Chuck’s New Frank

Patrick stepped into the air-conditioned comfort, already a relief after just a few moments between the car and the truck stop diner front door.

Mercifully, he found the place only sparsely populated, and thus all that much easier to pick out Chuck from a description so recently committed to memory: young, average height and build, dirty blond hair shaggy but off the collar, department store clothes and shoes. He was in a booth, appreciatively studying the menu. Patrick slid into the seat opposite him. "Good afternoon."

"Afternoon," Chuck said, and continued studying the menu, as if having a stranger join him for lunch was a common occurrence.

Patrick waited a moment, to see if he would say anything else. When it was clear he was more interested in the menu, Patrick continued, "I'm Frank."

Chuck glanced up and then back down to the menu. "What happened to the old Frank?"

"Re-assigned. Moved on to other things."

"I liked the old Frank."

Patrick shrugged. "I don't know him. But I'll pass along your regards through channels—"

"It's fine."

"You don't have to call me 'Frank' if you don't want to. It's not really my name—"

"I know. I don't mind calling you Frank, it's fine. It's not as if my name is actually 'Chuck'."


"None of this was my idea, you know."

"I understand. I've been fully briefed."

"I imagine that took all of ten minutes. Local minutes even."

Patrick laughed. "Slightly longer. But most of what they told me was preceded by 'we think' rather than 'we know'."

Chuck chuckled quietly to himself. "And what was your reaction?"

"How do you mean?"

"Well, I'm always fascinated on how new people process that kind of information."

Patrick thought about it for a minute. "Well… I mean, I was pretty freaked out at first, I have to admit. But I guess you just have to find a way to shoehorn it into your mental picture of the universe, don't you? "

"I suppose so."

"So, that's what I did. I mean, you don't get into that briefing in the first place if you haven't met all sorts of psych-evaluation standards. And here I am… "

"The new Frank."

"The new Frank."

Before he could continue, Chuck asked, "You eating?" The waitress was approaching; he held out the menu.

Patrick awkwardly took it. "Uh… Maybe."

Chuck smiled at the waitress, and spoke before she could. "Hi; I'll have the Reuben. And a milk."

She wrote it down, and looked at Patrick. "And for you?"

"Cheeseburger and fries. Medium well. And a regular coffee."

"Coming right up," she said with a smile, and after retrieving the menu, sashayed off towards the kitchen.

"She seems nice," Chuck offered.

Patrick was uninterested in the waitress. "So do you have anything you'd like to talk about?"

"Like what?"

Patrick shrugged. "Like, anything."

"Not really."

"Have you—" The waitress was approaching with their drinks. "Have you spoken to your friends?"

"My friends? All the time. We're always in contact."

"Right, but: have there been any changes of plan that you think we should know about? Or," Patrick leaned in a bit, "any messages you'd like to pass along?" The waitress was placing the coffee very carefully in front of him, depositing tiny containers of creamer onto the saucer rim.

To Patrick, Chuck responded, "Not really. I can ask, but I doubt it." To the waitress he smiled and said, "Thank you."

"Any time. Your food will be out in a few minutes."

"Thank you." Patrick added. "Do you think… that is to say: do you have any specific information about their arrival time that you'd like to pass along?"

"Not really."

"But they're still coming?"


"It's been quite a while, you understand. Not that anyone is impatient. It's simply the anticipation of it, you know."


"But you can't say when—"

"Oh, they'll be along." He took a deep draught of his milk. "In good time."

Patrick said nothing, took a moment to mix his creamer into his coffee, add some sugar. He lifted and blew away a wisp of steam from over the cup; he didn't attempt to drink it yet.

"You seem disappointed," Chuck observed.

"Not at all."

"Come on, Frank." Chuck said, wiping away a milk mustache. "Look at me. Imagine the information my friends had to gather to construct such a convincing replica. And to reproduce believable behavior. You don't think they would also give me all of that information in a form I could use to read people?"

"Okay, I'm disappointed. Happy?"

"Not at all. But if you're going to be the new Frank, you have to be honest with me: that's the deal. That's the deal, Frank."

"I understand the—"

"Of course you're disappointed: a week ago you were called into an office and told that the little green men were coming and they already had a guy here and how would you like the job and congratulations and I know you won't let us down. You probably walked out of that meeting not knowing your own name, Frank. But you had a few days to think it through, and now you're excited. You want it all to happen, and happen now."

"Well, why wouldn't I?"

"Why indeed. But here's what you need to know…"


"You know you're not the first Frank. But you're not the second, either. You're not even the eighth or the twentieth. There've been a lot of Franks, Frank. And there'll probably be more Franks after you. Get your head around that right now. Think of yourself as a caretaker, Frank. That way, if it does happen while you're Frank, it'll be a nice surprise."

For a long moment, Patrick stared out the window. Waves of heat were rising from the pavement, to accompany the steam rising from his coffee.

The waitress arrived with their food. As she laid down the plate with his burger, Patrick asked, "Could I get a glass of milk also?"

SF Drabble #249 “Twilight Years”

I can’t explain it, not so you would really understand. First you’re swimming, treading water, and then they come up to get you. You feel like you’re about to drown, you’re drowning. It’s not until your lungs are full of water that the thing really starts, I don’t know why, But that’s when they’re suddenly around you, down your throat, inside.

It’s not sexual, regardless of what  people say: it’s communication. You go from panicky thrashing to a pleasant conversation in a couple seconds. Mort went back up to the liner right after, shaken, but I want to go again.

SF Drabble #248 “Ricky’s Retirement”

Ricky isn’t his name, it’s just what we call him. I think he picked it at random out of a guestbook, probably from the one in New York they all stay at after arriving.

Anyway, Ricky had some money, and they’d just passed the Interstellar Commerce Act, so selling him the land was perfectly legal. We didn’t even think too much about it when he had the original house torn down. The one he’s building now, well: I guess it has a charm all its own. I gather the materials are all basically secretions. I hope it’s up to code.

Fantasy Drabble #180 ”T Intersection”

He must have fallen asleep while waiting for a left turn arrow and rolled forward; he awoke already in motion and braked in a panic halfway down a street that hadn’t been there when he had stopped.

The old-timey constable — right out of central casting, handlebar moustache and all — stepped up to his window and asked, “Having some trouble, sir?”

“I guess… I fell asleep.”

“How far do you have to go?”

“Maybe twenty miles?”

“Well, Mrs. Bea’s Inn is right there, better to go the rest of the way in the morning.”

It seemed reasonable enough at the time.

Zombie Drabble #281 “All Out Of Love”

We were married in a little gazebo by the shore. After the reception we spent two weeks on Fiji. We didn’t leave that bungalow on the water for three straight days. So being stuck in the shelter for months at a time with the love of my life when the zombie apocalypse happened didn’t seem like a bad deal.

Now? Toenail clippings. He leaves them all over the floor, under his chair, by the bed, everywhere. I even found one in my breakfast cereal the other morning. I won’t even get into the flatulence. I’m planning ways to kill him.

SF Drabble #247 “Elvis is Alive”

They’ll tell you it’s not real, but they’re lying. They’re lying to protect themselves, to protect their stranglehold on power. They know Q-space is real. They know it can be done, they’ve seen the test films, they’ve read the data. Vega is ten hours away. Vega.

But they’ll never let it get out. They’ll never let it get built, because they know: it’s wealth thrown away, it’s never coming back. You might as well drop it all into the sun. Nobody with legs that long is gonna stay in a shithole like Earth, and the establishment can’t bear the idea.

Zombie Drabble #280 “Inside Baseball”

Coach wanted to get another practice in before Monday’s game against Hudson, but only half the boys showed; by noon it was apparent why. Some of them wanted to get home right away, just left, but the ones who stayed, whose parents never came, who couldn’t get them on the phone…

The school’s 15-passenger van was gassed up, a stroke of luck. He loaded them in and headed for Herb Orley’s sporting goods. There’d be rifles and ammo there, and maybe Herb too. Getting through the zombies would be no trouble: they already had bats and his boys hit hard.