Tag Archives: fiction

The Hideout Needs a Name

I don’t usually do this, but I was editing and adding a much-needed section to my novel-in-progress and enjoyed it so much I just thought I’d post it. (Incidentally, it allows me to update the site and prove that I’m not just wasting time over here. Well… not all the time, anyway.)

It may not make the cut in the final version, but it was fun to write, and, you know, sometimes that matters.

This passage inspired by the replies to a question I asked on Twitter.

“This place really needs a name,” Dina says.
Linc peeks out around the potted ficus he’s managing. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, it’s lame to just go on calling it ‘the hideout’ or ‘the lab’ or whatever you’ve been calling it. You’re a proper villain now. You need a name for your place. You know. Fortress of Solitude, or whatever. But for bad guys.”
“That’s stupid.”
“No, it’s practical.” Tonya sets the couch down in the corner, blinks to the fridge for a soda, and blinks right back onto the couch, kicking her feet up over the armrest. “Besides, I agree. So that’s two to one. We gotta name it.”
Dina shuffles off to the kitchen herself, kicking her shoes off on the way. “Two to one.”
Linc wants to point out to them that this isn’t a democracy, to remind them that this place is his, that Vector is his, that the plan to bring the Academy low is his, but it doesn’t seem worth it. “What do you have in mind, then?”
“You’re a nerd, so it’s gotta be nerdy sounding, you know? Strike fear into the hearts of everybody with an IQ below 150. Something like … The Motherboard.” Dina tosses Linc a soda. He fumbles it before catching it by his knees.
“Why The Motherboard?”
“Because it’s where we keep our chips.” Dina rattles a bag of tortilla chips at him before gashing the bag with her ring and spreading a thick layer of chips on a plate.
“That’s terrible.”
“I kinda like it,” Tonya says. “It’s got some kind of ring to it.”
“Nope. The two of you can vote to name it, that’s fine, but I’m holding out veto power over the name. We’re not calling it The Motherboard.”
Dina has sprinkled cheese over the chips and tosses the plate into the microwave (stolen, along with the 70-inch television, from a Best Buy a few hours away). “That’s okay. I got a bunch of ideas. How about The WreckTangle?”
“The Rectangle?”
“No, the WreckTangle. As in, Wrecked Angle. Get it? Because math, right? Plus, you know. Get wrecked.”
“Nice.” Tonya lifts her soda can in salute.
“I dunno.” Linc leans against the counter, scanning the bank of monitors for news, or updates. Vector’s display shows the robot cheerfully making rounds on the mountainside.
“I got one,” Tonya says. “The Trapezoid.”
“I don’t —”
“Ooh, I like that.” Dina flings the microwave open for her plate of nachos.
“Right? Because it’s a trap. Plus…” Tonya glances around. This sounded cleverer in her mind. “Plus it’s got that z in there. That’s cool.”
“There’s nothing in here that’s even trapezoid-shaped,” Linc points out. “And by the way, I’ll give you a dollar if you can tell me what a trapezoid is.”
“I don’t know that.” Tonya crumples her can in one hand and tosses it at Linc. “Who even needs to know that after high school? Or in it, for that matter?”
“If you’re going to call your hideout The Trapezoid, you should at least know what a Trapezoid is.”
“It’s your hideout, not mine, damn!”
Dina raises her voice around a mouthful of nachos. “Vector, what’s a trapezoid?”
Vector’s screen types out an immediate response.
Trapezoid: a four-sided shape with only one pair of parallel sides.
“That. It’s that,” Dina says, pointing. “You owe me a dollar.”
“That doesn’t count.”

nicolas cage shrug GIF

Nickels and Dimes

Len turns the tin cup restlessly in his hands and slams it to the pavement. It’s been five hours this morning and he has barely enough to buy a cup of coffee, maybe a newspaper.

Hardly the beginnings of another empire.

He scratches at the back of his grimy neck with jagged fingernails cracked and splintering from scraping change off the pavement. Casts baleful eyes up at the pedestrians walking past him.

“Spare a dollar?”

They walk past with nary a glance down at his unwashed Armani overcoat.

To hell with this small change, he thinks.

Approaching him is a guy in a suit. Pinstripes. Glaring yellow tie. Len owned a tie like that once. Never wore it. Couldn’t stomach the color. Now he’s positively salivating at the sight of it. He gets a wild idea. Smooths down his wild hair, spits in his hand and wipes his face as much as he can. Impressions matter.

He hops to his feet and falls in step with the suit, avoiding his notice for the moment thanks to the cell phone glued to the guy’s other hand.

“I’ve got a proposition for you,” he says in his best business school voice.

The suit turns and grimaces. Says nothing. Doesn’t have to.

Len starts to protest, grabbing at the man’s arm. Reflexively, like a squid shooting ink, the man throws a small handful of change at Len: “Just leave me alone!” The coins bounce off Len’s chest and he stares, dumbfounded. Looks at the spinning nickels and dimes tinkling onto the sidewalk. Kicks them away.

Len looks up, catching his reflection in a storefront window. Behind his reflection float rows upon rows of oak-colored liquor in gleaming glass bottles. He steps to the side, craning his neck; a scruffy guy with glasses sits half-reading, half-nodding over a newspaper behind the counter. How much cash does a liquor store keep to hand? A couple hundred, at least, he figures.

He shoves his hand into his pocket, makes a gun with index and thumb, and eases into the store.

He pretends to shop for a minute before approaching the attendant. He steps up airily, looking around, as if he’s about to ask for the time.

“Is that an Armani?” the keeper asks.

Len, flummoxed, mumbles, “yeah.”

“The hell did you get that?”

“It’s mine. I used to run a Fortune 500 Company.” Len can’t help but straightening a little, assuming some of his old posture.

The guy studies him hard, chewing on his lip. Then his eyes light up. “You’re Len Fitcher, CEO of Narrington Pharmaceuticals!”

“Ex. Ex-CEO.”

The man blinks. “Well, shit, man. Do you want a job?”

“Do I want a …” Len is too flabbergasted to finish the sentence. His teeth grind, and his throat tightens in a growl. He thrusts his gun-hand in his pocket toward the man’s face. “I don’t want a goddamn job. I want your fucking money.”


I’ve been working on a handful of shorts — 500 words or fewer apiece, a real challenge for me — for the past several weeks in lieu of working on novels or other such large-scale projects. This is one of them. Not sure yet what I’m doing with the rest. We’ll see. In the meantime, hope you enjoy!

The Potioneer’s Ploy

Chuck’s challenge this week:  Pick Five Characters.
I used random choice to get me down to eight and went with the five that I felt best fit together.  Here’s what I came up with.
The Dexterous, funny hermit

The Agile heir
The Unpredictable hunter, worst in his profession
The Unhealthy jailer
The Unheroic impostor
I wasn’t able to get an entirely self-contained story here, but I think it worked out well enough.  As a result, while I feel the arc of this particular moment is completed, it certainly leaves more to tell.
But, for a change, it’s NOT dark and weird!  Here, then, are 1494 words of fun in a sort-of LOTR, sort-of GoT world:

The Potioneer’s Ploy

As usual, Danver had no idea what on earth he was doing.

He poked his pointy nose around each corner of the cell, examining every last crumb of moldy bread and every crack in the wall for some sign, any sign, that might give an indication of where the princess had escaped to.  None was forthcoming.  Only one thing to do: stall.

“I’ll need to see the grounds outside her window,” Danver said, with as much authority as he could muster.

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