Short fiction from; Dylan Fox, Lawrence Buentello and Jonathan Lowe. Plus...
An interview with Lou Anders from Pyr SF, the regular 88 Miles Per Hour column by Andrew Males and the next article in my "beginning writing" series which this time focuses on controlling pace and flow.
The Beacon. By Jonathan Lowe
The Flamingo is a Fifties era horseshoe-shaped former motel made of concrete block, lit by neon snakes of flickering light. I pause, listening to the sound the engine of my Camaro makes, hissing steam onto the cracked asphalt of the parking lot. When most of the luster has left the Tucson skyline, I finally get out to stand beside the fence surrounding the empty pool. As I stare into the cracked and shadowed deep end, an ice machine somewhere behind me chugs to life. I walk towards it, then, open the stainless steel flap of the storage bin, and reach in for an ice donut.
I rub the ice against my temple, and close my hand into a fist around it, then I rap three times on the door but not loudly. More like a fugitive might, wary of the wrong attentions. A shifting sound comes next, followed by approaching footfalls. So I loop the melting ice lump in an underhand pitch, then watch it arc and drop into the darkness like a dead comet into a black hole.
When the door opens, I feel a sudden false smile stretch my face, like a muscular twinge at an electrical shock. "Mark," Eddie says in mild surprise, then, "What's wrong?"
"It's a long story," I say. "But if you let me in, I promise the Reader's Digest version."
Eddie seems to consider that, standing there in his underwear, already prepared for another night of channel flipping. Real friends or imaginary ones? It's a tough decision, but he's delayed too long making it. He steps backward with a sallow look of defeat, as though reminded that he's turning into the kind of loser profiled on Cops. Another paunchy alcoholic without enough self respect left to shave or wear shoes in public.
I walk straight to the couch and slump onto the discolored red suede. Looking down at the empties and scattered newspapers on the floor, I feel Eddie's gaze on me now, like someone studying a stranger. An intruder. Not a former Catholic school chum at all, but a balding, middle-aged life insurance salesman. When I don't move or speak, he decides to sit too. Slowly, on the arm of the couch, at the far end. "What is it, anyway?" he demands in a nicotine octave, a look of irritation replacing former concern.
Looking directly into his eyes, I decide he now resembles Matt Dillon, gone to seed. Twenty years ago women may have noticed him, but no longer. Only the desperate ones, now. Back in the day, we might have been Dillon and Damon clones, planning an adventure to Mexico on motorcycles. Before he met a waitress named Darlene, of course. Before he experimented with a reckless marriage and a rancorous, soul-sucking divorce.
"I was just at Kitt Peak," I tell him.
"The mountain out to the southwest with all those telescopes? I took the night viewing program. The one where they introduce you to constellations, let you look through the small Visitor Center scope at Saturn, and maybe some nebulas. Only it wasn't enough for me. So I wandered over to the cafeteria and starting talking to this astronomer. Eric something. We talked for half an hour, then he invited me up to the radio observatory where he and a colleague were measuring velocities of globular clusters orbiting various galaxies."