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Carryout: Fiction by Daniel C. Bartlett
Out of Gas: Fiction by Ron Capshaw
A Good Book: Fiction by Robert Pettus
Happy Hour at the Grown Folks Bar: Fiction by Pamela Ebel
Blocks: Fiction by Mark Jabaut
Nobody Puts Liza in the Closet: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
No Going Back: Fiction by Ken Luer
Thanks for the Help: Fiction by Roy Dorman
Cook Moves On: Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Strickland's Last Day: Fiction by Paul Beckman
I Like Gorillas: Fiction by William Kitcher
The Hard Man: Fiction by Lester L. Weil
How I Shot My First Husband: Flash Fiction by Brad Rose
Alive Another Day: Flash Fiction by KJ Hannah Greenberg
The Monster of Hinchley: Flash Fiction by Michael D. Davis
Two Down: Flash Fiction by Joe Surkiewicz
Waiting Room: Flash Fiction by Cathi Stoler
"68": Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Bobbie Gets Her Divorce: Flash Fiction by Robb White
Murder by the Numbers: Poem by Robert Jeschonek
A Pinch Point: Poem by Janna Rollins
Now I'm 64: Poem by Di Schmitt
Hard Work Damned on the Road to Extinction: Poem by Richelle Lee Slota
The Lonely Planet Guide to Death: Poem by Richelle Lee Slota
my mind: Poem by Meg Baird
the non: Poem by Meg Baird
giant cottonwood tree: Poem by Judith Nielsen
great orange orb: Poem by Judith Nielsen
and they are prancing: Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
crows in our hayloft: Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
spring kicks off its boots: Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
Necessity: Poem by Richard LeDue
A Reason to Put the Rent Up: Poem by Richard LeDue
Giving Up on Hope: Poem by Richard LeDue
Abstract Art: Poem by John C. Mannone
The Apartment Building: Poem by John C. Mannone
Disinfected: Poem by John C. Mannone
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Ron Capshaw: Out of Gas

Art by Kevin Duncan 2022

Out of Gas

by Ron Capshaw



It was my own fault.

It wasn’t just taking a dirt road shortcut to my sister’s house.  It wasn’t just not paying attention to the gas gauge.

It was expecting the cops to be different.

Look at him, I thought, as he got out of his police cruiser, and strutted over.  Macho with a badge.  Cowboy hat, sunglasses hanging on the outside of the front pocket of his highway patrol uniform.  Enormous gun that seemed to slap against his thigh.

It was my past walking toward me.  It could be the 1970s all over again, when the cops ran the town of Mullin, Texas; where they could search your car without a warrant (one of my friends was arrested on the spot for stating the cop was violating his civil rights); plant evidence, and arresting people for what we called DWB—- “Driving While Black.”

By now, the cop had arrived at the  driver’s side door of the car.  I couldn’t make him out because he was shining his flashlight into my eyes even though the sun had yet to go down.

I got the sense of enormous bulk.  Not fat.  Just dense.  Like a brick.

 He rapped a knuckle on the window.

“Roll the fucking window down.”

I was 17 again.

I complied.  I wasn’t about to get into an argument with a cop on a lonely dirt road at sundown.

The flashlight was still in my eyes.

From the nearness of his voice I could detect that he was leaning into the car, examining me.

He had seen my California plates.

“So, Mr. Hollywood.  What seems to be the problem?”

Like his bulk, his voice sounded solid.  Like you would hurt your hand if you tried to punch through it.

I tried for a self-deprecating smile.

“I ran out of gas.”

The cop grunted, sounding like a bull ape.

“That was stupid.”

I heard him reaching into his back pocket.

The fucker was writing me out a ticket.

“You should pay better attention.”

“You give tickets for running out of gas?”  I said incredulously.

“Yep.  Mr. California.”

A black-gloved hand came near my face holding the ticket.

I took it, and resisted the urge to crumple it into a ball and bounce it off his chest.

But this was Mullin, where men were men and cops were above the law.

“Have a good day.”

I should have kept silent, but I needed to show I still had some guts left.  That life away from Mullin had given me a spine.

“You’re not even going to help me?”

The flashlight was turned off.

With the last rays of sunlight, I saw that he was bigger than I thought.  His hat obscured his features like the Shadow’s, that 30’s era avenger of evil.

This guy didn’t avenge anything.  He didn’t have to.  Because everyone was so scared of him or had him in their pocket that no one dared to give him anything to be vengeful about.

He merely tipped his hat and went whistling back to his police cruiser.

He drove off, leaving me with my anger and self-loathing.

I should have at least talked back.

I should have flashed him my ACLU membership card and told him what a fascist he was, and how this incident would be gone over with a fine tooth comb by my lawyer.

I looked down at the ticket.  He had actually written on it,  “Driver negligently ran out of gas.”

Oddly, he didn’t write  his name or badge number on the ticket.

I leaned back.  The sun was down by now, and the crickets began chirping, and there was a gentle breeze I felt when I got out of my car.

“Fuck,” I screamed aloud.

My voice echoed.  A wolf howled.

I hit my hazard lights, hoping some kinder soul would help me.

Then I thought about the body my friends and I found in the woods so long ago, before I wrote my way out of Mullin; getting a scholarship to UCLA (“fag country” my father called it, but still made sure I could go); graduating; and then writing my way into the bestseller list.

The body had half his face shot off.  We learned, not through the three sheet local paper, who didn’t report it (we suspected they thought deep down the cops did it) but through the highly-developed rumor mill of Mullin that it was a drug deal gone wrong.

That was credible.  Because the only thing “big city” about Mullin (population, 2500 and rigorously segregated) was its drug culture.   It wasn’t just rednecks smoking pot.  We had heroin, even cocaine that anyone could get if they ventured into the black section of town.

Drug deal or not, trigger happy cops or not, I was not going to remain in my car and lose half of my face.

At least on foot, I could hide in the woods.

I went to the back of my rental car and opened the trunk.

Big surprise.

The rental company gave me a radio that could detect sound waves on Venus and plush car seats you could sink into.   But they didn’t give me a gas can.

I heard tires crunching gravel.

Him again.

He parked in front of me, and turned off his headlights.

He got out, the police cruiser buckling under his weight.

I left my hazard lights on, and as he approached they made him look like he was on the dance floor of a disco.

Hell had just frozen over.  He was carrying a gas can.

He stood in front of me.  Easily three inches taller than me and outweighing me by 50 lbs.  Built like a linebacker.

He put the gas can down in front of me and stepped away from it.

“Sorry, for my rudeness,” he said.  “I had to dump the body.  Now let’s take care of you.”

Ron Capshaw is a writer based in Florida. His novel, The Stage Mother's Club, came out in June from Dark Edge Press.

Kevin D. Duncan was born 1958 in Alton, Illinois where he still resides. He has degrees in Political Science, Classics, and Art & Design. He has been freelancing illustration and cartoons for over 25 years. He has done editorial cartoons and editorial illustration for local and regional newspapers, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. His award-winning work has appeared in numerous small press zines, e-zines, and he has illustrated a few books. 

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2022