Treated Like Royalties by Margaret Finnegan

Dear Frank:

To follow up on my last three unreturned phone calls, I was told in the Spring that I would be receiving a royalty payment for approximately $550 for my novel Dreams of a Lunch Lady. I have not yet received my royalty payment. Please let me know when it will arrive.


Constance Dorsey
3217 Craftsman Way
Pasadena, CA 91106


Dear Frank:

I still have not received that check. Please let me know why by filling out and returning the following questionnaire:

Staff Accountant Frank Fields is:
__ Dead
__ Dying
__ On vacation
__ Other (Please state, and please be as specific as possible:_________________.)


Constance Dorsey
3217 Craftsman Way
Pasadena, CA 91106 Continue reading Treated Like Royalties by Margaret Finnegan

The Toe by Windi Padia

I found it in the desert. I saw Fran driving her truck loaded down with dead branches, and then I saw her pitch the stuff off the side of a shallow arroyo. I was out for a walk before the heat had a chance to start baking the trail.

The toe was severed clean, like a surgeon had sliced it with a very sharp saw. It was the big toe, with a yellowed nail and a hairy toe knuckle. The bone was surrounded by meat that had dried to raw flesh, rough to the touch and darkened on the edges like jerky. It rested on the sand next to a tree limb with leaves already curling from the approaching heat.

I liked Fran. I did handyman work for her and her husband Oliver. She always told me I was too skinny. I’d be digging in the garden and she’d take my dirty hand in her frail, spider-webbed one, and tell me to stop and eat. Sometimes she would forget my name, but I never minded. She was in her eighties, after all.

An ant found the toe, and began chewing on the fresh end near the nail.

I took it to Tom, the local sheriff. I figured a severed toe was worth reporting. Continue reading The Toe by Windi Padia

Mr. Machismo by Lynn Nicholas

Paige was barely breathing. She hovered over the drinking fountain, her head tilted just enough to follow Tony Moreno’s every movement in the mirrored ballroom. The staccato beat of Tony’s Cuban heels reverberated across the floorboards, his movements precise and powerful. No one could embody the passion of the Paso Doble like Tony. White shirt open, his elaborate gold cross gleamed against his competition-ready, spray-tanned chest. Chin high, teeth bared in a Matador’s snarl, he arched his back and swirled an imaginary cape, stopping mid-step to appraise his line in the mirror. Paige looked up, caught off guard by the sudden silence. With a wicked thrust of his pelvis, Tony winked directly into the reflection of her wide-eyed stare.

Her brain froze. She prayed to St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, for quick-witted quip. Flustered, Paige began gulping back water like a drought survivor. Please God, just let him walk past me.

Tony picked up his sweat towel as he strode across the ballroom. Predatory white teeth gleaming, he admired Paige’s bent posture, which treated Tony to tight butt cheeks exposed under her dance shorts. Continue reading Mr. Machismo by Lynn Nicholas

The Hyrules of Heroism by A.M. Schultz

As his wide set, almondy eyes scanned the fresh aesthetics, Link breathed a much welcomed whiff of Pasadena’s clean air into his lungs. There was a cool, comforting, calming serenity about this Pasadena air – innocence, even – that was entirely devoid of the wretched, putrid pungeance of Gannon’s treachery. The evil pig had perished at the end of Link’s sword eons ago, but an eternal sensation loomed inside the abdomen of the young hero, leaving him fearful that the angst that had manifested in his soul would never subside.

Still, he hadn’t come this far to dwell upon the torments of his past. Travelling transdimensionally is an exhausting feat, even for a renowned hero, and though he had grown quickly nostalgic for the tranquil chaos of his homeland and his tireless quest to earn the love of a beautiful princess, Link was not about to squander this opportunity at a new life.

“Well, it’s definitely not Hyrule, by any means,” he thought out loud, with traces of optimism in his voice, “but at least I didn’t wind up in Santa Ana.” Continue reading The Hyrules of Heroism by A.M. Schultz

First Love by Ross Baxter

Jon sat on the couch and waited in the silent apartment. He expected it to be quiet; the Pasadena City College semester had finished the previous week and everyone was away on holiday, but not this quiet. He had only returned for a night to attend a one-off lecture on psychic potential, and it was there that he met her.

For the first time in his life he fell hopelessly and completely in love.

Continue reading First Love by Ross Baxter

The Numbers Danced by Carol Louise Wilde

Shoshee settled her back against the smooth stone at the base of the tall rock-thing. She sat in its shadow, cross-legged on the smooth hard-white-rock that ran along the base of it. Her left hand lay in her lap, palm up, open to the sky. The fingers of her right hand rested on the weathered cranium of the broken skull that lay beside her. The rest of the bones were scattered nearby, intermingled with the broken fragments of a stone that must have fallen from somewhere high up on the face of the rock-thing.

Shoshee drew a long breath and let it out slowly. She closed her eyes, settling her mind, and softly spoke the Opening Words. It was a warm-bright morning in the Time of Shortening Days. Somewhere an insect buzzed. The only other sound was the breeze as it whispered softly around the edges of the rock-thing overhead. As she sat and breathed, and thought the Words, the sounds faded. When the spirit spoke, she listened.

Continue reading The Numbers Danced by Carol Louise Wilde

Johnson County Mr. Coffee by Kelly I. Hitchcock

I stared down the fancy instrument panel of the $80 coffee machine, as if staring it down would make the “Clean” light turn off on its own. I had already punched the button, glowing a yellow-orange back at me, no less than a dozen times, but it refused to turn off.

I hadn’t even wanted this fancy coffee pot, or the fancy one we’d had before that, the one that decided it was better off without a power button that worked. I had wanted to keep the no-frills one that I’d kept back in my no-frills, one-bedroom apartment on the Missouri side of Kansas City. But no, when my boyfriend and I moved in together in Johnson County, on the Kansas side, where the air was crisp, we had to get the fancy coffee pot. The first fancy coffee pot broke after a year. Continue reading Johnson County Mr. Coffee by Kelly I. Hitchcock

Mailer Daemon by Stephen R. Wolcott

You recently tried to email an anonymous address. After repeated attempts, the message failed. Please check the…

Webster scowled at his MacBook screen and the message from “anonymous” at “mailer daemon.” The fury in him rising to a level not felt since his mother mistakenly threw away his mint condition Yugioh trading cards ten years ago.

Now 20 and holed up in a cheap, grungy studio apartment behind the 99¢ Only Store, Webster’s obsessions often ostracized him from any potential social activity. His hobbies ranged from bottle caps to Happy Meal collectibles to hand-painted Warhammer figurines. He spent hours at Comic Odyssey flicking through racks of comic books and vinyl (soundtracks only).

Continue reading Mailer Daemon by Stephen R. Wolcott

The Best View by John Pagliassotti

Just minutes before, Frank had entered the steel labyrinth through its belly. The small opening that the mammoth skeleton of rebar, angle iron and metal tube offered was a stark contrast to its immense proportions. Imagining that this gargantuan framework of iron could move from the confines of the warehouse where it rested took effort. Yet Frank was responsible for doing just that. When he entered the great work, he crawled to his cockpit that rested at the front of the huge structure. There he found a small fiberglass seat. The throw pillow he brought along was the only creature comfort he would enjoy on his brief journey on this early Tuesday morning.

From the small rectangular opening just inches in front of Frank’s face, he saw the first smile. It was his only view of the outside world from inside the dark cavernous cab he occupied. The young boy was no more than 8 years old. His face, sandwiched between a wool scarf and cap, was beaming. From his grandpa’s lap the little lad pointed his finger and with awe;“wow” fell softly from his lips. Nothing captured this moment more powerfully then the look of pure amazement on a child’s face. The boy’s eyes grew as big as pie plates when the pump behind Frank shot its first blast of water high 60 feet into the air. This time the “wow” did not fall from the boy’s lips; it shot with as much intensity as the blast of water that solicited such a reaction.

Continue reading The Best View by John Pagliassotti

Careless Wishes by D.E. Helbling

Editor’s note: What’s this? A flash story with no connection whatsoever to Pasadena? And no links? It’s true. Earlier this month, Rose City Sisters contributor Ann Wilkes asked me to judge the flash fiction contest sponsored by her science fiction blog. All the entries reflected the “freaky weather” theme, and I chose D.E. Helbling’s great story about an unusual storm. It also appears on Ann’s blog.  

“I’m sorry, son,” she said as I helped her up from her rocker on the front porch.

“Never mind that now, Momma. Let’s get you to safety.” I led her down the steps and across the brown, patchy lawn of the front yard. I whistled for Scruffy, her Jack Russell, as we made our way toward the storm cellar. The sky had grown dark in just a few short minutes. I was fixing to pull the door shut behind us when Scruffy appeared and nudged his way past me. I shoved the heavy crossbar into place and descended the steps into the depths of the shelter. I flicked on the switch for the battery light, and then joined Momma and Scruffy on the tiny couch in the back of the little room.

“I’m so sorry, Billy,” she started again.

“I’m sure you didn’t mean it, Momma. Maybe it wasn’t even you. You know, sometimes storms are just storms.”

“If only I wasn’t so greedy,” she said, shaking her head. She looked grayer, more tired and frail than I’d remembered…it had been too many months since my last visit.

“Now, Momma, you can’t help wishing for things.”

“Like that scholarship of yours?”

“You didn’t know the kids on that bus were after the same scholarship as me, did you? You didn’t wish that bus into the river. Momma, that was years ago. You gotta let that go!”

“Or your sister’s new husband?”

“Now, come on, Momma. None of us liked Harold, not even me, and I went to school with him. Did you wish Harold into bumping that radio into his bathtub? I know you didn’t wish him into beating up Charlene every time he and Johnnie Walker got together.”

“I’m just saying—”

“I’m just saying, too, Momma. I’m saying it’s all about silver linings. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. OK, so maybe Harold was an exception. But still, sometimes those bad things mean good things for somebody else. If that somebody else is you or me, or Charlene, well, that’s just God evening out the blessings is all.”

The door to the shelter started to rattle and shake, straining against the big iron hinges. The wind howled through the cracks. Momma looked up at the ceiling in surrender. “I think I used up our share of blessings, son.”

“Let’s never mind that mean old storm,” I said. “Say, I know you have some shortbread down here in one of these tins.”

“Over there on the second shelf.”

I found the tin, opened it up, and fished out three cookies. I gave one to her and one to Scruffy. The three of us sat there, nibbling our cookies, while the wind roared above like a train was running over the top of the shelter.

“Still the finest cookies in the county,” I said.

“Or what about that time—“

“Jesus, Momma!” I almost choked on my cookie. “You can’t go on blaming yourself for every little thing that happens.”

“Now let’s not be bandying about the Lord’s name.”

“I’m sorry, Momma,” I said. “But I’m sure Jesus wants you to be happy, just like the next person.”

Scruffy perked up his ears, turned his head toward the stairwell. I started to hear it myself. Plops, first a few, then more, then a thunderous smashing, pounding barrage. “It is surely hailing big time out there, Momma.”

“Oh, my,” she said, shaking her head. “I don’t think that’s hail, son.”

The pummeling sound stopped as quickly as it had begun. Now there was no howling wind behind it. We sat in silence, listening for further signs that the storm had really passed. Scruffy decided we’d waited long enough. He bounded up the stairs, barking at the door for us to let him out. I followed him. I put my ear to the door. Nothing but a couple of birds chirping. I slid the crossbar over and shoved on the door. It resisted. I shoved again. Fallen tree limbs, I hoped, though I feared it might be the remains of Momma’s house on the other side of the door.

I shoved again, harder, and the door finally gave way. I stepped out of the stairwell and promptly slipped, my feet flying out from under me as I slid a few feet into the yard. I propped myself back up, my arms wrist deep in dark goo, a mush of red and green and black that seemed to cover the entire yard.

The house, at least, was still standing. Scruffy was running all over the yard, barking wildly, bits of goo hanging from the corner his mouth.

“Oh, my,” Momma said from somewhere behind me.

“Be careful, Momma,” I said. “The ground’s pretty slippery. It looks like the twister dumped a load of silt from the river right here on top of the yard.”

About then the smell of the goo hit me. I raised one hand to my face, gave the mush a sniff. That’s when I saw that some bits of the mush had form. And shape. This one little bit looked like a salamander leg. That bit wasn’t worm, but a trace of tiny intestine. Those round things: little eyes.

“Oh, my, Billy,” Momma said. “Looks like we got us a frog puree.”

I brought myself up to my feet, found a sturdy looking branch poking out from the goo, and brought it over to Momma for a makeshift cane. “What’d you wish for, Momma,” I asked, as we made our way slowly across the yard and up the steps to the front porch.

“Fertilizer,” she said. “That soil around here is so tired, I figured it was due for some kind of ripening up. Good thing.”

I helped her back into her rocking chair and began to pull off her shoes. “Good thing?”
“Good thing I didn’t wish for a new rock garden.”

“Good thing, Momma.”

© Copyright 2011 D. E. Helbling. All rights reserved.

D. E. Helbling is an engineer, writer, and a native of the Dakotas, now living in Oregon. When he’s not working on strange cryptography projects, he explores fiction, philosophy, paranormal research, and game A.I. software development.

Rooms by Petrea Burchard

Randolph has his pompous, executive job and his overweight, red-faced golf buddies and I have our big, old, Pasadena Craftsman house–or I would, if Randolph would let me do things my way. Except he can’t. Says we have to make “these decisions” together. Says I’m his “little kitten.” Says I’m his “flower.”

So where is he on this fine Saturday morning when I’m ready to get to work? Playing golf.

I thought I’d redecorate the upstairs storage room. I’d paint the walls (light blue, for sky) and add white curtains (diaphanous, for clouds). I’d put my books on the shelves with my treasures, like the little sculpture I made of the dog and the picture I painted of the roses. I’d shop the flea markets for a four-poster bed and paint it white to match the curtains. I might even sleep in it from time to time.

Randolph says we have to remove the drywall and start from scratch. Says we need an architect. An interior designer. He knows people. He’ll call them. “Be patient, kitten.” Once again I wait while Randolph figures out how “we” are going to do “my” project.

I want to do it myself. I want to do something, paint something, fix something, make something!

Screw Randolph.

I find a big claw hammer in the garage and lug it upstairs and down the hall. I take the hammer to the drywall and pound, cracking the wall and making a hole big enough for my hands. I grab and, with a satisfying yank, pull down a big sheet of drywall. The crash sends white dust flying over the room. It snows on boxes of whatever we’ve stored here that we haven’t looked at in years. When the dust settles, I see what’s behind the wall: fake wood paneling.

Yuck. Hideous stuff. Maybe a 60’s remodel. I should have left the drywall.

Frustrated, I slap my palm against the paneling, leaving a dusty, white handprint. The wall opens, or rather, a door opens, just a crack. I see candlelight.

Wait. This room is above the back yard. There’s nothing beyond these walls but a 20-foot drop into the vegetable patch.

I push the door open and see, not carrots and tomatoes, but a ballroom. I test the polished, hardwood floor with my tennis shoe. The floor holds my weight. I step in. The door closes behind me without making a sound. Across the length of the grand room, the floor, shiny as an antique gymnasium, reflects the candlelit chandeliers above. Gilded chairs stand ready against the silk-lined walls.

I’m alone. I hear but don’t see an orchestra, so I glide to the other end of the room and step through a door.

The door leads to a hallway. Along it are more doors, all open, all inviting. Warm light glows at each distant end. Voices and laughter mingle with the music, coming from somewhere.

I enter a small drawing room with a fireplace as tall as I am. No one’s there. The fire crackles. I take a seat in the leather armchair. A glass of wine waits on the lacquered table beside a well-worn copy of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. I wonder if I should drink the wine. I reach for the goblet and sip. Yes, the wine is for me.

I don’t pick up the book. I’d like to find the people, and curiosity leads me to light flooding in from an open doorway on the other side of the room.

Taking my wine, I enter an atelier—an artist’s studio flooded with sunlight. A canvas faces away from me on the easel. I go to the bright window and look out over the rooftops of Paris.

I remind myself to breathe.

I turn to see what’s on the easel. It’s a portrait of me. I recognize the painter. I put down my goblet and take up my brush.

The orchestra stops.

“Kitten? Are you upstairs?”

My heart whams against my chest. I slam the brush down and run out of the atelier. The room I enter is not the drawing room. It’s a kitchen with stone walls. The heavenly smell of fresh bread slows me down, but I mustn’t stop. I dash to the next door.

I think I’m going the right direction but this isn’t the ballroom. It’s a dusty library, its shelves sagging with leather tomes. I want to stop and peruse each one.

Randolph’s footfalls clomp up the stairs, coming nearer. I must be close to the door in the paneling. I throw myself against the one door I see and stumble through it, returning to the guest room just as Randolph enters.

I’m a little out of breath.

Randolph surveys the drifts of drywall dust. He frowns, moving the white tuft on his golfer-tanned forehead. “Honey,” he scolds, “I’ve told you not to take on these projects yourself. This is the kind of thing we should do together.”

But you weren’t here, I think. I don’t say anything.

He looks past me at the wall. There’s no sign of an opening in the paneling. My handprint is still there to remind me where to whack.

“Wood paneling,” says Randolph. “Nice. Shall we keep it?”

“Yes,” I say. “I love it.”

© Copyright 2011 Petrea Burchard. All rights reserved.

petrea-burchardPetrea Burchard enjoyed a 30-year acting career before morphing into a writer. She is the author of the novel, Camelot & Vine, as well as Act As If: Stumbling Through Hollywood With Headshot in Hand, essays about the life of a journeyman actor in Hollywood.
She gained a following in the anime world as the original English voice of Ryoko, the sexy space pirate in the cult classic, Tenchi Muyo!, and continues to work in the voice-over field.

The Greenskeeper by John Pagliassotti

The sound of my footsteps on the damp, finely manicured fairway is the only sound in the Arroyo this night. Like every other evening, darkness lays a blanket of silence over the course where just a few hours before the echoes of golfers celebrating birdies and bemoaning defeat were heard. I walk these stretches of long green turf, through the gauntlet of sculptured magnificent Oaks every night, and have since the beginning of time, or at least it seems.

I’ve walked these greens in the dead of winter when frost sparkles in the moonlight like millions of diamonds strewn across the ground and thick clouds from the West threaten to powder the foothills with an unexpected snow.

I’ve walked these greens in autumn as the Santa Ana’s blew their warm dry winds through the valley, coaxing the leaves of the great Oaks to quietly applaud my repertoire of lonely old ballads that I whistle as I stroll.

I’ve walked these greens on summer nights when dusk lasts forever and casts its shadows against Baldy’s reaching slopes, a picture that could only be suitably painted with verse or lyric.

I have walked these greens in spring. The sweet sights and sounds of new life are abundant then, as is the smell of nature; conjuring up memories of my childhood when winter coats are stowed away and short pants and t-shirts came out for play.

My nightly journey takes me past the grand rose crested arena built for battles between ferocious bears and brave mythical gladiators. The thunderous fanfare only serves to make the silence of the night more poignant when the great stadium has emptied and is quiet until the next battle is fought.

On my nightly journey I’ve been joined by owls with wings that span wider than I stand, by deer that cautiously accept me into their quiet homes, by gophers and snakes, raccoons and lions; all returning to me, their visitor, the kind respect that I offer to them.

I came here when my first was born and when my father passed; too vulnerable to cry, these greens took my tears.
This place is where I come to pray, without words or crosses or bended knee, for God is all around me here and I fret not His ear. He hears me, of that I’m sure.

I will walk these greens forever and more, just like the ones before. Every night you will find me here. For these are the greens I keep… and these are the greens that keep me.

© Copyright 2011 John Pagliassotti. All rights reserved.

John Pagliassotti born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley, and now lives in Newport Beach, California. He is married and has two sons in their teens. He works in the commercial real estate industry. One of his hobbies is writing short stories.

Pasadena Prince—or Frog? by Beverly Diehl

“I’m a Prince, and I live in a historic Castle.”

It had to be one of the best pickup lines ever, and Cindy Hernandez suckered right in. The guy had even shown his driver’s license to prove it: Michael Prince, Raymond Avenue, Pasadena. A quick glimpse at his DOB showed he was a 36-year-old Gemini (which explained the silver-tongued charm).

With a heart burned to ashes by the betrayal of her previous boyfriend, Cindy decided on a full year of celibacy afterward. Her three BFF’s celebrated Cindy reaching that milestone by treating her to tea at the Huntington Library and Gardens. Cindy adored art and roses, and an evening spent laughing till her stomach hurt at the The Ice House only made a perfect day better.

Especially with a hot guy like Michael at the next table, sending over endless rounds of Electric Love cocktails and flirting shamelessly.

This Prince was sexy, he was interested, and he was even willing to wait while Cindy’s Designated Driver, Mercedes, checked his Facebook profile and Googled him, to verify he wasn’t wanted for axe-murder somewhere.

“Cindy, you’ve got your cell phone, right? Charged? Okay, call or text me if you change your mind, or if you need a ride,” Mercedes ordered.

“Yes, Teacher, I promise to be good – or bad, as the case may be. Thank you for taking such good care of me.” Cindy kissed the frown on Mercy’s forehead and scampered off, giggling, her hand in Prince Charming’s.

She felt happy, nervous, aroused. Michael was just enough taller, just enough older, and he smelled luscious as they bumped into each other, avoiding other pedestrians on the walk back to his place. Stopping into a store for condoms – awkward! But reassuring, too, that Michael was both prepared to be responsible, and did not already have a huge stash of them at his place.

The Castle, oh, the Castle! The wide veranda of historic Castle Green, straight out of a Hollywood movie, the lobby with its sweeping staircase and tile floor; the place was truly enchanting, right down to the open-cage elevator ride to the sixth floor. Cindy fell half in love with Michael just for living in such a fabulous place. The amazing apartment with its elegant fireplace and friendly orange marmalade cat delighted her even before they strolled onto the balcony from the round turret room.

Outside, Michael began from his knees, kissing Cindy’s hand and working his way up to her neck, as she enjoyed the spectacular view of Pasadena’s sparkling city lights. Later, he proved himself True Royalty between the sheets, in front of the fireplace, and in the clawfoot bathtub…

After Michael kissed her and left for a morning jog, Cindy pried her eyes open and went snooping in search of aspirin to place on her blue curacao-stained tongue.

She found aspirin, all right, but she also found several prescription bottles for a Rebecca Slick.

The name sounded oddly familiar. Followed by the cat, she went to living room’s built in bookcases. There were a row of books by…Rebecca Slick. Juicy. Slippery. Dripping. Wetness. Rebecca was one of Cindy’s favorite authors, a woman in her fifties with a predilection in her erotic romances for cougar love.

Michael must be her unfaithful boy-toy. Cindy felt suddenly unclean, but didn’t want to further abuse Rebecca’s unwitting hospitality by re-polluting the woman’s bathtub or shower.

The cat sat and stared at her. She stared back at the cat. “Manny, what should I do?”


“I’m taking that means, I don’t give a rat’s hat for your problems, feed me.”

An empty enamel dish on the kitchen floor was labeled ‘Manuscript.’ “Manny, is this your bowl?”

“M-Row!” He vocalized louder and rubbed against her ankles as she opened cupboards in search of his food. Might as well feed the poor creature before embarking on the Walk of Shame, Cindy reasoned, pouring a bowl of kibbles, to Manny’s obvious satisfaction.

She’d noticed countless coffee shops on Colorado, she could hole up in one of those and text Mercy to come pick her up, please. Back in the bedroom, she sniffed her panties, deciding to stuff them in her purse and go commando. She’d stepped into her skirt and shoes and was pulling her shirt on when Michael returned. His skin, damp with sweat from his run, smelled enticingly male, and the brown paper bag he carried smelled enticingly warm and breakfast-y.

Damn him for his deliciousness!

“Going somewhere?” he asked, looking hurt. “I thought we could enjoy breakfast in bed.”

How dare he look like that? He was the one who… “I thought I’d spare us from getting in trouble with your… wife? Girlfriend?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Don’t play dumb. I know about Rebecca.”

Michael burst out laughing. “You don’t know what you think you know.”

“I know this is her apartment, not yours.”

“True ‘dat.”

“Aren’t you the least bit ashamed?”

“Ashamed of bringing you to my aunt’s apartment instead of mine? I suppose it is slightly false pretenses, but her view is better, and I promised to stay here to feed and play with Manny, while she’s away at a writers’ conference.”

His aunt?! Cindy opened and closed her mouth a couple times, finally managing. “You live here, too?”

Michael laughed again, leading her into the kitchen where he turned on the coffeemaker and began slicing the bagels he’d brought. “I lived here first. My apartment is on the third floor, though mine doesn’t have a turret, sorry. Aunt Becky liked The Castle so much that when this apartment became available, she snapped it up.”


“‘Zat all you have to say?” he teased.

Cindy kissed him, then walked towards the bedroom, kicking off her shoes and pulling her shirt back over her head. “Feed and play with me, please.”

© Copyright 2011 Beverly Diehl. All rights reserved.

Beverly Diehl discarded most early efforts because they weren’t good enough. “I thought the words were supposed to drip from my pen as perfect golden pearls,” she says. “Then I discovered rewriting.” In addition to erotica, Beverly writes short stories, newsletters, and of course, a blog(or two.)Born in Wisconsin, plus years in Pennsylvania, Beverly lives in Los Angeles with numerous UFO’s (UnFinished craft & writing Objects) and beloved fat cat, Metaphor (aka Stinky.)

Are You There, Wall? It’s Me, Kerri by Kelly I. Hitchcock

Kerri Lindsey had never been good at math.

She stared blankly at the half-sheet of blue paper in front of her, covered in random clusters of numbers grouped into corners in no logical order, hoping if she looked at it long enough, it’d start to make sense, and she could answer the question she’d asked herself for the last hour.

If there are 9.85 laps in one mile, and I was able to run 24 laps out of 40, and my average lap is 1:12, then how long will it take me to do 26.2 miles?

She’d tried cross-multiplying, one of few mathematical operations she both understood and liked. The more she tried, the less logical the answers seemed. At one point, her math told her she could finish the Pasadena Marathon in forty-three minutes; at another, seventeen hours. Frustrated, she picked up the half-sheet of number-scrawled paper and wadded it into the tiniest ball her swollen hands would make. Didn’t matter how many times she tried to figure out if and how she’d finish the marathon, she knew her numbers wouldn’t scale to twenty-six miles. Of the four she’d ran that day, most of the running was at the front end. The farther she went, the more she had to walk. She knew that at the rate she was going, she’d be restricted to walking after the first seven, because her stupid knee wouldn’t cooperate.

She’d been seriously rocking it before her knee decided to be an asshole. It was a beautiful early summer day, just after a light rain and just before dusk the week she was scheduled to complete a long run of ten miles, the farthest she’d ever attempted. She’d gone all the way from her house at Walnut five miles straight down Los Robles right before I-10, had turned around at the halfway point, and stopped at Valley Boulevard to wait for the light to change. She was feeling good – really good. Then the light changed, she took off across the street, and felt like a shark bit her right in the side of her leg (what she surmised a shark bite would feel like, anyway). She’d tried to shake it off and keep running, but the harder she tried not to focus on it, the more it refused to be ignored. This wasn’t a stitch, or a cramp, or something else she could walk off. There was something seriously wrong.

Ever since then, her ability to run was sketchy. Some days, she could run four or five miles with no trouble. Other days, she couldn’t even run one lap around the track without feeling like a railroadman was driving a spike through the side of her knee. She kept trying to ignore the pain, just like she’d done before ten-mile Sunday, but after limping home five miles with no water and no cell phone, the pain wouldn’t be ignored. She’d told the story of ten-mile Sunday to three different doctors already, all of whom said she should be seeing some improvement by now. She was doing everything they told her to do: taking the Naproxen, taking breaks from running, taking time to stretch really well, warming up and cooling down. Nothing was helping.

She figured people were probably tired of hearing about it. It wasn’t their fault; they just didn’t understand. The marathon entry fee had been paid. The hotel was paid for. She’d requested the time off work. She’d bought new Cumulus 12s. She couldn’t look back now. She had to finish the marathon, even if she had to walk the whole damn thing, which was looking more and more likely every day. It didn’t happen to one of them; it happened to her, and it wasn’t fair. Why did it have to happen right before her training plan kicked into high gear?

As she tossed the rumpled ball of paper, a long run playlist song came on the radio in the bedroom. She closed her eyes and thought of how it felt to jog in a zigzag down a slow downhill slope with a cool breeze in her face, and felt her heart turn to lead and sink down into the pit of her stomach. She leaned into the wall and sank down to the cold tile floor, where she rested her head on her knees to sob comfortably – the fourth breakdown she’d had this week.

She didn’t even wanna go to the gym anymore. She’d see women in ill-fitting sports bras and worn-out shoes they’d mowed their lawns in jogging haphazardly around the track, and her lungs burned with jealousy. It wasn’t fair that they could run and she couldn’t. They weren’t training for a marathon that was seven weeks away. They were taking their ability to run for granted. They weren’t even enjoying it. She wanted to walk up and punch them all in the face, but instead, she walked with her head down so she didn’t have to see them and they couldn’t see the tears on her burning cheeks.

This was supposed to be her fourteen mile day, and she knew she couldn’t do it. Summer was getting hotter and more humid, and her marathon buddies were getting up at 4:30 AM to do their long runs. Even if she got up at 4:30, she wouldn’t be done until most of 9:00 – what was the point? She knew she wouldn’t be able to run more than a handful of the fourteen miles. Like the doctors said, she was supposed to be seeing improvement by now. The only improvement she saw was with her ability to hide her emotions in front of her friends, to tell the story of ten-mile Sunday with increasing accuracy and detail, to stomach anti-inflammatories with fewer carbs.

She wiped her eyes with her bare arm and rose from the floor. She ripped another day off the calendar on the kitchen counter, a page that read “58 days ‘til marathon,” followed by five exclamation points.
© Copyright 2011 Kelly I. Hitchcock. All rights reserved.

Kelly I. Hitchcock is a novelist, poet, and blogger from a poor stretch of the Ozarks in Southwest Missouri. A graduate of the creative writing program at Missouri State University, Kelly’s poems have been featured in Clackamas Literary Review and Foliate Oak Literary Journal. She also wrote “Manifesto of a Neglected Chipmunk” and “Ad Hominem” for this blog. She lives in Kansas City and is an avid volunteer and fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Learn more about the author and her work by visiting her website and following her on Twitter.