Yellow Mama Archives II

Hillary Lyon

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
Flynn, James
Fortier, M. L.
Fowler, Michael
Galef, David
Garnet, George
Garrett, Jack
Glass, Donald
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.
Price, Liberty
Proctor, M. E.
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.
Stanley, Barbara
Steven, Michael
Stoler, Cathi
Stoll, Don
Surkiewicz, Joe
Swartz, Justin
Taylor, J. M.
Taylor, Richard Allen
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

Sasha Takes Another Shot


by Hillary Lyon



“If 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.”

Katie 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.”

Sasha 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 this morning.”

“It’s just denial! It’s childish and self-destructive. How much did her ‘advice’ cost you?” Katie reached for the bottle and refilled their glasses.

“Fifty bucks.” Sasha giggled.

“Fifty? 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?”

Sasha 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.

Katie 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.”

“I mean,” Katie continued after she chugged her own shot, “The police are looking for you.”

“I 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.

Katie went on. “They found the body.” She reached for the half-empty bottle.

“Yeah, 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.

“In your bedroom,” Katie pointed out, as she refilled their glasses.

“Uh 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.

“In your bed,” Katie said, with a catch in her voice and tears in her eyes. Damn tequila; it was making her sappy.

Sasha 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.

Katie reached over and stopped the spin; it was making her a wee bit nauseous. “What are you going to do?”

“Do?” Sasha shrugged. “I'm going to go see Madame Devereaux.”

Another witch?” Katie couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Why? What can she do for you?”

“Well, for one thing, she can—” Sasha began, but Katie interrupted.

“Can 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?”

“Don’t 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.

“Then what can she do for you?” Katie queried before finishing her own last shot. She slammed the empty glass down on the table.

Sasha looked her old friend in the eye. “What she can do for me,” she said with an impish grin, “is raise the dead.”




Things Found in a Public Parking Lot


by Hillary Lyon



One pine tree-shaped air freshener—scent depleted

Four cigarette butts— Marlboro, smoked down to filters, ground underfoot

Two-ounce bottle of energy drink— capless, empty

One half-eaten hard candy— butterscotch, covered in ants

One ziplock baggie— quart-size, sealed, stuffed with soiled paper towels

A single press-on nail— candy apple red

One CD—Adele 19, cracked, unplayable

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 missing

One shell casing—.22 mag, brass, spent

Possible blood drops— eight total, varying in diameter from to three inches

Tire skid marks— eight feet long, located near parking lot exit




A Glass of Punch


Hillary Lyon



“I give ‘em five years, max.”

“Five 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 wrist.

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.”

I 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.

“It 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.

“Say,” 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.”

Susan 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.”

Susan struggled 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.

“See? 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.

Then 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 shadows.

Cody, nevertheless, 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


by Hillary Lyon




“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?”

Naked 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 door open.

“Hey, babe,” 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.

“Me?” 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.

Jessie 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.

“Question 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.

“You 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.

But 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 bought used.

Uh huh.

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.

“Oh yeah, 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.

She turned towards the closet. “You can come out now, Liza,” Jessie said with a soft lilt her voice.

Liza pushed 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.

“It’s done, babe,” Jessie said as she took Liza in her arms. “And you played your part perfectly—you sweet little scamp.” Liza blushed.

“Now 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.”

Laundry Day


by Hillary Lyon



Galinda opened 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.

I’ll 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.

“Empowering,” his beautiful, androgynous companion finished.

“I mean, the physical viciousness of it all, is certainly—” he started again.

“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.

“Is 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 it.

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.

“Hey 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.”

As 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. “Exactly!”

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.

The Poser


Hillary Lyon



“Here, let’s drape one more gold chain across your . . .” he said as he laid the necklace across her bare breast. “There! Now that’s the look I want.”

Marie stared at the ceiling, counting the water stains she saw there in order to calm herself before she responded. “This is the same ‘look’ you saw in that old girlie mag.”

“What?” Neal replied. “No, I thought of this myself.”

“No,” Marie countered. “You showed me the picture weeks ago. You thought it was ‘artistic’.”

“Well, it is artistic,” he said. “I recognize an aesthetically-pleasing composition when I see it—I’m an artist after all.” He immediately changed his tone. “You look so delicious in those thin chains—you’re so striking in this light!”

He rose from the bed. “I must take some photos before we . . .”

“Oh, get on with it,” Marie said. Why did everything have to be such a production with him?

* * *

“Honestly, I don’t know why you put up with Neal,” Dina said before taking a deep drag on her little green and white glass pipe. She passed it to Marie. “I mean,” she continued after exhaling a cloud of sweet smoke, “it’s not like he’s rich—though his parents are—and he’s not particularly handsome or charming.”

“Yeah, I know,” Marie said before putting the lighter’s flame to the pipe. “I’m just sticking around until someone better comes along.” And they always do—like that trust-fund ‘poet’ in Austin. He was easy enough to get rid of, she added to herself, after I helped him with his ‘overdose.’ She took a deep drag. “Neal’s funny, and sort of—”

“I think you mean sort of funny looking,” Dina commented, sending both women into giggles. “Seriously, though, after that business at his parents’ pool, where he posed you—naked—on the diving board? Like you were some kind of dead fish, ready to be gutted! He’s such a freak. What if you’d been caught?”

Marie shrugged. “His folks weren’t home; he was house-sitting. They were in Mexico, or some place. Some place far, far away.” And I saw to it his nosy parents were never coming back, she was tempted to add. She half-smiled at the thought.

“Or that time he posed you—again, naked—through the open sunroof of that old silver Thunderbird, out in the middle of an empty field on a moonlit night! Jeez, the whole thing sounded like you were about to be a ritual sacrifice to the God of North American Land Yachts.”

Before continuing, Dina took the pipe from Marie’s hand. “What if he’s a serial killer, posing as a photographer?” She took a hit. “Seriously, remember that report on TV about that guy in California who worked as a free-lance fashion photographer—who was a serial killer?”

Dina went on. “He’d sweet-talk attractive, gullible young women into modeling for him way out in the desert, on the pretense of ‘fashion shoots,’ and then he’d—”

“If he was a killer, I’d already be dead,” Marie said, cutting off Dina’s lurid train of thought. She dragged her finger across her throat, rolled her eyes and pushed out her tongue. Dina laughed so hard at that pantomime, she fell into a fit of coughing.

“And with that,” Marie said, rising from the sofa, “I take my leave. Got to get home to Mr. Poser.”

* * *

Marie was aware of Neal rummaging around in the bathroom cabinet before she opened her eyes. She sat up, and leaning on one elbow, watched him look at bottle after prescription bottle until he found the one he wanted. He popped the cap and shook out several capsules.

“Whatcha doin’ in there?” Marie asked from the bed.

Neal spun around. “Good morning, doll!” He shoved the capsules into his jeans pocket. “I had an inspiration! We’re going to the State Park to do a wilderness shoot. So get up, get dressed!” He pulled the sheet off the bed. “We’re burning daylight. I’ll get you a cup of coffee.”

Since when does he get me coffee in the morning?

He was back with a full mug of black coffee just as she walked into the bathroom. He handed her the cup. “Sip, sip.”

“You know I don’t like to be watched while I do my business,” Marie said, kicking the bathroom door shut with her heel.

With the door closed, she poured three-quarters of the coffee out in the toilet. She pushed the handle down, and as the toilet flushed, she tilted the coffee cup to confirm what she suspected was there: a couple of broken, half-melted green and white capsules sticking to the bottom of the mug.

He tried to slip me a mickey this morning. Amateur!

* * *

In the car, she pretended to drowse.

“Man, that coffee you gave me this morning,” she murmured, “sure was weak.” She yawned dramatically. “I’m still so sleepy and muddle-headed.”

Taking his eyes off the road, Neal turned to stare at her. He wore a wolf-grin Marie had never seen before; she didn’t like it.

He thinks he’s drugged me, she pondered. He thinks he’s going to take me into the big bad forest to molest me and then stage my murder. Pose me like a ripped-open rag doll. Just like that loser photog in California did to those naive young women.

She then closed her eyes, plotting all the while.

* * *

The car came to an abrupt stop in the gravel parking lot on the edge of the State Park.

“We’re here!” Neal said as he hopped out of the car. He was on her side, opening the passenger door before she could unbuckle her seatbelt. “Out, out, out!” He pulled her roughly from her seat. As he reached into the backseat to get his camera bag, she noted the top of a buck-knife peeping out from his back pocket.

 Marie allowed him to drag her deeper and deeper into the woods, until they came to a small clearing. On the other side of this treeless space was a large, flat slab of granite near the edge of a small cliff.

“Okay, okay,” Neal said, pointing to the slab. “Strip and lay down there, face up.”

Marie slipped off her shoes. The stone was pleasingly warm under her bare feet. She turned to Neal, pulled him to her. “Kiss me, you fool,” she said, entwining her arms around him. He did as he was told, and as he did, Marie expertly lifted the buck-knife from his back pocket.

She pulled away and turned her back to him before she lifted off her sundress. She opened the knife and hid it in the folds of her dress. She then laid down on the warm slab, making sure her dress, and its hidden blade, were well within her reach.

On his knees, Neal positioned himself between her legs, quickly taking one picture after another. He reached down with his free hand to fondle her breast.

So, the molestation begins immediately, she thought, somewhat disappointed. He’s so predictable.

He continued to take pictures, but moved his free hand to his back pocket, feeling for the knife. Marie stretched and slipped her hand into her discarded dress, feeling for the knife.

She found it.

“Looking for this?” Marie asked, as she plunged the knife deep into his belly. Before he could answer, she raised the blade all the way up to his sternum, effectively gutting him. Like a fish!

He toppled, frantically attempting to shove his intestines back inside.

She stood up and slipped on her sneakers. “You thought you were going to pose me like one of those sad victims of that killer in Cali, didn’t you?” He gurgled in reply. “I know you saw those crime scene photos—thanks to the national media, everyone saw those photos.”

Neal attempted to protest, but the only thing that came out of his mouth was a burst of bloody bubbles. “I wondered how long it would take you to decide you were going to duplicate one of those scenes.”

“You’re not an artist,” Marie grunted as she dragged Neal over to the edge of the slab. “You’re a copy-cat, a hack. A poser.” His mouth quivered as blood burbled out one corner. “And your parents? They never made it to Mexico—hell, they never made out of their garage.”

As she posed Neal on the brink of the slab, she added, “Just so you know, my tire iron made for a swingin’ going-away present. I still have their luggage in the trunk of my car.”

“And as for you—you’re not even a real serial killer.” Marie said, and careful not to get blood on her shoe, kick-shoved him over the edge.  “I should know—because I am.” She leaned over the edge of the slab to watch him roll and bounce down the rocky slope of the steep little ravine. He came to a thudding stop against a towering pine.

Marie pulled on her sundress, picked up Neal’s camera bag, and then dug around inside that bag until she located his keys—for both his car and apartment. She had lots of photos she needed to delete from his computer, and from any of his external-drives or cloud-storage locales. She was going on a scavenger hunt!

With Neal’s keys now in hand, she slipped the bag across her shoulder. Humming a happy tune, she receded into the cool darkness of the woods, and disappeared.

Edit Text

An Assembly of Assassins

[3 thematically connected drabbles]

by Hillary Lyon




Bryan’s Big Adventure


The cancer was a time bomb hidden inside him, set off when he reached late middle age. “With the time you have left,” his ex-wife exhorted, “you should travel, have an adventure.” “No,” his little brother countered, “you should do something important; leave your mark on the world.”


So much misery in this country, Bryan pondered. Too much wealth and power concentrated in an elite few. The gatekeepers wouldn’t allow a peon like me near the power center—near the one who orchestrates it all.


I’ll travel, have an adventure, he decided. But first, buy an unregistered sniper rifle.


* * *



Anton, the Aide-de-Camp


Only Cuban connection Anton had was, he liked the cigars; as for Russia, vodka. And China? He really liked the women. A liquidator by trade, did he use poison powder secreted in a ring, la Borgia? A jab on the street with the tip of an umbrella, inserting a radioactive pellet under the skin? Pay an asymptomatic hooker to infect with Ebola? Maybe; but he didn’t. This Fed, Anton, was old school. He became a lapdog, to get close to the target. Stealthy as moonlight in a graveyard, he’d smother ‘em in their sleep with a feather pillow.



* * *



Priscilla (Power-to-the-People)


Unwashed, wild-eyed Priscilla claimed the median at a busy intersection. Her signs changed daily: “homeless, please help,” “hungry, anything appreciated,” etc. Some Samaritans offered change or snacks, which she accepted. Some offered rides, which she declined. Until Senator Stalwart’s limo pulled up beside her, long after dark.


When the door opened, Priscilla leaned over, accomplishing two things: advertising her ample bosom, and securing the switchblade nestled in her boot. After she slid into the back seat, the door closed, and Priscilla, in one fluid motion, achieved what no political rival had been able to do: terminate Stalwart’s 50-year political career.



As My Witness


by Hillary Lyon



I dropped a white crystal rock, about the size of my thumbnail, into the bottom of my husband’s glass mug, then filled it with ice cold beer. I swirled the brew to dissolve the rock. Next I filled two other mugs with untainted beer and set all three mugs on a serving tray, along with a manila folder and pen. Lastly, I stashed a teensy bottle into the snug hug of my cleavage before making sure to adjust my bikini to better display my curves. I sashayed with said tray to the back patio where my hubbie, Ray, waited by the pool.

Setting the tray on the patio table before him, I purred, “Nothing like a frosty beer on a hot Arizona day.” I handed him his mug. “Drink up.”

Ray took a long drink, and made a face. “This beer tastes—”

“Skunky,” I finished for him. “It’s the latest thing in craft beers. Cheers.” I raised my mug. “Sip sip.” I took a healthy swallow of my own beer. I set the sweating mug down on the patio table; condensation rolled down the smooth sides like cold tears. I myself ran out of tears a long time ago, I thought bitterly as I wiped the condensation from my mug.

“Hey Joe,” I called out to our gardener, who was toiling away in the yard. “Take a break. Come join us for a beer.” I didn’t have to ask twice.

Joe stood behind me, and reached around to take the remaining beer. He intentionally brushed my bare shoulder with his sun-warmed arm; I shivered with familiar delight. Joe nodded his thanks to me, and wiped the perspiration from his brow before taking a long thirsty pull.

Ray drank his beer quickly, and before he set the mug down, spotted a bit of undissolved white rock in the bottom of the glass. He squinted at me.

“What have you...” Ray’s eyes widened, and his breath became labored. He put a hand over his heart. “You’ve poi—”

I waved away his accusation and pulled out an official-looking paper from the folder on the tray, and placed it before him. “Sign this,” I ordered, slapping the pen down on the paper. “And I’ll give you the antidote.” I pulled out that small amber glass vial I’d tucked in my bikini top, in the cleavage of my ample breasts. I held the little bottle up for him to see. A clear liquid sloshed inside.

He leaned over the paper. “A revised will?!” He rasped, breathlessly. “If I don’t sign—and I die—you get next to nothing.” His face wore a sickly gray cast.

I scoffed. I wanted to say, I get rid of you. That’s what I get. Instead, I said, “I want the assurance that I’ll be taken care of—in the manner to which I have become accustomed.” I tapped the table impatiently. “Sign it, and get the antidote.” He grabbed the pen and with shaking hand, scribbled his signature.

“Joe,” I said over my shoulder, “as our witness, please sign and date the appropriate line.” Joe took the pen and did as he was asked, making sure to back-date the document. My eyes met his baby blues, and he winked.

I tossed Ray the little vial, which he juggled in a comically awkward catch—scared to death he’d drop it. He unscrewed the cap and greedily sucked down the contents, wrinkling his nose at its bitter, chemical taste.

Ray caught his breath and his face flushed. He grabbed his left arm. “What’s in that,” he gasped nodding toward the now-empty vial.

“More of the same,” I shrugged. “As God is my witness, I’ve begged you to stay away from street drugs!” I glanced over at Joe. “How many times, Joe, have you heard me tell him that?” He nodded in silent support of my argument.

I continued to berate Ray. “A man your age doing drugs like a teenage runaway! And after having—what?—two heart attacks in twelve months. You should know better.”

I went on. “And you should know better than to sleep with your secretary. Did you think I wouldn’t figure that out? You left enough clues to fill a police blotter! Business trips to Las Vegas and Aspen, business lunches at posh little French restaurants, business dinners five nights a weeks at high-end hotels...I found all the receipts.” I shook my head in disgust. “Do you think I’m stupid? Do you think leaving me alone all those week nights and long weekends was a good thing for our marriage?”

As an answer, Ray fell face forward with a dull thunk onto the metal patio table. I took his beer glass and rinsed it out in the swimming pool. I positioned the empty amber vial on the table next to him. I put the signed will back in the manila folder, tucked it under my arm. I’d stash it in the safe in our home office later.

“Should I call 911?” Joe asked, speaking for the first time.

In reply, I walked towards the house, pulling at the bow of my bikini top, successfully untying it. “Why don’t we give it, say, half an hour?” I didn’t have to ask twice.

Tis the Season


3 Christmas Drabbles


by Hillary Lyon





Let it Snow, Let It Snow



Haley slapped the red envelope down on the kitchen table.

“Looks like a Christmas card from your ex.”

“Which one?” Evan asked, sipping his coffee.

“The one you almost married.”

“Which one?” Evan thought this reply funny. Haley, not so much.

“The one your mother preferred.”

“Oh, Elaina . . .” Evan smiled dreamily.

“So open it,” Haley insisted, pointing to the envelope.

He pulled out the cheap card. A crude image of Santa smiled at him. As he opened it, a fine white powder spilled out like snow. He sneezed, coughed, and collapsed.

“Oh, I was wrong,” Haley snickered. “It’s from me.”





Be Good, for Goodness’ Sake



Coins clanked in Santa’s kettle.

“Ho-ho! Thanks, kid! What can Santa bring you?”

“A baseball bat!” the boy chirped.

“Maybe next Christmas, Timmy,” his mom sighed.

Santa rang his handbell.

Next, two thugs approached him.


“Shut up,” one growled. “Nobody believes in you.”

“Well, I believe in—”

The man clocked Santa before he could finish.

Later, in their dark hovel, the two thieves passed a pipe.

“Think we hurt him?”

“I think we got some good shit tonight, so—”

“Ho-ho! I think,” Santa interrupted, pulling Timmy’s bat from his sack, “somebody’s been naughty.”

He raised the bat.






May Your Days Be Merry and Bright



Gerald set “White Christmas” to repeat on the stereo. He slumped in his easy chair with a tumbler of scotch.

Lauren danced into the den wearing an X-rated elf costume.

“What’s this?” Gerald scoffed, slugging scotch.

“It’s Friday, the kids are at my mom’s, so . . .”

Whistling along with Bing, Gerald ignored her.

After midnight, elves tumbled down the chimney.

“Did you see his wife?”

“I’d like to make her days merry and bright!”

Gerald snored in his easy chair.

“What’s his deal?”

“Santa says he’s a bad dad, and worse husband.” The elf cracked his knuckles. “We have our orders.”

With This Ring



Hillary Lyon



“The nerve of some people,” Mimi said, shaking her head in disgust.

“What?” Brenda said, not bothering to look up. She was busy refilling the half-dozen salt shakers on the counter before her. “Who?”

Mimi leaned in close and stage-whispered, “Your ex—he just walked in!”

Now Brenda raised her eyes. “Leonard?”

“Yeah, with some chicky-baby on his arm. They’re sitting at table six.”

Brenda’s shoulders drooped. Of all the diners in this city, why did he show up here? Because he knows I work here, Brenda thought bitterly. This is where we met.

“You wanna trade sections tonight?” Mimi offered, though there were no other customers in the diner.

“Nah,” Brenda said with a bravado she didn’t feel. “I can handle this.” She unwrapped a piece of gum and shoved it in her mouth.

After a few minutes she approached table six, clutching her order pad. He certainly has a type, she noted: Pretty brunettes who wear too much make-up. She included herself in that assessment.

Leonard and his companion were sitting on the same side of the booth, holding hands as they read the menu. How adorable! Brenda thought with resentment. Not like we ever did that.

“Welcome to Bubble’s Diner. So...” Brenda said flatly. “What’ll it be?”

Leonard and his girlfriend looked up at the same time. The young woman smiled innocently. She has no idea who I am, Brenda realized. What sick game is he playing?

“Well, hey,” Leonard began, “look who still works here!” He chuckled at Brenda's obvious discomfort. He turned to his date. “Honey, this is Brenda. The Brenda.”

“Oh,” the young woman said, breaking her hand free of Leonard’s, and sliding it under the table. “Nice to meet you.”

“Bren,” Leonard said, using a contraction of her name that Brenda hated. “This is Cheryl. My fiancee.”

“No kidding,” Brenda said, moving her gum from one side of her mouth to the other. “Congrats, I guess.” Leonard stared at Brenda with a wolf grin plastered across his face. A grin Brenda once found to be sexy, in a bad boy kind of way. Now it made her nauseous.

“What’ll you have to drink? Are you ready to order?” Brenda nodded behind her. “Kitchen closes in fifteen minutes.”

“Uh,” Cheryl interjected, “I’d just like an ice tea and the chicken salad.” Brenda scratched the order on her pad. When she looked up, Cheryl had her well-manicured hands folded on the table. She was wearing a very sparkly engagement ring. Brenda’s engagement ring.

Pretending not to notice, Brenda cracked her gum and looked to Leonard. “And you?”

“A cup of black coffee and a chili cheese dog. And no onions. I hate onions—remember?”

“You got it,” Brenda said, ignoring his pointed remark. There were lots of things about Leonard she remembered. Lots more she wanted to forget.

* * *

Back in the kitchen, Mimi asked, “She’s wearing what?” She was mortified.

“You heard me,” Brenda grumbled. She eyed the cans, boxes, and bottles stored under the sink. Cleaners, soaps, sponges, rat poison. Should she sprinkle rat poison on Leonard’s chili dog?

Brenda went on, “I said, she’s wearing the engagement ring he gave me. The ring we picked out, our first Christmas together. The same ring I wore for eight years!” Brenda slammed her order pad down on the kitchen prep counter.

She turned her attention to Bert, the diner’s cook and aspiring artist. He had a creative flair, and expressed it not only through his culinary creations, but also by designing the diner’s menu and advertising fliers. Many of those fliers featured his flattering sketches of Brenda.

“No onions on the dog!” Brenda said through clenched teeth. “The bastard hates onions!”

Bert nodded, grinning, and pulled a knife from the block.

“Eight years?” Mimi shook her head. “I had no idea you were engaged that long.”

“Yeah, well, it was never the right time to get married. Always had something more important to do. Like we had all the time in the world.” Brenda’s eyes misted over. She remembered even with all his cheating, all his lies, all their fights, she’d loved him. And he’d done his damnedest to strangle that love.

“So how’d he get the ring back? You throw it at him?” Mimi asked. “After eight years, I think you’d earned the right to keep it.”

Brenda sighed. “I didn’t want it anymore. Every time I looked at—all I saw was a broken promise. A failure to launch, like they say.”

“You could’ve taken the stone out and had it reset,” Bert interjected. “Put the rock in something designed by somebody who cares about you.” His warm brown eyes met Brenda’s. She blushed. “And you could've sold the gold from the old setting to help pay for it,” he added.

“Anyway,” Mimi said, drawing attention back to herself, “so this Cheryl gal—she looks like she’s young enough to be his daughter, for God’s sake.” Mimi grabbed a plastic glass and filled it with ice. “I wonder what she does besides look like arm candy.” She filled the glass with strong dark tea from a pitcher.

“Who knows? Certainly doesn’t work for a living.” Brenda waved her hands. “Manicured nails, obviously soft hands. And a complexion smooth as a baby’s butt.” She poured a cup of coffee, then set both the cup and glass of ice tea on a tray.

On her way out the kitchen door, she turned to Mimi. “Guess I was just a place holder until something better came along.”

“Aw, honey, don’t look at it that way,” Mimi said, but Brenda was already out of earshot.

Dicing onions, Bert chewed his lower lip—something he did when he was deep in thought. When he was working on an idea.

* * *

“One chili dog, one chicken salad,” Bert said, dinging the bell. “And I’m done. This cocina is now closed.” He untied his apron, wadded it up, and threw it across the small kitchen into the dirty laundry hamper in the corner.

Mimi threw her arms up. “Hey! Two points,” she giggled. Mimi and Bert had gone to high school together, where she’d spent hours sitting in the bleachers watching him play basketball. He was the star of the team. She still had a crush on him after all these years. But it was obvious to anyone with eyes in their head that he carried a torch for someone else.

Without saying a word, Brenda grabbed the orders, plopped them on her tray and swept out of the kitchen.

“I’m gonna go have a talk with that Leonard,” Bert said, peering at table six through the open kitchen door. He clenched his fist. “What a jackass.” He watched Brenda drop off the plates, then head straight for the ladies’ room.

“You shouldn’t get involved,” Mimi warned. “Brenda’s a big girl, she can take care of herself. You ought to hang back here with me,” Mimi suggested hopefully. In a sing-song voice, she added, “Hey, I have a joint in my purse—some Maui Wowie a friend sent me.”  She giggled. “We can get lit!”

Bert looked at her over his shoulder. “Nah, I don’t do that shit anymore.” He strode out into the diner.  

“How’s the food? Everything to your liking?”

Leonard looked up at Bert with a mouth full of chili dog. He’d picked off the raw onions, set them in a messy little pile on the table. “Yeah, except for the goddamn oni—” He coughed and gagged and began to turn red.

“Didn’t your mama teach you not to talk with food in your mouth?” Leonard crossed his arms, not about to help the choking man before him. “And piling up your discarded onions on the table? Now that’s just trashy. Who do think is going to clean that up?”

“Oh no!” Cheryl cried, frantically fumbling in her purse for her cell phone. “I think he’s allergic to onions!”

“Allergic?” Bert laughed. “Nah, girlie, he’s choking.” He watched her drop her phone under the table, she was in such a panic. He kicked the phone and it went spinning across the diner’s floor. “I know my food’s good, but damn boy! Still shouldn’t shovel it in like a pig.”

“Do something!” Cheryl screeched.

“Sure, sure, just calm down,” Bert said, all the while watching as Leonard banged the table top with his fist, trying to cough, trying to breathe. Leonard’s face took on a pale blue tint.

“Gimme your ring,” Bert said nodding to Cheryl’s hand.

“What? Why?”

“So I can cut his throat open with that big ol’ diamond, get him some air.” Bert leaned over the struggling man to get into Cheryl’s face. “So I can do what needs to be done.”

She pulled off the engagement ring and slapped it in Bert’s large open palm. He shoved it in the pocket of his jeans. He then turned to walk away, towards the restrooms.

“Wait!” Cheryl almost screamed. “Aren’t you going to open his throat?” Leonard slumped down in the booth beside her, barely twitching. He was now a sickly shade of gray. He’d soon stop struggling. “You need to help him!”

“Nah, sister, you need to call 911,” Bert said, not bothering to turn around. He pushed into the ladies’ room, where Brenda stood before the mirror blotting her eyes, cleaning up her smeared make-up.

“Hey, pretty lady,” He said, digging for the engagement ring stashed in his jean’s pocket. “Have I got a surprise for you.”

A Bottle of Sherry


by Hillary Lyon



A handful of roofies, in a plastic zip-lock baggie. A six foot length of medical tubing. One scalpel. Four pairs of handcuffs. A roll of plastic sheeting. One empty wine bottle, screw top. I meticulously store all of these objects in my duffel bag, the olive green one my father used when he hitch-hiked across the Midwest, back in the 70’s. Before he was arrested as the I-90 Mangler. But that’s a story for another time.

* * *

Carson reached over to tap the mute button on our MP3 player.

“Hey, I like that song.” Here we go, another tug of war over the smallest stuff.

“Well, I don’t,” Carson retorted. “You know I prefer classical.”

“But that’s a classic Pat Travers’ song,” I said. “His version of an old blues classic by Little Walter.”

“This,” Carson said, bored with this battle and changing the subject, “is a fortified wine from Spain, usually served after dinner—as a digestif.” He twirled a glass of a dark wine-colored liquid before taking a delicate sip. “Often, it’s white or amber colored, but this one’s an Oloroso—so it’s dark, as well as complex, dry and slightly nutty.”

I reached for my glass, and he slapped my hand away. “I’m not finished.” He then droned on about the region of Spain from whence this sherry came, the grapes used, how those grapes were processed, how long the sherry was aged and in what sort of wooden barrels.

I couldn’t help but think of the sherry referenced in “The Cask of Amontillado,” which was preferable to listening to Carson go on and on and on about the attributes of this particular sherry. I hated it when he brought his work home. Carson worked as the liquor specialist for a local big box spirits store—Booze-R-Us is how I thought of it. Lately, he was infatuated with sherries, and all the middling varieties his store offered.

Sherry is also the name of his girlfriend. The one he thinks I know nothing about.

* * *

On the back of a grocery receipt, I found a phone number, written in Carson’s jagged scrawl. He’d also scribbled the name, Sherry. Did he leave it on the kitchen counter because he wanted me to find it, or because he’s a careless slob? Having been married to him for 13 years, I vote for the latter.

Yet it wasn’t the first time he’d left clues around. It was almost like he wanted me to find out, wanted me to confront him, leave him. He wanted me to do the dirty work; passive-aggressives are like that. I was on to him.

And I had other ideas.

I called the number on the receipt. A woman answered.

“Hey baby,” she said in a husky voice. Looks like he’d called her from our house phone before.

“Yeah, Sherry?” I replied. Silence.

“Listen, you know Carson? I’m his wife, Janine,” I began. She groaned. I went on, “I think we should meet, talk like adults. I have an idea that will resolve this situation for all three of us.”

“Yeah, okay,” she mumbled. I was surprised how easy, how agreeable she was; probably how Carson got in her panties in the first place. Sherry was but one in a long line of store customers who he’d charmed and bedded. The early conquests tended to be classier wine-moms, but the last few were—let’s just say Carson lowered his standards.

“How about, you give me your address, and I’ll pick you up. We’ll do lunch. My treat.” She told me the name of her apartment complex, and her unit’s number. “I’ll see you Saturday morning, around 11.” That would give me plenty of time to pack my bag of tricks.

* * *

Sherry opened the door after several knocks, wearing a stained pink chenille bathrobe. Her hair was wild and dry, with last night’s eye make-up smeared on her face. Eleven o’clock, and she’d just stumbled out of bed.

“Too much fun last night, huh,” I said as I pushed my way into her tiny, messy apartment. “You alone? Or do you have a playmate sleeping in the bedroom?” When he was scheduled to work on Saturday—like today—Carson always stayed home Friday night, so I know he wasn’t her party buddy.

“Huh? No, just me.” She mumbled, her breath reeking of last night’s whiskey and cigarettes. I looked Sherry up and down. What on Earth did Carson see in her?

“You forget our appointment?”

“No, no—Janelle, right?” She shook her head, as if that would clear the muddling fog of her hang-over.

“Yeah,” I snorted. My name was Janine, not Janelle, but whatever. I dropped my duffel bag on the floor next to her coffee table.

“What’s that?” She asked distractedly. Before I could answer, she was on her way to her tiny kitchen. “Want some coffee?”

I followed her. “Thanks,” I said as I took a cup of luke-warm instant from her. I dropped in several roofies.

Back at the couch, I pointed to a large, framed photo of an apricot poodle hanging on her wall. “What a pretty dog! Is he yours?” When Sherry turned to look at the photo, I switched the coffee mugs. So easy.

“Maybe someday!” She cheerfully slugged her coffee. I could’ve asked what she meant by that, but I really didn't care.

“So about Carson,” I began abruptly, “You do understand he’s just using you for a bit of fun, right?” She shrugged, her eyelids beginning to droop. Sherry fumbled her mug, spilling coffee on her robe. I took the cup from her, set it on the table.

Then I reached for my duffel bag, unzipped it, and began laying out my toys, neatly, on her coffee table. Her brow wrinkled, and she was breathing heavily through her mouth.

I pulled out the handcuffs, dangled them before her unfocused, uncomprehending eyes. “He’s a serial cheater, and you're not the first slag he’s had,” I said as I clicked the handcuffs closed around her bony wrists, “but you’re certainly going to be the last.”

* * *

“You are going to love this,” I shouted from the kitchen, as I poured the viscous red liquid into the delicate cut-crystal glasses. I waltzed back into the den with the two glasses and the bottle of Sherry set on the silver-plated serving tray. A wedding present from his mother.

I placed the tray on the coffee table before us, careful not to spill a drop. “This has a most delightful mouthfeel!” I handed Carson a glass, and raised my own to him. “Cheers!” We clinked glasses.

I took a sip, never moving my eyes off Carson. He raised the glass to his nose, sniffed. “Doesn’t smell like sherry,” he grumbled.

Oh, but it does! I wanted to corrected. “This is a special edition,” I said instead. “You couldn’t say this Sherry is sweet, or particularly attractive.” I giggled. “Matter of fact, she’s very dry, nutty, and about 35 years old.”

Carson ignored my critique; as I’d been told many times, he was the connoisseur, not me. He took a sip, licked his lips. “I don't like it,” he said as he put his glass back down on the coffee table. “Got a weird, almost metallic taste.”

“Oh, contraire—you did like this Sherry,” I grinned. “So much that you cheated on me with her.” I picked up the bottle, spilling the dark red liquid on the tacky silvery tray as I did.

Carson’s eyes grew wide. “How did you . . . when did you . . . this can’t be . . .” For once in his sad little life, Carson was at a loss for words. I swung the bottle at his head once, twice. As the old song says, Boom! Boom! Out go the lights.

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 the Art Director for Black Petals and is also an illustrator for horror & pulp fiction magazines.

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