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Front, Then Center

Mistrust, jealousy, envy, possessiveness. These are the rapids through which our emotions ride.

And then, when the water is white and choppy, they give way to our favorite: Homicidal Rage.

Front, Then Center by Beau Johnson

Not one of them, but two, and it’d been narrowed down to Sacks and Jimmy D.  Both were tall, both were built, and both held their faces as men like them should; that they would not take shit from anyone, not unless I told them to.

Each was fucking my wife.

Where Jimmy D was white, Anton Sacks was black.  I say this to prove differences; that I am a man who clearly sees.  Not as one might think, but as one who has proven his ability to adapt and survive in an industry which will always be less than kind.

“You want I should pull the car around, Boss?”

I look up to the big man.  His suit is tight, his hair tighter, and all at once I picture him taking Miranda from behind.  This isn’t the first time something like this has occurred.  Moreover, it’s that I hate admitting as much, as admission is akin to weakness, especially when respect is involved.  My father taught me this, usually doing so with his fists.  Same as the smell of his aftershave, I have remembered such lessons well.  You mess with the bull; you get the horns being first front, then center.

“Yeah, Sacksy, you go get the car.  Be nice to end it early for a night.”  It’s then that I turn my attention toward my number two, my Jimmy D.  His entire dick is wedged within Miranda’s young, sweet mouth, her entire throat engorged.  I know it’s not real, not really-real before my eyes, but I know it’s happened regardless, there behind my back.  How do I know this?  I pay people.  How the fuck else?  Another sage piece of advice courtesy of a man I’d come to hate.

“Not really much to look at tonight anyway, eh, Boss?”  He was right, the talent up on stage far from the best we’d employed.  I make a mental note to do something about that—once this current set of circumstances had been remedied, of course.

And that each of them still called me Boss, every day, even though they continued to ball what wasn’t theirs—that’s what chafed me most, I suppose.  Made a man angrier than he has any right being, taxing his emotional limits past a point he’d ever want to see.  This is all conjecture, of course, so one need not get their panties in a bunch.  The old rules still played here, same as they ever did.

“I ever tell you about that time my father took me to task for stealing lunch money in grade school?”  Jimmy’s expression is counter to the one I pay him to provide, looking less than thrilled that I began what I had and more like he wished he were someplace else.  Made me smile is what this did, but not for the reasons you might think.  

“No, Boss, I can’t rightly recall you doing so.”

Can’t rightly recall?  Really?  Fine.  We’d play it this way then.

To Jimmy it was just another day in the life, another dollar, so he doesn’t sense anything when I tell him I want a moment alone with Bruce.  Once Bruce is beside me I give him the man his cue.  Ten minutes later I have what I want: the place is a ghost, the music is gone, and the house lights are up.  During this time Sacks had come back in, the car brought round, and takes his usual place three feet behind wherever I am.

Contrary to what people believe, there is an I in team.

My old man again, rearing his head as he’s always doneI used the phrase anyway, stating it as I tell them to take their seats, saying we had some business to discuss.  To his credit, I sense that Sacks recognizes that something is off, but still, he does nothing but what I ask of him.  It’s only when Bruce walks out onto the stage with his wheel barrel that we come to the bones of it.  I especially appreciated how he’d arranged her head, there atop her thighs, almost as if he’d taken the time and done the hair himself.  The way it was matted there, tucked behind the ears, tufts of blond gold curving towards red.

From behind we are joined by a couple more of my guys, Gus and Frankie P.  They come slowly, guns drawn, and take the two pieces Jimmy D and Sacks wished they were holding.  I don’t know this for fact, but it’s the very thing I’d want if our roles had been reversed.  Last but not least are the two bull queers I’d purchased just that morning.  One black, one white, they come in naked except for their G-strings.  Like it should, it adds an air of symmetry to the proceedings, and if I’m anything, it’s a man who loved his symmetry.

“So the story I was wanting to tell is of the time I took a thing that didn’t belong to me.”  They are not stupid men, not in every regard, and their faces begin to release everything I’d hoped for.  This should have relieved me, but no, the images continued to come—these two men I’d employed for years now double teaming the woman who’d given me my son, one deep into her snatch by way of his tongue and the other at home where the sun didn’t shine.  “It reminds me of this kid I once knew, we’ll call him Billy.  Billy was a scrawny little fuck with sticks for bones.  Whenever we’d come to teams, it wasn’t that he was picked last, but that he wasn’t picked at all.  Shit like that leaves a certain kind of scar on a person, creates a different type of rage.  You see what I’m saying here?”

They did.  I know they did.  But it was only Jimmy D who spoke.  “Way I see it, Boss, if you’d been able to satisfy your wife, well, she wouldn’t have needed Sacksy or me at all.  That much is obvious.  But since she did, well, maybe a part of that lands on you.  Whether you see this or not, I can’t say.  What I can pass on is this: she was the sweetest piece I ever took a run at, Boss.  I mean, the throat on that woman.  Damn.”  Not stupid, not in every regard, but I wasn’t about to be baited, not after all the thought I’d put into this.  And thus the scene was set, and suddenly I didn’t care anymore—suddenly more angry with myself than anything.

It’s a poor man who blames his instrument.

Really, Dad?  Really?

But I was through with being polite.  You fuck with something of mine I will fuck with something of yours.  They knew that; had enforced the very rule.  That’s what gets me most of all---that despite knowing what I might do, they chose to continue anyway.  The only consolation I receive is what I need: their screams.  The ones that come as the two bull queers start giving them the horn.

More than the manner which ends them, it’s this I will cherish most.

In Canada, with his wife and three boys, Beau Johnson lives, writes and breathes. He has been published before, on the darker side of town. Such places might include Underground Voices, the Molotov Cocktail, and Shotgun Honey. He would like it to be known that it is an honor to be here, down in the Gutter

Review: Revenge is a Redhead by Phil Beloin Jr.

Say what you will about pulp, but when it’s done right, it’s one of the most entertaining genres out there. Phil Beloin Jr.’s Revenge is a Redhead is pure trashy pulp done right. It’s fast, dirty, sexy, and sprinkled with touches of noir that take the reader down into the gutter and keep him there until the whole thing is over.

Rich Brown is down and out. He has no money, no friends, no steady gig, and nowhere to go. He’s out having and a drink and enjoying the entertainment at a strip club when he meets Cherry Pop, a voluptuous lady with fiery hair and a killer smile. Like most of the men who visit the place, Rich falls for the redhead, but all he can afford is a peep show and a few smiles. A while later, Rich finds himself in a homeless shelter. He’s trying to escape the cold night air and maybe find something to put in his belly. Unfortunately, what seems at first like a good place to stay full of somewhat helpful people turns out to be a slice of hell and Rich ends up belly down on the floor with two men pulling down his pants. The situation ends up in a bloody mess and Rich is forced back into the windy streets. That’s when he and Cherry Pop cross paths again, and the night they end up having together is nothing like either of them could have expected.

The first thing Beloin gets right is pacing. This novella, which comes in at 92 pages, can be read in a single sitting and demands to be devoured that way. The action starts very quickly and never stops. After setting the mood for a few pages, the scene in the shelter arrives and suddenly attempted rape and shady folks quickly lead to someone getting stabbed in the eye and a lot of running. From then on, the pacing keeps the same breakneck speed until the last page. Also, the dialogue carries a good portion of the action and the author has a good understanding of economy of language, so descriptions are always short and to the point.   

While the curvy stripper/prostitute with a good sense of humor and the bad guy on the floor with a knife stuck in his back who refuses to die are all pure pulp, there are a few passages in which Beloin decides to slow things down for a second and show his chops/sense of humor: 
“Even in a depressed city, the sun comes up, tries to brighten the muck, and somehow a ray finds that one crack in the blinds and catches your eye. I rubbed away the morning gook and noticed this stain on the ceiling above the bed, like you might a cloud formation, trying to figure what it could be. A unicorn? Or just a goat with an engorged penis on its forehead?”

Revenge is a Redhead is quick, violent, and has a few funny moments that offer the reader a break from all the confusion and blood. Good novella are those that deliver more entertainment than most movie in the same amount of time it takes to watch one, and Beloin delivers that here.  

The Clean House

It’s pretty well known that the only way two people can keep a secret is if one of them is dead.

In the Gutter, those numbers get skewed. But we ain’t exactly accountants....

The Clean House by Teri Skultety

“Elizabeth is dead.” 

“What the fuck do you mean, Elizabeth is dead?” 

“Did they change the meaning of dead? What the fuck does dead mean to you?” Sheila picked her cigarettes up from the table. “Fuck.” She threw the empty pack against the wall. 

“What happened?” 

“I don’t know. I walked up to the Quick Stop and grabbed some milk and some 7-Up, you know, for my stomach, and when I got back she was dead.” 

“She ain’t even supposed to be here!” Carl paced around the kitchen. “We gotta think of something. We can’t have Bobby blaming us.” 

“No shit, Sherlock.” Sheila collapsed onto the sofa in the living room. 

“Did you give it to her?” Carl said in an accusatory tone. 

“From where? No, it looks like she snorted it, must have brought it with her.” Sheila started fishing through the big ashtray looking for a long butt until she found a whole cigarette separated from its filter and lit it. 

“How can you smoke that?” Carl made a face. 

“You’re a pussy, that’s just wasteful to throw away a cigarette like this. How can I smoke this … sheesh. You better think of something. When Bobby figures out she ain’t home you know he’s coming straight over here.” Sheila coughed. “Good shit,” she said. 

“Bobby, damn. Why the fuck was she here?” Carl sat down and lit a cigarette from a pack he took out of his shirt pocket, which Sheila then immediately grabbed from him. “All you had to do was ask,” he said. “What was she doing here?” 

“Some trick she was afraid of or some dealer Bobby owed money to. Some guy, all right, some dude she said kept coming across the hall, knocking on the door and climbing out on their balcony, jerking off and calling her name. He broke in when she was in the shower or something. I don’t know. She was probably lying anyway. Look at her, she ain’t had anything to eat in a week, at least.” Sheila knotted her hands at her stomach. 

“How is it?” Carl asked. 

“It’s a fucking ulcer, that’s how it is. Don’t ask me that shit. You know I don’t want to talk about it. I’m sick, yeah, yeah, I’m sick, we know I’m sick. Shut up.” Sheila frowned. “Fucking bitch, I was going to put on my pajamas, smoke a fatty, drink a nice big glass of milk, maybe try to eat some bread and a cup of soup. I had my afternoon planned.” She looked at Carl. “It hurts a lot today,” she said. 

The thin walls of the little old house rattled at the slamming of the back door. They both sat still in the living room as Bobby’s footsteps thundered through the house towards them. Sheila had spent all morning cleaning. Since she quit getting wired she’d discovered that she liked having a clean house. 

“Where is she?” Bobby demanded. 

“I cleaned the house,” Sheila said, looking at the full ashtray. 

“Well a, you see, well, look man, we didn’t have nothing to do with it.” Carl looked at the floor. “Sheila went up to the   store and I was at work and…” Carl was a toothpick of a man, five foot eight at most and about a buck-ten soaking wet. Bobby towered over him, his biceps bulging under his shirt, fists like anvils attached to the ends of his arms. 

“Where?” Bobby said. 

“She’s OD’d in the back bedroom,” Sheila said, still trying to figure the full ashtray. Two different kinds of cigarettes, Elizabeth’s Camel pinks, and the Marlboro’s that she and Carl smoked. But everybody else they knew smoked those too. 

Bobby walked to the back of the house. Carl got up to follow him and Sheila picked up the heavy glass ashtray and nailed him in the back of the head with it, sending him lurching forward into the dining room and the edge of the kitchen table. Carl hit the floor and Sheila sat on him, smashing him on the side of the head with the ashtray again before he managed to fling her off.  Bobby grabbed her by her arms pulling her back. 

“He did it! He gave her the dope!” Sheila said, out of breath. “The ashtray is full of his cigarettes!” 

“What the fuck, Sheila? No, baby, no. I didn’t do anything. I wasn’t here!” Carl was hanging onto his jaw, trying to piece together what was happening, the look in his eyes one of total devastation at his girlfriend’s accusation. “I think you did it, Sheila,” he said. 

“Knock it off, both of you,” Bobby said. “I already know who did it. I didn’t want her dying DNA at my place. She was snorting more than she made. I had some shit to do.” He shrugged. “I figured you two could sit tight without killing each other till I got back. I should have let you both try to figure out what to do with the body, but I know that would only end up bringing me more heat since you’d fuck it up.” Bobby let go of Sheila who fell to the floor in a heap. He lit a cigarette, a Marlboro 100, like the ashtray was full of. “Looks like you two are going to have a long night sorting out your trust issues.” 

Bobby collected Elizabeth’s lifeless body from the back the house and left the way he came in.

Teri Skultety writes things romantic, Gothic, and noir. She is also a published poet, and has read for Lip Service West. Her work has been published with Juked, Revolt Daily, Thunderdome, Solarcide, Punchnel's, Phantasmagorium, and included in several anthologies. Teri lives in California with her husband and their ferocious dogs.

The Humanity of Dogs

Life would be so much easier if that old adage was really true, you know, man's best friend?

But, are they best servicing us as mere companions? Perhaps they should be our teachers.

The Humanity of Dogs by Rob Pierce

We walked down the street, me and Lux. Lux is a white Lab with some black hair on top, not exactly a purebred. Neither am I; we’re both mutts.

We walked past The Gunshot Apartments, a complex that didn’t really have a name, just plenty of reason to be called that. Not a whole lot of people lived there, which was good. It meant not a whole lot of people died there either.

It was just past noon on a warm Saturday, I was getting the morning dog walk out of the way before it got hot. To me it was still morning, I’d just finished my third coffee. I don’t measure time by the clock, I measure it by meals. I don’t eat dinner until I finish work, and last night I worked late.

It was a good time to walk past The Gunshot, before those dumbfucks woke up. Lux was a smart dog, he walked fast most of the time but he walked faster here. Didn’t run, didn’t show fear, didn’t show stupid either. Under normal circumstances the people in my neighborhood don’t scare me, but normal circumstances don’t apply to crackheads with semi-automatics.

Me and Lux kept walking. This was our neighborhood and we could take care of ourselves. Thoughts just run through my head, especially after a late night job, especially with a hardcore hangover, the kind of daze that sees clarity. What was clear right now was I should get paid better for this kind of work.

There was no one on the sidewalk, no one looking out the Gunshot’s windows. My eyes kept alert but my mind drifted back to the job last night, a job that was built to go wrong. I took care of it, did what had to be done, which was wrong, but nobody saw and that’s how I looked at it too.

Tina needed a lesson, and I didn’t like to enforce on a woman but it wasn’t like she was one of my exes. Anyway, you grow up in Oakland and you don’t think of women as the weaker sex. Tina owed and Tina would pay. That conversation went quick, but her eyes when she looked up from the floor told me the problem I feared was already in the room.

“You touched my sister?”

I turned and Ricky was ten feet away. One look at Tina’s face and he knew I’d hit her hard.

Not a family I wanted to be surrounded by. I stepped toward Ricky. He was large, he was stupid, and he looked surprised. If he moved fast he’d be on me before I could get my pistol on him, and I didn’t want to fight him unarmed. I also didn’t want to stand where his sister could swipe at my legs.

“Tina knows what she has to do,” I said. “I walk out this door now and she pays, no one gets hurt anymore.”

Ricky’s eyes narrowed, like maybe he was thinking about it, then he took a long fast stride in my direction.

I stepped back fast, slammed my heel down hard on Tina’s hand, and reached under my coat for the Glock holstered on my hip. Ricky kept coming, a wild creature.

Last night left me as a black pit bull rounded the corner and ran at me and Lux. I held Lux’s leash taut as he strained on it. I didn’t want cause to shoot a dog. Damn thing kept running, though. I dropped Lux’s leash and he lowered himself, waiting as the bigger dog kept coming. I reached inside my jacket and brought the pistol out from under my coat. Lux still waited, ready to pounce. I’d take his odds against most dogs, but a pit has powerful jaws and is susceptible to the evil some owners train into them.

I turned my pistol to where the pit bull was about to step and it stopped. The dog looked up at me, and if it had a tail it probably wouldn’t have wagged, but nothing in its face implied it was about to attack. It looked at me, then at Lux the same way. I looked at the Gunshot building, looked around on the street, saw no one and holstered my Glock.

“Hey boy,” I said to the pit. Lux stood up all the way and he and the pit approached each other with apparently feigned caution, as they moved on quickly to sniffing each others’ butts. I loosened my grip on the leash and they play-fought but not full on, not even venturing into the sometimes dangerous-looking play some dogs love most. Lux is one of those dogs.

The pit showed restraint. Ricky should have had his good sense. Not that it would have helped him if he’d tried to sniff my ass. There’s times any kind of crazy gets put down.

After a couple of minutes I tugged Lux’s leash and we resumed walking. The pit kept on wherever it was going. Me and my hangover would make it home peacefully and I’d see what was left to drink.

Rob Pierce is the author of the novel Uncle Dust (All Due Respect Books), and the editor of Swill Magazine. He has been nominated for a Derringer Award for short crime fiction, and has had his stories published in Flash Fiction Offensive, Pulp Modern, Plots With Guns, Revolt Daily, Near To The Knuckle, and Shotgun Honey, among others. He is married and the father of two, although he won’t say which two.

Seven Hells

Imagine a trip from which you never have to return. The sounds are flashy, the colors hot to the touch. Transportation is pretty cheap too. Most of the expense is in the gardening and upkeep. That and, well, the piece of your mind...

Next stop: the Gutter.

Seven Hells by Angel Luis Colon

Laurie had this smile on her face—like flat, grey tombstones lined up all uneven. She shoved the baggie in my hand. Opened it and crammed a yellow blossom into her mouth. Gnawed more than chewed. “I’m on my second one. It’s amazing.”

“Where’ve you been?” I asked, “You never answered the phone last night.” Had my suspicions, but wanted to hear her story first.

Laurie ignored the question and jammed two flowers into my mouth. “Catch up with me. We’ll fuck to ‘Rainbow in the Dark’ when we peak. It’ll be better than last time.”

There was no last time, but my dick had bigger ears than my head. Besides, my parents weren’t home yet.

We lay on my twin bed and stared at the spots on the ceiling that surrounded the old light fixture. Generations of spiders and flies still trapped inside the ceramic cup that muted the light bulb.

“So what are these things?” I asked.

“The guy told me they were Seraph’s Trumpets.” Laurie brushed a hand up and down my thigh. “The visuals are supposed to be intense.”

“That’s an awesome name.” I ate another flower. Tasted bitter. Finished at the back of my throat like cherry syrup. “Is it like peyote or ’shrooms? I never get major visuals from those.” I took a long breath. The posters on my walls fluttered like moth wings.

“You ever think about bears?” she asked. I felt her shift on the bed. My stereo came on.

I closed my eyes and let the music climb my toes, my shins, my thighs, my balls.

“Hey,” she was chewing again, “I asked a question.”

Her fingers brushed against my lips. I opened my mouth and my tongue scooped up the offered flower. I shrugged. “I don’t really think much about bears.”

“What if there was one outside?” she asked. “They’re dangerous.”

“What if?” I asked back.

We remained silent after that. Tucked into each other and alternating flowers. Seven for each of us. The stereo stopped and Laurie sat up again. She didn’t come back to me. I rolled over. My head felt like the heaviest part of my body and it took so much effort to open my eyes.

She wasn’t there. I could hear the stereo scanning a new CD. Figured Laurie went to the bathroom or downstairs to get some food. I wasn’t very hungry, so I figured she was in the same state. Bathroom, it was. Pink Floyd came on and I groaned. I scooched up and got myself sitting. Shut the stereo off.

“Caleb,” Laurie called from downstairs.

I stared out the window. The sky was red and gold. The clouds rolling like boiling water. Not sure how long it took me to respond, but the words finally escaped. “What’s up?” I thought about bears.

“Caleb,” she called out louder.

“Shit, what?” I moved to the bedroom door. Opened it wide. None of the house lights were on, just the blue canary nightlight in the outlet by the light switch nearest my parents’ room. “You need something?”

“Caleb, help!” Laurie screamed.

Her voice ran down my back like hot ash. I stomped down the stairs. Slapped at the light switch, but the room was still so dim. Spotted her feet poking out from behind the kitchen island by the sink. The faucet was running at a slow trickle. I lingered on the last stair and watched the cracks in the marble floor recede like waves.

“Laurie, you okay?” I whispered. If she was asleep, I didn’t want to wake her up. She’d be mad. Still, she called me, so it’s not like she’d have a reason. Laurie could be a bitch like that, though, so I played it safe. “Babe?” I kept the volume low. Walked around the island. I counted six hard water spots nearest the sink basin. No, wait; there were eight because the other two were busy growing near the vase without flowers.

“Eric,” Laurie called to me. She was lying on the floor, her hands raised up. She wasn’t wearing a shirt, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from far away since the ivy was growing so thick from inside of her. “It hurts,” she said.

“What hurts?” I laughed. “Why would you even think about bears?” I stared down at her, my hand reaching to pull open the silverware drawer. Found the cleanest butter knife we had. “We need to get that off you.”

Laurie was a trooper. She kept quiet and stone still the entire time. The ivy was a stubborn bastard and kept jumping up from the floor and back to her shirt. The knife wasn’t working—too wet. Maybe fire.

My father kept the biggest lighter in the closet by the bathroom. I could hear the wind echo behind the walls. I ran my fingers down the wainscoting as I made my way to get my father’s fire.

“Eric?” I mumbled. “My parents would never trust me with an ‘e’ name.” I was a little mad Laurie decided to rename me without asking. We’d talk about that later.
I found the lighter near the bathroom. Took some searching to find the butane. Wandered back to Laurie. Did my best to ignore the talking coming from the family photos. A younger me was whining about itchy sweaters.

While I doused Laurie’s vines with the butane, I noticed those leaves running up and down my arms too. Figured I could get two birds with one stone, so I covered poured the remaining liquid down my arms. Just the arms—I’m no dummy. Lit up the ivy on Laurie’s chest and myself. The room went red—just like the skies outside. I couldn’t help it—had to laugh.

I laughed at the heat, at the way the vines curled up and let out acrid, black smoke, at the sound of the front door opening and the way my name echoed from the living room into the kitchen—the space felt canyon-wide and forever deep.

Angel Luis Colón‘s short fiction has appeared in All Due Respect, Out of The Gutter, Revolt Daily, Shotgun Honey, and Thuglit. His debut novella, The Fury of Blacky Jaguar, is due out this summer from One Eye Press. For more, visit

Prison Bitch

If variety is the spice of life, then this poor bastard has

one long salty evening ahead of him

Prison Bitch by Patrick O'Neill

Teddy was one of those white boys that sagged. Checkered shorts sticking out from black 501's tucked into big ass white K-Swiss sneakers. Hella old school, and shit, with a stained wife beater and a beanie. And then that walk. A cold yard stroll shifting shoulders as his feet hit the ground. Word was he'd just gotten out, finally made the streets on high control parole, and his presence was not going unnoticed.

Luanna, working the ho-stroll, looked up from inspecting her nails and there was Teddy large as hell, all buffed from working out nonstop that twelve-month stretch he'd just done up in Corcoran. Luanna thought Teddy a dead ringer for Eninem; all muscle, blonde buzz-cut, and blasted with penitentiary tats. She'd gone all goofy when she'd seen him. Something twitched inside of her. Like deep inside. Made her wet imagining his hands on her. Hard taut muscle rubbing her pussy lips totally stretched out, and he hadn't even said a word to her yet.    

But the night had barely started and Luanna had business to conduct. If she didn't get to it, she'd be left out in the cold with no scratch to even pay her overdue motel bill. So she turned a trick, and kept her mind on business, and then Teddy slid up next to her and said "hi." It was all she could do not to go full on goo-goo eyed.  She wanted him so bad. But apparently he didn't want to just do it. He had other plans, and they talked while sharing a forty outside the liquor store on Third Street.

"Baby-doll, ya ever fuck a tranny?" He asked.  

"Now baby, whys I gotta be fuckin' a he she?" Was Luanna's response.

"Not you," he said. "Us."

But that was before they'd made it back to her motel and Teddy pulled out an eight ball he'd scored with his Department of Corrections gate money; two hundred plus the cash off his books from that little job making office furniture in prison industries.

He'd popped a gram and a half of speed into two rigs and hit Luanna like her veins were still the same as when she was fifteen years old. Slamming that meth into her brain at hundred miles an hour.  And when Teddy jazzed his issue, his face went all red, eyes bulging and sweat pouring out from everywhere on his body.

"Nothin' like a good lookin' bitch with boobs an' a dick," he said, stroking the front of his boxers.

Luanna saw his pud stiffen, fell to her knees in front of him, and pulled down his shorts. Teddy didn't even miss a beat, grabbing her head and pushed into her mouth until she gagged.

Later, sharing a cigarette on the bed, the covers tossed on the floor, an open tube of lube on the nightstand, FOX network blaring COPS reruns on the color TV across the room. Luanna wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and rolled over. Her face inches from his.

"Y'all wanna tranny, I get ya one," she said.

Shuantae saw her coming, skinny-ass white bitch bee-lining straight for her. She was on a mission, and that mission was obviously Shauntae. That much was plain as hell, but what Shauntae couldn't figure out was why, or even what this bitch wanted with her. Shauntae didn't do bitches. She was strictly man meat. Her dick got hard for boy abs and tight buns of steel. Not pussy and tinny bitch tits.       

"Got's a proposition for you," cooed Luanna.

Something about this white girl made Shauntae's skin pucker up in goose bumps, and not the good kind either. She had a creep vibe coming off of her like a child-molesting counselor on a three day run at a YMCA summer camp.

"Don't do snatch," said Shauntae.

"Not for me silly," purred Luanna as she waved the last of Teddy's dollar bills in Shauntae's face.

"Gotta boy, just got out. Needs your special attention."  

"Where he be at?" Asked Shauntae.

"Room 104. Sunset Motor Inn."

"Show me the way, lil' girl. But it gonna cost y'all a lot more than what ya got there."

Luanna laughed, and grabbed Shauntae's hand, pulling her across the parking lot. Something about this wasn't right, thought Shauntae, but she went along anyway. Money was scarce and it's been a slow night. Maybe her luck was about to change?

Luanna looked up at the blade pressing into Shauntae's throat, and reached down to guide the tranny's dick inside of her.

"It's still limp, baby," she said to Teddy.

"Best be gettin' hard," whispered Teddy into Shauntae's ear.

His arm wrapped around her waist, body pressed up against her ass. In his other hand he held a knife against Shauntea's adam's apple, a trickle of blood dripping across the blade. Shauntea closed her eyes. A teardrop ran down her cheek.

"This ain't how my fantasy was workin'," said Teddy. "S’posed to be fuckin' you, while you're fuckin' her."

"Told ya… don't do pussy," sobbed Shauntae.

An unmade bed in an empty motel room, a "do not disturb" sign hanging from the doorknob swings in the breeze outside. A siren echoes off the surrounding buildings, fading as it goes further away. The morning sun just now rising over downtown waking the winos and junkies early so they can get a head start looking for that first fix of the day.

Teddy had shot the last of his speed while waiting for Luanna to show up with Shauntae. His two-day meth binge coming to a screeching halt, just in time to report late to parole or be listed as absconding. His PO's on the spot piss test violates him in thirty seconds flat and before he can say "what the fuck?" Teddy is weighed down in chains on the grey goose heading north on a one way return ticket to Corcoran.

Luanna, back on the ho-stroll trying to make up for last night's lost revenue, shifts her eyes at the battered blue Ford Maverick as it haltingly pulls to the curb beside her.

"Wanna date, sugar?" She says to the fat man behind the wheel. His dick already out and in his hand. Which normally would have set Luanna off and she'd of cussed him out. But all she's thinking about is Shauntea's perfect set of fake boobs in her face when she finally got hard.  

Patrick O’Neil is the author of the memoir, Gun, Needle, Spoon (Dzanc Books), and the excerpted in part French translation, Hold-Up (13e Note Editions). His writing has appeared in numerous publications, including: Juxtapoz, Sensitive Skin,, The Weeklings, Razorcake, and Fourteen Hills. He is a regular contributor to the recovery website After Party Chat, and has been nominated twice for Best of the Net. Patrick lives in Hollywood, California, and teaches online and at a local community college. For more information please see

Early Deadline

Changing careers is never easy. Especially when you start getting a little older, more set in your ways.

But in the Gutter, we have ways to make that transition a little easier...

Early Deadline by Martin Penn-Woods

Sweeney Riegel is now the former Editor-in-Chief of The Outlook.

He’s also a former Person Who Is Alive.

That’s him, slumped in front of me, with what little’s left inside his skull after I blew his brains out slowly leaking onto the conference room table. It’s a really nice table. Walnut and bubinga, I think.

The Outlook is an “alternative weekly” paper. You know: Legalize weed, fuck the police, sex ads in the back.

I worked here almost five years. Technically, I think I still work here, since Riegel hadn’t actually gotten around to saying “You’re fired” yet. He was jabbering about how it “wasn’t a good fit” and “we’re going in a different direction” and other such nonsense. I lost patience with his lack of candor and brevity, pulled out my Ruger SR22—suppressor-equipped, naturally—and thwap, end of conversation.

I put a bullet into Julia from HR, too. That’s her on the floor, next to the cardboard box she was gonna give me. Felt bad about that one. Julia was always nice to me. But I couldn’t have her hollering and carrying on after I plugged the stupid prick, could I?

I had a feeling it might end up this way a few months back, when they brought Riegel in. 

Riegel replaced Bill Briggs, the editor who hired me. Briggs was the best. He stormed out after they told him they were cutting his salary in half. Briggs was all about the real napalm shit the dailies didn’t know how to touch: The mayor’s fucking a horse, somebody’s paying the bums to fight each other to the death, why do the cops keep tasing little Johnny, shit like that.

Riegel? The exact goddamn opposite. I remember my first sit-down with that mealy mouthed, milquetoast bastard, when he told me the paper was “a downer” and had “too many F-words”—he wouldn’t even say “fuck,” that fuck. 

I shoulda walked. But I liked my job. And I was pretty good at it. No Pulitzers, mind you, but a fairly nice collection of somewhat less prestigious awards to hang on the walls and impress the houseguests.

Also, I’d been working six months on this story Briggs put me on, a real-deal inside look at one of the city’s biggest crime syndicates. I wanted to see it through. Then Riegel comes to me one day and tells me to ditch it because he’s assigning me a feature on these two middle-aged ladies who live next door to him that just opened one of those paint-your-own-pottery places.
Instead of gouging his eyes out with my car keys, I simply said, “No.” He backed down. I kept working on my story.

But it didn’t go well. The reporting was great, but … you ever do any writing? Writing’s hard. Writing’s painful. You try to pluck these brilliant bits from your brain and stick ’em on the page, but sometimes what ends up there is just drab and disappointing. And in this case, there was the miserable pressure of trying to impress that asshole. It wasn’t my best work ever. I turned it in, Riegel ripped it to shreds, then he killed it.

And here we are today, where I’ve returned the favor.

I suppose at this point I should admit to a slight lapse in journalistic ethics.

See, when I was spending all that time with those gangsters, they got to really like me, really embraced me as one of their own. They had no problem telling me everything, taking me around and showing me some things, just as long as I didn’t use their real names for my story. I learned a lot about them, and about myself, too, including the fact that I love guns and I really don’t mind killing people.

They were blown away by my new skill set, even saying that if I ever considered a career shift, they might have a position for me in their organization. They have global aspirations and are establishing bureaus all around the world where they can send me. Thailand, for example.

So I’ve already been devising an exit strategy from The Outlook. Right now, however, I need a particularly expeditious version. Shouldn’t be too hard. Word gets around someone’s getting canned and everyone burrows into their offices and cubicles like woodchucks, hoping to avoid any awkward goodbyes in the hallway. I’ll just grab my cardboard box and head out the door, and be in the wind before the screaming starts.

This is a big change for me, but I’m excited about it.

Besides, you know how it is. Journalism … it’s a dying industry.

Martin Penn-Woods is a United States-based crime fiction writer. A well-traveled bloke, he has worked as a journalist, a library assistant and a sandwich-maker, and has learned much about the human condition through those professional endeavors. After a decade-long break since his first literary efforts, none of which you’ve ever heard of, Penn-Woods is at it again.