Category Archives: Holiday Noir 2019

Mary Grimm

We gather for drinks like in those movies with a detective with a British accent. The confronting of the suspects and we’re all there. These are the crimes we’ve committed according to my mother: not wearing a Christmas sweater, mishanging the tinsel, losing the Perry Como record where he sings The Little Drummer Boy, hiding fruitcake in a napkin and leaving it under the tree where the dog found it and ate it and then sicked it up. I lost the record, by which I mean that I stole it and ran over it with my car. Dad is wearing the Santa hat, which was knitted by his mom back in the last century. She’s gone now, but innocently – her death is not one of the Christmas crimes. My sister and I look at each other across the room and raise our highball glasses in a silent sister toast. By her raised eyebrow I know that she is thinking do you remember when we looked forward to Christmas? I shrug to indicate that I do: putting on something that sparkled, a bit of lipstick, dangly earrings. Who were we trying to impress? The floor is a sea of crumpled paper. Every third person has a bow taped to his/her/their head. My aunt is handing around the lyrics for Silent Night copied on half sheets of paper. My sister rolls her eyes, which means: I am going to kill someone soon. I hold a fist up in solidarity. We plead with our eyes: when will this end? My weird cousin sits down next to me, his thigh cozying up to mine, and I spring up like the nutcracker in a Christmas ballet. In the bathroom, I light up a cigarette and turn on the vent. My sister comes in and we both sit on the edge of the bathtub. Did he try to cop a feel, she asks, and I nod. We smoke silently, and after a minute, she ways, what’s your plan, man? And I say pizza? My house? Your nomination is accepted, she says. The dog tries to leave with us but we lock him in the laundry room. Christmas is red. Tomato sauce, a neon sign that says Angie’s, the heels I kick off which lean against each other like old drunks, the string of beads that my sister leaves in the bathroom and which I find the next day when she is sleeping off the bottle of wine we drank: all of it red, including the wine.

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Mary Grimm has had two books published, Left to Themselves (novel) and Stealing Time (story collection) – both by Random House. Currently, she is working on a dystopian novel about oldsters. She teaches fiction writing at Case Western Reserve University.

Mary Thompson

Is This Our Lives Now?

I buy a cat for Christmas. So I now live on the top floor of a thirty two storey apartment block with a balcony, a spindly palm tree and a cat. I figured this little outdoor space would be where the cat could go to experience life, but when I’m at work, I ponder on the poor animal cooped up inside my two bedroom luxury flat in Fulham. And later, when I get home, I cradle the cat’s tiny head in my hands and stare into his viridian eyes. ‘What are you thinking?’ I ask. ‘Is this our lives now?’

Christmas Eve was when it happened. He’d only nipped out for an espresso. And the driver, I found out after the funeral, was a barista! Funny that.

‘What did you think of me?’ I ask his mum. I often see her there ironing at the end of my bed and ask, even though ten years have passed since she died and I already know what she thought of me.

Every morning, he and I swim lengths together in the warm basement pool, slamming our feet against the wall with each turn, and then it’s the last one and he’s out. As he drags his beautiful body up the steps, his voice grows fainter and soon he’s invisible, but still I hear him.

‘I’ll see you soon, babe,’ he says. ‘Just need some caffeine’

‘But when?’ I ask. He doesn’t reply.

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Mary Thompson works as an Academic English tutor in London. She is a recent winner of two BIFFY 50 awards (Best British & Irish Flash Fiction 2018-2019), and her piece, ‘The Circle is Complete,’ featured in ‘The Group of Seven Reimagined,’ has just been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her work has been published in various places, including Ellipsis Zine, Retreat West, Ghost Parachute, Literary Orphans, Pidgeonholes and MoonPark Review, and is forthcoming in Pithead Chapel.

Francine Witte

The Itch in Her

It’s Christmas but there’s the itch in her. A heart itch, she calls it. It started when Harry stopped calling. And that was forever ago.

Not really forever. More like a week. But love years are longer, they drag out the night, they itch up your innards.

To now, where she can’t even finish trimming the tree. Place the delicate glass star at the top. Harry bought the star for her last Christmas, when he was here to scratch her inside and out. Told her it was from Denmark and the crystal shivers were sharp so take care. She remembers how he lifted her sweater, undid her jeans and ran the sharp edges down her naked back.

Now, she stares at the star, still sharp, in her helpless hands. How else to scratch what’s inside of you when love has gone away. She smashes the star into pieces. The itch is getting stronger. Harry’s absence getting longer. The shards of glass against her tongue.

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Francine Witte is the author of four poetry chapbooks and two full-length collections, Café Crazy and The Theory of Flesh from Kelsay Books. Her flash fiction has appeared in numerous journals and anthologized in the most recent New Micro (W.W. Norton) Her novella-in-flash, The Way of the Wind has just been published by Ad Hoc Fiction, and her full-length collection of flash fiction, Dressed All Wrong for This was recently published by Blue Light Press. She lives in New York City.

Morgana MacLeod

Christmas Carol

After a night of rotisserie sleep, turning over and over your firepit bed, you wake weary, ashes in your hair, heart pumping sludge. Even tinsel wilts in the heat, humidity suffocating sparkle. You don’t have the energy to be sensible, so when the kids want candy and cookie dough for breakfast you let them eat it straight out of the plastic wrap. Go ahead, cream your coffee with eggnog. If Santa had the balls to show up, you’d drink it straight out of his hat.

Backstage, your big kid is a wise man. You can’t seem to get her beard and turban straight at the same time.  She forgot the myrrh and there’s no time to go home so you rummage up a pot of pawpaw ointment from your shoulder bag. The red pot is Christmassy, you tell her, and they are both unguents.  Littlie riots against his halo, insisting angels don’t have zippers. Donkeys don’t wear polyester either, you tell him, but here we are.

Flurries of audience sift into seats. You can’t sit in the first three rows and risk being snared by the parental paparazzi. Heading for a safe seat in the middle, and bam! Bludgeon Betty, draped like a string of twinkle lights over your ex. The children’s father, you direct yourself, as happiness drains to a puddle at your feet. He always accused you of emotional incontinence. He hides inside his phone, but Bludgeon Betty smiles at you with her cruel pearly teeth and her doughnut-glazed lips.

“I’m glad you’re here,” you tell them, “They’ll be playing your song.”

“Oh that’s nice,” simpers BB. Your ex, still recharging his phone with discomfort, swipes his eyes left. “Which one is that?”

“O Come All Ye Faithful,” you say. You are pretty sure no-one else notices the little drummer boy, parumpapapaing just under your ribs.

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Morgana Macleod was born peculiar, in a time when no-one paid attention. Literary influences range from Angela Carter, Tobsha Learner and Umberto Eco to 70s Penthouse letters via the Fortean Times.  She now lives on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia where her hobbies include raising two boys, carnivorous plants, and Afro-Caribbean syncretic religions.

Publications include “Undercurrents” anthology and two Stringbark Press collections of prize-winners, “Between Heaven and Hell” (flash) and “Between the Sheets” (erotica).  Her flash fiction appears in Thumbnail 5 and Thumbnail 6.

Her work can be found online at sites including Medium and outofthegutteronline.com.  Feel free to stalk her on Facebook (Morgana MacLeod); she knows she’s supposed to tweet but won’t.

Tracey Meloni

CAFÉ MOZART DREAMIN’


Judie bangs on my hotel door. “The dressmaker is here! Hurry! You have Christmas lunch with Noah at Café Mozart at 1PM!” 

I let them in – the dressmaker is very short and very fat, dressed in shiny black, a mouth full of pins. She rips off my robe and pins me into a short, clingy white Go-Go style dress, very retro. Judie lines my eyes in thick black. “Let’s go!”

But I am only pinned – this can’t be real. The REAL Judie, is my most timid friend, never urging me to undertake the wacky.

I can’t find my keys – and once in the hallway I can’t remember my room number – and I have no purse, no ID! How will I get back in? 

“Look!” says Judie. ” It’s your ex! He will help us.”

I haven’t got an “ex,” but this man looks just like Jimmy, my late husband, hazel eyes, sandy hair, square and gentle hands. Nothing bad can happen if he is around.

We step out into – snow! I am wearing only the flimsy white dress. “You’ll be fine – pretend you have the matching boots,” says Judie. She hails a cab – the driver says he can only take us to Union Station and hands us a huge stack of maps.

“Ya goin’ to Café Mozart? They have great Christmas strata!”

He dumps us at Union Station – the snow is now up to my knees – and Jimmy is gone! And it is already 1:30. 

“Do I know this Noah? Will he wait?” I ask Judie – but she, too, is gone.

I am alone, dropping pins, in the filthy grey snow.

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Tracey Edgerly Meloni comes from the Lake District village of Ravenstonedale, Cumbria. A self-described “Diplo-Brat,” she grew up wherever her parents were assigned – France, Germany, Africa, Texas. She attended Boston University, where she met her husband. Meloni won a short story contest as a teenager and just kept on writing. Formerly press secretary and protocol officer in Washington, DC, she wrote a weekly travel column for several now-defunct newspapers, contributes regularly to several magazines and writes about worldwide health and travel.

She is owned by a rowdy tribe of Scotties and praises the day she found flash. These days she lives in Pennsylvania.