Plugs

Edd Vick’s latest story, “The Corsair and the Lady” may be found in Talebones #37.

Jonathan Wood’s story “Notes on the Dissection of an Imaginary Beetle” from Electric Velocipede 15/16 is available online.

Sara Genge’s story “Godtouched” may be found in Strange Horizons.

Luc Reid writes about the psychology of habits at The Willpower Engine. His new eBook is Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories.

Archive for the ‘Jeremiah Tolbert’ Category

Fishermen

Monday, January 14th, 2008

My father wakes me before he has stoked the fire. I pull on my clothes as quickly as I can, then my boots and helmet. While my father checks the line and tackle, I put a log under the chimney and stir the coals. I have a minute or two to warm my hands before he coughs to me. I put on my gloves.

Today, we go fishing.

We walk the snaking path down the mountainside. The rising sun glints off the rapids below, dazzling me, and I nearly trip. My father steadies me with a bear paw of a hand. I feel embarrassed.

We reach the rocky banks, out of breath. We do not speak. We can barely hear our voices over water raging against the rocks. Our breath makes white clouds. I buckle my helmet and cinch my gloves tighter.

The sun rises another hand’s width into the sky before we begin. My father weaves the line through my harness, knots it. I pull away as hard as I can. His knot holds. I look out at the fast-moving water as he feeds the rope through the pulleys that hang from the pines. I plan my steps.

He gives me a nod, and I walk into the river. The cold shocks me. It numbs first my short legs, my scrotum, then my chest. My father feeds out more line. The current sweeps me from my feet, and I play out into the deep middle. I pray we don’t wait long for a bite.

Minutes pass. I dimly feel hands grasp my leg, and then I feel as warm as if I am sitting by the largest fire I can build. I shout wordlessly, and my father begins to haul on the rope. The hands walk up my leg. Thin arms wrap around my waist. We’ve hooked our catch deeply. She fights the line, but my father is stronger.

I breach the water onto the bank. The mother clings to me still. I examine the catch. She is beautiful. Sleek black hair, long graceful limbs, and cherry red lips.

“Can’t we keep her?” I ask, shouting, as I always ask.

“Ah, this one will fetch far too much at market,” my father says. As he always says. He begins to pry open her fingers, and the warmth fades. I shiver as my father dresses the mother in a simple robe and binds her to the leading line.

He shouts, “Ready?” I am already walking back into the water. Maybe he will let us keep next one.

A Lamu Story

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

Once, in Lamu, a small island off the coast of Kenya, I stopped for lunch in a small restaurant near the center of the island. The place was empty, except for a stern looking Islamic man with a grey-streaked beard who I took to be the proprietor. I took a seat, and he joined me in at my table and smiled. “I would like to tell you a story,” he said.

“That would be nice, thank you,” I said. It is not often that strangers approach you and offer such a thing. I was curious.

“When I was a boy, I traveled to a neighboring island as part of a football team. We sailed in three dhows down the coast, for three days. It was a big deal then, to go so far from home. I had never left our island before.”

“On the second night, we beached our boats on a tiny island, not much bigger than my shop, and built a campfire from driftwood. We slept under the stars, and talked about the victory we were sure to have when we arrived the next day.”

“I was the last one awake. The ocean was calm, so when I heard splashing, I knew it wasn’t just waves. I searched for the sound. In the starlight, I could just make out the shape of some thing, large as a man, heaving itself out of the water and onto the beach.”

‘Its shape was like no shape I’ve ever seen. It had eyes in places where eyes should not be. And the breeze brought its smell to me; like a rotting corpse. Yet it moved, like a living thing, towards our camp.”

‘I could not scream, or shout at the sight of it. It paralyzed me. Do you know what happened next?” He smiled at me again, but this time, the smile did not look friendly at all.

“What are you doing here again?” suddenly shouted a young man, beardless, from the door of the kitchen. Before I could utter a word, the old man was up from the table and darting out into the hot street, laughing madly. The young man apologized to me for taking so long in the kitchen, and asked what I would like to have. I had forgotten to read the menu.

“Who was he?” I asked.

“A mad man,” was all he would say on the subject. “A very sick person.” He pretended not to understand any of my further questions. I searched the island for the remainder of my stay, looking for the old man. I needed to hear how his story ended. I never found him. I was left to imagine how such a strange story would end. What troubles me is, have I imagined something worse, or less so, than the truth?

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