Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Traffic Lights That Time Forgot by Michael McCarthy

Mike McCarthy's character has an intimate encounter whenever she stops for a particular red light.

She became aware of him when she was waiting at the traffic lights that time forgot, so called by her because of the endless wait for green.

Now the wait couldn't be long enough.

She'd experienced something she could only describe as a presence, a not unpleasant sensation, when she stopped her car, a perception or portent, but something she instinctively knew not to fear.

A few days later at the traffic lights, she'd felt his finger gently stroking her shoulder and her entire body began to tingle.

But when the lights changed, too soon now, she'd felt the sensation slowly recede and a feeling of emptiness and disappointment engulfed her.

But he came back.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Valentine's Day by Casey Robb

Trainee physical therapist Chuck Hunt needs to get to the airport in time for a romantic holiday with his fiancée, but one of his patients interferes; by Casey Robb.

"Let's take a break." Chuck jumped up to his feet, leaving Mandy, his young patient, lying on the red vinyl exercise mat in the Physical Therapy gym of the Austin State School. He stepped around the parallel bars, threw open the double doors and stared out at the grassy grounds. Whew, he thought, I've got to get used to the perfume here - Eau de State Institution. A gust of crisp winter air smacked him in the face, loosening strands of flaxen hair along his gaunt cheeks.

"Ah, yes," he said. "A few more months and those Texas bluebonnets will be everywhere. Can't beat a hill country wedding among the oaks. This time it'll be perfect. She is perfect - Dena, the real McCoy." He knew it. Not like his last disaster.

"But first, a sneak preview of wedded wonder - a perfect Valentine's weekend in Cancún. By this time tomorrow, we'll be walking on the beach, her golden hair rippling in the breeze, her moist lips... Tomorrow night, a little beer... no, not beer, wine. Dena likes wine. Then a little... well, you know..."

Friday, December 26, 2014

It Can Be Rough Out There by Harry Downey

An art dealer, formerly a struggling shopkeeper, visits an old friend's antiques store to give him some advice; by Harry Downey.

There wasn't much left he believed in these days, but Adrian Dunnett raised his eyes and thanked his guardian angel − whoever or whatever he was - every time he went through the door of 'Ben's Den.' He recalled the moves, the stages that had taken him in just a few years from a grotty junk shop in a back-street in Salisbury, very like this dump, to his gallery in West London. The memories flooded back. Still, no need to be snooty about it, from different rungs of the ladder, both he and Ben were trying to do the same thing − sell stuff to the Great British Public and make a decent living out of it. And come to that, so was that Arab bloke from Harrods who just happened to have a bigger and posher shop than they had.

Once he'd had to do all of this to earn a crust: clocking up the miles in his old Volvo, praying he wouldn't be stopped and his tyres and brakes checked, scrabbling around looking for gear with a bit of profit left in it in all the antique shops, markets, fairs and sale rooms he could find, doing the knocking on doors bit, and then hoping he could find a customer in Joe Public, or even sometimes in desperation sell it on in the trade for more or less what he paid for it and glad to get rid.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Suitor by Beryl Ensor-Smith

A tiff between Rina and Frikkie van Wyk leads to unexpected consequences in the latest chapter of Beryl Ensor-Smith's delightful Prentburg stories.

Frikkie van Wyk was enjoying a breakfast of bacon and eggs when, with one sentence, his wife Rina killed his appetite.

"My mother's coming to visit, Frikkie."

Such was his dismay that he exclaimed, "No! Must she?"

Rina had braced herself for his response knowing that there was not much love lost between her husband and her mother, yet she could not help retorting angrily, "She's my mother Frikkie, and wants to visit her daughter and her only grandchild, so the answer to your question is yes, she must! Why can you not welcome her?"

It would be like welcoming a viper into their home, Frikkie thought morosely, but taking a look at his wife's resentful expression, wisely decided to keep quiet. It was, however, too late. Rina was thoroughly riled and he knew he was in for what he privately called 'the deep freeze'; the cold, silent treatment! When Rina was really upset it could last for up to a week.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Tiki Statue by Derek Muk

Two anthropology lecturers go on holiday in Hawaii and discover a statue with occult powers; by Derek Muk.

Avner was busy talking to a fellow passenger about meditation when Albert Taylor woke up from a deep, restful nap. He was surprised he was able to sleep at all considering the noisy engine of the plane. He checked the clock on his cell phone: Damn! Three more hours to go. His mouth was dry so he swished down water.

"So how many days is this meditation retreat that you're going to?" the fellow passenger asked.

"It's a week long thing but we're only going for three days," Avner replied. "You see, this whole trip is about trade offs. My buddy, Albert, asked me to go and I said I'd go if we could spend a few days at this retreat. I had read about it a while back and heard good things about it. Albert isn't really into meditation, though I'm encouraging him to do it more often. He basically wants to do all the touristy stuff in Honolulu. I'm fifty-fifty on that sort of thing so we made a deal. He agreed to go with me to the retreat and I agreed to do the sightseeing for the remainder of the days. I think that's fair. I haven't been to Hawaii since I was in my late teens so it'll be interesting to see all the changes."

Avner, sitting in the aisle seat, was around Taylor's age, early fifties, with shaggy salt and pepper hair, narrow eyes that looked Asian in appearance, wearing a pair of glasses.

"Oh, you'll love it," the passenger said. "Say, has anyone told you you look like Richard Gere?"

"Yes. But the ladies think I'm more handsome."

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Wrong Parrot by Russ Bickerstaff

Russ Bickerstaff's surreal story about a six foot clairvoyant parrot.

At first I wondered whether or not I had the right apartment. I actually had to check to make my key actually fit the door it had been fitting every single day for the past couple of years. It wasn't the door that was throwing me off, though, it was the parrot. It was a huge thing, bigger than life and twice as ugly in every conceivable way. I had no idea how it got there. It stood there in the hallwaymajestically with a far away look in its eye on a perch in a big, black cage. After testing the key in the door to my apartment a few more times, I opened the door, stood in my doorway and just sort of... looked at it.

There wasn't any kind of a note attached to the cage or anything like that, so I just sort of left the door open while I went to get myself a beer. (I figured that was the least that I could do at this stage. It had been a long early morning shift and the game wouldn't be on for some time.) I stood there in the doorway staring at the parrot.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Good Life by Brooke Fieldhouse

Viv strikes up a relationship with an unlikely partner, but soon discovers that he's not being entirely honest with her; by Brooke Fieldhouse.

'Is that the Bridgend Hotel, Llangollen?'

'...'

'Is Mr Morgan there, Mr R Morgan - he's known as Radio?'

'...'

'He... uses other names - Mr Martin, or Ryan?'

'...'

Viv puts the phone down.

The bastard!

He's given her the number just to increase suspense - draw out tension; knows she's planning something.

He probably hasn't even gone on his bloody climbing trip. He could be just down the road, sitting in his Discovery, waiting to pounce as she leaves the house. Thank God she managed to switch off the CCTV cameras he fitted.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Am I Missing Something? by James McEwan

James McEwan's character is beset by doubts as he buys his girlfriend an engagement ring.

Malcolm handed five hundred pounds cash to the jeweller's assistant, it was the last of his savings.

'Am I missing something?' The assistant said and started to count the notes.

'What do you mean?' Malcolm fidgeted with his wallet and looked down at the builder's dust on his boots.

'Well it's a beautiful ring, I thought you'd be smiling.'

'Aye well.' Malcolm shrugged and adjusted his heavy donkey jacket. 'I'm no sure if she's ready yet.'

'Oh I don't think any woman would turn this away.'

'It's no the ring I'm worried about.' Perhaps he shouldn't have said that, now what is this girl going to think about him? 'But what if she says no?'

Friday, December 12, 2014

I'm Not The Same Man by William Quincy Belle

To meet his new grandson, Patrick Lindsey must travel far further than he ever has before; by William Quincy Belle.

Patrick blinked a few times and stared at the ceiling. It was well lit in a soft manner, not glaring. Was he supposed to do something? Or was he supposed to lie there until somebody came for him? He didn't recall that anybody had said one way or another. Those who had already done this would be in the know, but him? Maybe it was best to wait until somebody told him what to do.

"Hello, Mr. Lindsey."

A face moved into Patrick's field of vision, as if leaning over the table.

"How are you doing?"

The face smiled at him. It was female. It was the face of a young woman. Twenty-something? She looked young, but it was sometimes hard to tell. She must be an attendant.

"I'm fine, thank you." Patrick turned his head to the left and looked at the room. It seemed modern and clean, functional and yet with a certain style. He turned to the right and saw that the woman stood beside the table leaning over him to look into his eyes.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Girl in the Cannery by M J Cleghorn

A hardworking girl who guts fish all day at the local cannery wonders how she will afford to bury her grandfather; by M J Cleghorn.

Forty dollars. A week's pay. That's what it will cost to bury the old Swede, the girl in the cannery thought to herself, picking the soft bones and skin from each shiny copper can as they spilled down the conveyer belt.

Forty dollars.

Every day - long into the summer twilight, the girl in the cannery took her place in the slime line, every day since she was thirteen years old. Every day since her mother died - dead from tuberculosis at twenty-five. Her father went to war. He never came home. She tried to remember their faces. Sometimes, when she looked into the mirror, she wondered if it was her mother's eyes she saw looking back at her, or was it her father's face. The girl and the old Swede lived alone in a small shack at the end of the boardwalk. Alone since her brother ran away to sea, lying about his age to join the Merchant Marines. He wired most of his pay home, everything except a dollar or two a month, to buy a few cigarettes and a stray bottle of beer.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Inside Chaos by Brody Lane Gregg

Aron sits on a beach with his wife when his world suddenly ends, in Brody Lane Gregg's hellish vision.

They had the beach all to their own. It was one plot of sandy paradise nestled against the cool flow of crystalline water. Heaven on earth.

All he wanted was to hold her in his arms. He reached out and caressed her tan skin. It was as soft as anything he'd ever felt. She leaned against him, wrapped in his warm embrace. She was his, only his.

"I love you," she whispered.

He pulled her down onto the sand, running his fingers through her long blond hair. His hand caressed her cheek. "I love you too."

He laid down beside her.

A blanket of stars stretched above them and the moon glistened off the placid water.

He noticed her lips tighten into a smile.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Fourth Line by Bruce Costello

Miss Mehrtens visits the first resident of a new infirmary and homeless shelter to ask him about him about his experiences in the Great War; by Bruce Costello.

On the land between the church and the doctor's house is the former sexton's lodge, in the throes of being converted into an infirmary and shelter for the homeless. Its roof is rusty and the timbers are rotting but it has a pleasant outlook with the front facing the church and the rear looking out into open country.

A young lady wearing a red short-sleeved dress and a cream cloche hat pushes aside gorse with gloved hands as she walks along the winding path from church to lodge and gingerly up the doorsteps overgrown with grass.

She steps around piles of donated clothes and bedding littering the porch, all waiting to be sorted and washed by the women of the parish. Blankets, old dressing gowns and pyjamas, boots and shoes, piled in heaps, smelling of mould and mothballs.

Inside there's a door off the hallway. The word 'dormitory' has been chalked in small, neat letters. She enters without knocking.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Baby Dolls by Mathew Roach

When Mike goes to buy a present for Kayla, the decision forces insecurities to the surface; by Mathew Roach.

Mike loosens his tie and collar button with one hand as he crosses through the double doors of Wal-Mart. He walks into the cool air and pauses for a moment, taking in the calming breeze. For a second, the defeated the look on his face lifts. He closes his eyes. Then his iPhone rings. Mike sighs as he fumbles in his suit jacket's breast pocket a moment before he finally gets hold of it. He takes it out without looking at the screen, answers it and says, "Yes, dear, I'm at the store."

"Good," comes his wife's voice from the other line, clearly annoyed, "it's about damn time. What's taking you so long?"

Mike pauses in irritated silence.

"You're going to miss everyone sing 'Happy Birthday' to Kayla if you don't hurry."

Grabbing his temples Mike says, his words having a bite to them, "I know dear, but I'd be able to get out of here faster if you would stop calling to remind me I'm late!"

"I'm sorry," she says, "there's just a lot going on here and I don't want you to miss it."

Deflated, Mike says, "I know. I'm hurrying, I promise. Love you."

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Redemption Song 1776 by Ceinwen Haydon

Ceinwen Haydon imagines an ancient tale of tragedy, loss and religious redemption.

I shut the front door quietly, hunching against the freezing rain. Snow would not be long in coming this night I'd wager. The shower glistened in the lamplight at the end of the garden path and I pulled up the hood of my cape. I walked passed the closed shops, still bright, redolent with the colours of the winter festival. The icy dampness surged into my shoes each time my foot pressed on a rocking paving stone: I misjudged all too often, and cursed roundly.

I went out that night to fulfil a promise. One made a year since, when I knelt with the ragtag and bobtail congregation that gathers on this sacred eve. My senses were assaulted by the stench of damp tweed, cinnamon, stale drink, goose fat, flatulent emissions and lavender, as I knelt to pray. I huddled gratefully in their midst, warming my poor perished body against the heat of the convivial herd.

That night I had no front door, no inside to enter from outside, no matter how cruel the elements. I had returned from sea, to this small Northumbrian town, intending to keep a promise to my lass. My eye had had an optimistic gleam, as I strode on with nuptials on my mind. Presents from the orient lay in my mariners' sack. Celebrations would burst forth, in the depth of darkness, at the turning of the year.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Deception by Beryl Ensor-Smith

A bachelor moves into the quiet drop of Prentburg with the sole aim of capturing a rich wife; by Beryl Ensor-Smith.

Before Klaus van Dyk arrived in the dorp, he had done his homework carefully. It was by no means a random choice; he had given careful thought as to where he was most likely to find a rich widow or spinster who could keep him in the style to which he would like to become accustomed. He was tired of scraping by and realised that his greatest asset was his good looks. It was the only thing of any worth that his useless, long dead parents had given him. His father was shiftless and his mother a drunk. Klaus had learned to fend for himself at an early age. It was a dog-eat-dog world and he had been the underdog long enough!

Klaus was not given to sentimentality and prided himself on his pragmatism. He knew when to voice opinions and when to obfuscate, and realised that in persuading the right woman to take him on, he had to tread carefully.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Tormentors by Stanley Wilkin

Stanley Wilkin's horrific glimpse into the inhuman violence of war.

The sun flashed into his eyes as he peered out of the foliage. He tightened his grip on his rifle. He moved his head back into the shadows sinking slowly once more into the copious fern. He was sick of war. His friends lay in the dust a mile down the road, their many wounds saturated with heaps of busy feeding flies. How many friends had he left behind in such a condition?

“They’re around here somewhere.”

The voice was near, maybe in the nearby copse.

“I’m sure I hit one. At least one.”

It was an old man’s voice.

“Where is he then, if you shot him? Where is he?” Another exclaimed irritably. “Just like you. You thought you’d hit him. Always claiming you hit someone or other.” The man now sounded angry.

“Hey, don’t take it out on me. I’m telling you I hit him.”

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Konichiwa, Mr. Miyashita by Gary Ives

An ungrateful Baby Boomer rants about his parents boring stories about their past; by Gary Ives.

I suppose just about everyone of my generation, that's us Boomers, would admit that his parents had it rougher. But so what? Mom and Dad both grew up on farms during the depression. Instead of heading to college after high school Dad was drafted two days after his wedding and sent off to the war someplace over in the Pacific. Mom worked on her folk's farm. Yeah, yeah those tough times with all that hard work and privations; they're such a big deal now. That war, how long did it last? Four years? Whoop dee doo! But the way I see it theirs is the donkey work generation. We're the smart generation. I'll put my money on smarts every time.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Ordinary Average Guy by Jim Bartlett

Jim Bartlett's character Lee makes small talk with a friend about a visiting politician, but he has something to hide.

Lee slips out of the car and stretches from the long ride under a sky that looks like rain. Finding a dry spot on the cracked asphalt, he leans his wrapped package against the back door of the car and works his hand trying to get some feeling back. He glances over at Frazier, still behind the wheel listening to the radio.

Damn news. He'd heard enough of those reports over and over again on the trip here to last a lifetime.

He takes a step away from the car and looks around. From where he stands he notes the employee parking lot to be only half full, but it's still early. And it's a Friday.

"Gonna be a big day today," Frazier says, finally stepping out.

Lee shrugs, says nothing. He watches Frazier move to the front, kick a foot back against the bumper, and light a cigarette.

"Not sure why that asshole is comin' through these parts, ain't no one here gonna vote for him no way."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Maintaining Appearances by Michael C. Keith

When Hank dreams his deceased friend is calling him from the grave, he decides to take action in Michael C. Keith's silly story.

 I wander in the ways of (dead) men,
Alike unknown and unknowing.
- Robert Burns

Like most everyone else, Hank Capron had an occasional nightmare. Lately, however, they had become more common and taken on a more personal and intense nature, as they centered on his longtime friend, Jacob Howell, who had died three years earlier.

Normally, his dreams about his close buddy dealt with events from their mutual pasts, such as the many trips they'd taken together, gatherings with close friends, games at Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium, and similar happenings. In other words, nothing particularly out of the ordinary. In fact, pretty mundane stuff.

Over the past week, however, Hank had dreamed that his always-dapper friend was talking to him from his grave. For five consecutive nights now, he had awakened in a cold sweat after dreaming of standing over Jacob's grave and hearing his voice beckon him. The message was the same each time, a plea to dig him up so he could make a crucial appointment. The otherworldly entreaty remained with him during his waking hours.

"Please, Hank, get me out of here. I must get somewhere. It's very important and can't be put off any longer!"

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Water Baby by Jane Percival

Jane Percival's creepy story of an orphan girl whose strange behaviour and affinity for water grow gradually more acute as she grows up.

Zoe was an odd little girl, there was no question of that. From the day that she first joined the family - a small scrap of a child with a shock of black hair - she was different. She had such a grave way of looking at the world. Her aunt, uncle and cousins would take turns to try to make her smile, but she would just look back at them neutrally. When she was a toddler, she was content to play by herself, although she did play alongside other children if she had to. And it didn't go unnoticed that she had a habit of staring at people, watching. Jo would often look up and catch her gaze.

Zoe was a collector. In itself, that wasn't unusual. Her father had collected those cardboard coasters that they have in bars, and her mother's childhood stamp collection was still up in the attic. But Zoe collected round river stones and had a pile of small twigs that she'd found somewhere. She'd spend ages sorting the stones and rearranging the twigs into different shapes. When not playing with the twigs, she'd bind them up in her old baby blanket, the one she'd been wrapped in on the day she was rescued.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Sea of Trees by Greg Leader Cramer

Greg Leader Cramer's moving flash about a schoolboy trying to cope with the stigma of having a dead mother.

"Take it back." I've got Pank in a headlock, his head hovering over the cracked and dirty toilet bowl. Our faces are inches apart, which seems weirdly intimate. He's struggling now with everything he's got but he can't get free.

"She was a whore and you're a -" I don't give him a chance to finish. I yank the lever and shove his head into the bowl. He tries to shout but just chokes on the filthy water. The other kids go quiet. I let him up on the count of five Mississippi.

"Take. It. Back." I brace for another flush but then my collar is yanked across the cloakroom and Mr Leighton is yelling at us, at everyone. Pank's face is stained blue from the disinfected water and a small puddle forms at his feet. He is out of breath and panting like a greyhound. I realise I am too. Mr Leighton stands in between us, barking orders, but I don't hear him. The other kids drift away. Fun's over.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

River Cats! by Jonathan Danielson

When the levee bursts and floods Jess and Scott's neighbourhood, they welcome the tragedy as an opportunity to be the centre of attention - but how much suffering is too much? By Jonathan Danielson.

When the levees for the Delta and American River burst that morning, Jess and Scott laughed. "At least they bought their house on short-sale," they said, before gathering everything they could, water seeping through their doors and rising up their legs.

"Should've listened to FEMA!" Scott joked, carrying photo albums upstairs, the fact that they paid eighty-five thousand under asking price putting in perspective that black mold wouldn't be as expensive as it could have been.

"But who knew!" Jess laughed, following with cans of food.



Before Katrina, when the Army Corps of Engineers determined the levees bursting in New Orleans was the number one potential disaster facing the US, people accused the Corps of being Debbie Downers and buzz-kills. Something like that would never happen, they argued. This was the Big Easy. The city of Mardi Gras.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Finding Out by Ceinwen Haydon

Ceinwen Haydon's character looks forward to a lad's holiday in Spain with his housemate, but unexpected tensions roil under the surface.

I open one eye, squinting as the streams of sunlight flood through the gap between my curtains. I get up on autopilot, stretching exultantly before yanking them open. The warmth of the sun hits my sleep fuddled face, and I remember, today's the day. Finally, Saturday morning: holiday time, Spain awaits!

I look in the mirror, I look pale and knackered. That's a harsh reality for a twenty-two year old. My hair is wild and out of control, like an Irish werewolf. I pull a face, stick my tongue out, then bare my teeth. Bring it on: Viva Espagna.

I am desperate for a break. I work too hard, burning the candle at both ends. Sleep is a luxury. Two years into my media degree at college, and working twenty-five hours a week at the Indi Cinema to keep body and soul together (whilst still getting into a shitload of debt). I never seem to stop, except on occasional Friday nights when I go out with some mates after work. A few beers, then bed, I'm hardly grooving through as a dissolute student: chance would be a fine thing.

Friday, November 7, 2014

What the Creek Carries Away by Miranda Stone

Miranda Stone's powerful story about cousins who meet twenty years after a terrible misunderstanding changed the course of their lives.

I expected my grandfather's house to be empty a week after his funeral, but I spotted a figure sitting on the top porch step, and as I eased my car closer, a spasm seized my gut.

Twenty years, and my cousin still looked the same. Long brown hair that refused to hold a curl, hazel eyes set deep in her pale face. Three years my junior, she'd be thirty-five now. Despite the morning chill, she wore a tank top and denim shorts. Her feet were bare.

I swallowed hard. My unfamiliar vehicle drew her attention, and I was tempted to hunker down and keep driving. The back of my neck prickled with heat.

"No," I muttered. "You won't run me off this time."

I parked the car on the street and cut the engine. For a long moment, I didn't move, just watched her through the window. The sound of rushing water penetrated the silence. A bold creek traversed the property behind Granddad's house, and I wondered how high the water had risen after last night's heavy rain.

As I got out of the car, Alma didn't wave or move to rise. I scratched the stubble on my jaw, wishing I'd shaved that morning, and then berated myself for wanting to appear more presentable.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Resurrection Hardware by Deb Smith

At her sister's funeral, Marion Ward reflects on their suffocatingly conservative family and prepares to deliver her sister's controversial last wishes; by Deb Smith.

After a few short readings and one soloist of average height, Reverend Summers introduced the next item on the funeral program. It was called "The Healing Miracles". The lights dimmed in the small chapel and we saw what appeared to be the opening credits for a movie. There was a wide shot of what I took to be something generically Holy Land-ish, a rocky desert scene with a village of sun bleached houses. Then the camera cut to a small group wearing hooded robes and sandals walking slowly through the village gate. The camera zoomed in to reveal the familiar blue-eyed bearded Jesus of my childhood. He was followed by several, I'm guessing twelve, apostolic looking men and one woman. The woman was tall with rich auburn hair. That woman was my sister, Vic.

Almost in unison the assembled guests sat up rail straight and held their breath. There was some low muttering from somewhere behind me, however Jesus was not deterred by our surprise and proceeded to cure the blind and the lame with my sister at his elbow. The whispers became almost audible and there was a cloud of humid tension in the room. As the film concluded, I snuck a peek at the faces to my left and right. Midwesterners can be hard to read when it comes to these things, but I could see a mixture of grief, agitation and disapproval.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Ladder of Success by William Ogden Haynes

Larry Leonard takes a break from University to visit Colorado, but his summer doesn't go as planned; by William Ogden Haynes.

It was the year that Larry Leonard was taking a break from Northern Michigan University for the summer semester. He had no classes to take for that term and he looked forward to seeing his parent's new home in Colorado. Larry Leonard's father was a Major recently stationed at Ent Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, home of the Air Force Academy. Colorado, Larry imagined, was a lot like California. They sold 3.2% beer to eighteen year olds, the women looked like tanned surfer girls, the weather was sunny and everyone was cool and laid back. It was a far cry from the cold weather in the upper peninsula of Michigan where the girls were mostly pale-skinned Scandinavian types with Canadian accents. Larry would look out across Lake Superior and listen on the car radio as the Beach Boys sang, I wish they all could be California girls. But absent spending the summer in Malibu, Colorado would be the next best thing. When the boys in the dorm found he was taking a road trip out west, they lined up to give Larry twenty dollars each for a case of Coors beer which was not then sold in Michigan. Somehow Coors had increased value just because it was unobtainable in Northern Michigan and Larry took only enough orders to fill his trunk on the return trip. In the fall, Larry's popularity would soar among those who received a case of that Rocky Mountain spring water.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Binary Code by Jim Bartlett

When Seymour Dunston rescues his old-school adding machine, the network conspires to reward him; by Jim Bartlett.

"Are you still using that confounded adding machine?"

Seymour Dunston glances up from his work coming nose to nose with his manager, Morris Fretterhorn, a younger fresh-face racing up the fast track of the executive ranks of Myes, Zerr, and Lee, a highly respected and long standing accounting firm in San Francisco. As he studies that angry look, his vision fills - just for just the briefest of moments - with the scene from the old Warner Brother cartoons where Daffy Duck or Elmer Fudd become so infuriated that their face turns beet-red, steam jetting from their ears to the sound of a train whistle. And his mouth flirts with a smile.

"Have there been complaints about my calculations? Audits on my returns?" His retort only seems to work the young man into more of a frenzy.

"Mr. Dunston, you don't seem to fathom what it is we're after here." He points an accusing finger. "You see... it's not the accuracy or the quality that I question." Fretterhorn puts his hands on his hips and begins an agitated pace along the side of his desk. The room takes on a deadly quiet, all eyes intent on the skinny manager.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Reaching for the Sky by Mitchell Waldman

A guilt-ridden mother must face telling her paralysed son that his only brother is dead, but first she wants the truth about his past; by Mitchell Waldman.

She didn't know what to think anymore. The question went beyond whether her son had meant to rob the man, whether he had been harassing the man on the subway, whether he had just been going along with his friends, or whether he deserved what he had gotten. How many times had she shaped and reshaped these questions in her head over these last twelve years, to no avail? No, it went to the larger question of whether there was a God, for how could He, if He existed, let her and her son suffer like this, for so long, no matter what he'd done? Or was this the living hell she'd heard some speak of?

It had happened three days before Christmas. Oh, they were going to have a good Christmas that year, Betty and her sons, Bradley and Noah. No matter that Sam had up and left for good six months before. Who needed him, anyway, with all his talk about all the money he was going to make. She didn't want any money the way he meant to make it. She wanted a clean life, no drugs in her boys' lives, a straight life. And that's what they'd had. She'd gotten herself a job at the grocery down the street. Bradley had gotten a job at a shoe store, part time, after school, and even Noah, only fourteen, had helped out delivering Sunday papers with old white-haired Mr. Sanderson down the road.

Bradley had wanted to be a baseball player, a musician, a scientist, he'd wanted so many pie-in-the sky dreams.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Gluttonie by Tyler Tristao

Tyler Tristao's bizarre and gross story of a carer who feels guilty for enabling the extreme obesity of a 1000lb man.

I'm seeing the most atrocious and sickening event of my entire life. I feel the weight of dread in my gut, physically ill. How could this have happened?

"One thousand and two pounds," the doctor announced in a deadpan voice. "I'm concerned about massive generalized edema in Mr. Hale," I heard him say from some place far away. "Other than that, the vitals have remained consistent. As per my instructions, I'll omit my professional advice. Will there be anything else?"

I couldn't in my wildest imagination think of anything else the doctor could do for my ward and I. The little tight frown on the old man's face appeared in lieu of a formal goodbye. I'm over here trying not to vomit.

"Did you call Conquistadors?" The one-thousand-and-two-pound-man asked me after the doctor quietly left. We are in a large room, which is dwarfed by the profound form of Philip Hale. Around us the space is mostly cluttered with unused medical equipment and a seventy-two inch flat screen television in front of the place where this obese man lives his entire life. Beneath his oozing form is a specialized couch. "I gave you the order already. They should be here any minute. And get me some sodas when you go back into the kitchen."

Friday, October 24, 2014

Programmable Love by Bremer Acosta

Bremer Acosta's story about Gillen, a neuro-bot suffering an existential crisis, and her human boyfriend Jon, who must confront the prejudices of his friends.

Part 1

Gillen gazed into the plasma-mirrors coiled inside her dome apartment. They bent all the contours of her body, mirroring her flesh in crosshatchings of light. She stood in front of the mirror, naked, pale and veined in her legs and arms, with gears turning under her skin like cockroaches crawling under a rug.

Her mind lingered into a weird daydream as she stared. Is this neuro-bot really supposed to be her, this creature, this thing, compiled of the ghosts of human data, the replicas of their past? She felt alien in the bathroom, wishing for something she couldn't quite put into words.

Gillen didn't feel the same way the humans told her she should feel, as a duplicate of their humanity, as an afterthought of their existence. She felt real when she saw the gleam around her purple irises, the faint hairs on her legs, the pockmarks lining her back, the bumps crowning her nipples. And her stomach looked molded out of clay, capable of being shaven down to its abdominals or expanded out into a simulated pregnancy. All of this, everything she was made of, she thought she knew already, without speaking, with only one glance.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Women Are So Much More Interesting To Men (Than Men Are To Women) by Charlotte Hayden

Charlotte Hayden's stream of consciousness about being a woman and wanting - or perhaps wanting to be - a man.

When my Modernism and Modernity lecturer first stroked my leg I thought, I'll go with it. When my best friend Eloise told me he did the same with her I thought, are you kidding me? I had predicted a lengthy, passionate affair with a 40 year old married professor and instead, after he'd finished with Eloise, he left the university and moved to France. I heard his wife ran off with another woman. Good, I thought. Generally I try not to be bitter. But sometimes it's hard not to indulge myself in some healthy Schadenfreude. Only this morning I couldn't help but take de-light in discovering that a girl I went to school with was left at the altar and the man in question has run off with more than a handful of her money. I remember (at the tender age of 15) when this same girl told me (among other things) that I can't look good in a bikini because my boobs are so small. Now that I am older and less afraid I may well find this girl's ex fiancé and ask him politely to play with my nipples and have sex with me on the beach.



Sometimes when my period is due or when I'm watching a comedy gala and struggle to find any women or when I have a smear test and the nurse tells me that I remind her of a 'little doll' while I lie there with my legs spread in front of her face, I think about what it would be like to be a man.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Girls - Beautiful - Girls by Arthur Davis

A New York City journalist reluctantly takes up a story about a seedy old dance hall and its nubile dancing girls; by Arthur Davis.

The Broadway bus pulled up at 48th Street across from the blinking yellow sign announcing, "Girls - Beautiful - Girls." I got off.

The Tango Palace, in the heart of a Times Square, swarming with platform-heeled hookers, Three-card Monty sharks, drug dealers hawking salvation on every corner and police who were often too willing to look the other way, was the oldest dance hall in New York City.

It was 1988. A leap year. Urban blight was still a national issue.

A tired black and white photo of a girl in her early twenties wearing black panties and bra filled the weathered display case. I pulled open the door and was greeted with an endless slide of stairs. I made my way down with characteristic hesitation.

"Twenty dollars," the cashier announced. An empty coffee cup overflowing with crushed cigarette butts sat precariously at her elbow.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Over But Not Out by Bruce Costello

A girl starts work in a care home and finds herself dreaming about the past life of one of the men in her care; by Bruce Costello.

Mr Smythe was a skeleton with staring eyes. Mumbled sounds came from his mouth, but no words. His right arm shook as he reached out to the caregiver. She took his hand and pressed his fingers, which were twisted into claws.

Mary was a petite woman, just out of her teens, with smiling lips and the frown of a thinker.

"Just need to turn you over and clean you up," she said. Then she faced away and dry retched.

After throwing the sheet into the laundry trolley in the hall and helping him lean back against the pillows, Mary sat with Mr Smythe and held his hand.

The sun was low in the autumn sky. It entered the room through a gap in the curtains and lit up a portrait on the wall across from the bed. It showed an officer in a blue uniform, with a flowing moustache, a square chin and piercing eyes. Wow, she thought. What a hunk.

"Is that you in the photo?"

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Rebellion by Beryl Ensor-Smith

When an overbearing city minister takes over the local church for three months in the quiet drop of Prentburg, Sarie rebels and decides to take a break from Christianity; by Beryl Ensor-Smith.

When the residents of Prentburg first heard of the Interfaith Initiative, some were supportive of the idea while others were dubious. Among those less enchanted was the Dominee's wife, Anna. The wording of the Directive from the mother church in Pretoria offended her.

"Listen to this, Hendrik," she said to her husband, reading from the Directive, "'The Council of the Mother Church feels that it would benefit both the communities of small country towns and those in the cities to have an exchange of Dominees for a three month period. This would enable city congregations to experience the more relaxed attitude of a country Dominee, while the village congregations would gain greatly through exposure to the disciplined, academic approach of city Dominees.' Doesn't that strike you as being patronising in the extreme? It makes congregations in dorps such as ours sound like a bunch of ill-bred yokels! And how about the 'academic approach'? Where do they think you got your degree from; a lucky packet?"

Her husband laughed good-naturedly. "Ah, don't take it personally, Anna. It will probably be good for all of us to have a change. Don't you fancy a few months of more sophisticated living?"

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Strike Not by Scott Archer Jones

A crew of car crushers out by the Rio Grande witness a scene of domestic abuse; by Scott Archer Jones.

Las esperanzas engordan pero no maintienen. Hope fattens, but it doesn't keep you alive.

It turned noon as David Alvarez raised the roof of the crusher. With short little explosive sounds, the Rambler lying in the crusher's bed released tension from its new shape, as if it tried to pop its bones back into its joints. The compressor topped up its pressure, and when the gauge showed right for a fast restart, David turned off the diesel.

He removed his earmuffs and hardhat, and the sound in the air flipped from deadness to singing quiet. At that moment, in the time between the crush and the removal of the metal block that had been a car, things felt preternaturally frozen. Then a woman cried out.



They had parked the crusher in a byway beside the river road, on a tributary that fed down east into the Rio Grande. The little river carried only snowmelt just now, fast but thin, quick and not yet quiet as it would be in summer. Cottonwoods stood up shaggy and gray on all sides, the emigrants who had survived in a dry canyon by burrowing their feet into the river.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Secrets of the Night by Arthur Davis

A cleaner plagued by secrets from his past listens to the confessional radio show broadcast each night from the eighteenth floor of the building he cleans; by Arthur Davis.

Meyer Holbein pushed his broom down the partially lit corridor as he had done for the last dozen years. It was a simple task, something he was uniquely qualified to tend. He was a tall, stooped man in his early seventies whom the building maintenance department preferred to believe was ten years younger. Meyer was gifted with large hands, powerful shoulders and a dogged diligence that was best applied to repetition.

Meyer was not a bright man, not by conventional standards. He was smart in the sense that he understood the difference between right and wrong and practiced the ancient art of integrity with an uncommon zeal. He worked his own responsibilities and paid little attention to the complaints and cunning of those around him.

As he made his way down the hall, voices danced and flowed in his head. Echoes and images from his childhood in Odessa, Russia, and how he and his brother had fled the pogroms with their uncle who was lost in a ferocious blizzard, seeped up from his subconscious. How both young boys fought hunger and privation to get to the western borders of Germany on the eve of the Second World War was a miracle worth recounting.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Levitation of Mrs. Caruso by Lyon Kennedy

After her husband's death, a lonely and crotchety old lady struggles to face her prejudices and rediscover her will to live; by Lyon Kennedy.

The shadow of approaching sunset lingered by the bay. It then slipped through the sliding door of 99 Battersea Avenue, crept over a stolid walnut buffet, muted a persnickety red Persian carpet and slid atop all four feet eleven inches and ninety-nine pounds of Sylvia Caruso.

Every evening at the same time, though of course not the same time as she was reminded by the ship's clock on the mantel, dusk arrived. On occasion, it fell herky-jerky, like the curtain of a children's stage production, as she nodded off to sleep.

In the room, above the buffet, hung a multi-colored map of Italy; opposite, a shelf supporting the Virgin Mary, flanked by two smaller statues of Saint Joseph and Saint Robert.

Mrs. Caruso said her prayers in the morning, took the Eucharist weekdays when Sister Margaret came to visit, and said her prayers in the evening before she had a little something to help her sleep. She preferred Frangelico or B&B, but settled for sherry on the weekends because she suspected her helpers helped themselves once she nodded off.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Idle Feet Do the Devil's Work by Ray Charbonneau

A group of runners are in for a strange season when one of them makes a deal with a shoe company and starts winning every single race; by Ray Charbonneau.

I was hanging on the rear of the lead pack in fifth place and thinking about when to make my move as we passed the 9-mile mark of the Jones 10-Miler. It was the first race in this year's Grand Prix, and I wanted to get off to a good start, but I knew that if I waited, I'd be out-kicked at the line. My only hope of picking off a runner or two before the finish was to start to push first, and count on my strength to grind down their speed.

Just then, a runner in an unfamiliar red singlet zoomed by. My head snapped up in surprise, throwing me off stride for a step. The singlet belonged to Mark Refner, who I knew from Division 3 cross-country. What was he doing putting on a charge? I never had to worry about Mark when we raced in college.

At the head of the pack, Al Frentist and Burt Bunker felt Mark coming and picked up their pace. Soon the three of them broke away, leaving the rest of us to fight over fourth place. I managed to catch one person before we reached the school parking lot, finishing in fifth place.

After I crossed the line, I jogged over to where Al and Burt were standing. They were looking at Mark, who was talking with some fat guy wearing a red nylon tracksuit and smoking a cigar.

"What happened there?" I asked. "I figured one of you guys was going to win."

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Toontown Riots of 1949: A Critical and Historical Analysis by David Perlmutter

David Perlmutter's essay on how racial tension between humans and the "toon" community flared into violence in 1940s Hollywood.

Introduction

Though much has been written about inter-racial conflict in the United States, particularly that between Caucasians and African-Americans in urban areas, other areas, for a variety of complex and uncertain reasons, have never been nearly as well documented. One prominent example of this is the continuing strife-filled relationship between "normal" human beings and a class of beings that is loosely termed "cartoon characters", due to an inaccurate assumption on the part of historians related to the belief that these beings existed only within the frames of the animated films which were their primary means of exposure to the wider world. Such an assumption entirely and patently ignores the fact that these beings existed for thousands of years before the invention of the animated film, as well as denying those placed under the label the intelligence and resourcefulness they have and the respect they deserve. As a consequence, while it is largely under-documented within the folds of academic research, this still ongoing conflict remains a potent and divisive force in American life which has shaped it drastically in ways few "normal" people have even attempted to try to understand. One prominent example of this is the Toontown Riots of 1949. Begun as an act of vengeance against the Los Angeles Police Department for their continued and hostile persecution of the "toon" race, this destructive dispute caused considerable damage, not only to the city of Los Angeles itself, but also to the incredibly fragile psyche of the "toon" race as a whole, which, coupled with the recent introduction of television, shattered fragile coalitions within the group and created tensions that continue to exist within the community to this day.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Bad Positive by Feyisayo Anjorin

Banjo Johnson decides to end his promiscuity in favour of his dream woman Bukky Modele, but a former fling throws a spanner in the works; by Feyisayo Anjorin.

You loved your reputation as a ladies' man. Your lovers loved it too. They loved it for as long as your lies lasted. About a dozen girls had thought you were the only one for them, and they for you; until they came face to face with the shocking truth. Many hearts have been broken. But these things happen. These issues of the heart separate the women from the girls. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger; so they say.

They also say that change is the only permanent thing. So, you got tired of your reputation and decided to change. You had it in mind before you met Bukky Modele. She helped with the determination, no doubt about that. You have been seeing yourself in a different light after meeting her. Getting the pretty girls had been easy for you; loving only one and ignoring the countless others could be difficult.

The difficult became the appealing; you were sure it was time for change, and the girl you thought was the one in a million, worth growing old with, was Bukky Modele.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

My Love of the North Country by Ceinwen Haydon

Ceinwen Haydon's character gets a letter from an old boyfriend who broke her heart.

This beautiful summer's evening should wrap me in its arms and make me feel complete: starry sky, warm wind and gentle dunes. I should be happy to be here, away for several days with no obligations. Away in Northumberland, staying by the coast I love the best; lingering by the wild, unpeopled ocean's edge.

I should be happy, but I am not. All I can think about is the letter, the one that came last week. He, Tom that is, wants to come back. Tom wants our life together to be reprised. The words scramble my brain, making it impossible to concentrate, or to submit to gentle mindfulness in this lovely place.

I'd thought that Tom was my alter ego, my soul mate. After years of rollercoaster relationships, the ups and downs of frenetic pairings, lust making, disillusionment and separating, I'd been ready at the age of 35 to be steadier, to explore more deeply. To maybe have a child. Enter Tom: the man who sat next to me on the train from London to Newcastle, a random meeting as I headed north to Hadrian's Wall. I'd planned a week's walking. We talked; he made me laugh and I spent the week in bed; lying prone in in his small flat in Jesmond. No, not having wanton, orgasmic sex, but being nursed to health by this apparently kind and gentle man. Somewhere around Doncaster, a fever had broken, and influenza surfaced. I'd left London strong and purposeful, and arrived in November's North Country as a trembling, perspiring child with fetid breath.

Friday, September 26, 2014

No Good Deed by James Shaffer

Hank waits out a storm in his caravan and thinks back over his romantic life with Alice; by James Shaffer.

I put on my flashers and pulled the caravan over to the side of the road hoping to wait out the worst of the storm. I kept the engine running but silenced the wipers. Heavy raindrops pounded the cab's roof like a tenor drum chorus and rainwater zigzagged in rivulets down the windscreen. Intermittent flashes of lightning cast shadows that glistened and slithered over the cab's interior. Even in the darkness between, I knew the silent serpents were still moving. It put me in a tribal mood. I caught my face in the rear view mirror. At that moment, I could have put on war paint, run naked in the road and sounded a Commanche war cry. It felt like that kind of night, filled with a mysterious mist and windswept streaks of rain. I switched on the headlamps and through the slant of sparkling raindrops, watched the barren road disappear in darkness beyond the reach of any light. The driving rain and darkness gave me pause. I was safe and dry inside the cab. I smiled at what I'd contemplated as I fired up the wipers and pulled back out onto the road.

Civilization was once again spared, I mused. The sight of me running naked in the rain would no doubt have been perceived as a setback, an irreparable fault in the space-time continuum. It would have set everything just a bit askew. Better to spare the future, unwitting generations.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Rooming House by Fred Skolnik

Fred Skolnik's character can't remember where he lives in this unsettling tale, with echoes of Kafka and Karinthy's Metropole (originally appeared in 34th Parallel, no. 4, Sept. 2008).

I got back late in the afternoon. Cars were double-parked in a roped-off area in front of the building but there were no cars parked at the curb, which I found odd. A teenage girl came by on a skateboard and at the end of the street veered to the left and continued down a side street rather than continuing straight ahead as I had expected her to do. I went inside and climbed the stairs. My room was on the second floor but when I got there I didn't recognize the door so I went up another flight of stairs thinking that the second floor might be the one above it, the ground floor not being counted, but I didn't find my room there either and as the doors had no numbers on them I was at a loss and couldn't understand what had happened. Some of the doors were open and the rooms seemed larger than mine and men were coming out of a bathroom that was also extraordinarily large, as big as the rest rooms at a public beach. I went back down and saw one of the spinsters who ran the rooming house in the sitting room with a mother and child who must have been boarders. I went to the front desk and told the woman there that I had forgotten where my room was and she directed me to a tall girl behind the desk who looked for my name in a big ledger.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fifth Period Stats by Kaila Allison

Kaila Allison's frightening insight into the mind of a psychopathic schoolboy.

So, it's Eric here, duh, coming at you from fifth period Stats class where I am - you guessed it - bored as all Holy Hell. I don't get why people do this shit. Looking at the fat, broad back of Mr. L as he scribbles formulas on the chalkboard makes me sick. That globby fold of skin at his neck is not a pretty picture. Bet you he hasn't been laid, well, ever. Poor bastard. Gave me an A last quarter, can you believe it? And I didn't even show up to all the tests and everything. Just told him my sweet old doggy-woggy died and I'm suffering from post-traumatic depression so couldn't come to class. Bastard will believe whatever shit comes out of my mouth cuz he's secretly in love with me, that fairy. I'm really a good student when I want to be.

Perked my head up when one of the questions that the old L gave us had been about suicide rates and amount of homework given at school. Wow, these profs really trying to tell us something, are they? Raising a generation of zombie-children, are they? Suckling on books like they're food or something. Lotta stuff you can learn from books, like how to build pipe bombs and how to get guns when you're underage. But we don't read those kinds of books in school. We read shit like Shakespeare. That guy's pretty smart, with all his puns and stuff. Quite like his bloody scenes too, like all those deaths at the end of Hamlet. I like when Ophelia drowns herself. But the profs don't linger on that because they have deadlines to meet with the state.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Traditions by Kendra Beauchesne

Kendra Beauchesne's touching flash about a ten year old bonding with her mother while fixing a car.

I remember sitting and listening to my mom talk about that car. Her eyes would light up as she spoke. Her father was a television repairman, but he had an addiction to fixing cars. He bought it used. More like very damaged. She would talk about how she would spend hours in the yard with him. He taught her everything he knew about cars, and the proper tools to use. She also learned about life. They would talk for hours as he worked.

After she found my grandfather dead in his home, the car and house was given to her. She doted on that car. I think perhaps because it was her fondest memory of him. We didn't have much money, but when something would need fixing on that car she did everything she could to fix it. One summer afternoon we were headed home from the grocery store, and smoke began to come from under the dark blue hood. Trying to shift gears, it sputtered. A loud grinding sound emanated from under the car. She turned to me and said, "Want a pound while I'm grinding?" She laughed so hard. I was only ten at the time so I didn't get the joke.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Let America Happen by Feyisayo Anjorin

Feyisayo Anjorin's Nigerian character sees his girl stolen away by bald little Jassy Akanmi, and becomes convinced that he needs to visit America to win her back.

So your favourite girl did something that shocked you and surprised you. The girl you loved like a love song. There was a time when you thought of your future together; unbridled thoughts of a rosy future that made you heady. You didn't listen to the people who told you with solemn or stern expressions to take it easy with this love thing. After all you were an idealistic youth and it was far easier to gloss over issues and put a positive spin on them than it was to listen to the advice of people who seemed to think that every hopeful person would turn out as miserably as they've turned.

But you felt like a loser when your girlfriend did the unexpected. It would have been more bearable if she had not left you for Jassy Akanmi, the one that was called baldlilthing in your days in secondary school because his small head was always shaved, and he was the shortest in the class. You knew him before he travelled to the US. You remembered his worn-out and oversized shirts, and his ankle length trousers. He was usually in his bathroom slippers with his feet covered with a brown film of dust. There was a time when his feet had cracks of dryness. Baldlilthing was one of the most pathetic sights in your town until he travelled to America.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Alexandrian Shift by Gary Ives

Gary Ives imagines a world in which Alexander the Great returns as an Olympic god in 1955 and uses television to spread tolerance and peace throughout the world.

As Alexander the Great lay dying in Babylon gods were summoned to Mt. Olympus by Zeus. "Well there you have it. We imbue this mortal with a healthy dollop of our better attributes: strength, wit, an array of intelligences, and this is what it comes to. Before Alexander diverse nations collapsed as barley to the scythe, and then as conqueror he became loved by the vanquished. Like a welcome spring rain, knowledge, tolerance, and peace descended upon all. Hitherto the only thing these idiots had ever understood was brutal conquest, yet when we provide them the conqueror of the ages, a conqueror to teach them compassion and respect for differences, the best they can do is to grumble, mutiny, and now this cowardly assassination, this unmanly poisoning of our dear Alexander whom we had so engendered to fix their dark, broken world. What a wretched disappointment is mankind, promising, so capable with music and poetry to bring us, the gods, to tears, yet that golden creativity is but thin plate over the base metals of perfidy, greed, and sustained, prevalent ignorance. Hades, I'm ready to turn the whole lot over to you."

Athena rose, "Father, may I suggest that mankind needs more time for the seeds that Alexander has sowed to germinate."

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Text Message by Kate Sprandio

Kate Sprandio narrates a wonderfully neurotic and misguided stream of consciousness about her character's new man.

"I'll text you tomorrow, gorgeous."

That's what he said last night, Saturday, when he dropped me off. I'm almost positive he called me gorgeous. If he didn't say gorgeous then he definitely said beautiful, one of the two. It doesn't really matter what he said, the general consensus is he likes my face. He smiled when he said it, it was right after he kissed me on the cheek. My cheek is still glowing red like I was slapped, love slapped. It was our first date and it was, for lack of a greater word, "majestic." We only went to a pizza shop around the corner, but it was the most perfect pizza shop my eyes have ever seen, mostly because I was sitting face to face with him.

We met a few weeks ago at a concert. A fight broke out in the crowd right near where I was standing. I nearly got hit, that's when he stepped in and pulled me from harm.

"I've got you beautiful, don't worry," he said, as he scooped me up into his arms. He said something like that. He definitely said, "I've got you."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

After the Bombardment by Brooke Fieldhouse

Mefta, an Asian expelled from Uganda, battles his self-centred landlord to try and make ends meet as a pensioner in Scarborough; by Brooke Fieldhouse.

'...We expect the full report to be completed next week, but I thought you would be interested to know that the fragments of metal taken from the superstructure of your property came from a shell fired from a German warship on 16th December 1914...'

'It would appear,' says Jim, 'that we are eligible to claim compensation for war damage... plus compound interest over one hundred years,' he adds with an electrified smile.

'It could be the end of our troubles.'

Mr Mefta suddenly feels exhausted.

'It could be the beginning of them.'



Mr Mefta dreaded the Scarborough foghorn. It wasn't so much the dismal adenoidal hum which it made every few seconds; it was the silence which followed each dead note. It seemed that during the intervals between its grim dirges, everything else in the world ceased to exist.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Free-Range by Anthony Merklinger

Anthony Merklinger imagines a bovine supermarket in this creepy flash.

It was eight o'clock on a Sunday morning, and the bovines began to assemble at the local supermarket.

"What are you making tonight, Ma?" the calf said, stretching its legs on the black pavement.

"I was thinking ribs or sirloin."

The cow removed a grocery list from her purse.

"What do you want?"

"If you make ribs, can we have mashed potatoes?"

"Certainly," said the cow, and the calf was beaming.

Together they walked into the market, where all manner of creatures - the big and the small - were bustling.

"Wow. There's a lot of people here today," said the calf.

"Stay close to me, and be careful. The stock gets a little fussy when the market gets busy."