Dark Cloud In A Silver Lining by Judge Santiago Burdon

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

Don’t Call Me Thunder Slut by Judge Santiago Burdon

After three hours of shaking every proverbial tree, checking bars, searching alleys and breezeways for my dealer I had to settle on scoring my wake-up hit from the Chinos. I am not comfortable in their barrio especially when I’m “Jonesing”. I’m not familiar with the territory and I risk getting ripped off. Their “heir-on” is always top shelf but they charge more and their papers are small. You gotta do what you gotta do to feed the monkey. My man is M.I.A. and I owe him twelve dollars from the shit he gave me on the arm last night. Saves me from the humiliation of having to beg. As if I had any pride left in my pathetic character. Scraped away like the  charred part on a piece of burnt toast.

I head back toward my digs at a quick pace so I won’t be sidetracked by anyone. The strategy proves ineffective and I’m confronted by every Junkie in the  neighborhood. It’s as though every dope fiend I’ve ever been associated with is on the look, all asking me the same questions. “Where’s the Dope Man? Can ya spare a bump, I’m Jonesin’ bad. Getting sick, man help me out.”

I answer in a desperate an apologetic voice.  “I couldn’t find the man. No hay, got nothing, I’m looking. I don’t have any cash, trying to get a front.”

They know I’m lying but don’t challenge my integrity.  Integrity, what a laugh, another moral standard of ethical behavior I seem to have pissed away. Did I choose this addiction or did the addiction choose me? I planned on just experimenting with Heroin but somewhere the

procedure went horribly wrong. It’s the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. High syndrome. Intended to only pawn my soul but the pawn ticket was lost and my time ran out. 

I don’t give a shit about these addicts . These are the streets, the rule here is to cover your own ass. It’s not my job to coddle these junkies. I’m not responsible for their habit.

I’m holding and still have seven dollars left to buy a tall boy and some “loosies.”

The entrance to my pad is littered with crackheads pushing their pipes made from stolen aluminum car antennas. Their tecolote (owl) eyes stare at images only visible to them, sweating profusely in the morning chill. They move aside letting me pass, trying to speak but the words come out garbled.

I start the frantic search for my key to unlock the door. In desperation I  turn the door knob and the door opens.

Son of a bitch I didn’t lock the door? I mentally interrogate myself  only mouthing the words.

Surely I ‘ve been robbed and in this neighborhood they steal everything. Forks, spoons, soap, toothbrushes down to the light bulbs.

Inside I investigate and I’m relieved to discover that nothing has gone missing.

Jessica who calls herself my girlfriend is sleeping on the mattress on the living room floor. She slowly rolls over, stretches , smiles  and then farts.

“Morning baby did you score?” She asks

Now I can’t lie to her not

about that, other subjects sure, not this she’ll know if I get high.

 

“Yes Thunder Slut I certainly did just that. Jenk was a ghost I had to score from the Chinos. So I want you to know there’s not much because their papers are smaller”

“Why didn’t you get two? I want to get high shithead.

It’s always about you. You don’t give a shit about me. I’m selling my ass around town to drunks and perverted sons of bitches for twenty here thirty there all night long. And what do I do? Come home to you and give you my money while you sit around on your lazy ass the whole night getting high or drunk or something. I don’t know? And don’t call me Thunder Slut! You know I don’t like it! Pinche cabron.”

She delivers a poignant  soliloquy with a Marisa Tomei sexiness. I don’t need to hear this bullshit first thing in the morning. Then sometimes I think maybe I do. Jessica may be a prostitute and I know there’s some of you that have a derogatory view of her and others working in the world’s oldest profession. Let me take a moment to comment on the subject.

Jessica as well as those now and in the past provide a fundamental service in every society. They are what most men secretly desire and almost every man wishes his wife was in the bedroom.

They have performed more charitable acts than Mother Teresa. They don’t ask for your respect or understanding, only that you shove your snide comments and puritan opinions up your ass. And speaking for all the Angels of the Night, “Go Fuck Yourself.”

Now Jessica is a prostitute but she is defined by so much more.  She’s not comfortable with her beauty which makes her all the more beautiful. She’s the most compassionate, sincere, emotional, amazing, evil, vengeful,  psychotic creature you could ever love. So yes she’s a prostitute but she is my prostitute! Now back to damage control for a situation that I have no responsibility for causing.

“All I said was it’s small. I’m gonna share. It’ll be enough to numb the withdrawals and subdue the Jones. Also where am I going to get the coin to buy two? We can figure out how to score more this afternoon. How come the door was unlocked?”

“I must of forgot to lock it after I let the cat out. She was driving me crazy, meowing.”

“What fucking cat? We don’t have a damn cat! Are you high?”

“See that’s what I mean. You don’t pay any attention to me or this relationship. You gave me a cat two weeks ago for my birthday you shithead. Thank you for remembering and my birthday isn’t for another month. Must have me mixed up with one of your other girlfriends, Santihole.”

What the hell has happened here. I risk my life in the dangerous jungle of the city “dragging myself through the negro streets a dawn looking for an angry fix.”

I know that’s Ginsberg the master of bohemian genius. Just seemed so fitting. Ok back to the story…

There I am foraging through the neighborhood for dope to get me feeling almost normal. The sickness waits in hiding ready to bushwhack me at any moment and she is giving be misery for something I haven’t done. Of course I was going to do the whole paper myself but now I had to share. God Damn it!!

 

There’s something amiss with me today. I’m unable to focus on any particular issue and my mind wanders finding cognizant thoughts to ponder. Could it be possible that I’m sober. Is this what it’s like?

“Danger Will Robinson” most of the poor decisions I have made in my life were made while I was sober.

Listen to her still going on and on with her relentless tirade. I know where the switch is to shut her off.

“Here Diosa you take the Dope. I would rather you have it. I’m sorry that I’m so insensitive and selfish. You’re right once again, I need to exhibit more  appreciation for your sacrifices. You know how I feel about you. I’m sorry mi amor. Please forgive my callousness.”

“Oh Santiago you softie. You know how to get straight to my heart. You just made up for all your stupid ass screw ups. And we do have a cat.”

“Don’t refer to me as softie again. It’s not a particularly endearing description if ya know what I mean.”

She takes possession of the dope and heads off to the bathroom to do a hit. Her ass exposed wearing my  Barcelona Soccer jersey which I don’t appreciate but I don’t dare to mention.

Then there’s a knock at the door. Let me share a piece of wisdom. Opportunity doesn’t knock, in most instances it’s Jehovah Witnesses. Opportunity has been on vacation and hitting on your lover while you’re at home anticipating its arrival.

“Who is it?”

“Barry the manager. Everything ok in there?” he asks.

I open the door to interact to keep him from calling the cops.

“Hey Jerry what’s going on? How you been doing?”

“My name’s not Jerry.”

“Okay not Jerry. What can I do for you this morning?”

“Santiago why do we have to go through this game every time we talk?”

“Sorry Larry, I’m not good with names. There’s been times when I couldn’t remember my own name. What’s the scoop?”

“The people in the next apartment said they heard yelling and screaming coming from your place. I have to investigate and make sure everything is okay. I’ve had to come up here so many times. Can you two please stop fighting all the time? I’m getting tired of your bullshit. Next time I’m going to have to take legal action and call the police. And your rent is two weeks late again. I need the money by tomorrow afternoon or there’s gonna be a problem with the owner. Do you understand?”

“Only two weeks late? That’s good to know. I’ll see what I can do to rectify the problem. How did my neighbors tell you there was a problem? They don’t speak English and I know you don’t speak Spanish. Terry are you fibbing? It wasn’t my neighbors. Are you spying on Jessica again? If you don’t stop your peeping activities I’m going to have a talk with the owner. And the money you’ve been pocketing from overcharging the undocumented residents to support that voracious cocaine habit of yours… we don’t want anyone to mention those activities to Mr. Landlord do we? So Harry I think we have a mutual understanding of how we’ll be addressing problems in the future. Entiendas gringo?”

“Please Santiago don’t rat me out. I’m trying to warn you about what’s going on. See if you can get me the rent by next week. Is Jessica around I wanna say hello.”

“She’s in the bathroom right now. I’ll tell her for you Gary. You have a wonderful day.”

“My God Damn name is Barry. Will you please just call me by my right name?”

“Ciao” I whisper as I close the door.

“Hey Santiago is this your cat at the door? You know there’s a strict policy against pets in your apartment!” he screams.

“Please don’t yell. Keep it down. You don’t want to upset the neighbors. We don’t have a cat.”

“Who you hollering at through the door? And I told you that we do have a cat, you son of a bitch!”

I put my finger to my lips giving the shush sign.

“It’s your boyfriend Perry, he wants the rent and said we aren’t suppose to have a cat.”

“Okay, here, take this,” she whispers “I saved it for you. Do you have cigarettes?”

She hands me a syringe loaded and ready to fire. Self loathing is in most cases along with confessing your imperfections are a catalyst to favorably end a disagreement. They have a saying in Colombia. When a man and woman especially Latinas are in an argument. The man always has the last words.

They are “si mi amor.” Yes my love.

I accept her gift and place a tender kiss on her lips. She giggles and gives me a hug. This is the woman I’m accustomed to. When she’s high she’s so much more concerning.

“So baby do you have a cigarette? Si o si?”

“No JJ but I’ll make a run right after I do this hit. Get dressed and come with me. Before you head off to work.”

“I’m not going to hook for a couple of days because I got my regla, (period) and I’m not into giving blow jobs for five or ten dollars a cum. It’s ok with you baby?”

 “Ya, it’s just fine now get dressed.”

I head off to the bathroom to do my fix. Surprisingly, it gets me perfectly numb. Not nodding out or nose scratching high but enough to subdue the monkey.

“Hey baby it’s chilly outside so wear a jacket. Where’s my suit jacket the black one ? I haven’t seen it for a while. Have you seen it baby?”

“Have you looked in the closet? That’s where civilized people put their clothes. Not on the floor or slung over a lamp. I put it on a hanger.”

“Thanks smart ass I found it. Do you know where the key is? I misplaced…”

She dangles the key in front of my face before I can finish my sentence.

We exit the apartment and she puts her arm in mine, then places her head on my shoulder as we walk. I put my hands in my pockets and touch what feels like a pack of cigarettes. I pull it out and it’s an almost full pack. And there’s a balled up piece of plastic shoved in the cellophane of the cigarette pack. I immediately tear at it and discover it’s a large amount of heroin that I have forgotten about. I check the inside breast pocket and retrieve seventy three dollars from inside. Jessica begins to scream with excitement from the find

“Santiago you didn’t know you had all that? Where did it come from?”

“The last time I wore this jacket was when we went to the casino to celebrate your birthday, which I  now understand is the wrong date,” I say, handing her the cigarettes. “You didn’t say anything about it at the time. I was winning at the blackjack table. Then we left came home and got so fucking high we didn’t remember. Here, happy birthday mi corazon.”

She stops and puts a hand on her hip, holding out the other hand palm up and tapping her foot impatiently.

“Well,  y la plata?” (and the money?).

It wasn’t really your birthday and you played me. Okay, here.”

I place the cash in her hand but not before peeling off a twenty.

Suddenly the cat cozies up to Jessica meowing.

“I know let’s put her in the apartment before we go. Hey what did you name her? “

“Thunder Slut seemed like the perfect name. Now hurry up put her inside. You know you’re taking me to breakfast don’t you? It is after all my birthday.” She says spilling laughter all over the morning.

I recall a proverb from the Furry Freak Brothers.

“Dope gets you through times of no money better than money gets you through times of no dope.”

And so that’s that.

“Ok breakfast, but no pancakes!”

 

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

 

DICKS AND JARS AND A THIRD WORLD WAR by Beau Johnson

I needed to change the way I approached things. The laziness inherent to me is what prevented this from happening earlier I think, or maybe I’m wrong and it only comes down to what most of my life came down to: fear. Fear of failure. Fear of dying. Fear of sucking cock when I know I’m not meant to. This last one is what it’s really about, the one which screamed loudest I suppose, but the admission of failure comes in at a hard second best. It was the dick sucking though, this what ate at me most. And just so we’re clear, I’m not gay, not in the slightest, but certain things tend to occur once you make your way to prison, most of them being what you already know. It’s different when you have to perform however, and goddamn if that ain’t the truth. Does things to a man who isn’t right with what’s going down, making him a bigger target if he chooses to go and buck the program placed before him. Lucky for me I’m a fast learner.

Why was I like this? Fuck, who knows? I could say no mother or father but that’d be me making shit up. My life is what it is, and all I can do now is push forward and acknowledge my attempt at change. A planner now, everything I do is put down to paper and everything on it is then scoped out. No more cash and grabs for me. No more going in on a wing and a prayer. Two little things need to happen before I fully embrace this new way of life. It means facing certain fears already stated, sure, and only because the man instrumental to the big one is released just last week. Vic Sessions. Head queer of cellblock nine.

The man who made me his bitch.

***

Vic was actually Big Vic and he was larger than most of the men on the inside, in muscle as well as meat; my backside as tender today as that very first day, especially if the chair I choose is mostly made of wood. “You been duckin’ me, I know.” Eating at the worst type of mean he was the kind of bull queer who liked his eyeliner thick and his mustache thicker. The first time he and his boys come looking they find me in the laundry. I wasn’t alone. Not then. But the silence their presence brings causes that to change, the place clearing out faster than fat kids to cherry cola. After that it’s the cold steel of a big industrial trying to take an imprint of my face. Done, it’s a sea of orange above me, and then a happy ending for all. “Not bad, Hollister. Not bad at all. Thing is, we’re still gonna have to do something about them teeth.” Monstrous. Evil. Prison-issued leather a taste no man would ever think to acquire.

Shit was enough to drive even the most well-adjusted straight man insane.

Vic wasn’t done with me, though. Not for another nine months, three days, and as many goddamn hours.

Only then was I reborn.

***

Reborn by way of freedom—time served in lieu of good behavior. Vic doesn’t miss a beat at this, ensuring the honeymoon stage of our relationship is resurrected the night before I’m released. “You best not be shittin’ on my dick none either. You do, it’s you who pulls clean up duty. You get me?” And just in case you’re wondering, I did try to kill him during my time inside, once, but the attempt was by the old me, the Jimmy who Feared. The Jimmy I am now is going to rectify this oversight, having had a good long time to figure things out. I believe that. I really do. And only because there’s more than a lovely shade of brown in the bottom of the bowl whenever I stop to wipe.

I also gag if I let myself think about things too much. Hard enough not to, not with how many times I’d been forced to perform. I will change this though, as I think I’ve said, the outcome I seek worth every goddamn thing they’ve done to me.

Am I bitter? I counter: Can you fucking blame me?

I have to force these thoughts to the back of my mind though, ensuring they won’t fuck up my plans. This is easier said than done and anyone who suggests otherwise is either lying or straight up doesn’t know.

“You want me to do what?” said Brady Aldeen. Of my childhood friends he was the last to remain and the second little thing to this plan I have set in motion. And just so we are clear, I didn’t like him much, not anymore. The old Jimmy liked him well enough, the one who really couldn’t be bothered to put the pieces together and see how he might have ended up in the joint to become Vic’s bitch in the first place. This was another thing I was getting better at by approaching life with new eyes; at seeing the forest for the trees. It’s liberating really, what it offers a man. I say this not because of what I have learned but because of the opportunity it presents me. All told, they will never see me coming.

“It’s only for a night and it’s only pretend. Five hundred if you say yes.” What I wanted him to do was minor, his role only to get Vic into the car. He had to act the part however, and this was the thing giving Brady second thoughts.

“And you think this guy is gonna believe I’m a queer?” What could I say? That yeah, maybe, especially with the length Brady now kept his hair. Or maybe I go and mention the overly soft features he’d been born with. Maybe that. Instead I lie, saying it would be a hell of a stretch but if anyone could pull it off it’d be him. I also suggest an extra five hundred just to smooth the shit out.

Brady exhaled, closed his eyes. “Make it fifteen and you and me got business.”

“You have to be able to sell it though. I mean, this is one mean mother he gets to thinkin’ something’s up.”

“Now you saying I might not be up to snuff?”

“No, I’m just sayin. Christ, Brady. Gimme a bone here. This piece of shit had his way with me for almost a year. If anything, you think you could understand that.” For a moment I couldn’t believe the words I hear coming from my mouth. Seems I had changed already. Understandable, sure, but be it a good thing or bad was still up for debate.

“Yeah. Yeah. You were his bitch. I get it.” I see red as Brady says this, and any second thoughts I might have had in regards to him being the one who ratted me out are out the window and on their way to goddamn fucking Alaska before the man I grew up with removes himself from the bar stool. Hands going hard into his leather jacket I watch as he leaves without looking back.

Who needs enemies, right?

***

Granted, sucking a man’s dick day in and day out for the better part of a year would probably do some damage to even the most resilient of heterosexual minds. This is something I can’t quantify completely mind you. But I have to admit such things might be possible. Why else had I so easily lumped Brady into the back part of my plan? Instantaneously choosing to add him to the carnage meant for Vic? Yeah, something had broken inside of me. I just can’t give you the words. I can try. And I think I will. I’m just not sure you’ll understand. But most of that could be misconstrued, as Brady had always been in the running as the one who sold me out. I might not want to admit this but I have to. The old Jimmy refused this, his fears and the reprisals they could bring allowing the blinders to stay where they were, lapping the shit up. But this is the new me we are talking about, the one who got shit done. So maybe it wasn’t so easily I lumped Brady into my plan at all. He was only always meant to die. I just hadn’t known it yet.

Or maybe it’s just the dreams, the ones I wake from colder than I usually am. They are full of penises, these dreams, and they will not stop. Sort of leads me into what I’ve planned for Vic. If I wanted a chance at any kind of normalcy I was going to have to cut some things out. Trim the fat, so to speak.

Because it concerned Vic, it was going to involve a pretty big knife.

Good for him.

***

“Back here, man.” I could only see the outlines of their bodies because the light in the alley was far from good. Underneath me the ground is wet with rain, it finishing not minutes before I hear Brady and Big Vic’s voices coming toward me.

“Your mouth better be ready to take me, boy. That’s all you gotta know.” I’d heard the speech before, usually before lights out, but this time it would be different. If I wanted any type of life for myself it’s what had to happen. Doors shutting, I make my move and slide in the back, right behind Brady. From the passenger seat up front I see Vic’s eyes go wide as he realizes who I am and then that I’m holding a piece.

As the commercials preach: motherfucking priceless.

And I wanted to have a conversation with him; I really did, it too being part of my plan. This was not to be, not as I had hoped. No regaling of what I was about to do or gloating of any kind. Just screaming as the rage inside me steps forward and proves it has a mind of its own. Just pop-pop into each of them and then each of them goes forward. I have to pull Brady back to stop the horn from blaring but in the end it’s no real biggie. Vic’s penis is the exact opposite of this and I smile as I tighten the lid to the jar it still now rests in. Brady’s too is now behind glass but the size of his jar is better suited to jams. Each now sit on my bedside table, there for me to admire. I should be getting rid of them, both pieces being evidence and all, but I’m finding it hard to part with what I’ve done. This upsets me more than I think it should. Worrying me for reasons contrary to what I’ve already said; that by changing the way I approached things I might be able to purge certain tendencies inherent to my life. This has yet to happen. Not as I hoped it would. One step beyond is what scares me even more.

What if I just like sucking dick now? Fuck, what if I always have?

I needed to change the way I approached things. The laziness inherent to me is what prevented this from happening earlier I think, or maybe I’m wrong and it only comes down to what most of my life came down to: fear. Fear of failure. Fear of dying. Fear of sucking cock when I know I’m not meant to. This last one is what it’s really about, the one which screamed loudest I suppose, but the admission of failure comes in at a hard second best. It was the dick sucking though, this what ate at me most. And just so we’re clear, I’m not gay, not in the slightest, but certain things tend to occur once you make your way to prison, most of them being what you already know. It’s different when you have to perform however, and goddamn if that ain’t the truth. Does things to a man who isn’t right with what’s going down, making him a bigger target if he chooses to go and buck the program placed before him. Lucky for me I’m a fast learner.

Why was I like this? Fuck, who knows? I could say no mother or father but that’d be me making shit up. My life is what it is, and all I can do now is push forward and acknowledge my attempt at change. A planner now, everything I do is put down to paper and everything on it is then scoped out. No more cash and grabs for me. No more going in on a wing and a prayer. Two little things need to happen before I fully embrace this new way of life. It means facing certain fears already stated, sure, and only because the man instrumental to the big one is released just last week. Vic Sessions. Head queer of cellblock nine.

The man who made me his bitch.

***

Vic was actually Big Vic and he was larger than most of the men on the inside, in muscle as well as meat; my backside as tender today as that very first day, especially if the chair I choose is mostly made of wood. “You been duckin’ me, I know.” Eating at the worst type of mean he was the kind of bull queer who liked his eyeliner thick and his mustache thicker. The first time he and his boys come looking they find me in the laundry. I wasn’t alone. Not then. But the silence their presence brings causes that to change, the place clearing out faster than fat kids to cherry cola. After that it’s the cold steel of a big industrial trying to take an imprint of my face. Done, it’s a sea of orange above me, and then a happy ending for all. “Not bad, Hollister. Not bad at all. Thing is, we’re still gonna have to do something about them teeth.” Monstrous. Evil. Prison-issued leather a taste no man would ever think to acquire.

Shit was enough to drive even the most well-adjusted straight man insane.

Vic wasn’t done with me, though. Not for another nine months, three days, and as many goddamn hours.

Only then was I reborn.

***

Reborn by way of freedom—time served in lieu of good behavior. Vic doesn’t miss a beat at this, ensuring the honeymoon stage of our relationship is resurrected the night before I’m released. “You best not be shittin’ on my dick none either. You do, it’s you who pulls clean up duty. You get me?” And just in case you’re wondering, I did try to kill him during my time inside, once, but the attempt was by the old me, the Jimmy who Feared. The Jimmy I am now is going to rectify this oversight, having had a good long time to figure things out. I believe that. I really do. And only because there’s more than a lovely shade of brown in the bottom of the bowl whenever I stop to wipe.

I also gag if I let myself think about things too much. Hard enough not to, not with how many times I’d been forced to perform. I will change this though, as I think I’ve said, the outcome I seek worth every goddamn thing they’ve done to me.

Am I bitter? I counter: Can you fucking blame me?

I have to force these thoughts to the back of my mind though, ensuring they won’t fuck up my plans. This is easier said than done and anyone who suggests otherwise is either lying or straight up doesn’t know.

“You want me to do what?” said Brady Aldeen. Of my childhood friends he was the last to remain and the second little thing to this plan I have set in motion. And just so we are clear, I didn’t like him much, not anymore. The old Jimmy liked him well enough, the one who really couldn’t be bothered to put the pieces together and see how he might have ended up in the joint to become Vic’s bitch in the first place. This was another thing I was getting better at by approaching life with new eyes; at seeing the forest for the trees. It’s liberating really, what it offers a man. I say this not because of what I have learned but because of the opportunity it presents me. All told, they will never see me coming.

“It’s only for a night and it’s only pretend. Five hundred if you say yes.” What I wanted him to do was minor, his role only to get Vic into the car. He had to act the part however, and this was the thing giving Brady second thoughts.

“And you think this guy is gonna believe I’m a queer?” What could I say? That yeah, maybe, especially with the length Brady now kept his hair. Or maybe I go and mention the overly soft features he’d been born with. Maybe that. Instead I lie, saying it would be a hell of a stretch but if anyone could pull it off it’d be him. I also suggest an extra five hundred just to smooth the shit out.

Brady exhaled, closed his eyes. “Make it fifteen and you and me got business.”

“You have to be able to sell it though. I mean, this is one mean mother he gets to thinkin’ something’s up.”

“Now you saying I might not be up to snuff?”

“No, I’m just sayin. Christ, Brady. Gimme a bone here. This piece of shit had his way with me for almost a year. If anything, you think you could understand that.” For a moment I couldn’t believe the words I hear coming from my mouth. Seems I had changed already. Understandable, sure, but be it a good thing or bad was still up for debate.

“Yeah. Yeah. You were his bitch. I get it.” I see red as Brady says this, and any second thoughts I might have had in regards to him being the one who ratted me out are out the window and on their way to goddamn fucking Alaska before the man I grew up with removes himself from the bar stool. Hands going hard into his leather jacket I watch as he leaves without looking back.

Who needs enemies, right?

***

Granted, sucking a man’s dick day in and day out for the better part of a year would probably do some damage to even the most resilient of heterosexual minds. This is something I can’t quantify completely mind you. But I have to admit such things might be possible. Why else had I so easily lumped Brady into the back part of my plan? Instantaneously choosing to add him to the carnage meant for Vic? Yeah, something had broken inside of me. I just can’t give you the words. I can try. And I think I will. I’m just not sure you’ll understand. But most of that could be misconstrued, as Brady had always been in the running as the one who sold me out. I might not want to admit this but I have to. The old Jimmy refused this, his fears and the reprisals they could bring allowing the blinders to stay where they were, lapping the shit up. But this is the new me we are talking about, the one who got shit done. So maybe it wasn’t so easily I lumped Brady into my plan at all. He was only always meant to die. I just hadn’t known it yet.

Or maybe it’s just the dreams, the ones I wake from colder than I usually am. They are full of penises, these dreams, and they will not stop. Sort of leads me into what I’ve planned for Vic. If I wanted a chance at any kind of normalcy I was going to have to cut some things out. Trim the fat, so to speak.

Because it concerned Vic, it was going to involve a pretty big knife.

Good for him.

***

“Back here, man.” I could only see the outlines of their bodies because the light in the alley was far from good. Underneath me the ground is wet with rain, it finishing not minutes before I hear Brady and Big Vic’s voices coming toward me.

“Your mouth better be ready to take me, boy. That’s all you gotta know.” I’d heard the speech before, usually before lights out, but this time it would be different. If I wanted any type of life for myself it’s what had to happen. Doors shutting, I make my move and slide in the back, right behind Brady. From the passenger seat up front I see Vic’s eyes go wide as he realizes who I am and then that I’m holding a piece.

As the commercials preach: motherfucking priceless.

And I wanted to have a conversation with him; I really did, it too being part of my plan. This was not to be, not as I had hoped. No regaling of what I was about to do or gloating of any kind. Just screaming as the rage inside me steps forward and proves it has a mind of its own. Just pop-pop into each of them and then each of them goes forward. I have to pull Brady back to stop the horn from blaring but in the end it’s no real biggie. Vic’s penis is the exact opposite of this and I smile as I tighten the lid to the jar it still now rests in. Brady’s too is now behind glass but the size of his jar is better suited to jams. Each now sit on my bedside table, there for me to admire. I should be getting rid of them, both pieces being evidence and all, but I’m finding it hard to part with what I’ve done. This upsets me more than I think it should. Worrying me for reasons contrary to what I’ve already said; that by changing the way I approached things I might be able to purge certain tendencies inherent to my life. This has yet to happen. Not as I hoped it would. One step beyond is what scares me even more.

What if I just like sucking dick now? Fuck, what if I always have?

Bio:

Beau Johnson lives in Canada with his wife and three boys. He has been published before, usually on the darker side of town. Such fine establishments might include Out of the Gutter Online, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and the Molotov Cocktail. Besides writing, Beau enjoys golfing, pushing off Boats and certain Giant Tigers.

Find Beau Johnson online …

Website: https://www.beaujohnsonfiction.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007691865781
Twitter: https://twitter.com/beaujohnson44
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Beau-Johnson/e/B079MHF7RG/
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17692442.Beau_Johnson

all of them to burn

 

I am the Resurrection by John Bowie

Max’s Filipino Taxi Dancehall was a real shithole… And it didn’t have a dance floor. A stench came from piss that ran out the front door, down the street and to the beach outside. A make-shift urinal fixed to the bar-front meant they drank, pissed and worse without moving for days. It was a real hit with the flies, lowlife drop outs and my target.

‘I used to hate the taste of it, until I got shot. Ironic I know. Then, each glass full cushioned the blow,’ he said…too drunk to look up to recognise me.

I smashed the glass ashtray into his nose. He fell bleeding a trail of glass, blood and mucus along and off the end of the bar — out cold.

I left wondering why I’d left it at that. I had more hurt for him. For a moment I’d seen him for what he used to be, before becoming the origin of my pains. He’d said what I used to think about myself. I deserved a hit alright and I’d given it to him.

Like me, the fucked up ex-services barfly was due that much, for now. His final dues were coming. I’d already had mine.

The Stone Roses played in the background — It fitted. He had dropped through gutter level but I was moving on; out the door.

‘…and I am the light,’ crackled over the speakers. For a moment, a mass of dead flies were resurrected as they vibrated, danced and bounced around in the dust on top.

I waited in the shadows on the corner outside as he finished his last drink.

The night darkened as he stumbled out, followed by a gust of smoke and more stench.

I watched. Still. And smoked.

On my last smoke of the night, hands free, I looked deep into the night. I breathed out rings at the moon and it stared back cold-hard-empty at me. In the sand, my hands choked the life from him. I released a fraction, so he could take a last breath, but that was it…all he was getting from me.

I’d written and drank myself through hell and back. I’d drowned out the loss of her with each glass. The loss he’d given me was irreconcilable, even with his neck in my hands as a pulse weakened, and he faded out.

The stars grew over the black ocean’s surface ahead.

Each bar and drink had drifted him closer and closer to me…one shot at a time. Each word I’d written had set it in stone; it was my confessional.

It was only the start. As I was beginning to be untethered from my past.

He had stolen my dreams of a future. And I took his life, but the memories ran deep. I’d have to choke more pain from the world to ease my own.

In the distance, at the end of the beach, under the pier…a girl winced. She was being held down by an angry shadow. She didn’t want what the man that grasped at her arms had in store for her…

And he wouldn’t want what I had for him.

I opened the knife and locked the blade into place. Soon, she would cry out, run and hide. Then eventually she’d smile again as she realised: finally, she was free of him.

In morning two gulls took a break from searching for stale chips, and wrestling washed-up condoms.

There was fresh meat on the beach. And his eyes were a much tastier treat.

THE END

Bio: John writes dark fiction and crime noir full of dirty realism. His articles, short stories and novels are online and in print for the likes of Bristol Noir, Storgy Magazine, Litro Magazine and Dead Man’s Tome. He grew up on the coast in rural Northumberland, a region steeped with a history of battles, Vikings, wars and struggles. These tales and myths fascinated him as a child, and then as an adult. In the mid to late nineties he studied in Salford enjoying the bands, music, clubs and general urban industrial-ness of Greater Manchester, including the club scene and the infamous Hacienda. He was also there when the IRA bomb went off in 1996.

John Bowie

Two Birds by John Patrick Robbins

Mitch hated the memories of the slaughter house, it was the job he knew would haunt him until his dying day .

The dried blood in the air , death was an all too familiar smell that lingered and was enough to make you sick .

It was weird but made easy with modern technology.

 

None of which was at Ives slaughterhouse it was old school all the way.

Mitch was strong and after years spent at this job he became even more so.

He worked the kill room.

 

It was him and a sledge hammer that he became extremely useful with.

Most animals gave up knowing death was upon them .

Some fought, all would lose .

 

Mitch never forgot the first time .

He puked afterwards , eventually you just learned not to care .

The key was hitting hard and fast on that frontal lobe once you heard that crack the skull made you were fine.

 

There was no such thing as painless a death , people told themselves that lie to sleep better at night .

Mitch spent years doing the work nobody else had the balls to .

It translated well when he became an enforcer .

 

People seldom went without a fight and sometimes the ignorance of not understanding what was coming , was bliss .

 

Animals were lucky in that regard .

Mitch lit a cigarette and waited , the wind was freezing standing in that field .

The sedan carrying Philip made its way down the dirt road .

The farm was a total front it mainly served as a dumping ground .

 

“Fuck its freezing out here “!

 

Marty said as he hopped out of the passengers seat and quickly pulled a hooded Philip from the vehicle.

 

 

 

 

Bruce as usual was silent he left the engine running and the lights on , he had done this almost as many times as Mitch .

The only difference between the two was for Mitch, this was a job and nothing more .

For Bruce it was enjoyment although largely silent he enjoyed death and was a mad dog that Mitch knew eventually he would have to put down .

 

Marty kicked Phil in the back of the knee he dropped like a sack of potatoes at the feet of

Mitch .

 

The boys pulled him to his knees removing the hood .

 

“Philip sorry to have dragged you out of bed bud but we need to talk “.

 

“Mitch I’m sorry please whatever you think I’ve done “.

 

Mitch just held his finger up and like some trained animal Phil went silent .

 

“You know something Phil , one thing I hate is a liar , because you see even little lies always lead to bigger ones . The fact you even tried to have the balls to steal from the hand that feeds is disgusting to me”.

 

Tears began to flow like a river down Phil’s face and Mitch couldn’t blame the man for crying.

 

He knew the man was scum but he was still someone’s father and husband.

But he was also a thief , an addict and worst of all a rat .

 

He knew he couldn’t trust the slimy little bastard but in this line of work its wasnt like you could put an add in the paper for help.

 

So you dealt with snakes , men with no honor who were as expendable as the cattle Mitch once so easily slaughtered so long ago.

 

Mitch went and grabbed the sledge hammer from the back of his truck .

 

The sight of it sent Phil into a panic .

 

“Please for God sake don’t do this I can make things right just let me go Goddammit “!

 

 

 

Bruce laughed and it was now Marty who remained silent .

 

Mitch didn’t hesitate he just brought the sledge hammer down with and ungodly force .

That sickening thud made little sound and a mile from any real highway nobody would know about this incident besides the three men witnessing it .

 

 

Phil was gone and no sooner had the sledgehammer cracked his skull had Bruce and Marty grabbed his convulsing body and began dragging it to the whole dug that would forever be Phil’s unknown grave.

 

Bruce as usual began going through his pockets removing Ritchies wallet a true scavenger that he was .

 

“Fuck this dudes floppping around like a danm fish“.

 

Bruce said in a twisted glee .

 

After Bruce made sure to pick the bones clean so to speak the boys pitched Ritchie into the damn near frozen earth .

 

“Fuck it’s freezing out here course least it aint as bad as things are for that winy bitch Phil huh man“?

 

Bruce asked looking to Marty who had the weirdest look in his eyes .

 

The first blow knocked Bruce into the grave , blood flowed from the wound but the mountain of a man struggled and began to get up .

 

The second put him down for good , well at least good enough .

Marty had not missed a beat and like clock work already had the tractor running and was pushing the earth down into the grave .

 

Bruce’s eyes met Mitch’s he had seen that look in many men and animals alike .

Death was always the same he never kid himself about that .

 

Mitch never hesitated but he never enjoyed his job either.

His truth was as cold as the earth he buried people semi alive in .

The worst monster that walks this earth can easily be viewed from the mirror.

 

Bio:
John Patrick Robbins
Is the editor in chief of the Rye Whiskey Review , Under The Bleachers and Drinkers Only .
He has been published here at Punk Noir Magazine , The San Pedro River Review , Ariel Chart , Oddball Magazine , Piker Press , Blognostics , As It Ought To Be Magazine , Red Fez , The San Antonio Review,
He is also the author of Sex Drugs & Poetry from Whiskey City Press and Once Upon A Nervous Breakdown from Soma Publishing.
His work is always unfiltered.
JPR Nov

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

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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.

 

letty 3.JPG

 

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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All Due Respect e-Zine is BACK!

All Due Respect is one of the best and hippest indie noir publishers around. And it started out as an online e-zine back in 2010.

The first pblished story was Methamphetamin and a Shotgun by Alec Cizak. Over the years they published stories from writers as diverse as Tom Pitts, Eric Beetner, and the late AJ Hayes. The e-zine closed in 2013 with Easy Money by Lonni Lees.

Well, All Due Respect’s e-zine is BACK – edited by Chris Rhatigan and David Nemeth – and it kicks off the new era with a story from the uber-prolific Stephen D. Rogers. Check out Mad Dogs here and have a dig into that back catalogue while you’re over there!

adr zine

Warm Snow by E F Fluff

It’s so cold the pink-dappled-green-brown-bubbled phlegm just sits on top of the snow. Normally it’d sink down a bit.

There’s no time to the memory. It becomes endlessly repeating.

The room is small. As you walk in, to your right, the entire wall was a mirrored wardrobe. Two-fifths of this was side-by-side shoe racks, another, her clothes. Toward the end, one has been cleared for me. A double bed sat along the entrance wall.

I didn’t have linens, so these were provided for me. There’s a skinny duvet, a curtain; velveteen with fake plastic feeling silk squares doubles as a blanket.

Pillows, a motley collection of small couch cushions used to create a partial igloo against the relentless draft. Two the consistency of deep-dish pizza for sleeping.

Routinely muscles lock and get infected from the cold. Old spine damage erratically roars into life, renewed and filled with spite.

I’m still loose temporally, melting through these flashbacks.

The pink in the phlegm holds brighter on the snow; it could be the darkness, long night an all that.

Something about it and the metallic in my mouth warps me back to climbing a mountain with a broken hand. It’s Snowdon, and the air is filled with winged ants. The pig path, and every grabbed rock is pain.

Tongue Metallics bring out the wrong in the cigarettes in a Wonka flush of flavours and disguised chemicals.  

Back to the pink star speckled glisten and white, and sinking melding brown of harsher mucus.

Lying on my back now, legs propped up against the wall with pillows. Oedema legs swollen to a point where the skin feels ready to burst. Walking, standing, even sitting is pain.

This is all that works.

In a few days the translator will tell me she is a psychopath.

Afraid then, when I look back, it is rippled with a sort of horror-riddled luck.

The conversation is upside down and awkward.

Though I’m fading in and out of memory.

It’s 8am and my legs are up with the first oedema. A few days ago I collapsed with chest pain. The translator dragged me to the bed. The last thing I said before I fell was “no ambulances.”

She performed CPR of varying energy for an hour, and exhausted, ended up lying awkwardly on top of me simultaneously trying to pump-rub my chest as trying to use her heartbeat to normalise mine.

Teeth gritting pain roars in remote lighthouse waves. I remember only darkness but it’s a full dark, of colour like a television that has just been turned off. Back arching chest explosions of pain and all we remember my hissing was

“Long afloat on shipless oceans”

…and, maybe now that I think about it –

“Holy fuck that’s pain…”

and probably, “Hnnghugh!”

But I’m pretty sure that’s it.

After more episodes, I wonder if she has been poisoning me. It sounds paranoid. But things began to correspond with heavy metal poisoning, strychnine or something. It could be the pollutants from the construction, riddled as it is with asbestos. Some of which vents out from the end of a pump-inflated tube that snakes from the basement down the hallway out under my window. A flapping thing like the car lot advertising tube men. Except for nothing but cancer.

Sitting on the floor of a shower room, my face is caked, dripping Cillit Bang, coconut milk and pineapple juice. There’s crushed chunks of pineapple in my ear holes.

The water is still running orange.

Three bouncers tried to hold me down and pepper spray me. They tried hard to pull my hands off my face and get the spray into my eyes, as close as possible. An ex-bouncer remarks, “they were trying to blow out your retinas, in essence, blind you.”

“Yeah I know what blowing out my retinas means”

Fury is a fascinating emotion.

“No! No it’s not! It fucking isn’t! Take that back! You don’t know what you’re fucking talking about!”

An electronic musician and producer with a thick unaware vein of aspiring to be a sort of Phil Spectre Svengali has swerved from complaining his woman rap band want to do a few sex songs, and how he, as a feminist, cannot allow it. To shouting at me, it is a like a wobbly twin-prop of spitty of fury taking off across the room toward me.

Conversation tilted in to balls-out gauche questions about the Irish, and “Are you all like this?” and how different the Finns were, and “probably an islander thing,” said with a smug sniff.

“Well yeah, but you’d have to look at it, that the Finnish are islanders too. Marshlanders, swamp dwellers? Islands, islanders, skulking about the lake lands in their little murder skiffs with their little pointed Finnish hats pulled up dark.”

“What! Say that again!”

“I said …” 

Riddled with thousands of lakes. Part of Scandinavia but not really Scandinavia. Fenno what? Russian, but not Russian, Swedish, but not Swedish. Touching Norway, but just the tip. Distrustful of, and disliked by your neighbours. Worried about foreigners arriving. It sort of is an island, and so, the Finnish and Irish have somethings in common. At least that’s what I used to say to them, not so sure anymore.”

“To who?”

“To you, the Finnish.”

Corpulent to a sort of shaggy melted flesh point of self disregard, this seemed to elicit a swelling skip through the red spectrum. And he grew more violent in his demands for me to recant, take back, revise, and after a hard shoulder shove, was now, taking another shot at the shouting runway.

When abruptly, our mutual friend just stood up, and slapped him echoingly hard across the face and everything stopped. And with a hand clutching his face in wild bewilderment, he appeared confused and disconnected from what had just happened, and asked just that.

“What…what just happened…?”

“You were shouting. So I slapped you

“Shouting? About?”

“I said the Finnish and Irish have something in common because they are both islanders.”

“Can, can you explain what you mean? How?”

Fury is a strange emotion.

New Years Eve 2018. After a lame fuck around, I’m on my own. I’ve just published my first book. It has taken two decades of imposter fear.

I’ve a bag of fireworks we were supposed to let off. I have a few cans of beer, a bottle of sparkling wine.  

It’s snowing.

There are rocks by my apartment. Helsinki is a city carved out and into inhospitable rock. Like the people.  

I live near Linnanmäki. It’s a beautiful thing to live beside; the distant rising, falling sounds of rollercoaster terror and laughter.

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At the arse end of Kallio, the workers district, now the last old poor bohemian district fading into corrupt gentrification.  

You can always tell when an old curiosity Bagpuss second-hand on an old street that used to be called stab street that leads to a square once called amphetamine turns into a small Bed, Bath and Beyond.

The rocks rise behind Linnanmäki, leading to forest-park filled with released rabbits making a go of it and the owls that eat them. It’s there I used to go when things were less. It’s there I go now.

PTSD is a potent voodoo. One panic attack before leaving triggers the narcolepsy so I collapse. I’m lucky not to bang my head this time.

I find the old perch, a ledge you’ve to climb around to. It overlooks the city, rail line and a step this way will kill you ravine.

Snow dusts down television static. It feels like the temperature keeps dropping. My fingers are beyond numb to pain back to a sort of numb that still hurts.

Joints – everything veers between sharp ache and numb and a slow ambient beat of ow.

There’s a distant alien warmth. It frills, nudges, creeps, pulls and drags.

City lights, trains and cars roll below, the poor district, raised so it could look down on the rich. A bizarre turnabout badly proving the stupidity of the rich now hungering for the space. 

The edging warmth is an odd bit of foreplay.

The doctor, Hakaniemi; an economist attempted to break my neck at a party with a crude WWE style wrestling hoist and drop from behind.

According to a throat specialist, I’ve deep tissue damage. I’ve difficulty swallowing, and sometimes if I turn my head, my throat closes and I lose function, and life becomes a sudden clawing panic.

This is best when it happens at the edge of a train platform and I am wearing a scarf. Things become a sudden frantic claw that blips back to normal, like the only person in the film who can see the ghosts.

Finnish doctors are often disinterested, and riddled with prejudice. If you look different, you’re likely a liar and a reprobate.

I’ve been trying to get treatment for my throat for a while. The GP has decided that the throat specialist is wrong.

My girlfriend is there. Conversation clicks in and out of Finnish and English. It feels like I am at the vet or in some slave dystopia. They laugh at jokes that go untranslated, sometimes their Finnish dips into that throaty deep I notice Finnish women get when talking sex or visceral things. This happens a lot when you’re the foreign significant other. The remarks are often followed with a chuckle and a horse market comment you imagine is something like “That’s a good breeder there, strong teeth.”

The doctor says she wants to check lower spine muscle tone for damage. She wants to do this via sticking a finger in my asshole. It sounds bullshit, but, when in Rome, and anything to get some treatment for my throat.

She asks if I mind if my girlfriend remains. “I don’t give a fuck, sure she’s seen everything and been up there finger and tongue”.

I assume the position as she lubes up.

No wine, no dinner, it’s not as easy as she expects it to be, as she’s easing in, she says, “relax, easy, see just like childhood.” The tone has that snide mischief curl and my girlfriend immediately bursts out laughing. The doctor starts laugh-faux-apologising, and in the end, I start laughing, and push her finger out of my ass. Naturally, we have to do it again. I’m told to clench and squeeze around her finger. Conversation laughs between Finnish and English on how to tell someone to clench the back muscles, not the front.

Thankfully being anally raped by the Hakaniemi doctor is over shortly.

This is Finland after all…

I shiver back and retrieve another firework from my bag, light if off my cigarette and fling it into the ravine. A stream of bangers, candles, firecrackers and repeaters follows it.

Draw. Puff. Draw. Spark. Fling.

Shivering is constant; I have to rub my fingers to get them to cooperate in the cold.

I open one of the wines and trudge through slugs in a flurry of cigarettes and explosions.

There is a sort of monotony to the light fizz, bang, shake, smoke, spit. I’m glad though, particularly in that my face remains boringly not blown off.

Lungs ache and my eyelids are heavy.

I find myself thinking the snow seems to be warming up, and that’s good, we could use a bit of warm snow.

A lung specialist is telling me the x-rays are clear.

A girlfriend asks if anyone had translated the x-ray specialist’s summary stating I was suffering from numb toes and it seems like the specialist was just spinning things to make my cigarette has gone out.

Snow and the only bits that have some warmth are a memory of it in my boots.

The bottle drains and the non-silence of the city, listening to distant sirens and cars rolling beneath.

Piling warm snow is hard to notice with sticky eyes. There’s a cacophony of people; familiar places, but always leaving. Dinner parties, old birthdays, on and back to Amsterdam home bars and people always talking around in a loud Grogans din.

Warm snow

Just like childhood.

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.
warm snow.jpg

Two Days before Florence by Chris Benton

PhotoFunia-1590732219Two days before Hurricane Florence hits, I wake up with another concussion. My wife’s been giving them to me every other week for months now, and I don’t know which one will be the blessed last. During the latest, I was having another dream of hell, laid bare within a vast, piss-reeking ditch with all the animals of the earth and having our skin steam-spoken off our backs, I was crushed beside this wild boar who had the eyes of a childhood friend I had tricked into suicide in grade school, and after the steps of our spines were exposed we were commanded to turn over, spread-eagle, the wild boar of a boy I tortured in grade school blinking Morse code at me, telling me he loves me.

Then I wake marrow-deep dehydrated and disoriented as all the damned do and stagger into my kitchen to find these two fucking hillbillies with a cooler full of reeking fish they caught from the river. Fucking tweakers. Lee and Peggy. Why do all tweakers look like carrion birds, why are they all painted by fucking Bruegel. There is a boy with them. His name is Travis. After formalities I ask about the kid.

“I named him after Travis Bickle, from Taxi Driver, it’s my favorite movie, Chris, He’s gone grow up to be the owner of a Taxi company one day.” Peggy says.

“Chris we just moved here spur of the moment because my family don’t like me hooking up with Peggy,” Lee says, his carrion beak opening and closing. “We gone cook these here flatheads?”

They’re not flathead catfish, they don’t look like catfish at all, I don’t know what the fuck they are, I’m wondering why these creatures are in my kitchen in the first place, and then I get the text from my wife:

            Chris these are friends of my sister who need help, they are fleeing from their family in Boone who disowned them be nice, Lee lost his son in a fire, that’s Peggy’s son, I think…

            “We gone fry these flatheads, Chris? You got a cast-iron skillet?”

“Yeah, I’ve got a skillet, Lee,” I say, and pull out the cast-iron skillet baptized with past blood and blackouts, “But we’re cooking these fine fish outside, on the grill.”

As I’m teaching these pretend people how to heat a skillet on a grill, I’m thinking about that kid, Travis, he’s politely grimacing, a spectral hostage. I go inside and he is sitting on the sofa, staring at his reflection in our television.

“You like Batman?” I ask him, and he nods.

I put on Batman Begins, and he thanks me and moans softly, rubbing his hip.

“You in pain, big guy?” I say and Peggy walks through the door and grabs my arm and pulls me into the kitchen and tells me that Travis has worms in his ass.

“I’ve seen them, Christ, I’ve seen them worms in his shit, and I’m worried.”

“Have you taken him to the doctor?”

“Hell no, we’ve been busy fishing, we gotta eat, we ain’t got nothing here but the river and the sea, the things the lord will give us.”

“Gotcha, congratulations on the new one on the way,” I say, nodding at her distended belly.

“Oh, that’s just gas bubbles, don’t mind that one bit,” Peggy says.

“Okay. I can run a bath for Travis if you want, I’ve got some Epsom salts, might be good if his hip is injured.”

“His hip ain’t no injured, I told you he has them ass worms, they been going around my kids for years,” she says.

I nod and run a bath. Tears fall from my lovingly damaged brain into the bath water. My rage left me in my late thirties, I’m already old and sad, because I’m past the age limit of successful bank robberies and copper wire crucifixions and now all I want to do with my life is crush Peggy’s skull with the lid of my toilet.

Lee comes in and says, “That grill need’s more coals, Chris, I swear, I don’t know why you let me fry these inside your house, you afraid I’m gone make a mess?”

I walk past him and go outside and turn the bottom-feeders over, stir the coals.

Lee says behind me, “I ever tell you about my real son? Not that little sissy phony boy in there, I’m talking about my little pumpkinhead, I called him pumpkinhead on account of his hair being the brightest orange, brighter than the fire that ate him alive in my trailer, I swear, when we left town, we went straight from Boone to the beach right before dawn and sat in the sand and I cast out a couple of lines and right then, it was getting light and my pumpinhead rose from the ocean, covering everything with beautiful soft light and he said, “Daddy, you gone make a fortune off this storm coming here, just as sure as Jesus told the blind man to open his eyes and see the sun for the first time.”

I nod and remember the latest concussion my wife sent me into, these loving portals into hell, it’s up to the victim to close them behind their bare ass. I suddenly remember Travis, a child of amnesia, like myself, I go back inside our trembling house and find Peggy drinking a Busch Ice. “Travis is really enjoying that bath, Chris,” she says, watching Batman Begins.

I text Emma, telling her I need another concussion, ASAP, my migraine moths are funneling my eyes, Where are you, I need another concussion!!!! I smoke two cigarettes and she doesn’t respond , and the moths are flapping their burning blue wings in my face, spanking my cortex, do you ever feel like a witch has dropped a false world on top of your skull? I could feel the winds of Florence approaching now, another catastrophe, this one would be the end of us, I knew it. I see the eyes of Emma and her dog, a gorgeous, four-eyed creature of love finally done with me, so happy to be done with me, and I’m happy for them, I’ve never felt so happy in my life.

I lure Lee back outside to the grill and say “How did pumpkinhead burn, Lee, did your sorry ass crawl out your sorry-ass trailer window when your batch got volatile? Did your boy’s head fly into the branches sitting there like a baby sun?”

The skillet sizzles in my fist as I toss the bubbling bottom-feeders into his face and Lee screams and collapses and closes his face behind his hands like a blind man seeing the sun for the first time. I stomp him until he stops that falsetto shit. My neighbors Sheila and George walk outside and sit on their porch rockers, watching. Peggy runs outside and I’m kinda stunned she has our favorite butcher knife in her hand, I kept that fucker hidden, she falls under the skillet as well and I keep pounding them, two alternating blows each, and my neighbors are watching and rocking on their porch chairs and the embryonic gusts of Florence are increasing and I drop the pan and the skin of my palm and rush into the house and wonder if this was all a concussion dream. I take the last three of our emergency Percs, dress Travis and haul ass with him to Fort Fisher.

Later on that afternoon I’m swimming in the deadly pre-Florence waters, wondering whether or not I should adopt Travis as a rip current pulls me out into the majestic terror of the Atlantic, you will never know the love of the sea before a hurricane, the sky is blacker than every mother’s eyes, and I follow its endless, psychotic narrative for nearly two miles, watching pumpkinhead sinking back into the horizon, watching Travis chasing down the shore, trying to follow me as best as he can before I vanish.

 

Chris Benton was born and raised in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he still resides                   with his wife, Emma, and their beloved dog, Russell,

                        his past stories might be found if you dig deep enough…

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Piano Man by Graham Wynd

‘That do for you, Tommy?’

Eric had a think. Surely he was always Frank and Earnest: Frank in the north, Ernie in the south. This was north. ‘Frank, love, the name’s Frank.’ Daftie. But she was well fit, a regular gym devotee. He was a bit surprised when she responded so well to his flirting. Above his league but hey, anyone might have a champion sort of day.

‘Sorry, it’s just that you remind me of Tommy.’ She handed him a generous glass of whisky. Posh included her liquor in the pretty little cabinet. The woman was drinking some bubbly with a double-barreled French name, but he went right for the good stuff. ‘I’m just going to change the music.’

‘Oh but I like that piano man,’ Eric laughed. ‘You know, sing us a song Mr Piano Man, sing us your songs all right…’

She looked at him blankly, then chuckled and snapped the CD case shut. ‘This is a string quartet, La jeune fille et la mort.’

‘Oh, I don’t know Morty at all. I liked that Saddo though.’ He was laying on the cheeky chappie a bit thick but they expected it, didn’t they? Posh women like this. Taking a walk on the wild side. Well, he was up for it. Very up for it.

‘Satie,’ she said with a wan smile, sitting beside him on the sofa. It was not a comfortable sofa though it looked pretty with all these curlicues on the ends.

‘Saddie, yeah. His songs are sad but kind of nice.’

‘It was a year ago Tommy…left.’ She smiled a sad smile at him. ‘You remind me of him.’

‘So you said.’ Eric hoped she wouldn’t talk too long. He was ready to get down to it, before the whisky flowed too much. It was hitting him a bit hard after all those cheap lagers. He should pace himself until they were done. Maybe he could take a bottle with him as a kind of memento. She had plenty to spare. ‘But I want to make you forget all about him.’

Eric moved closer to her on the sofa, leaning in for a kiss. Her lips were surprisingly cold. Well, he could fix that. He set his glass down on the shiny lacquered table. ‘Let’s cuddle, love.’ He slipped his arm around the curve of her waist.

A sudden wave of dizziness fogged his brain. Too much whisky. Tut tut, he didn’t want it to affect his performance. So far all was well downstairs. It had been weeks and he was gagging for it.

‘Tommy always liked it on this sofa,’ she said from somewhere above him. ‘Said it was easy to brace himself on.’

‘Oh yeah, for certain,’ Eric said, hearing his words slur. Christ, he hadn’t had that much. Maybe the good stuff was stronger. He rallied. ‘Let’s get to it and I’ll make you forget everything Tommy ever said.’

‘I can’t forget. I can’t ever forget his cruelty. He hurt me.’

What was her name? Elizabeth, Mary—some name like a queen. ‘Listen, love,’ Eric said then forgot what came next. He slipped onto the floor and stared up at her, eyes goggling. ‘Hey…’

‘Happy anniversary, Tommy,’ she said sitting astride him. ‘You’re going to leave me again, I know. But I have to do it until I get it right.’ She held the knife aloft. It glinted like her eyes.

Eric saw the blade fall but he didn’t really feel anything but wet. Posh birds. You just never knew.

A writer of bleakly noirish tales with a bit of grim humour, Graham Wynd can be found in Dundee but would prefer you didn’t come looking. An English professor by day, Wynd grinds out darkly noir prose between trips to the local pub. Publications include LOVE IS A GRIFT and EXTRICATE from Fox Spirit Books, SATAN’S SORORITY from Fahrenheit 13 Press,  as well as tales in the 2016 Anthony Award-winning anthology Murder Under the Oaks and the Anthony Award-nominated Protectors 2: Heroes . Wynd’s stories have been translated into German, Italian, Polish and Slovene. See a full list of stories (including free reads) here. Find Wynd on Facebook and Twitter.

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