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Including David Balfe Milky Wilberforce Laird Long Jason DeBoer And many more..
Published by digitalent Ltd PO Box 38 Wylam, Northumberland NE41 8YU Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Edited by Keith Jeffrey ISSN 1740 9721
The Blast of the Ramones, the energy of James Ellroy.
Issue 2 £3.00 www.bulletmagazine.co.uk
Hi there! Welcome to Issue 2 of Bullet. The only magazine in the world publishing rock’n’roll noir.
What we want to do is imagine how writers like Jim Thompson, James Ellroy or Raymond Chandler would have written if they’d been brought up listening to Elvis, MC5, the Pistols or the Ramones. The result is what you hold in your hands. Fast, brutal, exciting fiction for now. It’ll give you enough of a buzz to get you through the grim, mundanities of life. The challenge has been taken up globally by writers from the UK, Australia, the States and Canada. We're also extremely excited to have the first published fiction of David Balfe, a legendary figure on the British music scene. He’s the guy behind Food Records who brought us Blur, Jesus Jones and Voice of the Beehive. He was also in the Teardrop Explodes and produced Echo and the Bunnymen. Hope you enjoy his story ‘The Unpleasantness’. Distributed randomly through this issue are words and images of Bullet Heroes. They’re a rum bunch, a mixture of writers and rock’n’roll musicians whose work has inspired BULLET. On the musical side of things are the rock’n’rollers, we like to think of them as lost heroes. There’s an established set of icons who are now the recognised innovators of rock’n’roll. Elvis, Beatles, Stones, you know who I mean. We think there are musicians who’ve made at least as big an impact but somehow have not quite gained the iconic status their work deserves. There’s also a couple of writers in there. It’s possible to capture the spirit of rock and roll in words and we’ve picked out our heroes who we think do just that. Flick through and see who we’re celebrating this issue. No doubt you’ll disagree, if you do check out our website and make your feelings known. We’re also selling T-shirts of our Heroes which you can buy on line via Paypal or by mail order. Our website is www.bulletmagazine.co.uk. Please visit and join our database. Keep on rockin’ Keith Jeffrey Editor
BULLET HERO NO 1 – Gene Vincent (1935 – 1971) The twisted genius behind prototype rock’n’roll records like "Be Bop a Lula", "Race With the Devil" and "Bluejean Bop", this guy was an inspiration for every generation of rock’n’roll musicians since the fifties. He pioneered a particularly macho approach to rock and roll which fetishized the guitar in a way none of his contemporaries ever did. He was wearing leather nearly ten years before Elvis and with his smashed up leg and psychotic demeanour, was the epitome of the tortured artist on the edge. Most of all he made the best rock’n’roll records, ever. We love him and we want him in his rightful place. BULLET HERO NO 2 – Lester Bangs (1948 – 1982) Without doubt the greatest rock’n’roll critic of all time. His work has been collected in two amazing volumes: "Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung" and "Mainlines, Blood Feasts and Bad Taste" and if he was still alive, he’d be first on the list to contribute to BULLET. His writings covered all aspects of the rock’n’roll experience and his style embodied the speed and energy of the music. In fact his articles frequently were more rock’n’roll than some of the crap he was paid to review. If we ever see his like again, we hope you’ll read them in these pages first. BULLET HERO NO 3 – Mick Ronson (1948 – 1993) Chosen by BULLET Reader Gerry Marriott. This is what he has to say about this Hull-born legend. "Just think of the sequence of Bowie albums that changed everything in the early 70's - from "The Man who sold the World" to "Aladdin Sane" and "Pin-Ups"; Ronno was there grinding out power chords and razor-sharp solos, forming the perfect foil for the theatrics of Dame David. Many of the arrangements for them (and Lou Reed's career changing "Transformer"!) were also crafted by him and where would the likes of "Life on Mars", "Five Years", "Moonage Daydream", "Walk on the Wild Side" "Perfect Day" be without his touch? Of course, after Ziggy "broke up the band", he carried on with the likes of Mott The Hoople and Ian Hunter toured with Dylan's "Rolling Thunder" review and produced Morrissey's "Your Arsenal"." Disagree? Let us know at www.bulletmagazine.co.uk. BULLET HERO NO 4 – James Ellroy (1948 - ) Simply the world’s greatest living writer. Despite what you think about his obsessions with the Great American Conspiracies, this guy writes with a speed, swing and energy that’s like mainlining caffeine laced with speed. Try the closing chapters of "White Jazz" to see why he qualifies as a BULLET Hero. An all American guy you wouldn’t trust with your daughter. Long may he reign. BULLET HERO NO 5 – Esquerita (1935 – 1986) The man from whom Little Richard nicked his act. Lock, stock and barrel. I have a picture of him on my wall. His name is emblazoned in huge letters on the cover. When I ask people who the guy with ridiculous pompadour is they say without thinking "Little Richard." Trouble was Penniman had the record deal, Esquerita didn’t. No wonder he lost his rightful place in the rock hierarchy.
Saturday Night Special . . . . . Ray Banks (Newcastle, England)
I saw his nostrils flare once, wrinkles appearing between his eyes. Then Gyppa’s hand emerged from his jacket pocket with that shiny Spanish pistola, the one he found under his brother’s bed, hidden amongst the porn. I would’ve reached out to stop him, but the gun was already wedged in the kid’s face. Freeze it there. Pause it like a video, get everyone in the cast quivering a bit as I explain this This kid, this low-slung wannabe fuckin’ charva, he was the epitome of everything bad in the world. Just ‘cause he was thirteen, that don’t mean anything. Day he was born, his mam booked him a nice cell in Durham nick. It’s nothing against the lad, but he’ll end up behind bars. He’s fuckin’ scum. And this lad, he’d been messing with Gyppa a little too long and a little too hard. And Gyppa being Gyppa, there’s only so much you can push him. Like the time he took a bite out of a kid at school who’d been riding him all fuckin’ term. He had blood on his teeth, took a chunk out the lad’s leg. He was weak for so long, but once they snap, they stay snapped. Like now. That cheap gun with the taped up grip and trigger. The one his brother bought off this Spanish pedro in Aya Napa last year. You never know when you need protection. And to Gyppa, this was like fuckin’ gold dust. The kid started it. He had no-one to blame but himself. He thought he was safe in the middle of his mates. Thought he was cool with one hand round the handlebars of his knocked-off mountain bike, the other with a bottle. Mouthing off, proper being a complete twat, soon as he sees Gyppa. Gyppa, gyppo, gypsy, carny fuckin pikey cunt. The usual shit from the Byker lads, getting spat at in the street. Gyppa never fit in. Gyppa with olive skin, black eyes and black hair so greasy, long, pulled back all the time. Long body, legs built for being chased. Gyppa was a runner, but he looked like Nick Cave with bad gums. He wasn’t running now. Cut to the whap whap whap of cheap fireworks, point blank in the kid’s face. And watch him drop like a stone to the pavement, what’s left of his head bouncing once off the concrete, then settling in an expanding pool of red. His mates peeled back slowly, like those dreams where something’s chasing you and you’re running as hard as you can, but it doesn’t matter. That kind of slow. Frustrated, wanting to be faster, wanting to be out of there, but your eyes are bugging out of your head at the horror behind you. It took them a while to figure out what just happened. Then when they saw the blood, the gun, smelled the smoke in the air, the penny dropped. But we were already gone. And now, the dusk’s turned to dark. If it wasn’t for the lights they were shining at the top of Tom Collins Building, us here on the ground wouldn’t be able to see Gyppa at all. He’s nine storeys up, the highest point you can get to on the Wall, and we’re all knacking our spines staring up at him. There’s even a gadgie from the paper, got a camera with him, but he won’t get a decent shot in this light. "How’d he get up there?" He climbed, I want to say, but I’m keeping out of it. Staying away, in the shadows as far as I can. Aye, he climbed. Like a fuckin’ monkey he can climb, bolted out a window when the polis came aknocking at his door. Swung out onto the roof, then hammered up the red brick and blue trim like Spiderman. The copper squeaks on his radio and soon it’s a three-ring down here. "Eeh, it’s a disgrace the way they grow up," says this one wifie with a lump on her neck. "You’re tellin’ me, Alice." Now Gyppa’s standing on the peak, he’s gone mental. Jumping, dancing, twitching up there. Waving at the Metro bridge in the distance. Arms wide open like he’s trying to hug God. Screaming at the top of his lungs, crowing until his throat cracks. Happy in his madness. The coppers can’t get to him; they’re scared out their wits. His social worker’s on the ground, and she’s banging back prescription pills from a little brown bottle. "Fuckin’ hell…" "Lad’s tapped." Aye, he’s tapped. But he’s realised there’s no way out now. This time it’s not gonna be the institute, it’s gonna be prison. Proper prison. He hit eighteen last month. Gyppa’s an adult killed a kid, he’s one step away from a fuckin’ beast if he goes inside. And we all heard stories about Durham, nasty yarns that’d freeze your blood. So he’s scared, just like he used to be when he was
run ragged round the playground, brought down and beat senseless. Or when he was cornered and brayed and they left him in that skip. Or when Beast Frank grabbed his cock and forced him up against a wall down Chilly Road. Beaten, bruised, fucked and torn. He’s had it all. And I’ve seen it all happen, heard it happen. I’ve been with him all the time, and I’ve been just as scared. Not of the situation. Of him. Like now, when he’s cornered and there’s nothing he can do. He’s gritted his teeth too long and now there’s blood on his hands, in his mouth, spattered across his clothes and face. Something’s snapped. That copper taste shorted out something in his head. That’s why he’s dancing so long and hard, hands shooting out from his body like they’re on strings, head thrown back, jigging like some fucked-up puppet. One of the coppers has crawled out onto the roof, PC Hero, and he’s saying something to Gyppa that none of us down here can make out. Gyppa’s not listening, lost in a world of his own. His hair’s come loose of the gel and it’s whipped across his face. He’s standing proud, but shivering against the cold. The copper says something else. Gyppa takes a step back. He’s not going to prison. He’s not going anywhere. A gust wraps Gyppa’s shirt tight to him, then opens it like wings. The copper makes a move, but he’s too far away. His hand comes away empty. Gyppa stumbles, pitches forward, shirt flapping, that faint ripple sound the only thing to be heard as he drops. We watch. We all watch. Gyppa’s last moment of attention. And we all hear the impact as he hits the concrete courtyard. There’s a long silence, punctuated by the wind in our ears. Then a kid starts crying. Loud. I melt into the crowd, then exit through the back. As I’m walking towards Shields Road, an ambulance screams by. I can’t feel anything. I haven’t felt anything in a long fuckin’ time. It was just inevitable, what happened. I’m not gonna end up that way myself, because I’m not nuts. I haven’t given up yet. The polis’ll ask questions. My dad’ll be watching me like a fuckin’ hawk all the way. Not ‘cause he’ll bray us if I did it or if I was there. He’ll bray us if I say anything to them. They’ll have fuck all on me, but they’ll ask questions. And I’ll give ‘em answers. I don’t know a thing. I never knew the lad. And I never knew Gyppa.
A Question of Guilt
. . . . . . Cindy Silvester (Lancashire, England)
Me I never wanted to move away from here. Can’t see why people want to gallivant with strangers. I’d rather stick to what I know."
For the first time in my life I see her trembling fear, looking helpless like she made me feel and it makes me stronger. The power rages in my soul and the heat fills within that I want to kick her there and then. "HELP!" I shout but most people have fled. Someone’s jabbering away on a mobile phone. I am alone with her. I place my jacket under her head – appearances only! "Now you know what it’s like to feel fear, to be
Music soars through my veins in Diamonds Club. Warm, smoky an invite out of the cold wet air. The bright lights are a haven for a loner, for me. I’ve returned to Manchester, England to become free again from my past, which haunts me - a ghost in the background needing exorcism. Soon I’ll return to L.A. when the business is complete when the guilt has been purged. "Martine isn’t it?" A mocking voice, familiar crushes my insides. I turn seeing the same sneer on the bitch that ruby lipstick can’t hide nor expensive make-up can’t mask. The face of Flame. "Em you’re em – " Can’t give her the satisfaction that I know her as I drink a Bloody Mary. "Do I know you?" "Flame," she fills in for me sloshing back Bailey’s with confidence. "Have a drink on me I own this now." Steel eyes hardened from her personality. "Didn’t always hit it off did we at school. You know what kids are like?" she laughs, her lipstick imprint clinging to the glass. "That’s kids for you. Have a drink." She urges the barman to get me another drink but I can’t concentrate. Kids! Kids! The strobe lights blind me – a haze taunting me bringing the past back into my mind’s eye. Slaps. Scratches. Hair pulled until it burns. Pinned down spat on. Laughter ringing in my
ears but the loudest laugh is Flames. Longing to cry out but afraid to let go in case I never stop - wanting to vomit but choking on bile. "Throw her in the river. Give her a soaking." Flame cries in control. I smell my own fear, never thought it existed until it became real for me until my own body shook and perspired and I was caught trapped pleading for this to end. "Can’t let the bitch drown," A voice cries out. No escape. They decide my fate. What have I done wrong? Alone. "Yeah, Kids." I recall swallowing anger. "We were kids." Memories splinters, but unlike glass, easily brought back together in a flash when I least expect it. "Good act," I comment hearing the rock beat of the performers, dragging a cigarette to my lips. "You always had a knack of choosing the right thing." She always was a trendsetter and I, well I, never quite fitted in. "Have you seen what Martine’s wearing" Flame’s voice as real in my mind as now. "You’ve no idea have you? You’re old fashioned, out of touch. Get in the real world." "Why are you back here?" She asks disturbing my ghosts. "Last I heard you were abroad.
"Business. I’ve unfinished business," I mouth eyes rolled to the ceiling. "Tedious but it has to be done. I’ve gotta go. Waiting for someone. Timing is everything." I grab her manicured nails and shake them. I’m Judas. "For old times sake," I whisper. "Bye." Yes, a shake of the hand that I want to crush and the deal is completed. Antonio is there. Screams and shouts. So quickly and yet in slow motion. The music stops as out of the darkness the dark silhouette of Antonio approaches with a pistol. It’s over before people have time to react. The sound of the bullet exploding around sends a ripple of people running outside but the assassin’s left. "On a motorbike," scream the people. "He came out of nowhere." "Help," I scream running up to Flame. "Someone help her,"
scared out of your mind. Kids. That’s no excuse. You knew exactly what you were doing just like I do. Your blood for my blood. I’ve waited for this for years you heartless bitch." Mortification etched on her face. She tries to moan but it is a feeble cry. The sirens are coming. A man comes up to me and takes over. I walk away, shaking my head telling them what they already know that she is dead. Elation fills my soul but I have to hide the gleam in my eyes in the darkness of the night. No guilt in wishing I had done something about being bullied. I’ve done it. I’ve purged the ghosts of the past. Got to fly back to Los Angeles now my
Crowds disperse. A mirage of colours streaming out a river running away. She stares back her face waxen, life ebbing away crimson blood gushing everywhere soaking my black court shoes. "Help," I cry out. She still has a pulse. Quietly not more than a whisper out of reach of the people running I say, "You made my life fucking hell. "
unfinished business is over.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lee Coombes (Bath Spa, England)
"Friends. That’s right." Mick mumbled looking at Jim. Looking pointedly at Mick Jim said, "We share a range of common interests."
Looking him up and down Chantelle said, "On second thoughts you must be the DS." and in an American accent she shouted. "Come to nail his ass!" "Am I right?" she asked cocking a pretend gun and aiming it at Jim. Jim still didn’t say anything just looked at the floor. "Playing dumb huh? I’m right! And her cheeks inflated as she mimicked the sound of a gun exploding. "You’re the DS, you’re the filth!" "I’m not!" shouted Jim almost crying himself now. "I’m not the...filth." Chantelle continued to scrutinise him blowing smoke away from the imaginary gun. Then she asked. "So who are you?" "I told you!" Jim snapped. "I’m a friend of Mick’s." "He’s nothing to worry about darling!" said Mick poking his Jim through the door before ducking back into the kitchen. Chantelle hissed at him. "I’ll tell you one thing. If you are what I think you are you’d be much better off with me." "Yeah?" said Jim. "Oh yeah. I got contacts see." Jim grunted. "I could look after you and I’d ask only one favour..." Chantelle beckoned him over with one long crooked finger. Jim moved toward her. She patted the sofa next to her. Jim sat down obediently. "What’s that?" Jim asked. "What would you want?" "That you," Chantelle placed one hand on Jim’s knee. "Look after me." Jim sighed and as he sighed he looked down and Chantelle opened her fist to reveal a small white pill. Jim was breathing very slowly and his tongue was dry. The pill seemed to glow in the hollow of her hand. A beam of sunlight fell in through the window bathing her face in sunlight.
The woman waddled into the living room carrying four plastic shopping bags. Jim thought she looked pregnant. He was mistaken. The woman dropped her bags and reaching up inside her pink, tight-fitting lycra top she jiggled around, stuck out her ass and dropped a large frozen turkey onto the coffee table. The thud of the heavy bird hitting the glass table brought Jim quickly to attention. "Cop a load of that baby!" She shouted triumphantly. "I carried that all the way up them stairs. I’m cream fucking," she pulled a stray hair from her face, "Crackered." The woman collapsed onto the sofa, then looked, top to toe, at Jim. "Who’s your friend?" She shouted to Mick in a curiously high pitched voice. "Aren’t you going to introduce me?" Looking at Jim she sighed flicking her hair back from one eye. "Honestly Mick’s got no fucking manners!!" Mick sidled up to the sofa, head bent in deference. "Chantelle this is Jim. Jim" and with a look of idiotic devotion, he continued waving his hands around. "This is," and with a little verbal swagger caressed the words with his mouth. "My lady, Chantelle!" Jim looked at the woman with dyed blonde hair scraped back severely from her forehead. On top of her head perched a fake hair bun two or three shades lighter than the rest of her hair. The woman was wearing a tan leather mini-skirt, dark tights the pink top partially covered by a long, fake-fur overcoat. Jim mumbled "Pleased to meet you!" Chantelle snapped, "I’m sure you are!" Still looking directly at Jim, Chantelle said, "Get me a drink would you Mick!" Mick answered quickly and turned on his heels. "Sure Baby!" he said. Jim had never seen Mick move so fast. Chantelle blew him a kiss and smacked his behind as he scurried off to collect the drinks.
Chantelle turned to Mick, "Oooh you’re such a sweetie!" and then back to Jim, "Isn’t he...Jim?" "Oh he’s sweet all right!" Mick shouted. Putting on a slightly pouting, alluring smile Chantelle sighed, "So Jim..." "Chantelle?" He said. "Tell me? You a friend of Mick’s?" "That’s right," replied Jim flashing a brief hard smile. "I’m a friend." Chantelle smiled back, she then fished in her black leather bag, brought out a packet of fags, placed one in her mouth but then she couldn’t find a lighter, she made a big scene of looking under boxes, rugs... Jim watched her. "Honestly, Michael lives in such a pig-sty!" She said with an apologetic smile. Jim leant forward and with a little flourish lit her cigarette. Chantelle cupped his hands, looked him in the eyes. "Strong hands!" She said, turning his hands over, palm upwards. "A strong life line, and oh, a great love life..." Jim managed with a little tug to extricate himself from her grasp. "You can tell a lot from a man’s hands," she said pulling her skirt up to scratch her thigh with long ringed fingers. There was a silence as Chantelle continued to stare at Jim. At that moment Mick came in carrying a tumbler full of gin and tonic with ice. He had made an effort: there was a slice of lemon, a swizzle stick and Mick held a little napkin under the glass. He made a meal out of placing the glass onto a straw coaster Mick stood back and waited for her to taste it. "Ooh lovely, ice and a slice. Just the way I like it and not too much tonic!" There was another silence as Chantelle continued to slurp and then viciously ground out her cigarette in a saucer. The two men stood there mute. Turning to Mick Chantelle said, "So Jim says you’re friends."
Really?" Chantelle said pulling a speck of dust out of her left eye. "Oh yes we were just admiring the recent influx of geese down in the park. Weren’t we Mick?" "We were. I was just telling Jim about my love of cookery." "Oh well that’s an interest both myself and Mick are... interested in," looking at the turkey she asked: "Did Mick tell you what a great cook he is?" "No. No he didn’t." Looking round at Mick and smiling she said. "Well he is. He really is." Mick beamed and looked embarrassed. "No Mick! No! Don’t hide your light under a whas it? A bush? If you’ve got it," she said looking pointedly at Jim. "Flaunt it, that’s what I say! You see Mick really knows the secrets of re-heating, not too hot too fast, he likes to slowly build the heat, sometimes it takes him three or four minutes to microwave a pizza. His speciality though is white meat. He does a lovely cold buffet and a fantastic cock oh van in one of them sauces don’t you Mick?" With a quick glance of hapless devotion Mick scooped up the turkey and carried out it into the kitchen. Without batting an eyelid Chantelle said, "Are you looking for anything in particular?" Swiveling round on his chair Jim said. "Just a friendly visit." "Oh come on!" Chantelle laughed, throwing her Jim back and showing the pink insides of her mouth. "Nobody comes to Mick’s for pleasure." In a little girl’s voice she continued, "You scared, you embarrassed. Come on! You can tell me. I’m a big girl." Jim didn’t say anything, just tried to look important, hands clasped in front of him in a pose of silent meditation. "Let me guess, you’re a social worker come to show Mick the error of his ways, no!"
Eggtimer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Duane Swierczynski (Philadelphia, USA)
When Lamont Walker looked out his bay window and saw the blue sedan, he knew his 43 years of running were finally over. But Lamont wasn’t going to let it ruin his morning. He had awoken early, about 6:30, with a hankering for soft-boiled eggs, toast with heaps of butter, and coffee as hot and black as Jada Pinkett Smith. And he’d be damned if a couple of Feebs who were barely old enough to menstruate were going to ruin that for him. Janey always gave him shit about the eggs and butter, especially after he had to have that angioplasty a couple of years ago. But cancer took Janey, so what does that say about eggs and butter? And the kids. Yeah, they meant well. Especially the little girl, who was now 43 and suffering through her second divorce. They all visited twice a year and inspected the cabinets just like they think their mother would, and give him the same half-hearted shit about eating right. But then they’d leave, and there would be nothing left but Lamont and his eggs and butter. He ran the tap water hot then filled a saucepan. Put it on the stove, carefully slid four eggs into the water. Lamont didn’t own an eggtimer. Didn’t need one. He pushed four pieces of Strohmann’s white bread into his four-slot toaster. Took the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter out of the fridge. Got the Taster’s Choice going. Then Lamont took a look outside. Two of ‘em in there. Two FBI agents, not too many years of the academy from the looks of ‘em. The one behind the wheel was paying attention, stealing glances at the house. His partner looked like he was asleep. Jesus, 43 years. These junior G-men weren’t alive 43 years ago. Shit, half the people sucking air off the planet weren’t alive 43 years ago. At one time, the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list featured ordinary, workaday guys. You didn’t have these towel-heads or white supremacist assholes on the list. Just your average bank robbers, con artists, murderers and rapists. Of course, Lamont wasn’t any of the above. But the FBI already knew that. You know all about me, don’t you, you young fuckers? You haven’t forgotten a single fucking thing. You know about the sloppy bar argument, and the way it ended with a pistol. You know my height and weight—or at least, what it used to be. You know my scars and marks. My aliases, all two of ‘em. My drinking habits… do you know, you fuckers, that I’ve been afraid to order Chivas Regal in a bar for 43 years? You know that I knew that John Clark was fucking my wife behind my back. And you knew that John Clark was a state trooper in Ohio, and killing a cop was never smiled upon, even if said cop was pouring the pork into your young bride. Who you’d been dating since high school, and who’d waited through a war for you. You know that I lured John "Throbbing Cock" Clark outside Jake’s Bar in Bowling Green, Ohio, for a good old fashioned fistfight. You know that John managed to get the upper hand on me, even thought I had the almighty power of vengeance on my side. You know John broke my jaw, and snapped my left wrist. You also know that I’m right handed, and used it to hold up a .38 automatic. You know how they found John, days later. You know that I ran toward New Jersey, my home state, and you know how I like to play chess and prefer my drinks on the strong side and enjoy spare ribs and sauerkraut and like to wear black suits, because they’re slimming. You know all this. But somehow, you didn’t know enough, because you couldn’t find me for 43 years. Until this morning. You don’t know shit. You, outside in the car. Who are you? Well I guess I’ll find out soon enough, Lamont thought. You’re strolling up the front walk right now. Here’s another thing you don’t know. Lamont walked up to the thermostat by the front door and engaged the bomb he’d set under the lawn back in 1974. He spun the numbers, and waited. He was hungry, and wanted to get back to breakfast. But it was okay. Lamont Walker was used to waiting.
. . . . . . Nick Andreychuk (Port Moody, Canada)
On summer nights when the sun drops low, while temperatures keep ridin’ high, you just know something’s going to boil over. And when tempers flare like Molotov cocktails, it’s time to get bloody or get out of the way. I never used to get out of the way, but when you start thinkin’ that getting shot ain’t all that bad, you know you’ve taken one too many boots to the head. So now I get out of the way the only way I know how -- I drive. Sure, being the wheelman’s still no walk in the park, but it’s not like I’m out lookin’ to feed the stinkin’ pigeons. Danny Ducci and I aren’t exactly what you’d call friends. But we’d done a couple of jobs together, so we had a mutual respect for one another’s occupations. Normally though, I wouldn’t choose to associate myself with such a loose cannon - a kid who seemed to like the danger a bit too much if you ask me - but when he came to pay me a visit that night, I’d already been itchin’ to get out and cruise the streets. His idea didn’t actually sound half-bad. But that don’t mean I jumped at the idea right from the get go. If you don’t plan ahead, plan to be dead. That’s my motto. Everyone knows it. Danny included. That’s why he came at me with, "It’ll be like taking candy from a baby, Tony." "Obviously we don’t know the same babies, Danny. The ones I know latch on to things like there’s no tomorrow, and they shriek ‘mine’ at the top of their powerful little pipes ‘til ya finally let go." "Cripes, it’s just a saying. I’m tellin’ ya, I could say ‘boo’ and this guy’d shit his pants." "That much of a timid tits, huh?" "C’mon, you’ve seen the guy. You know I’m right." Yeah, I’d seen the guy. Glen Fiditch. Ran a liquor shop -- even though he looked barely twenty-one himself. He was so scrawny that the aforementioned babies could probably break his fingers if they got into a fight with him over a piece of candy. Fiditch had inherited the liquor shop from his old man, after Pop Fiditch’s fatal run-in with some gasoline and a match.
That’s what inspired Danny to come knocking on my door that hot August night. He planned to scare young Fiditch into handing over the dough by re-enacting the crime. Figured Fiditch wouldn’t want to follow in dear old dad’s charred footprints. I was surprised by the amount of thought Danny’d put into the plan actually. Usually he’d just shove a gun up some poor clerk’s nose. Still, the plan had holes. "He’s installed a video camera," I said. "I’ll wear a cap and wide dark shades." "I heard he’s got a panic button too - right next to the register, connected to the alarm system." "I’ll cut the phone line. Besides, that’s what you’ll be there for - a quick getaway." True. My tricked-up ride hadn’t been beat yet. "Okay, you’re on. The heat must be gettin’ to me, so let’s do this before I change my mind." Danny and I shook to seal the deal. "You really gonna splash the guy with gas?" I said. Danny smirked. "I watered it down enough to make it practically flame retardant, but not so much that he can’t still smell it. Doesn’t matter though, I won’t need to light it." Easy money, right? Nope. Never saw a dime. Turns out Danny had the chump dead for rights. Fiditch probably did shit his pants when Danny threw the thinned gas on him. But when Danny flicked on his lighter, Fiditch jumped back and hit a large display of whiskey. One of the bottles landed on Danny’s hand, and knocked the lit lighter onto the counter where other bottles had smashed. The alcohol burst into flames, and the blaze caught Danny’s hands and face, melting the sunglasses to his nose. That God-awful image of him running out of the liquor shop, skin peeling off his hands and smoke coming off his head, will remain etched in my memory for as long as I live. And I’ll never forget the smell as he threw himself into my car and yelled for me to go. He screamed in agony all the way to the hospital, but all I could think about was how being the wheelman really had its rewards. Such a well thought out plan for a kid who never planned...and look at what happened.
It just goes to show you that on hot summer nights, when passions rise along with the mercury, anything really could happen. I didn’t stick around to see how he’d make out, but he didn’t seem all that bad when I dropped him a block away. The cops had no problem spotting him once they got to the hospital and arrested him on the spot. Lucky for me, he could barely talk. Not that I was all that worried anyway. Those of us livin’ in the shade also lived by a code: Never rat on one of your own. Word got around that Fiditch was a tough guy who set a guy on fire for trying to hold him up. No one would ever go near his scrawny ass again. But I knew better. So did he. Fiditch had a "fire sale" the next day, then closed up shop for good. Some people just can’t take the heat.
None of this stopped Lemmy . . . . . . . . Annie Rinse (Manchester, UK)
Thursday morning. 4.32 am. Stevie revved the robbed Rover into red. He was panicking now. Needed encouragement. "Put the tape on! Put the fucking tape on!" Stevie's voice screeched three octaves higher than was good for him. His hands gripped tightly round the steering wheel, knuckles bone white, chin resting on the wheel’s apogee, bouncing up and down like an excited toddler. Marky pulled the tape from his anorak and slid it in. "It’s in! It’s fucking in!" The tape crackled its way round; Stevie revved the engine more. They waited, the skin head twins waited, thin bony faces stared intently at the target in front. Distorted bass, drums rolled in. Loud, manic, mental. Ace of Spades. Motorhead. Stevie’s foot pressed down hard on the accelerator. Noise filled everything. Marky let out a lion’s roar. Foot off the clutch. Nothing. Stevie, Markie, panicking, eyes flashed at each other, bewilderment mixed with terror. The revs got louder but they went nowhere. "The hand brake, the fucking hand brake." Markie was screaming. Stevie’s left hand let it down. "If you’d like to gamble…" Lemmy and temazepam filled Stevie and Markie’s world. Filled the moment with everything they couldn’t get anywhere else, life, bigness, glamour and the excitement of making an impact. Literally. The car roared forward, time slowed to pause, an invisible finger forwarding the twins frame by frame. The pane glass window of Super Sports Casuals flew at them like a slowly exploding, expanding inevitable. They closed their eyes and wished they’d worn their seat belts. Bob the Security Guy checked his watch. Just gone half four, time for his quick shufty round the shop. He carefully placed his cup of orange tea on top of the black and white portable, and eased himself out of the patched up fake leather executive arm chair. Bob straightened his clothes, put on his cap, switched on his torch and left his little cubby hole at the rear of the shop. The torch beam danced a quick pattern on the floor as he made his way into the shop. Perched on a shelf on the wall behind him was a couple of CCTV monitors. They bathed his little den in a grey electronic glow. He forgot to check them. Pity. He would have seen a mute image of a car blasting out exhaust fumes, bouncing, getting ready to move. Cut to outside. The Rover roared louder, drowning out Lemmy, and flew forward, ramming into the kerb, bursting tyres, bending axles. The nose flew up and the car glided through the window and burst like Armageddon on Bob on the shop floor. The car pitched hip high into him, he crumpled underneath, buried under a hail of showering glass and cardboard cut outs of Paul Scholes and Michael Owen. Bob never felt a thing. The car caught itself on the window frame, wood smashed, it sank then the concrete wall caught it. The car hinged on the shop front, nose down crushing Bob’s leg beneath it. The twins’ faces bounced off the dashboard and steering wheel. The Rover revved up as Stevie’s foot twitched and then slipped off the pedal. Silence. Stillness. The Rover see-sawed. Alarm bells rang. Marky was the first to come round, woken not by furious rock and roll or the clanging alarm bells but by the delicate spatterings of water as the sprinklers began to warm into action. The tape clicked to a stop. Markie pressed eject and slipped the tape back in his pocket. He tapped it lovingly. A cherished memory ready to be brought back whenever they played that song.
White noise ran through his head, deafening. Eventually the alarm bells broke through and he realised just what the fuck was going on. "Stevie! Stevie! Fucking wake up man!" Markie shook him awake. They faced each other. Markie’s nose now faced east, Stevie’s west. Beneath each was a triangle of red. "You’ve bust your nose." "So’ve you." They laughed. It improved their looks. "Come on let’s gets this gear before the feds arrive." Markie and Stevie dived into the rain and heads down, they ran for their new wardrobes. Adidas Sweat tops, Nike pants, anything by Kappa. They made two sorties, delicately dancing their way through the debris, gathering up rackfulls of stuff, peering over the top through plastic hangers. They slung them on the back seat of the car and dived in. The car teetered like Caine’s van at the end of the Italian Job. Marky and Stevie braced themselves for the thump, the rolling backwards, the awkward navigation but nothing, nothing happened. The rear end was still hanging, wheels spinning in fresh air. Stevie revved the motor again. The nose fell forward. Wheels touched ground. Crushed Bob Wilkinson’s femur, burst the bone, spinning flesh away in angry gobbets. Severed it completely. "Car’s fucked, come on." They had to shout, the alarm bells were deafening. They limped out the car, leaned back in and gathered up as much of the clothing they could in their arms and they crept cautiously into the street. Then they ran, fast as they could, faster than they’d ever done, faster than when they’d done a runner from HMV the other Saturday. The street was empty, the pavement still damp from a brief shower three hours before. Their feet pounded on the wet, making damp sticky sounds from their plastic Converse soles. Dimly they heard clanging bells. Approaching from ahead. They turned left, past Safeway’s, but the clanging just closer. They turned right past the library but the bells just got louder.
Bony, white, skinny, they were pumping. Loving it. Cheesy grins sliced their faces. Got to the park. Stopped. Unfit, out of breath, they dropped the clothes. They turned towards each other. Markie threw a fist, it grazed Stevie’s right ear. Stevie punched back, caught Markie on the chin. "Bastard! What the fuck did you do that for?" "You started it." They laughed. "Fucking mint eh?" "Fucking right." Markie kicked the clothes. "You bothered about these?" "Nah." "Me neither. Only wanted a bit of cash for the weekend." "For the Monkey Club?" "Aye." "What we gonna do about these noses?" "Bit of soap and water." "Need more than that. Yours is pointing in a different direction." "So’s yours." "Say its cosmetic surgery." Markie touched his. It wobbled. "It’s moving." "Leave it alone man, it’ll be okay. Pretend you got it playing rugby or summat." "Rugby! When the fuck do I ever play rugby?" They laughed. A cop car sped past, blue lights flashing, siren screaming. Ten seconds later, an ambulance followed, blue lights flashing, sirens screaming. At the sight of the ambulance, Markie and Stevie looked at each other. Something passed between them. They knew something had happened. Some consequence they weren’t aware of. They refused to allow the thought take shape. "Come on, let’s get moving." They ran.
Molotovs happy hour
property bloodletters, on yer knees. NOW silt lurches forward at the shouted command. already he’s reached beneath his desk to hit the panic-button installed thru-out the estate agent chain month before last after a spate of dog-shit incidents in summertown, spray-paint in headington, and attempted bmx, or stuntbike what is it these days? - ramraids, well door-raids - just some fuckers who should be in school ramming the door with their bikes and driving you nuts. eugenics. that should-of been the answer thinks silt and we wouldnt have to deal with such shitheadedness but get a better, a more refined type of client. tie the tubes of the bloody rosehillers, do they think we’re made of gold? all that birth on the nhs – just a waste of good tax breaks – i mean. all this goes thru silts head as he moves forward having hit the alarms - but nothing rings, and no shutters come down. shit thinks silt, pay some cheap scum cash-in-hand and they stiff you. whats this place coming to? you in the muddysuit. get. i’m no jerking round silt tries to get a good look at the face. but all save those dark eyes are balaclavad. and the eyes match the wool-polyester. not much help there. silt thought that sales of balaclavas had been banned in the recent clampdown on terrorism. he’s going to have to suggest it to the minister for albions security. perhaps he could take-up the slack in that market, monopolize, become official supplier of balaclavas to the sas? silt moves forward. he knows how to play the warrior-king. next moment his shins explode as something agonising scrapes down them fast left then right - he can feel - can visualise the blood rushing to broken skin. he flops forward but catches his nose on the fuckers knee. it too starts to bleed. and then he’s thrust forward onto his face rather than knees by that un-comic terrorist. striking out the shins is a basic move as any molotov knows. now he’s got their attention. he ties hands behind their backs with cheap plastic ties, sort you use for gardening, available
. . . . . . . . . . . . Sean Burn (Oxford, UK)
at any plant-store - the ties have a real good grip, and silt feels the blood engorge, try, fail to surge past this restriction. molotov pulls a rubbish sack over their heads - a bright orange one for industrial rubbish issued by the council, then another - this less garish - recycled garden waste? – gaffers them around the chest, tight enough. that rip of tape when your tied and blinded makes them wince. silt thinks this must be the sound of back sac n crack waxing, the sounds of hell. he can feel his balls withdraw into his body like the wheels on a boeing retracting into the undercarriage. molotov hoiks them up, orders them to bump, grind the one in front, orders them about, orders them out. they trip stumble fall. dragged. thrown up into some kinda vehicle. its engine running. sounds dieselish. only they cannot see. cannot see molotov, his gloved-hands, ripping out the properteers phones. doors left open for the local headbangers to do as they like. thats the sort-of creativity the local young offenders like. it might be over the papers by morning, but it’ll be all over the roads within 15 mins, tops. silts lot are driven. they ask. or try to. they get told to shutthe-fuck-up. they do. silt twists his arms but they are tied professionally. what irks him most is when his mobile goes and he cannot reach it. instead, it is taken off him, sound like a window winding down, hear the rush of traffic outside, the hum of concrete and ... his phone rapidly becoming distant. the fuckers tossed it out? and the latest sony-ericson tri-band always on gprs too: if you turn it sideways you can navigate with it. and all his phone numbers in its 200 book memory. took him hours to key them in. do they have no sense of mobile phone etiquette? do they not understand the value of such things? bastards. with this, and the wrist-ties and ... silt feels his heart-surge, takes a deep breath, only his gob fills with plastic and he promptly passes out. they are driven for a time. its hot, sweaty inside the plastic sacking. sometimes a corner and they lurch, their faces slip, are pushed into
the bags, their breath-suck plastic, they gasp, but try and keep it shallow, guessing whether theyll have enough air or if this is it. try not to mind the sweat in their eyes, try not to feel this mornings clean-on best markies cotton-nicks sticking to all their cracks. vehicle stops. hands stop them choking, hands pull the bags off a small way, fresh air, they gulp. silt hovers in – out consciousness. vehicle restarts. faster, feels like dual-carriageway. or motorway? then a sharp turn. climbing. slowing. after a time the ground underwheel changes for sure, gears shift, vehicle slows, starts cracking, crunching. woodland? they are pulled roughly outside. they fall. a dead-cats bounce. the vehicle is some way off the ground they are pushed to kneeling. something cold, metallic is placed at the head of the first one. he begins to protest jeezus, jeezus, christ, jeezus, fucki... molotov pushes him with the barrel and he topples over face-first into a pool his own urine, he moans. molotov continues now listen up. this gun... he strikes metal on metal it will be held to all yer heads. any ideas? any guesses? why we here? eh? silts p.a. attempts to put her hand up, dislocates her shoulder, as the tie bites, faints from the pain and she too keels over. molotov moves to the third party. silt. places barrel to his head, says why? silt? why? think on. think good. all silt can think is how to keep control of his bowels. they are twisting their way outta ... molotov helps him, helps them all out: this is yr life aint’it. this is what you do - fuckin folks over; destroyin ‘em; shootin ‘em up; tearin ‘em apart 2 plastic bags on the floor nod numbly, the third - silt - still kneeling - shakes from side to side. molotov pulls back the hammer. silt hears the click. he’s never heard nothing so loud. its unmistakeable metal went thru his skull-bone like a downturn in the market, no - like a crash.
a black-day. yes. the reality of all this shoots thru him like a bad tooth. then all goes blank. silts forgotten to breath. molotov enjoys that. reptiles crawling on land and giving up gills was definitely a retrogade step in silts case. molotov talks quietly to the other 2. tells them theres no second chance. the next-time they will get a bullet. they nod their plastic. agreeing. he tells them to give up property. work somewhere else. or else ... they are already drafting their resignations. the jeep is a cherokee with dark-glass. it carries the plate: SILT1. what a wanker. molotov cracks open the fulltank, takes a quick-suck on a long tube, winces as the gas almost hits, loads his bottle. stuffs his balaclava in as rag. it will ignite. he knows his stuff. lets it catch a while, then hurls it into the vehicle. he retires to a safe distance, dragging 3 quiet sacks along the ground roughly, into a hollow upwind. theres a crackling, a restless energy deep in these shotover woods. flames lick faux-leather, liking what they find. most of all the blue of petrol. its distinct gassiness, waiting, taking. then ... boom. and a rush of air in. and to each and every motion ... glass cubes out like frosted sugar. small explosions once in a while. paint bubbles. seats pop and crackles. the sputter, splutter of black smoke, its plasticity heavy among the trees and leaf mould. then the gas tank takes, an explosion which leaves the 3 wrapped figures, cheap christos all, shuddering, shiting, praying. this is the signal for molotov to leave. that fireball will have been spotted. 10, 15 mins and a helicopter’ll be over. 20 mins or so and the firebrigade sirens will be heard pulling up the slopes. but molotov is used to deep cover, even in a deadzone they couldnt find him. this operation is his. the cherokees all but burnt out now. SILT1 looks more like IL l. silt is occasionally flailing on ground. molotov pisses all down silts trouser legs. having eased the first twos bindings he leaves them there on shotover hill. molotov is running silently, leaping over fallen silver birch, til he blends with muntjac deer, with adders, woodpecker, magpies. he reckons theyve got the lesson. but he will keep eyes open.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Milky Wilberforce (Sunderland, UK)
looker like her was mixed up with this lot. "Sit down. I’d like a chat." Tina sat down. I sat down beside her. Close. She moved away a couple of inches. I stared hard and took every inch of her in. Tina smelled like roses and looked like a Russian doll, big eyes, round face, jet black hair. She took off her glasses. "So what’s going on here then? I couldn’t believe you were involved with that bunch of losers." "It was just a meeting, we’ve got a few things to talk about." She crossed her legs, her skirt was green, tight, made it hard for her to walk. Made her arse wiggle. Lovely. Was she wearing stockings or tights? Hard to tell. "Tina you know the real reason I took over Stockill’s?" This’d impress her. I looked hard into her eyes, non-descript greeny brown things, banal, but everything else made up for it. Milky white skin and hair tied up tight in a bun. Things like that can swing a deal. "It was a good opportunity for expansion?" "You must be fucking joking mustn’t you? Shite business like this? No Tina it was you. I wanted you on my books." Wasn’t the only thing I wanted her on. I smiled, she flushed deeper. "Mr Jones.." "Chris, what’s happened to Chris?" "Chris, that’s very flattering but …." "I know about your fiancée. Three years you been engaged?" "Four." "Hardly buzzing with passion is it?" "We have our moments." "Where did you go for your holidays last year?" "We rented a cottage with his parents in Scotland." I looked at her, she laughed. "Look Tina, how about you and me?" "What do you mean?" I put my hand on her thigh. She didn’t resist. "I need somebody I can trust, rely upon completely. I need a Deputy MD. How does that sound?" I skimmed my hand up her thigh, then squeezed.
Fuck me suspenders! Jackpot! Her legs parted slightly. She smiled. "You’re starting to interest me." Knew it, I fucking knew it. I slid my hand in her blouse, caressed her right breast. Tina moaned, closed her eyes. I kissed her, she kissed me back. "Salary. How much salary do I get?" "Thirty." "Make it forty." "Okay but Charlie goes. You tell him." "Don’t worry about him." "I want you at weekends too." "I presume we’ll have lots of conferences to go to, clients to meet?" "You’re a natural." She leaned over and kissed me, lips lightly brushed mine. Her hand rested on my crotch. She began to fiddle with the fly. Then she stopped. "I want this in writing first." "Fair enough but how about something to be going on with?" Tina smiled, her eyes hardened. "A sneak preview?" She stood up and pulled her blouse quickly over her head. Tina dropped her skirt and stood there in white bra, panties and suspenders that cut into pure white, cellulite puckered flesh. She slid her hand in her panties and began to rub, began to moan. Fuck that. I’d had enough. I dropped my pants and got it out. I started to pull in time to her moans, I felt myself coming. I came. "Help! Help!" she started to scream. She fell on the floor, crying. Door burst open. In came Charlie and the others. Caught with me dick in me hands. Got the letter the next day. Sexual harassment. Cost me thirty grand. Paid Charlie off though. He didn’t seem bothered. A couple of months later I found out why. Saw him with Tina rolling about town in a brand new beamer. Fuckers.
I steamrollered the meeting. Fuckers. If they thought they were going to do this without me…. The four of them were sat there in the conference room. Tina from Sales, Charlie from Marketing, Colin the Factory Manager and Martin the accountant. Small fish in a big pool. Fucking lightweights. Those that didn’t blanch with fear flushed with embarrassment. Naughty kids with their hands in the sweet jar. "Chris! We weren’t expecting you." Charlie the new guy. Fat and middle aged, tie always undone at the neck, always with a five
o’clock shadow. More hair than me, the bastard. "Too fucking right you weren’t. What the fuck’s going on?" "Just, you know, a staff meeting." Someone take that spade out of Charlie’s hands. The hole’s deep enough already. "Who the fuck decided you could have a staff meeting? Without telling me, without inviting me." "Well we thought we needn’t bother you. Fairly trivial things really." "Like what?" "Well er." Fucker, something going on here. They know about the accounts, want to cover their backs. Martin’s grassed me up. Charlie tried to change tack, it wasn’t going to work. "Employment law says we can have meetings, if we so desire, to discuss matters that are important to us." Jeeze this guy is writing the longest P45 in history. Colin piped up, flustered, panicking: "Chris please let us have this meeting. There’s one or two things we’re concerned about and we’d like to have a chance to discuss them in private before we bring them to you." "Do it down the pub." Charlie began gathering up his papers like newsreaders at the end of a bulletin. "Okay Chris. If that’s how you want to play it." "Yeah it fucking well is and may I remind you, matey boy, you’ve been here less than a year. You can be gone. Month’s notice. Quick as a flash." I snapped my fingers. "Like that." Charlie went white. Watching his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down as he gasped for air, cheered me up no end. The four of them got up and began to leave. Silent, the atmosphere heavy. Fucking shitting themselves. Fucking lovely. "Tina. You stay behind. I want a word with you." She flushed red, she looked nervous, her hand flew to the top of her blouse. Creamy, transparent material. The lacy white pattern of her bra showed through revealing the brown tinge of nipple. Fucking love women in smart work gear. Couldn’t believe a
November Hotel . . . . . . . . . . . James Quinton (UK)
"Let me have a drag on that bad motherfucker" J asked. P passed ‘The Killer’ over. ‘The Killer’ was part menthol tobacco, part cigar, and part weed. Many a man had been floored by a drag on that beast. J took a hit like he was breathing in fresh mountain air and washed it down with a shot of JD. "Did you hear about the Monkey?" J asked. "No?" P replied. "He’s doing bird." "How come?" "Well," began J as he took another drag, "one day he woke and thought he was Jesus Christ." P raised an eyebrow. "He went down to the clinic; you know the one, where you go to get checked out for sexual diseases. Started bothering the woman, you know, saying he was Christ and that he could cure them by placing his hand on their parts." "Crazy…" "Yeah, well one woman had the clap real bad. The Monkey got lucky. Got his hand down there." "Shit…" "The next thing that happened the mother of this woman, grabs him, and you know The Monkey’s a skinny guy, throws him to the ground and calls the police. Turns out that wasn’t the first stunt he’d pulled around town. Remember hearing about that guy who used to sit around in the swimming pools, looking at the women, dressed as a Sheik?" "The one who had the video camera?" "Yeah. That was The Monkey." "Son-of-a…" "Anyway he’s doing porridge now. I heard his arsehole is as big as a clown’s pocket." "Ha, Ha," P cackled, "sick bastard probably enjoys it." "I don’t know," continued J puffing on The Killer, "Apparently there’s a guy in there with a 15 by 7 inch dick." "Shit." "Don’t know if any woman or man could take that length. Anyway, I need to take a slash. Then I’ll get a round in. Whatcha havin? Same again?" "Yeah, but make it straight." "Ok." J crossed the floor taking in the stare from the blonde behind the bar. He pushed open the door to the bog and walked to the urinal. He dropped the butt of The Killer into the urinal, undone the zip on his trousers, took out his tool and pissed out the beer and JD he’d been drinking for the last three or so hours. ************************* "…so what did he say?" "He said he was a lawyer." "A lawyer?" "Yeah, he looked like one you know. Dressed up to the nines, suited and booted, flashing the cash." "Great." "Well it wasn’t." "So what happened again?" "Well, we’re talking, you know, getting on really well, tells me all about himself. Says he really likes blondes. He’s really eyeing me…" "You weren’t wearing that dress were you?" "Yeah, of course! Anyway, I tell him about myself, the family, I start telling him about Dad being the owner of the November Hotels chain…" "Oh, I bet that kept him interested." "Well, that’s when he started to get weird you know? He got up saying that he was going to the toilet but he went over to speak to these two men who were standing by the bar. Anyway, he came back and started asking me all these strange questions about Dad." "So you got up and left?" "Well no I liked him, besides he did stop. He started to ask about me, I told him about my college course. He brought some more drinks, we started kissing but then he started to get pushy, touching me up." "Did you tell him to get off? Didn’t the bouncers help?" "One looked over but walked away as if they were too scared to do anything." "So then what happened?" "Well, he tried to put his hand up my dress, saying that he was going to fuck me." "Oh my God…" "Well, that’s when that bloke they found in the river came over and pulled me away. The lawyer guy went fucking mental started smashing the place up, so I ran." "Sounds frightening." "Yeah, anyway, I’d better make a move." "What time do you have to be at college?" "Eight o’clock. I’m here now sitting in the car"
"Oh right. What time will you be round?" "Well I’ll be finished here at nine, so half nine?" "Ok, see you then, bye." "Bye." ************************* "Hey Marie," said J as he approached the bar. "Hi, same again?" she asked. "Yeah, but make it straight for P ." "Ok." Marie started to get the drinks together. "Did you hear about The Monkey?" "Yeah." Replied J. "Dirty bastard, you know I made it with him?" "Really?" "Yeah, it was small and went off really quick. I thought he was such a sweet guy, he told me my eyes were as blue as the sea, such a poet." J watched Marie’s breasts now there was poetry. Marie came back with the drinks. "That will be £3.90." "Thanks," said J and passed over a five note "oh and Marie..." "Yeah?" "My love for you grows everyday, I want to take you now, but I don’t know what to say." Marie laughed and walked to the till. J stared at her arse. "Here you go," said Marie. She passed him his change and her phone number. J smiled and took the drinks back to P P was smoking a Marlboro; J . passed P his drink and sat down. P passed J a smoke. "Cheers." Said J. "Cheers," replied P "we’d better drink up," he continued taking a mouthful of scotch, "the call has just come through." J nodded his head and sank his JD down in one. "Ok, bro let’s go." J and P got up and left. Out in the cold night air J and P lit up another smoke and started the short walk to their vehicle. "Have you heard the one about the man and his wife who go to bed on their wedding anniversary?" Asked J taking a pull on his smoke. "No," replied P . "Well, it’s the night of their wedding anniversary and he whispers to her, ‘Can we try something kinky tonight?’ She turns to look at him and asks, “What do you have in mind?” He says ‘Can I put my length in your ear?’" "Ha ha ha," P choked taking a pull on his smoke. "She replies, ‘But it might make me go deaf!’ Her husband says, ‘Well I’ve been coming in your mouth for the last 20 years and it hasn’t stopped you talking!’"
"Ha Ha Ha," P cackled blowing out the last hit on his smoke, "that’s fucking good man," he said throwing the smoke to the floor, "fucking good." P unlocked the doors to the black BM and they both got in. "Where is the pick up?" Asked J lighting up another smoke. "Not far," replied P "not far." The black BM pulled up in the car park of a community college. "What does she look like again?" Asked J. "Here." P passed a photo over to J. "Ha," J laughed and shaking his head knowingly, "they’re always blondes." "Yeah, ain’t that true." "Ok, you ask the question – I’ll open the door." "Cool." The small hand of the clock on the dash of the car hit nine. A few minutes passed and the students from the college began to file out of the building. "Ok," began J, "nice and slow." P started the engine and they waited for the blonde. "There she is," P indicated. They watched as the blonde walked down the college steps and bid goodbye to her fellow pupils. She turned and began to walk towards a dimly lit car park. J got out of the car and pulled on a pair of black leather gloves and started to walk. P drove off ahead of him and slowly pulled up along side the blonde. The electric window on the passenger’s side came down and P lent across. "Excuse me." He began. The blonde looked over and bent down. "Yes." "Do you know where the train station is?" "Err yeah," hesitated the blonde, "if you…" From behind J rushed up and took out of his pocket a handkerchief that he had just soaked in chloroform. J wrapped his arm around the blonde’s neck. She began to struggle and attempted a scream. J covered her mouth with the soaked handkerchief. Her fighting body went limp. J pulled her around to the back seat door; he opened the door and pushed the blonde inside, then got in himself. P hit the accelerator and pulled off. P passed J a Marlboro. They both lit up. "Let’s have some tunes to pass the time." "Ok." P reached down and slipped a CD into the player. "You like Dexter Gordon?" "Yeah man." P hit play. Smooth jazz echoed around the car. "Have you heard the one about the two goldfish?" J began taking a drag on the smoke.
The Unpleasantness . . . . . . David Balfe (Beds, UK)
"It’s my cab!" "Lady, just cos, fifteen minutes after I started waiting, you walk ten yards up the road, stick your hand out and take my cab, don’t make it yours." "I’m afraid it does young man." "Like hell!" The young man pushed past and into the cab "Clapham mate, and don’t piss about." he instructed the driver. His adversary was not to be so easily denied. She joined him. "Barnes please driver, and there’s a very large tip in it if you will do me the kindness of removing this rude youth." Dick Sydney, London taxi driver of twenty-seven years standing, or more accurately, twenty-seven years sitting, looked in his mirror with growing unhappiness. He turned around to face the pair competing for his custom. Usually a self-employed man would be flattered and pleased, counting it a mark of his success that he had customers fighting for his services. Dick did not. It was 1.27 a.m. He had been working since 9.53 that morning. He could just about bring himself to drive, but he had no reserves of energy or emotion with which to mediate between his passengers and certainly not to counsel them in the error of their ways. "Y’got fifteen seconds to sort it out for yourself or you’re both out of here!" He turned back round and theatrically picked up his paper to demonstrate more fully his complete indifference to the actual rights and wrongs of the situation. They looked at the driver, they looked at each other, they considered their options. "Clapham then Barnes driver" proposed the young man, displaying an ill-advised propensity for compromise this early in the negotiation. "Barnes then Clapham!" retorted the lady, firmly, "and if you insist on sharing my cab I shall only pay half the fare to Barnes." They looked at each other for a good few seconds. Dick conspicuously checked his watch. "Yeah, alright, Barnes then Clapham… please," he surrendered. Dick moved off, quietly pleased at the profound depths of his customer relations skills. The first bullet entered the cab from behind, passing through the metalwork just below the rear window. It travelled in between the two passengers slightly ripping the material in the shoulder of the young man’s jacket. It speeded on shattering the glass partition and terminating in the destruction of the taxi’s meter. Freezing the fare at seven pounds and eighty pence. Dick would not receive his fare, or a tip. His female passenger wondered why, even when being shot at, her mind should register the benefit of this small possible saving, but it did. She then considered how equally peculiar it was, considering the circumstances, that she should waste time in reflecting upon the strangeness or otherwise of such a thought. Such is the nature of the mind in moments of extreme danger, was her final reflection in that mentally hectic fraction of a second before her muscles finally took action and she found herself cowering on the floor of the cab as a second bullet shattered the back window and showered her in crunchy glass splinters. "Why are they shooting at us?!" She screamed to the young man now sharing the floor with her. He was just about to answer that he had no idea when a third powerful bullet passed through the metal boot of the taxi, grazing the rubber tread of the spare wheel within, entered the rear seat’s thin horsehair padding, exited it’s worn old leather cover and inconsiderately slammed straight into one of his vertebrae, just below the neck.
The bullet had lost a lot of speed as it passed through these various mediums, causing it to spin wildly in flight and, by one of those nasty physical ironies of ballistics, vastly increasing the damage made when it eventually connected with the young man’s spinal cord. He felt no physical pain but there was a rapidly mounting level of anguish as he realised that he had no capability whatsoever to remove his face from it’s extremely uncomfortable position jammed into the corner between the gritty floor on one cheek and the cold scuffed metal at the bottom of the left-hand door on the other. This lack of comfort quickly paled in importance when, a moment later, he became aware that he had also lost the ability to breathe. He lay motionless, sensing the oxygen within his system quickly deplete itself. He felt the chemical alarm bells ringing within his brain, but his body’s automatic responses, upon which he had happily relied for all his twenty-two years, did not occur. His body would not, could not, take another breath. Without any physical movement beyond his frantically fluttering eyelids, without the usual awareness of fear in his stomach, it did not feel like panic. It was too quiet and peaceful to be panic. It was merely an enormously intense awareness that something was very wrong. He really wanted to take another breath. He thought that if he could really want it just a little bit more his body might obey. But before he had the opportunity to test this theory he lost all interest as he slowly faded out of consciousness. Precisely three minutes thirty-seven seconds later he was irreversibly brain-dead. One hour and six minutes after that a tired and unmoved junior doctor at Charing Cross hospital would confirm this sorry fact. Dick Sydney had had enough of taxi driving. As he saw it, it was entirely the driving’s fault, not his own, that he was now old, fat, divorced, distant from his two equally plump children, and suffering from several minor health problems. These problems happily bided their time. They felt confident that, with the careful nurturing Dick so dedicatedly gave them, they would soon mature nicely into fully-fledged life-threateners. Poor old Dick, there’s not much you can do while driving a cab, he reasoned (if you can call the vague mental process he employed ‘reasoning’), other than smoke fags. So he smoked fags. It wasn’t exercise, he’d grant you that, but it was a hobby. He read the Star when he was on a wait for a fare, or eating one of his three daily fry-up meals with all the trimmings; four when working late. It is a reliable indicator of his minimal reading and comprehension skills, rather than his dedication to work, that he rarely had the need to move on to the Evening Standard even by the early hours. On special occasions, when he felt that the enormity of world events dictated a more considered commentary, he’d purchase, with much ceremony, the Times. But it was always to be an unsatisfactory experience. Sometimes fares would notice his up-market read and try to engage him in an
appropriately stimulating discussion upon the government’s inadequacies, Europe’s stupidities or some other middlebrow item of news. But his tabloid brain would quickly reveal its limitations and his moment of pride at being so flatteringly regarded would be replaced by his everyday feeling of mild inadequacy. The Star would always be happily returned to the next day and thereafter, until a few months later, by which time he’d have forgotten his lesson once more and the cycle would repeat. It was during this period of more than usual unhappiness and boredom that he unwisely decided to take up a mate’s offer of a well remunerated if slightly moody piece of delivery. It wasn’t precisely mere boredom, for like any taxi driver he’d grown well used to being bored. This was more of an uber-boredom bored even with being constantly bored. He knew the delivery was moody because of the fee - two hundred quid to pick up a package out East and drop it off an hour later in Kensington. You might wonder why certain parties should pay over the odds, especially if it also served to further signal the dodginess of the exercise. Well, Dick was well known in various bars and public houses out in Romford, where he’d lived from birth. Paradoxically his lack of track record in the moody delivery world made him all the more trustworthy by those shady figures to whom he’d occasionally been introduced in late-night mate-of-amate-of-a-mate drinking situations. He knew they were iffy, they knew he wasn’t. He knew he mustn’t mess with them, they knew he knew that. It was a solid, mutually amicable arrangement. The two ton translated as don’t mess about, and certainly don’t take the piss. As well as leaving a little bit for goodwill at the end; always a good practice for professionals, which they were. Dick had no intention of messing about nor in any way taking the piss. Oh yeah, the two ton also fully legitimised the use of certain measures, "unpleasantness", should a less than perfect service be provided. Dick also knew this well, which is why he had not before taken on work of this nature. But, like I said, he was very bored indeed. Dick had collected the package at the designated time. The journey was long but without event. The delivery pretty much the same. He had rung a bell for a flat at the specified address, but rather than taking it up to the flat as he expected - as he had been told - the voice on the intercom told Dick he would come down to collect; this he speedily did. Dick handed him the package and the collector was about to close the door when Dick reminded him he expected to be paid. The collector expressed ignorance as to the exact fee, so Dick reminded him. The payment was made and Dick returned to his traditional trade, foolishly relieved that all had gone smoothly.
He Finally Gets the Point
"I," he says. Thinks of himself first now. Used to be Us. We. "I’m sorry," he says. Bad start, beginning conversation with apology. "I’m sorry to tell," he says. Tell what? Smashed car? Forgive him. "I’m sorry to tell you," he says. Lost job, that’s it. Have to become employed. Do it for him. "I’m sorry to tell you this," he says. Found someone else? Kill him. "I’m sorry to tell you this, Vida," he says. Adds name to soften blow. Name he used to whisper explodes from his lips. "I’m sorry to tell you this, Vida. But," he says. But cancels everything. But means he’s not sorry at all. "I’m sorry to tell you this, Vida. But I’m moving out," he says. Wasn’t happening. Need him. Need something. Reach for bottle, splash amber liquid into glass. Drink. "Why?" Lips all fire. His face twists. Cheeks red as though slapped. Eyes glitter like broken bottles. "Why?" Word sharp as spike yanked from plank. "Where should I begin?" Slosh more liquor into glass and down the hatch. "What’s gotten into you, Bill?" He thrusts hands towards ceiling, mutters under breath. "Didn’t hear you." Would he like the bottle bounced off his head? No, not yet. Why waste booze? He turns away. "Let’s not get into it now. Let’s part friends. Okay?" Looks over his shoulder for reaction. "Just friends?" Too shrill. Tone down. "Sure know how to hurt a girl." Turn, shoulders slumped, hands hiding face as though about to burst into tears and flood room. That always gets to him. Feel nothing inside, just cold heat centered in chest. His voice hardens. "Want to know why? For starters, I’m sick and tired of your drinking." "Cutting down, Bill, honest." Say without thinking, like dozens of times before. Finish drink. "That’s just to relax. Now, what’s this foolishness about you leaving?"
. . . . . . . . . . J.Ewing (Idaho, USA)
"Haven’t you glanced in a mirror? Haven’t you seen yourself lately? You look like five miles of bad road." Icy flames lick up neck. Face feels blistered and chilled at once. Walk on numb feet to mirror on wall, stare at reflection. Hair lank. Eyebrows bushy. Purple stains under eyes. Lips chapped and cracked. Face pale, puffy. Can fix in jiffy. Can be gorgeous again. Turn to him, fluffing hair, say cheerily, "A bath, makeup, you’ll see a new woman." "Don’t bother. All the makeup in the world won’t change the woman underneath." Red-hot icicles stab brain. "What’s that mean?" Bite off each word. "Never mind." Float towards him. "Can’t just throw words like confetti, Bill. Got feelings, you know." "Haven’t seen much of them. You’ve wandered around like a zombie for months. I’ve had enough." He strides into bedroom. Follow, watching in vanity mirror. He begins stacking clothing from closet and dresser into suitcase. Say to mirror: "Know the real reason you’re leaving." He looks up, challenge in his eyes. "What’s that?" "You’ve found another woman." Eyes pin his face. His face flushes. "No, I haven’t," he says too quick. The crumb! "You’re lying, Bill." "I’m not going to get into anything with you, Vida. Let me just go in peace." Bends to his task again. How neat. Pants creases razor-edged. Shirts exactly aligned. Briefs folded just so. Socks filling empty spaces in case. Belts coiled into tidy hoops. Ties laid out with geometric precision. These hands play with objects scattered across top of vanity. Bottle of cranberry nail polish: Could drink it and die. Would he be sorry? Would he care at all? Heavy crystal perfume decanter: Could brain Bill with it. Coral necklace, souvenir of Mexico: Could twist it tight around this throat or that one. Fancy manicure set mistaken for jewelry - found stuffed in Christmas stocking. Zip open. Bill clicks suitcase closed. Sounds so final.
He brushes by into bathroom, collects toiletries. Both hands full, he returns to living room. Trail after, one hand hidden. He scans for traces of himself. "Anything else of mine, send it. I’ll let you know my new address." His eyes search here and see nothing. "Good-bye, Vida. Good luck." "You’re really leaving?" "Yes." "Nothing to make you change your mind?" "Nothing." "A good-bye kiss?" He just stares as though the thought disgusts. "How about this, then?" Open robe, hold it wide so he can view what he once couldn’t get enough of. "Chrissakes, Vida," he says, "put some clothes on." Close cloth. Crushed, little-girl voice: "One last hug?" Sighing, he puts stuff down, comes forward arms spread. Press to him. So warm, though his warmth can’t match inner fire. "One more thing to take, Bill," mumbled into his neck. Raise hand holding pearl-handled nail file. Drive it deep into his back. Right where his heart would be, if he had a heart. He shoves away, hands clawing where he’s stuck. Stumbles drunkenly, trips over corner of couch, falls in writhing heap. "I," he says, still thinking of himself. Squat beside him. Stroke his hair. Damp, as though he’s been in rain. His mouth moves. Thin ribbon of red dribbles. "I," he says. Selfish bastard! "I, I, I." Each single vowel fainter than the last. He finally stops making noise. Smooth eyelids closed. Shut the gaping mouth. Let the head drop with thump to carpet. No obstacles now. Turn to fetch fresh bottle, to become whole again.
He clicks tongue and lips. "You always say: ‘I’ll stop.’ Listen to yourself. You’ve killed off too many brain cells. You can’t even string together complete sentences now." "Can so, Bill." What’s he expect? With him, something’s missing. Without him, complete void. "I hate to be here when you’re loaded. I’m tired of pouring you into bed. I’m sick of cleaning up after you. Mostly, I’m scared of you when you’ve had a few too many." "It’ll be different, Bill. Swear to God!" Without thinking, pour another. Goes down like water. "Skip it, Vida. I don’t believe it." Face twists in scorn. "You can’t leave that bottle alone." "Hell, if it bothers you." Walk liquor into kitchen, letting door swing shut. Take six healthy swallows, clank empty in cabinet alongside other bottles full of magic oblivion. Back in living room, show empty hands. "See? All gone." Lips feel like Novocain. "Please, one more chance." "You’ve had your chances." Chin trembles. Eyes damp. Lock gazes with him. "Please, BIll. You’ll see change. Honest." "You can’t change. You’re incapable of it." Waves hand as though throwing rock, slumps on couch, arms crossed over chest. Plunk on cushion beside him. "What’s really bothering you?" He moves away, rolls eyes. "You bother me. You’re a real slob, Vida. You never pick up. I can hardly get in the bathroom, because your underwear’s always hanging there. You haven’t washed dishes in weeks. And when’s the last time you vacuumed?" Look around as if seeing squalor for first time. Mind forms words about sharing work and hiring maid and is he crippled. "You’re right. A pigsty. But you’ll see. Be spotless in an hour." "Never mind," he says, bored. "I’m moving out." "Just because apartment’s messy?" "That's the least of it. The real disaster is you." "Don’t understand." Fire made of snow flares behind ribs. Spreads.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Elle Ludkin (London, UK)
The boy stands, feet hip width apart, in front of the dressing table. His back reflects in the mirror and his shadow is cast upon the wall. There is no expression to his face as over half is obscured by a black mask. His eyes are wide. The elastic of the mask tangles his long hair, pulls it tight around his ear. His lips part and sag downwards. The stillness throughout his small frame ends at his hands, where, in one he holds a flashlight, in the other, a gun. The door is shut and bolted. The boy moves a beam of light across onto the bed. The spot of brightness moves upwards over the bedspread. Patterns are highlighted. The colours green and red are visible. The material rucks and twists around a large shape. There is movement. The boy raises the gun. The flashlight picks out closed eyes, skin pulled over bones and lips drawn back exposing teeth. "Bang, bang! You’re dead Dada." The flashlight’s beam focuses in on a dark patch spreading outwards from the hole in the bedspread. The colours blend and the pattern disappears. The darkness turns to liquid. It drips onto the floor, moves towards the boy’s feet. He is not wearing any shoes or socks. "Andy, what ya up to?" a voice from outside the room. The boy drops the flashlight. It hits the wooden boards, rolls over and over onto the liquid. The light goes out. It is black. "I ain’t doing nothin’ Mama." "Wake ya Da n he’ll take his belt to ya!" The room is filled with the sound of breathing. A moan can also be heard. "Andy!"
There is the rustling of cloth and the straining of metal, the sound of skin sliding over wood. "I’m a cowboy Dada, you’re the Indian." The rustling becomes louder. There is a slump and a thud. The moaning stops. "What the hell’s that?" From outside the room, the stairs begin to creak, regular thumps upon each step. Inside, there is a crash of glass, a cry and the noise of skin rubbing skin. Footfalls can be heard padding away from the bed. "I ain’t done nothing Mama."
Half Smart No Nerve
I tripped over the fat cop on my way out the door. There he was, bending down to pick something up, and me just coming out the door went right over him. "Watch where you’re goin’," he said. As I made a deliberate show of slowly straightening up and beginning to carefully dust myself off, I could see that he wore the uniform, alright, but he sure didn’t look like much of a peace officer otherwise. 5’8" or so, the guy must have weighed close to 250. His uniform was a mess, too. Shirt un-tucked in the back, the way the shirts of fat guys the world over are un-tucked in the back, coffee stains on the breast pocket below his badge, uniform pants not pressed.
. . . . . . . . . . Brian Thornton (Kent, USA)
Me, I clammed up on the spot. I was disgusted with myself. Collared for a take of fifteen lousy bucks. I was glad I’d ditched the sap I’d used in the river. Half-smart, that’s me, alright. Don’t case the joint, just go in and knock the place over. Good thing I didn’t hit the old guy too hard. Too bad I lost my nerve after cleaning out his register. The hop-head kid who told me about this guy swore up and down there was a safe back behind the counter that was left unlocked. Got himself fired taking too close an interest in it, he says. Serves me right, listening to bar talk. Half-smart, no-nerve me. Damned good thing I didn’t snuff the old guy. Little tap upside the head and with my hand shaking, I make sure his pulse is nice and strong. Only thing worse than a stretch upstate over a petty beef would be a oneway ticket to the chamber for offing somebody in a daring daylight robbery that netted you fifteen lousy bucks. These thoughts were cold comfort on the ride down to the pokey. I was surprised when they didn’t put me in stir, but left me to rot in one of those hot, puke-green interview rooms, cuffed to my chair. I got told to shut up when I asked about a lawyer. When I asked again, I got kicked by that same fat cop. Three hours later, some baby-faced D.A. came in to tell me that the sooner I copped, the better for me. I asked what I was charged with. "Enough already," he said. "The old guy croaked. How would someone live through what you did to him? You’ll get the chair for this unless you cop a plea but quick and save us paperwork. Family’s squawkin’. This is a death penalty beef." Half-smart, no-nerve me. "I didn’t hit him that hard," I said. "He was still breathin’ when I went out. Ask the fat cop-" He wasn’t buying. "How hard you hit him don’t matter. It’s the bullets they’re pulling out of his head this afternoon once they get an open slab
over there at the morgue. Nice move, sappin’ the guy when his back’s turned, then hopping the counter and drilling him right before you clean out the safe." My mouth wouldn’t work. My eyes wouldn’t blink. I sat there and stared and sweated and I probably whimpered, too. I finally managed to choke out the words, "I didn’t have a gun. I threw the sap in the river. I didn’t shoot anyone!" He lit up a cigarette for answer. After that the words tumbled out of me, "I got fifteen lousy bucks outta this! Fifteen I tell ya! FIFTEEN!" "Officer Neihaus has you dead to rights on this one, an eye-witness I.D. of you leaving the joint. Said you practically knocked him over on your way out. I’m surprised a smart guy like you didn’t plug him, knowing there was a corpse right behind you and him able to finger you so clean afterward. Lucky for us and unlucky for you that you were careless with your mail, too." I stammered, still stuck on the whole "fifteen bucks" thing until he stubbed out his cigarette and with a curt nod toward the door, said, "The old man’s ledger said there was $1,500 in that safe of his. What’d you do with it? And where’s the gun?" I followed his gaze to the window in the door to that puke-green Hell and saw the fat cop smiling and wiggling those fingers at me again, just like he did when they pinched me back in my digs. Half-smart, no-nerve me.
He had a look about him, an air that said he might be just as likely to shake down a skell as to pinch him for knocking over a place like the fiveand-dime I’d just vacated. This and the fact that he was a cop in the first place made him exactly the last person I wanted to see. Muttering a "sorry," I turned on my heel and tried to beat it out of there before he made it through the door I’d just used to exit and saw what I’d left in there. I’d barely made it around the corner and onto State Street before I broke into an allout run. Before he could so much as toot that whistle of his, or yell "hey!," I’d be long gone. I had a good start, out of earshot before he began to raise a ruckus. From there it was off to my place, grab my kit, and high-tail it to some other part of the city where someone might not know my kisser so readily if asked about whether I was the type of loser who’d knock over a five-and-dime for chump change. Well, at least that was the plan. The execution of it was a little different. I made it back to my flop fine, only to find the bulls cooling their heels waiting for me. That same fat cop was right there among ‘em, waggling his fingers at me over the Con-Ed bill I’d dropped and not noticed, the one with my address in big pretty bold letters right there for God and everybody (including coppers) to see. Is it really fair to mention God and coppers in the same breath? "You’re gonna make sure I see detective for this, sonny," he leered at me once they had me patted down and the bracelets on good and tight.
Joint Effort . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Adrian Milnes (Queensland, Australia)
As soon we made it past security we headed straight for the bar way at the back. The Jubilee Hotel was an old sprawling pub, and tonight they were having Joint Effort, a fundraiser for the local community radio station 4ZZZ. They had Dance in one room, Drum N Bass on the next floor but all the rock stuff was in the extension out the back. We got a couple of beers then headed down to the stage. Some girl with a nose ring and a book of tickets blocked our way. "Wanna buy a raffle ticket?" she asked "What’s it for?" I asked. I’d seen them selling tickets for a tattoo voucher as we came in, and didn’t want any of that. "Half a pound of marijuana," she said. "All the money goes to support 4ZZZ." Me and Dave looked at each other. I wasn’t expecting it to be something like that. "I’ll buy two," said Dave. He came up with a couple of two dollar coins. Dave watched her walk off until I jolted him and we made our way to the front of the stage. The Aampirellas were putting on a good show. As usual I ended up watching the chick on the drums who played the hi hat left handed like a ride cymbal. Weird way of doing business but it worked for her. I looked over at Dave as the band finished. His mind was elsewhere I could tell. "You reckon you’ll try your luck with her later?" I asked. "What?" he said. "The girl selling the tickets." We looked at me briefly. "Lets talk at the back," he said. We walked through the crowd and found an empty table. "So what is it?" I asked. "That fucking raffle," he said. "I was thinking. If I don’t win it I reckon we should just take the stuff." "You what?" I said. "Yeah," He said. "It’s perfect. There’s no way they’ll report it to the cops." "And how the fuck do we get out with the shit?" "We’ll have to time it well," he said. "Do it when not many people are watching." "Then how do we get out," I asked. "Front ways no good with the security on the door. Windows are too solid, couldn’t get out that way." "This wasn’t designed as a venue," he said. "There’s gonna be more than one door. Lets check it out." We walked around the place. There was an emergency door in the main body of the pub but that was where they where having the dance shit going down and the decks were right in front. We gave that up and started walking to the back of the place. "Wanna try the toilets?" I asked. "Forget that," said Dave. "Won’t be any good." We made our way to the back door. It was open and we went out into the small car park. It was ringed by security fencing with one guy minding the entrance. This was probably where the bands brought their stuff in. Dave sat down on the steps and I sat next to him. He stared at the fencing. Then he suddenly got up and walked back into the pub. The tables were taken this time so we ended up in a corner at the back. "Two choices," he said. "Best way we blag our way past that guy. He’s there to stop people coming in not going out. He won’t give a shit." "If there’s people yelling after us he will. You see the size of that guy. We couldn’t take him out." "If it comes to that we’ll go over the fencing," said Dave. "It’s not that tall we could make it." "And if we don’t, we’re in for a kicking," I said. "I’d give you a leg up then take my chances." That was bullshit and I knew it but I said nothing. We hung around for a few more hours watching band after band. The Disables were pretty good but I couldn’t enjoy them. I was just getting more and more worried. I was trying to not to drink too much so I could still move fast but I couldn’t stop myself. Just before Hot Rubber Glove were about to play some girl came up on stage and grabbed the mike. "Now we’ve got the draws," she said. They got the guitarist to pull out the first ticket for the tattoo voucher. "Now the one you’re waiting for," she said.
The singer pulled that one out and announced the name. It was obvious who won. The guy suddenly had ten new friends all slapping him on the back. We watched him closely. "What’ll happen now," I asked Dave. "They’re got gonna give it out in the open," he said. "Keep watching." We watched the guy for an hour and nothing happened. Finally we saw him move toward the organiser and saw the two of them walk off. We trailed after them and stood in the corridor that ran down the middle of the pub. That way we could see which way he was gonna go. "He’ll probably leave after he’s got it," said Dave. "If he doesn’t he’ll have every bastard in the place after a spliff." Finally the guy came back and made towards the beer garden. He wasn’t leaving. In his backpack," said Dave. "Let’s get him now." We moved up and pulled the knives out but held them close out of sight. We walked up to him. Dave went up close and prodded the knife up against his gut. "Give me the shit," he said. "What?" said the guy. "The fucking weed." "Haven’t got it yet," said the guy. "You think I’d be handed it here? I’m gonna pick it up tomorrow." "Give me your bag," Dave said. Dave almost ripped it off him. As soon as Dave had got the pack I was moving. I tried not to run, but walked as quickly as I could. The security guy thought I was gonna puke and got out of my way. As soon as I was out I ran. I didn’t even see Dave, but all I heard was him yelling behind me. I didn’t stop running until I was almost back to Brunswick St. I was too winded then to run any further, but fear kept me walking. Dave came up alongside me. He still had the backpack and began to look through it. There was a wallet with twenty bucks in it and a couple of text books. Down at the bottom were a couple of wraps. "Hey maybe were in luck," said Dave. He opened one up. "Fuck," he said. "Heroin." Neither of us touched that stuff. We began walking down Brunswick Street. I kept scanning the street. If the guy had smack in his bag he wouldn't report it but he might be cruising the area with a few of his mates. We walked past a guy sitting on the bench near
the train station. We made eye contact and we both sussed him for a smackhead. "Got anything on ya guys?" he asked. "Depends on what you’re after," said Dave. "So what you got?" said the guy. "Bit of smack," said Dave. "Good shit, is it," said the guy. "Yeah, it’s good said Dave. "Fifty bucks to you." The guy came up with the money and Dave handed one of the wraps over. Suddenly two guys were on us, shoving us up against the wall. It all went so fast I didn’t have time to see anything but their badges.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . CJ Henderson (NYC, USA)
cigarettes, anyway--I mean, the way the world is Joe had heard enough. The nightly news had only been a rehash of the slop that had poured out over him from his paper on the way home more details dripping off the pages and out of the set like broiling fat falling into a fire. It was bad enough that everyone in the office had been talking about it. Talking. There was a euphemism for it "You mean those people in El Paso?" "Yeah. They stuffed the drugs inside ketchup bottles." "Four dead--right?" "Yeah. Pretty spicy stuff, huh?" And then the laughter. Four dead in the morning. By the train ride home, and the evening paper, two more had died, making all the jokes funnier by fifty percent. Turning the TV off with the fingers remaining on his right hand, Joe left the den, heading for his bedroom. No wife waited anymore. Even his dog had deserted him, frightened by the morose, continually cynical atmosphere which had settled around his master and then spread outward through his home and all the things in and around it. "Maybe Lucky didn't run away. Maybe he was only stolen," Joe whispered to himself. "Or killed." Forsaking his bed, Joe pulled a blanket from it and then curled on the floor in the black, shivering in his chilly darkness. Duty now for the future, he thought, smiling weakly, trying to fit the edges of his blanket around and under both his rear end and his feet. Herbert sat in the kitchen, still at the table. Tears ran down his face - slow but unstoppable. Nothing he ever did was enough. Maybe the axe would help - maybe. But, if he was wrong, said the little voice in the back of his head, there would be no second chance. "No second chance?" he asked the air in a small, confused voice. What could he be thinking?
There was always a second chance. Clicking his set back on, he watched the small white dot in the center grow in size. MORE BOMBINGS IN THE CENTRAL LOWLANDS FORCE UN TROOPS TO... The picture faded away as he clicked the screen back to blackness. There's no reason for all of this, he thought. I've just got to make a bigger sacrifice. Something they'll all notice. Something worth the effort. Lifting himself from his chair, he went to the drawer in his desk where the tools were. He considered the chisel and several of the planes for a long moment before shutting the drawer again. Then, turning to the umbrella stand next to him, Herbert pulled free the saw standing in it, bracing his leg against the chair next to his dresser. After the eye-crushing pain of the first few strokes, he suddenly found he could not move the saw. Forcing his eyes open, he spotted the problem immediately. Pulling the blade upward, he untangled the pant threads caught in its teeth. Then, with a path cleared, he set back to work, grimly clamping his jaws and bubbling lips together, gamely sawing stroke after stroke, ignoring the swooshing sound and the bone powder and the blood until he had finished his work and had toppled to the floor. "Maybe that," he thought. "Maybe they'll notice that." But, even as he fell off into unconsciousness, Mary's radio kept reporting its grim fascinations, and Herbert just kept wondering - as did Joe and the army of their fellows, all sawing away - just how much grist the mill demanded.
Herbert sat at the kitchen table, unable to eat. The television before him blared on and on - its icy glow ruining his digestion, stealing appetite from his empty stomach. He had turned it on, hoping the scheduled comedy might take his mind away from the world around him. Herbert had forgotten the news briefs which started off every hour. He pulled at a hangnail while the screen assailed him. TWINKIES INJECTED WITH CYANIDE TEN DEAD IN JERSEY NURSERY SCHOOL... The television sat at the end of the metal table, its cord trailing off somewhere into the books on the shelf behind it. Beaming out at Herbert, it offended him daily, taunting him with everincreasing numbers of blandly different unthinkables, daring him to turn it off - to even turn away. "I won't," he thought. "No matter what it makes up. I won't give in." Herbert unfolded his arms and pushed his rapidly cooling Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Deluxe Dinner away from himself, down the table - out of reach. NO CLUES IN THE WILMERDING REST HOME ARSON CASE... Somehow, he just did not feel like eating. "There's no avoiding it," he admitted. "I just haven't done enough." Herbert shuddered at the thought. He wondered if enough could be done--if anyone could do enough. He had tried. God--how he had tried. At least, he thought he had. Each time the world had escalated its attempts to cave in on itself, so had his efforts to put things aright. More sacrifices - a greater effort ...
MORE AT ELEVEN ON THE... Stretching out, straining to reach to the end of the table, he clicked the set off in mid-tragedy, chewing at his nails as he wondered at it all. Mary had decided to cut her hair again, shorter than the last time. She snipped at it randomly without any thought set aside for style or appearance. Although she had not left much the last time, she did manage to find some loose bits to clip - shears pressed into the sides of her head, angling after this fast-growing follicle or that one. Looking at herself in the mirror, staring at her handiwork, she wished she had not thrown out every last cigarette - was glad that she did. In the end, it had been such a little thing to give up. Anything to get back at the radio. FOUR MORE WINTER WAR CASUALTIES WERE DISCOVERED TODAY, FROZEN TO DEATH IN THEIR HOMES, VICTIMS NOT ONLY OF THE COLD, BUT OF THE CITY'S MERCILESS UTILITY BARONS... Anything to keep her mind off the world locked outside her door. She had passed on going to the play with Frank, even though she did like him and he had seemed very secure about the whole thing. Something had warned her, however. Something had let her know that the streets just were not the place for her to be. Something made with Japanese technology and German plastic bought on Canal Street for ten dollars which nightly turned the key in the lock of her warm, secure cell. ...TAKING HIS OWN LIFE AFTER KILLING HIS WIFE AND THREE GIRLS... She had not noticed over the last months - not really - how her hair had started getting shorter, and then shorter, and her nails, shorter, and her meals, smaller, and well, who really needs
Street Justice . . . . . . . . . . . . . Laird Long (Winnipeg, Canada)
"You’re really going ahead with it?" "Yeah." Spin Bianco pulled another cigarette out of the nearempty pack. The pack and the cigarette shook, in rhythm to his hand. He finally stuck a coffin nail between his thin, parched lips and fired up. "We can still call it off, you know." "I know." Long pause. "Well?" "It’s going to happen." Spin, of roulette wheel infamy, was sitting with his only buddy in the world, Tector Brubaker, in a tiny booth in a tiny coffee shop on the Lower East Side. The joint had an air to it - the Depression era. Tector was a bruising hulk of a man, with a face as dark and rough as the alleys he prowled on his beat. Spin was a greasy non-descript, with long black hair, a pale face, and sideburns that went out of style with the Garfield administration. He looked good in a police line-up. Spin drummed his yellow-stained fingers on the cracked plastic top of the table. He gulped some coffee from a chipped white cup. Tector gazed quietly out the dirty window, watching the passing Saturday crowd. "It was an accident. You know that, don’t you?" Spin finally asked, staring at the face he always saw first when he was bailed out of the can. "He was shooting at someone else. I mean, your sister just happened to get in the way." Tector winced at the sound of Spin’s voice. He slowly turned his head to look at Spin. His eyes locked on target. "I mean, your sister was just in the wrong place at the wrong time," Spin corrected, his body slipping into a defensive crouch. The big head turned back to the window. It was close to noon and already hot outside. The stink was beginning to rise from the streets. "He was shooting," Tector said quietly. "That’s all that matters." "You could lose your badge, man." "Yeah." "Let the system handle the bum. He’ll be locked up so tight his momma will need a can opener to visit him." "You can never trust the system," Tector said wearily. "I know." "Something could go wrong today." "Yeah. That’s why you’re here. It sure ain’t for the chatter." Spin smiled quickly and then got back to his part-time job - fidgeting. "I think I’m getting an ulcer," he said, as another butt joined its stubby brothers in the overflowing ashtray. The rusty bell on the door of the coffee shop suddenly rang, and two men entered. They spotted Spin and Tector in the far booth and walked over. The tall one spoke to Tector. "You ready?" he asked. "Yeah." Spin and Tector pushed out of the booth and the four men walked slowly towards the door. "Trying to run out without paying?" the cashier asked cheerfully as they passed her. Spin briefly ogled her sweatery peaks. "You’ve got to pay the piper," she said. Tector glanced at the tall man. "You sure do," he said. He spilled a couple of bucks into the cashier’s outstretched hand. The men went out the door and into the crowded street, stopping at the curb. The hot sun beat down on them like a judgment. "Got a gun?" Tector asked the tall man. He briefly flashed the man his .32 cop special riding in his hip holster. "Yes," the tall man replied. He opened his jacket and showed Tector the Glock 9 mm sitting butt-first in a holster on his left hip. Tector nodded. "Let’s go," he said. "Good luck," Spin sadly remarked. Spin and the tall man’s companion walked in opposite directions down the sidewalk until they came to the end of the short block. They then walked out into the street, blocking traffic in both directions. Tector and the tall man did the same, and then turned and faced each other. The passing crowd stopped and stared, uncomprehending and anonymous. Tector was quicker. His gun roared and a red hole burst open on the tall man’s chest, level with his heart. The tall man fell face down on the pavement as the report of Tector’s gun echoed through the cement canyon.
The Sixth Deadly Sin . . . . . . Lori Romero (New Mexico, USA)
Gwen heard the burglar and waited for him as he crept into the room. "Stop right there, pal." She leveled the revolver at his burly frame. "Don’t shoot!" "What are you doing here?" "See, I’m in the wrong house. Had too much to drink and I’m new in the neighborhood –" "That’s the best story you can think up?" "Put that down. I’m just going to walk out that door. You won’t see me again." "Good," said Gwen. She scooped up a bag of jewelry she had stashed behind the couch as the door closed. "I found this house first."
Tiebreaker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Clint Gaige (West Virginia, USA)
Michael Mickey was sitting behind the console waiting for the song to die down. He punched the microphone button and slid the volume up to be heard over the dying song. He turned on his ‘radio’ voice and wowed the audience with his pipes. "That was Pearl Jam and Jeremy on 107.7, all rock, all the time. Don't forget, lock those doors tonight with this string of highway murders going on throughout the state. Another body was found, apparently a hitchhiker. That brings the body count to six. Three were found in their cars and the other three were found hitching their way across our lovely state. We’ll be right back to keep you company." Across town a driver changed the channel. "That's the weather here on 89.3. Don't forget the police have not caught the person responsible for the murders on Route 66," the announcer paused. "Let’s get back to our celebration of Beethoven." The driver hoped classical music would keep him awake, but it wasn’t doing the trick. The rosary that hung on his rearview mirror mesmerized him and made him sleepier. The driver turned the radio down; he needed company, no matter the risk. He saw a hitchhiker. The driver thought, he’s as good as any, and pulled over. "You need a lift?" "Sure!" The hitchhiker smiled. "Where you headed?" "Anywhere." "Hop in." The driver nodded, his wife hated when he took risks, she always said that you just couldn’t trust anyone these days. The hitchhiker got into the car. They drove away listening to Beethoven. "So where you headed?" "Out there." The hitchhiker pointed forward. "Where'd you come from?" "Back there." The hitchhiker pointed behind him. "I see. Running away or searching?" The driver asked. "I'm sorry?" "You running away from something or, trying to find something?" The driver understood the call of the road. "Aren't we all?" The hitchhiker caught just a glimpse of the driver’s gold cross. "Aren't we all what?" The driver asked. "Aren't we all searching and running?" "I suppose." The driver shuffled uncomfortably. They sat for several moments in silence, with Beethoven crashing occasionally to the forefront. "You a family man?" The hitchhiker had surmised as much. "Yes." The hitchhiker glanced at the backseat, full of living stuff, suitcases, a bible and suits. He smiled, "Spend much time on the road?" "Twelve days a month." "Love your family?" The hitchhiker asked. "Of course. Why do you think I do this?" The driver was offended. "I think you do THIS because you want to get away." "It pays the bills." He answered. "I bet." The hitchhiker stared with knowing eyes. He turned towards the backseat and brandished a butcher knife. "Wow!" "I sell steak knives. Best knives in the west." The driver laughed. "How much you make?" "Enough." The driver answered. "Relax, I'm not a thief...I'm many things but, not a thief." "Sorry, you just can't trust people these days." "You’re telling me." The hitchhiker sat back, "Christ knows I’ve got my problems." "What?" The driver shot a dirty look at his companion and then spoke in a low controlled voice, "could you watch your language?" "You want me to watch my language?" The hitchhiker smirked. "Yes." "Jesus Christ," he moaned. "The Lord's name! Please?" The driver was upset. "Sacrilegious? Sorry." The hitchhiker smirked. "Murders got you spooked?" "No." The driver was annoyed. "No? You’re not frightened that some lunatic is out there willing to cut your life short just for the hell of it, but Jesus Christ’s name bothers you?" The hitchhiker was amazed at all forms of fanaticism; he majored in religious studies in school. "Why must you push me? I'm giving you a lift and you just sit there...pushing buttons..." "I haven't started to push your buttons," the hitchhiker mumbled. "I don't want to do this." The driver said. "But, we're going to." "You don't have any clue what you’re dealing with," the driver returned the stare.
"Neither do you," the hitchhiker said. "Just another lost soul, you need to be saved." "Wow, so you’re the profile that they keep talking about," the hitchhiker laughed. "WHAT?" The driver pulled out a large bladed weapon. "I always wondered what a fanatic looked like." "You don't understand, but you will." The driver pulled the car off to the side. "No, I got it," the hitchhiker pulled out a knife of his own. "Nice knife." "Thanks, I brought my own." "Wow, so no need to give you the show." "I've seen it." "The state's just not big enough for both of us?" The driver asked. "Afraid not." "I must say you appear to do good work." The driver offered some praise for his competition. "As, do you." The two men exhaled, and prepared for battle. "You got three..." "And, you got three..." the hitchhiker added. "So, this would be the tiebreaker?" The driver asked. "Good luck." "You too." "So, let’s do it," the hitchhiker and driver immediately engaged each other, desperately trying to kill the other. After several moments of intense wrestling, neither man has more than a scratch on him. "I'm not used to them fighting back," the driver exhaled. "Me either." Both men sat back and struggled to breathe. "Wanna drink?" The hitchhiker pulled out a flask. "I thought you’d never ask. Playing the ‘bible thumper’ makes it tough to drink." "Is it worth the trade-off?" The hitchhiker couldn’t imagine giving up drinking. "Well, victims let you get closer to them. It works for me. Did you really like my fanatic?" The driver hoped for validation. "Absolutely...I was sure you were going to kill me for swearing. You do good work, I mean that." "Thanks," the driver smiled. The two men sat in silence passing the flask back and forth. The alcohol coursed through their bodies. For both men it was nice to be able to talk shop. Neither had many opportunities to discuss their hobby. "Maybe, we could form a union or guild, if you will." "Serial killers of the world unite?" The driver asked.
"The club for the extreme loner," the hitchhiker opened his hands as if showcasing the slogan in lights. "Benefits?" "Even dental," the hitchhiker smiled. "Nice concept, but applying the theory would just be too much," the driver was being practical. "Probably right," the hitchhiker admitted. "Need a partner?" "No offense, but that kinda defeats the whole crazed fanatic thing." "Right," the hitchhiker could see the problems there. "Rocks, paper, scissors," the driver said. "What?" "Whoever wins gets this state," it was a friendly solution. "Fair." "Ready?" "Yes." The two men put their knives away and lifted their fists. "One, two, three," they both offered up their best weapon. The driver was mortified that he was holding out paper. "Oh man. Scissors beats paper." "What were you thinking? Of course, I would have gone for the sharp weapon," the hitchhiker laughed. "Ready?" "Yeah." "One, two, three..." the driver smiled, "Vindication!" "Oh, man...I shouldn't have shown you scissors twice," the hitchhiker lowered his head. "I knew it was coming," the driver gloated. "One more time..." the hitchhiker said. "One, two…" The next morning in another car a third man was driving along. The radio was blaring rock music and he was smiling, it was going to be a great morning. "Good Morning! Alternative 107 on the air! All Rock, All the time! Two more bodies were found killed on route 66. As you all know, the coroner is a long time listener, he says the radio was tuned right here. I guess, you could say that they died happy. All Rock…." The third man smiled and turned off the radio. Last night he had listened to their conversation. He considered introducing himself and joining their party, but they were listening to the competition. Something he couldn’t forgive. As he drove, he thought of the two competitors. He remembered sneaking up on them and cutting them down in the middle of their game. The third man, Michael Mickey, smiled and ran his hand across the pistol that lay beside him. "All rock, all the time."
. . . . . . . . . Jason DeBoer (Wisconsin, USA)
Eleven o’clock meant free drinks and Jack entered the bar seriously, as if on important business. Lou, a grizzled, aproned mess, washed glasses while he talked at the few faces there. "Breakfast, Jack?" He was the generous sort before noon. The room foundered, already greyed with smoke. The Old Man was in place, gnarled at his stool, cigarette like a sixth finger aimed accusingly at the wall of bottles. He stirred his drink mechanically with a gnawed straw, mumbling to himself. The neon was in spasms on the wall and Sinatra staggered out the jukebox as Jack unloaded his armful of newspapers on the bar with two nods. "Lou... Old Man." But the latter never acknowledged anything. A tumbler appeared. Gin slogged out the bottle and the ice struggled dumbly for a time before it disappeared. Jack set his scissors down next to his glass. He picked at the calluses on the sides of his thumb and forefinger as the drinks burrowed into him one after another. The rail gin tasted like pine cleaner since Lou always bought the cheapest shit possible, so Jack reached for the lime slices, mummified in their plastic dish and speckled with flies. Watching Lou serve a couple of guys in a booth, he noted to himself, "Plaid today." He knew every crease in Lou’s three shirts. He was a pretty good guy, Lou. Grouchy but endearing. There was an anger in him that bubbled out like sweat. Lou swore at the patrons. He swore at the delivery men. If no one else was around he swore at the television. His snarl needed a Michelangelo, a great block of stone, to save it for the ages. Feeling a bit antsy, Jack fondled his scissors, but it wasn’t time to work yet. Across the bar, The Old Man hunched over and spat plentifully into his own hand. He stared at it for a minute with a kind of sorrowful wonder, as if cradling some tiny songbird in his palm, then he slowly moved the saliva around with another finger. Jack looked away, but his next drink tasted foul and somber. Nausea crawled up in him like some rancid creature trying to get out. He ran into the bathroom and leaned panting against the wall. Embraced by stench, a waft of madness, Jack realized that someone had beaten him to it. Jack fled to the ladies’ room instead. He splashed his face with water and his guts somehow settled
without coming up. Raw eyes pinked from the mirror. It was clear to him that he was in collapse and that liquor only lubricated the decline, easing him into some terrible place. Jack composed himself and went back to the vinyl stool. "Hey, Lou, somebody threw up in the men’s room." "I know, it’s from last night. That cocksucking lazy fuck Johnny should’ve cleaned it up after his shift... Thinks I’m gonna do it, but I’m saving it for him this time..." He smacked his fist on the bar and ashes scurried away like frightened ants. "Some goddamn college kid prob’ly. Little bastards. You don’t see it at night here, Jack. Nothing but snotty kids... A totally different bar. Fuck and fight, it’s all they want to do. Puking. Breaking darts. All the broken glass... The place is a fucking mess. Johnny’s too busy getting drunk with ‘em to clean up afterwards… trying to get laid." His face imploded into scowl. "Prob’ly with some little bitch right now..." Lou looked at the phone as if he were going to call Johnny just to wake him up. Sputtering, he threw his rag and walked away. The Old Man suddenly pushed himself back from the bar and, with a terrified contortion of his face, stumbled out gasping, "The beer is drinking us! The beer is drinking us!" It was silent except for Sinatra as the door hushed close. Lou barely blinked. "I don’t know what his problem is. He drinks bourbon anyway... Batshit insane, that guy." "So why serve him at all? Why take his money?" Lou shrugged through his plaid. "Why not? Jesus, Jack, what does money care about men? It don’t give a fuck who gives or takes it. Why should I?" He walked away as if Jack were too stupid to bother with. Jack migrated to the corner booth with his pile of newspapers. The scissor blades chirped methodically for a few hours. He worked hard, trying desperately to decapitate the world, so engrossed in his task that he only refilled his glass twice.
About three o’clock a woman with ratty, jaundiced hair came in and sat at the bar near his booth. Jack eyed the parabola of her chin, gauged the depth and tenderness of her throat. He had seen her somewhere before. Her name was Anne or Belinda or something like that. She noticed Jack as she waited for Lou to grumble forth a drink. "What’s with all the newspapers?" They were strewn over the table, torn and shredded, like a battlefield of paper dolls. A mute carnage of black and white. "My work." "What do you do... line birdcages?" She insulted him, but was smiling all the while. Playfully evil. "What do you care?" He turned away and swigged his drink for dramatic effect. They were two face cards in a game now, playing at mock seriousness, trying to bluff their own loneliness. Within an hour, she was in his lap. "You like gin?" Even though he’d just watched her down two scotches. "It’s okay. Why?" "I got a bottle at home." "Oooh. Is that an offer?" She was snooping through his bag. Jack snatched it away. "I’ll show you that later. Come on." Lou cursed softly as they were leaving, but at the same moment Johnny came in. Lou forgot all about them as he hit Johnny with a broom. Jack’s apartment was neat for a drunk. The ashtrays were empty, and the fishbowl held only a frail castle in its sickly bulb of water. He put his things away while she slumped cross-legged and woozy on the couch. She was more thirsty than horny now. "How ‘bout that gin?" "Huh? Oh, I was lying." Jack was in the kitchen out of sight. He surprised her with a cheap polaroid camera, "Say orgasm!" The flash made her angry because it caught her unawares. In natural pose. The picture farted out with a wheezy grind. "Bastard. You don’t have anything to drink?" "Yeah, yeah." He chuckled and got two dented cans of beer.
She felt more at ease and circled the room with the arrogance that new lovers often feel. Her inspection found the walls lifeless and undecorated. The desk was conspicuously bare. "Weren’t you going to show me something?" Jack’s eyes lit up and he set down his beer. He came back from the bedroom with a monstrous garbage bag stuffed with rustles. She glimpsed a small label on it that read ‘HUMANITARIANS.’ Cupping his hands, Jack brought up a heap of paper bits and spread them over her dress. She stared and a thousand severed heads stared back. Tiny grey eyes, unblinking. Jack had cut each neatly below the chin with the careful elegance of a carnifex. There were all sorts and sizes. She recognized some: Gandhi, Madame Curie, a few bloodless nuns. Jack emptied the bag onto the floor. He spoke with a childlike excitement. "I started doing this in college. There was this book with a scene from the Revolution - you know, the French - and I saw it and just thought ‘wow.’ I wanted to be on that scaffold, to release that lovely blade, to swing that axe just once." He gazed gently at a head between his fingers. "There is such beauty in beheading." He jumped up and gestured toward the bedroom. "Just name somebody! I bet I’ve got them... You’d be amazed..." She peeked into the room. In the corner, bag after bag was stacked to the ceiling. Jack was stammering, "Presidents, celebrities, popes... I got a shitload of popes. Three bags at least. I keep them all separated now, but someday... someday I’d like to fill a swimming pool... to the brim, you know?" He made a diving gesture. "It’s my dream. A sea of heads!" A vision not entirely paper sliced through her mind. She thought of all those headless beings floating out there somewhere, abandoned, and suddenly felt very uncomfortable. She stepped backward onto a crowd of flimsy disembodied faces. Fear notched her throat. Jack was quiet now, watching her, holding a sack labeled ‘POETS.’ She left without bothering to close the door. A cigarette burned faceless in the ashtray. Scratching his head, Jack found the polaroid of her, went to the drawer and took out the scissors.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Joseph Goodrich (Saint Paul, USA)
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Sound of rain. Streetlight through broken blind. Lumpy bed. Scarred dresser. Hat and rainspotted trench coat on hook. Gun on table. Cigarette in ashtray. At 5:33 I walked into Penn. Spotting him wasn’t hard. He was one of those guys who look like their pictures. Going to seed, camel’s-hair coat, blazer and gray flannel trousers. Oxblood brogans. Two pieces of monogrammed luggage. He taxied uptown. 89th between Third and Lex. He paid the cabbie, then entered the brownstone. Rain had been threatening all day. At 9:17 he came out. He was wearing a Brooks Brothers polo coat, full-length, very stylish. Not quite to my taste---but he wasn’t me. He walked down the steps of the subway. I studied him over a newspaper from the other end of the car. There was fear in that flabby face. And worry. The worries of a man of a certain age. He got out at Union Square. Made a small purchase. A hand-painted tie. He hoofed it past Houston and down to the Bowery. He checked into the Sunshine Hotel. He used his own name. A fool or a rube. An aging rabbit in a world of wolves. I walked up the stairs. Strangers coughing behind cardboard doors. Pissed-on menus from cheap Asian joints. Cigarette butts and phlegm. The smell of nowhere to go. He had the radio on. 10:23 on a November night. I shot him in the chest. And that’s when I made my mistake. Usually, if I have the time, I watch them die. I like it. I watch the body spasm. I watch the blood spurting to the beat of a heart. The dirty sheets soaking it up. The bubble of spittle that forms a last word. Blood from the mouth overflowing the mouth and that ‘oh’ of surprise ‘Guess I’m dying’. Then I go home. I hang up my hat. I hang up my coat. I take out my gun and clean it. I hang up my hat. Hang up my coat. Take out my gun and clean it. I shouldn’t have looked in his eyes. I shouldn’t have watched him tonight. I shouldn’t have looked in his eyes. I saw what he saw. I saw through his eyes. I saw what he saw. He saw Me. Saw me as I truly am. A thing of beauty. A thing of reason. A thing of beauty. I loved him in that moment. I loved him more than any man or woman I’ll ever meet, ever know, ever love. It’s 3:30 now and I can’t find a reason to hang up my coat, hang up my hat. Hang up a life of no reason. There’s a time and place. For coming and going. For knowing when to leave. Gunshot. Then silence. No sound but the rain. No sound but the rain. No sound but the rain. No sound but the rain…
Mick Ronson Esquerita James Ellroy Bullet Logo Gene Vincent Lester Bangs
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