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Before the Fall

Three seconds of rushing wind precede the violent thunderclap of a body impacting asphalt. There is a limit to the velocity with which the human body can strike an unyielding object and still retain any semblance of intactness. Former Mayor Roger Hendricks had exceeded that limit by at least an order of magnitude during his plunge from the thirty-seventh floor rooftop terrace of the Flemington Tower on June the sixteenth of the year preceding. As of today, now nearly seven months on, why he took that plunge remains a mystery—one that, alas, it was now Benedict’s sworn duty to unravel.   Thursday – January 7, 1937 “I confess, sir, that I have no earthly idea. No idea at all,” Senior Detective Malcolm Benedict sat ...

a story in which

…because if she didn’t, there was a decent chance Bret would react precisely as her friends had, on multiple occasions, suggested that he would react, which seemed unlikely to be good. And so Melody had spent a fair bit of time avoiding Bret in recent days. She had, in fact, found his behavior of late to be borderline erratic, almost as though this whole situation wasn’t really as innocuous as he had led friends and associates to believe. And if that was the case—if Bret was harboring some misguided sense of indebtedness on her part—well, then, she was pretty sure that being around him right now was not high on her list of things to do. Still, there was the interview day after tomorrow. There was no denying Bret had made that ...

Hegel and Hobbes Have an Adven ...

Hegel the hedgehog rose one morning and greeted the sun. His smile was bright as he stepped through his front door and into the garden. Today would be a wonderful day, a fun day. And if he was lucky, he would see his friend Hobbes the hamster and maybe even get a chance to cheer him up. For Hobbes was not a very happy hamster. Hegel and Hobbes had known each other for a long time, and it seemed Hegel was always trying to cheer up Hobbes. Once in a while he would succeed and bring a smile to Hobbes’ face, perhaps with a riddle or clever rhyme. But mostly Hobbes just walked about pouting. Just as Hegel the hedgehog was thinking these things about his friend, there came a scratching sound at the garden gate. Only one creature in the garden ...

As God is My Witness

The grandfather clock in the corner chimed 6:30 as Buster sat deeply and comfortably ensconced in his recliner, repeatedly belching up the taste of the spaghetti with sausage and marinara sauce leftovers he had nuked for supper. He loved the sausage, though he knew well that he would still be tasting it well past bedtime. The TV was tuned to the evening news, or at least what Buster still preferred to regard in that way. It wasn’t the evening news any more, though, was it? It was the all-the-goddamned-time news. It was just that Buster had spent most of his adult life in the era of three channels, each of which aired a half hour of local news from 6:00 to 6:30, followed by national and international news from 6:30 to 7:00. And if you ...

The Horse Thief

Billy Hale was descended from a long line of miscreants and vagabonds, and when the day came at last and they sent him away for stealing horses from the farm in the same town as my own, no one was much surprised, least of all Billy. It was generally felt that his life—all thirty-two years of it—had been building to some sort of unfortunate crescendo, and the only question in the minds of those who knew him was whether or not the climax would include incarceration, death, or quite possibly both. That he ended up merely imprisoned was regarded by most as an unexpected windfall. Ours is an area of the state in which men are routinely shot for taking things that aren’t theirs to take, with the authorities in such cases more likely to ...

The Substitute

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years. Mark Twain   “Good morning!” he said, smiling broadly, “and welcome to third period.” The man—tall but not too; in shape, but not quite enough—stood at the front of the room in gray blazer, black button-down shirt, khakis, and sneakers. Before him sat seventeen students, distributed roughly equally between boys and girls. They were silent, not acknowledging his greeting, only looking with dubious curiosity at a teacher they’d never seen before. “You appear to be an astute lot,” he continued, pacing slightly back and forth, ...

Tuesday Morning

The 6:00 a.m. alarm tears through Drew Benton’s dream, and he sits up in bed, heart racing, unsurprised to find himself alone. Kelly has always been a hard-core morning person, typically out of bed and dealing with the kids at least an hour before her husband’s alarm goes off. More often than not, she’s gotten in a full workout and eaten breakfast before undertaking the daily drama of getting their son and daughter up and ready for school. But this morning is different. When Drew, yawning loudly, walks out of the bedroom and into the kitchen, instead of a family of three seated at the breakfast table, there is only his daughter Kimberley, quietly eating a bowl of cereal and watching a cartoon on the small kitchen television. She ...

Memoir

Growing up, there was this little creek down back of our house. Nothing special, maybe a foot wide, a few inches deep, but, good lord, I can’t tell you the countless hours I spent down there enwrapped in the throes of adolescent fantasy. The story, though, was pretty much always the same. I’d collect armloads of branches and buckets of mud, and I’d dam up the creek and then wait hours for the water to rise up behind my crude earthworks. In the meantime, I’d construct a small town at the base of the dam using Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys, and plastic model train buildings. Olive green army men typically populated this unfortunate village, unmoving plastic figures who had not the slightest inkling of the grim fate that awaited them. ...

The Negotiator

“John, do you ever feel like there’s something just a little off about life?” He sat, chair pulled up close to the kitchen table, spooning Frosted Flakes into his mouth while a cigarette smoldered in the ashtray adjacent his left elbow. January wind howled just beyond the single small kitchen window. The apartment was cold, but John sat uncaring, clad in a terry bathrobe the purple hue of which matched his cereal bowl with uncanny fidelity. My roommate was a big fan of purple. “Well, let’s ponder that question for a moment, shall we, Matthew? I spent eleven years in college and grad school obtaining a high honors Ph.D. from what is widely reputed to be one of this nation’s finest universities, following which I festered ...

Evolution’s End

Advance yourself, they said, for soon your tiresome but passably lucrative station in this life will be rent from you by the automaton. Raise yourself up or be tossed aside; the choice is yours. But what they didn’t tell us (for surely, who did not already know?) was that the race goes ultimately to the swift and that man is a fragile being evolving at a scarcely discernible pace, whereas the machines change and evolve seemingly at light speed, and do so, may God have mercy on us, through the designs of man himself. It was a race we were doomed never to win, a prize the pursuit of which could only exhaust us and render us yet riper for our eventual, inescapable defeat. It began harmlessly enough. They were conceived and constructed ...