I think we have more dogs in our neighborhood than kids. Whenever we take our German Shepherd out for a stroll, little hairy faces populate in the windows of every other home, yapping, barking, steaming up the glass with doggy breath. As we walk, strangers will often remark, “Hey, that’s a good-looking dog!” My wife observed that the neighbors know our dog’s name better than our childrens'. On the one hand, there may be a slight imbalance of value here – then again, I suppose I’d rather have them commenting about my canine than shouting from a passing Corolla, “Hey, that’s a good-looking kid!”
       But we have such a varied take on dogs, don’t we? Some view them as property to serve a function, others as treasured family members, while some want nothing to do with the beasts. I find it fascinating how a single animal can elicit such a wide range of reactions.
       Then there’s the whole angle of cleaning up their poop, followed by the classic stale Boomer joke, “Who’s training who? (Ayuck ayuck ayuck)” Take the case of my sister-in-law and her husband, who told us about this lady who walks her dog through their neighborhood. We’ve all seen or heard of the scoundrel whose hound drops a steaming pile in someone's yard and just walks away like nothing happened. Well, this gal will bend down and place the turd in a proper doggie bag, but in the ultimate twist of fate, she then leaves the bag in the yard like a gift!
       “Sometimes it’s our yard,” Clint elaborated. “Sometimes the guy across the street. I’ve even her victimize houses farther down.”
       “What do you think is her motivation?” I asked.
       He shrugged. “This bag smells, I don’t want to carry it, or, I’m not from this country and don’t know any better.”
       I nodded gravely – a real conundrum. “I want you to get to the bottom of this – childish minds need to know.” Clint laughed and assured me he was on it. Maybe he’ll catch her one day while he’s shaving and run her down with a straight razor and white cream dripping from his face, or maybe we’ll never resolve this mystery, but regardless, I think it’s safe to say that dogs themselves are a bit of a mystery.
       Perhaps merely a reflection of ourselves?
Danny Hankner
Danny Hankner

“Every great story begins with a snake." - Nicholas Cage (who probably approves this message)
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(Humorous / Nostalgic / Reflective)

Dog Years
By Leon Peter Blanda
       My best friend grunts, sharpening a large bone into a lethal weapon with his teeth. He gnaws the rounded ends of the femur down to a jagged boobytrap for me to step on later. Larry is a dog, and the bone is his favorite chew toy. Though, chew toy doesn’t fully encapsulate the danger of the deadly bone dagger clenched in my best friend’s grisly fangs.
       When my bare foot falls upon the roughhewn edges of the half-chewed toy—no doubt in the middle of the night, on my way to pee—it will set off a chain reaction of excruciating pain, followed by a freight train of classic swear words, peppered with a few harmless replacement curses my kids have pitched as substitutions. When shouted in exchange for the French classics, the soft-swears transform me from Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction to Samuel L. Jackson in The Incredibles. For instance, there was an incident that once occurred in which a “piece of *** mother******!” cut me off in traffic. My young daughter, whom I forgot was in the car with me, calmly suggested, “Daddy, why don’t you say, ‘You rotten piece of fried chicken,’ instead.” (And I gotta tell ya, folks—if you grit your teeth when you say it, calling someone a “rotten piece of fried chicken” has the same mouth feel as some of my favorite four-letter words. You can really chew on those crunchy consonants. Try it. It’s fun.)
       Anyway, Larry is what polite pup owners would call an “aggressive chewer,” and those polite pup owners have never yanked thirteen inches of braided rope from Larry’s butthole like starting an old lawnmower. Aggressive chewer is an understatement. Larry doesn’t chew his toys; he eats them whole, except for the bone, which is too big, but he’s working on it.
       Larry doesn’t chew his food, either.  Rather, he inhales his meals, eating in a manner that suggests I’ve got a stopwatch running, and he’s trying to beat his best time. Because of Larry’s vacuum-like method, the vet suggested feeding him from a special food bowl. Made of durable plastic, raised walls zig-zag across the circumference of the unbreakable dish, forming a complex maze—as hostile and confusing as the hedge maze outside the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. This maze dish is designed so that the food scatters into different chambers, making it difficult for Larry to scarf everything in a single chomp. At every feeding, Larry drools over his maze plate, waiting for me to dump his food, glaring at me, wild-eyed as Jack Nicholson with an ax clenched in his meaty fists. When the dry bits of kibble scatter throughout the maze, it reminds me of a hundred young Danny Torrances running for their lives. Larry attacks, and none of the little Dannies survive. Not this time.
       It’s 2:00 a.m., and I step on one of Larry’s crudely sharpened deathtraps. An unavoidable avalanche of bad language bursts from my lips, and I’m reminded again why I never wanted another pet: it’s too painful. Not just because of the bone dagger eviscerating the arch of my foot, but also because of the broken-hearted pain that comes with the absolute certainty of knowing my furry best friend will one day die before me.
       I still feel echoes of the pain from when I lost my first dog. Her name was Sugar, and I was only a kid when her untimely death stripped my love of dogs. After Sugar died (and for nearly three decades), I treated dogs like toilet seats in public restrooms: no touching, and absolutely no kisses. Friends’ dogs, neighbors’ dogs, free-range park dogs—no, thank you. I proudly maintained a very “pet your own dog” attitude for years.
       Until Larry.
       But back to Sugar, our dearly departed rust-colored mutt. Studying her sharp face, pointed ears, and mid-length fur, you could find a thousand different breeds in her features. Sugar was an outside dog, unlike Larry—who thinks he owns the place—and was only invited to come inside the house on days when the southern Louisiana weather became too inclement for a living creature to survive without shelter. On the rare occasions Sugar was allowed in the house—during hurricanes and hard freezes—she, unlike Larry, had the good sense not to leave little synthetic-bone daggers lying around to crucify toes and impale the arches of feet. Sugar wouldn’t harm a pinky toe on a Pekinese. A gentle soul—if, in fact, dogs have souls…
       Also, in juxtaposition to Larry’s Hoover method of dining, Sugar ate like a normal dog with manners. She chewed and swallowed each bite before going for another mouthful. She ignored all chew toys; and showed no interest in chewing on anything, other than bubblegum, despite her inability to blow a bubble. What do you expect? Dog lips are designed for slurping their own buttholes, not Dubble Bubble.
       Thirty years—that’s human years—have passed between Sugar’s death and Larry’s reign of terrier (get it?). Thirty glorious, peaceful, dog-free years.
       While I enjoyed canine bachelorhood, many of my friends were burdened by the responsibility of a dog - dogs they loved very much and wanted me to love as well, though I did not, could not, and would not. I had resigned myself to the fact that I just wasn’t a “dog person.” Remember; I have a strict PET YOUR OWN DOG policy. I was that guy, who’d rather not pet your dog, much less let your dog sniff me with its snotty nose, or lick my flesh with its toilet-tongue.
       Say what you want about a dog’s tongue being cleaner than a human’s and I’ll introduce you to Larry’s rabbit turd fetish. He inhales every little lawn Skittle he can get in his dirty mouth. Because he eats them so fast, he chokes, and must cough them up like an old lady with COPD.        
       Then, he re-eats the residue. Cute, huh?
       Not just rabbit turds, any turds. All turds. He’s not picky. He loves turds.
       Oh look—What’s this? Larry wants to give you kisses.
       What’s your move?
       Be warned: Someone—who shall remain nameless—came down with a bad case of pink eye when Larry licked his face after gorging himself on backyard brownies. Okay, it was me. I caught conjuncti-Fido-s.
       Throughout my dogless twenties, and blissfully canine-free thirties, my pet-owning friends would always goad me to pet their dog, knowing I wasn’t a fan. I always thought, it’s your dog—you should have to show it affection. You wanted the dog; you give it attention. That’s your responsibility. Not mine. I’m a guest in your home—which smells like a wet dog, by the way.
       Some of my lonelier friends often claim their dog is like their child. Well then, all the more reason you should love it. Besides, I have two children—human children. Flesh-of-my-flesh, evolved-from-apes homo sapiens that came from my loins, both of which I love with all my heart. But when we have guests over, I don’t make those poor saps pet my kids. That would be weird. They’re my kids. I wanted them. I brought them home, and it’s my responsibility to give them the affection and attention they crave. Also—and this is just an aside—I would never allow either of my children to hump your leg. Ever. Especially my friends who don’t want kids–I would never force them to engage with my children in some vain attempt to change their mind about procreating. But a dog lover will do that. They want you to love their dog.
       Even you! Yes, you, reader. You think that your dog is the best dog in the whole wide world, and that I should feel the same. You know you do.
       This scenario has happened to me on more than one occasion during my dogless years: I enter a friend’s home; it smells like many wet dogs. Before I fully cross the threshold, some stinky mutt runs up, pushing its wet snout into my business, and my visible disgust prompts an interrogation:
       “Why don’t you just pet him?” they ask.
       “Because I don’t want to,” I beg. “Please don’t make me.”
       “He’s just saying hi.”
       “To my crotch?”
       “He won’t bite.”
       “Let’s hope not.”
       (Then, said to the dog about me, as if I’m the one being obnoxious.) “He’s alright. He’s my friend.”
       “You know, if you didn’t sell me weed, I wouldn’t even come inside your house.”
       “Come on, just pet ‘em,” they insist, undeterred. “Why don’t you want to pet ‘em?”
       I always give them one last chance to stand down. One more opportunity to turn back. “Do you really want to know why I don’t want to pet your dog? Really??? I promise, it’s a hard story to hear.”
       “Yes,” they always answer, only to later regret. Why won’t you pet my sweet puppy-wuppy?”
       “Okay.” I sigh, and feel my shoulders slump. “You asked for it…”
       Sugar was a rescue with rust-colored fur and a friendly disposition. She was my first dog—my first, best friend. My only friend. I didn’t have many friends back then, and Sugar filled the role with aplomb. Brave and loyal. Friendly and playful. You would’ve loved her. And she would’ve loved you. Truly. She was the sweetest pup.
       Sugar, my buddy, my pal, my bestest friend, left this world lying in a ditch across the street from my house. I didn’t see it happen. Thank God. However, it may have been at that moment that I began to question the existence of a God that would allow something so awful to happen to the world’s sweetest dog, leaving a twelve-year-old kid devastated and emotionally scarred.
       I had come home from school and fell asleep before even doing my homework (which I wasn’t going to do anyway). My younger brother and I shared a room and an old bunk bed. When my dad erected the captain’s quarter-style beds in our room, my brother immediately claimed the top bunk. The first night he slept up top, he popped right over the railing and tumbled to the floor, his head missing the lower mattress and bed frame by inches. Like a drunk walking away from a car accident without a scratch, he miraculously avoided serious injury. This happened more than once, and when my parents could no longer tolerate being banged awake by the late-night thuds, my brother was banished to the bottom bunk, and I became a top (am I using that term correctly?).
       When I awoke that terrible day from my after-school slumber and climbed down the ladder from my big-boy bed, the house was eerily quiet. Too quiet for our house, which was old and rickety. You could hear every footstep and shouted conversation through the sheetrock and two-by-fours. Italians don’t talk to each other. They scream. Even when they’re not arguing. Which is rare.
       I found my mom standing in the kitchen, mascara running down her cheeks, unable to speak. I couldn’t find my brother, and my dad was quiet as stone, watching television with bloodshot eyes (I’d learn later in life that it may not have been from crying that reddened his eyes, but the small stash of marijuana he kept hidden in the shed. The shed was as big as a barn, but held no farming equipment, and only housed a rusted Ford F1 pickup truck, a few old tools, and my dad’s dried-out weed—which I found as a teen in a little plastic baggie, hidden in a drawer of an ancient tool box).
       What happened to Sugar was purely an accident. She dug a hole under the fence and bolted into the street. The car didn’t stop. The driver never came back.
       Stupid mutt.
       Stupid driver.
       Life is stupid.
       My father found Sugar’s broken body lying in the ditch across the street from our house, surrounded by muddy crawfish holes and a light dusting of litter—fast-food wrappers and plastic cups, debris tossed from the windows of trucks lacking catalytic converters, by drivers lacking common decency.
       She was still drawing breath into her lungs. Quick, shallow breaths.
       Living so far out in “the sticks” nowhere near a licensed veterinarian, it fell to my father to put Sugar “out of her misery.”
       Though we had no gun, my dad did what he had to do (whatever that was) to end Sugar’s suffering, then dug a small hole under a three-hundred-year-old oak tree in our backyard. Everything happened in the span of about an hour and a half: The car running Sugar down. My dad finding her and having to finish her off. Then digging the hole and shoveling dirt back over her lifeless body so his family never has to see her that way. An hour and a half. My best friend was in the ground forever in an hour and a half, long enough for a nice after-school nap. 
       She was buried beneath an old oak tree. I remember the last rays of golden-hour daylight slicing through the autumn leaves, glistening off my mother’s tear-streaked face while we, as a family, surrounded Sugar’s fresh grave. My world felt… heavier?—as if the weight of existence had become leaden, burdensome.
       No words were spoken, no eulogy was given. I don’t recall walking away from Sugar’s grave, and I suspect a part of me never did.  Perhaps I left an innocence standing there amidst the dead leaves, beneath the mournful oak’s twisted branches.
       Whenever I think back on the day Sugar died, I still wonder with a heavy sense of guilt—if I had been awake at the time, would she have been with me instead of dying in a ditch amongst the crawfish holes and empty McDonald’s cups? Would she still be alive today? If so, she’d be almost a thousand years old—in dog years, of course. (Someone should check that math.)
After Sugar’s death, I never wanted another dog. Until, of course, we adopted Larry this past spring. Even then, I wasn’t so sure about that guy…
Hey, where'd the rest of the story go? Good news - it's only a click away! Once every few months we lock a story behind an obnoxious paywall in hopes that you'll become a Member (How else do you expect us to pay the bills - in Lloyd Christmas I-O-U's?) All you need to do is
to read the rest of Dog Years, or simply visit www.storyunlikelymembers.com. If you haven't signed up for a membership yet, simply create one and you're in! Please consider becoming a member today to help support our magazine!
Additional praise for Dog Years
"Truly a heartfelt tale hitting on multiple angles that just continue to unravel. The brief bits of comedic verbiage bring light to a very touching subject. An excellent piece." - Jevon Magee
"Equal parts love, loss, and hilarity, Leon Peter Blanda's "Dog Years" makes the reader look back on childhood with adult eyes and a boundless sense of wonder that lasts until the final line. A fantastic read." - Derek Trumbo
"I felt like I was right there beside the author, seeing his memories for myself." - Clint McConnell
"Very touching." -D'Vonta Middlebrooks
About the author:
         Leon Peter Blanda is a New Orleans-born writer, stand-up comedian, musician, and podcaster. His work has been published in Out All Day: New Orleans, Raised By Whoops, and Story Unlikely. As a stand-up, Leon performed at Caroline’s on Broadway, toured with Dave Ross, and featured for Tom Segura, Hannibal Buress, the Sklar Brothers, and SNL’s Darrell Hammond. He once ate tacos with Bill Burr.
High Moon, his debut horror novel, is available now at LeonBlanda.com.

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Society's expectations
Hello world of Story Unlikely!
       I've been really fascinated by your origin story. Just today, I had this irreconcilable feeling that I am too soft - I started expanding that thought and criticizing myself for what society wants me to be and what society asks expects me to write about - my boyfriend told me that trends come and go and that what's more important is to stay true to myself.
       After reading your story on your website I realized that I was feeling bad because I couldn't live up to the society's standards/expectations. But after your story I asked myself... but do I care? Should I really care? Why give up the things that I've built with so much love and thought? Because society is looking for something else? This month or next, another theme or way of thinking will be popular, and I don't give a flying shit about that. If it interests me, sure, I'll write about it, but if it doesn't I will not give up on myself in order to gain others around me.
       And I was sure, editorial team or whoever I am speaking to, that I found the place that I didn't know I was looking for. So thank you for the reminder. And thank you for striving to be yourself in a world full of people that are trying to drive far away from their own person, while hiding under the mask of an overinflated individuality.
       Diana Marosan

The Importance of a Logline
by Wulf Moon
Screenwriters call it a logline. Writers call it an elevator pitch. Tomato, tomahto. Well, almost. I'll explain.
A logline is a one or two sentence summary of a television show or movie used to describe what the story is about. Screenwriters also use them as a tool to focus their scripts on the heart of their stories before they write them. Writers call it an elevator pitch, because they practice summing up their stories in one or two sentences to pitch them to agents and editors.
Why is an elevator involved? The thought is if you're at a convention and an editor is riding on an elevator with you and asks you what you're working on, you've only got a sentence or two to capture their interest before the elevator reaches their floor. A fast hook is critical, whether the pitch happens in the opening of a pitch session, in a hallway, at a banquet dinner, at bar con, or yes, riding up an elevator to your room. A well-planned pitch can pique the curiosity of an editor and move them to ask for more details, and hopefully, to give you their card.
I like the term logline because screenwriters use it the way I encourage my masterclass attendees to use it: to provide focus to their stories and novels before they write them. An effective logline can keep a writer on track, aiding them to remember why they decided to write the story in the first place. Focused stories are powerful. They don't wander all over the map because the logline acts like a pin in the map that marks the destination. When you know where you're going, it's less likely you'll get lost…
This article - The Importance of a Logline - is for Member's only. To keep reading, simply click HERE. Haven't yet become a Member? There's no better time than NOW to take advantage of the many benefits, all for one low annual price! Go ahead and sign up today - what's holding you back?
(The above article was published in chapter 15 of Wulf Moon’s bestselling book How to Write a Howling Good Story, Copyright 2023 by Wulf Moon Enterprises)
Moon teaches the award-winning Super Secrets of Writing Workshops and is the author
of The Illustrated Super Secrets of Writing and the runaway bestseller, How To Write a
Howling Good Story. He invites you to join his free Wulf Pack Club at

Literary Spotlight
       Hello there—I’m Blaine Eldredge. I’ve had an eclectic background, from working on various farms and a few literary journals to founding several podcasts and magazines, including And Sons and Mount Vigil. Right now, I live on a homestead in central Colorado. 
       I write about history, the supernatural worldview, and Christianity. I feel a greater affinity with skalds and troubadours and Central Asian magi than with modern historians, in large part because I'm committed to the old archetypes: good and evil, life and death, sin and salvation.
       Here, in the company of storytellers, I hardly need to say Late Modernity has failed to supply its occupants with a story worth living, but it has failed, and that is not innocuous. As the legendary Viktor Frankl observed, humans are able to thrive so long as they are able to situate themselves in a rich and meaningful and resilient story.
       That’s why I wrote a book about such a thing. Call it a recap of the Biblical narrative: a retelling of the main events through a storied lens. In Late Modernity, most people prefer the now as a matter of instinct, and that is a troubling kind of ignorance. It makes it hard for us to grasp both the sophistication of the Biblical worldview and the beauty of its invitation. I wanted to make those more accessible. But also, I enjoy telling stories and cultivating my own capacity for wonder.
       If that sparks your imagination, then give it a read. It’s called The Paradise King, and you can buy it right HERE.

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The Excrement List
Disobey our submission guidelines, 
and find yourself amiss.
Disobey the guidelines,
wind up on the list.
(It's like when restaurants used to post bounced checks on the wall, but for the digital age)
As a publisher, we have rules that writers must abide by if they want to get published. Some of these aren't that big of a deal, but others, like ‘if you submit to our contest, don't submit this story anywhere else until the reading period is over,' or ‘don’t mark our emails as spam', are a major no-no.  Offenders get put on our ~dun dun dun~ Excrement List, aka lifetime ban on getting published. We keep this list to show people that - for once - we're not joking. Don't be like the perps below - you're much too savvy for that:
Gillian W, Cat T, Adam M, Olasupo L, Mick S, Leslie C, Patricia W, Tim V, Andrew F, Sam P, Aaron H, N. Kurts, Paula W, Marcy K, Mark301078, carnap72, N. Phillips,  A Bergsma, Sharon S., Mfaulconer, Mikeandlottie, Rebecca C, Nathaniel L, Maxine F, Patrick W, Brendan M, William S.
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