Friday, November 29, 2019

Hustle by Brian Moore

An up-and-coming writer happens upon her best selling idol in a restroom; by Brian Moore.

Kate's badge is lavender. Lavender means she is a conference presenter. The status of presenter comes with special privileges.

For instance. Presenters have access to the President's Lounge: plush, burgundy furniture, exquisite reprints of Degas and Monet arranged dramatically on all the walls, and a buffet of foreign cheeses and cream-filled pastries. Presenters also receive five complimentary tickets to the wine bar, six dollars a glass for attendees, and Katrina intends to redeem every single ticket before she leaves tonight. Best of all, access to any seminar, workshop or speech is free. The only exception is the evening gala with Eilleen Gatrick.

Katrina substitutes brie and eclairs for her Tupperwared breakfast of yogurt, a bruised banana and two Oreos pilfered from her son's lunchbox. She sinks into one of the comfy red chairs and flips through the conference program, balancing a glass of white in her left hand. She stops at Gatrick's page.

Monday, November 25, 2019

All Fish are the Same by Peter Ninnes

Two Australian anglers win a fishing trip to New Zealand, but it's not the kind of fishing they're used to; by Peter Ninnes.

"You little beauty!" Leo's hairy arm waved his phone in my face as I opened the front door, rubbing my eyes. "I tried to call before I came, but you didn't answer."

"What day is it?" I asked, tightening my Batman dressing gown against the fresh breeze slipping through the door.

"Saturday, mate. Check out this message!"

I pushed his phone further away, so I could focus on the text.

My eyes refused to obey. "What's it say?"

"It's about the Christmas raffle!"

Leo and I were both members of the local deep-sea fishing club. We fished together every Sunday. We'd each bought a book of ten tickets in the club Christmas raffle every year since 1998, without a shred of luck. It was enough to make me doubt the existence of the white-bearded man in the red suit.

Friday, November 22, 2019

The Shiny Side by M. C. Tuggle

Trucker Travis enlists a friend's help to carry a particularly unusual load; by M. C. Tuggle.

"All right, Wanda June, brace yourself."

I gave Travis a look, and he gave me a grin right back. He slid the hatch, turned the handle, and pulled the creaky metal door open.

"Damn." I scratched my chin and just stared.

The setting Texas sun reached deep into the trailer of Travis' articulated truck, illuminating strange, otherworldly stuff you'd expect to see in an Indiana Jones movie. Among dozens of odd-sized wooden crates stood golden columns topped by silver crescents, altars of blue stone with metal inlays, and big-mouthed brass urns.

"Whatcha think, Wanda?"

"What is this?"

"The owner says it's for his temple."


"That's what he said. Name's Vakil. Calls himself a magus."

"What's that?"

"I didn't wanna ask. You shoulda seen him. Skinny, bug-eyed, all dressed up in black."

Monday, November 18, 2019

On the Edge by Clifford Hui

Clifford Hui tells a story about the importance of friends and family in hard times, featuring avian biologist Raul Vega.

Raul Vega pulled their hotel room door closed. He and Josh Leitner turned to walk toward their rental car when Josh said, "Isn't that our phone?" They paused and listened.

"Nah," Raul said. "It's the room next door."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah. I'm sure."

They walked to their car, drove to Saldanha Bay, and crossed the causeway to Marcus Island, home to a colony of Jackass penguins. With the braying of the penguins in the background, they parked their car and walked toward their workspace in the low tin-roof building. Their waffle-soled boots crunched on the rocky pathway. Josh was taller, with sandy hair curling over his ears and down his neck while Raul's wiry form was topped with fine dark hair in waves so tight it appeared almost kinky and cut so short it almost looked painted on.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Nor Gloom of Night Tom Sheehan

Blind, one-legged veteran Jack Carrick relies on audiobooks, and the man who delivers them, to keep him company; by Tom Sheehan.

Upstairs in the front bedroom, blind amid the toss of linens he had known intimately for seven long years, in touch with passing traffic and summer conversations when the windows were open, Jack Carrick lay in the middle of sound, in the middle of darkness. His left leg, set upon by diabetes and the surgeon, was elsewhere; his right hand was stained by nicotine, the index finger and close companion yellowed as shoe leather, and those fingernails bore fragments of that same deep stain. Gray, thin hair, most of it about his ears, drooped like fallen stalk, except for one thatch above his forehead as if an odd bird, at length, would roost there. The stubble of his beard sprouted as off-white as an old field of corn waiting the last reaper. Once, Jack Carrick's eyes were as blue as eggs dipped at Easter. Once, they were deadly remarkable over the sights of a Springfield Ought-Three.

Darkness, most of us know, normally has its antecedents... the last of sunlight long over the horizon cutting the world in half, and the day, like a lamp being switched off or a fire snuffed to gray smoke and ashen smell, time eventually giving itself up to a new caretaker. Blindness, though, as with bed-ridden Jack Carrick, is prefaced at times not out of color, or the memory of it, but erupts ringing out of a collection of sounds.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Infinity, in Four Acts by James Rumpel

James Rumpel gets meta.


In Captain Smith's version of reality, he was eternally seated at the wheel of an assault vehicle. Today was no different. Glancing over his shoulder he spied Private Kohler waited patiently in the back of the vehicle. To Smith's relief, the reckless young soldier had nestled into the safety harness. Kohler's survival of the imminent collision was of primary importance to the plan. As the captain waited for the enemy to emerge over the nearby knoll, he once again checked the surroundings.

The assault vehicle was snuggled between a large speckled boulder and an enormous concrete wall. None of the soldiers stationed on this planet knew the origin of the ominous structure. Smith did not know if the barrier had been constructed to keep something in or something out. What he did know was that it was too tall to scale. As far as its length, Smith could not even begin to estimate. Troops had investigated to the east and west and no one had ever found the beginning or end of the expansive structure. As far as Smith could tell, it went on forever. Mystery aside, their assignment was to protect this structure and he was not going to fail on that mission. Smith was, by design, the ultimate soldier.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Arms and Legs by O. D. Hegre

One heart, two patients - can there be justice when politics gets in the way of medical ethics? By O. D. Hegre.

The conscious mind provides excuses for our misdeeds, allowing us to suppress the guilt with rationalizations. But one cannot escape the unconscious where all is laid bare. And while society may not punish you, and God may not exist, be assured - in your dreams you will find the punishment you deserve.

Madame Romani

3:45 pm
Chapel at the Underwood Heart and Vascular Institute.
Richmond, Virginia

Raymond Kirkland, MD stood outside the door of the Chapel. He'd lost a patient overnight, and that was always a sobering event for any physician. But this death was jarring and totally unnecessary by Kirkland's assessment. The donor heart that should have been sustaining the life of his young patient - that, by all ethical standards and clinical criteria, was hers - now beat in the chest of another, a new patient of the Cardiologist, recovering four floors above in the ICU.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Boys by Gary Ives

Two smart, caring kids with very different backgrounds become such firm friends that surely nothing could keep them apart; by Gary Ives.

Noah entered the art room having to pee really bad. Before taking his seat he asked Miss Wilson for permission to go to the bathroom. "You've had plenty of time to take care of that between classes, so please just sit down." He had tried to go after Geography but Mr. Rolf, the janitor, was mopping the boys' bathroom. Thursday was art class day for the seventh graders during the last period. Miss Wilson told each table to create a "Florida, The Sunshine State" poster. These would be displayed at the assembly on Friday. He shared his table with Fredrico, a Mexican boy he barely knew. They were cleaning up before the bell when Noah lost it. Though he tried to stop, a little pee came out and then a lot. The khaki school uniform pants were soon darkened, and a small puddle lay at the foot of the stool.

"What's the matter," Fredrico asked.

"I had an accident; I peed myself. Everyone is gonna laugh at me. Look there's pee on the floor."

"Jus' stay there, don' say nothing." Fredrico took a roll of paper towels from the cleanup shelf and sopped up the pee. "Don' feel bad, such things happen. No?"

Friday, November 1, 2019

Dark Vader Isn't Real by James Rogers

Andrew is the only one left to care for his mischievous vanishing son; by James Rogers.

"Dark Vader isn't real," Colin told his father as they stepped into the elevator.

"That's right," Andrew replied, raising his eyebrows to the woman in scrubs who was already aboard. She smiled.

"What's this guy about?" Colin asked, throwing his tiny little five-year-old thumb at the woman.

"Colin, have manners," Andrew said. "I'm sorry, he hasn't quite figured out 'he' and 'she' yet."

"Oh that's ok. He's so cute." Colin turned to face her. "Oh dear, he has a little bruise." She frowned at the purple-yellow smudge on the boy's cheek, just below his right eye.

"Yeah it's... You know the way these things happen," Andrew said.

"And his spaceship isn't real. And his light saver isn't real."

"That's right, Colin. You've said that several times today."

"My friend thinks he's real. She thinks he's out in space but he's not. Dark Vader is fiction."