Category Archives: free read

Story: S01E04 “The Language of Monsters”

Posting this free story for a minimum of seven days — probably more, because I usually forget. This one’s a bit longer than most of the freebies I put up on the blog: 7000 words.

I once worried that the story would date quickly. Surely rendition would be long behind us before now? I was overly optimistic. The story, however, does not suffer from the same flaw.

THE LANGUAGE OF MONSTERS

Jason comes to my cell, sets his watch’s alarm. No more than a hour’s exposure at a time, no more than every other day.
In the hour we talk about many things: the world, politics, God—and we talk about light. At opposite corners this cell has two naked bulbs, in sockets screwed into the brick.

“I’ll see the next locale has a window—and natural exposure.”

I thank him. I haven’t felt sunlight in so long. The guards had orders to give me an hour a week here, but didn’t. I don’t trouble Jason with this; he works hard. He holds a responsible position despite his youth; he has more important concerns. Today I leave Egypt for another site anyway, so the matter loses significance.

Instead, I ask about my next assignment.

“You’re worried,” Jason says.

My previous assignment: the black-bearded Saudi, heavy browed, black eyed, yielded no intel. To date none have. I tell Jason I fear if I fail again I’ll receive no more assignments and he will no longer handle me.

“That’s irrational,” Jason waves the notion away. “We’re a team.”

“I doubt my abilities,” I tell him.

Jason frowns, wounded. “You have done everything I’ve asked. It’s on me.”

Before Jason gave me a job, I had no meaningful existence. Meaninglessness make solitude unbearable. I can’t return there. I spare Jason this, but he feels it anyway.

“Look at me,” says Jason. “This is the one. A high-value subject. A driver, from Yemen, detained in Basra. This is the break I’ve … that we’ve waited for.”

Jason checks his watch. He calls it a diver’s watch. It resists water, it shows direction, it does many useful things, and now it tells him our time together draws short. “We should pray,” he says.

Continue reading the whole story free until at least 11/01/11.

Available for purchase at Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Diesel, on iTunes and other sites.

Spinetingler Fiction: Scaffold by Michael Canfield

Read Scaffold a crime short story, free, and only on Spinetingler. It’s a great site, I’m proud to have one of my stories appearing there, in such great company.

Scaffold Fiction by Michael Canfield

Free Story: S01E03 “Time Flies At Elsinore”

Time Flies At Elsinore: Hamlet at Forty by Michael Canfield

 

 

Time Flies At Elsinore


Thanks for coming. Wow—the big four-oh. I mean, right? Who’d have thought. So here we are: H. and H. It’s been too long, man. There’s hardly anyone cool around here to hang with. What are you looking at?

Oh this.

Every year I write down my goals and put them up in an envelope—yes, this envelope—seal with wax, and stamp the seal with my princely signet. The following year I pour out a goblet of the best red, open up the envelope, and see how well I’ve done. Then, before retiring, I write a new list for the coming year. It’s my birthday tradition.

What’s that? Open it? Well of course I’m going to open it—though not yet. Are you in so large a hurry? Have you got another best friend’s birthday party to go to?

Oh, all right, all right, don’t apologize, I’m only kidding. Christ, it’s good to see you, Horatio. You look good. You look as good as a skull can look, I mean. Who’d have thought I would outlive you! I always supposed you’d be standing over me one day, bidding flights of angels sing me to my rest!

Hey, you know what this reminds me of? The time you and I found old Yorick’s skull in the graveyard, alas. You remember poor Yorick, the king, my father’s, jester? He’d borne me on his back a hundred—Oh, I’ve told you this one? All right, all right, I do tend to soliloquize; what is this, like my seventh? No, my seventh glass of wine, not my seventh soliloquy, smarty, and if I am going on a bit, cut me some slack, you’re not holding up your end of the conversation.

Soft! What was that! Listen, Horatio! That thumping! There it goes again!

Never mind. I know what it is: merely a knock within. Relax Horry; there hasn’t been a ghost around here in a decade. My Mom is pounding at this chamber door. She is throwing me a birthday supper, and I’m late. The meat is probably cold, but they can serve it for brunch tomorrow. We like leftovers, here. It’ll be fine. Let’s have another drop.

This vintage well-suits me.

So what’s up with you, Horatio? Seeing anyone?

No, I guess the dead don’t date. Well, it’s not much better being alive, I tell you. It’s impossible to divine what women want. I mean, am I the crazy one? I suppose it’s relative, as they say at university.

What? Who? Of course I haven’t seen gentle Guildenstern; no, nor gentle Rosencrantz neither; have you forgotten Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead? Surely, you remember the letter and the pirates and sailing to England and so forth? These ring no bell? Well it did get a little complicated there for awhile and much occurred offstage—so to speak.

No, what I mean is all the world’s a kind of stage …

Oh? Too far off book for your taste, Horry? As you like it; let us turn to my envelope now, while the room still but lightly spins.

I’ll just shove you closer to the candle so you can read along. All right, here we go. Break the wax, remove the paper, unfold, and reveal what lies ….

Ah, right. Six goals. We will take them in reverse order.

Sixth.

Lose twenty pounds.

I think I gained twenty. I’m so fat, Horatio. I hate it. You get to a point where wearing black doesn’t fool anybody and just becomes sad.

Fifth.

Start fencing again.

Well, that would have helped with the waistline, but I never got ‘round to it, either. Though if one’s too fat to fence, no one can prick you with a toison pip—a poison tip, I mean— try saying that five times fast after your seventh goblet. Okay, naught for two.

What next?

Four. Return to Wittenberg, finish degree. Shit.

Well, I mean, what is a degree but a piece of wood pulp?

They’re made of lambskin, you say? Nevertheless, the principle is the same. I do a lot of reading on my own; I don’t need a skin to prove anything.

Pressing on.

Three. Write, produce, and direct new play. And not another didactic little playlet aimed at an audience of one, but the full five acts this time. You know what my “Murder of Gonzago” adaptation lacked? Sympathetic characters ensuring broad appeal. Ah well, but what’s the point? You know what it’s like trying to capture an audience these days, with so many other distractions? Why even try to create? Naught for four. Next?

Two.

Fresh flowers for her grave.

Every day.

Okay, on this, I started well. Never missed a day, for at least the first two months. Things happen; life gets in the way; but I made the effort. Horatio, I tried. I’ll do better this year. I’ll do better. She deserved better from me.

Okay, that’s the list.

What’s that you say? I skipped one? I don’t think so.

Oh. Yeah.

First.

Avenge murder of noble father, parenthesis, kill Claudius, close parenthesis.

Well. What can I say? Work in progress.

Why are you looking at me like that?

You could be more supportive, Horatio. You used to be so good at validation. Would it hurt you to rattle off a bit of verse “we have heard the chimes and midnight, master —”? Nothing like that in the hollow of your cranium?

No, I suppose it isn’t.

We can’t change our natures friend. We can’t.

Full stop.

Tell you what I’m gonna do. Seeing as the bottle’s dry ….

No, not the wine bottle, though it does seem to be so as well; I am referring to the ink bottle. Rather than procure more ink and write out a new list, I am going to carry this list over. It’s a perfectly fine list of goals. I’m going to fold it right back up, and to economize further, stuff it right back in the same envelope. Okay … a little candle wax … and there. Done and done; good as new. If I get through ­­half this by birthday next, that will be a hell of an accomplishment, a hell of job of work.

What do you mean, “Hell is another name for Hades”? I know that.

I have a good feeling Horatio; forty will be my year.

I think I’ll wander over to another part of the castle now; see if there’s any birthday cake left. Mom works hard at throwing me swell parties, and I should at least make an appearance before it gets too late; she and Step-Dad bed early this time of year. It’s been fun catching up. We should do this more often.

No, I am not just saying that.

We should make the time.

However, if I’m to be honest, chum of my youth … well, you know what they say: tempus fugit.

Time flees, Horatio. Isn’t it a tragedy?

* * * * *

Copyright © 2011 Michael Canfield

Published by Vauk House Press, July 2011

 Illustration by Joerg Beyer

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords.

Free Story of the Week S01E02 The Crossing

0001U0.jpeg This week’s free story is from 2003. My first publication …
THE CROSSING

Only Vincente braved the outside. Mama stayed within, washed linen, swept floors, and clung to the life she knew before the fear. She seemed    least anxious in the kitchen. The colonel haunted the walled garden. The girl? well, strange. little Laura kept to the corners.

They could take a lesson from the rats. Nothing bothered the rats; this much, Vincente had learned.

Continue reading the whole story free until at least 04/15/11.

Available for purchase at Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Diesel, and other sites.

Free Story of the Week S01E01:

PEAS AND CARROTS

Sophie. The script called her Sophie; and Sam the optimist, Sam traveler-without-cares, loved her since creation. Azure-eyed Sophie, orphaned country maid, as new in Vienna as the century was young; Sophie in chiffon frock of cobalt blue; her brown hair unadorned with silk ribbon, tied in plain linen.

Tonight, upon hearing him speak say, Pardon me, Fraulein, do you believe in fate? brown-haired, azure-eyed Sophie would surely fall into his arms, her cheek upon his breast. His body, breath, and kisses would let her know that fears could no longer trouble love. For this alone had he been written: to rescue Sophie from Maximilian, and sweep her away forever. The invisible hand had scripted it and tonight he’d win her, though she did not even know his name.<Continue reading the whole story free until at least 03/05/11.Expired!

Available for purchase at Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Diesel, and other sites.