Yellow Mama Archives

Liz McAdams
Adhikari, Sudeep
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Zee, Carly
Zimmerman, Thomas

Art by Bill Zyblut 2015





Three square meals a day, luxurious heating and air conditioning comfort, fresh linens, hot showers – what more can a man ask for? 

But I’ve done my time here.  

Blue-shirt staff slams my door shut, metal clanging and keys rattling.  Blue-shirt waves good night, and I smile like a good patient should. 

Once his back is turned I surreptitiously spit my pills onto the ground.  Grind them to a fine powder with my foot, and sweep it into the dust on the floor.  All they see on camera is a crazy old guy sliding his feet on the floor. 

Nothing out of the ordinary. 

Down the hall, the drone of staff giving report – shift change – is interrupted by a burst of laughter.  Applause.  One of them got engaged.  Goody. 

The hall lights suddenly dim, must be eleven o’clock.  Lights out and locked down.  In the next cell over, Wayne moans.  Unearthly sound.  Curtis prays – to God, or Allah, or the Devil himself, no one knows – harsh whispers of pure gibberish.  They’re all crazy.  But not me.  

I know what they say about me.  Old Joe seems harmless enough, wouldn’t hurt a fly.  Looks a little like my grandfather.  But they don’t know.   

Footsteps echo down the hall.  Keys jingle.  I flop down on my cot and pull the blanket over my body, covering my face like a shroud.  Still, rhythmic breathing.  Once the footsteps pass my cell I peek out.   

Female on the key tonight.  I wait.   

Down the hall Dave swears at her.  “Bitch.  Cocksucker.”   

“You just lost ten points.”  Keys rattle.  

“Fuck you.” 

“Another ten.  Anything else?”  She’s standing in the middle of the corridor, hands on her hips, laughing. 

“Go to hell.” 

“Ten more.  Looks like you won’t have TV for a month.”  I can hear her smile. 

With a strangled yell and metallic clang, Dave throws himself at the bars.  Arms reaching out, flailing, trying to grab anything within reach and drag it up to the bars.  Then, you’re his.

Last time he got a new guy.  Nearly chewed buddy’s nose off by the time staff got there.  That’s his trick.  He lures you in, insults you, pisses you off enough so you forget where you are.  And then you’re his. 

Me, I have my own tricks.  And I never forget where I am.  I never forget anything.   

It was 1975 when I got my first hitchhiker.  Sweet blonde thing, thumbing a ride on the side of the highway.  She was heading out west.  She never made it. 

Back then I was driving a black Dodge Challenger, my first real car.  Gleaming chrome, rear spoiler, it was sex on wheels.  Chicks dug it.  I was busy that summer.  I got three more hitchhikers after blondie there.  Cops didn’t bother looking too hard, just called ‘em missing persons and figured they were busy prostituting somewhere.   

The last one was a royal pain in the ass.  Big girl, heavy set.  Kept fighting, even after I chloroformed her twice.  Finally I got so pissed off I just brained her with a shovel.  Not much use to me now, so I just kept chopping.  Those other girls were a little bit better.  They lasted a few weeks.  Then I’d get tired of having them around, crying and bleeding and all that.  So I’d finish them too.    

But all that was long ago.  And I’ve been keeping busy since.  Always careful.  Crafty, that’s me.   

Not like Syd, over on O-8, he kept bits and pieces of his girls lying around, like a goddamned trophy hunter.  It was the smell that finally did him in.  Neighbours complained.  When officers came to investigate they had to wear full hazmat suits.  Betcha they were surprised to see Syd’s living room strewn with festive garlands made of human entrails.  Rotting skulls turned into ashtrays.  Full uterus complete with growing fetus in his fridge.  Syd’s been here since. 

A lifer.

Like me.  But I’m smarter.  They wouldn’t have got me except I got too soft.  It was spring of ’82 when I got that little girl.  ‘Bout four years old, cute little thing playing on her front lawn.  Pretending to make a flower garden.   

I told her I was looking for my lost puppy. 

She never stood a chance. 

Well, the cops didn’t let up on that one.  By the time they found us, there wasn’t much left of her. 

Between her parents sobbing on the stand and the decomposed body parts some pissant found encased in cement in my basement, I knew I was done for.  Looking at life without parole in the cellblock jungles of the jail system, getting my asshole shredded by guys named Dick, or this place.  I chose this place. 

Pleaded not criminally responsible, by reason of insanity.

 Been here since. 

It’s not a bad place, just full of crazy fuckers.  Like Wayne, down the hall.  Poor guy don’t know whether he’s coming or going.  Naked, covered in shit and screaming in his room; he’s a poor son of a bitch – no hope for him at all. 

 But you gotta watch him.  That bastard’ll rip your eyes out. 

 He nearly got another one a few years ago.  Staff was showering him, trying to get the piss stink off him.  Wayne was tied to the walls, screaming bloody murder.  New staff leaned in a little too close and good ol’ Wayne slipped his pinels.  Soft leather cuffs must of stretched in the water or something.

 Wayne grabbed Buddy lightning quick.  By the time the charge nurse came running down the hall, hypodermic needle in hand, a half dozen staff were slipping and sliding in soap bubbles trying to drag Buddy away from Wayne, like taking a chew toy from a pitbull.  There wasn’t much left of Buddy there, face was munched up something fierce.  Don’t think they ever found his ear again.

 Good one, Wayne.  Never liked that blue shirt bastard anyway. 

 Now me, I know how to play nice.  Staff just escort me to the shower room, hand me fresh towels, sweet as you please.  Like hotel room service. 

 I got all my levels.  So I got privileges.

 I get to go to the tuck shop with staff escort.  While staff chitchat, I pilfer candy bars.  Pay for a couple, then give the rest to the boys.  Poor Dave don’t get nothing otherwise; staff say too much candy upsets his diabetes.  I sneak him a couple Milky Ways.  Dave’s a good guy.  Not getting out anytime soon though.  The judge doesn’t look kindly upon crimes against family members. 

 Staff don’t like him too much either.  Not me.

 Heck, I’m practically a hero around here.  It was yours truly that hit the code white button in the lunchroom when good ol’ George went after that new charge nurse.  Don’t know what she was doing sitting in the lunchroom, anyway.  Guess they were short on staff that day.

 Anyway, nursie was helping pass out meal trays, and just as George was reaching for another juice, she told him no.  He had enough already.

 You don’t say no to George.

 I was working on my applesauce when George went after her.  Knocked her out cold with a metal tray, then straddled her, just pounding on her.  Fists mashed her face up something good, wet slap, slap of her head hitting the concrete floor.  Not much left of her.

 The other staff in the room jumped on top of George and tried to choke him out.  Blue shirt was screaming and swearing.  But he wasn’t getting anywhere.  George is a tough nut.

 By then I had enough of dinner theatre, and decided to call the code white.  Violent person.  I punched the alarm button on the wall and the siren wailed. 

 The building rumbled as all available staff filled the lunchroom.  George got flattened, then marched back to his cell.  They threw him in so hard he bounced off the back wall and hit the floor.  Got up, bloody nosed, snivelling and demanding first aid.

 The old blue-shirt bitch, face like a brick wall, says to him, “You’re talking, ain’t ya?”


 “Then you don’t need first aid.  See you in an hour.” 


 Poor George. 

 Anyway, staff think I’m some sort of hero for calling the code.  I get to go for walks on the grounds with my own personal escort, not just yard time like the rest of those poor souls walking in circles behind razor wire.  They trust me.

 They shouldn’t.

 *     *     *     *     *


0700 – Lights on.

 Staff drop by my cell to make sure I’m awake and ready to go.  Big day today.  I have an appointment.

 You see, my hearing aid’s been bugging me.  Cutting out and all that.  I only had those hearing aids for a while now, after a couple months of saying “huh?” and “pardon” whenever staff tried to talk to me.  One trip to the audiologist later, and I got a brand new set of hearing aids, fully paid for by the government, and that I don’t need at all.

 Today I dress carefully, taking out my best clothes.  Fill my pockets with stuff I don’t want to leave behind.  Like the razor blade I swiped a few days back.

 Old man, fumbling in the showers, it was easy enough to con staff into giving me a second razor.  First was defective after all, missing the blade.  Funny that.  Guess that’s what you get when the government buys cheap plastic razors from Japan.    

 Now I have a road trip.  Two staff escorts and a driver.  I’ll be wearing handcuffs and shackles.  Safety precautions, you know.

 Staff will want to stop at Tim’s, buy me a coffee.  Special treat.  Laughing, maybe we can go to McDonald’s after.  I do like their Big Macs.

 Staff are a good sort, escorting me into the audiologist’s office with a jacket neatly folded over my cuffs.  Preserving my dignity and all that.  Once I shuffle inside the exam room, they’ll remove them.  Staff stand around, supervising.

 The audiologist is a cutie, she gently places her hand on my forearm as she leans over to check my hearing aids.  Tells me that this won’t hurt a bit.  Calls me sir. 

 I stare at her cleavage.

 I hand over the hearing aids and she turns her back, fiddling at a small worktable.  Replacing the batteries, just in case.

 Loose blonde curls escape a pony tail, trailing across the back of her neck.  I finger the razor blade in my pocket.  Hard edges, wrapped neatly in a tissue, sharp and ready to go.

 It would only take one good slice, dragging it through the soft skin of her neck – she’d bleed out before she knew what hit her.  Then staff would be on me like a ton of bricks.

 I squirm in my seat.  Clear my throat, “Uh, staff.  Gotta pee.  Old man problems.”

 Blue-shirt says to the audiologist, “Where’s your washroom?”

 Her back still to us, she waves, “Across the hall.”

 Blue-shirt asks, “Do we need restraints?”

 The staff look at each other, then me.  I shrug.

 “Nah, we’ll walk him in there.”

 Unshackled, I follow blue-shirt’s large shoulders as his buddy keeps a firm grip on my elbow.  Walking escort. 

 After staff quickly survey the washroom – single toilet and sink, window the size of a breadbox high up on the wall – I am allowed in.

 I shuffle in and lock the door behind me. 

 It doesn’t take much.  Upside down garbage can to give an old man a boost, window screen popped out, and I’m pulling myself through the window.  Luckily there’s no passersby to see a scrawny old man tumble onto the asphalt below.

 Bruised, but nothing broken, I’m up and running.  Across the parking lot the driver’s reading a newspaper in the van.  Following the fence line, I duck into some shrubbery and hop into somebody’s back yard.

 I imagine those two blue-shirts standing guard outside the washroom.  Waiting for who knows how long before they finally break down the door.  Surprise.

 But I’ve done my time.   

 -- THE END.

Art by Lonni Lees 2015

Boom, Bust

by Liz McAdams


“Where the hell do you think you’re goin?”  Mom was just warming up.  Perched in her bed, surrounded by empty glasses and pill bottles, she was queen and a steel grey man’s haircut was her crown. 

Mom wagged her head at Charlyn’s t-shirt.  “And you sure as hell aren’t going out looking like that.”

 Charlyn wrapped her hoodie tighter across her chest.  “I already told you, I’m going out with Amy tonight,” she soothed, perched on a corner of the bed. 

Mom stared at the TV, dark brows glowering in hawkish profile.  Silence.

“Just for a while.  She wants to go for a coffee and chat.” 


“C’mon, I’ll be back soon.  Promise.  And you know Amy’s a nice enough girl…”

Eyes still on the TV.

“But she’s been having some problems with her folks.  They’re coming down on her.  She didn’t do anything.  You know how it is, like you and Grandma.”  Charlyn twisted the bedspread between her fingers. 

Hrump.  Mom lurched onto her side, the bed groaning beneath her bulk.  “Why can’t you just talk here?  Save a few bucks.  Make your own.  Or is she too fine and mighty for the likes of us?”  Mom’s head bobbed, she was itching for a fight.

Charlyn patted her mother’s hand, reassuring, “No, she likes you, Mom.  Really.  It’s just nice to get out for a bit.  And the coffee shop has really good cookies, you know, those chocolate ones you like.”

“Well, you’d better watch your money, Missy.  Rent’s coming due and Frank still has that car payment this month.  And you know better.  Even with chipping in for groceries, we still gotta go to the foodbank next week.  Not a time to throw money away.  And you’d think Frank would do somethin about getting overtime.  Goddamn lazy goodfornothin.”

Charlyn pushed aside thoughts of Mom’s trip to the casino last month, when Mom said she’d break even, at least.  A sure win.  Dreamed about it the night before.  Yeah, right.  Five hundred bucks in the hole before security walked them out.  Charlyn forced a weak smile.  “It’s OK, Mom.  Amy said she’d treat.”

Mom sniffed.  “It better not be charity.  She already looks down on us.  The last time that girl was here she wouldn’t even come in.  Thinks we’re infested with bugs or something.” 

The last time Amy was here Mom was screaming at Frank so loudly you could hear them clear across the parking lot.  Something about messing with her purse.  Swearing, followed by a loud crash.  Lucky the cops didn’t show up. 

Amy had knocked, and stood frozen in the doorway while Mom raged at Frank.  He just whined back.  Yes, dear, I do have shit for brains, Yes, dear, you’re right, I’m a fuck up.  Eyes wide, Amy whispered that if it was a bad time, she could just leave.

Charlyn forced a smile, “No, she doesn’t Mom, Amy likes you guys.  Really she does.  She just wants to go out.”

Mom twisted in bed, “Can you fix these damned pillows? My back’s killing me.”

“Sure Mom.”  Charlyn reached over, fluffing and tugging yellowed pillows.  “Want me to bring you some dinner before I go?

“Yeah, there’s some leftover chicken loaf in the fridge.  Just a plate of that.”

“‘K.  And look, your show’s coming on.”  Charlyn waved the remote at the TV.  The picture flickered.

 Mom nodded absently as familiar theme music played on.




In the kitchen Charlyn cracked open battered margarine containers, scraping out cold chicken loaf and noodles.  Congealed grease shone dully.  Dumping the works on a plate, Charlyn popped it in the microwave and punched reheat.

Two enormous grey and white cats padded in, wrapped themselves around her ankles, purring loudly.  “OK guys, here you go.”  Charlyn dropped a slab of chicken loaf on the tile floor.  Splat.  The cats huddled over their prize, and purred even louder, pink tongues rasping on cold chicken loaf.

Grabbing a fork for herself, Charlyn ate standing up, easing slimy noodles out of a margarine tub.  Cold, but not bad.  She put the kettle on to boil.

Mom yelled down the narrow hallway, “Charlyn, are you still here?”


“Are you doing my dinner?”

“Yeah, and making you a tea.”

“Don’t forget my meds.”

“’K, Mom.”

Charlyn poured a cup of tea, adding a splash of milk.  Then reached for the bottle from on top of the fridge.  Red and yellow warning labels plastered on the green plastic bottle.  Do not – and May cause –

She tipped four tablets onto a saucer; crushing two under the flat edge of a butter knife.   Cupping the two whole tablets in her fingers, Charlyn swept white powder into the teacup.  Stirred in sugar.  Done.

Centering the teacup on the saucer, two pills on the side, Charlyn arranged it on a tray with the plate and cutlery.  Carried it into the bedroom.  Room service.

Mom reached for the teacup.  It’s her best china, bought at somebody’s garage sale years ago.  Yellow roses.  “Thank you, just what I needed.  That goodfornothin Frank can’t seem to make a decent cuppa to save his soul.”  Slurped the tea noisily and made a face.  “Is the milk going off?”

“Don’t think so.  Tasted fine to me.  You want more sugar?”

“No, doctor wants me to cut down.”  Mom pointed to her deflated abdomen and sagging bosom and nodded, “Gotta watch my weight and diabetes.”

“Uh huh.”  Charlyn glanced around the room.  “Oh look, your show’s back on.”  She reached for the remote and turned up the volume, just a little.

A door slammed.  It sounded like the balcony, Frank must have snuck in the front, then right out onto the balcony for a smoke.  Who was he kidding.  Said he started smoking American cigarettes, to save a few bucks.  Yeah, sure.  And those definitely weren’t tomato plants he was trying to grow on the balcony, no matter what he said about it not being sunny enough to get any tomatoes.

Mom cocked her head.  “Is that Frank coming in?”

“I don’t think so.  Still early yet.  Might have been Amy knocking.  I’ll check.” Charlyn nudged the cup toward her.  “You’d better drink your tea while it’s still hot.  And let me get these old dishes out of the way.”

Mom nodded, teacup to her lips and eyes on the TV.

Charlyn paused in the doorway, “Oh Mom, don’t forget your pills.  I left them on the saucer for you.”

“Got’em.”  Eyes still on the TV, Mom rolled the tablets between yellowed fingers, dropping them on her outstretched tongue.  Chased with a swallow of tea.  Done.

Charlyn walked out of the bedroom balancing a stack of dirty dishes.  Dumped the pile in the sink and blasted them with water.  Now she just had to wait.

She looked out the living room window.  Smoke drifted off the balcony.  Frank’s home.

Charlyn glanced at her watch.  Amy was supposed to be here in half an hour.  Said she wanted to go out Christmas shopping.  Charlyn tiptoed back to the bedroom and paused at the doorway, and listened for rhythmic breathing.  Counting down…

“Charlyn?”  Mom called.

Damn. “Yeah?”

“Oh, you startled me.  Didn’t see you standing there.  Can you take my plate?” 

“Sure.  How about another cup of tea?”

“Yeah.”  Yawn. “I’m kinda sleepy.”  Mom squinted at the radio alarm clock.  “Weird.  It’s still early.”

“Don’t worry, just relax.  You said you were up a lot last night.  Your back was hurting.”

“Yeah,” Mom turned to the TV, profile slackening in flickering light.

Charlyn carried the plate to the kitchen.  Frank was still on the balcony, clouds of smoke hung around his head. 

She turned the kettle on to boil.  Crushed two more tablets, and swept them into an empty teacup.  Added a dollop of honey, gooey amber mixed with white powder.  This oughta do it.




Charlyn walked into the bedroom, cup cradled in her hands.

Mom snored softly, head sagging.  Charlyn put the cup of tea down on the bedside table.  Mom’s purse is in the bottom drawer.  She likes to keep an eye on it, doesn’t trust Frank.

Hunched over, Charlyn riffled through the purse, pocketing a couple twenties and a fifty.  Other bills, mostly fifties and hundreds, crowded together; all from the insurance settlement. 

Their big windfall.  Mom said it was just like play-acting.  Charlyn limped to the stand, the judge’s eye on her cast and neck brace.  She pointed a finger at the driver, and burst into tears.  So what if Frank’s car was a write-off.  The lawyer said the money was hers.  Pain and suffering.  Mom said she’d hold it, in trust.  The lawyer raised an eyebrow but said nothing.  

 Charlyn rose, patting the slight bulge in her jeans.  Mom won’t miss it right away.  And even then she’ll just blame Frank.


Closing the drawer, Charlyn picked up both tea cups – one empty and one full – to dump in the kitchen.  Don’t want the cats to get into it.

She turned in the doorway.  Startled by a large figure.  Teacups clattered.

“Oh Frank, I didn’t see you standing there.”  Charlyn held out the still warm cup.  “Here, I made you a cup of tea.” 




Art by Noelle Richardson 2016





Sure, it’s not like she had a lot of friends.  Or was even remotely popular.  Goth artist brandishing a sketchbook, you could say she was kinda cool.  But not at this school, social pariah hanging out with other misfits was more like it.


Still, she had friends.  Or used to.


Like Sammy, whose purple-inked doodle in her sketchbook kicked the whole thing off.  Purple hearts, BFFs, XOs.  They were inseparable.  Went to all their classes together, partners in PE.  It was their only defense against them.


Every high school has them.  The popular crowd.  Those who are ‘in’ and those who wannabe exist just to make life miserable for those poor suckers who don’t stand a chance. 


If she and Sammy were lucky, they were simply ignored.  They survived that way for years, eating packed lunches under the stairs outside the library, so they could get a head start on studying during their lunch hour. 


She drew, filling her sketchbook with black-inked drawings.  Other geeks joined them, and they’d sit at the long tables talking about the latest WoW adventures.  The librarian nodded at the no-talking rule, relieved to have somebody using the library at all.  They went undetected; all the cool kids were out having a smoke anyhow.


Until her final year.  It was one of the wannabes that started it.  Chris Clarence snapped a photo during the lung capacity science lab, her lips pursed and face puffed out blowing up a balloon.   One trip through Photoshop later, she’s sucking an enormous cock.  Of course, it went viral.    


Next day at school she walked down the hall to catcalls and illicit offers.  They called her Blow Job, BJ for short.  Six months later, the nickname still stuck.


Six months of running to class after the bell, so she wouldn’t see anyone in the empty halls; hiding in the washrooms; enduring snickers and giggles as she walked into class.  Six months.  And now she’s done.


Art class was the tipping point.  She slid her latest charcoal sketch over for Sammy to gush over – the shading was killer, if she did say so herself.  Sammy promptly started doodling on a blank page, cutesy hearts and arrows.  When Terrance Shorn asked to see it too, Sammy didn’t think, and just handed the sketchbook off.


Sammy was near tears when Terrance passed it back.  The entire book was filled with black-Sharpied drawings of various acts of fellatio.  Who knew there were so many different positions?  Her freaking book looked like a perverted Karma Sutra, with a serious oral fixation.  All her sketches and Sammy’s purple heart were scribbled over, and the words ‘blow job’ appeared on every page.  If only Terrance applied himself this way in Art class, he might not be spending next year catching up on missed credits.


She coldly took the book and slid it into her backpack.  Didn’t want him to see her cry.


Sammy said to tell the teacher, or try to draw everything again.  Maybe get a new sketchbook.


She shook her head.  It’s gone far enough.  Time to take matters into her own hands.  And besides, the teachers never did anything anyway – not when she was shoved into lockers, her backpack snatched and tossed about, not when whistles and calls of BJ followed her down the halls; not for the million little barbs she faced every day.  Nothing.


Sammy was surprised when she said she wanted to go to the Valentine’s formal, that they could go stag and hang with the few brave geeks who dared cross the threshold of cool.  Sammy agreed, secretly thrilled to try on satiny dresses and parade in high heels.


They were busy in the short weeks leading up to the dance.  She and Sammy went shopping, bought fancy dresses and tried various hairstyles and accessories.  Sammy chose a tiny sequined clutch, she decided on a substantial shoulder bag.  Sammy tried to convince her of her fashion blunder.  She held tight to the big bag.


While Sammy scrolled through pictures of the latest updos and nail trends, she surfed darker corners of the web.  She searched for recipes involving household chemicals, stuff lying around the home and garden.  Box of nails, sack of fertilizer, leftover plumber’s pipe.


When she and Sammy arrived that night, the Vice Principal conducting bag searches raised an eyebrow, and let them pass by.  Sammy waved her tiny clutch at him, and she gripped her bag tighter.  Standing off to a corner, Terrance was holding open his suit jacket to a rent-a-cop, saying he didn’t know what was in the silver flask, must be his dad’s.


The gym was decorated with streamers and balloons, posters from the Student Council were taped to the cinderblock walls – Happy Valentine’s!  Friends forever!  Be mine!  All you need is love!


Yeah, right.


At the refreshment table a trio of bored-looking teachers stood beside a table lined with chips and an enormous punchbowl, obviously guarding the punch.  Students straggled across the dance floor, couples wrapped around each other while small groups danced together.

The popular crowd was already here, and the wannabes were hanging on.  Air kissing, fake tans squealed over fresh manis.  Guys flexed muscles and straightened ties.  No hope for any of them.


Chris Clarence looked like a gorilla in pin stripes, Katie Simpson was his date.  She wasn’t even looking at him, eyeballing somebody across the dance floor instead.  Katie stole her gym clothes back in grade nine.  Bitch.  A couple was slow dancing, already sucking face.  She couldn’t tell who they were.  No matter.


She smiled.  It’ll all be done soon.


Sammy waved at a couple of friends, and asked if she wanted to dance.


She had to put her bag down first. 


See, I told you it’s too big, Sammy said.  What do you have in there anyway?


Nothing, she tucked her bag under the bleachers.  Let’s dance.  They joined the geeks on the dance floor.


Dancing with thumping bass, surrounded by friends, no matter how nerdy they were, she was actually enjoying herself.  Surprise.  Sammy’s arms waved in the air, her updo a rat’s nest in the heat. 


But she had to carry it through.  She glanced at her watch.


Soon, she started rubbing her temples.  Said she was getting a migraine.  Sammy was disappointed when she begged off, saying she wanted to go home.


Sammy looked concerned, and held George Greirson’s hand.  They’d been making eyes at each other for months.  Looks like George finally got some balls.  She invited them both back to her place, an odd thing to say if she had a headache.


Sammy looked at her funny.  No thanks, I think I’ll stay here.  Are you OK to go home by herself? 


She nodded, and walked toward the exit, leaving her shoulder bag under the bleachers.  Sammy didn’t notice, her eyes were on George.


That was the last she saw of them.  Of all of them. 


The explosion followed soon after, echoing off identical suburban houses.  Neighbours wrapped in housecoats stood on their front stoops watching the sky light up, dark smoke streaming into the night.   


She was about a block away when the first sirens screamed by, firetrucks with flashing lights.  Red strobes painted the houses ghastly pink.  She kept walking.  Cop cars, ambulances.  More firetrucks roared past, she didn’t bother counting anymore.


She took off her shoes on somebody’s front lawn, left the broken heels lying there, and walked home in tattered nylons.  The sky glowed crimson-rose behind her.   




She should have been more careful.  She should have dragged Sammy out.  She should have, she should have.


Even though she used her step-mother’s laptop, it wasn’t long before they found her.  The Vice Principal, who managed to escape with just a few cuts and bruises, said he saw her enter the dance with the bag.  Thought nothing of it, the girl’s always carrying books around anyway. 




“Dinner’s ready!” a hatch in the steel door slid open and a tray appeared, dotted with multicoloured goop.  Pink plastic spoon.  “Aren’t you gonna take it?”




The tray slid onto a ledge, balancing precariously.  The hatch slid shut again. 

She remained sitting on the cot, industrial mattress sagging under her weight.  She looked up at the window, sunlight streamed through the bars.  Imagined drawing them, dark on light, shadows and shading.  And smiled. 


Blow Job.  She blew them away, alright.




Art by Bryan Cicalese 2016






The metal door clanged shut, concrete walls and iron bars surrounded me. I smiled. Home, sweet home.

“Working overtime tonight, Ted?” the guard nodded.

“Yep, they called me in. Short or something.”

“You know the drill, sign here,” keys jingling, the guard pointed at the roster list. All the names going in, and out of the Ridge. The oldest and largest maximum security psychiatric facility in the country. Only staff get to leave. The patients stay indefinitely.

I’m lucky. I’m staff.

The guard unlocked a second door, metal bars slid past. I waved as I walked down the hallway, calling over my shoulder, “Say hi to Mary for me.”

“Will do. Have a good night, Ted.”

My footsteps echoed off marble flooring, as I passed through dimly lit halls. Moonlight streaked through tall windows, bars cast spidery shadows across the floor.

Graveyard shift. I’m good with that.    

Worn archways carved from concrete rise overhead, the Ridge was built nearly a century ago to house some of the worst offenders in the country. Of course, they’re all nuts here, but you have to be extra bad to get into a place like this.

It’s an old, rundown building, but I know its secrets, short cuts and storerooms and all the stuff most folks forget about. Keys jangling, I opened the supply cupboard. My office, if you will.

A sheaf of calendars are nailed to the wall, one on top of the other with dates going right back to 1983, back when I started in this place. You see, I’m a bit of a collector. Tally marks and x’s mark what you might call big events around here. And I keep score. I always do.

The med cart’s ready for the night, its nearly time to deliver medication before the morning rush. Then breakfast, lunch, dinner, followed by the next day’s meds. Nurses tell me to fetch fresh linen, supplies, anything they need.

Do what I’m asked; fetch and carry, bring ‘em stuff. Ol’ Ted’ll do it. Reliable guy.

Staff like me.

They probably shouldn’t.


I unlocked a black iron gate, slid it open and pushed my cart through. Locked it carefully behind me. First delivery of the night.

“Hello Ted,” the overnight nurse looked up from her paperwork. I squinted at the nursing station, steel countertops gleaming under bright lights. Soft jazz’s playing on the radio, papers are stacked in officious-looking piles.

It’s business as usual.

Keys jingled down the corridor, broad shouldered male staff waved in greeting. I nod at him. Decent guy, we talk about sports, sometimes.

The nurse bent over her charts, and flapped her hand at me. “Just park it over there, Ted. I’ll get to it in a minute.”

“Sure thing, I’ll go do O-7, come back for my cart.” The med cart rattled into place, pill bottles clattering against each other. I turned away, back down the dim corridor.

Its lights out, essential lighting only. Patients are sleeping. Nobody’s moving ‘round this place, except me.

“See you in a bit, Ted.”

The gate clanged shut behind me.


On O-7, things are a bit different. I can hear the yelling before I even unlock the gate to the ward. Swearing, unearthly tones. Spitting gibberish of pure rage.

The nursing station’s empty, I slide my cart into its usual spot. Code white’s already been called. Violent patient. All hands on deck.

Down the corridor, a bunch of staff struggle to sandbag Jimmy. As I’m standing at the station, a couple more guards run past me, and join the pile on. Young guard gets thrown off.

I stand and watch, pretending to adjust some bottles on my cart.

The night nurse’s barking orders, “Hold him, lemme get his leg.” She bent over Jimmy; he’s still thrashing something fierce.

“Goddamn mother –” one of the staff just got kicked in the face.

Suddenly Jimmy stops. Falls limp.

That sure is some powerful stuff.         

The staff drag poor Jimmy back into his cell and roll him onto his bed. Door slams. Goodnight Jimmy.

Still panting, the staff walk to the nursing station. “Did he get you bad?” the night nurse nodded at the guard.

The young guard rubbed his head, “Not too badly. Just got my bell rung.”

“I wasn’t too sure if we’d get him under control, until you spiked him. Good job, Doreen,” a male nurse said.

“Yeah, tomorrow we’ll get the doc to up his meds. Increase the Nozinan to 500 mg. Should be enough to stop a horse.”

“Poor bastard won’t be moving with that much noz in him.”

“You say it like it’s a bad thing,” Doreen laughed.

I coughed.

“Oh, hey Ted. Just leave the cart here. We’ll get to it in a bit. Gotta debrief first.” Doreen looked up from her chart, “And could you grab the soiled linen for us?  It’s stinking to high heaven in here.”

A young blond nurse is busy checking out the guard, holding a compress on his head. He winces, and then looks down her top.

I turned away.

Low laughter from the nursing station while I hoisted an oversized sack of piss-stink laundry onto my shoulder. I staggered under the weight. Hope nothing leaks.

“OK, see you later, Ted.” Pen in hand, Doreen picked up her chart, documenting everything.


Medication is how this place runs. And I’m a big part of it. Patients stay nicely medicated, and we’re all safe. Or as safe as we can be locked up with a bunch of crazy fuckers.

Patient confidentiality or not, I know what most of these guys did. You overhear the nurses talking, and the guards rumble among themselves. Crimes against family, kids, animals – they’ve seen it all.

Like Syd on 0-8, crazy bastard decorated his living room with human entrails. Or that old dude that drove the highways, picking up hitchhikers and doing God knows what with them.

Bunch of old timers, sitting around, doped outta their heads. Most of the time, they’re a quiet bunch, too stoned to do much of anything. But sometimes they miss a dose, here and there, or their medication stops working, for whatever reason.

That’s when things get interesting. Like ol’ Jimmy, gave ‘em a good what for. Good for you buddy, I never liked that dumbass guard anyway.

Gotta give it to him, ol’ Jimmy put up a good fight. I didn’t think staff’d be able to hold ‘em; but in the end, they always win.

And that’s just not fair.

You could say, that’s when it becomes part of my job description. Other duties as assigned.


It was a week or so later that they called the code blue, then put the whole place in lockdown. Nobody could move. I stayed in the supply cupboard and did some washing up; my hands got pretty dirty doing this gig. And I added another tally mark on my calendar.

When the lockdown was lifted I went about my usual rounds. Dayshift, the place was hopping. Staff went from cell to cell, checking locks. Patients were pissed off; most of them missed their daytime TV programs.

And snack, shoulda heard ‘em yellin about snack. On O-5, Jeff Keller was pitching a fit because he missed his Mars bars.

“It’s my constitutional rights, you lousy sons of bitches. Where’s my lawyer?”

Staff tried to reason with him. “Jeff, it’s a chocolate bar. It’s not just you, nobody’s going to canteen. You’ll get dinner in half an hour.”

“It’s denial of food – motherfuckers, that’s what it is. Basic human rights. And I know ‘em, don’t you fool me. Bad enough I gotta ask for TP every time I take a shit. No goddamned dignity in that. Where the hell’s my lawyer?”

“Look, the last time you had a roll of toilet paper you shoved it down the toilet and flooded the ward.” Staff continued, “Then you tried to kill yourself.”

“You shoulda let me, you sons of bitches. It’s in the goddamned Constitution, dumbass. My federal rights – I’m gonna get my lawyer…”


My cart squeaked as I pushed it through the gate. The staff on the corridor waved at me, “Hey Ted, lemme call Doreen up. She’ll take your cart right away.”  

I rolled it into the nursing station. Two young nurses were bent over the desk, whispering.

“I heard that she won’t be back. Like ever. Waiting for reconstructive surgery. Lucky to be alive.” The blond looked up, eyes wide.

“But how do you think Syd did it?  He’s locked into his ward. And she was found in the stairwell.”

“I dunno, but staff found Syd out of his cell. In the kitchen, stealing apple juice. He says he doesn’t know what happened, but when he woke up his door was open and he was thirsty.”

“Sick bastard.”

“It happens every now and again, one of the guys gets out, seems to go on a blitz, then nothing for years.” The blond nodded.

“Do they know which guy?”

“Seems to be random, they get out, and then –”

“Girls, are you done charting yet?” Doreen bustled in, looking flustered. “Ted, thank you, I can take it from here.”

 “No problem.” My keys jingled as I turned back down the hallway. I had one more med run to deal with.


Back on O-6, the nursing station was in an uproar. Cupboards gaped open, drawers pulled out, papers scattered everywhere.

The charge nurse met me at the gate, “Thanks Ted. I’ll take the cart from here.” She frowned, “We’re doing a bit of a spring cleaning, you know, in light of recent events.”

I took my cap in hand, and smoothed back my hair. “Yeah, I heard about that nurse. She gonna be OK?”

“We don’t know. Can only hope for the best.”

“Yes, ma’am.” I turned to leave.

“Oh Ted, wait up a minute,” a young nurse came running down the corridor. “Do you mind walking with me to the front office? Staff are under orders not to go anywhere alone.”

“Sure thing, I’m going up there anyway,” I smiled at her.

“Great, let me grab my purse.” She glanced at her watch, “Damnit, I’m already late.”

“You know, there’s a shortcut down the back stairwell. Nobody ever uses it.”

“Thanks Ted, you’re a lifesaver.”

As the metal gate clanged shut behind us, I fingered the syringe in my pocket. Time to even the odds around here.

And add another tally mark on to my calendar.


-- THE END--

Art by Marina Cicalese 2016





“Look, birdie!” Alice pointed at the dead maple, ancient giant towering above its neighbours, barren limbs a grey silhouette against the sky.

 Marlene wiped her gardening gloves on her jeans and shielded her eyes from the sun. A trio of crows perched on empty branches, their hoarse cries echoing through the backyard. Marlene shuddered. She hated birds, strange creatures with beady eyes and reptilian claws. Pointy beaks.

 Fifty feet in the air, black blobs hopped from branch to branch, cawing loudly. Reminded her of priest’s robes. Marlene turned her back on them, “Let’s go water the flowers in the front yard, honey.” She took Alice’s hand.

 Water slopping down her legs, Alice struggled to carry both her watering can and shovel.

 “Careful honey,” Marlene reached for the watering can. “Here, let Mommy help you.”

 “No, me.” Alice trudged to the front yard. Marlene glanced behind. The crows were still in the tree, on lower branches now, and oddly silent. Must have flown down. Two of them cocked their heads, as though trying to figure out a puzzle. Watching her.                                    

 That’s ridiculous, she told herself. Crows don’t watch people. They fly, and they caw, and, well, do whatever crows do.

 One stared at Marlene, black eyes meeting hers. Then it cawed – the voice of nightmares – grating bray, like it was laughing or something. She shuddered.

 “C’mon honey, let’s hurry up. The flowers are thirsty.” Marlene quickly shut the gate behind her, not wanting to look back.



“Daddy!” Alice raced to the door, wrapping her arms around Rob’s legs.

 “How’s my princess today?” he hoisted her onto his shoulders. “Ready for an airplane ride?”


 “You saw a birdie?”


 “Was it big?”


 “Did it go tweet-tweet?”


 “Yeah, we spent some time in the backyard.” Marlene called from the kitchen, “Tried to get some yard work done.” She paused, “Think we gotta do something about that tree.”

 Laughter came from the living room, mingled with preschooler cartoons.




“Alright, you two, dinner’s ready. Come and get it.” Marlene carried a casserole to the table. Serving cheesy pasta, she added, almost as an afterthought, “Oh honey, it’s time to get somebody to take down that maple. Don’t think it’s coming back.”

 “I thought you wanted to grow vines on it or something.”

 “Naw, it’s dead. Could come down right on top of us any day now.” She pushed pasta around her plate. Didn’t mention the crows.

 Rob looked up from the table, surprised. “Guess I’ll get someone to take care of it then.”




Marlene stepped into the bedroom and smiled at the sleeping form, blond curls peeked out from beneath a teddy bear blanket. Turning in her sleep, Alice looked up, blinking and mumbled, “Mommy, sing the baby robin song again.”

 "Sure thing sugar,” Marlene trailed her fingers through blond curls and began, her low voice wavering, “Rock me easy, rock me slow, rock me where the robins go.”

 Alice’s voice joined in, “Rock the branch, and rock the bough, rock the baby robins now.”

 The song soon dissolved into soft snoring; Marlene closed the door behind her.




“Outside! Outside!”

 “OK, cool your jets. Put your shoes on first.” Marlene pulled on her garden clogs.

“Shoes!” Alice held out pink sneakers. “Help.”

 Marlene bent to shove pudgy feet into sneakers and fasten Velcro. “Time to water the flowers!”

 Alice ran to the backdoor. Marlene glanced out the window. Two crows were on the lawn, hopping through lush grass. Pointy beaks jabbed at the ground, searching for something, worms or bugs or whatever crows eat.

 Both birds suddenly looked up at her, staring through the window. Penetrating gaze into nothingness. She shivered. It’s like they were watching her.

  She looked at the tree, expecting the third. Nothing.

 From the lawn, a dark cackle exploded, hoarse laughter as the crows called, voices overlapping, and then launched into flight.

 Marlene turned away from the window. “Uh, honey, let’s go out front today. Mommy has to check on her roses.”

 Alice’s lower lip threatened a pout. Tears welled.

 “And if you’re good, we can walk to the mailbox. You can mail the letters all by yourself, because you’re such a big girl.” Marlene handed her a bundle of letters.

 Alice beamed. Crisis averted.




Walking back from the mailbox, Marlene was surprised to see an elderly couple standing on her front stoop, both dressed in black. A whitehaired man rang the doorbell, while a lady in a heavy black skirt peered through the window. Must be lost or something.

 “Hi, can I help you?” Marlene walked up the driveway.

 The lady whipped around, as though stung. “Oh hello, do you live here?” Beads of perspiration dotted her lip. She must be roasting in nylons on a day like today.

 Marlene held Alice’s hand tighter. “Uh, yeah. Can I help you?”

 “Oh hello dear. My husband and I are just visiting the neighbourhood to offer our brochure to people. Spreading the news.” She smiled, dark eyes gleaming .

 “Uh, no thanks. I don’t really need anything. Thank you.” Marlene walked toward the front door. They didn’t move from the stoop.

 Marlene stood at the bottom of her front steps, Alice twisting beside her. Talk about awkward. How do I get into the house when they’re between me and my front door? She thought briefly about going through the backyard.

 A crow cawed, voice like rusty nails. Marlene glanced up at the maple, bare branches stretching above the house. Not the backyard.

 “You know, I’m kinda busy. I got things to do.” Marlene put her foot on the step.

 “Oh, I understand completely,” the lady leaned down to pat Alice on the head. Alice shrank away. The lady didn’t notice. “When I had my little one at home, I barely had time to sit down, never mind talk to folks. Oh, but time flies. Before you know it, she’ll be gone, and you’d do anything to get her back.”

 “Uh huh.” Old ladies regularly stopped her in the grocery store, pinched Alice’s cheek, and talked about when their kids were little. Nod and smile. They’ll move on.

 The man tugged at his tie. Droplets of sweat slid down his neck. “Why don’t you take our brochure, read it for yourself. We can check back later. Chat then.”

 “Sounds great.” Marlene reached for the pamphlet, and started up the steps. “If you’ll excuse me.”

 The couple shuffled to the side. For an uncomfortable moment, all four of them stood on the concrete stoop, and then the lady stepped down. Marlene squeezed past. The lady raised her hand, “Goodbye, dear. Have a great day.”

 “You too,” Marlene muttered, hand on the doorknob.

 Dragging Alice inside, she tossed the brochure on the floor. “Now, let’s see about lunch, shall we?”




“Daddy!” Alice ran down the hallway toward the front door.

 “What’s this?” Rob bent, picking up the discarded pamphlet.

 “Mommy book.”

 “Honey, what is this?”

 “What?” Marlene called from the kitchen.

 Rob walked into the kitchen, Alice’s arms wrapped around his neck. He held out the brochure. Faith in times of crisis and loss.

 Marlene laughed. “Oh, this old couple made me take it. Going ‘round the neighbourhood, handing them out. I forgot it there.” Marlene reached for the booklet, “Here, give it to me. I gotta do recycling anyway.” She set the brochure on the countertop and smiled brightly. “You know, I don’t really feel like cooking tonight. Let’s say we get a pizza instead?”

 “Yay! Pizza!”

 Rob smiled. “The verdict’s in. Pizza it is.”




“OK honey, ready to go outside?”

 Alice waved her feet in the air; pink sparkles glittered in the sunlight.

 “And you’ll help Mommy water the flowers out front, right?”


 “That’s right, you’re my big helper.” Marlene paused, hand on the front doorknob and peered through the window. Several doors down she could just make out two black shapes, going door to door. Not again. “Change of plans, sweetie. Let’s go in the backyard today, OK? Check on the garden there.”

 “’K” Blond curls raced toward the backdoor.

 Stepping into the backyard, Marlene gasped. Everything was scorched. Her poor garden. Peonies drooped and lilies withered; morning glories shrivelled into brown husks. How long has it been since things were watered back here? Even the grass was yellowed.

 She hadn’t left it for that long, had she?

 A riot of gravelly voices burst from the maple. Black birds hopped from branch to branch, laughing at her.

 “Oh shut up.” Marlene glared at the dead tree.

 “Mommy?” Alice looked up at her.

 Marlene rubbed her temples. Her garden, her lawn; all that hard work burnt to a crisp. Time, and money, all wasted because of some stupid birds.

 Alice grabbed her sleeve, tugging, “Mommy –”

 “Shh… Mommy’s thinking. Can you hush a moment, sweetie?”

 Through the open window, the phone started to ring. Marlene patted her pockets. Of course, she forgot her phone inside. Great. “Alice, honey, Mommy has to run inside for a second. You wait right here, OK?”

 Inside the kitchen, Marlene cast around for her phone, just a minute, she muttered, rifling through her purse, finally grabbing it and answered it. “Hi, honey.”

 Rob’s voice was in her ear, “So I got a guy booked to take down the tree.”

 “Good,” Marlene peered through the kitchen window; Alice was still wandering on the lawn, picking up dead flowers and waving them. Her laughter floated inside.

 “You got a pen? I’ll give you the dates,” Rob’s voice pulled her back, “He wants everybody off the property while the tree’s coming down. Says it can be dangerous.”

 “So where do we go?”

 "Maybe my mother’s,” she could hear the apology in his voice, “Make a full day of it. You could do a couple days at my mom’s.”

 “Two days?”

 “The guy said it’d be a big job –”

 Unearthly groans filled the air, followed by a rushing noise, reminding her of a freight train. A thud shook the house, she staggered. “What the hell?”

 “What was that?” Panic crept into Rob’s voice.

 “It sounded like a truck hit the house –”

 Marlene turned toward the kitchen window, and started screaming. Tree branches pressed up against the glass.




          Marlene was still screaming when she ran into the backyard; the tree laid on the ground, branches snapped against the roof and flattening everything in its path.

 Rob’s voice floated through the phone, “Marlene, what’s wrong –” cutting out when she dropped it.

 Twisted limbs and bent neck intertwined with fallen branches, a small body splayed across the lawn. Blood spatter and crushed skull; a gaping hole pulsating blood, then slowing to a halt.

 Marlene was still screaming when Rob arrived home seemingly minutes later, and by the time the ambulance arrived she dissolved into sobs. She stood watching ambulance attendants lift tree branches off the body, and cover it with a white sheet.

 She looked up at the tree as they wheeled her away. Broken limb snapped off and exposing rotting core.

 In the distance, crows cawed riotously.




The days following the funeral were quiet ones. After the last visitor left and hushed murmurs of condolence fell still, a silence crept over the house.

 During the visitation Marlene sat on the sofa, staring into space. It’s shock, her relatives whispered, finding the child like that. How terrible, poor thing. No mother should have to –

 And Rob, poor guy, he was just about to get that tree taken down.  




Days dragged on. Rob sat staring at the TV, sometimes talking about getting up off the couch, and going back to work, but never moving.

 Marlene launched into full housecleaning mode, mopping and scrubbing with a fury. Leaving Alice’s room untouched. Her bed was still rumpled, stuffed animals scattered on the carpet, dropped carelessly just a few days earlier. Marlene averted her eyes as she walked past.

 The TV echoed through the house, the only voice breaking the silence.

 That morning there was a soft knock at the front door. Marlene opened it cautiously. Familiar figures stood on the stoop, both still dressed in black.  

 “We’re very sorry about your loss. So tragic to lose such a young child. We’d like to offer you our brochure for your consideration.”

 Behind them, Marlene watched a crow track a straight line across the sky, cackle of laughter floating behind.



Art by John Lunar Richey & Michael Pritchet 2017



Liz McAdams


“Is that the guy?” I said, through a forced smile. Dance music blared, Janie and I were up on stage, me on my hands and knees, in booty shorts and ass in the air; Janie had her leg wrapped around the pole, hips thrusting, and tits jiggling.

It was a good act; we did pretty well with it.

Janie twisted around, following my gaze. Fake smile still plastered across her face, she paled, but otherwise didn’t let it show.

We were all torn up about Ruby. Bad date, my ass. She was lucky to be alive after what that bastard did to her.

‘Course, the cops didn’t listen. Just hung out at the bar, staring at tits and asses, took some notes, and drank cheap beer.

And the guy who did it wasn’t a regular; just a one off, drifting in, and never seen again. Guys like that are just another job hazard; freaks out to hurt and kill, then moving on to the next victim. Too bad it was Ruby.

No-neck, balding businessman in a suit, flashed a gold watch to show he had money to burn. No wonder Ruby took him on, he smelled like easy money.

Her eyes still glued on buddy across the bar, Janie was grinding her crotch against the pole, thong disappearing into ass cheeks. My hands were wrapped around her hips, pretending to eat her out.

Strict rules about no sexual contact, and all that. We followed the rules, most of the time. It was a classy establishment, after all.

Across the bar, buddy was watching over his beer; faint smile on his face. This could be our in.


Song over, Janie and I walked up to him; his grin got wider. Pop music crashed through the bar as the next pair of tits danced across the stage.

“You wanna go hang out?” Janie nodded at the curtained-off rooms. VIP access. She smiled, “Our treat.”

Buddy sprawled on a leather sofa; Janie went to work, straddling his thigh, shaking her tits in his face. Firm and round, perfect breasts. I leaned in, whispering in his ear, and reached for his crotch, feeling his cock through his jeans. Already hard, he grabbed my ass.

“So you ladies wanna party back at my place?” He squeezed harder, kneading me like bread dough. “I got something goin’ on later.” He stuffed a folded bill into Janie’s thong.

“Maybe,” Janie wrapped her arms around his neck, shoving her tits in his face. Perfect nipples stared at him. Buddy didn’t stare long, rubbing his fat gob on what was offered.

Looks like those implants were paying for themselves. Mine aren’t as good, more the budget version; one of a few minor surgical changes. And everything costs big bucks nowadays.

But my ass is my own, and it’s sublime.

His hand slid down, between my legs and jerked back. “You—you’re a guy.”

“Not quite, hon,” I smiled at him.

Twisting on the sofa, he tried to stand up; Janie pinned him, muscles in her arms flexing. She’s still pretty strong, used to be a weightlifter before the transition.

Eyes wide, he stared at us. “What the hell are you two?”

“Well, honey, nobody’s quite sure what I am.” I smiled, reaching into my shorts. “Kinda like Ruby.”

“Ruby?” His face paled.

“Yeah.” Janie smiled at him. “Thought we’d give you a little something from her.”

His eyes were riveted on my hand, still inside my shorts.

“Our treat.” I pulled the semi out of my shorts, a mini snub-nosed pistol that tucked up nice right under my ballsack, taped down tight. Girls like me need to carry some kind of protection.

Two shots later and buddy slumped against the sofa, red blossoms spreading against his chest.

For Ruby.



Art by Patty Mulligan 2017






“Why don’t you get a real job?” Brent leaned in the garage doorway, his frame filling the pass though back to the house. “You’re just out here all day, playing with dogs.”

“What?” I looked up at him. My scissors still in hand, the geriatric poodle standing on my grooming table trembled, and I turned back to her, “Shhh… it’s OK Amber.”

“Something that gets you out of the house.”

I ignored him, and was busy patting Amber. She stood, wide eyed and trembling; she’d be a wreck to finish grooming, and her owner was due back in fifteen minutes. She was one of five dogs I was working on that day, the rest were waiting in cages, in various stages of readiness. I didn’t look up. “You gotta go, you’re scaring the dogs.”

“They’re fine.”

Amber suddenly lurched sideways, twisting off the table. Scooping her in one arm, I held my scissors away from her vibrating body, “No they’re not, you’re gonna make me cut a dog.”

“I thought you were a pro.”

“I am –” I set down the scissors and cradled Amber’s head, crooning, “Shh…” I glanced over at Brent, still hanging in the doorway. “Just get out of here, let me finish.”

“Fine.” He turned away, “Guess I’m starting dinner then.”

“Well, yeah, I’m still busy.” I turned back to the dog, cooing, “Shh… it’s OK, puppy,” and picked up a brush, trying to fluff up her coat so I could finish shaping it into smooth curves and a cute top knot.

I looked up as the door slammed shut, and a chorus of dogs started barking. Poor Amber started shaking all over again.

Freaking jerk.


“Oh, she’s lovely, you do such a good job,” Mrs. Carlson beamed as Amber stood panting on the grooming table, coat finally fluffed and scissored to perfection, top knot and pom poms in place; the classic poodle clip.

Fixing a bow, I stood up stretching, a twinge of pain flared across my lower back. Long days on my feet sure did me in.

“And a cheque’s still OK?” Mrs. Carlson smiled at me.

I nodded as she wrote out a cheque for forty six dollars, her hands shaking in spidery script. Smiling, she slid a folded twenty into my hand, “And here’s a little something for you, you take such good care of her, I wouldn’t have poor Amber go anywhere else, she’s such a sensitive little thing.”

“Aw, thanks, Mrs. Carlson that’s so nice to hear,” I stood up straighter, still rubbing my back.

“You alright, dear?”

“Yeah, just a long day on my feet.”

“It would be, you do a lot of work; must be a big job,” she nodded at the plastic tub and drying table, the row of crates with dogs sitting inside, all still waiting final touches. “You must have the patience of a saint to do this.”

I smiled, “I guess I have a way with dogs.”


“Dinner’s ready,” Brent called down the hallway. I was washing up in the bathroom; loose dog hair floated around me, and swept down the drain. Sadie, my Rottweiler looked up at me, expectantly.

“Been a long day, eh, girl?”

She stared at me, with a look that either meant take me for a walk or feed me; or maybe both. She was a smart dog.

“I hope you’re hungry,” Brent called from the kitchen. The soft hiss of a can of beer opening floated down the hall. I wondered how many he’d had already.

Sadie followed me to the table and lay down on the floor, looking up occasionally but scanning the floor for wayward crumbs. Brent slid a plate in front of me, steak and baked potato drowning in butter and sour cream.

I tried to scoop the sour cream off, and remove half the butter.

Brent nodded at me, “What, you don’t like my cooking?”

“Uh, all the dairy’s a bit much.” I turned the potato around, trying to find a grease-free spot and nibbled at the peel.

“You can just say it, you don’t like it, right?”

“Well, I am lactose intolerant…” I trailed off.

His arms shot out as he pushed his plate away from himself, his voice already raised. “Here we go with this bullshit again. Goddamned made up thing that everybody and his mother has. Like fucking gooten.”


“Yeah, well, -- whatever, fucking bullshit, that’s what it is.”

“Brent, I don’t know what your problem is, but stop it.” I stared at him. Suddenly alerted, Sadie looked up at me, then glanced at Brent. Her eyes narrowed.

Brent looked down at the dog, and forced a smile. “Look, I don’t know what got into me, I’m just a little uptight from work, right. Why don’t you eat your steak, babe?”

Picking up my knife, I sliced into the steak, red blood pooled across my plate. Raw flesh that had been quickly seared and flipped; it was beyond rare. I pushed the plate aside, “Uh, I’m not in the mood for it, got any salad?”

“Going fucking vegetarian on me?”

“Um, no, I’m just not in the mood for it.” My stomach growled, the last meal I had was breakfast. It had been a busy day.

Brent smiled at me. “I’m sure your doggy friends would like it.”

“What the hell’s your problem?”

“You know, it’s time gotta get a real job, you’re just sitting around the house all day.” He twisted his plate around and stabbed at his steak. Blood juices ran across white porcelain as he waved a fork at me. “You cost a lot to keep around here, babe, and you don’t bring in much.”

“But I work –”

“Yeah, right – you fucking work –”

“What’s your problem Brent?” I shoved my plate aside. “It’s like you’re looking for a fight or something.”

“You don’t even appreciate what you got in front of you.” His knife scraped across white china, the sound making me shudder. “Just spend your fucking day playing with dogs.”

“But that’s my job – it’s a home business.”

“It’s all you care about, freaking dogs.” He glanced down at Sadie, she stared back at him; clownish black and tan patches and steely eyes. Her lip curled, slightly.

He shifted in his chair.

“Look, Brent, maybe you moving in here was a mistake.” I stood up, “C’mon Sadie, let’s go for a walk.”


Sadie’s nails clicked on the tile foyer as we came back into the house. Sounds of sports announcers drifted toward us; Brent was sprawled across the sofa, caught in the light of the TV, and staring straight ahead. The coffee table lay crowded with beer cans.

As I walked into the living room, he didn’t even turn toward me. I nodded at him, “You know Brent, I’ve been thinking, maybe you should look for another place to live.”

He ignored me.

I raised my voice. “Brent, I think it’s time for you to move out.”

Shaking his head, he laughed, “I knew you’d say that. What, you had a big heart to heart with your dog?”

“No, but –”

“Look, you can’t afford to stay here by yourself; whatcha gonna do, groom dogs out of a homeless shelter?”

I could feel my blood pressure rising, and stood silent, biting my lip.

“You wanted me here, right? I left Jenna for you. And this is what I get?” Brent laughed. “Fucking dog groomer – spend your days putting pom poms on poodles?”

“But –”

“I mean, Jenna would always take me back, if that’s what you wanted. So what, she’s a bit of a head case, and thinks you’re a freak, but…”

I stood staring at him.

“Besides, I put a fair bit of money into this place, I should get my share out of it. Common law. And I don’t think you can afford to buy me out.”

As I turned back down the hallway, Sadie followed, looking up at me. Waiting for me to do something.

Freaking hell.


I was doing some extra dogs Saturday afternoon when I stepped into the garage, and startled at the sight of Brad standing in front of the dog cages.

“Hey, what’re you doing here?” A steady stream of barking and whining filled the air.

“Nothing – dogs were making so much noise – I couldn’t watch TV.”

“I was only gone a minute, I just went to the washroom…” Trailing off, I glanced at the pass through door, “I guess I left it open.”

“Maybe – but the dogs were making a godawful racket.”

Sadie circled around me, looking up expectantly, and then looked over at Brad. I followed her gaze. He turned toward me, and smiled.

A huddled heap in the cage behind him caught my eye.

“What happened to Fluffy?” Pushing past him, I peered into a cage at the Pomeranian, now holding his foot in the air.

“What do you mean, what happened?” Brad glanced at the dog, “It’s still there, making noise.”

The dog cowered in the back of its cage, and whined.

“Something’s wrong –”

He shrugged. “Damned thing wouldn’t shut up.”

“What did you do to Fluffy?”

“Nothing,” he shrugged again.

“Brad –” I turned toward him. Sadie looked up at me, then over at Brad. Her lip curled.

He glanced down at her and forced a smile. “You know how it is, babe. Damned thing wouldn’t shut up – you left him howling out here, making all kinds of racket, I couldn’t hear the TV.”

“What the hell did you do?”

He turned back toward the door into the house. “Just rattled his cage a little. Knocked some sense into the guy.”

“You hurt him?” I stared, “Go on – get the hell out of here.”

“Gladly, smells like dog shit out here anyway. Don’t know how you stand it.”

At the slam of the door, all the dogs started barking; and as I lifted Fluffy out of the cage, he whimpered in pain. “There, there,” I crooned.

Damnit, I thought, what the hell did I do to deserve this asshole in my life?


It was Sparky’s owner that gave me the idea. “Poor Sparky needs this before any kind of grooming, it just calms him right down.”

Cass, she said her name was, recently divorced according to Mrs. Carleson, and here on her recommendation. I smiled at the shaggy terrier, and held out my hand. Sparky snarled, lunging for me, quickly, I jerked my hand away. His jaws snapped shut on empty space.

“He’s a feisty one, isn’t he?” I looked up at Cass.

She smiled apologetically. “Sorry about that. Poor Spark’s pretty wound up, aren’t you boy?” she patted his scruffy head. Sparky growled quietly.

I stared at the dog. “I don’t know if I can do him like this. He’s terrified.”

“I’ll muzzle him, but I heard you were a miracle worker, you did wonders with poor Amber. He just needs to get used to you.”

“I’m not sure if I –”

“Don’t worry, he’ll settle.” Cass slid a muzzle over the terrier’s shaggy face; Sparky’s eyes bulged, and he panted, breathing heavily. She smiled, “Now, I just gave him his sedative a few minutes ago,” and held out the bottle, “Give him about twenty minutes, then it’ll kick in, Half the time he just falls asleep.”

Eyes bulging, Sparky stared at me, bristly hair sticking out around the nylon muzzle; he growled again.

“You’re sure about this?”

She nodded. “If he starts to wake up, give him another tablet.” Petting Sparky, Cass looked up at me, “You just have to be really careful, he can’t feel too much like this, he could get hurt easily.”

“Oh really?”

She lifted the dog’s head, a jagged scar ran across his throat. “The last groomer cut him so badly the poor guy nearly bled to death on her table.”

I stared at the scar. “And your vet gave you those pills?”

She nodded, “The medication was covered under his pet insurance plan.”


Cass was right, in the time it took to bathe a cocker spaniel, Sparky was nearly asleep. I lifted him up on the table, and eased his muzzle off, crooning, “There’s a good boy.”

His eyes half closed, I hurriedly clipped and scissored, then gave him a quick bath, setting him in a wire cage with a dryer propped in front. He fell asleep in the warm breeze, snoring softly.

As I opened Sparky’s cage, and slid in a bowl of water, I smiled. I had a plan.


It was simple enough, a quick call to the insurance company, to talk about life insurance policies for common law couples, and increasing coverage for both of us; it would be tragic if one of us was left without the other, but, as the agent said, it was good to plan ahead.

And then a few days later at doctor’s appointment, I cried and said how much stress I was under, and how I simply could not sleep anymore. I needed something, anything to help.

The doctor smiled and pulled out her prescription pad.

Leaving the pharmacy with a small paper bag and bottles of tablets followed by strict instructions to avoid operating machinery and drinking alcohol, I smiled even wider.


Brent was surprised when he walked in the door, the table set with wine glasses and the smell of pan fried steak in the air.

He leaned over and kissed me.

“You leave your grooming crap everywhere, don’t you?” he nodded at a pair of scissors lying on the kitchen counter.

I smiled, “Just sharpening them.”

“So look at you cooking – getting all domestic on me now.”

“Things have been kind of tense between us lately,” I smiled at him, “Thought I’d take some time to set things right.”

“Just as long as there’s no dog hair in it.” He bent into the fridge and the soft hiss of a can of beer opening followed. Standing up, beer in hand, he nodded at me. “Well, babe, let’s eat.”


Brent pushed the steak around his plate. I smiled at him, “I know I don’t do it the way you do, but I hope it’s OK.”

“Yeah, fine,” he shrugged. “Does the wine taste off to you?”

“I think it just needs to breathe a little.” I sipped mine, “It tastes alright to me.”

He tipped his glass to his lips, and frowned.

I held up my glass, “Anyway, to us.”

“To us,” he smiled, and took a large gulp. And then another.

I was halfway through my salad when I looked up and Brent was pouring himself second glass, the first already emptied. “I’m glad you’re enjoying the wine,” I smiled at him.

“Yeah, it’s not too bad once you get used to it.”

It was just like Cass said, in about twenty minutes Brent stumbled toward the couch, red faced and slurring; he fumbled for the TV remote. Soon, the sports announcer was drowned out by loud snoring.

I waited a few extra minutes, clearing the table, loading the dishwasher, and gave the leftover steak to Sadie.

She looked up at me, gratefully, and then meat scraps disappeared in a shower of slobber.

Brent never did like my dog. Or my cooking.


When I was sure he was asleep I pulled my scissors out from beside the microwave, the long shears that scissored poodle legs with ease, each blade about twelve inches long. Those blades always made quick work of pom poms.

Brent was still snoring when I stepped into the living room, my scissors in hand.

It was a pretty fast job. I stood over him and opened the blades, dragging them across his throat and pressed down real hard; his eyes flashed open, he gasped, burbling, and then, in a few moments, nothing. Blood ran down from the sofa and spattered onto my living room floor.

I stepped around the puddles.

Sadie looked up at me, her tail wagging slowly, and then followed me outside.

Leaving the mess behind, I returned to the garage; I still had a spaniel to finish final trimming on. The dog wagged its whole back end frantically as I opened the caged, and I smiled at him. “Aren’t you a good boy?”

He bounced around me as I washed my scissors in the tub, I held them out of his reach as the blood spiralled down the drain. I didn’t want to cut a dog.

I would be at least an another hour finishing the spaniel; the owner wanted a full breed clip, and I still had to scissor fluffy legs and a skirt. At least my scissors were still sharp.

It would be quite some time before the owner arrived on their way home from work, and then after I’d clean up my shop; vacuuming the floor and wiping down my tools with disinfectant.

I liked to keep things clean.

After that, I’d go into the house, and find Brent lying dead. And when I called the police, I’d let them know his ex-girlfriend had some major issues. And Brent had some problems of his own.

But me, my customers would say, I had the patience of a saint.



Liz McAdams is a short, sharp, writer and fond of dark things. Her work appears in the usual places, including Spelk, Near to the Knuckle, Yellow Mama, Shotgun Honey, and scattered around Twisted Sister lit mag. Check Liz out at

Art by Noelle Richardson 2017






Goddamnit, I had to take a leak. Old man problems.

I rolled over in my cot and stared at the ceiling. Same cracked walls, light dimmed and wrapped in industrial metal wiring.

Lights out.

Next door I could hear Buddy humming away. Usual racket, some kinda tuneless noise that creeps inside your skull. Don’t know how I managed to sleep with it, guess I got used to it after a while.

Get used to alotta things, I guess.

I stood up to take a piss, cursing my bladder. Or was it prostate? Whatever. Old man plumbing not working right. Hurts like a bitch.

Funny how things change, your body just lets go and one day you wake up old. Guards come and go, but everything else around you stays the same.

The toilet was still the same, cold metal pre-formed deal welded to the wall. No seat, of course, and you get pretty tired of planting your ass on cold metal just to take a shit.

At least I’m allowed to have my own toilet paper.

Privileges, that’s what I got. Don’t cause any problems and you work your way up. Heck, I’m practically running this joint.

And some of them never learn.

Down the range I can hear other guys stirring, and the guard’s footsteps echoing down the corridor. Guard on key doing night checks, and across the way Dave asks for a drink of water.

Guard tells him to wait ‘til morning.

Dave starts to kick up a ruckus. “What’d you mean, you shut off my water already.”

“Lights out.”

“I just want a goddamned drink of water for chrissakes.”

“Go to sleep.”

“I’m not a fucking kid – I’m dying of thirst here. Need a drink.”

The guard says something real quiet, I can’t quite catch it.

“Fuck you.”

“That’s ten demerits – you wanna keep it up?”

“Fuck you.”

Guard laughs, and I recognise his voice. Wilkens. Royal bastard. Poor Dave’d dehydrate to hell before he’d get a drink outta that asshole.

“What – you want me to drink outta the toilet?”

“Go ahead.”

“It’s full of piss. You already shut off my water. At least flush the damned thing.”

“Morning, gotta wait ‘til morning.”

Dave starts yelling about his diabetes, and the doctor’s orders. Wilkens just walks away, I can hear his footsteps echo down the range.

My piss stream dribbles to a slow drip, and I curse the old man plumbing I got going on. Takes forever to take a leak, and never quite finishes up. I catch myself with a couple drips on my pants.

Goddamnit, laundry’s still a few days away.

Gonna smell like piss and stink myself out before then. I flush my toilet and rinse my hands in the sink, hoping Dave can’t hear the water running. Poor bastard flooded his cell last week, and they still haven’t turned his water back on. Think it’ll teach him a lesson.

As I’m heading back to bed Buddy starts up again. Some kinda tuneless song of his, moaning away. Down the range Dave yells at him to shut the fuck up.

Doesn’t matter, Buddy’d keep going no matter what.

I scrunch down into my cot and pull the blanket over me, and I can hear Buddy next door ripping his blanket to pieces, and making his noises. Whooting and moaning.

You’d think guards’d take his blanket away, but no, they let him have it. Say it’s his constitutional right an’ all. Don’t know about that, the last blanket Buddy had he chewed up to bits and swallowed half of it.

Went down to the hospital wing for a while and they tried to pump his stomach.

Don’t think they got it all out, Buddy was screaming a blue streak every time he’d take a shit for a nearly week afterwards. But, everything musta passed through him alright, because here he was, back at it again.

The rip, rip of that blanket being torn starts to get on my nerves. Scratchy sounds of threads snapping apart.

“Hey Buddy, knock it off,” I call over to next door.

Nothing but more hooting and hollering and the sound of his blanket getting ripped up.

Goddamnit, how much blanket he got left over there anyway?

The ripping continues and I lay in bed trying to ignore it and then he starts getting happy with the thing, whooting it up in that tuneless voice of his. Kinda reminds me of a howler monkey, like I seen on TV.

I try to pull the blanket over my head and scooch down on the cot. The noises go right through me.

“Goddamnit Buddy, I’m trying to sleep over here.”

More calls down the range, muffled yells of shut the fuck up. Or else.

Buddy just keeps on going.

Fucking hell.

The hooting noises get louder; he’s getting excited over there. Frisky, even. Fat bastard’s probably humping it. Rolls of lard hanging over that wee dick of his, humping away. I close my eyes as though I can shut out the sound.

Buddy’s a bit odd, to say the least. When he first came to our range, nobody knew what to do with him. Guards just kinda shied away, gave him a poke every now and again with a stick, and that’s that.

Even out on the yard, inmates just let Buddy alone. A big fat fuck and dumb as shit. Buddy’d sit by himself, cross legged like a big school kid in the dirt; flicking his fingers in the sand, and shooting up little rocks and pieces of gravel, all the while hooting in the sunshine.

I guess he was happy enough.

Buddy showered alone, marched down the hall by guards in latex gloves and then we’d hear him hooting and hollering all the way down the range. Something about soap bubbles made that boy happy.

At first, his mom came to visit. Yes sir, his real and bona fide mother came to visit, and lemme tell you, nobody around here gets any kind of visitors, never mind their moms. Something to do with the reason why most of us are locked up in the first place, I guess.

So when Buddy’s mom stepped onto the range, I could see her standing beside the guard station and looking around, like she’s real scared, and down the way ol’ Dave sets up a holler about fresh meat and Jonesy over at ’02 tells him to shut the fuck up, don’t that guy have no respect – Buddy’s mom starts crying and wailing some godawful racket and the guards usher her into the little plexiglass box they use for visitors.

Not that any of us get visitors, just lawyers looking to earn some extra cash and deal with the all kinds of legal wrangling and such fellas like us bring, most of it paid for by legal aid. Dave’s got three whole lawsuits going on against the government, and all paid for by the state itself.

He’s smart, that Dave.

Not Buddy.

When he saw his mom, Buddy set up hollering and thrashing about so that it took three guards just to hold him, and then when Buddy got into that little glass box with his mother, she started bawling and Buddy got bucking and banging his head on the plexiglass walls; which, I must say was pretty impressive given the fact he was wearing handcuffs and dragging three guards behind.

It was becoming a prize-winning shit show, and all of us were watching.

At the dull thud of Buddy’s skull connecting with plexiglass, Dave starts yelling about assault, and how that mom should sue the asses off those bastards.

Buddy and his mom kept crying and the guards were yelling a blue streak.

Nobody was listening to Dave, which is a shame, cuz like I say, Dave’s pretty smart.

But Buddy was making such a godawful racket and his mom was wailing away that nobody was listening to nothing. Buddy kept at it, banging his head on the plexiglass wall, those dull thuds booming through the range and his mom kept screaming. They made quite a pair, those two.

As I peeked through my bars I could see blood spatter against the glass, kinda like when you throw a wet basketball against a wall.

At each thud, I’d peek out, and see a bigger splatter. He was gonna have his brains all over that plexiglass before you’d know it.

I wasn’t too sure how it was gonna end, and I could tell the guards didn’t know either, with Buddy screaming and banging his head and carrying on. His mom was no better, but at least she wasn’t banging her head.

Then one of the guards, a real dumbass, tries to subdue Buddy and pulls out his can of pepper spray and waves it all over the damned place like it was air freshener or something.

Well, that worked like how you can imagine. Five of ‘em, yes, five, Buddy, his mom and those three guards, all of them now half-blind and coughing and screaming –

I went to bed after that. If you can’t trust the state to sort you out, who can you trust? I’d had enough of that shit show. From what I recall, Dave was now yelling about suing them all for disturbing the peace or some such nonsense.

I dunno know about that, but the next time Dave’s lawyer came to visit, he sat up and looked pretty interested at whatever Dave had to tell him.

Now, here I am well past lights out and trying to get some sleep and Buddy won’t shut up. He’s still there, hooting and wailing away.

“Buddy, for crissakes, shut up already,” I called over to next door.

Sounds like the humping noises stopped, and he’s set up a low moan. Tuneless shit that makes it impossible to think, never mind sleep. I pulled the blanket right over my head.

Yells continue down the range, shut the fuck up, followed by somebody else yelling at the first guy to shut up, or else –

It’s gonna be a long night.

At the wet slap of flesh hitting metal, I sit up. Buddy’s not hooting anymore, he’s gone real quiet, and I wonder for a minute if he’s knocked himself out.

The range is suddenly silent as everybody’s wondering the same.

All of us holding our breath. Waiting.

And then Buddy starts screaming, shrieking out a god awful racket as if he’s dying or something.

The wet slap, slap sound starts up again, and I wonder what he’s hitting himself on. Sounds pretty wet, I cock my ear, and wonder if he’s trying to do himself in on the toilet.

The slapping continues, pretty regular hits, with a big pause between them where he goes all silent, and I get to thinking after each hit he’s knocked himself out.

But he keeps going.

Gotta give it to the boy, he don’t give up.

The screaming starts up again, full blown banshee. I cover my ears and yell, “Buddy, shut the fuck up.”

Don’t matter, he can’t hear me away. Sounds like he’s being murdered over there. Now he’s screaming to all get out, cut by wet thuds of skull on metal.

More slapping, spatter of wetness on the concrete floor, and I know he’s doing himself in.

At a loud bang I jump a little and look around my cell, wondering what he’s gotten himself into. Maybe he’s trying to take his bed apart.

Across the range the boys are yelling at Buddy to shut up already. Enough of this shit.

No guards to be seen. Guess they’re doing some kind of meeting.

Then the screaming gets real loud, an unearthly sound that makes my balls crawl up inside me. And the banging starts to sound really wet. Dripping with blood or piss or all of it together, Buddy keeps on going.

I stand up and lean toward the door of my cell, stick my hand outside the bars. “Hey, boss – staff up.”


Buddy keeps going, although the hits seem to be coming slower. Must getting tired. He’s still hollering away, but his voice sounds muffled and kinda garbled, sloppy-like. Probably broken some teeth.

I wave my hand a little, hoping they can pick it up on the cameras. “Hey boss, staff up – need somebody down here.”

Still nothing.

Buddy starts screaming, a high-pitched shriek, like a train whistle, or the squeal of a rabbit caught in a trap. Goosebumps break out on the back of my neck.

That’s the sound of a dying man.

Down the range Jonesy over in ‘02 starts yelling in that big bassy voice of his, “Hey, boys – gotta problem here. Staff up, mother fuckers.”

I can hear the guards stumble out of the station, their voices rising in confusion.

I wave my hand again, shoving my arm right through the bars. “Hey, boss, staff up.”

“Down there.” I hear one of them say.

At the rumble of footsteps coming down the corridor, I turn and lay back down on my bed, pulling the blanket over top of me.

“Goddamnit, need a suit.”

“Who’s going in first – got your gloves on?”

“Hey, Ramos – go back, grab the stretcher.”

More footsteps as Ramos runs back down the corridor, and I can hear him coming back, outta breath.

Then the click of the key in lock.

 Guard calls, “Door.”

“Get ‘em, get ‘em.”

“Watch his neck – hold his neck.”

“Holy shit – I almost slipped. Floor’s soaked.”

“Get those gloves on – now.”

“Don’t drop the bastard.”

As they carried Buddy out of his cell, I closed my eyes. Finally I could get some sleep.




Art by Steve Cartwright 2018






“Goddamned son of a bitch, he’s got nothin’ on me,” pink mohawk bobbing, Hijax twisted around in the driver’s seat. The sedan was still following, couple blocks behind.

“You sure about that?” Cheri asked.

Hijax glared at her.

Cheri looked out the window pretending to take in the scenery. Sometimes you had to chill around Hijax, even when they were obviously up shit’s creek. She glanced over at Hijax; the vein in her forehead bulged, and her lip was all chewed up.

This wasn’t gonna be good.

Hijax, used to be Jacqueline, and after years of everybody saying ‘Hi Jax,’ that’s what stuck.

It helped that Hijax specialized in car theft and robbery.

Cheri was just along for the ride. Since hooking up with Hijax, they’d done a few heists together, made some decent cash, and the sex was good, so she stuck around.

Nothing better to do, she guessed.

Cheri eased a peek behind her, trying to see across traffic. “Don’t look,” Hijax hissed. “They’ll think we’re up to somethin’.”

The noontime heist was Hijax’s idea, grab a car, and hit up a small gas station. She figured there’d be enough cash from the morning rush, and the till’d be full before the midday bank drop.

Cheri had to give it to her, sometimes Hijax was smart like that. But now –

“Don’t look, I said,” Hijax cut across three lanes of traffic, and pulled a hard left onto a one-way through Chinatown. People and vehicles everywhere. Cheri wasn’t surprised when a minute or so later, the sedan appeared, still a couple blocks away, and keeping their distance.

“If I could find an alley – we can ditch the car.” Hijax glanced in the rearview mirror. “Son of a bitch.”

“But they’re right behind us.”

“I know, damnit,” Hijax pounded her fist against the steering wheel, then paused, thinking. “What if you bail?”

“Right now?”

“Yeah, get out, run toward the car, start crying or something, say I kidnapped you.”

“You sure?”

Hijax glanced in the rearview mirror, and scanned for an alley. Chinatown was packed – lunchtime shoppers and cars everywhere. Delivery trucks parked blocking possible escape routes, all unloading groceries and crap. “There’s nowhere to ditch the car – you gotta go.”

“Then what’ll happen to you?”

“I’ll take off, get rid of it.” Hijax looked up in the rearview mirror. “It’d give me a couple minutes’ head start.”

“What if I get arrested?”

“You’re clean, babe. No record. Just turn on the water works – make it a big deal. Stick with the kidnapping story.” She shrugged, “And if you get arrested, they gotta let you go sooner or later. I’ll meet up with you. Promise.”

“But –”

Hijax twisted the steering wheel and eased the car in front of a delivery truck, she glanced up in the mirror as the sedan closed in. “Ready babe?”

“But –”

“Go – now,” Hijax slammed on the brakes. Cheri fumbled for the door handle, and staggered out. Hijax didn’t even wait for the door to shut, the car lurched forward as she hit the accelerator, passenger door flapping alongside.

Cheri dashed into the middle of the street, waving her arms and blubbering, her mascara running; she stumbled, twisting her heel. Damnit, Hijax, she thought.

The sedan pulled to a halt in front of her, doors flew open, and two officers popped out, guns already drawn.

“Don’t move, don’t move –” 

Sudden crash of metal on metal, shattered glass and steady drone of a car horn filled the air.

Oh crap. Cheri turned around. Hijax was climbing out of the wreckage of the car, now wedged into the back end of a delivery van.

“Stop – police –”

Like a child’s toy, Hijax ducked down, grabbing something, and mouthed the words, “Go on Cher, run.”

They opened fire.

Hijax dropped to the ground.


Cheri screamed, and kept screaming as they put handcuffs on her, choking into gasping sobs. Seated in the back of the unmarked cruiser, she turned her back on the half-open duffle bag sitting in the front. Three hundred bucks cash, and a dozen cartons of smokes.

That’s it.

Hardly worth it with Hijax gone now, but still, it’d been a hell of a ride.




Liz McAdams is a short, sharp, writer and fond of dark things. Her work appears in the usual places, including Spelk, Near to the Knuckle, Yellow Mama, Shotgun Honey, and scattered around Twisted Sister lit mag. Check Liz out at

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