Black Petals Issue #105, Autumn, 2023

BP Artists and Illustrators
Mars-News, Views and Commentary-Chris Friend
Cards Fiction by Gene Lass
Barfly: Fiction by Gene Lass
Case Study: Fiction by Martin Taulbut
Delivery: Fiction by David Kloepfer
Joy (noun): a source of delight: Fiction by Noah Levin
Master of Dream: Fiction by Ash Ibrahim
Nightshade: Fiction by Adam Vine
Red Popsicles: Fiction by Caitlyn Pace
Temporally Closed: Fiction by J. Elliott
The Mansion Dwellers: Fiction by Robb White
Time for a Change: Fiction by Lamont A. Turner
Bernie's Friends: Flash Fiction by Phil Temples
Death Visits the Sapling Trust: Flash Fiction by Paul Radcliffe
Monster: Flash Fiction by Zvi A. Sesling
Sleep: Flash Fiction by Kurt Hohmann
Welcome, Ghouls: Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Ode to Chateau Marmont: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Cadaver Dogs: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Phases of the Moon: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
The Darkest Octave: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Green Man Standing: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
The Day That Mary Went Away: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
The Northern Migration of Souls: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
Gone West: Poem by Simon MacCulloch
If I Scream: Poem by Simon MacCulloch
Witchery: Poem by Simon MacCulloch
Carry On: Poem by Simon MacCulloch
The Song of the Dead: Poem by Ben Huber

Phil Temples: Bernie's Friends

Art by Bernice Holtzman 2023

Bernie’s Friends


Phil Temples


At 10:37 AM, I’m joined by other people on the crowded city sidewalk as we stop in our tracks. We put down our suitcases, bags, and anything else we might be carrying, kneel down and lie prostrate on the ground. All the cars on the street stop and pull over; their drivers exit their vehicles and lie in the road.

Bernard commands it.

I’m fortunate to find myself on a relatively clean section of the concrete walkway on which to lie. Last week, The Calling came while I was cutting through a grassless field. Afterwards, my clothes were filthy and I was spitting out dirt that I accidentally ingested.

It is what it is.

There’s no pattern, rhyme or reason for the times Bernard commands our respect. It’s best not to complain out loud, lest you incur Bernard’s wrath: searing migraines, convulsions—or worse. You do not disrespect Bernard. He is all-knowing and all-seeing. At least, that’s what many think.


This is my second meeting with the others. A good friend of mine told me about them. They (we?) jokingly call ourselves the “Friends of Bernie.” But we are anything but his acolytes. We are secretly plotting against him.

We are careful to take precautions. We meet in a basement room lined with lead shielding. Our small cell is like an AA meeting in which only first names are used. In the real world if we happen to pass by another Friend of Bernie, we show no sign of recognition.

Precious little is known of our malevolent master who telepathically communicates with his subjects. We pool our knowledge of Bernard, comparing little scraps of intel we’ve acquired over time. Like, for example, Bernard doesn’t always read our thoughts—except during The Calling. At other times, there are gaps in Bernard’s omniscience. Still, we try not to think about The Friends and our activities outside of the lead-lined meeting room.

At tonight’s meeting, the room is abuzz with the news from one of our senior members, Carla. Two days ago, after becoming disgusted from having to lie down on the ground covered in goose shit, Carla jumped to her feet and remained standing. Others warned her to get down and to remain down but Carla was having none of it. To everyone’s amazement, she walked away, free from any tormenting pain.

“I ignored another Call later that night, too. Nothing. No headaches. No searing pain or tremors. And then I realized.”

“Realized what?!” we ask with excitement. “What did you realize?”

I’ve had an earworm now for several days running. I think it’s blocking out Bernie. The song is ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ by The Beatles.”

“Is is a particular passage in the song? Or just the song lyrics in general?”

Carla says that she’s fixated on the portion of the lyrics that includes the words, “tangerine trees and marmalade skies” and “a girl with kaleidoscope eyes.”

The idea seems plausible. Perhaps those words trigger some sort of psychological defense against Bernard’s power. Or perhaps it is the music itself: that catchy riff generated by Paul McCartney’s Lowrey DSO Heritage Deluxe electronic organ, programmed for a combination of harpsichord, vibraharp, and guitar. 

We all agree to try it during the next Calling. Some will focus on the song and play it in their minds while disobeying The Calling; others will serve as a control group and ignore The Calling while not thinking about the song. Those people will suffer, of course. I’m glad that I didn’t draw one of the short sticks. I don’t relish pain.


Later that night, I am playing the song on my audio device. I repeat it almost twenty times until it is thoroughly implanted in my brain. It is too easy—I, too, am prone to earworms.

The next morning, The Calling comes. It’s time to try the experiment. I’m in my kitchen making a pot of coffee while unconsciously humming the song. With much trepidation, I ignore The Calling. I remain upright and continue my task of brewing the pot. It’s easy to focus on the words sung by John Lennon and the melodious tune. I even mutter, “Screw you, Bernard!” under my breath to see if he’s listening.

Five minutes later, I am still free of pain. It’s a miracle!

At the next Calling, I intend to experiment with other songs from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. A good song to start with might be, “With a Little Help from My Friends.”

With a little help from Bernie’s Friends and The Beatles perhapsI shall remain free of Bernard, Giver of Pain.

Phillip Temples is a product of the Midwest but has lived in the greater Boston area for many decades. He's published a number mystery-thriller novels, a novella, and two story anthologies in addition to over 190 short stories. Phil likes to dabble in mobile photography. He is a member of GrubStreet and the Bagel Bards. You can learn more about Phil by visiting his website at

Bernice Holtzman’s paintings and collages have appeared in shows at various venues in Manhattan, including the Back Fence in Greenwich Village, the Producer’s Club, the Black Door Gallery on W. 26th St., and one other place she can’t remember, but it was in a basement, and she was well received.

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