A church looks forward to its annual Blessing of the Animals: “There’s a lot of interest again this year. We’ve already received twenty or thirty phone calls and a dozen anonymous notes shoved under the rectory door . . . ”
Adolfo wages his own private war in Arma Virumque Cano: “Hey! You!” the man said, waving a knife in his hairy fist. Alarmed, Adolfo stared at the knife . . .
A planet’s culture is dying in The Eight Times Cut Stone: “The old language of our planet is dying. If you people stay here, it will soon pass away, and we will speak only your Anglic language . . . ”
A wounded WWII vet goes back to Illinois in Welcome Home: An hour after the Super Chief had pulled out of Union Station, former USMC Private First Class Garlock Breckenridge realized he felt different. I feel . . . good, he thought, as he swayed gently to the click-clack, click-clack of the train . . .
A boy is assistant to a failed wizard in Peterby & the Magician: “I shall digress long enough to admit that my master is not really a magician. Monte (as I call him when he can’t hear me) flunked out of Magician Academy.”
A redneck’s humanity bonds him to strangers in Investment: Jayzee trudged into the hills towards home. Just at sundown, he crested a hill and started down. In the ditch ahead, lay an old Buick on its side, steaming. Inside it, a child was crying. “Kee-rist!” Jayzee said . . .
A detective learns about life in Mike Sledge’s Christmas Carol: “It was foggy that night in ‘46 as I drove my black ’32 Ford up La Cienega into the Baldwin Hills, heading for the X on the map . . . ”
An ancient war device broadcasts its story in The Song of Jorex: ” . . . My diameter is immense, larger than some planets, greater than anything your race has made or ever will make . . . ”
Learn how to live like a cowboy in Bunkhouse Rules: 1. Clean up after yerself. Leave things at least as good as you found ’em. 2. Keep yer boots offa the beds and tables . . .
Two Franciscans attend early Mass in Observance: “I am awake when Brother Kenneth knocks gently on the dark oak door of my cell this morning. ‘Father Philip,’ he murmurs in Latin loud enough for me to hear, ‘another day, by the grace of God.’ He pauses, waiting for my reply . . . ”
A man offers The Secret of the Universe for sale for $9.80: “A neatly-lettered piece of cardboard in the window read: ‘The Secret of the Universe—9.80.’ I read the sign again and almost laughed. Whatever the ‘secret’ was, it couldn’t be much, at nine dollars and eighty cents or 9.8 quatloos or spondoolies. It was probably the manifesto of some odd-ball cult, I decided . . . ”
A young coed learns about the human spirit in Incense Summer: Julia doesn’t talk about it, but she still thinks of that summer as “when I learned about incense . . . ”
A gullible person falls for a scam in My Last Rhinoceros: “It was a very long, sad week. I’d bought the rhino . . . oh, pardon me, rhinoceros . . . several months before through a chap in Nigeria whom I’d met via a personal email letter . . . ”
A poet meets a special woman in Tenirax’s Wounded Dove: “I encountered her first at the Basilica, as we both returned from the altar rail after Communion. Our eyes met and lingered, if only for a pair of seconds. Some energy flew between us along that glance, and I believe we each recognized that something now linked us . . . ”
A young boy works hard to buy a bicycle in Tom’s Worst Day: “The most expensive thing in Mr W’s store was a bike, an’ it was a doozy. Forty dollars. Shiny black, with fine white pin striping, an’ a bell an’ brake levers on the handle bars, an’ a chrome luggage thing in the back, an’ all . . . ”
The last city library is finally torn down in The Last Librarian: All stood aside while the explosives went off, cracking the rotunda like an eggshell. Colorful confetti from the nineteenth century frescoes spattered briefly on the floor seconds before the entire dome collapsed. Soon the Ft. Powell library was but a memory.
A woman destroys a museum piece in Between the Universe: Electra stepped back, slipped on a puddle, spun, regained her balance momentarily, then fell sideways, slowly, inexorably, directly on top of Between the Universe X.
A man seeks truth in The Search for Baba Gondahara-Ji: “Even when I was very young, I had a sense that there was something I had not been told, something important that everybody else in the world knew . . . “