Short Stories

Short Stories – Saying Much In Few Words

A revolving selection from short stories I wrote in years past.  They are mainly sci-fi or futuristic, some published and some not.  I warn you that these were written twenty or more years ago, so be gentle in your criticism.

A Matter of Law

Rik rested his cheek against the cold stock of his rifle, looking through the scope.  He watched the predator warily edging through the trees in the glen below.  It stopped and drank from the stream.  Rik rested his finger on the trigger.  Suddenly, the creature stopped drinking and raised its head, as if sensing something.  Quickly, it slipped back into the cover of the trees and climbed a willow.  Although it was winter, with patchy snow on the ground and no leaves on the willow, the height of the branches took the predator out of the visual range of any prey wandering through the forest below.  The tree branches also impaired Rik’s line of fire. 

Rik relaxed, but kept his cross hairs on the tree where the predator hid.  He lay prone on a granite boulder, watching.  “I should have fired when I had a chance,” he muttered.

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A December Dirge

The old man stared out the window, watching the snow drifting down behind the cut-glass panes.  At least he thought it was snow.  It could be his blurred vision.  The reflection of the twinkling Christmas tree lights made it even harder to be sure.  He blinked his eyes, wishing he could rub them.  Ever since the stroke, he couldn’t even lift a hand.  Mutely, he watched, unable to turn his head to see who was speaking behind him.  He knew it was Fred, but what he was saying was indistinct, undecipherable.  Every so often he would understand a word and tried to make sense of what was being said, but they were disjointed, solitary.  Christmas.  Family.  Will.  They were understandable, but they didn’t make sense.  He sighed.  If only he had listened to the warnings.

Read the whole story . . .

Parts is Parts
(Currently published on Devilfish Review.)

Willis Williams leaned back in his time-worn oak desk chair and relit his half-chewed cigar.  His white shirt stretched tightly across his ample waistline.  It spoke of too many beers and pizzas.  His Levis were held up by a wide leather belt with a big silver buckle.  With his black western boots propped on the desk and his bolo tie, you’d expect his business to be cattle rather than salvage.

He eyed my recorder suspiciously.  “Sure that thing’s on?”

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Probing Feelings                                                                                                         (Published by the now-defunct Writing Raw ezine)

To head a department at NASA you had to be smart, competent and efficient.  To be a woman and head a department at NASA you had to be very smart, very competent and very efficient.  You also had to be strong-willed, a bit cold, and just plain tough.  Jane Graham filled all the above.  As head of the Icarus project, she sat in the meeting of the department and project heads as an equal.

Dr. Wynn, the chair of the meeting, turned to her with a smug smile.  “I think we have covered the Ares Project adequately.  Let’s move on to the problems with Dr. Graham’s Icarus.”  Looking over the top of his thick-lensed glasses, his bushy, white eyebrows were raised questioningly.

Why does he always do that? Jane wondered.  It’s as if any problem, technical design or programming, is my fault.  The fat little frog never had an original thought in his life, and now wants to find some fault with my idea.  What a petty little man.

“The problem is minor.”  She pondered the sharpened pencil she was tapping before looking Dr. Wynn straight in the eye as she continued.  “The decay of circuitry should be expected.  Although the sun is an excellent power source, the heat and radiation are unknown factors in equipment life.  No other probes have ever been so close to the sun or taken such punishment.  We should be pleased for the wealth of data the probe has provided thus far, and take that data as long as the probe provides it.  We cannot, however, expect him to provide it forever.  No probe lasts forever.”

Dr. Wynn’s eyebrows rose even higher, this time with a cynical amusement.

“Him?  Dr. Graham, does a probe have a gender?”  Dr Wynn chuckled as he looked around the room for appreciation of his humor.

Read the whole short story…

My Mother Never Said                                                                                                   (Flash Fiction currently published on the Dan O’Brien Project and on Ineffective Ink)

My mother never said “I love you” to my father. I knew she really did. Love him, that is. If he were even a few minutes late coming home from work, she would worry. It was a long drive and she would wonder aloud if he had been in an accident, nervously basting the roast to keep it from drying out or stirring the soup to keep it from sticking. But when he walked in the door, it was “What took you so long?” and a glare rather than “I love you,” and a kiss. When I did see her kiss him, like when my two sisters and I threw them a surprise party on their 40th wedding anniversary, it was quickly and self-consciously. And without the words, “I love you.” Why was it so hard for her to say those three words to my father when she could say them to us children? Perhaps it was because my grandmother, widowed when my mother was an infant, never provided a role model. Maybe in her early, formative years, she never heard a woman say them to a man. I am no psychologist, so I can only speculate. Could anyone say why with certainty? At my father’s funeral, I thought I saw her mouth those three words to his body, lying cold and dead in the casket, as she rested her hand on the hard, varnished wood. Even then, she never said them aloud.

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