Brittle by Melissa Flores Anderson

Flash Fiction

The clerk at the front desk of the hotel handed Ash a welcome package with brochures and a sample of sweets from a local candy shop. She held it aloft as she managed an overnight bag and a laptop case, tired from a long drive that morning and a full day of sitting in conference sessions.

She didn’t travel much for work, but when she did, it took her to what she and her husband had dubbed the B-list cities. Cities you wouldn’t plan to visit on purpose, but that if someone else paid for you to be there you might find something to like about them. Indianapolis. Minneapolis. Columbus. Virginia Beach.

The current locale couldn’t have been a C-list or even a D-list place. 40 miles from anywhere worthwhile. The hotel had the name of a lake in it, but Ash hadn’t see any water from the exterior of the grounds. When she reached the fourth floor, she expected a view of it off in the distance, but instead her room looked out on the parking lot toward her SUV and the other suburban cars of tourist and conference attendees.

The hot weather had risen from street level and pooled in her top-floor room. She stripped off a blazer and a blouse, slipped out of brown slacks, and tossed the clothes onto the bed furthest from the window. She turned on the air conditioner and flopped onto the bed in her underwear and camisole, a throttle of cool air emitting from the unit on the wall.

When she was younger, she would have done the same thing, abandoned a bag just inside the doorway and thrown her body stomach down onto a comforter. But back then, a companion would have followed, his hand on the curve of her ass, toying with the hem of a dress, before pulling her back toward the edge of the bed. This bed would have been the right height for that, if she weren’t alone, if she weren’t approaching middle age, if anyone still wanted her in that desperate, urgent way.

Ash closed her eyes and breathed in the stiff scent of the white sheets. If she stayed still, she could fall asleep. But instead she put on a fresh shirt and skirt, then headed out to the networking thing at a wine bar two blocks up.

She asked for a glass of pinot grigio and stood off to the side. Close enough to smile across the room at people as they came in, but far off enough they wouldn’t make the trek away from the center of the room to talk. She finished the drink and moved to place the empty glass on the edge of the bar, when a man approached. She’d seem him earlier, two tables away, at the conference. One of those comm guys with the slick hair and the slim fit pants. Too polished, too pretty. She wondered if he might be a salesman. They always found her at these things and thought she was an easy mark, her soft smile and long hair a disguise for her skeptic’s heart.

“Ashley, right?” the guy said. He held out the lanyard that displayed his name. Darren.

“Hi,” she said, and took a step toward the bar. Not encouraging, still skeptical.

“Want another drink?” he asked and held a glass of white out to her. “I was hoping you’d be here tonight. I recognized you at breakfast.”

“Recognized me?” she said, trying to place him.

“You worked for the paper in San Benito, right? Crime reporter?”

“I wasn’t a crime reporter, but I did work there for a while.”

“My hometown. Read your investigative piece on that homicide in 2007 when I was a high school senior. Inspired me to get into the news biz.”

At this, she let out a sharp laugh. “How’s that going for you?”

“I mean, we’re both here at this government comm conference so I think you know.”

The investigative piece had earned her an award, the first of many. Her current job didn’t offer bylines or accolades.

She looked at the man now, with his shaped eyebrows and sharp cheekbones, no wrinkles on his smooth face. She put him at a decade younger than her, at least. The kind of beautiful boy she would have fallen for and never talked to in her 20s.

He touched her arm as she finished off the second glass. The buzz from the alcohol and his light brush spread a flush across her chest and face. She relaxed into the conversation. His movements mirrored hers, lifting a glass to his lips when she did, hand in his hair as she pushed her bangs aside. After most of the other conference attendees had left for dinner, Darren put his hand on the small of her back.

“Walk you to the hotel?”

She gave one nod.

They waited for the elevator and entered it alone.

“What floor are you on?” she asked, as she reached for the silver buttons.

“Doesn’t matter,” he said, and pushed her back into the wall of the elevator, his lips hard against hers as she fingered the 4 button.

In the room, she didn’t pause. She didn’t hesitate. The stranger with the perfect eyebrows undressed her and pulled her to the edge of the bed. And after they finished, Darren prattled on about journalism and awards she’d won as she drifted off to sleep.

Ash woke alone in the morning, showered and began to repack her overnight kit. She picked up the bag with the brochure into which Darren had slipped a business card. Ash lifted the small box of candy out of the bag, some kind of peanut brittle and caramel chews, and dropped the sweets into her purse. She’d give them to her husband and kid when she got home.

She left the rest behind.


Melissa Flores Anderson is a Latinx Californian and an award-winning journalist. Her creative work has been published by Vois Stories, Rigorous Magazine, Moss Puppy Magazine, Variant Lit, Twin Pies Literary, Roi Fainéant Press, Chapter House Journal and Voidspace Zine. Follow her on Twitter @melissacuisine or IG @theirishmonths

Fallen Leaves by Jason Melvin

Flash Fiction

The incessant barking from the little yippy dogs is what alerted us. Two little shit-stain chihuahuas that strutted around the neighborhood, barking at everything to remind the world that they were some kind of hot shots. I hadn’t seen them, just heard them, which was odd. Hadn’t seen their owner either. Officially, the neighbor has been declared missing. He wasn’t in the house when the police went in. His car is still in the driveway.  He being an older gentleman, not much in the way of family or friends, I expected them to be pulling him out of the house in a body bag.

The neighbor and I had a few arguments, over the years, about those dogs – shitting in our yard, running out in front of our cars as we traveled down our dead-end road. For the most part though, we stayed out of each other’s way. The only other argument we ever had was about the leaves.  With the trees being on my property, but a large majority of the leaves falling onto his property, in his mind, they were my responsibility every autumn. Truth be told, I never cared about raking up the leaves. When the kids were little, we raked them up so they could jump and play in them.  But now, I’d much rather let the wind carry them to the woods at the edge of our properties.  Whatever was left come spring, I’d chop up with the lawn mower.

I felt bad when I saw him, rake in hand, surveying the leaves in his yard. He’s too old to be raking leaves. I yelled down to him, letting him know I just bought a small battery-operated leaf blower. Told him not to worry about the leaves, I’ll take care of them. He assures me it’s not an issue, it’s just something for him to do. I tell him to just rake them into the ditch, I’ll take them to the woods. That was two days ago. When the police asked, I let them know that was the last time I saw him.

There’s a small grade where our properties meet; the ditch I was referring to. I’d take the leaves from the ditch and rake them into a bedsheet, along with whatever was left in my yard. I decided to wait a few more days though, as not all the leaves had fallen yet, and I didn’t want to do this once, let alone twice.

I was surprised by how well the little battery-operated blower was able to jostle the leaves around. Once I started pushing them into piles, I loved the way the forced air made it seem as if something was burrowing underneath the pile. The leaves would billow up and ripple as one unit, me imagining some creature crawling under a blanket of leaves. The earth rippled like in the-so-bad-it’s-good early 90’s Kevin Bacon movie where they’re being chased by giant prehistoric earthworms.

As I pushed the leaves into bigger piles around the ditch, I noticed the rake handle first. Just the tip of it. It wasn’t odd to find wood under the leaves with the number of branches that often fall too. But to see the treated finished handle startled me. I continued to blow until I saw the fingers still wrapped around the handle. There was something under the leaves, but it wasn’t moving. I needed to call the police.


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”. His work has recently appeared in A Thin Slice of Anxiety, Roi Faineant, Outcast, Bullshit Lit andothers. He can be found on Twitter @jason5melvin and on his website at http://www.jasonmelvinwords.weebly.com.

You are what you eat by Bobby Crace

Flash Fiction

Jenny’s father gave her nourishing words covered in hot cocoa and ancestor blood. Words like, “You’re great.” and “I love you.” But Jenny ate other words. She’d hear someone on the street yell, “You’re a fucking asshole,” and Jenny would bite the words out of the air and swallow. She ate words like that every day. It was a diet that corroded her into a toxic place.

Jenny’s father, Max, had a father who gave him military words covered in sandspurs and motor oil. Words like, “Shoot the fucking deer, boy. Be a man!” and “You better toughen up, son, or life’s gonna kick you in the teeth.” Max ate the words so they didn’t stick in his ears. He poured a thick epoxy into his stomach to cement the letters down in his guts where they wouldn’t be able to break free and find his voice.

Jenny’s stomach rotted out from all the rusty words she ate. She tried to cram more shrapnel letters into her mouth. Her face squeezed and leaked until she couldn’t breathe. Max tried to Heimlich the overdose words Jenny was choking on. He reached down her throat and yanked out pieces of “You’re a fucking asshole.” “You idiot.” “You’re ugly.” “You’re pathetic.” He was able to yank out most of the vowels and some of the hard consonants. Jenny began to stabilize.

Max worried over Jenny as she recovered. He could barely keep down worry words like, “Is she ok?” “Am I making things worse?” “How can I fix her?”

One morning, Jenny and Max ate cereal together while a small kitchen TV flashed sports. They didn’t talk. They sat with each other and dug out eating strategies with their spoons. Max and Jenny looked up at the same time. Jenny’s face gave an endangered smile that melted Max’s name.

Jenny’s dad did not savor the joy of seeing her before face. He cracked his teeth on the white space. Why hadn’t he seen the smile in so long, “I’ve failed as a father,” Max thought and then quickly gulped down the hurt words before they could escape his mouth. The poison pills flushed through his esophagus and landed on the epoxied words frozen in his stomach. The shape and velocity behind the letters F, A, I, and L cleaved the resin so that a couple of his dad’s words came bubbling up. The hereditary letters tried to find Max’s vocal cords so they could vibrate casualties at Jenny. Weapon words like, “Where did I go wrong?” But instead the cancer letters lodged in Max’s throat. They began to metastasize toward a lymph node until Jenny puked up some chemo words, “Dad, you’re a good dad. Relax… Thank you… Love and stuffs.”


Bobby Crace is a writer, editor, and teacher in New York City. He has been published by various literary, sports, and trade publications. Bobby has an MFA in Creative Writing from Stony Brook University and a BA from Berklee College of Music

ASL no crime by David Hagerty

Flash Fiction

Judge

I not understand. You keep me here why? ASL no crime.

Last month police arrest me. Dog they say I steal. French bull dog with big ears and sad face. True I take but I think no one want it. It run up to me on street. True it have collar but dirty. It small and weak. It not eat. I take to vet for help.

There police arrest me. Dog they say I take. Someone see person steal dog from back yard. Not me I tell them. I find. They not understand me. ASL they not understand. Interpreter I ask for. No police tell me. Ask lawyer.

Lawyer not understand why I take dog. Steal he think also.

Money I have not so I stay jail. I not like. Every day same. Same clothes. Same food. Dry orange and green meat sandwich. Green meat no one like. Green meat we throw away. Only bread we eat.

Jail busy and noisy. People think Deaf people cannot hear but noise I hear. Always noise here. All day and night loud voices and buzzers. Sleep I cannot.

Other men different from me. Sign they cannot. ASL no one understand. Every day I watch TV and card games but words I cannot understand because of noise.

Read I try but no books I like. Every day same books. Books about crime and criminals. Cowboys and Indians. No books about Deaf people.

First other men ignore me. Second they hear me try talk. I cannot talk good because I cannot hear how people talk. Third other men insult me. Fight me they want so I ignore them.

My hearing aids guards take. They need recharge. Guards refuse recharge. Guards mock me with fake sign but I understand lips and faces.

One man friend me. He see me stand alone in yard. Your name what he ask. I read lips some so I write on dirt JAMES. OMAR he write back. We write in dirt until we tired. Then he ask me sign for ASL so I show him. It two fingers roll backward. He like that so I teach him more sign. Signs for cigarette and smoke and medicine.

English he teach me. Before no one teach me. ASL school teach ASL but English I know not. ASL different. Word order different. Many words we not use like the, is, to. Words we waste not. Face and body we use instead.

Before I never need write. Animals I help. Dogs I walk. Cats I watch. They understand I communicate how. Words we not need. Body language they read like me.

OMAR say I learn fast. More books I read. Same books he read. Books about history and sciences. Letters I learn write.

He fast student also. Soon we sign across glass walls separate us. We sign you read what and you eat what? We sign even from cells. Little windows big enough for that.

Then ASL we teach his friends. We sign together. Men talk all day and night.

Our sign guards not like. Stop they tell us. No gang signs they say. Plot they say we have. Plot we have not. We friends.

Single cell they lock me in. Stop plot they say. No plot I say. We friends.

Friends I cannot see. Single I eat. Single I go yard. Single I sleep.

Yesterday my lawyer say plot bring drugs into jail I start. Plot I know not. Drugs I use not. I born Deaf because my mom use drugs. Quinine. Drugs I never use.

Ten years they say. Ten years for ASL. My job I lose. My apartment I lose. My life I lose.

In court my interpreters understand not. They not interpret right. Then my lawyer understand not. ASL he know not. My case he care not. Proof he say they have. Videos. Videos from what? Sign he say.

ASL no proof. ASL no crime.

Understand I want you. Understand me.

I not understand. You keep me here why?


I’ve written four political mysteries about a renegade governor trying to punish his daughter’s killer. I’ve also published more than two dozen short stories online and in print. Read more about me at https://davidhagerty.net

Don’t call me darling! by Anthony Kane Evans

Flash Fiction

She slammed the front door behind me.

“Don’t tell me to write happy poetry!” she shouted.

I pushed open the letterbox.

“I wasn’t saying you should write happy poetry! I just thought, you know, that butterfly landing on your nose yesterday might be a good starting point for a …”

“Fuck off!” she shouted.

“I’m going,” I said, “Just one last thing. I only drank half my coffee.”

I heard her stomp away from the door. A minute or so later I heard the catch go on, and the door was pulled ajar.

“I put it into a paper cup,” she said.

She thrust it through the gap.

“Thanks,” I said.

She stood there, liked a cropped photograph, scowling at me.

“Are we still on for the cinema tonight?” I said.

“You’ll have to call me.”

“And, one last thing, you have taken your tablets this morning, haven’t you?”

She slammed the door in my face. Except it wasn’t much of a slam as it wasn’t much open.

I opened the letterbox.

“One more word about that bloody butterfly and we are finished forever!” she shouted

“I’ve got to tell you or you’re going to be even angrier. I posted the photo on Facebook.”

“You didn’t?”

“I did.”

She started screaming. She ran up and down the hallway. The screaming got louder, then fainter, then louder, then fainter …

“Sorry,” I said.

I headed home. She called me on the way.

“You take that photo down right now! You hear?” she said.

“I can’t on this phone,” I said, “You know it doesn’t take the Internet. It’ll have to wait until I get to my place.”

She clicked out.

At home I turned on the computer and clicked into Facebook. I didn’t want to take the photo down. It had got fifty assorted likes, loves and wows. I’d never got that many before. Of course, quite a few were her friends, not mine. I removed it. Clicked into messages and wrote to her: Done. Then I clicked into her profile and saw that she’d changed her profile picture. Gone was us in front of the new opera house. In it’s place she was in the bathroom in her bra, high-angle shot, giving the fuck-finger. Her relationship status had been changed to: Interested in women.


Anthony Kane Evans has had around sixty-five short stories published in various UK, French, US, Canadian, Nigerian, Singaporean, and Australian literary journals, e-zines, and anthologies. Journals include London Magazine (UK), Orbis Quarterly International Literary Journal (UK), The Tusculum Review (US), Going Down Swinging (Australia), and The Antigonish Review (Canada). E-zines include Litro Magazine, New Pop Lit and Short Édition. Though born in Manchester, UK, he is currently to be found in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he has made several documentary films for the Danish Broadcasting Corporation.

Rotten Tree by Justin Lee

Flash Fiction

My dad died in our yard. Most people that knew him say the usual things people say about someone who’s dead. All the good, none of the bad, and nothing too serious. It’s kinda funny. I’ve known him for all sixteen years of my life and the man they describe is nothing like the man sitting in the funeral home parlor.

    A few people are trading stories about him from the old days. The stupid hair. The girls. The cars. That guy sounds pretty cool. I bet none of them want to hear my stories. Like the one where my puppy snatched up one of our hens. When dad got home he stomped that pup till all it could do was crawl. It got under the porch of the trailer which was too tight of a squeeze for the old man. So, he made me crawl under there to get it. I was five. He said, “Look, all I want to do is make sure it ain’t hurt too bad. I may have lit it up a little too good”. I bought it. By the time I reached the little guy he was curled up in a ball, shivering. I grabbed him and crawled back out. Dad stood there except now he had his gun. He grabbed the pup and sat him on the ground. Told me to pull the trigger or he would do it ugly. I couldn’t even see the pup now because of the tears welling up in my eyes. I could tell from his voice that dad was pissed. I saw his foot raise up and heard a crunch. The pup never made a sound. Dad just looked at me and said, “Should’ve pulled it. Pussy.”

    I walked back into the visitation room. I could feel the room get tense when I walked in. There were whispers about why this was a closed casket. People felt that was a disrespect to the man they knew. I think they just wanted to find out if a man like that could really be dead.

    I saw it. Hell, I was there when it happened. He asked me to help get his scope lined in. He knew I hated that gun. I think that was one of the many disappointments in his life when it came to me. He walked up to the treeline at the edge of our yard to nail a target on an old maple. He looked back over his shoulder and told me to see if it was in range. I raised the rifle, but I must have forgotten to check the safety.

    The funeral home director came out and ushered everyone to the main gallery for the service. They let me have another minute alone with him. I walked up to the casket and waited for everyone to clear the room. I knelt down so I could be on his level and placed my hands on the lid of the casket. I’m sure it looked like a sad little boy trying to hold on to another second with his dad. All I really wanted to do was let him know that his son wasn’t a pussy.

    So I whispered real low, “I sure pulled it that time, didn’t I?”


Justin Lee lives in East Tennessee with his wife and two sons. He is an ex-Corrections Officer and is currently working towards becoming a Social Worker.

Kipling’s Lament by Jay Bechtol

Flash Fiction, Punk Noir Magazine

The man startles awake from his nightmare. One hand reaching for his wife sleeping next to him, the other for his neck. The sensation of having a knife drawn across his throat still tangible. Except both hands are sticky. And wet. Disbelieving fingertips ripple across the serrated flesh on his neck. His panicked eyes fly around the darkened room. He can just see the blood soaked sheets where his wife’s body lies. Unmoving. A figure stands at the foot of the bed holding a knife, the face shrouded in the shadow of a baseball cap. The man tries to call out, to scream, but his throat and lungs have filled with a crimson fluid. He kicks at the sheets, intent on trying to rise. Defend his home. A gurgle escapes his mouth and a bubble of blood slips between the parted skin on his neck. He tries to stand, his body weakens, and he falls. Dead before he hits the floor.

The figure turns and walks from the bedroom into the hall.

***

I’m good at what I do. I don’t repeat any particular pattern or become beholden to a specific weapon or method. I use knives and bludgeons and ropes and plastic bags. Not guns. I don’t particularly like them. I carry an empty one for show, too many things can go wrong with a loaded gun. I have a few basic rules and I follow them.

The police and the newspapers haven’t dubbed my activities with any clever name. Much less even recognized what I do. No one knows what I look like. That’s one of the rules. No witnesses left alive.

It’s not so difficult, it turns out, to kill another person. I learned quickly that disposal is the hardest part. But a random house with an unlocked door makes disposal moot. That’s another rule. If the door isn’t unlocked, don’t go in. You’d be surprised how many people leave their doors unlocked.

And let me tell you, I have seen some things.

***

The figure moves down the hall toward the next bedroom. The knob turns but the door rattles in its frame, refusing to open. Near the top is a metal hasp with a sliding bolt. The figure contemplates the bolt for a moment then reaches up and slides it from its locked position. The metal scrapes loudly in the empty hallway and the door swings open.

Inside is a boy, perhaps fourteen years old, shackled to a bed. Bed. A mattress on the ground without sheets or blankets. The leather cuffs around his wrist and ankles attached to chains bolted to the floor. The boy’s eyes are wide. Visible even in the darkness of the windowless room.

“Are you here to save me?” The boy asks.

***

They always get caught. It’s like they can’t help themselves with the clues and the letters to the cops and the grandstanding. Trying to overcome an abusive father or mommy issues or the school bullies when they were kids. Whatever. Son of Sam, the Night Stalker, Dahmer, Bundy, Gacy. All of them losers. Zodiac and Jack the Ripper, maybe they got away with it? But really what is their legacy? Eight, maybe fifteen-ish between them? Please.

I did twice that last year.

It’s a simple numbers game. About five thousand people went missing in California last year alone. That’s kids and adults. Doesn’t account for the thousands of runaways or people that wanted to disappear. Nope. Five thousand people gone. Eighteen of them were mine.

California is just an example. I travel for work and I’ve killed people in every one of the states except Connecticut, Arkansas, and North Dakota. I’ve killed a few people in Europe.

I’m efficient.

***

The boy shakes his feet and the chains rattle, a feeble sound in the dark. The figure enters the room and kneels at the edge of the mattress.

“They keep you like this?”

The boy nods and repeats his plaintive query, “Are you here to save me?”

The figure removes her ball cap and runs her hand through her hair. She rubs her forehead, “No,” she answers. “That’s against the rules.”

She pauses and touches the boy’s foot, pats it twice, and looks back toward the doorway and considers the dim outline of the hasp on the frame. Now unlocked.

They sit in silence for a time.

***

It would be easy to get caught up in the emotion of it all, and that’s where so many go wrong. Their ego, their need for attention. Not me. I follow the rules and I’ll tell you again, I’m very good at what I do.

***

She stays in the room for almost an hour. Much longer than is safe. The boy had pleaded repeatedly, then stopped. The blood on her knife has long since congealed and she stares down at the boy on the mattress and imagines she sees gratitude in his unblinking eyes.

She exits the room leaving the door open and unlocked.


Jay Likes to write, so he does. His recent short stories have appeared in Uncharted, Penumbra, and Crystal Lake. His debut novel, “The Great American Coward” was released by Golden Storyline Books in October 2021. He can be found on-line at www.jaybechtol.com or on Twitter @BechtolJay. He can be found in person in Homer, Alaska.

Sensitivities by Jesse Hilson

Flash Fiction

“Just makes me mad,” she said, “when other people believe in themselves more than…”

“More than what?” he said.

“More than me.”

“It makes you mad when other people believe in themselves more than they believe in you, or more than you believe in yourself? Who’s doing the believing?”

“You know what I mean.”

“You mean fuck them for having too much self-esteem.”

“Exactly.”

“Some people have no awareness,” he said.

“And I hate that.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t pay attention either.”

“Where are we going?”

“To Ratty’s.”

“Not again. I thought we were going to Rite Aid. Ratty gives me the creeps.”

“He’s harmless.”

“He’s always getting inside my head and feeling me up. From the inside.”

“That’s not real.”

“It’s my intuition.”

“I’m sensing a motif.”

“My ‘awareness.’ You said it. Why Ratty’s?”

“To buy mushrooms. Hey maybe if you eat some you’ll even out. Your psychic powers will reset to normal, you won’t be caught up in how excessively other people believe in themselves.”

“You’re supposed to be on my side. Here you are criticizing.”

“I’m helping!”

“Poking at me. I think you picked it up from your family who you know I can’t stand.”

“You met them like twice.”

“It was more than that. Doesn’t take long to see somebody’s rubbing you the wrong way.”

“Tell me about it.”

“What are you whispering?”

“Nothing,” he said.

“You’re hanging out with me for some reason.”

“I like you. Just think you should lighten up.”

“So you can get me in bed.”

“I thought we were past that.”

“No one’s ever past that. Don’t kid yourself.”

“You generalize a lot, did you know that?”

“You would sleep with me instantly if I gave you the green light. In spite of what it would damage.”

“I said don’t smoke in my car.”

“Roll down your window.”

“Maybe hooking up would change things, for the better.”

“You would think that. My experience, it just makes me crazier. Guys afterward look at me like I’m an animal and can’t wait to get out of my apartment.”

“Maybe they’re too busy to stay around your apartment all day.”

“Don’t fuck me if you don’t want to be with me, is what I’d say.”

“Why don’t you say that to them?”

“I do! Can’t explain it. Like I’m Medusa to them once they bust a nut. Practically break the door they’re out of there so fast.”

“People have different sensitivities. Rub each other the wrong way, like you said.”

“I’m gonna be alone forever. It’s true! I should become a lesbian. Or a nun.”

“Always jumping to conclusions. Maybe you picked that up from your family.”

“You don’t want to know what I picked up from my family.”

“Well, I’m sorry about that.”

“Probably going to tell me to toughen up.”

“Trying to help you.”

“I’m staying in the car.”

“Ok. He’s not that bad. Just a few minutes then we’ll go for your meds, we’ll go to the Yellow Deli, how’s that sound.”

“God, I’m starving. Maybe that’s why I’m being such a cunt.”

“You’re not. The world’s just got you down. You hate your job, join the club. Ok, I’ll be fifteen minutes, tops.”

“Leave the keys. I want to listen to the radio.”

“If I’m not back in twenty minutes, shut it off, I don’t want to run the battery down.”

[>>>]

“Ratty.”

“J-Rocc. What’s happening?”

“Just trying to stay upbeat in a cruel and harsh world.”

“Who’s out in the car?”

“Miranda.”

“You hitting that?”

“Please. Once you got her in the mix she’d never let you alone. She’s clingy enough as is.”

“You just need to know how to surgically remove them from your testes.”

“Like you.”

“Like me.”

“Funny I never see you with any women around. Must be an expert at getting rid of the clingy ones.”

“Comes a time when a man needs to put away childish things. Invite her in.”

“She’s not feeling well.”

“Well enough to drive around with you but not enough to come visit me?”

“She’s not feeling well.”

“I think she’s just being a stuck up bitch, is what I think. Come to my house and sit in the driveway…?”

“She’s sick, man. We’re going to Rite Aid.”

“Pregnancy test? You dirty dog.”

“No way.”

“You can tell me.”

“I’m not here to tell you about my personal life.”

“Why are you here?”

“To buy some fungi.”

“I see. Well I’m all sold out.”

“Not what Ferris Wheel told me.”

“Ferris Wheel don’t know shit.”

“Said he bought from you last night.”

“And that was last night.”

“Come on, man.”

“I might have something left, come to think about it. But.”

“But what?”

“I’ll only sell to you if you tell Miranda to get her ass in here. I want to talk to her. We haven’t seen each other since last year.”

“She tells me she doesn’t like you, actually.”

“What. What’s not to like about me?”

“Don’t get sensitive. She just doesn’t care for you. Says she feels like you’re feeling her up with your eyes when you’re around.”

“I don’t feel up anybody with my eyes or nothing.”

“I think she’s accurate. I think she’s about valid.”

“You think so. Well you just talked yourself out of a drug deal, my friend, come to think about it, never come to me again, for anything.”

“Because I wouldn’t give you Miranda on a platter.”

“That’s right.”

“You’re a peckerhead.”

“I’m gonna knock you out.”

“Try it.”

[<<<]

“What happened?”

“We’re getting out of here. You were right.”

“Easy! Don’t crash us!”

“He was feeling you up with his eyes. He wanted to see you. I told him no.”

“My hero. What’s this blood?”

“He took a swing at me so I fucked him up.”

“Looks like he connected.”

“I knocked him out.”

“What are you going to do?”

“About what.”

“The mushrooms.”

“Who cares. I didn’t have the money anyways.”

“You hit him because of me?”

“I never liked him.”

“Just now you were calling him harmless.”

“Guess I always knew, just didn’t want to say it out loud.”

“He’s gonna be mad now. That could make things a little complicated.”

“Fuck him. I don’t need his socializing.”

“You make your own rules. I like that.”

“Feel better?”

“Yeah. I do.”


Jesse Hilson is a freelance reporter living in the Catskills. His work has appeared or will appear in AZURE, Maudlin House, Pink Plastic House, Punk Noir, Misery Tourism, Expat Press, Apocalypse Confidential, Heavy Feather Review, Excuse Me Mag, and elsewhere. His novel Blood Trip came out from Close to the Bone (UK) in April 2022. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @platelet60

I keep thinking I see Dick Veith by Colin Gee

Flash Fiction, Humour

I keep thinking I see Dick Veith by the noodle shops, walking away from me. He has very distinctive hunched walk exaggerated by his beefy build that the shoulder pads of his sports coat could never conceal, frontal pattern baldness, glasses, and that mystified half horror of a child lost in the monkey house.

He never completely turns around though and though I have called out to him through the fog and night and snipping chopsticks and laughter he never seems to hear me. The last time I tried to chase him down because it is probably just some lookalike English literature prof who comes here for his noodle fix and he takes his noodles really seriously, and his slurping is just like Dick’s, so he never misses a Tuesday. In fact this is the highlight of his goddamn week, and he is not the same man I used to know, but I got to find out.

So when it kept happening, well like the third time right, I shouted, Hey, Dick! Dick Veith! Dick it’s me! from across the street. And was it my imagination or did this doppelganger not cock an ear, wince and shrink in outright fear, and take off running for all he was worth like the most awkward kid you had to pick for your soccer team in fourth grade, bowling over a lady, stumble over a bicycle, and finally skid around the corner half a block in my lead, up by the newspaper stand run by the guy who hates me.

Coming around the corner at full tilt, I saw that Dick Veith had disappeared.

Son of a bitch, I cussed. I went back to the corner and looked back at the noodle shop at the upset stool where the man’s noodles were still piping steam and everybody just chewing and nodding, ignoring the scene, then came back and looked at the empty street again, ugly heels clipping the pavement. No Dick Veith anywhere.

I said to the newspaper guy, Hey did you see that guy?

He looked at me right in the eyes to let me know that he despised me.

Then he said, No.

It was Dick fucking Veith! I screamed.

He told me that that was impossible, was I an asshole or something, Dick Veith had died in 2014.

Dick Veith died six years ago, the newspaper man said into my blinking eyes, and that was when I saw copies of Dick’s last book all over the newspaper stand. They lay there in stacks and were propped up six across and were in behind the little lockbock plexiglass where Dick Veith’s unsmiling face on the cover, his red nose and honest clear gaze, continued to look out upon the world as we know it although he himself saw nothing.

I staggered back, because now there were dozens of Dick Veiths all asking me to ponder depths of truth I wanted to avoid, like that thing about Pilate’s wife, gingerbread houses, or heaven.

He must have gone into one of the buildings along this street, I screamed at the newspaper man, who stood motionless. He’s not dead!

I could see Dick Veith’s padded grey sports jacket with its professorial elbow patches bobbing around the corner, that last panicked fleeting glance back, the gunshots? Where did the gunshots come from, and why was he running from me? I have never even held a gun, do you kind of wrap your fingers all around it like in White Heat or just squeeze the butt like a croissant?

I love Dick Veith like an uncle, but he ran from me like a yakuza.

Stubbornly I pounded on several of the doors but they were apartment with dozens and dozens of names under the bells so I just got shouted at by two of the boarders. No one knew who the hell Dick Veith was, or so they said.

His book is over there on the corner, I screamed at them, but they shook their dangling curls and would not pursue the subject of Dick Veith with me.

With a shudder, as I let the knockers fall from leaden fingers, I realized what had happened, what a fool I had been, how exposed now, as many hundreds of heads poked from curtains up and down the block. THESE people had taken Dick Veith, or else were covering up his disappearance. THEY somehow would benefit from his death by the posthumous sale of his estate, it had all been arranged, there was no wrinkle to their plan except me.

I looked far, far down the unlit stoops to the newspaper stand, now dark and locked, as two people in police uniforms deliberately began fencing off the street, walking a mesh of linked fence from one sidewalk to the other.

Fixing it closed, they stood back approvingly – saw me, with melting grins, and started forward at a run.

I turned to scram up the empty street on my impossibly loud hard soles, though I knew it was too late for me and my old pal, my very good friend Dick Veith.

Nice day for a murder. We both should have stayed in Milwaukee.


Colin Gee (@ColinMGee) is founder and editor of The Gorko Gazette (@GorkoThe), a daily that publishes fake news, cartoons, reviews, and poetry. Fiction in Misery Tourism, Expat Press, A Thin Slice of Anxiety, Bear Creek Gazette, Exacting Clam, and elsewhere.

An Insult to Hitchcock by James Jenkins

Flash Fiction, James Jenkins

Day one

What the fuck do they keep looking at? That’s the third one today. I hope my trucks alright; they keep looking at the wheel. This swollen and elevated knee has me limited to get up and check. There’s something there though.

Day two

Here they come. The school processions. Each one and their parents stopping to look at the bloody mystery. The pinnacle of their attention. Must remember to ask my Mrs what it is when she gets back. I can’t even watch the TV for five minutes without someone distracting me.

Day three

Ahhh! I forgot to ask her. Another day of busy bodies stopping by. The dog’s going mad. One of their kids stared through the window at me earlier – rude!

Day four

It’s a hedgehog – possibly dead. At least that’s the diagnosis my wife gave. I’d like to give it a look myself. See what the fuss is about. Knee’s a bit better today but the guy over the road works at the same place as me. Why doesn’t someone just move it?

Day five

Honestly. You’d think they would move it.

Day six

I’m going to the shop but the black bin’s repugnant stench floors me before I limp dramatically to my truck. You never know who’s watching.

I’m back. Greeted by the sweet scent of decay again. It’s not the bin. The poor fuckers bloated like a basketball with legs. The heat will do that. Spade – double bagged – now the bin really does smell. It’s finally over.

Day seven

What now? There’s a whole family out there! Why don’t they just go the full hog and build a shrine to it?!

Day eight

They built a shrine. Watched some kids do it earlier.

Day nine

Ten. Ten visits today.

Day ten

Still they stop…

Day eleven

I’ll go back to work tomorrow.


James Jenkins is a Suffolk based writer of gritty noir and dark humour. He has work published in Bristol Noir, Punch-Riot Mag, Bullshit Lit, A Thin Slice of Anxiety, ROI Faineant and Punk Noir Magazine. One of his short stories appears in Grinning Skull Press Anthology – Deathlehem. His debut novel Parochial Pigs is available on Amazon and published by Alien Buddha Press.

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