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Ferdie's Christmas-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Dead Meat-Fiction by Morgan Boyd
Twisted Love-Fiction by Mandi Rose
Run, Robby, Run, Part 4-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
All I Want for Christmas-Fiction by Carly Zee
Arterial Spray-Fiction by J. Brook
Murder Boots-Fiction by Jim Farren
The Blueberry Muffin Girl-Fiction by Michael Bauman
Standoff-Fiction by Lester L. Weil
Guns 'N Money-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Fester-Fiction by Mark Renney
The Start of a Bitchin' Year-Fiction by Luke Walters
Reprisal_Fiction by John W. Dennehy
Elevator-Fiction by Doug Hawley
Jamie, with the Blue Eyes-Fiction by Betty J. Sayles
All for the Love of a Good Burger-Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
Multiple Choice-Flash Fiction by Bill Baber
Karma-Flash Fiction by Dr. I. M. Irascible
That Poe Story-Flash Fiction by Chris McGinley
Nome-Flash Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Underestimated-Poem by Marci McKim
The Stream of Life-Poem by Aiki Mann
Christmas Tale-Poem by Joe Balaz
In Loving Memory Of-Poem by Michael Marrotti
The Tattooed Man-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
You Got a Friend-Poem by Jerry Vilhotti
70,000 Birds-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Migrations #1-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
at the crest-Poem by Meg Baird
Gottingen Street 1998-Poem by Meg Baird
a subtle karate pose-Poem by Mark Young
The chains coil up into helical structures-Poem by Mark Young
Dream I'd Like to Forget-Poem by Alan Britt
Near Dawn-Poem by Alan Britt
Mischievous Ghosts-Poem by Alan Britt
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
The Gazing Ball
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Art by Ann Marie Rhiel 2017







Cindy Rosmus



“On your way back,” Mom said, “stop down the bin and bring up the Christmas tree.”

 Pop groaned.

 Damn, Mary knew he was thinking. Can’t even enjoy my fuckin’ beer.

 The “Christmas tree” was old, like two feet tall. Silver, with gold balls already on it. Who has time to trim a tree? Mom always said.

 Not you, Mary thought. Mom just had time for cigarettes and soap operas.

 A “Charlie Brown tree,” Mary wanted. From that new TV show they just saw. A tiny, real tree that smelled so good. Each time they passed the lot, that fresh Christmas tree smell almost made her cry.

She bet St. Jude’s other fourth-graders had real trees. Even her weird friends, like Dizzy Deb, whose mom did dope.

  Just once, Mary thought, can’t we get a real one?

 Cigarette dangling from her lips, Mom wrapped a gift for the super’s daughter. Cheap paper, she used, with Santas on it, even though the kid was like fourteen. Mary was nine, but had never believed in Santa.

 Dear Santa, she might’ve written, bring me a Mom who likes me. And a school with no nuns. And no mean kids, like Ricky Kelly.

 In five minutes, Pop was back with the tree. 

“Back so fast?” Mom said, through her smoke. “Lenny out of beer?”

 Pop dumped the tree on the rug. “Fuckin’ Ferdie was there.”

 Mom’s lip curled. They both looked sideways at Mary, who left the room.

In the bathroom, she sat on the tub’s edge. Ferdie was the super’s son. Or . . . something. Nobody was sure what. Sometimes he looked like a guy, with blond hair, and too many freckles. But lately, his wavy hair was getting longer, and blonder. And he walked like a girl.

“Hi, ladies!” When they saw him in the hallway, Mom squeezed Mary’s hand hard.

“Filomena!” Ferdie even talked like a girl. “My mom says to call her. Mary . . . gorgeous sweater, girl!”

Mary beamed. The pink sweater hid her oversized St. Jude’s uniform. Ferdie liked to make people feel good.

“Wishes he had one like it,” Mom sneered.

Nobody cared if Ferdie heard them. People were so mean.

Like Ricky Kelly, Mary thought.

At Lenny’s Bar, people like Pop left when Ferdie walked in. Perched next to Pop, Mary drank ginger ale.

This week, Ferdie wore a Santa cap. “Take that stupid thing off,” Lenny said. “Mrs. Claus.” People snickered.

Smiling, Ferdie had taken off the cap and set it on Mary’s head. He winked, like they had a secret.

“Get offa her,” Pop said, but Mary winked back.

 At home later, she ate Devil Dogs while Mom cooked dinner.

             “Ferdie,” Mom began. “Ferdie is a . . . freak. He doesn’t like girls.”

             “I’m a girl,” Mary said. “He likes me.”

              Mom picked up the salt shaker, then put it back down. She rarely salted meat. “God said . . .”

              Mary stopped eating. All day at school, she’d been hearing scary things God said.

“ ‘I made man and woman.’ For a reason.” Mom’s eyes gleamed. “People do piggish things. Disgusting things, with each other. But when they’re married, it’s beautiful.”

                 “Huh?” Mary crumpled the wrapper.

                 “That’s how babies are made.” Mom angrily lit a cigarette. “But when two men do it . . .”

                They go straight to hell, Mary thought.

                 When the door opened, they both jumped. Pop trudged in, carrying beer in a cardboard container. “Hey,” he said, drunkenly. “Guess who’s outside, handin’ out fuckin’ presents?”

          “Where you going?” Mom said, as Mary snuck out the door.

          “Ho, ho, ho!” On the front steps, Ferdie was playing Santa, for real. Or one of his elves. “Merry Christmas!” Out of a large sack, he pulled beautifully-wrapped packages. Some had big bows, others little dolls, and toys on top.

But few kids had come for the loot. Mary just saw Billy Ruger, whose dad had hung himself, and another neighborhood kid, Eddie-Somebody, who Pop said was retarded.

As Mary sat beside him, Ferdie looked sly. From behind, he brought out a small silver box, with a huge gold bow on top. It looked like their Christmas tree. “Special, for you,” Ferdie told her.

She handled the gift as if it was actually made of precious metals.

“Not gonna open it?” Ferdie said. “Wanna wait till Christmas?”

Mary set the gift down. “At school, right? There’s this boy, Ricky . . .”

“You like him?” When Mary shook her head, he said, “Calls you names? Makes you cry?”

Mary felt like crying, now. “Says, ‘Hey, Zilenski, how many Devil Dogs you bring for lunch today? A thousand?’”

Ferdie pulled out two candy canes, handed her one. “Wow. I can only eat five hundred.”

Mary smiled. “He put this tack on my seat. They all laughed. ‘Now you’ll pop, like a balloon,’ one kid said. It hurt so bad.” Like she still felt it, she got up and rubbed her butt.

Ferdie tried not to laugh.

“Sister yelling at him just made it worse.”

“Didn’t tell your folks,” Ferdie said, knowingly. When Mary looked at him, he added, “Never told mine anything.”

She studied his face. Wisps of blond hair stuck out from the Santa cap. His eyebrows were thin, like he’d tweezed them. And skin was lighter, so you didn’t see his freckles as much. Makeup, she realized.

“We’re alike,” he said. “We keep stuff to ourselves.”

Mary stared across the street. It was late afternoon, so nobody’s Christmas lights were on. But tinsel garlands were twisted all over, up people’s banisters and along window frames. Next to the tinsel, the dead bulbs looked so depressing.

 “Our selves . . .” Ferdie said, “is all we’ve got.”

It started snowing. Mysterious, tiny flakes that Mary might’ve imagined. House by house, the colored lights went on. You could almost smell families’ real Christmas trees.

Maybe Ricky has a fake tree, she thought. Or . . . none.

Maybe his folks were weirder than hers. Maybe he got his meanness from them.

Back inside, Mary opened Ferdie’s gift, secretly, in the bathroom.

False eyelashes.

Smiling, she ran one finger through them.

Outside, suddenly, there was lots of noise. Footsteps, and yelling. Something bad was happening. Not a fire, ‘cos she didn’t hear sirens.

 Out in the kitchen, it was quiet. The tasteless roast simmered on the stove.

Mom stood in the doorway, whispering to neighbors in the hall. Nosy Mrs. Lynch from A-5, anyway.

What? Mary thought. But if she went out there, Mom would smack her back in.

By the time Pop got home, the roast was dried up. Thinking Mary couldn’t hear, he and Mom talked in the hall.

“He’s . . . dead,” he said. “They . . . bashed his fuckin’ head in.” He didn’t sound like himself.

“Who?” Mom said. “Who did?”

Pop didn’t say. “Don’t let her go out.” If he was drunk, he wasn’t, now. “Fil, there’s blood . . . all over the steps.”

Mary gasped. 

Later, when things had got quiet, she sat in the dark kitchen, alone.

As usual, Pop had drunk himself to sleep. In the next room, Mom whispered on the phone, about Ferdie’s mom.

My God, to lose a child, and at Christmas, yet, she bet Mom had said.

In total darkness, they couldn’t see she had on false eyelashes. After crying so hard, she was surprised they’d stayed on.

Yes, even a freak like that.




Cindy is a Jersey girl who looks like a Mob Wife and talks like Anybody’s from West Side Story. She works out a lot, so needs no excuse to do whatever she wants. She hates shopping and shoes, chick lit and chick flicks. She’s been published in the usual places, such as Hardboiled; Shotgun Honey, Twisted Sister, A Twist of Noir; Beat to a Pulp; Pulp Metal; Thrillers, Killers, n’ Chillers; Mysterical-E; and Powder Burn Flash. She is the editor of the ezine, Yellow Mama. She’s also a Gemini, an animal rights activist, and a Christian.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2017