Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Alibi

I told the detective I'd lapsed into a vodka-induced coma after playing my mandolin at a Ukrainian jazz festival in Pennsylvania. That was my alibi. One of your better ones, she said. Then she asked how the veterinarian's diamond got in my pocket. I stared at the fuzzy gem, back at her, and plead guilty.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

We Three Kings

First published at Grift Magazine.

The plan was simple. We'd play the parts of the three Magi in the living nativity at St. Bart's. Then we'd steal the week's donations, while the parishioners partied with birthday cake, homemade cookies, and cider. Like I said, simple.

Bernie and I kinda looked the part. Alice not so much, but her mustache helped. I would've made her stay home, but the plan was her idea. She arranged for us to be the ones in the costumes and, being the church treasurer, knew the combination to the safe.

We met Bernie on the unemployment line the morning after Alice told me about her plan. He'd been out of work almost as long as we had. Alice liked him, said he was funny. I didn't think funny was a personality trait one would find on a thief's criminal profile, but when Alice threatened to not have sex with me for a week, I reconsidered.

We arrived early for the ten p.m. Christmas Eve service and got into our costumes. The beards, hats, and long robes provided a good disguise--not that we needed them. Everyone knew Alice and me. And no one in the church would suspect us of being thieves, especially mousy Alice. We stood, quiet as ripples in a stream, until the final blessing, then Bernie and I followed Alice as she gathered the night's collection and headed for the office. Bernie took our costumes back to the changing room. I watched the hallway. Alice removed the money accumulated during the week from the safe and put it and the evening’s donations in the duffle bag she'd hidden in her desk earlier in the day. She knelt on one knee before standing.

"I hate to do this," she said. "A lot of people are going to go without this year." She stood with her head bowed.

I stepped next to her and put my arm on her shoulders. "I know how you feel, but we've been without for over a year. We don't have a choice." I squeezed her and took the satchel from her. "Besides," I said with a smile, "once we hit it big in Vegas, we can send the church a check for the money we took--plus interest."

"That's the plan," Alice said without enthusiasm. She crossed herself and took my hand. "Let's get out of here."


"How much did we get?" I asked Alice. We were back at her house, the one she got in the divorce four years ago. It'd been on the market for eight months, but she hadn't got any offers. Bernie lay on the sofa, snoring through open lips.

"Six thousand, three hundred and forty-five dollars." She said. "It was a better week for donations than last year." She nodded toward Bernie and lowered her voice. "He didn't do all that much. Do we need to give him an even share?"

I glanced toward the couch. "Na. We'll tell him we only got four thousand and his cut is twenty-five percent." Bernie kept snoring. "Why don't we leave it on the kitchen table? We don't need to wake him."

Alice nodded and started putting the money in an overnight bag, setting Bernie's share aside. I left to take a leak before packing the car. It was a seven hour trip from Tucson to Vegas. We'd be on the road by midnight. Traffic should be light and there wasn't any bad weather predicted. Hopefully, we could make it in six. I dried my hands, exited the bathroom, and headed down the hall. When I reached the kitchen, I saw Alice facedown on the floor. I stepped into the room and felt something hard hit my head.


I awoke to a hand rocking my shoulder and someone calling my name. At first, I thought it was Alice. It wasn't.

"Come on, James. Wake up."

I opened my eyes. I didn't recognize the face. I did the badge.

"Come on. We know about the robbery."


"An anonymous tip."

I looked up and saw the small stack of bills on the table. Bernie. That bastard.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

No Place to Run

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

No matter how fast she ran, Crystal couldn’t escape the vulgar shadow. Its trance-like movements stuck to her like fungus to tree. In a desperate attempt to free herself from her fate, Crystal ran to the childhood lake, only to find it barren -- an unwanted reminder of her own condition.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


First published in the Pulp Ink anthology

Walter rested his forehead against the steering wheel while he waited for Malcolm to return. He'd warned the fool about drinking so much water. At the sound of a voice, Walter looked up as Malcolm emerged from the woods talking on his cell phone.

"What the . . .?" Walter pounded his fist on the dash and exited the truck. He adjusted his cap against the sun, stomped to his partner, grabbed the phone, and hurled it into the mix of budding trees and rotted trunks.

"Hey, that phone's expensive."

"We agreed," Walter said between gasps for air, his hands on his knees. "No phone calls until we crossed the state line."

"I know, but I had to tell Suze. Smashing those glass tops and grabbing all that jewelry. Man, what a high." Malcolm raised his hand for a high five, a thin-lipped smile exposed a row of crooked teeth missing an incisor. "I see a new career in my future, Walter."

Walter ignored his partner's hand. Instead, he hiked up his jeans and marched back to the pea green Malibu. "Dumb shit."

"What'd you say?" Malcolm asked.

"Nothing," Walter replied, waving like he was flying with one arm. "Just get back in the car." He glanced up and down the zigzaggy dirt road, glad he'd decided to avoid the paved routes. He usually worked alone, but this time his sister had insisted he let his brother-in-law help. Since Malcolm'd lost his job, he'd been a pest, she'd said.

"And leave the damn phone," he said when Malcolm turned toward the woods. "I'll buy you a new one when we get to where we're going."

Walter massaged his left bicep. His mind wouldn't let go of how stupid he'd been to agree to work with Malcolm. Shaking his head, Walter turned the key. The car's corroded muffler roared its disgust. He reached for the gear shift at the same time Malcolm removed a pearl and ruby necklace from the black garbage bag and held it at eye level.

"What the hell are you doing now?" Walter asked. He glared into the rearview mirror and pushed Malcolm's hand below the dash. "Someone might see."

"Ain't no one here," Malcolm said. He twisted around and squinted through the dirty rear window.

"You didn't know that when you put that doodad on display. We're on a back road, but that doesn't mean nobody else might come along." Walter rolled his shoulders in an attempt to ease the tension in his neck.

"I guess, but still. . ." Malcolm raised the necklace again and stared at it like it was a stripper taking off her g-string, not that Walter imagined Malcolm had ever been to a strip joint. Suzie wouldn't stand for that.

"That's it," Walter said. "Get out of  the car."


Walter turned off the engine.

"I said get out." When Malcolm didn't move, Walter opened the center console and grabbed the gun.

"What're you going to do with that six-shooter?"

"Ease my stress. Now get out of the damn car and get down on the ground."

Malcolm did as he was told. Walter slid out of the driver's seat keeping his eyes on Malcolm.

"What about Suze?" Malcolm asked.

"She and I haven't spoken to each other in years. I don't know why I listened to her now."

Walter looked around to see if anyone was coming. When he turned back, Malcolm was on his feet, racing forward. He rammed his shoulder into Walter's stomach, and they fell to the ground. Walter groaned at the same time the gun went off. Malcolm collapsed on Walter's chest.

Having trouble breathing, Walter rolled his dead partner onto the ground. "Stupid son of a bitch. I only wanted to scare him." Walter got to his feet and grabbed Malcolm by the ankles. He dragged the body behind the Malibu, opened the trunk, and struggled to get the corpse inside. He removed his bloodied work shirt, placed it over Malcolm's face, and slammed the lid shut. Looking around, Walter climbed in the driver's seat and restarted the engine. He gripped the wheel tightly as the car fishtailed down the road, the tach's needle edging into the red.

He eased up on the gas as he approached the road that would take him back to his sister's house. The pain in his back had gotten worse. Before he reached the stop sign, he saw steam coming from the engine compartment. He pulled over, opened the hood, and spotted the hole in the radiator right away. Old age had done it in. He grabbed the bag from the front seat and headed toward town. He needed a new plan.

It wasn't long before a pickup spewing diesel fumes pulled up alongside.

"Need some help?" An old man sat inside hunched over the wheel. A stained cap, the brim cocked to one side, rested on his bald head. A young woman sat in the passenger seat. Dark roots supported blonde hair. Hard nipples poked through a white tube top decorated with daisies.

"Car broke down." Walter shook his head and contorted his face into a look of helplessness. "I'd appreciate a ride to town."

"Hop in." The girl--Walter assumed her to be the man's granddaughter--moved over, and Walter climbed in. The smell of cigarettes filled the air, even with the windows open.

"What'cha got in the bag?" the driver asked.

"Just some family heirlooms. I'm taking them to my sister."

"Thought I heard something like pebbles banging together when you got in," the old man said.

Walter gazed out the side window and held his breath, hoping there wouldn't be any more questions. There weren't.

The old man spent the three-mile ride to town going on about his grandchildren, while the girl, Elsie, smiled, played footsie with Walter, and rubbed her thigh against his. Walter didn't mind the old man's banter. It meant he didn't have to answer questions about what he'd been doing. He wasn't as comfortable with the girl. Neither one noticed the specks of blood on Walter's t-shirt. Or, at least, they didn't say anything.

Walter exited the truck at Frank's Garage, tapped the bill of his cap to the old man and gave the girl an uneasy smile. "Thanks for the ride," he said. "Appreciate it."

Walter waved as the truck pulled away, then walked the four blocks to his sister's house. He was glad she was at work and wouldn't be home for another two hours. It'd give him time to think.

Inside her dining room, he inched open the curtain with the tip of his finger and checked outside. The street was empty for now, but the cops'd be around once they found the Malibu. Walter had planned to drive to New York where he knew a fence and then to Canada to have the operation the doctor said he needed. He wasn't sure how he would do that now.

He slid down the wall to a sitting position and used his shirt to wipe the beads of sweat from his face. His back still hurt and now his jaw ached from the tension he felt. "You're too old for this, Walter," he said, massaging his cheeks. "You should have run off last year after you got out of prison." He tilted his head back and looked at the ceiling. "Nobody would've cared."

He heard the siren in the distance, and a few minutes later, tires squealed to a stop in front of the house. Within seconds, three other cars joined the first.

"This is Sheriff Jacobs," the bull-horned voice said. "We know you're in there, Walter. We found the car and Malcolm. We need you to come out so we can talk."

Walter took a deep breath and placed his hand on the gun lying next to his right leg. "Sure you want to talk." Walter felt his chest tighten. "You think I'm stupid, Harvey?" Walter and Harvey Jacobs had been in school together. Neither one was a star student, but Walter wasn't the one with an IQ slightly higher than dirt. Everyone knew Harvey got his job because his father was once the mayor and still controlled what happened in town.

"You're the one who killed Malcolm, Walter. I'd say that was pretty stupid."

"It was an accident. The fool jumped me." Walter picked up the gun, undecided as to whether he'd use it. He'd been somebody's bitch once before. He wasn't going to be again.

"It looked like he'd been shot, Walter. You know you can't have a gun, having been in prison and all."

Walter massaged his arm again. He needed to think, but he was out of time.

"Come on out, Walter. Let's not make this any harder than it has to be."

"Hard for who, you jackass?"

Walter heard the boots climb the porch steps. He stood up, took off his shirt and placed it over his mouth and nose, waiting for the tear gas canister to come through the window.

"I've got a kid in here. Tell your men to back off." Walter looked around the empty room and wondered how long it would take before the police realized he was lying. A table, six chairs, and a hutch full of chipped dishes didn't make good hostages.

"You need to let the kid go, Walter. He ain't got nothing to do with this."

"I don't have to do anything, Harv. You, on the other hand, need to tell your men to back off and let me think."

Walter leaned against the wall and waited for a response.

"Okay, Walter. We'll do it your way for now."

Walter heard the sheriff tell his men to move off the porch, and the sounds of boots descending the steps.

"Hey, Walter. What's the kid's name?"

"Hell if I know."

"Can you describe him?"

Shit. Walter took a deep breath. Somewhere Harvey'd borrowed some brains.

"Skinny. Nine or ten. Brown hair. You want to know the color of his socks?" Walter peeked out the window. The sheriff stood behind the driver's side door of a blue on white police car. Two deputies in helmets and vests, one holding a shotgun, the other a short rifle of some kind, waited behind an old oak. A female officer stood next to a barrier keeping curious neighbors from getting too close.

"You mean the Richards boy?"

"Yeah, that's him." Walter wondered if maybe there was a way out.

"Can't be, Walt. He and his mom are standing behind the barricade down the block. I can see him clear as day."

Seconds later the dining room window shattered, and the front door sprung open. Tear gas filled the room. Walter raised the pistol, but a boulder of pain struck him in the chest before he could pull the trigger. He fell to his knees, then collapsed ear first to the floor. One hand pressed against his chest. That stupid Malcolm. If only he'd followed the plan.

A lone officer entered the house wearing a gas mask and holding a rifle to his shoulder. He hollered through the mask. Walter could only groan in response. He watched the officer inch toward him. Walter tried to reach for the deputy, but a sharp pain stopped him. He grinned and let his hand fall to the floor. He wouldn't need the operation after all. It was just as well. He hated hospitals.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50/55 challenge prompt words in bold.

Jason stared at the white screen waiting for the words to come, hoping an identity developed he could use, one that demonstrated his frustration. His fragile ego bruised by Sara’s departure, he so wanted to get even. Was he a makeshift lover, noise to be blocked out? “To Sara’s current lover:” he began the letter.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I Thought It'd Last Longer This Time

Confetti. That's what my brain feels like. No wait. Not confetti. Pieces of fish food floating toward the bottom of the tank. Yeah, that's it.

Jack called her a tart that night at Bottom's Up. A tease. I told him he was crazy. She was too pretty, her smile too. . . too. . . brilliant, radiant. All those cliches and more.

Mocha is how I described Lauren's skin to my mother. Mom raised her eyebrows. Incredulous. Polite. Probably wondering where she'd gone wrong. She'd envisioned me marrying a nice white, Catholic girl. She wanted grandchildren she could be proud of.

A scarf? Lauren left me because of a scarf? It was a present. Not for her birthday. Not for Christmas. A gesture. An attempt to cheer her up. She'd been so grumpy all week. Did I break some rule I didn't know about? I'd never gotten this far with any of the others. Perhaps chocolates would have been better. Or maybe it was the way my mother treated her on our last visit.

She said we didn't have any rhythm. I didn't understand. Still don't, but I keep thinking about that.

It was somewhere between remembering her face that night at the bar, her kiss the first night she invited me into her apartment, then her back when she moved out--a suitcase in each hand--that my brain turned to fish food.

I hope it's not a permanent condition.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

On Being a Grandfather

The Sunday Flash Factory 5 to 50 challenge prompt words in bold.

Raymond would never be a legend. His strict, penurious management style wouldn’t win him any awards. But he didn’t care about such things. The only reward he needed was this view of the playground, where his one-legged grandson played on the monkey bars as if he was like everyone else.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

For &*%$ or %^@ Or Worse

"What's with Grandma?" eleven year old Jake asked.

Grandpa Phil rubbed his temple, stalling.

"You know the way she gets when she watches those reality shows since her accident," he replied.

"You mean how her face turns red, and she uses those words I'm not supposed to know."

Grandpa Phil smiled and nodded.

"You bibelot, sere, inchoate, idiot." The shrill words coming from the TV room pierced the wall.

"Is she speaking in a different language?" Jake peeked around the corner and saw Grandma Faith sitting on the edge of the chair, hair falling out of its bun, fists pounding the air.

"I don't think so." Grandpa Phil sat at the dining room table and waved Jake to him. "She's been like this since she got struck by lightning. You remember that happening?"

"She went out to get the mail in a thunder storm." Jake shook his head. "Not a good thing to do."

"That's right." Grandpa Phil tousled Jake's hair. "The doctors don't know what happened, but they think she'll get better." He looked out the window and chewed on his lip. "At least, they hope she will."

"Hey, tenebrous, even Dr. Phil couldn't fix you," Grandma Faith yelled.

"Does she know what those words mean?"

"Probably not."

Jake walked to the doorway, covered his ears, and stuck his head into the TV room.

He turned to Grandpa Phil. "You think it works the other way, too?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, there are a lot adults that don't make any sense when they talk. Maybe if they got hit by lightning, they would?"

Grandpa Phil laughed for the first time since the accident.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


NOTE: Every Sunday, The Flash Factory (a private office at challenges the members to write a 50- or 55-word story using a set of five words. Today's words are in bold.

Seven porcelain caterpillars perched on the oak dresser stared in unison at the lifeless body lying contorted on the bed.

 His client had said to make it quick and painless. One silenced pfft, one bullet to the head. It wasn’t until he pulled the instructions from his pocket he realized he had the wrong address.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


First published at A Twist of Noir (2011) - read editor interview

It's no fun having sex with an alien.

Her name is Jenny. We used to be best friends. We used to be married. Sex used to mean something. Then she changed.

She turned thirty and decided to be somebody else, someone I didn't recognize. She cut her hair short, dyed it red, got a tattoo of a macaw over her left breast, and started talking funny--like she was on drugs. I didn't mind the hair or the language. I hated the damn parrot.

She ran away twice, once with her yoga instructor. I hunted her down and welcomed her back both times. When she tried to leave again . . . I had to stop her.

It wasn't always like this. We met at a college frat party. Jenny's major was art history, mine biology. She acted like she wasn't interested in me, but I knew better. It was during Spring Break in Cancun our junior year when she finally came around. We married that August, ignoring her parents' concerns, and were very happy -- despite not having children. The quack doctor said I was impotent.

Jenny is still the prettiest woman I know. She's lying on the bed, her eyes and mouth open, the look of pain and surprise gone. A sheen of sweat from our lovemaking covers her naked body and glistens in the moonlight coming through the open window, the beacon accompanied by the sounds of the night critters that surround the cabin. Jenny never liked this place. Said she was a city girl and always would be. Guess it doesn't matter now.

The sun will be coming up over the lake in a few minutes. I'll call the police shortly after that, or maybe I'll take a shower first. I'm not going anywhere. Everyone will know I killed her, especially since it's my hunting knife sticking up from between her naked breasts, blood oozing around the blade. I threatened to harm her every time I had too much to drink, which I wouldn't have done if she hadn't turned herself into an alien.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

At Last

The Flash Factory's Sunday 5 to 50/55 prompt words are in bold.

Her final episode of The Mistress at the Bar complete, Dawn exited the hotel with no regrets. It wouldn't take a genius to understand the note saying she was leaving. Her husband would get it. A breeze tickled her cheek as she entered the cab waiting to take her to the airport.

"Where to?"


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Her Friends Didn't Know

Everyone called her Butterscotch because of her orange hair. She was an all-terrain partygoer. Happy was how her friends described her, until she bid them farewell and jumped from the roof. A crowd gathered on the sidewalk, looked at her as if they cared, called her Dead.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Distracted Hostess

*The Flash Factory's Sunday 5 to 50 challenge words in bold.

An anonymous crescendo fills the room as the hostess mingles with the guests. A velvet smile hides her pain. A trial from God, she calls it. She thought she knew her husband, thought he cared about her friends. Nobody’s asked where he is. The police will. Soon. Her smile tightens.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Good Lie

First published at Microstory a Week (2011)

My mother sits across from me, a sliver of white slip visible beneath the hem of her wool skirt. She looks out the window of the single room that’s now her home, a question forming in her mind. It’s the same one she always asks.

My answer is the same each time, too. One she struggles to process, but eventually accepts. I can tell her the truth. She won’t remember what I say any longer than she remembers what she eats for lunch. But I don’t. Ignorance is less painful than truth.

I used to regret lying to my mother. Not anymore. The truth might do more damage, like when she shut down after my older sister, Susan, died. I tell mom the truth about Susan, though. A tumor the doctors found too late is more acceptable to a woman of mom’s upbringing than carbon monoxide poisoning, in Germany, in a car, with a married man, while serving in the army.

“Do you know how Kathryn died?” she asks.

I glance at the picture of my other sister, Kathryn, part of a family montage pinned to a corkboard hanging on the wall.

“No, Mom. They never told us what happened.”

I look her straight in the eye, sincere, remorseless, and thank God she’s the way she is.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

It Didn't Last

NOTE: Every Sunday, The Flash Factory (a private office at challenges the members to write a 50- or 55-word story using a set of five words. Today's words were orgy, innocuous, window, river, and tarp. Here's my 50-word story.

It Didn't Last

He thought asking her to the orgy was an innocuous proposal. They’d known each other for six months and had been intimate a number of times. He stood by the window, gazed at the river--the water flowing freely--waiting for her response. She remained under the tarp, warm, safe.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Born to be Stars

First published in The Ultimate Writer (print only)

Robbie stepped into the clearing and froze, one foot ahead of the other, rainwater dripping from his brown hair, the cuffs of his jeans muddy. Before him stood a creature unlike anything he'd ever seen. It had gray fur, a dirty-white cottontail, long ears, and a single eye in the center of its face.

Robbie stared. The thing stared back. Robbie moved to his left. The eye moved with him. He moved to the right, and the eye followed, like a tractor beam on an alien spaceship. Robbie took three steps closer and sat on his haunches. The animal lowered itself into a Sphynx-like position.

"My name's Robbie."

The creature squinched its nose.

"You look lonely."

The single eye continued to stare.

Robbie rocked his head from side to side looking at the thing from different angles. "I guess you're a rabbit."

The rabbit's eye blinked twice.

"I'll take that for a yes." Robbie rested mud-stained hands on his knees. "Are you lost?"


"Do you have anyone to play with?"


Robbie and the rabbit sat in silence, thinking. Robbie inhaled. He liked the smell of the forest after a rain.

"Do you have any friends?" Blink. "Me, neither." Robbie swatted at a mosquito and wiped his hand on his green t-shirt. "Maybe we can be friends."

Blink. Blink.

"I go to a special school. The kids there are friendly, but none of them live close to me; and the ones in my neighborhood don't like me. I guess they think I'm weird or something."

Blink. Blink.

"So, you know how I feel. I'm glad someone does." Robbie picked up a pebble, threw it as high as he could into the trees, and listened as it bounced from branch to branch. "I told my mom I'd like to go to a regular school. Then the other kids might not think I'm different. She said it wouldn't help." He watched a daddy long-legs crawl across the toe of his sneaker. "She may be right. Jillian and Tommy from next door don't play with me. Jillian told me through the fence their mom won't let them."

Blink. Blink.

"You, too? That's too bad."

Blink. Blink.

"Hey, maybe we could run away to the circus."

Blink. Blink.

Robbie's face turned serious. "Would your parents miss you?"


"Mine would. I think." Robbie rubbed a finger across his cheek. "I could always write them letters."
The rabbit cocked its head.

"Oh right. You don't know what letters are. I'll show you sometime. I can even write one for you, if you like."

Robbie stood and spread his arms above his head. "I can see the big sign with bright red letters hanging at the entrance to the circus. 'Ladies and gentlemen, the Big Top circus is proud to present the one, the only, Blinky the one-eyed rabbit and his one-eyed friend, Robbie.' We'll be stars, Blinky. Big time stars."

Blink. Blink.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Posse

First published at Flash Jab Fiction (2011)

Every able-bodied male in the county volunteered to help find the Andrews boy. He was the second child to disappear in the past four months.

I neglected to tell the men two things: I'd already found his body, and I didn't have a suspect. I would have, though, when the killer tried to steer his group away from the gorge by the Franklin farm.

Ralph's Ruse

First published at Eric's Hysterics (2011) - read editor interview

"Oh, my God. She's going to do it."

Ralph looked up from his jigsaw puzzle to see Millie peeking out the family room window. When the clap of thunder rattled the windows, he dropped the piece it'd taken him forever to find.

"Do what?" Ralph said. He located the elusive piece and locked it in place. After forty years of marriage, he knew how animated Millie could get over nothing.

Millie turned to him.

"Remember how Suzanne told us about Albert's wish to die on the golf course if he got too sick to take care of himself?"

"Yea. So what about it?"

"Well, he must be sicker than we thought. She's pushing him in a wheelchair onto the fifteenth fairway, and she's got something in her hand." Millie pointed at the window. "Get over here and see for yourself."

Ralph pushed himself to a standing position, knowing Millie would keep after him until he obeyed. He walked on stiff legs, bent at the waist. He'd sat too long working on the puzzle.

"Maybe they're just being frisky," Ralph said, as he approached the window. A light along the street opposite the green expanse provided enough illumination to see the two figures.

"Really, Ralph. At their age?"

"Yes, at our age," Ralph mouthed behind Millie's back.

Invigorated by the brief walk and the sight of his neighbors, Ralph reached out and pinched Millie's bottom. She slapped his hand away and gave him a look. Ralph stepped to one side and peered through the spotless glass.

"Don't stand right in front of the window. They'll see you," Millie said, pulling him halfway behind the curtain. "Oh my. Is Albert naked?"

Ralph squinted at the couple. "He must have shorts on. Can't really tell, though. It's kinda dark."

"I think he's naked," she said. He turned to see Millie looking through the binoculars she used for birding. "Oh my God, he is naked."

Ralph didn't know how she could tell, but he knew better than to argue. "How about Suzanne. Is she naked, too?"

"Ralph. That's disgusting," Millie said and gave him that look again.

"Geez, did you see that lightning?" Ralph said to change the subject. "She better turn him around and get inside."

As they watched, Suzanne bent down, first on the right side, and then the left.

"Looks like she's putting the brakes on," Ralph said.

Millie stood speechless, a hand over her mouth.

"And now she's putting something in his hand," Ralph said and moved closer to Millie. "It looks like a 2-iron. What the hell is she doing?"

"I don't know, but I think you should call the police."

"Wait. Let's see what happens." Ralph put his arm around Millie's waist.

"The storm is getting closer," Millie said, pointing to the western sky. She shifted her slender body into him. "We should do something."

"Wait," Ralph said. "I'm sure everything will be fine."

They watched Suzanne put the club in Albert's left hand and raise it as high as his arm would go. At that moment, a bolt of lightning struck a nearby tree. Suzanne fell to the ground and covered her head. Albert rose from his chair and yelled to the heavens, the club held high. Millie turned into Ralph's arms. This was better than he could have hoped for.

"OH MY GOD," Millie said. "He's...he's...huge."

"That is quite a boner." Albert lowered his hand to Millie's rear and gently rubbed up and down. He waited for Millie to say something. Instead, she swayed her body against his caress.


"Yes, dear."

"I..." Millie put a hand on Ralph's chest and smiled. "Let's go upstairs."

Ralph put his arms around Millie, pulling her body to his, and gave a thumbs-up sign through the window. He didn't know if Suzanne and Albert could see him or not, but he'd be sure to tell them how well the skin-colored body suit and ten inch strap-on dildo had worked.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

First published Flash Jab Fiction (2011)

Johnny and I sat in these windows everyday after school, like a pair of twin tabbies. We started when we were six, watching the other kids play stickball, and kickball, and flag football in the street. We couldn’t join them. Dad said we weren’t to go outside until he got home from work. He didn’t give us a reason, but we knew it was because mom got hit by a delivery truck while jaywalking and talking on her cellphone.

We ate snacks--Ritz crackers, or Wheat Thins, or dried fruit--as Mrs. Browning walked her yappy Yorkie, Lady Gladys. Mr. Jameson would wave on his way to the lobby to deliver the mail. Ratty Ron--that’s what we called him--played his taped-up saxophone on the corner. He wasn't very good, but a few folks dropped money into the hat lying uninterested by his feet.

We were on the seventh floor and the windows didn’t open, so we took turns having a conversation with each one of them. We agreed we didn’t like Mrs. Browning much, nor Lady Gladys. They both walked with their noses in the air and ignored everyone else, including us.

One Wednesday afternoon, when we were ten, a firetruck, it’s siren screaming for blocks, came to a halt across the street. Six firemen in black and yellow coats and hats--three in the cab and three on the back--jumped off the truck and rushed through the door, almost knocking over a girl who dad ordered us to stay away from because she was a hooker. There was smoke coming out of Mrs. Browning’s apartment. We noticed it, but didn’t call 911. We just waited to see what would happen. The only fireman wearing a white hat stared up at us. We moved away from the windows, afraid he might come and ask us questions. We didn’t want him to know what we knew.

Johnny brought some crack home from school on our sixteenth birthday. I told him he was crazy and that I wouldn't try it, but he called me a chicken. The walls started changing shapes, and then I saw the delivery truck that killed mom. I pushed it. Once. Twice. A third time. The truck crashed through the window. Shards of glass flew beside it in slow motion. I stuck my head outside, saw the truck lying on its back on the sidewalk, its legs bent at odd angles, and smiled. Dad would be proud of me.

The police came. They took me to the hospital and one of them waited in my room until I could talk to him. Dad was there, too. The policeman asked him to leave, but dad refused. That’s when the officer told us about Mrs. Browning seeing me push Johnny out the window.

“The bitch is lying,” I screamed. “She never liked us.”

Dad laid his hand on my arm. I continued to yell until a nurse came in and gave me a shot.

I got home about an hour ago. Dad had to go back to work, but he asked his sister, Aunt Jessie, to stay with me. She hadn't arrived by the time he left, but that was okay. I needed to decide how I was going to make Mrs. Browning tell the truth, and what I would do to her if she didn't. Her and Lady Gladys.

I asked Johnny, and he said a smoke bomb wouldn't do this time. It needed to be a real fire. I perched by the window and waited for Mrs. Browning and Lady Gladys to finish their late morning walk. Our new plan wouldn't be any fun if the two of them weren't home.

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Couldn't Do It

First published at Apollo's Lyre (2011) - read editor interview

I stood over Virgil waiting for him to stop hyperventilating into my lunch bag. He didn't seem to mind the smell of the Swiss cheese and horseradish sandwich. Or maybe he was too inebriated to notice.

"It wasn't my fault," he said. His eyes were teary, but that could have been the booze. "This raccoon came running out of the shadows and distracted me."

I didn't know if the raccoon was real or not, but the beer puddling on the front passenger seat of Virgil's pickup was. Franklin Forbes' dead body lay a few feet away, his legs and arms splayed on the ground like a prone scarecrow. I'd noticed blood on the front of the grill as I pulled up to where Virgil's truck had collided with Franklin's bicycle. A piece of cloth that looked like the shirt Franklin wore hung from the tip of one of the cattle horns mounted on the front of Virgil's truck. The bicycle lay crippled a few feet away, its wheels twisted, spokes broken. It didn't take much in the way of brains to connect the dots.

"I guess it's just coincidence that the man you hated most in town ended up bouncing off the grill of your pickup," I said.

Everybody knew Virgil had a drinking problem and shouldn't be driving. Everyone except him and his Uncle Walter, the town justice.

I rolled the toothpick from one side of my mouth to the other and stared down at Virgil's slumped body. If Franklin was Virgil's biggest enemy, I was second on the list, ever since he hit my son Jacob and put him in a wheelchair.

Virgil squinted up at me. I'd purposely stood so the morning sun was at my back. Served the bastard right.

"Nasty cut you got on your arm," I said.

Blood dripped from his fingers, and his leg lay in an awkward position. He lifted his hand and his face paled.

"Jesus, you gotta call for help, Bob." His arm fell limp. "My phone's dead." He tried to stand up, but when he put weight on his leg, the bone snapped clean through. He screamed, grabbed his leg with both hands, and plopped back to the ground. I should have felt sorry for him. I didn't.

"Come on, Bob. Make the call."

I stayed where I was, thinking. If I didn't call for help, Virgil would probably bleed out and die, or starve to death. If I did call, and they saved his miserable life, odds were he'd kill someone else, maybe with his daddy's yacht next time, or at least that's what they called the sorry excuse for a boat they owned. I had to make a choice between the churchly thing to do and the fatherly thing. I looked from Virgil to Franklin to the bicycle and the cloth dangling from the horns.

I turned and walked away, ignoring his pleas, opened the door to my Camaro and climbed in. I squeezed the steering wheel with both hands and pounded my head against the leather covering. Jacob's face appeared when I closed my eyes. Remembering what he said about forgiving Virgil, how he'd seen the pain in the boy's eyes at the trial, I grabbed my phone and dialed 911. That bastard Virgil deserved to die, but not like this.

Make Them Stop

First published in MicroHorror (2011)

Angelina knelt on the kitchen floor, the carving knife in her hand. The names her mother called her fought for a front row seat in Angelina’s brain—Lardo, Laggard, Lollygagger, as if her mother was one to talk. The fat slob. Angelina stared at the body, like an onlooker at a crime scene, waiting for her mother to awaken. A Beatles song played on the radio.

Mother Mary comes to me…

“She’s comin’ all right, bitch.” She’d never called her mother that, not to her face, not until now.


Angelina’s stomach tightened. Her breath hissed through clenched teeth.

“Twenty-six years you kept me in this house.” The words fell like tiny spit grenades on her mother’s bruised face. “Twenty-six years of tellin’ me how ugly I was, twenty-six years of makin’ your problems mine, twenty-six years of puttin’ me down. Well no more—bitch.”

Angelina sat on her heels, placed her hands over her ears, and rocked back and forth, waiting. She forced her breathing to slow. Her mother’s words echoed through Angelina’s brain. She lowered her hands to allow the words to escape. They didn’t. She rocked faster.

“You told me I was evil. I guess you was right. Did you see it in my eyes? Did you? Right before that skillet rearranged your ugly face—bitch?”

Angelina raised the knife over her head with both hands. Her lips parted, her eyes widened. The rage overtaking her, Angelina rocked back one last time before driving the knife into her mother’s forehead. She yanked the blade back and plunged it into the bloodied body—again, and again, and again—but her mother’s voice wouldn’t stop.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Foolish Art Lover

First published in 50 to 1 (2011)

He carries the Eiffel Tower in his pocket, the steeple a pointed reminder of his folly. They met over coffee on the Rue Bonaparte, a meeting between art connoisseur and museum curator. His lasting image is of her wiping mascara from her cheek, the result of him remembering his wife.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Her Last Diary Entry

First published at Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers (2011) - read editor interview

I wasn't aware of him until he sat next to me. He was the unshaven, fingerless glove type I'd expect to find at a bus station or sitting on the sidewalk with a paper cup at his feet--not someone I'd encounter at the motor vehicle office. I tightened the grip on my purse and looked around for another seat. There wasn't one.

The man coughed into his sleeve and asked if the author of the book I was reading was any good. I ignored him and wondered why he cared. He didn't look like the reading type. Was he hitting on me? He coughed and asked again.

"I like her," I replied, without taking my eyes from the page.

He coughed and said, "Good."

I guess he didn't get to talk much, because even though I only grunted in response to most of his forays into conversational topics, he kept on coughing and yakking. Our "discussion" remained like that until he brought up the mother who killed her children because they wouldn't stop crying. I glanced from side to side. No one was paying attention to him that I could tell. I let out a slow breath and turned an unread page, hoping the man would stop.

"How can a mother do that?" he said, looking at me for the first time.

Leave me alone.

He didn't.

I only half listened as he prattled on, until he mentioned a similar case from my hometown. That's when I heard him say my former name. My body tensed. I dropped the book. I leaned down to pick it up, my hand shaking, and tried to act like I hadn't heard him.

"That case remains unsolved," he said. "The woman's car was found at the bottom of a cliff along the Pacific Coast Highway, but the police never located a body."  He leaned closer and spoke in a near whisper. "Some think she's dead, like her kids. Others are sure she's alive and remarried with new children, children who are in danger. Me? I don't have an opinion. Well, except if she is alive, she should turn herself in."

I remained quiet, staring at my book without seeing the words. Five minutes later, too frightened to listen any more, I left without taking the eye test. I sensed him following me out the door, but when I turned around, he was gone.


Back home, I take a sip of scotch, and stare at the distant tree tops. The gun I keep around, just in case, rests on the kitchen table. I'm tired of waiting for someone to recognize me after all these years, like the man at the DMV maybe. That's why I called the police and told them what I did. They're outside, threatening to ram the door in if I don't open it.

On the way home, I decided to turn myself in, but now I realize I fear going to jail more than I dread committing suicide. Good things can't happen to a woman in prison convicted of shooting her own children. The man at the motor vehicle office had that right. He was wrong about me remarrying and having more children.

I know. I'm babbling. I'm afraid of what will happen if I stop writing. God, my hand is shaking so much I can hardly write.

I'm sorry, Katie and Sam. I do love you and know I won't be going where you are. I've missed you every day, even the days I tried to forget, but now it's time for all of us to rest.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Do Unto Buzz

First published at The Flash Fiction Offensive (2011)

I parked an outhouse in Buzz's front yard late last night and blew it up. I suppose I should feel bad, but I don't. In fact, I think I strained something trying not to laugh out loud as I watched the contents of the crapper spatter all over the front of Buzz's house.

Buzz'll know who did it. He ain't that dense. We been pulling stunts on each other since high school.

Martha, that's my wife, says I need to grow up. If I really want to get to her, I raise my arms and fly around the house like I'm Peter fucking Pan. If it's close to supper time, I simply duck my head and say, "He did it to me last." That argument usually gets me this pose from Martha, like Superman staring down some bad guy, but I keep trying.

Buzz's pranks almost always have something to do with my truck. He probably figures it's in such bad shape he can't do it much harm. Once he hid a hornet's nest under the seat. I never bailed out of anything as fast as I did that beat-up Ford. Ran into the neighbor's driveway and nearly got run over by Old Lady Moss heading to church. I couldn't believe the language coming outta her mouth.

Martha reminded me about the time her daddy caught us in the barn. Said I ran fast then, also. Too bad he didn't get there sooner. Maybe I wouldn't of had to marry Martha before she birthed Jesse.

I tried to talk to Buzz about stopping, but all he wanted to do was argue. Didn't surprise me. He can be a mean son of a bitch. Kinda like a billy goat left alone too long in a pasture.

The argument turned into a real scorcher of a fight, and the best time I had with Buzz. I got to use all my cuss words without Martha saying something.

We ended up on the ground rolling around and beating on each other. He was winning, until I landed a hard punch on his liver.

I know someday we'll have to stop, probably soon. Martha's right. It's time for me to grow up. Jesse is five and needs a better example of how to be a man. Martha deserves better for putting up with me, too.

Buzz is coming down the street. I can't see his face, but he's not using his happy walk. He's carrying one of those fancy squirt guns with the big tank. I suppose now would be good time to tell him I pulled my last prank, but I want to see what he does to my truck this time. Besides, I still got a stick of dynamite left. It'd be a shame to waste it on some old tree.

Two Down Zero to Go

First published at Yellow Mama (2011) - read editor interview

I sat alone on a barstool at Mack’s waiting for the sudsy foam on my Guinness to settle. I hated beer with a head. Mack knew that, but he was pissed at me for turning his brother in for the bounty. It was a job to me, that was all. I liked Mack. I liked his brother, Jesse. I also liked paying the rent, drinking beer, and eating taco salads.

I'd known the twins since we played football together in high school. We were big for our ages and competed like it. Jesse had been the friendly one of his family until his third deployment to Iraq. He came home that last time an angry bastard. Too many good people died for nothing, he said. Later, Mack told me Jesse's best pal Javier had died in Jesse's arms after their vehicle ran over an IED. It made me feel good that all I brought home from the first Iraq war was a bum knee.

Jesse'd learned some nasty ways to kill people in the Marines and used one of them when he robbed the convenience store. He would've wrung the clerk's neck clean off his shoulders if his partner hadn't pulled Jesse away before he did any real damage. Not that I was there. My buddy in the police department told me about the heist. I liked to know what I was getting into, if possible, before I tried to apprehend a bail jumper, especially one as mean as Jesse.

I tracked Jesse to the junkyard across town and waited until darkness blanketed the neighborhood before climbing the chain-link fence. Using a penlight to make my way to the shack Jesse had called home since he'd gone into hiding, I sidled up to a grease-stained window and peeked inside. Jesse sat on a plastic chair in front of a TV, its rabbit ears held together by tape.

Jesse cheered on the Jets as I watched. "You boneheaded asshole," he said. "What made you think you could play quarterback?" He threw the bottle of beer he was working on toward the screen and missed.

I couldn't help but laugh. It was the same line he used on his brother when we lost the district championship. The only difference was this time he meant it.

The memory made me wonder what I was doing. Unlike the other criminals I'd tracked down, Jesse was a friend. After a few seconds--I wasn't one to over think a problem--I decided it didn't matter. I had to eat, and Jesse did the crime.

Shouldering the door open, I charged across the room. Jesse rose from his chair at the noise, and I thrust my fist into his face. A punch like that wouldn't have done much if Jesse was sober. The dozen or so empty bottles of Coors Light scattered on the floor told me he wasn't. I shackled Jesse and called the police. I would have taken him in myself, but he was too big for me to drag to my Explorer.

I stopped by Buck's Bail Bonds on my way to Mack's. I knew there wouldn't be any free drinks once I told Mack about his brother. I figured it'd be best if I told him.

Mack leaned forward, placed his hands on the bar, and looked at the floor when I told him about Jesse. Without saying a word, he grabbed a towel, wiped a spot on the bar, and moved away.

I considered finding a different job while watching Mack walk to the other end of the bar, but there wasn't much out there I could do. Some might say I wasn't much of a bounty hunter, but it paid enough for me. I wasn't about to buy a Mercedes or a fancy TV. They would ruin my image as a no good bum who hunted down his friends as if they weren't.

I finished my beer and left a ten on the bar to settle my tab. I wasn't sure Mack would touch it. It didn't bother me...well, not much. I was a loner. Except for Mack and Jesse, I didn't have any friends. Hadn't since high school. And now I was pretty sure I could cross them off the list.

Friday, October 14, 2011

We Made Them Proud

First published in Muscadine Lines (2011) - read editor interview

I hadn't smiled since Soldier chased a squirrel into the street and was killed by a car. He was six. I was twelve. Mom told me it was her fault for leaving the gate open.

She snatched a coin from behind my ear and pulled a streamer from her mouth, like she did after Dad's funeral, to cheer me up. The first time I was surprised, but her tricks didn't make me smile--not a real smile, anyway.

Dad worked with dogs in his job. When he told me he was going to Iraq, I asked if I could have a dog. Mom wasn't keen on the idea, but I promised I'd take care of it. Dad and I went to the pound and found a small mutt he thought I could handle. I named him Soldier. He didn't respond to any commands, so Dad showed me how to train Soldier to sit and stay and walk on a leash. It was the last thing the three of us did together, except for attending Dad's funeral. He'd been in Iraq for eight months. Soldier sat next to me, military proud, his tongue hanging out in salute to the fallen, as they handed the flag to my mom. It was the first time I'd seen her cry.

The funeral was six months ago, and I never thought Mom might still be sad, until I heard her crying in her room last night. I realized then she needed someone to help her, too. I didn't know the kind of magic she did, but I had one of my own tricks to show her, one I hadn't performed since Dad came home in the box with a flag on it. I'd been thinking too much about myself and Dad and Soldier to be of any help to Mom. But I changed that a few minutes ago when I walked into the kitchen, gave her a big hug, and told her I loved her. She hugged me back, and I felt her heart beating. I looked out the window into the backyard and saw Dad, in his uniform, smiling, and Soldier saluting us with his tongue. I felt my face grow a real smile, and when I looked up, Mom was smiling, too.

Edward and Lily's First Date

First published at Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers (2011) - read editor interview

Edward eyed Lily from the bailiff’s desk as her long fingers captured the District Attorney's closing statement. Edward had nicknamed her Little Miss Echo, because, as the court reporter, the only time Lily spoke was to repeat witness testimony. She’d first appeared in Judge Franklin’s courtroom on Monday, wearing a pale green pantsuit -- one similar to what she had on now -- that complemented her short, red hair. For Edward, it was love at first sight. Seeing no ring on her finger, he’d asked her out the second day of the trial. She'd declined. Undaunted, Edward continued his pursuit and finally succeeded. He and Lily had a date for lunch as soon as the judge adjourned the morning session.

Edward placed a hand on Lily's back as they entered Le Petite Cafe, a broad smile on his face. The word little described her perfectly, Edward thought. She was no bigger than a sapling; and except for the scar bisecting her right eyebrow, her face was flawless.

“I'm so glad you decided to have lunch with me,” Edward said.

“I'm so glad you decided to have lunch with me,” Lily replied.

Edward smiled and placed the maroon napkin in his lap.

The waiter asked them what they'd like to drink.

“I'll have an iced tea, please,” Edward said.

“And you, ma'am?” the waiter asked.

“I'll have an iced tea, please.”

At first, Edward thought her funny; but when she ordered exactly the same lunch, he began to wonder if she knew about his nickname for her and was teasing him.

“Do you ever say anything original?” Edward continued to smile.

Lily unwrapped her napkin and spread it in her lap. She kept her eyes down and didn't respond.

“Come on. I know there's an original thought in that pretty little noggin.” He tapped his forehead.

The waiter delivered their drinks and a basket of breads.

Edward bounced his heels on the carpet and waited for a reply.

Lily bit into a slice of cornbread and sipped her tea. She patted her lips with the napkin and returned it to her lap.

Edward placed his hands on his thighs and squeezed. The smile vacated his face. Enough is enough. He leaned forward and spoke so the nearby diners wouldn't hear him.

"What's wrong? Don't bailiffs make enough money? Am I not handsome enough?"

Lily raised her eyes and hesitated before leaning closer. "Not handsome enough," she whispered.

Edward's face turned red. He threw his napkin on the table. Still leaning forward he said, "Why you little." He looked around and then back at Lily.

“You should be careful what you say.” He inched closer until their noses almost touched. “You're not the first one who's insulted me, and the others never did it again. I saw to that.”

“Really?” Lily stared back. "What'd you do, take them to a hotel room and strangle them?"

Edward's body tensed, more blood rushed to his head. He reached for Lily's arm. She jerked it away.

"Isn't that what you did to the others, Edward?"

"How...?" He sat up and snatched the napkin off the table. "I'm afraid the stress from the trial has gotten to you, my dear. Let's just finish lunch."

"I believe you're the one stressed out by all that rejection." Lily kept her eyes on Edward and reached into her jacket pocket. "You've been a person of interest ever since a maid found number three." She showed Edward a detective's shield and nodded toward the small counter. Edward looked up. A man wearing a gray suit and blue striped tie nonchalantly saluted. In her other hand, Lily held a recording device between her thumb and finger. "And unlike the first two, you left DNA samples. She must have really made you mad for you to get so careless."

"I know all the cops in this district," Edward said.

"I'm on loan from the 38th."

"What about the trial? Won't your little deception set the perp free?"

"I served as a court reporter for five years. The judge and both attorneys knew what was going on."

Edward grabbed Lily by the wrist with one hand and reached for the recorder with the other.

The detective rushed from the counter to the table and pulled Edward away.

“You bitch,” Edward said. “I'll get you for this.”

“I doubt it,” the partner said, “but she will see you in court.”

“Yea, see you in court,” Lily said, as the detective pushed Edward out of the restaurant.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hail to the Chief

First Published at The Short Humour Site (2010) - read editor interview

Boy, that was some inauguration. And one Betty May Halpern won’t ever forget.

She was at Gus’ with me and the boys watching the event on the big screen TV. Betty and I were at a table sharing a roast beef sandwich, chips and a pitcher of Budweiser, while we waited for the ceremony to start. The others sat at the bar and talked about how the new president was going to get their jobs back, and how he would kick all those crooked CEOs out on the street, and how he’d show them commies who was boss.

A big cheer went up when Obama stepped into view, especially from Cletus Boyer. He jumped off his stool, let out a good old yell and held his bottle of Old Milwaukee high in salute. He did it again once the president finished his oath. It was after the benediction, though, when Betty May ended up having to go to the hospital. You see, when that preacher told people to say “amen,’ Cletus jumped up and joined in. When the preacher said to do it again, Cletus lifted his beer and said it louder. The third time Cletus raised his arm, the lone working suspender strap let loose and his pants fell to the floor. When that happened, Betty May fainted and hit her head on the table pretty good.

I learned later, when I picked her up at the hospital, it wasn’t that Cletus wasn’t wearing any underwear that made her pass out. No she didn’t faint until after she thought she saw the face of Jesus on his right butt cheek.

I just left Betty May at her home after her second visit to the emergency room. We stopped at Ginnie’s Liquor Mart on the way home the first time so Betty May could buy some medicine to help her sleep. When I opened the store door, Cletus stepped out and gave her a big howdy and asked how she was feeling. Just the sight of him reminded Betty May of her earlier vision, and she dropped into my arms like a tree hit by lightning.

I gave Cletus twenty bucks and told him to go to Gus’ and stay there until I showed up. Yes sir, this was an inauguration for the ages. And before the next one, I’ll make sure to buy a TV so Betty May and I can watch it somewhere Cletus won’t be. We don’t need Jesus crashing the party again.


First published in Thrillers, Killers 'N' Chillers (2010) - read editor interview

Crouched, two hands on my weapon, I scurried across the gravel path to where Cory waited. I rushed past him to a spot on the opposite end of the brick wall and stumbled into position. "Ouch."

"Hey, new kid. Quiet. They'll find us." Cory retrieved a small boring tool from his pouch and quickly rotated the handle, drilling a spy hole in the mortar. "Idiot," he mumbled.

"Sorry," I said, speaking in a loud whisper. "Some asshole left pieces of a broken beer bottle." I didn't normally use words like asshole, but Cory wasn't normal, or so I was told--after I agreed to be his partner. I pulled the shard from my palm and used my tongue for a pressure bandage.

We sat in silence. Listening. An awning of thick branches dammed most of the sun's rays from reaching us. The humid air thick with the scents of pine and decay assaulted my nose. I looked at Cory. His face was cloaked in anger. I didn't know much about him. Only what my friend, Frankie, had learned from Cory's brother. And a few rumors.

"Didn't you and Zach used to be friends?"

"Yeah." Cory's body was hard, stiff. His breathing shallow. He swallowed, and his Adam's Apple bounced in response.

"Frankie told me you two used to do everything together," I said to break the silence. "That he taught you how to do this."


"I also heard he asked Becky out." I look at the ground. "Is that why you're pissed at him?"

"Hey. Either shut your mouth the fuck up, or I'll shut it the fuck up for you." He turned, and his eyes nailed me to the wall. "Clear?"

I began to understand why no one else would be his partner.

Snapping twigs and furtive voices sounded the alert. Cory waved. I took his position at the hole.

He lay prone, legs spread, and readied his gun. "Let me know when he's in range."

I watched Zach approach. He motioned to his left and right. His partners spread out. I thought we were supposed to work in pairs. Zach crept forward, bent over, moving his head from side to side. I couldn't see the others. I gripped my gun harder to stop my hands from shaking. It didn't help.

Three more paces, and he would be in range. I waited. Waited.

As Zach crossed the imaginary line, I tapped Cory on the leg. He sidled sideways until his gun and head emerged from behind the wall. He raised the barrel and sighted his target.

I jumped when the gun went off. Cory sneered and rose to his knees, unconcerned about the others. I peered through the hole and saw the blob of paint over Zach's heart. Yellow tentacles slithered down his shirt.

Cory raised his weapon over his head and laughed as paint exploded on his chest. Losing the game didn't matter to him. He'd accomplished his goal.

I pulled the gold cross from its hiding place under my shirt, rubbed it between my thumb and finger, and stared at Cory. What I saw frightened me. His clenched fist. The menacing black streaks across his cheeks. His smile, rigid, unforgiving. His eyes displayed a message--a message that said next time the gun would be real.

He Should Have Known Better

First published in A Twist of Noir (2011) - read editor interview

She stepped into the lounge and spotted him sitting at the bar. The room was unremarkable and so was he. Three men and four women, wearing name tags, chatted at a table near the door. They watched as she sauntered across the room. She didn't care that the men ogled her ass, or that the women thought her hem too high and her bodice too low. She was here to show the man at the bar a night he wouldn't remember.

“Hi, Tom,” she said, sliding onto the stool to his right. “Allison. We met last week at the Townsend's.” She held out a limp hand.

“Yes, I remember.” He took her hand in both of his. “You know my wife.” He wasn't drunk, but his speech indicated he was getting there.

“I met Ellen a few weeks ago, and we became instant friends.”

The bartender took her order.

“Tonic water?” Tom said ordering another scotch. “Is that as strong as it gets?”

“For now.”

He'd forgotten about the others in the room. Long, athletic legs and stocking tops peeking out from under the little black dress captured his attention. Bloodshot eyes moved up her legs and paused to admire two tanned breasts before leveling to meet hers. They talked about his boring work, his boring life and how things should have been better for him. After his third round, he leaned forward and kissed the side of her neck. His hand wandered up her leg; she stopped him when it reached bare skin.

“Not here, Tommy.”

“Let's get a room.” His thick speech told her it was time.

“Yes, lets,” Allison said, caressing his thigh. “But you need to be careful. We wouldn't want Ellen to find out.”

“No, we wouldn't want that.”

“I'll wait by the elevator while you register.”

“Good idea,” he said, tottering off the stool.

As soon as they were in the suite, she excused herself to go to the bathroom. She took off her dress and hung it on the hook behind the door, then removed her thigh highs. She looked at her profile in the mirror and cupped her naked breasts. Dr. Watts had done a wonderful job. She faced the mirror and fluffed her blond curls. It was true what they said, she thought. Blondes do have more fun, especially if they have big boobs.

She refreshed her lipstick, looked at her profile once more, retrieved the weapon from her purse and opened the door.

Tom stood naked in front of her. “Wow, Allison, you are—“

The often-practiced knuckle thrust damaged his vocal chords and muted his open-mouthed scream. As he fell to his knees, Allison moved behind him. She used her legs to pin his arms to his sides, put the knife to his throat and placed a hand under his chin.

“I forgot to tell you something about Ellen and me.” She pressed the blade harder into his skin, but not enough to draw blood. “She hired me to find out who you were sleeping with and was despondent when I showed her pictures of you with three different women.”

Tom tried to get up, but she was stronger than he thought a woman could be. His yell for help never made it out of his mouth.

Allison lifted his chin, inched the blade across the soft skin of his neck and watched the blood trickle onto his chest.

“Don't worry, Tommy, I've had lots of practice at this. That cut won't kill you.” She leaned away and tilted his head back so she could see his eyes. The fear in them excited her.

“Your wife has quite an imagination. She wanted me to do all sorts of nasty things to you, but I assured her you would suffer in proportion to your level of infidelity. She can't wait to hear the details.”

Tommy's lips moved and this time muffled sounds escaped. He tried again to get free.

Allison lowered the knife to his chest and opened a second gash from nipple to nipple. “Somehow, I doubt this is what you had in mind while you were pawing me in the bar. Am I right, Tommy?”

Tommy's breathing slowed, and his body went limp.

She repositioned the knife at his neck and sliced a third gash, this one deeper. A gurgling noise caressed her ears as blood entered his throat. She held him to her breasts, waiting for the end, and chanted the same mantra she had with the others. “Why, Josh? Why did you cheat on me?”

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why I Should Avoid Married Women

First published in A Twist of Noir (2010) - read editor interview

I awoke and saw a guy squeezed into the recliner across the room, his feet up. His right eyeball was fake, like an agate. The gun looked real.

"You know my wife, Betty," he said.

Betty was blonde and petite. This guy wasn't either of those. His voice came out higher pitched than I expected, given his build.

"How did you get in my apartment?" I asked.

He held up the gun.

I nodded. "Super let you in?"

"Yep," he said. He waived the gun in anticipation of my next question. "Said he didn't think the cops needed to know anything."

"Well, I'm afraid you have the wrong--."

Before I could finish, he tossed four glossy pictures across the room. One of them made it to the bed. I turned it over and saw Betty and me kissing outside a Red Lobster. My hand rested on her ass. My groin twitched at the thought of Betty naked on her hands and knees. I pulled the sheet up and looked at the guy, Rick, I think she said his name was, and smiled. His expression didn't change. I reached for the pack of cigarettes on the nightstand and lit one. I inhaled and blew the smoke out my nose. He wasn't impressed.

"Want one?" I asked.

He shook his head.

"Hey, you a Raider fan?" I got up on one elbow. "I got a couple tickets you can have." I didn't lack for ideas on how to get out of this, but Rick's disinterest in my offer made me realize he wasn't the kind of guy who could be bribed. Or maybe he wasn't a Raider's fan.

We stared at each other for a while until he put his hand on the chair arm and pushed himself to a standing position. I opened my mouth, but decided to keep quiet. Not only did he have the gun, he outweighed me by at least one hundred and fifty pounds.

He took a step toward the bed.

"Okay, I'll stop seeing your wife. It was only six times."

He stopped. I could tell by the look on his face I'd told him more than he knew. He started toward the bed, again. I slid to the other side next to the wall. The only window in the room was at the bottom of the bed. I would've considered making a run for it, but my place was on the fourth floor of an old building with no fire escape.

He pointed the gun in my direction, stepped to the edge of the bed, and laid a hand on my shoulder.

I had to pee.

"Calm down. I ain't going to shoot you." His face tightened. "Unless you stop seeing Betty."

My mouth fell open.

"Hell, that woman's a pain in the ass." He stepped back. "You'll find out. The others did." He smiled for the first time. "Sneaking out with you has been the best thing happened this year."

"But what about the gun?"

"This thing?" He raised the gun in front of his face. "Last couple of guys I spoke to got scared and dumped my Betty. I figure if I tell you I'll shoot you if you stop seeing her, you won't." He lowered the gun. "Least when she's with you I can watch the ballgame in peace."

He walked to the door, turned back to me, and held the gun up once more. "If I have to come back, next time it'll be loaded." He tapped the barrel to his forehead in salute and left.

I slouched against the wall wondering what the hell I was going to do now. If I wanted to be with a nagging woman, I would have stayed married to Clarice.

The Morning After

First published at Rusty Typer (2010)

Karen bit into the fried egg sandwich, its taste as insipid as last night’s lover. The place had been a zoo, that she remembered. But why that loser? She was a nurse, graceful and caring. He preferred cowgirls, rough and raunchy. She gawked at her breakfast. Maybe ketchup would help.

Speechless at Last

First published in FlashShot (2010)

The etude's salubrious sounds wafted from Carlo's cello filling the room with calm. Head tilted toward the ceiling, he allowed the music to soothe and relax his stressed muscles. Opposite him, his wife rested in a recliner, her eyes closed, her nagging stopped, her body sandwiched from head to toe in a bubble wrap uniform.

Antoine's Last Caper

First published in Powder Burn Flash (2011)

Antoine watched his partner, T-Bone, saunter along Fourth Street as if nothing important was supposed to happen.

"Where you been?" Antoine checked his watch. "We were to meet in the alley thirty minutes ago."

"Momma needed help putting the groceries away."

Antoine threw his hands in the air and turned to look into the window of Ling's Buffet. The smell of garbage oozing from the alley two stores away mingled with the aroma of Thai Chicken and Orange Beef. Antoine inhaled and didn't notice a difference.

"Well now we got to improvise." Antoine removed his glasses and wiped sweat from his eyes.

"That illegal, too?" T-Bone asked.

"What? No, that ain't illegal, too. It means we got to change our plan."

T-Bone removed a cigarette from the pack of Marlboros tucked into the sleeve of his stained t-shirt and lit it. "Want one?" he said, offering the pack to Antoine.

"No way. Those things'll kill you."

"So will Maurice if you don't pay him what you owe him by tomorrow," T-Bone said. He blew a smoke ring and watched it drift away and dissolve.

Antoine scanned the people standing at the corner waiting for the light to change. Everyone one was either reading the paper or talking on a phone. Nobody appeared to be paying attention to them. Still, he dragged T-Bone into the alley.

"That's why we was robbing the jewelry store this morning before any customers showed up. Remember?" Antoine pointed at Finn's Jewelers nestled across the street between Javier's Bodega and Maggie's Alterations.

"Yeah, but I don't need the money no more." T-Bone nudged a brown paper bag with his shoe and winced at the damp blob underneath.

"What do you mean you don't need the money? You owe Maurice, too. We stole his pills together."

"I told momma what I did and how I owed Maurice a bunch of money. She had some stashed away for me to go to college."

"How much?"

"Don't know for sure. Enough to pay off Maurice. Not enough left over for college."

Antoine stared at his partner, his mouth open.

"Only thing is," T-Bone said, "Momma says I can't see you no more. Says I shouldn't be hanging around with guys your age." T-Bone looked toward the street. "Probably a good thing."

Antoine's eyes grew wider.

"Well what am I supposed to do now? It's not like my problem is reversible. Maurice is sure to escalate things."

"I came to tell you I can't talk to you no more." T-Bone's back remained toward Antoine. "Don't know what you're going to do about Maurice. Don't want to know. I learned my lesson." He put his hands in his pants pockets. "See you around, Antoine. Good luck with Maurice."

Antoine watched T-Bone leave the alley and disappear from view. He started to yell something when his cell phone chirped. "Hey, Maurice, just talking about you to T-Bone."

"Yeah, T-Bone told me."

"Sure I'll have the money tomorrow."

"Oh yeah, Maurice, I know what will happen if I don't."

"No, I can't walk far on two broken legs. Don't worry, man. I'll have the money."

"Right. Tomorrow at noon. See you then."

Antoine snapped the phone shut and looked across the street at the jewelers. He checked his watch. 9:43. Late, but what choice did he have? He took a deep breath, shrugged his shoulders, and followed T-Bone's path out of the alley.

He joined the crowd at the corner and crossed the street at the next light change. He paused at the Open sign in the jeweler's window, reached under his denim jacket, and felt the revolver resting in its holster.  It wasn't how he'd planned on doing it, but this way might be better. With any luck he'd be arrested. That would give him time to figure what to do about Maurice.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Next in Line

First published in Weirdyear (2010) -- read editor interview

Gerald noticed the smell first. He rounded the corner and saw a woman with three chins sitting on the top step leading to the apartment building entrance. Sweat spotted her yellow dress. An overmatched, oriental fan struggled to cool her face.

"Hot, ain't it," she said, not looking at him.

"Worst ever," he replied.

She laughed. "How would you know? You're barely out of diapers."

Twenty-seven, he said to himself, not that it's any of your business.

"What's that terrible smell?" Gerald asked.

"What smell?"

"You don't smell anything?"

She stuck her nose in the air and inhaled. "Oh, that smell." She pointed to the stairs leading to the ground floor apartment.

Keeping his eyes on the woman, Gerald walked over to the railing, glanced down, and saw the contorted body.

"Is she. . .?"

"Dead?" the woman said. "Oh, yea. A doornail, for sure."

Gerald stepped back and put the back of his hand over his nose.

"Did you call the cops?"

"Not yet." The woman continued to fan herself.

"Are you going to?"

"Thought you might want to."

"Why's that?"

"Cops go easier on someone who admits to a crime."

Gerald's mouth fell open, and he gagged.

"I didn't kill anybody." He looked over the railing. "I don't even know that woman?"

"Can't see her face. How do you know you don't know her?"

"I...I just know."

"According to the note in her purse, you do." The woman swatted a bug from her face.

"What the hell are you talking about. I've never seen her before."

"Maybe she was a lot younger, and you forgot."

Gerald stood silent.

"Maybe," the woman continued, "you like to molest girls. Maybe it was too much for her to handle, even after five years, and she jumped off the roof of the building."

Gerald tilted his eyes toward the top of the building, then back to the body.

"Then it was suicide. The cops can't blame me."

"Could be, but there's still the note."

Gerald turned to run.

"Won't do you no good. I'll find you again."

Gerald took a step.

"Not a good idea, Gerald. You don't want to piss me off any more than I am."

"You're crazy."

"And evil." She turned and looked him in the face for the first time, her eyes red. "And not even the Devil likes men who do things to girls without their permission."

Gerald ran.

The woman nodded. Three men stepped out of an alley and grabbed Gerald.

"It's time for you to go, Gerald," the woman said. "And to a place worse than Hell."

She nodded again. The men dragged Gerald into the alley. The woman nodded a third time, and the girl climbed the steps, mouthed a 'thank you,' and scurried away.

An hour later Gerald's screams died, as did he.

The woman hoisted herself from the steps and headed south on Lilith Street. She was late for her appointment with Father Raymond.

What's a Father to Do?

First published in Flash Fiction Offensive (2010)

Pervis leaned down and scowled at his son, Tommy Joe, through the open window of the '74 Barracuda.

“Listen up for a change, boy,” Pervis said. “This is important. If the ‘shine don't get to the buyer today, we're gonna lose the house.”

Pervis grabbed Tommy by the shoulder.

“Look at me. Now remember. You go down to Sutter’s Creek, take a left on highway 59, and head toward the Miller farm. If the police spot you, cut across the corn field and turn left onto County Road 27. You got that?” Pervis could tell by the look on Tommy Joe’s face the boy hadn’t heard a thing. He was more interested in the dashboard of the ’74 classic.

“Pay attention, dang it.” Pervis cuffed the shaggy head of his only son. “You’re seventeen. It’s time you start helping out more, but you got to listen to me, you hear?” Pervis felt like he was talking to a pile of dead branches.

“Now this here is a specially designed automobile,” he said, pointing to a toggle switch on the dash above the radio. “That there's connected to the booster. If anybody catches up to you, just flip the switch an' hold on. No, don’t flip it now.” Pervis loved his son, but wondered sometimes if the boy had manure for brains.

“This handle by the seat is for using if you know the police is gonna catch you. Pull it back to open the tank in the trunk holding the 'shine . And see that pack of cigarettes on the passenger seat?" Pervis pointed to the Marlboro box. "If you have to dump the load, light one before you pull the lever, then throw it out the window when the dumping’s done. The police can’t hardly arrest you if the evidence is burnt up.” Pervis retrieved a baggie from his coveralls' pocket and tucked a wad of tobacco in his cheek. He could tell he was going too fast.

“Okay then. Once you get to George’s Hollow, you go straight to Uncle Frank’s. He’ll take care of transferring the 'shine to another vehicle and getting it into Kentucky."

Pervis paused. He hoped he wasn't making a mistake, but what choice did he have. He couldn't do it anymore, not with the arthritis in his knees, and his regular driver, Cletus, was in jail for driving drunk.

“You got a full tank of gas, plus the nitrogen booster. The tires are balding a little, so be careful on those dirt roads. I don’t want you running into some big old oak out in the middle of nowhere. Don’t play the radio too loud. You don’t want to draw attention to yourself. And don’t stop at Anna May’s to show off. You can do that on the way back. Are you hearing me?”

Tommy looked out the window, a smile on his face, and said, "Can I go now?"

“I know this is exciting for you, getting to drive the 'Cuda and all, but you got to take this serious. You’re the only chance we have of saving the house.”

Pervis placed his hands on the roof and waited until Tommy Joe started the car. “God go with you, son. Your mother and me are relying on you.”

Pervis jumped back as Tommy Joe stomped on the gas pedal. The ‘Cuda fishtailed along the rutted driveway, its tires spitting pebbles into the air. Pervis took off his cap and ran his hand through thinning hair. He shook his head and slapped the cap against his leg before heading toward the house. It was time to tell his wife to start packing.

Sharing a Ride on a Rainy Morning

First published in Dark Valentine Magazine (2010)

The sound of tires creeping over gravel alerted Cassidy to the approaching vehicle. A fender edged past followed by a tinted window on its way into hiding. She knew the car. There was only one black BMW in town. Cassidy kept walking until the driver spoke.

“Cassidy Parker, right? Hop in. You’re getting soaked.”

The car and Cassidy came to a halt. She bent down and placed a hand on the door frame. Mrs. Allenby sat torso forward, twisted, her head tilted back. The pose reminded Cassidy of the yoga DVD in her backpack.

“Hi, Mrs. Allenby," Cassidy said, forcing a smile. "I’m fine, really.”

“Nonsense, you’ll catch a cold dressed like that. Get in.” Mrs. Allenby patted the leather seat. “I know it's not raining hard now, but there's a chill. It's the kind of weather that fools you." She looked at the hand resting on the door frame. "Is that blood?”

Cassidy looked at the back of her hand, lifted it to her lips, and silently cursed herself for being so careless. “I scratched it on a nail sticking out of the neighbor’s fence."

“You need to have that wound checked by a doctor? It could get infected."

Cassidy lowered the hand to her side. She felt her heart racing. Her hands shook, but not from the cold. This wasn't part of the plan.

“It’s just a scratch. Besides, my dad thinks doctors are quacks.”

The woman and Cassidy locked eyes for a moment before Mrs. Allenby waved Cassidy into the car. “Come on. I’ll see you get home.”

“But I’ll get the seat wet.”

Mrs. Allenby tossed a leather briefcase into the backseat between two boxes. “Nonsense. Water can’t hurt them.” She patted the seat again, harder this time.

Cassidy glanced toward the town where Jared waited. He would be angry if he saw her with someone. Not knowing what else to do, she settled into the seat and placed the backpack on her lap. Her eyes scanned the dashboard. Unlike her dad’s pickup, it was dust free and shiny. There were no empty beer bottles on the floor, and the ashtray held only coins. A crucifix and air freshener hung from the rear view mirror. She heard the sound of a small motor and watched the passenger window return to its closed position, her lower lip tucked between her teeth.

“Sorry about the mess.” Mrs. Allenby put the car in gear and rolled onto the highway. “I usually keep stuff in the trunk, but I hope to finalize three contracts today, and the back is full of For Sale signs.”

Cassidy spied a leaf on the floor and toed it through an imaginary maze. The car being immaculate except for the leaf, Cassidy assumed it came off her shoe.

“I need to pick up a prescription, then I’ll take you home.”

A hint of a smile appeared on Cassidy’s face when a large insect splatted against the windshield, and a wiper smeared the glass with bug body parts.

“It’s been what, two, three years since I helped your parents purchase the house on Peach View? They got quite a deal.”

“Three,” Cassidy said, before her dad lost his job and the drinking became a problem. She fidgeted with the backpack’s buckle, opening and closing it, and watched a herd of cows laze in the misty rain.

“Let’s see. That means you’re seventeen now. Still a straight-A student?”

“I’ll be eighteen in two months.”

“Have any plans for college? An education is very important these days.”

Cassidy saw the pharmacy up ahead.

“Would you mind parking around back?” Cassidy asked. “Billy Jacobs has been stalking me. I don’t want him to see us.” She wasn’t used to lying and was surprised at how easy it was.

“You poor thing. Have you reported him to the police?”

“Not yet.”

The last people Cassidy wanted to talk to were the police. She sat in silence as Mrs. Allenby maneuvered the car between two SUVs. Cassidy had never considered herself the killing type, but had learned today she’d been wrong. Given the right circumstances, anybody could kill. Jared had been right. The only way for them to be together was to get rid of her parents. She took a breath to calm herself. It didn't help. She needed more time. They needed more time. It was too soon for the police to find her parents. Why had this woman interfered? Damn her. Cassidy couldn't let this woman ruin everything. Not now.

Mrs. Allenby shifted into park at the same time Cassidy reached into the backpack and clutched the bloody knife handle. She gritted her teeth and turned to the woman. There was no other choice. Still, Cassidy regretted having to mess up such a nice car.

There's a Rule for That

First published at Flash Fiction Offensive (2010)

Rule: As that singer said, you gotta know when to hold 'em.

Chester tromped down the street toward me. I could see he wasn't happy, even from a distance. I smiled from under the beach umbrella planted in the ankle-high grass of my front yard and saluted him with an O'Doul's. He gave me the double finger. I guess he found out I was living with his ex. The problem was Chester didn't consider Melanie his ex. My brother had called to warn me Chester was back in town and on his way to my place. That's why there was a revolver resting next to my leg.

Rule: Obey all restraining orders.

I didn't know much about Chester other than he'd spent two years in prison for assaulting Melanie, and she was still afraid of him. I could tell by the way he pounded his feet into the sidewalk he wan't interested in talking. I wasn't the fighting kind, but I wasn't about to run neither. He needed to realize there were rules, and he hadn't followed them. One important one was to stay away from Melanie, who was inside hiding in the laundry room.

Rule: Sometimes it's okay to ask for help.

Now, I realized there were some rules that didn't make much sense and some that were plain stupid; but rules were rules, as my daddy always said. We couldn't ignore them because we didn't agree with them. Well, maybe some of the stupid ones. Anyway, Chester had violated every rule of being a good husband and a loving man, and someone needed to tell him so. As he stepped onto my yard, I wondered if it really had to be me.

Rule: Compromise whenever possible.

Panting, sweat dripping from his chin, his t-shirt soaked, his eyes cold in the heat, Chester headed my way. I thought about getting up, but decided that would only enrage him more. Instead, I gripped the pistol and waited.

Rule: Never try to choke a man who's holding a gun.

He Lost at Love

First published at 50 to 1 (2010)

A sorry excuse for a rooster tail dogged me as I surfed toward the beach. Discordant melodies commingled with inconsolable thoughts. She lay under an umbrella wearing the emerald bikini I'd given her. He lay next to her, their legs touching. I sank into the water wishing it was deeper.

Lonely is the Hunter

First published in Long Story Short (2011)

Evie sat on a metal chair in a cramped office sequestered in a section of the mall she never knew existed and waited for the young man who escorted her there to return. She squinted at the corkboard fastened to the opposite wall. On it hung discolored instructions explaining what to do in case of a fire, a top ten list, its edges rolled inward, of ways to improve customer relations, and an employee of the month citation for someone named Gordon. Evie hooked the cuff of her sweater with arthritic fingers, pulled it back and glanced at her watch.

She turned at the sound of voices and scrutinized the young man as he entered the room, followed by an older woman. He wore black pants, a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a red, white and blue striped tie, the knot loose around his neck. The woman, wearing a navy pantsuit and white blouse, leaned against a file cabinet, her arms crossed over her chest like a mobster in an Edward G. Robinson movie. The man sat next to Evie and placed a plastic shopping bag on the desk.

“Hello, Mrs. McIntyre. My name is Gordon Fisher, and this is Mary Clark.”

“Oh, please, call me Evie,” Holding her pocketbook secure, Evie turned and faced her new friend, Gordon.

“Okay, Evie --”

“That’s a beautiful wedding ring, Gordon. Do you have any children?” She reached out to touch the ring. He moved his hand away.

“Three, two boys and a girl,” he said. “Now about this bag --”

“Do they live at home with you?” Evie asked.

“For now. My oldest boy goes to college next fall. He’s been accepted to Dartmouth. The wife and I want him to go someplace closer.”

“That would be nice. It’s good to keep a family together.” She lowered her head and spoke to her purse. “My son’s company closed the local office and transferred him to Cleveland last month.” She looked at the woman and continued. “He hasn’t called me once. Isn’t that terrible, Mary?”

Mary remained silent, unmoving, unfriendly. Evie decided Mary would make a terrible daughter.

“He made me sell my home, moved me into an apartment because it was safer, and then went off to Ohio.” She looked from Gordon to Mary and back. “I don’t get to see my grandchildren any more, and my friends are either dead or too far away for me to visit.” She opened her pocketbook, took out a rumpled handkerchief and wiped her eyes. “Sorry,” she said.

“I’m sorry, too, Mrs… Evie.” Gordon removed an item from the bag and put it on the desk. “Now, about this wig--”

“It’s pretty, isn’t it,” Evie said. “I used to have auburn hair.” She patted a strand of grey curls. “I thought about dying mine. Do you think I should, Gordon?”

“I…” He looked at Mary, who rolled her eyes. “Evie, we have pictures of you taking this wig off a mannequin and putting it in this shopping bag. You know you shouldn’t do that, don’t you?”

“Oh, you must have me confused with someone else, Gordon.” She smiled in an effort to hide her nervousness.

He opened a folder, removed a photograph and placed it on the desk in front of Evie.

“…” Evie looked up at Gordon. “I really need to get going. The bus that takes me back to my apartment will be here soon. If I miss it, I don’t have any way to get home.”

“Evie.” Gordon put his hand on hers. “This isn’t the first time, is it.”

Evie clutched her purse and remembered the lipstick inside.

“If I catch you stealing again, I’ll have to ban you from the store. You don’t want that, do you?”

Evie shook her head.

“Good. I’d hate to have that happen, too.” He squeezed Evie’s hands and smiled. She reminded Gordon of his grandmother. He made a mental note to visit her soon. “Mary will walk you out to the bus stop.”

Evie rocked out of the chair and headed toward the door.

“Oh, and Evie” Gordon said.

She turned.

“Anytime you need someone to talk to, come and find me. Maybe we could eat lunch together.”

Evie smiled and stood a little taller. “I’d like that, Gordon.” She looked at Mary. “You could join us too, if you like, dear. You look like you could use a friend.”

Love Forfeited

First published in Litsnack (2010) - read editor interview
(three stories using the words wistful, mistake, scarf, wince, and expression)

His eyes lost interest when she entered the kitchen, her wistful expression a reminder of an indiscretion, a mistake she'd called it. She began to speak, just his name. Joe. He raised a hand. Her grin evaporated. In silence, she placed a scarf over her head, knotted it under her chin, and quietly left. His heart winced.


She winced when he caught her staring at him from across the cafe. Her face reddened. An expression of guilt? Hands in her lap, she wistfully rotated the diamond. She wondered which was the mistake, thinking about being with a stranger, or remaining in a loveless marriage. She paid the bill, flipped her scarf around her neck, and left without a word. Her husband would be worried.


She had loved him since before she knew him. In the motel, lying next to his spent body, a satisfied smile on his face, his wrists captured by silk scarves, she opened the drawer and reached inside. His mistake was to take her for granted. She raised up and placed a wistful kiss on his lips. He winced at the touch of the knife's point. His expression changed as the blade pierced his chest. So did hers.

He Will Pay

First published in Flash Shot (2010)

In public for the first time since the botched surgery that left her with a cabbage patch face, Alma held a blue, yellow, and red umbrella over her head and spun it like a pinwheel to distract all but the most insipid from her scars. Strolling into the parking lot, her back to the street, she lowered the umbrella and approached the maroon Jaguar, a short, pointed screwdriver close to her side.