Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Guest Writer: Adam Byatt

Comic Superhero

Andrew swept up the pile of comic books from his desk and stashed them into his folder with his homework.  He had a couple to return to his best mate Jackson and hoped to borrow some in return.  With his schoolbag packed he headed out the door for the walk to school.
Jackson’s route intersected with Andrew’s at the corner store.  He was walking out with a carton of strawberry milk and raised it in greeting.
“Finished your Modern History homework?” said Jackson.
“Yeah and the Biology stuff, too.”
“Bugger.  Forgot that.  Mr Perkins won’t be happy.  When’s Bio?”
“Just after lunch.  You’ll have time to finish it then.”
Jackson changed topic quickly, “Hey I got the new Wolverine comic yesterday.  You can have it when I’ve finished.”
The pair continued the walk to school chatting about their comic superheroes.  Jackson favoured Superman while Andrew liked The Phantom. 
“But how can The Phantom be a superhero when he doesn’t have a superpower?” argued Jackson.
“Batman doesn’t have a superpower.  And besides, it’s not the ability that makes someone a superhero, but the attitude.  That makes The Phantom a superhero.  He’s just classy.”
“Yeah, but having a superpower just makes you a little bit more awesome,” countered Jackson. 
Secretly, Andrew longed for a superpower.  All his childhood comic book heroes were bestowed with them.  Jackson wanted Magneto’s ability to control metal. 
“Could you imagine having Magneto’s power?  How awesome would that be in Metal work!”
Above the power of flight and physical strength, adamantium claws and laser weapons, Andrew craved one power: the power of invisibility.  Not like the Invisibility Cloak of Harry Potter, but an ability to be seen and not to be noticed. 
“What’s up first this morning?” said Jackson.
“English.  Which means we are going to get our essays back.”
Jackson groaned and faced the sky, knowing his inevitable outcome.  “At least you’re going to get a good mark.  Everyone knows that you’re The Quiet Achiever.  You always get good marks but you never let anyone know.  You’re kind of like the Clark Kent of English.”
“Maybe, but I still have to beat Emily Lewis.”
“You two have had a thing going on since Year 7.” 
“She’s a know it all.  She always smirks if she beats me and it is so infuriating.”
“Just be careful you don’t do the same.  If you make her look stupid she’ll unmask The Quiet Achiever.”
Andrew had learned the art of being a chameleon at school where his school uniform provided an exoskeleton.  Beneath was no costume, just the fragile skin of adolescent ego.
“At least I don’t wear my underpants on the outside,” said Andrew. 
“Yeah, but you’d look good in spandex,” said Jackson and they both fell about laughing. 
“We’d better hurry,” said Andrew as they entered the school’s grounds.
Andrew and Jackson took their seats on the left of the classroom, just back from the middle.  It gave them a good vantage point to see Emily who preferred the front.  Mrs Motherwell came in and the class sat up in Pavlovian response, eager for their marks.  The chat escalated as papers were returned and marks were compared.  Andrew said thanks as the paper was delivered but he turned it face down, resisting the urge to look.  He wanted to wait until Emily had received hers. 
Mrs Motherwell handed Emily her paper who glanced quickly at the offending red mark at the top of the page before turning it face down on her desk. 
“Emily, what’d you get?” said Andrew.
“Eighteen out of twenty,” she replied.
Andrew whipped his paper over to see his mark.  Every superhero has an Achilles heel, their kryptonite.  Andrew succumbed to the most basic of tragic flaws. 
“Ha! In your face, Lewis.  Twenty!”  His hubris exalted him to dizzying heights.
Emily turned to hide her face, the shame of ridicule blushing her cheeks.
Mrs Motherwell interceded, “Mr Andrew Hansen.  That is uncalled for.  Despite the fact that you scored a perfect mark, it does not give you the right to gloat over us mere mortals.  In the words of King Solomon, ‘Pride precedes disaster, and a haughty spirit before a fall.’ ”
Jackson hid a smirk.  “You got burned.”
“I knew it was a mistake once I’d said it.”
“Looks like The Quiet Achiever is no more.  But you know every superhero needs a nemesis.”
Andrew spent the rest of the lesson feeling naked and exposed.  Suddenly his identity was no longer a secret.  He kept sneaking glances towards Emily, but never held his gaze for long.  The bell for the end of class came as a relief for Andrew.  He stood to pack away his books but was confronted by the stormy face of Emily inches away from his own.
“I will beat you Andrew Hansen, if it’s the last thing I ever do.”
She turned and as she flounced away, her dark tresses flowed like a cape.

© Adam Byatt 2010

Adam Byatt is an English teacher and a drummer with an interest in literary pursuits, rhythmic permutations, theological amplifications and comedic outbursts.  He inhabits the cracks around the following websites:

52 Pick-Up

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Guest Writer: Grey Johnson

Staying True to Her

Not all of her extra weight came off after the baby, and it made me want to slip up behind her and circle her chubby waist with my arms. I feel protective when I look at her in her swimsuit. The cut of it stirs me up, it makes me want to kneel and plead, to worship her legs, even with their bits of cottage cheese. Maybe I should have knelt and pleaded before the baby, to keep things the same, but I wasn’t given the chance. Seeing that she is busy at the kitchen counter, I decide to let my arms hang quiet and still empty, so they can't interrupt her. My arms are not becoming accustomed to this, even now.

We used to lie on the sofa and watch TV together, head to toe. Sometimes we even ate from the same plate. Picking up the last bite, and pushing against my lips, she liked to command me to eat it. I like that, more so now than then, because it doesn‘t happen anymore. One summer we spent so much time on yard work that we sweat-stained the seats in my truck, and I had to sell it because we couldn't get the smell out. Whenever we pruned or planted, we didn’t talk at all, and the quiet was never heavy.

Then came her baby fever, which was unimaginable to me after all our time together. And just before the baby came, she moved an hour away from me with her husband. The distance to her became far enough away for it to be a pain in the ass to visit, but close enough to feel guilty for not doing it. I didn’t see her get big because I didn’t really want to, and I tried to knit a blanket even though I never finished it. I still wonder why they moved, wanting to know whose idea it was first. Probably hers.

Today we are taking her little boy to the beach with Grandma. Snacks are packed, and she absently places my towel in her bag without telling me. She loans me a travel bottle that matches hers. I am thrilled by these small gestures, and I feel embarrassed by my hope for some secret importance in them. Whenever we go anywhere, she always drives, and when her mother rides with us in the car, I volunteer to sit in the back seat with him. So now my role is to laugh and talk with a little boy as he points out the window, naming everything that passes. His favorite place is the mini-golf spot with the pirate ship. She says he likes to play there, pretending to shoot down helpless ships and steal their treasures.

You know you are lonely in the back seat of a car when the only conversation you can produce consists of one loud question and one pitiful response. My question to the front is, "Have you seen Avatar?" My companions put aside their dread, and tell the truth by saying no. I am compelled to enlighten them about the many excellent characteristics of the movie, the most important one being that Avatar is not hype. “Really, it is so much more than you might expect, not hype at all,” I spout. When I finish, I need a drink from the travel bottle I borrowed, but I have to get her little boy to show me how to do it. He sweetly shows me the button, how to push it, and says “See?” with perfect concern for me. I watch his dirty Crocs thump the back of the driver’s seat and wonder if it is still annoying or whether she has just become accustomed to it.

When we get to the beach, he rejoices in the water. She grasps his hand and he jumps fearlessly through the waves. I watch him with great interest, as I always do, for his strength and spirit are a beautiful reflection of hers. Their eyes and hair were crafted from the same precious stuff. That fact makes looking at him a challenge to my heart. Each time he crawls in my lap, and I brush against his skin, I am reminded that it is probably the closest contact I will ever have with her. Whenever we three are together, I think that this will be the day that I learn to accept things as they are. But as they play in the surf before me right now, I can barely meet her eyes and return her smile. But I do smile, when I pretend that what once was mine has never gone.

© Grey Johnson 2010

Grey Johnson lives in a small town in northeastern South Carolina. Her garden is very important to her, and so are her dogs. She reads and knits rectangles, but seldom knows what to do with them. She doesn’t have a blog or website, but writes some on the Six Sentence Social Network.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Guest Writer: Peter McNiff

Anger Management

                         There’s a rocket in my pocket
                         Play it cool boy, play it cool....
                         —Stephen Sondheim West Side Story

My friends tell me I am much too serious and you know, I think they are right. I need to lighten up a little, stop thinking about all those bad things we are doing to each other, you know, us having all the jobs and taking all the profits from those other countries that we keep wrecking.
So, I made my mind up I’m going to be positive, rid myself of those negative thoughts about people dying of starvation, murders, drug cartels, police and political corruption, soldiers coming home in coffins; and as for those among them who lost their legs or arms, or brains, fighting for me and you because that’s, well, downbeat right?
I need only to think of the freedom I have, the space, the sea, the mountains, the good air I have to breathe, and the fact that where I live I can write and photograph just about any damn thing that pleases me. I can sit here on this park bench and write poetry or cross the street to that fine bank with its marble walls and daub it with graffiti and nobody will shoot me because I live in a democracy, thanks to all the good cops, politicians and soldiers, and civilian men and women who in times past put their lives on the line for me. Well, yes and for you, too, I suppose but I know you don’t want to talk about that. So, let’s not dwell on their suffering for too long — when for example, one of them takes a bullet in the face, or steps on an APM. We don’t ever want to think about that.
Nice — nice abbreviation there, don’t you think? APM, it keeps the horror of its real meaning tucked neatly out of sight, all wrapped in a soft acronym, hiding what it really is, an anti personnel mine, a bomb that just sits there waiting for you to step on it and then boom it blows you into little pieces. Or if not you, an innocent on the way to market to sell a few vegetables, or a child or a woman and child or an entire family—but there I go again. I mean, I must be positive and think of the jobs created in the manufacturing sector from making munitions that blow up human beings, towns, cities and continents, like those ingenious fragmentation phosphorous bombs and armour piercing shells that can punch holes through concrete and ricochet around the inside if a armoured tank, or maybe someone’s private house, wrecking things, furniture, ornaments, school books, family photographs while killing the living in them, grandma, mama, papa, brothers, sisters, and maybe leaving just one family individual to remember the dreadfulness of it all. Oh, and the cat, the shelling missed the cat, so that’s OK. That’s good.
Yes, I must be more optimistic and think of the profits that go into corporate pockets and arms dealers’ wallets and the backhanders that are paid to the people to induce them to buy this warhead over that warhead, this chopper over that chopper. That must be delightful, right? Spreading the largesse around?
Later, not much later, downstream are stationed all the other private companies with their safety nets, the sub contractors who handle the ancillaries like security, drugs, wheelchairs, coffins, insurance, and so on and so forth, all focussed on picking up the pieces and so having employment and a few dollars in their pockets to buy a meal and enjoy a DVD or a Superman comic.
Really, I do need to listen to my friends more when they talk about football and movies and books because this will get me right back on track. I shall talk about something happy and fragrant, like flowers for instance but without mentioning the blooms they put on coffins or the wreathes they lay on the graves of dead soldiers and dead peace-making civil servants and journalists shot up in the name of the Fourth Estate.
Another thing, I must resolve to stop going to the airport to salute the poor bastards they bring home in wheelchairs and on stretchers, and crack down on my impulse to expose what is going on by writing it up and expect big headlines and double-page spreads in newspapers and magazines that I used to write for. Because enough is enough, it is too sickening. It might offend the readers, not to mention advertisers. I mean we don’t want messy stories with gory pictures about the maimed and the dead, anymore than we need to keep going on and on reminding ourselves of the losses and cost to families and to the budgets of the nations involved, when it will all be taken care of in the future by our grandchildren’s great-grandchildren who will inherit all our wisdom and live forever in peace? Right?

Which reminds me, I got some good advice from an editor recently who made his name as a fashion writer and gossip columnist, before he made it in the big-time: “If we must place those awful pictures of the wounded and starving refugees adjacent to our glossy corporate brand names, once a year might be fine, say, around Christmas and Thanksgiving when the advertising is down a tad. It is all very well to remind ourselves about such matters occasionally but, the economy being in the state it is in, we need the commercials. Any of you who feel compunction towards this kind of material, edit the stuff tightly and slip it inside, towards the back of the journal with the horoscope. Say, ten lines and we can lose it in a single column between the big display ads. And then we can salve our consciences and the conscience of our readers all in one, right?”
“Thanks, Ed. No, really, thanks very much — ‘chop it all up and boil it down’ — got that. And if you like, I will just print the dog in the picture; I mean a dog’s eyes are symbolic enough, are they not? And you can, like, airbrush out the blood on the doorstep?”
“I like your attitude. It’s good. Advertisers appreciate when we do this for them because they come right back with even bigger commercials. You wait and see. They want self-censorship — they’ve come to the right place.”

From now on I am going to focus on wholesome things like porridge and rice pudding, salads and beefburgers and write passionately about delicious recipes, arts and crafts and sod the poor and the bleeders.
Already I can feel the change coming over me, just as my psychotherapist said it would. I mean I actually feel lighter, as if the town sewerage works just relieved itself. Really, my feet are not sticky any more.
From now on I am going to concentrate on things that make me laugh. All I have to do is close my eyes and think of other things. Think of nothingness. Make my mind a complete blank. But...I can still hear the gunfire and the rumble of tanks and sordid pictures flood into my mind of children with bloated bellies and flies crawling out of their mouths.
Wait, I think some one’s coming this way....I’ll ask this man.
“Oh, Sir, excuse me, Sir. If you wouldn’t mind, Sir, could you just place those pieces of cardboard over my head?  Thanks, that’s great. No, I don’t need your money; give that to the guy over there with the crazy look in his eyes. And, Sir — would you mind covering the rest of my torso with the copy of the Wall Street Journal you have in your hand. That would give me a bit of class and thank you, Sir. I think it’s going to be frosty tonight.”
Now I don’t have to look at anything, I can lie out here with the homeless and destitute and the drug addicted and the vets who came back from Vietnam, whenever that was and still they are rolling around in wheelchairs. They may look as if they are home, but really, I know for a fact that white haired guy over there is still stuck in a trench in the Tet Offensive.
On the bright side, they were all children once, innocent with age and now they have lots of new friends for company home from Iraq and Afghanistan who have lost their childhood, too, and can share memories about the war with their buddies in the public library on the worst days of winter.
“Oh, and, Sir — excuse me, Sir, before you go, would you just reach out and toggle the switch on my laptop, otherwise it will just go on and on churning and I know how sick and tired all my friends are with this stuff.”
I get so tired myself these days, because there is not a damn thing I can do except write and take photographs of the people around me who sleep in doorways and park benches, people whose anger was once a given.
“Yes, Sir, that’s the button you have your finger on just hit the swit—“

© Peter McNiff 2010

Peter McNiff, current affairs producer based in Ireland, independent documentary film maker and web designer; short fiction broadcast by RTE and BBC; included in short story anthologies published by Heinemann (London) and Phoenix (London).  Has a Jacobs Award for television work; a Hennessy/Irish Press/New Irish Writing award; Cultural Person of the Year (2004) in his home town Greystones, Co. Wicklow.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Guest Writer: Paul de Denus

Murderer’s Road

The road ran an empty mile, straight to the Gulf of Mexico. North, it sandwiched neat between prehistoric land where snarled tangles of branch filled a landscape of dune and swamp. A thousand burned sticks, tall and barren rose to a burning blue sky.
Nuketown, Sillinger mumbled. He shifted slightly on his seat and leaned against the van door. Beyond his windshield, he watched convicts lay sod.

There were four of them dressed in baggy prison gray. Jim Davis, a black, Walt Henley and Johnny Watt, trailer-whites and Hector Chochu, an Indian or Mexican maybe. Sillinger fired up another cigarette and sucked the smoke deep down into his lungs. He looked at his watch. It was almost nine.

Closing his eyes, he took in a deep breath. He’d lost track of the years, four… five, sitting screw-ups who landscaped and constructed nothing in the middle of swampland. Saved taxpayers money, they said. Big money. He started to drift. His eyes were heavy, just another minute, he thought. Convicts weren’t going anywhere. They were ‘shorty’s’ doing lesser times for their aggravated crimes-- assault, robbery, drugs and trafficking. No murderers slipping away here, nowhere to run to anyway.

His thoughts shifted to Brenda. Darlin’ Brenda, love of his life. They’d been adrift for months. It didn’t help she was away much of the time.
It’s DEA Ray, she had said. The Sabina case is my case. What do you want me to do, quit? This case means a lot; it’s everything.
A Federal agent, she spent much of her time in Coyoacan securing the deal for drug lord Eduard Sabina and his family members and it was almost done. She had trailed the accounts, the deals and was now ready to move on him. Just a few loose ends, she had said. Then it’d be over.

This ain’t no Boy Scout outing.
Sillinger jumped. His eyes popped open to Jerry Remy, scowling at him through the open cab window. Remy’s eyes were black and dead, his ruddy pockmarked face expressionless. He wore an ivory white handlebar mustache that dripped down below his chin; a tight red bandana surrounded the top of his head, a pump-action shotgun at his side.
These boys need an ass kickin’, he said. You might want to get off yours and give me some help.
Sillinger crushed his cigarette and climbed out of the cab. They stood side by side and watched convicts kick dirt and lay sod. A single hawk flew low over them, its shadow crossing like a dark omen. It would turn out so.
What time is it?
Nine-o-three, Sillinger said, eyeing his watch.
Get these pricks moving then. Truck‘ll be here soon.
Remy eased across the road. He nodded at the Mexican.
Get that barrow over on this side, and then added in a mocking tone, mucho pronto amigo.
Without expression, Chochu dropped his rake and picked up the waiting wheelbarrow holding broken soil and a busted spade shovel. Sillinger made his way down the road toward the others, kicking the ground absently. Only Remy seemed to notice the car slowly creeping down the road toward them from the north.

He’s sleeping with her, Sillinger thought, shuffling through the dust. That much he knew about Jerry Remy. He had no proof, only a feeling. But he knew. Ahead, Watt and Henley unrolled sod sections in the simmering morning heat, stomping them haphazardly into place. Davis was further up raking debris off to the side. Cicadas and blue jays chirped relentlessly from the surrounding swamp, a chaotic distraction, a warning. Watt stopped and looked up the road toward Davis, shielding his eyes from the morning glare. Sillinger looked up to see the car approaching, a sleek black Lincoln Continental that stopped next to Davis. As Sillinger approached, he was surprised to see his wife Brenda’s smiling face perched behind the wheel.

She watched Sillinger. My husband, the fool, she thought. That Remy too, swaying and grinning just beyond like death in a withering heat haze. Remy had believed her about everything; about ridding herself of Sillinger, the easy access to the Sabina drug money, springing the guy for a big payoff. It was all setup. Yes, she had slept with Remy to secure his participation, to get them isolated, to seal the deal. But now there would be another deal.

Davis stepped off toward the ditch as Sillinger leaned in the open window on the passenger side.
What ya doin’ here, Bren?
He scanned the interior.
Where in hell ‘ya get this car?
I bought it for me, she said smiling. It’s a bonus from the Sabina case. I brought you something too.
A delayed smile crossed Sillinger’s face. He glanced back at Remy who had not moved. His dark eyes appeared to shine. What is she doing here, he thought? He never saw it coming.
Brenda was quick. The blue silver revolver fired two shots through Sillinger’s head, wiping the confused smile from his face. The first bullet dropped him to his knees like a sinner on Sunday. The second removed his left cheek and ear but he was already dead. He toppled over backward and was still. Remy grinned. He was impressed. He had been sure that when it went down, she wouldn’t pull the trigger but she had, quite easily and it was his last sure thought. The broken shovel handle entered the base of his neck just above the top vertebrae. The broken point exited his throat and he grasped it with his right hand. Remy’s dead black eyes were alive. They bulged from their sockets and he half turned, dropping his shotgun and gurgled nothing to Chochu standing there. Then there was no more. Chochu squatted and picked up the shotgun. Both Henley and Watt were running and he methodically took them down. Davis hadn’t moved from beside the ditch. He smiled up at the open cobalt sky. He didn’t say a word. Brenda squeezed the trigger, emptying the gun into him.

Hector “Cho” Sabina stepped over Sillinger and got in the car.
How you doing baby? Brenda said.
I see my father got you the money and our ride. Drive.
The Lincoln’s wheels spun shards of gravel and stone as they fishtailed down the road. Two hawks flew high above them, sitting silent on the wind.

© Paul de Denus 2010

"Writing makes me nauseous. I usually vomit up a bunch of words and hope to clean them up later."
Paul de Denus is a graphic artist by day, writer by night. He has been published at Six Sentences (the Love Book, Word of Mouth & 6Svol3), Smith Magazine, Fictionaut and Espresso Stories.
Other writings and self published books appear at his blogspot:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Guest Writer: Mike Whitney

Looking Ahead at the Past - Expecting Deus ex Machina


RealPeople™ Cubicle 23-D
Lost Vegas Sim World
2043 Post Apoc.

"Mom likes me best."
"Does not."
"Does, too."
"Not. Ow. Big bully. I-give-I-give. Big bully. I’m telling. MOM!"
RealParent™ Maxine glided through the portal, her arm pads akimbo. Her screen flashed angrily. Mongo, stop hitting your brother. Go to your cave.
"Aw, Mom."
"Go interact with your cave-mate, Bev. I mean it, Mongo. Go to your past right now."
"But, Mom. Bev is no fun. She makes me hunt and keep the cave clean."
"You heard me. Or I’ll tell your father."
As Maxine reversed direction to resume monitoring her 'story', End of the Days of Our Lives, her FaceTube came back on: "You can tell by the way I parse my talk, I'm a ladies' clone, no time to squawk..."
The brothers waited till their motherboard had left the day unit and resumed fighting.



Last night, huddled for warmth against Bev, I dreamed a white bird with a long, graceful neck flew straight to me - from a small speck in the blue sky, growing larger until it landed on my shoulder. There it made cooing sounds while it groomed its feathers. I sat still, not wanting to disturb the little miracle. Then it pooped on me.


Flowers smell good, pulled some for Bev. I'm worried about our binary-fission son. He's a terrible hunter and I'm thinking it's likely Melvin is a proto-vegan PETA beta version who thinks his father is a Neanderthal, but really he's a Cro-Magnon. It's your typical father-son millennium gap. And he seems too attached to Bev... at the nipple.


Hot enough? Note to self, invent shoes. Ground hot, rocks and stones burn! Caught a saber-toothed tiger today that was too tired to run, tongue all hanging out.


The leaf color and the sunsets are just so darn pretty. I love this time of year. Note to self: consider building a Rudy Valley theme resort ala West World ... well, when time is right. Long time, maybe....

Time passed. A spot of drool formed at the corner of the Cro-Borg's mouth, ran down his bearded chin and disappeared.


North of Los Angeles - 210 Freeway

When Central Dispatch's Gate bot mistakenly set Mongo down in the middle of present day rush hour instead of his cave home in prehistoric Rudy Valley, traffic was, as usual, gridlocked in all directions; a woman in an SUV was on her cell phone informing her husband that she was running late when suddenly she screamed,
"Jack, I have to hang up. There's a hairy seven foot man banging on my hood. I swear, these squeegee men get crazier every day. Where's a cop when you need one? Omigawd, Harry, he’s HUGE! GET AWAY FROM MY CAR! Jack, he's coming to my window... Ewww what's that SMELL?"
The chip-implanted Cro-Borg, intending only to ask his location in time and space, took umbrage at this rather accurate description of his personal hygiene and signaled his displeasure with the middle finger gesture ubiquitous throughout the known universes.
Diane's shock level trebled as the Null Gate bot analyzed its glitch and abruptly warped Mongo out of L.A., leaving only a bad smell that made Diane roll up her window; next a quick cortex wipe plus zone-out of three other witnesses, leaving the impression she had made the whole thing up to vent her impatience with the traffic,
"Jack, she thought in the next second, will so get it. God, I love that man."
A quick ripple of pleasure through her groin to aid forgetfulness, and the bot's time tweaks were complete.

"This new firewood make cave smell funny. Not funny strange, funny ha-ha. I could eat a dinosaur. I am a dinosaur. A big T. Rex, see my funny little arms?"
The Cro-Magnon steps out of the cave for a look at the star-filled night. "Whoa... it's getting near dawn...
.. duh duh da DUH the sunshine of your... "
Silence stretches on and on. Finally lowering his gaze from the sky, Mongo closes his mouth with an audible clack, and a bone in his neck pops, "... getting near dawn...duh duh da duh."
From inside the cave, comes Bev's sleepy voice. "Mongo, stop singing and come back to bed, it's still dark outside, you could be eaten by something. I'm cold, put another stick on the fire. Does the fire smell funny to you? I'm hungry, are you hungry, MONGOOOOO!"

Bev paces cave and glances warily at infant son Melvin, now 16,
so named for loin cloth that constantly rides up in back. Her red eyes show strain of parenting: lack of sleep, pain of nursing, and total lack of diapers. Melvin's refusal to be weaned is turning into big problem. Mongo remains oblivious to son's unresolved Oedipal conflict. Melvin sees no conflict, likes status quo.
"Mongo, Melvin can't be our son. We still not figure out kissing yet. I sleep alone in twin-sized stone bed till you discover bathing. How can he be ours?"
"Mongo not understand confusion over Melvin's strange appearance
and behavior. Is simple matter of binary fission." Mongo's normal blank
expression narrowed into a thousand yard stare. His eyes glazed over and
in a strange voice he recited. ".. is method of asexual reproduction
that involves splitting parent cell into two approximately equal parts."
Bev stared hard at her hirsute misadventurer, "Bev going home to Zuk Zuk. He make me brush after every meal, but him only speak in one voice. This cave not big enough for all of you. Bev never alone with Mongo."
Mongo shuffles shyly through cave fire, singeing hair from feet. Gently taking Bev's crusted hand, he mumbles into his beard, "Zuk Zuk big fool to let Bev get away."
"Oh, Mongo."

Mongo tensed against the presence, the light blinding him, the voice speaking as if inside him. He shut his eye lids tightly against the brilliance of the penetrating beam. It burned inside his brain. Terror turned his skin cold and clammy while his heart pounded in his chest. His hands locked over his ears to protect against the sound; a futile gesture. Seconds ticked by like hours.
"What?!" he shouted. The spell broken by his motherboard's voice, he morphed back into a present many years from now. He brought his gaze back into focus. Two hours had passed. He rubbed his eyes.
"Dinner! Have you finished your homework?"
"Almost, just a little bit longer."
The light intensified. Against his will, he felt himself losing control, slipping, sliding. He tried to brace himself, but it was hopeless. He surrendered to a power greatly than himself, which so far included everyone.
"Here we go, one more push, PUSH! That's it, gooood."
RealDoctor Brown deftly plucked the child up into his hands, while Nurse4, midwife unit, cut the cord and set the chip implant. The child was already shrieking in dismay at this new cold dry place where breathing required a new skill set.
"Congratulations, RealParent Maxine. It's a boy. And a machine."

Mongo has been in the shop and now sports a new chip implant. This means disk wipes cannot erase or delete him.
Back in the future waits Bev, his mortal cave mate. She is a technophobe, born to tree dwellers, but blessed with aptitude and larger frontal lobes. Bev has decided to go on Mongo's next time-traveling field trip even though she is frightened by the frog eggs in a blender feeling during molecular reintegration.
Over the years since Mongo captured her from a band of wandering Neanderthals, Bev has grown sick and tired of waiting in the cave for Mongo to return with stories of his adventures. This is always followed by the inevitable hair drag into the moonlight or high noon sun without so much as a questioning grunt. However, to make these trips, she will require the same RealPeople™ chip upgrade.
She has decided that if he can make these time hops, so can she.
Bev looked up at the holographic sign at the entrance to Tampa's Time Transit Authority:

"Mongo, where do you want to go today?"
The Cro-Borg began to speak, then paused before continuing, "Where would YOU like to go today, dear?"
"You are a quick study, you beast. Why did I wait so long to time-travel with you?"
Mongo began to speak, caught himself and stopped. He was doing more catching and stopping these days and far less dragging and pointing.
He missed the old days.

© Mike Whitney 2010

Mike Whitney was born in Chicago. He lives on a hillside in western North Carolina with only implanted memories of how he got there.

MDJB at GoodReads

Michael D. Brown's books on Goodreads Bastille Day reviews: 2 ratings: 3 (avg rating 5.00...