Monthly Archives: January 2014

Pot Luck by Christopher Hivner

The antique bowl lay at Mother Tuttle’s feet, broken in several large pieces with a blanketing of smaller ones. She looked up into the barrel of the gun, pulling her sweater close around her withered body.

“I told you not to move.” The voice was muffled by the mask the intruder wore. Mother Tuttle finished buttoning her sweater before looking at the man again.

“You’ve broken my priceless dish that I serve my pot luck suppers in.” Before the last word was out of her mouth, the man pushed Mother Tuttle backwards into a rickety chair. He danced the end of the gun barrel under her nose.

“You weren’t supposed to be here, you wrinkled old bitch. I’ve been watching you, and Thursday nights you always go out.”

“I am with friends seven out of eight Thursdays. The eighth, such as tonight, I am home. Apparently your methods of deduction are flawed.”

“You got a smart mouth.”

“There are eight members in the supper club. Each Thursday we meet at a different member’s home. Every eighth one is my turn. Voila.”

Mother Tuttle could tell the man was exasperated with her. The gun was wavering farther away from her face, his eyes showing anger and annoyance.

“Sit quietly, bitch. You’d better have something valuable in this mothball cave,” the man growled, before running upstairs. Mother Tuttle listened as he went from room to room. Her home was filled with treasured antiques, but this thief didn’t seem intelligent enough to see past the cash and modern appliances. She decided to wait until he came downstairs again to take care of him. The kitchen would be best, easier to clean up the mess. A crash broke Mother’s thoughts. She looked toward the ceiling and could tell the man was in her sewing room.

“What is all this shit?” the intruder yelled. “Old bottles. Vases, plates and bowls. Where’s the money, you dinosaur?”

Another antique hit the floor, shattering. Mother Tuttle was furious. She walked to a curio cabinet in the corner of the kitchen, undoing the catch to pull the door open. Inside on the top shelf lay a sword.

Mother Tuttle slid the blade out of the cabinet, holding it in front of her. The sword was over 400 years old. A German design, the blade itself was two and a half feet long but the whole thing weighed less than three pounds. Mother Tuttle’s hands were small so she could squeeze both of them around the grip. The cross guard swept up and away from her like cattle horns with an additional curve of steel coming back towards her, outlining her hands. It had been quite a while since the blade had tasted blood.

Looking toward the upstairs she opened her mouth to let out a blood-freezing scream. There was a moment’s silence and then the intruder raced down the stairs. Mother Tuttle pressed herself flat against the wall around the corner.

“What the hell is going on down here?” the man shouted as he rounded the corner.

Mother Tuttle held the sword at her side but kept both hands tightly wrapped around it. When the man appeared she faced him and shrieked. The intruder stopped, startled. Mother Tuttle brought the sword up aiming the blade at his neck. She was slowing down as she got older though. He saw the attack coming, taking a step back. Instead of the blade catching him in the side of the neck it sliced across the front at the base.

The gun fell from his hand as he clutched at his throat. Blood streamed out between his fingers. Then he saw the sword coming again. The man backed up, his eyes wide with surprise. Mother Tuttle stopped her backhand swing in mid-air, changing to a thrust and plunged the sword into the man’s stomach. He fell to the floor, hitting it face first, gasping for breath.

“Look at this mess,” Mother Tuttle said, standing over the intruder’s body, watching the blood seep out around him. The girls from the supper club would arrive in a few hours and now she had this to clean up with the meal still unfinished. The intruder moaned.

“Oh, shut up,” Mother Tuttle sneered. She lifted the sword high overhead and brought it down on the back of his neck.

***

The ladies of the supper club were all seated around the table chattering busily and enjoying a fresh green salad. It was just past midnight, and the main course was a few minutes late. No one minded, though, as they caught up on gossip and discussed plans for next week.

Finally the swinging door between the kitchen and dining room opened, revealing Mother Tuttle as she carried her famous pot luck dish to the table. The bowl was covered with an odd mask

“I’m afraid I had a little accident earlier and broke my antique bowl.”

The other women mumbled an empathetic reaction. Mother Tuttle held up her hand to signal that she was all right.

“I’m going to miss that dish, but I’ve found another, and, in time, I think you may like this one better.” She pulled the mask off to reveal the intruder’s face. His eyes were wide open, topped by bushy eyebrows. He had a crooked, pushed-in nose and a large mouth, the lips fat and dry. Flakes of dead skin and scabs dotted his cheeks under a thick, unkempt beard.

“Oh, I like it,” one of the women squealed with delight.

“Yes,” another said, her hands clasped together admiringly. “This one is much uglier than the other one. Ooh, it’s disgusting.”

The women gave Mother Tuttle an appreciative round of applause, but Mother was embarrassed.

“Stop it, all of you. It’s time to eat.” She grabbed a handful of hair and removed the top of the intruder’s skull. Steam billowed out with the smell of beef, potatoes, and vegetables. Mother Tuttle was handed a plate and dished out the first helping of her famous pot luck supper.

Hivner 3Bio: Christopher Hivner writes from a small town in Pennsylvania surrounded by books and the echoes of music. He is neither famous nor infamous. He has recently been published in The Siren’s Call, Schlock Magazine, Dark Gothic Resurrected and Dark Moon Digest. A collection of short horror stories, “The Spaces Between Your Screams” was published in 2008.  www.chrishivner.com

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Murderin’ The Classics by Bill Baber

Goddamit, Leroy had seen enough. The Grammy Awards were on the 42” Westinghouse he’d bought on credit at the Wal Mart in Ardmore.  He hurled a half full Coors Light toward the set. Dammed good thing for the TV that Leroy also had a half full bottle of Jim Beam. Good because since the bottle was half full, he didn’t have control of his throwing arm. The Silver Bullet missed the TV and blew out the front window of his single wide, spraying beer over half the trailer in the process.

Why, he remembered when country music was rhinestones, sequins and embroidered shirts. Now this gal who didn’t have a bean’s worth of Kitty Well’s talent was wearin’ a goddamn dress with a built in light show. By God, it chapped his ass. Leroy had had just about all he could take. Hell, he couldn’t remember the last time he’d heard a real country song on the radio. He didn’t know what in the Sam Hell the crap they were playin’ now was, but he knew it sure as shit wasn’t country.

Kenny, Dierks, Toby and Keith. Sounded like a bunch of the pantywaists that were taking over downtown Oklahoma City. The hell ever happened to Waylon, Merle, Buck and Dwight? And the women?  Tammy, Dolly and Loretta had been replaced by Kelly, Carrie and Miranda. Weren’t they all from that American Idol abomination? He hated them then when they murdered the classics and he hated all of ‘em even more now. That’s what they were doin’ by god. They were killin’ country. That’s when he decided to head for Nashville. He figured when he got done nobody would ever forget the name of Leroy Hawes.

***

After dressing in a pair of black Wranglers, black shirt with pearl snap buttons- which smelled a little stale since they had been on a chair that had been doused by the flying beer can- and black boots, he put his black cowboy hat on. It was getting ragged now but he couldn’t afford a Stetson. He’d picked it up for fifteen dollars down at the Piggly Wiggly when they’d ran a sale for Frontier Days.

He tossed a razor and a toothbrush along with a clean pair of drawers and socks in a duffle bag.

Next, he got his guns. He pulled the cheap .38 with the peeling chrome plating from the bottom of his underwear drawer. It was a Saturday night special, the gun he kept under the seat when he visited the bars and cat houses in the backwater Okie towns nearby.

Before he’d died, driving into the back of a flatbed after leaving The Roundup in downtown Duncan on a stormy Saturday, staggering out of there after hitting every honky-tonk around, Leroy’s daddy had presented him with a .410 shotgun. They even went squirrel hunting a time or two. Actually, the old man got out of the car and found the first stump and proceeded to drink whiskey while Leroy went on a futile search for squirrels. Not long after he died, Leroy’s mama – who was a dour, thin- lipped Baptist woman – was diagnosed with cancer. She went quick, as if she had willed and prayed for it to be so. Leroy was 17 and on his own.

Lying about his age, he enlisted and went off to ‘Nam. He saw way more than any kid should have, things that still haunted his dreams. He came home and met Norma at a dance hall where Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys had folk’s doin’ the two-step and The Cotton Eyed Joe all night long. They looked good on the dance floor together and two months later were married.

Leroy worked as a forklift driver down at Farley’s Lumber. It was a good job, union wages and steady work. He and Norma had a boy, named him Darrell. They were a happy little family. Then everything changed. Home Depot moved in. Farley’s closed down and Leroy went to work for half the money he had made before. Norma had to go to work at Wal Mart as a cashier. That’s when Leroy started drinking heavy and when he started having issues with anger. Nam, his job, the money Norma spent at the beauty parlor and the fact that Darrell showed no inclination toward football started to piss him off.

One nasty Sunday afternoon- that was another thing that stuck in his craw, Farley’s had always closed on Sundays- he was unloading a truck full of pipe. There were tornado warnings and the store manager was yelling at him to hurry the hell up. The forks were fully extended and he had a full load of 2”conduit. Rain was pouring down when he cranked the wheel and hit a slick spot. The forklift spun and tipped toward the fence at the back of the yard. The pipe fell into an overhead power line, the end of one piece landing on Leroy’s thigh. There he was, frying like Sunday chicken when a fast acting farmer whose pick-up was being loaded with fence stakes used his truck to push Leroy and the forklift clear. By then, the damage had been done. After the jolt of Edison medicine, Leroy was never the same.  His drinking and anger both escalated and Norma took Darrell and moved home to her mama’s in Tulsa.

***

Leroy put the duffle on the seat of his ’84 Toyota truck- his cowboy Cadillac he called it- that he used to deliver The Daily Oklahoman and placed the pistol under the seat and the shotgun behind it. Punching a George Jones cassette into the player, he adjusted his hat and aimed east toward Nashville. He had gone just over thirty miles and was concentrating on “He Stopped Loving Her Today” when he heard a siren. Reaching under the seat, he placed the pistol beside him. When the cop walked up to the window, Leroy raised the gun and shot him. Now he was ready to get the rest of them and restore the righteous to the throne of country music.

Bill BaberBio: Bill Baber recently moved to Tucson. He grew up in San Francisco then spent twenty years living under the Northern California redwoods before moving to the high desert of Oregon. It was his distaste for snow that led him to Arizona. He has worked as a bartender, ranch hand, truck driver and as a sports columnist.

His crime fiction has appeared at The Flash Fiction Offensive, Shotgun Honey, Near to the Knuckle, Powder Burn Flash, Darkest Before the Dawn and The Big Adios.
His poetry has been featured in Slow Trains and The High Desert Journal. A collection of his poetry, Where the Wind Comes to Play was published by Berberis Press 2011.

He enjoys afternoons at the track and cold Mexican beer. A novel in waiting is located somewhere on his computer.

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Christmas Card From A Hooker In Newton Abbot by Tom Leins

Gritty Santa.112Christmastime Madigan was born on the 14th of July 1979. The unusual first name was chosen by her mother, Maureen, who thought that her baby’s eyes were the colour of slush-covered December pavements. We played in the same streets when we were young. When we were fourteen Christmastime taught me how to fuck, behind the recycle bins. I asked her how she knew what to do, and she said that Barry Slattery taught her. Barry Slattery, I later found out, was a TV repair man who used to go drinking with her mum. Within a year he went down for manslaughter after killing a man during a drunken argument. The judge gave him a life sentence for trying to dismember the body afterwards, but he was out in 16 years.

*

A woman who looks a lot like Iggy Pop opens the peeling front door. It takes a moment before I realise that the ravaged figure in front of me is Maureen. Her pink, threadbare dressing gown gapes open, and her snatch looks like well-worn carpet.

“Hello, Joe.”

I glance around uneasily, trying to avoid eye contact. Trying to avoid looking at her mangy old pussy.

“Hello, Mrs Madigan. Is Christmastime around?”

“Follow me, sweetheart.”

She leads me down the hallway to the small lounge. There is a Christmas tree in the corner. It has been decorated haphazardly, and the lights blink erratically. A mangy angel sits on top, legs akimbo.

A scrawny middle-aged man sits on the sunken sofa. It has been covered in faded beige corduroy. The room gives off a clammy hairspray-and-perfume odour. He wriggles in his seat, fiddling with his zip. His cheap suit looks like it was made for a fatter man. “This is Marcelo. He’s a friend.”

He doesn’t offer me his hand.

I glare at him, wordlessly, until Christmastime walks in, still wearing her work uniform.

As I start to walk out of the room, Maureen offers me a wedge of tart-cards from her handbag.

“I haven’t got you a Christmas card, Joe – but you can have one of these if you like.”

“Erm, thanks.”

*

Upstairs.

Christmastime unbuttons her hot-pink rayon blouse and looks at me, challengingly. I put my hand up her skirt, feeling the wetness of her underwear. Her lips graze mine.

“He’s back, Joe. He’s out.”

“Who’s back?”

“Barry fucking Slattery.”

*

In the morning I pause outside the living room. There are no voices, only soft grunting sounds. In the kitchen Christmastime’s uncle Alan is smoking high-tar cigarettes through his tracheotomy. He nods a greeting at me but I’m too lazy to respond. I gulp down a brisk cup of tea and thumb through yesterday’s Mid-Devon Advertiser. Whilst I’m waiting for Christmastime to get dressed I stare gormlessly at Alan’s ravaged throat. He doesn’t seem to mind.

“Got any plans for Christmas, Alan?”

He shrugs.

“The rate I’m going I’ll be lucky to fucking live that long.”

*

It’s Christmas Eve and the social club is full of welfare bandits, sore-knuckled survivalists and a smattering of casual daytime drinkers. Behind the bar is some woman who used to be a crack-smoker. She glares at me when I order a bottled beer, then hands me my change wordlessly. A solitary string of tinsel dangles above the spirits rack. The man next to me is using a Christmas card as a beer mat.

Barry Slattery is a horribly damaged man, and a full-time smoker. He even smokes during mealtimes. A ravaged chicken-in-a-basket pub meal lays on the scarred table-top in front of him. One half-smoked cigarette smolders in the ashtray, another dangles lazily from his ugly mouth. A heavily made-up teenage girl sitting next to him sips at a cocktail through a straw. She can’t be more than thirteen. Grey stubble bristles around his sunken mouth as he offers me a grim, humourless laugh.

“Enjoy fresh meat do you, pal? Her name is Sylvia, and in the back-room she’s everybody’s darling.”

He has a grisly Westcountry accent. Grislier than most.

“I wonder what your parole officer has to say about that? A second jolt in Channing’s Wood can be tough on an old nonce like you.”

He grunts, sounding half-amused, half angry.

“Aaron, can you deal with this prick? I’m trying to eat my fucking lunch.”

A man with a bullet-shaped skull extricates himself from a nearby booth. He’s meaty with prison muscle and his eyes look like pools of spilled milk. He slips out of his bomber jacket and steps towards me.

“Take your best shot, bitch.”

He hits me so hard I taste blood in my throat. I stagger slightly, but don’t go down. He looks at me dumbfounded, and I try not to gasp for air.I pick the ashtray off Barry’s table and club Aaron behind the ear. He drops to his knees and looks up at me, pleadingly.

I take a step towards Barry Slattery.

“If you go near Christmastime or her family again I’ll put you in the fucking trauma unit.”

I don’t hit him. Instead I look him in the eye as I kick Aaron behind the ear.

He vomits on the paisley carpet, and a few people start to clap, half-heartedly.

“You come round here again and I’ll fucking murder you…” Barry splutters.

Newton Abbot is like any other small town – contaminated with violence and fear.

Luckily I don’t scare easy.

*

Christmas morning.

Barry Slattery’s face looks like a carrier bag full of meat that has been kicked around a car park for a couple of days. There is a hole in his gut where Christmastime has attempted to disembowel him with a bread knife, brown fluid leaked all over the carpet. Christmastime is sprawled across the corduroy sofa, sipping a large gin and tonic. When she notices me she raises her glass and slurs in my general direction:

“Hello, Joe. Merry fucking Christmas…”

I look around. I’m just pleased that there isn’t blood on the walls.

TomLeins-2013Bio: Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. This year his short stories have been published by the likes of Akashic Books, Shotgun Honey and Sein und Werden. He is currently working on his first novel: Thirsty & Miserable. Get your pound of flesh at Things To Do In Devon When You’re Dead.

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