Never and Always by Daniel Kason

“…Harold is speed reading. He knows he will never have time to finish all twenty-four books, but he is going to try. Volume after volume, he turns the pages, letting his eyes decide which lines to read. He picks out a section he likes from an author named Calvino…”

And the Oscar Goes to Jail by Yaron Kaver

“…The way I saw it, the only difference between my work and that of a Broadway actor was a matter of time and place. The city was my stage, its citizens (especially the weak and the elderly) my audience…”

Far From Regis Station by Ilan Lerman

“Regis Station is best left alone,” Pascal had said. After all the trouble it took to obtain licences and tickets to undertake research here, I started entertaining ideas of stealing an ATV. All these barriers and rumours are nonsense. Professional jealousy and nothing more. A well-worn method of warding off young, optimistic PHD students from their territory. They might as well come and piss on my bedpost.

A Rich Man’s Knees by Douglas W. Milliken

…I watched John watch the band and I could tell what he was thinking. A minute later, I said I’d help him clean up the place, and he thanked me, and that was that…

The Stories of Read Short Fiction:

Never and Always by Daniel Kason

November 23, 2015 Literary 1 Comment
Never and Always by Daniel Kason

Never and Always
by Daniel Kason

One morning, everyone wakes to find that the days are getting shorter. It is a peaceful day. No one notices the difference, really.

A father goes to work and comes home early to teach his son basketball. “It’s all about timing,” he says. “Timing and rotation.”

Two friends are caught up in an argument. One says that she was taken for granted. The other doesn’t see it that way.

A bookworm purchases twenty-four used paperbacks and excitedly brings them home. He vows to read one a day for the next twenty-four days.

And two lovers spend the day in bed, oblivious to the time lost, the hour that was taken from them.

The next day, the lost hour is all over the news. Astronomers think the Earth’s rotation is speeding up. Environmentalists think we are the cause of this fluke in nature. Politicians think it’s all a hoax. Everyone else does not know what to think at all. They wait.

The father, Jon, continues to teach his son, Eric. They do not discuss the news. Jon shows him how to perform a jump shot, and then they work on his layup. The sun sets early, and they head in for dinner.

The two friends, Beth and Lorraine, are not speaking to each other. Beth hears the phone ring, but it is only her landlord. She is going to be kicked out of her apartment. Why is money the source of all problems? she wonders. Beth eats a bowl of noodles and waits for her favorite TV show to come on. It doesn’t.

The bookworm, Harold, spends the evening finishing up another paperback. Curled up in his blanket, basking in the lamplight, he turns the last page of a book as the morning light filters into the room. Harold yawns, shuts the book, and picks up another.

The two lovers, Shawn and Lindsay, wonder if time really is slipping away. “What if it’s true?” Shawn asks over breakfast.

Lindsay shrugs and takes a bite of cereal. “If the days are gone,” she says, “if we really are losing time,” and she gives him a seductive look, “then we’ll just have to make the most of the nights, won’t we?” *** Read on! ***

And the Oscar Goes to Jail by Yaron Kaver

July 31, 2015 Humor, Literary No Comments
And the Oscar Goes to Jail by Yaron Kaver

And the Oscar Goes to Jail
by Yaron Kaver

The lineup at the 109th was my first real gig. I could tell right away it was going to be different from anything I’d done before. For starters, the auditions were held at a police station and not at some university or playhouse or community center. The setting had excellent art design, really got you in the mood. The script only had one line (“Gimme your phone, bitch!”), superbly written and easy to remember. And the audience was concealed behind a two-way mirror, which was great for me, since I’d always felt that having an audience compromised the quality of my craft.

I was discovered three hours earlier on a sidewalk outside the Flushing Jewish Community Council soup kitchen in Queens. Mr. Ed Weston, talent scout for the 109th, spotted me by the bulletin boards, where I stood scanning the postings for audition calls. Like most boards, this one was a bust, nothing but notices for food donations. Not that I wasn’t hungry—I was a starving young artist, after all—but my real hankering wasn’t for canned beans. I craved a meaty role I could sink my acting chops into. Luckily, I lingered long enough to catch Weston’s eye. He looked me over and said those five magic words: “Yeah, you look the part.”

They called five of us in at once, far more efficient than any other audition I’d ever been to. We sat on stools, wore Yankees caps and delivered the line. They had the guy next to me repeat it several times. If he’d asked me for pointers, I would’ve gladly helped him out, but it was probably for the best that I didn’t, because when I got out of the room, Ed grinned and told me that I was picked out of the five.

I think back to that moment whenever I’m feeling down. There’s nothing quite like being the audience favorite—it’s better than sex, better than bacon, better than that dream where you’re flying over green hills and telephone poles. And that was before I learned what the other guys already knew: this wasn’t an audition at all.

It was a real show. I was getting paid to act. *** Read on! ***

Far From Regis Station by Ilan Lerman

Far From Regis Station by Ilan Lerman

Far From Regis Station
by Ilan Lerman

It’s so peaceful at Regis Station. The only sounds are the wind whipping across the tundra and my own breathing.

I didn’t think I’d like it out here. The solitude. The lack of stimulus. Some people have to have another person around to keep them straight. For me, it’s another extreme experience, like bungy-jumping in Queenstown, or skydiving over Monterey Bay. Instead of the adrenaline rush of freefall, it’s an opportunity to confront the unknown.

Larry dropped me off here in the ATV three hours ago. He should be over halfway back to McKinlay Station by now. He was the only one of the Grise Fjord Inuit who would drive me out here. Not one of the McKinlay scientists would do it. Bloody cowards.

Larry’s a jovial sort. Always smiling with those splintered, yellow teeth of his. He likes to crack jokes and tell stories about his family, but he didn’t say a word for the entire three-hour drive out to Regis Station.

“Bye, Chris,” was all he managed after he helped lug the crate of supplies in and refuelled. Then he was gone, the rumble of his ATV quickly swallowed by the vast, mountainous landscape of Ellesmere Island. See you in a week, Larry.

As research stations go, Regis is pretty basic. They designed it for two, but I’m glad I’m on my own as the bunks are crammed together and the wash facilities are rudimentary. There is enough workbench space to carry out some simple research, but it was only ever meant to be a short-stay camp to visit the Regis-Bell locality. A low, meandering river cuts down from the plateau behind me through extensive patches of purple saxifrage.

The generator didn’t take long to fire up, considering the length of time since it was last used. There’s plenty of spare fuel, a rifle and my radio in case of emergencies. Pascal gave me the drill on polar bears for the third time before I left. Never startle a bear. No shit, Pascal.

There’s nothing to be afraid of. Bears are incredibly rare this far inland and, according to Pascal and the others, are the least of my worries. Despite having the licences sorted and the time booked far in advance, I practically had to beg to be allowed out here on my own. Pascal wouldn’t have it on his conscience, not after the history of this place. Nothing scares me, though. No amount of campfire ghost-story tactics are going to come between me and completing my damn PHD thesis. *** Read on! ***

A Rich Man’s Knees by Douglas W. Milliken

December 31, 2014 Western 1 Comment
A Rich Man’s Knees by Douglas W. Milliken

A Rich Man’s Knees
by Douglas W. Milliken

The whole town had gathered around the church because Hollace Whitaker was holed up inside and we knew and he knew that he pretty much had to die. It wasn’t anything personal. It was, in fact, the definition of impersonal. A man can’t shoot his wife and expect to continue drinking coffee and plowing fields and shooting deer like all the rest of us who just want sometimes to kill our wives but never do. Everyone knew that, maybe Hollace best of all. But clearly that didn’t mean he had to like it. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have bivouacked in the church. He knew no one would open fire and blast apart the new altar or the cross over the pulpit that that miserable old carcass Halston Smith had carved with his own two crippled hands. He shot his wife and trotted directly to the only safe place in town. So we gathered around and kicked at the dust and shouted for him to come out, and when he shouted back that we could all go fuck our own selves, some folks looked genuinely hurt. We all liked Hollace. Couldn’t he see that?

Eventually, Hollace’s brother John showed up. John ran a ranch quite a piece outside of town. His horse was lathered and crazy-eyed from the long, fast ride. John rode up to where we were gathered and got off his horse and held out the reins for anyone to take hold. Then he walked to the church’s backdoor. He didn’t announce himself, but he wasn’t acting sneaky either. He did not take off his boots or spurs. Hollace was still near the front of the church, shouting whatever craziness came into his head. John walked through the backdoor and for a while things got quiet *** Read on! ***

What We Were by Gregory Leunig

What We Were by Gregory Leunig

What We Were
by Gregory Leunig

When the last ship vanished into the sky, afterburners flickering briefly in the dense black cloud ceiling that shrouded our world, there were fires. There were more of us then, and we poured angry through the streets, a human pyroclastic flow, burning indiscriminately. There were Molotov-on-car fires, one or two apartment buildings set fire, dumpster fires. One guy, someone’s kid brother, set fire to himself in the streets like that Buddhist monk so many years ago. The monk, if you believe the writers from back then, never made a sound while he burned. The kid brother screamed, long and loud.

It was a time of fires, when they left us, but there was never a fire like this.

We don’t know who began building the pyre. One day, one of us noticed an olive green sofa, the kind you buy because you know the color will conceal the mold when it eventually grows moldy. This one had journeyed well past that phase of its existence; it stank of ancient urine and beer. We found it in a field facing the city. Some of us sat in it and watched as the generators gradually died and the lights in the buildings that comprised our meager skyline went out by sections. The reality show of us, live broadcast.

Not too long after, there was an expensive-looking leather recliner, piled on top of the sofa, and a jug of gasoline sitting nearby. We found John, who always wore suit jackets and ties even after the last ship left, standing there and looking through the sofa and chair. His black blazer too clean for the end of the world, his arms folded, five years of beard growth obscuring his face and spilling over onto his tie. We never asked, but we knew the recliner was his, and the gasoline. *** Read on! ***

Too Smart by Michael Haynes

September 29, 2014 Humor, Romance 3 Comments
Too Smart by Michael Haynes

Too Smart
by Michael Haynes

I hit the send button, but instead of a little animation showing my text message being sent, my phone chirped. The digital assistant’s voice asked, “Are you sure you want to send this message?”

“Yes,” I replied, frowning.

“Very well, but I don’t think she’ll like it much.” The animation started up.

“What do you mean?”

The progress meter paused halfway.

“It’s just that…” The assistant stopped, as if hesitating. Then it continued. “Cheryl has said before that she doesn’t like Thai food. Suggesting Bangkok Palace for dinner might not be the best choice. Perhaps El Acapulco instead?”

This was definitely not typical behavior for my phone. I remembered being asked to accept a software upgrade last night, but even so…

“Just send the text!”

The meter filled up and my message was on its way. Three minutes later, I heard back from Cheryl. I knew u didn’t pay attention to what I liked. Enjoy your pad prik king, Jason. I’ll see u around. Maybe. *** Read on! ***

Denmark by Mitch Edgeworth

August 29, 2014 Science Fiction 6 Comments
Denmark by Mitch Edgeworth

by Mitch Edgeworth

After Lisa died I left the city. Had to get out. Just sat in my car and drove. I was going to York where my mother and stepfather lived, almost subconsciously, but I realised just as I was clearing the outer suburbs that I’d only find more death and silence and that I didn’t really want to go to York at all. So I turned out on a side road and drove through the forest and the national park and found myself at Mundaring Weir. A caravan park, chalets and cottages scattered across a grassy slope leading down to the water where black swans waddled through the reeds. I’ve been here ever since. A roof over my head, plenty of drinking water, the Coles at Kalamunda not too far away for food. The basic needs of a human being are really very simple.

The view from the verandah is nice. The sweeping crescent of the lake, the gum trees pressing in on it from all sides, the purity and silence of the hills. There’s a swinging lawn chair on the verandah where I can sit and look out over the water. There were bodies in some of the chalets but I dragged them out and burned them in a pile. This one was empty so this is the one where I sleep.

In the first few weeks there were other people, or signs of people at least. A plane, a Lear jet, glinting in the sunlight as it banked out of the airport and flew east. A four-wheel drive on the road running past the lake. A sedan not long after. Nobody came out here.

Every single day I look at the knives in the kitchen drawer or the pills in the pharmacy next to Coles and I think about it. I would have done it by now if I was going to but I still can’t get it out of my head.

All of the cars have died as well – flat batteries, expired fuel – but I have a bicycle with a little trailer. It belonged to a Swiss couple in one of the other chalets who were cycling around Australia. I know that because I looked at their passports and flicked through her journal before putting their bodies on the pyre. They flew in to Perth from Dubai and were going to go counter-clockwise around the country. Barely even got started. I burned the journal along with their bodies. I can’t put millions of bodies to rest but I wasn’t going to let these ones sit around rotting next door to me.

I never went back for Lisa’s body. I can’t anymore obviously. *** Read on! ***

Jimmy by Renee Marie Philomena Therese Kray

June 30, 2014 Paranormal 2 Comments
Jimmy by Renee Marie Philomena Therese Kray

by Renee Marie Philomena Therese Kray

The moon shouldn’t be so bright when you’re dead.

I’ve been dead for thirty whole years, much longer than my entire life on earth. Throughout that time, I’ve found that almost nothing bothers me as much as the fact that the closest I can ever get to seeing the sun again is looking at the cold light of its opposite.

Before I died, my name had been Jimmy. It’s a name that many other people shared with me, but it had also been uniquely mine. No other name could have fit me so well; no other name could have described my sandy brown hair, big smile, and love of having fun. My name was me. Now my name is just five letters carved into a cold piece of stone, forgotten and uncared for in a corner of an overgrown garden.

The stone doesn’t even show where I really am, because my parents never found me. That’s ironic, considering how what’s left of my bones is actually buried right near the garden where my gravestone now is. They were put there, in that shallow hole in the forest ground, by the man who stole me from my world. I don’t even know why he did it, he just did. He viciously separated me from my life, attacking me with a huge knife that glinted in the moonlight as he raised it over my body again and again.

It’s still something that I don’t like to remember, even now.

My parents used to own this land, all twenty acres of it, and I lived there happily until that man pushed me away into this cold misty world, where I have been stuck ever since. Here there is no sense of feeling and there is no one to talk to. Everything is hazy, as if I’m stuck in a fog that will never lift. The only thing that can part the fog is the sun, but it is so bright that it blinds me and I have to hide. When the moon rises to once again mock me with its cold glow, the only light I can bear now, I rise with it. *** Read on! ***

Replacement by Sara Backer

May 19, 2014 Literary 2 Comments
Replacement by Sara Backer

by Sara Backer

Luke never knew Gus; he wasn’t responsible for taking his job. The drug test fired Gus, fair and square, but the staff seems to blame Luke for replacing him in the operating room.

Luke looks at photographs of Gus on the staff coffee room bulletin board, trying to understand his appeal. The staff is so lazy they never bother to remove them, although they’re five months old. Gus dressed up as a punk Santa Claus with a Mohawk wig and dark sunglasses, holding two nurses on his knees at the hospital Christmas party. A candid snap of Gus downing a Pepsi after surgery, a small line of blood still on his forearm. He wears his blah-blond hair in a crew cut in front and a small pony tail in the back. He has a large nose and a badly capped front tooth. Then there’s the photo of Gus and Diane. Luke doesn’t know why he keeps looking at it–Gus’s tongue is stuck out like a snake and Diane’s leaning back with her mouth open wide. They’re dancing in the cafeteria, under garlands of syringes and gauze. They don’t mean it seriously.

“Gus was a damn good surgical nurse,” Diane told him. “And a great guy, too.”

“Do you have to use that word?”

“What word?”

“The D word.”

Diane laughed in disbelief. “You know, you’re scary.”

Diane’s hair is black, a short pixie cut, and he can’t tell if her skin is dark or tanned. His own face stands out for its paleness. In Oregon, no one has a tan in March, but this is California. Everything’s different.

When Gloria, Luke’s wife, asks him about his day, his work, his co-workers, he doesn’t know why he never tells Gloria about Diane. He hasn’t from his first day on the job at the university hospital. He’s created a secret when he has nothing to hide. *** Read on! ***

A Lift Back to Luscious by Susannah Carlson

February 9, 2014 Humor, Mainstream 5 Comments
A Lift Back to Luscious by Susannah Carlson

A Lift Back to Luscious
by Susannah Carlson

“Le chien est retourné à son propre vomissement, et la truie lavée au bourbier.” (Henry V, Act V, Sc. 3)

“I want pizza,” my stepson says from the backseat.

It is eight-thirty in the morning.

“Maybe after your test,” I say, knowing the test will last at least until dinnertime.

“I want pizza now,” he says, his tone an emotionless command.

“Well, Michael, we can’t do that. We have to be at Seaside in ten minutes.”

“I’m hungry.” He kicks the back of my seat.

“I gave you breakfast, Honey.”

“I hate pancakes.”

“You like them when your father makes them,” I say, sweetly as I can.

“I hate your pancakes.”

And I hate you, I think. “I don’t know what to do about that, Michael.”

“I’m going to tell my dad you didn’t give me a good breakfast before my test.”

In the rearview mirror, I see he’s holding his cell phone. My throat clenches. I swallow. “I gave you breakfast, Michael.”

“Nothing good,” he says, giving my seat another kick.

I tighten my hands on the steering wheel as if it were His Majesty’s spoiled little neck.

In my past life, I delivered lunches to Silicon Valley tech companies, lugging stacks of insulated carriers full of scrumptious numnums for engineers and executives and their peons. I made so little back then I often couldn’t afford lunch myself. Now, on a full stomach, in new clothes, my nails ground down to the quick and replaced with long, blunt, white-tipped acrylic, I steer my husband’s silver Volvo into a space in front of Seaside Taekwondo. I glance in the rearview at The Dauphin, who glowers in the backseat in his starchy white gi and danbo belt. He hates taekwondo almost as much as he hates me. It’s mutual. *** Read on! ***

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