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Gun Buck Before Dawn-Fiction by j. brooke
Grunt-Fiction by Kevin Z. Garvey
A Stab in the Dark-Fiction by Gary Clifton
Run, Robby, Run, Part 2-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Surprise Me-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Here They Come-Captain Jack, Part 2-Fiction by Michael S. Stewart
Evolution=Crime-Fiction by Calvin Demmer
Bike Killer-Fiction by Doug Hawley
Home on the Range-Fiction by Liz McAdams
Tickets to Heaven-Fiction by Paul Heatley
Free-Flash Fiction by Andrew J. Hogan
I Hate Dave Matthews-Flash Fiction by Carolyn Smuts
The Journey-Flash Fiction by Oliver Lodge
Running-Poem by Meg Baird
in your shoes-Poem by J. J. Campbell
At Midnight-Poem by Sergio Ortiz
Roadkill-Poem by Rachel Doherty
Skinny Dendrix-Poem by Joe Balaz
poet-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
Shy Dryad-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
Someone Else's Cat-Poem by John Doyle
Sundays-Poem by John Doyle
Farewell, Bibi-Poem by David Spicer
Rolling Down the Highway...-Poem by David Spicer
No One Ever Asked Winslow This-Poem by Gregory E. Lucas
The Adirondack Guide-Poem by Gregory E. Lucas
Why Back to Gloucester, Boys?-Poem by Gregory E. Lucas
Cartoons by Cartwright
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 Ann Marie Rhiel 2017

Surprise Me


Cindy Rosmus



"Who cares?" Lew said, when asked whose birthday was tomorrow.


"It’s Nina's," Snake said. The crack-whore, I thought.


"Thought we'd do something for her."


Lew groaned.


"Like what?" I said. Picturing balloons on the ceiling and bouncing all over the bar. Maybe Nina wearing them.


"Like, a party?" Snake said.


I caught Lew's eye. Yeah, balloons. And a cake that nobody would eat. Nina milking all the guys for drinks. Top-shelf stuff vs. the usual cheap beers.


“Hell, no,” Lew said.


It was Labor Day weekend. Most of Scratch’s regulars were down the shore. The place was dead, but a party meant work. Labor Day was for not working.


And fuck parties, I thought, bitterly. Donny, the scumbag who’d stole my heart, was MIA. For like a month. That blue-eyed, poetry-spouting fuck made me cry for weeks.


“Good riddance,” Lew had said. Donny’s was the biggest bar tab at Scratch’s.


“C’mon,” Snake said. “Just a cake, or cupcakes. Balloons and streamers from the dollar store.”

“Cupcakes?” Lew said. “What’re we, in third grade?”


“Fuck decorating,” I said.


And I’d get stuck doing it. Last Halloween I hung the fake cobwebs and cardboard skeleton. No sooner was the skeleton up, than some drunk bitch pulled it down and was dancing with it. 


Nina, I realized.


“We’ll surprise her,” Snake said. If she comes in tonight, we can’t talk about it.”


“Who says we’re even doing it?” Lew said.


Nina burst into the bar. “Doing what?”


“Nothing.” But Lew’s tone said he was giving in.


“Hey, guys!” She practically crawled into Snake’s lap. “Guess what tomorrow is?”


“Fucking Labor Day.” Lew winked at me.


I’d be baking the cake, too.


Devil’s food. Lew’s favorite.


*     *     *


Donny. Everything reminded me of him: Skynard tunes, since “Simple Man” was his favorite song. Vanilla-scented candles, since he was such a romantic fuck. Even cake batter . . .


When I was a kid, he said once, I felt so left out. ‘Cos my birthday’s in August. Other kids got to bring in cupcakes for theirs. But not mine, man. ‘Cos school was out.


He was still pissed, like there’d been spies at the school out to get him. Donny was big on conspiracy theories.


So there I was, candles burning, Skynard in the background, mixing chocolate cake batter and bawling my eyes out.


You don’t really think, he’d said last month, that the Kennedys had nothing to do with Marilyn’s death?

*     *     *


“Maybe Donny’s dead.” I handed Lew the cake.


He trudged around, like it weighed a ton. “I wish.”


Next to the register, was a huge plate of hot dogs he’d grilled out back. He dumped the cake next to it.


“Fuck it,” he said. “I ain’t hiding it.”


“But nobody’s heard from him.”


You haven’t.” He smirked. “Don’t mean nobody else has.”


My heart sunk. If I’d eaten a hot dog, it’d be on its way up.


Labor Day or not, people came in. Sunburned guys sick of the family barbecues. And some chick with blue hair that fucked both Lew’s sons.


As fast as I poured beers, I couldn’t forget Lew’s smirk.


Donny, I kept thinking, where the fuck. . . ?


Then, Lew nudged me. “Surprise, surprise.”


There they were, in the back doorway, the Three-Fucking-Musketeers. Tube top down so low, her nipples should’ve popped out, Nina was between Snake and . . . Donny.


“I’m here!” she screeched, holding up a can of Coors. “Happy B- . . .”


“Hey!” Lew yelled. “You can’t bring your own beer!”


“But it’s my . . .”


“Birthday!” As Donny hugged her, I saw red. Like the world’s jugular was slit. He turned to me. “Shelley?” he pleaded.  


His eyes looked wide, crazed. His “all-day drunk” eyes. I’d woken up with him, heard him crack that first beer. It took hours for his eyes to get this way.


When Nina grinned, impishly, I lost it.


“Shots!” Snake said. “Gotta catch up with these two.”


“Y’okay?” Lew asked me.


The night dragged. You’d think I couldn’t hate them more. But they kept making out, or he squeezed her skanky tit.

I slammed down their drinks, so they jumped. Charged for every fucking one, birthday, or not.


How could you? I glared at Donny. Last month, we’d made out to Skynard. He’d squeezed my tit. Had beer-and-Pretzel Crisps-breakfasts in bed.


“You think,” I asked Lew, “he’s just trying to get me jealous?”


He glanced behind him. “Nope.”


The bar was sticky, from Fireballs that people sucked down. The blue-haired chick started that.


I washed shot glasses like mad. Dropped an empty Bud bottle that rolled to God-knows-where. Later, I’d probably trip over it.


The balloons got loose, and people popped them. Some guy popped one right behind Nina. When she squealed, Donny got up, his face lobster-red.


“Oh, jeez,” Lew said, “S’gonna be a fight.”


Good, I thought. Die.


Fucking birthdays. . . . Instead of a bloodfest, it was time for cake. Behind the bar, Snake removed the Tupperware lid.


“They’re not gonna fight?” I said.


“You get candles?”

“No.” I flicked Lou’s lighter, and the flame shot up high.


“Oh . . .” Snake said. Then, “Happy Birthday to you! Hap-. . .”


Like life had ass-fucked him, Lew trudged toward Nina with the cake.


Then Karma kicked in.


That bottle I’d dropped? It rolled right in Lew’s path. The cake went flying.


When it struck them, they fell apart. Nina, almost off her stool. Chunks of chocolate cake and frosting were stuck to their faces, and clothes. It looked like they were smeared with shit.


Through the fudgey mask, Donny’s eyes looked even wilder. He wiped off some frosting. Smiling, he called Lew over.


“Now what?”


Donny smeared frosting all over Lew’s face.


“You fuck!” Lew yelled. “Get out! All of you’z.”


Some people got up, slowly. But it was like a mob getting it on. Blue Hair smirked at Lew.


“You too, Bluesy!” He never remembered her name. “And Happy Birthday, my ass!” he told Nina.


It was like that old movie, Animal House. Suddenly people grabbed gobs of cake and frosting, began flinging them at each other. Especially, at Lew.


I ducked, but it landed behind the bar. On booze bottles, the register, everything. The sweet smell was like, noxious. I almost puked.


“Cake fight!” someone yelled, too late.


“Get out!” Lew was still yelling, when I got up, like ten minutes later, to check out the mess.


It was like Godzilla had shit all over us. The stools, floor, pool table . . . everything was mucky with devil’s food cake.


And, guess what? Nina was on Snake’s lap, nibbling cake off his face. Now he was squeezing her skanky tit.


Beside them, was Donny, smiling, waving me over.


Like a lovesick fool, I went. Hating myself more, with each step.


Once there, he painted a chocolate mustache on me. First one side, then the other, with little curly-q’s.


“I guess,” he said, “I really . . . fudged things up.”


I couldn’t help smiling.


Even though I knew he’d probably fuck me up again; even though tomorrow, I’d probably be cleaning all this shit up, I waited, hoping . . .


I’d be surprised.




Cindy is a Jersey girl who looks like a Mob Wife and talks like Anybody’s from West Side Story. She works out a lot, so needs no excuse to do whatever she wants. She hates shopping and shoes, chick lit and chick flicks. She’s been published in the usual places, such as Hardboiled; Shotgun Honey, Twisted Sister, A Twist of Noir; Beat to a Pulp; Pulp Metal; Thrillers, Killers, n’ Chillers; Mysterical-E; and Powder Burn Flash. She is the editor of the ezine, Yellow Mama. She’s also a Gemini, an animal rights activist, and a Christian.

Art by Ann Marie Rhiel 2017

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2017