Monday, February 28, 2022

“Dragon Breath” by by Kris Jackson


Victor’s superpower appeared just two days before he started the sixth grade. 

It all began when he was at the zoo. His mother had dragged him there because his little sister, Sandi, just loved animals. All kinds of animals – even ordinary, boring animals, like cows. “Lookit! A COW!” she could scream in her superfast little-kid voice whenever they drove anywhere. “Lookie lookie, Vic! Do you see ’em? Do you see ’em? Vic, do you see ’em, do you, do you, do you?”

“Yes!” he would always say, trying to be patient. Most times he didn’t even bother looking up from his comic book. What’s so exciting about a cow? he thought. Look any direction in Saskatchewan, and you’ll see at least three of them, eating grass and dropping giant cow-pies.

Today his mother had decided they would go to the zoo. Sandi was so excited, she was shaking.

“Are we gonna see the bears, Mommy?” she asked, talking fast as always. “Are we, are we, are we? I wanna see the bears. The bears are my favourite. ’Specially the brown bears, but I like the white ones too. Brown bears are cute, like my teddy. Maybe they’ll have baby bears too? Mom, will they? Do you think they’ll have white bears? White bears only live where it’s cold, you know. Can we go there, can we, can we, please?”

“Yes, Sandi,” Victor’s mom said, and from her voice, Victor knew she was trying hard not to be annoyed with his sister too.

Sandi clapped her hands and jumped up and down kept talking. She reminded Victor of a squirrel, chasing its own tail.

Victor was bored. He didn’t care about animals that much. Plus, it was hot outside, but he had put on pants that morning, even when his mom had told him to wear shorts. Ever since Jenny at school had called him “Victor Vulture Legs,” Victor didn’t want to wear shorts. But of course, he couldn’t tell his mom about that.

As they walked along the trails at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm and Zoo, Victor got hotter and hotter. The sun beat down and he began to sweat. It felt like the desert out there. By the time they reached the birds section, Victor realized he was incredibly thirsty.

“Mom, do you have something to drink?” he asked.

“No, but I’m thirsty too,” his mom said. “Let’s find a place to buy something.”

“Okay!” Victor looked around and spied a small concession stand. “Over there, Mom!” he said, pointing down the path.

His mom bought him a small Pepsi, which he drank up in three long swallows. “My goodness, Victor!” she said. “You were thirsty!”

“Still am,” he said, panting. It was so hot. Way too hot. He was pouring sweat, but he noticed his mother and sister weren’t sweating at all. “Can I have another one?”

His mom frowned. “Maybe if you would have worn shorts like I told you…” she began.

“I have to pee!” Sandi announced loudly. She jumped around like a frog on a trampoline, holding herself. “I have to pee really, really bad!”

“There’s a bathroom right there,” said the man at the concession stand.

“Thanks,” Victor’s mom said. She handed Victor a five-dollar bill. “Here, buy yourself another one. I’ll be right back. Stay right here.” And she took Sandi to the bathroom.

Victor looked at the three sizes of drinks. He pointed to the largest one. It was huge --almost as large as an ice-cream bucket. “Can I get that one with this five dollars?” he asked the man in the concession stand.

The man smiled. “You sure can,” he said. “It’s four-fifty for that one with the tax. Is that what you want?”

Victor nodded. “Pepsi,” he said, then thought about it, and added, “please.”

“Coming right up,” the man said. He filled the tub with Pepsi, took Victor’s money, and gave him back two quarters.

“Thanks!” Victor said.

He drank about half of it before his mother came back with his sister, who was still jumping and dancing, but no longer holding herself. His mom spotted Victor’s drink. “Victor Reginald Ashton!” she said, and Victor froze. “I told you to buy a drink, not a bucket! You shouldn’t drink all that!”

“But mom, I’m so thirsty,” he said, and he took three more swallows before his mom took the drink away.

“Well, drink some water,” she said. “And go to the bathroom here, while we’re close to one.”

Victor went, and when he came out, the drink was gone.

“Aw, Mom…” he complained. “I’m still thirsty!”

“You’ve had enough for an army,” she said firmly, and Victor knew there would be no more pop for him today.

They continued their walk. Victor saw gophers, ground squirrels, sheep, and cougars. Big deal. He yawned. The sun went behind a big cloud, and Victor thought it would get cooler, but it didn’t. He was still so hot, and so thirsty.

While they were walking up to the bears (his sister was really dancing now), Victor started to feel strange. He felt like he needed to burp, which was not surprising – he had drunk a ton of Pepsi, after all. But he also felt a strange burning feeling in his stomach. It didn’t hurt, and it wasn’t like heartburn. It was more like a hot coal was sitting in his chest, and it felt kinda…nice.

One of the things Victor’s mom hated was burps. She would always say, “Victor, that is just disgusting!” and act like she’d just seen a big hairy spider. Victor didn’t see the big deal, and he totally agreed with his uncle Cam, who would say, “There’s more room out than in.” After all, if your body needed to burp, why not let it out? What else were you supposed to do?

But Victor knew his mom was already mad at him about the Pepsi. So when he could feel a really nice big one coming, he decided to try and hide his burp. He put his hand in front of his mouth, and let it out slowly, making no sound.

Black smoke came out of his mouth.

Victor’s eyes grew wide – had he actually just seen that? Yes, definitely – he could smell it. He watched the two curls of smoke drift up and away before they finally disappeared into the air. It smelled like a campfire.

Victor’s mom looked around. “Do you smell something?” she asked him. 

“I don’t smell anything,” Victor said.

His mom shook her head. “Must be the wind,” she said, and turned back to the bears.

Another burp was building up – Victor could feel it. He was too hot – much too hot. Big beads of sweat dripped off his face, his neck, his arms. He could tell by the feeling that he was going to let out a really big one this time.

“Mom, I’m sorry, but I need to burp,” he said, hoping that saying sorry first would help get him out of trouble.

His mom shook her head. “I told you not to drink so much of that Pepsi,” she said, angry, and about to launch into an epic lecture. “I thought you would buy a small one, not a bucket –" 

Victor couldn’t hold it in any longer. It was coming out and nothing would stop it. He put his hand in front of his mouth, and let ’er rip. Buuuuuurrrrppppp...

Flames shot out of his mouth, followed by black smoke.

“AAAAAHHH!” his mom screamed.

“AAAAAAHHHH!” he screamed, jumping in the air.

“AAAAAAHHHH!” his sister screamed.

“AAARRRRRR!” the bears roared.

“AAAAHHHH!” screamed the family next to them.

The screaming continued. Every time Victor screamed, flames came out. This made him scream even more. The flames were getting bigger with every scream. He turned to the bear cage so he wouldn’t hurt any people. Victor saw he had lit the door to the bear cage on fire, and it was melting fast, but if he moved in any other direction, he would hurt people.

“Stop it, Victor!” his mother yelled. “Stop…stop…stop making fire!

Victor didn’t know how to stop. He was afraid to close his mouth in case he burned it. After a while, he realized he was still screaming, but flames were no longer coming out. And he wasn’t hot anymore. The sweat had stopped, he was no longer thirsty, and he felt cool and normal. In fact, he felt really good – the exact feeling you get when you let out a huge burp and your stomach feels much better. This was like that, times a thousand.

His mom and sister were staring at him, eyes wide, mouths open. 

“Excuse me,” Victor said meekly, and his mom fainted.

All the people had left the area. The door to the bear cage was burned off, and the mama bear and her baby were leaving the cage.

“’Bye!” Sandi said, as she waved to the bears. “Have fun in the forest, Mrs. Bear! Take good care of your baby!”

The bear roared and continued on her way with her cub.

Sandi watched them go, then turned to Victor. “You made fire come out of your mouth,” she said.

“Yes,” Victor said. He could hardly believe it.

“You’re like a DRAGON!” Sandi cried. “A people-dragon! That is so cool! Do you think maybe you’ll grow wings, too? I’d like to ride a dragon. Would you be my pet dragon? A pet dragon would be so cool! I would have to feed you and find you a nice place to sleep. What do dragons eat, anyway?”

“Burgers, I guess,” Victor said. He was staring at the fire, which was no longer burning but just smouldering, its orange glow almost out now.

Victor’s mom woke up. “Come on kids,” she said wearily, as she stood up and brushed the dirt off her pants. “I don’t know what happened, but it’s time to go home.”

Victor wasn’t surprised when he passed the superpower screening test they gave to all sixth graders when he went back to school that fall. He was quite surprised when he failed the second test and was sent away to villain school instead of superhero school.

It didn’t make sense to him. He sure didn’t feel like a bad guy – he was a good guy! But the tests were never wrong about these things.



Kris Jackson has worked in the communications profession for over eighteen years and has a Bachelor of English degree from the University of Saskatchewan. Kris is a member of Whitefish (Goodfish) Lake First Nation #128 who currently lives near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Canada with her husband Kevin and two sons. In addition to being published by CommuterLit and Short Kid Stories,  Kris runs an annual program that delivers books to children in seven remote Indigenous communities in Canada. 

"Dragon Breath" was originally published in Short Kid Stories." For information about submitting to them, see here.

See Brian Henry’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Markets for your short fiction, personal essays, reviews, poetry and stories for kids

Note: You can hang out and chat with quick brown foxes and vixens on my Facebook page (here). Just send a friend request to Brian Henry.

Also, if you’re not yet on my newsletter, send me an email, including your locale, to: ~ Brian


The Masters Review accepts submissions for their New Voices feature year round. This is open to any new or emerging author who has not published a work of fiction or narrative nonfiction of novel length with a wide distribution. Authors of short story collections are free to submit as are authors with books published by Indies presses.

Pays: $200 for short fiction and narrative nonfiction (7,000 words max); $100 for flash-length narratives (1,000 words max).

See submission guidelines and check out previously published New Voices pieces here

Submissions for The Masters Review Anthology Prize are now open. Every year, The Masters Review opens submissions for its anthology. Their aim is to showcase ten writers in a nationally distributed book. Accepts previously unpublished fiction and narrative nonfiction (maximum 7,000 words) from emerging writers only.

Prizes: Each chosen writer receiver $500 U.S.  Entry fee: $20 U.S.

Deadline March 27, 2022. Guidelines here.

The Masters Review also accepts book reviews, interviews, and editorial pieces to publish on The Masters ReviewBlog. They want reviews of forthcoming books from debut authors. Reviews should include quotes from the text, comparisons to other titles and are typically 700–1,200 words.

The General guidelines for The Master’s Review here.


Big City Lit is an online literary journal that publishes short fiction, and flash fiction, personal essays, book reviews, poetry, and novel excerpts if they can stand alone. Prose pieces must be under 5,000 words (under 1,000 for flash fiction. For poetry, send up to five pages of poems, with not more than one poem per page. 

Guidelines here.


Short Kid Stories is a web site that publishes stories for young people, any age from babies to teens. Maximum 2,000 words.

Always open for submissions from authors and illustrators. Guidelines here.


Devour: Art & Lit Canada is dedicated to the Canadian voice and aims to present some of Canada’s finest authors, photographers, and artists in every issue. Devour publishes twice yearly, summer and winter. Currently Devour is seeking poems, photographs, and book reviews.

Deadline May 15, 2022. Guidelines here.  

Quick Brown Fox Quick Brown Fox welcomes your book reviews and your short stories, poems, and essays about reading, writing, favourite books, and libraries. Read a few essays on the blog to get a taste of what other writers have done (see here and scroll down).

Quick Brown Fox also welcomes reviews of any kind and of anything, anywhere or anybody. If you want to review your favourite coffee shops or libraries, babysitters or lovers (no real names please), go for it. See examples of book reviews here (and scroll down); other reviews here (and scroll down).

Submit to:

Include a short bio at the end of your piece and attach a photo of yourself if you have one that’s okay.

 See Brian Henry’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

“The Last Ski” by Natalie Feisthauer

I love cross-country skiing. I love the feeling of gliding through the snow, sliding along through the trees in ways not possible with human legs. I feel like a low-flying woodland creature, swiftly moving between dark evergreen forests and bright open meadows where the sparkle of thousands of rainbows dance across the snow-covered landscape.

Today, I lace up for what might be the last ski of the winter. Rain is forecast for this afternoon and that will melt away the good snow. And anyway, it’s late February; there are no guarantees that the base of snow will survive as the temperature oscillates towards spring.

It is a beautiful ski; the snow is soft but not yet sticky and I glide happily on tracks laid by my husband and I on our almost daily outings together to breathe in fresh winter air and enjoy each other’s company.

My favourite part of the trail is an exciting glide down through a maple grove towards a small stream that meanders through the woods. The excitement is due to a combination of lack of skill and the need to maneuver through sloping terrain densely populated with maple saplings. On this section there is even the opportunity for ski jumping over a fallen ash tree, which I don’t attempt this morning. My lack of skill has already been proven on my first and only try which left me sprawling in the snow, my husband hastily ditching behind me to prevent adding injury to insult.

On the other side of the frozen stream, I pause in the gloom of an evergreen thicket. The temperature is noticeably warmer and I unzip my jacket and remove my toque. Silence descends in the absence of the scuffing of my skis skimming over the packed snow. Movement catches my eye and it is the flurry of wings in the underbrush; a robin. A robin?  

Yep a robin, and he is not alone. I silently witness the forest becoming alive now that the human intruder (me) is quiet, and a flock of robins is flitting from tree to tree, and hopping through the underbrush and digging for insects at the base of trees where old snow has melted. 

Chickadees and woodpeckers also show up; the chickadees start checking me out in their friendly curious way, alighting on branches right over my head. Once satisfied they have identified what sort of creature I am and that I don’t appear to be a threat, they bounce away to other trees in search of food.

I move on, emerging from the forest. Increasingly overcast, the pearly sky mutes the morning sun to a glowing ball that just barely lights up the soft white sparkles on the warming snow; no rainbows today. I ski on, enjoying the journey as I slide effortlessly through shrubby abandoned fields and balsam fir forest.

Coming out of the final loop I slow down at the fork in the trail to navigate the turn back home. The tracks gleam whitely and again I think this is likely the last time I will ski out here this year. It also flashes through my mind that we’ve been lucky this year with so many good ski days, and with the vagaries of climate change, this might be the last great season.

Instead of melancholy, to my surprise I feel acceptance, even contentment. I realize I have no regrets. Unlike every year past, this year I chose to take every possible opportunity to ski from the first significant snowfall of the winter. I did not sit inside my house, pining for the outdoors, throwing obstacles in the way of doing what I was yearning to do. As a result, I’m able to accept this change of seasons, as well as circumstances I can’t control, with a grace that is new to me.

What I have been quietly, desperately, struggling with for years, I now know is really quite simple. Not easy, but oh so simple.

Live my life with no regrets. Remove obstacles I have placed in my way of being true to myself. And, when I reach my final crossroad in life, I will be content to move on with serene acceptance.


Natalie Feisthauer loves playing in the outdoors during all times of the year, even during ice storms and the blackfly season. She enjoys writing both scientifically and creatively, and her creativity has always been inspired by nature. Natalie is an avid backyard birder and flower and vegetable gardener where she applies her biological expertise in her spare time. Natalie lives in Flamborough, Ontario.

Note: The skiing photos are both Natalie's

See Brian Henry’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

The Overstory by Richard Powers, briefly reviewed by Carole Withanee

It is a large tome, almost 600 pages

The words entwined like leaves

in a tropical forest canopy.

They writhe and squirm around each other like jungle vines


along the ground and climbing up the trunks of trees

until they suffocate the words.

And then I cannot see the story for the trees.


Carole Withanee lives in the Toronto area and has been honing her skills as both a fiction writer and a poet for the past several years. Her inspiration comes from things she encounters anytime and anywhere. 

Note: Quick Brown Fox welcomes your book reviews – or any kind of review of anything – and essays about a favourite book or about your experience of reading or writing. See other reviews here (and scroll down) and essays about reading and writing  here and scroll down.

Submit to:

See Brian Henry’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.