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

Neon Primitives by Band Of Holy Joy

Band Of Holy Joy, International Noir, Music, post punk, Punk Noir Magazine
neon primitives
NEON PRIMATIVES is last part of a thematic trilogy which began with the 10″ Brutalism Begins At Home and continued with 2017’s Funambulist We Love You.
Credits
Johny Brown – vocals
Mark Beazley – bass guitar, backing vocals
James Stephen Finn – guitars, piano, backing vocals
Peter Smith – organ, synthesizers, backing vocals
Inga Tillere – visuals, collage, cover design

Produced by Band Of Holy Joy and Brian O’Shaunghessy
Executive Producer John Henderson
Recorded by Brian O’Shaunghessy at Bark Studio, London
Mixed by Mark Beazley and James Stephen Finn at Trace Recordings, London
Mastered by Stuart Moxham

Tiny Global Productions, 2019
www.bandofholyjoy.co.uk

Margin walkers and midnight drifters, Band of Holy Joy have wandered liminal landscapes of their own making for 3 decades now. The weirdness and wildness of the landscape they stagger through, the askew vision like a crash between Coleridge, Brecht and David Peace, the literary allusions and poetry, the strangeness of it all. A cultural piracy raiding doomed melancholy and gentrified mediocrity.
Band Of Holy Joy

Dark Cloud In A Silver Lining by Judge Santiago Burdon

International Noir, Judge Santiago Burdon, Punk Noir Magazine, Short Stories

The weekend, especially Friday night, I revere as a weekly religious event. Worshiping at the local taverns with an ass-kicking band playing rock n roll hymns and a cold libation to toast to whatever the hell I want.

 

I’m not the type to drink myself into a stupor. Getting drunk is a waste of an evening as well as the next morning nursing a hangover. I prefer to get dimly lit, just enough to engage in social interaction without displaying tendencies of an asshole. Scotch is my social lubricant with a few lines of cocaine; they always serve as a perfect duo.

 

It was an hour before my date was picking me up. Yes she was picking me up and there’s nothing wrong with that. Some women find it rather sexy. There had been a couple of incidents that had caused my driver’s license to be suspended, so she’s kindly volunteered to be my chauffeur for the evening. Besides, it’s a pleasure to be driven around without the fear of being pulled over for once.

 

I decided to hit the shower while my clothes were in the dryer. I had been neglecting my manscaping for quite some time, and with Bethany a sure thing, it was time to take action. Far from a professional at this activity, I decide to proceed.

 

My tools consist of a large pair of scissors and a Bic triple-edge razor.

 

There was a time when the more hair a man had on his legs, chest, and around the one-eyed monster, this was considered a sign of masculinity. Nowadays, many of these “men” shaved themselves smooth, with some even choosing the painful method of hot waxing.

 

The water pressure is blasting from the shower head with such force it actually stings. I am cutting the longer hair around my pubic area with scissors to shorten it, prepping to finish off with the razor.

 

I rest my foot upon the rim of the tub, providing a better view of my groin area. The conditioner in my hair begins running down, coating my body with its slickness. As I  attempt to snip a patch of hair from my right testicle, my foot suddenly slips, causing me to tumble into the tub.

 

Instantly I notice a large ribbon of blood streaming out from underneath me. Even as I sprawl across the bottom of the tub, I’m  still holding the scissors in hand.

 

I don’t believe I’ve stabbed myself as I search my body for wounds. Slowly crawling to my feet, it is then that I notice the stream of blood trickling down my right leg.

 

Taking a closer look, I finally discover my self-inflicted wound and what appears to be a large macadamia nut hanging from my scrotum.

 

“Son of a bitch!” I scream. “I cut my balls off!”

 

I quickly tuck the round white gonad back into its sack, pinching it closed in an effort to stop the bleeding. Should I go to the hospital emergency room? The pain increases and the bleeding continues.

 

Damn, if I go to the ER, it’ll sure be embarrassing to explain how this happened… Sweet Jesus, what am I  going to tell Bethany?

 

And then, as if right on cue, the door bell rings. Surely it’s Bethany, arriving early as she always does.

 

“Hey Beth, come on in, the door is unlocked,” I call out to her. “I’m in my bedroom in back. Please hurry!”

 

“What’s going on baby? Where is all the blood coming from?” she asks. “Did you get shot, Santi?”

 

“I can only wish I had been shot… I’d gladly face that type of injury rather than this!”

 

“Tell me what happened? I can’t help if I don’t know what’s wrong.”

 

“I cut my ballsack while shaving in the shower. My foot slipped and the scissors snipped right through. I saw my gonad hanging out, Beth.”

 

She moves in closer to get a better view. I lift the towel to show her, noticing the bleeding still hasn’t stopped.

 

“Oh Santi, you poor thing! I think you should go to the emergency room.”

 

She tries to keep a serious face, but the humorous implication of the incident wins out and she begins laughing, apologizing between chuckles.

 

“Ha ha,” I say, “absolutely hilarious, I’m sure…”

 

“Come on, let’s get you dressed and we’ll get you to the ER. Sound good babe?”

 

“Let’s go.”

 

A woman in control of a situation that demands immediate attention is a real turn on. Bethany is a take-charge kind of girl. Besides being an incredibly gorgeous woman, she’s intelligent as well as responsible.

 

Why I’m not completely taken by her loveliness is beyond me. Then again, maybe I am in love with her and it’s the reason I don’t commit to a relationship. It would end with me ruining her innocent nature and destroying her already fragile belief in love. It is better we are an occasional couple. I adore her too much to cause her emotional distress that would most likely manifest into her hating me eventually.

 

Women I’ve been associated with are drawn to me for only one reason, I’m a novelty. A novelty similar to those sold at your local joke store. You’re familiar with what I’m referring to: Black gum, sneeze powder, Chinese finger cuffs, the hand buzzer and the famous fart pillow. Like the fart pillow’s humor quickly fades, the novelty in my personality becomes a mundane routine no longer entertaining. Eventually this leads to a complete state of disbelief with her questioning how she ended up with a man like me.

 

Meanwhile, Bethany is speeding like a possessed NASCAR driver, weaving in and out of traffic, running red lights and beeping her horn in short rapid bursts. I’m terrified, but impressed with this talent she has kept hidden from me all this time.

 

“Take it easy there, Earnhardt,” I tell her, wincing with pain. “It’s not worth getting in an accident baby!”

 

Now if I were driving, I would have been pulled over for speeding, or not using my turn signal. She, on the other hand, has somehow managed to avoid the police, and the other motorists on the road even courteously let her cut them off from lane to lane.

 

We arrive with a screeching halt as Bethany slams on the breaks, coming to a stop just outside the ER entrance. She turns to me, smiles, then giggles like a schoolgirl.

 

Our exhibition draws the attention of the attendants inside and they respond by rushing out to the car. In the hopes of getting faster treatment, I act as though my injury is much more serious than it actually is. I groan like I’ve been gravely injured as they drag me from the passenger’s seat.

 

A male attendant brings a wheelchair, then he and another lift me into it. My jeans are soaked through with blood at the crotch. I’m dripping red droplets on the pristine white tile floor as I’m wheeled to the nurse at the triage desk.

 

“What do we have here dear?” she asks. “How long have you been bleeding like this? What happened?”

 

“I accidentally cut my scrotum and now my gonad is hanging out…” I mumble in reply.

 

“Speak up hon, I can’t hear what your saying. You cut your stomach? Is that what you said?”

 

“No no no, I cut my scrotum,” I repeat, a little louder this time as I lean in closer.

 

And then, my secret revealed, the nurse repeats exactly what I’d just told her in a loud, boisterous voice for all within earshot to hear.

 

“Did you say you cut your scrotum and your gonads?! How in the Lord’s name did you manage to do that?!”

 

Just as I expected, laughter erupts from those seated in the waiting area. Patients, attendants, and nurses alike erupt into barely contained hysterics at my expense.

 

“Darling, do you want to explain the circumstances surrounding your injury?”

 

“No, not here I don’t!”

 

“Okay then, let’s get you to an examination room and evaluate the laceration and you can explain to the doctor. Would that be better?”

 

Bethany is standing behind me, rubbing my shoulders reassuringly as she offers up her own take on my near castration.

 

“He’s a bit embarrassed about the accident and would rather not share it with everyone, if you know what I mean? It’s something that I think most folks wouldn’t understand.”

 

Suddenly she starts laughing as well, which sets off a chain reaction of others laughing along with her.

 

“Thanks for your moral support, Beth,” I whisper to her as we’re led into the room. “You sure helped keep me from being humiliated back there.”

 

“Sorry Santi, but you’ll find the humor in this someday and laugh your ass off, too. Oh baby did I hurt your feelings? You’ll forgive me later when I get you home.”

 

“Is this your wife, Mr. Santiago?” a nurse asks.

 

“No! And with the black marks she’s accumulating, there’s little to no chance she will be in the future!”

 

“Were you going to propose to me tonight Santi?” she squeals excitedly. “Were you?”

 

“Only family allowed in examination rooms, I’m afraid.”

 

“But I request her presence,” I grudgingly admit. “I prefer she stays. I need the company.”

 

“Alright,” the nurse sighs, “I guess we can make an exception…”

 

It is then that the doctor arrives, prepared to assess the damage.

 

“Okay, let me have a look at this laceration,” he says as he snaps on gloves. “I’m Doctor Sullivan. You want to explain how this happened?”

 

“Not really,” I tell him truthfully. “Let’s just say scissors should never come in close proximity to one’s genitalia.”

 

“Amen!” he says. “Doing some manscaping, were ya? In the future, you might want to look into using an electric razor instead. Somewhat less dangerous.”

 

“Yes baby,” Bethany says, “that way we won’t have to spend our Friday night in the ER. What if we decide to have children and you end up with a home-done vasectomy? I wanna have babies honey.”

 

“Are you for real?” I shoot back at her. “What in the hell are you even talking about? How could you take care of a baby? Your houseplants died, your cat went missing, your goldfish went belly up, and now you want a baby?”

 

“Okay,” Doctor Sullivan says, “we’ll get some stitches in there and get you and the Mrs. on your way. I’ll get you good and numbed up to dull the pain. I’ll write you a prescription for some Vicodin. Luckily, you didn’t cause any major damage to the family jewels, so I think you two should be able to have a houseful of ankle biters.”

 

He exits the room and I hear laughter echoing throughout the hallway outside. I’m sure they’re not laughing with me, but at me, because I have still yet to find any humor in this situation.

 

I turn back to Bethany and she’s crying.

 

“What the hell is wrong with you? Feeling guilty about your earlier antics?”

 

“You’re a real son of a bitch, you know that? What an insensitive thing to say… Bad enough telling me I wouldn’t be a good mother, but you said it in front of the doctor and everything! Where are your manners?”

 

“My mother is a wonderful woman, so don’t refer to her as a bitch. There is no reason to bring her into this twisted event. Also I’m truly sorry for making such an insensitive remark. Undeservingly, I directed  my frustration at you. Please forgive me…”

 

She walks over and kisses me softly on the head. The kind of kiss that reaches deep down and touches your soul. She then slaps my face playfully and smiles.

 

“You’ll make a wonderful mother, without a doubt.”

 

Finally, I get my stitches along with my Vicodin, and we start the drive back home.

 

“Hey Bethany, I’m feeling much better now,” I tell her along the way. “Let’s make a quick pit stop at the house so I can change my clothes, and I’ll take you out for a superb dinner. Then, after, we’ll grab a couple of cocktails and see some live music. I owe it to you baby, you deserve a decent night out. What do you say?”

 

“That would be nice honeybun, but can I pick the restaurant? And we’re not going to the Saxon Pub to see all your old girlfriends. Is that okay?”

 

After dinner, we wind up at the Continental Club in SoCo Austin, a decision of hers I am pleased with. I must confess, however, part of my passive disposition is due to the Vicodin I’d popped earlier, washed down with the bottle of  Merlot we’d shared at dinner.

 

Bethany has adopted a warm glow about her with an affectionate display of touching, kissing, and holding hands. She took a Vicodin as well, drank her fair share of wine, and we’d sparked a joint before dinner and finished it on the way to the club.

 

The place is jammed with University of Texas students yelling and acting out with immature obviousness.

 

Just the way I like it. Everyone enjoying themselves, the music screaming with the incentive to dance or just tap your foot. A close acquaintance of mine, Rusty Weir, is playing accompanied by Sean Shark Waterson on harmonica.

 

I’ve started walking with a slight limp due to my accident, which I have finally begun to view humorously now that I’m high.

 

“Baby, I’ve gotta pee,” Bethany says. “See if you can find us a table? I hope the line for the bathroom isn’t too long…”

 

She kisses me on the cheek and gives me a pat on my ass before walking off. I respond with a smile and give a thumbs up to acknowledge her request.

 

As I search for a table, there at the end of the bar I notice an old flame, one that still flickered in my memory. ‘Ravishing Rachael’ is the flower you so want to pick and make your own, but her beauty comes with some thorns.

 

She walks up to me with the confidence of the jaguar she is, puts her arms around me, and acts as though she is going to kiss my lips before pulling away. She giggles and twirls a strand of her long, curly black mane, biting her lower lip.

 

“Santiago,” she says, “where the hell have you been keeping yourself? Mexico, Guatemala, Jail? I’ve missed you. You never call and you change your number every other week. Why don’t answer your email?”

 

Now, Rachael is the most enthusiastic person to party with I have ever known. Also, she is a goddess in bed with an intimate way about her and an anything-goes attitude. She’s also bisexual, and whenever we’d go out together, she would just point at another woman in the bar. She’d then ask if I approved and recruit her to participate in a threesome. I’d  never heard her sales pitch myself, but there were only three occasions in my memory where it ever failed.

 

“It’s nice to see you, Rachael. I’ve been busy with this and that. Is your number the same? Are you still living in the apartment off of McNeal? I promise to give you a call. I’m with someone tonight, and I’m quite certain she’s not a three-on-the-mattress type.”

 

“So you’re dumping me already? Damn, hello and goodbye all in one breath. And why are you walking with a limp? Too much working out in bed?”

 

“No, I nearly cut my balls off while manscaping with some scissors earlier. Had to get stitches and everything. I just got out of the ER a couple of hours ago.”

 

Of course, she immediately begins laughing.

 

“Oh my God, that is definitely something that could only happen to you, Santi. Another  crazy experience to add to your list. Let me see! I wanna see…”

 

“What? I’m not dropping my pants right here in front of the whole bar.”

 

I could have just responded with a “no”, but no, I just had to go and encourage her curiosity.

 

“Come on, we’ll go into a stall in the restroom. Please, Santi, let me see! I wanna see your stitches. What a great pickup line! Wanna see my stitches, baby?”

 

“Okay, but let’s make it quick. Bethany, my companion, will be back soon.”

 

“You can’t do it, can you? You’re just unable to call her your date? Still hung up on the whole commitment thing, huh?”

 

The bathroom was relatively vacant with just a few guys draining their snakes. An empty stall was available and we quickly ducked in. Rachael shut the door behind us and locked it.

 

“Hey man, this is the men’s room,” someone comments. “Girls aren’t suppose to be in here, it’s against the law.”

 

“Are you for real, Mr. Bathroom Policeman?” I comment back. “I need her to assist me in changing my ostomy Bag. Does that fucking satisfy your curiosity?”

 

Stepping up on top of the toilet seat, I undo my pants and Rachael fishes out my balls, which are still wrapped in gauze.

 

“Baby take it easy, don’t pull so hard! Can you see now? Move the bandage to the side…”

 

“Ouch! Santi, that must’ve hurt and scared the hell out of you.”

 

A strong pounding on the stall door startles me.

 

“Open this door immediately. “

 

Racheal quickly complies and the door swings open, revealing me standing on top of the toilet my pants around my ankles and Rachael’s mouth at my crotch level.

 

“We don’t approve of this type of shit going on in here,” the bouncer informs us. “This is a goddamn public restroom, and we can’t allow this kind of thing to be happening. Understand?”

 

He was a large fellow, fitting the common description of one in his line of work. Crew cut, musclebound, his blazer testing the strength of its buttons. Sweat droplets on his upper lip and brow. His shoes are unpolished and he has a baby face he’ll most likely never outgrow.

 

“Please, Sir,” I try to explain while pulling up my pants, “this is not as it appears!”

 

“Get down from there before you get hurt. You’re both going to have to leave.”

 

“You can’t throw us out without at least hearing me out! I had an operation earlier today, and all she was doing was assisting me with my bandages. I swear that’s the God’s honest truth! It wasn’t what you think, so how about a pass? Whadaya say, big guy?”

 

“I understand, bud, but you brought her in here and that’s a definite No-No. I’ve gotta go by the rules. I’m sorry. Come on, let’s move it.”

 

Meanwhile, the crowd in the bathroom has grown into a small mob of people with curious looks on their faces. Some expressing comments, some laughing.

 

“I guess that guy was getting a blowjob in the bathroom stall…” I heard someone say.

 

“He was snorting coke with that babe in here…” said another.

 

We’re escorted out by two bouncer bookends acting as though we’d committed a felony.

 

“Can I at least inform my female friend,” I plead, “so she won’t think I abandoned  her, please?”

 

“Never a boring moment when I’m with you, Santi,” Rachael jokes.

 

“I have to find Bethany… I’m not going to have her think I deserted her.”

 

They lead Rachael to her table to retrieve her purse and jacket. She turns and blows me a kiss. I scan the crowd searching for Bethany, but it’s dark and difficult to identify her.

 

“Bethany! Bethany!” I scream over the noise of the crowd. “I have to go! Come outside, Bethany!”

 

“I’m right behind you, Santi!”

 

I hear her voice singing in my ear from over my shoulder. I turn around to begin my opening statement, immediately laying out my defense. As I start to speak she raises her hand, signaling me to stop. She turns and I follow her out.

 

We reach the exit, but before we can leave, the crowd starts applauding and cheering. I go to wave at my newfound fanbase but Bethany swiftly grabs my arm, holding it down.

 

“Don’t you dare!” she snaps.

 

“Oh, don’t be upset,” I tell her. “You’ll find the humor in this someday and laugh your own ass off!”

 

Sweet revenge.

 

“I hardly think so!” she fires back. “We’ll discuss this back at home. You have an enormous amount of ass kissing to do. You know what you are, Santi? You’re a disaster looking for a place to happen.”

 

“Personally, I prefer ‘the company that misery enjoys’. Or ‘the black cloud in every silver  lining’. My mother’s favorite.”

 

“Those too!” she spits in fury, seconding the motion.

 

The drive home is draped in silence, punctuated only by accusatory daggers from Bethany’s angry eyes.

 

The whole while, I’m thinking how lucky I am to still have both my testicles.

Biography

On an unseasonably cool July morning in Chicago, equivalent to David Copperfield, Judge Burdon was born on a Friday.  The Brontes, Keats, Burns and Dickens inspired his study of English Literature. He attended Universities in the United States, London and Paris directing his focus on Victorian novels and authors.

His short stories and poems have been featured in; The Remnant Leaf, Stay Weird  and Keep Writing, Independent Writer’s Podcast, Spillwords, The Beatnik Cowboy, Down in the Dirt Magazine, The Raven Cage, Eskimo Pie, Across The Margin, Story Pub, Scarlet Leaf Review, Horror Sleaze Trash, The Stray Branch and others.

Judge’s first book “Stray Dogs and Deuces Wild” was recently published . He is presently engaged in finishing his novel “Imitation of Myself.” A non-fiction story encompassing his experiences as a drug runner for a Mexican Cartel. Judge celebrated his 66th birthday last July and lives modestly in Costa Rica.

judge

Why I don’t remember my Aunt Letty by E F Fluff

E F Fluff, Fiction, International Noir, Non-fiction, Punk Noir Magazine, Short Stories

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I was seven or eight when my parent told me I was adopted.

It happened over dinner.

“Yeah”

Flippant, I was initially too worried whether there would be enough gravy for me to make my potato swamp. It wasn’t a big deal – I think I’d always known – like I’d always known I was a girl. The conversation over dinner was just a gentle confirmation of what I’d always known. Initially, it just didn’t seem to matter, I had parents a family who loved me, a little over protective maybe, but a family.

I played piano, danced and sang. I enjoyed my childhood. My father used to sing Leadbelly songs to me in English in Polish. He had a very deep voice and though he didn’t always remember the words, he would always come up with good ones as he went along.

 

I was sixteen when I realized my father didn’t know all the real lyrics to Leadbelly songs he’d sing.

I had started to drink in the city; the bars I went to were drenched in sea shanties and the blues. It never bothered me; I think perhaps his lyrics with chorus were better.

 

My parents had moved to Canada by Sweden back in 1973. It was perhaps easier for them as both my father and mother had family there from before the war. A bit older maybe and unable to have children they adopted me in 1985.

 

I don’t think I gave it, or them or her much thought until I was fourteen or fifteen. Passing wonders, worries – the sort you get. If they’re okay – if they know I’m okay. Why…

That type of thing.

 

My Amother, not my Bmother, had a sister called Letty. It was short for Letitia and had been the name of her mother’s best friend before the war. My mother and her sister were close; they knew each other like bald horses, as you might say,

 

I don’t remember my Aunt Letty.

I have tried.

The memories feel as if they are there.

They just won’t come.

 

My mother would always remark, “You banged your head a lot when you were little.” As if that was it.

 

It is one of those things – you say “I can’t quite describe it” before you try and describe it. When written it infuriates people, when spoken it confuses and sits like a road mark that you will talk for a long time and probably about the same thing but different but same.

 

Maybe you have that too. Memories that sit like they are behind a garden wall in your mind – perhaps with some degree of fog – you are aware they are there. But you cannot reach them. Occasionally, your brain your memory echoes with the hints of what is there. Partially remembered sounds and the recognition of scents that when followed the mnemonic path lead only to…blank.

A heavy frowned frontal lobe – a sort of frustrated congestion.

 

My mother would tell me stories about my Aunt Letty. Sometimes my father would join in. But it was mostly my mother was always telling me stories about Letty. It was as if she was still a member of the family that’d gone on holiday and we could expect her back any minute now. Smiling, laughing, with new stories and presents for everybody.

 

Some of the stories would be about their time as bald horses. From the little mischief as children to teenage trouble. She’d tell me what horrors they were – the intricate ways they would make to steal – mostly food I think and mostly from their grandmother and relatives – people in their block of flats.

Mushrooms were often the subject – often my mother would say,

“If you ask – if I have memory of my youth – I tell you, mushrooms. I remember mushrooms. Picking mushrooms, preparing mushrooms, eating mushrooms. My father was a park ranger and between him and my mother, they knew everything you could eat in the forest and the field. My favourite was mushrooms.”

 

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When I was younger it would really upset me that I couldn’t remember my Aunt Letty and I would ask my mother if she was sure I really met Letty, if she was not confusing people and things. She would always reassure me, yes, yes we’d met. Letty knew me, loved me, I’d just bumped my head a lot when I was small.

 

Perhaps it was their age – but as I got older my parents grew very protective and very controlling. I think, maybe they were too old to have a child. They loved me, but sometimes, I don’t know. I find it very difficult to see them and now stay as far from them now as I can. My father lapses through worry and control of me and my situation to being depressed – it is a hard wall depression – I think just, that of age. Sometimes he tries not to be, but still is, sometimes he is and I try to lift him from it. Rarely – he just isn’t.

 

Letty used to wear trousers; Letty had a tape of a tape of a tape of ‘After the Gold Rush’ that a cousin had smuggled her. Her favourite song was ‘Southern Man’ but she and my mother sang ‘After the Gold Rush’ best. And once at Christmas while preparing the twelve dishes they made their uncles cry and they didn’t even know – they were just singing and cooking.

It is funny, because as my mother would tell, their uncles barely spoke two words of English between the four of them.

 

When I was very young, Letty used to pick me up and swirl and spin, singing ‘Southern Man’ to me. They tell me I used to laugh so hard sometimes I’d get sick and start crying and keep laughing. Though I don’t remember – I like to look at her picture now and imagine. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much since and I often don’t think it’s fair that I can’t remember something so happy. But, my mother tells me I knocked my head too much, makes sense.

 

When I think about it, I’m not sure I want my own children. I love teaching them, I just don’t know if I want my own. I am terrified of getting pregnant. I used to be scared of a lot of things – I spent a lot of time on my own. I think it comes from my parents. They were so controlling, so protective – I think it made me scared.

I’d just read a lot and spend time with my cat. I still read a lot, but my cat is dead. That cat anyway, I do have a new one, he is nice but not the same. I thought a lot, about what scared me and what made me anxious. Sometimes I think some of my nervousness comes maybe from not being able to remember Aunt Letty. Then I think of how protective my parents got. I don’t know what they thought, though now I think I spent too much thinking. It took me a long time to be brave. Now I do what I want.

I tried to be vegan for a few years – but it is too tiring in Poland. My Aunt Letty was strong – my mother used to tell me about how she never wanted a husband but didn’t mind having a man.

Often she would use this as an excuse to sing ‘Southern Man’. There are some things my parents used to cook that I can’t even smell anymore like meatballs and pork chops. All the heavy traditional food, also I hate cucumber soup.

 

I never wanted to be married – I was afraid of losing my independence. I think that was one part of being afraid. Maybe I wanted to be like Letty so much I was scared to be anything. It would be easier if I could remember her. I think asking him to marry me was a step in moving past the fear and anxiety and worrying about what people would think or thought of me.

Asking him was a good break from that, from them from worrying what people thought. Though we did it in secret, so my parents wouldn’t find out, so I didn’t have to invite them, so it could just be about us. What is it about anyway if not just the two of you? Polish weddings are good, yes you have fun, but it is exhausting and it is like – you are there performing for your friends because they’ll give you gifts and money. Who needs that?

 

One time, one of the priests from our area – he was very friendly, mostly with the girls though. He organised trips and had practices in his house. He organised a ski trip for us and we had after school classes with him at his house. He was very friendly – you don’t understand then I think, older yeah it’s weird, then it is just someone being friendly and one of my friends was flirty, she was attractive and I don’t think she understood what she was doing and she wanted me to go with her.

When my father found out – he said I was not to go to the priest anymore, he was angry and he went to speak with the priest. I never went to the priest’s house again.

When my parents told Aunt Letty, she was so angry she went to talk to the priest. She had my father drive her to the priest that night. They don’t know what she said, but the priest was not long in our area after that. That’s just Aunt Letty, my mother would say, it’s a pity you don’t remember her. Yeah I’d say, a pity I banged my head so much when I was small.

 

I don’t know about my childhood sometimes. I think sometimes I’d like brothers and sisters that I could ask what happened because I think for my young bit, I don’t remember things right. I think I have great ability to remember things happily and I don’t think this is always a good skill.

Though I’m not sure it’s a real skill or if I just tell myself I have it when I’m thinking. Aunt Letty always looked on the positive side of things, she never seemed to let worry drag her ankles. It was very difficult to be down or stressed around her, but don’t mistake, she could still be a hard woman. She got what she wanted, fought for it too, stole it if she couldn’t win it by fighting. All the time she used to tell me all these things when I’d sit in her lap – poking my belly to make a point – I don’t remember now, banged my head too much they tell me, but they do tell me she did it.

 

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When I was younger, in my teens it began, I used to worry more about my Bmother than I did when I was a child it was just wonderings. As I grew I would think adult worries and worry them for her, as I learnt more I added more worries to her. I thought maybe she was poor, maybe she had been sick – many worries. I wouldn’t always do this, just now and again.

In my twenties – I would wonder if she was okay – I would wonder what she thought. I would worry that she worried about me.

 

I wanted to let her know I was okay.

That it all turned out okay.

That I’d turned out okay.

That – everything was okay.

In the hope that perhaps she wouldn’t worry anymore.

That is, if she was worrying – which I felt a little bit that she was.

 

I looked for her.

When I had my chance – when I wasn’t afraid.

I think it is what Letty would have done.

It was difficult and my parents were not very helpful in the beginning.

They told me where or how they got me.

It took quite some time and many meetings to get everything okayed and with the changes in the systems even then the papers were partially lost or hard to trace.

 

I was directed to the place – school or home.

I visited a lot. While they tried to find the papers – I even tried to help while I was there – I – when I was there, it was, orphanage is the name, yes – it was an orphanage.

It was very hard.

They had women there, waiting to give birth, waiting to give their children over. The women in charge told me some of them were there for their sixth or seventh child in a row.

 

It didn’t matter what they said – they refused everything, sterilisation contraception anything. Many of them were very religious. Many didn’t seem to know better.

It was very hard.

I try help them, the staff, the -. Just small amounts.

As I went. Always visiting to try and find her.

I remember seeing the children first time. There were many in the room, all in enclosed beds. The smell, it was – they’d try get your attention. Anyway they could. The only way they could.

Some would cry with their arms out.

Others would stand or sit and bang and knock and bump their head against the bars of their cot bed.

They knew…

if they banged and knocked their heads, they’d get picked up.

So they did – over and over.

Banging banging knocking knocking, crying.

Just to be picked up, only to be picked up.

They knew you see.

They knew and I think they’d always known and they did what they needed to, to get picked. Up or I don’t know, just picked.

Just horrible.

I never went back.

I gave up.

I’m happy though.

I still think about her sometimes.

But it’s too hard. To keep looking.

To go back.

I still think about Letty too and how I don’t remember her.

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