Category Archives: flash fiction

A Fifty Word Horror Story by Lori Schafer

The zombies crashed into the house.

“Brains!” they moaned.

The family was gathered around the television, watching. None of them moved.

The zombies scratched their heads. The parents were staring at the screen. The children’s mouths hung open.

“No brains!” the zombies moaned.

And moved on to the next house.

******************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Lori Schafer’s flash fiction, short stories, and essays have appeared in numerous print and online publications. Her first two novels, My Life with Michael: A Story of Sex and Beer for the Middle-Aged and Just the Three of Us: An Erotic Romantic Comedy for the Commitment-Challenged, will be released in 2015. You can find out more about Lori and her forthcoming projects by visiting her website at http://lorilschafer.com/.

Advertisements

Car Park by Shawn Van Tol

The car rolled up to the curb and stopped. Bob quickly hopped out and walked around the back side of the car to Catherine’s door. She smiled to herself, touched by the small act of chivalry, blissfully unaware that Bob was using those precious seconds to release gas pressure that had been building to dangerous levels over the last four minutes of the drive. He allowed the breeze to carry his flatulence away and then opened the door with a cool smile. She took his hand, extending lovely legs onto the sidewalk, and exited the car. Bob closed the door and pulled out his phone.

“Now watch,” he said, tapping at the screen. “The app tells the car where to park and how long to wait based on the time of the movie.”

Catherine snuggled in close to his body and peered at the screen. “That’s so cool!” she said.

“Yeah,” Bob said. “You can even instruct the car to park in the shade. The solar panel on top will trigger the car to move to a different spot if it’s sitting in direct sunlight for too long.”

“What time is it?” Catherine asked. “Are we late?”

“Oh, yeah. We’re cutting it close,” Bob said. “Let’s go.”

He tapped his screen, selecting the option for shade, and the self-driving vehicle pulled away and made its way toward the parking lot. Bob couldn’t help but smile as he saw Catherine’s beautiful legs leading the way into the theater. She was always so frisky during these midday matinees. They hurried through the glass doors and into the air conditioning of the large building.

Bob’s car, a brand new 2021 Nissan Soulare, wound its way around the hot parking lot. Sensors and GPS signals guided it safely along as it searched for a suitable spot of shade. But in every place, the solar panels indicated direct sunlight. It exited from the lot and drove itself down the street.

The car moved easily down Franklin Boulevard, rounding a sloping bend that led around a park. Two teenagers, well into their first experience with LSD, watched the driver-less car pass by. One saw the car as a UFO that split the sky open like a sheet while the other knew with absolute certainty that the vehicle was an orb of pure light coming to restore all that had been lost from humanity. The sensors of the Nissan Soulare found no appropriate places for parking and moved on.

Further downtown, traffic snarled around two lanes worth of construction. A hefty man, resting his ample belly on the handle of a jackhammer, spat on the window of the car as it passed by. “That’s for my brother, you piece of shit! He used to be a cab driver!” The Nissan Soulare sensed the foul discharge of moisture and began to spray its own windshield and activated the wiper-blades. The eyes of the hefty man went wide as he accidentally drove the jackhammer into his big toe. He fell to the ground in pain, and the car moved on.

The vehicle pulled into the vast parking lot of a Stuff Mart and began searching for shade. On the other side of the lot, another Nissan Soulare was doing the same. They scouted the lot like sharks following a faint scent until they both closed in on the same spot. The two vehicles simultaneously turned in, then, sensing the other’s proximity, stopped abruptly. Servos wound up and down. Sensors scanned and signals pinged. On a server based in Silicon Valley some seven hundred miles away, two sets of logic collided in an endless battle of zeros and ones for the final spot of shade.

******************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Shawn Van Tol is an amateur writer who is secretly training to become a lazy man. He hopes to one day conquer the literary world with books so that he can quit his day job and never wear pants again. More of his stories can be found here.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Operation by Darlene Campos

My parents worked hard, but only when they could. Ate usually only worked temporarily, and Ina had a regular job that didn’t pay much, anyway. Not long after Ate got a steady job with good pay, Ina lost her job at the superstore.

“They said I used too many sick days this year,” Ina told us during dinner on the day she got fired. “But truth is I ain’t been absent since the day I gave birth to Nimo.”

“I still got my job, and Nimo’s got change in his piggybank. We’ll be okay,” Ate promised.

“What about your surgery, Ate?” I asked as I picked at my broccoli. “It’s next month.”

“Don’t worry about that, son — I’ll cut myself if I have to,” he said.

“Jay Eagle!” Ina cried and slammed her fork down on the table.

“What? I cut myself with my razor all the time. I think I can cut my chest open, too.”

Ate was born with aortic valve stenosis. It means his aorta doesn’t open as big as it should. He had surgery when I was three, but the doctor said he’d need surgery again, eventually. Now I was thirteen, and Ate was still alive, even though he could die any second. I didn’t like it when he took naps on the couch after dinner. I thought he might never wake up.

******

“Ate,” I said one night as he napped during an All in the Family rerun. “Wake up.”

“Not now, Josie, I still got all my clothes on for crying out loud,” he groaned.

I nudged his shoulder with my hand, and he turned to his left side.

“Josie, last thing I wanna do is knock you up after you’ve lost your job,” he went on.

“Ate, it’s Nimo!” I called out, and he jolted up from the couch.

“Nimo! You could’ve given me a heart attack! But hell, if I had one, I wouldn’t need to pay for surgery after all.”

“Sorry, Ate,” I said. “It’s past midnight, though, and Ina’s in bed waiting for you.”

“Is she wearing lingerie?” he asked with a big smile.

I shrugged my shoulders, and Ate ran to the bedroom. I stayed on the couch for a few minutes, relieved.

******

After two weeks, Ina still didn’t have a job, and Ate wanted to cancel his operation. They fell behind on the bills, and we were back to eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

“You’re not canceling your surgery,” Ina said at breakfast one morning. “Don’t you have benefits at work now?”

“They don’t kick in for another couple months, Josie,” he informed her. “I can live until then.”

The phone rang, and Ate got up to answer.

“Hello?” he said. “No, you can’t talk to Josie, she’s dead. You can’t talk to Nimo either ‘cause he’s in prison for killing Josie.” Then he hung up.

“Who was it, Ate?” I asked.

“Your grandmother,” he said, and Ina pulled on his ponytail.

******

The day before Ate’s surgery, Ina took me to the cash loan office just outside Pine Ridge rez. We waited in the lobby next to Ray Firebird, who wanted a booze loan.

“Hey Nimo,” he said. “I thought you was in the slammer for killing your mother.”

“He is, I need a loan to bail him out,” Ina said.

Ray Firebird nodded and pretty soon, he passed out on the floor, so we got to take his place when the clerk came out.

“I’m not sure we can give you a loan, Mrs. Thunderclap,” the clerk told Ina after they talked for a minute or two. “The computer says your credit score is substantially low, and your household has 15 unpaid credit cards.”

“Jeez Ina, what did you need that many credit cards for?” I asked.

“To raise you,” she said.

The clerk shook his head and said Ina was better off paying for Ate’s surgery with money borrowed from family.

“All of my family’s broke, why the hell do you think I came here?” she said.

The clerk grunted and gave Ina a sheet with the word DENIED in big letters.

“Ina, what about Leksi Gray Mountain?” I asked as we walked to the exit. “He’s a doctor. I’m sure he’ll lend us the money.”

“You’re right, Nimo,” she said, nodding. “But Ate doesn’t like asking his brother for cash. So I’ll do it for him.”

I waited in the lobby with Ray Firebird snoring next to me while Ina called Leksi Gray Mountain on the pay phone outside. She came back inside after about ten minutes, smiling. Leksi Gray Mountain said he’d send us a check, but not to tell Ate about it.

******

The next day, I sat in the hospital waiting room with Ate and Ina. Ate squirmed in his seat, so Ina whacked him on the head with a magazine.

“I’m about to get cut up, and you’re hitting me?” Ate protested.

“Yeah, to knock you out so we won’t have to pay for anesthesia,” Ina retorted.

Ate slouched in his seat, quiet and sweating from his forehead.

“Nimo, Josie,” Ate said after a few minutes. “In the worst case scenario, after this surgery, I’ll be dead. Nimo, you can have whatever I own, which is nothing. Josie, if you meet another guy you really like, marry him.”

“I already did, he lives in our basement, and he won’t come up until you croak,” Ina said.

Ate shook his head. Ina took hold of his hand, and she didn’t let go for a long time.

******

After Ate got called in, we all waited for the doctor inside a hospital room. Ate wore a big paper gown and wiggled on the bed so much that it rattled.

“Stop it, you’ll break the bed,” Ina scolded.

“If I wanted to break it, I’d bring you up here and make Nimo a sibling,” he said. “I’m starving, I ain’t eaten since yesterday. But I guess it’s good practice for how broke we’re gonna be after this damn surgery.”

“I’m hungry too, Ina,” I said.

“Okay, I’ll run down to the deli to get a sandwich for you,” Ina told me, patting my head. “If the doctor comes while I’m not here, tell him to wait until I get back. I’ll only be a few minutes. Okay?”

I promised I would, and she kissed Ate on his cheek before she left. I stayed at Ate’s side, watching the presidential debate on the TV with him.

“Turn it off, Nimo,” he said. “If I wanted to hear an idiot talk, I’d call your grandmother.”

I shut the TV off, and Ate slid further into the hospital bed. He was shaking, but he probably thought I didn’t notice.

“Nimo,” Ate said. “If I go, your ina will take good care of you. She always has.”

“Don’t say that, Ate, you’re gonna be fine,” I told him. “You survived the last surgery.”

“I’ve also survived a 15 year marriage, but I think I’m running out of strength,” he said. “Just promise me two things if I don’t make it out alive.”

I asked what he wanted, and he was quiet for a few moments. He put his hand on my shoulder to make sure I was paying attention.

“First, keep my wedding ring and do only that. You pawn it and I’ll come back from the dead and take you with me,” he said.

“I promise. What’s the second thing you want me to do?”

“Every single time your grandmother calls, heckle her.”

I laughed, and we did a pinky swear. He sat up in his bed and tugged me by my arm.

“You know something, son,” he remarked. “I’m still paying the hospital bill for your birth. I told your ina to go to the backyard and squat when you was coming out, and she hit me. If she had squatted, we wouldn’t have a bill for you.”

“Really?” I said, and he nodded. He admitted he and Ina couldn’t afford to have a baby when I came along, but did anyway because they felt like taking a risk.

“And everything went okay,” Ate pronounced. “Except for the bill. But you turned out better than we thought.”

Not long after, Ina was back with my sandwich, and the doctor followed after her. He wheeled Ate away down the hall. I poked my head out the door, watching him leave.

******

About five hours later, Ate was brought back into the hospital room, woozy and high on anesthesia, but alive. He saw me first when he opened his eyes, and he waved at me. But he didn’t recognize Ina.

“Hey son,” he said. “Who’s the burning hot nurse standing over there?”

“I’m your wife, you bonehead,” Ina told him. “And this is our son, Nimo.”

“We got a son?” he murmured, half awake. “So, you mean, we’ve done it?”

“Yes, that’s how we got our son,” Ina responded.

“That’s so awesome,” Ate announced. “Man, you’re the hottest nurse in the world. I should get surgery more often.”

He fell asleep right after, and Ina adjusted the blanket so that it was covering all of him.

“Nimo,” Ina said, turning to me. “Go home and tell my second husband in the basement to get lost.”

******************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Darlene P. Campos is an MFA candidate at the University of Texas at El Paso’s Creative Writing Program. In 2013, she won the Glass Mountain magazine contest for prose and was awarded the Sylvan N. Karchmer Fiction Prize. Her work appears in Prism Review, Cleaver, Red Fez, Bartleby Snopes, Elohi Gadugi, The Writing Disorder, Connotation Press, Word Riot, Plain China, and many others. She is from Guayaquil, Ecuador, but has lived in Houston all her life. Her website is www.darlenepcampos.com.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mango Salad by Stephen Mander

A man came into the post office today and asked for a chai latte. I said we didn’t have any. He didn’t believe me.

Are you sure? he said.

I said, look around. We sell envelopes, cards, boxes, jiffy bags. This is a post office, not a coffee shop.

He looked at the shelves then at the exchange rate board behind me and said: but I don’t need envelopes or anything like that. I need a coffee. A chai latte preferably. Why wouldn’t you sell them?

I said, because this is a post office. Post offices don’t generally sell coffee. It’s not what they’re for.

He looked confused, but you’re a shop, aren’t you? You sell things.

I said, yes, we are, and we do sell things. Just not coffee. You’re welcome to put it in the suggestion box, though, and I pointed at it.

He followed my finger there and back and said, you’re joking, right? This is a joke, yeah? Is there a camera around or something? Are we being filmed? Yeah, yeah, very funny. Okay, I get it. Now, can I have my latte?

I said, sorry, sir, this is not a joke. We don’t sell latte. The cafe up the road does, but we don’t. Why don’t you go there? It’s not so far.

He said, but I’m here. I came here. You were open. You were a shop. You must have latte. Some kind of coffee, at least.

I said, look, how many times have I got to tell you? We do not sell coffee. If anyone’s on some prank TV show, it’s you. Now, can you stop wasting my time? There are other customers for me to see.

The man turned around. The queue had been building. He said, but you need to deal with me first.

I said, I have. Next.

The woman behind him stepped forward. The man moved out of the way. I ignored him, smiled at the woman and said, what can I do for you?

She got a list out of her bag.

Mangoes, she said. Unripe ones. I’m making a salad.

******************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Stephen Mander is originally from Liverpool in the UK, but has lived and worked in Japan, Australia, Hungary, Slovakia, and Syria. He currently lives in Vietnam.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Movie Endings Ruiners Club by Rich Dodgin

Keith knew he should be enjoying the film, but he couldn’t relax. His mouth was dry and his hands felt clammy. He couldn’t believe they were really going to do this.

They’d planned this out to the finest detail and had practiced and practiced what they were going to say, so he should’ve been prepared. But sitting in the darkness of Screen 1 surrounded by hundreds of strangers made the whole thing a lot more nerve wracking than he’d expected.

It was another one of those stupid ideas that they seemed to come up with when the three of them got drunk together. “The Movie Endings Ruiners Club,” Dave had said in drunken glee. “We go to the cinema and halfway through the movie we loudly announce the ending of the film. Then we leg it.” This had been at 2am when they were incredibly drunk, and they’d all laughed and thought it brilliant.

Now, a couple of evenings later and sober, Keith wasn’t so sure. He could sense the people around him, and the fact that he and the others were going to deliberately fuck this film up for them suddenly seemed a lot less funny.

Next to him, Paul seemed equally nervous as they waited for the agree moment to arrive. He fidgeted and shifted in his seat like a dog with fleas.

“Sit still for fucks sake!” hissed Dave. “Remember what we agreed. We’re in this together. No chickening out. Ok?”

On screen, the mother of the young boy was complaining to another parent about some perceived mistreatment or other. It would soon be time. Keith felt his stomach tighten in anticipation. Oh fuck. Oh fuck. Oh fuck. We’re really going to do this, Keith thought. Shit.

“Ready?” asked Dave in a voice loud enough that they could all hear him above the sound of the film.

They mumbled their replies, and Keith focused on the on screen action. Here we go.

“Three,” chanted Dave, as the three of them stood up slowly, “two, one!”

And they all shouted loudly in unison, “BRUCE – WILLIS – IS – A – GHOST!” before racing for the door, laughing and yelling at the rush of it all.

******

Despite his disbelief at what they’d done, Keith had to admit that it was one hell of a buzz and enthusiastically agreed to do it again.

Over the next couple of weeks they managed a few more successful film-ruining sessions, each time getting the rush of adrenaline as they ran away laughing at the insanity of what they were doing.

But they soon found it was harder to get away with. The cinemas had received complaints from some filmgoers and had been given descriptions of Keith, Dave, and Paul. In the end, their local multiplex told them they were banned and that the police would be called if they ever returned.

*****

Which is where Keith thought it would’ve ended.

But somehow the story made the local and then the national press, and before long there were copycat Movie Endings Ruiners Clubs popping up all over the country.

Within a couple of months it got to the point where you couldn’t go to the cinema without someone ruining the plot halfway through. The cinemas were losing money due to declining audience numbers and the numbers of refunds they were paying out to complaining patrons.

The Daily Mail started a campaign demanding something be done and blaming the three lads from Edinburgh as the cause of it all.

As a result they became minor celebrities for a couple of months and even appeared on a few television and radio shows. Keith found he was recognised wherever he went. Most people were friendly towards him, but some of those who’d had their film going experiences spoiled were quite confrontational.

He was therefore relieved when the cinemas finally hit on the idea of having audiences wear earphones to listen to the films. The problem gradually faded away and so did the public interest.

******

A few months later Keith and some friends were in a busy bar chatting with a group of female students they’d just met.

Keith was getting on particularly well with a dark-haired girl called Julie. She was attractive, intelligent, laughed at his jokes, and there was a natural spark between the two of them. This could be the start of something special, he thought.

Which was when one of his friends interrupted their conversation to tell Julie, “You do realize that is the Keith Forsey you’re talking to — don’t you?”

Julie frowned. “From the Movie Endings Ruiners Club?”

Keith glared at his friend, and then nodded sheepishly. “Yeah, that was me.”

“God. For a while I hated you and your idiot friends. Every time I went to see something at the cinema some moron ruined the ending.

Keith groaned. “What can I say? It was a stupid idea that got out of hand.”

Julie laughed. “Don’t worry. The last time it happened I was on a terrible first date, watching an awful film with some guy I realized I couldn’t stand. It was a godsend when some jerk stood up and told everyone what was going to happen. We all asked for our money back, and I got to make my excuses and go home. So thank you.”

“Wow, I think that’s the first time anyone has every thanked me for ruining a movie ending,” said Keith, beaming as he did.

*****

Later, when it was obvious that the interest was mutual and the two began discussing possible first dates, Keith half-jokingly suggested the movies.

“No thanks,” Julie said sweetly, “I think I’d sooner commit seppuku than be caught in a movie theatre with you. No offense.”

“Fair enough,” said Keith, giggling.

They went for a romantic dinner instead.

******************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Rich Dodgin is an Edinburgh-based fiction writer and music journalist. Visit him online at http://www.richdodgin.com/.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Anthills by Jeremy Kniola

The colony burned. Flames scorched the mound of pine needles, smoking out workers from their subterranean dwelling. On the ground little black bodies smoldered. Those still alive scattered from the laser beam intent on eradicating their kind.

At the helm of his spacecraft, General Lance Litman watched the destruction unfold. Soon the aliens would surrender and Earth would be saved from invasion. The President would award him a medal for courage. His name would become synonymous with heroes in history books.

Through a magnifying glass Lance focused the sun’s white rays on an anthill at the edge of the patio. A mass genocide orchestrated by a ten-year old with a mean streak.

Die, alien scum, die, he shouted with glee.

The screen door flew open. His mom walked out in her dirty, checkered apron. Dust powdered her poofy auburn hair white. She pointed the ostrich feather duster at him.

With the sun behind her, she looked like a cowgirl challenging him to a gunfight. Lance swore he saw a tumbleweed roll between them.

Why aren’t you cleaning your room? she asked. I told you to do it an hour ago.

In Lance’s mom’s world, Sunday was cleaning day. Rain or shine, healthy or sick, she religiously performed chores like a good Catholic obeying the Sabbath.

But I don’t want to.

I don’t care what you want.

Lance reached for his pistol, but Mom was quicker on the draw. He clutched his heart, spun in circles, and collapsed to the ground, bellowing loudly — Aaagghhh! — until his last breath.

Mom stuck her hands on her hips like she was sliding her gun back into the holster. I’m not horsing around. You better hop to it or you can forget playing video games later.

Getting up, Lance stomped out the tiny fires and meandered into the house. As he entered, his mom handed him a garbage bag, a roll of paper towels, and a bottle of Windex. He started to make a fuss, but she wouldn’t hear it. Everybody has to pull their weight around here, she said, dusting the china cabinet. Lance headed toward his bedroom, or cell as he now pictured it, feeling the weight of the ball and chain attached to his ankle.

As he passed the kitchen, his older sister, S.A.R.A.H., or Stupid Analog Robot Algorithmic Humanoid, was scrubbing the fridge, wearing silver latex gloves that stretched to her elbows. Two antennas poked out of the top of her head. When she sneered, light gleamed off the metal in her mouth. She clunked across the tile to block his path, shoes squeaking like they were in need of oil.

Thanks for helping, dickwad, she said in her monotone automated voice.

Lance wished S.A.R.A.H. were installed with an OFF button. She could be so annoying sometimes. Calculating all the chores she got stuck doing. He tried to pass, but she wouldn’t let him through. When he told her to get out of the way, she retracted her arms and said, make me, numb nuts.

Raising the Windex bottle, Lance sprayed S.A.R.A.H. in the face. Sparks shot from her eyes and her body shuddered as her circuits malfunctioned. A warning alarm cried — Mom! — until it lost any semblance of the word. Mom! Mum! Muuuh!

Mom stormed around the corner, a tornado of indignation. Laaannnce!

Lance darted around his sister, hurdled over the vacuum, collided with the mop sticking out of the closet, regained his balance, ran down the hallway and dove into his bedroom to the cheers of the crowd in his head. He raised his arms in victory, but the victory was short lived. His mom called for him to COME BACK THIS MINUTE.

A mound of clothes lay on his floor. It reminded Lance of the anthill. Concentrating hard, he mutated. His chubby torso segmented into three sections. His skeleton turned inside out. Two extra limbs grew from his bellybutton. Claws morphed from his hands and feet. Feelers poked out of his forehead. They detected movement coming from the hallway. His mom approached. Through his compound eyes he watched her mouth stretch into a tube equipped with elongated tongue.

You’re in big trouble, mister, the anteater said.

Frightened, Lance dug a tunnel in the anthill. He burrowed deeper and deeper until he thought he was safe.

******************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Jeremy Kniola resides in Chicago, where you may find him writing at one of many local cafes. His fiction has recently appeared in Dogzplot, The Big Jewel, and Literary Orphans. He wears glasses.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Baby And Me by Lori Schafer

Our best friends were having a baby. Inwardly, I groaned.

“You know what this means, Frank?” I complained to my boyfriend. “They won’t be going out with us anymore.” One by one our friends had succumbed to the bothersome burdens of boring adulthood: first marriage, now children. Soon only Frank and I would be left gloriously unencumbered.

“Sure they will,” he reassured me. “It’ll just be earlier. And, um, noisier.”

He should know. His sister had a kid, a rambunctious pre-school aged brat with no redeeming qualities that I had ever observed. Frank volunteered to baby-sit every so often. I called this my quarterly booster of birth control. Each time his nephew arrived I wanted children even less.

Frank, I suspected, was a bit soft on the kid thing. He seemed to like children an awful lot for someone who claimed not to want any. Once he had even told me that if I changed my mind about having one, he might be on board with it. I said that was just his biological clock ticking.

The pregnancy seemed to last forever, and I wasn’t the one carrying the bowling ball around in my belly. Every week when we visited our friends – who had already begun the mystifying transformation from regular adults into the strange creatures known as Mom and Dad – we had to suffer through the latest revelations. The tests, the pictures, the ultrasounds, the boy-girl debate and its resolution, the design and decoration of the nursery, how soon they wanted the next kid to come along. I feigned interest. Graciously, I hoped. I was happy for them — really I was — but only in a generic sort of way. I mean, I’m glad, too, when the local team makes it to the World Series, but I still don’t watch the games.

And then finally it happened: the kid was born; healthy, rosy cheeks, ten fingers and toes, and everyone was happy, all except for me. I still complained.

“Now we’re going to have to go and see the baby,” I whined, fully aware that this was spoiled and selfish and not caring in the slightest.

“So?” Frank replied, puzzled, his warm, dreamy eyes already misting over in anticipation of witnessing the wondrous miracle of magnificent new life.

“Never mind,” I answered. It would have taken too long to explain.

For our friends’ sake, I did try. I pretended to be impressed by the wee magical creature sleeping so adorably in the pink bassinet. I expounded with delight on how she had her mother’s ears and her father’s eyes, or maybe it was the other way around. I chuckled when Dad played peek-a-boo and made kitchy-coo noises at her. I was very convincing.

Too convincing.

“Do you want to hold her?” Mom inquired in a hushed tone, as if it were a great honor bestowed only upon the most worthy of visitors to the baby’s shrine.

“That’s okay,” I said, summoning all of the firm politeness I could muster.

“It’s all right; you can hold her,” she assured me.

“No, thank you,” I replied, less politely and more firmly, well aware from past experience that even the least doting of new parents would refuse to believe that there could be a woman on Earth who didn’t really want to hold the baby.

“Aw, come on, you know you want to!” she urged, prompting me to wonder whether she and the kid were part of a grand conspiracy to make a mom out of me whether I wanted it or not. “Here, just take her for a minute,” she repeated, dumping the kid in my lap as if it were a grocery bag I was supposed to bring out to the car. “I’ll be right back.”

So then I had to sit there with my arms out holding the kid’s head up like you’re supposed to, and wondering when this enforced bonding time was going to be over, and how many more years I would have to put up with this annoying little creature and the brothers and sisters that would soon follow it, and then she reached out with her tiny pink fist to grab hold of my index finger in the sweetest, most endearing gesture you have ever seen.

“Forget it, kid,” I said scornfully. “That’s the oldest trick in the book. You’re not winning me over with that.”

A sentimental sigh ruffled the air behind my back and I whipped my head around to find Frank peering covertly at the tender scene from the edge of the doorway. “Oh, how cute!” he proclaimed, springing ecstatically into the nursery, evidently unabashed at being so red-handedly caught spying. “You look so natural sitting there with a baby on your lap!”

“Forget it, bub,” I answered, glaring up at him. “You’re not winning me over with that old trick. You like it so much, you take it!”

He opened his arms to grab hold of the wee darling, and laid her across his chest, prompting her punctually to spit up all over it. And then another, more powerful stench filled the room, causing the dreamy mist to fall abruptly from Frank’s eyes like an old-time theater curtain over a completed movie fantasy. Staring horrified at the hand that had been supporting the baby’s bottom as if it were contaminated, he set her ruefully down in the crib and yelled for Mom and Dad to come and fix her.

“Whew!” he exclaimed, plainly disgusted, struggling to remove the spit-up from his shirt with a baby-wipe while the baby’s piercing cries rang throughout the bunny-lined nursery. “That’s why I’m glad we are never going to have children.”

I looked with new respect and appreciation at the screaming, stinking little bugger and wondered whether she and I had more in common than I’d thought. And with that I reached down into the crib, grasped the baby gently by that pint-sized fist and whispered, “Thanks, kid. You might not be so bad after all.”

******************************************************************************************************************************************************************

This story originally appeared in Every Day Fiction.

Lori Schafer’s flash fiction, short stories, and essays have appeared in numerous print and online publications. Her first two novels, My Life with Michael: A Story of Sex and Beer for the Middle-Aged and Just the Three of Us: An Erotic Romantic Comedy for the Commitment-Challenged, will be released in 2015. You can find out more about Lori and her forthcoming projects by visiting her website at http://lorilschafer.com/.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Disobedience by Craig Towsley

“Good catch. Good boy! Okay, now bring it here. No, here. Come on. I said bring it here. I’m not chasing you. Get over here. Leave those people alone. They don’t care about your Frisbee. Stay. Stay. Stay! You want to get tied up? Get over here. Stay. Stay. That’s it. We’re going home. Finally. Now drop it. Drop it. Drop. IT! I’m not playing the pulling game. No. Drop it. Just drop it already. I’m not playing this game. Give me that Frisbee. Give it to me. Jesus.

Okay, good boy, good boy. Are you ready for another throw?”

******************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Craig Towsley writes flash fiction, but earns money by writing for video games. He lives in Montreal, QC, with his wife and dog. This story originally appeared on his website.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Lights Flickered and Went Out by Allen Kopp

The room was very quiet. Miss Adele’s teeth made little clicking sounds as she chewed. Miss Florence grunted as she tried to cut her meat and couldn’t. The knife slipped out of her hand and clattered to the floor. Mr. Benny looked around to see what the sound was but lost interest before he figured it out. Mr. Wilhelm was hearing nothing; he was asleep, his head hanging over his plate. Like the points on a compass, the four of them sat at a circular table.

“Don’t you think you should wake him up so he can finish his dinner?” Miss Florence said.

“Huh?” Mr. Benny said.

“Why don’t you wake him up before he falls out of his chair?”

“Let him fall,” Mr. Benny said. He was trying to soak up the gravy on his plate with a piece of bread but his hands were shaking so much he couldn’t manage it.

“My, but this is delicious,” Miss Adele said.

“What is?” Miss Florence asked.

“I don’t know what it is. There’s a little bit of tomato in it, I think, but I don’t recognize anything else.”

“You’re better off not knowing,” Mr. Benny said.

“What time is it?” Mr. Wilhelm asked, suddenly coming awake.

“Why should you care?” Mr. Benny said. “You’re not going anywhere.”

“It was six o’clock about an hour ago,” Miss Florence said.

“It’s anybody’s guess,” Miss Adele said.

“A funny thing about time,” Mr. Benny said but he began coughing and didn’t finish the thought.

“What month is it?” Miss Adele asked.

“It’s April,” Mr. Benny said.

“Is it still the same year?”

“Yes, it’s still the same year.”

“This year is going along rather slowly, isn’t it?”

“Like a great big turtle in a race with death. See who comes out ahead.”

“Just ask your body what month it is,” Miss Florence said.

“What do you mean?” Miss Adele asked.

“When your toes are freezing off, it’s probably December or January.”

“When you see Christmas decorations everywhere, you know it’s probably December.”

“Good thinking,” Mr. Benny said. “You ought to go to work for the FBI.”

“Oh, they wouldn’t want me!”

“I don’t seem to be able to stay awake long enough to eat dinner,” Mr. Wilhelm said, picking up his knife and fork and going at his food again.

“Don’t you sleep well at night?” Miss Florence asked.

“I sleep all right, I guess.”

“Sleep comes in large doses or really small ones,” Miss Adele said, but nobody knew what she meant.

“After dinner let’s play some cards the way we used to,” Miss Florence said. “That ought to be fun.”

“What do you mean ‘the way we used to’?” Mr. Benny said. “I’ve never played cards with you in my life!”

“When we were children, we used to play Old Maid,” Miss Adele said.

“I’m happy to say I’m not one of those,” Miss Florence said. “I’m a widow.”

“And how many times were you married, dear?” Miss Adele asked.

“It really isn’t any of your business, but if you must know I was married three times.”

“I’ll bet all three of your husbands tried to kill you, didn’t they?” Mr. Benny said.

“Why would they do that?” Miss Adele asked.

“Well, just look at her.”

“They did not try to kill me,” Miss Florence said. “They worshipped me.”

“Well, what happened to them, then?”

“Two died, and the other one, well, it’s best if we don’t speak of him.”

“I never got married,” Mr. Wilhelm said. “I didn’t have time. I ran a company that employed five thousand people. I worked night and day. I was married to the business.”

“Oh, brother!” Mr. Benny said.

“Didn’t you get lonely?” Miss Adele asked.

“I did not!”

“I bet you had plenty of lady friends, though, didn’t you?” Miss Florence said. “A handsome fellow like you.”

“I did not. There was someone once, though. We lived together for about ten years.”

“What was her name?”

“It wasn’t a ‘her.’ It was a ‘him.’”

“Oh, dear!” Miss Adele said.

“His name was Zachary. What he and I had together was very rare.”

“I never took you for one of those,” Miss Florence said.

“I knew there was something about him!” Mr. Benny said.

“Have you ever had the good fortune to meet another person in your life with whom you have a spiritual connection? It doesn’t happen more than once. It was that way with Zachary and me.”

“Now I’ve heard everything!” Mr. Benny said. “It’s like finding out that General Eisenhower liked boys.”

“I’m ashamed of nothing,” Mr. Wilhelm said.

“What happened to Zachary?” Miss Florence asked.

“He died.”

“Oh, that’s a crying shame!”

“He’s buried in his home town in Tennessee. When it’s my time to go, I’m going to be placed in the grave next to him.”

Mr. Benny rolled his eyes. “On that note,” he said, “I think I’ll leave you good people and go back to my room, if I can remember how to get there.”

A sudden flash of lightning and rumble of thunder made them all turn toward the window. Miss Adele screamed and turned over her water glass.

“It’s been too warm all day,” Miss Florence said. “I knew a storm was coming.”

“Storms scare me,” Miss Adele said. “I can feel the electricity in the air. It makes my skin prickle.”

“Your skin was already pickled,” Mr. Benny said.

“I’d rather die in a storm than some other ways I can think of,” Miss Florence said.

“Do you notice how we always get around to the subject of death?” Mr. Benny asked.

“Well, what’s wrong with that?” Miss Florence asked. “There’s nothing wrong with death. It’s part of life. I, for one, believe that death is not the end.”

“What is the end?” Mr. Benny asked.

“How should I know?”

“Heaven? Angels and fluffy white clouds?”

“I think that heaven is what you want it to be.”

“So, you’re saying that heaven exists only in the mind.”

“I’m not saying that at all.”

“You don’t know anything.”

“You don’t need to be rude,” Miss Florence said. “I can still get up from this chair and slap you silly if I want to. I’ve smacked old men around before and I don’t mind doing it again.”

With the next flash of lightning, the lights flickered and went out. Miss Adele squealed and put her hands to her throat. “What do we do now?” she said desperately.

“They’ll be back on in just a minute,” Miss Florence said. “No need to panic.”

“Hey, I like it better like this!” Mr. Benny said. “You all look much better in the dark.”

“The only way you would look good to me,” Miss Florence said, “would be if you disappeared.”

“Now who’s being rude?”

Somebody brought in a kerosene lamp, set it in the middle of the table and went away again without a word.

“Oh, how nice!” Miss Adele said. “Just like olden times before there was such a thing as electricity.”

Mr. Benny raised his wine glass. “Here’s to storms,” he said. “May they always be on the outside.”

“I hear music,” Miss Florence said.

“How lovely!” Miss Adele said. “Somebody’s playing the piano.”

Miss Florence in her spectator pumps and Miss Adele in her mules stood up and began shuffling their feet together in an approximation of dancing. Mr. Benny lit his one cigar of the day and blew out a cloud of smoke that looked, in the distorting lamplight, like ectoplasm at a séance. Mr. Wilhelm fanned his hand in front of his face and sighed as Miss Florence and Miss Adele danced away into the darkness on the far side of the room. And outside, the thunder and lightning raged as rain pounded against the glass and the storm gathered nearer.

******************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Allen Kopp lives in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. He loves his two cats and has had over a hundred short stories appearing in such diverse publications as The Penmen Review, Belle Reve Literary Journal, A Twist of Noir, Burial Day Books, Dew on the Kudzu: A Journal of Southern Writing, Short Story America, Offbeat Christmas Story Anthology, Skive Magazine, Midwestern Gothic Literary Journal, Creaky Door Magazine, Gothic City Press: Gas Lamp, Churn Thy Butter, Wordhaus, and many others. His Internet home is: http://www.literaryfictions.com

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Coping with Death by Bruce Goodman

It was one of those terribly, terribly sad cases of death. Marjory couldn’t cope. When Harold died, she couldn’t face it. She told none of her friends. She hid the body in a box in the garage and locked the door. She never went back.

For days, weeks, months after the death she wore black. On the rare occasion when she ventured out, mainly for groceries, people commented that they never saw her these days. “And we never see your husband shopping with you.” She told no one why, although once she broke down in public. Those who saw surmised that something was quite, quite wrong.

“Oh for God’s sake,” said her husband, Lincoln. “It was only a bloody canary.”

******************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Bruce Goodman lives in New Zealand. He’s old and flabby. He used to write plays for the stage, but now potters in the bog blog, http://bbgoodman.wordpress.com, mainly just for fun. He enjoys, and is in awe at, the many wonderfully creative blog postings he discovers every day.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,