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Shake, Rattle and Troll

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Who's the cute liitle baby...?

Shake, Rattle and Troll

by Zoe Zygmunt

A frantic call about an hour ago summoned me from my office.  The park ranger said something about Elvis, and Mike's strong dislike of him.  It was no use trying to decipher it, his panicked voice was enough to convey the meaning "we need you here, now."

I spotted my client sitting on the grassy river bank. The troll was about seven feet from ears to toes, a typical young male.  I usually visited this troll two or three times a month.  He was friendly, established and doing well, or, at least he had been.

This afternoon Mike was naked. We’d talked about clothing and how the humans would prefer he threw on some pants. Mike didn’t care much for human sensibilities when he was being, well, a troll.

Something crunched under my feet. Small tassels and rhinestones were sprinkled on the ground. No one could have predicted the agitation Mike would experience surrounded by thirty similarly dressed men.  All Mike’s experiences with men dressed the same had involved law enforcement or park security.  No wonder he had freaked during an Elvis impersonator picnic.

“Hey, Mike.” I called. He didn’t turn around.

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Saying Goodbye to Grandfather

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Stop that! - Editor

Saying Goodbye to Grandfather

by M. J. Waller

We shuffled out of the alley, took a right turn and bore down slowly upon Avonlea Care Home for Elderly Zombies.  When we reached the cast iron gates, my father buzzed the intercom to gain access and they swung open ponderously in front of us.  My father made to step inside the grounds but I held back, suddenly fearful and not so keen to see my grandfather any longer.

“Come on, Calum,” my father urged.  “It'll be fine, really.”

I still hung back, not particularly convinced.  The care home was nothing like I imagined it would be.  Thin grass speckled the vast grounds and, here and there, dotted about mostly in areas closer to the cracked pathway, the odd flower grew, sometimes even in bunches of five or six.  A single tree stood a short distance from the gate and not only did it look alive and healthy, but my eyes caught movement high up of a squirrel darting between the branches. . .no of two squirrels racing each other to the tree's crown. . .of three, of four!  A bird burst from out of the upper foliage.

“Come on.”

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Starving

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Vampires are people, too - Editor

Starving

by Kelly Barnhill

The people gathered in the rain - black hair and black clothing all clinging to spare frames like damp feathers.  Crows, Randall Kinney thought as he stationed himself in front of the large black door.  A murder of crows. He liked the sound of it, and felt the corners of his wide mouth twitch slightly, itching the contours of his stubbled cheeks.  He forced his face into that look of stern detachment, which he had perfected in front of the mirror before his first day, five years earlier.  He had never smiled on the job.  A smile could be dangerous.

He leaned back on the dented steel and waited for the knock telling him that he could let everyone in.  The line stretched along the length of the low building, its black face painted over with the white lettering of bands that had played there in previous years.  Some of the shows he had seen as a teenager, back when hanging out with your friends on Hennepin or First Avenues was cool, before the bodies, half frozen and drained of life, blood, and everything else that once flowed under their skin, started showing up in dumpsters or abandoned cars or the quiet doorways to abandoned restaurants.

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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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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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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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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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