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A Goal For Goals by Joseph Auslander Jr

January 17, 2011 Humor, Mainstream 1 Comment
A Goal For Goals by Joseph Auslander Jr

A Goal for Goals
By Joseph Auslander Jr.

I find it’s nice to have goals. I have tons. I collect them. I used to have a rookie goal to be an Imagineer for Disney, but I traded that in 1999 for an overly-pretentious goal to be a filmmaker. Then, in college, I accidentally burned my filmmaker goal with a match I was using to light a joint. I was a bit disappointed about that, but not so much that it kept me from my favorite hobby of goal making. Even though I had lost a few big ones, I still had plenty of other goals to keep me on track. Admittedly, most were ones that I only paid attention to in my greatest hours of boredom. Some of these were my Razor-Tipped Martial Arts goal and my dust-and-coffee-stained Drawing goal. Then there was my Glittery Porn Star goal, of which I still devote many hours of daily study to, but otherwise keep locked up in a shoebox underneath my bed.

I’m like a dirty child of the swamp with frogs in my pockets; I compulsively need to find big and small goals to take with me. They fill me up, give me purpose and often get me to where I’m going. Conversely, they also add a great weight of expectation to my life. As much as I may need a light at the end of the tunnel, sometimes there are too many directions to choose from and it’s too bright to see.

A few years ago, in Boston, I decided to lighten my goal-obsessed load a bit. I had made myself slippery with drink to throw off my monkeys for the evening. It wasn’t long before I was quickly reminded of an old familiar goal that adhered solely to alcohol. This was the soggy Let’s Play a Few Games of Pool and Get Muddled at an Irish Bar goal. Seeing as I was in Boston, this was both a short-term and an achievable goal, so I didn’t try too hard to shake it. You have to give yourself a few freebies from time to time. ** Read on! **

Snapped by Bob Shar

November 28, 2010 Humor, Mainstream 3 Comments
Snapped by Bob Shar

By Bob Shar

“Tell us a story, Uncle Dingus,” seven-year-old Reginald suggested. “Make it scary.”

“Nooooo,” whined four-year-old Wilford. “You’ll give us a nightmare.”

“Wuss,” scoffed the girl, Tilapia, age six. “Make it bloody, Uncle Dingus. I aint scared.”

“Nooooo,” blubbered Wilford.

* * *

William “Dingus” McClintock was no childcare specialist. He was a thirty-nine-year-old plumber. He didn’t trust children, could barely tolerate his own nieces and nephews, didn’t own a TV, computer, guest bedroom or futon. This didn’t stop his identical twin brother—District Attorney Frederick McClintock—and sister-in-law Michelle from entrusting their three snotdribblers to Dingus’ care this dreary Saturday evening.

“Thanks for doing this, William,” Michelle said, jerking the hem of her skirt free from the clutches of Wilford, who was not enthusiastic about the sleepover.

“Yeah, Ding. You’re a lifesaver,” said Fred.

It was the couple’s tenth anniversary, and the D.A. had failed to line up a legitimate sitter for the evening. He’d had to offer his brother five times the going rate to take the kids on at the last minute.

“They eat dinner at five-thirty,” Michelle informed him, and Dingus glanced at the clock over the stove: three forty-five. “The boys eat peanut butter and jelly. Tilapia likes hot dogs. Don’t make yourself crazy trying to feed them vegetables. Bedtime’s seven-thirty for Wilford, eight-thirty for the big kids. They’ve had baths already and their jammies are under their play clothes. Just peel off the top layers and pop ’em into bed…”

“Nothing to it,” Fred interjected. “Don’t serve them alcohol, try not to stuff more than one kid in the oven at a time, discourage them from killing each other, and you’ll be golden. If you have any questions, ask Reggie. That boy’s smart like his daddy.”

“If you have any problems, William,” corrected Michelle, gripping her brother-in-law’s wrist and glaring at Fred, “call me. I’m keeping my cell phone on.”

“They’ll be fine, Meesh,” said the DA. “Have faith in the Dinger. You know,” he expounded, puffing his chest out with pride, “my brother’s not as stupid as he looks. And he’s no child molester.” He winked. “No matter what Mom’s been telling the Grand Jury.”

With Dingus scrambling for a rejoinder, the couple stepped out of the apartment, the door closed behind them, and the evening began in earnest. ** Read on! **

A Safe Deposit by Mark Charney

September 20, 2010 Literary, Mainstream 9 Comments
A Safe Deposit by Mark Charney

A Safe Deposit

By Mark Charney

Lena welcomes Barry home from the memorial service around two o’clock, his gray eyes moist and dulled behind the tortoise shell frames. He removes his jacket, loosens his tie, unbuttons his collar, and sits in the chair before the bay window where he scans the bookshelves, desk, and the fireplace mantel with a photograph of three men: Meier, Goldman, and himself. It’s a photograph that she would have preferred taking off the mantel years ago. Barry insisted, “No, leave it.”

She had not gone with him this morning, had decided not to. It had been years since she’d set foot on campus and it would have been too difficult, too many memories there. She’d been an active faculty wife in those years, contributing her share to the school’s fundraising and campus causes, but had stopped after what happened, happened. She had stopped attending events related to the university after Barry had become persona non grata because by extension, she too had suffered the same.

Goldman’s death and today’s service might have been a special occasion, but she didn’t care to put up a front. Barry could. It was his choice and he could or would not stay away. He’d flown in from his consulting work in Florida to attend the service because it was his last chance to say goodbye to an old friend and mentor, pay his respects to someone he cared about and admired. He’d asked her to come along too, but she wouldn’t or couldn’t, and after she met his second request with a hard stare and a steady head shake, he didn’t ask again.

She joins him in the den now because she’s making a grocery list, and she wants his input. Setting her pad on the end table, she turns to him quickly. Her motions are rapid but fluid, elegant. She keeps her hair pulled back with a black scarf, exposing a high forehead, coppery skin, delicate features. Her body is petite and the limbs angular, attenuated like those of a ballerina. “May I bring you anything from the store?” she asks.

“No,” he says, staring absently at her pad and pencil. The back of her hand brushes a statue of Ganeshu that rests atop an arts and crafts writing table. The carved lava Ganeshu swings his trunk, holds a broken tusk in one hand and a stony sweet treat in the other. It isn’t an antique but she likes quirky objects as much as she likes antiques, and this one didn’t come cheap.

“Lena?” he asks, chin lowered into his chest, eyes ignoring Ganeshu but not her.


“Was there ever a letter?” ** Read on! **

Faith by Gerald Rivard

June 26, 2010 Mainstream 5 Comments
Faith by Gerald Rivard


by Gerald Rivard 

The bomb must have gone off after all, because Rajiv al Fazir came to consciousness in a martyr’s heaven.

He was nestled inside a cocoon of moving flesh.  He could feel the warm touch of soft skin everywhere on his naked body.  Hands and fingers caressed, lips and tongues probed, long hair and a tapestry of breasts draped and dangled.  The room seemed to spin, though there were no walls or ceiling.  Distant stars floated through the dark sky, providing a dim ambient light, and the voices of the virgins as they lauded his courage seemed to swim in circles all around him.  He could not have begun to count the number of hands or lips ministering to his body or the number of voices singing his praises.

“Rajiv, you are my hero,” said one virgin as she kissed along his chest.

“You are so brave and so strong,” said another as she stroked his thigh.

An olive-skinned virgin with the striking green eyes of a Persian cat kissed him on his mouth, her tongue brushing his lips. “We are your reward, Rajiv,” she said as she pressed her face against his left cheek. ** Read on! **

A Christmas Eve Story by Milan Smith

December 24, 2009 Humor, Mainstream 1 Comment
A Christmas Eve Story by Milan Smith

A Christmas Eve Story

by Milan Smith

Thank you, thank you, if I can just sit here a few minutes, I’ll feel much better. Yes, please, the more light the better.


“Do you want a drink?”


Yes, please. Something to calm me down. Whiskey if you have it. Thank you. I’m sorry to barge in on you like this, David, on Christmas Eve, but I was sure it was over for me if I stayed home. I hope I didn’t disturb your family?


“They’re sleeping soundly. ‘Becca always sleeps hard, and the kids won’t be up before morning. Of course, it’s Christmas, so morning may be four o’clock. But maybe I’ll get lucky and they’ll let me sleep in ‘til five.”


Well, it’s good of you to see me like this, this late at night. But, you’ve always been good to me. You and my wife are – were – the two closest to me in the world. I miss her, even after all this time. It’s been a year now. It’s hard to be alone, especially on Christmas.


“I know, Phil. So tell me, does this have anything to do with the ‘feelings’ you’ve gotten over the last two weeks?”


It’s all about that. But there’s more I haven’t told you, or anyone else. Mostly because I know how people think of me. You know, this here. I admit I drink too much, my wife tells me – used to tell me – every day. But I’ve never seen things before, so I don’t know why I would now.


“So tell me what happened. All of it.”


I don’t want to end up in the funny house, David.


“You won’t. Tell me what happened, then you can stay on the couch tonight.” ** Read on! **

Hippie Market by Tom Mahony

October 17, 2009 Mainstream 2 Comments
Hippie Market by Tom Mahony

Hippie Market
by Tom Mahony

The hippie market is next door to my office. I buy a sandwich there almost every day. There’s no other place nearby to get food, and I’m too lazy to make my own lunch. The deli at the market is excellent. The people are friendly, and though they prepare the sandwiches with a plodding slowness characteristic of devout stoners, they also maintain a stoner’s freakish attention to culinary detail. The tomato slices are works of art.

There’s only one problem: the granola woman who works the register is always inviting me to one rally or another. She’s really into rallies. She’s really pumped up on “causes.” I’m neither for nor against her causes. I just want to pay for my sandwich.

Today I stand in line behind several people. Today I will ask her to please refrain from soliciting me for future political rallies.

The line moves forward. I’m up next. I don’t want to alienate this woman—she seems nice enough, and sincere in her beliefs—but I have to say something, as the situation has become untenable. I dread purchasing my daily sandwich. But I must be careful in my technique. If things go wrong, I’ll have to face an even more awkward exchange on future sandwich runs.

I reach the register, preparing for the confrontation. But she doesn’t invite me to a rally. She seems subdued, just mutters a greeting and rings up my purchase. I wonder what happened. Has someone else complained about her pamphleteering? Has she become cynical and apathetic overnight?

“Everything okay?” I ask.

She shrugs. “I got laid off today. They’re cutting back on staff.”

I’m struck by the news. I feel bad for her, and tell her so. Though I can’t deny a certain relief, I regret my past irritation with her. She’s a thoroughly decent person. I almost feel nostalgic for her proselytizing.

“I hear they’re looking to hire a receptionist next door,” she says. “You work there, right?”

I hesitate. We are in fact hiring. “I’m not sure.”

“Not sure that you work there?”

“That we’re hiring.”

“There’s a big sign on the window advertising the position. I saw your name listed as the contact. I recognize it from your debit card.”

“Oh. Right.”

“What do you think? Do I have a chance at the job? I could really use the money.”

I clear my throat. “What are your skills?”

“I can do it all. I was a receptionist for five years before I started here.”

This is getting bad. “It’s dull work.”

She points at the cash register. “You think this is exciting?”

I start to panic. My mind races. I can’t think straight.

“We get along, right?” she says. “Other customers are so rude when I talk politics. You always seem interested, like we’re on the same wavelength.”

Same wavelength? I should’ve spoken up long ago, as apparently every other customer has. At least this woman is firm in her beliefs. I’m always weaseling out of confrontation and stand-taking. Who’s the kook here?

I have to come clean. I could not possibly work with her. Avoidance and apathy have cost me dearly throughout life. I either take a stand now or I never will.

The line stacks up behind me. I glance at the irritated faces. Everyone’s watching me. They know the score. One by one they’ve made peace with the woman by politely telling her to shut up. I envy them. As they glare at me, I can read the look on their faces: what kind of man are you?

What kind of man, indeed.

I turn back to the woman. “When can you start?”

* * *

Tom Mahony is a biological consultant in California with an M.S. degree from Humboldt State University. His fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in dozens of online and print publications, including Surfer Magazine, Flashquake, The Rose & Thorn, Pindeldyboz, In Posse Review, Boston Literary Magazine, 34th Parallel, Diddledog, Foliate Oak, and Decomp. His short fiction collection, Slow Entropy, was published by Thumbscrews Press in 2009. He is looking for a publisher for several novels. Visit him at www.tommahony.net.

“Hippie Market” originally appeared in Bartleby Snopes and in Slow Entropy.

Stock image credit: Pioi

Mainstream stories – fiction for everyone

October 8, 2009 Mainstream No Comments
Mainstream stories – fiction for everyone

readshortfiction.com is seeking mainstream short stories that deliver satisfying reads.  We’re particularly looking for stories that are set in current times or in recent history for this section.  See our submisssion guidelines on the “About Us” page for how to submit.  Send us your best!

Welcome to Read Short Fiction


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