Monday, February 26, 2018

Do Not Pass Go by Charlie Fish

Eddie visits his girlfriend's parents to ask them a big question, and gets a surprising response.

The doorbell chimed and my heart fluttered. I shifted my weight from foot to foot. Perhaps they had all gone out for a walk, and they wouldn't answer. It wasn't too late to turn back.

The door opened. Alice's father stood there - untidy hair, asymmetric glasses, stubble, badly fitting clothes - everything about him was chaotic, animated. He broke into a broad smile.

"Eddie! How lovely to see you!"

"Hello Mister Stride."

"What brings you out here to the boonies? Life treating you well? How's Alice?"

I didn't know which question to answer first. He stared at me expectantly, sizing me up. Moving, always moving, as if his clothes itched. A flush of warmth crawled down my spine.

"Sorry! Come in, come in, of course. Don't call me Mister Stride, that's what my research students call me."

"Thank you... Tom." Even with his encouragement, saying his name felt presumptuous. Which I suppose said more about me than him.

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Visit by Jim Bartlett

When Jacob visits his dying father he wonders whether it is better to let sleeping dogs lie; by Jim Bartlett.

Jacob slows as he rounds the corner, the double doors ahead tucked in a shadow of ashen gray, almost as if the damp fog clouding the sun outside has slipped unnoticed into the hospital. He shivers, shaking the color from his face, then stops and turns to Mark.

Mark smiles and points at the entrance. "We've come this far. Just a little more. You can do it."

With a nod, Jacob leans to take another step, but his leg remains frozen in place. "I dunno. Why am I even here? I haven't seen the man in like twenty years."

"It's the right thing. You said so yourself. Stay on the high road, Jacob. Otherwise buying that, ugh, flannel shirt and those Levis will be a total waste." He cocks his head. "You sure you don't want me to come along?"

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Sisters of the Dust by Simon McHardy

In Simon McHardy's fantasy, Anwen is a reluctant volunteer for a bizarre ancient ritual.

The priest was getting very excited now, droplets of spittle trembled from the corners of his mouth, his tongue darted out between pauses to dab at the drool which only had the effect of relocating it onto his chin where it hung like spindly jungle vines before dripping onto the pulpit. 'The Empire was dying, the cities had sunk into cesspits of corruption and moral decay, at night blood thirsty phantoms preyed on the weak and poor,' the priest shrieked, the high tones reverberating through the hall. Anwen winced at the sound and slumped further into the pew as if she could escape it, the hard, wooden back grated uncomfortably against her spine. On and on the priest droned, erupting spasmodically into spittle-filled tirades. How much more of her day was this old fool going to take up, she wondered? Outside, the sun was shining, the park would be shaking off the last of the morning dew, insects were humming and the smell of spring lay thick and heady in the air like the vapours of a strong wine.

'But not all the gods had forsaken the people,' the priest continued, his voice now more restrained, the previous outbursts seemingly having upset even his own ears.

'A young priest, Diecot Black, prayed daily kneeling on the stone floor of his cell. His fervent mutterings beseeched the gods to deliver the Empire from evil. One of the gods took pity on this young man and as the sun sought its rest one evening the priest's devotions were interrupted by a voice whispering within the stone walls of his cell. "Do you want to save your people?"

Friday, February 16, 2018

Terminator, Too by Stacey E. Bryan

Stacey E. Bryan parodies The Terminator in this tale, featuring a rakish Kyle Reese, a low-rent Sarah Connor, and - yes - Arnold Schwarzenegger.

SANTA MONICA, THE RECENT PAST, 2:45 A.M.

Lightning brighter than all of Los Angeles rent the dark night sky with a powerful sizzle and crackle. The mysterious birth of the full-grown man conducted itself secretly in the deserted Santa Monica parking lot. The man stepped down from a hole in the sky, fully formed and butt naked, as the snapping electrical currents gradually ceased.

Crickets filled the sudden silence with their song. The naked ex-action hero/ex-governor stood, aberrantly bulging muscles slick with sweat. He gazed around himself, taking in familiar landmarks while his genitals contracted softly in the cool beach air.

A group of 20-30 somethings turned the corner just then, a tumble of loud laughter, obviously drunk on brewed beer. When they spotted the naked, sweating man standing on the sidewalk, they stopped in their tracks and choked their laughter silent.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Back to the World by Lee Conrad

Back home, a Vietnam vet tries to make his way in the world, but with no job and no money he must resort to desperate measures; by Lee Conrad.

Joey looked out the window of his small apartment and watched the snow fall. He knew he had to find another job fast or he would be out on the street. The jobs were never high class and his last one on a loading dock was a bust. He went into the cramped bathroom, ran his fingers through his long hair and stared at the face looking back at him from the mirror. He had changed, they all said. Well who the hell wouldn't? Joey grabbed his army fatigue jacket and headed out the door.

He walked to Murphy's Tavern down sidewalks covered with snow up to his ankles. Joey had been back from Vietnam for over a year but it seemed like an eternity when jobs kept disappearing. A cold winter in upstate New York didn't improve his mood either.

Joey opened the door to the bar and a blast of hot air, stale beer and cigarette smoke hit him full on. No matter, one got used to that as the night wore on.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Dear Mom by Paul Beckman

Paul Beckman's epistolary story about a son's deteriorating relationship with his mother.

Dear Mom... You were sure right about the foliage. The New Haven Green is ablaze with multi-colored trees and the constant changing hues made me want to draw or paint them so I bought a small colored pencil kit and have included a couple of sketches. Hope they're not too abstract for your liking. I'm also taking photos of the trees and have purposely blurred them so shapes don't interfere with the colors. It's starting to get chilly here now so I'm glad you had me pack those sweaters. I remember that this is the best weather in the Bay Area. I guess autumn (you always call it fall) is the best season on both coasts. Too bad I won't be seeing you for Thanksgiving, I was looking forward to it; but if you say you're physically and mentally exhausted and need the rest who am I to argue? Love Daniel.

Monday, February 5, 2018

My Father's Son by Don Herald

When his mother dies, Jarrod is determined to find out more about his absent father; by Don Herald.

I might as well start at the end.



I check my watch. Twenty after nine. It's not too late.

I grab my cell off the counter and open the address book. I scroll down, find who I'm looking for and press 'call'.

I wait.

I'm hardly breathing. My chest feels as if a steel strap is being slowly tightened around it.

An automated voice asks me to leave a message. I'm surprised because I expected a live person to answer.

"Hey, it's me."

Not the most original way to start but at least I've made the call.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Asking For It by Paul Michael Dubal

A rape victim channels her anger towards the judge who let her assailant go free; by Paul Michael Dubal.

He said I was asking for it. In the way I dressed. Too provocative, Judge Parker said as he stared down from his perch like some old schoolmaster giving his pupil a condescending and unwanted lecture.

As if I was the one on trial here. It was my fault that I got raped.

I was too promiscuous, he cried, an old bible bashing preacher casting fire and brimstone on his sinful flock.

Ye shall face the wrath of God - and he is a vengeful God!

Men are prone to temptation. They are weak and can't always help themselves. What do you expect if you dress in short skirts and high heels? You are offering it to them. You can't blame them if they if they misread the signals.