Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Free Pass With Elvis by Mark Rigney

Jane and Tom only have eyes for each other, and maybe one or two other people, in Mark Rigney's short comedy

Four months into their marriage, Jane announced to Tom that if Elvis Presley were ever to show up at their door, he, Tom, was to leave. Moreover, he would not merely leave, but he would vanish gracefully and with astonishing speed in order to give Jane and Elvis twelve hours of uninterrupted privacy. Afterward, no questions would be asked. "If Elvis knocks," said Jane, "I get a free pass."

Since Jane made this stark, unequivocal announcement in 1990, a good thirteen years after the King had officially left the building, Tom merely chuckled and said, "Sure, hon. Twelve hours. Free pass. Go to town." He even enjoyed giving permission; it made him feel kingly himself, broadly magnanimous. I am a good man, he thought, willing to go to ridiculous lengths to please my wife.

Three years later, Jane raised Gregory Peck to Elvis' exalted position. "I like men with strong voices," she explained. "But not to worry. Just twelve hours. Free pass. Then it's back to just us. Forever and forever, in sickness and in health."

Friday, September 28, 2012

Traitor by Chiaka Obasi

A young Nigerian schoolboy wonders what has become of his Papa - and something sinister is afoot in Chiaka Obasi's criminal tale

Mama behaves strangely these days and expects me to accept that everything is alright in our house. How could I be my usual self when Papa has been away for too long? Today is the fourth day since he left for Enyimba City. He had said he was coming back the day he left. Every day, when I ask Mama, she tells me he will come back the following day. I miss Papa so much. Mama shows me her teeth, but I have long known she is not smiling. It is obvious she is not happy. At times, she pats my head playfully. But there is something awkward about the patting. I feel her hand shaking. It appears she is compelling herself to touch me. She no longer sits at the dining table to eat with me. The last time we ate together was the day after Papa travelled. It was during that lunch at the dining table that Mama's cell phone vibrated and beeped. It must have been Papa that called; I saw Mama's face brighten as she picked the phone and said, "Hello, D."

D is what she calls Papa. But that was the only thing she said, with the phone held to her ear. She did not laugh as she always does whenever Papa calls. She did not call me and ask me to speak to Papa as she always does whenever Papa calls. Her eyes widened, reminding me of Aunty Kenna's the day we saw a long black snake coiled up beside the porch. Mama raised her hand and covered her mouth, as if to stifle a scream. Then she ran to her bedroom and locked herself in. I heard her say, "D! D! Are you okay?"

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Horse by Nicholas Murray

A mysterious group of cloaked figures retrieve a dead horse for an ominous ritual in Nicholas Murray's piece of purple prose

They dredged the lake slowly and methodically. Apparently the horse had drowned there two weeks ago. It was important that the horse died naturally. It took five heaving and grunting men to drag the bloated, ugly corpse up through the mud and onto the grey embankment. One of the many hooded figures standing in the darkness leaned into my ear and croaked, "It's swollen because it's been down there so long." His sour breath wrapped around my face like the lake's own slimy fist. For a long while, each second itching like radio static, everyone stared at it, not moving. Shadowed faces watching for some sign, expectant of a reason to validate the arduous journey here. Waiting like standing stones, guarding their decaying prize.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

An Unfinished Husband by Adrian Kalil

A family man feels there is something missing from his life, and he finds it is not what he expected, by Adrian Kalil

"I'm not really sure I understand what it is you need," said Kate.

Larry looked out over the vast blue ocean that lay before him and smiled. "A new car," he said quietly.

He squinted to see beyond the spread of brown beach that lay between him and the water. The sun glared; its heat was relentless and oppressive. Larry was tired and longed for the respite of some shade and a large, cold beer. He coveted gulping it indiscreetly and enjoying a satisfying belch, but he'd given up drinking a few months back and, deferring to the moment, thought better of it. Moreover he had, of all things, begun jogging again, though usually quite slow, along the familiar beach where its firm sand met the water. Alone like this, his uninhibited mind would travel through foreign and forbidden ground.

Kate had said nothing about these ascetic changes but Larry knew it pleased her, if only in passing. For her husband to surrender something gave the woman a strange aura of stifling superiority that dispelled all remaining myth, all hope, that he was any longer the head of their household.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Unheard Melody by Muhammad Nasrullah Khan

A disillusioned writer learns a sad story about defeated ambition, by Muhammad Nasrullah Khan

The hot tea sucked me back into reality, my mind rudely awakened from frequent naps. It had recently succumbed to the habit of chasing thoughts unrelated to the topic at hand. My mind returned: "The Waste Land". I was sitting at a large wooden desk, examining the assignments of my students, but my mind was wandering elsewhere.

"Sir, your class-time has started."

A voice brought me back.

All I wanted to do was to run... far away! I wished I could write another "The Waste Land".

I had lost my enthusiasm for teaching years ago. I was merely going through the motions. I had long given up love for Chaucer or Shakespeare or Hemingway and Faulkner. My students had become nameless faces in the classroom and faceless names during grading time.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Vampire & the Dentist by Jerry W. Crews

Count Omar Oloff has sampled the blood of too many people with sugary diets, and ends up with a toothache; by Jerry Crews

My name is Omar Oloff. That is Count Oloff. I am a vampire. One of the undead who lives off the vibrant blood of living humans. I have been one for about three days. You're probably thinking the Prince of Darkness should be centuries old, but everyone has to start somewhere.

My venture into eternal darkness started with a leisurely stroll in Central Park one moonless evening. I had gone there to take in the outdoors and let my mind concentrate on some financial matters that were weighing heavy. When it was time to take my leave from the park and return to my apartment, I was viciously attacked by a vampire bat. Passersby insisted it was a large rat, but I knew, deep inside me, it wasn't. Some offered to take me to the hospital, but it was too late. What had been done was done.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Untitled 1 by Esther Mukabi

Esther Mukabi's stream of consciousness from an author with writer's block

She twisted the handle, her heart pumping, the beat throbbing in her head. As she      delete

She reached out her hand to touch the door, a knot of fear      delete

She reached for the handle, then thought sod it and went back to bed. Let him take the bloody telly.

Writer's block. My bank manager will be tossing in his bed tonight.

Confidentially Computer dear, I don't think that's unusual.

Coffee.

Cigarette.

A proper job. That's what I need. Salary. Pension scheme. Annual leave. A boss. Let's have a look at the paper. Where is the paper?

Oh.

I'm going to throttle that bloody cat. Where's the mop?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Useless by Uche Umezurike

Caje, incapacitated after a road accident, weighs up the pros and cons of working for a senior politician, by Uche Umezurike

He looked disturbed as he lay on the bed watching his family. His wife was reading Psalms, while his two children were flipping through Ebony. His boss had still not visited him, but had sent him a card and some beverages. Every other person Caje worked with had called on him. Even the spiteful secretary to his boss who felt he was more of a rival than a colleague had also visited him.

You think he would be missing you?

Caje couldn't find any reason why his boss had not yet shown up.

"Mum, Ike is teasing me," his daughter, Winnie, said.

"You started it," his son, Ike, said.

"Shush," his wife, Adaobi, said. She squeezed her husband's hand.

Caje wanted to smile at her, but an insect crawled on his face. He shook it off with a finger, and raised his head at the sound of footsteps.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Vietnam Notes by Robert Flynn

A dramatic account of Robert Flynn's harrowing experiences as a soldier in the Vietnam War

This story took place in Vietnam, but it's about any violent conflict. And it's not about me, it's about the very real nightmares we can find ourselves living if we don't reason things out for ourselves, and continue to let movies, television, and the violent fantasies of others do our thinking for us.

For the year I was there, my job mostly consisted of driving a truck and slinging sandbags. No close friends died and I never killed anyone. There is still a feeling of guilt for not having suffered "enough" even though what I experienced puts me through almost overwhelming grief sometimes for the people involved in what I saw. It's senseless, but it's almost as if by having more pain I could somehow lessen the pain of others carrying horrors that would make my memories seem like welcome relief to them. There were some who went through much more, and some who went through much less, but in the end what matters is that we try to learn from all our experiences and then use them to benefit ourselves and others.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Waiting On You by Jerry W. Crews

Jordan Collins undertakes a romantic vigil in the local mall, by Jerry W. Crews

Jordan Collins hated shopping. He especially despised the malls with all the shops and the people milling around. Since his wife of twenty-two years had passed away he had avoided them like the plague. When she was alive he rather enjoyed taking her to the stores. She delighted in spending hours at the mall. He was happy to patiently mull the time away as she browsed through a rack of clothes to find the one blouse she would take home. Now, without her, it was different. When he needed something, he would rush into the nearest shop, purchase the item, and then hastily take his leave.

Life had been lonely for the past eighteen months. His son and daughter lived in other states and had families of their own. They had tried to get him to sell his house and move in with one of them, but Jordan knew it would put an unnecessary strain on their relationships. Besides, a man in his forties had plenty of life left in him. There was no need to abandon the home and life he was accustomed to. In fact, the familiar surroundings had actually helped in healing the bitterness and feelings of loss over the death of his beloved wife.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Wasted by Jo Morgan

Detective Inspector Bextor investigates the death of a young woman, and he can't help thinking about his wife; by Jo Morgan


Detective Inspector Bextor took one last look around the scene. He was tired and he wanted to make sure he had not missed anything.

Her lean, tanned body was naked and flawless, apart from bright red bruises on her elbows and thighs. Her legs and arms were splayed and her once pretty face was bloated as she stared at the ceiling. The soles of her feet were dirty and cracked and this made him think of his wife, Suzy, who had pretty feet; soft and pink, toenails always painted pink or red.

The death had taken place in the bathroom of the luxurious hotel suite where US actor Ben DeSilva was staying. DeSilva was apparently not involved in the death but this didn't stop the paparazzi from buzzing around outside.

'We've found her purse, boss,' said DC Smith; a whippet of a woman who was doing well considering this was only her second week on the job.

'What we got?'

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Fallen God by Damien Patton

Nate is forced to face his demons when he notices God lodged in his neighbours' chimney, by Damien Patton

"Let Him go! Please?"

"No."

That was me there, the first one who spoke. Perhaps I should explain.

I found God one day, after coming home from college. The evening light was dim, grey, with streaks of red resting on the horizon, but I could clearly make out the outline of God's face on the yellow chimney, directly across from my bedroom window. I had to catch my breath a few times, steady myself on the windowsill, as I gazed out on Him. And yes, His face really did shine, like they say! It was all so strange, I know, but I was certain.

"God," I whispered, thoroughly awed and overcome. "Finally!"

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Well-To-Do by Sam Sheffler

A bleak 90's version of the American nuclear family, by Sam Sheffler

The couple sat in their car in the driveway. A torrential downpour kept them there as they waited for the real estate broker, Lynn Banyon, to show them the quaint wood framed house on the north side of route 27 in Amagansett. Even though the property was not south of the highway, the beach side, as they would have wished, they had agreed to see it on Lynn's word that it was probably the nicest within their price range north or south.

When Lynn got there she said, "I'm sorry. I had to drive the kids to the rec center for Tae Kwon Do class, and you know... with the weather and all..." Lynn had the word "mom" crayoned all over her. She was very pregnant again. The local housewife turn real estate agent wore expensive fitness sneakers, oversized overalls and smelled of children, specifically stale American cheese.