Adjustment, by T.J. Barnum

They stared at the picture of their new daughter-in-law, wearing a hijab.

“Do you think there’s a bride price?” Mom asked.

“I don’t know,” Dad answered. “Does it matter?”

“Not really. I do hope she likes to shop.”

“I do, too!” Dad said. “It’ll get me off the hook.”

Mom threw a pillow at Dad, and sat back, intent on the photograph.

“Maybe a terrorist?” Mom asked.

“Doubtful,” Dad countered. “She supposedly works for British Petroleum.”

“So, you think she’s harmless?”

“Honey, I’ve never thought you were harmless,” Dad grinned. “But I don’t think you’re a terrorist, either.”

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A Most Special Guest, by Don Tassone

They gathered in the town square, where every important event took place. They talked excitedly with one another.

“I wonder what he looks like.”

“I wonder what he’ll be wearing.”

“He’s a prince! He’ll be wearing a robe, of course.”

“And riding a white horse.”

“I’ve heard he’s filthy rich.”

“I just hope he’s generous.”

A commotion arose at the edge of the crowd. It was a beggar. How embarrassing, especially at such a long-awaited moment.

“They’re like parasites.”

The authorities rousted the man, easing the crowd, allowing everyone to prepare for the arrival of their most special guest.

Sounds of the Night, by Wayne Pendleton

At a campground at the edge of a freshwater lake in Canada’s north, a couple with young children has pitched a tent for the night. The night sounds invade the silence: tin garbage cans and lids crash like cymbals, a high-pitched howl pierces the air. The father looks out through the mesh opening and sees many eyes gleaming out of the trees and a huge shadow passing the tent opening. The full moon reveals the shadow to be that of a fully mature grizzly bear moving on. The eyes multiply and move toward the tent. Help!!!

Small Talk, by Sankar Chatterjee

Gurdeep and Ramesh, two elder immigrants, were sipping Sunday afternoon masala-chai in a café in Edison (“Little India” to locals).

Gurdeep: It’s been happening to us now: a Moorestown teenager with a skinhead friend, spray-painted swastika on a synagogue, a local university student spread countrywide computer-virus, and in Wall Street major recent crooks were our brightest MBAs.

Ramesh: Look at history. First generation European immigrants worked hard staying honest to become successful. For next generation, no such hurdle existed.

Gurdeep: If Nazi-era “pogrom” starts in current xenophobia, guess who’ll be the first targets.

Ramesh: I’ll have my last samosa then.

Cairngorm Reindeer, by Lyn Miller

Christmas Competition Winner, 2017

Ruth fled north, escaping her first widowed Christmas. Traditions were the last thing that she wanted. She’d chosen a luxury Lodge offering a gourmet menu and organised activities.

Ice cracked under boots as they climbed and exhaled breath formed a cloud. The group leader yodeled. Nothing, the hills seemed bare. Another yodel and then shapes began to appear; silver-grey, approaching down the hillside. Closer, and antlers became apparent. Ruth’s offering of pellet food on up-turned palms was nuzzled up gently. The reindeer gazed at her as she stroked its warm, luxuriant fur and Ruth’s petrified heart thawed just a little.

The Black Cat, by Rekha Valliappan

Mrs. Archibald loved her neighbors. Her black cat did not. She called on them regularly with homemade pies. Wolfie chewed up their tulip heads. All got along even though they could never get rid of the cat.

One day a new neighbor arrived. Unschooled to friendly neighborhood practices, she crowed victoriously.

‘I did it!’

‘Our fixture?! Nothing works.’

‘Wolfie is dead!’

‘ … weed killer? … poison mushroom in muffins … ? … ‘

‘ … ran him over and over … squashed flat – SPLAT!’

‘But what did he do?’

‘Crossed my path.’

‘Were his legs sticking up?’

‘How do you know … ?’

‘Purrr … That’s him sitting there licking those paws!’