Excerpt from a short story

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From a short story I am almost done with.  It might be ready to send out now.  At this point, an eccentric artist/street person is explaining a painting to a friend.

“Yeah”  Was all Chris could manage.  He looked through a few canvases and although he was no art critic, he knew they were good.  He picked up a large one that stood out and propped it on the bookshelf.  There was something about this one that drew the eye in.  It was like no painting he had ever encountered.

Red spoke from behind him and he startled a little.  “Like that one, huh?”  Red said.  “Me too.  Best thing I’ve done.  Did it in one night a few years ago.  Stone, cold sober if you can believe it.”

“It’s so …” Words failed Chris.

“Speaks to you.”  Red answered “I know.  It’s called The Silent Aspirations of Bastard Amber.  Bastard Amber is a color gel used in theater lighting.  It can also be a paint color, and that’s the beautiful thing about it.  It’s a color open to interpretation.”

“Yeah?”  Chris managed, not taking his eyes off the painting.

Red pointed to a place on the picture.  “Here’s the Bastard Amber.  And here and here and back here.  And you step back and look at this painting as a whole and it’s us.  It’s me and you and, like the people, man.  And we’re back there like the Bastard Amber and we are open to interpretation man because that’s what life is.  And see all of this up here, the big stuff?  It’s all moving around and swirling and huge and dominating and it’s in control.”  Chris glanced at Red.  And in saw the old Red of intellect and passion, of drive and wonder.

Red continued staring at the painting and talking like Chris wasn’t there.  “All this up here, it’s like the government, the corporations, the organizations and all the crap they pile on us the Bastard Amber.  It’s the news and the booze and the dope and the politics and the war and the useless garbage they try to sell us.  They’re pushing us behind and keeping us back.  But look at the Bastard Amber.  Here and here and here.  See what it’s doing?  It’s on the outside and moving up.  The Bastard Amber is saying to all that crap, that garbage; you might be on top now but we are on our way.  And one day.  One day, man.  You’re gonna see us and we won’t be silent no more.  Maybe not in this life.  Maybe in the heaven or nirvana or paradise or whatever you want to call it.  The Bastard Amber is gonna rise and be right up where it belongs.  And all the pain you caused us, it won’t mean nothin no more.  You look, man, you look long enough and you will see.  Here’s your coffee.”

Chris took the cup from Red and the coffee, as promised, was good.

From Short Story in progress

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I like this story but it needs some editing.  It’s too long for one thing.  Needs a bit of tightening up.  Overall, it is worth keeping and I will get it there soon.  

Plot is a happening young writer who fancies himself a Hemmingway, goes out to some crummy neighborhood bars as “research” for his book.  It doesn’t go as planned.

 

He walked on and decided that he would not drink at the next place, only eat.  He didn’t think he could stand more alcohol now.  It was dark and the streetlights were dim causing him to stumble more than once over broken pavement.  Red’s Corner was ahead at a distance, it’s ancient neon sign sputtering on and off.  The footsteps sounded behind him and even though on the edge of panic, he glanced back.

A skinny black man with shining teeth was catching up to him.  He spoke “That’s right, a black man following you.”  He laughed but Jonathan found nothing funny.

Jonathan stopped and turned.  He figured that the other man was a twig and barring a knife or firearm, would be no problem for him to take care of himself should it come to that.  “Help you?”  He asked.

“Don’t get the wrong idea now, brother.”  The man laughed and kept walking.  “I’m a peace loving soul.”

The man caught up to Jonathan and kept his hands in plain view.

“Now them clowns back there?” The man continued “If Jerry hadn’t been there you might be in the back of an ambulance now.  Those boys back there”  The man pointed behind them “they’s trifling.”

Jonathan decided that the man was most likely harmless.  “Thank Jerry for me.”  He said.

“What you out walking for?”  The man asked. “Car break down?”  Only he said car as “cah”.

Jonathan shrugged in reply.

“Oh no.  I know what it is.”  The man laughed “Had a fight with the old lady now you walking.”  He thought it was hilarious. “I know how it is.  Them women can be rough.”

Jonathan shrugged again and walked on.  The man kept pace with him.

In his novel, this scene was an entire chapter of banter about women meant to show the contrast and commonalities in male and female relationships across the black and white spectrum.

“Going to a friend’s place on Troy Avenue.  Crashing for the night.”  Jonathan offered.

“That’s it.”  The man agreed. “Give her some cool down time.  Don’t you give in and call her now.  Let her go on wondering where you are.”

Jonathan chuckled.  “Thought I would hit some of the bars along the way.”

“I see.  Uh huh.  They’s a good liquor store up here before Red’s Place.  Other side of the street.”  The man said.

“No.  The bars.  I might go in Red’s, if it isn’t like the last place, that is.”  Jonathan said.

“Red’s Place ain’t nothing like T. J.’s.” The man explained. “T.J.’s, you seen what it was.  I don’t like going in there.  Too many trifling fools.  Not Red’s it’s a regular place.  They don’t mess around.”

“OK.”

The man looked at him out of the corner of his eye. “And they’s white in there, much as black.  Ebony and Ivory.”

“OK.”

“Red’s used to be the bar for the brass works what went out of business.  My daddy used to sit in there with his friends from work.”  He explained. “Brass works been gone twenty-five years at least.”

“I remember the brass works.”  Jonathan said, although he had no idea what the man was talking about.

 

From my newest short fiction

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New story still in the works.  I originally wanted it to be around 1500 words but think it will end up about 2200 after all.  This is a piece from the end.

 

Red was gone when Chris arrived.  He showed his city credentials and talked with Police officers.  There was little to be done.  He ventured into the apartment and looked around.  It was essentially the same. 

“Friend of yours?”  He heard a man’s voice behind him.

“Yeah.  And I am a city inspector.  Landlord?”  Chris turned around.

“Uh huh.  Gary Pace, Pace Enterprises.”  The man was a slumlord and looked the part and now he was wary of Chris.

“This place is a real shit hole, you know?”  Chris said.

“Yeah.  I’m having it taken down.  I wasn’t hardly charging the guy anything, he watched the place for me.  He begged me to stay while I was figuring out what to do with the building.  He could have got all of this junk out of here.”

“So could you.  Could have fixed the gas before it killed someone.”  Chris turned back to the room.

“You don’t need to break my balls, pal.  Don’t no one know what happened here.  I’m letting my lawyer handle it.”  The man said. 

“You should.”  Chris gestured to the bookshelves.  “What about his stuff?  You have a family contact for him?”

“Nah man.  He didn’t sign anything.  I got his name and cash for the rent.  He drops it at my office every month.  I pay utilities.”

“Taking it down?  When?”  Chris asked.

“Soon, brother, soon.”  The man said.

Chris turned back to the room, put his hands on hips, and sighed.  “I’ll come back with my truck and load what I can.  The junk stays.  You want any of this?”

“Maybe a painting.  I like his paintings.  He gave me one once.”  The landlord said.  “Look, I’m sorry about your friend.  I liked the guy.  I was doing him a favor letting him stay here for almost nothing, he was living in his truck.”

Chris thought a moment, then spotted La Bohème on the shelves and picked it up.  “Bohemian.”  He chuckled to himself.

“What’s that?”  The landlord asked.

“Bohemian.  It’s what he called himself when I saw him last.” Chris started making his way through the refuse of the narrow passageway and back to his car.

“Sure.”  The man answered behind him.

Chris tossed La Bohème on the next seat, then drove home to get his pickup truck.

More for Bob, P. I.

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“You are the decade expert.”  Nick said.

“Not just the 70’s”  Bob insisted “There was some good stuff in the 80’s, even the 90’s, but not as much.”

“I see, Professor Cultural Historian.  And pray tell, what are some of those?”  Nick asked.

“I’ll tell you one that always caught my eye.”  Bob said.  “That show in the 80’s with McLean Stevenson, Condo.”

“Never heard of it.”

“I’m not surprised about that.  It was one of the casualties of greedy corporate executives.  It got cancelled after one season.”  Bob said.

“And it’s an iconic classic, is it?”

“I can tell you this, it had an iconic classic actor in McLean Stevenson.  You watch that show, his talent shines.  They simply didn’t know what to do with all that comedic genius.” Bob said.

“He was in MASH for a while right?”  Nick asked.

“Yeah, hate that show.”  Bob said.

“Really?”  Nick said “That’s a surprise.  It panders to the far left.  Think you would love it.”

“Bad TV.”  Bob insisted “If it wasn’t for McLean Stevenson and maybe Larry Linville, it would have flopped long before it did.  They carried that show from a pure comedy standpoint.”

“Not Alan Alda, the star?” Nick shook his head in disbelief.

“Heck no, over-rated hack.”  Bob said.

“How about the one that wore dresses?”  Nick asked.

“Jamie Farr?  Forgot about him.  I’m on the floor every time he comes on camera.”  Bob smiled.

“You know, if Jamie Farr, McLean Stevenson and Polly Holliday had ever appeared on screen together, they would have just stopped making movies.  The camera couldn’t hold all of that astounding talent.”  Nick said.

“Go on, laugh it up.”  Bob said “It’s you who doesn’t understand the sophisticated mind of the master actor and comedian.”

“Bob, you are one jive turkey.”  Nick said.

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One more addition to Bob, P. I.

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“This is how we should start every day.  Meet up at a common place and plan out the day.  Sort of relax and kick back for a while before the action starts.”

“You like saying ‘kick back and relax’ don’t you?  Most people meet up and plan their work day at a common place called the office.  But we can meet here if you want.”  Nick said.

“Kiss my grits.”  Bob mumbled.

“What does that even mean?”  Nick asked.

“What do you mean, what does that mean?  It’s a famous saying by a very famous actress, Polly Holliday.”  Bob said.

“Never heard of her.”

“Sure you have, from the Alice show.  I have all of them on DVD.”  Bob insisted.

“No doubt you do.”  Nick said.  “Still never heard of her.”

“Oh, come on she’s one terrific actress, multi-talented and a great natural star.”

“Uh, huh.” Nick said “And she says kiss my grits?”

“What? Yeah, on the Alice show.  Everyone knows that.”Bob said.

Nick turned to Rick. “Did you?”  Rick shrugged his shoulders and Nick turned back to Bob. “See?”

“He’s too young.  I’m surprised you don’t know her.  A mega-star like Polly Holliday.”  Bob looked over his dark glasses.

“Mega huh?”  Nick smiled “What else has she starred in?”

“Lots of major motions pictures.”  Bob insisted.

“Right, you don’t know.”  Nick said.  “What next?  Are you going to start quoting Buffy and Jodie from Family Affair?”

“I don’t know.  What did they say?” Bob asked.

“Kiss my butt.” Nick answered.

“Really?  Going to have to look that show up on DVD.”

“If you guys don’t mind”  Rick interrupted.  “Here’s where we are.  …

Shadowed Solitude republished by Literally Stories today

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https://literallystories2014.com/2016/04/22/shadowed-solitude-by-donald-baker/

Literally Stories republished the story Shadowed Solitude which originally came out in 2013 with The Huffington Post.  This isn’t what I consider one of my strongest pieces and one day, when I get ready to compile a short story collection, I will rewrite it.

Literally Stories is a great group of people to deal with.  This is the second of my pieces they picked up.  They are very encouraging and complementary, I can’t thank them enough.