Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Stupidicide by Scott Cannon

Homicide detective Rogers and his newbie partner are called to investigate two deaths that may or may not be entirely accidental; by Scott Cannon.

"No man can bring about the perfect murder; chance, however, can do it." Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

It sounded weird from the start. There were not so many homicides in the winter, especially after a massive ice storm with sub-zero temperatures. Criminals slowed down like lizards in the cold. And from what they said when they dispatched Rogers and his partner to the scene, this didn't sound like a homicide at all. Woman dead from carbon monoxide poisoning in the car in the garage; man dead in the house from the same thing. It happened every time the power went down in the winter, that and fires. This didn't sound like a cabin-fever killing. Probably it wouldn't take long, Rogers hoped as he parked behind one of the squad cars at the curb.

Huffington already had out his shiny silver shield and the blue rubber gloves. He handed a pair to Rogers and opened the door.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Tax of Blood by Paul Stansbury

Leysa prepares yet again to make a great sacrifice for her family, but Yuri longs to resist their oppressor; by Paul Stansbury.

Leysa and Yuri watched Osip hunch over the table, his quill scuffing over the paper whispering a harsh tattoo as he methodically listed the taxes due. He had arrived in the morning, scratching at the door like a hungry animal. He had spent the day with Yuri walking about the farm, assessing the livestock, the crops, and anything else upon which a levy could be placed. He smelled of dung and sweat. Spittle flew from his mouth when he spoke. She hated the twisted gnome of a man.

"Go on, you bastard," Yuri growled, "why not include the stones in fields if you intend to take everything? You and your master are nothing more than beasts preying on the weak."

"Watch your words," Osip warned, looking up from the paper. He stared into Yuri's eyes, "He does not take well to vassals chiding his attendants. Know this, fool. The tribulations, real or imagined, of you and your wretched family are of no concern to me. My job is to list everything according to his instructions and place a fair value for which the assessment is made. Nothing more and certainly nothing less. He is rather emphatic on this matter. I dare say your tongue will not be so quick to wag when he comes to your door to collect what is due." He returned to his writing.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Rockingford Raphael by Fred McGavran

In an English mansion, 1937, Miss Sylph de Quimby innocently paints a copy of a long-lost Raphael, in which her cousin shows a great interest; by Fred McGavin.

How difficult it is to recreate a masterpiece, I reflected as I placed the grid over The Rockingford Raphael. The panel of two inch string squares fit just inside the frame, perfectly matching the squares I had ruled on my canvas. Streaming through the east window of the Great Hall, the morning sun illuminated The Martyrdom of St. Claridon Frigidus as brilliantly as the day it was painted. If my palette were true and my hand steady, I would copy the painting square by square for the Masterpieces of Great English Houses exhibition at Miss Trillingham's Country School for Young Ladies.

I had returned to Rockingford-on-Quimby after Michaelmas term determined to practice the moral and practical virtues she had so elegantly enunciated at matriculation. On that brilliant September afternoon before tea, the whole school had assembled on the lawn to hear her recite "The Seven Virtues of Polite English Maidenhood," her immortal contribution to English pedagogy. Those virtues - piety, purity, patriotism, pedigree, poesy, painting, and penmanship - defined young English women of quality in 1937.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Love and Happiness When an Ill Wind Blows by Jenean McBrearty

A young American woman travels to England to be married, but her dreams are scuppered by the growing inevitability of war; by Jenean McBrearty.

Helena's first trip to England didn't go as planned. David met her at the pier, gave her a wondrous kiss, but instead of taking her to the Manning Hotel where she would wait for her parents to arrive for the wedding, he drove to Woodbury.

"There won't be a honeymoon, Darling," he said as they motored past fresh-cut green fields.

"But why, David? We've planned for months."

"Father's insisted we all stay at the country house till this crisis is resolved." He rolled to a stop beneath an apple tree that was already shedding its August blossoms. "It'll be fine. You'll love my Aunt Patience. She and mother will stuff you full of biscuits and have you playing mahjong long into the night. You won't miss me too much."

"You're not staying? But you have leave..."

"Two days. And I'll be back by Friday next."

"This is terrible. Unfair. Un-American."

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Bite by Julie Carpenter

Bland, busy Mrs. Mary Edelson Brooks irrevocably alters the course of her and her family's life when she upsets a fairy at the bottom of her garden; by Julie Carpenter.

One of the strangest stories in the history of Whistlestop was the story of Mrs. Mary Edelson Brooks, a woman whose main claim to fame in the village was her ability to throw stylish dinner parties; she was also known for her ability to always wear exactly the right shoes with exactly the right purse without being too "matchy," for the fact that her hair always looked "done," and for the fact that her hybrid teas almost always took a prize at the flower show. In addition, she was on three church committees and the town beautification board. Although the difficulty of these achievements was impossible to disregard, Mary was otherwise not the most fascinating person in the village. In fact, if you had asked her husband Bob, he would have called her stable and meant it as a compliment. Her seventeen year old daughter Virginia would have called her boring and not meant it as a compliment at all. But, as the villagers noted afterwards, you don't have to be a fascinating person to have something interesting happen to you.

The story recounted here is a strange one and it's hard to say exactly what did happen to Mary that hot and humid summer. Accounts vary. The story that was told by the few people closest to Mary is the one that most thoroughly explains the situation. Unfortunately, it's also the most difficult to believe. But strange things were wont to happen in Whistlestop in those days. Besides, the truth of a story isn't dependent on its believability. So here is the story of Mary Edelson Brooks, a fairy story, I guess you could say.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Samantha by Valentina Cano

A man obsesses over a waitress in a truck stop diner, and has plans to make her his; by Valentina Cano.

"Would you like some more coffee?"

The man looked up, pretending he had just noticed her. As if he hadn't sat in this part of the diner for her, as if he hadn't chosen the striped shirt last night because he knew it made him look thinner.

The young woman, Samantha, if her name tag could be trusted, was smiling. She always smiled, but he was sure it was never this wide, this bright. This is the smile she reserved for him. No question about it.

"Yes, thank you, Samantha," he said.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Trials of St. Clarice by Michael Hantman

Michael Hantman's character reflects on his relationship with beguiling, infuriating Clarice, and the films they enjoyed together.

This all started after class. I followed Clarice up to a spot on the hill where we collapsed and she smoked cigarettes. St. Clarice. At least when you know that you can't really understand someone, you can begin to appreciate them as something different. Not a partner, per se, but a deep indulgence. You can take them in on your own terms without worrying about the connections, or the pleasantries.

St. Clarice pointed her chin up and blew thin veils of smoke in front of her eyes. She puffed her cheeks erratically and stared at clouds. She'd lie down on her back with her knees bent, and she'd let her ass slide down the hill towards her feet. Her skirt would get bunched up and if you made the effort to look, you could see the tip of her panties. I didn't. Just out of the corner of my eyes. She wouldn't even care, she'd react but it wouldn't carry any weight. Still it might lead to other things. Maybe.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Herm Miracle by Paul Sherman

On the tiny Channel Isle of Herm, the church play is shaping up to be a disaster unless simple-minded Dev can save the day; by Paul Sherman.

I think most folk like me, tho' some do look down on me. Mike says, 'When you don't worry what folk think Dev, then you will be happy.' So I do stop my worry. Most folk treat me fair 'cos I do stuff for them. I'm a right smart 'gofer' I am.

One dude once said, 'Yeah, I see why they call you gofer. You look like one.'

So I went on the web to find some gofer pics. There is a 'gofer' spelt odd, with a 'ph' instead of a 'f'. There be loads of pics of the 'gofer' with the 'ph'. It's a beast from the USA. There be a word that begin with 'indig...' means it comes from that place only. I can't spell very well tho' I'm OK with short words, and even then, I spell some wrong.

I stare at the pics of the 'gofer' spelt with the 'ph' and then I look in the glass. What I see is like what is in those pics, I have to own. There is buck teeth and rings round the eyes (like my specs) and a daft look. It makes me sad. That this is how folk see me. Well, some folk.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Kinship by Ceinwen Haydon

A childhood tragedy touches a family's lives for a generation in Ceinwen Haydon's emotional story.

Midwinter

"Mama," said Dominic as he sucked his thumb. "I'm four now aren't I? When will Frances be four so we can play properly?"

"Darling, she won't be four until you're eight years old. You'll always be four years older than her and she's only six weeks old just now," said Rachel.

"I love her, I'll wait for her, I've got lots of good games," he said.

"You're a good boy, Dom, Frances will love you to bits too. Now it's time for your nap."

Dominic slept soundly for a whole hour. He was woken by snow pelting on his bedroom window and the wind that rattled the glass panes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Vampire Marriage by Sharon Frame Gay

Sharon Frame Gay's flash fiction about the practicalities of being married to a vampire.

Nowadays, there are plenty of books and movies out about Vampires. They are depicted as romantic, protective, mysterious creatures who woo their girlfriends, fight off other monsters, and dance with their loves under the stars. Teenage girls are mesmerized by the dangerous aspects of loving a Vampire, tittering in their seats at the theatre, squirming with joy and crying in rapture. They wish they had their own Vampire, and are filled with romantic notions.

I decided that it is time to come forth, come out, and confess that I have been married to a Vampire for over twenty years. It's a relief to talk about it, and I hope that my story might bring more interspecies marriages out of the closet, and into the mainstream.

Victor Plasmasky and I met over in Europe, when I lost my way on a day hike in the mountains, hurrying through the woods as the sun sank into the higher hills. He appeared on the path ahead, looking ominous in the growing twilight. His first instinct was to drink my blood, but he said later that there was something different about me that fascinated him, and he spared me. Victor likes to joke that I wasn't his "type." I saw a dark, unfashionably dressed dangerous looking man with funny teeth, so I was instantly smitten as young women often are by the unconventional.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

M'Buru's Prophet by Mark F. Geatches

Rich Kyle's gullible cousin visit to spread the word of his latest religion; by Mark F. Geatches.

"Wow Kally! Your hair. It's so... Rastafarian. What's up?"

"We're enlightened. We follow the teachings of M'buru," she said smugly.

"Yeah Kyle. We found the truth," Pete added.

I stifled a laugh. It had been three years since I had seen my cousin and his wife. They were prone to fancy but this was on another level. Kally's hair was matted and discolored so that it looked like an old, recently used mop. Pete's voice was the best impression of Bob Marley's I had ever heard. And the clothes... homeless comes close to describing them, from both a well-worn and olfactory perspective.

I said, "So what happened to Asatru? Did you give up on that religion? What about all the others?"

Friday, November 11, 2016

Gethsemane by Julia Richards

After surviving the sinking of the Titanic by being thrown overboard in a steamer trunk, an upper class English lady washes up on Scottish shores and falls in love; by Julia Richards.

Although she didn't know it, fortune was looking out for Gethsemane the day she set sail on the Titanic. Shortly after the ill-fated ship left port, Geth was thrown off the side locked in a steamer trunk. The vessel continued its trajectory of doom without her.

Her mother, Mrs. Harlow, a kind of Bright Young Person born a few decades too early, was in the habit of taking sizable doses of brandy to calm her nerves and prescribed herself extra shots for seasickness. Before they even weighed anchor, Mrs. Harlow was well-medicated.

Geth - who suffered from genuine seasickness - had been convinced by her mother to partake in this cure. As they were among the earliest of the first class passengers to board, Geth and her mother were in a right state by the time the gangplank was lifted.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Death of a Salesman by Nidhi Singh

Roguishly handsome Lantana, son of a womanising explorer, makes his living selling lingerie - but when a management position opens up the stakes are higher than he thinks, in Nidhi Singh's flamboyantly written tale.

Iquitos, a few years ago

Macaws and parrots swaddling in dead leaves on white-barked trees slumbered fitfully, while toucans with massive bills and bright plumage, sated from eating too many picked cacao beans during the day, tossed and turned at the higher reaches of the dense canopy. It was high-water time and the river had risen about fifteen meters already - pink dolphins sliced through her raging black waters while tiny canoes tossed and tugged furiously at their tethers.

Loud laughter drifted out from the dimly lit log cabin sitting squat in the middle of a clearing in the dense jungle. Guinea pigs roasted in huge open-air ovens outside while empty hammocks in the porch swung lazily in the breeze fanning the clammy lowland. It was too oppressive even to breathe. Save for cracks in its logs, the cabana was almost windowless; its door a mere flap of woven palm fronds.

Inside, flush from drink and dance and sleaze and sauce, grizzled gadabouts slapped their thighs with empty hands and roared in revelry - the laughter neither touching their vacuous eyes nor their desperate souls.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Angels by Louisa Campbell

Tom is infatuated with his brother's fiancé on the day of their engagement, and still infatuated nearly thirty years later; by Louisa Campbell.

Felicity's 21st birthday

'Tom, Tom, Tommy-Tom-Tom, hurry up!' Fliss was holding his hand and pulling him along on his skateboard. The physical contact was sending shockwaves through his body.

'There's loads of time.' He wanted her to slow down; the airport concourse was smooth stone and his skateboard was flying - he was flying - but people were starting to send them little dagger-glares. They were making one hell of a racket. Fliss's long fair hair shimmered as she ran. He remembered the sun glowing through it, the day she moved in next door. She had run into the garden in her white cotton nightdress and started bouncing on the trampoline. Tom had seen her in the air, hands above her head, flying, he thought. Tom was only six and he'd run to tell Leo there was an angel at the bottom of the garden. After that, Leo always referred to Fliss as 'Tom's angel' whenever he thought he could embarrass him with it.

'He's due in at 12.20!' She started jumping up and down, all that girl stuff jingling in her enormous handbag, but had to stop so she could study the arrivals screen. Tom flipped his skateboard up and caught it in one movement. He hoped she was impressed.

'Roll up a reefer, Flissy-baby, relax!'

'No, I don't want to smoke, I'm excited and I want to be excited. This is the mostest brilliantest day of my life, ever.'

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Blessed Virgin by Phil Temples

Catholic schoolboy Anthony suffers from a patch of eczema on his rear end in the shape of the Virgin Mary; by Phil Temples.

It began innocently one Saturday morning when little Antony Giordano walked up the steps to the front of St. Joseph's Parish Church in the North End, escorted by his grandmother, Francesca Giordano. Mrs. Giordano noticed that Antony was fidgeting and scratching his butt.

"Antony Mario, you stop that this instant!"

"But it itches," Antony replied.

"You're standing at the door to the house of Jesus and Mary. Show some respect to your Lord and Savior and his Mother, bless her soul." She slapped him across the head - not as hard as previous times, but hard enough to know he'd earned her ire.

Once they got inside, Antony asked his granny if he could go the bathroom.

"Yes, you may go. But don't linger. Father has a short line this morning so it won't be long until your confession. And I expect you to add this transgression to your list."