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Her Name was Flora

The memory of a loved one is something personal.

But in the Gutter, revenge gets personal too.

Her Name was Flora by Matt Phillips



I’ll tell you that I had never fired a gun. Some things, though, a girl has got to do when the time comes—that’s life. Like a first kiss. Like giving birth.

All that transition to adulthood crap.

Well, I bought a used .38 at a little gun store in Jerome, Arizona. It was a legal purchase, but I didn’t plan on using the thing. I wanted it as a kind of insurance, or a threat. I’m 39-years-old, five feet and two inches tall (by a hair), and I weigh 103 pounds with my winter coat on. My occupation is—was—emergency room nurse. Trauma nurse, they call it. I’ve seen gunshot wounds, stab wounds, lots of other shit, too—things I don’t want to mention.

Two weeks before I bought the .38, the cops found my little sister face down in a vacant lot between a furniture warehouse and one of those places where you buy used refrigerators.
This was in a suburb outside Phoenix.

She was dead, my sister. Her name was Flora.

The cops told me it was a small caliber gunshot to the temple that did it. Her body was dumped in that vacant lot. It was not the scene of the crime.

The man who killed my little sister—I’m quite sure of this—was called Viggo. He owned a towing business out of Gila and didn’t know how to treat women. He was a shade under six feet and seemed to hate the world for it. You saw him at trashy dive bars in Phoenix on the weekends, and he was a regular at a biker bar called Rico’s, where my sister served cocktails.

On Independence Day, last year this was, I met my sister at Rico’s for a drink. Viggo came in at midnight and asked for the key to her apartment. This fucker did not say two words to me.

After he left, I asked my sister if they were an item, if they were together.

He’s just a friend with benefits,” she said. We hardly know each other.”

I asked about the faded bruise under her left eye, a patch of skin gone slightly yellow, not visible without the warm glow of neon in our corner booth.

Kickboxing class,” she said.

I guess there aren’t many things they teach you in kickboxing class to help you dodge a bullet. Least not when the gun is planted against your temple, at point-blank range. The cops told me that part of it too, after I showed up in the detective’s office and let him know I could take it. I could take all of it.

Like I said, I had never fired a gun.

But I bought myself the .38—I kept it in my purse.


***

If shot from the right distance, and in the right place, a man can survive a gunshot wound for quite a while. I know this because of my occupation.

One Saturday night, about six months after we put Flora in the ground, I happened to see Viggo watching a shitty metal band at a bar on the outskirts of Phoenix. This was the kind of place where you think twice or three times before you sit down to pee.

Viggo didn’t remember me from Eve. Why would he?

I was just another girl with eye shadow and a short skirt.

He practically begged me to take him home.

I obliged. But we never did make it to my place.

I’ll tell you that I had never heard a man scream like a woman, not even in the emergency room, but that’s what happened when I shot Viggo. I drove us about twenty miles outside Phoenix, took I-10 toward California, and pulled off where I knew it was all just factories and warehouses. He asked where the fuck my apartment was and kind of grunted at me.

Let me show you,” I said. I think you’ll like this.”

We got out of my car and I came around the front and pulled the .38 from my purse. Viggo had this surprised look on his face; he asked what the hell I meant to do.

Maim you for life,” I said.

That was my first time firing a gun. Kind of an odd thing, I guess. I ditched the .38 after that—dropped it in the Colorado River on my way to Mexico.

Viggo could have made it, maybe, but I fixed it so he’ll never fuck anybody else again. Like I said, the cops found my little sister face down in a vacant lot in a suburb outside Phoenix.

She was dead, my sister.
Her name was Flora.


Matt Phillips is a writer living in San Diego. His noir novella, REDBONE, is available from Number Thirteen Press .