The Leave Behind by Stephen R. Wolcott

Before Lewis could speak, the executive lifted a finger and made that ‘shush’ gesture. “Audiences love the edgy stuff,” the executive yelled into his Bluetooth headset. “Taste has nothing to do with it. His last two films killed.”


Lewis looked around the office, decked with stark white and grey furnishings, except for some colorful posters of recent, top-grossing films. The one sheets might have been from a parallel universe, Lewis thought. A world he didn’t know, and certainly didn’t care for.

“Alright, we’ll do the bestiality bit off screen and push for a hard PG-13,” the executive shouted. “Then release the unrated version in Blu-Ray.” Continue reading The Leave Behind by Stephen R. Wolcott

The Disappeared by Ross Baxter

It started with the daily commute. Day after painful day crawling along in the traffic on the 110 or I-5; each mile more soul-sapping than the last. Mike had thought about leaving Pasadena and moving closer to work, but given the hours he worked he had no time to even start looking. The hours that he did not spend at work seemed to be spent on the journey there or back. He became an expert on the buildings, roadside architecture and environment along his route. Any changes he instantly spotted, be it a new  billboard for Orchard Supply Hardware or a different set of shades in a house overlooking the route.

Mike first spotted the shuttered building whilst in stationary traffic in the evening rush hour. He had never seen the three-story structure before, probably because it was completely nondescript in every sense. There was nothing that made it stand out at all—no signs, no color, no interest. Nothing. It was like a stealth building, in plain sight but completely hidden at the same time, blending into its drab surroundings like a concrete chameleon. For that day on, Mike’s eyes were drawn to the enigmatic building every time he passed, and his curiosity grew. Continue reading The Disappeared by Ross Baxter

The Time We Did It Too Fast by Michael Lent

There is some precedent for what is happening right now. I mean, what better way to christen this new marriage? Our courtship consisted of quixotic drives during snowstorms in order to ski in the relative darkness during whiteout conditions at Greek Peak. And there is the time we went camping in a forest outside of Ithaca, New York in early October. The forecast was for heavy rain and we went anyway because it was our time and we were in love. The rain finally cut us a break after two days and one night. I built a fire under the stars and we huddled in a sleeping bag on the tarp-covered ground. Our succumbing to Cupid’s prickly embrace came to an abrupt halt at the sight of the magnificent Indian squatting across the fire. I don’t know which of us saw him first. He just appeared and we just froze. Continue reading The Time We Did It Too Fast by Michael Lent

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.