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Fantasy Fiction Romance

“You bushwhackin’ sidewinder!” Tristan Calendar shouts.

He quickly surveys the grubby saloon, realizing he’s surrounded by half a dozen of Cody Dillinger’s men.

“This is between you and me, not your hired shooters,” Tristan says to his foe. “Let’s settle this like gentlemen.”

Dillinger reaches for his pistol. “No one’s ever accused me of bein’ one.”

Tristan draws first, pointing his gun at Dillinger’s head.

“All right let’s be civilized then,” Dillinger says, holding up his oversized hands. “I’m unstrappin’ my gun. You do the same, and we’ll see who’s the head rooster in this pen.”

Tristan drops his gun to the floor.

Dillinger holds up his meaty fists, his beady eyes narrowing with bad intent.

Stepping forward, Dillinger cracks Tristan on the jaw. Tristan stumbles backward, countering with a sweeping right against the side of Dillinger’s head.

The two men grapple, pulling each other across the floor by their shirt collars. Tristan pulls away, hitting Dillinger with a fusillade of punches that make him backpedal and bloody his nose.

Dillinger absorbs a pair of blows that send him sprawling across a table, knocking glasses, cards, and money onto the floor.

Howling, Dillinger quickly rises, charging headfirst at Tristan.

The hulking ramrod slams into Tristan and the two men bounce sideways, landing on top of a teetering table.

Dillinger reaches for Tristan’s throat. Maneuvering his leg between them, Tristan kicks Dillinger off him.

Dillinger grabs a bottle, breaking it in two. He comes at Tristan, intent on slashing his throat.

Tristan dodges Dillinger’s thrusts, sending him reeling with a barrage of heavy blows.

Picking up a chair, Dillinger comes at Tristan, splintering it over his head. Tristan collapses to the floor.

Groggy, Tristan regains his feet, stumbling backward as Dillinger’s punches snap his head back.

Grabbing a bottle from the bar, Tristan sends it crashing down on the cowboy’s head.

“OW!” Dillinger shouts. “It didn’t break!”

“CUT!”

Cursing, Director Joseph Allen Bernstein yells, “Tristan! You were supposed to hit him with the candy glass bottle, not a real one!”

“Yeah, and some of those punches were real too,” Dillinger complains.

“This is 1922, Tristan, not the stone age. You have to pull your punches!” Bernstein yells. “And open your mouth wider when you deliver your lines so we can match the subtitles up with what you’re saying. You stage actors keep forgetting these are silent pictures.”

Tristan shakes the cobwebs from his head.

Tristan looks at Cody Dillinger, who is still rubbing his head. “Sorry! I forgot where the fake bottle was supposed to be. I got so caught up in what we were doing, I felt like we were really fighting.”

“Lunch, everybody,” Bernstein says. “Somebody take Cody for stitches.”

“I’m sorry, guys. Like I said, it felt so real.”

Tristan sits in his chair. His co-star, Vilma Francois snickers.

“Tsk. Tsk, Wyatt Earp. That scene was a keeper until you nearly killed Cody. His toupee may have saved his life,”

“How many times do I have to apologize?”

Vilma pulls off her blonde wig. “That thing is hot. It feels like I’m wearing a muskrat on my head.”

“You’ve actually worn a muskrat on your head before?”

Tristan’s wise-cracking manner dissipates when he looks at Vilma. Her natural deep black tresses, long eyelashes, and sparkling emerald eyes are more striking without her wig.

“You look different.”

“Better?”

“Much. Um, I mean you’d look beautiful even if you were bald.”

“Good cover. Fortunately, losing all my hair isn’t part of my contract. You’re pretty easy on the eyes yourself, Tristan. I was saying to Douglas Fairbanks the other day that the two of you are practically twins.”

“I’m taller,” Tristan boasts. “And I don’t have a wife getting in my way of asking you out for dinner.”

“Well, are you?”

“Yes. I mean, YES!”

Tristan reaches for Vilma’s hand. A warm wave of euphoria passes between them.

“You felt it too,” he notes.

“It’s body chemistry. But I’ve never felt anything like that before.”

“Me neither. That means that physically…”

“…We’re very good for each other…”

Tristan loses himself in Vilma’s shimmering eyes. “Is that good enough?”

“It’s a nice start,” Vilma says. “And by the way, my real name is Maeve. It means she who intoxicates.”

“How appropriate.”

A look of concern crosses his features.

“I know what you’re thinking,” she says. “What about tomorrow? Next week? All we can do is live for today.”

They join hands.

“There it is again, that warm feeling,” he says. “I know this may sound strange, but I feel like we’ve done this before.”

“We have, dozens, maybe hundreds of times in the past. Maybe we’ll be saying the same things to each other a hundred years from now.”

“You really believe that?” Tristan asks.

“I know it,” she replies, adding, “My trailer. Five minutes.”

Maeve kisses him. He still feels the warmth of her lips as she disappears amidst the cameras and props.

Whistling to himself, Tristan heads to his trailer, intent on changing into as little as possible. Opening the door to his trailer he steps in…

…Tristan shakes his head.

“Is this still a movie?” he asks the soldier next to him.

“A movie?” Sergeant Atticus Buck barks, gnashing on his spent stogie. “That grenade that blew up near your head must’ve knocked you loony. Yeah, this a movie, Tristan. It’s called, ‘Tristan Calendar gets his ass shot out from underneath him because he wised off to his Sergeant.’ Listen closely, chowder head. I need you, Tunney, Haywood, and Spinalzo to secure that farmhouse across the way. Savvy?”

“Sure, Sarge. Can I ask a question? Where are we?”

“Normandy, numbskull. You wanna know the date too?”

“Yes, sir.”

“June 7, 1944. Now get a move on.”

Yeah, sure, Sarge. I’m not worried. It’s all a dream. I’m not going to get hurt.”

Sergeant Buck spits out his cigar, feeling a twinge of guilt. “Poor devil. He may think he’s dreamin’, but those bullets are real.”

Crouching, the four soldiers leave the cover of the trees, approaching the farmhouse.

Spinalzo and Haywood lead the way. They are cut down by machine gun fire coming from a nearby dilapidated shed.

Tristan and Tunney circle behind the shed. Tunney hurls a hand grenade at the shed. It explodes in a cloud of splintered wood, dirt, and body parts.

Moving closer to the house, Tristan and Tunney shoot a pair of German soldiers running out of the backdoor to join the fight.

Another soldier points his rifle out of the window, shooting Tunney in the head.

Flattening against the side of the house, Tristan sneaks up on the window, dropping a grenade inside.

The concussion blows the soldier hallway through the window. His dead body remains suspended from the window as blood drips off his fingers and his rifle slips from his grasp.

Tristan slips through the backdoor, hiding in a corner. An officer holding a Luger pistol hurries down the hallway toward him.

Popping into view, Tristan shoots the officer before he can pull the trigger of his gun.

Tristan quietly searches the house. A soldier standing on the second-floor landing shoots down at him. The bullet glances off his helmet, burying itself in the wall.

Tristan rolls across the floor, firing as the soldier bounds down the steps.

Tristan’s aim is true. Hit in the chest, the soldier falls down the stairs.

His rifle still poised at the ready, Tristan moves into the living room. A pair of women are huddled together in a corner.

Although her face is smudged and her clothes are practically in tatters, Tristan is immediately drawn to the brunette, green-eyed woman.

The other woman, a petite blonde with a short haircut, shouts “C’est un Américain! He’s an American!”

The brunette’s voice is smooth and hypnotic. “Merci, beaucoup.”

“Yes, thank you,” says the blonde. “The Germans would have certainly killed us.”

Tristan helps the women to their feet. The brunette hangs onto his arm as they walk outside.

A transport slows in front of the house. A soldier jumps out, puffing on a cigarette.

He offers one to the women. The blonde gleefully accepts.

“Ya rescue deese two lovelies?” he asks in a thick Brooklyn accent.

“Yes.”

“Well, I hope ya got their numbahs, ‘cause dere comin’ wit me to da rescue camp. Hop in girls.”

The brunette locks eyes with Tristan as she climbs into the truck.

“Nous nous reverrons.”

“What did she say?” Tristan asks the blonde.

“We will meet again.”

She blows a kiss at him as the truck pulls away.

Tristan starts walking down the dusty road. Realizing how much his feet hurt, he looks down at his worn boots.

His boots turn into stylish brown dress shoes…

…Tristan can still taste the previous night’s sleep in his mouth as he stumbles toward the subway. Tristan has been commuting to his public relations job in New York City for two years since 1982, and the express train to Irving Plaza is the most crowded in the city.

The doors to the #4 slide open, and the complaining commuters push Tristan inside the steamy subway car without his having to lift his feet.

He latches onto the closet pole for support. A man across from him, a five-and-a-half foot flesh and blood version of Popeye winks his good eye at Tristan.

“Crowded in here, ain’t it?”

“Like spoiled sardines in a beat-up tin can,” Tristan replies.

Something tugs at his back pocket. Seconds later, Tristan feels another tug.

Tristan turns to face a scruffy young man with a punk haircut and tobacco-stained teeth.

“My wallet isn’t in my pants pocket. It’s in my suit jacket,” Tristan says. “You’ll want to keep that in mind the next time you want to try and rob me.”

The man’s shaggy features reflect shock and surprise.

“Me? I ain’t tryin’ to rip ya off, brother!”

The other passengers stare at the man with condemnation.

The subway slows and he quickly moves to and out of the door, departing with a stubborn, “I ain’t no thief!”

Tristan counters with, “No, not a good one.”

Tristan shakes his head. “Man, I hope this isn’t an indication of how the day is going to go.”

“I got a feelin’ it’s gonna get better for you real soon, buddy,” Popeye says, giving him another wink.

Tristan looks up to see a dark-haired, exotic beauty with a perfect tan and a sensual, magnetic smile standing across from him. She accidentally wraps her hand around his as she reaches for the pole to steady herself. Her touch sends a wave of warmth through him.

They stare into each other’s eyes, spellbound.

Popeye looks at Tristan, then at the woman, then back at Tristan.

“Do you like her?”

“...Yes…,” Tristan replies dreamily.

“Do you like him?” Popeye asks the woman.

“Si, bene.”

With a loud shriek of its worn brakes, the #4 pulls into the station.

The crowd pushes Tristan out onto the platform.

Tristan’s head swivels around on his shoulders as he searches the subway station looking for the woman.

He realizes he’s alone on the platform.

Dejected, he drags himself up the stairs.

Looking into the blinding sun, he sees a shapely figure standing at the top of the stairs.

She reaches out her hand as Tristan runs up the steps…

…And he finds himself behind the wheel of a brand new 1995 Monte Carlo SS, speeding along a winding back road.

Tristan takes a quick glance at the passenger’s seat, feeling forlorn when he sees there’s no one sitting there.

The radio blasts Traffic’s kinetic “Rock N’ Roll Stew.” The dancing percussion and Jim Capaldi’s slippery vocal soon put him in a better mood.

He knows the area, recalling the many carefree afternoons he spent in Pound Ridge drinking away his youth.

Remembering how Hook Road earned its name, he backs down off the accelerator. As the car comes around a sharp curve, he sees the result of someone who didn’t.

A small sports car has skidded off the road and plowed into a tree. The front end of the car is mangled, and steam is rising from underneath its crumpled hood.

Pulling over, Tristan rushes to the car.

An unconscious woman is in the front seat, her jet-black hair covering her features. The strong smell of gas invades Tristan’s lungs, making him gag.

Lifting the woman up, he carries her to safety.

The woman groans, wrapping her arms around Tristan’s neck.

Her bright eyes sparkling, she looks up at him, smiling.

Flames engulf the car. The hood flies in the air with a deafening KABOOM as it explodes.

She looks up at him, whispering, “…Are you real, or am I still dreaming?” before passing out…

…Tristan gets into the automated taxi, glancing at the chronometer, which reads 5:30 pm. October 10, 2152. He punches in his destination.

“One hundred twenty-five credits,” the computer says.

Tristan is about to insert his credit card into the pay slot when a woman opens the door, bouncing into the back seat next to him.

Pushing her long black hair away from her striking features, she jams her card in the pay slot, typing in her destination.

“Two hundred credits,” the computer announces.

“Excuse me, but I was here first,” Tristan says.

“Oh, you don’t want to go there.”

“I’m going home.”

“Where I’m going is much more exciting,” the woman replies. “You look like you need to have some fun.”

“Excuse me, but who are you?”

“Maeve Brewster. I’m a singer. I bet you’re an accountant.”

Tristan clears his throat. “A senior accountant.”

“C’mon, Mr. senior accountant, let’s go to the beach!”

“Two hundred credits,” The computer repeats.

“Would you mind?...”

“Tristan.”

“Nice name. My credit card is empty. Do you mind paying?”

Tristan and Maeve walk along the beach for hours, watching the sunset.

Tristan squints as he looks out across San Francisco Bay, pointing out a small dark object in the water.

“What do you suppose that is?”

“Looks like an overturned boat. Must have come from somebody trying to get out there,” Maeve says, pointing out the Free Alcatraz Settlement.

“The rebels of society live there,” Tristan says. “People who defy the government.”

“Your mistaking free thinkers for criminals. Wouldn’t you like to live in a place where you could decide your career, or what to do with your free time, a place where it isn’t forbidden to fall in love?”

“You make it sound like paradise.”

“It’s not perfect, but it can be what you want it to be.”

“So, who are you promised to?” Tristan asks.

“No one. I’m not registered”

“But everyone has to register so the government can match them with a partner. It’s part of keeping the population under control so there’s less pollution. It’s against the law not to be registered.”

“Call me a desperado then,” Maeve replies. “Where’s your partner?”

“She died last year. Cancer.”

“Sorry. Do you miss her?”

“There’s a part of me that does.”

Maeve frowns as two flying cars speed by. “What kind of answer is that, Tristan? Either you do or you don’t.”

“The Mate Index Committee deemed we were a match.”

“But did you love her?”

“I don’t know. And being in love is against the law anyway.”

Maeve reaches for his hand.

“Did you ever touch her when you weren’t scheduled to?”

“You know that’s against the law too,” Tristan answers. He thinks about pulling his hand away but enjoys the warmth of Maeve’s touch too much to act.

“Did it ever feel like this when you were with her?”

They reach for each other, kissing.

Tristan snickers. “We just broke the law.”

Seconds later an automated police jeep races toward them. A voice over the loudspeaker shouts, “Do not move, citizen! You are in violation of The Mate Index Committee’s Sexual Contact Law number zero-one.”

“Are you a good swimmer?” Tristan asks.

“I was a lifeguard for four summers.”

Holding hands, Tristan and Maeve run into the surf…

…Colin and Elizabeth Calendar, parents of four-year-old Tristan, bring their son to Bella Linda Daycare.

“Are you sure he’s ready? He’s so shy,” Elizabeth says.

“All the more reason to bring him here. Meeting other kids his age will help him open up. It’ll make him less of a daydreamer.”

The daycare’s owner, Freda Bella Linda, greets the Calendars with a comforting hello.

Tristan walks past Freda into the playroom, where a dozen children are playing.

All except one.

Tristan toddles toward a girl with inky black hair who is sitting in a corner playing by herself.

On the floor in front of her are a variety of toys - a cowboy, soldier, subway car, sports car, and a boat.

Tristan sits down next to her.

“Do you think dreams can come true?” she asks.

“Let’s find out,” Tristan replies.

The two children smile at one another, breaking out in a flood of laughter.

October 13, 2022 16:30

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