Suppose it was a racist thing, calling her that.
Yellow Mama, I mean.
Meant no disrespect, though. She was Chinese or Japanese or somethin'. We
had no idea. So we just called her that.
Anyhow, she'd get down on her knees and suck your dick if the price was right.
She may have been Chinese or whatever but she knew cash and she was smart
and she wasn't going to suck your dick for nothin'. She wasn't comin' out on top, she wasn't doin' shit.
She'd fuck you, too, but the money, like with the head, had to be up front
and in her pocket 'fore she'd do a damn thing.
Girl knew fuckin' guns, too.
Girl really knew her some guns and she put that knowledge to good use. I know
cuz she took me off once and I ain't come back on her on account of the fact that I like breathin' and shit. Put that fuckin'
twelve in my face and racked the shit. I handed her my roll right then and there, hearin' that shit rack.
The thing of it is, she shouldn'ta got done the way she did. I mean, that
shit was fuckin' ice cold. Takin' them off was her mistake and it shouldn'ta gone past more than a beatin'.
But shit got back to HIM 'bout how she was talkin' shit about HIM. 'bout how
she said that she'd tried to fuck HIM but HIS dick wouldn't cooperate and shit, stayin' limp the entire time and how when
she finally did get him up, HE came 'fore they could even really do shit.
It was all a buncha shit, somethin' a dickhead in a Cards cap put in HIS ear
and HE couldn't let that stand.
And Yellow Mama, a little slow on the trigger that day, she got got. Beaten,
stabbed, her face cut up, her tits cut off, raped, burned, and fuckin' shot. Christ, man! It didn't have to be that way.
Even if she did say that, which she didn't, it didn't have to be that way.
See, cuz that girl, Yellow Mama, she was beautiful and, despite what she did,
for a time, she was mine.
So this here is what you might call a little bit of blowback shit, goin' boomerang
on your ass.
I should prolly put a coupla holes in y'all cuz of what you did, what you
helped along. But I need you to get in HIS ear again.
I need you to tell that boy to come on down to the street, if HE's man enough,
if HE's ready to take on someone his own size.
And 'fore you go, leave the Cards cap, dickhead.
The soldier is accused
of being derelict in his duties in a time of war. He is accused of allowing the prisoner to escape. And so he is found guilty
and he is sentenced to death by firing squad.
They march the soldier
out to the middle of the parade grounds, for all to see, and they ask him if he has any final words he would like to speak.
The soldier is stoic,
he is brave, and he declines to say anything.
The guns are raised,
the guns are aimed, and the guns are fired.
The killing shot, which
could have come from any of the rifles, is the one that the soldier takes to the forehead, the bullet shredding through skin,
bone, and eventually brain on its exit into the grass twenty feet behind the now-fallen form of the soldier.
The soldier's body is
carried away after being pronounced dead by a medic, taken to the morgue, where his fatigues and any personal effects will
be removed and sent to his family.
His bunk, even as his
body is being carried off the parade grounds, is being looted by those who once called him friend and now spit his name with the taste of traitor in their mouths.
It isn't any more than
an hour afterwards when weird, unexplainable things start to happen.
There's a low hum, constant.
It never gets louder, never grows softer.
Wait until the war is over.
. . .
The prisoner, gone for
four days, is back in his cell. He has no recollection of ever being gone and so he doesn't understand what his interrogators
are talking about when they ask him where he's been or how he got away in the first place.
And we're both a little older.
. . .
There's a sound of crying
coming from the parade grounds, in the exact spot where the soldier was executed.
Make a grave for the unknown
soldier. . . .
two guards find a rough outline of a soldier's body that disturbs the grass. In the center of the outline, sits a single white
Nestled in your hollow shoulder
. . .
Later that night, the
soldier's various former bunkmates swear that they see a man standing next to the soldier's bed. The figure, they say, glowed
briefly blue and his eyes were either white or red, depending on who is telling the story.
The items looted from
the soldier's foot locker are all returned by morning.
|Art by Steve Cartwright © 2012
by Christopher Grant
The pressure in the suit is dropping and I can feel myself slowly stepping away. You read that right. Stepping away.
Stepping away from this life or this world, this realm, whatever. It's like I'm shuddering, ripping apart little pieces of
me, like a piece of notebook paper. This piece going here, that one going there.
I'm in my house, back on Earth. My mother is there and she says that I have to get ready for school. Even though
I'm thirty-six years old, she says the bus is going to be here soon and I have to grab my backpack and stuff my books in there.
She kisses me on the top of my head and I'm back, drifting in the void, the air still seeping out.
I'm on another planet, looks like Mars. I'm not wearing my EVA suit. Why am I not wearing my suit? I should be wearing
my suit. I'm starting to panic when a woman comes up to me and puts her finger to my lips, as if to silence me, though I've
spoke no words. My mind calms. She's quite beautiful and her hair whips in the Martian wind.
I look down at the dial. It says I don't have much oxygen left. I wish I were on Mars with that woman right now.
There's a car speeding right at my friend Joe. He's been my friend since we were kids. In the real world, I know
that I saved him, that that's what solidified our friendship. But here, now, in this world, I can't move, my feet nailed to
the sidewalk and I watch Joe take the front bumper full on, watch him flip over the hood, over the roof of the car. Other
people rush to his side but I already know what they will discover. Joe is dead.
Three times over, I am swimming in the ocean. It's blue for as far as my eyes can see. Deep dark blue and I decide
to float on my back. Looking up at the sky, I see dark shapes moving amongst the white fluffy clouds. At first, I think I
must be seeing things but then I see them again. Small from this distance, there are at first only two of them, then there
are a half dozen and then more. I feel dread in the pit of my stomach but I feel awe in my mind and in my heart. What are
The stars look so beautiful out here and I feel my breathing start to come more rapidly, yet shallower. Not much
Twenty years ago. I sit on the stoop outside my apartment building and Cheryl Landis walks by. I have a crush on
her and she says that she knows that I like her and she likes me, too. She asks me to the Sadie Hawkins Day dance. I accept.
Somewhere, in my mind, I know that this is the girl that I will marry one day.
I think of Cheryl. Think of the kids. Wish I was back on Earth with them instead of losing oxygen out here.
I am standing over Cheryl, who is asleep in our bed. I look down at her and know I cannot touch her cheek, cannot
whisper that it will be all right. I am standing over Joanie, my daughter. She looks like she's having a good dream. I turn
around and see Joe, my son, named after my best friend. Joe sees me, asks me if I can get him a glass of water. I know I cannot.
I feel tears streaming down my face.
Sanchez Finds a Leg
by Christopher Grant
He pulls it out of the rubble of the building after the building's been demolished. It's a human leg.
Not one of those prosthetic legs but an honest-to-goodness, flesh and blood and bone human leg. He wonders who it
belongs to. It looks like a woman's leg, shaved and smooth-skinned. Sanchez takes the excavator and keeps digging, searching
for a torso or perhaps the leg's mate, but doesn't find anything else in the general vicinity. He's pretty certain the owner
of the leg must be dead but he doesn't find a body. Bricks and mortar and other debris and still nothing.
He stops digging and, during his lunch break, he smuggles the leg to his car, where he wraps it up in a blanket and
places it in the back seat, looking around repeatedly to make sure that he's not being watched.
The rest of the day, he keeps digging, searching for the body that the leg belongs to but he finds nothing.
It's spooky as shit, man.
In his apartment that evening, even with the television on, Sanchez sits in a chair, transfixed by the woman's leg,
which he has laid out on the couch. He smokes a cigarette and then lights another off the dying embers of the first without
even looking. He thinks about the woman that lost the leg and why she left her leg behind. More importantly, he wonders how
she could have simply disappeared. It's not like she could have gotten far without the leg.
He stares at the leg until his eyelids grow heavy and he falls asleep.
He has a strange dream that night. In it, a woman of about thirty-five comes up to him and gives him an apple pie,
asking about the leg. She says that it belongs to her grandmother, who comes out of a car parked halfway down the block. The
grandmother looks exactly like the woman with the apple pie. Grandma says "Thank you" and then pulls a knife out and starts
to stab the pie. Sanchez wakes up in a cold sweat and realizes that it's no longer night but early morning, just before sunrise.
He gets an idea and picks up his cell phone, dialing the local paper. He places an ad that reads, "Found: a woman's
leg. If lost, please contact." And then he gives his name and phone number.
He goes back to the demolished site and goes about his day, finding nothing more than bricks and mortar.
A few days later, his phone rings, but Sanchez cannot hear it. He's on the site of the demolished building, still
removing rubble, still not finding the body that belongs to the leg.
By his lunch break, he has four voice-mail messages and three missed calls, all from strange numbers. The four voice-mail
messages all sound frantic, as if the women on the other end are very concerned about the leg, as if it's a lost family member
or pet. Sanchez supposes that if he was missing a leg he'd be frantic, too.
When he calls the three numbers back, he sets up appointments with each woman. One of the women sounds like she's
old enough to be the grandmother in his dream from the first night he had the leg. A chill runs through him as he talks with
her, remembering that dream.
Later, he calls the four women from the voice messages back and makes appointments with them, as well.
When he comes home, Sanchez opens up the meat freezer that he's keeping the leg inside and says, "Perhaps we will
find your owner soon."
That night, he has a restless sleep. He keeps wondering if he's doing the right thing.
At first, he felt certain that he was doing something meaningful.
Reconnecting a leg with their owner is nothing to sneeze at, he told himself.
Now, he's not so certain. Was it possible that the owner, whoever she was, had simply abandoned the leg? What if
he was returning the leg to a neglectful owner? Shouldn't the leg get a say in this?
He tosses and turns and, when he finally falls asleep, his dreams are dark and contain that old lady again.
The first appointment is set for ten in the morning on Saturday. It's one of Sanchez's days off and he can conduct
the interview with the woman that arrives promptly, knocking on his door. He ushers her in and notes with some satisfaction
that she has both legs. He offers her a soda, which she turns down, and a seat on the couch while he sits in his chair.
"You have both legs, I see," he says to her.
She smiles but doesn't say anything. Sanchez believes she is a fraud and, even if she were the rightful owner of
the leg, he wouldn't give it to her.
After a moment of silence, in which he believes she is coming up with a good bullshit story, she says, "It actually
belongs to my roommate but she was too overcome with joy and I came for her. That and we couldn't figure out how to work the
crutches on your apartment's stairs. She's down in the car, though."
She walks over to the window and Sanchez joins her. She points down the block at a red Mazda. She says, "See?"
Sanchez looks out of the window and can see the red Mazda but he can't quite tell if there's someone inside. It looks
like there might be but he's not completely convinced.
"What kind of distinguishing marks does the leg have on it?" he asks the woman.
"Excuse me?" she says.
"Distinguishing marks," he says. "I want to get this leg back to the rightful owner and I need to know that I'm dealing
with the right person and . . ."
"Are you saying you don't believe me?"
Her tone is one of outrage and incredulity.
"Pretty much," Sanchez says and takes her by the arm, ushering her to the door. He opens it, deposits her in the
hallway. "Distinguishing marks."
When the woman doesn't answer, he slams the door in her face and locks it, using the safety chain as added insurance.
He goes and makes himself something to eat.
As he's eating his corned beef and pickle sandwich, Sanchez wonders if there are any distinguishing marks on the
leg. In the entire time he's had the leg, he has never examined it closely, instead settling on ruminating about the kind
of woman that would leave a valuable appendage such as a leg behind.
He pops the last piece of sandwich in his mouth, chews it up, washes it down with a cold root beer and opens up the
meat freezer. He pulls the leg out and takes a look. Besides being bluish-gray now, thanks to the freezer, he notices that
it appears as if the leg is starting to sprout hair and the toenails, no longer manicured, are starting to grow, as well.
Instead of being creeped out, Sanchez is fascinated and continues his examination, finding a mole behind the knee,
as well as an ankle tattoo that looks like it says, no, definitely says, "Bitch."
He puts the leg back into the freezer and walks across his apartment to take a piss before his next appointment.
She's twenty and has enormous tits. Not just like big or gigantic but enormous. Sanchez wonders how she can walk
around without hurting her back and offers her a seat on the couch. He can't stop looking at her breasts and she doesn't seem
She's got one of those New Jersey accents, though, and can't stop talking to save her life. This drives Sanchez straight
up the wall. If he could muzzle her, he'd be a happy boy.
"About the leg," he says, trying to interject and get them back on track with this appointment. She'd gone off and
was talking about her boyfriend, Sal, and how he dropped her off and should be coming up any minute. Sanchez wants to get
her in and out if some guy named Sal is coming up to the apartment.
"Oh, yeah, the leg," she says, with that annoying accent, and then laughs, which ends in a snort. "It's definitely
"How do you know?" Sanchez asks, hoping Sal isn't fleet of foot. The last thing he wants to do is get into an argument
with a guy named Sal from New Jersey.
"Cuz I just do," she says. And she's stopped being bubbly, giving Sanchez a stare.
"What does the leg look like?" he asks her.
"What does it look like?" she asks. "It looks like a fucking leg."
Sanchez peels his eyes from her tits and looks down to see that she's got both of hers.
New Jersey. Body parts. A guy named Sal. It's starting to make sense now.
"Uh," Sanchez says. "Of course it looks like a leg. Um . . . Hey, can I show you something?"
"Sure," Miss New Jersey says.
Sanchez waits for her to get up and tells her that it's in the hallway outside his apartment. The bimbo's not too
bright and says, "Okay."
And another one bites the dust as he slams the door, using every lock on the door and praying that Sal isn't armed.
After two hours of hiding underneath the covers and his pillows, Sanchez believes that it's safe to come out.
Someone's beating on the door.
Cautiously, he walks over to it and looks out the peephole.
It's a mouse of a woman, with slightly-graying hair and not the New Jersey bimbo or her Sopranos-wannabe boyfriend.
Sanchez says, "Just a minute," straightens his hair and then unlocks the door, throwing it open to allow the gray-haired
mouse woman into his apartment.
"Mr. Sanchez?" she says.
"Yes," he says.
"So nice to meet you," she says and takes a seat on the couch.
Sanchez can't help but notice that this is the third woman in a row that has both of her legs.
"Mr. Sanchez?" the mousy woman says again.
"May I see the leg?"
Sanchez can't say no to this woman. She's so sweet and polite and not at all like the previous two. So he nods and
takes her to the kitchen, to the meat freezer and pulls out the leg.
The woman examines it, looks at the mole on the back of the knee, at the tattoo on the ankle that says, "Bitch",
and hands it back to Sanchez.
"Not the leg I'm looking for," she says. She walks out of the kitchen before Sanchez can even place the leg back
in the meat freezer and out of the apartment before he has the lid closed.
How many severed legs can there be out there?
Sanchez sleeps fitfully that night. He keeps thinking about the sadness of the mousy woman, the threats of the Jersey
Bimbo and the possibility that he had slammed the door in the face of a woman that was just trying to help a friend. He keeps
playing each encounter over in his mind, trying to decide if he's done the right thing, denying each of them, even if the
last one really denied herself. Should he have even placed the ad in the first place? What if he had never gone to work the
day that he dug up the leg? Then all this would have never happened and he could get on with his life.
He thinks ahead to the next day, Sunday, when he'll end up meeting four more women, all of them coming between the
hours of ten in the morning and one in the afternoon.
At least my dinner won't be ruined, Sanchez thinks. He rolls over and tries to get comfortable.
The alarm won't shut up. A constant beep, beep, beep, beep, beep until finally Sanchez slaps it quiet and yanks the
cord out of the wall.
His mouth tastes weird, like cardboard or something similar. His throat kind of hurts and his balls itch. He takes
care of number three right away but has no remedy for number two and doesn't want to get up and fix number one.
He's set the alarm for eight in the morning so he can eat breakfast and tidy up a little before the first customer
(he's starting to think of them as customers now) of the day arrives.
"I suppose," Sanchez mumbles and rolls out from under the covers, shuffling into the bathroom, where he takes a piss
and flushes then washes his hands and scratches his ass.
In the kitchen, he starts to pour himself some cereal but stops in the middle of doing so.
He looks over at the meat freezer.
He has to make sure it's still there.
He opens the lid and he sighs relief. It's still there.
He looks at it for a while and then goes back to pouring his cereal, then pouring milk on the cereal. He gets a spoon,
places the spoon in the bowl, and sets the bowl on the table. He goes back over to the freezer and takes the leg from inside
and places it in the chair next to him, careful to make sure it sits just right, so that it doesn't fall to the floor.
"How was your night, baby?" he asks the leg.
Sanchez acts like he gets a response and smiles. "Me, too," he says, and finishes his bowl of cereal.
The first woman today looks like a secretary. She says she's just coming from church. Sanchez notes that, like the
three yesterday, she has both of her legs.
"You have both of your legs," he says to her.
She just nods and smiles.
"Why do you think this leg belongs to you?" he asks the woman.
"Because I do," she says.
Not this shit again, Sanchez thinks.
"Is there any particular reason why?" he asks.
"No," she says.
"Would you like to see the leg?" Sanchez asks.
She nods and smiles.
Sanchez stands and she's unsure if she should follow suit. Sanchez doesn't give a shit one way or the other. He can
go get the leg and bring it in or he can lead her into the kitchen and she can look for herself.
"Stay right there," he says and she just nods and smiles.
He retrieves the leg but not before taking it to the side of the kitchen and kissing the thigh. "I hope this isn't
the last time we see each other," he tells the leg. The leg says nothing but Sanchez looks like he's getting another message.
Into the living room with the leg and the woman screams.
Sanchez tries to calm her down but she's having none of it, up on her feet, trying to get to the door. She's screaming
as she fiddles with the knob.
"It's not it," she cries. "What have you done with my leg? That's not Alice!"
She manages to get the door open and she's out in the hallway and then down the stairs before Sanchez can even register
that she has a name for whatever leg it is that she's looking for.
He looks the leg up and down. "Nope," he says. "You're definitely not Alice."
Sanchez looks at his watch. The next appointment isn't for another thirty minutes.
The hair on the leg is starting to get unseemly and the nails, too.
He takes the leg into the bathroom and picks up his razor and the can of shave cream off the table next to the sink.
He takes the leg over to the bathtub/shower and props it up against the far wall. He takes the can of shave cream and shoots
a little into his hand and then grabs the leg and lathers it up gently.
When he's satisfied with the coat of shave cream, he takes the razor and very gently runs it from north to south
on the leg. Again and again, taking the hairs with it, until finally, he's shaved the leg and it is the smooth-skinned beauty
that he found in the rubble on the fortuitous day.
He towels the leg off and notes, with some pride, that he has done a magnificent job. No nicks at all.
Now for the toenails. He props the leg up again and goes into his bedroom, into his sock drawer and pulls the toenail
Back into the bathroom and the leg has fallen over into the bathtub.
"No!" Sanchez screams and rushes to the side of the leg. He picks it up and cradles the leg, as if it were a favorite
child or pet.
"I'm so sorry, baby," he says and runs the water, washing the leg off, as if some kind of germs have infected it,
having touched the bathtub/shower floor.
He towels the leg off again and smiles.
He takes out the toenail clipper and gets to work.
There's someone at the door.
Sanchez is ready for them and opens the door to find a man and a beautiful woman standing there, looking nervous.
"Hello," Sanchez says. "You must be Katherine and . . ."
"Abe," the man says.
"Abe," Sanchez repeats. After a moment, he says, "Well, please, come in. Have a seat on the couch." He shuts the
door behind the couple, who take the proffered seat and still look very nervous.
"So," Sanchez says, sitting down in his chair, "tell me a little bit about yourselves."
Abe and Katherine look at each other and Sanchez can see the gulp that both of them take, the air and spit combination
going down their throats. It's almost as if they don't want to have this conversation.
"Well, um . . ." Katherine says.
"Uh," Abe says.
"Would you like to see the leg?" Sanchez says.
Both Abe and Katherine laugh sheepishly and simultaneously say, "Yes."
Sanchez goes to retrieve the leg from the meat freezer. As he pulls it out, he holds the thigh close to his mouth.
"These two are fucking strange," he whispers to the leg. He gazes around the corner at the couple in the living room. "Really
He composes himself and brings the leg into the living room.
Katherine stands up while Abe remains seated.
"Is that it?" Katherine asks, as if there's going to be another leg behind door number two or something.
"Yes," Sanchez says.
"Can I hold it?" Katherine asks.
"Sure," Sanchez says but, almost immediately after saying the word, he feels a pang of regret in his stomach. He
reaches out the leg to Katherine, who takes it in her arms as if it were a newborn baby.
"So smooth," she says.
Inside, Sanchez beams with pride, as if Katherine is complimenting him on his job of shaving the leg.
"What's this?" Katherine says.
Abe stands and says, "What is it, honey?"
They're both looking at the ankle tattoo that reads "Bitch."
"This isn't the leg," Katherine says, her mood suddenly gone sour.
"What do you mean?" Abe says.
"This isn't the fucking leg!" Katherine says. "Not the fucking goddamn leg!"
She's going ballistic and her eyes are starting to fill with flame. Literally.
Before Sanchez knows what the fuck is happening, Katherine, or whatever was supposed to be Katherine, has transformed
into a beast from hell. Her head, previously full of luscious black hair, contorts itself and the hair falls out of her scalp
and onto the living room floor. A ridge of spines pop out from her nose and head back across her bald scalp to the back of
her head. Her clothes rip and her breasts go from being full to flat, her arms become more muscular than they were and end
in claws and the lower half of her body now sports three legs with a hoof at the end of each leg.
She's swinging the leg around and Sanchez is wincing with each revolution.
"Don't . . ." he starts to say but can't manage to get the rest of the words out.
"It's not the leg?" Abe asks. Abe is still normal, everyday Abe.
A noise of frustration builds and builds in the room until, finally, the thing that was Katherine bellows and begins
to break down and cry.
Abe tries to comfort his wife or girlfriend or whatever she is.
Sanchez is unfazed. "Can I have the leg back?" he asks.
Sanchez takes ten minutes to clean up after Abe and Katherine leave.
Once she calmed down, Katherine reverted back to her human form, her breasts popping back out, her third leg retracting
back into her body. Her hair didn't grow back, however. Even though she was bald, she still looked beautiful. Sanchez found
it difficult to avert his eyes, to not stare at the naked woman in his living room. He retreated to his bedroom closet and
found a trench coat and handed it to Abe, who helped Katherine into it.
"Don't worry about returning the coat," Sanchez said.
"Thank you," Abe said and ushered Katherine out.
"You'll find the leg you're looking for," Sanchez had called after them.
After they leave, Sanchez looks at the leg and makes sure that the Katherine thing didn't do any damage to it. He
sighs with relief when he sees that smooth skin has not been punctured or mutilated in any way.
Sanchez cleans up the hair and the clothes and the melted shoes, which he has to use a putty knife to scrape off
the wood floor.
"What a bunch of fucking weirdoes," Sanchez says to the leg, which he has sat in his chair. "Like I was going to
let you leave with them. Thankfully, you've got that tattoo or it might have been curtains for you, baby. Maybe literally.
I think that bitch probably has body parts for furniture and decoration, don't you? Yeah, probably that, too. Good observation."
When he finishes, Sanchez stands and looks at his handiwork. Not too shabby. You can barely see that there's been
a conflagration of clothes and melted shoes, to say nothing of the premature baldness thing.
"Let's go have lunch," he says to the leg. "And, yes, you can have a pickle this time."
The knock comes while Sanchez is on the toilet.
He's got the leg in the other room, on the bed. He wasn't going to bring the leg in while he did his business. They
might be getting close but they don't know each other well enough yet to play “I'll Show You Mine.”
The knock is loud. The knock is firm. Sanchez sighs and wipes and flushes and washes his hands and grabs the leg
off the bed on his way to the door.
The woman standing there is three hundred pounds and sweating like the proverbial pig. She's dabbing her forehead
with a handkerchief.
"Is that it?" she asks.
As if he's got a collection of severed legs.
But he doesn't say that. Perhaps he should but he doesn't say that.
Instead, he says, "Yes. This is the leg."
Near as he can tell, she, like all the other before her, has both of her legs.
And, even if she didn't, Sanchez is pretty certain that the leg he holds in his hand isn't hers.
For one, she's a black woman. The leg's not a black woman's leg; it's white.
Well, it's tanned but it would be white if whomever it belonged to in the first place hadn't gotten the tan.
Second, it's thinner than either of her two legs is. It just is. There's no getting around that.
And, as if to confirm that it's not her leg, she says, "That's not my leg."
And turns on her heel and walks away towards the staircase.
All this way, interrupting his time on the throne, just to say, "That's not my leg," and walk away.
"What's wrong with these people?" Sanchez asks the leg.
He walks back into his apartment and shuts the door behind him.
"Yeah," he says. "No doubt about that."
And now there's just one woman left.
What was her name again?
Sanchez thinks about it for a minute. He puts the leg back in the meat freezer. He can't remember.
He sits down in his chair. She's not going to be here for another half hour at least. Plenty of time to remember.
And that's what he thinks about for thirty minutes, then for forty-five. An hour passes, he still can't remember
the woman's name.
There's a knock at the door.
He gets up from the chair and opens the door and it floods back at him.
"Molly," he says, as if they’re old friends.
Molly is nineteen, has black hair, tattoos of a blazing skull on her right bicep and an eagle on her left. She's
got a nose ring and a lip piercing. She's wearing a black tank top, black cargo pants, black combat boots. Just like all the
rest, she's got both legs.
Molly sneers at Sanchez. She doesn't want to be here any longer than she has to. She was sent here. She sits on the
"So where's the leg?" she says.
Sanchez has a bad vibe about this. It's like he knows that this is the one.
"Can I get you something to drink?" he says. "I know it's a long walk up the stairs. Sorry this place doesn't have
"Just the leg," Molly says.
"Okay," Sanchez says. But he still doesn't budge from the living room.
"Like, now?" Molly says.
Sanchez finally goes to the meat freezer, finally opens the lid and reaches in and grabs the leg.
"This is it, baby," he says. And kisses the knee.
He returns to the living room with the leg in his hand.
Molly stands straight up, ramrod straight. Like she's been jolted off the couch and says, "That's it! That's Megan's
"Megan?" Sanchez says. "Who's Megan?"
"Let me see that," Molly says, shoving Sanchez in the chest and ripping the leg away from him. She reads the tattoo
on the ankle that says "Bitch" and finds the mole behind the knee. "This is fucking it!"
"Who's Megan?" Sanchez says, trying to get his air back.
Molly ignores him completely and heads for the door.
Sanchez panics. He looks around him, to his left, to his right. He finds a pair of scissors and a paperweight.
He settles on the paperweight and smacks Molly in the back of the head with it as she touches the knob of the door.
He smacks her again, the first blow not taking her down sufficiently.
She goes to her knees but maintains her grip on Megan's leg. Sanchez winds up and hits Molly again. This one to the
temple as Molly turns her head to glare at him and she's down on the floor, the leg tumbling from her grasp.
Molly's not moving.
Sanchez looks at her for a long time. A good two or three minutes. He doesn't know if she's still breathing. He doesn't
think so but he can't tell. His mind is on fire. He's never done anything remotely like this before.
He grabs Megan's leg and places it on the couch, out of the reach of Molly, who he's confident, if she had the chance,
wouldn't hesitate to beat him with the leg.
She's definitely still breathing but it's shallow.
Sanchez's mind screams out for the scissors.
The leg is back in the meat freezer.
Molly is tied to Sanchez's bed. He's placed duct tape over her mouth. He found some rope that he didn't even know
he had in the bathroom. He tied her wrists good and tight and then placed the duct tape on her mouth.
He's unsure if she's going to wake up anytime soon or if she's out for a while. Or, for that matter, if she'll even
make it through the night.
But he had to do something. She was going to take Megan's leg away and he was never going to see it again, let alone
meet its rightful owner, to judge her character and whether it's right for the leg to be reunited.
So he had to do something and he did it and he's got no regrets.
He keeps telling himself that he did the right thing.
And after an hour, he doesn't feel the need to tell himself that anymore.
He knows it.
Sanchez sleeps on the couch and dreams peaceful dreams. One of them is about Megan, who thanks him for beating Molly
down. She tells him what Molly is really like, that what he saw of her was just the tip of the iceberg.
She tells him about how Molly cut her leg off with a hacksaw the moment that she saw that she had gotten a tattoo.
She says that she didn't think that Molly would ever see it, as long she kept her socks on. One night, she says, they got
playful and Molly found the tattoo and then beat her and pulled out the hacksaw from beneath their bed and cut her leg off.
Sanchez smiles and knows he did the right thing.
In the morning, a phone rings and it wakes Sanchez out of his peaceful sleep. He wakes up and realizes that it's
Monday. That he's supposed to be at the site today. Is it his phone?
"Yeah," he says, answering while wiping the crusties out of his eyes.
"It's eleven o'clock, man," says Victor. Victor is the dude that logs everyone in. "You coming in today?"
Sanchez shakes his head, as if Victor can see, and then says, "Nah, man. I'm not doing so well. Got a stomach thing,
Victor says, " 'Kay, but you're going to lose a day's pay for not calling in, man."
"Yeah," Sanchez says. "Sorry about that, man. I think it's one of those twenty-four hour things. I should be okay
" 'Kay," Victor says and then hangs up.
Molly needs to go by tomorrow, Sanchez thinks, running a hand through his hair. Meanwhile, he’s gotta piss.
He walks through the kitchen to the bedroom and notices that Molly has her eyes open and is struggling with the rope
at her wrists. Sanchez keeps going all the way to the bathroom, takes a piss, washes his hands and comes back into the bedroom.
"What should I do with you?" he says.
Molly mumbles something that Sanchez is sure is "Let me go, motherfucker."
Sanchez just smiles.
"I don't think that's going to happen," he says.
An hour later, after eating lunch with Megan's leg across from him, two pickles on the plate in front of it, he still
hasn't decided what to do with Molly.
Megan's leg has been no help, remaining mute the entire time.
All Sanchez knows is that he has to figure it out by tonight, no later, or he's not going to have a job. He also
knows he can't let her go. She'd be at the nearest police precinct house and he'd be in cuffs before he could run very far.
There's plenty of room in the meat freezer, says one part of Sanchez's brain. It's the reptilian part, he knows that
much. And it makes a lot of sense. But he doesn't want Molly anywhere near Megan. Not after what she did to her.
His car has a decent-sized trunk and the river has plenty of bodies in it.
Still the reptile speaking.
The rational part of his mind speaks up.
You've never killed anyone before, it says. Do you really think you can do this?
Yeah, I can, the reptilian part says. She did something no one should ever be allowed to do to another human being.
She needs to pay.
Rational speaks again: That was just a dream.
Dreams are more real than reality.
Whoa! Who was that? Reptile and Rational both look around and can't find the source of this statement.
Sanchez holds his head and says, "Stop! All of you shut up for a minute! There's too much noise!"
And then another phone rings.
It's coming from Molly's left front pants pocket.
Sanchez climbs onto the bed and thrusts his hand inside the pocket, which Molly reacts negatively to.
He pulls the phone out and the ringtone is Britney Spears's “Toxic.”
He flips the phone open and puts it to his ear.
"Molly?" the voice on the other end says. It's a woman's voice. Perhaps Megan.
"This is Sanchez," Sanchez says.
"Who's Sanchez?" the voice asks.
"Is this Megan?" he says.
"How do you know my name?"
"I have your leg," he says.
There's silence on the other end and then the call terminates.
He dials hits *69 and the phone on the other end rings and rings and rings without anyone answering.
He paces back and forth and has a cigarette and looks in on Molly, who's still struggling with the ropes, and then
consults Megan's leg.
And then he's back in the bedroom and he rips the tape off of Molly's mouth.
"Listen to me," he says. "I don't want to kill you and you don't want me to kill you. So here's the deal. I want
to know the truth and then I want you to call Megan and I want you to tell her what we're going to do. But first the truth.
Why is Megan's leg in my meat freezer in the first place? What the fuck did you do to her?"
Molly sneers again. It's like yesterday. Sanchez backhands her and her teeth and gums bleed and she just seems to
get off on it.
"More, bitch," she says. She actually wants him to beat the shit out of her and, for a minute, Sanchez contemplates
it. Why not? Beat the shit out of her, kill her, even, and get her out of the way. Track down Megan. Return the leg and all
will be right with the world. Molly will be out of Megan's life. Megan will be away from an abusive girlfriend and Sanchez
will be a hero.
"The truth," Sanchez says as he calms down.
"I want you to smack me around," Molly says.
"No," Sanchez says and sits down on the end of the bed.
Molly lashes out with her foot but Sanchez catches it and stops her from inflicting any damage.
"The truth," he says, one last time.
"Fuck you," Molly says.
Sanchez takes another piece of duct tape off the roll and places it, with some trouble (Molly moves her head around
and attempts to bite him), over her mouth.
He takes the phone and goes into the other room, where he sits down and dials the number in the phone for Megan.
The phone rings again and again. Sanchez imagines Megan on the other end, looking at her phone as it rings again
and again. He imagines what she's doing, fretting that there's some weird guy on the other end of the line, saying he's got
her leg and looking down where it used to be. He wonders if she can still feel it. A phantom leg. He's heard of that phenomenon
and he can only assume that it exists.
The phone continues to ring.
Ten, fifteen, twenty rings and then . . .
"Hello?" She sounds nervous, meek.
"Megan," Sanchez says. And, before she can hang up, he says, "Don't hang up. My name is Sanchez."
"You said that before," Megan says. Her voice now has an edge of sarcasm to it. Sanchez smiles, impressed by her
"I know what you must be thinking and I know that this must be strange but I have your leg," he says.
"You said that, too." She’s getting fed up with this charade now. "What do you want from me?"
Sanchez doesn't know what to say. "Um, nothing. Um . . ."
"So why are you calling me?"
You'd think she'd want her leg back.
"I thought maybe you'd want your leg back," he says.
Really? What's going on with this chick?
"May I ask why you don't want your leg back?" Sanchez asks.
"Look at all the trouble it's caused me," Megan says. She's confident as fuck now. "I never should have gotten that
tattoo in the first place. And then . . ." She trails off.
"Then Molly found out and cut off your leg with a hacksaw?" Sanchez says.
"How the fuck do you know that?"
A chill runs up Sanchez's spine. His dream was right. It wasn't a dream, though, he realizes now. It was a premonition.
Take that, rational mind.
"Uh . . ."
"Where's Molly?" Megan asks.
"She's . . . busy," Sanchez says.
"Busy doing what?"
He decides to level with her. "I have her tied up to my bed. I hit her with a paperweight. She was going to leave
with your leg. I couldn't let her do that."
"What the fuck are you talking about?"
Sanchez spills the entire story: finding the leg in a building that had been demolished, how he brought the leg home
and put an ad in the paper. About how Molly must have seen the ad and made an appointment with him to look at the leg. About
how she said that it was Megan's leg and how she was going to leave with it. He even tells her about the dream and how that's
how he knows about the hacksaw and all that.
"What's your address?" Megan asks when he finishes.
"Because I'm coming over."
Sanchez gives her his address. The phone line goes dead.
He wonders if he should have shut the fuck up.
Into the bedroom.
"Listen up," Sanchez says to Molly. "I was just on the phone with Megan. She's coming over. She should be here pretty fucking quick, too, if I had
Molly mumbles something that Sanchez can't make out. He rips the tape off her lips and she screams bloody murder
about how that hurt.
"What did you say?" Sanchez asks Molly.
"I said, 'Now you're going to pay, motherfucker.' Megan is no bitch to be played around with."
Sanchez had intended on cutting Molly loose but now he's rethought that track and he's leaving her right where she
is. He rips another piece of tape off of the roll and replaces the previous strip. Molly's not fast enough to attempt a bite
at him this time and the new strip goes on smoothly.
Sanchez is sweating.
He doesn't understand any of this.
He looks at the leg.
"What's going on?" he asks it.
The leg says nothing. It's as if it has gone mute now. It doesn't even want a pickle and it always wants a pickle.
Twenty minutes. That's how long it takes her to get from wherever she was to his front door. Sanchez can't believe
she was able to negotiate the stairs of the apartment building with just the one leg. And how exactly did she get in the building
in the first place? He never buzzed her in. Now that he thinks of it, he never buzzed any of the women that have come for
Did she just sneak in while someone held the door open? Did they take pity on her because of her having only one
leg? Is she a Jedi and did she use some kind of mind trick?
Her knock is two raps and the side of her fist.
Sanchez wipes his hands and then draws his forearm across his forehead. "This is it," he mumbles.
He opens to the door to find a woman of about twenty-five. He looks down and sees that, indeed, she only has one
leg. She is dressed in white T-shirt and a pink skirt that hides her stump. A pair of crutches, the ones with the cuffs, hold
"I'm Megan," she says, as if she needs introduction.
"I'm Sanchez," he says.
He feels himself floating backwards, through the living room, towards the kitchen. He almost makes it there, too,
but ends up crashing into the door frame that separates the two rooms.
Megan comes through the front door and shuts it behind her. She's better than a professional on those crutches.
"Where's Molly?" she says. Her voice is so far away from the meek woman that he first talked to that Sanchez doesn't
even recognize it.
There's a muffled cry from the bedroom.
"I'll be in, in a second, Molly," Megan says.
Sanchez pulls himself up and dodges a fist from the one-legged woman. Her hand explodes through the wall where Sanchez's
head was a half-second ago.
This bitch knows kung-fu?
She pivots and balances herself on her crutches and roundhouse kicks Sanchez right in the jaw.
He feels his knees start to buckle and sees stars. He's staggered but not out. At least not until she kicks him in
the jaw again.
Then he's flat on his back and can't seem to get up. Out sounds like
a good word for what he's experiencing.
Megan maneuvers herself around his sprawled body and through the kitchen, into the bedroom.
She's ripped the tape off of Molly's mouth and Sanchez can hear the two of them talking as Megan attempts to untie
Sanchez tries to sit up but his head is woozy. The room feels like it's underwater.
He feels like he could vomit at any time.
He knows there isn't much time left for him to do something but he doesn't know what he's capable of. It feels like
a train has hit him.
He finally makes it to a sitting position, checks to make sure he has all of his teeth. He can hear a little better
"I don't have a fucking knife, Molly," Megan says, her voice sounding more and more like she can take care of herself.
Sanchez wonders if he might have been mistaken about what really happened to Megan's leg.
Thinking about Megan's leg gives him an idea.
And as Megan comes into the kitchen, assuming that Sanchez is still laid out, Sanchez swings Megan's own leg as if
it were the Savoy Special straight into her face.
Sanchez is pretty sure he's broken Megan's nose. And she hit the tile pretty fucking quick. And hard.
But she also managed somehow to get Molly loose. Maybe she used her teeth on the rope. Sanchez was certain that Megan
was coming back into the kitchen for a knife or the scissors that's in the living room.
Sanchez flies across the room . . . again. This time, he collides with the kitchen table, knocking it over and against
He's still clutching Megan's leg (the disembodied one).
Molly fucking knows kung-fu, too?
She stands over her fallen comrade.
She can hear Sanchez approaching and turns around to feel the same Louisville Slugger bash her in the left cheekbone.
She does a sort of flip through the air, kind of a double axel.
Molly lands right next to Megan, who is struggling to get to her feet, er, foot. And crutches, he guesses.
For a second, Sanchez thinks that he should take pity on her. Help her up. Straighten this whole thing out.
Then he looks down and sees blood on his shirt. It's coming from his nose. And then he feels the ache in his jaw.
Fuck it, he thinks, and sweeps the leg out from under Megan, then rips away her crutches and tosses them across the
Molly is back up a moment after she hits the tile and watches as that bastard Sanchez kicks Megan's leg out from
under her and throws her crutches across the kitchen.
She waits the briefest of seconds, waiting for just the right angle and then
. . .
Sanchez turns and finds the floor empty where Molly was and then realizes why.
. . . up into the air and Molly's foot makes contact with Sanchez's forehead, driving him backwards, tripping over
Megan's outstretched leg, colliding with the wall, dropping a shelf of collectible spoons onto his head.
Sanchez's grip on Megan's ex-leg loosens and the light slowly goes out and he slips into unconsciousness.
When he wakes up, Molly is gone. Megan is gone. The crutches are gone.
And Megan's leg, her ex-leg . . .
. . . is gone.
Later still, Sanchez looks in the mirror as he tends to his cuts, checking again to make sure that he still
has all of his teeth. He spits blood. And
it's only then that he notices that they've taken something with them.
Sanchez's scream is deafening.
But not for Sanchez.
SANCHEZ, MOLLY AND MEGAN (and THE LEG) will return in THE SEARCH FOR SANCHEZ'S EAR, coming soon.
What is she? Eighteen, nineteen. Whatever it is, at least she's legal. Looks good in that short green skirt with
the thigh-high stockings, striped like fucking candy canes. Looks just like a fucking elf. I'd love to be her Santa.
And then, just like that, my thoughts are interrupted by Jimmy. Slaps his hand down on the table and gives me that
look. The one that says, "I can't believe that you're still sitting here, wasting my fucking time, get off your ass now!!!"
All work and no play for me.
What's her name again? Holly, I think.
I look at my watch as I stand up and give Jimmy a smile. The one that says, "I'm going now, boss, I'll be back with
results, boss, you can count on me, boss." I fucking hate playing subservient chicken shit. One of these days . . .
The party, according to my watch, will probably still be in full swing when I get back from dealing with the latest
Sam, that's his name, the latest fuck-up. Couldn't get the coke off the boat in time. Was supposed to be off-loaded
and then taken to a warehouse last night. At noon today, there was still coke on the boat, still no business being put into
action and still no Sam.
Sam should have a bullet with his name on it. He's got at least a hell of a beating coming.
I grab Wallace and we grab our coats and the two of us head over to the docks. Fucking cold enough out tonight to
freeze your cock off. No snow on the fucking ground but plenty cold to go around. The fucking docks are done up in red and
white Christmas lights.
Sam's in his office, at least that's what one of the idiots that works for him says.
And, sure-fucking-enough, there's Sam, reading a newspaper and smoking a cigar.
In that moment, it's all I can do to not yank my piece and slam one through his forehead.
"Coke's gone," he says behind his newspaper.
"Excuse me?" I say.
"Ya heard me," Sam says, flipping a page, reading what's on the backside of the page he was just reading.
"We had a deal," I say.
"Had being the operative word." The cigar smoke is making my stomach
even queasier than it was.
"What the fuck am I supposed to tell Jimmy?" I say.
"That you're a fuck-up?" Sam says. "Just a suggestion."
I want to kill this motherfucker so badly.
Wallace actually pulls his gun. And then it's a cacophony of guns being racked. To Sam, it's more like a symphony.
"I'd probably put that away if I were you," Sam tells Wallace, sweet as fucking pie, the newspaper still up, Sam's
eyes still scanning the thing. Wallace puts the gun back in his coat pocket.
Sam sets the newspaper aside and puts his cigar in an ashtray. He gives me a look like he wants to make everything
"Look, kid," he says, "this is the way business is sometimes. You said Jimmy'd give me three million. I found a guy
that wanted what I had for five. I'm not going to sell myself or my guys short, especially when we did all the work to get
it into the country. Plus, there's always next time. Tell Jimmy I wanted more and found it. Tell Jimmy that, next time, it'll
cost at least five million. Tell Jimmy to go fuck himself and join up with me. I could use a guy like you. Ambitious, strong-headed,
up-and-coming, the future. Think about it. But that's the best you're gonna get out of me tonight. Merry Christmas."
All my plans, the ones for Holly and myself and a nice fuck back at my apartment, the ones for my future making easy
money off dead-end junkies, the ones that would have me on a beach somewhere not ever having to worry about where my next
dollar was coming from? Down the fucking toilet.
What are you supposed to do in a situation like this? Can't shoot Sam, even if he deserves it. You do, you're dead
before he hits the fucking ground. Can't cry. And damn sure can't go back to Jimmy.
So you fucking go back to the car, tell Wallace to do whatever the fuck he feels like doing, I'll catch a cab back
to my place.
And as the cab pulls up outside my apartment, snow starts falling, which makes the packing go that much quicker.
Shit that used to matter this morning when I got up and pulled on my boxers is meaningless tonight. One bag full of clothes.
Fucking ditch the piece, leave it on the bed, whatever. Got my cash, got my credit cards, got my money making a move from
one bank account to a brand new one and I've got a ticket waiting for me at the counter when I get to the airport.
Except I'm not getting to the airport, am I? Not when Jimmy is waiting outside my door with fucking Wallace behind
Merry Christmas to me.
|Art by Brian Beardsley © 2013
HOLY HALLOWEEN, BATMAN
this putz, this six-foot, five-inch dickhead comes strolling into the store, dressed like
Batman, I shit you not.
Yeah, it's Halloween but so the
And he's looking around the place, he's going
up and down the aisles and we only have the four aisles in the store. Yeah, it's a small
store but we're a corner store in a Wal-Mart world, okay?
anyway, he's going up and down, like he's looking for something and I know exactly what
he's looking for but he ain't getting it. It's sitting right next to me on the counter, behind the two and half inch
thick security glass. If he wants it, he's gonna have to do something fancy. And Batman, this
Batman, he ain't about the fancy.
So he keeps looking
and I decide, what the hell, fuck with him a little.
I call out from behind the glass, "Shouldn't you be out looking for The Joker or Mr. Freeze
Batman startles. Batman don't startle but this
Batman, he jumps when he hears my voice.
amateur. What the hell is he doing in my place, trying to take the till or the safe, looking
like this, jumping like that?
So Mr. Six-Foot, Five-Inch Batman,
he shrugs, trying to cover for the leap that almost put him on the ceiling, right? He shrugs.
Okay. Now here's where the shit gets crazy. Almost on cue, in comes The Boy Wonder. I shit
you not. So I got Batman and Robin, the caped crusaders, in my store. Only this Robin ain't
no Boy Wonder; he's a she. But she's like almost as tall as Batman. She's lanky, too. She
looks like you could probably reach over and snap her arm in two with your pinky.
But she's got the balls that he ain't. She comes over to the security glass and pulls her
piece and taps on the glass like she's ready to blast through.
"The cash, man," she says. Her voice, it's kind of high-pitched and, at that height, of
course it is.
just sit behind the security glass and smile. You gotta admit that she's got heart. I reach
under the counter and hit the buzzer for the cops and then pull out my twelve gauge and level it back at her.
"Commissioner Gordon and his pals are on the way. What you wanna do?" I say to her.
She looks at the twelve, looks at her puny .38, looks over at Batman, who has probably
shit his drawers at this point, and says, "Come on, Bruce. Let's go find an easier place."
And they walk out of the store and into the dark night.
Christopher Grant is a writer of noir, crime and bizarro fiction.
He is also the editor and publisher of A Twist Of Noir, Eaten Alive: Zombie Stories and
Alternate Endings, all of which can be found easily on the interwebs.