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Vol. 4 Collector’s Edition Preview: “The People Who Live in the Sears,” by Emily Koon

Emily Koon’s “The People Who Live in the Sears” is the ninth and final item contained inside The Conium Review: Vol. 4 Collector’s Edition. Tomorrow, we’ll show off the book-shaped box that contains these beautiful handmade chapbooks and broadsides. The box is similar to last year’s, but it’s bigger (don’t worry, it still fits on most bookshelves). The entire box set will be available for purchase tomorrow (November 30th). A limited number of these boxes ship right away on the 30th, though most orders will ship closer to December 15th.

Emily’s story was the 2015 Innovative Short Fiction Contest Winner. The contest judge, Amelia Gray, noted that “The People Who Live in the Sears” is ” . . . a little George Saunders, a little Don Barthelme, but best of all a lot of its own thing, the neon Jazzercize glory of the 80s going up like the asbestos-fueled fire it features.”

This 12-page, 4.5″ x 6″ chapbook is printed on 67-lb. vellum paper with a 24-lb. ivory colored inner leaf and 24-lb. white linen pages.

Sears CE 01
Sears CE 02
Sears CE 03

“Excerpts from the Fairy Tale Land Times,” by Charlie Brown

Small house in tree hollow sketch

From “Police Blotter:”

The Bear Family in the Nearby Wood area reported a home break-in yesterday at 3:22 p.m. While away from their house, an intruder committed petty theft (bowl of porridge) and vandalism (rocking chair) before being discovered in the bedroom. The intruder, described as a human child, then fled the scene. She is approximately six years old with blonde hair and no other distinguishing characteristics. Possibly armed.

 

From “Griselda’s Helpful Hints:”

Q: One of the best things about the beanstalk in my husband’s garden is that we find the occasional human. My husband always wants me to grind the bones for bread, but I want to try something new. Any suggestions?

A: While we acknowledge that bone bread is a staple of any giant’s diet, you’re missing out on some interesting exotic flavors. Use a microplane to shave the bones over a salad or pasta for an umami kick. Or, if you have the time, smoke the humans and add them to the pot when you cook those beans from the stalk. It will add a fatty richness, especially if you happen to get an American.

From “Ask an Evil Stepmother:”

Q: I already have trouble sleeping, but now I have back problems. My prospective mother-in-law put a pea under my mattress and I still ache two weeks later. How can I marry into this family when they are capable of such abuse?

A: Oh, do blue bloods like to whine. Look, I realize in-breeding has made you royals as delicate as china dolls, but I’m going to give it to you straight: toughen up, princess. You may think it’s a happily ever after now, but what are you going to do in twenty years? Can you feed the new hot chick a poisoned apple? Will you get your new husband’s kids “lost” in the woods near the cannibal witch’s gingerbread house so the adults can get some alone time? How about giving the all the chores to that left-behind little ragamuffin so your kids can get the good stuff? Can you do that? Not with that attitude, missy.

 

About the Author:

Charlie Brown is a writer and filmmaker from New Orleans. He currently lives in Los Angeles, where he recently received his Masters in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California and also runs Lucky Mojo Press and Mojotooth Productions. He has made two feature films: Angels Die Slowly and Never A Dull Moment: 20 Years of the Rebirth Brass Band. His fiction has appeared in The Writing Disorder, Jersey Devil Press, The Menacing Hedge, Aethlon, and what?? Magazine and the forthcoming anthology The Portal In My Kitchen. He currently teaches journalism and composition at various community colleges.

Special Note:

This story was longlisted for the Wigleaf Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions.

Image Credit: © Danussa / Dollar Photo Club

“Prayer Group,” by Charlie Brown

Praying Angel Sketch

She came from Massachusetts. She looked different and we were worried. But we let her join our prayer group.

We made some conversation. We had our sharing time. There was coffee in the boiler, donuts in the box. But long it had been since we had somebody new.

We all sat in a circle and talked about the weather. She said she followed moon cycles as they connected her to earth. She was excited by constellations and, gee, the sky was so clear here. She said she was a Taurus. She ate a jelly donut.

We asked her for privacy and gathered by the coffee. We talked and thought about it. Massachusetts had Salem, and didn’t Salem have those witches? We knew nothing of astrology, and she was quick to bring it up. She had taken the last donut.

The reading for tonight was from the Gospel of John. She talked about the Greek, how it was written for the diaspora. When we asked of Massachusetts, she said the community was open minded. Ideas came up at prayer group where they interpreted the stories. They were not fundamental.

We looked at her in silence. We had let her into prayer group.

We asked her for privacy and gathered by the coffee. Witches came from Massachusetts, but did they go to prayer group? We tabled it right then and went back to the circle.

She talked while we all read. She had opinions about everything. She looked so at ease, while we were all on edge.

We asked again for privacy. She said that made her nervous. While we gathered at the coffee, she asked us lots of questions. Were we angry at her presence? Was it wrong to have opinions?

We came to a conclusion. She joined out of desperation. She was obviously possessed.

We turned just then and spied at her from the table. She smiled so weakly as she fumbled in her purse. She asked if she should leave. She removed her ring of keys.

We told her she should stay and surrounded her quite quickly. We found a jump rope and bound her. We gagged her when she screamed.

We decided to say a rosary. We chose the Sorrowful Mysteries. We prayed and laid on hands. It took fifteen minutes.

We knew about possession. A man had spoken at prayer group. The possessed would talk rapidly, looking stretched with few wrinkles. Her skin was already smooth, so we couldn’t be so sure. But she spoke very quickly as the gag was removed.

She apologized for her opinions and begged to go on home. She said her head was hurting and the pain was really bad. Another sign of possession.

We said another rosary. We chose the Joyful Mysteries. We prayed and laid on hands. It took half an hour.

She cursed us then to pieces, yelling we were out to get her. She was clearly paranoid. All signs she was possessed.

We went to the church and brought back holy water. We doused her by the handful. She screamed as the water hit her, but she was dry in ten minutes. We blamed it on the demon.

We started a novena and she got real silent. We laid on hands and felt the air chill. We all stood and chanted. We dribbled more holy water.

She wilted and then looked at us, her face shining with peace. She nodded, seemed renewed. We sang a song of praise. She asked to be untied after she sang along.

We drank a cup of coffee. We had a silent prayer. It lasted a full ten minutes and it filled us all with joy. We hugged and hurried home while she laughed, waving goodbye.

But we still don’t know why she never came back to prayer group.

About the Author:

Charlie Brown is a writer and filmmaker from New Orleans. He currently lives in Los Angeles, where he recently received his Masters in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California and also runs Lucky Mojo Press and Mojotooth Productions. He has made two feature films: Angels Die Slowly and Never A Dull Moment: 20 Years of the Rebirth Brass Band. His fiction has appeared in The Writing Disorder, Jersey Devil Press, The Menacing Hedge, Aethlon, and what?? Magazine and the forthcoming anthology The Portal In My Kitchen. He currently teaches journalism and composition at various community colleges.

Image Credit: © kuco / Dollar Photo Club

“Santa’s Christmas List,” by Kayla Pongrac

Santa Sketch

Dear All Grandparents Residing in America,

Santa Claus here (you know, the guy who has filled stockings and piled presents underneath your family’s Christmas trees for many, many decades). It’s been awhile since I’ve compiled a Christmas List of my own, which details what I think YOU should get ME for Christmas. All I do is give, give, give, give, give and this year is the year when I will take, take, take, take, take. Please note that this is a milestone for me, as I only take a year off every century.

None of you know what it’s like to fill the position of Santa Claus. None of you can say, “I so understand what Santa’s responsibilities are every year,” or “What a tough job Santa has!” Unfortunately, my job description failed to mention that the saints of yesterday bred the sinners of today, who have bred the devils of tomorrow. These kids (yes, your grandchildren!) just can’t get enough. The longest Christmas List I received last year was poster-sized and in 10-point Times New Roman font. C’mon now. You all must take responsibility for these monsters who think it’s charming to sit on my lap and scroll around on their iPads, pointing to every little toy that they added to their “Wish List” on their “favoritest” app.

Please understand that every year, I have to sit down and read millions of emails (that’s right—I don’t get letters anymore) from these little boys and little girls who don’t know how to spell or punctuate. These kids are lucky I don’t hit the “Reply” button because you know what I would give them? Grades. Bad grades. And then they could go write about me on “Rate My Santa” or whatever that tacky website is called.

You can’t possibly deny that your grandchildren want gadget this, gadget that. “Give me an iPad, Santa, or I won’t believe in you ever again!” “By the way, do be sure that my new iPhone is the yellow color!” Yeah, okay . . . you’re a kindergartner with an iPhone in your pocket and an iPad in your lap. Real sweet. All you’re missing is some headphones so you can walk around like all the rest of ‘em.

Honestly, folks, all I want for Christmas from each family this year is a huge keg of beer and some pretzels. If you all could just send these gifts to the North Pole addressed to me, (NOT Mrs. Claus—she and I may be getting divorced), that’d be fantastic. So, just to recap:

Santa’s Christmas List:

  1. One keg of beer
  2. Pretzels

See that? Simple. Now, if only you could teach your grandchildren to be more like Santa Claus because he asks for little and gives a lot. We’ll see ya’ll next year.

Tell your angry little snugglemuffins I said hello,
Santa

About the Author:

Kayla Pongrac is an avid writer, reader, tea drinker, and record spinner. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Vinyl Poetry, Split Lip Magazine, Oblong, HOOT, Right Hand Pointing, and Nat. Brut, among others. When she’s not writing creatively, she’s writing professionally—for two newspapers and a few magazines in her hometown of Johnstown, PA. To read more of Kayla’s work, visit www.kaylapongrac.com or follow her on Twitter @KP_the_Promisee.

Image Credit: © asmakar / Dollar Photo Club