Here's the third installment of "Lucky Shot," another story from the lost files. I wrote this awhile back, and to catch you up to speed, this is the tale of Chance Black, his family, and a mad man. Chance is a photographer for the Long Brooke Sync, a tabloid publication famous all around and outside of Chase County. His day starts as usual: he's late for a conference and a perfect shot at the C.E.O. of a corporation. Luckily, Chance is able to take the picture the Sync paid him for, but his photograph contains a bit more than anyone expected. This unanticipated photograph is of great value to a man who is desperate to make sure it's never published.That's all I'll spoil for now. If you need to catch up, here are the previous two installments:
Due to the beautiful weather across the nation today, I've decided there's no chance in hell anyone would want to stay online and read an ideological blog. Instead, here's a quick snippet of "Lucky Shot," a story from the lost files. Enjoy!
Hey guys, it's been awhile since I've thrown a story up on the site, so here's a new one for ya. Some people wonder why I release these stories for free in the blog and not utilize my publishing venues. Well, that's quite simple. If you have a writing website, there better be tons of reading material as well as free stories.
Anyway, this one is called "Lucky Shot." It's a tale about Chance Black, a photographer sought after by many magazines and journals in Long Brooke, Chase County. One day he faces the mundane act of taking pictures at a press conference, when he accidentally snaps a photograph of criminal activity. While Chance is unaware at first, the person he took a shot of is determined to make sure the images never see another set of eyes.
I'm going to break this one up into a few parts. Enjoy Part One!
If it's not obvious by now, when I was a wee-writer, I had a thing for Edgar Allan Poe. By thing, I mean I really enjoyed his writing. This is where Raven's Crook comes from, and while the title of the town is a bit cheesy, I already had too many stories centered around the town to change the name. However, my fictional towns aren't the only place Poe references occur. In fact, a few years back, I was challenged to imitate “When Dean Young Speaks of Wine” by Tony Hoagland. As I was cleaning out my files again, I thought this might be a piece worth sharing in this good ol' blog. Enjoy!"When Edgar Allan Poe Speaks of Ravens"
Imitation Poem by C.M. Humphries
The vulture guffaws when it hovers above the deceased.
The hummingbird buzzes when it spots something alive or sweet.
But when Mister Poe talks about ravens, his words are grotesquely poetic.
Yet it seems that ravens are hardly the subject.
He claims, Great penname but you do not need it.
He claims, Good faith but religion is falsified.
He claims, All we see is a dream within a dream.
He claims, Irrelevancy is where the truth lies.
Eighteen forty-seven was a dreadful year, he says,
and for a second I am afraid that Michigan has turned him
into a murder-lover strayed away from capital punishment.
Next he claims,
I have great faith in fools
and no abhorrence in danger
self-confidence my friends call it.
Then he declares, I am above the weakness of seeking
to establish a sequence of cause and effect,
between disaster and the atrocity.
But where is the Definition of abandonment?
Where is the Romance in tuberculosis?
Where is the Misery in a life worth loving?
with the sense of accomplishment of a Wife and Child?
and the undertone of bleak Self-Assurance?
His vein bulging as if trying to free itself
from his misery.
His drug of choice like pain.
When a scholar is hurt he babbles insanity.
When a dog is hurt it lies by beast or man.
But when a poet is wounded,
he pleads woe is the world.
Then he sits and writes, but with one hand clutching his chest
thinking everything into nothing
as if loneliness could be replaced by ink.
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Here's another addition of what Chris found while cleaning up some files. I wrote this flash fiction piece in 2008. Enjoy!
In an isolated cellar chamber, the man in black told me, “You can either have the photograph or the handgun.” Before me lay those two items on a table, two guards by the only door, and an undersized wooden chair that I was once strapped to.
“Either way I’m dead, right?” I asked.
“That depends. A gun seems the most useful. The picture can only hurt you more.”
I remembered the suffering I faced the minute I snapped a photograph of the man’s trade. He was smuggling illegal weaponry to average citizens in an abandoned factory.
“Or, it can hurt you,” I muttered. The gun’s probably empty, too, I thought to myself.
“Don’t count on it,” the man in black replied. “You’ll never make it out of here alive.”
“A picture is worth a thousand words.” I mocked the man with my tone.
“But a gun is worth complete silence. Choose.”
Blankly, I stared at the two choices before me for several moments. If I had gone with my instincts, I would have snagged the photograph and ran for my life. However, I knew that killing the guards was my only way out of the cellar chamber.
As the man in black glared at me, I began to shake and sweat. My palms were moist with trepidation, and I further feared, that when I went for the gun, it would slip right out of my hand. Then where would I have been? Dead.
I came to a decision. Faster than a blink, I reached out and snagged the photograph. As preconceived, I sprinted for the only door out; meanwhile, the man in black used the gun to fire wild rounds at me.
Most of the bullets missed me as I neared the guards. One shot, though, grazed my right shoulder, which I favored with my left hand. I kept the photograph near my chest.
Click, click. The man in black’s handgun ran out of bullets.
My immediate sense of relief blew away with the sound of the guards arming themselves with their own pistols. At their first fires, I ducked.
Somehow, I managed to survive. Yet, I still felt like a dead man. Knowing that I would never make it out unscathed, I decided to act like a hero. Swerving around the guard on the left side of the door, I was able throw my good shoulder down into his knee.
Echoing as the metal smacked the ground, I saw the pistol fall just before the guard. Quickly, I reached for the gun, and so did he.
Underneath the spray of bullets from the other guard and between the grasp of the guard on the ground, I struggled to maintain possession of the gun. Once I felt secure enough to do so, I hopped up to my feet and began to fire at both of the guards, who fell to ground after a few misfires.
I had no intention of killing them. They were just hired muscle, but I had escape in order to turn in the photograph.
As I started to feel confident, something struck me in the neck.
February was bitter cold; snow buried most of the land. Angry and in a neck brace, I watched as a man in blue walked up a stage and approached the lectern. A plaque was placed in his hands by a chief officer for turning in evidence of an illegal gun trade.
At that moment I began to appreciate the power of knowledge. There was a time when artillery solved problems and was synonymous with power. Now a time had come where intelligence and technology proved superior.
While the determinants of supremacy had changed throughout time, man had not. At least, that’s what I thought as I watched my ex-partner take the glory of my efforts on stage.
A thick aroma of oil and cheap tobacco rushed out of Ted’s garage as Stan stepped towards the half-shut door. Stan never understood why people did such ridiculous things like opening a garage door only halfway. In his opinion, too many people did too many stupid things, like leave the iron on over night or call too late—speaking of which, he now had a throbbing migraine that refused to pay its rent or leave. The weight of the headache slid like unstrapped cargo on a rocking ship, slamming into each side of his head as he limboed into the garage.
“Hey, Stan,” Ted greeted, his voice muttered for some reason.
For a moment the voice possessed no form, or at least came from a phantom mouth. Then, Stan noticed his neighbor slide out from underneath his Dodge Charger. He said, “Afternoon, Ted, whatcha got going on here?”
Ted jumped to his feet and brought his finished cigarette to an AC-DC ashtray next to the mini-fridge on his workbench.
Before he answered the first question, Stan shot him another: “That’s kind of dangerous, isn’t it?”
Ted rubbed the butt into the lightning bolt center of the tray and asked, “Huh? Oh, no. It’s an ashtray.”
“Never mind,” Stan said. “Anyway, what’s wrong with your Charger? Thought you just got it.”
Ted crossed to the back of his garage, where a cigarette roller resided beneath a post sporting the wisdom of a bumper stick. It read: America. There’s Only One.”
What a stupid thing to say, Stan thought. There’s North, Central, South. Nonetheless, he continued observing Ted as he rolled his cigarette. On the other side of him hung a stop sign. That’s like displaying a murder weapon.
Ted came back to the Charger, lit his cigarette, which crumbled while it burned, and replied, “Yeah man, you’ll never believe it—never mind.”
Sighing first, Stan said, “You can’t just lead me into a story and not tell the rest of it.” He palmed his forehead, trying to clutch the migraine as it scrambled around inside. I guess all it takes is a phone call to ruin my sleep and bring pain into my day.
Ted replied, “Well, me and some of the boys—you know, Frankie J., Levi, John—were out about town, having some drinks and whatnot. Did you know Linda was there?
Linda, my alcoholic wife. Drinks like a college freshman. “Yeah,” he answered, “she’s usually too drunk to call home when she goes out. She’ll probably give me another call soon, asking me to come get her and bring her aspirin.”
Ted cocked his head and gave Stan a curious brow. “Ain’t you worried about that? Bars ain’t where married chicks go—I mean, the kinda bars I go to.”
“I know.” Stan did know. Bunch of unlucky, hormone-enraged morons swooning around her, just because she’s a wife living like a night owl, something unattainable by night but all too available at night. Sure, he knew the kind of bars she went to. He remembered how he met her at one of those bars, smoke in the air, drinks being spilled. Back then it seemed so sweet and innocent, so fun like promiscuity in high school. Now she wore a ring. Now he loved someone. And now, she was probably passed out on someone’s couch, which he hoped belonged to one of her girl friends.
Stan said, “If she’s stupid enough to cheat on me . . . well, I become a lucky man again.”
Ted nodded. “Suppose so.” He seemed concerned; Stan could hear small inconsistencies in his tone. The ashes built a small lodge atop of his cigarette and a few fiery strip of rolling paper dashed for the oily ground, yet Stan hardly seemed concerned; more interested in the conversation.
“Why do you ask?” Stan realized he never asked the question he wanted to.
“Promise me you won’t get mad?”
“Why do you want to know if I’m aware of where Linda goes on Thursday nights?”
“Promise me you won’t get mad,” Ted repeated, this time more of a condition of disclosure than a request.
What are we, a bunch of preteen girls? “Sure,” he said. “Whatever.”
“Mind you,” Ted said in-between thick gray clouds of smoke, “me and the boys were very drunk last night.”
“I wouldn’t doubt that you’re drunk right now,” said Stan, his eyes pointing at a case of Coors Light next to the cigarette roller.
Ted didn’t catch the gesture. He continued: “So. Me and the boys were strollin’ around the strip and, like usual, we were hollerin’ at the ladies as they strutted by. I was really hootin’ at this one babe and, to my surprise, she turns back and starts hollerin’ back at me, which is unusual, you know?”
Stan chuckled. “I know.”
“So yeah, she turns around, hollerin’ back, and wouldn’t ya know it, it’s her. Linda, your wife.”
Stan stood silent for a moment, debating how to respond and eyeing up a small Coca-Cola machine next to the case of beer. It was one of those novelty holiday items with Santa Claus and some reindeer all enjoying soda, but from what he could see, it held no cola at all; just more beer.
“I’m sorry, man,” Ted said. “Had I known, I wouldn’ta made a pass or nothin’ like that.” He traced Stan’s stare. “Oh sure, man, help yourself. Think I’ll pass on the booze, myself, though.”
“Fine with me,” Stan muttered during his short travel to the faux vending machine, that hummed like a stalling car. Or Ted’s Charger at this point. With that in mind, Stan glanced back at the damaged Dodge and said, “You never told me what happened to your car.”
“I was gettin’ to that.,” Ted replied, sliding back underneath his car. “So yeah, me and my boys were just cruisin’—you know the way we do—although we shouldn’ta have, and we all had our heads cocked to the side and what whatnot. Sorry man, your wife travels with some real babes.”
“Never met ‘em,” Stan said. He pressed one of the six buttons on the vending machine, and out rolled at can of beer. The click of the pop-top echoed across the garage.
He couldn’t recall the last time his wife brought home friends. She always wanted a life separate from their marriage, or so she told her friends over the phone when she thought he wasn’t in the room. Stupid. Hell, his only friend was a drunk-driving, wife hollerer who couldn’t recall just how she trashed his brand new car.
Baffled, Stan stared at the damage done to the Charger: a huge dent above a shattered headlight above a twisted something or another at the bottom. And a precarious red stain just above the sleek new tires. A bolder rolled down his throat.
“And one thing led to another and—BAM!—somethin’ hopped out in front of us. I mean seriously, I tried to stop—and why are there wild animals in the city? There’s not even woods in this place, yet raccoon and squirrels lay flat everywhere.”
His words faded like the roar of a passing semitrailer. Stan tried to fix the dent with his imagination, his wishes to God and the like. But the damage still remained, like a lingering sorrow of yesteryear.
“Anyway, man,” Ted mumbled while trying to un-pop the dent from the backside of the frame. “I’d worry about that wife of yours. She seems so careless when’s she out and about. Maybe you should give her a reason to stay home next time.”
Stan rubbed his bottom teeth against the top of his lips. He nodded, letting the cargo slam against the side of the ship.
I've been talking about hand-bound, signed, & numbered copies of No-Injury Policy lately, and now there a few pictures from the construction stage of these special editions of my debut short story collection. While these a just a few pictures for now, keep tuned in to the blog for later updates on the hand-bound books. Next time, I'll show you better quality images of the finished product as well as some snippets of how I made the books. Of course, you can always request one here. Mind you, these can take awhile to produce. Intuitively, you might think the construction time causes the slight delay. However, it's actually procuring all of the materials. For instance, I travel to find a suitable book cloth for the hand-bounds, some of which is only carried in limited quantities. At any rate, check out the mid-stage of the hand-binding process.
The Biggest Giveaway I've Ever Done.
Us masterminds behind Somewhere in the Shadows: The Anthology decided it would be cool to create a giveaway.
Naturally, we wanted to give away copies of Somewhere in the Shadows. Instead, we thought it would be a lot cooler to have a competition.
This contest is akin to an arcade game: Certain accomplishments reward in more tickets than others. Score the most points, and you'll win nearly every book published by every author.
In other words, if you win, you might need to either buy a new bookshelf or expand your eReader's memory. I, alone, am handing out free paperbacks copies of No-Injury Policy and eBook copies of both #NIP & Excluded.
Pretty good deal, right? Here's how you play:
You pick a task. Each task is awarded a different amount of tickets. Say you do something on twitter, you just copy & paste the link into the box. If you visit a website, you copy & paste that link into the box.
You read this blog.
Click on the tab for my website.
Copy this link: http://bit.ly/11tI4vI
Paste it in the box.
Boom! The machine is spitting out tickets.
Win a Small Library of Books!
Those of us behind Somewhere in the Shadows decided to put together a sweet little giveaway.
If you're a boss, you'll win a copy of every book in the contest.
If you're a middleman, you'll win a book of your choice and an eBook of Somewhere in the Shadows.
If you're the muscle, you might squeeze your way into third place, which is a copy of the anthology.
What's cool is you already qualify for 2 tickets. Copy the link of this page into the tab for visiting cmhumphries.com!
There's a lot of talk these about digital copying ("piracy") in the literature world.
While torrents and other methods of illegally downloading copyrighted material seem like the concern of yesteryear, the truth is, it's relatively news for the publishing world.
Moreover, the music industry changed due to illegal sharing, and the film industry is adapting as well. It's as though when people started downloading media, they spaced out the part about books, and to compensate they're stealing whole libraries.
But honestly, it doesn't bother me too much. Here's why:
This morning wasn't going to be easy, but no one expected it to be so difficult. One perk to living in a private community is the isolation from the rest of the word, and a little of the rural freedoms such as immaculateness and seclusion. However, these very benefits are anything but fortuitous once winter solstice proceeds. In other words, little things like road conditions can stand in your way. Normally the area is cleared, but this year we dropped the ball for sure. The high school that never closes closed. Snow plows were stuck in ditches.
And so was I. Everything's fine and the car checked out. The bad part is, I was supposed to work this morning. No matter what I do in life, if I agreed or am scheduled to appear, I do.
Since I'm reluctant to let this day of productivity go to waste, I think I'm going to start up a blog story. Between the threat of armageddon that never flourished and the man-we-thought-this-was-going-to-be-bad-but-not-this-bad weather, I found inspiration.
I don't know what this going to be, but it's going to be something. If you want to write one of the sections, just hit me up.
Otherwise, here we go . . .