Stories by Mail, Day 36 – We merry band of ungulates



Darrell sighed and reluctantly unlocked the door. Although the agent wore high-end Maui Jims, Darrell swore he could see a pair of azure eyes assessing his every move. “Home office said you’ve got an…emotional attachment to your, um, livestock. Would you like a moment with him before we go?”

Silence hung between the two men. The agent popped a Livesafer in his mouth. It often helped with his anxiety.”Look, Mr. Curry, for what it’s worth, I’m sorry. The federal statutes dealing with verbal contracts are ironclad; I’m sure you didn’t intend to actually bet your ass…but you did, sir, and now the government is required to collect.”  He considered Darrel’s forlorn expression and clapped him gently on the shoulder. “But I hope you’ll find solace in the fact that, um–”  He consulted his paperwork. “–Churro the Burro will be drafted into military service. He’ll serve his country with pride.”

Darrell’s face brightened. Churro loved uniforms.

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Stories by Mail, Day 35 –The scent of bargains



Psssst. Hey you. Yes, YOU there, with the low-rent nostrils. Of course I’ve noticed you; so has every Canine-American on this block, what with all that hullabaloo erupting from your nose! And what type of return do you get for all that sniffling and snuffling?  Whatever flimflammer sold you that piece of  junk ought to be strung up by his peddler’s license!

Fortunately for you, promotional pricing on our entire line of olfactory upgrades is in effect until tomorrow!  You seem like a well-read, attractive person of above-average intelligence, so you’ve certainly heard that my sense of smell is at least 10,000 times better than yours. Some researchers believe it’s up to 100,000. I’m able to detect a teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water. If you set two million apple barrels in front of me and only a single apple was rotten, my nose would find it.

Listen: canine to human, we both know you want in on this, so how’s about you invite me in and we’ll get started with some nose fittings?


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Stories by Mail, Day 34 –Interpretations



“I do not wish to appear ungrateful,” Serena said hesitantly, her tone confirming that she was, in fact, harboring ingratitude. “It is obvious that he applied his talents to their full extent. You swear  he is genuine of character, so I do not doubt that he labored over every stroke. But examine her cheeks,” she said to her husband, pointing towards the portrait he’d commissioned. “Never have I presented with an overabundance of rouge such as she boasts! And those errant curls, her choice of dress–” She cleared her throat loudly. “It is a fair effort, my dear husband, but I cannot persuade myself to be content with merely ‘fair.’ I simply do not agree she is of my likeness.”

Their discussion turned to other topics, but in the corner, the painted Serena glowered. The transfer had already begun, initiated when the two Sereans locked eyes. Within weeks, she would assume the identity of Mistress of the House, and her ill-tempered doppelganger would know only canvas.

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Stories by Mail, Day 33 – Niche markets



“Welcome to Rembrandt Hoeve,” Peter-jan Tijhuis smiled, stretching his jumpsuit-clad arm to showcase his merchandise. While he considered Dutch television programming far more sophisticated than the American options available in Amstelveen, Peter had never missed Wheel of Fortune during his formative years. He held a deep appreciation for Vanna White’s presentation skills.

“Uh,” the tourist said. His mouth and eyebrows silently bobbed and molded questions as he stared at his wife. “I’m not sure what–” she began politely.

“Over there, our clog factory,” Peter said, sweeping his arm to the left. “We use a delicate process that my family perfected in the early 1300 to coax superior performance out of the wood. Over there, our award-winning cheese farm. And this, our latest offering and the future of the footwear market: cheese clogs!”  He pointed to a kiosk in the center aisle where three small boxes rested.

“You…sell clogs made from…cheese?”, the man asked slowly, as if he had very recently begun learning a new language and was not convinced he was pronouncing the words properly.

Peter beamed with pride.

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Stories by Mail, Day 32 – A song for Sproule



Barry sipped another shallow, stale breath as he waved a claw towards the roaring crowd. Although he was facing the wrong direction, he could hear Meaghan Sproule laughing, rustling her crimson and navy poms-poms in preparation for her next stunt. He’d been searching for the perfect phrase to ask her out, becoming so distracted at one point that he nearly missed a dance cue. Waiting until the game ended only ratcheted his anxiety up even further, but Barry suspected that being dressed like a giant bird in a lab coat might affect his chances.

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Stories by Mail, Day 31 – The light around it



Liliana stood on her front porch facing the door, watching the shadows feed on the mounting darkness all around her. It was only 11 AM, but her eyes adjusted for twilight. Spirals, patterns, geometric shapes she’d never encountered before dripped down her doorframe. She gasped as she peered through the pinhole camera she’d hastily constructed that morning. No eclipse this vast had occurred across the United States since World War I, and it might be another hundred years before any human witnessed one again.

Through the closed door, Liliana could hear fragments of the news program she’d abandoned. The host was interviewing his mother, prodding for her reaction. “It’s just wonderful,” she heard a woman’s voice say. “You can see the light around it and the darkness.”

Slowly, light began to crack through the sky. The 29-year-old marketing consultant wrapped her hand around the doorknob, and then paused. A moment longer.

Just a moment longer.

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Stories by Mail, Day 30 – Equilibrium at last



For months after Sienna booked a red-eye without telling a soul, Grace visited the tree every morning. She’d pled for answers, for closure, for peace. But the chipped bark remained steadfast, looking both resilient and inexplicably frail.

Her visits became more sporadic as one year blended into the next. Now she stood at the tree’s base, tracing the heart she and Sienna had carved into its heart, the word PHYSICS in the center. She gazed across the river at the university where they’d met.

“I’m ready,” she whispered to the tree. “Wherever you are, I wish you physics. But I’m ready.”

She stepped away, never to return.

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Stories by Mail, Day 29 – Bigwig stuf



He clutched them in the palm of his hand, his voice soaring over the din: the bandleader crooning a standard everyone recognized but no one could name, tall glasses clinking, a dozen natterings about the latest gossip on the Hill. His donors nodded and smiled, transfixed. This is why he’d chosen politics–crafting responsible policy was one thing, but the adrenaline surge from watching the wealthy and the powerful bend to your will was everything.

“Sir?”, a sprucely-dressed server appeared from behind carrying a tray. A wineglass filled with organic milk rested in one corner; a dozen Oreo cookies were piled in the other. Three years before, the Senator’s doctor had forbade him from drinking alcohol prior to surgery. At the suggestion of his twelve-year-old daughter, the Senator had substituted Oreos and milk for his single malt scotch. He’d discovered that he enjoyed it more than expected and decided shortly thereafter to continue. The small eccentricity served him well.

His donors raised their glasses, watching him. “To a very special friendship,” he said. His hand hovered above the glass, ready to dunk the Oreo.


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Stories by Mail, Day 28 – Tro shùilean eile



There you are,” Tracy said brightly, a touch of relief swimming in her voice. The small backpack she’d recently adopted as a purse swung gently as she moved towards her husband. “I thought you were behind me, but I reached the Morier exhibit, and–”

“I was. I’m sorry,” Curtis mumbled, still gaping at the scene before him, frozen for eternity: a noble in full regalia, likely a Highlander, stood triumphantly on two rocks, his white-gloved hand outstretched as if to claim all the lands that lay before him. The other hand grasped a short spear, not lengthy enough to be a pike. The noble’s cape billowed behind him like a plaid windsock, clamped in place by golden latches. An ornamental sash bisected the man’s torso, announcing his wealth and influence as clearly as if he’d boasted out loud. He wore a leather sporran tied around his waist, a high-feathered cap with plumage half the length of his arm, and a gleaming scabbard attached to his right thigh.

This man oozed destiny and purpose.

Curtis heard Tracy repeat his name. As he turned, he tried to vain to recall the last thing she’d said.

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Stories by Mail, Day 27 – Natural beauty has a price



Since her first mug of cinnamon hazelnut coffee that morning, Haley Middleton had done only two things: munch vegetable sticks that were not an acceptable substitute for edible food, and illustrate the smorgasbord of tiny creatures that lived in her backyard.

The text message arrived from an unfamiliar number as she was sketching a garden snail, the tips of her pencils waltzing slowly, faithfully replicating every intricate detail reflected into her eyes. “Things are getting worse. Please send chocolate,” Haley read aloud to the snail. “Well, whoever this is, I agree with their philosophy.” The snail said nothing. She resumed shading its shell, her gaze shifting between the sketchbook and her indifferent subject. An hour later, another text appeared, identical to the first.

Haley raised an eyebrow. ” Sorry, but you’ve got the wrong number,” she typed, and then pressed SEND. She reached for her auburn-colored pencil when the phone buzzed again, still in her hand. “No, Haley. I did not agree to model without proper compensation. Chocolate, please.”

She glanced up from her phone in confusion. The snail stared at her expectantly.

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