A Total Failure, by Gordon Lawrie

A total failure at school, he’d turned to petty crime – housebreaking, drugs, cars, nothing violent – and employment had been hard to find. Then someone evil radicalised him, promised him purpose in life and eternal paradise.

He was given instructions for the bomb: some basic chemicals, a large bag of nails and a cheap pay-as-you-go mobile. Set it to explode at the exit as the crowd left the football match that night; plant it just after they’d all gone in.

The bomb blew him up at precisely 20.00 hours. At school, he’d never really got to grips with the 24-hour clock.

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Harsh Justice, by Fliss Zakaszewska

The eunuch stood, head bowed, hands extended on the granite top.

“Despite the operation which made you fit to guard my wives, you were caught pleasuring my … um, 37th wife … manually.”

The sultan stretched back, robe flowing by his side, and nodded sharply. The axe fell; the eunuch staggered, blood gushing from his now stumped wrists.

“Never will you touch my wives,” sneered the sultan.

The eunuch swayed, then threw himself at the sultan’s groin, teeth bared. The guards pulled him away, his master’s genitals in his mouth.

“Nor will you, majesty,” were his last words as he died.

Nothing And Everything, by Don Tassone

Growing up, he had nothing. His family of ten was packed into a tiny ranch home. They shared beds. They took turns wearing donated clothes. They couldn’t travel as a family because they had only one car. They often had Sloppy Joes for dinner.

Now he sat alone in his magnificent, ocean-front house. He took a sip of Gaja Barbaresco, which always helped him digest filet mignon.

Through his sliding glass doors, from the beach below, came the happy cries of children playing. They reminded him of his childhood, when he was too young to know he had everything.

Boys Will Be Boys, by Eric Smith

Two brothers fenced in a vacant lot with swords they’d ordered from the back of a cereal box. Two friends wearing private-school uniforms passed by in the gathering darkness and asked to play with the swords. Soon, the four boys took turns fencing, a gambit that ended with the two private-school friends competing. The rubber protector fell off a sword, and its exposed steel point penetrated one boy’s chest to the heart. He died instantly, though the others first thought he feigned injury. After confiscating the swords, detectives grilled the surviving boys for hours before releasing them with a rebuke.

In Good Hands, by Charles Boorman

“Something about mother’s sudden death puzzles me,” said Mildred into the telephone. “I understand,” replied Dr. Schneider. “Let’s talk. Make an appointment to see me.” On the way, lost in thought, Mildred ran a red light.

She woke up staring at a fluorescent lamp on the ceiling. Someone bent over her; she recognized the face. “Hello, Mildred. You had an accident. You can’t move or speak but I know you can hear me. We need to operate immediately but before we put you under,” smiled Dr. Schneider, “I want you to know I’m going to take care of you personally.”

Road Trip, by Russell Conover

Ron was beyond excited about his cross-country road trip. He loaded the car and headed out.

The mountains were so massive and colorful that he felt insignificant. The rivers and lakes eased his mind and calmed his mood. The shining sun and brilliant sky brightened his day, in more ways than one. The winding country roads were a departure from civilization. The towering trees allowed Ron to reinstate his connection with nature.

Best of all, Ron really NOTICED all these items around him, after having taken them for granted for so long. He breathed deeply.

Road trips–the ultimate escape.

Harvey, by Bobby Warner

“Son, you ain’t never gonna amount to a hill of beans!”

Harvey looked through the visitor’s window, then dropped his eyes as his father scowled at him.

“You don’t have a bit of gumption. Just think of what you could have been, if you had tried. Didn’t I always preach to you to think big and go after the big jackpots in life? You’re always gonna be a good for nothing!”

Harvey only had time to murmur, “Yes, Pa,” before the guard tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Time’s up, son. Gotta take your dad back to his cell.”