Category Archives: Speculative

Stuff It by Stuart Carruthers

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The light streamed through the large window and cast dark shadows around the otherwise white room. Sara opened her eyes. She didn’t know where she was, it looked like a hotel room, the white linen was soft to the touch and the duvet that covered her was full and voluptuous. It was expensive. But there was something wrong. She couldn’t put her finger on it. There was something subtly out of place. She got out of bed and walked over to the window and looked down, where she could see cars and people scurrying around like mice.

Behind her she heard the door open. She wanted to turn around, but either through fear or bloody-mindedness, she kept looking out through the glass.

“Sara, I’m Doctor Smith.”

“A doctor,” she said to the window, “am I sick?

“Please sit down, Miss Jones.”

“Miss Jones? Why the change of address?”

“Miss Jones, I really must insist that you come and sit down.” The tone was firm and one of a person who was used to getting his own way. Sara complied.

“So Doctor, what’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing that a short stay here won’t cure. But before we get into that let’s talk about you.

“You’re Sara Jones and you live at this address?” He showed her his clipboard. She nodded in confirmation. “Excellent, excellent. You have a good income Miss Jones, one that many would envy, especially for a single person. Lots of disposable income.”

“I’ve worked hard and had a degree of luck,” she answered defensively.

“Of course, of course. Nobody resents you, please don’t take offense. I’m just checking a few facts.”

The questions went on for a while and the doctor eventually left, without telling her why she was there or how she got there. When she tried the door, she was pleasantly surprised to find it unlocked. Having dressed in her own clothes that were neatly folded in the white chest of drawers, she walked along the corridor until she found a lift. It arrived after she pressed the down button, but nothing happened.

A voice came from a speaker. “Miss Jones you can only go to the roof, where you will find the canteen and the garden. The other buttons won’t work for you at this time.”

She pressed “R”.

When the elevator stopped, the doors opened on a Japanese garden covered by glass panels to keep the elements out. Around her she heard the sound of flowing water and the splashing of orange and white koi leaping in excitement at being fed.

Sara sat on one the benches that bordered the area. She was alone and she disappeared into her thoughts, trying to make sense of the situation.

“Miss  Jones.”

Startled, Sara’s almost jumped, but she controlled the impulse. Her job relied on not showing emotions, and she was well rewarded for this ability.

“Doctor Smith. Do you have any more questions?”

“No, but I may have some answers. This is a recovery home; you’re here to help us determine how we can help you recover from an illness. You will be released when we deem you are well enough to return to society. Your salary is still being paid and you’ll actually be able to work from here for the duration of your stay. There are full office facilities on the floor below and your laptop has been put in your secure locker. Here’s the key. Just return it when you return to your room. There are a few rules whilst you’re here, but you’ll be advised of those if you come across them.”

“What am I recovering from exactly?”

“Your spending habits.”

“But, but I buy very little!”

“And that is the problem. You don’t have enough stuff. Your credit cards are hardly used; your store cards have only the essentials registered. We’ve inventoried your home and quite frankly it’s very disappointing. You have one TV, one computer—a laptop—and a cell phone that quite frankly should be in a museum. You don’t even have a car; your bike is 15 years old. Your bank accounts show that you’re not living beyond your means or even close to it. You do, to your credit, have a bit of an alcohol problem and you eat out quite a lot, and a personal trainer helps you keep trim. Sorry, we can’t have him here, but there is a gym and pool two floors down.

“The thing is you’re supposed to want more.  A person in your position should have two televisions, a good selection of never used kitchen gadgets hiding in cupboards, many electronic gadgets that have long ceased to be useful, and of course lots of clothes that you hardly ever wear. Are you aware that interest rates are kept deliberately low to encourage you not to save and to spend more on credit?”

“Are you saying that not being a shopaholic is a crime?”

“Not technically, but it is an anomaly and as such is reason enough to have you detained here.”

“So, what do I have to do to get out of here? Promise that I’ll buy more junk? Max out my credit cards on Amazon? What do you want?”

“Well that would help, but it would only be a short term fix and you’d soon slip back into your old habits. What you’re here for is a long-term resolution, not just for you but so we can learn how to help all those who suffer in the same way. Thanks to MRI scanners, we know how to target most people’s sweet spots and we can target advertising in such a way as to get 62 percent of the population to buy anything we sell them. But there are a few of you on whom these methods just don’t work. We need to know why. You’ll be allowed to leave once we’ve found the reason.”

 ***

The days and weeks dragged by as Sara worked, exercised, and was tested, prodded, and interviewed over and over. Eventually she was let go. One day she stepped into the lift to go to the office. She pushed the button, but instead of going up the elevator automatically went down to the basement. There she was met by a driver and shown to a black car with tinted windows. In the back was an open bottle of champagne with a note around the neck.

“Thank you for your patience Miss Jones.”

Sara poured herself a glass of wine, relaxed back into the embracing seats and watched the television. It was a new sitcom sitcom. Sara chuckled at some of the jokes. She didn’t notice any advertising. But she had this feeling, a strange urge to buy a new bicycle and, yes, she really did need to upgrade her cell phone.

***

Stuart Carruthers writes speculative fiction and childrens stories and can be found on Amazon. He lives in Taiwan with his wife and two young kids.

COMING SOON FOR THOSE WHO LOVE TO READ

Not only are the members of The Write Room Blog fine authors, but we are also prolific and wide-ranging. Here are some of the new books from the gang. Some are already available and others will be out soon. All are worth reading. So check the inventory, make your wish list, and get set for a good read.

1) From Frank Fiore “MURRAN” the story of a Black American boy coming of age in the 1980s and his rite of passage to adulthood. Trey is a member of a tribe in Brooklyn and is enticed into helping a drug gang. Eventually he is framed for murder and flees with his high school teach to the teacher’s Maasai village in Kenya. There Trey learns true Black African values and culture, goes through the Maasai warrior’s rite of passage, and becomes a young shaman. Returning to America to confront the gang leader who framed him, Trey teaches the values of the Maasai to his tribe in Brooklyn.

2) Suppose your acts and deeds in life were exposed?  What if darkness spread throughout the world, its evil feeding each person’s inner fears, terrorizing their bodies, minds and souls?  Monica Brinkman’s stand-alone sequel to “The Turn of the Karmic Wheel” aptly titled, “THE WHEEL’S FINAL TURN” takes us to Northern California where one woman holds the power to control the world’s destiny.  Brinkman presents a page-turning adventure of horror, the paranormal and spirituality. Watch for its release in 2015.

3) From Anne Sweazy Kulju comes “GROG WARS: PART 1.” Who will win the war for love and beer? A self-made German brewer endures the cross-Atlantic “coffin ship”, braves the savage-infested Oregon Trail and is threatened with Shanghai.  He becomes wealthy, but he would give it all for the love of his woman–while a lesser man would take it all and rid of the woman.  Let the battles begin!

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4) Chase Enterprises Publishing is now taking pre-orders for a stunning memoir from a woman who has lived nearly 40 years with the deadly disease, anorexia. Eileen Rand’s story, “NOTHING ON THE FIELD: A message of hope from a recovering anorexic” is a brutally honest account of her terrible struggle while also offering up hope to others with eating disorders. Clayton Bye, her recorder, recommends the memoir to anyone who has ever faced adversity in their lives or who simply wants to know what this killer disease is all about. Avoid the rush and order yours now at ccbye@shaw.ca.

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5) Discover the passion for not only cooking, but for enriching the joie de vivre! Recipes that create delicious entertaining and romantic conclusions. Whether cooking for two or more, these easy dishes will enhance any occasion and can turn an ordinary eating experience into a memorable event. Intermingled between luscious pictures of recipes, are gorgeous photos of men to spice the cook’s creative energy. A romantic story thread begins after the first recipe and concludes following the last menu suggestion of cheese and wine. “FRONT ROW CENTER’S PASSION IN THE KITCHEN” is a great addition to any cook’s collection and is the go-to book when desiring originality with a flare. Winner of multiple literary awards, Cynthia B. Ainsworthe delivers more than tasty meals.

6) Kansas, 1959. A traveling carnival appears overnight in the small town of Seneca Falls, intriguing the townsfolk with acts of inexplicable magic and illusion. But when a man’s body is discovered beneath the carousel, with no clue as to his identity, FBI Special Agent Michael Travis is sent to investigate.  Led by the elusive Edgar Doyle, the carnival folk range from the enigmatic to the bizarre, but none of them will give Travis a straight answer to his questions. With each new turn of the investigation, Doyle and his companions challenge Travis’s once unshakeable faith in solid facts and hard evidence.  In “CARNIVAL OF SHADOWS,” his powerful, atmospheric thriller, bestselling author R.J. Ellory introduces the weird and wonderful world of the Carnival Diablo and reveals the dark secrets that lurk at its heart.

7) Santa is better known then ever, and the world is getting busier. But he still has to deliver the presents. How will he get the goodies to all the children in time? Watch for the e-book and enhanced e-book of “SANTA’S DOPPELGANGER” coming soon from Stuart Carruthers.

8) Looking for a collection of multi-genre short stories, funny bittersweet slice of life experiences, essays and a smattering of poetry to laugh at, relate to and treasure? Be prepared for “DON’T PLUCK THE DUCK” by Micki Peluso, a reading experience to remember. Available soon on Amazon and everywhere enjoyable books are found.

9) “ANGELS VERSUS VIRGINS”. The twisted mind of author Bryan Murphy mingles with that of a teenage boy in this short, sharp tale of football and fanaticism with a bitter-sweet ending.

10) “SHADOW OF DOUBT” by Nancy Cole Silverman — When a top Hollywood Agent is found poisoned in her bathtub, suspicion quickly turns to one of her two nieces. But Carol Childs, a reporter for a local talk radio station, doesn’t believe it. The suspect is her neighbor and friend, and also her primary source for insider industry news. After a media frenzy pits one niece against the other—and the body count starts to rise—Carol knows she must save her friend from the court of public opinion. But even the most seasoned reporter can be surprised. When a Hollywood psychic warns Carol there will be more deaths, things take an unexpected turn. Suddenly, nobody is above suspicion. Carol must challenge friendship and the facts, and the only thing she knows for certain is that the killer is still out there. And, the closer she gets to the truth, the more danger she’s in.

11) Rosemary “Mamie” Adkins new book is “MAGGIE’S KITCHEN TAILS: Dog Treat Recipes and Puppy Tales to Love.” It is inspired by her dog Maggie, who rescued Mamie many times when she got into trouble with her blood pressure and diabetes, waking her when they crashed.  Maggie is now in training as a Service Dog.  She was severely abused as a puppy creating serious health issues for Maggie, which forced Mamie and her husband Doug to learn what foods were healthy and to create special recipes for their canine companion. Many of those recipes are included in the book; all of them are human grade and with added spices can be enjoyed by humans. A potion of each book’s sale will be donated to benefit animals suffering from the effects of abuse that are needing to be re-homed. Mamie’s co-authors for this book are her husband Douglas E. Adkins, Martha Char Love and Linda Victoria Hales. Copies can be reserved in advance.

12) “BACKWOODS BOOGIE” by Trish Jackson (just released on November 14th) is the third  book in Trish’s romantic comedy Redneck P.I. Mystery Series. Twila Taunton can’t allow gentle Pam Taylor to go to prison for a murder she did not commit, and sets out to hunt down the real killer, with the help of her quirky cohorts. When she discovers an illegal puppy mill, and a possible dog fighting ring, Twila calls on a vigilante biker gang and her long distance lover, Harland to help.

13) “VIRGO’S VARIANT” is Trish Jackson’s third story in her Zodiac Series, where each heroine belongs to a different star sign and exhibits the typical traits of her sign. “Virgo’s Variant” is a romantic suspense thriller about a reality show gone terribly wrong. It is available for preview on Amazon’s Kindle Scout program, where the power goes to the readers, who are the judges. If you have an Amazon account, please click on the link and if you like the story, Trish would love you to nominate it

14) Eduardo Cervino’s (writing as E.C. Briefield) upcoming novel “ALLIGATOR ISLAND” is based on his last years living in the Island of Cuba, during the Castro revolution. Revolutions, like alligators, have a nasty habit of eating their young. When moonlight bathes the Florida Strait, you might see Cubans escaping north aboard rickety rafts. The price of the perilous trip is fear, tears, and laughter if they succeed, or death for those who fail. These men and women carry nothing but dreams of freedom for themselves and hopes of prosperity for their children. The ninety miles between Havana and Key West may well be the most dangerous adventure of their lives. The spirits of countless Cubans who have drowned in the salty waterway cannot always steer away the sharks circling the flimsy rafts. This is the story of one such trip.

15) D. M. Pirrone’s “SHALL WE NOT REVENGE” is “a deeply nuanced mystery bolstered by fine writing and attention to historical detail” (Kirkus starred review, August 2014).  In the harsh early winter of 1872, Irish Catholic detective Frank Hanley must solve the brutal murder of an Orthodox rabbi.  Aided by the dead man’s daughter Rivka, who defies her community to help track down her father’s killer, Hanley unravels a web of corruption and deceit that ultimately forces a showdown with a powerful gambling king and nemesis from his own shady past.

16) Talk about homecomings . . . Thanks to suspended animation during his missions, Turtan, humanity’s greatest hero, returns to the space academy where he graduated 4,000 years before.  John B. Rosenman’s novel “DEFENDER OF THE FLAME” is Book III in his Inspector of the Cross series, and thanks to MuseItUp Publishing, it will blast into outer space this winter.  For 4,000 years, Inspector Turtan has traveled on freeze ships to investigate reports of weapons or devices that might turn the tide against our heartless and seemingly invincible alien enemy, the Cen.  If it weren’t for him, we would have lost the war and been annihilated centuries ago.  Now, at long last, Turtan believes he has found a way to defeat the foe and save us.  But is he only deluded?  Read the series and find out!

17) Set to be released by Christmas of 2014, “IT’S BAD BUSINESS” by R.L. Cherry is the second in the Morg Mahoney, P.I. series.  The investigator with a tongue as lethal as her revolver is back with a vengeance and the bad guys learn she is no wimpy woman.  She’s Morg, and that says it all. With a tip of the fedora to Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon,” the story even includes a Sam Spade who helps Morg at key moments.

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18) “THE MERRY-GO-ROUND MAN,” John B. Rosenman’s novel about three boys growing up in the fifties is now also available as an audio book.  It is narrated by Aze Fellner and available on iTunes, audible.com, and amazon.com.  If you think the fifties were conservative and innocent, think again.  Sex, violence, and mayhem abounded, and that was on a quiet night.  The story stars a boy with an Orthodox Jewish father who sternly discourages his two immense gifts.  Johnny is potentially an unbeatable heavyweight boxer and a sublime expressionistic painter.  The other two boys, a black kid from the ghetto, and a born Romeo with a gift for football, ain’t bad either.

19) John B. Rosenman is Bundling these days.  MuseItUp Publishing has just released “THE AMAZING WORLDS OF JOHN B. ROSENMAN” – Don’t put him down for being conceited.  The publisher picked the title!  It’s 592 pages and 4 complete, mind-blowing books.  Pre-order until November 21 at a special low price.  Science Fiction, Fantasy, Paranormal Romance and more.  Dark Wizard.  Dax Rigby, War Correspondent.  More Stately Mansions.  Plus The Blue of Her Hair, the Gold of Her Eyes, winner of Preditor’s and Editor’s 2011 Reader’s Poll for SF/F.

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20) Ken Weene’s “BROODY NEW ENGLANDER” is a collection of three tales set in Maine. Beneath the Down East quiet, emotions roil and passions burn. These are tales of desire, lust, and yes, of love. Stories of fidelity and deceit, of anger and repentance, of youth and aging, of birth and death. They celebrate the prose poetry that is life.

21) Coming soon from Ken Weene,  “TIMES TO TRY THE SOUL OF MAN,” crime fiction based on real events and including previously untold facts about the attacks of 9/11. It is also a story of coming of age in 1990s America replete with drugs, alcohol, sex, unrequited love, and the search for life’s meaning.

The root of all evil by Stuart Carruthers

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“That’ll be two and a half hours please.”

“Two and a half hours!?” he interrobanged, “but it only took you 10 minutes!”

“Ah, but it’s not actually the length of time it takes one to do something, but the length of time it took to do the training. It’s all in the guidelines. Paragraph two point three subsection D. “Where a tariff is not directly applicable, the service provider may set their own rate based upon the amount of training they believe they have had.”

“But you’ve only changed a tire! How much training did it take?”

“That sir! Is not the point, could you have done it?”

“Of course I could have done it! A trained chimp, no offense, could have done it.

“Then why didn’t you? Sir!?” the mechanic, with the air of someone who knows he has the other party over a barrel, obsequiously asked.

“Because, I didn’t want to get my bloody dinner jacket dirty! Oh whatever, give me your card.”

The mechanic, now smiling, handed over his debit card and the surgeon held it against the back of his cell phone and deducted two and half hours off his total.

“Thank you, sir. It was a pleasure doing business with you.”

“A few more of these and I’ll be able to earn a holiday,” the mechanic thought.

A grass roots movement of communities began trading their time, rather than money, for goods and services. What started off as a good idea, started to get out of hand when law suits were filed when people didn’t get the hours they thought they were owed. After several hundred of these and the courts having their time wasted over petty civil disagreements, the government stepped in and issued guidelines as to how many hours a certain task and profession was worth. They tried to consider all jobs, but inevitably things slipped through the net and certain caveats were put in place and in the event that an agreement couldn’t be reached and independent ombudsman was placed in each area to deal with these disputes, his time was charged at a fixed rate payable by both parties.

The mechanic forgot all about it and went on his way, charging whatever he felt was appropriate. It was now manual labour workers who were time rich. Bakers could make a three-dozen loaves in three hours, yet could charge thirty minutes for each loaf. Mechanics could charge two hours for a full service and could do it in one. Solicitors, who in a cash society could charge whatever they wanted, could now only charge one hour for a ten-minute letter. Still a nice markup, but at least people weren’t going to the poor house to visit one. Our friend the surgeon was upset because, despite still being very time rich, he didn’t like being ripped off.

The surgeon contacted the ombudsman, and the ombudsman found in favor of the mechanic who once again smiled slyly at the surgeon. Now, fate is a wonderful thing and it wasn’t long before their path’s crossed once again.

“Help me doc.” The mechanic didn’t recognize his mark, with his medical Google Glasses perched on the bridge of his nose, a fresh tan from a Caribbean holiday and holiday beard he hadn’t gotten round to shaving off.

“How much will be cost?” The mechanic asked once he’d received his diagnosis.

“Hmm an appendix operation? Simple enough. Let’s say one hundred hours!”

“One hundred hours!?” it was his time to interrobang. “But the guide says it’s only worth ten hours!”

“But I foresee complications and besides which, could you do it yourself?” He winked at the mechanic.

“Don’t I know you?”

“Please give me your card.”

The mechanic meekly handed it over.

“Thank you, sir, I’ll see to it that all complications are resolved.?

 

Bio

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Stuart Carruthers is a sceptical deist, pseudo geek and frog herder. Having escaped British winters he now lives in Taiwan where he shares his house with his wife and two kids. Find his books here: http://www.amazon.com/Stuart-Carruthers/e/B008LR5FRM/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1