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Its an exciting time to be alive, a world of knowledge available at our fingertips. Can find the rainfall in the Sudan with the click of a button. Just know nothing comes free; in the Gutter, they are watching everything you do.

Which is cool. Unless you’re a criminal. In which case, might want to stay off the grid and keep illicit activities on the DL....

Knockout by Eryk Pruitt

A person’s phone tells you a lot about them.

The easiest thing to discover about someone once you have their phone is their contact information. Their home address. Where they work, if they work. Their friends and family.

But these days, phones carry so much more information. Say they’re on Facebook, then you can find out what interests they have. Dreams. The discussions they have with their friends.

Get into their text messages, and you discover even more. What kind of lover they are. How they talk to their mother or their father or their co-worker or even that secret little thing they keep on the side. Some text messages they save, like the one from an older brother that’s dated over two years ago. The one that said the cancer wasn’t going away. Said he couldn’t wait to see him one last time, but he better hurry.

That one.

Thumb through that phone and you find all sorts of treasures. Photos. Passwords. Apps to stupid games you couldn’t care less about and neither should anyone else. Reminders throughout the calendar that make a pleasant little ringing sound when it’s the birthday of someone special.

And videos.

Lots of videos.

Like the one where the guy is trying to rap. It’s a neat song. A lot of fricative rhyming about how much he loves his son and wants to be a good father. How he doesn’t want the cycle to continue, how he’s gonna break the chain / ain’t gonna be the same / gonna to stay until it’s done / he’s gonna be there for his son.

That one kind of moves you.

The next one is better. It’s a video of the rapper and his girlfriend on a date. She blows out a single candle at some restaurant in the city. She can’t believe how lucky she is. She thinks he’s the best person she’s ever met. He turns the camera phone towards them both as he leans in for a kiss.

This is called a selfie.

Everything about the next video is familiar. It’s the parking lot of the Grundy’s Food Mart around the corner from your house. A cloudless, summer day that you remember all too well. The camera behind you, but getting closer. You can’t watch the video without wanting to shout at yourself in the screen to turn around, watch out. They’re coming.

Two other guys approaching you, hoods up. You’re loading groceries into the trunk of your car. Your wife will be cooking stroganoff tonight and you said you’d pick up things on the way home from work. You’ve got a bag to go when they come along behind you and ask you something about directions to the stadium but you don’t so much as turn around before—

Yeah, they got you good. It’s right there on video. Right there on some bastard’s camera phone. You feel it the same as you felt it when they socked you good and proper but it wasn’t the punch to the face that did the most damage. Sure, that punch destroyed your trust in all of mankind, but it was bouncing off the bumper of your own car that destroyed your cheekbone. The landing on the pavement that broke that thing in your head. You call it your right-and-wrong lever. The thing that keeps you from setting fire to anything and everything you see fit.

That’s what they broke. And they broke it to pieces.

It broke when you fell to the ground and reached out for anything you could but all you could grab was that asshole’s sneakers and he fell to his knee and dropped his phone. Unlike you, he got up. He ran.

But he left his phone.

Other things you find on it: A text message about the only thing he’s afraid of is snakes. He ain’t got time for no snakes, he texted someone. So you bought three cane-break rattlers from a guy you know. A guy you would never have spoken to in the past but hey, that’s the past.

A text message from his Baby Momma saying he needs to be home, watching their son this weekend until seven, so she can work her job at the local fried fish joint.

The calendar that rings a pleasant little sound telling you it’s time for him to pick up the boy.

You hold that phone with one hand and the sack of rattlers in the other as you make your way up his front steps, that motherfucker.

Eryk Pruitt is a screenwriter, author and filmmaker living in Durham, NC, with his wife, Lana, and cat, Busey. His short film FOODIE won several awards at film festivals across the US. His fiction appears in The Avalon Literary Review, Pulp Modern, Thuglit, Swill, and Pantheon Magazine, to name a few. His novel Dirtbags was published in April 2014 and is available in both print and e-formats. A full list of credits can be found at, and check out the progress of his latest short film, "The HooDoo of Sweet Mama Rosa" at