Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 59 - Patricia J. Hale

Fa La La La La

Ah, the holiday party with the family. Drove the car from the city, filled her up with low-cost unleaded from out here in the boonies. There was a light snow falling at dusk, a Christmas CD spinning and being the alcoholic in the family, I was bringing the wine.

When I reached Mom’s house it was late. Incidentally, I’d been a really bad girl this year, but Mom always loves me no matter what. Oh, who am I kidding? Mom doesn't know it, but I’m a bad girl every year.

I come in and it all slams at me with the squeal of pleasure from Mom, then she hugs me for way too long. The guilt begins with her whining “It’s been ages since you’ve come. I miss you so much when you’re away!” After she tears my coat off and I’ve barely bit into a Velveeta on Ritz cracker, I find myself the only one at the dining room buffet listening to the blow by blow of Grandpa Wilber’s constipation. When I escape from that to the kitchen my sister wants me to eat some dip that looks like vomit. I feign a need for the bathroom, but when I finish and open the door, there’s Cousin Sandra taking me aside like we're the dearest of friends. Her son has a kleptomania problem, can I talk to him? I stole half of her silverware in 2000; does she think I’m a role model?

Later, Mom makes us all watch a dumb movie about honoring your elderly parent (what COULD she be trying to tell us) and non-stop talks all the rest of the time about the weather (fascinating), her neighbors (she doesn’t have that many) and how fat my sister-in-law is (my brother refused to come). No transition before the next topic of her surgeries including those of a female and personal nature I REALLY didn’t want to hear about.

My head was spinning, that grog shit I’d drank making me sick and so fuck, I freaked out, OK? I pulled the Glock sucker out of my purse. I swear to God it was worth it just to see Aunt Mabel give me the “shame on you” look for a LEGITIMATELY bad thing. I starting shooting everything that moved until everyone was down. I honestly believe that included almost every person in the God damned party and most of my family. I even had to make the call to police myself. The nearest neighbors were 500 yards away and if they heard anything, probably thought it was those stupid Christmas crackers.

The ride in the police car was an out of body experience. I could hear Perry Como ringing in my ears and the plastic Santa and reindeers out front looked like they were suspended in air as I looked through the foggy window while we rode away. I still couldn’t believe I did it, so I hadn’t told the cops anything yet.

We arrive at a cute little police station and they get me into a dingy interrogation room with the one overhead light and the whole business.

“Yeah, I’m the one who did it.” I felt my hands shaking, the cold sweat starting. No point trying to come up with worthless alibi. They’d figure out soon enough. I was a junkie and already had a record.

The officer shook his head and rolled his eyes like I was the worst offender he’d ever picked up at on a very early Christmas morning. Give me a break.

Of course, maybe out here, I was. Well, Merry Fucking Christmas.

BIO: Patricia J. Hale has had stories here in Powder Burn Flash, Flashshot, Flash Pan Alley, MicroHorror, Fictional Musings and Apollo’s Lyre. She writes because she can’t stop herself. Her husband can’t stop her either. For her latest work see patriciahale.blogspot.com or reach her at patriciajhale@aol.com.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 58 - Clair Dickson

Holiday Beating
A Bo Fexler Short Story

"Amy Wilson?" I asked into my cell phone, putting my feet up on the dining room chair opposite me. I stirred my soup, hoping it wouldn't cool too much while I was talking.

"Yes. Who is this?"

"Bo Fexler, private investigator. I need to ask you some questions."

"I don't have anything to say."

It always astounds me when I get such hostile reactions based, I can only presume, on profession alone. "It's about Grace and Wendy."

"Oh. Why?"

"Wendy's family hired me. They're not satisfied with the story they've gotten so far."

"Oh. What did you want to know?"

"Were there any disagreements between Wendy and Grace?"

"No. Not that I can think of."

"Was there anything that happened during, or perhaps before book group that night?"

"No. Well, actually," she paused.


"There was a disagreement before group started. Grace was really upset about people taking Christ out of Christmas. She went on this rant for a while. Her and, I think, Anne Wilson and maybe Amy. Grace was really angry about people refusing to say 'Merry Christmas.' She said it was very offensive to her. She celebrated Christmas and that's what people should say—'Merry Christmas.'"

"Was Wendy part of this discussion?"

"Um, not that I can think of."

"So, she wasn't aware of this conversation."

"We were all aware that it was going on. I had to force them to stop so we could get our discussion on the book started. We had to wait for it to stop."

"Anything else?"


"Was there any sort of rivalry or grudge between the two women?"

"No. They got along just fine. There could have been something outside of book group, I suppose, but—" She pressed her lips together as she thought it over. "No, I don't think they met outside of book group. Some women don't, you know."

"Any political or religious differences that came up?"

"No. We try to avoid politics. That's always such a hot button. We try to stay focused on the book. As group leader, I try to steer us away from other issues and back to the book. Sometimes that's an issue because someone will insist that what they're saying really does tie into the book. But really, we want to make sure it's an enjoyable experience."

"And was the meeting that night?"


"I can't think of anything that wasn't pleasant that evening."


I set the phone aside and bent over my soup. After only two slurps that would have made my mother cringe—and chastise me-- my phone chirped.

"This is Bo," I said as a greeting.

"Oh—um, are you the one who's looking for information about the thing that happened at the book group?" The voice was soft, timid, and shaking.

"Yes. And you are?" I asked gently, trying to put her at ease.

"Betty Chalmers. Anne Wilson called me, told me that you were asking questions about it."

"Go on."

"Well, she said I should call you since I was right there when it happened. So was Fran Pallini. I don't know if Fran's going to call you. And I don't know if we can really tell you what happened. It doesn't make any sense to me." She drew in a ragged breath.

I stirred my soup and tried not to breath in the phone lest she presume I was anywhere near as impatient as I was for her to get to the point.

"It still bothers me. Did you hear that Grace is medicated now? At least they let her out of jail. I mean, it's just not right to lock up a fifty-two year old woman just before Christmas."

"Do you remember what happened that night?"

"It happened when we were leaving. We were getting our coats on and heading outside. Grace and Wendy and myself had already walked outside. We were exchanging a few comments about the book we had been reading in our group. And they talked about holiday plans. Parties, recipes. I mean, all normal things that we talk about in our book group."

"What was the last thing that was said?"

"Before—before Grace went crazy?" She sounded close to tears. Perhaps there were even tears on her cheeks. This woman probably lived a life of knitted sweaters and grandchildren's photos and happy books discussed over coffee.


"The last thing I heard was that Wendy said 'Happy holidays.'"

"Are you fucking kidding me?" I put my hand to my forehead.

"I—what? I'm pretty sure—wha?" she stammered. She started to cry.

"Sorry—it's not you. I think that well-intentioned greeting was what put Grace over the edge."

"You—you don't think she beat Wendy because Wendy said 'Happy Holidays'?"

"Well, yeah. Grace has gotten pretty militant about the whole Merry Christmas/ Happy Holidays thing. According to a friend of hers, she'd been boycotting any establishment that used Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas. She was running out of places to shop and dine. Anyway, I also found a police report where she vandalized a two of her neighbor's displays, attacking Santa and his reindeer. They let her off when she agreed to pay for the destruction. And because she's a fifty-two year old woman."

"Oh dear. I don't think that's very Christmasy at all."

"'Tis the season." My soup was cold, too.

BIO: Clair Dickson writes Bo Fexler short stories when she's not teaching alternative high school. Or sometimes when she is. She has over thirty short stories published. Visit www.bofexler.blogspot.com for links and more!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Powder Flash Burn # 57 - Sandra Seamans


My partner, Irma, and I were mistletoeing all cozy-like on the office couch when the phone did a jingle-jangle.

"Buck Tuff, PI."

"Hey, Buck, I need a favor," said my buddy, Smiley.

Irma's unwrapping some damn fine holly jolly Christmas presents in my lap and answering is a bit of a struggle, but, "Sure, Smiley. What's up?"

"I got Santa Claus holding down a bar stool here at the club, and the old guy’s creating a bit of a problem. He’s just one of those Mall Santas, but Chickie's got it in her head that he's the real deal, so I can't just bounce him outta the joint. Can you come on down and maybe ease him out the door?"

"You want me to evict Santa from your club? You been hittin' the inventory, Smiley?"

"No, I ain't been drinkin', and its a wonder. When Chickie manages to get a thought in that blond head of hers, all it does is boogie around in her skull and cause me trouble. She's got all the girls refusin' to strip in front of Santa. Says it's naughty. Jeez, Buck, this is Smiley's House of Strippers. The customers got expectations."

"Gimme half an hour,” I managed to choke into the phone. Tossing Santa out of Smiley’s is gonna have to wait. Me and Irma have a little lap dancin' of our own to finish up first.

"I gotta head over to Smiley's," I told Irma a few sweaty minutes later.


"Because Santa Claus is checking his list down at Smiley’s and Chickie and the girls are on strike until he sleigh rides outta there."

"Smiley's definitely in trouble. I guess you'd better get over there and help Santa find his reindeer," laughed Irma. You gotta love what a good chuckle does for Irma's chest area.

Smiley's was packed fuller than a Christmas stocking. But the crowd wasn’t their usual jolly selves, what with the girls refusing to deck the poles with bodacious bodies.

"Hello, Buck," said Santa as I slid my backside onto the barstool next to his. "I see Irma gave you an early Christmas present."

I eyeballed the guy warily. "And you would know that, how?"

"Trade secret...not to mention that hickey wreath decorating your neck."

"And your trade would be?" I said, flipping my collar up.

"Santa Claus, of course."

"Of course. Stupid of me to have missed that, what with the red suit and all. So...what are you doin' at Smiley's? It ain't exactly a Santa hangout."

"Now that's a fact, but I had an interesting letter drop into my lap this afternoon. It wasn’t your every year request for a baby doll or a bicycle. As a matter of fact, it was such an unusual request, that I thought I'd check it out personally."


"Yeah, odd one, that. A gal named Chickie put in a request for a pair of jingle bell pasties."

"That's not an unusual request if you know Chickie."

"Now, there's the rub. I don't know Chickie. Thought I'd check out her act and see if she deserves a visit from Santa. I wanted to see for myself if she's naughty or nice."

"I can vouch for Chickie. She's very nice. A little flaky most of the time, but there ain't a mean bone in her body."

"Nice body?"

"What you might call voluptuous."

"Sounds delightful. Any chance I could catch her act?"

"Hate to say it, but she's refusin' to dance in front of Santa. Says it would be too naughty."

Santa sighed, "You know, there's a lot of drawbacks to being a jolly old elf."

He reached into the pocket of his red coat and pulled out a package, "Will you see that she gets this?"

"Anything to help out, Santa."

"You always were a good kid, Buck. Since I can't watch the show, I might as well shove off. Besides, the reindeer are doubled parked out back."

As Santa walked out of the club, Chickie came bouncing over. "Did Santa leave me a present?" she giggled.

I handed her the package, watching as she tore at the wrapping paper. Inside the box, laid out on a wad of dollar bills was a pair of holly red pasties with strands of golden bells. The customers jingled with glee as she walked through the crowd modeling her present.

Cheers echoed off the rafters when Chickie took center stage, rocking Smiley's House of Strippers with her own version of Jingle Bells. I wonder if Santa’s got an extra pair of those pasties he could drop in Irma’s stocking. Sure would make my Christmas.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 56 - John DuMond

Christmas Bonus

"Fay-leece nobby-job" Larry said.

"Ho, ho, ho, motherfucker," Marvin said.

Marvin was dressed as Santa Claus. He had spent the day standing in front of a grocery store ringing a bell, collecting charity donations for the Congregation of Salvation. At the end of his shift he planned on liberating a portion of his take for personal use.

"How's your Christmas bonus shaping up?" Larry asked.

"Pretty good. Buncha loose change, but there's a lotta green in that bucket, too. How's your Christmas Eve been going?"

"Great. Got four X-box 360s out the door over at Discount City."

"All at once?"

"Three trips." Larry said. "One each on the first two trips, two on the last trip. I got a hundred bucks for each." Larry said.

"Good haul, but boosting's too risky for me. Especially this time of year. Shit, last time I got arrested, it was on Christmas Eve."

"No shit. What happened?" Larry said.

Marvin told Larry the story of how he got caught boosting a bunch of PS2 games over at Discount City a few years ago. He had stuffed them down his pants, and when he walked out the door, the alarm went off. The store detective was on him before he got two steps.

"Yeah, I begged him to cut me a break, what with it being Christmas Eve and all. But he wouldn't. Said he makes it a point to lock up everyone he catches on Christmas eve.

"A smartly dressed woman walked past Marvin and put some money into the little red donation bucket as she walked into the store.

"Thank you ma'am, and have a merry Christmas" Marvin said.

"Schadenfreude," Larry said.

"What's that?" Marvin asked.

"It means taking satisfaction in the misery of others," Larry said.

"I just call it being a fuckin' prick," Marvin said.

Larry noticed a lock on the donation bucket and asked Marvin whether he had the key.

"No," he said. "Fuckers don't trust us. But it's a cheap-ass lock. I figure I can pick it without much trouble."

When Marvin's shift was over, Larry went to his car to wait while Marvin collected his bucket and the stand that held it. He got into the passenger side of Larry's car, reached into his pocket and pulled out a set of lock picks. He lifted the lock and looked at it. "Fuck!" he said.

"What's up?" Larry asked.

"There's glue in it. They put glue in the goddamn lock."

"You're right, they don't trust you," Larry said. "Hey, I know. We'll get a set of bolt cutters and cut it off. Then we get a new lock just like it, put glue in the keyhole. They'd have to cut it off anyway, so they'll never notice the difference. Builder's Depot is still open, we can boost the stuff we need there."

Marvin agreed, as long as Larry did the boosting. On the ride over, Marvin thought about the glue in the lock. Those bastards over at the Congregation didn't trust him. That's why they bought the cheap locks, they had planned on just cutting them off at the end of the shift anyway. The thought of them treating him like a thief pissed him off.

When they arrived at the Builder's Depot, Marvin waited in the car while Larry went inside to pick up the items they'd need. He came out a few minutes later carrying a plastic bag. He got into the car and removed the items from the bag.

"Here you go. Cutters, a lock, and some glue to keep those thieving Santas in check."

Marvin took the cutters and cut the lock off the donation bucket. He examined the lock and said "Fuck!"

"What now?" Larry said.

"There's numbers engraved on the back of the lock. '4-1-5-7,' like they're trying to make sure it's the same lock when it's turned in."

Larry laughed and said "Damn, Marv they really don't trust you guys."

"No shit, Sherlock. Now what am I gonna do?"

Larry told Marvin that they could engrave the numbers on the new lock, but they'd need an engraver, and Larry wasn't providing one. Marvin figured he could either buy one with some of the donation money, or he could swipe it from the store. He'd be damned if he was wasting his hard-earned money on an engraver, and decided on five-finger discount.

Marvin left Larry in the car and walked into the store. He still wore the Santa suit, beard and all. After all, who'd suspect that Kris Kringle would shoplift?

It took him a few minutes to find the engravers in aisle 7. He picked out one in a box that looked small enough to conceal. He looked left, no one there. He looked right, no one there either. He bellied up to the shelf and stuck the box down his pants. Then he walked out of the aisle and headed for the exit. As he walked out the door, he felt a hand on his shoulder.

"Excuse me sir, I'm with store security," said the voice attached to the hand on Marvin's shoulder. "Did you forget to pay for that item in your pants."

Marvin broke loose from the store detective's grip and ran for it. He got almost ten feet before he was tackled and handcuffed.


Larry watched as Marvin got snagged by the store dick. As Marvin was being led in handcuffs back into the store, Larry yelled out "Hey, you're not going to arrest Santa on Christmas eve, are you?"

The store detective smiled and yelled back "Haven't you heard, there is no Santa Claus."

After they disappeared into the store, Larry looked at the donation bucket on the front seat of his car. He reached in and took out the greenbacks, left the coins. He tossed the bucket out the driver's side window into a nearby shopping cart.

"Like hell there's no Santa," he said as he started the car and drove off.

Bio: John DuMond lives in Albany, NY. His short stories have appeared in Jake Magazine, Flashing in the Gutters, and Defenestration. He blogs at http://armedrobbery.blogspot.com.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Powder Burn Flash # 55 - Pam Ward

Taking Candy From A Baby

He said it’d be easy. Like taking candy from a baby.

We were in a Seven Eleven near Santa Monica and the beach. I was stuffing a Sara Lee cheesecake under my skirt, inside the reliable knapsack of my panties. John spotted me in the oblong mirror and winked. He’d already palmed a Hustler, which took real finesse since the sex mag’s were stacked behind the counter.

We were thirteen and already burnt out on school and stole regularly to offset our boredom.

Joining John at the bus bench, I began panhandling the squares.

“I lost my bus fare, can you spare any change?” My lipgloss and pleated, Catholic school skirt worked wonders on that mean hungry street. I didn’t go to Catholic school but none of those fools knew that. I went to Emerson Junior high, this flesh colored shack, filled with sleazy teachers who were always being hauled off by cops and a riotous bell that rang all the time like someone trying to break in a bank. The principal thought uniforms would bring some swank to the place but all it brought was crazies who honked at our thighs and lots of eyes gawking at kids wearing navy.

My after school routine was always the same. I panhandled before the metro bus came. In twenty minutes I’d rake in three or four bills and then I’d go buy a Blowpop or a cheap pack of gum and take eight or nine bucks worth of stuff.

It was four o’clock and school, that thief of the sun, was finally over for good. I sat down and shared my cheesecake with John who gorged like a pigeon in your trash. His tongue licked the cream off his fingers with speed. I was impressed. I liked his cranberry lips. In two seconds we were kissing like a wild sex scene as cars whizzed past our knees. He had big football arms and a strong Kung Fu grip. I was a homely chick with thick glasses and prairie home braids. I could easily pass for eight.

“Listen,” John said. “I know how to make some money.”

John’s friends snickered in their palms. They were scamming me for something but I didn’t know what so I figured I’d at least listen to their scheme.

“How?” I said licking the cream off my lips.

“I work the ticket line at school. Tomorrow’s the dance. The box will be brimming with cash.”

I was interested. I sat up on the bench.

“We could make a couple of hundred easy,” he said.

I squinted at his face. If he was conning, he was good. His crystal eyes looked ocean blue and serene. He looked like a Catholic school priest.

“Why do you need me?” I asked, nonchalant.

“’Cause, no one suspects a pretty girl.”

One friend held his hand over his mouth trying to stifle a smile.

John kissed me again, “you’re so beautiful,” he said, sucking the side of my neck. His friend almost fell off the bench.

“All you have to do is show up at nine and I’ll give you an envelope of cash.”

So the next day, I wore a stretchy tube top. I saw John at the door and did exactly what we planned. He handed me a wad and told me to meet him out back. I smiled shoving the cash inside my bra, tapping it twice to let him know it was safe.

When I walked out my mom was still at the curb. I told her I was only going to peek in the door. She hadn’t even turned off the car.

The next thing I knew, I was back at the pad, counting fives and tens on my bed.

John waited but I didn’t go to school for a week. I ditched every day and baked out in the sun, buying candy and snow cones at the beach. I came back tanned and relaxed. As soon as I walked in I ran into John.

“The principal caught me,” I said looking down at my feet. “He suspended me for a week.”

A sad covered John’s innocent face. He swallowed the con, hook, line and sinker. I swear he looked just like a baby.