Bummed

PRESS RELEASE, Trenzalore (14th August) — The Parker Institute for Time Travel Studies (The PITTS) has annouced that it will delay publication of the next issue of its popular Fish and TARDIS Sauce (FATS) newsletter until the staff’s mass lethargy has worn off.  The sadness, first reported in the month following Matt Smith’s retirement from the BBC’s Doctor Who, seems to have become a deep-seated melancholy that has caused FATS employees to seek solace by playing music of Karen Carpenter while sharing Grumpy Cat photos on Facebook.  The PITTS seeks to reassure all employees of its sister organization, and let them know the company’s health care plan will provide counseling, doctor recommendations, and whiskey as needed for self-medication.

Placid Savage, spokeswoman for The PITTS, said the current sadness is not unlike the anguish, grief, and heartache that can be seen on any sensible synonym search for words like sadness.  Savage, in a moment of unusual candor, rebuffed a reporter’s suggestion that running her operation from a graveyard at the end of time might be contributing to low employee morale.  She shrugged. “I don’t know.  Who give a shit?”

This prompted Herb Wells, Chief Technology Officer for Steampunk Technology, to later tweet:

  • The fucking 70s were happier than this! #disco #MoralEquivalentofWar

Wells has been suspended without pay pending a formal review of his communication skills.  He was last seen in College Station, Texas.

Meanwhile, The PITTS cancelled its 2014 plans to test the grandfather paradox and Shrödinger’s Cat experiment until the Institute has had time to consult with Peter Capaldi and Stephen Moffat.

At the time they went to press The PITTS’ calls to Kurt Cobain had gone unanswered.  The PITTS also reached out to Joplain and Morrison, but results have been a real letdown.

Until next time … if there is a next time … peace from Eeyore Keith

Copyright © 2013 Keith Parker.

One

200px-Tenth_DoctorToday, The Parker Institute of Time Travel Studies (The PITTS) addresses one of the pressing issues of our age.  This topic is bigger than the global economy, cheaper than a Kardashian wedding, and happier than a college kid with a keg.  It is the question of The One … the question of whether there is only one Doctor Who.

My sister-in-law, who’s never cared much for science fiction, is now hooked on the show.  She said you have all these ridiculous episodes chock-full of plastic-headed aliens, and yet you can’t look away.  Nope, you sure can’t.

Commenting on a scene with Matt Smith, she said, “I don’t know who that man is, but he’s not the Doctor.  He’s an impostor.”

“Who is?” I said.

In a word — or a name — she replied, “David Tennant.”

And so there were have it.  David Tennant, a.k.a. the 10th Doctor, is her Doctor.  I’ve heard many similar sentiments about Tom Baker, especially among my friends who were sentient in the 70s.  So, I asked her to tell me — off the top of her head — what she likes about Tennant.  She said,  “He’s passionate, caring, intelligent and soulful.”

And he is! He’s all these things.  And yet, none of my sister-in-law’s impressions were the same as mine.  It’s not that I disagree with her; I agree he has all the characteristics that she mentioned.  But if you asked my impression I’d tell you that he’s fun-loving and funny, yet distant and lonely.  What does this say about us?  Does it say that my SIL and I see the world differently?  Actually, we don’t.  We have very similar opinions and tastes.  And we’re from the exact same demographic; how much different would our reaction have been if we came from cultures on opposite sides of the planet?  Maybe the difference would be stark; maybe not.  What this says to me is that character loyalty is a deeply personal attachment.  The development and emergence of characters from novels, short stories, films and TV have a profoundly different affect on us all, providing a lens into our own personality.  Like eyes being the lens to the soul, the characters we love are like mirrors on our selves.  Or they’re people who we think are mighty fine (like Clara Oswald).  Either way, it’s fun to sit back and explore the possibilities.

During this long holiday weekend here in America the good people (read: me) at Fish and #TARDIS Sauce ask you to remember that time flies like an arrow and fruit flies like a banana.  Until next time, peace and hair grease.

Years truly,

Keith

Copyright © 2013 Fish and #TARDIS Sauce publications, a paleolithic branch of The PITTS.

Jackie is Moving Quickly Now (A Short Story)

Jackie is jogging now, her size 5 tennis shoes squeaking on the tile floor of the mall, her breath quickening as her heart pounds away in her throat. His footsteps, the ones from the black, sound like metal on the tiles, like sadistic tap shoes following her down the aisle. She breaks into a full sprint and whacks her thigh on the corner of some serving counter — a Starbucks? McDonalds? Sbarro Pizza? Doesn’t matter. It hurts, and it’s in her way, and it slows her down, bruises her pace even though Jackie is moving quickly now. Ahead of her is a row of chairs. They sit near the escalators, but Jackie wrinkles her brow at that escape route because escalators tripped her up when she was little, when she got her skirt caught in its

teeth

treads. That saved Jackie’s life, but it didn’t matter because back then the man was after her mother, not her, unlike the man in the steel-toed boots who’s chasing her now.

boots

Everything is surreal, nightmarish. Is she moving or is the row of the chairs? They rush forward, like oncoming runway lights. Old people sit here, talk about young people these days. But they are empty of any people right now. The black is behind her. He turned the corner and he missed the coffee counter. The villain always has the best luck. Click, click, click go his shoes. Jackie turns her head quickly left, then right, her eyes begging for help from people who are not in the shoe stores and the jewelry stores and the You’re-Not-Wearing-the-Latest stores. Only the mannequins watch her. They seem more alive than

Jackie will be

any of the salesmen who put up the 1/2-Price ONE DAY ONLY signs earlier.

Dizzy from the glittery goodness of kiosks Jackie’s shoes squeal to a halt beside an overstuffed mall chair. Whoever said tennis shoes were silent was just a damn-fool-liar in Jackie’s book, yes sir-ee, Bob. She leans on the chair, out of breath, her throat burning. When she blinks she sees the cane, propped neatly beside a chair, and a half-open James Michener resting over the arm of another, and an empty Starbucks cup on a side table. But it’s not empty, is it? No. Steam rises from it, as if the owner forgot about it because he

got killed?

got up and left to go home.

Cold, bony fingers wrap around her shoulder. Bony. Bone. And that’s when bile catches in her throat. The man takes — took — his victims and did something to their bones, with a hammer. She sees his pink-skinned hand with its thin, blue veins sticking out of his Member’s Only black jacket. She doesn’t turn around. She doesn’t need do that. Instead, Jackie grabs the steaming coffee, and wheels about on one heel.

She flings the scalding coffee in the man’s face. He screams. It’s a dark, angel-of-death scream.

Later the detectives ask her how she knew, because the crime against her mother had happened 30 years ago, in 1984. The man in the black coat was in his 50s then. He’s in his 80s, now. The people at the mall thought she was sadistic, attacking an old man like that. Little did they know. So the detective asks her — has to ask her — what clued her in, probably wondering how he’ll deal with the vigilante justice angle even though she’s caught the man who’s been wanted for decades.

“The shoes,” Jackie says. “Those awful steel-toed boots. When I fell on the escalator he kicked me. I was just a little girl. He kicked me when I was down.”

The detective brings her some tissue. Jackie nods, begins to sob. Tomorrow, she thinks, she’ll sign up her daughter for tap lessons. Jackie will finally be able to tolerate the sound of metal clicking on a floor.

The End

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental. Copyright © 2012 Alan Keith Parker, All Rights Reserved.

Meat

There were more mashed potatoes and more meat on the plate than there’d been a just few minutes ago. Johnny blinked.  His head was sizzling, ice-pick pain crushing his eyeballs.  His leg, too, throbbed as if it’d taken hammer blow to the shin bone. It reminded him of how his mama told him the Romans broke Jesus’ legs on the cross.  But this wasn’t ancient Jerusalem.  He was simply sitting on a bed, in the present day.

He blinked.

There was more roast beef on the plate, now.  Had there been that much before?  He couldn’t tell because he couldn’t taste, his tastebuds had been cauterized, and his tongue was as dead as the meat that laid there, so he surely hadn’t been eating anything, and yet … and yet, he daintily wiped the corner of his mouth (did manners even matter here?) … and his hand came away with brown gravy on it.

He blinked.

Blackened gargoyles flashed before his closed eyelids.  He was still sitting there on the bed, but it felt different now, and the food was gone so he figured it was over, that it was past dinnertime and now he’d moved on to … on to what?  Somebody was yelling from next door, something about fire, something about a fizzle?  Sizzle?  Was that what they said?  And lightning?  Something about him and lightning.  Were they talking about his woodworking? His woodcarvings?  He always talked about how he liked the smell of a power carver burning into a fresh wood.  He brushed the top of his head, found stubble from his … what? … his crew cut?  Why did he have a buzz cut?

He blinked hard.

White feverish splotches flashed before his eyelids, and now he smelled barbecue pork, the kind Johnny’s dad pulled off pigs over barrel fires when he was a kid, better barbecue than any joint in Alabama ever dreamed of cooking.

He blinked.

His lungs were crushed, smashed, a seat-belt … was that it? … yanking his rib bones into his flesh and puncturing his lungs, making him scream … but he couldn’t scream.  He opened his mouth … did a little gravy dribble out? … but he couldn’t scream.

He blinked.

He sat at a large table, but kept his elbows off.  Old habits died hard, especially here in the South.  It was a  library table like he’d sat at in school on Saturdays.  But this table was rough-hewn, and his fingernails dug into a splintered crevasses that’d been gouged deep into its surface over the years.

He blinked three times.

The images were splashes of acid hitting his wide-open eyeballs.

A man in a suit stood on the other side of the table, his necktie loose, his shirt sweaty … can anybody sing that ring-around-the-collar jingle? The man’s face was wrinkled and tired, but his eyes were alive from too much coffee and sugar.  His milquetoast face had darkened from beard stubble … kinda like the stubble on your head, eh, Johnny boy?  The man glared.   The suit was expensive.  Armani, or a damn good knockoff.  And it’d been pressed … but not for a long while.  And he had a sported a watch … an expensive one, complicated … a Bulova, full of hands and dialsspinning, turning, ticking, tocking.

Johnny’s head still ached, a post-trauma pounding.  It felt like he’d been sunburned, and then sunburned again, and then sunburned yet again after the first two had healed.  His leg still crackled from the hammer blow,  or whatever it was, and he now wondered if the bastard had used the claw of the hammer to break his leg bone slowly, sadistically.

Johnny blinked.

The man in the suit looked … better.  His tie was tied.  His suit didn’t have wrinkles.  And his face was fresher, no three-day shadow, and no perspiration.

“You have to,” the man was saying.  “You have to.”

Johnny shook his head.  “I didn’t do nothing.  Nu-thing.”

The man’s nostrils flared.  He slammed his hands on the table, rattling Johnny.  “What’s your favorite meal, John?  Hmm?  What is your favorite meal?”

“Wha –.”

“Food, man!  What’d you choose if it was your last?”

Johnny blinked.

This time nothing changed.

“Mashed potatoes with roast beef and grav–.”  Johnny stopped, the word a bone caught in his throat.

That’s when he focused on the man’s elegant wristwatch, at all the hands and dials.  And the main one, the military dial, told him it was little after 1400 hours.  He zoomed in, bringing the watch’s second hand into view, and it was running backward.  He ran his hand through his hair, and he had hair now.  He … had … hair … now.

Johnny blinked.

Nothing changed, but he now knew that mashed potatoes had reappeared on his plate because he’d eaten them, in the future.

They shaved your leg.  They shaved your head.

“What year is it?” he said

The man in the suit blinked.  “What does that have to do with –.”

Johnny’s turn to slam his fist.  “What year is it?” he yelled.

The lawyer told him.

“And when would I get out?” Johnny said. “If I take the deal?”

The lawyer’s face — which had been sharp angles and tension — suddenly sagged, his brown eyes hound-dog sad.

Johnny felt a tear well up in one eye, the way it’d always been.  He always cried from one eye.  It’d been that way when the cops had kicked down the door and found Johnny standing over one of the bodies, holding the serrated knife that’d been used to slice open throats all over the apartment building, and he’d cried because he knew they’d never believe that he’d removed the knife from of one of the victims to save the woman’s life because he was a nurse and that’s what nurses did.  But the evidence was a D.A.’s wet dream, fingerprints on every floor.  Johnny had helped those old men and women for years, and they thanked him — oh, yes — but they’d also insulted him when they thought he was getting uppity.  It was annoying, stupid.  He’d even got a scalding cup of coffee in the face once.  That was more than “annoying.”  But he still loved them.

But that coffee wasn’t nearly as hot as the skull cap, was it?  They said the electric chair was painless.  They said the initial jolt of voltage knocked you out.  They were wrong.  Dead wrong.

Johnny looked up slowly, through moist eyes.  “How’d you do it?” he asked the man with the backward clock.  “My mama would’ve called it devil’s work.”

The man shook his head.  “Not witchcraft.  Just … a gadget.”

“You let me see my future.”

“I let you live your future, John.  Or one possible future.  You’ve traveled forward, and now you’re coming back.  And you still remember everything, for now.  But soon enough those memories of the future will be gone.  There’s nothing I can do about that.”

“And I died.”

“We all die in the future, John.  You will be killed in the future if you don’t take the plea.  But if you do take it, you’ll live in the future.  You’ll make woodcarvings.  And one of those woodcarvings will be a spaceship.  You’ll make it on a whim.  And thirty years from now you’ll give it to a schoolgirl who’ll become the first human to set foot on another planet.”

“You’re making that up.”

“You don’t know that.  But you do know what the electric chair does to you.”

Johnny nodded.  “But I didn’t kill those people.  I tried to help them.  I tried to help them!”

His lawyer gestured toward the room outside.  “I know that.  But they don’t.  They don’t know and they don’t care.”

“Then is there one thing I can ask?  Just one thing?”

“We have very little wiggle room.”

“Can you at least tell them I’m a vegetarian? I don’t want to eat meat.”

The lawyer puckered his lips.  “I might be able to swing that one, Johnny.  If you apologize.  Show remorse.”

“For something I didn’t do.”

The lawyer nodded.  “For something you didn’t do.  I bet I can get you a vegetarian diet.  I might be able to swing that one.”

Johnny slumped in the chair, his eye teary, his body hiccoughing with sobs.

He blinked.

The lawyer turned to go see the prosecution, winding his watch as he left the room.

The End

.
Copyright © 2012 Alan Keith Parker.  All Rights Reserved.  This is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.