Black Petals Issue #103, Spring, 2023

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Mars-News, Views and Commentary
All the Sky Is Waiting to Be Told: Fiction by Daniel I. Clark
Fire Sale: Fiction by Christopher Pate
Kregah: Fiction by Ron Capshaw
The Beauty of Machinery: Fiction by Hayden Seay
The Cold Sore: Fiction by Chris McGuinness
The Lake: Fiction by Harper Hargis
The Price: Fiction by Josh Hanson
The Tailbone Is Connected to the Hipbone: Fiction by Michael Fowler
The Thorn Tree: Fiction by Lawrence Buentello
They: Fiction by Tony Ayers
Work Experience: Fiction by Martin Taulbut
Burns: 3 Connected Drabbles by Hillary Lyon
Grandma Medusa: Flash Fiction by M. L. Fortier
I'm So Sorry, Computer: Flash Fiction by M. L. Fortier
Invasive: Flash Fiction by Paul Radcliffe
Jumper: Flash Fiction by Kurt Hohmann
Personal Things: Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
The Good Doctor: Flash Fiction by Ron Capshaw
Another Tomato Invasion, Again: Poem by I. N. Shimabuku
Curse of the Crazies: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Ghosted: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Meteor Moon: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Halo Around the Sun: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Maker's Image: Poem by Bindi Lavelle
Specimen: Poem by Bindi Lavelle
Blood-stained Jupiter: Poem by Meg Smith
Cat Science: Poem by Meg Smith
Mortician's Powder: Poem by Meg Smith
The Pinups of the Afterlife: Poem by Meg Smith
Dark Gate Park: Poem by Meg Smith
A turntable fabricates hope during the apocalypse in 3 parts: Poem by Dennis Bagwell
Reverend Mother Munchausen: Poem by Sophia Wiseman-Rose
Whispers of Winter: Poem by Ashley N. Goodwin
A Man Is Nothing Without His Wife: Poem by Ashley N. Goodwin

M. L. Fortier: Grandma Medusa

bp_103_grandmamedusa_kjhannah.jpg
Art by KJ Hannah Greenberg 2023

Grandma Medusa

M. L. Fortier

 

   Sean had just moved into the apartment, after two years of Plague. He was just bringing in a blanket that his mom had sent over from home, where he’d been living. A white-haired woman popped out of the unit across, on first floor. Unsmiling, she said, “Just call me Grandma. Let me know if you have questions. It’s getting toward December’s end, so always leave your thermostat exactly at 72, never varying. Pipes get old, you know. What’s your name and occupation?”

   “Sean, I’m still a student, a senior at the college in this suburb.”

   Grandma checked him over from head to toe. “Conservative jacket, bodes well. You seem stable.” She gave a ghost of a smile. “After months of the Plague, I’m getting to hate change. Hope you stay.”

   As soon as he could, Sean jumped back into his unit. Since he was on break, he holed up inside most of the time. After two weeks, he overheard Grandma speaking to Ed, just above her on floor 2. “You’re getting to have irregular car hours,” she complained. Before he could respond, she barked: “You no longer have a set bedtime, hope it’s not insomnia. I’ll give you brochures on sleep tips. You must keep up regular habits. I don’t trust the shots, they might give you genetic destruction, according to the internet. But then it’s important to keep track of your own health. Right?”

   Sean couldn’t hear through the heavy door, but maybe Ed nodded. “What’s with the dropping stuff?  Almost every night!”

   Ed cleared his throat. “Uh, I apologize. I have epilepsy.”

   “Oh. My goodness, and you’re a young man, can’t be over 30. Well, stop dropping all these objects, or I’ll report the condition to your workplace.”

   “I could threaten, too; maybe I’ll tell the management that you have two dogs; regulations state that one is allowed.”

   “They’re my guards. And lately I feel ill: fever and chills near dawn.

   “Sorry you are ill. Gotta get to work, but if I become uncomfortable here, I can move to the city.”

   “This is not a hotel. As the old song said, people come and go but no one ever really leaves.”

 

   Sean succeeded in avoiding Grandma until mid-January. He tiptoed out of his apartment, but almost ran into her as she barged out her door. “Why did you have a girlfriend over so late?” she interrogated him.

   “Oh, just Mandy, a friend. She left before midnight.”

   “It’s crucial to stick to health rules, with the Plague. I thought every intelligent youth gave up dating. And certainly nothing more intimate.” She glared at him from the heavy dark scarf.

   “She left early, probably even by eleven.”

   She stared him down. “Mandy, hmmph; I bet she stayed overnight. If she comes again, I’ll report you to your parents.”

   He groaned. Of all the nerve. And she wasn’t even his relative. His own parents were over-controlling, and he’d been relieved to get his hard-won space. His freedom. Sean wondered what to say, so as not to alienate a near neighbor. Remembering Ed’s line, he stated: “If this residence becomes too uncomfortable, I can always relocate.”

   Grandma whipped off her scarf. Her head writhed with snakes—so many, so long. They moved in a gray, restless brood.

   Sean tried to yell, but felt himself turning to stone.

 

   Grandma pushed Sean’s stiff body into his unit, grumbling about a “dead weight.” Once inside, she huffed impatiently as she waited for him to turn into dust. Then she grabbed a broom and swept up the remains into a black bag, before lugging it to the dumpster. “Ugh, now I’ll have to get rid of Ed when he returns from work. Can’t trust him either. Likely I’ll have trouble with Will, though he hasn’t been irregular yet. No real test because he’s hardly ever home.”

   Wind blew snow in her face, and she huddled deeper into her huge coat, drawing the hood over her snakes. “There will be no changes,” she muttered as she tramped back to her unit. “Thank goodness, all cars are here that should be here. They will stay. No more irregular movements. No guests, no unexplained noises. Quiet, day and night.” She slammed her door. “No surprises. Changes are shocks. Changes cause illness. I only got sick from too many changes. When I was growing up, nothing much shifted.” She glared at the mirror in her almost bare front room. “Couldn’t they have been gentlemen and spared an old lady, especially if I’m ill? And I’m having a bad hair day! Aggh.”      



M. L. Fortier:  An award winning author, I have also been teaching creative writing at colleges in the Chicago area, and currently work at College of DuPage. I have many poems in print, the most popular being "If I'd Married Poe."

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