Black Petals Issue #94 Winter, 2021

The Wolf's Den
BP Artists and Illustrators
BP Guidelines
Mars-News, Views and Commentary-Chris Friend
Basement Dweller-Fiction by Justin Swartz
The Beating of Their Wings-Fiction by Brian Maycock
Does the Bogeyman Live Downstairs?-Fiction by Clive Owen Barry
Dark Little Boxes-Fiction by C. M. Barnes
Death by Midnight-Fiction by Charlie Cancel
Forearmed-Fiction by Jan Cronos
Inconceivable-Fiction by Rich Rose
The Wolf's Den-Fiction by J. B. Polk
Treachery-Fiction by Ramon F. Irizarri
Tumour Wakes Up-Fiction by Alexis Gkantiragas
The Opal Ring-Fiction by Michael Dority
Flora and Fauna-Flash Fiction by Roy Dorman
Gnaw-Flash Fiction by Tony Kidd
Mad Money-Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Madonna of the Damned-Flash Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Special Teeth-Flash Fiction by KJ Hannah Greenberg
The Death Set-4 Poems by Hillary Lyon
Five Haiku-Poems by C. D. Marcum
Misanthrope-Poem by Donna Dallas
The Wish Tree-3 poems by Christopher Hivner
Nebulous-3 poems by Juan Manuel Perez
The Sphinx at Night-5 Poems by Meg Smith
Nameless-Poem by David Barber

Art by Michael D. Davis 2021

The Wolfs Den


J. B. Polk


Once upon a time there lived an old artisan. When he worked, he was happy. But when he rested, a sad feeling came over him.

“Ah!” he would think.

“All my life and no child to call my own!”

So, being a great craftsman, he carved a puppet from a block of cherry wood.  An exact replica of a little boy: with strong slim limbs,  a mischievous smile, a lively twinkle in the eyes.

The artisan looked at the puppet and sighed: “How I wish this wooden boy were real and could live here with me. I would not feel so lonely then …”.



From where he was standing, at the top of the Via de la Tartana, George could see the sea splintered by the sun into hundreds of holograms. All around the bay tipsy hills, swaying like drunks leaving a tavern, dipped their feet in the quiet waters of the Tyrrhenian.   Below, the serpentine narrow roads and steep fortified walls of Positano, perched on the hills almost as if by magic.

On both sides of the Via de la Tartana restaurants, hotels, and little boutiques opened their doors straight onto the cobbled street. La Tabaccheria Nostradomo. Il Hotel Miramare – where he was staying. Two doors down, his favorite: La Grotta del Lupo.

From the smattering of Italian he had learnt on his infrequent business trips to Florence he knew it meant the Wolfs Den. It was obviously a misnomer given that the shop sold and repaired clocks and watches but Luigi, the hotel receptionist, explained that the owner was Francesco Lupo - thus the name.

The shop window was exquisitely designed with row upon row of little boxes draped in black velvet, displaying clocks and watches of every conceivable kind and precedence. Amongst them a classic 18 karat gold fuse pocket watch, manufactured by the Irish firm of Topham & White, the exact replica of the fob watch he, George, had inherited from his grandfather and which was now sitting in his pocket.

Ever since he was a small boy and spent his summer holidays with his grandparents in the village of Kelton Head, Cumbria watches had held a special fascination for him. He had spent hours going through the drawers of the cabinet where his granddad, Felix, kept his collection of antique timepieces.  On rainy days,  Grandfather Felix would take them out, all wrapped individually in soft tissue paper, and clean the glass faces with a camel hair brush. He would let George hold them  for a minute all the while patiently explaining their origin, and how the mechanism worked.

“This metal spiral, Georgie, is called the mainspring. That’s where energy is stored when you wind it up. The mainspring turns the clockwork gears, the watch comes alive and that’s why you hear the tick toc sound - like the beating of the heart in your chest. Until all the energy is used up and the mechanism stops,” he held up the exposed intestines of the timepiece for George to see.

All those memories, slightly dimmed around the edges,  came flooding back. He now stood in front of the shop hesitating for the briefest of moments whether to enter or simply go back to the hotel, sit on the terrace with a glass of cold Chianti. 

He pushed the door. An old man, wire-rimmed spectacles stuck on top of his head, stood behind the counter. He was dressed in a dark crumpled suit, a pink shirt and a bow tie at his throat that in size and shape resembled a submarine propeller. His facial expression was one of utter sadness.

“Signore Lupo, I suppose? “George asked and the old man nodded.

“It is he, himself. Franceso Lupo. How can I help you?” his voice was dry, resembling the crackling of burning paper.

“Im new in town, arrived last night. While walking around I found your shop. Ive been intrigued by watches ever since I was a kid and   yours is a remarkable collection.”

“Yes, watches behave as if they were alive. And we even invest them with human features as they, like us, have faces and hands!” 

 “So you are a visitor to Positano, then,” he continued after a pause.

“Positano has so much  to offer. On a clear day, which is most of the summer, you can see the island of Capri from the top of the Via de la Tartana. But forgive me, I must sound like a Baedeker guide and you might be in a hurry.”

“Not at all. Its really interesting but the truth is, Im here only for two days. Taking a break from my busines trip to Florence. The meeting I was supposed to have was cancelled and someone suggested visiting Positano, ” Georges voice trailed off.

“And what kind of business are you in, if you don’t mind me asking,” Lupo enquired.

“A very lonely business,” George said. “Im a software developer. I usually talk only  to  computers. Apart from the very sporadic meetings I have with my human clients. That is, if they don’t cancel at the very last moment.”

“Are you travelling alone? I mean, isn’t there a Mrs. Software Developer waiting for you at the hotel? Someone missing you back home?”

George laughed.

“No, Mrs. Software Developer divorced me two years ago.  Im alone but not lonely. You know what they say: if you are lonely when you are alone, you are in bad company,”

“My dear young man, loneliness in excess is sad. I hope you will not remain alone for too long.”

“I gather then that there is no Mrs. Watch Repair either?” George asked.

“There never has been. And by the look of it, there won’t be.  I am now too old to find someone to share my love of mechanisms”.

They both fell silent.

“Please forgive me once again,” Lupo said finally. “With all this silly chitchat Im not letting you explain what has brought you to my shop.”

“You see, my grandfather had given me a fob watch before he died but there is nothing wrong with it. If it wasn’t such a terrible clich, Id say that it runs like clockwork. My granddad would probably warn me: “George, if it aint broke, don’t fix it” and hed probably be right,” George laughed uneasily.

“I thought that maybe  I should get it cleaned.  Since I got it, three years ago, I haven’t done any maintenance.”

Lupo slid the glassed from his head onto the eyes.

“Well, let me have a look.”

George opened his jacket  and unhooked the chain.

Lupo took the watch, opened the lid, pushed a tiny button, and stared at the mechanism.

“Yes,” he said finally. “An enamel dial with Roman numerals. No doubt about it, original Topham &White. Not as old as the one in the shop window but remarkably similar to the one I keep in the back, in the safe. I guess they might even be twins, manufactured the same year, circa 1875.”

Georges eyes lit up. For a moment he was back in Kelton Head listening to Grandfather Felix patiently explain the origin of the watch.

“You really think my watch might have a twin? Would you be prepared to sell it?” his voice trembled with excitement.

Lupo put the timepiece on the counter  and started at George as if trying to evaluate how to get the best bargain.

“Yes, Id be prepared to negotiate,” he said after a long pause. 

“There is something you have that I would be willing to settle for and could put to good use. So, let’s not make any further ado and get down to business. Please follow me and I will show you something that will literally make your heart stop,” he said almost with sorrow and his face, the face of a kind old artisan suddenly turned fierce like the face of a ruthless wolf.




Hoping to kindle a spark of life in the wooden boy, the old man tirelessly toiled on wind-up mechanisms, similar to the ones that made his watches tick and which he then installed in the puppets chest. He kept adjusting the wheels, tried to make the metal spiral longer, modified the escapement mechanism so that it would release the gear train more slowly but to no avail. The boy just remained a cherry wood puppet.

And then the artisan understood. The child would not come alive until he got a real heart that would pump energy through his wooden limbs and keep him moving forever.

Only where would he get a heart? Who would give him a real, beating heart? He nearly despaired for he knew it was not likely, nay, impossible that someone, of his own free will, would give up the vital organ.

Until one day, a young English gentleman came calling to his shop and the old mans hunter instinct suddenly kicked in…

Art by Michael D. Davis 2021

My creative writing was interrupted for a while as I moved to Chile, got a divorce and a demanding job, and started writing commercially - for magazines and newspapers and then textbooks for the Chilean and Mexican Ministries of Education.
Since returning to creative fiction a few months back, I have placed 15 short stories in international anthologies and magazines including one recently published on Amazon.

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