Monthly Archives: May 2013

Around Gray Publishes Presents – Sammy Vickstein

“Jane, I need the ring back.” 
Jane’s imagination raced to make sense of Gerald‘s words.  She ran her thumb over the ring in question, she had not yet gotten used to the  token of their only now two day long engagement.
“Oh, no, it’s not like… let me explain,” Gerald said, moving over to the couch where Jane sat.
She made room for him, decided to hear him out.  She owed him, no, she owed herself that much.

Gerald began:
Apparently Mrs. Schwarz, the lady who sold Gerald the ring, had made some sorta  mistake.  The ring Jane now wore should not have been sold, not to Gerald at least.  Something about magic powers.  The Germans wanted it, the Russians wanted it, the Jewish rapper Dr. Ira wanted it, a guy named Hal Jordan wanted it.  Mrs. Schwarz had called Gerald earlier that day and tried to explain, realized it all sounded ridiculous and asked Gerald to stop by the jewelry store with the ring and she would try to explain in person. 

Jane was pissed, wished Gerald respected her enough to be honest about whatever it was that was going on.  She was just about to tell him so too- when a beam of white light shot out of the ring and went through their front window before slicing in half a German thug who had been sneaking up their lawn.

No. 382

“We yawn so that the little aliens who live in our brains can get some fresh air,” Jocelyn told her little brother, Caleb, after repeated questioning.

“That’s not true,” he replied.

“Really? Because you’re the one who asked me, so you’re the one who doesn’t know.”

“Maybe you’re right,” he admitted, then returned to playing with his truck.


“She’s on to us,” said the alien commander. “Prepare to evacuate!”


“Hey, what was that?” said Caleb.

“What was what?” said his sister, annoyed at being interrupted again.

“Something just flew out of your ear.”

She waved nonchalantly. “Probably just a bug. Stop bothering me.”

“I bet it was the aliens.”

“Are you kidding me? I just made that up.”

No. 381

AJ didn’t like the look of the rash on his right hand. It had started small, a few days earlier, but had now grown to cover everything but his thumb.

“You should probably get that checked out,” his roommate, Shawn Raymond, told him, as AJ left for work.

“Yeah, I think so. I’m busy today, but I’ll try to fit it in,” said AJ on his way out the door. He flexed his fingers experimentally. The dull itch had turned into a worrying burning sensation.

As he drove in to the office, the pain began to intensify. When he arrived, it was only to throw his bag on his desk and let his boss know he was going to the doctor.


AJ never made it that far. He pulled his car to the side of the road and tucked himself into the foetal position. He’d never experienced such agony, and the inflammation had reached his elbow. He used his opposite arm to claw at the wound.

He was horrified to see the flesh flake away, disintegrating into a sandy texture. He closed his eyes in misery. Once rid of the tissue, though, the pain slacked.

When he opened his eyes, he regarded his limb curiously. The skin and muscle that he expected to see were gone. Underneath was shiny pistons and cables. He opened and closed his hand with a faint whine of gears propelling the metal skeleton.  

“What is this?” he gasped at the sight. Then, worryingly, his left little finger began to itch.


AJ threw the car in drive and sped home, hoping desperately that Shawn was gone for the day.

He was in luck. The apartment was empty when he came through the door with a sweater over his arm. He hurried to his room and, after leaving a message for Shawn that he’d be away on business, closed the door and didn’t leave for a week.


When he emerged, he was reduced to a technological framework, completely machine.

“Hey,” he greeted Shawn, who didn’t turn around.

“What’s up?” Shawn asked.

“I’m a robot, apparently,” replied AJ.

Shawn kept his focus on the TV. “Yup. We all knew that,” he said without a reaction.

AJ was floored by the news. “What do you mean, ‘you knew’? And who is ‘we’?”

“Almost everyone. It was pretty obvious.”

No. 380

Jack moved his chair to follow the umbrella’s shadow. He’d been watching people walk past the patio and hadn’t noticed how far the sun had moved. Reaching for his glass, he was annoyed to find that the ice had melted. He shook the condensation off of his hand and looked back toward the shop. He wondered if he should buy another drink, or live with the warm one he already had.  

He didn’t see Amy until she sat down beside him.

“Hi,” she said. “How’s it going?”

“Yeah, fine,” said Jack, startled by her sudden appearance. “I’m just killing time.”

Amy worked at a restaurant across the street, and knew who Jack was waiting for.

“When’s Kelly done?” Amy asked.

“Ah, should be soon,” Jack replied. “It was supposed to be twenty minutes ago, but I think something came up.” He’d told Amy about his feelings for Kelly the week before. Now Amy made sure to ask him about her every day.

“I see,” said Amy. She leaned over and stole Jack’s cup. “Does she know you’re here for her?” she asked with the straw in her mouth.

“I think so,” said Jack. “I said something yesterday.”

Amy smiled. “What exactly did you say, yesterday?”

Jack slid back further into the shadow. “I said we should do something, sometime.”

“I’m going in to see if she’s still here,” said Amy.

Jack didn’t say anything. Amy stood up and walked around the table to Jack’s side.

“Get up,” she told him, grabbing his arm, and lifting. “You’re coming, too.”

“But—,” Jack protested.

Amy was having none of it. She hustled him forward toward the door. “Move! At the very least, you can buy your sister something for her parched throat on this ridiculously hot day.”

“Fine, whatever,” Jack mumbled. “But it’s only going to be a small since you just finished mine.”


Amy burst into the lobby with Jack in tow. “Kelly?” she shouted across the counter. “Are you still here? My brother has something to tell you.”

Kelly was nowhere to be seen. A man behind the till spoke up.

“Kelly’s gone home,” he told Jack and Amy.

“Who are you?” asked Amy. “I’m here all the time and I’ve never seen you before.”

“I’m new,” said the man. “This is my first shift at this store. I’m Mike.”


“And so, four years ago, that’s how Mike and my sister met. I’m going to take credit for it.” Jack finished his speech. He raised his glass. “To the bride and groom.”

He sat down when the applause was over.

“Hey,” Kelly whispered in his ear. “You never told me that story before. If I remember correctly, it wasn’t until a month after Mike started that you asked me out.”

No. 379

The Tower dominated the landscape. It had been built when the forest had been a flat plain. Now, the trees had grown full and tall, and it still dwarfed its leafy neighbors.

Princess Alana could see the Tower looming above her as she chopped her way through the underbrush. She tried not to look up very much. Although it was her destination, the Tower frightened her.

But there was a prince at the top, and he needed her to rescue him. She had to press on.

No. 378 – No. 368 Part 2

Part 1:

Emma swung and missed the ball completely.

“Yup,” Wayne noted.

“Can you tell me what I did wrong, there?” she asked, spinning to face him.

Her direct eagerness surprised Wayne. He wasn’t ready with a reply.

“Almost everything,” he finally managed, with a laugh.

Then he tried to remember the last time he’d laughed. It wasn’t recently.

He showed her how to line up properly and had her hit a few more times. She was a quick learner, for sure.


By the end of the lesson, he had yet to get a good read on her, though. He was usually able to size somebody up quickly, but Emma seemed to prove the exception to his rule. Short of asking her directly, he’d tried everything he could to figure her out.

“Should I come back at the same time tomorrow?” she asked as she put her clubs back in her bag.

“Whatever works best for you,” Wayne told her. It wasn’t like he was going to be busy.

“Alright,” she said happily. “Same, then. Sounds good. See you tomorrow, Wayne.”

Then she left.


Wayne stood still for a moment. Then he walked back inside to the front desk. His wife met him at the counter.

“How was she?” his wife asked him.

“Good,” said Wayne. “For a beginner,” he added.

His wife looked at the clock on the wall. “You were out there for a while.”

Wayne shrugged. “First lesson.”

“Yes,” his wife agreed. “We could use the business.”

“Right,” said Wayne.

“Is she coming back?”


There was an awkward silence.

“You know, you sent her out to me,” he told his wife abruptly.

“I most certainly did not,” she said with her arms crossed.

No. 377 – The Return of Fangy

Part 1 –
Part 2 –

After a particularly violent attack on a mailman, Fangy had been sent to live at the zoo. But Nicholas had been given a free pass, so they still saw each other regularly.   

Despite the frequent visits, however, Nicholas was unhappy with the arrangement. It was his opinion that Fangy had been unfairly blamed for the mauling. The neighbors had recently bought a new dog, a vicious one, by all accounts, and it had been seen running free on the same day of the alleged incident.

Because of this suspicion, Nicholas spent most of his time at the zoo looking for ways to break Fangy out of his exhibit.

Fangy had spent his time in captivity trying alternately to burrow his way out, or to sneak through the open doors at feeding time. His constant activity and inquisitive-yet-deadly nature made him popular with zoo visitors, and with his keeper, Mr. Marsh.


“Hello, Mr. Marsh,” said Nicholas as he walked by the “Staff Only” entrance to the velociraptor pit.

“Hi, Nick,” Mr. Marsh said, waving at the boy. “Fangy’s been in a little bit of trouble since you came the other day.”

Nicholas gritted his teeth. He had a plan to bust Fangy out that evening, but when Fangy got in trouble, that usually meant he wasn’t allowed in the outside part of his pen for a few days. “What did he do this time?” he asked casually, trying not to show his nervousness.

“Clawed a tourist who got too close to the edge while taking pictures. Tore him up real good,” said Mr. Marsh sternly. Then he winked at Nicholas. “But the tourist had it coming.”

That’s why Nicholas liked Mr. Marsh. He always took Fangy’s side.

“Is he locked up?” asked Nicholas.

“Well,” said Mr. Marsh. “We had to for a little while, until picture-guy left the park. But I couldn’t leave Fangy all cooped up like that all night, so I unlocked the gate before I left.” Mr. Marsh paused for a moment. “Come to think of it, though, I haven’t seen him out today.”

Nicholas thought the man was acting strangely, but didn’t want to draw attention to it, lest Mr. Marsh wonder why Nicholas seemed jumpy, too.

“We should see if he’s OK,” said Nicholas.

Mr. Marsh agreed, and they pair went together through the maintenance area to Fangy’s stall. To their surprise, the dinosaur wasn’t in his den. The straw on the floor in one corner had been disturbed, and sunlight shone through a large hole in the wall.

“Uh oh,” said Mr. Marsh loudly while he looked around. “It looks like he chewed his way out.” He pulled out a walkie-talkie and began speaking very quickly. “Code red, velociraptor escape. Code red, repeat, Fangy has escaped.”

Then he knelt down next to Nicholas and whispered. “Sorry, I had to make sure it seems real. Of course Fangy can’t chew through concrete, but they don’t know that. You should be able to find him down by the lake.”

“Thanks Mr. Marsh,” said Nicholas happily. The keeper’s plan had been much simpler than his. And now Fangy was free.

“A dinosaur should be with his boy,” said Mr. Marsh. “But be careful . If he eats anybody else, he’ll have to come straight back here.” He laughed. “Anybody that we like, that is.”

No. 376

 “You ate it? I can’t believe it!”

“Yeah, well. Not on purpose, obviously.”

“How did it taste?”


“Crunchy’s not a flavor!”

“Do you really want to know what a bug tastes like?”

No. 375 – No. 372 Part 2B

Part 1:
Part 2:

A year went by.

The men at Station X had resigned themselves to the fact that the light would never illuminate.

Then, on a stormy winter morning, it did.

Bradshaw leapt to hit the button, throwing his chair aside.

Mitchell intercepted him halfway there. “Don’t,” he said, looking Bradshaw in the eyes.

“I have to,” said Bradshaw. “We can go home.” He strained toward his target.

Mitchell held him fast, and repeated his plea. “Please don’t.”

Bradshaw’s struggles subsided. “The light is on,” he protested in vain.  

He reached for the button again.

Mitchell drew his pistol and pointed it at Bradshaw. “You can’t.”

“What’s wrong with you? We’ll be here forever!” Bradshaw was becoming frantic. “Why?”

Mitchell kept the weapon trained on his companion. “Because I know what the button is for.”

The answer was too much for Bradshaw. He lunged forward, ignoring the gun.


A single shot from inside the hut echoed across the windswept landscape.

Mitchell sat alone inside the shelter. He did not press the button.

No. 374

“The boy tried to attack me,” the wolf told the excited pack that had gathered around him. “But I narrowly escaped.”

The other s “oooed” and “ahhed” appropriately.

The problem was, the wolf was lying. He’d seen the human at a distance, but at no point during his sheep-hunting was he ever threatened in the least.

“What are you going to do next time?” asked one of the other wolves.

“Oh, he won’t know what’s coming, that’s for sure,” the wolf boasted confidently. “Now that I’ve seen him, I know his weaknesses.  I’ll probably eat him.”


The rest of the pack was keen to see this and so, the next day, they all met on the hill opposite the sheep paddock.

“You show that boy who’s boss,” they told the wolf, and pointed him in the direction of the shepherd.

The wolf crept slowly toward the child, while at the same time trying frantically to work out just how he was going to make the kill.

“Go get him!” the pack urged him on when he looked back.

And so he moved closer and closer. But he made a grave mistake and allowed his tail to brush against a dry bush with a rattling sound.

The shepherd turned immediately and spotted the wolf.


“That’s too bad,” said the pack leader when the rest were safe in their lair, gunshot still echoing in their ears. “He had such potential. I suppose that’s what happens to the wolf who cries boy.”