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Perfect: Fiction by Elizabeth Zelvin
Duck, Duck, Goosed: Fiction by E. E. Williams
Call Back: Fiction by Brian Peter Fagan
Hanging Out: Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Jelly Boy: Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Billy's First Road Trip: Fiction by Shari Held
Craps: Fiction by Steve Carr
Blackout Blonde: Fiction by M. J. Holt
Can Lid: Fiction by Frank S. Karl
Hacked Off: Fiction by Pamela Ebel
The Poser: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Trunk Space: Fiction by Jen Myers
Catching Up: Fiction by Edward Ahern
Butcher Knives Don't Float: Fiction by Chris Milam
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Bat Boy: Flash Fiction by Zvi A. Sesling
For Love: Flash Fiction by K. A. Williams
Getting Personal: Flash Fiction by Diana Dominguez
Owen and Jessica: Flash Fiction by Joseph Carrabis
Until I Wrestled It Back: Flash Fiction by Louella Lester
Lying in Wait: Flash Fiction by Robb White
Fox Fox Fanny Cuts: Poem by Otto Burnwell
Beer and Love Songs on a Wednesday Night: Poem by Richard Le Due
Her Wicked Devices: Poem by Lee Clarke Zumpe
Looking at the Sea: Poem by Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal
Twilight Zone Kind of Days: Poem by Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal
The Canvas: Poem by Meg Baird
me and the boys: Poem by Meg Baird
ode to sleep: Poem by Meg Baird
Plate Tectonics:Poem by Christopher Hivner
Seeking:Poem by Christopher Hivner
Bloodbound: Poem by Harris Coverley
Paradise: Poem by Harris Coverley
The Now Outside: Poem by Harris Coverley
Dallas County Phone Calls: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Two Old Ladies Arrested for Feeding Feral Cats: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Her Name Isn't Margo, but it Should Be: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Yorick: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
After First Sex: Poem by Rp Verlaine
The New Same Goodbye: Poem by Rp Verlaine
Fishermen: Poem by Rp Verlaine
Three Years Ago: Poem by Rp Verlaine
the smallest feline is a masterpiece--da vinci: poem by Rob Plath
no typewriter or ABCs necessary: Poem by Rob Plath
my cat sleeps: Poem by Rob Plath
it's enough: Poem by Rob Plath
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Strange Gardens
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

M. J. Holt: Blackout Blonde

Art by Sophia Wiseman-Rose © 2023

Blackout Blonde

By M.J. Holt

She was the type of girl who made his pants tight. He could feel his blood heat and he knew what he wanted. Life was simple: office drone by day and hunter at night. He worked out every day in the gym. It took time, but it was worth it because he could dead lift a hundred and forty pounds easily. Most girls he liked never topped one-twenty-five. He thought about the girl from the night before. She was just a memory of the fun.

He stood tall, good-looking in a rugged way, he bought good manicures, haircuts, and body waxing. No stray pubic hair would bring him down.

He ordered a light beer because he needed something in his hand as he approached her. She had wheat-colored blonde hair that curled around her face with bangs covering her eyebrows. He liked well-groomed blondes. She was right-handed so he approached her right side so that arm would be close to him to help control her. She was standing at the side of the room watching a basketball game, obviously unattached to any of the other people there.

He bumped into her. His beer sloshed a little bit. “Sorry,” he said quickly and turned to watch the game. No one else noticed. A break between quarters inspired the men behind him to go to the bar and he took advantage to act jostled and bumped her again.

“Sorry. I keep saying that. Sorry.” He smiled in a practiced way that never looked predatory. “Not the best game for the home team, five baskets behind."

She smiled back. “Last quarter. They aren’t going to pull it out. The other team sticks to their men like they planned it all. Guess the home team needs to mix it up. They’re predictable.”

He made small talk. She said she had an early meeting. She isn’t going to make it, he promised himself.

She asked a few questions and his answers told her he was the guy. They moved to a bar table that freed their hands. She ordered a light beer mimicking him.

They watched the fourth quarter. With six minutes left on the clock, and now six baskets behind, the coach put in a new guard.

“See that new guard” the woman said. “The coach hates him, and he knows it. Watch him. He’ll stick tight to the guy he’s guarding, for a while.”

The players danced around the court. The other team played catch to move the ball down the court to their basket. The guard she had pointed out moved an arm’s length away from his man, who then looked open. The ball went his way but the guard grabbed it mid-air, bounced it once, and made a basket.

She said, “He was supposed to throw it to the forward, that’s how this team works. That’s why they’re losing. Predictable.”

He smiled his sweetest smile and said, “You know basketball.”

“Sort of. It’s fun to analyze groups.”

“Groups,” he repeated. “I don’t work that way. I have my goal, do it, and get another.”

She smiled at him and went back to watching the game. The new guard made two more baskets. The clock was running out. The man chuckled quietly about a girl thinking that she knew what could happen next. Maybe she knew basketball, but a new game was coming her way. While she watched the game, he added a few drops of his secret formula to her beer.

Game over, an empty glass sat on the table. She complained of a headache. “I live near here. I think I better get home.”

“I’ll walk you home. I need to catch a lift so I’ll call at your building.”

Her head lolled on his shoulder by the time they got to her place. He took the key from her hand, guided her up the stairs, and into the apartment she lurched at.

He helped her to the couch. He took off her jacket, then her shoes. She didn’t object when he took off her clothes. Her arm fell behind the couch cushions. He took off his clothes. He was getting into position when he felt a jab. First his hands and feet tingled. Then his head felt like it would float away. He didn’t care about the pain in his chest and he fell to the floor.

She looked down at him and said, “I didn’t drink the beer, asshole.”

She watched his last breaths as she dressed. She picked up his clothes and laid them on the bed. With the cuff of his shirt, she wiped the keys and tossed them on the bed. She checked the couch. She put the top on the needle, wiped it all with a tissue, and dropped it into the purse. She put her jacket on shiny side out, pulled on her gloves, and left. The next floor down, she pulled off the wig and stuffed it into the purse. She mussed her short black hair and applied white powder to her face then slid the compact back into her jacket. She turned up her collar to hide her jawline.

Walking down the street, she touched an app on her phone to report. “The Point Guard’s plan was perfect. The ball was there. The Power Forward made the winning score.”

She had walked blocks when the phone chimed. “Drop it,” read the message. She dropped the purse for the next woman and kept walking. In this organization, no one knew each other. God bless the dark web, she thought. She removed the dollar SIM card, broke it into four tiny pieces. She put her own SIM into the phone. We’re still hundreds of points behind, she thought.

The End

A news junky since she was a toddler, her mother read politics and crime news stories to her to teach her about the world. Holt rips her stories from the back pages as well as the headlines, and A Devil’s Safe and its sequel, Making Angels, are currently available. The third book, Leaps of Faith, came out in the Fall of 2022. Her short stories are available in the anthologies Save the World; Black-Eyed Peas on New Year's Day: An Anthology of Hope; Low Down Dirty Vote Volume II; Alternate Theologies, and other publications. Her poetry has appeared in the poetry anthologies including 300K, Timeless Love, and other poetry journals. She holds a B.A.in History, and a B.A. and a Masters in English Literature. She is a member of SFWA, and MWA. Her website is mjholt@mjholtauthor.com.

Sophia Wiseman-Rose is a Paramedic and an Episcopalian nun. Both careers have provided a great deal of exposure to the extremes in life and have provided great inspiration for her.  

 She is currently spending time with her four lovely grown children and making plans to move back to her home in the UK in the Autumn.  

 In addition, Sophia had a few poems in the last edition of Black Petals Horror/Science Fiction Magazine


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