by Ben Newell
Standing in the middle of the
showroom, Bruno stared at the long list of names on the wall-mounted flat
screen. At this rate he’d be here all damned day. The AT&T store was a
madhouse, everybody diddling with their respective devices, discussing this and
that with the many customer service reps.
They can have it, Bruno thought.
He was done. Fuck technology. His smartphone had
drained his bank account
and shredded his self-esteem. Enough was enough. Today’s visit was long overdue.
He wanted out of his contract. No service whatsoever.
course, they were going to ream
him with an early termination fee, but he didn’t care. Anything to regain his
freedom. And pride.
Bruno stepped outside and sat in his car and smoked
. . .
Eight months ago, he had tried it out. Lonely,
depressed, and deprived,
and desperate for a sexual encounter, he had discarded his antiquated flip phone
for an entry-level smartphone. Given his meager skill set, it had taken him hours
to figure out the app, post a pic, etc. He had been excited, certain that his
life would be an endless procession of hookups with horny women.
was he wrong. Nothing. Not one
“Time to do this thing the old-fashioned
way,” Bruno muttered. “Back to basics.”
Two hours later Bruno put AT&T in his rearview
mirror and headed
straight to the sporting goods store. Academy or Dick’s? The latter was more
expensive, carried high-end stuff. He opted for Academy. Top-of-the-line wasn’t
necessary. And he was on a tight budget. Those monthly payments to AT&T had
really set him back. Luckily today’s termination fee hadn’t been as bad as he
Now he was a minority, one of the few with no
cell phone. It felt great,
exhilarating, and liberating. A huge weight had been lifted from his
Bruno entered the store with purposeful strides,
the gait of a man on a
mission. He went straight to the baseball bats.
It was Saturday, three days since Bruno’s
AT&T adventure. He sat in
his car in the gravel lot at the mouth of the nature trail. He had the place to
himself; no real surprise as it was awfully sticky. Six in the evening and the
August humidity showed no signs of relinquishing its grip.
Still, Bruno preferred this to the cold. He hated
winter. Women showed
more flesh in the summer. Cold beer tasted better. Simple as that. Back to basics.
He slid out from behind the wheel, walked around
and opened his trunk. He
reached in, hefted the new bat. The salesman had tried to sell him a fancy
aluminum model, but Bruno had declined. Nothing like a wooden baseball bat. American
to the core. Timeless.
slammed the lid, rested the bat
on his shoulder, and started walking.
He waited and waited in the woods bordering the
trail. Nothing doing. Not a single candidate. So, he drove home and
got drunk and slept until noon the next day, returning to the same spot, at the
same time that evening.
Bruno hadn’t been in the brush fifteen minutes
when he heard the rhythmic
cadence of running shoes slapping the trail.
She was alone. Early to mid-thirties. Sweating,
huffing, and puffing.
He waited until she had passed, then emerged from
behind the tree,
attacking her from behind in an all-out blitz. She looked over her shoulder as
he raised the bat. Too late. Bruno whacked her over the head. One good shot was
all it took.
He put her ponytail tie in his pocket, grabbed
a handful of hair, and
dragged her into the woods until he could no longer see the trail.
After finding a suitable clearing, he did what
Ben Newell, 49, writes poetry and fiction and the
occasional review. His first full-length collection of poetry, Fuzzball,
was published by Epic Rites Press. His short fiction has appeared in Alien
Buddha Zine, Bristol Noir, Horror Sleaze Trash, Shotgun
Honey, and others. He lives in Mississippi where he works in the
reference dept. at a public library.
well known that an artist becomes more popular by dying, so our pal Steve
Cartwright is typing his bio with one hand while pummeling
his head with a frozen mackerel with the other. Stop, Steve! Death by mackerel
is no way to go! He (Steve, not the mackerel) has a collection of spooky toons,
Suddenly Halloween!, available at Amazon.com. He's done art for several magazines, newspapers,
websites, commercial and governmental clients, books, and scribbling - but mostly drooling
- on tavern napkins. He also creates art pro bono for several animal rescue groups. He
was awarded the 2004 James Award for his cover art for Champagne Shivers. He
recently illustrated the Cimarron Review, Stories for Children, and Still Crazy
magazine covers. Take a gander ( or a goose ) at his online gallery: www.angelfire.com/sc2/cartoonsbycartwright . And please hurry with your response - that mackerel's
killin' your pal, Steve Cartwright.