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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
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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
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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Art by A. F. Knott 2019

The Ghost of Christmas Never




Cindy Rosmus




“Not that one!” Lew said, smirking. “The branch below.”

Ass high, Nina the crack-whore hooked the ornament on the lower branch.

“Lower!” Snake laughed. “Lower, baby!”

Oh, jeez, I thought.

“Fuck you!” In red spandex pants, Nina was hot shit, trimming Scratch’s fake tree. Playing to these sex-hungry dopes.

Her pipe, I thought, will be full tonight.

Behind the bar, I sliced lemons. The bar was covered with Christmas balls, loose tinsel, strings of lights. No customers, ‘cept for Nina and Snake, who had like ten bucks between them. Lew was less Grinch-like than usual. Must’ve been Nina’s pants.

“Gimme the lights,” she said.

“Lights should’ve gone on, first,” Snake said.

“Thanks! You dumb shit!”

“Shots!” Lew said. Held up his empty, waved around the bar.

“What?” I almost sliced my hand. “For real?”

Jack, I poured us, Honey for Nina, who usually licked it off her fingers when it spilled. Tonight we downed them fast, before Lew changed his mind.

“Why you so happy today?” Snake asked.

Lew shrugged. “Ahhh, it’s Christmas. You know. Makes you sit back and appreciate shit. Fun times, people you love.”

Love. Nina, Snake, and I shared a look. Us?

Behind the bar, Lew poured himself another. “My mom raised me, herself. Dad left when I was two. Fucking piece of shit.”

Snake stifled a yawn.

“When I was seven . . .” Lew said, “I asked for a puppy. But Mom said they ran out, that Christmas.”

On the ceiling fan above, there was tinsel. A real fire hazard. Good thing the fan was off.

Donny, I thought, suddenly. He would’ve turned it on.

Live dangerously, darling.

“I mean,” Lew went on, “That’s what Santa said.”

Tears burned my eyes. Four months ago, Donny had ODed, drowned in his own puke. My soul mate was gone, forever.

“And Santa don’t lie.” Lew sounded choked-up.

Donny had lied . . . to me . . . and Nina . . .

Good luck, bitch, I thought, as she untangled the strings of lights.

And Desiree. That nut with the Medusa hair, and goofy glasses.

Love you, darling, Donny had told each of us.

“A puppy,” Lew said. “Just some little mutt. That’s all I wanted.”

I’d never seen him so nostalgic, remembering fifty Christmases ago.

Right after Thanksgiving, his wife moved down the shore. “Temporarily,” he said, sarcastically. Not one tear shed. Now, he was weepy over imaginary puppies.

“Christmas,” he said, now, “is magical. Brings joy to every-fucking—"

 The door opened, real slow. But nobody came in.

It was like 5 PM, but so dark out. Early sunsets made us all want to slit our throats.

“Aw, shit,” Lew’s whole mood changed, as a dark-hooded figure came into Scratch’s.

Instantly, Magie Noire filled the place. I gagged.


As she took down her hood, Snake said, “‘The Ghost of Christmas Future.’ ”

“ ‘Future?’ ” Lew said. “More like. . . Never.’ ”

Much as I loved Donny, he was dead. Nights, I couldn’t stop crying. I knew he’d never show up at Scratch’s, again.

But Desiree swore, “He’ll be back!”  

In his old seat, right where Nina was entangling the lights. The same rickety stool Donny claimed, “gave me splinters in my ass.” That he’d still sat on, every time.

Desiree approached “Donny’s” stool.

“Port,” she said, in a choked voice. “Two snifters.”

“Port?” Lew said.

“Two?” Nina said. “For you, and who?” She’d flung the lights aside.

I’d almost jumped over the bar.

Smirking, Lew snatched the money and poured two snifters. “That’s it,” he said. “No more port.”

As Desiree raised hers to her lips, I eyed the other.

 Their last time here together, her red, horn-rimmed glasses were on Donny’s face. All dimples and jokes, he was. Looking smug, Desiree faked reading port dregs like gypsy tea leaves. “The future,” she told me, “will astound you.”

Astound, my ass, I’d thought. Death row for killing you both.

But Donny died first.

Again, my heart felt squashed. These shiny red balls, tinsel, the garland I longed to wrap around Desiree’s throat, all screamed that there’d be no Christmas for Donny. That mine was fucked, forever.

“Oh, my God,” Nina said, pointing. “Look!”

Desiree sipped her port, as if in a trance. Beside her, the other snifter slowly, mysteriously, emptied itself.

“What the fuck?” Snake peered closer.

Lew trudged over. “Now what?”

“The wine . . .” Nina said. “drank itself.”

“Donny drank it,” Desiree said, “He still loves his port.”

Snickering, Lew grabbed the Jack Honey. “Bet he won’t know the difference.”

Nina almost beat Desiree to the snifter.

“His next’s on me!” said Nina.

“That’s it!” Lew said. “Spook-whisperin’, spook-guzzlin’. What’s next? Spook-fuck—”

Under the Christmas tree, Nina appeared, posing seductively.

Smiling, Desiree took a jeweled pill box out of her cloak. She popped something into her mouth, chased it with port.

 Lew pointed over at Nina. “Beat’cha,” he told Desiree, who didn’t answer.

Snake nudged me. “That was a trick, right? How that wine just vanished?”

“No,” Desiree whispered. Even behind glasses, her eyes looked weird. “No trick.”

I was feeling really anxious. Like whatever was wrong here would soon eat away at me, too.

“No trick,” Desiree said. And she didn’t beat me. Because . . . tonight . . . Donny . . .  and I . . .”

She slumped over on the bar.

“Shit!” Lew said. “The fuck’d she take?”

“Hey!” Snake had Desiree by the shoulders. Her glasses fell off.

Her eyes were rolled way up in her head, with just the whites showing. Out of her mouth, white foamy shit was coming.

Nina sniffed the air, as I dialed 9-1-1. “What’s that smell?”

“Almonds?” Lew sniffed harder. “What the fuck . . . where’d she get cyanide?”

I was shaking. “What’s your emergency?” the dispatcher asked me.


“Um,” I said, when Lew glared at me. “Possible OD?”

*     *     *

Almost closing time, it was, when the last cop left. Desiree was in the morgue, like she’d wanted. Somehow, Nina had scored crack. She was back to maniacally decorating that tree. You could smell almonds, like sweet liqueur had spilled all over.

God, I thought, no more Amaretto, ever.

Again, it was us four, as no customers could come in, during either the removal of the body, or the grilling.

“You said ‘OD,’” a fat, sneering cop said.

And the detective: “But you don’t OD on . . .”


How did Lew know so much? Same as he knew so much other shit . . .

That ate away at me. 

“I wasn’t sure,” I told them. I felt guilty, like I was lying. Like they’d searched my head, seen me hanging Desiree with that garland.

But I hadn’t.

And Donny. I hadn’t killed him, either.

Were they really together . . . over there?

Lew poured shots for us all. “Hadda do it here,” he muttered. “Couldn’t wait till she fuckin’ got home.”

“It was planned.” Snake looked sad. Alive, he could give two shits about Desiree. But now that she . . .

And Donny . . .

I seethed with jealousy. Sick as it was. And I felt physically sick, almost like I’d poisoned myself, too.

I imagined the burning, what the cyanide did to her throat, and brain. I could almost taste it. Her last thoughts had to have been about. . .


The mysterious snifter was gone, in a bag, just like Desiree’s, so the forensics nuts could analyze them. Prove us all liars. Maybe accomplices.

Still, I knew what I saw. And what I was feeling, now.

Lew was right. We had run out of port.

But from the other side, I heard a cork popping.




Cindy is a Jersey girl who looks like a Mob Wife & talks like Anybody’s from West Side Story. She works out 5-6 days a week, so needs no excuse to drink or do whatever the hell she wants She’s been published in the usual places, such as Shotgun Honey, Hardboiled, Dark Dossier, A Twist of Noir, Megazine, Beat to a Pulp, Out of the Gutter, Mysterical-E, and Twisted Sister. She is the editor/art director of the ezine, Yellow Mama. She’s a Gemini, a Christian, and an animal rights activist. She has recently been branching out into photo illustration, under the guidance and mentoring of Ann Marie Rhiel.

Check out Cindy’s podcast interview on WRITING ITSELF:


A. F. Knott is a self-taught collage artist focused on book layout and book cover design as well networking in conjunction with Hekate Publishing, one of its missions, bringing together artist and writer. Sometimes seen selling in New York City's Union Square Park. Work can be found on 

flickr.com/photos/afknott/ Any exchange of ideas welcome: anthony_knott@hekatepublishing.com

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2019