This article was originally written and posted in January of 2019. I have updated it to include my latest short story collections. Relax and enjoy the excitement of some great short stories while you bask in the summer sun.
I mean the word “spray” in the title both as a powerful expulsion of metaphorical liquid and as an attractive display of flamboyant flowers. I’ve written a blog post called “Books Make Great Gifts” about some of my available full-length works, so I thought why not highlight some short stories? So here they are, volume by volume, some of my personal favorites from among my own short stories. Note that there are links to entire collections or to individual stories.
“The Dragon Ticket“: Presented with an extraordinary gift by an alien artifact high in the remote Himalayas, a young woman named Michelle must learn how to use her new power as nuclear war plunges the world into chaos.
“Beyond Purgatory“: On a far planet the ultimate civil punishment is to be genetically deformed into a monstrous beast and forced to live in the forbidden compound called Purgatory as a slave of the State. When authorities arrest and condemn the woman he loves, Justus determines to find and save her, even if he must search Purgatory itself.
“Dark Mirrors“: The people of Earth are losing a war with aliens that they themselves provoked. Every able-bodied person is being called up to fight, even prisoners; those who refuse are threatened with dismemberment to provide spare parts for wounded soldiers. A battle-hardened general enters a prison to recruit a woman who refuses to fight, but who may have a most unusual special ability that can turn the tide of the war.
“Fear or Be Feared“: A teenage Greek girl climbs Mount Olympus with some of her friends. Lost in a lightning storm, she discovers the spirit of an ancient Greek god which possesses her and uses her against her will as an instrument of vengeance.
“The Customs Shed“: Those who wish to cross the river of death must first be purged in the customs shed; but within await the mysterious customs agents. What will they require as the price of passage?
“Opting Out“: It is the near future, and due to easier availability of alternative energy, fossil fuels are becoming outlawed. Fleeing south along the coastal highway from a state government that threatens to confiscate the gasoline-fueled camper-van he lives in, a homeless man comes across a seemingly-idyllic communal refuge for homeless people set up by a philanthropic dot-com billionaire.
“Opting In“: An old man, feeling useless, leaves his daughter’s home to go live in a homeless shelter. Following up on a tip from a fellow vagrant, he finds an alien being preparing to leave Earth who invites him on a journey from which he can never return.
“Matchmaker“: From a future bereft of emotion, a time traveler journeys to Thessaloniki, Greece, in 1917 to find a legendary matchmaker and learn the lost secret of true marriage. Although aware that the city is about to become decimated by fire, he becomes betrothed to a local woman and must choose between remaining in the past or returning to the future with the desperately needed knowledge he has acquired.
“Katabasis“: After traveling to India to take advantage of cutting-edge psychiatric technology, a jaded ailing old man embarks on a guided journey through his memories to locate and correct errant decisions that shaped his life.
“The Beatification of Lady Poverty“: A government operative recruits a young woman with a very special power of self defense for a mission to help end a war in Europe. However, once she unleashes them, her mysterious abilities provoke changes beyond anything her handlers intended or imagined.
“Camp College“: In the near future, as societies continue to erode and the gap between rich and poor widens, inexpensive college camps spring up around the country as an alternative form of higher education. At one such camp, a partially dysfunctional veteran and a woman alienated from her family meet and attempt to make sense out of the rapidly changing world.
“Connecting the Dots in Pointillist Paintings“: A recently divorced woman joins a virtual community in search of social acceptance and companionship. After fashioning a new identity for herself, she sets off to explore the meticulously created landscapes of this new world, unaware that the beautiful environments are rife with human predators.
“Apocalypse Bluff“: As invading aliens unleash monsters resembling mutated Earth carnivores to devour humankind, an extended family gathers together in a mansion on an isolated bluff for a last stand. To survive, they must fight together against ravenous beasts attacking from land and sea.
“The Woman Who Fell Backwards“: A woman agrees to take part in a research program that will propel her backwards in time on a one-way, never-ending journey. On one of her pauses during her tumble into the past, she meets someone who seems to know her, and they initiate an unusual and enigmatic romance.
“The Magic Debit Card“: An elderly homeless man suddenly discovers that his debit card, which is usually almost empty, has been filled with thousands of dollars, and whenever he spends money, by the next morning it has somehow reappeared. He uses this inexplicable bounty to get off the streets, clean himself up, and attain a measure of personal security. The source of the magical largesse is something he never would have imagined.