Monday, December 11, 2017

No Parking by Kristy Gherlone

In early 1970s America, little Stevie's family tour Maine in a rusty old red bus, in pursuit of her father's dream of being a musician; by Kristy Gherlone.

It was early September in 1973 when Stevie stood in bare feet on the edge of her grandmother's yard and watched the bus pull up and park.

The ground was chilly that time of year in Maine, but her feet had grown so tough and calloused over the summer, she hardly even noticed.

She went out to the street and circled the length of the bus. It might have been bright red at one time, but a layer of rust clung to the exterior. It made the whole thing look as if it had been painted with blood and set out in the sun to dry. She shook her head and sighed. The entrance doors screeched as they flapped open. Her mother poked her head out and grinned. "Hey, kiddo. Whaddya think?"

"Are we really going to live in that thing?" Stevie asked.

Friday, December 8, 2017

We Hunt Together: A Hominum Futurus Chronicle By Kevin Stadt

Oren, member of a new species of humanity specially adapted to live on an icy world, must hunt a Leviathan or his family will starve; by Kevin Stadt.

It hurt Oren even to breathe. He had three cracked ribs, a sprained ankle and stitches everywhere from last week's Owa'Unar hunt. As he gingerly packed his dogsled, a wave of dizziness hit him and he paused to rest. Oren leaned against the sled's frame and took in his surroundings.

To remind himself what was at stake.

Impossibly giant trees filled the forest in every direction, their bark colored in palettes of slate and indigo, their turning leaves gold and magenta. Trees so tall you couldn't see the tops with the naked eye, so thick people carved rooms into them for times when the winter got too cold to stay in the shelters built in their lower branches. Two of the young girls ran between the trunks, yelling and shrieking laughter with a half-dozen pups trailing. Kiel, his son, walked from one dog shelter to the next, dropping meat soaked with fat into bowls and taking a knee with each one to speak to them and stroke their grey fur. Oren noted how thick his son's beard had become this year, how broad his shoulders had grown.

Monday, December 4, 2017

God's Shoulder by Kevin McGowan

A cynical missionary navigates the ignorance and innocence of small town Deep South USA to spread the word of God in service of his own ambitions; by Kevin McGowan.

Conrad rocked on his heels and watched the local Negroes he had hired lather the sidewall of the church with white paint. Eight months spent selling counterfeit bibles to old loonies in Huntsville and now came the time to step up and sell God. His church was built of mixed softwood, mostly sand and spruce pine, but for the steeple, which was made from buckeye. Not one cent had been spared in his enterprise; this was no city tabernacle and he meant for people to know it. What that was called was investment and it was the holiest word he knew. Scripture was full of it. The good old Lord was a bank; people gave over everything to him with the promised return of greater riches once they were bone-dead in the soil. So said Matthew: lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. Yes, the Lord was a bank, and every bank needed run by somebody. He slipped into his church, lithe and alert, like a bobcat into tall grass, the acrid nip of turpentine burning his nostrils, and stamped with his strongest foot. Solid foundation. The land, however, was less than desirable: it had an uneven pulpiness and all around the church festered thickets of alligator weed and slouching ferns.

He said to the Negro sanding a pew, 'Cut back that jungle next.'

'Yes, suh, Father.'

'Brother,' he corrected. 'Your father is the Lord.'

Friday, December 1, 2017

Cash by Angela Doll Carson

When she hears trouble on her street, a vulnerable woman fears her home might be invaded; by Angela Doll Carson.

The cold medicine was a mistake. Penny was in bed with her eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling for an hour before she finally got up and opened a bottle of wine. Bosley followed her from the bedroom to the kitchen. He watched her with head tilted as she uncorked the Merlot and poured herself a glass. She stood at the kitchen counter drinking the wine like water. She asked Bosley, "Well, they say that whiskey is good for a head cold, right? Maybe it's true of wine." The dog looked hopeful, wagging his tail and waiting for a snack or a toy or a walk. When none of that came to pass, he gave up and wandered back to the bedroom.

The house was quiet since John left. The kids were away at school, Margot at Harvard and Brad at State. John moved in with his girlfriend the week after they moved Brad into his dorm. Margot left over the summer, moving into an off-campus apartment. When Penny found John packing a bag on the bed, she knew he was leaving. They never discussed it, but Penny sensed that they both had seen it coming. Penny noticed him slipping away from her long ago, but she did nothing to stop it. If anything, she might have even encouraged the affair. The blow was not emotional as much as it was financial. She would have to get a job now. They couldn't afford to support two households, three if she counted Margot's apartment.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Star Dust by Phil Temples

A soldier shelters from battle for a moment of repose, and comes across a dying enemy grunt; by Phil Temples.

I creep in and stand just inside the door, listening attentively for over a minute. I hear nothing except for the sound of distant gunfire. There's a slight odor of rotting food, but it's not too obnoxious. I sit down in the only remaining intact chair in the room and take out a pack of cigarettes from my shirt pocket. I tap the pack against my hand. I'm inside of a bombed-out bodega about twenty klicks outside of Sarajevo, the capital city of BosHerz, looking for a safe place to rest for a few minutes and to smoke a fag.

There is a slight movement on the floor off to my right. I see him in the dim light, propped up between the wall and an overturned appliance. Normally, I'd shit my britches at the sight of one of them this close. But he looks to be in pretty tough shape; he's barely conscious. He's vomited on himself. His fur is matted and he's lying in a pool of yellowish-tinted liquid that passes for blood. He's oozing from bullet holes covering his legs, arms, and lower abdomen. One of them has apparently nicked a major artery. I can see he's wrapped a makeshift tourniquet around his leg to stem the flow but it isn't helping much. A modern medical facility could save his life, but out here in the middle of nowhere he doesn't stand a chance. The Rambo is gonna die. I'm sure he knows it. Just like he knows I'm not going to try and save his life. After all, he is the enemy.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Therapy by Abraham Myers

A disabled misfit must go to a psychiatrist to be "re-evaluated" for his social security benefits; by Abraham Myers.

I would have never gone to see the psychiatrist if I hadn't needed the money. I was twenty-five, had OCD, and no way to work or take care of myself. I lived in a dirtbag apartment in Troy Michigan, and never left, even for food - just ordered out, mostly Chinese. I was getting seven hundred bucks a month from the government and barely got by on it. Then they sent me this letter saying I needed to be "re-evaluated." So, I called the number, and the woman gave me an appointment with this Dr. Phillips and I had two weeks to sit around and worry about it.

When I arrived, there was a waiting room, with double glass doors leading into a foyer that I suspected led to his office. There were only two cars in the little parking lot, so I guessed he must be in there with someone. Impressionist paintings covered the walls of the waiting room: Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, typical "calming" artwork. It wasn't working. I paced around, stopping a few times to look closely at the brushstrokes on each painting.

Hearing the office door open, I heard a voice ask: "Who are you?"

Monday, November 20, 2017

Raw Concrete by Brooke Fieldhouse

A student writing a thesis on the World War II Atlantic Wall imagines an old Nazi bunker as a predatory animal and does not relish entering the belly of the beast; by Brooke Fieldhouse.

What a brute! Crouching in front of me like a scabrous creature. Tail and legs submerged, head pointing straight at me, and ready to strike. Its mouth hangs open, its teeth an inverted ziggurat of corroded steel which plummet into its concrete entrails.

Built by Hitler. Not personally of course. Built to defend Europe against Allied liberation, and built to last, which is why it's not going to move, and why I unwisely convinced myself that it could do me no harm.

My first mistake was to walk here. I left Roland's ancient Morris minor standing outside the Youth Hostel. Roland is almost certainly still in bed. I could hear him vomiting during the night - that and the falling rain. We did overdo the wine, but he said he's been feeling odd for a couple of days now.

First stop had been the charcuterie; 'big bloody steaks,' that's what Roland wanted. Then it had to be leeks, celery; endives, chou de Bruxelles, le fenouil - oh and broad beans in their pods. 'Let's take up lots of space!' shouted Roland as he waved his arms about.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Moth Therapy by Bruce Costello

Bruce Costello's flash about the son of a World War II fighter pilot struggling to find himself after his mother's death.

I was a mess after my mother died. For months, I sat about lost and bewildered, or wandered around the house, not knowing where to put myself. At night, I hardly slept, but I'd drop off during the day and have vivid dreams that went on for ages, which my elderly doctor said were more like hallucinations.

"Just enjoy them," he said, his jowls alert like those of a bulldog that's spotted a dropped meat pie. "The mind has its own logic."

I started going for long drives, always meaning to find a nice place with a motel and stay for a night or two, but as soon as I got anywhere, I'd want to go somewhere else, or just drive back home.

One day, travelling towards Queensville, I stopped in the middle of the Erehwemos Plateau at Akanaw Airfield, busting to find a toilet. Afterwards, I strolled among camera-wielding tourists queueing for scenic flights or daring aeronautics. A revolving propeller up a pole drew my attention to a sign: "Biplane adventures, only $255 for 20 minutes of open cockpit vintage flight."

Why not? I stepped into the office, talked to a bright-eyed girl with wavy blond hair, handed over money and signed some forms.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Deal of the Day by Sarah Dwyer

Must-Have Mary's job as a presenter on the shopping channel is as much about keeping lonely people company as it is about selling, but some of her fans take it too far; by Sarah Dwyer.

Here he comes again, Camp David, loitering in the studio wings before his grand evening entrance. What a drama! What a hoot! And how the ladies love him! David Price, fifty something shopping telly presenter, one-time children's TV 'character', but that was oh, over thirty years ago. To long ago for me to remember him, that's for sure. He's shopping telly to the core now. Cut him in half and you'd see 'Deal of the Day' imprinted in his marrow. There he is, rubbing his hands, smacking his lips, patting his side to make sure the mic pack is discretely fastened where it should be, brushing specks of imaginary dust from his beige jacket sleeves, eyes darting to locate the cameras.

Yes, David has an extra camera, while the rest of us make do with one and only. I sit here, 'Must-Have' Mary, looking straight at you, cheerful, one-of-the-girls, sharp make-up, polished nails, all set for another ladies' night in around the box. But David's the grand finale, late-evening company for all those lonely souls who have no one better to commune with on a Saturday night than a camped-up limp-wristed host behind a square screen. Push the buttons and turn him up. David's the man. He comes on like he's Larry Grayson reincarnated, all ready to play the Generation Game. Well! And his second camera, that's the deposit for all his subtle-as-shit innuendo.

Here's his dirty little story from last night:

Friday, November 10, 2017

Bullfight by Jonah Kruvant

Jonah Kruvant's character, a blue-eyed blonde-haired Texan child, struggles to be accepted into small town Colombian life.

Lajambra is one of a series of villages that dots the landscape of the Jalapa Valley of Colombia. The rolling hills of the Jalapa Valley are different shades of color, from mango orange to salamander green. In the rainy season, they become a limitless mist, and during the dry months, the heat is so oppressive that the seƱoras of the village never leave their houses without umbrellas to shield the tops of their heads from the rays of the sun, which shoot out of the sky like daggers. Small houses, square and built of wood, with roofs clustered with satellite dishes, and walls painted pink and peach, sit at the base of the mountains that separate the village from the volcanoes beyond. Lajambra has no bank or post office. The villagers need to go to the city, eighty kilometers north, if they want to cash a check or mail a postcard. The only way into the city is by bus, which storms through the village at six in the morning and two in the afternoon daily, but since the simple villagers have more medicinal herbs than coins in their pockets, they rarely leave Lajambra.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Math Instructor by SF Wright

A math instructor tentatively considers acting on his feelings of attraction to a student; by SF Wright.

Although Robert was an adjunct English professor, he also taught a course called GED Math. The mathematics wasn't difficult - arithmetic, geometry, basic algebra - and the class was always small; it wasn't uncommon for it to be cancelled because of low enrolment.

GED Math wasn't just taken by people wanting to pass the General Educational Development Test. Students also enrolled for supplemental help on the GRE math section, extra practice for college placements, and general educational self-improvement. One semester Robert had an older man take the class to "have something constructive to do."

The student Robert remembered most vividly from this class took the course for help with the GREs; Robert remembered her so clearly because he fell in love with her.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Getting Ahead by David Henson

Shirley wants John to kick a bad habit, but his boss has other ideas, in David Henson's sci-fi flash.

I don't feel a thing after two... or four. No new ideas. Still got the shakes. Just as I'm shoving a handful into my mouth, Shirley walks into the bathroom.

"John, what are you doing? I thought you were trying to get off of it?"

"Can't," I say, shivering. "Besides, this global product launch Tweed gave me is so complicated I couldn't do it without 'Q." My hands trembling, I gulp a glass of water to wash down the pills.

"Tweed's a freak. I don't know how you can even stand the sight of him." Shirley looks at my eyes. "My God, how many have you had?" She takes my face in her hands. "Honey, I kicked it. You can, too. I'll get you through it." She dabs my forehead with a damp washcloth. I flash back to the long days and nights when it seemed like I was holding an ice pack to her one moment and a heat pad the next. When she would recite long differential equations in her sleep... then wake up screaming because she could no longer solve them.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Three Heads of Irving Jefferson by Martin Kingfisher

When a farmer loses his head fleeing from a hog, he is forced to consider some changes to his lifestyle; by Martin Kingfisher, beautifully illustrated by Max Ink with colour by Flor de Canela.

Head 1

At dusk on the last day of October, 1823, the farmer Irving Jefferson walked through his pumpkin patch, rolling a pumpkin along the ground with his foot. Irv hadn't always been a pumpkin-roller. He'd once stood tall like his customer, the innkeeper F.J. Cooper, who walked next to Irv carrying a 30-pound pumpkin in his arms. Irv's plow had hit a lot of rocks over the years, and he'd got so his back twinged whenever he stooped to pick a pumpkin, or stood to carry it above his waist.

A boar grunted a warning as the men passed Irv's apple orchard. The boar stalked the men along the orchard's edge, dipping in and out of the shadows as if he knew Irv's old eyes couldn't follow him through the dark.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Quilt by Beryl Ensor-Smith

In the sleepy South African town of Prentburg, the church sisters make a quilt to raffle off for the benefit of the squatters neighbouring the dorp, but the project does not go as planned; by Beryl Ensor-Smith.

"Well," sighed Marion Klopper, placing squares of white linen in the centre of the long table in the church hall, "here we go again! Our annual effort to make winters more comfortable for the squatters in the informal settlement."

"And with the same humbling result," her co-helper, Rina van Wyk muttered as she sorted embroidery threads and packets of needles into neat piles in front of chairs around the table. "All this unnecessary fiddling about," motioning with one hand, "because of one person's jealousy. It was so much easier when we could all do our own thing, but no, we must now mete out supplies so that no-one has anything better to work with than the next, and all for nothing. As always, Miems Gouws's square will outshine all the others."

"Do you know what annoys me most? That Christina has imposed this on us and will find some excuse to opt out of producing a square herself, as usual."

Monday, October 23, 2017

A Statue, a Bridge and a Dream by Rick Brooks

Cal is so consumed by guilt after his brother's suicide, he considers desperate measures; by Rick Brooks.


The gaunt little man stumbled down the short hallway between his living room and bedroom, stopping once to lean against a wall and down the last bit of whiskey from the brown bottle he carried. Holding it up to his eyes, dark and bagged, he focused long enough to see the bottle was empty.

“Well, that’s it, I guess.”

He lurched the rest of the way to his bedroom and let himself fall onto the tattered mattress, the only piece of furniture in the room besides a beat-up storage box in the corner. And there, in his nicely-maintained suburban home, with its manicured lawn and welcome mat on the stoop, he reached for the pistol next to him, held it up to his left eye and pulled the trigger.