Thursday, June 4, 2020

My (Dis)Honorable Mention

[If you’re coming to this post from Discord, just skip down to the story. This intro is old news to you.]

I was delighted on Sunday to open my email and discover that a flash fiction story I had entered in a contest hosted by Semi-Sages of the Pages (a podcast I would recommend to anyone who is seriously interested in writing better fiction) was chosen as a runner-up. What’s more, the ladies of SSotP actually read the winning stories aloud on Sunday afternoon.

Alas, I was unavailable to listen to the live broadcast. (Also, I haven’t really taken the time to figure out how Discord works yet.)

But I finally got around to listening to that podcast Thursday night, and I was buzzing with the anticipation of hearing my story read. So I’m listening along through the first story, then the second, then the third (saving the best for last, tee-hee tee-hee!), and then a fourth one (wait, weren’t they only picking four winners?), and then . . .
MORRIGAN: We got a story that I absolutely love. It made me laugh hysterically . . . but I, um, can’t read it.
MOLLY: This story did involve a real person who is really alive and really likes to sue people.
I hadn’t even considered the possibility that one of the people mentioned in the story might get litigious. I mean, it’s obviously satire (as you’ll see, it’s conspiracies all the way down). And I certainly wouldn’t want to put the semi-sages in any legal peril. So I understand why they were reluctant to read it.

But I ain’t afraid of no lawsuit.

Okay, I’m a little afraid of a lawsuit. So here’s an altered version of the story that got an honorable mention but not the honor of being read on the Semi-Sages of the Pages podcast. I’ve changed two names and one title, but I think you’ll get the joke.

And please don’t sue.

An Unexpected Package

Expurgated Version (The One Without the Gannet)

“Are you sure you can’t think of anyone who would send you a severed hand?” Detective Griff asked.

“No,” I repeated.

“All right,” she said. “Let’s go over the sequence of events one more time.”

I had read about this interrogation tactic. She was hoping to catch me in a lie. But I was telling the truth.

“Ellen saw the package on the front porch about an hour ago,” I told her, glancing at my wife sitting silently in the La-Z-Boy, as pale as she had been after she opened the package. “She carried it into the kitchen. I was in the living room grading papers. She screamed, and I ran into the kitchen, where the box was open on top of the stove. I looked in and saw the hand.” I still couldn’t get the image out of my mind. “It was just sitting there on top of some bubble wrap.”

“And that’s when you called 911?” Griff asked.


“Did you touch the hand?”

“Well, yeah. I thought maybe it was fake, so I touched it. Once. On the knuckle.” I touched the spot on my own hand and Griff scribbled it in her notebook.

“Did you touch it?” she asked Ellen.

Ellen shook her head, unable to make eye contact.

After a moment’s pause, Detective Griff said, “The fact that there was no postal stamp or anything on the box means it must have been dropped off in person. Which means it was left by someone local.”

I hadn’t thought of that. From the look on her face, Ellen hadn’t either.

Griff’s phone vibrated then. She tapped it and put it to her ear. “Detective Griff.”


She whispered to us, “They found a match on the fingerprints.” And then, into the phone, “Sorry. Say that name again.”


“Why does that sound familiar?” she said, and then to us, “Do you know a Joshua Penningbird?”

Then I clearly heard the voice on the phone say, “It’s Josh Bizarre, from Leopard King.”

Ellen and I stared at each other, nonplussed.

“It can’t be,” Griff was saying into the phone. “He’s in prison, isn’t he?” She took the call into the foyer then, her back to us.

“But, but that’s...” Ellen stammered.

I could only shake my head.


The detective’s questions petered out quickly. Ten minutes later, I was watching her car disappear up the road. When I turned back into the foyer, I was alone. “Ellen?”

“In the basement!”

I descended the steps to the dark underneath. “We got a problem,” Ellen said, her face lit up eerily blue by the light from the open freezer.

As I approached, I could see him in there. His frozen skin was gray-blue, but his mullet still shone golden. Ellen held up Josh’s arm in her blue-gloved fingers. It was a stump.

“Someone’s been down here,” she said. “Someone knows. What should we do?”

“Let’s move up Phase Two. Get Cheryl in the phone.”

If you enjoyed this story — and especially if you loved the part about the hand being detached from the body — you should check out my new book The Body Politic, available on Amazon for cheap. Just scroll back to the top, and you’ll find a handy link in the right column.

And if you want to read the stories that did make it to the podcast, you can find them here — or simply find the podcast and listen to them.