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A Wisely Chosen Gift

A Wisely Chosen Gift by David Masselink   Once upon a time a wise woman married a foolish man. In due course, they had a child, whom she named Jack, not John like his father. Unfortunately, soon after Jack was born, his father sought the kisses of another woman, and deserted both wife and child. Marrying him was arguably the greatest folly of her life. Unlike so many in her situation, she did not abandon her young son to make a fresh start, nor did she place him in the care of another while she worked. This was certainly the third most foolish thing she ever did, for Jack had inherited his father’s foolishness. Life in a cozy woodland cabin was idyllic, but Jack’s absent father hadn’t finished paying for it, and they were soon dispossessed. Mother and son lived in a kind farmer’s woodshed. Wood dried better outside, he explained with a wry smile. It was also away from the manure pile, which he didn’t say; and free from drafts, which went without saying at all. The hidden charity of his wisdom was not lost on the woman, however. She toiled at home, earning a living by laundering and repairing the clothes of others; living well by raising Jack herself. Jack grew quickly, playing with the farmer’s three sons and, too frequently, catching their foolishnesses. One day, he tore...

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Survival Idols

Survival Idols By John C. Tremblay Magic . . . it can imprison and liberate, smite and soothe, terrorize and entertain. And in some cases— like the one that has me wondering how I managed to become the Fates’ whipping boy— it can do all that and more at the same time. “And the hunt is on!” said the haunting voice of Ratrilpot’s Queen as a spell sent it echoing across the island and into the ears of a thousand hidden spectators. Peachy. That meant one of the other “contestants” must have spotted me. I sprinted through the underbrush, checking my clue card to find the break in the rocks that led to the valley. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one getting a clue about where to head next. A dragon-sized X had been painted onto the cliff face above the tunnel. Judging by the sour metallic smell and the vultures circling overhead, I had a pretty good idea of what was used for paint. “At least there’s no chance of me being bored,” I said, trying to find the proverbial silver lining. Then doing my best not to get dripped on, I bolted through the crack. *** Have you ever been so utterly surprised by a place that you wonder if you were stung by a swarm of poppy flies without realizing it? I mean, I’ve seen my...

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We Regret To Inform You

We Regret To Inform You By Rory Steves   “What’s going on, Rog?” Jet matched my stride, leaning ahead trying to get in my face at the same time. “The Editor just took me off every story I was working on,” his voice straining to stay in a harsh whisper, “and told me to give you a hand. I had to pass primo stories to reporters who would sell their mother’s virtue for the leads I gave them.” Jet lost a step as a thought must have dawned on him, “And since when do you need help with a human interest piece?” “Get your team together, we’ll meet in my office in ten minutes,” I told him. “Your office?’ Jet stopped dead in his tracks. “You have an office?” “Conference room twelve is our territory now,” I told my bewildered friend over my shoulder. I know I shouldn’t have enjoyed his confusion, but how often does a hum-int writer get to boss around a top hard-news reporter? I punched a couple buttons on my comm. My thoughts turning serious. “Society,” Vanessa answered. “Conference room twelve, ten minutes. Bring your team.” Walking away, Jet had overheard the call and turned, giving me a curious look. “Nine minutes,” I told him. Politics, Military, and Psych were next on my list. Then I smiled, and made one more call. “Imagination . ....

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The Bidding War

The Bidding War By D. Ahren Bell How could it have gone this far? How could things have gotten out of hand so quickly? It was a disaster of a dilemma. A preposterous predicament was honing all of his resource, consuming all of his attention. Maroon Peters Uubek’s hands were shaking, his eyes watering. Never in his life had he had to make such a decision… life threatening or life-ending. He had long passed the threshold where any semblance of normality could be recreated after the situation blew passed, and that was if he would even get through it....

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The Apple from Fringe Garden

The Apple from Fringe Garden By A. T. Greenblatt   There was no helping it. The apple in my pocket bulged like a badly kept secret as I entered the hotel lobby. The receptionist at the desk arched an eyebrow as I passed. “The tennis courts are one floor up right?” I asked. She nodded, but didn’t lower the eyebrow. “Thanks.” I made my way to the elevators, pretending I was innocent and was just on my way to meet a friend for a match. I think my performance was plausible. The curvature of the apple could be mistaken...

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