exploration

explored id, ego, superego. id won.

 

For Sometimes Stellar Storyteller Six Word Story Challenge

Lee Child’s 23 Jack Reacher books

I’ve long had the habit of listening to guilty-pleasure books, rather than reading them.

It was a sad day for me in 1986 when I learned that John D. McDonald, creator of Travis McGee, had died. He was a go-to guy for me, together with Donald Hamilton, who produced 33 years worth of Matt Helm novels through 1993, but then was done.

Spillane croaked in 2006 at the age of 88.

Donald Westlake, writing as Richard Stark about Parker, bought the farm in 2008.

The first Robert B. Parker Spenser novel appeared in 1973. A sad day in 2010 when Parker keeled over at his computer, heart-attacked. That was a blow.

Laurence Block is almost 80, which fortunately is the new 70.

But Lee Child is still churning them out, not to jinx him. 22 novels and a collection of short stories. He says that he never knows where the book he is writing is going to go, just gets to the end using logic. Does that sound logical?

Various authors have been suggested to me as good guilty listens. I count Anthony Trollope and Steven King amongst those I cotton to. Always looking for more.

Easy Money

Rain ran down the window like water in a car wash. I was sitting at my desk in the gloom, working my way through a deck of Luckies when my brother walked in.

He gave me the phony grin.

“I’ve got a job for you,” he said.

“In a pig’s eye.”

My brother is family. He’s blood of my blood. He’s a good-looking guy with a cesspool for a brain. I promised our mother I’d look after him. I promised her I’d straighten him out. I lied.

“Beat it,” I said.

I sucked on my cigarette, drawing the burning tip down to my fingers with a hiss. The smoke torched my throat on its way into my lungs.

“You need a payday,” my brother said. “I’ve got one for you.”

“Whatever you’ve got, I’d rather not catch. Scram.”

“There’s a rich guy over in Greencrest thinks his wife is cheating. He’ll pay good for proof. Trail her around, take some pictures. Collect your money.”

He dropped a scrap of paper on my desk.

“The guy’s mansion,” he said. “Stake it out. You can’t miss the wife. She’s the real thing.”

“I’ll let you know,” I said. “Now get lost.”

He knew I’d do it, because of my promise to Ma. And because I was dead broke.

I sat and waited for the hate to die down. Then I got tired of waiting. I pulled on my trench coat, slapped on my hat, and left the office.

I staked out the mansion and followed the dame into the city. She met a guy in the lobby of the Stratford and they rode together up to the twenty-fifth floor. She had a body that was built to keep a guy busy long after she was ready to take a shower. She had the face of an angel, probably fallen.

Five hundred to the house dick got me their door unlocked. I stepped in and took snaps of the action. They weren’t missionaries, that’s for sure.

I called my brother and told him I was ready to present my bill. He told me to wait an hour, which I spent drinking.

An evil-looking yellow moon hung behind ragged clouds in the east. The temperature had dropped and my cigarette was the only warm thing in the car. At the cuckold’s gate, I spoke into the squawk box.

“I’m here about the missus,” I said.

The gate swung open.

I drove up to the mansion through thick pines. The front door stood ajar.

I stepped inside. A light was on in a room to the right. I went in, doffing my hat. An old bird with white hair stood behind a large mahogany desk at the far end of the room.

“You’re here about my wife?” he said. His voice quavered.

“That’s right,” I said.

“You expect money?”

“You said it.”

He produced a gun and pointed it in my general direction. Looked like a .25.

“What’s that for?” I said.

“To kill you with,” the geezer said, coming around the desk. “You think I’ll just pay you to go away?”

“Hold on, partner,” I said. He was going to kill me if he could hold the gun still.

Reluctantly, I pulled my .38 and shot him through his wrinkled old heart. No fee for me. I put my gun away.

The blond slid into the room. She glanced at me and then crossed to the corpse and picked up the .25. She stepped over the body and centered the gun on my face.

She read my expression.

“I needed my husband dead,” she said. “Thanks.”

I wouldn’t be shooting this babe in that big chest of hers.

My brother joined us, grinning.

“Nice, huh?” he said. “She inherits and you get the blame for the shootout with Pops here. He thought you were the lover coming over for a payoff. You shoot each other.”

“The guy in the hotel room?”

“Some yegg we hired.” His grin became a smirk.

“You think she’ll let you live?” I said.

The smirk held.

“She loves me,” he said.

I smiled, imaging the look on his face when he arrived in Hell right behind me.

The Mathematics of Future Paradox

“Can we watch Michelangelo work today?” my wife said, at the breakfast table.

“I have to go into the future today,” I said.

“The future? You said that you would never go into the future. You said going into the future is like a man opening his girlfriend’s mail. Ignorance is bliss, you said.”

“I’m only going ten minutes forward, max. To test and prove my theories.”

“Your equipment works,” my wife said. “Isn’t that proof enough?”

“We now know that we can observe the past. We can’t interact with it. We can’t change it. We can only watch it, like a movie. My calculations tell me that the same is true for the future, but I haven’t tested that yet.”

“The universe does not permit paradox, you always say.”

“My calculations prove this. Yet I must test the theory.”

“Will it be dangerous?”

“I don’t think so, but…”

“I want to be there.”

“This won’t be like our travels into the past. Nothing exciting will happen.”

“Nevertheless, I want to be there.”

I nodded.

“OK,” I said.

After breakfast, we cleaned up and dressed. Angela followed my out to my lab behind the house. The day was clear and warm.

In the lab, we sat down side-by-side, facing the counter that held my setup. I ran through my startup procedures and calibrated the central nexus. We put on our helmets.

I switched on the apparatus.

“I don’t see any change,” Angela said.

I moved the mouse and as we sat, we seemed to float backwards, so that we were watching ourselves from behind.

“I’m fast-forwarding,” I said. “Ten minutes into the future should take us only two.”

We sat quietly for two minutes. In front of us, we sat quietly for ten minutes.

I watched the timer and clicked the apparatus off after one hundred and twenty seconds.

“Now what?” Angela said.

“You saw us. For the next eight minutes, we sit here.”

“So?”

“Neither of us stands up during that time. We can test this. Do you understand?”

“Not exactly,” Angela said.

“If we can see into the future and then act to change it, we can create a paradox, just as we could if we could change the past. We know we can’t change the past. We can only observe it, observe the universe’s stored hologram of spacetime. Now, however, we’ve observed future events in that same hologram. Suppose I stand up?”

“I don’t think you should,” Angela said. “I don’t think you will. We neither of us did. We just sat there.”

I stood up. I stepped away from the chair and looked back. I was still sitting there.

“What the…,” I said, or thought I said. No sound came out.

“Perhaps you’re right,” said the me sitting in the chair, to Angela.

“No!” I said, soundlessly.

I stepped back to the chair and reached out. I couldn’t see my arm. I looked down. I couldn’t see myself. My hand passed through the me in the chair.

“My math is clear,” said the me in the chair. “The universe does not permit paradox.”

Why British Women Are Insecure About Their Nipples

First, a salute to the Oxford team that has performed this valuable study. I have been interested in nipples for years. It’s more than a hobby for me. Some might say I’m obsessed.

Whatever the case, at last we have some fresh, new, hard-won data.

The research team investigated the nipples of ten thousand women, with a few cross-dressers thrown in. This was not some casual study. There were metrics.

Each set of nipples was measured and graded according to four separate attributes: size, three-dimensional shape, colour, and aspect. A scale from one to ten was used to supply a value for each attribute. No specific meaning was assigned to any particular nipple code, although on my visit to the university, I did hear 3-1-2-10 referred to as “angelic” once or twice, and 8-6-9-2 as “befitting a chimp.” Just normal, casual, ongoing theorizing.

The researchers did not want the women to catch any vagrant expressions on their faces as they took the measurements. For this reason they all wore identical rubber pullover masks in the shape of the current Prime Minister.

With a  woman’s nipples coded, the researcher would remove the mask and ask the woman to please make herself decent.

“I’ve seen your nipples,” the researcher would say.

“Oh, yes?” was the typical response.

“You may say that I’ve graded them,” the researcher would say.

“Have you then?” the woman would say.

“I have indeed. Do you know what I think?”

“Why, no. I haven’t a clue.”

“You haven’t a clue? You know your own nipples, I suppose?”

“Of course I do. I’ve had four children and two husbands.”

“How would you describe them, in so many words?”

“Well, my youngest has red hair…”

“Your nipples, I mean. How would you describe your nipples? I’ve coded them here in my notebook,  you know, but now I want to know what you think of them. Are you proud of your nipples? Have you named them? Do they reflect your personality? Do they have a mind of their own?”

“My word!”

“You seem unsure of yourself. Are you insecure when the conversation turns to your nipples?”

“What’s that?”

“Just my phone. Would you unbutton again for a moment, please.”

“It has a camera, your phone?”

“It does indeed. If you don’t mind, I’d like to get a quick shot of your breasts. Just for our clinical debriefing in the pub tonight… Hey! Don’t do that. Insecure, that’s what you are, all right. What a pity.”

Nine of My Fifty-Word Stories

Fifty-word stories.

One of my stories, posted on Huffington’s Fifty Featured Fiction

Seeing the World