Gustav Mahler

No self-respecting literary magazine, esp. one celebrating its 20th gala issue, should be without immortal music. Gustav Mahler's nine symphonies create whole worlds unto themselves, each vivid, fantastical, and profound in turn. Click onto the following link to see a complete video performance (by the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra) of Mahler's timeless Resurrection Symphony.
And, in the event you'd like to learn more about this music-master (in English, Deutsche, and Ceski, see also: Mahler-palooza.
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Robert David Michael Cerello


Decimal, sexegesimal, base twelve--
These are the patterns men have too long grasped.
Think now of "twenty". What this concept asks
Requires new thoughts. One decimates those selves
Who fail in duty to a caesar's whim,
A consul's orders. But each twentieth man--
No man could stand such danger. Understand:
Twenty has magic. Honor must go to him
In baseball with 20 homers, 20 years,
20 victories on the mound. And more--
20 points scored is honor in basketball,
20 touchdowns a goal the quarterback steers.
Twenty in years comes near the proto-adult,
The period when experience can be gained,
Marriage with full rights is to contemplate.
Twenty is potent in the student too--
The year one enters seniorhood. Past this,
The years 'twixt twelve and twenty are left behind
When one completes the training of one's mind.
Twenty in blackjack very often wins;
And in a horserace 20--to--1 is odds
A gambler savors. Twenty's a gambler's bet
When feeling lucky; how much more twenty intend
Than one alone can hope! From games to cards,
From age to numbers, nothing can match its force.
So on the 20th issue, a magazine
Takes rightful place on Literature's scene--
By earning merit. By a studied course
Of daring and difference, fiction, image and ode,
Risks and achievings. Twenty's a mighty mark
When many projects after few tries go dark.
Twenty is evidence letting one's readers know
The editor's serious, the writers content
To let their work grace such a polished page.
Honor to him who fills this virtual stage
With worthy attempts, with works toward honor bent!
Honor to those wise men investing hours
Perusing such lofty strivings! Honor to them
Who burn the midnight candle. Honor,again,
To all who lend such enterprise rare power!

Robert David Michael Cerello is an Objectivist philosopher, author and sonneteer presently dividing time between San Diego, California and Budapest, Hungary. He writes voluminously on movies, economics, theater, psychology, ancient history, and enjoys creating new songs, perfecting new recipes, reading, walking, world travel, not to mention guaranteeing his placement on NSA watch-lists with his irredentist views. His sonnets and literary analysis appear regularly in Danse Macabre.

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Daniel Wilcox

The Faces of Rock

A large rock wedged between two discs and kept the farm machinery from cutting into the hard soil, so I dropped the yellow Caterpillar's throttle, stopped, pulled my eye mask from my face and jumped from the left wheel track to the clodded ground. With my gloves, I pulled the hot iron bar out from by the worn seat and shoved it under the football-sized piece of granite rock, prying it up and out of the discs. As I turned to put back the bar, I saw myself in the Caterpillar's left mirror, looking like a 1930's white comedian wearing black-face only in this case brown-face, a bit of Jewish-face grime darkening my already deeply tanned appearance. I grinned, wiped some of the sweaty dirt from near my eyes, pulled on the goggles, roared up the engine, and the tracks clattered to life, and I drove down the right side of the rolling hill in the 120-degree blowing heat.

The growing furrows aimed toward the white buildings of Bet Shean in the near distance, the town's structures glistening in the glaring sun like white teeth. Beyond them I could see a glint of the Jordan River and then the pastel brown mountains of Moab—now called Jordan—dim in the dusted haze.

I had arrived from Huntington Beach three months before, in April 2006, just after the rainy season, to volunteer at The Fields of Azariah, this Jewish Kibbutz farm in the Galilee southeast of Nazareth. I wanted to experience a little of the Middle East—what I had read about in my Catholic Bible for years--participate in the communal life style, hang out with the 16 other young adults from 6 different countries, and generally continue my world journeying. Soon enough, I would be teaching painting again at Orange Coast College in California.

Once the sun reached noon high and the heat became unbearable, I aimed the rig toward the guard towers of my kibbutz and drove home. Work generally was from 4:30 A.M. until about 10 or 11. 'Heat and rocks' was my daily mantra; though Judaism didn't have mantras, so I was mixing pickles and 'apples,' not being kosher. But Jews on my kibbutz—who called themselves Israelis--weren't religious anyway, having come into these hills from Germany in the 1930's, escaping Hitler only to confront the Bedouin and the Arabs who also claimed this rocky land, going back 4,000 years. These German Jews, illegal immigrants, 'despiting' the British Mandate's rules and the Arab raids, had built a stockade, then their homes—believing in only themselves and nobody else, certainly not Yahweh. No, it was the muhjahdeem, the radical Muslims who lived in the low Judean mountains to the south, beyond the security fence, who were the God-talkers, 'if Allah wills' parsing their every breath.

Even stranger was the knowledge that it was in those very mountains that King Saul in the Jewish Bible had been wounded by the Philistines so many thousands of generations ago. Later the Philistines had hung his body on the Bet Shean wall. I glanced toward the border town, three miles away, its buildings rearing up like stone idols, their walls so pale white in the haze. There was a mantra for sure—rather a Jewish psalm- 'Nothing ever changes in the Unholy Land.'

Six weeks earlier, a suicide bomber had detonated her vest in Afula a town 15 miles in the opposite direction—three Jewish teenagers had died while buying Pepsi and Fritos. 'So it goes,' I mumbled quoting that infamous of all modern war references as I drove the Caterpillar into the barn, signed out for the day, washed up, and hurried to the communal dining hall for some grub.

Because of the tragic attack—in that case by a 17-year-old Muslim girl from Nablus— security had been high of late. Every night three kibbutzim took turns walking our farm's wired perimeter, carrying their short Uzi submachine guns, sometimes their Ipods turned on low, no doubt to an Israeli singer or some Californian band; it made me feel right at home, yeah right!"

I piled my plastic plate high with fish, potatoes, some Jewish 'ham' (turkey made to taste like the forbidden stuff), vegetables, and grabbed a tall glass of milk. Near the eastern windows sat a bunch of the international volunteers--Ruth, Jake, Joel, Naomi, etc. and several kibbutzim. I angled through the crowded tables of a couple hundred eaters and plopped down next to Ruth. She warmed me with one of her rising smiles, not that I needed any more heat. As much as I like warm weather, I was glad for the loud air conditioners burring in the general din of the cafeteria.

Tomorrow was Shabbat and since none of us volunteers were getting any kind of tourist education on Judaism from the locals—all die-hard secularists--we decided we would walk the three miles to Bet Shean and check out a real synagogue. So after I got situated and had swallowed a couple large bites of potatoes, I asked Ruth, "What time shall we meet at the water tower? Maybe 7 or 8, or will that be too hot for you girls and your fabled skin?"

She smirked and said, "Right now I would like to be about 6 feet under in the pool water, and will be as soon as I finish this falafel. As for 'tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,' let's not think yet."

I laughed at the Shakespearean allusion, bowed in acknowledgment, knowing that a British girl like her—hailing from Edinburgh--had two redeeming traits: a great knowledge of literature and one hell of a bikini. Well, there was actually so much more than those outward signs; she was like her namesake in the Old Testament, filled with caring and exuberant drive.

We joshed through the meal, then we and many others filled the pool and Ruth her bikini and me my desire. After the sun set, and the temp dropped to a temperate 85, we sat on the lawn and watched Bruce Almighty that was reverse- projected up on a kibbutz screen, drinking Israeli black beer, and carrying on until about 10 when we crashed in our separate volunteer rooms, so tired from the hard work week.

I arrived at the water tower about 6 A.M. Ruth had said, "Why chance being late to Jewish worship? That certainly would not be kosher." And I knew I didn't want to be hiking in any more morning heat than we had to; if early, we figured that we could always walk down to the Jordan River or check out the ancient Roman amphitheater that had been archaeologically restored.

Several Muslim Palestinians, hired to do grunt work on the kibbutz, were already moving irrigation pipe with one of the kibbutzim directing. Close by, the farm's large gasoline truck rested like a red rock near the gate to the Haifa Highway.

Ruth came walking toward me in a sedate blue dress, down the path that passed the dining hall, like some damsel, more likely a debutante on Rodeo Drive in West L.A., her long brown hair flowing about like a ballet in the warm wind; this was the first time I had seen her not in gray kibbutz shorts and a work shirt.

Soon the other five showed up, Jake, Wendy, Joshua, Molly and Naomi. That made 7, the Jewish number of perfection--days of the week, trumpets, sons, and so on, stacking allusions endlessly in my literary brain. And away we strolled down the highway like we owned it. European and American Jews or their descendants did own much Palestinian/Israeli land.

Across the highway, the kibbutz fish crew members were about done drawing their net through one of the large farm ponds; soon loads of fish would be spliced and diced in the sheds to the left of the water tower. They would move the red gasoline truck for the large refrigerator trucks that would haul the catch to markets here and yon. But Ruth and I and the others would be observing another ancient ritual, and hopefully not committing any unkosher goofs.

In the morning heat, we hiked down the lightly trafficked highway, an arrow of cement from Haifa on the Mediterranean to Bet Shean on the Jordan border. Ahead of us, above the white buildings of Bet Shean, were the distant mountains of Moab, menacing high in the distant sky.

We approached the medium-sized town, ancient in its base, low-income in its work, divisive in its religion or the lack there of—for the many secular Jews. The Palestinian Arabs were, at least outwardly, much more concerned with invisible matters, ritualing their speech with "if Allah wills" and "Muhammad, blessed be his name."

Muslim men and women and kids passed us as we strolled into town through the Arab market where everything from goat heads to luxuriant Arab cheese and sweets could be procured. We walked up to several large groups and I asked 'anyone in particular,' "How do we find Judges Street, where the Jewish Synagogue is?" and glanced around for an individual to respond. Several men looked my way, but a boy of about 12 beat them to the hospitality.

The boy, smiling, spoke up, "My brother knows; he'll tell you." He motioned for me to come over to the half dozen people standing behind him. A Muslim young woman in a long dress and a muted scarf, loaded down with three mesh bags of produce, talked rapidly to the boy in Arabic and smiled over at us. Obviously not of HAMAS, whose Muslim women wear dour black on black—blacker than my Catholic Bible. She, of course, was being escorted by the older brother--he incongruously attired in Nikes, Levis, and an old Metalica T-shirt.

He was the one who spoke up, friendly, but guarded, "Salaam! May Allah be praised. I am Abdal-Rahiim and this is my little brother Ibrahiim, and our sister Saara. We are glad to help you. Just walk three streets up north there, turn right past the Roman amphitheater, then go by the Israeli high school, and you will see a low building with a big colored window."

It sounded like the synagogue was very close to the Jordan River, and the security fence, but I noticed he mentioned neither.

"Thanks very much." Then I looked back at Ruth, Jake, and the others.

But he spoke again, "You Americans?"

"Hardly" Jake spoke up, "You think we would want to be associated with that Bush-Crazy?" And he rolled his eyes and twirled his hand, and Abdal laughed, as did some of the other Palestinians, and gave us a warm smile. Jake continued, "We're from Down Under and from Britain; you know where the sun never rises anymore." Then, Jake let out the rest of the paused joke, "Except for this guy," pointing at me, "he's U.S. CIA!"

The Muslim looked startled but then caught the last part of the joke and laughed. I marveled at how much friendlier, superficially supposedly, the Muslims were than the Jews I had worked with for three months on my kibbutz. Islamic hospitality and religious merit versus Jewish reserve and secular caution. The rule of thumb was that Jews didn't start being friendly until they had observed you for months, knew you; in my case, being a Christian, made me even more suspect. Since they had sometimes seen me read my Bible, I was the odd American, while they were proud atheists, secular descendants of European Jews who had escaped the Holocaust.

We continued on into town, not amazed at how many Jews weren't worshiping on Shabbat, but busy about town celebrating in true secular fashion. We walked through a crowd of Israeli teens—all seemed to have sunglasses and ear plugs--in front of a café blaring American pop. I noticed a buxom blond girl in a skimpy halter and shorts schmoozing and more, in the arms of a guy in an IDF uniform, his Uzi under the dainty table piled with cups and bagels.

We seemed to have gotten lost. This time, Jake checked for directions. "Excuse me," he said to the guy and girl, "Could you direct us to the local synagogue?"

The soldier looked up as if we had crashed his bar mitzvah and said in brief English with a heavy Hebraic accent, "Turn right past the butcher's over there," and pointed.

We thanked him, and she in his lap looked quizzically, as if to ask, 'why would anyone want to go to synagogue, but hey, tourists are weird,' then went back to nuzzling.

Sure enough, we got past several sets of stuccoed apartments, the amphitheater, and a modern California-looking high school, and there it was the low, squat synagogue with the outlandish modern-art stained-glass window striking out colors in all of its modern Jewishness.

We sat, I should say, Jake and I sat in the central room with its large Torah replica and Menorah on the front wall; the girls had to go sit with women behind a latticed wall where they could vaguely see through to the sanctuary, while various white shawled-covered men on our side rose and chanted out of Jewish Bibles what sounded like the Psalms—"Praise Yahweh in the Heavens, praise Yahweh…."

At one point I started to doze off to the melodious chanting, but woke and silently prayed, especially for the three peace workers from my church that were in Mosul, Iraq helping at a homeless shelter with the Orthodox Church of Iraq. What an irony, that Christian peacemakers here in Israel were often harassed, even jailed since it was against Israeli law to proselytize—a connotatively negative term for sharing one's religious faith. There may be a lot of rocks here in Israel—thinking about the 30-some I had dug out of the Caterpillar's discs yesterday—but the Rock of Jewish Peter (a Hebrew name meaning 'stone') was only for tourists and Arabs. Yet, Iraq was open to Christ, if you could survive the killings—the thousands of innocent civilians butchered like sheep. Just 6 months before three American Christians had been kidnapped, one executed and dumped in a Baghdad street with the garbage.

After the Jewish worship service, we stood outside talking with several Israelis of Bet Shean; then we heard loud shouting at some distance.

Up the street, many Palestinian youths in a large crowd were coming our way at a run— shouting so loudly the stone walls echoed the Jihad cry of "Allah Akbar!"

I stared transfixed at the angry mob stampeding toward us, yelling God's name like an insult. I wondered why they didn't add more from the Koran, such as the verse, "In the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate Praise belongs to Allah, the Lord of all Being…"

I thought of the Muslim librarian at my college in Costa Mesa who had escaped from Saddam's Iraq 10 years earlier by paying the dictator over 20,000 dollars, and of how she worshiped Allah every day, yet wanted to kill no one for the God of all compassion and justice, but wanted the world to know of how merciful God is…

Then heavy thuds sounded up and behind me on the synagogue roof. A dozen of the Arab youths in front of the crowd were arching their arms and heaving. More rocks fell from the hot heaven like loaded manna, loud thumping the synagogue roof and nearby cars. A fist-sized rock smashed into the hood of a Toyota Celica and bounded off landing only paces away. The Israelis next to us shouted in Hebrew as they rushed back into the synagogue, obviously to get their guns. Nearly every adult in this violent land was in the reserves or the militias, and his gun was usually only a prayer away—whether to Yahweh, Allah, the Trinity, or even Darwin/Marx.

Then the Marc Chagall stained-glass window shattered, a small purple animal blasted to kingdom come. I twisted in front of Ruth throwing out my arms, hiding her behind me; the next volley hit around us including a large rock bashing into my right shoulder, hurting like hell, like the line-drive baseball that had hit me as a kid. Now the Israelis pulled us into the synagogue and rushed out with guns, firing warnings into the air above the milling stone throwers who kept up the yelling in Arabic as they lobbed every stone they could find.

Dozens of thuds sounded on the roof above our heads. With the usual gallows humor of kibbutz life, a headline appeared in my mind—"Stoned in Bet Shean," and I chuckled until I heard Ruth next to me, crying.

She wept.

"This is terrible; it's happening again," she whispered.

"Yeah welcome to the Middle East, everyone kills for God here"…and glanced down at her; her face a gash of sorrow…"unlike Scotland"—

She interrupted, "But I'm Palestinian!"

I looked intently into her jade eyes, bewildered…"I thought you were British?"

"Not on my mother's side. My mom escaped from the first Intifada after an Israeli rubber bullet hit and killed her best friend, Sughra; they had been walking home from school in Ramallah. Friends of hers were beaten, arrested…She escaped the see, my mom had heard this British journalist speak at her school…for, of course, she couldn't talk to men, being a good Muslim girl from a liberal Palestinian family…but, she ran away…somehow the journalist got her out of Israel and into Britain and then they fell in love, and wed, and had me and lived happily ever after; until she died of a heart attack last year," and Ruth started crying again, "and I've come back to discover what she left…and who I am."

Unlike usual, I was wordless. More loud thumps…more angry shouts in the air…more warning shots.

Then a volley of curse words behind me. Jake, our resident politician from Down Under who knew the news like his Great Barrier Reef, shoved his MP3 Player into our faces. "I've got the BBC! Our kibbutz has been bombed!"

Sure enough scrolling down the little screen were the words: "Suicide bombing at the Kibbutz Fields of Asariah on the Haifa Highway near Bet Shean. Evidently, an Arab worker on the farm drove the gasoline truck into the dining hall and exploded it—many dead and wounded, more details soon.."

Ruth leaned into me and our eyes met and welled open beyond explanation.

Heavy bass thropping--thropping! Israeli copters! Then above the den of Arabic war cries, came a loud speaker from above, as if out of Heaven, sounding a thunderous speech in Arabic—no doubt warning the Muslim Davids to put down their stones and leave.

Ruth was distant now in her eyes, staring up at the ceiling, but obviously not thinking about the loud chopping of the rotor blades or the noise outside. Then she spoke my name with too much tenderness, so much that I actually pulled a way from her close body.

"You know that's why I am called Ruth; my dad named me for the woman in the Bible, a Moabitess who left her religion, her country, her family to join an alien for love…"

Then before I knew it I had kissed her without rime or place...I suppose it was because I knew the Old Testament story of Ruth so well, as I knew many great stories. Our eyes welled together again, living in the now below the thropping and the shouting and the religious cursing—a visual kiss of sorrow, of grace, of, yes, passion…my academic brain adding so ironically, 'in love and war'—so Hemingway-esque….Ruth a Palestinian from Scotland working on a Jewish kibbutz in the arms of a California Catholic, and I smiled. And then thought of the weirdness that tragic times almost never are the totally somber affairs that supposedly happen, that always the absurd and the ironically humorous and even the romantic play counterpoint to the endless dirge…

But instead I said, "I'll be Boaz, though I'm not old or rich," and grinned. I also remembered a famous Christian quote, "Our God is a consuming fire of love."

She stared back in bewilderment…obviously didn't remember the rest of the Ruth story, but said, "I hope Naomi is okay, and what of all our other friends and the kibbutzniks?!"

"Yeah." I thought of who might be wounded, who gone for ever like so many others, of the fiery death of another suicide bomber--and from one of 'our' own Arab workers! Then of the secular Israelis back at the café on the main street, of the Old Testament-style Muslim revenge from bombs to stones..and of my recent trip to Bethlehem to see the cave-stable where Jesus is alleged to have been born; only 4 different Christian denominations have walled up sections—no doubt with some sort of rock--to keep other Christians out of their little piece of Heaven!...none of this made any sense.

Then Ruth nudged me. I realized that a synagogue guard was talking to us. The guard's dark eyes were like stones, but he spoke hurriedly in perfect English without the usual Israeli accent and said that we had better leave, walk carefully to the Egged bus station and get out of town as soon as possible.

I asked, "What started all this? It's them"—and my eyes diverted to Ruth's—"that started heaving the rocks!"

The guard paused, "It's complicated; the new Planning Director of Bet Shean is from Brooklyn, New York; he's supporting the fanatical settlers that started up a new Jewish settlement on some confiscated Palestinian land. It's about three miles south of here and the case is to go before the Israeli Supreme Court next week. I think the new director is meshuga!—but those Muslim crazies make him look like the good guy." Then the guard cursed his God in Hebrew as he glanced out the huge hole that had been Chagall's art. Evidently another crowd had started to gather.

I rubbed my bruised shoulder and reviewed the faces of rock from Jewish field to Islamic land and me the Christian 'crusader' and pondered briefly the nature of we three children of Abraham so caught in false faces, like black-face--the racist, religious mockery of it all.

I faced Ruth and said, "Come on Moabitess, you aren't part of these petty stones; your Rock is higher than that." The guard stared confused, mentally reviewing his brain's English dictionary.

But Ruth's smile to me melted all rock to lava.

Daniel Wilcox earned his degree in Creative Writing from Cal State University, Long Beach. He is a former activist, former literature teacher, and former wanderer who has farmed in the Middle East and worked as a volunteer on the Cheyenne Indian Reservation. His writing has appeared in The Other Side, Oak Bend Review, various online magazines such as Danse Macabre, Sentinel Poetry Online, The November 3rd Club, The Green Silk Journal, Words-Myth, and other publications.

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Roxanne Hoffman

Bloodline (The Prodigal)

While the silent world around us slept,
I held him tightly, laughing, as I wept,
for the boy I thought I lost, now was found,
back to me his paths had wound,
back across my threshold he had stepped,
out of the dark shadows of the night he had leapt.

As the memories stirred within me sped,
I stroked and smoothed the curls
that lay upon his tiny head,
wondering where the paths now taken led,
of all that happened, all not said.

I thought of the seed planted in his mother’s womb,
of this tiny bud plucked before he could bloom,
of that fatal eve, my wife and son met their doom,
their lying, side-by-side, buried within their tombs.

Gently, I relinquished the boy I so lovingly embraced,
longing once again, to look upon his smiling face.
Letting go, we slowly slipped apart
until our fingers met and interlaced,
as I tried to not to lose my heart,
now fluttering in place.

Tuffs of gray glistened like silver strands against his raven hair,
The once youthful sparkle in his hazel eyes now gave way to stony stare.
The blush had left a pallor pale upon his cheeks,
And from his lips, the stench of death still reeked.

And then he chortled with a ghoulish glee,
And with a lunge, ripped my soul right out from me

Down and down, I plunged into the devil’s fiery pit,
consumed by scorching flames rising higher as he bit,
and then I saw the beaming light that was my son,
and back into this world I spun.

Not a drop wasted! Not a drop spilled!
Each delectable morsel tasted,
and devoured with relish,
until his wolfish appetite filled.

And when he was done,
this monster who was still my son,
across his lips he spread,
a toothy smile of crimson red.

And with a wink of the eye,
a tilt of the head,
we kissed, said our goodbyes,
and then,
under the fleeting mantle of the night,
away he sped,
away from the glimmer of daybreak,
away from morning's glorious spread
flooding the distant hills with sunlight.

Back to his tomb he fled,
away from the rooster’s raucous greeting,
into the dark shadows of the night retreating,
leaving me drained of life-blood,
wondering what more horrors lay ahead.

* * *

Forever bound by blood,
no longer bound by flesh,
entangled in the Maker’s murky labyrinth of mesh,
I am forever waylaid midway between life and death!

For the little boy I so loving adore,
has made me his mistress,
named me his whore.

Now, each night I sit and wait
for him to feast on me.
Unable to renegotiate my fate!
Unable to alter destiny!

Roxanne Hoffman, a former Wall Street banker, now answers a patient hotline for a major New York home health care provider. Her poetry is anthologized in The Bandana Republic: A Literary Anthology By Gang Members And Their Affiliates (Soft Skull Press) and can be heard during the independent film, “Love & The Vampire,” directed by David Gold. Her poems have recently appeared in Amaze: The Cinquain Journal, Best Poem: A Literary Journal, Champagne Shivers, Clockwise Cat, Danse Macabre, MOBIUS The Poetry Magazine, Mirror Dance, and the Canadian journal Inscribed. She and her husband own the small press, POETS WEAR PRADA, specializing in limited edition poetry chapbooks. Visit her online at to find out how you can submit your poetry and micro fiction to their annual anthology.

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Ray Succre

A Selective Biological Condition

The man removed his clothes,
but was then nothing but pillows.
He slept and became me,
and by morning I woke beside my wife.

Had I traveled in time? Was I two fractured men?
I exhausted the morning on a couch, being
a selective biological condition
cast like seed from the Big Bang.

She picked flowers at first, early on,
but the flowers were parishioners.
She left the church after discovering
Moroccan cuisine and my zipper.

At noon, we paid and then joined the Tour of Poisons.
We grew innervated and spoke in accents.
The guide was factual, though young enough to infer.
"Over here, in the blue case is Pancuronium.
It kills quickly but painlessly, centering
on the ulterior relaxation of muscles.
Those with an interest in capitol punishment
will find it noteworthy that the 'lethal injection'
contains Pancuronium. While not retro,
it can still be inferred a 'vintage' poison."

I stepped up and lifted the vial from the blue case,
had a staunch drink. It tasted like aspirin
and fruity perfume.
"Honey!" my wife gasped. I set the empty vial back.
"It was just a sip." I said, flower-like, serene, domestic.
"Don't spoil it! I'm making Moroccan tonight."

I lifted my shirt and examined my pillow.
My wife adjusted the little bible she hid in her shirt.
The tour guide yawned and moved us toward
the grand room of Strychnine.

How soft and relaxed the world was.

Ray Succre currently lives on the southern Oregon coast with his wife and baby son. He has been published in Aesthetica, Vanitas, and Pank, as well as in numerous others across as many countries. His novel Tatterdemalion was recently released in print and is available most places. He tries hard.

For inquiry, publication history, and information, visit him online at

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Felicia Florine Campbell

One, Two, Buckle...

It thudded off the right front tire like a small furry animal caught in the center of the road. But it wasn't a small furry animal - she almost wished it had been - it was a shoe, and the damned thing seemed to be haunting her. She'd first seen it a couple of weeks earlier on the shoulder of the road, pointing toward the car and had an almost irresistible urge to swerve to avoid it, sure that it would run in front of the car. But how could one shoe run? The whole thing wouldn't have seemed so dumb if there had been two shoes, but what would have activated one shoe? She reached for the radio hoping the sound would bring her back to reality. Here she was -- a sensible grown, woman, a professional for God's sake, spooked by a shoe that some idiot had probably lost from a bag headed for the Salvation Army...

The radio blared. A couple of fools were blathering on a talk show. She smiled briefly at the thought of them seriously discussing how people managed to lose clothing along the side of the road. Another jab eliminated the blatherers and brought a Sibelius concerto. Breathing deeply, she attempted to sink into the music. Ordinarily she loved the drive out of the city and through the high desert to her home. Those nights when she made the entire thirty miles without encountering another car and could pretend that the whole area was hers were a real triumph. Humans' trash along the road always blurred the victory a little because it was evidence that others had been here.

"How can you stand it alone out there?" people would ask, unaware that almost every moment she spent in the city was agony as she was battered by the untrammeled emotions of the crowds that swirled around her. Even in the privacy of her office, she could feel the tensions, the hostilities and insecurities of those around her filtering through the walls. She often wondered if it would be possible to create a shield against these things, but to attempt research would involve admitting her disability and would be unsafe at the least, perhaps landing her in a mental hospital or drugged out of her mind on the streets. So she endured the daytime flaying, sinking into the balm of solitude and quiet of her refuge to regenerate before heading back to the city the next day.

Somehow she had been born without the filters that enable most of the human race to make its obtuse way through life, as oblivious to the stew of emotions around it as to the presence of infra-red rays or the molecular dance within them. A true outsider, she had spent most of her life clawing for moments when immense amounts of space dissipated the vibrations of the others. This didn't mean that she could not be lonely, for lonely she was for one of her own kind. On many occasions she had met partial outsiders and been deluded momentarily by them, always emerging from the relationship somehow soiled and diminished until she grew a new layer of protective skin. Now she had come to terms with her solitary existence. It would have to do.

Music was a comfort. Wagner and Strauss had cushioned their own agonies with layers of melody, notes which intercepted the waves of human goo and buffered it.

Oddly, it was only technical man that seemed to shoot out these bolts of energy that shook her so terribly. The tribal peoples that she had spent time with did not seem to do this. Once an ancient shaman had held her hand, shaking his head sympathetically and she knew that he understood. While he held her hand, their surroundings dropped away and the two of them soared into a frosty realm of ice- silvered peaks and molten blue sky. Here she confronted a winged wolf, first silhouetted against the peaks then face to face. She had thrown her arms around the massive neck and buried her face in the soft whipped- cream ruff. Never had she known such peace and wonder. Overhead a pure white hawk soared before landing on her shoulders leaving faint claw prints that she would carry forever, a mark of protection. They were encircled and protected by a huge silver-and-gold snake with emerald eyes who touched her breast briefly before resting his head on his tail, completing the circle. She wanted to stay like that forever, and fought being pulled back, but her grip loosened on the wolf, which soared to a peak, the hawk and snake disappearing at the same time. She was sobbing when she awoke, still clutching the old shaman's hand.

He knew her daily crucifixion, because he suffered he same thing, but he had shown her power animals. After that, she moved to the forest and waited, for what she knew not. She sincerely hoped that the shoe was not a symbol of what lay ahead.

Unlocking the door of her bungalow, she stepped inside pressing her back against the door, one hand still on the knob. Long John Silver screeched a greeting. She had picked up the parrot out of pity at a pet shop. No one wanted him because he spoke only Urdu, but she rather liked the idea, and they had been together ever since.

"Hi, Johnny," she opened the cage and he rode out on her arm. He replied something that sounded like Chello and flapped his wings. "What's wrong, old buddy?" He flapped again and crawled back into his cage. She looked around, but things seeme d normal. Perhaps she should take him to the vet.

Hungry, she grabbed a couple of boxes of frozen vegetables from the freezer, put them into the microwave, punched the buttons, poured a glass of wine and sat at the kitchen table, kicking off her shoes. Her legs were tired and she stretched them out under the table slumping down in the chair. At full slump, her bare foot touched something that felt suspiciously like a shoe. Looking down, she saw that indeed it was an alien shoe, the mate to the one in the road. Fighting off panic, she reached down and picked it up by the untied strings. It jerked in her hand as she opened the door and pitched it as far as she could. "Shit." She gave herself long enough only for that short expletive before slamming and locking the door, running to all of the windows to be sure that they were closed, latching the storm shutters and closing the flue on the fireplace. Finally stopping at the table again, she took a healthy sip of the cabernet. "Double shit." The bell on the microwave had long since gone off, but she ignored the veggies, leaving them to sog in their cardboard coffins.

Long John squawked and she thrust her arm into the cage again. This time he got out. She put on her protective shoulder pad and lifted him to her shoulder where he pressed himself against her ear. His firm, feathery little body felt good and she was grateful for him. As he was no longer agitated, she assumed that they were safe for the moment and poured another glass of wine, no longer interested in eating. Leaving the wine untouched, she checked the windows and doors once more, then lay on the bedspread to await morning. Her dreams, if such they were, were filled with the sound of one shoe scuffling around her house, kicking at the siding and then hurling itself with great regularity at the door, unable to gain any altitude. It seemed limited in its capacities, but it was angry. Had anyone else ever been confronted by an angry shoe? When she awoke, she was saying in a child's voice the old nursery rhyme, One, two, buckle my shoe. This shoe didn't have buckles. It tied.

Deciding that it was too risky to shower -- she never had recovered from Psycho -- she threw her clothes on, put lots of food and water out for Long John, leaving him loose so that he could take care of himself until someone came if something happened to her, gulped a cup of coffee and gingerly opened the door. The shoe wasn't there, so she made a head-run for the car, screeching out of the driveway and onto the road.

She hadn't gone far before she felt something move ratlike around her ankles. It was the shoe. Shuddering, she reached down and pulled it off her instep, jamming it between her back and the seat while she ground down the window. It jerked in her hand, almost escaping before she managed to throw it out of the window near where she had almost hit its mate the night before.

After driving almost a mile, she turned around and drove back to see what state the shoes were in. Her daddy had told her never to leave the scene of a battle before it was finished. For a moment, she smelled the combination of starched shirt and clean perspiration that meant her father. "Oh Daddy, I wish you were here now," she whispered as she got out of the car.

The shoe that she'd thrown out of the car had slowly scraped its way to the side of the road where its equally scuffed partner lay on its side, exposing a hole in the sole. By now more interested than frightened, rather as one is after winning a battle with a rodent, she contemplated her options. Oddly she felt almost sorry for the damned things. They looked so defeated, with their run-over heels, shaggy laces and tongues hanging out. They showed no inclination to move.

Returning to the car, she wrestled the heavy Coleman cooler with its strong latch out of the trunk, turned it on its side and used a stick to prod the shoes inside, slamming shut the lid, and closing her ears to the scuffling inside while she wedged it in her trunk and shut the lid.

The remainder of the drive to the city was uneventful. The radio cranked to full blast sang of love and death on the country roads. Hungry by now, she stopped at a bakery to pick up a cinnamon roll and coffee and headed for the park by the office to eat. She was way too early for work.

The day passed uneventfully, as did the drive home. It was easier with the shoes ensconced in the car than worrying about them on the road.

She ate dinner before bringing in the cooler and opening it on the kitchen table. The shoes like good children were quiet, standing side by side, their laces neatly tied.

"What are you guys?" There was no answer. "If I let you stay, will you be good?"

The heels made a click.

She put them in her bedroom closet, leaving the door open. They stayed until she left the room and then dragged out to the hearth, still not in very good shape, and settled down.

Long John Silver flapped and spewed a stream of Urdu invective, before he settled on his perch, glaring balefully at the shoes which made a shuffling run at him when she turned her back.

Sitting in front of the fire, she picked up her needlepoint, a copy of a wonderful Mogul hunting print, and laid it down almost as quickly. She was dreadfully tired. Too tired even to shower, she undressed, crawled under the covers and was asleep almost before her head hit the pillow.

The shoes sneaked in and arranged themselves under the edge of her bed. Mission accomplished.

She began to dream. Her old shaman was there. Behind him the glorious wolf, the white hawk and the silver snake. Standing in the circle made by the snake, he beat a large hula-hoop-size Eskimo drum and sang, "One, two, buckle my shoe. . . ." She knew that by adopting the shoes, she had passed one test. His next words were carried away in a swirl of mist.

When the early dawn wakened her, her face was smashed into her pillow and she was muttering. "Three, four, close the door." What door? She sat up and tried to remember the rest of the rhyme. "Five, six, pick up sticks." What was next? "Seven, eight...lay them straight." Then "Nine, ten, a big fat her. Eleven, twelve, dig and delve." She had no idea what came next.

What kind of door did she need to close? The shoes didn't have buckles. Perhaps the door wasn't a door, but a gate. She got out of bed and uncovered Long John's cage and opened his little gate before making coffee. The shoes followed her out and settled on the hearth again. They seemed content, but she wished they were more attractive and thought of polishing them. It had been a long time since she'd had a man's shoes under her bed. Her mother had always said the worst part of dealing with a dead person's belongings was taking care of the shoes that carried the impress of the owner's personality. These shoes were worn, but she was darned if she could read their owner's personality.

Her second cup of coffee was steaming in front of her when she heard the sound of tires on the gravel outside, then feet crunching to the front door. Fear almost stopped her heart. No one came here.

The loud battering at the front door had to be made with an object, not a hand. She decided not to answer. Long John and the shoes held their tongues.

"You in there?" She was silent. "Officer of the Law! I'd rather not break down the door."

"Just a minute. I'm coming." Tiptoeing to the door, she slid the chain latch in place before opening the door the crack that the chain allowed. She could see the black and white police car behind its owner.

"Y'awl all right?" She nodded. "Can I come in?"

She slipped off the latch and stood aside to allow him to enter, hoping desperately that she was masking her fear under cold reserve.

"Y'awl here alone?" He was a huge man; his body, beginning to run to fat, strained the polyester of his uniform. A toothy smile gashed menacing in his large face. He was a bully. Generations of lynchings and witch burnings lay under the pallor of that white skin.

"No. My boy friend's still asleep, if you haven't wakened him with all that noise." Her eyes moved to the shoes standing quietly by the hearth, knowing that his would follow.

"I'm new in the area," he drawled, "and I heard that you were here alone, so I thought that I'd better drop by and let you know that I'd be checking on you. You aren't alone anymore." Once more, the menacing smile.

"I'm quite self-sufficient, thank you." She stood with her hand on the door knob. "Now, if you will excuse me, I must get ready for work."

"Not just yet. There's funny things in these hills. Ma'am." He made the ma'am sound like an insult. "Don't want to have to scoop up your dead body."

"What kind of funny things, Officer?" She said officer in the same way that he had said ma'am. Anger flickered across his face.

"Cults, sacrifices, Satan worship, all that stuff. . . ." His big face lowered to hers. She stood her ground.

"Someone's been putting you on. Nothing goes on here. I'd have known if it did. Until now, things have been entirely peaceful."

"Well Ma'am, I've heard there's wolves up here too. We'll put out traps and get rid of all that vermin. You're not alone anymore. No Ma'am, we're taking over."

She stared at him, not allowing her face to change expression. "I really must wake Steve and get ready for work. So if you don't mind. . . ." The name on the badge burned into her memory. It was Hurtz, Milo Hurtz. "Thank you for coming, Officer Hurtz. I'll be sure to call you if I need you."

He sat in the police car watching the house for several minutes after he had taken his leering leave.

Her fortress was breached.

Picking up the shoes, she hugged them to her. "Thanks guys, whatever you are." Then she went into action, constructing the dummy that would hopefully delude Milo into believing that her lover rode beside her. She drove hat pins which she'd once collected through the neck of a styrofoam wig stand, fastening it to the top of a dressmaker's dummy that she had purchased in a moment of misplaced domesticity. It took longer that she had anticipated to smear makeup over the dummy's face - she didn't want it to look as though she were riding with a ghost - and apply crude features using cosmetics as paints. An old Indiana Jones-type fedora pulled down over the eyes would cover a lot of sins. A jacket slipped on the shoulders, sleeves stuffed with newspapers made up the rest of her ersatz lover.

Carrying him to the car, she reclined the passenger set about halfway and fastened him in with the seat belt. He would look like he was napping, she hoped. "Well, lover, at least you keep your mouth shut." She patted his shoulder and went back into the house after her purse.

Looking at the lone coffee cup on the table, she got out another setting of dishes, dirtied them and left them on the table to make it look as though two had breakfasted. Going into the bathroom, she wet an extra towel, scraped a foam-laden razor over her legs to gather some whiskers and left it on the sink after splashing a lot of water around. "Lover, you are a slob, but I adore you."

Three, four, close the door.

Certainly she would keep the door closed on Milo, but she wasn't sure that was what the rhyme meant. She carried the shoes into the bedroom and put them under the bed in the same place that they had spent the night. "You guys stay here. If Milo sees you running around empty, he'll know I'm alone."

Three, four, close the door.

With that she locked the front door. What she needed was a gate to bar Milo and his buddies from her forest. She didn't dare call the police and complain. They were a force of good old boys from the South who had come west and taken over the politics from the laid-back types who lived here. Milo was probably the chief's cousin. Whatever was done could not be done through channels, certainly not normal channels. She had a momentary flash of her shaman beating his drum.

She was about ten miles down the road when Milo sped past too fast to see that the figure beside her was not real. At the city, she parked in an underground parking garage and dismantled the dummy, whom she'd come to think of as Clyde, stuffing his parts in a garbage sack with some old clothes laid on top. The sack could have passed for laundry or something destined for Goodwill.

She rumpled her blouse a bit and smeared her lipstick before emerging from the garage to drive to that of her own building. "O.K. girl, look starry eyed," she said to herself. A couple of minutes late by design, she sat in her office and pretended to be trying to compose herself.

"Well Sweetie, got a lover?" It was Harry, a salesman version of Milo. They probably knew each other. This was exactly what she had hoped.

"Why should you say that, Harry?" She pretended confusion, rearranging her clothes and furtively patting her hair.

He hooted again. "So the old iron virgin got it on! Well, I'll be damned." He laughed and moved on to whisper at the next desk, after making an obscene gesture with his tongue and cupped hand.

Her loathing almost got the better of her, but he was working on schedule, totally predictable, and he was doing what she needed done - spreading the word that she had a man.

Three, four, close the door.

Maybe it was this place that she needed to close the door on. She did have enough money to start somewhere else, but how could she know whether the trouble would start again. Tomorrow she would give notice. She would say she was getting married. An old beau recently widowed. Yes, they were very happy. They were moving to New Zealand to raise deer. He had relatives there.

Her office mates would be delighted at this display of normalcy on her part, which would confirm their own unutterable normalcy. They would take up a collection and buy her a butter dish.

After work she stopped at the small grocery she frequented in preference to the large supermarket and purchased a double supply of groceries. "Yes," she smiled, "I do have company." Milo's spies could lurk even behind the meat counter. In fact a butcher shop was a good place for butchers.

Hoping to beat the storm that was gathering, she drove home rapidly and entered her house just as the first large drops hit the ground.

The shoes emerged from her room. What's the matter, you guys looking for cold feet?" she laughed, then almost screamed when a heartstopping banging shattered the silence.

"Open up! Officer Hurtz! Drug bust! Hands up!"

She opened the door and jumped back just in time to keep him from banging her with it. No, it's three, four, Shut the door. She eyed him coldly, her calm belying the pounding of her heart. Rain and wind swept in behind him. "Close the door behind you," she said coldly. Slamming it shut behind him, Milo advanced. "Where's your warrant?"

He loomed over her. "Girl, I don't need no warrant. Not for friends like us. That was a dumb stunt, pretending the boy friend. I just told everyone it was me. You are my gal, when I want you."

One heavy-fingered white hand reached out and ripped her blouse, uncovering her breast. She fought for self-control. She had to play for time. He planned to rape her, perhaps murder her. She had to think. Long John was nowhere to be seen. The shoes were silent by the fire. Time. She needed time.

Giving a seductive twist that made the dark brown of her uncovered breast stand out sharply, contrasting with the white of her blouse, she looked up at him through long lashes. "Hey, you don't have to rough me up. It's been a long time since I had a big strong man to take care of me. I never had a policeman. You want some wine? We might as well be civilized."

His erection strained against the rain-damp polyester of his uniform pants. She brushed the back of her hand against it as she reached for the wine bottle.

Milo grinned. She was a slut. She deserved whatever he wanted to ram home in her. He'd let her go through her little act. Maybe she hadn't had a real man before --a white man.

She rubbed the front of his pants with one hand while she poured wine with the other, then drank staring at him over the rim of her glass. He could not know what she was summoning.

Ripping at the other side of her blouse, he exposed the other breast, then lowered his big white face and sucked painfully at it. "Hey, don't you give chocolate milk? You better or you'll be sorry." She almost screamed as his teeth ripped into her other nipple. "Come on, give. I never had no titty milk."

He pulled his face away. "That wasn't good. Holding out on me wasn't good." Gripping her against him with one arm, he worked at the buckle on his pants.

One, two, buckle my shoe.

Giving up on the buckle, he unzipped and pulled out his pig-pink member. "I'm gonna gut you like a trout." Pushing her down, holding an arm across her neck, he fought to get her underpants off. She had turned to dead weight, her mind far from him to where the shaman beat a drum.

Suddenly she was back. Long John had launched a surprise attack at Milo's eyes, a feathery fury that caused him to jump up, giving her an opportunity to scramble to her feet. Then he tripped on a shoe that slid under his foot at the opportune moment and went down on his back, hitting his head, stunned but not dead, his uncircumcised penis a limp one-eyed slug curled on the polyester of his pants.

Five, six, pick up sticks.

His heavy nightstick lay near him. She picked it up and, with all of her strength, delivered a blow to his Adam's apple. Then another, and another. It was enough.

Seven, eight, lay them straight.

As the adrenaline subsided, she began to feel the pain in her blood-smeared breasts. Looking down, she shuddered at the teeth marks. Before she stumbled to the sink, she dragged a table cloth out of a drawer and threw it over Milo, covering the penis and equally repulsive face. At the sink she grabbed a bottle of detergent and squirted the yellow, lemon-scented liquid into her wounds, writhing and gasping as she did so. She had to get clean. Next she leaned over the sink and rinsed herself. God, she hoped those teeth marks wouldn't keloid.

She needed to be calm. There had to be time before his friends came looking. She made a cup of tea and sat on the hearth, absently stroking one of the shoes.

Seven, eight, lay them straight.

She had to do something with Milo and with the car.

The plot of every murder mystery she had ever read ran through her head. How to dispose of a body. The murderers always got caught in these stories. She hadn't murdered him though. She had killed him in self-defense. Certainly her wounds should be proof of that. She would just call the police and that would be that. Of course she knew better. She was black and female and Milo was a white, male good ol' boy. It would all be her fault.

Five, six, pick up sticks kept running through her head like the refrain of a song that one can't get rid of.

"Yarrow-sticks." She almost yelled when that came to her. Of course, the I Ching. Somewhere, a shaman smiled as he thumped first one side and then the other of his great hoop drum.

Moving gingerly around Milo, she got the yarrow-sticks out of the drawer and took the I Ching down from the shelf. "I'll tell you what Universe, I'm just going to have to take what comes up because I am in no shape to concentrate."

Expertly, she divided the stalks. Hopefully she would be able to understand the advice. The hexagram was Number 10: Lu/Treading.

Her Baynes translation said:
Treading. Treading upon the tail of the tiger.
It does not bite the man. Success.

Yes, but does it bite the lady? She tried to remember the significance of the lady and the tiger, but couldn't. She had a moving line and went to nine in the fifth place:

Resolute conduct. Perseverance with awareness of danger.

Talk about belaboring the obvious.

Realization that her breathing had calmed fortified her and she cast the fortune telling sticks once more. This time the hexagram was Number 51: Chen/The Arousing (Shock, Thunder) said the book. Shock brings success. Shock comes -- oh, oh,!

Laughing words -- ha, ha!

The shock terrifies for a hundred miles

And he does not let fall the sacrificial spoon and chalice.

Obviously she needed to remain calm. There was plenty of thunder. The lights flickered. She went to the pantry and came out with her Coleman electric lantern and set it up ready for the inevitable power failure. At the least the storm bought her time.

She divided the yarrow-stalks again. This time the hexagram was Number 49: Ko/Revolution.

Revolution. On your own day You are believed. Supreme Success. Furthering through perseverance. Remorse disappears.

She was never certain just why she fooled with the I Ching, because she always ended even more confused, or thought she was more confused than she had been when she had begun. Hearing a sound, she looked at the body at her feet. She'd heard somewhere that dead bodies made a lot of sounds as gases and liquids shifted. A stain was creeping out from the edges of the table cloth. She gagged, then started to cry. It was too much. He was too big. She could never carry him.

Slowly the outside door inched open. She caught her breath. The fingers that encased the doorjamb were huge. Then she was laughing and crying. "Henry! Dear, dear Hen come in!" She was saved.

Nine, ten, a big fat Hen.

Hen was a huge linebacker of a man. At 6'6" and two hundred and thirty pounds, he dwarfed the body on the floor. Slowly he looked from her to Milo and back. A simple man seemingly on the edge of retardation, he had fled to a cabin deep in the hills. He grew most of his food and seldom ventured to town. He liked her and in his own way tried to keep an eye on her to keep her safe.

His eyes filled with tears when he saw her ravaged breasts before she pulled the tatters of her blouse across herself. "Help me, Hen."

He pulled the tablecloth off Milo and stared at the corpse. "Ohhh no," he kept saying. First he stuffed Milo's penis back into his pants and zipped him up. Then he asked for a trash bag into which he stuffed Milo's leaking lower half before hoisting him over his shoulder and carrying him to the police car where he struggled him into the passenger seat. Returning to the house, he pulled her from the floor where she was sobbing and dabbing ineffectually at the mess that Milo had left on the floor.

"Here sit down. I'll do that." He took wads of paper towels and scoured the floor, burning the remains in the fireplace.

"We have to get him away. You have to drive."


"The S curve on the bluff. We'll drive him off it and hike back."

She went for a sweatshirt, grimacing as she pulled it over her damaged chest. When she emerged from the bedroom, Hen was standing in the kitchen with Milo's shiny boots in his hand. "Put these on."

Boots on, she clumped out to the car like a kid playing dress up.

"Drive to the curve. I'll meet you there." Hen faded into the darkness.

She backed slowly toward the road, afraid to turn the lights on, revolted by the figure swaying next to her. She stopped at the crossroads as a pair of headlights appeared, then disappeared. It was a short distance to the curve. Hen waited. His intellect may not have been great, but his survival instincts were sure.

He stood with her tennis shoes in his hand. "Take off his boots. I have to put them back on him." He struggled Milo back into the driver's seat, slit the trash bag to get it off without smearing the mess any worse than necessary and stuffed Milo's feet into his boots. Hen wore gloves as she had done. The black-and-white police car was an automatic. Turning the key on, he put the car in drive and jumped free as both car and Milo went off the curve and burst into flames. Then he filled the trash bag with rocks and mud and threw it over the Point.

She stood unmoving, a drowned mouse, watching until he returned and literally picked her up, obliterating the few prints she had made. "It's time to take you home." Her hundred and ten pounds wasn't much of a load for him. He zigzagged through the bushes to make any kind of trail almost impossible to follow, if it were not wiped out by the rain which had reached deluge proportions. Soon they were at her home where Long John Silver and a pair of shoes waited.

She took a long look at him. Something was different. "Now let me take care of you," she said, putting coffee on and opening a can of soup to begin warming. Hen sat looking at the remains of his shoes. Ancient jogging shoes, they hadn't been much to start with, but were now completely ruined. Going to the bedroom, she returned with a pair of clean socks. Putting them on, he hesitated over his old shoes. At this point, the other shoes walked over and stopped by his feet.

"One, two, buckle my shoe," he sing-songed.

He met her gaze, dropping the mask of retardation. The copper skin under the sleek black hair glowed with health.

"What are you?" she whispered.

"Just a man looking for his shoes that got away," he laughed. Like a male Cinderella, he slipped them on his feet.

Somewhere a shaman smiled as he hit first one side and then another of his big hoop drum. He wasn't the only one.

Felicia Florine Campbell's interests range from Popular Culture to Asian Studies. In research, she is best known for her pioneering work in gambling behavior and the literature of risk taking. She chairs the Asian Studies Committee and is Acting Director of the Asian Studies Center. For the past twenty one years she has been Executive Director of the Far West Popular and American Culture Associations, Editor of Popular Culture Review, and Chair and Organizer of the groups' annual conference which meets in Las Vegas. Among the courses she teaches at UNLV are Chaos Theory and Literature, Literature and Film East/West, Environmental Literature, Adventure in Literature and Film and Asian Literature. Her erzahlungen appear regularly in Danse Macabre; another of her short stories recently appeared in the Las Vegas Noir anthology, from Akashic Press' acclaimed mystery series.

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