Gas Station by Margot Stillings

Flash Fiction

As Penny held the gas pump, she felt a man approaching. She reached for her phone in her hoodie pocket, as if her friend was physically there; like a hand to grab. She froze, realizing Max was 604 miles away and could not do a damned thing to stop this man approaching. She started to feel it as her breathing changed, shallow and slow. She started to sweat, all of her body responded like muscle memory.

The man got inches closer to her and asked if he could help fill her tank. She calmly said, “Nope. All good.” Before she could take a breath he said, “I bet you are. Good.” He inched even closer. She backed up, but the car stopped her. She was cornered. He grabbed for her shoulder and smiled. His touch damp, hot, thick. She dodged to the side losing her footing on oil. He followed her to the car door, opening it for her. She looked around noticing how isolated she was in this gas station. She reached for her phone again. It was buzzing. Vibrating texts from Max.

Penny pulled her phone out. The action spooked him. He walked backwards away from her car. He walked backwards so that he could keep looking at her with an expression that made her stomach churn. He got in his pickup truck and drove away, smiling at her. Penny felt nauseous. Bile rising up in her throat. And then release.

She got back into her car, locked the door, took a breath that turned into a cry when the fury washed over her. She watched as the man pulled away and, before she could process, she texted. Telling Max all the details, unformed sentences, emotional punctuation, tears streaming down her face. She was shaking too much to speak when he called. She raged on about every instance when a man had approached her like that, touched her, rubbed past her, luridly commented on her very existence as if it was theirs to comment on. These incidents happened always in public, in the open, where anyone could hear or see. Penny complained about it like there would be an answer Max could give her about why men do this. There wasn’t. Max was silent. He let her sob and thunder. He asked her if she was safe, where was she now? Max calmly took a breath, and said one word, “GODDAMMIT.”

Taking deep, meditative breathes to calm herself in rhythm with music she could feel but not hear, Penny drove back home and made her family a baked spaghetti casserole for supper.

Margot Stillings is a storyteller, cocktail napkin poet, and photographer. She is a reader/editor at Roi Fainéant Press and an absolutely ridiculous human being.

Dr Ryan and the Presence on the Stairs by Lorraine Murphy

Flash Fiction, Horror

Evelyn Ryan made a cup of tea and put her cat out. Taking her newspaper and mobile phone, she climbed the creaky staircase to bed. Living in the small but comfortable flat above the clinic was handy, modest living a choice for the conservative family doctor. A doctor who prided herself on never providing family planning services of any description under any circumstance.

Behind her, a stair creaked and she wobbled, scalding her hand with the tea. She hurried into her warm bedroom and closed her door, blowing on the emerging redness then undressed, slipping a long cotton nightie over her head. There was no mirror in the room; vanity had no place in a devout life. Kneeling on the white carpet, she joined her hands in prayer, and closed her eyes.

“Hail Mary –”

Something crashed downstairs and she called Anne, her receptionist.

“Doctor, it’s late.”

“Anne, I believe there is someone in my flat. Will you stay on the line while I investigate?”

“Doctor, I’m hanging up. Ring 999.”

“No Anne, I’m probably over-reacting. Just stay on the line. Please.”

Evelyn turned the wooden knob on her bedroom door into complete blackness. She was almost sure she left the light on. She flicked the switch and the bulb lit brightly before exploding, plunging the landing back into darkness.

“Doctor? What the fuck was that noise?”

Evelyn peered into the darkness when something moved, making her gasp.

“Doctor, go back to your room and lock the door. Now!”

Something lunged at her face from the blackness. She screamed from the pit of her stomach, as it scratched her face. Salem.

“Oh Anne, it’s the cat. I thought I put him out; must be going senile.”

“Not a chance, you are the sharpest woman I know… Look, will I come over?”

How Evelyn wanted to say yes. “Not at all Anne, I will be fine.”

Returning to her knees, she composed herself and finished saying her prayers while Salem lay purring on the bed licking his black paws. She climbed in and snuggled his jet-black body. He’d nearly killed her with the fright, but right now he was warm, furry, and safe company.

As she drifted off to sleep, she thought of Wendy Williams. Wendy, who forty years ago, had turned up at the clinic, bloody, bruised and begging for help. Wendy, who, when turned away, promised to exact revenge on the day she died. Wendy, who died this morning.   

She pulled Salem closer and it was in that exact position Evelyn was found dead the following morning by her neighbour, calling to let the cat in.

 Lorraine Murphy is the author of a psychological thriller entitled Into the Woods and many published flash fiction stories. She loves to take everyday situations and twist them, then twist them again. As a teenager, she adored Stephen King and later found herself on the jury of Ireland’s longest Murder Trial. She lives in Westmeath, Ireland with her husband Brendan and three taller children.

Exploding Head Syndrome Imploding by Ren ElisaBeth

Flash Fiction

When Cara first heard her dead grandmother yell her name, she was scared. When she heard pounding on doors only to see no one waiting for her outside, she was uneasy. But eventually Cara realized that the booms and shouts she heard were only in her head. She knew, because she asked, that no one else heard the same things.

She knew that when the shock of a loud door slam reverberated through her skull, there were actually no doors being shut, no sounds being made outside of her own mind.

Or that when a garbled moan, like an underwater scream muffled by an abyss of darkness made her whip her head around, there was absolutely no gaping mouth from whence the noise came except the one she imagined.

She often cried as she asked who or what was making the sounds she heard. Yes, they were in her head, but she heard them clearly so they had to come from somewhere, right?

Did they crawl out from the dark recesses she sunk into when she couldn’t stand to process the waking nightmare that was her life?

Were they from a place she didn’t even know existed, so deep inside her that even if she were to peel back her own layers and muddy herself with sinew and fat to dig them out, they’d still be long buried, forever out of reach?

Cara had considered, too, that the noises her mind created weren’t made up at all; that there were worlds within her with multitudes of beings and while she plodded through her mundane every day, these things screamed to escape. She contemplated letting them free, for she contained universes and the pounding at the door to the cosmos was nearly too much to bear.

Ren ElisaBeth (she/her) enjoys exploring various themes in the form of short fiction. Find her work and follow her journey on Twitter @renelisabeth 

Boating Day by M.E. Proctor

Flash Fiction, Humour

Wally was passed out drunk, under the collapsed bimini top.

“I thought you fixed the bimini,” I said.

Marco was rummaging under the central console. He pulled out a length of rope. “I did. The cabrón managed to rip it off the frame. Good that we weren’t going super-fast. The whole gear could have ended in the drink. That fucking moron tried to raise the top while the boat was going.”

I missed the incident. I was struggling to stay upright on my skis at the end of the tow rope when it happened. First time I tried that stuff. The picture of the flying bimini gave me a shiver of delayed dread. The contraption could have slammed into me, Final Destination-style.

“Give me hand,” Marco said.

I stood on the bench between Wally’s fat legs. Marco balanced on the edge of the boat. After copious sweating the canvas was tied up. Enough to give us shade. It beats down hard on a still July day in the Gulf of Mexico.

We’d been fishing an oil rig close to Galveston, caught enough, and decided to have a bit of fun with the skis. Marco’s good and I wanted to have a go. The water was so flat it was an invitation. Wally didn’t ski, he drank.

“I feel a nap coming,” I said, yawning.

Marco tossed me a beer. “Let’s drop the floating anchor. An hour, then we head home.”

He stretched in the pilot chair. I laid on the floor with a stack of life jackets as a pillow.


The crunch of boots on dead leaves. My feet didn’t make the noise. I wasn’t moving. I turned around and there was Dad with the gun resting on his shoulder, smiling. “You saw something?” he said. I wasn’t sure. “Whatever it is, I don’t want to shoot it.” Dad put an arm around my shoulders and we walked into the forest. Leaves and fallen branches cracked under our feet. Deep in the woods, there was a boom, like a tree falling under the ax of a lumberjack. Boom.


I woke up.


I rolled off the pile of life vests. The boat was trembling as if a hand slapped it.

I saw Marco standing in the front, he was looking at the water. The sea was in turmoil. I looked up. The sky was as clear as before, Not a lick of wind.


“We gotta go,” Marco said. “They gonna crack us.” He was pale.

“What is it?”


I grabbed my filet knife and pulled a 3-foot wahoo from the live well. I slashed its side. Marco cut off the anchor. He gave me a nod. I swung the fish over the side.

I saw fins and teeth in the foaming sea. I think I saw a black eye, staring at me for a second, then we were off. Wally was still snoring.

M.E. Proctor is currently writing a series of contemporary detective novels. The first book in the series “Street Song” will come out from TouchPoint Press in 2023. Her short stories have been published in Vautrin, Bristol Noir, Pulp Modern, Mystery Tribune, The Bookends Review, Shotgun Honey and others. She lives in Livingston, Texas. Twitter: @MEProctor3

The Haunted Pitch by Jim Ruland

Flash Fiction, Horror

How he died isn’t important. Well, actually, it is. Monaghan was up all night drinking and doing blow and his heart exploded twenty-seven minutes into the match. Don’t interrupt. You asked for a story and a story is what you’ll get. Now the important thing is that it exploded while he was doing what he loved best. Well, hurling, of course, but he did love his Coors Light. Imagine those excruciating twenty-seven minutes before his demise. Running, leaping, striking the ball with his heart going rabitty and strange, and every second wondering if it would be his last. Did he know? I think he did. Pity Monaghan didn’t last another three minutes or he’d still be here, keeping barmen in business. He did love the game. That cannot be denied. He loved it something fierce. I’m getting to the ghosty part, don’t you worry. Monaghan’s passion for the sport was so powerful that those who pass by the pitch late at night swear they can hear the pock pock pock of his stick striking the ball. One blustery evening, long after the season was over, a local fellow, yes it was the butcher, no it wasn’t McAllister’s, the one we don’t go to anymore since ma took ill. It’s not important. The butcher took a shortcut across the pitch and heard the sound of Monahan warming up—pock pock pock, pock pock pock—even though the field was empty and the sky was as dark as a dungeon. As our man was crossing the middle of the pitch he felt something come up against his foot. No, it didn’t hurt, it was just a nudge, and when he looked down he saw a ball at his feet so he did. He picked it up and gave it a gander but it wasn’t a ball at all but a mass of skin and hair and teeth that gave the poor fellow—yes, the butcher—a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach. Well, of course, he was used to looking at bits of meat and bone and other oddments from his work at the butcher’s shop but when he looked down to see what it was he held in his hand he beheld an eye beholding him. Monaghan’s eye. Now I don’t need to tell you that… No, just the one eye. It doesn’t matter what color the eye was because… It was brown, yes, like your mother’s, the very same. Yes, of course, I miss her, sure I do, but she’s… With Monaghan? Ah, no, she’s… No, no, no, she’s not at the pitch with Monaghan. She’d have no reason to be there. My eyes? There’s nothing the matter with my eyes, son. They’re as dry as… What’s this? A tooth! In my eye! My toothy eye! Now quit your squealing and get yourself to sleep…  

Jim Ruland is the LA Times bestselling author of Corporate Rock Sucks: The Rise and Fall of SST Records. He also co-authored My Damage with Keith Morris, the founding vocalist of Black Flag, Circle Jerks, and OFF! and Do What You Want with Bad Religion. Ruland has won awards from Reader’s Digest and the National Endowment for the Arts and his work has appeared in many magazines. His new novel, Make It Stop, which will be published by Rare Bird Books in April 2023.

Jed by Justin Lee

Flash Fiction, Horror

I wake up every morning to Jed looking down on me. The lights are off. The bright screen from a monitor illuminates Jed’s grin. He sits down in the chair next to my bed. I think he sits so close so he can tell me things.

I don’t know how long I’ve been in this hospital room. Nor do I know why I can’t talk. How I wish I could. I think I would just scream. Scream until I can’t anymore.

Jed leans in close.

“I’m so lucky to have gotten you assigned to me. You are such a great listener.” Jed said as he turned the TV on.

“Let me tell you what I did to Sally. I’ve been putting up with so much from her. Do you know what henpecked means? I feel like she has pecked me to damn death and back.” Jed stops to a drink from the water my nurse brought me and sits the cup back down on my bedside table.

“So today was the day. I sold her.”

He laughs.

“I mean, straight-up put her on Backpage and sold her to some fella from Gainesville. I just told him to come get her while I was out. Thank God for that. Thank God for you too.”

Jed sits back in his chair. He is still smiling.

I haven’t felt anything from my neck down in a while, but I felt cold everywhere.

“When are they getting you out of here? Is it because of your tongue or your foot?”

He chuckled a bit as he rose out of the chair.

“I guess I should go to my next little lame duck. I don’t get to talk to them like I do you. Shame.”

 I only had one chance at this. I jerked both arms toward my cup and knocked the water down on the floor.

“Shit, I didn’t know you could do all that! I guess you’re gonna need some more of that, pal.” Jed picked up my cup and walked out of the room.

I dragged my hand across the bed towards the phone. It feels like it weighs a hundred pounds. I dial 911 and pray.

“911. What is your emergency?”

I tried to say something but it just sounded like a moan.

“Sir, could you please repeat that?”

I tried again but this time all I could do was moan louder.

The door opened and Jed was standing there. He eased the door shut and walked to my bed. He hung up the phone.

“Why would you do a stupid thing like that?”, Jed said. His eyes never leave mine.

“Now, what am I supposed to do with you?”

He is standing over me again. His grin is bigger now than I have ever seen. He grabbed a pillow from the foot of the bed and held it over my face. My body convulsed.

The last thing I heard was, “Your daughter is going to love that Gainesville boy.”

Justin Lee lives in East Tennessee with his wife and two sons. He is an ex-correctional officer
and is working towards becoming a Social Worker. His writing has appeared in Punk Noir
Magazine and Reckon Review.

Ghost In My Spleen by Serena Jayne

Flash Fiction, Horror

The exorcist hung up on me once I’d explained that I didn’t need to evict a ghost in a machine, but rather to expel the ghost in my spleen. Unfortunately, the possessed body part wasn’t a popular one. Not a heart nor a hand. Not a larynx nor a leg.

The signs were subtle—no rattling chains, or cold spots, or spontaneous combustion. I didn’t speak in tongues, or float, or dream of slaughtering my siblings. Instead, something inside me released a phantom gurgle, and my will to leave the bed fled.  No pill, perk, or prize could stop the sadness sinking me ever deeper into despair.

An internet rabbit hole brought me to the belief systems of long-dead doctors concerning humours—body fluids that affected health, personality, and mental disposition. Surely some sneaky specter converted my spleen into a merriment-murdering black bile factory.

With the exorcist a bust, I sought home remedies to reduce black bile and bring my body into balance. I guzzled green tea and cranberry juice. Avoided alcohol, processed foods, caffeine. I burned sage, filled my humidifier with holy water, and religiously followed the directions on the super-sized container of Spleen Salvation Cleanse.

The ghost clung tight. My insides liquified, and I seemed to spew corruption from every orifice.  I swore and begged and thrashed. I convulsed. I cried. And after sixteen hours of torment, I was certain I’d died. Maybe I hallucinated or went a bit mad. But I swear I spied the wraith—a flimsy wisp of white floating like dandelion fluff.

Sweaty and covered in crud, I dragged the bag of bones my skin suit held to the shower. Neither the water beating my body nor the citrus scent of soap made me feel better. In a fit of pique, I banished every tea leaf, every sage stick, every drop of blessed water, every granule of spleen cleanse.

The ghost was gone, along with all signs of our struggle, yet I remained a wreck. Despite my exhaustion, I googled the other cardinal humours and discovered more ghosts to blame for my shortcomings.

My out-of-control internet shopping and late-night snacking habits signified an imbalance of blood due to a liver spirit. Sloth-like sluggishness spoke to a phantom kicking up a plethora of phlegm in my lungs. The anger and aggression that sparked at the simplest slight meant a ghoul in my gallbladder doggy paddled in a pool of yellow bile.

Relieved, I slouched on the couch and chain smoked. In between puffs, I chowed on cheese, sucked down shots of booze, binge-bought QVC bling, and social media stalked every single ex. Soon, my menthol-scented smoke rings summoned a brand-new batch of specters.

I drunk dialed the exorcist.

“Got more ghosts,” I slurred. “Having a haunted house party, and you’re not invited.”

This time, I hung up on him.

Born under the sun sign of Leo, Serena Jayne is naturally a cat person. Her flash fiction has appeared in The Arcanist, Ghost Parachute, Gone Lawn, Lost Balloon, Shotgun Honey, and other publications. Her short story collection, Necessary Evils, was published by Unnerving Books. She tweets @SJ_Writer.

Dawning of the Knuckle Duster by Andrew Davie

Flash Fiction, Horror

“WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT NOISE??” Someone yelled from behind me. The singer had thrown the microphone to the ground; it sounded like gunfire. “The Van Damned,” had just finished a blistering song, which had revved up the crowd and sent them at each other like particles in a collider. Now it was over, and everyone looked around confused their orgy of sound and fury cut short. 

            “Fuckin great set, huh?” 

            Some kid with an “I’ve got VD” T-shirt said and wiped blood from his nose. He had a medically induced thousand-yard stare and a crooked smile. 

            “Oh yeah, you’ve got to love the Sturm and Drang,” I said. 

The kid gave me the once over, and I felt the heat radiate from his body. He wiped his nose again. His eye twitched slightly.

            “You sure you’re s’posed to be here?”

            Before I could answer the next band, High Yield Bombs, had already begun to play the first riff from “Punching Through a Mountain with our Bare Fists.” The kid bolted forth into the maelstrom of bodies at the center of the ballroom. I remained on the outskirts of the circle but could see just enough through the zoetrope of flailing limbs.

            The kid with the bloody nose and “I’ve Got VD” shirt was spit out of the circle, saw me, and ambled over with a few new bruises. He still had the medically induced thousand-yard stare.

            “Fuckin great set, huh?” he said and spat blood on the ground. 

The next and final song was their foray into sludge metal. Much like how Black Flag had been influenced by bands like Saint Vitas, High Yield Bombs were testing the waters. The kids in the crowd who wanted a faster tempo funneled outside of the circle.

            Before the kid with the bloody nose and I could continue our Abbott and Costello routine, he had re-entered the melee. The music swelled to a fever pitch, and the circle converged onto itself like a dwarf star imploding. For the first time that evening, I saw true fear register. The kid stopped moving and looked for an exit, but the circle had closed behind him. He tried to climb out over the wave of bodies and yelled something profane. Hands reached out from beneath him, gripped his shoulders, and pulled him down. It had been reminiscent of any of the “Living Dead” movies in which an overconfident anti-hero meets their end. The crescendo hit with a furious double kick drum, and the song finished. 

            “Thank you,” The lead singer said, “that was ‘Dawning of the Knuckle Duster.’ Have a good night.” The musicians unplugged their instruments and there was a brief piercing wail of feedback. I quickly scanned for the kid with the bloody nose, but he was gone. He’d been completely swallowed up and possibly transported to another dimension like the villains from Krypton who’d been sentenced to the Phantom Zone.

Andrew Davie has worked in theater, finance, and education. He taught English in Macau on a Fulbright Grant and has survived a ruptured brain aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage. He is currently pursuing a clinical mental health counseling degree. He has published short stories at various places, a memoir, an essay collection, and crime fiction books with All Due Respect, Close to the Bone, Alien Buddha Press, and Next Chapter. His work can be found in links on his website

Heist the Buller by Gavin Turner

Flash Fiction, Heist

It was a matter of fact, not opinion, that this was not going at all well. They were now half an hour into the job and still no closer to the prize. Starmy wiped drips from his brow, chucking down the industrial saw in anger.

“It’s no good, he huffed. This outer layer looks like a house of straw but it’s tougher than Kevlar. It will be a miracle if we break through this”

“I told you we should have brought Lambo with us on this one, his accomplice said. He’s the muscle in this outfit”

“Shut it, I’m in charge here, Nando” he fired back, digging in his pocket for a dribble free hankie. Finding none he rubbed his blue jacket sleeve around his face, lamenting that it had all come down to this. He stood up slowly, arching his aching back “Where’s Ed? We need him”.

“He said he would wait in the car; you know how he’s always one for a quick getaway. Nando paused, her tone changing slightly. You know sometimes I think you like him better than me. She pouted a little, hands on hips. She could feel the outline of the Dictaphone in her blazer pocket. I’m always here to listen” she added. She felt they trusted each other, it was just, insurance.

He chose not to respond. Starmy’s plan was crumbling round his ears. I don’t have time for this he thought. Time to be a strong leader now. He rubbed his hands together then placed them firmly on Nando’s shoulders, staring her straight in the eye.

“This is not a robbery its’s national service he declared. I need to see where your loyalties lie”

Nando looked confused at the concept. Frustrated, Starmy let go of her. Anger boiling over he could only hiss through gritted teeth.

“Tell Ed not to trip as he goes down the steps”. Nando moved towards the moonlit window so she could text the getaway driver on her burner phone.

What a useless crew Starmy thought. Although he admitted it was a good idea having the burner phones. He was just a bit surprised that they had all got one spare before he’d even mentioned the plan. That was a bit weird.

He wished he’d brought more tools with him.  He had always played by the book, tried to do the right thing till now. Patience had worn to a threaded hole in his ambitions. When would he get to wear the number 10 shirt?

He hated to admit defeat, but it was time to move to plan B. Or to be more accurate, plan D. The last thing they could try. Time to dance with the devil. Time to call in Dom. The loot whisperer.

Starmy was about to place the call when, out of the shadows a scrawny paw laid itself on his cold shoulders.

“No need to call Dom simpered, I’m always around”

Starmy tried not to let Dom feel him shudder under the clammy grasp.

“I’ll find a chink in this armour he offered with a sickly grin. I’m an expert remember”

He laid his rucksack on the ground, rummaging in the contents. Starmy and Nando exchanged a glance as they witnessed a brief reveal of Dom’s knackered boxers as he bent over the bag. As if feeling the gaze, Dom attempted again to tuck the back of his shirt in and failed. He withdrew a small bottle with a cork stopper from the bag. Deftly removing the cork, he wafted its contents under the subject’s nose.  The subject snorted a little but otherwise remained calm.

“Just a little lubrication Dom explained, loosen him up a bit”

Starmy got a brief whiff of the tincture in the stuffy room. It smelled like old money, and pig blood. The feelings of helplessness, like in the old place came over him in waves. He had to press home how important this was. How it mattered.

“We’ve got to get this right Starmy proffered, everything we need to know is in there, all the… secrets

Dom nodded sagely and waved him away as he leant close into the ear of the subject. He turned for a second.

“You can’t break in here with those crude tools he said pointing at the vast array of power tools scattered on the plush carpet. This will take stealth”. He gently stroked the flabby chops  of the subject and smiled again as if reminiscing. “That’s right my pretty he said. They’ll not get through this rhino hide like that”

The eye of the subject flickered briefly. There was a semblance of recognition, half a memory. A borrowed pair of glasses, a postcard from a family trip to a castle.

He leant in once more. The subject’s mumblings grew louder as Dom whispered softly in his ear.

Starmy heard almost incoherent words from the subject. ‘Hands, face, buller buller buller’ it seemed to garble. Reaching a crescendo, Starmy quickly closed the gap in the door. The noise had reached such a pitch he was worried they might disturb the Moggy, peacefully perched in its basement dungeon.

The garbling stopped abruptly. A scraping noise like a long-forgotten hinge cracked open the thatched lid of the Prime Minister’s head. Out rolled a pig skin purse, gilded with dusty swan feathers.

‘Remember you owe me now’ Dom uttered and melted waxy into the shadows of the cabinet office.

With a trembling hand Starmy picked up the bag as the hinged skull shut its door once more.

Stitched in italic gold on the side of the bag were the words ‘The Truth’

Starmy stuffed the bag into his inside jacket pocket. Nando collected their belongings and together they rushed out to the waiting saloon. Ed attempted to rev the engine, forgetting it was an electric. He pushed the pedal to the floor and sped off inaudibly into the London night.

The Prime minister, snorted in his sleep, oblivious to the raid. Only the darkness was now left to witness the midnight blathering, spewing nonsense in its slumber, all its secrets spilled. Inside the skull, the memories, the mistakes, squirming like a forced apology, spilling their way out of the open mouth.

“Hands, face, buller buller buller”.

Gavin Turner is a writer from Wigan, England. You can find his poems an short stories in Roi Faineant press, Void space and the Chamber magazine. His debut chapbook, ‘The Round Journey’ was released on 2022. 

Easy by Jason Melvin

Flash Fiction, Heist

I cased it for a few nights. Timed the regulars, knew their patterns. The brand of snuff they bought, the 40’s they sucked down. This was supposed to be easy. Too young girl working the counter, this late at night. Already knowing where the money box was kept. Knowing that no weapons were under the counter. Having worked here a few years ago, already knowing the owner was a drunk who often forgot to pick up the drops to take them to the bank. Leaving that much cash, with a cute just-out-of-high-school girl, the only thing stopping someone from stealing it.

 I’ll admit. She was a distraction. Her dark brown bob, dancing as she swayed her head to the house music. The way she smiled at every customer as if they were friends, genuine. The artwork snaking up her slender arm. A little too much make-up that she didn’t need, but she had a style and it was intriguing.

Thirty seconds is all it should’ve taken. Pop in, gun out, mask down, loud, scary and demanding. Keep her from thinking straight by yelling and smashing things. That’s the way I’d usually do it. But honestly. I didn’t want to startle her. I didn’t want her crying and hysterical. I didn’t want to see her bottom lip quaking, the thick eyeliner running down her cheeks. So, I went in smooth, suave. Ball cap pulled down real low, sauntered up to the counter. Asked real polite for the money in the register and the cash box, placed my loaded gun gently on the counter.

As I watch the blood pool around my feet, I know were it all went wrong. Why the fuck did I take my hand off the gun? Days watching her operate, all cute and bubbly, flirty with no attitude. I never expected her hands to be so fast. Her demeanor so cool. Sure, I didn’t want her frightened into hysterics, but I never expected the ease at which she would gun someone down.

She got two shots off before I knew what was happening. I fell back into the chip display. I tried to apologize for causing such a mess but forming words while choking on your blood is difficult. She’s on the phone now, talking to the police. Still cool, no quiver in her voice, just relaying the chain of events. All the way staring right at me, no tears in her eyes.

I never expected to die, sprawled out on a blanket of bloody snack foods, a bag of potato chips jammed in my armpit.

Jason Melvin received a gimmicky T-shirt from his teenage daughter on Christmas with a picture of one large fist fist-bumping a much smaller fist.  The caption read, “Behind every smart-ass daughter is a truly asshole Dad”.  It fit. He can be found on Twitter @jason5melvin and on his website at