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

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. Rick 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. Kai shook his head.  He had been watching the animal of prey through his rifle's scope as well, but never put his finger on the trigger.  "You're insane.  That's an endangered species.  We'd be in a lot of trouble if you get caught, you know." "Caught?" Rick let out a short laugh and glanced around before putting his eye back to the scope.  "We're out in the middle of the Rockies in January.  No game warden is out here.  Besides, that whole 'endangered species' bit is insane, not me.  I'm saving the innocent animals it'll kill." Kal sat on a large rock and leaned against a pine. "The law's the law.  We have to obey it." "Why?" Rick turned to Kal, his eyes cold.  "Laws change. They're all relative.  First we protect them, then we can kill them.  Now, just because they're dying out, they're protected by laws again.  But I don't have to obey them.  I can choose to ignore them and I do." Kai looked away. "It's wrong.  There's a reason why laws are made to protect some species.  Otherwise, they'll be extinct soon." Rick shrugged.  "So what?  Dinosaurs are extinct, aren't they?  Animals die off over the years.  That's how nature works.  It's called evolution, a law of nature.  Now we're the top of the heap. " He turned away and looked through his scope.  "Ah-ha.  Now I see why it went up that tree." A doe was at the stream, drinking.  She would raise her head every few moments, fearfully glancing from side to side, then drink again.  She wandered through the stream, towards the predator's tree.  Rick put his finger back on the trigger, but didn't have a clear shot. As the doe walked under the tree, the predator dropped onto her back, then went for her neck.  In seconds it was over and the doe was down, bleeding heavily from the gash in her neck.  The predator wasted no time and started dragging the doe away, probably to its cave.  No doubt its pack was there, ready to tear the deer apart and devour it. "Gotcha," Rik muttered as he pulled the trigger. The crack of the .300 magnum rifle echoed like a sonic boom as the heavy gun bucked against Rik's shoulder.  The bullet hit the beast of prey, the impact slamming it to the ground.  As Rik pulled open the bolt and rammed home another round, the creature painfully crawled ...
Read More
Parts Is Parts

Parts Is Parts

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?" I nodded.  "So tell me about the salvage business.  I understand your father started your company." Running a calloused hand through his thinning gray hair, he sighed.  "Well, it's changed a lot since I started working for the old man back, oh, almost forty-two years ago now.  When he started the company, it was a business for rugged individualists, ya know, who were willing to bust their asses to make a buck.  My golfing buddies never say it, but I know they look down on me for working in a business that got my hands dirty-I mean really dirty and greasy.  I could buy and sell most of them duffers now and I sure don't get my hands dirty anymore." After a short chuckle, he continued. "Fred's Auto Salvage and Towing.  Fred was my old man's name. We'd tow in cars from accidents.  If they were totaled out, a lot of times we could buy them from the insurance companies for cheap.  Then we'd part 'em out.  Salvaging parts made so much money that we stopped towing and just bought wrecks to part out." Willis took his boots off his desk and sat up, leaning forward.  "When my old man finally let me run the business, I did't just let it coast.  I heard somewhere that if a business ain't growing, it's dying.  I didn?t want it to die, but the old man fought me every turn. 'Parts is parts,' he used to say, 'and it ain't got to be fancy to make money.'" But after he died, I started doing  all the stuff he would't let me do." I sipped some bitter coffee from my Styrofoam cup.  "What kind of changes did you make?" He grinned and tapped his forehead with his finger. "Maybe I ain't got a college degree, but I can still use the old noggin.  First, I changed the name of my company from Fred's Auto Salvage and Towing to F.A.S.T. Recycling.  A lot more professional sounding, don't ya think? I modernized it.  Like, who's going to pay much for a greasy part thumped down on a greasy counter?  I set it up so we stripped the cars down to the frame when they rolled in, steam cleaned the parts and shrink-wrapped 'em.  Even gave a ten day guarantee.  Most guys had a 'you bought it, it's yours' policy.  After all, they're used.  But I sold them for twice as much and still got twice as many customers." I shifted in my uncomfortable grey, metal chair.  "Sounds like you've made many improvements to the family ...
Read More
Probing Feelings

Probing Feelings

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. Damn him, Jane thought as her face turned red with angry embarrassment. The bastard gets off on using me as the butt of his jokes. And look at all the sycophants joining in the kill, laughing their heads off. "Please excuse the lapse, Dr. Wynn. I have spent many hours on this project and such anthropomorphizing can occur. It even crosses gender lines. As you are well aware, men termed ships and even hurricanes as feminine for a long time, although now hurricanes have their fair share of violent males." "Quite so," mumbled Dr. Wynn as he shuffled his papers. "Well, I think we need to keep close watch on this project. It could go sour at any time if we are not careful. Don't the rest of you agree?" "I agree totally, Dr. Wynn," piped in Dr. Simkins. "We should look to the ways to gain the best information, no matter how it affects our original plans." The little toady will agree to anything Wynn suggests, Jane mused. He wants Wynn's position when the old frog retires. Hmm, I seem to be hung up on reptiles. I mean amphibians. Anyway, they?re all cold-blooded creatures. She had started on the Icarus team as merely one ...
Read More

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*