Sunday, July 31, 2016

Lone Star, Lost Star by Lou Antonelli

Lou Antonelli's character tells of the day Texas disappeared, and what happened after.

I was standing almost smack dab in the middle of State Line Avenue, looking across the street at the Baptist bookstore - where I had parked - with a six pack of Coors in my hand, when Texas disappeared.

I am quite familiar with what happened, yes.

If I hadn't had to wait for a car to pass, I would have already been on the Texas side of the street when it happened. I hold the record for the person who was closest to Texas who didn't disappear with it.

I was so shocked I almost fell into the abyss, but the enormous thunderclap that accompanied its disappearance as the vacuum collapsed knocked me backwards flat on my ass. I clutched the ground face down as the wind rushed in to fill the empty space. The beer went flying and one can rolled towards the car that had just passed me.

The driver came to a tire-squealing stop. The car was buffeted as the wind rushed past into the space where Texas had been. I lay as flat as I could and clutched the asphalt.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Transformations by Eleanor Adams

Eleanor Adams's character tells of the bitter power of her friend Carmen who dabbles with the black arts.

When I was growing up, Carmen would babysit me and bring me treats. She's still there for me but now when she's around, Mom pulls me close and holds her Bible like a shield. Carmen laughs or mutters, but after she passes, Mom whispers, "I don't believe what they say, but just in case, be nice to her. Always."

Most find it easy to be nice to Carmen, who's always smiling even when angry. Children love her because she's their second mom, giving them homemade cookies while asking about their families. Adults find her to be a talky friend who after prying a painful secret out of them, leans in and says in flowery Spanish or halting English, "Come see me. I fix. Bring eggs, OK? I need."

A few months ago nosy neighbors would visit the ones Carmen had spent time talking to and tell them what she was. The ones who got scared ran if Carmen tried to talk to them while the other ones stonily watched her if she came to them. Most people were in between, too afraid to believe and too desperate not to. After time and fear went away they would be the ones who would go see Carmen, bringing eggs, butter or whatever she needed.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Sicilian by Aidan Furey

Phil, Tom and Simon play chess together on the anniversary of the death of Phil's wife in Aidan Furey's Northern Irish tale.

We were at Phil's house, high above Belfast on Black Mountain. Up there it was quiet, calm and when I gazed down on the scattered city lights that blinked and pulsed with life, it was as if I was looking into the past.

We had needed something to keep us together after we'd grown tired of the bar-life. At first we tried poker but it wasn't really a game for three people and the interest in it had quickly waned. We began to play chess. In the beginning the game was almost an afterthought but it quickly became competitive. Within a few months we had each purchased a Teach Yourself Chess book and it wasn't long before we were buying The Times for its daily chess puzzle.

'I should have brought my clock,' said Tom, tapping his fingers rhythmically against the table.

Phil moved his thumb and finger across the head of his knight, stroking it fondly. Finally, he placed it down on the board and smiled.

'That's what we were waiting for?' asked Tom, looking towards me with an animated look of despair. He moved a piece in reply, barely stopping to analyse the board.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Ballygilmore by R E Derouin

R E Derouin's character, freshly single, travel's to Ireland and finds herself at the crossroads of a fairytale.

"There's no reason for optimism." That's what Donald told me when I asked him where our relationship was headed. His rejoinder won him a gold star for honesty, and me an empty apartment. Thus ended seventeen months of sharing my bed and meager budget with a wannabe actor. I wasn't fishing for a ring on my finger; I was just sick of a rocking horse race to nowhere. Oh well, I wouldn't miss wiping off my pee-sprinkled toilet seat.

To flee the sympathy of my friends, I blew a windfall tax refund on an off-season promotional week to the home country of Aero Lingus. I deserved a what-the-hell week with New York on the other side of the Atlantic.

"Why Ireland?" my BFF Ellen asked. "It sounds boring."

I shrugged away the question with a maybe. Blame my grandmother. She'd spun tales of Emerald Isle in my growing-up years, as we shared a rainy day tea, snuggled in her massive easy chair. Her legends and stories bred a curiosity about the soil of my family roots. Telling red hair was good for free green beer every March, and those locks identified me a product of this land of goblins and spirits.

Friday, July 22, 2016

A Family Weekend by Bruce Costello

Owen and Noelene, browbeaten by their spouses, struggle to find solace during a family holiday; by Bruce Costello.

A white moon hovered over the Cleverly family's holiday cottage, casting dark shadows that moved with trees in the breeze.

From the lawn, where she'd gone to escape the heat and noise indoors, Noelene saw her sister, Sandra, still in her bikini, laying supper on the table. Noelene's husband, Stanley, was talking to their elderly mother, a tall, thin woman named Martha.

Seen through the slightly yellowed lace curtains, Stanley looked much older than his sixty-eight years. He was a podgy man with hunched shoulders, a bald head and gray sideburns that fell untidily over his ears.

It was peaceful in the garden. A sombre morepork owl hooted for a mate from the faraway beach pines, and Noelene felt like crying.

Somebody left the cottage and stood on the porch steps, peering out anxiously, naked from the waist up. It was Owen, Sandra's husband.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Folio 4198 by Andrew J. Hogan

The progression of World War II as told through letters to a Berlin zookeeper from his proud aunt; by Andrew J. Hogan.


{Archivist's note: This folio containing the correspondence from Helma Schützer to her nephew Errando Ablehnung was recovered from his estate near Neuquén, Argentina; correspondence sent by Errando Ablehnung to Helma Schützer was missing from the papers found in her Berlin apartment after her death in 1947. The first seven letters from Helma to Errando Ablehnung were addressed to: Prof. Dr. Errando Ablehnung, Direktor von TierBetreuung, Der Zoologische Garten Berlin AG, Hardenbergplatz 8, Berlin. The final letter was addressed to: Frau Marlisa Ablehnung, Burghauserstraße 117, Altötting, Bavaria; and subsequently forwarded to Errando Ablehnung, c/o Heide Steinmetz, Tarsdorf, Bavaria, near the Oberer-Weilhart Forest Preserve.}

16 Mai 1939

Lieber Neffe Erri:

I was so thrilled when your mother told me of your appointment as curator for animal care for the Berlin Zoological Garden. As you said when we last met here at my house while you were waiting for the endorsement of the NSDAP party leaders in Munich, the Zoo now holds the finest collection of animals and birds in Europe, and therefore in the whole world. You are at the pinnacle of your profession, and if I had been able to have a son to carry on my work protecting God's creatures, I could not now be more proud.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Engagement Party by John C Adams

Toby, with his wife Rose still grieving over a miscarriage, attends an aristocratic engagement party and faces up to a difficult truth; by John C Adams.

As my wife and I bounced along the potholed drive to Slimeport Manse I wondered why we'd even accepted the engagement party invitation. Rose's sister had refused to go near the place since her last visit. Despite family ridicule of the most vicious kind, their aunt's romance with a callow boy half her age had blossomed. When Rose had discovered that Professor Tinia had popped the question and Aunt Veneria had joyously accepted, she'd cackled and said their union resembled Slimeport Manse's famous black lemons. She'd reminded me that those affronts to Nature were only harvested once every ten years. My sister-in-law Radclyffe had scowled and drawn her cardigan over her pregnant belly. We were all relieved that Aunt Veneria was too old to give her future husband a child. The collective minds of the Flints and the Fanshawes boggled as to what would've come out of her womb if she had been ten years younger.

As Rose and I clambered out of our tiny beaten-up car she grasped my arm and whispered, "Toby, spending a night under this roof could be the answer to all our troubles. Look what happened to Radclyffe."

Friday, July 15, 2016

Hanley Trilogy by Doug Hawley

A newly rich liberal-minded teacher stumbles upon Mary Shelley's secret of reanimation, with wacky consequences; by Doug Hawley.


I should tell you about my Uncle Dave first. He was definitely the black sheep of the family. A little bit of his status rubbed off on me I fear. The rest of my family, outside of the two of us, were hard core Baptists and political conservatives. They were and are amongst those that believe abortion is murder, but fighting a war for oil that results in mass destruction and thousands of deaths is a good thing. Sorry, I'm getting off topic.

In many ways my family should have approved of my mother Alex's brother, instead of condemning him to hell. He was helpful, handsome, kind, athletic and rich - all of the things normally valued in males. Dave's main failing, in the eyes of my family and much of society, was his sexual direction. He had been living with Ted in a monogamous relationship since they met in college. I think that he might have been accepted if he had acted contrite and guilty, but he didn't.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Murder in South Jersey by Tom Minder

A retiree decides to write a murder mystery novel, and ends up being at the centre of a real case; by Tom Minder.

The squirrel mouthed an acorn and ran up a tree. A cat stalked a sparrow hoping for a trophy to drop on his master’s doorstep. Overhead a crow searched for prey. Boooooorrrrring! This can’t be my day. Watching animals and getting older. I need a change. Sam Redman closed his back door, drained his Wawa Colombian Roast and tossed it towards the kitchen can. The cup bounced off the rim and skidded across the floor, leaving a path of brown liquid.

Crap! He pulled a paper towel from the Owl-shaped holder bought by Lana at yet another crafts fair. The whole roll came off and skidded across the floor unfurling until it wedged under the stove. Sam yanked the paper from the clutches of the Amana, ripped off an arm-length of sheets and crawled to the spill. He wiped until the liquid was absorbed, then slam dunked towels and cup into the can. My adventure for the day. Lifting himself, he slipped on an unseen puddle and landed on his backside. “What was that?” came a voice from the laundry room.

“Nothing Lana, just tossing my coffee,” he replied as he stood. There has to be more than this. Retirement is nice, but I need to do something more than watch the world go by. He wiped off the coffee stain, climbed the stairs, and sat at his office desk. Now what’s on Facebook?

Scrolling through postings of cute food, religious verse, and ads for cheap hotels, he closed the app and sat back. He examined his small sanctuary seeking inspiration. A laptop, printer, bill-paying desk, and a goofy wooden Christmas reindeer offered no epiphany. The bookcase. Should I read something? I do spend too much time in front of the tube. He leafed through a few paperbacks and started an Agatha Christie. The colorful setting and mysterious characters drew him into the story.

He closed the paperback. Ah. I promised myself I’d write my great novel someday. No time like the present! He opened a Word document and stared at the screen trying to remember his plot. He smiled. Murder in South Jersey. That’s what I was going to call it.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Adam Met Edie by Winnie Khaw

Adam enjoys the ups and downs of getting to know his intriguingly odd university roommate Edie; by Winnie Khaw.

Adam met Edie the day before freshman classes began. The landlord of the two-bedroom apartment had told him that his other housemate would be an Asian-American girl named Edie, a decent young lady who was quiet and kept to herself. Well, the landlord had pulled that out of his ass.

Adam was sitting on his bed reading a Buzzfeed article professing to know why young singles were, well, alone, on his old laptop, door open, when Edie strode into the apartment dragging her luggage behind her. Without preamble, she stopped in his doorway, and then squinted at him before pronouncing, "You have nice eyes."

He blinked. "Why, thank you. I also have 'sympathetic eyebrows' and a 'compassionate nose.'"

She was near-sighted, hated wearing glasses, and was allergic to contact lenses, he later learned, which of course explained why she dropped everything, went up to him, and put her hands on his face. "I can see that," she said, smiling.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Nothing to Lose by Mitchell Toews

A baker and former hockey player reminisces on his colourful history as he delivers buns in the dusty Manitoba sun; by Mitchell Toews.

The man's arm hung from the window of the bread delivery van. He tapped his wedding band absentmindedly against the Hartplatz Bakery logo painted on the door. Viewed from above, the van carried enough speed down the flat country road to raise a vee-shaped plume of fine white dust, like the wake of a boat.

The dust hung in the heavy midsummer air, settling almost imperceptibly and with clinging persistence on the rose hips and yarrow and fescue and crocus growing alongside the road and down into the ditches. Dry fields lining the road awaited a summer storm; the first large drops would land as heavy as pats of butter.

Inside the van, a residue of Five Roses flour dusted the man's hair and stood out on the peach fuzz on his ears and the sloping nape of his neck.

He shifted down into second gear and eased the clutch back out making the motor race and the rear wheels check on the sandy gravel, adjusting their pace to the new ratio and slowing for the intersection ahead. The geometric roads drew a pale yellowish cross in dark green alfalfa fields.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Get Away Car by Aidan McNally

A liquor store hold-up doesn't go as planned in Aidan McNally's flash.

A rosary hung from the car's rearview mirror. Sean sat in the driver's seat. He pulled the black wool ski-mask over his head. He slid a loaded magazine into the handle of his pistol and slung the empty backpack over his shoulder.

Sean opened the door of his old Cadillac and stepped out into the empty streets. He approached the liquor store with a blinking neon Open sign hanging on barred doors. Sean pushed the door open and locked it behind him. He made his way to the check-out counter. "Put your fucking hands in the air right now."

A bald man wearing a black baseball cap embroidered with gold letters and an American flag stood behind the register. "Alright." He raised his arms.

Sean smashed the security camera with the butt of his pistol. "Open the register." He threw the backpack on the counter. "Put the money in there."

The clerk dropped his hands. "No." He pushed the backpack off the counter. "Get out of my store, asshole."

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Wife's Vacation by Joe Giordano

An arch couple dine in the Labyrinth Restaurant and talk about their travels, but each is holding something back; by Joe Giordano.

The sommelier poured a splash of red. Randy passed his glass. "Why don't you taste the wine?"

Victoria's eyes widened. "An '83 Bordeaux? That's quite a splurge." She swirled, savored the bouquet, then sipped. Victoria rolled her eyes. "Orgasmic." She nodded, and the steward poured.

When they toasted, the Riedel glasses tolled like bells.

Randy said, "It's great to have you home."

The Labyrinth Restaurant was chrome, black leather, and beige accents in subdued light. Randy and Victoria were seated under an oil painting of Theseus sailing off, abandoning Ariadne on the island of Naxos.

Randy said, "Shall we order the Beef Wellington for two?"


Friday, July 1, 2016

Freedom by Beryl Ensor-Smith

Ethan dreams of flying, but is his loving wife holding him back? By Beryl Ensor-Smith.

For as long as he could remember, Ethan had memorable dreams. When he was very young, they were mostly coloured by stories his mother read him about dragons, dinosaurs, spacemen. Magic filled his dreams. As he grew older these changed, and in his high school years, were mostly about achieving fame through sporting achievements or academic prowess. In actual fact he was very average in both, but in his dreams he shone so brightly that he became the centre of attention and popularity as every youngster desires.

However, it was when he reached his thirties that his dreams became most exciting. It was then that he took to the skies when he fell asleep. All he had to do was press down on the balls of his feet, spread his arms, and he would spiral upwards, travelling great distances in the twinkling of an eye. He would look down onto the town where he lived and see it from an entirely new perspective, the houses like tiny matchboxes and the farms beyond them patches of green, yellow and brown. When he woke in the early morning he would tell his wife Elvira about his night-time travels. Depending on her mood she would either tease him, laughing, telling him he was daft as a brush, or crossly suggest that he put his mind to trying to find a better job instead of wasting it on crazy dreams.