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

The Mess for the Sages by Tom Sheehan

The wind came up the river joyous as a boy riding a new bicycle and Harry Guahagan hustled to get his paint ready, the pale blue in the gallon can looking exceptionally good to his trained eye as he stared at the expanse of blue overhead from one horizon point to the other, the Saugus River running beside his house being the axis of the whole circumference of his existence. He was giddy at the thought of carefully applying a new coat of paint on his house; for god’s sake the insects had made a mess of his most recent paint job, the pale blue besmirched in so many places, but unbelievably in his mind the damned birds jamming the river were probably more at fault than other creatures; rabbits and skunks and an odd dog or two, he knew, had no responsibility in creating this new mess. It was nearly choking him.

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All Stories, General Fiction

Ghosting By Tom Koperwas

Eddy Cutmore grinned as he placed the large black briefcase containing the bioweapon next to the channel of water flowing into the city’s underground reservoir. Depressing the green button on the side of the briefcase, he linked it with the other bioweapons he’d hidden close to the city’s vital ventilation and water sources. All that was left was to activate the trigger and release the plethora of pathogens. He leaned forward and put his finger on the switch.

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All Stories, Crime/Mystery/Thriller

Fresh Paint by Anne Athena Dura

And so the night sparked the beginning of something reckless and dangerous.

He wanted to show me the city after a drink or two. Shotgun, wondering why I dated a policeman. I sat cozily in his car as he drove around in the moonlight. I had the time of my life and he seemed to notice that. It’s a pity I had to kill him before sunrise. He perceived almost everything about me just by looking into my eyes. He spent the whole night explaining to me everything he saw in me. And he was right – mostly – which is creepy if you consider it was only our first date.

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All Stories, Crime/Mystery/Thriller

The Bee by Rebecca Moretti

It was early but the sun was already strong and high. In the distance, the road was shiny and sweaty as it curved between the red ground. It was going to be a hot day. In the East, the sun cast a hazy film over the hills. Lachman sat in the sultry shade of an olive tree as a single bee buzzed loudly and persistently around his head. He’d always found that bees were particularly drawn to him. Perhaps they knew how to spot a criminal.

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All Stories, General Fiction, Short Fiction

The Killers by Michelle Wilson

He was a peaceful baby with a face like Buddha who grew into a sensitive toddler: enormous eyes that took in everything and missed nothing. When he fell he cried, but he always recovered after the usual spell of tears.

What a precious child, we thought. Life will be hard on him.

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All Stories, General Fiction

Life on Life’s Terms by Penny Faircloth

Jean-Pierre had been an engineer of Swiss watches. He had retired at forty-five after a very successful, brief career of twenty-two years. The thing on his arm looked like an aqualung. It weighed enough to make him feel it resisting his movements. Its face was extra thick, and the chunky bezel shone like a chrome grille. He had puzzled out its inner intricacies himself; he had made it as complicated as he could do. That had been his goal: the most complicated watch I can make—for no other reason than that. Just to do it.

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All Stories, Fantasy

We’re All Mad Here by Martina Braunegger

“What are you in for?”

“Nothing…”

“Same.”

I had a feeling we would become friends.

This is a story about insanity. Well, about my attempt to stay sane inside insanity. No, the story about me battling insanity. No, about my victory over the insanity of life. No, still not right… or true. It’s a story about me. Hi. So buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride!

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All Stories, Horror

A Major Error in Judgement by Harrison Kim

When the two teenage hot dog vendors laughed at Brandon Viktor, he saw their tongues stick out.  The thin, stoop shouldered 21 year old took the wiener from its bun and bit a huge piece off.  Everyone in Princetown thought they could make fun of him, but he still had a powerful chomp.

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All Stories, General Fiction

A Noise the House Makes On Its Own by Jack Caulfield

A NOISE THE HOUSE MAKES ON ITS OWN

 

Alone with his longing, he lies down on his bed
and sings a lament; everything seems too large,
the steadings and the fields.

                                                                  Beowulf

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