Aim and Velocity published

Good morning, all!

My short fiction “Aim and Velocity” has been published online at Spillwords. Please drop on by and check out the site. A great place for writers AND readers. I have another story being featured next month, and hope to contribute on a semi-regular basis (or for as long as they’ll have me).

Thanks again for your continued support and encouragement. It is appreciated!

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Sins

Summer has not yet fully crashed into us, but already the sun lifts like steam over the creek bed. I suppose the land will shut down one day, and everything will float away, rude of my history and prickling sins. But, Jesus, this sunrise, these soft handfuls of clouds and wet bowed lights: where do I stand now?

Lines

I saw her in that moment, a dull résumé of obscurity and omission. Her hair cut short by dull blades, bourboned coffee cup on an uneven picnic table, an overturned diaper bag by her feet, spilling out cigarettes and Tic Tacs and dollar store lube. There were healing razor lines on her forearms, and scrawls on her thigh, a graffiti’d fa-la of punk and blue ink coiling on her calf, twining down to her ankle. A map of sorts, for the illiterate or lazy, those too incurious to ask. She was still a work in progress, she might have said, with freckles on her nose that went deeper than just skin, but no one asked about the girl she was. They saw those lines and spirals, sensual scribbles that meant something to someone, and they thought they had her figured out. The lines were a rough sketch of her life; esoteric more than erotic,  really, but no one wanted to translate the scripture. I wanted to know, but I would never ask, and she would never tell.

New author pic

I don’t do selfies and I invariable avoid the camera whenever possible, but i figured it was time to update my author photo to reflect who I am now.

I’ve been sportinNewMePicg the bald look for a few months now, and it’s mostly agreeable, though it is a lot of maintenance. So if you happen to see me on the street, panhandling my books, you’ll know who I am.

Plainly clothed

I have seen the moon perched high, nay, at its vertex, its light cast upon the bones of men thinned by plague, abased by desire. And I have seen its nimbus drawn around the scalding sores of the poor and nescient. I have wept — yes, wept — at each passing, for there are none like those who have nothing, and are nothing but the singularity of their hearts.

This place was once pure. An old man may remember, or his father, or his. I have seen blankets of grass, tumbled folds of timothy and amaranth, miles of green, fathoms of sky. I have breathed in the succulent sweat of handmaidens and the palsied flesh of kings, and I have kissed their fevered cheeks.

Their furies confound me, their impatience sets me to rage, their innocence smooths my brow. And, too, their simplicity dazzles me: is there not more? And there is, there is. The complexity of their hearts is a feast, a table set for my pleasure.

Yes, I am that Angel you fear, or rush to embrace. But most of all, I stand before you without slyness or judgment. I do not hide, I am plainly clothed, plainly seen. I am what I am. You are the one who dresses me in the dark.

I am Death and I will reach for you with a kiss, and soothe you with my faithfulness.

As we went along

You said our wedding rings should be shoelaces. I suggested dandelion chains, but your idea seemed better. So the dandelions, and a few yellow-wearing ants, became your bouquet. You said you didn’t mind. I placed the bunch under your chin, and you asked if the reflection on your skin was the color of butter. It said it was, and it was.

There was no ceremony, no preacher or guests, just you and me and the juncos and the plovers and whatever creatures showed up but declined to chase us away. It was a pretty day, full of air and whispery sounds. You said it was as if we drew ourselves into a coloring book and July crayoned us in. 

We were without guile, you and I, guilt, or greed. We said our I do’s on a rough swath of buffalo grass, you giggling, me stammering, neither of us paying any mind to what this was supposed to mean. Maybe it seemed a bit pagan, making up our vows as we went along, but we spoke as seriously as we could, and the words splashed on us like rain water as we tried to say everything we felt, everything we hoped. I know I felt a shiver when we tied the laces around each other’s finger. I think you did, too.

“I do,” you said.

“I do,” said I.

And you at seventy-seven and me at eighty-three, we probably should know better. And so we do, but this we shall finish.

Dancing queen

I watch my wife dance.

Her hips move, her feet glide,

slippy-slide on the hardwood floor,

her arms splay in an awkward spider-legged oopsie.

I watching her dance vibrato

after a glass and a half of Muscato.

I’m not sure she cares if I’m in the room, and that’s alright.

She does her best rocking to John Denver.

What?

Okay.

Ordinary Handsome, et al.

Published works, synopses, and reviews. Thank you.

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Ordinary Handsome

Fifty-seven years ago, a young man named Euart Monroe came back home. Only two people knew what happened to him. Years later, the man responsible for Euart’s fate is paid a visit. But is it Euart’s ghost? Or is it the boy grown up seeking retribution? Welcome to Handsome, OK, population 883 and fading. It’s a place where some men bury their mistakes, a town on the edge of becoming a ghost.

“…the writing is textured, rife with precise detail, stunning imagery, and raw emotion. Baird is a master at finding the perfect word and painting a picture that shifts and clears with each new perspective.” 

“(Baird’s) writing is exquisite, the subject matter is temporally relevant, and there are characters to both pity and loathe. Ordinary Handsome, in its grit and precision, tells of extraordinary misfortune and strife.”

“Ordinary Handsome takes you through the fragmented life story of a dying town, told from the perspective of its soon-to-be ghosts. It grips you from the very beginning and stays with you long after you’ve finished reading. I absolutely recommend this book.”

Ordinary Handsome (e-book) is available here

Ordinary Handsome (oversized paperback) is available here

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A Very Tall Summer

“It was a very tall summer in 1957, and I’ll tell you why…”
And so begins the most terrible summer for Charlotte Windover.
She and husband Jeremiah began a new life together surrounded by a wide expanse of a corn and sky. After years of brutal disappointment, she finally resolves to change her life. When Jeremiah is suddenly killed at an abandoned homestead, life becomes more isolated and harrowing. And with the threat of random fires being set by a mysterious figure known only as Croy, Charlotte’s life has become even more desperate.
In a land of big skies and small dreams, A Very Tall Summer is the tale of a woman’s resolve to overcome her broken past, and at any cost.

“Baird is a master wordsmith, painting a vivid world of sound and motion, rife with feeling, and deadly in its inevitability.”

“Baird’s use of language is both elegant and gritty. It is layered and often unexpected; and it makes something striking out of an otherwise simple story. He uses his skill to pin you to the page in a way which both pleases and disturbs, creating a kind of cognitive dissonance which will both repel and compel you. A keen observer, he will activate all your senses, sometimes in ways you wish he would not. You will find you are unable to turn away from the taste of sweat and the crunch of cartilage.”

A Very Tall Summer (e-book) here

A Very Tall Summer (oversized paperback) here

Maggie-final

Maggie

Maggie Day is a pregnant young woman who escapes to the only place she’s ever felt safe. As she copes with past tragedies and trauma, she is guided by her grandmother, who helps her discover courage and self-respect. Maggie is a tale of love and strength, and of overcoming the wounds of a dark past.

“Baird is a master of ‘voice,’ capturing the unique beauty of each personality through their thoughts and words. In a rural world of poverty, self-sufficiency, and few prospects for change, emotions run deep and rich with insight, honesty, and love.”

Maggie (novella) is available here

The Motel Fatigado

Oh, honey, there are shapes beneath these roads. They push me and they drag me, and, God help me, I’m yoked to every mile. I’m numb to the drizzled headlights and smudged taillights, the curves, the swerves, the nerves of bumper-to-bumper, the mathematical sinew of the overpasses, the poster board landscapes, the flat hallucinations of the Alpha and Omega.

Oh, and sweetheart, the construction, the obstructions, the crazy and the caffeinated, they want to pour their horsepower into the concrete while I’m steering left-handed, trying to pry the goddamn plastic lids off the goddamn Styrofoam cups, and honey, I always spill the hot coffee on my fucking wrist.

These have been my nights and days since you left me.

And then I came upon this place: a slender space beside the swagged shoulders of an unmarked highway. I recognized the tarnished ancianos who were waiting for me. There were six men and a woman, and they were sitting in a straight line on the sloped walkway of the Motel Fatigado. A flat line of hands rose to guard eyes against dust and sun. They studied my silhouette for a moment, then resumed their pinched slouches.

An old man dismounted from his chair and approached. He was wearing a shredded straw hat and baggy jeans. His shirt was a clean button-down, a faded antediluvian white. He could have been an Old World priest soliciting confessions. More likely, he was tired of sitting.

“You have el bagaje? Suitcase?” he asked.

I nodded.

He pulled a packet of folded tissue paper from his shirt pocket, and offered me a cigarette. He told me that Room 8 was vacant and clean. He did not ask me my name. I accepted his tobacco, and he lit it with a wooden match. His hands were narrow and veiny.

He said his name was Cándido, and the woman was called Melancholia. “The new guests always ask about the woman,” he said. “You see her? The beautiful woman who sits among the dogs? She is clean-handed. You understand? Inocente. She knows magic. You prey on her, you will leave with bruises.”

I nodded.

“Sit with us,” Cándido said. “Melancholia keeps plastic cups in her room. We have tap water and tequila. Perhaps there is ice. I will introduce you to the others.”

I declined.

***

(My apologies if this looks familiar. It’s a revised version of something I posted in early October, and it’s a piece that I’m really drawn to. I’ve been struggling with writerly insecurities and self-doubt for quite some time, but this has been in the peripheral for awhile… I think I’m finally ready to chase it down. Thanks for the indulgence, and thank you always for reading. — Steve)