Author Archives: 52250challenge

Same Room, Different Planet by Tom Allman

The bespectacled eyes of two lonely people met across a long, musty cardboard box. On the last day of the comic book convention he was looking for Mutant Revenge Team #6. She was looking for Love, and a Brave Teen Trio Omnibus.

Neither thirty something exercised regularly, preferring the armor of Nerdy T-Shirts to protect their bodies. She wore way too much purple eyeliner and he often forgot to comb his hair and floss. Fate, just like in Moth Maiden’s latest issue, was about to intervene.

“Do you have Ninja Marmoset Hipsters #1,” she asked coyly? He flinched, clearly no Casanova.

“Of course I do,” he scoffed.

She’d soon coaxed him to a nearby restaurant then to her hotel room. She arrayed today’s comic haul on the bed and excused herself to the bathroom. He checked to make sure that they had Cartoon Channel on the cable.

She soon emerged wearing only a smile and Wonder Wench undies. He craned his neck to see past her and catch the end of Star Wranglers.

“Now, for all your fantasies to all come true,” she purred. His jaw dropped and he nearly shouted.

“You have a Mutant Revenge Team #6?”

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Bee Branch does Ulysses by Meg Tuite

It was their monthly Ulysses meeting at Kildare’s in Bee Branch, Arkansas. Michelle, Walter, and John sat behind frosty mugs of Bud with their stained, unabridged copies of the tome in front of them. No one else was going to show up.

Michelle had been the mucilage who worked for over a month to recruit twelve brave or ignorant souls. Some joined to escape screeching kids and spouses for a night. Others hoped it was a single’s club or a dip into a steamy Danielle Steel novel – banned! After they realized, in the first few gatherings, that most were middle-aged and morose, and meetings consisted of staring blankly at each other over beer, trying to come up with the meaning for all kinds of gibberish, they quit.

Walter and John hung in there for the beer and Michelle’s company (both had a desolate crush on her) and would chime in while she scoured through her bible-sized dictionary. “Hyperborean,” Walter slurred, “Single’s night in the church basement. Hyper-borrring,” and both men snickered. “Untonsured. Yeah, a doctor yanked them out with my adenoids when I was five,” said John. “Scrotumtightening sea. Your ex’s nickname, John?” Walter tittered.

Michelle looked up from her book at these two plastered devotees. She wasn’t going home yet either. “Excuse me, while I head for the squirting dugs. And order me another stout one of you poxey bowsy‘s!” she bellowed as the two men howled. Michelle got up to hit the can.

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3 by Stephen Hastings-King

1.
2 is another.
3 is made from 1 and 2.
4 is 3 which is 2 and 1 and all their modalities
5 is the current produced by 4 which is 3 and 2 and 1 and all their modalities.
6 is 1 atop then the other atop then the other then the other then the other.
7 is transcendent.

1 is another.
2 is itself and its inverse.
3 is 1 and its inverse and a mirror.
4 is 1 and its inverse a mirror and intersections of geometries.
5 is 4 as arrayed in a cube.
6 is 5 in a series.
7 is prime real estate.
8 is endless
9 is 6 reversed.
10 is 1 and another.
3 is a fragment of 8.

1 is another. A commons as a circle is the center of town.
2. The center of the center, a hole.
3. A hole is a field of possibilities.
4. It is the custom of the inhabitants to gather periodically and try to remember.
5. Because it has long been this way the men wear derbies and overcoats, the women Victorian dresses.
6. They stand together at the edge.
7. Hands folded behind them, they wait.
8. They feel the air bristle with maybes.
9. But nothing ever happens.
10. It is strange the way momentous things disappear.

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Pebbles by Kelly Grotke

He picked up the three pebbles that lay on the desk, cupping them in his hand and rattling them around like dice as he stared out the window.

She’d accused him once of caring more about things than people. It was an argument. He thinks of this as he shakes the pebbles. But it wasn’t true, no. Why had it come to be about truth and right and wrong and would you just stop it, stop, stop it now or I’ll….and then you….and in his gut, even here and now, he could still feel the bends and distortions of time that had begun pulling at their words until language itself threatened to unravel, even now and how much later is that than before, he wonders, and have I been gutted.

He had cared about things. Not more than people, no, not more than her. But by then there’d been neither time nor will to explain, and in truth he only understood himself much later. Remember this, the things said to him, this will be the future and the good, forever and ever, and we will walk upon the beach and the sun shone bright and warm on your hair and the smell of your skin yes and I touch you and the happiness and let me in, please let me in and now my soul is shaking again like these pebbles from the shore of some distant ocean and everything falls from my hands.

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Then There Were Two by Martin Brick

He rented the tux to make in convincing. Actually shelled out the cash, committed to his third of the limo, and everything. Then he got “sick,” on prom night, and told everyone he hated to miss it, but couldn’t get out of bed. Cory and Dawn came by his house for a photo, but he refused.

So there were two. For the best he said, though he found himself crying like some little girl.

It was always the three of them: Cory and Dawn and Ted. All the same age and living on Hyacinth Court. They used to take naps together. Three three-year-olds lying together on a queen sized bed while their mothers drank tea and played cards.

When they were 8, maybe 9, Cory showed him pages ripped from Playboys out of his father’s closet. Ted remembers most Cory’s comment: “This is what Dawn will become.”

In September she had some kind of boyfriend they both disliked. Some good-looking-but-boring-business type. She told Cory and Ted she was thinking about losing her virginity. They negotiated that delicate matter, dissuading her without appearing jealous. Ultimately nothing happened, she dumped him, and in October they pledged to go to prom as a threesome, just like when they were 3. More like siblings than anything.

Except Cory never saw it like that. He glowed on Prom night, Dawn on his arm. “It won’t be the same without you,” Dawn said. “No, it wouldn’t,” they all knew.

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Three are the Fathers by Joanne Jagoda

It hasn’t been easy growing up as a test tube baby. As soon as I was old enough to realize no dad showed up at my soccer games or was there to read me stories, I started asking questions.

“You’re extra special Billy,” my mom assured me. “I wanted you so badly that I put in the order for a handsome, tall and smart boy who likes music and sports and look what I got… perfect you”.

“But Mom,” I protested, I’m short, can’t sing and never get picked for a team. Maybe they got the order mixed up like when they put tomatoes on my burger and I hate tomatoes.”

She’d laugh, tussle my red hair and blink away tears. Even though Mom does her best as mother and father, when I turned ten, I got in my head that one day a magic genie would appear to give me three chances to find MY REAL FATHER. First I was sure he was the owner of Moran’s Super. Then I was convinced he was my pediatrician, Dr. Goldberg. But I settled on Mr. Purdy, our laughing, red-headed mailman. When he recognizes me, he’ll give me a man-hug and ask polite questions about my life. Then he’ll come to my soccer games, take me for pizza. I’ll go for a one night sleep-over at his house where I’ll meet his daughters, then spend Christmas in Hawaii, and summers together. Now if only that genie will hurry up.

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Three-handed Bridge by Christopher Allen

Anthony was five, the walls in the army base apartment a fatherless beige. He played on the floor with his brother, James, and his mother, a cool-eyed grass widow. They had no Hotwheels, Legos or plastic army men. The mother was grooming companions.

‘Bid, Anthony. No talking across the table.’

‘But I don’t know how.’

‘Baby,” said James. At seven, James was already a savvy bridge player.

The mother sighed. ‘How many points do you have?’

‘That would be talking across the table,’ Anthony said. “And actually we’re on the floor, so I can’t be talking across the table.”

‘Smart aleck.’

A cold hand stung Anthony’s cheek.

‘Young man!” the mother shouted into the kitchen where Anthony had retreated. “Come back and finish this game. Quitters never win.’ She shouted until Anthony felt sorry for her and came back. His father was not quitting in Vietnam, so Anthony would endure his mother’s anger and learn her adult game.

And he was quick about it. He sponged up meanings for finesse, rubber and dummy. Finesse was something you did with a queen to get a king. Though statistically it didn’t work often, Anthony became especially good at finessing. A rubber was what you won for winning two games in a row (though he never saw the ones he won). And In three-handed bridge, the dummy was the fourth pile of cards on the floor, which he always wanted but seldom got.

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