Yellow Mama Archives

Richard Godwin
Adhikari, Sudeep
Ahern, Edward
Aldrich, Janet M.
Allan, T. N.
Allen, M. G.
Ammonds, Phillip J.
Anderson, Peter
Andreopoulos, Elliott
Arab, Bint
Augustyn, P. K.
Aymar, E. A.
Babbs, James
Baber, Bill
Bagwell, Dennis
Baird, Meg
Bakala, Brendan
Baker, Nathan
Balaz, Joe
Barber, Shannon
Bates, Jack
Baugh, Darlene
Bauman, Michael
Baumgartner, Jessica Marie
Beale, Jonathan
Beck, George
Beckman, Paul
Benet, Esme
Bennett, Brett
Bennett, Charlie
Berg, Carly
Berman, Daniel
Bernardara, Will Jr.
Berriozabal, Luis
Beveridge, Robert
Bickerstaff, Russ
Bigney, Tyler
Blake, Steven
Bohem, Charlie Keys and Les
Booth, Brenton
Bougger, Jason
Boyd, A. V.
Boyd, Morgan
Bracey, DG
Brewka-Clark, Nancy
Britt, Alan
Brooke, j
Brown, R. Thomas
Brown, Sam
Burton, Michael
Bushtalov, Denis
Butkowski, Jason
Butler, Simon Hardy
Cameron, W. B.
Campbell, J. J.
Campbell, Jack Jr.
Cano, Valentina
Carlton, Bob
Cartwright, Steve
Carver, Marc
Castle, Chris
Catlin, Alan
Chesler, Adam
Clausen, Daniel
Clevenger, Victor
Clifton, Gary
Coffey, James
Colasuonno, Alfonso
Conley, Jen
Connor, Tod
Cooper, Malcolm Graham
Coral, Jay
Cosby, S. A.
Crandall, Rob
Criscuolo, Carla
Crist, Kenneth
Crouch & Woods
D., Jack
Dallett, Cassandra
Danoski, Joseph V.
Daly, Sean
Davis, Christopher
Day, Holly
de Bruler, Connor
Degani, Gay
De France, Steve
De La Garza, Lela Marie
Deming, Ruth Z.
Demmer, Calvin
Dennehy, John W.
DeVeau, Spencer
Di Chellis, Peter
Dick, Earl
Dick, Paul "Deadeye"
DiLorenzo, Ciro
Dionne, Ron
Domenichini, John
Dominelli, Rob
Doran, Phil
Doreski, William
Dorman, Roy
Doherty, Rachel
Dosser, Jeff
Doyle, John
Draime, Doug
Drake, Lena Judith
Dromey, John H.
Duschesneau, Pauline
Duke, Jason
Duncan, Gary
Dunham, T. Fox
Dunn, Robin Wyatt
Duxbury, Karen
Duy, Michelle
Elliott, Garnett
Ellman, Neil
England, Kristina
Erianne, John
Espinosa, Maria
Esterholm, Jeff
Fallow, Jeff
Farren, Jim
Fenster, Timothy
Ferraro, Diana
Filas, Cameron
Flanagan, Daniel N.
Flanagan, Ryan Quinn
Francisco, Edward
Funk, Matthew C.
Gann, Alan
Gardner, Cheryl Ann
Garvey, Kevin Z.
Genz, Brian
Gladeview, Lawrence
Glass, Donald
Goddard, L. B.
Godwin, Richard
Goff, Christopher
Goss, Christopher
Gradowski, Janel
Graham, Sam
Grant, Christopher
Grant, Stewart
Greenberg, Paul
Grey, John
Gunn, Johnny
Gurney, Kenneth P.
Haglund, Tobias
Halleck, Robert
Hamlin, Mason
Hanson, Christopher Kenneth
Hanson, Kip
Harris, Bruce
Hart, GJ
Hartman, Michelle
Haskins, Chad
Hawley, Doug
Haycock, Brian
Hayes, A. J.
Hayes, John
Hayes, Peter W. J.
Heatley, Paul
Heimler, Heidi
Helmsley, Fiona
Hendry, Mark
Heslop, Karen
Heyns, Heather
Hilary, Sarah
Hill, Richard
Hivner, Christopher
Hockey, Matthew J.
Hogan, Andrew J.
Holderfield, Culley
Holton, Dave
Howells, Ann
Huchu, Tendai
Hudson, Rick
Huffman, A. J.
Huguenin, Timothy G.
Huskey, Jason L.
Irascible, Dr. I. M.
Jaggers, J. David
James, Christopher
Johnson, Beau
Johnson, Moctezuma
Johnson, Zakariah
Jones, D. S.
Jones, Erin J.
Jones, Mark
Kabel, Dana
Kaplan, Barry Jay
Kay, S.
Kempka, Hal
Kerins, Mike
Keshigian, Michael
King, Michelle Ann
Kirk, D.
Knott, Anthony
Koenig, Michael
Korpon, Nik
Kovacs, Sandor
Kowalcyzk, Alec
Krafft, E. K.
Lacks, Lee Todd
Lang, Preston
Larkham, Jack
La Rosa, F. Michael
Leasure, Colt
Leatherwood, Roger
Lees, Arlette
Lees, Lonni
Leins, Tom
Lemming, Jennifer
Lerner, Steven M
Lewis, Cynthia Ruth
Lewis, LuAnn
Lifshin, Lyn
Liskey, Tom Darin
Lodge, Oliver
Lopez, Aurelio Rico III
Lorca, Aurelia
Lovisi, Gary
Lucas, Gregory E.
Lukas, Anthony
Lynch, Nulty
Lyon, Hillary
Lyons, Matthew
Mac, David
MacArthur, Jodi
Malone, Joe
Mann, Aiki
Manzolillo, Nicholas
Marcius, Cal
Marrotti, Michael
Mason, Wayne
Mattila, Matt
McAdams, Liz
McCartney, Chris
McDaris, Catfish
McFarlane, Adam Beau
McGinley, Chris
McGinley, Jerry
McElhiney, Sean
McKim, Marci
McMannus, Jack
McQuiston, Rick
Mellon, Mark
Memi, Samantha
Miles, Marietta
Miller, Max
Monson, Mike
Mooney, Christopher P.
Morgan, Bill W.
Moss, David Harry
Mullins, Ian
Mulvihill, Michael
Muslim, Kristine Ong
Nardolilli, Ben
Nelson, Trevor
Nessly, Ray
Nester, Steven
Neuda, M. C.
Newell, Ben
Newman, Paul
Nielsen, Ayaz
Ogurek, Douglas J.
Ortiz, Sergio
Pagel, Briane
Park, Jon
Parr, Rodger
Parrish, Rhonda
Partin-Nielsen, Judith
Perez, Juan M.
Perez, Robert Aguon
Peterson, Ross
Petroziello, Brian
Pettie, Jack
Petyo, Robert
Picher, Gabrielle
Pierce, Rob
Pietrzykowski, Marc
Plath, Rob
Pointer, David
Power, Jed
Powers, M. P.
Prusky, Steve
Pruitt, Eryk
Purfield, M. E.
Purkis, Gordon
Quinlan, Joseph R.
Quinn, Frank
Ram, Sri
Rapth, Sam
Ravindra, Rudy
Renney, Mark
reutter, g emil
Rhatigan, Chris
Richardson, Travis
Richey, John Lunar
Ridgeway, Kevin
Ritchie, Salvadore
Robinson, John D.
Robinson, Kent
Rodgers, K. M.
Roger, Frank
Rose, Mandi
Rosenberger, Brian
Rosenblum, Mark
Rosmus, Cindy
Ruhlman, Walter
Rutherford, Scotch
Savage, Jack
Sayles, Betty J.
Schneeweiss, Jonathan
Schraeder, E. F.
Schumejda, Rebecca
See, Tom
Sethi, Sanjeev
Sexton, Rex
Seymour, J. E.
Shaikh, Aftab Yusuf
Shepherd, Robert
Sim, Anton
Simmler, T. Maxim
Sinisi, J. J.
Sixsmith, JD
Slagle, Cutter
Slaviero, Susan
Sloan, Frank
Smith, Brian J.
Smith, Ben
Smith, C.R.J.
Smith, Copper
Smith, Paul
Smith, Stephanie
Smith, Willie
Smuts, Carolyn
Snethen, Daniel G.
Snoody, Elmore
Sojka, Carol
Solender, Michael J.
Sparling, George
Spicer, David
Squirrell, William
Stewart, Michael S.
Stickel, Anne
Stolec, Trina
Stryker, Joseph H.
Stucchio, Chris
Succre, Ray
Sullivan, Thomas
Swanson, Peter
Swartz, Justin A.
Sweet, John
Tarbard, Grant
Taylor, J. M.
Thompson, John L.
Thompson, Phillip
Tillman, Stephen
Titus, Lori
Tivey, Lauren
Tobin, Tim
Tu, Andy
Ullerich, Eric
Valent, Raymond A.
Valvis, James
Vilhotti, Jerry
Waldman, Dr. Mel
Walsh, Patricia
Walters, Luke
Ward, Emma
Weber, R.O.
Weil, Lester L.
White, Judy Friedman
White, Robb
White, Terry
Wilsky, Jim
Wilson, Robley
Wilson, Tabitha
Young, Mark
Yuan, Changming
Zackel, Fred
Zafiro, Frank
Zapata, Angel
Zee, Carly
Zimmerman, Thomas

Art by Jeff Fallow 2010

Oil Head


Richard Godwin



Oil head, snake-skin, all them things.


An’ more.


I like the slow grease that comes off them. Though a snake’s drier’n a kettle drum.


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.


“Yes, ma’am?”

“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 thing.


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.”


“Where’s that?”


“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 at it.


“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?”


“No point.”


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 more.


“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?”


“Like what?”


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.”


“That’s it.”


“That’s it?”


An’ she gave me a look I really didn’t like.


“What were you expectin’?”


“You hicks.”


“Got our own way of doin’ things out here in Switchville.”


“Is that right?”


“Sure is.”


The dogs were barking in the hills now and she turned at the noise.


“I’m leavin’.”


“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 Jim said.


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

Shopping Addict


Richard Godwin



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 tip.

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 stirring.

“Let’s eat,” she said.

“Then what?”

“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 her time.

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.”

“A what?”

“I’m serious, I seen it on a chat show.”

“Oh, Bobby.”

“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 stupid.”

“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 place.”

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,” he said.

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 shopping.

“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?”

“A thousand.”

“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.”

“I’m looking.”

“You should see ’em without their clothes. Mary, she’s got this hairy 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.”

“Any two?”

“So long as they’re fit.”

“All my friends are fit, I don’t hang out with dogs.”

“No shit.”

“Double, you say?”

“Sure thing.”

“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 down.

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 her snagged heel.

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.

“Very nice.”

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 panties.

She got up and made them another drink, pouring more Schnapps in this time.

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 Tamsin.

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 me?”

“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 got the money?”

“Sure have,” Bobby said.

She went to wash but when she came back, instead of dressing, she sat on the sofa.

“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 sofa.

“Now ain’t that a picture?” he said, looking at them. “Naked as the day they were born.”

“Bobby?” Gracie said.

“Yes, baby?”

“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 light.

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.  





Richard Godwin


The sun is dying on the terrace

As the leaves decay

On our

Abandoned lawn

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.


My wife,

In name only,

Informs me she has taken

A lover.

“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 shops.

She looks absurd.

And I mock her.

She knows no end to vanity.


She always was a

Simple child

Doted on by

Deluded parents.


And then one day,

In a house full of packed boxes

I find

A trinket.


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


Richard Godwin


There are

no correspondences

in the tangled bedding of your dreams

did you think it would be that easy?


Cogent correlation

reassuring allusion

smug conceit of reference and allegory

are all


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 monotonous


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




Richard Godwin

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 the drill.

“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 at work.

When his business partner retired he carried on at the practice on his own.

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 extraction.”


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 bleeding.

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.



The Plumber


by Richard Godwin



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:




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 eyes.


“Fuckin’ slags,” he said.


“Why d’you ’ave to say that ,’Arry? They ain’t.”


“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?”


“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.”


“Like what?”


“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 cunt.”


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,” Mick said.


“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.”


“Knew what?”


“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?”


“Did she what?”


“You know.”


“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.”


“ ’Oo?”


“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.”


“Oh, yeah?”


“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.”


“’Ow come?”


“’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 time.”


He pulled over and parked outside a large white house.


“This it?” Mick said.


Harry nodded.


“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.


“What now?”


“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 on something. 


“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 water.


Mick stood at the edge of the garden, looking away.


“I told you this job was full of surprises,” Harry said.


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.”





Christmas Stuffing

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 favorite dishes.

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 got there.

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 bedroom.

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.”

“Get out.”

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 hand.

“ ‘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.”

“You, too.”

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 day.

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 bacon.

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?”




by Richard Godwin


She brings me leaves from the field beyond my aching indigo window

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

A glimpse

Of the broken Soul

Bound to a wheel


I try to tear the moss from the stone that hides my way back

The hard cold surface flaking away like my skin until the bones

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 ends


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


Richard Godwin


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 and charge.

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 this way.

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 us.

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 animal.

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.

I rest.

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 his script.

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 leave.

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 the water.

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.

I enter.

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 to it.

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 our days.

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.




Buying Daisy


Richard Godwin


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?”

“It is.”

“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.”

“OK, honey.”


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.

He groans.

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.




Santa’s Crack


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.

“How so?”

“This man he’s been doing some tings.”

“And what things might they be?”

“Rape, 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.”

“A 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.

Christmas 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.

I waited until the throng had thinned and the last few stragglers were wending their way past the debris outside and I went in.

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.

I 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.

And 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 each year.

Some say he drank from them when everyone had left.

I knew what dark things he did as he handed out gifts.

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.

The golds 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 artery.

His reindeer were dripping by the time I’d finished. Beneath the boxes of gifts lay his rusting machete. Ho-fuckin -ho.

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.”

“It’s 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 Carols.

It hung there like a ruined flag.

I saw the midnight revellers stagger home.

I watched the sky turn black.

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.








by Richard Godwin


Direction 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.

I 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.

The driver almost broke my fingers with his grip.

“I’m Don,” he said.


Don used to pour meths in his tea and sit there talking of the times he made all the money.

His 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.

“Mike,” he said, “they’re coming for us, suck on a pill while I shoot them.”

They 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.

As 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.

It 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.

Where are my soldiers now? Do they sing broken songs at dark when the fields are screaming and no one can hear at all?

That 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.

Don 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.

That 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 fortress.

“I’m 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.”

His eyes shone out of his face like torches and his head was made of rock as he shot policeman after policeman.

I picked up a gun and fired blindly into the day.

I 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.

A 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?

Don 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.

It was a shelter where the barmaid had a familiar face. All the women serving drinks in sand. They fall through the hourglass.

Between 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.

Don 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.

When 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.

We 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.

We slept through hot days in a nowhere motel. We were wanted and that meant something.

We entertained women from local towns and found their faces grew full of spite at their knowledge of who we were and might become.

“I have to find her,” I told him.

“Your wife ain’t coming back,” he said.

I’d 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.

One 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.

As she fixed her hair in the mirror, she saw me watching her.

“Turn you on?” she said, coming over to the bar and resting her sharp elbows on it.

I took her wrists and stroked the scars.

“Your old man will beat you to death with an electric plug and you ask me that? I am your son, I always loved you.”

Then I heard the gunshot. My whiskey rippled in the sleeping glass.

Don was outside, revving the engine, and we drove through cities where the ink was drying on the lives inside the homes we passed.

And 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.

Who knows how many he’d killed? Do statistics cure us of the lies?

The police were stealing cargo all along, dealers in prestige, they’d brokered deals with every moneyed person along the scar that was the road.

In 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.

But 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?

If 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

The Last of the Cowboys

by Richard Godwin


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 to Jackson.

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 horizon.

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 said.

“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 do.”

“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 Tom.

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 there.

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 left.”

“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 left Ontario.

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.”

“Move on.”

“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?”


 “Did 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 days.”

“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 of tears.

“Why does it make you cry?”

“Because he was always there.”

“He sounds like the last of the cowboys,” she said.

“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.






Richard Godwin.


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 duck.

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 pen.

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.

 “Interesting name,” 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?”

“I do.”

“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.”

 “A beer and a Tequila,” she said.

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.”

“Room 100.”

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” while chewing.

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.”

“He’s loaded.”

“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.”

“Lucky you.”

“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.”


“Used flesh.”

“Fuck you.”

“Easy baby, we run with this trip we stay chilled, or we take another road down.”

“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 us all.”

“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.”

“Oh yeah?”

“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.”

“Women’s business.”

“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 forgot something.”


“My hat.”

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.”

“More tricks?”

“Yes, and then I drag you across the line.”

“What 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.

“That ain’t 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.



 Richard Godwin


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 alone.

Harry stood there looking down at it as Jocelyn scratched her ass through her nightie. 

“What the fuck is it?” she said.

“Don’t know.”

He grabbed a skewer and jabbed it.

“Hear that squeal? Sounds like a fucking pig.”

“How the fuck would a pig get in our sink, Harry?”

“Think it’s food, Jos?”

“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 go upstairs.”

“You wanna 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.”

“You never shave, Harry.”

“So the deal is dispatch this beast and I get your peach.”

Jocelyn nodded.

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.

He walked over to the sink where its head was rising from the filthy water.

It 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.

“I can’t see a body”, Harry said, peering down at it.

Jocelyn walked over to the sink.

“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 sink.

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.”

“Kill it.”

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.”

Just 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.

Harry stabbed it again, this time lodging the knife deep in its fur.

He waved it around on the end of his knife and it flew off the end and landed by the door.

It stood there jabbering and then ran at Jocelyn and sprayed her with yellow come.

She 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?” Harry said.

He went over to the cupboard and got out his flame thrower.

“Pass me the paraffin, Jos,” he said.

It 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 alight.

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 shoulder.

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.

“Nothing 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.

He cleaned his knife, polished it, and put it back in its case.

Then he got the body from the yard and put it on the floor.

Jocelyn came into the kitchen and stood there looking at it.

 “Smells good,” she said. “I want you to barbecue the sink beast.”

“Get your fine old sauces dripping.”

“They already are, baby.”

“I’ll spoon the flesh into your savage mouth.”

Jocelyn curled her tongue up to her lip as the light caught the gold stud in it.

And Harry started making supper.



Art by Lonni Lees 2014


Richard Godwin


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.

Turning 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 ear.

“Hey Joe,” he said. “Thought you’d left town, the amount of times I knocked on your door, how’s Mandy?”

“I’ve been busy, Mandy’s good.”                                                          

“I’m sure she is. You got work?”

“I 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 been doing.”

“Well here I am, Joe. I got a job going if you’re interested.”

“I dunno.”

“No 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.

“Joe, there’s a cool four K riding on this, you get half. Wanna be a loser all your life?”

He playfully jabbed Joe in the shoulder.

“Doing what?”

“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 see.”

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. 

“Darlin, I’m gonna get a job, I’m gonna get us out of here,” Joe said.

“An how you gonna do that?”

“You’ll see.”

“Joe, 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.”

He 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 his attention.

“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.”

“I wish you wouldn’t do that.”


“Put on your panties when another man’s fucked you in them.”

“They 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.

“I’m pregnant.”

“Is it mine?”

“Sure it’s yours, they all wear a rubber.”


“It’s yours.”

He reached out and touched her arm and she turned her head away.

“I want it,” he said.

“How we gonna bring a kid up?”

“I’ll make money.”

“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.”

“What future does our baby have, Joe, with you and me as parents to look after it?”

“Give up crack and it will live.”

“I’ll have to give up my career first.”

“Do it.”

“While you go and work in Wall Street?”

“Remember 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?”

“I read your note.”

“I ain’t doing it no more.”

“Give me till tonight.”

He 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.

“Does it matter?”

“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 keys.”

“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, and leave.”

“Simple as that?”

Rocco laid a steady hand on Joe’s shoulder.

“One thing I learned inside is not to go back in.”

“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.”

“That’s kind 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.”

“You don’t know. You ain’t a father yet, consider Mandy.”

Joe 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.

“Easy, 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.”

     “Is that what you got, style, shooting the guard?”

     “Screw him.”

     “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 that.”


     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.”

     Joe grabbed 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.


     Mandy stirred 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.”


     “It’s a loan.”

     “There’s blood on your shirt Joe, I saw it in the trash. You’re wounded.”

     “I’ll see a doctor when we get out of here. Come with me, Mandy.”

     “Loan. You got involved with Rocco didn’t you?”

     “Why do you think it’s Rocco?” She looked away. “Is it mine, Mandy?” Joe said.

     “It’s yours.”

     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 outside.

     “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 find you.”

     “No they won’t.”

     “Joe, I been keeping us afloat by letting other men screw me, what does that make us?”

     “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.”

     “Leave 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.”

     “What did?”

     “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 Rocco’s charity?”

     “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


Richard Godwin


          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.

I 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.

Still, he wasn’t a bad boss to work for. It was him who encouraged me to take the exams to become a chartered accountant. And that was partly the problem, while I studied at home after a long day’s work they partied. That and the bloody hangnail that I tried to remove again and again.


It was after a few weeks of noise that I made the decision I’d deal with them. I watched them in the street one Saturday afternoon. Their guests had left beer bottles on the pavement, and they were standing there laughing as I struggled to concentrate. She glanced up at the window, saw me and smirked. I’d never really noticed her face before, but now I saw it was cheap pretty. I mean her features weren’t bad, but the face was a slut’s. Her bra strap was showing.


It’s amazing what you find in someone’s dustbin. I learned a lot about them the following afternoon.

I’d watched them get in their car with two cases and drive off in the morning. I waited for Mrs. Jones next door to go and visit her daughter. The young woman beneath me was away on holiday and the couple who lived under the troublemakers were in the country. The weather was perfect, overcast and dark when I went out and stood behind the uncut hedge that shielded me from the street. It was easy, in one movement I bent over the small fence that divided the properties, opened their rubbish bin and lifted out two black sacks. Then I took them into the hall of my flat.

I was careful to leave everything as I’d found it. I wore gloves as I went through the contents. Apart from the food and the usual, there was a surprising amount of useful information. I took out the receipts and cards and began making notes.

They’d just celebrated Valentine’s Day and she’d bought some heart candles and sexy knickers from Anne Summers. She’d thrown the back of a prescription for some thrush ointment in the bin. It was stained with tea and gave me an idea. Friends had sent them housewarming cards, among them Gloria and Fred. My new neighbours were called Kevin and Molly. She came from Bristol and worked in Victoria.