Table of Contents

Spring 2009

From The Editor

Letter from Jack Getze

Short Stories

Patrick Whittaker

9:03

Anthony Rainone

Fall to Pieces

Phil Beloin

Late, After Dinner

Jake Nantz

Midnight on the Links

Stephen D. Rogers

Queen Anne's Lace

Mike Sheeter

Blue Fugazzi

David Moss

The Sleepy Pines Nursing Home

Fiona Kay Crawford

Successful Surgeon

Graham Powell

The Ins and Outs

John Towler

The Fall

Damien Seaman

Thursday Night Blowout

Matthew Acheson

Writing on the Wall

Interviews

Sandra Ruttan with Russel D. McLean

Declan Burke with Brian McGilloway

Jim Napier with Phyllis Smallman

Brian Lindenmuth with Craig McDonald

Reviews by:

P.A. Brown

Mexican Heat

Gloria Feit

Friend of the Devil

Theodore Feit

Death Was in the Picture

A Beautiful Place to Die

Night and Day

Claire McManus

The Hanged Man

The Poisoner of Ptah

My Sister, My Love

The Cruelest Month

Jim Winter

Trigger City

The Fourth Victim

TKO

Bookspot Review Roundup

Book Excerpt

The Big O
by Declan Burke

Featured Article

Passing of the Torch - Celebrated crime novelist dies
by Jim Napier

Queen Anne’s Lace

Dominick and Russell are my best buddies. They're older and that's why they don't make fun of me the way the other kids do. My buds understand that I am not slow. They've seen me run from the gas station to The Weeds. I'm faster than fast. Even faster.

Before Anne -- that's what I call the good times, before Anne -- the three buds hung out together every day. Dominick and Russell would sit on the couch they dragged into The Weeds and smoke the cigarettes I brought from the station.

I'd poke around The Weeds, picking flowers and finding interesting rocks, staying near my buds so I could hear their voices. Sometimes my buddies gave me the special candy that made me dizzy and sometimes they showed me the picture of a naked woman pouring sand over herself -- even down there -- that Russell carried in his wallet.

I was proud I could get cigarettes for my friends. Dad owns the station and said I could help myself to stuff after I finished sweeping.

He doesn't want me to smoke because that's how Mom died. I always close my eyes when I slip the pack into my pocket so Dad won't notice. I was a secret agent on a mission. I had the super power to turn invisible.

My buds.

Then it all changed.

There was a girl on the couch curled up against Dominick.

"Hey, Cigarette Boy, this is Anne."

Anne had blond hair like me. Dominick had dark hair. Russell had red hair and freckles too. He wore a sling one week because his dad broke his arm.

Russell jumped up from the couch. "Did you bring the smokes?"

I handed him the pack.

Dominick gave Anne a squeeze. "Aren't you going to say hello to my girlfriend?"

"Hi."

Anne smiled and said, "Hello."

Russell tore open the pack and lit a cigarette. Then he threw the rest of them at Dominick, hitting him in the chest.

Dominick ignored the pack which landed on the ground. "Thanks."

Russell grunted.

I looked at him. "Are you mad because you didn't bring any sand?"

"Shut your trap."

Dominick laughed but I wanted to throw up. My buds had never been mean to be before. It hurt a lot.

Anne just snuggled closer to Dominick.

I wiped away my tears. "What's wrong?"

Russell glared at me. "Nothing. What's wrong with you?"

I didn't know what to say.

He puffed once more on his cigarette and then threw it to the ground. Then he swore and stomped off through the weeds. That's the last time I ever saw him.

I kept stepping on Russell's cigarette until the smoke stopped coming out. Dad taught me all about the dangers of fire in the summer. After I learned that, he said I was big enough and gave me a box of wooden matches to keep in my pocket.

They rattle when I run. The sound reminds me that my Dad is proud he can trust me to never play with matches.

Anne wasn't like Russell. She didn't use the cigarettes I brought from the station. When I walked around The Weeds, I didn't hear Anne and Dominick talking the way my buddies did. Sometimes Dominick would send me off on missions to collect things. "Get ten sticks as long as your arm."

Finding stuff was fun but I missed being near Dominick when I was away.

Russell was gone and Dominick was changed. One day he asked if I could get money out of the register.

"But that would be stealing." I was surprised he didn't know what stealing was.

Then he asked if I could bring him gas from the station for his motorcycle. "Your father would never miss a gallon or two."

I knew how to pump gas but I didn't like how it tickled my nose. "My Dad sells the gas. That's how he keeps a roof over our head and food on the table."

"It's just I thought we were best buddies."

Dominick never asked me for other stuff before Anne came. She didn't seem to care when I said I could only get cigarettes.

Since she wasn't interested in cigarettes, I would pick flowers for her. My favorite were the light blue ones but sometimes I chose yellow flowers or the tiny green flowers or the flowers that tickled my nose.

Dominick called me her suitor. He asked if I was competing for the attention of his fair Anne. I don't know what he meant but the flowers always made her smile.

One really hot day I found some white flowers that looked like the snowflakes Dad cuts out of paper.

The flowers made her really, really happy. "How sweet. These are called Queen Anne's Lace." Then she gave me a hug.

Dominick grabbed the flowers and threw them down on the ground. He stood and moved close to me. "Don't you know those flowers have bug eggs in them? Body heat causes the eggs to hatch and then the bugs burrow into your skin and eat you from the inside out. Is that what you want to happen to Anne? You want her infested with flesh-eating bugs?"

I turned and ran.

Fast, fast, faster than fast.

Past Little Dinosaur Rock.

Past Dinosaur Rock.

I ran to the gas station bathroom and scrubbed my hands until they hurt but still I was scared the rest of the afternoon, all through dinner, and while I got ready for bed.

That night, I kept having dreams that one bug survived and got inside me. It was crawling through my body laying more eggs which started to hatch.

My Dad turned on the light and held me, told me not to believe everything those two boys said. He told me school was starting soon and then I could ask the teacher to see if he wasn't right.

Dad didn't understand what almost happened. Bugs that eat you from the inside out!

I was afraid to go to The Weeds the next day. What if Dominick was still mad at me? What if a bug crawled into Anne and my coming to The Weeds caused the eggs inside her to hatch?

One day I saw ants attacking a caterpillar. It squiggled and jerked and twisted but they wouldn't stop. And that was eating from the outside in.

After lunch, I decided to return to The Weeds and swept the station floor so I could get a pack of cigarettes.

Nobody was on the couch.

I jiggled the box of matches. Dad wouldn't be proud of me if I infested Dominick and Anne. That's not what a big boy did.

There was a sound a little farther on.

I slowly walked that way. Someone was groaning. Was it Anne? Had she run from the couch when the bugs started attacking and now she was lying there all chewed up?

The cigarette smoke had eaten my Mom's lungs until she could no longer breath. That's why she died.

Was Anne dying?

I wanted to stop, wanted to turn and run, but I kept moving closer to those noises.

The eggs must have been white because I hadn't seen them on the flower but what color were the bugs? I bet they were black.

Where was Dominick?

There he was on top of Anne. Both of them were half naked, jerking around, grunting and groaning. The bugs got into Dominick too!

Then I noticed the Queen Anne's Lace. Dominick and Anne were lying in it. The bugs must have started eating right through their clothes.

I turned and ran.

I ran and I ran and I ran.

Past the couch. Past Little Dinosaur Rock. Past Dinosaur Rock.

The matches in my pocket rattled. "Run faster," they said. "Run faster."

I skidded to a stop outside the station and pulled open the door. The empty gas containers were on the far shelf.

I grabbed one and brought it outside, started to pump gas into it, trying to squish my nose closed.

One day Dad found a tick in my hair. He plucked it out and set fire to it in the sink. "That's the only way to get rid of them."

The burns would take a long time to heal and there would probably be scarring but that was better than being eaten from the inside out!

I capped the container and ran, the sloshing sound even louder than the matches.

Dinosaur Rock.

Little Dinosaur Rock.

The couch.

I could hear Dominick and Anne. They were still alive.

I slowed down so I could uncap the container as I ran.

Here comes the super hero on a mission.

They were still moving.

I tipped the container and poured the gasoline over them. Anne opened her eyes and screamed. Dominick shouted as he rolled off her.

I struck matches and tossed them into the screaming flames until the box was empty.

Then I went back to the couch and I cried.



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