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Former teacher Ken Goldman resides in Pennsylvania and the Jersey Shore as suits his mood. His stories appear in over 480 publications (U.S., Canada, UK, Ireland, and Australia), with honorable mentions in Datlow and Windling's Year's Best Fantasy and Horror 7th, 9th, and 16th Editions, and Datlow, Grant and Link's 17th and 20th Edition.

You Had Me at ARRGH!! (Five Uneasy Pieces by Ken Goldman)

Ken's book of short stories, You Had Me At ARRGH!! (Five Uneasy Pieces by Ken Goldman) has been published by Sam's Dot Publishers and can be purchased at The Genre Mall where it is among its top ten all-time best sellers. His short story, "The Keeper," will be filmed by Australia's Precision Pictures 2008-2009. Upcoming anthologies due 2008-2009 featuring Ken's work are: Help Anthology (Lulu), Our Shadows Speak 2 (Steel Moon Publications), Dark Distortions II (Scotopia Press), and Champagne Shivers III (Sam's Dot Publishing). Ken would be famous except that nobody seems to know who he is. In the meantime, you may hire him to read his work at weddings and bar mitzvahs.

kenneth c. goldman

A Comforting Thought

The tears finally were subsiding, and young Ronald Arlington emerged from his bedroom where his grandmother sat waiting. She looked up, the flesh of her face seeming to crack with the forced smile she aimed at the boy.

"You want some dinner?" she asked.

Ronald shook his head. His stomach, tied in knots all afternoon, did not feel ready for food. The boy sat alongside the woman and placed his head on her shoulder. He would have liked his grandmother to run her hand through his hair like she sometimes did, but she didn't. When she spoke her voice sounded rehearsed, not at all like the woman he knew.

"Parents die, Ronnie. It doesn't often happen when they're so young, of course, and it's sad when they leave children behind. But it happens because bad things sometimes do happen. Can you understand what I'm saying?"

Residual tears stung the boy's eyes as he made his best effort to grasp what his grandmother was telling him, and it required much more endurance than the ten year old could muster. He settled for a semblance of stoicism that might allow for a quivering lip instead of outright bawling, at least until he felt able to put together a complete sentence.

"Of course the way they died should raise some questions about a God that allows a freak automobile mishap that takes decent people in such a sudden and messy manner. I wonder about a God that might allow such a thing to happen, Ronnie. Haven't you?"

Ronnie hadn't. In fact, the thought had not entered his mind because so many other thoughts made no sense. But now that his grandmother had mentioned it the boy suddenly realized that he had not questioned God's part in any of this.

"Did God want my mother and father dead, Grandma? Mom always said that God had His reasons for doing things that I didn't understand, like when my puppy Sandy got hit by that car. Did God have a reason for taking both Mom and Dad?"

The old woman considered her grandson's question for several moments as if she were grappling with a difficult math equation like the fractions Miss Pope had been teaching last week. Finally, she took the boy's face into her hands so he couldn't turn away and looked into his eyes.

"Sometimes God gets angry, you know. Was there something you did to make God angry, Ronnie?" The woman's controlled voice remained soft, but it did nothing to lessen the impact of her words and her grandchild again felt the burning salt welling up in his eyes.

"Last Tuesday, the day before the accident? I forgot to take the trash out. I didn't mean to, it's just that I got caught up in the hockey game against the Flyers. It was pretty close, and--"

The expression on the old woman's face stopped just short of horror.

"Pray, Ronnie. Right now, you march right up to your room and pray. I can't promise, of course, but perhaps in time God will forgive you."

"Gran' ma, I didn't mean--"

"Pray. You run along now and do as I say."

Ronnie didn't quite run, but that was all right. The old woman understood her grandchild's turmoil. Death was difficult to grasp when you're so young.

Once the child stepped out of ear shot the woman clasped her hands together in prayer.

"Thank you, Lord, for giving me the strength to provide my grandson the guidance he so badly needs. What's that--? All right, then Lord. Thy will be done."

She rifled through the drawers, finding a wooden twelve inch ruler. It would do nicely against the boy's knuckles. And if not, there were the garden shears. One had to be certain.

Proper guidance did not come easily.