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Mr. Sandman

Mister Sandman, bring me a dream. 

Make it the loudest that I've ever screamed.

Mr. Sandman by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri


Nick is twelve and he wants Mr. Sandman to bring him a dream where people love him and where parents aren’t having affairs, absorbed in selfishness. Instead he finds the Sandman having sex with his mother in her roadster. Mom had a liaison with Santa last Christmas (whipped cream was involved), and Daddy is still getting it on with the Easter Bunny’s daughter (she sprays chocolate syrup over his manhood), but this is a new low.

“I have dreams too, motherfucker,” Mr. Sandman says. “I spend all my time giving, so I’m taking your mother. And I’ve just taken her.”

Mr. Sandman laughs at his joke; crude, raw, ugly.

Nick’s mother tells him that Mr. Sandman needs love, that they were high school sweethearts. She talks of her dreams, the fact that Mr. Sandman understands her need for space, for a different life. A life without domesticity, as she puts it. Mr. Sandman nods menacingly at Nick. A life without demands, people reducing her to a status, a wife, even a mother.

In other words, a life without Nick. But Nick wants a mother, has always hoped she might truly love him. He’s tried to be good, he explains. His mother just smiles, the words evaporating. She says it’s more than that, that she can’t be a mother just now. She spouts platitudes Nick has heard on TV.

Nick begs and Mr. Sandman tells him to shut the fuck up. Stop being an emotional cripple, he says with his normally tender lips curled into a snarl.

The Sandman also wanted to be a writer, his mother says, to express emotions. Sadly, his father insisted that he stay on in the family business: Sandman, Incorporated. The mother says the Sandman’s father was like Nick’s own father: oppressive. Now they are fleeing to San Francisco, to find communion on the beaches, and hills, and in their stories. Mr. Sandman will never surrender.

It seems everyone’s dreams are being fulfilled, except Nick’s. No one has asked him what he wants. On top of that, his mother is leaving with the Sandman. Nick is tired of being denied. He wants a dream and he will not let Mr. Sandman deny him. He’s been denied too long, tried to be patient, but no more.

Nick chases after his mother and Mr. Sandman, only to be waterboarded by sand. He tumbles into bed, tries to awaken, but the Sandman keeps waterboarding him. Nick screams, until he falls into a deep, dreamless sleep. It seems that everyone’s dreams are being fulfilled except his. He lives without love, goes to orphanages, and people laugh when he tells them of his need for dreams. Nick becomes a thief, stealing people’s dreams. Even those dreams find their owners. In the end, he hires a hitman to find the Sandman, but he knows that even in death the Sandman will deny him. He’ll take what he can, though.


Mir-Yashar is a graduate of Colorado State University's MFA program in fiction. His short-stories have been published in various journals including Monkeybicycle and Paper Darts.

Sonny The Wonder Beast

If we're made in the image of God, 

the deities must be really self-conscious.

Sonny The Wonder Beast by Nick Kolakowski




Bobby couldn’t recall how many men he’d killed over the years. Of course, he remembered his first: a soft-boy snitch with bad teeth who’d sent Bobby’s father on a five-year bid in the hole for embezzlement. He would never forget the weirdest: a pyromaniac midget named Hard Harvey who was surprisingly fast and strong. This latest assignment? Well, this was a new one.

Bobby had never been ordered to murder a dog before.

The thought of pulling the trigger on motherfuckin’ Lassie made his throat tighten. Stopped at a traffic light, he retrieved the over-sized flask from his jacket pocket and helped himself to a deep swig of whiskey. The alcohol burned his throat, but failed to kill his jitters.

The dog’s name was Sonny the Wonder Beast. He was a bulldog, and the hilarious bastards at Premium Winner Off-Track Betting™ had made him a throne out of a discarded easy chair they’d found in the alley out back. They had even spray-painted the fucking thing gold—the chair, not the dog.

And why not? Sonny was the best thing that had ever happened to them in their miserable lives.

Bobby parked the car a block away from the betting parlor, opened the glove compartment, and pulled out the stubby .38 from its nest of old Chinese takeout menus. For the first time, he regretted not investing enough in some kind of retirement fund. When living on a little patch of Florida beach, nobody asked you to put a bullet in a cute pup.

He slipped the gun into his shoulder holster, where it tapped against the flask. Keep it simple, he thought. Walk in, bam, walk out. Hate yourself later. 


The parlor was jammed with old guys with too few teeth and nothing better to do than burn their Social Security checks. The screens above them flashed a dozen horse races. Even in 
the midst of the geriatric maelstrom, the throne was impossible to miss. It shone like real gold in the cold fluorescent lighting and Sonny the Wonder Beast lolled in its seat like a drooling, hairy king.

Bobby had a hand beneath his jacket, on the pistol’s grip. He paused, transfixed by the ancient dude in the stained wife-beater who knelt on the dirty linoleum before the bulldog, extending a folded piece of paper. The animal stared for a long moment with its head cocked and tapped the paper with its left paw.

The old man shed tears. His lips quivered. As he stood, he stepped backward—practically kowtowing as he retreated to the nearest window to make his bet.

On the screens, the horses finished their latest races. Men came alive, cheering, clutching their tickets, hopping on arthritic legs. It reminded Bobby of his childhood, his father in the big tent preaching so hard he spat blood. Daddy, the fake Man of God, always with one hand in the congregation plate.

But this dog—maybe it was the real thing. Bobby’s boss had said so, but Bobby hadn’t believed it, because street myths were usually a speck of truth buried under a steaming heap of bullshit. And yet, dozens of guys—hardened types, totally faithless—were bowing to this slobbering critter.

Besides, even if you thought these guys were delusional. . . Well, there was always the money. For the past five weeks, ever since they had found a starving Sonny in the street, the patrons of Premium Winner Off-Track Betting™ had a track record (so to speak) of constant wins, with virtually no big losses. Because the dog. . . The dog. . . 

The oldster in the wife-beater, shaking the wad of hundred-dollar bills in his hand, yelped at the top of his lungs. “This dog is fuckin’ psychic!”  

Tightening his grip on the pistol, Bobby stepped closer to the throne. He felt a dozen gazes on him, the room crackling with energy. In a second they would sense something very wrong and then his options would narrow. . . Do it now.

Sonny’s black eyes locked on Bobby. There was a whole universe in there, so deep that Bobby’s stomach tumbled, as if someone had hurled him off a high cliff. From what felt like miles away, his hand began to draw the weapon from his jacket. “I’m sorry,” Bobby wanted to tell the dog. I know you’re a miracle, but I don’t have choices here. 

And then the .38 was out, pointed at that wet snout, Bobby squeezing the trigger—and then that black universe exploded white, filling with pain, and Bobby felt cold linoleum on his back, his face wet, his arm on fucking fire.

The pistol had exploded in his hand.

What were the odds?

Sonny barked, farted, and settled back.

That’s what you get for fucking with a minor god.

Nick Kolakowski is the author of the noir thrillers "Boise Longpig Hunting Club" and "A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps." His short fiction has appeared in Out of the Gutter, Thuglit, Shotgun Honey, and various anthologies. He lives and writes in NYC.

Eight

You can run, you can hide,

but dirty deeds always follow you. 

Eight by Chinelo Enemuo



NINE...That's how many times Ebele had looked to the large framed mirror that leaned on  the wall. And still, she couldn't help shudder at the sight of the bald-headed, gaunt reflection that stared back. Twenty-five; the number of pounds she'd shed, and thirteen; the number of weeks she'd been away from home... from family and friends. No-one knew where she was and most would probably not recognise her. She had become a ghost of her former self... The look was right.

ELEVEN... The hour the loud-ticking clock on the wall struck. She pulled the hood of her jacket over her head and peeped through the shabby curtains of her motel room. Outside was pitch black, save for the headlamps of passing cars and the street lights along the highway. Storm clouds loomed above and a light drizzle ensued... The weather was right.  

FIFTEEN... That's how many minutes it took Ebele to jog from her motel to the empty parking lot of the supermarket. Two; the number of letters unlit from the neon sign that glittered before her. The name Oasis only flickered Ass. Two was also the number of shoppers Ebele found inside - elderly women sauntering along the  grocery aisle, complaining in hushed tones about food prices. Four cashiers at the counter were taking stock of the day's sales, hankering to close shop in a few minutes... The timing was right.

FIVE... That's the number of times Ebele's hand reached for a feel of the loaded piece tucked into her left side. She raised her eyes to the CCTV cameras and tugged on the hood over her head. It was time to strike. Six times she had done this; six similar supermarkets in six different cities. But this time felt different... Guilt and nerves gave way to a firm resolve and the relief that this seventh strike would be the last... The feeling was right.

TEN... That's how many minutes the operator's voice announced that the store would be closing in. Ebele queued at the counter, behind the old ladies, rolling a bottle of coke in her hand. No sooner had the oldies exited the building that Ebele pulled out the glock from her side, sending the Coke bottle smashing to the floor. The cashiers were quick to comply, obediently emptying their trays into the bag that Ebele provided. All was going as planned... Up until the entrance doors swung open, forcing Ebele to turn her pistol in that direction. A lady in a drenched nylon rain coat scampered in and Ebele was the first to gasp when their eyes met. Kemi. Ebele almost cried in disbelief. Kneeling down with her hands up in the air, Kemi couldn't help squint at the dark hooded figure pointing a gun at her. "I know you from somewhere," Kemi muttered, unsure. She was right.

THREE... That's how many cashiers had taken advantage of the distraction and dared to make a run for the back door. A frantic Ebele pointed the glock their way, ordering them to stop. "Ebele?" Kemi's timid voice uttered from behind. Then came the loud shots, ringing through the air. The cashiers screamed. Kemi screamed. But Ebele's head was spinning and her finger kept pulling the trigger until all screaming stopped. With no second to spare, she grabbed the money bag from the counter and made for the door. She fled into the rainstorm with the sound of sirens whining in the distance. Raindrops merged with the tears that flooded her face and for what felt like hours she kept running, past her motel, and down the highway for as long as her legs could carry her. All was wrong.

FOUR... That's how many weeks after the incident before Ebele returned home to Atlanta. She almost missed the church service, arriving just at the tail end. She took a seat at the back pews, away from the altar... Conveniently distant from the casket. A curly wig covered her bald head and dark shades obscured her sunken eyes. She sat and watched as Dr. Ade spoke in forced restraint about his daughter and his gratitude to all who had come to commiserate with the family. Everyone in the room was in tears... Everyone except Ebele. She was all cried out, and her hollow eyes were proof of it. When Dr. Ade ended his address by promising to get retribution, Ebele got up to leave. She had just stepped onto the church's patio when a familiar groggy voice from behind called out her name. George, Kemi's husband.

"I'm so sorry," Ebele whispered as they hugged.

He wore dark shades. "I should say the same," George said. "You are like family"

"What was she doing in West Virginia?" Ebele asked.

George hesitated for a second, replied in a somber tone, "To see a distant wealthy relative. She was hoping to raise money for your boy, Tony." 

Ebele's hands flew to her mouth and her heart sunk further than it already had.

"Please don't feel bad,” George continued.  “She'll rest better knowing that you were able to raise the money for your son's surgery. It must have cost you so much."

"Yes." Ebele stood trembling as she glanced towards the casket at the front of the altar. The tears found their way back as she replayed the events from that night.

EIGHT... That's how many bullets Ebele fired at her best friend Kemi.

An Affidavit on Why I Stabbed Him

There are three sides to every story:

yours, mine, and the truth.

An Affidavit on Why I Stabbed Him by Peter Beckstrom



Against my lawyer’s pestering, I offer the truth. I should’ve listened to what my husband’s ex -girlfriend told me five years ago while we waited in the line at the DMV. She said a lot and I listened with a trained smile, but one thing stuck; he was the kind of guy who wouldn’t let kids win at board games. His competitiveness got us to this point. That drive for more and nothing ever being good enough is why I’m here writing this statement in a cramped room with a big mirror that you’re undoubtedly behind, watching me.

My husband is doing his thing. His thing being the military—part time— because he wants to have the best story at the microbrewery when he hangs with his cadre—his word, not mine. So, he joined the National Guard and I think it’s real great that America opened up part-time positions in the military; moonlight as a machine gunner in some place no one can agree on how to pronounce. What I don’t like is he’s gone playing grab-ass with a hundred other people one weekend a month and I’ve seen some of those girls.

My thing is working out now. My body was fine before. I didn’t feel terrible about it unless I watched too much E! or lingered in the magazine aisle at the grocery store too long or wondered why my size at Dress Barn wasn’t the same size at that junior store in the mall. I’m doing CrossFit and kettle bells and even running circles around the gym in a beige, flak jacket. I thought my husband would like that detail. A way for us to reconnect. He laughed. A routine laugh. Routine like saying, “I love you” or “Drive safe.” No one does. Drive safe that is. Or love you.

But I still wanted us to have a thing. Together. We don’t have kids. Something doesn’t work. We’re not sure whose broke and we’re not trying to figure it out. We side-stepped that landmine, paved right over the sorry thing. He bought an assault rifle. The barrel is long and black and he runs greased patches of cloth through its tunnel. He called the end of the barrel a compensator. I scoffed and said no kidding. He says I should feel safe because he’ll shoot anyone that breaks in, aimed the thing right at me when he said it too. No one has ever broken in and I feel a lot less safe because maybe the bad guy is already inside. I started sleeping with a nail file on my nightstand, which he would’ve known was odd if he paid attention to me because I never manicure. Ever.

We were in that comfortable don’t-turn-the-fan-on-when-you-have-diarrhea phase of our marriage and love at that phase is like our paid off Toyota; old, the seat fabric smells a little, and when you smack it the corpses of a thousand farts rise and hover like speckled, stinky nebulas. The other drivers on the freeway look at the horrendous grocery cart scratches in the driver side door panel, and I don’t make eye contact. I build myself up with the great gas mileage and the cheap maintenance.

But when my husband drives, he’ll stare at the Cadillac CTS with the headlights that go all the way back like stripper toes tickling the air behind their head. At the red lights, his mouth hangs open whenever an Audi TT pulls next to him with their slick, honeycomb grills that may be built for high speed air flow but it’s not going to deflect that nocturnal creature wandering across the road when he’s on his way home late—again. And I’m not going to mention the luxury, Asian SUVs because I don’t want to get mad. When I found their pictures on his phone he called them “art,” which is so cliché I had to leave so he wouldn’t see me laugh at how juvenile he is. I’m getting off track.

The night it happened, I made his favorite dinner—ribeye with the perfect marbled ratio, cooked medium-rare. I even did my nails. I was shaping with the nail file when he sat next to me. We smelled the burning before the smoke alarm yelped. At that point, we knew the ribeye was beyond medium-rare.

Then he said it. “You’d fuck up a one car parade, wouldn’t you?” It’s all the defense I needed. I drove the nail file so deep into his thigh, part of the glittering, pink handle disappeared. It wouldn’t have gone too deep if it weren’t for all those kettle bells.

Peter Beckstrom is a Public Defender in Florida’s 6th Judicial Circuit. His work has appeared before in the Gutter and are also published or forthcoming in The MacGuffin, Prime Number Magazine, Carve, and other journals here and there scattered across the web merely a Google search away if you’re so inclined.

My BFF

Redemption, second chances, new leases on life. . .

This week, Geoffrey Philp reminds us there is danger in hope.

My BFF by Geoffrey Philp



Marlene was my “ride or die” partner. From the moment we met in middle school, I felt if Marlene needed a kidney, I would have given her one of mine. We were inseparable until I met Greg in college. He was the love of my life and we’d planned to get married when we graduated. But not before we received my mother’s blessing.

A lapsed Pentecostal—I was born out of wedlock—my mother’s life revolved around paying for her sins by taking care of hospice patients. When I told her about our plans and that Marlene was my bridesmaid, she grasped me by the hand. “Be careful,” she said. “Envy can poison the most innocent heart.”

I ignored her, of course. She was always so exaggerated about things and I wasn’t surprised when she left the ceremony after we said our vows. But Greg and I didn’t let that ruin our intimate reception. Marlene was by my side. “Friends for life,” she said.

Even when I got pregnant and confined to bed rest, Marlene and my mother took turns taking care of me until my mother said it was either her or Marlene.

Marlene didn’t fuss, but stopped seeing me. That’s when the fights started with Greg. I understood what he was going through. He was paying all the expenses and the baby was unexpected. But sometimes, Greg was brutal. He called me “fat” and “lazy.”

When I told Marlene, she said I shouldn’t worry because Greg was a good guy. But I suspected that Greg was having an affair. He smelled of a perfume I never wore.

Then, tragedy struck. I had a miscarriage. Greg blamed me and my mother. I thought my marriage was over, but I wasn’t giving up without a fight. Determined to get back in shape, I went back to the gym with Marlene. After our workouts, we reminisced about old times.

“We should do this more often,” I said and held her hand.

“We should,” she said and placed her hand on mine.

Marlene’s phone rang and she reached inside her purse. When Marlene pulled out her phone, she giggled so much the phone dropped out of her hand.

When I reached down to pick it up, Marlene squealed. “Nooooooo!”

I looked at the screen. I recognized Greg’s penis. It had a mole on the tip.

“You can have him.”

I threw the phone on the floor, smashing the screen. 

I went back to live with my mother. When she greeted me at the door, I felt her fingers tightening around my chest. She would be my only friend.


Geoffrey Philp, an award winning author from Jamaica, has written two novels, two collections of short stories, and three children’s books. His work is represented in nearly every anthology of Caribbean literature, and he is one of the few writers whose work has been published in the Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories and Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse. He lives in Miami, Florida.

Red Pop

A lot of good samaritans out there. 

Makes you wonder what their hustle is.

Red Pop by Morgan Boyd


After getting out of the program, I get a job at a convenience store. I’m required to wear a white polo shirt and khaki slacks. The attire makes me feel douchy.

Mr. Barnes owns the substance abuse rehab facility I clean up at. He also owns the halfway house I stay at, and he owns the Food Mart I work for.
           
I’m thankful to Mr. Barnes for the job, even if it is demeaning minimum wage bullshit. He helped me get clean, gave me a place to stay, and hooked me up with a job. It isn’t ideal work, but it beats the hell out of the crummy things I used to do. Stocking TV dinners and two liter bottles of root beer trumps ripping off mom for a hit any day. At least that’s what I tell myself while price-tagging plastic soft drinks.

As I slap a ninety-nine cent label on a two-liter bottle of soda, the plastic jugs on the shelf next to me explode, followed by a deafening sound. The blast knocks me on my back, and covers me in fizzy red pop. A man in an orange ski mask points a shotgun at my face. Playing possum, supine in a pond of sticky crimson sugar water, I sneak a peek into my attacker’s eyes; one brown, one blue. The blue eye twitches as he opens the till, alleviates the evening’s earnings, and flees.

I used to shoot dope with a murderous scumbag named Eddy “Winky” Fisher. Winky’s peepers are identical to the yegg’s.

The police arrive and put me through the standard rigmarole. Kindness and understanding aren’t words I’d use to describe their questioning tactics. I tell them everything straight without mentioning Winky.

They all seem to buy what I’m selling except for a corpulent, balding detective named Donaldson. “Dope fiend Danny!  Remember me?”  He asks.

“Yeah.”

“All cleaned up?”

“Sure.”

“How’s that working?”

“How’s it look?”

“Pink’s not your color.”

“Can I go?”

“Your story’s shit. And when I prove it, I’m stuffing your junky ass back in the can.”

“Yeah?”

“Hear me out. Your hype-headed buddy shoots up the joint. Of course you don’t get done, just covered in pop. He gets the nightly earnings, and in a couple of hours, you’re both higher than the price of groceries.”

“Danny!  Thank god you’re alive,” Mr. Barnes says, entering the Food Mart in a blue three-piece suit. “When I heard about the shooting, I feared the worst.”

“I’m afraid you’re being suckered, Mr. Barnes,” Donaldson says.

“Who’s this?” Mr. Barnes asks, dabbing the sweat on his forehead with a silk handkerchief.

“Mr. Barnes meet detective Donaldson,” I say.

“What do you mean Danny’s suckering me?” Mr. Barnes asks.

“He and one of his druggy buddies robbed you. Right, Danny?”

“Someone almost killed him,” Mr. Barnes says. “You should be finding the guy who did this, not blaming Danny.”  

After Mr. Barnes vouches for me, the police let me go. Mr. Barnes gives me a ten spot, and tells me to buy a new polo shirt. I get into my pickup truck and head for the halfway house. Then I get an idea, and turn around my 4-banger.

At each hotspot, I park down the street, scoping crack houses, but there’s no sign of Winky. Seeing those hops scoring brings back hard memories.

I call my stakeout quits just as Winky wanders out a rundown apartment building and climbs into a hooptie.

I follow as he crosses the tracks into the right side of town. Winky parks in front of a large white two-story house, walks to the front door, and is admitted inside. I wait, but Winky never comes out. After several hours, I get tired and leave.

On my way to the halfway house, a cop pulls me over, and stuffs me in the back of a squad car.
           
“Sorry about dicking you around at the Food Mart,” Donaldson says from the front without turning around, the back of his fat, bald head directly in front of me. Eye contact occurs through the rear view mirror. “But you know more than you’re saying, so I had to bust your chops.”

“I told you everything.”
           
“We’ll see,” Donaldson says, lighting a cigarette. “A man comes into your shit shop and tries to blow off your goddamn head.”
           
“Yeah.”
           
“And you know the sorry sack who done it, but you don’t say nothing.”
           
“I don’t know who did it.”
           
“Admirable you cleaned up, Danny,” Donaldson says, turning to face me. “Too bad Mr. Barnes has a bad habit of taking out life insurance polices on his clients shortly before they die.”
           
“I never signed a life insurance policy,”
           
“Think I’m feeding you magical horseshit?” Donaldson asks, holding up a piece of paper. “Got a copy right here. Take a look. That’s your John Hancock there and there.”

Leaning forward, I see my signature scribbled several times on the page.

“Who were you following?” 

“Nobody.”

“Bet it was the guy tried to kill you.” 

“Why do you think that?”

“Because he led you straight to Mr. Barnes house,” Donaldson says as a ship sinks in my gut. “Ain’t it a bitch, Danny? Signing up for death instead of life.”

Dope sick, I filled out a stack of paperwork before gaining admittance into Mr. Barnes’ drug rehab center. I didn’t read any of it, just signed all the dotted lines.

“Winky,” I say.

“That a boy, Danny. Got a copy of his life insurance policy here somewhere too.”

“Can I go?”

“Sure,” Donaldson says, letting me out. “Hate to say I told you so.”

I slide into my truck and head downtown. Where else can I go? Certainly not back to Mr. Barnes’ halfway house. I park in front of a rundown apartment complex, and crumple the ten spot in my hand.




Morgan Boyd used to live in Santa Cruz, California. Now he lives somewhere else with his wife, daughter, cat, and carnivorous plant collection. He has been published online at Flash Fiction Offensive, Shotgun Honey, Near To The Knuckle, Coffee and Fried Chicken, Tough, Yellow Mama, Pulp Metal Magazine, and in print at Switchblade Magazine. He also has stories forthcoming at Spelk, and Story and Grit.

Hoarding Death

Even in The Gutter,

some places aren't meant to be broken into.

Hoarding Death by Michael D. Davis



The room looked like a sewer onto which every shitter in the county had flushed at once. I moved along a path lined by trash whispering, “Jesus, this place is horrible.”

“We knew who owned it when we planned this. Didn’t we, Fisk?”

“Yeah, yeah I just didn’t know one person could accumulate this much crap in a lifetime. What is that smell?”

Clark and I shimmied and shook through the chaos, clutter, and utter destruction that was Anna Daryl’s house. We moved between mountains, over hills, and through valleys of items that had been acquired over years of searching yard sales, clearance aisles, thrift stores, and the occasional dumpster. At times, the stench was so bad my nose hairs receded back into my skin in search of a more cohesive environment in which to sprout.

“You know,” Clark said leaning on a stack of newspapers, “my mom calls herself a hoarder, but at least you can see the floor.”

“Holy shit!”

“What, what?”

“It’s a skeleton of a dead… something or other.”

“I think that was a cat.”

“Well, the pussy’s all bones now.”

“Just keep goin’, the safe is supposedly at the back of the house. That's what the old guys said.”

“I wouldn’t trust some old guys’ gossip.”

“But this is concrete. The guys that sit at the gas station told me all about it.”

“What’s a crazy old bat like this doin’ with all that money anyway?” I said.

“Accordin’ to the old guys, her father was loaded then croaked and left everythin’ to her.”

“How do four old guys who do nothin’ but sit around yackin’ at a gas station know this shit?”

“Man, they know everythin’.”

“Oh my god. There’s another one.”

This feline was fresher than its pal. Fur still remained in a few places, bugs were eating where it wasn’t, and its collar still sat on its neck informing us of the departed’s name: Hope.

“I hate this, Clark.”

“Me too, it's like a game of I-spy with dead pussycats. Let’s get the dough and get out of here.”

We walked a few more feet and the piles started to encompass us.

“We reached a dead end,” Clark said.

“Now what?”

“It looks like there’s a door on the other side of this pile.”

“Should we try to find a way around or somethin’?”

“No. I’m goin’ over. I’ll use this crock pot as a foothold and get over to that box of VHS tapes and knickknacks. After I’m over, you go over.”

“Kay.”

Clark got over with little struggle. I got my footing on the crock pot and started up the pile when the crock pot dislodged and I took a header.

“Jesus, fuck’en, shit, Christ,” Clark said, “What the hell are you doin’? You wanna bury me and you both under an avalanche of crap. Be careful for crissakes.”

I got over on my second try using a box of cords as a foothold. Instead of trying to climb down the other side I just kind of slid down.

“What the hell are’ya doin’?” Clark said.

“Slidin’ down.”

“Well, get off your ass. We should be gettin’ close to the back of the house.”

We started trekking our way across the room and got part way when Clark tripped, swore, and fell into a pile of God only knows what.

“Jesus Christ, what’d I trip on?”

“An ankle.”

“What?”

“Look.” I pointed to the base of a large pile where two boney knees peeked out and lead to two chewed away legs.

“Oh, my fuck!” 

“I think I’m gonna hurl,” I said. My stomach suddenly moving like Gene Kelly.

“Don’t you dare you son of a bitch. If you hurl, I’ll hurl, then we both’ll have yacked on this dead ol’bitch.”

He had a point, so I did my best to keep it down. But it wasn’t easy. Clark figured that she was sleeping on a mattress on the floor when a bunch of her own shit fell and crushed her. I didn’t venture a theory.

“She could’ve been here weeks,” Clark said.

“With that smell, I’d say longer.”

“Eh, at least she died like her cats.”

At the back of the room was a little closet. The safe was on the floor. It took us twice as long to make the trip back out of the house carrying it, and we hoped it was gonna be worth it.

We got back to Clark’s place and he started working. He said he’d have it open easy using his brawn and brains. I sat by impatiently as an hour or two spun around the clock before he finally popped the lid. I started celebrating.

“That crazy old bitch...” Clark said.

“What?”

“There ain’t no money. Just another fuckin’ dead cat.”

Michael D. Davis was born and raised in a small town in the heart of Iowa. Having written over thirty short stories, ranging in genre from comedy to horror, flash fiction to novella, he continues in his accursed pursuit of a career in the written word.

A Good Man

A good man is hard to find. 

and a bad man is easy to sniff out.

A Good Man by J.B. Stevens



Jimmy hated feeling the delicate orbital bones splinter, but he didn’t have a choice. He was a good guy deep down. He just needed to be free. It was so damn unfortunate; wrong place, wrong time. If he was out and got a job he could send money to Sarah. A decent man did anything for his kids.

That’s what all this was all about.

He hated fucking up the missionary. It was not fun watching the eyes go chalky. But he knew any man, at least any good man, was willing to kill for his family.

He got the body into the thick brush beside Highway 17. The clothes fit well, except the shoes. He had to keep on his jail-issued sneakers. He looked down at the black polyester slacks, short-sleeve button-down shirt, red-patterned tie, and name tag. It said Elder O’Callaghan- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He grew up in Utah and knew the Mormon Missionary thing inside and out.

He drug the naked body a hundred yards into the fragrant green womb and walked out the other side, clean.

The coyotes would clean up before it started to stink.

The area was rural, not many houses in the humid South Georgia countryside. After walking for an hour, he came on a small beige trailer. A woman sat on the front steps. He couldn’t tell if she was thirty-five or sixty.

She looked him up and down, eager. His twenty pounds of jail muscle, deep tan, and dark features meant conning middle-aged women, or men, was cake. She sat up straight and tamped out her cigarette. There was no wedding ring.

“Hello, sister, you heard the good news?” Jimmy said, extending his hand. They shook warmly.

She held on far too long, smiled, and trembled slightly. “Jesus is my savior, but do you want to tell me more?”

“I would love to, sister. My name is Joe O’Callaghan.”

“I’m Roberta Hansen-Ford. Pleasure to meet you. Give me one moment to straighten up, then you come in and I’ll get you some lemonade.” There was hungry look to her. After fifteen minutes, she called, “The door’s open, sugar.”

Jimmy entered and looked around. It was a standard white-trash homestead. Plastic lining over a cheap plaid sofa accented by a press board coffee table holding a King James Bible and a Book of Mormon. There were some military awards on the walls and a few places where the paint was darker, marking photos recently taken down.

“You getting ready to move, sister? Do you need help?” Jimmy asked, laying it on thick. He hated doing it, but he needed to get out, support his little girl. This was how he did the right thing.

“That is so kind of you to ask, but no. I’m recently divorced. The pictures of my ex-husband were painful. I removed them, helps in the healing.”

This was going to be too easy. “I understand. I see you already have Joseph Smith’s works?” He stood close, letting her feel the heat of his body.

“Oh yes, the Book of Mormon. Another missionary came by a few months back, a nice young man from Mexico. He left the book but didn’t have time to chat.”

“Sometimes my brothers get overwhelmed spreading the news. I promise to take my time, take care of you.”

Jimmy laid in and she ate it up. He talked about church shit for fifteen minutes, then started flirting, light touching. Soon her hand was planted on his upper thigh. She brought out wine. He played good Mormon boy being led astray. She was loving being the temptress, the betrayer, and he let her live it up. After two bottles, she took his hand and led him to the bedroom.

They made love. After, he ran to the bathroom, sat on the toilet, and pulled up tears. “I can’t believe that happened! I’m a horrible person!” He said, really selling it.

“No, you were just doing the right thing, bringing me comfort in a time of need, you’re a good man.” She massaged his shoulders. “What can I do to make you feel better, sugar?”

His chance.

“Do you have a car? Can you just drive me home? This is all too much.” He looked down.

“Of course, let me get the keys.”

She walked out of the bedroom.

He looked for something heavy to knock her out, kill her quick. He wasn’t a monster, he didn’t want anyone to suffer. He found a little bust of Julius Cesar. It was solid. He was ready.

SNAP!

It felt like a baseball bat hit him across the back. The world turned white as a thousand hornets buzzed in his ears, then stung him in unison. As quick as it came, it was gone. What the fuck was that?

He heard Roberta. Her voice was different. “Listen to me carefully, where did you get those clothes and why are you wearing prison shoes?”

“Prison shoes? What are yo—”

CRACK! 

The pain returned, overwhelming. His mind stopped. He pissed a little.

“Stop fucking around. That was ten seconds. Next ride is twenty.”

“Ma’am, you got it wrong, please I’m a good person, stop-”

SLAM!

She started crying. She jolted him with the electricity again. His whole world was pain.

He looked up, something small and black was in her right hand.

He saw a flash, but didn’t hear anything. He felt his right eye sting. It didn’t hurt. He heard Roberta crying.

Then the dark came.

The Author lives in the southeastern United States with his wife and daughter. He is a former Captain in the U.S. Army Infantry and currently works for the U.S. Marshals Service. He has been accepted for publication by Mystery Tribune, Story and Grit, The Deadly Writers Patrol, As You Were, and The Report: O-Dark-Thirty. https://twitter.com/IamJBStevens