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Remember when "going postal" was a fixed phrase in our culture?  Apparently we needed to broaden or refine our definition. 

You don't have to be a postal worker to be disgruntled. No. These days, righteous indignation can be the dominion of any wage slave.

Disgruntled by William Dylan Powell

I lit a Marlboro from the minivan’s cigarette lighter, counting the bullets and listening to Amanda by Waylon Jennings.
Loading an AK-47 in the minivan where I toted the kids to Discovery Gymnastics and Captain Spaceburger seemed wrong. But wrapping the gun in a Sponge Bob beach towel helped a little.

I sat in the parking lot of the Tyler Rose Museum, across the street from the office. Almost everyone was there now. I was afraid to wait in front of a 7-11 or the mall. Someone might think I was a robber. But I’m not robbing anyone. I was robbed. Robbed plenty.
Breathed deep, in and out. Just like my yoga teacher instructed.
Tyler is famous for roses. From Dallas to Houston, folks sell Tyler roses for cheap on every corner like evening newspapers. Of course, with all these roses flying around there’s a sort of Rose Inflation across the state. Guys always assume women automatically go crazy for roses, but here you bring home a dozen roses and your wife’s looking inside them for the real gift. God bless Texas.    
The Rose Museum is a jolt of rose varieties—old Confederates, deep a red as Manassas blood, Chinese Bracteatae with petals so soft you want to nap inside and even pink Chinensis from Burma, where monks make tea from the delicate hips.
Rows of roses, all lush and verdant. Ironic that right across the street Rose City Bank was what denied my family the ability to ever literally “stop and smell the roses.” The long hours. The disrespect. And just plain being taken for granted.
When I looked in my rearview mirror, everyone seemed to be there. I opened the door and flicked my cigarette into a nearby rose bush, scaring an armadillo that was drinking from a broken sprinkler head.
“You’re never here this early,” said Mike, the guard, as I walked into Rose City Bank.
My mouth made a straight line as I nodded and set the Sponge Bob-wrapped rifle on the island where customers filled out deposit slips and such.
“Mike, I like you,” I said. “You’re probably the only one here who doesn’t deserve this.”
He laughed. But concern wrinkled his already-wrinkled forehead. He adjusted his cap. “What do you mean?”
“Get. Out.”
“Whatcha got in the towel?” he asked.
“Roses,” I said, flipping the towel open and slinging the AK against my shoulder. Daddy taught me plenty about guns, and every summer I’ve shot at the deer lease to keep the skill up.
The blood drained from Mike’s face as his hand went to his gun.
A lady I’d never seen watering plants by the bathroom screamed.
An alarm bell sounded.
“Don’t make me do it, Mike,” I said.
His face, usually soft and kind hardened into alabaster. “Can’t do that.”
“Don’t,” I said, hearing the panic in my voice.
“All these people,” Mike said, pulling his gun from the holster.
If you’ve never heard an AK-47 fired inside, it’s something. Like every wall is furious with you; the explosion made me dizzy and sick. Mike clutched his chest and fell backwards, crushing a cardboard display showing a happy old couple carrying their sandals on a beach.
“You made me do that,” I said, biting my lip.
Then it was all a blur.
Ellen, the pig of a teller always mocking me. Shackleford in payroll, who hit on me at the Christmas party. The young UT Tyler Marketing intern, with auburn hair that glowed like embers in a summer campfire. Now she’d stay beautiful forever.
I thought of the pain these people caused me as one after the other fell. Thought of the losses this drab building represented. The joy denied. Shooting only got easier.
Smoke filled my nostrils as I panted at the back of the building. Running my hand through my hair, I tried to remember how many shots I had left. Because next was the Man of the Hour. He who could have used influence to make my life less miserable, but instead hardly knew I was alive.
Mr. Important Bank President screamed like a sissy when I shot the lock off his thick, mahogany door and kicked it open. Knew he’d be unarmed because yesterday I removed the Glock he kept in his desk and threw it in Bellwood Lake.
“You?” he stammered.
“That’s all you have to say? You…?”
“In Lord’s name, what right have you?” he said.
“I have every right!” I said. By my count I had six of the 30 rounds left in the gun. “The right to quality of life! The right to respect! The right to not have to come in here like this!”
He stepped out from behind the desk.
“I never knew…”
Two in the chest put him down, and filled me with a tremendous sadness—a completion about today that left me strangely calm.
“Oh, sure,” I said. “Now you had time to talk to me.”
I checked the gun’s magazine, hearing police sirens in the distance. Four rounds left. Slapping it back in place, I smiled and flipped the gun around.


Smith County Sheriff Wylie Remington rubbed his eyes as the first responders on scene gave him the tour. Seventeen bodies in all. He’d parked across the street at The Rose Museum because ambulances and crime tech vans filled the bank lot. It was almost noon and only the dead weren’t feeling suffocated by the still, East Texas heat that gave no quarter by way of breeze.
“Who’s the shooter?” he asked. “Someone turned down for a loan?”
“Get this—she’s the wife of the bank president. Lindsey Caldwell, Age 46. Lives out on Millionaire’s Row, private airport and everything. According to the friends we interviewed this morning, she resented this place, and everyone here, because he worked all the time.”    

“Wow,” said Remmington. “Guess money really can’t buy happiness,” making a mental note to pick up some roses for his wife on the way home. 

Powell writes shady fiction set in Texas. He's the author or co-author of a half-dozen books, and winner of awards from the Robert L. Fish Memorial Award Fund and the Mystery Writers of America. Powell's work has been featured in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Dirty Noir, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Demolition and a host of fine truck stop bathroom walls across the Texas badlands. Further degrade his character at


The Gutter is a nasty, mean, rotten place, with little love, and even less sympathy. It will kick you when youre down, and piss on you the moment you begin to feel the hope to stand.

And thats just on a Tuesday.

Home by Drew Merchant

The smell met Samantha all the way out in the yard as she carried her bags from the taxi. Her Acapulco sunburn—all the way down to her Brazilian—was painful and she stepped bowlegged, careful to keep her thighs from touching each other as she walked up the steps to the cottage where she and her cuckold husband lived. All the way on the flight back she had rehearsed her alibis, made up little stories about how silly and dull the conference had been, meanwhile shifting uncomfortably, not only from the sizzle of her skin but from the bruise of her loins, which Davis had brutalized for three days and nights with his enormous circus cock.

The door was locked but she could hear Basher bounding and scraping at the other side, barking like a maniac as usual. But when she pushed the door open, the odor hit her like a fist in her face. It smelled like someone cooking liver and onions in a wino’s raincoat. She swallowed her disgust and then yelped when the dog leapt up to greet her, his paws landing on her tender breasts. The dog lathered her face with his wet tongue, making her involuntarily giggle. “Okay okay okay okay! Hi baby! How’s my doggie! How’s my doggie! Oh, your breath is awful! Where’s your papa? Alex? What’s that smell?! Have you been trying to cook again?”

She set down her bags, putting one white-gloved hand to her nose and pushing the dog to the floor with the other. She made him Hush. Sit. Stay. Worried now, she tried to hide it with false cheer as she called out. “Alex?” To the dog: “Where’s papa? Huh? Where’s your papa?” But the dog was mute other than panting and as she began to move through the apartment—littered with pizza boxes, beer cans, cigarette butts, and broken glass, vials all over the furniture and floor—she could hear only one sound, growing louder as she walked down the hall to the bedroom: it was wet and pulsing like someone kneading hamburger with both hands. “Alex?”

She saw it all in a flash, and even before the synapses of her brain could register the scene, she screamed.

Her husband was on the bed, a shotgun lain across his chest, business end toward what had been his face but was now a meaty cavern beneath his two enormous plate-like black ears. It thrived with a million humming maggots, joyously busy at their work. Just as her disbelief was registering and she took a step backward, Basher burst in from behind her, knocking her out of the way and off her feet. The dog jumped to the bed and stood on all fours and bent head down to what had been Alex’s face and made horrible lapping noises.

She vomited onto the carpet and looked back again just before she fainted. The last images her eyes registered were her dog feasting—continuing to feast, she understood from the bloodied paw prints on the bedspread and floor—and a one word note scrawled over the bed on the white wall in her Cherry Passion lipstick: CUNT.

Drew Merchant is a writer and editor living in Seattle, Washington.

La Furcia Murciana

With all the violence and cruelty this site offers up, you'd think you'd be safe with a bit of loving. 

Daniel Henshaw proves you don't need to spill blood to destroy a life.

La Furcia Murciana by Daniel Henshaw

The young lady spoke with the most beautiful Spanish accent.  “You like a drink?”

Martin Watson was zipping up his jeans when he thought about his over-sized beer-belly.  He knew he’d performed well enough in the sack but the girl couldn’t have enjoyed having all that flab jiggling around on top of her.  He glanced over towards his temporary host, with a glass in her hand, and realised that she was precisely his type.  He always picked the same sort.  Whether he was in Prague, Vegas, or here in Spain, he always chose the same.  Firstly, they needed tight, curly red hair with freckles on the skin if possible.  They’d have to have full, juicy lips and straight, white teeth.  And when it came to the body, Martin liked big – big ass and big breasts.  Martin realised that he was rather specific with his women but it was Martin’s belief that when you’re paying for it, you need to get your money’s worth.  And, in his experience, the big red-heads always delivered. 

They, however, were not always easy to find.  In Dublin it’s never too difficult. But try finding a red-head in Mumbai.  Even here, in the small Murcian town of San Javier, it was tricky.  Spain was not known for its ginger girls.  However, Martin had been here eighteen years ago and, although the place had changed somewhat, he knew exactly where to look.  He had successfully found a ginger-Spaniard eighteen years ago and he’d found one again tonight.

“Are you not desperate to get rid of me?” Martin asked with a cheeky grin on his face.
The girl, Sofía, brushed her fingers through her fiery red curls and breathed out a short giggle.  “You pay for an hour so you get me for an hour!” 

Martin’s eyes moved quickly around the room.  Firstly, he squinted into the red UV lighting on the wall, then failed to recognise any of the hip hop artists in the girl’s CD collection and he even noticed a pair of roller-blades in the corner.  Suddenly, Martin felt rather old.  He was well into his forties and this gorgeous work of art in front of him couldn’t have been a day older than twenty. Stuff it, he told himself, what is life if it’s not for enjoying?  His eyes then returned lustfully to Sofía while she stood there naked, clumsily pouring a couple of Vodka Martinis.  She was perfect; great ass, great tits, worth every penny.  

Sofía finished making the drinks and strolled sensually back towards him.  She handed Martin his glass and then climbed back on the bed.  She lay next to him, wrapping her bare left-leg around his waist and placing her hand on his chest. 

“You like this part of España?” she asked, taking a sip of her cocktail.

“Yes, I love it.  I’ve been here before.”

“Really?  I meet you last year?”

Martin snorted out a laugh.  “God no!  It was eighteen years ago!”

“Oh!”  Sofía giggled.  “Before I even was born!”

Unconsciously, Martin took a sharp intake breath.  “How old are you?”

“I’m seventeen.  It’s ok, we do sex at sixteen in España.”

Seventeen?  Seventeen was ok.  Christ, Martin had lost his virginity at fourteen.  She clearly wasn’t bothered about her age so why should he be.  Stuff it, he told himself, what is life if it’s not for enjoying?

Sofía suddenly grabbed hold of Martin’s face and gave him the most passionate-yet-delicate kiss imaginable.  Her soft lips and tongue were like those of an angel; sending him into a half-dream, as if he were floating around in space for a few seconds before hazily he drifted back into the red, ultraviolet light of the prostitute’s bedroom.  When he opened his eyes, he realised he had a firm grasp of her left breast and something firm in his pants too.

“So, Mr Englishman.  Which part of England you come from?”

“You probably won’t have heard of it.  I come from a little village called Clowne.”

“Clowne!”  The girl sat upright.  Her reaction was completely unexpected, as few people outside of the area had actually heard of Clowne.  “In Derby?”  Sofía pronounced this quite phonetically; saying der-bee rather than dar-bee.

“Well, it’s in Derbyshire but it’s not actually anywhere near Derby.  Anyway, how in God’s name do you know about Clowne?”

“My papa is from Clowne.  He met mama just once but she always remember the name of his town.  Like the circus.”

Martin’s mouth suddenly turned oatmeal-dry and a sharp churning twisted in his gut.  “Your mother’s name isn’t María, is it?”                 

Daniel holds a BA in English Studies and is a qualified primary school teacher. He has had a handful of articles published in magazines and had his first piece of fiction published in 2014. When Daniel isn't teaching children, he enjoys writing short stories for both children and adults.

Anti-Theft Measures

Everyone knows: you dont tug on Supermans cape. You dont spit in the wind. And the Lord loves a working man.

Oh, and for the love of God (or the other guy), remember: in the Gutter, there aint no such thing as an easy payday.

Anti-Theft Measures by Ben Reese

The car was a tasteful gray but to Mark it looked like gold. The streak of blue chalk the meter maid left on the front tire showed it had been parked there since before six, when meters stopped charging, and that the owner had paid the fee. It was after one now and the other spaces were empty, the street deserted but for Mark and the Audi. 

It was the TT model, small and lozenge-like, like it was meant to be swallowed rather than driven. Inside was Mark’s target—an iPhone 6 Plus. Any iPhone was a prize, but the latest model was always worth more. The Plus was still a novelty and Mark knew Jerry would pay extra for it. 

He approached the passenger side and eyed the sticker on the window. 

“Protected by security measures, my ass,” he said. Nearly every car had that sticker, and lots had that little red light blinking near the lock. But those were scare tactics, Mark knew. Hardly anyone actually used a car alarm anymore. Too much trouble when they went off. 

With a glance either way, Mark shifted his weight to his left leg and raised his right foot. He loved this part. The secret was to aim for a spot six inches inside the car and drive with the heel. Kicking in a car window made Mark feel like Bruce Motherfuckin’ Lee. 

This time was no different. He felt a shot of exhilaration as the window exploded into diamonds of safety glass. In a second he had the door unlocked and open, sweeping the seat with a hand wrapped in his windbreaker. Then he was in with the door shut behind him. 

Before the iPhone, the glove compartment. A glance took in the usual: owner’s manual, pens, receipts, breath mints. Then something that made Mark’s heart pound—a black holster. But his excitement flagged when he saw Vipertek stamped into the leatherette, and dimmed even further when his fingers found it empty. 

Not a real pistol, just a stun gun. Still a shame it wasn’t here, he thought. Jerry paid top dollar for firearms but even a stun gun would swell this take. 

Still, the iPhone. 

Mark lifted it and thumbed the button, lighting the screen and presenting him with a slider, another welcome surprise. No fingerprint scan, no code, no security. 

A tap brought up the photo gallery and he randomly picked a folder. He was hoping for kids, little ones. Infants if he was lucky. 

Jerry would pony up for a hot phone, but Mark knew he could collect a finder’s fee that’d dwarf whatever Jerry offered if there were family photos. So long as he wasn’t caught stealing it, who could prove he hadn’t found the iPhone? With pictures of their brats on it, people would pay even if they suspected how he’d gotten it. 

No kids, but Mark was pleased with what he did find. 

Breasts. Bare breasts on a pale torso beneath a rucked-up sweater. 

Perfect. Better than kids. People pay dearly to get sex pics back. It’s all well and good for celebrities’ to leak, but what would the boss think if these showed up in his inbox? And if that made the transaction more blackmail payment than finder’s fee, Mark could live with the distinction. 

Smiling, he pocketed the iPhone and left the car. 

Three blocks away, in the drivers’ seat of his pickup, Mark reactivated the phone. May as well see how good those photos were before he pulled the sim card. 

The breasts reappeared. Mark swiped sideways and the next photo slid into view, same breasts from a wider angle. Now he could see the woman was on a metal chair, hair covering the part of her face visible in the frame. 

The third photo revealed the handcuffs. 

The knife showed up in the fifth. 

Mark’s thumb slid faster, animating a stream of photos that became increasingly scarlet as they passed. He stopped with the breasts onscreen again, staring like pale eyes from the bloody sheet they sat upon, the rest of the woman’s body nowhere in the picture. 

Trembling, Mark backed into the iPhone’s gallery and chose another folder. Another woman, blonde and tied to a bed. Another folder and another woman, older, eyes closed on what looked like a dental chair. And another, younger, with a nose ring. And others. Many others. 

He heard the truck door open and felt the pressure at the base of his neck at almost the same time. 

“Never heard of Find My iPhone?” a voice asked. 

He got out “No! I have but…” before the stun gun crackled. 

Mark opened his eyes and saw men’s leather shoes, the kind with little holes in a pattern on the toe. 

“Stay here,” he heard. “I’ll be just a minute.” 

Then the electricity again. 

He heard the Audi first, and then tires came into focus, the blue chalk mark on one rotating until it stopped pointed at his head. The leather shoes returned. 

“I had other things in mind for tonight,” Mark heard. His arms, which were tingling but still refused to move, were bound behind his back. “Imagine my annoyance when my lady friend and I returned to find the window broken and my phone missing.” 

Mark saw the trunk lid rise and tried to talk but all he managed was a wheeze. 

“She insisted I call the police after I used her iPhone to find you. I barely persuaded her back into the taxi and on her way home—a much different destination than the one I had in mind for her, I’ll add.” 

Mark tried to fight as he was lifted, but he tumbled into the car.  

“You’re not my type, but I’ll make an exception,” the man said. “You see, I don’t let people take what’s mine. And these?” 

He angled the smartphone so Mark could see the thumbnails. 

“They’re mine.” 

When the lid closed, the trunk was dark as a grave. 

Ben Reese is an ex-reporter, an ex-editor for a famous dotcom, and currently in advertising. He was born on Leap Day, which makes him way too young to write stories like this. Ben lives in Seattle with his wife, two sons, small dog, and a voracious tortoise named Claire.

Daddy's Girl

We return with our second audio pairing.

This story has been haunting us since we first published it three years ago,

Daddy's Girl by Nicky Murphy

'Daddy?' I call out from a safe distance, just in case.
The man in the denim jacket and the faded cords, sitting at the blackjack table and looking like he's gotten used to handing over his chips, turns round. It's him. Christ. After nearly 25 years and so many false leads, I've finally found my Daddy.

I feel a vibration in my pocket and I nip round the corner of a line of slot machines. I peer round as I retrieve my cell - the man has a puzzled look on his face, but he soon returns to his game. One of the doll-faced hostesses offers him a beer on the house. He takes two. He won't be going anywhere soon.


'Hey, Chicken, how's it hanging' baby?'

 Shit, it's Paolo. Why didn't I check caller ID?

'Hey, Paolo, just takin' a break,' I say.

'Well, here's the thing, Chicken, I hear you ain't been workin’ for a coupla hours.' I hear him take a deep drag, and exhale slowly. 'Could even be more than that.'

That may be true - I've been combing Cleopatra's Casino since dinner, and Vegas since forever. Everyone ends up in Vegas. Some never leave. Just like me.

'I'll get back to it baby,' I say. 'It's just that - '

'It's just nothin', Chicken,' Paolo says pleasantly. 'Now, get back to work an' stop moping. Time is money. My money.' He takes another drag. 'If you don't wanna, remember what happened to Lola.'

Everyone remembers what happened to Lola. She slackened off, tried to get herself a real job 'cos of her little girl. She got visited by two friends of Paolo's, and now wears a permanent smile, ear to ear.

'Ok, baby, I wanna,' I say.

'Good girl,' Paolo says. 'Go suck me some dick, lie back and pretend it's me humpin' ya, and remember who keeps you safe round here.'

I return the phone to my pocket. Shit, stop shaking, calm down.

I look round again, just in time to see him getting up and heading towards one of the exits. Seems like Lady Luck isn’t on his side tonight. I tail him - it's not difficult, he's walking the careful walk of the slightly pissed.

Once outside, he finally pauses by a dumpster and slumps against it. He burps, loudly.

I go up to him and gently touch his arm.

'Hey, Daddy, it's me,' I say. 'It's Rosie. Your little girl.'

He stares at me with unfocussing eyes.

‘Wha’ the fuh?’ His breath stinks of beer and nachos. His belly strains at his tee-shirt, faded AC/DC transfer and stained with something bad.

'You must remember me,' I persist. 'You used to read me stories at bedtime? Bath me and Cassie when Mom was out working?'

‘Sorry, lady, I think you want someone who gives a shit.’ He’s sobering up quickly, confronted by a mad woman who’s making no sense whatsoever. He shakes his head, snorts, and tries to shuffle away.

The redness descends on me - my scalp starts to burn and crackle, and my heart is pounding like a drummer on acid. I grab the photo out of my back pocket and thrust it in his face.

'That's me and Cassie!' I cry. 'The last time we were happy! When you used to love us, and tell us that we were your only girls, and that no-one made you feel like we did! We didn't tell, Daddy! We didn't tell!'

Now he's scared, eyes wide, and he's trying to run, but I kick him – hard - in the leg and he goes down.

'I didn't know Mom would come home early, I didn't know she'd throw you out! You shouldn't have left us, you motherfucking bastard!'

I stand over him, raise my foot, then bring it down, over and over and over, just to stop the screaming.

Whumpf! That's for Mom, who cried herself to sleep for weeks, steadily drank herself into a stupor and out of a job then calmly stepped out in front of a train at Mayhew Crossing one bleak Thanksgiving.

Whumpf! That's for Cassie, who felt so mixed up and confused that she got herself pregnant by the first hick who snuck his hand up her knickers, and who now has five snotty brats, a trailer home in the asshole of Crapsville and a husband who beats her up on a regular basis to remind her how lucky she is.

The final heel in the face is for me, one of the hardest-working whores in Vegas, who has to keep turning tricks before her face and body give up on her, because she knows no other fucking trade, because somewhere and somehow a guy has to love her the way her Daddy loved her.

I turn over the snivelling wreck with my toe. Better make this look like a robbery. I feel inside his jacket pocket, and pull out a wallet.

I take the bills and shove them in my own pocket. I pull out his driving licence. Hm, so he calls himself Mike LeSalle now. Then I check his date of birth.

Oh no.


If this is right, he's only 12 years older than me. He can't be my Daddy.

But he looks like him.

Doesn't he?

I turn to Daddy - Mike - and I can't be sure but I think he's stopped breathing.

Shit, not again.

Nicky Murphy lives in England and writes flash fiction when the inspiration imp bites her on the arse. Once, on holiday in Frisco, she was told she had a beautiful aura. She tries to put that right that in her stories.

Drowning, Not Waving

When Phil Collins saw you, you were drowning. But he would not lend a hand.

Of course, he wasn’t from the Gutter. Here, we don’t lend a hand. Half the time we’re the ones who throw you in.

Drowning, Not Waving by Eddie McNamara

She ain’t waving, she’s drowning—but that’s none of my business, not yet.

I got my good eye fixed on the greaseball that just tossed that poor hooah into Sheepshead Bay like a used rubber that’ll wash up on Coney. They call him Musclelini. He hits the barbells almost as hard as the girls that work the Emmons Avenue stroll for him.

The kid’s got a nice racket: selling poon to the fisherman who dock their boats and bring home the catch of the day, and the clap to their wives. The anglers go for the skankiest prostis—the kind that won’t notice the stink of bluefish, fluke and porgies, ’cause that’s their natural perfume on a busy day.

I flick my Zippo and fire up a coffin nail. That’s the signal. Honey Harlowe (that ain’t her real name)—ten pounds of radioactive sex bomb in a dress made to hold five—does the drunk broad waltz right towards the ape in the dirty white tee.

Honey made the scene. He was on her like a starving mutt on a Luger’s steak.

Gravity opens my blade.

He’s putting the moves on, and she’s pretending to tangle with him. He tears her dress. I come up from behind and slice him like a roast beef at Brennan & Carr.

Into the bay, he goes. The fish eat Italian tonight.

Somebody’s save the day for that drowning piece of ass still flailing in the drink. I can’t let good meat go to waste. But that somebody ain’t gonna be me. The water’ll screw with the pomade in my hair and flatten it. Not the first impression the new boss wants to make.

Better if Honey jumps in and plays heroine. She’ll need to make nice with this skeeze in order to class her up for my operation. That kinda thing builds a bond. Besides, that mook ripped her dress half off. She’s not having any of it. I grab a handful of her bottle blonde hair, scoop her up under the knees and throw her in.

It’s a regular Esther Williams show in Sheepshead Bay tonight.

Eddie McNamara writes for Penthouse. He’s had stories in Thuglit, All Due Respect, Shotgun Honey, Stoned Crow Press, and others.


We gave Gutter author, Fox, a bit of extra elbow room so he could say a few words about his mom. She left us recently and he wanted one last goodbye.

But just in case you thought he'd forgotten to deliver the goods, Fox drags you back to South Philly to show you no Forgiveness. Just the way mom would have wanted it.

Forgiveness by T. Fox Dunham

The front page dedication to my first book, The Street Martyr, simply reads:

To Janine Gossett – me mum.

Without this teacher in the world, this book wouldn’t exist.

After she died on Jan 2nd, a timely death, her sister found a copy of my book on her nightstand by her bed. Janine kept it there by her pillow, even though the book has been out for several months. I never quite knew how special I made her feel. She entered my life in a pivotal time, when an accident by the state threatened the medical insurance that was keeping me alive, and I suddenly had a massive bill and a threat of immediate termination. With a mother’s love, Janine helped me pay the bill. She saved my life so I could write this book. Next year, it will be a major motion picture. She deserves the credit. I was merely the tool that created it.

Janine was a woman with a great sister, nephews and nieces and a mother, but she never married in her real life. There was Ivo, her online husband, and I was always glad for my adopted father. She taught students through life, sipped beer and ate pork rinds, and it was this American life-style that would eventually kill her. I watched her slip away and pleaded with her to stay alive for my wedding, to see the birth of her grandchildren. I know she tried to hold on, but she suffered. I think just seeing me with Allison and a family was enough for her.

Goodbye Blackbird. Daughter of Texas. We have many mothers come to us in life—old sisters of the tribe—and I have lost many loved ones in my life; but whenever I try to write this letter of love, I still cry.


“You shot him in the head,” Ritchie-Eleven said. “I picked bits of his eye out of my leather coat. The bullet crushed his temple, blew out the side of his skull.”
Ritchie-Eleven pulled up to a stop sign, looked down the intersection checking for traffic. Cops liked to park behind the derelict factory’s loading dock and watch for speeders. Once they had you pulled over, they could sniff out dope, make you blow for DUI. Dominic, their Skipper, would burn their nuts if they didn’t appear law abiding after dumping a body. Guys turned rat after getting caught. Joe had clipped two rats in the last year.
“His chest was still moving when we dumped him. He was still breathing. I should have put another bullet in his ass, but we spotted that cop.”
Ritchie-Eleven accelerated when the light changed green. He stuck a cig’ on his lip and pushed in the car lighter. His extra finger—a stubby child’s digit jutting out after his pinky—still gave Joe chills up his spine.
Joe reached into his trench coat pocket and flicked his finger against the edge of his knife. They’d ditched their pieces after they shot the small-time pusher. The dick kept pushing H in Dominick’s territory in South Philly. They’d warned him nicely, but the idiot didn’t stop dealing. So, they went back and cracked his ribs with a nine iron. Two months later, they got a tip from a degenerate gambler who owed Ritchie-Eleven a couple grand from his shy business, trading it for a break on that week’s vig. The dick was back selling Percocet in the bathroom at Kingdom Pizza. Joe and Ritchie-Eleven laid in wait outside the joint and followed him into the alley. Joe shot him in the side of his head. They didn’t worry about witnesses hearing the gunshot, not in Dominick’s territory. They carried the body to a storm drain in Fair View Park outside Philly International Airport and wrapped it in garbage bags. They heard the body splash then drove to West Philly to dump the guns in a dumpster behind a Baptist church.
“Just turn your ass around,” Joe said.
“Joggers run in that park at dawn. If that loser wakes up and starts howling, Dominick will have us clipped for being sloppy. Remember what he did to Kid Louie? Louie’s own mother knifed him.”
Everyone knew the story. Dominick kept Kid Louie’s ear on his desk. It showed a particular cruelty that he’d forced Louie’s junky mother to make that hit. It sung Dominick into an urban legend. People’s fear gave him power.
Ritchie-Eleven pulled into a warehouse parking lot and turned around. He drove out onto Walnut Street. The sallow streetlights glowed red over the vacant avenue. Joe flicked the sharp knife tip in his pocket, cracking his thumb nail. They drove ten minutes in silence. Ritchie-Eleven kept sighing. He lit another cig, smoked it then lit a third.
“I’ve got a crisis of the spirit, Ritchie-Eleven said.
“Do I look like a priest?”
“You’ve read the bible, right?”

“When I was a kid and too dumb to know better. We read it in Catechism before I was Confirmed. After that, my parents split up and stopped taking me and my sister to church.”
“Well, I love God. I know I’m a wicked man, but if I ask Jesus to come into my heart, he’ll forgive my sins and take me to his Father’s house.”
Joe flicked the knife too hard, and it slit his thumb. Blood dripped down his palm.
“So what are you whining about?” Joe asked. “It’s foolproof. Just ask for forgiveness on your deathbed, and you’ll be like that thief crucified next to Christ. A free ride.”
Joe wiped his palms on the seat.
“There’s just all these contradictions in the bible. In Exodus, the bible says the Lord is a man of war, but in Romans, He’s known as a God of peace.”
“Maybe your ass is going to burn in the fiery lake after all.”
Ritchie-Eleven tossed the butt out the window. It hit the pavement and casts red coals.
“Keeping me up at nights.”
They pulled into Fair View park. They got out and hiked to the storm drain.
“Yo dude,” Ritchie-Eleven yelled down into the pit. “You alive down there?”
They waited, listening to the silence.
“He might be keeping his mouth shut,” Joe whispered. “Worried it’s us.”
Joe walked back to the car and grabbed a crowbar. He pried off the iron grate.
“Shit. You’re not going down there?”
“My dad, before he shot himself, used to say, ‘Best place to find your god is total darkness.’” He jumped into the pit, braced his legs and landed about ten feet down. Rats scattered. Icy water soaked his shoes, and he shivered. He felt around the muddy concrete, the only light coming from a distant lamp above. He found plastic scraps from a garbage bag.
“Son of a bitch is gone,” he yelled up to Ritchie-Eleven.
The water drained down a series of pipes, just big enough for Joe to crawl through. He felt along the inside of the rusty pipe then held his hand to the light, seeing fresh blood on his fingers.
“Ritchie,” Joe yelled. “Go get that rope out of the trunk.”
A couple minutes later, Ritchie-Eleven lowered it down. Joe climbed up the slimy concrete side of the drain. He jogged back to the car.
“What’s the rush?” Ritchie-Eleven said. “We ain’t never going to find him.”
“Just drive the fucking car.”
They got in the car. Ritchie-Eleven pulled out of the park.
“Where we going?”
Joe slipped the knife out of his coat pocket.
“Over to Dominick’s house in West Chester. Drive fast.”
“Skipper’s not even awake yet,” Ritchie-Eleven said. “We’re just going to piss him off.”
“We need to surprise him,” Joe said. “Or fall to our knees and pray for forgiveness.”

T. Fox Dunham resides outside of Philadelphia PA—author and historian. He’s published in nearly 200 international journals and anthologies. His first novel, The Street Martyr, was published by Gutter Books. He’s a cancer survivor. His friends call him fox, being his totem animal, and his motto is: Wrecking civilization one story at a time. Site: Blog: & Twitter: @TFoxDunham