Oil head, snake-skin, all them things.
I like the slow grease that comes off them. Though a snake’s drier’n a kettle
I wipe the grease onto my rag and bend down low into them engines, fixin’ their parts,
getting their cars to work, an I do ’m good, that’s the general consensus round here.
I can make a razor whistle in the breeze behind my garage when the sun’s goin down,
and I can fix your engine for you in no time, ma’am.
She brought it up one hot evening when all I wanted to do was shower.
I’d been fixin’ Jim’s Buick an’ done a good job.
Only garage round here for miles.
I got a reputation.
I hear an engine pull up an I know from the rattlin’ sound it’s work.
I know everyone’s engine noise round here and I knew this was a stranger.
As I looked up, I saw her legs first. Then out she got, in that dress that just shimmered
in the late summer heat.
“ ‘Scuse me,” she said.
“I seem to be lost, an’ my engine’s rattlin’ something awful. Would
you have a look at it? I’ll pay cash.”
It was a Trans Am, an’ she looked good in it.
I knew there was nothing wrong with it other than the gasket an’ need of an oil change,
but I told her she’d have to wait while I looked it over.
She sat on my stool, an’ I checked her engine while she chatted.
“Where am I?”
“This here place is called Switchville, ma’am.”
“Is that right?”
“Most folk ain’t heard of it.”
“It is a little off the beaten track.”
“You could say that. Mind if I ask where you’re headin’?”
“Just drivin’,” she said, an’ I figured no one knew where she was.
She had no wedding ring, but was a good-lookin’ lady. Expensive clothes, never worked
hard in her life.
“I’ll need to keep it overnight.”
By now the sun was going down, settin’ hard and fast in them deep hills, and the
dogs’d start to barkin’ soon.
She didn’t look surprised, just a little scared and said:
“Is there no way you could fix it for me?”
I wiped my hands on my rag and looked at her.
“What’s the hurry?”
“I need to be somewhere.”
“It’s a big job.”
“I can pay whatever you’re askin.’ ”
So I figured what was the difference, anyway, and set the highest price I ever have.
She didn’t bat an eyelid, and so I said:
“Ma’am, that’s an awful lot of cash.”
“You don’t believe me? I’ll give you some now,” she said, and going
into the trunk of her car, fetched out a bag and gave me half.
I could see her bag bulge with what was more of it an’ I figured I was onto a good
She turned and sat back on my stool, her figure all tight in her dress an’ I started
on the job.
“It’ll take a while ma’am. You’ll be leavin’ in the dark.”
“Anywhere I can get something to eat round here?”
“Well, there’s Jim’s place.”
“Two mile up the road.”
“Two miles? I can’t walk that in these shoes.”
She flashed one of them at me an’ a good dose of leg an’ thigh while she was
“I’ll take you, he can bring you back.”
I put her in his Buick and set off.
“You don’t believe in locking up your garage?”
I noticed she kept her bag with her.
Jim opened after a bit of banging and said he’d fix the lady something an’
bring her back.
She looked around at the tables and rickety chairs.
“What kind of place is this?” she said.
She wasn’t the first to make that comment, an’ won’t be the last.
Jim ignored her and started rustling up his stew. It works every time.
I fixed her gasket and changed her oil an’ showered an’ changed an’ drank
some beer an’ had a good supper an’ waited till she came back.
It was late when I heard Jim’s tires shred the dust outside.
He pulled her out, her head lolling on one side.
“All yours, Oil Head,” he said. “Stew’s done it.”
An’ he screeched off.
I took her out back an’ she started to come round. That’s how I like it.
She saw me going through her bag an’ getting my money. There was a hell of a lot
“What are you doin’?” she said, all groggy an irritable.
“Just getting my pay, ma’am.”
“Give me that.”
She made a swipe for the bag.
“Your car’s fixed, but I don’t think you’ll be goin’ anywhere.”
“Oh yeah, why’s that?”
“You gonna drive like that?”
An’ she staggered an stumbled all over the place.
“What kind of a hick place is this anyway? I ain’t seen no houses, only you
an’ that other fella.”
An’ she gave me a look I really didn’t like.
“What were you expectin’?”
“Got our own way of doin’ things out here in Switchville.”
“Is that right?”
The dogs were barking in the hills now and she turned at the noise.
“You sure about that?”
An’ I grabbed her an’ her little bitty dress and pulled it right off her and
watched her expression change all slow to anger and shock and then she started to run, but I caught her an’ got hold
of her and down there on the floor with all the oil stains and the grease an, bits of used car engine, I lay on top of her,
an’ she screamed till the dogs went howlin’ way into the night an’ them dogs must have raised a noise you
could hear for miles an’ then she stopped.
“You fuckin’ grease monkey,” she said.
“Well, what’s wrong with a little grease, ma’am? It’s what makes
you work down there, oils you up for my pistons,” an’ I gave her ass a little slap.
Then I whipped out my razor and cut her up an’ gave her the treatment.
She screamed real loud when I started turnin’ her to jar.
I had ’em all lined up, my pretty jars.
“No one’ll hear you,” I said, “only Jim.”
“What are you doing?”
“I’m gonna pickle you, ma’am.”
“You fuckin’ hick bastard.”
I cut her up real good, ’cause we don’t take no disrespect here.
An’ I cut her in hunks, and settled her down real sweet into my oils, an’ she
sat there in them jars pretty as a picture.
Jim just loved it.
We sold her car, an’ got good money for it.
I pickled her well, her rich body, and I tell you it smells even better now with my treatment
on it than when I first whipped that dress off her ass. She was out of her way and askin’ for it, that’s what
She’s in oil.
Her engine parts winkin’ inside them jars.
Most folk don’t understand the value of grease.
Oil’s good an’ll slick a situation up real fine.
She suits oil, good-lookin’ lady like that.
An the oil’ll keep her lookin’ real good.
|Art by Jeff Fallow © 2011
She wore a new scent every day.
She loved to peel fruit with a scalpel.
They sat at the small table in the corner of the restaurant and she
sparkled like cut glass.
Gracie found it hard to sit down in the skin tight dress and now she
sipped her cocktail nervously.
She could see Bobby getting angry at the waiter.
“Where’s our fucking food?” he said.
She stirred her drink with her fingernail and licked the drops from its
Then she looked at him. She knew the kind of mood he was in.
She raised a heel and ran her stiletto across his crotch and felt him
“Let’s eat,” she said.
“What you think?”
“How much did those shoes cost?”
“They’re Sergio Rossi.”
“I put that in his pocket. What did he just do, suck my dick?”
“That’s my job, baby.”
The waiter came then and he ate quickly and stared at her as she took
Gracie looked as though she had just stepped out of the shower. Her hair
was immaculate and her skin perfect but when she looked at the waiter as Bobby
paid, there was some resident malice in her glance as if she blamed him for
ending the lunch.
Every time he looked at her, she smiled sweetly and when he looked away,
a veil would fall across her face and some unreadable look pass over her.
“You know what you is?” Bobby said.
“Sure, any man’d fuck you. Somethin’ else.”
“Now let me see.”
She propped a finger beneath her chin.
“You’s a shopping addict.”
“I’m serious, I seen it on a chat show.”
“Addictions are a deadly serious matter, Gracie. One woman became so
hooked, she started killing people.”
“Killing and shopping don’t have nothing to do with one another, that’s
“Addictions lead to other addictions. Ain’t you never heard that?”
“It’s true, they merge and you may start out buying clothes and end up
in a dirty rotten business you had no intention of getting into in the first
Bobby clicked his fingers and the bill arrived. He laid out a stack of
bills then got up.
“Where you going?” Gracie said.
“I’m gonna shake the piss from my dick then we’s gonna hump,”
She watched him walk away.
A small beetle crawled across the starched white table cloth and Gracie
pressed it beneath her polished fingernail, crushing the hard shell of its body
and trailing as much of it as she could into the linen.
When Bobby came back, she said “I think I’ll change from Zoya.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking ’bout, but it don’t
mean shit to me.”
“I’m talking ’bout my nail polish.”
“Only time I look at your hand baby is when you’s rubbin’ my dick.”
She did not want to go back to the apartment but she did and lay there
as Bobby entered her.
Over his shoulder she counted the bags on the table and thought of
“You got great tits,” Bobby said as he lay there.
Gracie went into the shower and washed him off her, rubbing perfumed
oils into her full breasts and thighs before coming out naked and watching him
get aroused again.
“Baby, I need some clothes.”
“All right all right,” he said, getting up. “How much?”
“Fuck me, a thousand, you fucking bitch, you better make it worth it.”
“What do you want?”
She reached for his crotch.
“You like that baby?” she said.
“Come on, get on the bed.”
“I just washed.”
“An’ you wanna go shopping.”
“You like me looking all pretty.”
“I like you best with no clothes on, an’ that don’t cost nothing.”
“You like them heels.”
“I tell you what I want.”
“Sure, honey, anything.”
“I want you to bring some women back and we can screw ’em together.”
“I’ll pay an’ you can buy as many fancy fuckin’ dresses and
bags as you
like, then you can come back and fuck me.”
“I don’t like other women.”
“How about your girlfriends?”
“I don’t trust ’em.”
“They’s good for a jump.”
“They ain’t like me, Bobby. Look at me.”
“You should see ’em without their clothes. Mary, she’s got this
old snatch, ain’t shaved it in ages.”
“Don’t mind a bush.”
“I thought you liked me like this.”
“Looks like a mustache.”
“I’ll double what you want if you bring two of your friends back.”
“So long as they’re fit.”
“All my friends are fit, I don’t hang out with dogs.”
“Double, you say?”
“I need some cash now.”
“I need some snatch now.”
“Come over tonight.”
“You got it.”
He administered a slap to her backside and walked out of the door.
Gracie looked at herself in the mirror.
She felt dissatisfied.
The need for acquisition hungered inside her like a crack addict coming
She got on the phone.
By the end of the afternoon she’d rounded up two friends.
And the old headache returned.
She hadn’t had it since high school when she used to argue with Susy.
Perfect Susy all the boys wanted. What a bitch. Anyway, she was dead.
Tamsin and Jacky were cool.
Bobby would screw them and forget about them.
Gracie could show off her wardrobe to them.
She began to feel better.
She went out to buy some drinks and on her way back tripped on a dog
tied to a post.
“Fuckin’ stupid prick, look what you did,” she said, inspecting
She took her shoes off and hit the dog with the good one.
Then she went home and washed.
She put on her best Gucci dress and newest stilettos and stood in front
of the mirror.
She did not feel any better as the doorbell rang.
She let Tamsin and Jacky in and looked with fury at their dresses.
“Herve Leger?” she said to Tamsin.
“Like my Marc Jacobs?” Jacky said.
Gracie went through to the bathroom where she downed four painkillers
and drank whisky neat from a bottle of whisky she removed from the cabinet.
Then she fixed them all a Cocksucking Cowboy.
They sat and waited for Bobby to arrive.
“So he’ll pay well, your fella?” Tamsin said.
“Bobby’s got money, sure,” Gracie said.
“Why else would you be with him, right?” Jacky said.
“He’s all right.”
“All right in the wallet, huh, Gracie?”
She stirred her Cowboy with her finger.
“Straight fuck?” Tamsin said.
As Tamsin crossed her legs, Gracie could see she wasn’t wearing any
She got up and made them another drink, pouring more Schnapps in this
As she watched Jacky sip hers, the bell rang.
Bobby introduced himself and sat down and joined them.
“You sure look good, ladies”, he said. “Whatcha drinkin?”
“A Cocksucking Cowboy,” Tamsin said.
“Well I ain’t joinin’ ya. Mine’s a whisky straight up. The
only kind of
cock’ n’ tail you’ll see from me, is my fine dick up your snatch.”
Gracie went to the toilet and when she returned, she saw Bobby enter
She looked at her naked butt and compared herself.
Then she waited as Jacky stripped and as they worked Bobby, she looked
though their bags.
When they were finished, they sat naked and asked for more drinks.
“I just need to get something from the kitchen,” Gracie said.
“What?” Bobby said.
“A secret ingredient.”
She went and made them their Cowboys, fetching something out of the
cupboard. Then she washed her hands, patting them dry with a towel. She brought
them their glasses. And sat and watched them.
Bobby was admiring Jacky, and Gracie said, “Do you like her more than
“No, baby, but she sure has got a good snatch on her.”
“And I don’t?” Tamsin said.
“You, too, baby, you too.”
“I’m gonna take a shower, then I need to go,” Jacky said. “You
“Sure have,” Bobby said.
She went to wash but when she came back, instead of dressing, she sat on
“You look tired,” Gracie said.
“I am,” Jacky said.
“I must have shagged you ladies out,” Bobby said, getting up and fixing
himself a drink.
Jacky’s head dropped forwards and Tamsin slumped next to her on the
“Now ain’t that a picture?” he said, looking at them. “Naked
as the day
they were born.”
“Bobby?” Gracie said.
“You prefer me to them?”
“Course I do.”
“Can I have more money? It ain’t enough.”
“Now I told you what we agreed.”
“But there’s a dress I want, you’ll love me in it.”
“I need to stand out from the crowd.”
“All you need to do to stand out from the crowd is stand butt naked in
that good skin of yours an’ let ’em see your snatch.”
He walked through to the bathroom and slammed the door.
Gracie stood there and listened to the shower run.
She looked at Tamsin’s dress lying on the floor, then Jacky’s.
She held them to her face, feeling the texture.
She ran her hand along her sleeping friends’ bodies. She got the iron
out of the cupboard and put it on.
Then she went to the kitchen.
Jacky screamed once, and Tamsin didn’t stir.
Gracie looked as if she was stroking them. She peeled their skin away
with great dexterity, removing two sheets of flesh which she held up to the
When Bobby came out of the shower, he stood there and said “Fuck, baby
what you done?”
“I’m gonna make a dress, Bobby.”
“With their skin?”
“Don’t you think it’ll look pretty?”
“They’s open wounds Gracie, you peeled ’em raw.”
“It don’t matter.”
“You’s gone, baby, we need to get their bodies out of here.”
“I need to put on my dress first.”
“I always said one day snatch’d land me in trouble.”
“Pass me those scissors, Bobby.”
He looked at the butchered women and at Gracie.
She was laying out their skin on the coffee table and smoothing the
creases with the iron.
The sun is dying on the terrace
As the leaves decay
And I watch my
Marriage fall apart
I tinker with the wreck of
An old car
That lies at the edge of a field.
It will never see the road.
In name only,
Informs me she has taken
“To hell?” I ask.
She looks away,
I look with disinterest
At her veiled cyanic eyes
And try to find the shape
Of the love I once knew.
She looks absurd.
And I mock her.
She knows no end to vanity.
She always was a
Doted on by
And then one day,
In a house full of packed boxes
I see her walk away
Along the drive
With some part
Of my soul in her overburdened heart.
“Trinket,” by Richard Godwin. Originally appeared in Asphodel Madness 2.0
on October 4, 2010.
Snowstorm in Compass Land
in the tangled bedding of your dreams
did you think it would be that easy?
smug conceit of reference and allegory
Pedagogic semen, a snowstorm in the heat of summer,
fragments of ice in the climax
useless as a dry sea eroded and bereft of fish
stinking with some tide of useless senseless deprivation and decay
So play the dark rose of threnody and beat the split drum
your malodorous melody tilts on its axis of sound
while you whittle away the dry bone of memory
in the empty parlor whose precise
Metronome of despair has caught your sullen glances
in its tarnished mirror and shows all too well
that the cake has gone
it tasted of thickened icing and bitter fruit
Such as the spendthrift waiter threw away last winter
when you decided to take up waltzing
like your camera frozen maiden aunts
but they are no more a reference point than
The insurance policy you bought from the con man
at the bank
or your static husband
or mirror lazy children
Joshua Stone ran a profitable practice. He had small hands which the
women liked because they were easy to get in their mouths.
He wore a light cologne and played innocuous music to mask the sound of
“I may not seem it but I am surprisingly strong,” he said to his wife
Susy early on in their marriage.
Susy used his wealth to buy expensive clothes and seduce men while he was
When his business partner retired he carried on at the practice on his
He also hired a private detective to find out what his wife was up to
when he noticed some anomalous transactions on her credit card.
The Palm Hotel had cropped up a few times and he wanted to know what she
was doing there.
The detective returned with some photographs of Susy with two different
men. In one of them she had her hand on a guy’s lap, in the other she was
kissing a man with a grey moustache.
Joshua Stone was a calm, controlled man who showed no hint of emotion
when he returned the evening he found out.
Nor did he let on he knew the first man in the photographs, a client
named Adam Little.
He said nothing to Susy who was making a Martini as he came in; he ate supper
and went to bed.
He lay there, smiling in the dark, because his first appointment the
next day was with Adam Little.
He had cancelled all his others.
He got up early the following morning and went straight to work.
He prepared his finest drills and when Adam Little arrived, he greeted
him and waited while he got in the chair.
Then he leaned him back further than usual.
“How is it all feeling?” he said, prodding around in Adam’s mouth.
“Yes, I see you have some decay here, I’ll have to perform an
Adam Little stared up at the masked face haloed by the light and thought
he caught a glint in Joshua’s face.
“Relax,” Joshua said, and injected him with water.
He turned on his drill, pausing with it by Adam’s ear.
“I’m going to have to dig deep,” he said.
He drilled straight into a nerve and chuckled as Adam screamed.
Then he wrenched a tooth out.
“Rotten,” he said, throwing it across the room.
He drilled through the side of Adam’s face and, holding him down, he
pulled his teeth out one by one, snapping them off at the roots. He had him by
the throat as he finished the job.
“Rinse,” he said, letting him up, and handing Adam a towel to stem the
Adam stood up and staggered to the door.
He tried to speak but his mouth wasn’t working.
“That’ll be two thousand,” Joshua said and began laughing.
As Adam walked to his car with a mouth dripping with blood, Joshua gave
himself a huge shot of Novocaine.
Then he returned home where Susy was preparing to meet a lover.
“My dear, I’ve been looking at your teeth and I need to do some dental
work on you,” Joshua said.
He sat at the back of the caf, egg dripping from his stained spoon,
greased mobile clenched in his hand.
“Na, fuck off, I ain’t doin’ that.”
He laid his mobile down and bit hard into the two slices of toast
wedged together with plastic egg, yolk squirting out of the sides and landing on the front cover of the Sun which read:
“THIS COUNTRY’S GONE LOONEY!”
He was six foot and overweight, and he ignored the trainee who
was looking bored and staring out of the window at two teenage girls who were laughing at something.
The plumber looked at his trainee and followed the line of his
“Fuckin’ slags,” he said.
“Why d’you ’ave to say that ,’Arry? They
“Look at them. Arses hanging out, beer bellies, dear, oh
dear, whatever ’appened to decency, they look like a couple of scrubbers.”
“They’s just young women, ’Arry.”
“Na. You wanna get yourself a nice girl, Mick.”
Mick stirred his cold tea with disinterest and yawned while Harry
flicked open the Sun.
“Now look at that,” Harry said.
“What’s the difference?”
“Between them girls there and them out there?”
“They’re fuckin models, you prat. Class paper, this,”
Harry said, leafing through its pages. “ ’Ere, these geezers go out for a Ruby right, get slaughtered and one
of ’em moons the waiter. ’Is mate bites his arse and gets his false teeth stuck up ’is crack. Fucking classic.”
Soon they left and headed to the first job.
Mick was pale skinned and in the sunshine looked like a blank sheet
ready to be imprinted by Harry. He wore a look of permanent dissatisfaction and looked too clean for the van, which was strewn
with litter. Here and there were signs that he was trying to blend in with Harry. His trousers were overly dirty and he had
a large rip in his T-shirt that looked manufactured. He was unshaven and the resulting effect of this was a small wispy beard.
Harry didn’t stop talking all the way to the job and Mick
stared from time to time at Harry’s hands, which were covered in tattoos.
“So what we doing, ’Arry?” he said.
“Blocked drain in Wandsworth.”
“It’s always blocked drains or toilets.”
“No it ain’t, two fucking minutes on the job and he
thinks he knows it all. Mick, I’ve seen things I could put in a novel doing this game, it’d be a bestseller, I
can tell ya.”
“I know all sorts, all fucking sorts.”
“I tell ya, one night I ’ad to fix some loos in a nightclub
in London. The ladies toilets were overflowing with piss and water, like a fucking swimming pool they were.”
“An’ why was that?”
“OK. I goes in there and wade through it all in me wellies.”
“I can tell right away it’s this one loo, bunged up
it was, something terrible.”
“So what’d you do?”
“I fuckin’ fixed it, you burke.”
“Na, I mean—”
“I know what you mean, Mick. I get me old plunger out but
nothing’s ’appening, know what I’m saying?”
“So I rod down, deep down in there, and in this job, me old
son, you gotta get your ’ands dirty, that’s what I always say to the fucking smartarses who mouth off about ’ow
much plumbers charge. ’Ow much fu-cking plumbers charge! You stick your arms in someone else’s shit every day
and you’d fucking charge, you cunt.”
“So what ’appened?”
“I tell you, my old lady ’as two washing machines,
cause we’re posh. If I stuck me workclothes in the one she washes the kids’ clothes in, they’d be covered
in shit, know what I’m saying?”
“What d’you find in the toilet?”
“I stick me arm in and fish out a pair of knickers.”
“Yeah, some old tart had crapped ’erself an’
flushed them down the loo.”
“Ah, that’s fuckin’ disgusting.”
“All part of the job, me old man. Get out of the way, you
Harry leant out of the window and spat a large gob of phlegm that
looked like a piece of potato. It arced and landed on the offending driver’s windscreen.
“Yeah, well, I don’t plan on doing this for long,”
“Oh, yeah, what you got planned, running for Parliament?”
“No need for that.”
“I tell you, me old son, I seen some things. You learn a
lot about human nature on this job and you get an insight into crime.”
“You know how many wallets I’ve fished out of loos?”
“ ’Undreds, fucking ’undreds, mate. Pickpockets
steal ’em, knick the contents an’ flush ’em.”
“Fuckin’ stupid, if you ask me.”
“Well, I ain’t askin’ you, I’m telling
ya. This is like sociology, this job, you see what people are made of, what they’re about and it ain’t just the
low life, it’s the posh ones too.”
“You charge ’em more?”
“Course I fuckin’ charge ’em more, the cunts.
They look down their noses at people like us and we go into their ’ouses and fix their shit for ’em. Tell you
what, Mick, I was called to this job once in ’Amstead, big fuckin’ gaff, massive and the loos were all flooded
and I took one look at the slag who opened the door and I knew.”
“It was ’er.”
“What was ’er?”
“I’ll tell ya. She ’ad guilt written all over
’er face. You see, I know ’ow loos work and what goes where and I know when someone’s lyin’, I’ve
heard all the lies under the sun and it’s made me a bit of a psychologist, see.”
“So what ’appened on this job?”
“What ’appened was, all the loos were bunged up with
condoms, ’undreds of the fuckers.”
“The lady, she’s wafting around in a negligee, showing
a bit ’ere and there, if you know what I mean.”
“Good looker she was, but a slag. Anyway, when I tell ’er
about the condoms, she starts adjusting ’er belt and flashes ’er gash at me, just a little glimpse and then she
looks me right in the eye and says, don’t tell my husband.”
“She was screwing someone else.”
“Course she fucking was. ’Er old man’s doddering
about in the next room writing a check, and ’e’s a bout a ’undred and she’s not bad ,as I said.”
“Did she what?”
“Fuck off. I’m a ’appily-married man.”
“So what did you do?”
“I fu-cking overcharged ’em so much, it paid for me
missus’s Range Rover.”
“Look at that.”
Mick was staring at some scantily-dressed women who were walking
across the road.
Harry took one look at them and said, “You’d catch
something nasty off them.”
“ ’Ow d’you know?”
“I fuckin’ know, me old son.”
“I think they’re tasty.”
“You wouldn’t know tasty if it sucked your knob.”
“Why’s it always loos?”
“It ain’t, there’s sinks and boilers, cockstops
and drains, external soil pipes with shit running down ’em and all sorts of pipe work. Son, you’re in the right
game. Fuck off, you wanker!”
This last comment was aimed at a man who was loitering in front
of Harry’s van.
He put two fingers up at Harry who hurled his half-drunk can of
Red Bull at him, spraying him with its contents.
“That’s a waste,” Mick said.
“I ’ate fuckin’ cunts like that. Where was I?
You see, this is an old trade and what you want , Mick, is a trade. We’s got words that go back to Chaucer.”
“Chaucer, ain’t you never ’eard of ’im?”
“’E wrote plays. There’s something we call a
bastard in this game, and it was used in ’is day, fourteenth century.”
“The cunts in Europe want us to change our terms cause they
ain’t fuckin’ politically correct. They say they demean women.”
“Why do they say that?”
“’Cause they want to get rid of our Englishness.”
He tapped the George flag that was stuck to the roof of his van. “Still flyin’.”
“Ever seen something really gruesome?”
“Oh, yeah. I could be a copper, I could, with what I’ve
seen and they need fellas like me.”
“’Cause I can tell if a crime’s been committed.”
“What crimes you seen?”
“Mainly theft. But I tell you, it’s only a matter of
He pulled over and parked outside a large white house.
“This it?” Mick said.
“I seen tampons, sanitary towels, rags, and clothes stuck
where they shouldn’t be but one time I ’ad me ’and down a drain and I felt all this hair.”
“Hair, me old son.”
“What was it?”
“I tell ya, Mick, I thought it was a fuckin’ ’ead. I was pullin’ on it, wondering what state of decay it would be in.”
“Was it an ’ead, ’Arry?”
“The ’ouse belonged to some pop star, ’e ’ad
this long ’air, see?”
“ ’E ’d been washing ’is ’air and
it ’ad all gone down the plug ’ole and accumulated into this big thick ball. I fished it out and it was huge.”
Mick was laughing when they got out of the van.
A pile of puke was hardening in the morning sun and two empty beer
bottles were propped against the gate to the house.
“This shouldn’t take long,” Harry said.
He rang and they were admitted by a maid in a starched white uniform
who led them through to the back where a drain was overflowing.
“Typical, she never even offered us a cup of tea,”
Harry said, as he assembled his rods.
“ ’Ere, give us a hand.”
He prodded for an hour or so and the water level didn’t drop.
The owner came out, a man in a pinstriped suit, looking sweaty.
He offered them tea and the maid brought it to them on a tray.
“That’s better,” Harry said.
Mick looked down at the drain.
“We get in.”
He donned his Wellingtons and waterproofs and stood waist high
in the water. He reached a hand down into it.
“There’s something in the way there. I can feel it.”
He fetched the jet hose from the van and started up the pump and
after an hour the water had dropped.
Harry stood in it again while Mick watched.
“I tell you, this job shows you a lot, Mick,” he said.
“You see what people really get up to.”
Harry reached his hand down into the water and started to pull
“There are a lot of crazy fuckers in London and a lot of
crime. This is a tough fucker I tell you, ’ere it goes, it’s coming, fuck me!”
Harry stood with a head in his hand.
The flesh of the neck had sealed off and was a whitish blue and
the discoloration of the face was so grotesque, Mick started to retch.
Harry stood there, staring at it.
“Call the fucking police.”
He placed it on the ground and clambered out of the water.
The head lay like a rotten wound in the sun.
Soon the stench of it overpowered the smell of excrement and stagnant
Mick stood at the edge of the garden, looking away.
“I told you this job was full of surprises,” Harry
The police took a while arriving and when the owner saw what had
been blocking up his drain, he vomited on the flagstones in the yard.
It sprayed remnants of food and bile everywhere ,and the sharp
smell rose into the air and foundered on the rank aroma of decay.
When the police arrived, Harry said, “Let me do the talking.”
by Richard Godwin
As a white dusting of snow covered the street outside, Marsha Bland finished applying
lipstick to her plump lips.
Marsha loved Christmas.
She called it the time of giving and would spend hours preparing her husband Tom’s
She ordered the best Norfolk turkeys, which she stuffed with relish, pulling out
the giblets with her bare hands which she liked to wipe on the front of her apron.
She was immaculately fussy about hygiene but the sight of the intestines on her
front was a secret turn-on.
Her arousal was augmented by the sherry she drank while cooking, as Tom would
relax in the living room watching TV.
He loved her Christmas stuffing, describing it as “An orgasm in the mouth.”
She made it herself, using a secret recipe which she refused to share with anyone.
It was true her stuffing was delicious, a fact testified to by all her guests.
They would have the Malcolms round every Christmas, get drunk and she would flirt
with Jack while Tom eyed Patti’s buxom figure.
Marsha said cooking was her therapy.
After the breakdown, when she found Tom in bed with his secretary, she took Prozac,
but one day said, “I don’t feel I’m me anymore,” and stopped.
She found herself one sunny afternoon with a pair of scissors in her hand. She
had the blades on either side of Tom’s favorite suit, the one he’d worn the day she found him with his secretary.
That moment was like coming out of a dream and Marsha wondered how she’d
She left the bedroom, replaced the scissors in the kitchen drawer and promptly
started cooking, soothed by the sound of sizzling in the skillets.
She forgave Tom, who swore he would never stray again, and she analyzed her failings,
finding it easier to blame herself for his infidelity.
She concluded she had not been a good wife, and began to cook lavish meals for
him every night.
She always liked to add a little something extra to her dishes.
That year, as snow covered London like icing sugar, she played her favorite Christmas
songs and began to make preparations for their lunch.
The Malcolms were coming.
It was just them this year.
The absence of children in Marsha’s life was an occasional itch she would
scratch with food.
She felt so long as she fed Tom, she had him, and never questioned whether he
would stray again.
She wanted to fatten him up like a plump little duck and she would occasionally
get frustrated by Tom’s lack of weight gain, a by-product, he said, of his frequent visits to the gym.
That Christmas Eve, Marsha stood dressing in front of the long mirror in their
She’d just got back from visiting her sister and was ready for the cooking
the next two days would entail.
She looked at her full figure and knew she was an attractive woman.
Her evening dress hung from a knob on the cupboard and she put on a pair of running
pants and an old sweatshirt.
She looked at herself and screamed, “Cunt!”
Then she went downstairs to her car.
She put a toolbox in the boot and started the engine.
A few miles away, Mary Hart was getting out of the bath.
She rubbed oils into her skin and put on a deep red dress.
She looked at herself with satisfaction and puckered her lips, pressing a Kleenex
between them as she applied burgundy lipstick.
She was an attractive brunette with a look of used decadence in her eyes.
As she stepped into the hall outside her flat, she was hit with a heavy object
and landed on the carpet. Marsha found Mary’s keys in her handbag and dragged her back into the flat where she proceeded
to strip her.
As Mary came to, she stared up at Marsha’s obsessed face and screamed.
She quickly found a gloved hand over her mouth.
Marsha straddled her and held her down with one hand. In her other hand she held
a long filleting knife.
“Listen, bitch,” she said, “you don’t fuck my husband.”
Mary was trying to speak and Marsha released her grip.
“I haven’t slept with him.”
“I saw it all on CCTV, you fucking
him in the Jacuzzi.”
Mary was struggling and kicked Marsha, knocking her off balance.
Mary got to her feet.
“Get out of here before I kill you.”
“You kill me? Look at you.”
“Yeah, look at me. I’m everything you’re not. You know what Tom likes the best about me? My tits. He loves coming inside me, he loves fucking me.”
“Does he?” Marsha said with a coldness that stalled Mary.
She rose slowly and penetrated Mary’s stomach with the knife. The sound
of flesh and silk tearing merged as blood ejaculated from the wound and Mary clutched her stomach.
And Marsha stabbed her in the chest, the knife lodging and vibrating there like
a tuning fork.
She could see Mary’s intestines through the wound and she watched Mary’s
hands drip with blood.
She waited for Mary to die and when she lay still, she stood over her, knife in
“ ‘Mary, the bitch,’ I used to call you, Mary with the tits
and nothing else, you advertise your cunt for any passing man. If you fuck my husband, there is a price to pay and you are
about to pay it. I knew you were after him the first time I saw you cross the room to speak to him. There’ll be no more
room crossings for you now.”
She took one last look at Mary and removed her breasts. Then she pulled a plastic
bag from her pocket and placed them in it. She put this in the hold-all she had with her.
She left the flat, returned home, and showered.
Then she drove to Mr. Gravinge before he shut.
Carols were playing in the shop and she felt high.
Mr. Gravinge was behind the counter and greeted her with his usual warmth.
“My dear Marsha, how delightful you look this year, I can tell you have
something special planned.”
“Mr. Gravinge, I do, how astute you are.”
She selected her ingredients and placed these on the counter.
“Stuffing?” Mr. Gravinge said.
“My stuffing,” Marsha said.
“Have a wonderful Christmas.”
She walked round the counter and kissed him on the cheek, leaving him beaming
as she left the shop and drove home.
Tom was drinking a whisky when she got in.
She said little to him and spent the evening preparing everything for the next
Then she passed a dreamless night and awoke at dawn.
She spent all morning cooking and was in the kitchen when the doorbell chimed.
She came into the hallway smoothing her dress as Tom greeted the Malcolms.
“Jack, Patti,” he said, shaking hands and kissing Patti on the cheek.
Marsha watched as he did this, making sure it was her cheek not her mouth.
She took them through to the living room and made them drinks.
“Smells good,” Jack said.
“I have a little treat for you this year,” Marsha said.
“Something different?” Jack said.
“It’s a surprise.”
She left them and went into the kitchen with her glass of wine, closing the door.
She removed the turkey and fetched the plastic bag from the cupboard.
Mary’s tits stared at her like candied cherries on a pink blomange.
She poured some of her blood from the bag and basted the turkey with it.
Then she cut Mary’s breasts into strips that resembled bacon rashers and
placed these on the bird.
She diced the rest, including the nipples, and added these to her stuffing which
she inserted into the turkey with vigor.
She poured the rest of the blood into the baking tray and put it back in the oven.
Then she joined the others.
A few hours later, merrily drunk, they sat down to eat.
Tom carved, rubbing the knife against the fork and looking with relish at the
He stuck the knife in the turkey. It reminded Marsha of the filleting knife as
it vibrated in Mary’s chest.
“You always remember,” he said.
“That you like your rashers,” Marsha said.
“These look particularly tasty.”
“I know what you like, Tom.”
“Sounds like the Dunmow Flitch,” Jack said.
“What, as in the bacon awarded by the village of Dunmow to the couple that
had stayed together for the year?” Patti said.
“That’s it,” Jack said.
Marsha tittered as Tom carved.
“Jack, what’s your pleasure?” he said.
“All the more breast for me,” Tom said.
“You like your breast, don’t you, Tom?” Marsha said, “Dig
deep into the stuffing.”
Their plates were covered with meat and a richly red gravy which circled what
remained of Mary’s tits. The meat was thick and chewy and they ate every morsel.
Afterwards, Jack sat back with a satisfied look and said, “That stuffing
is incredible. It’s the best stuffing I’ve ever tasted.”
“What do you put in it?” Patti said.
“It’s a secret,” Marsha said.
Tom sat picking at a bit of meat that had lodged itself in his teeth.
“She never tells anyone,” he said, extracting a small pink filament
and inspecting it before popping it back in his mouth.
They returned to the living room and had more drinks.
Marsha felt happy and played her favorite Christmas music.
The Malcolms left at about eleven and Marsha turned to Tom in the hallway as he
shut the door and said, “Let’s go to bed.”
“Good idea,” he said.
Upstairs, he watched Marsha undress and get in bed next to him.
“I’m a lucky man,” he said, touching her breasts. “I have
a great wife who cooks the most amazing food.”
Marsha leaned towards him.
She pulled down her top.
“Tom, do you want to know what’s in my stuffing?”
CRACKING OF THE SHELL
She brings me leaves from the field beyond my aching
Its veins of oceanic blue etched there
In hissing acid sleet that falls
Soundlessly on the dripping trees
She lays them by my heart
And wraps her tendril hands across my sweating
Scars that show no sign
Of whitening beneath the deep black deep lack
Of the man she imagined me to be
I root my hungry hand in the soil of her flesh
Her eyes change color as she whispers
Unshackle the chain beloved and find me beneath the gravestone
But there the leaves are faded
They have no color and no song in their stark
Brittle lacklustre death
And her eyes seek hesitation’s moment for some
pitch perfect malady
The veil tearing
Of the broken Soul
Bound to a wheel
I try to tear the moss from the stone that hides my way
The hard cold surface flaking away like my skin until
Jut through the thin wrapping we carry with us
Is that all we are
And all of them all
The ones I knew are standing here at the doorway
Where the air feels like ice
And I cannot see where the corridor beyond this room
I am clutching for myself
But my hands fall through air
It seems to be the shape of broken eggs
And I can hear crying and my hand is filled with blood
But if it were only blood
The spent juice of living breath
Like a breaking tide
The familiar body and face now a shadow in this red twilight
The air assumes some liquid form
In its myriad mystery
Why so many Yew trees in the cemeteries
Why so many nights spent watching
The breath hollow and alone
I dig for her there beneath the broken stone
The Man in the T-Shirt
At night I drive through the city. The road sounds like a broken bone beneath
my wheels, I am driving over broken bones, the skulls and skeletons of all the dead, gone in the war and buried like dogs
alone at night or in the daytime that brings no sunlight now, just a wound in the skyline.
I look down on the city of dreaming lights from my hotel window.
It is past midnight and I stand on the twenty-fourth floor.
The streets coil like an electric snake around the houses and the lights stretch
all the way to the edge of the horizon.
Below me the river flows with some freezing frequency against the electric heat
The city bristles with deceit and crime.
I can taste it.
The freeway buzzes with a hive of cars like bees released and hungry for nectar.
The nectar these drivers seek are hookers they visit on their way from work.
They stop at sports clubs to shower the women’s flesh from them before donning
virtue like a worn hat.
There is no hush.
I watch these men and women who use nighttime to do the things they do.
I see a car stop in the road below me.
Through the reinforced glass of my window and at this height the man who gets
out is less real than an actor on the TV I do not put on.
I am tired of the same dish it serves me.
I want new excitement.
He stands in the middle of the road and starts yelling.
A blonde woman in a fur coat gets out.
It is not yet cold enough for fur, although the signs of winter are in the air
daily as I walk the block to fetch the newspaper I throw away after a brief glance.
There is no news.
The woman is saying something to the man. I am not part of this. I cannot hear
what she is saying. I can make out she is attractive and angry.
He hits her. He spins and hits her not with the back of his hand but his fist.
Her head flies back and she knocks it on the car. She slumps to the ground and
he picks her up, hauls her into the car and drives away. I wonder what this is about. I am powerless to intervene.
I am merely a spectator.
I consider if I have become a voyeur.
The truth is I am what the hotel has made me.
It is the structure of the building and its height that causes me to behave in
I look beyond what has just happened.
It is not real.
The lights of some offices blink at me in the sky.
The buildings have taken over with their grim prophecy of our exile.
We are set apart, made remote from experience. Who’d have thought that architecture
would finally spell our ruin? In our attempts to house more and more people we have breached the purity of sky and alienated
ourselves from one another. We ride the hungry streets searching for the things that make us carry on. Sex and money fuel
We are part of their design. They have designed us. They have shaped our world
and warped our perceptions. Truth has become a dubious spectacle. They have been doing it for years. Eroding our souls with
concrete and steel.
At night they numb us. They heighten our threshold of pain until there is no sensation.
In a disused parking lot a man kicks a beer bottle.
He gets on his cell phone and walks away.
Two young women walk arm-in-arm singing, they are drunk, they stagger in their
high heels and look vulnerable. I wonder if they will be attacked by a predator.
A light comes on in a building. I fetch my binoculars and hone in. They are high-powered
and make the blurred shapes come into sharp focus. I see a man stand at a window. He is playing with something. He is young,
well built and wears a T-shirt. It is black and he turns towards the window. His T-shirt has a logo on it that looks like
a bull. Yes, it is a bull.
He seems to be saying something and I imagine he is talking to himself.
He walks away from the window, into the room, and I follow him.
As he moves I see a man and a woman in there.
They are naked and tied to chairs.
The woman is staring with horror at the man in the T-shirt.
She is tied with ropes and they are cutting into her breasts.
She is trying to say something.
The man is tied as well, the binds tight against his genitals.
I think of turkeys trussed up. There is the melody of an abattoir that drifts
into the static space of this spectacle, a melody with no music, just the staccato rhythm of noise jarring against a structure,
like a needle on a bone.
The man in the T-shirt hits the woman across the side of the head.
She spits out a tooth. Her mouth runs with thick blood.
I realize they are not playing a game.
She is screaming now, pulling forward on her binds and trying to escape like an
The man in the T-shirt shoots the man in the chair.
He slumps forward, all resistance gone, a relic.
I wonder if I am giving reality to this scene.
I want to help.
The man in the T-shirt shoots the woman and leaves the room.
The word violation floats before me.
Its sense seems to have been removed, it is like an eggshell with the small dead fetus of a bird inside it.
I watch, my binoculars trained on the building as if it might give them life.
I stand looking at them.
They do not move.
I look at the city.
There is none to be had here.
The hotel has no guests.
I can hear movements in the walls, the structure is being eroded from within.
They have infiltrated the structure of our lives with overload.
They have invaded us like tiny parasitic worms that crawl beneath the surface
of our skin and eat our food within our bellies. That explains the hunger, the constant gnawing need.
We have been impregnated by some nameless nocturnal rapist. The deformity inside
us is leeching our nutrition from us.
All part of the political program. The body politic has swollen like a tumor.
Our alienation is complete. They have sealed us off like vacuum-packed food.
It is a subtle form of entropy. I wonder if the system can be punctured.
Everything is accelerating within this gradient of disorganization, the speed
is like frenzied masturbation. They have organized the direction of our pleasures.
When I look again the man and the woman are still slumped in their chairs, alone
in the room.
I get my coat and head down into the street.
I have my weapon.
I walk to the building.
I want to see what theater this is.
The city is a hall of mirrors.
There is a doorway that leads to some stairs and I figure what floor they are
on and buzz the intercom until I am admitted.
I scale the stairs. I face two doors.
My estimation of the direction the room faces and the layout of the apartments
leads me to one and I kick the door in.
I walk through a hallway and find them.
They are naked and real. Blood spatters the walls, my binoculars do not pick that
up, this is a better image.
They are dead and there is no sign of why this has happened.
I consider if this is an interlude between acts.
I hear coughing and a shuffling noise as if offstage an understudy has dropped
I turn, a man wearing a hat is standing in the hallway and he begins to run when
he sees me.
I run after him.
He starts to go into the apartment opposite and I grab him.
He pulls a knife and I draw my gun.
He slips away from me and slams the door.
I stand in the hallway saying I found them.
He does not hear.
I return to the hotel.
I know I have to find the man in the T-shirt.
I watch the city come alive as day breaks.
A gray sky pales against the electric lights.
I watch the workers leave and return. They are drones. They hum.
The air conditioning is wheezing. I consider they are poisoning the air.
I watch the sky fade.
I scan the area for the man I must find.
I consider that he may be a politician.
I look at the apartment but they are not there. The man and woman who led me to
this have gone.
I consider that victims draw others into their drama.
I muse on their culpability.
The city buzzes with decay and erotic violations.
It crackles like a psychotic snake.
I go to my car and drive. I tour the city looking for him.
The next day I buy a newspaper.
I am wanted for two murders. The man at the apartment must have taken my picture.
Talking to him is pointless. I look at the room now, but it is empty, a space
where there is no indication of what has happened.
It is a vacant stage. Someone is running the theater.
I know the games others play. I think I may be a prop in someone’s drama.
The bodies were real. The killing was real.
I tour the city.
I stop the car near the river and walk along its edge listening to the noise of
As I walk I see a shop selling clothes.
In the window is a T-shirt with a bull on it.
I return the next day.
The T-shirt is gone from the window and women’s dresses are on display.
Party dresses that no one can wear. Women do not wear dresses any more, androgyny
is prevalent as is the need for desexualization within the political program.
A bald man stands behind the counter, he is talking to someone at the back.
There is a door and beyond it another man.
I walk towards them.
I want to see the other man.
“Did you finish them?” the bald man says.
“Two shots, that’s all,” the other man says.
They turn and see me.
He could be the man I saw in the apartment. He could be the man I am looking for.
They stop their conversation abruptly when they see me. I leave.
I consider they are a cult. The T-shirt is a uniform.
They are a faction of the government. A faction we do not know about.
I think of the man’s face at the window, as he stood and shot them.
It may be him.
I drive to the shop at night. There are no - shirts in the widow. There is nothing
in the window. As I walk away I see a tooth lying in the corner of the empty shop front, a tooth with some dried gum attached
I read it in the newspapers. They are looking for me.
I am wanted. I consider the word.
The streets below me are full of want.
I have become an object of desire within the veiled campaign.
They want me, and a man with an image of trite anonymity is pulling the reins
and dragging the sharpened bit of the bridle into a blind horse’s mouth.
The animal’s eyes stare with obscene redundancy into this blackness.
There is a hole at its heart.
Some contagion of acid.
It poisons the flesh of the city.
It generates need and the odor of money as it soaks in the sweat and feces of
The lights below my window bomb like fireflies through the violent night.
The people are ravenous with the hunger of a lifetime’s need.
I train my binoculars on the apartment.
The room is empty.
The lights from the building sparkle with a sinister glow.
I can stay in the hotel.
They won’t find me here.
I will find him.
I drive through the city looking for him.
She has a thing for duck. She eats it with her fingers, licking them one by one. She likes to feel
it slide down her throat.
“So, Harry, you’re looking a little nervous,” she says.
She can smell Harry’s wealth. She remembers watching the rich folk eat duck as a kid and how
when she started making money, she bought it all the time.
She’s wearing a long red satin dress and she places one Sergio Rossi stiletto on the chair between
his legs, the heel touching his cock.
Harry dabs his brow. He looks around the empty restaurant.
“Oh, baby,” Daisy says, “want Mamma to cool your fever down?”
Harry is wearing a coat and it is over a hundred degrees outside. He realizes he is not shivering anymore
and takes it off, feeling the sweat run down his back and into his pants. He has a tanned face with a birthmark that stretches
from his hairline and fades into pale strawberry at his eyebrows. He often wears a hat to hide it.
He looks at Daisy, following the flow of thick black hair that cascades across her shoulders, taking
in her emerald eyes set provocatively in a face full of sexual knowing.
“I know you do it well; I hear you’re the best,” he says.
“I know my whips, baby, if it’s bondage you want.”
“That’s why I called you.”
“Is it a house call?”
“My fees are half up front.”
Harry reaches into his pocket and passes her a wad of notes which she counts with fingers covered in
duck grease. The fatty smell mingles with the odor of used notes.
“Thank you for the duck,” she says. “You obviously know about me. What about you,
Harry? What are you after?” Her eyes drift to his birthmark. “I specialize in all forms of dominance. You want
a little burning?”
“I tie myself up,” Harry says.
“Oh, do you?”
“I want you to come in and find me like that.”
It is a blue twilight as her shadow falls across the lawn.
Harry is drinking whisky and watching from the window as she walks up the drive to the back door and
opens it. He goes to get ready. Daisy moves slowly; she has an air of control in her movements. She enters by the kitchen
as arranged and climbs the stairs, shedding her coat at the top. She stands in leather. She is wearing Giuseppe Zanotti stilettos
and she pulls a whip from her bag.
She enters the first room and finds him slumped in a chair, his head hanging forward, the light dimmed.
She looks down at his cock, which lies across his thigh with a purple vein running along it.
She lights a cigarette and blows smoke on it.
“Feeling a little groggy, Harry?” she says.
She starts to rub his cock, lifting a leg to expose her waxed cunt beneath the leather skirt.
She presses the heel of her stiletto against his cock.
“Are you going to do what I say?” she says. “You haven’t tied these ropes well,
have you? Let Mamma do it and then you can do some dirty things for me, you will
be my dirty boy.”
As she bends to fasten the ties on his hands, she notices his forehead seems free of the birthmark.
She wonders if it is a trick of the light.
Suddenly he pulls his hands out and wraps them around her neck.
He pulls her forward and starts to choke her.
Daisy kicks out and hits him in the head with her heel. It sticks in his cheek and it pulls away a
piece of flesh as she puts her leg down and reaches in her bag. He is getting out of the chair as she turns and hits him with
the Taser. She hits him twice in the chest and he falls. She stands over him.
Harry watches all of this from the door.
Daisy leans and checks for a pulse and then puts her hand to her mouth.
“Daisy, meet my twin brother,” Harry says, coming into the room. “He had a weak heart.”
“You don’t do this to me.”
“That’s why he was given more money by the family. Of course I wasn’t going to let
them get away with that, your reputation with a Taser precedes you. You see my background is in research. I’m a headhunter.
You’re good. Just what I want.”
He walks over and touches her. He runs his hand across her cunt as she pulls away and starts to dress.
He can see her hands are shaking.
“I’m getting out of here,” she says.
“That would be rash, wouldn’t it, Daisy? It’s all on CCTV.”
He points to the camera.
Daisy looks at him, registers he is standing outside the range.
“You know all about dominance and the
roles people play. Someone has to submit. My brother hated being tied up,” he says. “I did it to him once when
we were kids and he went crazy.”
“What do you want?” she says.
“You, Daisy. I just bought you, you’re going to be my whore.”
“You think you can own me that easily?”
She smiled, then. It was a thin sneer of a smile and she reached for her Taser but found blackness
before she hit the floor.
When she awoke, her hands and feet were tied and her flesh stuck to the sheets. She could see bloodstains
on them and saw a door open.
Harry walked through and she watched as he entered her. She was separate from her body and his voice
was far away in the ensuing months when he casually raped her. He tied money to her leg. He kept her in a disused apartment.
It wasn’t until one day when he left a window open that Daisy staggered to her feet and jumped
into the street below. She ran and kept running, stopping only outside a restaurant.
There was a smell coming from it. It was the smell of cooked Duck, and Daisy thought of money.
by Richard Godwin
The witch doctor
came down the stairs, coughing blood.
Beneath the saturated
wall of graffiti, the shards of broken glass winked with menace in the lurid glow cast by the flickering strip light that
hissed and fizzed overhead.
I’d never seen his scar look like that before. The jagged white grin in his flesh
had turned golden and issued a strange, surreal glow.
“I hears you can helps me,” he said.
“This man he’s been doing some tings.”
“And what things might they be?”
murder, bloodshed, mayhem, he don’t like me, and he’s in disguise.”
“Well it’s an honor
that you come to me.”
“You’s the deal on this business; it’s Grotto Joe.”
job’s a job, I’ll visit him.”
Down on Second Avenue where the winos spat at you as you passed, the
line of kids to the grotto was like a trail of litter on the puke-strewn pavement. I waited and watched as the shoppers bought
their ton of crap and headed home.
And there he was, Grotto Joe.
Fat and obscene as a dirty joke in church,
clutching the kids and giving them a box of tat while he whistled. Every time he bent over all you saw was his fat crack.
He gave a new meaning to the word disgusting.
I could smell him and he stank of piss and corruption.
It had been a while since that incident when
he cut the lady in the shop, sliced her from ear to ear for shortchanging him and he was doing what he always did this time
of year, dress up and hand out gifts. Beneath the beard lay a world of lies.
While Bing Crosby dreamed of a white Christmas,
I thought of painting the town red.
People wonder what Father Christmas does the rest of the year,
well, this one burgles shops and specializes in aggravated sexual assault on the side.
He ho-hoed and acted out the
part of the dear old guy with the gifts and maybe had them all fooled but not anyone who knew what lay beneath the mask.
songs echoed into the nighttime air like some threnody for Santa Claus.
I knew that this one kept a switchblade beneath
his costume, like a shard of glass in the birthday jelly.
His heavily-decorated tree hung with lurid baubles, shiny
reds and golds winking at me with an attendant malice that gave little cheer as I watched families take their gifts home.
waited until the throng had thinned and the last few stragglers were wending their way past the debris outside and I went
He had his back to me and was removing his beard when he heard me and turned.
There was a crackle of hatred
that burned the air as Diana Ross jingled her bells at us.
Grotto Joe was about to open his mouth and say something
smart when I pulled my baby from my pocket. She’s as sharp as they come and I can open a can of tomatoes with her.
hit him right in the neck, a shower of blood opening up and spraying the grotto in some grim ejaculation that left him reeling.
He clutched at himself and staggered about like a blind man but I wasn’t finished.
I wanted to peel the skin
from that Christmas and hang a little trophy on the wall.
You could say it was my personal form of decoration, being
unaccustomed to these enforced merriments.
I wanted to skewer Santa like a kebab and burn him up a little.
I wanted to blow a hole in the Grotto lie.
I knew what Joe had in his baubles, he filled them with an infected syringe
Some say he drank from them when everyone had left.
I knew what dark things he did as he handed out
As Joe reeled and bled, I took out my Luger and shot his decorations to shit.
The baubles were full of
blood and they exploded in some orgasm of unholy menses as if he was living in the belly of a bleeding whale.
faded to red and the place was awash with it.
The tree was hung with the skin of his victims and looked like a severed
His reindeer were dripping by the time I’d finished. Beneath the boxes of gifts lay his rusting machete.
So I scalped him while a slow drizzle pattered the canvas sheeting that hemmed us in and I took it home
to the witch doctor who looked down at it and said:
“Dat Father Christmas, he sure was into some bad shit.”
a pleasure doing business.”
Joe lay in Christmas’s dark alley, a peeled and rotund gargoyle reduced to
some carnival of butchery while I made potato skins.
I nailed his scalp to a wall beside a rotting poster advertising
It hung there like a ruined flag.
I saw the midnight revellers stagger home.
I watched the sky
Then I wiped off my baby and made love to a bottle of Jim Beam.
The drizzle turned to snow. The
streets were hushed beneath the polluted blanket it cast over the town’s corpse.
has the sound of breaking bones. They splinter beneath memory. Memory is the thing you cast away a long time ago before the
road and the endless miles spun beneath your dreams. Direction is not a point on a compass, any more than a breaking wave
is the axle on a car.
hitched a ride as sharp hailstones cut my skin. It was the day that knowledge was born and I crawled beneath the discarded
placenta of unnatural birth. The tattoo on my arm that read “Home is never North” was bleeding as I climbed inside
the truck that bombed down the deserted highway.
driver almost broke my fingers with his grip.
Don,” he said.
used to pour meths in his tea and sit there talking of the times he made all the money.
words sounded like a song I used to know; it was a melody whose words were lost to me. Don had huge hands, as big as two doors.
They were made of wood and his knuckles were hinges. I liked that because the house we stayed in that month had no doors.
He’d blown them off when he let off the bombs. Fire lingered in the slow dawn that bled pink across the scarred landscape.
he said, “they’re coming for us, suck on a pill while I shoot them.”
came on Sunday. Their images were etched in the hills. They’d been trying for us for years. They traveled up hills and
across farms to where we sat drinking. We needed them. We were wanted men, you see.
Don picked up his rifle, it looked like a toothpick in his fingers. And I watched as the cops fell to the ground. The gunshots
sounded like a gate crashing shut in my head over and over again, and a millions birds took flight in my brain, yellow and
blue, chattering like parrots in the jungle.
was blazing hot that year, the earth caught fire, and I saw the naked forms of soldiers rise from the mounds of split and
severed soil, ochre in their martial glory. And I was ochre and lost and ruined and beside me was a warrior, a son of sorts.
are my soldiers now? Do they sing broken songs at dark when the fields are screaming and no one can hear at all?
is what the road sounds like after a time. An immense noise, then silence. It’s a silence that deafens you. It is filled
with the sound of bones crushing beneath wheels.
at the helm, hope in the injuries he sustained, the scars like stanzas crawling across his wasted skin in a glory of epic
verse. This was the time we lived in the in-between; we sold promises like a last breath to the desperate sick, ruined people
we encountered on our way, knowing we were running out of highway.
Sunday, Don fired at the police but there were more coming. They followed one another like a line of ants up the hill to our
bringing them down!” Don yelled over the noise and the smoke. “They are mine, Mike, for they do not come here
to venture with laws that have no place in the hills.”
eyes shone out of his face like torches and his head was made of rock as he shot policeman after policeman.
picked up a gun and fired blindly into the day.
chewed on some of the blue pills, my mouth awash with a rancid taste of rust and melted butter. And even the visions, glorious
images from a heaven on the tip of my finger, even they did not abate the knowledge that they were coming for us, that we
couldn’t hole up there anymore.
newspaper flapped in the breeze and I saw Don’s face staring up at me from its yellowed pages. It was his mirror, a
signal proof he’d existed and been someone, the person sought by the police. I didn’t count the bodies they claimed
were his personal achievement in a fallen world. I didn’t read their analysis of his crimes. What are crimes in this
poisoned maze? What black promise first broke you?
had a polite way about him even when he was violent, and I’d become hooked to the action way back when I first drank
whiskey with him in a bar in the desert.
was a shelter where the barmaid had a familiar face. All the women serving drinks in sand. They fall through the hourglass.
her words, she said things to me, the coded things we know in our sleep. She had a key on her hip and I wanted to find the
door it opened. I knew the door led South.
and I lived on the edge of time and for a year, I found direction with him. He took me from the road of wandering, thumbing
rides with strangers who all smelled of sexual need and shame. Cold sweat ran down their backs as they went to wash the memory
of me away. I’d already been washed down the drain with the jagged razors I recall one bright summer morning. There’s
always crying in the wind, a woman’s voice from long ago, no face, I managed to blur the edges of that. I wanted to
paint a set of eyes and lips on that hole in the heartland. And so I journeyed. Traveling through small anonymous towns in
the dark, I searched for the day.
Don killed the cop, it all became defined again. I could feel my heartbeat for the first time in years. The edges of buildings
looked like razors. Straight razors set there by a hand whose inviolable rules denied all rebellion.
headed to his pickup and down the tracks that crumbled beneath our wheels. Don spat a yard of blood into the lawless air.
He was injured and didn’t care because we were immortal in those days before time found us.
slept through hot days in a nowhere motel. We were wanted and that meant something.
entertained women from local towns and found their faces grew full of spite at their knowledge of who we were and might become.
have to find her,” I told him.
wife ain’t coming back,” he said.
entertained him with a lie, and the truth was, I’d never been married; it was something I’d said to make him feel
I’d lived once. My sense of deceit sickened me. I never wanted him to know. Such commissioning of respect once revealed
as an adolescent ruse is the cause of more loss than men can articulate.
day in a bar, I sat sipping beer while Don went to steal a car. And I knew it had to end, that they would find him and I would
be cut loose. The barmaid had small, soft, tortured eyes which turned the other way as I ordered another round, a solitary
drinker remembering his life before the action came around.
she fixed her hair in the mirror, she saw me watching her.
you on?” she said, coming over to the bar and resting her sharp elbows on it.
took her wrists and stroked the scars.
old man will beat you to death with an electric plug and you ask me that? I am your son, I always loved you.”
I heard the gunshot. My whiskey rippled in the sleeping glass.
was outside, revving the engine, and we drove through cities where the ink was drying on the lives inside the homes we passed.
one afternoon, they caught him. I watched from a dripping doorway as they hauled him off in chains. It took six men to take
Don. He removed the door from their police car and smashed one of the cops in the face with it.
knows how many he’d killed? Do statistics cure us of the lies?
police were stealing cargo all along, dealers in prestige, they’d brokered deals with every moneyed person along the
scar that was the road.
jail, Don tortured a prison guard. He spent a night taking this guy apart. He ran a soldering iron across the man’s
face. He set fire to his head with his Zippo lighter.
if I told you there was gentleness in Don, would you believe me? If I told you he once gave all his money to a starving woman,
would you think I was lying?
they burnt you with electrodes, who would you be? If they took away your face, how would you sound?
I drink beer now that is stale and flat.
The road is open, but there is only the noise of the wind and the voices that fill the air.
|Art by Lee Kuruganti
Last of the Cowboys
Jackson Boulder was born with a harelip. As the midwife
showed him to his mother, she took one look at him and said, “He looks like a rabbit, my boy looks like a puling rabbit.”
His father turned away at the sight of him and they took
him home covered up so the neighbors wouldn’t see him.
Jackson grew up just outside Rochester in a bleak spot
of flat land and corn fields in Ontario.
His father ran the same farm his father did and he made
use of the boy as soon as he could walk.
Schooling was a painful endeavor. Although Jackson wasn’t
stupid, his loss of confidence was both early and implacable.
Teased relentlessly by classmates, he took a few of the
boys out with a single blow and avoided the girls who wounded him more deeply than he could articulate.
Jackson was strong and he withdrew into his physicality
and rooted himself in the toil of the land. His father decided to take him out of school early and use him on the farm and
he would rise in the half light and work the animals, pigs and cattle mostly. At sixteen, he could lift more than his father.
He rode a brown horse and his tall figure could be seen
crossing the countryside at speed. He was a good rider and always wore his cowboy hat down low, saying little to those who
knew him in the neighborhood and avoiding eye contact.
When his father died, he took over the farm, living alone
with his mother there after his brother and sister left. They were protective and ashamed of him. And their protectiveness
grew in equal measure to their shame.
Jackson grew into a thick-set man who was feared by the
local kids for his deformity which was never spoken of by his mother.
They would hide behind some bushes after school when
he rode by to catch a glimpse of his harelip.
Frank Palmer lived a few houses down and would sometimes
be standing in his garden when Jackson passed by.
One morning he spoke to Jackson.
“How long have you been riding?” he said.
Jackson pulled his horse to and looked past the boy.
“ ‘Bout most of my life,” he said.
There was a pause as Frank, accustomed to adults steering
a conversation, wondered what to say next, and Jackson waited, hoping he would be released from this unwelcome encounter.
The wind rippled the dry leaves on the trees over their
heads as the two of them stood there.
It sounded like tiny shards of glass breaking.
Frank was unusual. He showed promise early on.
He lived in a ramshackle farmhouse with his large family
and stood apart from them.
He was confident and good-looking. He had blond hair
and deep blue eyes that the local girls liked.
As he grew up, he was one of the few people who spoke
One day when winds unsettled the fields, he saw Jackson
getting off his horse and he greeted him.
Jackson nodded and tipped his hat at him. The entire
landscape rippled in the wind and Jackson stood unruffled. He seemed to Frank that day some immovable presence on a shifting
Frank, now a teenager, stood looking up at this imposing
figure thinking there was no good reason why he lived such an isolated existence.
“Do you ever do anything except work?” Frank
“Can’t say as I do much more than what I
need to on the farm,” Jackson said.
“You run that place single-handed.”
“No one else to do it.”
“Ever go out?”
“I’m out now.”
“I mean to have some fun,” Frank said.
“I like riding and there’s always work to
“You’re a good rider.”
“You got to know the horse.”
Frank wanted to ask him about the harelip but Jackson
mounted and, tipping his hat at him, rode off.
Frank had a friend called Tom, who was the most even
tempered person he knew. Tom seemed to carry on the same way whatever happened to him. He was slim and had shiny brown hair
and he liked Jackson. He and Frank used to talk about Jackson and what would happen to him.
Frank left school and began his own business. He got
into computers early and made a lot of money and he moved out of the area and made millions in California, marrying a beautiful
blonde woman by the name of Sal. They never argued and Frank sometimes wondered if this was a good thing.
Sal was so well maintained and gave him such a boost
every time he returned from work that he brushed doubt aside like a tiny wriggling worm beneath a place mat.
She was always waiting when he got in, often with a drink
ready for him, and he felt he lived in a vast hotel run by unseen hands.
They had two kids and he lived the kind of life the friends
he grew up with had no comprehension of.
He felt rejected by them.
Although he invited them out to visit, they turned him
down, feeling they wouldn’t fit.
The only person he still spoke to from his old life was
He thought of Jackson, of what being rejected means and
all the shapes it may assume.
He visited Ontario one Christmas when the snow lay so
thick you couldn’t hear a sound.
He felt disconnected from it, as if he had never lived
He stood outside his life.
His wife and kids were in California and he wondered
what they were doing. They seemed like images on a postcard.
He met Tom in a pub one night and asked about Jackson.
“He left the area,” Tom said.
“I never thought he’d leave that farm.”
“He did. His mother died. He carried on living
there, working the farm alone, but there was some change that came over him, some sadness in his eyes when you saw him. It
was just him in that farm. It must have been lonely, he’d always had his mother there to talk to, and as the years went
on you saw him getting lower. One day Jackson announces he’s getting married.”
“He’d found a Filipino woman living in Chicago
and he was flying out to meet her. His brothers and sisters all told him he was crazy, that she would take everything he had
and dump him, but Jackson wouldn’t hear of it. He went out and met her and they got married and he sold the farm and
“Did you meet her?”
“Only once. She was a pretty little thing who didn’t
say much, but you know what? They were happy.”
“Are they still together?”
“Yes. He told his brother that he had a better
life now, he had always been rejected and lonely and decided why should he live this exiled existence? He said she respected
him and cared about him and he had someone he loved and he’d found a different life for himself he never knew existed.”
“I am so pleased for him.”
Frank returned to his California home and found the bright
light and the beautiful people repellent somehow.
He pondered the significance of this and his success
and the battles he’d fought to win the prizes he’d earned, such as their value was.
He wondered how advantage changed a person and blinded
them to the suffering of others.
He dreamed every night of Ontario and its bleak horizon
seemed filled with some light that was lost the second he opened his eyes.
He felt he inhabited a transient landscape and that it
might slip into the sea.
Sometimes in the slow leaking of dawn he felt himself
ebbing away as he heard the steady rhythm of horses’ hooves compacting the dry earth. The sound offered him some consolation
for a wound he could not find.
One day his life changed.
He returned home from work to find his wife’s cases
packed in the hall.
He was unaware of her affairs, since he worked so hard.
She stood there and said, “I can’t live like
this any more.”
She didn’t tell him what lay behind her desertion
until weeks later, weeks during which Frank sat around drinking all day, letting things slide. He thought of Ontario.
He felt that he’d lost the shape of himself. His
wife and children seemed unreal.
He wondered what his life would be if he’d never
Sal turned up one day for some things she’d forgotten
and found him drunk and unshaven.
She stood there with a list in her hand.
Frank looked at her hands and her perfectly-manicured
nails as they rested on the white paper across which her bold writing crawled like a mantra of desertion.
“Frank, it wasn’t working, you were never
there,” she said.
“I was always working.”
“Where to? Where do all the broken people go?”
“You’re a successful man.’
“Do they go to a place in their heads or a place
in their hearts where they can hide from the scars? Does the world see our scars and judge us at first glance, Sal?”
“You’re not making sense, Frank.”
“That’s why you left me.”
“No. That’s not why I left you.”
“You don’t see any scars?”
I ever tell you about Jackson?”
“You have so many business contacts, I can’t
keep track of them all.”
“Jackson grew up near me. He rode a horse and wore
a cowboy hat. He lived this lonely life and people avoided him. People never came near him.”
“Because he had a harelip.”
“That’s sad, but they can be fixed these
“You think everything can be fixed, but you can’t
fix some things.”
“Frank, I need to go.”
“Listen to this, Sal.”
She looked at her watch.
“What does this mean to you, Frank? This sad man
with a harelip?”
“He was shunned. He ran a farm. He was a good man.
His mother died and he wanted companionship and married a Filipino woman.”
“He got a catalog bride. Good for him.”
“No, he didn’t get a catalog bride, Sal.
I think he is happy. She shows him respect and they love each other, they’re still married. He has something now his
old life never gave him.”
“What does it all mean to you, Frank?”
“I remember him, he rode tall on his horse, I was
afraid of him as a boy and he meant no harm to anyone, he was lonely and he left and found happiness and it makes me cry,
it makes me cry.”
Sal stared at Frank who stood there with his eyes full
“Why does it make you cry?”
“Because he was always there.”
“He sounds like the last of the cowboys,”
“Yes, that’s what he was.”
Frank was blinded by his tears as they rolled off his
face and splashed on the expensive tiles he had put in his hallway and he barely made out the dancing form of his wife as
she left him.
He stared at her from a window as she drove away and
walked around the empty house like a lost child.
He wondered when he would see his kids again.
Eventually he sold the business and went back to Ontario
to visit the old family homestead.
PIKE N FLYTRAP
She wore silver jewellery that chinkled when she walked, so much of it so you couldn’t
see her arms.
She called herself Flytrap and sucked orange peel from her fingertips after eating
She could sing a song and eat
candy at the same time and she would whittle wood with a sharp knife she stole from a truck driver. She had a small serpentine scar on her neck.
That morning she was sitting by the pool drawing on her tanned thigh with a marker
Pike could make out the tracings of some ornate design. She’d just written
the words “fuck my” when he walked up to her and said “May I complete that sentence for you?”
She cast her brown eyes upon him and let them rest there a while.
“Pull over a seat,” she said.
He removed his hat and wiped the sweat from his brow and sat in the shade, looking
at her slender tanned figure.
Flytrap had a profoundly feminine appeal without any hint of dependency.
She was athletic and sensuous and her face was full of gratification and indecency.
“Pike,” he said, extending a hand.
Flytrap said, taking it as she ran her eyes down his legs.
“What’s your pleasure, Pike? I hear fish like you have sharp teeth.”
“Sharp as they need to be to do the job, though pleasure’s another
matter and a deep pool.”
“You like your pools deep do you?”
“An what’s the job?”
“Bringing disorder to those who live the lives of quiet fools.”
She looked intently at him.
He had deep green eyes, he was unshaven, and he had a certain consistency of design
to his face that made him handsome.
Flytrap never thought any man handsome. She got her kicks other ways.
As they talked the man at the next lounger looked at them over his copy of Playboy,
tucked away behind The National Enquirer.
“Maybe you’re mad, Pike,” she said.
“Your pleasure?” she said as the waiter passed by.
“I like to sink my teeth into flesh, though right now I’d settle for
“A beer and a Tequila,”
She sat forward and adjusted her bra strap, letting one breast pop out momentarily.
A few minutes later the waiter returned with their drinks.
Something inside Flytrap hungered and aroused itself as she knocked the Tequila
back. She waited while Pike sipped his beer, the foam bubbling on his upper lip.
Then she reached across the hot space between them, ran her finger across his
mouth and licked the froth from her fingertip.
“I like the exchange of bodily fluids,” she said. “It’ll
tell you a lot about a man.”
On the next lounger the man put his magazines down on his bright shorts
and watched Flytrap out of the corner of his eye.
She leant forwards, her skin-tight bikini like silk against her body.
“Pike, wanna come back to my room and fuck me?” she said.
He sipped his beer.
“Now there’s a proposition a man may not refuse.”
“I’m sweet, I’m dirty. I’ll leave the door open, I always
leave the door open, it’s a thing I got. Room 100,” she said, “now I’m gonna strip off, so come and
get me before someone else does, because what I got between my legs is the sweetest thing you’ll ever taste.”
She walked away and the man on the lounger looked at her ass and felt himself
slide into a lifetime of fantasy.
After a few minutes Pike got up and walked away.
So did the man.
At the room Flytrap stripped and waited for Pike.
He walked in and stood there and they made a few noises of the kind you hear in
a porn movie as the man stood in the bushes and listened.
Pike pushed the door to, although not entirely, and the man crept forward.
He stood inches from the door and to the side to get a view. Through the crack
he could see Flytrap naked.
She had one leg up on the bed and was rubbing oil onto her breasts.
Suddenly Pike reached out an arm and yanked him into the room.
He shut the door as Flytrap covered herself with a towel. Then Pike hit the man
so hard he spat a tooth across the room.
Pike got his pistol and pummelled him with the butt until his head ran with blood.
Meanwhile Flytrap went to the pool and walked off with the man’s bag.
She got the keys to his room and found his wallet from which she removed a large
sum of cash.
Back at the room they tied him up and left. They drove away in a blue Toronado
which they abandoned for a black Ford Pike bought at a small car dealership on the edge of nowhere.
They drove on.
Some hours later they stopped at a road side diner.
Flytrap bought some gum from the machine and sang “I wanna be your dog”
She blew a bubble and looked at Pike.
“Think Iggy would like my rendition?”
“I think there’s a few things about you he’d like. Man you is
good at spotting ‘em, Flytrap.”
“They all brag about their wealth, they’d cream their pants at the
sight of my wet pussy.”
“Did you see the way the motherfucker looked at my tits?”
“Can’t say I blame him.”
“I had to have dicks like him squirting their come in me for years before
I started this con and it’s been worth the ride, I say who fucks me and who don’t.”
“Yeah ‘n right now it’s Pikey boy.”
“Let’s get a beer and think where to go to now.”
They held their bottles close, cradling them like lovers who offered consolation
against the coming night.
And it fell from the sky like a caul.
There was no moon as some black presence entered the small restaurant where they
sat, the only customers, eyed by the idle waitress, intent on chewing gum and getting home.
She looked at them with thinly-veiled hostility when Pike asked for two more bottles.
Reaching across the table she brushed the edge of
Pike’s arm with her hand. She held it there longer than was commensurate with an accidental gesture and there was a
lingering exchange of glances between the two of them that didn’t go unnoticed by Flytrap.
“Hey, whatchoo looking at?” she said.
The waitress turned to her.
She was short and stocky and younger than Flytrap by too many years. And it was
the years and their toll that coiled in Flytrap like some hatching snake she had consumed with contaminated water.
“Just doing my job,” the waitress said.
Flytrap stood up.
“Well, fucking do it and get.”
“No need to talk like that.”
“No need to – what? Where do you get off you fucking ho, looking at
my man like that?”
“He don’t look like your man.”
“An what does that mean?”
“Just a feeling. You two, here in the middle of nowhere, you ain’t
a regular couple and all, you sure as hell ain’t husband and wife.”
Pike watched as Flytrap raised her hand then buried it in her pocket.
She sat down and drank some beer as the waitress walked away.
“Jealous?” he said.
“Of that little cunt?”
“Maybe that’s the problem.”
“Easy baby, we run with this trip we stay chilled, or we take another road
“What other road?”
“Beneath the jewellery
and the sexual acts I see someone with a monster feasting on their tired heart and the older you get the more you’ll
feel the struggle unless you sate it. It only drinks from one river.”
“What the fuck is this? Poetry hour?”
“You hold a losing hand. The deck you deal from loses worth with age.”
“I pull tricks, you need me.”
“I need you, Flytrap, because your assets are attractive to men, desperate
sick men with no one in their lives, who will never know the soft touch of a genuine lover in the hungry night that haunts
“I can pull any man I want...”
“But that ain’t what you want is it?”
“I reel ‘em in and hook ‘em and I throw ‘em back when
I’ve used ‘em.”
“Yeah, you work their tired muscles and you drain them, but there’s
something else there it your eyes and I seen it. You hate mankind, and woman too for that matter.”
“You yearn for something more than the power you get from your sexual appeal.”
“Let’s get out of here.”
“You mean out of the restaurant or out of the conversation and that darkened
corner of yourself into which some soiled light is being shone?”
“You know what I mean.”
“You saying all you want is this? Pull more tricks, fleece these guys?”
“Remember something, Flytrap. We’re involved in an exchange that is
deadly and we need each other. You make the rules and you break them, we aren’t dealing with some little fling or cheap
fuck down at the local bar where a few tears and a bust up will end things. Our road is bleeding and it heads one way. You
say that and you break it, then I make the rules, and the rules I’ll make will bring it out of you.”
“Bring what out?”
“Who you long to be.”
“I’m going to the john.”
“I see you when you don’t know I’m looking.”
“Let’s go find our next trick.”
“He’s already here.”
“You sure as shit are talking weird, Pike.”
“It’s the trick you been playing on yourself ever since that hatred
and hunger began in you.”
He raised his eyes then and held her there, pupil to pupil in the black night.
It seemed to him there was some flicker of hesitation, a wavering moment that was lost forever when she was about to reveal
something. “What did they do to you?” he said.
She looked away.
“We go when I come back.”
Pike watched her walk to the john.
He absorbed the empty silence of the restaurant.
When Flytrap got out she found the waitress in the store room. She was bending
over some boxes and Flytrap kicked her from behind.
She dragged her heel across the woman’s face, opening it up, and then poured
beer into the wound.
“Look at me, you little cunt,” she said. “Don’t mess with
the other women’s men or you will wind up dead.”
From beyond the open doorway Pike watched as she stood over the younger woman,
a yellow pool gathering at the edge of the starched white uniform.
Then he went back and sat down.
Some time later Flytrap came out.
“Ready?” she said.
“You were a long time.”
“Is that your answer to everything?”
“Play on the endless web of illusions that exist between the sexes. Get
a man horny if he’s getting too close, so you get closer to push him away.”
He stood and they left the restaurant, but as he got into the Ford he said “I
He went back in and reached underneath the table to where he’d put it and
walked to the store room.
The door was shut.
He pushed it open and turned on the light.
Flytrap’s heel marks were all over the naked body and he had to step sideways
to avoid the blood. She’d tied the woman’s bra around her head and her face looked blue.
Beside her lay the emptied contents of her purse, the things that Flytrap discarded.
A picture of a smiling baby floated in the urine. It was mingling with the blood
and the colours were turning orange, like some wasted sunset on the waitress’s life.
Pike took some beers and went outside.
He drove a few miles and stopped at a small lay-by. Beside it was the rotting
carcass of a dog.
“Why did you do that?” he said.
Flytrap looked away, searching for a shape in the featureless night.
“These people don’t matter, Pike.”
“Not to us they don’t but what about their families?”
“She was nobody, she was going nowhere.”
“Do you enjoy it?”
“You changed the rules. Now I make them.”
“And what are your rules?”
“We carry on, but I’m going to bring in a different element to it.”
“Yes, and then I drag you across the line.”
“The one that’s kept you sane all these years.”
Flytrap turned and looked at him.
“I’ll make it up to her.”
“How? How you gonna do that?”
“I’ll find a way.”
“That waitress is dead, you can’t do nothing for her now.”
Flytrap looked past him at the night and tried to trace the shape of a face that
she once knew, but she couldn’t remember the features any more.
And Pike looked at her and read the lines on her face as a map of lies.
“What do I do?” she said.
“There’s nothing you can do to stop becoming the person you’ve
avoided all your life.”
“What are we, Pike?”
He looked at the scar on
her neck, moving like a small snake on her skin in time with her pulse.
the question,” he said, “the question is what we’re becoming.”
They sat and drank and decided to move on down to Mexico.
They’d been touring the States performing this
routine for a year before the real killing started.
BARBECUE THE SINK BEAST
They found it in the kitchen sink. Just a little bit of head jutting up over the thick layer
of grease that lay on top of the filthy water they served guests when they weren’t
Harry stood there looking down at it as Jocelyn scratched her ass through
“What the fuck is it?” she said.
He grabbed a skewer and jabbed it.
“Hear that squeal? Sounds like a fucking pig.”
the fuck would a pig get in our sink, Harry?”
“Think it’s food,
“Get rid of it.”
Harry turned to look at Jocelyn as she stood by the open door, the light wind outside rippling her nightie and the
sun passing through it. His eyes wandered down to the blur at her crotch and he said “Let’s
fuck me, get rid of that thing.”
“It might come upstairs and rape me.”
Harry considered the proposition, running his oil-stained hand ponderously across his chin.
“I love to hear your bristles crackle in the horny afternoon,” Jocelyn said.
“Well, I ain’t shaved yet.”
never shave, Harry.”
“So the deal is dispatch this beast and
I get your peach.”
Harry opened a cupboard which had knives attached with leather straps to the inside of the door. He removed a large
bag which he placed on the floor and unzipped. He pulled a long knife from it and inspected
it. It glistened. All Harry’s knives were clean. He always cleaned them afterwards. Jocelyn liked to watch. She also liked to hear
them scream. She said Harry had the cleanest cutting action she’d ever encountered and she’d
encountered a few of them, as the scars on her breasts clearly showed.
“I think this’ll do the job,” Harry said.
walked over to the sink where its head was rising from the filthy water.
had black eyes with long lashes like a girl, and its bloated head looked as though someone had kicked it and it
was swelling up with bruising.
see a body”, Harry said, peering down at it.
Jocelyn walked over to the
“Maybe it don’t have one.”
It was looking at them, its eyes darting from Harry to Jocelyn and back again as Harry jabbed it with the knife.
It screamed and Harry pulled away a section of grey flesh that dangled like rubber from the
end of his knife.
He walked to the back door and flicked it off, watching the
flesh land in the cadaverous yard.
He walked back in and inspected the
It was trying to climb out. It had one limp foot perched on the edge of the sink
and was scraping a long curved nail against the side, coughing spittle from its crimson
mouth as it jabbered in a strange tongue.
“What the fuck is this?”
Harry said, “It’s got a foot like a duck-billed platypus.”
So Harry started stabbing it, puncturing it repeatedly with
his knife until it was red and dripping.
He stood back and waited
to see if it was dead.
Jocelyn looked at Harry and felt a surge of arousal.
He had his knife by his side and it was dripping blood onto the soiled linoleum floor.
“You know how many times we come on this floor?” she said. “I want you to fuck me with that knife
when you’re done.”
then it started shrieking again.
It jumped up and stood on the edge of the sink
and pulled its cock from its fur and stood there masturbating at Jocelyn.
stabbed it again, this time lodging the knife deep in its fur.
it around on the end of his knife and it flew off the end and landed by the door.
stood there jabbering and then ran at Jocelyn and sprayed her with yellow come.
wiped the strands of glutinous ejaculation from her yellow cheek and kicked it. It flew against the wall where
it started barking at them.
“What the fuck is it?”
He went over to the cupboard and got out his flame thrower.
“Pass me the paraffin, Jos,” he said.
was making obscene noises at them, a strange cacophony of high-pitched whistles and groans that sounded sexual in
nature. Then it ran at Jocelyn waving its cock at her as Harry doused it in paraffin and set it
They stood there watching it ignite like a Roman Candle and
run outside into the yard, spraying piss all over the walls.
“We’s lovers ain’t we?” Harry said, laying an arm around Jocelyn’s
She reached down and felt his crotch.
“Sure nuff,” she said.
They walked upstairs past
the heads stuck to the wall, past the hides and pelts that lay on the floor, past the blood
stains on the light switch, and into the bedroom where several claws lay on the faded carpet.
Jocelyn pulled off her nightie as Harry walked over and ran his hand across her nipples.
“They look like buckshot, baby,” he said.
like a little frying to make me wet. Come and feel me Harry, run your knife hand deep inside me.”
They lay in the twilight watching
the shapes blur so that the claws looked like small knives on the floor. Harry
got up and went down to the kitchen where he got himself a beer from the fridge and walked over to
the back door. He looked down at the burnt body and stepped into the yard.
He had to tread over the clumps of fur that lay scattered everywhere. Some of them were desiccated, some had bits
of flesh attached to them and were in various stages of decomposition. At the edge of the
yard was a head, dried and bleaching from the sun.
Some animals were gathering at the yard’s end, scavenging for bits of still edible meat. They watched Harry,
staying back until he went inside.
cleaned his knife, polished it, and put it back in its case.
got the body from the yard and put it on the floor.
Jocelyn came into the kitchen
and stood there looking at it.
good,” she said. “I want you to barbecue the sink beast.”
“Get your fine old sauces dripping.”
already are, baby.”
“I’ll spoon the flesh into your savage
Jocelyn curled her tongue up to her lip as the light caught
the gold stud in it.
And Harry started
|Art by Lonni Lees © 2014
NOWHERE TO RUN,
Joe headed out of The Flamingo Bar into the yellow
dawn that broke like sulphur on Junk Street. He’d been in there all night thinking
of ways to come up with the money. His feet felt leaden on the hard road as he remembered
Mandy’s face the night before. He knew he’d run out of excuses.
the corner to Railyard Street he bumped into Rocco with his salesman’s eyes, hair
greased back, collar up to hide the scar that ran in a red streak from his neck to his
“Hey Joe,” he said. “Thought you’d
left town, the amount of times I knocked on your door, how’s Mandy?”
been busy, Mandy’s good.”
“I’m sure she is. You got work?”
heard you got out, I was going to visit you.”
“All that time inside, Joe. I saw you only once.
I been out for months.” Rocco laughed. “It’s OK. I got plenty of visits,
from people a lot better-looking than you.”
“I wondered how you
“Well here I am, Joe. I got a job going if you’re
killing involved. Shooting that cop was dumb, shit, do I look like a cop killer?”
“Exactly. I got style, feel this coat.”
Rocco offered his lapel
and watched with canine eyes as Joe ran his hand across the material.
there’s a cool four K riding on this, you get half. Wanna be a loser all your life?”
playfully jabbed Joe in the shoulder.
“Simple job, what do you say?”
“Half, huh? Maybe I’ll come round later
and you can tell me more about it. I ain’t promising nothing, though.”
Rocco straightened Joe’s dirty collar.
“You need to smarten up Joe, you
look like shit.”
Mandy was sleeping back
at the damp apartment. Her naked legs were astride the night table, her arms sprawled out
on the grey sheets. A train chugged by and the bedroom shook as Joe read the note she’d
left him when she staggered in at five: “Either you get a job or I’m leaving.
I ain’t doing this no more.”
He ran his eyes down her back and stared at the tattoo
of a naked woman wrapped around a dollar bill that spread from her spine to her buttocks. He leaned and kissed
the nape of her neck.
“I’ll buy you more tattoos Mandy, you’ll
He lay down and shut his eyes.
When he opened them it was dark. He rose and tried the light. There was no bulb
in it. He navigated the room in the lurid beam shed by the streetlight, which illuminated
the rusty water dripping down the back wall. Mandy’s purse lay on the edge of the sofa. Joe reached inside and took
out ten bucks. He walked two blocks to the store, where he bought some beers. Mandy was
getting out of bed when he walked in.
I’m gonna get a job, I’m gonna get us out of here,” Joe said.
how you gonna do that?”
we’re only in our twenties and what have we got?” She fished her panties off
the chair, which sported a broken spring. “This shit hole by a railway line in Desprit.”
looked at Mandy and thought how with her deep green eyes and black hair she could have
so many better men than him. Then her lightbulb crackpipe on the broken coffee table caught
“We’re another bulb down,” he said.
“I’ll get a
straight shooter later so you can watch me get dressed under the overhead light.”
wish you wouldn’t do that.”
on your panties when another man’s fucked you in them.”
don’t fuck me in them baby they fuck me butt naked. An now’s not a good time
to get jealous.”
“What does that mean?”
She lit a Marlboro, her eyes like pinpoints
as she looked at him.
“Sure it’s yours, they all wear a rubber.”
He reached out and touched her arm and she turned her
“I want it,” he said.
“How we gonna bring a kid up?”
“Doing what? You ain’t had a job in years,
you got no qualifications, we live in the poorest town in America.”
“This time it’s gonna live.”
future does our baby have, Joe, with you and me as parents to look after it?”
up crack and it will live.”
“I’ll have to give up my career first.”
“While you go and work in Wall Street?”
burying her, Mandy? That night, you and me over by the park with a stolen spade? Remember
that tiny body in the cold ground? You puked your guts out.”
“How could I forget?”
read your note.”
“I ain’t doing it no more.”
“Give me till tonight.”
left her standing there and headed out beneath the rusted iron bridge which cast a constant
shadow on their apartment. A train thundered by as Joe made his way to meet Rocco.
They sat on a leopard skin sofa at Rocco’s apartment.
Joe looked with envy at his lifestyle, the plasma screen TV, I-pod, clean furniture, new carpet.
“Where d’you get all this?” Joe said.
“So what’s the job?”
“It’s simple,” Rocco
said. “This friend of mine owns an office block, it’s all legit, I got the
“He wants you to rob his office?”
“He ain’t got no insurance,
wants out, he’s given me the combination. We go in, get the cash out of the safe,
“Simple as that?”
laid a steady hand on Joe’s shoulder.
“One thing I learned inside is not to go back
“So why do you need me, Rocco?”
“There’s a night porter,
I know the times he does his rounds. We get to the office by the back stairs, he never
uses them, but I need you to keep watch while I’m getting the cash. My friend takes
sixty percent and between you and me it’s a straight fifty-fifty cut.”
of generous of you, Rocco.”
“I’m a generous guy.”
“It’s like you’re
doing me a favour.”
“Joe, I got responsibilities. My kids ain’t
getting all the things I’d like them to.”
“I seen them, they’re doing OK.”
don’t know. You ain’t a father yet, consider Mandy.”
thought of Mandy, of new tattoos, of another town, where he didn’t feel like spitting
at himself every time he caught his own reflection. He nodded and Rocco drew his cashmere
coat around his broad shoulders.
Beneath a sullen moonless sky they made their way to
the office block that existed like a scar on a street teeming with restaurants and late night bars. Raucous drunks
staggered out onto the stained pavement, arms heavy on their women, who wobbled on high
heels, spraying cheap perfume into the air. Joe and Rocco scurried by, collars up, heads
down in the anonymous night.
Rocco had a key to the back door and they scaled the
iron stairs on rubber soles to an office on the top floor, assisted by the torches they held in front of them like
stiletto knives. It all went smoothly as they moved silently within the building. The safe
was set in the wall behind a painting of a man fishing in a lake and Joe helped Rocco remove
it and set it down on the floor. Rocco fumbled with the combination as Joe checked the
hallway. All quiet except the satisfying click inside the office. Rocco removed the cash and Joe helped him
bundle it into two holdalls. Then they made their way downstairs.
see?” Rocco said.
As they were passing the second floor a door opened and
a large security guard came out. He said nothing as he reached for his gun. Joe froze as Rocco pulled a Glock from his
coat and shot the guard. He dropped to the floor like a wounded bull and Joe watched the blood
pool by his head. Rocco headed outside, Joe following.
Back at his apartment Rocco handed out the cash.
“What did you mean about
Mandy, Rocco?” Joe said.
“She’s a good-looking woman, and you ain’t
gonna keep her if you don’t develop some style.”
what you got, style, shooting the guard?”
“You can’t help killing, can you? You just got out, you’ll be
first on their list.”
“What you gonna do Joe, tell em?”
“Have you screwed Mandy?”
A smirk began to crawl across Rocco’s mouth as he looked away.
“I wouldn’t do
Rocco lit a cigarette and stared out at the black backdrop of night as Joe grabbed
him by the shoulder and spun him round.
He hit Rocco in the face, knocking him over a chair. The cigarette singed Rocco’s
lip and his nose opened up.
“That was a dumb thing to do Joe, real dumb.”
his money, his hand burning, as Rocco stood and pulled a knife. He was by the door when Rocco slashed at
his shirt. He looked down and saw the ripped cotton and the gash in his stomach. He held the bag in front
of him to ward off the knife as Rocco came at him again and he headed out the door and
down the stairs, dripping blood on the ruined steps.
in her sleep as Joe entered the apartment. He inspected the wound in the bathroom. It didn’t look
too deep and he bandaged it.
The next morning over coffee he said to Mandy, “Let’s get out of here,
you me and the baby.”
“Where we gonna go, Joe?”
“Anywhere. I got money.”
“There’s blood on your shirt Joe, I saw it in the trash. You’re wounded.”
see a doctor when we get out of here. Come with me, Mandy.”
You got involved with Rocco didn’t you?”
“Why do you think it’s Rocco?” She looked away. “Is it
mine, Mandy?” Joe said.
They waited until night, avoiding each other in the wounded silence of the dripping
apartment. They packed their few clothes into their tattered bags. And they got the last
train out of Desprit, walking with the conviction of the hunted up to the platform on the
creaking iron bridge that scowled down on Railyard Street.
As they waited,
Joe clutched the holdall with the cash in it, as if he was clenching the slender promise of a future
in his hand. He jumped every time someone walked up, but no cops came, and finally the last night train limped
and wheezed down the line and they got on. They sat side by side watching the long line
of misery that were the final houses of the town they were running from shrink and fade
on the grey horizon. And the empty train rocked its way into the black unknown landscape
“Where we going Joe?” Mandy said.
“Anywhere. Away from here.”
“Away from us, Joe? We’re
going nowhere, we ain’t got nowhere to go. Look at this, it’s like a ghost
train, and we’re the only two riders.”
“I got cash. We got a future.”
“Stolen cash, they’ll
“No they won’t.”
“Joe, I been keeping us afloat by letting other men screw me, what does that
“It don’t make us nothing. You’re mine, all mine.”
“Joe you don’t know yourself, you’ve separated who you are into bits, and the
pieces you don’t like are buried in a drawer.”
Joe was clutching
the arm of the faded seat with white knuckles as the train sped into the silent night.
“All I used to want was
for you to embrace me, to hold me. How come you don’t hold me no more? It takes a
piece away Joe, it steals your hope. I tried to be your girl, I tried to belong to you, but what I had to do to support
us made belonging impossible.”
“It’s in the past.”
“We are the past.”
it back there. There’s a future growing inside you, Mandy.”
“It got spread around, Joe,
you’re the great pretender, it’s like you went deaf with despair.”
“My hooking. You never heard them talking? I got used, everyone knew. All those men. It’s
killed something in me.”
“Men like Rocco? Tell me Mandy, are you carrying his baby?”
They passed through a tunnel and in the altered light Mandy’s face changed. She looked
older, harder, like someone else. As they came out of the tunnel she turned to Joe with
cold clear eyes.
“Does it matter? It could be anyone’s. What are you, Joe? A piece of
“You fuckin bitch, nothing is ever good enough for you.”
A stranger entered the carriage then and Joe looked at him in the bleak window of the moving
train as he hit Mandy. He had no control over this other man who punched his soiled lover
in the gut, doubling her over, as Joe tasted all the poisoned impotent years gathering
like a black tide inside him. Then Mandy was screaming and Joe was trying to say her name, but his
voice was torn in his throat, and no words came, only a gasp of despair like a howl erupted into the train.
Joe looked down
at the littered floor. He noticed Mandy was bleeding and he reached for her, his hand falling through
the air, as the train jostled on the broken track, knocking him against the side of the carriage. He put his
hand to his side and it felt wet. As the train thundered on, Joe’s wound opened up
and all he and Mandy had left was the endless embrace of the black night around them.
|Art by W. Jack Savage © 2014
After the first
lot I thought I’d get some peace and quiet. But as soon as they moved in the
noise started. And the parties, every weekend, packed with undesirables, music
going on into the small hours. They never played any songs I liked but that
other stuff, the kind the papers call alternative.
I saw them the day they arrived. The removal
lorry was blocking the road. I had to park around the corner. I was sipping my tea standing
by the window, looking down onto the street. He was unshaven and his clothes looked dirty,
not the sort of man a girl takes home to meet her mother. She was a tart, it was clear
at first glance. Too much makeup, skimpy clothes.
would have put up with them if they’d been quiet. And all
throughout the time they lived there I suffered with that hangnail. I’d caught
my finger in Mr. Harris’s filing cabinet, the large one he kept down in the
basement of the offices where I worked as an accountant. I’d told him it was rusty
and needed replacing but Mr. Harris was always one to save, economy was embedded
in his thinking. I kept cutting it and chewing it, but every time I tried to remove it
my finger bled.