Category Archives: Stories and Poetry

An Excerpt from “Feel-Good”

Haven’t downloaded my latest mini-book, Feel-Good, yet? You should! It’s free reading, and if the opinions of previous readers count for anything, it’s good reading, too.

If you need a bit more incentive, here’s an excerpt from Hands-On, the short story that anchors the collection. Enjoy!


Excerpt From Hands-On

He was waiting for me on the beach below Dallas Road. Like a good animal rights hippie, he was dressed entirely in synthetic fabrics and was munching on a carrot stick. As I crossed the sand and logs that separated us, I saw a seagull swoop down and perch on a rock fifteen feet away from him, eyeing his food. He watched it like a cornered dog. For someone who apparently cared so much about wildlife, he didn’t appear to have an especially close connection with it.

He was still staring nervously at the seagull when I said, “Hello.”

He jumped. “Oh!”

I extended my hand. “Shawn Scott.”

He had a handshake like wilted celery. “Um, Sunrise McCrery.”

I handed him a folder. “Here’s your team. We had some extra manpower, so we upgraded you to a team of four at no extra charge.”

His hands were shaking slightly as he opened the folder and flipped through the papers, but there was a determined glint in his eyes. He really wanted to free this tiger. I waited for a few minutes as he scanned through the information I’d given him.

“Um?” he said.

“You have a question?”

He cleared his throat. “I, um, I realize this may be an odd request…”

“We get plenty of those,” I assured him.

“This, um, the Baconmancer…”

One of Ian’s stupid nicknames. It had begun as a way to keep our guys’ real names a secret, and turned into an outlet for Innis’s juvenile sense of humour. “What about him?” I said. “It’s all in there. He makes bacon appear out of thin air, cooked any way you like. It’s good bacon.”

“Um, I’m sure it is, for people who like that sort of thing.” He put enough vehemence into those words to scare away the seagull, which had hopped closer and had been just about to snag a chunk of carrot. “But you see, I’m a vegan, and I’m not sure, um, I’m not sure I’d be comfortable working with, um, a pig murderer, you see.”

“Oh, don’t worry at all,” I reassured him. “He’s never hurt a pig in his life. I’m completely serious when I say his bacon appears out of thin air. It’s… call it synthetic bacon, if it helps. Besides, he doesn’t eat the stuff, either. A lifetime of overexposure to bacon has turned him into a vegetarian.”

He twisted his mouth up as he thought it over. “I see,” he said. “Well, I suppose he will be fairly useful for, um, for luring the target out of its cage, um, I suppose.”

“A keen tactical insight.”

He perked up a bit at the compliment.

“I’ll have the group meet you at midnight along the highway to Sooke,” I continued. “The spot is marked out on a map in the folder. As far as their abilities go, use them in whatever way seems necessary. If nothing else, they’ll do what they’re told, and they can do their share of heavy lifting. Well, except for AFO. His arms tend to come off sometimes.”

“Um?”

“Don’t worry; he can reattach them. But it’s a hassle. Best to let him drive or something, I’d say.”

“Oh, right.”

“If you have any trouble, give me a call. You know my number.”

I turned and walked back to my car.


Read the rest of Hands-On by downloading Feel-Good.

Flash Fiction: What the Budapestians Do

I asked people who have Liked my Facebook “writer” page to suggest prompts that I could use to write flash fiction to post here. I got the following prompt from my brother, Jordan:

“When in Budapest, do as the Budapestians do.”

Here’s a story based on that.


What the Budapestians Do

Image by dadotres, used under Creative Commons.

He had been in Europe for a month, wandering, exploring, hopping trains like a hobo. Searching for himself.

So far he’d found plenty of old architecture that made him feel small, a variety of local beers and wines that made him feel big, and a painting of Hitler with pink bunny ears.

These were different worlds, in many ways, cultures that felt so different on the ground than they looked in the pages of a book. You couldn’t move through these places simply as a tourist, smiling and watching and marveling at all the things that were so unlike your own home, where everything was done the “normal” way. Here in the streets, the pubs, and the hostels, what caught his attention were not novelties, but realities. The French were not Parisians; the Germans were not Berliners; the Dutch were not Nederlanders: they were people. They worked real jobs, saved up real money, and were excited about real entertainment. They helped when they could, laughed when you told a joke, and bled when they were cut.

He hadn’t yet “found himself” amidst all the helping and laughing and bleeding, but what he had discovered was that in Budapest, just like anywhere else, if you cut someone as a joke, they tend not to laugh, and they aren’t likely to be very helpful afterwards, either.

It’s a small world, but in the end, aren’t we really all alike?


Hope you liked it, little brother. Stay out of trouble!

Flash Fiction: Living the Dream

Since it’s been taking me a bit longer than I hoped to get Feel-Good ready for release, here’s a story I just wrote at Six-Minute Story to hopefully hold you over for a bit. It’s called Living the Dream.


Image by Andreas Solberg, used under Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.

Bobby had lived in his imagination as a child. Within the universe of his mind, he was an action hero, an iron-willed daredevil. He could meet any challenge, snatch victory from the jaws of any defeat, bravely pull off any stunt.

Now that he was older, he was learning more and more that he would probably never trade tracer bullets with South American guerillas, or infiltrate the secret Appalachian hideout of a band of communist child kidnappers, or balance on the hood of a car, guns blazing, while pursuing Somalian bank thief pirates across a perilous frozen lake.

But maybe, just maybe, he could still live those dreams through his words.

“Dirt to Dirt” – A Twitter-based Poetry Experiment

Twitter is great.

This afternoon I decided I wanted to try writing a crowd-sourced poem. So I introduced the concept on Twitter:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/#!/TimSevenhuysen/status/81812050657017857″]

It went great. Here’s the result of the first ever (that I know of) “#chainpoem.” I’ve added the Twitter names of the author of each line, linked to their tweets.

Dirt to Dirt

When I was a boy, I enjoyed eating worms (@TimSevenhuysen)
Their dirt coating looked like chocolate spread (@LorGraham)
On my tongue I enjoyed their wiggles and squirms (@maryhutson)
And I’d wonder “Is this what I’ll taste when I’m dead?” (@ConceptCrucible)

Thank you to everyone who participated!

Under an Umbrella of Leaky Foliage

Over at TypeTrigger, I almost exclusively write fiction, but the prompt “an umbrella” reminded me of the hiking trip most of my family went on several years ago, to a place called Cape Scott.

The trip was supposed to last for four days, three nights, but we got rained out and opted to scrap our final night and trudge on out of there. The hike out was brutal. It took us almost 8 hours to do 17 km, over submerged boardwalks and through two-foot-deep mud puddles. It was awful. It was amazing.

This short nonfiction piece is about that day. For added context, this happened after my brother, my sister, and I had decided to move faster and go ahead of the group. We thought moving faster would keep us warmer. We didn’t think about what sitting down and waiting for them to catch up would be like, though…


 

They shared a soggy space on the edge of trail, under an umbrella of leaky foliage, counting to see whose nose got dripped on more and shivering in sync.

“D-Do you r-remember w-what ‘warm’ is like?” chattered Tim.

Catherine tried to laugh, but it didn’t work.

“We should n-never have g-gone ahead,” said Jordan from between clenched teeth. “B-Better to s-stick with the g-group and g-go s-slow than have to s-stop and w-wait.”

“Th-they’ll c-catch up,” said Tim. “N-not m-much l-longer.”

They heard a rustling from down the trail and looked up hopefully. A doe and two fauns stepped gingerly into the open. The animals looked miserable.

Drip. Drip.

Jordan said, “T-Two hundred.”

Catherine tried to laugh, but it didn’t work.

 


These pictures are from the trip:

Living and Dying Sample Story: “Mouths to Feed”

For those of you who haven’t downloaded and read Living and Dying yet, either from the TS Store or the Kindle Store, I thought I’d post one of the stories from the collection to give you a sense of what it’s like.

This story, Mouths to Feed, was originally written on TypeTrigger, based on the prompt phrase “I first knew.” After writing it on TypeTrigger, I spent a fair amount of time polishing and rewriting it before including it in Living and Dying. The end result was what you can read below.

 

Mouths to Feed

I first knew how much trouble we were in when the engine sputtered for the fourth time.

The first couple of sputters didn’t seem like a big deal. Let’s be realistic: you’re bound to get the occasional booster hiccup when you’re fourteen years into a twenty-year journey to the center of the solar system and back. But I’m a smart kid, and I know that while two can be coincidence, three is a pattern, which means four is something worth paying attention to.

So I called up the engineer. “Dad,” I said, “I think we might have a problem.” And he put down his call-it-breakfast-but-we’re-pointed-straight-at-the-sun-so-really-it’s-pretty-much-always-lunch-time, and he popped his head up into the cockpit with a relaxed, what-is-it-this-time-bud grin, and by then I’d counted eight-and-a-half sputters, and a look at the diagnostics screen made his smile disappear pretty quickly.

He entered a handful of bypass codes to shut the boosters off, which made the trip calculator go absolutely crazy with warnings and red numbers, and then, as he scrolled through the emergency maintenance manual, he started humming.

I’d never heard him hum before. The song was slow, and soft, and haunting. It made me feel like I was looking out a porthole into space, but couldn’t see any stars.

It creeped me out, so I went and found the captain, and she told me the last time she’d heard my dad humming was when he found out she was pregnant with me, which was almost ten years ago, and she bet she knew what song he was humming, too.

“Mom,” I said, “for every hour we have the boosters shut down, we’re adding a month to our trip time.”

“I know, bud,” she said.

“And with three people drawing from the supplies, we can’t afford to add on any more than about two years, or we’ll run out of rations before we arrive.”

“I know, bud,” she said.

“That means we have 24 hours to fix—”

I know,” she said. And then she climbed up into the cockpit with my dad and locked the hatch behind her.

We’d all memorized those numbers a long time ago, of course. They were one of the first things I learned as a kid, when I started to ask questions about what we were doing here, my mom, my dad, and I, tearing through space in a tin can made for two.

If I’d never shown up, there would have been a lot more margin for error with a problem like this one. The rations and the recycling system had been designed for two mouths, not three. There wasn’t supposed to have been a romance. There wasn’t supposed to have been a pregnancy. There wasn’t supposed to have been a Me.

But a Me there was. My parents had learned to cope. They’d recalculated the rations. They’d made the sacrifices they needed to make. And now we had less than two days to save ourselves from seven years of hopelessness and one year of death by dehydration.

 

That all happened about nine months ago. I don’t remember much about the frantic whirlwind that those two days became, but I do remember two failed reboosts, three emotional breakdowns, a lot of yelling, and being locked out of the sleeping quarters “overnight” at the end of it all.

Ultimately, we found a way to keep the engine burning, but our workaround means that someone has to constantly be watching to manually make the small, vital adjustments that are keeping our hopes, our faintest of hopes, alive.

I take a regular shift. I didn’t, at first, but eventually I had to, out of sheer necessity, because of my parents’ fatigue, and now I think they’ve grown to trust me.

And they should. I do a good job, even though it’s sometimes hard to concentrate when there’s a newborn around.

My dad hums all the time, now.

Poem from the Past

I stumbled across some old blog entries from a few years ago, and thought I’d share a couple.

So here’s a poem called Bunnies from February 2009:

Twelve little bunnies hopped out of a hole
Some white ones and orange ones, some brown and some black
I thought they were cute, so I took them all home
They peed on my couch, so I took them all back