From the Editor

Thank you to all the writers and readers who have made the 2018 rejected manuscripts competition such a huge success. The deadline for voting has passed, the winners have been decided, and any further votes will not affect the standings.

We will be notifying the winners shortly. Congratulations to all who participated.

We will be taking a break from publishing new stories while we proceed with the work of compiling our anthology of winners. We will announce when we are beginning to accept submissions for the 2019 competition.

In the mean time, I wish you all a productive and satisfying begin to the new year!

Charlie Taylor

Cum laude

Gridiron

From the cold and bitter, withering shores of Cape Cod in winter, Antonio Cinelli, a Sicilian farrier, who in his spare time occasionally applied injudicious might for the local mafioso, washed up upon the shores of the New World pursuing a whole new cosmos for himself.  Furthermore, he sought asylum for his part in the inadvertent murder of a soldier of a competing gang, a violent act whose eruptions, and accrued infractions, he could not elude if he remained in Italy.  Training his hands to work with leather rather than iron, he settled in a room above a cobbler’s shop whose owner pitied him.  Life in America suited the man, who was still in his late twenties.  According to family lore, it was there he met and married his future wife, Rea Repollo, also Sicilian, that founded a family that later grew into a thriving tribe on the northern bank of the Charles River.  Here, family lore grows thin, but Antonio’s descendants eventually took over the cobbler’s factory, where it remains today in their hands.  Men of the Cinelli family were mustered into the army as foot soldiers for the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, the two World Wars, the Korean conflict, and the Vietnam Policing Action, losing not an inconsiderable number of scions of the family seed. Continue reading “Cum laude”

Aurora Borealis

Northern lights

We came across the water when the moon was just starting to rise above the fiord’s frozen flank, a light mist falling on the bay, like the tears of the seraphim.  There were the three of us, Frank, Jason Williams, the card hustler, and me.  The Klondike Gold Rush was yet a trickle.  The tide was up.  Where there was a gravel beach on the inlet, we pulled the canoe ashore, the rocks rattling beneath our feet, dragging our vessel a good hundred feet inward to where there was a small, sandy meadow.  Frank and I camped there many a night before, sleeping scores of nights under the silent stars.  Not infrequently, the Northern Lights floated above us, wavering as if they were green bunting at some Christmas festival. Panning for the precious powder, we grew hungry.  We decided to take the next day off and head for Juneau.  Frank and I reckoned we were about twenty-some miles from the boom town, where Joe Juneau had struck pay dirt not one year prior, and others seeking the precious metal had not yet panned it out. 

Frank gathered rocks to make a small fire pit, while Jason and I gathered dead wood.  When we had gathered enough, Frank put a slight light to a piece of wood he had carved to accommodate the flame from a kitchen match.  In time, the sticks and logs took; we dried in warmness to the comfort of the fire, while Jason pulled out some elk jerky and a bottle, no less precious despite its poor provenance.  Continue reading “Aurora Borealis”

Cass Masters

rail fence

Of the roughly one hundred and twenty men comprising Cass Masters’s company in the Union Army who proceeded into the Wilderness, only seventy were left standing when the battle teetered to a halt.  For it is so recorded in my great, great, great, great grandfather’s war-time diaries.  They obsessed me and when I finally found the key to the roll-top desk, I started reading them as soon as I could, reading them non-stop, until I finished two days later.  The pages of his diary, the cramped writing penciled in after the battle ended some days afterward, were scribbled in long-hand with both pen and pencil, whatever he could find to write his thoughts regarding the August conflagration, the battle that saw Grant assume the command of the Potomac Army, marching his battalions into the forest primeval where the Confederate forces were, in his clipped notes, meant for posterity.  Prior to the engagement, he even witnessed Grant ride past, gamboling by on his bay horse, looking no more imperial than a second lieutenant, except for his epaulets.  And so he commits to paper his feeling as his company forged forward into the forest of smoke, for all the musket fire set the Wilderness ablaze.  The soldiers on both sides fired blankly at apparitions in the smoky haze.  No more than a standstill when it ended, the Northern newspapers that were passed around by the exhausted survivors of the engagement, claimed a Union victory.  Grant finally made the Union soldiers stand and fight.  Continue reading “Cass Masters”

Together forever

Bougainvillea

Finally, Pili gathered courage and approached her husband, Saad. “Oh darling husband, I’ve passed the interview,” she said calmly. Her husband, however, did not look up from his reading.

“I’ll be reporting for work in my new employment tomorrow,” she pressed on.

“Get out of my way,” he said threateningly.

“We shall now be better off.…”

“I said you get out of my sight,” he said, looking up for the first time.

“Darling, how can you be so unfair?”

“Don’t you hear?” he said rising from his seat.

“I assure you.”

“I don’t need to be assured. You can take your assurance elsewhere.”

“No darling. Don’t say that.”

“If you wish to avoid trouble with me, do keep your distance.”

“I think we’re not communicating.”

“Any more of this nonsense,” he said rising to go, “and I’ll break your nose.” He threw the paper violently at her and walked away.

The following day, Pili reported for work in her new job.

In the evening, Saad was raving mad. “You’re now puffed up with pride, eh,” he started. “With a car to visit your men, you now feel at the top of the roofs.

“Have I ever been insincere to you?”

“One day, I’ll teach them the lesson of their lifetime.”

“Come on,” Pili said sharply. “I’ve endured long enough with you.”

“Who gave you authority to talk to me like that?” Continue reading “Together forever”

The Fallon Holding Company

Lanterns

China waits in doorways.  In the seaports, in the cities of the hinterland, and in the rural villages dotting the tapestry of hills and swales, the indigenous endlessly gossip, gaze, and gape, amused by the panoply of the world that spins about them.  So was it in the beginning, so will it be at the end.  Who am I to make such accusations?  I am a gentrified crook, an elusive con artist, an entrepreneur in the opium and the hard liquor trade.  Looking for a proper, refined young man to accompany your chaste daughter to some function?  I am not him.  I am Ivan Stone. 

British by birth, Chinese by breeding, my grandfather, with his family, undertook their exodus to the Orient arriving on the heels of the Opium Wars.  Before the ink on the Treaty of Nanking had even dried, my extended family holed up in Shanghai, which with the treaty, became arguably the busiest port in Asia.  Of German stock and heritage, Kurt Stone was the patriarch of the family, who had impoverished scores on the European continent in accruing his fortune.  He then set his sights on England, buying a small estate an hour by coach northwest of London.  Everyone who knew Kurt the least bit intimately was cognizant of the lies that were his stock and trade.  But the old man did manage to assemble the Fallon Holding Company, a shipping concern that traded in tea from India.  Furthermore the ships of the holding company conveyed everything from dress goods to manufacturing implements in the bowels of the hulls of their ships bound for seaports that stitched the world together: Lagos, Cape Town, Bombay, Hong Kong and others that sailors had sullied on their shore leave.  Among the shipments were guns and other outlawed weapons of war. Continue reading “The Fallon Holding Company”

Handsome stranger

Handsome Stranger

When Anne saw the remarkable stranger walking a dog in the park on an otherwise ordinary summer evening, she sensed that fate had arranged for this man to cross her path. Her mind could only hold one thought: This is the most handsome man I have ever seen.

“Hello,” the handsome man said through a smile so white his teeth pulled light from the air around his mouth.

Anne could hardly believe he had spoken to her, had said the word “hello” through lips so full and perfectly shaped for kissing.

“Hello,” she replied through her own lips, which were suddenly dry.

“I’m Paul,” the handsome stranger said, his voice a mix of honey and cello. “I just moved in down the street.”

“I’m Anne,” she said, grasping handsome Paul’s offered right hand, his big, soft hand that buried hers. His left hand, dangling from a thick wrist, well-muscled arm, and square shoulder, held the dog’s leash. That lovely hand, Anne noticed, held no wedding ring.

“This is Bowser,” handsome Paul said, nodding a square jaw darkened with thick evening whiskers toward the dog standing beside his sandaled feet.

Anne tore her eyes from Paul’s handsomeness to look at the dog for the first time. Bowser was mid-sized, about two feet tall, the color of charcoal, so dusky he looked like he would darken the palms of anyone who touched him. Continue reading “Handsome stranger”

I am air and fire

Beijing

The night wrapped its arms around Beijing.  As they sat on the patio of the Pearl Street Market Restaurant dining on grilled lamb and gently fried rice, the stars swam in the firmament above them, coalescing in the seas of constellations.  The three of them, Jack Willoughby, Jerry Heard, and Dr. Abel sat quietly, musing on all that had transpired since their days at the Intercontinental Clinic.  Perhaps a decade had passed since they walked the hallways together; more likely it was fifteen years.  Now, only Dr. Abel remained, the others going their separate ways, John to another clinic in Beijing, Jerry to a practice back in the States.  Dr. Abel held on at Intercontinental by his fingertips doing all he could to bolster his rolls of patients.  As a psychologist who’d attained a doctorate from a prestigious school in the States, Dr. Abel was a rare commodity in Beijing, rare as a cab driver in the city who didn’t smoke.  More than once, John and Jerry discussed their colleague’s predicament.  To them, the problem was Abel himself.  Continue reading “I am air and fire”

The last mission

Jungle

Flying, falling, unfurling, tumbling towards earth.  For a moment, I know I was out, but then I was awake and there I was, freezing before the parachute unfolded.  Senses back, I watched jungle rise up as though it were coming to embrace me.  Already I felt the ribs that were broken from being catapulted from the jet.  Hanging there in the parachute harness, I could feel the nylon rubbing against the fractured ribs on my right side.  It hurt to take a deep breath.  With the jungle coming up to meet me like a welcoming wagon to the highlands of Vietnam, I took inventory.  My eyes felt swollen.  In my mouth, I could taste blood.  I ran my tongue across my upper lip.  I had bit my tongue ejecting, but none of my teeth seemed to be chipped.  From my left ankle I felt pain.  Somehow, I had sprained it in the ejection of my Phantom F-4.  Dangling next to me, tied to a line in the parachute harness was my survival kit.  In it, I knew I’d find a two-way radio, a small caliber gun, a K-Bar, a canteen of water, ready-to-eat meals, power bars, as well as Snicker’s candy bars I put in with twenty tablets of Percocet in two foil packets.  Continue reading “The last mission”