Black Petals Issue #102, Winter, 2023

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Betterment Day: Fiction by Malik Mandeville
Bridget Magnus: Fiction by Dean Patrick
Cemetery Road: Fiction by Richard Brown
I Quit: Fiction by Michael Stoll
Ivory Tower: Fiction by Aron Reinhold
Letter from a Poison Pen Pal: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Neck of the Woods: Fiction by Harris Coverley
No Angels: Fiction by Kilmo
It's A Dry Heat: Fiction by Roy Dorman
Requited Love: Fiction by Travis Mushanski
Stuck in Transit: Fiction by Michael Woods
Cold Yearning: Flash Fiction by Kat Sandefer
I Married a Zombie: Flash Fiction by M. L. Fortier
Snack Time: Flash Fiction by Zvi A. Sesling
The Boy Who Loved Bolt: Flash Fiction by Ron Capshaw
The Cutting Room: Flash Fiction by Karen Schauber
Dirty Blue Bandana: Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Bidee Bodee, Bidee Beaux: Poem by Thomas Fischer
Blood of Whitechapel: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Rotten to the Core: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Seque into Shadows: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Sensitivity to Light: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Boo Hag: Poem by Richard Stevenson
Paranormal Parasites: Poem by Richard Stevenson
Huggin Molly: Poem by Richard Stevenson
In the Morgue of Memory: Poem by Hillary Lyon
Unexpected Culinary Opportunity: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
OI (Oo-ee): Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Plant Eater Gone Carnivorous: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
They Shouldn't Be There: Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
The Needle Spins: Poem by Rp Verlaine
Cold: Poem by Rp Verlaine
The Sleepwalker: Poem by Rp Verlaine

Cindy Rosmus: Dirty Blue Bandana

102_bp_dirtybluebandanna_hlyon.jpg
Art by Hillary Lyon 2023

DIRTY BLUE BANDANA

 

by

 

Cindy Rosmus

 

 

          “Please?” Donny had said. “Six bucks is all I need.”

I almost hung up. If Carlos walked in . . .

Wincing, I rubbed my bruised cheek.

“Sue,” Donny pleaded, “I’ve got to get drunk.”

“I’ll leave it on the tree,” I said, “outside my house.”

In a plastic bag, I stuck crumpled bills and tied the bag to a branch. Peered around, in case Carlos was coming.

The sober ex had hid their daughter, Cissy. “You owe me!” she told Donny.

You can’t afford six bucks for booze, how can you buy a baby sneakers? Cissy would outgrow them in a month. A year of A.A. meetings, but Ex-Bitch still had no clue.

Donny had no job, just handyman gigs. Two old lesbians he stayed with, on their hairy couch. Martha and Max: cat ladies who’d rescued my Shadow from a dumpster . . .

When Carlos dropped him in.

Got enough bad luck, Carlos sneered, later.

“That sick fuck,” Max said, as Martha scrubbed Shadow’s black fur clean. “Piece of shit,” Martha said. Shadow yowled, in agreement.

My heart swelled. Thank God he wasn’t hurt.

“Why . . .” Donny asked me, “can’t you leave him?”

‘Cos you fucked up.

Last year, it was Donny and me. Great sex, on the couch, unmade bed. Chinese takeout: greasy lo mein and boneless ribs. “Ya notice,” he said, waving his plastic fork, “they only use chopsticks on TV?”

The late movie: film noir vs. silents.

“In the 1920s,” he said, “they could act! With eyes, body language.” Tying my pantyhose tightly around his forehead. “’The Sheik,’” he said, “‘of Araby!’” He could’ve been an actor himself.

Or quick-change artist. Loved switching hats: ball caps, a gray beret that made him look French. (“Oui-oui!” he said.) Bandanas. Like that stained blue-print one. “My ‘dirty blue bandana,’” he joked. “Like the red one in that song.”

 “Me and Bobby McGee.”

Between us, Shadow lay, grooming. Nothing so peaceful, I thought, as the bed lightly rocked. Donny didn’t care if Shadow’s fur went up his nose or got on his clothes. Unlike . . .

“Fuckin’ cat!” The shirt was so white, it looked blue. Till Shadow sat on it. “I’ll crack his skull!” Carlos said.

One night, Donny stopped for last call at a bar. Inside was Ex-Bitch, even drunker than him.

Before the late movie came on at my place, Ex-Bitch was knocked up in hers.  

We were done.

Months later, along came Carlos. The opposite of Donny.

I’ll show you, I thought.

In no time, we shacked up. This hot guy with a smile that never reached his eyes. Like a great white’s—cruel, unblinking.

All-knowing.

Somehow, he knew everything.

Did everything, better. My cooking he gagged on, though Donny had kept it down.

“What’d you, poison me?” Carlos yelled, fists flying.

So bad, he beat me, sometimes I couldn’t see. Teeth felt loose. My face was puffy, sometimes purple; sometimes green.

“Whose shit?” he demanded, yesterday. Clutching Donny’s “dirty blue bandana.”

“Huh?” I said.

Long ago, Donny had taken all his stuff. Still, here it was. Like Donny had snuck in and was laughing at Carlos.

“My ex,” I said, “who died.”

Suddenly, I felt grief, like Donny really was dead. How could I lie about that?

“Died?” Carlos smiled. “That pendejo who stays with the cat ladies? Those two dykes?” He inched closer. “Who you leave money for, in the tree?” I gasped.

Into the garbage he tossed the bandana, on top of eggshells and chicken bones.

It was the worst beating yet.

Once he left, I held the dirty bandana to my cheek, sobbing.

Like something worse was coming.

What, I thought, could be worse than this?

Hours later, when my cell rang, I knew.

“S-Sue?” I knew it’d be Martha. Like I knew Max was holding her, from behind. With Shadow under the table.

Outside their building, Donny lay in the gutter. Face bashed so bad, it was nearly unrecognizable. Only his clothes and blood-soaked bandana identified him.

“The blue, dirty one,” Martha sobbed. “His favorite.”

Heart racing, I searched my apartment: couch, garbage, anywhere I could’ve dropped it.

The bandana was gone.

*   *   *

Late last night, it must’ve happened.

Carlos had never come home.

But all I could think of was Donny.

It seemed impossible that they could kill each other, but in an uncanny way, they had.

How the one was bludgeoned to death made sense.

But how the other was hanged from the tree without waking me didn’t.

How could that bandana tie itself, tighter and tighter, around his neck? Way up high? Who could explain that?

Maybe a magician.  

Or a quick-change artist.

 

 

THE END

Cindy originally hails from the Ironbound section of Newark, NJ, once voted the “unfriendliest city on the planet.” She talks like Anybodys from West Side Story and everybody from Saturday Night Fever. Her noir/horror/bizarro stories have been published in the coolest places, such as Shotgun HoneyMegazineDark DossierThe Rye Whiskey Review, Under the Boardwalk, and Rock and a Hard Place. She is the editor/art director of Yellow Mama and the art director of Black Petals. She’s published seven collections of short stories. Cindy is a Gemini, a Christian, and an animal rights advocate.