Issue No. 003
Aaron Wilson, author spotlight interview plus 3 short fiction pieces
Tonya Mooreâ€™s Blood Binds Episode 3 Oil In the Wormwood Series - Part 1
Weeb Heinrichâ€™s really BAD Shakespere Episode 1 June 2010 eFiction Magazine
Five brand-new authors and their short stories
Contents Short Stories
really BAD Shakespere
Episode 1 R.E. “Weeb” Heinrich
A Tea Party
Running of the Cows
Episode 3 Oil in the Wormwood Series - Part 1 Tonya R. Moore
What the Mermaid Said
Episode 3 “Beat the Clock” Glen Binger
The Coalescence of Future and Family Endeavors Zach Ankeny
Longface’s Reward Ron Koppelberger
Catching up with Cartucci Mitchell Waldmen
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
Letter from the Editor Dear Reader,
eFiction is a monthly fiction magazine that is
committed to bringing you the latest and greatest fiction straight to your inbox.
I was standing next to a frothing crowd with my WWII
No matter the genre you enjoy reading, eFiction
medals pinned to my chest. I looked over at an angry guy
covers them all. You may even explore a new genre and
in a tricorn hat and wondered when patriotism became
fall in love.
about demanding a tax cut. It’s about sacrifice, dumbass,
I thought to myself, not the other way around.
Stories vary in length from a few sentences to many
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Thomas Sullivan‘s writing has appeared in Word Riot and 3AM Magazine, among others. He is the author of ‘Life In The Slow Lane’, a comic memoir about teaching drivers education. For info on this title, and to view more of Thomas’ writing, please visit his author website at http://thomassullivanhumor.com.
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
Author Spotlight Aaron Wilson Aaron Wilson describes himself as, “cracking the fortune cookie in a vain attempt to understand life, others (including his two cats – one good and one bad), and himself – in that order.” He earned his M.F.A in Writing from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. He writes about books, stories, movies, and his experiences as an adjunct instructor of English, Literature, and Environmental Science on his blog: Recreational Learning. You can also follow his updates on Twitter @SoullessMachine. I had the pleasure of asking him a few questions:
What inspired you to become a writer? I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been an exaggerator and a liar. I think my compulsion to write is my mother’s fault. I was home schooled through first grade. I remember my mother reading advanced novels to me before bed. One of my most vivid memories is of my mother reading The Hobbit to me before bed one summer. I remember climbing in bed with her and my younger brother. My favorite part of Tolkien’s novel, to this day, is when Golem and Bilbo trade riddles. My mother would read us the riddles, and we’d have to guess the answers and get them right before she would continue reading. I think that my mother’s emphasis on reading when I was young imbued me with a creative itch. To encourage my brother and me to read, my mother promised single scoop sundaes from
the local ice cream shop for every four or five books we’d complete. It is a surprise that I’m not overweight. Back then, my favorite books were from the Choose Your Own Adventure series. I would read and re-read those adventures until I, as the character in the novel, would persevere. That series had a lot to teach me as a kid about plot and foreshadowing. I eventually learned how to spot the pitfalls in each section before each choice, so I could make the best choice: the choice where I survived. However, I also enjoyed the dark side of these books. Sometimes, I’d choose poorly just so I could read about my own death. Which stories are the most enjoyable to write? Anything that’s not true. When I was in college, I focused on non-fiction and poetry. I like to think that I had moderate talent as a poet and memoirist. However, I got tired of writing about myself. Don’t get me wrong, I have big ego and I love to talk about myself, but I
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
stopped wanting to mine my life and exploit it that way. Instead of telling it straight, I’ve found that I enjoy putting bits of myself into each of my fictional characters. Right now, I am enjoying writing flash fiction, stories under a thousand words. I don’t have much time to write. Teaching takes most my creative energy, so I enjoy being able to create something that feels finished in under an hour. I’ve had some success with flash fiction, which has reinvigorated my creative process. Moreover, there are numerous online markets for flash fiction. When one market rejects a story, I’ll give a once over revision and send it right back out.
vain hope that some day fiction might pay the bills, I earned a Master in Fine Arts from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. I loved my time in the program, and I unlearned and learned a lot about craft from the talented faculty. My Master’s degree has opened the door to at least one aspect of my writing dreams: I teach composition. Teaching essay writing, is hard work. I love the classroom time and contact with the students, but grading papers is an intense time commitment.
“I dream of being the Gregory House of writing.”
Recently, I’ve found a home for “Dog Fight,” a story of an all female underground gladiator circuit, in Pow Fast Flash Fiction edited by Karen Schindler. “The Last Act,” an angry piece about a juggler who beheads David Hasselhoff and juggles it along with Karen Osborne’s, was recently published by The Wry Writer edited by Alexandra Wolf. And “Rescission Love,” is about a suicide letter and is forthcoming in the September 2010 issue of Eclectic Flash, edited by Brad Nelson. What is your dream for your writing? I dream of being the Gregory House of writing. Perhaps, Charles Bukowski or Robert Bly has already fulfilled the role of the belligerent, misunderstood genius. What I’m trying to say is that my dream is of a day when my writing will be seen as important, and I will achieve some semblance of cultural significance (and in my lifetime, please). Setting my ego aside for a moment, I simply want to be paid to write. I would love to be paid to write fiction, but I don’t see stories paying my mortgage or utilities bill any time soon. In my
What does your creative process look like?
When I sit down to write, current events push their way into my fiction. I’m a big fan of Law & Order and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. All things must come to an end, but I’m still sad to see the final episode of the New York based Law & Order come and go. I’ve heard rumors about a new Law & Order based somewhere on the West Coast, which gives me hope. The reason I enjoy the Law & Order franchise is for its “ripped from the headlines” stories. One of the reasons I enjoy writing science fiction and speculative fiction is that I’m able to take current events, like immigration, and transport it into a new setting, shine a light on it in a way that promotes reflection. I think that Cory Doctorow said it best in his introduction to “Anda’s Game” in his short story collection Overclocked: “The easiest way to write futuristic (or futurismic) science fiction is to predict, with rigor and absolute accuracy, the present day” (p 57). When I begin a story, unfortunately, I do what every one of my writing teachers told me not to do, I begin by dreaming up a situation. I start with headlines. Some news article will get my blood up, and I’ll write out of frustration and anger. We are a
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
self-centered species. I realize that life is opportunistic and life competes with life: winners evolve and prosper and losers die and become extinct. However, we are homo sapiens sapiens, a species that actively engages in culture creation. We have the intelligence. Where is the love? Once I’ve found my subject, I need to find a character. Just like infants, characters need to be born, so I start with a baby book and pick a name. I’ve decided that baby books are my best friends. Without a good book of names, I come up with some horrible character names, such as, Ms. Nefarious and Jasper John. After I have a good name for the main character and a “ripped from the headlines” subject, I’m ready to write. From this point forward, I let my newborn character take the lead. Good fiction, at least the fiction I enjoy reading, is about a character that is forced to make choices to either avoid or barrel headlong into a crisis. Are there any authors you would name as influences? a book in particular? There are a number of authors who I go to for inspiration when I’m stuck and need help rediscovering an element of craft. When I need character help, I pull down my copy of Desperation by Stephen King. King expertly develops character. My favorite character from Desperation is that of the cop, a host for an ancient evil sprit known only as Tak. King’s descriptions of Tak overwhelm the five senses, where many authors (myself included) forget to include scent and taste in their descriptions, King gives you details that’ll turn your stomach For help staying the course and finishing out a plot, I turn to the short stories of Ray Bradbury. I have copy of Stories: 100 of Bradbury’s Most Celebrated Tales. Bradbury’s plots are quick, dissectible, and en-
gaging. He is a master at his craft, and I still have a lot to learn from him. King and Bradbury are my informal teachers, but there are many styles that I would like to think have influenced my writing. I’m a big fanboy for H. P. Lovecraft. I’ve read all of his fiction and a few of his collected journals. I’ve written more than my fair share of fanboy fiction, which haven’t found a home for yet, but there is still hope to down the road. I would also like to think that, at least to some extent, Virginia Woolf’s modernist-style of fiction has infiltrated my own. I have a shelf dedicated to her brilliance. However, to be completely honest, I’m influenced heavily by whatever I’m currently reading, and I’m an avid reader. I consume an immense amount of media. Trying to keep my diet balanced, in any given month, I’ll read several short stories (print and web), too many magazines like Time and Entertainment Weekly, at least one non-fiction or memoir title, and one novel. I can feel whatever I’m currently reading seep into my writing: syntactical choices, subject matter, vocabulary, (and sometimes even) voice. Right now, I’m reading my mother-in-law gave me, Jake Adelstein’s Tokyo Vice, which is a memoir of his time working as an investigative reporter in Japan. He ran afoul of the Yakuza, and his story is immensely entertaining. Adelstein’s writing is descriptive without being overwhelmingly dense, and I hope his style finds a marriage within my own.
Thanks, Aaron. Now please enjoy three of his short stories: “Keeping Watch”, “A Tea Part”, and “Running of the Cows”.
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
still reside on Earth. The lucky have found work on one
of the many corporate farms that produce much of the
The United States has always been a nation of immigrants, but today the country has more than 33 million foreign-born residents, the greatest number than at any time in the past century, census data show. [...] The question of how to cope with the 11 million illegal immigrants believed to be living here – whether to integrate them, ignore them or try to send them home – is a question gripping many ordinary citizens, religious leaders, state legislators and policy makers in the White house. - The New York Times , an Earth periodical
resources needed to sustain the Satellites. There they are forced to work long hours with less than adequate tools, for two meals a day and a bunk, in what amounts to nothing more than one of the many rows of poorly kept machine sheds. Their names have been taken and replaced with a number designation that has been encoded and tattooed as an easily readable barcode on the underside of their left forearm.
This is the 12th year after the completion and
settlement of Orbiting Arcology—258. Those with money and influence have long since moved into one of the 258 Orbiting Arcologies that fill the sky. They have escaped into perfectly controlled communities, where the weather is always nice and the air and water recycled, scrubbed, cleaned, purified, and pumped back into the enclosed system they now call home. For them, hunger, disease, and war are now only concepts of a brutal Earth-bound past, studied by OA children in history books and old
Those that do not posses either influence or wealth
And then there are those who still live in what are
left of the Earth’s cities. The cities continue to shrink in order to make way for more farmland. Those who live in a city are mostly jobless. Those that do work have been lucky enough to have signed on to one of the thousands of F.M.U.s (Flexible Maintenance Units) that commute in shifts to one of the 258 Orbiting Arcologies. There, they sweep, recycle, bus tables, and wash everything from windows, dishes, and clothes to walkways and buildings. They too have given up their names for encrypted barcode tattoos that entitle them to food rations and just
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
enough credits to live in run down apartments on Earth.
than twelve percent. However, when Haus had explained
his success to his supervisor, she had merely chuckled.
Everyone that is not already living in one of the
258 satellites is attempting to find a way off the surface
A few weeks had passed before he had been
of the Earth. There are only two possible ways to take
awarded Employee of the Month for excellence in
up residency in one of the Orbiting Arcologies, the I-140
productivity. Soon after, he had been asked to prove his
Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers and the I-130
technique against another group of high performers.
Immigrant Petition for Alien Relatives. However, there are
While the others tore through application after application,
those that have found a third alternative to the two legal
Haus took a few seconds in between and performed his
channels of immigration and then there are those who
routine. While the others had completed more I-140s
help them through subversive acts. It is my job to police,
than Haus, their applications were found to have errors
watch, if you will, the citizens of one of the 258 satellites.
and oversights. One of his competitors, George Strap, had
What follows is the sad story of someone who should
even granted a visa to an unsponsored, unskilled Earth
have known better.
Number. Very embarrassing for Strap, but for Haus, it had ensured victory. Haus may have only completed forty
Randal Haus smiled. He had just inspected, and
to their fifty-five each, but his I-140s were clean. The
ultimately denied, another poorly executed I-140. His
average Orbiting Arcology Immigration Specialist could
tenth denial today. Haus made smiling a part of his job.
only complete thirty-two I-140s in an eight-hour day.
After each application, heâ€™d stand, stretch, and smile,
Now, everyone who inspected and processed the I-140
before opening and inspecting the next I-140. He was
Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers, had to practice The
very proud of his routine. He had come up with it on
his own. It was his, and heâ€™d been asked to teach it to
his peers. His immediate supervisor had noticed a few
Errors. So many errors. Haus took joy from his work
months back that heâ€™d increased his productivity by more
like no other. He lived to reject applications. However,
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
nothing brought him more satisfaction than being able to
each and every relative. Among them was a sister who
process a perfect I-140. The management felt that certain
had escaped from her F.M.U. I like to imagine that Haus
errors were acceptable, misplaced commas, spelling, first
had an active dream life. In reality, I think that Haus
name in the last name field and last name in the first,
wouldn’t know a wet dream if it tickled him. However, if
etc. He had been told that those types of errors could be
he did dream about his work, he dreamt about the sister
in this application.
The kinds of errors that caused an application to
be rejected were bigger, no application fee attached, no
personal identification code, bad address, unexplained
corner of SS—62. They’ve been taking turns sleeping
gaps in employment. One error that was common and
and keeping lookout. They don’t speak out loud, but with
that would land anyone in the rejected file was incorrectly
their hands and their eyes. They’ve been moving through
listing your family history. Many of the applicants had
service and waste tunnels. Each knows that the other is
protesters or runners, illegals caught loose in an Orbiting
hungry, tired, and scared. They don’t need to say it, but
Arcology, in their immediate or extended family. It was
it’s been several days, and if they don’t find help and food
a mistake to not list them. Just because someone had
soon, they might miscarry.
a bad egg or two would not immediately result in a
rejected application. Most would be rejected eventually,
their wombs. They know that they cannot fail, but don’t
but there were applicants whose circumstances warranted
know what their next move should be. They were told
that they would find help if they looked for it. Except that
when their opportunity presented itself, they had only
Haus had one of those on his desk. The application
Two women huddle together in a dark forgotten
They carry the hopes and dreams of so many in
was perfect in every way. The penmanship was even
seen a middle-aged man who didn’t look helpful. In fact,
superb. It was from a self educated Earth station worker
they thought they had heard him calling the cops as they
named Carlos Hernandez. He had taken the time to list
ran down a Main-way and then a Side-way through rows
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
delivering doctor or midwife. The worst that a boy would
have to endure would be hard labor in one of the solar
In the dark quiet, one of the two women rolls up
her left sleeve past her elbow. She looks at her barcode
collection teams. An OA birth guaranteed OA citizenship,
but once her child turned eighteen he’d have to find work.
her purpose, her life. When someone had given her
And if his test scores didn’t qualify him for something
direction, they’d yell, “four-of-E-one-one-five.” She traced
good, he’d be placed. That was an orphan’s lot, and if
its lines with her finger and tried to remember what her
an illegal’s orphan needed to be placed, the government
mother had called her. It had been so many years since
would make sure that they were not in a position to easily
she’d needed a real name. She looked at her companion
help other illegals.
and thought that they should use real names with each
other. But who was her companion? She didn’t know
her shirt and moved it soothingly over her abdomen
anything about her. They had been paired because they
murmuring, “Fernandito, Fernandito, Fernandito.”
were in their first trimesters and they weren’t showing
The other woman is sleeping soundly; Haus enters her
yet. It had taken a lot of money to bribe all the right
dream of raising her child in the comfort of outer space.
people, including their F.M.U. handler. The riot the others
She saw herself in a nice blue dress holding her baby
had started had been all for show—to keep the handler
in her arms feeding it an afternoon bottle. Life seemed
from losing his job, and keep the opportunity for other
perfect. Her husband owned a small but successful
runners alive. The F.M.U.s expected runners. As long as it
restaurant in the entertainment zone, a real nice family
was under a certain percentage, no one asked questions.
kind of place. She knew deep within her soul that her
As she rolled her sleeve down she thought about her
baby would grow up and take over the restaurant
unborn child and the life it would have. She secretly
and have lots of grandchildren for her to keep watch
hoped for a boy. With a boy there would be less chance
over. Still soundly asleep, she rolled over, closer to her
that her child would be sold into prostitution by the
companion, putting her arm around her as if she were her
Yes, she wanted a boy. She put her hand under
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
husband and they were in love.
have asked a question. To bide the time, he looked inward and held his hands in his lap. He thought about all those
I like to think that after a dream like that Haus
people whose I-140s would not be processed or rejected
would wake and not be able to sleep. His insomnia led
today because he was sitting in here, waiting, watching
to his need to fill night cycle hours, which led to the
his supervisor apply lipstick. He hated the way some
creation of “The Haus Blog,” a throwback to another age,
people could just ignore that other people were watching
but simple enough for anyone to learn quickly. He started
them. Worse yet, they wanted other people to watch, or
out with the typical self-indulgent nauseating biographic
in his case, forced them to watch. It made him mad.
information about his everyday life: food he ate, places he
Haus liked being mad. There were many things in this
visited, stuff that he liked to read.
world that made him mad. He thought about his most
Then one night the content changed.
recent blog post. Posting helped. It was an outlet. He had read somewhere that typing out your frustrations was a
Randal Haus sat in his supervisor’s office. He looked
way to be angry without being angry. His latest post had
confused. He had work he needed to do. He couldn’t for
been about the time he had been walking down the street
the life of him figure out why she needed to see him, and
where a F.M.U. had been cleaning the public green space.
why she had security escort him into her office. He was
It had only been a few days ago. He had stopped to watch
them. They were so short and so brown. They had spoken
“Randal,” she had begun, “Randal. Randal.” She had
a dirty, crazy sounding language. The men had short hair
paused seemingly to let Haus stew a bit. A pause she
or shaved heads, while the women had long dark brown
lengthened by re-applying her rusty-red lipstick and then
or black hair, which they kept in braids or tied back with
making uncivilized popping sounds with her lips.
scarves. The F.M.U. Handler had been standing on one of
the many red picnic tables. A couple of the older F.M.U.
Haus waited. He knew his place. He knew that if
she had wanted him to say something that she would
men had started making a scene. They had stopped
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
collecting leaves and were swinging their rakes over their
an I-140, and eventually, when they turned eighteen,
heads and hitting each other.
they could file an I-130 request to bring their immediate
family to come and live with them.
Haus had looked on as the F.M.U. Handler had
gotten down off the picnic table and tried to break up the
fight. Haus then noticed that two of the F.M.U. women
eventually go crazy; and Haus knew that crazy couldn’t
had dropped their rakes and were running toward him.
process an I-140. So he turned his thoughts back to his
Before Haus had a chance to call out, the two women had
disappeared down an alley. Haus then did what any noble
OA citizen had to do. He had called the police. They had
standing now. “You’re being let go, Randal.” She moved
taken his statement and ensured him that they would be
out from around the desk, her heels clicking on the tile
caught and deported back to Earth where they would be
floor. “Do you know why? Randal did you see the man in
imprisoned without parole for a year and then assigned to
the dark suit who left as you came in? He was some kind
of government agent. He had a badge that I’d never seen
before. I even made some calls, Randal. I made calls for
Knowing that the F.M.U. runners would be punished
If Haus thought too much on the subject, he’d
“What are you snarling about?” His supervisor was
did not abate Haus’ anger in the slightest. He knew that
many runners were never found and that the majority of
the runner-women would be with child, and children born
The Haus was being fired.
in an Orbiting Arcology were given automatic citizenship.
Their mothers were still deported, but a child born in
space must live its entire life in space. Haus didn’t know
the specifics, but he knew it had something to do with
behind her desk. She looked Haus in the eye. “Randal.”
a post-natal syndrome caused by birth outside Earth’s
She straightened up. “Randal, you’re officially being let
gravity. And these syndrome-children didn’t need to file
go because your numbers have dropped and you are
Haus sat there stunned. Fired. He was being fired.
“Randal are you listening to me?” “Fired?” She sat down in her overstuffed office chair
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
unable to provide the productivity necessary to remain
something. He wanted to take action. He had a helpless
in your position.” Haus’ supervisor looked right at him.
feeling. It was a feeling that there were people in the
“Officially, you were warned. Officially, we gave you ample
world that could one day show up and ruin everything.
opportunity for improvement.” She looked toward the
It was a feeling that Haus didn’t like. It was an accurate
door. “Unofficially, you were the best and most efficient.
Unofficially, you fucked up big time.” She shook her head.
“Your blog, Randal, your blog.”
I’m convinced that he didn’t know that what he was
writing was dangerous and subversive. I still don’t think
Haus thought about those two F.M.U. women. He
Haus picked up where he had left off on his blog.
knew that somehow this was their fault. Losing his job
that he had a creative side. Some people were born
was their fault. He hadn’t been himself since he’d seen
to build spreadsheets and crunch numbers and Haus
those two women. Then he asked, “My blog?”
was one of them. He was born to process paperwork.
He was not, by all accounts, born to write creatively or
His supervisor interrupted, “Randal, don’t you get
it? Are you that special? Wait! Don’t answer that.” She
hypothetically, which only left his experience, what he
paused, shaking her head. “I need you to clean out your
knew. And what he knew was dangerous.
desk immediately.” She walked back around her desk and
opened her office door. “Oh, and just in case you haven’t
outlet. He had readers. He had a lot of readers who
caught on, don’t ask for recommendations. You got that,
liked to comment and ask him questions. Haus liked
the questions the most. He would spend hours crafting
answers to those questions. These answers put him to the
It was true. Haus didn’t understand. All Haus ever
wanted in life was to process properly completed I-140s.
What Haus did know was that he liked his new
top of my list, a list that no one wanted to be on, a list that I did not want him on.
That night Haus sat in front of his computer after
eating a nice dinner. He was mad. He wanted to do
Randal Haus sat in the park. He must have been
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
thinking about his lost job, his life, and those two F.M.U.s.
supervisor had actually encouraged him, claming that his
No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t stop thinking
employees who multitasked showed better reaction times.
about them. He knew all the statistics about F.M.U.
While Haus sat in the park watching the birds, he looked
runners, their chances of survival. One percent. It gave
at his latest entry on his data pad. His blog was getting
him some satisfaction knowing that they would probably
even more attention. If he couldn’t process applications,
be dead. One percent would find help and bring their
he would help fill them out. Immigration aid was
children to term. One percent still seemed too high.
expensive and did not always guarantee citizenship. If an
It’d been three months since he’d seen them, one since
applicant followed his free advice, they were sure to be
he’d lost his job and had to settle for a low-level gig.
His new job actually paid about the same, but it seemed so less important, monitoring the axis lubricant levels
I-140, Section 3.1: Background Checks
the levels ran too hot (which they never did) or too low
This section is where an applicant can either make
(which they never did), he’d need to issue the request for
or break his or her I-140.
of OA 62’s 3rd environment-ring, panel number 5. If
maintenance. His new supervisor explained that if either situation ever occurred, the 3rd ring would lose artificial
This section is totally out of human hands.
by a computer; his position was just a precaution. He
The computer takes over once the specialist has
would laugh, but it paid the bills, and paying bills was no
entered all the applicants listed reference numbers.
laughing matter to Haus.
As long as the applicant’s numbers and the numbers
of relatives logically fit into the not so complicated
gravity as it ground to a halt. The whole process was run
So, to keep his mind busy he continued to work on
his blog. He worked on his blog to keep himself awake as
identification evolution program, the applicant clears.
he watched lubricant levels scroll by on his monitor. His June 2010 eFiction Magazine
that processing applications had brought him. But before Common Mistakes
he could relax he heard me say, “Randal Haus,” as I
applicant misfiles a number
extended my hand.
applicant files a non-blood relative
He took my hand and shook it. “Yes.”
applicant files a blood relative who is a felon
“May I sit next to you?”
applicant leaves out the three digit OA or E code
“Yes, please.” He sat back down with the biggest,
applicant used a pencil and the number has become
widest, cow-eyed grin. “It was getting late. I didn’t think
that you were going to make it. I have some great ideas for a book.” He opened a file on his data pad. “Let’s see.
Haus had never expected to be approached by a
Oh, yes. I think that I will open with a...”
publisher. He looked at the email again on his data pad
He felt me stick the needle in his arm. His eyes
to confirm that this was the correct park and the correct
were crystal-blue. I whispered gently, “Randal Haus, you
time. While he waited, he dreamed of breaking into the
have been found guilty of High Treason, for the act of
top 50 blogs of all time by the end of the year. Perhaps, if
distributing highly classified information.” He slumped into
he distilled the site down to just information on the I-140
my lap, eyes still opened. I help him sit up straight, tilted
and I-130, deleting out his more journal-like entries about
his chin down, folded his hands in his lap.
how his day had been and where he had eaten lunch, he could move his rating a few notches by the end of the next season-cycle.
Haus looked at the time. The publisher was now
very late. Haus was beginning to get agitated. He had to quiet his mind. He had been taken to daydreaming as of
late as a way to calm himself. He missed the meditation June 2010 eFiction Magazine
A Tea Party
would love each other more, love him more. Good grades, Little League, keeping his bike in the garage where it belonged. Dan believed that it all helped. One Sunday night, as Dan was making the rounds,
picking up stray leaves, sticks, and pulling the occasional Dan believed good things happen to people who give rather than take. Dan was young. He spent each morning
and the garage. A shadow about his own size, shaped like
helping his mother in the kitchen and around the house.
He would notice that the dishes were dirty and do them
Being reckless, as young boys sometimes are, Dan
without being asked. He’d see that the Sunday paper
didn’t consider the danger that could have been waiting
was spread around the living room, the comics on the
for a boy in the early night. He just went after the
ottoman, the sports pages on his father’s lap, the jobs
shadow, quietly sprinting, avoiding the dry leaves that
section here and there on the floor marked with red lines
would have crashed like thunder. A small girl in torn skirts
and circles. Dan would silently pick up and refold each
stepped out in to the lamplight as he turned the corner to
section, making sure not to wake his father or disturb his
slide between the house and the garage.
mother. He’d reassemble it, setting it neatly on the coffee table.
She stood there, caught in the garage’s floodlight where Dan would sometimes draw chalk pictures on the
Then at night, before bed, he’d take out the trash
dandelion, he saw a shadow moving between the house
pavement. Her dirty blond hair was in two greasy pigtails.
and move the cans to the curb in front of the house for
Her eyes were blue on top of purplish-black crescent-
Monday’s pick-up. Dan would look for things that were out
shaped bruises. The truly remarkable thing was her doll.
of place. He knew that if he could keep the little things
It was one of those lifelike things with the big plastic
from coming between his mother and father that they
head and the creepy eyes that opened and closed. It was pristine.
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
Dan didn’t know what to do. He had thought in his boy’s mind that one of the neighbor boys was goofing on
Alice rocked her doll forward and it said, “Hi Dan,” in a
him, and that he was going to engage in some kind of
voice that didn’t sound very much like Alice’s.
contest of stealth and speed; however, he was ill equipped
Dan winced and let go of her hand. The doll had
to handle this: a dirty girl that looked like she belonged in
spoken. It must have been a recording. Some of the
the trash. Dan stood there looking at her. He was turning
newer dolls could do that, he reasoned, even though it
something around in his mind, something new, something
didn’t seem very reasonable to him. Well, it was only
that had never occurred to him before, but now seemed
polite that he answer back, “Hi Sally.” He immediately felt
foolish, his cheeks warmed.
He held out his hand to her.
Alice smiled a big dirty smile, showing many gaps
She held her doll close, protectively. She turned to
where her baby teeth had fallen out. She put her finger in
look over her shoulder as if taking some unspoken cue
the gap in the front of her smile. “See. Papa told me that
from the darkness. She then stepped forward and took his
the boys like gap-girls. Do you like gap-girls, Dan?”
Dan knew something in what she had said was
“My name is Alice.” Pointing her chin at the doll, “This is Sally. She’s my baby.”
wrong. He squinted at her in the lamplight. “Where do you live?”
He felt her hand in his. Her hand was rough and cold.
“Hi Dan.” Alice looked at her doll. “Say, ‘Hi Dan,’ Sally.”
Alice looked him up and down. She looked over her
He thought that girls were supposed to be warm and soft.
shoulder. “Can you keep a secret, Dan?” She rocked her
This simple touching of hands made Dan’s face wrinkle
doll and Sally’s eyes clicked shut then opened.
and he began to wonder if he had done the right thing.
Dan felt as if Sally was going to say something, so he
But it was too late. She had told him her name and had
waited. He balanced on his toes then his heels, hands in
put her hand in his. “I’m Dan.”
his pockets. “Dan?” June 2010 eFiction Magazine
“Sure. Yeah.” Dan moved a little closer to Alice as if this secret was to be whispered into his ear.
stopped running, “Alice. Alice. Come inside with me. It’s
“In your backyard. The alley really. But your backyard. Me, Papa, Mama, my little brother, Sally, and all my other dollies.”
warm. We have food.” Dan thought that Alice looked stunned. She said something that he couldn’t hear. He tried to see who she
Dan looked at Sally. The bright light danced on her plastic face. Her eyes were open. Suddenly, Dan felt
was talking to. He couldn’t see anyone other than Sally. She must still be talking to Sally. She must.
in over his head. He wanted to do what was right. He
Alice was standing next to him. Dan jumped.
wanted to help, but he was just Dan. His father wouldn’t
“Dan.” Alice took his hand. “Dan. Come with me. Meet
have liked that thought. His father was always telling him to be somebody. His father had told him that if someone was in need that he should help.
my parents, meet everyone.” “No. Alice, come inside with me and have some hot chocolate. We have the kind with the little marshmallows.”
Dan’s mouth felt dry. His tongue was thick with indecision. He had all the tools there in his mind. He was just about to take her hand again and make her come inside to talk with his parents, when Alice darted back into the shadows. Dan had made up his mind. He knew what to do. He ran after Alice. He had to help her. Dan could see Alice near the fence that separated his yard and the alley. She was standing next to the gate. She was holding it open. In the crook of her left
had seen a tear in one of Sally’s eyes, wet and real. He
Dan squeezed her hand and turned to head back toward the house. “No.” She held on to his hand and planted her feet. She wouldn’t budge. “Come with me.” Dan wasn’t about to give up. Perhaps if he went with her she’d come around and return with him. She seemed to really want to show him something. Once she did, he’d ask again. Dan was full of stories about adventures. His friends
arm, Sally wore a desperate look. The light glinted off
were always out getting into trouble. Over lunch, at
Sally’s eyes. And for just a moment, Dan thought that he
school, they’d tell him of their adventures and how much
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
trouble they were in with their parents. They’d go around the table, each telling a tale of some exploit that meant
Dan wanted to have a real adventure, one that he
that they were grounded. When they’d get around to
could share around the lunchroom table with the other
Dan, they’d laugh. Dan the man, they’d say, Dan the do-
guys. With Alice leading him forward by the hand, it felt
nothing man. Boring old Dan.
like one of those adventures that always happened to
Dan had adventures, but they were not the kind of
someone else. A smile crossed Dan’s face. He was ready.
adventures that you share with your friends. They were
Alice giggled as they ran through the gate which led
the kind of adventures that get you punched and left for
into the alley and the darkness that waited beyond the
dead in the boy’s bathroom with your shirt over your head
and your pants around your knees. They were the kind of adventures that you kept to yourself.
Dan stood looking down at the dark hole in the pavement. Alice had slid the drainage cover off just
Dan didn’t like to talk about his adventures. They
enough that she could squeeze through. She had wrapped
were his. Like the time his mother asked him to ride his
Sally in her skirts and climbed down. Dan couldn’t wait for
bike two miles to the store and pick up fixings for salad:
lunch on Monday. The guys wouldn’t believe him. They’d
romaine lettuce, two tomatoes, carrots, olives, chives,
laugh. He knew they would, but he’d stick to his guns.
and a bottle of dressing. Any dressing, she had said he
He’d tell them that he went into the sewer with a girl. This
could pick. Surprise me, his mother had said. She had
was exactly the kind of adventure he had wanted. He’d
trusted him with him a twenty dollar bill. That was an
only go down for a few minutes then he’d convince her to
adventure. He didn’t even know what romaine lettuce
come back with him to the house.
was. He had to ask, and asking was hard. But he got on
would try and stop him.
Dan looked up to make sure that he knew where he
alright and paid for everything on the list and made it
was. He could see Jimmy’s house and Jen’s house and the
home. Part of him had thought that he might not make it.
stop sign that was bent over when the Murphy’s oldest
That there was something out there, in the streets, that
boy hit it with the truck. He wasn’t very far from home at
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
“Dan,” Alice called. “Hurry, Dan, before someone comes.”
Dan quickly put it back on the shelf. He turned to look
Dan climbed down into the dark. His shoe squished
at another row of small plastic ones. They had big heads
something at the bottom. It smelled foul. Like when his
and big eyes. When he picked up the one with brown hair
father forgot to flush. He couldn’t see anything either,
and the firefighter’s helmet, the head rocked back and
except lighter shades of complete darkness. “Alice.” He
forth as if it were on a spring. Dan could hear Alice giggle.
held out his hands in front of himself and swung them
“Do you like my room?”
side to side. “Alice, I can’t see.”
“You have a lot of dolls.” Dan reached for a set of adult
“Open your eyes, silly.”
looking dolls. These were more like Barbie and Ken. These
Dan took a deep breath and opened his eyes. He saw
he knew. Jen had Barbies. These were dressed like Dan’s
pink everywhere. Cotton-candy pink, everywhere, pink
parents would if they had to go to work. The Ken-like one
curtains hanging in front of a pink window. Pink cushions
even had a little briefcase in one hand and a newspaper
on a pink bed between pink dressers, pink everywhere.
in the other. The woman had a green purse and a cup of
Alice’s dress was perfectly pink. Dan looked around as if
coffee. Dan picked her up. She looked a lot like an older
he had just entered the candy store on his birthday.
version of Alice.
Alice was standing in front of a bookcase filled with dolls of all kinds. “Do you like my dollies?”
“Those are my parents.” She picked up her father by his stiff plastic legs and held him out to Dan. “Here. You
Dan took a closer look. One shelf had really fat dolls that were filled with smaller dolls. Another shelf had the kind he’d seen at his grandmother’s, the kind with the
“Careful. Those wet themselves if you feed them.”
play Papa and I’ll play Mama.” She took the Barbie from him. Dan took the one Alice held out for him. It was a doll.
wrinkled potato faces and beady black button eyes. One
It was plastic. Its hair was molded perfectly. Dan held the
shelf had a row of baby dolls with bottles. He picked one
doll so that he was looking at its profile. This doll had a
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
belly that hung over its belt. Dan had never seen a doll
give this voice much thought, Alice’s mommy doll picked
that looked so life like before.
up the tea pot and the daddy doll’s tea cup. The mother
“Over here, Dan.” Alice was pointing to a small dollsized table on top of her dresser. “Set Papa there, please.”
doll poured the daddy doll a cup of tea, spilling just a little.
Dan folded the doll’s legs so that it was in a sitting position and pushed it up to the table. “Okay.” Alice smiled. “Mama, say ‘Does Papa want a cup of
Dan watched as the two dolls enjoyed their tea. On the doll’s table, next to the sugar bowl, there was a plate of cookies. “Daddy, say, ‘Please pass the cookies.’”
The daddy doll repeated his words. The mommy doll
“Does Papa want a cup of tea?” the doll asked.
passed the small plate. The daddy doll took one and ate
“Your turn Dan, tell Papa to say something back to
Mama.” Alice crossed her arms in front of her and waited. Great, Dan thought, more talking dolls. He wondered
thought should happen between a mommy and a daddy.
how they worked. They seemed too small to have
He looked at the dolls enjoying themselves. Dan didn’t
batteries. He picked his up and lifted the shirt in the back,
want it to stop. He looked around and felt like the other
looking for the switch.
dolls were watching him, knew what he was feeling
“Dan! Put Papa down!” She stomped her foot. “Now!”
inside. He felt a tingling sensation wash over his skin. He
Dan snapped to attention. He looked at the little tea
party. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He
Dan said, “Daddy, say, ‘Thank you Mommy.’”
smelled flowers and mint. When he opened his eyes, Alice
Alice looked at Dan. “Mama, say, ‘You’re welcome.
was still waiting for him. “Daddy, say ‘Why, yes, I’d love some tea. Thank you.’”
Now, finish your tea.’” As Dan heard the mommy doll say, ‘you’re welcome,’
Dan’s doll spoke back the words he had given it. It
Dan thought the scene was nice. It was what he
wasn’t his voice. It was deep and raspy. Before Dan could
he pursed his lips. Something was wrong. It was just play, but it made him miss his parents. It was all too perfect.
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
Dan had had enough adventure. “Alice, I want to go home.” And he moved away from her and the dolls. He turned to leave. He saw a door. He walked over to it. The door wouldn’t open.
“Help! I’m down here! Help me!” Dan kicked at the door. His eyes were clenched and wet. “Stop it, Stop it. Stop it!” Alice gripped Dan by his hair and dragged him kicking and screaming towards her bed.
Alice touched Dan’s shoulder while holding the mommy doll. “Mama, what do you think?” She waited.
Dan whimpered. Alice grinned through the greasy part in her hair.
Dan brushed Alice’s hand off his shoulder. He tried the
“You’ve been a very bad dolly.”
door again. “It’s locked.” The mommy doll answered, “I like him.” Alice lay down on her bed and hugged a pillow to her chest. “You have to stay.” “No. I want to leave.” Alice waved her hand as if she were coming out from behind a curtain or finishing a curtsy. “They like you.” In unison, every doll stood and said, “Stay Dan. We like you.” Dan fell to the ground and pulled his knees to his chest. “Oh. What’s wrong Dan?” Alice asked. “My parents…” “They won’t find you.” Dan screamed and banged on the door.
Alice set the pillow down. “How rude!” June 2010 eFiction Magazine
Running of the Cows
nut jobs that couldn’t get a real job out of high school. I thought that if this was the story they needed, why not send one of their equal opportunity cabana boys. I’m sure that when the story prints tomorrow, it won’t have my name under the title. Instead, it’ll be Juanita Sanchez.
Mexican killers, fascist white supremacists, or complete
Names don’t really matter as long as I’m somewhere else
My name will not be found in any bylines. I’m a
tomorrow. Shit, send me to the Philmont Scout Ranch to
ghostwriter for the New Mexico Chronicle big shots. I
cover a jamboree or relations between the Apache and
like it that way. Let the bigwigs sit in their offices and
the local ranchers. Just don’t send me back to the Wall.
get fat putting their names on my work, just as long as
I get to travel and witness news firsthand. I didn’t go to
contacts. He said that Holt had enough pull to get me into
Albuquerque Technical Institute to sit in some office, but I
one of the towers. My contacts always pay out. This was
sure as hell didn’t sign up for that. I don’t care how much
no different. I met up with Holt at the Barracks, a local
NMC pays me. I’m not going back there. I will not go back
pub for the CBP and The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps.
to the Wall. If they want this pen’s ink, then they’ll need
The owners hate Mexicans and anyone who’s willing to
to send it north for a spell, away from the Wall and away
voice a similar opinion gets their first round free. The
from Samuel Holt, poor damned soul. Sergeant Holt is
place was typical: dark, smoky, with a long wooden bar
gone as I see it; he’s crazy. By all rights, I should be too.
that curved. The one standout was the plasma wall screen
that everyone was parked in front of like a bunch of movie
See, the NMC wanted to do a series of human-
Samuel Holt’s name was given to me by one of my
interest stories about the men and women of the U.S.
goers. Except that they were watching some amateur
Border Patrol and Customs. They wanted some liberal
footage of a MCDC team round up a woman and a bunch
story about how the CBP agents were not all racist
of kids into a white van, their wrists tied with plastic
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
garbage pulls. A guy with a yellow-stained mustache
Iraq. Holt didn’t look a day over twenty-two. He pulled a
behind the bar cheered as one of the kids fell to his knees
cap down low over his eyes.
and cried out. The video had no sound. Instead, Johnny
Cash was playing in the background.
“Samuel.” He took my hand.
mustache finished cleaning a highball and put it in front of
I lifted my chin in the direction of the screen.
me. His eyes never left the screen.
“What’s with all that?”
“What can I get you?”
My contact had said that Holt didn’t like to talk and
He looked at me. He had green eyes and the stains
that he would not be a great source for commentary. He
I pulled up a bar stool. The man with the yellow
I stuck my hand out. “I’m with the New Mexico
in his mustache were really blond patches. “If you’re not
drinking or smoking, Mister, you should leave.”
“I’m with the New Mexico Chronicle.”
“I don’t remember asking.” He poured two fingers of
“You will ride in the back of my jeep.”
something pungent and brown into the glass. “That’s ten.”
“Good.” Nothing. That was it. Holt took his drink and
went back to his seat in the crowd.
I reached for my wallet. His shoulders relaxed. “I’m
“Okay, okay. How do you want to do this?” I put my
looking for Sergeant Holt.” I waved the glass toward the
I drank my drink and ordered a BLT with extra
crowd. “He here?”
bacon and a side of ranch to go along with the second
“Holt,” he bellowed.
round the bartender poured when I emptied the first.
A man of medium build in a white tank top, bigger
This bar was like no other I’d been in. No one talked.
than me for sure, muscled, short hair, and sharp eyes,
They just watched the MCDC footage like worshipers at a
turned around. He was younger than I expected. From
backwoods revival. No one came in after me and no one
what my contact told me, Holt had seen three tours in
left. It was like everyone that was anyone in these parts
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
was here already, all joined in a single unity that I could
was written in block letters across the top. Holt opened
the lid. “Get in.”
Time passed. I had a few more, closing out my
The ride was uneventful. The road was a little
tab after each drink with the hope that Holt and I would
bumpy and I questioned why I really needed a firsthand
leave. I ended up watching like everyone else. The
account of the CBP in action. I’ve taken liberties before
soundless shaky camera coldly reported the finishing
when the circumstances were too unconventional, like the
touches on the Wall. It ended with footage from the
time I was asked to infiltrate a methamphetamine racket.
completion ceremony, the governor of New Mexico sliding
I moved into a trailer for a week and watched as little
the last brick into place in our segment of the wall and
girls lugged jugs and buckets back and forth between
saluting the men and women who had signed on to patrol.
their homes and a large machine shed at the end of the
road. I didn’t really feel it was necessary to actually make
Then Holt was standing beside me. He looked at my
bag. “I need to search that.”
the stuff to write about the process.
He picked it up and opened the flap. He pulled out
when I heard voices.
The jeep stopped. I was about ready to jump out
my recorder and handed it to me along with my camera,
“You got the overnight?”
video camera, and MP3 player. “You have a cell?”
I pulled it out of my pocket and held it up.
“Lucky. The night watch sees all the action. What’s
“Leave all this in your car.”
I held up my hands. “What can I bring?”
“Everything else,” He handed my bag back. “I hope
“Bullshit. I heard you’ve got more than a hundred.”
you’re not afraid of small enclosed places.” Holt led me
“Could be. I just point and shoot.”
out back to his jeep. There was a long box in the back
“Well tonight will be no different. We’re under a
smaller than a coffin, but bigger than a hope chest. AMMO
code red tonight. No one’s going to get much sleep, I
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
think. Intel says there’s going to be a rush.”
it. The roof was angled to the right and left. A rope ladder
“There’s one every night. What’s different?”
hung to the ground. Holt then pointed out a latrine.
“Don’t know. They say it’s going to be bigger than
“Hide.” He took off with purpose toward the ladder.
hiding was getting on my nerves. My next assignment
“We’ll see. Am I clear to go?”
I ducked behind the green port-a-potty. All this
“Oh, yeah. Sure, Sergeant. All clear.”
better be those Boy Scouts or the sanitary union strike
The engine started up again and we drove for a
in Los Lunas. It smelled like the port-a-potty hadn’t been
while longer. My legs were beginning to ache, my bladder
emptied in a few days and had cooked in the sun. All of a
was full, and I was beginning to feel nauseous. I had
sudden, I really didn’t need to use it.
better get a bonus for this one. Then again, at least I’m
not embedded somewhere. Johns, a good friend of mine,
and drove off. I stepped out from behind the latrine to see
was with the media corps in Iraq. He’s still missing.
the red glow of tail lights disappearing into the night. Had
Holt left me here? Some joke. I didn’t really think Holt the
The car stopped again. I could hear the jeep door
I could hear a door open and shut. The jeep started
open and shut. Even in the box the air was drier here
joking kind. It must have been the change in watch.
and there were strong metallic and oil smells. The back
opened. Then the lid to my box creaked open.
watch tower. I ran over to the ladder and climbed up. “I
Holt shined his flashlight out towards the wall. Well,
A light blinded me. It came from the door in the
Holt had his finger over his lips. He pointed to a
fence really. It looked to be about thirty feet high. It had
camera and tapped his ears. He handed me a piece of
floodlights that illuminated the desert on the Mexican
paper. The note read:
side. “We’re up there.” He flicked the beam of the light
up at a watchtower that reminded me of some European
Keep quiet. Sit in the corner. Camera can’t see you
castle turret, except with more of a machine shed look to
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
placed them on the table. He lit up as he spread the cards
I took the seat. I looked around as Holt moved
out for a game of solitaire.
from a laptop in the center of a metal folding table, to a
large computer terminal near the killslot, a slit in the wall
to leave all my electronics behind. I just had a pen and
facing south. The killslot was six feet long and two feet
my notepad. I watched Holt lose a couple of games.
tall. The terminal’s monitor displayed a cockpit, complete
He stopped about mid-game each time to adjust the
with crosshairs and elevation and distance markers. The
machinegun and log information on the laptop. I decided
screen moved slowly as Holt used the track ball mouse
to make a few notes for my article:
to position the General Dynamics 12.7mm, .50 caliber,
Atmosphere of complete boredom
XM312 Machinegun. I’d never seen one up close. If CBP
Scent of gun oil and stale smoke
had these every 300 yards from San Diego to the Gulf of
The rapid fire of shuffling playing cards echoed off bare
Mexico near Palo Alto, they could conceivably operate the
border from anywhere in the world.
Eerie green glow of monitor
Hot, sweat, no AC
Except for the machinegun and its controls, the
It was going to be a long night. Holt had told me
table, the laptop, my chair, and Holt’s ergonomic office
50 yards of mined sand stretches between us and them
chair, the room was completely empty. The walls were
Box of coiled destruction nestled underfoot
bare except for a large map of the border with red dots.
It looked like a subway route, each dot a stop. One of the
Red light flashes, whining alarm sounds
dots was green. It was in New Mexico, so I assumed that
Holt left the cards where they lay on the table and
it was our location.
rolled his chair over to the terminal. He stubbed out his
cigarette. The monitor swiveled. There were red dots like
Holt made some adjustments to the machinegun
and logged something on the laptop. He then pulled a
space invaders hovering at the top of the screen.
deck of cards and a pack of cigarettes out of his bag and
“Sanders, Levine, confirm heat signatures on my
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
of cattle milling about. The lower one caught a glimpse of
several parked buses.
“Confirmed, Holt. I got at least 50 between my 9
“This is Control. Threat confirmed. Dispatching Big
and your 12.”
Birds now. ETA 30 minutes.”
Holt left the monitor and used binoculars. “Control,
Holt turned and looked at me. He wore an
come in Control.”
expression of worry mixed with glee. He crumpled pieces
“Control. Go ahead.”
of paper to cover his voice. “When this shit hits, hide in
“Control, this is Holt NW 145. I have over 100 head
the latrine. Stay out of sight.” He tossed the paper aside.
of cattle nearing my sand trap. Please advise.”
to reassure me that it would be alright.
“Control authorizes code Stoplight. Use extreme
I must have looked bad because Holt smiled warmly
caution. We now have a live feed. We see what you see.”
“This is Control. Sanders, Holt, Levine, sound off.”
“This is Sanders. I have the 3. This is going to be
Holt turned around and looked right at me. He put
both of his hands on the seat of his chair and jerked up.
messy. When I was in ‘nam a buddy of mine…I’ll just say
I did the same and nodded my head.
we never did find his left leg.”
Holt swiveled around and placed his left hand on the
“This is Holt. I got the 12. Sanders, you’re one sick
keyboard and his right on the track ball.
“This is Control. We’ve determined that there is a
mixture of heat signatures. Drones are vectoring now.”
“This is Control. Cut the side chatter.”
I watched as Holt brought up two small windows
“This is Levine. I’ve got the 9.” “This is Control. They’re going to try to concentrate
on his monitor. They displayed a high-resolution view
the stampede to clear the mines, don’t fire until they
of fast-moving ground from what must be more than a
cross on to U.S. soil. Try to cut down as many as you can
mile up; trees and buildings looked like small toys. The
and divert the herd.”
views slowed. The one on top first recorded a large herd
In the distance, I could hear the bus horns honk like
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
a thousand angry geese. The red dots on Holt’s monitor
moved into range, becoming distinct cow shapes. Now,
down the ladder. Halfway down, the wall shook like a
I’ve been around cows. They’re not smart, but I just
tank hit it. I lost my grip and fell to the ground. I quickly
didn’t think it was possible.
rebounded and ran for the latrine without looking back. It
was the only object for miles. I ducked behind it.
Holt yelled, “My 10, my 10.” Holt held down a key
It was time to leave. I opened the door and started
with this left hand and the machinegun rocked into action.
The sound was deafening, like golf ball sized hail on a
into the wall. I peeked around the side and saw large
bodies hammering into one another, so scared that they
were trampling one another. The wall moved. And it broke
The scent of hot oil filled my nose. I stood and
I heard cows screaming as the stampede slammed
moved to the door. I watched the monitor. The herd
as the mad cattle pushed through. The flood lights in the
panicked, running on adrenaline. I could see that Holt and
immediate area blinked out. I held my knees against my
the others were making direct hits, but the crazed cows
chest as the stampede ran into the night, like a freight
kept coming. A couple dropped and the herd swerved a
train off its tracks.
few feet and kept coming. Then the one in the lead hit a
mine and thunder erupted from the ground, hurling the
headlights appear between the cracks in the wall. I heard
carcass in every direction. The stampede charged through
the screams of people as one of the buses raced through.
to the next mine and then another. Boom, Boom, Boom.
I could barely see it in the light of the moon, but what I
The air filled with the stench of burning flesh. But the
could see, turned my stomach. The side of the bus was
stampede kept charging.
full of holes and one of the front tires wobbled until the
bus flipped onto its side.
Holt worked the track ball like a champion
But the night’s horrors were just starting. I watched
Centipede player. He was completely focused.
condition, people were emptying out of the first and
“They’re going to get through. They’re going to hit
the wall,” someone yelled.
As the second bus made it through in similar
quickly limping in the darkness. I saw a mother carrying June 2010 eFiction Magazine
blades of helicopters. A floodlight turned night into day.
What the Mermaid Said
A terrible sawing sound started as the helicopters’ mini-
her baby in a basket drag her leg as she tried to hurry away.
Then I heard it. I heard what could only be the
guns cut the runners down. The other let a missile loose and the second bus left the ground and landed, broken
and in flames.
fifteenth birthday. My stepsister, Lydia, and I, walking hand
I lowered myself onto the ground and like a snake
disappeared into the sand. Wherever the helicopters’ floodlights shined, the sand erupted as if a hard rain struck the ground. One of the helicopters disappeared over the Wall. The other kept sweeping back and forth.
That’s when everything got real quiet. One of the
helicopter landed as a bunch of jeeps pulled up. I knew that I was busted at that point. So, I stood up, put my hands behind my head and thanked God that I was a man of average height and white as I walked in to the open.
The first mermaid washed ashore on the eve of my
in hand along the beach, discovered the corpse. It was an event that I would have anticipated, had I dreamt it up in the fertile ground of my imagination, as much noisier -
a startled shriek perhaps; at least a word or two of
dismay. But neither of us was startled, and the moment we knew what we were seeing words became superfluous. So it was that we approached that cold and lifeless body with a quiet sense of foreboding, our intertwined fingers clenching tighter as we drew near and saw the black flies crawling about her eyes.
“She’s dead . . .” whispered Lydia.
It was obvious, of course. But by speaking it, Lydia
made it real for both of us. I could only nod my head in dumb consent and gaze upon the mystery at our feet. The mermaid, lying on her back in cool sand, was lovely and
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
sad. It was impossible to guess her age, but there was an been abandoned by the sea? What strange currents brought impression of great sagacity in the pale features of her her to rest here at my bare feet? Gripping Lydia’s hand, face. I noted the dark hair matted thick and wet about her
I stooped over the body, hoping to find some hint of an
skull, the delicate and finely wrought cheek bones and full
answer. The sharp brine of salt water wafted about my face,
lips; all beautiful still, even as decay laid its claim upon her, a cloying odor of seaweed and unknown depth. “Lydia,” I and the flies buzzed and crawled. I felt a vague impulse to
asked, rising from the miasma, “what are we going to do?”
swat the insects away but it seemed pointless. I was glad her eyes were closed.
She shrugged her shoulders and sighed, eyes fixed on
the mermaid. A small breeze wafted sand into the corpse’s
My eyes, however, were wide open and wandering hair. “Tell father, I suppose. He’ll know what to do.”
now from her sad and beautiful face. I followed the alien
Lydia was two years older than me and I considered
contours of her body, absorbing that lifeless form into the
her wisdom beyond reproach. If she thought it best to tell
wonderland of my young mind where it might breathe again. our parents, then we would tell our parents. Suddenly she I was fascinated by the roundness of her breasts resting so
turned from the body, starting back the way we had come
pallid and still on that unbreathing chest, the graceful arms
and pulling me along. “Come on, Thomas.” she said. “It’s
ending in long and webbed fingers, the voluptuous curve of
belly and hips which flared out into a great length of sleek
The sun was sinking quickly into the western
and scaly tail. It was that tail, glowing a deep turquoise in
horizon, it’s true. But that wasn’t the reason for this abrupt
the fiery light of sunset, that captivated me above all else.
departure. Lydia was spooked. By what, precisely, I couldn’t
“She hasn’t been dead long,” observed Lydia. “She’s
say. I glanced back to see the body fading into gloom. We
still wet.” Bending down to touch the corpse, she found it
would tell our parents that we found a mermaid dead on
soft and supple. “No rigor mortis, either.”
the beach. What else could we do? Nothing. I knew we
I nodded again, still admiring that wondrous expanse
could do nothing but tell our parents. Yet somewhere in
of aquatic tail, the extreme end of which lolled slightly in
the back of my mind I had hoped for another answer –
the California surf. Why, I wondered, had this fair creature
something definite and mystical that would bring life to the
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
dead, something fantastic and magical that would restore
daily. Her father, my mother, one of them had somehow
my faith in a world that brought mermaids as corpses to
figured out that we kids were not relating as siblings
should. It was a look in their eyes that told us. Lydia and
“Thomas, you should let go now.”
I talked about it for days but could not figure out how our
Lydia’s voice filtered through my thoughts, bringing secret had been revealed. Probably they had simply seen
me back to the twilit beach.
us kissing or holding hands a little too tightly. But thank
“What?” I said.
the Goddess, it was revealed! I couldn’t understand why
our relationship should be thought indecent or wrong. Why
“We’re almost home,” she explained. “You should let
should we be made to feed our secret love with naught but I nodded and released her hand, reluctant to let that
furtive glances, stolen kisses and clandestine meetings by
familiar warmth slip away. I could see the soft electric glow
the sea? Why should our love be a secret at all? We were
of our modest beach house just beyond a short stretch
related only by the marriage of our parents, after all. No
of dune swollen beach. It pained me to know that within
blood between us. I could see no moral or genetic reason
those familial walls, before the watchful eyes of our parents,
why Lydia and I should not be together.
we would be transformed from two young lovers into two
young siblings. I glanced at Lydia, walking slim and strong
old morality. Even as those laws grew slack and loosened
Still, our parents were bound by the cruel laws of an
beside me, and I saw by her clenched fists and knotted their hold, we walked home empty handed.
brow that she felt the same. “Why don’t we just come out
and tell them already?” I asked her, my voice cracking with
a stir; that was why we waited until after dinner to make
our grim announcement.
“Because I don’t need the drama,” she answered. “It’s
We knew the news of our discovery would cause quite
better if they figure it out themselves. And they practically
as my mother cleared dishes and hauled them to the sink.
She was right, as always. The charade was crumbling
“Father,” Lydia glanced at me across the dinner table
“Yes . . .”
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
“Thomas and I found a mermaid on the beach.”
bruised or bloodied.”
A sudden silence descended upon us, an agonizing
He nodded his head and rose from his seat. “I suppose
silence of breathless moments and pounding hearts. The
we’d better deal with the body, Thomas.” He fixed his eyes
night seemed to grow darker around our windows, and
upon me and I saw that they were no longer empty. Indeed,
even the constant liquid churning of the ocean seemed
a certain nameless resolve filled those gray-blue spaces.
to have ceased with the utterance of those words. I was
“Fetch us a lantern,” he said.
almost relieved to hear my mother’s timorous voice.
as I stood. It had been my hope to speak with her after
“A mermaid?” she asked, looking to Lydia’s father,
“Yes sir, Mr. Stratford.” I offered Lydia a hapless smile
who sat stiff and still at the head of the table.
dinner, to spend just a few minutes in her company before
we were forced into the privacy of separate bedrooms. She
“A dead mermaid,” I said. “She’s just down the beach
returned my smile, her face reflecting my own, a mixture
I turned my attention to Lydia’s father, wondering of secret longing and resigned patience. I moved to follow
at his rigid posture and empty eyes. He was a quiet and
the orders her father had given me. It was going to be a
thoughtful man, full of the same brooding reticence as
his daughter. I recalled how upon wedding my mother he *** had asked me to call him by his first name. He knew I
would never call him Dad. I appreciated the sincerity of his
treacherous, more uncertain in the darkness than it had
request, but soon found that I was unable or unwilling to
been in the light of day. Lydia’s father, breathing heavy
call him anything but Mr. Stratford, while thinking of him
beside me, was an uncomfortable and oppressive presence.
simply as Lydia’s father. As I watched, he blinked his eyes
“How far down is she, Thomas?”
and sighed like a balloon with a slow leak.
I kept my eyes fixed on the path of flickering light
that fell from the lantern in my outstretched hand. “Not
“Do you know how she died?” he asked, glancing
from Lydia to myself. “Could you tell?”
very far,” I replied. “I think we’re almost there.”
“No, father,” answered Lydia. “She didn’t seem
He seemed to nod his head in the murk beside me. “I
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
hope so,” he said. “I don’t think I’m in good enough shape
mine. What I did know was that he had served as some
to haul her too far.”
sort of military medical man in the fourth and final world
I glanced at the makeshift sled which plowed the war, so I had little reason to doubt his cursory post-mortem
sand behind him, pulled along by a short length of thick
examination. “It looks like she died of natural causes,” he
rope. He had fashioned his “sand sled”, as he called it, from said, standing as he spoke. bits and pieces of salvaged junk. We sometimes used the
strange jigsaw hybrid of wheelbarrow and sleigh to collect
my brow, somehow disillusioned by the concept of such a
driftwood and other seaside debris.
mundane death. “You mean she just died?”
“What are you going to do with the body?” I asked.
“I thought we would take her back to the boat,” he anxious moments I expected no further answer to my query
“Natural causes?” I blinked my eyes and furrowed
The ocean rolled fathomless beside us. For several
explained, referring to the dinghy which we used for ocean
than the sound of waves crashing into froth on the beach.
fishing, “and return her to the sea.”
“I don’t know,” answered Lydia’s father at last, a
I was preparing to comment on the reverent nature shadow of unease darkening his voice. “It’s only a guess
of his plan when our lantern light fell upon the mermaid’s
anyway. I can’t be sure of anything without conducting a
corpse. We stopped short, silent a moment. The body
full autopsy, and we certainly haven’t got the equipment
appeared stiff and unreal in the wavering illumination of for that.” the lantern, the pale flesh tinged a chilly and morbid blue.
I gazed down at the silent mermaid, wondering what
Only a few hours before, I remembered, she had seemed words of explanation and revelation those dead lips might almost alive.
have spoken. Beside me, Lydia’s father bent over and dug
the lantern into loose sand, leaving the light flickering at
“Give me the light, Thomas.” Lydia’s father relieved
me of the lantern and crouched beside the body. I watched
our feet as he rooted through the folds of his jacket.
and wondered as he ran inquisitive fingers over cool flesh;
“Here” he said, “put these on.”
opened eyes sealed by death, and inspected blackened
I took the rubber gloves he offered. “Why?” I asked.
fingernails. I knew little of his history, this stepfather of
“Because you’re going to help me move this body
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
to the sled,” he explained. “And since we don’t know what
she asked, “what happened last night?”
killed her we can’t be too careful.”
I shrugged my shoulders. “Not much,” I said. “We
I nodded my head and followed his example, used the sand-sled to haul the body back to the boat. Then
squeezing my hands into the clinging rubber gloves. Thus
we sailed out a ways, your father said a few words, and we
protected against uncertainty, we considered the body a
dropped her into the ocean.”
moment longer, each of us offering final respects. When we
Lydia nodded her head and appeared thoughtful.
finally moved to hoist the corpse up and on to the sled, I “Was father able to tell what killed her?” couldn’t help thinking – with a certain dreadful knowledge -
that this would not be the last mermaid to grace our beach
reply. “He thought that it was natural causes.”
experiencing the same baffled disillusionment which had
My birthday dawned with deceptive brightness,
I shrugged my shoulders again and offered a tentative
Lydia frowned and seemed to grow distant, no doubt
struck me so soundly the previous night. “I guess that
golden morning sunlight burning with a promise of hope makes as much sense as anything,” she said at last. “I don’t that the day could not possibly keep. As I rose from bed know what I was expecting.” She sighed and sat on my and dreamless sleep, a familiar knock sounded at my door. unmade bed, her shoulders slumped and her face suddenly
“Thomas!” Lydia’s voice whispered from the hallway. weary.
“Are you awake?”
“Are you all right?” I asked.
“Yeah,” I answered. “Come in.”
She yawned and rubbed her eyes. “I didn’t sleep very
She opened the door and entered my room with a
well last night. I kept having the most horrible dreams.
deliberate and practiced silence. “Happy birthday,” she The ocean was boiling and turning red with blood. . .” She said, smiling as she took me in her arms and squeezed.
shook her head and laughed, only a touch of humor in the
sound. “Not surprising with mermaids turning up dead on
“Thanks,” I replied, my lips brushing the smooth flesh
of her cheek and lighting upon her mouth.
She returned my kiss and pulled away. “Thomas,”
Rising again, anxious and unsure if she wanted to sit
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
or stand, she reached out and took a small sculpture from from the raw materials of the sea. I glanced at the shelf a shelf above my bed, held it at arms length, examined it a
above my bed, where the mermaid had come from. The
moment. It was a driftwood mermaid, fashioned with care. small space was filled with Ed’s handiwork – styilized “I wonder,” mused Lydia, “what Ed will say?”
statues of mermaids and whales carved from driftwood,
coral and stone. Those tiny figures seemed darker than
Old Ed, our nearest and perhaps only neighbor,
lived some four miles down the beach in a weather beaten I remembered, once delicate lines now stiff with some bungalow whose crumbling walls and broken windows
courted dilapidation. Tall and gray of hair, Ed was regarded
by Lydia and me as something of a surrogate grandfather –
suggestion I was about to make. “Let’s go for a walk on the
an unofficial family member who was closer to us than our
own parents. That intimacy was not surprising considering
“Lydia,” I spoke her name softly, unsure of the
She offered me a wan but sincere smile. “All right,”
the fact that Ed was the only friend Lydia and I had ever she said, a certain sensual fire igniting her eyes. “I want to known, the only person, period, besides our parents. He’d give you your birthday present anyway.” long been a confidant and conspirator who bore the secret
I took her hand and was pulling her up from the tangle
of our illicit love. I suppose it was that secret knowledge of pillows and twisted sheets when a sudden pounding which simultaneously alienated our parents and fortified our
echoed through the house.
relationship with Ed. A man well blessed by the experience
of age and the wisdom of life well lived he passed no
judgements and offered only support.
door, roused from sleep, grumbling, and no doubt asking
“You kids keep it a secret if you have to,” he once
advised us, “but don’t you ever stop loving each other.”
“It’s the front door,” observed Lydia. “Who could it
I could hear our parents in the hallway beyond my
the same question. With a quick breath catching in my
We looked forward to seeing Ed later in the day, as throat, I returned my eyes to the statues above my bed.
it was his habit to make the trek from his home to ours
“It’s Old Ed,” I said.
on birthdays, bringing happy wishes and gifts crafted
Lydia frowned, looking as if she might dispute my
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
unlikely assertion. It was, after all, much too early in
us in turn, sudden realization animating his face when his
the day. We both knew that Ed rarely arrived before the
eyes fell upon me. “Happy birthday, Thomas!” he exclaimed,
afternoon sun had risen into prominence, and certainly not
extending his hand to offer me a small package which had
with such unfettered urgency. Yet the pounding at the door
been clutched in his spindly fingers.
grew more familiar with each insistent blow.
“Come on, Thomas.”
eyes as he rubbed his hands together in a motion of extreme
Lydia rushed past me, opening my door to follow our agitation. As my fingers closed around the tiny package,
parents down the hall. I looked once more to the statues
I took the gift without a word, watching with anxious
I reflected on the somber events of yesterday and found
above my bed, a tangible feeling of unease uncoiling in my myself anticipating Ed’s story nearly word for word. stomach, and followed her to the front door.
he announced, eyes darting among the four of us. “I was
Lydia’s father, my mother standing worried by his side,
“I found some mermaids on the beach this morning,”
clutched the doorknob; he glanced at us as we approached. up pretty early getting ready for Thomas’ birthday when “Who is it?” he shouted over the din of determined knocking. I found ‘em, three mermaids just lying on the beach . . .” “Who’s there?”
He closed his eyes and breathed deeply before continuing.
The pounding ceased abruptly, replaced by a brief “They were all dead, all but one of ‘em. I crept over and
silence. “It’s only me,” came a familiar voice.
saw she was breathing, so I knelt down there and took her
Lydia and I exchanged knowing glances as her father hand to feel for a pulse. Well I about jumped outta’ my skin
unlocked the door and swung it open to reveal Old Ed,
when she opened her eyes and started talkin’. . . In English
looking older and grayer than usual in the crisp morning no less! At least it seemed like English in my mind! The light. He gazed at us mutely and stumbled through the words didn’t appear to match her mouth, though . . .” door; his threadbare clothes stained with sea spray and harried sweat.
There was a moment of silence in which Old Ed
scratched his head and nodded as if to assure us of the
“I know I wasn’t expected ‘till later,” he sputtered, incredible truth. “I wouldn’t be surprised,” he said, “if you
“but I just had to talk with somebody.” He gazed at each of folks thought I was getting a bit touched in my old age. But June 2010 eFiction Magazine
I’ve never seen nor heard the truth more plainly than I did
asking ourselves since last night.
on that beach this morning. Why, Mr. Stratford, I’m sure
“Frank,” she cried, “what does it mean?”
you’ve heard the legends?”
I grasped Lydia’s hand, unconcerned about who
might see. I, unlike my mother, knew the meaning of the
Lydia’s father appeared pallid. “Yes,” he replied, his
voice taking on the hollow timbre of rote memorization. mermaid’s words. With my free hand I turned Ed’s gift from “What the mermaid said to the sailor’s ears was full of side to side, spinning the small package round and round fortune and full of fears.” He shook his head from side
between my fingers, wondering if I wanted to grow any
to side, clearing cerebral debris. “Just a bit of doggerel I
older in a world without mermaids.
learned when I was young,” he explained. “Please, Ed, tell us what she said.”
The time between Mr. Stratford’s request and Ed’s
reply seemed interminable, an eternity of expectant silence from which anything might spring. When at last Ed raised his voice, it was through cool tears and bitter melancholy that he spoke.
“She said, ‘We shan’t be the last, child of land. The
Earth grows old. The seas grow cold. All our time is done.”
We never learned if the dying mermaid had uttered
anything further, for Old Ed choked on those final words and descended into a fit of heartbroken sobbing. My mother rushed to his side, taking his old hands in her own, offering words of meager comfort, attempting to console inconsolable pain. After a moment she turned to Lydia’s
Richard Cody, a native Californian, is a writer of poetry and fiction. His work has appeared in many print and virtual publications, most recently “Eclectic Flash”, “Weirdyear”, and “Daily Love”. An occasional doodler, he has also recently contributed artwork to “Hazard Cat”. He has fiction forthcoming in “Kaleidotrope”, “Gloom Cupboard”, and at “the df_underground: the dark fiction portal”. His books are available at his Lulu Store and on his Amazon.com page.
father and gave voice to the question we had all been June 2010 eFiction Magazine
The Coalescence of Family and Future Endeavors
work for the major mining outfit that owned Cherry. The mining company gave him a job, but technically he still wasn’t even a miner. His duty was to carry the honeypots out of the mine; the buckets of urine and feces from the true miners. A terrible job, sure, but even worse of a blow to his social status. It was hard enough to get the respect of the townsfolk as the new man in town without being the
person that transports their filth and waste. Denton met Evelyn in the post office, a beautiful
It was a quarter past nine and still, Evelyn hadn’t
young woman of 23 with vibrant, flowing red hair. From the
arrived. Denton was worried. Had she been caught sneaking moment he saw the girl, he knew she would one day be his out of town to meet him? Had she reconsidered, realizing
wife. Immediately, he quit his honeypot-job and took a new
that running away from her family and fiancé with Denton job at one of the local boarding houses. Incidentally, it was would be a mistake? He couldn’t let himself think that – she the Carville Boarding house; Evelyn’s father, John Carville, would be there soon.
was the owner. Denton had hoped to show the old man he
It was 1887; two years since Denton had come to was a hardworking gentleman with good morals – a perfect Cherry, a booming mining town in the Arizona territory. suitor for his breathtaking daughter. It was a good plan, He had hoped to make his fortune in the mining business
but one laid too late. Evelyn was already engaged to Clark
with the claim he had won in a high-stakes poker game in Wittstaff; the foreman of the mines and Cherry’s most Goldfield. Upon his arrival in the small town of Cherry, he eligible bachelor. He was handsome and distinguished, but found that his “claim” was little more than a mined-out old
was known to have a hot temper that could erupt without
shaft, already stripped of its valuable minerals. He’d sunk
warning. The matching was made by Evelyn’s father (money
all his money into getting from Goldfield to his new home; had more than a little to do with it) and was highly opposed
now, penniless and unemployed, he had no choice but to to by Evelyn. She didn’t love the man, she could barely June 2010 eFiction Magazine
stand the sight of him; this fueled her resentment for her and his time was running short. In 13 days, his beloved father and lulled her into a promiscuous relationship with Denton.
Evelyn Carville would be Evelyn Wittstaff. Fate, it seemed, had dropped the answer directly
Denton and Evelyn had carried on their affair behind into his hands – quite literally. Denton was tending to his closed doors and no one in town suspected a thing. Their
daily duties at the Carville Boarding House. He began the
affair began simply enough – Denton wanted Evelyn and morning by cleaning the rooms, turning the sheets and Evelyn wanted out of her forced fate.
cleaning the lobby. By the afternoon, he was balancing
With only two weeks remaining before her wedding
the books for old man Carville. Denton was an educated
date, Evelyn knew something had to give – and soon. man, and Carville trusted him to tally the month’s finances. Desperately, she asked Denton if he would take her away Cherry did not yet have a bank within its city limits; from it all; from her imposing father and undesired fiancé Carville’s only security for his weekly earnings was placed – he agreed. The only problem was that an escape through
both in the hands of Denton, and the blast-proof safe
the desolate landscape of Arizona would be a difficult one.
hidden below the office desk. While Denton was balancing
If they could make it to Flagstaff, they might have a chance the books, Clark Wittstaff walked into the office, arm-inof continuing on to San Francisco via rail. The trek from
arm with his soon-to-be father-in-law. Clark could always
Cherry to Flagstaff would be the most difficult part. No one
be recognized immediately; he wore the same grey suit
wanted to brave the road north to Flagstaff with the recent and derby hat every day, a fancy, custom-tailored set of rumors of attacks from Apache renegades. Even if they
garbs that obviously cost a fortune. The two laughed and
made it to Flagstaff unscathed, they would need money to
slapped each other on the back as they puffed on their fat
get them the rest of the way to California. Denton had a total
cigars (Clark had them imported from Havana, sparing no
of $35.oo. A good chunk of savings, but more was needed expense). John Carville commenced his fatherly embrace to ensure their safety through the untamed mountains of with Clark and pulled a bottle of 12 year old scotch from the northern Arizona territory, or to purchase a place in San the desk, reaching over Denton without acknowledging
Francisco. He had no idea how to get the money together
him. He pulled together a couple of handsome glasses and
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
poured two healthy slugs of scotch.
“A token of my gratitude to the man who brought the
“Here’s to our futures, Clark my boy,” Carville toasted. crimson beauty that is Evelyn into this world – and, soon “The coalescence of two great families barreling forward enough, into my family.” into future endeavors.” Clark clinked his glass to Carville’s
The envelope was fat and nearly bursting through
and sipped at it gingerly. “Oh, Denton… do have a drink the wax stamp that held the lip shut. Carville broke the seal with us,” said Carville, finally noticing his presence. “Thank you sir, but I’m on the clock,” Denton declined.
and peeked into it, his eyes rounded and he pulled a stack of U.S. notes from its pith. “My gracious,” Carville gasped.
“Nonsense – you’re on my clock, and I can stop it “This… this is just too much.” whenever I want.” Carville grabbed another glass, splashing
“It is not,” Clark opposed. “My family believes in
in a good-sized gulp. “Best worker I’ve ever had,” Carville
sharing our good fortune with our closest of friends and
proudly announced to Clark, pointing his chubby finger at family. You’ve been saying you aim to expand the boarding Denton. “Good with numbers, hardworking and best of all… house and add a saloon; well this should take care of trustworthy.”
both… you might even have a little left over to add a faro
Denton smiled; the old man’s flattering words sealed
parlor for me as well.” The old man’s eyes glossed over
his decision. He would rob John Carville and steal away and he hugged Clark with all his strength, hard enough to with his daughter – he would do it tonight.
make Clark lift his glass, protecting it from spilling on his
“To the coalescence of family and future endeavors,” Denton reciprocated, holding his glass to Clark. Clark hesitated, shooting Denton a suspicious look; finally giving in and tapping his glass to Denton’s. Denton slammed back the glass, pouring the lot down his throat. “Speaking of future endeavors,” Clark turned back to
signature suit. Carville poked a finger under his bifocals and pushed away a tear. He turned back to Denton, “Put this in the safe immediately, boy.” Denton grabbed the envelope, pulled a hunk of red wax from the drawer and held it over a candle burning at
Carville. “My family wishes to give you a gift.” He took an the center of the desk. He let the wax drip onto the envelope
envelope from inside of his vest, and handed it to Carville.
and stamped a new seal into it, trying to emphasize to
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
Carville that the cash was well taken care of. He bent below ensuring that a stagecoach would be waiting for him where the desk and spun the dial of the steel and concrete safe... the northern road forked toward the Mingus mining camp. 32 left, 12 right, 07 left.
This too gave him a bit of relief. He tossed the telegram
Denton smiled, crouched and hidden away under the
into the fiery belly of the stove, incinerating the last piece
desk – the irony was perfect as a pearl – not only was
of evidence to where they had gone. Undeniably, when
he taking Carville’s daughter and Clark’s bride-to-be, his
John Carville woke up tomorrow and checked his safe;
escape was now fully funded by the victims themselves.
both Carville and Wittstaff would quickly gather a posse to chase him down and retrieve their treasure (the money
Denton paced the floor of his cabin nervously; it was
now nearly 10pm, and still no sign of Evelyn. He walked
The thought of the scorned men giving chase twitched
over to the pack saddle hung from the wall, and pulled the
at his nerves, and he had to stand up and walk around the
envelope full of cash from its leather pocket. He knew it
room to keep himself from hyperventilating. He pulled the
would still be there, but had to check again to give himself
pistol from his belt and checked its chambers, ensuring
that all 6 bullets were loaded and ready to fire – and they
Denton’s cabin was a good 4 miles outside of Cherry’s city center, on what remained of his worthless claim, and
most certainly were. Sheathing his weapon, Denton heard a familiar sound
Evelyn was travelling at night; had she gotten lost in the outside. Horses – he definitely heard the dusty clacking desert? Perhaps she strayed from the path and was now of hooves in the dirt. More than four sets of shoes, he aimlessly wandering in the brush somewhere between here deduced. Evelyn wouldn’t have brought a pack horse with and the camp. No, he thought, tearing the thought from his head. She’s still coming – she’s on her way.
her – there was someone else out there. Quickly, he blew out all the lanterns around the room;
Denton returned to his table; an island of worm-eaten
the oven was still hot and gave a faint glow from behind
wood in the center of the cabin which doubled as his writing
the windows, but if he doused it, the steam would be a
desk, and read the telegram from the transport company
signal that could be seen from farther. He slouched down
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
below the window, his back against a rusted sheet of scrap
nose to his lips he saw the group standing outside of his
metal that would hopefully block any bullets that might door – 6 men in all; Clark Wittstaff and his villainous smile be aimed at him. A metal bit above him clanked against the wall, offering the only sounds; outside, pure silence.
in the lead. Denton awoke from the blackout to see the same
Had he really heard the horses, or was it his nervous (and group gathered around him, now inside the house, their guilty) mind playing tricks on him? He tried to convince glares bearing down on him. He tried to straighten himself himself it was the latter, but the truth remained – he was a out, only to find that he was tied to his chair with straps of thief in hiding, waiting for his crimson-haired accomplice to arrive. He had reason to worry.
leather. “I never took you for a criminal, you know,” a voice
He sat there hunched into the corner of the log house chimed in from Denton’s left. It was Clark, spinning a fire for another 45 minutes, pistol in-hand. Something was
poker in the smoldering coals of the stove. “I never quite
wrong. He considered the fact that there was still time to trusted you, but saw you as more of a lowly, irritating sonsneak back into Carville’s office and put the money back
of-a-bitch – not a thief.”
into the safe, but reserved a hint of hope that his true love
“What are you talking about,” Denton blubbered as
was on her way to him – more than a little late, but on her
blood spilled from the cracks of his mouth. He caught one
of the outlaws brandishing a heavy rail tie covered in blood And there it was – three short knocks… a pause, then
– his blood. The hefty lumber was the ram that battered
two more (the code that he and Evelyn had decided upon). into his face just before the blackness overtook him, he Denton breathed a heavy sigh of relief, holstered his pistol
was sure of it. He was lucky to still be alive after receiving
and picked himself up from the dirt floor. He walked to the the heavy shot. door, unlatched it and pulled it open. Immediately he felt
“It’s well past the point where you can pretend to
a smashing blow, flat across his face; he fell backwards, play the imbecile,” Clark snapped. “I know what you did…
losing consciousness just a moment before hitting the
I have quite a prescient knack for spotting the intent of a
ground. In mid-air, as he fell and blood trickled from his
would-be criminal, you see. I knew what you planned to do
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
as soon as you took the envelope from Carville’s hands – west. Whitley Clark was a close relative of William A. Clark, saw it in the darkest spots of your eyes. Sadly, I hadn’t yet
the second richest man in the country, and surely the most
realized what part Evelyn played in your plan.” He pulled
powerful man west of the Mississippi. Whitley had been the
the hot iron hook from the fire and waived it tantalizingly
family’s dirty little secret; a murderer by the age of 12 and
in front of Denton’s eyes before setting it virginally on top
an all around ne’er do well. With the combination of his
of the table. The red, glowing end kissed the wood and let
temper, money, power and his flat-out disregard for morals
out a slight sizzle and wisp of smoke as a blackened mirror and law; he was the most feared (and rarely seen) men in image of the hook developed on the table.
the western territories.
“Where is she?” he labored to ask, his front tooth blowing out of his mouth and onto his lap.
“So you can guess that the 12 grand – a gift of mine to my friend – you saw to abscond with, isn’t really the
“Oh dear,” said Clark, his eyes narrowing and digging
most concerning of matters to me.” Clark struck a match
through Denton. “With the $12,000 in this envelope you
on Denton’s chair and lit his cigar. “I got plenty more to my
could have gotten that grin taken care of.” Clark once again
name. No, what really gets under my hat is the fact that
pulled the envelope from his vest, brought the money to you thought you could take what I truly desired… Evelyn.” his nose to give it a whiff, and set it on the table. The mob behind him roared.
“I don’t think you understand, her name. “Where ith the?” his speech was impeded by his
fully, who I am Denton. I’m not just some half-wit acting
lack of front teeth. The newly acquired lisp gave way to a
as foreman of the mines you know…”
cruel laugh from the men.
The pain ripping through Denton’s gums and lips peaked, and he felt as if he was going to faint again.
“She’s coming,” Clark smirked. “I’ve paid my boys here a large amount in advance for the work we have before
“Truth of the matter is my name isn’t even Clark
us tonight – surely they won’t keep us waiting.” Another
Wittstaff… It’s Whitley Clark. Well, that was my given name.”
grumbling set of heckles tore through the room from the
“Dear God,” Denton thought. He had heard that
Denton twitched in his chair at the very mention of
name many times before in his travels throughout the
dusty, sweat-stained mob. Tears ran from Denton’s eyes, rolling down his cheeks
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
and thinning the clump of blood that had dried to his chin.
A rap on the door kept Clark from continuing his
“Goddamn you!” he yelled, spitting a spray of blood into
tribute to the rare liquor – three short knocks… a pause,
then two more. Clark faked a surprised look, “Hmm… Could
“Shut him up,” Clark commanded the mercenaries. that… No… Could it be? Your partner in crime? The angel Two of the men hurried to the chair that kept Denton trapped;
with rose locks? The ethereal beauty that stole both our
one man pulled a pair of dirty, crumpled handkerchiefs from
hearts?” Denton’s chest pounded with anticipation, he could
his soiled pockets and stuffed one of them into Denton’s
accept death right now if only he was able to see Evelyn
mouth, knocking out another tooth that was still clinging
one last time – touch her skin or feel her flowing red hair
to his jaw. The second, he wrapped around the prisoner’s brush against his chest. “Let’s see, shall we?” Clark grinned head, holding the first gag in-place.
and turned toward the door. “Enter!”
“Can we continue our conversation now?” Clark
The door flung open, but Evelyn wasn’t outside; it
sneered. He produced a bottle of scotch and poured a slug was another 3 mercenaries who filed in and merged with into a gold-rimmed snifter. It was the same kind of scotch the rest of their group. Clark clicked his cheek, “Nope… that Denton had enjoyed with the sharp-dressed brigand
And I really thought she might show up. That just doesn’t
only hours ago. “Forgive me if I don’t offer you a drink…
seem right to me… really, it doesn’t – because I’m going
unlike Carville, I am very particular about who I invite to
to kill you tonight Denton; I am. The least I could have
my toasts.” He raised his snifter and looked at the ceiling of done was give you a glimpse of the prize that you lost your the cabin. “Since we can no longer toast to the coalescence life trying to attain.” Clark took another gulp of Scotch, of family and future endeavors – let’s drink to… REVENGE.”
this time straight from the mouth of the bottle. Giving a
he shot the liquor back into his throat the same way Denton sour face, he called out, “Sullivan, show the man what he’s had previously done. He smiled back at Denton, wiping the last bit of scotch-dew from his lips. “God that’s good – aged
about to die for.” Denton felt a slimy splat on his lap and looked down
twelve years in Scotland, and another five in my private to see a bundle of red hair, bloodied and still clinging to its
peeled scalp. He screamed (or tried to through the sweaty June 2010 eFiction Magazine
handkerchief filling his mouth), rocking himself back and my ways; moved out here to Cherry, took a modest job at forth in the chair, trying to fling the pelt of his love off of his the mines, fell in love with a woman… I thought it would be lap. The men’s laughter grew to a scream of its own as they a new road for me.” He picked the poker up off the table taunted Denton. One of the men came forward, grabbed
and buried its curled, iron end back into the coals of the
the scalp off his lap and stretched it over Denton’s head;
stove. “I’ll try it again after this is all over; I’ll try and move
his panicked moans peaked again.
on, find a wife and move into my old age as an upstanding
“Alright, that’s enough,” Clark announced. “Have some citizen of this country… I hear there’s a camp up on the respect for my late fiancé.” The man who had planted the
other side of the mountain – they say it’s going to be the
scalp on Denton went back and retrieved it, still snickering.
richest operation in the west. They call it Jerome – who
“I want you to know that this isn’t a gaggle of laughs knows, that may be where I can finally shed my past, make for me Denton, it really isn’t. You see; tomorrow when
the new-start I had hoped for in Cherry. But before I do… I
Evelyn turns up missing and the search party goes out…”
still have one last problem to deal with…”
Clark pointed to the men surrounding the room, introducing
The poker was red-hot again as Clark pulled it from
the search party. “…When Evelyn is finally found; I hold the fiery chips; he brandished it in front of Denton’s face, the heartbreaking duty of having to tell Carville that his letting it radiate a glowing red orb across his cheeks. Clark, daughter, while on a late night stroll, encountered a group
wide-eyes and wide smile, was enjoying every moment of
of the renegade Apaches that have been tormenting the
the torment Denton was enduring. “Don’t worry Denton,”
Verde Valley for some weeks now. Not only did they take Clark teased. “We’ll go slow – It’ll all be over in a few hours.” her scalp, but they left her body naked in a very horrifying
He eased the hot iron back and forth toward the iris
position out in the brambles. Carville is my friend and I’m
of Denton’s eye as the jeering outlaws watched on intently.
not looking forward to seeing his reaction to that.” Clark From behind the laughing horde, the window of the cabin
stood up, set his snifter on the table and began walking
shattered as a bottle fired through. The bottle and the
around the room. “Sure, I’ll admit it… I am a very, very evil
flaming rag in its spout exploded on the back of the biggest
man – have been all my life. I was going to try and change of the watching bandits. The man screamed and was June 2010 eFiction Magazine
instantly engulfed in flames, licking around him from his his bindings. Another kerosene-filled bottle flew in from the back. Stunned, the other men moved to the window. Clark
broken window, shattering on the table and releasing a sea
dropped his fiery, staff and ran to the window, pushing the of flames that dripped to the floor. Denton watched as the gawking mob out of the way. Peering around the frame and envelope, filled with money, quickly burned and curled into out the shattered window, he heard a whooshing sound and
black flakes. For a moment he paused, saddened by the
a sharp pain as a stone-tipped arrow pierced through his
sight, but quickly was brought back to reality when another
eye and crashed out the back of his head. Clark stumbled round of arrows sprinkled into the room, narrowly missing backwards, and blood dribbled from his mouth and nostrils. He collapsed onto the wooden table, grasping one last time
him. The fire spread quickly through the deadwood walls
toward the envelope before his body slumped lifeless at of the building and Denton could feel the heat of the Denton’s feet.
flames licking toward his face. With all of his force, he
“Apaches!” hollered one of the outlaws. The merciless
lifted himself and the chair strapped to his bottom, and
men unholstered their pistols and charged out the front crashed backwards into the wall. The chair broke apart door. Another flurry of whooshing sounds rang out, and
underneath him, splintering from the legs to the seat. His
three of the exiting men fell dead in the doorway, arrows
head slammed into the dirt floor, dazing him and reducing
prickling out from their chests. Denton rocked himself in
his hearing to a cottony, muted ring. He focused his blurred
the chair, desperate to unbind himself. For now, the Apache
eyes and forced himself to stand up. The leather bindings
marauders had been his saviors, freeing him from the
still choked him at the wrists, cutting of the blood flow to
torment of Clark and his men; but what they had come his pounding fingertips, but he was unrestrained. Crawling for, was blood – white man’s blood. In the eyes of the
low along the wall toward the door, he felt a digging in his
Apaches, the blood that pulsed under Denton’s white skin
back and reached around to feel a splintered shard of the
was just as red as the spilling blood of the outlaws in the chair buried in the flesh behind him. The wedge of chair doorway. Hearing gunshots outside of the cabin, Denton had missed his spine and kidney, but he didn’t dare pull it
hopped in the chair, hoping to snap the legs and release out just yet, fearing he would bleed out before escaping June 2010 eFiction Magazine
and derby hat.
Suit in-hand and leaving Clark’s naked
From outside, Denton heard the war-cries of the body behind, Denton walked over the sprawled corpses Apaches. They hooted in celebration, circling the burning
and out of the burning building. The renegades had made
wreckage and bodies. This steadied Denton; surely, the
off with the horses – it was the only thing of value to the
raiders believed they had just killed the last of the white
warring wanderers – but had left all of the dead desperados
men and would soon retreat to stow themselves in the
untouched, their firearms still clutched in their hands. He
hidden desert. The fire raged throughout the cabin, there grabbed two pistols, a rifle and enough cartridges to fill was no way the Indians would dare to check inside now. them all several times over and watched – everything he Denton just hoped they would be gone quickly enough to
had owned turned to ash in a burning swirl of fire that
allow him to escape the inferno. The howling cheers began stretched toward the stars. Worthless, meaningless things to grow more distant; over the crackle of burning wood, the
roasting inside the pyre; Evelyn, however, had meaning
clamping of retreating hoofs could be heard. Denton crawled
and worth, but she too was gone.
cautiously on his belly toward the door, hiding himself
Denton entertained himself with a new plan. The
behind the slouched corpse of a bandit. Peeking around fire grew higher and higher, and (he figured) could be seen the corner – careful not to expose his eyes to a screaming from the rooftops in Cherry. Soon enough, the town would arrow – he could see no sign of the marauding army of
send its most able-bodied men to investigate what had
natives. He could make his getaway. He stood up, paused, happened. Upon seeing the arrows, they’d know the attack and looked back at Clark – a thought crossed his mind. The was carried out by the Apache rebels everyone had feared. only option left for him now was to flee town and try and
Immediately, a scavenger group would be sent to take
get to Flagstaff or maybe Prescott on his own, but he still
chase of the warriors; leaving the town defenseless – open
needed money. He ran back to the center of the room and
for him to walk right in and rob the town. The ill-gotten
rolled Clark’s body over. The back of the arrow had broken $12,000 from Clark was gone, but inside the Assayers, off and only a frayed stick stood out of his eye socket. lay a fortune. No one would be able to accuse Denton
Denton stripped him down, collecting Clark’s signature suit
Barrington of the robbery, because he had been incinerated
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
in the fire. The bodies would be unrecognizable – nine in all, he figured – even Clark wouldn’t be recognized. No, he thought. Denton Barrington is no more… Tonight, there wouldn’t be a coalescence of family;
but the possibility of future endeavors gave a golden twinkle in Denton’s calculating eyes. He pulled his blood-
soaked clothes off his body and slipped on the custom suit of Clark’s, covering his face with a bandana. The only
He held the cerulean sphere in cupped hands.
survivor, he imagined, was Clark Wittstaff – once known
His reflection wavered in the blue effervescence like a
as Whitley Clark – and come tomorrow, Mr. Clark would
beseeching prisoner, a captured image of long faced
pillage the town of Cherry, taking it for all it was worth.
desire, the desire for secrets and equal measures of
Then, maybe, Mr. Clark would finally get to move on to a new town and make a decent life for himself – as he had hoped to – in the mining camp of Jerome.
beauty. His face elongated and drooped in long allay, his chin was a full foot beneath his pursed lips and his forehead sloped upward to an impossible length. He was Longface, Longface Wild as the town referred to him. He had tolerated the taunts of children and adults both over the tumult of his existence. The everyday spoils of marriage, children and love had eluded him. He was long faced and rambling in tonics of rare disposition. “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaaaa,” he sighed
Zachary Ankeny is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction works. He is a resident of Phoenix, Arizona, but was born in a whisper of reverent appreciation. The blue stone in Dubuque, Iowa. His fiction has both appeared, and been featured, in a myriad of magazines, and his non-fiction shimmered and swam before his eyes as he prayed for historical research has been a staple in the Arizona Historical Society and the Jerome (Arizona) Historical Society. the confluence of events, the very purpose of his breath.
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
Longface closed his eyes and saw the afterimage
As he sat in the small secret copse near the
of cobalt fire, the stone in the midst of a tempest. A
horizons frayed edge, the stone gleamed and glowed
tempest gathered against the exclamations of perfection,
calling, calling. The old guard, the desires of the dead
the decreed portion of beauty. A gathering tornado true,
and the dreams of delirium. He waited, in confessions of
borne by longfaces and rare expressions.
revenge. Longface Wild, Longface Wild, they called as
The stone had been in the conclave of the dead near the edge of town. A long underground cavern where
the air filled with the screams of the living and the gasps of the dead.
the townsfolk and country denizens had laid their loved ones to rest, in eternal sleep, a forever in company of damp moss and subterranean dreams. He had crept to the entrance of the cavern and later, after dark, had gone into the ancient graveyard. The rows of rotting and mummified bodies had remained silent, passive and ever watchful. The flashlight had been a beacon and a torch as he searched the rows of decaying bodies. A moth flittered and danced in the moted glare of the light. He scanned the corpses and finally, near dawns edge he saw the prize, a large blue stone muzzled in the decaying jaw of an ancient king. Longface had torn the jawbone free from the rest of the skull and the stone had rolled close to his feet. “ Ahhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaahhhhhaaaaa.” he said,
Ron Koppelberger has written 91 books of poetry over the past several years and 16 novels. He has been submitting his work for the past year. He has published 227 poems and 57 short stories in a variety of periodicals including The Storyteller, Ceremony, Write On!!! (Poetry Magazette), Freshly Baked Fiction and Necrology Shorts. Also, he recently won the People’s Choice Award for poetry in The Storyteller for a poem titled Secret Sash. He has been published in England, Australia and Thailand. He loves to write and offer an experience to the reader. He is a member of The American Poet’s Society as well as The Isles Poetry Association.
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
Catching up with Cartucci
like it says on the charcoal bag, while the thing would try to clean itself off, then strike the match and VAR-OOM!! It was beautiful. Q: Did the animals cry out as they burned? A: Yeah. Sometimes the thing would shriek louder
than hell, like EEEEEEEE!! Other times it would just make a soft little squeal, like somebody screaming down a
Q: You’ve mentioned that when you were a boy you liked to set animals on fire.
Q: And this didn’t bother you.
A: Yes. Animals and other things. Not that I was a pyro or anything. I just liked to watch them burn.
A: No, I didn’t think about it much back then. I was pretty wild as a boy.
Q: What kind of animals were they?
Q: Can you tell me a little about it?
A: Small things, mainly. A turtle, a couple of frogs.
A: I used to do all kinds of unbelievable things. One
Once there was this mangy old alley cat roaming the
time a bunch of us went exploring at a construction site.
neighborhood and –
This was on a Saturday afternoon. I drank a quart of beer
Q: What was your method?
and climbed up on the top beam of the structure -- it was
A: Oh, you know. Lighter fluid, gasoline, whatever
just the steel skeleton back then, but it was about four
was available. There was always some gasoline in the
red gas can in the shed. The old man always made sure
Q: How old were you then?
of that. He loved that little strip of lawn of his more than
A: Oh, I dunno. Let me see. About fifteen, sixteen.
anything. Usually, it would take two guys -- one would
No, fifteen. I remember, I was working at the Landow
hold the animal, the other would douse the thing in fluid.
Theatre because I couldn’t get any other job and they
Then we’d wait a minute or so to let the fluid soak in, just
were paying peanuts, I mean, it was under the minimum
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
wage, even back then. It was a dollar twenty five an hour. Q: Did you ever kill anyone?
A: You mean, a person?
Q: I don’t really know.
A: Well, you can put that down if you like. I loved
A: No. At least, not that I know of.
Q: Why are you grinning?
Q: When did she die?
A: Am I? I didn’t even notice.
A: Who said she died? She’s living in Florida with
Q: And you never had any trouble with the law? A: No, nothing major. The usual – getting in
my Uncle Joe. In Tampa.
fistfights and getting too drunk in my late teens, early
Q: I see.
twenties. That sort of thing. Yeah, I spent a couple times
A: My old man, though, forget it.
in the drunk tank. It wasn’t as bad as everyone makes
A: He was one ripe asshole. Taught me about Jesus Q: Let me ask you this: Have you ever loved
with the back of his belt. When he was really mad, sauced up, more times than not, he’d slip down on the leather,
A: Uhh, that’s getting a little personal, don’t you think?
hit me with the buckle. It was a big old silver thing with steer horns on it. I still got the marks from it on my ass
Q: Yes, I’m sorry. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want.
to prove it. You want to see? Q: No, that won’t be necessary.
A: Like I said it’s personal.
A: It’s kind of funny now. You can see the horns. I
Q: Okay then. We’ll move on to the next one.
A: My mother, I loved my mother. Doesn’t
always get a laugh out of it with the ladies.
A: My mother.
Q: And he died.
Q: What’s that?
A: The old man? Yes, thank God. That he did. Drunk June 2010 eFiction Magazine
himself to death, or would’ve, if the guy who knocked him
I met her in high school. She was quite a girl. Took a lot
over the head with the tire iron hadn’t got to him first.
of abuse from me, looking back. Too much, I guess. She
Q: Hmmm. But, beside your dad, beside the beatings, would you say that you had a happy childhood
Q: So, it didn’t work out in the end.
A: Sure. Why not. It wasn’t much different than other kids had. I didn’t let none of it bother me. Q: Let me get back to my original question. Was
Q: And you abused her physically. A: Oh, yeah. Physically and mentally. All sorts of ways. Like I said, she put up with a lot of shit. But I
there anyone else, besides your mother, a girl, a woman,
thought she could take it. She was tough, like me. At
who you loved?
least, that’s what I thought.
A: Sure. Lots of them. Some of them I don’t even remember their names.
That’s what drew me to her. We were living together, about a year or so. Tough, yeah, that’s what I
Q: You loved these women.
thought she was. Then one day I come home and she’s
A: Sure. I’ve always had leanings that way. What do
crying on the living room floor. Just sitting there cross-
you take me for? A queer?
legged, bawling her lungs out. I told her to get the hell
Q: And you’ve known love in other than physical terms?
out right then. Q: You kicked her out?
A: Well, yeah. Once or twice.
A: Yeah. I didn’t need that shit. I mean, I thought
Q: Do you want to elaborate on that?
she was different.
A: Well, like I said, it is pretty personal. But, I guess that’s what this is all about, right?
Q: And that was it? A: Yeah. She went back to her mother. We talked
Q: Yes. You might say that.
finally got wise.
occasionally. But that was that, pretty much. I’d had it.
A: Okay. I get ya’. There was this one girl, Marina.
Q: And there was someone else?
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
A: Yeah. It was the same sort of thing. It turned out she misled me into thinking she was one thing, then she turned out to be another, nagging me all the time, asking, “When we gonna get married?” I told her “never” and “pack up” in the same breath. I thought we’d both wanted the same thing.
Q: I believe it was during a Christmas party. You’d said he’d knocked down your Christmas tree. A: Oh, yeah, the bastard. What was the question? How did I feel? Q: Correct.
Q: Which was?
A: I don’t really remember. Good, I guess.
A: Oh, you know, companionship, sharing, but no
Q: And he wasn’t hurt, is that correct? Even though
heavy duty commitments. We talked about it before she
he rolled down twenty-two stairs?
moved in. Then the marriage crap. It was more than I
A: I don’t remember how many stairs there were.
Q: But he wasn’t hurt.
Q: Let me ask you this: Where were you when JFK was shot?
A: No. At least nothing long-term. I’m sure it didn’t feel good at the time.
A: I was at home, sick from school that day. I think it was the mumps. No, measles.
Q: But he could have been hurt, isn’t that true? A: Yeah, I suppose.
Q: You weren’t in Dallas that day?
Q: And you would do it again, today?
A: No. I was sick in bed. I remember watching it all
A: Of course. Well, not today. Like I said, I was
on TV. Why?
Q: Just one of those questions we throw in to make sure you’re paying attention.
back then. But if someone knocked over your Christmas tree, what
A: Oh. Okay.
would you do?
Q: Here’s another one. How did you feel when you
Q: I’m Jewish.
threw Jake Fischbein down your basement stairs?
A: Well, whatever. Your menorah, I don’t know.
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
Q: I’m the one asking the questions, if you don’t mind.
against them, against you people. It was just that A: Okay, sorry. You don’t have to blow your top. Q: Did it occur to you that he was drunk that night,
that he didn’t know what he was doing?
Fischbein. He got on my ass. He smelled like his name. Q: Then why did you invite him to your party? A: Like I said, it was a mistake. His brother and me
palled around. His brother was okay, cool, crazy like me.
Q: Jake Fischbein.
But that Jake, he was a cold fish.
A: Listen, it was nothing. He was nothing. It was a big mistake.
Q: Fischbein. A: Exactly.
Q: Pushing him down the stairs?
Q: The night you threw him down the stairs, he
A: No. Inviting him to the party. Dumb yid -- oh, sorry, no offense. Didn’t mean anything personal by that. It was just -- well, you had to know the guy to know what
was drinking straight out of that whiskey bottle you were passing around? A: Oh, yeah. We all were. It was no biggie. He was
I mean. He was a -- how do you say it in your language?
a real wimp, couldn’t handle his booze, not like a man,
A putz. Did I get it right?
Q: Yes. You said it just right.
Q: And you could.
A: Anyways, that’s what he was. A squirrel, a loser,
Q: Would you say you were inebriated when you
threw Jake Fischbein down the stairs?
A: A pansy-faced, mother-lickin’ fag, more or less.
A: Yeah, I guess, but....
Q: Are you through?
Q: Now, if you will, for a moment, can you close
A: A slime-belching hook-nosed --
A: Oh, yeah. Sorry. It’s not that I have anything
Q: Uhh uhh uhh.
your eyes? A: What? What’s this all about? June 2010 eFiction Magazine
Q: Close your eyes, please. I do this with all my subjects. It’s called creative imaging. Now, close your eyes, please. A: Okay, okay. I’m doing it. Not that I like it much,
but.... Q: Now, see if you can tell me what I’m touching you with. Here, on the arm.
If I shut my eyes for a moment, I see his broad
A: It feels tickly, like a feather.
muscular body, smell his musk cologne, and taste the
Q: And here.
sweetness of his mouth. My friend Susie gave him my
A: Hard. Like a rock.
telephone number after I agreed to the blind date. What
Q: And here, on your forehead.
do I have to lose? I could vaguely remember my last
A: It’s cold, smooth. I dunno. Wait, I think I got it.
date, blind or otherwise. Let’s see . . . I think it was two
months, four days, three hours, and twenty minutes ago . . . but who’s counting. The evening of our rendezvous, I pulled my PT Cruiser into Rubin’s parking lot fifteen minutes early.
Mitchell Waldman’s fiction and poetry has previously appeared in or will appear shortly in such magazines as Wilderness House Literary Review, Eclectic Flash, The Battered Suitcase, Five Fishes Journal, Moronic Ox Literary and Cultural Review, Eclectic Flash, Wind Magazine, the HazMat Review, Innisfree, Poetpourri, The Advocate, Mobius, The Parnassus Literary Review, Desperate Act, and Poetry Motel, and in the anthology, Beyond Lament: Poets of the World Bearing Witness to the Holocaust. He also authored the novel, A Face in the Moon, and was co-editor (with Diana MayWaldman) of the anthology, Wounds of War: Poets for Peace.
Turning off the engine, I pulled the keys out of the ignition and stashed them in my purse. As a final check, I turned the rearview mirror towards me in order to scrutinize my face. Thanks to the magic of Max Factor, my eyelashes and brows were visible. Strands of ash blonde hair frizzed around my face despite repeated efforts with a curling iron. Closing one lid at a time, I smoothed my already-
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
smooth eye shadow, which complemented my pale blue eyes. I reapplied fire coral lipstick and then checked my
He offered me a seat and motioned for
purse for my keys. The last thing I needed tonight was
the bartender. We ordered drinks, Kendall Jackson
to lock myself out. At 6:55 p.m., I took a couple of deep
chardonnay for me and Fat Tire for him.
cleansing breaths, got out of my car, locking the doors, and headed for the bar.
“Susie told me that you guys went to the
Willie Nelson concert at Red Rocks last week,” he said.
Mahogany panels covered the walls. Casting a soft light, numerous stained glass lamps hung from the tin
“Was there a big crowd?”
“Yes, a big, loud, and drunk crowd. Willie
ceiling. The soulful voice of Ray Charles floated in the cool
always brings out the cowboy in people,” I said with a
air. Men and women clad in either suits or cotton pants
laugh. “I love country. How about you?”
and casual shirts occupied most of the tall wooden stools in the front of the U-shaped bar. Dressed in gray linen pants and a black silk shirt, one man stood out from the
“Well, I prefer opera or sometimes jazz. Have
you ever heard Beverly Sills? I have all of her CD’s.”
“No,” I said, remembering something about it
rest. As I approached him, he flashed me an are-you-my-
not being over until the fat lady sings. I wonder if Beverly
date smile, climbed off his stool, and extended his hand.
Sills is fat.
Susie told me that he was divorced with no children
Luckily, the bartender arrived with our adult
and gorgeous, but nothing prepared me for this Greek
beverages and interrupted our conversation, giving me a
god. Black hair combed straight back from a chiseled
minute to get the picture of the fat lady out of my head.
face, thick black eyebrows that overshadowed chocolate
I took a sip of wine and smiled. “One reason I
brown eyes with long eyelashes a woman would kill for.
moved to Colorado is the mountains. Do you like to ski?”
His teeth were Colgate bright and wore-braces-for-years
Mmmm, swishing down the expert slopes with this hunk
straight. Looking up, I estimated his height at 6’ 4”. I
in front of me would be delicious.
felt dainty even though I reached 5’ 9-1/2” in my Italian
“I love the mountains too, but not when it’s
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
cold. They’re beautiful in the summer . . . and warm. I
Looking back, I should have run like hell,
can spend hours sitting in my boat with a fishing rod in
but he mesmerized me. His husky voice, the smell of his
my hand. It’s so relaxing that I don’t even care if I catch
cologne, the elegance of his words, and his commanding
presence captured me in a web of desire. By the end of
The image of him in ski clothes disappeared.
the evening, I ceased listening to his words and began
I couldn’t envision myself baiting a hook and sitting for
imagining his full lips devouring mine as he fondled my
hours in a wobbly dinghy. What if I fell out and drowned
breasts. He continued talking and touched my hand when
or, worse yet, died of boredom? “Yes, I like the mountains
he gestured. I felt a surge of warmth rush though my
in the summer too.” I fortified myself with more wine and
shifted gears. “Are you going to Susie’s party next week? Her parties are always fun.”
A few nights later, after enjoying a leisurely
dinner at Sullivan’s Steakhouse, we stopped at his condo
He lifted his glass and drank some of his beer.
downtown for a cocktail. One thing led to another . . .
“I’m not much of a party person but . . . maybe . . . if
and . . . I hate to admit I’m easy but . . . I was horny,
and he was the closest thing to Pierce Brosnan I’d ever
After ten minutes of discovering we don’t have
meet. We lost our clothes on the way to his bedroom. As
anything in common, I decided I didn’t have much to lose
we tumbled onto his king-sized bed, his mouth captured
and began my not-too disguised checklist for a potential
mine, our tongues intertwining. He ran his hand down my
mate: college-educated, check; well-paying, respectable
spine, and I shivered. My pale skin turned rosy as he left
job, check; loves children, check. The answer to my next
my mouth and began sucking my toes . . . one at a time
question raised a large red flag.
. . . slowly. I squirmed when his tongue began licking my
“How long have you been divorced?” I asked.
legs and traveled up to my “special spot,” where he spent
“I’m not sure. What is today’s date?” He
several minutes. A hot flash of pleasure surged through
glanced at the calendar on his watch.
me, and I screamed. June 2010 eFiction Magazine
“Please, please, please . . .” I begged as I
tried to push him away.
cases of Kama Sutra products: Original Oil of Love for its
“In a minute,” he said, looking up with a leer.
gentle warming power; Spearmint Stimulating Pleasure
A second before I thought I was going to
Balm to apply to our desired pleasure points; Honeysuckle
lose my mind, he returned to my mouth. His large hands
Honey Dust for dusting our bodies, along with a feather
appeared to be everywhere at once, and you know what
for application; Sweet Almond Massage Oil for massages;
they say about large hands. Let’s put it this way, when
and Love Liquid Sensual Lubricant for those long, exciting
he finally ended his glorious torture of me. . . I was not
nights. In addition, since I was out of practice a bit, I
disappointed. And, yes, I screamed again, only louder.
ordered the book, The Cosmo Kama Sutra: 77 Minding-
Afterwards, he fell asleep with his arms
wrapped around me. My entire body tingled with pleasure as I looked around the room. The furniture was dark and
Blowing Sex Positions by The Editors of Cosmopolitan. Isn’t it amazing what you can find on the Internet?
Caught up in a whirlwind of lust, one day I
heavy, very masculine, with a thin layer of dust on the
found myself at a Victoria Secret store in a small white
surfaces. A single brass lamp with a crooked shade sat
room with a full-length mirror, a bench, and a couple
on the bedside table. The brown sheets were clean, but
of wooden pegs on the wall. Numerous tiny lace/nylon/
rumpled, which made me grin. The adjoining bathroom
spandex articles in exotic colors like sweet orange, gold
door was ajar, revealing a white pedestal sink, an energy-
and cocoa metallic, and electric blue were sitting next to
efficient toilet, and a shower with a frosted glass door.
me. When I tried on one of the Miraculous push-up bras, I
The scent of lilacs floated in through the open window. I
was amazed that their claim that it “instantly added up to
drifted off to sleep, listening to the faint roar of the traffic
two full cup sizes” was true. My perky 34A breasts looked
on I-25 and thinking I’d like to make this a nightly habit.
magnificent. Glancing at my flat stomach, I decided if I
every position known to man . . . and woman. I bought
For the next eight months, we spent hours
going to movies, watching television, and making love in
restricted my daily liquid intake, the stretch thong would work too. After a couple of hours, I stumbled out of the
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
store with a dozen matching bras and thongs, two sets of
staggered into my house. The alcohol fumes radiated
baby doll lingerie, and a maxed MasterCard.
from him. He sat on the cotton flowered sofa and hung
We talked about our future for hours, and I
his head between his legs.
ignored the fact that this Greek god and I shared little
“I can’t do this,” he said.
in common. He wanted us to buy property and build a
“Do what?” I asked, sitting down next to him.
house. In fact, he drafted a design of the building with zero input from me. I couldn’t believe that he wanted to have a bathroom without walls as part of the master bedroom, but I didn’t argue. However, he didn’t have
When I attempted to hug him, he pushed me away.
“Build this house.” He raised his blood-shot
eyes to look at me. “Stay with you.”
A year has passed, and if I close my eyes,
enough credit to buy the land. Several red flags waved. I
I can see him standing next to me. Black hair combed
waved back and put a lien on my house.
straight back from a chiseled face, thick black eyebrows
One Saturday night, I invited him to my
home for dinner. After I cleaned for hours, the 90-yearold bungalow sparkled. The chardonnay was breathing;
that overshadowed chocolate brown eyes with long eyelashes a woman would kill for. And then I cry. I wonder if Kama Sutra has an expiration date.
Beverly Sills was crooning. The aroma of fried chicken and homemade biscuits pervaded the yellow kitchen, and a warm breeze drifted through the window, rippling the Cape Cod curtains. I waited for hours and called everyone I could think of, including his mother. I was desperate. No one knew where he was. My imagination envisioned him lying in a ditch somewhere dying. He was always on time.
At two in the morning, he used his key and
Diane L. Akins, a retired psychotherapist and addictions counselor, lives in Denver, Colorado. Several months a year, she and her husband explore the world and its different cultures. The rest of the year, she does volunteer work for Exempla Lutheran Medical Center and The Learning Source, a literacy program. Diane tends to write about people and the struggles and joys in their relationships. “Longing” is her first published short story.
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
really BAD Shakespeare R.E. “Weeb” Heinrich
abused? Anything, anything at all that can alter your present conscious state? I can wait while you gather these necessary materials… …
… … …
Episode 1: The Telephone Call
Back already? I see you poured yourself a cocktail… hey, you going to hold that
I don’t care if you believe me or not – there’s never been an innocent who didn’t want to die. You, the so-called intelligent and
joint all night or light it? We need to get this reality started. While you induce and indulge, let me explain why I’ve requested
God-inspired opposable thumbed mammals who rule this planet, will
this. See, from this point forward, I’ll need your mind altered… altered
ALWAYS fight for survival. Don’t let anyone tell you different. No matter
beyond what members of the opposable thumbs tribe perceive as reality.
the reason or cause, how real or petty, we will die happily for our beliefs.
In order for you to understand the complicated simplicity of one man’s
Eventually, everyone will reach their limit… right down to the weakest,
life as he reaches the end of his rope, your reality needs to be viewed
most passive loving member of the tribe. And, once that imaginary line of
through a dense fog of alteration to qualify the distorted facts, images,
“no return” is crossed and the final insult thrown and daggers drawn, we
and memories needed to obtain an honest experience.
will ultimately take the proverbial bull by the horns and wrestle him to the Go ahead… I’ll wait for you…
ground… or die trying. And why is this?
… … … … … … there, feeling good now?
**** It starts with a man’s voice on an answering machine:
I have a request. It’s an unusual request, but I have to make it anyway… Do you have any liquor in the house? Marijuana? Prescription pills that can be
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
walking toward the street. My heart beat madly and my hands, “It’s me – just letting you know I’m fucking sick of all the fucking
covered in a pair of black leather gloves, shook with anger.
head games you fucking asshole. Really fucking sick of it! We fucking
There was no going back.
could’ve had a real fucking thing going here but no, you fucking decided
The call was made…
to stick with your Father. Well, the fucking line has been fucking drawn
My nemesis would get the message loud and clear on
now! I feel like you fucking played me. Listen, I’m fucking sick of all the
Monday morning when his sweet old secretary presented him with
hurt and lies and bullshit you keep blowing up my ass… As far as I’m
the morning’s messages: “Good morning Mr. Shepherd, hope you
concerned, from this fucking point forward, you’re fucking dead in my
enjoyed your weekend. Not many messages this morning… There
eyes! Don’t fucking ever call me or try to fucking get a hold of me… just
is one though that I think you should listen to yourself. The caller
fucking die already.”
didn’t leave a name or a number but, to condense the message into reasonable terms, he basically said not to ever contact him ****
again. The truly amazing thing is that he managed to say ‘fuck’
With one final display of overtly dramatic and extremely
sixteen times in less than 15 seconds.”
stereotypical non-heterosexual behavior, I raised the black and pitted pay-phone receiver above my head, stretching the twisted metal cable to its entire length of two feet, and brought it down
Endings are a curious thing.
forcefully onto the metal hook. BAAAAAMMMM!! The sound
They are like horror movies – just when you think the film’s
reverberated in front of the convenience store like a gunshot. The late night crowd of about ten Latinos gathered outside
over, and the last big busted brassiere clad high-heeled babe has been killed, it all starts over again with yet another big busted
the Seven-Eleven, who were enjoying the mid-summer night,
brassiere clad high-heeled babe running for her life through a
jumped at the sound. Several younger members of the teenage
darkened, supposedly haunted house from a cannibalistic leather
gang ducked in their attempt to miss the stray bullet they assumed
clad fucker with a chainsaw in one hand and a really big hook
was headed their way. Several members of the gang laughed at
in the other. In such situations, no one is actually safe until the
their comrades actions. The humiliated boys turned toward me…
credits roll and the screen goes black. Only then can you sigh in
sizing me up, whispering, and preparing for the possible attack
relief, knowing fully that the ending has arrived and it’s time to
stand up and brush away the crumbs of memories better left in the
Ignoring them, I turned from the bank of phones and started
theater, and walk out that revolving door to face the strange and
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
disturbing “Beginning” that’s waiting for you outside… in reality.
as fact with never a hint of question. From the tragic innocence of birth to the disgrace of liberating death, we allow these
The first ending is usually the hardest.
remembrances to form our greater character… shaping us from formless masses of clay into something distinct, something REAL.
That’s when all the pain and suppressed suffering is released… when every second, minute, hour, day, week, month,
It is because of this that we begin to repress, and then deny, the reality of our memories.
year, decade of emotional decay surges forward and is spewed
Over time, these experiences become selective. We learn
venomously with no thought of recourse. It’s an emotional need
how to savor the agreeable and contradict the offensive. Through
to hurt the other party. To watch the sickening realization that
subconscious deception, our memories become what we wished.
something serious isn’t right – something that an “I’m sorry, won’t
We create false memories to replace the ones repressed; we
ever happen again” will not repair.
begin to contradict, to reject, to sabotage; then, we begin to
The eyes tell it all.
forget… allowing the replaced to become true.
Just watch as the first verbal slap is delivered: “Every
We are nothing more than prisoners of our memories.
fucking thing wrong with my life is directly associated with you. You have caused me nothing but pain and hurt since the first day
I met you. I can’t do this anymore. I can not allow this to happen
It’s the middle of the afternoon.
anymore. You are nothing more than a cancer in my life… and I
am cutting that sickness away.”
The curtains in my parent’s bedroom are closed. A thin
band of sunlight breaks the darkness, dividing it… We crouch in a distant corner, the darkest in the room. I stare in wide-eyed
here it comes:
amazement at the dim illumination coming from the glow-in-thedark wristwatch. That’s one reason for the closed curtains - to see
Hurt… pity… anger… love.
the novelty of the watch. The owner of the watch is a twenty-something male
neighbor. He shares the darkness with me. We huddle together
Memories are a precarious thing.
and stare at the glowing timepiece. His arm tightens around my
Throughout our lives, we embrace these mental fabrications
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
“Pretty cool, huh?” He says, his face rubbing slightly against mine. “Just got it yesterday and knew you’d love to see it.” “Neat,” I grin in admiration. The attention thrills me. I move closer, pressing against him, wanting to savor the moment of
Directly in front of them, I stopped… turned toward them, and smiled. Not knowing why, every single one of them stepped back. Several of the devout even crossed themselves.
having an adult treat me like an equal. He is my friend, my very special friend…
After several silent minutes, I look up and ask: “Can I touch
Please allow me to introduce myself: My name is Shakespeare…
it?” And, that’s the other reason…
and I’m the
Can you hear it happening? End
Repress and deny…
of episode 1
**** No stopping “it” now. With a sense of accomplishment, I held my head high and nonchalantly approached the thugs. As I got closer, I could hear their disjointed conversation: “That dude just told someone to fucking die… Damn, that’s cold… let’s rob him, looks like he’s got money… not him… look at those eyes… wonder if he broke that phone… am sure we can take him… ya’ if the phones broke we’re
Watch the “really BAD Shakespeare” trailer on YouTube
the ones who’ll be blamed for it… fucking white people… no, leave
Connect with the author on Twitter @WritingRaw, join him on MySpace, and on Facebook. Shame: A Novelette, by R. E. Heinrich
him alone… look at those eyes… bless us, Jesus…”
When speaking about really BAD Shakespeare, Connie Chang of the Potter’s Field Daily News said: “Mix equal parts of Douglas Adams, Christopher Moore and Kurt Vonnegut and you still can’t imagine the twisted, original story going on here… Honestly, sometimes Armageddon isn’t as glamorous as some want us to believe!”
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
Blood Binds Episode 3
Oil in the Wormwood Series - Part 1
Tonya R. Moore
vampire’s skin tingly. The rims of his eyes were starting to sting and his mood was steadily going sour.
“God... so disgusting.” He palmed one of the throbbing things, raised it up out of the wet. “Tallow, look at this. Is it the right size?”
Still drowsy, she tossed him a brief head-shake. “Bigger.”
Colonies of fleshy globules thrived in the stagnant sea-ball left over from high tide, a month gone. Inside
“How much bigger?”
their translucent bodies, veiny hearts the size of golf balls fluttered steadily. The air stank of silt going to rot. Kyle was knee deep in the muck and not relishing a second
“I don’t know.” She shrugged. “Maybe the size of your head?”
of it. Hel’s witchy niece was seated between the massive toes of the closest tree, on the verge of nodding off to
He blinked, wondering if she was screwing him around. With her, he just could never really tell.
It was nigh noon. Salty woods, with their sensually twisted boughs and cotton-candy soft canopies offered shelter from the glaring eyes of Mycenea’s suns. There
“Seriously though,” Once again, he tried wrapping his head around the head-scratching purpose of this foray. “Am I really going to have to eat--”
was enough daylight leaking through to make the
“It all depends on whether you want to keep living or June 2010 eFiction Magazine
an unfamiliar world. Safe human human blood wasn’t always easy to come by and his three companions weren’t He didn’t much care for the manner of her answer
exactly a good snacking option. Hel had asked Charls
but this time around, he figured he’d let it slide. Their last
to devise some alternative. The hearts of these animal-
squabble had escalated into a total disaster. While he was
plants supposedly contained some compound that would
sure she was already forgiven, Kyle had little doubt that
help him out in a pinch. Charls and Tallow would have
he was still skating on thin ice as far as their fearsome
to render it down into some kind of potion first before it
leader was concerned.
would do him any good though.
That fact that he was actually thinking of that ill-
Mycenea was one of the few places that had a
tempered man as a boss-figure threatened to burn a
coastal forest which provided the perfect conditions
hole in his gut. Actually, the fact that he’d immediately
that allowed these creatures to blossom. While Hel and
scampered off like an obedient little wag-tail puppy the
Charls were off mixing it up with the locals and fishing for
moment Charls had sent him out on the hunt for these
information, Kyle and Tallow were relegated to harvesting
zombie anemones was sickening enough all by itself. Hel,
them and foraging other rare essentials. They’d nearly
his only true ally hadn’t even offered up much in the way
filled Tallow’s bag when they happened upon the sea-ball.
of an objection. Of course, she’d been too busy mooning
Although she had no qualms about shoving her arm down
the magic-man like an adolescent in the throes of her first
a spider’s hole or forcing a snake to choke up its venom,
crush to even take note of Kyle’s plight.
Tallow seemed to draw the line at setting foot into the soupy pond.
In any case, Tallow had something close to a point. By his reckoning, it had been nearly three months
He straightened. “I just realized something.”
since he’d awakened, surrounded by devastation on June 2010 eFiction Magazine
Suddenly restless, Tallow sprang to her feet in one fluid motion. Her skin was still tanned from their trek
“I do every single thing that bastard tells me to.”
through Gobbai territory, several coils away. Coils--he’d
Disturbed by the direction of his thoughts, Kyle scattered
learned--was the common slang used for dimensions in
his gaze and hopped back on topic. “You don’t think that’s
multi-verse aware systems. As if the past few months
hadn’t been enough of a mindfuck, Kyle had spent the the long days of their trek through the desert in a stifling caravan--for obvious reasons. What a miserable two
“Weird?” She frowned, clearly not getting his meaning.
weeks that had been. “Out of the ordinary. Strange.” Tallow was roughly the same as as Kyle--his real age, not his human age. He watched the way her limbs bent and twisted gracefully. The girl was sort of inhuman,
“Oh,” her toes curled into the soft grass. She bent to drag her boots on. “That’s just compulsion. Isn’t it?”
coltish. Sometimes, it seemed like her feet barely even touched the ground. Every movement she made was
like a dance. Although there was hardly any breeze, the voluminous curls of her hair billowed out and tumbled playfully over her eyes. She had amazing irises. They
“Isn’t that what the collar is for,” Her fingers paused at the upper laces. “To contain the enchantment?”
wavered between quicksilver and metallic blue, depending on her mood. He’d never been so intensely aware of
anyone, not even Stefan. His reward for asking that question was an arched
Her head tilted curiously. “Hmmm?”
brow. “The one you’re wearing.” June 2010 eFiction Magazine
Kyle’s dry hand flew to his throat. “Damn.” Surely
“You do so know what I mean.” He stomped, briefly
enough, there was a knobby band of leather encircling his
forgetting where he was. The rancid wetness sploshed
throat. That asshole!
higher. “Stop idolizing the creepy wizard. He only has eyes for Hel, you know. Doubt there’s any room in that
“Tallow...” He swallowed hard. Weird, how something
dark heart for you too.”
he hadn’t even realized was there could be so constricting now. “Tallow, how long have I been wearing this?”
“What are you trying to say?” Tallow’s head whipped up. “I am not idolizing--” She fumed. She hoisted the
“Can’t say. I know you’ve had it since the night we met.” She gave him a curious look. “You really didn’t
collection bag over her shoulder. “I am not doing that! What do you know anyway?”
notice it was there?” She stalked away, taking the rough path they’d made “No! Hell no. Why didn’t anybody tell me?” Even
to get to the sea-ball.
Hel hadn’t said anything. His comrade had gone right on ahead and flipped over to the dark side, hadn’t she?
“Wait, come back!” he called out, suddenly at a loss. “I still don’t know which ones I should pick.”
“Oh my,” Tallow chuckled appreciatively. “That Charls. He’s good.”
“Isn’t it obvious?” She stopped long enough to glare back at him, offering a toothy, humorless smile. “The
“Idiot,” Kyle scowled. “Don’t even go there.”
“I don’t know what you mean at all.”
darker the heart, the better.”
“Oh. Great.” June 2010 eFiction Magazine
those, deceptively somnolent eyes. He wanted something. Her piercing look sent a chill racing up his spine, for more reasons than one. Once again, he’d managed
Nothing new there. Someone, somewhere always wanted something from her.
to piss her off. The girl was so prickly. She was like a walking land mine, for crying out loud. A wiser guy would probably steer clear but it seemed, he couldn’t.
The problem was, he wasn’t the least bit interested in her power and didn’t even seem inclined to try to take her blood. He seemed to want something else entirely. For
“Hey, don’t wander too far.” He watched her vanish
the life her, she simply couldn’t figure out what that was.
into the bramble before reluctantly turning his attention back to his distasteful task.
She stopped in her tracks, skin prickling. She looked back the way she’d come. There was nothing to be alarmed about exactly. That was the problem though, wasn’t it? Nothing moved. No creatures stirred or cried
A thing like that...
out. Moments ago, this forest had been humming with life. At that moment, she became starkly aware of the
An embarrassed lump swelled up in Tallow’s throat. “Blasted idiot nightwalker.”
menacing wantonness of the twisting woods. The silence that filled the pocket of emptiness where she stood. The heavy scent of earth. The fact that Kyle was far, far away.
She stomped through the woods, crashing this way and that, blinded by indignation. That damnable night
That old anxiety rippled through her body. She tried to will it away.
walker. He was always doing that--poking at her armor and making her think and do things that never occurred
“The woods right here,” she mused. “They’re weird.”
to her before. He was always quietly watching her with June 2010 eFiction Magazine
The shadow of a grudging smile tugged at her lips.
The pungent smell of fear and sweat clogged Tallow’s
She couldn’t help being vaguely tickled by that, the new
senses. They were afraid, those things. Everyone of them,
word that had wormed its way into her vocabulary.
falling over their own feet and each other.
She bent down, pressing her palm against the warm
Then she saw what was chasing them. Tallow gaped
earth. Even the worms deep down in the dirt had become
it horror at the red-eyed, beastly octoped. This hunter of
petrified. A shudder ran through her body. She felt it
giants towered over Tallow. It was maybe, twice as tall as
before she heard it, something big and clumsy crashing
a human. The black bodied monstrosity was horned, with
through the brush. Instinct drove Tallow, sent her ducking
an almost human-looking face and torso. There was wide
between the mossy roots of the nearest tree. She skated
belt adorning the lower abdomen. Below that, the beast
to her knees, shucking her cargo. She heard a monstrous
was like a tree with thick limbs spread out like roots,
cry, something primitive and anguished. Pandemonium
except these roots were hirsute and pointy at the ends.
They pulverised rock and soil with each step. The beastly hunter howled as it galloped past Tallow, taking the path
She saw them, spindly legs that poked down out of the tops of trees, the massive shadows of great bodies
of destruction forged by the panicked herd. Its prey had scampered away, toward the sea and out of sight.
passing overhead. What in all Creation were those things? A wave of them was sweeping toward her. The
She she shrank back into the space between the
was a boom from somewhere in the direction from which
roots, hoping it wouldn’t notice her. It stopped, feet
they’d come. Their brays became a deafening chorus.
spitting up dirt and broken rock. It sniffed at the air,
They picked up speed. She shrank further into the trees
then turned. Its swirling gaze, full of hunger and menace
gnarled roots. At the very least, those things might avoid
zeroed in on her position. It’s mouth widened. Tallow
trampling her there. Their mass movement made thunder.
saw the glimmer of big, sharp teeth. A new kind of terror
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
clawed at her gut. She shifted sideways, intending to flee. In an explosive blink of an eye, the creature was looming
“Get angry or get scared,” he growled. “Don’t just sit there, you moron!”
above and before her. Its ragged spear was poised to strike.
He was strong, inhumanly strong. No wonder people were so afraid of what he was. She might have been
For some strange reason, Tallow was paralyzed. She
frightened of him too. If it wasn’t for the red wetness
couldn’t so much as will her muscles to cooperate. She
soaking her through and through. She might have
who laid waste to an army of wraiths. She who’d killed
been scared right down to her toes, had his grip not
countless who come after her because of who she was
slackened and the light in him already started going out.
and what she had inside her. Now faced with an enemy
He slumped, his ruined body’s dead weight trapping her
that meant to kill her for simply being there, she couldn’t
where she crouched. The beast hadn’t missed after all.
even run. She couldn’t do a thing!
Kyle had just gotten in its way.
The spear’s vicious tip was bearing down. A tiny
whimper escaped from her trembling mouth. Kyle came out of nowhere. He yanked her sideways. The spear missed.
She bit the back of her hand, trying to keep that rising scream down. If she started, she wouldn’t be able to stop. She bit down so hard, she tore the flesh there.
“Wake the hell up!” His fist curled at her throat. Why? He slammed her so hard against the knotted wood, Tallow saw stars right before her eyes.
Why were people always doing this for her? Her mother. Her father. A whole village of wayfarers. She June 2010 eFiction Magazine
never asked for it. She never wanted it! Why did she do that? He wondered. Why did she give “Enough...” Tallow ground out. Her fingers curled into the blood-slicked grass. “I’ve had enough of this!”
The hunter raised its spear again. It was drenched
him her blood? Wasn’t it the first thing the sorcerer had warned her not to do?
Kill the nightwalker if he tries to feed...
with dripping red. She struck out with her mind. The beast drew back, tumbling backwards as energy exploded into a turbulent ball of brilliance between them. The
She stirred when she realized he was watching her. Her eyes had gone dark and brooding.
sphere cracked and swelled, then it shattered. The sound was like glass breaking but it was deafening, a sound that sank deep down into the marrow. The creature’s agonized
He made a feeble attempt at joking. “Charls is going to be so pissed.”
scream was faint, cut short by a quick death. The violent force shot outward, obliterating everything surrounding Tallow and Kyle, as far as the eyes could see.
“If you tell on me, I’ll tell him what you did.” She smiled down at him sweetly. “You tried to strangle me just now, didn’t you?”
It was dark when Kyle came around. Good thing,
Kyle frowned up at her in consternation. “Now look--”
since there were no trees left to shield him from their worst of their rays. He was whole and he knew he
“Yea,” She continued, as if he hadn’t even spoken.
shouldn’t be. More than anyone else, he knew what a
“That hurt, you know. Shoving me like that. It still hurts. I
fatal blow should feel like. He knew better than anyone
bet my back is bruised.”
else. Tallow sat beside him, chin resting on her knees. June 2010 eFiction Magazine
Kyles smile slid away. “Tallow--” Her eyes narrowed into dangerous little slits. Her “What right do you have?” She shook him hard, like he was nothing more than an over-enthusiastic dog’s
glance slid sideways and down to where he lay. “This,” she blustered. “This is all your fault!”
chew-toy. “Did I ever ask you to do die for me?” Kyle sighed. This time around, he had the good sense Her fingers twisted into his hair. She tugged hard on
to bite his tongue. The girl had officially cracked. Again.
the gathered locks.
“Ow!” Kyle reached up to extricate her fingers from his hair. “By the way Tallow, it’s still daytime, isn’t it? What did you do to the suns?”
“Huh?” She shoved him aside abruptly.
Kyle hit the ground with a pained yelp. The stricken look on her face was priceless. His breath choked, laughter bubbling up as she finally realized that time had turned upside down. She was staring up at the darkened sky, face a mask of utter horror and chagrin.
“Oh man,” he managed. “Does the word moderation
even mean anything to you?” June 2010 eFiction Magazine
“I’m seriously debating going in tonight,” Natalie told Zach via cell phone. “Like I know it’s the first Tuesday and we have to,” she paused, “but what if I tell them I have diarrhea or something.”
She laughed but Zach winced. At least they were
Beat the Clock
“I dunno, I feel like Linda would tear you a new one.”
Glen Binger The first Tuesday was always the worst Tuesday. And every Tuesday was worse than any old Friday or Saturday. That initial Tuesday always embraced people tired of winter and eager for summer. It included tourists, locals, and even the people who don’t usually drink. The old, the young, the thirsty: a Tuesday for everyone to enjoy. That is, everyone except those whom are employed by the fine establishment known up throughout the east coast, tri-state area as Club Surf. For them, it was only excessive fist-pumping and
“Yeah, you’re probably right.”
The subtle humor went unnoticed but he laughed anyway. “I’m always right.”
“Good one,” she teased.
“Hey, why aren’t you at school?”
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
thing every time.
“Oh, I called out today and tomorrow because I knew
While Natalie spent the rest of her afternoon at the
tonight is going to suck.” She laughed. “It’s no big
beach reading magazines to combat the anxiety, Zach
deal; I told them I had some doctor appointments.”
had the prestige level seventy warlords to conquer. It was a nice afternoon and he didn’t want to waste
“Nice,” said Zach. “So what are you doing all day?”
this early June weather. So he rigged his television and Xbox in the window facing the porch and rotated
“Well I’m at the beach now, so I’m gonna chill for a
one of the chairs away from the sidewalk. This way he
little while. I’ll see you at work later tonight.”
could bank grenades and gain headshots on the sniper maps from the comfort of the great outdoors. Every
Club Surf staff member dealt with the stress of the first Tuesday however they could.
“Okay, see ya later.” He took a picture with his cell phone and sent it to “Later.” Zach hung up.
Pete. Fifteen minutes and a kill to death ratio of plus five later, Pete replied: awesome dude, check out what
He didn’t mind working Tuesdays. Miller Nite or, as the
ive been doin all day. His text was followed by a picture
locals called it, Beat the Clock, meant a monstrosity
of an unusually long piece of human feces sitting in a
of tip money; for the bartenders at least. He was
toilet bowl. Zach laughed but didn’t respond.
oblivious to the amount of suck that Natalie had to
push through every Tuesday as the head waitress.
Later that night, behind the VIP section in the servers’
However, if he wasn’t, he’d probably say the same
area, Kim was telling Natalie about her plans to move
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
to New York City in the forthcoming year. But Natalie
didn’t know that Zach and Natalie had slept together,
was uninterested in hearing about things that probably
too, and Natalie wanted to keep it that way.
wouldn’t ever happen. “With that, I can probably take over my mom’s florist “Yeah, I’m thinking about living in Queens. I hear it’s
shop when she retires.”
nice.” “Yeah.” “Oh?” Natalie kept her eyes busy. Eye contact usually “Yeah. Or maybe Brooklyn. I don’t know yet. I’m still
gave Kim the impression that she wanted to keep
trying to get into grad school up there.”
conversing. She was trying to place the waitresses to their certain positions for this first Tuesday accordingly
but being bothered just made Natalie place her as a shotgirl.
“Definitely. I want to go for business.” “Okay, well I have to run upstairs,” Natalie lied. “Can “Uh huh.”
you set up the condiments and table menus before the crowd gets here?”
As usual, the irritating sounds and tones kept spewing from between Kim’s lips to between Natalie’s ears.
“Sure, no problem,” smiled Kim.
Things were still awkward between the two of them
because of the Zach thing last Friday. But Kim didn’t
Late evening sunlight still gushed the outside bars;
seem to acknowledge it the way that Natalie did. She
which meant that the staff had about an hour before
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
the anxious summer patrons flooded both the inner
“Okay, barbacks. I have Emmett at bar four, the one in
and outer areas. To no surprise, they showed up
the far back by the volleyball court. Ray, you’re at bar
exactly when Beat the Clock started: eight o’clock.
three. The one in the far left corner.” Zach looked up
So Zach and Pete still had time to set up at the main
quickly then back down to the words scribbled on his
bar, just as Natalie had some time to appoint the
left palm. “Brad. You’re at two and Derek you’re with
waitresses. The music would be starting in a few
us here at main.” He looked up again. “Any questions?”
minutes and that naturally meant the ability to think clearly ceases to exist.
The four faces shook their heads.
“Hey man, let’s play a game tonight,” Pete said,
“Okay, go to your stations before I beat your asses,”
organizing some bottles of vodka. “Let’s see who can
he laughed. “Go see what your servers need and good
get more gay guys to hit on them.”
luck. Remember, it’s all about the paper at closing.”
Zach laughed but did not respond. “Okay guys,” he
Three faces dispersed. Derek’s remained. Pete walked
spoke to a crowd of four new faces. “This is your first
over to join Zach and the eager barback.
Tuesday working at Club Surf. If you think you’ve seen it all this prior weekend, you are wrong. Tonight will be
“Aight, chump, you’re with us, now,” Pete spoke down.
the worst night of your life. But you’ll get used to that
“That means you’re on our turf. You play by our rules!”
once you see the amount of tip money we’ll be dividing at the end of the night.”
The moment Derek’s face began to cower, Pete backed off and Zach laughed. Pete slugged Derek’s arm.
The four faces chuckled.
“Relax, man. You look tense.” He smiled. June 2010 eFiction Magazine
“He’s just fuckin’ with you,” said Zach. “We’re easy.
Zach checked his phone. “Uh, seven thirty.”
Just keep the beer flowin’. Can you do that?” Pete reached over and replaced an elderly local’s Derek chuckled and nodded. “Yeah, no problem.”
beer. “Thanks,” said the man. Around that time, the older locals who came here for dinner and a few
“Well get on it! Skit! Skat! Go!” yelled Pete, slapping
drinks usually left as the Beat the Clock crowd and
abnormally loud music began to arrive.
Derek took off to the backroom with all the kegs. The
“Hm, cool. Half hour ‘til the shit-show begins.” He
barbacks that Zach hired were consistently eighteen
laughed. “By the way, totally diggin’ the outdoor video
or nineteen; sometimes twenty-one in a rare situation.
game setup you had before.”
His supervisor, Chris, wanted younger kids doing that kind of work. “It’s like putting in your dues,” Chris
“Yeah. It was cool. People would walk by and stop to
always told Zach. “That way when they are old enough
watch. It was awesome.”
to serve they know what the job is like.” An Italian girl with plastic breasts in a skinny white “I like the intensity,” Zach said, turning to Pete. “Keeps
tank top flagged Zach from over Pete’s shoulder.
‘em on their toes.” “Well,” he continued and nodded towards her, “it “Abso-fucking-lutely,” laughed Pete. “That and it makes
working here more fun. Hey, what time is it, by the
Pete turned, chuckled, and said, “Duty calls.” June 2010 eFiction Magazine
As Zach listened to the woman speak without using
The late sunlight was now a flooded dusk. And the
the letter ‘R’, he could see Natalie over in the VIP area
flood was in the process of turning into a dimly-lit
finalizing the preparations. She looked cute, as always,
series of patios. In a matter of hours, the sexual
yelling at the touch screen register. There would be
tension would also be changing with the source of
little time to talk to her tonight, and he knew that, so
light; Club Surf patrons and staff alike. But for now,
he tried to make eye contact whenever he could.
the staff could only find relief from the anxiety any way they could. The first Tuesday was always a bitch.
“No, not add tab! I said set tables! UGH!” She slapped the side of the machine.
An hour later, Pete took a second from pouring eight ounce cups of Miller Lite to nudge Zach. “Hey man,” he
She didn’t see Zach. He went back to his job.
said, pointing to Linda and Chris in the office window. “What do you think they’re doing right now?”
Kim heard her from the backroom and poked her head out. “Is everything okay?”
Zach looked up to the pair overlooking the madness. “I have no idea.” He placed a tray full of beers, fifteen
Natalie imagined rolling her eyes but refrained from
of them, in front of a man with a pink polo – collar
doing so. “Yes, Kim. Thanks.”
popped – and took his twenty dollar bill. “Do they even need to be here at night? They don’t do anything.”
“Okay, because if you need some help I’m here.” Pete served five beers to a petite woman in see-
“Great, thanks.” She turned around to watch Kim slide
through blue. “They make sure we do our jobs. Owner
her face back into the staff room.
and assistant. Man and Wife. The good guy and the June 2010 eFiction Magazine
bitch.” He laughed. “Who the hell knows?”
keg,” he paused and pointed to the keg at the far end of the bar, “riiiight after you take this double shot.”
Zach turned to face Pete and raised an eyebrow. “How
Pete wiggled a large double shotglass between his
many shots you been sneakin’?”
Pete laughed again. “Two, you want one?”
Derek looked confused. “Okay,” he replied, cautious.
“Line it up.”
Zach looked up to the office window to make sure Chris and Linda weren’t playing big brother. The
“Hey Derek!” yelled Pete.
window was empty. While Pete lined up three shots of whiskey, he served four beers to two blonde girls.
Derek ran over, adjusting his belt. “Those ready yet?” he asked coming back to the “How you doin’?” asked Zach.
“Does a bear shit in the woods?” asked Pete, chuckling.
“Forget that,” said Pete, brushing off Zach. “Listen, D.
Meanwhile, upstairs, Chris poured two shots of Patron
Can I call you D? Good. You want a shot?”
and handed one to Linda.
“Sure,” laughed Derek.
“I love the first Tuesday,” he smiled. “To Tuesdays.” He held up his glass.
“Okay, I’ll give you one but you have to replace this June 2010 eFiction Magazine
Linda clinked hers against his and they both swigged
tequila and onion rings.” She gagged and then grinned.
the tequila. Chris laughed. “Well, you smell like tequila and poop.” “Good stuff.” She tried to smile, the alcohol loosening
The alcohol got to him, too. He kissed her forehead
her up. But her expression made it seem as if she had
and released grip from her ass.
just swallowed a cup of staples. “Pleasant.” Chris winked and staggered over to the window to gaze out over his empire. “Okay,” he laughed and
Linda looked back at the entrance to the office. Then
waved his left hand. “I think that’s enough for now.
she reconnected eyes with Chris and smiled, the
Want to be able to function if something were to
alcohol still affecting her decision-making abilities.
happen.” “Let’s go see if there is anyone in the storage room “You’re sexy when you’re trying to control yourself,”
above the stairwell.”
laughed Linda. Chris silently obliged, smirking. “What for?” He asked, “Oh yeah?” Chris staggered back to Linda, who was
even though he knew exactly damn well what she was
leaning on his desk. “How so?” He got real close and
wrapped his arms around her, squeezing her butt with both hands.
She didn’t answer. Instead, she took hold of his hand and led him to the alcove of shadowy boxes.
But she pulled back and waved one of hers in front of
her face. “Wait… nevermind. Your breath smells like
Downstairs, directly below the initial office window,
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
Natalie was planning her route around the crowd
customers far surpassed the amount of floor space.
of people. VIP was so full that she actually had to schedule her rounds around the shapes that the mass
Before she could reach the end of her round, someone
made: squares, circles, octagons, even the occasional
grabbed her arm. As she turned to see who it was,
rhombus. Kim rushed by to refill her shot-tray as
she caught a whiff of cologne that smelled like a fresh
Natalie connected the imaginary lines with her index
snowfall in the fog of winter. It was pleasant, at first.
But when her eyes fixed on the source of the aroma the first thing she saw were two poorly constructed
“Kim! I’m glad I caught you,” said Natalie. “I need
neck tattoos, one on each side. Left was a star and
some help here. So go put away your tray and change
right was some words she didn’t feel like reading.
into the VIP uniform. I need you to help wait these tables with me.”
“Wait, baby girl,” said the inked man.
She couldn’t believe the words spewing from her
Natalie winced and looked at the man, waiting for his
mouth. But she had no choice. It was too crowded.
Kim’s face lit up. “Okay!”
He continued, “How are you doin’ tonight? You look hot as hell.”
Natalie smiled and made a line around the border
of a triangle to replace a party’s bottle of cheap
While he spoke, Natalie checked her watch. It was only
champagne. She thought about how much it was going
nine god-damn thirty. “I’m good, can I help you?” As
to suck to split the tip money with Kim, but decided
much as she despised asking the man what she could
it was worth it; it was just too busy. The amount of
do, she was forced to do so. Part of the job, she told
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
herself. “Sorry, I only give out my number to guys.” “Now that you ask, I guess I’ll have a few more beers. No more shots though, please.” He pointed to his
With that she left to get the man’s drinks. Even
buddies. “These guys already took care of that.”
though she felt the music reverberate in her lungs, the hollering voices of the man’s friends making fun of
“Okay, I’ll bring them over.”
him would remain ringing in Natalie’s ears for the rest of the night. It stopped the stress from devouring her
“Wait, girl,” he paused. “How ‘bout you leave yo
number with me, too? Ya know, in case I get lost on my way to your house.”
“Hey can you bring out this tray of beers to the guy under the cabana?” Natalie asked Kim in the staff
Natalie wanted to do what she always did when she
got hit on by the drunks of the VIP: just ignore it. But she didn’t, not tonight. The stress was eating
“Sure,” smiled Kim. “Which guy?” She peaked out from
her insides. She searched her mind for the perfect
response while simultaneously dissecting the man’s appearance. His jet-black hair was gelled back into
“The douche in purple,” laughed Natalie. “You’ll see
what the locals called ‘a blowout’ and the collar of his
untucked, lavender button-down was erect. He kept fidgeting with it during Natalie’s pause. This caused
Kim chuckled. “Okay.”
Natalie to notice his clean-plucked, awkwardly-shaped
Back at the main bar, Pete and Zach were shedding June 2010 eFiction Magazine
their stress in laughter at Derek’s expense.
Zach agreed, “Okay, but we gotta cover his duties.”
“How do I plug the keg in, again?” He asked.
“Pete, show him how it’s done,” laughed Zach. “But,
Derek closed his eyes and swigged another shot of
please, here, give him another shot first.”
whiskey. “Kay. I need break. Where do I go?”
The level of Derek’s intoxication grew each time a keg
Normally, no one would get breaks on the First
had to be replaced.
Tuesday. But because the circumstances were somewhat altered, Zach allowed it.
“Sure thing,” replied Pete. “Hey man, you want whiskey or gin this time?”
“Yeah, man,” laughed Zach. “Go upstairs in the office. Thirty minutes then come back here and replace
“How about something mixed?” Derek asked, blinking
more than usual. Derek said okay with his eyes and parted the sea of “What are you a bitch?! Are you backing out already?”
people, heading for the stairs.
Pete smiled and winked at Zach. “It’s only ten!” Back in VIP, Natalie swam through the crowd looking
Fifteen minutes earlier, as Derek stumbled back to the
for Kim. For the fifteen minutes she was MIA. As it
bar, Pete said to Zach: “Dude, forget the other game.
turned out, she had been talking to the douche in
Let’s fuck up the newbie tonight.”
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
“Kim?” Natalie tapped her on the shoulder.
“Wait, girl. Where you gonna be all night?”
Kim turned around with wide, embarrassed eyes.
“Around,” she batted her eyes and trotted off.
“Yes?” Upstairs in the supply closet, Linda and Chris hear a “Where have you been?”
crash from the front office room. It startled them but did not interrupt Chris’ performance.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I was just helping Vinny, here. He knows A-Rod!”
“What was that?” asked Linda.
Natalie shook her head and muttered, “I’m sure he
“What was what?” Chris did not stop.
does.” She couldn’t help but laugh. “Listen, Kim. I need you to start collecting the tables and chairs and putting “Nothing, nevermind.” them in the far corner. It’s too crowded.” They kept going while in the front office, Derek had “Oh, sure thing.”
slumped asleep in a chair that he leaned too far back and fell over.
“Good, thanks. Maybe you can have Vinny get A-Rod to help you.” She smirked and swam away.
A half hour or so later, Zach asked Pete while pouring more beers: “Where’s Derek?”
“Hey, sorry bout that.” Kim turned back to the purple shirt. “Anyway… duty calls.”
“Ah, good ol’ D. I dunno, man.”
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
“Shit, he’s probably still upstairs. Hey man, can you
anyone inside wouldn’t be able to hear it because of
cover for two minutes. I’m gonna go get him before
Chris or Linda finds him.” “Hello?” He stepped inside to find Derek in his Pete laughed. “Okay.”
drunken, collapsed slumber.
While swimming through the crowd to the stairs,
“D! Derek! Wake up.” He lightly slapped his face.
Zach bumped into Kim; who was still talking to purple shirted douche.
Derek’s eyes slowly unfastened. “Huh? Wha? What’s going on?”
“Hey,” said Zach. “Have you seen Derek?” Zach laughed. “Hey man, how you feelin’?” “Who’s Derek?” “Ugh,” he moaned. “Not so good.” “Nevermind.” “Aight man, how bout you go home. I’ll pay you for the
Zach took one look at the man she was talking to and
time you were here and I’ll set aside your share of the
muttered, “What a whore.”
tips. You can get it next shift. You live close right?”
Only Pete and Natalie knew that Zach and Kim slept
“Okay.” Derek said, still regaining consciousness.
together last week. And he wanted to keep it that way.
“Yeah. I rode my bike.”
He knocked on the office doorframe even though
“Okay.” Zach laughed. “Why don’t you walk it home.”
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
stairs. Suddenly a loud wham came from the supply closet followed by some moaning in both a male and female
“Text me when you get home man,” said Zach.
unison tone. He turned back to the supply closet. Linda first “Hello?” Zach asked louder, this time. “Who’s there?”
appeared, completely disheveled. Her hair stood in all directions, sort of like Einstein’s.
Silence. “What are you doing up here?” snarled Linda. “Get “Is everything okay?” He walked stepped closer to the
back to your station. There aren’t breaks on the first
“Yeah,” a male voice answered.
Zach’s face turned red but before he could apologize, Linda stormed out and down the stairs, fingering and
Zach turned back to Derek, realizing it was Chris’s
palming her hair the entire way. He turned back to the
voice. “Hey man, why don’t you get outta here now.”
supply closet, to Chris’s newly appeared smiling face.
He walked back over to the collapsed chair and helped Derek up.
“Hey don’t worry about her, Zach. She’s still stressed about tonight.”
“Yeah, okay,” he replied. “Uhhh” slipped out of Zach’s mouth. Derek, still unsure of what was happening, slowly
made his way to the doorway and then down the
Chris laughed. “Hey don’t judge me, kid.” His smile
June 2010 eFiction Magazine
illuminated the poorly lighted room. “One day, you’ll
He kept chuckling trying to ease Zach’s racing mind.
“Everyone’s gotta deal with stress their own way. You know?”
Zach couldn’t form words because of, both, the image of Chris and Linda having sex in the supply closet, and
Zach shook his head.
the fact that he barely squeaked Derek out of there in time. He tried to remain professional; “Um, sir, with all
“I mean, how do you deal with it?”
due respect, I’m not sure if that is entirely…” Zach laughed and said; “I dunno.” He thought about Chris cut him off. “Relax, Zach.” He laughed. “It’s not
Pete feeding shots to Derek. Kim being a whore.
always like this. The stress off the first Tuesday every
Natalie sitting on the beach.
summer makes Lindy crazy. So I try to distract her from tromping over you kids while you do your jobs.”
“You’ll figure it out.” He took his hand off Zach’s shoulder and smiled. “Welp, back to work. See you at
Chris adjusted his shirt and walked over to Zach,
And he walked downstairs, leaving Zach in the office
placing a hand on his shoulder. “So, let’s keep this on
confused and scared with the sudden urge to play
the down-low, wuddiya say?”
video games. At least the night was half over.
“Yeah. Sure. I just…”
“I fucking hate Tuesdays,” he said to the stairs, once more entering the sea of anxious summer souls.
“It’s okayyyy! I’m not going to fire you or anything.” June 2010 eFiction Magazine
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June 2010 eFiction Magazine
Published on Jun 1, 2010
Issue number THREE of eFiction Magazine is here. It is the best yet, and I believe it to be my best magazine issue EVER. Check it out. The...