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The Last Meal of Laughing Boy Reilly-Fiction by Jason Butkowski
Miss Pearl-Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Vegas, Napalm Strike-Fiction by j. brooke
Favorites-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Salton Sea-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
We Must Never Find Out-Fiction by Sam Graham
Collateral Damage-Fiction by Jim Farren
Radiant Night-Fiction byPauline Duchesneau
Late Returns-Fiction by P. K. Augustyn
Bad Influences-Fiction by Marci McKim
Where My Fathers-Fiction by Willie Smith
Nothing I Could Do-Fiction by Brian J. Smith
The Magician-Flash Fiction by Jon Park
Sky Toucher-Falsh Fiction by Jerry Vilhotti
Dark Morning-Flash Fiction by M. G. Allen
What Might Happen in Vegas-Flash Fiction by Bill Baber
San Mateo County Easter Egg Hunt-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Doing Some Resaearch-Poem by Roy Dorman
A Lack of Rain-Poem by Michael Keshigian
In Traffic-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
Distinguished Souls-Poem by J. J. Campbell
The Ghosts of Murdered Children-Poem by J. J. Campbell
Digging Season-Poem by Christopher Hivner
Sometimes the Light is My Enemy-Poem by Christopher Hivner
Char-Poem by Robert Beveridge
Gone Feral-Poem by Robert Beveridge
Rat Tamer-Poem by Robert Beveridge
Imaginary Hedgehogs-Poem by Michelle Hartman
I Knew Him when He was Six-Poem by Michelle Hartman
A Reason for Everything-Poem by Michelle Hartman
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 Hillary Lyon 2018

Miss Pearl


Hillary Lyon



For twenty-five years—more than half my life—I bowed to Duncan’s whims, gave in to his arguments, and gave up on trying to compromise on anything. He was stubborn—as his mother gleefully told me when we were newly engaged. No, I should’ve told her, he was a bully. Subtle in his methods; if he’d been a woman, folks would have called him manipulative. He was a master in the art of gas-lighting. I suspect he learned it at his mother’s knee.


Well, I’d had enough. He always promised me whatever he thought would shut me up—a ski trip this winter holiday, for sure! A visit to my aged aunt in the Midwest, just as soon as he finishes this project at work! A new car when we get our tax return! That gorgeous pearl ring for our tenth anniversary—the one in the MOMA catalog!


Fifteen anniversaries later, still no ring. But what he did give me was a trip to Vail. Well, he went to Colorado with his “business associate” Camellia. I got to stay home.


So when he returned, two weeks later, with a new found love of raw oysters, I asked if he’d found any pearls embedded in those slimy globs. You know, for my promised anniversary ring. He laughed, as much at my question as at my new hair-cut. Loves to make me cry. A real keeper, this guy.


Seeing my tears, he had an uncharacteristic moment of remorse. Or did he? He suggested we should go out to eat, to a nice place. Dress up and get an Uber. I know what he’s doing: Get me out in public and drop bad news in my lap—see, if we’re in a nice, crowded place, he knows I won’t make a scene. He’s done this before.


He even lets me choose the restaurant—this really bleeps my radar. I pick Chauncy’s, the most hoity-toity seafood restaurant here in this congested, cement-smothered city. I expected him to argue for some place cheaper and less posh, but he doesn’t. Now the needle of my internal alarm is in the red. I make a reservation for Friday night.


Date night comes and finds us seated at a table covered with an imported Irish linen cloth, little silver salt-and-pepper shakers, and a single flickering candle in a tasteful cut-crystal holder. Would have been romantic if we still loved each other.


He insisted on ordering oysters for our appetizer, smiling at me as he did so. It was either his “I know a secret smile,” or his “I’m going to educate you on the finer things in life you sad little lumpkin” smile. Actually, both smiles are the same smile.


Oysters came with a fresh basket of warm bread and chilled butter. Duncan dove into the platter of oysters, sucking them down one after the other. Did he even taste them? I took a crusty roll and a bit of butter. The butter knife had an ornate, weighted handle. I never understood why butter knives had such dull, rounded tips. Shouldn’t a knife have a sharp end?


Lost in this train of thought, I didn’t notice Duncan was in distress until he slammed his fist on the table, knocking over both his glass of Merlot and the burning candle. Jeeze, set the place on fire, why don’t ya? I slapped out the fire, which did burn the table cloth, as he fell over backwards in his antique Chippendale chair. I think I heard it crack as he hit the floor. Between the ruined table cloth and the broken chair, how much was this dinner going to cost us?


Dutiful wife that I am, I rushed to his side, waving the concerned waiter away. “He’s choking!” the white-coated teen exclaimed. “Yes, I know,” I said, feeling calmer than I’d ever felt in my life. I reached up to the table and grabbed what was handy—the butter knife. “We have to open his airway,” I said to the flailing waiter. “You go call for an ambulance, while I take care of him.” The server ran off in a blind panic.


Duncan looked into my eyes. He was terrified; for the first time in his life, he had no control over anything. “Not to worry, big guy. I’ll fix you right up.” I held his head back by the hair with one hand, and with the other wielding the butter knife, I dug into his throat. “Gotta get some air in there,” I said as he clutched at my arm. “Let go of me, that hurts and you’re going to leave a mark,” I hissed under my breath, so that the other diners couldn’t hear.


I shoved and twisted that dull butter knife—there was more resistance than you’d think, what with the skin and muscle and tendons and blood—all that blood. All over the restaurant’s plush carpet. It will cost a fortune to clean. I wonder if it would be more economically feasible to just re-carpet the dining room.


And there it is! The source of all this drama: A pearl, misshapen but beautiful. As big as your thumbnail, too. How could he ingest something that size, that solid, and not know it until he choked? But that’s Duncan: Always in such a thoughtless hurry. I held the blood-wet pearl up to Duncan’s unfocused eyes. “Looky here,” I whispered  close to his ear as his consciousness faded, “a pearl for my anniversary ring. At last!”


I put my napkin over his face to spare the other diners his expired gray countenance, grotesquely twisted in agony as it was. Death ain’t pretty. But my new ring sure is!

Hillary Lyon lives in southern Arizona, where she is the founder of and editor for Subsynchronous Press. She’s lived in France, Brazil, Canada, and several states in the U.S. Her stories have appeared recently in Theme of Absence, Black Petals, 365 Tomorrows, Night to Dawn, Eternal Haunted Summer, and numerous horror anthologies.  hillarylyon.wordpress.com

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2018