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The Grove-Fiction by Kim Bonner
Sawed Off-Fiction by Allan Leverone
Buried Memory-Fiction by James Flynn
Laying Blame-Fiction by Julian Manthorne
Salmone Puttanesca-Fiction by A. F. Knott
Jedda Summons a Higher Power-Fiction by Robb White
Cherry-Orange-Grape-Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Jingles and Mr. Hammer-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Shhh...Listen to the Ekko-Fiction by Brian Fugett
Serial-Fiction by Doug Hawley
Somnium Trivium-Fiction by Michael Steven
An Arms Deal-Fiction by Matthew Licht
The Decline of the Midnight Sadist-Fiction by Gary Clifton
Stormy Night at Pussycat Manor-Fiction by Michael D. Davis
Passengers-Fiction by Dan A. Cardoza
Storm_Flash Fiction by K. A. Williams
Becoming Made-Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
Feeling Like God-Flash Fiction by Luann Lewis
The Coyote, the Dog and the Woman-Flash Fiction by Phyllis Peterson Levine
Fried Zucchini Sticks-Flash Fiction by Cathi Stoler
A Woman of Good Hard Hands-Poem by Otto Burnwell
Abduction-Poem by Jimmy Broccoli
Jitterbug-Poem by Robert Beveridge
Abandoned House-Poem by John Short
The Beauty of Trees-Poem by Ann Marie Rhiel
Regrets-Poem by David Spicer
Hospital on the Hill-Poem by Stephen J. Golds
Panic Attack-Poem by Kevin Ribshman
The Dark-Poem by Kevin Ribshman
Empty-Poem by Connor Orrico
Endless-Poem by Connor Orrico
Effort-Poem By Connor Orrico
Corpulent Octave-Poem by Harris Coverley
Small Town Story-Poem by Harris Coverley
Dans le Bain-Poem by Harris Coverley
Many Surprises-Poem by Walter Ruhlmann
In Another Waiting Room-Poem by Walter Ruhlmann
Innocent Blood-Poem by Walter Ruhlmann
Ebola-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
I Am an Organ Donor-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Just Part of the Food Chain-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Today's Adventure-Poem by John Grey
Creating the Master race-Poem by John Grey
In the Old Mansion-Poem by John Grey
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Art by A. F. Knott © 2020

salmone puttanesco

by A. F. Knott

Their decorations were cheap but worked: Wooden cross beams, hanging fiasco baskets and a faded copy of the Mona Lisa propped against a back wall between two trellis panels, the restaurant tacked on the end of a sooty two-up two-down row house one block short of the traffic circle. Maître d' extended his arm, even gave us a little bow but creepy as fuck with dark clouds around his eyes and not from lack of sleep. We followed him over to a table by a frosted window which was fine, as who would want to see outside anyway. He turned away and grimaced as if taking a shit for the first time in a week and snapped his fingers at a blond standing by the bar looking like she was waiting for a firing squad to take aim.

Before either of us could say a word, our waitress mashed her finger down into my menu: Salmone puttanesco. I said fine and she copied the order slowly, sticking her tongue out. We both see her two tattoos, one on the wrist, the other above her left elbow, both crooked crosses encased in thorns and we’re looking at each other because there’s this second waitress, two tables away, a chisel-faced brunette, staring at the blond, the peregrine falcon looking at a field mouse. Chisel-face moved around the room more comfortably than our blond but never smiled and brought us our drinks without making eye contact. After finishing the order, the blond looked back over her shoulder toward the kitchen, looked back at us, was on the verge of saying something but didn’t.

The suggestion was a good one, turned out. At first, the sauce looked too rich, tomatoes, garlic, capers, olives but it wasn’t. I could taste the fish. Same with their calamari fritti: Not chewy, and they used just enough batter.

The blond clears our plates and hurries away before we could order coffee and across the able Angela is biting a fingernail.

“They’re all off,” she says. “Off as fuck.”

I tried to make a joke. “The blond’s been sold into white slavery, the brunette just crawled out of a pod and the maître d', he’s been. . .” I didn’t get to finish. The portions were so big, we asked them to wrap up the carrots and salad and that was when chisel face brought all of that out. We had already decided to go through the drive-through at Costa for coffee and maybe split a slice of lemon cake.

“I would come back but won’t order bread or calamari, just a main course.” Angela said and put the container into her purse. I agreed and we waited another few minutes, our waitress still not back with the check. Something clattered in the kitchen. Then something else clattered. We got up and went over to the cash register on the bar. We heard a loud groan and I looked at Angela. An older woman behind the bar, hair bone white but probably no more than fifty, stared at the kitchen door. We stared too and heard a grunt, not a good one.

I wanted to pay and said, “You have a good cook.” The woman jerked her head and looked at me like I have two prawns sticking out of my nose.

“Chef. He’s a chef. And he’s the boss.”

The woman tossed a hand up and down as if to suggest the boss was tough, then almost smiled but didn’t, or couldn’t. She half-turned toward the door again, holding my money, and we listened to what sounded like a seven hundred pound big bull frog croak. Bone white pursed her lips at the maître d' and tossed her head toward the kitchen.

“He did the salmon well,” I said.

“He’s the boss,” bone white repeated, handed me the change and froze, hand outstretched. A plate shattered. Something metal scooted against the floor then there’s another croak. I felt sorry for our waitress, so I put five pounds on the bar and pushed it forward. The woman glanced at the money, mumbled, “grazie,” and turned to stare, this time at the wall, listening.

As the maître d' slipped through the kitchen door, he opened it wide enough for us both to see a man in a white apron, a big man, down on his knees, meat cleaver laying in blood on the floor beside him, his hand stuck inside our blond waitress’s mouth. She’s holding his wrist and thrashing her head back and forth like a shark. Blood was pouring over her chin, the big man’s blood.

I looked at Angela.

The door closed. Angela was already pulling me in the direction of the front entrance. Metal pans clattered in the kitchen while we waited for a family of ten to get through the little front alcove. Grandma stood in the doorway and held her walker, tut-tutting a toddler in front of her.

The rear parking lot was full. Popular place, I found out later. As soon as we got in the car, a black BMW screeched to a stop behind us and in the rear view, I watched the man our waitress had eaten stumble out the back door, apron looking like it’d been dipped in marinara. He’s was holding the meat cleaver in his good hand and pressed the chewed one against his belly. The maître d' followed him outside with a dish towel.

“You getting this?”

“Fucking hell.” Angela is watching through her side view.

A red-haired man got out of the BMW and “the boss” shoved him back toward the car, swinging the cleaver over his head like he’s starting Le Mans. The boss moved into the BMW’s headlights, held out his hand. Three fingers were gone, the important ones. The maître d' started to wrap the towel around the boss’s hand but the boss pushed him back toward the kitchen. The red-haired man was back in the BMW, reversing, tires screaming.

“They didn’t call the police but they called Red,” I said and started the car.

“Don’t look down,” Angela said. I looked down.

Our waitress lay on the floor of the back seat. She’d covered herself with our extra-large shopping bag from the sports place. Sticking out of her mouth were the three fingers. The boss watched as I’m backing up and I give him a thumbs up. He stared, almost taking a step forward then turned and kicked the door of the kitchen in. I didn’t say anything until we were out on the road.

“We still going to Costa?”

“Ask her. I wouldn’t mind,” Angela said.

I pulled over, reached across the seat and poked the waitress. She’s still laying there covered in the shopping bag.

“Good choice, salmone puttanesco. I left you a tip. Tip?”

The waitress stared at both of us.

“We’re going to Costa. COSTA? You want coffee, something to wash the fingers down with? Double expresso?”

“For fuck’s sake, the fingers are still in her mouth, you cunt. She’s probably in shock.”

The waitress sat up, craned her head to see where we were, supported herself on one hand and let the fingers fall into the shopping bag. She wiped her mouth with the back of one arm but still looked like she was five and had gotten into her mother’s lipstick.

Sì. Un caffé.

“Fucking hell,” Angela says.

I pull out into traffic.

A. F. Knott is a self-taught collage artist, writer, and cofounder of Hekate Publishing, whose mission is to unite artists and writers and represent the under-represented. Sometimes he sells collages in New York City’s Union Square Park. His work can be found on flickr.com/photos/afknott/ , among other places. He welcomes the exchange of ideas: Anthony_knott@hekatepublishing.com

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