All posts by Richard La Rosa

Antonio Arrives in London (1592)

23 April 1592

London.

My English tutor, Thomas Watson, calls it a growling, hungry, leviathan that will swallow a man the moment he sets his boots down in Thames Street. And yet, in some ways, ’tis not so different from Venice with regard to the river Thames—which runs through the city from east to west. I wonder if the citizens revere the river in the same way that Venetians revere their canals.

“Londoners rely on its currents to transport them to and fro throughout the city,” Watson says, as if hearing my thoughts. “And to many other places besides.”

“Your gondolas are not so narrow as ours,” I say. “I also notice they lack the curved prow and stern as our boats and they are moved along with oars rather than a pole.”

“True,” Watson says. “And they are called wherries, not gondolas, and their captains are known as boatmen or watermen. Some have more than one boatman, which makes for speedy travel, and these men must be highly skilled to ply their trade—serving no less than a two-year apprenticeship before they are allowed to solo. This is a great comfort to the citizens of the town as London Bridge is the only foot bridge that spans across the river.”

I watch the continual flow of wherries crossing from one side to the other as other craft traverse up and down the length of the river and it seems like utter chaos.

Even so, Watson says the watermen are so skilled there are few mishaps.

“Moreover, the public wherries are considerably more comfortable than the common gondola because of the soft embroidered cushions on the seats. Ample room to stretch out your legs. Most are covered for protection from the rain.

And best of all, there is no haggling over the fare. It is a penny to cross from one bank side to the other. All other fares are fixed depending on distance and whether you are going with or against the tide.”

***

Excerpt from Shakespeare’s Apprentice, a  novel written by Richard La Rosa.

 

Undead Homeless Dude

I pass by the old dude while riding my bicycle on the path that parallels the railroad tracks in the west end of Santa Rosa. His body is stretched out and facedown, a gnarled hand is resting over a soft guitar case, and his backpack is open and his head is on the path.

“Hey, man—are you alright. Do you need help? Are you alive?” No answer.

I get off my bike and touch his hand. It’s stone cold.

Gently placing my hand on his back, I nudge his stiff body, which rocks like a mannequin stuck in the mud. He doesn’t seem to be breathing. Damn—another dead man.

I call 911—it’s not the first time I’ve made this call. There was that dead man in Eugene, Oregon in the mid eighties and another guy in New York City almost a decade later.

“I found a guy on the bike path,” I say to the dispatcher. “I think he’s dead.” Suddenly, his shoulder circles slowly.

“Oh shit,” I say. “False alarm. He’s alive.”

“Does he need medical attention?” The woman asks.

The guy raises his head like a bear waking suddenly from hibernation and glares at me with feral alertness.

“Do you need medical attention?” I ask. “He’s not responding,” I say to the 911 operator.

“What are you doing here,” the man growls.

“Hey man, be cool. I’m just checking to see if you’re alright.”

“I’m trying to get away from people,” he says rising. “People like you!”

“Okay,” I say, laughing nervously and backing away. “Take care, man.”

“Hey, HEY,” he yells.

The operator asks me what’s happening and I tell her the guy is coming after me—but not to worry as I’m on my bike and riding away.

“Try to do something nice and that’s what you get,” she says. “You should buy a lottery ticket.”

I laugh and say, “I would if I lived in a world where I could exchange good karma points for cold hard cash.”

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.

Trumpocalypse Now

Genre: Reality TV.

Premieres: January 20th, 2017 on ATN (American Television Network).

Premise: An arrogant and narcissistic bully with thinning hair resembling a corn husk and skin the color of orange marmalade capitalizes on his wealth and privilege to buy the American election and becomes President of the United States.

Review: Donald Trump is the epitome of an ugly American—the sort of brash and aggressive vulgarian that leers at the ladies and laughs at his own sexist jokes. A vain, wealthy, privileged, and self-serving man, this Great White Dope of American nationalism seems to be willfully ignorant about the most basic issues a presidential candidate needs to know in order to meaningfully engage in politics. As such, he’s an easy target for too-clever liberals and he’s relentlessly mocked by television talk show hosts like Colbert, Noah, Maher, and Oliver.

And yet, the mockery is appropriate because Trump embodies Martin Luther King’s warning that “nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” He’s a clear and present danger to the world because of his delusion that he possesses the knowledge and intelligence to lead his country.

Meanwhile, we’ve gleefully anointed our new King of Crass, smearing him with a myriad of derogatory names and crowning this Crotch-Fondling Adolf Twitler as the very model of a modern Groepenführer in livid colors of orange supremacy, highlighting his propensity for playing the part of a petty peacock proudly proclaiming his pussy grabbing prowess.

But some of us are complicit in the making and packaging of this low-brow tragicomic political figure of banality and terror—from the media that redundantly remixes and regurgitates the fetid exhalations that issue from his mouth to every person that shares those pieces (disguised as resistance) via the social media landscape. And, if the media is Dr. Frankenstein in this horror show then we are Frankenstein’s hunchbacked servant, co-creating a monsterous slab of rancid meatloaf masquerading as man of the people.

Welcome to the Trumpocalypse.

***

Cover image used with the permission of the artist, Peter Crompton.

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For more scenes from the Trumpocalypse 336 Journal recommends reading Trump’s comments at the United Nations and reading what our Martian neighbors think of his planned mission to Mars.