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June 2010

Issue No. 003

eFiction

Aaron Wilson, author spotlight interview plus 3 short fiction pieces

Tonya Moore’s Blood Binds Episode 3 Oil In the Wormwood Series - Part 1

Weeb Heinrich’s really BAD Shakespere Episode 1 June 2010 eFiction Magazine

Five brand-new authors and their short stories


Contents Short Stories

Serial Fiction

Tea Time

really BAD Shakespere

Thomas Sullivan

Keeping Watch

Episode 1 R.E. “Weeb” Heinrich

A Tea Party

Blood Binds

Aaron Wilson

Running of the Cows

Episode 3 Oil in the Wormwood Series - Part 1 Tonya R. Moore

What the Mermaid Said

Jersey Surf

Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson

Episode 3 “Beat the Clock” Glen Binger

Richard Cody

The Coalescence of Future and Family Endeavors Zach Ankeny

Longface’s Reward Ron Koppelberger

Catching up with Cartucci Mitchell Waldmen

Longing

Diane Akins

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June 2010 eFiction Magazine


Tea Time

Letter from the Editor Dear Reader,

eFiction is a monthly fiction magazine that is

Thomas Sullivan

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

episodes. There is something for everyone, and you can never say you don’t have time.

Read and explore the worlds the eFiction Authors

have created for us. If you like the issue please participate. Tweet about us, tell your friends what you’re reading, and fill in the survey from the last page.

If once a month is not enough of an eFiction fix for

you, jump to the blog. It is updated a few times a week. Or follow the editor on twitter @DougLance.

Send comments or questions to editor@efictionmag.com

Doug Lance 3

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

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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

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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-

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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


Keeping Watch

movies.

still reside on Earth. The lucky have found work on one

Aaron Wilson

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

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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, he’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

Haus Technique.

his own. It was his, and he’d been asked to teach it to

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his peers. His immediate supervisor had noticed a few

Errors. So many errors. Haus took joy from his work

months back that he’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

overlooked.

in this application.

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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

acceptance.

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


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of homes.

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,

number—4.5.7.9.1.4.3.3.4.2.9.0.0.0.0.E115—her name,

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

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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

getting nervous.

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


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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

supervisor.

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

a farm.

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

you.”

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.

feeling.

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

Randal?”

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.

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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.

put through.

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

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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

1.

applicant misfiles a number

extended my hand.

2.

applicant files a non-blood relative

He took my hand and shook it. “Yes.”

3.

applicant files a blood relative who is a felon

“May I sit next to you?”

4.

applicant leaves out the three digit OA or E code

“Yes, please.” He sat back down with the biggest,

5.

applicant used a pencil and the number has become

widest, cow-eyed grin. “It was getting late. I didn’t think

unreadable

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

15

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,

Aaron Wilson

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.

a boy.

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

16

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

so simple.

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?”

hand.

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.

17

“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

18

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

floodlight’s reach.

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

19

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


all.

up.

“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

20

“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.’”

tea?’”

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

it.

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

shuddered.

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

21

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.

22

Alice set the pillow down. “How rude!” June 2010 eFiction Magazine


Running of the Cows

23

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.

Aaron Wilson

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


24

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.

Chronicle.”

“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?”

He shrugged.

“Water.”

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

wasn’t kidding.

drinking or smoking, Mister, you should leave.”

“I’m with the New Mexico Chronicle.”

drink down.

“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


25

was here already, all joined in a single unity that I could

was written in block letters across the top. Holt opened

not grasp.

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.

“Sure.”

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?”

“Yep.”

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.”

your count?”

I held up my hands. “What can I bring?”

“Lost track.”

“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.

Day 1.”

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

“Wow, thanks.”

thought that…”

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

26

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

there. Microphones.

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

walls

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.

Loneliness

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

27

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


Twelve.”

of cattle milling about. The lower one caught a glimpse of

“Confirmed.”

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.

fuck.”

“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.”

28

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


29

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

metal roof.

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-

Richard Cody

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

30

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

getting late.”

belly and hips which flared out into a great length of sleek

31

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

my feet.

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

go.”

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.

32

brow that she felt the same. “Why don’t we just come out

***

and tell them already?” I asked her, my voice cracking with

unexpected emotion.

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

have.”

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

a ways.”

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

long night.

his daughter. I recalled how upon wedding my mother he *** had asked me to call him by his first name. He knew I

sand

beneath

my

feet

seemed

somehow

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?”

33

The

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

34

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.”

in death.

***

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.

35

the beach.”

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

unaccountable foreboding.

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

beach.”

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

be?”

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.”

36

“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.

37

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

38

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

Zach Ankeny

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

39

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

40

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

41

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

and Evelyn).

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

some comfort.

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.

42

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

way.

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…

43

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

44

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,

Clark’s face.

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

45

cellar.”

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

46

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

47

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


the conflagration.

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

48

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;

Longface’s Reward

but the possibility of future endeavors gave a golden twinkle in Denton’s calculating eyes. He pulled his blood-

Ron Koppelberger

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.

49

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,

50

“Thank-you.”

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

Mitchell Waldman

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

51

tunnel.

stories up.

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?

everyone?

A: You mean, a person?

Q: I don’t really know.

Q: Yes.

A: Well, you can put that down if you like. I loved

A: No. At least, not that I know of.

my mother.

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

Q: Yes?

out.

A: He was one ripe asshole. Taught me about Jesus Q: Let me ask you this: Have you ever loved

anyone?

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.

52

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.

overall?

A: No.

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.

53

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.

could take.

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?

kinda crazy

Q: Just one of those questions we throw in to make sure you’re paying attention.

54

A: What?

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

A: Who?

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?

anyway.

Q: Yes. You said it just right.

Q: And you could.

A: Anyways, that’s what he was. A squirrel, a loser,

A: Huh?

a creep.

Q: Would you say you were inebriated when you

Q:

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 --

55

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


Longing

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,

Diane Akins

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

A thirty-eight.

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.

56

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

57

ballerina flats.

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

anything.”

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

groin.

shifted gears. “Are you going to Susie’s party next week? Her parties are always fun.”

58

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,

you’re going.”

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

59

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.

60

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?

Opposable thumbs.

**** 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

61

June 2010 eFiction Magazine

BEEP


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

against me.

stand up and brush away the crumbs of memories better left in the

Ignoring them, I turned from the bank of phones and started

62

****

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

I’m five.

am cutting that sickness away.”

The curtains in my parent’s bedroom are closed. A thin

Watch closely…

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

****

63

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

shoulder.

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…

Shakespeare Williams…

****

and I’m the

Listen!

antichrist.

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…”

64

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.

sleep.

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

65

“It all depends on whether you want to keep living or June 2010 eFiction Magazine


not.”

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

66

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

weird?”

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

“Huh?”

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

“What collar?”

anyone, not even Stefan. His reward for asking that question was an arched

67

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.”

68

“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

69

“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.

reigned.

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

70

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

“Kyle...”

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.

71

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

72

“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

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even mean anything to you?” June 2010 eFiction Magazine


redundant stress.

“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

74

talking again.

“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?”

“What, teaching?”

June 2010 eFiction Magazine


“Yeah.”

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

“Sounds good.”

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

75

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

“That’s good.”

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

76

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.

77

“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

Derek’s ass.

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

begins.”

working here more fun. Hey, what time is it, by the

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way?”

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-

79

“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’?”

fingers.

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.

conversation.

He shrugged.

“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.

80

“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

insinuating.

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

81

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.

finger.

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.

request.

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

82

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

organs.

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

room.

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

the doorway.

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

him.”

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

83

eyebrows.

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.

“Worth it.”

“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

whatever’s empty.”

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

84

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.”

purple.

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.”

85

“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

the music.

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

86

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

closet.

Tuesday.”

“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

87

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.

learn.”

“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

“Oh… okay.”

last call.”

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.

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“It’s okayyyy! I’m not going to fire you or anything.” June 2010 eFiction Magazine


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June 2010 eFiction Magazine

eFiction Magazine Issue No. 003 June  

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...

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