Pest Control by Jason Beech

Crime Fiction, Fiction, International Noir, Jason Beech, Punk Noir Magazine

Pest Control by Jason Beech

 

It took Jeff ten-or-so steps out of his van to loosen his sore back. The old lady who opened the door released him from the mood that grabbed him up the long solitary road to her house. That sweet smile, a waft of home cooking, and a phrase all colored his memory in sepia tones. This job would rectify the previous disaster that had led to a week’s “recuperation.”

“Szia, szia.”

He put a hand over his heart where the rat, trapped in a red circle and terminated by a zig-zag strike of lightning sat on his uniform. “Szia to you, too.”

“Ah, pest control. Come in, come in.”

The step up to her door plucked the sore muscle, but his nose sent massaging signals across his body and eased the pain. Jeff sniffed and let out a friendly “Aaahhh.”

The lady had that strong accent like she’d only just stepped on these great United States shores. “I’m cooking. You do a good job, maybe I’ll feed you. How about that?”

Jeff didn’t think she’d look down on him if he licked his lips. She reminded him of his grandma and she’d squeeze his cheeks as a boy if he showed appreciation of her cooking. He replicated that boyhood joy and though she didn’t pinch his flesh, her beam said the same thing.

He sniffed again. “Pörkölt?”

“You cheeky little Magyar.”

Jeff guffawed and rocked forward on his toes at the jolt of pain up his back. “What’s the job …” He looked down at his clipboard. “… Mrs Barna?”

She held him by the elbow, looked up at him with a sly smile, and led him to the back door. Pointed to a little concrete shed in the back yard, about thirty yards down a thorn-strewn path. “It’s starting to stink. It needs sorting out.”

Jeff caught a subtle whiff emanating from the bunker-like structure. Added a bit of spice to the pörkölt. He glanced down at her and back through the untidy rooms strewn with piles of books with titles like 1957, to where the meat pulled at him.

“Veal?”

She pahed, and questioned his Hungarian credentials. “Chicken liver.”

“Smells good whatever it is.”

She nodded to the shed. “Well it’s all yours when you’ve done.”

“Okay. I’m on it. Mice? Rats? Raccoons?”

“That’s what I’m feeding you to find out.” She spun back to the dish he hadn’t tasted since his old anya had passed on. He watched her, suspicious she didn’t have money to pay his fee. Still, the company would pay him and take her to court for the fee. He didn’t like that idea, but out of mind he’d get over it.

He rubbed at his back as he picked his way over weeds and thorns, scared it would give out. That’s what happened at the last job. He’d failed to do the job properly because to bend down and lay traps in every nook would have had him in bed for a month. His boss would let him go with a Walmart watch as a memento, if that. He had five years to retirement and his wife wanted her end days in Florida.

Jeff reached the shed. The smell had got stronger with every step until the sick-sweet stench monkey-swung from his long gray nostril hairs.

The afternoon sun didn’t much penetrate the clouds never mind the blackness of the shed, but if the nice lady expected him to haul out a deer that had trapped itself, or a horse she couldn’t look after, then that pörkölt better sit on his taste-buds nice all the way through the day back to his wife’s plate. He hoped the lady’s husband still walked the Earth. You couldn’t get a more barren place, isolated under a canopy of trees with meadows beyond the edge that hadn’t seen a farmer or mower in decades, if ever. A place, primeval, where the mind fosters legends and monsters.

He could call in for back-up, but again, his boss would wonder why he had him on the books at all. Jeff couldn’t face the glue factory just now and he’d not yet made out the smell’s origin. Could be a mouse. A big one, though.

A shape formed in the murk. Some big animal, fetid – a miserable death had caught it in this godforsaken middle of nowhere. Jeff took a moment to acknowledge the loss of life. He dealt with rodents, cockroaches, bees, wasps, those goddamn hornets. Lives so small they didn’t have a hundredth the meaning of this poor beast.

The old lady called from her back door. “Any luck, yet?”

“I don’t think this is a pest problem, Mrs Barna.” He looked back and that sweet smile mixed with his boss’ possible sanction pushed him to the low entrance. She meandered halfway towards him in her apron, holding the recipe, the chopping knife, and a porcelain bowl. “It’s okay. I’ve got it it, Mrs Barna, I’ve got it.”

He would drag the beast out the best he could, maybe burn it. He didn’t know – he killed the small things. Its when he bent beneath the doorframe that he saw the leg. The human leg. Shaped at an angle that said the man hadn’t rested like this in acceptance of a peaceful death. Jeff reached into his tool belt for the flashlight and that’s what took out his back. He grunted and that grunt expanded into a pig’s squeal which blasted back at him through the shed’s gaping mouth. A streak of white hot lightning paralyzed him from the small of his back to the nape of his neck. All he could do was stand there stooped as if he’d never evolved past the first stage of man. His voice came out in little staggers until he managed to stutter Mrs Barna’s name.

“What is it?”

Stress Balkanized and competed – A dead man. How would Jeff get home? Would he keep his job? That Florida home, modest and hardly luxurious, backed away and looked for an owner who could afford the upkeep. His wife. Her face. She’s strong and she’d understand, but that initial look of a long-held dream vanquished dissolved his innards.

Mrs Barna crunched the twigs, the weeds, the gravel underneath.

“Mrs Barna.” Hard to breathe. His heart had filled his chest, crushed his lungs. The leg inside the shed slanted over a mound that he recognized, now his eyes had adjusted to the dark and the wet in his eyes had cleared them of late summer dust, as a bloated belly, and disconnected from that leg. A different body, the faded insignia of the USPS on its breast.

Oh, God, what had happened here?

“Lady, you got to get outta here? Somebody … someone is …”

He tensed against the coming shock of her scream, but she only shuffled her feet as she hovered left and right behind him in search of a gap to see beyond his immovable body to the carnage inside. A third man developed from the negative, his wan face crooked, unseeing eyes wide open, jaw a bear trap.

Mrs Barna touched him. Cold. “I like my pörkölt fresh, Mr …” she slid round him, slight as a wraith, but so very real. She stood on her tiptoes and reached his chin, the bowl against his belly. She thrust the knife into his chest. Jeff shuddered. His damn back slipped to the bottom of his problem pile and he shifted his attention from the bodies to Mrs Barna. He knew she’d stuck the knife deep, just below his heart, it’s just the benign smile she gave him made him question the reality.

“I like a little human heart with my chicken liver … shhh, shhh.”

She pushed the knife, so sharp, upwards to his heart, and the Florida palms, the hand of his wife, his whole life grayed and faded to black as the blood spilled and his heart slipped into the waiting bowl for the hungry Mrs Barna.

Sheffield native, New Jersey resident — writes crime fiction. You can buy Jason’s work from Amazon and read his work at Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey, Close to the Bone, The Flash Fiction Offensive, and Pulp Metal Magazine. His latest novel is Never Go Back.

never go back

Overlooked Noir: Crack-Up (1946) by K. A. Laity

Art, Films, International Noir, K A Laity, Noir, Punk Noir Magazine, Writing

Crack-Up-Poster4

No surprise that this one would appeal to me: Noir ambience? Check. Art and art forgery plot? Check. Mind manipulation? Check! Yeah, art and a sort of Hannibal connection, well – I’m sold. Never mind that Crack-Up stars Pat O’Brien, an unlikely everyman as its hero. It’s got Claire Trevor though, with a wild swathe of outfits, and it has the ever-urbane Herbert Marshall for kicks. And Wallace Ford who adds value to any picture he’s in.

It starts in media res like so many noir films, with a befuddled O’Brien breaking into the Manhattan Museum, punching a cop and breaking a statue. The museum director calms things down because they don’t want bad publicity though art critic George Steele (O’Brien) will lose his job because they think he’s drunk and raving.

Flashback time, of course. We go back to Steele lecturing in the museum. He’s a born feather ruffler, though, poking fun at rich people and at bad art. ‘If knowing what you like is a good enough way to pick out a wife, or a house, or a pair of shoes, what’s wrong with applying the same rule to painting?’ He tells the appreciative audience that the only folks he feels sorry for are the people ‘who know everything about art, but don’t know what they like.’ Cue snappy dressed guy shuffling his feet uncomfortably at the back with Claire Trevor next to him in a hat like a neck pillow.

‘The only way they can tell a good painting from a bad one? The price tag!’ Cue abashed laughter. Steele is reassuring to the audience that mostly seems to be people a little uncertain about art. He uncovers Millais’ The Angelus to general oohs of pleasure and he commends them on being part of a long history of folks who’ve enjoyed the painting. Steele mentions trying to get Dürer’s Adoration of the Magi (or as he calls it ‘Adoration of the King’) back for his next lecture. The museum director frowns at this and then audibly gasps when Steele talks about showing them the painting under x-ray.

Uh oh! We know where this is going.

For Steele, it’s just a chance to show that even masterpieces have false starts and revisions. Though he mentions it’s a way to catch forgeries, too. Camera cuts to Marshall lurking in the back looking mysterious. ‘A good technician with nothing to say is a very dangerous man’ — like say, Van Meegeren? – ‘whether he forges masters or paints nonsense.’ This means it’s time to make fun of ‘modern’ art. Cue audience member asking just how far away from modern art you’re supposed to stand. Quite closely, Steele jokes, then start backing up until you run into someone interesting and go for a walk with them.

Obviously this section is my favourite.

Then of course a fellow with an accent – clearly some kind of dangerous foreigner! we’re meant to think – cries that, ‘Pioneers have always been ridiculed!’ An affable Steele tells him that he’s not condemning modernism, he just doesn’t happen to like the painting and it’s fine if others do. The foreign art lover accuses him of lacking perception and sensitivity. As he goes on, passionately derisive of Steele’s failings, the crowd turns against him, hissing and booing. He’s dragged out by security to applause. All-American war veteran Steele makes a joke of it, saying he’ll go into modernism more deeply next week, but ‘Surrealists will be checked for weapons at the door.’ It’s a have-it-both-ways Americanism: look how tolerant I am of the foreign guy who was dragged out of the room but not by me! And my gentle genial jokes at his expense. No big deal! 

Not the point of the film, but I love this scene: it’s so off-handedly rich.

Of course there’s a forgery business to be uncovered having to do with the Dürer, fugitive fleeing, a fire on a ship, and more. But the powers that be decide to head off nosy, x-ray wielding, controversy-building Steele with a clever ruse:

[SPOILERS]

 

making him thing he’s been in a train accident. Ray Collins plays the doctor working for the museum to hide its shady dealings. He almost chuckles revealing the very useful trick he learned during the war as he explains it the captive Trevor. ‘It’s called narco-synthesis, Miss Cordell.’ I assume that’s why Bryan Fuller called Mason Verger’s gruesome major domo Cordell. And the plan is surprisingly similar to techniques in Hannibal, though they’re of course even more sophisticated. The mind is a fungible thing. 

‘All inhibitions go; the subconscious mind takes over.’ And the subconscious is easy to manipulate with the right stimuli. Like a train that passes really close to the doctor’s house. Is there no one who can stop this nefarious plan? In between some chit chat with the decidedly upwardly mobile Cordell, who wants to ditch ol’ Steele for someone swankier but clearly is happiest with him. There’s a great scene in an arcade when they’re trying to hide in the crowd. It’s a worthwhile film.  

It’s available as a Warner Archive disk, though you can find an online version that’s pretty murky. Jacqueline T. Lynch’s blog does a good job of breaking down the narrative points and providing some great screen caps.

Noir Classics: Those Who Walk Away – Patricia Highsmith by K. A. Laity

Art, Crime Fiction, Euro Noir, Existentialism, International Noir, K A Laity, Noir, Patricia Highsmith, Punk Noir Magazine

those who walk away

Don’t let the pull quote form Slavoj Zizek put you off. This too-little read classic by Highsmith is a cracking read. It’s suffused with an existential dread so thick you could cut it with a Derwatt paint knife. It starts in Rome and quickly moves to Venice, currently repopulated with swans and dolphins, which is no less bizarre than this book.

Adding to the head-jerking oddness, it’s dedicated to Lil Picard, ‘painter and writer, one of my more inspiring friends’ in Highsmith’s words. The Jewish artist was once part of the Dadaists scene in Berlin, hanging out with Brecht and Dix, then fled to New York where she hung out at Andy’s Factory and made performance art with Caroline Schneeman and Yoko. It’s a surprising choice for the notoriously anti-Semitic writer (they’d not spoken in a decade) but it speaks volumes to her yearning for art and artistry.

Art permeates the story: Ray Garrett is thinking of starting a gallery as he grieves for his wife’s suicide, fearing that he might have been able to save her if only he’d seen the clues (Highsmith dealt with the same when her lover, the artist Allela Cornell, committed suicide). This is the least of his problems, however.

The book opens with Garrett walking through Rome with his passive-aggressive father-in-law who, quiet suddenly, takes out a gun and shoots him, and then runs off. More shocked than injured, Garrett panics and runs back to his hotel to put a Band-Aid on the graze and clean the blood from his shirt. And to think: how did Colemon get a gun? What would he do when he discovered Ray was not dead?

This begins a weird tale of cat and mouse that quickly moves to Venice. ‘If he saw Coleman alone again just once, he could say it all plainly in words—say the plain fact that he didn’t know why Peggy had killed herself, that he honestly couldn’t explain it.’ But her father won’t accept the truth. So much so that Ray begins to wonder if he does bear some guilt. When Coleman shoves him off a boat into the wintery canal, Ray goes into hiding to let him believe he’s been killed. It may, in part, be fueled by the fever he catches from his soaking. But it becomes quite surreal.

He begins to think like a criminal, inventing lies sometimes for cover and sometimes just for a kind of romanticised desire to disappear from himself. Ray tells himself he’s not trying to change his appearance with the beard at the same time he’s cautioning himself to invent a ‘decent’ story: ‘The nearest to the truth was best, or so he had always heard.’ I love how Highsmith tips her hand here about her own easy story-making. Ray looks at himself (oh the cliché but this is 1967) and sees a lot more than he wants to:

It was an American face, slightly on the handsome side, hopelessly marred by vagueness, discretion, the second thought, if not downright indecision.

As gruesome as this all sounds, there is actually a lot of humour in the novel. Ray and his partner consider opening the Gallery of Bad Art in NYC, if they can’t find enough good painters to share. ‘Call it Gallery Zero, for instance. The public’ll soon get the idea.’ Highsmith obsesses over art and its quality in a very different way from Ripley’s blithe assurance that forgery is better than ‘good’ art. The humour pops out quite unexpectedly (like Highsmith’s own ‘jokes’ apparently) and so do the astute observations, like a sharp knife in the dark. I think Camus and Sartre would approve of this one which seems to sum up so much of her work:

Perhaps identity, like hell, was merely other people.

Kiss Like a Fist by Graham Wynd

Crime Fiction, Euro Noir, Fiction, Flash Fiction, International Noir, K A Laity, Noir, Punk Noir Magazine

She had a mouth that could raise the dead. It had raised me plenty over the years, but I’d never been close enough to Rosaline’s orbit to do anything about it.

Until tonight.

I brought her a third martini and her tongue had loosened enough to share some sage advice with me as she leaned back in the little snug. “Never fuck anyone crazier than yourself,” she said, sucking an olive between those rose red lips.

I would have done well to listen to that advice, but it was already too late. I was hooked like a flopping pollock, mouth agape and eyes glassy. Guess I even forgot to breathe. Like the day you find a tenner in the street and you know have to gamble on it because if you stick it in your pocket it will just be spent on mundane things and go too quick, but if you risk that windfall on the ponies or the dogs or even the feckin’ hurling, the fey folk will grace you with gold and all will be well.

That’s how it had been with Rosaline today. A thousand times I had watched her pass by, inhaled her perfume and wondered what it was like to slip your hand down those silken curves and feel her purr like a Jaguar. A thousand and one I expected it to be, but she stopped and crooked a red-taloned finger at me. “Seamus,” she cooed. “You busy?”

What passed through my head? A cloud of smoke fumes, a raging fire, a sea of lover’s tears, a madness—a farewell to the old life. The goddess had smiled upon me. She let me buy her a drink. Rosaline even let me speak. All I managed to stammer out was, “Can I get you another?”

“I got a problem, Seamus,” she confided when I brought that third cold stem to the table, making sure not to spill the tiniest drop. I had belted a measure of Jamie at the bar so I sipped my Carlsberg slow enough, although nerves tempted me to inhale its bubbly gold. “It’s a problem what needs fixin’.”

I nodded a little too quickly, until I suddenly imagined I might look like one of those dolls they sell with the spring in the neck so all they do is nod and nod. “Maybe I could help you out, Rosaline.” Smooth like, you know? She would never have guessed that a guy like me could come to the rescue, but  suppose I could prove myself—I’d be in like Flint.

“I had a feeling you might be the guy who could come through for me.” Rosaline got one of those long long cigarettes she always smoked and I fumbled through my pockets to find a lighter for her. Here’s a gal not keen on the forthcoming smoking ban. I held the blue plastic thingummybob up to light her coffin nail and allowed myself the opportunity of perusing her features. Up close—closer than I had ever been—her dark eyes drew me in like a bottomless pit, but one that I figured might have a soft landing at the end of it.

“What can I do for you, Rosaline?” My mouth wanted to go on talking but my brain had enough sense to shut up. I tried to keep my eyes from sliding down to the generous orbs of her chest that looked as if they would just fit the shape of my fingers. It might have been easier if her dress didn’t plunge down halfway to her navel. Rosaline probably never thought about the effect she had on men.

“It’s that bastard Reynard.” She leaned forward and laid her hand on my sleeve. I didn’t mind the better view it offered.

“Reynard, eh? He’s a foxy one.” A drop of sweat trickled down the side of my neck from behind my ear. It tickled something awful, but I didn’t want to wipe it away.

“He’s bugshit insane, is what he is.” Rosaline blew out a big lungful of smoke. “I ought to have known better.”

“But you’re shot of him now, right?” Things were looking up for me. Rosaline on her own, a good thing and no mistake. If I could help her out in some way, I bet she’d be grateful. Oh yeah, I could picture the ways she might show her gratitude, not all of them involving her being on her knees. “So much to the good.”

“Except for one thing.” A look crossed her face that froze me. The tasty pictures in my head evaporated, too. I never wanted to be the cause of a look like that; it sent a shudder through me. For such a lovely young thing she could look awful hard.

“What’s that?” I finally managed to croak.

“He took MacGuffin.” The icy hatred in her voice cut the air. Her eyes flashed as if an errant flame had been caught in them and burned hot. A woman full of fire.

“MacGuffin?”

“My Scottie!” She stubbed out her cigarette with vehemence. “He’s got my little boy.”

The dog, you eejit. I nodded, comprehending at last. “What he do that for?”

“Because he’s an evil, heartless bastard.” Rosaline leaned forward again, her hand on my arm. It made my pulse race again, but for a different reason now. “I want you to get him back.”

My idea of problem solving for Rosaline had extended about as far as cleaning the spark plugs in that tetchy little Mini she had or maybe tinkering with her plumbing. I was handy like that. “So you want me to go over there?” I had hoped the words would sound more self-assured than they did.

“I want you to get your arse over there and get my dog back.” Rosaline’s grip on my arm tightened. “And if he’s hurt a hair on his shaggy hide, I want you to kill him.”

I swallowed. “You think he’s…hurt him?”

“I’m just sayin’—he might not be that stupid, but I wouldn’t put it past him.” She sat back and threw the last of the martini down her red throat. “You go get my baby and I’ll be properly grateful, I can tell you, Seamus.” Rosaline smiled again, dazzling this time, her hand unconsciously raised to her heart to show me how much she cared. My eyes didn’t mind the location one bit. I felt like one of those cartoon wolves though I don’t think my eyeballs actually popped out of my head.

“Right, I’ll set out directly,” I said, getting to my feet with the soft curve of those cling peaches settling down in the back of my head to inspire me. “Be seein’ you.”

“I’ll be in my flat. Drop him by.”

As I walked along the canal, I did my best to weigh the image of Rosaline’s fine breasts against the rather daunting picture of Reynard MaConner. Everyone around here knew Reynard, whose name was never, ever shortened to Rey.

Not that he was terribly violent on the whole, I must say. Well, not as  rule. Rumour had it he had been the one to shoot Declan but nobody could tell if that was bluster, rumour or fact. There were guys who were all talk and there were guys who were all action; I guess Reynard had enough of the latter to make you take the words as gospel.

I could never figure out what exactly he did, but I knew where I’d find him. I turned off the canal onto Henry Street and there was the Den. I hadn’t been inside it for a couple of years, but it looked the same on the outside as ever—which is to say it looked like a place better off condemned. I took a deep breath and went im.

I regretted that deep breath immediately. There’s funky and then there’s funk-key. The Den definitely would not be winning any Guinness Best Pub awards that year or any other. The gloom of the fusty corners found its match in the sullen landlord who presided over the unpolished bar. There’s an art in catching a barman’s eye, a game most pub owners know well. The Den’s pint-puller assiduously ignored my presence. I would have to earn the right to a bevvie.

A murmur of conversation at the back led me to my target: Reynard occupied himself in conversation with a familiar figure. If I hadn’t known he was years in the grave I might have mistaken him for John Peel. He certainly looked like Peel, but he sounded just like Frank Carson. This was not advantageous. But it gave me an opening.

“English Bob, long time no see.” I clapped him on the back as if welcoming a long lost friend. English Bob of course was Irish and lived in America, but if you don’t get the joke, I’m not sure I could explain it.

Reynard regarded me with a cool gaze, but Bob glared at the interruption. “What is it you’re wanting, Seamus? I’m busy.”

“Not a thing, not a thing.” I spread my hands as if abashed by this hostility. “Actually I wanted to have a word with Reynard.”

There was something lupine in Reynard’s smile. “With me? Do I know you?”

I decided to stick with the glad-hand, friendly feller approach. “Not at all, not at all.” Repetition, repetition, repetition echoed in my head. “I’m just doing a favour for a friend.”

“Is this person of interest any friend of mine?” Reynard sipped his Guinness and his black eyes bored a hole through my forehead.

I tried to ignore the trickle of sweat meandering down between my shoulder blades. “That’s a tricky question, Reynard.” I kept hoping they’d ask me to sit down with them, but there was no offer.

Reynard exchanged a smile with English Bob. “Seems like a simple yes or no to me, is that not right, Bob?”

“Sure enough.”

I laughed. I meant it to sound all matey and friendly but it seemed to get a little strangled in my throat. “Well, not being privvy to the details of your life and friendships, I hesitate to make a reckoning of where you two stand.”

“You’re an eejit, Seamus,” Bob said with a grimace.

“Oh, I dunno,” Reynard said with a smile, one that would not have looked out of place on the fox who just broke into the henhouse, “I think he’s just being polite and careful like. Take the weight off your legs, why don’t you—er, Seamus, was it?”

I sat down with grateful speed. “It’s a delicate matter,” I admitted.

Reynard leaned over. “So who’s your friend then?”

I swallowed. “Rosaline.”

Reynard didn’t blink. “She send you?”

I chose not to consider the other possible meaning to that phrasing and simply answered, “Yes.”

Reynard smiled. It broke across his face like a rising sun. “Was she tearful?”

“No, not tearful exactly.”

“Was she drinking?”

“That she was.”

“Ah, well,” Reynard said with a sideways glance at Bob. “She’s missing me for sure.”

I coughed.

“Is it not the truth?”

“Well, ah.” How to explain? “That may be, sure enough.”

Reynard looked interested now. “But not why you’re here then?”

“Ah no, not quite.”

“Get to the feckin’ point then,” English Bob broke in.

“Patience, man,” Reynard said with a smile that suggested anything but.

I felt myself nodding a little too fast again. “It’s the dog, don’t you know.”

“What dog?” English Bob asked with genuine curiosity.

“The dog?” Reynard asked, clearly surprised.

“She wants the dog,” I said as quickly as possible, finding myself out of breath at the end. Nonetheless, uttering the words allowed me a sense of peace restored, like an overdue piss when your bladder’s bursting.

Bob and Reynard both stared at me for a moment with blank looks, then Reynard started laughing. His Adam’s apple bobbed up and down, and real tears fell from his eyes before he was through.

It was not the reaction I had been expecting.

Given Rosaline’s anger and her fear that her ex might hurt her wee doggie, I had thought I would be stepping into the middle of a hard fought custody case. I envisioned the little dog stretched thin, me a-hold of one leg and Reynard to another. It now appeared I had miscalculated.

“She can have the mangy mutt,” Reynard said with a dismissive wave of his hand. “I don’t know why she didn’t take him with her in the first place.”

Relief flooded my veins. This was going to be a lot easier than I thought! I could almost feel the curve of those cling peaches in my palms already. “I can take him off your hands right now, if you like.”

Reynard gave it a thought for about it a minute then nodded. “No time like the present. Back in a few, Bob, my old friend.”

He lived just around the corner, over on the canal. I followed him up a flight of stairs to the red door of his flat. I could hear a barking within. “Sounds like he’s been missing you.”

Reynard gave a kind of laugh as he unlocked the door. “It’s not me he’s been missing.” As we stepped into the entry the shaggy ebony beast ran over barking like a banshee’s best friend. The sound deafened in the small space, punctuated by the tappity tap of his nails on the wood floor as he circled around us. His wee tail wagged like a windscreen wiper.

“Nice doggie,” I shouted.

“Feckin’ moron,” Reynard said, aiming a swift kick at the dog’s hindquarters as he pressed on into the sitting room. Clearly the Scottie had grown accustomed to this habit, for he moved just enought to elude the steel toe of Reynard’s boot and continued his deafening yapping. Reynard gestured for me to take a seat on the floral sofa that seemed strangely out of place next to the black leather easy chair and the big oak coffee table.

As soon as I sat down, MacGuffin leapt up into my lap and stared into my face as if memorising my features. I found it unsettling but at least he had shut up.

“He likes you,” Reynard said with sneer.

“More of a cat person really,” I said, nonplussed by the intense stare of the shaggy dog. I patted him gingerly, afraid he might start yammering again or worse, bite me.

“So why did Rosaline send you?” Reynard said, a hand casually resting on his crossed knee.

I blinked at him over the dog’s head. “To get the dog.”

Reynard smiled. Something in it gave me a chill. “Why did Rosaline send you?”

I shrugged. The terrier’s fetid breath huffed in my face as he continued to stare at me like I was a raw chop. “I was handy.”

“So, you’re not looking to make time with her because you know she’s thinking she’s free of me?”

I tore my gaze away from the pup to look at Reynard. His bared teeth no longer looked like a smile. I swallowed. “I’m just doing a favour for her. Old mates in the neighbourhood, like.”

“I don’t remember you from the neighbourhood.”

When did he pick up that gun? I could feel the sweat pop out on my forehead. I petted the dog trying to think what I ought to say. “I guess we moved in different circles.”

Reynard laughed: a short bark not too different from the Scottie’s yap. “Different circles, that must be it.”

“I just happened to be passing, bought her a drink, she asked me.” I ruffled the dog’s fur hoping I looked more calm than I felt. “Didn’t think it would be much of an ordeal, on my way really. Bit of shopping then.” Shut up, you’re babbling, you eejit!

He got up slowly, the hand with the gun slipping down casually as if it were just a natural part of his arm. “She might think she’s shot of me, but Rosaline hasn’t copped on to my persistent nature.”

“You don’t say,” I said, patting the dog now as if he were on fire.

“And that includes giving the wind to the hounds sniffing in her wake.” The gun no longer hung lazily by his side. “What are you after, Seamus?”

“Just this dog, that’s all, for sure, Reynard. No ideas above my station.” If I’d had them before, they had evaporated with what was left of the whisky. I looked up at the gun pointing at me. “Perhaps I should be on my way now.” I couldn’t really move though with the dog on my lap. For a small pooch he weighed a load.

“Why in such a hurry?”

“You’re a busy man. I know you’ll be wanting to get back to your business with English Bob.” I tried to shift the dog but he stuck to me like a burr. “I’ll just be on my way.”

“I don’t think so,” Reynard said, raising the gun.

I couldn’t actually say how it happened exactly. My mouth still hung open when MacGuffin lunged toward Reynard and snapped his teeth around his arm. He swore an oath—Reynard not the dog—but it got drowned out by the Scottie’s growls.

The two of them struggled, the dog making gutteral sounds and Reynard matching him snarl for snarl. I sat on the edge of the sofa uncertain what to do.

And then the gun went off.

Reynard fell hard. MacGuffin ran off across the room with the gun in his mouth, tail wagging to beat the band like a bodhrán player with St. Vitus, as he loped in circles around the room.

“Here boy, here boy.” I clapped my hands. I didn’t really want to look too closely at Reynard who lay very still. “We need to go.” My head filled up with a pounding that seemed audible.

The pooch paused by the doorway to the kitchen, the gun still clutched in his mouth. His look suggested mischief; we had no time for that. “C’mon, laddie. We’ll get you pies and bones and everything you want, just let’s go now!

He barked, tail vibrating a mile a minute, the shiny gun in his mouth.

Knowing it was the wrong thing to do, I lunged for him and he dropped down, forelegs on the floor, wiggly arse in the air. Thinks I wanna play! He darted past me, the gun tight in his teeth. I launched myself on him and we rolled across the floor until I heard another explosion and a fire seared through my gut.

But I got the gun when it dropped from his mouth and slid across the wood floor. The Scottie barked at me, hoping I would play some more. I hazarded a glance at Reynard, but he lay where he had fallen. A pool of blood had grown from the hole in his head.

I staggered up to my feet. Not so bad, not so bad. I limped into the bedroom and found a belt in Reynard’s drawer. I coaxed the doggie over and looped it through his collar. The two of us exited the flat with all due speed, which at that point wasn’t nearly enough.

It wasn’t so far back to the flat where she waited. I passed the usual crowd of students from the uni, knocking back a few naggins and looking for amusement. I saw a pair of Gardai but they were occupied with some Spanish tourists. I finally climbed the steps to her flat and rang the bell, feeling a bit faint. The ache in my side now shouted  louder than the blood in my ears.

“Rosaline!” I called out her name and rang the bell again. The dog hopped up and down with delight, glad to be home I supposed.

At last she answered. Her sleepy look quickly evaporated as she saw her little babe. “Macca! My baby!” She scooped up the dog and swirled him around, cooing.

“Bit of trouble—” I said, then fell back against the entry way wall. I found it hard to breathe.

“That’s all right, my baby’s back!” Rosaline murmured baby talk to the dog who licked her face vigorously.

Something about it seemed wrong, but I couldn’t think what. I slipped down the wall until I was sitting on the floor.

Rosalind finally noticed me and set the Scottie on the parquet. He trotted over to lick my face for good measure. “So who got the worst of the deal: you or Reynard?”

I coughed. “Him. I’m still mobile, right?”

“Is he dead?”

“You sorry if he is?”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“I’ll have a mass said for him, but I can’t say I’ll cry.” Rosaline looked down at me from the doorway. “You all right there, Seamus?”

“I will be, soon as I can share a little time with you.” I coughed again and something wet filled my throat.

“Maybe in the next life,” Rosaline said as she blew me a kiss and stepped over me, closing the door to the flat. “C’mon, Macca. Let’s get you a steak and kidney pie, baby.”

The dog gave a quick, sharp bark in my face then turned and trotted after the seductive sway of his mistress. I noticed his arse had the same little wiggle to it just before I slipped into the forgiving arms of oblivion.

“Kiss Like a Fist” originally appeared in Noir Nation 3 (October 2013).
GRAHAMWYND NOIR

Noir Classics: Vera Caspery’s Bedelia (1946) by K. A. Laity

International Noir, K A Laity, Noir, Punk Noir Magazine, Writing

Having finally caught the film I knew I had to get around to the novel. A key change: the novel is set during 1913, when the writer herself had been in high school. Caspary must have decided the past was a better setting; there’s the practical matter of being truly snowbound in the last part of the book. That’s easier to manage with early telephone lines and few cars—or ‘machines’ as they are referred to somewhat archly in the text, as most take them as a sign of profligacy. 

The setting is Connecticut. The lovers met in Colorado, a very different ambiance than Monte Carlo. Whilst both Yorkshire and Connecticut have the possibility of leaving our characters snowbound, the specific New England location has additional resonances that fit the story well. Caspary grew up on the Midwest around Chicago, but with her writing success moved to Greenwich Village. For a time she moved to Connecticut with her mother to work on a play. She seems to have sized up the reserve, even provincialism that the state’s privileged enclaves have been known for—i.e. why Mame Dennis referred to the ‘Aryans from Darien’ in Aunty Mame.

I lived in Connecticut for nine years and I have a lot of great friends there, but yeah. Plotwise, Bedelia’s groom Charlie Horst embodies so much of that type. His provincialism, paternalism, and most of all fear of looking foolish to his neighbours, all conspire to keep him vulnerable to predation. His smug sense of superiority calms him at every turn where the facts suggest his wife ‘Biddy’ is a dangerous creature who’s planning to murder him and maybe that guy Ben, too. He says he’s a painter. He’s not local! Caspar spends a lot of her time tracking the doubts and self-congratulation in Horst’s thinking. He’s a snob. A sentimental snob.

At the sight of Bedelia’s pretty face and the memory of his ridiculous fears, relief welled up again in Charlie and he was compelled to blow his nose loudly.

[Spoilers from here on]

 

Bedelia is much more murderous in the book! There’s quite a trail of bodies—even the detective pursuing her doesn’t know them all. And she’s far more aware of her effects on Charlie. Caspary is brilliant in recognising the sexual power Bedelia has over her husband. He thrills to the sexy minx hidden under her modest Gibson Girl clothing. She manipulates him with subtlety, but she’s not averse to using the sledgehammer, too.

The film wants us to believe poor Bedelia’s final avowal of love for Charlie after he’s found out about her. The book is much more ambivalent. Biddy does claim to love him and she does seem to actually be pregnant. But when he tries to persuade her that suicide is the only way out, her last word is to sneer that he’ll be hanged for murdering her.

One of the most fun parts of the books is when Charlie figures out the source of Bedelia’s many names and the episodic way she tells her life story (itself a combination of fact, fiction and wishing). He’s such a snob:

Bedelia’s taste was hideous. Charlie had tried to wean her away from Laura Jean Libbey by reading aloud to her from Carlyle’s French Revolution. She had listened dutifully at the beginning, but, later, had confessed that good books put her to sleep. Charlie opened the first book. It was just what he had expected. A beautiful heroine with windswept locks was caught in the jungle. In the distance, tomtoms. The black chieftain was just about to drag Lady Pamela from the compound when Cyril arrived to rescue her from worse than death.

What makes the novels trash to Charlie’s eyes isn’t the racism, colonialism or paternalism, but the repetitive and unrealistic plots. The books filled Bedelia with a sense of entitlement which became an active career of murder. Sure, the first one might have been an accident, but it gave her a model to pursue. Formula is easy to produce. Charlie starts at the names:

Maurine. Chloe. Annabel. What about Bedelia?…This was the first time Charlie had considered his wife’s history as a whole and he saw it as unadulterated Laura Jean Libbey. The separate stories told at different times had seemed quite real to him. There had been no reason to distrust the warm voice nor to seek deceit in those dark eyes. Why should he, who had been captivated by her, doubt the passion of the consumptive millionaire, the gratitude of the irascible old lady, the advances of the shirtwaist manufacturer?

Our lesson, I guess, is if you’re going to fake it ‘til you make it (even without murdering inconvenient partners along the way), choose a more elevated genre if you want to get away with it. Great fun.

bedelia book

Neglected Noir: Bedelia (1946) by K A Laity

Euro Noir, Films, International Noir, K A Laity, Noir, Non-fiction, Punk Noir Magazine

bedeliaI finally got around to watching this because I am still (again, always) obsessing about Hannibal and the presentation I’ll be giving on it in April. What’s the connection? Show runner Bryan Fuller named a new character after her, Bedelia du Maurier (obviously the Rebecca author for the other half of her name). The novel should be showing up later this week: I’m looking forward to it. 

It’s hard to top Vera Caspary’s Laura – novel or film, though the author wasn’t entirely happy with choices in the film, like turning proto-incel Waldo Lydecker into a swanning Svengali. It’s hard to avoid that when you cast Clifton Webb. He certainly revels in it: who can forget him typing in the bath? And the rest of the supporting cast fills out the story well. When is Vincent Price bad? And Judith Anderson! Dana Andrews hits the right grumpy note for the reluctant detective who falls for a painting.

Despite making a late entrance to the starring role Gene Tierney is at her most magnetic – which is why it’s hard to avoid wishing she had taken the role of Bedelia, too. It’s a great story but the pieces aren’t as good as you could imagine them being, which is a pity because it is good. Margaret Lockwood is fine as the titular character: impulsive and mercurial, flashes of anger alternating with wheedling sweetness. Ian Hunter ably embodies the hapless husband who doesn’t realise his wife may actually be dangerous.

Barry K. Barnes is the detective in disguise as a painter who is convincing as neither. He’s sort of the poor man’s Leslie Howard; he even played the Scarlet Pimpernel in one of the later film sequels. Things get better when the action moves from (a very unconvincing) Monte Carlo to Yorkshire. Things crack on a little faster as the pressure gets applied. Is Bedelia having second thoughts? Or simply choosing a different victim?

Conclusions: dolls are always creepy. Cats vs dogs tells you a lot about a person, apparently. Murderers deserve better outfits. Worth a watch; well worth a remake, too.

If you have to say anything, say nothing at all by E F Fluff

E F Fluff, Euro Noir, International Noir, Punk Noir Magazine

if you have to1On a little island on the edge of the world.

That you’ll be tortured, degraded, humiliated, and ultimately, hardened to a strange faraway horizon point no one else will really understand; was something, we all, ultimately, later, laughed about.

There was a time, where if these childhood experiences fractured you, to a point of inability to move, continue, or handle. You, or the damaged person, was referenced with a sort of strange creased wrinkle frown shrug of half-remorse and half-ah well, they failed the hazing, but don’t talk about it too much, ‘lest there we ourselves go ah,ha-hahaa…

A very real, palpable sense of the dangers of abyss gazing, and names that should not be spoken.

The weak, the wounded; were relegated to the streets and halfway houses, alcoholism, derelicts and heroin.

We often knew why, but we rarely grazed on it in any depth.

Maybe if they died, or killed themselves; it might come up in graveyard passing, a rueful-faced aunt drag-twisted around a Superking as she threw away a comment before being hushed by another.

Our little island was never suited to the desolate rigors of Christianity.

We were a barbaric people who had found the time to give each wind its own colour.

Wrapped in hallucinogenics, our DNA hints of nomadic seafaring and other questions.

Vicious, unforgiving if crossed, midlander; there can only be one – don’t take the rivers, you’ll wake the old folk… and yet capable of drawing down a very intricate, expansive and forgiving legal system that intermingled with our fading knowledge of the power and source of Cunt.

Orthodox might have suited us.

Yet a swing of the calendar and Christendom being given open season on us, a little island on the edge of the world, unless we toed the line.

It’s no wonder the downers of knowing it is there but being gifted the ability to not give a fuck would become so intravenously attractive.

if you have to 2We used to paint ourselves blue, and dance howling into battle in baggy cloaks with sleeves for blade catching. The dye so astringent that a single cut and mingle of sweat and blood, and the wound would burn itself closed. And the only way you’re dealing with that is tripping balls, half cut.

It’s no wonder the Queen’s advisor said the only thing that would break the Irish was famine. Shortly before we entered a hundred or so years period of famines, great, large and small.

Island life is small, harsh, and unforgiving.

A revolving room of curtains you may never get to look behind.

If you have to say anything, say nothing at all.

That you’ll be raped is inevitable.

You weren’t? Maybe you don’t remember.

It’s not all buggery.

That you’ll be beaten is a given.

Each person’s view of a “beating” being relative, some more shocking than others.

We’re, maybe, hopefully, the last generation.

To get our teeth into it, to bend over, and grit.

The others gloss over the horror a little bit, preferring to focus on the biting poverty that they’ll reference as so desolate that their memories of youth are so grim; they only come in black and white.

The surreal commonplace of physical, and sexual misconduct so common, so rife, many of us don’t even know we were subjected to a wrong. Somewhere there, in the bleak hazing that is the foundry that casts the Jolly Irish Person the rest of the world has, mostly, sung the praises of for the last thirty or fifty years.

We made good soldiers; that’s a millennia old solid – no bullshit, just do, forward, like the sacred hare, always through the fire, the Paddy Mayne genetic imperative for a people so used to encroachment, one of our oldest tomes is called “The Book of Invasions”.

We’re not fucking about now.

The airport banner says a thousand million welcomes where it should say “How are ye, what’s in your pockets?” – not that we could accurately get the accompanying vaguely friendly squint down into text.

if you have to 3Father Ted was a documentary filmed in real time, written by a man who would later become trapped in the negative zone of his own past. Though he left, the old horrors would spin cycle him again and again like some dreary forgotten Lovecraftian temporal nightmare.

Little realising the rest of us had finally been able to move on.

In part due to the silver bullet he took for the rest of us.

It was all so rife, in memory it now plays out like some sort of blend of Brass Eye and Are You Being Served?

“There’s a paedophile disguised as a school/a church/a country…”

Out near the dual carriageway, a sodden alcoholic gym teacher, somewhere hitting fifty, in small tight red shorts that crush and swell his genitals to exaggerated proportions, that when the vodka makes sure he minces around in over-gesticulation. It’s hard to know whether to laugh, or feel disgust.

It seems so surreal now.

With his little closest by the boys changing room with the two-way mirror so he could watch us.

That, we discovered, and used to bait him out with ever wild and bizarre behaviour; including flamethrower fights with our lighters and deodorants.

Knowing he could never reveal what he’d seen because he could never reveal he was standing, steamed, huffing behind a one way mirror.

“What is this powder in the air!” “This powder!” “Who put this powder in the air!”

Knowing, knowing he could not reveal too much of the ruse ‘lest red-faced questions were asked.

The fanatic religion teacher with ligature scars around her neck. So fervent she thought nothing of inciting frenzied heathen dog piles on students who questioned her dogma.

The Christian Brothers who forced the fresh graduate to teach a class of thirty boys the horrors of abortion. Ghoulish teens needling a clearly emotional young woman trying hard to hold the line.

It was all so rife

We don’t even know until a foreigner puts their hand over their mouth in a strangled squeal of horror.

if you have to 4It was all so rife

We don’t even remember, and if we do, we don’t talk about it, because we’re not one of them, one of the weak ones. Sure, didn’t it toughen us up.

It was all so rife

I haven’t even had time to talk about the people who’d make you disappear. The cause, and all that. “Is Daniel there? It’s time for his tea.”

Maybe that’s why we do death so well, if you have to say anything, say nothing at all, and how better to do that, than over seven days drinking around the reminder corpse of a spirit that is finally free.

“Who can beat us? Nobody!”

Who’s like us? Nobody!

Who’s better than us? Nobody!

Island life.

If you have to say anything, say nothing at all.

E.F. Bio
E.F Fluff is still trying to escape a Kafka-esque nightmare of corruption, death threats, violence, white collar crime, and bigotry in Finland, and Ireland. Seriously. The photos above are all theirs.

Grifter Life: Can You Ever Forgive Me? by K A Laity

International Noir, K A Laity, Non-fiction, Punk Noir Magazine, Writing

can you ever forgive m 1

Behind the terrific 2018 film is the slim volume penned by serial forger/biographer Lee Israel. Memoirs of a Literary Forger fascinates not only for its insight into how Israel managed to pull off not one but two iterations of forgeries, but also for the evident joy the process brought. She found great pleasure in channeling the minds of great correspondents like Dorothy Parker, Edna Ferber, Louise Brooks and Noël Coward, capturing their individual styles with considerable success.

Hundreds of letters: all produced in her ‘perilously held studio apartment in the shadow of Zabar’s on New York’s Upper West Side.’ A first flush of success with the biographies Miss Tallulah Bankhead and Kilgallen gave Israel a misapprehension about how easy this writing lark would be. It probably didn’t help that, as she confessed, ‘I was imprudent with money and Dionysian to the quick.’

She had trouble getting started on a third project, abandoning a few misstarts before embarking on a ‘warts-and-all’ biography of cosmetics queen Estée Lauder for a five-figure advance (those were the days, eh?). Via the notorious Roy Cohn, Israel received a counteroffer from Lauder to drop the project: $60,000. It would have been enough to take care of outstanding debts and put her back on easy street.

She turned it down: she blamed the influence of Gregory Peck movies, giving her a conscious. That didn’t last long: the book—rushed to print, hastily written—was pipped to the post by Lauder’s own volume and tanked. Within three years she was in danger of losing everything.

Stopgap employment went poorly. It didn’t help that Israel had a freelancer’s dislike of tedious labour or kowtowing to people who thought they were more important. There may have been some anger management issues and alcohol abuse, too. Banned from the Strand where she had been selling off her books, things were desperate indeed.

can you ever forgive me 2While casting about for a possible topic to get her back on top, Israel opened a box at the Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center to discover an unexpected cache of Fanny Brice letters. Thinking of the Katharine Hepburn letter she had recently sold in desperation and worrying about her cat Doris’ needed tests, she stole three of the letters. 

To sell them, she needed to explain how she got them: Cousin Sidney, ‘an independently wealthy and well-connected world traveler always with a carnation in his lapel’ who of course corresponded with the glitterati. The letters would have sold even without Cousin Sidney, but his creation speaks volumes about the real appeal of the grift beyond just the need for cash: the fiction.

The glorious delight of the fictions is really what sustained Israel through her criminal career, and probably why she seems somewhat less than fully contrite about the business. There was no way it was going to last; she just wasn’t interested enough in the technical side of faking the letters. The joy came from inhabiting these witty, fascinating, larger-than-life people. By her own admission, Israel was a real introvert, bordering on hermetic. She got a thrill from living vicariously in their (mostly past) lives of glamour. Israel even plundered her own store: a letter from Lillian Hellman refusing an interview for her Tallulah bio became fodder for a dozen fakes. ‘She was a difficult woman: happily, her signature was easy.’ 

can you ever forgive me 3

A more timid soul would have given up when the first suspicions arose. Israel instead got a partner, Jack Hock: ‘despite a touch of wayward charm, he was a grifter at heart.’ He had even optioned her second book for a film with borrowed cash, continuing to try to make a deal even after the option had expired.

Part two involved Jack charming buyers whilst Lee continued her forger’s art with a twist: leaving the fakes in the libraries and selling the unimpeachable originals. It’s all doomed to failure but there’s a certain joy in her telling that makes it plain that beyond the mere fact of the money the life of the grift has a thrill of its own. In the film Melissa McCarthy softens some of Israel’s abrasiveness yet maintains her singularity. Of course Richard E. Grant gives jaunty life to the character of Jack, whose reality is much sadder and far less charming than his spin. But this slim volume is well worth a read, not only for her account of the brief criminal life, but for the letters which shine.

 

Giri/Haji – so good it’s criminal … by Tess Makovesky

Crime Fiction, Giri/Haji, International Noir, Punk Noir Magazine, Televison., Tess Makovesky

This has to have been one of the best crime series on TV in years – probably (in my less-than-humble-opinion) since the first series of Broadchurch. It had everything. Great storyline, intriguing cross-cultural stuff, warm and believable characters, excitement (sometimes almost too much so!), lots of noir touches, and, for once, a decent ending.

It centred around the two Japanese Mori brothers: Kenzo, a cop, and Yuto, who’d got sucked into the thuggish world of the Yakuza. The interplay between the two, as Yuto descended ever deeper into his world of crime and Kenzo battled to protect him, felt incredibly real – a great insight into family tensions under dramatic circumstances. And I loved that the family name, while probably quite common in Japan, is also the Latin for death… Not a coincidence, I’d imagine, given the subject matter.

I loved pretty much all the characters, even the ones who were supposed to be baddies. All of them were basically nice people underneath – sometimes even the baddies – but all them were flawed – including the goodies. In other words, they felt like real people. Particular stars were the Mori brothers, Kenzo’s rebellious daughter Taki, his doughty mother (who came into her own later on in the series), British police officer Sarah (Kenzo’s love interest but also so much more), and the wonderful Rodney, a gay Anglo-Japanese drug addict who affected the storyline in many different ways. But really, every single character played their part and it’s hard to imagine the series without any of them.

There was obviously a lot of violence, some of it pretty extreme (the gun battle in Soho felt a tad overdone) but there was also some nice humour: dry wit from the Japanese characters; flamboyant comedy from Rodney.

The ending was remarkably solid, tying up almost all of the loose ends (apart from the fate of Taki’s girlfriend Annie). Personally I wasn’t keen on the sudden rooftop contemporary ballet scene, which went on for too long and seemed to have little to do with the storyline, but I’ve been told it may have been a nod to Japanese art/culture, in which case I’ll do my best to forgive it. Other nods included the lovely ‘previously on’ segment that preceded the opening titles each week, done in a deliberately Japanese style. I don’t know enough about Japanese art to identify what it was, but it looked and sounded beautiful and suited the mood of the series really well.

I haven’t heard if there are going to be any sequels. The ending was left just open enough to allow for another series involving Kenzo and Sarah… and apparently fans are also calling for a Rodney spin-off. He was such an engaging character that if it was done well, it could be terrific. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

girihaji

Jenny Drank St. Germain by John Greiner

Flash Fiction, International Noir, John Greiner, Punk Noir Magazine, Short Stories

Jenny drank St. Germain under orders from The Clapper. He was a second rate hypnotist, but Jenny’s insurance wasn’t so hot, so she had to take what she could afford. He told her that it would be good for her complexion. Jenny had been a pimply kid, but that was ages ago when all kids were pimply and dermatologists were hard to find. Jenny had searched for the Holy Grail, hitting all of the obvious places in the Holy Land that had been hit over the centuries hoping to come across the stone that had been left unturned. The crusaders were a barbarous bunch, showing no concern for other people’s housekeeping. All stones had been turned and tossed to the side at least eight hundred years ago. There was no way to get around it, Jenny’s life had been a disappointment and she was quick to let you know it when she was on the St. Germain. The fact that her face was breaking out, long after the age of puberty had passed, was the last kick in the teeth that she was going to take. She didn’t give a damn about the Holy Grail, or even the True Cross anymore. She had done what she had to do and it had gotten her nowhere better than here. Jenny drank her St. Germain, showing no concern for the house that was burning down the road. She was glad that everyone was quiet inside.

John Greiner is a writer living in Queens, NY.  He was educated at the New School for Social Research.  Greiner’s work has appeared in Sand Journal, Empty Mirror, Sensitive Skin, Unarmed, Street Value and numerous other magazines. His books of poetry include Turnstile Burlesque (Crisis Chronicles Press) and Bodega Roses (Good Cop/Bad Cop Press).  His collaborative work with photographer Carrie Crow has appeared at the Tate Liverpool, the Queens Museum and in galleries in New York, Los Angeles, Venice, Paris, Berlin and Hamburg.

JohnGreiner_HighRes