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Christmas with Stanley-Fiction by Robert Kokan
Gravedigger Sunrise-Fiction by Zach Wilhide
Billy at One O'clock-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Christine's Tune-Fiction by Andrew J. Kolarik
Paid in Full-Fiction by Bill Baber
Is Today the Day?-Fiction by Thomas X. Cross
Dead Bodies Everywhere-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Murphy's Law-Fiction by Edward Ahern
The Ghost in the Factory-Fiction by Jeremiah Minihan
Communication Breakdown-Fiction by Joe Surkiewicz
So Long, and Thanks for All the Texts-Fiction by Jay Adair
Time-Share-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
It's Xmas and Maureen Feels Like Death Warmed Over-Flash Fiction by Gay Degani
Uncle Andrew-Flash Fiction by K. A. Williams
In a Nearby Church-Flash Fiction by Bethany Cody
What Happened after His Head Oozed-Flash Fiction by Michael Dioguardi
Prospero's Last Party-Flash Fiction by Jacqueline Doyle
Slick-Poem by David Spicer
Word Cruncher-Poem by David Spicer
The Life that Lives on Man-Poem by John Short
Pet Shop Story-Poem by John Short
dear tom-Poem by Meg Baird
the canvas-Poem by Meg Baird
A Killing-Poem by Ian C. Smith
Green Grass-Poem by Ian C. Smith
No Joke-Poem by Ian C. Smith
a soft landing-Poem by JJ Campbell
going through the motions-Poem by JJ Campbell
the shotgun still rests in the corner-Poem by JJ Campbell
an earthy affair-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
death loves the deep-space pirate-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
robotic mistress-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
A November Morning-Poem by John D. Robinson
Hard & Heavy-Poem by John D. Robinson
The Storm-Poem by John D. Robinson
The Earth Keeps Sabbath-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Obituary-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Rock Whisperings-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Longing-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
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 Lonni Lees 2020

It’s Xmas and Maureen Feels Like Death Warmed Over


by Gay Degani



Maureen is dog-sick. She can’t smell or taste, and her eyes burn like she’s rubbed them with jalapenos. She’s only twelve but hacking up phlegm like her 70-year-old, chain-smoking, hard-drinking uncle who hasn’t come back from the Ace of Spades for days.

This is what comes from hanging out next to the Casino bar, drinking Coca-Colas, and eating fajitas while her uncle plays craps, but she likes it there because the staff has strung Christmas lights overhead and the servers wear skimpy Santa costumes. Better by far, she thinks, than staying home in his rundown trailer with no tree, no presents, and only a fan to keep her cool.

Now, she crawls from sagging sofa to toilet, knocking over the cigarette-stuffed corn chip bowl on the open case of beer. Makeshift bed, burnt ash, cheap booze, a perfect triangle of misery.

Eventually any journey away from the couch is impossible. Wracked with chills and fever, she barely notices the perpetual dampness of her sheets. The thought of food, even Almond Joys, makes her retch. 

The trailer door rattles. Her eyes flick open. He’s come back, Uncle Jack. Finally.

“Ho-ho-ho,” he cries as he slams the tinny trailer door. He’s wearing a Santa hat. Lipstick smears his cheeks. His stench of stale tobacco, sweat, and gin smother her like a winter blizzard.

“Where—have you—been?” she gasps, angry, clutching the sofa arm and shoving herself to her feet. She plucks at her soggy nightgown. Notices he has a wrapped Christmas package in his hands. She’s suddenly glad he’s back. It isn’t his fault, not really. He’s just a weak man. 

Then he turns, his face filling with horror.

They stare at each other. He gags, grabs his heart, and crumples to the linoleum. The gift tumbling away.

Maureen leans against her uncle’s threadbare recliner, gaping. Is he dead, or drunk? She leans down. His eyes are wide open, glassy, his mouth a rictus of shock, his chest still. Could the sight of her face and stench have frightened her uncle to death?

She pulls herself along, swaying from chair to kitchen counter, glancing at herself in the toaster. She squints. Sucks in breath at the face, her face, gray and distorted.

Stumbling into the bathroom, she forces herself to look into the mirror. The toaster didn’t lie. She is herself. Maureen, but not Maureen. Fuzzy, translucent. Skin dangles from her bones. Her eyes loll in their sockets. She stinks, too, like the rotten corpse she’s become.




Gay Degani’s work has received Pushcart, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions nominations and won, placed, or received honorable mentions in contests. The PhareMidway JournalGhost Parachute, and Bending Genres are among those who have published her work this year. She also has a full-length collection, Rattle of Want (Pure Slush Books), a chapbook, Pomegranate, and a suspense novel, What Came Before (Truth Serum Press). She occasionally blogs for Words in Place

Lonni Lees is a multi-award-winning writer in both fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.  Her stories appear in Hardboiled magazine, Yellow Mama, A Shot of Ink, Shotgun Honey, Black Petals, Einstein’s Pocket Watch, All Due Respect, and in the anthologies Deadly Dames and More Whodunits. Among her numerous writing awards over the years, she has award-winning stories in Felons, Flames, and Ambulance Rides, Battling Boxing Stories, and her published short story collection, Crawlspace. Broken won first place and is her 4th published novel. Her first novel Deranged won the PSWA First Place award for best published novel. Her next novel, The Mosaic Murder, was followed with a sequel, The Corpse in the Cactus, which won First Place and was published in the U.S. and UK. She won several other writing awards for her short stories, including Grand Prize.


 She received both art and a nonfiction Creative Writing Awards from NLAPW, California South branch, an organization of women writers, artists, and composers, and she served as President from 1982–1984. She is a current member of Sisters in Crime, PSWA, and Arizona Mystery Writers, where she was the first writer to win two consecutive awards in their annual short story contest.


 Twice Lonni was selected as Writer-in-Residence at Hedgebrook, a writer’s retreat on Whidbey Island. After living in four states and visiting many countries, she’s settled in Tucson, AZ. She fills her spare time showing her art at WomanKraft Gallery, reminiscing on all her travel adventures, illustrating stories for online magazines, and dreaming up new tales to tell.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2020