Free Fiction Thursday – My Father, the Popsicle

Good morning, everyone! We’re back on Thursday this week. Yay!

I don’t know about you, but at my house we’re gearing up for Thanksgiving, which seems very early this year to me. I’m just not ready for turkey day. I finally started cubing and drying out day-old bread for stuffing, and tomorrow night I go out to my friendly neighborhood Trader Joe’s on the hunt for a turkey that weighs less than twenty pounds. Wish me luck!

Now on to the free story. This week we have “My Father, the Popsicle,” a story about a girl who believed she was an orphan, right up until the day she got a letter concerning her father, who’s not quite as dead as she thought. Enjoy!

 

My Father, The Popsicle

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

Cover art Copyright Thierry Maffeis at Dreamstime.com

Jodi thought she was an orphan until one sweltering Thursday night in late June when she received The Letter from Billingsly, Wendham & Owens, Attorneys at Law.

That’s how she always thought of it after that.  The Letter.  Wasn’t that how you were supposed to think about things that changed your life?  Capitalized and important?

At first she thought the whole thing was a joke.  She’d just worked a double shift at Hot Dog on a Stick in the new mall south of town.  She was dead tired and sick of the smell of lemons, corn dog batter, and hot grease.  Her head hurt from pulling up her hair under that stupid striped hat, her shoulders ached from all the fresh lemonade she had to mix, and to top it all off, the air conditioning had been out on the bus ride home.  To say the bus had been fragrant was the understatement of the century.  She was in no mood for jokes.  Her roommate Harry had a pretty twisted sense of humor.  A fake letter from an attorney was just his style, but tonight the joke wasn’t funny.

“I ought to rip him a new one,” Jodi muttered as she opened her front door.  “Hear that, Harry?” she said to her empty apartment.  “I ought to rip you a new one.”

Not that Harry would be home yet.  Harry worked as a bartender at the only gay club in town.  Tonight he was on swing shift.  Whether he could hear her or not, after a day spent swallowing the snappy comebacks she wanted to make to clueless customers whose IQ wasn’t much higher than the hotdogs they ate, muttering about Harry’s lack of humor sure as hell made her feel better.

Still, the envelope did look kind of authentic.

Jodi dropped her keys and the rest of the mail on the coffee table.  It was all junk mail flyers and offers for credit cards neither one of them could afford, so it didn’t much matter where she left it.  She plopped down on the couch she’d rescued from a second-hand store, slipped off her sensible, style-free shoes so she could stretch her toes into the carpet, and ripped open the envelope.

She skimmed through the introductory stuff.  Dear Ms. blah-blah-blah I represent more blah-blah-blah bankrupt estate.  The word assets caught Jodi’s eye, but the word that brought her up short was father.

What?

If this was Harry’s idea of a joke, it definitely wasn’t funny.  He knew she had no sense of humor when it came to her family, or lack thereof.

She ended up reading The Letter three times in a row, each time with an ever-increasing shakiness in the pit of her stomach, not to mention a growing sense of unreality.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – A Most Unserious Dragon

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Thunder Valley Press has been doing some fun things with my short fiction.  In addition to publishing the five-story collections which I’ve been featuring for the past few weeks, they’ve been pairing up my stories kinda like the old Ace Doubles, only with short fiction. Cool, right?

This week’s Free Fiction Thursday story is from one of my first short-fiction doubles. “A Most Unserious Dragon” is one of two stories I’ve written about Mordived, a dragon who doesn’t want to slay knights and eat virgins — he’d rather do stand-up. Thanks to the fine folks at Thunder Valley Press, when you buy either “A Most Unserious Dragon” or my follow-up story about Mordived — “A Most Romantic Dragon” — from Amazon, the iBookstore, or Smashwords, you get both stories at once. Nifty!

A whole bunch of my short stories are now available as doubles, and I’m told there will be more to come. For now though, I hope you enjoy “A Most Unserious Dragon.”

 

A Most Unserious Dragon

Annie Reed

Copyright © 2011 Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Cover and layout Copyright © 2011 Thunder Valley Press

Cover art Copyright 10-19-10 © julien Tromeur

Dragons, or so Mordived’s father told him often and most sternly, were very serious creatures.

“Our birthright is to rule the land,” Mordived’s father said, his chest puffed out proudly and little wisps of steam escaping his nostrils.  “Ruling is serious business.  Men believe they rule the kingdoms, but true power belongs to the dragons.  Slaying knights is our duty, and eating virgins our reward for such serious business.”

“But I don’t want to slay knights and eat virgins,” Mordived said.

Even eating cattle gave Mordived indigestion.  He could only imagine what eating an entire virgin would do to his digestive system.  As for knights, all that shiny silver armor gave him headaches.

Mordived’s father stomped his foot so hard that the ground trembled and the walls of their cave shook.  Little rocks and frightened bats tumbled from the ceiling, the bats fluttering back deeper into the cave and the rocks pelting Mordived and his father on their wings.  His father didn’t seem to notice.

Undaunted, Mordived said, “I want to be a comedian.  Not a fighter.”  Nor an eater of virgins.  Mordived would much rather make the virgins laugh.

Mordived’s father reared back his head, drew in a great breath, and let loose with a stream of fire that toasted what few tree roots dared to grow through the ceiling of their cave.

“Enough!” Mordived’s father roared when the fire burned itself out.  “No son of mine will ever be anything but a serious dragon!”

Mordived slunk away, not wanting to be mistaken for a tree root.

His older brother was a most serious dragon.  Gilgamule had slain numerous lesser knights, although he had not yet eaten his first virgin.  Gilgamule was nearly half the size of their father, with a fine crest of spikes down the ridge of his back and a nice purple hue to his streams of fire.  He would be leaving soon to go rule his own kingdom far from the land ruled by their father, for such was the way of serious dragons.

Mordived didn’t want his older brother to leave.  While Gilgamule might be a serious dragon, he was also someone Mordived could talk to.

“What’s wrong with not wanting to slay people?” Mordived asked his older brother.  “But rather, wanting to make them laugh?”

“Why not make them laugh while you slay them?” Gilgamule replied.  “It would certainly make their deaths more enjoyable.”

Mordived wondered sometimes if his older brother truly understood the concept of comedy.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – Night Passage

Good morning, everyone! How’s your Thursday going so far?

This morning it’s cool and rainy here in Northern Nevada. According to the snippet of news I heard on the radio while I was trying to wake up, chains or snow tires are required on the mountain pass between here and Sacramento. Spring in Nevada. Never know what you’re going to get.

Just like the characters in this week’s story. “Night Passage” is about a woman and her rebellious teenage daughter traveling from Las Vegas to Reno at night to avoid the heat when car troubles strand them alone in the desert. “Night Passage” is mainstream women’s fiction, and will be available to read for free for a week. Enjoy!

 

Night Passage

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

The road stretched in front of Joleen, a dark ribbon in the darker night.  Something glittered on the asphalt ahead of her, but she couldn’t tell if her car’s headlights reflected off pieces of quartz or broken glass.  Either one was a possibility.  Even this far out in the desert broken beer bottles littered the sides of the road, twentieth century man’s way of marking his territory.

Casey sat in the passenger seat pretending total interest in the ghostly shapes flying by her window.  Joleen could tell her daughter still was angry by the tense set of her shoulders and the way she kept her face turned away from her mother.

Joleen steered around the mess on the road as best she could on the narrow, two-lane highway.  She hoped it wasn’t glass.  The tires on her car were old and worn, and she was afraid glass would go right through them.  The bright lights of Las Vegas had faded to a dim glow on the horizon far behind her and Goldfield was at least 40 miles to the north.   She didn’t want to have to stop out here in the middle of nowhere to fix a flat, especially not at night.  Except for gas, she didn’t want to stop at all until she got to Reno.

“Are you hungry?” Joleen asked just for something to say.

Casey didn’t respond.   No one could do the silent treatment better than an angry thirteen-year-old girl.

“Because if you are, we’ve got snacks and sodas in the back seat,” Joleen said, trying again.

A sigh.  Not much, but it was a chink in the armor, something Joleen could work with.  It would be a long, long drive if Casey decided to stay angry the whole way.

Maybe a little music would help.

“Why don’t you find something to listen to?” Joleen fumbled for the tape case without taking her eyes off the road.  “We’re can’t pick up a station out here, and if you’re not going to talk to me, then I need something to keep me company.”

This time she got the rolled-eyes, oh Mom look, but her daughter took the tapes and rummaged through them.

“I know you didn’t want to move,” Joleen said.

“Look, Mom, I don’t want to talk about it,” Casey said, slamming the tape case shut.  “Like my opinion would mean anything anyway,” she added under her breath.  Thirteen-year-olds always added something under their breath, that first sign of future rebellion.

Joleen took a deep breath.  “So what do you want to talk about?”

Casey popped the tape in and turned back toward the window.  “Nothing,” she said.  “I don’t want to talk about anything, okay?”

So much for that plan.

Rock music blared from the speakers.  Obviously one of Casey’s tapes.  Joleen didn’t know the name of the band, but at least it might keep her awake.  If she didn’t go deaf first.

Thirty seconds later, Joleen reached for the volume control.  She actually liked most rock music but that last guitar riff made her fillings vibrate.  She glanced down at the tape deck to make sure she found the right knob.

“Mom, look out!”

Joleen jerked her eyes back to the road.  She caught a glimpse of a large animal right in front of them.  Heart in her throat, Joleen spun the wheel hard to the left and slammed on the brakes.  Not good.  She made it past the cow — she could see now that it was a cow — without hitting it, but the car started to skid, tires squealing.  The rear end of the car slid around toward the front, threatening to send them into a spin.  Joleen turned the wheel back to the right and took her foot off the brake, praying that the car would right itself.

That’s when the tire blew.

(read the rest of the story here)

Free Fiction Thursday – My Father, the Popsicle

I’m doing a little time travel this week.  I’m actually typing this Wednesday night before I go to bed, but by the time most of you read this post, it will be Thursday morning.  Or I hope it will be.  Like most time travel experiments, last minute glitches always seem to be part of the equation.

Anyway, I’m doing this post the night before because this week at the Day Jobbe, as Jay Lake calls it, has been a rough one, and I expect Thursday will be more of the same.  Deadlines on a major project mean extra hours writing stuff that’s not nearly as fun as fiction, although my storytelling skills are getting a workout.  Turns out the ability to tell a good story is a valuable asset for more than just writing fiction.

A looming deadline was the reason I wrote this week’s Free Fiction Thursday story.  A few years ago I was invited to submit a story on spec to a themed anthology that had a last minute opening.  I had two days to write the story and submit it. I did a little research on the general subject of cryonics, and in doing that research, discovered a fact that became the device that drove the story. (I love it when stuff like that happens.)  I wrote about a page and a half that first day, let it percolate the next morning, then wrote the rest of the entire story that afternoon after I got off work.  I submitted the story that night right before that week’s episode of Lost aired.  Hey, I was a big Lost fan in those days.  Go, Hurley!

Anyway, two days later, I got an acceptance for the story.  My Father, the Popsicle appeared in the anthology THE FUTURE WE WISH WE HAD edited by Rebecca Lickiss.

Was that the fastest acceptance I’ve gotten?  Not quite, but close. *g*

Okay, enough babbling.  On with the story.  Remember, to read the entire story, follow the link at the bottom of this sample.

My Father, The Popsicle

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

Cover art Copyright Thierry Maffeis at Dreamstime.com

 

Jodi thought she was an orphan until one sweltering Thursday night in late June when she received The Letter from Billingsly, Wendham & Owens, Attorneys at Law.

That’s how she always thought of it after that.  The Letter.  Wasn’t that how you were supposed to think about things that changed your life?  Capitalized and important?

At first she thought the whole thing was a joke.  She’d just worked a double shift at Hot Dog on a Stick in the new mall south of town.  She was dead tired and sick of the smell of lemons, corn dog batter, and hot grease.  Her head hurt from pulling up her hair under that stupid striped hat, her shoulders ached from all the fresh lemonade she had to mix, and to top it all off, the air conditioning had been out on the bus ride home.  To say the bus had been fragrant was the understatement of the century.  She was in no mood for jokes.  Her roommate Harry had a pretty twisted sense of humor.  A fake letter from an attorney was just his style, but tonight the joke wasn’t funny.

“I ought to rip him a new one,” Jodi muttered as she opened her front door.  “Hear that, Harry?” she said to her empty apartment.  “I ought to rip you a new one.”

Not that Harry would be home yet.  Harry worked as a bartender at the only gay club in town.  Tonight he was on swing shift.  Whether he could hear her or not, after a day spent swallowing the snappy comebacks she wanted to make to clueless customers whose IQ wasn’t much higher than the hotdogs they ate, muttering about Harry’s lack of humor sure as hell made her feel better.

Still, the envelope did look kind of authentic.

Jodi dropped her keys and the rest of the mail on the coffee table.  It was all junk mail flyers and offers for credit cards neither one of them could afford, so it didn’t much matter where she left it.  She plopped down on the couch she’d rescued from a second-hand store, slipped off her sensible, style-free shoes so she could stretch her toes into the carpet, and ripped open the envelope.

She skimmed through the introductory stuff.  Dear Ms. blah-blah-blah I represent more blah-blah-blah bankrupt estate.  The word assets caught Jodi’s eye, but the word that brought her up short was father.

What?

If this was Harry’s idea of a joke, it definitely wasn’t funny.  He knew she had no sense of humor when it came to her family, or lack thereof.

She ended up reading The Letter three times in a row, each time with an ever-increasing shakiness in the pit of her stomach, not to mention a growing sense of unreality.

The Letter wasn’t the easiest thing to understand.  Jodi had managed to finish high school — barely — but there’d been no money left for college after her mother died.  She made enough to pay rent and keep herself fed, but higher education was out of the question.  The guy who wrote The Letter sounded like he had degrees up the wahzoo and wrote to impress. Way out of Harry’s league.  But Jodi did understand enough of the letter to realize that she’d been wrong.  She wasn’t an orphan after all.

She did have a father.

# # #

Link to the rest of the story.

Free Fiction Thursday – Night Passage

Happy Thursday, everyone!  I hope you’ve all had a good week so far.  To celebrate this Thursday, the next closest thing to Friday, I bring you free fiction!

This week’s free story features a mother and her rebellious, angry daughter, and the things they learn about each other on a perilous nighttime road trip through the Nevada desert.

NIGHT PASSAGE

Annie Reed

Published by Thunder Valley Press

Copyright 2011 by Annie Reed

The road stretched in front of Joleen, a dark ribbon in the darker night. Something glittered on the asphalt ahead of her, but she couldn’t tell if her car’s headlights reflected off pieces of quartz or broken glass. Either one was a possibility. Even this far out in the desert broken beer bottles littered the sides of the road, twentieth century man’s way of marking his territory.

Casey sat in the passenger seat pretending total interest in the ghostly shapes flying by her window. Joleen could tell her daughter still was angry by the tense set of her shoulders and the way she kept her face turned away from her mother.

Joleen steered around the mess on the road as best she could on the narrow, two-lane highway. She hoped it wasn’t glass. The tires on her car were old and worn, and she was afraid glass would go right through them. The bright lights of Las Vegas had faded to a dim glow on the horizon far behind her and Goldfield was at least 40 miles to the north. She didn’t want to have to stop out here in the middle of nowhere to fix a flat, especially not at night. Except for gas, she didn’t want to stop at all until she got to Reno.

“Are you hungry?” Joleen asked just for something to say.

Casey didn’t respond. No one could do the silent treatment better than an angry thirteen-year-old girl.

“Because if you are, we’ve got snacks and sodas in the back seat,” Joleen said, trying again.

A sigh. Not much, but it was a chink in the armor, something Joleen could work with. It would be a long, long drive if Casey decided to stay angry the whole way.

Maybe a little music would help.

“Why don’t you find something to listen to?” Joleen fumbled for the tape case without taking her eyes off the road. “We’re can’t pick up a station out here, and if you’re not going to talk to me, then I need something to keep me company.”

This time she got the rolled-eyes, oh Mom look, but her daughter took the tapes and rummaged through them.

“I know you didn’t want to move,” Joleen said.

“Look, Mom, I don’t want to talk about it,” Casey said, slamming the tape case shut. “Like my opinion would mean anything anyway,” she added under her breath. Thirteen-year-olds always added something under their breath, that first sign of future rebellion.

Joleen took a deep breath. “So what do you want to talk about?”

Casey popped the tape in and turned back toward the window. “Nothing,” she said. “I don’t want to talk about anything, okay?”

So much for that plan.

Rock music blared from the speakers. Obviously one of Casey’s tapes. Joleen didn’t know the name of the band, but at least it might keep her awake. If she didn’t go deaf first.

Thirty seconds later, Joleen reached for the volume control. She actually liked most rock music but that last guitar riff made her fillings vibrate. She glanced down at the tape deck to make sure she found the right knob.

“Mom, look out!”

* * *

Read the rest of the story here.