Releasing November 6th, 2018, Yeager’s Getaway.

A Honeymoon… Abel Yeager Style

Abel Yeager has settled into a life of domestic bliss with his lovely wife, Charlotte. He’s left the violence and bloodshed behind to concentrate on being a good father and husband. For their long-delayed honeymoon, Abel and Charlie take a Hawaiian cruise. They’re looking forward to hiking volcanoes and sightseeing, once they meet up with Victor “Por Que” Ruiz and his new love, Dr. Alexandra Lopez.

Their idyllic vacation explodes in violence when a group of Hawaiian separatists, incited by a foreign power, rip through the islands, leaving blood and destruction in their wake. When Charlie is caught up with a group of hostages held by the terrorists as human shields, Abel is forced back into warrior mode.

The Hawaiians are supported by a few dozen foreign special forces soldiers, modern gear, and plenty of munitions. Abel has the help of three septuagenarian Vietnam veteran Marines and his pal Victor. Outnumbered and outgunned, Abel will stop at nothing to rescue his wife.

Here’s a bit to get you started…

 

 

Diamond Head, Oahu, Hawaii

Saturday, 8 May

1340 Local Time

 

Kanoa Ino had chosen the meeting place to serve a purpose. Diamond Head Lookout presented a panoramic vista of Honolulu and Waikiki Beach and, by extension, modern Hawaii. Used in countless scene-setting shots for televisions and movies, the view represented an iconic image, instantly recognizable. High-rise condos, hotels, and offices. Smog and exhaust fumes. Blue ocean to the left. Rolling surf.

He could picture the scene in those distant resort hotels lining the beach: groups of island women in fake grass shorts swishing their asses to the sound of a tinny ukulele, mocking the spiritual hula kahiko dance, while fat, lobster-broiled mainlanders gawped at them… and men in anklets of grass, whirling lit torches, as if the Samoan fire dance was of Hawaiian origin instead of imported shtick canned and repurposed for the titillation of tourists.

Bobby Palakiko leaned his crossed arms on the rail next to him. “Aloha, Kanoa. You are looking massive as always.”

“Aloha.”

A stiff breeze off the ocean fluttered Palakiko’s Born Hawaiian T-shirt and flattened his cargo shorts against his spindly legs. Salty black hair whipped away from his comb-over. Next to Kanoa’s towering height and powerful physique, the diminutive old man seemed to be a different species. Tourists milled around the two of them like a constant flow of brightly colored beetles, oohing and aahing at the view or screeching at their hyperactive children. Adult haoles and their offspring bumped into Kanoa, heedless and unapologetic as they huffed along the concrete path.

An Asian tourist in a white, short-sleeved shirt stood slightly apart from the crowd. A pair of binoculars dangled from his neck. Kanoa kept his gaze away from the prim little Asian so as not to draw attention to him.

Sunlight glinted off Palakiko’s Ray-Bans. “A beautiful day.”

Kanoa shaded his watch with a palm, checking the time. He let the silence linger. The old man waited. A faint permanent-press smile creased his lips, as if everything in this world—including Kanoa—amused him.

He won’t smile for long.

“Did you hear about the Akaka bill?” Bobby offered at last. “It has a chance this time, I think.”

“It will fail. Again.”

“We will achieve the same status as Native Americans. You’ll see.”

“And earn the right to live on a reservation? Maybe sell beads to the haole?”

“Always such a downer, Kanoa. You should learn to relax. Aloha, brah.”

“This”—Kanoa spread a broad palm to include the world around them—“is what one hundred twenty-three years of aloha have wrought—a world full of haole, white Americans, yellow Japanese, black Africans, and sheet-wearing Muslims—massed on the beaches, bobbing in the waves, oiling themselves with suntan lotion. Snapping selfies, eating, drinking, puking, and pissing. Taking everything of value. Leaving nothing but trash… trash and money. Always money. And we’re complicit in own degradation, prostituting ourselves for the price of a color TV and a case of Miller Lite—Hawaiian culture whored out three times daily with a matinee on Sunday. No, brah…” He sneered the word. “The time for aloha has long passed. It is time for Kūkaʻilimoku.”

Kanoa tracked the old man’s expression with his peripheral vision.

Palakiko sighed. “We are a people of peace—”

“And peace has killed us, old man!” A gaggle of Japanese ceased their chattering and gave Kanoa sideways looks at they edged past. Kanoa glared, and they hurried on. Time to show some fire. “Our language, dead. Our people, slaves. Our culture, gone. The imperialist conquest is complete, and all your hand-wringing does is salt the wound with a little more white-man guilt, which they will appease by offering us platitudes and half-measures, as always.”

“Why again with this argument, my bruddah?”

“We are tired of waiting.” Kanoa glanced at his watch. “My men are ready to do battle. Hawaii for Hawaiians, now and forever.”

“Your men?” Palakiko smirked. “What is the name these days? The Niho Niuhi—Teeth of the Tiger Shark? Whatever. Listen, my giant friend. The movement won’t allow you to tear us apart with violence.”

“I don’t need your blessing, Bobby. My men are ready, and Ku will bless our struggle with victory.”

The old man tilted his head back to match Kanoa’s stare. The crow’s feet radiating out from around his sunglasses deepened. “What do you mean?”

“The Anglos have not listened to us. They annexed the islands illegally, by force, for the benefit of the sugar barons. They have ignored us ever since. Raped our land. Destroyed our people. Beguiled us with bullshit promises. For too long, we have waged peace and begged for scraps. No more. Kūkaʻilimoku demands blood. The Niho Niuhi will honor him with it.”

“An ancient Tiki god demands blood? Did he send a text or what? You been smoking some primo weed, brah.”

“We are tired of waiting. Bumpy promised us things would change, yet even he sits and talks instead of doing things. Nothing changes through peace. Nothing. Aloha!” Kanoa spat over the railing. He checked his watch again.

As if to punctuate his expectoration, a fiery flash blew out from the side of a beachside skyscraper, followed by a dirty-white billow of smoke. Seconds later, a flat crack traveled up the coast. A rumble followed, vibrating the air. On the heels of the first explosion, a sequence of four more blasts shook the distant skyline.

“The targets just hit,” Kanoa stated, “were the Marriott Resort, the Hilton Hawaiian Village, the Ala Moana Mall, the Outrigger Reef Resort, and the Hyatt Regency Waikiki.”

Tourists crammed the guardrails of the overlook. They shouted and pointed. Many held up cell phones to record the wounded buildings as they were wreathed in brown fog. It was too far away to hear the screams of the injured, although the wail of alarms drifted to Kanoa’s ears, thin and remote. Bobby Palakiko gripped the rail, more to keep himself upright than anything else, Kanoa suspected. The old man seemed frail enough to blow away on the wind.

“Those were the first shots fired,” Kanoa continued. “The Niho Niuhi will rain blood throughout these islands, and we will keep bringing the pain until all the haoles have gone. Hawai’i will again be ours.”

Palakiko’s head cranked around as if on rusty bearings. Gape mouthed and pale, the old man regarded Kanoa and, without a word, collapsed in a dead faint.

Kanoa spared a quick glance at the Asian tourist dressed in white. They exchanged minuscule nods. Phase One, complete.

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via Working Stiffs by Scott Bell

Quote  —  Posted: July 18, 2018 in General Topics of Interest

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Why is it?

Posted: June 7, 2018 in General Topics of Interest

Why is it when the sign says “2 Left Lanes Closed Ahead” it always comes as a surprise to some people when they reach the barricades?

Why is it called social media when many of the people you meet there are not social?

Why is it people use jogging strollers? I see those people running around and I think, “That kid’s not getting any exercise at all.”

Why is it women use so much toilet paper?

Why is it the last little bit of soap lasts longer than the three-quarters of the bar that came before it?

Why is it “10 items or less” is so confusing?

Why is it people who are not reading always want to talk to the person who is reading?

Why is it some people continue their cell phone conversation while using the restroom? (Do they think the person on the other end of the line can’t hear their farts?)

Why is it people know more about Kim Kardashian than the Constitution?

Why is it twenty-five cents is a quarter, but ten cents is not a tenth?

Why is it people who build homes on the sides of volcanoes seem so shocked when lava wipes them out?

Why is it people complain about politicians but keep voting for the same ones?

Why is it people who scream the loudest about their open-mindedness have the least tolerance for divergent opinions?

Why is the US government spends $42-billion on foreign aid, yet can’t get you a passport in under four to six weeks?

Why is people have so many questions, but so few answers?

What’s under a buck? Deer balls. Oh, and Working Stiffs.

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Excerpt:

The line at the clinic stretched along the sidewalk for half a block. Located on Wentworth, on the opposite side of the street from Chang’s store, the clinic occupied a building that retained traces of the original Chinatown architecture. Faded, ratty signs written with complex Chinese characters decorated nearly every storefront. We joined the line in front of what was once a US Post Office, closed like the rest of them. Somebody had spray painted the words, Sorry, the rent check was in the mail. Under that, another tagger added, All postal employee termination notices sent by email. Thank you, USPS.

A faded-out For Lease sign hung in the window, taped inside the glass. It had been there for all six years I’d lived in the neighborhood.

“What time did you say your appointment was?” I asked Chelle.

“Ten.”

I reflexively glanced at my wrist before I remembered my IT service had disavowed all knowledge of me after the sixth disconnect notice. I asked a chubby guy ahead of me for the time.

“Nine forty,” he said from behind his surgical mask. I nodded my thanks.

“Damn, Chelle, we’ll never make it on time.”

“I told you to hurry up and get ready.”

My part of getting ready had taken all of ten minutes, thus screwing up the atomic clock by which Chelle ran her life.

At least we had nice weather for standing in line. Late April in Chicago was hard to beat, mid-sixties, blue sky, a few fluffy clouds . . . What more could you ask for? In February we’d be standing out here turning to popsicles. The homeless and unemployed were out in force, droves of them meandering, begging, pilfering and picking through the trash lining the gutters. In other words, doing whatever it took to get through another great day in the Windy City.

Speaking of popsicles . . . My stomach grumbled, reminding me two pickles for breakfast was a rotten trick to play on it. I eyed Chang’s front door and considered creative credit terms: zero down payment, two pocket spending limit, and a forever repayment term. Penalties may apply.

I didn’t see the dead woman until she was almost on us. A Revivant, shuffling along the line of patients, handing out paper flyers. Female, about twenty or so when she died, dark-skinned and slender. Pretty once, I supposed, with a good figure, full lips, and dark, almond-shaped eyes. The owners had dressed her in a sexy maid’s outfit with high heels and a higher skirt; the light breeze brushed it above her panty line every few minutes. The nanos running through her were having a hard time managing the heels, and she scuffed forward in wobble-steps in a parody of a sexy sway.

My empty stomach bubbled with acid.

“I hate those things,” the guy with the mask mumbled.

“Yeah, me too.” I accepted the flyer the Revvie handed me without looking at her. “They creep me out.”

The man’s mask crinkled when he grimaced. “What I want to know, how do they make them look so alive?”

The line had grown behind us. A couple of dropouts from the School of Morons had joined the tail a few minutes ago and entertained everyone with a steady stream of obscenities laced with curse words. Hey, I’m no saint when it comes to foul language, but still, there are limits, right? The taller of the two mental giants shouted out, “Woo-hoo, lookit dis fine bitch!”

“I hear dead pussy’s mighty cold,” his running buddy claimed.

Both of them were racially ambiguous teens (their parental gametocytes swam in a diversity stream) decked out in trendy grunge clothes and wearing the flat-brim, Amish-style hats favored by the discerning hoodlum. Without squinting, I could count another score of hoodlums exactly like them within a two-block radius, poised like IEDs, waiting for the unwary so they could explode with uncontained violence.

The taller one, in a Bear’s T-shirt, cupped the crotch of his basketball shorts and shook it. “Hey, Dead Mamma, izzat true? Lemme see how cold yo pussy is.”

His buddy, in a green T-shirt and plaid boxers, reached out and clamped a hand on the dead woman’s breast. “Oooh, Sanjay, you should be fillin’ dis. It fills goooood,” he crooned.

The Revivant woman stumbled and would have fallen hadn’t the one called Sanjay grabbed her around the waist. Her dull expression never changed. She wobbled in place the way a drunk might, if you squinched your eyes and pretended she wasn’t dead and reanimated with a gazillion tiny machines running along her arteries.

“Fly-er, sir?” she dead-panned.

The morons laughed and pawed at the woman’s chest, clawing at her top.

I ground my teeth and looked away. Don’t get involved in fights you can’t win. That was my creed, and I planned to stick to it. My new friend with the mask caught my eye and grimaced. His expression said: Look at what the world’s coming to when dead people can’t even walk the streets. Tragic.

The line crept forward a few feet, and I tugged at Chelle’s hand. She didn’t budge.

“Look at those two,” she hissed. Staring at the twins from Stupidville, her jaw set in a hard line, Chelle sounded mad enough to chew nails and shit steel wire.

“Yeah, I see ’em. Let’s go.” I tugged her hand again, but she refused to budge.

“That’s disgusting!”

The twins had the Revivant woman’s outfit yanked down to her waist and were commenting—loudly—on the size, quality, and firmness of her breasts.

“C’mon, Chelle. It’s none of our business.” I pulled a little harder. It was like trying to move a fencepost. “Chelle . . .” I used my stern voice. “Don’t start—”

“Hey, fucktards!” Chelle barked. “Leave that woman alone!”

“—any trouble.”

The fucktards in question snapped to attention and pinned Chelle with twin feral stares. Werewolves, scenting new prey.

Sanjay shoved the Revivant. She fell in the street, landing awkwardly on her butt, hard enough to make me wince even though I knew she felt no pain. Her breasts bounced, and the flyers she carried scattered across the pavement.

“Who you callin’ a fucktard?” Sanjay demanded. “You wan’ me come up dere and split you open?”

Chelle glared at me with an Are you just gonna stand there? challenge. Her eyes narrowed when I failed to immediately leap into my Superman unitard and smack some ganstah ass. She snarled at Sanjay instead and pointed at his crotch. “You’d have to get it up first.”

That did it.

Sanjay and his buddy stalked forward past a line of suddenly disinterested, blind, deaf, and mute people. I was not ordinarily a violent person. The reason I avoid fights: I learned at an early age everyone in an eighteen-square-mile radius—including grandmas and small children—could beat the dog snot out of me without breaking a sweat.

I gave Chelle a nice knowing you smile and prepared to die.

“Hey, Sanjay, look . . .” I started forward, hands spread in supplication. “You know they can’t treat it here, right? This clinic doesn’t do that kind of medicine.”

“Da hell?” Sanjay’s eyebrows twisted together in a knot. He and his pal were close enough, I could smell the stupid rolling off them in waves, like the smell of unwiped ass.

“They can’t fix burst testicles,” I said and kicked him with maximum applied force in the nutsack. When you don’t fight well, you learn to fight dirty.

Sanjay folded like a cheap lawn chair. Which left Fucktard #2 to take the lead in beating the shit out of Mean Joe Warren. Within half a second, I ate three punches in a row, all of them hard enough to rattle my brain and loosen a few teeth. The world spun—Look! Pretty colors!—and tilted under my feet. Legs wobbling worse than the Revvie on high heels, I bumbled around in a dizzy circle for a lost moment in time, then whap!-thud!-smack! Three more punches knocked me to the ground.

Pretty ground. Concrete. Old chewing gum. I like it down here. I think I’ll stay.

Some other Joe Warren living nearby reported that Chelle had taken a piece of the action and was going all Loud Bitch Kung Fu on the green-shirted gangster, shrieking and clawing and kicking and spitting. Probably biting too.

I hoped she had her tetanus booster.

This all happened from far away, in a distant galaxy, with swirling stars and muted sounds. The other Joe told me the female Revivant had gotten to her feet and was wandering away. Her maid’s outfit hung from her waist, leaving her topless. She didn’t seem bothered. (“Fly-er, sir?”)

“Bye-bye,” I muttered, my breath blowing dust and candy wrappers away from my face.

A shadow eclipsed the sun and a pair of black boots stopped in front of my nose. The soles were really, really thick.

Whap!

The dull, meat-like thud of hard object meeting soft skull sounds like nothing else. Once you’ve heard it, you never forget it. The gangster fell on the other side of the black boots. His right eye appeared to bulge from its socket and there was a crease on that side of his head.

I forced my blurry vision to track upward to the source of that sound. A couple of years later, I found the top. Black boots, as noted already. Black pants bloused into the boot tops. Belt with a hardware store and armory attached. Black shirt with bright blue patch on the sleeve. Badge. Riot helmet.

Homeland Security, to the rescue.

Yay.

Night-night, Mr. Police Officer.

 

 

I have republished several of my short stories that appeared in various publications at various times. Mitchellsville is my first story ever accepted for publication, from way back in 2011. Next up is Mr. Scampers’ War which is a fun little tale of a house cat protecting the home from a soul-stealing demon. (No seriously, it’s really fun. And safe for work.)

As we move forward in time, you’ll find the tales of Dave’s Aliens and Government Waste to be a little more…dark, shall we say. (But still fun, IMHO.)

Thanks!

 

 

My Anxiety Closet was getting over-full, so instead of renting space at the Anxiety Self-Storage, I decided to clean it out. I was able to throw out a bunch of dusty, old anxieties that were taking up too much space. In the junk pile went…

  • FORGETTING TO REWIND VHS TAPES
  • NOT FOLDING A MAP CORRECTLY
  • NOT REMEMBERING THE NUMBER FOR TIME AND TEMPERATURE
  • ACCIDENTALLY FILLING MY TANK WITH LEADED GAS.
  • CARRYING FILM THROUGH AIRPORT XRAYS
  • HAVING ROOM IN THE CAR FOR ALL MY 8-TRACKS
  • NOT BEING ABLE TO FIND A PAY PHONE
  • ZITS
  • SURVIVING A NUCLEAR WAR BY HIDING UNDER MY DESK
  • WHAT TO WEAR ON A FIRST DATE

Wow, I feel so much better, and I have so much more room now for new anxieties. Retirement, arthritis, and being first in line at Furr’s for the Friday All-You-Can-Eat buffet–I have room for all those and MORE!

 

Flash fiction piece. For the fun of it.

The Men’s Club, by Scott Bell

Javier Lazano arrived earlier than expected, but later than he planned. The door hissed open and he stepped inside.

Men packed the waiting room. Wall-to-wall males, configured in every shape, color, and size, all stuffed into a place the size of a breadbox with the décor of a post office and the charm of a skin rash. The air smelled stale, and a little rank.

Javier squeezed himself into a seat between a silver-haired, square-jawed gent in a three-piece suit and a roughneck sweating in the same stained overalls he’d worn to work that day. The former poked at his phone with a frown, muttering about service, while the latter shaved grunge from under his nails with a clasp knife.

He marveled at the variety of guys filling the room, from the richest to the poorest, handsome, average, and bone-deep ugly. Small clusters of interviewees chatted like they were in a sports bar. Others held their phones up as Do Not Disturb signs. A few stared into space. One man cried.

The interior door opened. Even at seventy-two, a spark of appreciation flickered through Javier when a woman of Amazonian build stepped through and surveyed the room over a pair of black-framed glasses. Tall, brunette, green-eyed, with classically beautiful features, the young lady wore a skirt that terminated just short of heart-stopping, and the deep V-cut of her blouse plummeted into midnight fantasies. Every eye in the room was drawn to her—even those of the men Javier suspected were gay.

The lady consulted a clipboard. “Charles Gamble?”

A man in a bright-colored Spandex bicycling outfit cleared his throat and stood. “Here.” Tucking his broken plastic helmet under one arm, the man entered the far room at the woman’s gesture. She followed, closing the door behind her.

The roughneck stirred. “Damn, if all the help looks like her, this might not be so bad. Better than the book promised, anyway.”

A man in Arab garb smirked.

One by one men disappeared into the interview room. Occasionally the outer door opened and new arrivals filtered in. Many seemed very surprised. At one point three soldiers in matching fatigues marched in. They looked very young to Javier.

When his turn came, Javier was surprised by the tremor in his legs and the egg lodged in his throat. The doorkeeper flickered a professional smile and waved him into a bare-walled room with two metal folding chairs and a card table. Not so much as a picture or water stain adorned the bare, bland, off-white walls.

The doorkeeper scraped up a seat, gestured to the other chair. “Thank you for coming.”

Javier smiled. What was the line? All things considered, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.

“I just have a few questions,” the green-eyed beauty said. She consulted her clipboard, which Javier realized was really a tablet of the kind his grandkids used for their games and internet things. “Most of your life data we have already compiled,” the woman continued, “and your admission looks favorable. We do like to have these one-on-one chats though. To assess a client in a more personal setting.”

“Ah—of course.”

“To verify, your name is Javier No-Middle-Name Lazano. Most recent occupation, janitor. High school graduate, no college. Total income after fifty-seven years’ employment: six-hundred and forty-thousand dollars.” Green eyes fixed him in place. “Not much, huh? Tell me, Javier Lazano, what have you accomplished in your life?”

Javier blinked. His mind went blank. “Um…nothing really.”

“Did you save anyone’s life?”

“No.”

“Did you build anything of significance?”

“No.”

“Fight in a war?”

“No.”

“Start your own business? Win accolades in sports at the professional or college level?”

“No.”

And on it went. With every question, Javier sank a little lower in his chair, each no forcing its way past his lips with greater effort. It was dismal really, how small and insignificant his life had been.

“All right,” said the woman said with a sigh. “How long were you married?”

“Forty-two years.”

“Cheat on your wife?”

“No!”

“How many children?”

“Three.”

“Grandkids?”

“Four.”

“And did you raise them right?”

“I…Did I…?” Javier blinked rapidly. “What?”

“It says here,” the woman read from her screen, “Javier Lazano worked at various jobs, sometimes several at once. His children had food, love, discipline, and his unfailing attention. Though not perfect, Lazano showed deep commitment to his wife, his children, and his community. Is that it?”

The woman’s green eyes knifed into Javier’s heart, stealing his breath and killing the words in his head. He had never been good at speaking, and now, with everything on the line, he found he had nothing to say in his defense. For it was true. He had never accomplished anything of note. Never done anything that would make a difference. Never got on TV, or made a speech, or rallied people to a great cause.

He managed to say at last, “Yes, it is true. That is all I ever been. I have worked hard to be true to my wife. Struggled to put food on the table and shoes on my children’s feet. Just a man, nothing more.”

“You have shouldered the burden of a decent man. Ungifted. Unrecognized. Rewarded only with love.” The woman’s full, red lips curled in a warm smile. “And that’s all we ever asked of you, Javier. Congratulations, you have the highest rating today.” She gestured to a door in the back wall that Javier had not noticed before.

A golden door, glowing with the light of love.

“Please go through,” said the woman. “And be welcome.”

With a body that no longer ached, Javier stood and shuffled past the woman, who encouraged him with another smile. His steps growing stronger and his back straighter, Javier Lazano went through the door. And was rewarded.

 

Red Adept Publishing is releasing Working Stiffs with a new cover and an introductory price of $2.99. Today, December 12th, is release day, so click and buy, buy, buy.

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American Book Fest 2017 Science Fiction Finalist

Joe Warren, an unemployed electrical engineer, has a terminally ill girlfriend and a bank account bumping rock bottom. Jobs are scarce in 2050, since nanotechnology has created the ability to animate the recently deceased, who are put to work performing menial labor at low wages. These Revivants have glutted the job market, leaving their living counterparts out in the cold.

Joe goes looking for a helping hand and mistakenly gets arrested with a group of freedom fighters. The only cause Joe wants to fight for is Joe, but federal agents coerce him into spying on the Children of Liberty.

When Joe reluctantly infiltrates the protest group, he finds something he never expected or wanted. Friends. And he discovers that maybe there are things in life worth fighting—and dying—for.

The news in brief, in case you’re confused…

The new anthology released November 8th, is available for sale in e-book and print. Called MAGA 2020 & Beyond, the anthology focuses on a brighter future and pokes some fun at our brothers and sisters from the other side of the aisle. My 51YSFkvzVVL__SS140_SH35_short story, The Last Hippie is the third one in, but don’t just stop there. Have fun with some cool stories by Brad Torgeson and Monalisa Foster, to name two of my favorites.

 

Second, Working Stiffs will be released by a new publisher, with a new cover, on 51nd3C30GeL__SS140_SH35_December 12th. The e-book will be release day priced at $2.99, so if you’ve been holding off because $5.99 was too much, now’s your chance to grab it. Working Stiffs was honored as a Finalist in the American Book Fest: Best of 2017 in the Science Fiction category.

 

And finally, April’s Fool will be refreshed with a new cover in preparation for the release of May Day (Date TBD). Here’s a look:

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