Our theme this issue is "Comfort and Joy," but perhaps we should have said, "Comfort, or Joy, or Perhaps Not." Our authors this issue have found many ways to interpret this theme, not all of which are joyful--or even comfortable. Still, we hope you enjoy them, and have a season filled with--well--comfort and joy!
~the editors

For more from our members, follow their blogs:

Marianne H. Donley

Will Wright

A. E. Decker 

Headley Hauser

Courtney Annicchiarico

Christopher D. Ochs


12 Days Before Christmas

Nancy Christie

On the twelfth day before Christmas, my mother-in-law Agnes emailed me, casually mentioning that they would be arriving not on December 21st but on the 17th “so we could have more time to spend with Michael and our three darling grandchildren—and you, of course.”

Sometimes I dread the holidays. . . .

See more here.

Nancy Christie is the author of Rut-Busting Book for Writers (Mill City Press), Traveling Left of Center and Other Stories (Pixel Hall Press) and The Gifts Of Change (Atria/Beyond Words). Her short stories and essays have appeared in numerous print and online publications. She recently finished her second short fiction collection, Peripheral Visions and Other Stories, and is currently working on several other book projects. A member of the American Society of Journalists and AuthorsFlorida Writers Association and Short Fiction Writers Guild (SFWG), Christie teaches writing workshops at conferences, libraries, and schools. She is also the founder of the annual “Celebrate Short Fiction” Day (www.nancychristie.com/focusonfiction/celebrate-short-fiction-day/).


Katie Winkler

The guidebook said this church was a “must see,” so Sara was prepared to approach the church with awe, which wasn’t unusual. Almost everything impressed this girl. She, on the other hand, was quite unimpressive. Her unruly brown hair fell over a perpetually wrinkled forehead, squinting eyes pulled her thin lips up to reveal two large teeth, like an unhappy rodent. . . .

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Katie Winkler's work has appeared in numerous online and print publications, most recently featured in a special edition of Pisgah Review, the anthology Unbroken Circle: Stories of Cultural Diversity in the South, and Saturday Evening Post, among others. She lives and works in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina with her husband and daughter.

Distractions Might Cause Accidents

W. C. Clinton

Hello, Forrest, I know you don’t like me to call you on your work phone, but you left your cell phone in my car, and I wish you’d answer instead of letting it go to voicemail, I mean, sometimes it is an emergency.  I guess the first thing I should tell you is that the kids are okay, just some minor bruising, that’s all, and Jeremy got a bloody nose, but other than that, they’re fine.  The EMT’s and the doctors and the police and the firemen were all very nice to them. . . .

See more here

W.C. Clinton has been making things up on paper since he was a boy of seven. Besides writing, Clinton spent several years in the theater, including writing and performing with a Philadelphia sketch comedy troupe known as Oral Free Delivery. He is the author of an anthology of four short stories titled Two Pairs of Shorts. He has been the companion of many dogs, and is the father of two sons and the husband of one woman.

A Good Deed

Fiona Jones

In the deepening shadows of the dirty alleyway, Desiree spotted a small metallic object, squarish like a chocolate wrapper but thicker, more textured. She kicked it; hearing liquid inside metal, she stooped and picked it up.

A mini hip flask, probably stainless steel, patterned on its flat surface—clean, ungrimed by the damp and littered ground. And full. Small, four fluid ounces at most, but full. Desiree glanced up and down the alleyway between the old church and the tenement backs, quickly pocketing the flask. Whisky, she hoped; but whatever it was—cheap vodka, cough medicine, rubbing alcohol even—she would drink it. When the nights grow longer and colder you don’t sleep. You pull ragged clothes or blanket over your face and try to breathe warmth into yourself; you get up to walk off the cold that has already settled into your bones; or you drink any poison you can get, gladly exchanging whatever it might cost you in health for a night’s oblivion. . . .

See more here.

Fiona Jones is a part-time teacher, a parent and a spare-time writer living in Scotland. Fiona's fiction has appeared on Longshot Island, Folded Word and a number of other publications. In most of her stories, Fiona explores layers of illusion or self-deception--in this case, the elusive realities behind the characters' obvious circumstances.