The heat is here thus it must be Summer. Short stories are the perfect reading material for the season. You can wrap up a story in a single sitting and still enjoy more work be the same author. To jump things off, here is our latest YouTube entry in the It’s All About Writing series.
Next, here is the link to my short story collection. You really need to buy a copy for yourself. Here is the blurb pitch:
Discover 19 extraordinary stories ranging from dark fantasy to science fiction and steampunk. Allan Gilbreath has created a stimulating collection of possessed raccoons, doubtful demons, secret potions, Hellish mornings, murderous black holes, dangerous missions, miniature dragons, fake vampires, real ducks, and a cranky detective. This collection showcases Allan’s astounding attention to detail and the sensual imagery his works are famous for.
Finally, I am going to give away a massive free sample of why shorts are so much Summer fun:
In spite of modern conveniences such as air conditioning, it is a long-standing Southern tradition to endure the late summer heat in person. The more mature folks suffer the fading afternoon from their porch chairs and swings. They sit; some actually swing and sip iced tea with a sprig of mint or lemonade made from real lemons. The average conversation is a brilliant exercise in minimalism while beads of condensation languidly form on the ice-filled glasses. The air is filled to the point of bursting with the call of the annual cicadas. It’s a pervasive sound that seems to emanate from every direction at once leaving the listener with no avenue for escape. The teenagers find that loitering in groups in the parking lots of grocery stores or fast food restaurants works for them as well as the porch swings of their elders.
The hard thumping of heavy bass crossed the expansive yard to the slightly frowning faces of the older generation. The teens sat on the hoods and trunks of their cars parked on the side of the road at the end of the driveway. They drank sodas and smoked cigarettes while they held their private conversations masked by the roar of the radios.
“Did y’all attend the parent’s meeting this afternoon?” asked Ms. Prunella from the swing, seated next to her husband of many decades. Ms. Prunella sipped gingerly at her iced tea taking care not to smudge her carefully applied lipstick. Her blued hair still held its carefully coifed style as she swung lightly. Its weekly update at the local beauty shop held up to the heat and humidity. Her son and his wife sat across from her and G’pa George. They all had dressed in appropriately cool linens and cottons. Their light colored clothing contrasted with the familiar black standard of the modern teenagers at the roadside.
“We did, Ms. Prunella.” Ms. Mary Ellen responded. “The vote was unanimous. All the parents agreed with you and G’pa George. It’s time all the parents had that special talk with the teenagers.”
“Bout time,” was G’pa George’s contribution to the conversation.
“Did you make sure that everyone had the proper recipe?” Ms. Prunella asked.
“Yes ma’am. Robert was a dear, and made a copy at work for everyone. He handed them out after the vote.” Ms. Mary Ellen patted her husband politely on the knee, and smiled lovingly at him. He smiled and nodded back.
“It is plain time to explain life to these children before they get themselves into…” Ms. Prunella paused as she searched her aged mind for the proper euphemism. She nodded as she found the word, “complications of a family nature.”
All four of the adults nodded in agreement, and continued to swing for a few minutes while the radios pumped their rhythmic noise from the roadside. Ms. Mary Ellen finally broke the silence. “Robert will have our talk with Betsy Sue tomorrow afternoon when she gets home from school. It is Friday, tomorrow, after all. Betsy Sue will have time to… umm… think about everything over the weekend.”
“Bout time,” G’pa George’s chimed in the final word on the topic.
Betsy Sue kissed Donnie heavily and passionately for several minutes before breaking free of the desperate lip lock. She looked deeply into his eyes and said, “Pick me up about 7. The folks want to have some kind of family dinner tonight.”
“Sounds good, my folks want to do the same. I wonder what the old people are all up too. Must be about graduation coming up.”
“Must be.” Betsy Sue agreed as she kissed him quickly and got out of the car. She bumped the door closed with her hip, and waved to him as the car pulled away. She began walking up the drive. As she looked towards the house, she could see her parents already out on one of the swings. Betsy Sue groaned to herself and rolled her eyes. If her father had come home early from work that meant they wanted to talk to her about something. Normally, it would be something she had no intention talking to them about. They had already fought about the way she dressed, the music she liked, dating boys, staying out late, smoking cigarettes, and nearly every other topic under the sun. “What’s up?” Betsy Sue asked suspiciously as she reached the porch steps.
“Your mother and I wanted to have a few words with you before dinner.” Robert answered calmly in a very pleasant tone of voice.
Betsy Sue looked into his eyes. She didn’t see that parental look. Instead, both of her parents looked rather pleased with themselves. Betsy Sue remained cautious. It can never be a good thing for a teenager when both your parents look pleased with themselves.
“Put your books down and have a seat.” Robert said pointing to the empty swing across from them. Betsy Sue did as requested, still eyeing the both of them suspiciously.
“Here dear.” Ms. Mary Ellen said as she held out a cold glass of lemonade to her daughter. Betsy Sue accepted the glass and took a deep sip. Heavy necking left one a bit parched. Her parents smiled even larger.
“Betsy Sue, you will be graduating soon. Your mother and I just wanted you to know that we are proud of you.” Robert reached over and squeezed Ms. Mary Ellen’s hand. Maybe this talk would be about a car, or trip, or other fabulous graduation present. Betsy Sue took another long sip of her lemonade. If she didn’t know better, she would swear that this drink had just a little kick to it.
“We have come to realize that you are not a little girl anymore. You are nearly a grown young lady and deserve to be treated as such.” More hand squeezing and proud looks as Betsy Sue took another sip. She didn’t want to rush them. She knew they would get to the point sooner or later. “However, dear,” Ms Mary Ellen inserted, “we feel that you need to behave like a young lady, before we can, in all good conscious, treat you like one.” Ah ha, Betsy Sue rolled her eyes. Here we go again. They would never figure out that this was her life, and she would do as she saw fit and if they didn’t… like… it.
She lost her train of thought for a moment. She had started getting up a head of steam about something. She looked at her parents. They seemed to be staring expectantly at her. Oh yes, they… argument… her life… graduation. Betsy Sue shook her head. Maybe it was the heat. She took another sip of the cool lemonade. Yup, she had to be right. This lemonade had a little kick to it. Her mother’s voice wandered in from the lemonade-induced fog.
“You see, Betsy Sue, we and all the parents in town agree, we can’t have our children running around poorly dressed, smoking cigarettes, and driving fast with all that loud music.”
“It is time for all of our young adults to be grown up and act properly,” added her father. Betsy Sue’s head swam. Her legs lost all feeling. Her tongue wouldn’t work. She watched her mother take the glass from her hand. Eventually, her grandmother came into view. Strangely, she seemed to be looking down on her. The last words Betsy Sue thought she heard… wake up… proper respect… attitude adjustment.
Betsy Sue sat on the front porch with her parents and grandparents in the heat of the long afternoon. Seated in a comfortable porch chair next to the table holding the silver-serving tray containing the pitcher of iced tea, she chatted idly while sipping from her glass. Her elders sat in the opposing swings. They all dressed appropriately in cool linens and cottons. The sound of a car turning slowly on to the drive attracted their collective attention. “Look, dear,” Ms. Mary Ellen advised. “That nice Donnie Conners has come calling. Step inside and get him a glass.”
“Yes ma’am.” Betsy Sue replied as she rose gracefully to her feet. As the car rolled to a respectfully quiet stop, all of the grownups looked at each other and smiled knowingly.
I was asked to write a story that would be distinctly Southern and Gothic. After some thought, I found myself thinking of many of the older people I had met while working on my parent’s hobby farm in Fayette County, TN. Looking back, I found an odd universal opinion of the younger generations. The grandparent age group all admitted to spoiling their children. They wanted them to have all the advantages that they had never had.
The grandparent age group also thought that their grandchildren were basically useless. They had no respect, wore funny clothes, and played their music too loud, you get the picture. I have long had the uneasy feeling that if the older generation had a “magic potion” that would help make the youngsters into decent people that the old folks would use on the youngsters in a minute.
While I am sure that no such potion exists, I still wonder at the true contents of the glass every time I’m offered a tall, frosty glass of sweet tea or lemonade.