|Aldrich, Janet M.
|Allan, T. N.
|Allen, M. G.
|Ammonds, Phillip J.
|Augustyn, P. K.
|Aymar, E. A.
|Baumgartner, Jessica Marie
|Bennett, D. V.
|Bernardara, Will Jr.
|Bohem, Charlie Keys and Les
|Boyd, A. V.
|Brown, R. Thomas
|Burke, Wayne F.
|Butler, Simon Hardy
|Cameron, W. B.
|Campbell, J. J.
|Campbell, Jack Jr.
|Cardoza, Dan A.
|Cooper, Malcolm Graham
|Corrigan, Mickey J.
|Cosby, S. A.
|Cross, Thomas X.
|Danoski, Joseph V.
|Davies, J. C.
|Davis, Michael D.
|de Bruler, Connor
|De France, Steve
|De La Garza, Lela Marie
|Deming, Ruth Z.
|De Neve, M. A.
|Dennehy, John W.
|Di Chellis, Peter
|Dioguardi, Michael Anthony
|Drake, Lena Judith
|Dromey, John H.
|Dubal, Paul Michael
|Dunham, T. Fox
|Dunn, Robin Wyatt
|Fisher, Miles Ryan
|Flanagan, Daniel N.
|Flanagan, Ryan Quinn
|Funk, Matthew C.
|Gardner, Cheryl Ann
|Garvey, Kevin Z.
|Gay, Sharon Frame
|Goddard, L. B.
|Golds, Stephen J.
|Greenberg, K.J. Hannah
|Gurney, Kenneth P.
|Hanson, Christopher Kenneth
|Hayes, A. J.
|Hayes, Peter W. J.
|Hockey, Matthew J.
|Hogan, Andrew J.
|Hoy, J. L.
|Huffman, A. J.
|Huguenin, Timothy G.
|Huskey, Jason L.
|Irascible, Dr. I. M.
|Jaggers, J. David
|Jones, D. S.
|Jones, Erin J.
|Kaplan, Barry Jay
|Keaton, David James
|Kevlock, Mark Joseph
|King, Michelle Ann
|Kolarik, Andrew J.
|Krafft, E. K.
|Lacks, Lee Todd
|La Rosa, F. Michael
|Lerner, Steven M
|Levine, Phyllis Peterson
|Lewis, Cynthia Ruth
|Liskey, Tom Darin
|Lopez, Aurelio Rico III
|Lucas, Gregory E.
|McFarlane, Adam Beau
|Mooney, Christopher P.
|Moran, Jacqueline M.
|Morgan, Bill W.
|Moss, David Harry
|Muslim, Kristine Ong
|Neuda, M. C.
|Ogurek, Douglas J.
|Perez, Juan M.
|Perez, Robert Aguon
|Powers, M. P.
|Purfield, M. E.
|Quinlan, Joseph R.
|reutter, g emil
|Rhiel, Ann Marie
|Richey, John Lunar
|Robinson, John D.
|Rodgers, K. M.
|Sayles, Betty J.
|Schraeder, E. F.
|Seymour, J. E.
|Shaikh, Aftab Yusuf
|Sheagren, Gerald E.
|Shirey, D. L.
|Shore, Donald D.
|Simmler, T. Maxim
|Sinisi, J. J.
|Small, Alan Edward
|Smith, Brian J.
|Smith, Ian C.
|Snethen, Daniel G.
|Solender, Michael J.
|Stanton, Henry G.
|Stewart, Michael S.
|Stryker, Joseph H.
|Swartz, Justin A.
|Taylor, J. M.
|Thompson, John L.
|Valent, Raymond A.
|Waldman, Dr. Mel
|Weil, Lester L.
|White, Judy Friedman
|Williams, K. A.
|Art by Steve Cartwright © 2016
Jason's eyes flew open as he was jolted forward, the
plane’s wheels bumping loudly on the tarmac. The engines howled and the air brakes
thumped in the wings as the view out of the window slowed from a racing blur to a slow
march. Must have fallen asleep, he thought,
rubbing his eyes, and pulling out his phone. A quick tap on the screen showed, 9:30 PM.
God damn it already 30 minutes late and we're not even to the jet bridge yet.
Jason tapped on his armrest in agitation as the plane
made its slow way to the gang way, the engines finally whining down to silence the click
of seat belts and rustle of moving people filling the cabin.
In front of him a little girl hopped up and down on the seat
screaming about being hungry or some other bullshit. Why the hell did they let these
noisome brats on planes, he thought, it should be illegal.
And old people too, as he watched a white haired couple
wrestle with a heavy bag stuck in the overhead compartment.
Ahead of the traffic jam caused by the old geezers the
hallway was clear. I've got important shit to do,
Jason mused as he shoved past the bouncing youngster and the old couple almost knocking
the gray haired woman down as he passed. “See you soon.” the old woman called
sweetly her face lighting up in a too broad smile. Jason paused for a moment surprised
by the unnatural width of her toothy grin.
Wel,l I guess we found the Joker’s mom. He laughed to himself.
“Have a wonderful day in Dallas.” The flight
crew called after him as he left the plane. Dallas
hell, Jason thought, If I have to stay in this
god forsaken city for 30 minutes it will be 30 minutes too long.
A faint sickly smell of raw sewage met Jason as he raced
up the gang way and into the center of the bustling terminal. Jeez-us, can't they maintain their plumbing in this hick state? he
thought, scanning the walls for the departure and arrival screens.
them, he searched the long list of flights locating the one he needed. Connecting Flight
333 DFW to Los Angeles. Next to this was displayed: “Now Loading—Gate 13”.
Jason raced along the hallway counting down the gates
until he found himself across from gate 13. Rushing up to the gate desk he found
himself behind an old woman speaking softly with the attendant.
As he waited, Jason scanned the milling passengers.
Virtually everyone waiting for the flight seemed to be kids or geezers. Looks like the last leg of this flight was
going to be pure hell.
old woman in front of him finally thanked the man helping her and giving Jason a quick
smile, she shuffled off. Jason sent an evil look after her then stepped up and presented
his tickets to the agreeable man behind the counter.
After a quick examination, he shoved the tickets back.
I'm sorry sir.” he said. “You're at the
“What the hell
is this!” Jason screamed. “I'm already late
because of you assholes and I'm not missing my god damn flight!”
“I'm so sorry,” he said smiling broadly.
“Gate 23 is what you want. It’s just up the causeway to your left. You can't
Briefly Jason saw a
red flame flicker in the man's eyes. Turning, Jason looked over his shoulder for the light
source which had been reflected in the man's eyes but saw nothing.
That's weird, Jason thought returning his attention
to the attendant.
attendant said. “Gate 23. Just up on your left.”
“Oh fuck off.” Jason said, grabbing the
tickets, and stomping off in the direction the attendant had pointed.
As he raced along Jason noted that he seemed to be the
only one with somewhere to go. It’s no wonder,
he told himself, examining the crowd. Most everyone
here’s an old codger or a screaming kid. Most of people he passed looked up from
books or conversations to follow him with their eyes. All smiling at him with strange toothy
Spotting gate 23, Jason raced to the desk and shoved
across his tickets.
“Still loading right?” he asked.
“Not yet sir.” the woman said picking up his tickets, examining
“But I see you're in the wrong area. You want
Jason screamed, red faced. “Your god damn cohort at gate
13 sent me here! Do any of you incompetents know what in the hell you're doing?!”
Behind him an old couple with three small children bumped
watch it!” Jason said spinning on them. “Keep your damn
brats under control.”
“I'm so sorry
sir.“ the attendant said to Jason when he had
returned his attention to her. “But I assure you, your flight is loading right now.
“Give me those.”
he said, snatching the tickets from her hand with a
Behind him the old woman with a toddler in her arms
smiled at him graciously, the child offering him a slobber coated ball.
“Ba ba” the child cooed.
“Isn't that sweet” the woman behind the
desk giggled, “They're so cute when they're hungry.”
Hissing in anger, Jason walked into the hall scanning
once again for departure screens along the wall. Finding one, he carefully searched the
list of flights until he found the listing for Los Angeles flight 333.
Around him other passengers crowded closely, a child
tugging at Jason's shirt.
Shrugging the shirt out of the child's grasp he saw a grubby wet
stain where the child had grabbed him.
so sorry.” The old woman holding the child cooed. “He gets
like this when he's hasn't eaten.”
Jason stepped closer to the screen making sure of the
information: “Gate 18—Now Boarding” it read. God I hate kids,
he thought, as children tugged at him from the crowd that had gathered around the screens.
Striding away, a large TV screen caught his attention;
a news feed flashed video of an explosion. Moving closer he saw a large fireball roll
across the screen in high definition; wings and tail of an airplane barely visible tumbling
through the burning carnage.
the repeating video a ticker tape scrolled: Fatal Air
Crash At Dallas Airport. Flight ….”
Rushing to the bank of windows forming the terminal walls Jason
looked out at the runways and saw—nothing. Planes coming, going. Baggage carts racing
here and there.
Looking around he saw that a crowd was beginning to grow around him
and the TV.
Other than the crowd and the growing
awful smell nothing seemed out of order. Except that everyone here seemed to be either
ancient or a kid it was a typical day at the airport.
Jason shoved his way through the crowd and back to the
TV. Below the video of the crash he waited for the ticker tape to scroll again. Around
him other curious passengers were crowding close, the sickly sweet smell of decay growing.
“Fatal Air Crash At Dallas Airport. Flight 333
From New York To Dallas. No Survivors.”
Jason pulled the ticket from his pocket and examined
“Flight 333 From
JFK To DFW” the ticket read. “Connecting Flight
333 DFW to LAX”. Oh my god that's the
flight I was just on, he thought. But there was no crash. I just walked off that
Jason felt a cold chill as two drooling toddlers yanked at his pants leg, a red
flame flickering in their eyes. “Hey mista, ready to play?” one asked.
|Art by Maddisyn Condora © 2019
by Jeff Dosser
Night hung heavy over old St. Louis, like the pregnant
clouds promising rain. Across the street, the rhythmic flash of the Ambassador Theater’s
marquis shouted a challenge to the darkness, as yellow cabs swallowed up the lines of cheap,
double-breasted suits and faux fox stoles leaving the show. Soon only the crumbs were left.
Those too cheap or too poor for the taxi ride home.
Fat drops of rain
peppered the sidewalk to the low rumble of thunder, like the city’s angry growl.
These streets needed the rain to wash away the filth. But in The Lou, some dirt don’t
come off so easy.
I stubbed out
my Camel as she stepped out. The neon lights played second fiddle
to this dame’s flash. She was wearing red. She always wore red. From feathered hat
down to her kitten-heel pumps, this broad sizzled. I could see her eyes sparkle as she
lit up a cig, the smoke she exhaled as hot as steam off a griddle.
Ruby Longo was
her name, and she was the reason the bums lined up at eight and
left, dazzled, at eleven. She did four shows a week, twice on Saturday. This canary could
sing. She was also the longtime girl of Colorado Phil Gallo. My boss.
She turned and
walked up 7th, the staccato of her heels fading into the shadows as I dodged a
Checker cab and followed. Her perfume left a sultry trail even a blind man
could follow. It looked like she was headed for Louis’. I’d seen her there
before. Sometimes she met Colorado, sometimes she didn't.
turned the corner at St. Charles with a quick glance over her shoulder.
Was I made? This dame wasn’t stupid, that’s
for sure. But to her, I was just another joe pounding the pavement.
As I rounded the corner, I realized my
stood there, solid as a right cross. A nickel-plated
derringer in her hand sparkled beneath the streetlights like the diamonds on her fingers.
“Ricky, what are
you doing here?” A smile painted the corners of her lips as I watched the derringer
fade into her purse.
doll, just stretchin’ my legs,” I said.
With a quick step,
I swept her into my arms. Her eyes grew wide, her lips parted in a gasp.
I kissed those red, full
lips. Her breath, sweet as a midnight breeze over summer fields.
whispered, as a tear traced a line down her cheek.
thought you was cheatin’,” I said. “He
had me follow you. When I told him he was right, he wanted you dead.”
“But Rick,” she
gasped. “You’re my lover.”
doll, that’s tough,” I said, her body heavy
in my arms.
I dragged her beneath the stoop and out of the rain. My stiletto still
vibrated in her chest. As I lowered her to the ground and pulled out the blade, her eyes
streets are hard, doll, but if you want to survive,
you gotta be harder.” Even as I said these words, I knew she was gone.
I brushed the hair
from her face, and straightened her hat. Soon, the homicide dicks would be at her with
their cameras. She ought to look good. I at least owed her that.
I lit up and stepped onto the sidewalk, blowing a cloud
into the unforgiving heavens. The rain was heavy now, drizzling from my fedora like a widow's
tears. In the Lou, the streets are hard, hard enough to shatter a heart.
|Art by KJ Hannah Greenberg © 2019
By Jeff Dosser
of organic butter melted into the saucepan, one tablespoon of minced garlic, and two tablespoons
of minced ginger,” I say the words aloud, so Gerald can hear, scraping the garlic
and ginger into a pool of golden liquid at the bottom of the pan. A thick aroma swirls
from the mixture like delicious misty fingers.
Lifting two strips of meat, I ease them into a second pan, the smoldering
olive oil popping and hissing in protest as the tender red flesh goes in. The scent of
the basting strips mingles with that of the butter, garlic, and ginger to
create a symphony of smells that caper in the air.
“Do I have the recipe right so far?” I ask.
Gerald seems to consider the question before answering in
his melodic baritone. “So far so good, but the key is to only sear the meat. I know
the cookbook says ten minutes, but trust me, you're gonna want to cook them only eight.”
After a moment’s hesitation, he asks. “Did you set the
I hurriedly lift a white
plastic grocery bag from the counter then check behind the blender. I know I've seen that
stupid timer somewhere, I just can’t recall where.
“Don't worry,” Gerald says with a chuckle. “I knew
you'd forget. I started my own timer the second you dropped those steaks in.”
“Thank God for small favors,” I say, stirring
the butter, minced garlic, and ginger until the sauce becomes translucent. Then I scrape
in the chopped Shiitake mushrooms and add three pinches of sea salt.
“Those will need a minute or two to simmer before I
add in the sake and mirin.” I grab a dish towel to pat the sweat from my brow then
lift a glass of Chateau Le Boscq and take a sip savoring its dark fruity tang and swanky
“So where were we in our discussion on sanity?”
The legs of my wooden
kitchen stool scrape noisily across the tile floor as I drag it in front of the stove and
drop onto the seat. “I believe you were making the allusion that genius and insanity
go hand in hand.”
Gerald says. “My quote from Aristotle, the first of the great philosophers I might
add.” He clears his throat dramatically before going on. “No great mind existed
without a touch of madness.”
you're implying genius' are mad?”
Gerald acknowledges with a grunt.
“So,” I continue, “If I might use Aristotle’s own form
against him, we must conclude that madness is simply that element which all geniuses possess?
Therefore,” I tap my chin thoughtfully, “the capacity to think at levels beyond
the norm is in itself, madness.”
I grab a pair of tongs and lift the sizzling steaks from their olive oil bed and
flip them over; fiery pinpricks dust my hand as the oil seethes and spits.
“Not at all,” Gerald counters. “I'm simply
pointing out that to think outside the box is what defines insanity, not simply the level
of thought. Sanity is, after all, dependent upon our environment. Wasn't it Ray Bradbury
who said, and I quote: Insanity is relative. It depends on who has who locked in a cage.”
I laugh, shaking my head at Gerald's uncanny ability to recall
the mundane. “Okay, okay.” I wave my hands in surrender. “I'll agree
that for those of us touched by genius, insanity is simply an element of our natures, but
what of those who might be considered of average intelligence? How does sanity, or more
importantly, insanity, apply to them?”
A high pitched chirp announces the timeout on Gerald's alarm. “Out
they come,” he says. “And I bet they smell delicious.”
I arise from the stool, lowering my nose as close to the sizzling
steaks as safety allows, then take a great whiff. Oh and how my mouth waters.
“You're right,” I say, lifting the steaks from
the oil and depositing them on a plate. I give the sauce a stir, then lick the dark brown
residue from my wooden spoon. Not quite thick enough. Lowering the heat, I raise my wine
glass for another sip.
friend Josh is here,” Gerald announces. A quick glance at my phone shows Josh
sauntering down the hall towards the door. A heartbeat later there is a knock.
“I guess we'll have to finish our conversation once he’s gone,” Gerald says.
“Come on in,” I yell, “it's open.”
Josh steps in as I flip off the oven heat and lift
the saucepan, drizzling the rich brown concoction across the top of the steaks.
Josh and I have known each other for years, frequenting the
same clubs and enjoying the same tastes in music. It's there, however, that the similarities
between us end. Whereas I might be considered thin, even frail by modern standards, Josh
is a man of Thor like proportions with delicious broad shoulders and
scrumptious muscled thighs. No, we've never been together, but it's not like I
“Iz my friend,
where ya been,” Josh says. He closes the door his head tilting back as he takes a
sniff of the fragrant air. “Whoa, what are you cooking in here? It smells delicious.”
The kitchen's generous window overlooks my apartment’s
cramped living room which holds a leather couch to the right of the front door, a guitar
pick-shaped wooden coffee table and two three-legged chairs. As he always does when he
drops by for a visit, Josh plops onto the couch and picks up the remote
flipping on the TV and changing the channel to some kind of sport, in this
case, a football game.
leans close to the screen checking the score, then apparently satisfied with
the results, sinks into the cushions and slings an arm over the back of the couch.
“I was getting worried about you,” Josh says,
“you’re not returning any texts or calls.”
I sigh out my frustration. Eating in front of a guest would
be the paragon of rude behavior, yet this meal was not intended for Josh.
“I’ve been…well, a little preoccupied with
my cooking,” I tell him. “By the way, can I get you something to drink?”
I remove a wine glass from the shelves and prepare to pour
when he says, “A beer sounds good.”
I cock a brow and somewhat sarcastically ask. “A beer?”
“Yeah, if ya got one.”
Ah, but for the joys of the common man, I think pulling out one of the beers
I keep in the fridge for just such occasions. I’m certain Gerald and I will find
no signs of insanity when we examine my friend Josh.
“So, what brings you up today?” I ask. “Stories
of your weekend conquests?” I pull a pilsner glass from the cabinet and slowly fill
it with amber fluid.
“Naw, I came to
make sure you were okay. Haven’t you heard about the hacks?”
“The hacks?” I set down the glass and let the foamy head subside. Pouring
beer just isn’t my forte.
“You mean you haven’t heard? It’s been front page news since Friday.”
“Ah, there you have it,” I say. “I rarely
watch TV on the weekend. So what was hacked this time? A nuclear power plant? The stock
“No, the new iFriend
a person on the planet who doesn’t own the much-publicized iFriend application, America’s
demonstration of preeminence in the Cloud AI computing arena. It was advertised as a program
so sophisticated that it not only passed the most advanced versions of the Turing test,
the bookmark for determining intelligence in machines, but acted as personal assistant,
counselor, librarian, and best friend all rolled into one. At only $1.99 to download, who
I knew you had one,” Josh says, “What do you call him, Gary?”
Gerald. Anyway, I thought I’d come by and make sure you were good.”
“I don’t understand,” I tell him. “What
does my iFriend app have to do with being…good?”
“It’s the North Koreans,” he pauses rubbing
at his neck and looking skyward in thought, “or maybe it was the Russians. Anyway,
I can’t remember which, but one of those guys hacked the iFriend protocol. iFriends
all around the globe have been convincing people to do horrible things. The news says it
has to do with sub-audible suggestions, and the hack only seems to affect a small segment
of the population. Still, there’s been, like, two-hundred deaths an’ thousands
more hurt by people going completely off the reservation. I just wanted to make
sure you were okay.”
off his beer and wipe away the overflow. “So you’re saying I might be crazy?”
I bob my eyebrows and give him what I think is my best ‘crazy’ smile.
“No, not you. But you got neighbors, right. What if
the old woman next door went bonkers? Or the couple across the hall?”
I grab Josh’s beer, stifling a grin as I glance down
at the cooling strips of meat on the platter.
“Josh, I can assure you that despite the proclivity of my neighbors
to meddle, they will not be causing anyone any trouble.”
“Yeah. You’re right,” he says. “I
just wanted to make sure.”
a butcher knife behind my back, I step into the living room and hold out his
I say, standing just close enough so Josh has to lean out to accept it his arm outstretched,
his weight off balance, his neck exposed.
having a discussion with a close friend of mine. We thought
you should stick around for dinner.”
HOGG’S TALES & ONE HAIRY ENDING
By Jeff Dosser
Kyle Hogg never
dreamed the Sunny Acres Trailer Park would be a sight he’d long to see, but after
the night he’d had, even the relative peace of his decrepit Winnebago was cause for
With a cursory check of the empty Tulsa streets, Kyle scurried
from the shadows, his wet shoes squishing softly as he made his way to LOT 2B
and home sweet home. Stepping inside, Kyle heaved a sigh of relief and flicked
on the lights.
“About time, Fat Boy. I was wondering when you’d
Kyle’s heart skidded to an icy halt as
he spun to find his employer, Lawrence Talbot, aka, Hairy Larry, plopped down on his couch.
Dressed in a pair of khaki shorts, and a pink polo, the RV’s light shimmered on the
ebony forest of hair carpeting Larry’s muscled arms, and exposed chest. In fact, the only part of the man which wasn’t
covered in thick fur was his clean-shaven face and the round smoothness of his
“I missed you at our rendezvous, Kyle.”
Larry pushed up from the couch and with a wave of his pistol,
motioned Kyle inside. “Go ahead and have a seat.”
“Hey, Larry.” A lame smile played across Kyle’s plump
lips. “I was gonna call, but I lost my phone in the river.”
excuses,” Larry smirked. “Because I was startin’ to
get the impression you were trying to avoid me.”
As Kyle squeezed
through the narrow passage, Larry hurried him along
with a pistol-jab to the ribs.
Kyle squealed in terror and dropped onto the couch.
“Don’t hurt me. It wasn’t my fault.” Kyle
looked up, his lips trembling “There … there was nothin’
I could do.”
“What do you mean, it wasn’t
your fault?” Larry’s eyes narrowed. “Where’s
“It was the police,” Kyle said. “They had some
kinda checkpoint set up on Riverside. They was stoppin’ everyone, Larry.”
to breathe through the tightness ringing his chest. Fumbling through the piles of fast-food
wrappers and beer cans littering the counter, he
spotted his inhaler and gasped in a breath.
pulled into the line of cars at the stop,” Kyle continued,
“I didn’t know what to do.”
“You left the dope in the car?”
Larry asked with brows rising.
“No, no, I’d never do that.”
Kyle waved his hands as if wiping away the allegation.
“I knew how important that dope was to you and Fat Sheila. But the cops. They saw
me take off, Larry. They came after me.”
He shook his head,
tears welling in his eyes. “I’m no athlete.”
Kyle waved a hand over the swell of his gut and his pencil thin legs. “Just
look at me.”
Larry leveled a finger. “Then how the hell did
you get away?”
“I jumped in the river before they could catch me. They had
spotlights, an’ the helicopter came. But the current was swift. I was past em’
before they set up. I wanted to call,
but I lost everything in the water.”
Kyle shrank away like a dog expecting a blow. “Gone.”
took an angry step, hand raised.
Kyle shrank beneath Larry’s upraised arm.
staring down on the trembling Kyle.
He slammed a fist into the faux wood cabinet
leaving a jagged indention. “Sheila’s going to be pissed when she finds out.” He eyed Kyle suspiciously. “If you
weren’t so stupid, I’d think you were pulling a fast one. That’s twenty-k
worth of ice, Kyle. You think Fat Sheila’s gonna just let that go?”
“No, I swear
on my momma’s grave. I didn’t take nothin’.”
Larry leaned back
and jabbed the pistol towards Kyle. “How much
money you got, Fat Boy?”
Kyle shrugged. “I dunno. A couple hundred bucks.”
couple hundred?” Larry shook his head and laughed. “Shit! A couple hundred’s
not gonna appease Sheila.”
Kyle did his best to roll into a ball as Larry
stepped over and jammed the gun’s muzzle into the back of his head. “You better
find some cash pretty fuckin’ fast or you’ll be floatin’ in that river.” He stepped back wiping a hand across
his head. “Shit!” Then looking about
the camper, Larry’s brows rose. “How much this piece of shit worth?”
Kyle’s eyes darted about his home. Despite the faded carpet,
sunken mattress, and quirky plumbing, the RV was his. The only thing of value
he owned. “I don’t know. Three … maybe four grand.”
“You got the title?”
Kyle looked to the glove box and nodded. “Yeah,
the paper work’s in the cab.”
into the passenger seat, the sound of crinkling paper and muttered curses drifting back
to Kyle. When Larry returned, he swept a hand across the table, dumping the trash to the
floor, then he slapped a pen and the title in front of Kyle.
over, Fat Boy. I’ll have my sister notarize it in the
“But it’s all I’ve …”
Kyle began before Larry’s slap set his ears to
“I said sign it, or I pop you right now.” He rapped
the pistol on the table to prove his point.
When Kyle signed,
Larry pocketed the document and held out his hand. “Keys.”
in the cabinet. Last one on the left.”
As Larry rifled through the drawer, he asked
over his shoulder. “You got family? A mom or dad? A bunch of little piglet brothers
and sisters running around somewhere?”
As a key’s rattle announced
Larry’s success, the big man turned, his dark eyes flashing. “Well? I asked
you a question.”
“Y…y…yes. I mean no.” Kyle said.
“Mom and Daddy are dead, but I got brothers.”
the statement, then shaking a finger, “Stay right there.” He strode
out the door and a moment later, Kyle felt the low throaty growl of an untuned engine and the complaining squall of failing brakes. The
trailer door slammed open as Larry stepped back in.
here’s what you’re gonna do.”
As Larry leaned in, Kyle shrank back
trying to escape into the cushions. Larry’s gleaming face pressed closer until they
were nose to nose. Slowly, Larry lifted the pistol and pressed it to Kyle’s temple.
Larry’s breath stank of Slim Jim’s and grape Swishers.
going to do, is get in the car outside and go find your
brothers. You’re going to explain that if you don’t come up with twenty-thousand
dollars in the next twenty-four hours, you’re a dead man. You understand me?”
a feeble, “Yes.”
“Good. Once you’ve got the money, you’re
going to meet me on the 11th street bridge
tomorrow at midnight. “
The pistol barrel dug into Kyle’s head.
taking my RV,” Kyle protested. “Don’t that count for
“Call it a restocking fee,” Larry
chuckled. “You don’t have a problem with
that do you?”
Kyle shook his head.
“And do you know what Sheila’s
going to say if you don’t show up tomorrow night?”
Tears burned down
“She’d have me killed?”
won’t have you killed.”
Kyle’s eyes fluttered open, and he gasped
out a, “Really?”
“Really,” Larry said. “First, she’s
going to have me hurt you real bad….”
Kyle shuddered, a high pitched moan escaping his lips.
she’ll have you killed.”
Wet heat spread across Kyle’s lap.
back, his eyes drifting to the growing dark spot on Kyle’s already damp shorts.
out, before I change my mind.”
The buzz of cicadas and box-fan hum saturated the humid July air as
Michael Hogg sat on his couch, the game controller grasped firmly in his hand. Clicking
his game to ‘pause,’ he watched for the dozenth time as his brother, Kyle,
thudded across the hardwoods and peered through the shuttered blinds.
comin’,” Mike said, returning to his game. “You said
yourself, there’s no record in the trailer of where you’re from.” He looked up
and met Kyle’s eye. “An’ we parked that heap you came in behind the barn.”
Mike set down the controller, then rocking his prodigious girth from its indention
on the couch, rose ponderously to his feet.
“There’s no way anyone could find ya even
if they did have an address. The mailbox’s been
gone since the tornado last spring, an’ no one ‘round here’s gonna give
up a neighbor.”
The screen door protested with a high-pitched whine as Mike waddled
onto the porch and considered the cow-dotted fields
surrounding the Hogg family farm. The sun
sat like an ember on the darkening Oklahoma horizon, the shadow cast by the two-story farmhouse
stretched like a blanket to cover a parking lot of rusted hulks squatted in the weed-strewn yard.
Leaning onto the
gas grill at the edge of the porch, Mike lifted a hand against the sunset and squinted
at a dust trail boiling up the road.
car this fella drive?” he asked.
Kyle bustled out, the screen door slapping
shut as he joined Mike on the porch.
got a candy-apple-red F150 with chrome rims.” Kyle
squinted into the light. “Oh, God. It’s him.” He stumbled back shoving the
grill against the window and ripping open the screen. “It’s him ain’t it?”
It was a red pickup,
that much was certain, but there were plenty of red pickups. The vehicle slowed as it approached
the drive, the pursuing cloud of dust enveloping it as it
ground to a halt beneath the gnarly old elm.
Mike turned and
stomped inside. By God, this was Hogg property, had been for generations. As he rummaged
through the hall closet, the smell of mothballs and old cardboard filled the air. At the
back, he found Daddy’s Remington 870 and a box of shells. Stepping onto the porch,
Mike thumbed in three rounds of 00 Buck.
The squelch of
tires on gravel announced the arrival of the intruder and as Hairy Larry stepped from his
pickup, Mike worked the 870’s action – Cha-Chunk -and jacked in a shell.
“Go on and
get back in your truck,” he called from the porch.
“We don’t want no trouble.”
Larry wore a tank top and an OU Sooners ball cap. The fur in his shoulders
shone like a dark aura silhouetted in dusk’s fading glow.
Larry called. “I know Kyle’s here. All I need is
twenty-thousand, and I’ll be on my way.”
“I ain’t got no twenty-thousand
dollars,” Mike said.
The screen door gave a squeak as Kyle poked
out his head.
“Hey, Kyle,” Larry called. “I missed you on 11th
last night.” He pulled off his cap and ran a palm
across his gleaming head.
“But, tell ya what.” He turned, eying the open fields and grazing cattle before
returning his gaze to the front porch. “You got a nice place here, Kyle. I’m
sure if you sign it over, Sheila will let bygones be bygones.”
Heat rose in Mike’s face. His grip tightened on the 870’s
stock. After Daddy and Momma’s death, their
older brother, Deon had worked to keep the family whole. Once he’d left, the responsibility
of maintaining the homestead and protecting Kyle had fallen to him. He’d be damned if some drug-dealin’
trash would threaten his brother and kick ‘em off their land.
you take this with ya instead?” Mike hefted the
shotgun and fired.
The blast sent Larry diving for cover as an explosion of dirt
erupted beside the truck’s front wheel. With a hiss of escaping air, the Ford sank
onto its rim.
“How’s he supposed ta leave now?”
Kyle grumbled from the doorway. “You shot out
Mike turned to answer when Larry rose above the hood, a pistol
gripped in his hand.
Kak-kak-kak-kak, bullets zinged and thudded
sending Mike and Kyle diving inside. With the sharp ting of metal and low, deep thuds,
more rounds careened through the walls sending clouds of plaster dust and splinters of
wood spinning through the air.
Rising from the floor, Mike raised his head
and peered through the window in time to see Larry drop his pistol’s spent mag and
“What’s that smell?” Kyle asked.
Mike sniffed in
the sharp bite of propane. One of the bullets must have punctured the grill’s tank.
If he fired back now, the muzzle flash would ignite it and blow up the porch.
Mike called, dragging Kyle to his feet. “We gotta
As they raced towards the kitchen and out the back door, Larry
opened up once again. The fan in the window took a hit. One of its plastic
blades shattered, throwing the entire mechanism off balance. As it tumbled from
the window and struck the floor, the cord was yanked from the plug. In the shower
of sparks which followed, Mike had time to shove Kyle through the doorway before the porch
and living room were consumed in a swelling ball of flame.
From the bed of his Chevy Silverado, Deon Hogg took a drag from his cigarette and puffed a gray cloud into the humid Oklahoma night.
Although Mike, in his frantic call, hadn’t
explained everything, he’d told Deon enough. Kyle was in trouble…again. Only
this time, he’d brought trouble home.
Although Deon wasn’t Kyle’s father,
he felt the same guilt of his decisions. Hell, he’d
been only eighteen when Momma and Daddy had died, petitioning the courts to keep the family
together; three brothers eking out a living on insurance money and what little the cattle
brought in each year. Yet somehow, it had been enough. He’d barely been more than
a boy himself, doing his best to raise a ten-year-old
Kyle and fifteen-year-old Mike. By the time he’d
volunteered for the Army and left Mike in charge, Kyle was an uncontrollable fifteen-year-old,
experimenting in boys, weed, and wine.
He shook his head
and flicked the cigarette into the night. Hell, if he’d stayed at home, there was
no guarantee his baby brother wouldn’t have ended up an addict anyway.
He watched the
headlights turn into the empty neighborhood and splash across the billboard announcing:
Willow Creek Estates
2 & 3 Acre Lots Starting at $100k
Deon reminded himself that blood was blood and if you messed
with one Hogg, you messed with ‘em all.
“Deon,” Kyle wailed as he tumbled
from the car and raced into his brother’s arms.
Kyle smelled of weed and sweat as Deon pushed him back and
forced a smile. “Well, you really put your
foot in it this time.”
Kyle’s face fell as Mike stepped up beside
“Yeah, we all know Kyle fucked up,” Mike said. “What
we don’t need is a lecture.” He kneaded Kyle’s shoulder then met Deon’s stare. “What
we need, Big Brother is help.”
Deon nodded and
tapped out another cigarette.
“You’re right,” Deon said. He looked his siblings over, acknowledging inside that Mike
was right. It would be easy slipping into the father role and meting out blame, but that wouldn’t help them escape the problem.
He took another drag, feeling the icy menthol chill and jabbed
a finger at the car.
ride or the heap the drug dealer gave ya’ after he
stole the RV?”
Kyle spared a glance at the dented Taurus and nodded.
“I don’t have a car. This is the one Hairy
Larry gave me to find ya’ll. To get the money.”
grand,” Deon’s brows V’ed into a frown. “That what he
Kyle nodded and looked away.
to the Taurus, Deon opened the door. “And you’re sure there was no paperwork on where you grew up inside that RV?”
Kyle said. “I have no idea how he found us.”
first received their call, Deon assumed Hairy Larry had found his brothers by searching
the web. You could find almost anything on the internet, cooking recipes for grilled snake, how to build a deadfall trap, the phases of the moon in 1901.
He’d searched himself and found nothing on Kyle or the family farm outside of Bartlesville,
Oklahoma; drug arrests, court dockets, and more crap about his brother’s
lifestyle than he ever wished to know, but nothing on the farm.
Deon crawled inside. The Ford’s trash covered carpet was
crusted stiff from spilled pop, and God only knew what else. He
searched beneath the seats pulling out layers of crushed food wrappers, used tissues, and
faded receipts before climbing out with a fist-sized
bundle in one hand.
“What’s this look like?”
Deon flipped a balled sock into Kyle’s hands.
When Kyle dumped the contents, a rubber-banded
cell phone and portable charger hit the trunk with a metallic thud.
Mike peered over Kyle’s shoulder and shook his head. “He’s
known where you were the whole time.”
“Do we destroy it?” Kyle
Deon shook his head. “I don’t think so.”
As he studied
the empty lots and the handful of half-built homes lining the neighborhoods empty
streets, a plan began to form.
Deon grabbed a lantern from the toolbox in
the back of his truck and motioned towards the house in front of them. Three stories high,
brick and stone exterior, gabled roof, and three-car-garage, it would one day be the centerpiece of the neighborhood. “Grab that
phone and follow me,” he said as he led them up the sidewalk
and through the front door. “I’ve got a plan.”
Lawrence, ‘Hairy Larry’ Talbot, studied his GPS as
he maneuvered onto the pristine concrete roads snaking through
the open fields and rows of partially constructed homes. Chain lighting chased itself through
the cloudy horizon as a warm breeze sighed through his truck’s open window bringing
with it the sharp tang of cut grass and the scent of approaching rain.
Flicking off his lights, Larry prowled the vacant streets until
he spotted the Taurus parked in front of a three-story mansion at the top of a
rise. The car was parked beside a new Silverado whose doors and truck bed
sported bright images of a cap-wearing pig,
a brick in one hand and a trowel in the other.
HOGG MASONRY AND BRICKWORKS
GO WHOLE HOGG
Was written beneath
the dancing swine.
So, Kyle dragged both
brothers into this little drama, Larry thought. He
eased the F150 into a spot just short of the house.
Pulling out his pistol, he crept through the shadows to the
front door. A yellow glow stained the front windows and seeped through a hole in
the front door where a handle should be.
Leaning down, Larry peered through the opening
and spotted the three portly brothers standing at the center of an expansive living room.
He recognized Kyle and the brother who’d
shot at him from the front porch of the now burned down farmhouse. The older, fatter of
the three had to be the owner of the Silverado.
A battery powered
lantern at the room’s center cast tilted shadows from 20-foot scaffolding onto the
plastered wall behind. Except for a pile of bricks, and lengths of 2x4s leaning against
the scaffolding, the room was empty.
pig, little pig, let me come in!” Larry announced as he
kicked open the door.
The brothers turned, Kyle’s face flush with terror.
The farm boy glowered, and the head Hogg, the oldest
of the trio scowled. Beside the stack of bricks,
a partially constructed hearth and chimney scaled the thirty-foot
wall and disappeared into the ceiling. Larry wondered what kind of people could
afford such luxuries. He wondered if someday
he might be one of them.
“Hands up, my three little piggies,”
Larry chuckled. “Or should I say, Hoggs?”
Kyle and the farm
boy’s hands shot skyward as they stepped back
from the door. The older of the three held his ground before letting something fall clattering
to the floor. Then he too raised his hands and
stepped back beneath the scaffolding.
“Ah, I see you found my phone.”
Larry’s voice echoed through the cavernous room.
The entire space stank of dust, and fresh pine lumber, and the muddy wetness of new cement.
“You don’t have to do this,” the older brother
said. “I’ve got all the money I could lay my hands
on. $8,000 bucks.” With one of his
upraised hands, he pointed to the front door. “It’s in the glove box of my
truck. Take the truck too.”
Very slowly, the older Hogg lowered a hand and dug into
his front pocket. With a flick of his wrist, the keys clattered to the floor beside
Larry clucked his tongue and stepped closer.
“A fine offer, but Sheila has a code to maintain.
You start lettin’ people rip you off and word gets around. Pretty soon you’re
either out of business or six-feet under.” He shrugged. “It’s not personal.
Never taking his eyes from the three Hoggs, Larry stepped over to the phone and
knelt down to pick it up.
“Any last words?” Larry asked.
In the instant Larry lowered his eyes and reached for the phone, he caught a flicker
of movement. He glanced up to see the older brother kick away a board lying beside his
With a ropey twang, a leaning
2x4 shot away from the scaffolding and slapped against the floor. Glancing up, Larry watched
in horror as the entire steel structure tilted over. Slowly at first, then gaining speed,
it smashed down upon him. Sheets of drywall
and metal framing slammed the ground in an ear-splitting roar surrounding him
in an explosion of pain and sudden oblivion.
When Larry woke
to his cramped darkness, the only illumination was a rectangle wedge of light close beside
his head. The air was stifling and humid yet bright with the stink of his own cologne and
the coppery tang of blood.
Rising to an elbow,
he ignored the lightning bolt of pain lancing through his ribs realizing suddenly that
his arms and legs were bound. Larry peered through the rectangular opening into the room,
recognizing he was sealed inside the hearth.
With the gritty scrape of trowel on stone, Larry watched as the older
Hogg spread a line of mortar along a brick he held
in his hand. He turned and meet Larry’s eye.
awake.” A smile dimpled Deon’s chubby cheek as he
“You asked if we had any last words?”
As the brick was
slid home and Larry’s fate sealed, he could just make out the bricklayer’s
“Not by the hair of our
chinny chin chins.”
“Hogg Tales” first
appeared in the Aug. 2019 edition of Mystery Weekly and was reprinted in J.
J. Outre Review, Vol. 5. (Nov. 2019).
Jeff is a
dabbler in science fiction stories, horror, and other forms of the absurd. His
work can be found in such venues as The Literary Hatchet, Tales to
Terrify, J. J. Outre Review, and Mystery Weekly,
to name a few.
When not writing, Jeff and his dog, Edgar, can
be found prowling the woods behind their rural home,
communing with the denizens of the night.
Find out what Jeff’s been up to on his website. jeffdosser.com or follow him on
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