Takes Another Shot
you don’t think about it, then it didn’t happen.” Sasha reached for the full
shot glass on the coffee table in front of her. “That’s what Sister Katherine
told me to do.”
picked up her own shot glass but stopped short of her lips. “Sister Katherine?
You went to see that old witch? Please tell me you didn’t.”
threw her head back, downing the tequila in one gulp. “It’s not bad advice.
Listen, I slept better last night, and woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed
just denial! It’s childish and self-destructive. How much did her ‘advice’ cost
you?” Katie reached for the bottle and refilled their glasses.
bucks.” Sasha giggled.
I could have given you that ‘advice,’ for half the price.” Katie couldn’t help
but join her friend in the giggles, before catching herself and regaining her
composure. One of them had to be serious here. “Did Sister Katherine even give
you a talisman to rub between your fingers when you’re stressed? Did that
wizened old crone make you a wearable little medicine bag, stuffed with herbs
and crystal shards, to protect you? Did she at least hand-write, in cursive, a
short incantation of anonymity on old parchment, for you to swallow?”
raised her glass, to her friend’s consternation, and took a ladylike sip of her
tequila. “No, no, and no.” She swallowed her drink and put the empty glass on
the coffee table. Then she pointed to it.
again filled their glasses, shaking her head. “Pretending it didn’t happen is not
going to change the reality of your situation, which is dire.” Katie pushed
Sasha’s shot glass across the coffee table towards her, sloshing a bit of
tequila on the glass top as she did. “Not one little bit.”
mean,” Katie continued after she chugged her own shot, “The police are
looking for you.”
know,” Sasha mumbled as she rummaged through her hobo purse. She pulled a
bloodied handkerchief from its depths and spread it out on the coffee table
before her. She meticulously smoothed out the wrinkles.
went on. “They found the body.” She reached for the half-empty bottle.
they did,” Sasha agreed. She dug out several metal somethings that clinked
together in her loose fist. She held her hand over the open handkerchief, and dropped
onto the center of the bloodied cloth, three spent shells from her Glock, one
at a time. Sasha then nodded towards her empty glass.
your bedroom,” Katie pointed out, as she refilled their glasses.
huh,” Sasha concurred, still searching through her oversized bag. “Ah, there
you are!” she stage-whispered to her find. She then gingerly placed a man’s
simple gold wedding band on top of the heaped shells.
your bed,” Katie said, with a catch in her voice and tears in her eyes.
Damn tequila; it was making her sappy.
tied her project up in a tidy little bundle, lifted it up before her friend,
and gently dropped it into her hobo bag. She sucked down her tequila, then with
the empty glass between her fingers, spun it like a top on the coffee table,
flinging drops out in a messy, circular-splatter pattern.
reached over and stopped the spin; it was making her a wee bit nauseous. “What
are you going to do?”
Sasha shrugged. “I'm going to go see Madame Devereaux.”
witch?” Katie couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Why? What can she do for
for one thing, she can—” Sasha began, but Katie interrupted.
she reverse the flow of time, to prevent this horror show from happening?”
Katie stood up, pacing now. She was on a roll. “Can she send you back to stop
yourself from murdering your married lover?” She threw her hands up in
despair. “And if she could, would you even listen to yourself?”
be absurd,” Sasha said as she grabbed her last tequila shot. She raised it
toward her friend and winked. “I know Madame Devereaux can’t manipulate time.”
Sasha downed her final shot, coughed once, and wiped her mouth. She stood up,
slung her hobo bag over her shoulder, and headed for the door.
what can she do for you?” Katie queried before finishing her own last
shot. She slammed the empty glass down on the table.
looked her old friend in the eye. “What she can do for me,” she said
with an impish grin, “is raise the dead.”
in a Public Parking Lot
One pine tree-shaped
air freshener—scent depleted
Four cigarette butts— Marlboro, smoked down to filters, ground
bottle of energy drink— capless, empty
One half-eaten hard candy—
butterscotch, covered in ants
One ziplock baggie— quart-size, sealed, stuffed with soiled
single press-on nail— candy apple red
One CD—Adele 19,
One earring— costume jewelry, dream catcher-style
Six zip ties— white
nylon, commercial grade, unused
A heel broken from a woman’s dress shoe— two inches,
navy blue pleather
One pair sunglasses— men's mirrored aviator-style, left lens
shell casing—.22 mag, brass, spent
Possible blood drops—
eight total, varying in diameter from ¼ to three inches
Tire skid marks— eight feet long,
located near parking lot exit
Glass of Punch
“I give ‘em five years, max.”
years?” Susan interjected, raising her shot glass. “I give ‘em two.”
She tossed back her tequila and slammed the glass on the bar. “I know my cousin better
than she knows herself, and there ain’t no way—no way—she’s gonna
stick it out with that bozo.” She bit the lime slice and licked the salt off her
I motioned to the bartender for another round
of shots. “I still don’t get why Leanne wanted to marry him. I mean, it’s
not like she’s pregnant, right? I mean, look at Cody: he’s short, broke, and
mean. And hardly good lookin’. It’s like she’s married Rumpelstiltskin.”
Susan laughed at that. Laughed for the first time
all day. “I know, right?” Then she reclaimed her bitter mood. “Today
felt more like a funeral than a wedding.”
patted her on the back. “And these brides-maid dresses! Could they be
any more hideous? Fuchsia taffeta? With a ginormous bow right under the boobs? How old
is your cousin—twelve?” I tugged at the corner of Susan’s boob-bow.
was her dream wedding,” Susan giggled as the bartender set the round
before us. We clinked glasses before throwing back our shots.
“A dream wedding,” I laughed, squeezing tears out of the corner of
my eyes. “that’ll end up a nightmare marriage.” Unless I stop it,
I wanted to add, but knew better. “Let’s have another round, then walk back
to the reception before we’re missed.”
But the reception could wait.
Susan said after one too many shots, “weren’t you gonna serve punch
at the reception? How’d you get to be a bridesmaid?”
“Duh! I was asked.”
Susan had imbibed much more than me, at my insistence.
Now that her jaw was well-oiled, she would talk about anything and everything. I scoffed,
“As if I’d serve punch at my best friend’s wedding.”
continued, “But I heard Colette was gonna be a bridesmaid, and
you’re supposed to serve punch.”
“And who told you that?”
“Colette.” The light dawned in Susan's tequila-soaked brain.
“Whatever happened to Colette, anyway?”
Got sick and died, I almost said. But instead, I shrugged my shoulders.
“Who knows? She’s a slutty flake, anyway. Why would Leanne want her in her
wedding? I mean, she slept with the groom.”
to focus her eyes, as if she was looking for that particular
memory. “Oh yeah, like, last summer? Around the time Leanne and Cody got engaged.”
She slapped the bar. “I forgot!” She swayed on her bar stool. “Hey,
Cody doesn't like you very much, does he?”
“He tells anyone who’ll
listen that I’m a bad influence on Leanne.”
Because I tried to talk her out of this marriage. “I guess I threaten him.”
Now it was my turn to ask questions. “How did he talk Leanne into asking Colette
to be a bridesmaid?”
“I dunno. But he did. You know how he bullies
her.” She shook her head. “When we were picking out these god-awful dresses,
she had bruises on her bare arms.” Susan looked like she was about to cry.
I adjusted my ill-fitting bridesmaid dress. Jeez, Colette had tiny boobs.
“Time to go, girlfriend. Don't wanna miss the best part of the reception.”
So many inebriated people milling about in that
rented hall. I nodded to the bride, who wore a smile that failed to reach her eyes. I meandered
over to the refreshments table and told the matron serving punch to get lost.
I bent down, raised my taffeta skirt, and pulled
out a small packet of toxic white power I had hidden snug in my garter belt. Tia Maria’s
powder is a permanent solution to all your woes, my bruja auntie had advised me. Use
with care. So, I carefully sprinkled it into a plastic champagne flute, then filled
the flute with bright red fruity punch. Why have plastic champagne flutes for punch, I
don’t know; I would have gone with Solo cups. I filled another flute with poison-free
punch, before sashaying over to the happy couple.
You’re perfectly suited to serve punch,” Cody sniggered as he
grabbed the flute I held out to him. “It’s about your speed.” Leanne took hers,
but set it aside.
“Cheers to ya!” I chirped. Cody drank
his in one gulp. He leaned over and whispered who knows what into Leanne’s ear. Leanne
grimaced and waved me away.
I ended up at the open bar, where I struck up
a flirty conversation with the bartender. When Cody and Leanne danced their
spot-light-on-the-newlywed-couple dance, I managed to maneuver myself behind the bar. There
I lovingly stroked the neck of an empty champagne bottle as I chatted with the bartender;
we agreed he’d give me a ride when this was all over.
the lights dimmed way down and the disco ball dropped. As the rest of
the drunken revelers bumped onto the crowded dance floor, I lost Leanne and Cody in the
crowd. But with the DJ spinning a new song, Cody resurfaced, pushing guests aside and stumbling
towards the bar. His eyes were glassy, his mouth slack, and he didn’t seem to recognize
me. Perhaps it was too dark.
I turned to the
bartender. “Hey handsome, looks like you’re out of soda
and seltzer—and you’re really low on vodka. Best go fetch.” He gave me a peck
on the cheek and a playful slap on the butt before he disappeared into the surrounding
attempted to order a drink, but the words came out as slurred blather. Imagine, he mistook
me for the bartender! Hell, all I’m fit for is ladling punch to teetotalers. I still
had a bit of powder in my garter, so I flicked it in the gin and tonic I poured for him.
It’s the only drink I know how to make. He slurped it down like a man dying of thirst.
I picked up that empty champagne bottle, because—miracle of miracles, he still stood
upright. Well, if Tia’s powder doesn’t fix this marriage, I mused as I
tested the empty bottle’s heft, this surely will.
Nobody Puts Liza in the Closet
“Oooh, babe, you are such a delight,
such a luxury—” He smiled his boyish smile and ran his fingers through her
tousled hair. “Do you realize what I would do just to—”
Carl’s romantic babble was interrupted by the sound of a car door
slamming, shortly followed by the rattle of keys in the front door lock.
“God dammit!” He hissed, jumping
out of bed. He grabbed Liza by the arm, roughly pulling her up and off the bed. “You
gotta hide!” He frantically scanned the messy bedroom. Carl kicked a pile of dirty
clothes away from the closet doors.
“Here—get in here.”
He shoved Liza inside and closed the closet’s louvered doors. “And don’t
say a word—no matter what you hear. Got it?”
Liza worked her way to the back of the closet, behind the hanging shirts, slacks,
and dresses. She pressed herself up against the wall and held her breath.
Carl grabbed a wrinkled t-shirt and soiled jeans from the laundry pile
and quickly pulled them on. Just as he was zipping up the fly, Jessie pushed the bedroom
Carl laughed awkwardly when they made eye contact; his mind was careening like a poorly
shot pool ball, zooming and clacking against other balls, trying to locate a believable
story. “What are ya doing home so early?” He mentally kicked himself; that
was the absolute wrong thing to say.
Jessie’s eyebrows knitted together; deflection was one of his tired tricks. “I
thought I’d come home for lunch. Work is making me crazy.” But not as crazy
as you make me, she added to herself.
looked at the rumpled bed and sighed. She’d made it up before she’d left for
work this morning. She always made up the bed. Carl knew this; he shoved his hands
into his jeans’ back pockets, thrust his shoulders out. He hoped the pose would distract
her. He knew what she liked.
is, Carl, what are you doing home? Why aren’t you at work?”
“You know what?” Carl answered, adopting his seductive swagger
and slowly moving in close to her. “I wanted to surprise you, babe. Engage in some
afternoon dee-light.” He was such a bad liar. Carl chuckled and slid his
arms around her to bring her into a close, warm hug, hoping she would melt, like she used
to. Jessie put both hands against his muscular chest and gently pushed him away;
she could smell another woman on him. It was not the first time; more like the 50th.
An exaggeration, but not by much.
surprised me, alright,” Jessie murmured as she slid her purse off her shoulder.
But not really, she said to herself as she opened her bag. “Well, I—”
she said as she dug around inside her cluttered bag, “have a surprise for you.”
Jessie looked up at Carl and smiled. “And here it is.”
She withdrew her little pearl-handled two-shot derringer, the one her grandmother
gave her when she moved to the big city. For protection. Well, Jessie reasoned,
I have to protect my sanity and self-esteem, don’t I.
“Hey, babe—no!” Panicked,
Carl waved his hands before him, as if this lame pantomime could stop the roaring juggernaut
of his oncoming fate. “Uh uh. You don’t wanna do this!” His terrified
mind scampered from excuse to excuse, from appeal to appeal, like a rat trying to escape
a feral alley cat. “You know how much I love you!”
“Yeah, ‘in your way,’ you once told
me.” Her eyes were cold and distant
as she recalled that conversation. It was from the first time she caught him cheating;
the other woman was hiding in their bathroom, cowering like the skanky coward she was.
Though Jessie chased her out of their apartment with a steak knife, she had no intention
of stabbing the stupid woman. No, she would save her murderous intention for the inevitable
next time. For Carl.
he had been so careful in the intervening years; Jessie never again caught him with
another woman, but she accrued plenty of evidence that there were others. Like the lipstick
she found under the couch when she was vacuuming; a color she’d never wear, much
less own. Folded love notes left in his jean’s pockets, childish notes not written
in her hand. Then there were the tiny g-string panties she’d found under her seat
in the car; must’ve belonged to the previous owner, Carl insisted, as the car was
There were so many other instances, Jessie grew weary
recollecting them; each memory just added more kindling to her smoldering ire.
“Babe, you are my everything—my
delight, my love, my—do you realize what I would do just to—” Carl was
maneuvering himself close to Jessie, in hopes of snatching the derringer from her hand.
She was on to him; she stepped back.
babe, but do you realize what I would do just to—” Jessie pulled the trigger,
and boom!, Carl crumpled to the floor, landing in the pile of dirty laundry. “—be
rid of you?”
She poked him
in the ribs with the toe of her loafer; he didn’t twitch or groan. She wiped the
blood off the toe of her shoe on his jeans, adding yet another stain. “Aw, who’s
gonna do your laundry now, babe?” Jessie scoffed. She put the warm derringer
back into her purse.
towards the closet. “You can come out now, Liza,” Jessie said with a soft lilt
the louvered doors of the closet open. She poked her head out, wide eyed and biting her
lower lip; Jessie melted inside when Liza did that. “Is it done?” she whispered
excitedly. Liza had donned one of Jessie’s floral summer dresses. It fit her perfectly.
babe,” Jessie said as she took Liza in her arms. “And you played your part
perfectly—you sweet little scamp.” Liza blushed.
what?” Liza asked. She looked down at Carl’s body and grimaced.
“No need to
look at that mess, sweetheart.” Jessie took Liza's face in her hands. “Now I
grab my suitcase, we hop in your car, and we get the hell outta here.” Gently, reassuringly,
she kissed Liza. “We’re free.”
by Hillary Lyon
the closet in her bedroom, and picked up the wadded sheet
stashed in the corner. She shook it out. There were lots of wrinkles, But hey, she
told herself, that makes it look appropriately jaded. That and the bloodstains. It will
make a perfect screen for the multi-media project I have in mind.
She gnawed her fingernail as she worked out the details for her next
art installation. I’ll use the video I made of my last tryst with Benson—our
final fare-thee-well-fuck, as it were. I'll convert the video to black and white, overlay
a grainy filter, and—voila! Instant old-school amateur porn.
delete the audio, and add a recording I made years ago of children laughing
and screeching in park playground. Project the finished video on this soiled sheet—yeah,
that’ll do nicely. I shall call it, “Laundry Day.”
Dressed in a black vintage frock and her highest
heels, Galinda wandered around the gallery, eavesdropping on the attendees, her radar tuned
to any mention of her artwork.
A tall thin gent knitted his eyebrows
together as he watched Galinda’s multi-media installation.
“It’s rather, uh—” he stuttered.
beautiful, androgynous companion finished.
mean, the physical viciousness of it all, is certainly—” he started
“Em-Power-Ing,” his companion
emphasized with finality. Galinda giggled and moved on to the next group, a cluster of
college-aged young women. Art majors, most likely.
that really her in this video?” a mousy girl in over-large glasses
asked her cohorts. “Her and her actor boyfriend?”
“Yeah, that’s her,”
a pudgy tattooed blonde offered. “She’s seriously
pushing boundaries with this one.”
“She’s famous for that,” Her
bespectacled friend added. “Though, all that ultra-violence she uses in this one—”
“Right?” A brunette with red-tipped curls laughed uncomfortably.
“You know I’m no prude, but all that sex made me cringe—then when
she brings out that knife and stabs and stabs and stabs—”
“Yeah, no way that happened—yet it did look so authentic,”
the tattooed blond opined, sipping her wine. “And the ingeniousness of calling it,
‘Laundry Day’—I mean, Wow! So many layers to that alone. Societal norms,
traditional sex roles, and the patriarchy be damned!” The blonde added sagely, “She’s
a true artist.”
Galinda continued to move through the crowd, grabbing
a glass of wine off a serving tray on her way to her multi-media installation. She looked
around at the people before her; they were certainly uncomfortable, talking avidly
amongst themselves and motioning to her multi-media presentation.
Good! She wanted everyone who
saw this to be shocked. People will talk, and she especially
wanted word to get back to Benson’s family, friends, co-workers, and—
—his current girlfriend, who was standing at the back of the gallery
crowd. Galinda’s eyes met hers, and Galinda smiled as the woman gaped in horror.
Her eyes shifted to the video, then back to Galinda. She turned abruptly and walked out
of the gallery, cell phone in hand.
Galinda threw her head back and laughed.
* * *
Back home, Galinda kicked off her heels and pulled
out a bottle of chardonnay from her fridge. There had been no offers to purchase her
installation, not even from any local museums looking for scandalous pieces to make their
reputations; she’d assumed some place would want her artwork, because the
buzz alone was sure to bring attention and crowds. She unscrewed the cap and drank deeply
as she sauntered over to her couch. Police sirens wailed outside her window; she lived
in the city, she heard sirens and the buzz of police helicopters all the time. She ignored
Finishing off her bottle, she stumbled to the
coat closet in her front hallway. She flung the door open and leaned unsteadily over Benson,
who was curled up, crumpled in the corner.
you!” she teased, “guess whose gonna be famous after tonight!”
Galinda yanked out the butcher knife embedded in his neck, nearly severing his head from
his naked body as she did. She licked the congealed blood off the blade. “That’s
right, I am,” she said as she nudged his ribs with her pedicured toe. “And
so will you, Bensy!”
Galinda was vaguely aware of voices barking orders
just outside her front door. Her neighbors were a rowdy bunch, so she disregarded this
as just more of their noise. “Tonight, I made you a star! An avant-garde indie movie
star—just like one of Andy Warh—” But Galinda’s gleeful declarations
were rudely interrupted by the violently insistent knock at her front door.
Annoyed, she raised her voice. “Jeez, people, give it a rest.”
Galinda returned her attention to Benson. “Anyway, I have an idea!” she shouted
over the sound of her front door splintering.
“A sequel! Gonna get started tonight! Already have the plot scripted in my
head. It’s gonna feature—”
She smiled coyly and ruffled Benson’s bloody,
matted hair. “—you and me, together again.”
the cops poured through what remained of her front door, Galinda still
focused her attention solely on Benson. She leaned in close to his cold gray face to whisper
in his blood-clotted ear, “I shall call it—”
“Bloodbath,” an officer gasped. “Dear God, this scene
is a bloodbath!”
Surprised, Galinda turned to grin at the cop.
Hillary Lyon founded and for 20 years acted as senior
editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. Her stories
have appeared lately in 365tomorrows, Black Petals, Sirens
Call, Night to Dawn, 50 Word Stories, Legends of
Night drabble series anthology, and Revelations drabble series anthology.
She’s also an illustrator for horror & pulp fiction magazines.