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The Wrong Thing to Say-Fiction by Bill Baber
Late One Night, We Killed them All-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Call it in the Air!-Fiction by Jim Farren
Arendt and Eichmann: Behind Bars-Fiction by Edward Francisco
A Provocation Game-Fiction by Norbert Kovacs
Carol's-Fiction by G Emil Ruetter
Casting Call for a Tijuana Firing Squad-Fiction by j brooke
Preserving Beauty-Fiction by Paul Michael Dubal
Straight Shooter-Fiction by Mark Joseph Kevlock
Meat-Fiction by F. Michael LaRosa
The Internship-Fiction by Henry Simpson
The Knife She Done it With-Fiction by Matt Phillips
Almond-Flash Fiction by Francis Woodland
Squatters-Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
The Cookie Crumbles-Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
A Funeral Pyre-Flash Fiction by Karen Schauber
Twist-Flash Fiction by Ram Praseth
Something Has Happened-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
unbound-poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
Sweet Rivalry-Poem by Meg Baird
when it comes round-Poem by Meg Baird
Dat No Apply to Debra-Poem by Joe Balaz
No Can Change Its Stripes-Poem by Joe Balaz
Infested-Poem by John Grey
Living With the Dead-Poem by John Grey
They-Poem by John Grey
Chesapeake Night-Poem by Gregory E. Lucas
Sunrise on Port Royal Sound, SC-Poem by Gregory E. Lucas
The Final Dream-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

Courtesy Bing Images 2018

The Wrong Thing to Say

by Bill Baber


I wasn’t very tough as a kid. That wasn’t a good thing in the blue-collar neighborhood where I grew up. Fighting was a way of life and your toughness or lack thereof determined your standing in the local social order. I got my ass kicked on a pretty regular basis. I knew my place.

But there were a few kids on my block I could hold my own against and we would fight at the drop of a hat over anything and everything from sandlot ball games to whose old man had the nicest car.

I had just started junior high school when just before dark my mother sent me to the corner store with two dollars to get a half gallon of milk.

Just as I got off my own block, three older boys who had a reputation as bullies surrounded me.

“Where you goin’ scrub? “ One asked.


“Got any money?”


They moved in. The biggest punched me in the face. It felt as if my nose exploded. Blood splashed on to the pavement. Another pushed me to the ground. There were hands in my pockets.

I returned home to find my old man had just gotten home from work. He sat at the kitchen table drinking a bottle of beer.

“The hell happened to you?” He asked. “And where’s the milk?”

I told him what had happened.

“Get your ass back out there and don’t come home without milk.”

I started to cry.

“You can either go fight for what was taken from you or get a beating from me. Your choice.”

I didn’t want my pop knocking me around so I went into the street with a baseball bat.

The boys were still on the corner. I ran at them and started swinging. Two of them went down, covering their faces.

“Give me my money back.”

They did.

When I got home my old man told me he was proud of me. That was the first and only time.

After that I wasn’t scared of much. I grew a few inches and filled out some. I would fight anyone over anything. I started to get a reputation around the neighborhood. After getting kicked out of high school, I wasn’t doing much. Training at a gym thinking about a boxing career and just hanging out being a shit disturber.

Frank Daugherty ran a little syndicate in our part of town- he loan sharked and charged small businesses protection. He put me to work- using me as muscle when someone didn’t pay. Guys with gambling debts would come up with the cash, especially if I had to get rough. Some of the old folks who owned businesses were a different story. I don’t know anyone who could feel good about stomping some old guy who busted his ass every day to make a living.

The neighborhood was mostly Irish but some Chinese folks were moving in. Frank sent me to a little grocery on Irving Street. When I tried to tell the old man behind the counter he needed to cough up two hundred a month he acted like he didn’t understand. A woman who I guessed to be his wife watched with cold, dark eyes as he went behind a curtain.

A moment later he returned with a guy my age. Short, slender.

“You have business with my father?”

I explained the purpose of my visit.

“And if we don’t pay?”

“Someone gets hurt,” I explained.

“Really? Get out and don’t come back.”

I laughed and started for him.

All I remember was a blur of feet and hands. And pain.  I got the worst beating I had ever had.

I went back to Daugherty’s, bloodied and bruised.

“Where’s the money?”

I told him what happened. He backhanded me.

“Get your ass back down there and don’t come back without it.”

So I walked into the store with a .45, shot the kid and took everything out of the cash drawer.

I gave Daugherty the money.

He laughed at me.

“Guess you’re only getting one ass kicking today. Lucky you.”

I shot him too.

Maybe he should have said he was proud of me.

That would have been the smart thing to do.

Bill Baber’s crime fiction and poetry have appeared widely online and in numerous anthologies. His writing has earned Derringer Prize and best of the Net consideration. A book of his poetry, Where the Wind Comes to Play, was published by Berberis Press in 2011. He lives in Tucson with his wife and a spoiled dog and has been known to cross the border for a cold beer. He is working on his first novel.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2018