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Monday, October 19

Spelling Bee

Spelling Bee
Short Fiction - Sci-fi/Paranormal
by Rod Drake

Four tiny figures stood on the auditorium stage of Hamilton Middle School, two on either side of the imposing podium. One of these sixth-graders would be the winner of the distinct finals of the Crowley National Spelling Bee. The air was heavy with anticipation and tension, and the crowd of parents, faculty and students all rooted silently for their favorite.

Zachary, a nervous and sweating young boy wearing thick glasses that distorted his eyes, such that his classmates called him ‘goldfish,’ puzzled out the word CEMETERY. Clutching at his belt loops on his pants, he breathlessly spelled, “C – E – M – E – T –A – R – Y. Cemetery.”

And then there were three. Summer, the most popular girl in the school, and probably the meanest too; Eleanor, “Ellie,” the self-conscious, overweight girl who was frequently caught in situations that pointed up her heaviness, so she always ended up as the butt of all the fat jokes; and Marley, small even for an 11-year-old, whom everyone, students and faculty alike, thought was odd and thus avoided if at all possible.

Marley had the palest skin, the darkest hair and large, inquiring green eyes that seem to bore into you. She was very thin, had no friends at Hamilton and didn’t really seem to care. Her parents had just moved here this school year. They moved a lot, Marley once said to no one in particular. She was a strange little girl.

Summer, on the other hand, was a pinup waiting to develop. Blonde, blue-eyed, golden skin, and a practiced cutesy smile and flirty manner that usually got her whatever she wanted. If it didn’t, she was ruthless to get what she wanted, and assumed she deserved, no matter who got crushed in the process.

Her father was a rich, successful lawyer, and on the school board, so of course Summer made the finals of the spelling bee. In fact, it could be argued that Summer was getting softball spelling words while the rest of the students were getting words that seniors would have trouble spelling.

In addition, most of the boys, including Zachary, had folded because Summer messed with their concentration by pouting, playing with her long hair or adjusting her training bra at a crucial point. As for the girls, she made them feel plain, and either flat chested or pudgy.

Summer glared at dumpy Ellie, who stood next to her, cutting her down like wheat with a scythe. Ellie was shaking with nervousness at all this attention. Summer called her by the nickname that she had given Eleanor. “Hey, Ellie the Elephant,” she whispered, “I bet your word will be blubberbutt, and you’ll misspell it because you’re so fat and stupid.”

Marley heard her, and looking across the stage, behind the podium, fixed Summer with that penetrating, and unnerving, stare of hers. Summer felt her breath suddenly cut off, and she stopped whispering, gasping for air for a moment.

“Pterodactyl.” Ellie repeated the word, hoping she wouldn’t embarrass herself. “Um, P – T – E – R – O – D – A – C – T – Y – L. Pterodactyl?”

The audience applauded enthusiastically; Summer scowled. “That blimp is going down,” she muttered as she walked to center stage, bumping into Ellie returning to her place. Summer overemphasized the impact with Ellie, throwing herself backwards like a leaf in a big wind. Laughter erupted from the audience.

Summer pulled herself into beauty-candidate posture, and smiled a dazzlingly insincere but effective smile. “I’m ready,” she cooed.

No one was paying any attention to Marley. Which was just as well, or they would have seen her extend her slender fingers while her arms remained at her sides. Something like a low voltage of electricity sweep across the stage and Marley’s eyes opened very wide, and she froze for a moment.

“Amphibian.” That was a darn hard one, Summer thought to herself; what’s the deal? As she took a deep breath, she felt something in her throat. Something large and . . . slimy.

Her pretty pink mouth suddenly burst open and frogs, salamanders, toads and newts began pouring out, hopping up from the stage into the audience. People began screaming and those in the front rows rushed to the aisles, while the students broke out in explosive laughter.

Summer collapsed on the stage, and then vomited for real. Ellie had the trace of a smile, and a feeling of justice and confidence. Marley stared off into space, humming some ancient Babylonian melody to herself.

Rod Drake’s Marley series, all three of the stories, have been published right here in Fictional Musings. Check out Rod's other fiction in Six Sentences, Powder Burn Flash, Flashes of Speculation, MicroHorror and AcmeShorts.

Wednesday, October 14

Not So Simple

“Not So Simple”
Short Fiction - Humor
by Linda Courtland

My phone rang at lunch time.

“How about a sandwich?” the ominous voice said. “On crusty French bread, with a buttery soft center.”

Ever since I’d adopted a low-carb lifestyle, I’d been systematically harassed by a secret consortium led by the Wheat Police.

“I’m gluten-free now,” I said. “I don’t want your processed grains.”

“You can’t hold out forever,” the voice said. “One day soon, you’ll have an overwhelming craving for simple carbs. And when you do, I’ll be there.”

I slammed down the phone but that night, my sleep was filled with flashes of pizza crusts and birthday cake, and I dreamt I ate a donut.

The next day, I saw the stalker’s face everywhere ¾ in the pastry section at Starbucks, on the street selling pretzels, in the cafeteria’s trough of macaroni and cheese.

On my desk at work, a perfect bagel greeted me. “Compliments of the Coalition for Carbs,” the note said. And I knew that something must be done.

When he called before dinner, we set up a meet ¾ in neutral territory, between a Krispy Kreme and a Raw Foods restaurant. I saw him lurking in the shadows, fondling a warm baguette. I snuck up from behind, and stabbed him with a carrot stick.

He swung a hard loaf of sourdough in my direction, but I used a water gun to disable his nutritionally-void weaponry. He stuck the softened dough back into his shoulder holster, then launched a sneak attack, trying to trip me with al dente strands of fettuccine. Finally, I slammed his head against a pork shoulder, with all the force that animal protein can offer.

“You won this round,” he said, skulking off into the night.

I reveled in my victory, doing shots of wheatgrass with strangers, but I knew the enemy would be back ¾ smiling behind a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough, laughing at my moments of weakness, and luring me down that spiral path to barley, rye, and degradation.


Linda’s new book, Somewhere to Turn, is available on Amazon. Read the first story free at www.LindaCourtland.com.