Archive for: June, 2017

THE STEEL DRIVING MAN by Eugene L. Morgulis

Jun 25 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

I was born with a hammer in my hand, and I’ve been driving steel ever since.

It’s not hard work. I just plant my feet, hold the steel bit steady, and drive my hammer down on it. When it’s deep enough, I step back, and a man comes to blast out tunnels and clear the road.

Professor Spector said I was the best and fastest steel driver he’d ever seen. “Ain’t no man alive can drive steel like you!” he’d say.

The Professor took me all over to different road crews, showing me off and putting the working men to shame. Sometimes I did the work of a whole crew, and Professor Spector would collect their pay and laugh. I didn’t mind that he kept the money, since he took care of me, and what did I need money for anyhow? I just liked driving steel.

But everything changed when the Professor took me down to Big Bend.

The crew and road captain there eyed me suspiciously, which was normal. I ignored them and stepped up to the mountainside like always, tapped the stone and gauged the environs. It was hard rock, but nothing I couldn’t handle.

I was getting ready to strike when a man stepped right in front of me. He was a big fellow with a hammer almost as big as my own. He held it like it was a part of him, so I figured he liked driving steel as much as I did, in which case we were alike.

“Hey Captain,” the big man called to the company chief.  “What’s this contraption here?”

“That’s one of them newfangled steam drillers, John,” said the road captain.

“Oh yeah?” said the big man, scratching his head.  “What’s it do?”

I said nothing, because he didn’t ask me.  But Professor Spector marched right up to that big man and stuck a finger in his wide chest.

“Now you listen here, boy. That there’s a mechanical man what can drive steel a hundred times faster’n you can.  So step aside before you disturb the delicate machinery.”

I waited while the men argued, not understanding why.  My logic gears are simple. I can follow orders. I can size up land and rock. I can choose the right steel bit and correct angle to hammer. When I drive steel, my purpose is fulfilled. I let Professor Spector take care of everything else.

Professor Spector clapped his hands and waved me over.

“Think you can tunnel through that chunk’a mountain?”

I analyzed the rock. “Yes.”

“Think you can do it faster than that hotshot over there?”

I analyzed the big man. “Probably.”

We set to it side by side. I took the right tunnel and the big man took the left. It took the big man four, sometimes five swings of his hammer to drive that steel deep enough. I could do it in one or two.

But here’s the thing. While I stopped from time to time so that Professor Spector could feed me coal or oil my joints, the big man never stopped. He took no food and no water. The big man just kept driving steel, grunting from exertion and coughing from the coal dust, pouring sweat like a mountain stream. Sometimes he’d sing.

After 15 hours of driving steel, I was bound to overheat. So I had to stop for a little bit. But the big man kept going. He cleared the tunnel before me, which sent the whole company whooping and hollering with delight.  Professor Spector smacked me with his hat and cussed something awful.

The crew was still celebrating when the big man started coughing and grabbing his chest. Then he just sat down, closed his eyes, and never opened them again. Before the men put his body in the ground, the road captain told them to take away his hammer, saying it was company property. It took two of them to lift it. I guess it wasn’t attached to the big man after all.

The captain, whose name was Mr. Fosset, argued with Professor Spector and threatened to wire a lawyer. The Professor made a deal to sell me on the spot, and the men spat and shook on it.  He took his money and left without saying goodbye.

It was years before I saw him again.  In that time, I traveled with Mr. Fosset’s company up and down Appalachia and on into the West, where I drove steel into mountains as big as the sky.

The men kept me running in the sense that they filled my belly with coal when it got low. They never polished my skin, like Professor Spector did. They never scrapped off the rust or oiled my joints, except when the creaking got so loud you couldn’t even hear the dynamite. I wondered if they were sore at me, on account of the big man who beat me and died. They never said anything about it, but sometimes they threw rocks at me and laughed.  But none of that mattered to me – I just liked driving steel.

The day Professor Spector came back, he brought with him another machine. Like me, but not like me either. It was bigger, had wheels instead of legs, and a great metal chimney rose from its drum of a body. I approached it and saw in its smooth shiny side my reflection – a rusted, dented, clumsy thing, with shaky legs and chipped hammer.

The men all gathered ’round to hear Professor Spector describe the “mechanical wonder,” which didn’t look so great to me.

“She faster than your old hunk’a junk?” asked Mr. Fosset.

Professor Spector smiled and pushed a few buttons on the machine’s side.

The machine sprang to life and rolled over to the side of the mountain I’d been driving through for the past several days. I understood then what it was, and what it was doing here. I analyzed its 80-pound hammer and its massive coal burner, and figured that it could probably drive steel better and faster than I. Probably.

But what was Probably? The big man taught me that Probably didn’t mean a thing. Probably could as easily be Probably Not. I was going to show them that, the Professor and Fosset and all the men in the crew. And that dumb beast of a contraption. I was going to show them that I could drive steel better than anyone or anything on this earth.

So I set myself beside the machine – it on the right of the tunnel, and I on the left. It did not look at me, since it had no eyes to see, but I would show it anyway.

I gauged the rock and planted my feet, knowing in my gears that I would either beat it or break trying. Or both, like the big man. I raised my hammer.

“Jee-zus!” yelled the captain.  “What in the hell’s that thing doin’?”

The men ran over to me and pushed me away from the mountain before I could even take my first swing. I wanted more than anything to beat that new machine.  But they didn’t even let me try. And I stood there as it hammered through the mountain like it was made of dust.

Mr. Fosset laughed, and Professor Spector said something about spare parts.

Then they came after me.

So I ran.

It was dark when I fell into the coal mine. And darker still in the deep ground where the only light came from my dying burner. I knocked a few chunks of coal from the wall with my hammer and fed my fire to keep from dying.  It was just like driving steel. So I did it again. And again.  And again.

And here I’ve been ever since, driving steel to feed myself and feeding myself to drive steel. I don’t know anymore how deep I am. Maybe one day I’ll hit the heart of the Earth. Or maybe the coal will run out. But whatever happens, I’ll die with this hammer in my hand.

Bio: My short fiction has been published by McSweeney’s, Fantasy Scroll Magazine, Cirsova Magazine, Metaphorosis, and in the Adventures of Pirates Anthology.

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Circles by Daevid Glass

Jun 18 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

Southend was in the hands of the food pedlars. Garish lighting and clubby music called the drunks forth like moths, putting them in the path of culinary odours. Trunks of donor meat mesmerised with their languorous pirouettes, chopped vegetables in salad trays awaited indiscriminate scooping, bedded dangerously near uncooked meat amid decorative herbs. Polystyrene trays snapped open to be filled with food and stabbed by plastic forks. Day-Glo sauces were squeezed in excessive spirals.

The man in the metallic blue bomber jacket didn’t need to check his watch to know the time was around 2.30. That would give enough time for the clubbers from Lucy Road to make it this far, their routes hindered by zig-zagged diversions, emotionally unsound interactions and hiatuses to interfere with bins and shopping trolleys. He was sober though–he drank, but not to get drunk, enjoying the mellow edge but stopping before–this.

Edging round a puddle of fresh vomit, he approached the High Street, passing the flashpoint scrum of the taxi rank. As he turned the corner, a tense conversation caught his ear.

“I’ve fuckin’ had enough of this shit, I don’t care if she’s a girl.”

“Just leave it man,” said the boy’s companion. “We’ve all had a few beers, we all get annoyed by the odd bitch, just leave it.”

“Yeah, whatever. I’ve had enough. I’m sick of people trying to walk all over me like that. Not any more.”

“Mate, come on–the taxi rank’s filling up. Let’s go, we can have a smoke at mine, come on.”

“Bollocks.” He charged the wrong way up the street.

“Come on man, drop it,” his friend shouted, taking chase.

“Excuse me,” shouted the man in the jacket, holding out a piece of paper. “I think you forgot something.”

“You what?” yelled the boy, turning back. “What did I forget?”

“Your sense of perspective. You can have this tenner, on one condition. You go now and get yourself a pizza.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” his mate said. “Free pizza.”

The guy looked at him incredulously but took the note. As he did, the benefactor touched a discreet gold badge on the arm of his bomber jacket, taking a picture of the boy’s face.

“Thanks,” the lad said with an arched eyebrow, then duly headed to Ali Baba’s Kebab & Pizza.

These hot nights bring the devil out, thought the man in the jacket as he resumed his journey. And the legs, he mentally added, seeing a group of short-skirted girls heading towards the taxi rank. He corrected himself though; the girls here would dress like this in the Klondike if there were alcopops and house DJs to lure them out among the ice.

“Nah, I ain’t takin’ this,” said a corkscrew-haired girl residing at the top of one of the pairs of legs.

“Come on, Chel, don’t get stressed,” said a teenage boy in chinos.

“Don’t treat me like I’m a pisshead,” she screeched, “he fucking pushed me flying.” Her freckles grew so angry it seemed they might jump off her face in protest. “I’m gonna find ‘im.”

She marched towards the kebab shop, as effectively as one can in five-inch heels. “Oi!”, she shouted, her war-cry ricocheting between WH Smith and Barclays Bank.

“Ginger bitch!” the boy with the tenner shouted from afar, who by rights should have a deep pan pizza in his face by now.

The man in the bomber jacket intercepted Chel’s momentum.

“Drop it maybe?” he smiled.

“Who the fuck are you?” she scowled.

“Someone who wants you to wake up tomorrow without a black eye.”

“Fuck the black eye, he needs a slap.”

“I don’t like people waking up with a heavy heart.”

She rolled her eyes. “It’s not your problem is it?”

“No,” Jacket said, and grinned as if the fact was irrelevant.

“You don’t know this situation,” she said.

“I know all situations,” he said, and touched his badge.

Chel, and only Chel, saw a picture of the boy she was chasing, appearing in some kind of hologram between her face and this man’s jacket. The boy looked flustered, with the mistrust of a drunk who had just been offered a free pizza by a stranger.

The man let go of his badge and the image dissipated.

“OK, maybe you do know this situation,” Chel said, heading back to her friends. She paused halfway and turned. “I wonder what else you know,” she said.

#

8.30 in the morning. The milkman was tired. He hadn’t slept all night. He wasn’t used to this. He wasn’t a milkman. He rang the doorbell, looked up at the thin terraced house. Leaves blew in unseasonable eddies.

The door creaked open and a sleepy freckled woman appeared in her nightie.

“Morning,” said the man in the bomber jacket, putting down a wire carrier full of bottles. “Shane’s on holiday so I’m covering his round.”

“OK,” she said, rubbing her eyes. “I’ll get the money.”

She walked down the hallway to the kitchen. The milkman crept inside and quietly shut the door.

She saw him, in her house, and gasped in fear.

“She loves you a lot you know,” said the milkman.

The woman tried to speak.

“I don’t think she thinks much of herself,” the man continued.

“Maybe you told her she was stupid too many times.”

“Who–,” the woman began.

“Chelsea only drinks to make herself feel good.”

“I hate it when she drinks,” the woman said. “No daughter of mine behaves like a slut.”

“I understand,” the milkman murmured and touched his badge.

His host received a private vision; an image of a man hitting a small child. A small child with freckles.

“Dad,” she whispered, her face haunted.

“If you could start over with Chelsea, would you do it differently?” he asked.

“Yes,” whispered the mother, then, finding her voice, “she’s not stupid.”

“Got my money?” he asked, looking down at her hand.

She looked in her palm. Amid the change were 5p coins the size they used to be. From the kitchen radio, a pop song, Karma Chameleon, played for the first time. Upstairs, a baby cried.

“I’ll let myself out,” the man said.

#

Eventually the pub opened. The tired man in the bomber jacket got up from the park bench and headed towards it, stopping when he heard a crunch under his feet. He looked at the ground to see large fragments of tinted glass on the pavement. The largest shard was the neck of a Peroni bottle. He crouched. Was that blood? He carefully took it and held it by the badge, sighing out the woes of the world at what he learnt.

#

A pensioner supped a pint of mild in his local, grimacing at the overfamiliar surroundings. Hardly anyone else was here yet, but now a man in a bomber jacket had entered. The man ordered a coke and looked around, as if searching. He wandered over to the old man’s table, and wordlessly took a seat.

The regular scowled. Hushed words were exchanged. His new acquaintance gently touched his badge and the old man saw images of a war which never left him. The man in the jacket left the pub, with his drink barely touched.

The landlord was amazed to see the crabby old man wipe away a tear.

#

The man in the jacket was waiting outside the house.

“Decided?” he asked.

“I’ll go,” the old man said, unlocking his front door. “What do I do?”

“Just sit,” Jacket said, following him into the living room. He sat too, the strangers close on the faded brown settee. “What’s that?” he asked, nodding towards the framed medal mounted above the oak-finish TV set.

“The Burma Star,” the old man said. “What I get for being sniped at by Japs.”

Jacket nodded and left open an inviting silence.

“I don’t regret fighting,” the veteran said. “But I didn’t have to do all the things I did.”

“You don’t have to do all the things you could,” Jacket corrected.

“Who are you?” the old man asked, not for the first time.

“I’m a tired man who needs his bed,” the man in the jacket answered, “but first I’ve got to stop off at yesterday.”

“But I get my second chance first?” the young man asked, his thick black hair side-parted and set in Brylcreem.

Jacket approached the gramophone and put on Moonlight Serenade. “Don’t waste it,” he said. No medal hung on the wall.

“I won’t lift a hand to her,” he said. “Thank you.”

The man in the jacket let himself out. “Excuse me,” he said, to the pregnant young woman coming in with the shopping.

#

“You,” Jacket said to the muscle-bound geezer in the pub garden, waiting for his mate to bring the next round.

“What do you mean ‘you’?” the man said, rising to his feet.

“Don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“That,” the man in the jacket said, nodding towards the bottle of Peroni in the thug’s hand.

“What you on about?” said the aggrieved drinker, his face close to Jacket’s.

“I saw it,” he explained. “I saw that broken bottle after you smashed it over a Kosovar’s head. I saw the blood. I saw the pain, the hate. I saw the tears, and I’m telling you. Don’t.”

“I haven’t smashed anything you nutjob.”

“Yet,” said Jacket. “One day he’s a normal teenager living with his family, next day he comes home and his house has burnt down. Doesn’t know if they’re dead or alive. Red Cross can’t find ‘em. He has to leave, he picks England. We arrest him, but eventually he’s allowed to settle. He lives on a fiver a day cos he can’t work. Gets a pair of fake trainers from Pitsea Market and you’re jealous. And you. Let’s look at you.”

Jacket touched his badge and the drinker saw, in perfect clarity, the forces that shaped his life, the suffering that made him violent, and at last, the compassion of another human being, who could see all he was, but still gave him a second chance.

The meathead looked pensive for a few seconds, but his face soon stiffened with resolve.

“They can all get glassed for all I care,” he sniffed. “Just wish they’d fuck off ‘ome.”

The man in the bomber jacket broke the thug’s jaw.

#

“Nah, I ain’t takin’ this,” said a corkscrew-haired girl in a slim pair of jeans.

“Come on, Chel, don’t get stressed,” said a teenage boy in chinos.

“He fucking pushed me flying, course I’m stressed!” she shouted. “Wanker!” she added.

She stood staring after her assailant, her hand on her hips. “Let’s go home,” she said. “I’ve had enough.”

The man in the jacket smiled at her. She didn’t recognise him so just gave him a look.

“There he is!” someone shouted.

Jacket turned as a burly group gathered around him, armed with bottles and Stanley knives. Behind them, the man with the broken jaw stood and watched.

“You’re right,” Jacket said, “I shouldn’t have done it.”

“Shouldn’t have done what?” asked one of the blokes, pushing him backwards.

“Hit your mate. I should have known better. These things always loop round.”

It was too late to do anything about it. He’d probably die here. The man pushed him again. Another of the group had crouched behind him. He fell backwards onto the floor and a heavy boot kicked him in the ribs.

“Oi, leave it out,” the girl shouted.

“Go ‘ome love,” one of the men answered.

“It’s hardly a fair fight is it?”

“Come on Chelsea, leave it,” said her friend.

She faded into the background. More kicks came. A skinhead with Borstal teardrops tattooed onto his face crouched down and punched the man in the jacket on the nose. He felt warm blood gather on his upper lip. The guy pulled his fist back for another go, when a familiar voice interrupted them.

“Excuse me lads.”

Jacket looked up to see himself–an unbloodied doppelgänger crouching over him.

“What?” said the skinhead, looking from one Jacket to the other.

“I shouldn’t have broken his jaw,” the prone man confessed to his alternate self.

“If you could go back in time, would you change things?”

The injured Jacket nodded.

The crouching Jacket smiled. “All right. You probably deserve a break.” He touched his badge.

 

BIO: Daevid reverse-engineers morsels of reality and extracts their meaning, injecting this concentrate into carefully assembled words and hoping for a positive outcome. This process began when, as a child in Essex, England, a school teacher asked him to write a poem about a rocket launch. He hasn’t stopped writing since. He lives in Oxfordshire on the isle of Albion and is working on his novel, Resuscitating God.

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How Bernie Won by Steve Slavin

Jun 11 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

Do you want to hear how Bernie really won the election? Some insiders say the story goes back to the New York primary, and that’s certainly plausible. Because, looking back, Bernie’s big win in that state was the beginning of the end for Hillary. But I’m going to give you the real inside story. And that goes back to the 1950s, when Bernie was a student at James Madison High School in Brooklyn.

Now don’t tell me you never heard of our school. Let me drop a few names on you besides Bernie Sanders. Here’s just a few you might have heard of – Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – who, believe it or not, was a cheerleader at Madison. And you know who Senator Chuck Schumer is – besides being the cousin of Amy Schumer. No doubt you’ve heard of Carole King and Judge Judy? And Chris Rock went to Madison for a couple of years. Oh yeah, we even have four Nobel Prize winners. Not bad for a neighborhood school.

A whole lot of really smart kids went to our school. No one can say who was smartest, but when Bernie went to Madison, everyone agreed it was Shelly (short for Rochelle). Sometimes she was called “Shelly the fixer,” but the nickname never really stuck.

Before we talk about how Shelly got involved in Bernie’s presidential campaign, I want to tell you about a few things Shelly did was when she was a kid – just so you’ll have some idea of who we’re dealing with.

One day Shelly, who was about ten, her younger sister, Bonnie, Bonnie’s friend, Susie, and the sisters’ dog, Teddy, went for a walk. Teddy, a brown and white cocker spaniel, grew increasingly tired. The girls, realizing that they were miles from home, agreed that they would have to get home by bus.

But there was a big problem. No dogs allowed. What could they do? Shelly told Bonnie and Susie to get on the bus and walk to the back to find seats. But whatever they did she warned them, “Don’t look back!”

So Bonnie and Susie did as they were told. After all, Shelly was a couple of years older, and she was very wise. As they approached some empty seats, they heard people murmuring, and making tsk tsk sounds. One woman sadly noted that it was “Such a shame!” To which a man added, “And so young!”

Bonnie and Susie noticed that the bus wasn’t moving. They just had to see what was going on. Shelly was slowly making her way to the back of the bus, holding Teddy’s leash with one hand, and her other arm held out straight in front of her. Her eyes were open but she was staring straight ahead. Teddy was sniffing along, his nose almost dragging on the floor. After Bonnie and Susie helped Shelly into a seat, the driver started the bus.

OK, maybe you’re not convinced from this one incident that Shelly was a genius. So if I told you that she won almost $50,000 on a children’s quiz show, you’d probably think that maybe she was just lucky – or that the show was fixed.

Shelly and I happened to be in the same math honors class, and she would call out the answers before the teacher could even begin asking the questions. He finally worked out a deal with her. She would cease and desist if he got all the teachers in the math department to refer their failing students to her for tutoring.

What did a sixteen-year-old do with all that money? She played the stock market. Before she graduated, Shelly was worth several million dollars. Not bad for a kid from the projects.

Madison was very overcrowded. So we had to wait in long lines to get into school, get into the cafeteria, pick up our textbooks, and turn them in. If Bernie had a list of “issues” back then, the long lines we were forced to wait on might have topped that list. I can still picture Bernie in his graduation gown, just seething as the hour-long procession filed into the Loews Kings, a huge movie theater that was rented for the occasion. I laughed when I heard Shelly asking him if had had brought along anything to read.

No one knew what happened to Shelly after high school. In fact, even her closest friends were clueless. And then, two weeks before the New York primary, Bernie got a note from her.

He called her immediately, and within a couple of days, the campaign put her plan into action. Now you can probably figure out what her plan was, because of how radically altered his campaign was. But just in case you were on another planet for the last few months, I am going to spell out everything for you.

Shelly met with Bernie, his wife, Jane, and four of his other most trusted advisors. Shelly began by pointing out that Bernie drew huge crowds wherever he went. Was this because of his movie star looks? His friendly disposition?

They kind of chuckled. “OK,” she went on. Everyone was there to hear Bernie’s message. “The rich are getting richer…. The poor are getting poorer… The middle class is disappearing. Blah, blah, blah.”

“So you think we should change the message?”

NO!!!!!” she screamed.

Everyone looked at everyone else and kind of shrugged. Shelly waited. And then she really surprised them. “Bernie, they loooove your message!”

They waited.

“They love your message so much, they’ve memorized it. You’ve memorized it! Watching you give a speech is like watching the Rocky Horror Show. The audience recites the lines along with the actors. ‘The rigged economy!’ ‘Enough is enough!’ ‘The top one tenth of one percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 99 percent.’”

“So what you’re saying is that they can’t get enough of Bernie delivering the same speech.”

Bingo!”

“Yeah, it’s terrible! Sometimes people have to wait five or six hours just to get through security.”

“OK, now Bernie, I want you to think back to when we were at Madison. Remember all those lines they made us wait in?”

Bernie just smiled, nodding his head.

“You didn’t like those lines.”

“Like? LIKE? I hated them!”

“So what about the lines that you make all your supporters stand in for hours?”

“It’s not our fault!” said one of the managers. “It’s the fuckin’ security check points that the Secret Service set up.”

“Right! It’s not your job.”

Shirley noticed Bernie turning beet red, but she just plunged ahead.

“These are your supporters forced to stand out there for hours like complete schmucks waiting to hear the golden words of their great hero.”

Bernie opened his mouth, but before he could get out a word, Shelly shouted, “Here comes the old bullshit!”

All of them were stunned. How many times had they heard this outburst, word-for-word? Soon they were all laughing – even Bernie.

“Yeah, Shelly,” said Jane, “You can take the boy out of Brooklyn….”

Then Shelly went on. “So Bernie, do you see where I’m going with this?”

“You’re one hundred percent correct, Shelly! I’m responsible for exactly the same thing that I used to bitch about.”

“Shelly,” one of the others said, “We all feel like complete shit for making these long lines of supporters go through all this security crap. But what can we do?”

“OK,” said Shelly, “we all agree that the quality of life of Bernie’s supporters would be greatly enhanced if they didn’t have to wait on those fuckin’ lines.”

There were a few more complaints about the long lines. Shelly waited until everyone had a chance to comment. Then they all looked at her expectantly. She knew that this was the moment when she would actually change the course of history. She made eye contact person-by-person. Then she cleared her throat.

Here’s our problem:  There’s only one Bernie Sanders. And there are millions of people who would love to hear him speak. But most of them never will. If Bernie went out there twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, he still would reach just a tiny fraction of the people who want to hear him give that speech.”

She waited. No one had a clue where she was going with this. She just stared at them. And when they began to think she would just leave them hanging there, she said the two magic words.

“Larry David.”

               Brilliant!

They looked at her, anticipating what she would say next. But instead, she said, “But not Larry David.”

What was she talking about? Was that some kind of Zen bullshit? Was she nuts or what? After all, there’s not a whole lot of real estate between genius and insanity. Still, maybe there was something that she saw that they didn’t.

“OK, let’s just say that we did get Larry David to give one speech. Bernie, you could lend him those long yellow legal sheets you’ve always dragging around with you.”

Bernie laughed. “Yeah, he could probably do a better job than I do.”

“Yeah, Bernie, he kind of does have you down.”

They waited for Shelly to go on. Again, she cleared her throat. She knew that they were primed to make the leap of logic.

“So suppose we don’t get Larry David. Suppose we hire ten actors – men, women, blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, American Indians. Maybe we give them Bernie’s hair and glasses. But all these folks are actors. They give the speech. Maybe they even give it in Brooklynese.”

They were hooked. They looked at each other and nodded. Now all she needed to do was reel them in, close, and have them sign on the dotted line.

“OK, we hire ten – or, who knows, maybe twenty — of these actors. They learn the speech. We schedule hundreds of rallies a day all over the state.”

Yes!!!!!

“No more waiting on long lines to go through security!”

“Amen!!!!”

                  “No more Secret Service!”

Preach it sister!!!!!!”

                 “Bernie, your public wants you 24/7. They can have you 24/7!”

Bernie and Jane, followed by everyone else, got up and hugged Shelly. They all knew at that very instant that they had changed the course of history.

And indeed they did. Bernie impersonators, many of them quite comic, fanned out all over New York State. For the next two weeks no town or village was too small for a rally, complete with “the speech.” His supporters continued to be full participants, mouthing the words along with the Bernie impersonators.

The last poll, just two days before the primary, had Hillary still ahead by three percentage points. But that was down from twelve just ten days ago. Clearly she no longer had the home field advantage.

On Primary day there were reports of over 100,000 voters in Brooklyn whose names had been mysteriously removed from the voting rolls. Although there were just two candidates, the New York City Board of Elections managed to create a paper ballot that even the election workers were unable to explain to voters.

It looked as though the Board of Elections might be trying to steal the primary. Weren’t they part of the Democratic machine, which everyone knew was in Hillary’s pocket?

“Don’t worry,” said Shelly. “These guys are far too stupid to steal the election. She was right. Bernie won by five percentage points. And poor Hillary began to channel Yankee baseball great, Yogi Berra. It was indeed déjà vu all over again. She didn’t win another primary, and quietly dropped out of the race before the convention.

In January, when Bernie took the oath of office, there wasn’t that big a crowd. Why schlep all the way to Washington when you could go to the oath-taking in your own city or town? Millions of Americans will remember the stirring words that would become the rallying cry of our nation: “Enough is enough!”

 

Bio: A recovering economics professor, Steve Slavin earns a living writing math and economics books.

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Controlling the Storm by Jamie Lackey

Jun 04 2017 Published by under The WiFiles

Harmony’s watch beeped just as the first dark clouds gathered on the horizon. The storm was right on schedule. The protesters outside were about to get very wet.

“God controls the weather! You’re not God!” they chanted, clutching their signs.

Thunder rumbled overhead, and they glanced up at the sky. Moments later, they scattered to their cars as the clouds opened.

“Raining out the protesters isn’t going to convince them that you don’t think you’re God,” Toni said.

Harmony shrugged. “I don’t believe in God. But if he is real, he either doesn’t care to control the weather, or he’s bad at it.”

Toni winced. “And that’s why we don’t let you talk to the media.”

“The rain looks good. Nice and steady,” Harmony said. They stood and watched it streak down the glass. After a few minutes, Harmony’s watch beeped again, and the rain slowed to a stop. “I’d call that a successful test,” she said. “I’m going to call it a night. I think we’ll be ready for the meeting tomorrow.”

“Want to go for a drink? A few of us are gonna hit happy hour.”

“No, thanks. I want to take a long bath and get to bed early.”

“Come on. You’ve been spending too much time alone since–well, you know.”

“Since Meg died.”

“Yeah.”

Alone was easier. Friendships were messy, unpredictable. Vulnerable. “Thanks, but no. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Okay.”
#

Meg’s father sat on Harmony’s doorstep, completely soaked, and Harmony suddenly wished she’d gone to happy hour. “Hey, Jack.”

He stood, loomed over her. “I can’t believe that you’re going forward with it.”

“It’s what she would have wanted. Controlling the weather was her life’s work.”

“Till it killed her.”

“Our work didn’t kill her. Someone sabotaged it, and she died trying to fix it.”

We’d programmed the rain to last for fifteen minutes. It had been three days before it let up enough for us to recover her body.

“Dead is dead.”

“You think I don’t know that? You lost your daughter, and that’s hard and I’m sorry. But I lost my wife. And I’m going to finish her work, because it is what she would have wanted. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to go inside.”

“Please, I’m begging you. Stop this.”

Harmony stepped around him and went inside.
#

She woke to the smell of smoke. She reached for Meg, and only found a cold pillow. Panic surged through her for an instant before she remembered. She blinked back tears, scrambled out of the bed, and snagged her watch from the bedside table.

She placed her hand flat against her bedroom door. It was hot, and wisps of smoke curled in from under the door. She felt like she was in a nightmare, the familiar one where water surged around her and slowed her movements.

She walked to the window and fumbled with the latch on the fire safety box she’d insisted they install.

The best way to avoid tragedy is to prepare for it, after all.

She hooked the rope ladder onto the windowsill and scrambled down it. She’d insisted that they test the kit, that they practice getting out of the house. It was easy.
The grass was wet with dew and cold against her bare feet. Flames engulfed her house. Their house.

Her wedding dress was in the attic. The cedar chest that Meg’s grandmother had given them in the guest room.

The origami swans that Meg had made for her when they started dating were tucked in a box under the couch.

The distant, dreamlike feeling shattered. Harmony ran toward the flames, tears drying on her face as soon as she shed them.

Then something hit the back of her head, and there was darkness.
#
She woke tied to a kitchen chair. Her head ached and her hands and feet were numb. She turned to try to see her wrists, but couldn’t.

“Not so high and mighty now, are you?”

A middle aged woman with dark hair with gray roots glared down at her.

“I recognize you,” Harmony said. “You’re one of the protestors.” The fact that she wasn’t wearing a mask was terrifying. Did they plan to kill her? But why kidnap her, if killing her was the plan? She wished she could tell if they’d taken her watch.

“And you’re the mad scientist.”

“I’m not the kidnapper here.”

“Well, I never expected that you’d have a fricking rope ladder installed in your bedroom.”

“The best way to avoid tragedy is to prepare for it,” Harmony said.

“Shut up.”

“You wanted to kill me with the fire. And when that failed, you didn’t have the stomach to murder me, so you knocked me out and dragged me here.”

The woman just glared.

“What are you going to do with me now?”

“Don’t you just want to know?”

“I want to know, too,” Jack said, stepping out of the shadows. “Why in the world did you bring her here?”

Harmony gaped at her father-in-law for a moment, then all of the pieces clicked together. “You killed Meg,” she whispered. “It was you. You sabotaged the program.” Too many emotions to deal with ricocheted around inside of her. She felt like a tornado.

She hated tornadoes.

“She wasn’t supposed to be there. It was supposed to be you.”

“Why?”

“Because humanity isn’t meant to control the weather! You’re overstepping our bounds, Harmony!”

“Do you know how many people tornadoes kill every year?” Harmony asked. “Or hurricanes? Or floods? Or fires caused by drought?”

“That’s not something you can change,” the woman spat.

“Yes, it is. I can change it. And even if you kill me, you won’t kill my work. It’s too important. Too much good can come from it.”

“Your lab and your fancy machines are burning even as we speak,” Jack said.

Harmony blinked back tears. She could refreeze the polar ice caps or change the direction of the breeze, but she’d never change these people’s minds. Jack had killed his daughter, and it hadn’t stopped him.

If she was still wearing her watch, the police could use the GPS to find her, the heart monitor to see that she was still alive. If they even knew to be looking, with the fire.

Her watch was gold, with an analog face and a leather band. It had been Meg’s last present to her, because she didn’t like the look of smartwatches. The woman might have left it.

Harmony rocked back and forth in the chair. Maybe it she knocked it over, something would come loose and she could run. Or at least see if she was still wearing her watch.

Jack grabbed the chair and leaned on it, pinning her in place. “Meg hated how you always needed to control everything. Did you know that?” he asked. “She complained about it all the time.”

“She loved you very much,” Harmony said. “But she complained about you, sometimes, too.”

“The project needs you,” he said. “It will fall apart without you.”

“Maybe for a little while. But California needs rain.”

“And who decides who gets the weather they want?” the woman asked. “And how much will they have to pay for it? How long till your weather machines are used as weapons to cow people into submission? How long till someone else builds one? What happens to the planet if the weather becomes schizophrenic because it has multiple masters? How is that going to fix anything?”

Harmony blinked at her, honestly surprised. “Those are valid concerns.”

“I’m not an idiot,” the woman snapped.

Red and blue lights flashed outside the window, and loudspeaker-enhanced voice boomed through the room. “We have you surrounded. Come out with your hands up.”

“How did they find us?” Jack asked.

“I have no idea! She’s not carrying her phone.” The woman opened a drawer, pulled out a gun, and held it out to Jack. “Here, there’s still time to finish this.”

“Why don’t you do it?” he asked.

“I can’t. I tried. But I can’t.”

“What makes you think I can?”

“You killed your daughter.”

“That was an accident,” Jack said.

“We’ve come this far,” she said.

Jack took the gun. “I’m sorry, Harmony. I told you to back off.”

Harmony squeezed her eyes shut. She’d worked so hard to plan for every possible contingency, to maintain control at all times. It was time to let go.

Maybe they were right, and she’d see Meg again.

The gunshot rang out, and she flinched, waiting for the end. A moment passed. Had he missed?

She opened her eyes, and Jack was crumpled on the floor with a hole between his eyes.

The woman cowered in the corner, crying. A moment later, police officers rushed in. They untied her, and Harmony could finally see her watch, still safely on her wrist.
#
Harmony’s office had not been burned down, but her kidnapper’s words haunted her. She’d spent so much time focusing on controlling the weather that she’d never considered what other people might do with that control.

It could be a terrifying weapon.

But it could also save thousands of lives and stabilize the environment.

She wouldn’t be able to control what happened, once the technology was out there.

“You ready for this?” Toni asked. “They would understand if you wanted to postpone, after last night.”

She was meeting with people from the department of agriculture. Not the department of defense or homeland security or some private corporation.

She’d just have to let go and trust that everything would be okay. Could she do that, after being kidnapped and nearly murdered? Could she trust humanity to do the right thing, knowing that Jack had killed Meg? She rubbed her leather watchband and looked out at the rain.

Meg would have wanted her to try.

“I want to move forward,” Harmony said.

“If you say so. Will you be okay?” Toni asked.

“I–I will be, I think,” Harmony said. “Do you want to grab a drink after work and talk about it?”

#

Bio:
Jamie Lackey lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and their cat. She has over 120 short fiction credits, and has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and the Stoker Award-winning After Death…. She’s a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Her short story collection, One Revolution, and her science fiction novella, Moving Forward, are available on Amazon.com. Her debut novel, Left-Hand Gods is available from Hadley Rille Books. In addition to writing, she spends her time reading, playing tabletop RPGs, baking, and hiking. You can find her online at www.jamielackey.com.

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