There were four of them, not counting two younger brothers who tagged along whenever it couldn’t be helped. That summer they called themselves the Mystery Hunters, because Samantha was reading a thirty-book series about kids who solved crimes. But there were no crimes in Lakeport.

There was only Sawmill Road, curving through the trees and dead-ending at a lonely parking lot and one ruined building. The sawmill that  had given  the road its name was long gone, burned down before the Mystery Hunters were born. The warehouse erected in its place had burned in recent memory, although only James and Laura had lived in Lakeport at the time.

“Let’s investigate Sawmill Road,” Samantha said, leaning over the handlebars of her bike.

“It’s haunted,” Laura said. “My cousin said any building on Sawmill will burn down. He said the guy who owned the sawmill was crazy….” She launched into a meandering story of the sawmill’s owner, and the others listened with varying degrees of doubt.

When she finished, Samantha said, “That’s stupid. Come on, let’s see if we can find some clues.”

“We might find some wires and stuff like last time,” Matt said.

They rode across town to Sawmill Road. It was cooler under the trees, and the creek that ran alongside the road made it cooler still. “We should kill mosquito larvae later,” James said, looking longingly at the water.

“I didn’t bring my radio,” Matt said. He and the others were convinced that submerging the antenna and turning the radio on killed mosquito larvae.

They glided around the last curve and skidded to a halt in the road. “What’s going on?” Samantha demanded, sounding annoyed. “They’re destroying important clues.”

A bulldozer parked nearby drew the boys’ attention, but Samantha and Laura rode across the parking lot to look at the heap of splintered, blackened wood, all that was left of the old warehouse. “It looks like they’re going to build something new,” Samantha said.

“It’ll burn down.” Laura balanced her bike carefully and lifted both feet off the ground, but had to catch herself again almost immediately. “Sawmill Road’s haunted so it’ll burn down, whatever they build.”

“What if they build a brick house?”

“Well, in that case it would probably just explode.”

Summer deepened into July. In between trips to the lake, church picnics, Matt’s little brother’s birthday party, afternoons spent eating Popsicles and playing Mastermind at Laura’s house, and the big paper recycling drive downtown, the Mystery Hunters visited Sawmill Road. All traces of the warehouse were now gone. From day to day, week to week, a new building was taking shape. It had a wood frame.

In early August someone placed a sign at the entrance to Sawmill Road. “Flowerpot Fran’s Plant Shop, Grand Opening August 12.” The Mystery Hunters stopped their bikes to stare at the sign.

“That’s a really dumb name,” Matt said.

“We already have a greenhouse up on Butternut,” Samantha said. “My mom bought our holly tree there, the one that died.”

Laura said, “I bet the sign will burn down too.”

The long summer evening was fading into dusk. It was dark under the trees; fireflies blinked in the tree canopy as the four children rode down Sawmill Road.

“My mom’s going to be mad,” James said, checking his watch. “I was supposed to be home at eight.” No one answered him.

They parked their bikes behind a clump of bushes and surveyed the building. It smelled of new wood. “I don’t see a greenhouse,” Matt said.

“They must just sell flowers and stuff.” James squatted down and frowned across the parking lot at the building. “They’re crazy to build it here on Sawmill Road. Somebody should have told them not to.”

“It’ll burn,” Laura said, nodding in agreement. She pulled a box out of her pocket.

Afterwards, none of them could remember who struck the first match.

Katherine Shaw lives in Pennsylvania with her dog and two cats.

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Every Day Fiction

  • Lyn

    Cruel! And funny. Good writing. Lyn from ResAliens

  • Gerard Demayne

    Good story. The twist wasn’t hard to spot but the implication they were working under the effect of unseen influences raised it a little at the end.

    However, the cynic in me says someone is going to come on and tell us about how great the characters were and how taut and exciting the writing was. The hopelessly optimistic comments in these threads are really starting to wear me down. I get these stories in my inbox just before lunchtime so I’m missing out on the euphoria of being stoned or drunk that it seems many of the other posters are lucky enough to enjoy.

    Not a knock on the stories, many of which I’ve enjoyed, but none so far have made the earth move for me. There’s something approaching blog spam going on with some posters though and I don’t think it’s fair to the authors who may prefer some actual criticism. But what do I know?

    • mike whitney


      I agree. Yesterday’s foul-mouthed bunnies piece got my attention for the clever flash it is, but the ton of comments it garnered asking for more made me think I had wandered into a South Park forum. ;>)

      However, I am 64, and “only an egg.”


    • You’re a hard man to please Gerard. I’ve been truly started about how much these authors have been able to do with so few words.

      As for positive comments: this isn’t a writers’ group, this is a magazine (with a unique format). Authors are under no obligation to even visit this page once their story is up. Many of us are just sharing our experience while reading the story.

      If authors would like to solicit feedback through this ‘zine, they are welcome to ask for them here in the comments.

    • When EDF started, I was very surprised and glad to find that people where leaving so many comments on stories.

      These comments act as feedback for our editors, we want to accept stories that our readers will like. User comments, good or bad help us judge if we are providing stories that our readers will like.

      Even if the author has already published the story and can’t do any more rewrites on it, I believe that they can still benefit from the feed back of other users. it might help them with there next story.

      But as you have said, a story with all positive feedback does get annoying and isn’t too helpful for the author. Mindless, useless praise does no one any good.

      As for the blog spam, people will get no SEO benefit from comments on stories. All comment links have the no-follow attribute attached to them. I also monitor click outs from this site. No comment link has received a significants amount of traffic.

      Links inside of stories (the author link) on the other hand get alot of click though. ~300 for Andrew Leblanc’s scientists and counting. Author links do not have the no-follow attribute and gain the full SEO benefit.

  • Cute and evil at the same time- a perfecty difficult trick to pull off.

  • Walt Giersbach

    Well-developed story, but unlike Gerard, I didn’t see the end coming. That may be the problem. There was a punchline when I wanted to see more depth and less shock value in the last lines.

  • Well done. I enjoy a “regular” story – with a plot and characters, a beginning and an end. Not to say I don’t enjoy and/or respect some of the more “literary” and “edgy” pieces, because I do. It’s just sometimes I miss actual “storytelling.”

  • While I technically agree with Gerard’s comments, I would argue that the authors here probably don’t care about receiving criticism.

    Why? Well, of what benefit would it be? At this point, these are published stories. Criticism can no longer improve them, no longer assist the authors in recrafting them. These stories have already been accepted by an editor, no more rewrites allowed. Are these comments reviews? I think not. So what use criticism.

    Granted, gushing praise is equally unnecessary and rather sickening to the rest of us. I’ve tossed a comment on the stories I’ve enjoyed and found no need to comment on those I haven’t. With such a wide range of offerings here, I fully expect to go long periods sans commenting. It’s not the end of the world. For any of us.

    • Gerard Demayne

      You’re right, expecting criticism isn’t the right approach. I don’t really want to see anybody getting criticised but I’d like to see more than a vacuous comment whose only purpose is to pimp a blog. I actually think it’s pretty easy to spot the sincere praise anyway.

      • I’m not sure what you mean by “pimp a blog”. Do you mean people are promoting their own blogs by commenting, or do you mean that they are pimping this blog?

        I think it’s great that people are sharing their feelings about the stories they read here. I don’t see how there’s any alterior motive there.

        • Gerard Demayne

          And I don’t think they are sharing their “feelings”.

          As to what I mean by “pimp a blog” – treat my comment like the flash fiction you’re sending out and interpret it however you like. :-p

    • >>Why? Well, of what benefit would it be? At this >>point, these are published stories. Criticism can >>no longer improve them, no longer assist the >>authors in recrafting them.

      Good point, Howard.

      We love’d to stimulate some discussion in the comments, so if you disagree with another commentor’s take on a story, hit “Reply to this comment” and let them know why. (Obviously, proper etiquette applies).

  • H von D hits it on the head–these are merely comments. It’s also the venue–flash stories popping up on the e-mail with a varying genre day-to-day is great. There’s a Sawmill Road in all of our memories and the twist wasn’t a huge surprise, but the kids had an authentic cast and the story was fun.

  • Rumjhum Biswas

    I liked this story very much. It is well crafted, has universal appeal and follows the classic short story style.

  • Ryan

    Well we are well off commenting on the story. I would personally like to let Ms. Shaw know that I enjoyed the story, reminded me of my childhood, we actually did have a sawmill road, and yes, the sawmill had burned down. I thought the character development was good, small actions told us who each of the characters were and what role they played in the group. In response to the other commentors or bloggers or whatever we are, I think that criticism is always helpful (as a writer). But I’m getting pretty sick of seeing people say something along the lines of “the story sucked” but not saying why. The writers may not apply the criticism to the story that has already been published, but they may use it in future work.

  • Wow! It’s amazing how much commentary the comments are getting today… The fact is that commenting is an open forum available to anyone who reads the story, not just for writers and editors, so not everyone will be in the habit of forming a thoughtful, helpful critique about every piece of reading material; sometimes, people just read stories and enjoy (or don’t enjoy) them.

    That said, I really enjoyed this story. The ending did surprise me (as I recall, it didn’t surprise Jordan, so everyone reads differently), and I thought the characters were natural and well-developed.

  • I liked this story.
    I didn’t suspect the ending till the very end.

    You can’t kill mosquito larvae with a radio. The best way that I have found to kill them is to use gasoline and a match.

    Who hasn’t started a fire that they probably shouldn’t have as kid. Reminds me of my youth.

    Good job.

  • Tootsie McCallahan

    I did not guess the ending either. But I found it the only true part of the story I enjoyed. At least it was surprising!

  • Jim Cobb

    I remember being a kid reading something like “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “Encyclopedia Brown” and wishing a mystery would present itself. Never occurred to me to actually dothe evil deed for someone else to solve. Was I a goody two-shoes? Was it a lack of creativity?

    Thanks for the few minutes of entertainment, Katherine Shaw.

    And thanks to the people who produce this mag. This is a great idea. You’ve got me looking forward to this every day now.

  • I haven’t commented on any stories yet, so I figured it was high time I did.

    I rather enjoyed this piece. I used to read short mystery fiction in abundance, although I seldom do now. This one reminded me fondly of “Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine” and “Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.” I did see the end coming, but enjoyed it nonetheless. The story has a sort of self-fulfilling prophesy vibe that I think drives a lot of ghost legends, etc. It felt real to me.

    On the whole, I have enjoyed my daily dose of flash fiction. I can’t say every tale has been to my taste, but I wouldn’t expect that of any magazine. It is entertaining, though, to read them and a few stories here have sparked ideas in my own head. I also appreciate the mix of genres.

    Keep up the good work, EDF!

    — Steve

    • I’m glad you’ve enjoyed this, Steve! In picking such a variety of stories, the idea was to create a magazine that everyone would enjoy. It’s my hope that everyone has found a least one or two gems so far (and I’m betting those gems are different for almost everyone!)

  • Peter Tupper

    EDF compensates authors with $1 payment and some exposure and click-through. Gratifying reader comments is the gravy. Some times, I’ll take all the gravy I can get. (Would you rather every comment thread was full of flame wars?)

    Back on topic, I liked this story, good atmospheric bits of idealized small town life and a frisson of chills at the end.

    • Click through is actually a substantial benefit. Andrew LeBlanc (our lead off story) has gotten more than 300 click throughs to his blog from us since his story aired. And that number will only get bigger as word about EDF spreads.

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  • MeennyZew

    A consultant is a person who borrows your watch, tells you what time it
    is, pockets the watch, and sends you a bill for it.