I Don’t Wish You Were Here, by Johann Lux

If I had a coin, I’d flip but not call it, as the outcome would make no difference now that my stomach’s as empty as my wallet.

I don’t want to know what rhymes with hard times as the sun is setting and I’m only regretting not collecting wood that could keep the cold from gnawing at my bones, making me numb and dumb at the same time.

I’m reading your letter … the last one you wrote, that starts with the word dear and brings a lump to my throat.

The door breaks open, and there, is a grizzly bear.

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Diagnosis, by Ann-Louise Truschel

My doctor came into the examining room. “I have your test results,” he said and proceeded to read them to me. At first, I didn’t understand what he was saying. I looked puzzled. Then the doctor explained what the results meant.

All I heard were the words “not treatable.” I left the office in a daze.

I sat in my house for the next few days, trying to deal with the news. Then I decided to make plans for the rest of my life – or what was left of it.

I made my “bucket list” – for a very small bucket.

Rose, by Eric Smith

One thing you must understand about girls—eventually they’ll break your heart. That you can depend on, man. Take my big sister Rose, the only girl among four brothers. We nicknamed her Sissy.

Rose walked me to school every day. If she resented it, she never let me know. Back then I seldom reflected about how Rose might turn out. When my thoughts did turn in that direction, I imagined her happily married with three kids and a laid-back husband with a steady job.

Shadows fell, but Rose became a good woman, I’d say, even if not the Virgin Mary.

Steel Warriors, by Reg Wulff

They were the tip of the spear.

The elite battle-hardened metal toy soldiers that fought countless battles. They’d defeated the dastardly brown army men and banished the evil Star Wars figurines to a galaxy far, far away.

But nothing prepared them for the carnage that lay before them.

Jack had been ripped mercilessly from his box. GI Joe was torn limb from limb. Mr. Snuggles had been disemboweled, stuffing protruding from his furry abdomen. Their green plastic brothers chewed to unrecognizable pulps.

From across the room the enemy’s terrifying battle cry reverberated

Ollie the Dachshund was closing in on them.

Moving On, by Russell Conover

Brad fired up the engine and headed out. He’d packed all his belongings, and prepared to move far away.

What he’d done was awful, he knew. He was in jail for years, until being set free this week. Now he was ready to start fresh.

Was he ready to return to civilization? Could he handle everyday life, and the guilt over his terrible actions? They seemed appropriate at the time, though he hadn’t been thinking–and the memories still haunted him.

Brad started to choke up. Be strong, he thought. You’re better now. Life will improve.

Always keep the faith.

The Oldest Man On Earth, by Don Tassone

Angle Inlet is a tiny, secluded town. Technically, it’s in Minnesota. But to get there, you have to go into Manitoba and then back south. Outside Alaska, it’s the only place in the United States north of the forty-ninth parallel. The French built a fort there in 1732.

That’s the year Jacques Bernard was born. He was born in Angle Inlet. There’s a rumor that he still lives there. I know it’s crazy, but I had to find out for myself. So I set out for Angle Inlet to see if I could find the oldest man on earth.

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.