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

Daisy’s Masterpiece by Paula Johnson

Daisy was obsessed with Christmas. She loved everything about the holiday—the fragrant tree, shiny ornaments, twinkling lights, candy canes, the works. Just last week, her mother heard the seven-year-old belting out “Jingle Bell Rock” to an audience of dolls.

It was cute. It would have been adorable, but it was August in Pasadena. And the Blums were Jewish.

“Maybe she’ll grow out of it,” Jessica Blum said to her husband as they sipped their morning coffee.

“I blame myself,” said David. When Daisy was a baby, he hung a extra-strength pine air freshener near her changing table in an unsuccessful attempt to mask the eye-watering reek of dirty diapers.

“It could’ve been worse. If you had picked the Piña Colada fragrance, we’d have the only second-grader in A.A.,” she said. Both David and Jessica were only children. Neither had babysat as teenagers, so raising a child was an often-baffling undertaking.

Daisy shuffled into the kitchen barefoot and yawning. Her Dora the Explorer nightgown was creased from sleep and her wavy brown hair looked like it had been styled with a weed-whacker. She pulled a stool up to the kitchen counter and poured some cereal into her favorite bowl—a chipped piece of Christmas Spode purchased at a yard sale for a quarter.

Jessica poured the milk on her daughter’s cereal, admiring (and not for the first time) the way her engagement ring sparkled in the morning sun. It was not the ring she expected when David proposed nine years ago. They were both paying off student loans and dealing with necessary expenses like dependable cars and business attire.

She assumed that when the time came, they’d find a small, affordable ring at J.C. Penney and joke that a snack at Cinnabon was just as good as breakfast at Tiffany’s.

But David’s grandmother had other plans. She wanted her only grandson to have her engagement ring. “It was my mother’s. Let’s keep it in the family,” she’d said. That’s how Jessica wound up wearing a platinum filigree Edwardian solitaire that was very likely worth more than her car.

“What’s on your agenda today?” David asked his wife. He had to spend his Saturday at his company’s annual strategy meeting.

“Just quality time with the other men in my life,” she said with a grin. Her list included Bill (shoe repair), Mr. Tran (dry cleaner), Wyatt (bagels) and the nameless guy at Jiffy Lube with the Celtic tattoo and bedroom eyes.

“Momma, don’t forget the art store!,” yelped Daisy through a mouthful of Lucky Charms. The little girl’s reward for a day of errands was some new markers or colored pencils from Blick. Daisy worked cheap.

It was after four o’clock when the pair returned home with their boxes, bags, and library books. Jessica settled Daisy at the dining room table with her pink tackle box of art supplies, and went into the kitchen to put away the groceries.

She was thinking about dinner when suddenly the air left her lungs and the room started spinning. Her diamond. Her husband’s grandmother’s—no, great-grandmother’s—diamond was gone. The gaping hole in the ring was horrific, like a missing eyeball or a gunshot wound.

She thought about all the places she had been and tried to remember when she had last seen the diamond sparkle. Jessica must have made some sort of noise, because Daisy looked up from her work.

“What’s the matter, momma?”

“Nothing, baby. Just wishing Daddy was home.”

“Can we have Tater Tots?”

“Sure, sweetheart. Lots of tots.” Daisy grinned at her mother’s rhyme and returned to her drawing.

Knowing it was futile, Jessica walked through the house, looking into corners, shaking out towels, pawing through the laundry basket. Losing the diamond was bad enough, but the idea that it might be in a trash can at McDonald’s or kicked into a gutter was even worse.

When David walked in just before six o’clock, Jessica led him into their bedroom, explained what happened, and let herself cry for a few minutes.

“It was just an old rock,” said David when she stopped sobbing and blew her nose. “A big, pretty rock, but a rock all the same.”

“I know, but I feel like I let your grandmother down.”

“The only way you could have let her down was by not wearing it. We’ll get a new stone for your ring.”

“Yeah, if we start saving now, we might able to afford a diamond by the time Daisy is ready to get married,” said Jessica.

“That’s only if she skips college. Education is so overrated, anyway,” said David with a small smile.

The heat hadn’t let up, so Jessica ordered a pizza, David microwaved a side of Tator Tots, and the family sat down to eat. Daisy’s picture was posted on the refrigerator to keep it safe from tomato sauce and cheese grease.

After a little TV and some ice cream, Daisy was ready for bed. Forty minutes into a bad movie, David and Jessica decided to call it a day.

They made their usual small talk as they got ready for bed, but Jessica was just going through the motions. After she brushed her teeth, she checked every inch of the bathroom in case the diamond had fallen and bounced on the tile floor. She sighed, put her ring in her jewelry box, and flopped down next to David. He was already asleep.

After an hour of fidgeting, Jessica got out of bed and headed to the kitchen for a cold drink—and maybe some cold pizza. The light from the refrigerator illuminated Daisy’s latest masterpiece which was secured to the freezer door with two Hello Kitty magnets.

It was another Christmas tree, of course. This one had branches in three shades of green with silver glitter tinsel and crayon-colored lights. At the very top of the tree, partially covered in glue, was a nearly flawless 2 carat European-cut diamond.
© Copyright 2010 Paula Johnson. All rights reserved.

Paula Johnson is a copywriter and graphic designer who also writes and performs stand-up comedy and maintains The Rose City Sisters Flash Fiction Anthology. This is her fourth flash fiction story. Others are “Good with Names,” an account of life with a very modest superpower; “Better Late Than Never,” a soap opera love story; and “Lotion” a tale that could only happen in New Orleans.

Ten Things I Hate About Thanksgiving by Margaret Finnegan

1. Turkey.
I am a vegetarian, Brian. You knew that when you met me. Deal.

2. Travel.
Pasadena, California? That is at least twelve screaming, stinking babies from Miami. I’d rather shoot myself.

3. Your mother.
Evil, Evil, Evil.

4. Football. 
You know how this will play out as well as I do, Brian. You’ll spend all day watching football with your dad and the two moose-like brothers who used to lock you in the closet just so they could watch “Dukes of Hazard” instead of babysit you.

In the meantime, I will be relegated to kitchen patrol and have to face down your evil mother while she literally tries to pry my jaws open and stuff my mouth with the damn turkey that she has even given a name to. (Don’t think I’ve forgotten the stuffing incident of ’07. There were giblets, Brian. Giblets!)

5. Alcohol.
There is none of it. None. See #3.

6. Leftovers.
I am not checking a bag full of dark meat, sausage stuffing, and bacon biscuits hoisted upon me by your mother. First of all: it will drive those drug-sniffing dogs crazy, which will totally slow us down and maybe even put us on the no-fly list.

Second of all: Like I’m really going to cart around some salmonella-poisoned carcass that I won’t eat and that would kill you.

Third—and most importantly—checked luggage. CHECKED! LUGGAGE!

7. Last time, your mother called me a “FAT, booze-hounding cow” and lit my hair on fire.
Don’t tell me those birthday candles were an accident. I know.

8. I will not be called FAT.

9. Did I mention your brothers?
Your dad’s OK.

10. Who the hell cares?
I won’t go, Brian. No way. Not in a million years. Not if she was on her deathbed and said I was as thin as Angelina Jolie. And if you love me at all, you will just drop this whole idea and go buy a damn lentil loaf from Whole Foods so we can give thanks like real Americans: alienated from our crappy families and proud of it.

© Copyright 2010 Margaret Finnegan. All rights reserved.

Margaret Finnegan is a frequent contributor to The Rose City Sisters. Her story, “Sweet Revenge,” was voted the 2009 Story of the Year by fellow contributors to this blog. She blogs at Finnegan Begin Again. To read an excerpt of her novel, “The Goddess Lounge,” visit her website.

Round One: The Cookie by Lynn Nicholas

Susan surveyed the wreckage. The ceramic floor tile shone from the patina of spilled sugar crystals. Nearly empty tubes of frosting oozed colored gel, staining the festive paper tablecloths. Susan grasped a cloth at one corner, expertly enfolding decorating paraphernalia and gooey mess all in one deft movement. The crumbled bundle landed neatly in the trash bin. The rest could wait until morning. She was bone-aching tired but deeply satisfied with the evening.

Closing her eyes to the shambles, Susan inhaled the lingering aroma of baked cookies. The holiday cookie-decorating party had been a great idea—current disarray aside. Her friends even asked her to host another one next year. They were all so lighthearted this eveningz; rolling out dough and sharing favorite cookie cutters, joking as they passed bowls of colorful Royal Icing between tables. The finished cookies were gorgeous. Everyone filled tins to take home.

Even Paul’s grown-up daughters had shown up. Notorious holiday cynics, their enthusiastic participation surprised Susan. Their enjoyment in decorating the cookies seemed to be genuine. Heads almost touching, Julie’s blond hair entangled with Anna’s dark, they carefully shielded their handiwork from copycats. The artistic detail on their finished cookies was impressive. Her stepdaughters actually hugged her before they left. Susan smiled to herself. Finally, their coolness towards her was melting. She even heard them giggling as they got into their car. She stretched happily, contentment filling every pore.

Susan kicked her off her shoes and happy-danced towards the bedroom. It had been the perfect party. She had to admit to herself that she’d been eager for her stepdaughters to see her through her friends’ eyes, as someone generous and kind and warm. She was loved by her friends, adored by Paul, and wanted her stepdaughters to, at least, like her. Including them tonight with her friends was a public declaration that they were a family. She took the girls’ participation as their unspoken accord.

Loosening an earring one-handed, Susan reached towards her jewelry box. She froze, eyes widening with bewildered disbelief. The earring bounced off the carpet as her hands rose involuntarily to her mouth. She gasped for breath: gut-punched and nauseous. Embarrassment at her own naivety and stupid optimism flooded her face with hot color. Tears of humiliation blurred her vision. If this was the girls’ idea of a joke, it was cruel and cowardly. She envisioned them sniggering spitefully all the way home, imagining her reaction.

It was a cookie, hand-decorated especially for her and artfully placed where only she would find it, on top of the leather jewelry case. They must have used the Mrs. Claus cookie cutter. No attention to detail had been spared, from the softly curled hairdo and the naked breasts adorned with raisin nipples, down to the vulgar chocolate-frosting mat of pubic hair, enhanced with silver sugar crystals. This was more than a cynical mockery of her holiday celebration; it was a judgment.

Susan took a deep, shaking breath and sank into the bedroom chair. She leaned forward, her right arm protectively hugging her middle; her chin supported on the back of her left hand. She glanced pensively at her husband’s slumbering form. He was everything to her.

Newly resolute, Susan stood up and squared her shoulders. Okay. Now she understood the rules of the game, and she had the home court advantage. The girls were about to learn that she would not crumble as easily as this Christmas cookie. Neither was she as sweet. They had only won Round One.

© Copyright 2010 Lynn Nicholas. All rights reserved.

Lynn Nicholas, a LiveJournal blogger, is also active on as “allinmyhead,”where she posts work for critique and reviews other writers’ submissions. She is the author of “Jumping the Tracks,” which appeared on this blog in June 2009. An experienced technical editor, she is now enjoying honing her writing skills, specializing in humorous commentary. Lynn’s fiction and poetry are inspired by real-life experience. Motto: when life throws you curves, find a way to use it in your writing. She lives in Tucson, AZ.

Dear Santa

Dear Santa
by Margaret Finnegan

Dear Santa:

How are you? I am fine. For Christmas I would like the pink Transformer, an iTouch, some video games, a skateboard, a Ping-Pong table, a TV for my room, a cell phone, and a puppy.


Dear Kyle:

Thank you for your letter. My Holiday Miracles Team really wants to hear from you, but all the elves are busy right now. Please wait patiently. When we have read your letter, we will get back to you—and remember, for faster service please put your Child Identification Number on all correspondence.

Wishing you a very merry Christmas,
Santa Claus

Dear Santa:

How are you? I am fine. My CIN is 005934562. I would like all of the things listed on my last letter, which you will know is mine because it is signed Kyle. I will wait patiently.


¡Hola Kyle!

Usted ha sido un niño muy bueno este año. ¡Esta Navidad, obtendrá todo lo que quieras!

Con amor,
Santa Claus

Dear Santa:

How are you? I (005934562) am fine. For Christmas I would like the pink Transformer, an iTouch, some video games, a skateboard, a Ping-Pong table, a TV for my room, a cell phone, and a puppy.


Dear Kyle:

Our records indicate that you have not been a good boy. Please revise your list accordingly.

Wishing you a very merry Christmas,
Santa Claus

Dear Mr. Claus:

Per your letter 6 December 2009. As the mother of Kyle (CIN 005934562), I can assure you that Kyle has indeed been a very good boy this year. Kyle has consistently done his chores, which include taking out the trash and setting the table, and he has gotten very good grades.

As many Gifted and Talented children, however, Kyle is easily bored. As we have explained to the school, this can hardly be blamed on Kyle. Had he been given the challenging curriculum that he deserves, we are certain that the unfortunate “glued computer incident” would never have occurred.

As it is, Kyle’s teacher has moved on. Is it naughty to ask that you do the same? Or perhaps you simply have our Kyle mixed up with another Kyle.

Karen Thompson

Dear Ms. Thompson:

Three words: Fred the cat.

Wishing you a very merry Christmas,
Santa Claus

Dear Mr. Claus:

As it was clearly an accident, it seems hardly fair to bring up the Fred affair. Besides, the Murphys, who, to be brutally honest, are rather irresponsible people, didn’t even notice that their cat had been missing until Kyle thoughtfully decided to show them the little movie he made at Raging Waters. If you had seen the video, I think you would have to agree that Fred truly enjoys water sports.

Karen Thompson

Dear Kyle:

We wonder about your willingness to let your mother fight all your battles for you. Do you really think that will help you in the long run?

Wishing you a very merry Christmas,
Santa Claus

Dear Mr. Claus:

There is no need to take this out on Kyle (CIN 005934562), who has been a very good boy this year and who deserves the rights and privileges accruing thereof, as stated in Santa Statute 15.342. If denied these rights, you may expect swift legal reprisal.

Karen Thompson, JD
Wong & Warburton

Attorneys at Large

5151 Jehosphat Drive

Pasadena, CA 91106

Dear Kyle:

Our records show that you have behaved adequately this year. Children in the adequate range can expect to receive select sports equipment (no Ping-Pong tables), board games, stuffed animals and clothing. Please adjust your list accordingly.

Wishing you a very merry Christmas,
Santa Claus

Dear Santa:

What about the puppy?

CIN 005934562

Dear Kyle:

Karen Thompson, aka your overbearing mother, has previously declared your home a pet-free zone. If she wishes to amend this gift-giving category, please ask her to visit our Facebook page and click “like” on “yes to pets.”

Wishing you a very merry Christmas.
Santa Claus

My dear old friend Santa:

I’m sensing some tension between the Thompsons and your Holiday Miracles Team. It breaks my heart—really—and I think it must break your heart too.

Isn’t this the season of giving and forgiving? Remember Christmas 1977? That was the year you gave me Logan’s Run action figures when I really wanted Star Wars action figures. I forgave you, and we went on like nothing had happened. Remember? Can’t we go back again? I thought so. You’re still the best!

By the way, please ignore changes to our “yes to pets” Facebook Status. We are still very much NO to pets, despite the cheeky hacking of a certain adorable young boy. ;o)

Troy Thompson
Father of Kyle/CIN 005934562

Dear Kyle:

Our records indicate that you have not been a good boy this year. Please enjoy these complimentary Christmas socks.

Wishing you a very merry Christmas,
Santa Claus

© Copyright 2009 Margaret Finnegan. All rights reserved.

Margaret Finnegan is a regular contributor to Rose City Sisters. Her work has been featured in numerous publications and on her blog, Finnegan Begin Again. This Christmas she is hoping for family harmony and a self-cleaning house, but she’ll settle for gloves.

Death Dealer (Or Bob Strikes Back)

Editor’s note: This story is the haunting sequel to “Sweet Revenge.” Watch your cholesterol, people. That’s all we’re saying.

Death Dealer (Or Bob Strikes Back)
by Margaret Finnegan

“Murderer.” The word stole into Heidi’s head on summer nights when she lay down to sleep. It was annoying, but Heidi didn’t dwell. She had no regrets.

Over time, the word managed to get out of her head and into the copper pipes, which hissed it—murrderrerr—in a ghostly tune when she laundered her whites.

Then, on Halloween, the word burst into her hearing-aid static. That was when Heidi got mad. She shouted to her empty kitchen, “That’s enough, Bob; there’s no need to get melodramatic,” whereupon, Bob materialized before her.

He did not look good. He had lost a lot of weight in the afterworld, and he had the gloomy, pissed-off face to show for it. Plus, he had no eyeballs and his tongue was black. “You were my wife. You were supposed to love me, but you killed me,” he moaned, pointing a long gray finger at her heart.

“You killed yourself. No one made you eat all that saturated fat, all that beef, all that sugar and butter, all those empty carbs. You did that all on your own.”

“Nooooo, you gave me those things on purpose.”

“Ha! Tell it to Oprah. ‘My wife stuffed me with desserts.’ ‘Violet’s made me eat their cupcakes.’ ‘Congress won’t pay for my lap-band.’ How about some personal responsibility, mister?”

This seemed to stump Bob. He had to massage a big chunk of revealed brain with his fingers. “I hate you,” he said at last.

“Fine. Spend eternity hating me, but stop messing with my hearing aid.”

“Murderer!” he shouted. The kitchen lights flashed as Bob, his skin an angry, iridescent purple, stretched out—nine feet, ten feet. Red light shone from his empty eye sockets. Worms and maggots slithered from his ears and nose. Raising his fists to the sky, he thundered, “Yooooouuuuu killed me.”

Then his jawbone tumbled to the floor. He tried to speak, but his black tongue just flopped around like a sea cucumber.

“Well, thank heavens for that,” said Heidi.

Without even a soda pop fizzle, down went Bob—eight feet, six feet, five-foot nine and a half. With as much dignity as he could muster, he bent down and retrieved his jaw. Cradling it gently and shuffling backwards, bathed in the yellow light of shame, he began to fade away until there was nothing left, not even a maggot on the ground, not even a hum in the pipes.

Heidi stared at the spot Bob had stood. She blinked. She sighed. Then, when it was time, she got out her good ceramic bowl and her eight super-sized bags of candy, and waited for trick-or-treaters.
© Copyright 2009 Margaret Finnegan. All rights reserved.

Margaret Finnegan is a frequent contributor to Rose City Sisters. Her work has appeared in Salon, the LA Times, FamilyFun and other publications. She blogs about wise women and even wiser goddesses at Finnegan Begin Again. She reminds you that excessive Halloween candy can lead to an early death but giving individual-sized snack bags of carrots to trick-or-treaters can lead to an even earlier one. Remember: to be forewarned to be forearmed.