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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! **

Strike by Andy Bailey

August 15, 2010 Humor 4 Comments
Strike by Andy Bailey


By Andy Bailey

“We’ll give you twenty-four hours to think about it,” Mom said as she handed me the sheet of demands. Her skin was dark, having absorbed three weeks worth of thick July sunlight, and she looked five years younger. She walked back across the yard and began fiddling with the awning of the pup tent. Dad lay on the overgrown grass, tongue running across his mustache as he dragged a paintbrush over a new sign. He saw me looking, gave a cocky smirk, and held it up: PARENTS LOCAL #0001 ON STRIKE!

It was their third week on strike and life in the house had gotten rough. Dirty clothes piled up in the hallways and an obnoxious smell emanated from the dishwasher. The eighty dollars a week Aunt Lynn gave Emmie and me for food limited our grocery shopping to the 7-11, and the consistent meals of chiquitos, taquitos, and burritos left us bloated and half-nauseous. Mom and Dad had taken the keys to the car, leaving us to bike or walk our way across town on the few nights we wanted to hang out with friends; we couldn’t invite anyone over, not after the two-person human chain they had formed to block the front door had sufficiently weirded out my friend Chuck enough to keep him from coming back. They had even managed to scare away Grandma, yelling “Scab! Scab!” when she tried to walk up the front path with a few plates of fried chicken.

The mood inside the house almost matched the smell. I blamed Emmie for pushing Mom too far with the constant whining about the mushy avocados in her homemade Cobb salads or the complaints when Mom bought honeysuckle-scented shampoo instead of summer peach. She accused me, correctly, of not helping matters when I allowed the grass to grow to an untamable length after Dad’s repeated requests to cut it. This all came after the Orlando vacation we had to end early after my verbal harassment of Mickey and Goofy got us kicked out of Disney World. In retrospect, the morning we awoke to find them marching across the lawn, brandishing signs that read UNGRATEFUL CHILDREN = HATEFUL CHILDREN and NO RESPECT, NO PARENTS/KNOW RESPECT, KNOW PARENTS was much more surprising than it should have been. It took us until that night to realize it wasn’t a joke.

I read their demands, scribbled on the back of a Publisher’s Clearinghouse envelope and signed by both of them. Two car uses per day with a maximum of ten per week. Set allowance at one dollar per year of age per week with an optional good behavior clause at ten percent a year. Chore negligence resulting in an immediate twenty-five percent allowance reduction. Zero tolerance whining policy. I crumpled up the envelope and tossed it into the overflowing trash basket.

That night, after Emmie returned from the Goodwill store, we discussed it. “That means I’d only get thirteen dollars a week!” she said, digging into her bare arm with her fingernails. “That’s not even enough to go to a movie.”

“Yeah, and I’d only get seventeen.” Couldn’t fill a car up with gas, if I’d had one. “Listen, though. They have to start teaching again in early August. No way they can stay outside then. They can’t work without showers or computers or a comfortable bed.”

She threw me a desperate look. Her lime green eyes peeked out from behind her puffy cheeks. “Two more weeks?” she asked, biting the inside of her lip.

I nodded as I looked onto the lawn. A solitary light shone in their tent, casting an orange halo onto the driveway within which their blurry silhouettes danced. I could hear their laughter from inside. Two more weeks, I thought. Two more weeks.

# # #

Andy Bailey is an English teacher in Los Angeles and has had work published in Pindeldyboz, Raleigh Quarterly, and Buffalo Carp, among others.

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! **

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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