Writing and Other Afflictions

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

Tag Archives: bond song

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.”

Fifteen Minutes of Bond

Ranking the Bond theme songs and doing a little flash fic of each…

15. Tomorrow Never Dies, Sheryl Crow. It’s a fine song, and I guess it works with the movie in that it would work with just about any movie. Crow is a good choice as a Bond songstress; her work is often terrifically atmospheric and evocative of a place or feeling, which should be perfect for Bond. But she doesn’t quite nail the Bond aesthetic here. It’s not her worst song by a long shot, but just listening to the rest of her work, I feel like she could’ve come up with something more personal to say about Bond.

Fiction: Tomorrow Never Dies

We were going to be in the spaceship for two years, give or take a month: nine months for the Mag drive to spin up to full speed, three months to cover the three hundred and fifty light-years to our destination, and then another nine months for the drive to spin down. Then two to four months for verification of the probe’s evaluation of our colony planet, deployment of the dome, and so on.

Most of the colonists were in deep freeze, so to them the trip would last for one long night; they would go to sleep and wake up tomorrow at their destination. Roy, Ai, Sveta, and me were the skeleton crew, mostly awake in case something happened to the corpsicles, because if something happened to the ship it would happen so fast there was fuck-all we could do about it. Mag drive failures were documented in picoseconds. They tended to be spectacular and devastating and, fortunately, quite rare.

One of the things we learned on the ship is that we had total control of time. The ship’s lights were cycled to an Earth day, but Ai had been a hacker in her early days, so it wasn’t long before we’d reset the lights to be under our control, not to mention unlocked what was supposed to be a celebratory Welcome-To-Our-New-Home dinner. Giddy on champagne and the twenty-sixth hour of daylight, we almost imagined that tomorrow had come, that we had arrived at the planet and that soon enough, everyone would be waking around us.

And then Roy, Ai, and Sveta went off to bed and left me alone in charge of everything. This had been our standard practice ever since we’d figured out that the three of them were straight and I wasn’t, meaning that I had nothing to offer them in bed, and vice versa. Carelessness on the part of New Wave Colonies, who had undoubtedly selected two men and two women for the voyage on the premise that we’d pair off during the two years.

I decided to leave the lights on for as long as I could. There were stimulants in my locker, unending coffee on the flight deck, and I didn’t even have to go to sleep when the others woke up. If I never went to sleep, then today would be tomorrow and we would eventually arrive at the planet.

Ai had opened up the registry of the colonists for us to peruse during our trip–if you think the library of a hundred thousand books was more attractive than snooping on your fellow passengers, then you’re a better man than I. I skimmed through hundreds of entries looking for single guys, people who might be gay and around my type when we landed (if New Wave had a sexuality question on their application, I wouldn’t be in this situation to begin with). Sort of like a very one-sided online dating service.

One guy caught my attention. Three years younger than me, not attached, pretty cute, and he was a poet. I kept coming back to him, and the more I saw him looking out of the screen at me, the more certain I was that not only was he gay, he was gay for me. I became convinced that I could actually wake him up. There had to be something in the cryo mechanisms in case of emergency. What if, what if (I reasoned with myself) another probe found a better world closer while we were en route? We had backup destinations, so why couldn’t we have an alternate if new information came in?

Well, because once the Mag drive spun up we would be out of contact, but that wouldn’t happen for another five months and two weeks and three days. And besides, wasn’t my sexual frustration an emergency? Who knew what I would do if I had to endure two years of this? I read paragraphs of the cryo documentation over and over again.

The next thing I knew, Sveta was shaking me by the shoulder and it was tomorrow and we still were not at our home. Five hundred tomorrows to go. But I could always try again today.

I’m On My Way To 18, M

I’m ranking the James Bond movie songs, counting down, and writing little flash fics to go with each one.

 

18. Goldeneye, Tina Turner. Again, there’s not much here to complain about. It’s a mid-level Tina Turner song. She does her thing and it’s cool, but it doesn’t really evoke the movie or anything. See, we’re already starting to get into the realm of “songs I don’t have any particular quibble with but which are unremarkable.” Full disclosure: I never saw “Goldeneye,” nor two of the next three movies. That might figure into the low rankings. Side note: Tina Turner is probably the closest in voice to Bond mainstay Shirley Bassey.

 

Fiction: Goldeneye

Jake got a gold nose piercing, and Molly got a gold tooth, and they talked big around me and Sherry, like we wasn’t worth what they were just because we didn’t have gold in our face. Like gold is expensive or something; it just looks cool, but I could basically go down to the Lunar Co-op and get a gold nugget for a couple packets of chewing gum if I wanted. If chewing gum wasn’t so damn ‘spensive. So when we got in that fight with the 8-0-1s and Sherry got hit across the face and they said the left eye was a goner, I told her she should get a gold eye.

She was in the hospital, lying back on the bed with a big white patch over the eye, or I guess where the eye’d used to be, and the medibot was ticking down my minutes with big red numbers that even I could read. “Maybe I will, Shooz,” she said, talking slow like when we got drunk, only I was pretty sure nobody snuck sunbooze in the hospital.

“You full-on should,” I said.

“Hey Medibot,” Sherry said, still slurry-slow, but the bot understood and beeped at her. “How much fer a golden eye?”

My numbers were ticking down to zero, and while I hold that rules are like fences–it’s better on the other side of them–I’d already tried to stay past my time a couple days ago and got jabbed by a needle and woke up in the parking lot. Hadn’t figured a way around the medibots yet, so I left Sherry in the middle of a numbers discussion.

“She’ll never do it,” Jake said.

Molly ran her tongue over her gold tooth. “It wouldn’t look right on her.”

But damned if Sherry didn’t come out of the hospital with one eye blue as the seas on Earth up in the sky and one eye golden metal with a black hole in its center. It moved around when she moved her head, and she told Jake and Molly it was just a mini-gyro, but when they were gone she told me she could really see out of it.

I couldn’t figure how; it was metal. To prove it, she closed the other eye, which made her look more normal and I don’t know how that worked, because nobody on the Moon had golden eyes. Mr. Devereux has a glass eye, but everyone else has two working ones. I figured she was just peeking when she reached out and touched me right on the nose, dead center, and after that she didn’t tell me she could see out of it again.

But Jake and Molly were pissed because now Sherry outranked them by their own system. Nose ring, tooth, they didn’t compare to an eye that moved around and gleamed and was worth all their gold put together and doubled. They made noises about how Sherry’d stolen to get it, but we all knew Jake had gotten his nose ring off a guy from the Northsiders, so the noises died out fast. The situation didn’t get better, though, and I was worried our gang might split up, Jake and Molly with their friends, and me and Sherry with ours. I watched Sherry’s back, but they didn’t try anything right away.

No, they waited until one night three months later when I was working on the scaffolding and I’d told Peanut to keep an eye on Sherry. I heard the story from him later: he’d been sitting with her when she fell asleep, and she always slept with the golden eye open. Jake and Molly came up behind him and gagged him, tied him up before he could make a sound. Jake stood over Sherry and reached down to grab that eye, and when his fingers were an inch away, she hauled off and planted her foot between his legs, so hard Peanut could hear it.

Well, Jake deflated like he’d been pressure-bombed, and Molly lurched forward like she could help. Reflex, I guess; we look out for our own. Sherry’s hand lashed out and slashed Molly across the face, and after that the two of them hightailed it out of there.

The weird thing is Peanut told me Sherry woke up after that, and didn’t remember a thing about it. But, he said, when he was telling her, he kept seeing the flickers of light off her golden eye, just like the thing was winking at him.