breezy October night, Eddie
pulled into the long, nearly empty parking lot that sloped down to Parham’s
Waterfront Club. The route there had taken Eddie through Springfield’s rough
inner-city streets, ones that needed paving and were lined with run-down houses
that cried for renovation. The club sat on the edge of the urban lake called
Watershops Pond and next door to the vacant and crumbling Springfield Armory
built in the 1800s.
Eddie parked beside the
1984 triple black Jag. Looking at the Jag now, he saw it as a sign of forgiveness,
for Antonio Parham was once a good listener and wise in understanding another
person’s perspective even if the person seeking his forgiveness sometimes wound
up missing or badly beaten. More than forgiveness from his only sibling, Eddie
wanted to extinguish the anger he still harbored like an unforgiving ghost and let
the past be the past. After numerous failed attempts, Antonio had finally
answered Eddie’s calls two days ago and he sounded gracious, “Yeah, little
brother, come on up and let’s get this over with. We’re the only family we got
The dimly lit interior escorted
Eddie through the back door, which he found just as it was two years ago when
he’d last patronized the bar. Nothing had changed: the air conditioners gurgled
with a low hum, the long oval-shaped bar took up most of the room’s space, the
cracks winced in some of the leather padded stools around the bar, the center
station was stacked like a stadium, the overhead fans rotated like old men, the
scuffed vinyl flooring held onto durability, and the dark paneled walls along
the booths embraced their secrets.
Two stocky young
men in jean jackets stood together across the bar, drinking bottles of beer and
tossing back shots between loud talking and laughing about one of them turning thirty.
The lone bartender turned her back to the men and circled around the center
island as Eddie found a seat, alone, opposite the celebration.
pleasure?” the bartender asked. She looked about thirty-five-years-old, with
smooth brown skin, a short pixie cut hairstyle, and a warm smile in her eyes
and on her lips.
suddenly felt exhausted after his four hour’s drive from Harlem to meet his
brother face-to-face again for the first time since the shooting. His heart
raced and he considered getting up and leaving as second thoughts began
creeping into his brain. Remnants of Antonio’s cigar smoke hung in the air,
reminding him that Antonio had a trigger temper and didn’t mind demonstrating
it. He adjusted his wire rim glasses and glanced around, feeling Antonio’s eyes
watching his every move.
just like him,” the bartender said, nonchalantly. “Just a younger slimmer
Eddie said. “Family resemblance usually works that way. Where’s he at? His whip
bartender’s smile turned into a frown, as if he’d asked her to surrender her
name, date of birth, address and social security number. “He’s not the only one
who drives it,” she said, as though she’d said it once too often. “But what
business is it of yours?” She raised an eyebrow.
Eddie muttered. He chuckled to himself. Was she involved with Antonio? His
brother was fifty-five, thirteen years his senior, but Eddie knew he had an eye
for younger women. His gaze went past her to the rows of bottles that stood at
attention. One drink, he thought, just one would help smother the fire still smoldering
in him over losing Kim to his own brother and drown the feeling that life had
betrayed him. Yes, one drink would put a little distance to the proximity of
his heartbreak and anger and maybe then he and Antonio could finally talk like
men, like brothers, and end their bitter estrangement.
Hennessey snapped its fingers at Eddie. He tried to look away. The bartender
still waited for his order then turned to look in the direction of his gaze. “A
whiskey?” she said.
Eddie nibbled his lower
“I’ll take a
tall glass of straight tonic water,” he finally said, lifting his eyes to catch
the bartender’s grin. “And a wedge of lime to that and some ice.”
arched. “Straight tonic, no chaser?” she asked, as if meaning to say, “You for
Eddie said, hearing his own bit of impatience. “Straight tonic.” Why was she
still grinning at him?
across the bar lifted their bottles and said loudly in unison, “Here’s to you,
fools I’m not Antonio,” Eddie told the bartender.
them,” the bartender said, resting both palms on the bar. “I haven’t seen you
seen you either,” Eddie said. “My brother’s expecting me. You must’ve known I
“Yeah, Antonio talks about you a lot.
You’re the one —” She turned away and went to the bar. Eddie watched her as she
grabbed an eight-by-eleven framed picture or something then returned and set it
down in front of him. He picked it up; it was a news paper article from the
Springfield Union News, framed and matted.
Businessman, Antonio Parham, 52,
bleeding from a gunshot wound to his shoulder, and his head bloodied, stumbled
out the rear door of his two-story home into a pouring rain, calling the name
of a neighbor for help.
heard the shouting, but so did the man inside the house, who peeked outside
from an upstairs bedroom window. The man was Springfield Police Officer Eddie
Parham, Antonio’s younger brother, who had broken into the house to find his
girlfriend, Kim Jordan, in bed with his brother.
between the brothers ensued, inside, ending after Eddie shot Antonio, hitting
him once in the shoulder, shattering Antonio’s collar bone.
after Antonio Parham stumbled from the house, police officers surrounded the
was arrested without further incident and taken into custody.
was found upstairs uninjured and tied to the bed.
“And now they’re
said, pushing the frame aside. “He’s lucky I only shot him in the shoulder.”
both lucky,” the bartender said.
you define luck,” Eddie said. “I lost my job with the Springfield PD and spent
six months in jail.”
dropped the charges which set you free,” the bartender snorted. “He says you still
got a vengeful grudge in your heart, though. You sure you don’t want a whiskey
to tamper down your mischief?”
said. He liked her Mateuse bottle shape; narrow at the top and wide at the
hips, and her sea-weed brown eyes. “I stay sober now. Whiskey always got in the
way of my relationships. Where is everybody? Why’s the place look closed?”
“We got a
plumbing problem. So, what is it you do now, Eddie?”
“I’m a bail
agent.” He looked at his watch. “Is Antonio here or not?”
haven’t heard?” the bartender asked.
what?” Eddie said.
bartender folded her arms across her bosom and gave him a sideways smirk. She
shook her head then walked away to get his drink but not before the loud party
of two ordered up two more shots.
nibbled his lower lip, wondering what information the bartender was keeping
from him. Was Kim in poor health? The mystery consumed him like sinking in deep
water. He gazed across the bar at the booths and remembered the many nights he
used to get drunk there while the place flowed thick with adrenaline,
schmoozers and players competing with the dance music that boomed from the DJ’s
station in the back corner of the tight dance floor.
bartender returned and set Eddie’s iced-tonic water in front of him.
“What you got
to tell me,” Eddie said, “that my brother’s still running around with city
politicians and putting his hand in every pocket? He’s got enemies in every town.
Has he finally gone and got in some shit too deep to get out of and needs his
little brother’s help?”
think you get what’s going on here,” the bartender said. She sighed. “Antonio
said to tell you to fuck off and have a safe trip back, and that Kim is
pregnant with his child, and you can’t have her back.” She took a breath. “Now,
you got to finish that drink, because I’m closin up.”
Eddie blinked several times,
wondering if she was joking. The arch of her eyebrows suggested she wasn’t. The
room got quiet. He looked at the two men and they were looking at him with
deadpan expressions. It was no joke, he thought, like he’d been set up. He took
a healthy swallow then cleared his throat and looked straight in the
“You tell Antonio,
I thought he
was a bigger man than this. This ain’t about Kim. Tell him to give Kim a wet kiss
for me, then tell him he isn’t man enough for me and that I’m still not scared
“Antonio ain’t scared of nothin either and he’s
always happy to prove it.”
said. “That’s my
bartender glanced over her shoulder at the two men.
“I got to
close up, Eddie. Nice to meet you.”
drifted to her ringless wedding finger. “If you’re ever in Harlem, I can roast
you a good chicken, make the skin crackle in your mouth. Get my number from
happens, Eddie,” the bartender said. “Sometimes it’s best to move on.”
like her advice; it sounded like an insinuation, or a funeral. It rattled his
nerves a little bit.
suppose,” Eddie muttered. He pushed his glass forward and got up. The two men started
talking loudly again.
Eddie Parham,” the bartender said.
off his leather jacket as he walked out the back door into the dark night. He took
several steps then paused, looked to either side of him, perked his ears, saw
no one but heard a choir of crickets chirping in concert down near the pond. The
only light in the driveway was a luminous glow from the full moon. In his mind,
Antonio sat behind a desk watching him on security cameras. As he continued on
to his car, he spit on the Jag and the crickets went deathly silent. He opened his
car door, suddenly heard two snapping-like clicks behind him, turned fast to
see the switchblade slashing toward his face. He ducked, the blade missed, and
he tossed his jacket in the first assailant’s face, which gave him the instant
he needed to side-step the second assailant’s lunge with the other blade. Eddie
planted his feet and cracked the second assailant’s jaw with a vicious right
cross that dropped him to the pavement, lights out. The first assailant slashed
again with his blade but Eddie moved briskly out of harm’s way then hook-kicked
him on the medial collateral ligament. The first assailant screamed in pain and
the knife slipped from his hand and fell to the ground. Eddie moved in, caught
two stiff jabs to his forehead, dazed him a little, but he grabbed onto the
first assailant and they fell to the pavement. Two bodies fighting in a clotted
knot, fingers grabbing, fists punching. The first assailant reached for the
knife, but Eddie slammed his fist into the assailant’s family jewels. The first
assailant squealed in agony, cuffed his jewels with both hands and curled into
a fetal position.
Eddie hopped to his feet,
breathing fast. Iron taste of blood in his mouth. He reached into his car and snatched
his sub compact from the hip holster. He shot one assailant in the shoulder
then shot the other one in the shoulder. He glanced around, saw no one. His
heart beat steady. The only sounds were the assailants’ squealing and moaning. Then
a small fish or something splashed the water in the pond. He dragged the closest
assailant by his collar and dumped him on top of the other one and watched them
for a moment squirming on each other like two bloodworms.
Antonio,” Eddie said to the two whimpering and bleeding young men from inside
the bar. “Antonio would’ve killed you.” He remembered what his poppa once told
him and Antonio: “Guns beat knives 99% of the time.” Now he was looking at
proof. Forgiveness, he thought, was never one of Antonio’s stronger points of
view. “But I forgive you, brother,” he yelled. His voice carried across the
picked his jacket up then
got into his car and cruised out of the parking lot.
Garr Parks (email@example.com)
served twenty years as a Corrections Officer in the
Connecticut Department of Corrections, including many years counseling addicts.
Retired, he writes out of Savannah, Georgia and enjoys trail hiking and
saltwater fishing. His short stories have appeared in various literary
magazines, including Black Petals (“Flirting With Desire,” in Summer
2003, and “The Decoy Maker,” in Spring 2005).
Hillary Lyon is an illustrator for horror/sci-fi and pulp fiction websites and magazines.
She is also founder and senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous
Press. An SFPA Rhysling Award nominated poet, her poems have appeared in journals
such as Eternal Haunted Summer, Jellyfish Whispers, Scfifaikuest, Illya’s
Honey, and Red River Review, as well as numerous
anthologies. Her short stories have appeared recently in Night
to Dawn, Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Sirens Call, and Tales
from the Moonlit Path, among others, as well as in numerous horror
anthologies such as Night in New Orleans: Bizarre Beats from the Big Easy, Thuggish
Itch: Viva Las Vegas, and White Noise & Ouija Boards. She
appeared, briefly, as the uncredited "all-American Mom with baby" in Purple Cactus
Media’s 2007 Arizona indie-film, "Vote for Zombie." Having lived in France,
Brazil, Canada, and several states in the US, she now resides in southern