The Job
By Tony Rauch

- Hungarians? Would I have a problem shaving one down? Maybe even several? No sir. No problem at all.

- Moon the President of Paraguay? Not a problem. Heck, I practice at home all the time – different angles and techniques. I enjoy mooning visiting dignitaries and hope to do so many times in the future. Yes, I enjoy dropping my pants. For sure. Definitely.

- Steal a pie from a church? Maybe even several? Not an issue with me. Not at all.

- Run off with a drunk man’s trousers? No worries. None whatsoever.

- Throw a fit in a monastery? You only need to ask.

- Wear my pajamas to the library and spend all day there? Yeah, sure. Why not? Is there anything better to do?

- Berating the elderly? I look forward to it.

- Fire bomb the liquor store our rivals frequent? Not a concern. In fact, I keep several incendiary devices in the trunk of my car at all times, along with several other little beauties – just in case, you dig?

- Kick a hobo in the groin while he sleeps? No problemo.

- Push a nun into the mud? I can’t wait. I see no problem with that either.

- Throw a handful of monkey feces at a sidewalk reporter or people waiting for the bus? My pleasure. Can do.

- Kill a man with my bare hands? Really getting right up in there, all close and personal? Just getting in there real close and tight like? Yeah, sure, why not?

- Steal a wagon or tricycle from a kid? Glad to. Often. Count on it.

- Dress up like Ethel Merman and parade around the town square? Thank you, I would enjoy that most specially. That may be my finest hour.

- Run naked through the supermarket? I couldn’t be happier. I keep myself in tip-top shape. Top notch. They’ll never know what hit ‘em. They’ll never catch me. Just grease me down. Grease me up right now. Let’s go. Right now.

Yes sir. Yes sir, you can count on me, sir. For sure. When do I start?

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Tony Rauch has been interviewed by The Prague Post, Oxford University, and Rain Taxi. His books have been reviewed by MIT, Savanna Collage of Art and Design, and Rain Taxi, among many others. His stories have appeared in numerous literary journals. Rauch has four books of short stories out –

- “I'm right here,” from Spout Press (funky/jazzy/arty experimental short stories)
- “Laredo,” from Eraserhead Press (funky/jazzy/arty fairytale short stories)
- “Eyeballs growing all over me . . again” from Eraserhead Press (fairy tale surreal fantasy action adventure sci-fi short stories and story starters)
- “As I floated in the jar” from Eraserhead Press (fairy tale surreal fantasy action adventure sci-fi short stories and story starters) [to be published in the next few weeks]

For more info and story samples, refer to his website: http://trauch.wordpress.com/


Dragon Science
By Dave Hughes

"Fact of the matter is, your rooster is actually a dragon," said Dr. Horace. His lips were tight and his brow was chiseled in place, and he stood a mere foot from Mrs. Stanislaus's nose.

She wondered for a second if this was some new way of saying "you've got a nice be-hind at 35, wanna cheat on your husband?" Which Dr. Horace had said before, but this time, thankfully, he was sober. His gaze turned from Mrs. Stanislaus to Ernesto, the portentous black-bodied red-crowned rooster in the three-foot cage below, a high source of income and blue ribbons for the Stanislaus family.

"Oh," said Mrs. S, taking a step back, "thank you. Ernesto appreciates the compliment. Don't you, big guy?" she snuck a finger into her prize-winning cock's cage and Ernesto pecked at it in either curiosity or suppressed rage at being owned.

Dr. Horace sighed and slicked back his brown toupée. "I'm serious, Mrs. Stan. I've talked it over with my colleagues at the school."

"I don't follow."

"Yes you do, it's not hard."

Mrs. S scoffed. Dr. H had overstayed his welcome fifteen minutes ago, and the amount of grace annoyances had been whittled away to almost nothing. "Sorry, it's just, why is he a dragon? He looks like a rooster to me."

"You see, Miss Stan, we've been looking all over for a dragon. That's just the sort of thing cryptozoologists do. And were there any dragons?"

"Komodo dragons, maybe."

"Yes-- but they're not nearly awesome enough. Nothing like a fire-breathing reptilian monstrosity with wings that St. George would fight. We haven't been able to find anything of the sort. But I realized just the other day, while looking at porn for scholarly reasons-- we've never seen a dragon. It could look like a chicken for all we know. So," he pointed to the black rooster picking at the lock of his cage, "we hypothesized that maybe Ernesto and other roosters like him were dragons all along. Such fine black plumage, great size at such a young age, a look in his eyes that means business-- and chickens are closely related to reptiles."

"Don't be ridiculous, Mr. Horace. Ernesto doesn't breathe fire."

It was then that Mr. H had that sort of grin that made actual dragons cower. "I'm a scientist," he said. "I test these things."


The blue flames of the stove came on and a waft of heat spurted at Ernesto's face. Mrs. S. held him like a rifle.

"Now all we need him to do is exhale with all his might to see if his breath can catch fire," said Mr. H.

"This is asinine," said Mrs. S., as she stroked the nervous chicken's back, despite holding his twitching face inches away from an open fire. It was at times like this that she wondered why she said "yes" to so many things that involved her prize roosters and Dr. Horace.

"Yes, and if it's true, it'll make us asininely rich," said Dr. H.

Relaxing her hold on Ernesto, Mrs. S. glared in surprise at the scientist. "Us?"

"Well, yes, us."

"But it's my rooster. My husband's as well."

"And I discovered it. I'll get money on my own accord."

"All right, Dr. Horace, I believe this has gone way out of hand."

Horace smelled something resembling sub-par coq au vin, looked down, and pointed in horror. "Certainly has. The dragon's on fire."

Mrs. S. looked down and saw that maybe loosening her grip was a poor idea over an open flame.

She shrieked and dropped the also-shrieking bird as its crest ignited, then the plumage around its head, and within only a few seconds Ernesto the rooster had become a cheap knockoff phoenix that doesn't come back to life. It howled a flaming-rooster howl as it sped across the kitchen floor to the back room to find a better place to die. He left a trail of shag carpet behind him as Mrs. S. ran after the poor bird with a wet towel.

Finally, the blazing rooster found a suitable place to lie down and die- next to a propane tank for the outdoor grill.


As firemen doused the last fires of what was left of the Stanislaus residence, Mrs. S. and Dr. H. sat on a bench outside.

"This is all your fault," said Mrs. S. with a sigh.

"Me?" Dr. H. pointed at himself in indignation. "You should have seen it coming, Mrs. Stan. You were the one with a pet dragon."

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I'm a college student with a love of Finnish metal and Winnie-the-Pooh.


The Awakening
By Amy Pollard

You tighten your grip on your wind-battered umbrella and huddle beneath its protective wing. The headstone before you is dark and impending, mimicking the distant mountains, almost glaring at you as you bend over and arrange your store-bought daisies in the little built-in vase.

How your grandmother loved flowers. Already you can smell her rosy perfume serenading your nostrils. You remember the garden she kept in the back of her house and how she would let you inside it. She would name all the flowers, stretching around you like an endless rainbow. After you had seen all of the buds, she would fetch her watering can and feed the flowers, all the while telling you how important water was in sustaining life. “Water is the key to any garden,” she would say. “Without it, there can be no growth.” Then she would go on about the beauty of the flowers and the satisfaction of tending them. She’d given you some seeds, once—pansies, your favorite—and encouraged you to plant them in your apartment window tray.

But you didn’t listen back then. You never listened. Always too busy. Always something else on your mind. What was growing a bunch of skimpy flowers compared to getting your rent paid a month in advance? What was a watering can compared to a raise at work? What was a homegrown garden compared to a house—a real house? You gulp, a teardrop swelling in your eye when you remember the cold, callous funeral procession, full of intoxicating well-wishes and sobering hymns. It wasn’t until the dust accumulated on your unopened pansy seeds that you began to wonder if a garden might do you good. You started thinking about the seeds and how you’d never planted them or given them water, how you’d never given them anything but a dusty existence on the corner of your shelf. Your head felt unusually jammed as you mulled it all over. A garden wouldn’t hurt. In fact, you rather liked the idea. Maybe you could plant the pansies. Maybe you could start over. Rising to your feet, you glimpse the daisies, still strangled by their price tag, and you sigh. It will do no good. You’ve forgotten to pick up the gardening tools on your way here. You have no shovel. You have no spade. You don’t even have a watering can. What a fool you’ve been, thinking it was that easy, that simple to nurture life. Now those cheap daisies are the best that you will ever do. Biting your lip until it bleeds, you swallow and turn away from the gravestone. And then a drop of water splashes onto your cheek.

The umbrella slips out of your palm and sprawls on the grass, sticky and shriveled. You take the packet of seeds out of your pocket. You get down on your hands and knees and start tearing open the earth. The soil cakes your fists as you dig further down. You hadn’t stopped to examine the packet or read the directions. But what four-by-four inch packet could explain how to coax flowers from the ground, how to wring water from the skies or how to hold the sun’s potent gaze long enough to make it all possible? What could ever explain any of that to you?

You feel the rain spilling over you and suddenly you can see. The trees become an emerald carpet spread over the mountains, distant and knowing, veiled in cloudy starlight. The rain dares to whisper its secrets to you as it drums across the grass. The moist, grimy earth mixes with the cold, crisp water as you empty the packet into the man-made hole before hastily packing the dirt back in again. A paid rent, a raise at work and a real house are the last thing on your mind now as the water soaks your face as surely as it is soaking the pansy seeds, lying in wait beneath the earth. All your life, you’ve waited for this garden. You gaze up at the sky, a chalky silver, and see the clouds unfurling. The radiance splashes onto the graves around you, shedding light onto the unborn pansy seeds as if to wake them from their slumber, enticing them to bloom a season early.

You scrape the tears from your cheeks and gaze at the smooth stone in front of you. She has never been this close before. You feel the rain spilling over you and suddenly you know that the world will keep turning, the water will keep falling, and the flowers will keep blooming. Your lips break into a smile. You can’t believe it’s taken you this long.

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Amy Pollard is a poet, writer and student. She maintains a book review blog at cafereads.blogspot.com. Her poetry has appeared (or is forthcoming) in Emerge Literary Journal, Eunoia Review and The Copperfield Review.


The Jackpot
By C.J. Johnson

The pile of bills sat innocently atop the kitchen table. Not a letter bomb among them, they each still had the same devastating effect when opened. Not ten minutes earlier they had taunted Sheila needlessly with their contents, causing her heart to flutter in panic and anxiety.
Tears shone in Sheila's eyes and she suddenly whooped loudly. Laughing and hugging herself, she began to dance around the kitchen table. The telephone conversation with Harry, her husband of 12 years, played and re-played in her mind.
"We've won the Lottery babe," he'd told her. "I'm on my way home now with the ticket!"
He'd walked out of the office to come home!
That must mean a substantial win.
Sheila, exhausted from her delirious antics, sank onto a chair and grabbed the pile of bills. One by one she tossed them around the kitchen, squealing in happiness.
No more debt collectors, no more worrying.
Sheila spent the next twenty minutes daydreaming of the wonderful life she would soon be leading when the sound of Harry's key in the front door sent her heart pounding in excitement and caused fresh tears to gather in her eyes. She raced to the door, throwing herself at Harry who stood holding his briefcase and grinning at her.
"I can't believe it," Sheila gasped, her words muffled as she hugged him tightly.
"Believe it babe, we've won on the Lottery!"
He handed her the ticket from his left pocket. Sheila could barely focus on the piece of paper as her eyes constantly filled with fresh tears of happiness. Once she managed to focus however, her happiness turned to confusion. She looked at Harry.
"You...you," she stuttered.
Harry began to laugh. Hearty laughter soon gave way to hysterical peals and wails as he bent over and clutched his sides, the sounds sending wave after wave of crippling disappointment over Sheila.
Haaa haaa haaa, Ahhhhh haaaa haaaa!
The almost psychotic laughter stirred a dark place deep within Sheila, a dark place that she had struggled to contain for years. A dark place that had whispered unspeakable things in her ear during the course of her marriage to this cruel man. An hour seemed to go by, but it was likely no more than thirty seconds. Regaining some sort of control, Harry stood straight and began to adjust his suit and tie. Sheila again looked at the ticket in her hand. They had indeed won the lottery, Harry had not lied.
They had won £10.
"You should see your face," Harry told her before bursting into a fresh round of laughter.
"But you left the office," Sheila muttered, feeling completely detached and numb.
"Left some important papers here this morning, just popped home to get them."
Harry laughed as he went to his study to retrieve the papers, laughed as he brushed past her frozen figure in the hallway, the ticket still clutched in her stiff fingers.
"Classic!" he yelled at her before leaving the house, his laughter fading as he walked down the garden path.
Sheila sank into a heap on the floor. Through her numbing disappointment and shock, the dark place, once again, began to whisper to her.
Six months later...
Sheila sprawled on the sun lounger, soaking up the sun as she gazed at the view from her balcony.
Harry's life insurance had made her a rich woman. A car accident had claimed his life, faulty brakes, the official report claimed.
It was amazing what one could learn about cars from the Internet, both how to fix them, and how to disable them.
Sheila grinned, then began to laugh.
The dark place slumbered within her, satisfied.
For now.

- - -
My name is C.J. Johnson and I'm 30 years old. My first horror novel entitled Female of the Species will be released shortly in digital format and I'm currently writing my second novel, which is a thriller. My first Flash Fiction story will appear on Linguistic Erosion on 27/8/12. I can be 'Liked' on Facebook for anyone interested in my work.

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