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Baby It Was Divine-Fiction by P. K. Augustyn
Reservation Beer Run-Fiction by Daniel G. Snethen
Dark Streets-Fiction by Harry David Moss
Breathless-Fiction by Mick Rose
The "Birthday Blues"-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Redhead Reba-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Thor's Anvil-Fiction by J Brooke
You Never Know-Fiction by Jim Harrington
Something About the Devil's Pickup-Fiction by Walter Giersbach by
Do I Know You?-Fiction by Roy Dorman
The One and Only Alexa Kalekar-Fiction by KJ Hannah Greenberg
Guillotines Cause Permanent Disability-Fiction by M. A. De Neve
Biology is Destiny-Flash Fiction by David Powell
Knucksie-Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
Cell-Flash Fiction by Doug Hawley
Urban Renewal-Flash Fiction by Gerald E. Sheagren
Pearl-Poem by Meg Baird
Conundrum Street-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
The Hope of It-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Endings #2-Poem by Judith Partin-Nielsen
Immense Hot-Air Balloons-Poem by Alan Catlin
Red Fires Up the Bike-Poem bt Alan Catlin
Jazz Standards-Poem by Kevin Rabas
The Evening Air-Poem by Kevin Rabas
For K-Poem by Mark Young
The/Secret Life/ of Wilhelm Reich-Poem by Mark Young
A Line from the Leningrad Cowboys-Poem by Mark Young
Delta Leo Remembers Her Nephew-Poem by David Spicer
Rosa and the Creep-Poem by David Spicer
Tribe of Two-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 Steve Cartwright 2018



by David Harry Moss



Johnny Vado hated guns. While drinking his morning protein shake, he thought about his hatred of guns and thought about that school shooting in Florida where 17 were massacred. That incident appalled Vado, who struggled constantly to block from his mind how many he had killed in his life. Maybe that many. Maybe 17.


Vado was a part-time construction worker, a part time doorman at a strip club his cousin managed, and a journeyman fighter, a light-heavyweight, 178 pounds. His record was eight wins, two losses, one draw. He knew he’d never be a contender. He fought because he liked it and to release aggressions, to purge himself of demons, or try to, by training to exhaustion.


Wearing gray sweats, a maroon-colored wool knit skull cap, and a gray hoodie, he left his cozy top-floor efficiency in a three-story row house, bounded the stairs, and stepped outside into a curtain of falling snow and a blast of cold air that quickly tinted his white flesh crimson.  


Standing in the window of a four-story apartment building across the street, Vado spotted a man wearing black, watching him. Vado was sure the man held a gun, some sort of rifle. The man backed away and disappeared when shadows swallowed him.


The time was 7 A.M., dark out, and Vado wanted to do five miles on the dark streets and then head for the gym for a workout. He had a fight coming up in two weeks.  


Guns, thought Vado. Everyone had them, everyone but him. The couple downstairs had five guns. He wondered what they were so afraid of that they needed that much fire power.


The female cop in the second-floor apartment in the row house where Vado lived had at least one gun. She was Vado’s age, 26, good-looking.


“Knock on the door any time,” she told him.





He said, “Sure,” but he never did. He didn’t want to get involved with her because of her gun.  


The difference between Vado and almost everyone who owned a gun was that he knew what it felt like to kill another person. Squeezing a trigger is easy. Living with it afterwards is the difficult part.


Vado viewed the wintry landscape. Snow glistened on the street and on the sidewalk like the smooth white satin that lines a coffin. He started running. He would run past the weary-looking old church, cut through a small, tree-filled park, past a string of shops and bars, cut through the warehouse district, cross the railroad tracks, reach the river, and hook back toward the elementary school and then return to his place.


Once home he’d shower and dress and leave his apartment again and stop at the little diner for pancakes and sausage, flirt with the pretty waitress.


“When are you going to ask me out?” she’d ask.


“Soon.” He was seeing someone else. One at a time.


After breakfast he would make his way to the gym, skip rope, sit-ups, pushups, hit the heavy bag until his arms ached, build a good sweat, and then spar, revel in the sanctioned violence.


The Army, Vado had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, made him a sniper, gave him a .50 caliber M24, sent him out to kill. He was good at it. Killing.


“How many did you get today?” the Sergeant would ask.


Vado would frown, shake his head. Shrug. “I don’t remember.”


“Don’t let it get to you. Forget that they’re humans. They’re targets.”


“Yeah. Targets.”


“If you take some out you shouldn’t have, only you will ever know.”




Vado would have sleepless nights wondering if he might have killed an innocent, someone who wasn’t a threat to anyone.


He reached the river. The water looked hard like iron. Smoky daylight had sponged away the dark of night. Snow fell in soft easy lines.  


He turned back. Running in the cold and the snow had given him an adrenaline high. He felt strong.


Vado thought about the man wearing black and standing in that window and holding a rifle. There was something terrible about that, something unsettling. He thought about the times he hunkered on a roof in a bombed-out building in Iraq, sighting in human prey. He never wanted to see anyone with a gun ever.


Vado recrossed the railroad tracks and passed again through the gloomy canyon of crypt-like warehouses before coming to a large produce store, its brightly lit windows glowing like altar candles. He wanted to quit running and go inside. He was hungry for a sweet juicy orange.


Instead, he crossed a busy street. A city salt truck, black like a hearse,   rumbled by, leaving in the air from its exhaust fumes a rotten egg-smelling cloud. He coughed and spit in the slush layering the slick cobblestones and

plodded forward through a narrow alley, throwing punches at the falling snow flakes as he ran.


Up ahead loomed the elementary school and yellow buses splotched with mud disgorging students. Vado spotted the man in black skulking across the street and going toward the school. Vado’s heart froze like a lump of ice. He picked up the pace.


When the man in black reached the door of the school the mass of students were already inside. A security guard raised his arms to stop the man in black. Vado heard the security guard order in a loud voice, “Hold it, you can’t go in there.”

The man in black nodded, pulled a compact Sig Sauer MCX Rattler assault rifle from under a worn, dark bulky overcoat, and shot the security guard. The man in black stepped over the body and kicked open the door and rushed into the school.


Vado hurried to the dead security guard, stepped through blood, lifted the security guard’s Glock from its holster, and charged inside. His hand holding the security guard’s gun trembled.


Vado saw frightened students, kids, dozens of them and a teacher huddled at the far end of the hall. In seconds they all could be dead. On purpose, he had made noise kicking the door open. He wanted to distract the shooter.

e wanted the shooter to hear him.



The startled shooter forgot the cowering students and the teacher and wheeled toward Vado. The MCX Rattler stuttered. Tat Tat Tat Tat Tat. There came a distant scream of terror elicited by the tiny voice of a student.


Vado got one shot off but one shot was all he needed. Killing was his  business. The MCX Rattler clunked to the floor. The shooter listed toward Vado, seemed to hang as if ropes were suspending him, and glared ahead through eyes as unfeeling as granite.


Vado wanted to ask the shooter what life had done to him to make him need to turn on society like this but before he could ask, the shooter plunged forward like a drunk who had tripped on a curb.  


Vado dropped the gun, slumped to the floor, his chest burning, his vision blurred, his throat suddenly parched. He heard the eerie, high pitched wail of police sirens. He felt his lips twist in a rueful smile. Those kids and the teacher, they were all okay, scared but alive.


Johnny Vado noticed the form of a water fountain rising from the floor like a tombstone. He was thirsty. He licked his dry lips. He wondered if he’d get a drink of water before he died.



David Harry Moss has had fiction published in print and online. He writes in many genres--crime, horror, western, romance--wherever the story idea seems to fit. He has held several jobs and those experiences are a valuable source for writing. Currently he lives in Pittsburgh, where he is a ticket taker for the Pirates and Steelers, but has also lived in Minneapolis and Phoenix. 

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2018