Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Writer's Evening by Lio Mangubat

A psychological story about a troubled writer by Lio Mangubat

Every day, invariably, with no change in routine since I became his tenant, the landlord visited at 6 o' clock on the dot. Before the old cuckoo down the hall could finish its six chimes, the knock would come and the door open, and he would be there, in all his senile glory. Liver spots, crumpled skin, old, unwashed clothes and the stale smell that I imagine Egyptologists are used to when unearthing mummies; it would all be there.

Or I visited him, which occurred quite frequently during my first years as his tenant. There, in his room, the Egypt smell would multiply till I could stand it no more. If I visited him, he'd be waiting for me in his unmade bed, his eternally unmade bed, if I might add. He always seemed to know when I would visit him and when he would visit me, don't ask me how, but he just did. But he'd smile, a yellow toothed smile that showed perfect sets of artificial teeth, and gesture weakly for me to sit down. Sit down on the bed, that meant, and so I would. The mattress would creak and maybe I worried a lot of times that the whole bed would fall down.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Wrong Answer by Michael Eberhardt

Fourteen-year old Molly is desperate to find an answer to deal with her abusive, drug-addled mother; by Michael Eberhardt

The note sat on the kitchen table held in place by a box of Cheerios. My bad, Molly mumbled to herself, ShopRite brand "Toasty-O's"; haven't seen a real box of Cheerios since dad took off. She sat and read in silence.

Molly,

Before School:
  • Make a pot of coffee
  • Do last night's dishes
  • Fix lunches for you and Teddy
  • Walk the damn dog (He's your dog Molly, next time he pisses in my house I'll cut off his balls)
  • Keep the Fucking Noise Down. I don't have to get up for work until 9am

Friday, July 27, 2012

Yellow Roses for Aphrodite by RS Pyne

A woman mourns her lost lover, appealing to the preternatural power of the sea for respite, by R. S. Pyne

He stood looking out across the white-horse haunted waves and Charlotte knew then that she was about to lose him forever. His back was to her but the tall frame had none of the usual fluid, easy grace she had grown to love so much. He seemed to be on edge and restless, as if he had been hoping to just slip out of her life without saying goodbye. He sensed her presence but did not acknowledge it. He did not even turn around. The fresh promise of a morning that had started so well suddenly felt tarnished and sour and even the salt-laden wind blowing off the sea seemed to mock her. It was cold and she was glad of her husband's winter coat, snatched off a peg at the last minute in her rush to get to the beach. She brushed a stray lock of hair out of her eyes and found that it was already wet with tears.

"You're much stronger than this," the guiding voice in her mind spoke with a sudden contemptuous clarity, pulling her back from the darkness. "Get a grip. Wipe your eyes, blow your nose and deal with it. Shit happens and it's happened to you... again."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

CLAM$ by Jeff Alphin

A Baltimore entrepreneur's very fishy idea has several unexpected consequences in Jeff Alphin's hilarious novella, featuring a wonderfully colourful cast of characters

I.

Adlai Dallas situated his ball in the divot-scarred tee box of the 13th hole, second-guessing his decision to blow real dollars on the "luxury" that was a day of golf at Clifton Park.

It was Baltimore's oldest and scruffiest municipal course. And yet despite the unshielded traffic along its borders, and roving bands of Lake Clifton High students shortcutting their way across the fairways, the course had the audacity to charge people 31 dollars to hack away at it.

Adlai's drive scattered the same group of class-cutting delinquents who had flipped him off on 11. He was surprised they did not steal his ball.

Probably because Richie - the third member of their party - hadn't bothered to wait for Adlai and the Prep Cook to tee off, and had played on ahead without them, barreling his golf cart down to where he hooked into scrub pines, singing to himself and looking just crazy enough for the kids not to mess with. A don't-fuck-with-this-threesome ambassador of nutsy.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Zoe's Eyes by CD Carter

Maddie and Nick are expecting a baby daughter, to whom their cat Mr. Mike is growing awfully attached; by CD Carter

The night-black cat lie in his usual position, atop Maddie Tamme's midsection, which, for these past six months, had been home to a fetus named Zoe.

The golden glow of Mr. Mike's eyes sliced through the noiseless dark of the bedroom. The feline's paws were outstretched. He purred a low rumble.

Nick Tamme, the father of said fetus, stood in the doorway between his bathroom and bedroom and tried to win the unwinnable war: a staring contest with Mr. Mike. Through the thick darkness the two glared at each other until, finally, Nick's eyes dried and his eyelids shut.

As soon as Nick's eyes opened, Mr. Mike blinked lazily, a big middle finger in the face of his owner. The cat looked away from Nick, toward his favorite, Maddie, and finally, at Maddie's swollen stomach, at the future baby they had named Zoe. Mr. Mike laid his head on Maddie's protruding belly and rested. The stubborn thing acted like he wasn't kicked out of the bedroom every night.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Lessons in Love by Michael McCarthy

Timothy has a brief and unusual affair with his German teacher, who is hiding something... by Michael McCarthy

Renata, a German teacher at an Adult Education Institute in London is, arguably, the person who has had the biggest influence on me. Ever.

I had been attending German conversation classes in London while I waited for inspiration to strike to decide on my future career. I hadn't wanted to be like most Brits who learn a language at school, and then, out in the big wide world of job seeking, just drop it as a minor inconvenience.

I'm still not sure why, but Renata was the main reason I became a teacher.

Although she wasn't what you'd call a stunner; she had this menthol cool, clean manner. She was highly efficient, always well prepared and completely unflappable.

I began chatting to her after classes and, to be honest, I got the distinct impression that she liked the idea of being pursued. A few weeks in, I asked her out.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Junior Detective by Ryan Sayles

Ryan Sayles' amusing story about a rather self-important hospital security guard

I'm a highly trained hospital security officer, entrusted with a radio.

The Hospital Authority took away our TASERs. Too many mishaps. The local PD said we couldn't carry handcuffs. Said I used them too much. Obviously they haven't seen my record.

I'm also entrusted with the safety and security of three hundred beds, over four hundred staff, two parking garages, four surface parking lots, a total of twelve floors of medical treatment facilities spread across three buildings.

I am the first and last line of defense here. Sometimes the cops come when we call, sometimes they don't. And when a patient with dementia doesn't know why he's here and wants to leave, I have to intervene. No cop will arrive as my back up. They don't have the stones and that's fine with me. Not everyone is built to do my job. I fly solo. I am the thin blue line here. My castle.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Losses by Gary Beck

Gary Becks' glimpse into the life of a New York baker determined to press on despite nothing going his way

It was my second day on the job and I was still nervous, unsure of what I was doing. I had been on the waiting list for a year to get into the union, Local 50 of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International, the only way I'd be allowed to work in the big Bronx bakery. Now I had my opportunity and I hoped I wouldn't blow it by doing something dumb. I had experience in a small neighborhood bakeshop on Westchester Avenue, but it closed when the landlord raised the rent. The boss let me go and I had been unemployed ever since. Unemployment insurance wasn't enough to pay the bills.

Most of the workers at the factory were at least in their 40s or 50s and had been working for the company for a long time. They treated me like I wasn't too bright and I had to take it. I was too new to complain to my shop steward, who insulted me more than anyone else. My wife, Maria, was six months pregnant and I couldn't afford to lose this job. I had been assigned to the cookies division, to monitor a mixer. All I had to do was make sure the ingredients flowed in and the dough flowed out to the ovens. It was so simple that an idiot could do it, but my shift supervisor kept telling me I was doing it wrong and making nasty remarks. I wanted to hit him, but I kept my cool.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Better Living through Physics by James C Clar

Two Honolulu police detectives come up against a college professor with some rather unique ideas about settling a domestic dispute

Jake Higa and Ray Kanahele parked in front of the Sunrise Villa condominium on Wailana at the corner of Ala Wai Boulevard in the faded heart of Waikiki. Traffic, always an issue along the canal, was at an absolute standstill due to all the commotion. Gold shields affixed to their belts, the two men made their way through the cordon of uniformed officers with a discrete wave here and a restrained 'shaka greeting there. Building maintenance was hosing down the white coral sidewalk in front of the structure with an air of nonchalance. To look at them, you'd think that this sort of thing happened around here 'all the time'. Russet-stained water ran in sparkling rivulets to a storm drain at the curb. No Dumping, read a warning sporting the image of a stylized fish stenciled in black on the concrete curb. A few blocks makai, the runoff merged peacefully with the warm, amniotic waters of the Pacific.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Brianna-Jane Tries to Sin by Charlie Britten‏

Charlie Britten's modern Biblical comedy about a Texan girl who travels to Essex to learn some moral lessons

It came to pass, during the time of President Nixon of Watergate, that Tony, son of Frank, left his father's house and went to sit at the feet of the teachers of the law in Houston, in the state of Texas. "Remember that thou art a child of God and a son of Texas," said Frank unto Tony as he bade him farewell. "Vouchsafe to me that y'all be faithful unto God. Attend unto the courts of the Lord on the seventh day and send unto me the text of the sermon."

"Amen," Tony answered, then Frank departed from him.

Tony, having an empty belly, went forth from his lodging in Houston, unto the 'Dairy Queen' in the next block, and ordered a burger from the serving maid, Lindy, daughter of Sandra. And there he tarried.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Enhancement by John Oliver Kammeyer

An attack of lucidity sparks off an intimate dialogue between new lovers Mia and Webster; by John Oliver Kammeyer

"Web? What's wrong?"

"..."

"Webster, why are you up?"

"..."

"Web, say something! You're scaring me."

"This just happens sometimes. Please keep your voice down."

"What do you mean? What's going on?"

"Seriously, talk quietly. It hurts."

"Alright, you need to tell me what's going on because I'm now officially scared."

"Okay, just let me breathe for one second."

"..."

"I don't want to call them episodes; that's not the right word. But sometimes, like once a month, I get these... moments."

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Can Man by Lucas Cumiford

Lucas Cumiford's creepy tale of a jogger's encounter with a subhuman Can Man

It is four thirty on a Monday morning. Monday morning is always a jogging day, and the jogger is making his rounds through the darkness-shrouded park that lies almost at the edge of town. The jogger has to get up this early and jog because he has a real job. Two of them, in fact. He is a responsible person; not a wild, impulsive thing like the fanged creatures that inhabit this darkness.

Sometimes, while running around the dirt path, he scares up the wild beasts that prosper in this darkness. Innocent little cotton-tailed bunnies frequently hop across his path, right before they hop hop hop away for the safety of the shrubbery. And then there are the bigger, meaner, nastier things he sometimes comes across. There are critters that look fluffy and harmless, something you would innocently decorate a baby's crib with, like the skunks. Then there are animals whose appearance is not deceitful in the least, beasts with nasty fangs and teeth, such as the raccoons and the coyotes. The coyotes wisely run away from the jogger, the raccoons sometimes don't, and the skunks never do. He is more frightened of the raccoons and the skunks. And finally, there is the Can Man.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Hat Trick by Jan Wiezorek

Jan Wiezorek's slightly surreal story about a duo selling hats to tourists and dog walkers on a sunny Saturday in the suburbs of Chicago

Swallowed alive / Swallowed whole / Gone but not forgotten… were the painted purple words he read on one solid, square-cut quarried block within the stepped, lakefront retaining wall at Dog Beach. From there Jayson could lick his index finger, raise it, and feel which way the wind blew. But he asked Allie, who believed she was being punished for her ambition, to do it. Jayson had a seven-foot pole in each hand, with a pack of hats clamped up and down the length, all because hats make the man, mother always said, but they can make the woman, too. Allie demonstrated that, in her white sailor's cap, looking like she had wandered off the chorus line of Anything Goes to take a breath of unseasonably mild springtime air.

The wet southerly section of Allie's finger would bring a down-that-a-way walk on the earthen path; the cool north side pointed out the flocked snowball blossoms, suggesting a curvaceous wedding trail; or, focusing straight ahead, the two of them could pop into the drink, that mysterious easterly route that Maben Rice, 1966-2005, took, his memory kept alive by a marker, a public-art epitaph that his friends made to highlight the man and the spot were Lake Michigan swallowed him alive and whole. This point was popular with the dog crowd, owners who slung balls out onto the water, as eager retrievers nabbed them and paddled ashore.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

George's Revenge by Russ Hicks

A bungling and remorseless career criminal challenges the faith of the prison Chaplain, who finds he can never be free of him

Present Day

The phone rang nine times before George finally reached it. He had tossed out his answering machine a few years ago, being tired of it always picking up before he could get to the phone. Caller ID kept track of who called, anyway, and he could always call back if he felt like it. What he really needed was a cell phone he could carry around with him. But after losing four of them he gave up on that idea. Can't lose a phone mounted on the wall.

This caller stayed on the line long enough for George to pick up.

"Hello, George, it's Warden Crenshaw. How are you?"

"Hello, Tom. It's good to hear your voice. It's been a long time."

"Yes, it has. Five years or thereabouts, right? Anyway, I'm calling because I thought you might like to know that Willie Lunkers passed away in his sleep last night."

Suddenly the air was sucked out of the room as old feelings George thought were long gone began to reappear. More troubling, though, were the new feelings he didn't know he had. Conflicting feelings, and he wasn't sure just what to make of them. He struggled to say something, anything.