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Volume 3

Two mystery short stories



Edmund X. DeJesus


Call of the Riled”

by Ellen B. Holzman

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the author's work.

Cover photo copyright Monika Adamczyk / Dreasmtime.com

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Editor’s Note About This Volume


Edmund DeJesus Talks About This Story

About Edmund DeJesus

Call of the Riled

Ellen Holzman Talks About This Story

About Ellen Holzman

Also Available From Istoria Books

Editor’s Note: About This Volume

Dear Readers,

When we launched Lunch Reads, one of our goals was to reignite in readers a love of the short story. We believed that shorts had fallen “out of fashion” -- that is, not read or enjoyed by large numbers of people --for a number of reasons (see the Istoria Books blog for more on that topic!), and readers had become skeptical about finding a satisfying experience when encountering short tales.

We dare these short story skeptics to sample this edition of Lunch Reads! We believe that those who try this volume’s “Shoplifting” by Edmund X. DeJesus and “Call of the Riled” by Ellen B. Holzman will not only walk away happy. They’ll clamor for more in this same spirit.

Humor, surprise, mystery--and, in “Call of the Riled,” the epistolary format used in popular novels such as The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society--combine to create a pairing that is as light, elegant and seemingly effortless as a soufflé.

Shoplifting” is a short short--just one-thousand words of a tightly constructed story about a grocery store visit that isn’t quite what it seems. Writers have to be at the top of their craft to pack a lot of story into a few pages, and Edmund DeJesus delivers a fascinating portrait whose image only becomes clear at the very end.

Call of the Riled” is a complex mystery. But don’t expect to find gloomy narrative and gum-snapping dialogue here. The entire story is told in letters to the editor of a small-town newspaper, a tour-de-force piece of writing that will have you laughing out loud while you try to figure out whodunit.

Anyone who’s lived in a small town will recognize every single letter-writer, from the former military man to the (mis)quoter of Lincoln to the correspondent who pens all her letters in verse. After living in a city of 18,000 for 16 years, I felt as if I knew each of Ellen Holzman’s letter-writers personally.

It was with great joy that we decided to feature these two shorts in our third volume. They represent precisely what we hoped to achieve for short story writers and readers--a home for great short tales, no matter how short (“Shoplifting”) or how long (“Call of the Riled”) they might be.

Sit back, enjoy and read. And when you’re finished, be sure to tell your friends--the short story is alive and well at Istoria Books’ Lunch Reads!

All best wishes,

Libby Sternberg

Istoria Books



a short short story

by Edmund X. DeJesus

Copyright 2011 Edmund X. DeJesus

WHEN TIM PATTERSON, manager of the Shop & Save, saw Mrs. Crump enter the store, he headed in the other direction. That old woman was trouble. He didn't know what kind of trouble she'd be today, but he didn't want to find out. It was better to just stay out of her way. If she even caught sight of him, she’d waste a half hour over some trivial complaint.

Mrs. Crump looped her cane over the handle of the shopping cart and began shuffling down the first aisle, scowling the entire time. These carts were too difficult to push. Why couldn’t they lubricate them properly so that they moved more easily? Would that be too much to ask of the store that she devoted so much of her time--and money--to?

When she turned into the next aisle, she saw a young boy, around four or five, all by himself. Scruffy child. No parents around, of course. Typical, letting their brats run wild underfoot. People took no proper care of their children these days. Before her very eyes, he took a package of batteries off the rack and slid it into his jacket. He grinned at her and then darted around the corner.

She stared after him. Then she glanced quickly around her. No one else had seen what he had done. Naturally, in a store like this one: there was never anyone around to help, was there? Well, they were getting what they deserved for their carelessness, now, weren’t they?

She turned the corner to the next aisle. There was that incompetent deli man. Last week, he had given her only nine-tenths of a pound of bologna, when she'd distinctly asked for a full pound. And the week before that, he’d given her one-point-one pounds of ham, expecting her to pay the difference for his mistake!

Now he seemed too busy with another customer to notice what was going on right under his nose. That same little urchin was there, bending over the open display of cheeses. His hand lifted a small package of cheese slices and swiftly tucked it under his shirt. He continued looking at the display for a few more seconds, then walked away with his hands in his pockets, innocent as a lamb.

Mrs. Crump looked from the oblivious deli man to the retreating child and back again. It was simply unbelievable.

She continued on to the next row. Again, she saw the boy. This time he shoved a tube of toothpaste into his pocket and trotted away down the aisle. Once more she looked about, but nobody was nearby. All she noticed was the din of that irritating music that they insisted on blaring. How many times had she suggested that they play something civilized, like Mozart?

Instead of proceeding down the aisle, she turned her cart around and advanced directly to the next section. She was nearly run down by an inconsiderate young woman giving all her attention to her precious child in the shopping cart's seat. People these days were constantly fussing over their kids. Spoiling them all.

At the next aisle, she was in time to catch the young thief shoving a can of tuna down the front of his pants. He stuck out his tongue and crossed his eyes at her.

People can see you, you know,” she called, but he turned and skipped away.

Mrs. Crump moved as fast as she could along the aisles. She witnessed the boy taking a small bag of rice, a package of hot dogs, and a lemon. He managed to conceal them all in his clothing. No one would be able to tell he was carrying anything underneath.

She walked laboriously to the front of the store. She was in plenty of time to see the juvenile delinquent amble up to the cash registers. Would he stop? Would anyone stop him?

The boy went up to one of the cashiers, a high school girl wearing much too much makeup. He waved at the young hussy and smiled. She smiled back, snapping her gum in that annoying fashion. Then the boy walked on and went right out the front door.

Mrs. Crump looked around the store in incredulous surprise. Could it really be true that no one in the entire store had seen this young crook walk off with his loot?

She saw that disagreeable Mr. Patterson with his back to her and propelled her cart in his direction. It almost barreled right into him. Why couldn't they slow down these carts and keep them from rolling out of control?

He turned and saw her, and blinked. “Ah, Mrs. Crump,” he said without enthusiasm. “How are you today?”

She beamed a smile at him, which took him aback. "I’m very well, thank you," she replied. “And how is your store running today?”

Fine, I suppose,” he replied warily. “Is there some problem I could help you with?”

Oh, no,” she said. “I don't have any problem at all.”

He nodded. “Well, I’m glad to hear that. If you would excuse me?”

Of course,” she said. Amazing, she thought. The ninny has no idea about what just happened under his very nose. Well, I’ve certainly learned something today.

Amazing, he thought. That must be the first time in a year that she hasn't had some criticism to make about the store. We must be doing something right.

Mrs. Crump retrieved her cane from the cart and hobbled out to the sidewalk. She saw the young boy scurry around a corner of the building. She followed him there, at her slower pace.

When she turned the corner, he was slouching with his back against the wall. Everything he had stolen was in a neat pile by his feet.

People can see you, you know,” she informed him, wagging her crooked forefinger.

Only you, lady,” he replied, holding out his hand.

Very well,” she said, handing him a dollar. “Meet me here same time next week. And go get me a bag.”

Edmund Talks About This Story

I like to imagine how different kinds of people look at the world, what they like, what they don't like. So I imagined this woman who is judgmental about everything she sees, including a little boy who really is behaving outrageously. It all fell into place after that.

About Edmund X. DeJesus

Edmund X. DeJesus is a professional technical writer in the Boston area. He’s married, with two kids in college. For him, writing started in high school, when his English teacher passed out free notebooks and told students to write whatever they wanted. As an adult, he’s published hundreds of magazine articles on technical topics. A few years ago, he self-published a mystery novel and has written five other novels. He’s written dozens of short stories and is gradually getting them published. He tries to write stories that he himself would like to read.

Call of the Riled

a tale told in letters to the editor

by Ellen B. Holzman

Copyright 2011 Ellen B. Holzman

The Mountain Telegraph

February 1

Dear Editor,

It’s been a week since the editor of this rag was killed and no one’s in the brig yet. What are the Sheriff’s deputies doing? Taking up knitting? That’s not how the Marines won Dubya Dubya Two.

When I was a drill sergeant down the hill, I used to tell the boys (minus colorful language that might distress the ladies in both sexes): “GET IT IN GEAR!”

Semper Fi!

Bob Baloo, Sgt. Maj., USMC Retired

Cedar Hills


Dear Editor,

I was at my regular spot in the newspaper lobby on that heinous morning discussing the loss of our Dear Tarzey with the receptionist when Mrs. Weissman rushed in.

She showed the deputy from down the hill a badge that I am sure she did not get from the Mountain Telegraph and said, and I quote, “The boss is calling a staff meeting in 10 minutes for all investigative reporters.” Thinking that she was an official staff member, he allowed her to go inside while others who are equally a part of the newspaper family were kept out.

Nonetheless, as President Lincoln said (and where he leads I will always follow), “No man who has resolved to make the most of himself can spare time for personal contention.”

Sam Fleckner

Cedar Hills Bluffs


February 4

Dear Editor,

Sam Fleckner needs to get out of the newspaper lobby occasionally and oxygenate his brain cells.

This student of journalism hastened to the murder locale after receiving a tip from a newspaper employee, who has been granted anonymousnous. Unfortunately, it was already 9 a.m. Sunday, and the body of Editor Tarzey Sondheim, 38, of Cedar Hills, had already been removed from the newspaper’s back parking lot.

We immediately offered our services to the Mountain Telegraph in this hour of crisis, but without its leader this twice-weekly is floundering. It is believed by many in town that this “stringer” (as free-lance writing is referred to by journalistic regulars) could be of great assistance to Sheriff’s deputies in breaking this case wide open, especially since ardent staff photographers and reporters inadvertently disturbed much of the homicide site via their own investigatory methods before deputies arrived.

Shirlene A. Weissman

Cedar Hills Heights


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