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Never and Always by Daniel Kason

November 23, 2015 Literary 10 Comments
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 5 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! ***

Replacement by Sara Backer

May 19, 2014 Literary 2 Comments
Replacement by Sara Backer

Replacement
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! ***

Other Summers by Ray Cluley and Michael Kelly

September 15, 2013 Literary 4 Comments
Other Summers by Ray Cluley and Michael Kelly

Other Summers
by Ray Cluley and Michael Kelly

The moon is fat and bright, holding back the dark. A warm wind blows across the high summer grass, touching their faces, their sticky summer skin, and moves on, its faint summer song trailing and fading like summer itself. Dying.

The girls giggle, nervous, excited; their faces glow in the shine of the moon, wide and innocent still. The boys shuffle, kick at the dusty ground, snort, push and shove and laugh.

“Summer,” Mary-Ann says.

“Summer,” Alisha repeats, wistful.

“There’ll be others,” Ryan says.

“Other summers,” Josh agrees.

The high grass sways. They wait, giggling and sniggering. “Shush,” one of them says, and that gets them laughing.

Sixteen-years-old, all of them. Their skin smooth, eyes bright like glass marbles, hair thick and glossy, lips red as cherry popsicles. The four of them stand in the tall honey-grass, looking out beyond the field and the fat moon’s brilliance to the edge of darkness. Waiting.

“When?” Mary-Ann asks.

“When?” Alisha repeats, anxious.

“Soon,” Ryan says, staring into the dark.

“Real soon,” Josh agrees, licking his lips.

They are thin and bronzed, fidgeting, touching, all angles and questions. How? Why? Who? When?

Then, from the inky darkness, a sound, faint and growing. Music. An organ, an accordion, like a child’s wind-up toy. And as they watch, their thin bodies aquiver, coloured lights wink on, lighting the darkness in reds and blues, greens and yellows, like strands of Christmas lights strung across the night sky. Christmas in summer. *** Read on! ***

The Diver by Colleen Anderson

August 11, 2013 Literary 1 Comment
The Diver by Colleen Anderson

The Diver
by Colleen Anderson

She pierced the air like an arrow shot from an angel’s bow. Her feet pointed toward heaven as though knowing where they’d step next, her hands pressed together, directed the way to her descent. The dive would have received the highest points in the Olympics; her form was so exact, her back arched just right, her legs together, her short blond hair tied tightly back from her head, adding to the streamlined look.

Doug was sure that he was the only one who saw her dive, viewed her perfect diving figure, the calm look upon her face. Had her eyes been open? It was hard to tell and he was so mesmerized by the image as she streaked earthwards that he could do nothing but gape, frozen in an awkward salute, shading the sun from his eyes.

Then, she did not slice through the water, for there was none. Though Doug cheered her to be able to part the earth, she hit with a reverberating thunk and sickly bounce that stopped people on the street. They turned slowly, not knowing exactly what had happened, where the fall had been, perhaps subconsciously fearing the results. In the inevitable rush to the broken doll-like thing, the screams and murmurs, the cell phones stuck to ears, and even in the subsequent wail and hysteric flashing of emergency vehicles, still Doug did not move. Could not move. That arrow of flesh and blood and bones had struck his senses at the moment she died, and there was no doubt with all the blood and other bits he would not look at, Doug had been numbed to his mortal core. His poor meat brain, its pathetically simple synapses could not absorb the mix of death and beauty. *** Read on! ***

Finding a Book Under the Bureau You Keep Your Keys On by Michael J. Rosenbaum

September 14, 2011 Literary 1 Comment
Finding a Book Under the Bureau You Keep Your Keys On by Michael J. Rosenbaum

Finding a Book Under the Bureau You Keep Your Keys On
by Michael J. Rosenbaum

As you move toward another day, on your way to work, your hand absently, mechanically, swings over the top of the bureau that sits next to the front door of your apartment, meaning to grab the keys that are kept there. But in its haste to move on toward the door knob, your hand doesn’t completely close around the keys and they’re knocked to the floor. A shock goes through you as the keys make the kind of small, crashing sound that keys make as they hit the hardwood floor, and you stare at them for a moment, unsure—the routine broken (strangely, the hand has continued on and turned the knob and opened the door). Recovering quickly though, you bend over for them. But as you do, you notice a stack of papers under the bureau.  Another incongruity. You drop to your knees and press your face close to the cool wood for a better look and you find that it’s not a stack of papers, not in the way you thought it was, but is a book instead. So you reach under, curious, mind whirling through the memory bank, trying prematurely to solve the mystery, even though the answer is only a moment away. ** Read on! **

Dog Farts and Dancer Girls by Brady Allen

May 9, 2011 Literary 15 Comments
Dog Farts and Dancer Girls by Brady Allen

Dog Farts and Dancer Girls

by Brady Allen

Emotions. They are misleading. Of this, he was sure.

They puttered along in the downtown traffic. Snowflakes were clinging desperately to the windshield in the borderline freezing weather, seeming to know that a sudden burst of sunshine could end their already short existence.

Anger: not as it appeared—beneath it was always sadness.

And sadness was impossible without first having happiness.

No wonder so many people are just generally fucked up. Emotions aren’t clear cut or reliable.

 

Next to him, she put on her makeup, looking into the mirror in the passenger-side visor. In her late thirties and she still had the face of a child, a face alive with curiosity, but with a certain sadness, too, if you looked deep into her eyes. This said that she must have been happy once, and the childlike quality said she wanted to be happy again. She had the look of a kid who has suddenly realized that she must grow up one day and that it won’t be everything she expects it to be.

He had a can of Coors between his legs. Ice cold from the cooler in the back seat. And he had one in his hand, sweating, almost empty.

She worked the mascara on her lashes. “So?” she asked.

Neither of them had spoken for five minutes or more, but he knew exactly what she was asking. ** Read on! **

The Minx by Cassandra Dunn

March 28, 2011 Literary 2 Comments
The Minx by Cassandra Dunn

The Minx
by Cassandra Dunn

Like me, the minx was a ten o’clock regular at Lily’s Cafe. She wasn’t friendly, although she wasn’t rude, she just never returned my smiles or made any effort to exchange greetings. She always hid behind her oversized sunglasses, feigning absorption in the man beside her, a magenta smile on her face, a girlish giggle squeaking out of her throat.

She was Asian, slim and petite, probably early forties to judge by her hands, as my years of living in LA had taught me to do. Faces lied about age all the time, bodies, too, but hands kept you honest. She always dressed like a young girl, in short skirts, low-slung tops, with chunky jewelry and ridiculous heels she tottered on. She never came alone, was always on the arm of some older man.

Today’s guy was fairly casual, in his jeans and button-down shirt, and fairly young, with his hip shaved head, his recent tan, his confidently squared shoulders while he waited for their order.

I took my coffee, tried and failed to exchange a smile with her, had to settle for one from her latest guy, which made me like him and made the game of people-watching less fun. Now I was invested. Now I was worried about him, this complete stranger, resting his hand casually around the waist of the minx. ** Read on! **

Man Murders Wife by Judy Viertel

March 11, 2011 Horror, Literary 2 Comments
Man Murders Wife by Judy Viertel

Man Murders Wife
by Judy Viertel

I’m running. I stop to retie my shoe, and find myself looking at a young woman’s breasts. She’s walking towards me—I don’t mean to stare, I’m not a lesbian, although my short hair and lack of makeup often confuse people. It’s the way her tight shirt pushes her breasts up that makes them difficult to ignore. They’re oddly rounded, like two cereal bowls propped against her chest. As I finish with my shoelace, she wobbles past on spiked heels. Ankle breakers, my grandmother would have called those boots, and her leather skirt is so tight she can only manage tiny, nibbling steps. The two men she’s walking with have to support her as she steps down into the crosswalk. They look ten years older than her. They outweigh her, each of them, by at least a hundred pounds. It’s none of my business. Even so, I start thinking about something I recently read.

A man murdered his wife. She was a fashion model. Did he use a gun, or was it a knife? I can’t remember. He killed her and dumped the body. But first, he cut off all her fingers. He pulled her teeth. Why? No fingerprints, no dental records. There was no way for the police to identify the body. But those detectives, they were smart. They traced the serial numbers in her breast implants. That’s how they caught the husband. ** Read on! **

The Limo Driver’s Diary by AJ Profeta

December 23, 2010 Literary 1 Comment
The Limo Driver’s Diary by AJ Profeta

The Limo Driver’s Diary
by AJ Profeta

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

This is the day I remembered what Leonardo Da Vinci once said.

I was on my way back to Connecticut after an early-morning run to LaGuardia. Dawn was breaking over the Hutchinson River Parkway as I approached the Westchester County line.

I was trying to settle in and prepare myself for another long day of shuffling self-important yuppie business types to and from New York airports. So help me, if I had to hear one more conference call dotted with corporate speak, I was going to have to fight to keep from tossing my breakfast. Terms like “I reached out to him” so he could “get his head around this” and “produce a positive R.O.I.” are so blatantly phony, they make my skin crawl.

I was thinking about the next passenger who would greet me with “how are you?” when he couldn’t care less when I cruised around a wide bend and was temporarily blinded by the sunrise. Automatically my right foot went to the brake as my left hand went to the visor.

Just as my vision cleared, I was startled by a thunderous roar coming up on my right. A maniac in a Nazi helmet and outlaw colors blew by me — he had to be doing well over a hundred.

“Jesus!” I screamed. I got that iceball-in-the-stomach feeling. Soon I collected myself and settled in at my comfortable and safe sixty miles an hour.

A short time later, I came up on the snake-like curves of the Merritt Parkway in Greenwich. Again, the morning sun caught me by surprise. Again, coming around a bend, I was blinded by the now stronger, larger dawn devil. Again, the automatic hand-and-foot thing slowed me as I hoped it wouldn’t take more than a split-second to see clearly.

Brake lights! Hundreds of brake lights turning my entire world panic-red. The worn brake rotors on my Town Car tank made the whole car shake and shimmy as I braked harder.

About three seconds after I realized I was not going to crash, I saw him. He was sprawled face-down on the shoulder, motionless, his Nazi helmet securely covering a brain that had just had its last thought.

A thirty-something woman stood in the shoulder, talking frantically on her cell phone. The trunk of her car was pushed in, nearly covering the rear windshield. An ambulance was screaming up behind me. A few cars had stopped near the mangled Harley, and several people were now running toward the victim.

I snailed past the body slowly enough to read the lettering on the back of his leather jacket. It read: IMMORTALS. BRONX, N.Y. The only thing immortal about this guy would be the carnage of this scene, frozen in my memory. ** Read on! **

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