Fantasy, Humour, Short Fiction

Ping’s Complaint by Leila Allison

Ping Beams of Jim

No matter what type of dimension you inhabit, watching and hearing a Moon roll noisily toward you from the sky is an odd thing. Such happened the other night as I was out in the Barnyard shooting the evening breeze with Daisy Cloverleaf the Pygmy Goatess and my Lead Imaginary Friend and second in command of the realm of Saragun Springs, Renfield.

“Ping’s coming down,” Renfield said.

“You hear that? He’s making a noise, like thunder,” Daisy added.

Renfield held a hand to her ear. “Yeah, I think you’re right, Daisy. He sounds like a rolling bowling ball.”

“Hope he’s not attempting a three pin spare,” I said. But I had been expecting the visit.

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All Stories, Editor Picks, Fantasy, Short Fiction

The Awful Truth and What’s on Your Playlist

The Awful Truth has a way of sneaking up on you. I once had a body type like Popeye’s Olive Oyl. Yet around age thirty, my clothes began to get mysteriously tighter. I went into denial. I even tried telling myself “they must be making my size smaller.” But there was no denying the Awful Truth.

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Literally Reruns, Short Fiction

Literally Reruns – My Powdered Friend by David Henson

In this impersonal age of cyber friends (like me), witch hunters who never meet in person and gaining the gospel from unholy sources David Henson’s My Powdered Friend is a satire that is uncomfortably close to being true. As in much of David’s work, he takes a bright, keen, even flippant tone, which intensifies the darker themes. And he has the great knack of making you believe just about anything.

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Short Fiction

Week 418- Advice; Action; Distraction


I believe that doctors, mechanics and everyone else whose work alters material objects should always listen to advice offered by their peers and seek it when in doubt. “Dr. Smith, I know I am only assisting–but is there a reason to leave a scalpel in the patient?”; “Hey boss, we got some doo-hickeys left over from that 737 engine we just serviced–you think that means something?” Indeed there are situations when ego should be set aside, but I do not believe that is always the best policy in works of imagination.

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All Stories, General Fiction, Short Fiction

Music by Leila Allison

I half-seriously considered boosting the copy of the Beatles’ “White Album” I gave my sister Tess on her tenth birthday in 1972. I didn’t care who made it; I didn’t care if it was a double album–seven bucks for a four-year-old record was bullshit. I figured I could easily outrun the young clerk who looked like the only person in The House of Values remotely fit and crazy enough to give chase. For if I did make the move, it would come to that. Getting away unnoticed with an album was impossible due to its shape; almost as dumb as trying to conceal a basketball under your sweater. But a little voice told me that it was bad luck to steal a birthday present if you have the money. So, I wound up buying the goddamn thing, but I hooked a Rocky Road bar at the register so I wouldn’t go away feeling like a complete chump

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All Stories, Fantasy, Humour, Short Fiction

Pong by Leila Allison

I was strolling through the Enchanted Wood in my realm of Saragun Springs seeking inspiration. It was Honor a Dead Writer Day in the realm; this year it landed on 28 April, the birthday of the honoree of this year’s event, Sir Terry Pratchett. In the past Dorothy Parker, Kurt Vonnegut, Shakespeare, Shirley Jackson had been so honored, and I had no problem doing something for each–but this year I was flummoxed

As the ruling Penname, I’d created all that I surveyed, and the two-hundred-twenty-nine (soon two-hundred-thirty) Fictional Characters (FC’s) who live in Saragun Springs. Yet at the same time I didn’t know how any of it worked; for I’d endowed every last atom and FC in Saragun Springs with intractable Free Will. Sometimes various displays of Free Will affect my concentration.

For instance, we have a sun in our sky named Pong. I recall once thinking about whipping up a little thinking sun for Saragun Springs named Pong (which I thought might be a better name for a star than Atari), but blew the notion off, figuring that no one would care about what was in our sky. But I guess thinking about it was good enough to cause Pong to fire into being–a tiniest wisp of a notion who seized a heaping helping of Free Will.

So, unannounced, Pong showed up the day after I’d glancingly thought about creating him, and has been on the job ever since. Nobody and no thing in Saragun Springs is obliged to follow the natural laws of the Universe any better than I understand them. And as more years creep between me and my high school education, it should be no surprise that, mechanically speaking, Pong is a celestial scofflaw.

As an object, Pong is a fiercely radiant little orb, the color and relative size of an unripened blueberry held at arm’s length. Pong is either very small and close or huge and far away. Sadly, Saragun Springs lacks an Archimedes-type to study Pong in the scientific way. Nor has anyone dared to launch an Icarus inspired project. This is because a Creator of a Universe cannot make someone who is smarter than she is. She can only make individuals who are certain they are smarter than she is on the basis of their own opinions alone; a circumstance, which, of course, leads to atheism and unhappy surprises in the end.

Pong’s first day began reasonably enough; he rose in the east at 6 A.M. on the nose and set in the west exactly twelve hours later. Adequate, when measured by the flexible standards of Saragun Springs normalcy. But the tone of the process changed when he rose again precisely at six the next morning, but this time from the exact same spot in the west he’d gone down the evening before. Pong headed north that day and Pongset there, then rose from that same spot at six the next morning. The only constants with Pong are that he works from six to six, twelve hours, without as much as a millisecond of variance, dawns from where he goes down the night before, and never appears to change his relative distance. Everything else is up to Pong’s whims. I’ve seen him double back and set where he had risen; I’ve watched him do loops, feign heading one direction then go another, and zigzag across the sky. And that only touches the truly bizarre stuff he does. Pong can also stop without first slowing down and travel at various speeds. Sometimes, he will sit way high and wait until 5:59:59 P.M. then zoom toward his setting point at a rate of speed that should be impossible to achieve, yet make it on time. Pongspotting, as in wagering the exact place the next Pongset will happen, is a big sport in Saragun Springs.

Speaking of a person who is convinced that she is the brainiest in the realm, the Enchanted Wood I was in is on the Witch HeXopatha’s estate. There was no point in attempting to conceal my presence, for HeXy has spies everywhere. Overhead, I heard the caws of Crows sending word down the line, which would eventually reach the castle. I was also being shadowed by a sleek black Weasel. A bullet-shaped head, adorned with a spycam fixed to a tiny fedora, often peeped over peasantberry and hand o’ glory bushes (flora that grows only Wiccanlands); Ponglight reflected off the little fiend’s shiny ebony noggin and spycam arrangement, but I pretended not to notice. I figured if a Weasel had Secret Stoat Fantasies, far be it from me to salt the whimsy. I assumed that the cam fed intel to HeXopatha’s crystal ball.

I was carrying a lightweight pack which contained various medicinal fluids, items for bribes, my phone and a small folding chair. Enchanted Woods feature a variety of mini-meadows. At the first such opening, I set up my chair so Pong wouldn’t be in my eyes, sipped from a pint of restorative amber fluid, activated the sound recorder app on my phone and dictated the following:

“Just my luck, I packed all this tasty Stoat Chow and have no friend to share it with.”

Weasels, Minks, Ermines and so forth are calorically venal. Any critter who can eat half his/her body weight in a day is the sort of individual that a Free Lunch appeals to. The Weasel’s head popped over the cover of a Sadiefinger shrub at the edge of the clearing. I had Stoat Chow in the pack because I knew about the lurking Weasel population in the Enchanted Wood beforehand. Chalk it up to Mysterious Ways, which Universe Creators often (but cannot always) use in lieu of plausible explanations.

“Well, hello there, little friend,” I said, feigning surprise, “would you like to join me for a delicious lunch?”

Just like everyone and -thing else in Sargun Springs, I am racking up a sizable debt with the Bank of Universal Reality. Like when, say, Pong emits a long string-like tail then goes up and down it as though he were a yo yo, before dropping behind the horizon at 6 P.M., a Universal beancounter marks the impossible event and charges it to Pong’s account. My Creator informed me of this long ago. To which I replied “So?” To which she had no reply other than to mumble something inarticulate about checks and balances. Still, all the debt traces back to her, so it’s her problem. I suggested that she forward the charges back to whoever made her.

I mention this because the ingredients in Stoat Chow (mostly smoked Trout entrails and Duck eggs) though for real, are not culled from genuine sources. No Trout or Duck or any living thing was abused in any way (although all may be offended). “Magic” might be too strong a word for how the Stoat Chow I bribed the Weasel with came to be, but that’s up to you and whoever is totaling your own ledger to decide.

Weasels are proactive little gluttons. He/she bounded over and took the pouch of Stoat Chow I handed him/her without hesitation. I saw that he/she was also wearing a trench coat. The preceding sentences presented an issue that I needed to clear up before I went bonkers wondering if I was dealing with a male or a female.

“Hi, I’m Leila.”

“Penrose,” said the Weasel, speaking in a tone of voice, that, like the name, could go either way gender-wise.

Even in Saragun Springs, it is bad manners to inquire into someone’s sex. And when you consider that I actually created this Penrose, you’d think I’d know whether I was in the company of a Heasel or a Sheasel–but that pesky Free Will has a way of interfering with Mysterious Ways.

The residents of the Springs have one thing in common. Every last one of us is a well-mannered eater. No one gulps or gobbles (unless a Turkey) or slurps or behaves grossly with food, and we understand the concept of the napkin. ‘Tis rare on Earth to see a Stoat chew with his/her mouth closed, but it is the case here. Free Will allows for good things, too.

“So, gotta family? Any Weaselets? Do they chatter about Mom and/or Pop popping about?” This was my second to last go (albeit clumsy) at clearing up the he/she mystery. Figured that Penrose might say something about a husband or wife. I figured wrong.

Penrose swallowed and said “Nope. I serve Mistress HeXopatha.”

I sighed. Here I was fruitlessly playing twenty questions with a Weasel.

“So, Penrose,” I said. “Why the Sam or Samantha Spade (my last go at it) routine?”

He or she smiled, an expression which always looks sneaky on the face of a Stoat. “Mistress HeXopatha has sent me to guide you to the site of her latest triumph.”

I stood, handed Penrose a napkin, placed my stuff back in the pack, considered having another go at the Weasel’s gender, let it go and said, “Lead on, little fiend.”

FC animals in the realm are nearly as lazy as they are venal and prone to gambling. Unless directed to do so by someone like HeXopatha, they avoid needless physical exertion. Sponging rides are as coveted as Free Lunches and Pongspotting.

So Penrose wound up sitting on top of the pack, pulling the straps as though they were reins.

“Dude, or dudette (a half-hearted after the fire had gone out attempt at gender ID), I ain’t a Horse. Just say a simple ’go left’ or ‘take a right.’”

“What’s left and right?”

“Never mind. Just keep working the reins,” I sighed. “But if I feel spurs, consider your ass bucked.”

Penrose drove me onward. We passed a pyramid that HeXopatha recently had built in her honor by minions known as the billigits, and we ventured near the actual Saragun Spring, which is an enthusiastically polluted body of oozing liquid, which reeks like a bathroom does after one’s problem-drinking grandfather has read an entire newspaper in it.

We entered a full-sized meadow. I saw several FC’s had gathered, and they were examining a document lying on a picnic table. HeXopatha was at the head of the table, like Rommel planning an offensive.

“Guess, we’re–Hey! Don’t do that!” I said (somehow withholding a richly deserved “you little fuckstick!” because Penrose had grabbed two healthy pawfuls of my hair, yanked back hard and said “Whoa, Nellie”).

The tiny blackguard jumped down and rushed to then knelt before HeXopatha. “Mission accomplished, Magnificent Master.”

“Excellent work, darling,” HeXopatha said.

HeXopatha was surrounded by her usual assortment of minions and a couple of Hammy Dodger Players (an acting troupe she sponsors). There were several black Rats and Cats scuttling about, an Owl on her shoulder, and two immense Berkshire Pigs, who were actors. By name the Pigs were Tallywhacker and his wife Taffypuller, who was about to make her debut. Everyone had been looking at a star chart on the table.

I was prepared to ask a whole bunch of questions, but HeXy placed her shushing finger to her lips. She nodded at the actor Pigs.

Tallywhacker, talks non-stop. Instead of merely speaking, he goes on long winded oratories: “By waddle, you have arrived at an auspicious moment, Miss Leila–today will be the first ever Pong eclipse, arranged by our Magnificent Master Mistress HeXopatha.” (Tallywhacker kept talking after this, but due to word limit issues, I didn’t record it.)

“Wait, wait wait a minute,” I said. “Pong’s the only thing up there–we ain’t got a moon yet–and only I can create one–haven’t even glancingly thought of one yet–though I guess it would have to be called Ping, if we do get one. And although my science may be lacking, I do know that something like a moon must cross in front of a sun to make an eclipse.”

But I knew that my logic was doomed. Logic in the springs is as rare as free quality beer. HeXopatha simply smiled, with a Are You Quite Finished Yet expression on her pretty face.

“All right,” I said, “what have you done?”

HeXy snapped her fingers and her four prime billigits minions flew toward us from the direction of the pyramid they had built for their Master. Each one was carrying a length of what appeared to be pipe.

Seeing the billigits, I smiled at Taffypuller. The instant she spoke a line she’d officially become my two-hundred-thirtieth FC. Our union forbids me from creating new speaking role FC’s without offering the “part” to already extant FC’s. But none of them wanted to marry Tallywhacker, for he really never stops talking (in fact he was still blowing on from before).

New FC’s usually get the thankless job of filling in the backstory. Explaining the billigits is as about as backstory as things get.

“I’ve never seen the billigits before,” Taffypuller said, although it was a damn lie. “Will you look at the these fellows–winged orange-skinned androgynous little people in blue polo shirts, khaki trousers and illfitting hemp slippers, who, though gender neutral, still convey a ‘guyness’ that is best described by masculine pronouns–and who insist that capital letters never touch their names, collectively or singly.”

“Bravo, my pet,” Tallywhacker said (plus a bunch of other stuff that would blow the word limit if put down.)

Indeed it was the billigits and as they drew nearer I saw that they were carrying lengths of a telescope, which they linked together upon landing. Instead of a stand, the billgits held the assembled scope and pointed the business end of at at where Pong was at the time.

“Good luck tracking that guy,” I said.

“Oh, he will behave today,” HeXopatha said. “We’ve come to an agreement.” She then unrolled a blank scroll and held it at the lens end of the scope; for gazing at Pong is just as tough on the eyes as sun gazing is in any dimension.

Pong’s fierce little orb shone on the scroll. Yet within seconds a perceptible shadow began to eat into the tiny blueberry and in a few moments there was darkness.

“It’s now safe to look through the lens, Creator,” HeXopatha said.

I did and saw a thumbnail-sized Turtle with four seed-sized Elephants on his/her (sigh) back, holding a flat object that looked like a pizza glowing a strange greenish purple, pausing in front of the face of Pong.

I stood back and let the others take turns gazing at Discworld as it slowly passed through our skies.

“Gotta hand it to you HeXy, I was stumped for an idea on how to honor Sir Terry,” I said. “Good job.”

“Perhaps it is possible that a person can be a bit brighter than her creator?” HeXopatha more said than asked.

I sighed and caught a glimpse of a moon rising in the south. Born in the same glancing manner that had created Pong.

“Hello, Ping,” I said to the small octarine moon. “Welcome to Saragun Springs.”

Leila Allison

Short Fiction

Week 416: Crystal Ball Vision; Words of Now; Big List of Dopes 2023

The Future

Predicting the future is big business. Aging psychics are falling aside, usurped by new frauds (you’d think the veteran charlatans would have seen that coming). So, it may never be too late to make a fortune by lying to people. So I open my crystal ball and see:

A distant evolutionary jump that will announce itself with the first and only generation of children who will unanimously call bullshit on both Santa and the “true meaning” of Christmas.

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Literally Reruns, Short Fiction

Back Home in Saugus: an essay by Tom Sheehan

This double tribute to his hometown is Tom at his best, and we feel that you will agree with that assessment.



Get off My Back, Saugus


Back Home in Saugus by Tom Sheehan

Walk a ways with me, here by the Saugus River and the Old Iron Works, where I played as a boy, where arethusa bulbosa (dragon’s mouth orchid or swamp pride) waits for spring and new reeds to hide the young of red-winged blackbirds, where indentured Scot servants worked off their passage, where Captain Kidd brought his treasure to bury on Vinegar Hill (not found yet by boy or man), all leading me to say: The Hour Falling Light Touches Rings of Iron (at the First Iron Works of America, Saugus, MA): You must remember, Pittsburgh is not like this, would never have been found without the rod bending right here,  sucked down by the earth. This is not the thick push of the three rivers’ water hard as name calling… the Ohio, Allegheny, and the old Monongahela, though I keep losing the Susquehanna. This is the Saugus River, cut by Captain Kidd’s keel, bore up the ore barge heavy the whole way from Nahant. Mad Atlantic bends its curves to touch our feet, oh anoints. Slag makes a bucket bottom feed iron rings unto water, ferric oxides, clouds of rust. But something here there is pale as dim diviner’s image, a slight knob and knot of pull at a forked and magic willow. You see it when smoke floats a last breath over the river road, the furnace bubbling upward a bare acidic tone for flue. With haze, tonight, the moon crawls out of Vinegar Hill, the slag pile throws eyes a thousand in the shining, charcoal and burnt lime thrust thick as wads up a nose. Sound here’s the moon burning iron again, pale embers of the diviner’s image loose upon the night. Oh, reader, you must remember, Pittsburgh is not like this.

(On back cover of the book, “Small Victories for the Soul VII.” Wilderness House Press, 2019 and Back Home in Saugus.)  

Image: Banner

Saugus Honor roll image from Wikicommons images

Literally Reruns, Short Fiction

Literally Reruns – Everything Happens For a Reason by Adam West

Ah, the brave year of ‘15. No matter the century, I’m certain that someone will claim that she/he walked ten miles uphill through snow both ways to and from school, upon recalling 2015. Time distorts perception and makes exaggerant raconteurs of us all.

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All Stories, Editor Picks, General Fiction, Short Fiction

Week 414: UserTube; Another Milestone in Scotland; the Remains of the Week and YouTube Fascinations


I don’t like TikTok much because it encourages the further curtailment of an already alarmingly short public attention span. I sometimes think that maybe we are being steadily prepped for a future in which chips will be planted in our brains at birth. In the year 3000 “slow” will describe someone who actually takes a second to think something over. No, not much for TikTok, but I do like YouTube, well, to a point, yet there is something happening on it that makes me howl with rage.

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