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So Amazing, So Crazy

When you fall in love in the Gutter, there's no limit to how far you can fall.

So Amazing, So Crazy by Allen Griffin

Cameron turned off the radio but kept the car’s engine running. He watched little crystalline flakes of snow drift to the ground and let his mind continue to ask ‘what am I doing here?’

Monica had been inside nearly thirty minutes and he watched his phone for a text, letting him know she was still ok. He was into her, admitted as much to himself early last week sitting outside another john’s house. The jealousy made him crazy.

All these guys lived in mini-mansions, owned top-of-the-line cars, more money than they knew what to do with. They got to touch her, kiss her...do things he didn’t even dare dream about.

Thirty-three minutes and no text yet. Monica never sent a text late, although they’d only been doing this together a few weeks. She talked him into it the first time because she needed fast money to pay her rent and promised to break him off a little cash to be her driver and de facto bodyguard. He hadn’t felt strongly about her yet, not like he does now, so he went along with it. In retrospect, he should’ve just given her the money. Yesterday, when he hinted that if she needed more cash, he could help her out, she told him to forget about it.

Strong. Independent. He liked that about her.

Thirty-seven minutes. Cameron’s nervousness mingled with his jealousy. He felt a rising tide of hostility coming over him. It would only take a minute for the rich asshole, the john, to do some sort of permanent damage, to kill her even. And here he was, just sitting in his car doing nothing; he’d never forgive himself.

Cameron reached beneath his seat, pulled out his chrome-plated 9mm and headed toward the house, almost like he knew what he was doing. He listened a moment and, hearing nothing, tried the doorknob and found it unlocked. Monica said she always told the clients to keep the door unlocked, for her safety. Cameron let himself in.

He’d had the gun for years, not sure if he really knew how to use it. He held it up at eye level and moved through the large house like a cop on a TV show. He headed straight upstairs, assuming they would be in the bedroom. He found what surely must’ve been the master bedroom and slipped into the darkness. All was silent. Cameron prayed he wasn’t too late. There was a body lying still on the bed.

He could hardly breathe, walking slowly toward the king size. The sheets were white, but even Cameron could see the blood stain spreading out like a rising tide. But the body, it was too big to be Monica.

“Help…” the john moaned. Cameron was so startled by the sound he accidentally pulled the 9’s hair trigger as he jumped back. The bullet caught the man between the shoulder blades and a new spring of blood began to feed into the flood beneath.

“Are you fucking crazy?” Monica appeared illuminated in another door off to the side of the bed, probably the master bath. “Put that fucking thing away before you shoot one of us.”

She disappeared again into the bathroom. Cameron followed her in and saw a little switchblade sitting in a sink full of water. She was stuffing cash into her bag full of lingerie. She was naked.

“Sorry, too good of a score to pass up.” She looked up at him for a minute, trying to gauge his reaction. “Seriously, it happens sometimes, it ain’t that deep.”

Cameron was speechless.

He didn’t even remember getting back in the car. They might have gone through the house, searching for anything else, small but expensive things worth taking, but maybe he just imagined that part.

The steady pulse of passing streetlights seemed to calm him though, gave him his voice back. “Look,” he stammered, “I told you if you need money, I got you. We can go back to my house, I’m completely unbanked, I can just hook you up and you can leave all this behind.”

She sized him up for a minute, a sly smile spreading across her red lips, and then she said, “If that’s the case, why did you agree to let me bring you on as my driver, if you didn’t need the money I mean?”

“I just wanted to be with you, I thought it would give us a chance to spend time together.”
It wasn’t entirely true. At first, it was more of a thrill thing, he didn’t expect her to be her, to be so amazing, so crazy.



Allen Griffin is a writer and musician living in Indianapolis. His work has appeared in several cool places including the Surreal Worlds anthology from Bizarro Pulp Press and the Ominous Realities and Splatterlands anthologies from Grey Matter Press. He has also published two chapbooks with Dunhams Manor Press, No Such Heaven and The Noxious Winds of Karmageddon. He reviews books and music in various places around the web.

Bethumped

They say teachers change lives.

In The Gutter, it's more of a mutation.

Bethumped by JM Taylor


Mark Rossi’s arms and ankles were bound to the chrome uprights of the chair with rope cut from the window shades. They had been pulled down and one was completely off its roller, but no matter: only weak moonlight illuminated the room.

The other man paced like a caged animal, his boots stomping across a floor strewn with tumbled desks, splayed books, and crumbled paper.

Mark couldn’t completely see his face, but had a vague memory of acne-ridden skin stretched taught over bone, framed by long, greasy hair. That had been a dozen years ago, maybe more. Back in those days, there were so many faces with so much promise for the future. Now, in the dimness, Mark made out a fuller face, a stockier build, and a close-cropped skull.

It’s all your fault,” the guy said. “And you’re gonna pay.”
           
Mark braced himself. The man jabbed a pencil into his skull and the room lit up. The chair teetered, but he kept his balance.
           
Right here, right in this room, you fucked me over.”
           
I…I didn’t do anything like that,” Mark said. “I was just doing my job. I was trying to help you, but you evidently didn’t follow through.”
           
This brought a punch to the gut, and Mark groaned. His ribs were already burning.

An hour earlier, he’d been having a quiet beer at his old after-work bar. It was supposed to be a trip down memory lane, and he guessed it had turned out to be. Except he hadn’t anticipated meeting one of the trolls.
           
The troll had followed him to the men’s room, where he'd done the old schoolboy trick of hitting Mark from behind while he pissed into the urinal. “Nice to see ya, Mister Rossi,” he said.

Dazed, Mark turned midstream to confront a barrage of blows. He stumbled ass-backwards into a stall and the guy yanked him out, pushing him through the bar into the parking lot. No one said a word as he was bundled into the bed of a pick-up truck that then sped into the night.
           
It didn’t take long to figure out they were going to the school where Mark had taught for more than thirty years. It was closed now, what with kids doing on-line classes and a public not interested in repairing the roof that collapsed in the last big snow. Education had died before that, gone moribund when budgets were slashed to make way for profits.
           
All I needed was a diploma,” the guy said. “And you kept me from getting it, you dick.” To punctuate his anger, the guy planted his left Timberland boot in Mark’s groin.
           
Mark didn't resist the wave of nausea. The puke burned his broken teeth. The pain loosened something in his brain. “I remember you now,” he breathed. “Jerry Silvers. You refused to write any papers your last semester.”
           
Like papers was gonna be important in my life, Mister Rossi. I was gonna start my own business. Who needs to know what novels Shakespeare wrote when you’re running a business?”
           
Mark grunted, the stench of puke urging him to add to the puddle already at his feet.

Silvers wandered over to the ravaged cork board.

Something stirred Mark’s sympathy. The poor guy had been unloosed on a world he never learned to cope with, no matter what his teachers had tried to instill in him. But even in the middle of this torture, Silvers was calling him “mister.” That must have meant something. Maybe he could still get out of this. He considered his bag of teacher tricks, but couldn’t find one for an enraged dropout.
           
You made me work for something I should have been given,” Silvers whispered. “And now I’ll teach you a lesson.” He was examining something, but Mark didn’t know what until Silvers grasped his hand as if to shake it. Thumbtacks plunged into his palm.

Mark screamed as Silvers drove the points deep into his skin. His screams echoed off the hallway bricks and lockers.
           
Thanks to you and your stupid classes, I ended up literally going to the moon to look for work. I couldn’t find nothin’.”
           
Mark couldn't help himself. “You mean, figuratively.”
           
Silvers shook his head. “Fuckin’ books. I’ll show you what they’re good for.” 

Even in the dark, Mister Rossi recognized the heft of the old Riverside Complete Shakespeare he’d left behind on his retirement. He wished his last lesson could have been worthy of it. The tome felt like a brick as it landed on his ear and knocked him to the ground, literally forever.


J. M. Taylor lives in Boston with his wife and son. This is his second time stumbling into the Gutter, and he's had other work in Crime Factory, Crime Syndicate, Spelk Fiction, and Thuglit, among others. His novel, Night of the Furies was published by New Pulp Press. He's currently at work on his next novel. You can find him on Twitter at @taylorjm7 and like his Facebook page Night of the Furies.

High Crimes and Misdemeanors

There's shit in the Gutter, and it can't all be stepped around. Some of it has to be scooped up.

High Crimes and Misdemeanors by Gary Clifton

Homicide Detective Sheena Rucker hung up the phone and strode across the squad room toward lieutenant Grant’s office. Tall, leggy, black - well, bronze actually – and beautiful, all male eyes present assessed her ass, all cautiously aware Sheena was one tough sucker. “Gonna go see a snitch, Boss,” she called in the door as she walked by.
She herded the old Dodge to the domicile of Fatso Six, a swindler who operated a half assed numbers game on Malone - called Six because Fatso was a very crowded name in the neighborhood. Four and Five had both been shot and killed in the last year, and technically Fatso Six was now number four, but the system had no provision for seniority.  Six stayed Six. 
“Fatso, you lied to me about that creep Crowbar murdering Peaches. Another fuckup and I’ll see your parole revoked so you can go back to being some alpha con’s ol’ lady.”
“Miss Sheena, I didn’t actually say I saw Crowbar let the hammer down on that pimp fuck Peaches. I heard a gunshot, ran out back, and Peaches was deader than hell. Crowbar was down the alley…and I ain’t seen no piece.”
“You lyin’ sack of shit, you been talkin’ around you saw Crowbar shoot the toad.”
“Miss Sheena, that fuck Crowbar even suspect I fingered his ass, I’m dead as Peaches.”
“Shouldn’t change your story, dipshit.”
She walked out and drove the Dodge to Crowbar’s last known address, three blocks further down Malone. By chance, she nearly collided with Crowbar on the back stairs. He brushed by her and ran three or four steps.
She slid back her jacket, showing Crowbar the Glock .40 tucked in her waistband. “Crowbar, even a dumb ass like you has to know you run from me, you just go to jail tired…or with a bullet hole in your ass.”
“Jail,” he blinked rapidly. “Ain’t did shit.”
“They why run?”
“I always run from the gott damn PO-lice.”
“Crowbar, we found the gun that killed Peaches in a dumpster. I either get a DNA swab right here in this parking lot or uniforms will haunt your ass like Frankenstein. The lab also wants a pubic hair sample.”
“Pubic hair? Somebody fuck Peaches after they shot his ass?”
She pulled out a DNA kit and swabbed Crowbar’s mouth, then allowed him to turn his back and drop three pubic hairs in a second baggie.
“I ain’t shot Peaches, Miss Sheena.”
“You already said that, ass-wipe.”
Sheena drove by the lab and left the two samples. Instinct told her Crowbar had been too easy and damned well could be not guilty – at least of offing Peaches.
At just past ten, Sheena was watching the evening news when her cellular buzzed.
“Switchboard just called me, Sheena,” Lieutenant Grant said. “Somebody let the air outta your snitch, Fatso number what the hell ever.”
Sheena dressed, drove to Fatso’s place of business, arriving just as the M. E. was loading his obese carcass into a morgue van. An hour’s canvass, complete with Sheena making a few promises and issuing several death threats, told her Crowbar had been seen on the street out front just before somebody put three from a .32 in Fatso. Inquiry to Crowbar’s apartment disclosed neither he nor his old Buick were on the premises. A young patrol officer approached and handed her an evidence-bagged .32 revolver he’d found in a dumpster two blocks away.
At dark-thirty the next morning, she was waiting at the lab door with the .32 when the place opened. In an hour, tentative mitochondrial DNA results from the .32 told a weird story. She immediately put out an all points for Crowbar.  By lunch, patrol officers had him in jail.
Sheena sat across a metal table from Crowbar in a small interview room in the county jail.

“Well, Crowbar, I’m nominating you for dumb bastard of the century.”

“I ain’t kilt Peaches, Miss Sheena.”

“No godammit,” she tossed the DNA charts on the table. “Fatso Six did. His DNA is on the murder weapon and yours isn’t. But we found the gun you used to murder Fatso last night in another damned dumpster down the street with your DNA all over it. Why the hell didn’t you toss the murder weapon in the East River?”

“I was gonna, Miss Sheena, but the gott damned Po-lice come along and I hadda toss it in that dumpster. That mu’fucker Fatso been tellin’ around I did Peaches. You unnerstan I had to cap his ass.”

“Repeat, Crowbar. Nomination for the dumb bastard of the century. You did not have to shoot Fatso, you dumb ass.”

“I get that award, Miss Sheena, that mean I don’t hafta go back to the joint? Fatso needed killin’ anyway.”

Sheena shook her head. “Can’t argue with you about Fatso’s value to the world, Crowbar, but, no, you get no ‘get outta jail free card’.” She pulled the handcuffs from her waistband.

Gary Clifton, forty years a cop, has been shot at, shot, stabbed, lied to and about, and often misunderstood. Currently retired to a dusty ranch in North Texas, he doesn't give a damn if school keeps or not. He has stories published in over a hundred venues.

Fatboy, by Paul Heatley

There are few things I love more than reading a noir book that has all the necessary components to be a kick-ass book. Books that have plots driven by action, characters that come to life with believability, and dialogue that rings true are essential components for all books, but when they're embedded in a noir book that has crime, grit, and darkness, these books suck me in. Every once in a while, I get the pleasure of reading of reading a noir story that has all these pieces, but also mixes in heart, believable emotional conflicts, and leaves you feeling you would react the same way if you were in their shoes. Although hard to find, these books are the types of books that elevate authors into my “Must Read” group of authors. I am pleased to report that coming off the awesome An Eye for an Eye, which blew me away, Paul Heatley has outdone himself with his latest release, Fatboy.

In this well-crafted offering, Heatley tells the tale of Joey Hidalgo, a man with a temper, a drinking problem, and a reality that includes a wife who has left him and taken his young son away from him. Turning a blind eye to the true reasons for her departure, Hildalgo convinces himself if he can only turn a kidnapping scheme into a big payout, she'll come back to him and they can find their well-deserved happily ever after. But as every noir lover knows, the best plans never lead to a great outcome.

Heatley has created a well fleshed out man in Hidalgo. He loves his family with all his heart, yet he cannot control the animal that ranges from within. He hears only what he wants to hear when his wife tells him what has gone wrong in their life together. His desire to find an easy fix to a problem that has been brewing throughout his life is something many people can relate to. Hidalgo is a man many people can relate to in those regards, but his penchant for violence is what makes him a great character for this dark read.

I have been impressed with every offering Heatley has put forth. His short stories are superb and his previous book was a great revenge tale, but it seems Heatley saved his best for his latest. This book is what noir is meant to be; dark, gritty, and no shots at redemption.


Highly Recommended. 

Hook, Line, and Sinker

The perks go to the best man for the job. 

But if you don't cut it in The Gutter, you're sleeping with the fishes.

Hook, Line and Sinker by John Teel


Mr. Carson's boat bobbed slowly at the end of the dock, four long fishing poles jutting out over the top like radio antennae.

Ken still wasn't sure why Carson invited him out fishing, but it was known if Carson summoned you to one of his "meetings," you went. Ken didn't want to go empty-handed so he stopped and grabbed a case of beer.

When he arrived at the boat, Carson looked at him and smiled, his eyes resting on the beer.

"For the trip," Ken said with a nervous quiver in his voice.

"Very thoughtful," Carson said. "I don't drink, however."

Goddamnit.

"Barney." Mr. Carson motioned to someone who looked like a bear in people's clothes. "Put this on ice for Mr. Seymour."

"You can call me Ken," Ken said to Carson.

Barney took the case down below.

"And you can call me Hank," Carson said. "Now, what do you say we go catch us some fish? Just untie those lines there and we can get going."

Ken did as he was asked and hopped onto the boat. Barney stood before him like a golem, and Ken thought he might tweak his neck looking up at him.

Barney shoved Ken against the cabin and frisked him with hands the size of waffle irons.

Ken looked at Mr. Carson with a hint of fear in his eyes.

"Just a precaution, Ken," Carson said.

When Barney was satisfied, he let Ken off the wall and turned to Carson. "He's clean."

"Wonderful. Off we go." Mr. Carson got the engine started and backed the boat away from the dock, steering it with ease out of the bay and into the waiting waters of the Atlantic.

...


It was an easy ride out, with the water below resembling dark, smooth glass. They motored for close to an hour during which no one spoke.

Barney stared at Ken the way a cat watches a caged parakeet, while Carson drifted them farther and farther away from land.

The more Ken thought about it, the more nervous he felt.

The engine throttled down and Carson trolled the motor. Looking to Barney, he said, "Grab the net and get some chum in there, would you?"

Barney nodded, disappearing below deck.

Ken polished off a beer and broke the awkward silence. "I don't wanna be rude, Mr. Carson—"

"Hank," Carson said.

"Sorry. Hank. Why am I here, exactly?"

Carson smiled. "To fish, of course. And to get acquainted."

Ken still didn't understand.

Carson could read it on his face. "I'll cut to the chase then, Ken. Your bank stores a large percentage of my money. I need someone who can keep quiet about these particular deposits and manage the accounts. Someone trustworthy. A man such as yourself. We talked to some of our people. They've been looking into you and they have the utmost confidence you'd be a good hire." 

It still wasn't computing, but Ken nodded anyway. "Uh, isn't that what Todd does?"

"He does. But you see, the fact that you know about this particular partnership with Todd is troublesome. There goes the rule of keeping quiet. Also, our funds seem to be a little light. Todd can no longer be trusted. And a relationship cannot work without trust. So that brings us to you. I want you to work for me. You will be paid a substantial fee, in cash, every week. As long as these rules are not broken."

Ken's head was swimming. "Todd's gonna be pissed."

Carson smiled. "You don't have to worry about him. Let us deal with Todd. So what do you say? Shall we do business?"

"Can I think about it?"

Carson watched Ken.

Ken couldn't read Carson, who seemed ambivalent.

“You can. I suggest you come to a decision soon, however,” Carson said. “There is a right and a wrong answer, Ken. I shouldn't need to spell this out for you.”

Everywhere Ken looked there was only water. He was pretty sure he knew the right answer. He finished his beer and said, "Ok then. I'll take care of the accounts."

"Splendid," Mr. Carson said, extending his hand.

They shook on it.

Barney emerged from below with a blue fishing net. He set it down next to a long, white cooler and reached in, shoveling handfuls of ground-up chum into the net. He held the net in the water as the boat trolled and chunks of meat flaked into the ocean. His hands dripped red and Ken watched it drip, drip, drip onto the deck.

Almost immediately, fish jumped and splashed next to the boat, their shiny bodies reflecting the sun as they twisted and scrambled past each other to devour the chum.

"Jesus," Ken said. "I've never seen fish go wild like that before."

Carson baited a hook with the same meat, dropped the line in the water, and handed it to Ken. "It's the best chum there is. I've experimented with all kinds of different bait: mackerel, shrimp, squid, crab, but this right here, this is the best."

"What is it?" Ken asked.

Carson just smiled.

Ken's eyes went from the fish jumping in the water, to the blood on Barney's hands, to the smile on Carson's face, and realized he didn't need it spelled out for him. For once in his life, he got it just fine.



John Teel is a union ironworker from Philly. His work has appeared in The Literary Hatchet, Dark Moon Digest, Near to the Knuckle, Shotgun Honey, and Pulp Modern. When he isn't working, he's spending time with his wife Rae, their two children, and an insane dog named Gizmo, who they never feed after midnight.

Paid Love

Dealing with assholes can be a cross to bear. In the Gutter, that cross gets doubled.

Paid Love by Mike Loniewski

Ellis climbs off me looking like he’s heartbroken. He throws his jeans back on with that obnoxious belt buckle- a golden ten point buck the size of a dinner plate jangling as he goes.
"Okay, cowboy," I say. “I have to head out.”
"To someone else," he says into his chest.
Ellis has grown some feelings. That’s never a healthy thing in my line of work.
“There won’t be another like you,” I tell him.
He gives a shy smile. It'd be cute if he wasn't so fucked up. "I promise," he says. "I ain't got much, but I could take care of you."
“You already do,” I say. I peck him on the cheek and take the money from his hand.
Out on the main floor the machines are jingling and flashing to get your attention. Kevin's at a bank of slot machines. His fat ass is all squished up in a tiny seat for a Michael Jackson-themed one. He gives me a double take as an electronic ditty of ‘Thriller’ chimes.
"You didn't shoot up, did you? Damn it, I told you you need to be straight tonight."
"Relax, big fella. I'm always clean."
Kevin tries to lean back in the chair. “Bo call you yet?”
“No,” I say, “But he will. Thursdays are his night.”
Kevin smiles. “I’m sure it is. You keep him in that car tonight,” he tells me. "If he's not in the car with his pants down, it's gonna be a lot harder to get this done.”
My phone buzzes and I see the text from Bo.
I start walking and I hear Kevin struggling out of the chair.
"Hold it, now," he snorts. "Where-"
“We’ll be in the parking deck,” I say.  “Just make sure you don’t screw me on this.”
***
I’m in Bo’s SUV leaning over his lap when a shadow falls across the driver's side. The gun taps the window and Bo glances over.
"Zip up, will ya," says Kevin. "Not everyone wants to see your dick."
Bo straps up and peeks out the window. "Kevin? Jesus Christ, what the hell are you doing?"
"Open the lock." It clicks and Kevin stuffs his fat ass into the back seat, huffing and puffing. Bo's seat keeps jolting forward, the truck rocking side to side from the struggle.
Bo gives a sigh. “What are you doing, Kevin? Goddamn it."
Kevin presses the gun to the back of his head. “I gave you the chance to do the right thing, to cut me in. But, you did what you always do.”
"Jesus Christ. This is about the contract?”
Kevin bursts. “You fuckin' know it is! Now drive.”
Bo looks over to me.
"Just let her go, Kev, huh? She won't say nothing about this."
Kevin snarls. “She's already in this.”
***
The drive takes us to some lousy brick building tucked between chop shops and liquor stores. The front door looks like it's been battered in a few times. Inside's an office with that shitty wood paneling and an old carpet that smells like it was flooded with cat piss.
“Come on,” Kevin says, choking on his own fat. “Move the goddamn cabinet.”
Bo rocks it back and forth away from the wall and peels back a strip of old carpet where a floor safe hides. He starts working the lock and I back against the wall praying for this shit show to end.
Stacks of cash start getting tossed out from the safe. Kevin moves in to grab it. There's a flash and a pop. Kevin grabs his throat. He gurgles and tries to plug the hole with his fat fingers. Another pop and red blooms from his chest. I look at Bo holding a smoking pistol that was buried inside the safe.
Kevin falls back. His gun barks at me and something breaks my hip.
Blood seeps into that awful carpet and I follow the trail up to the neat little hole torn through my dress, a dark red pool across my lap. Fuck.
Bo’s shouting as he lifts me up and I look over to the safe. It's still open and, goddamn, I can still see cash piled in neat stacks, even more than I imagined. Could have gotten a new start. Instead, I get a hole blown through my hip.
Bo lays me down in the back seat of his SUV and climbs in behind the wheel.        “Let’s get you outta here,” he says.
Something blasts through the glass and it shatters like diamonds. Everything rings inside my head. I look down at my lap and find an ear. I bat it off and see Bo’s head in a thousand pieces splattered on the windshield.
The back seat door opens and my white knight is standing there with a smoking double barrel sawed-off and an obnoxious ten point buck on his crotch."Are you hurt bad?" Ellis asks.
Nothing makes sense. I'm shaking.
"Followed you out of the Casino. I was mad at myself for doing it again. But, then I heard those gun shots and I knew I'd done the right thing."
I don't say a word. He moves me to his baby blue Chevy pick up. “I’m gonna take care of you,” he says. I grab for his arm.
"Wait," I say. "There's money. Inside.”
Ellis nods and runs, and a few minutes later he comes back out with a trash bag of cash over his shoulder like some redneck Santa Claus.
"I'm bleeding bad," I say.
"I know, Mel,” he says. “And I'm gonna fix that."
I take his hand, my blood smearing across it. "I believe you," I say. "But how you gonna fix this? We can't go to a hospital, Ellis. Not after this."
"My cousin. He'll help us."
"He's a doctor?"
"No," he says. "Horse vet."
"Oh," I say.
Hell, you can't have everything, can you?

Mike Loniewski is a writer from New Jersey. His prose work has been published by Flash Fiction Offensive, Shotgun Honey, One Eye Press, and Pro Se Press. His comics have been published by Image Comics, APE Entertainment, and Alterna Comics. You can find him on twitter at @redfox_write.

Lydia

If you love something set it free. . .

In The Gutter, freedom comes at a high cost.

Lydia by Mark McConville


She throws the ring into the reservoir, crying over lost love, striking a cigarette, smoking it frantically. She puffs and then exhales, coughing like a rookie even though she has been smoking for over thirty years. She calls it thirty years of misery, years upon years of despair and misfortune.

The subtleness of the stream calms her restlessness, the torrid thoughts are eased, the overgrowth a comfortable seat. Her eyes are drowsy, a prime example of lack of sleep and abuse of painkillers. The pills help the niggling pain, but they’re also addictive. And the addiction is only one flaw in a long list. Lydia is an alcoholic, sneaking out at night to buy cheap wine, adding fire to a destructive path.

The horizon looks eloquent in between the branches of the trees, the British Countryside looks picturesque this time of year and Lydia observes it, hoping her world will miraculously rejuvenate.  

Lydia rises up from the soft overgrowth, shakes off the loose grass, and then walks away from the soothing place which recaptured her youth. Lydia wrestles through the bushes and makes her way to the pavement. She unlocks the door to her battered, rusted car, and starts the ignition.

Lydia reaches the destination, a massive superstore full of essentials and alcohol. She is craving the cheap wine that’s been her true friend for years. The bright lit sign is a shining beacon for the wrong reasons.

The automatic doors open and the repetitive music begins to blare. Conversations begin to unravel, as the colossal shopping hub is busy. Lydia is here for three things: bleach, a mop, and cheap wine. So she goes her own way, not making eye contact with anyone.

Lydia walks down the long aisle full of cleaning products. She grabs a bottle of bleach and a mop and heads for the alcohol aisle with anticipation bubbling inside her. The mecca of alcoholic drinks is a paradise for the addict. Lydia takes two bottles of her usual wine and heads to the checkout.

She places the products on the conveyer belt and waits until the store worker scans the first item. 

She begins to feel like she’s being quietly ridiculed and judged. She tries to refrain from saying anything, but steers her rage at the clerk, pointing her finger at him. His face turns red and his defences seem weak. Lydia throws her cash and walks to the exit, leaving the clerk bemused by her reaction.   

Lydia opens up the door to the beat-up car. Her anger takes time to dissipate. She looks at her aging face in the mirror, frightened by the reflection, scorning the deep wrinkles.

She starts the ignition, wishing it could restart her sorry existence. It can’t, so she drives off, far away from the uproar that was started in the superstore.

As she drives on, the rain starts to pour, the tears begin to stream, the anger reaches fever pitch. By hitting the wheel, she loses control of the car, missing two oncoming vehicles. Her car skids and smashes into a barrier.

Lydia opens her eyes to the blinding light coming from a torch. She focuses them on the prominent badge of a police officer. He looks at her with worry etched on his face.

He asks if she’s okay.

Her reply is a faint yes, then the ambulance appears.

As the sirens begin to fizzle out, Lydia fears she needs to go to the hospital. But she can’t, she has so much to do. She needs to go home and clean up a mess. A significant mess.

The police officer insists she must go and get checked out. She reluctantly says yes.

As she steps onto the ambulance, her heart sinks. She really doesn’t want to go to the hospital, she doesn’t want to be fussed over.

She just wants to go home and clean up.

At the hospital, the nurse, expressionless and empty, stitches Lydia’s cuts as she sits on the generic chair . Lydia’s stomach churns, her mind overdriven by worry and dread.

The anger starts to take hold again, rage fizzing up inside her. She can’t see the mop or the bleach anywhere. She demands that the nurse retrieve her goods.

Thankfully, the bag is in the next room. 

Lydia signs herself out, bruised and brushed with fear, but hung together.

The doors open to the outside world. The frost has started to cover everything from the grass to the pavements. The British Summertime is erratic nowadays.

She walks away from the hospital in disarray. She refused a lift home, as she didn’t want anyone to disturb her clean up.

Nervous Lydia flags down a taxi. She has enough money to get herself home.

The taxi driver tries to start a conversation, but Lydia is deep in thought. He asks her how she got the bruises and the cuts. When she doesn’t answer, he stops talking.

The taxi arrives at Lydia’s house. She pays him and offers no communication.

The taxi rushes off as Lydia looks at the house. She hates the sight of it. It’s grey and lacks vibrancy. But she walks up the driveway, still feeling the aftermath of the crash.

She puts her busted hand into her pocket and grabs the door key. It falls onto the tarmac. By bending down to retrieve it, a sudden pain goes up her back.

Although the pain is agonising, she places the key into the lock, turns it, and opens the door. 

A putrid smell attacks her nostrils.

She walks into the living room.

There lies the perpetrator of all her woes.      

A man who showed her disdain.

Lydia has killed a soul.

The devil has got blood on the cream carpet.

Lydia looks at his bludgeoned head and the numerous holes stabbed into his chest. 

Each hole is a reminder of the times he hit or mocked her. 

The clock strikes midnight, but Lydia has work to do. She must clean up the mess and then drink to the night.

She kicks him again and again, his blood splashing all over her face.

There’s even blood on the divorce papers, signed by her but not by him.

 
Mark McConville is a freelance music journalist from Scotland. His work has appeared on music sites including Punktastic, New Noise Magazine, Discovered Magazine, and many others. He’s written extensively about music for years and has dabbled in other forms including short stories and poetry. His short story was published in an anthology by Centum Press.