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Christmas Morning

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Short and (not too) sweet - Editor

Christmas Morning

by Rick McQuiston

Jeremy rolled over in bed and glanced at the clock on his nightstand. 5:55 stared back at him in red LED numbers. A tiny red dot was lit next to the a.m. designation.

Not even six o’clock yet, he thought sluggishly. Still too early to get up.

But the anticipation that he harbored for Christmas morning was severely tempered by the memory of what he had witnessed earlier that same night.

Or thought he had witnessed.

It was shortly after two- thirty a.m. when he woke up, as most children do, overwhelmed by the curiosity of what lay under the Christmas tree. With excitement that could only be fostered in a child on that most anticipated of nights, he gleefully crawled out of bed and tip-toed down the stairs to investigate whether or not jolly old Saint Nick had fulfilled his holiday duties.

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Sleep Will Banish Sorrow

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Walk in my shoes - Editor

Sleep Will Banish Sorrow

by Allen Kopp

The time was between ten and eleven and traffic was light. An occasional car went by, slowly, its lights reflected in wavering bars on the wet pavement. A liquor store in the next block went dark. A policeman walked his beat, rousting a drunk from a doorway.

A man stepped out of a dark alley. He took a few slow steps into the glow of a streetlamp and stopped. He heard a siren off in the distance and lifted his head to listen, but gradually the siren faded to nothing. He reached into the pocket of his coat and removed a cigarette and put it between his lips and lit it with the little gold lighter engraved with his initials that he always carried. He took a long drag on the cigarette and turned and walked down the street.

In appearance he was a man like many others: not young and not old, of average height, lean and muscular, broad through the shoulders and narrow in the hips. He wore an expensive, perfectly tailored suit and a hat low on his brow, making his face difficult to distinguish.

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Monsieur Picardy

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Back to the days of the genteel crime - Editor

Monsieur Picardy

by Norman A. Rubin

Madame Edythe Picardy was greatly respected by all the staff at the Clermont Spa. The manager of the watering place bowed and scraped as he attended to the bejewelled widow and saw to her comfort. When she arrived for dinner the headwaiter rushed to arrange her seat; the wine waiter was near at hand to pour her favorite red wine from the wineries of Verien of Gascony.

Royalty from princes to counts, all in reduced circumstances, held Madame Edythe Picardy in great regard; the philanders admired her collection of baubles as they complimented her; impoverished artists who spent their last franc to come to the spa looked towards this charming woman as a patron to their talents.

Yet, their advances did not captivate Madame Edythe Picardy, as she was still mourning for her wealthy husband, a Monsieur Albert Picardy, albeit his demise was in the past year. The devotees respected her grief and they worded their phrases carefully when they paid their complimentary attention.

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Dreams Die

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You can feel the power - Editor

Dreams Die

by Billy Wong

Colin drew his cloak tight about his body as he stepped out of Warren's empty tent into the cold night air, eyes wandering in search of his commander and friend.  The warrior stood at the edge of the camp, facing the great walled city of Gustrone.  Though his back was turned, there was no mistaking his singular poise and armored frame.  Colin didn't understand why the man wore armor now, though he almost always did.  The weight of that iron plate must have been tiring, but Warren showed no sign of it.

Without turning, he acknowledged Colin's approach.  "Can't sleep, even after battle?  Is the joy of victory so invigorating?"

He shrugged.  "Maybe I've learned not to need sleep, like you."  Colin was sure Warren slept at some point, but he had never actually seen him doing it, and nor did hunger or thirst hamper him as much as other men.  "Anyway, I'm leaving tomorrow."

"Oh?  You're not going to stay and celebrate our victory with me?  Now that we've defeated the dukes, the people will have no choice but to accept me as king."

"I'll be back.  I'm just going to take Rhona home.  You know the battlefield's no place for her."

Warren exhaled, a mist dancing from his lips.  "I don't understand you, Colin.  That little hellcat matches the best of us in killing every day, and now you say she can't fight?"

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Water Witch

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Water Witch

by Elizabeth Creith

Hazel held a forked willow stick out in front of her by the ends. Ten-year-old Molly trailed her aunt across the field, their steps swishing in yellowing knee-high grass. The stick quivered, then twisted like a cat, reaching for the ground.

"This is for show, mind," Hazel said. "Folk like to see something happening, something to tell them you've done it. But you don't need the stick, understand?"

Molly nodded, looking up into Aunt Hazel's face. Wisps of fair hair escaped from Hazel's braid and caught the light of the full harvest moon in the darkening sky. If Molly stood in just the right place, she could make the moon into a halo around her aunt's head.

The moonlight was dazzling-bright, bright enough to cast shadows. When Molly shaded her eyes, she could see her aunt smiling, her one crooked front tooth and the sweet, clear blue eyes. Molly's mama had those eyes, too, but Molly's eyes and hair were brown, like her father's.

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All Silent on the Flint

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...the sounds of silence - Editor

All Silent on the Flint

by John P. Wilson

It was an early, frozen morning during the month of December when Sheriff Jones climbed into the boat, lit a cigarette and wondered where the dead girl was hiding. He stared silently at the blood sky and dark clouds. Bats screeched as they glided over the river bank, disappearing beyond the pine trees.

A thick mist engulfed the Flint River, and he listened to the lapping waves softly slapping the launch ramp. It was a cold, bitter morning, and cigarette smoke stung his eyes as he observed his surroundings. The camp ground was empty.

“Bobby!” he said. “Go ahead and back her in the water.”

Deputy Bobby stuck a fist out the pickup’s window and gave the sheriff a thumb’s up. The truck backed down the ramp until its rear tires were at the edge of the river and the boat trailer was halfway submerged in water.

“Keep going!” Sheriff Jones said.

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Here

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If you've ever loved a dog... - Editor

Here

by John F.D. Taff

The first time I saw him he was all motion and energy, pushing over his littermates, straining to get to me, to be taken with me.

To be with me…

Here…

The last time I saw him he lay motionless, a pool of dark water in the middle of the country road that runs in front of my house.

Only it wasn’t the last time…not really.

I’d gone in for a second, just a second, to pee while I let him out to do the same.  I was late getting home from work, and I knew he’d be anxious to get outside.  It was dark, no moon, and he was a small, black pug.  But I wasn’t worried, never gave it a thought.  The road, a narrow, gravel thing, heavily cratered and barely graded, was little used.  I live on, if you’ll excuse me, a dead end.  The few people who actually use it are those few who actually live on it, and there aren’t many of us.  Traffic wasn’t a concern.

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For One Night Only

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Hospitals can be wonderful, or horrible - Editor

For One Night Only

by James A. Stewart

I listen to the beep-beep-beep of the monitors, their constant metronome giving comfort to those wearing the plethora of wires and straps that reach out from the tooting sentinel next to their bed. I don’t want to be here. But I am.

Laughter rises from the room next door: a family happy at grandpa’s recovery? Perhaps. I wish them ill, for their joy is in contrast to my anguish. There will be no recovery in this room; the odours of urine and disinfectant mix to give this sterile cubby-hole the stench of near death. The wilting flowers only add to the bleakness of the surroundings. I bat them away with my hand and they drop to the floor with nil ceremony. They’re lifeless. I look at them lying with pathetic limpness on the floor and give an ironic laugh. The snort causes me to gag and I retch up putrid bile. It burns the back of my throat and leaves behind the tang of a hundred hangovers.

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Peace on Earth

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This is certainly a story about crime, but not the kind you might think - Editor

Peace on Earth

by Keith G. Laufenberg

-1-

THE AMERICANS

Be proud of those strong sons of thine

Who wretched their rights from thee!

Tennyson, England and America in 1782.

The father swung his arm around his son’s shoulder and told him that he would take him inside the pub and introduce him to his first pint. The son blanched sharply—he wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone, much less to take what his father thought was his first drink. For, Samuel Dewey Baldwin had been introduced to drink in his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, when he was but a lad of thirteen, as it wasn’t hard to get a drink in Baltimore in 1910. And now, in 1914, in London, England, where they had gone to visit his father’s family, his father was about to officially introduce him to his first pint. It was the first day of August and the hot noonday sun had burned the morning fog almost completely away. Sammy Baldwin with his American accent was hailed as a Yank but was having a hard time understanding the strange accents and phrases everyone so quickly spat out, in Great Britain.

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The Couch Troll

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This story will give you pause the next time you see an abondoned sofa on a curb - Editor

The Couch Troll

by Jeanna Tendean

The old man coughed and wheezed. His bones ached as he slowly climbed out of the flea-ridden, tattered bed. He hobbled into the living room, while holding his aching back. He moaned aloud, causing his dog, a shepherd-collie mix, to tweak his ears, but nothing more. “Ya lazy mutt.” The old man griped as he made his way to the beer and cigarette stained lazy boy. The wooden skeleton of the chair bulged through the trodden cotton, allowing the old man sturdy support as he eased down. He still couldn’t believe someone would throw out a good chair like this. Sure, it had its share of burns and a few stains, and if he wasn’t careful, he’d snag his pants or scratch himself on a few unruly wires or splinters snaking out, but other than that the chair was in great condition.

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