Latest Pulp Modern Flash Stories

The Coffee Shop by Jonathan Worlde

“Mr. Acurso, I’ve got an idea you’ll want to write,” said a teenage kid, his quavering voice cutting through the calming background noise of Acurso’s favorite coffee shop.

The award-winning writer always started his mornings working at his laptop on his Mars-detective series. The barista had served him with her usual warm smile. The prototype ray gun his friend from the Jet Propulsion Lab had loaned him was heavy in his coat pocket – he wanted to study it for use in a story.

He didn’t like to hide from his fans. Lately it seemed some of them had figured out his daily writing routine and knew he could be found typing away in one of a dozen coffee shops in town.

A reluctant smile. “Okay, what is it kid?”

“A flying saucer sets down on the National Mall, and instead of the aliens coming out and conquering Earth or vaporizing the landmarks in Washington, they go into the National Gallery and carry off all the paintings in the Dutch wing, the Rembrandts and Vermeers and stuff.”

Acurso chuckled, took a hit off his coffee mug with Ethiopian light blend. “That’s a good one, kid, but tell you what, why don’t you write it up yourself, you could probably sell it to one of the big boys.”

As if the kid never considered the possibility, “Gee, you think so? That’s great advice, I’ll give it a go. Thanks for the inspiration, sir..Mr. Acurso.”

“You can call me Richard. And check my blog for my latest story.”

“I’ll do that!”

In spite of the interruption, he admired the kid’s enthusiasm and moxie it had taken to approach him.

A couple hours later, after he’d walked to his second most favorite spot, he was working on a battle scene between ships from the Belt and Mars when a woman with multiple silver bracelets approached him.

“Oh, Mr. Acurso, gosh it’s nice to run into you. I was just thinking, what if I should run into a writer who can make something out of this story idea?”

He visualized the prototype ray gun in his pocket.

“Yeah, what’s that?” He concealed his chagrin because he never liked to ruffle the feathers of a reader; it could spread bad karma throughout his readership.

“Just picture, Mr. Acurso…may I call you Richard?”

“Sure, everybody does.”

“It’s probably best if you close your eyes. Imagine, a gigantic genetically modified fish that got flushed down the toilet of the lab in Georgetown, I mean before it grew into a giant, has been swimming around in the Potomac; it crawls out of the river and walks north – pulling itself on its flippers – growing bigger by the minute, until it reaches the White House. By now it’s the size of Memorial Stadium, and it swallows the White House and everyone in it! Except the First Lady is out shopping.”

He took another sip of his Guatemalan mountain blend.

“That’s pretty spectacular, all right. But what keeps it growing so big? Its metabolism would need something to keep feeding it to make it grow.”

She nodded enthusiastically. “You’re right, I didn’t think of that. So let’s say it’s scooping up and devouring pedestrians along the way.”

“I like that. I don’t know when I can get to it, but I’ll keep it in mind. Thanks for the tip. Be sure to check out today’s blog entry and share with others.”

She clasped his hand, a gleam in her eye, before turning and leaving the shop.

Things were getting out of hand. How could he concentrate anymore? He’d have to change his writing habit, not write in public anymore, which pained him because he really enjoyed being out and about rather than cooped up at home and he liked to support the local businesses.

At lunchtime he made his way a few blocks north to a coffee shop in Adams Morgan where he especially appreciated the toasted egg-and-salmon croissants.  Washing one down with a mug of Nicaraguan roast would perk him up for the afternoon’s story about the riot inside the Lunar base maximum security prison.

He was one bite into the sandwich when a man in his mid-thirties approached, holding a hardback collection of Robot Insurrection stories. The prototype ray gun was calling to him.

“It’s Mr. Acurso, right?”

“That’s me, you can call me Richard.”

“Gee, Mr….Richard, what a break, running into you like this. You see, I’ve read all your stuff. I’m a writer too – nothing published yet, but still. I had this idea, which I was going to write myself, but then it occurred to me this is just the kind of story you could really do something with.”

“You should probably give it a go yourself.”

“No, it takes a writer with your kind of talent.”

He paused, wondering how hard to push back. “Let’s hear it.”

“So this famous writer likes to write at coffee shops around Washington, he feels comfortable working in the same ambiance where he got his start, amid the quasi-distraction, but his fans have figured that out and they tend to track him down and disturb him while he’s writing.”

“Go on, I can see the potential there.”

“So finally, even though he tries to be good-natured about it, he’s had enough, all the interruptions are driving him crazy. One day he pulls out a .38 Special and shoots this obnoxious fan who has interrupted him.”

He chuckled. “I kind of like it, but how could he ever do such a thing? It’s his readers and fans who he lives for.”

“But they won’t leave him alone to do his work, so he just loses it and blows this guy away.”

“‘You mean like this?”

The recoilless double-barreled cosmic ray gun was in his hand with Reduce to Molecular Level mode engaged. “Why settle for a conventional weapon, this is science fiction we’re talking.” Before he could check his impulse the fan was star dust.

“Now that’s a story I’ll use.”



Jonathan Worlde is the fiction byline of Paul Grussendorf, who is an attorney representing refugees and a consultant to the UN Refugee Agency. Paul Grussendorf’s legal memoir is My Trials: Inside America’s Deportation Factories (Available on Amazon).

Jonathan Worlde’s neo-noir mystery novel Latex Monkey with Banana was winner of the Hollywood Discovery Award. Recent short fiction appears in Antietam Review, The Raven Review, the 2020 anthology Ghost Stories of Shepherdstown, in Cirque Journal, Ab Terra Voices, Everyday Fiction, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Sirens Call, Stupefying Stories and Daily Science Fiction.

Paul is also a traditional country blues performer under the stage name Paul the Resonator, whose CD is Soul of a Man (Available on Spotify, etc).

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