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87_ym_whiskeyhorseman_kjhgreenberg.jpg
Art by KJ Hannah Greenberg 2021

Whiskey at the Horseman

by Otto Burnwell

 

 

“. . . and nothing hidden that will not be made known.”

—Luke 12:2

 

She could have gotten clean away

if she hadn’t stopped for whiskey

at the Horseman down the road.

 

Marlie Ann McPherson,

that mousy third-grade teacher,

fed up and filled with fury,

drove out to find her husband

among the cars, and bars,

and shitty motor inns.

She caught him at the Ten Mile overpass

where it crosses old Division Road.

 

It’s a dark and handy place to park

where the moonlight doesn’t reach

to disturb a pair of hasty lovers.

 

Some say it marks remorse,

some say it gives a warning,

the roadside relic she improvised

from his cotton-poly boxers

and the woman’s lacy g-string

she stapled to the concrete trestle

with the nail gun that she used

to kill the lovers in the front seat of his car

 

Shaking, cold, and spent,

she rinsed the blood as best she could

in a culvert’s icy, brackish water.

 

It might have been their dying voices,

or the cry of angels in lament,

or a glimpse of Kingdom Come

and the faces of her victims

Waiting at the throne of judgment,

or the chill November wind

that made her stop for whiskey

at the Horseman down the road.

 

A place she’d never been,

she walked in like she owned it,

then bummed a cigarette and match.

 

She could have had her drink in peace

if she hadn’t moved the bodies,

or simply thought to change her clothes,

or if Vince, the barkeep on that night,

had failed to notice

her bloody knees and sleeves,

which made him call the law,

and brought state troopers in to fetch her.

 

She didn’t make a fuss,

but stubbed the cig and paid her tab

when they came around to cuff her.

 

They won’t leave it up much longer,

her tribute to a murdered marriage

that her careless husband fucked to death.

Have a look—before the county

sends a crew to take it down.

Still, she might have gotten clean away

if she hadn’t stopped for whiskey

at the Horseman down the road.

 

 

Otto is riding out the pandemic in a densely populated, urban area, with a few million of his closest neighbors, wondering how much pain we can inflict on each other and still call it love.  This piece comes out of that.
He writes to stay sane, uses a pseudonym to stay employable, and changes enough detail in what he writes to stay welcome at the family’s holiday gatherings—in some future to be named later.
He’s recently placed pieces with Terror House MagazineHorror, Sleaze, TrashThe Oddville PressFiction on the WebThe Stray Branch, and Yellow Mama.
 


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