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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
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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
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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
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Consideration-Poem by Richard M. Prazych
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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 Steve Cartwright 2020

Brother Smith


Bruce Harris



“You know yer in a heap a trouble.” Patrolman Taylor Pitts said. “Jest wait ‘til the sheriff gits here.” 

The cop’s words didn’t register. The room smelled like someone had recently smoked a carton of cigarettes and then worked up a good sweat, or vice versa. Brian Herring felt nauseous. The fourteen stitches he received with minimal anesthesia from Buncombe County’s medical staff throbbed. His right arm felt as if it were broken. He’d been arrested several times for marijuana possession, but nothing like this. The door opened, he looked up.

“Well, well, what do we got us here, Taylor? A Yankee hippie…in the flesh?” With his eyes focused on Herring, Sheriff Ewell Montgomery tilted his head as if examining a rare insect species. He didn’t remove his hat. It reminded Herring of Smokey Bear’s hat. “Ponytails is fer girls in Pine Cone. Ain’t that right, Taylor?”

The cop nodded. “Surely is, Ewell.”

“And will ya take a look at that beard. Damn. Why don’t you shave, boy? You look like one of them cough drop brothers…what’s their names…Smith Brothers. Yessir, Smith Brothers. You remember them cough drop brothers, Taylor?”

This time the cop shook his head. “Nope. Can’t say I do.”

 ‘Ah, yer too young I reckon. They was good. Cherry flavor.” The sheriff fixated on Herring’s facial hair. “I’m gonna call you Brother Smith from here on in. Whaddya think, Taylor?”

Showing corn kernel-like teeth, Officer Pitts said, “I like it.” He turned toward Herring. The grin vanished.

“This isn’t a joke,” Herring said. “I’m hurt.”

Montgomery broke out in laughter. Not the humorous kind. “Who the hell is jokin’ Brother Smith?” The sheriff licked a finger, flipped through papers on a clipboard. “Ain’t no one jokin’ here. We don’t take kindly to strangers attacking our women.”


“How’s she doin’?” Taylor Pitts asked.

With as much concern as he could muster, “Not good, I’m afraid. I’m waitin’ for an update from the hospital.”

That got Herring’s attention, “Is she up? Conscious? She’ll tell you what happened. You won’t have to take my word for it.”

“Why don’t you tell us what happened?” Montgomery asked.

“I already told the officer that I was-”

“Tell me! Brother Smith.” the sheriff shouted. “And what is a Yankee hippie with long dirty hair in a ponytail and a dang Santa Claus beard doin’ in Pine Cone anyways? Can you answer me that?”

Despite the pain, Brian Herring took a deep breath. He was living a real-life Deliverance movie. “Like I told Officer Pitts, I’m travelling down the east coast, from Maine to Florida. I’m in no hurry, so-”

“I bet you ain’t,” Montgomery interjected.

Herring ignored him. “So, I decided to stop in North Carolina. I’ve never been to the mountains here and I’ve heard they’re beautiful. I thought I’d take a day or two and appreciate nature’s beauty. I took one of the mountain paths-”

“So you is one of them tree hugger types?” Montgomery asked, his voice humorless.

“Probably one of ‘em tree humping types,” Pitts contributed, hysterically laughing at his own sick joke. His tone changed. “What happened? You got tired of the tree so you attacked a woman? What you did to that girl ain’t right, hippie.”

Brian Herring stroked his beard. “The only thing I did was save that girl’s life.”

“I’m listenin’,” Montgomery said.

“I was walking along the path-”

“Which path?”

Herring touched his head, felt dried, sticky blood. “I don’t know what it’s called. There was a sign when I got there, but I don’t remember what it said. The path was marked, so I took it, I walked about 15-minutes when I heard someone screaming for help. I looked up, and I saw this poor girl in a fight with a deer. The deer-”

“That’s yer version,” Pitts said.

Herring eyed him. “I’m telling my version of what happened.”

“Keep talkin’,” Montgomery offered. “We’re listenin’, ain’t we Taylor.” It wasn’t a question.

“The damn deer-”

“Hey! There ain’t no cussin’ in this office. You got that Brother Smith? Don’t let me hear you cuss again. We clear?”

Herring wanted to cry, not from the physical pain, rather the ludicrous situation in which he found himself. He wouldn’t give the two lawmen the satisfaction. He bit his cut lip, pressed on. “The deer was on top of her. It was awful. She-”

“Why on God’s earth would a deer attack a human being? I ain’t never heard a that.”

Herring shrugged. “How should I know? Maybe it was rabid? It’s possible that-”

“How big a deer would you say it was, Brother Smith?”

Frustrated at being cutoff again, Herring paused. The pain in his arm acute, he needed to see a doctor, but feared examination by anyone Montgomery recommended. “I don’t know, average sized, I guess. Certainly not a baby.” He extended his bruised, cut arms. “A small deer couldn’t do this.”

“Was she a buck?” Taylor Pitts asked.

“Do you mean did he have horns? No. She was a doe.” Herring wanted to sing the lyrics to Doe, a deer, a female deer and educate Pitts, but thought better of it. “The deer had the woman pinned. The animal repeatedly went up on its hind legs and came down hard on the poor woman. I ran toward them, screamed, picked up some rocks and twigs and threw it at the deer, but for some reason it wasn’t frightened. The deer kept pummeling the woman. I saw blood on her face, arms, and legs. I jumped the damn…sorry…I jumped the thing and knocked the animal off balance. While I’m wrestling the deer, the woman-”

“She got a name, you know,” Sheriff Montgomery interjected. “Hayley Dean. Name mean anything to you?”

Herring’s eyebrows scrunched. “Should it?” The officers didn’t respond. “As soon as Ms. Dean regains consciousness, she’ll back up my story.”

“Yup, you already done told us that, Brother Smith. You got anything else to say?”

“Only that she…Ms. Dean jumped me while I wrestled the deer.”

“And why would she do that?” Montgomery asked.

Herring shrugged. The pain extended down his arm. Wincing, “I couldn’t say. She…Ms. Dean might have been delirious. Or possibly in a state of shock, or-”

“Are you a doctor, Brother Smith?”

Montgomery did his best to get under Herring’s bruised skin. Herring pressed on, determined not to give the unctuous Montgomery a single degree of satisfaction. “I’m an entomologist.” Blank looks demanded further explanation. “I have a Ph.D.”

“Whatever,” Montgomery said. “You’re no doctor, right?”

Herring took a deep breath. His lungs burned. “Her experience was horrific. I can’t imagine what she had gone through before I arrived.” Herring stopped, but Montgomery and Pitts said nothing. “I was finally able to kick the deer a couple of times and it finally took off. Ms. Dean attacked me, but I was able to subdue her-”

“Why didn’t you call 911 after the deer left?” Montgomery questioned.

“I couldn’t find my phone. I checked my pockets, but it must have fallen out. It’s probably still-”

Montgomery reached into his pocket. “Might this here be it?”

Herring squinted. “Looks like it. Yes.” He began reaching for it, but Ewell Montgomery returned the phone to his pocket. He flipped through the clipboard again. “And that’s when Officer Pitts come by, saw you on top of Hayley Dean, both of you bloody and injured. That ‘bout right, Brother Smith?”

“My name is…never mind. Yes, that’s when Officer Pitts arrived.”

“And thank the Good Lord he did.” The sheriff nodded in Pitts’ direction, feigned thought. “Interestin’. A deer you say? Can you explain to me if there was a deer, how come there ain’t no trace of no deer at the scene? No hairs, no droppins, no prints, no nothin’? My boys ain’t found nothin’.”

“I don’t know. It’s not like I’m making this up,” Herring said.

“Did the deer have a red nose? Maybe his name was Rudolph? Or was it Bambi?” Pitts interjected.

“I’ll tell you what our boys did find,” Montgomery began. “Human skin under Hayley Dean’s fingernails, and human skin under your hippie finger nails. Now what do you make a that, Brother Smith?”

“I already told you I had to struggle with Ms. Dean. Under the circumstances she understandably acted irrationally. I worried most about the laceration to her-”

The door opened. A sullen-looking uniformed officer unfamiliar to Herring walked in, stopped inches from Sheriff Montgomery. The latter nodded. Herring didn’t like his facial expression. It changed from one of sick amusement to grim. The one-sided conversation lasted less than a minute. The man walked out.

Montgomery addressed Herring. “I got some bad news for you, Brother Smith. Miss Hayley Dean died in the hospital. She never recovered. Probably jest as well, given the trauma and all. God rest her soul.”

“On no,” was all Herring could say.

“Brother Smith,” Montgomery began, “I’m arrestin’ you fer the murder of Hayley Dean.”

“I demand to see a lawyer,” Herring protested.

“You ain’t in no position to demand nothin’. The only person yer goin’ see now is Johnnie Britt. Taylor, go fetch Johnnie.”

After a delay where neither man said a word to each other, Taylor Pitts returned with a tall, thin elderly gentleman.

“Johnnie, give our hippie guest a haircut, right down to his soon to be convicted skull. Oh, and make sure you cut off that Brother Smith beard. Careful. Don’t give him no razor cuts. Those things hurt like hell.” He turned to leave, then, “Oh, why don’t you shave them legs a his too. We want him lookin’ real pretty when we lock him up. Taylor, keep an eye on things.”

“This is bullshit!” Herring exploded. “We’re in America, You can’t-”

“What did I tell you ‘bout cussin’ in my office, Brother Smith? I ain’t gonna tell you again. And another thing. You better show more respect when you talk about the Yoo-nited States of America. Ya hear?” The sheriff addressed Britt. “Johnnie, do yer thing. I’ll be right back.”

Under Officer Pitts’ watch, Johnnie Britt laid a sheet on the floor and began shaving Herring’s head, facial, and leg hair. Humiliated, beaten, and afraid, Brian Herring remained silent.

Johnnie Britt swept Herring’s cut hairs into a dustpan before emptying the contents into a large black plastic bag. He stopped. Holding a tiny deer tick in his palm, he said to no one in particular, “Look at that bugger.”

“Let me see,” Herring said, leaning forward. Britt dropped it into Herring’s hand. The latter brought it closer to his face. “Ixodes scapularis!” shouted a suddenly excited Brian Herring,

“A what?” Johnnie Britt and Taylor Pitts simultaneously asked.

“Nothing. It’s nothing.” Herring repeated. “Only the evidence I-”

In walked Sheriff Montgomery followed by a minister. The lawman stared at the bald, clean-shaven Herring, “Now that’s much better. You do good work, Johnnie.” He placed his hand on the minister’s shoulder. “This here is Pastor Walt.”

“What? What are you doing?” Herring asked. “Listen, we found a-”

“The Pastor wanted to have a few words with you. You don’t got nothing against that, do you?” Montgomery asked.

“What? Wait!” Herring didn’t know what to do. “I’m Jewish.” The words spilled out. “I want to see a Rabbi.”

“A what?” Officer Pitts asked.

“Yer Jew?” a puzzled Montgomery questioned.

“I’m a Jew. I’m Jewish, yes.”

“First you want to see a lawyer. Now, you need a rabbi. Well, no matter. We ain’t got us no rabbis here in Pine Cove. What you’ll really need is someone to pick you out a coffin. Pastor Walt’ll have to satisfy your religious needs. Ain’t that right, Pastor?”

Sheriff Montgomery removed his Smokey Bear hat as the minister began. Without shifting his head, Brian Herring tossed the blacklegged insect into Montgomery’s hat. When the minister finished, the sheriff replaced the hat on his head.


“Oh, and one other thing,” Montgomery began. “Lest you think we’re nothin’ but some backcountry hicks, we ran a check on you on the computer. Seems like you got a history with deer. One ran out in front of yer wife couple a years back and seems she swerved to avoid it and ran herself into an oncoming truck that-”

“Enough!” Herring said.

“Any last words before we lock you up, Herring? I can’t rightly call you Brother Smith no more, not with that nice, clean shaven face a yours.”

Herring looked at his watch. “Tick…tick…tick…tick.”

Bruce Harris writes western, crime, and mystery stories. His work has appeared in Mondays are MurderShotgun HoneyFlash Fiction Offensive, and Over My Dead Body!

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 2020