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 CancĂșn. 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."