Friday, July 31, 2015

Frani and the Little Red Fox By Artie Knapp

An unlikely group of animals is terrorised by a mysterious toothed creature attacking from the sky in Artie Knapp's children's tale, illustrated by Katherine Thomas.

Three hippopotamuses were snuggled close together. And they were frightened. A lion sitting close by was, too. Everything was shaking all around them.

"Oh no, here it comes!" said one of the hippos.

An animal with very large teeth soared down from the sky. It went for the lion, but missed! This was not the first time the animal had made such a visit. In fact, it often came and went without warning.

"We have got to get out of here," said another hippo.

"Yeah, and go where?" asked the lion. "No matter where we go that thing follows us."

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Crow Scare by Mandi S Lockley

A crow objects to being experimented on, and decides to show his owner Dave how smart he can be; by Mandi S Lockley.

During the cold times Dave turned up just after sunrise and during the warm times he arrived a few hours after sun up, but other than that, every day was pretty much the same. Good morning handsome, Dave would say. My first meal of the day, what he called breakfast, was a small egg, but he always made me work for it. Sometimes the egg would be at the bottom of a transparent tube half filled with water. I would stare at the tube in silent rage, waiting, until Dave placed a pile of small stones next to it. Really? Again? I would squawk.

There you go big fella, Dave would say and then I would pick up the stones one by one and drop them carefully into the water. Plop, plop, plop. Out of one eye, I would see Dave's bald pasty face light up as the water rose with each stone. Attaboy, he would shout once the egg was near enough to the surface for me to fish it out with my beak, you're my star pupil.

Sometimes he made me watch as the other crows tried to win their breakfast. Some of them were clueless, just looked at the tube, the stones and Dave in turn and cawed in confusion. Others got it, but would drop the stones heavily on the egg, cracking it and losing most of it to the water. After a few days of this frustration Dave would get me to show them how to do it. Boys and girls, see how it's done. They watched, they learned, they copied and that was how I got to be king of the coop.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Snake Food by Gwendolyn Kiste

Gwendolyn Kiste imagines Medusa condemned by her secret lover to a lifetime of purgatory.

"Is she asleep?"

The forked tongue licked its lips. The rest of the snakes did the same, mimicking the tics and tremors of each other.

"I think she's awake," the second said.

"She's waiting on him," said the third.

"I can hear you."

Medusa pulled herself from the bare mattress, steadying one hand against the peeling wallpaper.

"Feed us," said the snakes.

Below, the traffic honked and squealed along winding city streets.

"It's not midnight yet," she said. "We never go out until later."

"We never go out at all anymore." The first snake flitted forward and back, side to side, his thin form coiling and straightening. "We could starve."

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Game by William Quincy Belle

Stanley eschews all interruptions to watch a game on TV in William Quincy Belle's commentary on male self-absorption.

"Marge! Let's watch the final period." Stanley fiddled with the remote control. "Marge!" He glanced at the television set and pressed another button. "Jesus." He got out of his seat and looked behind the unit.

Marge walked in holding two cans of beer. "What's wrong?" She set one can beside the easy chair.

"Beats me. I'm not getting a signal."

"Is it still on DVR? We watched a movie last night."

Stanley stared at the remote then pressed a button. The voice of an announcer boomed out of the twin speaker system with a deafening roar. "Jesus." He repeatedly stabbed at the control until the volume diminished to a normal level. "Ha. I forgot about that." He sat down and gave a triumphant look at the TV. "Gunna watch the game with me?"

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Bulk Rate by Jeff Weddle

A mailman is driven mad by the endless stream of junk he is required to deliver; by Jeff Weddle.

Jack hates being a mailman. He's hated it for years, but it's the job he has and he's scared of looking for another, so he soldiers on. What he hates most is all the junk mail he has to carry. Bills, personal letters, packages - okay. These things people bring upon themselves. Many times they even enjoy receiving them. But junk mail, all those envelopes: YOU MAY ALREADY BE A WINNER! URGENT MESSAGE, OPEN IMMEDIATELY! A SPECIAL OFFER FOR FOLKS OVER FIFTY! All that useless crap.

The sheer weight of this mail is staggering. Jack figures that over the years he's carried more than seven tons of junk mail for more than a hundred miles. His feet ache just at the notion.

He starts reading stories in the paper about disgruntled postal workers. There was a guy in Omaha who went crazy and shot up the post office. Another fellow in Maine did the same thing. It seems like every time he turns around another postal worker has blown his co-workers away.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Insensate by O'Brian Gunn

A gay man protects himself from the emotional tribulations of dating using a special microchip in his head, until the chip breaks; by O'Brian Gunn.

It’s not easy being a gay guy in 2087.

You would think that with as much progress as we’ve experienced the human race as a whole would become more evolved, but the only thing that’s evolved is our technology, our health, and our capacity for nostalgia.

I was missing the days when being gay meant you weren’t expected to get married or have kids.

“You’re twenty-nine years young, Davis, and you haven’t even been in a short-term relationship let alone a long one. Surely all of the guys out there don’t leave that bad of a taste in your mouth,” my mom said to me as she took the cigarette from her lips and blew light blue smoke, flicking ivory ash from the end of the blue cylinder.

We were sitting out on the patio of my parents’ house watching airships pull into the newly remodeled Grahame-Smith Skyport.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Scent by Phil Slattery

Phil Slattery's lyrical vignette about the scent of an absent lover.

A strange thing happens as Quinn lies down to sleep after a night on the town. Rolling onto his side and pulling the covers to his face, he notices the scent of a woman on his sheets and pillows. He thinks at first it is the scent of the latest woman with whom he has been sleeping and of whom he has been thinking a lot since she left for California over a month ago. As he lies contemplating and sniffing the air, he thinks the aroma must be some type of olfactory memory suddenly arisen from the depths of his mind. But no, it is not quite the same as Cynthia's. It is different. Her hair smells of green-apple-scented shampoo. This has the vague aroma of talcum. The scent enlivens fading memories in a fragile chain bringing things ethereal from his subconscious. The first is the texture of the warm, soft skin of an upper arm covered in tiny goose pimples as his face rests against it under a jumble of blankets on another cold night long ago. Then a shape drifts forward through the darkness, as if he is opening his eyes slowly, and he visualizes the minute blonde hair delicately clinging to the arm as the sensation of body heat lingers. He thinks he detects cigarette smoke, possibly his own, as he has been in a few nightclubs tonight, but he has often gone to bed after smoking and has never experienced this. He thinks maybe the smoke is coming from the stove, which may have been left on after dinner. Dragging himself out of bed and into the kitchen, he finds all burners off. He stumbles back into the bedroom to lie back in bed and contemplate. It is not a single thing that he is responding to, but a combination: the warmth of a body; the smell of cigarettes, talcum, and shampoo; the texture of warm skin with a wispy down.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

June 3, 1864 - Cold Harbor: I am Killed by Charles Howard Wise

A Yankee soldier in the American civil war watches the aftermath of the battle in which he is killed; by Charles Howard Wise.

At 4:30 in the morning, the muffled sound of bugles urged our brigade from its trenches into the morning fog to charge the enemy line. At 4:31, a bullet ripped through my heart. I was hit twice more before my body struck the ground. As I was falling, I'd swear I heard my dead mama cry.

I was surprised to feel myself coming to after a while. I was looking down at everything. The fog had burned off and the gap between the lines was covered with blue uniforms stacked three or four bodies high, a grisly harvest to be sure. There was only a little shooting here and there - the Johnnies had apparently run out of moving targets or we had run out of men to shoot. I'd stayed hovering over my body. It was lying face down: anyone could tell by the size of the jagged hole in the middle of my back that I must've died right away.

At least I wasn't lying wounded in the damned sun waiting to be brought back under a flag of truce. It was 'specially bad for the wounded boys lying on their backs who could watch the buzzards drop from the sky to fill their craws. The buzzards down south were as ugly as the ones up north but the skin of their heads was all black and they looked even more devilish than their northern cousins did.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Time to Die by Irena Pasvinter

A nobleman faces his execution but intends to have the last word; by Irena Pasvinter.

The door opens. My eyes are used to perpetual gloom of the cell - the intrusion of light is unwelcome. From the top of the stairs my jailer gawps at me as if I were an exotic beast trapped in a travelling circus cage.

"Come," he says.

"What time is it?"

"Time to die." He is smiling now, relishing in his wit. "Time to die," he repeats and winks at me, to make sure I appreciate his perfect joke.

"For you, perhaps," I respond. "I'm not ready yet."

He laughs. His mirth reverberates through prison corridors making the residents shiver. Let him laugh - the last joke is on me.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Frogs, Gnomes, Hikers and Bottle Miners by Patricia Crandall

Nina visits Gert on her first day of retirement to take her bottle mining, but two mischievous boys interrupt their plans; by Patricia Crandall.

A light breeze floated through the green-shuttered windows of a white gingerbread house on Elm Street in Indian Falls, New York. In a reflective mood, Gert Carver surveyed the gifts that had been bestowed upon her at a retirement party which the teachers and staff of Cobble Hill School had given her. Among the gifts were kaleidoscopic artwork by the children, trendy luggage presented by those who had graduated and precious mementos from fellow teachers.

Unmarried and never having met 'Mr. Right', Gert acknowledged that a thirty-five year career as an elementary school teacher had not been a glamorous occupation, but she never regretted the many years spent with the children. Certainly, heartbreak had gone hand in hand with joy... from a suicide of a seventh-grade student to the Cinderella marriage of a graduate. She had spent time and wisdom well. Teaching had been the most satisfying part of her life as she loved all the children.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Chesstity Bout by Soren James

A naive man plays chess against a sexually predatory woman in Soren James's amusingly crude flash.

"I'm so good I beat myself sometimes," I quipped.

She looked up from the chess board and raised one eyebrow to say, "I bet you do."

I nervously moved my pawn, taking her bishop. She then asked, "How many moves ahead are you thinking?"

I began to reply in earnest, but she immediately cut in with: "Only, I hoped we might fuck next."

I wasn't entirely sure what "fuck" was, but thinking it a technical term with which I was unfamiliar I briefly feigned extra thoughtfulness, and then quickly changed the subject to say: "That was a nice opening, by the way."

"Several people have remarked on my opening," she said, then forked my king and queen with her knight - but I escaped by using my rook in her open file.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Carefully by Brittney D Herz

Brittney D Herz's character drives through the Virginian night reflecting on her relationship with her wayward husband.

Dads leave all the time. I say this to myself over and over as I turn the key in the ignition, praying the rumble of the engine doesn't wake anyone in the house. I read an article in Parent Magazine just this morning that said one out of every three children lives without their biological father. My coffee burnt the tip of my tongue as my eyes skimmed over the words. The image for the article was a small boy sitting looking longingly out the window and I couldn't help but think, is he looking for his dad or wondering why his next door neighbor had a bigger tree house than he did. Maybe it's the same thought after all. The night is too quiet so I turn on the radio. Radio DJ Delilah fails me with her romantic gibber gabber so I change the station.

Wise men say, only fools rush in...

Jesus, shut up Elvis. Poor Priscilla. I read somewhere that she used to dress up like the women Elvis was having affairs with in order to keep him by her side. Sooner than it feels an hour has passed and I'm almost at the state line heading into Virginia. The reflectors in the road shine up at me as I remember our first trip to Virginia.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Apple of Newton's Eye by Dan Shea

A man of learning troubled by impotence is driven to discover a new scientific principle in Dan Shea's punny short.

Milly says don't worry it happens to lots of guys, but still I feel emasculated. It's been more than two months now and that kind of thing weighs on the mind. You can try to rationalize something like this - you can hypothesize about all these possible reasons why - but it doesn't make you feel any better in the end. Especially when you haven't come up with a really good reason. Just because it's the Age of Reason doesn't mean that all of a sudden we don't have emotions.

I have emotions - believe me. I feel embarrassment and shame and also - yes - a certain lack of desire lately.

Milly tells me it's normal, especially for men my age. But, rationally, I don't believe her. My heart wants to believe her, but my brain is another story and I need a reason. Because Milly has lots of gentlemen callers and there are lots of gentlemen callers who are older than I am and are still calling on Milly's services. In fact, half of the Cambridge faculty calls on Milly.

The problem is that I feel as if my - let's call it ambivalence - is affecting Milly too. We had a special thing. But ever since this started up it's changed how she looks at me.