Westerosi connoisseur.


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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

It's Mary Shelley's 220th Birthday

Born in Somers Town, London, United Kingdom, in 1797, her story, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus, lives on in a million minds. It is amazing how much it is quoted in film and fiction. It's a very effective archetype, the artificial/undead monster given life by an egotistical human seizing divine power. I recently saw a similar revisiting of the theme by Alex Garland in Ex Machina.

"Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world."