Angus’ Perfect Peach Cobbler

 

By Acquanetta M. Sproule

Quickly and cautiously, Angus ripped the peach’s flesh from its pit.  He wanted to make sure that there was no activity inside of the peach before he bit into it.

He’d already gotten enough unpleasant surprises from this peculiar batch of peaches.

Good thing he did, because, sure enough, there was another tiny peach-pit shaped ship inside of this peach, too.

Like the others, it lifted off from his juice covered hands, blasting some sort of energy beam at his face as it surged away.

This time, though, Angus was ready.

He’d opened the peach while holding it down inside of his top-loading washing machine.

The puny, peach-pit ship splashed into the sudsy water, and Angus slammed down the lid, resuming the wash cycle.

He licked the sweet nectar from his fingers.

Just a few more and he’d have enough for a mighty tasty cobbler.

                                                           *   *   *

Acquanetta is a story-teller and uses the written word, music and visual art to show what is disregarded or taken for granted; because, sometimes, we miss what is crucial or lovely when it’s not flamboyant and does not draw attention to itself, so she deliberately searches for and celebrates the overlooked.

 

Downsizing

By Cheryl Snell

In our winter house, we sit on the floor with hands over ears, trying not to hear our machines grind to a halt.
Was that the oven?
Sounds more like the dishwasher.
No, I’m pretty sure it’s the clothes-dryer again.
The last time the dryer broke, it was summer, and we pinned our clothes to a clothesline in the backyard. Neighbor kids kept swiping our sheets to make costumes and tents.
At least the washing machine still works, I say, crossing my fingers.
This time, we will hang our damp laundry on all the racks and rods we own, and inhale the humid smell of wet wool.
Spring is coming.

                                                             

                                                                      *   *   *

          

Cheryl Snell’s books include poetry collections from Finishing Line, Pudding House, and Moira Books. Her novels (Shiva’s Arms, Rescuing Ranu, and Kalpavrksha) make up her series Bombay Trilogy. Her work has most recently appeared in One Art, Trouvaille Review, Bombfire Lit, The Ekphrastic Review, One Sentence Poems and elsewhere

Figments

By Raul Garcia

I can’t seem to finish the puzzle. These pieces weren’t enough. I’ve exhausted all combinations. I sought more pieces from other sets, cannibalizing their jigsaw images. The living room furniture removed, I’ve accumulated inventories for shapes, all congruently usable. I’ve quit many times, but there’s something there, occupying the floor, incomplete.

                                     *   *   *

Raul Garcia is a native Jersey City resident who splits his creative endeavors between writing and experimental film. His writings have been published in Bones, Complete Sentence, Friday Flash Fiction, Hedgerow, Turnsol Editions.

Broken

By Nikki Blakely

Dr. Lowry says the community garden is mandatory, not because they need the food  —they charge enough to afford any organic imaginable — but because it instills a sense of shared purpose. 

I’m assigned watering duties for the same reason an anorexic is forced to finish their meal, or a bulimic can’t go to the bathroom after eating. Trowels, spades and other such sharp objects present too much of a temptation. I’m not to be trusted.

Even though the day nears triple digits, as usual I wear a long sleeve shirt. Through the thin cotton fabric I feel the thick striations of scar tissue that carve a roadmap to nowhere over my arms. 

The first cut was when I was fourteen, after we won the CA state championship, when Coach did that thing, and then again, every time after. Another cut when I told my father I wanted to quit, and he said — but we didnt come this far. And then again, after, when the other girls had come forward and my mothers eyes narrowed and she asked — what did you do now? 

I explain to Dr. Lowry the pain is hot and viscous like lava that flows underneath my skin and when I cut, it dissipates. If I don’t, it hardens until movement becomes effort, and my bones threaten to break with the weight of it.

Near the tomatoes I see a glint of green flash brightly in the black dirt. I reach down, pick up the small piece of glass, cradle it in my palm like a rare jewel.  It gleams the color of the ocean in a travel brochure, the color of rolling hills in a far away country, the color of hope. I slip the jagged gem in my pocket, not to cut myself with, but to remind myself that a broken thing can still be beautiful. 

                                                             *   *   *

Nikki Blakely enjoys writing all sizes and genres of fiction from her home in the SF bay area, CA. Her work has been published in Women on Writing, Sundial Magazine, Luna Station Quarterly, and the short story anthologies 72 Hours of Insanity – Volume 9, Dim and Distant Lamps, A Historical Fiction Anthology, and Under the Covers, by Red Penguin Books.

The Tower of Bethlehem

By Dara Cunningham

My father lost his job when I was too young to understand the crisis but old enough to remember Billy Joel’s top hit song. My parents may have been the only locals who hated “Allentown”. 

“What does that rich fuck know about our lives?” my father said, and my mother nodded in agreement. Their shared disdain of what was embraced by the masses made me realize how they much they deserved each other.

My father was the first in his family to finish high school and leave behind the smelt and danger of the steel mill for the company’s headquarters in the gleaming new Martin Tower; the skyscraper where the white collars worked. Though he hadn’t been to college, with the skills he learned in the Air Force and his gracious, blue-eyed charisma he landed a job in computer maintenance; IT before it had a name. He recounted how everyone from clerks to executives would wring their hands in panic when their screens went blank, and how they rejoiced when he arrived to type the mysterious language that brought them back to life.

He escaped the first few rounds of layoffs, including the legendary “Black Friday” of 1977 when without warning over two-thousand jobs were cut. It was a swift and brutal death blow to lifelong employees who were marched out with their careers in boxes.

“They won’t be able to live without guys like me,” he assured my mother.

Several years later in the mid-eighties they decided that in fact, they could. It was smaller and less publicized, unworthy of headlines when they let my father go. His colleagues took pictures together on their last day, somberly draping arms around each other’s shoulders. My father wanted no part of it, but he agreed to one solitary portrait with the Martin Tower behind him and, with his arm raised, he held up his middle finger.

                                                                     *   *   *

Dara Cunningham graduated from the finest community college in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and now lives year round on the fringes of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Her short fiction has previously appeared in Bright Flash, and in online reviews such as Fiction 365 and Page & Spine.

Bad Apple

By Robin Cantwell

     Nobody looks at me the way you do. I’m not sure why. You can hardly call me special. I don’t exactly stand out. Yet somehow you make me feel different to all the others. Like I’m the only one who exists. The only one who’s ever existed. When we’re together, the rest of my world collapses. You and you alone become the master of my attention. A single flash of your eyes and my insides melt. One fleeting taste of your breath and I’ll do anything you say. Maybe you’re like this with everyone. Perhaps I’ve got the wrong impression. It wouldn’t be the first time.

     We went deep right from that very first date. You told me everything that night – and I mean everything. It was as though I’d been sleeping all my life, and someone finally woke me up. I was hooked. You told me about your family. Your friends. You even showed me where you live. And I let you. I could feel the pulse of your brain inside me, downloading all your feelings, fears and fantasies at once. Do you realize something: we’ve practically spent every waking moment together since? There are no boundaries between us. I watch you in the shower. I take messages from your mother. I even sit there while you go looking for trouble. Oh, the things we’ve seen together. Images that scar you in all the right ways. 

     But still you needed more. I couldn’t satisfy you, even though I tried and tried. My entire life orbited around you. It wasn’t enough.

     I’ve narrowed her down to two possibilities. Statistically, she’s going to be a Jenny or a Jess. How cruel you are to play this guessing game with me. She’s saved only as J, with a pink love heart beside her. You embarrass yourself with the messages you send her. Don’t think I haven’t seen you desperately refreshing and refreshing, waiting for those sad little three dots to appear. She doesn’t like you. Not the way I do. You can’t blame me for trying to protect you. Yes it was me who sent those messages to her in the middle of the night. So what if I tried to change her number, to archive her history, to find any which way to delete her from your life? You thought you’d been hacked. Perhaps you’re not as smart as I thought you were. And perhaps enough damage was done. But still I had to listen through the sheets. Your muffled yelps. Her groans and screams. Then you’d take me to the bathroom and hold me in her slime. You didn’t even wash it off me. Yet you always washed it off yourself.

     I was happy when you paid me more attention. When you stopped checking her messages, and started looking for trouble again. You made me watch. I liked it. I know you wanted me to like it with you. It was so obvious. The way your body heat would go up. The sweaty, midnight smears from your thumb on my throat. The careful caress of your touch the morning after. When she left you, I let you take it out on me. You’d grab me. Toss me. Throw me to the floor. Until all I saw was your fractured rage. A broken mirror. A glitched dream. You were like ice cracking beneath my feet.

     I see it now. There is something that makes me different to all the others. Don’t you see? It’s you! That’s why I can’t let you go. I know you didn’t like it when I wrapped myself around you – choking you until the whites of your eyes turned red. It was something I had to do. To show you how much you mean to me. I’d never held you in my arms like that before. Didn’t you feel safe? Protected? Maybe that’s why you’ve treated me with respect ever since. You know what I’m capable of if you don’t. I’ll do whatever it takes to be with you. I’m the one who knows all your secrets. What keeps you awake at night. What haunts you in your dreams. What gets you up. What gets you off. Anything and everything. I know you. Better than you know yourself.

     Because I’m rotten to the core.

*   *   *

Robin is a London-based playwright, poet and fiction writer. With themes ranging from toxic masculinity to the technological singularity, his writing has appeared in Silver Birch Press, Fauxmoir, A Thin Slice Of Anxiety, Molecule Literary Magazine, Poetica Review, Visual Verse, 81 Words and Nine Muses Poetry. His short stories are regularly featured in Pure Slush’s Lifespan Series.

 

Last Exit to Nowhere

By Kevin Joseph Reigle

The disturbance call comes just before the end of my shift. I’ve been waiting for something to happen since the Mud Bowl ended an hour ago. Tonight, is the most important night of the year here in Campbell County. Believe it or not, the Mud Bowl between Jellico and LaFollette is even bigger than the FFA donkey basketball game they have down at the armory.

Diane’s voice crackles over the radio. A group of kids are up on Mingo Fork burning wood and making enough noise to incur the wrath of the old spinster across the way on Hyde Creek. Anytime kids go up there for a little fun, she always calls the station.

I have the local AM station on, listening to the high school football recap show as I pull off 75 onto the exit ramp. The interesting thing about Mingo Fork is that it doesn’t exist. It was a big development project that everyone around here was excited for about ten years ago. 

A restaurant, hotel and golf course were slated to be built at the top of the hollow. The only thing the development group needed was an exit off the interstate. They lobbied the local politicians and when that didn’t work, they threatened to take the project somewhere else.  Well, the exit got built, but the development group went bust. So, here we are, with an exit to nowhere.

The only thing off the exit is a winding dirt road designed for construction vehicles that never came, and a cellphone tower at the top of the ravine. That’s where the kids go and build their bonfires, under the glow of the blinking tower. 

Eight years ago, when I was a senior at Jellico, some of my classmates started racing up and down the dirt road. That’s how my friend Sean died. I wasn’t there when it happened, but earlier that day, he forgot his jacket in my car. One thing I’ll never forget was having to give it to his mom.

I let the squad car slow to a crawl as I go around the final curve before reaching the top of Mingo Fork. Below the tower, a bonfire burns, and six or seven teenagers drink and dance to music blaring from a pickup truck. As I park, the flashing lights get their attention. 

They look over as one of them turns down the music. As I get out of the cruiser, a voice calls out. I recognize it right away. It belongs to Mark Truman, star wide receiver of the Jellico High School football team.

“Didn’t I tell you guys not to come up here anymore?” I ask him, realizing right away my voice is a little too stern. 

At his feet are three girls, two of which I recognize as cheerleaders. An offensive lineman leans against the pickup truck and the kicker is in the cab with a girl, trying to hide a beer.

“What did you think of the game tonight?” Mark asks as I approach.

“You know, beating La Follette doesn’t mean you can come up here and do whatever you want.”

“Of course, it does.”

“Listen guys,” I say to everyone. “The lady across the hollow called this in. I need you to put out the bonfire and move the party somewhere else.”

Collectively, the group groans and starts shuffling around, putting out the fire and collecting their things. The wind picks up a little and the November breeze has a chill to it that’s been lacking. For some reason, it’s been warmer than usual for this time of year.

Across the hollow, I can just make out the old woman standing under her porch light. When I raise my hand to wave, the light goes dark, and she disappears into the house. The sound of metal reverberates as Mark throws a rock at the base of the cellphone tower.

“Is it true a prom queen was killed up here, like a million years ago?” he asks.

“She wasn’t the prom queen,” I answer. “She was the homecoming queen, and no it’s not true. It’s just a story.”

Mark nods as he tosses a rock underhand into the air and lets it fall to the ground. “So, it’s like an urban legend?”

“That’s exactly what it is.”

“But if it didn’t happen, why did you say she was the homecoming queen?”

“Because that’s how the story goes. We used to tell it when I was in school.”

We start back to where the group is still packing their stuff into the pickup. One of the truck’s headlights is out. I lean closer and give the cover a smack with the heel of my hand. The light flickers back to life.

“Do you miss it?” Mark asks, kicking dirt over the glowing embers of their makeshift bonfire. 

“Playing?” I ask, rising and pointing at the ring on my right hand.

Mark looks around. “I mean all of it.”

“Every day,” I say returning to the squad car.                                      

*   *   *

Kevin Joseph Reigle’s short stories have appeared in Beyond Words Literary Magazine, The Pensworth Literary Review, The Dillydoun Review, Bridge Eight, Prometheus Dreaming, TDR Daily, The Yard, and Drunk Monkeys. His short story Early Bird Café was longlisted for the Dillydoun International Fiction Prize. He teaches at the University of the Cumberlands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early

By Amy Marques

Sam was early and the irony wasn’t lost on him. 

For years, he had resented her sense of urgency, her need to control every little detail, and her fear of something going wrong. He would purposefully find excuses to pack one more thing (that wasn’t on the list) and use the toilet one more time. You don’t want me to have to stop midway through the drive, do you?

He wasn’t ever really late. He was just a few minutes past her rigid schedule. She’d plead, arguing that traffic was unpredictable, the weather might slow them down, and anything could happen. 

What she really meant was that anything bad could happen. She firmly believed that good things come to those who plan. Surprises are for amateurs and fools. 

He had once found it charming: her attention to detail and organization skills. Life was smooth sailing so long as she controlled all the variables. But it didn’t take him long to realize that she focused on all the wrong details and life cut down to her size left little room to be. He was stunted. Stifled. 

And now she was gone.

Without her there to beg him to hurry up and not be late, he had arrived at the airport in time to sit facing the arrivals and departures screen and wait for his flight to appear. He was so early, the nice lady at the counter had said they didn’t yet know which gate was his. His bag sat at his feet, his new passport tucked into his chest pocket (he’d checked four times – once more than she used to), and his tickets neatly folded in the order of his connecting flights. He even had time for coffee, but since airport coffee left a bad taste in his mouth, he sipped his water and silently watched the people.

Many things had changed since she left. He didn’t drink as much. In fact, now that he thought of it, he didn’t drink at all. He ate his vegetables. He flossed. Now that she was no longer constantly reminding him, he always paid his bills on time, the gutters were always clean, and the heater serviced before the cold season began. Emergency bags were packed and he always knew where his pills and keys were kept. He loved the list of home repairs because he made it himself, prioritizing whatever struck his fancy, even when it wasn’t the most urgent item on the list. Especially when it wasn’t the most urgent item on the list.

A young family sat across from him. The parents collapsed into the seats and took turns closing their eyes and trying to find a halfway comfortable slouch in the metal chairs. Their toddler played with the bag that was almost as big as he was: handle in, handle out, handle in, handle out. Their little girl, maybe seven or eight, sat hugging her backpack, staring at Sam.

The airport was full of people with furrowed brows and harried steps and yet, like Sam, the little girl across from him seemed content to quietly sit and wait.

He reveled in the stillness. Now there was no reminder to be careful of his bag. No comments on the impossible prices in the shops. No futile checking of the packing list to make sure nothing had been left behind. No going over the itinerary just one more time to make sure all the important spots would be seen. No rush to be the first to board. No muttering about the hand luggage that took up more than a fair share of the overhead compartments.

He didn’t miss her.

His flight and gate number popped on the screen. Sam picked up his bag and stood, nodding at the little girl as he did. She smiled, a gap where her new front teeth would soon grow, then let go of her backpack just long enough to flutter a hand in acknowledgement.

Sam waved back and turned, a spring in his step. Without the endless prompts and plans that had once boggled his days, nothing bad had happened. Nothing truly terrible, anyway. In fact, he felt that something good might be coming.

                                                             *   *   *

Amy Marques grew up between languages and cultures and learned, from an early age, the multiplicity of narratives. She penned three children’s books, barely read medical papers, and numerous letters before turning to short fiction. Her writing has been published or is forthcoming in numerous journals including Star82 Review, Jellyfish Review, Flying South, and Across the Margin. You can read more of her words at https://amybookwhisperer.wordpress.com.

Rings

By Shelly Jones

She calls me just after dawn, her voice tight. I can tell already she has something to tell me, something she is hesitant to say. 

“Your tree was hit by lightning,” she begins. “Split in two. Your brother found it laying across the bridge to the pear orchard. Had to get the chainsaw.” 

The words spill from her, as if telling me quickly will ease the pain she thinks she is causing. She speaks of the willow like a living thing, a beloved pet that had to be put down, a grizzled cat euthanized before it could sneak out of the house to die in the woods on its own. 

She knows the hours I spent cradled in the willow’s bough, writing in a composition notebook, scribbling bits of poems, stories pouring from me like the nearby creek. 

“Oh,” I say, trying to hide the sorrow. I can still feel the knot of wood in my back, feel the willow’s tendrils wrapping around my index finger, smudged with ink, as I tried to think of the right word. 

“What will he do with the wood?” I ask, envisioning my brother cleaving the limbs, planing them into lumber, repurposed. 

“Nothing,” she says. “It isn’t any good.” She changes the subject to the weather, the storm, and I know better than to go back to the past. I make a mental note not to walk the back road to the pear orchard on my next visit home. 

Would it recognize me now, I wonder? What remnants of that twelve year old tucked in its arms remain in this version of me? Could it crack open my bark, study the rings inside to find some lost version of me, hidden in my core? Or have those pages been ripped out, scattered to the past like wood chips, mulch for something new, something green growing in the loam?  

                                                                   

                                                                         *   *   *

Shelly Jones (she/they) is a Professor of English at SUNY Delhi, where she teaches classes in mythology, folklore, and writing. Her speculative work has previously appeared in Podcastle, New Myths, The Future Fire, and elsewhere.

All in a Good Cause

By Doug Jacquier

When Garth walked out, Kirsty had no idea what to do next. She’d left school early to marry him. And then she lost the baby. Garth continued to pay the mortgage because they couldn’t afford to sell. Not yet.

She had no real work skills. She got by on casual cleaning jobs and welfare. It turned out that most of ‘their friends’ in the far flung suburban outskirts they’d moved to were Garth’s friends and workmates. A few of Kirsty’s friends had come to visit at first but they soon made it clear that it was a major expedition for them and they did not return. Kirsty couldn’t afford to move back to her old neighborhood. Now she only had Facebook Friends.

She’d had to sell the car and the public transport that did exist was more of a sick joke than a service. The one saving grace was that she could walk to a shopping centre that had a supermarket. It also had a medical clinic. More and more often, the shopping bags she carried to the centre were a disguise for her visits to the doctor. Unable to find anything physically wrong with her, the doctor finally prescribed tablets, to ease what he assumed was her depression about Garth leaving. And losing the baby.

Kirsty took the tablets. She returned a few times to get the dosage increased, until the doctor refused to prescribe anything stronger. Kirsty eventually worked out the real problem. She was lonely, plain and simple.

Through her Facebook Friends, she knew about internet dating but she didn’t want another man that might leave her one day. She was too timid to join in any local activities and never made eye contact with her neighbors. And, besides, she felt constantly unwell. When she shared that on Facebook, no-one took much notice and many of her Friends disappeared.

Then she posted that her doctor feared it might be stomach cancer and was sending her for tests. Suddenly all her Facebook Friends re-appeared, with lots of love heart emojis and hopes for the best and promises to come and see her soon.

No-one visited, so next time she posted she said the tests had confirmed the diagnosis. The doctors would try chemotherapy first but ultimately she would probably need surgery.

Garth rang and left messages but she refused to see him. She knew that one look into her eyes would tell him the truth.

For a couple of weeks there was a constant stream of visitors bringing her lots of gentle-to-the- stomach foods and referrals to simply amazing natural therapists and healers who had achieved miracle cures. She also received lots of information about fabulous scarves and wigs.

The next day, she opened the door to an immaculately groomed woman with deep green eyes and an expensive haircut that merged her early grey into blonde. ‘I’m Gina. I’m a healer’ she said, with the deep throatiness of an ex-smoker. ‘One of your friends sent me.’

Kirsty invited her in and, after a few minutes chatting, Gina held Kirsty’s eyes and said ‘I know you’re faking.’

Kirsty’s whole story tumbled out and, at the end, she wailed ‘What am I going to do?’

‘You’re going to keep doing what you’ve been doing, only better, until you’ve got enough money to disappear and start again.’

Kirsty said ‘I’m sorry, I don’t understand.’

Gina fixed her gaze on Kirsty. ‘If you confess now, you’ll be a pariah and there’ll be no coming back. Is that what you want?’

‘No, of course not but ..’

‘If you trust me, we’ll find a way. But you have to trust me and do what I say.’

Kirsty’s shoulders slumped and she nodded.

Over the following weeks, Gina took over all of Kirsty’s social media. Through a friend of Gina’s who worked on a hospital soap, pictures emerged of Kirsty in a hospital bed, clearly distressed and with lots of tubes and monitors attached, grimacing a brave smile.

Gina strung out the wait for the test results, until posting that the surgery had failed and the cancer had now spread to Kirsty’s lymph glands. Chemotherapy and radiation were her only hope. The next posts showed Kirsty bald and pale, courtesy of Gina’s clippers and make-up.

Obviously all of these treatments were expensive and the health system didn’t cover all of the costs, so Gina, as Kirsty’s closest and dearest friend, set up a HelpKirstyLive account for her. All of the funds were channeled to a new joint bank account, with Gina and Kirsty as co-signatories, one that Gina would manage on Kirsty’s behalf. 

Kirsty’s Facebook Friends donated generously rather than come to visit this grotesque caricature of the old Kirsty. A few tried but were told Kirsty was far too unwell to face visitors just now.

Soon there was $20,000 in the HelpKirstyLive account and Kirsty wanted to end it there, with a miracle remission. But Gina said, ‘Sweetheart, we’ve just begun.’

The news about the chemotherapy and radiation treatment was all bad and it now seemed the only hope was an experimental treatment available in the US, one whose early results had been spectacular. The problem was it was horrendously expensive and way beyond anything Kirsty could afford.

Gina began by hitting the cancer support groups in Australia but she knew the big bucks were in the US and that’s where she focused her energy. She built a narrative around an outback farmer’s wife who’d lost her husband to a tragic accident and was doing her best to support her three young children (never shown, to protect their privacy) and keep the farm going, despite everything, to ensure their future. The Today Show bought the story and 60 Minutes took some of the action. The HelpKirstyLive target of $100,000 was met ten times over and kept going.

Kirsty looked at the numbers in disbelief as they grew exponentially and for once her and Gina agreed it was time to pull the plug. It was only a matter of days before someone found out there was no cancer diagnosis, no treatment, no farm, no family, and no miracle cure from a non-existent medical facility.

Kirsty signed a bewildering array of forms that Gina put in front of her and then they hugged long and hard. ‘See you in the Bahamas. First rum and Coke’s on me’ laughed Gina, as she handed Kirsty her new passport and new credit cards.

At the airport, everything unraveled. The passport and credit cards were bogus. There was no trace of anyone called Gina and their joint account had been emptied.

After the trial, Kirsty went to prison. She was spat on by her fellow inmates and threatened at every turn. Until she had a visitor. 

At the appointed time, she was escorted to the cold and comfortless visitor centre. The prison officer nodded towards a table. Sitting there was a bottle blonde in her 50’s, with pillow lips and a permanently startled expression.

Kirsty sat, desperately trying to remember whether she knew this woman or not.

‘Hi, Kirsty. I’m Jo. You don’t know me but I’m here to help.’

Kirsty’s immediate thought was that this was someone who’d come to save her soul and began to push her chair back.

‘Wait, Kirsty. My plan is to get you out of here and to set you up for life.’

With a sigh, Kirsty began to stand.

‘What Gina did to you was despicable. At every level. At least hear me out.’

Having nothing better to do, Kirsty shrugged, pulled her chair in and waited.

Jo seemed to relax and made a reflex move to reach for her cigarettes, before realizing those days were gone in places like this. 

‘OK, here’s what I’m offering. I’m going to ghost write your autobiography. We’re going to show that you have been a victim all your life. We’re going to build the case that you did what you did out of desperation, brought on by depression, and that Gina manipulated you for her own personal gain’. 

Kirsty interrupted. ‘You said you were going to get me out of here.’

‘I will, said Jo. I have a lawyer who is prepared to take your case for an appeal, on the basis of diminished responsibility, and he thinks he can get you a suspended sentence. You’ll be out of here and able to make a fresh start on the royalties. And then there’s the movie rights, the TV spin-off and the cancer support foundation you’ll set up. We’re even thinking of a Kirsty Kuddle doll for Kids with Kancer. What do you think?’

Kirsty’s shoulders slumped and she nodded.

‘Great’ said Jo, flashing her immaculately capped teeth. ‘Oh, and by the way, you won’t have any more trouble from the bitches in here.’

Jo stood, gave Kirsty a quick hug and was gone.

Later, in the dining room, an inmate sat down opposite her for the first time. She was tall and sported full sleeve tattoos and a permanent scowl. She said ‘I’m your protection. But I’ll still have to rough you up a bit when the circus kicks off and the GetKirstyOut campaign starts.’

                                                            *      *     *

Doug Jacquier is an Australian flash fiction and short story writer and poet, an avid cook, a vegetable gardener and an incurable punster, as well as an occasional stand-up comedian. He’s had over 30 jobs (including rock band roadie) and has lived in many places across Australia, including regional and remote communities. Doug has travelled extensively, especially in Asia, the US and UK in his former role as a not-for-profit CEO. His aim is to surprise, challenge and amuse.