Friday, May 31, 2013

Bestiality by Jerry W Crews

In 1955, as racial tensions in the Deep South are reaching a climax, a journalist drives through small-town Mississippi and listens in on a court hearing; by Jerry W Crews

It was an unusually warm day in September of 1955 when I left Atlanta headed for Sumner, Mississippi. The newspaper I worked for was sending me there to cover the murder trial of J. W. Milam and his half-brother, Roy Bryant. A fourteen year old African-American, Emmett Till, had come from Chicago to visit his relatives in Money, Mississippi, when on August 24th, he and a group of teenagers went into Bryant's Grocery and Meat Market for a cool drink. Roy's wife, Carolyn, was offended that as he was leaving, Emmett whistled at her. Such actions by blacks in the Deep South were not tolerated.  

Seeking revenge, J. W. and Roy took Emmett from his uncle's home in the middle of the night. They confessed to brutally beating him and then shooting him in the head on the banks of the Tallahatchie River. With barbed wire, they attached a fan, used for ginning cotton, around his neck and threw him into the river.  

A grand jury had indicted Milam and Bryant. Their trial was scheduled to start on September 19th. The case had drawn national and international attention, due in large part to Emmett's mother having the picture of his mutilated body published in the Chicago papers. So, my boss gave me enough spending money to drive from Atlanta to the trial in Sumner. I was to call in daily and report on the proceedings.  

As I drove through Alabama I never could have realized the profound effect the next few days would have. Not only would events affect the nation, but my life would never be the same. I grew up in Atlanta, a son of a northern gentleman and a southern belle. My father had transversed to the South from Maine and had met my mother at a grocery store one Saturday afternoon. He had asked her help in selecting a ripe cantaloupe. Their fingers slightly touched when she handed him the fruit, and before long they were in love. Our lives were full with them raising me and my brother and sister. I was the middle child and grew up being the mediator between my know-it-all older brother and my headstrong sister.  

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Illuminated Dots by Emily Dawson

13-year-old Jack Baker, feeling trapped in rural Montana, seeks adventure, while his father wants to teach him to live off the land; by Emily Dawson

Meth labs dotted the mountainsides and every so often one sent long laces of black smoke into the sky when it exploded. It would be all over the local news and everyone would say, hey, did you hear? Did you see the fire? But after a day or so the excitement waned and the town found something else to talk about. Those who knew they would never escape the valley either settled in and found their niche in a trade or eventually became a meth head or a smurfer. Meth heads were just your regular scab-faced junkies and smurfers were their henchmen, scouting out ephedrine or pseudoephedrine in the drugstores outside of town.

I’d ride my bike into the mountains and hunt for the blown up labs - derelict trailers with newspaper covering the windows, sheds with missing boards, detached garages of abandoned houses - all of them blackened and charred. When I found one, I’d take a small memento from the rubble and add it to the collection in my backpack. I was only thirteen then, but I knew I had to get out of the valley. I could feel it in my bones. I could almost forgive my mom for leaving us when I thought about it that way.

People talk in small towns and word spread like wildfire that my mom was sleeping with Brock, the owner of Mountainside Realty. Part of me already knew. She’d been Brock’s secretary for two years and often stayed late at the office. When he called the house on weekends, she excused herself from the room but I could still hear her through the walls, laughing too loudly. She’d stopped talking to my dad practically altogether by then and he spent more and more time alone in the barn.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Red by Catelyn Lanier

A senior investigator finds the body of a missing girl - but who murdered her? By Catelyn Lanier

A red sleeved little arm protruded limp from a pile of dead leaves. The rest of the body lay hidden beneath the coffin of crackly brown and yellow foliage.

"Has anyone touched her?" Ana scanned the small group of people gathered around.

"We waited for you," Holly, the crime scene tech, murmured just as the sun broke through the trees, shaking off the morning fog.

Ana sighed deeply and longed for the cup of coffee she hadn't had time to get. The day was going to be long, and she hated to admit it to herself, but her first homicide had her just a little bit excited. She'd worked in the Violent Crimes Unit for the past eight years, but this was her first time calling the shots. But that excitement was tempered by the sight in front of her. She knelt down next to the slender arm, with its pale white hand, frozen blue veins visible in the upturned wrist.

"Gloves, please." One of the techs handed her a pair of white ones which she quickly slipped on.

"Photographed already, yes?" she said, a hairline crack in her normally strong and authoritative voice.

"Yes, and I'm ready." The voice came from a young man Ana didn't recognize.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Inheritance by Beryl Ensor-Smith

The town bully discovers a sensitive side when he receives an unexpected inheritance from his uncle; by Beryl Ensor-Smith.

Willie Slabbert was amazed to receive a letter from his cousin Hester, and even more amazed at its contents. He and Hester had never hit it off, yet here she was, writing that her father, Oom Koos, had died and she was sending Willie something to remember him by on the goods train.

Hester had always resented Willie's good relationship with her father. Jealous, she was, and he could only assume that Oom Koos had asked specifically that Willie be sent something of his when he died. Even Hester could not disregard the wishes of a dying man! Trust her, though, not to give Willie the opportunity of attending the funeral by keeping quiet about Oom Koos's death until now. She could be truly vicious, could Hester.

His mind roved pleasantly over his prospective inheritance. Hester had said it was too big to post. Could it be a piece of that beautiful Cape Dutch furniture? If so, he would place it in the hallway where it could be shown to best advantage. That would make some of the old cats in this dorp sit up and take notice. They had all written him off as an odd-ball, not that he cared, but not one of them had anything to equal even the meanest piece of Oom Koos's valuable antique collection.

The next week passed slowly, Willie's anticipation mounting. Whenever he met any of the ladies of Prentburg, he could not help giving them a knowing grin. They had delighted in mocking him in the past, but now the tables would be turned as even their crass ignorance could hardly fail to recognise the worth of Oom Koos's big dresser (for surely it was the dresser? Hester had never liked it!) gracing his entrance hall. When the dames of the dorp came round asking for money for their various charities, they could not help but see and admire his new acquisition.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Eternal Duo by K Viswanatha Sastry

K Viswanatha Sastry's character expects a visit from an old schoolfriend, but hard feelings are dredged up.

It was all about friendship that day.

I had just completed reading a book about friendship. It dealt with the subject in vivid detail. It said friendship was a unique bond. Friendship either softened differences between friends or promoted a unique understanding despite the differences. Friendship was no concept; in fact, it was an energy, real like any other energy driving us. Further, the book said, one consumed by the energy of friendship went to great lengths to accommodate friends. In the process, one did not mind the troubles needed to be taken.

The book reminded me of my friends and my days with them. The book was true, every word; only a person who made a great friend himself or herself could author such a book, I thought. Just then came the message; it only added to the mood I was in. The message was that Vijay was coming to visit me in a few hours!

Vijay was my best friend. We had not met for a long time.

Vijay had been admitted into my school in rather unusual circumstances: approaching our school for admission upon his father's transfer to our town and after our half-yearly examination was over, Vijay had faced rejection. Seeing his crestfallen face, I had interceded with my father, who was headmaster of the institution, on behalf of Vijay and secured him an admission. In a voice full of gratitude, Vijay had said, "You are my best friend."

Sunday, May 19, 2013

New York Hearts by Kyle Hemmings

Kyle Hemmings' lyrical flash about a New York ballerina.

Behind the fading pulse of day, Zin is not dying. And although wounded by a thousand loves, she can still perform a petit saut while thirsty. Or "spot" on her own demand, execute near flawless rotations of the head, fingers forming exquisite egg shapes, or almost touching hips, the not quite blonde hair pulled taut. Her Spanish "fourth position" is untenable.

When a relationship ends, she multiplies in mirrors, leaves fresh blood streaks. She's in love with a gay dancer named Lev. Between rehearsals, in hushed conversations when he stumbles on long words, mutters fragments of his childhood, his eyes drift and turn star-ward. She can see herself as incredibly small and dancing inside his eyes.

At the tail of a crowd jaywalking to dusk, Zin shuffles or sidesteps, imagines herself as the perfect lead for Firebird. Who, in this crowd of scherzo-disbelievers, she wonders, can catch her?

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Rain, the Boy, and the Lion by Bradford Philen

Deep in the mangrove forests of rural Senegal, Gorgui tells his son a story about the mystical powers of his Great-Great Uncle Malang, in Bradford Philen's unique African fairytale.

On Wednesday it rained all day throughout the entire country of Senegal. It was a shivering, but wondrous rain. Mali recorded no precipitation, except for in villages like Ambidédi, Satadougou, and Faléa that lay near the border with Senegal and the rivers that divide the two countries. It was the same in Guinea and Mauritania and Guinea-Bissau and in The Gambia, Senegal's little brother. No rain. Yet a heavy cloud sat over Senegal. For a Wednesday in March this was unusual. Marvelous. The rains came in late June, but never in March. It was clearly an act of Allah, God, the Creator. In Dakar it was proclaimed the "day that Macky Sall cleaned the streets." Sall, elected the new President just two days earlier, must have prayed for the rain, the people charged, to rid the streets of the mayhem. There had been eleven dead in less than a month: all victims of the political protests.

The same rain muddled Omar. Some 400km south of Dakar on île de Karabane, deep in the delta of the Casamance River, he had never felt such a callous rain. It usually came down in months like July and August, late in the afternoon, when the Earth's heat begged for the showers. Omar didn't go to school on that Wednesday in March. It was too cold. He sat with his father Gorgui, who smiled at the sugary smell of the rain diluting the air that usually reeked of salt. They poured cup after cup of Café Touba to stay warm.

On Thursday the sun arrived again and the day passed with an almost exaggerated energy of rebirth. It was a new day and the people spoke of the rain as if it had transformed life. Sanguinity. Refreshing, rekindling the radiance of life. Allahu Akbar. Gorgui watched Omar take the path towards school, his books tucked under his arm. He knew his son wouldn't come directly home, rather he'd chase classmates and cousins through the surrounding mangrove trees, and they'd hunt small birds with their hand-carved slingshots.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Lucky Day by Irena Pasvinter

Irena Pasvinter recalls the response of her Byelorussian school and her family to the Chernobyl disaster.

Some days promise nothing unusual, but all of a sudden you get terribly lucky. May 7th, 1986, was a day like that: alarm clock, closing my eyes again, Mom with, "You'll be late," fried eggs for breakfast, school, the first three lessons over.

And then something incredible happened: we were told to go home. No lessons anymore. We could not believe our ears - what luck!

"You've heard about the accident at the Chernobyl power station. There may be more trouble there today," the teacher explained. "Nothing to be afraid of, but it's better to be prepared for an emergency. Go home and make cotton wool masks, just in case. You know how - you learned it in the War Preparation lesson. And put a wet cloth under the outside doors."

Sure, we knew about the cotton wool masks - nothing could be simpler. We were in the tenth grade; in less than a month we would have the exams and - goodbye Gomel's 10th school named after Alexander Pushkin. What we had no idea about even two weeks ago was the Chernobyl nuclear power station. Then rumours had started.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Take That, Stephen King; Buzz Off, Sue Grafton by David Howard

A writer finds his novel discounted in a Borders store; by David Howard.

I quickly tore page after page from Stephen King’s latest paperback. I bet he’d never had one of his 200 or so novels adorned with a Bargain! sticker. In the spirit of equal opportunity, Sue Grafton was next. My narrow spot of floor between A and M in the Borders fiction section was becoming a small lake of paperback print.

The customers thought I was part of a program to attract people on a winter morning, a way to boost sales on a slow day. I nodded in the direction of a person saying “origami artist,” and folded a few of the loose pages into triangles.

I had surrounded myself with as many paperback bestsellers as I could lug off the shelves, along with copies of my own book, The Things We Are, the shiny cover emblazoned with a bright orange 75% Off! sticker below its $1.99 price tag. I’d done the math, even though I knew I shouldn’t have. My book, my novel, my life now cost 49 cents - less than any bookmark in the store.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Abraham's Ride by J H Mae

A more modern echo of the biblical Abraham, while out surveying his land, finds a meeting with destiny; by J H Mae.

It was cold this morning, no more than ten above. Abraham worried about his cattle.

Bede was cleaning up breakfast dishes, and their youngest son and daughter were still rubbing sleep from their eyes, when he left with promises to return before dark. He saddled his horse and rode into that cold morning, across the thousand acres of God's land he called his own.

Abraham had last surveyed the fifty acres at the western edge of his property a couple weeks ago. The plot was wooded with ash, maple and birch, and cut through by a narrow tributary of the Grasse River. At a meander in the tributary was a small outcrop where Abraham would sit - his thinking spot, he called it - and listen to the river trickle over the rocks like music.

It was to that spot he led his horse, Peg, her hooves stepping deftly through a thin coating of snow that hid rock and root. The trees were bare, the forest quiet and a very fine snow floated in the air, never falling. Abraham could only hear his breath, and his heart beat, giving him life.

But up ahead, behind a stand of birch, was something unusual. The smoke of a fire.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Tolerance by Jack McKenzie

A couple driving through hazardous ice and snow pick up a pair of hitchhikers; by Jack McKenzie.

Alice was the first to see them, although afterwards, amongst friends, Harry would say that he had seen them before she did. It didn't matter. The timing meant nothing compared to the substance, and it wasn't worth the trouble to argue about it, so when they were together he let her tell the story her way. And in her story she saw them first.

They were on their way back from visiting Alice's cousin, Gerald, who was dying of cancer. As they drove along, Harry behind the wheel, they both agreed that they were glad that they had made the trip. They talked about how much it had meant to Gerald's wife, about how people don't care enough about the dying these days, but the truth was that Harry cared very little about Gerald or his imminent death. The only thing that concerned him at the moment was making it home on the icy roads, and not ending up in one of the snow banks that bordered either side like crashing waves frozen at their peak.

As said, he had already noticed them by the time Alice said something. Over to the right, halfway in the road where their car sat, the two of them stood, huddled together almost like lovers, stranded in the middle of nowhere.

"Pull over and see if they need help," Alice said.

Harry did not think this wise, but his wife insisted, and he did not tarry when she did.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Checkout by Benjamin Goodwin

Brian readjusts to suburban life after returning from a Peace Corps tour; by Benjamin Goodwin.

The last of the mom and pop general stores had been closed in the wake of the new massive superstore located in the next town over. It was just starting construction before Brian left for the Peace Corps and apparently did not take long to run all the other shops around out of business. It was a bit depressing to think about, so Brian tried to push it out of his mind on the way to the discount department store. His mom had asked him to pick up a few things for her whilst she was at work. Normally she would do this herself, but she wanted to give her son an excuse to leave the house. Brian was grateful for it.

It had been a difficult few weeks since he returned from Panama and the transition had not been easy. It wasn't so much the cultural differences as it was the climate change. Even the nights in Panama were hot. Although the 60-degree weather in Connecticut was unseasonably warm for early winter, Brian could never seem to get comfortable. At night he would cover himself with as many blankets as he could find, but the weight of it all made it hard for him to sleep.

Brian pulled into the massive parking lot, which used to be a plaza full of family owned shops. He wondered which one of them he parked his mother's Toyota on. He silently prayed to himself that he would not run into anyone he knew from high school. There had been a few run-ins with past acquaintances since he returned, none of which had gone well. It was never going to be the people he wanted to see. His old friends had mostly moved away and the only people he ran into were the kids he always avoided when he was at school. These people had become townies, perpetually stuck in the quicksand of easy-living suburbia. They went to community college and commuted from their parents' houses. They were everything Brian wished he wasn't and it was distressing to see them.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Pimp Chef: An Interview With Paul Dixon by Christopher T Garry

A journalist interviews an up-and-coming Las Vegas chef who pimps on the side; by Christopher T Garry.

Since 1993 Paul Dixon has been a leading authority on wholesome homemade restaurant cooking. Unlike a lot of chefs running three star restaurants on the Las Vegas Boulevard, Paul thumbed his nose at the established way of doing traditional swank menus, for the sake of food that is strikingly tasty and tasteful, foregoing all pretense of being anything other than just "Good food, done well."

All of his dishes are made from locally farmed ingredients and, with the exception of a few imported ingredients, they all are organic. This is a costly measure of course, but a rewarding one as viewed by thousands of satisfied tourists and locals every week, who have all been afforded Paul's reasonable prices on great food. His restaurant is unique, with distinguished modern decor and delicate gardens lining the walkway leading up to the entrance.

The staff is pleasant, and the atmosphere in his place is cool and fragrant in even the most dreaded heat of the surrounding Nevada desert. If that's not enough to distinguish Paul from your usual brilliant Chef/Owner of a Hip Joint on the Strip, there is also the fact that Paul's staff works for him in another capacity, since he is, in fact, a pimp.

We had a chance to catch up with Paul on a busy Saturday afternoon before the dinner rush.