Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Sitting on Saturn Book CoverMy latest book, Sitting on Saturn, is about two young adults who search for magic in their neighborhood and struggle with their changing relationship to each other–moving their childhood friendship into romance. Here’s an excerpt:

Teddie let herself in Emerson’s back door, slipped through the kitchen, and quietly went up the stairs. She stood next to his bed watching him sleep for a moment. He looked like he did when they were kids, messy haired and bashful. Outside the front window, Teddie could see the deep blue dawn approaching. When the first ray of sunlight touched the sky, she noticed a small rainbow shadow on the wall to her left, created by a prism she had left dangling in Emerson’s window months ago. Her presence seemed to rouse him, and he looked at her, half awake, half dreaming.

Nearly whispering, Teddie said, “It’s almost the golden time, Emerson. Let’s go watch the purple.”


“The sunflower house windows.”

“What?” Emerson yawned. “It’s still dark.”

“If you get up now, I’ll show you my wings,” Teddie said coyly. She said this whenever she wanted to get her way. It usually worked.

Emerson smiled sleepily and stretched. Teddie went to the end of the bed, pulled up the blanket and started playing with his bare toes.

“Stop it. That tickles!”

“Oh, but you’re awake now.”



Sitting on Saturn is available as a paperback or Kindle eBook. For ordering information see: Sitting on Saturn




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Exchanging Van Goghs

Exchanging Van GoghsMy small novella, Exchanging Van Goghs, is now available as a paperback or Kindle eBook. It’s the story of a correspondence between a young artist and a recluse that touches on their shared fascination with painters, music and the nature of light. Here is an excerpt:

I’m a terrible gardener. My grandmother was born to garden. She touched soil and beautiful things happened. It was natural to her. I touch the soil and everything just flops over. But I’m learning. I found a small notebook in her bedroom with sketches and notes about plants she loved. It’s been helpful. I am the plant observer, not the plant nurturer. But they seem to like my presence. They come alive when I’m in the yard with my sketchbook or easel. Maybe they’re just vain. Ooh look, the grandkid is gonna paint us! The peonies are especially aloof. Okay, they are beautiful, but really.

Last year a lone sunflower started growing in the south garden. Maybe a seed blew in from a neighbor’s yard. Maybe it was a touch of Vincent’s spirit. I started noticing the flower would turn itself toward the sun in the morning, waking up. I thought that was magical. This year the sunflower did not return. So its magic was fleeting. I should probably plant some sunflower seeds, but I’m sure they would just flop over. Or the peonies would be jealous. -Rezzie, from Exchanging Van Goghs

For ordering information see: Exchanging Van Goghs

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He speeds down Broadway in a borrowed beat up Chevy, listening to the radio. Loud. A song called “If Ya Want My Luv” pumps out from one of those renegade rock and roll stations that breaks all the rules. The song aches, pounds in his head: “If you’re spending time with me, better keep it hassle free.” The pavement glows with a dull sheen, polished by the street lights that line the road. He makes a left turn on Iowa Avenue, pulls over and parks. He walks around the corner and goes into a club called Herman’s Hideaway.

Inside he sees shadows and sweat, the blur of smoke and alcohol, a hard pumping band on a tiny stage. The place is small, packed tight with people. Pairs of dancers litter the dance floor in front of the stage. He buys a beer at the bar and disappears, barely noticed, into the crowd. And watches. The guitar player strangles fast and hard–Hendrix style. A bit of a show-off but it doesn’t really matter. It’s loud enough, tough enough.

From nowhere a woman appears: black hair, black leather, wispy features, slender, rather small. She says, “Wanna dance?” and before he can answer she takes hold of one hand and leads him through the sweat and smoke to the dance floor. He puts his beer down on someone’s table and dances with this woman, lost somewhere amid the clutter. The band is playing Hendrix’s “You Got Me Floatin'” twisted and hard. He yells, “What’s your name?” into her ear. “It’s not important. Just dance,” she shouts back. So he dances.

And watches her dance. Watches her closely. She is wearing a studded leather jacket over layers of lace, sort of a maze of mystery. He looks at her face–so smooth and light in contrast to her dark hair and clothes. She smiles at him coyly. And he smiles back. Tomcat and tomboy on the dance floor, he thinks to himself. And he doesn’t even know her name….

Later, mysteries lingering, he leaves the club and drives home fast–a black streak on the boulevard. The renegade radio station is still playing the right noise: “I’m a little mixed up, but I’ll be all right if I can hear a loud guitar all night.” The city lights blur into iridescence and merge with the woman’s image in his mind. Studs and lace. Coy smiles and pangs of lust. A maze of mystery. He turns the radio up and floats, just floats home.

by Joe Beine, copyright 1987
originally published in The Blind Armadillo #7 (Summer 1987)

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San Francisco, 1987

Torn jeans. Worn denim jacket covered with patches like tattoos. Seventeen, maybe eighteen, but Keisha looked older, acted older anyway, or at least tried to. She was dragging a skateboard and carrying a “don’t mess with me” attitude. Her shoulder length black hair tumbled in disarray around her firm, slightly girlish features that softened that attitude, much to her displeasure. Her skateboard scraped against the floor as she walked past racks full of record albums while New Order’s “Temptation” bounded through the record store.

Keisha was a mash of ethnicities: strong African, tough Mexican, a touch of quiet Asian. She was certain she had no Anglo or Celtic blood, but a friend once told her, “You must be Irish. You have an Irish disposition, quick tempered and brooding. And always yapping.” Dark freckles were scattered across Keisha’s face. But her gazelle eyes were darker than anything else about her.

She stopped walking in front of a rack stuffed full of records, and said, “Cool, they got the new Metallica.”

A friend of hers, obviously ready to leave the store, yelled something at her from the front door. Keisha yelled back loudly and in a very slow cadence, “My name is not ‘yo with the skateboard.'”

Then she noticed a girl browsing through the rack next to her. The girl had dark clothes, dark hair, a worn leather jacket. She looked a bit older and all at once sweet and tough. They smiled at each other.

To the girl Keisha said, “It seems there’s only two things in this life–” She pointed to herself. “–that work right. This board–” She pointed to her skateboard. “–and this music.” She pointed to the Metallica album. “My boyfriend–” She motioned to the guy by the door. “–mostly does not work right.”

The girl next to her said, “Boys can sure have a lot of stupid shit mashed into their brains.”

“Oh shit yeah,” Keisha said. “So what’s your name?”


“Hi, I’m Keisha.” She held out her hand and they shook. “Hippie parents too, huh?”

“Yeah. Keisha’s a real nice name though. At least they didn’t call you Sunshine or Moonshadow.”

“You’re right. There’s lots of poor souls in this city with summer of love names like that.”

“I was born in the summer of love,” Autumn said with a touch of disgust.

“So how come your name isn’t Summer?”

“My mom has this little story about how I was born in the autumn of her life.”

“Oh yeah?” Keisha said. “I used to think I was named after a drug–some obscure form of hashish only my parents knew about or something.” She dropped her voice into a low growl: “Hey kid, wanna smoke some Keisha?”

They shared a laugh.

“You know what gets me?” Autumn said. “These kids my age who follow the Grateful Dead.”

“Sprog Dead Heads. It’s pathetic.”

“I mean shit, I can’t stand my parents’ music. I need music that reflects my world, not something that happened twenty years ago.”

“I know what you mean,” Keisha said. “But when I think about those kids, it’s like–it’s their way of relating. They go to the shows and they hang out with all these other people who are doing the same thing. It makes them feel like they belong. Everyone wants to fit in. Me, I don’t wanna belong to anyone else’s club. I just wanna survive. I don’t wanna get high and escape. I wanna feel it, live it.”

“There’s so much to experience,” Autumn said.

“And so much variety,” Keisha added. “I feel just as at home with Beethoven as I do with Guns n’ Roses. That guy was into some crushing dynamics.”

“Loud and soft,” Autumn said. “Just like my world.”

“My world too.”

They paused and looked at each other with a reciprocal glimmer of curiosity in their gazes.

Autumn said, “Mostly loud.”

Keisha smiled. “Hey, I’m saving this spot–” She pointed to an empty section on her jacket. “–for a Beethoven patch.”

They were interrupted when Keisha’s boyfriend appeared from behind her. “C’mon Keish, let’s go,” he said.

She looked at Autumn. “This time he calls me ‘Keish.’ Isn’t that quaint?” To her boyfriend she said, “I wanna get the new Metallica.”

“Let me tape it?”

“Maybe.” She turned back to Autumn. “Where do you hang out?”

“I go to the Hideout a lot. And my boyfriend drags me to lots of metal shows.”

“Yeah? I go to the Hideout sometimes too. See you around, Summer of Love.”

Autumn smiled. “Yeah, see ya.”

Keisha started towards the counter, her skateboard in one hand, the Metallica album in the other, then she hesitated, turned back to Autumn and said, “Gonna go home and crank the Dead–relive my birth trauma.” She paused. “On second thought–gonna crank James and Lars. And get crushed.”

© 1988 Joe Beine

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