Gone by Ann-Louise Truschel

“Did the Sheriff find Fred yet?”

“He’ll never find that no good bum. The rat took all my money and spent every cent!”

A coyote howls a communication to the rest of the pack. His cry is answered by the howls of other hunting coyotes.

“Aren’t you afraid living out here by yourself, with all those coyotes around?”

“They hunt every night. When they’re finished, they go back home through that storm drain that runs under the road at the north end of my pasture.”

“They use the drain to avoid traffic?”

“No, to eat. That’s where I put Fred.”

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Up to Speed? by Alison McHarg

Sleek, black and packing very many cylinders under the bonnet.

I glance in the rearview mirror – no-one behind me. Let’s see what you’ve got, I mutter, as I turn the car loose. Push the pedal hard; the revs and speed climb simultaneously. We exceed the 100mph mark, then 105, 108 and still it strains to go faster.

My nerve fails me and I slacken the pressure. An inner voice says I’ll be banned if I’m caught doing these speeds. Passing a police car my lights bob slightly at a bump on the road. Was that a wink?

Lonely Hearts by Emma Baird

Female, mid 30s, seeks ‘tall, dark and handsome’ for sinful fun.

Waiting in a crowded bar, Laney regretted the word sinful. Sure, it had attracted plenty of replies (in excess of 100) but many were of the very blue variety and Laney had actually meant soulful.

Male, mid-20s, seeks bubbly older woman for… experience.

In the same crowded bar, Adrian regretted the ellipsis. What if his friends saw it and cottoned on to his lack of experience with the opposite sex? He caught Laney’s eye and relaxed.

Elsewhere, a 16-year-old and a late 40-something began a mutually beneficial relationship.

Shared Embarrassment by Gordon Lawrie

Invited to Sunday lunch with mutual friends, they made small talk: how each knew the hosts, work, neighbourhood stuff, children and grandchildren, the usual things.

But she knew him from somewhere else, possibly a long-ago one-night stand, perhaps just a neighbour. Then she remembered.

Twenty years previously, he’d taken her daughter and some friends camping. Her daughter’s tent had accidentally caught fire and he’d pulled the girl out just in time.

Now she was embarrassed that she hadn’t recognised the man who’d saved her daughter’s life.

He was still embarrassed that a child in his care had been so endangered.

A Golf Frustration by Len Nourse

Golf was curtailed after 5 holes by heavy rain and thunderous noise in the clouds. We ‘carted’ in haste back to the club, although no siren said we had to. While waiting and hoping it would clear, the group started the joke session. The jokes were ‘mumble, grumble… and more of that…’ with every word swallowed that those not born in the mid-south, well Eastern Arkansas, across the river from Memphis had to smile in faked understanding. Tips on how to understand and hear the swallowed dialect of these mid-southerners would be most welcome, other than ‘get a hearing aid’.

(Untitled) by Marlene Goldberg

We’re the lucky ones. Reaching the shores of Italy after a bumpy ride over the waves in our crowded, rickety boat, we’re immediately placed in a detention center. Finally, food and water. Exhausted we fall asleep in the tents despite the cold which the thin blankets barely alleviate. But we’re safe, far away from our war-torn homeland.

Not everyone escaped. Grandmama’s frail body succumbed after being relentlessly gang-raped by the Muslim terrorists. Grandpapa’s feeble protest – met with an axe to the head. My sister – abducted as sex-slave – never heard from again.

Tomorrow – a new life – for us.

One Last Time by Russell Conover

Frank had hunched over his story for weeks, and it was finally ready for publication. He’d sent it to numerous editors for feedback, who’d all given him the green light. All he had to do was click the green Submit button online, and the final manuscript would go to the publisher.

“Just to be safe? One more read-through,” he said to himself.

As he skimmed the text, a light bulb went off. “What if I … ?” He started adding, deleting, removing text, and soon the story was all new. “ARGH–no deadline.” He shook his head.

A writer’s work never ends.