“Levels” by Alec Cizak

Punk Noir Magazine

7:23PM, Lublin, Indiana

She’d aimed her husband’s work issued .9mm at his heart and squeezed the trigger. Not as much blood as she’d expected. The cops, or whoever, would have no problem cleaning it. She’d turnherself in. Shortly. She imagined folks might get upset by her lack of remorse. They’d never taken a punch from the sonofabitch. The beatings had been unpleasant, yes. Masking damage he’d done to her face to avoid questions at work?Inconvenient, for sure. The worst, however, had been the way he’d force her into his arms and swear he loved her, that a beast, every now and then, crawled into his brain and turned him into astranger. She’d fallen for his apologies a thousand times too many. That night, he’d started in on her because she’d burnt the ravioli. She thought about the routine, going through it all again.Then she noticed his utility belt on the counter. The snap on the holster undone. The gun, inches from her fingers.

7:09PM, Valparaiso, Indiana

Chad rounded up his frat brothers Chaz, Chet, and Chip. Said, “It’s Thursday night, ladies, you know what that means.” They piled into the Escalade his father purchased for him when he’d been graduated from high school. Cranked some dope hip-hop to inflate their courage. They never car yelled in Valpo. Could come back to haunt them. Especially these days. Some troublemaker with a smartphone might put it on YouTube. Theirfutures trumped anyone’s concern about being polite.

7:32PM, Lublin, Indiana

She needed air. She put the gun in her hoodie’s kangaroo pocket. She strolled down 9th Street, politely refused homeless guys asking for change. They smelled like piss and booze. As she watched these desperate men attempt to scrape sympathy from a cold, Darwinian world, her dead husband made her angrier. Just because he’d been a security guard at Third National in Merrillville, he felt he’d had a right to trample others like King Kong leveling a village. “You see this badge? You see this Glock?” he’d say, as though making sure people in Lake County didn’t steal from each other made him Boss of the World.

7:30PM, Lublin, Indiana

They’d decided on Lublin. They’d hit Haggard the week before, yelled at some rednecks hanging outside the Dairy Queen, the only legitimate business in that pathetic shithole.Reminded them how their mothers were their sisters and all that. Lublin had better prospects anyway—not just poor white trash, but what their non-essential professors called “people of color.”And bums. Bums were the best. These gnat-infested drains on society always expected a handout…Jesus Christ. Chad had to work his ass off senior year to pass his classes with low Cs. His stupid father threatened to buy him a Chevy Suburban if he didn’t make grades. And these scumbags on the street wanted stuff for free

They rounded 12th and spotted a pack of lazy fucks huddled around a burning trashcan. He said, “Chip, let them have it.” He snuffed the music and slowed the Escalade enough for Chip to roll down his window and poke his head out. He waited for one of the men, might have been black or Mexican, hard to tell, to turn and notice them.

“Pussy!” He ducked back into the SUV, adjusting the collar on his pink golf shirt like he’d swung a hole in one.

Chad hit the gas. The bums might have had some fight in them. He’d insulted a redneck named Adam Gallagher sophomore year in German class. Adam popped him in his faceand he flew across the floor and slammed his head into the legs of a desk. He stood and laughed, pretended it’d been no big deal. But he never forgot the humiliation, his affluent peers expecting him to fight back and staring at the ground when they realized he would not.

7:33PM, Lublin, Indiana

She’d seen the SUV approaching. Too fancy for that part of Lublin. Must have been rich kids from Valpo looking to score drugs or maybe a cheap crack whore. Every now and then, she’d read about said crack whore coming up missing. Cops wouldfind her body floating in the Chicago river. 


Her husband. Privileged little doughboys. All the same.Aimless pricks knocking down anything in their way. Never learning other people in the world needed oxygen, too.

She slid her hands inside her hoodie’s kangaroo pocket and nursed the gun’s trigger guard with her index finger.

The window in the back of the SUV rolled down and a pasty-faced college boy stuck his head out. She expected him to uttersomething stupid, like, “How much?” Instead, he shouted about Skittles and Trayvon and told her to go back to Africa.

7:33PM, Lublin, Indiana

They turned onto 9th Street. Not as much homeless action. Chad saw something much better—a black woman in a crimson and white hoodie. “You’d think these people would learn.”

Chip rolled down his window again. “Fellows, I’ve got a masterpiece brewing.” His face stretched as he smiled and waited for the woman’s attention. He said, “I’m going to show this bitch who’s boss.”

Chad said, “That’s why I love you, brother. You know how to make things interesting.”


Alec Cizak is a writer and filmmaker from Indianapolis. His fiction has appeared in several journals and anthologies. He is also the editor of the fiction journal Pulp Modern.