Yellow Mama Archives

Justin A. Swartz
Home
Abbott, Patricia
Aclin, Ken
Adhikari, Sudeep
Ahern, Edward
Alan, Jeff
Aldrich, Janet M.
Allen, M. G.
Allen, Nick
Allison, Shane
Ammonds, Phillip J.
Anderson, Peter
Andreopoulos, Elliott
Anick, Ronald
Anonymous 9
Arab, Bint
Arkell, Steven
Ashley, Jonathan
Aymar, E. A.
Ayris, Ian
Babbs, James
Baber, Bill
Bagwell, Dennis
Baird, Meg
Bakala, Brendan
Baker, Bobby Steve
Baker, Nathan
Balaz, Joe
Baltensperger, Peter
BAM
Barber, Shannon
Barnett, Brian
Bates, Jack
Baugh, Darlene
Baumgartner, Jessica Marie
Beale, Jonathan
Beck, George
Beckman, Paul
Beloin, Phil
Benet, Esme
Bennett, Brett
Bennett, Charlie
Bennett, Eric
Berg, Carly
Bergland, Grant
Berman, Daniel
Berriozabal, Luis
Beveridge, Robert
Bickerstaff, Russ
Bigney, Tyler
Blair, Travis
Blake, Steven
Bohem, Charlie Keys and Les
Bolt, Andy
Bonehill, L. R.
Booth, Brenton
Boran, P. Keith
Bosworth, Mel
Bowen, Sean C.
Boyd, A. V.
Boyd, Morgan
Bracey, DG
Bradford, Ryan
Bradshaw, Bob
Brady, Dave
Brannigan, Tory
Brawn, Jason D.
Brewka-Clark, Nancy
Britt, Alan
Brock, Brandon K.
brook, j.
Brown, Melanie
Brown, R. Thomas
Brown, Sam
Bull, Warren
Burton, Michael
Butler, Janet
Butler, Simon Hardy
Butler, Terence
Cameron, W. B.
Campbell, J. J.
Campbell, Jack Jr.
Cano, Valentina
Carlton, Bob
Cartwright, Steve
Carver, Marc
Castle, Chris
Catlin, Alan
Chen, Colleen
Chesler, Adam
Christensen, Jan
Christopher, J. B.
Clausen, Daniel
Clevenger, Victor
Clifton, Gary
Coffey, James
Colasuonno, Alfonso
Compton, Sheldon Lee
Conley, Jen
Conley, Stephen
Connor, Tod
Cooper, Malcolm Graham
Coral, Jay
Corman-Roberts, Paul
Cosby, S. A.
Crandall, Rob
Criscuolo, Carla
Crisman, Robert
Crist, Kenneth
Crouch & Woods
Crumpton, J. C.
Cunningham, Stephen
Curry, A. R.
D., Jack
Dabbe, Lyla K.
Dallett, Cassandra
Damian, Josephine
Danoski, Joseph V.
Daly, Jim
Dalzell, Randy
Davis, Christopher
Day, Holly
Deal, Chris
de Bruler, Connor
De France, Steve
De La Garza, Lela Marie
de Marco, Guy Anthony
Deming, Ruth Z.
DeVeau, Spencer
Dexter, Matthew
Di Chellis, Peter
Dick, Earl
Dick, Paul "Deadeye"
DiLorenzo, Ciro
Dionne, Ron
Domenichini, John
Doran, Phil
Doreski, William
Dorman, Roy
Dosser, Jeff
Draime, Doug
Drake, Lena Judith
Dromey, John H.
Duke, Jason
Duncan, Gary
Dunham, T. Fox
Dunn, Robin Wyatt
Dunwoody, David
Duxbury, Karen
Duy, Michelle
Elias, Ramsey Mark
Elliott, Beverlyn L.
Elliott, Garnett
Ellis, Asher
Ellman, Neil
England, Kellie R.
England, Kristina
Erianne, John
Erlewine, David
Esterholm, Jeff
Fallow, Jeff
Falo, William
Fedigan, William J.
Fenster, Timothy
Ferraro, Diana
Filas, Cameron
Flanagan, Daniel N.
Flanagan, Ryan Quinn
Folz, Crystal
Franceschina, Susan
Funk, Matthew C.
Gallik, Daniel
Gann, Alan
Gardner, Cheryl Ann
Genz, Brian
Gilbert, Colin
Gladeview, Lawrence
Glass, Donald
Goddard, L. B.
Godwin, Richard
Goff, Christopher
Goodman, Tina
Goss, Christopher
Gradowski, Janel
Grant, Christopher
Grant, Stewart
Greenberg, Paul
Grey, John
Grover, Michael
Gunn, Johnny
Gurney, Kenneth P.
Haglund, Tobias
Hamlin, Mason
Hanna, J. T.
Hansen, Melissa
Hanson, Christopher Kenneth
Hanson, Kip
Hardin, J. Scott
Harrington, Jim
Harris, Bruce
Hart, GJ
Hartman, Michelle
Haskins, Chad
Hatzialexandrou, Anjelica
Hawley, Doug
Haycock, Brian
Hayes, A. J.
Hayes, John
Hayes, Peter W. J.
Heatley, Paul
Heifetz, Justin
Heimler, Heidi
Heitz, Russ
Helmsley, Fiona
Hendry, Mark
Henry, Robert Louis
Heyns, Heather
Hilary, Sarah
Hill, Richard
Hilson, J. Robert
Hivner, Christopher
Hobbs, R. J.
Hodges, Oliver
Hodgkinson, Marie
Holderfield, Culley
Holton, Dave
Hor, Emme
Houston, Jennifer
Howard, Peter
Howells, Ann
Huchu, Tendai
Hudson, Rick
Huguenin, Timothy G.
Hunt, Jason
Huskey, Jason L.
Irwin, Daniel
Jacobson, E. J.
Jaggers, J. David
James, Christopher
James, Colin
Jensen, Steve
Johanson, Jacob
Johnson, Beau
Johnson, Moctezuma
Johnson, Zakariah
Jones, D. S.
Jones, Erin J.
Jones, Mark
Kabel, Dana
Kaplan, Barry Jay
Kay, S.
Keaton, David James
Keith, Michael C.
Kempka, Hal
Kerins, Mike
Kerry, Vic
Keshigian, Michael
Kimball R. D.
King, Michelle Ann
Kirk, D.
Klim, Christopher
Knapp, Kristen Lee
Koenig, Michael
Korpon, Nik
Kowalcyzk, Alec
Krafft, E. K.
Lacks, Lee Todd
Lang, Preston
La Rosa, F. Michael
Larkham, Jack
Leatherwood, Roger
Lee, M.A.B.
Lees, Arlette
Lees, Lonni
Leins, Tom
LeJay, Brian K. Jr.
Lemming, Jennifer
Lerner, Steven M
Lewis, Cynthia Ruth
Lifshin, Lyn
Lin, Jamie
Lodge, Oliver
Lopez, Aurelio Rico III
Lorca, Aurelia
Lo Rocco, Brian
Loucks, Lindsey
Lovisi, Gary
Lucas, Gregory E.
Lukas, Anthony
Lynch, Nulty
Lyons, Matthew
Mac, David
MacArthur, Jodi
Macor, Iris
Madeleine, Julia
Malone, Joe
Manteufel, M. B.
Manzolillo, Nicholas
Marcius, Cal
Marlin, Brick
Marlowe, Jack T.
Martyn, Clive
Mason, Wayne
Massengill, David
Mattila, Matt
McAdams, Liz
McBride, Matthew
McCabe, Sinead
McCartney, Chris
McDaris, Catfish
McFarlane, Adam Beau
McGinley, Jerry
McElhiney, Sean
McLean, David
McMannus, Jack
McQuiston, Rick
Mellon, Mark
Memblatt, Bruce
Memi, Samantha
Merrigan, Court
Miles, Marietta
Miller, Laurita
Miller, Max
Mintz, Gwendolyn
Monaghan, Timothy P.
Monteferrante, Luigi
Monson, Mike
Mooney, Christopher P.
Moore, Katie
Morgan, Bill W.
Morgan, Stephen
Moss, David Harry
Mullins, Ian
Mulvihill, Michael
Murdock, Franklin
Muslim, Kristine Ong
Nardolilli, Ben
Nazar, Rebecca
Nell, Dani
Nelson, Trevor
Nessly, Ray
Nester, Steven
Neuda, M. C.
Newell, Ben
Newman, Paul
Nielsen, Ayaz
Nienaber, T. M.
Ogurek, Douglas J.
Ortiz, Sergio
Pagel, Briane
Parr, Rodger
Parrish, Rhonda
Partin-Nielsen, Judith
Penton, Jonathan
Perez, Juan M.
Perl, Puma
Perri, Gavin
Peterson, Rob
Peterson, Ross
Petroziello, Brian
Pettie, Jack
Picher, Gabrielle
Piech, JC
Pierce, Rob
Pietrzykowski, Marc
Plath, Rob
Pletzers, Lee
Pluck, Thomas
Pohl, Stephen
Pointer, David
Polson, Aaron
Power, Jed
Powers, M. P.
Price, David
Priest, Ryan
Prusky, Steve
Pruitt, Eryk
Purfield, M. E.
Purkis, Gordon
Quinlan, Joseph R.
Ram, Sri
Ramos, Emma
Rapth, Sam
Ravindra, Rudy
Rawson, Keith
Ray, Paula
Reale, Michelle
reutter, g emil
Rhatigan, Chris
Ribas, Tom
Richardson, Travis
Richey, John Lunar
Ridgeway, Kevin
Ritchie, Bob
Ritchie, Salvadore
Roberts, Paul C.
Robertson, Lee
Robinson, John D.
Robinson, Kent
Rodgers, K. M.
Roger, Frank
Rogers, Stephen D.
Rohrbacher, Chad
Rosa, Basil
Rose, Mandi
Rosenberger, Brian
Rosenblum, Mark
Rosmus, Cindy
Rowe, Brian
Rowley, Aaron
Ruhlman, Walter
Rutherford, Scotch
Saus, Steven M.
Savage, Jack
Sawyer, Mark
Sayles, Ryan
Schneeweiss, Jonathan
Schraeder, E. F.
Schumejda, Rebecca
Scott, Craig
Scott, Jess C.
Scribner, Joshua
See, Tom
Seen, Calvin
Servis, Steven P.
Sexton, Rex
Seymour, J. E.
Sfarnas, John
Shafee, Fariel
Shaikh, Aftab Yusuf
Shea, Kieran
Shepherd, Robert
Sim, Anton
Simmler, T. Maxim
Sin, Natalie L.
Sinisi, J. J.
Sixsmith, JD
Slagle, Cutter
Slaviero, Susan
Sloan, Frank
Smith, Adam Francis
Smith, Ben
Smith, C.R.J.
Smith, Copper
Smith, Daniel C.
Smith, Paul
Smith, Stephanie
Smith, Willie
Smuts, Carolyn
Snoody, Elmore
So, Gerald
Sojka, Carol
Solender, Michael J.
Sortwell, Pete
Sosnoski, Karen
Sparling, George
Speed, Allen
Spicer, David
Spires, Will
Spitzer, Mark
Spuler, Rick
Stephens, Ransom
Stewart, Michael S.
Stickel, Anne
Stolec, Trina
Straus, Todd
Stryker, Joseph H.
Stucchio, Chris
Stuckey, Cinnamon
Succre, Ray
Sullivan, Thomas
Swanson, Peter
Swartz, Justin A.
Sweet, John
Tarbard, Grant
Taylor, J. M.
Thoburn, Leland
Thomas, C. T.
Thompson, John L.
Thompson, Phillip
Titus, Lori
Tivey, Lauren
Tobin, Tim
Todd, Jeffrey
Tolland, Timothry
Tomlinson, Brenton
Tomolillo, Bob
Tu, Andy
Ullerich, Eric
Valent, Raymond A.
Valvis, James
Vilhotti, Jerry
Waldman, Dr. Mel
Walsh, Patricia
Ward, Emma
Ward, Jared
Waters, Andrew
Weber, R.O.
Weir, G. Kenneth
White, J.
White, Judy Friedman
White, Robb
White, Terry
Williams, Alun
Willoughby, Megan
Wilsky, Jim
Wilson, Robley
Wilson, Scott
Wilson, Tabitha
Wright, David
Young, Scot
Yuan, Changming
Zafiro, Frank
Zapata, Angel
Zickgraf, Catherine
Zimmerman, Thomas
Znaidi, Ali

laceyscloset.jpg
Art by W. Jack Savage 2014

LACEY'S CLOSET

by Justin Swartz

 

          All of my life, I've loved only one girl: Lacey Heritage. We went to the same elementary school, middle school, and high school, all twelve grades, and she never had a clue how I felt about her. I'd tried to tell her, God knows how I'd tried, but my mouth would go dry, my throat would clench, and my mind would go numb, searching for the right words to say. Lacey's beauty had that effect on people. Even grown men would double-take when she walked past them, and some of them even made passes at her. Lacey enjoyed every minute of it, eating up the attention like a movie star. 

          It made me mad to see her behaving like that. She knew better. Had we lived next door to each other, rode the bus together, and walked to the diner together, just to throw that all away?

          I still can't explain what came over me today and why I'm hiding in Lacey's bedroom closet right now. She's been dating this older guy, Rich Burton, but I don't know what she sees in him. He's one of those dumb jocks with a small cock and an even smaller brain. He's the backup fullback for the University of Southern California's football team. I saw him play on TV once. He's a terrible fullback. He can't break through the defense's front line to gain extra yardage and pick up that first down. In my eyes, he's nothing but a failure, on and off the field. 

          Maybe that's why I did what I did to Rich. I know the police are going to find him eventually, but with the way I made it look, they'll think he slit his own throat. What's a crappy fullback with a jailbait girlfriend got to live for? Nothing, nothing at all. Besides, Lacey isn't exactly jailbait. She's perfect, just the way she is, with that fluffy honey-blonde hair, oceanic blue eyes, taut red lips, and perfectly rounded--

          Stop that, I tell myself. You shouldn't be thinking those thoughts about the girl next door, but after all those times I've watched her change clothes through my bedroom window, how am I not supposed to think those things? How am I not supposed to want Lacey Heritage, right here, right now, the way I've always wanted her?

          Sorry, I got a little carried away there. I forgot to tell you how I ended up in Lacey's bedroom closet. I was cutting her grass after coming back from killing Rich and stuffing him in the trunk of his Firebird, and when I completed that task, I came in the house and couldn't find anyone to pay me my usual ten bucks for mowing the lawn. Hey, I have to make a living somehow, right?

          I walked all through the bottom floor of the house without finding Lacey, her mom, or her dad. I walked upstairs and caught a glimpse of a naked Lacey stepping into the shower and closing the bathroom door. That image would last me until next week, or next month even, but then a thought burst into my cerebellum: what if I told Lacey how I felt about her, really told her, and took her as she was?

          I know that's not what boys my age are supposed to think. I just turned nineteen, but everyone still calls me a boy or a child. I hate that. My dad told me that until you have sex with a girl, you're not really a man.

          Damn it all, Dad, I want to be a man!

          I climbed the steps to Lacey's room and examined it carefully. She had laid a pair of skimpy see-through panties on the bed to put on after her shower was over.  Just as I went to feel the fabric of her underwear, the water stopped running in Lacey's shower. Fearing for my life, I ducked into her closet and held the doors shut. The doors had slats in them, so I could still see inside her room and watch Lacey like a naughty voyeur.

          That's how I ended up in Lacey's closet, but here's the real kicker. While Lacey dried off in the bathroom, my head bumped a shoebox on a shelf in her closet.  I caught the box before it hit the floor, but the lid slid off, and out tumbled a neat little .22 and an assortment of dollar bills. Some of them were ones, others fives, with a few tens and twenties mixed in. I even saw a hundred dollar bill in there, and those you don't come by easy.

          My first question was, "Where did Lacey get all of this money?" 

          My second question was, "Why does Lacey own a gun?"

          My final question was, "What does she plan to do with it?"

          I picked up the .22 and studied its nickel plating and pearl grip. My dad had owned guns throughout the years, but whenever he saw small ones like this, he called them "ladies' guns" and said they couldn't kill anybody. Dad had taught me how to fire a gun, even though my aim was awful. I ejected the clip and found it to be full, with a set of five rounds inside. I inserted it into the gun and pulled the breech back, just like Dad had shown me, an action which puts the first bullet in the chamber.

          I did a rough count of the money in the shoe box. There was at least two hundred dollars in there. Where did Lacey get this money?

          At that moment, Lacey exited the bathroom and walked into my field of vision. The slats didn't obscure much of her naked body as she shed her towel and slipped into her panties. My mouth went dry, like it always did, and the closet suddenly felt like a sauna. I couldn't speak, couldn't think. Why did Lacey always do this to me? Why?

          Lacey turned to the closet and took a step forward. I realized I was doomed.  She'd find me, she'd tell her parents, her parents would tell my parents, and then I'd never be allowed to see her again, and I'd never become a man!

          Lacey took another step. Everything was running in slow-motion, like a movie being shot at one frame per second. I had to get out of here, I had to get out of here!

          Lacey took a third step. She put her hand on the knobs of the closet doors.  Just as they slid back, a devilish thought entered my head, like Satan himself was whispering in my ear.

          You've got a gun. Use it.

          Lacey opened the closet doors, exposing her half-naked body to me and exposing my sweaty, frightened self to her. Her blues fell on my browns, as if she couldn't comprehend how I got into the closet in the first place. 

          Then she screamed. 

          And that's when I pulled the trigger.

          It was nothing more than a loud clap, like someone trying to kill a gnat with their hands. Blood spread across Lacey's abdomen and traveled south, turning her panties from white to red. She stumbled back against her dresser, clutching her stomach, as blood dripped from the corner of her mouth and onto the floor. Her eyes, the eyes I'd loved so much, pleaded with me for a moment, then twisted to hate, and then turned dark and glassy. And just like that, Lacey Heritage was gone.

          I fell to my knees and dropped the .22 to the floor. I believed Dad when he said these ladies' guns couldn't kill anybody. I guess Dad was wrong. As the hot, bitter tears came and wails erupted from my lips, I realized that all I'd wanted to do was scare her, and that her scream had scared me; it made me pull the trigger.

          But no, that's not a good enough excuse. You're going to blame the victim for her own death? No, this was all you, my brain told me. You wanted her so badly? Well, here she is. She's dead as a doornail, but that's what you get for killing her boyfriend and thinking you had any chance with her. And what was the big idea, hiding in her closet and hoping you'd get to see her naked? What kind of sicko are you, pal?

          As the self-destructive tape in my brain played on a loop, I felt Lacey's dad grab me and slam me against the wall. He said things that aren't fit to repeat and that I couldn't really hear over that awful tape in my head, the one that just kept beating me up, over and over and over.

          When the homicide detectives arrived, they found Lacey's diary in her dresser drawer. It detailed how she was stealing Rich's money from his wallet every time they slept together, and how she planned to kill him with the .22 and take all of his money. It also detailed her opinion of me, which wasn't very high to begin with. She thought I had an "unhealthy obsession" with her, how I was the "dork next door," and how she liked teasing me through her bedroom window, because "that's all the closer he's ever going to get." 

          After I heard all of that, I realized that killing Lacey wasn't such a bad thing.  She'd hated me and the way we'd lived next door to each other, the way we'd rode the bus together, and the way we'd walked to the diner together. It had meant a lifetime to me, and it didn't mean shit to her.

          Maybe I was right to kill her.

          And maybe, I told myself, the world was better off.

END






cigarettesandchamp.jpg

CIGARETTES AND CHAMPAGNE

by Justin Swartz

 

          Let me tell you, it doesn't get much lower than cigarettes and champagne.  When you're sitting in a rusted Buick outside your girlfriend's apartment building on a Friday night, smoking cigarettes like they were candy and drinking champagne like it was water, you know you've hit rock solid bottom. Nobody's your friend on a night like that, and nobody will lend you a dollar for a cheap sandwich at McDonald's to stave the hunger that's clawing at the walls of your stomach. 

          That's what last Friday night was like for me. I was wearing my dad's gray pea coat like it was my skin and I was still freezing cold. I caught a brief weather report on the Buick's radio that said the temperature in Pittsburgh that night was four degrees. The wind chill made it minus twenty. I only had heat coming out of one vent in the Buick, and it was the one all the way against the passenger-side door. Not even your car respects you when you've stooped to cigarettes and champagne. 

          I pulled the last Lucky Strike from the pack and put it between my trembling lips. I could barely feel them touch each other. I reached for my lighter and flicked it on. The flame died instantly. Too cold, I guess. I cupped my gloved hands around the damn thing and managed to light the lung killer. I took a long, satisfying drag on it before I realized I didn't have any money to get another pack.  Too bad they don't sell Lucky Strikes at the drive-thru.

          The champagne bottle was sitting between my legs on the floor of the Buick.  I kept telling myself I was drinking it to keep warm, but I remembered my Army survival training and how they told us that was all a myth. Either way, I needed something with a kick to wash down the taste of this awful job. 

          The gun I'd bought was a .357 Ruger GP100. I purchased it from a friend who lived in the Hill District. It wasn't the nicest neighborhood and he wasn't the nicest guy on the block. He had five or six guns to choose from and I picked the one that fit inside my dad's coat. It only came with four bullets, and I couldn't afford to buy any extras, so I'd been forced to make do. In case you're wondering, that's what most of my money went to this week. The rest was spent on cigarettes and champagne. 

          I cradled the champagne bottle in my arm like it was my first-born. It was half-empty and it looked lonely. I provided it with some company as I took a slug of the bottle's contents and cradled it again. My eyes went to the Buick's radio, which was playing that Chipmunks Christmas song. You know the one, about not standing the wait and Alvin wanting a hula hoop. I remembered Christmas with my dad and that record playing on the turntable while we opened gifts Christmas morning. If Dad could see me now, I'm sure he'd be disappointed that this was how I spent Christmas Eve.

          I took a glance at the Buick's radio again. George Michael's "Last Christmas" was playing. I swear, not even the radio respects you when you've stooped to cigarettes and champagne. I twisted the knob on the radio until it clicked and George shut up. I'd been taking intermittent drags on the cigarette and now it was half-way gone. I took another long pull on it and blew the exhaust out my nose.  My nostrils burned a bit and that restored feeling to my frozen schnoz.  My face felt like I'd held it inside one of those freezers they have in the frozen food section of the grocery store. I couldn't take much more of this shit.

          Finally, a call came in on my Tracfone. I pried it open with shaking hands and answered the call.

          "He--hello?" I answered, my lips unable to move.

          "Do it now," the voice said, "and hurry."

          They hung up. I hung up. I reached into my coat and removed the Ruger. I checked the cylinder one last time and stared at the four bullets in their little slots.  I snapped the cylinder closed and shoved the Ruger back inside my coat. I took a final drag on the Lucky and jammed it into the overflowing ashtray. I took a slug of the champagne and placed it on the passenger seat. Then I opened the Buick's door and stepped outside.

          The winter air hit me like a sucker punch to the face. The wind took my breath away and knocked the stuffing out of me. I pushed myself toward the apartment building's door, gulping in the frigid air and trying to stay upright, until I was inside the foyer.

          Christmas lights framed the stairs that led up to the top floor. Red and gold garland trimmed the foyer doors. I could hear Beethoven coming from one of the upstairs apartments. It made me wish my neighbors were that educated. I took the steps one at a time, gathering my strength, and then two at a time, as I cleared the second and third floors. When I reached the fourth floor, I could see a window at the far end of the hall that had a rainbow of Christmas lights hung around it. The lights were blinking on and off in a rotating pattern. I had to fight tears as I looked at them and how much they reminded me of Christmases long, long ago.

          I forced myself down the hall and reached into my coat. I removed the Ruger and cocked the hammer. I held the gun in both hands and stood alongside the door to apartment 4-F, the one at the end of the hall and to the right. I listened for a moment. Two moments. Sounds of sex and pleasure filtered through the door and into my ears. I whirled around to the door and slammed my boot against the cheap lock, shattering it with one kick. The door flew open and a shout erupted from inside the apartment.

          I hurried inside, Ruger in front of me, and scanned the living room and kitchen. Nobody home. I rushed to the bedroom and found my girlfriend, Julie, naked on the bed with a naked man bending over her. He wasn't a greasy slob, but he wasn't Clark Gable either. 

          Julie looked up at me as I entered the bedroom, the same bedroom where I'd bent over Julie. I aimed the Ruger at her. 

          "Rufus?" she said in disbelief. "What are you doing with the elephant gun?"

          "Hey, buddy!" the naked man said to me. "Can't you see I'm busy here?"

          "I'll get to you in a minute, sir," I told him. "First things first."

          I shot Julie.  It was one bullet above her right breast. Blood spilled across her chest and onto the sheets. The naked man reeled back from the sight of the blood and fell onto the floor ass-first. I cocked the hammer on the Ruger as I watched all the life leave Julie's eyes.

          "Goddamn it, Rufus," the man said, standing up and rubbing his ass. "You sure know how to make an entrance."

          "How long?" I asked. "How long has she been cheating on me?"

          "Six months," the man said. "She's been seeing me and you, Rufus. That's how these girls work."

          The man went over to his jeans and searched through his pockets. I kept my eyes trained on him as he pretended to hunt for money.

          "But hey, you did the deed, so you deserve to be paid," he said. "After all, that's what we agreed to, right?"

          "Uh-huh."

          When I saw the Derringer I spun right and pulled the bedroom door closed behind me. The bullet pierced the wood of the door and cut into my right side like a dagger through flesh. I put my hand to the wound and it came back bloody. I cussed every bad word I knew and pushed my liquid legs toward the kitchen.

          I slid into the kitchen and hid behind the refrigerator. A kitchen towel hung from the handle on the fridge's door. I snatched it up and applied it to my wound, hard, ignoring how much it burned. I could hear my client run into the living room, his bare feet slapping against the hardwood floor. I peeked around the corner of the fridge and looked through the kitchen doorway into the living room. He was still naked and was busy scanning the Derringer from side to side.

          I lifted the Ruger to eye level and spent a bullet on his left kneecap, blowing it open and sending him sprawling to the floor in agony. As his cries of pain echoed out into the hall, I put both feet on the floor and pushed myself up to a standing position, stepping into the living room and looking down at him in pity.

          "What did you expect, Rufus?" he said between grunts of pain. "If I left you alive, you could implicate me in court!"

          "And if I leave you alive," I pointed out, "you could do the same to me."

          The realization hit my client, and his face went an ash-white.  He looked up at me, his eyes pleading for a reprieve.

          "Come on, Rufus," he said. "I messed up, all right? I'll make it up to you!"

          "On Christmas Eve, Donald? I don't think so."

          I shot him, too. A bullet went through his skull and splattered his gray matter on the floor. I sighed and forged a path to the bedroom, where I went through Donald's pockets. I found his wallet and flipped it open.

          He had a dollar on him. That was all.

          I put the dollar in my coat pocket and made my way out into the hall. I stumbled down the three flights of stairs and shoved the lobby doors open. When the cold hit me this time I didn't even feel it. I didn't feel anything. I threw open the door to the Buick, got in, started the car, and drove to the nearest McDonald's.

          I bought a McChicken with Donald's dollar. Lucky for me I had the six cents tax in my glove compartment; otherwise it would have been a no-go. As I sat in my car, wondering what to do about my bullet wound and whether the bullet was still inside me, I ate the McChicken and felt it tickle my ribs on the way down. I had never loved a fast food sandwich more. I devoured it, licked my fingers, and washed it down with the last of the champagne. I felt a little sick to my stomach, but I tried not to pay attention to it. 

          It wasn't until the drive home that I realized what I'd done. Two people were dead over a lousy dollar, a dollar I had spent at McDonald's. I was still freezing, my side hurt like hell, and I only had one bullet left in my gun. Some hitman I'd turned out to be.

          I guess it all goes back to the cigarettes and the champagne. Nobody respects you when you're that low on your luck. Your girlfriend doesn't respect you—she's been cheating on you with another guy. That guy doesn't respect you, even when you agree to kill the girl for him and split the difference. Your car doesn't respect you, your radio doesn't respect you, and even your empty wallet doesn't respect you. The only things that respect you are cigarettes and champagne.

          I turned on the Buick's radio and heard someone request the Chipmunks song. I felt hot tears burn my eyes as the cracking of that old record on the turntable came back to me.

          Time for toys and time for cheer, they sang.

          Damn straight, Alvin. Damn straight.

END 


Justin Swartz grew up in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, a bit south of Pittsburgh, and now resides in York, Pennsylvania.  He loves his hoagies, his coleslaw, his pierogies, and his Steelers, thank you very much.  You can read more of Justin's fiction on his blog at: http://lastgunsmoking.blogspot.com.

In Association with Fossil Publications