Friday, May 05, 2017

Calling Grendel Briarton

One day, while I was a teenager in Massachusetts, a group of high school students volunteered to help with a beach clean-up. It was an uncommon spill, but not unheard of – illicit drugs had washed up on a beach in the Cape Code National Seashore.

Apparently a boat, while being chased by the Coast Guard, threw its cargo of drugs overboard – which happened in this case to be bales of marijuana. Normally, the bales would have sunk, but because they was wrapped in plastic, they didn’t get water-logged and in fact had the right buoyancy to float – which they did, right onto the beach of the National Seashore.

By the time authorities found the bales, wave action had, however, had broken most of them open, and the marijuana was lying there wet and soggy on the beach. It gave a whole new meaning to the term “sea weed”.

Local public works employees had begun to collect up the soggy weed, but unfortunately local wildlife began to eat it. Marijuana is a plant, after all. Seagulls and terns had swooped in and gobbled it up, and then began to show symptoms of toxicity from eating the plants. As an emergency measure, the authorities asked for warm bodies to collect up the wet weed as soon as possible.

That’s how myself and other members of the National Honor Society found ourselves on a bus on the way to the seashore.

When we got there, we were given buckets and rakes, and told to work as fast as we could. Any thoughts anyone might have had of pocketing any of the weed was eliminated by its poor condition by then – soaked in salt water, with sand and other stuff mixed in.

I could see why the authorities had been concerned about the birds ingesting the marijuana. There were a number of birds staggering and flopping on the sand and in the grass. While we filled our buckets at the edge of the water, there were animal rescue people scooping up the birds for their own protection and taking them to a safe place where they could recuperate.

While I raked I saw a few birds clumsily flap down from the sky, and plop themselves on the beach until one of the animal rescue volunteers could grab them.

I was near a mooring post, however, when a tern swooped down and alighted on it. He looked at me and cocked his head in puzzlement. He seemed quite steady, so I supposed he was late to the party. From the way he sniffed the air I think he was a late arrival and hadn’t gotten there in time to get a snack before the clean-up began.

I looked at him, and he looked at me with what I took to be big eyes of disappointment. I decided my good deed for the day would be to see that he didn’t get left out, so I took a small handful of some relatively dry marijuana, walked over to the post, turned my back and slipped him some.

Unfortunately I didn’t see a rescue person just behind the next dune, but they saw me. She came over, and with some indignation, growled at me: “Do you think it’s funny? We are trying to save these birds, and here you are feeding one what is making them sick!”

“I just have a soft heart,” I pleaded. “It didn’t think it was fair he’d be the only bird left out of the pot party.”

“Besides,” I said as I wiped my hands and the bird flew away, “I wanted to make sure no tern was unstoned.”

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"It’s possible that you haven’t run into the stories of Lou Antonelli. Since 2003, he’s been publishing delightful short tales of alternate history all over the nooks and crannies of the SF world. Thanks to Fantastic Books, we now have 28 of these little gems in one place. "Many of Antonelli’s stories have an unexpected twist ending. And many of them are what he calls “secret history” stories, which aren’t exactly alternate history—they’re set in our familiar history, but there’s always some element that contemporary observers missed. " -

- Don Sakers, The Reference Library, Analog July-Aug. 2014

A better path develops for a distraught man in “Double Exposure” by Lou Antonelli (debut 6/11 and reviewed by Frank D). Jake is about to end it all. He has been trying to keep his high maintenance wife happy for decades and has needed to embezzle to satisfy her spending habits. Now, on the verge of indictment and abandoned by his spouse, he buys a gun. Before he pulls the trigger, he spies a Kodak one-day photo hut. Curious, he pulls up to the window. They are holding pictures of him and his last girlfriend from 30 years before. The package is a lot thicker than it should be. Double Exposure” is listed as an Alternative History story but I would classify it as a Magical Realism tale. It is set as a second chance tale, a look into a life that should have been. The author is inspired by his memories of the old photo huts (I remember them) and of their disappearance. A cool idea (photos of another life), one that I could imagine would make for a great anthology.

- Frank Dutkiewicz, Diabolical Plots

“Great White Ship”: A traveler stuck waiting for a flight strikes up a conversation with an old airline employee. The Old Timer tells him a story of a Great White Airship that arrives from a most unusual destination. The story of a craft from an alternate reality and how it got there is only the precursor to the final act. This is one of my favorite stories from this site. I have a great passion for lighter-than-air craft and their potential as a future means of transport, which opens the story. The author uses this speculation to launch into an engaging tale. As fascinating as the main story line is, the alternate history premise that accompanies it is just as worthwhile. This story was well written and very well thought out. It is well worth the read. Recommended.

- James Hanzelka, Diabolical Plots

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