Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

Here’s some news.

Available now, White Powder Cowboys, a short story published in Dark City Mystery Magazine.

Pre-Order for immediate delivery to your Kindle on November 6th: Yeager’s Getaway. Send me an email at snapshooter4hire@gmail.com if you want to get an advanced e-book in exchange for writing an Amazon review.

Yeagers-Getaway-500x800-Cover-Reveal-And-PromotionalAbel 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.

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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!

 

 

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.

 

Hear ye, hear ye, or expressed in Texan: Listen up, y’all.

I have a short story due out November 8th, in the anthology titled “MAGA 2020 & Beyond,” titled The Last Hippie.

Here’s an excerpt:

Broken glass covered the street like gravel. It crunched under Mackay’s boot.

If there was an intact window left in the city, Mackay had yet to see it. Or an intact car, or functioning light, or working toilet, for that matter. What a waste. A proud and rich people, descended to savagery, living in a garbage pit of their own making. The smart ones had left early, jumping the border walls in droves, an influx of illegal immigration that took decades for the US to settle out.

“It looks like a sheet of diamonds,” said the rookie, Ponte. He flicked a glance at Mackay. “You know, the way the light shines on all the glass.”

“Shut up, Pontoon. Watch the corners and fa’God’s sake, look up. There’s tall billins on either side of ya. Called skyscrappers, ya pintz.” Mackay deliberately spoke like a goon to Ponte, got words wrong, mixed up his syntax. It drove the OCD, double-major-graduate, four-plus-GPA, walking Wikipedia rookie right into an electric tizzy, given that he knew better than to try and correct his squad leader.

“Yes, Sergeant.” Ponte kept his face blank as an android. In Mackay’s experience, the stiffer Ponte became, the more torqued he was on the inside.

Mackay stifled a grin. He checked the three men behind him, verified spacing and vigilance. It was easy to get complacent, here in this almost—stress almost—deserted city. Fitzke, Blake, and Ortega were solid though, two sweeping up and to the sides while one swiveled backward, checking their six. SkyEye should alert them to any movement, but Mackay trusted drones about as much as he trusted teenage boys with his daughter.

Eternal vigilance was the price of virginity and long life. Oo-yah.

 

Pre-order your copy today!

 

The following is a fictionalized account of a true story.  I first heard the story of the Edens-Madden Massacre from fellow writer Pat Haddock and I thought she was putting me on. I did some research and…turns out she was right.  This is my version of Lucy Madden’s story, a Texas pioneer woman and survivor of the Edens-Madden Massacre, San Pedro Creek, Houston County, Texas.

Survivor

~~~

October 28th, 1838

Frost rimed the banks of San Pedro Creek on that blackest of moonless nights.  Screams echoed through the forest of evergreen sentinels, shrouded with needles and indifferent to the blood soaking their roots.  Blazing pyres soared, illuminating the pines with a flickering orange glow, before subsiding to embers and returning the forest to darkness.

~ ~ ~

Stuffed in one room of drafty dogtrot cabin, fifteen women and kids slept.  Their menfolk had gone to answer President Lamar’s war cry.  Lucy, along with her sister-in-law, Nancy, moved to John Edens’ house to fort up with the other wives and children.  Four men, asleep on the opposite side of the dogtrot, protected them from the angry Kickapoo war parties.

Creak…

Lucy stiffened at the sound.  Her skin crawled as though covered in spiders.

~ ~ ~

Inkinishit’iti, so-called Little White Man because of his mixed parentage, detailed four men to guard the room where the white men slept.  Inkinishit’iti towered over his fellow Kiikaapoa warriors, his face hacked from mahogany and his eyes imbued with the spirit of Nenemehkia, Thunder Beings.

He commanded respect.

His remaining warriors gathered close, muscles flexing, weapons honed, teeth gleaming, breath quickened by the promise of blood.

A solid kick splintered the door, sending it crashing open to swing from broken hinges.

~ ~ ~

Mary Sadler died first.

“No,” Lucy screamed.  She scrambled from the floor, hands extended.  “Not my children!”

Women’s shrieks and Indian war cries battered her ears.  A tomahawk split Lucy’s collarbone and she collapsed.  Sarah Murchison implored her with dead eyes, her face in a pool of blood, her hair cut away.  Lucy tried to get up.  A blow to her back knocked her down again.

A devil from Hell, maybe Lucifer himself, loomed in the door, arms braced to the frame, legs spread.  He laughed while women’s screams called the tune and murder danced a jig.  Blood splattered the walls, soaked the floor.

Another powerful strike slammed the back of Lucy’s head, setting off an explosion of white light behind her eyes.  Sounds came and went, blurred scenes flashed through her eyes, but none of it penetrated the ringing in her head.  Mercifully, she didn’t hear or see the Kickapoo hacking apart her sons, Seldon and Robert, or witness the infant, Sophia Sadler, gutted with a butcher knife.

Like a wounded animal, Lucy crawled through the gap between the devil’s legs.  His booming laugh vibrated her nerve endings, more felt than heard.  If he saw her, Ol’ Scratch gave no indication.  Maybe he let her go, knowing her time was short.  Lucy made it outside, then to the fence, where she buckled.

Cold.  So very cold.

~ ~ ~

Lucinda Edens Madden survived that night and lived to the age of 77.  A broken collar bone, split ribs and a massive head wound caused severe blood loss, and it was likely Mrs. Madden passed out, but she was often heard saying she’d never had a better night’s sleep than after she crawled between the Devil’s legs and escaped from Hell.

***A short story I dug out of the archives; Hard Reset is modern riff on Noah’s Arc.***

Journalists jammed the conference room, a wall-to-wall crowd of tweed, denim and khaki writers intermingled with blow-dried, razor-sharp, tailored TV people.  Cameramen lined the back and sides, while a gaggle of photographers sat cross-legged at the front, hi-tech cameras resting in their laps.

From the open side door, Sal Raza paused, leaned close to his wife’s ear and cupped a hand over his mouth.  “Did you know why journalists sleep longer than lawyers?”

Toni shook her head.

“They lie better.”

His wife of twenty years rolled her eyes and gave him a gentle push in the back.  “Smartass.  What are you so afraid of?”

“This is a very big thing to me.”

“Go on.  They won’t bite.”

“No, but they might sting.”  Sal dug a finger under his damp collar and tugged.  He resisted the urge to wipe his face, straightened his suit and strode to the lectern like he owned it.  Although, considering he owned the hotel and convention center in which it resided, technically he did own it.

The room quieted.

Sal held the lectern in a white-knuckled grip and said, “Good . . .ah, good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  I will make a brief statement then take a few questions.”  Why am I so nervous? I’ve done a thousand pressers and make high-priced attorneys pee their pants.  This should be a cakewalk. 

The flashes popped and made his eyes water.  “Today I am announcing the greatest undertaking this planet has ever seen.  In an effort to populate worlds yet undiscovered, Raza Industries will begin construction on a 450,000-ton spacecraft.  Construction will take place in orbit, built by a crew living in our privately-owned space station.  The modules of this station have already been lifted into orbit by Raza Industry rocket boosters.  The station will be assembled over the coming twenty-four months by a team of contractors, former NASA engineers, and astronauts.  After that, we begin work on the ship itself.”

He paused to sip water from a bottle under the lectern’s top shelf.  A babble of voices broke out and Sal held up a hand.  Would they notice the tremble?

“Further,” he continued, “Raza Industries medical divisions are collecting the DNA of every . . . species . . . on the planet.”  A rustle of excitement moved across the room.  “With our patented process, Raza can generate living creatures from a tiny sample of their DNA.  This has allowed us to consider, for the first time, how mankind might propagate the vast reaches of space and spread throughout the galaxy.”  He stopped for a moment; the journalist waited, silent but for the whirr-click of the cameras.  “I intend to build the first interstellar voyager, complete with the DNA of the entire planet—or as much as we can reasonably obtain—and set out on a mission of discovery.  Human fate should not be at the mercy of one global catastrophe.”

Into the stunned silence of the audience, Sal said, “I will now take questions.”

The room erupted.  Sal pointed at random, from journalist to journalist and let the questions fly.

The first reported asked, “Why does Salvador Raza, the eighth richest man in the world, want to build his own space ship?”

“Why not?  Next question.”

“What’s the ship’s name?”

A New Hope.”

“Isn’t that from Star Wars?”

“Yes.  Next.”

“How long will the construction last?”

“Two years for the station.  Fifteen to sixteen years for the ship.”

“What’s it going to cost to build it?”

“What will it cost if we don’t?  Next.”

And so on until Sal had had enough.  “Last question.  Yes, you.  With the striped shirt.”

A thin kid, barely out of college, who looked to Sal more like Shaggy from Scooby Doo than a real reporter, stood and asked, “Is it true that early on, before this project began, you told some friends that, uh, that God had spoken to you and told you to build this ship, the same way He instructed Noah to build the ark?  And for the same reasons?  That God was going to bring down another flood and you were to preserve life on Earth?”

Sal blinked in the harsh light and heat crept up from his neck.  “No.  That is categorically untrue.  I have no idea where you’d get an idea like that.”

“From—.”

“Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.”  Sal exited, stage left.

~~~~~

George Grilli snapped the television off and threw the remote into the sofa cushions as hard as he could—it was the only remote he had; he wasn’t stupid enough to break it.  The sour milk in his bowl of soggy corn flakes sloshed out, drenching his other hand.  George set it on the coffee table with a curse.  Dried his fingers on the carpet.

Marco, his black Guess-a-Dog mix, got off the floor and stuck his nose in the bowl and lapped the last of George’s food.  The last food he had left in the house.

“You know what, Marco?” George said, “Salvador-Frickin-Raza is building his own private space yacht.  I’ll bet he builds it then fires all the people who worked on it.  Fires ‘em all and gives ‘em two week’s salary.  Two week’s.”  He held up two fingers to illustrate, in case Marco was confused about higher math.  “That’s it.  And you know that’s why she killed herself, right? Sharon.”

Marco ignored him, intent on chasing the last drops of Borden’s finest.  The bowl scooted across the table as he nosed it along.

“Mechanical engineer,” George muttered, head down, staring between his feet.  Hunched over.  Beaten.  The white-spotted dog, who’d heard it all before, licked his chops and studied the bowl, waiting for more tasty milk to appear.  “Sixteen years at Raza Aerotech.  Two week’s severance.  It was the last straw.”  George snorted, shook his head.  Stared at the picture of Sharon in her wedding dress on the coffee table.  “You know what I ought to do, Marco?”

George stood and hitched his boxers up.  The green plaid ones.  His afternoon attire.  He headed for the toilet.  “What I ought to do, is get hired on there with Raza’s people, wherever they’re building this thing, right?”  The last he said louder, in case Marco couldn’t hear his reasoning.  He didn’t bother lifting the toilet seat when he unlimbered the tackle and aimed it more or less at the bowl.  “Ahhh.  Anyway, I get a job there, you know?  And I bide my time like a good little Do Bee.  I go deep undercover.  Do a little of this, a little of that.  Then, when the time comes—BAM!—I take out old Sally and his ship of dreams.  Serve the bastard right.”

He shook off and padded back to the living room, where the dog had curled up in his spot on the sofa.

“What do you think, Marco?  A good idea, or not?”

Marco opened one eye and agreed with a half-hearted woof.

~~~~~

Sal pressed his nose to the tiny window of the shuttle Skywalker and held his breath to keep it from fogging the glass.  “There it is!” he squeaked.  His throat was so tight, he sounded like a cartoon squirrel.

“Calm down, Sal,” Toni patted his back.  “Your heart.”

“It’ll last a while longer,” Sal said without peeling his face away from the sight drifting into view.  “I happen to have that from a very good source.”

“Oh, please.”  He could hear the smirk in her voice.  “Not again.”

Sal mentally shrugged and let it go.  The sight of A New Hope, tethered to the space station, left him too excited to fight.  The starship gleamed, brilliant white against the contrasting blackness of deep space.  Eighteen years in the building, four trillion dollars of expense, with a fully-loaded mass of more than a pocket cruise liner, A New Hope was ready to assume her duty.  The hand-picked crew of one hundred scientists, doctors and engineers were aboard.  DNA samples, sometimes multiple samples, of millions of plants, animals, insects, birds—all the flora and fauna of Earth, including mosquitos though Sal had argued against it—were carefully labeled, checked, frozen, double-checked, stored and triple-checked in a filing arrangement more complex than that of the Library of Congress.

Final goodbyes had been said.

It was time to go.

“And not a moment too soon,” Sal murmured.

“What was that?”

“Nothing, dearest one.”  Sal pushed off and floated back to his seat.  Toni was, of all the damnedest things, knitting a sweater.  Knitting.  In zero-G.

A week after her 75th birthday party, his wife could still make his heart thump with desire and generate a tingle in regions farther south.  Sal grinned so wide, he thought his cheeks would split.  He looked “up”—at least toward the shuttle’s ceiling—and winked. I told you I’d get it done.  Didn’t I?  How long ago was that?  Twenty, twenty-one years ago?

~~~~~

Sal’s office aboard A New Hope wasn’t nearly as opulent as the one he’d left behind.  Functional, but not austere.  Wood appointments wherever practical—for who knew when he’d ever see real wood again—furniture fixed to the floor as well as other accommodations for a metal building orbiting the Earth.  Until they got under way and were able to spin the ship, they had to tolerate zero-G.

Sal strapped himself into his desk chair and turned on the computer.  His reflection in its black screen made him chuckle.  With his hair floating around, he looked a little like those pictures of an old Albert Einstein. Would that we had him here!

A knock at the open portal and Sal’s head of security, Gordon Dixon pushed off from the frame and floated to the desk.  He hooked his feet in loops so he could stay more or less stationary. Dixon’s hair was clipped to molecule length; he had no problem with Space-Head.

“Sir,” the security officer reported.  “We have uncovered all of the engineer’s sabotage.  All his devices have been found and neutralized.”

“Good.  And Grilli?”

Dixon hesitated.  “Still at large.  He made it back to Earth before we figured out who was responsible.”

“Well, don’t worry about him.  His fate is sealed.”

“Uh, yes, sir.”

“Thank you, Gordon, you may go about your duties.”

The man nodded in a formal, precise, military manner and pushed off for the door. Dixon, like the other crew members, tolerated Sal’s biblical pronouncements and treated him like a loopy uncle.  No doubt Dixon would share tight smiles and eye rolls with the other crew members when they thought Sal wasn’t looking.

No matter.  The promise of a fresh, unspoiled planet, where the human race could get a universal mulligan, a big, whopping Do-Over—a hard reset, as his techies said—had been an easy sell for the crew.  No matter if they thought the owner was a little goofy, if it bought them a ticket to the biggest ride in human history, so be it.  Even being put into a medically-induced coma for hundreds of years hadn’t deterred millions of applicants seeking a shot on Raza’s mission.  Sal chose who went, and he hoped to God he’d chosen right.  Grilli, obviously, had been a mistake.

“Well,” Sal said, “they’ll get a fresh, new planet.  Just not the one they think they’re getting.  This’ll be the longest round trip to nowhere on record.  The floods will come and wash everything clean down below and the human race gets another shot at life on Planet Earth.”

The intercom beeped and Sal pushed a button.  “Yes?”

“Mr. Raza,” the ship’s captain said.  “All systems nominal.  We are go for launch.”

Sal glanced at the clock.  “Right on time, Captain.  Please . . . how do you astronauts say it?  Light this candle.”

“Roger that.  We will ignite main thrusters in T-minus ten minutes and counting from . . . mark!”

There were no portals in the office.  No portals anywhere, in fact.  So Sal closed his eyes and pictured Earth in his mind.  “Don’t worry, old girl.  We’ll be back soon.”

Ten minutes later, the world went white and A New Hope evaporated in an expanding ball of plasma, eliminating every trace of life aboard the spacecraft.  No warning, no mercy, and no second chance.

~~~~~

George Grilli shouldered his pack and stuck out a thumb, but the sleek new Cadillac didn’t slow.  Its wash of cold air blew over him and he shivered.  Forty miles outside of Memphis, Grilli hiked over the pea gravel and busted bottles alongside a two lane state highway.  He had a few bucks—enough for a meal in a fast food joint—the clothes he wore, and the odds and ends he’d taken from Raza’s space station.  Nothing else.

He grinned anyway.  Threw back his head and laughed aloud.  “Who gives a shit!” he yelled at the sky.  “I have the best gift of all.  Fuck you, Raza!”

Grilli pointed a two-fisted double-bird salute at the overcast clouds.  Too bad he couldn’t be near a TV right now.  All the news shows had been running up-to-the-instant coverage of Raza’s Boldly Going Where No One’s Gone Before.  Unfortunately that meant they were also showing Grilli’s picture every time they ran out of gushing metaphors and hyperbolic adjectives.  George Grilli, the known saboteur, the fly in the ointment, the monkey in the wrench.  He laughed again, remembering the sober face of that prick Dixon staring into the newscaster’s lens.

“The suspect, Grilli, is on the run.  We have found and dismantled all of the explosive devices he planted, thereby neutralizing the threat to this crew and this ship.”

“No you didn’t, jackass.  You only found the one’s I wanted you to find.”  As an engineer assigned to metal fabrication and fitting, Grilli could roam the ship at will.  He also discovered a way to roll thin sheets of plastic explosive—mixed in the tiny kitchen sink of his locker-sized room on the space station—and sandwich them between certain critical metal plates.  And hide them in places where they’d do the most good.  Like near the O2 containers.  Wiring those special plates to the main ignition breakers had been a real pain in the ass.

“No way they’ll find my little surprises.  They’d have to dismantle half the ship to get to the O2 tanks.  As soon as Captain Twit toggles the ignition switch . . ..”  Grilli cackled and threw his head back.  “Kablooie! A New Hype will be blown to shit.”

The wind blew stronger, flapping the tails of Grilli’s coat.

A fat, baseball-sized dollop of rain splattered on his bare head.  A dozen more fell around him, sounding more like pistol rounds than raindrops.

Then more came.

And more.

Robotic Animals Televisions Which Reveal Alternate Universes Inanimate Objects Brought to Life People Struggling to Survive in Apocalyptic Wastelands Sentient Cutlery and much, much more. Desolation: 21 Tales for Tails is a collection of dark speculative fiction whose stories all focus on themes of loneliness, isolation, and abandonment. Enter into strange worlds envisioned by some of the most inventive authors writing today. A portion of the proceeds of each sale of Desolation: 21 Tales for Tails benefits the Last Day Dog Rescue Organization.

My short story, Government Waste, is the last one in the book.  (What can I say?  They saved the best for last.)

There’s a link to the book on the left.