Yellow Mama Archives II

Steve Prusky

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

Art by Cynthia Fawcett 2022

Out of Time





Steve Prusky




Red was purebred, Vegas born, street degree and all: slight, lean, sinewy, a two-time felon violating her parole. A deep-set black teardrop below a jagged, meandering scar defined her sagging left lower eyelid. A pair of prison ink lightning bolts nestled comfortably on the underside of her right upper arm. A brightly lit neon town planted in a desert wasteland of extremes, Vegas’ triple-digit summer heat and frigid winter wind storms etched freeways of deeply furrowed wrinkles on her face with rest stops at despair, anger, hunger. Vegas had rendered Red old young.

Chuck, three years a widower, although he still wore his wedding band; “Not ready for that death do us part business,” he’d say. He planned to bag his wife’s clothes ready for charity the next day, the last vestige of her existence in their shared home. All he would have left then would be his hazy memories of her. Chuck was a hobbled, twice-wounded vet collecting government pension and disability checks. He was lavishly charitable, twenty years on opioids, friendless, and glad of it. He grabbed his silver money clip thick with crisp hundreds and twenties, pain meds, and his one-hundred-year-old, knotty hickory cane. He opened his front door to a molten blast of 105 late-morning August sun and began the mile-long trek.

Red had slept sitting upright; her back planted against the side of a crumbling concrete loading ramp behind Smith’s groceries on Rainbow and Cheyenne. She woke. Her entire body cramped, then drooped limp, then cramped again with the urgency of a boa constrictor’s prey. Each new convulsion intensified the serpent’s hold as it tightened around her. She fumbled through her possibles bag for her fiddle-shaped spoon bent under the stem, twice shared syringe, and nickel of tar heroin. She guzzled three fingers worth from a pint of Wild Turkey 101, cooked and fixed. Soon, all was well in her world.

          Chuck struggled with the heat and the throbbing pain in his hip. Halfway to the store, he ate another Lortab without water and growled, “Shoulda drove, shoulda brought water,” then moved on.  

Red figured this day to be like any other. She’d forage in the dumpster behind Smith’s for a morning meal of stale donuts. After, she would set off on the routine walk a slow mile West to panhandle at the off-ramp traffic signal on I-95 and Cheyenne. If her money fell short by noon, she would make the difference by shoplifting in the Walmart across Rainbow from Smith’s and other nearby stores that hadn’t blackballed her yet. She’d return the booty the next day for a cash refund with no receipt. If she failed to make her nut by 4:00 PM, she’d walk Rainbow and flag down tricks at $20.00 for 15 minutes in the back seat of the john’s car behind Smith’s. She figured to have enough money to buy a pint of Wild Turkey by dusk. Then, she’d chase another bag with needle and spoon at the ready, score, stab a good vein with a reasonable dose, and save the rest for her morning fix. This morning, she didn’t expect company at breakfast.

Chuck strayed from his usual route to shorten his walk in the rising desert heat. He detoured through the truck delivery lane behind Smith’s, Red’s regular haunt. When he came upon the Smith’s trash enclosure, he stopped and watched crushed soft drink cans fly over the graffiti adorned walls land on the asphalt outside the dumpster. A female voice growled, “Goddamn! Slim pickings today.” Startled, he stopped at the opening to the trash enclosure, “Hello,” he said.

Red stood up with a crusty half-eaten cruller in her hand. She faced Chuck and said, “Just me, asshole. What do you want?”

 “I don’t mean you no harm,” the old man said, “just passing by. Why are you dumpster diving? Do you need a meal?” She slid the half-empty pint of Wild Turkey from her hip pocket and guzzled three more fingers’ worth. “Always hungry,” she lied to see if there was an opportunity in the offing.

“Get a shot of your whiskey?” Chuck hoped the liquor would enhance the effect of the Lortabs.

“Not enough left to share. You security around here?” She said.


“The Police?”

“Ever see a cop with a cane run after a perp?” He said. “No, I’m just an old widower on a pension heading to 7/11 for smokes.”

“Most call me Red,” The desert sun lit her auburn hair a fiery Titian hue.

“Chuck,” he offered his hand; she refused the gesture. He said, “Do you live around here?” Red looked up and pointed to the cloudless Las Vegas sky, “That’s my roof,” then pointed down, “and this hot-ass asphalt’s my bed. Now, move on, old man; you’re raining on my parade.”

“Look,” Chuck said. He peeled off a twenty from his money clip and held it out. “I have a proposition for you.”

“For a twenty, you get head,” Red said. “I’ll flat back it with you for fifty.”

“Naa, I’m way past that sort of thing. Here, take this, get a meal.” Chuck was always soft on the homeless.

Chuck took note of her clothes. She had threaded a frayed, discolored hemp rope through every other loop to hold up her soiled and torn camo cargo shorts. She cut the collar and arms off at the seams of her former long-sleeved red and black checked shirt. Three top buttons were missing, exposing the once blemish-free breasts of her youth that were now shriveled, leathery over-ripe fruit passed over at harvest and left to wither dry. Chuck spotted a pack of Pall Malls in her half-torn breast pocket, “Can I get a smoke?”

“Nope, none to spare,” she said.

“Okay,” Chuck said. “Well, look; tomorrow morning, I’m taking my sainted wife’s clothes to the Safe Nest store for needy women. Meet me here at, say, 10:00, and you can pick whatever you want out of the pile.”

Red studied his cane, “Can I?”

“Yup. How about that smoke!”

She scowled and reluctantly pulled a filterless Pall Mall out of her crumpled pack. She picked up the cane, stroked its lumpy length, felt its weight.  

“It’s an heirloom, four generations old,” Chuck bragged. She put it back in the truck bed, “See you in the morning,” She said, swiped the money from the old man’s outstretched hand, and quick-stepped out of sight to a nearby liquor store. “Got me a cash cow needs milking,” she bellowed.


Red arrived in the passenger seat of a never-loved speeding pickup truck. The driver didn’t let up on the gas, irritating a rattling loosely fastened fender as the truck loped over a speed bump. Its front springs creaked like worn-out bedsprings at an orgy. The brakes wailed, grinding the truck to a stop next to Chuck’s truck. She gave the driver cash, and he passed her a tiny tin foil packet. Red jumped out and slowly sauntered toward Chuck.

“You’re late,” Chuck said.

“Who made it your day to watch me?” He took two Lortabs and leaned heavily on his cane. Red stared in disbelief at the clothes in the cargo bed, “I can’t use these fucking things. Frilly blouses, fluffy dresses, pastel knits, this is all old lady dress-up stuff! I can’t wear this shit.”

“Why not?”

“Well, Hell, I’ll look like the queen of the hop dressed better than the marks I hustle.”

Loading the truck’s bed with his dead wife’s clothes sapped most of the old man’s energy. He left his hickory cane unattended in the truck bed and, grimacing in pain, slumped against the left rear flare side panel, silently begging the opioid hurry. Red feigned a second-hand look at the clothes. Then, she grabbed the cane and dashed out of sight. “Hey, Red,” he said. “Don’t take that from me; it’s a family heirloom—priceless.” By the time Chuck limped into the cab to chase Red down, she had run out of sight, elated by her incredible good luck. She caught the downtown bus to Fremont Street and played nickel slots at the Horseshoe until sunrise with Chuck’s hickory cane at her side. Chuck noticed the handicap placard hanging from his rearview mirror had disappeared.


Weeks passed.

Afternoon shift change: the Strip casinos’ day crews jammed the north and southbound I-95. Chuck fondled a Lortab refill on his way home from the pharmacy; double strength. A store-bought aluminum cane rested on the passenger seat of his truck. He took the Decatur on-ramp to the 95 north and immediately slowed down to ten miles an hour for the next three miles. An hour later, he squeezed into the dedicated right-turn lane for eastbound Cheyenne, with an angry-looking khaki-clad cop an hour late for shift change in a Metro black and white behind him. The line was 30 vehicles back from the ‘No Turn On Red’ traffic signal. The old man crept closer to the intersection five car lengths at a time, with each red to green cycle. The lengthy pause on the red arrow was a boon for the panhandling crowd huddling on all four corners.

Chuck stopped ten cars short of the signal. He briefly caught Red’s flaming hair bobbing up and down from one car to the next, working her way down the line toward him. She faked a limp using his hickory cane as a prop to shame those better off than her to contribute. He admired her devious ability to improvise. At each green, she hopped to the corner sidewalk, picked up a pint bottle stuffed in a wrinkled brown sack, took a nip, and waited for the signal to turn red. Chuck slowly crept up the queue. He finally made it to the faded white stop bar painted on the asphalt under his front bumper, the cop dead-sweating him from behind. Red gimped toward him. They made eye contact. “Hey there, Red,” he said. “Can I have my cane back? I’ll trade you,” he offered up the replacement cane. “For one of those crisp Ben Franklins you keep on you, it’s yours,” she said. “I saw that money clip you pulled out of your pocket. You won’t miss a hundred dollars.” Chuck dug in his pocket for the clip as Red reached in palm up under his chin, then the light turned green.

Steve’s work has appeared in Yellow Mama, A Twist of Noir, In the Gutter, and others. Steve lives in Las Vegas.

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