Santa’s up Next by Tom Sheehan

Christmas was coming. Who’d be Santa Claus had suddenly gotten sticky.

There had to be forty or so kids living in the urban cul-de-sac, all of them in squashed-in apartments in a dozen three- and four-decker buildings, the pigeons on the roof often mingling with the kids at tall hide-‘n’-seek, romances in dark budding, now and then some contraband or stolen goods getting exposed, two or three gymnasts every generation that managed and used the roof tops for exercises, dares, escapes of one sort or another. Merton Place, from various points of view, was a city in itself.

And Christmas was coming. It was around the corner.

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Switch Hitter by Suzanne Nielsen

Rita Sajevic lost her mind on home plate at 5:15 pm, two days after dual interviews at competing churches.  She’d work the night shift cleaning 11 blocks from home.  All this was in shorthand on her palm faded by cherry red ink.  On her other palm was a tattoo of a fetus whose life ended tragically.  After Rita relived the event, outside of confession mind you, I swore to several saints never to retell that story to anyone.

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Coeur de Lion by Chris Cleary

Magnificently justified, she teeters on the parapet of her limestone tower. The herd lows below, and in the autumn air all stands still except for Tom, who has spied her from a distance and now is racing to her rescue. Her foot shifts and slips a bit, sending down a pebble cascade, but her heart is strong, and she refuses to be petrified. She stares straight ahead at the hillside, where leaves fall from their trees, drifting, dropping, like children’s valentines into makeshift paper-bag mailboxes taped to her classroom wall many years before. Cards of teddy bears with hearts, Hello Kitty with hearts, blooming flowers with hearts, circus lions proclaiming, “You’re purr-fect!” Suppressing squeals, children scurry. Others’ bags fill up. In hers, not one. Eyes anchored on the hillside, all she sees is disregard. That and the teacher frowning with pity for poor Samantha San Gabriel, so shy and so odd.

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Bloodwork by Jamie Sheffield

The home-med stopped giving Alice her usual meds on Tuesday, and by Friday she was feeling unlike the person she’d been, unlike anyone she’d ever met or even heard about. The feelings were waves pushing a new tide ashore, erasing and redrawing the beach of her mind with each of a thousand pulses from an ocean she’d been unaware of until sometime on Thursday. She’d lain in bed Thursday night, drifting in a sweaty tangle of cotton, dangerous and terrifying thoughts banging noisily around inside her skull; Alice couldn’t decide if she was more scared that the new thoughts and feelings would continue or that they’d stop.

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The Man Who Sold the World by Martyn Miller

The Almighty was taking a bath. It had been a long week with the creation of the universe and whatnot, and He felt he was due some respite. The water was perfect, the temperature set just so. The tub big enough that he could stretch out and rest his head on the rim while playing with the two ornate gold taps at the far end with his toes. And of course, the bubbles. The good lord could never have too many bubbles. A small rubber duck bobbed up and down, it’s bright yellow head briefly appearing above the waves of suds before vanishing once more. Closing his eyes, he soaked in the pleasure of a good bath and a hard weeks work, and slowly but surely, he drifted off…

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