Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ugly duckling

By Michael A. Kechula

Twenty minutes after Liz ingested the small blue pill, she was thrilled with her new appearance.

"I always wanted to become a beautiful mermaid," she said, peering into a mirror.

Heading to the Pacific Ocean in her rusted Yugo, she couldn't wait to join the mermaid community.

Unfortunately, they rejected her. "To be a member," they said, "you gotta be born in the ocean. You weren't. Get lost."

Fleeing with filthy curse words ringing in her ears, she spotted the Golden Gate Bridge. Climbing to the top, she decided to hurl herself onto the jagged rocks below.

While she tottered on a girder, passersby spotted her. A crowd quickly gathered.

"Look at that weird thing on top of the bridge," a woman yelled. "What the hell is it?"

"Looks like a damn alien to me!" a guy answered. "Jump you freak!"

The growing crowd chanted the guy's words dozens of times.

Liz was only too happy to accommodate them. As closed her eyes and spread her arms, she heard somebody calling. "Hey, up there. What are you?"

Looking below, she saw ten dolphins. One had a megaphone.

"I'm a mermaid. But I used to be a woman. I took a pill I bought through an ad in the Weekly Tattler. It turned me into a mermaid."

"You're very beautiful," the dolphin said. "Why are you jumping?"

"I can't live with humans the way I look. Listen to the nasty names they're calling me. Even the mermaid community rejected me. Nobody wants me. I'm gonna throw myself on the rocks."

"Don't. It'll hurt. And you'll end up a gooey mess. Go to the other side of the bridge. There ain't any rocks there. When you jump, you'll fall into the water. Then you can join us. We swim, and play all day. We're on our way to Hawaii. Then we're off to Tahiti. Come along. We're gonna have lotsa fun."

"You really want me?"


"You don't care that I'm a mermaid who used to be a woman?"


"Okay, I'll join you guys. You won't be sorry for taking me in. I'm a good cook. And I know first aid in case your fins get cut or something. I'm gonna go to the other side of the bridge, then I'll jump. Gimme a couple minutes to switch sides."

Her new friends swam to the other side and waited.

Soon, Liz was atop the highest girder on the opposite side.

"Before I jump, I want everybody to know I was an ugly duckling. Nobody ever loved me. I spent my life savings on a pill to become a beautiful mermaid. I thought once I became one, everybody would love me for sure. That didn't happen. Now I hate everybody. Especially all you bastards down there who want me to jump onto the rocks. People stink! But these wonderful dolphins care!”

She spread her arms and jumped.

Halfway down, she saw ten sharks shedding their dolphin costumes.

Copyright ©2008, 2011 Michael A. Kechula. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce in any form, including electronic, without the author’s express permission.


This story was originally published in Clockwise Cat magazine (issue 11) in 2008.


If you like the above story, check out this Michael Kechula-penned tale, Let's trade, published on this site in October 2011.



Michael A. Kechula’s flash/micro tales have appeared in 143 magazines and 43 anthologies. He's won eighteen writing contests. Four of his books are published as eBooks and paperbacks: A Full Deck of Zombies - 61 Speculative Fiction Tales; The Area 51 Option and 70 More Speculative Fiction Tales; I Never Kissed Judy Garland and Other Tales of Romance; Writing Genre Flash Fiction The Minimalist Way - A Self Study Book. Ebooks at Paperbacks at

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

**Jim Harrington published an interview with me on his Six Questions For. . . site

Jim Harrington, whose story, The good lie, graced this site, published an interview with me on his Six Questions For. . . site on December 26, 2011.

The interview was in regards to this site.

Here's the link for the interview.

Jim's site is a great resource for working authors. Check it out, if you're inclined and have the time!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Meat, spuds and turnips

By Rayna Bright

There’s Annie in the basement with the shovel. The six kids are locked outside ˗ left to play in the bare dirt with a splintered cricket bat and a piece of Quartz.

Annie stamps her bare feet on the dirt flattening the small mound. She spits, smiles, and drags planks of wood over it.


"Supper’s ready," she shouts.

"What is it?" they chorus, their faces reddened by the early evening chill.

"How about meat, spuds and turnips?" she replies, a twinkle in her eye.

"Oooooh, meat," they chime, their eyes round like saucers. They never have meat.

"Where’s Dad?" the youngest one pipes up.

"At the pub."

Their father’s boots are lying near the basement door and Billy kicks them under the table before the younger kids notice. He didn’t believe his Mum’s stories about her black eyes. How could anyone fall down stairs so often?

"Look out for bones," she warns, calmly scooping spoonful’s from the simmering pot onto their tin plates.

"Dad’ll be surprised," the youngest one says to no-one in particular.

"Surprised alright!" She replies, sucking on a bone and brushing a wet strand of hair from her forehead.

Copyright ©2011 Rayna Bright. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce in any form, including electronic, without the author’s express permission.



Rayna is a keen reader and writer of short fiction with several stories published in Anthologies. She lives on the North coast of NSW with her husband, and finds inspiration for her stories while walking their Labrador on the beach.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


By Thomas Michael McDade

Weber closed his eyes a moment then began picking apart his dead cigar. “They should have gotten a new stone instead of spackling my name and using the other side for the Vietnam dead.”

“They said they were short of money,” said Pat. “What were you doing out there today, anyway? Not much chance destroying it with a tack hammer and broken chisel.”

“Destroy hell, rebirth! I planned to chisel out the filler in my name and add “Jr.” He’s the hero. That’s why he’s beaming. Two of his victims were Legionnaires! He’s avenged me,” said Weber making a fist in the air.

“Bullshit, Weber, I know him too well to believe that,” said Pat, wiping his brow with his handkerchief.

“You don’t know shit, Pat,” said Weber, enraged. “All you know is what you’ve heard in confessionals and on your talk show phones. Did you know your shitty radio station fades twenty damned miles away? Your world was all talk until June introduced pussy. Did you ever think she might have been a whore in another life, learned all that good fucking in Babylon?”

Pat shot up and kicked Weber in the side. He gasped and curled up on the floor. Pat stood over him. A cop gazed through the bars. “Want a club, Mr. Hunter?”

“Not yet,” answered Pat.

“Better take it, Pat. Sissy Eyetie loafers won’t do the trick.”

“You’re pitiful,” said Pat. I don’t know why I wasted my time.”

Weber held out his rosary cross sword to Pat. “Carve your name in the wall, Father Pat. Everybody’s guilty! Doing time symbolically is better penance in a pinch. Even a name painted many times over will remain. Something of you will stay. It’s the palimpsest advantage. That word might pop up in a crossword someday: “‘Used Papyrus’ will be the clue.”

“Take your pop philosophy and shove it,” said Pat.

“I’m just a parrot, Pat. I learned it from one of your callers. You probably only remember what you say.”

“Didn’t help you, did it, scum?” raged Pat.

“Hey, Father Fuck-my-wife, tell Weber Jr. I’m the proudest daddy alive.”

Pat kicked Weber in the face and was gone. Weber cried for a while. He broke the crucifix off his rosary, made a belt out of the beads. The kick had knocked one of the teeth off his bridge.

“It’s a fucking Weber o’ lantern I am!” he shouted.

“Shut-up, piece o’ shit,” yelled the cop.

Weber tried to remember if he had whisky in his room over the Laundromat. He imagined showing up at his son’s trial in his Army uniform, some fat fuck of a judge on the bench who couldn’t get an ankle in his.

After three tries, he was able to stand. He wanted to pace the night away but he was in too much pain. He held the crucifix up to a fly buzzing the ceiling light and he saw a clear solution. Sitting down at the wall with the least writing, he carved a replica of the Vietnam Monument. He etched Weber Scanlon Jr. on it. He closed his eyes like a graveyard mourner.

In a burst of goodwill, he inscribed June’s name to the left of his version of the Memorial. What the hell, he included Pat, the dead Legionnaires and every Red Sox player he could recall.

Occasionally, he prayed a bead or two on his rosary belt. He truly believed that good works alone could not slip a man through the pearly gates.

Copyright ©2011 Thomas Michael McDade. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce in any form, including electronic, without the author’s express permission.



Thomas Michael McDade lives in Monroe, CT, married, no kids or pets. A computer programmer in Meriden, CT, he writes and maintains software used in the wholesale / retail plumbing supply field. He served two hitches in the U.S. Navy. He is the author of three poetry chaps: E Pluribus Aluminum, Liquid Paper Press, Austin, TX; Our Wounds, Pitchfork Press, also Austin; and Thrill and Swill, Kendra Steiner Editions, San Antonio, TX.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

**I will be 'guest editor' on the popular Leodegraunce site for their May 2012 issue

For the month of May 2012 I will be guest editor on the Leodegraunce site (which pays $5 per accepted story). The writing theme for that month is Cinema, as in: movies.

Associate editor Gary Russell will be reading my 4-5 final selections, to ensure that the stories are exactly that – in short: don’t send scenes, make sure there’s a plot arc in your work(s).

The popular Leodegraunce, normally edited by Jolie Du Pre and Gary (thanks, guys!), publishes 200-words-or-less microfiction. And your work(s) must be 200 words or less (word count doesn’t include title and by-line). Any works, even an excellent 201-word story, will be rejected automatically, due to the high number of submissions the site receives every month.

Note that the site allows authors to submit as many flashers (200 word stories) as they want per theme/month.

Get those stories written and submission-ready – May will be here before we know it - and let your imaginations run riot: anybody who knows me knows I’m open to different ideas, wild, mild or in between as they may be. Make sure you read Leodegraunce's site and guidelines before you submit any stories.

In the meantime, Leodegraunce's theme for their January 2012 issue is freedom; the deadline for this issue is December 31, 2011.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


By Baird Nuckolls

I still have the scar. I think about it every year when the weather turns cold and the leaves start to fall. We buy a pumpkin and I help the boys draw spooky faces and cut them out. When they were very small, their dad and I did the work of cutting and sawing through orange shell and paler flesh. They got to scoop out the seeds. Their little hands were good for that and besides, they loved the slimy feel of the seeds in their pulpy webbing.

When they were old enough to hold the knives themselves, I tried to encourage thinking outside the box, to distract them from the knife. How about painting the pumpkins? We could decorate them with feathers and leaves, using the hot glue gun. It never worked. I don't know why that seemed safer to me than knives, but burns are better than blood. Because there can be a lot of blood.

I was four and a half. Old enough to keep a secret. My brother, six, thought he was old enough to carve the pumpkin himself. We were out in the garage; Mom was doing laundry and not paying much attention. Keith got the boning knife from the kitchen drawer. He let me draw the eyes and the nose, but he drew its jagged row of teeth.

I sat, in rapt attention, as he muscled the pumpkin between his bare knees, the black face leering up at him. His arm came up and in a flash, the knife descended, impaled in the middle of one eye. He sawed away, grunting as he turned his hand to make the circle. The knife slid through the flesh easily.

“I want to do one.”

“No, I'm doing this bit.”

I scooted closer, the toes of my Keds nearly touching his leg. I leaned forward, pushing my bangs out of my eyes. He moved on to the second eye. This one was larger; I wasn't good at drawing both eyes the same. Again the arm came high, again the knife was buried in the pumpkin. I imagined the tinny screams of the dying pumpkin, and giggled as he cut out the second eye, then the nose.

When he started on the mouth, I rose onto my knees. “Please, let me try.” I reached for the knife, but he held it above my head.


“I'll tell Mom what you’re doing.” I rose to my feet, pretending I meant to get our mother. I wanted to do the cutting, not get him into trouble. But he didn't know that.

“Okay. But be careful.” He handed me the knife, handle first, and wiped his hands on his shorts.

Filled with my childish power, I bent over the pumpkin that still rested between his knees. I raised the knife over my head, like he did, but when I brought it down, it skittered off the pumpkin, not even scratching the surface.

Keith tried to wrest it from me. “You had a turn.”

I held it away from him. “I'm not done.”

Tongue caught between my teeth, I steadied the pumpkin with one hand and raised the knife again. The knife came down and I felt searing pain in my hand. The knife was buried in the pumpkin between my fingers, but things were not all right. I lifted my left hand to inspect what I'd done.

The knife had bisected my middle finger, down to the bone. I held my palm to my face and saw the white knuckle of the middle joint gleaming in the sea of blood that cascaded from my finger. I screamed. Keith jumped up and ran for Mom. I stood over the pumpkin, dripping blood, still screaming.

Our mother came running. She scooped me up and took me to the bathroom, where she cleaned and bandaged my hand. I don't remember being taken to any doctor for stitches. I don't even remember being punished for attempting to carve the pumpkin without adult supervision. All I remember, when I look at the thin white line crossing my finger like a ring, is the flash of the knife and the blood.

Copyright ©2011 Baird Nuckolls. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce in any form, including electronic, without the author’s express permission.


If you like this story, check out Baird’s other stories, published on this site: Chickens roosting in the trees, He Preferred Red and Jet lagged.



Baird Nuckolls continues to cut herself occasionally with sharp knives; it's a known hazard, but it's worth the risk. She lives and writes in Northern California.