by Laura Roberts

Dancing around the maypole, the elusive rantipole and his egregiously under-dressed trollop were eventually detained by police for public nudity and petty larceny. Shackled and shaking, Peter piped up with plaintive mews, reflecting hues of his twin brother’s trial for crying wolf, and persisting in his delusions of sanity—despite the fact that his hygiene (or lack thereof) suggested otherwise.

Devin at the fair 4

Crysco Photography via Creative Commons

The arresting officer demanded, “Well, young lady, have you anything to say for yourself?”
Peter’s petite accomplice merely sniffed, threw back her shoulders and ignored the porcine grin as the querulous copper manhandled her into the back of the cruiser.

“I’ll have your badge for breakfast!” Peter shouted, as a crowd gathered ’round the car.

“Along with the porridge you swiped from those poor, innocent bears, I’ll wager!” a nearby curmudgeon threw into the mix.

“Lies! Hearsay!” Peter pouted. “Peep, pipe up any time!”

The lovely lady simply smiled and adjusted her lipstick, wanting to make a good impression with her mug shot—sure to grace the morning papers.

The pickled peppers supposedly swiped were never located, thanks to Bo Peep’s strict Kegel regimen.


Laura RobertsLaura Roberts can leg-press an average-sized sumo wrestler, has nearly been drowned off the coast of Hawaii, and tells lies for a living. She is the founding editor of Black Heart Magazine, the San Diego Chapter Leader for the Nonfiction Authors Association, and publishes whatever strikes her fancy at Buttontapper Press. She currently lives in an Apocalypse-proof bunker in sunny SoCal with her artist husband and their literary kitties, and can be found on Twitter @originaloflaura.

Evergreen more than eversun

Mashthetics via Creative Commons

“I guess that reputation you have of non-stop rain ain’t true, then?” Gary asked the gaunt-looking cab driver.

“We get our share, true enough.”

“Nice day today, though,” Gary remarked.

“Yep. Enjoy it while you can.”

“I will.” Gary was quiet for a few minutes. Then, “Any suggestions?”

“For what?”

“You know, stuff to do. I just got in.” It seemed a dumb thing to say, considering the cab had picked him up from the airport.

“Space Needle? Seen that?”

“Yeah,” Gary said, leaning back, “I seen that.”

“Lots of people go downtown. The very first Starbucks is there.”

“Nah, I don’t drink coffee.”

“Well, it’s a great day. You could hit the water. Or the mountains. Beautiful scenery up here. Lots of green.”

Gary was quiet.

“Not outdoorsy?”

“Not really,” Gary answered. “But I do like green.”

The cab driver fidgeted. Sweat beaded on his wrinkled forehead. “Green’s nice,” he said.

“You got anything green,” Gary paused, then added, “Frankie? Maybe some gemstones?”

“Ah, crap,” the cabbie said. “Come on, man, I was gonna give them back. I swear.”

“Sure you were. Tell me where the case is and then pull over here.”

“Here?”

“Right here.”

Wells Fargo Tower_lg

Dystopos via Creative Commons

Wells Fargo Tower is not the tallest building in Alabama. But is is the tallest in Birmingham. I don’t work on the top floor, but I work near it and I can look out from my thirtieth story window at the rolling hills of the South and I know there’s no other place I’d rather be.

The hardest part of my job is not letting it change me. I take home a comfortable paycheck, but I earn more than that. Here’s the thing about embezzlement: you don’t have to be smart to do it, you just need the stones to return to the scene of the crime five days a week and ask them to pay you for the privilege. Not that I’m some kind of hillbilly idjit. You don’t siphon three million dollars from phony expense reports in under five years without some kind of plan.

But there’s a part of me that wants more than the money. I want the life. Seersucker suits and adopted personality quirks. Charity lunches and political glad-handing. I want people to know I’m rich, to feel it when they walk into my office. I want people to grovel.

For now, I’ll wait.

Snow on the Gate

Paul Morgan via Creative Commons

Randy left cold Chicago with flashes of red and white pulsing in his aching mind. Sadie laughed at the trunk full of party favors, like something out of a Hunter S. Thompson tale. Six days into the stash and Randy stopped understanding the world as a place with rules and laws; not just the kind enforced by police but the kind enforced by cosmic forces or deities. He floated and spoke to creatures from other dimensions, he and Sadie made some kind of love in vats of marshmallow fluff and beds of shining light.

Something told him the red and white wasn’t Christmas. The half-memory, half-hallucination made him think of Santa Claus, but the shiver in his spine and the empty passenger seat where Sadie usually sat was less festive. He was coming up on Springfield and the snow was coming down. The snow was white, and fluffy, and it reminded him of something they might have fought about. The sky was gunmetal gray, and that reminded him of something, too.

The backfire from the truck brought back the sound of the gun in his hand, and the puzzle fit together. The cold, white snow. The red blood.

Miami Beach at night

Daniel Lombraña González via Creative Commons

This place is full of weirdoes, and I fit right in. Kendra Corinth thought this as she stepped out onto the Miami boulevard. Warm summer nights weren’t her favorite, but streetlamps were her sunshine. Her powder blue hair caught the flash of an LED billboard. For a moment her pale face looked pink, like a cooked shrimp. The elaborate makeup on her eyes went beyond the extravagance of the club-hoppers, swirled and looping in intricate artistry from lashes to temple and down onto the slope of her cheek. She wore her clothes like she was daring everyone to stare. There were six knives and two guns hidden in the elaborate crooks and folds of her overlapping layers.

She bummed a light off a gawking tourist and picked his pocket while he leaned in. Around the corner, she tossed the cigarette aside. She didn’t smoke.

Fresh with cash, she set about her plan. She needed an uncooked salmon, large enough to hold a bowie knife and a delivery van—preferably covered in graffiti. She also needed half a gallon of nail polish remover. As she broke the beauty supply window she thought, Yeah, my weird sunshine fits right in.

Welcome to Iowa

Jimmy Emerson via Creative Commons

Orchid made a call to a friend in Iowa, trying to keep the panic and unprofessional thoughts out of her voice. The friend hadn’t seen what she was looking for, but his casual reassurance that he would look into it settled Orchid’s nerves for a few hours. Usually she would be furious—murderous. But the phone call from her bagman had sent her into a quiet panic. Had the runner simply taken off with the money, she could kill her way out of the situation. Hunt him down. Get it back. She believed him when he said it was stolen. Vanished. No way to track it down in time.

She still had to try to get Bashar back. He was running, but she didn’t hold that against him. She thought about running, too. The Eastern Europeans would be by in less than 24 hours looking for the money. They wouldn’t entertain excuses. Orchid didn’t fear most men, but she feared these guys.

“Jesse,” she said into her Nextel.

Chirp. “Yeah, boss?”

“You’re in charge. I need to take off for a bit?”

Chirp. “Um. Okay. How long?”

“Not long. Just need to look for something.” She paused. “Up north. Iowa.”

Nothing's too hard for God

Marshall Astor via Creative Commons

Bashar made the drive once a week from Columbia to Kansas City. I-70 wasn’t much to look at, but he liked the alternating billboards that told the story of his life: religion and porn. A mega-church advertising Sunday services, then an adult bookstore trumpeting a sale. John 3:16 in tall letters. A quarter mile later, a gentlemen’s club reminding motorists that they had girls who were not just nude but all nude.

The job was boring, but it gave Bashar time to pray. When he arrived in KC, the men in sunglasses would inspect the guns in silence. They’d nod, and hand over a locked briefcase and a small stack of bills that Bashar knew was his cut. It was always tempting to pull into one of the clubs on the way back. Or even at one of the churches. His money would be welcome at either. But he knew better than to stop until the money was safe in Orchid’s hands.

It all went wrong with six words: what’s the worst that could happen? The passenger seat, where he left the briefcase, was empty when he got back.

Bashar turned the car north and drove.

Don't Mess with Texas

Nils Geylen via Creative Commons

Jennie Sherman believed that Texas was big for a reason. She wasn’t from the South, but she was so far removed from the North she didn’t remember it. The Lone Star State suited her because she was her own lone star, and she felt the land in her bones.

“Don’t mess with Texas, and don’t mess with me,” she’d say with a silly-serious laugh. Jennie knew people thought she was overdoing it, but Texas was big to accommodate people with big personalities. At least, that’s how she saw it. That’s why she fit in so well.

The job at the bank didn’t pay much. It seemed ironic. When the men in the ski masks and ten-gallon hats came in and asked her to fill the bag, she leaned over the counter.

“If you take me with you, I’ll show you where the gold is,” she whispered.

“Gold?” the man whispered back. She imagined he was handsome underneath the wool.

“Lot of it,” she said with a wink.

Everything in Texas was bigger. So if you were going to commit a robbery in Texas, Jennie thought, might as well make it a big one.

Young America, Minnesota

MoxyJane@Spiral Bound Images via Creative Commons

Got a view of the lake out the back of my house. Beyond that, a low hill and then another lake. Ten thousand as you travel ‘round this place, so they say.

In the summer they got mud at the bottom and grass on the edges. Wintertime freezes them over and the kids slide across their tops.

Many, though none of the ones I can see from my rear window, have docks and little boats that sit on top. Some, like mine, hold secrets down at the soft bottoms.

I’ve been married thirty-eight years next spring. My wife is a loving and hardworking woman, if a little plain and dull.

Sixteen years ago I met a lady who was everything my wife is not: glamorous and lazy; distant and exciting. She lit up my life, for a time.

Thing is, no one threatens Wally Cobb. I’m a family man. You don’t threaten my family. That lady didn’t see things my way. She was always looking down on me.

Now I look out at the lake behind my house.

And I’m the one looking down.

I met a new lady. Good thing there’s another lake. Beyond the low hill.

Chemistry Spectacular

Wellington College via Creative Commons

Aspiring Voices is going on a short hiatus through the end of the year, but we’re stepping out on a high note with the spirited and unique Alexander Chantal. I spoke with Alexander about his unique take on forms, the scientific perspective he brings to crafting a narrative, and the eclectic array of authors that have influenced him.

Paul: Tell me a little bit about how you got started writing. Was it something you always enjoyed, or did you come into it at a later point in time?

Alexander: When I was young, I enjoyed writing little bits and pieces here and there. My mother got me a “My First 500 Words” book when I was very little. I read it all in little or no time, it was fun. Then I was given eights volumes of an encyclopedia, at that point in time I realized three things: I wanted to write small stories with the stuff I already knew, I loved science and reading was like alcohol, once you’re addicted, there is no way out.

I didn’t start off writing like most people, writing small stories on a notebook, but rather making board games with ridiculously elaborate stories and rules. It was crazy, but then and there I realized I loved Sci-Fi. What really got me writing was the Left Behind series. I was’t much of a religious person, but the story was so interesting, then my love for anime grew in intensity.

Initially, I started writing poetry. Didn’t think for a second I’d try and become a writer. A poet, that’s what ran through my mind. Seven years ago, I started writing my first story, I never gave it a name, and then my recent work-in-progress: Adagio for Canon.

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