scene 3

dreamstime_m_7005470 old pickup truck web

Old Pickup Truck Photo
© Typhoonski |

(scene 1, part 1)  (scene 1, part 2) (scene 2)

The old truck rattled a lot. I probably should have taken better care of it when it was newer, so it wouldn’t rattle so much now. I suppose.

The important thing is I kept it running now – I know how to take care of it, and it gets me where I need to go. It’s old enough that it doesn’t have computers and GPS and all of the things that track where it is and where it’s been. Not that those things aren’t important – to me – I just don’t know whether they’re important enough to anyone else who’s minding their own business.

After awhile the rattles just fade into the background, and I don’t notice them unless I have a passenger who says, “Whoa! This truck rattles a lot!” or if the rattle changes. Change means something shifted and I should make sure I don’t need to shift that something back into place. Continue reading


Scene 2

My beautiful picture

(Our story thus far)

I figured I could trust her at least as far as I could throw her, and she was a trim thing, as I said, so I could probably throw her farther than a lot of folks if she were to let me close enough to throw.

Besides, she came with a recommendation from Pete Bratcher. Or, at least, she came with a name drop. I would have to check with him about that.

Pete and I go way back. Back to before there were cameras in every nook and cranny of civilization to surveil the guilty and the innocent alike. We would scope out the new cameras as they were being installed and figure out how to beat them. The train station was one of the first to be outfitted, so the tech was a little older, a little more primitive, a touch easier to beat. But just a touch. I’d still have to be careful. Continue reading

The end of the opening scene

My beautiful picture

(Picking up where I left off)

She snorted in derision. “Nice try, Hank,” she said, leaning on my name like we were kids on the playground and Hank was the dumbest name on the planet. “No, it’s a coin – a commemorative coin. I need to snatch the coin and replace it with a counterfeit.”

Now we were getting somewhere. She knew I could make the coin and make the switch.

“Do you have photos of this coin?” I asked. Continue reading

A partial opening scene


(Sometimes you sit down to improvise a story and nothing comes out. Sometimes a story comes out, and sometimes a beginning or an end. Thursday morning, I sat down to improvise and my fingers gave me a beginning …)

In those days before the huge starships, in those days when everything everywhere whirred and hummed and sang and rattled and chirped – in those days before the wasteland was wasted and “the homeland” was a phrase used by long-ago tyrants …

A walker walked alone. From this distance it was hard to tell if it was a man or a woman, but the walker was walking this way, so I waited and, sure enough, as she grew closer her walking clothes revealed the form of a woman – a trim woman with trim breasts and trim hips and medium-length hair under a baseball cap. Blonde. Blue eyes. The kind of face and body men tended to appreciate, but holding herself with an air that said she didn’t care if I appreciated how she looked, this was how she looked and that’s that, end of conversation.

But then she started a conversation.

“Are you Hank Stiller?”

“I might be,” I said. “You are –?”

“Someone who’s looking for Hank Stiller,” she said. “If you’re Hank, I have a proposition for you. If you’re not, then maybe you can tell me where I can find him.” Continue reading

Good night, Chip

sleeping dejah

The knot in his shoulder, just to the right of his neck, throbbed intently. (“You mean intensely, don’t you?”) No, intently – it throbbed on purpose.

“I’m the chip on your shoulder,” the knot said.

“I always thought you’d be up here, where I could brush you off,” he said, indicating the top of his shoulder.

“But you can’t brush me off so easily, can you?” the knot said. “I sit here, at the top of your back, where you can reach back and push on me and wish I would go away, but you can’t relax it. I’m here to stay. What are you gonna do about it?”

“Maybe I’ll get a pill,” he said. “Maybe I’ll get one of those vibrator things that you press against your muscles to get them to unwind.”

“Might work, might help a little,” said the knot. “I’m going to stay here, though, all bunched up and reminding you that you can’t relax – a physical manifestation of your anger and frustration.”

“I’m not angry,” he said angrily.

“You are so full of it,” said the knot. “You are so bundled up in your anger that it’s an old friend, sitting by your side and keeping you warm at night. You’re so angry you could spit nails for 40 days and still have a 40-day supply of nails.”

“Oh yeah? And what am I so angry about, tough guy?”

“Oh, you know. All the cliches. Wasted years. Regrets. Bad decisions. Wrong moves. No moves – all those times you sat there doing nothing when you could have been doing something. Yep – you are one massive collection of cliches just waiting to unleash some anger somewhere.”

“So I’m going to lash out because I’m angry at myself.”

“Maybe,” said the knot. “Maybe you’ll be smart about it.”

“Smart anger? That’s a new one.”

“Focused anger. Redirected anger.” The knot loosened a little bit. “Anger is emotional energy, isn’t it? You have all that kinetic energy and you want to punch something or rearrange a face. That’s why I’m right here, in this spot, clenching the muscle that pulls back your fist. What if you put that energy to use?”

“Yeah, yeah, go and do something positive instead of stewing in my juices or punching the mail carrier or drinking a bottle of wine.”

“See? You already knew what to do,” the knot said. “No wonder you’re angry at yourself.”

“You’re so smug and I-told-you-so,” he yelled at the knot. “I can’t do it! I can’t get out of this chair and go change my life. I’ve been fighting myself my whole life. Might as well just face the fact that I’m a loser. Time’s running out, and I’m not going to win in this lifetime.”

“That’s your final answer?” said the knot. “I guess I’m going to stick around for a while.”

“Ah, shut up,” he said and opened the refrigerator door. A six-pack of beer and two bottles of wine glistened in the dim light.

He stared at the bottles for a long minute, sighed, and closed the door empty-handed.

The knot loosened, ever so slightly.