Friday, May 30, 2014

You Can't Take It With You by Nancy Cole Silverman

Two nosy old ladies go investigating a mysterious new resident who hasn't left her rooms for a week; by Nancy Cole Silverman.

The poster outside the bistro read Mario the Magnificent, an evening with the unusual. Wine and cheese, four-thirty to six. Don't miss this exclusive live performance for Sunrise residents only.

"See, I told you. No cover charge. It's free." Barbara, her short curly grey hair looking like it had been styled by the same lightning bolt that had charred her skin leather brown, pointed with a long gnarled finger to the board. "We should go. What da ya think?"

"I can't see." Molly with her thin arms shaking and hunched round-shouldered over her walker, squinted in the direction of the bulletin board. Her eyes blurred behind bottle thick lenses. "Is he is a good looking lad?" she asked, her thin Irish brogue, despite her years as an expat, still evident.

"Molly, are you drinking at this hour?" Barbara pointed to the to thin clear plastic tube running from inside a water bottle attached to Molly's walker and up to a sip straw, resting on her shoulder.

"I don't call it my Johnny Walker for nothing." Molly smiled and with small movement of her head, as though she might be keeping beat to an Irish jig, took a sip.

"Oh, for heaven's sake, push the damn thing this way, and read it yourself."

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Attack of the Killer Appendix by Maui Holcomb

A sound editor for a schlock horror movie production company returns to work after getting married, and tries not to lose his wedding ring; by Maui Holcomb.

"Crap!"

"What happened, honey?"

"My ring."

I fished around in the garbage disposal among the egg scraps and cantaloupe slime.

"Again?"

"Too dry here."

My wedding band needed resizing. Fingers must have been swollen with sweat when I'd been measured a few weeks earlier. We'd been hitched in Florida and spent a week in Bermuda, and the ring held fast through all that humidity, but in the 48 hours since returning to L.A. it had attempted escape four times. I'd taken to pressing my thumb to it when on the move.

I brushed against it in the muck and pulled free. Rinsed it off. My bride appeared and encircled my waist, whispering.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Father Bag Man by Gary Ives

Gary Ives tells the story of a good man's rise to power in this incendiary indictment of the Catholic Church.

Radix malorum ex cupiditas.

The path leading Philip to the plush apartment overlooking Central Park had begun fifty years earlier at the seminary of the Apostolic Order of the Venerable Saint Actius of Jerusalem, when he had awakened in the middle of the night with the hand of Monsignor Paolo DaLuca wrapped around his erection bringing him to a quick release. The experience shocked the fifteen year old. The Monsignor had quietly vanished from Philip's bedside without a word. The Monsignor! The Monsignor had done this... this... this thing. Owing to the brief pleasure he had felt, a tremendous guilt fell upon the boy. The Monsignor, that sweet man, so understanding, so wise, loved by all the boys, how could this be? Immediately after next morning's matins he entered the confessional eager to expiate and do whatever penance was necessary.

"Forgive me, Father. It has been three days since my last confession. Father, I am guilty of the sin of self-abuse, but, but see, it wasn't just me doin' the self part of the self-abuse."

"I think I understand. So who was the other person, my son."

"I, I don't want to... uh I don't know, Father, see it was dark."

"Are you certain you don't know, boy?"

"Yes Father."

"Go, my son, you are absolved of this thing. I would caution you to keep this to yourself and the confessional. Ten Hail Marys and two Stations of the Cross, go with God."

Philip was certain that his confessor had been Monsignor Paolo.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Son of Noah by David Pring-Mill

A young boy on an interminable flight from a ruined Earth asks his companions about giraffes; by David Pring-Mill.

Japheth ran down the corridor, reaching out with his left hand and letting his fingers slide against the door of the archives room as he blew past it. The small boy had an eagerness of spirit, in spite of the monotonous atmosphere. In his right hand, he clutched onto a pencil and a notebook with a marbled black-and-white cover. Japheth whisked past a middle-aged woman named Naomi. She sighed deeply and with annoyance.

Japheth excitedly knocked on the door to Bernie's room. Bernie took a few tired steps over to the door. He opened it, and smiled at the kid - his skin folding along the deep creases of a smile he once wore more often. Japheth took a seat and Bernie sat on the edge of his bed, staring out the window at the vast deepness of space.

"Where were we?" asked Bernie, in his husky, grating voice. It had been eight years since he'd boarded the ship, and eight years since he'd last had a smoke. "I miss tobacco. I've told you about tobacco, right?"

"Many times," said Japheth. He flipped through the pages of his notebook until he landed upon the section that was headed "Earth's Oral Histories: Bernie."

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Teleporter by Daniel Wilmoth

A pair of venture capitalists attend a demonstration of a machine that could revolutionise the world, but one of them is sceptical; by Daniel Wilmoth.

A monitor embedded in David's front door displayed, in shades of gray, the face of a thin, severe man in his fifties. As I raised my fist to knock, the eyes in the gray face followed my knuckles warily. "Excuse me," the face said, "but what are you planning to do?"

David was an inventor, and the face belonged to an electronic butler he was developing named Reggie.

"I was going to knock," I said apologetically, realizing that I would have, in some sense, been knocking on him.

"That is unnecessary," Reggie said. "I am announcing you now. Dr. Fox will be correct with you."

Reggie was still learning to talk and sometimes chose the wrong words. "You mean that he'll be 'right' with me, I think."

"Yes, thank you. Here is Dr. Fox."

Sunday, May 18, 2014

My First Time by Michael McCarthy

A boy orphaned by a horrific rail crash grows up witnessing abuse, and his pent-up resentment threatens to reach boiling point; by Michael McCarthy.

I recoiled as his lips sought mine, his stubble sharp against my baby soft skin.

I could smell something unpleasant on his breath and I struggled to twist my head away but it was no use; he planted his puffy, wet lips firmly on mine and I felt something sour rise in my throat.

For me and, I don't doubt, many others, that became his signal smell.

'How was that?' he shouted joyfully, to a waiting bank of journalists and photographers, standing at a safe distance from the smoking, mangled remains of a passenger train and an oil tanker.

I heard afterwards that I'd been picked up a short distance from the immediate carnage, clean and unscathed, by a member of the public. Eager to help, she'd been shunted aside and I'd been rudely snatched from her arms and triumphantly hoisted into the air by local MP, war hero, member of the Cabinet and opportunist supreme, Sir Richard Horatio Deáth.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Stand-Up by M. E. McMullen

Comedian Robert Cambelli shows his betrothed sister a cluster of dead ladybugs, which she becomes convinced is a bad omen for her upcoming undercover wedding, in M. E. McMullen's surreal story.

I used to hang out with my sister, Inez.

Inez might be a little gawky, but she's an ace, believe me. When I use her stuff in a "bit", like the other night at Chuck's Chuckle Palace, I pay her a buck. Inez is all I got. We lost our parents in an avalanche.

My name is Robert Cambelli, but everybody calls me "Wade", except Inez, who calls me Tyrone, after her all time crush, the old movie star, Tyrone Power, who came from our town. When one of his films comes on TV, Inez is in rapture. Inez was supposed to be Tyrone Power's soul mate for eternity, but there was a glitch. Tyrone Power moved to California, became a movie star, married Lana Darnell or somebody and died young; all before Inez was born, pretty much dooming the romance.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Soul Drug by Ethan Regal

Chi-Chi’s boyfriend brings home a wonder drug that allows people to swap minds, but they do not appreciate its dangers; by Ethan Regal.

In a few minutes Obi would be back from work. I try not to get too comfortable watching Aurora on Telemundo as I've got a pot of rice on the stove. If Obi comes home famished only to discover a plate of burnt rice and stew, things will not go down well. Like my mother would say, a hungry man is an angry man. So I keep checking the screen of my phone for the time.

Just when I walk into the kitchen, I hear the clacking sound of the door unlock. "Honey," says Obi in a beatific tone, which sends a smile across my face. It's the tone he uses whenever he has a gift for me. A thousand thoughts run through my mind as I anticipate what he has. He ambles into the kitchen with his brown eyes flickering with excitement. Wearing a broad grin on his face as he dances his way towards me. He says to me, "I found something you'd love."

Obi bends down to plant a kiss on my forehead. He stares into my eyes long enough for me to ask, "What is it?"

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Touched by a Poet by Bruce Costello

An emotionally vacant obstetrician in Soviet Russia seeks solace in the downbeat poetry of Mikhail Lermontov; by Bruce Costello.

His last patient's presence lingered in the room, along with the body odour of her druggie partner.

The state should not permit such people to breed, thought Dr Zhukovsky. One more woman to see, then lunch.

His receptionist entered. "Your next appointment's had her bus money stolen and can't get here. You should take the rest of the morning off, comrade." She attempted a smile. "You are reciting tonight at your Mikhail Lermontov Poetry Circle, remember. And you don't look well."

"I feel perfectly healthy," Dr Zhukovsky snapped.

He opened his newspaper, scanned the headlines, all lies, and closed his eyes.

He thought of his wife with her downturned lips, reading romances, yearning for goodness knows what, while isolating herself behind angry tears.

You are the problem, she says. You, the great doctor, you know everything but you feel nothing!

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Prize by Beryl Ensor-Smith

Petrus Willemse donates a pig as a prize for the church fete, but deciding how to award the animal becomes a nuisance for the Church Sisters when word gets about that it is cursed; by Beryl Ensor-Smith.

There was some muttering among the Church Sisters working against time as they sifted through piles of goods for their upcoming fete. Little did they know that they would be faced with a far bigger headache in the next few days.

"We need every pair of hands to get through this lot," Marion Klopper said crossly, "and where is our newest church deacon? Conspicuous by her absence!"

"It's too bad," Helga Swanepoel agreed, "especially from one in her position."

"It's not like her," Sarie Blignault said timidly. "Miems is usually very reliable."

As if her name had conjured her up, Miems Gouws appeared in the doorway leading from the church precincts into the hall.

"Sorry I'm late," she apologised, taking her place behind the table, "but I've just been talking to Dominee about the fete."

There was an audible sniff of disapproval from her fellow sisters. At a time like this, not a minute could be wasted on idle chatter! Seemingly oblivious of their censure, Miems continued brightly, "Donations for prizes have been coming in, and you'll never guess who's given something?"

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Jello by Tom Pawlowski

Grampa rages about Jello in Tom Pawlowski's quick flash fiction.

"I hate Jello. Nasty, jiggly shit. Shit in every color of the rainbow."

Grampa gazed into an empty corner with unfocused eyes. "My mother made it a couple of times a week when I was growing up. Claimed it was dessert. But I knew better. Dessert is cookies and cake, maybe pudding. Sure as hell isn't Jello. Even as a kid I knew that. And god knows I didn't know much then."

He gave me a sly smile. "You know what's worse than Jello for dessert?"

I shrugged helplessly.

"Jello leftover from yesterday's dessert." He gave a bark of laughter.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Murder by the Book by Jim Bartlett

A gruesome serial killer known as Lumberjack prepares to sacrifice another victim, but the aesthetics must be just right; by Jim Bartlett.

The killer sits with his back to a workbench along the far wall of the basement. He tosses an X-ACTO knife back and forth between hands, the spinning blade sparkling with a quick glint of the harsh fluorescent light.

It catches his eye, but only for a moment, as his focus remains on the young woman at the opposite end of the lengthy room.

Bound at the wrists and ankles, naked except for a strip of duct tape plastered across her mouth, she hangs by her arms from an oily chain attached to an "A" frame - one of the older types normally used to hoist engines from cars. Yellow paint peeling, rusty and dinged from many years of service in its intended trade, its top rail nestles up against one of the thick wood beams spanning the cellar's ceiling.

She's tall, slender, athletic in form. Long dark hair, greasy and matted, drapes limply over her shoulders disappearing down her back. A single hundred watt bulb dangles above and to her right, its incandescent glow painting her pale skin with the yellow tint of jaundice.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The People's Garden by Craig M. Workman

Craig M. Workman's character recalls how building a garden in the courtyard of their housing estate brought his mentally disabled neighbour out of his shell and led to a tragic accident involving his much-admired writing mentor.

Friday, 27 April, 6:13 or 6:14 or so. <- (I'm wrong, it's Thursday)

Yesterday I buried my friend, teacher, bookseller, and coffee-drinking buddy. They were all the same person, in case you were wondering. I broke into the apartment a few minutes ago to use Sam's typewriter. This might have been the wrong thing to do. The only way I can even think about him right now is to sit here in his kitchen and type on this rickety old Underwood IV in a chair with wheels that doesn't fit beneath the kitchen table. I've known so many people for so much longer, but I can't say I've owed more to anyone than Sam Kesterson. He never felt sorry for me. He kept me honest, I suppose. And I can't help feeling that he was killed by a fucking garden. Our garden. Elysium Heights' garden.