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The Hunter-Fiction by Sebnem Sanders
Back in the Day-Fiction by A. F. Knott
Red Velvet, White Lies-Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Headhunters-Fiction by Gary Lovisi
Holiday Season-Fiction by Don Stoll
Milky Way Galaxy. Solar System. Earth.-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Angel-Fiction by Gary Clifton
Backpage Baby-Fiction by Robb White
Elegant on the Outside-Fiction by Bruce Costello
A Life Examined-Fiction by Doug Hawley
Run, Baby, Run-Fiction by J. Brooke
The Pursuit of Presley Penguin-Fiction by Michael D. Davis
Neighbors-Fiction by M. A. De Neve
Strange Attractors-Fiction by Jeff Houlahan
The Ghost of Christmas Never-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Best Enemies Forever-Flash Fiction by Walter Giersbach
Glitter in the Dark-Flash Fiction by Dini Armstrong
Spirit Intoxicating Babe in the Woods-Flash Fiction by Monique Saier
My Only Christmas Story-Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
Ode to Old Brooklyn-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
Bacardi Taillights Machine Gun Farewell-Poem by John Short
Pearl Diver-Poem by Wayne F. Burke
Abandoned Sofas-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Kafka Museum-Poem by Henry Bladon
Elegy for Frank-Poem by David Spicer
Schmoozy-Woozy-Poem by David Spicer
Dangerous-Poem by Marc Carver
Eternal-Poem by Marc Carver
The Race has Just Begun-Poem by J.J.Campbell
The Endless Nightmare-Poem by J. J. Campbell
The Last Word-Poem by Meg Baird
Vision of Steel-Poem by Meg Baird
Zen-Poem by Meg Baird
Estrangement-Poem by Brian Rihlmann
First World Herd-Poem by Brian Rihlmann
Christmas Morning in an East Hollywood Hovel-Poem by Brian Rihlmann
A Season of Bailing Wire and Duct Tape-Poem by Brian Rihlmann
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 Noelle Richardson 2019


Gary Clifton



“You dumb little bitch,” He spat in a hoarse whisper. “You ‘post to be earnin’ cash, not runnin’ the fuckin’ dog pound. Mr. Wilson, one of my best customers, is back in the bedroom waitin’. He’d got his dick in one hand and a hunnert bucks in the other. And turn off that damned Christmas music.”

Sherry turned away as he clicked the radio off, shielding the half-starved, little black mongrel. “Please don’t hit me again, Buck. He was under the back stoop, wet and hungry. I’ll just feed him scraps when I fix your supper.”

Buck, already drunk and stoned, slurred through his scraggly beard, “Bitch, you ain’t earned a dime today. Now lose the damned pooch and them clothes and get your ass back there. Earn me a couple more quarts of tequila at least for Christ’s sake.”

“My god, Duke, tomorrow’s Christmas Eve. Most of them men that come around are home with their families. We ain’t gonna have many visitors.”

“Strip, bitch.” Buck stepped partly down the hall and raised his voice.  “Gotta a sweetheart comin’ up Mr. Wilson. She gives great head.”

“Buck, please, let me have a condom. Wilson is a smelly old man. I still got them marks on my back where he whipped me with his belt last time.” Sherry brushed passed him, nude. He hadn’t seen her hide the dog in the trash accumulated beneath a fold out dining table in the filthy trailer. She’d tossed her clothes atop him next to the door. Shivering and grateful for dry warmth, he huddled, nearly invisible.

“Get your ass in there, dumbass. Before he changes his mind. And get the hunnert ‘fore he puts up his hard-on and his cash.” His drunken laugh was like tearing metal.

Sherry had met Buck on the bus down from Lubbock. Race car driver, he’d said, coming to Dallas to sign a contract with a major sponsor. The only race he’d had was running from the cops. He’d moved her into a sleazy trailer court and made her sell herself to any john who showed up. She’d run away from home in Lubbock. While her mom worked evenings at the truck stop, her stepdad Wilber, a bigger shit than Duke, couldn’t keep his hands off her. When he raped her again on her seventeenth birthday, she’d fled in desperation. 

Duke, honey-talking on the bus, had seemed to be a new beginning. It was, all right, except he was a brutal, low-rate pimp. She’d called her mom collect and learned Wilbur had been shot and killed in a Lubbock barroom brawl. If she could get the sixty-one-dollar bus fare, she’d run. But she’d tried to run a week earlier with no money. Duke had caught her at the bus station and beat the shit out of her. Now, in despair, she endured Ol’ smelly Wilson’s crude sexual abuse, feeling painfully alone and helpless. 

Wilson swaggered down the hallway tugging at his fly. He handed Duke the hundred dollars. “Fine little piece of ass, Duke. Nice tits. Loves pain. I got her broke in for whoever’s next.” As the door slammed behind him, Duke called out, “Sherry, get your ecked ass in here.” He tossed the five twenty-dollar bills on a coffee table.

In pain from the treatment she’d just received from Wilson, she stumbled down the hall. “My turn, baby.” Duke threw her to the floor, took a long pull on his tequila bottle, dropped his greasy jeans, and threw himself on her. The soft growl of the forlorn little dog went unnoticed.


“Damn, sarge,” young officer Jackson said. “You missed that little honey runnin’ round buck nekked tryin’ to pull on duds and hold her dog at the same time.”

The sergeant studied the burned hulk. “Man, that’s a hell of a fire. One of them damned cheap little trailers get started, they’re a roman candle. Looks like the mope tried to crawl out the door. He’s mostly burned from the waist down. Whud the medical examiner say?”

“Uh, burns and blood loss. Sherry, the little cutie there says the pimp, Duke what’s his name was slammin’ tequila and smoking a joint when she dozed on the sofa. Looks like the dumb bastard passed out and set hisself afire. That tequila ain’t gasoline, but it will burn. He’s sure as hell no loss.”  

“You said, burns plus blood loss…?

“Sarge, as the dirtbag tried to crawl out the door, see his jeans come partly off… managed to catch his package on the metal door sill.  He mighta made it…tore his balls clean off, then he couldn’t get clear. Burned right there in the door.”

“The chick his ol’ lady?”

“Naw, she said she was jes’ crashin’ for the night. Lucky ol’ Duke killed his damn fool self. He’d a turned her out sure as hell if she stayed. She’s only been in Dallas three weeks. Says she needs to get home to mama in Lubbock. She’s got a hundred bucks to buy a ticket and a cage for her mutt if I give her a lift to the bus station. Think that would be okay, sarge?”

“Yeah, just don’t get caught havin’ a quickie on the way.”

The young officer motioned Sherry over. “I got the okay to take you to the station. We can stop at the pet shop and get a carrier for your dog. Whut’s the little runt’s name, honey…and does he bite?” He scratched the little dog’s ears.

“Angel. He’s my Christmas Guardian angel. And he’d never bite anybody.”

The sergeant grinned. “He don’t look so ferocious to me. Jackson, get started for the bus terminal. Sherry can be home for Christmas Eve if you hurry the hell up.” Angel burrowed his head into Sherry’s hoodie. There was no way the cops could see the blood on his muzzle.

“Merry Christmas, Sherry,” the Sarge called out as they walked away.

Gary Clifton, forty years a cop has been shot at, shot, stabbed, lied to and about. and often misunderstood.  He currently lives on a dusty north Texas ranch where he doesn't give a damn if school keeps or not. Clifton has published approximately 120 short fiction pieces, included upwards of fifty in Bewildering Stories Mag, He currently has three novels available through Amazon  and other outlets: Nights on Fire, Murdering Homer, and Dragon Marks Eight. He blogs at www.bareknucklethoughts.org

Noelle Richardson comes from a relatively large family and has been illustrating and painting for about twelve years. She writes a little on the side, plays a couple of instruments and dabbles in tattoo design.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2019