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Bittersweet-Fiction by Jonathan Woods
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Extra Income-Fiction by M. A. De Neve
Interviewing a New Employee-Fiction by Roy Dorman
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The Lunch Box-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Swallow-Fiction by Don Stoll
The Volkers-Fiction by Logan McConnell
All for One, One for All-Fiction by Jan Christensen
He's Nobody-Fiction by Richard Martinez
Who's Going to Pray for Me Now?-Fiction by Niles M. Reddick
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Impending Death-Daniel G. Snethen
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The Trick Is-Poem by John Tustin
I'll Go to Hell When I Die for All My-Poem by Gale Acuff
I Don't Want to Die, Ever, Then I'd Miss-Poem by Gale Acuff
Sometimes you die when it's really not your-Poem by Gale Acuff
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Losing Texas #1-Poem by Judith Nielsen
what is the cost-Poem by Judith Nielsen
Poignant Clouds (For Daryl)-Poem by Judith Nielsen
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Angel of Manslaughter
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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Kenneth James Crist—The Lunch Box

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Art by Michael D. Davis 2021

The Lunch Box

 

Kenneth James Crist

 

My name is Kerry Howland. My friends all call me Crank. I’m a retired cop and I do all the shit most retirees do, play a little golf, ride my motorcycle. And I have a hobby most guys don’t have. I kill fuckers who really need to be dead. How do I get away with that, you ask? Who better than a former homicide detective to be able to commit murders and slip quietly away? I do what the cops can’t and I get away with it every time. Well, so far…

I think the first time I ever wanted to kill someone was when I was eight years old. I was always a nerdy little fucker, and that meant that there was always a certain element of kids that delighted in picking on me. Not the really big kids that were at the top of the pecking order. They seldom even acknowledged the fact that I existed, and that was fine by me. Besides, I offered no challenge to them, and because I was so small and so pitiful, they could actually make themselves look bad by fucking with me.

But there was always a certain group of low-life little pricks that couldn't pass up the chance to make my life miserable. Like I said before, I was a farm kid, and in those days, that meant poor. Don't get me wrong, we always ate good, and our clothes were clean, even though they were patched, and probably hand-me-downs as well, but we didn't have a lot of money. What that usually meant was that the town kids had the shiny new bikes and the latest fad toys (remember hula hoops?) and I was lucky to get enough money at Christmas to buy a model kit.

When I was eight years old, in fact on my eighth birthday, my Grandfather bought me a new bicycle. It was a Wards 24-inch "Hawthorne", and it was beautiful. It had maroon paint and cream-colored pinstriping, and boy was I proud of that machine. I guess I'd had it about a week, and I'd gotten pretty good with it, when I took it to town for the first time.

I parked it in front of the little five and dime store and went in to browse through the comic book collection. In those days a dime would buy a comic book, and I had quite a few at home, dog-eared and tattered from constant reading. I was perusing the current Batman, when I glanced up through the grimy glass of the front window, and saw Bobby Hammond leaving on my bike.

I was momentarily frozen in place. I had never before been the victim of a crime, other than getting beat up and intimidated, but this was THEFT. Then I was out the door as fast as my short, skinny legs could carry me, and I found myself running after Bobby and screaming, “Stop! Stop, you bastard!”

 He did slow down some, but only so he could again speed up and stay just out of reach while he teased me along.

“You’d better stop, you little…little FUCK!” I screamed and yelled and raised hell for quite a while, I suppose. Today, it’s all a blur, but back then it was very real.

I must have chased that asshole for half an hour, until he tired of the game. By this time, I was threatening to call the law on his ass, and I don't think he really thought I would do it, as much as he just got tired of listening to my shit. Bobby was a blonde-headed bully of a town kid, and this wasn't the first time he'd picked on me. In fact, he usually made a habit of grabbing my hat, or going through my lunchbox almost every day. If there was a juicy mud puddle on the playground, there would be ol' Bobby, pushing smaller kids into it, and laughing at them when they cried.

Anyway, the place we were at by that time was the RAVINE. Most every kid in town was forbidden to go there, especially around or on the railroad trestle that crossed it. But, like I say, Bobby was an asshole, and as such he couldn't be forbidden to go anywhere. He took the bike and just hiked his ass right out to the middle of that ol' train trestle, and there he stood, glaring at me.

“Come get yer precious widdle bike, ya mouthy asshole! Or are ya chicken?”

Well, I stood around for a few minutes, trying to get up the nerve to go out there. I had heard tales of kids getting caught out on the trestle by a fast freight, and having to hang by their hands from the timbers over a forty-foot drop while the train rumbled overhead shaking the shit out of everything and trying to dislodge their grip. I'm quite certain now that all of those tales were bullshit, pure and simple, but back then they were gospel.

Then I heard the whistle. We still had steam trains back then, big beautiful black monsters, that chuffed and smoked and gave off thrilling smells of steam, coal, and hot oil, and there's just nothing like a steam whistle to give you chills and put the wind up your ass if you're near the crossing. Bobby heard it, too. And that was when he did the unforgivable. He grinned at me, and tossed my prized possession, my beautiful new bike, which had been given me by the only strong father figure in my life, over the side and into the ravine. Then he turned and ran for the other end of the trestle. He knew he was safe. For one thing, the train was coming from my side, and besides, he knew I wouldn't go out on that bridge, even if there was never going to be another train until Gabriel blew his horn.

I climbed down into the ravine that afternoon and rescued my bike. I had a hell of a time getting it out, too. When I reached the bottom and found it, there was a lump in my throat, made up of rage, as I took in the damage. He had dropped it right in the middle, where the little stream bed ran, and that stream bed was full of rocks. Now my prized possession was scratched and dented, the seat torn, and the handlebars twisted. I sat and cried for a while, then drug it out of the ravine and walked it home. I repaired most of the damage myself, but some of the scars it carried for the rest of its days. And on that day, I vowed to kill Bobby Hammond.

This was not an idle threat, or a passing fancy. This was an assassination plot that would be carried out at the end of the summer when school took up again. I would have a surprise for that bullying, bike-wrecking asshole.

I thought really hard about the best way to kill that little fucker. Remember now, I was eight years old. I thought of putting snakes in his bed, and shooting him with any gun I could get my hands on, but I wouldn't get my own first gun for another two years, and along with it I got some healthy lessons on firearms safety.

I thought up and rejected plan after plan, and then one fine summer day I was roused out of my daydreaming by the sound of an explosion. It had come from our neighbor's apple orchard, a half-mile away, and it had been a resounding bang. The neighbor was blasting out some old tree stumps, and I was not the only kid who showed up to watch, but I was the one most under foot that day, and the only one with murder on his mind.

I remember the smell of the shattered wood on that day. It had a sickly-sweet aroma that I'd never smelled before, and I asked the man what it was.

He took his time answering me. He stopped what he was doing, pulled out a big red handkerchief, and blew his nose. He examined the result with some satisfaction, then he hawked and spat on the ground and said, "That's dynamite, little Kerry. Powerful goddamn stuff. Blow a man's head right off. Pretty safe though, if ya know how ta use it."

I proceeded to watch and learn. While the other kids were yelling and running around and making mouth noises approximating explosions, I learned how to set dynamite. I learned about blasting caps and how dangerous they were. I learned how to bore underneath a stump and pack charges, and how to "telephone" the dynamite when you were ready for it to blow. That's what the neighbor called it, because he used an old hand-crank generator out of a telephone to set off his charges. I spent all day at the neighbor's, and part of the next, too, and when the blasting was all done, I watched to see where he put the dynamite and blasting caps.

Out on the farm in those days, nobody locked anything up. If they locked up their barn or tool shed, or even their house, it might inconvenience a neighbor who badly needed to borrow something. Life on the farm was tough enough without causing each other any inconvenience. So it wasn't very difficult to sneak into the neighbor's tool shed and take one stick of dynamite and one blasting cap. And I wouldn't need a phone generator to set it off. The neighbor had told me that any amount of electricity would set off a blasting cap, and even told me it was best to always keep the wires on the cap twisted together until just before the charge was set, because the wires could act as an antenna, and radio waves could generate enough juice to set it off. So I figured a couple of flashlight batteries would suffice. I hid the dynamite and blasting cap, and kept it hidden until the last week before school took up at the end of summer, then I built my device.

The simplest designs are the ones that usually work best, and this was simplicity itself. I put the thing together in about twenty minutes. All it amounted to was two batteries, some wire, a spring-type clothespin, a piece of plastic from a model kit, a piece of string, two pennies and, of course, the dynamite and blasting cap. The whole thing was built onto a board, and glued inside my lunchbox. The string ran from inside the lid and was tied to the piece of plastic. The plastic, of course, was to keep the two pennies from touching each other. The pennies were glued into the jaws of the clothespin, and had wires soldered to them, one wire attached to the blasting cap and one to the batteries. The other wire from the blasting cap went to the other end of the battery pack. Simple. Open the lid just a little, and you could unhook the string and have lunch. Open it too far and the string pulls the piece of plastic out from between the two pennies, and it eats your lunch. The next time Bobby took my lunchbox would be the last theft he would ever commit. I don't think I even thought about the consequences of my actions at all. I only had one goal in mind. Paybacks, as they say, are a motherfucker.

I rode the bus to school on that first day after Labor Day all primed to kill Bobby Cannon. At last, I would get my revenge on that bullying prick. I never gave any thought at all to collateral damage. My only excuse is that I had just turned nine years old and had not learned everything I needed to know about human values.

We didn’t use lockers in elementary school. We had those desks with the wooden top that was a solid slab of maple and it was hinged at the front and lifted up to reveal storage space beneath and you could put your lunch box in there along with notebooks, pencils and anything else you wanted stolen.

Ten minutes after arrival at the school, the bomb was in my desk and Bobby Cannon was in the back of the room, his fate firmly lodged in my hands.

I was unusually fidgety throughout the morning and when the lunch bell rang, my heart rate was right up there, pounding along. This was going to be a hell of a bang. Getting caught had never entered my mind.

In the lunchroom, I sat down, and sure enough, here came good old Bobby. I figured the moment was at hand.

Then, from the overhead speakers of the principal’s P. A. system came an announcement.

“Attention, everyone! We have received a telephone bomb threat. Please evacuate the school building immediately. Exit the building by whatever door is nearest to where you are. The police are on their way. We will continue lunch next hour, after the building has been cleared.”

Holy shit! A bomb threat? Really? Bobby looked at me and I looked at him and he said, “I need to talk to you. Outside.”

I picked up my lunch box and we hurried outside. We went to the playground and that was when I noticed Bobby was carrying something, too. I looked closer and saw it was a Bible. Yep, over the summer, Bobby had gone to church camp, and he had gotten religion in a big way.

He sauntered over to me and said, “Kerry, I need to apologize for all the bad stuff I did to you, but especially for your bike. What I did was wrong, and I just want you to know how sorry I am…” Then he walked away.

And there I was, with a perfectly good bomb in my lunchbox and nobody to kill with it. Late that same day, I dismantled my device and took the dynamite way back to the woods on the back of our property and buried it. I set off the blasting cap the next Fourth of July when the air was full of fireworks, and nobody ever knew the difference.

I never kept up much with kids I went to school with, but I did hear Bobby went to seminary and later that he had his own church in Ohio. I still shudder to think what might have happened if that single stick of dynamite had gone off in the crowded lunchroom.

     The police made a big show of checking the school building, but they knew the bomb threat was just some prankster fucking around. They never found a thing…

Kenneth James Crist is Editor of Black Petals Magazine and is on staff at Yellow Mama ezine. He has been a published writer since 1998, having had almost two hundred short stories and poems in venues ranging from Dark Dossier and The Edge-Tales of Suspense to Kudzu Monthly. He has several books in print, Jariah and the Big Green Booger, and What Really Lives in Loch Ness, both children’s books, and Groaning for Burial, a book of zombie stories, plus A Motorcycle Cop’s Motorcycle Manual, all available through Amazon.

He reads everything he can get his hands on, not just in horror or sci-fi, but in mystery, hardboiled, biographies, westerns and adventure tales. He retired from the Wichita, Kansas police department in 1992 and from the security department at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita in 2016. Now 77, he is an avid motorcyclist and handgun shooter. He is active in the American Legion Riders and the Patriot Guard, helping to honor and look after our military. He is the owner of Fossil Publications, a desktop publishing venture that seems incapable of making any money at all. On June the ninth, 2018, he did his first (and last) parachute jump and crossed that shit off his bucket list.


If Charles Addams, Edgar Allan Poe, and Willy Wonka sired a bastard child it would be the fat asthmatic by the name of Michael D. Davis. He has been called warped by dear friends and a freak by passing strangers. Michael started drawing cartoons when he was ten, and his skill has improved with his humor, which isn’t saying much. He is for the most part self-taught, only ever crediting the help of one great high school art teacher. His art has been shown at his local library for multiple years only during October due to its macabre nature. If you want to see more of Michael’s strange, odd, weird, cartoons you can follow him on Instagram at mad_hatters_mania.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2021