As part of Excerpt Week, here are some brief excerpts from my Null City series
Superpowers suck. If you just want to live a normal life, Null City is only a Metro ride away. After one day there, imps become baristas, and hellhounds become poodles. Demons settle down, become parents, join the PTA, and worry about their taxes.
EXCERPT: DON’T TOUCH by Barb Taub
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- Text from S_Krampus: (5:02PM, Oct 20, 2012): dEr R., My nAm iz Stefan & I’ve Bin snt by yor Aunt Roulette 2 rescue U.
- Text from Lette: I don’t need rescuing. Go away.
Use Your Words : LiveJournal, October 27, 2012 by LetteS [—Lette’s Birth Date Calculator: 22 years, 9.3 months]
Over the past week, the texts from Stefan, the guy with the rescue complex, have gotten more frequent and less grammatical. Except for the occasional “Go away!”, I’ve been trying to ignore him.
My touch was more random than ever this past week, turning things into needles, polka dots, chicken pot pie, okra, CDs of German art lieder songs, or velvet paintings of the queens of England. Actually, I have to admit, the pot pies were pretty good. And the polka dots and queen pictures perked up my bedroom. Even the needles didn’t take up that much space. But the okra and art lieder were just wrong.
The texts from Stefan have tapered off at last, and today it’s time for another Saturday visit from Mom and Dad. Wait, there’s a text.
R U there? cn I come ^ 2 c u?
What—I’m the only one on the planet who knows how to type whole words? I have to go throw down the ladder for Mom.
- Text from Lette (2:13PM, Oct 27, 2012): OMG Mom. A man just tried to climb into my cabin. I pushed him back off the porch, and he fell to the ground.
- Text from Mom Is he blond?
- Text from Lette: Yes
- Text from Mom: That’s not a man.
- Text from Mom: Well, actually, it is, but it’s the one your great-aunt Roulette sent. I texted him your address. You should probably let him in.
- Text from Lette: Um…he might be dead.
- Text from Mom: LETTE!
- Text from Lette: Nope. He’s groaning. I guess I’ll have to go down there and help him. But Mom—what were you thinking? It could kill him if I touch him.
- Text from Mom: Well, I’m guessing he knows that now. Let me know how he’s doing.
- Text from Mom (3:19PM, Oct 27, 2012): Is he dead?
- Text from Lette: Not yet. He has a cut and a lump on his head. I put frozen peas on it.
- Text from Mom: What’s your touch today?
- Text from Lette: Frogs. I only made a little one though, and I think George ate it.
- Text from Mom: Be careful. Turning him into a frog would just be too big a cliché.
- Text from Lette: Bye Mom.
EXCERPT: Payback is a Witch is a novella from Tales From Null City by Barb Taub
Click here for preview, reviews, and buy link from Amazon.
Annoyed to catch herself wondering what he thought of her family’s old home, Claire waved him toward the high-backed rocker across from the porch swing, and went inside without a word.
But as she boiled water and set out two teacups, she had plenty to say to herself. There was a lot about what a bad idea it was to remember his arms around her, the taste of his kiss, that heart-stomping smile. Hell, a little over ten years ago their families were still trying to kill each other. For the last six of those years, she’d done her best to remember what she owed Nana and Bygul. And she’d done her damnedest to forget the look on his face when she turned and walked away.
Through the screen door, she could see him staring at something near the porch swing, just outside her line of sight. She had a bad feeling she knew what that something was. “Do you still take your tea without sugar?”
“You remembered.” He didn’t turn around, but she felt his smile anyway. “You live here alone?”
“Yes, unless you’ve turned into a twisted psycho stalker. In that case, I have several large homicidal brothers. And the world’s meanest cat.”
“Witches don’t have brothers. But I see what you mean about the cat.”
A purr, definitely amused this time, rubbed against the back of her brain. Damn it, Bygul. You stay out of sight for a thousand years, but you can’t stay off the porch for one afternoon? Sighing, she filled a small dish with tuna and placed it on a low table at the end of the kitchen. Why can’t some goddesses mind their own business? With a twist of lemon for her own tea, she set both cups onto a tray. Sniffing an open package of cookies that had been around a while, she dumped them onto the tray with a shrug. Before she reached the door, he turned and held it open, took the tray from her, and put it onto the little table between the rocking chair and the old porch swing.
“You’re a witch, right? So is she your familiar?” He pointed to the porch swing and the silver-gray feline posed regally across its sofa-length cushion. “I never knew a cat could get that big.”
“She isn’t my cat. She goes with the house and especially the woods.” Claire understood his surprise. You just don’t see a lot of house cats the size of Labradors. “I suppose you might say I’m her staff.” She took a seat next to the cat, who stretched and sat up, wrapping a tail thicker than Claire’s arm around her front paws. “Best we can tell, she’s a Norwegian Forest Cat. They get pretty big, but yeah. She’s big even for that. We call her Bygul.”
“In Norse mythology, Bygul was one of the giant cats who pulled the Goddess Freya’s chariot. Some said they were goddesses in their own right.” Bygul yawned and her eyes closed halfway. “Minor goddesses, of course…” The giant cat’s eyes snapped open, and she jumped off the porch with a noticeable thump.
“Didn’t the Egyptians worship cats too?”
Claire laughed. “Bygul pulled a war chariot and fought alongside Valkyries. Those Egyptian pussies couldn’t fight their way across a coffee shop.” Tail held high, Bygul waited for Claire to open the kitchen door before stalking inside to the tuna offering. As Peter lifted his tea from the tray, he smiled again. She sat back too quickly and her own tea sloshed over the rim. Dear goddess, that smile.
EXCERPT: Just for the Spell of It is a novella from Tales From Null City by Barb Taub
Click here for preview, reviews, and buy link from Amazon.
“Hello on Line One—you’re live on Sharing With Eirie, Seattle’s number one station for talk-radio. What’s on your mind today?” As the caller gushed, Eirie glanced at the list of prescreened callers on her prompts and yawned.
Caller holding on line two—woman whose father is marrying her adult stepdaughter wants to know if they have a baby, does that mean she’s her own grandmother?
Holding on line three—man who says you are his soul mate wants to know if you will marry him, and if so are you free early this afternoon because he has a meeting with his parole officer later.
Holding on line four—woman who says her husband is a podiatrist from an alien planet wants to know if they’ll go to different heavens, and if so, will she get a new husband in her heaven?
It was same old, same old ever since Jo, her producer, issued the ultimatum prohibiting the mystery caller who managed to get a call through on almost every broadcast. Their intern-flavor-of-the-month—Brad? Brent?—swore to personally keep Jo’s tormentor off Eirie’s air. “You sure it’s not him?” she mouthed to the window of the broadcast booth, pointing to the list of callers. Brad/Brent nodded solemnly from the other side of the glass. His arm muscles flexed as he placed one hand over his heart, the other palm-up, the station’s logo on his white T-shirt straining across his chest as he threw back broad shoulders and clenched a determined jaw.
Nice, but her current obsession required dark hair and a day-two beard. While the commercial played, she took a polite moment to appreciate the view and then held up two fingers as the intro jingle played for her afternoon radio talk and music show. “And hello Line Two—you’re on the air and I’m Eirie Danu. What’s on your mind today?”
Her lips twitched as a deep male voice spoke with a faint Irish lilt, “My intern is pretty hot but she can’t file worth shite. Would it be better, you think, to do the firin’ of her before or after the sex?” Brent/Brad’s jaw dropped at the familiar voice. Producer Jo appeared next to him, drawing a cut! line across her throat.
“What makes you think the intern wants to have sex with you?” Eirie imagined him smiling as she slipped into the signature do-me drawl that Jo called her drop-trouser voice.
“Well, every time I see her she’s wearing less. Today she came into my office and I think her skirt was missing…”
“Miniskirts are back, you know.”
“And I for one am glad to see them. But what she had on was more in the way of a Band-Aid. So to get back to my question, I really need an answer right away. Winter’s coming and I don’t know how much longer the poor little thing can keep coming in without clothes. Plus eventually I might need to find something in my files…”
Jo’s throat-slashing motions escalated to a level that had Brad/Brent paling as he cautiously moved pointed objects out of her reach. Eirie cut the caller’s line feed and smoothly continued, “Well sir, I have to say we don’t recommend consummation while the intern is still on staff. Aside from the whole ick-factor, you’d be amazed how often they tend to have large, combative relatives. Going by your voice, I’d say you’re a middle-aged guy, maybe older. In reality, I’m guessing she sees you as a father-figure. So my advice to you is to avoid the whole situation. Take a vacation until that intern is gone, maybe read a good book or spend some quality time in church with seniors your own age. Your heart doesn’t need the stress, so why don’t I help you relax with classic Sinatra from back in the day. Stay tuned after that for a caller with a very special question he wants to ask me.” She leaned back with a thumbs-up for Jo as the first notes of Here’s to the Losers floated through her headset.
Eirie left the studio at a trot, pulling up her hoodie as the Seattle rain splattered her pink and purple hair.
“Other seniors?” He swung into place beside her. “Really, Eirie?”
She laughed, glancing up at Liam’s beard stubbled chin, rain-slicked dark hair, and that athlete’s body outlined by leather jacket and black jeans. Eirie knew for a fact he was thirty-six and his lean frame hid muscles conditioned for peak stamina and performance. Not for the first time, she imagined the raindrops sizzling against his skin. “Definitely a father-figure. But you don’t look too bad for your advanced age.”
For more info, see Barb Taub: Writing & Coffee. Especially Coffee.