|Allen, R. A.
|Baker, J. D.
|Bartlett, Daniel C.
|Berriozabal, Luis Cuauhtemoc
|Burke, Wayne F.
|Campbell, J. J.
|Centorbi, David Calogero
|Crist, Kenneth James
|Davis, Michael D.
|De Neve, M. A.
|Dillon, John J.
|Dunham, T. Fox
|Fagan, Brian Peter
|Fortier, M. L.
|Greenberg, KJ Hannah
|Holt, M. J.
|Irwin, Daniel S.
|Karl, Frank S.
|Larsen, Ted R.
|Le Due, Richard
|Lucas, Gregory E.
|Mannone, John C.
|Myers, Beverle Graves
|Nielsen, Ayaz Daryl
|Owen, Deidre J.
|Reddick, Niles M.
|Reutter, G. Emil
|Ross, Gary Earl
|Rowland, C. A.
|Sesling, Zvi E.
|Slota, Richelle Lee
|Smith, Elena E.
|Snethen, Daniel G.
|Taylor, J. M.
|Traverso Jr., Dionisio "Don"
|Turner, Lamont A.
|Waldman, Dr. Mel
|Weil, Lester L.
|Williams, E. E.
|Williams, K. A.
|Zumpe, Lee Clark
No Pepsi, Coke.
by Paul Beckman
The bus picked me up after waiting four hours
outside the prison, and two hours later pulled into The Junction Rest Stop,
where I carried my prison-issued backpack of clothes and personal effects to
the gas pump, where I hung around asking for a ride.
“Where you going?” the gas pumper asked and I
told him anywhere he was going was good enough for me, so he told me to hop in
and asked if I just got out of prison and I told him I did, but that I wasn’t
looking for trouble.
“Can you kick in a couple bucks for gas?” he
asked, and I told him I had less than twenty on me but if he insisted, I could
come up with a deuce.
I gave him a crumpled single and a dollar’s
worth of change.
He pulled around to the side of the diner and
asked me what type of sandwich I’d like, and I told him I was hungry, and any
kind was good, so he came out and handed me a bag with tuna on rye, a bag of
chips, and a can of Pepsi.
“Didn’t they have Coke?” I asked, and he said
they did, but he was a Pepsi guy.
“Do you mind if I go in and change for a Coke?”
“Yes,” he said. “I’d mind very much.”
“Are you always this sensitive?”
“Do you always look a gift horse in his mouth?”
I reached over, yanked the car keys from the
ignition and said, “I’ll be right back after I get my Coke.”
I got back to the car with my Coke, opened the
door, tossed him the car keys, and said, “Drive.”
He pulled out of the station, and we rode in
quiet until I turned to get something from my backpack, which I didn’t see.
“Where’s my backpack?” I demanded.
“With your Pepsi.”
“Well, turn around and get it,” I ordered.
“Can’t. I’m on a tight schedule.”
We were stopped in line at the turnpike toll,
so I grabbed him by the collar and pulled him to me. “You don’t know who you’re
messing with,” I said, and then heard the click of a switchblade and felt it in
I let go of his collar and got out of his car.
The driver floored the car, and then I heard
him jam on his breaks and watched the trunk pop and saw him run out of the car,
reach into the trunk, and grab the backpack. I watched him watching me and then
I started running towards the car as he tossed the backpack into the woods and
drove off, flipping me the bird as he went.
I caught a ride with an eighteen-wheeler and
told him my version of the story where I got picked up, robbed, and had my
backpack gone through and all my money stolen.
We spotted Mr. Pepsi filling up at the turnpike
rest stop some three hours later, and my driver pulled a pistol from the glove
compartment and told me to wait while he went to get my money.
As he reached the car I slid over to the
driver’s seat and took off for parts unknown, blowing the airhorn as I went by
him and the Pepsi guy, laying on the ground in a puddle of gas or blood.
I May Be on My Way to Becoming a COVID Statistic
By Paul Beckman
The Surgeon promised to take the bandages off today.
It’s been almost three weeks. I’m lying in the dark with no visitors because
of the COVID thing. I feel like I’m back in the hole after all these years. At least
in the hole, I got one hour of daylight to walk around the yard where there are two guards
with rifles on the wall and one with a Glock in his lap, sitting in the corner chair tilted
back, hat half- covering his eyes, but he’s not fooling me.
nurse walks in and tells me she’ll have to remove the bandages in the
room because all the operatories are taken with pandemic patients. I hear her pulling the
blinds and closing the drapes. I am anxious and a little nervous, I tell her.
Nothing to be anxious or nervous about, she says, and
then I hear the loudspeaker call her name to report to the nurse’s desk.
I hear the door open, and the drapes sliding back and
the blinds opening.
What’s up? I ask my
nurse but it’s a different nurse who answers, and he says that both the surgeon and
my nurse tested positive for COVID, and he’s going to have to test me.
There is a familiar rasp to his voice, but I can’t
place it. He sticks something up my nose hard and twirls it around until I feel the blood
drops, and then he does my other nostril, and I reach out grab his arm and feel his
obscene muscles and just as he jams for the third time and swirls the Q-tip around. The
blood starts pouring out of that nostril also.
I’ll be back with
your results, the husband of the woman I picked up in the bar says, and I know he’ll
tell me the test says to keep my eyes covered. He returns in an hour and tells me he must
draw blood. Can’t you just take it from my nose, I ask?
Still and always the wise ass, he says and
jabs me hard, missing a vein but hitting my funny bone.
Strickland stood outside in the blazing sun talking to Lucas when he
spotted the Greyhound Bus rounding the bend and turning into the driveway of the Pennsylvania
State Prison. Lucas shook Strickland’s hand, patted him on the back, and slipped
him an envelope. Strickland never looked back but got on the bus and handed the driver
a chit from the warden and off the bus went with a dozen or so people looking at him.
The driver told Strickland to take a seat and Strickland said, “Yes
there’s no one else sitting.” So, Strickland looked around, saw
the two front seats across from the driver were empty, and placed his two paper shopping
bags atop the overhead, spread out on the two seats, legs apart and smiled as he watched
the acres of corn blowing in the wind.
An hour later the driver
pulled into a gas station and announced, “I’ll be pulling out of here in 30
minutes so don’t dawdle at the buffet or bookstore because I don’t wait.”
Strickland was the only one who didn’t get off the bus but opened one of his shopping
bags and took out an apple, and a mustard and cheese sandwich.
While the driver was gassing up, sipping an RC, a car drove in and parked
in front of the bus and the driver got out, opened his trunk, took out a suitcase, nodded
at the driver, and climbed the stairs to the bus. “Move over,” he said to
Strickland and Strickland did what he was told. “There are fresh clothes in the suitcase,
go into the crapper in the rear of the bus and get out of those prison clothes and dress
like a free man. Wet your hair, use the comb and the stickum, and come out looking like
you own the bus. When you get off in Philly wait at the station for us to meet you. Questions?”
Strickland shook his head no but
had a bunch of questions. The stranger climbed down the bus stairs and the driver climbed
up and gave the horn three toots which everyone else knew was time to get back on.
He watched the driver head out and then took the suitcase and shopping
bags and got off the bus. He had three hours before the bus got to Philly. When he was
in the head changing clothes, he opened the letter from the warden which turned out to
really be from his cellmate.
Be alert. Be
very alert. They are sending three guys on the way to take you out in Philly. Don’t
wear anything from the suitcase or take the suitcase. It’s got a tracker and most
likely the clothes do also. Buy two burner phones, leave your cell on the bus in the suitcase.
Offer one of the C notes to a trucker who’s going away from Philly to take you. Get
to St. Cloud Minnesota and use this key in the truck stop mailroom. Text me the burner
number and then crush the phone and buy another.
He changed his clothes back and repacked his suitcase, and then went
back to his seat.
walked along the side of the highway and came upon a diner with
a few pickups parked. He walked over to the one with hay bales and stashed his suitcase,
covering it with hay.
He walked inside the diner,
sat at the counter, and got a coffee, black, and a slab of cherry pie from the cute waitress
with bangs and a pony tail who said, “Here you go, Big Guy.” He then ordered
a pair of BLTs, one to go, took the coffee refill, grabbed his shopping bags after leaving
a sawbuck on the counter and walked out into the night.
Strickland waited to see where the hay truck was going and then walked
on the main road away from Philly and finally got a ride from a shiny Lincoln Town
car. He hopped in the back, nodded at the other passenger, a lady about his age who had
one of those familiar-looking faces he couldn’t place, (the oversized sunglasses
and fedora didn’t help) and they all rode in silence until the driver said I’m
going to pull off the road to pee and turned up a dirt driveway and got out.
Without turning around one of the two passengers in the front seat
finally spoke. “You were instructed to change clothes and carry the suitcase.”
Strickland began to twitch when the woman next to him pulled out
a pistol and passed it over to him. His door opened and the driver was standing looking
angry and holding a 6-inch switchblade. The lady opened her door and got out saying, “I
don’t want to get my new clothes bloody, Big Guy.”
knife guy took a step forward and Strickland shot him twice and then ordered
both guys out of the front seat and dispatched them with double taps to each of their heads.
The woman walked around
the back of the car and yelled at Strickland, “You moron, they were with us,”
and then pulled out another gun and finished him off.
she took all their IDs and money, she dragged them into the brush, searched Strickland
again, found the key and letter telling her where to find his hold-up money from five years
ago, and drove off towards St. Cloud with thoughts of easy living in her head, the
radio blaring country music with her singing along, never noticing the black Town Car with
the tinted windows tailing her all the way.
Stunning Redheads Are Trouble
by Paul Beckman
I moved into my New Haven apartment
several weeks ago and hadn’t met any neighbors until this morning. I was getting
my mail and a woman came up to me and said, “You have a lot of nerve moving into
this building. How dare you!”
I looked around to see who she was talking to, and it was me.
“What’s your problem?”
I asked. “I believe you have a case of mistaken identity.”
“Still a moron, I see,”
“Perhaps, but what does that have to do with anything?”
I asked this stunning redhead who appeared normal as well as luscious.
“This is the third apartment
you’ve followed me to in the past two years,” she said. “That’s
it was true that this was my third move in the past two years but the other two were in
another state, so I asked her, “Where were these other two apartments you say I followed
if you don’t know,” she said.
“Listen, if we’re going to get to the bottom of this.
you’ll have to answer my question.”
“Or what? What?”
“Just what’ll you do if I don’t answer
your question, threaten me again?”
“Listen. Go back to your apartment, take your meds, and lie
down. This’ll pass and you won’t even remember this episode.”
Here is the point. I knew this
woman and did live in two other apartment buildings she was in, but the fact is, she kept
moving to where I was living and not the other way around.
My sister’s had these delusional problems since
she was a kid but until my father and mother died within months of each other two years
ago, she had let me be. I hadn’t seen her for a dozen years before that and until
today, never as a redhead. She was a natural brunette given to blonde streaks.
Now, with no parents and no other
siblings, I became her target of choice, Threaten her? I’m afraid this time I’m
going to have to do more than that.
Paul Beckman’s latest flash collection, Kiss Kiss (Truth Serum Press), was a finalist for the 2019 Indie Book Awards.
Some of his stories appeared in Spelk, Connotation Press, Necessary Fiction,
Litro, Pank, Playboy, WINK, Jellyfish Review,
The Wax Paper, Monkey, and The Lost Balloon. He had a story
selected for the 2020 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology Lineup and was
shortlisted in the Strands International Flash Fiction Competition. He was nominated
for 2021 Best of the Web and Best Micro-Fiction. Paul earned his MFA from Bennington College
and has his next collection of connected flash stories coming out with Cervana Barva.
Enter supporting content here
Site Maintained by Fossil