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An Accidental Suicide-Fiction by Pamela Ebel
Dead Revival-Fiction by Vinnie Hansen
Deep-Fiction by Jon Park
Four Slugs-Fiction by C. A. Rowland
Note to Self-Fiction by Peter W. J. Hayes
Fool's Paradise-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
One-Armed and Dangerous-Fiction by Zakariah Johnson
Ray's Mistake-Fiction by Elena E.Smith
Shoplifting Lessons-Fiction by M. A. De Neve
Little Jimmy's Special Days-Fiction by Tom Barker
Lorraine's Recipe-Fiction by Alison Kaiser
The Italian Job-Fiction by Joe Surkiewicz
The Gas Man-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Deep Cuts at the Inner Groove-Fiction by Jeff Esterholm
No Reason-Flash Fiction by K. A. Williams
The Tourist-Flash Fiction by Max Thrax
The Rebound-Flash Fiction by Kathleen Bryson
Caveman-Flash Fiction by Ben Newell
This is Nothing. This is Nowhere. September, 2008-Poem by John Doyle
What I Expected-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
Thank You-Poem by Meg Baird
She Sings the Rum Song to Me-Poem by Otto Burnwell
Whiskey at the Horseman-Poem by Otto Burnwell
Conversing With Dark Passions-Poem by KJ Hannah Greenberg
Floof-Poem by KJ Hannah Greenberg
Beyond Our Cities-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Rose-Colored Clouds-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Questioning-Poem by Scott Cumming
Running Until We Run Out-Poem by Scott Cumming
Lost Without Knowing It-Poem by Richard LeDue
Unwell-Poem by Richard LeDue
What Are You Waiting For?-Poem by Richard LeDue
All I Ask-Poem by John Grey
Gigolette-Poem by John Grey
The Grave-Robbers in the Distance-Poem by John Grey
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Angel of Manslaughter
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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

87_ym_deepcutsinnergroove_kjhgreenberg.jpg
Art by KJ Hannah Greenberg 2021

Deep Cuts at the Inner Groove

by

Jeff Esterholm

 

Strom was thinking of the Bowie album, but not the single. He wouldn’t touch those lyrics.

A summer weekday at the Inner Groove, set in the curve of the boomerang mall. Quiet at the record store after the stutter of the staplegun. He’d spent an hour posting Patti Smith LP sleeves helter-skelter over the bin of the poet-rocker’s albums, sale priced with PSG rolling into town for a concert. Strom slapped a yellow legal pad down on the glass-topped case next to the cash register—under the glass, an assortment of tape head and record cleaners, incense burners, rolling papers, and pipes. For Tobacco Products Only on cardstock. Strom’s degree was in English, American Lit, class of ’78; now he used a legal pad to write pop song parodies, the latest a tweak on a Simon and Garfunkel song: “The Only Living Boy in Madison.”

The past year, post-grad, he spent scuffling from one minimum wage job to another. To his parents, he was a contrarian. He dug the song “Misunderstood” from Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane’s Rough Mix; it had been his theme song, no apologies, to the age twenty-three. Damn it, it fit: he’d never planned on being out of school, that BA stuffed in his back pocket, forget a teaching certificate. Being misunderstood. Strom sent the leisure suit guys from HQ around the bend when he made an obscure, he thought, British folkie’s LP—it was Ralph McTell—a number one in-store hit. Misunderstood—until he no longer wanted to be.

There had been a summerlong flirtation to no end. The irregular pop in by a pre-med student, never buying, who called herself Chatty Cathy. The white cross she’d pass along for free. Then she picked up with a former boyfriend. Strom was sorry to hear that. People moved on in their lives. He apparently didn’t.

Before diving into another verse, he did an owl-head spin of the store. One customer, a woman killing midday time, flipped titles in the cassette tape gallery, row after row of plastic cases locked in by vertical rods. She click-clacked down the gallery, riffling through a twenty-foot-wide, plastic-paged book.

Strom snagged the tape key, would’ve preferred lunch, but the manager—dubbed Frampton Plant because he considered himself the alchemized son of Peter Frampton and Robert Plant—was out with the leisure suits.

He walked over with the key, maybe the woman found a cassette that interested her. A man walked in: dress pants, blazer with a name badge on the lapel—an area bank—white shirt, tie. Call him a teller manager.

The woman glanced at Strom, shook him off.

The newcomer in business dress gave off a prickly vibe. Strom was in jeans and a wrinkled Inner Groove t-shirt. I’m cool nods as they passed each other. The newcomer continued to the cassettes.

Spot-checking the LP bins—errant asses slipped Foreigner into the Dan Fogelberg bin, Rolling Stones with Roxy Music, Beatles with the Stones—Strom lifted an eye. The teller manager dropped to his hands and knees and was peeking up the woman’s cotton shift. She continued slowly through the plastic pages. Click. Clack.

“What the fuck—”

The peeper, unrushed, looked back, got to his feet, brushed off his knees, and walked out, just as Frampton Plant returned.

“Did you see that?” Strom asked.

Frampton Plant strutted behind the counter. After an “Immigrant Song” wail, he replied, “No, man. I just got back. What?”

 

A week later, Strom picked up lunch from the Golden Inn, the restaurant at the end of the mall. Walking in the drool-inducing sesame chicken and egg roll wave, he bopped down the mall to the store, the heavier elements of Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s latest reverbing through his skull.

Thinking lunch, Neil’s “Powderfinger” exploding in his head, it took Strom by surprise, seeing her emerge from the Your Hair Designed Salon, pulling straight ahead of him. The cassette browser. He considered stepping up alongside her, apologizing for what happened, but then again, she might not have been aware. She’d left after the peeper, didn’t buy anything. He let it go, following her back to the record store.

Frampton Plant split as soon as Strom arrived. “Lunch date. Hold down the fort, man.” A nod, a wink, he was gone. The woman was back in the gallery.

He was dipping the egg roll in a small plastic cup of Chinese hot mustard when the teller manager walked in. Strom checked the mustard-daubed appetizer halfway to his mouth. Like old times, the teller manager, glancing back at Strom, dropped to his hands and knees behind the woman. And he peeped.

Strom dropped the egg roll and charged down the gallery. He’d never in his twenty-three years been in a fight. The peeper bounced up, laughing, and dumped him into the cassettes. Click. Clack. He walked away, unhurried.

The controlled rasp of the woman’s glance couldn’t spill Strom’s mouthful of apologies. She shifted her purse strap, moved past him, and was gone.

He decided: get her safely to her car. At least give her a fistful of Inner Groove coupons. Strom could be a hero.

He slid the glass-paneled doors shut, locked the store up tight. Shrugging at three teens with money to burn and what-the-fuck attitudes, he said, “Be back. Emergency.” He made for the parking lot.

The sun was high over the mall. Heatwaves curled serpentine from the blacktop and baking cars. He scanned the lot with an Eastwood squint.

There they were, less than a block away.

The peeper, the woman, embracing by a Firebird, its doors open, AC likely blasting. They were kissing.

“Fuck.”

He walked back into the mall.

Not a hero. Not even for a day.



Jeff Esterholm’s work has previously appeared in Yellow Mama, as well as in Akashic Books’ Mondays Are MurderBeat to a PulpCrime FactoryMysterical-EMystery TribuneShotgun Honey, and Tough. The Council for Wisconsin Writers and Wisconsin People & Ideas, formerly Wisconsin Academy Review, have recognized his work in years past. He, his wife, and their goldendoodle pup live in Wisconsin, at the head of the Great Lakes.


KJ Hannah Greenberg captures the world in words and images. Her most recent poetry collection is Rudiments (Seashell Books, 2020), her most recent essay collection is Simple Gratitudes (Propertius Press, 2020), her most recent short story collection is Demurral: Linens, and Towel and Fears (Bards& Sages Publishing, 2020), and her most recent photography collection is 20/20, Eye on Israel (Camel Saloon, 2015).




In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2021