FP374 – Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 3 of 3

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Mulligan Smith, Private Investigator: A Skinner Co. Network Podcast

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and seventy-four.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 3 of 3

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by We Are Not Here To Please You

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, our private investigator, Mulligan Smith, finds himself haunting a too-white nightmare with a tazer in his hand.

 

Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 3 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

The Hampton Holistic Healing Center sat on a wooded forty acre spread an hour’s drive from Capital City. It had taken some effort to accidentally blow a tire along the road running the length of the western edge of the property, but, once accomplished, Smith had managed to stumble around the outlying cabins nestled between pine branches for a full half-hour without notice.

Though the spa had signs posted at the gate claiming it was closed for maintenance, the frosted icicle lights that marked its well-swept dirt paths were at full glow, and the regularly spaced faux-stone speakers continued to exhale a constant stream of Yanni’s keyboard work.

Smith blamed the music for his foul mood. The unending demand for calm was getting to him, and every flute trill and harp strum only forced his molars tighter together.

The main house was a shambling collection of extensions, and Mulligan had had several entries to pick from as he avoided the lobby’s porch. Still, his stranded-motorist lie had been sorely tested when, after the first dozen hallway doors had been checked, he’d had to turn a quick corner while pretending not to hear a very tanned fellow in tennis shorts’ shouts of “hello?”

Now though, standing at an open second floor closet with Mr. Tennis still searching for him down below, Smith was again ready to gamble.

He’d remembered the triple H name from Victoria Woodward’s enthusiastic social media endorsements of its online community’s postings. Her brief mention in that afternoon’s yoga class had immediately brought its all-caps dislike of science, and the supposedly jack-booted government it saw as funding its misuses, to mind.

Every suite looked the same. Clean, neat, and eager for someone who needed expensive spiritual cleansing. The crisp white seemed to stretch on forever, as if the place were an MC Escher work inspired by 2001: A Space Odyssey, and he knew each door he pushed through was a possible finale to his thin story.

Discovering the multimedia closet that was Yanni’s secret lair had provided an opportunity – and not just to end the Casio siege – but Mulligan was running out of time, and he knew it.

Ten seconds of silence fell over the incense thick hallways and heat-heavy carpets, then, once the PI had arranged the inputs directly into his phone, a new keyboardist stepped to the mic.

As a child Smith had often watched his parents blow a sad wind from the house by rolling aside the living room rug and threatening the lamps while flailing away to Ray Charles’ high-speed fingers. He could think of no better remedy to the cloying air of the Hampton Center.

The thrum and thrash lasted less than a minute. Ray got to ask what he’d said twice, then Mulligan cut the music and briefly gave up breathing.

Along the hall and to the left he could hear pounding footsteps climbing the service stairs – but beyond that, from the level below, came the shriek of a toddler disclosing its grievances at maximum lung capacity.

It meant having to expose himself by descending the broad main staircase and scuttling across the area that acted as a lobby and group meeting space, but the pillows scattered about the ground floor were empty, and it was a better alternative than the supposed man-with-car-trouble trying to blow by his tanned pursuer.

The wail continued even as the PI zeroed in on the passage behind the reception desk, but the surprise of his sudden entrance was enough to startle the child into a brief silence. Staring down the back of the woman holding Addison, it was tempting to reach for his tazer, but it was his phone he retrieved from the depths of his pocket.

He’d sent the picture before she’d even fully turned.

Sierra Hampton, the holistic center’s founder, had obviously been expecting the man with the tan.

There was a beat during which neither spoke, then Smith’s phone gave off the Rockford Files answering machine beep that marked an incoming response to his photo.

It read, “You were right, Capital City Daily has an article up saying there’s been three measles cases reported on the eastside.”

Mulligan Smith, Private Investigator: A Skinner Co. Network PodcastMulligan’s father hated to text, but went through stationary like he had a deeply held vendetta against trees. Smith knew he had questions, but he also knew the stubborn mute wouldn’t ask any of them until he could express them in longhand.

Looking up from the screen, Smith said, “it’s interesting how stupidity spreads like a virus. One person catches it, and suddenly a whole community is infected.”

“What?” asked Hampton, her voice startling the baby from whimpering itself to sleep.

“Science isn’t a conspiracy,” answered Mulligan, “it’s not out to get you. There’s no profit in giving your kid autism, there’s only a lawsuit. Half the labcoats in those grad classes are trying to figure out how to cook their own narcotics, you don’t think they’d love to blow the whistle on implanted tracking devices or whatever crackpot theory you hug?”

Several assumptions crossed Sierra Hampton’s face, but, in a decision that surprised Smith not at all, she finally landed on the most paranoid – and thus the option that allowed her to be the most self-righteous.

“What are you going to do, thug? Arrest me for the crime of taking care of a sick child? Where’s your uniform, officer? Too ashamed to wear your swastika in public?”

Smith coughed.

“Hey, I’m no cop, I’m just some poor sap who happened to break down while on a country drive – but, like I said, it’s funny how ideas get around – like the idea the police might suddenly have that this tot looks a lot like Posey Cotton’s baby.”

“It’s not!”

“Oh, I believe you.”

Despite the spread of angry red spots across the child’s skin, the head of curly black hair was an easy match for Addison’s grandmother’s photos.

“Still,” he said, “while they’re verifying, uh, whoever this is, I wonder if they’ll find any connection between you and Posey in your guest list and bank accounts? Will they find a quack in your employ when they look at who signed off on vaccination records for kids who somehow managed to pick up measles?”

He actually knew the answer to this last item, and the tender nature of the case meant it hadn’t even cost his client more than a couple of hundred dollars.

Whoever Dr. Bowers was, he was soon going to be simply Mr. Bowers.

”Most importantly though,” Smith continued, “how big a tin foil hat did you have to talk Posey Cotton into for her to agree to cover up the death of her own kid? You got a lot of land here – how many times do you figure you’ll have to imply the cops are Nazis before they bring out the cadaver dogs?

It was then that Mr. Tennis entered the room, and, without having noticed its movement, Mulligan found his hand was in his pocket and tightly wrapped about his tazer’s grip.

He was unexpectedly eager to use it.

He would not get his chance, however.

The trio stood there in silence for a five full minutes, then black body armour and red lights swept the compound as SWAT poured through the building like furious antibodies seeking an infection.

It would be another ten hours before Mulligan had finished barely-answering the official questions.

The papers would never mention the stranded motorist, but he would at least find comfort in the fact that Grandmother Woodward was happy to expense his flat tire.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP373 – Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 2 of 3

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Mulligan Smith, Private Investigator: A Skinner Co. Network Podcast

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and seventy-three.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 2 of 3

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download MP3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Way of the Buffalo

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, our private investigator, Mulligan Smith, finds himself stretching both his limbs and the truth.

 

Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 2 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

Mulligan finally got lucky during his third yoga class.

The studio was a converted loft apartment overtop a vegan restaurant, with a pass-through kitchen at one end and a bay window, overlooking the pedestrian traffic below, at the other. Though Smith doubted he could afford the habit if he weren’t expensing it, a rainbow of twenty mats were already laid out on the parquet floor as he entered.

The first two sessions had been conducted by a bearded willow tree named Dakota. Dakota was a nice enough fellow, and he’d done a bit to correct Mulligan’s Dolphin pose, but the PI was quite pleased to find him absent that Sunday afternoon.

Still, as the room began to fill with the recorded sounds of flutes and chimes, the investigator again felt the guilt of wasted time. Grandmother Woodward, his client, certainly had the cash to spare – she’d made that clear as they sat through tea in her Victorian style garden – but it frustrated the PI that he couldn’t even claim to be learning anything useful.

Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 2 of 3Years of sitting in the less-than-ergonomic front seat of the Tercel while waiting out errant spouses and insurance frauds had already made Smith a well-practiced pupil. It was not uncommon, in the fifth of a probable ten hour watch, for Mulligan to simply step out of his vehicle and Downward Dog right there on the pavement.

The remorse disappeared at the sight of Victoria Woodward.

She was wearing black leggings and a spaghetti strap top that did nothing to hide the light blue stone of her belly-button piercing.

“Namaste,” she told the class as she took her position at its head.

Suddenly Mulligan’s Dolphin slipped again, and his back refused to stay straight during his Plow. Not so badly that he embarrassed himself, of course, but certainly enough to draw Victoria’s eye.

Finally, after a serene hour of stretching, the session came to a close.

Smiling, Smith walked to the ornate rack of wooden coat hangers, pulled his sweater from its resting place, then approached his newly returned teacher.

“You’ve been away?” he asked.

Briefly biting her lower lip, his client’s daughter – the mother of the supposedly missing toddler, Addison Woodward – replied, “yeah?”

It was hard to remain nervous, however, under the glare of Mulligan’s practiced grin.

“Thanks for your help today,” he continued, “I’d heard you were really good but you haven’t been around the last couple of times I’ve been in.”

“Oh! Yeah, I was at a spa – it was fantastic, just a few days in the country with the trees and the birds and nothing to worry about, you know?”

Mulligan nodded and did his best to ignore the way her tone seemed to be trying to convince him of the truth of her words, but, before he could respond, she changed the subject.

“You said someone recommended me? Who?”

Smith’s hunch had come to him the previous evening, as he’d picked apart a Denny’s club sandwich. He’d spread three photos of the yoga instructor on the booth’s tabletop, alongside a column of website printouts. The photos were from the first day of his investigation, after which Victoria had immediately disappeared.

Though they’d provided no hint as to her location, her social media profiles had made it clear that she considered her yoga class as more than a job, so he’d known where to wait for her return.

His search had also uncovered something he found considerably more troubling, however.

It had started with postings about GMO wheat crammed between videos demonstrating proper pose posture, but, the further the detective scrolled, the deeper the well grew. Items began to crop up in her feed about black site prisons, about the dangers of vaccines, about the fascism of the American state.

He’d had to back away from his keyboard when, two status updates below a photo of baby Addison, he’d stumbled across a diatribe written by Victoria that began, “The conmen that make up the scientific community…” and had continued on for twelve more paragraphs.

Was it pleasant? No, but plenty of people were a parent and unpleasant at the same time.

So where was the child? Probably with a babysitter, as the mother had always claimed.

Yet, later, as he’d drained his milkshake and buried the photos beneath his mute father’s notes from the press conference – Smith always filed his observations, just in case – his half-formed suspicion had grown into a no-you’re-just-being-paranoid hypothesis.

Now, with a conscious effort to keep his friendly smirk in place, Mulligan filled his nose with the thick smell of freshly lit incense and played his hunch.

“Posey Cotton,” he answered.

The senior Smith had called in some favours still owed to the former police sergeant, but no one in the beehive of activity surrounding the Cotton baby’s case could draw any connections between Victoria and the missing child’s mother.

Mulligan caught the hesitation in the yogi’s response, and noted the briefest tug at her left cheek.

Suddenly he was sure he wasn’t wasting Grandma’s time at all.

“Poor Posey,” replied Victoria, “that whole thing is just so sad.”

“I know, right?” answered Mulligan as he tugged at his sweater’s zipper. “Anyhow – gotta see a sorcerer about my chakras and all that.”

Smith’s feet carried him to the stairwell at such a pace that he nearly forgot to call out a “namaste” as he departed.

He had an appointment to make.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

Research Fodder April 16, 2014

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  • Levellers – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  • Hwang Woo-suk – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Until late November 2005, Hwang was criticized only for unpublicized ethical violations. Colleagues and media outlets asserted that he had paid female donors for egg donations and that he had received donations from two junior researchers, both of which were violations. Later controversies would center around scientific misconduct. His team, which cloned the first human embryo to use for research, said they had used the same technology to create batches of embryonic stem cells from nine patients.

FP372 – Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 1 of 3

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Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and seventy-two.

Flash PulpTonight we present Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 1 of 3

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download MP3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Way of the Buffalo

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, Mulligan Smith, PI, finds himself contemplating a possible kidnapping while standing on the warm pavement of a Walmart parking lot.

 

Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 1 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

Mulligan stood to the left of the scrum of reporters, his cabbie-capped father beside him and a sad imitation of coffee in his hand.

A gull wheeled overhead, riding the gentle breeze to hover above the cluster of dress-uniformed policemen on the far side of the wooden platform, and Smith wondered for the third time if this Snipe hunt was ever going to get underway.

With a look of mourning, he tossed the barely cooled cup onto an already congested trashcan.

His father already had a response scrawled out across a thin white sheet of notepad paper, “it may have been complimentary, but it’s hard to be complimentary,” but the PI replied only with a groaning chuckle and a shake of his head.

The knot of deep blue began to breakup, reforming to face the crowd and revealing a petite woman of perhaps twenty-nine. Posey Cotton’s blond curls wavered gently at the edge of her knitted beanie, and her tears ran clear to the black cloth of her dress and leggings.

Stepping onto the makeshift stage that had, until recently, been a gardening display, Commissioner Ender approached the bristling collection of extended arms.

Mulligan Smith in Taken, Part 1 of 3“Mrs. Cotton would like to make a plea directly to the public,” Ender told the mics, “but I ask that you hold your questions. Clearly it’s been a rough two hours.”

An intern from the Capital City Star shot a garbled inquiry from the back of the crowd, but the Commissioner’s stare, and the grumbling of his fellow journalists, brought him to silence.

Taking the hush as acceptance of his terms, Ender stepped away and allowed the grieving mother to come to the forefront.

Dabbing at her eyes, Posey took a deep breath and began.

“I don’t know why, two hours ago, you stole my angel from my Escalade. I turned for a second, and you snatched her. You must see how special she is, though – please, please don’t hurt her. You can still make this right. I promise I won’t be mad if you just let her go.

“Kinney, if you’re watching this, know that Mama loves you. Everything’s going to be okay.”

Having delivered her clearly rehearsed piece, Cotton unleashed a broken squeal then began to weep.

The sobbing struck Mulligan as honest enough, but there was something about the delivery that had left a whispering in the PI’s ear.

Still, he wasn’t convinced it was related to his case. He was looking for a toddler, sure, but it hadn’t been snatched as far as he knew – at least, not according to anyone but the Grandmother who’d hired him. He felt a little bad about working a case that seemed like little more than an expensive way to get some baby photos, but the bills weren’t going to pay themselves.

Mulligan’s train of thought was interrupted by the landing of another sheet of paper in his palm.

It read, “She looks dressed for the camera.”

Raising a brow at the chunky gold pendant on the end of her long chain, her coiffed hair, and her somber but well put together silhouette, the junior Smith had to give his elder’s ex-cop eye its due. It was all the push his imagination needed to understand what the whisper in his ear was trying to say.

“Yeah,” he replied, “she doesn’t look like a Walmart shopper, she’s looks like the kind of Whole Foods yuppy who thinks Walmart is where infants get grabbed.

“I see some blush, some concealer – but no mascara, huh? She’s not just dressed for the camera, she’s dressed to cry.”

No longer willing to finish the conversation, the Smiths turned from the Commissioner, now fielding questions, and returned to the PI’s rust-spotted Tercel.

The detective wasn’t convinced the two incidents were related, but he was uncomfortably sure this newest missing child wouldn’t be found alive.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP371 – Ruby: The Lone Gunman

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Ruby Departed: A Zombie Fiction Podcast

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and seventy-one.

Flash PulpTonight we present Ruby: The Lone Gunman, Part 1 of 1

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download MP3

(RSS / iTunes)

 

This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Way of the Buffalo

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, Ruby must deal with both the hungry mouths of the horde and the feverish thoughts of a rugged individual.

 

Ruby Departed: The Lone Gunman

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

Ruby Departed: A Zombie Fiction Podcast

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

MMN3 – 3 Ninjas

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MMN3 - 3 Ninjas

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(Download/iTunes/RSS)

* * *

Join JMay and The Mob for a viewing of the 1992 “classic” 3 Ninjas!

* * *

If you have comments, questions or suggestions, you can find us at http://skinner.fm, or email us text/mp3s to comments@flashpulp.com.

This commentary is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

FP370 – Coffin: Looking Down

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Coffin: Urban Shaman, A Skinner Co. Podcast

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and seventy.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Looking Down, Part 1 of 1

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download MP3

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by We Are Not Here To Please You

 

Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, Will Coffin, urban shaman, tells a tiny tale of woe to his unusually miserable apprentice, Bunny.

 

Coffin: Looking Down

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May

 

Bunny was furious with her nose and everything around it.

She was sure pancakes, fry grease, and the cologne of the guy two booths over, were giving her a migraine.

“F##k Denny’s,” she said.

Will looked up from the club sandwich pictured on his menu and shrugged.

“It’s cold. You’d prefer to hang around on a bench with snow in your shoes and no feeling in your fingers?”

“How is anyone supposed to know we’re here?”

“Consistency.”

For a moment the bar she normally would have been sitting in came to mind, and Bunny nearly opened her mouth to follow up on the conversation – the problem, of course, was that the bar reminded her of good stories and dancing with the three Steves and every other excuse she’d ever used to get drunk.

She might have complained about how hard she was finding sobriety. She might have told Will about the monstrous figures that sometimes seemed to shimmer at the edge of her vision. She might have launched into the actually rather eloquent argument for permanent drunkenness that she’d written and re-written in her head while shaking and sweating beneath her sheets.

Soon, she reckoned, but not yet. Instead, she repeated herself.

“F##k Denny’s.”

Coffin took in the way she was picking at the skin beside her thumbnail, the bobbing of her leg, and the utter lack of focus she was showing the menu.

He asked, “have you found the Morrow diary?”

Beneath the table the tap-tap-tap of her bouncing boot heel ceased.

“Nope,” she replied, “I’m still gnawing my way through the clusterf##k littering the hallway bookshelves.”

Will scanned the post-lunch stragglers for anyone close enough to overhear, then started to read the details listed beside the Philly Melt.

Nodding, he said, “it opens in July, 1972, and it starts pretty boring.

“Conrad, its author, talks about buying a second car, the scores of his kid’s little league games, and enjoying the occasional cigar. That’s about as exotic as his tastes get. He loves his wife, his son, and his train set – in that order.

“The set was one of those old-school affairs setup on multiple tables. H.O. scale countryside and green felt as far as the eye can see. He called it Macropolis. Based on what he describes I assume the thing absorbed most of his basement. Twice he mentions knocking out walls to make room – once before the death of Agnes, his wife, and once after.

“His description of how it started put me in mind of Victorian London, but with more steam trains plodding through rows of fake trees.

“Agnes seemed nice, although I only have what he wrote to go on. She must have been a patient woman to have put up with that level of nerdery. There are a few scattered reviews of drive-in movies they saw with Dean, their kid, snoozing in the back, and they tended to spend their Saturday nights drinking gin and tonics together while playing cards with friends in the kitchen.

“She got sick in early August, and she was dead by mid-October. ”

Coffin paused there, as a server had arrived. Her name tag declared the pixie-cut wearing teen’s name to be “Carrie.”

“Ah, f##kin’ Denny’s,” muttered Bunny, her eyes quickly dropping back to her menu.

“What can I get you today?” asked Carrie, but Will caught the twitch in her smile.

Decisions were outside of her current capability, so Bunny turned on the girl. “What’s the least s##tty thing you sell? Actually, gimme the second least s##ttiest as well, I need options.”

With a grace that Coffin thought spoke well of her, Carrie ducked forward and jabbed a finger at the photo of a towering burger.

“That’s definitely not shitty,” she said.

“Fine,” answered Bunny, “I’ll take three.”

Frowning, Will considered her order, then his wallet.

“Just coffee,” he told the teen.

Bunny’s mind was already elsewhere. She’d taken to listing every individual item in the restaurant and internally telling it to f##k off.

The lights were too bright and the cutlery was too loud and sobriety was just too goddamn hard.

Once Carrie was beyond earshot, Coffin asked, “you covering lunch today?”

Coffin: Urban Shaman, A Skinner Co. PodcastThough her roommate was still well down the list, the obvious implication that her ass was broke was enough to convince Bunny to jump ahead.

Her face puckered, and Will prepared his ears for an extended auditory assault.

An in-breath was as far as her retort went, however. She hadn’t paid for a meal in months, and she knew it. She had one friend left, and she was about to compare him to the worst sort of cattle rapist.

She felt her eyes grow wet. She was suddenly only mad at herself.

Her chin sagged, her shoulders collapsed, and she asked, “the f##k’s the point of anything anyway?”

Coffin cleared his throat.

“The diary restarts in February ’74,” he said. “Conrad was still mourning, and there’s no more mention of little league games. I think he started writing again for the same reasons he re-focused Macropolis: He was seeking direction.

“His project, he’d decided, would mirror the town he and Agnes grew up in. Sometime in 1973 he tore down pseudo-London entirely and started laying out the massive black-iron train engines of the 1940s.

“The notes become obsessive: Plans for how to approach what wasn’t built, ways he could modify hobby shop figures to fill in for people he once knew, scrawled listings for upcoming swap meets that seemed likely to yield useful architecture.

“It gets so bad that I was almost surprised when Dean is mentioned a few months in. Until then it was as if he’d died too, or at least like he’d been sent to live with a distant relative.

“He only received one line of notice – that they’d stopped at a farm, on the way back from a rummage sale where Conrad had scored some bungalows, and the kid had convinced him to let him have a dog.

“The mutt, which Dean named Beagle Bailey, actually gets a few more footnotes after that, but once he’s housebroken both he and the boy fade into the background again.

“Late in the summer, while buying a stack of teeny bicycles from the trunk of a station wagon parked at the edge of a farmers’ market, a toothless grandmother looks over at him from her lawn chair and pegs him instantly.

“‘What is it?’ she asks, ‘dead child?’

“He didn’t wonder how she knew till later, but he answers, ‘wife.’

“The page following that is ripped out, but the results are obvious.

“The next entry is two days later, and he’s talking about ‘the process.’ Macropolis has a new Mayor, he reports, Mr. Madigan. Mr. Madigan is a short man – well, shorter even than his tiny friends – who wears a top hat and sports a thick white painted beard.

“Mr. Madigan is named after the real Mr. Madigan, and his appearance is as close as Conrad can recall from his childhood. More impressively, the new Maddigan has quickly taken to helping with the construction of his town.

“Upon being provided with sewing scissors, for example, the miniature mayor takes to trimming the cloth and felt shrubberies. A police force of three quickly follows, then the Morrow family doctor, the teen who Conrad envied for working the soda fountain counter, and as many of the man’s classmates as he can remember.

“The classmates, children really, need teachers, and the teachers need a principal, and the principle needs a maintenance crew – and the cycle continues until one morning Conrad wakes to discover a train has hit Glen Herbert from third grade.

“Now, the impact itself wouldn’t have been so bad, but the Macropolans’ hand motions make it clear that Glen had been sent flying from the edge of the table. I can only assume Beagle Bailey figured it was a bug he was chewing.

“Conrad erects a plexiglass wall around the outside of his fiefdom, zones and develops a graveyard, then organizes a funeral so the people of Macropolis can gather to say goodbye.

“A week later, though, he gives in to temptation and builds a new Glen. Still, by the way it reads, he was plenty angry with Dean for having let the dog into the basement in the first place.

“With a bit of work he gets a fountain setup at the center of town. He builds a post office, then organizes a theoretically functional postal system. There’s really very little the mailmen can do, given that none of the town’s inhabitants have functional fingers or writing implements, but everyone in Macropolis seems pleased to have something to do.

“The incident with Glen Herbert kept him from ever animating any dogs, but the memories of a big black Tom that used to howl outside his window brings him to create a few cats to prowl the thumb-wide alleys.

“Making them speak was beyond him – probably beyond me too, if I’d ever been able to track down the ritual he’d obviously ripped out.

“Anyhow, he couldn’t help himself. Like a train barreling down the tracks he ran his memory right to the end of the line. The second last figure he painted and brought to life was Agnes at sixteen.

“He couldn’t talk to her, like I said, but she seemed to understand his lopsided conversations all right, and he would often find himself passing the hours simply watching her.

“It still wasn’t enough though. He placed a perfect replica of his own boyhood home, then he began painting a mini him.

“The last few entries are rough. Conrad grapples with the fact that he built a perfect simulation of everything he wanted that he’ll never be able to enter. Less than a week after his project was complete, Morrow put a gun in his mouth while standing at the cusp of this creation. I guess it says something that the papers reported that Dean found the corpse two days later.”

Three burgers and a coffee arrived, and there was a beat of silence as Carrie did her best to politely toss the food onto the table and sprint away.

Finally, once she’d collected her bread and beef in a row, Bunny asked, “what happened to the little b#####ds? Is there a pint-sized Stepford sitting forgotten in some basement?”

“No,” answered Will. He blew on his coffee. “They must have crawled down the corpse and scattered. Maybe they’re living in the walls of the house, maybe they spread out across the neighbourhood, or maybe the dog got ‘em.

“It was actually Dean who gave me the book, and it was the last of Macropolis he had.

“He was in his mid-twenties when I visited, but he’d started a family of his own in the same house: Him, his wife, their own young son, and old man Beagle Bailey, who was asleep by the door. Dean had sold or given away everything that hadn’t run off, and said I was the only person who’d ever come around asking – till then he’d just believed his dad was a nutter. I think my showing up made Dean hate him slightly less, at least”

“Sweet weeping dog balls,” said Bunny, “what the f##k was the point of that story? Which are you telling me, to stick a gun in my mouth or that I’ll never achieve my dreams? F##king f##k, man.”

“No, I’m saying instead of building a fantasy in your mind that you can never achieve you should buy a goddamn dog and start moving on.”

For a moment the air was filled with the noisy entry of a trio of college boys in too-tight t-shirts, then, with a sigh, Bunny pushed one of her pearl-white plates across the table.

 

Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

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