Benson Trucant never liked the beach, with its roaring and roiling surf and constant sizzle of undulating sea foam.

The place was absolutely maddening.

And that salty air, thick with the disgusting odor of sun-baked rotting kelp and decaying crustaceans, practically turned his sensitive stomach inside out.

White-capped breakers slapping the soft sand with the precision and timing of a metronome—a sound that never failed to send jolts of electricity dancing and darting across his hypersensitive nerve endings.

Pigeons, seagulls, and plovers pecked and plucked fiddler crabs from their hidey-holes, screeching and shrieking as they fought over the tasty bottom feeders. If he had his way each of those useless creatures would disappear from the earth.

Sizzle, slap, shriek, screech.

Sizzle, slap, shriek, screech.

Trucant, the owner of a small town hardware store, couldn’t imagine enduring another day of that unholy dissonance.

From his vantage point he spied a small, wooden trawler chugging northward between the setting sun and a channel marker. He imagined the boat’s outriggers creaking and groaning against the weight of massive waterlogged nets laden with sea bass and perch.

More of those dang screeching gulls diving in the wake, searching for bait remnants tossed overboard by the ship’s crew.

Trucant wanted to wave his arms and yell. He wanted to catch the eye of the boat’s bearded captain and his crew. He wanted to holler and jump up and down. Fire a flare gun. Build a fire to send smoke signals. Throw a rock. Hell, anything to alert the crew to his presence.

But all the trying on earth wouldn’t help him, because rigor mortis had Benson Trucant’s arms pinned tightly to the wet sand beneath him.

A massive dose of oleander into his salad did the trick, and the next thing he knew his wife of eighteen years and her “lover-of-the-week” dumped him there among a hearty stand of sea oats.

Death wasn’t as he’d expected. Not at all. There were no bright lights or long tunnels. No joyous reunions with long lost loved ones.

Just rigor mortis and the overwhelming desire to blink.

His mouth seemed to be locked open, so he tried to scream … again.

Not a sound.

In fact, the only thing that came from his mouth was a tiny crab seeking a bit of sunshine after enjoying its evening meal.

Sizzle, slap, shriek, screech.


Massive, abandoned
Machinery, steel dinosaurs
Tangled debris.


New Picture (1)

Shadows, graffiti
Glass, jagged shards
Footsteps echo.


New Picture (2)

Leather, squeaking
Keys rattle, jingle
Nervous, anxious.


New Picture (4)

Hanging, swinging
Rope, rafter, neck
Boy, dead.


New Picture (7)

One on
Other on floor.

The choking game.

*Top photo is mine. The rest are by Sunday K. Kaminski

A time-battered shed.

Front door, askew.

One rusted hinge.

Open slightly.

Wedge of sunlight,

On plank flooring.

Beretta in hand.

“I heard a shot, but I was too scared to look. Is he in there?”

“Stay back, please.”

Standing to side of doorway. Breathing heavy.


No answer.

Heart pounding.

“Frank. I’m here to help. You okay?”


Flies buzzing, darting in and out.

Deep breath.

Quick peek.

Maglight low.

Head high.

Minimum target.

Blood spatter.

Lots of it.

Tissue on ceiling.

Sitting on floor.

Shotgun in lap, upright.

“Frank, you okay?”

Useless words.

“Is Daddy all right?”

“Go back in the house. I’ll be there in a minute.”

Hand over mouth, sobbing. “Okay.”

Squeeze through door.

Flashlight aimed toward ceiling.

Holster weapon.

Friends since high school.

Twenty years, or more.

No face.

“Why, Frank? Great kids. Great wife. Nice house. Good job. Wonderful life.”


Key radio mic.

“Send M.E. and paramedics. No particular order.”

Doesn’t matter.


Chest moves, slightly.

Then, a wet breath … from somewhere.

A finger twitches.


Another jerky, unbelievable breath.

“Hold on Frank. Help’s on the way!”

Frantically grab radio.

“Tell paramedics to hurry. Victim is alive. Repeat. Victim is alive.”

Sit down.

Holding Frank’s hand.

Sirens getting closer.

“Hey Frank. Remember when we …”

Lady Luck

“Whoa, young fellow,” said Rufus Robinson, whose midsection had just been pummeled by the appropriately-sized head of a lad no more than ten-years-old.

The youngster, out of breath, red-faced, wide-eyed, and clearly wound up about something, backed up a step and ran a hand across his short, wiry, blond hair. “I’m sure sorry, mister,” he said. But I just won three whole dollars from that old game in the drug store.” He pointed at the entrance to Jones’ Rx and Lunch Emporium. “I gotta go give my mama the money so she can buy medicine for my brother. He needs it real bad.”

Without another word the boy sprinted away, clutching a small paper sack, leaving Robinson, the head teller at the downtown branch of the Fidelity Savings Bank, watching him run at full gallup until he was nothing more than a dot on the horizon.

The next day, at precisely ten o’clock, his usual mid-morning break time, Rufus Robinson set out on his customary ten-minute walk. Along the way he passed Frank’s Florist, Guy’s Grocery, Paul’s Pawn, and Connie’s Candles.

The sun was warm on his face, and the absolutely delicious scents of jasmine and honeysuckle hung heavy in the humid morning air. He turned the corner and saw, predictably, the widow Wanda Williams pinning her plus-size unmentionables to the clothes line in the back yard of the duplex she owned and shared with her tenant, Willie Wilkins.

The widow Williams saw Robinson and wiggled a knot of stubby fingers at him. Robinson shouted a “Morning, Ms. Williams” in her direction and, without missing a step, he crossed the street and headed due west. He began to whistle an old Cole Porter tune, “Cherry Pies Ought To Be You,” a song that had been stuck in his head since hearing it on his AM radio well over a week ago.

With five minutes left on his break, Rufus Robinson was about to pass by the last business on his route, Jones’ Rx and Lunch Emporium, when suddenly he heard a clatter and bang of commotion and then the two front doors flew open. And, just as it happened a day earlier, the boy, whose head felt as hard as a lump of granite when it slammed into the banker’s soft belly, burst from the drug store and out into the street. He clutched a small paper bag clutched tightly in his hand and excitement beaming on his dirt-smudged face. Robinson once again watched the boy run until he was nothing more than a memory.

lady luck

The bank teller decided to see for himself, without delay, the so-called “lucky” machine that had twice bestowed much-needed riches on the young man and his family. He pulled open one of the two front doors and was met by cool, conditioned air. Looking around the place, first to the foot powders and then to the lunch counter, he didn’t see the gambling machine, so he asked an elderly clerk where it could be found.

The counter attendant, an elderly man with a tussled mane of thick white hair and a long and heavily-waxed handlebar mustache, raised his eyebrows, a gesture that formed deep wrinkles into his forehead, much like grooves carved into wet beach sand. “You must be thinking about Lady Luck,” he said.

“They gave her the name because she was built and painted up to look like a dance hall queen. But that dang thing, a slot machine, was anything but lucky, and it hasn’t been here for … I’d say forty years, or more.”

The man used a somewhat soiled towel to wipe the surface of the bar top, concentrating his effort on a particularly stubborn dried glob of chocolate syrup. He set the cloth aside and continued to talk while using a fingernail to pick and scrape at the spilled, pesky fountain flavoring. “My father,” he said, “ran the business back then and decided have Lady Luck taken out the day a little boy won three dollars and was so excited he ran right out the front door and into the street where the east-west trolley hit and killed him graveyard dead. They say nickels were scattered everywhere and bystanders were more concerned with grabbing them than helping the kid. Anyway, come to find out, the boy had a sick baby brother at home and he was in a hurry to get there so he could give his mother the money to buy medicine. Hell, my old man would’ve given them what they needed, for free. A real shame is what it was.”

The druggist picked up a duster and swiped the feathers across the tops of a grouping of upside-down soda glasses. “By the way, mister, what made you ask about that old slot machine?”

Rufus Robinson, not hearing the question, turned and walked to the front door where he paused for a second, watching the commotion in the street. A small crowd of looky-loos circled the body of a young boy while several ruffians pushed and shoved one another, fighting over what Robinson knew to be three dollars … all nickels.

“Lady Luck, my ass,” thought Rufus Robinson.

murder is no joke

Country roads.

Dark, tree-lined tunnels.


Telephone poles,

and mailboxes.

Blurred shapes,

passing quickly.

Handcuffs swing from spotlight handle.

Metal against metal.

Tap, tap, tap.

Winding curves.

Driver training.

Hit the apexes.

Feed the wheel.

Don’t cross your hands.

Is it hands at ten and two,

or three and nine?

Eyes darting from ditch to ditch,

watching for deer.

Moon back-lights trees.

Tall, gnarled fingers,

disappearing into a black sky.

Blue strobe lights transform fog into winking, blinking azure cotton candy.

“Are we close?”

“No, not yet. We was a long ways in the country.”

A pause.

“Maybe three more miles.”

Radio lights blink in sequence.

Dispatcher speaking in monotone.

“Stolen car on interstate. Disturbance in West End. Shoplifter at convenience store, Third and Bellview.”

More blinking.

“There. Right there.

The body’s in the woods to your left.

Drug him across the ditch right there.

See where the weeds are knocked down?”

Entourage stops.

Guns drawn.



Don’t disturb scene.

Gun belt leather creaking.

Keys jingle.

Twigs snap.

“Where’s the body?”


“Thought it was here.”

Humidity high.


Vests, like dense clay,

around torso.

Hours pass.

Spider webs.

Cadaver dogs,

noses to ground.


Hundreds of mosquitoes.

Sun sends night home for the day.

Pushes through tree canopies,

like translucent yellow wands.

“I found it!”

Man … no, a boy.

Lying in leaves and pine needles.

Eyes closed,

mouth open.

Hands bound in back.

Gray duct tape.

Insects in and out,

of nose and mouth.

Scurrying to and from,

like cars traveling the 101.







Bullet casings.


Gansta wannabes.


“Didn’t know gun was loaded.

Took it from Dad’s nightstand.

It was a joke.


A joke.

We just wanted to scare him.”


One dead.

Four in prison.

Life sentences.

A joke.

Just a joke …

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0200 hrs.



Whirling and swirling.


A lone bat,

Looping and swooping.

Night sounds.



A train whistle, far away.



Voices in the night air.


A noise outside.

“I’ll take it.”




Front porch light.


Flittering and fluttering.

Flower bed.



Leftovers from last fall,

Ticking and clicking.

Across the weathered porch floor,

Pushed by a gentle breeze.

Wooden swing.

Rusted chain.


Front door.

Needs paint.

Loose knob.

A knock.

Door swings inward,



Creaking and groaning.


Just a crack.

Tiny face, crinkled with time,

And of days long since passed.

“I heard them again, Officer.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Damp, anxious eyes.

Faded gray.

“They were at the window, like before.”

“I’ll check around back.”

“You’re too kind.”

I wish my Bill was still here.”

“I know.”

“He’s been gone ten years this week.”

“A good man.”

“Thank you.


It’s fresh.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Two sugars and a little cream, right?”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“Be right back.”




Passing time.

Neighbor’s house, dark.

Furnace, humming.

Rattles, then stops.


Two minutes pass.

Kitchen window.

Brightly lit.

Darting here and there.

Full coffee pot.

Silver tray.





For two.

Screen door.



“Everything’s okay, Ma’am.”

“Oh, I do feel better now,

Thank you.

Coffee’s ready.

Come inside.”

Warm smells.

Vanilla. Fresh bread. Coffee.

“It’s just with Bill gone…”

“I know.”

A downward glance.

Wall clock.

Ticking and tocking.

A sigh.

A tear.


Tick, tick, tick.

“Would you mind if I sat for a minute?”

A sniffle.

“I’m tired, and really shouldn’t drive.

After all, how would it look,

A cop asleep at the wheel?”

A smile.


Just like last night.

And the night before.

And the night before.

At 0200,

Ten years after her Bill passed away.


It had been three years, two months, and five days, to be exact, since Vernon Atwater had last seen his son. December 14th, a day he would never forget, started when the judge found Junior guilty of murder and sentenced him to twenty-five years in the penitentiary. Two hours later, two burly prison guards helped his boy into their van to take him to the state prison in Rocky Creek. Vernon spent the rest of the day drinking cheap beer and wondering what he’d done that caused Junior to do the things he did.

Vernon felt guilty for not driving to “The Creek” to see Junior, but something had always come up—overtime at the mill, the truck needed new brakes, the roof needed replacing, the fence needed mending. Those things took time and, well, before he knew it weeks had turned into months and months into years.

Needless to say, after three years Vernon was more than a little nervous about seeing Junior. His heart pounded and thumped against the inside of his chest as the car turned from the main highway onto the narrow blacktop leading to the penitentiary. The sight of the gleaming razor wire atop the double fences caused his throat to tighten. He hoped his boy was all right.

Hundreds of men behind the fences were engaged in all sorts of activities. They paused from their weight-lifting, jogging, handball, bocce ball, and basketball trying to get a glimpse inside the passing vehicle.

He wondered how his son was going to react to seeing him today. He wondered if anyone told him he was coming.

At least this visit would be a long one. Twenty years to life to be exact.

It’s really true, Vernon thought, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.


A drive down a dirt road overgrown with tall weeds, honeysuckle, and goldenrod revealed an old water and rust-stained dam, a deserted factory engulfed in vines, and a secret fishing spot. In all the quiet it was easy to imagine smoke billowing from the stacks, water rushing over the dam, and a line of workers standing in line to punch a time clock. Nevermore.

Nowadays, in addition to being the spot for catfishing, the off-the-beaten-path location is a breeding ground for fictional murder, macabre hiding spots for imaginary dead bodies, and an idea prompt for a popular 200-word short story contest.



2013 Writers’ Police Academy Golden Donut Short Story Contest



The rules were simple—write a story featuring the image we provided. The catch—the story must be told in exactly 200 words.

As always, we received a mountain of entries. And, each story we received was a nicely-told tale. But there could be only one winner.

So, without further ado, let’s bring Joe Bonsall of the Oak Ridge Boys to center stage to announce the winner of the 2013 Golden Donut Short Story Contest.

The Echo

by Nancy Sweetland

I told my psychiatrist I was coming back here to banish my demons, stop the bad dreams.

He said he’d come along.

I wondered why he cared.

Mama’s long dead, an unsolved homicide. But if I remember anything to identify her killer even after all these years, I know I’ll end my misery.

Inside the rusted, screechy gate, my psychiatrist says, “There’s nothing here to help you remember.”

But he’s wrong! I catch my breath. In this dingy, unkempt area behind the abandoned building the haunting memory of a deep, coaxing voice echoes off the stark cement walls.

I shiver.

“Look under the stairs,” I say. Someone huddles there, shaking, tears rivering down his face.


Six years old.

Hiding from the man that hit my mama, bloodied her face, twisted her arm, made her scream. I hear the echo of his voice, wheedling, “Come on out, Kid. I won’t hurt you.”

I know that voice, so familiar to me now. Fury boiling up from years of lies, I step toward my psychiatrist.

I know now why he cares about my memories.

Know who he is.

Know how I can banish my demons, make the bad dreams stop.

Nancy Sweetland

*     *     *

The 2016 Golden Donut Short Story Contest is OPEN! For details click the link below.

Golden Donut

The day we were almost eaten by desert beasts

Denene and I stumbled upon a colony of strange creatures during a recent trek through the California desert. Aliens? Maybe. We caught the beings in the act of using their remarkably long tongues to probe the deep pools found only beneath the dry and dusty surface of the barren wilderness.


In a vast space populated with nothingness as far as the eye can see, we took cover and watched as the behemoths lapped nourishment in a manner similar to hummingbirds at a feeder hanging from the porch rafters of a country farmhouse.


The beasts stood as tall and sturdy as oak trees among the tumbleweeds as they bobbed their heads slowly up and down during their slow-motion feeding frenzy.


Then one, the steel ogre with red plumage and slender white neck, turned its head toward us. We’d been discovered and knew we’d have only a matter of seconds to flee before becoming its next meal.


So, as fast as our hybrid car could take us, we headed out across the hot desert landscape, leaving behind a wake of dust-filled Valley fever spores.


As soon as we were a safe distance away, Denene risked her life to capture a video so you guys would believe our story. Really, it’s true. See for yourself…


And that, my friends, was the day we were almost eaten by the beasts of the desert.

Next of Kin

Graveyard Shift…0246 hours

Weather…clear/full moon

Location…Abandoned factory Hwy 666



“Caller reports seeing light, possibly flashlights, inside the abandoned factory on Hwy 666.”

“10-4. I’ll check it out.”

Radio crackles.

“I’m close, 2012. I’ll meet you there.”

“10-4, 2027.”

Cracked asphalt drive.

Tall weeds push through jagged, ripped openings.

Brick consumed by vegetation.

Still air.

Owl hoots in distance.

Rats scurry through honeysuckle.

Lopsided door. One rusty hinge.

Concrete floor.

Broken glass.

Fallen wood and metal.


More glass.

A hallway to the right.

Break room.

Spider webs.

Double doors on left.

Sign overhead.



Some tall, some short.

Some fat, some skinny.

Steel dinosaurs.

Rusted. Oil stained.

Rat on metal table.


Flashlight in distance.


Guns pointed.

Forward, slowly.

Glass crunches.



Light unmoving.

Ease ahead.

Water drips from above.

Owl hoots.

Flashlight closer.

Heart pounding.

Sweat at hairline.

Open doorway.


Light beam.

I to the right.

He to the left.



Owl hoots.


Light unwavering from floor.



Water dripping. Rats scurrying. Owl hooting.

Heart beating like drum.

Faraway train whistle.

A man.

Overturned chair.

Dirt floor.

Dress shirt.


Tennis shoes.



“I love you, dear wife. “

“I’m sorry I failed you and our beautiful little girls.”

“Tell them I love them, too.”

“This is the only way.”

“Always remember the good days.”

0342 hours.

Cause of death…possible suicide.


Victim…unknown due to extent of injuries.

Next of kin…a wife and daughters….somewhere.

Owl hoots.

*Images by Maryland photographer, Sunday Kaminski.