Friday, June 28, 2013

"The Letter" by Jan Hurst-Nicholson (Short Story)

Genre:  Action Adventure

Type of Short Story:  Short Story Collection


South Africa 1988

The two buddies were living and working together out in the sticks, and they were beginning to set each other’s teeth on edge. Then one of them made a very weird suggestion…

Royce shifted in his chair, uncomfortably aware that Jamie was watching him read the letter.

The shimmering heat of the desert had dissipated and he gave a shiver, as much from the effect of Jamie’s gaze as from the cool night breeze which had suddenly sprung up. He rolled down his shirtsleeves and moved his canvas chair closer to the fire.

Jamie’s dark eyes continued to scrutinise him, a faint expression of mockery on his face. “Want some coffee?” He offered the pot to Royce.

“No, thanks.”

“Too busy reading?”

Royce sensed the sarcastic resentment. It was worse after each mail drop when once again there were no letters for Jamie.

Jamie slammed the coffee pot on the fire and sank into a moody silence.

It had been six months. Six months with only each other for company; nothing but the vast, scrubby and endless desert, under the broiling energy-sapping sun. A series of disappointing finds had also exhausted their enthusiasm. The minerals had not been in sufficient quantities to make extraction viable.

Jamie prodded the fire and then swore as the coffee pot tipped and its contents sank into the thirsty earth.

“Damn coffee. I need a stiff drink.”

“Sorry old chap, we seem to be out. Perhaps I could offer you a cup of lukewarm brackish water.” Royce tried to lighten the mood.

“I don’t know what you’re being so smug about,” Jamie sneered.

After nearly two years together Royce had experienced most of Jamie’s moods, including the sudden rages that threatened to break up their working arrangement as well as their fragile friendship. But this vindictive mood was new.

“What do you mean?” asked Royce.

“Gloating over your precious letters.”

Royce was tired of being the scapegoat for Jamie’s moods. He was tired of the whole damn business. If they didn’t have a worthwhile find soon he knew he could never last another six months. He rose from the chair and stood over Jamie, who was angrily prodding the embers. “I know you resent my letters, but you can hardly blame me for your failure to get any.”

Jamie jumped up and faced Royce, his hands clenched, his knuckles white. “I don’t want your pity.” He spat out the words.

“What do you mean – pity? Why should I pity you?”

“Your family and friends write to you. You feel sorry for me because I never get any letters.” There was an icy disdain in his voice.

It was true. Royce had felt sorry for him at first. It was one of the slender threads that had held together their friendship. They’d met during their final year at college. Royce had thought Jamie quiet and secretive, until their mutual interest in geology had brought them together and Royce had realised that Jamie was merely super-selective in his friendships. Most attempts at closeness were quickly rebuffed. His lack of friends was his own fault. “What do you expect me to do – ask my friends to write to you?” He flung himself heavily into a chair and continued reading.

The tense silence was broken only by the occasional crackle of the fire.

Royce was conscious of Jamie’s veiled eyes watching him.

“Sell me one of yours.”

“What?” Royce stared at him in disbelief.

“I said, sell me one of yours. You always have four or five. You won’t miss one.”

“I can’t. They’re my letters. What interest would they be to you?”

“So you’re not prepared to let me have even one?”

Royce enjoyed his letters, it was the only thing he looked forward to – and he didn’t want to share them with Jamie. But he caught the brooding resentment in the other man’s eyes. “There’s no point in selling you anything. What use is money here?”

“I’ll swap you something.” With one step he was in front of Royce.

“How about my sheath knife?” He drew it from his belt. The blade glinted in the firelight reflecting the tragic urgency in Jamie’s wildly shining eyes. Royce glanced from Jamie to the knife. It was Jamie’s most prized possession. Handmade by a master knife-maker it had a bone handle that balanced perfectly with the shining well-oiled blade. Jamie boasted that it could slit a hair. And he was deadly serious about giving it away.

“All right,” Royce said reluctantly, fanning the letters. “Which one do you want?”

The ghost of a smile hovered on Jamie’s dry, cracked lips as he made his selection. There was a look of triumph on his face as he handed Royce the knife and returned to his place by the fire.

Royce slid the knife into his belt and felt a shiver as the cold steel blade pressed through his thin shirt.

He continued reading his mother’s letter. She wrote that his sister had moved to a teaching hospital and it was a pity she wasn’t nearer home to help nurse his father whose arthritis was getting the better of him. He sifted through the remaining letters, but was only half concentrating. With increasing irritation he was watching Jamie read the letter, his face devoid of expression. When he’d finished he carefully refolded it and replaced it in the envelope, smirking at Royce as he tucked it into his shirt pocket.

“Who was it from?”

“I’m not telling you.”

“Suit yourself.”

Jamie sank back in his chair, arms folded behind his head, staring at the dark sky, his face veiled by thoughts that Royce could not fathom. The letter poked out from his shirt pocket. It irked Royce to think that he did not know its contents and he regretted his folly in making the swap.

Who was it from? Not his sister, as most of the home news came via his mother. And he’d made Carrie promise not to write so they’d have a year to decide on their feelings for each other. His other letters were usually sporadic news from friends, and the occasional geology magazine. He was aware that Jamie was watching him, a glint of amusement in his eye. “Don’t you think you’re being selfish, keeping it to yourself?” Royce snapped.

“No. It’s my letter.” He slipped it from his pocket and re-read it. He gave Royce a searching look. Their eyes held for several moments.

Jamie leaned forward and with his eyes still focused on Royce he held the paper over the fire. The corner began to smoulder, then quickly caught alight and burst into flames.

Royce leapt from his chair and snatched the charred remains from the fire.

“Why the hell did you do that?”

“It was my letter. Surely I can burn my own letter?”

Royce caught the cynical mockery in his words and felt anger well up.

“Who was it from?” He grabbed Jamie’s lapels and hauled him to his feet. “I want to know who it was from.”

Jamie pushed him away roughly, so that he staggered almost falling over the chair.

“It was MY letter,” Jamie said coldly. “You swapped it fair and square. I can dispose of my belongings any way I wish.” He gave a snort of derision. “Anyway, what’s the use of a letter once it’s been read?”

Royce made an effort to keep his temper in control. “All right, if that’s the way you want it, we’ll do another swap. I’ll give you back your knife if you tell me what was in the letter.”

“No. A deal is a deal.”

Royce sensed that Jamie was goading him, itching for a fight. All the bitterness they’d harboured over the past six months was beginning to surface. It was the first time throughout their relationship that Jamie had had the upper hand – and he was making the most of it.

Jamie crouched next to the fire and threw on some more kindling. As it flared the light cut the darkness and illuminated the sinister smile on his face. He glanced up and gave Royce a quizzical look.

“How about a different swap?”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ll tell you what was in the letter if you give me my knife and your gun.” In two quick strides he was in front of Royce, grinning. “It’s quite a bargain if I tell you who the letter was from.”

Royce listened with tightened lips. The Smith & Wesson had belonged to his father and Jamie knew how much it meant to him, to give it away was unthinkable.

“The knife only,” he said, and pulling it from his belt flung it at Jamie’s feet.

“And the gun?” Jamie smiled. “Don’t you want to know what Carrie had to say?”

Royce paled. Something must be wrong otherwise she would never have written. He swelled with rage at the thought of Jamie reading her letter. “What did she say?” he demanded. Panting with fury he caught Jamie by the arm and swung him round, ready to put a fist into that mocking face.

Jamie wrenched free. “What about the gun?” he repeated.

Royce threw him a look of pure hatred. All his love for Carrie welled up. He was desperate to know what she’d said. He stormed into his tent to fetch the gun. Jamie’s scornful laugh followed him.

“She’s found someone else. Going to marry him.”

Royce’s eyes blazed with an icy fury as his hand tightened round the gun. He burst furiously out of the tent. “You’re a liar.”

“See for yourself.” Jamie sniggered, as he slid the letter from his pocket and waved it in front of Royce. “I only burned the envelope.”

Royce’s eyes were black with hatred. Tormented beyond endurance he levelled the gun at Jamie’s stomach and snatched at the letter. “Give it to me.”

Jamie pulled his arm out of reach and with his other hand grasped the cold steel barrel of the gun. “It’s my gun now,” he smirked. He dropped the letter and it slowly fluttered down. There was a gleam of amusement in his eyes as he watched it settle on the flickering flames. When Royce realised what Jamie had done he let out a cry and leapt to grab it.

A shot rang out.

Jamie’s legs buckled and he slumped to the ground, a look of faint surprise on his face.

Royce sank to his knees, his head buzzing from the gunshot, the blood pounding in his ears. Dazed, he watched the flames slowly flickering round the edges of the letter, his blankly staring eyes mesmerized by the one line he was able to read before it was reduced to ashes.

“Return your sweepstakes tickets within ten days to qualify for the early bird bonus.”


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Friday, June 21, 2013

"The Tryst" by Jan Hurst-Nicholson (Short Story)

Genre:  Humor

Type of Short Story:  Short Story


Liverpool, England 1960s

He tried nibbling her ear. He wasn’t sure whether he should be licking, nibbling, or kissing it. Even after re-watching a movie he still hadn’t been able to make out the exact technique.

“Are you sure we can’t be seen from the path?” Pam whispered, snagging her gymslip on a bush as she peered into the gloomy clearing.

“’Course not. I’ve staked it out. It’s quite private.” Colin assured her, settling on a grassy patch.

Pam, unsure of the next move, inspected the damage to her clothing,

“Sit down,” invited Colin. “We can use our satchels as pillows.”

Pam sat mutely beside him, knees tucked under her chin and encircled with her arms. In the expectant silence the late afternoon sunlight filtered through the trees. It was eerily quiet until Pam sighed and turned resignedly to Colin. “Well, what happens now? It’s up to you to start.” She flicked her long dark hair in an effort to look sexy.

He gripped her shoulders and pulled her lustily towards him.

“Hang on,” she said, pushing him away.

“What’s wrong?”

“Aren’t you going to get rid of that chewing-gum first?”

“Sorry.” He spat out the offending gum and tried again. “Come on, lie down. It’s more comfy.”

Pam lay back and clasped her hands behind her head, a move she’d practised to better reveal the outline of her budding breasts. Colin gently brushed her lips with his. She sprang upright as if stung.

“What’s wrong now?”

“This grass is damp. I can feel it right through my knickers.”

“Here, lie on my blazer.” He hastily placed it under her bottom.

He tried nibbling her ear. He wasn’t sure whether he should be licking, nibbling, or kissing it. Even after re-watching a movie he still hadn’t been able to make out the exact technique.

Pam lay unresponsive, her eyes closed. He was about to attempt a love bite when she unexpectedly turned her head and gave him a rather painful bang on the nose.

“What homework have you got?” she demanded.

Colin rubbed his nose in a violent effort to stop his eyes watering. “Just maths. Why?”

She giggled. “Funny they never give us homework when it’s sex education.”

“Perhaps they’ll give us a ‘do-it-yourself’ manual when we leave school,” Colin said, grinning. Furtively unbuttoning her blouse he gradually slid his hand inside, hardly daring to breathe lest Pam should object. His mouth was drying up, partly from excitement, but mostly because he was afraid to breathe through his nose in case it made him sniff.

“Colin, do you love me?”

“Course I do.”

“How much?”


“Prove it.”


“Do my geography homework.”

“Geography? You know I hate geography!”

“There. I knew you didn’t love me,” she said, removing his hand and sitting up.

“Okay, okay, I’ll do it,” panted Colin, whose hand had almost reached her bra. Satisfied, she lay back and allowed Colin to slip his hand inside her blouse again. She began to wriggle and heave her buttocks. Colin couldn’t believe his luck. “Are you enjoying it?” he whispered, pressing eagerly against her.

“Enjoying what?” she asked scornfully. “Something’s biting me bum.”

Colin, somewhat deflated, hunted fruitlessly for the offending insect. “Must have been a piece of grass. Lie down again,” he pleaded.

She glanced at him quizzically. “You’re not going to tell anyone about this, are you? If our David finds out, he’ll kill you. He might even tell me Dad.”

“Don’t you trust me? I love you. This is something beautiful between just the two of us.” He’d read that in a book. He kissed her, wondering whether he dare try a French kiss, thinking it might distract her while his hands sought their target.

Her bra was unfastened and he eased it up to expose ripe, young breasts. Breathlessly, he stared down at them half-expecting Pam to object. Encouraged by her silence, he tentatively touched one. Pam shrieked in alarm.

“What’s wrong?” He hurriedly withdrew his hand.

“Your hands aren’t half cold.”

“Sorry.” He rubbed them together before cautiously trying again. “Warm enough now?”

“It’s all right.”

He moved his hand experimentally. “Hey, look, your nipples are standing up.”

“So what.”

“So that means you’re aroused.”

“What do you mean – aroused?” There was a hint of disdain in her voice.

“Y’know, when a man’s thing becomes erect it means he’s aroused. Same with a girl. When her nipples are erect it means she’s worked up.”

“Doesn’t make me feel any different,” said Pam. “They go like that when I wash them anyway.”

He was about to argue when she pressed her fingers against his lips. “Sshh,” she cautioned.

“What’s up?”

“I heard a rustle in the bushes. I think someone’s coming.”

“Well it’s not me,” said Colin, giggling.

“Shut up, stupid. It could be our David.”

“There’s no one there,” Colin reassured her.

But Pam found something else to worry about. “Colin, how do you know I won’t get pregnant?”

“You can’t get pregnant the first time.”

“Rubbish! Miss Marsh says that’s a story all boys tell. It’s a lie. You can get pregnant the first time.”

“What does she know? What I meant was – girls can get pregnant if it’s their first time, but if it’s the boy’s first time he won’t make her pregnant.”

“How do you know?”

“Peter Wilder made love to a girl last month and she didn’t get pregnant.”

Pam digested this new piece of wisdom. “D’you think Miss Marsh has ever, y’know, done it?”

“Doubt it,” said Colin. “She’s old. Must be at least thirty.”

“Don’t you think people over thirty bother anymore?”

Colin considered his reply as he undid his belt. “My Mum was thirty-four when she had me, so they must have done it at least once after thirty.”

Colin had unzipped his trousers. Taking Pam’s hand, he was about to place it inside when she pulled away. “Come on, what’s wrong now?” he implored.

“Aren’t you going to take your shoes and socks off first?”

“Why should I?”

“My Mum says she can’t stand men who make love with their socks on.”

“But I’ve still got my shirt and trousers on. Why should I take my socks off?”

“Don’t you want to take them off? Do your feet smell or something?”

“No, of course they don’t,” he said, resigned to exposing his bare feet. She watched while he wrestled with his shoelaces.

She made him feel stupid and he could feel the anger welling up. He grabbed her shoulders and forced her back on to the blazer, pinning her underneath him like he’d seen Clint Eastwood do.

“Ooh,” she said, wriggling with delight.

“Do you like it?”

“Yes. You’ve got a huge spot on your neck with a big white head. Please let me squeeze it.”

“No,” he said, exasperated.

“Why not?”

“If it was Roger Moore you wouldn’t be asking to squeeze his spots.”

“Course not. Roger Moore doesn’t have spots.”

He glared at her. She glowered back defiantly. “Get on with it then.”

He kissed her angrily, thrusting his tongue into her mouth while he fumbled under her skirt. Beads of perspiration broke out on his forehead.

“Colin, do you think I’m sexy?”

“Yes,” he croaked.

She nuzzled his neck, avoiding the spot. “Are you sure you haven’t done this with anyone else?”

“Course I’m sure.”

“Perhaps that’s what’s wrong,” she declared. “The man is supposed to be experienced so he can show the woman what to do.”

“I know what to do,” said Colin, unaware that anything had been wrong. “It’s your fault. You’re not reacting like you’re supposed to.” He circled her breast with his hand, stroking and squeezing. She stared at him with a bored expression. “See what I mean,” he complained. “You’re supposed to moan and groan and look as if you’re enjoying it.”

Pam contorted her face into feigned expressions of ecstasy. “Is that what you want? Heavy breathing and lecherous looks?”

“You’re not supposed to sound like a steam train and look as though you’re having an epileptic fit,” Colin protested.

“How am I supposed to look then?”

“Like this,” he said, producing a crumpled and well-thumbed photograph from his pocket.

Pam gasped in shocked fascination. “Where d’you get this? It’s a porno picture.”

“Gary Hewitt. When he showed it to Sylvia Wainwright it really turned her on.” He waited for Pam’s reaction. “She charges y’know,” he added.

“Who does?”

“Sylvia Wainwright.”

“How do you know?”

“Gary told me.”

“You mean he paid her money?”

“No, she makes the guys do her homework.”

“That’s disgusting! It’s cheap, like being a prostitute,” said Pam.

She looked at him quizzically. “Are you sure you haven’t been with her?”

“I told you I haven’t.”

“I don’t know whether to believe you. My mother told me all men are liars, and never to trust them.”

“But I love you. “ He took her hand and cautiously moved it inside his trousers. Pam looked round nervously. “I don’t like it here. It’s spooky. I’m sure someone is watching us.”

“Stop chattering,” he demanded. “It’s putting me off.”

“Aren’t we meant to talk?”

“It’s supposed to be romantic – or just moans and sighs.”

They were silent until Colin said, “Move your hand up and down.”

“I can’t. You’re lying on my arm and it’s gone dead.”

Colin shifted his weight.

“What’s the time?” she said, twisting his wrist to see his watch. “It’s twenty to six,” she gasped. “I’ll have to be going or me Dad’ll come looking for me.”

“Just a few more minutes,” implored Colin, whose body was throbbing painfully.

“No, me Dad’ll kill me.”

“But I thought we were going to be lovers,” he wailed. “You promised.”

“Perhaps next week, but not here, it makes me nervous.”

“What about under the gym, next Thursday?”

“I’ll think about it. You promise you won’t tell anyone about this?”

“Of course I won’t,” he said, reluctantly dressing. “You’d better leave first in case there is someone around.”

Pam sneaked away through the shrubbery. Colin watched her go and then waited as six schoolboys emerged from the bushes. He took a book from his satchel and checked the names against those of the boys. “Right, pay up,” he said.

“Hey, look here, Colin,” said a pimply-faced red-head, “I’m not paying the full amount. I hardly saw anything.”

“That’s your fault,” replied Colin. “You chose where you wanted to watch from. Pay up or else.”

“I agree,” said another. “I’m not paying five shillings for a look at your bum!”

“Yes,” said another, “I only saw one tit and not even a nipple.”

“If you don’t pay up you won’t be invited to the gym next Thursday,” threatened Colin. “And by the way, it’s an extra two and sixpence for Clive because of the binoculars.”

“What!” demanded Clive. “But they’re my binoculars.”

“Doesn’t matter. It’s extra for close-ups.”

The boys reluctantly handed over their money, muttering their disappointment, "Didn’t even get her knickers off.”

Pam ran home and was out of breath when she greeted the girls who were sitting waiting on her garden wall. “Well?” they chorused.

“Get the paper and pencil,” she panted. These were produced and Pam spanned her hand across the paper indicating where the line should be drawn. “Who's got the chart?”

“I have,” replied an untidy-looking girl, extracting it from the rat’s nest of her bag. Giggling, they compared paper and chart. With a theatrical flourish Pam announced: “That’s Roger Worth still last, followed by James Smith and Colin. Steven Farrow and Gary Hughes tie for the biggest.” She turned to the girls. “Who shall we do next?”


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Friday, June 14, 2013

"The Blue Hole Boys/The Fugu Feast (Double Feature)" by T.N.Collie (Short Stories)

Genre:  Literary Fiction

Type of Short Story:  Short Stories

Summary:  "The Blue Hole Boys"- a short story inspired by the true event of two brothers who went missing in an Andros forest. This fictionalized account of the adventure is from the perspective of the two young boys as they find themselves lost deep in an unfamiliar forest, waiting to be rescued.

"The Fugu Feast"- prize-winning tale originally published in On the Premises magazine, this story is an inside look at a suicide camp. 


Damien didn’t care if the mango juice covered half his face and made his hands and cheeks sticky—he was starving.

He didn’t think about the various piles of feces he and his brother had left in the Androsian pit, having nowhere else to leave them and nothing much to wipe with, surrounded by small glossy leaves, mounds of damp dirt, and swollen ripe fruit.

Mango used to be Damien’s favorite fruit—both the smaller, ovoid, yellow ones and the large, multicolor, more rounded ones—but he wasn’t so sure he could eat them again if he and his brother ever escaped; his stomach now got sick from them, but they were the only food and drink besides the small, yellow pigeon plums that fell in from trees above.

Damien was grateful for the visible chunk of clear aqua sky and the armies of trees all around above them, but he couldn’t see how it was possible to climb out of the hole he and his little brother had fallen in.

From day one he was sorry he’d brought Mikey along—only six, Mikey couldn’t stop crying although he pretended bravery sometimes, frequently offering up stupid, hopeful suggestions. At first Damien got mad at him, but then he remembered the three years he had on his brother—of course he was smarter. If Damien had fallen into a pit at six like Mikey, he too might have suggested they practice jumping so they could jump high enough to bound out of the bushy pit one day. Perhaps he too would have thought one of them could stand on the other’s shoulders and they could get out that way—although that suggestion wasn’t so stupid; Damien had actually tried it, managing to hoist Mikey onto his shoulders, but the pit was deeper than their combined eight-foot height. If Damien had been six, maybe he also would’ve kept saying their parents would find them soon, then cry quietly in a corner when he thought his big brother wasn’t looking.

Damien had lost count of how long they’d been in the hole. He remembered night falling without their parents finding them, then another day, then another night and day. Then days and nights began running together in his head. Perhaps they were on day eight by now.

“Mikey, how long we been down here?”

His brother looked up from nibbling on plums.

“Six days,” he said with finality after a few seconds.

Damien felt surprised. But then again, what did a six-year-old know? Mikey couldn’t even remember not to put his hands in his hair after eating a mango so that when he slept through the cool night, leaves wouldn’t stick to it.

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Friday, June 7, 2013

"At The Office" by Katy Baker (Short Story)

Genre:  Erotica

Type of Short Story:  Short Story

Summary:  College student Lucy Williams has been having a steamy affair with her best friend's father. She knows it's wrong. She knows she ought to forget him. But she can't. Richard Smyth has become a fire in her blood. A fire she can't quench. Needing to see him again, she decides to confront him at his workplace. Will Richard be pleased to see her? Will he give her what she most desires? Or will her dreams come crashing down?


“What are you doing here, Lucy?” Richard said at last. 

The sound of Richard’s voice as it washed over Lucy’s skin made her body tingle. Desire flared within her, breath quickening, heat building between her legs. 

“Why do you think?” she replied. “To see you. I was worried. Melissa says you and Claire are having problems.” 

This answer didn’t seem to please him. Something flashed in his eyes. Anger? 

He shook his head, shoved back his chair and climbed to his feet. He took two steps toward Lucy before suddenly spinning on his heel, throwing open the balcony door and striding outside.

She followed him out. A light wind whipped her auburn hair across her face and lifted the edges of her skirt. Richard leaned on the railing, gazing out over the city. His shoulders were hunched, his muscles taut. 

“Richard,” she breathed, laying a hand on his back. 

He tensed at her touch, like a startled animal ready to bolt. 

“Richard. Don’t ignore me.”

He spun suddenly, blue eyes alight with rage. “You had no right to come here! What did you think you were doing?”

Involuntarily, Lucy took a step back. Then, despite herself, wet heat burned between her legs as arousal flashed through her body. Richard was so masterful, so god-damned sexy when he was angry.

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