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Night Light by Dianna Sinovic

March 30, 2020 by in category Quill and Moss by Dianna Sinovic tagged as ,

Night Light

The garrison commander had barely closed his eyes, ready for the escape that sleep would grant him, when the duty officer shook his shoulder. Newbolt was new but competent, so his lapse of protocol—waking him instead of dealing with the crisis on his own—surprised the commander. The fear in Newbolt’s eyes was genuine, though.

“Another checkpoint problem?” For more than two months, the Runeheads had been slipping past the guards, somehow blending in with the regulars on the route into Locke Town. The garrison’s whole purpose was to monitor the traffic in and out of the city, to stop the Runeheads from gaining a foothold there.

“No, sir.” Newbolt was nervous.

Mosby sat up in bed and reached for his tunic. “What then?” He dressed quickly but thoroughly, aware that the chill of this alien night would knife through him if he wasn’t prepared.

“It’s the blinking light, sir.”

Inwardly, Mosby groaned. It was difficult enough to keep the garrison fully staffed because of its remoteness from Earth-based settlements. Throw in a race that lacked humanoid features and resented the soldiers’ presence. Now he faced his latest challenge, dispelling rumors of the Runeheads’ telepathic control of energy. Three men in the last week had requested a transfer after reporting a flashing light that immobilized them. 

“Show me.” He followed Newbolt out to the perimeter gate. The guard station was awash in floodlights, but the brightness stopped a few feet out and the terrain beyond was inky, empty and quiet. “Shut off the lights,” Mosby ordered.  He and Newbolt stared into the sudden darkness for several minutes. With his hand on his stunner, he wondered if he could trust Newbolt. Perhaps the duty officer and the others who had seen the phenomenon were in the first stages of hallucination disorder. He would need to file a report, encourage them to seek treatment, and ask for additional staff while they were on sick leave.

“There,” Newbolt hissed.

Mosby scanned the blackness, hoping he would not see anything. 

“There—do you see it?” Newbolt’s voice quavered. “What is it? It’s got to stop.” He disappeared into the night. 

“Newbolt, wait.” Mosby listened for his footsteps but heard nothing. He moved to switch the floodlights back on, but above and to his right, a green light began blinking. It was small but insistent, and it was moving. “Newbolt?”

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Curly Tuwitt and the Rhode Island Red

March 19, 2020 by in category On writing . . . by Jenny Jensen tagged as ,

Yesterday Rebecca Forster posted a challenge on FB. Write about whatever pops into your head right now. I’d just listened to the 1st WH news conference and feeling an odd mixture of ignorant, apprehensive and sardonic this is what came tumbling out:

Only one Rhode Island Red crowed like that. And it hadn’t come from Scoundrel’s pen. Curly Tuwitt ground his teeth—all seven of them. He hated that wart faced, belly slitherin’, wrinkled old hag on a good day but this—this was the last straw from a lifetime of her crap.

Already het up over the never ending updates and dire warnings about that Chiineeze virus pouring from the TV, pissed that he’d failed to stock up on anything and was out of everything. (There was that one lone can of beans, and he hated to think what that could lead to.) A second, clearly distant call from Scoundrel chased out any thoughts of supplies and focused his blazing anger.

The first time he’d seen her was skippin’ across his grannie’s strawberry patch, just a pickin’ and a nibblin’ her way through those fat ripe berries like she done own it all; like she’s the one who’d been out in the last frost, barefoot and freezin’, just to get the young plants covered and then come early summer who you think did the weedin’ and the waterin’?

He wasn’t but six and that girl looked tall. Despite that he knew she weren’t much older than him. With that fiery red hair and those rusty freckles like she was in the way come sloppin’ time he knew this was Marjo Geordy. Pa said that whole clan was troublesome.

“Hey, you there! Put them berries down now or I’m a gonna whoop your skinny butt fer stealin.” Curly’d made his voice as deep and growly as he could and he’d stood his ground, frowning, like a man ready to make good on his word.

Marjo looked up, slowly placing a purloined berry into the basket on her arm. Her mouth, red with the smear of ripe strawberries, looked to be dripping in blood. A slow, malicious smile bared reddened teeth. “Where you want me to put ‘em, big scary man?”

Marjo didn’t sound scared and for a moment Curly was flummoxed. “Down. Put ‘em down. Right there.” Curly pointed vaguely to the edge of the patch. He hoped he sounded as stern as Pa when he caught Curly in the sugar bowl.

Marjo looked to where he’d pointed. Her smile got even wider and she turned back to him. “Okay. But you better be ready to grab this basket quick. I don’t give up easy.” Her long legs took three steps to the edge of the patch and reaching out one long skinny arm she placed the basket high on the top of a bush. Three reverse steps took her back in the patch. She didn’t have to say a word; her whole body screamed challenge.

Curly looked to the basket and knew he’d have to jump to reach it. I’m fast; I can do it. Running like lightening he’d leapt into the bush, grabbed the basket and got a snoot full of unmistakable scent—poison sumac. A cackle of mirth faded into the distance. That was just the first time.

Curly understood life takes us on unexpected paths. From his family’s farm down the road of economic highs and lows he’d come near his end in this dusty settlement of trailers, not more’n 60 feet from his nemesis. There was some satisfaction in seeing Marjo brought to the same pass but she had taken Scoundrel and that was the final poke she was gonna take at him.

Heaving himself out of the recliner he slammed out the door, grabbed his pitchfork and stormed across the open 60 feet. “Marjo Jean Geordy you give me back my rooster or I’m gonna use this pitch fork to take him.”

“Possession is nine tenths of the law. Got papers to prove that last one tenth?”

“You stole Scoundrel and you know it, you skinny old cow.”

“Naw. No stealin’. I just took him to try him out. I like him. That rooster is as purdy as everyone says. I‘ll trade ya for him.”

It was always like this. Marjo Geordy bein’ all reasonable like and Curly Tuwitt gettin’ flustered and maybe a little confused. “You can’t trade for somethin’ ya stole.” Curly glared at Marjo who leaned calmly against her little storage shed.

“Mebbe not in regular days but things’re a bit different right now. Might be there’s somehin’ you want more’n that rooster.”

Curly lowered his pitchfork, eyes wary as he saw the familiar smile creep over her lips. “What could I possibly want more’n the best Rhode Island Red in the tri-counties?”

Still graceful and wiry after all these years Marjo turned and pulled the shed door open, bowing like she was presenting the Queen of Sheba. Curly stared into the shadows at rows and rows and stacks and stacks of toilet paper.

It had always been like this and it looked like it always would.

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Payment in Kind by Roxy Matthews

April 24, 2019 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley tagged as , , ,

Last month in the Facebook Group, The Charmed Connection, members of Charmed Writers posted some flash fiction short stories in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Charmed Connection members voted for their favorite stories. The top four stories will be published this month on A Slice of Orange.


Roxy Mathews | Jann Says | A Slice of Orange

Our third story in this collection is by Roxy Matthews.

Roxy Matthews is the author of several self published novels, McBride’s Gem, Numb, and Second Time Sam, with several others due out this year. She’s also a contributor to Charmed Writers Presents: Flash Fiction 2019

In addition, you can read more about Roxy in the interview she did with Jann Ryan here on A Slice of Orange.


Payment in Kind

Nightmares were a thing Joey Scallone knew much about. His family was the toughest mob family in all of Chicago and surrounding cities. They were widely known and feared. Yet there were always those who thought they could outsmart and outgun a Scallone. He watched many a man perish gruesome deaths at the hands of his old man and two older brothers trying to prove themselves worthy. And they’d always left in body bags.

Joey never partook in the beatings or slayings, but he had dumped the tarp wrapped bodies when the smoke cleared, helped clean up any evidence that a Scallone had been in the vicinity. Because of his crimes, he’d been plagued with the visions of those unlucky men nightly. One in particular. Just the memories of the old man’s final words sent a shiver down his spine.

Joey tried to convince himself that he deserved what he’d gotten. Old Man Bishop could not ‘order’ his family, no one could. That big mistake would have dire consequences in the end. But his own excuses for his family’s actions did little to dissuade the nightmares that woke him from his sleep in a cold sweat, his sheets soaked, clinging to his bare flesh. Nor could it drive the old man’s words from his mind. “Since you won’t pay for the work I did for you, I’ll be back for that gold. Mark my words.”

Joey shivered, nervously ran his tongue along the three gold teeth Old Man Bishop had fit him with after a brawl with a local barkeep. His old man had promised to pay Bishop handsomely for the work and as far as Joey’d ever known, payment had been made. But with the old man’s words, Joey knew otherwise. In his darkened bedroom save the flickering lights of the bar across the street, Joey searched the shadows. His heart hammered in his chest, sweat gleamed on his skin, hands trembled at his sides. This was no way for a Scallone to act. To fear a dead man, let alone one alive was as blasphemous to the family name as beating your woman. Yet here Joey sat, on his stained mattress, arms wrapped around his legs, knees pulled up to his chest, fearing words of a dead man.

Joey scoffed at himself, lowered his legs, dropped back to the mattress, one arm beneath his head. “Get with the program, Scallone,” he cursed himself until his lids felt heavy, sleep inevitable.

As darkness began to take hold, Joey heard shuffling from the corner of his room followed by a soft voice.

“Where’s my gold?”

Joey bolted up in bed, eyes wide, breath held.

He looked left. Right. Nothing. Joey sighed. “Goddamnit, Scallone,” he cursed.

“That’s right, Scallone. Goddammit, give me my gold.”

Before Joey could comprehend how close the voice was, the mattress before him depressed and the outline of a hunched over old man came into view.

Joey gasped, jumped back until he was trapped between his cold bedroom wall and his visitor. He blinked several times, pinched his thigh all in the hopes of pulling himself from the nightmare. But he stayed in it. Eye to eye with a dead man. The wrinkled face surrounded by thick bushy grey hair leaned closer, he grinned a toothless grin as eyes as dark as a tarpit peered into Joey’s soul. Give me my gold, boy.”

Joey squeezed his eyes shut, shook his head. As much as he wanted to look his foe in the eye, battle the demons of his own mind, as his old man and brothers had taught him, he could not. “You’re not real, you’re not real.”

“Oh, you don’t think so, huh,” Old Man Bishop’s voice croaked, followed by a sinister laugh that turned Joey’s blood to ice.

Cold fingers reached for his lips, strength in the grip opened his mouth wide.

Joey’s eyes whipped open onto the spectral vision of the old man, a sinister grin on his thin lips. In his terror, he panicked, fought to pull himself free from the grip. Shaken hands reached to push the old man away, yet instead of his fists filled with the old man’s tattered dental jacket, they came away with nothing. The old man reached a wrinkled hand inside Joey’s mouth, gripped one of his gold teeth like a vise and yanked. Joey screamed, flailed about on sheets barely covering the mattress. Blood splattered in his mouth, dripped down his chin as one by one, the gold teeth were yanked from his jaw.

***

When Joey awoke several days later in the hospital screaming about his golden teeth, ripped from his jaw by a ghost seeking his payment in kind, the nurses could only shake their heads.

“The poor boy, such a young age for such a horrific incident,” one whispered.

“Yeah, to be the innocent victim of gang violence like that.” Another added, shook her head. “Those boys should be ashamed of the beating they gave him.”

The first nurse nodded her head. “I agree, thankfully they were able to reconstruct his jaw.” She paused, then added. “But his poor teeth.”


We hoped you enjoyed Roxy’s story. Check in tomorrow for Jaclyn Roche’s “Kiss Me, I’m Irish. While you’re waiting, you can also read Veronica Jorge’s Fiona Malone’s Fesh or Angela Pryce’s The Last Serpent.


Books by Roxy Matthews

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The Last Serpent by Angela Pryce

April 18, 2019 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley tagged as , , ,

Last month in the Facebook Group, The Charmed Connection, members of Charmed Writers posted some flash fiction short stories in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Charmed Connection members voted for their favorite stories. The top four stories will be published this month on A Slice of Orange.

Picture of Angela Price

Our second story is by Angela Pryce.

Angela has a short story, “One Kind of Angel” is included in Charmed Writers Presents: Flash Fiction 2019. Her first full-length novel, The Devil’s Caress was released this month by Boroughs Publishing Group.

You can find Angela on social media at:

FB: @ItsBetterToReign
Twitter: @AngelaPryceMuse
Instagram: @AngelaPryceMuse
Website:  Angelaprycethemuse

The Last Serpent

Angela Pryce

The child tossed in her sleep. In her dream, she was all grown up and riding a gray horse. A man rode beside her on a black destrier. His green eyes were fierce as he whispered, “Danger.”

“Fiona?”

The child shook her head. A frown creased dark, winged eyebrows.

“You’re dreaming, Fiona.”

Fiona felt her body being shaken. In her dream her horse pranced and shied. “Wake up, mo chroí.”

Fiona sat up, blinking, confused. Her lips felt stuck together. “Mam,” she managed. “Someone’s here.”

“No one but us, angel.”

“But he told me—”

“You were dreaming.”

Fiona looked into her mother’s eyes and insisted, “Someone is here.”

Her mother shrank back, searching her daughter’s face.

Out front, a shod hoof rang against stone, the sound clear over the crashing surf. Fiona’s skin prickled as every hair stood up. The next words Fiona spoke rang with precocious authority. “Mam. Run.”

Her mother stared at her, stroked Fiona’s dark hair from her sleep-sticky cheek. She kissed her daughter once, nodded. She was rising from the wooden stool when the first pounding came against the door.

Fiona felt numb as she watched. Her mother pressed herself against the bedroom door, red hair glimmering in the firelight, one hand fumbling for the catch behind her even as the other clapped over her own mouth to stifle her scream.

The front door shook violently.

Fiona heard her father’s startled shout. Her mother fumbled the latch open, tried to push against a door that must be pulled. Another slam against the front door. A dull cracking sound.

Her mother stumbled forward as the bedroom door was pushed open. Fiona’s father reached through, grasped his wife around the waist, hauled her backward. He looked for Fiona.

“Daidí, no!” Fiona cried, but her father ignored her. He lifted her from her bed, wool blanket and all. “Put me down! It’s Mam!” Fiona thrashed in her father’s arms as the front door gave and several men tried to shove their way in at once.

Her father spun to face them, squeezing Fiona too tight. He reached for the fireplace poker. A sword was held to his throat. Fiona stared at the sword, watching her breath cloud the sheen of the steel. Three strangers strode across the room, forced the bedroom door open. Fiona’s mother was dragged from the bedroom, taken from the house.

Her father sat on Fiona’s bed, holding her and stroking her long hair, soothing only himself.

A different kind of man entered the cottage.

Fiona knew this man with his dark robes and malicious eyes. He upended cookware and threw her mother’s jars down from the shelf. His long, greedy fingers reached for the scrolls that only her mother knew how to read.

With a roar, Fiona’s father was across the room, batting the thin priest back one-handed, guarding his wife’s treasured scrolls with a feral snarl.

The priest laughed. He reached for a neatly labeled jar. “This alone will do,” he said, “to condemn the last snake in Éire.”


We hope you enjoyed reading Angela’s story. You can read Veronica Jorge’s story, “Fiona Malone’s Fresh Fesh” and remember to stop by on April 24th for the next story in the series, Roxy Matthew’s “Payment in Kind.”


Read Angela Pryce’s short story, “One Kind of Angelin Charmed Writers Presents: Flash Fiction 2019 and get her new novel The Devil’s Caress.

THE DEVIL’S CARESS

Buy now!
THE DEVIL’S CARESS

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Fiona Malone’s Fesh by Veronica Jorge

April 17, 2019 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley tagged as
A ghost walking across a bridge

Last month in the Facebook Group, The Charmed Connection, members of Charmed Writers posted some flash fiction short stories in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Charmed Connection members voted for their favorite stories. The top four stories will be published this month on A Slice of Orange.

First up is Veronica Jorge’s story “Fiona Malone’s Fesh.” Veronica blogs, here on A Slice of Orange on the 22nd of each month. Her column Write from the Heart features articles about writing and book reviews. You can also read another of her short stories in Charmed Writers Presents: Flash Fiction 2019, a free anthology ebook.

Fiona Malone’s Fesh

Veronica Jorge

Fiona Malone spit on a corner of her shawl and wiped at the murky mirror. “Well now, truth be told, the Malone fair looks bypassed me.” She picked up a small statue of St. Patrick. “And you’ll be saying it’s nothing to do with you, I’m sure.” She set it back on the dresser… upside down. “You’ll stay that way ‘till you make it your business and throw a wee blessing my way.” Fiona tugged at her dress, too tight at the hip and pulled her shawl tight about her. “At least I’ve been endowed in the right places.” She stuffed her wiry hair under her felt cap, latched the cabin door and set out.

Lugging her catch to sell at market, her wheelbarrow and her buttocks bounced across the wooden bridge. “Luck of the Irish. Whoever came up with that fairy story? I’d be happy with selling all my fish today. Ahh, and maybe a fine man to cook for. But who would want the likes of me?” A sound interrupted her soliloquy.

Thuh thump, thuh thump, thuh thump…

Fiona rushed a sign of the cross over herself. “Saint’s preserve us!”

She considered that the sound could only be that of Molly’s wheelbarrow. Yes. That Molly. The Molly Malone who died of a fever because no one could save her; Fiona’s great-grandmother. Thanks to that legacy, most of the townspeople shied away from her.

“The good book says there’s no communication twixt the living and the dead. Why would great granny be following me?” Fiona signed herself again for good measure, placed her hand over heart, and spun around. “Oh my goodness. ‘Tis only Mr. Pippin and his wooden leg.” She stamped out the perspiration on her face with her shawl and laughed at herself.

“Good day to ye, Mr. Pippin. How goes it?”

He answered not a word and thumped past her, muttering and cursing under his breath as was his custom.

“Poor dear. Lost his right leg to a mangy dog. Pain might be easier to bear if he had lost it to bravery for a nobler cause. Tsk. Tsk.”

Fiona’s barrow creaked over the cobblestones. Some sellers crowded her out afraid of the bad luck she might be carrying. Others made a wee bit of room, so she wouldn’t be offended and have a mind to toss the bad luck their way. Sometimes a compassionate customer bought from her. But alas, her fish fed mostly her and the stray cats.

“Fesh! Fesh!” cried Fiona. No one drew near today. “Fesh! Fresh fesh!”

“Is it now?” asked a stranger.

“Indeed it ‘tis. Caught by me own dear self.” Fiona squared her body, hands on her wide hips.

The man eyed her.

Fiona crossed her arms over her breast. “As fresh as your roving eyes. Now away with you. It’s only fish we’ll be selling here.”

“Forgive me, darlin’. But you’re a fine catch indeed.”

Fiona picked up a herring to hurl at him.

The stranger backed up. “No offense intended; I promise you.”

“Hmpf!”

“Will you give us a smile, so we’ll know we’re forgiven?” His eyes glistened with warmth and merriment.

Fiona smiled.

“You’re quite a beauty.”

“Go on with you now. Enough of your teasin’.”

“’Tis truth I’m speaking. Have you never been told you’re fair?”

Fiona blushed and fussed with the hair strand peeking out from under her cap.

“Now to business,” said the stranger. He pointed to the fish. “How much for the heap?”

“In earnest?”

“As sure as my name is James Hugh Callahan.”

The fish kept slipping out of Fiona’s hands. The paper wrapping alternately wrinkled and ripped. Mr. Callahan handed her the money.

Fiona kept her hands at her sides. “Place the money on the cart.”

“As you wish. I’ll look forward to buying fish from you again.” He tipped his hat and parted.

Fiona’s fingers fumbled picking up the coins. She folded them into a cloth, tucked them into her bosom, and patted her chest.

The squeaky wheels from Fiona’s wheelbarrow sang all the way home. Stepping into the cottage, she ran to her dresser. She picked up the icon of St. Patrick and kissed it. Fiona stood him upright in his usual place pushing aside her hair brush and tweezers to give him extra room.


We hope you enjoyed Veronica’s story. Stop back tomorrow for Angela Pryce’s story, “The Last Serpent.”


Read Veronica Jorge’s short story, “The In-Between” in Charmed Writers Presents: Flash Fiction 2019

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