The bull in the china shop

China shop

(Aries and Taurus)

It was October 31, 2019,

Halloween, and Mercury was in

retrograde. A woman sat in her china

shop in Spain, hoping she’d get no business

so she could close early.

She ate tuna fish sandwiches,

smothering them with butter with

a butcher knife.

A tourist walked in, and it

was obviously an American tourist.

She was obese, well-fed, and dressed

in a sunflower dress. She had shopping

bags, and she put her greasy hands

on the merchandise.

“If you break it, you pay

for it,” sighed the merchant. Continue reading “The bull in the china shop”

The Sea Wolf Cup


Captain Graham was uncomfortable. He disliked London clubs, but here he was, drinking tea in one. Moreover, he was sitting opposite Colonel Child, a man he always hoped to avoid.

“Glad you could come,” Child said.

As if I could refuse, Graham thought. I can hardly ignore the man who was my commanding officer in the Military Mounted Police.

“Now that I’ve retired from the army,” Child continued, “I run my family’s insurance business. Among our policies, we insure the Sea Wolf Cup, one of the silver trophies of the London Guards regiment. It’s a very valuable item dating from the seventeenth century.” Child puffed at a cigar and looked straight at Graham. “And it’s gone missing.”

“A costly claim for your company, sir,” Graham commented.

“Not if the cup is found and returned,” Child replied.

When Graham said nothing, Child leaned forward. “Look, you’ve been a retired army investigator for almost a year. Since Christmas 1908, wasn’t it? You should use your skills. Finding the cup is just the job for you.”

“Is it, sir?”

“Yes, and don’t delay. I’ve told Colonel Strong of the London Guards to expect you today.” Continue reading “The Sea Wolf Cup”

Death comes to Happy Valley

Mountain range

The soft January sun was slowly slipping behind the distant glacier-covered mountain range.  The range surrounded the Sukh Marg (Happy Valley in English) in Northern India.  On the other side, the region with same namesake belonged to neighboring Pakistan.  For millennia, this sub-continent was inhabited by a peaceful civilization.  Then the colonial power appeared on the horizon and ruled the place for two centuries.  At the end, they would disappear in a midnight, leaving the land divided on a map, without any thought of future consequences.  The larger parcel retained the name India, a secular country with the majority practicing Hinduism.  The rest became Pakistan, a religious country, the majority practicing Islam.  Overnight, Sukh Marg also got divided on that map.  However, each country had wanted the entire valley for its strategic location.  Thus it became a flash point between neighbors.  And nothing changed in the past seventy years. Continue reading “Death comes to Happy Valley”

Not good enough for Jamie


It was midnight when Kerry Ford was rushed into the emergency room unconscious because of a drug overdose. Doctors and nurses tried to save him, but Kerry was gone, and a doctor went to the waiting room to his mother, father and older brother, Alan, and they stood when they saw the doctor. “Folks, I’m sorry. We couldn’t save him,” the doctor said sadly.  When his mother heard the words, she gasped, had a heart attack and fell to the floor, dead.

After the funeral for Kerry and his mother, Alan and his father went home and sat at the kitchen table. “Alan, what kind of evil monsters took my boy and your mother from us?” he asked with tears in his eyes.

“Girls, Dad.  He told me they never stopped taunting him, calling him names. He said it never stopped. They said he was trailer trash, and made fun of us. They made fun of you because you work in a factory. The evil monsters were girls; Jamie Carr and her friends.” Continue reading “Not good enough for Jamie”

Thunder above, fire below

Thunder storm

In the dark agony of the sky, lightning reigned and thunder became.  Ensconced in the cab of the Ford pickup, Tom Jamieson, the driller for Hudson Drilling, sat behind the wheel gazing at the rig, staring at the strands of rain running down the windshield.  Beside him, Ramone Estavez, his roughneck on the rig, tapped him on the shoulder, passing him the thermos bottle nearly full of milk-warm coffee.  Chauncey poured himself a cup of coffee, while Ramone lit up a cigarette, cautiously dispelling the smoke exhalation away from Tom, as well as Ron Alvarez, the other roughneck, sitting to his right.

Just a half-hour prior, they had been working the rig, carving up spicules of shale, probing the underbelly of the Wingate formation for old stream bed deposits of uranium.  Beginning as a light drizzle, the rain blossomed into a full thundershower.  At the first sign of lightning, Chauncey hoisted the kelly rod and motioned to the others to get in the pickup.  Though they had not suffered the full fury of the front, all were soaked, Ron and Chauncey in their jeans and white, cotton T-shirts, Ramone in his coveralls.  For another half-hour, they waited for the rain to culminate.  Ramone smoked another fag while they spoke little.  Too dangerous to work on the drilling rig with its steel derrick in a thunderstorm, grappling awkwardly with the doused drilling rods in the mud was a dicey operation. Continue reading “Thunder above, fire below”

Our Wakeup Call


Waking facing each other in identical posture.

Six o’clock.

Off comes the heavy armor of sleep.

In this light,

we’re familiarly depicted.

A safe passage is assured.


Outside, the world is sprouting vegetation,

linking renewal

to the increase of energy in our bodies,

that not even parallel yawns

can dissipate.


We’re revving.

We’re reflective.

A little revered.

Somewhat propitiated.

Your hand drifts across the sheets between.

I take back yesterday’s touch,

make it the official beginning of today’s.


Always this pleasing balance

of body temperature and passion,

comfort and underlying order.

It doesn’t seem much

but it’s everything.

We’ve both been alone in the past.

We revel in the corrective of together.


By John Grey


2018 Winners' Anthology Available on Amazon

The paperback version is now available for $10 US.

Purchase it here.

Or, you can buy the e-book for only $4.19 US here.

2019 Competition beginning April 1st

Watch this space!

We are launching our 2019 competition on April 1st, and it will run through the end of the year. Entries will be posted here for readers to vote on.

We are accepting early submissions now. See submission guidelines for more information.

As last year, winning entries will be published in an anthology. Purchase last year’s anthology in paperback or for Kindle here.

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