Friday, September 22, 2017

The Case of Stagger-Lee by David W Landrum

David W Landrum transports Sherlock Holmes to the swinging scene of 1960s London in a case narrated by his new assistant, Dr. Ophelia Turnberg.

Sherlock Holmes Case #1, 1966

Narrated by his assistant, Dr. Ophelia Turnberg

You heard the music everywhere you went back in those days. Almost everyone under the age of twenty-five carried those small, portable transistor radios, so you heard the music in parks and out on the street. Restaurants and stores played it. As I sat down to keep my dinner date with Holmes, I heard a song I had heard a lot lately - one of the "top 40 hits" as they were called - playing over speakers in the restaurant.

There've been so many girls I have known

I've made so many cry and still I wonder why

It was "Heart of Stone" by the Rolling Stones. While I wondered if I was becoming a fan of popular music, Holmes walked into the restaurant. Before he sat down in the booth he looked at me and said what I knew he would say.

"You too, Dr. Turnberg?"

I had worn a minidress that morning - white with black stripes. I shifted nervously in my seat.

Monday, September 18, 2017

In Father's Eyes by John Mullen

John Mullen's Irish tale steeped in poetry, religion, and the guilt of a son's betrayal.

They needed an extra bearer on each side of Father's coffin to hoist him onto his funereal bier, later to ease him into his Irish soil. The morning sparkled with a gusty wind that sent dry air in great circles, rousing and mingling the smells of laden sheep with the lush grasses blanketing the hillsides. Mum and I stood in front, our backs to the others sitting in rented plastic chairs. Her arm pulled mine tightly against her; I in navy suit with white shirt and gray tie, she in the long-sleeved black dress that had adorned her on occasions of death as far back as I had memory.

I leaned to whisper, "Why did the monk Seamus do the church service? Why not Father Keely?"

She said, "Mary Healy told me he went down to the Garda. They arrested him."

I said, "Arrested?"

Mother whispered, "No one knows why."

But I knew all too well.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Uncle Harry by Michael Stewart

When Michael travels to visit family, Uncle Harry picks him up from the airport and takes him on a wild trip down memory lane; by Michael Stewart.

My uncle Harry was bigger than life. I expected him to roll up in a Lamborghini this time or a chauffeured stretch limo or even a fire truck with sirens blaring. It wouldn't have been out of character for him. But as it was, this foggy evening, he drove a classic '73 Corvette with a paint job that changed colors like a chameleon under the florescent lights. He beeped his horn twice and swung in front of me, popping the trunk.

"Hey, Michael," he said, rising out of the driver's door, thick black hair blowing in the wind as he rushed around the car. Overcoat flapping.

Cars drove by and others pulled alongside to pick up passengers. People bustled by pulling baggage behind and porters helped them. A plane flew overhead and the tumult was lost in the roar.

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Journey Begun In Lovers Meeting By JC Freeman

JC Freeman tells a gentle ghost story set in the ancient New Town Cemetery outside Charleston, South Carolina.

Sunrise comes late to New Town Cemetery. The graveyard is seated in the west face of Torqwamni Hill, and no matter the season the quick fall of the slope and a thick line of adolescent Douglas firs at hillcrest combine to delay the cemetery dawn by a hundred yards or so. New Town's a pretty place; the winding paths are lined with fragrant, non-fruiting cherries and delicate Japanese maples; on clear days the Olympic Mountains fill the western horizon with their beautiful yet icy indifference, and there're an abundance of old fashioned, winter-weary tombstones just begging to be charcoal-etched by artists and the sentimental at heart. A handmade wood sign attached to the main gate informs would-be visitors that the cemetery is open from dawn to dusk. It's been observed by the wise that dusk almost always finds its way to New Town just before the start of Happy Hour at the nearby White Pig Tavern.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Pretty People by Dakota James

When Dakota James's character loses weight he becomes so attractive he's invited to join the secret cabal of pretty people.

The following story is an excerpt from Dr. Robicheaux's CABRET AWARD WINNING book, The Pretty People: Psychoses Behind the Masks and Mascara. The interviewee in this excerpt asked to remain anonymous; with the exceptions of certain names, nothing from this interview has been edited, removed, or added for publication.

It always confused me to see attractive people do bad things. They could've gone through life with such relative ease, I thought. But that wasn't true, exactly; pretty people have their own set of issues. For example, one day, thinking it over, I realized I didn't know a single sane attractive person. They'd all lost their fucking minds.

No one likes to think of themselves as ugly. I'm no different. But I was a bigger boy than most and then a bigger man than some, so I wasn't exactly sexy. Not by traditional standards.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Song of Black Bear Mountain by Sharon Frame Gay

Bitsy, a traditional healer in the remote mountains of Kentucky, feels threatened when a new, educated doctor arrives; by Sharon Frame Gay.

Bitsy sat on the porch, smoking a pipe after a long afternoon traveling the hills. The sun had melted behind a Loblolly pine, the sweet after-smoke of day stirring up gnats in the woods. Before long, fireflies attended the dance, lighting up in a fever, seeking mates in the coming darkness. Down below near the shed, the horse and mule snorted, tuckered out and set in for the night with a coffee can full of molasses bran, and a whisky barrel of spring water.

For most of her life, Bitsy was the closest thing to a doctor on Black Bear Mountain. She learned her craft from the old ones, how to use herbs for teas and poultices that ease the breathing of a small child, or calm the heart of an ancient woman. She learned how to apply honey to scrapes and burns, the natural antibiotic soothing and sucking all the bad out of the cut. And Bitsy knew when to say goodbye to a soul, watching it drift out of the body like mist over the valley, until the eyes looked skyward and met tomorrow. She helped bury many a person here in the hills, digging into the Kentucky clay with a shovel alongside the family, a ritual, the blade cutting into the dirt with a sorry thump, and the rhythm of the bereaved swinging the shovels in cadence as it rang through the trees.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Front Centre Stage by Don Herald

Out of the blue, Don Herald's character decides to turn his hand to acting. How hard can it be?

My wife peered over the rim of her morning coffee. "But you've never acted before. Ever."

"How hard can it really be?" I replied. "I'm going to audition this coming Sunday for a part in that upcoming community theatre production. I think it's called 'Crystal Palace' or whatever."

She set down her mug, smiled a bit like the Mona Lisa and went out to the kitchen to feed the dog.

We never talked about it again.

On Sunday afternoon, I turned up at the audition with other aspiring actors - two teens and thirteen adults of all ages. There was an anticipatory buzz of energy flitting unseen about the room.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Lilacs in the Lily Field by Dylan Martin

The Garden only grants three shots at true love, and Jason is striking out; by Dylan Martin.

"You're not the one," she says with a sigh as the man walks into the small café, a café which has neither servers nor coffee.

Taking the only other seat available at the only table in the place, the man looks at the brazen, brown haired woman in confusion. "How's that?"

"You're not the one," she repeats. "I'm sorry."

"What do you mean, I'm not the one?" His eyes begin to squint as small black strains of hair fold over his forehead.

"Don't make this more awkward than it already is."

The man begins to ripen with rage as his cheeks turn into cherry red apples. "Is this a joke? You're fucking with me now, right?"

The woman rubs her fingers against her temple and raises her eyebrows. She feels like a small part of herself is about to dig through her forehead and fly free. "No. I'm not joking. Please, can we just go to reception and see if we can get a refund?"

Friday, August 25, 2017

Beach Party by Andrew Miller

Sixteen-year-old Megan lets her hair down at a beach party and chats with best friend Kimberly about their future; by Andrew Miller.

Megan Conyers was surprised when Kimberly called and asked about the beach party on Saturday night. Kimberly never went to parties, hardly ever went to dances, mostly hung out with a small group that took Advanced Placement biology and history. Her parents weren't party types either; they taught at a private school in the next county, went to plays and concerts, volunteered at the shelter downtown. Not only did Kimberly want to go the party, but offered to drive. That suited Megan. This meant she wouldn't have to go alone, since she had just broken up with Benjamin Carter. Or, even worse, be asked by one of the Tyler twins, who kept showing up at the Tastee Cone, flirting with her and begging for free stuff.

Megan checked the clock on the wall above the ice cream machines. Almost ten o'clock. Kimberly would arrive in a few minutes. Penelope, who managed the Tastee Cone, never worked past closing.

"Whatdaya say, call it a night?" said Penelope, slamming the serving window with a bang, motioning Megan to shut the other one.

"Let's do it," said Megan.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Wallflower Solution by Paul Beckman

Mirsky takes his wife's advice for getting on at cocktail parties a little too literally; by Paul Beckman.

My wife said, "If you're going to just stand in a corner alone with a drink in your hand all night and not speak to anyone there's no sense in our going to this party. You can only spend so much time looking at their photos and paintings and poring over their book cases like you're a CIA agent. You've got to talk to people because they know you're avoiding them and they think you're rude and you think you're better than everyone else."

"You know that's not how I think," I told Elaine. "I'm no good at small talk and somehow when I get in these situations I feel inferior and awkward. I do talk to people when they come over and say hello."

"Well, that's the point. You need to make the effort. Last time we went to the Kleins' you studied their books and then read for most of the night. That was rude, and if you keep being rude and stand-offish we're not going to get invited to any more parties and then what will we do?"

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Calling by William Quincy Belle

Louise gets called up to make her contribution to global sustainability in William Quincy Belle's sci-fi short.

Thursday, June 15. Time: 1625

Louise reread the message. She glanced away, then read it again for the third time. There it was in black and white. No more conjectures. No more wild guesses. Nothing remained to be discussed. One didn't have to speculate about the future, as the future was here. Time to stop dreaming and start doing.

She looked at the time. It was nine twenty-two in the morning. She had seven hours and three minutes. What could anybody do with three minutes? she thought. Let's round it off to seven hours and figure out how to cram everything necessary into such a short time.

Then again, was it a short time or was it the right time, just what anybody needed to tidy up before checking out?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Mother Beyond the Border by Muhammad Nasrullah Khan

At the India-Pakistan border a natural disaster decimates the enemy, and during the ceasefire that follows Major Jaswant lectures his men on humanity; by Muhammad Nasrullah Khan.

At the top of Siachin glacier, sitting outside of their igloos, Indian army officers and soldiers measured the depths of their patriotism with sacks of frozen enemy corpses. The sun didn't foster life there, gasoline did. They lived in a world where the only recourse was vengeance, fueled by an insatiable lust for blood.

Major Jaswant despised these games and had his sights set on retirement. He had dozens of subordinates, but he preferred the company of Lieutenant Sharma and Lieutenant Arun. They made him feel young.

From their position atop the glacier, Jaswant and his two comrades watched a contingent of Pakistani soldiers. The sun brightened the ice and the Indian soldiers relaxed as minutes of ceasefire stretched into hours.

The stench of death clung to the freezing winds and they reveled in it.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Meaning of Life by J L Higgs

J L Higgs explores the meaning of life through the lens of birthday wishes.

Today is my birthday. Eighty-four. Usually, they greet me with, "Good morning," sounding all chipper. Today they're gushing, "Happy birthday!"

I guess I'm supposed to feel today is somehow different from yesterday, special. But after eighty-four years? This morning, my scarred Baby Ben alarm clock rang at its normal time. The bare concrete walls of my room were still the same somber gray color painted throughout this building. My silver comb, hairbrush and hand mirror were still lying on the white lace doily atop the four drawer Formica dresser that holds every stitch of clothing I own. And that squeaky metal frame chair that faces my bed was vacant as it always is.

I once owned 867 pairs of shoes. I'd buy four or five pairs when stores held big discounts or sales. Even had multiple pairs in the same style, just different colors. Nothing compares to the feel of feet sliding smoothly into new shoes. Shoes always made me happy.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Choosing to Stand Still by Justine Manzano

The platonic status of Katie's relationship with her roommate Matty is challenged when one of his exes draws attention to a secret in plain sight; by Justine Manzano.

"Kathryn? Kathryn Norris? Is that you?" Bethany squealed and, in lieu of putting my hands over my ears to block out the shrill sound of her voice, I winced and turned towards her.

"Hi Bethany." I tried for polite. I don't think it worked. After all, Bethany was the ex-girlfriend of my best friend, Matty Alonzo.

Every morning, I went to the 24-hour bodega on the corner from the apartment I shared with Matty, and every day I ordered a bagel and cream cheese, a roll with butter, and two piping hot coffees, light and sweet. And somehow, every morning until now, I had happily managed to avoid her.

"How are you? What have you been up to?" Her questions ended high, in a squawk.

I smiled, brittle and forced. "Well, you know. Still auditioning. Still hosting open mic night at the club."

"College?" It was a shame she seemed comfortable with that as a full sentence.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Tina and Time by JD Hyde

A force of nature befriends a talkative child and learns something of humanity in JD Hyde's comic sci-fi.


The little girl with black hair looked at the man in a perfectly pressed grey three-piece suit. His hair blew when there was no wind. He was standing in the park, so she cheerfully said, "Hi, I'm Tina Gutierrez Rodriguez Olmedo Bairan Castillo Flores. You can call me Tina. I have a dog; You have been standing there for a long time. Why are you standing in the park? Do your legs hurt from standing for so long? I have a ball will you play with me? Why do you wear a tie? My mommy said that only bankers wear ties. Are you a banker? I'm five years old. How old are you? What's your name?"

While young Tina waited for an answer to her questions, she stopped to breathe. The man in the three-piece suit eloquently said, "I am Time. And I have always been here. I am everywhere."

Tina blinked several times then started talking again, "Hi, Mr. Time. I'm Tina Flores, and I'm five. Would you play ball with me?"