Friday, June 30, 2017

A Surprising Cure by Cynthia Haggard

In 19th century Bristol, hard working solicitor Edward longs to see his wife after she has spent three years on a medical retreat in Edinburgh - but what else has she been up to? By Cynthia Haggard.

Bristol, England
September 1889

I had been forbidden from knowing my wife for three long years. The doctor had been most emphatic on that point. Of course I objected, and in the strongest possible terms. But Miss Jex-Blake fixed her small brown eyes on mine, telling me that my wife had a terrible disease, that those charming little warts I used to call my 'love buttons' that my Miriam had in her most intimate place were the signs of cancer. I shivered inwardly. How could something so lovely be so poisonous? And if she had it, did I? Miss Jex-Blake continued that it was my fault my wife had such a condition, and that she was going to operate. I fled, hurrying through the streets so fast I almost knocked someone down. Three doctors pronounced me healthy.

But Miriam's condition persisted. When I pressed her, she reluctantly complained of burning sensations down there. Every summer she visited Edinburgh to "take the air," as we told all of our acquaintances. No-one knew what was wrong with her except myself, my consulting physician, Miriam, and her lady doctor. Unless, of course, Miriam chose to confide in Helena Born, her bosom friend. But surely, even she wouldn't do such a thing.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Playing in the Dirt by Z S Diamanti

A life helping with his father's work has left Z S Diamanti's character with an unusual outlook.

You must have spent a lot of time in the sun that your hair would copper so. When I was young, my Papa would bring friends home almost every day. Some were fat, some were skinny. Some were men and some were women. My favorites were the boys and girls about the same age as me. It didn’t matter who Papa brought home, I always loved meeting new friends. But none of them had such lovely auburn hair.

Papa worked hard all the time, but he always took time to teach me things that growing men need to know. You see, I didn’t get to leave the house and go to school like most. The doctor told Papa that I had to stay home, but I’m as smart as anyone because he taught me how to read and write. He taught me how to brush teeth, comb hair, shave beards, and look presentable. I used to think that Papa was a stern old man. He’d get so mad when I made mistakes. But our friends never said anything mean about him. He always treated them with respect and helped them look their best. I loved the way he treated our friends and I wanted to be just like him.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Two Seats by Harry Downey

Mr Jenkins, while visiting his son in Derbyshire, makes a friend at the local pub who tells him a story about two of the regulars; by Harry Downey.

The man walked through the door of The Red Lion and hesitated. Faced with a choice of two doors, after a moment's consideration he went through the one to his right, which had Snug in ornate gilt letters on its glazed upper section. At the bar he ordered a half pint of local bitter, sipped it approvingly, and turned round to face the room. As his eyes wandered around his face changed from uncertainty to growing contentment.

In the corner to his left next to a stone fireplace, which had an unlit log fire, there was a large, cushioned wooden chair with arms. Oak and clearly old it looked inviting. The man went across to the chair and sat down.

'You can't sit there. Sorry. It's spoken for. That's Old Seth's seat.'

The stranger looked up. He had thought he was alone in the room. It was early in the evening, and a Tuesday anyway, normally a quiet time for a pub, but he could see now that there was someone else after all.

The second man spoke again from his bench seat in a corner. 'He'll be in later. He's usually pretty punctual.'

Monday, June 19, 2017

Therapy by Lorin Cary

Lorin Cary's flash fiction about the power of suggestion.

Bob smiled as he entered the theatre. He'd get popcorn, a good seat and enjoy the show. No, the concession line was too long. He didn't want to risk a front row sore neck.

Pleased at his timing, he headed for his perfect seat, about dead center, half way back, an empty row with no one in front of it.

A woman slid into the aisle and sat down on his left. "You look tired," she said.

"Me?" Bob said. She was attractive, petite, had large brown eyes and looked... intelligent. Was she interested in him?

Then a man took the seat to his right, leaned over and touched Bob's arm. "Don't mean to intrude, but you look bushed. It might be the weather," he said. "When it's cloudy like this I feel drained. Damndest thing."

Friday, June 16, 2017

Head Above Water by Kait Gilleran

Kait Gilleran's flash fiction about a cubicle worker who feels guilty for shirking work.

Tap, tap, tap. Sometimes at work I just lightly click at my keyboard, so it sounds like I'm doing something.

The real trick is trying to look busy when someone is passing by. Half of my coworkers must know by now that I'm generally browsing forums or researching my latest ailment, but I try my best to keep an important-looking document on the backburner, to click through when I hear carpet-deadened footsteps pass.

Jocelyn, neighbor to my cubby, passes me at the most inopportune moments, like when I get a pop-up with a half-naked woman. She's always working, you can tell because there's no rhythm to her typing at all, not even a hint that she's tapping out the rhythms to whatever top 40 hit is running through her head. Sometimes I think she's trying to catch me in the act, maybe she thinks she can knock out the dividing wall and make herself a nice double-cube - plenty of room for a few ferns. Who knows.

Monday, June 12, 2017

2084 by Bruce Costello

Marilyn, Graham and their son Tom live in the New Zealand of the future: safe, friendly, and deeply oppressive; by Bruce Costello.

"Tom fell over at school running in the playground with other boys!" shrieked Marilyn, when Graham arrived home from work.

The tearful principal who'd rung Marilyn to report the incident had apologised profusely, saying it was an eleven millimetre scratch on the knee, 'Not serious, but shouldn't have happened, and the teacher on playground duty was docked a week's pay.'

"He's just a boy," Graham said to his wife, shaking his head.

"Tom's seven years old and a Vigilantes platoon leader and he ought to be setting an example, not playing dangerous children's games that should be illegal! It's high time you lot at the Ministerium passed a law against them!"

Friday, June 9, 2017

Rattled by Ceinwen Haydon

Ceinwen Haydon's character goes for a break in the country to recover from her husband's mental collapse, but the strain has affected her more deeply than she realises.

1.

It started as a peaceful break at Holly Cottage. I'm always a bit rattled when I stay in a new place for the first time. But Dev and I often return to the same self-catering cottages after I've cleared the vibes and I feel ok there. Friends probably think we're stick-in-the mud types with little imagination but they kind of miss the point. Whenever I go to a brand-new place the first couple of nights are an ordeal. I rarely sleep well and I'm constantly alert for anything that unsettles me.

Anyway, back to Holly Cottage. It's in a small hamlet in the Yorkshire Dales with many good walks straight out of the back door, no need to drive all the time. I'd been here three times before with Dev and we'd loved it. Our last visit was two years ago, only a couple of months before he got his diagnosis. Around that time, I'd thought that he wasn't himself but I hadn't seen it coming, not at all.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Jolene and the Forest Bewitched by Steven Albert

Steven Albert's metaphorical fantasy flash fiction about a girl lost in a forest.

Jolene was a little girl who lived with her family in a little house in a small village. She was a happy little girl and she loved to sing and play in the fields and forests near her home. She would sing to the birds and talk to the butterflies...

Her mother would say to her "Be careful, as you run and play, for the witched wood is nearby." For everybody knew that those who got lost in the witched wood never returned. Jolene was always careful, but she never saw anything that looked at all like a bewitched forest.

Then one day, as she played in the forest, Jolene tripped and fell over a branch hidden along the ground. She rolled and tumbled and twisted and turned. When she opened her eyes again she didn't know where she was. This didn't look at all like the forest she was playing in. it was dark and cold. The trees were black with no leaves on their branches and she could not see the sky. "This must be the witched wood," she thought with a fright. The air was still and she could hear no sounds, and see no birds or butterflies. "What will I do? How will I find my way out?" and she cried, for she knew that those who are lost in the witched wood never find their way out.

Friday, June 2, 2017

April Fool by Mary Steer

Melissa's lunch is interrupted by a stranger who claims to know every detail of her life; by Mary Steer.

April showers bring May flowers, April showers bring May flowers, thought Melissa as she bent her head into the rain and strode up the street towards her favourite café. But May is a long way off and meanwhile we have these frickin' showers to put up with. A penetrating cold went along with the driving rain, and both seemed to suit Melissa's mood today. It had been a month to the day since she'd finally given Wendell the push, but just because she'd broken up with him didn't mean she couldn't mind about it. He'd moved on but that was only because he had someone else in place, ready to go.

Melissa ducked into the café, feeling as gloomy as the lowering storm clouds outside. She ordered the tuna melt this time, and a chocolate milk. She set off with her food towards her usual table but before she could get to it, a tall man in a dark brown overcoat hurried over and set his tray down, almost underneath hers. Irritated, she turned away, scanning the room for another spot.

"I'm sorry," said the man in the overcoat, and then added, "Do join me, won't you, Melissa?"