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The Storm-Fiction by Sean O'Keefe
Claire Morgan's Key to Happiness-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Badass Ted's Christmas Adventure-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
As Good on Him as on a Dead Man-Fiction by Jeff Esterholm
Using Your Kit-Fiction by Andrew J. Hogan
The Apathetic Tide-Fiction by Alan Edward Small
Christmas Karma-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Salt Lake City Slaughterhouse-Fiction by J. Brooke
Mean Mama-Fiction by Tom Barker
All You Can Drink $5.00-Fiction by D. L. Shirey
Shell Shocked-Fiction by M. A. De Neve
The Present-Mark Joseph Kevlock
Red Christmas-Flash Fiction by Morgan Boyd
Samurai Santa-Flash Fiction by BAM
Guns and Rose-Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
Christmas Eve Blow and Doll Houses-Flash Fiction by Luke Walters
Holly, Jolly-Flash Fiction by Mandi Rose
Pineapple-Poem by Cindy Rosmus
Life is Weird-Poem by Meg Baird
Appendages-Poem by Samuel Cardinale
The Means of Production-Poem by Robert Beveridge
Suicide of Living-Poem by John D. Robinson
It's On My List-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Hoarding Life-Poem by Michael Keshigian
Homeless in NYC-Poem by Michael Keshigian
Death Speaks-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
Time Stops-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
House of Un-Reality-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
The Ghosts of Borges-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
The Bitchers-Poem by David Spicer
Voltaire and the Literary Guerillas-Poem by David Spicer
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 Steve Cartwright 2018

“As Good on Him as on a Dead Man”


Jeff Esterholm


The day that Lucky Penny McAlister’s body was discovered, the mercury was flirting with thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit. His death fifteen hours before, give or take an hour, an hour and a half, occurred on a sixty-nine-degree day, a sensible sixty-nine since it was the last day of April. It made meteorological sense. But Sunday, the first of May, near freezing. To be honest, there is no meteorological sense to be made of this city, locked as it is into the extreme northwestern corner of Wisconsin. This rough diamond takes what blows in out of the east-northeast, off Lake Superior, or what rolls on it like a whiskey-dicked drunk, I’m not talking about my ex here, from the hills of Duluth. McAlister, let’s say, got caught up in the heat of the moment.

A kid in a heavy parka and shorts, those baggy britches promoting some professional football or baseball team, but now, so drab, a person couldn’t say which sport or team, the kid probably didn’t know, didn’t care, they were hand-me-downs, came bicycling down Main Street on Connor’s Point at 9:30 that Sunday morning, past the cement plant and grain elevators, as if it was planned. He found McAlister face up in the weeds near Howard’s Pocket, wet snow like rounds of Oreo cream filling covering his eyes, a rust-colored Great Lakes ship at anchor less than twenty feet away.

The kid, straddling what he called his trick bike, was struck by the snowy eyes, the blue cast to the face, the bluer lips. He pulled out his phone. “It’s me. Yeah. He’s still here.”

I thanked him. “Is the ball cap still there?”

There was a pause as he scanned the area. “Yeah.”

“You can have it.”


Young men bicycle throughout the city no matter the season or time of day. You might notice this. I did, early on. That it’s men, not women. Bicycling. And not on too expensive bikes with narrow razor tires or wearing skintight Day-Glo-colored racing uniforms. No costumes. Street clothes. In winter, yes, some use fat tire bikes, they often ride them year-round, while others prefer the tire chains ordered from Durango, Colorado, or that place in Finland. That is a business expense. The time of day might be when the taverns close, well after two or three in the morning, and then the young men can be seen bicycling to a house party, a girlfriend’s apartment, mom and dad’s basement, or some other night’s squat. It may be the middle of the day. My rule: special care with deliveries, day or night. They have lost their driver’s licenses through one too many DUIs or an all-of-the-above selection from the cafeteria plan of driving infractions. They do better on their bicycles. They know the city. They know streets, trails, paths, and alleys. The backyards where no fences will hem them in. They are adept at evading capture. Lucky Penny McAlister was arguably one of the best. One January night, twenty below zero, he eluded the police by biking down onto the frozen St. Louis River, looping in and out of the river’s ice-covered inlets.

My Lucky Penny.


On an overpass sidewalk fifteen years ago, after nearly being run over by a speeding white and yellow GMC Jimmy, he was dubbed Lucky Penny. The recent removal of a plantar wart from his right heel left him limping, but he and his two friends, both stoner Duluthians, made it to the other side thanks largely to McAlister’s efforts, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, that’s what they called themselves, after a trio of underground comic book characters, swearing at the already gone Jimmy and laughing, relieved to still be among the living.

“You tore ass, man,” one friend said to McAlister. “You hadn’t pulled us along, we’d all be a blood stain on Lake Avenue.”

“You are a fuckin’ lucky penny, man. Our lucky penny,” friend two said.

“Damn,” chimed the first. “Lucky. Penny. Lucky Penny McAlister.”

McAlister shook his head. He wasn’t one for superstitions or claiming luck as his own. Everything he did was accomplished by what he could do, physically, mentally, even at that young age. “Blow that smoke someone else’s way.”

To McAlister, Lucky Penny was a curse. But the nickname stuck to him, a plain name, like Bob or Joe to anybody else. To him, no. It was a curse.


He thought he was working under-the-radar jobs, shifting video gambling machines with a loaner Econoline from bar to bar in the county’s backwaters, until his rabbity awareness of the Sheriff’s Department directed him home, to the city, and the manufacture of synthetic drugs, cannabimimetics, and their sale. I pulled him in and told him that nothing was under the radar or small time. That he would have to pay. Lucky Penny was smart. I turned him as a CI. His talk resulted in convictions. The convictions wore down the competition. It was an easy flip to bring him into the bicycle crew.

Lucky Penny worked the northside of the city after his getaway on the ice-covered St. Louis River. The neighborhood is populated with fixed and low-income residents. It turns lucrative when the Great Lakes sailors are in port. Historically, the North End has always benefited from sailors’ dollars. Taverns, tippling houses, basement gambling dens. The red-light district. Money pocketed, police turned to look the other way.

These days, bicyclists, my young men, provide sales and service throughout the city.


After the call from the kid on Connor’s Point, Sunday morning’s second call came in from Captain of Detectives Joe Lofgren. I answered, “District Commander Sobczak,” feigning sleepiness. It was a day off.

“Anita, Lofgren. I’m on Connor’s Point. You’ll want to come out here. It’s your former CI. McAlister.”

By the time I arrived, our CSI team, or the one and a half individuals that make it up, the half a technical college intern, was finishing its work. A one-sided conversation roiled my head. I was telling Lucky Penny, on his back and dead, that this is what happens.


It’s what happens after this.

It’s something you don’t want to hear about from someone in the same business, someone who could turn into competition. We walked on Park Point beach in Duluth.

A fifty-five-year-old woman, a machinist at a garage door manufacturer outside a small Iron Range town, had died. “Did you know?” my colleague asked.

“Yes.” It was in the newspapers, on TV and radio. It was hard to miss.

“A fentanyl overdose.” Fentanyl. Neither of us use any of its street names.

“I heard that.” There had been an uptick in overdoses. The woman from the Iron Range was the most recent. People outside of law enforcement and outside of the trade wonder how that can happen: a fifty-five-year-old grandmother, factory worker, gardener, bowler, blue ribbon winner at last year’s county fair for her potato salad, dead from an opioid overdose. It happens. She could have been your retired neighbor. “Accidental,” I said.

He shrugged. “Yes and no. She didn’t know what she was doing. It wasn’t the best.”

It happened on the Iron Range. In Minnesota. It was his product. “What are you going to do?”

“I was going to ask you.”

I looked at him.

Then he told me that his people had already determined that McAlister made the sale. He was freelancing. Duluth, the Iron Range, rural northeastern Minnesota. Lucky Penny. He was bucking the existing fentanyl and OxyContin trade.

He bounced the question back to me. “What are you going to do?”

Lucky Penny. He made good money working the North End for me. Too good.


Lofgren finished his preliminary report out to me. The Lake Superior wind blew cold and birders, Connor’s Point, though light industrial now, is perfect for birding, left off with their nature activity and with the local news teams crowded the yellow tape.

“You want to take a closer look, Anita, before they take the body away?”

I was quiet, standing apart, but then said, “He always wore a baseball cap. The N and Y were black like the rest of the cap. Did you see that anywhere, Joe?”

Lofgren glanced over the scene. “No.” The grass and weeds, thistle, bindweed, burdock, brome, were a uniform dun, flattened by the winter’s snow. The fresh overnight traces would leave soon enough. The dirty, ice-hardened patches, they might last until June. Nothing was going to sprout green anytime soon, even if it was the first of May. “I think something like that would’ve stood out. We’ll check along Howard’s Pocket.”

I nodded. “I remember that he was proud of that cap. If this was gang related,” I looked at Lofgren, “The killer may have just decided that the cap looked as good on him as on the dead man.”

Lofgren wrote in his pad. “Yeah. We’ll follow up on that. Get it to the gang taskforce.”

“You take care of it, Joe. Don’t let the state and feds get the credit. We have to take care of our own.”

He smiled. “Right.”

And I knew that cold May day where in our city the kid in the parka, shorts, and dead man’s baseball cap would be bicycling. The particular street, trail, path, or alley. Or, if not on his trick bike, where he would be at rest, earbuds in.

He wouldn’t be hard to find.

Jeff Esterholm's work has previously appeared in Yellow Mama, Shotgun Honey, Akashic Books’ Mondays Are Murder, Crime Factory, and Mysterical-E, as well as in Midwestern Gothic, Cheap Pop, Regarding Arts & Letters, Wisconsin People & Ideas, and Flash Fiction Italia. In 2013, he received the Larry and Eleanor Sternig Award for Short Fiction from the Council for Wisconsin Writers.

It's well known that an artist becomes more popular by dying, so our pal Steve Cartwright is typing his bio with one hand while pummeling his head with a frozen mackerel with the other. Stop, Steve! Death by mackerel is no way to go! He (Steve, not the mackerel) has a collection of spooky toons, Suddenly Halloween!, available at Amazon.com.    He's done art for several magazines, newspapers, websites, commercial and governmental clients, books, and scribbling - but mostly drooling - on tavern napkins. He also creates art pro bono for several animal rescue groups. He was awarded the 2004 James Award for his cover art for Champagne Shivers. He recently illustrated the Cimarron Review, Stories for Children, and Still Crazy magazine covers. Take a gander ( or a goose ) at his online gallery: www.angelfire.com/sc2/cartoonsbycartwright . And please hurry with your response - that mackerel's killin' your pal, Steve Cartwright.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2018