Deaths' Twisted Tales

"Every story ends in death if one waits long enough.”

So quotes Death as he introduces twenty-eight twisted tales for your literary enjoyment. Written by award-winning author, J. J. White, these stories weave their way through the odd, the eccentric, the suspenseful, the vengeful, the evil, and even the hopeful, with the hapless characters hurtling toward their surprising and inevitable demise, much to the approval of our macabre narrator.

All of these tales have been previously published in both national and international publications with most winning awards in distinguished competitions put on by Writer’s Digest, the California Writers Club, the Oregon Writers Colony, the Arizona Mystery Writers and the Florida Writers Association, to name a few.

So sit back and enjoy, for as The Grim Reaper promises, each story has a happy ending.

Someone dies.

 

Excerpt:

Beneath The Wintry Sky

(First Place winner of the Missouri Writers Guild 2011 Short Story Competition)

(First Place winner 2012 Oregon Writers Colony Contest)

 (Second Place winner of the Writers/Editors 2012 Short Story Competition)

 

Snow fell from an ash gray sky, nearly invisible until a few feet from the ground, the flakes dusting odd-shaped drifts dyed brown from the piss, shit and blood of the 292nd infantry regiment.

He had slept only four hours in five days of constant battles, his side surrendering St. Vith back to the Panzer divisions. Window dressing for the Reich, one success in a lost war, with only one conclusion, the end of their noble quest. The Nazis were delaying the inevitable and taking as many of the enemy with them as they could.

A shell from a Kraut eighty-eight exploded about fifty feet from Joe’s foxhole, an eruption of dirt covering the fresh snow. There was plenty of snow, and sleet, and ice, all penetrating their sleeping bags, coats, and boots, while preserving the mangled bodies of their comrades, blessedly saving the living from the smell of the dead. He’d had enough of death, and enough of war. Why did civilized men capable of understanding mathematics, building cathedrals, and conquering disease, think they needed to club each other to death for a little land?

Joe had shot his first enemy soldier over a year ago. He had squeezed the trigger as if he were holding a baby bird, the rifle nearly jumping out of his hands as the distant silhouette collapsed to the earth. He thought of the dead soldier as an infant held by his parents over the crib, a toddler chasing playmates through high grass, a young man kissing his sweetheart as he boarded his train to eternity.

Those thoughts stopped after a few months of war. Joe felt none of them now. The enemy was faceless and nameless. He was eliminating someone intent on eliminating him. That’s all it was. Anything else and you’d blow your brains out.

Kowalski threw the bottle across the foxhole to Joe. He wasn’t expecting the toss and spilled some on his uniform.

“Dumb Polack,” Joe said. “Don’t they play any baseball in Jersey? You throw like a little girl.”

It was Christmas brandy from Camden’s girlfriend or lover or mother, who the hell knew. Camden wouldn’t need it anyway, buried in a shallow grave two miles north of their entrenchment. Joe passed the bottle to Corporal Johansson who took a quick swig and handed it to Paul Santini. A goddamn League of Nations foxhole. Kowalski got the bottle back from Santini and held it out in salute. “To Jake Camden, God rest his soul.” Santini made the sign of the cross. “And,” Kowalski continued, “to a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”

“Yeah,” Santini said. “Just like home, except there ain’t no food, no family, no presents and no tree. Other than that, it’s the same.” Santini pulled broken Christmas tree cookies from a sack and passed them around. “A little stale and broke to hell, but better than nothing, right Sarge?”

Joe nodded and nearly broke a tooth on a cookie trunk. It was a six-hour time difference between Belgium and Vermont. Kathy would be helping her parents start the Christmas dinner. Afterwards, they would stand by the tree and toast Joe and pray for his safety. He wondered where they got their tree from this year. Kathy’s letters took months to get to him. She probably thought he was dead unless the Army was keeping the mess in Belgium secret.

The snow stopped as suddenly as it had started. Small black bugs crawled out from Santini’s cookie sack. Welcome to our world, Joe thought and threw the rest of his cookie away.

Three years ago, he drove twenty miles to Shrewsbury to find the perfect Christmas tree. The Frasier Firs were at just the right height. The perfect tree for the in-laws. He and Kathy had made love quietly in her old bedroom, each wondering if it would be their last Christmas together. That gave him an idea. He stood, put on his helmet and strapped his carbine over his back.

“You know what we need?” he said.

“Betty Grable,” Kowalski said.

“Besides that. We need a Christmas tree.” He pointed to the woods. “There’s a whole forest of ’em out there. Keep my seat warm.” He pulled a small hatchet from his pack.

“You’re gonna get yourself shot for a tree?” Santini asked.

“Yeah. I mean no. One of those eighty-eights hits in here it’s goodbye Charlie, anyway. What’s the difference?” And with that, he climbed out of the foxhole and ran bent over, holding his helmet on his head as he made a beeline to the forest, about a hundred yards away. The constant artillery barrage of the last two days had left few trees near the edge to choose from so Joe pushed further in until the woods were so thick they blotted out what was left of the setting sun through the heavy fog.

There it was, a four-foot spruce near the bottom of a small gully, the branches heavy with snow. He took the hatchet from his coat and after shaking the snow off the tree, began hacking at the trunk.

A few ration cans and some of Santini’s stale cookies hanging from the thin branches and they’d have their own Christmas tree for their hole. Maybe Stars and Stripes would send a reporter. He could imagine the headline:  “Four unlucky bastards blown up with their Christmas tree.”

He stopped to light a cigarette. About thirty feet away, a German soldier sawed on a similar tree with a large knife. Their eyes met as Joe flicked his Zippo. He missed the tip of the cigarette with the flame by two inches.

Joe swung his rifle around and aimed first at the soldier’s head, then the chest. Light pressure on the trigger, ready to squeeze, but he didn’t. It surprised Joe as much as it did the Kraut. The German fumbled with his rifle but somehow managed to get it into firing position. He was just a kid.

Hell of a thing to die for, Joe thought, but there were worse ways to go and his intentions had been good. He hoped someone would tell Kathy the truth.

A gray squirrel jumped from one tree to the next behind the nervous German. It startled him enough that his Mauser shook. Then the man took a breath and yelled something at Joe that could have been anything. Joe understood a little German but Johansson was the only one fluent and he was a million miles away and drunk on stolen brandy.

Joe lowered his gaze to the soldier’s tree. The boy hadn’t made much progress with the knife. Maybe the Krauts didn’t supply hatchets to their men when they fought in dense forests. It sounded like something Hitler would do.

Joe gently placed his rifle against a charred stump and then pointed to his hatchet. The soldier seemed to understand and nodded, so Joe picked it up and cleaved what was left of the trunk of his little tree with two mighty hacks. He held the tool out to the soldier. “Looks like you’re having a tough time with that knife.” He threw the hatchet to the boy’s feet, where it sunk in the snow.

The soldier fished it out and began chopping at the base of his own small Tannenbaum, never taking his eyes off Joe. A couple of times Joe thought the guy might hack his foot off but the tree finally came loose of the trunk.

Joe walked over to him and the soldier immediately had his rifle up and aimed. The snow began to fall again, small flakes resting on the boy’s long lashes. How old was he? Fifteen? Sixteen? Old enough and nervous enough to kill, he guessed.

The boy tried to hand the hatchet back to Joe, but Joe shook his head.

“You keep it, Hans. You need it more than I do.”

Joe went back to the stump and picked up his rifle and the Christmas tree. He had walked away a few steps when the boy soldier said, “Frohliche Weihnachten.”

Joe smiled, turned, then saluted lazily to him. “Merry Christmas to you too, buddy.”

Big News

My interview on YouTube about my novel, Nisei, for the Ken Weene radio show
Five star review of NISEI from Readers Favorite  https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/nisei
My short story, "The Case of the Burned Wires" didn't make the Margery Allingham short list but was accepted for publication in an upcoming edition of the Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine
I will be at the Florida Library Association Conference at the Caribe Royale, May 10 between 1 and 5 pm. Stop by my table and get a Mr. Goodbar or Krackle.
My short story, THE CASE OF THE BURNED WIRES, has been longlisted for the Margery Allingham Short Story Competition
My short story, IN NOBODY WE TRUST, won the St. Martin's Press "Who Can You Trust Contest" It will be published in the St. Martin's Press Book, A DIVIDED SPY by Charles Cumming in the paperback and eBook editions only, in May.
They'll publish the story in the back of the book.
Some prize money too: $250. Pam get's 10% for typing it up.

Loiacono Literary takes on my new novel, A Promise To Lena 

My interview on Many Books

I'll be at the Meet The Author bookfair in the Eau Gallie Civic Center, Nov 19 and 20. http://tinyurl.com/hmqm3yx

My interview with Donna Seebo of Warriors For Peace. Select 636-2 and click on box

My guest post on writing about other cultures : http://tinyurl.com/hb3b78z

Also, please vist Jackie Minniti's Fabulous Florida Writers blog to read my Nisei guest post.http://tinyurl.com/hqnpscg

Please vist S J Francis Writer's Blog to read my guest post http://tinyurl.com/jy7badm

Enter on Goodreads for a chance to win one of five copies of NISEI. http://tinyurl.com/jeg2bh4

I will be discussing my book, NISEI in the Jane Von Thron room at the Cocoa Beach Library, Wednesday, July, 20 at 6 pm.

Read my guest post about Engineers and Creative Writing on Cecile Sune's Book Obsessed site: http://tinyurl.com/glcy5sg

My psychological thriller, Prodigious Savant,has been reduced in a Kindle Promotion from $3.99 to 99 cents.
http://tinyurl.com/jbjaogx

You can order my new novel, Deviant Acts, on Amazon.

My interview on S.J >Francis' blog :http://tinyurl.com/h97okxg

My interview on Authors Talk About It: http://tinyurl.com/hxstpwa

My guest post on Marilyn's Musings: Five Common Mistakes made by New Writers:

My short story: "Lucky bastard Club" was included in the The Best Short Stories from The Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest 2016 -

My recent interview on Carolyn Johnson's New Book Review:

http://tinyurl.com/j8vqeq9

My recent interview on Crime Fiction.FM: http://tinyurl.com/pf86654

A guest post I wrote for BookBrowsing: Is The First Page All That Important When Deciding Which Book To Buy?

My short story, "The Lucky Bastard Club," is a finalist in the Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest.

The Penitent was shortlisted  in the Words with Jam competition.

Excerpt:

http://tinyurl.com/nopazmn

A nice article about Pam and me in the Viera Voice. http://tinyurl.com/mfjcxxa

I will be giving a presentation on "Story versus Style" at the Cocoa Beach Library on Wednesday, May 13 at 2 pm. Ya'll come. All proceeds  from sales of my book, Prodigious Savant, go to the "Friends of the Library." http://tinyurl.com/nwd7krk

Check out an article about me in the Island Reporter  Page 6 http://tinyurl.com/p7gwxcz

Listen to my interview on the Red River Radio-No Limits show with questions from Barbara Hodges about me and my novel, Prodigious Savant. My interview is in the last half hour. http://tinyurl.com/k768fq4

 

Prodigious Savant is now available on Amazon Kindle.

Check it out

Prodigious Savant, Deviant Acts , and Nisei have been acquired by Black Opal Books.

Check them out

My story,"The Adventures of The Nine Hole League" was published in Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine #13

Check it out

Deviant Acts has been selected as a finalist in the CWA Debut Dagger competition.

Nisei has been selected as the Grand Prize Winner in the Columbus Creative Cooperative novel competition.

Great Police Procedure blog by Micki Browning---Plotting The Perfect Crime And Getting Away With Murder

Wonderful poetry blog by Nilanjana Bose--Madly-In-Verse

 
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