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After sixty years, the tortoise’s conscience finally broke like a prisoner of war in a dank prison cell, so she called a press conference. "It is with great shame that I crawl before you today." Journalists from all over the world and from every kingdom and phylum scribbled in their notebooks or on their iPads or pointed their voice recorders at her.

"I conspired with Aesop to prevent the hare from winning the race," she said even slower than normal. She explained how they had tainted a bunch of carrots with banned substances, a barbiturate made from thistles and a stimulant made from rare wild grasses. The plan was to make the Hare so fast that he would wear himself out and then rest longer than normal. "That’s how I won the race."

The reporters had dozens of questions, of course. "Why didn’t you use any snake venom?" an adder shouted. "Don’t you realize that millions of us are unemployed and hunted because of bad press?" A bear from Germany asked whether the fixed race had affected the exchange rate. A flea asked whether any insects had been harmed in the preparation of the banned substances.

The tortoise answered each question with candor and grace. "I am so ashamed that me and my grandchildren hide our heads in our shells an average of 2.3 three hours a week more than other members of our subspecies, according to research."

An owl from Italy complemented the Tortoise for her courage in admitting her guilt.

Just as the junket was wrapping up, a matriarchal African elephant trundled to the podium. "My friends, I was told by the hare himself that he had also acted in concert with Aesop." She explained that the hare had developed an anxiety disorder after being hounded by the press after winning so many races that he and Aesop devised a plan to let the tortoise win, allowing him to escape the limelight. "Aesop was compensated handsomely by both parties."

The reporters were naturally shocked again.

"Of course, the tortoise is lying about the substances," the elephant continued. "The thistle concoction was prepared at such a high concentration that months later the hare developed internal bleeding that eventually caused him to slip into a coma and die lonely and dishonored."

Because it was the elephant telling the story, nobody doubted her and a scorpion from Crete rushed forward and delivered a painful, but not fatal, sting to the tortoise’s front left foot, while two wasps darted down and stung her eyes.

When the news finally reached the human world, there was such an uproar that university students burst into libraries and yanked books of fables from shelves to burn them. But, of course, the damage had already been done and Aesop’s reputation for wisdom survived intact and unquestioned. Eventually, the hobling blind tortoise was given a lucrative book deal for a tell-all memoir and the accompanying film rights.

This story was written by Kael Moffat, who lives in Olympia, WA with his wife and children and works as an academic librarian. He enjoys hiking, kayaking, jazz/funk drumming, and taking photographs. Previous work has appeared in The Transnational, Dark Matter, Flint Hills Review, and other literary journals.


This video was created by David Gregory, drawn by someone else, and written by Wrencherd (which is not his real name). Music: http://www.bensound.com

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“Strawberry daiquiri,” you tell the bartender.

You’re trying your best not to let on that you notice, but Trouble’s next to you. Her gorilla’s next to her. Biker arms, Duck Dynasty beard.

You’ll drink and bounce. You poked the gorilla. She’s turf: bright blue tank top, and tight white short-shorts. Crossed legs that you will not—repeat not—inspect.

Trouble says, “I don’t trust any boy who won’t drink beer.” Gorilla slides his glare behind her shoulders and over to you. You look away.

OK, dude. I’ve been alphaed.

But the daiquiri does look fruity.

“Pretty!” the girl says.

The gorilla laughs. Or could be he’s easing some flem into place for the next time he spits.

“Pretty drink, pretty boy!” the girl taunts.

Shit.

“Excuse me,” you say and slide off the barstool.

“Ladies room’s that way,” gorilla grunts.

You put all the bullshit the therapist told you about impulse control into one nicely laid jab. You nail that gorilla flush on the side of his beefy mask, but he just smiles.

Next thing you know Trouble’s over you screaming, “Let him be!” to the gorilla.

You’ve got your arm around her shoulders as you leave. You wind up on someone’s front steps in Philadelphia about a block down from the bar. And this leggy—and what your moms would call “buxom”—nursing student tends to your ouchies. Makes cooing noises.

I lost the fight, but got the girl.

This story was written by Frank Diamond. His poem, “Labor Day,” has recently been nominated for a Pushcart Prize Award. His short stories have appeared in Innisfree, Kola: A Black Literary Magazine, Dialogual, the Madras Mag, Reverential Magazine, Empty Sink Publishing, the Zodiac Review, and the Fredericksburg Literary and Arts Review. His poetry has appeared in Philadelphia Stories, Fox Chase Review, Deltona Howl, Artifact Nouveau, Black Bottom Review, and Feile-Festa. He lives in Langhorne, Pa.


He unfurled a long, clawed fingernail and explored the depths of his nostril with it. He poked and prodded, scratched and scraped, and eventually withdrew a brownish-greenish snot oyster. It sat impaled upon his claw, sweating in the early evening heat. He examined his find with an expert eye, taking in the layers of ooze, the flecks of blood, the uneven crust. He admired it triumphantly, savouring the anticipation, before popping his snack into his mouth with a flourish. He rolled the snotball around his mouth, enjoying the sensation as the flavours melted into his tongue, a salty tang here, an acrid tinge there. His lips smacked as he revelled in the change of textures, from slimy to crispy to chewy and back again. He swallowed, ecstatically, yet reluctantly. He didn’t know when his nose would produce something so exquisite again.

As the snot slid down his gullet, he closed his eyes, relaxed his anus and let out a gigantic, ear-splitting fart. He breathed deeply, inhaling the rich, beefy aroma that engulfed him. Beautiful. Then he thrust his hand down the crotch of his trousers and adjusted his genitals before taking a sneaky sniff of his fingers. All this done, he was finally ready to work.

The couple in front of him were cowering behind their menus. "Are you ready to order?" he asked.

This story was written by David Cook, whose stories have been published in a number of places, online and in print. He lives in Bridgend, Wales, UK, wife his wife and daughter. None of the behaviour in this story could ever be attributable to him, promise. You can find more of his work at www.davewritesfiction.wordpress.com, and he's on Twitter at www.twitter.com/davidcook100.


I acquired Killian Jones—a male, half moon betta fish—when I went to my local Staples for printer ink. After spending $44 too much on both black and colored ink for my subpar printer, I exited out onto the shopping plaza. I saw the blue and red lights of PetSmart illuminating the cold Ithaca pavement, and I knew I couldn’t resist entering the store.

I instantly bee-lined over to the fish tanks. Some background: I was born in the month of March, making me a Pisces. Consequently, I've always felt a special connection with fish and their aquatic kin. No, I'm not crazy. Humans evolved from aquatic blobs, didn't we? No seriously, did we? I can't remember. Either way, if you can eat calamari after watching Finding Nemo, then you are too narrow-minded to experience the joys of intimacy, friendship, and Ellen DeGeneres.

Anyhow, I went over to PetSmart’s selection of fish and saw a white, iridescent betta with splotches of aquamarine. Instantly, I knew that had fallen in love.

I left that shopping center with much more than printer ink. Sadly, the printer ink lasted a week longer than my dear Killian.

I supposed Killian Jones had a heart attack when I used the net to take him out of his tank for his weekly cleaning. I loved caring for him. I guess I cared too much. His body seized and bobbed in the cup of bubbly Cornell water. For a while, I still thought he was alive. His paper-thin fins twitched. Given my biological knowledge, I attribute the occurrence to rigor mortis.

I avoided texting my friends the news. I was too embarrassed, too sad, it was all just too sudden. The only person I told was one of the guys I had been talking to on Tinder.

He asked me what was going on and I replied that my fish had passed. I explained Killian Jones' funeral: Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, a donation to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and a touching toilet flush. Being a gentleman, he offered his condolences and offered to come over to make me feel better.

Normally, this level of forwardness would put me off. However, I admit, I was in a dark place, and I really needed the company. We drank Svedka mixed with V8 since he couldn’t find lemonade in the Indian bodega. We watched season four of The Office, cuddled up on the rented couch. At the end of the night, we went down on each other. Long. Too long? No, never too long.

During our post-ecstasy snuggle, I went to kiss his cheek. I caught a smell that was both sweet and anemic. I held him tightly as my eyes began to water.

“What?” he asked me.

“Nothing,” I said, knowing he'd be gone soon too.

This story was written by Elizabeth Lacey. Originally from New Jersey, she's a student at Cornell University with a major in biological sciences, general biology with a minor in creative writing, fiction. Her work can be found on https://elizabethlaceywriting.wordpress.com/.


Don’t look down is good advice. Presumably because the adviser wouldn’t say it unless there is reasonable cause. So I bridle a little when I do look down, having not been warned otherwise. Anyway who wouldn’t take just a little peek? I am curious.

My right breast is clamped into a mammogram machine. The radiographer, who sees hundreds of squashed tits every year may not be impressed, but I am. And mortified. My breast is a flat, thin, white disc the shape of a supersized plate in a cheap diner.

The psychological pain of seeing myself, really seeing the size of my bosom is more acute than the physical discomfort.

Am I really so monstrous? And is it safe to inflict such torture on my poor innocent flesh? Tissue that was only minutes before joggling unaware along the road to the mobile breast screening van.

I had heard the horror stories of course, mainly from my less amply endowed friends. Tales of crushing and squashing which caused weeping, bruising and the taking of painkillers, before and after. But I had never heard anyone speak of the grief of seeing one of the twins leering up at you like bloodless road-kill.

Then I wonder. What if the radiographer should drop dead while at the controls and I am left pinned like an insect on a dissecting board? Would my cries for help be heard? Would the bombardment of my boob be stopped before it blackened like an overcooked pizza?

I have made a fatal error and pray this busty flight doesn’t crash. The business of relaxing. Ha! Leaning forward, positioning shoulder and neck just so, has made me quite forget the First Law of Travel - always note the exit.

As my second plate cooks I also realise, while wincing, that I had planned to go bra shopping this afternoon as a treat for my poor ravaged tits. But where am I to find a garment to fit flattened frisbees? And if I managed to find a corsetier who specialised in such brassieres would I then ever again be able to reach the steering wheel?

I wobble into the changing room. When I emerge into the waiting room two other victims are waiting. One is big like me. The other, flat as a pancake, but that phrase doesn’t seem to hold the same meaning anymore.

This story was written by Jane Swan, who lives on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. She writes flash fiction and short stories and is the newsletter editor for her local writing group. Jane likes walking on the beach to fight the effects of eating too much chocolate. It doesn't work.


“Elfin,” shouted Dolph.

“Recherché,” countered Starla.

Adjective Slam. Playing on stage for amateur night at Café Primitivo.

“A big hand for newcomers Dolph and Starla!” said Tannis, senior bartender and default ringmaster.

Regulars weren’t sure whether to be suitably impressed or greatly deflated. Was this cutting edge innovative or etiolated nigh to excruciating?

“Inchoate,” said Dolph.

“Calceolate,” said Starla.

Now or never, Tannis saw, time to intervene. “Calceolate?”

“Shaped like a slipper,” said Starla. “As she fled the ball, the clock striking foreboding midnight, Cinderella shed calceolate footwear.”

Tannis, aping smiles delirious, hustled them off.

Next up, a trio of frog washers, followed by juggling nothing revelatory but extremely polished. Café Primitivo filling up, wine flowing, tips improving by the glass.

Back at their miniscule, repurposed oak cask, table, Dolph and Starla.

Starla fretted, drumming her exquisite, multiracial, cinnamon fingers. “How were we?”

“Buttery,” he replied. “Bountiful. Bombazine!”

“Dolph, bombazine? Twilled fabric, noun. What’s got into you?”

“Babe,” he said, “Don’t rest on laurels. Grow. Reach out. Next level, higher ground.”

That did it. Now she knew she hadn’t imagined it. A flick, a tap, as they left the stage, that’s all, but Tannis had touched him and he’d liked it.

“Dodgy, depraved, raving, cretinous!” She lifted their bottle, cracked it over his head.

Il Cantico Salento Primitivo, 2015, the house’s titular red.

“Bold, balanced, floral, fruity, earthy, brambly, jammy, luscious, sexy, romantic,” said Tannis. “Sinful to waste.”

Faithless, feckless, pretty boy Dolph. Tannis the perspicacious. She licked him mighty clean.

This story was written by Richard Baldasty, an amateur night truth teller and adjective flinger. He lives in Spokane, WA, and Twitter tweets @2kurtryder.


The mansion owner ran his entitled fat finger along the staircase banister. Fault-finding judgement announced on his artificially tanned features before she’d even looked. Ophelia knew what was coming. This was a mere formality to assert his superiority before the belittling – engineered to strip bare her dignity – began in earnest.

He raised the digit for her to see, dust clinging to it in one congealed lump. “Dust,” he bellowed, as if it were some sort of shocking surprise. That was as far as his acting abilities carried however. The unmistakeably sniffy tone and never less than arrogant manner, perfected over many decades since when he’d first inherited wealth and left humanity for good, flowed from him as naturally as champagne from a flute glass.

“Get dressed. I’m calling the agency,” he huffed while flashing a cold smile to showcase his insincerity. “You might have the body for it, but NUDE MAIDS FOR HIRE, or whatever those overcharging, lint-licking rice bubbles call themselves, are gonna get told the next hired help they god-dam-well send out here better come wearing at least a decent pair of bloody bi-focals!”

Ophelia bowed her head and felt sobs trapped in her throat. Grief surged from her with every expelled breath. She thought of all the sacrifices she’d made giving up her highly paid stripping job down at STARBUTTS GRANDE BOOBIE BUNGALOW to swap it for a less seedy, more respectable line of work.

She collected her duck-egg blue handbag from the front parlour and made her way through the massive pinewood double doors for the last time, with two welcome thoughts rising unbidden in her mind - THE BUSH OF LANDES FOREST and OMELETTE DU FROMANAJA TWA.

Ophelia took one last look at the miser. “I dress for no one.”

Out into the crisp night air and down the street she walked, her future becoming clearer and more resolute with each determined stride.

This story was written by Glen Donaldson, a Brisbane-Australia writer with a nutty aftertaste. He avoids clichés like the plague and admits to being disappointed that a group of squids is not called a squad. Glen lists his all-time favourite movie as CAPRICORN ONE (1978). He owns two telescopes – one working. Glen blogs at SCENIC WRITER’S SHACK.

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