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Gut-Shots: Dollar Sign on the Baby by Paul Greenberg


Oh, baby! Some shoppers lack impulse control.

Dollar Sign on the Baby by Paul Greenberg

Excuse me, Mother Superior,” said Lolly as she elbowed her way past the Nun. “No need to push," said the Nun to Lolly, who elbowed her shopping cart through the mass of humanity flooding the parking lot of the Market Basket Grocery Store.

Lolly, at 5’3” barely fit behind the wheel of her 2009 Toyota Corolla. Once a petite 120 pounds, shed managed to put on an extra hundred over the last few years, thanks to a diet of Mountain Dew, Pop Tarts and vodka.

Her trip to the grocery store yielded a trunk load of crap food and cigarettes for her boyfriend, Jimmy LeBlanc, but also something shepicked up while pushing through the parking lot. A two-year-old boy.



Lolly had decided to call him Henry, after her father, despite the fact that Dad had tossed her and Jimmy out on their asses back in Plantation, Florida.

Lolly didn’t know why sheplucked the kid from the woman’s carriage. The conditions seemed right, so she did. An impulse purchase you might say. Something in her subconscious was screaming, “dollar signs.”

When she pulled into the driveway of the trailer park, Lolly could hear Jimmy in the middle of a coughing jag. He was already asking for his carton of Camels, as she was walking through the door.

I got your cigarettes and your cheese curls and all the other shit you eat," she said, popping open a can of Mountain Dew.

Look what else I got you, Daddy.” She sang playfully as she walked into the TV room. Lolly held the boy in front of her swinging him gently back and forth, his legs dangling, dirty diaper sagging from his tiny pants.

What the fuck did you do now, you stupid cow?”

Jimmy, this is Henry, but you can call him Money. Do you know how much his parents will pay to get him back?”

No, I don’t know. Did you ask them my sweet cookie jar?”

No.”

Do you know who the parents are my lovely potato chip?”

No.”

Then how the fuck are you going to get any money out of them ya ignoramus?”

Cause Henry is going to give us their phone number. Isn’t that right, cutie?”

He’s a fucking baby you stupid clam plate. All he knows is; I got to eat, shit and piss. Now find Sesame Street on the fucking tube and put him down, so we can figure this thing out.”

Jimmy paced the room wondering why he didn’t haul back and smack her all the while congratulating himself for not doing so.

Where’s the food?”

In the bags, dumb ass.”

Jimmy rummaged through the three plastic bags looking for anything resembling red meat. “We could eat em, I suppose. By now the cops ….” He smacked his hand to his forehead and flicked on the radio, near the kitchen sink.

An Amber alert has been issued for Simon…”

Simon. Who names their kid, Simon?” Lolly said.

Who names their kid, Lolly? Now, will you shut the fuck up,” said Jimmy.

Simon Chalmers is one and a half years old, has brown hair, brown eyes and was wearing a Tom Brady T-shirt, blue pants and white sneakers. He’s the son of Mary and Anthony Chalmers. If you have any information or were at the Market Basket in Middletown this afternoon around 2:00 pm, please call…”

Jimmy looked at the boy. “That’s him all right.”

Simon Chalmers. Sounds rich,” said Lolly.

Jimmy knew that he was in a world of shit that he never asked to be in, and his choices were few. He had to move fast. Come up with a story. Get the kid to safety and put a thousand miles between him and Lolly. His window of escape was closing fast.

Honey, here’s twenty bucks. Go down to the CVS and get the kid some diapers, milk and baby food. A kid shouldn’t be eating Doritos and swilling the Dew. OK?”

Sure Jimmy. I knew you would figure it out. You want me to take the baby, with?”

No, no, no. Let the boy sleep, I’ll be fine.”

While Lolly made her way to the CVS, Jimmy made his way to his closet where his 7MM Remington long-range hunting rifle was stored. He loaded the gun and stuck it behind a trash barrel in front of the trailer.

Jimmy LeBlanc spent the time he had alone revisiting the past seven years of his life. Leaving Florida, stealing cars, the booze, the coke and the meth. Pan handling and petty theft, odd jobs and now the God forsaken New England winters. This life if for shit. Now kidnapping? And for what? A once nice looking broad that turned into a cow overnight? A whining, never happy with anything I could possibly do, including trying to go straight?

This, he decided, has got to end.

When Lolly pulled back into the park, Jimmy was pacing out front, chain-smoking Camels, coughing and spitting up phlegm.



He hurried Lolly out of the car, suggesting that she “get in there and change that kid’s diaper and feed him and shut him the fuck up so no one hears him crying.”

As Lolly entered the trailer, Jimmy opened the trunk of the car and wrapped the rifle in a blanket. He closed the trunk and hurried into the trailer before Lolly poked her head out to see what he was up to.

***

Lolly, I spoke to my friend Dan Comeau, you know the guy I did construction with for awhile? He said that he’ll get us ten grand for the kid, but we would have to get it to him tonight, cause the heat is really on and he’s got to flip the kid to someone who wants to adopt and so on.”

Ten grand, that’s awesome,” she said.

So, tonight at nine we gotta drop the kid off behind the church on Lowell Street. At 9:15 Danny will come by, leave our money in a bag and take the kid. Sounds easy enough, huh?”

When 8:30 came around, Simon Chalmers was wrapped in a blanket and sleeping in a big blue plastic recycling bucket. Lolly got in the back seat with him and Jimmy drove down to the Saint and Angels Church. He parked at the back of the church parking lot by the Donate Books bin, about 50 yards from the church.

You go up there by the exit door and lay the bucket down. Then we take a little drive. Danny will pick up the kid and drop the cash by the door. Then we come back and pick up the money. OK?”

You think Simon will be safe?”

He’ll be fine. Now go. We have a schedule to keep.”

As Lolly waddled the length of the parking lot, Jimmy slipped out of the car, popped the trunk and grabbed the rifle.

He looked through the scope as Lolly walked up the stairs to the door. She was moving the bucket around like a shaker of salt over corn on the cob.

Lolly kneeled down to gently place the bucket on the top step. She adjusted the blanket around the boy and as soon as she straightened herself up, Pop, Pop, Pop. Jimmy got off three shots in a group, around her heart.

God damn, that’s some good shooting.”

He got in the Toyota tossed the gun on the passenger seat and Pop. The Remington went off sending a round right through Jimmy’s neck. He fell forward on the horn.

The blaring of the horn alerted a Nun, who was working in the church. She came out the back door to find a dead Lolly and a sound asleep Simon Chalmers. “I’ll be freaking damned.” She said. “It’s that pushy girl from the grocery store.” Sister Winnie Patrikas pulled out her cell phone and called the police.

She was about to become famous.


Paul Greenberg is the author of the short story collection, "Dead Guy in the Bathtub”—available from All Due Respect Books as well as on Amazon.

"Dollar Sign on the Baby" first appeared at Story and Grit.

Bad-Ass Books with Derrick Horodyski: THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY by Joe Clifford


Taking a sharp detour from his Jay Porter series, Joe Clifford’s stand-alone novel, THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY, follows the dark journey of Alex Salerno—a woman snatched by a serial killer—in her upstate rural hometown of Reine, NY. Unlike his earlier victims, horrified Alex escapes his brutal clutches: her bastard abductor is thankfully caught and sentenced to life in prison.

Hoping to escape the trauma, Alex moves to New York City. Despite the change in scenery and the miles she’s left behind, a trail of tortured memories and damaged emotions linger. And Alex finds herself behaving in unhealthy destructive ways.

But to the surprise of many, while years have lapsed and Alex’s abductor remains in prison, a similar crime occurs in Reine of all places. A hometown journalist contacts Alex: perhaps her sinister experience can help him find some answers to this disturbing crime? Besieged and overwhelmed, Alex finds herself again in the troublesome town that spawned her living nightmares—

Clifford’s characters felt real to me. This novel kept me thinking long after I closed the book.

Highly Recommended.

Like many who live in The Gutter, badass Crime-lover Derrick Horodyski lives his Life on-the-lam tryin’ to avoid the Man. Derrick took ta doin' book reviews for Flash Fiction Offensive in the summer of 2015, when he hooked up with hey-day Miscreant editor Tom Pitts. Derrick ain't a professional writer. And don't get paid neither. If he buys a book and he don't like it then he don't say shit. But if he digs a book? He kindly wants the author and the rest of us crime-lovin' hooligans to know! The best ways to reach Derrick are by smoke signals or carrier pigeons.


The Brit-Grit Addiction: Mr. Messy Business Jason Beech Duels with Paul D. Brazill



Born in legendary England, but having sojourned in Poland for some time, Brit-Grit author Paul D. Brazill typically pens what he calls “screwball noir.” His writing has been translated into Italian, Finnish, Polish, German and Slovene. His work has also been published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime.

Back in the day, Mr. Brazill graciously provided content for Out of the Gutter Online’s Brit Grit Alley—bringing diehard readers news about British crime fiction’s notorious booze and blood-soaked alleyways.

Mr. Messy Business Jason Beech—himself both born and forged in Sheffield, England (before audaciously making the move to Yank-filled-New Jersey-USA to teach a game that he calls “football—but which parts of the world call SOCCER) decided to corral Mr. Brazill for a little tête-à-tête.

We hoped to bring you video footage … but the content proved way too graphic. So we’re sharing this heavily-edited transcript instead. Of course we had to kill the stenographer afterwards …. But that’s Life in The Gutter, eh.

Brit-Grit Crime Author Paul D. Brazill
Hi Paul. I’ve just finished Close to the Bone’s excellent short story anthology, A Time for Violenceedited by edgy U.S. crime writers Andy Rausch and Chris Roy. What attracted you to the anthology?

PDB: Really, just because the editors kindly asked me. I also wanted to write another story featuring Tommy Bennett from my book Last Year's Man and thought it might work to put him in a story with very little violence. The story title—"Baby's Got A Gun"—is from an old Only Ones LP.


The notorious Tommy Bennett: an ageing long-time violent hitman whose life has run amok. What drew you back to Tommy?

PDB: Tommy is getting on a bit. He’s at the age where he’s starting to lose control of things—his body, his business. He returns to his home town after a long time living in London in the hope that he can perhaps reboot his life. I just thought there were more possibilities with him. He had the potential to go in a new direction so I thought I'd give it a try.

Your stories are often laced with melancholy and regret on top of the sly humour. Am I right, and if so what pulls you towards stories of regret?

PDB: For sure. It's probably because I'm a man of an uncertain age. There's more “missed opportunities” sand in the bottom of my ever-filling hourglass than “dreams fulfilled” sand. Or maybe it's because I'm a northerner …. Anyway, it's a bittersweet symphony this life lark, as The Strolling Bones once sang.

What’s a northern reaction to a wrong turn of events—a shake of the head, a ceiling-directed eyebrow, a roll of the eyes—perhaps a shrug of the shoulders that this is life and you just have to get on with it? Would a southerner be more likely to try and control events?

PDB: The northerner wouldn't be at all surprised by things going tits up, because everything does, eventually, eh? They'll doff their flat cap, light a roll up and head off down the betting shop.

A southerner will put on their pearly queen costume, have a cup of Rosie Lee, pop down to the rub a dub and sing knees up mother brown with Ronnie and Reggie Kray. Especially around Kensington. Would you Adam and Eve it?

As a Sheffield Northerner, I definitely believe it—or “Adam and Eve it,” as our kinfolk back in England are known to colourfully say. A Time for Violence is packed with corkers, such as Richard Chizmar’s captivating "Blood Brothers" and Wrath James White’s thought-provoking and brutal take on race within the black community. Apart from your own, which is your favourite story?



PDB: Joe Lansdale is always great! I started reading him in the 90s with the Hap and Leonard books—which were recently turned into a television series, of course. They were completely addictive. Even in a short story, Joe writes great characters and mixes humour with the dark stuff to come up with a tasty brew. He’s been a successful writer for years now and never lets you down.

Speaking of great, how did the fabulous Punk Noir Magazine that you launched last year come about? This bad boy’s eclectic let alone electric: writers are talking everything from music, movies, books and film—to sharing their poetry and fiction.

PDB: It was a couple of things. First off, author and editor Jason Michel decided to put Pulp Metal Magazine on ice. PMM was fantastically eclectic and not all cliquey like a lot of writing blogs. Also, I lost interest in my own blog, and I was ready to ditch but I knew that there were a lot of great guest bloggers on there. So, I needed somewhere to put them. I set up PNM and thought about contacting a diverse group of individuals to contribute. And it's rocking and rolling along!

What’s the main thing you’re looking for from all the punks who contribute?

PDB: Enthusiasms! People that are interested in what they are writing about.

Has running the site given you ideas for future projects? If so, what are they?

PDB: Oh, god no! I'm just working on a couple of books and keeping Punk Noir Magazine alive and kicking!

So what are those books called? What are they all about?

PDB: Close To The Bone will publish Gumshoe Blues at the end of August, although the eBook is currently available for pre-order. It's a novelette and a few Seatown-set short stories starring the hapless and hopeless private eye Peter Ord. 

Following the breakdown of his marriage, in a booze-addled flash of inspiration, Peter Ord decides to become a private investigator. Dark farce and tragicomedy soon ensue. Peter must tackle many challenging cases, and when he comes under the radar of a local crime lord, he may have bitten off more than he can chew. With sidekicks, like boozy hack, Bryn Laden, failure is not an option—it’s compulsory. 

I've also finished a follow up to my 2015 seaside noir caper Kill Me Quick . It’s called Punk Fiction and features more music-biz has-beens and never-beens getting out of their depth. 

Love the music in your books, Paul. What’s your favourite novel of the year by somebody else?

PDB: Plenty of good ones but I'll go for David Nolan's Black Moss and Ted Lewis' GBH, which I read for the first time this year. 

Paul, you’ve been great. Any final words? 

PDB: The boy stood on the burning deck/ A pocket full of crackers/ He gave a cough/A spark went off/ And blew off both his … aye, that's yer lot. Cheers! 

Cracking. Cheers, Paul. 

Jason Beech lives in New Jersey, but it’s Sheffield, England, which forged him. He writes crime fiction, sometimes horror and supernatural, and loves a bit of Ellroy, Leonard, Banks, Sansom, Brazill, Nixon, Pluck, Hinkson, and other good stuff. You can find his work at Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and other digital retailers. And you can visit him on Facebook (where he manages Messy Business), as well as on his blog.



A Conversational Robbery by Jason Beech


CLICK TO SUBMIT
When you live life in The Gutter, then a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

A Conversational Robbery by Jason Beech

I felt bad for Mr. Patel that I'd chosen to rob him. He'd always been nice to me, always asked how my day had gone, and never failed to smile at the lies I offered at how my hours had drifted by. I checked my shoulder and pulled the balaclava over my face. Barged open the door. The bell rang dull, as if its little hammer had become meek at the sight of my gun. I charged into the shop and froze at the sight of some other fella behind the counter. A young man, with slicked-back hair that wouldn't move in a tornado, read the newspaper he had sprawled over the surface. An aviary fluttered in my stomach. I'd wanted the familiar in my robbery. I don't know why—maybe if they discovered my identity they'd forgive me.
I raised the gun at the man because I couldn't calculate quick enough to turn and get out of there. He wet a finger in readiness to turn the next page and made a casual glance up. His eyes danced in amusement at first, but soon turned all Japanese cartoon-eyed as his focus hit the gun aimed at his bonce.
Tim, what the fuck are you doing?”
Wha …? What?”
Put the gun down, you tit, what are you thinking?”
How? I mean … Empty the fucking till.”
No. I'm not emptying the till.”
Of course, Mr. Patel’s son, Nik. We talked football just the other day. He said English football is about to crash and the big money would soon leave to new pastures, leaving English football barely a step above Scotland’s variety. So what did he know? My tunnel vision for his dad blinded me to him.
Someone shuffled behind the crisp section. 

My nerves made me slam a shot in that direction and puff went a few bags of salt and vinegar. A woman screamed.
Please don't kill me. Please … I have a son. He's an arse, but he's all I've got. I'm all he's got. Oh please don't kill me.”
Whoa, whoa, Tim, you calm down.” Nik had his hands in surrender mode.
My name’s not Tim.”
Okay, Tim, okay, it's not. Just put the gun down and we'll say none of this happened. Alright, love?”
The woman’s voice wobbled across the air. “Yes, love. I won't say a thing. I promise.”
Just give me the money, Nik, and I'll get out of here.”
See, we know each other. We have a rapport. If you put the gun down, we can talk about a loan. How much do you need?”
I'm not borrowing anything, Nik, not a penny. I'm taking it. All of it.”
But, what's dad gonna say? He'll be proper pissed off. He works his arse off for all this—he won't take kindly to giving it all away to a man whose day’s work involved only the wave of a gun. Goes against his principles.”
Tell him you lost it.”
The woman risked my attention. “Just give him the bloody money, Nik, and claim the insurance.”
Nik could have been the front man of a boy band with that smile and tone. He made me want to drop the gun and discuss loan terms over a cuppa tea. But I'm skint and my old job is never coming back. And my kid wants a birthday present. I mean, he's not demanded it, or even mentioned it. In fact he's been dead good about not asking for stuff since those bastards laid me off. But he's a kid, so I know he definitely wants a prezzie. The pressure of that want … kills me.
Look at this.” Nik holds up the free paper. Page five. “Thief in garage robbery gets ten years. Imagine that, Tim.”
I'm not Tim. Tim’s probably at work or something.”
Nik gets all forensic, scalpels my eyes for examination. I glance away, dead embarrassed. “Of course you're Tim. You have that little brown flaw in your pupil. I thought you had a tumour, but it felt wrong to bring it up. I mean, it's none of my business, is it?”
No, it bloody well isn't.” I rubbed at my eye, self-conscious. I waved the gun again to make him shift his eyes from me. “Come on, how much have you got in the till?”
Not enough to buy your lad a present.”
Oh, for God’s sake, what is this?”
The truth, Tim, nothing but—”
What’s happening here?” I spun at the strong Indian accent. Mr Patel’s stern eye might have knocked me out, given time, but the woman behind the crisp shelf did him a favour with one fine throw of a can of beans I saw only at the point of contact with my temple.
My son would have to go without, this year.
Jason Beech lives in New Jersey, but it’s Sheffield, England, which forged him. He writes crime fiction, sometimes horror and supernatural, and loves a bit of Ellroy, Leonard, Banks, Sansom, Brazill, Nixon, Pluck, Hinkson, and other good stuff. You can find his work at Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and other digital retailers. And you can visit him on Facebook (where he manages Messy Business), as well as on his blog.

"A Conversational Robbery" first appeared in the collection BULLETS, TEETH, AND FISTS 2.







Not Beau's Book Nook: Quick Takes on CROSSWISE by S.W. Lauden

Well, mysterious happenings continue. Canadian crime author Beau Johnson stopped by The Gutter again last night. This time he dropped off a toaster, a chain saw, and an electric tooth brush. An electric tooth brush? Not sure what he plans to do with that. But we sure as hell wouldn't brush our teeth with the fucker ... no telling whose nostrils those bristles have cleaned if Bishop Rider was involved.

Mr. Johnson also gifted us another video, wrapped in a crossword puzzle. Only one answer to the crossword had been filled in red pencil: LAUDEN. The crossword clue? Los Angeles crime author known as both S.W. and "Steve" who's penned the crime capers CROSSWISE and CROSSED BONES, as well as the Greg Salem punk rock Private Investigator series, and the Power Pop Heist THAT'LL BE THE DAY. Alongside crime author Eric Beetner, S.W. also co-hosts the podcast Writer Types.

So welcome back to another edition of Not Beau's Book Nook. Maybe next time Mr. Johnson will gift us a Popcorn Maker.







Beau Johnson’s Goodreads Review
RATING: FOUR STARS

Crosswise by S.W. Lauden is a fun time. A breezy tale. This is not to say Tommy Ruzzo's adventure is a story without stakes. No, Lauden is just so damn readable, and I enjoyed the way Steve pulled me along. I mean, two sittings and boom, I was done. I look forward to the next in the series. Highly recommend.
Beau Johnson's stories are usually published on the darker side of town. He is the author of A Better Kind Of HateThe Big Machine Eats, and in the spring of 2020, All Of Them To Burn. Hit him up on Twitter @beaujohnson44 where he'll be sure to bore you with a combination of book selfies and "previously, on Beau." You can also visit him on Goodreads.








Submissions Call for FFO's 12 Daze of Christmas: And a taste of Christmas Past by Spelk Fiction's Cal Marcius


We're pleased to announce our Submissions Call for Flash Fiction Offensive's 2019 12 Daze of Christmas stories. As a Christmas present to writers, we’re willing to publish up to 12 flash fiction stories in December 2019. Some stories published during December may be Christmas stories, while others might be our standard flash fiction fare (but 12 stories MAX in any combination).

So what are we anxiously hoping for on The Daze of Christmas front? Ideally, Bad Santas doing bad shit. Or stories where bad shit happens to unsuspecting Santa. For certain we want CREATIVE stories with a traditional beginning, a middle and an end—tales with strong identifiable conflict: someone's gonna WIN and someone's gonna LOSE. 

If writin' about St. Nick ain't your kinda fun, then stories involving a captivating crimeor traditional FFO humorbound round a Christmas theme could likely spike our Eggnog!

Tales can also be SERIOUS with strong Literary elements. A good example? Bill Baber's Christmas story, "Pancakes"—which appeared at Close To The Bone in 2016. You can find Bill's story by clicking or tapping Here.

The submissions deadline for both our 12 Daze of Christmas 2019 and our traditional Flash Fiction Offensive stories is Monday, November 4, 2019Unlike the fine and competent folks at Shotgun Honey we will NOT be reading any submissions during the month of December. 

To honor the Ghost of Christmas Past, and give y'all a taste of what we're looking for that doesn't involve Santa, we're pleased to share below a sharp-edged tale by England's Cal Marcius—which appeared here at The Gutter back in 2016, when miscreant Editors Tom Pitts and Hector Duarte Jr. were runnin' this joint. 

Writers can find our magic submissions portal for 12 Daze of Christmas, October's Gutteral Screams and our regular Flash Fiction Offensive Submission Guidelines at the Submittable Link below. ONLY stories with Christmas Themes should be sent using our 12 Daze of Christmas Form. We wish everyone who submits a sleigh-full of Luck!

https://outofthegutteronline.submittable.com/submit

Meanwhile, here's wily Cal's cutting-edge story.

Small Measures by Cal Marcius

I tell him it isn’t up to me, but the kid’s dumb as shit. There’s nothing but wide open space between those perfectly formed ears. I can’t remember when exactly he first appeared. He was Frank’s nephew, so we accepted him without much question. Then a few weeks ago Frank got himself killed, stabbed in the throat, and we were left with this dimwit of a kid.

He calls himself Brad, even though his name’s Martin. We call him Dopey. He says he looks like Bradley Cooper, and he sort of does.  It’s the eyes, that vacant look he has about him. You can tell he isn’t the full pack.

“I think I’ll take her to Lapland,” he says. “See Santa, you know. Travel in a sleigh, all that shit.”



“You even know where Lapland is?”

“Somewhere in the North Pole, right?”

“And where’d that be?”

“Fuck off. I’m not in school anymore.”

“You’re gonna get your dick nailed to the wall,” I say. “You go through the right channels or stop talking about it.”

“What’s wrong with Lapland?”

“Fuck’s sake. Nothing’s fucking wrong with Lapland, but you’re part of this family now and you talk to the boss.”

I already know which way this will go. Even if he does listen and goes to ask the boss, one way or another, his dick will end up in the mincer. You don’t shit where you eat.

A week or so later, John, the boss, calls me into the office and tells me some money’s gone missing. I’m not talking a tenner. This is about ten grand. It’s no coincidence the kid’s on holiday and the boss’s youngest has gone to Norway, Finland, or Lapland. It doesn’t take a genius to put the two together.

“Any thoughts?” John says.

The boss and me go all the way back to primary school. We grew up in the same neighbourhood, and even then he had a knack for making money, selling stolen sweets at inflated prices on the playground.

“Leave it to me,” I say.

I don’t tell him about the kid. I want to give the dope a chance, let him come clean when he returns. Maybe I can work something out. Get him to pay back the money in installments. I know what it’s like to be in love, or at least I did know. Girls don’t stick around with guys like us. Not many do anyway. We can’t all be as lucky as John.

Me, I haven’t seen Lisa in years. She took our son and moved as far away from me as possible. Last I heard, she was living with another guy in Scotland, one of the islands in the middle of fucking nowhere, running a couple of holiday cottages. Living the good life. I can’t blame her. I wouldn’t want the boy following in my footsteps either.

I’ve got one foot out the door and it all goes tits up when Jess, the boss’s oldest, comes storming into her dad’s office. Her tear-streaked face is smeared with mascara. Her eyes are red from crying.

“What’s the matter, pumpkins?” John says.



“He’s a fucking liar, dad. He said he loved me and now he’s in Lapland with Mel. Lapland was my idea. He knew how much I wanted to go there.”

“Who is?”

“Brad.”

“Brad who?”

Brad ... Martin. You know. The guy who works for you.”

The boss looks at me like I’ve just pulled down my pants and shat on his desk. “You know about this?”

I shake my head. It’s not a lie. I didn’t know he was playing the two of them.

“Get that little cunt and cut his fucking dick off,” John says. 

Jess lets out a squeak. “You can’t hurt him, dad.”

“He’s playing you,” John says. “There’s plenty other guys out there. Nice guys. Find one of them.”

“But I love him.”

“He’s an idiot.”

“You don’t know him.”

The boss looks at me. “Will you tell her?” he says.

“Your dad’s right,” I say. “You deserve better, Jess. He’s a joke. A good-looking joke, but that’s all.”

I turn to John. He nods at me.

“If he does that to you he doesn’t love you, pumpkins. Looks isn’t everything. Now let me get back to work. Okay?”

Jess nods.

As soon as she’s gone, the boss looks at me and says, “I want his dick on a platter.”

***

It’s on the local news the morning after—traumatized man found without penis.

Took four of us to hold him down, only one to slice it off. I told him he should be grateful he’s just losing his dick. If he’s lucky, some plastic surgeon can make him a new one. 

I take it to the boss on one of those throw-away aluminium plates.

“Merry Christmas,” I say.

He looks at it.

“Is that it?”

He pushes it around with the end of his pen.

“In all its glory,” I say.

“Kinda pathetic on its own,” he says and starts to laugh.

Cal Marcius is a freelance writer who lives in the frozen wastes of northern England (though it's not as bad as Lapland 3,000 miles north). He has been published online and in print. You can find Cal on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or hunkered in the offices of Spelk Fiction Magazine.