Candy craved live music. The places where she used to dance never had

bands, only mix-tapes of soul-numbing 80’s Metal power-ballads. She

spent her nights off at clubs like the El, not hustling or whoring,

just kicking back. She’d have a few beers and check out the talent.

Often she’d pretend that she was someone else.

The drummer’s name was Thomas Ecklin. People called him Eck. He

played for the Gutternauts. Eck had long, curly hair and wore

sleeveless shirts. He walked on the balls of his feet like a puppet.

Candy was at the bar one night when Eck squeezed in beside her. She

looked at him and smiled, because she just couldn’t help herself.

“Sorry,” he said. “That’s not my thing.”

“What’s not?”

“You’re not. Pregnant chicks, I mean. No offense.”

Candy laughed. “Who says I’m offering?”

“Just in case,” he said, with a half-hearted shrug. “I do have to

warn you, though, I use Prell and most women find that irresistible.”

“You’re a fucking idiot,” Candy said.

And from that moment on, they were tight.


She went to every show she could, even out of town. He put her on the

guest-list and that made her feel important. They both slept late, so

it was natural they’d hang out, meet up for dinner at the fast-food

joints nearby.

He tried to teach her how to play, but Candy Girl was hopeless. She

got all turned around and kept dropping the sticks. One day, he took

her to The Music Man, in Hartford, to buy a piece of plastic with a

metal rim.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“A kick head,” he told her.

“A what?”

“It’s for the big drum that sits on the floor.”

Eck knew she used when she just couldn’t fight it, but also knew she

fought like hell. That she sold her ass to make ends meet. That her

dreams and ten cents might buy him a coffee. He never said an unkind

word and helped, when she let him, however he could.


Then Candy got into trouble. It happens, when you’re hungry enough.

She went to a party with some really bad people and made the mistake

of ripping one off. His name was Cal or Callem or something like

that. He diced up women like Candy for fun.

Eck found out from the friend of a friend. Candy wouldn’t have told

him, herself. He offered to make amends with the guy, but she begged

him to please stay out of it.

On her way back from the clinic one morning, Candy saw Eck talking to

him. They were off some distance, up the next hill, but she could

tell it was them. Two punks stood with the girl-cutting killer. They

jumped on Eck and all went down.

Candy felt her knees get weak. She tried to yell, but had no breath.

She started walking, reaching out, like she’d somehow be able to save

him from there.

They dragged him into a big grey car and one of the wannabe’s shut the door.

The cutter got in the driver’s side. He hit the gas and the old car

lurched. As he barreled through the next stop down, Candy got scared.

Ignoring the sudden cramps in her gut, she gathered her strength and

went for the curb. She closed her eyes when the engine roared. The

cramps turned into stabbing pain. She stopped where she was and

hugged herself, hard enough to embrace the child.

If this was the end, though, really the end, Candy just had to look….

Her would-be killer snarled over his hands. Candy’s eyes locked on

his. And then, just she was about to die, Eck tore loose in the

backseat and drove himself forward. His head was covered with blood.

He yelled her name and reached for the wheel. The car jerked so hard

it almost turned over. They hopped the curb, bounced high and slammed

into a wall.

The two men from the backseat tumbled out and vanished.

Candy, moving like a ghost, drifted to the car.

The man who would have killed her was a mess but still breathing. Eck

was through the windshield, half-in-and-out. She’d seen enough death,

in her short life, to know his neck shouldn’t bend that way. And for

the first time in years, Candy let herself cry.


The boy weighed in at seven pounds, four ounces. He looked just like

her husband, who she’d left in Florida without a word. A woman came

by with a pen and clipboard and wanted to know the little tike’s name.

In situations like this, as a nod to her grandmother, Candy went by

the alias Helen Kimberly.

“Kimberly,” she said.

“It’s a boy,” said the woman.

“That’s his last name,” Candy said, as if the woman should have known.

She thought about Eck, how nice he’d been, how he’d given his life so

they could live. She remembered that day at The Music Man. She

smiled and said it and no one moved.

“Excuse me?” the woman asked.

“Here,” said Candy. “Let me see.”

She motioned for the clipboard and wrote: KICK HEAD KIMBERLY.

BIO: Walter Conley draws “Black Between the Frames” here at Pulp Metal

and banner art for A Twist of Noir. His most recent online

publications were for The Camel Saloon, In Between Altered States and

You Would Say That, Wouldn’t You? Walter’s current project, as

editor, is the issuu series Flashdrive. His blog is called Back Again

and Gone:

2 thoughts on “KICK HEAD KIMBERLY by Walter Conley”

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