Trigger Snowflake and the Metamorphic Rock

By Ingvar: “Beloved Coraline, the muffins are toasted, and the coffee has just been poured. Breakfast is ready!”, Trigger said.

“Coming!”, Coraline replied. “Thank you for making breakfast, darling Trigger.”

Normally, it was Coraline who took care of the morning meal, but Trigger had some special news and thought it would be appropriate to also do some housework just before announcing it.

“Beloved wife of mine, I have had a request from my brother, Kochs. He would like both of us to come to the family home for Wheelmas, to celebrate the first space station’s 200th anniversary of becoming operational. He also says there’s a few more surprises in store.”

Coraline sipped her coffee, thought for a few moments then replied “I would be delighted to finally meet your parents. Will all your family be there?”

Trigger shook his head. “No, only my mother and father, and my brother Kochs, and my sister Precious. Apparently, Precious’ husband and her kids are out by Pluto and can’t make it in time and Kochs, well, Kochs never married.”

Breakfast finished, Trigger quickly checked the regulations again. Nope, there still was no way of casting this as a work-related trip, they’d have to go by normal space liner. This was no big problem, it would just take longer.

That evening, they had finished all their packing, for the two weeks away, and went to bed, sleeping the sound sleep of upright citizens everywhere.

#

Trigger pressed the bell button of his parents’ habitat module. A scant four seconds later, the door slid sideways with only a quiet whisper of bearings and lubrication.

“Trigger!”, his father said. “You’re here, excellent! This must be your wife, Coraline. Coraline, I am John, Trigger’s father, it is a pleasure to finally meet you. Come in, come in. Delicate is in the dining room, but I think we can get some coffee and cookies in you, if you want.”

They walked through the door, through a hallway, into the dining room on the right side. Seated at the table was a woman who clearly was Trigger’s mother, she had the same nose and eyes.

“Trigger!”, the woman said. “And this must be Coraline? Welcome, welcome. Would you like some coffee? We have fresh cookies! Oh, forgive me. I am Delicate, I am Trigger’s mother. Would you like some cookies?”

After plenty of cookies, some cake and some really rather good coffee, Trigger and Coraline sat down on the sofa in the front room. They’d been relaxing for two, maybe three minutes when a man entered, looking as if he was just a few years older than Trigger.

The man looked at seated couple, his gaze piercing Trigger. “Ah, excellent.” His gaze shifted, and lessened in intensity. “And you must be Coraline. I am Kochs, Trigger’s brother. I need the help from both of you.”

Trigger looked stunned, “But? Kochs? Why would you need our help?”

“I have been tasked, by the Solar System Literary Review magazine, to form a small panel and award the lesser-known Separable Stone prize.”

“Separable stone?”, Trigger queried.

“Aha! That’s how it works!”, exclaimed Coraline.

“What works?’, said Trigger.

“Kochs, do you mind if I explain this? I mean, if you really want, I am sure you know it at least as well as I do, but it is well within my sphere of knowledge as a board member of SysLiCon, a former poetry slam chair, and generally involved in the literary scene.”

Kochs guffawed, “No, by all means, go ahead. I am sure you actually know this better than anyone. Frankly, I am a bit surprised I was picked.”

“So, the Separable Rock. It is the prize for the most blatant slate in the nomination phase of ethics Exploding Star annual literary award. I know it has been given out, in a quiet ceremony behind the scenes, but I was not sure how it was actually selected. Now, the way the nomination for the Exploding Star works is that every subscriber to one of five literary magazines is allowed to nominate four works first published or performed in the previous year. From these four nominations, the five most popular works are selected, as well as the five most popular authors.”

Trigger nodded, “So it would be advantageous both to have many people nominate one specific work of yours, as well has having many people nominate more than one work of yours?”

Kochs nodded emphatically. “Yes, yes. Excellent! Now, I have been charged with forming a panel, and with both of you having been in literary news recently, and Coraline obviously being someone of standing in the literary community, I have chosen you two to my panel. We have been sent five candidates, and we need to rank them from least to most slate-like and send tae back. We had there days. I suggest we go through them one by one, then rank them as we go through the list.”

#

Kochs pulled out a printed paper. “This is the first candidate. I have seen all of them, but I will try to not influence you in advance of our discussions. So, without further ado, candidate A”

The best fifteen poems I read last year, by REDACTED

In no specific order, these are the fifteen best poems I read in the last year.

* “The sweet smell of flowers”, Rick ven Fleerbo

* “Bec de Corbie”, Sean Hantap

* “Ares”, Sine Nomine

* “A winter’s morning”, Erica Youngsblood

* “And ode to Black Forest Ham”, Rick ven Fleerbo

* “The teacup”, Leanne Ackie

* “The Sun, blazing like a star, at the centre of my heart”, Erica Youngblood

* “Papercuts”, John ven Fengsler

* “Clients, clients, clients”, Susan Doed

* “Planets, spinning like children’s toys”, Leanne Ackie

* “Oceans”, Sine Nomine

* “Heyyeh”, Anna min Scortch

* “Visits from the Suck Fairy”, Whalie Correadore

* “Waltz, and other standing up with clothes on”, Anna min Scortch

* “Saturn, a Jupiterian tragedy”, Ortho King

After the three of them had skimmed the list, Kochs said “Well? What do we think? How does it place on the slate scale?”

Trigger stroked his square, manly jaw. “Well, my understanding of a slate is that it is tries to guide nominations in a specific direction. And this, well, doesn’t seem to do that. It just mentions things. And it’s by a pretty random selection of artists, as far as I can tell. I mean, I am by no means as well-versed in these things and my beloved Coraline. But, look, different names. And not seemingly in any order. So, pretty low? Coraline?”

“As Trigger said, this is an impressive array of different styles. Some Sulphur poets, not necessarily my favourite, but when they’re good, they’re pretty good. A few that I’ve read and liked. And a few by artists I have read in the past, even if I hadn’t read that specific poem. I see this more as a ‘I liked this, if our tastes are similar, you may want to evaluate these as well’, rather than an actual slate.”

Kochs nodded, “That was my thought as well. OK, so for the moment, this is the only one we have, so it’s the only candidate on the list.”

#

“We have looked at the first, no let us look at the second.”, said Kochs. “Then we can rank the two.”

The best four poems of the ones I read last year, from the desk of [REDACTED]

Of all the poems I read last year, and the ones you should truly consider for your Exploding Star nomination ballot. In order from the one I liked most, to the one (of the four) I liked slightly less (and there are another five or so I consider to be nomination-worthy, just they weren’t as good as these four):

* “Bec de Corbie”, Sean Hantap

* “The teacup”, Leanne Ackie

* “And ode to Black Forest Ham”, Rick ven Fleerbo

* “Clients, clients, clients”, Susan Doed

If you nominate these, you will make me a happy [REDACTED], and I urge you to do so.

Kochs waited for everyone to have finished reading. “What do we think? I would say that this is definitely more slate-like than the first.”

Coraline put two fingers to her chin. “Yes, but there’s something missing. There’s no, well, agenda here. It’s simply a list of four fairly solid poems. But, yes, of the two we have seen, this is definitely the more slate-like.”

“We’re all happy ranking exhibit B higher than exhibit A, then?”, said Trigger.

Kochs replied, “I’d say you have that right, brother.”

#

“Next, we have yet another one. This is perhaps a bit harder to judge. But, as usual we will red it, then discuss it.”

My Exploding Star poems from last year, by [REDACTED]

We’re coming up on nomination season and like all of us, I find it hard to navigate all the poetry written last year. To at least make it easy for you to find what I’ve written, I have composed this letter-of-comment to at least have a full list of my works, and where to find them.

               *             [REDACTED], published in [REDACTED]

               *             [REDACTED], published in [REDACTED]

               *             [REDACTED], published in [REDACTED]

               *             [REDACTED], published in [REDACTED]

               *             [REDACTED], published in [REDACTED]

               *             [REDACTED], published in [REDACTED]

I hope that at least one of them will make you consider it worthy of a nomination, but as always, you must let your conscience be your guide.

Trigger looked up from the paper. “Hm, I am conflicted. There’s less work on this than there was on exhibit A. But, it clearly has a message encouraging a free choice. And if we take it at face value, it is simply a list of what the poet produced.”

“I concur, brother. For me, this falls somewhere between A and B, but much closer to A, and I wouldn’t necessarily call it a slate at all.”

Coraline scrunched her normally smooth forehead. “Yes. But… It is short. Not short enough that all of them would fit on the nomination ballot. But short. All things considered, I still think we have the ranking correct. This is definitely less of a slate than the second.”

#

“Three down, we only have another two before we’re done”, Kochs stated. “So, let us get on with this, so we can finish up.”

The Sulphuric Manifesto, or How You Should Nominate In The Exploding Star, by [REDACTED]

With the attacks on Sulphur artists over the last few years, there is a need for all of us to band together, and forcibly encourage the wider literary establishment to recognise our undoubted brilliance in all forms of written and sung art. To that extent, I have (with some help from other sulphurists) prepared a short-list of poems for you to nominate for the exploding star. In no specific order:

* “The sweet smell of flowers”, Rick ven Fleerbo

* “And ode to Black Forest Ham”, Rick ven Fleerbo

* “Papercuts”, John ven Fengsler

* “Waltz, and other standing up with clothes on”, Anna min Scortch

There were other noteworthy sulphur poetry that could have needed up on the list, but some consideration was taken to promote those of us who have in recent months had more public defeat than others.

Coraline laughed. “Well, this is definitely a slate. There’s exactly four, there is an explicit call to use the list as-is. And, furthermore, it pretty much states exactly what the intent and motivation behind it is. This is the most slate-like we have seen. Or, at least, that is my opinion.”

Kochs grunted assent. “I’d say you have summarised my thoughts for me.”

Trigger nodded. “Yes, in order from least to most slate-like, as things stand, it is A, C, B, D, for me.”

#

Kochs grabbed another set of papers from his briefcase. “Well, then. Only one more to go. Let us red, then discuss. That process seems to have worked well so far.”

PoetsForProsperity and how you can help, [REDACTED]

Dear fellow PoetsforProsperity members, We all know that great income and fame can be generated by writing quality poetry in the forms that people are willing to buy. And to further our great cause, I have prepared a list of poems composed by members of our tribe. S you can see, some of the poems have been marked by a star, those are the ones that my sources in the receiving department of the Exploding Star office have assured me had not, at the time of writing, received a single nomination. If you nominate from this list, consider nominating one of those.

* “Bec de Corbie”, Sean Hantap {*}

* “Ares”, Sine Nomine

* “A winter’s morning”, Erica Youngsblood

* “The Sun, blazing like a star, at the centre of my heart”, Erica Youngblood

* “Oceans”, Sine Nomine

* “Visits from the Suck Fairy”, Whalie Correadore {*}

* “Saturn, a Jupiterian tragedy”, Ortho King {*}

* “Pluto, planet or dog?”, Ortho King

* “This thermocline of mine.” Sean Hantap

As you all know, if we can get our nominations in, the chances of one or more of us ending up on the list of finalists is just that much larger. And if we can but get one or two of us on the finalist list, I think the chances of joint success and wealth next year will be that much higher.

Trigger sighed. “This one… is tricky. There’s a fair few number of poems on the list, but there’s a definite pressure to pick all nominations from the list itself.”

Kochs nodded. “Yes, what makes this slate-like, to me, is the explicit ‘especially consider these, as they are under-nominated’ aspect of the starring.”

Coraline nodded with vigor. “Yes, that takes it from a recommendation list, into something that I can only see as a slating attempt.”

Kochs sighed. “Well, then, for me the most slate-like is the fourth, with the fifth, the second, the third and the first being in order less and less slate-like.”

Trigger said “Yep, for me it’s D, E, B, C, A, in that order.”

Coraline put the paper down on the coffee table. “I concur, the fourth is definitely the most slate-like of these. I am not sure how I rank this and the second. I mean, there’s definitely a wider choice here, but there’s also some agenda divorced from quality exhibited here.”

Kochs let his eyes scan across the faces of his brother and sister-in-law. “We’re agreed, then? The fourth is the most slate-like? It is our final choice for the Separable Rock?”

Trigger and Coraline both nodded.

#

Later that evening, they were all sitting down for dinner. A fairly quiet affair, with roast beef, a variety of vegetables, and homemade lemonade to drink.

Coraline put her cutlery down and cleared her throat. “Delicate, dear mother-in-law, there is one thing  I don’t, quite, understand. How is it that you have a name suited for the surname Snowflake, and yet that is your married name?”

Delicate hummed. “Well, I guess you weren’t to know. I was actually born Delicate Snowflake. On marriage, John took the Snowflake name, to keep it alive I was a single child, and if he hadn’t, the name would’ve melted away on my marriage. John?”

John guffawed. “Yes, I was born Schnee John Wain, a name I did not like. And when my darling Delicate explained that she was the last of the Snowflakes, I could not in good conscience let the name simply disappear. We discussed it, between us, then I had a brief chat with my dad. And, here I am, John Snowflake. And with both Kochs and Trigger to take the name forward, our daughter Precious is free to stay a Snowflake. Although, I understand that she’s actually considering taking a new name on marriage. She’s currently courting Amanda Gemstone, and sees some amusement taking her name on marriage. Anything else we can clear up, before dessert?”

Trigger Snowflake and the Meltsygate

By Ingvar: Trigger looked at the street outside his office. For once it was utterly calm and no dust in the air. To the extent it was visible, this far out in the Solar System, the Sun was providing some comfort light, although not much heat. It looked like a perfect day to visit the Coffee Emporium.

“Coraline, darling? I am walking down to the Coffee Emporium, would you like to come?”

“Sorry, Trigger, I have a few things to finish up. By all means try their new Softly-Softly roast, I understand that it is delicious.”

“Thank you, I will. I may be an half an hour, maybe a full hour?”

“Don’t you worry, I have plenty to keep me busy.”

Walking down the street, Trigger nodded his head and touched the wide brim of his hat at the people heading the other way. It was not long until he arrived at the Coffee Emporium. Once inside, he took his hat off and strode up to the bar.

“Ms Dimatis, it has been said that you have a new roast in?”

“Ah, the Softly-Softly? Yes, Coraline was in only yesterday for a cup. Would you like one?”

“That sounds like a marvelous idea.”

“Would you like a grilled synthecheese and a vanilla Danish to go with that?”

“Ms Dimatis, you…”

“Oh, I think you are allowed to call me Barbara now.”

“Barbara, you know me too well. Maybe it is time that I patronize another coffee shop.”

“You jest, Sheriff Snowflake, you jest.”

Trigger headed for an empty table, and had just sat down when his coffee and a pastry was placed in front of him. He lifted the cup, savouring the pungent smell of the bean extraction. It did smell quite delicious. He took a sip, and the coffee rolled over his tongue, coating the inside of his mouth with a rich, earthy, warmness. Coraline was right, this was coffee well worth having. He took a bite from his Danish, and as he returned the pastry to its plate, his grilled synthecheese arrived. It was made just the way he liked it, one slice of wholemeal sourdough, one slice of rye, both toasted, with a healthy chunk of synthecheese between them. Then fried, on both sides, in plenty of butter, with just a hint of black and white pepper. It was a flavour that paired surprisingly well with the coffee.

He was just about done with his late morning snack, when Barbara Dimatis, the proprietor, walked up to his table.

“Sheriff? Mind if I sit down?”

“Oh, no, not at all Ms Dim.. Barbara. What’s the matter?”

“Well, I am sure it is nothing, really. But, there’s this weird thing starting to go around in the periphery of the literature comment-sphere. And I don’t quite know what to make of it.”

“Oh? Weird thing?”

“Yes, it’s nothing, I am sure, but there’s a few of the Sulphur crowd, you are familiar with Sulphur artists?”

“I am, indeed, aware of them. I’ve even had a few run-ins with some of them.”

“Ah, yes, ven Fleerbo, wasn’t it? So, in the last few weeks, I’ve seen a few of them refer to me, as far as I can make out from context. But they keep calling me ‘Meltsy’, and it is making me slightly uncomfortable, the whole thing. And I was wondering if I should do something? Or if there’s something you can do?”

“I don’t know Barbara. But if you can forward me some of the letters-of-coment, that’s what you call them, yes? I can have a look in my office. It’s not quite the thing I normally deal with, since it’s clearly out of Fort Corallium and I am only charged with enforcing the law here. But, as you know, I know law-keepers elsewhere, and if there’s something that seems to be dubious, I can always ask if there’s something someone else can look in to. And my beloved Coraline has spoken quite highly of you, and how you’ve stepped into her shoes here at the Coffee Emporium. So, certainly, forward me these comments and I will have a look for you, it’s the least I can do.”

Barbara Dimatis sighed with relief, stood up and started back towards the counter. About halfway back, she stopped, turned back to face Trigger and said “Thank you, Sheriff Snowflake. It lifts a heavy weight off my heart.”

#

“Trigger, darling?”, Coraline’s voice easily carried to the upper floor. “Barbara Dimatis is here, with some papers for you?”

“Thank you, beloved. I will be down in but a few moments.” Trigger hastily put his bolo tie on. It would not do to greet Ms Dimatis in such an informal state of dress. He quickly descended to the ground floor, and the Sheriff’s Office proper.

“Ah, Ms Dim… Barbara. These are print-outs of these letters?”

“Yes, Sheriff Snowflake, these are the relevant letters-of-comment from a variety of magazines dealing with literature and poetry over the last six weeks. Plus one that arrived only after you’d left the Emporium. Coraline, you may want to look through them as well. Based on the latest, this very much is all of our concern. It seems like one of the Sulphurs, not one I’ve seen much from before, but he’s done some inspiring poetry, in a cross-over Sulphur/Beat style, quite a challenging form really… Where was I? Oh, yes, ven Fengsler claims to have irrefutable evidence that I am actually Trigger Snowflake.”

Coraline looked at her husband, then looked at Barbara. Then looked back at her husband, for a few seconds more. Then, slowly, turned her head back to Barbara.

“You? Married to me? What is he basing this fantasy on?”

“As far as I can tell, it’s because he’s seen a copy of an envelope, from a letter I posted, that was clearly stamped by the Fort Corallium post office, not long after the SysLiCon security report was published, last week.”

“But, you live and work here?”

“Yes, I know. Apparently it is obvious that because I like coffee, don’t write frequent LoCs, have once or twice mentioned legal matters, as well as now that you’re on the SysLiCon board that I must be a legal professional, married to a former coffee shop manager, and live in Fort Corallium.”

Trigger took a deep breath. Then a second. And, for good measure, a third.

“Ms Dimatis, can you please step into my office. We should probably not continue to have this conversation half on the street. I think we need to look carefully at these. If nothing else, this ven Fengsler is accusing you of being a lawman impersonating someone else. Or me. I am not sure. But it does not sound right.”

Barbara stepped through the door, and closed it after her. Trigger walked to his chair, clearly surprised and concerned by the news he’d just received. Before he sat down, he swept his right hand, indicating the chairs in front of his desk.

“Please, sit, both of you.”

Coraline shook her head. “No, I will make a pot of coffee. And I may just bring down one of the bottles of Saturn Sippin’ Whisky, this all seems like coffee would not quite be enough.”

Trigger waited to sit until Barbara was safely in one of the visitor chairs.

“Let me get this right? Because you know about coffee, and have posted a letter at our post office, and Coraline is on the SysLiCon board, you are me?”

“That is how I understand these letters.”

“Hm… Interesting.”

They both furrowed their foreheads, deep in thought, when Coraline came down the stairs.

“There is coffee and sandwich in the kitchen. And please tell me what is going on.”

Trigger and Barbara both stood up, and as Barbara headed for the stairs, Trigger picked one of the magazines off the pile. They seated themselves around the kitchen table, Coraline and Trigger sitting next to each other, opposite Barbara.

#

“So,” said Coraline, “what is this whole identity confusion thing?”

“Well…”, said Trigger. “As far as I can tell, this is something that started in, and is mostly contained within, Sulphur Artist circles. Here is a letter to a publication called ‘Yellow Flowers Of An Elemental Nature’.”

“Aha!”, said Barbara. “Yellow Flowers is a poetical allusion to flaky, elemental sulphur. And it is indeed a publication that most frequently circulates in the Sulphur crowd. But one of my contacts mentioned that I should look at the latest number, so I had it facsimiled on the far-sender network. Pray tell us, Sheriff Snowflake, what it says?”

Transcription of a round-table conversation of the Elemental Smartalec Group, planetary day 7643

John ven Fengsler: To the matter of Meltsy. I have, as you all know, spent some time researching this “Barbara Dimatis” and there is no question that Barbara is actually just a cover identity for Trigger Snowflake.

Rick ven Fleerbo: Are you sure? No question or doubt?

JvF: No doubt indeed. I have, no expenses spared, managed to retrieve a true copy of the envelope in which last month’s letter from Meltsy to “The Jupiterian” arrived. It is very clearly post-stamped in Fort Corallium, where we all know that Meltsy lives.

Anna min Scortch: This sounds a bit thin?

JvF: Not in the least. We can see from multiple letters that this “Barbara” is well educated in coffee. And Meltsy married that Hoyter woman, you know. The one who sent Rick packing, for no good reason. And she, I tell you, was the proprietor of a coffee shop. So, the link is clear and indisputable.

RvF: Indisputable indeed. That Trigger, he’d stoop low enough to use a woman’s name as a gym, every day of the week. Or at least days that have both consonants and vowels.

AmS: Ah, so every day.

RvF: Indeed!

AmS: I… Yes, the evidence seems fairly clear. Anything else?

JvF: Indeed there is. These “Barbara” letters became more frequent after Trigger had that court case on the Moon. Clearly an event that would fuel his anti-Sulphur resentment. And they’re all, or so I have from reliable sources, post-stamped in Fort Corallium. Incontroversible evidence, the post stamps do not lie!

AmS: And what do we do with this information?

RvF: We destroy him, and his career, and his marriage! I believe that Coraline Snowflake will NOT stay married to a man that stoops to impersonating a woman.

JvF: We are all clear, then, that we need to spread the good word, and terminate Meltsy’s letter-writing career, once and for all?

AmS, RvF: Sulphur! Sulphur! Sulphur!

End note: Anna bestowed John ven Fengsler with an admiration gift mostly composed of Martian Ares-fruit compote, with a fetching hint of Venusian bacon from her breakfast. Rick ven Fleerbo, due to his current circumstances, was forced to limit his admiration to just Venusian bacon and beans.

“This… This… This makes no sense”, sighed Trigger.

“Post-stamped in Fort Corallium. Of course my letters are post-stamped in Fort Corallium, that is where the Coffee Emporium is, and since I live in the rooms above, I would of course use the post office across the street”, said Barbara. ” Anything else would be deranged.”

Coraline sniggered. “At least they haven’t, yet, decided that we are the same person, Barbara.”

Trigger flipped pages in the magazine. “Ah, there’s another letter about that specific fact.”

Transcription of a round-table discussion at the Elemental Smartalec Group, Planetary Day 7652

Anna min Scortch: John, I have spent some time digging into this Meltsy business. You are clearly right. Not only does Meltsy have a passing knowledge of gourmet coffee. Not, I might add, as good as yours, but decent nonetheless. But, look, in this letter to “The Plutonian Argus”, there’s this one sentence that gives no doubt to the theory that Meltsy has an interest in the law. And do you know who has an interest in law? A sheriff!

John ven Fengsler: Anna, my dear, it’s good that you have found this further evidence. I know that it has been said that we may be wrong, but the coffee, the law interest, and the post-stamps all paint an undoubtable picture. And, furthermore, that very same letter is also clearly written y a man. Look, it uses forceful words. And it is rude, something that we all know is outside the scope of any planet fearing woman’s vocabulary.

AmS: Yes, I saw that. But I was never in doubt that this “Barbara” was secretly a man, all along. It’s just like those lily-livers to hide behind a woman.

Rick ven Fleerbo: I say, should we get Slem involved? This might just be the crowbar we need to break open that disgusting verdict Meltsy masterminded on me?

JvF: If you think that is the right course, we shall of course proceed with this excellent move in our hyper-dimensional game of Walk.

RvF: I will send him a missive, anon.

End note: Rick again could only provide Venusian bacon and beans for admiration. John bestowed a gift of Saturnian plum wine to Anna, and the same for Rick. Both Anna and John provided gifts on Rick, for his excellent idea of contacting Slem ven Pocketry.

#

The three of them continued to peruse the letter columns, growing more and more amused, and in Barbara’s case, distressed, at the confusion spreading through the Sulphur community.

Trigger suddenly lifted his head, staring into infinity.

“Beloved Coraline, Miss Dimatis… I have a seed of a plan. We know they’re completely wrong. We also know that Sulphur artists never miss a chance to gloat. And it’s been months since we last had a poetry slam at the Emporium. So, my thought here is that we arrange one for next month, and make sure all three of us are there to introduce it. “

Barbara thought for a few moments. “Yes, as long as there’s enough time to come out from the inner system, we can be assured there will be at least one Sulphur artist in attendance, for an attempt at some sort of public unmasking.”

With preparations made, and the Poetry Slam duly announced in the relevant magazines, the day finally arrived. As the start time of the event finally ticked on the clock, Coraline Snowflake walked up to the microphone in front of the counter.

“Hello, and welcome everyone. I am Mrs Coraline Snowflake, the former proprietor of the Coffee Emporium. It is my honour to bid you all welcome to Fort Corallium’s fourth Poetry Slam.”

From among the crowd, someone yelled “Where’s Trigger, then?!”

Trigger walked up to the microphone. “Hello, all. I am Trigger Snowflake, and I am the sheriff of this town.”

The same voice yelled again, “Trigger? Hah! What about Barbara Dimatis, Meltsy? What about Barbara? We know that’s what you go by in the magazines!”

Barbara walked up to the microphone. “Hello, all. My name is Barbara Dimatis, I am the proprietor of the Coffee Emporium and I have arranged this Poetry Slam, with some help from my predecessor and good fried, Coraline.”

It was at this point that the proceedings were interrupted by someone rapidly standing up and running out of the Emporium, shouting “Ooooh! Oooooooooh! I can’t believe I believed ven Fengsler!”

Trigger Snowflake and the No-Platformers

By Ingvar: Trigger Snowflake opened his clear, blue eyes. It smelled like a fine morning, heralding a great day. If nothing else, he would be taking lunch with his betrothed, Miss Coraline Hoyter.

He quickly got dressed and walked to the sheriff office kitchen, grabbed a bowl and poured a healthy serving of Neptune Nut Nuggets and added just a splash of milk, in order to get his breakfast cereal to the perfect balance between crispy nuttiness and slight moistness from the slowly penetrating milk. As he left the bowl to soak, he set his DripMatic 3000 to making his post-cereal coffee.

Quarter of an hour later, having fortified himself with a truly excellent breakfast, it was time to strap his gun belt around his trim waist, then pin the sheriff badge to his vest, then take a quick stroll through Fort Corallium, to ensure that the local businessmen were all happy and the local miners well-behaved. He put his hat on, opened the front door of the sheriff office and headed out, nodding cheerfully to his fellow citizens as he strolled down Main Street.

Trigger pondered the propriety of paying Miss Hoyter an early visit. Fully distracted by the complex problem of figuring this matter of etiquette, he did not notice Mr Lilyberg hurrying the other way, and in one of those moments that happen, they walked into each other, with such force that Sheriff Snowflake was half spun around, and Mr Lilyberg was knocked off balance and fell down.

“Sorry, Mr Lilyberg. Mind completely elsewhere. Everything alright?”

“Just lost my breath, Sheriff, nothing sprained or broken.”

Trigger reached down with his right arm, to help Mr Lilyberg up from the ground.

“Good to hear. Again, terribly sorry.”

“No one hurt, Sheriff, no one hurt. Just on my way to Agape, they called and my new shoes have arrived. Nothing I would recommend for you, having such a stately height, but being a bit on the short side…”

Trigger tipped his hat and continued his morning stroll, taking care to not let his mind stray to the fascinating conundrum that had bothered him.

#

Having walked entirely to the other side of Fort Corallium, Trigger checked his pocket watch. A brisk, but not over-fast stroll, even taking the Lilyberg incident into account. It would not do to be too fast in these peace-keeping strolls.

Trigger paused and looked around, nothing out of the ordinary. It truly seemed like it would be a perfect day. Now, it had been raining and windy the last few days. Trigger knew that the atmospheric systems did not keep any specific weather setting for longer than three days, in order to ensure that the townsfolk got variety, but never got really bored with the weather.

He started back down Main Street, wondering if he should stop for a cup of coffee on the way, or give the DripMatic 3000 a chance to make a second cup of the morning. He’d not gotten much further than listing the options in his mind, when he heard a loud commotion from the alley on his left.

Undoing the strap retaining his right revolver in the holster, Sheriff Snowflake purposefully strode towards the opening of the alley, certain in his conviction that a crime was in progress and he may have to discharge his firearm. As he stepped off Main Street, he saw, disconcertingly, Miss Hoyter on the ground, in stockinged feet.

“Miss Hoyter! What happened? Can I be of assistance? Where are your shoes?”

“Dear Trigger, please help me up and walk me back to the Emporium. I was viciously knocked down from behind, then a swarthy main, looked like an Earther, stole my new shoes!”

“Stealing shoes? I am continually baffled by how low criminals are willing to stoop. Here, Miss Hoyter take my hand, and I will help you to the Emporium. Will you be able to walk, or should I carry you back?”

“Walking back would not be a problem, darling Trigger. And it would be unseemly, this close to our wedding, for you carry me when I am perfectly capable of walking.”

“But…”

“No, Trigger, I shall walk, even if it may ruin my silk stockings.”

Sheriff Snowflake held his arm out to at least ensure that Miss Hoyter would have support as and when she needed it. They headed down Main Street to the Emporium.

Once at the Emporium, Trigger pulled his notebook out, as well as a pen, and placed them on the table.

“Well, Miss Hoyter, I should probably take a formal statement, since a crime has been committed.”

“Certainly. Would you like a coffee while we talk?”

“That would be splendid.”

Once two cups were on the table, and they had taken their first sip, he picked up his pen and notebook.

“Miss Hoyter can you describe the sequence of events?”

“Certainly. I was walking from home towards the Emporium, when I heard what sounded like a puppy down Natural Alley. Not wanting to leave any long animal in distress, I headed down, keeping an eye out for the pup. I’d walked fifteen, maybe twenty, yards when someone hit me in the back of the head. I fell to the ground, dazed, and as I was trying to get my bearings, I felt what seemed to be a knife cutting the straps off my new shoes. Then the shoes were taken off my feet. Whoever it was started running away and I shouted out. Then, a few moments later, a host dashing and handsome sheriff arrived.”

“New shoes? Any precious stones, noble metals or similar on them?”

“No, they’re a new model from Mars, picked them up yesterday evening at Agape. They’re honestly jus a new thing I thought I would try. They have, in addition to my customary high heel, that you are familiar with, an extra-thick sole under the ball of the foot. In total, they give me almost a full extra inch. But I don’t think they’re special enough to warrant stealing, they were fairly plain, smooth red leather, with a copper buckle on the ankle strap.”

“Hm. Well, I have written for statement down. Let’s enjoy the rest of the coffee, before I head back to the office.”

They finished the coffee, engaged in the normal smalltalk of a coupe engaged to be married, plans for wallpaper patterns and the like.

#

Trigger had just finished filing Miss Hoyter’s statement when the front door was flung open. He looked up at an enraged Mr Lilyberg rushing through the door.

“Sheriff! Sheriff! I am the victim of a heinous crime!”

“If you take a seat, Mr Lilyberg, I will take your statement.”

“I was returning from Agape with my new shoes boxed up. When all of a sudden, two armed men stopped me and threatened to run me through with their knives, unless I gave them the shoe box. These were special-order from Mars, Sheriff, quite expensive, and now I need to wait for two weeks, before a new pair can be here. This is an outrage, Sheriff! There must be something you can do!”

“Well, Mr Lilyberg, in confidence I can reveal that you are not the first person today who have lost a pair of shoes. Could you please describe the shoes for me?”

“Now, Sheriff, I am not a vain man, but you may have noticed that I am on the short side. Normally, this does not bother me, but as we are coming up on an election for the town council again, I thought it prudent to, ahem, increase my stature slightly. So I ordered a pair of dress shoes from this new company on Mars. They make a most satisfying design, giving me almost an inch of extra height. Enough to look solid and imposing, not so much that it looks unnatural. My thinking here is that it would make it easier in the store.”

“Curious. From Agape, you said? All the way down south on Main Street?”

“Yes, Sheriff, that’s the store.”

“Well, I have written up your testimony and I will do my best to apprehend the vile criminals. Alas, Mr Lilyberg, I shall have to work. You have a safe day, now.”

“Thank you Sheriff!”

With that, Mr Lilyberg stood up and left the Sheriff’s Office, leaving Trigger to compare the testimonies of the two victims.

#

Zacharias Bengtsen was fearing for his life. Two armed, masked men had burst into his store, forced him into the store room, then tied him up. Now they were busy ransacking their way through his merchandise, taking some of the stock, but mostly just throwing things on the floor.

If only he had listened to the urging of his brother and installed an alarm system with a hand-held activator. If he had, it would be triggered by now, and hopefully Sheriff Snowflake would be on his way.

Meanwhile, walking south on Main Street, Trigger nodded at his fellow citizens, on his way to Agape Shoes. He was a block away when he noticed something out of place. The front door was not only closed, but had a “CLOSED” sign displayed. This was not at all normal, it being not even mid-day yet, and definitely not Sunday. He loosened both his revolvers, ensuring that he would have a fast draw, if needed.

Trigger considered his options. He could simply kick open the front doors, but that was likely to incur property damage and necessitate leaving a guard on the door overnight, something that the Office budget certainly could stretch to, but definitely an unnecessary expenditure. He thought for a few moments, then remembered that there was a back entrance, straight into the store room. It was normally locked, but the override key would take care of that.

Trigger walked around the building, found the back door and readied himself to open it, when he could hear a faint noise from inside. He took a deep breath, leaned forward and listened. It certainly sounded like multiple people completely wrecking the place. He leaned back and let the held breath out with a sigh, unlocked the door and drew his right revolver. With his left hand, he ripped the door open and scanned the room. There, two masked men. Trigger shot the one on the right, but before he could shoot the second one, the masked man threw himself out of the store room. With a jarring crash of broken glass, the man must have destroyed one of the shop windows.

Trigger saw Mr Bengtsen tied up on the floor. With the hooligan well on his way, it would be better to free the poor man, rather than set chase.

“Mt Bengtsen, if you just relax, I will cut the ropes that hold you.”

He swiftly cut the ropes, and once Mr Bengtsen’s arms were free, the shop-keeper pulled the gag off his mouth.

“Thank you, Sheriff Snowflake. There were two of them, and they were stealing some of my shoes! I have never, in my fourteen years of shop-keeping, seen anything like it. They simply discarded most of the stock, looking at it, some of the more valuable items are here, discarded on the floor!”

“Very good, Mr Bengtsen. If you could make an inventory and forward a note with what has been stolen?”

“Oh, quicker than that. I was watching them, and they were just taking the new elevated shoes from Mars. There’s only the one pair left in stock. Quite annoying, I only had eighteen pairs, and of those only three were not pre-orders. Look, there’s only the one pair left!”

“Hm, this paints a troubling picture, two pairs of shoes like this have already been stolen today, and now they’ve attacked the source of the shoes. Would you mind if I take this pair back to the office, to examine them in more detail?”

“If that is what’s needed to catch the last remaining thief? Certainly!”

“That is it, then. On my way, I will stop by the undertaker and send Dr Cottage down here for the body. Do you need any help cleaning this up?”

“Don’t worry, Sheriff, once the corpse is gone, it’ll be right as rain.”

#

The bell over the door jangled as Trigger entered the undertaker’s shop.

“Dr Cottage? Customer for you, down at Agape, in the store room. A robber and a thief, caught in the act. You will find that he’s had a clean shot, right to the heart.”

“Very good, Sheriff Snowflake, very good. Are we expecting any other sudden customers in the near future?”

“Well, there were two of them, so it’s not entirely impossible. I would prefer to catch him and have him sent back to Earth, but if they insist on getting killed, I am happy to oblige.”

This sordid business completed, Trigger left the undertaker’s and headed back up Main Street towards his office, when suddenly a masked man wielding a cut-off shotgun jumped out from an alley.

“The shoes! In your hand! Give them to me!”

Trigger lifted his right hand, holding the shoes out in front of him at about shoulder height.

“These? Are you sure?”

“The shoes, or I shoot!”

Trigger quickly considered his options, then threw the pair of shoes towards the evil-doer. As the man tracked the ballistic trajectory of the footwear, Trigger quickly drew his left revolver, shot from the hip and drilled a neat hole in the man’s forehead. He turned around, saw Dr Cottage just leaving his shop.

“Ah, Doctor, seems we have a second customer more quickly than expected.”

“Indeed, Sheriff, I suspected as much when I heard the distinctive bark of your sidearm.”

All criminals duly dispatched, Trigger returned to his office. Once seated, he looked at the shoes, then noticed that there was a slight rattling from the left shoe, as he moved them around. He drew his knife, pried the sole off and saw that hidden inside the thick bottom of the shoe, a memcrystal was hidden. Clearly, the whole shoe-stealing was because of secrets smuggled off Mars in the shipment.

Later in the evening, Trigger went in search of the lair of the evil-doers. As they were not the most intelligent of criminals, as evidenced by then plying their wrong-doing trade in Fort Corallium, it was not very hard.

The following morning, Sheriff Snowflake met up with Miss Hoyter.

“Dear Coraline, I found the lair of the robbers, but I am compelled to inform you that they did, in the most heinous way possible, de-platform you.”