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Fists and Friendships


Loyalty is a funny thing. For the world at large, its widely lauded, considered a virtue, something to be proud of. 

Except this is the Gutter. Remaining true blue donmatter much when you live on a dead end street....

Fists and Friendships by Chris Wilkensen




The cops already drove around the block once. They’d do it again. They saw us. They were predictable.

“Get out of my car, man. Come on.” I lit up a cigarette, looked at the clock on my dash. 12:05. He’d been sitting in the passenger seat for twenty minutes while a Johnny Cash playlist drained my phone battery.

“I’m high,” Ed said. “I don’t know how to act normal.”

He smoked around 9 p.m. I went outside for a cigarette while the two friends “bonded,” as they called it. 

Whatever Ed and Carl smoked, they shared it in the bathroom with the vent on and sprayed Axe over it. I told myself it was grass, hoped it was, at least. I reminded myself that their decisions were their lives, not mine.

The cops turned around, driving slowly. I nudged Ed to wake up, to no avail.

“The cops are coming again.”

Normally, that word, “cops,” elicited a flight response in him: he would run away. He’d been running from the cops since he was a sophomore in high school, when he dropped out. As his friend, I didn’t ask about what he did when I wasn’t around.

“I’m too high for this shit.” Ed closed his eyes.

The cops put their bright lights on us. Ed jumped out of the car and onto his curb.

The cops jumped out of their car, yelling at him to get on the ground. Rookie cops.

“Why? This is my house. I’m not doing anything wrong.” He stepped toward them, but the momentum tripped him forward and down on the street. Somehow, he maintained his balance, but the cops weren’t impressed.

They tazed Ed right in front of me for no real reason. He screamed in pain. The cops scrambled around, unsure what to do. Ed tried to stand up, so they tazed him again. Ed was down for the count.

One threw Ed in the backseat, the other talked to me.

“Why are you friends with this idiot?” the cop asked. 

“I knew him before he was like this.” I didn’t look at him directly, hoping he wouldn’t find out Carl’s Jack and Cokes surpassed the state alcohol limit.

He looked me over. I could feel his eyes’ heat as bright as the cop’s searchlight.

“Don’t drive.” He walked away.

“Why am I friends with him?” I muttered under my breath. “Why are you an asshole?”

They stuffed Ed in the backseat and drove off.

I touched the ground where he was tazed. Maybe he hung out with some thugs and schmucks, but he wasn’t a bad guy. Maybe those cops weren’t bad people, just scared and inexperienced. The cops made a mistake, but it was our word against theirs. And they had the badges.

Ed’s parents hadn’t woken up during the commotion. He didn’t break any crimes. No dealing, no stealing, none of the secrets he kept from me that his parents found out about. If he just would’ve gotten out of the car when I told him, he would be in bed now, not on his way to get booked for falling down.

His folks would need energy for the long day that awaited them tomorrow. I let them sleep and walked away, my car watching me. It wasn’t their fault as much as it was someone else’s.

I didn’t walk home, like the officer instructed.

My headphones poured out Springsteen. My battery was low and died twenty minutes later. Ed wouldn’t be able to reach me, if he were even given a phone call, and after what I saw, I wasn’t sure of that. 

Carl’s door was unlocked. I stepped on a glass pipe, cracking it in the dark. I cursed silently. I could have used it to break Carl’s face. Instead, I had to use my hands. Afterward, I would wash my hands of Ed and Carl.

Chris Wilkensen is the editor of the e-journal Rock Bottom. He is trying to figure out what he wants in life, while being careful not to let life pass him by. He has trouble winning both battles simultaneously. His work has appeared in Thoughtsmith, eFiction, The Story Shack and others. More of his work can be found at chriswilkensen.com.

It Is What It Is

We cover a lot of bleak territory at the Gutter, but if you look inside

the cavernous heart of any villain, a policeman's may be just as dark.

It Is What It Is by Jim Wilsky



“That ain’t the job Soto gave us. All we do is follow Moody, then do him when the time is right. We take him and Cepeda out. Take the money and drugs. Done.” Jensen sipped and grimaced at the taste. “She’s not a part of the job, hero.”

“I know … but damn.”

“But nothing. That’s it. That’s all.”

“He’s gonna kill her. Just like the one he probably did yesterday. You know that. We gotta do

“Poole, you got no say in this anymore.”

They both sat low, drinking their cold coffee and staring ahead.

“It is what it is”, added Jensen. It was his stock answer for everything.  

Down at the end of the block, Moody was walking a stumbling long-haired girl along an overgrown hedge that lined the driveway. At the street he steered her to his car, glancing both directions, up and down the rotting little side street of row houses. He was in no hurry, right out in the open.

You could drag a dead cop to the middle of Delavan Avenue and it would be a day before you might, might, have someone say something. Dead and dying cars lined the curb like bad teeth. This north end of the township was basically a cemetery. Each house like a big tombstone.


Moody leaned the girl against the old Buick with a stiff arm to her chest and opened the passenger side with the other.  Her head lolled up, staring at the cloudy sky and then back down again like a broken doll. Her drugged look then settled on Moody, her mouth opened and then shut. Like a fish out of water. She rolled her stare sideways to her shoulder and finally down to the ground.

 Then she was gone as he slid her into the front seat, belted her in to keep her up straight and shut the door. Looking at her through the back window, Jensen saw the round shape of her head bob up and then disappear, then up again.

“She’s still alive at least.” Poole said.

“What’d I fuckin’ say, Jimmy? No more now.” Jensen dropped his hand from the steering wheel and slid a frustrated look over at the man in the dark blue uniform.    

Poole lifted a chin towards the windshield. “He’s goin’ now.”

Moody had walked around the back of the car and got in. The rusted Le Sabre cranked and whined in the cold crisp air. Finally it coughed and caught. White exhaust billowed out from a muffler that was barely hanging on.

As Moody pulled away from the curb, he put their car in gear and eased out. Jensen was hoping this shit was finally coming to an end. He had put in for a couple of days off but didn’t have many left to burn. 

It turned out Moody had a thing for killing young working girls. And maybe it wasn’t just working girls. This was one was at the Xeno Club last night when he hit on her. Rough place, but that doesn’t mean she was a hooker.

Two girls in three days. This one wasn’t dead yet but she would be soon enough. Yesterday, Moody had walked a staggering blonde into an old meat plant and came out alone two hours later.

Trouble was Soto didn’t give a rat’s ass about these girls, or anything else like that. Soto only cared about finding the elusive dealer Ezequiel Cepeda, and Moody was the connection. Word was they met twice a week but nobody knew where, always somewhere different. They had to hook up soon.

When that happened, Moody and Cepeda were gonna be dead. Soto would have his revenge, the drugs and money would be a bonus. Jensen would be paid his shitty little cut, that supplemented his shitty little salary, and then it would be back to waiting for another job on the side.

“Think about your own daughter man. Think about Abby…” Poole stared straight ahead as he spoke. His voice was weak, distant.

Jensen glared over at him and then back to the street. Up ahead, Moody had stopped at a red light. He jerked back to Poole. “Shut the fuck up Poole. Last warning.”

Poole held a hand up, started to say something more and then decided not to.

They drove a few more blocks and Moody hung a left on Oleander Road, heading to the edge of town. Same route as yesterday. He felt the burning look that Poole was giving him from across the front seat.

Whether it was the cop in himwhat was left of that anywayor just pure guilt he didn’t know. More likely it was his partner Poole, his partner who had been killed that night on the domestic call two years ago. He would find Cepeda for Soto, just not now.

Jensen left Moody at the old plant with a bullet in the back of his head. He dropped the girl off at a hack doctor that owed him. It felt good but as always these days that had faded quickly. It just didn’t last anymore.

Losing Poole had broken him for good. All he could do was tap the brakes every once in a while on the long spiral down.     


His old partner will leave him alone now. For a while anyway.      


Jim Wilsky is a writer of crime and western fiction. He is the co-author of a three book series; Blood on Blood, Queen of Diamonds and the most recent release, Closing the Circle. A new book is coming out in early 2015. His short story work has appeared in some of the most respected online magazines such as Beat To A Pulp, Shotgun Honey, All Due Respect, Yellow Mama, Rose & Thorn Journal, Pulp Metal, Plots With Guns, The Big Adios and others. He has contributed stories in several published anthologies, including All Due Respect, Kwik Krimes and Both Barrels. Find out more at: http://hardboiledpartners.blogspot.com/

Tell Her

Every time we post a story, we try to have a cute, clever, twisted intro, something to ingratiate, keep light, make it seem like fun, pique. Plus, yknow, the Twilight Zone.

This story doesnt need an introduction, other than: as powerful as words get.

Tell Her by Marietta Miles




Tell my mother I am safe. Tell her things are not how I wanted but as they simply turned out to be.

Let her know, at the end, I felt the press of her strong arms around me. Like when I was just a kid. She would say her goodbyes in front of the school or at the door to the bright yellow bus. And she would break a sad smile when I squirmed away because I was so ready to grow up. Tell her I remembered.

Tell her it was the warm, sugary smell of her hair and the familiar curve of her neck that I imagined while lying in the sticky dark—hollowed-out, afraid, alone. Tell her the memory of her ferocious hugs and even her frustrated scolds kept a tiny hole of hope open inside of me until the very end. Tell her that I dreamed of coming home to her.

Let her know, after a while, I barely felt his fingers, his hands or any of the rest of him. Behind my closed eyes I pictured her face. She looked through our kitchen window. She waved at me in the spotlight of a bright spring sun. It was his eyes, greedy and wide with the sight of my pain and my crying, I stared into during my long final hours. But let her know it was only her eyes that I could see.

And though there is nothing left for my mother to bury or inter, tell her, in some way, I will always be with her. Help her. End all her worry. Because what’s done is done and nothing worse can come. Tell her I miss her and I am so sorry I couldn’t stay. Tell her I love her and I will always be her baby.

Marietta Miles has published stories with Thrills, Kills and Chaos, Flash Fiction Offensive and Revolt Daily. Her writing can be found in anthologies available through Static Movement Publishing and Horrified Press. Marietta Miles is on Facebook. More stories can be found at www.mariettamiles.blogspot.com.

Toxic Soul

Like Mama used to always say: When you point a finger at someone else, just remember that you have two and a half more pointing back at you.

Mama had the diabetes.

Toxic Soul by Matt Mattila




Her presence was a gift. It didn’t matter that I had an office job that paid a quarter million a year, five days a week, at the largest investment firm in the country. It didn’t matter that I had money, a decent house, a nice car. You can have everything and still not be whole unless you’ve got a good-looking girl in your bed. That’s what I thought anyway.

Gabriella was perfect. She knew it. Beautiful girls always do. That’s the problem with them. The entire reason I worked all those hours to afford the house and the car was so I could have a girl like her. I was out of the house too much. She knew I wouldn’t dare cheat. I knew even with the house and the money I would never have a girl like her again—beautiful, sophisticated, intelligent.

Gabriella could have any man she wanted. She didn’t want me anymore. It didn’t matter that she lived in my house, wore the clothes I bought her, slept in my bed. Any man would be willing to do it just to have her.

Maybe that was why she cheated.

I didn’t follow her in the car to her lover’s house. I didn’t hire a private investigator, however much I thought about it. I didn’t raise a fuss when I heard her talking dirty into the phone at three in the morning, under the cover of the bathroom fan. I didn’t say anything when she sent me an accidental text saying she was glad I hadn’t found out about them, and would “I” like to meet her at the Pier at four in the afternoon for an early dinner. I said goodbye to her the next morning, said I’d see her in a bit, hoped she’d have fun out with the girls. I didn’t leave fifteen minutes later to follow her. I went out to buy a gun.

I knew I’d get away with killing her. I had enough to buy a juror off. Enough to make someone silent. Only one person out of twelve, and I’d be free. I love the American system.

I could always save my money (Market had been bad. Maybe that was why she cheated. She knew I couldn’t afford her anymore) and ask my father to pull strings, pollute the jury pool, get me a good lawyer, rub elbows with my judge. I could always say I was half-asleep and thought she was a burglar. Getting a gun was easy. Getting out would be easier. The hard part was doing it. I procrastinated. I waited nine days before I finally did it. I wouldn’t regret it. I kept switching the moment from the daytime, her walking in (“I thought she was burglar,” I would say, “and I panicked.”) to the middle of the night. The night would be perfect. I could tell them I was sleeping. I woke up, thought I saw/heard an intruder, picked my gun up, shot em.

I went to bed first that Thursday. She didn’t come in till midnight. She laid next to me without a word, in the millimeter-thin nightgown I’d bought her last week. She stayed silent. She did nothing. She drifted off to sleep. She wheezed out her nose. Maybe she had a cold.

I lay there with my eyes open, stabbing daggers at the soft skin on the back of her neck, the bulges of her vertebrae. I took a finger and poked her. She didn’t budge. She must’ve popped one of the sleeping pills I didn’t take tonight. She was passed out.

I swiveled my head around to look at the bedside table. The gun wasn’t behind the tissue box. It wasn’t under the lamp. It wasn’t near my glass of water on the edge, on the floor, under my pillow.

The gun wasn’t on my side. I peeked my head over her shoulder.

Then I saw it gleaming in the moonlight on top of her metal change basket. How did it get there? I didn’t remember leaving it there. Then again, I hadn’t been thinking clearly of late. Maybe she’d put it there, knew I was going to kill her, was testing me. Maybe the snore was fake and she was waiting for me to reach for it.

I didn’t care anymore. I had one chance at this. My arm trembled when I leaned over her, half my body twisting in something unhuman, my heart beating an inch from her warm skin. My shoulder almost scraped against her. My breath made her hair dance.

She might’ve been dead already. I couldn’t hear her breathe. Maybe my heart was beating too fast.

I had summoned the courage to reach an arm out. My hand landed on a pocket mirror. Her white teeth glistened in the darkness. She didn’t flinch when she slipped the gun from under her pillow and put cold metal on warm flesh and shot me.


Matt Mattila was published in Yellow Mama, Near to the Knuckle and Shotgun Honey before he turned 19. Moonlighting as a food runner, busboy and restaurant host, he spends his free time wishing he could come up with a pen name weirder than his real one. He lives on the wrong side of a Connecticut city. Find him on Facebook.