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Dick and Jane, Together Again-Fiction by Marcy Dilworth
Lay Down Sally-Fiction by Jack Coey
Cleaning Up After the Narc-Fiction by Walter Giersbach
Faith-Fiction by Don Stoll
Cigarettes-Fiction by Gary Lovisi
Blood Will Bloom Like a Watercolor Flower-Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Toast, Jell-o, Tea-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
The PLacebo Effect-Fiction by Paul Smith
Aftermath-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Just Like Fish-Fiction by Paul Lubaczewski
Waterworks-Fiction by Sue Cmileski
Saith Me-Fiction by Robert Ragan
The Return of the Ladykiller-Fiction by Michael D. Davis
Fire Man-Fiction by Terry Butler
Lost in Greenwich Village-Fiction by Dr. Mel Waldman
Never, Ever Bring This Up Again-Flash Fiction by Ralph Benton
Hip-Hop Baby-Flash Fiction byJ. Brooke
Idylls of the Queen-Flash Fiction by Dini Armstrong
Looking Cold-Flash Fiction by Stanton McCaffrey
Camera_Flash Fiction by Leyla Guirand
Ashes and Dust-Flash Fiction by Janet Hartwell
Family Man-Poem by Ann Marie Rhiel
Heads-Poem by John Grey
The Architect-Poem by Marc Carver
economy class-Poem by Meg Baird
She Knows-Poem by Bradford Middleton
Rain-Poem by Maddisyn Condora
Counter-Intuitive-Poem by Henry Bladon
An Eerie Journey Down the Invisible Staircase-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
A Sonnet for Elvira-Poem by Juan Perez
Unforeseen Endings-Poem by Michael Keshigian
When Her Kisses-Poem by Richard M. Prazych
In Your White Cadillac-Poem by Richard M. Prazych
Love in the Time of Wolves-Poem by Jennifer Lemming
I Do-Poem by Jennifer Lemming
a bite better-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
hot afternoon-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
registry-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Dirty Pink Lipstick-Poem by Ian Mullins
Wrestlin' Gal-Poem by Ian Mullins
Between Takes-Poem by Ian Mullins
Banjo Bob and Cassy-Poem by David Spicer
Neurotic-Poem by David Spicer
I Imagine It's Goodbye-Poem by David Spicer
A Date with Destiny-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
Under Moonlight-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
2020 (The Heart and the Thorn)-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
She Loves You-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
The Gazing Ball
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

78_ym_fireman_okeefe.jpg
Art by Sean O'Keefe 2020

Fire Man

Terry Butler

 

When I start this, get in the car, turn the key, put it in drive, I already know I’m fucked. I don’t really know this woman. There’s probably nothing new here, I made lots of mistakes and lucky finds that same way before. But this one seems different. She’s a goddess in a toilet bar.

Yeah, I know, but fuck you. She is both lost and found and you’re so cynical you can’t believe in that. That’s your problem, not mine. I knew I’d try with her no matter what.

She texted late. Her message said I know you don’t know me, but I felt we connected. Can you help me?  A guy wants to hurt me.  Call me.

So what do you do? I mean YOU? You say fuck it, we haven’t even screwed?  Me, I remember her voice. I remember her big eyes in her little face, eyes ready to flood with tears, copper brown and seeking. This kind of stuff passes you tough guys right by, but it goes right into me.

I called her, she answered, she’s crying. She gave me an address and hung up.

Fuck you, yeah you’re stupid too. I’m out.

*

Pulling up outside her cul de sac I think I’ll just sit and look around.

Lupine Court is like a million others, four houses looking at each other. Two are nicely kept and anonymous, one has lots of cars in various stages, number four has weeds, broken mini-blinds, dead shrubs, water-logged newspapers in a pile near the porch. That’s hers.

I leave the car, walk around behind it, move sideways into a shadow. Lights are on in the motor-head place. Muffled AM radio music, otherwise crickets and traffic sounds.

Her porch light is on. There’s mail stuffed in the box and tossed on the stoop. I stay in the shadow, go to the side away from the living room, toward the gate that must lead to the back yard.

Still in the shadow, not ready to move, I watch a dark SUV ease in, headlights off. It shuts down, goes silent. There is enough street light that I can see two heads. A glow inside comes on and goes off, a woman steps out, crosses to the house I’m watching, drops an object, goes back to the SUV. The starter purrs, the Lincoln finishes the curve of the cul de sac and leaves without lights.

Flames blossom without much sound, just a soft whoosh.  They’re moving up the door, spreading sideways and up the walls. They’re traveling quickly and looking hot.

I’m in the gate and around the back and trying to get oriented. I see a slider that’s partially open and I duck in. I close it so that it doesn’t provide a draft.

“Aubrey!”

“Aubrey, are you in here? It’s Billy!”

“Billy? Billy! I’m here!”

Somewhere to the right and down the hall. I move, starting to choke but keep going.

It’s a big dude blocking the hall now. He’s got a bat and he’s spread wide, legs and arms planted and looking to take my head over the fence and out of the park.

I move to him square on. He’s taking little tip toe steps and raising the bat. The little .32 comes into my hand and cracks a few times in a tight pattern around his heart.

She’s in my arms, shaking like a wet, freezing dog, but she’s soft and curvy and just the right size and we’re kissing the way new lovers do, and she asks me to take her away.  

So I do.

*

Why don’t you just relax and tell me about it Aubrey? I’m the guy who got you out of there, right? What’s your deal? You think I’m going to take you back there? Come ON girl!

Billy, I love you and what you did for me but you’d never forgive. No one could.

OK Aubrey look, I’m not them, you’re not me, I’m not you, they’re not us. You are you, I’m someone separate from everyone and at the same time the same as everyone. Have you done something unforgiveable? What does that look like? Does it look like burning a house or trying to kill somebody with a bat? Is it unforgiveable that I shot that guy? Who would forgive him for beating me to death with that bat? You? Would you understand both why I killed him and why he would need to kill me? Who are you Aubrey? Who am I? Who are those people who made you afraid?

Just love me Billy.

So I did.

But I couldn’t stop asking. Couldn’t stop picking at the scab, and that’s what drove her away.

*

OK, fuck you man, so she disappeared. How is that different from any of the women you’ve ever been with? How many women do you remember besides the ones who fucked you over? Oh, yeah, Jenny, your first. And what’s up with her? You have no idea, right? Want me to tell you? I figured not. No, no, she’s cool, she’s doing well. I just know, OK? None of your fucking business. At least I know Aubrey will never forget me.

I’m thinking Aubrey was someone not of my realm. Like you and me are not of any place besides this right here. I had ideas and even plans. You had your dreams too, I remember your dreams. But Aubrey, and maybe that guy I shot, and maybe those fuckers who started that fire, they were from another world where there aren’t any rules and everybody is scared and everybody goes to hell. Like the ultimate game where only the worst people win.  Well, fuck you too, bro. I know what I saw….

***

Terry lives in the country, near a small town south of San Jose, CA called Hollister. He used to write steadily, publishing both in print and online as Terence Butler, but after some health issues, the energy needed to write seemed to dissipate somewhat. He has been a professional photographer and a painter/collage-assemblage maker for most of his working life, so painting and photo art have taken the place of genre fiction as an outlet. Recently the story “Fire Man” appeared all as a piece in his mind so he simply wrote it down. He sent it to Cindy, and in the ensuing back and forth. They somehow discussed using some of his visual art, too. Cindy is simply the best, and a real stalwart in this little world. She has a big heart and a deep love for animals, too!



Sean O’Keefe is an artist and writer living in Roselle Park, NJ. Sean attended Syracuse University where he earned his BFA in Illustration. After graduation, Sean moved to New York City where he spent time working in restaurants and galleries while pursuing various artistic opportunities. After the birth of his children, Sean and family move to Roselle Park in 2015. He actively participates in exhibitions and art fairs around  New Jersey, and is continuing to develop his voice as a writer. His work can be found online at www.justseanart.com and @justseanart on Instagram.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2020