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Ferdie's Christmas-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Dead Meat-Fiction by Morgan Boyd
Twisted Love-Fiction by Mandi Rose
Run, Robby, Run, Part 4-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
All I Want for Christmas-Fiction by Carly Zee
Arterial Spray-Fiction by J. Brook
Murder Boots-Fiction by Jim Farren
The Blueberry Muffin Girl-Fiction by Michael Bauman
Standoff-Fiction by Lester L. Weil
Guns 'N Money-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Fester-Fiction by Mark Renney
The Start of a Bitchin' Year-Fiction by Luke Walters
Reprisal_Fiction by John W. Dennehy
Elevator-Fiction by Doug Hawley
Jamie, with the Blue Eyes-Fiction by Betty J. Sayles
All for the Love of a Good Burger-Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
Multiple Choice-Flash Fiction by Bill Baber
Karma-Flash Fiction by Dr. I. M. Irascible
That Poe Story-Flash Fiction by Chris McGinley
Nome-Flash Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Underestimated-Poem by Marci McKim
The Stream of Life-Poem by Aiki Mann
Christmas Tale-Poem by Joe Balaz
In Loving Memory Of-Poem by Michael Marrotti
The Tattooed Man-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
You Got a Friend-Poem by Jerry Vilhotti
70,000 Birds-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Migrations #1-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
at the crest-Poem by Meg Baird
Gottingen Street 1998-Poem by Meg Baird
a subtle karate pose-Poem by Mark Young
The chains coil up into helical structures-Poem by Mark Young
Dream I'd Like to Forget-Poem by Alan Britt
Near Dawn-Poem by Alan Britt
Mischievous Ghosts-Poem by Alan Britt
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 Sean O'Keefe 2017

Dead Meat


By Morgan Boyd


Dave and I worked the bar at the Green House downtown. The UCSC drinking scene huddled around us like ants on a lump of sugar. I poured libations methodically without discrimination, but Dave employed a different technique. He helped the pretty ladies first, followed by his friends, and lastly, the not-so-pretty ladies before neglecting everybody else, and repeating the process.  


As I made my way down the line of thirsty patrons, two toughs forced their way to the bar. We’d known them since elementary school: the Rex brothers, Hal and Vince. A couple of East Side surf bullies. At some point in the last decade, they’d discovered methamphetamines, which greatly amplified their shitty dispositions. The Rex brothers wore flat-brimmed O’Neil ball caps, black Santa Cruz hoodies with red dots, and across their necks, written in old English, they sported matching ‘Eastside’ tattoos.


“Two IPA,” Hal said to Dave. “Or I kick your ass like back in school.”


Dave ignored Hal, and poured a beer for a college girl. Hal grabbed Dave by the collar.


“Knock it off,” I yelled as Vince reached over the bar, and sucker punched me in the jaw.


The college scene scattered. I grabbed the baseball bat from behind the counter, and started swinging. When the cops arrived, we assessed the carnage. Dave’s eyes were swollen, and he had several lumps on his forehead, but his real concern was the shank to his ribs. Dave got it bad, but not as bad as Hal. Vince fled when the cops arrived, but Hal lay face down in a puddle of blood.


          The police looked into the incident, and Ralph, the owner of The Green Room, placed us on leave, pending the outcome of the investigation.  Dave didn’t mind the time off. He still lived with his parents, and didn’t have any real bills, so he didn’t have to worry about the financial burden while his wounds healed. I wasn’t so fortunate in fiscal matters. I had rent to make on an overpriced one-bedroom apartment, and Elizabeth, my live-in girlfriend, was six months pregnant.


It wasn’t the paychecks I missed. It was the nightly tips that paid the bills. With my income on hiatus, I tightened my belt. I cut out buying weed and eating at restaurants. I stayed home and cooked, which wasn’t so bad. I considered myself a decent chef.


“Breakfast for dinner again?” Elizabeth said, brushing her long red hair.


“Soft boiled eggs are no easy feat,” I said.


“You said the same thing about omelets last night.”


The time spent at home, and the lack of income, created stress on our relationship. I could no longer drop a wad of cash on Elizabeth, and she could no longer drop a wad of my cash on the bun in her oven. She was upset. I was hopeful our unfortunate circumstances were temporary.


A few days after the brawl, a detective named Marks knocked on the door. He was as bald as a cue ball with a gut that hinted that he too was pregnant. I invited him in, and offered him coffee. He looked around, and determined the place was clean enough to trust a cup.


“You say Hal Rex reached over the bar and grabbed Dave?” He asked and took a sip.


          “That’s right. I tried to intervene, and that’s when Vince punched me.”


“What happened next?”


“I grabbed a bat, and jumped over the counter.”


“What did you do with the bat?”


“Defended myself.”


“Do you remember any specifics?”


“They worked Dave over pretty bad. I tagged Hal, and he went down.”


“You’re familiar with the Rex brothers, correct?” Detective Marks asked.


“Yeah,” I said. “I’ve known them since elementary school.”


“Have you had issues with them before?”


“They jumped me a few times when we were kids. They’re known for kicking ass,” I said. “Once, Hal and Vince surfed The Hook, and got into a confrontation with a kayaker. They followed him onto land, beat the shit out of the guy, stuffed him back in his canoe, and pushed him over a cliff into the water. Guy broke his neck, and lost the use of his legs. Both Rex brothers ended up doing time. When they got out, they were even meaner.  Do you think I need a lawyer?”


“I doubt it’ll go to trial,” Detective Marks said. “Seems a pretty clear case of self-defense, but I’d steer clear of Vince.”


Detective Marks finished his coffee, gave me his card and left. I was glad no charges were filed against The Green House or me. That meant I’d be tending bar again soon.


After I was cleared of any wrongdoing, Ralph gave me my shifts back, and life returned to normal. The UCSC drinkers forgot about the incident, and returned to the bar to consume massive quantities of overpriced booze. Dave was on the mend, and he was expected to return to The Green House in a few days.


I was covering a Monday afternoon for Nancy. I generally don’t work dayshifts or Mondays because business is slow, and the tips aren’t there, but Nancy had a family crisis, and needed a shift covered. She covered for me when I was on leave, so I owed her. 


Besides me, a barfly was the only other person in The Green House.  He sat hunched over his beer nursing it like Florence Nightingale.


“Starting to rain,” he said, looking out the window as the front door opened, and Vince entered the bar, taking a seat at the counter.


“Sorry about your brother, but you can’t be in here,” I said.


“I bet you’re real sorry about Hal aren’t you Joe,” Vince said.  “Where’s your boyfriend Dave?”


“I’m not joking,” I said, and put my hand on the bat under the counter.  “Get out.”


“Or what? You’ll crack my skull too?” He said, rising from the stool.


“I feel bad about what happened, but you guys started that shit,” I said.


“Elizabeth still a good piece of ass?” Vince asked.


“I’m calling the cops,” I said.


“Go ahead,” Vince said, and exited the bar, but before he left, he turned, and looked me in the eyes. “You’re dead meat.”


When my shift ended, I hung around The Green House for a while, and drank a couple of beers before heading home. Elizabeth was already asleep, so I quietly undressed and crawled into bed, drifting into slumber with my arms wrapped around her swollen belly.


A loud sound woke us late at night. I climbed out of bed, grabbed the Mag Light by the nightstand, and walked into the front room. I flicked on the lamp, and looked around. Nothing was out of place except the blinds were slightly askew. I went to fix them, and a small stream of cool air blew against my knuckle. I opened the shades, and saw a small hole in the windowpane surrounded by tiny cracks.


“Fuck,” I said.


“What is it?” Elizabeth asked from the bedroom.


I ran my finger along the hole in the glass, stepped back, followed the trajectory, and found another hole in the stucco wall by the bedroom.  


I called Detective Marks, but he wasn’t available, so I dialed 911. It took a while for a police officer to arrive, so I made a pot of coffee, and we sat at the kitchen table. When an officer finally knocked, he introduced himself as Officer Bailey. I let him in, showed him the bullet hole, and explained the situation. He took a report.


“You think Vince Rex did this?” He asked.


“Yeah,” I answered.


“Can you arrest him?” Elizabeth asked.


“No,” Officer Bailey said. “There’s no proof.  It could have been a group of kids firing shots from a moving vehicle.”


“Seriously?” I asked.


“Sorry, there’s just not much we can do at this time. If you come up with anything else please let us know.”


After Officer Bailey left, we crawled back into bed, but I had a hard time sleeping. Somebody randomly firing a shot through our front window was absurd. I knew it was Vince, and I knew I needed to protect my family.  Eventually, I drifted off to sleep. Early the next morning, the phone rang.




“Hey Joey, this is Ralph.”




“I got bad news. Some guy walking his dog this morning found Dave.”




“He’s dead.”




“He was walking home drunk last night on the tracks. He tripped and hit his head on the rail. At least that’s what the initial reports indicate. I’m sorry to tell you, Joey. I know you guys were close.”


I hung up the phone, and told Elizabeth what happened. After our initial grieving period, my mind went to work. I thought about Vince Rex telling me I was dead meat, then the bullet hole through the window, and now Dave’s death. I didn’t know how to proceed, so I called Corey Anderson. He was a buddy of Dave’s and mine from school, and now a local defense attorney.


Corey was pretty broken up when I told him about Dave’s passing, and then I told him about the situation involving the Rex brothers. He said he was busy, but he’d move stuff around on his calendar, and make time to meet me for lunch. I met him downtown at a pizzeria. We ordered slices, and sat in a back booth. I told him the long version of the unfortunate recent chain of events as we ate our meal.


“I’ve dealt with the Rex brothers before,” Corey said, wiping a smudge of marinara off his chin with a napkin. “And I’m not talking about when they used to beat us up in school. They intimidated one my clients in a smuggling case. After that, my client refused to testify, and the charges against the Rex’s were dropped.” 


“What should I do?” I asked. “I called the police, but they don’t give a shit.”


“Cops won’t do dick until it’s too late,” Corey said with a mouthful of cheese. “Do you own a gun?”




“My advice is get one. I’ve got a snub-nose .38 you can borrow,” he said, and threw his wadded napkin onto his paper plate. “I’m due in court in half-an-hour. I have to run. Stop by this evening, and I’ll set you up.”


I spent the remainder of the day wandering downtown. After sunset, I went home, made French toast for dinner, and then drove to Corey’s house.  He led me into a walk-in closet at the end of the hall, and opened a box containing multiple pistols.


“Wow, Anderson,” I said. “I didn’t know you were a gun nut.”


“This is nothing. Here we go,” Corey said, handing me the .38. “And here’s a box of shells.”


I thanked him, and went home. Elizabeth sat on the couch watching a sitcom. I didn’t want her to see the gun, so I slipped into the bedroom, and put it and the ammunition in my nightstand drawer. I joined Elizabeth on the couch for some television, and then went to bed. I had trouble sleeping that night. I kept thinking about the gun. I wasn’t sure if it gave me a sense of protection or a sense of vulnerability. One thing was for certain though, every creak in the apartment or grumble from the refrigerator gave me an itchy trigger finger.


The next day Elizabeth wanted a Polish dog with sauerkraut and a coconut snow cone from a hotdog stand up Highway 9. Ben Lomond was a long drive for a hotdog and some shaved ice, but I had learned early in the pregnancy to appease my girlfriend’s bizarre food cravings. I went out to the car while Elizabeth was in the bathroom, and stashed the gun in the glove compartment. When she finished with her toiletries, we drove through the redwoods up Highway 9.  


After lunch it rained on the way home. A truck tailed us down the winding road. An inch or two separated our bumpers. I got heated, and cussed under my breath when the son-of-a-bitch tapped me. I pulled over at a turnout. The truck pulled over too, and Vince exited the vehicle. He had a pistol in his hand, so I peeled out, flinging gravel, and sped off. In the rearview mirror, I saw him get back into his truck.


Elizabeth was pale as a ghost. I told her not to worry. She tried calling 911, but there was no reception in the woods. We came to a series of sharp curves, and Vince’s truck got back on my bumper. We skidded around a corner, and he rammed us. I lost control, and careened off a steep embankment. We flipped over, and came to a violent halt against a large redwood. I was knocked unconscious by the impact. When I came to, Elizabeth wasn’t in the car.


“Elizabeth?” I yelled. “Elizabeth? Elizabeth? Honey?”


I got out, and fell over in excruciating pain. My left shin burned like hell. I dragged myself through the duff and mud until I found Elizabeth. Her breathing was shallow, and her pulse was light. I performed CPR, but stopped when a gunshot sounded through the rain. Vince Rex was coming for revenge. I was dead meat.  


“You fucked up bad, Joey,” Vince yelled from somewhere above.  “Now it’s time to pay.”


“You and your brother caused this,” I said, crawling back to the car and removing the .38 from the glove compartment. “And for what? Hal’s dead, Dave’s dead, and Elizabeth needs medical attention.”


“You started this mess when you killed Hal,” he yelled and fired another shot. “But it ends here.”


Propping myself against the overturned car, I saw Vince descending the embankment in the rain. I took aim and fired. I couldn’t tell if I hit him, but the shot halted his forward progress. I fired another shot for safe measure, and waited. I wasn’t sure if he’d try to come at us from another angle. I didn’t know anything except that Elizabeth needed help.


I waited for Vince, but he never materialized. I looked down at my feet, and saw the bone sticking out of my leg. I felt woozy, so I crawled to Elizabeth, and held her tight until darkness enveloped me.


I woke in a hospital bed. Corey sat near me, reading a magazine.




“She didn’t make it,” Corey said. “They couldn’t save the baby.”


His words hurt more than my broken leg. Helplessness and rage flooded every pore of my being. I felt hot and cold at the same time. My eyes shut tight and my teeth clenched. I tried climbing out of bed, but Corey held me down while a nurse injected me with something, and I slipped back into the void.


The day before the funeral, Detective Marks questioned me about the accident, but I didn’t mention Vince. Maybe he suspected something, but I doubted it. Detective Marks couldn’t find a bee if it stung him in the eye.  Besides, whatever punishment the police might have for Vince would be a fucking vacation compared to what I had in store for him. 


Rain fell during the funeral. As they lowered Elizabeth and my unborn child six feet under, I stood on crutches, thinking about what little time it takes to have your entire world shattered, burned and shat upon. I buried my hopes and ambitions with Elizabeth. Only one thing mattered: the same thing that mattered to Vince Rex: revenge. Now it was just a matter of who would serve the dish first. 


We walked to Corey’s Mazda MX-5—Corey walked—I gimped on crutches. ‘Dead Meat’ was spray-painted across the windshield in red letters.


“Son-of-a-bitch,” Corey said, and pulled out his gun. “That prick is here somewhere.”


“Good,” I said.


“You armed?” Corey asked.




“Then we draw him out. Take a stand,” Corey said.


We drove along Soquel Avenue. I kept looking back, but I didn’t see a tail.  We passed through Capitola, and down into Soquel. Corey took a left on Old San Jose Road, and we ascended the curvy thruway. After several minutes of winding turns, I looked back, and saw Vince’s truck.


“Bingo,” I said. “Now what?”


“Up the road it winds along a steep cliff,” Corey said. “We get a little distance from this prick, park around a sharp turn, and as he comes into view, we end this shit.”


Vince was a dog on the hunt, but we were wolves, leading the hunter astray. As far as I was concerned, Vince was the dead meat. We climbed a steep grade through redwood groves. Corey mashed the gas. Vince tried to keep pace, but Corey’s sports car out performed Vince’s truck. As we rounded a bend, the trees ended, and a sheer cliff loomed. Giant floating gray warship clouds filled an angry sky. Hundreds of feet below, dark green treetops blurred together.


Corey pulled onto a small muddy turnout, and positioned the car sideways. We exited the vehicle, and drew our guns. Corey used the roof to steady his aim. I leaned against the hood, using it as a crutch. Through the rain, Vince’s truck approached. I took a deep breath, and as the enemy came into view, we opened fire. Bullet holes riddled the windshield. The truck veered and crashed into Corey’s car. I lunged out of harm’s way into the mud just before the thunderous impact.


“Corey?”  I yelled as I picked myself up.


I hopped on one foot to the cab of the truck with my gun in hand.  Vince was hunched over the wheel. I hopped to the other side of the wreck, and found Corey’s head smashed under the rear wheel in pooling blood. I hopped back to Vince’s truck, and opened the driver’s side door.


“Die,” he said and shot me in the neck.


I fell in the mud holding my throat. Large raindrops carpet-bombed the area. I staggered to my feet, blood pouring down my shirt. Another shot rang out, hitting me in the chest. I felt a horrible burning pain, but stayed upright. I raised my gun, and shot Vince in the side. He violently flailed into the passenger seat. I climbed in. Vince gasped for air. I turned over the engine several times until the ignition caught, and the truck roared to life.


Revenge ground us both into bloody sausage. My chest heaved as I backed away from Corey’s wrecked sport’s car. Through the pain, a warming peaceful feeling enveloped me. The gray warship clouds thundered overhead. I mashed down on the gas pedal, and hurled our dead meat off the cliff toward the dark green blur of trees below. 

Morgan Boyd lives in Santa Cruz California with his wife, cat and carnivorous plant collection. He has been published online at Flash Fiction Offensive, Shotgun Honey, Near to the Knuckle, Yellow Mama, and Fried Chicken and Coffee. He also has a story forthcoming at Tough.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2017