Tag Archives: James Zahardis

Gruesome Like Nard by James Zahardis

Detection CentreGrady was the oldest kid on the tier and close to being shipped to an adult facility downstate. Being tier-rep—the fuck-boy go-between for the staff and inmates—had perks: the Youth Counselors shot him a leftover fast-food burger on occasion, and twice, in yard, dropped the tail-end of a blunt by him. Grady’s favorite YC was Swenson. Word on the compound was he came to Mastic Park Juvenile Correctional Facility after a run-in at Attica with a shit-coated shiv. Or some shit like that. Swenson was respected, being a stand-up guy, and not giving a flying fuck when you rolled the bones for cee-lo or staged a death-match between two black widows in a Dixie cup.

But Swenson was a slightly sadistic fuck, and got off betting on how long it would take a newbie to catch a beat-down, or worse.

“That fish, Ronald Something-or-other-O-Witz: he’s not only a Jew-Boy, but a rich, Long Island Jew-boy,” Swenson said, planted on his ass in the YC station. He tossed Grady a confiscated copy of Playboy. The centerfold was a Latina with an ass rounder than the moon, so he figured Grady would give him the inside scoop.

Grady stood in the cage-like vestibule between the YC station and the tier. It was lockdown, just after count, so he didn’t have to worry about being overheard. And being the quintessential snitch, he’d mastered the art of coupling talebearing with reticence. “Word on the ‘pound is he’s short-eyes. That true, Mr. Swenson?”

“You know I can’t divulge what’s on his papers. But I hate kiddie-diddlers. There’s no chance of rehabing perverts. So, I’m taking extra-long smoke breaks when that kid showers, if you know what I mean.”

“Nard housed the kid yesterday morning. Rolled up to him at breakfast. Nard just looked at his scrambled eggs and was like, ‘Run that shit, punk-ass motherfucker,’ and Jew-Boy just slid them eggs onto Nard’s tray. Didn’t even look up, so fucking soft.”

“Yeah, I give him a week,” Swenson interjected. The overhead fluorescent lights flickered as if on cue.

“Bet you he won’t make it three days, Mr. Swenson. Three, if lucky.”

“Ah, too short. Nard’ll take at least seven to do it. You gotta understand the mindset of a psychopath. Nard likes to savor the torment, like a sado-fucking cat with a mouse. Work the nerves before going in for the kill. Like when he knocked out One-Eyed-Dennis’ glass eye. He waited eight days to sucker punch him. Nard’s a buck-40 soaking wet, if that, but has mitts made of cast-iron, and is gorilla-strong, I swear. Fucking psychopath. And the more scared the fish, the longer he makes ‘em sweat it out wondering ‘when?’ Yep, nobody in this rat-hole gets gruesome like Nard.”

Wagering with Swenson made Grady feel like a big shot. Not to mention there was that Latina to rub one out to after lights-out. “I bet a week of double broom-duty to that Playboy it will be three days or less.”

“Bet. Whoever’s closer to D-Day wins. Any rate, my station needs a good sweep.”

#

Mastic Park Juvenile Correctional Facility was an old fortress pinioned between the foothills of the Adirondacks and the filthy little waves of Lake Ontario—a gray husk wrought of steel and cinderblock under grayer skies, which enshrouded 300-some-odd sullen youthful offenders who rotted away there.

Ronald had been at Mastic five days, spending most of his time in the rec yard, blending into the crumbled remnant of a wall that stretched from the weight pit to the chin-and-dip bars. The older YC’s, including Swenson, said the old wall was left behind as a reminder that Mastic had history, a real history beyond shank fights and riots, dating back to the Civil War. (But this was refuted by the volunteer history teacher Mr. Larry. He claimed the War Between the States never made it that far north, and concluded the state was simply too cheap to remove the wall.)

It was just another day at Mastic. Two games of basketball were running, and three punks, their pants worn backwards, cheered at the black flesh streaming up and down the courts. Righteous Wisdom Allah stood in mid-yard surrounded by his Five-Percenter followers, listening as he explained how the white man was grafted to be a race of devils. And several yards away, two Puerto Rican boys huddled under the guard tower, swapping secrets on how to render by fire newspaper to ink for stick-and-poke tattoos. It was an afternoon in which chaos seemed to blend fluidly into the drone of the rec yard. It was the afternoon Nard confronted Ronald as he sat on the crumbled wall, staring obliviously, staring past the guard tower,  past the clouds, into the limitless inane beyond the razor-taped walls.

Righteous Wisdom Allah stated, on record, that, “Nard was just being Nard. You know, playing the hard-role, biffing the white boy upside his head like, ‘What up, motherfucker? Now do something, punk-bitch!’ White boy just sat there looking soft and then…the shit happened so fast—he just ghosted Nard. He stood all calm-cool-collective-like and stuck him in his neck. The shit happened so fast.”

Nard was interred after a cursory autopsy; Ronald was shipped to an adult correctional facility that had a 24/7 lockdown accommodating minors. NY State Youth Division officials inspected the rec yard thoroughly and ordered the immediate removal of the old wall and its hidden rebar steel that weaved snakelike through its core. “Just a stockpile of shanks,” a senior official remarked, leaving the yard.

Swenson declared the wager a draw and snuck the Playboy with the bubble-butt Latina into Grady’s lockbox for the hell of it. Unfortunately, Grady didn’t get a lot of time to enjoy the magazine; he was shipped downstate two days later.

James ZBio: James Zahardis has recently begun to write genre fiction. His stories have been published in 365 Tomorrows and Flashes in the Dark.  He holds a PhD from the University of Vermont in Chemistry (2008) where he is currently employed as a research scientist and lecturer.

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The Wisteria Don by James Zahardis

Carlo the Wisteria Don had an odd way, an odd way of severing ‘business’ relationships.

He would eat lunch on Wednesdays on a strip of smudgy green behind the Riverhead McDonalds; he liked this spot because it overlooked the Peconic River and was within earshot of the county jail (and he swore he could hear when snitches were talking about him in its rec’ yard).

He turned to Spartan. “Why the hell you start calling me the Wisteria Don, Spartan? Now all the boys are calling me that! It’s stupid-as-fuck!”

“It’s cuzza the flower–”

“–The flower?!”

“Yeah, ya know, Carlo, the wisteria. It’s like a vine with purple flowers, sorta looks like grapes–”

“–So you named me after a flower that looks like a bunch of grapes?!”

“No Carlo, not cuzza how it looks, but what it does. Yaya (God rest her soul) lived over on Sheep Pasture Road, over by the Greek Orthodox Church; she planted one by an oak tree in the front yard–little floppy thing–looked like a limp dick. A few years later–thicker than my motherfuckin’ arm–No! Fuckin’ thicker than a python–wrapped that oak up–like a fuckin’ yoke hold on the neck–squeezed it dry,” Spartan said, taking a bite of a Big Mac. “Last time I drived by it was still there, yokin’ the shit outta that tree, holdin’ it up, dead as a doornail.”

“So?”

“Don’t’cha get it, Carlo? You’re just like that vine: You worked for Flynn–sellin’ a little, runnin’ a little this ‘n’ that, but he never paid you no mind. The old man was gettin’ hazy–probably samplin’ the goods–not makin’ the right connects when the Latinos rolled in–losin’ much respect. So you stepped up and did what hadda be done. Did what everyone else was thinking about doin’, but didn’t have the cojones to do.”

***

Two weeks pass, the 4th of July weekend: The pungent odor of nitrate wafted in the air as green and gold fallout faded into a haze suspended over the Long Island Sound. Carlo and Spartan dangled barbed, squid-enshrouded hooks over the side of a yacht into thirty feet of tepid water, fishing for porgies and fluke. The crepuscular sky darkened, almost as a startled jolt, an unseemly seamless transition to night-proper as the nocturne breezes stirred and the intensity of the fireworks waxed.

Spartan lifted a ham-and-cheese on rye to his gaping maw; he tried to ignore the smell on his hand as he bit down. Fireworks resounded and reverberated, resounded and reverberated orgasmically. There was a crack and a thud, a wet/hot sensation that penetrated deeply into Spartan’s back, then another crack and thud, and another, another…

Spartan looked down, down at a tragicomic scene cast in sepia: he was a toddler, on his grandmother’s porch; she was crying out as he put a penny in his mouth, “Don’t eat that!” A taste of copper and salt on his tongue, filling his mouth with warmth…and copper, fadingly…

“A flower–A FLOWER?!” Carlo exclaimed.

***

Gina, former college cheerleader, turned coke-whore tried diligently not to slur her words as she spoke. “I know he keeps at least fifty large in the house and heard on the down-low that he’ll be in the city all weekend–for sure…but that fucking safe!”

Ray’s eyes devoured her body. “Still kinda hot, no wonder Carlo usta be hittin’ that ass,” he thought. “Look, doll, my boy Miami can crack any safe there is,” he said.

Miami smiled, his right gold canine tooth flashing. “Yeah, you just need to get us past them motherfuckin’ pit bulls,” he added.

Gina smiled her gummy, snaggled smile, “They know me, that wouldn’t be a problem if…if…”

“Cut the shit, bitch! Just say how fuckin’ much?!”

“Three G’s,” Gina responded coyly.

“Yeah, right. A half piece, good shit–and me and my boy here get to run a train on that fine ass,” Ray said.

“Bet that up!” Miami added. He and Ray fist bumped.

Gina smiled her gummy, snaggled smile.

***

Brilliant-liquid moonlight filtered through the bay window illuminating the pair of degenerate figures hunched in front of a wall safe. Miami’s left eye looked into a borescope, his right eye was fixed on the dial, the dial that he turned painstakingly.

Ray leaned forward and whispered, “Remind me never to give some sell-out bitch a copy of keys to my house.”

“You got that shit right, cuz. Feel almost bad for the man–almost…Hey, speakin’ of bitches…”

“Shouldn’t class the dogs with that whore. They were still on the patio last I checked–damn, bro, this shit is taking longer than usual,” Ray said nervously.

“I’m an artist–you wouldn’t rush Michael motherfuckin’ Angelo, would you?” Miami retorted.

There was a nearly imperceptible click. Miami cracked opened the door to the vault of the wall safe; his gold canine flashed, then faded. “Oh, that’s fucked up. That’s so fucked up!”

“Keep it down, man. What’s fucked up?” Ray whispered, leaning forward over his partner’s shoulder.

“Shit is empty, cuz. Dumbass bitch was seriously misinformed,” Miami concluded glumly. He descried a small, folded over piece of paper deep in the vault, which he reached for, unfolded, and read silently in the moonlight:

20 Large for your partner and the cunt

More jobs up your alley soon

Riverhead McD Weds 2

Carlo

PS. Touch the dogs I gut you myself

“What the fuck’s it say?” Ray asked.

Miami’s gold canine flashed; he felt the weight of his 9mm spanning his left hip and waist; he remembered its silencer.

Carlo the Wisteria Don had an odd way, an odd way of initiating ‘business’ relationships.

James ZBio: James Zahardis has recently begun to write genre fiction. His stories have been published in 365 Tomorrows and Flashes in the Dark.  He holds a PhD from the University of Vermont in Chemistry (2008) where he is currently employed as a research scientist and lecturer.

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