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Thirty more stories, p.1
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       Thirty More Stories, p.1

           Gil C. Schmidt
 
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Thirty More Stories
THIRTY MORE STORIES

  GIL C. SCHMIDT

  Copyright 2010 -- Gil C. Schmidt

  Published by Jenius Publishers at SmashWords

  Dedication

  To my family, from whom my stories emerge, to María, for whom my stories are written and Kaleb, for whom my stories are to come.

  TABLE OF CONTENTS

  FORESIGHT

  EVIL HEART

  INTERESTING TIMES

  THE FINAL LETTER

  IN SEARCH OF YORK

  INITIAL QUANTUM STATE

  TO WATCH FOR SANTA

  GIRL IN SEARCH OF A TREE

  GRAPES AND STRAWBERRIES

  SHADOW HEART

  TWITCHY EYES

  WHERE THERE'S A WILL

  FOOD FOR LOBO

  SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION

  THE DUKE BATTLES

  LETTERS

  ART OF LIFE

  FENCING, NOT BOXING

  NAME THAT TIME

  NINETEEN SECONDS

  LOOKING GOOD

  FOUR MORE WORDS

  REFLEX ACTIONS

  TELLING TIME

  TIME TO RETIRE

  THE SILENCE OF PAIN

  THE FINAL BATTLE

  A TARGET FOR BULLET

  NEIGHBORS

  A GOOD MAN FOR CINDY

  INTRODUCTION

  Thirty more stories, each about a printed standard page long. This marks my second collection in the "short-short" category and unlike my first one, this one took a long time to come together, from January 2009 until August 2010. The reasons are plenty, but it boiled down to a basic one: I didn't need to prove myself as much.

  My first collection, "Thirty Stories," also available from X-cito Publishing (Thanks, Kevin!) was a challenge I gave myself to write fiction. Having done that, I wanted to move on to other writings, and I did...but not as much as I expected of myself. So I jump-started the process of short-short fiction again, got off to a good start and then...life happened. As I would say as Gil The Jenius (look Me up!): lots of stuff hit the rotating oscillator.

  By the end of 2009 I had only a handful of stories and 2010 grew older with only a few more added. Then, as the summer grew high, the impending launch of "Thirty Stories" and the realization that the writing I had developed over the years was nearing fruition prompted a burst of writing. (I even wrote three stories in one day.) And so, after loitering--waiting--several months, I became a writer again. And will continue to be one for the foreseeable future.

  To the readers of these stories who have been enchanted, delighted, entertained and even repelled by my stories: Thanks for sharing that with me. Writers either accept toiling in obscurity, indifference and misunderstanding or they launch themselves full into their audience's faces hoping for approval. I like the solitude of writing, but to have someone remark about what I write, well, that's always special.

  If you want to read the stories in the order I wrote them, here it is:

  1) Girl In Search of a Tree

  2) The Final Letter

  3) Art of Life

  4) In Search of York

  5) The Duke Battles

  6) Foresight

  7) Four More Words

  8) A Target for Bullet

  9) Evil Heart

  10) Name That Time

  11) Reflex Actions

  12) Nineteen Seconds

  13) Where There's a Will

  14) The Silence of Pain

  15) Fencing, Not Boxing

  16) Letters

  17) Twitchy Eyes

  18) Telling Time

  19) Shadow Heart

  20) Spontaneous Combustion

  21) Time to Retire

  22) Food for Lobo

  23) To Watch for Santa

  24) Initial Quantum State

  25) The Final Battle

  26) A Good Man for Cindy

  27) Looking Good

  28) Neighbors

  29) Interesting Times

  30) Grapes and Strawberries

  FORESIGHT

  Madam Savarona tucked in her voluminous skirt, took another swig of wine and cracked her knuckles. Her ginger-red hair wisped around her eyes as she took in the crowd walking to and fro around her motley stall. The crystal ball in front of her looked dim and damp, while the tarot cards she fingered absently felt soft and worn. Just as she was about to take another shot from the dark-green bottle, the one she knew would push her into the land of fog, a man’s voice drew her up short. “Are you--open? For a reading?”

  Madam Savarona’s sea-green eyes focused on a tall man, his clothes well-cut, if slightly stodgy in style. His shoes were expensive, but scuffed at the toes. The hat he held too-tightly was a soft fedora, short brim, a quiet choice. Broad of shoulder, he held himself down, trying to appear shorter and maybe even smaller. Waving a bejeweled hand in what she hoped was a mystical pass, Madam Savarona forced her voice deeper. “Be seated, sir. Madam Savarona…is at your service.”

  The man slumped more than sat on the fading cushioned chair, his legs akimbo, and ran a hand through wavy brown hair. His face was an open book of confusion and a touch of despair. He cleared his throat. “I’ve never… I’ve never done this, something like this before.”

  Madam Savarona raised her hand. “You live in a world of facts and numbers, not feelings.” She saw him start and smiled behind her eyes. “I have seen this already.”

  The man’s confusion increased. “My word! That--that is remarkable. I do work in facts and numbers. I’m a--” Madam Savarona’s hand cut him off.

  Frowning, she let her eyes gaze into a distance. “You…are…I see money and…safety…I see…a bank. Yes. You are a banker.” She focused on the agape man in front of her. “You work in…I sense family…Your father is the bank president.”

  The man slumped back, his face slack and almost empty of expression. “How? How can you, uh, see this?” She waved the question away. The man lunged forward, his eyes now ablaze, his face eager. "I know you can help me! You must! Please!”

  “Ask. I shall do what I can.” Her eyes flashed deeply.

  “I--I have a quandary…There’s these two girls, see? Two women, really. They’re both--well, they’re both fabulous, in their own ways. And I, well, I--” He shook all over, as if caught in a harsh fever. His mouth chewed air and tasted despair, “I love them both! At least, I think I do, but that’s not it. It’s that I have wanted to… I want to…” He looked up, helpless.

  “You want to get married.”

  The man almost fainted. “Yes! Yes! That’s it!” Madam Savarona watched her sense of triumph fade into memory, her eyes fixed on the anguished man. “You are remarkable! I know I can ask you--”

  “Which one to marry?”

  She rushed around the rickety table to help the man up into the chair, his head lolling as if punched by a heavyweight. “Oh my stars,” he mumbled, “That’s never happened to me before.” He gazed at Madam Savarona, who dashed back to her chair. “I’m so sorry. I’m not usually like this.”

  “I know,” she said, then quickly added “It is a strong thing, what you feel. I may be able, I think, to help you.” The gratitude in his eyes gave her the strength to go on. “Do exactly as I say. Approach each woman. Ask her to name a jewel. Your true love, the one that will light your life forever, shall be the one who says ‘A ruby, red as passion.’ She you shall delight in marrying.”

  The man stood up, electrified. “’Name a jewel.’ Yes! I can do that. I will! By Jove, I’ll do that right now!” Slapping the fedora on his head, he strode out, the picture of determination.

  Madame Savarona watched him go, then quickly divested herself of clothes and wig. “A ruby, red as passion,” she whispered to herself. Yes, that’s exactly what Jonathan would h
ear when he asked her to name a jewel in about, oh, thirty minutes or so...

  EVIL HEART

  The bosun’s mate had drawn the late watch, the tragic hours that end the night. He noted with the absent mind of experience how the sails luffed and snapped in the sighing wind, the Clipper rising and dropping with steady rhythm as the stars drifted quietly. With the promise of good weather, they could be in Boston a day early, maybe two. All was still ‘round the wheel and even the crow’s nest was silent, but Higgins decided to let the man rest. He left the wheel to check the forecastle and riggings. Making his way along the narrow deck, his thoughts turned to the port cabin’s passengers. A strange pair…He reached the foremast and nodded in satisfaction, then leaned against it easily, scanning the horizon.

  The pair…She, a sylph-like maiden of barely 16 or 17, maybe less, made as if of porcelain from the Orient. She spoke to no one, not even coming aboard, her eyes downcast under a large bonnet, her long cape unable to conceal the fine figure God gave her. Beside her a beast of a man, Vulcan to her Aphrodite, a gnarled mass with a cragged face and a staggered walk composed partly of misshapen limbs and a veritable hump twisting his shoulders. They made their way quickly to the only passenger cabin the Crucible had, and in the fortnight from port, had only emerged twice. Each time the lovely girl was ‘neath bonnet and cape, while he glared at every man who passed nearby. Not even the Captain, bonniest lip in Cape Cod, could get a word from man or maiden. What I’d give to meet her…Daughter, niece, ward or God forbid young wife trapped in tragic marriage, it made no difference. His desire grew day by day.

  Suddenly, a scraping sound behind him caught his ear. Too large for a rat, too small for a ladder or loose spar. He crouched, but no other sound came to him past the wind and waves. Higgins crept to the stern. From the corner of his eye, he saw a flash of cloth, too dark to be a sail, just above the stern. He stepped forward smartly and caught a tiny flash of dark cloth again, heavy and swirling. Higgins had long experience with the tricks the sea and the moon could play on a sailor’s night, but he knew this was no trick. Someone was next to the stern…maybe even climbing over it! He rushed forward, realizing that the flash of dark cloth he saw could have been the young maiden’s cape. She was trying to end her life! Racing to the stern, Higgins whirled left, then right, searching for the girl. He leaned over the stern’s railing and saw… Yes! Her cape! Too far to reach down…He tried mightily to grab it hoping, hoping…

  Two small hands pushed Higgins in the back, tumbling him into the icy ocean. The blast of frigid seawater tore the breath from his lungs and when he breached from the ocean, the night’s cool air iced his voice. Struggling for breath, he watched as the Crucible’s stern drifted quickly away, his eyes stinging as he watched the young maiden deftly unravel her cape and cast it about her shoulders, a stern nymph watching Higgins as he faded away in the dark.

  Back in the portside cabin, the damp and chilly maiden closed the door softly. On the cabin’s narrow cot sprawled her husband, his enormous head split by a leering grin lacking some teeth, his wrinkles and scars befitting a broken body. “The bosun’s mate?” His voice was a groan upon the Styx. Her nod was barely perceptible. “I saw ‘im lookin’ at ye, hungry like a wolf,” he repeated as he had for days. Grunting a sour sound he said: “I’ve seen the captain eyein’ ye.”

  The young girl’s body shivered, then trembled. Her eyes closed, mouth twisting in agony, hands clasped as if clinging to Life’s bitterest edge. “No,” she gasped, “Please. No more.”

  The brute chuckled, like bones rattling in a coffin. He pulled the huge knife from his ragged jacket and placed it atop the tiny table at his side. “No? Ye’ve said no before, so ye know what needs be done.” He pointed two times as he said “Ye take the knife. To ye’re face.” Another bony chuckle. “Then‘no more’ it shall ever be.”

  She collapsed, a sodden heap upon the cabin’s timber floor, the deep sobs of despair contained by hopelessness. He watched her cry and ignored her pleas with a smile few men could eye with impunity. And in the misty dawn, the girl arose, her only action the stiffest of nods.

  The bony chuckle lasted longer as the man handed his wife a tiny flask and told her how she’d accept the captain’s invitation to dine on the night they made port…

  INTERESTING TIMES

  When Pritchard was about to turn 17, he figured out the secret to anti-gravity. Over a furious four weeks between his first kiss with Melanie and his mom's loony "Sweet 17" party (that included a clown, to the utter humiliation of everyone at the party, including the clown), Pritchard (he hated his given name, Percy, so he fixed it) drew up the design, polished the theoretical underpinnings in a 34-page article (never published) and built the prototype, that he tested on Muggs, his loopy bulldog. The dog's maiden, er, flight, caused the poor mutt to vomit and run away for almost a week. The anti-gravity prototype was now disguised as an 8-track player in Pritchard's home-built display of passé technology.

  Between Melanie (who went off to college somewhere in Michigan, while Pritchard stayed near home) and Sally, Pritchard figured out faster-than-light travel, pushed to a superhuman effort in consolidating theoretical physics and what he called "hyperquantic thrust dynamos" for lack of a better name. Sally, a smashing little redhead with birthmarks in the darnest places, was Pritchard's first lover, and the extended post-coital daze dampened Pritchard's other thoughts about FTL travel until Sally joined the Navy and was eventually shipped out to some port in East Asia.

  Pritchard tinkered with hyperspace signals based on string theory tunneling until he met Lois, the tall brunette with the perfect dimples on her (most-often) unseen cheeks. Inspired by Lois' fond memories of her childhood in eastern Louisiana, Pritchard made the conceptual leap between his anti-grav concepts (already proven) and FTL travel (which he tested by sending a 54-inch probe to the Moon and back in 6.4 seconds...twice) to discover that time could be unlinked from gravitational space-time and moved anywhere. After a frenetic series of tests, drafts, edits, rebuilds and several cameras destroyed in tests (though one brought back an intriguing half-picture of what could only be a T-Rex in full attack mode), Pritchard finally got his prototype to work after using parts from his last FTL probe (disguised as an over- sized Sith lightsaber) to power his "time capsule." Two trips later (17th century France, smelly, and 15th century Japan, bloody), Pritchard plonked Lois on his lap and took her back 16 years to the tree-lined Alexandria streets of Lois' childhood home.

  Only to lose her there when she absolutely freaked out after seeing her mom sneak out of their house, climb into Russell Graham's house through the den window and rock his world in a way that made Lois sick and made Pritchard want to get to know Mrs. Killian a helluva lot more.

  With much effort, involving a frantic car chase, a brush with fat, chaw-chewing Southern cops, another couple of looks at the Killian Method for World Rocking and getting Lois blitzed on cheap tequila, Pritchard got them both back to their time/home and took an extra two days to convince Lois her pot dealer was dealing from the bottom, not the top.

  Redecorating the time capsule into a home entertainment center with a rad game system and enough speakers to drown out Spinal Tap, Pritchard gathered the fake 8-track player and the über-nerdy fake lightsaber and tucked them into a hidden panel at the base of the new 72-inch plasma screen he bought for himself from the beaucoup royalties he made on his only patented invention: a cell phone accessory that found your wallet, purse, briefcase, keys, car and nearest coffee shop for you.

  But every once in a while, Pritchard would carefully dismantle the home entertainment system, and use the time capsule, anti-grav and the now-real lightsaber he invented for fun to hit the Cretaceous creatures like a meteor strike, or leave the anti-grav and Sith weapon home and just drop in on Mrs. Killian...for old times' sake.

  THE FINAL LETTER

  Dear Rebecca,

  I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt you. I know these words sound trite, but they are true, as true
as anything I have ever told you.

  Time and time again I have tried to write this letter, to ask you to forgive me, and I end up so angry at myself for not finding the right words that I rip up the paper and start again. So I won’t try to find more words than necessary: Please forgive me. If you can, please do it whenever your heart tells you to. I can wait because I’d rather let you heal than force some empty arrangement to salve my conscience.

  Whenever you wish to see me, or speak to me, you know where to find me. I love you, please believe that I do. I don’t ever want to lose you, but I know I must wait. I will. And I hope that someday we can be together again, for the rest of our lives. Love, Andy.

  Marcia looked up from the letter, her eyes bright. “Wow. He seems to be feeling pretty strongly about this.”

  Rebecca brought her eyes back from the street scene outside the tiny Deluxe Cup café, the passersby clutching coats tightly against the harsh wind, cars fluffing white contrails in the dry frigid air. “He seems to be. Yes.”

  “You’re not sure?”

  Rebecca glanced at her mug of chai, the spicy aroma now faint. “Are you?”

  Marcia blinked twice, very fast. “You’re asking me?”

  A long look at the street, taking in the sudden plunge into darkness as the clouds swallowed up what little cheer was left in the day. She looked back at Marcia. “Yes.”

  Marcia’s hands fluttered, the letter waving up and down and around. “I don’t know.” She read it again quickly. “I think he is.”

  Rebecca nodded, her mouth a tight line. “Do you hope he is?” She sipped from her mug, the chai tepid and flat.

  More fluttering, eyes darting from table to letter to cups to street and back to the table. “Well, yeah, I do hope he’s honest here.” A few seconds later. ‘For your sake.”

  A grunt, an ugly harsh grunt was Rebecca’s only response. Marcia stared at her friend until Rebecca’s eyes met hers, then she looked away. “Andy’s boss called me today to tell me he’d requested a transfer to San Diego.”

 
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