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Oklahoma-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Claire's Disposable Distraction-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Doing the Trash-Fiction by Sean McElhiney
Kinks-Fiction by Don Stoll
Heads or Tails-Fiction by Ambrose McJunkin
Brother Smith-Fiction by Bruce Harris
Designated Driver-Fiction by M. A. De Neve
Dr. Flytrap's Home for Women-Fiction by Michael D. Davis
Bhopal 2-Fiction by Doug Hawley
There He is Again-Fiction by Thomas Bailey
Genital Pulp-Fiction by Matthew Licht
There is Nothing-Fiction by Rick McQuiston
La Mere Mauvaise-Flash Fiction by Dini Armstrong
One Dark Quiet Night Disturbed-Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
Prankster-Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Petal World-Flash Fiction by j. brooke
Reading Bukowski-Poem by Bob Kokan
Preparing the Children for Grandma's Visit-Poem by John Grey
Marble-Sized Raindrops-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Never Any Good at Magic-Poem by J. J. Campbell
Red-Poem by Meg Baird
Spigot-Poem by Otto Burnwell
Wrong-Poem by Ruth Ticktin
In the Backyard-Poem by Holly Day
Harry the Hippie-Poem by David Spicer
Michelangelo's Handshakes-Poem by David Spicer
Flaxen Hair-Poem by John Short
Once Every Four Years-Poem by John Short
A Recap of the Main Points-Poem by Mark Young
Morning Raga-Poem by Mark Young
Corona-Poem by Marc Carver
Pandemic-Poem by Marc Carver
The Secret-Poem by Maec Carver
Consideration-Poem by Richard M. Prazych
The Apartment-Poem by Richard M. Prazych
Holiday_Poem by Richard M. Prazych
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Art by Hillary Lyon 2020



Roy Dorman


After a couple of years bartending and going to school, Claire Morgan has once again become restless and this time has set her sights on some big money.  She has two experienced partners to help her pull off the job, but they need one more person to complete the group. 

Claire Morgan had been watching James Morris from across the bar.  She decided it was time to check him out a little more closely.

“Unless killing them is part of your game plan you should probably quit sneaking peeks their way when you think they’re not looking,” she whispered.  “They may recognize you in a police line-up sometime down the road.”

James was sitting in a bar after work having a beer. The Holding Cell was a “cop bar” and was just four blocks from his office. James stopped in a couple of times a week to people-watch.

James thought cops were interesting to watch in their free time and he sometimes created stories in his head as situations unfolded at the bar he referred to as a noir-lite setting. There was a general feeling of camaraderie among the patrons, but occasionally macho egos erupted into near fistfights before cooler heads could settle things down. 

The two people he was watching today he had recognized as armored truck guards who sometimes picked up money from one of the many businesses in his building. They were sitting at a booth behind him and he had been watching them through the mirror on the backbar.

The woman who had whispered in his ear was unknown to him up until now, but she was soon to be a big part of his evening.

“Killing?  Game Plan?” said James, turning on his bar stool to face her.  “What the hell are you talking about?”                                                            

Claire was about the same age as James, late twenties, and was attractive in a midnight movie heroine kind of way. She sat down on the stool next to him and ordered a glass of Pinot Noir.

“Those two are armored truck guards,” she said. “And you’re sitting here fantasizing about how you might spend the money if you robbed their truck. Am I right?”

James stared at Claire. That was exactly what he had been doing. He had already flown to Paris with the stolen money and had rented an apartment in the redlight neighborhood of Pigalle.

“But before you start planning how to spend the money,” she continued.  “You have to plan how to get the money.”

Turning away from him, she took a sip of her wine as if letting what she had just said sink in.

It was 10:30 and James considered just finishing his beer and going home.  But there was nothing at home but CNN and Ken Bruen’s new Jack Taylor novel.

And James was lonely.

Before responding to Claire, he checked to see who was in the immediate vicinity. This was a cop bar after all, and he didn’t want to say anything that would get him in trouble—or arrested.

When James glanced up at the mirror again, he saw that both of the men were looking at him and smiling. “I have to go,” he said to his beer.

“To the men’s room?” asked Claire, looking at him again.

“No, I have to go home and—”

“Think he’ll do, Claire?” asked Eddie Joseph, one of the guards who had been in the mirror.

“Maybe,” said Claire. “He seems a little skittish.”

“Skittish is not always a bad thing,” said the other guard, Arnie Johnson.  “Skittish people are often careful people.”

“Yeah, but sometimes they choke and can cause the whole deal to go south,” said Eddie. “I’ve been on the wrong end of that before.”

“Are you a choker, Whatever Your Name Is?” asked Claire.

James furiously tried to think of the best way to respond. “My name is James and yeah, I’m a choker.”                                                                                            

“Sounds like he thinks he’s at a twelve-step program meeting,” said Arnie, causing the three of them to chuckle.

James didn’t chuckle along. He was scared to death and could only offer a weak smile—a choker’s smile, he thought to himself as he stared at his reflection in the backbar’s mirror.

 “Now I really do need to use the restroom,” he said, getting up from his barstool.

“We’ll wait for you back at the booth,” said Claire.


After peeing, James stayed in the men’s room for as long as he could. First, he sat in one of the stalls reading the graffiti. He found cop graffiti was funny but with violent undertones that didn’t do much to lighten his mood.  

He stood at the sink washing his hands, but when a cop gave him the hairy eyeball for washing the entire time the cop was peeing, James thought he’d have to go out and take his lumps at the booth.

Leaving the restroom with really, really clean hands, James walked with his head down toward the booth. It was not until he was almost there that he saw the booth was empty.

He scanned the barroom for his tormenters but didn’t see any of them.

Walking up to the bar, he took a couple of dollars out of his wallet and set them on the rail near the bartender. “See ya next time,” he said as casually as he could.

“Later, man,” said the bartender, picking up the cash.


It was three blocks from the bar to the parking ramp where James parked his car every weekday. He walked at a good clip, almost running, and occasionally looked over his shoulder to see if he was being followed.

“They must have decided they didn’t want a choker in their group,” James said to himself.

But he was wrong about that. He was only a block from the bar when a light colored panel van pulled up alongside him.

Claire was at the wheel and Arnie and Eddie burst out of the sliding side door.  Arnie clapped a rag with chloroform over James’ mouth and nose and he and Eddie dragged him into the van. 

James lost consciousness as Eddie closed the door and Claire took off.


“I think he’s finally comin’ around.”

They were all still in the van and were in a section of town that had a lot of abandoned houses.  Urban renewal hadn’t made its presence known here yet.

James shook his head to clear the cobwebs. “This isn’t about robbing an armored truck anymore, is it?” he said.

“You are so cute, James,” said Claire. “Quick on the uptake, too. No, the truck’s already been robbed; we’re going to rob the robbers.”

Eddie and Arnie just nodded. 

 “What time is it?” asked James. “I have to go to work tomorrow, or today, or whenever….”

“Shhh!  Focus!” whispered Claire. “They should be here anytime now. Watch for them.”

James didn’t know why, but he obeyed.

The van was backed into a driveway and faced a row of darkened houses on the other side of the street. Claire and Arnie were in the front seats peering out the windshield and James and Eddie knelt on the van floor and looked over their shoulders from behind.

“There, crossing that yard,” said Eddie.

James looked in the direction Eddie was pointing and saw two people dressed in black cross a lawn and go into one of the houses. He was now leaning so far over into the front seat his face was right next to Claire’s and his hand was on her shoulder.

“Remove your hand,” said Claire. “And if you smell my hair or kiss my neck Arnie will give you another hit of chloroform and put you out until we need you.”

James lifted his hand from Claire’s shoulder as it had been burned and scooted back a foot.

“Sorry, sorry,” he said. “I was just trying to watch like you told me to. Is this some kind of role playing thing? I told you I have to go to work. I don’t have time for games.”

“This isn’t a game, James,” said Claire. “Those two guys robbed an armored truck a few months back and after converting the small bills into big bills they stashed it in the basement of that house.”

“Small bills into big bills?” asked James.


“The money was from the racetrack,” said Arnie. “Eddie and I were driving that day and those two guys stopped us and took the money. It was mostly ones, fives, tens, and twenties. A half a million dollars in bills that small are hard to get rid of.”

 “Yeah, unless ya plan to eat at Mickey D’s every day for the rest of your life you’d never be able to spend it all,” said Eddie.

James gave a little laugh, but it died in his throat when he saw the looks on the faces of the three people in the van with him. They looked very serious. Dead serious.

“So, they finally got it reduced to a size small to fit into a couple of suitcases and my guess is they’ll hire a small plane to get to someplace like one of the Virgin Islands,” said Arnie.

James hadn’t called into work sick for a long time so he guessed he could miss a day or two. It didn’t seem like he had much choice in the matter, either.

“Why do you need me?” he asked.

“You’re going to be what’s referred to as the distraction,” said Claire. “We need someone to cause those two to look the other way long enough so we can overpower them.”

James stared at Claire for ten seconds without breathing. Then, throwing his hands in the air, he said, “Hey, no problemo. Done it a hundred times… What, are you three nuts?”

“You can do this, James,” said Arnie. “We’ll tell you everything you need to know.”


James walked up the sidewalk to the front steps.  Once up on the porch, he walked to the front door.

He knocked three times and then called, “Hello? Anybody home? I need a little help out here.”

At first there was no response and James thought he might get out of this alive. But then the old oak door swung open and a tough-looking guy was pointing a gun at him.

“Whatta ya want, punk?” he said. “Get off my porch; this is a private residence.”

“That’s my van across the street there,” said James pointing at the van. “Do you have any jumper cables?”

“Who is it, Johnny?” said a second guy who was also holding a pistol.

“Just some dope who wants us to give his van a jump,” said Johnny DuFreese.

“Go on, get outta here,” said the second guy, one Al Jeffers. “We don’t have time for stuff like that.

Claire, Arnie, and Eddie had let themselves in by way of the back door.  James now saw them behind the two robbers.

“Don’t move,” said Arnie. “Drop your guns.”

James fell to the porch floor as he had been told to do. Still holding his gun, Johnny made as if to turn around and Eddie clipped him on the back of the head.

Johnny fell to his knees and Al quickly dropped his gun. “Okay, okay,” he said raising his hands above his head. “What’s the deal here?”


The walls of the basement were a mixture of stone and rough cement and the floor was hard-packed dirt. There was what looked to be an old coal bin in one corner and that’s where the two suitcases of money had been concealed behind some old plywood.

“What’d I say about suitcases of money?”  said Arnie. “Am I psychic or what?”

Arnie and Eddie led Johnny and Al over to the coal bin.

“This looks like a good place to stash them,” said Eddie.

They tied both of them hand and foot and put the plywood over them.

“Hey, you can’t leave us down here; we’ll die,” said Johnny.

Don’t worry,” said Claire. “There’s a knife upstairs on the kitchen table. It may take you a while to get up the stairs to get to it but I’m sure you guys can handle it.”

“That should give us enough time to get gone. Make sure you don’t come looking for us. You should chalk this up as a loss, right? Coming after us will just get you killed.”


“I don’t get it, Claire,” said James when they were back in the van. “You three could have done this without me. You could have been the distraction and Arnie and Eddie could have done just what they did.”

Claire opened one of the suitcases and took out a thick stack of hundred-dollar bills.

“Here’s something for your trouble,” she said, handing the bills to James.  “We did need you. If I was the distraction and one of those guys shot first and asked questions later, I could have been killed. 

 “This was our gig; we couldn’t risk that happening. We needed a disposable distraction. That was you.”

James took the bills and stared at them.


“Yup,” said Arnie, smiling at James. “But you did good.”

James looked at the three and smiled. He didn’t think it looked like a choker’s smile.

“I’m usually at The Holding Cell a couple nights a week,” he said. “If you or someone you know ever need an experienced distraction, I’m up for it.”


Roy Dorman is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and is the submissions editor of Yahara Prairie Lights. He has had poetry and flash fiction published in One Sentence Poems, Near to the Knuckle, Yellow Mama, Shotgun Honey, Theme of Absence, Drunk Monkeys, The Flash Fiction Press, Black Petals, and a number of other online magazines.

Hillary Lyon is an illustrator for horror/sci-fi and pulp fiction websites and magazines. She is also founder and senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. An SFPA Rhysling Award nominated poet, her poems have appeared in journals such as Eternal Haunted Summer, Jellyfish Whispers, Scfifaikuest, Illya’s Honey, and Red River Review, as well as numerous anthologies. Her short stories have appeared recently in Night to Dawn, Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Sirens Call, and Tales from the Moonlit Path, among others, as well as in numerous horror anthologies such as Night in New Orleans: Bizarre Beats from the Big EasyThuggish Itch: Viva Las Vegas, and White Noise & Ouija Boards. She appeared, briefly, as the uncredited "all-American Mom with baby" in Purple Cactus Media’s 2007 Arizona indie-film, "Vote for Zombie." Having lived in France, Brazil, Canada, and several states in the US, she now resides in southern Arizona.  https://hillarylyon.wordpress.com/                                             

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2020