• The Santa Photo by Joshua Swainston

    Two years ago my son, River, was six. Like most children in America, he obsessed about Christmas and it’s bringer of goodies, Santa Claus. He learned about Saint Nick from cartoons, movies, commercials, and other children: an amalgamation of hearsay and commercialism. What my son knew of the Santa was limited. He knew about Santa’s wife, Mrs. Claus, and all of the elves building toys in the North Pole. He knew that Santa brought presents to good boys and girls. River also knew that he was petrified of the jolly old man. That a child may be scared of Santa is not unreasonable. As parents we tell our children to…

  • Dad, Listen by William Turbyfill

    Dad, listen, we need to talk. Look, this isn’t going to be easy for either of us, but it’s a conversation that needs to happen. I’m not going to beat around the bush; you’re not a child so I’m not going to treat you like a child. I’m going to come right out and just say it. Last night, underneath the mistletoe, I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus. I know, I know, I should have been in bed fast asleep, but let’s not lose sight of priorities. It’s true that I was up past bedtime but in doing so, I may have uncovered a scandal far more insidious than mere…

  • An Elfish Endeavor by Alissa Nance

    Kristy’s ears rang with laughter as she returned from her latest interview. A never-ending tune of “You want to be a female Santa?” played in her head. Dragging a red cap from her bag, she threw it onto the coffee table. The hat’s fluffy edges fell across an array of candy cane wrappers, pine scented candles, and frosted sugar cookies. She absentmindedly reached for a cookie. As she bit into a misshapen Christmas tree, green sprinkles dotted her peacoat. With a loud groan, she threw herself onto her couch. Crushed beneath her lay an open newspaper, with “Santa for Hire” printed across the top. The ad was circled in red.…

  • High Caliber Concealer Excerpt by Bethany Maines

    Kaniksu Falls • Tuesday Nikki paused at the four-way stop, considering her options. The problem with taking a road trip to find oneself was that she wasn’t really lost and now she had arrived in Kaniksu Falls and was heartily sick of the company, but still no closer to any decisions. It was 7:30 p.m. on a Tuesday, which meant that her grandmother would be firmly ensconced at the bingo hall for at least another hour. A flash of headlights behind her indicated that she’d taken too much time even by polite Washington standards. She took a left and headed for the tavern sign she could see cycling through a…

  • Captive! by L. Lisa Lawrence

    Early morning mist rising from the ground enveloped the shoddy encampment beneath the gray November sky.   It would rain soon, he could feel it in his bones and smell it on the air.  The ground still hadn’t dried out from the last storm and he was tired of having wet, muddy feet.  At least it hadn’t snowed yet; that was true misery in these conditions. Tomas stretched, joyful for the brief moments of fresh air as he wandered around the exercise yard, turning his face toward where he believed the sun to be hiding behind the clouds.  He stopped to gaze longingly through the well fortified fence at the…

  • A Mother’s Legacy by Alissa Nance

    A pot of chicken noodle soup bubbled quietly on the stove. The scents of thyme and parsley drifted towards her as she dipped a wooden spoon into the broth. Opening her lips to take a sip, the lines framing her mouth fell into well-worn creases. “Maybe a bit more garlic . . .” she muttered. Turning away from the stove, she shifted her gaze to the window. She could see her three children playing outside. A chorus of “Tag! You’re it!” echoed into the kitchen, prompting a smile to spread across her face. Her two boys, Riley and Noah, raced across the lawn, a blur of red and blue cotton.…

  • Bury Me in Point Defiance by Morf Morford

    When my bones finally shed the weight of life And schedules burden me no more Put what’s left of me in a shroud And bury me among the tall wild trees That know the ache and joy of centuries. . Plant me among the roots Of trees that reach the sky And know the sweep of eagles And the snags that hold their young. .

  • Mud Puddle Day by Delaine Gately

    It was our summer time A thunderstorm had just passed Bringing warm clear blue skies Laura and I walked in our youth Happiness held in our carefree hearts As we walked and we sang a surprise we did spy Crossing the road ahead we could see The greatest mud puddle lay still and untouched The muddy silt was smooth like a pudding There were no lumps or rocks not even bumps The smooth golden red mud laid waiting for us Laughter ensued and the mud did fly We romped and played in the deep muddy flow Delight was found as we covered every inch The golden red clay’s allure was…

  • Pike by Gregory Knight Miskin

    The curve of the claw arched from the boy’s sternum to his clavicle, pushing hard enough against his throat to choke without puncturing his skin. He gagged and coughed, from the claw, the weight mashing him into the mud, and the stench of rotting fish. The boy tried to push away the claw at his neck but had zero impact. He wiped away his tears with the sleeve of his jacket. “No, no, don’t. Please?” The beast huffed once, then again, then deeper until, unmistakably, it burst into a diesel-throated laugh. Three more creatures slipped into the boy’s view, their split tongues tasting the air, crouching ever closer. “Pojkar smakar…

  • Necking by Titus Burley

    Claire sought amidst the distraction of minted breath and soft kisses to remember the guy’s name. Guilt stabbed even as desire propelled. One should know the name of the dude with whom one was making out. But then, everything about the encounter felt off kilter – like a love song strummed on an out of tune guitar. She should never have let her office pal, Julie, talk her into this Halloween bar hopping escapade. Claire wasn’t twenty-one anymore. Bars were for kids on the make or forty somethings on the rebound. Respectable thirty-three year old, unattached, cat rescuing, career women didn’t costume up and grow progressively bleary as they wove…