HOME ALONE BY PAUL D. BRAZILL

Christmas, Films, Humour, New York, Non-fiction, Paul D. Brazill, Punk Noir Magazine

home aloneA guilty pleasure is an oxymoron, of course, since no true pleasure should make you feel guilty, but we all have enough skeletons in our closet to make a palaeontologist envious. And I’m rattling mine now.

Make no bones about it – bones/skeletons, see what I did then?- the first two Home Alone films are misanthropic, dark and violent pieces of work, indeed. These are stories about child abuse, after all. Tales of smarmy yuppie parents who are so wrapped up in their own petty little troubles that their kids are pretty much invisible to them. Well one kid in particular is: Kevin. He’s so invisible, in fact, that they go on holiday and leave him behind to fend for himself. Twice! Even in New York’s low life infested Times Square!

And the poor kid really has to fight to survive on his own, too; in both films he’s attacked by two ruthless criminals. Many times. But he fights back by creating an array of sadistic weapons worthy of the Saw films and he tortures and torments them with glee.

In Home Alone one and two, Macaulay Culkin plays the neglected Kevin with a maniacal glee worthy of  Heath Ledger’s Joker and, in fact, all of the cast are top turns, apart from the bloke in the second film who plays a rich playboy called Donald Trump and is too far fetched to be believed.

PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A CONSUMER CHRISTMAS SPECIAL: K A LAITY

Art, Christmas, Films, K A Laity, Music, Portait Of The Artist As A Consumer, Punk Noir Magazine, Televison., Travel
K A LAITY
MUSIC
A John Waters Xmas
Los Straightjackets Complete Xmas Songbook
Squirrel Nut Zippers Xmas Caravan
Rockin’ Little Xmas (a GREAT compilation)
To Drive the Winter Cold Away – Loreena McKennit
Dean Martin Xmas Album
Ding Dong – George Harrison
Father Christmas – The Kinks
December Will Be Magic Again – Kate Bush
And of course: No Xmas for John Quays & Protein Christmas – The Fall
+ a bunch of Scandinavian Xmas CDs that I don’t have in front of me now but mostly from Northside
BOOKS 
Austen
Pym
Wodehouse
Trollope
Gaskell
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
FILMS
Bell, Book & Candle
Fanny & Alexander
Long Kiss Goodnight
Die Hard
In Bruges
The Man Who Came to Dinner
The Ref
The Thin Man
A Xmas Carol (Sim version)
Rare Exports
Scrooged
Shop Around the Corner
The Bishop’s Wife
Old Acquaintance (which is really New Years but so what)
TELEVISION
The Grinch Who Stole Xmas
Royle Family Xmas Specials (especially the year with Tom Courtenay)
Morecambe & Wise
Not Only But Also Xmas Special
A Wish for Wings that Work
Hogfather
A Christmassy Ted
League of Gentlemen Xmas Special
Mark E. Smith reading The Colour Out of Space on BBC
PLACES
Scotland
OTHER STUFF
Chocolate chocolate chocolate
Single malt
Brussel sprouts roasted with lots of garlic and olive oil
Handmade Xmas ornaments especially by kids
Singing
Cheesecake (but only mine)
Cookies baking
A roaring fire with yule log
Jingling bells
Dark
QUIET
K. A. Laity is an award-winning author, scholar, critic and arcane artist. Her books include How to Be Dull, White RabbitDream BookA Cut-Throat BusinessLush Situation, Owl Stretching, Unquiet Dreams, Chastity Flameand Pelzmantel. She has edited My Wandering Uterus, Respectable Horror, Weird Noir, Noir Carnival and Drag Noir, plus written many short stories, scholarly essays, songs, and more. Follow her on TwitterInstagram or Facebook. She also writes as Graham Wynd and Kit Marlowe.

JINGLE BELLS, SHOTGUN SHELLS By Tom Leins

Brit Grit, Christmas, Crime Fiction, Fiction, Punk Noir Magazine, Tom Leins

Jingle Bells Shotgun Shells - Tom Leins - Repetition Kills You - Meat Bubbles (1)

It’s Christmas Eve and I’m standing in the middle of a stash house in Hookhills, bleeding from one ear and trying to work out which one of the hired hands I should shoot first: the skinny guy in the soiled Sexy Santa minidress or the fat fuck in the scuffed-looking ballistics vest.

I raise the liberated Mossberg HS410 Home Security shotgun and point it at no one in particular.

Skinny shuffles towards me, rancid grin etched across his jaundiced face.

“You’re not a fucking killer.”

It’s an ice-cold afternoon, and even though we are indoors, I see my breath hover in front of me.

“Depends which stories you believe, mate…”

***

Three hours earlier.

The Dirty Lemon.

When I enter the pub, Spacey Tracey is sellotaping badly photocopied posters advertising a ‘Christmas Three-Bird Roast’ all over the faded wallpaper.

“I think I’ve seen that film, Trace. Bargain bin at the North Atlantic Video Lounge.”

She tuts and grins nastily. Her smile reminds me of the entrance to a condemned tower block.

Last week, I saw the landlord – Dirty Terry – perched on one of the picnic benches outside with a bin-bag and an air rifle, so one of the birds is definitely a fucking seagull. The guy only learned to cook during his last jolt in Channings Wood, so the patrons are likely to end up with a dose of botulism with their brussels sprouts…

I feel a tap on my shoulder and drop to the ground, groping for the pig-knife in my boot – down among the broken glass, fag butts and greasy pubic clumps.

“You Rey?”

Paignton is the kind of town where you can start an ugly rumour about someone at opening time, and have it relayed back to you at Happy Hour – with your name substituted in.

“Depends who’s asking?”

“Put the blade away, kid. I’ve got unhealed fractures older than you.”

I keep the rubber handle clasped in my fist, and shake my head.

“Would you really stab an unarmed man?”

“In a fucking heartbeat, mate.”

“In front of all these people.”

“If you know who I am, then you know I have done far fucking worse over far fucking less.”

He backs off a step and raises his hands.

“I apologise, Mr Rey … Can I buy you a drink?”

I let go of the knife and struggle to my feet – feeling suddenly nauseous.

He offers me a sweaty hand, helping me up.

“The name’s Bentos. Ray Bentos. Like the pies.”

I’m barely listening – too busy staring at the gold coke spoon he is wearing on a chain, and the fat wallet in his clammy hand. This motherfucker is oilier than a whore’s pores.

“See – good manners cost nothing, Bentos. Mine’s a pint.”

I take another look at his wallet.

“And a fucking shot.”

***

“I’m a self-made man, Rey. My family were so poor when I was a child that at Christmas we exchanged glances.”

He pauses, waiting for a polite chuckle that never comes. I guarantee that my stale festive memories are worse than his.

“It means I really fucking care about money, son.”

I nod.

I’ve earned enough money this year that I could comfortably not accept another job for months. Tough men thrive during tough times, and the worse the world gets, the better my job prospects become.

He gazes at me – unsure how much to say – forehead slick with sweat, left hand trembling slightly as he raises his house double to his rubbery lips.

“Spit it out, mate.”

He laughs nervously.

“… as the priest said to the altar boy.”

I drain my pint and slam the empty glass on the bar-top, to re-focus his attention.

“I have a stash house.”

“Coke?”

He shakes his head vigorously, and the coke spoon bounces around in his greasy chest hair.

“Fentanyl.”

“For fuck’s sake, mate.”

“I’m an entrepreneur, Rey. Market forces and all that.”

I shake my head. That shit is fucking dangerous.

“And Carfentanil.”

“What the fuck is that?”

He smiles sheepishly.

“100 times stronger than Fentanyl. It’s used by vets to sedate elephants.”

“What the fuck do you use it for?”

“We use it to lace smack and flog it on fucking Winner Street. It’s our biggest selling brand. We call it ‘Elephant Gun’.”

“Fuck off, mate. No drugs. Not interested.”

I start to walk away.

“Two grand.”

I grind to a halt on the threadbare carpet.

“What’s the address?”

***

During a routine traffic stop near Tweenaway Cross last week, local cops stopped a piss-yellow Ford Focus when they noticed that the driver wasn’t wearing a seat belt. The cops asked him to step out of the vehicle.

When the wheelman – a 24-stone Winner Street resident called Eloy Browne – clambered out of the hatchback, the cops discovered a football sock under his rolls of stomach fat, containing a handgun, £7,000 in cash and Ziploc bag containing heroin laced with Fentanyl. The fat motherfucker was dressed as Santa Claus, naturally. This year he will be eating his Christmas dinner with a prison spork.

He was Bentos’s trusted lieutenant – a hard bastard, who served in the first Gulf War. He was fat, but he was feared and kept the chefs and dealers in line – shitbags who would spit at Bentos, as soon as look at him. Now the lunatics have taken over the asylum, and Bentos’s retirement fund is stuck inside.

***

Bentos owns the property next door to the stash house – and the one next to that – so getting into the paranoid old fucker’s house isn’t a problem. The neighbour’s house has been stripped of furniture, but there are still a bunch of faded family photographs on the wall, so they evidently left in a hurry. I make my way up the stairs and loiter on the landing – clambering onto the bannister and unlatching the loft hatch.

It’s a stretch, but I manage to haul myself up into the roof-space. Straight away, my left foot slips off the beam, heel smashing through the yellow loft insulation and busting the cruddy plaster below and I feel my stomach lurch as I cling on to the roof joist.

Fuck it. I never promised that I wouldn’t make a mess. Quite the opposite. Even so, I wish I hadn’t been so enthusiastic about the liquid lunch.

I get my bearings and head next door – towards the stash house.

***

Bentos told me that the gap between the two houses would be covered by a piece of tarpaulin – his insurance plan if the business arrangement ever went boss-eyed, and he needed easy access.

I crawl through the gap. He assured me that the loft in this property has been laid with hardboard. He didn’t tell me that there would be a fucking guard dog chained to the rotten brickwork at the other end of the roof-space – within snarling distance of the Slazenger swag-bag.

The Rottweiler tenses as it sees me – a low growl rumbling through its lean body. It is missing an eye – the empty socket clumsily stitched – and it scares the shit out of me.

I crawl towards the bag, and the dog lunges at me – hanging in mid-air briefly when the steel chain goes taut.

I grab the kit-bag and unlatch the hatch with sweaty, nervous fingers.

The dog lurches forward again, and I see the rusted ring start to come loose from the brickwork.

Motherfucker.

There’s no ladder, so I’m going down hard.

Fuck it.

I land in a heap on the landing – the dog and the chain tumbling down after me in a thick cloud of brick dust. The dog growls at me – even louder this time – flashing its slobber-streaked jaws.

I unzip the bag – hoping that I have the right fucking one. On top of the uneven stacks of used banknotes is a Mossberg pump-action shotgun. I definitely have the right fucking bag.

I retrieve the shooter and rack the pump-action. The dog has heard enough, and bounces down the uncarpeted staircase, steel chain thudding off the bare wood behind it.

Thank fuck for that.

I hook my arms through the handles of the kit-bag and hoist it onto my back, as a skinny guy emerges from one of the upstairs bedrooms, rubbing the sleep out of his red-raw eyeballs. Improbably, he is wearing a filthy Sexy Santa minidress – which hangs off his scrawny, angular body. He flashes me a putrid smile.

“Who the fuck are you?”

I shake my head.

“It doesn’t matter who I am, but you’re on Ray Bentos’s naughty list, shit-stain. No presents for you this year.”

I turn towards the staircase, and the shit-bag swings at me with brass knuckles – catching me across the side of the head. There is a sharp pain and it feels like he has burst my fucking eardrum or something.

I stumble down the stairs – coming face to face with a fat man in a ballistics vest and ‘Danish Snow’ camouflage trousers. Behind the vest, his enormous gut churns like a cement mixer.

I recognise him. He is an ex-taxi driver called Alan Crandall, who once got arrested for trying to finger a 15-year-old volunteer outside a Food Bank. Scum.

Behind him, the front door has four elaborate-looking locking mechanisms. Fuck it – I’ll go out of the window instead. I dodge into the nearest room – little and large hot on my heels.

***

The goons creep closer, skinny leering at me, fatty cracking his knuckles.

I aim the Mossberg at Crandall – the lard lad. I doubt the slug will even break his ribs.

Only one way to find out.

I squeeze the trigger and the impact knocks him off his flat feet – his blubbery skull cracking on the raw floorboards. His eyes roll back into his head, turning the colour of eggnog.

Fuck it.

I step towards the ravaged savage in the Santa dress.

“Don’t worry, mate. You’ll get your turn too. I’ve got more than enough Christmas goodwill to go around.”

He starts to run and I swing the pump-action at his rotten skull – so hard I get brain matter on the fucking shotgun butt.

At that moment, bright lights dance across the front windows. I can’t tell if the neighbours have switched on their Christmas lights, or a prowl-car has rolled into the cul-de-sac.

I hear a knock on the door. At least they aren’t using a battering ram – yet.

I place the shotgun back in the kit-bag and make a break towards the back of the house.

Not for the first time, I really should have stayed in the fucking pub…

THE END

Bio: Tom Leins is a disgraced ex-film critic from Paignton, UK. He is the author of the Paignton Noir novelettes SKULL MEAT, SNUFF RACKET, SLUG BAIT and SPINE FARM and the short story collections MEAT BUBBLES & OTHER STORIES (Close To The Bone Publishing, June 2018) and REPETITION KILLS YOU (All Due Respect, September 2018)

His short stories have been published by the likes of Akashic Books, Shotgun Honey, Near to the Knuckle, Flash Fiction Offensive, Horror Sleaze Trash and Spelk Fiction.

https://thingstodoindevonwhenyouredead.wordpress.com/

 

Recommended Read:Christmas Stockings by Paul Heatley

Blue Collar Noir, Christmas, Crime Fiction, Noir, Non-fiction, Paul D. Brazill, Paul Heatley, Punk Noir Magazine, Recommended Reads

christmas stockingChris owns a dive bar and as such he is regularly drowning in the flotsam and jetsam of life. Even on Christmas Eve, when his customers include a drunken Santa Clause and Chris’ friend Randy – a perennial disaster waiting to happen.

Paul Heatley’s Christmas Stockings is a violent torch-song. Like a bittersweet blend of early Tom Waits and Jim Thompson, it’s a cracker!

Have A Brit Grit Christmas!

Brit Grit, Christmas, Crime Fiction, Non-fiction, Paul D. Brazill, Punk Noir Magazine

martinaA couple of years ago, I asked a bunch of Brit Grit writers about their favourite Christmas book, film and song, and this is what they said:

Martina Cole:

Well my favourite Christmas book has to be John Updike and Edward Gorey’s ‘The Twelve Terrors of Christmas.’ Film has to be Lon Chaney as The Wolfman. I love old horrors especially at Christmas! And song has to be ‘Fairytale of New York’ as I adore The Pogues and Kirsty! (I remember when they were called Pogue Mahone! Kiss my arse in Gaelic!)

Lesley Welsh:

I’m going to be really tedious and say ‘It’s A Wonderful Life.‘ Still gets to me every time. Music-wise, Jona Lewie and ‘Stop The Cavalry’. Christmas book? That’s a difficult one, I never much liked Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol.’ and don’t really recall others specifically about that time of year as I would probably have avoided them like the proverbial. So can I have a play instead? For which I nominate Steven Berkoff’s one-man short play ‘Harry’s Christmas‘. Devastating.

Douglas Skelton: 

The book has to ‘A Christmas Carol,’ obvious I know but it’s the only actual Christmas book I can remember reading! I know when I see other choices I’ll kick myself (so if you have any suggestions, let me know) For film I’d have to go with ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’, although ‘The Bishop’s Wife’ comes a close second. And song – there are so many – but ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ has the right blend of sweetness and melancholy for me.

HIT THE NORTH! NICK QUANTRILL INTERVIEW!Nick Quantrill:

Book I can’t really look beyond Dickens with ‘A Christmas Carol’, though you can’t beat a winter’s evening in the warmth with a book from a favourite author. Film Being a cynical and hardboiled crime writer is fine for 364 days of the year, but the remaining day has to be reserved to watch “It’s A Wonderful Life”. Song, all of Kate Rusby’s “While Mortals Sleep” is great and the use of a brass band gives it that distinctive Yorkshire feel that warms me.

Luca Veste:

Book – ‘The Grinch who Stole Christmas’ by Dr Seuss Film – ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’. Song – ‘White Wine in the Sun’ by Tim Minchin

Matt Hilton:

The Spy Who Came For Christmas” by David Morrell, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and “Silent Night” by Bing Crosby

Mark West:

Favourite book –‘The Mystery Of The Invisible Dog’ (it takes place between Christmas and New Year. Favourite film – either ‘Scrooged’ or ‘Die Hard’. Favourite song – ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ by Slade.

Alex Shaw:

Book: ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Film: ‘Die Hard.’ Song: ‘Feed The World.’

Sheila_Quigley-320x320Sheila Quigley:

‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’  – I can’t count how many times I’ve seen it – ‘White Christmas.’

Sarah Hilary:

‘The Long Shadow’ by Celia Fremlin. ‘The Bishop’s Wife’ (Cary Grant, David Niven).’The World of Winter’ by Bing Crosby

Ian Ayris:

Here we go: Christmas Book – ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charlie Dickens, Christmas Film – ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, Christmas Song – ‘White Christmas’ – SLF.

Richard Godwin:

Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘Deep Throat’, Frank Zappa’s ‘Bobby Brown.’

Martin Stanley:

Okay, right now, off the top of my head: my favourites are Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘Bad Santa’, and The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York’.

Jason Michel

Book/ story – ‘A Christmas Carol’, Film – gotta be a Bond, not traditional, of course, but the nostalgia of a Christmas evening Bond flick, Song – I would say Slade then again, I have a tradition of listening to Frank Sinatra at Christmas.

Graham Wynd:

Um…’Little Women’, ‘The Long Kiss Goodnight’, and oh, everyday a different answer so….Darlene Love, ‘Christmas Baby Please Come Home’. Best Xmas LP ‘A John Waters Xmas’.

Ryan Bracha:

‘The Little Matchgirl’ by HC Anderson for book, or ‘Mog’s Christmas’. The best and most underrated Christmas film ever is ‘Scrooged’. Song has to be ‘Mary’s Boy Child by Boney M’. Tune.

Betsy Reavley:

Oh easy, Charles Dicken’s ‘Christmas Carol’, ‘Merry Christmas Baby’ – Elvis Presley and film would have to be ‘Home Alone’.

nigelbirdNigel Bird:

Run Run Rudolph’ by Chuck Berry, ‘Diner’ (Barry Levinson) and ‘The Christmas Star’ (it’s a short story, so I hope that counts) by Mina Lewiton.

Graham Smith:

Can’t think of an Xmas book but ‘Die Hard’ and ‘Fairytale of New York.’

Paul Heatley:

My favourite book is ‘Sausagey Santa’ by Carlton Mellick III, song is ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ by Slade, but film is a toss up between ‘The Santa Clause,’ ‘Elf,’ and Ron Howard’s ‘The Grinch’ – I like the garishly colourful and OTT ones!

Tess Makovesky

I’m not the biggest fan of Christmas on the planet.  I quite like some of the old traditions, but hate the modern, consumer-driven, hyped-to-hell-and-back, be-perfect-or-else-you’ve-failed version, which tends to bring me out in a severe case of Bah Humbug.  So my choices of reading, watching and listening matter over the festive period tend to reflect this.

Favourite Christmas song: there’s a special mention for Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ which brings back happy memories of school Christmas parties.  But the winner, hands down, is ‘Fairytale of New York’ by The Pogues and Kirsty McCall.  Any Christmas song that includes lyrics like You scumbag, you maggot, You lousy old faggot gets my vote every time, and the harmonies (even with lead singer Shane McGowan apparently on such a massive bender he could barely stand up during recording) are amazing.

Favourite Christmas movie: I can’t really handle all those mushy-gushy sanctimonious ‘isn’t family wonderful’ type movies that you’re supposed to like at Christmas.  But Home Alone won me over the first time I saw it.  It has just the right blend of mischief, quirkiness, and sheer evil joy, from parents forgetting one of their own children, to Macauley Culkin’s 8 year old dreaming up ever nastier ways to keep the burglars out of the family home.  Great fun!

Favourite Christmas book: this one really had me stumped.  I wasn’t sure if there were any specific Christmas books, and when I googled, I’d never read most of them and wasn’t keen on the rest.  However, my favourite as a kid was probably ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ by C S Lewis for the sheer magic and inventiveness of the story.  Although these days, I probably have more sympathy with the Wicked Witch than I ought to.  Imagine: always winter but never Christmas.  I can think of worse things…!

HAVE A BRIT GRIT CHRISTMAS!

 

Two Turtle Doves By Richard Wall

Christmas, Crime Fiction, Fiction, Music, Noir, Punk Noir Magazine, Richard Wall

IMG_8830My first guitar saved my life. And I wish now that I’d never set eyes on it.

It was 1973.

I was on my way to step out in front of an express train. I knew a place where it would pass at full speed and I could walk onto the track at the very last second, giving the driver no time to brake.

I had it all planned.

When you’re a skinny, underdeveloped, bespectacled, thirteen-year-old, stammering ginger bookworm with bad skin and acute social-anxiety, you become the target of choice for every thug, wanker and bullying dickhead looking for a docile recipient for their anger issues.

Dave Scott was Dickhead-in-Chief, with Alex, his twin brother, a very able lieutenant. They were two years older, and their joint mission in life was to seek me out and kick the living shit out of me at every given opportunity. This they did often, and with an amount of pleasure, imagination and attention to detail that was terrifying.

Not that I was a stranger to the dark side of life. I had a brother in the army. He was my hero. Hard as nails he was. But he was killed in Northern Ireland, which caused my dad to drink himself to death, leaving me and my mum on to struggle through life as best we could. Victims don’t attract friends, and with no one to turn to, I lived in my head. It was, and still is, a dark and wretched place.

Welcome to my world. Welcome to my story.

When you’re the victim of a bully your mind takes you to places where rules don’t exist. Alone with your thoughts, a maelstrom of anger fuels your imagination such that in your head you create evermore violent acts of retribution. You fantasise about revenge; a hammer to the temple, a knife to the throat, a knitting needle pushed slowly into the ear, a razor blade dragged across an eyeball, bending a finger back until it snaps with a loud crack. Make them scream, make them bleed, make them hurt, make them beg for mercy. Taunt them. Humiliate them. Debase them. In your mind you’re ready for them.

Until the next time. When you turn the corner, and you see them waiting, and you literally piss yourself with fear because you haven’t got a hammer, or a knitting needle, or a knife, or the muscle, expertise or bravery to fight back, and you know damn well that very soon it will be you begging for mercy.

And the more that happens, the louder the voice in your mind tells you that you’re worthless, and with no case for the defence you reach the point where the only way out is to make an appointment for a meeting with the business end of a speeding locomotive.

I was on my way to that meeting when I spotted the guitar propped up next to some dustbins outside the Oxfam shop in the High Street.

Up until that point I had never seen any kind of guitar up close, much less had any desire to learn to play one, but when I saw that cheap, wooden acoustic, with nylon strings and plastic tuning pegs. I picked it up, ran my fingers across the strings, and something about the sound it made temporarily distracted me from the dark side of my brain.

There’s a first time for everything, and there would be another express train tomorrow.

I took the guitar home, borrowed a couple of tuition books from the library, and set about devoting every spare minute to practicing. In a very short time I reached the point where I needed a better guitar.

Back then, Mum bought everything from a Mail Order catalogue, just about scraping together the bare minimum payments each week.

Our neighbor, next door-but-one, was a representative, and Mum had borrowed a copy from her and left it on the kitchen table. I was flipping through it one evening when I found the “Musical Instruments” page.

That’s when I saw it. The object of my dreams and the cause of my nightmares.

“El Diablo” was a cheap Chinese copy of a Gibson SG electric guitar. It had accentuated double-cutaways, and when you held it upright they resembled the horns of the devil. The body was painted in a red so vivid that it reminded me of a stab wound and branded the outline of Satan’s head behind my eyelids every time that I blinked.

I spent over an hour staring at it (I even took a Polaroid photograph of the page, which I carried everywhere), a dark obsession growing inside me like a tumor as I pored over the technical specifications whilst ignoring the reality.

The price was an eye-watering £250. Even at the lowest weekly payment, spread over three years was beyond my meagre budget. Asking mum for help was out of the question. We didn’t have pot to piss in, and an electric guitar was right at the very bottom of a very long priority list.

That night I dreamt of it. And in my dream, I stood centre-stage in a dark, stinking dive-bar, playing to a crowd of slavering, writhing and fornicating scarlet demons. Demons that worshipped me as El Diablo screamed out a blistering, elongated siren call laden with reverb and feedback.

As I played, the room began to shudder, the dirt floor erupting ripe mud pustules through which corpses in various stages of decomposition scrabbled from their graves, stood upright, and then got their bad selves on down to the hellish groove. El Diablo screamed louder still, and then dive-bombed to a heavy, low-down 12-bar blues riff. Demons grunted like rutting pigs, shitting everywhere as the guttural power chords and driving bass line resonated deep within their bowels.

In the midst of this rancid, rocking, satanic hell-hole, one of the demons separated itself from the undulating mass, turned and lumbered towards me, its breath inundating my world with unholy stench as it morphed into Keith Richards.

“You get that axe, it’s gonna change your life, man,” Keith growled. “How much of a deposit would you need to afford the payments?”

Another corpse shuffled across the stage, strips of rotting material flapping and dangling from its bones, wisps of dirty grey hair creeping from beneath the rim of a filthy top hat. As it drew closer, scraps of desiccated facial muscle twitched in an obscene representation of a grin as the corpse laid its bony hand on my shoulder.

“Today is Friday,” it hoarsed. “People always pay their bills on a Friday.”

I erupted gasping from the nightmare, my pyjamas and bedclothes wringing with sweat, my heart thumping as I switched on the light and waited for the demonic images to fade.

The catalogue was on the floor where I’d left it. The photograph of El Diablo wiggling her curves at me, looking every bit as seductive as a Playboy magazine Centre-fold.

At the back of the catalogue was about ten pages of small print. I speed-read through to the payment terms and worked out that a 20% deposit would halve the weekly payments over three years. Putting El Diablo well within my limited means.

All I had to do was find fifty pounds.

*****

It was dark when my alarm went off, and freezing cold when I slipped out of bed. Outside, the clear sky glistened with stars, the ground with frost and icy treachery.

I was halfway along my paper round when from behind I heard the familiar clinking bottles and low whirring electric hum of Sid Davies’ milk float.

Sid gave a cheery wave as he drove past and then steered across the road to stop outside a block of flats.

I watched him step out of the cab, and reach for a crate of milk bottles.

I watched him heft the crate onto his shoulder, and then turn towards the flats.

I watched him take three steps, and then his feet shot from under him.

I saw his head hit the pavement, and from twenty feet away I heard his skull crack through the crash of breaking glass.

When I reached him, Sid wasn’t moving. Blood poured from his ears, running along the camber of the pavement, mixing with spilt milk to create a grotesque strawberry milkshake pooling in the gutter.

I remembered my brother telling me that if someone is bleeding from the ears, then it’s not a good sign.

I knelt down and felt Sid’s neck for a pulse like my brother had shown me.

Nothing.

I grabbed his wrist.

Nothing.

Sid always wore a battered leather satchel on a thin strap slung over his left shoulder. The satchel lay to one side, the flap was open and in the weak pool of sodium light I could see banknotes inside. Lots and lots of banknotes.

“It’s Friday. Everyone pays their bills on a Friday.”

You get that axe, man, it’s gonna change your life.

I looked up and down the street. It was still early, still too early for signs of any movement. No lights coming on. No curtains twitching. No one around.

I looked back at Sid. Once more I checked his neck and his wrist for a pulse.

Nothing.

I checked the street again. All clear. My heart pounded as I slipped my hand inside the satchel, grabbed fistfuls of notes and stuffed them frantically into my paper sack.

“Whu…whu…whu…”

My body twitched and I stifled a scream as a hand grabbed my wrist. Sid was awake, staring up to sky, gripping my arm, his cheeks puffing and deflating as he blew strange words into the cold morning air.

I leaned over him. “Can you hear me, Sid?”

“Whu…whu…whu…”

“Do you know who I am, Sid?”

“Whu…whu…whu…”

His left foot began to quiver, and then his leg shuddered violently.

“Sid?”

By now his head lay in a lake of blood, his eyes staring wildly. I pried his fingers from my wrist.

“Do you know where you are, Sid?”

“Whu…whu…whu…”

I looked around. The street was empty. Still no sign of anyone.

El Diablo flashed into my vision. Its body pulsing like arterial blood.

You get that axe, man, it’s gonna change your life.

I took a deep breath, grabbed Sid’s head in both hands, lifted it and then with all my strength hammered it onto the pavement.

I felt something give, like the shattering of an eggshell.

“Whuwhuwhuwhu.”

Sid’s breathing became ragged.

I lifted his head again. Took a deep breath and began smashing it down with all the force I could muster. Again and again and again.

Crack.

Crack.

Crack.

Sid’s eyeballs rolled upwards, his throat gave a final clattering gasp, and then he fell silent.

I smashed his head once more, saw something ooze from the back of his skull.

By now I was panting, my body sweating, my arms aching.

I stood up and looked around again. Still nobody about.

I stepped over Sid’s body and carried on with my paper round. When I was out of sight from the street I started pulling banknotes out of my sack and stuffing them into my pockets.

Nobody saw me walking away.

Back at home, I laid the cash out on my bed.

One hundred and twenty five pounds.

*****

Fast Forward to 1975.

By now I was getting pretty tasty. I was still underweight, still stammering, still short-sighted, still anxious and still ginger. But I could play the guitar just like ringing a bell.

Hours and hours and hours of finger-shredding practice, night after night was finally beginning to pay off. I could play pretty much anything, any style. I had inherited my brother’s record collection and developed a preference for early electric blues, and listened to everything by the Rolling Stones up to Exile on Main St. (the last album he bought before the IRA blew him up).

The bullying had lessened somewhat. Encounters were fewer, but no less violent. Going out was safer, but the effects of my anxiety lingered on and my mind was still feeding me dark and sinister thoughts.

El Diablo was my comfort blanket, soaking up most of my anger, calming most of my fears and converting most of my bleak thoughts into sweet tones. Whatever mood I was in, she made me sound good, and when I thought the voices in my head weren’t listening, I would daydream of a playing in a band and becoming a rock and roll hero.

The Turtle Doves were formed at my school in your standard rock group formation: lead singer, two guitarists, bassist and drummer.

Mick Taylor, the lead singer was a tall, skinny narcissist who thought he was Mick Jagger. He really wasn’t.

Dave Scott was the original lead guitarist. The very same spiteful, loudmouth bastard bully who had made my formative years a living hell.

Rhythm guitarist was Alex Scott, Dave’s twin brother and partner in crime.

Bassist was Jimmy Morton. Dedicated to music. Later on, Jimmy co-wrote all the songs with me.

The drummer was Tom Cornwell. Tom was a legend.

I’d watched them practice a few times at school, and soon noticed that cracks were beginning to appear. Jimmy wanted the band to record original material (he was a prolific songwriter), whereas Dave and Alex insisted on playing covers because they couldn’t be arsed to put in the work to learn new chords and create something new. No one else in the band could write music and so Jimmy was outvoted every time. After one particularly memorable argument, the practice session ended with the Scott brothers storming off.

I walked out of school that afternoon to find both of them leaning against a wall, passing a cigarette back and forth. Dave’s face twisted into a sneer.

“What are you looking at, you scrawny little cunt?”

“Nothing,” I said. “Leave me alone.”

I didn’t see the first punch, just felt the explosion on my face and the familiar taste of blood in my mouth. The second punch put me on the ground, my head bouncing off the asphalt. After that, all I could do was curl up tight and try and protect myself against the volley of well-aimed kicks from Dave and his bastard brother.

I heard someone shouting, and then a scuffle, and then the kicking stopped and I was being lifted to my feet.

“Four-eyed ginger twat.” The Scott brothers laughed as they swaggered away.

“Are you alright?”  Jimmy looked genuinely concerned.

I sniffed back tears of humiliation. “I th-think so.”

“Pair of wankers,” said Jimmy.

He stepped back. “I’ve seen you watching us practice,” he said. “You like music?”

I nodded. “I p-play guitar,” I said. “Mostly b-blues-rock.”

I showed him the latest Polaroid of El Diablo.

“That’s a nice guitar,” said Jimmy. “I bet it sounds amazing. Listen. We’re playing at the Rose and Lion pub on Saturday night, why don’t you come along? I’ll make sure those two wankers won’t bother you. Maybe we can hear you play?”

“M-maybe,” I said. “Thanks.”

“See you on Saturday, then.” Jimmy turned and walked away.

When he’d gone I stared for a long time at the picture.

By now the Polaroid was about six months old, the glossy paper well-worn and creased, the image beginning to fade. But as I stared at the picture the colour of El Diablo seemed to become more vivid.

“Burning like the flames of hell.”

The voice made me jump. Its sinister tone suggesting another kicking was inbound, but when I looked around there was no one there.

*****

The Rose and Lion was a down-at-heel pub in a shabby side street that led to a small park and kids’ playground.

The gig didn’t go well. Early on, a burly, shaven-headed punter made his way to the stage and began to heckle Dave loudly. At first Dave tried to ignore him, but the shaven-headed guy was relentless and seemed to know which buttons to press.

He kept on heckling until Dave stopped playing, grabbed his guitar by the neck and hit the floor swinging. Punches were traded, Dave was pulled away, and Shaven-Headed Guy was bundled out of the pub. The gig never recovered and I went home soon after.

The next morning Jimmy turned up at my house.

“We’re looking for a new guitarist,” he said. “It looks like Dave’s gonna be out of action for a long time.”

Jimmy told me that after leaving the pub, the Shaven-Headed Guy hung around outside. Later that night, witnesses saw him grab Dave and frog march him into the park.

Next morning, Dave was found unconscious near the swings. Every single bone in his body had been systematically and expertly broken.

A couple of weeks later, on a Friday afternoon, I went to visit Dave in hospital. He was out of Intensive Care and in a room on his own. Encased in a body cast, and hanging from traction wires, he looked like a wounded marionette.

I walked up to the bed and leaned in close. The bruising on his face had ripened to a midnight blue, with patchy clouds of sickly yellow. His broken jaw was wired shut, rendering his trapped words unintelligible.

“Not so scary now, are you? You fucking wanker.”

Swollen, bloodshot eyes stared back at me, first with anger, then uncertainty, and then widening in fear as I licked his face, dragging my tongue from his chin to his forehead.

I leaned closer, to whisper in his ear.

“Take a good look, because my face is the last thing you’re ever going to see. I hope you burn in hell, you piece of shit.”

I grabbed a pillow from an armchair next to the bed, placed it over Dave’s face and pushed down hard.

It was over in seconds. The bed shook violently at first, and then calmed, and then silence.

I looked up at the sound the scratch-flare of a match, and the smell of burning tobacco.

Sid, the milkman, stood in the corner of the room, dragging on a Woodbine. His pallid, death-mask creased into a grin as cigarette smoke poured from his nostrils and mouth.

“It’s Friday,” he said. “People always pay their bills on a Friday.”

Sid winked at me. “You did a good job,” he said. “When they lifted me up my brains fell out of the back of my head. Have a look.”

He turned around. Jagged edges of skull framed a gaping hole in the back of his head, it looked like a window pane after a brick has gone through it.

Sid turned to face me, and then nodded at Dave’s body. “He’s on his way. Probably burning as we speak. Nasty little cunt.”

His cheeks hollowed as he drew on the Woodbine. “You better go,” he said.

I put the pillow back on the chair. When I looked up, Sid was gone.

I took a moment to stroke Dave’s head, felt myself smile as I whispered, “Fuck you,” and then I walked out of the room.

*****

I joined the band and very soon Jimmy and I began writing together, and gradually we built up a decent repertoire of original, hard-driving songs.

Without his thug twin for back up, Alex left me alone. But he still hated my guts, and I hated his. There was still a score to be settled, but I bided my time.

In 1976, The Sex Pistols (or Malcom Maclaren’s Monkees, as I called them) hit the UK like a lightning bolt, sparking a wildfire that swept across the country.

By 1977 our back catalogue captured the zeitgeist perfectly and we were soon compared with The Pistols, The Clash and The Stranglers.

Our name began to spread. A demo tape played by John Peel begat a local radio interview, which begat more gigs, which begat an offer of a deal with an up and coming indie record company, which begat a hit single, which begat another one, and another one.

And then we hit the big time.

We did Top of The Pops three times, became regulars on the John Peel show, and even supported the Rolling Stones for one show (John Lee Hooker was ill and we happened to be the only band in town. But still…).

After the Stones gig, Keith Richards asked if he could play my guitar. When he picked up El Diablo, he looked at me sideways, chuckled and then winked knowingly as he played the opening riff to Sympathy for the Devil.

Later that night, Keith posed for a picture with me. Later still, his dealer introduced me to heroin.

We made it onto the covers of New Musical Express, Melody Maker and Smash Hits.

All through this El Diablo never left my side, and never let me down. She became my trademark, and part of music lore, almost as famous as BB King’s ‘Lucille’. I made sure she was on every album cover, picture disc and concert poster.

Gibson got to hear of it and offered to give me a real SG, and a very lucrative sponsorship deal that would’ve set me up for life,  provided that I agree to get rid of El Diablo. I declined, which sent Alex over the top in a thermonuclear drunken hissy fit.

“Are you fucking mad?” He screamed. “The biggest guitar company in the world have offered to give you one of their guitars, and you’d rather play that cheap piece of shit?” His foot lashed out, kicking El Diablo from her stand

Even though I’d killed two people, Alex Scott was the first and last person that I had ever punched. Drawing on a lifetime of experience, I knew exactly where to hit him. The first punch broke his nose, the second his cheekbone, the third and fourth resulted later in an eye-watering bill for cosmetic dentistry and the kicks to his nuts made him scream like baby.

That was in the Green Room at the BBC studios, just before we played on The Old Grey Whistle Test, which explains why Alex didn’t appear that night.

A week later, a couple of days before Christmas, we played the legendary gig in Belfast.

I hadn’t seen Alex since I smacked him. He flew to Belfast on his own, joining us for the sound check before the gig. He didn’t speak to anyone, and no one spoke to him.

I felt nervous at being there. We were an English band playing in Belfast at the height of The Troubles, and you could feel the tension in the venue. But we played a storm, the crowd roared their approval at every song. Half way through the set, Mick was introducing the band like he always did, when Alex stalked across the stage, grabbed the microphone and pointed to me.

“And this little shit is our lead guitarist. The IRA blew up his brother, and if any of you lot are in tonight I’ll buy you all a drink.”

El Diablo buzzed in my hand. Its devil-shape burned behind my eyelids.

Half the crowd cheered, the other half booed. And then it all kicked off. All of us had to duck as a hail of bottles and broken seats clattered onto the stage.

Mick froze centre-stage. I can’t say I blame him.

Jimmy came across to me. “We’ve got to do something,” he yelled. “This is like the Stones at fucking Altamont.”

I played a familiar riff. Jimmy nodded, patted me on the shoulder, and then looked at Tom.

“Stiff Little Fingers,” he shouted.

Tom nodded. Mick looked petrified. “I don’t know any,” he said.

Jimmy shrugged. “I fucking do.”  He stepped forward to his mic, “1-2-3-4…!”

I played the riff again, and the crowd roared as we thundered through a monster version of “Alternative Ulster”.

When we finished, the house lights came on and I saw the full extent of the ongoing carnage. The auditorium was a frenzied mass of vicious sectarian fighting. In the midst of the violence I saw a familiar face battling his way to the exit.

It was to be our last ever gig.

Backstage was chaos and the band got separated in the melee. When we all made it back to the dressing room, Alex was nowhere to be seen. The unspoken assumption was that he’d made his own way to wherever he was going.

Jimmy looked at me. “What he said was out of order. Are you OK?”

I said I was fine.

El Diablo continued buzzing in my hand, and in my mind.

Alex’s body was found three days later. He’d been shot through both knees and through the back of the head. His hooded body left next to a burnt-out car on a patch of wasteland in Bandit Country.

The Turtle Doves split up after the Belfast gig, I haven’t seen them since.

After that I bummed around. When a solo career didn’t work out, I did some session work and got by. And then my mum died of cancer, I lost interest in everything, and that’s when my habit really got a hold of me.

When you’re in the money, a heroin addiction is something you can manage. Something you can laugh off, or justify to yourself. When I stopped earning, my life spiraled into a nosedive towards yet another “Live Fast, Die Young” rock and roll cliché.

Looking back I’ve forgotten more than I can recall. Can’t even remember the last time I played. Every last piece of my music memorabilia has gone now. Squirted through a filthy syringe to give me ever-shortened bouts of blessed oblivion.

All I had left was my guitar. I tried to pawn it the other day. The pawnbroker laughed at me as he offered me a pittance, and then laughed even louder as I stumbled out onto the street. People can smell desperation, and when you’re a fallen rock star and drug addict the only place you’ll find sympathy is in the dictionary, somewhere between shit and syphilis.

Most of my veins have collapsed now, I’m half blind (injecting yourself through the eye will do that), my teeth are rotten and I’ve got ulcers all over my body. My worldly possessions are this notebook, a pen that I nicked from a betting shop, a sleeping bag and the clothes that are hanging off me.

And that fucking guitar. Still burning red and as immaculate as the day I bought it, while my life has turned to shit.

This morning I woke up under some bushes. At least it didn’t rain in the night. One of the newspapers I’m lying on is a couple of days old. The front page story is about a British Army patrol killed by the IRA in Londonderry. There are pictures of the victims, one of whom is Shaven-Headed Guy, AKA the late Sergeant Major Adam Lane, 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment. Best friend of my late brother, and pall-bearer at his funeral.

The last time I saw him we were standing over the body of Alex Scott, Adam’s Browning 9mm still smoking in my hand. Adam had broken both of Alex’s ankles so that he couldn’t make a run for it – he was good at breaking bones, was Adam – and then told me where to shoot him, to make it look like a punishment shooting.

Alex screamed like a baby, said he was sorry for all the times he and his brother beat me up, snot pouring down his face as he begged for mercy. I was as high as a kite but I remember laughing when I blew his kneecaps out, and the stench of him shitting himself when pulled the hood over his face and pushed the gun barrel against the back of his head.

After a lifetime of imagining scenarios of slow, violent revenge, I thought killing the Scott twins would make me feel better. Instead, all of my dark fantasies of retribution turned into terrifying nightmares of remorse – hideous dreams from which I always wake screaming. And when I go for too long without a heroin fix, my night terrors appear as daylight hallucinations.

The gift that keeps on giving.

When I’m not high or hallucinating I think of Sid the milkman, how it felt to batter his head on the pavement, cracking it open until his brains leaked out.

Lately, I’ve seen him every day. Sometimes he talks to me, but mostly he stands to one side, a Woodbine in his mouth, blowing smoke rings, smiling quietly, looking at his watch and biding his time.

I realise that I’ve shit myself in my sleep. I pick up the damp newspaper and read the story about the IRA bomb.

Sid’s waving to me now, beckoning me towards him. I guess it’s time to go. I stand up, and sling El Diablo’s strap over my shoulder for one last performance.

As I stagger towards Sid, the railway line’s vibrating and I can hear the train a’coming.

“It’s a Friday,” said Sid. “Everyone always pays their bills on a Friday.”

Rock Star Suicide

Rich Anthony, troubled lead guitarist with the punk rock band, The Turtle Doves, has been found dead in an apparent suicide.

Anthony, 27, of no fixed abode, was hit by an express train at approximately 7am on Christmas Eve.

Since leaving The Turtle Doves, Anthony suffered from drug addiction, and mental issues brought on after the recent loss of his mother.

A police spokesman said that Anthony’s trademark red guitar was found undamaged near the scene.

©Richard Wall 2017

Bio: Born in England in 1962, Richard grew up in a small market town in rural Herefordshire before joining the Royal Navy. After 22 years in the submarine service and having travelled extensively, Richard now lives and writes in rural Worcestershire.

His first short story, “Evel Knievel and The Fat Elvis Diner” (available on Kindle), was soon followed by “Five Pairs of Shorts” a collection of ten short stories, and another short story called ‘Hank Williams’ Cadillac’.
Richard has also collaborated with Hull musician, Andrew McLatchie (aka ‘Half Deaf Clatch’), writing a short story to accompany Clatch’s supernatural spaghetti-western concept album “Beelzebub Jones – A Good Day to be a Bad Guy”.
Richard’s stories reflect his life-long fascination with the dark underbelly of American culture; be it tales of the Wild West,  or the simmering menace of the Deep South, or the poetry of Charles Bukowski, or the writing of Langston Hughes or Andrew Vachss, or the music of Charley Patton, Son House, Johnny Cash, or Tom Waits.
A self-confessed Delta Blues music anorak, Richard embarked on a road trip from Memphis to New Orleans, where a bizarre encounter in Clarksdale, Mississippi inspired him to write his début novel, Fat Man Blues.

“Snow White and the Seven Bastards” by Andy Rausch

Andy Rausch, Blue Collar Noir, Christmas, Crime Fiction, Fiction, Flash Fiction, Pulp, Punk Noir Magazine

As they sat drinking in Joe’s Tavern, Prince Charming couldn’t stop thinking about Snow White’s past. It had been weighing on him lately. Sure, she was beautiful, but she was also white trash. She was beneath him. They were from different stations in life, and their differences were becoming ever more apparent. Despite her claims that she’d never slept around, Prince Charming was having a difficult time taking her at her word. She had drank her fair share of tequila tonight, and the inebriated men in the bar were talking to her like they’d been intimate. The worst offender was a sloshed cowboy in a camouflaged cap who kept making remarks about her tits.

Being the gentleman he was, Prince Charming defended her honor, but it became more and more difficult to do so as horny slobs continued swarming out of the woodwork to make lascivious remarks. She was his wife, goddammit! Why didn’t these men respect that? Even if they had screwed her, why would they be so cruel as to rub it in his face? And Snow White herself was no help, as she was drunk and flirting back.

Prince Charming took a swig of his Jager and excused himself to the restroom. Inside, the urinals were nasty and overflowing, so he was forced to piss in a stall. As he stood there relieving himself, he glanced down and saw a sentence scrawled on the wall. It read: “Call Snow White for a good time.” But the word “time” had been scratched out and replaced with the word “fuck.” Her cell phone number was written beneath. It was an outdated number, but it was one he knew.

“Goddammit,” he muttered. The scrawling was down low to the ground, just at the height of a dwarf. Prince Charming’s mind began to race. She’d insisted that she’d never slept with any of the loathsome little sons of bitches, but the graffiti told a different tale. Prince Charming could feel his face turning flush with embarrassment. He stalked back to his table to find another redneck leaning over his wife. When Prince Charming reached them, the man staggered away without acknowledging him.

“Another friend?” asked Prince Charming.

“Just a guy I used to know,” said Snow White, taking a drag from her cigarette. This was another sore spot with Prince Charming—he didn’t smoke and he absolutely loathed the stench of her Pall Malls.

“It seems like you know a lot of guys here.”

She looked at him. Despite her being drunk, she understood the insinuation. “Is there somethin’ you wanna say? If there is, don’t fuck around. Just say it.”

So he did. “Are you sure you told me the truth when you said you’d only been with five guys before me?”

Snow White was visibly pissed. “I’ve never lied to you.”

“I don’t know about that,” he said.

Anger flashed in her eyes, and she stubbed out her cigarette. “Why is that?”

“You’re awfully chummy with quite a few guys here.”

“And?” she asked.

“Well, let me ask you this: just how was it that you convinced the Woodsman to release you into the woods instead of killing you?”

“What does that mean?”

He stared at her, unrelenting. “Did you fuck him?”

“No, he was atrocious.”

At this Prince Charming turned and looked at the other men at the bar. “And these guys aren’t?”

“Everyone’s got a past, Charming,” she said. “Even you.”

Prince Charming took another drink. “You’re full of shit.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that you’re a liar.”

This infuriated her. “How can you say that to me? Where do you get your balls?”

He looked at her. “Those dwarves you lived with—are you sure you didn’t fuck them?”

She threw her hands up, implying there was no talking to him. “Are we really having this conversation again?”

“Have we ever had it?”

She glared at him, fire in her eyes. “And what does that mean?”

“It means we never really had the conversation, because you put an end to it. God forbid you should have to talk about something you don’t wanna talk about.” Prince Charming took a drink. “You’re a spoiled bitch.”

Snow White lit another Pall Mall with shaking hands. “Where is this coming from? Why tonight?”

“You’re so chummy with all the guys here. Are you really gonna tell me you never screwed any of them?”

She looked at him, saying nothing.

“That’s what I thought,” he said.

“What do you want from me?” she asked, fidgeting nervously.

“I want you to be straight. I think you screwed those dwarves.”

“You would think that,” she said, taking another drag.

“There’s a message written in the bathroom. Care to guess who it’s about?”

She looked up. “What kind of message?”

“It says to call you for a good fuck. And it has your number on it! And it was written about two feet from the ground—right at dwarf-level.”

She blew out smoke. “So what?”

“I want a divorce,” he said, pulling the ring off his finger. He dropped it into his drink. He started to stand, and she reached out to stop him. “Please don’t,” she begged.        “My lawyer will be in touch, Snow White.”

He turned and walked out, leaving her sitting there with her tequila and a half-smoked Pall Mall. George Strait was singing on the jukebox, and even though he was her favorite, Snow White didn’t notice. She raised her cigarette, tears welling up in her eyes.

Prince Charming was the only thing she’d ever really wanted.

He was the only man she’d ever loved.

She sat there crying, her tears serving as man-repellent, and no one came to her aid. There were no more comments about her tits or anything else.

She reached into her purse and caressed the chrome pistol with her fingers, making sure the gun was there.

Someone was going to pay.

She stood up, George Strait sounding muted in her ears, her balance just a little off. She drank the last of her tequila and turned for the door. She had tears streaming down her face like tiny snakes slithering their way towards her neck.

She walked out, surprised to find her Camaro still parked outside. Prince Charming must have walked home. She thought this as if home was where he was headed. And for the briefest of moments, Snow White considered shooting him in his preppy fucking smug face. But she knew what she had to do, and she knew who had to pay.

She unlocked the car door, climbing inside. She turned the key, Lorrie Morgan coming to life from the speakers. She peeled out of the gravel parking lot, kicking up a cloud of dust behind. Her hands still trembling, she lit another cigarette. She stomped the gas, and the car lurched forward, speeding towards vengeance.

Minutes later she was there, parked in front of the dwarves’ trailer. She turned off the ignition and stared at the house, contemplating what she had to do. She reached into her bag and grabbed the .45, pulling it out. She climbed out of the Camaro and marched up the driveway towards the trailer. She made her way up the stairs, flicking her half-spent cigarette into the yard. She raised her right hand, the one clutching the gun, and banged on the door. She could hear Megadeath blaring inside.

No one came, so she knocked again, harder this time.

Finally the wooden door opened and Doc peered out through the tattered screen.

Let me in, goddammit,” she screamed.

Doc opened the door and let her in, her pistol raised.

Doc raised his arms to show he didn’t want trouble. She swiveled the pistol to her left, seeing Dopey snorting a line of crank from an aluminum TV tray.

“What’s the problem?” Doc asked.

She turned the pistol back towards Doc and squeezed the trigger, shooting him in the face. Dopey looked up, startled. He started to run towards the back of the trailer, but Snow White caught him with a shot to the back of his head. The bedroom door on Snow White’s right opened and Grumpy peered out. “What the fuck is going on?”

Snow White shot through the particle-board door, catching Grumpy center mass, and he fell from sight. She turned and kicked the door open, seeing Sneezy there naked and crouching on all fours, waiting for Grumpy’s return. She shot Sneezy, painting the blinds behind him with blood and brains.

Snow White turned back towards the living room, where she saw Bashful standing there with a naked dwarf woman clutched in front of him, his Glock aimed at her temple. “Shoot and she dies,” Bashful said.

“Who wrote my number in the bathroom stall?” Snow White asked, trembling with anger.

“It was Doc,” Bashful said. “I told him not to write that shit, but you know how that motherfucker is…”

Snow White squeezed the trigger, firing off a round through the female dwarf’s chest and hitting Bashful behind her. They both fell dead in a heap of flesh and bones. Snow White moved past them in search of the two remaining dwarves. She peered down the hall, and Sleepy peeked out through the doorway at the far end. Snow White fired two rounds, splintering the wall and catching him in the throat. She made her way down the hall, past the row of stockpiled Pepsi two liters. She stumbled, momentarily losing her footing, and she fell towards the floor.

She heard the gun cock behind her. She turned and saw Happy standing there, his nine-millimeter Glock trained on her. She went for her gun, which she’d dropped in the fall, and Happy fired a round through her left shoulder.

Unnnngggggg!” she cried.

“Turn around and look at me,” said Happy.

She turned to her right, twisting a bit, and looked him in his eyes. He had his pistol trained on her, but Snow White came up with the .45 and shot a bullet through his forehead. The diminutive gunman toppled back into the kitchen.

Snow White raised herself from the ground, her shoulder hurting like hell. She could hear the police sirens in the distance, getting closer by the second. She raised the .45 to her temple and squeezed the trigger.

And Snow White was no more.

andrew j rauschBio: Andy Rausch  Andy Rausch is an American film journalist, author, screenwriter, film producer, and actor.

He is the author of more than 30 books, including the novels ‘Elvis Presley, CIA Assassin,” “Mad World,” and ‘Riding Shotgun and Other American Cruelties.

 

Kent Adamson On Deanna Durbin and the Christmas Holidays in Hollywood

Christmas, Films, Kent Adamson, Noir, Non-fiction, Punk Noir Magazine

There is a fascinating little movie that has shown up spliced into several parts on YouTube. One of the most defiant and rebellious feature films ever turned out in Hollywood stars the often nauseatingly cheery Deanna Durbin as a hard bitten hostess in a southern brothel. It co-stars the usually lighter than air smiley hoofer Gene Kelly as a pathological liar and murderer. They are lovers and marry. It was written by the gifted and maniacal Herman J Mankiewicz, who is better known for his work on the script of “Citizen Kane” and producer of the surrealist extravaganza “Million Dollar Legs”. “Christmas Holiday”  is directed with more dark shadows than three Val Lewton movies by the bitterly brilliant ex-pat Robert Siodmak best known for his blacker than pitch, and blacker than  black crime thrillers “The Killers” and “Criss Cross”. Though it is called “Christmas Holiday”, it was released in the summer of 1944, and is colder than the Hollywood snow that never melts.

The production world in Los Angeles is always aglow with holiday sights and sounds every year in late summer. July/August is generally the deadline for completion of the projects and supporting materials for fourth quarter Christmas time releases. Never is the disjunction greater between the world depicted on the screen and life as it is really lived by people who shovel real snow. Rarely do they match up, especially in older classic era studio features, “Christmas Holiday” is an exception.

The chubby child star Deanna Durbin of the 1930’s had grown into a lovely young woman by the mid 1940s. Siodmak introduces her in a sexy skirt slit up to her neckline, singing mournfully in a smoke filled bar on Christmas Eve. What is important here is not the plot, but the manner in which every element of the film unfolds against its own grain. From the casting choices, to a WWII “Dear John” letter prologue that sets the plot in motion, to the hopeless fatalistic conclusion, it turns all holiday expectations inside out. Even when Durbin seeks solace in a midnight mass on Christmas Eve, she doesn’t join in singing her praises with the choir. She breaks down in a pool of bitterly lonely and needy tears. She cries for hours as the church shuts down around her.

This film was a favorite of my dear and much missed friend, actress Ann Savage. She had an ambivalent relationship with the holidays. Though she loved the food, music and friendly camaraderie of the season, it was an especially painful time for her as she grew older. It was a time of year that also gave her joy as it brought out her spirituality, hope and faith. She remembered and honored those who had been most loving to her, and prayed for their souls. Her beloved mother Louise had passed away at Thanksgiving. Her third husband Bert, whom she adored, left the world on New Year’s Eve. Her step-son Bert Jr. died thirty years after his father to the day, on New Year’s Eve. Ann visited with her mother and Bert Sr. at Hollywood Forever Cemetery most frequently during the holidays. Ann herself left the world on Christmas day. Every year since, the expectations of holiday cheer as shown in the movies manufactured in Hollywood have been heavily leavened with celebration of the great spirits and beautiful souls who have graced this world.

Deanna Durbin and Ann Savage were both born in 1921. Durbin was born in Winnipeg Canada, and just turned 90. She left Hollywood in the 1940s and resides comfortably in Switzerland, refusing to look back. Ann Savage spent her teenage and young adult years in Hollywood. She left California in the 1950s to travel the world, returning to Los Angeles often. She spent her last three decades in Hollywood, and had a significant relationship with Winnipeg. She is now infinite.

Bio: Writer/Filmmaker Kent Adamson co-wrote the book “Savage Detours”. He will spend his Christmas Holidays with family, friends, Ann Savage at Hollywood Forever and “Christmas Holiday”.

Link for Christmas Holiday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHrZyUO3b24