Flash Fiction: Ted and the Form

I did a quick writing exercise today that turned into a little Siegel City story. It’s raw and unedited, but still, I thought I’d share it here.

Ted didn’t know where the money was, only that it wasn’t back in the cab where he left it. He’d gotten out of the car and closed the door, walking only three steps before realizing the hefty envelope had fallen out of his pocket. He spun on his heels and jumped almost directly in front of the car, stopping the driver before he could pull away from the curb.

“Hey, you crazy man?” The driver barked from his window. “I could have killed you!”

“I’m sorry, I just… I forgot something in the back seat,” Ted said. The driver glowered at him, but popped the door lock and let him in. He crawled across the seat, looking where he’d been sitting, looking down at the floor, shoving his hands between the cushions. Nothing.

“Hurry up, pal, I’ve got a business to run,” the driver said.

“It’s not here,” Ted hissed to himself. “It’s not here.” It didn’t make any sense. He knew he’d had the envelope with him when he got into the cab. Jason had handed it to him outside of the office and he was still holding it when he climbed in. He had been in the back seat of the cab when he stuffed it into his coat pocket. It was no longer in his coat pocket, therefore it had to be somewhere inside the cab.

And yet it wasn’t.

Not on the floor, not on the seat. He couldn’t even accuse the driver of having taken it because Ted had been in the back seat the entire time and he’d had no opportunity to get out and hide it.

“Are you sure you didn’t leave it somewhere else, buddy?” the driver asked. “I can’t wait around all day.”

Ted didn’t say anything. Instead, his mind was rushing through all of the things that were going to happen if he didn’t get that money back. He thought about the his boss noticing that it had gone missing in the first place. He thought about being fired and tossed out on the street. Worse, he thought about his boss’s enforcers coming after him. Working for Cary Buchvalt wasn’t on the level of being the henchman of a full-blown supervillain like Dr. Mayhem or Herr Sinister, but in a place like Siegel City even the low-level bosses could afford to place a couple of masks on the payroll. He imagined himself being hunted down by the Tracker or strangled in his sleep when the Form – who could honestly be anywhere around him even now and he wouldn’t know it – suddenly slithered under his bedroom door and carried out the boss’s orders.

“Enough is enough, pal,” the driver snapped. “Get out of the cab or I’m gonna call the cops.”

Cops? Ted didn’t have any fear of the cops, not with the alternative being visit by one of Buchvalt’s goons. How did this happen? How did he get here? He’d come out to Siegel back in ’56, fresh out of college, hoping to get a job at one of the larger firms. Instead he found himself doing the books for a mobster whose claim to fame was that he’d managed to escape Nightshadow on two separate occasions before being locked up for a nickel.

The driver was turned around now, staring him down. “Am I going to have to get physical?”

What about his ma? Would Buchvalt get physical with her? She’d met him once when she came to town for a visit, talked about what a nice gentleman his boss was. Would she say the same when her postman melted away, revealing the Form himself, ready to stuff his pliable fist down her throat and suffocate her with his own flesh?

“That’s enough, buddy.” He hadn’t seen the driver get out of the car, but he felt a pair of meaty hands grab him by the back of the coat, yanking him free and hurling him to the sidewalk. “I don’t know what you’re missing, pal, but I ain’t got all day!”

“The envelope!” Ted shrieked. “I need the envelope!”

“You need your head examined!”

The cabby turned and slid behind the wheel again. It was a smooth, fluid motion, during which he never lost contact with the car, and it was fast enough that the door was already slammed shut before Teddy could pull himself to his feet. He fell on the door, pounding the glass and shrieking. The driver just stared at him.

“Please, I need that envelope.”

“Last chance, pal.”

“Let me back in!”

The driver shrugged. “Your funeral, bucko.”

The door handle suddenly popped out of the frame, swinging back like a switchblade. Ted didn’t feel the pain until he looked down and realized it had sharpened like a blade too, opening his shirt and then his flesh as easily as slicing off a piece of Ma’s shrimp mould. The blade settled in his stomach, then he felt it dart into him, coming out of his back and sending blood spattering against the lining of his coat.

The blade retracted and turned back into the door handle and Ted, horrified, fell back onto the sidewalk as the cab drove away. It was past midnight, there was no one on the street, no one to see the dark pool spreading around his body, no one to jump in the phone booth and call for help.

Right now, Ted couldn’t help but think, he’d even be okay if Nightshadow showed up.

As the cab rounded a corner and rolled out of his sight, the frame of the car began to contract. It shifted, driver and all, turning into a rolling, slate-colored ball before gliding to a stop near a pay phone. The ball straightened up, taking on a humanoid shape. The bulky, blobby man picked up the phone, then produced a coin from somewhere within the folded putty and dropped it in the slot.

“It’s me, boss,” he said. “Yeah, I got the envelope. What do you mean ‘where,’ somewhere around my pancreas, I don’t know. Nah, he didn’t feel me take it, but he noticed it after he got out, so I had to take care of things. Yeah, that way. No, I guess I don’t need to visit his ma now. He learned his lesson pretty good.”

He hung the phone up and his form shifted again. It became smaller now, and his flesh took on a normal tone while a blue uniform sprung up around his body. He was pretty sure Ted was no one’s problem anymore, but the boss was right. Better safe than sorry. “Officer Henreid” would just take a little stroll down the block and make sure things were taken care of for good.

A Christmas Gift: Daisy’s Tree

daisys-tree-1As people who have been with me for a long time know, each year I write a new Christmas short story as a little gift for those who’ve stayed with me this long. This year’s tale came to me as I was on my way to a little Christmas Tree farm in Mississippi with my wife and my sister’s family. It’s about a little girl and  different kind of tree. And as of right now (Christmas Eve) it’s totally free for five days! Roll over to Amazon.com and get this year’s story for your Kindle or Kindle app.

Daisy’s Tree on Amazon.com

Merry Christmas!

NaNoWriMo Kicks Off at Midnight…

Longtime readers of mine know that I’m a big fan of NaNoWriMo, alias National Novel Writing Month, which is held every November. The challenge, for those who choose to accept it, is to write an entire 50,000-word novel between November 1 and November 30. I have participated many times, and all but once I made the 50K mark in time. Unfortunately, several of those attempts fizzled out after the 50K mark and the stories never wrapped, but you can still see some of my November efforts in print. My novels The Pyrite War and Opening Night of the Dead, as well as the title story in my holiday anthology A Long November and Other Tales of Christmas all began life as NaNoWriMo projects.

I know some people — some writers whom I have great admiration for — are very down on the concept of NaNoWriMo. They see it as a crutch, and they think people truly dedicated to the craft of writing should do so without it. While I respect their opinions, I must disagree. I’ve always found NaNoWriMo to be an excellent motivator, a chance to force yourself to action, secure in the knowledge that thousands of others are doing the same. To me, that somehow removes a little of the existential terror that comes with staring at the blank page. Just knowing you aren’t alone makes it better.

This year, however, I have a confession to make. I will not be participating in NaNoWriMo in the traditional sense. While I still believe in it, this year I find myself without a new project ready to work on. I don’t have any ideas fully formed enough to begin work at the stroke of midnight, as I have done so many times. What’s more, I’ve got several other projects in various stages of completion, and it seems almost unfaithful of me to start something new while these other things flounder.

So while I will not be kicking off a new project at 12 a.m., I will be using November to write. Actually, I’ll be using it to edit at first. Tomorrow I’m going to dive into the novel I began last year for NaNoWriMo, a work that I was immensely proud of, but that fell by the wayside as I did rewrites for my play The 3-D Radio Show (and special bonus cool points for those of you who saw those performances last spring) and that I never got around to finishing. And seeing as how that book is intended as the first in a trilogy, it really seems to me that I should get off my ass and get back to it.

Those of you who are doing NaNoWriMo this year, more power to you. I’ll be sending out all the moral support I can. As for me, I’ll be diving back into the adventures of Jenna, Ellie, Reggie, Colm, and their many-limbed friend as they try desperately to find something that belongs to them anyway. It’s an interesting story. It’s surprised me several times so far.

I hope I get to share it with you soon.

We are the people of Louisiana

We are the people of Louisiana, and we have been here before.

We have seen the waters rise and we have watched people run. We have seen children on roofs, pets swimming for safety, houses ruined, and the effects of a lifetime destroyed. We have waited in traffic for hours or days, and we have seen cars submerged in water in their own driveways. We have seen the shadow of years of recovery and felt the sting that comes with wondering how we will afford doing it.

We have also pulled our boats to the edge of the water, together, and set out to help whoever we could. Those of us with no boats have collected food, and clothes, and Lysol, and brought them to where the water meets the land, ready to go in. We have pulled puppies into pirouges, flooded high schools with survivors, and rolled up our sleeves to begin cleaning up.

We are not surprised when the media ignores us, because we do not supply them with an easy narrative or an enticing sound byte. We are not shooting each other, or rioting, or looting. And it’s not just because everything worth looting is underwater, either. It’s because we take care of our own. When a motorboat approaches a stranded family on a rooftop, nobody is looking at race, nobody cares about religion, nobody asks who the other person is voting for in November, and it doesn’t matter if that roof sits atop a mansion or a prefab trailer. We see only a neighbor who needs help. We know these things are not about class until somebody decides to make it that way, and we cannot cooperate with that person again.

We will shake our heads and laugh when, inevitably, someone will write an op-ed piece asking why anyone would live in a place where “such a thing can happen,” then completely miss the irony as they go to sleep in a city that could be broken in half by an earthquake tomorrow.

We live in a place where “such a thing can happen” because it is our home. And it is not our home because we were born here (not all of us who call it home were) or because we have lived here all our lives (not all of us who call it home still do). It is not home because it is where we hunt and fish (but we do). It is not home because it has the best food and the best music in America (although this, too, is true). We call this our home because when the rains fall and the water rise, we don’t wait for the government to decide we’re worthy of aid, and we don’t wait for a candidate to decide to finally tweet about our circumstances.

We are the people of Louisiana, and we take care of our own. And when this happens again, and the waters rise, and if next time it flows into homes that stayed dry the last time, we know our neighbors — our family — will take out their boats and start collecting food and find us shelter and be there for us, just as we were there for them.

 

Join us in helping our family.

How I Went Pokémon Go

pokemongoI’ve never played a Pokémon game. I don’t say this with any sort of value judgment or as an elitist point, I’m just trying to give you a baseline for what I’m about to talk about. I never played the card game, I’ve never owned any handheld unit like a Game Boy or any of its many successors, and I haven’t had a console since the Sega Genesis. I’ve watched a few episodes of one of the cartoons (the first one, I think, from the 90s, which was on before or after something I wanted to watch and I was too lazy to change the channel), and I saw the first movie in the theater because a buddy of mine wanted to see it and paid for a bunch of us to go with him so he didn’t have to go alone. I don’t remember much about the film, but I remember being glad I hadn’t paid for it.

I say all this so that you understand, I didn’t have any real interest when they released Pokémon Go a few days ago. I thought the furor was mildly amusing, cracked a few jokes about it, I figured it would die down. But people kept talking, and some of the things I was hearing were intriguing. And then — and this was my downfall — my wife and brother both started playing the game, and there’s no way I was going to let either of them show me up.

I assume by now most of you reading this, like 95 percent of the civilized world, have played the game and don’t need me to explain what it is. But let me explain why, in just a few days, I think it’s become so damned addictive. I know it’s not a groundbreaking concept — the Augmented Reality Game has been around in one form or another for quite some time, and I’m told that Pokémon Go itself is built on the framework of an earlier game called Ingress. The popularity of the preexisting franchise, however, gave this one a major boost and put it in the hands not only of those who already loved the previous Pokémon games, but also people like myself, who have never really dealt with them before.

Much has been said about the fact that the game forces people to go out into the real world and hunt for Pokémon — in essence, this is a mobile phone game that is tricking people into exercising. Let’s face it, guys, exercising sucks. I totally respect anyone who has the willpower to go out there and do it every day, but I look at them a little sideways when they talk about how great it feels. I exercise–

bulbasaur(Hold on a second, there’s a Bulbasaur in here.)

(Got him.)

As I was saying, I don’t exercise nearly as much as I should, but when I do it, I do it because I know I have to, not because it feels good to go outside in 95-degree heat, walk a mile or two, and then walk home for no apparent reason. This game, this ridiculous game, is giving people a reason to do it. Granted, one would think that improved health would be motivation enough, but clearly it isn’t, not for a hell of a lot of us.

There’s also a social aspect. Since there are people trying to capture the same Pokémon as everyone else, you’re going out and interacting with people. Naturally, there’s a degree of stranger danger to be wary of, there have already been a few news reports about people using the game to lure people and rob them, and for God’s sake, did you hear about that poor girl who was hunting water Pokémon down by the creek and found a dead body? But if you don’t go chasing your Pokémon down any dark alleys, you’ll probably be okay. I’ve seen people playing this game at the mall, walking down the sidewalk… two nights ago Erin and I were at a bar for dinner and to watch the Pirates game, and I heard a girl at a table behind us shout, “He’s just a little bat! He’s just flying there! Don’t pick on him!” (The bar was infested with Zubats, I should have mentioned that.)

ComfotInn
I’ve been farming this station in our hotel for two days.

And oddly enough — here’s one I haven’t heard too many people discuss — there’s a bizarre community aspect to the game as well. I have no idea how the developers of this game decided on the spots for the Pokéstations and Gyms, but they all correspond to real-world landmarks: buildings, churches, police stations, monuments, works of art. In the Monroeville Mall outside of Pittsburgh, there are at least four separate Pokéstations corresponding to murals or sculptures, some of which I’ve never noticed before even though I’ve been to that mall a dozen times since I met my Monroeville-native wife. We’re in Pittsburgh right now visiting family, but I’m actually really anxious to get back home to the New Orleans area to see what spots were chosen down there. This game is making people learn about their community as well.

I’m not claiming I’ll ever be a master at this game. I still don’t know exactly what the hell I’m supposed to be doing, other than catching the Pokémon and getting more balls to enable myself to catch still more Pokémon. When I reached Level Five I wound up on the Red Team, and I have no idea what that means except that my friend Kenny joined the Yellow Team, so I presumably have to beat him with a sack full of rusty doorknobs the next time I see him.

Oddish
Dammit, Oddish, you’re worse than Clippy.

(Wait, there’s one on my laptop…)

But somehow, this game landed at exactly the right time. Turning on the news for the past few weeks has been nothing but misery: violence and hatred and the Zika virus and for some reason Fox is still trying to make a Gambit movie… everything horrible about the world has been shoved into our faces. And that’s just globally. Personally, we’ve had family issues we’ve been trying to get resolved (no, I won’t be more specific, but good thoughts and prayers are appreciated) that have put my wife under serious stress over the last few days. This preposterous and unlikely game has been a rare bright spot, something fun and silly that you can use to take your mind off things for a moment no matter where you are.

It’s not perfect, I know. The first time I see some jerk trying to catch Pokémon in a movie theater I’ll want to shove a Jigglypuff up his ass, and I already am preparing a script for what I’m going to say when school starts again and I have students trying to chase around a Squirtle in my classroom. But for now, when it really matters quite a bit…

…it’s a nice, necessary diversion.

I know a few people — friends, even — who have a sincere hatred for the whole Pokémon concept and will likely mock me for even downloading it. I don’t care. I’m into plenty enough nerdy things that I have no right to pick on someone for this game even if I wasn’t playing it. But as a player, I’m enjoying myself, and in a better way than so many other games.

Also, Team Valor for life.

Hello, BayouCon!

writerI’ll be back early next week with a longer post talking about my experiences here in Sulphur for BayouCon 2016, but with one day left, I wanted to extend a warm welcome to the many fine folks I’ve talked to in the first two days.

I’ve sold some books, I’ve given out lots of bookmarks, and this afternoon I co-hosted a panel on world-building in a novel series along with horror author Alexander Brown. (I think that was some of the most fun I’ve had here — I talk about books and movies and TV shows all the time, but it’s rare that I actually get the chance to discuss my process and how I write.)

For those of you who got the address of this website from one of my bookmarks and want to know what I’m all about, here are the two most important links you can have. First, my Facebook Author’s Page. I update it frequently, any time I’ve got something worth sharing with people, from a new book to a new episode of my podcast. The other link is the Buy Blake’s Work page on this very site. This page features all of my work that is currently available, including all five of the books you saw on my table, plus lots of other stuff that’s only available in eBook format.

Enjoy the last day of the con on Sunday, come on over and say hello, and I’ll be back with more BayouCon thoughts next week.

Welcome to the new BlakeMPetit.com

ProfilepicHello friends, old and new, and welcome to the new BlakeMPetit.com. After several years at my old blog, I decided it was time for a new coat of paint, time to make things a little spiffier for a new era of (hopefully) new readers. In fact, I’m launching the new site now in order to get ahead of the  folks I anticipate meeting this weekend at Bayoucon. (More on that later.)

New readers — howdy! I’m Blake M. Petit, author of the novels and short stories  in the worlds of Siegel City and The Curtain, as well as a lot of other stuff. All of it is available right now, by the way, by clicking on the “Buy Blake’s Work” link at the top of this page. I’m also a high school English teacher, member of the board of directors at my local community theater, podcaster, and all-around geek. All of these things will be blatantly obvious if you stick around.

Old readers, any time I’ve got big news, announcements, or a major release coming up, it will be featured right here. Also, in the past, you’ve found my ruminations all over the internet. Now they’re mainly concentrated in three places: here, my movie blog Reel to Reel Movies, and the blog for my podcast and comic book discussion, All New Showcase. And if, for some reason, you really want to poke around at the content in my old blog, don’t worry, it’s still there. I’ve kept the old Evertime Realms page archived, trapped in internet amber, as it were.

IMG_0926As I mentioned before, I’m going to be at Bayoucon this weekend, June 24-26 in Sulfur, Louisiana. I’ll be part of a panel about world-building (Saturday at 5 p.m. in the Cypress Room), and my wife Erin and I will be there all weekend selling and signing copies of my novels and giving out bookmarks and high-fives. If you’re in the area, please, come on by and say hello!

That about does it for now, I suppose. I’ll be back early next week with thoughts and pictures from the convention. In the meantime, poke around at the links on this page and see what’s what.