Sunday, June 12, 2011

Issue Fourteen, Volume One

From the Desk of the Editor
   Welcome one and everyone else to another exciting issue of Larks Fiction Magazine. In this issue we have works of future and present could-be's. From bird feeders to sudoku we have a very fun issue this week.
     On a personal note I tied the knot since last issue with my best friend and college sweet heart. Thank you to everyone who attended the wedding and for the good wishes.
      Just a reminder--check us out on FaceBook and Twitter for up-to-date news and announcements. Also on our Twitter  (@LarksMedia) look for daily (usually) writing prompts.
  Finally thank you to An Electric Tragedy for hosting us on their friends wall. Now on with the show!

Daniel J. "Kiddy" Pool
LFM Editor

The Human Beings; Recreation
By Keith G. Laufenberg

Doughboys were paid a whole dollar a day
and received free burial under the clay.
nd movie heroes are paid even more
shooting one another in a Hollywood war.
   Alfred Kreymborg, What Price Glory?

        They had a budget just shy of $1 Billion dollars but apparently it wasn’t enough—they couldn’t recreate the horror that had been known as The African War of 2030. It was 2060 and thirty years had passed since the plains of Africa had been literally razed to the very core of its life and well-being. It had been scorched earth that had been left for the generations that followed that war —a war in which nuclear missiles had been used to decimate over half the African continent and producer/director Otto O’Neil, whose movies were known throughout the world for their stark reality and attention to recreating history, as it had been lived. He was in a heated conversation with Jerry Spisak, one of his writers. 

“We have a billion dollars and you’re telling me we can’t get …”

     “Otto … they’re gone … you hear me … there are none left.”

     ‘Wha’ … where did they all go?” O’Neil replied, with just enough of a questioning tone and look on his face that Spisak almost had to laugh. He couldn’t believe that O’Neil was that ignorant—that he was that detached from reality.

     “Otto, they’re dead … they’re all dead.”

     “Dead? But … but I thought you said we could get …”

     “The only thing we could get was the plastic creations.”

     “I thought we had …”

     “We can get six alligators for the crocs but they are very small and Billy thinks they’ll look phony compared to our recreations.”

     “What? You mean we’re going to pass up the real thing to use plastic and metal junk?”

     “It’s not junk Otto and it looks a lot more authentic on film—look the elephants are extinct; the rhinos are extinct; the lions are extinct; the giraffes are …”

     “I know, they’re all extinct still we had a few species that aren’t and—”

     “Otto, alligators, vultures and a few hyenas and they’re all endangered; we have to pay ten times as much to get them as it costs to recreate and …”

     O’Neil put his hand in the air. “Aw’right Jerry; aw’right. We’ll use the recreations … shhh … nothin’s real anymore any-damn-way; Gee-zuz but the humanoid I had last night, man—”

     “Yeah Big O, how was she man?”

      “Oh Gee-zuz,” O’Neil replied, she was unbelievable, did exactly what I told her to you know what I mean, geez ten grand though … I mean—”

Reprinted from An Electric Tragedy.

About the Author:
Keith G. Laufenberg has been writing for over 30 years and has had dozens of poems and short stories published in numerous literary magazines and journals including, but not limited to: AIM Magazine, Spillway Review, NuVein, The Oracular Tree, Short-Story.Me, PleaidesThe Pink Chameleon, et al and he has also had two novels published; “Miami Rock” and “Semper-Fi-Do-or-Die” in 2007.

The Sudoku Enthusiast Explains Herself
By Danica Cummins

My favorite numbers are 2, 4, and 7.  The real pleasure is in placing the 2s.  2 is the most elusive number, a lemur, a unicorn, forever vanishing into the bracken. 
I detest 9.
I’m averse to 1, 3, 5, and 6, but I don’t detest them as much as 9.
8, infinity turned on its side--I could take it or leave it.
I scrutinize the partly-filled board, its vacant squares standing out like lonely motel rooms.  In some lower part of my brain--the part humans still share with crocodiles--I already know how the numbers will fall.  Alphanumeric ghosts dance across the crinkling newspaper.  If we had but world enough and time…
I follow the proscribed path of logic, and, 1 by 1, the ghosts allow themselves to be named.
I have 2 daughters.  Greta and Abigail.  Each of them has a number that they’ve learned to recite when asked.  Greta is turning 10 today, jumping a new number by its bushy tail.  Abigail is 7; in her enthusiasm to be taken seriously, however, she might add a .5. 
I have 1 husband.  Timothy.  He is 38 years old.  He is dissatisfied.  “You’re not listening,” he says.  “Why aren’t you listening?”  He’s talking haggardly about the 6 problems he had today at work.  There’s a 60% chance he will leave me within the next 5 years.
We have 1 house in Florida, the four of us.  In 1513, Juan Ponce de León scavenged through the wilds of Florida, searching for the elusive Fountain of Youth.  He sought it here, he sought it there.  Trying to follow the path of logic, trying to give flesh to a myth.
“Can I have a snack, Mommy?” Greta asks, nodding her head 2 times.
I open the fridge and peel the label off a tomato from batch 9317.  “Whatever happened to tomato 9317?” I can imagine a fruit-packer asking.  “It was eaten,” answers another, “Whole, like an apple, by a girl just turning 10.”
Timothy is a pious man.  A Buddhist.  He once bragged, at a cocktail party, that he’d meditated as many times as there were hairs on his head.
Now he’s bald.  Bald as the Buddha.  There are 3 hairs on his head.
Irony takes its time to strike, but it claims its own in the end.
There was one summer, long ago, when Timothy and I, in distant houses, wrote letters to each other.  I sat on the lip of a dingy, scapegrace flowerbed, in the sun, leaning against tulip shoots that were still deciding whether to live, writing very quickly.
When we finally came together, we used our right hands, our writing hands, complete with knobby pen-calluses, to touch each other, very quickly.  It was in a garden in early September, a garden that had decided to live, that was braving existence as cheerfully as Neptune in a tempest.  We let mist settle on us, and stared, adjacent, at the moon.
How many years has it been since then?  If only the distance would condescend to be a number…
Maybe, soon, we will all condescend to be numbers.
Our houses are already gridded, and we, in our snugly-fit squares, are perhaps already as interchangeable.
The evening thickens as I sit in the kitchen.  The white at the rim of the horizon clots like spoiling milk.  Abigail draws, Greta sings, and Timothy files our income taxes. 
The even-ing thickens.  Eve and her ilk, beasts of tooth and claw and legend, wander, like a snickering memory, through the wilds of the night.  They easily escape the nets of Juan Ponce de León.  They are an unfleshed myth. 
This is before there are numbers.  Paradise has unnumbered delights.
But Eve is dissatisfied.
There is a 100% chance she will set her sights on the difference between good and evil.
“Ignorance isn’t enough,” she says.  “I’m siding with the snake, and if I must die for the knowledge, so be it.” 
So be it.
Ponce de León wanders through the wilds, and Eve says, “Adam, won’t you join me, my bald, pious husband?”
Boom!  Pow!  Infinity, that sideways 8--I could take it or leave it--is taken and left.
There are ghosts, and numbers, for the first time.
I am almost done with the puzzle.  The 2s come out of hiding, rustled from the bracken.  The empty spaces left, I want them to be 2s as well, but they aren’t.  It’s an 8, and an 8, and an 8.  Infinity knocks persistently on my door.
Timothy knocks on my door.
He took out the trash and forgot his keys.
I know I will say, “No, no, no.  You can’t come in,” because even though something has been lost--Juan Ponce de León searches the wilds--I am content to have lost it, to have let my days be numbered.  “I condescend, I condescend!” I want to cry across the hills.  I am content, nay, ecstatic (in my way) to have given up unnumbered delights for the knowledge of good, evil, and the wonderfully complex space between.  And the knowledge will bring me grief, but…
A woman needs her heroines.
I look at Timothy.  He says, “I had to throw out the artichokes.  They went rancid.”  And, very quickly, I follow the path of logic.  I see the pattern, and the ghosts on his face allow themselves to be named.
Our marriage will shatter.  He will fall--in love, presumably--with a basketball player from Reno.  I will take night classes on computer programming and console myself, whenever my heart beats too quickly, with thinking only in ones and zeros.  Greta will become a corporate lawyer, and Abigail, always the more sensitive of the two, will write adventure novels for children where no one ever dies.
And yet now, I take Timothy’s hand.  I say, “Look!  The moon is shaped like a toenail clipping.”  I giggle.  It’s shaped like the Cheshire cat’s grin, which will disappear, as the days flow on, into the gentle blackness of space.  As will I.  Had we but world enough and time... 
Timothy’s fingers no longer have pen-calluses, but I take them anyway.  I lead Timothy inside, where our daughters are cracking their knuckles, impatient for attention, at the table.
I’m tired.  The pattern, this one, small pattern, is complete.
Tomorrow, I think I’ll do the crossword instead. 


About the Author
Danica Cummins is a twenty-something from Northern California, with degrees in English and Feminist Studies.  She has deep passions for hiking, coffee, and irony.  She is just starting on the long road of being a writer, but plans to be the wordsmith of numerous novels, travelogues, and unnecessary puns.  She has also been published in Luna Station Quarterly, and is currently working on a novel about robots.  She played far too much sudoku while writing this piece.

The Practical Goldberg;
A Love Story in Three Parts
By Jerry Guarino

Part I

David, a computer science major in college, was completing the setup of his new bird feeding system.  Instead of the usual tree house, painted with bright colors, he had designed a more elegant solution.  Altruism aside, he wanted to do more than just provide food for birds in the bad weather; he wanted to see the birds enjoy their treat while keeping squirrels from squandering the seeds.

 So he set up a trough with three lids, mechanically operated based on a computer program.  The first container had birdseeds and suet, the second fruit and nuts and the third meat scraps and insects.  In front of the trough was a bar that activated a 13” LCD screen when the bird landed on it.  On the screen was a picture of the three food types, corresponding to the placement of the trays.  The bird would peck at the screen and a touch sensor would open the appropriate food tray.  If the bird didn’t peck, a camera would snap a picture of him and open the tray that species of bird prefers.  To complete the environment, video with the sounds of like birds would play from the LCD.

But what about the bane of bird feeders, squirrels?  The locked trays prevented them from eating.  If a squirrel pressed the landing bar, the camera would snap a picture of the offender, then play a 3D video, complete with sounds of foxes, coyotes, hawks, owls and snakes eating squirrels.  The longer the squirrel stayed there, the more graphic the video progressed.  Last but not least, a small spray of that predator’s scent would shoot onto the squirrel’s leg (don’t worry, it washed away in the next rain).  Needless to say, most squirrels never returned to the bird feeder.

No matter where David was, he could enjoy the feeder.   A second, wireless camera sent a signal to the Internet so he could watch from any computer.  He even wrote an app so he could watch the action from his cell phone.  Why all the work to feed birds?  David discovered that this was 100% effective in meeting women, especially when showing it off at a coffee house or party.  Rube would have been proud!

Part II

David was talking to a particularly cute young woman at his favorite franchise coffee bar.  But let me digress a moment.  As you know, David is that computer science major who used his engineering skills to design an automatic bird feeder that not only recognized the bird, but also provided their preferred food and kept squirrels out with a diabolical program that guaranteed a squirrel would never return.  To be fair, David posted a warning in 300-point font “No squirrels allowed” with an accompanying 500 hundred-word disclaimer to avoid any lawsuits that may occur.

Not that David needed any help getting dates.  He had the casual good looks of a surfer, perfect teeth and a well-proportioned six-foot frame.   Although he was technically a geek, no one would have guessed; he looked more like a graduate student in literature.  But being the precise, analytical person that he was, the bird feeder more or less guaranteed a subtle and inoffensive way to have a conversation with the opposite sex.  Coeds would sidle up to him, looking over his shoulder to the laptop screen with pictures and sounds of blue jays, robins and nuthatches.  Inevitably, they would start the conversation with a sound usually reserved when seeing puppies.

 “Oh, that’s so cute.  Is that a movie clip?” said the 5’9” brunette with jeans, ugh boots and crème colored sweater.  David turned and smiled.  “No, it’s a live feed from my place.”  Well, I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that after about a half hour, the woman was convinced she had found that all too rare quality in a man, genuine innocence.  David never divulged his methodology to any friends or even family; that might put an end to his understated masterpiece.  

Ninety-four times out of a hundred (we saw the statistics), the woman would want to visit the apartment and see for herself, partly to confirm David’s claim that he designed and built the best bird feeder, but also to learn more about her new love interest.  Since birds feed mostly at dawn and dusk, David had woman asking to spend time at his home during sunrises and sunsets, enhancing the romance.  But you can’t just stand next to the feeder; birds won’t come close.  No, you have to view from the second floor of his bedroom, meticulously cleaned and fresh.  New age music and scented candles (unlit for the moment) completed the ambiance. 

 “Is that a blue jay?” said Karen.  “Yes, you see most of them in April, their mating season” replied David.  “Look, two more birds.  What are they?”  David looked closely.  “Red breasted nuthatches.  They travel in small groups, sometimes in pairs.  See how the male preens the female while she’s eating.”  As the sun disappeared over the hilltop, Karen put her arms around David and kissed him.

Part III

Karen put her arms around David and kissed him.  “David, I hear the birds” and she hopped out of bed and went to the window.  David, still waking up, rubbed the sleepers out of his eyes.  In panties and a college t-shirt, her lovely figure silhouetted in the window frame.  Karen was different; she was genuinely happy with him as he was with her; no games here.  It wasn’t love at first sight, but it was contentment.  “Hi” as he rubbed her shoulders and kissed her on the neck.  Karen squeezed his hand.  “I think that’s a robin.”  David looked down at the feeder.  “No it’s a Stonechat, but they look the same.”  

David’s days of short affairs were over.   Even though he had manipulated Karen into his arms, he had found an honest and wonderful relationship.  Over the next few weeks, he realized that Karen was perfect for him.  It seemed like whenever he needed anything, Karen was there.  She knew when he needed to work and when he needed to relax, what stressed him out and all of his interests.  She understood him completely.  Their lives had become complementary, like puzzle pieces fitting just so.  “This must be love,” David thought.  “I guess I won’t be needing the bird-feeding program anymore.

Anna was looking through Karen’s social networking program when she came in.  “Hey Anna, you’ll never guess what.  David and I are going to a bed and breakfast up the coast this weekend!”  Anna looked up smiling.  “I knew you two would hit it off.  I had a feeling as soon as I started entering the data.”  Karen looked over her shoulder.  “So who are you looking for?”  Anna replied, “It says Jeff Olsen would be a good match for me.  It’s printing out his schedule, interests, love history and life goals now.  I can’t believe how well this program of yours works.”  Karen gave her a little hug.  “Well it worked for me.” 

Rube would have been proud!

Reprinted from The Scarlet Sound.

About the Author
Jerry Guarino writes short stories and plays. His work has appeared in 6 Tales, The Chaffey Review Literary Magazine, Daily Love, The Fringe Magazine, Leaning House Press, Piker Press, Postcard Shorts, Ray's Road Review, The Scarlet Sound, Weirdyear, Writing Raw and Zouch Magazine and Miscellany. He is currently working on a murder mystery for the stage. For more information visit his website at

Thank you for reading another issue of Larks Fiction Magazine. Make sure to check out our back issues and we hope to see you back here in two weeks for Issue Fifteen with works of magical realism!

1 comment:

  1. I read all three of these stories but the first one got to me as being almost surreal and I will read this writer again.

    The last story was kind of dull I mean I don't think birds and squirrels necessarily mean scoring a date just because you have a live camera at your pad,