Yellow Mama Archives II

Michael Bracken
Acuff, Gale
Ahern, Edward
Allen, R. A.
Alleyne, Chris
Andes, Tom
Arnold, Sandra
Aronoff, Mikki
Ayers, Tony
Baber, Bill
Baird, Meg
Baker, J. D.
Balaz, Joe
Barker, Adelaide
Barker, Tom
Barnett, Brian
Barry, Tina
Bartlett, Daniel C.
Bates, Greta T.
Bayly, Karen
Beckman, Paul
Bellani, Arnaav
Berriozabal, Luis Cuauhtemoc
Beveridge, Robert
Blakey, James
Booth, Brenton
Bracken, Michael
Burke, Wayne F.
Burnwell, Otto
Campbell, J. J.
Cancel, Charlie
Capshaw, Ron
Carr, Steve
Carrabis, Joseph
Cartwright, Steve
Centorbi, David Calogero
Cherches, Peter
Christensen, Jan
Clifton, Gary
Cody, Bethany
Costello, Bruce
Coverly, Harris
Crist, Kenneth James
Cumming, Scott
Davie, Andrew
Davis, Michael D.
Degani, Gay
De Neve, M. A.
Dillon, John J.
Dinsmoor, Robert
Dominguez, Diana
Dorman, Roy
Doughty, Brandon
Doyle, John
Dunham, T. Fox
Ebel, Pamela
Fagan, Brian Peter
Fillion, Tom
Fortier, M. L.
Fowler, Michael
Galef, David
Garnet, George
Garrett, Jack
Graysol, Jacob
Grech, Amy
Greenberg, KJ Hannah
Grey, John
Hagerty, David
Hardin, Scott
Held, Shari
Hicks, Darryl
Hivner, Christopher
Hoerner, Keith
Hohmann, Kurt
Holt, M. J.
Holtzman, Bernard
Holtzman, Bernice
Holtzman, Rebecca
Hopson, Kevin
Hubbs, Damon
Irwin, Daniel S.
Jabaut, Mark
Jermin, Wayne
Jeschonek, Robert
Johns. Roger
Kanner, Mike
Karl, Frank S.
Kempe, Lucinda
Kennedy, Cecilia
Keshigian, Michael
Kirchner, Craig
Kitcher, William
Kompany, James
Kondek, Charlie
Koperwas, Tom
Kreuiter, Victor
Larsen, Ted R.
Le Due, Richard
Leotta, Joan
Lester, Louella
Lubaczewski, Paul
Lucas, Gregory E.
Luer, Ken
Lukas, Anthony
Lyon, Hillary
Mannone, John C.
Margel, Abe
Martinez, Richard
McConnell, Logan
McQuiston, Rick
Middleton, Bradford
Milam, Chris
Miller, Dawn L. C.
Mladinic, Peter
Mobili, Juan
Mullins, Ian
Myers, Beverle Graves
Myers, Jen
Newell, Ben
Nielsen, Ayaz Daryl
Nielsen, Judith
Onken, Bernard
Owen, Deidre J.
Park, Jon
Parker, Becky
Pettus, Robert
Plath, Rob
Potter, John R. C.
Prusky, Steve
Radcliffe, Paul
Reddick, Niles M.
Reedman, Maree
Reutter, G. Emil
Riekki, Ron
Robson, Merrilee
Rockwood, KM
Rollins, Janna
Rose, Brad
Rosmus, Cindy
Ross, Gary Earl
Rowland, C. A.
Saier, Monique
Sarkar, Partha
Scharhag, Lauren
Schauber, Karen
Schildgen, Bob
Schmitt, Di
Sesling, Zvi E.
Short, John
Simpson, Henry
Slota, Richelle Lee
Smith, Elena E.
Snell, Cheryl
Snethen, Daniel G.
Steven, Michael
Stoler, Cathi
Stoll, Don
Surkiewicz, Joe
Swartz, Justin
Taylor, J. M.
Temples. Phillip
Tobin, Tim
Traverso Jr., Dionisio "Don"
Turner, Lamont A.
Tustin, John
Tyrer, DJ
Varghese, Davis
Verlaine, Rp
Viola, Saira
Waldman, Dr. Mel
Al Wassif, Amirah
Weibezahl, Robert
Weil, Lester L.
Weisfeld, Victoria
Weld, Charles
White, Robb
Wilhide, Zachary
Williams, E. E.
Williams, K. A.
Wilsky, Jim
Wiseman-Rose, Sophia
Woods, Jonathan
Young, Mark
Zackel, Fred
Zelvin, Elizabeth
Zeigler, Martin
Zimmerman, Thomas
Zumpe, Lee Clark


By Michael Bracken


Thanksgiving morning, Lonnie Burnett stepped off a Greyhound bus in Waco, Texas, and looked around. Despite sending a letter to his estranged wife a month earlier, telling her of his pending release from the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville, he did not see anyone he recognized, and no one seemed to recognize him.

He took a deep breath, hefted his canvas satchel, and walked through the bus station to the parking lot in front of the building. No one approached him or hailed him, so he continued walking. So much had changed while he was incarcerated that he could only orient himself by examining the street signs at the nearest intersection. He walked from there to Clay Avenue, turned right, and kept walking, passing new construction and businesses closed for the holiday.

A run-down convenience store, dirty windows covered by posters advertising beer, cigarettes, and lottery tickets, was the first open business he encountered, and he stepped inside. He scoured the coolers for a single bottle of Lone Star, and he paid the acne-faced brunette with some of the cash given him upon his release. He looked around. He had knocked over at least a dozen similar convenience stores before his conviction.

Lonnie returned his attention to the young brunette. “You alone?”

“Yeah,” she said. “No one else wanted to work the holiday, and I can’t afford to turn down time-and-a-half.”

He opened his bottle and took a drink. “Aren’t you afraid?”

“I have protection.”

Lonnie looked at the security cameras. “All these cameras?”

She snorted. “The cameras, yeah.”

Lonnie took another drink, wished the brunette a happy Thanksgiving, and stepped outside to finish the beer and drop the empty into a trash receptacle. Then he continued walking, putting another dozen blocks behind him before he turned onto a side street and found his home. Two cars were parked in the drive and two more on the remains of the lawn.

He climbed the steps to the porch and leaned into the bell. When he heard nothing other than the sounds of merriment inside, he pounded on the wooden door. A moment later, the sounds inside quieted, the door jerked open, and a paunchy man in his early forties stood facing Lonnie. He said, “Yeah?”

Lonnie asked, “Macy here?”

“Macy?” the man repeated. “You mean Momma? She died last year.”

The man started to close the door but Lonnie stopped him. “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

The paunchy man’s eyes narrowed. “Daddy?”


“When did you get out?”

“Yesterday,” Lonnie said. “I wrote to your momma to tell her I was coming, but—”

“We never got your letter,” Junior said. “Cheryl throws away all the mail addressed to Momma. It’s nothing but bills and junk and stuff.”

“Junior?” called a woman’s voice from inside the house. “Who is it?”

Junior hesitated.

“Well?” Lonnie asked.

As Junior turned to respond to his wife, Lonnie could see several people crowded around the dining room table. “It’s Daddy.”

“What’s he doing here?”

Junior returned his attention to Lonnie. “Well?”

“I thought your momma was still alive, and I got nowhere else to go.” Neither man spoke for a moment. Then Lonnie said, “Food sure smells good.”

Junior stepped aside. “Cheryl,” he called over his shoulder. “Set another place.”

While waiting for a connecting bus in Dallas, Lonnie had eaten a burrito that erupted on him. He’d cleaned his blue button-front shirt as best he could in the men’s room, but the stain was still evident. As Lonnie stepped into the house, Junior nodded toward his satchel. “You got a clean shirt in there?”

Lonnie didn’t, and he said so.

“Get one of mine,” Junior said. He pointed down the hall to the bedroom. “Top right-hand drawer.”

Lonnie walked down the hall to the room he had shared with his wife before his incarceration and opened the top right-hand dresser drawer. A dozen T-shirts—black, blue, and gray—were arranged neatly, but when he reached into the drawer he felt something beneath the shirts. He moved them aside and found a .38 with a two-inch barrel. After a moment, he covered it again, retrieved a black T-shirt, and changed out of his stained button-front. He left his satchel on the floor next to the dresser, his dirty shirt atop it, and met his son in the hall.

“That looks better,” Junior said. Quietly, he added, “Don’t embarrass me in front of my friends.”

Then Junior introduced Lonnie to the people seated around the dining room table—Derrick and LaShonda, Alejandro and Maria, Steve, Little Bubba—a color palette of people who mixed outside but would never have mixed inside.

While Lonnie changed shirts, Cheryl had added a plate and mismatched silverware next to Maria, and she heaped mashed potatoes on his plate as he settled into place. She added candied yams, string bean casserole, cornbread dressing, a thick slice of turkey breast, and a Sister Shubert roll. She asked, “What can we get you to drink?”

“A beer,” he said before he realized everyone else had wine.

“A beer?” she said. “Junior, get your father a beer.”

With the leaf in place, the dining room table extended into the kitchen, so Junior was able to reach around and pull a bottle of Dos Equis from the refrigerator door. He passed it down. Maria handed it to Lonnie, careful not to let their fingers touch as the bottle passed from her hand to his.

“I’m glad you could make it,” Cheryl said. The tightness at the corners of her eyes didn’t match the pleasantry in her voice. “How did you get here?”

“Walked.” Lonnie felt everyone’s gaze upon him. “From the bus station. I walked from the bus station.”

“You should have called,” she said. “Junior would have picked you up.”

“I—” No one had given him a new phone number after his wife’s landline was disconnected. “I forgot the number.”

“Well, I’m sorry about that,” Cheryl said. She looked at the other guests. “Eat,” she said. “Your food’s getting cold.”

Lonnie put his left forearm on the table, wrapped halfway around his plate, and forked mashed potatoes into his mouth.

Cheryl touched his arm. “It’s okay,” she said. “Nobody’s going to take your food.”

Little Bubba said something about the Cowboys and soon most of the men were discussing football—all of them but Derrick. He stared across the table at Lonnie and Lonnie stared back as he chewed, unwilling to show weakness by being first to look away. He had finished half the food on his plate before Derrick finally spoke. “Junior’s never said. What were you in for?”

Lonnie swallowed. “Armed robbery.”

“So, you were some kind of badass?”

“I was just trying to feed my family.”

Derrick glanced down the length of the table and said, “Looks like Junior’s done a good job feeding himself lately.”

“There’s no need to get into that,” Junior said.

Lonnie tried a forkful of the string bean casserole. As soon as his mouth was full, Derrick asked another question.

“What was it like inside? Were you somebody’s bitch?”

Lonnie slowly lowered his fork as conversation died around them. Maria leaned away from him.

“Jesus, Derrick,” LaShonda said. “Knock it off.”

“So, did you shank anybody?” Derrick continued. “I don’t see any teardrop tattoos.”

Lonnie’s eyelids narrowed. “I minded my own business.”

“You should, too,” LaShonda told Derrick.

“You must not have been much of a badass, old man.”

Lonnie turned the fork around in his hand, ready to dive across the table and drive it into Derrick’s throat if the disrespect continued.

Cheryl rested a hand on Lonnie’s forearm. “Junior,” she said. “Pass down that dressing. Looks like your father’s run out.”

“He don’t mean nothing,” LaShonda said to Lonnie. “My husband’s just had too much to drink, that’s all.”

Lonnie looked at his son, but his son wouldn’t meet his gaze. “I surely would like more of that dressing. It tastes just like your momma’s.”

“I’m glad you like it,” Cheryl said. “I used Macy’s recipe. Here, let me serve you.”

After Cheryl scooped more dressing onto his plate, Lonnie finished his meal in silence, realizing as he did that home wasn’t where he had arrived; home was what he had left behind.

He excused himself from the table, said he needed something from his bag, and returned to his son’s bedroom. He took the .38 from the dresser, removed the bullets, and tucked the revolver into his waistband. Once he was certain the shirt covered it, he told everyone he was going for a walk.

“Go ahead,” Junior said from the table. “Take your time.”

Lonnie returned to the convenience store.

The acne-faced brunette behind the counter looked up from her cell phone. “Back already?”

Lonnie drew the revolver from under his shirt, pointed it at her, and demanded all the money in the cash drawer. He planned to wait outside for the police to come, certain they would arrest him and that, as a three-time loser, he would return to Huntsville and to the comfort of home.

He never had the chance. Instead of reaching into the cash drawer, the brunette reached below the counter and brought a semi-automatic pistol to bear on Lonnie. He threw up his hands, but she squeezed the trigger anyhow.


As he collapsed onto the worn linoleum floor, she said, “I told you I had protection.”



Michael Bracken is the Edgar- and Shamus-nominated author of approximately 1,200 short stories, including crime fiction published in The Best American Mystery Stories and The Best Mystery Stories of the Year. Additionally, he is the Anthony-nominated editor of 28 published or forthcoming anthologies and is the editor of Black Cat Mystery Magazine. He lives, writes, and edits in Texas.

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