All Stories, General Fiction

Clémentine Season by Karen Schauber

Undulating pistachio-green hills cover the valley like fondant in the small peaceful hamlet of Parisot. Horace, the hamlet’s lumbering menace, has been thrown down the oubliette. The dungeon’s musty stink jolts, and Horace lets out a wail for Pétunia, his zaftig sow. The pig, the runt of a litter of nine farrowed in June, is pregnant, and left without breakfast in her muddy pen. The last time the Elders consigned Horace to stew, this time they are intent on teaching him a lesson.


It is the season of Clémentines, within six days of the harvest. Katydids and crickets chirring. Horace is on the prowl bent on snatching the plump ripe fruit to tempt his precious pig. A single remaining Clémentine tree stands tall on the secluded hilltop, nestled among juniper haircap moss and wild pink phlox. The solitary tree is prized and cared for by the valley folk as if it was the last of its kind. Garnet-red flesh encased in glossy orange skin, fringed with dark green velvety tapered leaves, flavour irresistible, is coveted like crown jewels. In the murk of night, its colour beacons like fireflies. Horace trembles with excitement. The delectable syrupy Clémentine confiture infused with hibiscus honey, zest of bergamot and pinch of cardamon, already titillates lips and tongue in anticipation.

But they are watching. Under the sheen of the blue wolf moon, Horace is clumsy and obvious. A stinging arrow stops him in his tracks.


When they release Horace after the treasured crop has been harvested, he makes a beeline for his farm and directly to Pétunia’s pen. It is empty. He scours the winter barn, the one held for the two Valais Blacknose sheep during the frigid season. It too is empty. He wails loudly calling to her through hurried incoherent yodels. Blubbering, he takes off in the direction of his neighbour’s backwoods farm. She is sure to be there. His neighbour would have tended to her, of course. Pétunia, the runt of the litter squeezed out of the feeding line from her mother who had eight teats for nine piglets, was bottle-fed and slept under layers of linen coverlets like the princess and the pea in her first few weeks, in bed next to Horace. When he held the feeding bottle for her to suckle, the soft contented grunts and dainty blush-pink Pétunia-shaped birth mark on the piglet’s snout, made him swoon.

He takes the long route trekking through woodland trails to the creek expecting to find his precious ensnared in the underbelly of tree knots, whorls, and exposed braided roots. The pig would look for dark muddy cool spots and shade, some berries, duckweed to munch, wild purple yam. He uncovers bits of dried scat, ungulate hair, and bone fragments, but none recent. The neighbour does not have Pétunia. Horace gallops back home on thick brutish thighs, unhinged leather galluses flapping at his sides. He throws open the latch and door to the summer kitchen. An enormous salver of whole roast ham garnished with sprigs of rosemary and thyme, soupçon of black prune and red currant, occupies the middle of the harvest table. Potbelly stove stone cold. — She was the last of her kind.

Bereft, Horace drinks himself into a stupor, slobbering in a fit of rage and despair. In the morning he wakes to the sound of snuffling and grunts on the front porch. The hefty Pétunia bumbling around the slat-boards. The Elders take their disciplining far too seriously.

Karen Schauber

Image by Andreas Lischka from Pixabay 

All Stories, General Fiction, Historical

Midwife Legacy by Tom Sheehan

On his twentieth wedding anniversary, and pondering various presents he might acquire for his wife Amanel, Viktor Drovnovich, a land manager in the eastern section of Pskov Province, scanned the offerings in Karpenko’s store front as he headed home from a three-week separation. The trip would take him two days, with a night spent at Madame Estelle’s Inn on the Tver road to halve the journey. He looked forward to that stop, for he left Madame Estelle always carrying good will and good spirits, warming him up for the return home.

Continue reading “Midwife Legacy by Tom Sheehan”
All Stories, Fantasy

Red by Angela Panayotopulos

They say the wolf ate the magician.

They find the man lying on the stone floor, chunks of his flesh unfurled around him like oversized rose petals, torn apart by thorny fangs. Broken bottles litter the shelves of his home, caught in liquid pools of strange colors that hiss and spread like angry tears. Tattered black books pattern the floor, spines up and pages squashed, sprawled open like dead crows.

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All Stories, General Fiction

Renfield Awesomenicitizes the Ghost of the TomTom Ghost: A Feeble Fable by Leila Allison

 Prefatory Remarks by Ms. Allison’s Employer 

After almost three years in the making, Leila Allison Studios has informed me that something called Renfield Awesomenicitizes the Ghost of the TomTom Ghost: A Feeble Fable has opened its pitiless eyes and is currently slouching off to anywhere but Bethlehem to get itself born. Although this… whatever it is… exists in print only, Ms. Allison insists on bringing her productions forward as though they were motion pictures, complete with a cast, crew and an expense voucher that I am hesitant to look at. 

According to an urban legend whose popularity exponentially expands with that of the increasing population of congenital idiots, it takes three years for swallowed chewing gum to pass. Ms. Allison feels that the audience should view Renfield Awesomenicitizes the Ghost of the TomTom Ghost: A Feeble Fable with the soul of that urban legend in mind. For reasons unchallenged by critical thinking, Ms. Allison is certain that any audience able to identify with a wad of Juicy Fruit, grimly determined to survive a perilous journey through untold miles of intestines only to wind up someplace a little less than heaven, is probably the sort of audience who will embrace Renfield Awesomenicitizes the Ghost of the TomTom Ghost: A Feeble Fable for whatever the hell it might be. 

Her (here I make like Pilate and wash my hands of the affair) little whatever it might be “stars” four members of the Union of Pen-names, Imaginary Friends and Fictional Characters, to which Writer-Producer-Director Ms. Allison reluctantly belongs. The players include Renfield Stoker-Belle typecast as Renfield Stoker-Belle; a “literary turkey” named Krook briefly essays the role of the TomTom Ghost until he’s suddenly (and inexplicably) replaced by Miss Izzy (Queen of Shoeboxes), who chews the scenery (as well as a bit of Mr. Krook) as the Ghost of the TomTom Ghost. There’s also an old car named Lucille involved. She has no lines but I’m told that she drives the action. Ms. Allison so wanted a celebrity fictional car for the role, but union rules forced her to settle for one of her own construction. My guess is that Titty-Titty Gang Bang and Herpes the Love Bug  were both unavailable. 

Anyway, I figure that I should step in and issue this fair warning:  Something in Leila Allison Studios has opened its pitiless eyes and has slouched off, possibly, in your direction. 

Your Obedient Servant,

Ms. Allison’s Employer 

Continue reading “Renfield Awesomenicitizes the Ghost of the TomTom Ghost: A Feeble Fable by Leila Allison”