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This Week in SHOWCASE #7
by Bruce Bethke
Editor, Stupefying Stories
Welcome to issue #7 of SHOWCASE, the (approximately) weekly free webzine companion to STUPEFYING STORIES magazine and the STUPEFYING STORIES PRESENTS anthology series. Right now we’re up to our necks in finishing up the (now late) September issue of STUPEFYING STORIES magazine, as well as the specials PUTREFYING STORIES and TALES FROM THE WILD WEIRD WEST, so if you don’t mind, we’ll cut straight to the stories. This week SHOWCASE is proud to present—
“The Day of Reckoning is upon us,” Preacher Paul said.
“You reckon?” Jake answered.
Paul watched Jake for telltale signs of guilt, but Jake only nodded and went on rocking his chair on the general store’s porch.
“You’d best do everything you can to prepare,” Paul added. “I’m here to offer you counsel if you need it.”
“Before you get too far in that sermon of yours, you ought to know I don’t have any money for you, Preacher.”
Paul shook his head and stroked his beard. “That’s just what the Devil’s telling you to say.”
Dottie paused outside the drying barn where most of Poppa’s burley crop hung like baleen in the gaping mouth of a whale. She was tempted to pluck a leaf and inhale its aroma of dried fruit, but then she noticed the wooden figure of Bacco Joe guarding the shadows just beyond the doorway. Even in the dim light, she could make out the rope burn on Joe’s neck. Dottie’s hands flitted to her own neck and scratched the tender skin that itched with sympathy pains.
Until the previous summer, the old cigar-store Indian had always occupied a certain corner in Dottie’s house, passing along with the farm from father to son as a talisman of good harvest since the earliest generation planted his first row of burley. When she was still alive Dottie’s mother judged Bacco Joe sacrilegious and kept him covered with a quilt, out of fear that the statue likely challenged at least three of God’s Ten Commandments to Moses.
Now Bacco Joe was making appearances all over the farm. Before today’s sighting Dottie had last seen him standing on the back porch of the big house, the carved feathers of his war bonnet bristling like the quills of a porcupine expecting trouble. Each time he disappeared, Dottie prayed he wouldn’t come back. So far, her prayers had gone unanswered.
Dottie felt Bacco Joe leering at her, though his visage hadn’t changed from its usual stolid expression. Dottie knew from experience with her own father that a lot of things went on beneath the mask of a hard face. Thinking of Poppa and the wooden Indian at the same time evoked a memory of the previous summer, and of Uncle Leon and his ill-fated practical joke. Looking back on it, Dottie figured the trouble with Joe had begun with Uncle Leon’s fondness for telling a tall tale...
The lights come on: dazzling white-on-white. “For the love of God, Montresor!” I say, shielding my face, but in seconds my eyes adjust and the abrasive glare softens. “What is this place?” My voice drops to a whisper, its echoes mere pinpricks.
“But, my dear Fortunato,” says Montresor, “it should be obvious...”
“Dude, that’s a big hole,” said Thomas.
“Yup,” said Will.
Thomas sighed and took a drink. “Now I understand why you asked me to come fix your wall instead of calling your landlord.”
Will shrugged. “Yeah, that’s part of it.”
Thomas just stared at the giant hole in the wall. “I mean, what the hell did you do? I figured you just punched the wall or something.”
“Nah. I did it on purpose.”
Thomas shook head and finished his beer. “I don’t know, man. I agreed to do this for a six-pack, but this is gonna be a big job.”
“That’s fine, man. I got a bottle of vodka.”