Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Backing Out by Cara Long

Tommy helps Jessup fix his pickup truck while waiting for Leanne to come home; by Cara Long.

Jessup has his head and hands shoved under the hood of his pickup truck when I pull up into the driveway.

"When are you gonna let that old beater die?" I call out to him as I cross the lawn to go into the house.

"Never," he responds triumphantly, waving a wrench above his head.

I pull open the screen door and call out for my girlfriend.

"She's not here," says Missy, Leanne's kid sister. "She said to tell you to wait." Missy doesn't take her eyes away from the TV when she says this.

"Where'd she go?" I ask.

Missy shrugs. "With Christine somewhere."

I take a seat in the recliner. Missy is sprawled out on the couch, watching something that I can't really follow. There's a bunch of kids standing around, singing.

Jessup comes in the living room, wiping his hands on a rag.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Magic Mirror by Ray J Robbio

A museum curator's assistant finds an artefact with mysterious powers; by Ray J Robbio.

When someone loses a limb, the brain continues to send forth instructions to the now missing part of the body. That's kind of what I am going through right now. I am telling my legs to move, and nothing is happening. I'm telling my arms and fingers the same, with the same results. It's a weird feeling really. I'm not sure how long this will last, but some say it can go on for years. Oh, God, I hope not.

Let me back up and explain what's happening.

I was hired two months ago as an assistant curator for the Chicago Museum of Natural History. It was a huge step in my career and goal to become a full-fledged archeologist. Dr. Duval was the current curator and, well, let's just say he was eccentric. He was a short, stout man with thinning hair. I think he thought his comb over would fool people, but it was obvious what was happening on his increasingly balding head. He took his job seriously. I would say too seriously. His days would be spent researching various artefacts. Their origins and their authenticity were all put under his scrutiny until he was satisfied that the objects he was receiving were the real deal. That's where I came in. A large part of my job was receiving the weekly shipment of assorted pieces, cataloguing them, and placing them either in storage or out for display. It was amazing to see the list of objects that came in every week. One week it would include a pallet of rocks from the Pilbara region of Australia. All needed to be identified, catalogued, and stored for possible future displays. The next week would be clay pots and utensils from Machu Picchu in Peru. Needless to say I learned a lot in the few months I was there.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Lilah by Robert Lowell Russell

The clan elders send Jonathon on an unwelcome quest in Robert Lowell Russell's fantasy story.

The three elders stood at Jonathon's door - there are always three. The youngest was as old as his father, the eldest bent and frail, the woman somewhere between.

"No," said Jonathon. "I can't do this."

The eldest held out the knife, and Jonathon's hands shook as he took the ancient blade. Behind him, his wife's face was ash. His son clung to her, pressed against the swell of her belly.

"Please," Jonathon said to the elders. "You can't ask me to do this. You can't."

But they could.

They trained at the base of the mountain and each day Jonathon said, "You've made a mistake."

"All those chosen say this," said the youngest. "We've watched you. There's no mistake."

"I can't do this. I don't know how."

"You'll learn," said the woman.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My Final Flight on the Never Never by George Sandison

An earthman stuck on a godforsaken colony planet explains how he got there in George Sandison's sci-fi story.

You wanna give that back now? I said you could have some, not suck on it like your mother's teat. You got aspirations of being a drunk then you're a damned fool and I'm not paying. This damned fool runs his own -


How 'bout I tell you a story? You wanna hear about my last flight on a spaceship? Yeah, I've been on loads of them, I wasn't born here like you. I arrived with Dora you know - crazy, beautiful, ultra- fashionable Dora, the Dora - eight months ago. Or was it ten? How long is a month here again? You don't believe me? We swooped in on the Never Never straight out of Eden, rich, beautiful and prepared to rule. You know how that feels, don't you.

I found them soon after landing. Or they found me. Or we found each other. I was still adjusting back then, sleeping through two days at a time then up for three. Colonial time, man. You know here I'm already 128 years old? I should be dead or something. That's what my soul says, anyways.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Catchcry by Charmaine T Davis

The family welcome Aunt Peewee's return, but something's wrong in Charmaine T Davis's creepy flash.

Aunt Peewee showed up at our annual Family Day picnic bearing her version of grasshopper pie. Mama was the first to see her and her smile could have broken a stone wall. Mama rushed to her, not sure whether to take the pie or give her a hug. In the end, Mama hugged Aunt Peewee and I got handed the ugly pie. The pie was dirt-brown, sprinkled with chopped pecans that looked a whole lot like oven burnt grasshoppers. I took the pie to the dessert table and hid it behind the more appetizing ones like yellow cakes with chocolate icing, cheesecake and sugar cookies.

By this time, Mama's other siblings, their parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and other tagalongs caught sight of Aunt Peewee too.

"Aunt Peewee!" The cries erupted like champagne corks popping at a wedding. "Aunt Peewee!"

Like a Godzilla tsunami, the whole family washed over her with tears, hugs and kisses. I wiped away a tear that had slid down my cheek, touched by the joyful welcome my aunt received. Before she had arrived, it was like we were all missing something or sighing over some hurt we couldn't name.

Friday, October 18, 2013

George and Pat For Ever by Anne Goodwin

Pat finds herself lying on a beach, wondering how she got there; by Anne Goodwin.

A strange light appeared over the White Cliffs of Dover. Pat screamed. Or, at least, she thought she did. Her mouth was as taut as an archer's bowstring and a shrill note vibrated through her throat to her head, but she heard no sound. Not even the squawking of the seagulls over the cliffs.

"Shh, it's okay," she told herself. Shh, it's okay: the long-ago voice of her mother when summoned to banish a childhood nightmare. Was she awake now, or still dreaming?

She couldn't move - or didn't want to - but sensed a softness below her, her body held, almost floating, like she imagined a waterbed would feel. Silently, Pat laughed. George would be none too pleased. He had always insisted on a firm mattress. He said it was better for his back.

What else? Cold, but a friendly cold that might wrap itself around her like a duvet of fresh snow, pure as a line of just-washed sheets on a sparkling winter's day. And grit - not much, yet enough to notice - scratching the corners of her eyes. "That's why I can't hear anything," she reasoned. "It's the sand clogging up my ears."

And, finally, the luminosity: all-pervading white flooding the frame of her vision, bleaching the grass, the cliffs, the sky. White drawing her towards it like the hose of a turbocharged vacuum cleaner.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Scuggins Girl by Max Detrano

Nine-year-old Kirby Nichols takes on a bike ramp against his father's better judgment in Max Detrano's flash fiction piece.

We live in the suburbs, at the end of a cul-de-sac. My nine-year-old boy, Kirby Nichols, followed Daley Scuggins' girl, Nikki, out into the meadow. One of those kids stepped on a yellow jacket's nest. I think it was Nikki 'cause Kirby, trailing behind her, got all the bites.

My wife, Margie, wrapped his arm in a towel full of ice, put frozen peas on his right eye; all the while Nikki, in shorts and a skimpy shirt, skipped around the island in the middle of our kitchen. After a while, Nikki tired of this drama and ran out our back door.

Once Nikki was gone, Kirby said he was fine and insisted on going back outside. Margie wanted him to take the pack of ice, but Kirby would have no part of it. The screen door slammed behind him.

The two kids got on their bicycles and rode in figure eights inside that cul-de-sac. Daley Scuggins, Nikki's Dad, dragged a piece of plywood and two cinderblocks out of his garage to set up a ramp.

Scuggins yelled at Nikki to "put the pedal to the metal." Nikki began riding wide laps, faster and faster, around that plywood.

I was hoping Nikki's mother would come out and put a stop to this, but she did not appear.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Choose Joy by Sarah Osman

Sarah Osman's boisterously blasphemous story of pothead Jacob, who hates his life playing Jesus at Jesus Land.

I play Jesus at Jesus Land. It's a shitty job because I'm atheist and I only do it because the Jewish guy from Brooklyn got the Mickey Mouse role at Disneyland. I have no college education, no formal training as an actor and my employability is probably around that of an illegal alien's. I have to pay for my crappy apartment that smells like tacos, the payments on my crappy car and for copious amounts of pot so that I can at least feel something (hurray for California and their lax medical marijuana laws. We have more marijuana dispensaries than McDonalds.) And so, as you can imagine, I have lost all faith in humanity. (Okay, maybe not all faith... but definitely the faith I had to live out the American dream.)

I tell my friend Phillip this during our measly half-hour lunch in the break room. The break room is as bleak as the cell of a criminally insane convict. To make it worse, our boss has taped up passages from the Bible - like John 3:16 - to inspire us. Behind the cracked torn pages from the word of God lies dull white walls with cracks in the middle of them. You know how Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth? Yeah. This is the most depressing.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Kids Don’t Get Choices by Devon Tavern

Eleven-year-old Eliza finds out a surprising secret about her past... and her future, in Devon Tavern's delightful vignette.

Eliza sat quietly on the bench of the picnic table in front of her favorite ice cream store. She fought hard not to cry. There had been too much crying over the last few days. The store being out of strawberry ice cream was no good reason for an 11-year-old girl to cry.

Other kids played around her, jumping and squealing at the prospect of a treat. But Eliza just couldn't find it in herself to be happy. She felt out of place here in her black dress and shiny black shoes.

She brightened up a little as she saw her Uncle Gavin walking towards her with two bowls.

"Here, honey." He placed a dish of ice cream in front of her.

"What is it?" she asked as she probed the ice cream with the plastic spoon. It had an odd salmon color and strange consistency.

"Try it," Uncle Gavin said as he dived into his giant banana split.

Slowly, she spooned out a small portion of the strange mix and hesitantly put it in her mouth. To her surprise, it tasted like strawberry. "I thought they were out."

"They were but they had vanilla ice cream, strawberry sauce and tools for mixing things." He smiled at her. "I'm a problem solver."

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Mr Stinkysocks by Arthur Davis

Mr Stinkysocks visits his two nieces at an idyllic campground and finds a deeper connection to the landscape, and the children, than he expected; by Arthur Davis.

Strange how easily you can forget who you are and where you came from. Even stranger, how assuredly you can be overtaken by the deception of who you might be and a life you thought might have belonged to another. Of course, realizations like this don't occur too often and certainly, at some point in your past you were neither Socrates, Caesar, Gandhi, or Salk, but were crawling out of the ooze of the earth with little more than your primitive reflexes. And, as it appeared to me, a truth beyond question, as you are now doubting the saneness of the author or forthrightness of this story, you will learn of my one defining experience that told me my delusion was grounded in fact rather than fantasy.

It might have been easier to reach this conclusion if I were alone. There would have been a purity of focus, nothing to distract myself from the task at hand. Though it's now clear that I was better served through the reflection of someone I loved.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Threshing-Floor by Isaac Attah Ogezi

Isaac Attah Ogezi tells the story of religious neophyte Brother Otokpa's unconventional courting and its awful consequences.

Sister Agbenu couldn't bring herself to believe the fact that the relationship between her and Brother Otokpa was over on the very day she was going to accept his marriage proposal. Somehow she blamed the Wily One, the accuser of the brethren, for making her respond so thoughtlessly to Otokpa's request that before she gave him an answer to his proposal, he needed to tell her about his past. A past in which Sister Naomi featured prominently. In a fit of anger, after she had listened to what he had to say, she responded sharply that an answer could not be given because in this case, it was taking her unusually long to hear from the Holy Spirit since there were other men who had also proposed marriage to her besides him. The 'other men', who was actually just one other man, was no other person than Brother Amaechi, the youth pastor of their church, whose overtures she had lately rebuffed. In as much as she now blamed her indiscretion, she still felt that Otokpa couldn't be completely exonerated from the part he played in stoking the fire of her anger in the first place. Why should he bring up Sister Naomi at this stage of their relationship? Why resurrect an issue that was long dead and forgotten? Didn't the Scriptures admonish believers to always forget their past, for 'behold I will do a new thing, can you not see it?'

Friday, October 4, 2013

Hunters of the Tribe by Petr Janecka

Lubos and Vladan are hunters in a post-apocalyptic landscape that may not be as extensive as it seems; by Petr Janecka.

The tribe had two hunters. One fat and one strong. Despite expectations, the former was better, his ways mysterious to the clan but always reliable. Bringing home beef and chicken as well as bread and pastry, he never failed to deliver. A trait that confounded Vladan, the latter of the two. Unlike his successful colleague, he couldn't stumble upon a single trace of wildlife.

In a parched wasteland dotted with toxic lakes and craters of bombardment hinting at warfare long since forgotten, procuring food bordered with impossibility. Yet somehow, overweight hunter Lubos managed to do so.

"You're a hero." The tribe revered Lubos when he victoriously walked into the encampment, carrying spoils of his endeavour in scavenged plastic bags.

Children cavorted before proceeding to eat with fervour what their mothers gave them. Adults gulped their repasts voraciously, feasting by a bonfire and then dancing in a ritual to appease the gods.

As for Vladan, he sat at the edge of the camp, shunned and mocked, forced to consume sour roots he could scavenge. An incompetent lout deserving nothing but laughter and scorn.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I Heard a Voice by Paul H Yarbrough

Atop a skyscraper, a banker and a CEO congratulate themselves on their contribution to the march of progress embodied in the city laid out below, when a stranger joins them and offers a different perspective; by Paul H Yarbrough.

They were standing at the ledge. Their view mirrored a panorama of buildings and smokestacks. Great edifices, heaving asymmetrically, skewed with monster cylinders venting plumes of expended energy. The farms, the land, scarcely discernible, were hiding from the crowding machines in ambient spaces where life of life and lives of lives grappled and struggled for survival. The agrarians had lost the battle, and the machines, as if with endeavor, had attempted to reconstruct victories into paradigms from the grist of Ayn Rand or Thomas Hobbes , the dizygotic twins, at once dichotomous and unitary.

"Where else other than from the top of a skyscraper can we see the power of the Maker, the Creator of all things dynamic and powerful?" The Banker cusp his hand at his forehead and turned his head in a slow arc, as to inspect the power of capital and treasures of earth.

"Nowhere but here; we stand at the zenith," the CEO of the hedge fund, United Capital World-Wide, her eyes hidden behind the lens of her mirrored-black glasses, stood posed, an erection of pride. "This portrait is a snapshot, a revelation that god is in all of us."

"But this is only an imprint. When all of this before us is finalized, we will truly bring the god in each of us into one god. The combined unit gods will bring all of this to everyone." The Banker had his own pride. "Don't forget, the capital purchased the labor."