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Son of a Circus Clown-Fiction by Kip Hanson
Blinders-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Run, Robby, Run, Part 1_Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
707-1900-Fiction by Sean Daly
Bloodbath in a Vegas Firestorm-Fiction by J. Brooke
Resolve-Fiction by Stephen Tillman
Pom Pom-Fiction by Liz McAdams
The Woman on the Bed-Fiction by Justin Swartz
The Thing with Five Fingers-Fiction by Gary Lovisi
The Opposite of Dreams-Fiction by Beau Johnson
An Editor's Rejection Mistake-Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
Dig-Flash Fiction by Doug Hawley
Alibi, Inc.-Flash Fiction by Roy Dorman
A Slave to My Passion-Flash Fiction by Rick McQuiston
The Beckoning-Poem by Michael Keshigian
and so, naked us-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
fyi-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
last journal entry-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
the story to here-Poem by Meg Baird
Tom cat-Poem by Meg Baird
mon amie/my friend-Poem by Meg Baird
Ravens-Poem by John Grey
Tunnels and the Man-Poem by John Grey
His Body Dug Up from Your Garden-Poem by John Grey
Deuce-Poem by Sanjeev Sethi
Maxilla-Poem by Sanjeev Sethi
Resume-Poem by Sanjeev Sethi
Desperate for Entertainment-Poem by Michael Marrotti
Poetry in Need-Poem by Michael Marrotti
One Man Can Only Take So Much-Poem by Michael Marrotti
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
The Gazing Ball
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Art by Steve Cartwright 2017


Beau Johnson

          You have no one to blame but yourself.  Not if you’re being honest.  The life you’ve chosen, your choices, the total sum of too many parts.  It’s why you ask Carlos if it’s Christine you are about to partake in when he brings you the plate of ribs.  You do this because you know it’s something Carlos is capable of: his brand of thinking the stuff which nightmares are made from.

          “Nah, m’man.  Pretty sure you and me, we’ve moved past such things.”  He smiles as he says this, in a way which is meant to convey multiple things at once.  You sigh in response, there as you dig in, but as you pick up your glass you go one better and ask if you’ll be alive by the time its contents are drained.

          “Danny.  Like I said: no hard feelings.  You don’t want to take one for the team, hey, how can I hold it against you?  Solid earners like you, you don’t come round so often, even with a method as particular as yours.  But come on, give a man some credit.  Maybe he found another way.”  It doesn’t work, not this far into a situation as sideways as anything you have ever been involved with.  But the sideways you have known is turned inside out once you return home and confront the pile of family members congealing before your eyes.  The craftsmanship on display does everything you believe it’s meant to, stuns you, becoming a reality you can’t deny.  What you also can’t deny is the exclusion of Damon, your boy, the one you’d been teaching the trade.  It’s done on purpose, you think, the sparing of him a message within a message.  Your belief in this is sound but the parts you require to understand the depth of everything going down is far from the you of then, the man you wish you’d never become.

          Either way, it’s why you change your mind and agree to what Carlos has asked; why you finally agree to take one for the team.

          The next eleven years taking more than time from you, more than life.  You are beaten inside.  Broken.  Face fucked and sodomized.  Your world becoming the opposite of what you hoped for.  The opposite of how you dreamed.  Early release is achieved, however, but even this comes at a price.  Damon, the boy who survived, he has by now embraced Carlos, becoming his second in command.  Reunited, he looks more like his mother than you can hardly believe.  This breaks something inside of you.  A wound which fails to bleed.

          “As we’ve been discussing, my goal is to make things right between us.  To give us all a fresh start.”  You stand in front of the same table you sat at all those years ago, to the time he’d brought you ribs.  You think maybe you should have taken the deal, way back when, before Carlos went and decided on something else.  The thought process does everything it needs to, destroying everything as it should: brings forth the pile of family members you envision every day.  It brings you your mother.  Your Father.  Wife.  Sister.  Niece.  Their arms and legs dangling from the dining room table like unfinished art.  The one thing you don’t see, the one thing you never see, is Damon, your boy.

          It’s why you’ve continued to blame no one but yourself.

          Why your heart broke when you figured it out and continued to do so as you counted down the days to your release. 

You tell him you know it was him; he who got his mother to get your parents there.  It doesn’t take much after that, not after tipping your hand.  Faces snarl, faces rage, and then the amount of iron in the room is raised by a factor of two.  You stand your ground, arms in your pockets, the piece you brought taken from you seconds after you entered the room.  It allows Carlos to come forward as he does, placing the barrel of his gun to the middle of your forehead.  He goes on about how he has only ever had your best interests at heart---how you had never been able to see.  The cherry on the cake is when he brings Damon into it and states what you have already known for years; the two of you as opposite as ownership and the life you wish to erase. 

          “It’s why I blame myself.”  Your words do more than cause each of them to pause, Carlos more than Damon tilting his head to the side.  You go on about security, how the lot of you think about such things, and how you knew they wouldn’t look past your gun to the semtex you’ve housed beneath your feet.  You do this because even though you blame yourself you are still made of flesh, still held up by bone.  A little taller than usual, sure, and only because the type of explosive you use has always required a little more room to breathe.

For this you can blame no one, not even yourself.

Beau Johnson has been published before, usually on the darker side of town. Rainbow free, he still has trouble accepting the reasons as to why they changed the Beckies on Roseanne instead of the Darlenes. A collection of Beau's short stories will be published by Down and Out Books come Christmas 2017.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2017