Friday, February 27, 2015

The Boy, Four Mugs of Ale, and the Extract of Dragonsbane by Kyle Anthony Massa

Lucius plans a heist of insane proportions - no less than a dragon's hoard; by Kyle Anthony Massa.

"Treasure," said Lucius, and the word alone was enough to silence the others.

He hunched over a creaking table in the aptly named Ramshackle Inn with three other men huddled in close around him. Each had an expression of sudden and absolute attention, and for good reason. If there was one topic that captured a listener's ear in a place like the Ramshackle, it was talk of riches.

"How much treasure?" whispered the man to Lucius's right. His name was Spider - at least, that's what he told Lucius his name was. He was small, barely taller than five feet, with a pig nose and a missing right ear. He was dumber than dung and smelled worse, but he was the best Lucius could come up with. And besides, a nice hunk of meat couldn't hurt on this sort of mission - even it was unwashed.

"More'n you've ever seen, Spider. I promise you that."

"And how do we split it?" This from the man seated at the opposite side of the table. He and the fellow beside him were mirror images of one another, except that one had blood red hair, and the other had tar black hair.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Rescue by Patricia Crandall

Claude reluctantly assists his ageing father with an animal rescue; by Patricia Crandall.

There it was, the cow shaped mailbox Claude knew so well, its neat black letters spelling out GENTNER. His face clouded and he shook his head ruefully as he turned his silver Mercury Milan off tree-lined Blackberry Lane, and crunched up the rutted driveway to his former Indian Falls, New York home. He parked, got out of the car and stretched away the fatigue of the three-hour drive.

As he expected she was waiting on the top porch step of the rambling white farmhouse, a small woman with frizzed gray hair, cradling a coffee mug in her hands. "Thank god you're here, son," she exclaimed. "I thought you might be late, and I'd have to cancel my plans to go dump digging with Gert and Nina."

"Got things in motion, have you, Ma?" Claude hauled his week-ender out of the trunk of the car and dropped it to the ground. "Where does that leave me?"

"With your father." Elsie Gentner smiled wanly. "Now that he's feeling better, and since he put old Tootsie down, he's driving me whammy. I need to get out of the house. Do you mind?"

Claude climbed the uneven steps to the porch. He leaned over and kissed her wrinkled cheek. "Of course not," he lied.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Counsellor in the Mirror by Bruce Costello

A counsellor is feeling the stress of dealing with difficult clients and his own personal problems; by Bruce Costello.

The man across the room had dark, unblinking eyes.

Brian shuddered.

"Can you fix us?" the man asked, his body turned away from his wife. Petite and pretty, she sat two chairs along, head down, her face red from crying.

"Welcome to you both," Brian said. "My role is not to fix, but to assist you to..."

The man interrupted. "How long have you been a marriage counsellor?"

"Twenty-six years."

The man gaped.

Brian continued. "Perhaps you could start by telling me how you've been feeling within the marriage."

Friday, February 20, 2015

Night Watch by Catherine Griffin

A group of friends stand guard in an allotment shed, on the lookout for vandals who have been stealing tools; by Catherine Griffin.

Red, orange and green tomatoes glowed in the last light of the setting sun. Robert gently touched the dangling fruit. In the heat of the greenhouse they were ripening fast now; if he wasn't careful, the best would be over before the Summer Show. He stood, fighting the stiffness in his hips and knees, and emptied the last drops from the watering can onto the thirsty roots. The smell of the grateful earth rose up to him, mixing with the spicy scent of the tomatoes and the strong sweetness of the other plants.

'Hallo there!' Joleen waddled up the path. Her skirt ruffled the leaves of the broad beans as she passed. She was carrying a cool box.

Her broad smile triggered a curious childlike pleasure in Robert. She was so round and shiny and cheerful, he couldn't help smiling back. He closed the greenhouse door firmly behind him.

'I brought soup and sandwiches. How are the tomatoes today? I don't think you need to worry, Martin's are not very good this year. You must win a prize.'

Robert didn't want to win a prize. He wanted to win the prize, the Tomato Challenge Cup. But Joleen meant well.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Little Red Revolution by Ernesto San Giacomo

Ernesto San Giacomo's very silly story about a union man being kidnapped by vampires.

At the back of the dais, John tapped his foot while he waited to be announced. Finally, the host concluded his introduction, and John bounced to his feet.

John, come here. I need you.

What was that? What a horrible time to hear voices in his head. Not that any time was good, John supposed. Must be adrenaline. He shook it off, put on a big smile, and stepped up to the podium, soaking in the hearty round of cheers and whistles he'd come to expect when he took the stage. John was proud of his unearthly ability to whip a crowd into a feel-good frenzy. He knew his clever speeches, biting humor, and booming voice were the highlights of any union meeting.

"So the company has the nerve to call the latest contract an offer." John shook his head. "Well, where I come from it's called an insult!"

The crowd roared its approval.

With everyone's attention fixed on the podium, only John noticed a pasty-gray-looking man near a shadowy staircase along the back wall. The figure gave John an impish grin before disappearing through a door under the staircase.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Ghosts in the Library by Patricia Crandall

Beatrice hears the tale behind the haunted library in Patricia Crandall's creepy short.

Beatrice Calkins stood before a bookcase on the second floor of the Furman-Hibbs Library. She wrinkled her nose and sniffed. A foul odor wafted up from an open shaft at the highest point in the high-ceilinged room. She covered her mouth and nose with a handkerchief. Suppressing a gag, she turned and scuttled down the staircase to the first floor. She went to the front desk and stared at the dozing elderly librarian. She gently shook Ida Riley's shoulder.

Ida quivered. She awoke slowly, and yawned. "What is it?" she sat up abruptly.

"There's a bad odor on the second floor, Ms. Riley. The smell appears to be outside coming through the vent." Beatrice shivered as a bone chilling cold enveloped her. "And, it's much too cold and drafty in here all of a sudden. The temperature must have dropped thirty degrees in seconds."

With obvious stiffness, Ida arose and hobbled around the desk. She murmured, "It's the ghosts doing their mischief."

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Mother's Love by O. D. Hegre

A nightstalking child murderer gets a glimpse of what awaits him in the afterlife; by O. D. Hegre.

Mommy, mommy, hold me close.
Am I not the one you love the most?

Hush now child. Find someplace to play.
Baby is crying. You cannot stay.

But where will I be if not with you?
Denied your love, what might I do?

The room glowed in shades of green - a bit eerie, even for him. The manufacturer claimed a phosphor screen of that color optimized the human eye's visual acuity. He held out his hand. The resolution was quite extraordinary.

The idea came to him after watching the 1991 Oscar winning thriller, Silence of the Lambs. Good old Buffalo Bill, the night-vision goggles made things so much easier. With that innovation, Herbert Marston had helped so many more.

He looked down on the sleeping boy. Tonight, another lucky lad would find freedom from his burden. In her sorrow and in her relief, another mother would find the way back to the true source of her joy. A mother's love renewed - undiluted - unwasted.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Truth by Rudy Ravindra

Subbu's father is determined to plan out Subbu's life, starting with medical school, but fate has other plans; by Rudy Ravindra.

Subbaramachari, his near and dear called him Subbu, was at best a mediocre student, but due to his father's relentless efforts he got into a medical college. Subbu really didn't care to deal with blood and the maladies of his fellow human beings.

He said, "Dad, I'd like to go into hotel management, I can get a good job at a five-star hotel."

His father thundered. "No son of mine will be a bloody waiter. You should be a doctor. We need a doctor in the family."

Subbu said, "But, but, dad..."

"No if and buts. You study hard. I'll make sure you get into a medical school."

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Granddad's Birthday Cuff Links by James McEwan

James McEwan's character has saved up to buy her Granddad a special present, but must contend with an unscrupulous shopkeeper.

Anne counted out her money from her little tea tin. It was Granddad's birthday tomorrow and she would surprise him with those fancy cuff links. The ones with the regimental motif on, since he was always talking about his adventures from his war days.

She had sold her Bunty Christmas annual to her friend Sally, saved all of her pennies from her pocket money and even found some sixpences at the bus stop. There were also the half-crown and two florins that she had not spent during her summer holidays.

The thrupenny bits were in piles of four, the tanners in twos and the pennies in twelve. She added them all up to eleven shillings and eight. Some of the pennies were old and worn with Queen Victoria on one side but that didn't matter, she had enough for Granddad's present. It was a special day for him as he was going to be sixty years old and Gran had said it was a great milestone in one's life.

She went into Mr Roland's antique shop and saw that the cuff links were still there in the glass case.

Friday, February 6, 2015

I Was a Zen Hitman by Jonathan Payne

Jonathan Payne writes about a hitman who believes in mindfulness and doing the right thing.

Thursday March 15th

The Honda is spluttering like a geriatric coughing his teeth out. It's becoming an embarrassment. Not to mention a liability. All that noise. It does nothing to preserve my hard-earned reputation for stealth. What a great word. Stealth.

As per usual, I find my spot with a couple of hours to spare. Half the guys at the Office freak out about this. Most of them turn up like ten minutes early and then - Bang! - they're gone again. But two hours is nothing. I can kill two hours without so much as blinking.

In fact it's closer to three hours before Client Andrew shows up. Why can't you be on time, you people? Anyhow, everything else is as per the Statement of Works. He's alone, not even a bag. He parks a good distance away. He takes a look around to see if he's on his own.

Who else is going to be around the back of Costco after midnight on a night like this? Except me, of course.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Trigger by Doug Hawley

A good-for-nothing crook crosses a line when he kills two strangers without really meaning to, and he wonders whether he will get away with it; by Doug Hawley.

I was out target shooting in the country when I heard the gravel crunch and somebody yelled, "Hey asshole, what are you doing?" Without thinking, I turned and shot him. Well shit, nobody should have sneaked up on somebody and scared him like that. Before I could check him out somebody else came running up with a handgun and screamed, "You shot my brother." I turned around and shot him too. Him carrying the handgun, I figured it was self defense. The first guy was sort of an accident.

When I checked them out, I found that they were both dead or near dead. Considering that I didn't really have a good explanation for my nearly innocent part in all this, I cleared out and went home.

I suppose this was a long time coming. I always had a hair trigger going back to grade school. There were fights every other day, inattention in class, talking back, small fires that never did much. Mom and dad never cared much; they thought it was standard boy activity. I can't say that they were too happy about hitting the dog with his brush or wetting the bed. Fortunately for me they were more worried about paying the rent and buying whiskey than what I was doing. The tight ass youth authorities would come around from time to time, but except for a few stints in juvenile detention, I was mostly left alone. Detention taught me a few things about petty thievery that I could use later in life.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The New Term by Feyisayo Anjorin

A Nigerian biology teacher heads west to Bangoma and the big city, but one of the students in his class defies his authority; by Feyisayo Anjorin.

A man dressed in white short sleeved shirt, a red tie, and black trousers drew a few curious glances from the pupils of State Government College, Bangoma. Mr Obasanya squinted against the sun and walked towards the senior secondary block concealing his excitement.

He had thought of putting on a sunshade but decided against it. Not on the first day. He should not be seen as that teacher who is fresh from the village and is trying too hard to be the centre of attention. He was not wearing a buba and soro. A teacher should be dressed like this, he reminded himself again.

It was the beginning of a new year and the beginning of a new term. A new term comes with new pupils and new teachers. The new additions were usually objects of curiosity for the older members of the school community.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Glass by Michael King

A mysterious figure looks longingly into an apartment full of children playing and fighting; by Michael King.

Marcus is my favorite. He's seven. He sits at the table, folding a paper airplane, his shoulders hunched, his face flushed, his eyes watchful, haunted. His older sister just chased him around with the vacuum. I think she was calling it "the suck machine." Her name is Molly - she's twelve - and I might as well introduce Chucky and Samantha too. Twins, I believe, and a year or so younger than Marcus.

Chucky likes to watch. He doesn't like to get into trouble. His eyes dart about, taking everything in, belying his lax posture. One long-toed foot on the arm of the couch. The other almost touching the floor. Chin to chest. I like Chucky. A lot. But his backbone is a limp noodle when compared to his older brothers. And Samantha - well, she's just useless. She prefers to sit in a wooden chair, directly in front of the television, her mouth open. Probably something wrong with her.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Secondary Smoke by Michael C. Keith

Michael C Keith's story about an elderly lady who just won't quit smoking.

More doctors smoke Chesterfield than any other brand.
- 1950s cigarette advertisement

June Teller, a chain-smoker since middle school, was 84. Surprisingly she was in reasonably good health, except for a minor case of emphysema that seldom impaired her. Since her husband's death 18 years earlier, she had rarely left her house mainly because smoking was banned everyplace she went. She found this very perturbing.

"All these ridiculous rules nowadays make it impossible to live. What happened to basic human freedoms? When I was young the world minded its own darn business. You could smoke anywhere you wanted to without people giving you ugly looks... or worse."

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Decision by Beryl Ensor-Smith

After Klaus van Dyk is outwitted by Hilda Jacobs and tricked into an engagement, he plans to flee, in Beryl Ensor-Smith's follow-up to The Deception.

It was at a social get-together of the 'Church Sisters' for tea at the Welcome Inn that the subject of Klaus van Dyk arose.

"For a man who recently became engaged, he looks pretty miserable," Marion Klopper stated.

"Wouldn't you, if your fiancé was Hilda Jacobs?" Elaine Ferreira replied. "She's hardly a bundle of laughs."

Normally Christina du Plessis would have objected vehemently to any criticism levelled at Hilda, but she was feeling slighted by her one-time 'best friend' and kept quiet while the 'Sisters' agreed that Hilda was beyond serious.

"All the same, you'd think that Klaus would look a little happier, especially seeing he chose her above Suzie. They were both after him and I would have put my money on Suzie any day!"

Suzie was not at the get-together, having driven Sarie Blignault to the Waterfontein vet with her two goldfish, as one was listless and seemed on the brink of death. Not only was Sarie worried sick about Fatima (she insisted she could tell the two apart), but was also concerned that Golda would catch whatever it was that was ailing her companion!