Monday, January 27, 2020

Testicalia by Christopher K. Miller

Christopher K. Miller's character tells a painfully funny story in which he discovers a major disadvantage of having low-hanging testicles.

On April 26, 2003, experienced hiker Aron Ralston became trapped in a narrow section of Utah's Bluejohn Canyon after dislodging an 800-pound chockstone that rolled on its pinch points and pinned his right hand and forearm to the sandstone wall. Five days later he self-amputated to survive.

Before relating the events of my own similar fateful day, I feel it behooves the narrative to lay down some setting and character background. I hope this doesn't present as excusatory or rationalizing, but rather more just explanatory, contextualizing and even enlightening of how banal conditions and trivial events can lead to, what regardless some will think amusing alongside Ralston's misadventure, a seriously life-threatening predicament. And though no major motion picture has been or is likely ever to be made of my "heroic" ordeal, there were other rewards.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Family Court by Margret A. Treiber

Margret A. Treiber shares a court transcript from 2039, in which a judge is called upon to make a landmark decision in a child custody case.

STATE OF NEW YORK: COUNTY OF ONONDAGA

FAMILY COURT





ZENO REXNORD,

Petitioner;

-vs-

JACKSON GOLD,
Respondent

                                                                                                                   : Docket No.
                                                                                                                   : X-100-88/23


Monday, January 20, 2020

A Bath by James Mulhern

James Mulhern's 16-year-old character visits his grandmother and discovers truths about his family and himself.

"We won't stay long," my mother said. We were driving on the Jamaicaway, a curvy four-lane parkway in Boston. The pond was on our left. I knew she was nervous. She hated visiting my grandmother. Said it was so depressing. She couldn't stand to see her the way she was now.

"Do people swim in that water?"

"They used to. Until the seventies. A mother and daughter drowned. After that, swimming was forbidden."

When she spoke, the bruises on her face seemed to grow.

"What are you looking at?" She touched the side of her forehead and cheek. The blue and red had transformed into shades of orange and yellow. The colors reminded me of the trees along the water.

"Does it hurt?"

"Not any longer." She reached out and patted my head. "Don't worry, Billy. Your mother's a survivor." She braked at the crosswalk to let a man and woman pass. She sighed.

Friday, January 17, 2020

The Tongue by Ronald Schulte

A homeless bum starts talking in tongues, and soon finds out he's not the only one; by Ronald Schulte.

"Pardon me, ma'am... could you spare some change?"

The woman's reaction is classic. She almost trips over her own kid in her rush to get away from me. I grin as she fumbles with her keys at the top of the stairway. Finally they make it through the door. My smile fades, and I sigh.

Alone again.

What do they hear when I speak? I have no way of knowing for sure. My best guess is that they hear what I hear on those rare occasions when someone responds to me: nonsensical incomprehensible gibberish. Mostly I get funny looks when I speak. Some people, like the lady I just met, react with palpable fear. One dude even screamed at me, although I'm not entirely sure he wouldn't have screamed at me even if he'd properly heard the pleasantries I'd offered.

I don't know. Maybe this isolation is for the best.

"Mister?"

Monday, January 13, 2020

Camouflage by Ron Hartley

Soldier Ray has some terrible luck on his flight home after fighting in Afghanistan; by Ron Hartley.

His deployment was over, his biological arms and legs still attached and obedient to his brain. For twelve months he'd been alternatively homesick, sex deprived and haunted by a perverse desire to get hit just so he could get it over with. The odorous warrior dudes in his platoon were unhygienic refuse heaps of their former selves, but so juiced by steroids and firepower he couldn't help but think of them as superheroes of sorts, so he hung in there with them day after god awful day.

Helicopters would come sometime in the next hundred hours to fly the platoon out to the Bagram Air Base in Parvan Province, the first leg of their long journey home. Ray had permission to detach sooner and take the rest of his accumulated leave before hooking back up in the US. Cell phones weren't allowed in the field so photos would have to wait until they were together once more for separation processing. By then the faces in such photos wouldn't be so unhinged anymore. They'd be the born-again faces of reasonably happy beings, or if not happy then reasonably alive.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Little Light by Jessica McGlyn

Maddie starts volunteering for a Christian aid organisation working with disadvantaged inner-city kids, but hers is a much older religion; by Jessica McGlyn.

It didn't have to end like this. I should have seen it coming. After all, I'd been a young girl once too.

There goes little Bernaya writhing on the linoleum floor, her arms and legs a mass of oozing boils. There go the children of Little Lights, mocking and pointing at her. There go my fellow tutors, staring like fools, waiting on the Lord to intervene, I guess. There goes Ms LeMara, rushing in to help her.

But I know it's useless, there's nothing to be done. And all over that stupid kid, Tyrone.



Three months earlier, as I was telling my neighbor Jan about my plans, I could not have predicted Bernaya's tragedy.

"You're volunteering inside Potomac Gardens? PG? The public housing with all those drive-by shootings?" she asks.

"Jeez, it's not that bad," I say. "PG's just a few blocks from here. We should do more to help our neighbors."

Monday, January 6, 2020

To Build a Fire 2030 by James Rumpel

Todd is so reliant on technology that he's stuck when his self-driving car crashes in the woods; by James Rumpel.

Night had fallen, ill-lit and frigid, when the autonomous 2029 Ford Helmsman sped past an insignificant sign on a forsaken service road of Wenatchee National Forest. The electric car's barely audible whir suddenly ceased. All lighting on its exterior and in its interior dimmed, then extinguished. Propelled by momentum, the car continued to coast toward a hairpin bend in the gravel roadway. No longer operated by its state-of-the-art self-navigation system, the car jolted slightly as it parted ways with the road and joined the trees and undergrowth in the forest. The vehicle rolled down the steep embankment.

Todd jerked into semi-alertness when the car left the road. Aided only by the dim castings of a full moon woven amongst tree branches, he recognized the skeleton of a fallen ponderosa pine rapidly approaching the vehicle. Still slightly groggy from an unscheduled two-hour nap, Todd's survival instincts took control. Covering his face with his arms, he twisted to the left, ducking below the car's high-tech, though completely inert, dashboard.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Whose Lucky Night? by Renata Kell

Vince is about to pull off a heist that's been planned for months, but he's distracted by a captivating barmaid.

Something feels different tonight. Tonight is our lucky night. We are prepared to cash in on this casino in a big way. Yet I can't shake the feeling that something is off. Nothing looks different. The machines are flashing bright neon invitations to the dwindling bingo crowd. June and Charlie feed the hungry slot monster the remainder of their social security check. I wonder if they realize I have been watching them for more than six months. The girls in the deli are as fun to watch tonight as all the other nights. You would never know they are working. They are joking and laughing with each other and the customers that wander up to order midnight snack food. I can't help but laugh out loud as they start high-fiving and hip-bumping after a small burst of business.

"Vince," Joe says, his eyebrows narrowed in my direction.

"What? We're supposed to act like any other night, right?" I say.