Black Petals Issue #100 Summer, 2022

Editor's Page
Mars-Chris Friend
BP Artists and Illustrators
Baby, You're the Best: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
The Darkest Day:Fiction by Richard Brown
They Feed on Light:Fiction by Kilmo
Step Eight: Fiction by Paul Lubaczewski
Reunion:Fiction by Gene Lass
Highwayman's Trousers:Fiction by Michael W. Clark
The Dutiful Hit:Fiction by Jay Flynn
Flight of Fantasy: Fiction by Martin Taulbut
He Asked Me to Do It: Fiction by R. A. Cathcart
Lagniappe: Fiction by Michael Stoll
No Spark, No Flame: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
The Bathroom Light: Fiction by Craig Shay
Dave Jenkins, Flayed: Flash Fiction by Brian Barnett
Beauty Sleep: Flash Fiction by Simeon Care
Head Games: Flash Fiction by Philip Perry
Hurry Home: Flash Fiction by M. L. Fortier
You'll See, She Said: Flash Fiction by Robb White
Captain Yeah-Way: Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Attic Notes: Poem by Michael S. Love
Exit Strategy: Poem by C. Renee Kiser
You Can Pretend: Poem by C. Renee Kiser
Gold Star: Poem by C. Renee Kiser
Conflict of Interest: Poem by David C. Kopaska-Merkel
Recording: Poem by David C. Kopaska-Merkel
Litha: Poem by Christopher Friend
Sleeping Beauty: Poem by Christopher Friend
It Began with Violence: Poem by Donna Dallas
Rocking Zebra Déjà vu: Poem by Donna Dallas
Circle: Poem by Donna Dallas
Love is a Ghost: Poem by Donna Dallas
Together: Poem by A. N. Rose
Silence: Poem by A. N. Rose
Dead at 21: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
House Centipede: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen

Michael W. Clark: Highwayman's Trousers

Art by KJ Hannah Greenberg © 2022

Highwayman's Trousers
By Michael W. Clark


“Last weekend’s end, when it rained.”  The man was shorter than he should be for the waistcoat he wore.

“Not the last time you got wet. Bathed with soap?”  His clothes fit properly despite their obvious age.

“With lard soap? That stings.  Dogs follow me around thinkin' they can get a taste ah me.”  The short man lapped his equally short tongue like a dog.

“So, you have used soap sometime in the past?”  The taller man held his nose. “Ya smell like rancid something or other now. We’re here to tell the rich to stand and deliver.  Not smell me an' keel over. Ha! They can smell us before they see us.”  He held a long walking staff in the other hand.

“Da fancy men wear too much perfume to get a smell of me.”  He repositioned the oversized waistcoat. The color of it wasn’t good for his complexion either.

A much larger and better dressed man stepped out from the hedge row. “You blokes talk too much certainly.”  He held a flintlock pistol. “You think you rob me? Kill me then take it all?”

“Who’s doing the killing? You have the pistol. A navy man then, that’s a sea service pistol.”  He pointed at it with the walking staff.

“Made my wad on the open seas, yes.”  The well-dressed man grinned broadly. “Only law at sea is your own law.”  The better dressed man banged his chest with his free hand.

The two highwaymen nodded. “Own law, the only law. Nice way to rationalize it.”

“No justification necessary for me to kill you both on my land.”  He pointed the pistol at the smaller man. He kept rocking back and forth on each foot. “Kill you just to stop the smell. Rotting flesh smells better than you.”  The well-dressed man laughed hardily, and the tall highwayman hit him hard across the side of his head with the walking staff. The well-dressed man collapsed into the hedge row.

“Charley, you got him good. Oh, so good. I might smell too much but he talked too much. Needed a quieting.”

“Alf, don’t you take up his bad habits.  Take his clothes.”  Charles pulled a spade from the same hedge row. “I'll finish his final residence. Then we can go find his manor house while its master is away.”

Alf smiled with what few teeth he had left. “He be away for a good long time. Ha! Good, good long time.”  Alf examined the pistol and then stuck it inside his waistcoat. “Maybe there will be maids to be made at this manor?  Ha!”

“There will certainly be soap. The fancy soap that smells not of beef fat, but Paris.”  Charles dug deeper into the already disturbed earth.

“Don' like the French. The French are, are.”

“Alf you don’t much like anyone.”  Charles scooped more dark earth from the to-be-grave. “And the French wouldn’t much like you.”

Alf was pulling the naked well-to-do man by the feet. “Look at those rolls ah fat. How much bread rolls did he eat to get those lard rolls?”  Alf was sweating. The sweat cut through the dirt on his face. “Couldn' count ‘em if I could count, ha!”

“Hey, maybe we could make soap from this rich bastard's flab. Rich man’s soap would get a good price at the proper venue.  Ha!”  Charles went over to help Alf with the dragging. “Not much a Willy for such a big man.”

“Dead man’s Willy. Ha! Not though about comparing.”  Alf chuckled. Then the naked man screamed. Alf screamed.

“Damn.”  Charles reached for the shovel, swung it around onto the naked man's head. The thud was followed by nothing. “That'll quiet him.”  They rolled him into the grave. “Back to his land. He’ll make the soil richer.  Best use of a rich man. Fertilizer.”


The manor house was on open ground. No one could sneak up to it, so Alf and Charles openly strolled up the path. It was about teatime, but they knew the master of the house was occupied with other more pressing matters.   Still, Charles had the flintlock sea Service pistol in his belt. Most servants would not defend a house with the master away. They didn’t want to get hurt for any reason.  Who did? Charles though, had not observed any person so far. “Must be a day off. Is it Sunday already?”  

“Not goin' to church even if it is.”  Alf ran ahead and tried to door. It was unlocked. He turned and gave a darkened grin. “I will go announce myself.”  Alf ducked into the door.

When Charles got to the entrance, he saw a woman in a thin white dress standing at the far end of the hallway. The thin pale cloth of the dress fluttered fully in the cool breeze moving down the hallway. Alf was pasted against the wall attempting to not be seen. He was quivering. Charles reached for the pistol as the woman ran toward him. “Oh! Oh!”  She cried. “Oh! I knew you would come!”  She had a smile on her face. She ran up to Charles. He still had his hand on the pistol. She hugged him. “I called and you came. Oh, thank you, thank you. Robert was such a swine. You came to rescue me. I know you did.”  Charles looked at Alf. Alf shrugged. “You are very solid for a specter. But you would have to be wouldn’t you.  You would have to be of a substantial matter to kill Robert. He is substantial himself. Yes, quite large.”  She stepped back and smiled. “I have been doing the incantation for weeks now. All my black candles are gone.”  She giggled. “So are the servants. Ha! All my witchery. They cried as they ran off. So weak, so weak. It’s their minds.  Ha! Doesn’t matter.”  She twirled around with glee. Her thin dress billowed. She was naked underneath.

“We ain’t no ghosts.”  Alf guffawed, but Charles shook his head. Alf shut up even though he was confused.

“No ghosts, yes, of course. Demons maybe? The little one smells of brimstone and foul, surely. A being of the underworld. I didn’t mean to insult you.  I don’t know the protocols of Hell.”  Her face reddened with embarrassment for saying the word aloud.

Alf couldn’t believe her clean body.  He could see it through the thin cloth. Pale and thin, she was more ghostly than him. Still, she was a woman by form. She was woman enough; his willy had come alive. It pushed at his ill-fitting trousers not bothered by any type of insult.

Charles watched her twirl once more and then reached out to stop her. She did immediately to stare into his eyes. “We are here for you. No question.”

She smiled broadly. “So when will you kill him? I wish to watch.”

Charles pondered his answer as he stared intently and intensely into her eyes. They jumped and quivered. “He is already in a shallow grave.”

She sighed deeply. “Oh, damnation.”  Her expression turned sad.

“You called us for that purpose.”  Charles maintained his stare.

She tipped her head. “But I wanted to see his pain.”  She sighed again.

Alf scratched at his active Willy. “Ya don’t mind him dead. Ya just wanted to hear him scream.”

She nodded. “Long moans of agony, yes.”  She grasped both Charles and Alf by the hand. You will stay for my celebration. Please, please. Since I was denied his torture. The rules of hell are so foreign. Ha! I am a foreigner here in England. So much to learn. Please stay.”  She shook their hands with vigor. “Please. Please. Demons can do whatever they like I would guess. Isn’t that true evil, doing whatever you like.  I would like you to stay.”

Charles nodded. “We were meant to stay. You called us. We are here for you.”  Charles placed his free hand on her cheek. It was cold but soft. Her flesh was inviting him too.

“Oh joy. I have been alone. Robert wanted me for heir propagation and management as he told my parents. He wrote my father in the Americas. My father was a loyalist though. Ha! ‘Damn the rebels!’ he used to shout. Ha! Robert paid a handsome price for me.”  She glanced back and forth from Charles to Alf. “Ha! I can tell you, of course I can. Demons never judge. Ha! My father was a loyalist and a liar. He told Robert I was virtuous, untouched. But…but I was touched and touched again. Ha! Only luck there was never a child. My parents wanted me away. Ruining their reputation. Ha! I was the one with the reputation. A bad one.”  She started laughing and pulling Charles and Alf toward her. “But Robert. But Robert. I expected to be further touched. But Robert, but Robert, he wanted virtue. But only from me. The virtuous? Me? I was locked away in this Abbey. This castle keep. Untouched. Untouched. As if a test. As if virtue can be returned. Ha!”

Charles closed the door and maneuvered her to sit down on the loveseat in the parlor. Alf helped pull her there. She continued laughing gently. “You must rest. Rest is best.”  Charles waved for Alf to go and check the rest of the house. Alf knew what his hand gestures meant from their previous adventures. Silence was important in those situations.

She stared at the ornamental ceiling as she sat. “Robert whored. His virtue was of no consideration. I was not touched. I was not sexed. Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder? Absolutely not. I was crazy with desire. Only maids. Only maids he said.  I was to be desireless. I was not a Britain. I am not a Britain. No way to get a note out. No post. Only maids and no post!  But from Salem, my previous home, I knew witches. As a child Yes. I knew witches. And they taught me so many things. Yes.”  She felt Charles face. “You are substantial. I hope in every way. I called for you and you came.”  She kissed his lips. “For me.”

Charles kissed her back. Her lips too were soft and cold. “I can fulfill your desire.”

She sighed deeply.

Alf stood at the door indicating that the house was empty of people. Alf didn’t have a hand sign for no food, so he spoke it.  “Charles, no food ‘round here. A few biscuits in the kitchen. Some flour. Should go shoot a deer.”  Alf indicated the gun stand. “Some beauties there. Pretty penny. Pretty penny yeah.”

She giggled. “No gunpowder left. I used it in the incantations.”

“Bugger.”  Alf stated. “Ah, sorry miss.”

“Ha! Why? No need to shoot.”  She pointed into the back. “Lambs out there. So sweet. They will come right up to you. You can slit their throats easily. You have a knife, I am certain, a demon dagger.”  She giggled in a coy manner.

Alf laughed nodding with his jagged toothed smile. “Make one lamb for each a us. Extra meat twitches my mood in a who cares about tomorrow way. Ha!”  He pulled a very worn but sharp bill hook from his trousers. “For all purposes. Yeah, all.”

Charles smiled at her. “Is there a tuber stock around too. Potatoes and lamb would suit me.”   He placed his hand on her soft cold neck. “I am very hungry.” 

She giggled. “There is an underground larder. Out behind the tool shed.”  She grasped Charles wrist. She pulled him toward her.

“Some spuds I will find.”  Alf giggled too. He wanted to watch what was coming next, but his stomach growled loudly. He hadn’t had meat in a long few days.  He put the bill hook in his pocket so as not to scare the lambs and headed for the back.

Charles kissed her lips. “Is there a place to recline?”

She smiled. “Are you tired?”

He shook his head. “Just desiring some comfort in multiple ways.”

“You are certain Robert is dead.”  She pouted.

Charles nodded. “The Earth now provides him his only comfort.”

“Oh, goody.”  She stood up pulling at Charles. “Up the stair. There are many a device for said repose. I want much repose.”  Her breath had quickened.

Charles followed her willingly.


Charles forced his eyelids open. Someone was screaming in the dark. It was dark. Charles couldn’t remember falling asleep.  As he pushed himself up on the down mattress, he felt without energy. He couldn’t remember her body either or what they had done.  He had not had wine. He must have been intoxicated by her passion. The scream came again. Charles pushed off the bed. He was naked. He grabbed his trousers and pulled them on in the dark. He couldn’t remember where the sea Service pistol was.  He thus ran into the corridor shirtless and empty handed. She was standing at the top of the stair pointing. “You said he was dead.”  She pointed again. “I saw him there, there down there.”

Charles stumbled over to her. He held the banister to prevent falling from dizziness. He looked over the banister to where she pointed. Just then Alf came running into the moonlight. He looked frightened and confused. His face was greasy from the multiple lamb meal. “It’s Alf. He is nobody’s husband. Ha!”

Alf laughed because Charles did. “What the cat waller?”

“A trick of the light. She confused your face with her husband’s.”  Charles pulled himself up. He was shaking now from the cold.

“Only dark could do that. No husband to any a lass. Ha!”

“With the light, we shall show the fair lass her lost spouse.”  Charles attempted formality while shivering

“Sure, that a wise thing to do?”  Alf wiped his mouth on his sleeve.

“She requested his death. She should know of its delivery.”  Charles shivered from the cold. “With the light. With the light,”  Charles bowed to her. “of the morrow.”


The fog was thick but pale white. The hedgerow just suddenly appeared. The grass was wet. The leaves were covered heavy with dew. Alf was bundled up with a great coat he found in the house. She was wearing a garment more substantial than when Charles first saw her, but he thought it not enough. “A chill in the air.” He had said as he held a cloak out to wrap her in.

She had frowned and simply waved him off as she went out the door. “At the end down there, you say.”

Charles threw the cloak around his shoulders and followed.

Alf was on his knees pulling at the moist soil with his hand. “Not that far down. Mud mostly.”  He pulled handfuls out and threw it aside. “Not too far in.”

She stared at the swallow grave. She grasped Charles’ hand tightly as he came up beside her. Her hand seemed warm compared with the air. "It seems too small. Too small.”

“Ya didn’t dig it. It seemed plenty big to me then.”  Alf grumbled but continued to pull at the soil. It was becoming muddier the deeper he went. A forehead became visible. “Ah, he is revealed.”  Alf scraped around the face. “He looks like his self but paler alright.”  Alf sat back so she could see.

She gasped. Squeezing Charles’ hand tightly. He squeezed back. “It isn’t Robert.”  She shook her head. “I don’t know who that is.”

Alf gazed down at the pale features. “It's the one we planted. Yeah, it is.”

“It's not he. Oh, no!”  She moaned. “Robert is still with us. Oh no! He was in the house!”  She slipped out of Charles’ grip and ran into the fog.

“Well, don’t that beat a bitch dog.”  Alf pushed the mud back into place. “Guess we should pack what we can and head out.”  Alf flicked his hands to get the mud off. The fog swirled around his hands.

“Likely best. Yes. Disappointed, though.”  Charles looked off into the thickening fog. “Thought we could have a vacation from the highway life.”

Alf laughed. “Yeah, sure we did. Just a short one. Any port. Any port will do.”


She stood shivering in the hallway. She was wearing only her thin white dress. Because of the moisture in the air, the cloth clung to her body. Every feature was accentuated. Charles’ breath disappeared when he saw her there. His desire flared conspicuously. He had been cold from the fog, but he was no more. “Robert is alive!”  Her voice scratched and pleaded. “You must save me. I will wither. Oh, wither without touch.”

Charles rushed to her. He was embarrassed by his enthusiasm. He never liked the lack of control most of the lower class had. He attempted to be different but failed now. He grabbed her too hard. She squealed. His blood rushed out to all parts of his body. She didn’t collapse into his arms but didn’t push away or lead the way.  She gave in to him, he could feel it. He picked her up without effort and they rushed up the stairs. At the top of the stairs there was a large painting of a man. Charles saw the face in the painting was the face in the grave. Charles didn’t care.  Her face was all he wanted in his mind. He wanted to lose himself in her. She let him. But still he felt like he was surrendering to her. His confusion lasted only a moment and then was wiped out by passion.


Alf's biggest problem was deciding whether to kill and cook the lambs at the house or keep them alive and butcher them as they needed them on the road. He checked the lambs for a branding but couldn’t find any.  “Carry or keep it on the hoof? Dinner could carry itself. Ha! Less effort for me. I not getting any share of the crazy Madame of the manor. Nope. Ha! Maybe a lamb or two will do. Ha!”  He sat by the kitchen door. The fog had gone, but the cold remained. He watched the lambs bump heads.

“The Madame of the manor?”  She put her hand on his neck. It caused Alf to jump with surprise. “Crazy not to share.”  She ran her cold soft hand around Alf's neck. Alf didn’t move.  Charles had claimed her by deed but not by word. Alf didn’t want to annoy Charles.  Charles was a good fellow to be around.  Charles was smart and full of road craft. Charles was worth more than a tug and pull. “You must have some experience with female kind. Show me. Show me. I want to know.”  Her breath was a chill on his ear. “I can see from your trousers’ growing mound; you have the knowledge.”  She stepped around him and sat on his lap. She giggled. “Substantial enough. Yes.”  And she rubbed against him. Alf was paralyzed by her actions. Never had a woman desired him in any way. He had always had to use money or force. He was used to using force. Her aggression was a good thing because, suddenly, he had no force to muster. All his strength was leaving him. It was an orgasm that didn’t stop.  There was no climax, only coming and coming. He weakened from her effort. His hands were still down at his sides. It wasn’t pleasure.  It wasn’t joy.  It was release though, he gave and gave. He heard the lamb’s child like bahs and then nothing. She sighed deeply. She had warmed. Her skin was no longer pale. It was soft but steaming. She stood up and Alf fell forward onto the grass behind the kitchen. The grass was very lush and overgrown. “Oh my! Must have had a weak heart. Ha! Never experienced true love before. So naïve this brute. And he spilled his seed inside his pants. It is of no use now. Ha! A waste. Such a waste.”  She picked up the sharp bill hook from beside Alf's body. “I could make a stew. Charles needs his strength. A fresh bracing stew gives a man life. Yes. Charles can be useful for a good while.”  She started by cutting off Alf’s ill-fitting clothes. The lambs didn’t care.  They continued to play and jump. The smell of blood didn’t bother them at all, lamb or human.

The End

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