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Beau Johnson
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Art by Mike Kerins © 2016


by Beau Johnson


There are two types of people in this world: the ones who get things done and those who watch that doing get done. The way Rand was attempting to be both these things is the reason I believe he is caught. Could also be he’d just become sloppy in his old age, or since deciding to work so close to home, he’d simply bitten off more than his mind could chew. I mean, he did keep that fella alive down there for a good two years.

And it’s not like I’m on his side. Or either of yours, for that matter. All I know is, some monsters have no lines they will not cross. Not once they believe the game can be won.

          Whatever it was, Rand does what he does, and the invitation he sends out is accepted by the wife. He invites the new guy too, what’s-his-name, the fiancé, and voila: the soon-to-be-famous dinner party slash barbecue is in motion and set.

          Crazy, right? Sure. But here’s the kicker: I honestly think Rand wanted it no other way. I mean, what kind of neighbor—a neighbor with his kind of secret—does such a thing? Maybe one who’d gone and formed an unhealthy relationship with the man he’d slowly been eating over the course of twenty-three months, perhaps? Sure. Makes sense. Or maybe the opposite came into play and Inverted Compass Syndrome took hold; Rand now empathizing with his victim because the wife of said victim had chosen to move on and start over, even though her husband was not yet dead and a mere sixty feet away. However it played, it was enough to get Rand to cook up what he did and serve it as beef. And look, yes, you’d have to have a heart made of stone to not take umbrage with the fact that he involved the kids, that they ended up “partaking” in their father, but all it does is go back to what I’ve said about there being only two types of people in this world. 

Wasn’t enough for Rand to keep doing what he was doing, he now had to see them see what he’d done. That he decided to serve thigh meat instead of muscle and then try to pass it off as beef is just a by-product of his sickness, I think; his attempt to be all things to all people while still trying to remain true to himself. In my opinion, it takes away from all the things he’d done before. Not a lot, no, but enough for people like me to give their heads a shake.

Rest assured, this won’t be happening with us. Not in the way you might think. It’s why the three of us have been facing this big old mirror as we have.  Why we’ve been discussing the types of people in the world today.

I hold myself to a higher standard, boys. Three guesses as to what that makes you.



Art by Steve Cartwright © 2017


Beau Johnson

          You have no one to blame but yourself.  Not if you’re being honest.  The life you’ve chosen, your choices, the total sum of too many parts.  It’s why you ask Carlos if it’s Christine you are about to partake in when he brings you the plate of ribs.  You do this because you know it’s something Carlos is capable of: his brand of thinking the stuff which nightmares are made from.

          “Nah, m’man.  Pretty sure you and me, we’ve moved past such things.”  He smiles as he says this, in a way which is meant to convey multiple things at once.  You sigh in response, there as you dig in, but as you pick up your glass you go one better and ask if you’ll be alive by the time its contents are drained.

          “Danny.  Like I said: no hard feelings.  You don’t want to take one for the team, hey, how can I hold it against you?  Solid earners like you, you don’t come round so often, even with a method as particular as yours.  But come on, give a man some credit.  Maybe he found another way.”  It doesn’t work, not this far into a situation as sideways as anything you have ever been involved with.  But the sideways you have known is turned inside out once you return home and confront the pile of family members congealing before your eyes.  The craftsmanship on display does everything you believe it’s meant to, stuns you, becoming a reality you can’t deny.  What you also can’t deny is the exclusion of Damon, your boy, the one you’d been teaching the trade.  It’s done on purpose, you think, the sparing of him a message within a message.  Your belief in this is sound but the parts you require to understand the depth of everything going down is far from the you of then, the man you wish you’d never become.

          Either way, it’s why you change your mind and agree to what Carlos has asked; why you finally agree to take one for the team.

          The next eleven years taking more than time from you, more than life.  You are beaten inside.  Broken.  Face fucked and sodomized.  Your world becoming the opposite of what you hoped for.  The opposite of how you dreamed.  Early release is achieved, however, but even this comes at a price.  Damon, the boy who survived, he has by now embraced Carlos, becoming his second in command.  Reunited, he looks more like his mother than you can hardly believe.  This breaks something inside of you.  A wound which fails to bleed.

          “As we’ve been discussing, my goal is to make things right between us.  To give us all a fresh start.”  You stand in front of the same table you sat at all those years ago, to the time he’d brought you ribs.  You think maybe you should have taken the deal, way back when, before Carlos went and decided on something else.  The thought process does everything it needs to, destroying everything as it should: brings forth the pile of family members you envision every day.  It brings you your mother.  Your Father.  Wife.  Sister.  Niece.  Their arms and legs dangling from the dining room table like unfinished art.  The one thing you don’t see, the one thing you never see, is Damon, your boy.

          It’s why you’ve continued to blame no one but yourself.

          Why your heart broke when you figured it out and continued to do so as you counted down the days to your release. 

You tell him you know it was him; he who got his mother to get your parents there.  It doesn’t take much after that, not after tipping your hand.  Faces snarl, faces rage, and then the amount of iron in the room is raised by a factor of two.  You stand your ground, arms in your pockets, the piece you brought taken from you seconds after you entered the room.  It allows Carlos to come forward as he does, placing the barrel of his gun to the middle of your forehead.  He goes on about how he has only ever had your best interests at heart---how you had never been able to see.  The cherry on the cake is when he brings Damon into it and states what you have already known for years; the two of you as opposite as ownership and the life you wish to erase. 

          “It’s why I blame myself.”  Your words do more than cause each of them to pause, Carlos more than Damon tilting his head to the side.  You go on about security, how the lot of you think about such things, and how you knew they wouldn’t look past your gun to the semtex you’ve housed beneath your feet.  You do this because even though you blame yourself you are still made of flesh, still held up by bone.  A little taller than usual, sure, and only because the type of explosive you use has always required a little more room to breathe.

For this you can blame no one, not even yourself.

Beau Johnson has been published before, usually on the darker side of town. Rainbow free, he still has trouble accepting the reasons as to why they changed the Beckies on Roseanne instead of the Darlenes. A collection of Beau's short stories will be published by Down and Out Books come Christmas 2017.

In Association with Fossil Publications