Okay, I have to admit it, I’m currently residing in Deadline Hell in order to get the Year of Phil off to a proper start the first full week in February, so how about a short story this week?

This one was published in the Spring-Summer 2017 issue of the literary magazine Word Fountain, and the editor was gracious enough to nominate it for a Pushcart Prize, which is always flattering to hear. Enjoy…


“What’s this?” she said after she’d crossed right in front of him.

He didn’t really think she wanted to know the name of the movie she’d momentarily interrupted but still he said, “The Vampire Bat.”

There was, of course, no reaction, just the sound of her opening a cabinet in the kitchen then the refrigerator.

“It’s got me thinking,” he said, raising his voice a little to make sure she could hear him. “Every generation has a woman who looks just exactly like Maureen Stapleton.”

“Who drank the last Diet Coke?” she replied.

“In Maureen Stapleton’s generation, it was Jean Stapleton,” he said.

“Is this grapefruit juice still good?” she said.

He shook his head—didn’t care if she could see him or not. “I’m not happy,” he said.

“Can you get some more tomorrow?” she said. There was nothing in her voice to indicate she thought he might not.

He shook his head again. It never occurred to him to wonder if she meant he should get more Diet Coke, more grapefruit juice, or more of both.

“Did you check the voicemail when you got home?” she said.

He’d never left.

“I’m thinking of getting a Playstation 4,” he said then something in the movie made him realize he hadn’t been paying attention. Who was Herman?

“Can you move Aiden’s dentist appointment to next Tuesday, the eighteenth?” she said.

In the movie, three men in suits walked down a staircase and met another man who told them Herman was dead.

“Poor Herman,” he said.

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d worn a suit.

“Is the car still making that weird sound?” she said, the sentence reeling itself out as she crossed back in front of the TV again.

“It’s calling out for help,” he said.

If she heard him, she gave no indication. She went up the stairs.

He said, “Poor Herman.”


—Philip Athans


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About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, (https://fantasyhandbook.wordpress.com/) is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
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  1. Scott says:

    I should not fear. Dread is the psyche executioner. Dread is the little-passing that brings absolute destruction. I will overcome my apprehension. I will allow it to disregard me and through me. What’s more, when it has gone past I will turn the internal eye to see its way. Where the trepidation has gone there will not be anything. Just I will remain.

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