Diamonds Inc’ By U.V. Ray
Norton saw a spider crawling across his desk. He bought down his glass of Scotch and crushed it. He buzzed his secretary and said, “Send in Offenbach .”
Offenbach came in and leaned his black umberella against the wall in the corner of the room. He adjusted his suit and sat down in the leather chair opposite Norton, crossing his legs.
“I think you know,” Norton swilled the ice cubes around in his drink. “That we have someone within our organisation who is… shall we say… compromising our integrity.”
“More specifically, you mean the Bulgarian connection.” Offenbach nodded.
“Indeed, Mr. Offenbach. The Bulgarian connection. This is to be an important move in the company’s evolution and I want you to see to it that this little problem is removed from our midst.”
“And what kind of remuneration can I expect?”
“You’ll get ten grand upon completion. Any additional costs you’re likely to incur can be paid up front, if you’d prefer. But I only pay when the job is done.”
“I’ll need a few days to begin preparations.”
“I don’t give a shit how you do it, Offenbach ,” Norton drained his Scotch. “But I’ve got three million worth of Hot Rocks being delivered in just six month’s time. So I do want a swift conclusion, you understand?”
“And I’ll also need a long holiday afterwards. On you! Somewhere nice, with palm trees and a golf course. I’ll need to disappear for a while.”
“Sure, I’ll even throw in a bottle of sun-tan oil and the beach towel.” Norton laughed.
The two men shook hands and Offenbach buttoned up his suit and walked out of the office, adding, “I’ll be in touch.”
Norton poured another Scotch and scraped the dead spider off the bottom of the glass on the edge of the desk. He had a business empire that stretched from here in Birmingham to the USA , Canada and S.Africa. This new Bulgarian contract would form the hub of his operations for the next two years. No jumped-up little upstart out to usurp him was going to jeopardise that. He loosened his tie and walked over and stood looking out the window onto a rainy Centenary Square. The city streets were packed, as usual. Full of people hiding their true selves behind small-talk and smiles.
( U.V. Ray is featured on this month’s Writer’s Interviews page!)
Boogie Town Inferno By Michael Gonzales
an abandoned car was parked in front of the hydrant. fire-truck sirens screamed in the night as raging flames kissed the midnight sky. staring at your former south bronx tenement over on 178th and vyse avenue, neighborhood crack zombies were entranced by the vivid yellow and crimson cinders raining down from the rooftop. “oh shit,” screamed a young black boy cruising the trash strewn street on a stolen five-speed bike.
this block is filled with ghosts, you thought, still buzzed from the cocaine you had been hitting since noon. feeling as though it were on the verge of exploding, your heart was beating a million miles a minute.
“another bronx building burning,” said a weary voiced stranger standing behind you.
looking all official and shit, you were dressed in the same police academy uniform you wore at graduation that same afternoon. assigned to work at the 48th precinct, your brain was buzzed from the the eight ball of devil’s dandruff you scored from some hunts point homie.
“fish scale,” he had assured you, as though it made a difference. all those youngbloods swore they were scarface. fuck the friendly skies, ‘cause you was higher than eddie palmieri hanging at casa amadeo record shop bragging about being the baddest piano player in the barrio. sweat rolled down your face like you had stuck it in a oven or something.
besides yourself, no one watching that building burn knew that there was a dead woman on the top floor lying next to a pissy mattress, her messy haired head cracked like the plaster on an old bedroom ceiling.
chick’s name was lisa hernadez, and once upon a time baby girl had been a great beauty with a big booty and supple breasts. still, that was years before the broad had become a full blown crack ho, wandering the streets of the boogie down looking to make her loot by any means necessary no matter how low down.
back in the day, when both of ya’ll had lived in that red bricked apartment building (her fam lived on the fifth floor, while you were one flight down) you had lusted after sweet lisa since you was teenager who stared at the ceiling while pulling your pecker.
eyes closed, your nasty daydreams were like private porn movies continually running on a loop in your mind. in that home-made triple-xxx flick in your head, you rubbed lisa’s perky nipples through sheer tube-tops, sucked the dirty toes that had been walking the block in red jellies and licked her hairy snatch as she screamed your name.
of course, in the real world, she barely knew that you were alive, so you thought of tonight payback for all those times she had mocked you, laughed in your face and made snide remarks behind your back. “whose laughing now, bitch” you thought to yourself, trying not to laugh aloud.
welcome to spic heaven: clearly you remembered the days of growing-up on that broke down block of vacant lots, drunken domino players and one storefront church. despite the sweet salsa songs your mother used to hum in the mornings, you never saw any pretty flowers blooming through the cracked sidewalks. unless, of course, they had mutated into dog shit, broken bottles, trash heaps and empty heroin bags.
back when you were a small school boy with chubby cheeks and sorrowful eyes, your mother was your entire world. every friday evening, after leaving her gig at the martin luther king health center, she stopped-off at the cluttered botanica tu mundo up the street. gently parting the colorful floral curtains in front of your living-room window, you patiently waited for her to sluggishly stroll down the block.
you looked at the shattered souls gathered on the stoop across the street, boisterous boys congregated around a chalk drawn skellzie board; a few feet away from jose’s luncheonette, a couple of strong armed teens dressed in two-tone sweaters and tight black pants played congas while a wino ex-boxer drunkenly danced wildly and sang out of tune.
minutes later you spotted your mommi slowly walking pass dented garbage cans, carrying a heavy shopping bag. it usually took her at ten minutes to tiredly scale the dirty marble stairs to your fourth-floor apartment.
after achingly removing her white nurse shoes, she poured herself a healthy taste of dark rum and flopped on the plastic covered couch. after taking a few gulps, she shared splendid stories about her homeland of puerto rico. with peppermint scented breath, her remembrances of the island were filled with dusty roads and white sand beaches, mystic sunsets and flying cockroaches.
from those tales you conjured images of wide-hipped aunts you had never seen and divine music you had never heard.
“tell me about poppi,” you begged after she had downed a few glasses of the potent rum.
“oh, he was such handsome man with his grey eyes and curly hair,” she swooned. a fisherman, he had drowned seven weeks before you were born. while you secretly hated him for dying, you never tired of your mother’s verbal snap-shots of their short life together: “it was olokun,” she wept, referring the deity of the sea in santeria. with frail fingers she crushed your small head into her full bosom and wept. “olokrun took your poppi away from us.”
in the corner of the white walled living-room, below a cheaply framed picture of j.f.k., mommi had constructed an altar. there was a small color photograph of your father lying atop the red and white satin cloth that covered the altar; there was that plaster statue of st. jude, lit white candles, fresh flowers, an apple, an upside down glass of water supported on a white dish and a jar full of coins. with your father’s spirit and the santeria gods as her constant companions, it was not uncommon for mom dukes to awaken after midnight to pray that he was at peace.
washing-up in lukewarm water the following morning, you glanced into the sparkling bathroom mirror, slowly searching for a resemblance with the man in the picture. when you were about eight, you noticed that the two of you shared the same haunted grey eyes. at least that explained why your mother never looked into your peepers when she spoke to you. hell, she just couldn’t stand seeing your father’s eyes in you.
because of your poppi’s drowning, your mother feared losing you to “d’evil streets” outside your windows. with those beatbox boys blasting grandmaster flash tapes and nasty domincan girls shaking their bubble butts, to your moms, those bario blocks were wilder than the waves that had swept away husband.
once a month she performed a despojos ceremony, gently beating you with whatever herbs the botanica oracle suggested would frighten away evil spirits. she even placed a string of multicolored prayer beads around your neck to protect you from the demons that lurked in the shadows.
as you got older, she slipped deeper into a netherworld of religion and rum. speaking in tongues, she hung crucifixes throughout the apartment and sprinkled the corners with aqua floria. over the plastic slip covered couch hung a picture of jesus that for some reason scared you. affixed to the cross, blood dripped from his hands and feet.
one night when you were nine, your father approached you in a dream: visions of his sun blackened body lying on the white sands of a beach. there were piercing holes where his eyes should have been. with webbed feet and gills like a fish, he stood-up and approached. his hands were cold and slimy when he touched your fat face.
that rainy morning, you woke-up screaming.
outside of your hollowed home, you were a paradox: gang member and alter-boy, cheeba smoker and teacher’s pet, wild in the streets and smart in the class-room. you hung tough with a clique of kids who called themselves el barrio angels.
an everchanging crew that had been around since the days of the young lords, they had originally planned to be an off-shoot of the radical group. but, by the time you got down with them in the summer of ‘77, the notorious season of the infamous blackout that bought new york to its knees, the el barrio angels dappled in petty crimes that included selling weed, boosting clothes and robbing number taking bodegas.
by ‘79 ya’ll had become infamous in the hood. it was your best friend fast eddie calderon who had put you down with the crew. Money grip had got his nickname because he could out run any mick cop in the precinct,
skinny ass calderon, with his greasy hair and raggedly jeans, had been your homeboy since the two of you were no bigger than fightin’ cocks. after his parents had died in a car crash, he lived with his older sister in the projects. at first glance he didn’t appear to the brightest star in the sky, but the boy was no dummy.
“if you look stupid then people don’t expect much from ya,” he declared. “that way you can get away with more shit with less consequences.” although he was only two years older than you, calderon schooled your punk ass in the ways of the street. “we be like brothers from different mothers,” he fondly said.
the meeting spot for the el barrio angels was a decaying tenement a few blocks from the cross bronx expressway. a once stunning structure had been contemned years ago. the once exquisite marble floors, with their faded art deco designs, were chipped and soiled, and the broken windows looked like the eyes of a dead man.
the angels transformed the apartment on the third floor of a crumbling building into a clubhouse. somehow the gang’s leader had managed to install lights, an old pool-table, a stained cloth couch and a few tattered chairs. a beat-up eight-track played a constant stream of barretto and bataan. in the dimly lit room there was also a old safe with a broken door where the angels stored bags of weed and stolen loot.
whenever ya’ll went out, the wild stray german shepherd ya’ll named blood was kept inside the room. the canine’s constant barking kept the junkies far away. “blood would rip out their throats and eat ‘em hop heads like hamburger,” calderon laughed petting the dog. “them junkie motherfuckers know better than to fuck around over here.”
indeed, the only thing that disgusted you about the building were all those noddin’ junkies shooting up, pissing, shitting, fucking and dying in the halls. a trio of nappy haired colored dudes dressed in old vietnam jackets and oily jeans sold five dollar packs of p-funk from a first floor apartment, and throughout the rest of the building.
one dreary twilight in the summer of ‘79 you and calderon was just chillin’ in the club house puffing budda bless. like the villian twins you wanted to be, both ya’ll was dressed in your regular el barrio angels uniform of backwards black baseball caps, black pro-keds, white tube socks and black polyester pants.
outside the window, as the sun slowly changed colors from white glare to muted orange, the racket of a rowdy block party ricocheted off of the rickety structures. you just knew that kool herc was in the house.
later that night, there was a surprise raid by corrupt cops on the gang’s chill-out spot. the boogaloo music had been so loud that none of the crew had heard those hard heeled police footsteps as they crept up the stairs. guns drawn and popping shit, the blue boys barged into the room.
scared to death when those pigs threatened to stomp anyone who squealed, you knew it was time to jet. in your eyes five-o were just a bunch of pussys with power and guns, flexing their muscles against a roomful of teenagers.
one chalky faced cop swung open the rusty safe door, and began stuffing all the loot and drugs into his pockets. with coffee and cigarette stained teeth, the pig laughed.
there was mayhem in the room as you and fast eddie scattered out of the window and scurried up a rusty fire-escape in beat-up pro-keds. once you reached the roof-top, both of you attempting to leap to the neighboring building.
fuckin’ eddie didn’t make it though, falling to his death in the darkness.
though terrified, somehow you made it back to your apartment without a scratch. it was then, lying on the bed still in scared shirtless, but wiping away the sweat and tears, that you decided that you wanted to be a cop instead of a criminal.
it was not about knowing right from wrong, but about who had the supremacy in that police state. you’ve noticed how the fuzz swaggered through the hood with a sense of self-importance; you saw how they never paid for their food in restaurants; you heard stories from the other el barrio angels how the pigs are always ripping-off the local drug dealers, stealing the stash and keeping their cash.
“that’s gonna be my hustle,” you mumbled, wiping tears away with a tissue. in the next room your mommi slept, unaware of your revelation. “i’m going to be a cop.”
ten years later the decade has changed, but the barrio was still the same. or maybe worse. still, on that weary winter morning that you graduated from the police academy, your mother was so proud.
after taking her home to her new spot in riverdale, you hooked-up with a few other friends from the academy for what was supposed to be an innocent celebration in the old hood. in the city’s liberal attempt to recruit former homeboys to police their own, thinking they will be able to relate better to the beamed-up crackheads and wild cowboy drug dealers, this was going to be your beat.
crack had worked a dark mojo on that hood. shit, niggas flipped for that rock cocaine. after it first hit the streets in the early ‘80s, the bronx barrios had become a surreal circus of ruthless addition and scary monsters who crawled in the night.
you looked at the new jack street dealers with their snarling pitbulls and exquisite foreign cars, and their wealth excited you. hell, you knew that soon you would be sharing in the spoils of the losing war on drugs.
that night, along with three of your fellow graduates, you boogied over to carlito’s pub, an old school bar that had been in the hood since you were a kid. the jukebox blared old salsa as though hip-hop had never been created. after hooking-up with your drug dealing homie in the bathroom, you began sniffing the pure coke and downing shots of barcardi as though tomorrow would never come.
“drinks for my friends,” you screamed as your mind slowly unraveled like a spool of thread. next thing you realized you are alone in the streets, wandering down the block in search of a piece of pussy gone astray.
the trick was to find one of those rock smoking hoes who knew how to blow like miles davis. it was then that you saw lisa, her skin smoother than black ice as ice. like other lost ladies, she had become as ruined as the hood itself.
“rock star, bitch,” you mumbled. “i wonder who broke you down. used to be too good for a nigga…now look at ya.”
dressed in dirty jeans, worn nike’s and a ratty sweater, you gave her two twenty-dollar bills to buy a few vials of rock before she took you to the apartment building where you used to live when you was a kid.
the block was swarming with illegal business. you walked into the dark building, and heard mumbling voices coming from beneath the steps. most of the creepy apartments appeared to be crack spots, but you were not nervous.
the fifth-floor apartment used to belong to her mother, who moved back to p.r. the year before. you can remember coming to a birthday party here when lisa turned ten, and the apartment was immaculate as the virgin mary. but that was so long ago. now the flat was a wreak, the sticky floors littered with old beer bottles and used condom packages; there were chink take-out boxes and chicken wing bones; there are dirty clothes all over the floor and jacked-up mattress in the middle of the living-room. there is an unholy stench that burns your nose hairs. there were dirty sheets covering the windows.
after lighting a few candles, lisa invited you over to the stained mattress. you still had coke left, so while she smoked those stinky rocks, you took a few sniffs. lisa chattered non-stop, and what little you caught of her conversation had to do with the baby her mother stole from her. another innocent child born a junkie, but now she was gone.
you didn’t give a shit about this mess she was yapping, you just wanted your dick sucked so you could break out. blaring rap songs (eric b. & rakim, big daddy kane) crashed through the closed window like an urban rhythm soundtrack.
touching her bony leg, she told you to wait until she has smoked another rock. she is jumpy and nervous, but after sucking that glass dick lisa would be just fine, at least for five minutes.
you lay down, imagining yourself swimming in the ocean. you could feel lisa unfastening your belt and pants. gently she began licking your balls, sucking and gently gibbling with skill. with your eyes closed, in your mind you saw your father emerging from the sea. except, unlike those dreams from your youth, he doesn’t look to be at peace. his eyes look angry and confused.
“be a man,” your dead daddy said. “be a fucking man.”
minutes passed and soon your vision was shattered by loud cackling laughter. despairingly you opened your eyes and saw that it was lisa laughing though fucked-up teeth.
“i been sucking your dick for twenty minutes and you still ain’t hard, poppi,” she says. “you been sniffing that shit all night long, now your little dickie won’t co-operate.”
you felt like a drowning man trying to catch your breath. with these simple words, blood rushed to your head. you could feel the anger building in your chest like a wall as her laughter echoed through that room of horrors as though it were coming through a set of hi-fi speakers.
“you’re going to regret that you raggy bitch,” you screamed, and before you could help yourself you punched lisa in the face. on impact, her mouth shattered as teeth and blood rained to the floor.
for a moment she was dazed, but without warning she leapt on your back and began pulling your hair as her fingernails scratched the back of your neck. “fuckyoufuckyoufuckyou…” she cried and screamed and lost her mind. regaining your balance, you flipped the crazy broad off your back. she looked like a broken doll sprawled on the floor, her skull cracked; you noticed your pants and underwear are still around your ankles.
although lisa had not moved since you flipped her a minute ago, her laughter was still loud in that evil room.
she was unconscious on the floor, but still you were afraid. suppose she filed a police report at the same precinct where you were to report to work in the morning.
it would be your rookie word against a crack-head, but who needed the grief; more than likely she would get one of the housing project posse-boys who populated the block to pop your ass on the sneak tip.
pulling up your pants, you buckled your belt and stared into lisa’s damaged face. shit, she had bought it on herself, you reasoned. who told the bitch it was cool to laugh at the police.
slipping your dirty hand into your pocket, you felt a pack of newports. you lit one, sucking on the filter like it was a pacifier. lost in thought for a moment, you decided to set the entire pack of matchs aflame, tossing the lit matches into a pile of yellow newspaper next to the stained mattress.
flames scaled the cheap plastered walls lined with rotting wood, you could feel the heat on your body and sweat on your brow. as the fire begans to spread you could smell lisa’s burning flesh. feeling no remorse as you dashed out of the door and down the five flights.
the next day, when you reported to the precient for your first tour working the four to midnight shift, you would hear the story of some crazy crack head who burned down a building doing stupid crack head shit. your fellow boys in blue would make crude crack jokes and you will laugh, showing them you are down with the program. fuck that serpico shit, you was down.
exiting the burning building, the sidewalk was alive with the jumping jive of spectators who now had something to do with their time instead of sitting on the stoop or shooting dice. cornerboys gathered screamed “meda meda” as though the world was coming to an end. but for you, it had only just begun.
angrily you glanced up at the building. it reminded of that flick the towering inferno. in your stoned mind, the fire looked like a crimson animal trying to escape from the confines of its bronx zoo cage.
watching that sizzling disaster of your own creation, exhilaration surged through your body like electricity. as the blaze grew even more intense, your little dickie finally got hard.
Brooklyn-based Michael A. Gonzales writes for Wax Poetics, New York magazine, Stop Smiling and the Village Voice. His fiction has appeared in Brown Sugar 2 edited by Carol Taylor, The Darker Mask edited by Gary Phillips & Christopher Chambers and Bronx Biannual edited by Miles Marshall Lewis. His essay on Chester Himes appears in Best African-American Essays 2010 edited by Gerald Early. His work can be found here : http://blackadelicpop.blogspot.com/
Le Morte d’Minnie By Melanie Browne
There is a great amount of blood all over my hands and my rented costume.
The costume cannot be laundered. I don’t think I killed anyone. It’s a fact, someone dressed as Minnie Mouse is 33% less likely to commit a murder.
Actually, I think the blood is mine.
When Rick invited me to the Halloween party, he thought it would be fun to visit a costume rental shop and maybe eat an early dinner afterwards. I was kind of tired, but we had only started dating and he had the means to persuade me.
Mainly by nagging and threatening to take someone else if I didn’t say yes.
He picked me up from my apartment and said hello to my roommates and we left and headed towards the costume shop on the east side of town. As we walked in I had to cover my nose. The smell of mold was strong and a man with a heavy dark beard asked, can I help you? Rick told him we wanted some kick-ass Halloween costumes, and did they take American Express?
I think so the man said.
Rick’s family had a lot of money. They owned an orchard back East. I thought it was funny that
His money clip was shaped like a Playboy Bunny. I liked to watch as he took wads of cash out of the clip and wave them in my face like a fan. Let me tell you, Rick knew women.
The bearded man took us to an aisle marked Halloween Rentals and said you can rent from here to there and he pointed to a small section but then he gestured towards the rest of the clothing racks and said the rest is for theatre groups only. Rick smirked and grabbed my hand and started to examine the possible selections. His eyes lit up when he saw the Minnie Mouse costume and then he started winking so much I asked him if he had a little dust in his eye and he didn’t laugh but said yes, this is the costume for you and the bearded man walked behind and pointed to something in the bag and said these go over your own shoes. What, I said. He said these go over your own red shoes, your own heels, or whatever.
Ok, I said, and I wished that bearded guy would leave us alone already. Now for my costume, Rick said, and he found a Fred Flintstone rig so he could show of his pecks, and I said, that doesn’t go with Minnie Mouse and he said, in the bedroom it does, and winked again in a really obnoxious way. We gave our costumes to Beard and he was painfully slow and Rick popped out his money clip and handed him the American Express card and Beard swiped the card and he said, thank you for your business, remember, it’s a two –day rental. We left to go find some Chinese food and changed into our costumes at Rick’s apartment. He kept trying to mess around and I said, no, get your caveman hands off of me. Where’s Wilma? go bother her.
We stopped to get some wine coolers and beer, even though we had heard there would be a keg at the party. I began to feel self-conscious about the whole Minnie Mouse thing. The bow was really big and kept falling off my head and I tripped over my tail a couple of times. Hey, Rick said, remember when Rob Lowe danced with Minnie Mouse at the Academy Awards? And he started laughing, hahaha,! That shit was funny. That wasn’t Minnie Mouse, I said, that was Snow White. Oh he said, and got quite for a minute. I liked it when Rick was quiet, or when he took money out of his money clip, but I think I already told you that.
We arrived at Lee’s house and people were already laughing really loud which means the booze was already flowing and Rick says, I’ll be right back and left me standing there holding my tail with a six pack of Heineken and a couple of wine coolers. I crossed one leg over the other and tried to act casual even though a lot of people didn’t bother to dress up. One lady standing in the corner looked like she was going for an 80s vibe and she looked really messed up like she might throw up on her leg warmers at any time.
Rick was taking a long time so I walked out to the patio and I didn’t really know anybody but I was thankful that my bladder wasn’t full or anything because I didn’t want to try to find a bathroom when I was carrying all this beer and I certainly didn’t want to end up on someone’s cell phone camera while sitting on the toilet with Mouse ears on my head. I started laughing out loud wondering whether Minnie Mouse ever she got all psycho on Mickey right before her period. I bet she does. Then I started laughing which made people stare at me and I saw 80s girl whisper something in her boyfriend’s ear and point in my direction. Go ahead, Keep laughing, I saw you almost throw up on your hi -tops, I thought. I have a cell phone too.
There you are, Rick says, and I say hey Barney.
Rick says, “no, I’m Fred, bow-head. “
I feel his biceps.
Where have you been, I ask him.
Just hanging out with a couple of people I recognized, he looks at my costume like he is only seeing it for the first time.
“Damn, Minnie, wait till I get you home!”
I drink a couple of Heinekens and watch as Barney or Fred or Rick looks at a blonde dressed as a cheerleader. I can’t be sure because she has lost her pom-pom’s somewhere.
That’s when I see him.
He’s rotten. I mean he’s dressed as Johnny Rotten. He’s gathered a small crowd together as he demonstrates his hand walking skills. It’s quite impressive actually, he must have gone 10 feet before he collapsed and vomited ever so slightly on the pavement. He looked up as the crowd cheered but when they saw he was down for the count they went back to their beer, laughter, and cigarettes.
I stop at the spot where John lies comatose and squat down for a better look. His left eye pops open and he gives me a crazy look then squeezes his eyes shut again and starts to scream.
What’s wrong, I ask him, why are you screaming?
I took some of my mother’s Celebrex and I think I’m having an allergic reaction.
I see some hives on Johnny’s face and tell him that he probably is.
“What’s your name”, I ask him.
Is your name Minnie, he asks me. No, I laugh, it’s Melody.
John runs his hand through his sticky hair and starts screaming again.
I dial 911 on my pink cell.
I drink a wine cooler as Rick walks up to survey the scene.
Let’s go home Minnie.
Not till I make sure Mr. Rotten gets a big shot of Ephedrine.
“What, who, this sad skinny little punk?”
He’s just wasted. Let’s go back to my place, let me show you what Fred can do in the bedroom. The ambulance arrives as the hives have now covered most of John’s heavily tattooed and now shivering body.
I watch as they start to work over John and I walk with a very giddy Rick back to his car. He starts to unlock the car as I hear a loud crack and Rick is now lying on the ground and I hear another loud crack and that’s when I look down and see the blood starting to seep through my costume.
I start screaming when I see a man running back towards the direction of the party. I see what Looks like a wrestling belt around his waist. Was that masked man Fritz Von Erich? People start running in our direction and one of them says,
“Someone shot them, that guy dressed like Fred Flinstone and a girl dressed like Minnie Mouse!”
I worry about the rental agreement for these costumes and as I fold into the ground I smile
Because Rob Lowe is taking my hand, we are dancing and I can see his dimples and I wonder if I will see him later, after the post-award parties.
Melanie Browne Co-editor of Leaf Garden press http://melspoemsandsuch.blogspot.com/ http://leafgardenpress.com
Heaven is a Giant Pawn Shop/ Poems by Melanie Browne http://www.erbacce-press.com/#/melanie-browne/4533546014/
Hate Radio: A Dialog Between Generations
By John Grochalski
I knew that I wasn’t going into work. I was hungover. It was sunny and seventy degrees outside. I was on day four of a six-day workweek, and was staring down the barrel of another bad week after this one. It was meetings and conferences. Employee reviews. I had Sunday coming to me. Sunday was no hope. By noon I’d be dreading going to work the next day, and it would hang over everything. I was tired too. I hadn’t been sleeping so well. I’d go to bed and I’d just lie there and think how bad things had gotten. Fistfights between co-workers and fistfights between customers, all during the month that my main supervisor was there to give me my last evaluation before I was off probation, and this gig became officially mine.
I couldn’t bear a day with my supervisor hanging over me. Elvira. She was a flighty woman, pleasantly passive aggressive, who did everything by the book, and micromanaged me to the point of insanity. Everything that I did had to be dictated to her in an email. Every correspondence with someone, she had to be kept in the loop, even if it had nothing to do with her. She answered the phone on my desk. She put her shit on my desk. She used my computer to micromanage the other poor saps underneath her, and to check in on her two delinquent kids in the hopes that they would answer emails, since they sure as hell weren’t answering her phone calls. I walked around the joint like a nomad. My only solace was the day this month that she called in sick. Even that day she wrote half a dozen emails, and called me four times to check in. I’d had enough.
So I stayed in bed beyond the alarm. I let my wife get up and feed the cats. I listened to her brew coffee and tea, make her lunch, and put on the classical station to calm down before she went to her own hell. People weren’t meant to live this way, I thought. We were meant to do great things, to see great things. We were meant to rise above the mundane. But we were trapped in this life of eight hours a day, forty hours a week, and fifty out of fifty-two weeks a year. Our only joys being television, the Internet, food, sex, and sleep. When my wife came in to kiss me goodbye I was in a worse mood than I’d been in when I woke up. I started ranting about the modern world. My wife gave me a kind smile in response. She could tell that I was going mad. She set the radio up for me and classical music blanketed the room. My wife kissed me on the cheek and quickly left. The classical music and both cats nestled next to me. We’d stay this way until it was time for me to call the office.
Well, we might as well throw away all of the maps then because the world is just one big, damned happy family, I guess, I heard someone say from outside the bedroom window.
We lived on the first floor of a six-story building. I was used to the constant noise outside but that didn’t mean that I liked it. I was used to people blasting music as they parked their cars, or assholes stopping to have conversations in front of my window. I was used to the hoodlums torturing my cats as they walked home from the park. The skateboarders going up and down the street at all hours, and my super smoking cigarettes well into the dead of night. I was used to kids crying and dogs barking, delivery trucks idling, and old Chinese ladies picking through the trash for recyclables that they could sell. I’d made my peace with the cacophony of noises outside by purchasing a noise machine and running my fans year round. People could do what they liked while I slept the sleep of the tortured.
I mean if the president isn’t a socialist then I don’t know who is, the voice outside said.
Goddamn it, I thought, springing up out of bed. The cats scattered as I shut off my classical to get a better listen.
Socialist, socialist, socialist.
It was her. She was this decrepit old, cotton-haired bitch who hibernated all winter only to resurrect herself in spring, so that she could sit on the ledge in front of the building and listen to her radio. It was nothing but talk radio: right wing, ultra-neo-conservative talk radio. Her radio was a static wellspring of hate and misinformation. I hated those talk radio guys and their television counterparts. I hated the bile that they added to this modern cesspool of culture and information. If I could I’d find them all and knock them out one by one. I certainly wasn’t going to listen to them on my mental health day.
“Hey,” I said opening the window. The old bitch didn’t even acknowledge me. She just went right on listening to her sewage. “Hey.”
She turned her radio down. “Huh?”
“Do you mind? I can hear your radio in my damned bedroom.”
“So, I’m trying to sleep here.”
“Why aren’t you at work?” she asked.
She pulled down her sunglasses. “You don’t look sick. You look able bodied. Lots of people need work these days.”
“Yeah well, could you turn it down or, I don’t know, go listen to your hate talk inside your own apartment.”
“I have just as much right to be out here as anybody does.”
“You don’t have a right to be rude and loud,” I said.
“I’m being neither,” she said, turning away from me. “I’m minding my own business. You’re the one being rude.”
“It’s just like you people.”
She turned back to me. “Who?”
“You know. You tail-end shit squirts from the Greatest Generation. Sucking up every resource we’ve had for the last seventy to eighty years, drinking your booze in private, playing the lottery like a fiend, squeezing out 2.5 baby boomer kid, left with nothing but memories of cowering in fear from your drunk husband coming home from work, his wasted education paid for by the G.I. Bill.”
“You can’t talk to me that way,” she said, as the hate continued to spew from her radio. I’m not even convinced the president was born in this country.
“It’s a free country.”
“And you mock the ones who made it that way.”
“You old fuckers are always giving young people that shit. You and your tired, old Patriotism. It’s the only thing you have to cling to at this point.”
“My husband fought in Korea.”
“So you should have a little respect.”
“Now you want to talk about respect,” I said. “I told you a moment ago that your radio was blaring into my bedroom, and you basically told me to go and get bent. Why should I respect you?”
“Because I’m older. It’s only right and decent to be that way.”
“Lady, I work over forty hours a week,” I said. “I take my meals out of boxes, dreadful stuff full of sodium and preservatives. I don’t have time to be right and decent.”
“Well, that’s the trouble with the world.” She paused to hear some more hate. What we should be doing is locking down the airports, going into those communities, and going door to door, routing those people out one by one. They’re being harbored by traitors in their own country!
“Maybe if you guys hadn’t sucked up all the money, I’d be able to take it easier and brush up on my manors,” I said. “Get a decent meal in my belly.”
“Don’t blame me,” she said. “It’s those illegals. You want to blame someone, blame them.”
“Right. Because lettuce pickers in Salinas are taking all the social security money,” I said.
“They don’t pay taxes.”
“And you guys won’t die fast enough.”
That made her stand up. “I’m reporting this to the landlord.”
“Reporting what, you old bitch? It’s just you and I talking here. Who’s going to fucking believe you?”
“I’ll tell him and he’ll kick you out of here,” she said. “I’ve been renting in this place longer than you’ve been alive.”
“I’m sure the smell in your apartment is just heaven sent,” I said. Her threat made me a little bit nervous. The rent was cheap where we lived. Despite the noise I liked living in my apartment. I liked my bar and my grocery store, and the parade of high school girls who strolled by the window in shorts and light t-shirts in the summer. I was looking forward to them.
“Rude, rude, and more rude is what you are,” she said. And don’t even get me started on making all of those so-called immigrants citizens. I say we send them all back.
“Lady, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation if you’d just turn down your goddamned radio.”
“Like hell I will now.”
I thought about slamming the window and just going back to bed. I’d put the fans and the noise machine on, and call it a day. But I was pissed. I was mad at the world and made at society. I wanted anarchy and bliss. I wanted this old cunt to feel exactly how I felt. So I stomped into the living room and began looking at a stack of CDs that I had sitting on the coffee table. I selected one and came back into the bedroom. I grabbed the portable stereo and stuck it in the window. These people come to our country and just feed off it and we pay the bills. Now tell me how that is right? Next caller. I took the CD out of its case with a grin on my face. Gently I popped it into the player and hit play.
“Let’s see how you like a little Nine Inch Nails,” I said.
Industrial sound poured into the street. Beats and beaten-on guitars assaulted the old bat’s ears as I stepped away from the window, and let the noise envelope me for once. I had her, I thought. I let the music go and I couldn’t hear a hateful word. Noise came from up above me. A neighbor was pounding on my ceiling but I didn’t care. She was old too. She blasted Sinatra all day on Sundays while my wife and I tried to get in one measly fuck, so this little display was for her as well as the bitch outside. I let a song run through and then another one, dancing around the room as one old lady suffered outside, and the one above me went nuts pounding Morse Code on my ceiling. It was joy incarnate. Now I knew how every noisemaker on my block felt. I felt liberated, like a new man. I promised myself I’d make as much noise as anyone else. I didn’t even care about my job anymore.
Then there was a pounding on my front door.
I wandered down my hall to answer it. I kept the Nine Inch Nails going out the window. Why hurry? It would either be one bitch or the other. Whomever it was on the other side pounded again. They pounded harder this time. I got to the door and opened it without even checking the peephole. Fuck it. I knew what waited for me on the other side.
To my surprise it was the superintendent of the building. Jimmy. He was a surly man, bald, with a big walrus moustache. Rumor had it he beat his wife for sport. Typically he was at his other job during the week. He worked construction in the city, building high-rise condos for important assholes. “What in the fuck are you doing?”
“Fighting fire with fire,” I said.
“She started it, Jimmy.”
“The old bat outside. I’m sick and I was trying to sleep, and she’s out there blasting this hate radio shit.”
“There ain’t no one out there,” Jimmy said.
“Like hell there isn’t.”
“I was just out there dumping the trash. There ain’t no one out there. The only thing out there is the noise you’re making.”
“Wait,” I said. I ran down the hallway back to the bedroom. I went over to the window and shut the Nine Inch Nails off. I looked outside and the street was empty. Motherfucker, I thought, as I ran back down the hallway. “Jimmy, she was there a moment ago. You got to believe me.”
“Well, she isn’t there now,” Jimmy said. “And I’m getting complaints about right here.” He pointed at me.
“What can I say?” I said. “I swear she was there.”
“Don’t say nothing. Just keep the music off. Decent people live here, you know. Hard working people.”
“I know,” I said. “I’m one of them.”
“And why ain’t you at work?” Jimmy asked.
“I told you. I’m sick.”
“You don’t seem so sick to me.”
“Are you a doctor?”
“No. I’m the super here. And if I get one more complaint about you, I’m calling the landlord and you can be his problem.”
I got nervous again. “You won’t hear anything out of me,” I said. I went to shake Jimmy’s hand.
He walked away and left me hanging there. I shut the door and went back to the bedroom. I lay back down on the bed. I thought about work and life and love, and just trying to get through. The job wasn’t so bad. At least I had a job. And I liked television and the Internet too. My wife and I had decent sex. I’d cut down on the drinking and we’d start making meals from scratch. I’d see an anger management counselor too. Really I had nothing to be so miserable about.
I was lying there for five minutes before it started up again. This country was founded on God. Who are these people to think otherwise? I believe in freedom, and you can take that to the bank, my good man. I know socialism when I see it. What about you? Next caller. It was hate radio. Hate radio and so on and so on, until I found myself giving in and being soothed by the voice. I found myself drifting in the symphony of opinion. I knew I had to call work and call in sick, but that could wait. I needed sleep like no man before me. When I woke up I’d call the job. I’d tell them that I’d be in later instead of taking the whole day off. I’d be there with bells ringing and a smile plastered on my face. No matter what I’d be there, and I’d be a better American for it.
I am a published writer whose fiction has appeared in our journal as well as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Retort, Bartley Snopes, The Big Stupid Review, The Legendary, The Moose & Pussy, The Battered Suitcase, Fictionville, Pequin, and the anthology Living Room Handjob. My column The Lost Yinzer appears quarterly in The New Yinzer (www.newyinzer.com). My book of poems The Noose Doesn’t Get Any Looser After You Punch Out is out via Six Gallery Press, and my chapbook Meditations On Misery With Women is due via Tainted Coffee Press in the summer of 2010.
The Field By J.J. Ansemi
The ground blurred into the sky. Large metal structures penetrated the featureless expanse of dirt and sagebrush. Small black dots wove in and out of crossbars and interstices. A flame ejaculated from the top of the nearest well. The fire illuminated the blue and white painted metal. A droning wind, which sounded like a tectonic shift, forced the flame into a chaotic dance.
I looked out my frost edged window. Vague outlines of mountains, barely visible through the gray veil, fenced the seemingly infinite plains. Weaving through dirt mounds and metal structures in this remote area of southwestern Wyoming, I had simultaneous feelings of disconnection and connection. I thought about a network mainframe that controlled a system of intricate computer processes. A mainframe that was housed in walls of concrete, accessible to only a few people.
I found the rig I was looking for. Wind reached through the open doors and constricted my lungs when I got out of the truck. I watched a few roughnecks get out of their blue trucks and move toward the monolithic acanthocephala. The immaculate structure, bright blue against the gray dirt and sky⎯as if constructed of neon lights⎯contrasted the rusted and decaying rigs that I imagined. As they began to work, the roughnecks became indistinguishable from the rig’s other mechanisms.
Chemical fumes carried by the wind⎯a mixture of cat piss, ammonia, and gasoline⎯coagulated into a tangible mass. The smell brought back memories of my place in Five Points; meth houses on either side infected the entire area with corrosive vapors. The perpetually vigilant stare from the methamphetamine addicts was also present in the field, but the gaze came from the drilling rig.
I stood a few yards away, transfixed by the structure. A horizontal platform joined the vertical tower piece. Angular cross beams wove into massive trunks of metal. It was a perfect interpretation of its blueprints. Each piece, weld, and rod served a specific purpose, all contributing to the machine’s task.
The drill pierced my ears with a percussive rhythm. Engines resounded in thick, distorted bass tones. Three workers moved nimbly around the massive drill. They guided heavy jaws around the cylinder, adjusted valves, danced out of the way as the jaws clamped and unclamped. Sludgy bile spewed from the hole when the cylinder pulled out. The immense drill rose up from the ground, the spinning bits reverberating. It connected to the vertical prism with an industrial umbilical chord, which wriggled in the air like a tapeworm. The parts served their purpose, and guided the drill back into the orifice. Electronic feedback from the wind filled the space around the well, adding an atmospheric layer to the dissonant symphony.
The drone of distant engines was distorted by the wind. I felt like I was trapped in some sort of dome. A corridor hidden from the rest of the world.
While grappling with the idea of capturing my surroundings through language, I stared at a clump of sagebrush⎯three or four feet high, ten feet wide. No buds or leaves, just skeletal and sporadic twigs. Rigid scar tissue woven into the plains’ skin. A time elapsement sequence of the roots trickling beneath the surface played in my head. The roots became entangled with the drill, cracked, then withered.
J.J. Anselmi has a BA in English and will be starting the process of applying to grad school soon. He works in an industrial book labyrinth in Denver, Colorado and plays drums in his noisy metalcore band, Sherman to the Fucking Sea–myspace.com/shermantothefuckingsea. He has two other pieces in PMM –“Visual Noise” under the music section, and “The Golden Pattern” under the second fiction page. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Office Politics By Jen Ricci
Thursdays were the new Friday: hardly any work was done starting from four pm. Cunningham, obviously, stopped much earlier: it was about three when he stumbled across the office, high on coke and with a few down too-a joy to watch.
Any sort of substance other than water seemed to enhance his nice sunny self, already unbearable ‘au naturel’: this time he aimed for her desk.
Pete, who was her neighbour, looked positively worried: Tan didn’t raise her head, purposely ignoring Cunningham, who was now standing directly facing her, across the desk. She kept writing a few notes, as if nothing was happening.
“Hey Tan…want some of this?”
When she did look, Cunningham (who had also various nicknames) had undone his trousers, pulled his pants down and placed his cock right on her desk.
The man was out of his head! And arrogant. The star of the office, the golden boy, the million pounds man. Oh, and a major arsehole.
The others froze. He was known for stuff like this…it wasn’t pretty to watch.
Tan looked down on her paper and seemed to think. She slowly raised her head then stood up, looking calm, she walked at his side. She sat on the desk, almost smiling, then very quickly she grabbed the moron’s balls and stabbed his ribs with a sharp pencil, twice very hard. The huge guy howled in pain: some blood, droplets, was visible on his light blue shirt now. His eyes said it all…
“Now, Cunningham” Tan hissed, under hear breath “If you care about having babies at all in a near or not too near future-and bless the woman who will put up with a moron like you- you say sorry”
Rory Cunningham had gone pale. His breath stunk of brandy. He could have pushed her away as he was twice her size but her grab on his balls was very firm and he could feel the sharp nails: he wasn’t happy! That really hurt…the pencil had caused some damage too on the ribs and he could feel the stabs. But that was the least of his concerns right now… the last junior had run in shame when he had pulled the very same trick!
“I think you found yourself a feisty one this time” Tan said, as if reading his thoughts. His face was the picture of surprise and dismay. He looked rather undignified, his cock out and his balls the object of dubious attention…
“Sorry” Tan encouraged him, with an evil look in her eyes, mouthing the word.
Oh, that was indeed new. If one hand he was shocked by what was happening and in pain, some part of his brain was registering that a girl was holding his balls –far too firmly though- and if unpleasant in one sense, was it not a kind of compliment in an other?
Anyway, he did want to keep the option of having babies, eventually, or keeping some functionality….
“Ok…ok there. No problem, I get it. Now let me go” he ventured.
She smiled, wickedly. He couldn’t believe it! The bitch was indeed enjoying this!
“Please” she mouthed, calmly,
“Ok, sorry. And please. Now let me go”
Her eyes fixed on him, she paused and then suddenly released the grab. He hurriedly adjusted his trousers to be decent again. She watched him, her eyes fixed on him.
“I’m going to wash my hands…Cunningham. Next time you pull a trick like this, I’ll stub your jewels instead of your ribs. Greetings!” she mimicked a curtsey, she turned and went off, holding the arm and hand she had used to grab at some distance for everyone to see.
There was a pause then the other guys started laughing, unanimously, some openly, the younger ones under their breath.
“Yes Cunningham, you found yourself a feisty one!” Dug at the far end said. He had seen nothing like this in all his years in the trading office…
“Shut up, moron” grunted Rory, still high from the coke….and pale.
“I think you’ve found your match here” Pete said, and he meant it.
“Yeah, we’ll see” Rory mumbled and went back to his desk, while the others were still laughing.
Needless to say, from that day on, Rory kept a respectful distance between Tan and himself, albeit calling her ‘bitch’ when she was not present….kept thinking of that firm grab though…
Jen Ricci is a horror and erotica writer by night, and an alternative health and pet care writer by day: she has been writing for over twenty years but professionally for only two.
She has written for Sex and Murder Magazine, The World of Myth, Positive Health, One up and Excite and she is based in South London UK.
Room Number Six By Matthew Phillips
Frank Sellers stood outside the motel room listening to the trucks whip past on the highway. Room number six, the same number of years he and Jessie had been married. The compact shape of a pistol pressed against his hip, waited there beneath his waistband. He took air into his lungs, held it, let it go. He was fresh out of Rikers Island, the last thirty days of which had been solitary, and even the polluted, industrial shit-town air felt like an old friend. It gets so you hate to breathe in solitary, with nothing but your own voice bouncing off the cold, dead walls.
But now he was out, and he had come for his wife.
He looked both directions down the outdoor corridor. Nobody around this time of night, only the traffic moving behind him. He slid the pistol out and flipped the safety off.
The door collapsed under his boots. He had the pistol up, ready for action as he came in. His wife was face down on the bed, her pert ass up in the air, pink panties still on, same colored brassiere. She turned her head towards the noise, recognized him.
The prison guard he had called Slick, the one who had scored him cigarettes and the occasional bottle of cheap whiskey was standing at the foot of the bed. His uniform pants were still on, but he had removed his billy club, taser and button down shirt. The billy and taser were next to the coffee machine on the television stand, harmless. Slick honed in on the pistol pointed at his abdomen, blinked twice, like he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“You ain’t scheduled out yet,” he said, still not sure this was real.
“Week early on account of state transfers,” he said.
Slick scratched his head.
“That right? I thought they didn’t come down till next month.”
“Well, you thought wrong,” said Frank,” I guess a few cartons of cigarettes buys quality time with my wife, that right?”
Slick put his hands behind his head.
Frank Sellers squeezed the trigger. The gunfire echoed against the dirty walls of room number six. Slick went down and curled into the fetal position, clutched the bloody area between his hips.
He swung the pistol towards Jessie. She turned over, scooted to the side of the bed and stood up. He watched her slide the pink panties down across her cream white thighs, step out of them. She reached around behind her shoulders and unsnapped the bra, let it fall to the floor. He kept the pistol centered between her green eyes. Her dark nipples pointed back at him, pistol be damned.
“I missed you baby,” said Jessie.
Franks Sellers took another long swallow of air, held it, let it go. He set the pistol down next to the prison guard’s weapons and began to unbuckle his belt.
“I missed you too,” he said.
M.R. Phillips has had fiction published in Powder Burn Flash, San Diego City Beat, and the Scratch Anthology. He can be reached through email at email@example.com.
Klish Plop By Derrick Malone
Klishhh ploppp! Mud splattered as it was flung out of the large hole in the earth. The pile of wet dirt, rocks and tiny roots grew large as each scoop was thrown on top of the pile. Thunder roared above as lightning struck in the distance.
Norm tossed the spaded shovel up on the ground level. He pulled his rain slicker tighter around him and zipped up. Just as he looked to the sky, the first drops of the new wave of rain fell. His glasses began to fog as raindrops crashed down on the lenses.
“Shit. Damn it all to hell!” Norm muttered as he pulled himself out of the large hole.
The fog from his breath was thick and heavy. He removed his bifocals to shake the water from the lenses. Without thinking, he wiped them with his mud covered thumbs. This made the problem worse. Mud, water and his natural skin oils made a ugly smudge over the glasses.
Norm cursed the day he was born. Those were his only glasses and now he made a big mess of them. Instead of adding fuel to the fire, Norm did what he thought best, he put the glasses in his pocket for safe keeping until he could get home to properly clean them.
The rain got heavier. Norm stomped off to the small path in the woods. Nearby a branch snapped crashing to the ground with a loud thud. He continued to push through the branches without a second thought. Any other time Norm may have suspected some one or some thing being there. But, this winter was different. A winter storm had blown through the small east Texas town a month prior. An unusual twelve inches of snow had wreaked havoc on the state. The normally strong tree branches had been bombarded by heavy snow and had left an aftermath of weakly sagging and falling branches.
Snapp! Another branch echoed as it came to its demise.
The gray skies took on an even darker tone as the rain began to pour down harder by what seemed every second and small pieces of hale began to bounce off everything in sight.
Norm crammed his muddied hands deep into the pockets of his slicker. Taking shelter under a large tree, he waited for the hale to cease before he would move on. But, as luck would have it, there seemed to be no end to the small icy pellets from hell. He fished out a Paul Mall cigarette. Norm cuffed the cigarette in the palm of his hand and lit it with a match.
Shit! He thought to himself. I should’ve covered up the hole. It’s probably half full of water by now. God, I’m stupid. Now I’ll have to use the bucket to get the water out, and that could take hours.
Five cigarettes and nearly an hour later the hale decided it had had enough. Norm emerged from his resting spot and continued his trek through the wet and now icy woods.
As he got to the opening, he heard the familiar bark.
“Oh yeah, keep barking you dumb shit.” Norm murmured. “I’ve got just the thing to shut you up, you mangy mutt.”
He made his way across the hale littered meadow to the other side of the woods. With every step the barking got louder. Then finally a wince came as Norm pushed back a pile of dead tree branches to reveal a 3×5 cage holding the cramped Great Dane. The wincing ceased as Norm stood there staring at the frightened animal.
“Not so tough now. Are you?” Norm whispered with a sinister smile.
The dog, Bruiser, belonged to his neighbor’s son, Timmy. Timmy seemed like the typical twelve year old but Norm knew better. He’d seen the little blonde bastard, as Norm liked to call him, hunting squirrels and other small animals with Bruiser right along side him. Though he’d never seen what Timmy did to the animals, he knew there was something sinister and demented behind that childhood fun. It was common knowledge that most serial killers started out killing small animals before they move on to humans. Everyone could ignore the tell tale signs, but not Norm. He refused to be that dumb neighbor that knew something but did nothing. His plan was to kill and bury Bruiser in hopes that Timmy would come looking for him. Then he would follow Timmy into the woods and bury him right with the demented dog.
Norm grabbed the extra heavy chained leash from on top of the cage. He carefully reached in the cage and hooked it to Bruiser’s collar. Now, it was time to unlock the cage and walk the dog back to the empty grave.
Bruiser lied still staring up at Norm.
“Come on. Let’s go.” Norm said as he tugged the chain.
Bruiser stayed still.
“I said come on you stupid dog.”
Bruiser continued to just lie there.
Norm picked up a large twig and jabbed it into Bruiser’s side. Bruiser yelped in pain and jumped to his feet, crashing his head into the top of the cage. This time when Norm pulled the chain Bruiser emerged from the cage.
The frightened K9 had to be dragged across the meadow. About every twenty feet Norm had to stop and let his arm rest. Bruiser was heavy to begin with but it was like trying to tow a parked car when the dog refused to get up and walk on its own.
As the rain let up for a slight moment, more branches crashed down in the distance. A family of birds scattered out of a tree as their home fell into the ever growing dead fall gathering in the corner of the woods. Bruiser stood when he saw a raccoon pass in front of them. He leaped to his feet barking wildly. Without warning, the dog sprung into action chasing the scavenger into a large patch of tall grass.
Before Norm could protest or get proper footing, he was jerked off his feet and being drug through the grass like a villain being dragged by a horse in a spaghetti western. Just as he thought he could make an attempt to get up, Bruiser burst into another sprint. Norm gripped the leash tightly praying that the zealous dog would get winded or chase the coon into a tree.
Finally Norm got a lucky a break. Bruiser spotted the rotting carcass of a squirrel and stopped to smell it. Norm stumbled back to his feet, mud and grass now in his eyes and hair. Just then he remembered his glasses. He nervously fidgeted the spectacles from his pocket. Just as he thought, they were broke.
“Oh, I can’t wait to kill you, you miserable fleabag!” He gritted through gnashed teeth.
He grabbed Bruiser from his collar, pulling him by the neck. Now if the dog tried to take off Norm could pull back on the collar and choke him into submission. At first Bruiser resisted Norm’s nudge but when Norm planted his boot in the dog’s side, he obeyed with a yelp.
A loud crash of thunder roared above. Bruiser pulled back in fear. Norm gave the oversized fleabag a menacing glare that didn’t require any words or action. Another round of thunder clapped louder than the last, vibrating the ground as well as the trees. More branches shook free and took that fatal fall. Norm and Bruiser stopped walking just in time to avoid a large that fell in front of them. They walked around it as if this were a normal occurrence.
Norm breathed a sigh of relief as they came upon Bruiser’s soon to be final resting place. He tied the dog to a nearby tree and went to inspect the damage done to the grave by the water. Much to Norm’s surprise the grave had only accumulated about two and a half feet of water. The branches must’ve blocked most of water. Maybe my luck’s changing. He thought to himself as he grinned and looked upward.
As Norm looked up, he noticed an odd shift in the tree branches above him. A branch snapping nearby grabbed his attention. He looked in the direction of the sound but saw nothing. His blurry gaze went back to the odd shape above him. Just as he was able to focus in on the shape, his eyesight cleared long enough for him to see a pair of size nine tennis shoes and blonde hair falling straight at him.
The shoes crashed down on Norm’s head like a ton of bricks. He fell down face first into the brown water of the freshly dug grave. As he lifted his face from the muck, an earthworm dangled from his nose. Norm yelled as he quickly grabbed it and tossed it away from him. Just then he heard a whistle from above.
“Bruiser, come here boy.” The voice called from above.
It was Timmy.
That little blonde bastard was watching me the whole time. That’s okay, because I’m gonna fix his little psychotic ass once and for all. Norm told himself as he carefully examined the rim of the grave. He removed a pocket knife from his belt and carefully opened it. Gripping the knife in one hand and using the other hand as cover from the rain, Norm slowly stood to his feet.
His eyes peeped from side to side as he peered out of the wet hole he stood in. Good the little shit ran off. Blood mixed with dirty rain water began to run down the side of Norm’s face but he ignored it and the pain. His mind was on hunting Timmy. This had to be done. That little blonde bastard needs to be put down before he can hurt anyone else.
Norm began his climb out of the ground. The rain didn’t begin to pour harder as much as it seemed to just flood down. This made it harder for Norm’s already poor eyes to be able to clearly see anything.
He didn’t hear or see the familiar size nines creep up behind him.
Everything went black as Norm fell once again into the muddy pool.
Klishhh ploppp! Klishhh ploppp! Klishhh ploppp!
Norm awoke from his coma. His head pound as if his brain were trying to break out of his skull. As looked up, a projectile of mud slapped him in the face. He tried to wipe the dirt off. That was the moment that Norm realized his hands had been cut off.
Shock struck Norm at the same moment lightning crash above. The absence of his hands frightened him so bad that he couldn’t yell or even speak for that matter.
“Oh you’re awake.” The voice came from above ground.
It was Timmy.
“I borrowed shovel and your hack saw. I didn’t think you’d mind, Mr. Norm. Me and Bruiser like burying things.” Timmy stated in a fun seeking child like tone.
Klishhh ploppp! Klishhh ploppp!
Norm just lied there in defeated silence. He’d been beaten and he knew it. There was no point in fighting what was going to happen. Timmy was a psychopath and there’s no reasoning with psychopaths.
Timmy laid down the shovel for a moment. He picked something up and held it out to Bruiser.
“Here you go, boy. Go fetch.” He told Bruiser as he tossed the object.
Bruiser barked as he ran off to retrieve the new toy. The demonic K9 returned to the edge of the grave with the toy in his large mouth. It was one of Norm’s hands. Bruiser lied down and began chewing the severed hand like a fresh cut T-bone steak.
Norm closed his eyes and sighed as Timmy tossed another shovel full of dirt on top of him.
Klishhh ploppp! Klishhh ploppp! Klishhh ploppp!
“That’s a good boy Bruiser.”
Author Bio: I am a thirty year old married father of two. After a semi-successful run as a criminal I gave up my life of crime after being incarcerated for selling drugs. I currently work as a law clerk for a commercial real estate attorney in Dallas , TX . I’ve been writing urban fiction for the last five years and am currently trying to make a transition to horror.
Zemogorgon By Sean Monaghan
Dad is making Milissa stay outside on the tree until she stops screaming. She’s not going to stop anytime soon. Mom told him to show some compassion, but he doesn’t want Milissa, or any of us, to be coddled. Her howls are becoming scratchy and ragged.
“They lopped her wings off,” Mom says.
“Well,” Dad says. “She’ll just have to climb and walk until spring.”
Leaning out my bedroom window I can see Milissa below. She’s clutching the tree with her fingernails and her toenails and there are gouges in the papery bark where she has slipped and had to grab again. I want to reach down to help her in.
“Terassa,” Dad says at the door. “Close your window to keep that noise out. And come to the table.”
Some days I wish I’d just flown off as soon as my wings came in. “But Dad.”
“Come to dinner.”
Milissa quietens for a moment, but I know she’s just taking a breath. Then it bursts again, strained and hoarse. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have my wings cut off.
“I’m three,” I say. “I’m not a kid anymo-“
Dad holds his hand up. “Come, don’t come, I don’t care. Just close the window, I’m sick of the noise.” He turns and flitters down the hall.
As I go to my door to slam it, he calls back, “We’ve got rose nectar tonight.”
I hesitate. We’ve been on dandelions and foxgloves for a week, and it’s been such a dry hot summer that we haven’t had real nectar for over a month. I wonder where the rose nectar has come from.
I go back to the window. Milissa’s still wailing, staring up at me now, face streaked with tears. I’m glad I can’t see her back, see the injuries where the kids have cut off her wings. “I’m sorry Milissa,” I say. “Dad says I’ve got to close the window.”
She breathes, and mutters something.
“What?” I say.
“Terassa,” Dad shouts from the dining room.
“Sharglorosha,” Milissa gurgles.
“I’ve got to go,” I say.
She wails again, but I pull the window closed and fix the latch shut. I can still hear her a little, so I pull the curtains. She’ll be okay. She will find calm with the sparkles of sunset and the cooling of the air. Then she’ll be able to come inside and her wings will grow again in a few months.
Fluttering down to the dining room I wonder how Milissa will manage when she’s allowed in. She’ll have to walk along the hallway, but it’s round-floored, hollowed from the tree, not meant for walking. Mom goes silent as I come into the dining room and I know she’s been whispering to Dad, telling him to let Milissa in. From his scowl I know it’s best just to shut up, sit down and eat. Mom pours some nectar onto a hibiscus petal, and I lick. Ambrosia.
“How did we get rose nectar?” I ask. I can still hear Milissa’s baffled weeping.
Mom’s eyes flick across at Dad and she sits down. Dad pinches his nose and his wings vibrate and click. I know he would tell us off if we behaved like cicadas. He must be really mad.
There is some dandelion milk in one of the old wooden tureens and I dip my hand in, find some lumps, staring at him, daring him to explode.
“Dear,” Mom says.
Dad’s wings go still. I can see the edges refracting the last red and gold lines of the sun streaming in through the west window, can see the forest beyond through them.
I stuff some lumps in my mouth, feeling their succulent weight as they crunch, then dissolve. I reach for the bowl again.
“Use a spoon,” Dad says. His face is blank. For a moment I wonder if he was the one who sliced Milissa from her wings, the way his anger is so unpredictable. Could he do that? Milissa is two months older than me and she’s been stretching what he will let her do.
“Please,” Mom says. “Just use a spoon. Today has already been rough.”
“Milissa got the nectar,” Dad says. “She’s been visiting the house, entertaining the children.”
“She would never-“
“SHE,” Dad cuts me off, “Is out of control.”
“Dear,” Mom says.
“We don’t go to the house. We don’t ever go to anyone’s house. We stay in the trees. They,” Dad jerks his head towards the town, “think we’re mysterious, that we’re cute and magical and look what happens when some kids get hold of her. Worse than any dragon, or witch or sprite. They don’t understand our ways. And look. Look what happens. They cut off her wings. They cut off my girl’s beautiful wings. Stupid, stupid kids.”
I sit back, confused. Dad is crying now. Not angry. Sad. I’ve never seen this. Mom reaches out for him and rubs his arm. She’s crying too.
Dad stares at me. “Never go to the houses. Never play with the kids.”
I nod. “She tried to tell me. She could hardly talk.”
“Tell you?” Mom says. “Tell you what?”
“I couldn’t understand her.” I almost giggle then. “She said something like ‘Shlanagomma’.”
Mom’s face pales. Dad pushes away from the table.
“What?” I say.
“Zemogorgon,” Mom whispers.
Dad is a blur. He shoots down to his den.
“Mom?” I say.
She swallows. “Stay here.” Then she is up too, racing to pull the shutters on the windows.
“What is it?” I say.
Dad speeds from the den. Carrying something long and silvery. He rushes out the front door. He hovers for a moment, then darts away.
“What’s going on?” I say. I get up from the table as Mom rushes to close the front door.
“It knows where we are now.”
“What?” I say, but she is already off down towards the laundry. I fly to my bedroom. Milissa’s screams are so loud that the window might as well be open.
I see Dad, near the next tree over. Something huge flying above him. It’s the size of a cat, but it has clawed black leathery wings and teeth like icicles. It’s fast. It twists in the air, lunging at Dad and I wince as it nearly catches his wings with its claw.
I throw open the window and reach for Milissa. She’s too far down. Even over her screams I can hear the thing growling. The Zemogorgon. She tried to tell me.
Glancing up I see Dad swipe at the monster with his sword, but it ducks away and cackles.
I leap out the window and grab Milissa around the waist. I can feel the stumps of her wings jabbing into my chest. Beating my wings as hard as I can I try to lift her.
Dad screams, but I daren’t look around.
Wings aching, I lift her a little. Milissa manages to climb, clutching at the bark. We get to the window ledge and she grabs hold. As she pulls herself in I hear another scream. We tumble inside and I have a glimpse of the Zemogorgon’s wings enveloping Dad.
We fall to the floor and Milissa keeps wailing. Mom zips in and I go to the window. Far below on the forest floor I see the Zemogorgon, lying splayed and bleeding.
Dad flies up, blood across his face and shirt. He flitters in and lands on the floor where Milissa lies crumpled. He gathers her up in his arms and rocks her back and forth, cooing as her sobs abate.
Sean Monaghan‘s fiction has appeared in Bewildering Stories, Static Movement, and others. More information at his website www.venusvulture.com