Monday, October 30, 2017

The Three Heads of Irving Jefferson by Martin Kingfisher

When a farmer loses his head fleeing from a hog, he is forced to consider some changes to his lifestyle; by Martin Kingfisher, beautifully illustrated by Max Ink with colour by Flor de Canela.

Head 1

At dusk on the last day of October, 1823, the farmer Irving Jefferson walked through his pumpkin patch, rolling a pumpkin along the ground with his foot. Irv hadn't always been a pumpkin-roller. He'd once stood tall like his customer, the innkeeper F.J. Cooper, who walked next to Irv carrying a 30-pound pumpkin in his arms. Irv's plow had hit a lot of rocks over the years, and he'd got so his back twinged whenever he stooped to pick a pumpkin, or stood to carry it above his waist.

A boar grunted a warning as the men passed Irv's apple orchard. The boar stalked the men along the orchard's edge, dipping in and out of the shadows as if he knew Irv's old eyes couldn't follow him through the dark.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Quilt by Beryl Ensor-Smith

In the sleepy South African town of Prentburg, the church sisters make a quilt to raffle off for the benefit of the squatters neighbouring the dorp, but the project does not go as planned; by Beryl Ensor-Smith.

"Well," sighed Marion Klopper, placing squares of white linen in the centre of the long table in the church hall, "here we go again! Our annual effort to make winters more comfortable for the squatters in the informal settlement."

"And with the same humbling result," her co-helper, Rina van Wyk muttered as she sorted embroidery threads and packets of needles into neat piles in front of chairs around the table. "All this unnecessary fiddling about," motioning with one hand, "because of one person's jealousy. It was so much easier when we could all do our own thing, but no, we must now mete out supplies so that no-one has anything better to work with than the next, and all for nothing. As always, Miems Gouws's square will outshine all the others."

"Do you know what annoys me most? That Christina has imposed this on us and will find some excuse to opt out of producing a square herself, as usual."

Monday, October 23, 2017

A Statue, a Bridge and a Dream by Rick Brooks

Cal is so consumed by guilt after his brother's suicide, he considers desperate measures; by Rick Brooks.

BEFORE

The gaunt little man stumbled down the short hallway between his living room and bedroom, stopping once to lean against a wall and down the last bit of whiskey from the brown bottle he carried. Holding it up to his eyes, dark and bagged, he focused long enough to see the bottle was empty.

“Well, that’s it, I guess.”

He lurched the rest of the way to his bedroom and let himself fall onto the tattered mattress, the only piece of furniture in the room besides a beat-up storage box in the corner. And there, in his nicely-maintained suburban home, with its manicured lawn and welcome mat on the stoop, he reached for the pistol next to him, held it up to his left eye and pulled the trigger.

Friday, October 20, 2017

A Start Up by Fred McGavran

Fred McGavran's character and his grimy friend start a new small-time criminal enterprise with unexpected results.

You don't see crime scene tape around a garden very often, but it can happen with a start up. On garbage nights we'd drive through Shawnee Village, the city's wealthiest suburb, looking for the things rich people throw out: armchairs, refrigerators, mattresses, plastic pools for the kids, all the stuff they buy because they can and dump when they run out of space. Many nights it seemed half the city's scavengers had the same idea, but you don't want my buddy Bill Bob pulling up beside you and sticking his face in your window. He hasn't brushed his teeth since last time he got out of the VA hospital, and he can lift a driver out of his seat with one hand. Besides, he carries a .38 police special under the dash in case somebody tries to give him trouble.

Having a monopoly on a recycling route may not sound like much of a business plan to you, but we made enough to keep us in beer for the week. It was also the source of our greatest inspiration. Some of these mansions have gardens in their front yards with tall standing shrubs and flowers growing right up to the street. One night I spotted a stand of marijuana amongst the prairie grass. I got out of the truck and harvested it, and we had enough to keep us happy for two weeks. We had a good laugh thinking how pissed off somebody was going to be that we got to it first.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Tibetan Fling By Roger Meachem

Roger Meachem's characterful story about a Tibetan linguist reuniting with his old Nottinghamshire school friend.

It's not often you see a young Asian man in full Scottish Highland dress wandering around an ancient Nottinghamshire graveyard, peering at tombstones.

This particular graveyard did attract tombstone tourists - graveyard gawpers - from time to time; the church and some of the surviving gravestones dated back to the twelfth century. Robin Hood might have sharpened an arrowhead on one or two, and a civil war battle fought nearby probably contributed a few more.

I'd been at the church to photograph a local wedding, and expected that would be the highlight of my day. There was no need to hurry back to the mall where my studio occupied a lonely corner, and so I sat in the shade of a yew tree watching the visitor. He moved from one headstone to another, his kilt swinging lightly. I couldn't tell what plaid he was wearing but it wasn't just the kilt, he also wore the sporran, tartan socks, black brogues and - despite the heat - a tweed jacket. He paused a couple of times, once to brush with his fingers at a headstone, presumably clearing away moss, and once to hold up his phone and take a picture. As he came closer, I decided he might be Tibetan, not any Tibetan, but one I had known.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Beyond the City Limits by Clayton Stoneking

in Clayton Stoneking's post-apocalyptic tale, a young man in a simple farming community is curious about the forbidding secrets of the nearby city.

I trudge down the long row of dirt mounds; they're piled neatly to protect the delicate roots below. The light of the early morning sun cascades across the three large crop fields that surround the Community House. I love walking the grounds in the morning, especially this close to the harvest. I walk to the edge of the farm's land and look out into the thin line of trees that provides our perimeter. Through the thin, white, brittle trunks of the trees, I can see the bright lights of the city beyond. I look back, only briefly, toward the farm, before stepping onto the roots of the dying trees. I start to take another step when two small voices call out from behind me.

"Brother Kiran," the small voices squeak, "where are you going?"

I turn to see the two small redheaded boys who came to the farm only a few months ago. They're overalls are dirty, most likely from playing in the mud. One of them is missing a shoe and the other has left one side of his overalls unbuttoned, revealing the pale skin of his chest.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Home by Josephine Bruni

On the day of the EU referendum an Italian barista in the vibrant Camden Lock area of London muses on his status as an outsider; by Josephine Bruni.

The coffee shop was very trendy. It looked like a warehouse with rough wooden planks as seats and tables, cardboard boxes filling the shelves that ran around the walls, big, professional coffee machines worth hundreds of pounds shining amongst stylish coffee cups and colourful mocha. It was said that it made the best coffee in North London and Marco was one of those who made it happen. It was a repetitive chore. Grind the beans, twist the percolator, press the hot water button, steam the milk, clean the steamer. Marco produced one drink after the other, immersed in Anya's musky perfume that blended perfectly with the bitter aroma of Arabic coffee. She had the beauty of youth, soft features and wide lips. Hot, not so hot, small, less water. More milk thank you, no foam, more foam. Sometimes in the queue a friendly face said 'buongiorno' and chatted a little. Marco acknowledged their kindness with an extra hole in their loyalty card. Not everyone was for Brexit, he told Anya.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Cock-a-Roach by A.T. Sayre

In small town New England Frank has an unlikely encounter with a Hollywood celebrity; by A.T. Sayre.

I was sittin' in a Denny's solo seat at the front room coffee bar when Frank came in. Frank's this small kid, a little chubby, all scruffy hair and wrinkled clothes. He always had on this dirty old army jacket he'd probably found at goodwill. He had huge bags under his eyes, from no sleep or too much booze, or some combo of that nature. If he wasn't so chubby and didn't have that crazy underbite he'd have that grunge thing down perfect. Not that he was tryin' to, necessarily. I'm sure he'd look fucked up even if it wasn't the thing to do.

Frank spotted me right off. He nodded a little and made a beeline for the seat at the coffee bar right next to me. I was just reading some book or other at the time, something for class I think. I was tired of it anyway, so I wasn't bothered seeing him.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Dante's Barn by Kelly Griffiths

Kelly Griffiths's thoughtful flash story about Jude, whose life has a flat tyre.

Without warning the steering wheel sprang to life and jack-hammered in Jude's hands. The vibrations rocked all the way up his arms and clattered his teeth like plates. Jude knew what had happened. But did it have to happen in the snow? And not just any snow. School would likely be closed tomorrow. Jude pulled off and killed the engine.

The memory lanced him.

"You what? Bought a - you bought this piece of crap? You know what Ford stands for, don't you? F-O-R-D. Fix or repair daily. And what th'hell you need a truck for?" His father slammed his hand down on the tailgate. "You haulin' somethin, pretty boy? I know what you plannin' to do. Only one reason pretty boys need a truck bed. You just keep yer di -"

"Pop!" Jude got in his face, nose to nose and noted with a measure of satisfaction his father broke the stare first.