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The Burglar-Fiction by K. A. Williams
Bittersweet-Fiction by Jonathan Woods
Manny Dietrich's Adventure in the Blighted Kingdom-Fiction by Roger Johns
Extra Income-Fiction by M. A. De Neve
Interviewing a New Employee-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Gobble, Gobble-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
The Lunch Box-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Swallow-Fiction by Don Stoll
The Volkers-Fiction by Logan McConnell
All for One, One for All-Fiction by Jan Christensen
He's Nobody-Fiction by Richard Martinez
Who's Going to Pray for Me Now?-Fiction by Niles M. Reddick
Priorities-Flash Fiction by Gary Clifton
Tell It to the Monkey-Flash Fiction by Bernard Onken
Why Are You Just Sitting There?-Flash Fiction by Robert Weibezahl
This Most Magical Season-Flash Fiction by Bernice Holtzman
A Short Poem for a Long Trip-Poem by Richard LeDue
Things Found in a Public Parking Lot-Poem by Hillary Lyon
Tables-Poem by Meg Baird
Duke-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Impending Death-Daniel G. Snethen
A Dispute over a Gambling Debt-Poem by Mark Young
Glockenspiel-Poem by Mark Young
Daredevils-Poem by John Tustin
The Trick Is-Poem by John Tustin
I'll Go to Hell When I Die for All My-Poem by Gale Acuff
I Don't Want to Die, Ever, Then I'd Miss-Poem by Gale Acuff
Sometimes you die when it's really not your-Poem by Gale Acuff
Lone Crow-Poem by Judith Nielsen
Losing Texas #1-Poem by Judith Nielsen
what is the cost-Poem by Judith Nielsen
Poignant Clouds (For Daryl)-Poem by Judith 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

Gary Clifton—Priorities

Art by Hillary Lyon 2021



by Gary Clifton


Downtown was inundated in Christmas lights. “Silent Night” was playing not so silently from overhead throughout downtown at 1 AM 

It was clearly a Patrol assignment. But it had rained in torrents, and fender benders clogged the call sheet. I’d cleared for home in the on-call Homicide dick’s take- home car, but the alarm office found me. A patron at the Gay Paree, a transgender bar on Woodlawn, had smacked the owner with a bar stool. I knew the victim, Bruce, fortyish, slender, soft blue eyes, from a murder in the place a year before.

“I swear to God I didn’t know the guy,” the blue eyes lied.

It was not unheard-of for some dickhead, outsider homophobe redneck to hang around, laying in the gap to get physical with residents of the area. But I could see that wasn’t the case here. The perp here was no outsider. Talk would radiate around the neighborhood, and we’d have the guy in a week.

The blow had nearly amputated Bruce’s left ear. “Ambulance,” I said.

“Call EMTs and I’m gonna refuse to go, McCoy.”

The place had emptied before I got out there. I found a towel as a sop. He locked up and I drove him to Parkland. I badged him to the front of the line. It was way past my quitting time.

“Thirty-seven stitches, but no concussion.” the young doc declared, beaming at his diagnosis. His Santa cap struck me as catharsis in the frenzied emergency room.

Bruce said he lived in an apartment in the back of the Paree. The rain had stopped as he stepped out. The guy in the bushes did his damnedest to get smaller, but the dim streetlights spoiled the plan. As he fled in the darkened alley, the piece I saw in his hand was big and ugly. I caught him in twenty yards, and we went down, wallowing in the mud.

He struggled to reach beneath him. I stuck my Glock in his ear. “Come up with that pistol and it’s teeth, hair, and eyes all over the alley, tough guy.”

Bruce stumbled up. “In the name of God, no!” He clutched the assailant. I stepped back as they stood and embraced for several seconds.

“God, I’m so sorry, baby.” The bushes guy smothered Bruce with blubbery, wet kisses.

I found my flashlight and spotted the object in the mud which I’d just missed killing a man over— a tall single, long-stemmed rose in a slender vase shattered in half, for God’s sake. The assailant wasn’t a patron; he lived there.

I walked back to my car, wet, muddy and beat all to hell. I’d stop by tomorrow and get Bruce to sign the declination of prosecution form, then file it in the back of a lower drawer. Records wouldn’t give a damn if a Homicide cop reported the call as unfounded. They had plenty of action to chew on.

A lover’s spat, even a thirty-seven stich one, was definitely a low priority in the crime and violence business.  Twas’ the season for a little forgiveness, anyway.

I lowered a window. The sound of overhead carols wafted after me as I drove out from the area.



Gary Clifton, forty years a cop, has been shot at, shot, stabbed, lied to and about, and often misunderstood. He currently lives on a dusty north Texas ranch, where he doesn’t give a damn if school keeps, or not. Clifton has published approximately 120 short fiction pieces, including upwards of fifty in Bewildering Stories Mag. He currently has three novels available through Amazon and other outlets: Nights on Fire, Murdering Homer, and Dragon Marks Eight. He blogs at bareknucklethoughts.org.

Hillary Lyon is an illustrator for horror/sci-fi and pulp fiction websites and magazines. She is also founder and senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. An SFPA Rhysling Award nominated poet, her poems have appeared in journals such as Eternal Haunted Summer, Jellyfish Whispers, Scfifaikuest, Illya’s Honey, and Red River Review, as well as numerous anthologies. Her short stories have appeared recently in Night to Dawn, Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Sirens Call, and Tales from the Moonlit Path, among others, as well as in numerous horror anthologies such as Night in New Orleans: Bizarre Beats from the Big EasyThuggish Itch: Viva Las Vegas, and White Noise & Ouija Boards. She appeared, briefly, as the uncredited "all-American Mom with baby" in Purple Cactus Media’s 2007 Arizona indie-film, "Vote for Zombie." Having lived in France, Brazil, Canada, and several states in the US, she now resides in southern Arizona.  https://hillarylyon.wordpress.com/

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2021