BLACK SHEETS OF RAIN By Tom Leins

It was raining the day I buried my step-father, Eddie.

I owned nothing in black, so I had to wear my work uniform: a crop top with the words ‘Slop Shop’ across the front in bright pink letters. By the end of the service I looked like the runner-up in one of our ‘Sloppy Sunday’ wet t-shirt contests. When I thanked the priest after the service, he almost had a shit-fit.

*

My real Daddy didn’t teach me much in life, but he taught me about sex and he taught me about guns. In that order. In the late 1970s a Texan named Homer Koon marketed a small .410 shotgun under the name Snakecharmer. It was a limited weapon – all single-shot shotguns are – and he mostly used it as a boat gun. It scared off all but the hungriest gators.

I used the Snakecharmer on him one Sunday morning, when he was trying to take off my church dress with his fat drunken fingers. I was 13 at the time. I still remember the ‘plop’ as he sank into the bottle-green water, depraved leer etched across his rubbery, sunburned face.

I sold the rest of his guns to a pawn shop run by an elderly Cambodian called Phy, but I kept the Snakecharmer under my tiny childhood bed, wrapped in one of Daddy’s threadbare t-shirts. The cigarette brand on the t-shirt has long since been discontinued.

It’s an ugly gun, and it brings back ugly memories, but it will do. One chance, one shot. That’s all I need.

*

The way people tell it, Duane McDaniel’s father owned the whole of Old Testament, and bankrolled the construction of most of New Testament himself. He was well-liked, a philanthropist – until he died in a blood-soaked home invasion in February 1980.

The apple fell pretty far from the tree: Duane is a degenerate gambler, pussy-hound and Klan sympathiser. He frittered away most of his fortune, and all he has left is his poxy meat factory and his alimony payments. Testament – the town where the American dream bottomed out…

*

When I enter Duane’s office, he is strangling a crack-whore with a thin leather belt. He is a big man with a savage smile, and his toothy grin widens when he sees me. He is naked from the waist down, wearing a billowing white shirt and a blood-red tie that droops down as far as his flaccid pecker.

“Williamine.”

Duane turns my name over in his mouth, like he is working loose a rotten tooth. I have always hated it, but that’s what happens when your town-drunk mother names you after her drink of choice.

“I was sorry to hear about old Eddie. He was a hard worker. For a wet-brain.”

He chuckles.

“I worked those damned alcoholics harder than I worked the fuckin’ blacks.”

He loosens his grip on the belt, and the girl falls to the floor, gasping.

*

Nikki, a new hire at the Slop Shop, told me that Eddie walked in on one of Duane’s shitty chicken-head gang-bangs. She said Duane’s driver – an ex-wrestler known as the Eyeball Kid – snapped Eddie’s neck with his bare hands. He dragged Eddie to his hatchback, draped him across the front-seat, and rolled the old car into traffic, where it was hit by an 18-wheeler and dented up like an old beercan.

I try to level the Snakecharmer at Duane’s heart, but I’m still shivering from the rain.

“You rotten motherfucker.”

He chuckles.

“I’ve been called worse. Put the antique down, sweetheart. Let me pour you a drink.”

“Fuck you.”

I twitch and blast the portrait of his father above his desk.

Duane’s grin is impossibly wide – like his face has been slashed. He rips the gun out of my hands and clubs my jaw.

He stands over me, his dick hard, his enormous stomach heaving with exertion. I spy a gun in his calfskin ankle holster, and work it free with my fingers. It’s a Diamondback .380. Nice piece. I aim up at his fat gut and squeeze. His stomach explodes on impact, and coats me in gastric juices and thick black blood.

*

The Eyeball Kid isn’t a kid, he’s a cadaverous middle-aged man in a shit-colored leotard. He’s feeding coins into the vending machine in the meat factory lobby. The bloodshot eyeball inked on the back of his shaved skull is bristly with stubble.

I creep towards him, heart pounding against my ribcage, until I’m close enough to see the faded Swastika tattoo on his right earlobe. I press the .380 against his brainstem and splatter his gormless face across the snack machine.

It’s still raining when I leave the meat factory. It’s raining hard, but not hard enough to wash off the blood.

*

BioTom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. His short stories have been published by the likes of Akashic Books, Shotgun Honey, Near to the Knuckle, the Flash Fiction Offensive and Spelk. He is currently working on a novella called Boneyard Dogs.

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