Stories by Mail, Day 41 – Fields of valience



Everyone said this line of work would be dangerous, he thought, his senses sweeping the area to check for intruders. But does a soldier run in the face of adversity?  Nay, a soldier remains true to his oath and his principles! He tightened his grasp on one of the boxes and allowed his lithe frame to settle more heavily on three others, complicating matters for anyone who might attempt to forcibly remove him. The box’s markings were definitely familiar, but he could not decipher their meaning. Nevertheless, instinct and years of field experience told him that this cargo was invaluable. Witness me, all who may draw close, and know that this zone falls under my protection!

“Fred, what’s that dog doing on top of the beer cases again?”, a weary voice muttered from across the yard.

“He’s not hurting anything, boss. I’ll shoo him when it’s time.”

Mayor FluffyPaws heard the men yapping in a foreign tongue. Fear not, my bounty!  I, your guardian, shall fulfill my oath at any cost!   He sniffed the air haughtily. He would not fail.


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Stories by Mail, Day 40 – In which I celebrate the shifting tide



When Street & Smith called to hire me for the cover of its upcoming fantasy anthology, I’d been in the middle of my fifth nap.

The gnomes you see holding up the curtain are Clakmart and Wamwekurt. They were understudies for Kiss Me, Kate, and Clakmart griped good-naturedly about the show’s costume designer throughout the entire shoot. Right friendly blokes, though, both of them.

Robbie had a sweet retainer serving as a witch’s paperweight during the day, but he also moonlighted as a fill-in busboy for the Stork Club. I never learned how a skull with a missing jawbone managed to clear tables, but he struck me as an innovative chap.

None of us knew the snake’s name. He kept his own council, slithered and hissed dramatically for the camera, and then just left.

I hopped home to my lillypad that evening with a quarter strapped to my back and the budding realization that I envied the social calendars my new friends maintained, the sense of purpose they enjoyed. The next morning, I hired an agent and launched my fantasy-and-horror-novel modeling career.

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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 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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Stories by Mail, Day 17 – The hunger of a professional



Miyamoto concentrated as the bitter Antarctic winds whipped against his diminutive frame. Years of intense training ensured he wouldn’t shiver too noticeably, but even a world-class rōnin had limits. A drop of effort-sweat careened down his furry face; he appreciated the irony.

The samurai glanced again at his companions, three nearly-identical Adélie penguins who were honking and braying softly as they slumbered. He’d been fortunate–the birds had failed to realize he was merely wearing a penguin suit, and his true identity remained concealed. By tomorrow, he’d have infiltrated the highest levels of their operation, foiled their nefarious plans, and would be boarding a plane for much more temperate climates.

It was, save the temptation to snack on his counterfeit nose, a textbook execution. He ought to have selected something other than a carrot.

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Stories by Mail, Day 16 – The space of settling



Bei Tuan gently tightened her embrace, using her paws to massage Fernando’s head and torso. Since her snuggling business opened its conifer-stump doors two years ago, he’d never missed a session. “I haven’t felt this safe and comfortable since I was a cub,” he would often remark as she gathered her purse. “You have a natural gift.”

She synched her breathing with his, steering him towards a rhythm. Tension trickled out from his limbs, evaporating into thin wisps. “How much time?”, he muttered. He sounded half-asleep.

The panda glanced nonchalantly at her overhead clock. About ten minutes remained in their session, but Bei Tuan was hard-pressed to think of a reason why her client should know that. Life would reactivate soon enough. “All the time in the world,” she said softly, holding him as if she never intended to let go.

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Stories by Mail, Day 13 – Civilization belongs to the arbiters of taste


Since every postcard is different in terms of format, text description of images, etc, it’s always difficult to guess how much room I’m actually working with prior to the final step. This story was written longhand while I was waiting at the car dealership, and went through three endings and four White-Out sessions. Since it looked like a mess, I added paint. IT’S FESTIVE. 


Timbits skulked lithely to the opposite side of the ridge, like waterbeads dancing on a riverstone. His face wore discontent well; in their final seconds, his prey often appeared contrite, as if they were more concerned with not disappointing him than with self-preservation. The dour mountain lion swished his thick tail in irritation and glanced again towards the log cabin where the furless apes were feasting.

This morning, the apes had chattered excitedly about a box, and Timbits knew their song, if not the lyrics. Being a cat, he fancied himself a natural philosopher on the subject of boxes. Before he could bound towards their treasure and seize it for himself, though, the apes slid a smaller metal box out of the lengthy cardboard one and, using their primitive tools that served as a poor imitation of claws, collapsed
Timbits’s prize into a formless brown mass. He growled at the memory.

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Stories by Mail, Day 12 – Devolution of a rivalry



“I apologize for bellowing. It’s your office, and you have a reasonable expectation of tranquility. I’m just…what are my rights in this situation?”, Harriet grunted quietly as her fury waned. She relaxed a smidge as her breathing became more measured, but her front legs still quivered.

“No need to apologize, Harriet,” her attorney said. “You’re upset; anyone would be. But to be honest–and I understand this might be difficult to digest–these flyers alone do not constitute grounds for a lawsuit. Now, you can–”

“Don’t feed me that malarkey!” the pig squealed with indignation, instantly reignited. “She used my likeness without my consent, captioned it ‘What’s the latest dirt?’, and I’m not supposed to take offense?   Every Porcine-American I’ve ever met is extremely conscientious about personal hygiene! If we don’t stop reinforcing these horrendous stereotypes, we–”

Carter Holloway, Esq shook his head as his client continued  her diatribe. It was only 9 AM, and he was already in dire need of a nap.

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Stories by Mail, Day 4 – Faithful are the furry



Shrews and prairie dogs prefer to congregate in the narrow pockets near Antelope Canyon’s gaping mouth, typically within the first quarter-mile. Out of respect, they don’t venture further; the sandstone formations there, kissed by light and standing for eons, stir a sense of reverence in their small souls. One day, the animals whisper, the antelopes will return and the church shall be rebuilt.


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