Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

Tag Archives: bond song short fiction

Flash Fic Challenge #4: Live And Let Die

(Months. Months have gone by. So sorry about that.)

  1. Live and Let Die, Paul McCartney and Wings. These last four songs are so close that really, you could shuffle them into any order. I had each of the top three in the #1 spot at one time or another in the course of making these rankings, and you can make a legit case for McCartney’s entry as well. This was the first Roger Moore movie, one of the better ones (except for the Southern sheriff), and the theme song just crackles. It doesn’t include a callout to the Bond theme, but it’s a terrific song, one of the best of the Wings era, and one of the best in this collection.

From MI6-HQ.com: “Live and Let Die” was the last Paul McCartney single on Apple Records that was credited only to “Wings” (because the B-side, “I Lie Around,” was sung not by Paul but by Wings guitarist Denny Laine). Despite its first LP appearance on the 1973 soundtrack album, “Live And Let Die” was not featured on a Paul McCartney album until the Wings Greatest compilation in 1978. “Live and Let Die” was the first James Bond theme song to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song (which gave Paul his second Academy Award nomination and Linda her first), but it lost to the theme song from “The Way We Were”.

Fiction: Live and Let Die

Nobody can sneak up on you on a bridge. Dana had learned that from her father, before the old man went off south to the land of milk and honey. So Dana now slept midway across the Brooklyn Bridge off the main track, wrapped in a black sleeping bag so that even in the full moon, he’d appear to be just a pile of refuse. She kept her Weisskopf at her side in case she needed it, her walking stick tucked between the bag and the concrete rim.

Few enough people came across the bridge, mostly slackers who didn’t believe that the street wars had emptied Manhattan of any food. It had enough food for millions of people, they reasoned, and it can’t all be gone in fifteen short years. But Dana had seen the bosses directing their men to clear the roads, the big rumbling trucks heading out. She’d seen the fires at night grow fewer and fewer and finally go out, all save for herself and a hundred or so others who scraped by on what fishing they could do in the water. Everyone had a spot and the skill to fight for it, and Dana’s was close to the Brooklyn Bridge, a short concrete jetty on the Brooklyn side.

But it was daytime, all five of her fishing rods set and baited, when the stranger arrived. He whistled his way across the bridge, making it clear that he didn’t intend to sneak up on anyone. Dana stood anyway, the Weisskopf at her belt, stick in her hand. “Ho,” she said as he approached.

“Greetings.” The man wore a thick orange hoodie with the word “Clemson” on the front and patched black jeans. His voice was rich and deep as the weathered tan on his face above his thick white beard.

“This spot’s taken,” Dana said, her voice rusty from disuse, “and I’m not looking for a partner.”

The fellow whistled again affably and shook his head. “Nor I.”

“There’s no food to be had.”

“Your rosy cheeks tell a different story.”

She let the stick lean forward and dropped her hand to the middle of it. “There’s fish and things from this spot. And this spot is mine.”

“So you said.” He raised his hands, palms out. “I only wish to look through the apartments yonder there.” He pointed past her, to the low buildings of Brooklyn.

“Scavenger.” She relaxed her grip on the stick (though she kept the other hand on her knife) and gestured with it back to Manhattan. “You’ve gone past the prime scavenging ground.”

“Yes, yes.” He didn’t look behind him. “Some of the scavengers there are none too friendly, so I’ve come over this way.”

Scavengers rooted through individual homes, where the food would long since have spoiled, for things they deemed valuable. Most of the time those were guns, with enough ammunition for maybe ten or twenty shots before they became useless. It had been over a year since Dana had heard a gunshot. “There’s a supply store right around that tall elm.” She pointed. “Good fishing rods, if you want to go up the river. Might be some fishing spots twenty, thirty miles up.”

“I’m not much for fishing.” Now he turned and she could see the backpack he wore, green army color.

“There’s no bow and arrow in that one, but I think Rainy said she found bow and arrow to the east.”

His lips curved in a gap-toothed smile. “I know what I’m after, girl.”

She did, too. “Even if you find it,” she said, “what are you going to do? Start another street war?”

“I’ve no score to settle with you. So will you let me pass?”

She tightened her grip on the Weisskopf handle, but he just bowed his head to her and made a wide, non-threatening circle around her spot. Nevertheless, she watched him all the way down the ramp and into the underbrush, and she kept her eyes on that spot for most of the day.

Two days and part of a night later, she woke under a half-moon to three far-off pops, which stopped the coyotes from howling and then, moments later, set them all off again. Dana stayed awake most of the rest of that night, but nothing else interrupted the songs of the street dogs.

The next day, a man emerged from the underbrush headed for the bridge, a young man with a black beard and pale complexion wearing an orange hoodie with the word “Clemson” on it. He nodded to Dana as he skirted her spot and stepped onto the bridge, and Dana nodded back, ignoring the bloodstains on the hoodie. After all, it wasn’t any of her business. She had fish to catch.

Advertisements

Five: We Have All The Time In The World

  1. We Have All The Time In The World, Louis Armstrong (from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service). If you haven’t watched the movie, you probably can’t understand why this song is here. Go watch it.

It was Louis Armstrong’s last recorded song, and at the time did not chart well. Cover versions of it have boosted its popularity, especially a cover by My Bloody Valentine used in a Guinness ad, and it is now considered “among the finest of Barry’s songs for the franchise.” By this poll as well.

(In addition to My Bloody Valentine, “We Have All the Time in the World” has been covered by Iggy Pop with soon-to-be Bond composer David Arnold, Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Vic Damone, Michael Ball, Amalia Grè, The Puppini Sisters, The Fairly Handsome Band, and Tindersticks.)

Fiction: We Have All The Time In The World

 

Tianora had perfected the art of distilling time into vials and her workshop overflowed with them. Minutes as thin and delicate as pencils, stout hours in test tubes and Christmas ornaments, days bottled and sealed with wax and foil and spellcraft. Colored glass sparkled in the sun’s beams through the skylight, and any visitor to Tianora’s shop had the impression of walking into an ancient temple, with the witch behind her counter at the center and candles lit on either side of her, her robes almost liturgical.

Tianora herself was no priestess. Olive-skinned and raven-haired, she wore dresses and shirts and skirts as bright as her bottles, festooned her hair with jeweled barrettes and her ears with silver spangles, wore antique pendants and old ivory-carved brooches, and if ever she came out from behind the counter, her feet were always seen in tanned, dyed leather. She laughed often, joked with the people who came in often and warmly greeted those who didn’t. To the people who decried her trade, she made a free gift of a minute and received in return a customer.

There was no money exchanged at her counter, no gold nor silver nor promissory note. The price of a stolen vial of time from Tianora was double that time from the end of your own life. An easy price to pay, because who values an hour in their dotage more than an hour with their sweetheart with the flush of youth still strong in their cheeks? A drink of Tianora’s potion and you would find the world stopped around you, the sun and moon’s dance arrested for your pleasure. If another had drunk at the same time, then you would both experience the stopped time (more than one vigilant parent kept a stock of Tianora’s potions for nights when their teenaged children went on dates), but otherwise the world would be frozen.

(On occasion, unscrupulous people used this power for robbery or worse, but Tianora always knew when someone had taken one of her potions and pointed the constables unerringly in the direction of the perpetrator, whereupon they made restitution, with the help of a resurrectionist if necessary. Many people used the power of stopped time to play pranks, and Tianora not only seemed to enjoy this, but actively encouraged retaliation.)

When she’d first discovered this magic, she’d traded out of her cottage. Word spread quickly, and soon she moved into an abandoned alehouse, using its wine cellar for storage, its upstairs bedrooms for their original purpose when couples who had nowhere else to enjoy their stolen time sought her out. In time, a quiet young woman was seen in the shop, fetching bottles and dusting. Her name became known as Jewel, and as Tianora left her shop less and less, Jewel scoured the town for new gems and finery to wear, though she herself wore only grey and beige and flat sandals. Rumors spread, of course, but if Tianora and Jewel shared a bed at night, only the two of them knew it.

“What will you do with all of this time?” Kor the baker asked her on one occasion.

“Don’t you think time is worth saving?” she replied.

“You’ve sure got a lot of time here,” Alasia the seamstress said cannily on another.

“A stitch in time saves nine,” Tianora said with a bright smile. “And how is Ferdinand doing?”

“If you ladies would like to attend the social…” Mayor Brandon took great delight in planning town dances. “I could use another day to set it up.”

He was hoping for confirmation that the ladies were a couple, but Tianora just smiled and passed him a day bottle. “Thank you for the invitation,” she said, “but I believe we’ll stay home that night.”

And then came a day when Davrim had the bright idea that he would take one of Tianora’s potions at night and under cover of stopped time, steal many of her bottles. Not many people would even conceive of stealing from a witch, and fewer still would put a plan into action, but it should be said that Davrim had indulged from many non-magical bottles over the previous weeks, and it was his idea that it would save him a great deal of money if he could but stop time while drunk, postponing indefinitely the arrival of the price of intoxication. What was more, he had an intimate knowledge of the old alehouse from its former life.

So Davrim traded two hours of his likely cirrhosis-plagued old age for an hour of crime, and returned when the crescent moon was high. The wine cellar (he happened to know) could be accessed through a back door which itself could be jimmied off the latch inside. His fingers were not as sure as they’d once been, but memory served where dexterity had failed, and soon he was inside.

His first surprise came when he stumbled down to the wine cellar. His memory filled it with bottles, and he had expected to see a similar sight, only in many different shapes and colors. But the cellar stood empty, the wooden racks stretching bare to the back wall.

Davrim’s torch shook in his hands and flickered too, and so with the dancing shadows it took him a good several minutes to determine that indeed, the bounty of bottles he had anticipated was nowhere to be found. Well, he thought, there had been plenty in the shop upstairs when he’d been in that day. They’d be missed sooner, but he couldn’t come all this way for nothing.

Upstairs, he hummed to himself as he walked along the corridor to the main room, and stopped with one hand on the door when he realized that he was humming along to music he could hear. The rest of the night had been so still—no animal sounds, no wind, no creaks of settling wood—that he hadn’t even registered the music at first. But it was there, a bright, happy tune reaching through the door to draw him out.

He pushed slowly on the door and was greeted with his second surprise. A player piano tinkled the music he’d heard, and in the center of the floor, Tianora and Jewel danced.

They spun around, laughing gaily together, and they wore similar simple white robes which flowed and waved above their flying feet. Their hands rested on hips, on shoulders, and their eyes never left one another.

Except to settle on Davrim, both pairs of eyes, when their feet stilled and their smiles faded. Neither of them spoke, so Davrim supposed he’d best say something.

“Fine evening, ladies,” he said. “Sorry to intrude. I—heard the music. I’ll be on my way.”

“Oh, Davrim, you old drunk,” Tianora said. “Why don’t you come on in?”

Her voice, still light, held steel below it. Davrim did not want to come in, but his feet shuffled forward and his hand let go of the door. It swung behind him and shut with a click. “I didn’t mean no harm,” he said.

“And yet you’ve caused it.” Tianora glided toward him. “You’ve disturbed our privacy.”

“I won’t tell nobody.” He looked earnestly between them. “Nobody’d care nohow. There’s Fannie and Jellinda and they walk together hand in hand.”

“We don’t care that people know.” Jewel spoke in a low voice. “We like our privacy. We can be together, alone, with all the time we need.”

Davrim’s hand shook so badly he dropped his torch. “I’ll leave,” he said. “I’ll never come back.”

Tianora’s fingers touched his brow. “Yes,” she said.

He was old and had indulged often, so there was no particular surprise when Davrim’s body was found that morning. “He looks so old,” Timony, the stable boy who found him, said.

Mayor Brandon shook his head sadly. “Let this be a lesson to you on the perils of drink, Timony,” he said.

In the course of his duties, he returned to Tianora’s shop. She greeted him in a sober black dress. “You must have heard the news,” he said. “Well, as it happens, I will have to have his funeral…time is so short…perhaps a day for me and one for each assistant?”

“Such a tragedy,” Tianora murmured. “Jewel, please fetch three days for the Mayor from the wine cellar.”

How About A Little 19, Moneypenny?

Ranking the James Bond movie songs! Start at the beginning, or check out 22, 21, 20

19. Thunderball, Tom Jones. I should note that I am a big fan of Tom Jones and a moderate fan of his music. You might give him a pass, this being the fourth James Bond film, so the precedent had been set for the theme songs to be named after the title (Dr. No, the first, has no theme song). And I can see Tom Jones scratching his head, saying, “What the hell is a ‘Thunderball’?” But that’s no excuse for inserting the James Bond stinger every verse, nor for lyrics that feel generic when they aren’t ridiculous (“he knows the meaning of success / his needs are more so he gives less”). I will give it that it kind of fits with the movie, but the movie itself is bombastic and a bit ridiculous and not among Connery’s finer work (though you can argue that sub-par Connery is still above-average Bond and I wouldn’t disagree).

Fiction: Thunderball

The sight is terrifying, but the sound is worse. It starts with a pulsing rumble, like a giant bull in the ring, circling, its heart beating faster, danger and death already upon it faster than its awareness can process. Already the weaker buildings in the ghost town have trembled and succumbed, sliding downward as their last breath rises in a cloud of dust. And still the noise goes on and grows, and even through the deadening earphones the watchers can hear it, can feel it in their bodies. The taller buildings of the ghost town hold on grimly, and the rumble becomes a scream that issues from the earth itself, and now eyes turn toward the calm woman at the front of the room, her hands tight on the railing, her gaze never wavering. Has she miscalculated? Are they, supposedly a safe distance away, also to be torn to pieces by this blast of noise?

Six buildings remain. The scream is unendurable. Now five. Now the fourth topples into the third, the second collapses in on itself. Several watchers close their eyes against the noise. Finally the last building gives up.

The noise does not cut off abruptly–that would be dangerous, she’s told them–but fades quickly. Within forty-five seconds, she’s taken off her earphones. Slowly, the others follow suit. To one side, a young man ejects a thumb drive from his laptop and brings it over. She takes it from him and holds it up to the large man with two dozen medals on his uniform.

He follows her to a side room and shuts the door behind them. “We’ll take it,” he says, accepting the thumb drive from her.

She looks at him curiously. “You already have it,” she says.

The general squints. “The plans are on that?”

“The video is on it.” She waves at the closed door. “All the international delegates here will testify to its veracity, and all are welcome to inspect the site afterwards.”

“But the weapon,” the general insists. “We want the weapon.”

She looks at him steadily. “That weapon is not for sale.”

He throws the thumb drive to the floor. “It has to be. Why are you wasting my time?”

“General,” she says, “do you know why I called this device the ‘Thunderball’?”

“Scientist sense of humor? James Bond fan? I don’t give a shit. I want–”

“Back when Jane Goodall was studying chimp societies–patience, I assure you that this is relevant to your understanding–there was a chimp who learned how to roll oil drums down a slope. It made a terrific racket and the other chimps couldn’t understand how he did it. He became the top male in the group.” She eyed the general. “You understand that, right?”

“I love being compared to apes,” he said. “If your point is deterrence, we already understand that. I grew up during the Cold War.”

“The point is,” she went on, “that the oil drums just made a terrific noise. They weren’t actually dangerous. But the others didn’t know that. As you astutely pointed out, humans are not chimps. We’re a little more sophisticated. So we have had to develop weapons that do more than just make noise. Cannons, submarines, atomic bombs. They are true deterrents because they actually have power; they are more than just thunder.”

His eyes narrowed. “You telling me this is all just a trick?”

“The technology is real. The deployment is a trick.” She smiled. “What is critical is that nobody else understands it. A deterrent that can be replicated is short-lived.”

“A deterrent that can’t be replicated is useless.”

“We can replicate it just often enough. It takes a good deal more preparation than I’ve been letting on, but it’s not impossible. However…” She bent to pick up the thumb drive. “This should keep people quiet for a while.”

“And I guess when we need another deployment, we come to you.”

She smiled. “I do have the Thunderball.”

“For now.” The general’s lips remained set in a straight light, his eyes hard and cold.

“Everything is temporary.” She brushed black hair out of her face and smiled. “But by the time you’ve cracked this one, I’ll be working on the next one.”

He took the thumb drive as she held it out. “You’re damn close to treason.”

“I’m not selling the technology to anyone.” She released the small drive. “And I’ve given you the leverage to be the world bully again. I hardly see how that’s treason.”

He turned, and then stopped, his hand on the door. “What happened to that ape? The one with the oil cans?”

“Oh, he was deposed after a year or two. But he had a good time at the top.”

“Right.” The general pocketed the thumb drive. “Enjoy yours.”

When the door had closed behind him, she sighed and said, “You too.”