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Coasting-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Death Orchid-Fiction by j. brooke
Orange Bikini-Fiction by Maria Espinosa
Sirens-Fiction by Jason Bougger
Death Takes a Snow Day-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
The Chill of a Lifetime-Fiction by Robert Aguon Perez
HIJAX-Fiction by Liz McAdams
Marriage-Fiction by Doug Hawley
Secrets-Fiction by Carole Sojka
The Ten Ten-Fiction by A. F. Knott
Losing Eileen-Fiction by Marci McKim
Snake Dog-Fiction by Catfish McDaris
My Heart Will Always Be Yours-Fiction by Jon Park
Unicorn-Fiction by Rob Dominelli
Call Girls-Flash Fiction by Gay Degani
Hollywood Harry's bar and Grill-Flash Fiction by Fred Zackel
Grandmother Nightmare-Flash Fiction by Rick McQuiston
Death Row-Flash Fiction by Luann Lewis
The Jarvis and Mae Team-Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
Flying Away-Flash Fiction by Jerry Vilhotti
A Note for Alex Gildzen-Poem by Mark Young
Spoiled-Poem by Chad Haskins
Recognized-Poem by Michael Keshigian
the only goodbye he deserved-Poem by J. J. Campbell
Dropping the Ball-Poem by Ian Mullins
A Song of Vengeance-Poem by Christopher Hivner
A Slip of the Tongue-Poem by Robert Halleck
Again the 11th Hour-Poem by Robert Halleck
Jack-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
singles ad Westwood Magazine-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Love is all-Poem by Meg Baird
Travelling-Poem by Meg Baird
Roxyanna-Poem by David Spicer
Wanted-Poem by David Spicer
Whataya Say?-Poem by David Spicer
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 Kevin Duncan 2018



By Kenneth James Crist


“What the fuck, Elaine!” David was pissed, mostly because he wasn’t getting his way. He was winding up into temper-tantrum mode and I was throwing shit into boxes, working fast, because this wasn’t going well. I was moving out and there was nothing David could do about it. We had lived together in his off-campus condo for a year, but now it was over. He just wasn’t getting it, yet.

“We’ve been over this, David. I don’t love you. I made a mistake moving in here in the first place and for that, I’m sorry, but I just have to move on. I was too young and nave to know what I really wanted, and I thought living with you would be fun. I was wrong.”

“Wait. Wait, we had lotsa fun together, Babe. . . .”

“No, you had fun, David, making me do things for you . . . to you. As usual, getting everything your way. You’re a rich, spoiled, know-nothing, David, and I can’t stand being with you, anymore. I don’t know how I could make it any plainer.”

He went into his normal pouting mode, slumped on the couch with his lower lip hanging almost to the floor. It was almost comical, I thought, and I kept right on boxing things up and carrying them to the pickup I’d borrowed from a friend for the move. I didn’t have a car. My dad had offered me one of the pickups from the farm in Kansas, but I had declined. I was in my second year at a college in Massachusetts, on a scholarship, and my bicycle did just fine for getting me around. Kept me from having to go to the gym and endure the stares from all the jocks, too. In between playing with his iPhone, David continued glaring at me. That was another thing I was sick of. Playing second-fiddle to his phone. We couldn’t get through a meal or spend any time without him glued to the damned thing.

I’m what you might call a Kansas corn-fed farm girl all the way. I was raised in a no-nonsense environment of honesty and hard work. David was almost the complete opposite. He was raised by doting parents in a filthy-rich world that I couldn’t even conceive of, a world of little or no responsibility and anything you might want. I had reached the point that I’d had enough, and besides, I had recently  met the perfect man.

I met Monroe in the library, a place that was steadily failing as the internet took over as The Source for most college students. They could jump on the ‘net, plagiarize others’ work to their heart’s content, rearrange some wording, and get their “B+” grade and move on. I hadn’t been raised that way. I believed in doing my own work and getting the credit for it, not to be shared with anyone else. It turned out, Monroe was that way, too.

I’d started going to the library because I got tired of using David’s laptop and I couldn’t afford my own. It seemed everything I did on David’s computer was subject to his inspection, and even though he made mediocre grades at best, he always felt he could advise me on every paper and project.

I caught Monroe peeking at me over the terminal he was working at, sneaking looks at me almost constantly. At first it was irritating, but then it got to be cute, like watching a chipmunk waiting for a treat. And Monroe was definitely good-looking, although he didn’t seem to know it. The exact opposite of David.

David enjoyed tooling around in his custom-painted Corvette, paid for by doting Daddy, and watching all the campus cuties swoon while he ogled their bods, even when I was right there in the car with him. Monroe, it turned out, drove a four-year-old Camry that he’d worked and sweated for, gutting out those “easy” car payments as a carpenter’s apprentice at a cabinet shop in town. He was one of those guys who wanted a college degree, plus a trade that he could fall back on. In the event he wasn’t able to find a teaching job right away, cabinet-making paid at least as well as teaching, maybe better.

On that first day, when I met Monroe (Monroe was his last name and what everybody called him—first name Travis, which I seldom used except when we were making love. More on that later) I had finally gotten tired of the peek-a-boo routine and I just reached out and pointed at him and said, “Hey, Sport-o, how ‘bout some coffee?”

He had stumbled and stammered, also very cute, and finally we headed off to a Starbucks a block south. Over small lattes, I had checked him out, as he had been checking me out. He was taller than David and slimmer, but in a rawboned way. His hands were work-hardened and his face was angular, softened somewhat by a Clark Kent set of horn-rimmed glasses that magnified his hot blue eyes slightly. He had the little curl of dark hair on the forehead, too. He was quite a package and he was definitely interested.

“So, Monroe, why the library? Is that where you normally pick up girls?” I was being a bit of a bitch and I knew it, but I decided he might as well get the full treatment right up front. If he panicked and ran, well, maybe he didn’t deserve to even get to first base. After David and his spoiled-ass, expectant ways, I was ready for something different. And did I ever get it. In spades.

“I don’t have my own computer yet. And I can use one of the ones at the library free, so I spend a lotta time there.”

“Yeah, okay. I’m from Kansas, and I’m not rich, either. Up here on a scholarship and all. My dad would prefer I not be so far away from home, but . . . ” I realized I was babbling and made myself stop. Monroe was grinning at me. Straight, white, even teeth. Good dental care. A great smile. Damn, he was pushing all my buttons and he didn’t even know it.

“Well, there’s one thing we have in common,” he said, “being poor is okay, though. Makes ya work harder and you appreciate the things you do get that much more. So, there I am at the library at least four nights a week.”

I finished my latte and said, “Guess I’ll see ya, then, okay?”

“I hope so,” was all he said, that first night. I was still with David then and I had gone to the condo and curled up with him and sucked his cock just the way he liked me to, then mounted him and raced to keep up and get something for myself before his usual quick ejaculation left me unsatisfied, as he had done so many times before. And it wasn’t too hard to do that particular night, because I was thinking of Monroe and what it might be like to have his workman’s hands on me the whole time. . . .

Weeks went by and spring came to Massachusetts, all in one day, or so it seemed, and dammit, I fell in love. Big-time. Monroe had a loft over a garage four blocks from campus, and I found myself studying there more and more. “Studying” included a lot of fooling around and lovemaking breaks after the first few nights.

That was how we thought about it: Lovemaking, not just fucking. Because Monroe was different in that area, also. He was never in a hurry. He was always amazed by my body, which I didn’t think of as anything special. His touch was always gentle and yet when he touched me there, and there, and especially THERE, he awoke something in me that I’d never known I had. The man definitely set me afire.

His man-parts were average. His chest was brawny and covered with hair. His hands were hard, but gentle and loving. His attentions to my lady-parts drove me into a shaking, gasping mess and he loved to make me cum. I never had to hurry or try to catch up with Monroe. He usually got me off several times before he permitted himself the pleasure of orgasm. After a couple of weeks, I knew he was gone on me, too, and that was good.

I had hated facing the move-out, because I knew David so well. I knew how spoiled he was and how he felt he owned me. I saw him now as a petulant child and I couldn’t wait to get away from him. I knew he was vengeful, too and I was just a little afraid of him. Not too much, though. I had pinned him once when we were just wrestling for fun in the living room. He pouted for days and claimed I cheated, but I knew better. Having grown up on a farm and had my own share of chores to be done without fail every day, I knew I was just the stronger person. He had never hit me and that was a good thing, because I was pretty sure I would have kicked his ass quite handily.

I loaded the last of my stuff and fired up the pickup and headed for Monroe’s place. It was far enough away, I figured I wouldn’t have to keep running across David every time I turned around. And for that, I was glad. I looked back once as I left and saw David standing on the front stoop, hands on his hips, glaring at me. Maybe I shouldn’t have laughed, but right at that moment, I couldn’t help it.

It was a glorious summer. As soon as the semester ended, we took off for Kansas, riding the Trailways bus to Wichita, where my family met us. We stayed at the farm, my family’s farm, for two weeks, sleeping apart for decency, sneaking off to make love whenever we could, because we had to.

When our stay there was over, we took another bus to Indiana and went to his folk’s place. They were a bit more open-minded and Monroe and I shared a bed for the next two weeks. We made love at night, slowly and as quiet as church mice, with just the occasional giggle slipping through. Monroe’s mom said we made a cute couple.


The summer was miserable for David. He was not only spoiled, he had a decided lack of coping skills and he spent the summer brooding about Elaine and her new guy. He missed her, to be sure, and he told himself it was because he loved her so much. But it really was because her leaving him was such a blow to his ego. Before he went back to college in the fall, he paid a visit to his dad’s man-cave and procured what he needed to take care of the situation. As he headed back to school, he was a little happier. He knew everything would work out okay, now.


Monroe and I worked through the rush of getting our classes set for the semester. We compared schedules and arranged everything so we would both get the classes we needed, but we could still have the maximum amount of time together. The first week went smooth as silk and Friday afternoon, we left the library early. As we walked outside, hand-in-hand, there was a sudden sound from beside me. It sounded like an axe splitting wood. I will always remember turning to Monroe and seeing the wide-eyed look of shock on his face and the bloom of blood on his chest. He staggered backward and then just collapsed. Looking back, I think he was dead before he even hit the ground. The far-off sound of the rifle shot barely registered in my mind and I found myself screaming and trying to hold onto Monroe, even as his blood and his precious life were slipping away.

At the spot where Monroe landed and the spot where I wound up, we were behind a concrete park bench, which was probably all that saved my life. The firing of the rifle went on and on, and others were screaming and taking cover. Some were falling, struck down by the unreasoning rage and ego of my ex-boyfriend, David. He had stolen his dad’s AR-15 rifle and thirty rounds of ammo and he intended to use it up.

When he was at last surrounded by cops, being basically a coward, he dropped the rifle and gave up without fighting the police. Later, I heard that several of the officers were sorely disappointed they didn’t get a chance to kill him. Final score: three dead, thirteen wounded. David was booked into jail on three counts of capital murder and thirteen counts of attempted murder by use of a firearm.

And there he sat in jail, because there was no bail allowed for what he had done. I once again rode the bus to Indiana and attended Travis Monroe’s funeral. My heart was broken and it matched the grief of his parents. Somehow, we got through it, and when it was over, I went back to the college to somehow continue my studies. And to plan for the next event in my life.

First, I shipped a lot of my stuff home to Kansas and then, with the bare minimum of possessions, I moved back into the dorm. I got stuck with a roommate who was a total squeaky-voiced airhead. She could have been an irritation and a vexation to the soul, but I would not allow it. I ignored her. Blocked her completely out. I had too much to do in preparation for what was coming next.

In addition to keeping up with my studies, I self-educated in anatomy and biology, learning enough that semester that I could have easily aced any final exam in either discipline. For the other thing I needed, though, I turned to the internet. I hardly ever shopped online for anything, but I needed it to find one single item. The technology was just new enough, I couldn’t find what I needed in the books or catalogues available at the library.

Once I found what I needed, I ordered it, expensive though it was, and had it shipped by overnight express. David’s trial date was fast approaching and so was the event I was planning. The package arrived three days before David went on trial. The box was four-and-a-half inches long and one-and-a-half inches wide. It weighed four-point-three ounces. The contents fit nicely into my front jeans pocket, and there I would keep it until event time.


Day One of David’s trial. It was tedious to the extreme. Jury selection was a pain in the ass. An unnecessary pain in the ass, I thought. Picking a jury for someone like David? The cops should have made him kneel, right there on the grassy knoll, which was how I thought of his firing position, and shot him in the back of the head and left his carcass for the crows to pick clean. To commit such a heinous act as multiple murder of innocent people with an assault rifle, be taken into custody, and then be somehow magically transformed into a “suspect” was personally repugnant to me.

But, the jury selection was necessary so that precious David, coddled David, spoiled-ass David could be assured of a fair trial. He had no less than three attorneys at the defense table with him. The best legal talent that money could buy, to cross-examine and browbeat every witness, to examine and question every action of the police and every piece of evidence, to use every means, fair or foul to get David off, worthless David, the evil, spoiled little shit. And whenever they would bring him into the courtroom, the fucker would smirk at me. Impossible to believe I had ever liked this man enough to move in with him. To . . . well, to do the things he liked so well. . . .

Day Two. More jury selection. The triple-threat attorney team was plowing through jurors as my Dad used to say, “like shit through a goose,” getting them knocked off willy-nilly. At this rate it would be a month before actual proceedings began.

Day Three. People were becoming bored with the whole process. The courtroom, which had been packed on Day One, was now down to half-full. Good. Very good. Boredom and apathy would only work in my favor. Hopefully, in a few more days, people would be asleep in their seats. One could only hope.

It seemed to me that David was enjoying himself immensely. It was apparent that he was quite sure Daddy’s money and Daddy’s legal team would get him off, if not scot-free, then with a minor slap on the wrist. He had taken to pushing his swivel chair back from the defense table and leaning back against the wooden rail that separated the judge and legal folks from the commoners who were merely there to spectate.

Day Four. I arrived early and was first into the courtroom, when the Bailiff unlocked it for the day’s business. I took a seat in the front row, directly behind where David would be sitting. And I waited. As I waited, I thought about the love of my life, now tucked away so neatly in his grave, never to love me again, never to touch me again in his special way. I would never again hear his voice or lay my head on his chest and hear the stalwart beating of his heart. That had been forever stilled by the thoughtless act of a spoiled, jealous twerp of a coward.

I snapped out of my reverie as the bailiff called the court to order. Rose to my feet as the judge entered. Slipped my hand into my pocket and withdrew the very expensive Boker super-ceramic folding knife. A knife I had carried into the courtroom each day, without once setting off the metal detector. The blade was black as obsidian and three times sharper than any metal razor. The grips were of black carbon fiber. As black as David’s soul. It was double-edged and designed to last a lifetime. And it would. Last a lifetime. Not mine, but David’s.

The prisoner was brought in and after he was seated, his handcuffs and belly chains were removed. His feet remained shackled as a precaution against him attempting to flee. More jury selection. More boredom. More examples of excellent attorneys doing what they do best. Litigating and generating billable hours.

David leaned back against the rail and got comfortable. Today, he was being aloof. If he had even noticed me when he was led into the courtroom, he had given no sign. I gave it a couple of minutes. I looked back at the exit doors. The security guard was all but asleep on his feet.

Then, I flicked open the blade of my weapon and reached forward, casually and almost nonchalantly shoving the super-ceramic blade between the vertebrae in the back of David’s neck. It went in so easily, it was almost like cutting Jell-O.

I severed David’s spinal cord, and nothing moved. There was no shaking. No convulsions. Nothing. Except David ceased to live. No heartbeat. No respiration. No signals from body to brain that anything was wrong. No signals from brain to body telling the heart, lungs or the rest of the nervous system what to do. I had learned the biology and anatomy. I had learned it well. There was almost no blood.

Then, I just stood up and walked out to the center aisle and calmly out of the courtroom. I might have been headed out to the ladies’ room. The security guard even opened the door for me. Out in the hall, I picked up the pace a little, but I still did not run. I walked to the bike rack and retrieved my bicycle, adjusted my backpack and mounted the bike.

I rode south, down the hill toward the center of town, upshifting through the gears and building speed, coasting occasionally, then shifting up again and accelerating, always accelerating. Five blocks down the hill, I again coasted, then accelerated and shot through a red light intersection, not caring about the traffic. The bus station was now eight blocks ahead. The seat of the bicycle was rubbing me in a sensuous manner, almost like a lover. All the money I possessed was in my pockets, and the bus was still the most anonymous way to travel.

A freshening breeze lifted the hair away from my neck. It had been many months since I had felt this free. And no matter what happened from here on, I was satisfied that everything was as right as I would ever be able to make it.

Behind me, way back, miles away, over the roar of morning traffic and other city noise, I heard the barking of the first police sirens. . . .

Kenneth James Crist is a tired, broken-down old motorcycle cop from Wichita, Kansas. He began writing a novel in 1994 as keyboard practice and has since written four more novels, several novellas and a butt-load of short stories. His publications have been seen in Bewildering Stories, Tales of the Talisman, A Twist of Noir, A Shot of Ink, Eaten Alive, The New Flesh, The Sink, The Edge, Skin and Bones, and Kudzu Monthly, to name a few. Recently, he appeared in two of John Thompson’s anthologies at Hardboiled. They are Hardboiled, and The Undead War, both available at Dead Guns Press on Amazon.com                                   

He also has four books up in Kindle format, for sale on Amazon.com: Dreaming of Mirages, The Gazing Ball, Joshua, and Groaning for Burial, his latest zombie fiction.

Having turned 73 last June, he still rides his big Harley every day that weather permits and is now officially “retired”. He also operates Fossil Publications, publisher of Black Petals and Yellow Mama.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2017