Tales of Old
Summary: Audio magazine for historical fiction and alternate history. Each week we feature a historical fiction short story. Historians and literature fans will enjoy these great stories that span history from Ancient Greece to World War II.
By Leslien Lupien Read by Shawn Robertson Setting: Ancient Greece Period: Around the Peloponnesian War Nicias’s legs quivered as he confronted his family clad in his panoply as a hoplite. He had no idea what their reaction would be. Shock, he suspected, especially with his cheeks and nose concealed by the mask-like Corinthian helmet topped with a giant horsehair crest. They might not even recognize him. His family had assembled to await him in the tiny courtyard of their meagre residence in Athens, a baked-mud hovel on a dreary street not far from the Temple of Zeus. They squatted on small, backless wooden stools. He would so much have preferred to meet them in the great courtyard of their real home in the Attica countryside. There they could sit on comfortable wicker chairs with a clear view of their lush wheat fields and numerous olive trees. But that was not possible at present. Their popular assembly had decided to abandon the countryside to the invading Spartans rather than risk Athenian hoplites in unequal battle. They might not even have a farm left.
By Lowell "Zeke" Ziemann Read by Shawn Robertson ...I took a long swig from my stein and began. “Boys, let me tell you about a championship game we had against the Tombstone Miners in the late summer of ’80, as I remember it. The Miners were almost pros compared to us. They had swanky uniforms and good equipment. We donned sweat shirts with numbers sewed on ‘em. Most of our boys wore their Confederate uniform pants that they had from the war. What’s why they called us the Rebels. Later the team became the Benson Bees. I was thirty-six years old at the time, and managed our team.
By Kara Race-Moore Read by Shawn Robertson Autumn, 1528, Hertfordshire, Hinxworth All of London, all of England, and even onto the Continent, people were talking about the king’s mistress, the lady Anne Boleyn. Henry VIII was known for his love of women, much like his grandfather, Edward IV, so for him to take a new mistress was hardly news, even with the salacious twist that the lady was sister to one of his former mistresses. But, and here people would gasp with astonishment, it was said the lady had not yet let the besotted king into her bed! Lying in her own bed, the straw stuffed pallet both better and worse than other beds she had lain in over her long life, the little old women cackled at the gossip and said with wry knowledge, “That’s no way to serve a king.”
The Jungle by Laird Long read by Shawn Robertson A claw-hammer crushed a bum’s skull. A four-foot crowbar slammed against a hobo’s face, breaking jaw and cheekbone. Fortunately, the screaming helped to muffle the nauseating sound of the cracking bones. Benny ran as fast as he could from the bonfire, making a line for the bush. Just as he did that, however, two black-hooded men stepped out from the edge of the brush, cutting off his retreat. He spun around. He stared stupidly at the horrific scene at the fire. Outlined against the sky-bound orange flames was an orgy of destruction. Twenty large and angry men wearing black hoods were doing their level best to kill the thirty-odd hobos and bums who had camped for the night at the Kansas City jungle. Ex-Con Man by Laird Long read by Shawn Robertson Jay carefully set down his cup of coffee and looked up at the sweater-girl hanging from the faded wallpaper - Saturday, July 10, 1946. He pulled out his gold pocket-watch and read the dial - 4:00 p.m. The First National Bank of Kansas was doing a heavy business across the street. Cash-heavy. The hicks were in from the sticks surrounding Lawrence to get some dough and do some shopping. It was a once-a-week migration as old as the ruts in the road. Jay delicately plucked a monogrammed handkerchief out of his breast pocket and lightly tapped his forehead with it. The mug behind the counter caught a whiff of eau-de- toilet and arched his unkempt eyebrows, impressed. It was a hot day in Kansas. For Jay, it was hot every day and everywhere.
By Bryan Wein Read by Shawn Robertson Period: American West In the last days of the Republic of Texas a man rode up out of the mesquite bluffs south of the Guadalupe River and stopped on a rise where nothing grew but maguey and ocotillo. He swung down off his horse and studied the trampled maguey and plucked a curved yellow flower. He held it to his nose. The bitter reek of sulfur and cinnabar cut the sweet fragrance of the maguey flower. The man smiled and climbed back on his horse and rode on. His name was Javier Thompson, a mongrel name for a man of mongrel birth who’d spent all his life traversing those dubious borders north of the Rio Grande. He looked out on the red country as he rode and in the hard pinkish light of sunset he thought he saw a silhouette out in the horizon. Javier spat and rode down the wash after it. Red dust covered his clothes and anyone moving out in that waste might have mistaken him for some spirit conjured up by the sand and wind.
By Gary Ives Read by Shawn Robertson Period: World War I Sandy drove the hired wagon from Glen Ellen down to Valhalla with his mare and Billy Crowder's roan, Apache, trailing. There he buried his friend under a live oak in the $25 casket he'd bought in San Francisco. The only personal effects that Billy had were his saddle, bedroll, three books, and some papers, including some letters from a sister in Nevada. He reckoned the saddle and Apache rightly belonged to this sister and at any rate she needed to be notified that Billy was gone. So after he'd filled in the grave he decided to put a low cairn over Billy and while he did this, in his mind, composed the letter to this sister. He wrote the letter as soon as he washed up, as he knew his thinking would become thick with the drink which that hard day demanded.
By Steven Saus (Steven's publishing) Read by Peter Piazza (Peter's work on StarshipSofa and The Drabblecast) "It's not Rome, but at least I get to wear a nice hat," Monica laughed. She held its floofy rim down as a gust of fall wind threatened to pull it off her bobbed hair. "You know, baby, when I said I wanted to visit Manhattan someday, this isn't quite what I meant." Anthony adjusted his own bowler, shielding his dark eyes from a warm stray beam of evening sunlight. "It's an important time period," he said. "The Roaring Twenties for twenty four hours. Flappers, speakeasies, all that jazz. Besides, the Statue of Liberty isn't wading in seawater like it would be if we came here in our time." Anthony picked up the leather handle of the suitcase the Timeshares agent had provided for them. They had managed to buy one of the first unaccompanied tours. They wore period clothes for the trip back and an automatic recall trigger, but Timeshares had arranged for a native to provide a packed suitcase, an itinerary, and lodgings. The reduced traveling mass and short time length reduced the price enough to let regular people like them afford the trip. "The hotel is only right across the street." The traffic only justified checking once, but the back part of Anthony's brain twitched until he checked for cars again. It just didn't seem safe otherwise. The hotel's foyer spread out before them as Monica handed her fur coat to a doorman. Anthony pointed to the marble pillars along the walls of the room. "See? Who said I can't get you Roman columns?" She giggled, and Anthony wrapped his arms around her, the soft cotton of her dress thin under his arms.
By Lillian Csernica Read by Shawn Robertson ...The great hall's massive oak doors stood open, allowing the sunlight to stream in and make a broad golden carpet on the flagstones. Gatito, the Cook's tabby cat, lay sprawled on the doorstep, sunning his white belly while he licked his paws. Don Augustín strode through the doorway, making Gatito scurry off toward the kitchen. At fifty Don Augustín was still a handsome man, his black hair and beard scarcely touched by gray. He'd thrown one arm around the shoulders of Sieur Phillipe who now carried the title of le Compte de la Croix as a reward for his part in the recent Crusade. A genuine Crusader! Anna studied him, burning into her memory every detail of his appearance. Sieur Phillipe was a tall, stocky man with hair like thinning cornsilk. Over his chainmail byrnie Sieur Phillipe wore a velvet surcoat, the left side scarlet and the right bright yellow. He made Don Augustín's brown houppelande with its voluminous sleeves and embroidered panels seem quite drab. Despite the grandeur of his attire, Sieur Phillipe looked worn and haggard, his gray eyes reddened from lack of sleep. ALIA, the Archipelago of the Fantasic
By Russell James Read by Shawn Robertson “You have to have the right pilot, in the right plane, in the right position.” Lieutenant Terry Greene’s flight instructor had used that phrase ten times a day as he taught Terry to dogfight in a SPAD VII biplane. In the early months of 1916, in the air and on a chalkboard, the instructor had detailed the ins and outs of aerial combat. Yet it always boiled down to having those three magic “P’s.” This afternoon, Terry flew the #4 slot in an echelon left formation. From this far left position, he had the best view of the other three SPADs of the Lafayette Escadrille. Against the December cold, the pilots were layered in heavy coats and their faces were wrapped in silk scarves below their flying goggles and leather helmets. But Terry could still recognize Jimmy, Chet and Rock, and not just by their tail numbers. After all these months, he could recognize them by how they flew. Get "Touch and Go" for your Kindle, Nook, or on Smashwords!
By D.J. Barber Read by Shawn Robertson Rain was dead. She lay sprawled across the tiny kitchen floor, blood had pooled beneath her. Several stab wounds peppered her torso; her face was twisted in fear and agony in a death mask of horror. Sirens wailed in the misty rain on this dark, cold night. A chill ran through me as I left the kitchen and walked over by the radio in the small parlor. It crackled with Toots Malloy; his latest jazzy sax tune melodic and sweet. Murphy and Callahan burst through the door and walked right past me and into the terrible scene by the icebox. Both were in long, dark coats, mismatched hats, black shoes, and wore scowls on their ugly faces. Callahan glared at me, “You call it in?” “Yeah,” I responded, not caring about what the city dicks thought.
Period 1920's By J.R. Lindermuth Read by Shawn Robertson He said, “You don’t believe Blackbeard buried any treasure? Well, he did. Yes sir, he truly did. And I’m the only one knows where it is.” Ignoring Tommy, I gazed off at the blue-gray horizon watching the wheeling, screaming gulls, listening to the waves lap against the jetty, a contrapuntal echo of Tommy’s lazy drawl. I should have known better. Blackbeard and his treasure are subjects to avoid with old-timers here on the Banks; they all have their stories, each an imaginative embroidery on a subject of which no man can know the truth and each insists he does—appropriate magical mysteries with which to while away the hours on cold, wet winter days before a fireplace, fortified with whiskey, lethargy and time. But not on hot summer afternoons devoted to fishing. “It’s true,” Tommy insisted, and I felt his gaze stabbing at my back, demanding attention. I did my best to ignore him, lighting my pipe and keeping my eyes fixed on the horizon. It didn’t work. “Everybody has his story. Some says he buried it over on Ocracoke, others that he hid it down on Sapelo, or up at Elizabeth City. Some even say he carried it way up the coast to New Hampshire. Fools! None of ‘em knows.” Irritated, I faced him. The fish weren’t biting anyway. “And you do?” “Eh-yeh.” He gave a dry little laugh, heh-heh. “I knows.”
By Warne Wilson Read by Kevin Harty Setting: Skies of World War 2 At nearby High Wycombe Air Base, in the blacked out mess hall, Air Commodore Waldron cast a weary eye over his assembled aircrews. He recognised the signs of fatigue in them. Heightened laughter. The fidgeting with cigarettes. White faces. Introspective, dark circled eyes. He hated having to send them out again, under strength after the heavy losses of the last few nights. He needed crews and machines. Lancaster replacements were arriving; planes were not the problem, it was the aircrews. Even with fast tracked training in England it was taking too long. Canada, Australia, South Africa and other countries were training aircrews too, but the losses were greater. His men badly needed a break, but they were inflicting massive damage on Germany; and he had his orders. Just ten aircraft would fly from High Wycombe tonight – each with its crew of seven.
By Laird Long Read by Shawn Robertson When Henry Hudson was told that John Williams had been found in the bush, dead, he finally began to give some thought to just how bad things really were, and how bad they could yet get. His ship, the Discovery, was aground on the southeastern tip of a frozen bay at the mouth of a frozen river, his crew of twenty-two and he seven months out of London, the Strait of Anian, the Northwest Passage to the exotic spices, perfumes, silks, and precious gems ofCathay and Java, still somewhere beyond the horizon. Instead of sailing the warm, open waters of the Western Sea, they were locked in ice at fifty-one degrees north latitude in the New World, winter’s full fury fast-approaching. And now the ship’s gunner was dead.
They Called it Mametz By Edward Fraser Read by Edward Fraser The Thirst Podcast Strawberry Fool By P.D.R. Lindsay Read by Shawn Robertson Writer's Choice
By Lowell "Zeke" Ziemann Read by Shawn Robertson Setting: American West, late 1800's The Arizona & California Stage Company headquartered in Wickenburg, Arizona Territory. It provided passenger, mail, and freight service from the Territorial Capital of Prescott to Phoenix, Maricopa and Tucson. During A & C’s formative years, sporadic Indian attacks were a problem. In 1871 Yavapai Indians waylaid a stage coach six miles west of Wickenburg and killed six people in what became known as the “Wickenburg Massacre”. By the late 1870’s, however, Indian raids on the route were rare. But then a new nemesis erupted. Highwaymen, called “Knights of the Road” by local newspapers, began causing continual havoc. In fact, stage robberies on the route in the 1880’s occurred at the alarming rate of nearly one per month. The following story is a fictional account of a holdup attempt on the A & C during that time.