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