Category Archives: Fiction

[Sudden Dough] by Eliot Fintushel

So this guy comes up to me as I’m leaving the coffeehouse in Railroad Square, hard by the Mission where the homeless feed, nondescript guy, tumbleweed of the city, bundled up in secondhand coat duct-taped along the back, with that Michelin Man look, if you know what I mean, and he thrusts a hand at me so abruptly I tighten and turn, ready to be punched, but instead I see his hand is open, and there’s a roll of fifties. Fifties! “Relax,” says he. “I got $650 here, all yours, buddy, and all’s you got to do is sign me this piece of paper,”–handing me the piece of paper with his other hand–“and you can even keep the pen.” He has maneuvered in such a way that it would be somehow awkward and embarrassing for me to hand back the money and the paper and the pen, all of which I now find myself holding. .”Read it, if you like,” says he, “but it’s strictly boilerplate.” I look at the thing: I am to give him my soul, on death, in return for the $650. “I don’t want your money,” I say. “Sure you do,” says he. “Just sign it. What, you scared?” I scowl and sign it. He grabs it out of my hand so fast, it makes my fingers sting. And walks off around the corner. It takes me a minute to process what just happened. I think I was just staring at this ridiculous paw full of sudden dough. Then, feeling panicky, I don’t know why, I run to the corner and look for him, but he’s gone. I go down to the Mission–it’s breakfast time, and the hungry, draggling their sleeping rolls and bindles are herding in. I can’t just stand there with all that money showing. I pocket it. He’s nowhere to be seen. So, what the hell–he GAVE it to me: I head home, feeling like a rich man. Since then, everything has been aces.


Eliot is the author of ZEN CITY from Zero Books and BREAKFAST WITH THE ONES YOU LOVE from Random House. He has also published short stories in Asimov’s, Analog, Strange Horizons, Amazing Stories, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Crank!, and in the anthologies Jewish Sci-Fi Stories for Kids, Jewish Detective Stories for Kids, Nalo Hopkinson’s Mojo: Conjure Stories, and Polyphony 4. His fiction has appeared in the annual anthology The Year’s Best Science Fiction several times. He has been nominated for the Theodore Sturgeon Award and the Nebula Award, and has twice won the National Endowment for the Arts Solo Performer Award. 

By the way, Eliot is desperate to find that guy who gave him the money, never mind why, so if you see anybody fitting the description please tell him where in the comments.

Dust to Dust by Elliot Freed

Uncle Gordon was carved like a small bull. His round, bald head is hard as a nail. His torso is a brick, or a thick paving stone. When he stands up it feels as if the earth is shaping itself into form. His endless smile is not far away. It is deep. It rises up from the same source as the water of his land. It seems as if he is imperturbable but really he was made of the same stuff as the iron core of the planet.

Most of us live far from the source of our food. Uncle Gordon was born and made of that source. In ninety years he has never left it.

Most of us learn about machines. We learn about columns and rows. Traffic lights. Rule books. We learn to operate tools and social institutions and program computers. Uncle Gordon learned how to bring life out of the earth. To nourish the rest of us as we played with our tools and our toys.

Uncle Gordon’s parents moved out to the prairie when they were young. They settled on the land. Or into it. Within a few years, Gordon was born. He grew up in the cycles of harsh, frozen winters, spring thaws, summer growth and fall harvests. He grew up listening to the clouds and the soil and the birds.

By the time I knew him he oversaw four thousand acres. He rarely left the home quarter anymore. He did not need to. The roots of the tree do not visit the leaves. But they know how they are doing.

Uncle Gordon’s jeans were rough worn, thread bare. He meandered about the home quarter in the hot summer without shirt or shoes. He watered the flowers. He checked in with the apple trees. He tinkered with the pump to make sure the water would flow. He watched the bees coming and going. Every so often, as his wheat and lentils, miles away, were growing, he’d slowly make his way, checking…

Dust to Dust continues here.

Charlie Chaplin Crashes my Interview with Pola Negri

I’m at the café with Pola Negri, the femme fatale from the Kingdom of Poland who appeared in German films such as Die Augen der Mumie (1918) and Mad Love (1921) before she made her first Hollywood film in 1922. Charlie Chaplin joins us at the table.

“I met Charlie at the Palais Heinroth,” Pola tells me.

I know the place well as it’s the swankiest hot spot in Berlin. Pola says that Charlie entered unrecognized, conspicuously underdressed among all the swells in evening dress.

Charlie remembers it like this:

“I was guided by the Palais Heinroth manager to a table located at the most obscure part of the room and I’m surprised by a slap on the back and a voice calling out my name.”

It’s Al Kaufman of the Lansky Corporation.

“Come over to our table,” says the manager of the Famous Players studio in Berlin. “Pola Negri wants to meet you.”

Negri laughs at the memory.

“A little man with a sad sensitive face fought his way up to our table. Were it not for his odd appearance, so dapper and so pathetic. He had such a strange physiognomy, with tiny feet and an enormous head that made him seem top-heavy. The only physically attractive thing about him were his hands, which were never without a cigarette.”

“Pola was so beautiful,” Charlie remembers. “Beautiful jet-black hair, white, even teeth and wonderful coloring. She was the centre of attraction.”

The silent screen star blushes.

“What a voice she has,” he says, traveling back in time to the moment. “Her mouth speaks so prettily the German language. Her voice has a soft, mellow quality, with charming inflections. Offered a drink, she clinks my glass and offers her only English words, ‘Jazz boy, Charlie.’”

On Christmas Eve of 1922, Charlie gave Pola a large diamond that he intended to set within an engagement ring. However, in March, he announced to the papers he was too poor to marry her and she ended their engagement.

The curious can hear more about “jazz boy Charlie” by going to Stan Laurel crashes my interview with Charlie Chaplin


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