Taffy had done 18 months for hijacking one of Peter Piper’s trucks. Stole 16 tons of pickled peppers (Why?! Who knows?). But Piper had a good alibi. He’d been home with his wife, eating pumpkin pie and playing cards with a couple of neighbors. So who killed a two-bit hood by ripping his throat out, dousing him with slime, and dumping him in Sir Reginald Thimble’s flower bed? A similar murder in Dressmakers St. put me on the right track My client was a member of the notorious Tailor Gang At last everything was piecing itself together in my head.


Sir Reginald’s front door was open. Running up the steps I slipped and landed hard. A trail of goo came up the drive and went through the door. I followed, and almost tripped over the butler. Crushed flat.

Three well-dressed victims had been smoking in a room off the main hall,.my client among them. Blood was everywhere. I stepped back out. A snail the size of a Volkswagen was coming up fast from the back of the house. I pulled a salt shaker out of my pocket and raised it high. The snail stopped in its trail.

“So it is down to me and it is down to you, Deadbolt,” the snail gurgled. I was surprised to hear a mollusk quoting “The Princess Bride.” Usually they go in for live theater when they seek entertainment.

“One question,” I said. It dipped an eye stalk “Why? Did the Tailors pay you to hit the Welshman? And if they did, why start killing them? You’re a pro, not a garden-variety psycho.”

“You humanoids are all crooked. They put the hit on the little thief cos he was stupid enough to rip them off. Only an idiot steals from a syndicate.”

“You won’t get an argument from me,” I said, “but what about the Tailors? Doing your civic duty?”

“Thread-biters didn’t pay me.” It sounded outraged. “I let that get out, that people can push in my eyestalks, and I won’t be eating.”

“Three square salads a day where you’re going now,” I said, “you can thank me later.” Meanwhile, I had unscrewed the lid of the saltshaker. It would last until the cops got here with a couple of 5 pound sacks.

The end



“Peter Piper”

“Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater”

“The tailors and the snail”

The day the evil shaman came to the café, Matt could feel her before she walked in the door. The coffee beans were nervous. Being a good shaman himself he began to place protections on the counter—but then she was there, and there was nothing to be done—she was after his soul. Already she was clouding his senses. There was no time. There was no thought. He spotted a croque Monsieur on the order counter. In one breath he sent his soul into the layers of ham and cheese. He could grab it in a moment. She would never suspect.

He turned to face her. They dueled silently. Perhaps no one suspected, not even the Socialist reading the Wall Street Journal.

“Can I help you?” He asked, while searching the Over-Soul for her name.

“Double decaf nonfat latte, please,” she replied (definitely an evil shaman). It’s too late for you to seek my name, you fool!

“For here or to go?” I will never let you have my soul! Who orders decaf espresso?

“For here, I think,” she said, smiling. Me! I’m evil! And you are too weak—I will find it and feed upon it!

“Great. That’ll be up in just a minute at the counter over there.” NEVER!

But suddenly he felt teeth sinking into him. He whirled around, her change still in his hand, and saw a girl sitting by the creamer counter. He was too late! She had taken the first bite of the sandwich that held his soul. He stared at her until she looked up, and then found himself swimming in the Over-Soul of her eyes.
“Never mind, I’ll get it to go,” said the shaman behind him. He didn’t want to stop looking at the girl, but he dragged himself around to face his nemesis. Foiled, but not for long, said her eyes.

“Change the decaf latte to go!” He called to the barista, who called back, “On it!”

He handed her her change, putting a small curse on the dime as he did so.

“Thanks,” she said.

Matt walked out from behind the counter and sat down across from the girl with the sandwich. At the door, the shaman laughed.

Making Divinity

The Cabbage-Patch God
The Dolls’ Crusade
A Natural Attraction
A Remarkable Reaction
*Bradley the Magnificent

Brad felt good, really good, as he got out of his red Mustang coupe. Why Officer Kelly hadn’t given him a speeding ticket he had no idea. He would’ve bet on Kelly ticketing God Himself for going 90 in a 45 zone. My mojo kicks ass, he thought. His grin faltered as he stumbled over the weirdly cracked and rippled pavement in the middle of the school parking lot. The pavement that, he told himself firmly, had NOT spontaneously shaken itself last week into an uncanny semblance of his own face. He scowled in concentration all the way up the front steps. Behind him, the parking lot smoothed out like the still surface of a pond.

When Brad walked into school at 8:04, Assistant Principal Goodwin was waiting in front of the office, arms folded.

“Bradley Jones,” she said, shaking her head as though looking at something disgusting left by a puppy, “I told you yesterday …”

“I am not tardy,” Brad said.

“…that you are right on time. Keep up the good work, young man.” She wheeled around and marched into the office, the door swinging shut behind her.

Wow, it worked on Goodwin, too. Somehow he’d acquired supernatural powers overnight. Brad’s grin was back. As he strolled toward Mr. Datta’s math class he wondered, did a God need algebra? Did He even need high school?

At lunch, that stupid freshman Kayla whatshername stared at him with an intensity that was truly unnerving. He could feel her gaze from three tables away. “Seriously creepy,” he muttered. She had become obsessed with him lately, and no matter how rude he was it made no difference. “I wish she wasn’t interested in me at all,” he thought. There was a noiseless thump, and Kayla looked away. Good! But he was momentarily nauseated, and so dizzy he had to grip the edge of the table till the room stopped whirling.

“You alright?” Chuck asked, “Brad?”

Brad waved him away and stood up quickly, but all afternoon he felt odd.

Driving home as fast as the Mustang would go, Brad found Officer Kelly waiting for him. This would be no problem. But Kelly hit the lights and pulled him over. No matter what Brad said, thought, or did, Kelly took out his ticket book and wrote a $238 ticket, which Mom would not pay for.


The ladybug leaned against the window frame and crossed its lower right leg over its lower left. It took a drag from a nearly microscopic cigar and blew an even smaller smoke ring.

“Yep, this is all mine. I made the whole shebang,” it added, by way of explanation, seeing John’s look of confusion.

John had written about talking pigs, etc., but never a talking insect. Was one kind of talking animal more or less improbable than another? Somehow it seemed that talking mammals were more plausible than bugs.

“Hello! Anybody in there?” The ladybug pointed at John with the cigar.

“What? All what? The whole shebang of what?” John clicked save, though he’d written so little that losing the file wouldn’t matter much.

“Everything. The universe. Didn’t even take a week.” If an insect ever looked smug, this one did..

John shook his head vigorously to clear his mind. “Ha ha. It almost sounded like you said you created the universe. But you know, we already know who did that. There’s a book about it, maybe you’ve heard of it.” Having come to the conclusion that he was hallucinating, John had decided to play along.


“You think I’m stupid? Of course I know about the book, I wrote it. Surely you don’t think your primitive ancestors were equipped to handle the information that they had been invented by a bug. You don’t seem to be doing too well with it yourself.” The ladybug stubbed the cigar out on the window sill and tossed the butt out the window. John winced. He hated litterbugs.

“You know, that’s bad for you. Bad for the environment too. North Carolina and Virginia should never have gotten started cultivating tobacco in the first place. And, what’s up with evolution? Is it real? Are birds really dinosaurs? And, if you’re a benevolent God, why do bad things happen to good people? Is it really so we can have free will? Because, you know, I don’t think that’s a legitimate justification.”

The ladybug seemed to sigh. “I don’t think you’ve been paying attention. That benevolent god crap was something humans made up because they can’t handle the truth. Who said I was benevolent? Why should I be? Arthropods are “r” strategists. Have enough kids and some are bound to survive. Benevolence is neither necessary nor desirable. And it’s not like you’re real. All I have to do is snap my –”


John scraped the bug guts off on the edge of the sill and tossed the book down on his desk. It was time for a drink.


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