You asked for it–more Burstein fiction

The Crawfish Boil

By Alvin G. Burstein

The sultry south Louisiana afternoon was buffered by the shade of tall pines and oaks that dominated the lot. Scattered under the trees were rough-hewn tables, eight foot long plywood panels supported by sawhorses that elevated them waist high. Clipped to the two holes in the center of each table, and hanging down from it, were black thirty- gallon trash bags. Some kind of feast had been carefully anticipated.

Photo by Tracy Stansel

People began trickling in, at first in twos and threes, then in larger crowds. The guests were varied: men and women, young and old, some bare-legged in shorts, some in chinos, some in gaily flowered dresses, some bare-headed and some in floppy sun hats. As the crowd increased, the clamor of talk, punctuated by bursts of laughter, got louder and louder. The humid atmosphere got warmer and warmer.

The food arrived, cascade upon cascade of hot boiled crawfish, their mottled red bodies setting off steaming paler red new potatoes, three inch cobs of shiny yellow corn and speckles of gray-green bay leaf, darker allspice and fire alarm red cayenne, all puddled in liquid boil. Bellying up to the tables, the crowd began to grab for the shellfish, twisting off and sucking heads, peeling open the armored bellies, squeezing out gleaming, moist tails, and, ignoring the black dorsal blood lines, fingering the white meat into their mouths. The laughter and talk didn’t subside. It became a cacophony, a jangle, punctuated by the sound of fingers sucked, smacking lips and exclamations of approval: “Man, these mudbugs are some good eating!”

Mounds of spiny, multi-legged shellfish disappeared to be replenished by new cascades, welcomed by gleaming eyes and grasping hands. Mastication clotted, but did not diminish, the increasing clamor. Ejaculations of pleasure, shouted words and eruptions of laughter spiraled into the muggy atmosphere. Liquid boil and fish juices coated snatching fingers, and slathered hands and forearms. Oily stains splashed clothes and besmeared chins.

Suddenly the ground began to rock. Tables spilled their contents. Feasters staggered and fell, screaming. A monstrous basket of metal netting broke through the ground. Scooping up a squirming mass of people and broken debris, it dumped the collection into a huge steaming caldron watched by gigantic crustaceans looking on with expressionless ebony eyes.

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Summer Issue Now Available

Here it is — the ultimate issue of Dark Valentine magazine (and we mean that in more ways than one!). Just click on the cover image to download the pdf file, which is approximately 2 mb. Remember that after this weekend, the site will be closed, but you can still download all the issues of DV at the Dark Valentine archive on the StonyHill Productions site.

Nature Abhors a Vacuum

So, Dark Valentine may be defunct but there’s now Dirty Noir.  They are looking for noir in all genres and under 1000 words.  Check them out here.

The End Has Come…

Dark Valentine Magazine will be closing its digital doors this weekend. The anniversary issue will be posted on the site tomorrow morning, as planned but after Saturday, it will  on editor Joy Sillesen’s Stony Hill Productions site, along with all the other issues of the magazine.

We plan to create a print copy of the anniversary issue later this summer and will provide updates on our Facebook group page, our twitter feed (@DarValMag) and on our individual blogs.

If you’re owed payment for stories or art, we will be disbursing those in the next few weeks.  If you have any questions about that, or anything else, feel free to contact me on my blog, kattomic energy, or through my email if you have it.  (You can also contact me via my FB account.)

We had hoped to keep the site going for another few weeks, but issues with our hosting company have made that impossible.  If you have stories or art on the site, please archive to your personal computer.

Making the decision to shutter the magazine and the site was not easy. We loved working with the writers and artists who contributed so much over the past year. And we were thrilled by the support we got from the writing and artistic community as well.

We think you’ll agree that we’re going out on a very high note.  The anniversary issue is spectacular–from its awesome graphic cover by Jordan Boos to the 15 stories inside, illustrated, as always, by an eclectic and international cadre of artists.

Thanks for a wonderful year.

We’ll see you on the ‘net.




Fine Fire by Richard Godwin

She was always there.

In the corner of the bar with her cigarette burning in her hand, her long and slender holder tapering at the end and oozing smoke like dry ice. Her legs tucked beneath her on the bar stool, the sheen of her stockings alight.

He would sit and watch her.

She had never glanced his way but he could tell.

He knew she was aware of his attention.

And so, one Friday night after work, John Maple stood up, smoothed the creases on his immaculate jacket, checked for that sparkle in his blue eyes and walked over to where she sat.

She felt like ice.

“Can I offer you something?” he asked, noticing her glass was empty.

She took a drag and blew smoke in the direction of the mirror where the barman was watching the exchange.

She didn’t turn to look at him.

“What could you offer me?” she asked. Read the rest of this entry »

Can’t Buy Love–Fiona Glass

Graham picked up the phone and smiled. This was one call to his mother he was going to enjoy. He didn’t, as a rule, like phoning home. The old bat said the same things every time, complaining about his job, his prospects – or lack thereof, his flat, his clothes, his hairstyle – or lack thereof. Not like your cousin Malcolm, she would always say. He’s the successful one of the family. Why can’t you be more like him?

Photograph by Jakub Krechowicz

He’d done his best to explain, but she didn’t want to hear. Malcolm’s older than me, he used to say, when he was young enough for such things to matter. Or, Malcolm’s better-looking, which was undoubtedly true but probably didn’t have as much effect on things as he thought it had. Or, Malcolm’s got more money than me… can hold down a steady job… can afford a decent place of his own.

It didn’t matter what he said, or how long he went on with his explanations – she still had that unconvinced note in her voice. Well, if you’re sure…. And of course he wasn’t sure, that was half the problem, and he couldn’t be sure when she questioned him all the time like this. And every week the one question he dreaded most, So, dear, have you got yourself a girlfriend yet? Read the rest of this entry »

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The Sound of Silence

By Alvin G. Burstein

The psycho-analyst’s 3:10 patient was on the couch, reciting her usual litany. Bored, he looked at his watch. He brought his watch to his ear, hearing nothing. He looked at its face again. The second hand was moving.

With the litany as a backdrop, he began to think. Her dreams about a deaf man…not just concerns about his empathy. His frequent requests for her to repeat. Maybe he should have his hearing checked.

The audiologist told him, “We should fit you with two hearing aids.”

“I don’t want to look like a geek.”

“You don’t wear a monocle, do you? Do you have tinnitus?”

“Certainly not!..What’s that?”

“Ringing in your ears.”

“Certainly not…Wait a minute. So that’s what that is.”

He had long been experiencing a sound that came into awareness when he was alone in a quiet setting. He was amused and surprised by his having thought that tinnitus was the sound of silence, his unwitting acceptance of an oxymoron.

The aids were a disappointment. They left him more aware of missing sounds and seemed to provide tinny, inauthentic ones. He became more aware of and interested in the tinnitus, the sounds he heard in quiet times. They formed, almost, patterns that were incomplete, dissolving just before taking shape.

Increasingly sensitive to the tinnitus, he encountered a new paradox: being able to hear the sounds of silence in the background of other, real sounds. There were moments when he could focus on the tinnitus, almost able to mold it into those incomplete shapes.

On his month-long August vacation, he stayed on a small island in a sparsely equipped bungalow.

The weather was warm and sunny with little traffic noise and no neighbors. It was quiet. Sitting on the beach, he could hear the sounds of silence, louder, oddly, than the surf sounds. The shapes were clearer, less in his control. They evolved into interwoven chains.

The days passed, and the links became words, not quite understood, in voices that were almost recognized. He became increasingly absorbed in the emerging conversations, fascinated by the participants—the ex-priest, trying clumsily to conceal his interest in having sex with his date; the married couple exchanging well-honed barbs; the widower in his seventies, drowning in aloneness; the matronly woman fumbling to have an intellectual life.

The crowd grew as did the hours spent listening to inner voices. After a couple of weeks, he stopped bothering to prepare meals or to shower. He slumped on the beach, or stretched out on his bed, eyes closed or vacant, listening to buzzing patterns.

In September, the analyst’s first Monday patient arrived to find the office locked. The patient left, sticking a note of inquiry in the door jamb. Later patients arrived and left as well. On the third day, someone notified the police. Officers entered his office, finding an itinerary.  Interpol located his bungalow. They found him on its porch, rapt with the sound of silence.

Photograph by Adrian van Leen.

Six Questions Schedule

If you don’t know Jim Harrington’s excellent “Six Questions” series of interviews, you should.

Below is the schedule of posts for June at

6/01—Six Questions for Tom Dooley, Managing and Fiction Editor, Eclectica Magazine
6/03—Six Questions for Linda Manning, Managing Editor, Aurora Wolf Literary Journal
6/06—Six Questions for Jason Stuart, Editor & CEO, Burnt Bridge
6/09—Six Questions for Carolyn Zaikowski, Editor, Dinosaur Bees
6/13—Six Questions for Morgan Drake, Editor and Publisher, Pine Tree Mysteries
6/16—Six Questions for Kate Wolford, Editor, Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine
6/20—Six Questions for Sara Ashwood, Editors, Moon Washed Kisses
6/23—Six Questions for Terry Martin, Managing Editor/Publisher, Murky Depths
6/27—Six Questions for Kara Ferguson, Editor, Midnight Screaming
6/30—Six Questions for Zack Wentz, Editor, New Dead Families

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Art for Art’s Sake Challenge


By Cormac Brown

A woman knows the face of the man she loves as a sailor knows the open sea.
-Honore de Balzac

They were mute as their oars cut through the water. The once vibrant streets of one of the world’s most beautiful cities were now thirty to fifty feet underwater. Along the sunken streets, only the top floors and roofs of the taller buildings were still above water. What centuries of rising tides could not accomplish, an earthquake that was 7.2 on the Richter Scale, did in one day. The foundations of Venice, Italy gave way and the entire city collapsed like an elephant standing on a pallet of eggs.

Archaeologists owned the city by day, looters and pirates by night. His hired-on partner and he wouldn’t risk any kind of motor, gas or electric, because to do so meant that they would surely be discovered. Their night-vision goggles seem to pick up the signature of the pirates more often than the houses as they paddled slowly and methodically to match the gentle lapping waves against the buildings.

Not many knew of her whereabouts, yet their window was shrinking and it was only a matter of time before she was found. There was a woman to be saved, and a treasure to be had. Read the rest of this entry »

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Miss Elliot–Chapter Six


Written and Illustrated by Laura Neubert

I lost consciousness at Thornfield and awoke in Millcote. My muscles burned, my bones felt as though they had been splintered, and when my eyes opened, they were scalded by the light. A groan was pulled from me as I returned to the waking world. That I was alive seemed incomprehensible, especially in light of the terrible pain I felt.

Yet my own pain and moans confirmed the fact of my existence to me. Had I felt nothing, and had the sound come from any other pair of lips but my own, I would have thought it merely a dream, or a ghostly remnant from my life gone past.

“Wake up girl, that’s right,” I heard a gentle young voice say.

A hand touched my head and began to inventory my vitals and other such basic information concerning my state. I could make out the outline of a female shape, and judging from the tone of the voice I assumed it belonged to a young woman. But my vision was blurred by exhaustion, and I could determine little else. Read the rest of this entry »

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