Latest Flash

Sunny California

Sometimes we need a vacation to get away from it all.

Unfortunately in the Gutter, not only do you have to take you with you, but the flights are usually a one way trip to Hell. Oh, and you get saddled with the middle seat, too.

Sunny California by Joseph H. Stryker



On the television: cops with hip haircuts and clever comebacks solved crime. On my phone: empty emails and tempting texts tried to sell me shit I didn’t need. Outside: the rain kept pouring.

This was my vacation. I planned for this. A relaxing week in Laguna Beach. I made reservations in advance. Always wanted to see Southern California and the Pacific Ocean.

I needed a break from work. Needed a break from having to see that fuckhead paralegal who married my ex-wife. So I took it, wasn’t gonna let a few weather reports ruin my trip.

The storm started before I landed at LAX and never let up. Fucker followed me down the coast. Felt like God was pissing on me. The locals, on the other hand, loved it. Said the drought was real bad and every drop helped. Maybe it was true, I didn’t care.

I was going stir crazy. Had to get out and clear my head. Damn God, and damn the weather.

I grabbed my belt and left. The hallway’s walls outside my room were lined with watercolor paintings of Laguna when it was sunny. Stepping out of the hotel I took a deep breath. The air smelt of saltwater and sewage.

The view probably would have been nice if it wasn’t for the fog and the clouds, which kept me from seeing further than my own dick. From pictures I saw online, Laguna was a beautiful beach town surrounded by sharp cliffs and rolling hills.

The place I was staying at, unoriginally called La Posada, sat beneath some rather ominous looking mansions clinging to the hill above. I don’t know what idiot first thought building a house on the edge of an eroding canyon wall was a good idea, but plenty of pricks copied him. 

After trying to figure out which road would take me to the beach, I located a wooden staircase with specs of sand atop it. Halfway down them my sneakers were soaked. I endured the slish-slosh of my steps until I reached the bottom, where I took off my shoes and socks. The sand beneath my feet was muddy and foul.

Beyond the fog you could hear waves crashing. My whole body was wet at that point. I pulled off my shirt and immediately regretted the decision.

A couple feet away, under the cliffs, I found a comfortable rock to sit on. Fortunately it was shielded from the rain. As I waited for the clouds to break, I saw a real weird looking fucker.

Pale as an Irishman’s ass with nasty brown dreadlocks and the body of a holocaust survivor. The only thing he was wearing were green swim trunks with a yellow alligator design on them. I glared at him. He just smiled and waved, then walked past me.

Finally, God was done pissing.

I grabbed my wet clothes and headed back up the stairs. Halfway up I noticed a sign advertising beach showers. Didn’t wanna trudge a bunch of sand with me back to my room.

They were four posts with some pipes and showerheads built into the wood. Leaning against them was that weird fucker. “Taking a shower?” he asked with a smirk, his teeth brown, yellow, and every shade of ugly.

“Yeah. Mind stepping out of the way?”

“I’m not in your way, dude.”

“You are. Step out of the way, dude.”

“Dude?” He gave a fake laugh and started scratching his neck. “You making fun of me?

“If I was making fun of you I wouldn’t be subtle about it.”

“So you think you’re better than me. That it? Middle-aged man thinks he’s hot shit. Thinks he’s cooler than Elliot the Alligator.”

I gave a real laugh. “Okay, you’ve clearly got problems.” I turned my back on him and went towards the hotel. Then I felt a fist hit the right side of my ribs. I winced, spun around, and grabbed Elliot by his dreads.

He waved his arms around trying to get at me.

I flung him into the wooden post that held the showers.

His spine hit it and he made a hissing noise. Then he charged, head first, for my stomach, and knocked the wind out of me. We toppled to the ground and his fists found my eye sockets. My vision went blurry and I was running the risk of passing out. He wasn’t letting up. My knee shot up and found his crotch. The fists stopped and he fell off me.

I got up and tried to gather my bearings. Behind me, I could hear he was doing the same thing. I could barely see, could hardly breathe, and I didn’t know how far this asshole was willing to go. The only thing running through my mind was my daughter growing up without a father.  I decided to end this. I pulled off my belt and walked behind Elliot.

My vision coming back, I could see he was cupping his balls in one hand and using the other to prop himself up. His last words were a mumbled curse.

I slung the belt around his neck and tightened it. His hands moved up. Too late. I pulled until he stopped moving. His final act of defiance was pissing on me. Maybe he wasn’t in control of that.

Then the rains returned, this time with thunder. I panicked. Ended up dragging his body down beneath the cliffs I had used for shelter.

Back in my room I wondered what was next. Did I have any chance of making the next five days without being caught? The second the rains stopped someone would find the body. There’d be something linking me to it, don’t know what, but there’d be something.

I was sure I’d be caught. At least that was until I heard about the landslides. It was a big story on the news. “Millionaire’s mansion comes crashing down, more at eleven.” I heard that line on my way out of the Salt Lake City International Airport.

People were talking about that house so much no one had time to worry about some cliffs by the beach. There were hills coming down all around town. What’s one more in the grand scheme of things?


Joseph H. Stryker is a writer of lowbrow fiction, usually of the crime genre. resides in Lake Elsinore, California on the other side of the Santa Ana Mountains. His stories can be found on Near To The Knuckle, Shotgun Honey, Yellow Mama, Commuterlit, Spelk, and Out Of The Gutter Online.