KANDY

“For about 30 years, Halloween was taken over by pranksters. By the ’30s, pranks were causing cities millions of dollars of damage. They considered banning Halloween in many cities, but instead, parents got together and came up with party ideas for kids, and a lot of them involved dressing up and costuming.

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Swearing In Geesese

Swearing in Geesese

by Paul Mannering

Jessie and Tim came hurtling down from the house to the creek paddock. Their bare feet ran sure and quick on the lush pasture, tough soles black with dirt and Jessie’s long corn blonde hair escaping the blue ribbon to fly out behind her like a kite’s tail. They came skidding to a halt and then breathless and shining they walked through the verdant grass to where a towering row of flax bushes grew along the edge of the creek. Jessie watched with wide eyes as Tim heaved on a long dark stem of flax, the stalks were chocolate coloured and Jessie knew they were magic because they floated in the water.

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The Last Time Snow Fell

The Last Time Snow Fell

By Paul Mannering

“I want to tell you a story,” Oscar said to the man duct-taped to the chair. The black gag across his audience’s sweating face made permission unlikely.

“This is a true story,” Oscar continued. He sat in a chair opposite the man; a wooden kitchen or dining room chair. The one a twin of the other. He leaned forward, resting his arms on his thighs.

“There were these two brothers see. Both were doctors, surgeons in fact. Highly trained, highly intelligent and quite capable of saving a person’s life when no one else could.” Oscar paused to make eye contact with his host. The man in the chair widened his eyes and stared at Oscar in mute appeal.

“These two surgeons were also young, so they shared a house. Roommates as it were. As sometimes happens in these situations, they ended up with a kitten. You know a young cat?”

The duct-taped man nodded.

“Okay, so these two brothers, who happened to be surgeons and roommates, they get this kitten. They take care of it; she becomes part of their household. Two doctors and a cat. The cat grows to the point where they realize she needs to be fixed. Being a girl cat, that means she needs to be spayed. That’s an operation, removes the girl cat’s reproductive organs.” Oscar waved a hand over the general area of the bound man’s abdomen. “Ovaries, the two parts that come down from the ovaries, and the top part of the uterus. It is a simple operation, for a veterinarian. Cats have them all the time. But, this cat belongs to two young surgeons.

“It takes a certain type of personality to be a surgeon. Some people say they need to have a God complex or narcissistic personality disorder. At the very least a huge amount of self-confidence is the foundation for any surgeon.  Anyway, over a glass of wine one evening, one brother says to the other, ‘Why don’t we do it ourselves?’

Now the other brother, who doesn’t have time to take off work to deliver the cat to the veterinarian, sits there with the young puss purring in his lap and thinks, why not?

So a few days later, these two surgeons, these two guys who could confidently slice open a human being to remove organs, cancer, or bullets, operate on their pet cat.

“They anesthetize her, they slice her open using the highest quality medical tools and they spay their own cat.” Oscar paused to shake his head, reflecting on the insanity of the world. “I mean,what the fuck right?” The man in the chair didn’t nod, so Oscar continued with the story.

“After the operation, they stitch the girl up, and watch over her carefully for a while until she starts to come around from the anesthesia. She seems okay. They keep an eye on the cat for the next week, her appetite comes back to normal, the incision heals, they take the stitches out and in time the cat’s belly fluff grows back. The two brothers congratulate themselves on a job well done.” Oscar paused, regarding the man in the chair, the gaze coming back at him said that he had his full attention. The man in the chair wanted to know the punchline. The story wouldn’t be a story unless something happened.

“… Six months later, the cat had kittens.” Oscar straightened up, his thick neck popping as he stretched. “The cat lived a long and healthy life. The two brothers never worked out what they removed from the inside of their cat. They never dared to take her to a vet to get her fixed either. She had a litter of kittens every year or so and they quietly gave them away to good homes.” Oscar stood up, stamping his feet and working the blood back into his legs.

“So that’s the story of the surgeons’ cat,” Oscar put his hands on his hips, pushing the black wool blend suit jacket away from his waist. Revealing the shoulder holster with the dark shape of the pistol nestled in it.

“You’re wondering, Just what has this got to do with me? Like every good story, there is a moral. A lesson to be learned from the tale. One that we can each apply to our own lives. The moral of this story is that no matter how good we think we are, we can still make mistakes. The consequence of not doing the right thing the first time, can have lifelong repercussions. “In your case, you don’t have nine lives like a cat. You also don’t have a pair of surgeons standing over you.”

Oscar pulled the Glock from the shoulder holster. The silencer on it was bigger than the gun itself. The man in the chair started to scream and struggle. His body straining against the wide black tape, every tendon in his neck and arms standing out  against the plastic. Oscar shot him in the head. The exit wound took out the back of the man’s head in a raspberry spray that smelt musty. A second shot hit the corpse in the heart.

Oscar holstered his gun and returned the chair he had sat in to the dining room table. He left the locked apartment with the same casual ease that he had entered it twenty minutes earlier. Taking the stairs, he went down eighteen floors,  exited through a service entrance and out into the Chicago night. The air was crisp with ice, though under the streetlights the last of the snow had dissolved into stinking grey mush.

Oscar stopped to light a cigarette before walking out into the street. The garbage bags next to him rustled and a sodden  grey cat peered at him with amber eyes that glowed like the moon. “No matter how bad a day you think you are having, there is always someone who is worse off,” Oscar said the skulking creature. The cat vanished into the trash and the hitman turned his collar up against the bitter wind.

Walking back to his car took an entire cigarette.

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