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Monday, June 30

Generation Gap

"Generation Gap"
Short fiction - Literary
by Rod Drake

It was April 1967. San Francisco was the bridge between movements.

Richard Brautigan sat on the grass in North Beach's Washington Square Park, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was nearly noon, and he liked it here, across town from Haight-Ashbury. It was getting too crowded in the Haight; everyone seemed to be migrating there now.

Two years ago he used to hand out his little poems there, to anyone who would take them. They were quirky, absurd little poems that Richard lovingly copied by hand on small slips of colored paper. He remembered two girls, runaways no doubt, who loved his funny short poems and followed him everywhere he went, or sat Indian-style against a storefront, his two-person fan club, when he distributed his poems to passersby on Haight Street.

He would have slept with them, but they were too young. And they would have slept with him willingly, but they settled for the grass he gave them from time to time. Then the girls started going to Kesey's Acid Tests, and he never saw them again.

Now Richard was the poet-in-residence at the California Institute of Technology. He had published some poetry and one novel. Neither was successful. A second novel was coming out this year. It was very surrealistic and strange, so he had little hope it would be popular; he called it Trout Fishing in America, but it had nothing to do with trout fishing.

His favorite place to write was still here in Washington Square, in front of the Benjamin Franklin statue. It was going be featured on the cover of his new novel and would be mentioned in the first chapter. North Beach was where he had first lived when he moved to San Francisco in 1956.

North Beach was home to the Beat Movement. City Lights Bookstore was just a few blocks from here, where Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure and the rest had hung out, creating a new literature for the beat generation. Across the street was the hungry i, where Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl used to perform comedy laced with beat commentary.

Richard finished his sandwich and went back to writing in a tattered little notebook. Children played at one edge of the park while old men sat and slept on the city benches as they had for generations. The smell of Italian food drifted up from the sidewalk cafes in North Beach. A long-haired young man threw a stick that his dog kept retrieving with enthusiasm.

A young couple approached him shyly. They were either from the Haight or were on their way there. Their outfits, wire-rim glasses and hair length were pure hippie style.

"Excuse me," asked the boy who looked like Jesus or Buffalo Bill, "but aren't you the hippie writer who wrote A Confederate General from Big Sur?" Richard’s photograph was on the back of the book; he hadn’t changed much since then.

Richard smiled wryly. "No," he answered, "I'm the beat author of that book."

Rod Drake would like to encourage readers to rediscovery Richard Brautigan’s literary works and experience the beat/hippie movement firsthand. Check out Rod's longer stories posted in Six Sentences, Flashes of Speculation, Flash Forward, MicroHorror and AcmeShorts.

Friday, June 27

The Way of Love

"The Way of Love"
Short Fiction - Literary
by Kate Kaminski

If this is the way love is supposed to go, then perhaps Sana wants out. Today he announces, during one of their interminable and ongoing arguments, that she's playing Delilah to his Samson, that their entire relationship rests upon a power struggle that will inevitably end with one or the other of them shorn, hemorrhaging from myriad nicks in newly exposed skin. Why does he have to make everything into a drama?

So when her ex-lover Robbie calls to ask her out for a coffee and some conversation from a pay phone just two blocks away, and weary of Samson's metaphorical arguments, is it coincidence that she's just putting on her coat to leave? Sana picks up the phone the way one might grasp at a life preserver. On the other end, Robbie's voice is at first unfamiliar, but once she
places it, she pictures his face, as if on a movie screen–gigantic–smiling at her from the center of a crisp white donut with S.S. Titanic stenciled across its surface.

Her mother always said she was inconstant. Will a sense of constancy ever be something she truly desires? Yet surely she is not the type of woman who disdains family and home. Is she?

When she glances at Samson–a.k.a. Paul–to say goodbye, he has already turned his back on her and the dangling earbuds of his iPod look like lost worms seeking safety among the earthy tangles of his black curls. She knows that, once she's gone, he’ll flow again into the safety and comfort of his imagined life, the music a stream, carrying him away from the confines of their cramped and grimy one bedroom. Once she's gone, he'll be happy.

She closes the door gently, respectful of his pleasure at her leaving, and grateful for her freedom.

On the street, pushing through a group of skateboarding teenagers hellbent on breaking limbs as they defy the ordinances that seek to constrain them, she admires, as she always does, the hearts of such youth. Like her, they too are transplanted into a corpus mundi that wants to reject them. She takes her gloves from their nesting place in her pockets and slides them over her hands.

Sana hates the cold. Every winter it hits her the same way, as if she were an exotic plant kidnapped by aliens in order to be experimented upon in new and diverse native climes. At the corner of 106th Street, a woman with long colorless hair, wearing a vintage camel's hair coat that is several sizes too large brushes past her, audibly chanting with determined cheer a nonsensical string of syllables. Watching the woman hurrying, purposeful, safe inside the bubble of her madness, Sana girds herself for the inevitable Robbie experience of endless, depressive commentary on the dismal state of the world. And now, ahead, she sees him sitting in the coffee shop window, waiting for her, his comforting, habitual dishevelment apparent even
from this distance.

Sometimes she thinks it is the extreme permeability of her skin, her willingness to absorb whatever is thrown at her, that, in the end, violates all sense. It is at such times that Sana will often panic and make hasty decisions. Leave a lover. Quit her job. Move across town.

She pulls open the door to the coffee shop and Robbie looks up. He smiles and Sana moves forward, embracing, all of her senses electric, ready for whatever comes next.

Monday, June 2

Release the Inner Wolf

Release the Inner Wolf
Short Fiction - Sci-fi/Fantasy
by Rod Drake

I never thought that I would become a werewolf, but one random event just led to another, and bam, there I was, the local wolf man of Chaney Falls, Massachusetts (don’t laugh at the town’s name, please, we all get the irony).

Of course, nothing ever goes like it’s supposed to for me, including this lycanthrope curse. Instead of turning into a wolf when the moon is full, which would only be two nights a month, for me the change occurs anytime after sundown when I hear a song mentioning the moon.

You know, like “Bad Moon Rising” by CCR. “Harvest Moon” by Neil Young. Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream.” The Doors’ “Moonlight Drive.” “Blue Moon” by the Marcels is a given, but the kicker is “Moon Madness” by the indie group, the Spirit of Evelyn Ankers (yeah, another funny coincidence; my life is ripe with ‘em). I never knew there were so many songs with the moon in them.

So I never know when the change is going to occur; could be I’ll hear a radio playing down the street, or a CD blasting in some teenager’s room, or an outdoor restaurant’s mood music. That, naturally, leads to embarrassing moments, and a few bloody ones, but the less said about that the better. No fatalities yet at least. And only fleeting, vague memories of my nights as a beast. At least no one knows it’s me.

Some articles have hit the local newspaper about a big animal from the nearby woods (so they think) on the loose, who injured a young couple out at Bellamy Point (interesting name, all things considered), a common make-out place, and another group of kids that were on a girl scout overnight camp-out plus some other hit-and-miss sightings. The eyewitness accounts weren’t very good or detailed, the panic of the attacks being too shocking to be remembered clearly. Thank heavens for that.

Eventually it had to happen. I’m sitting in the car with my long-time girlfriend, Haley Talbot (you can cut the irony in my life with a knife, probably a big silver one), who suddenly turned on the radio (I keep it off after sundown) and a moon song happening to be playing on KLCJ-FM. I think it was Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon.” Whatever, the song triggered the change. Before my consciousness fled, I opened my car door and ran into the woods as fast as I could, but I could hear Haley chasing after me, asking what was wrong.

The next hours were lost to me. Waking up on the bank of the Rains River (I know, but just let it pass) at dawn, I struggled to remember how I ended up here. And what I might have done. Fearing what I did to Haley.

But sometimes a curse can turn out to be a blessing. Haley was sitting next to me, smiling despite the faint traces of blood and mud on her face, and showing me the bite mark on her shoulder that was healing as we looked at it. Her shoulder was bare, as much of her was, since her blouse had been rather badly shredded.

“I think wolfie is lonely,” she said to me quietly, calmly, “instead of hungry. He wants a mate to run with him, so instead of killing me, he nipped me so I could be that girl werewolf.”

“Really?” I was stunned, but not unhappy.

“Yup. Next time you change, so will I, and we can have a great time together. And I have the distinct feeling that his animal aggression will be channeled into, well, you now, sexual energy, so that no one in Chaney Falls will be hurt anymore, or probably even know about our secret, erotic lives. After all, you have always been a bit of a wolf, with or without the fur.” Then she winked at me.

Now this is the way a horror story should end.

Rod Drake apologizes for all the “punny” references to Universal’s The Wolfman (1941) in this story. Check out Rod's longer stories posted in Six Sentences, Flashes of Speculation, Flash Forward, MicroHorror and AcmeShorts.