I want to publish a literary sampler of my shorter work in paperback, and give away at least a hundred copies on the Playa this year. The sampler will include fiction, non-fiction, essays, film reviews, poetry, etc. from my existing back catalogue of work.
Here's a taste for you to enjoy:
copyright 2012 by M Otis Beard
I stopped by Danny's place on my way home from Luxembourg to reclaim the fad hammer I'd loaned him. He looked at me sadly for a long time before closing his eyes in a long and philosophical shrug, then wordlessly led me to the tool shed in his backyard. Rotted fruit fallen from the mulberry trees greased our steps.
"It began a couple of weeks ago," he sighed as he fumbled with the latch. The tool shed door squinked in rusty protest as he yanked it aside with characteristic brutality. "I came out here to get my three-runnel saw – I'm working on a scale model of the Gowanus Canal – and found that it only had two runnels.”
“Sounds like you're getting senile in your old age, grandpa,” I teased. I am a month older than Danny. He tossed off a precisely measured dose of his most metallic glare at me by way of a warning.
“I just bought that saw six weeks ago,” he bit off. “I know how many runnels it's supposed to have.”
As my eyes adjusted to the cobwebby gloom of the shed's shady interior, I could see the pegboard walls with their painted outlines of tools, like chalk lines demarcating the bodies of murder victims at a crime scene. Danny liked to keep his tool shed pin-neat; there was a place for everything, and everything in its place.
But something was wrong. The shapes that should have neatly filled the boundaries of the painted lines did not fit. Danny snatched irritably at one of them, and as he plucked it from its wooden pegs I saw behind it the outline of his three-runnel saw. He handed the tool to me, and I turned it over in my hands, wondering. The object I held was cunningly carved from a single bone; the scapula of an elk, perhaps. Crude, jagged teeth ran down one painstakingly worked edge, and the corporate logo of Popular Toolmaker – a 'P' married to an offset 'T' – was rudely hand-carved into the side.
“It's still nominally a saw, as you can see,” Danny explained. “But only because it's so new. The older tools have degenerated farther.” He rummaged a moment, cursing softly, then gave an animal grunt of eureka. “Your fad hammer, sir.”
He slipped a heavy ovoid into my hand. The weight was about right, but the shape was all wrong for a fad hammer. I turned it over and over, noted how nicely it fit in my palm, felt the smooth patina of the mottled, fine-grained chert against my fingertips. A stone. Faint work marks could be seen where it had been shaped, long long ago. . . and there, at the apex of the round end, my own initials scratched into the cool surface.
“It's more of a hand-axe, really,” I murmured absently, running my thumb gingerly along the flattened, flint-flaked edge at the business end of the thing. “Not bad. Neolithic, I'd guess.”
“Yes,” he acknowledged wetly through slack, blubbery lips. “The rest of my tools have devolved even farther. See for yourself,” he said, gesturing loosely at the pegboard walls. “It's mostly Clactonian and Acheaulian in here now.”
We sat silent and looked at each other, and some trick of light and shadow on his careless hair made Danny's forehead look low and ridged at the brow. I thought of the missile silos with their sleek ICBMs tucked away into the landscape, pointed at the sky, ready to bring the awful dreams of humanity's darkest Id crashing down upon us all, and I wondered what visions would come to the men whose fingers rested on the launch buttons when they found their ultimate weapons transmogrified into huge primitive bludgeons, too large and powerful for any man to wield.