Category Archives: Joseph H. Stryker

Blood, Bullets and Burgers

The scent of grilled beef and melted cheese clung to the air. Lining the walls were desert paintings and movie props. My seat looked like a barrel and felt like a Spanish Donkey. I doubt the designer had comfort in mind.
+++++The Burger Barrel, it opened back in the 50s. A kitschy little place with a western theme. I took my son there after his First Communion. I told him he could get anything he wanted. He chose a chocolate milkshake and french fries. We didn’t make a second visit, until two decades had past.
+++++“Dad, did you hear her?” His voice shook me from my thoughts.
+++++“Hear who?”
+++++“The waitress. She wants to know your order.”
+++++I looked up and saw her. She was young, black, pretty, and dressed in a red and white cowgirl uniform which was probably as old as the restaurant we sat in. “I’m sorry, dear. I guess I zoned off.”
+++++“Don’t worry about it! Gives me a chance to breathe. Everyone else in this place seems to be in a hurry to nowhere.” She nodded towards the middle of the restaurant. The place was packed. Men, women, and children all talking louder by the second.
+++++“Do you carry any fish?”
+++++“We have a salmon sandwich, but that’s it I’m afraid. Not really our specialty.”
+++++“It sounds wonderful. Could I get that and a glass of ice water?”
+++++“Of course. So we’ve got one salmon sandwich, one double cheeseburger, an order of fries, one ice water, one Coke, and a chocolate milkshake. Is that right?”
+++++“That’s right,” said my son. He was past 30 now. The blonde hair he had as a child went brown by 20, now it was beginning to gray. He wore a boring blue suit with no tie and had the demeanor of a used car salesman.
+++++The girl smiled then walked away.
+++++“Why’d you get caught up with those bastards, huh? They’d string that girl up if they got half a chance. I didn’t raise you like that.” I didn’t know a lot about my son’s life, but I knew he had surpassed me in the fuck-up department.
+++++“You didn’t raise me. And I don’t share their ideology. They had money and I had debt. You could have paid it off. I know you kept something from your old life.” His brown eyes held nothing but contempt.
+++++“I wanted you to be a man. A man doesn’t need his daddy to get him out of trouble.”
+++++“You’re right, and I don’t need you. So enough with the lecture.”
+++++“Then what’s this about? You brought me down to this hell-hole just to tell me what a lousy father I am?”
+++++“Hell-hole? The Burger Barrel? Jesus-fucking-Christ.” He laughed.
+++++“Don’t you blasphemize just because you’re angry with me, that ain’t right. This place smells like death and looks even worse. You know I’m right about that.”
+++++“It smells like burgers.”
+++++“You think those grow on trees?”
+++++“Okay, Dad. Let’s cut the shit. I’m not interested in how eating fish makes you closer to Jesus, and I’m definitely not interested in your fucked up view of morality. I’m here to say goodbye. I can’t pay them off, so I’m skipping town. I just wanted to have one nice meal with my father before I left my old life behind.”
+++++“You should’ve started with that.”
+++++“Well too fucking bad.”
+++++The waitress walked back. “Sorry about the wait. Here’s your drinks.” She handed me my water and my son his Coke, along with the same ridiculous milkshake he got so long ago.
+++++“Thank you,” I said. The girl left and then we went back to talking. “So, do you know where you’re heading?”
+++++“Yeah, I’ve got a train ticket to San Diego and then a boat ride to-”
+++++“Don’t get specific. I’m glad you’ve got things figured out.”
+++++“So what about you, Dad? Now that you’re too old to extort money from whores, what have you been doing with your life?” I half wanted to slap him upside the head. What kind of shit is that to ask a person?
+++++“Keeping busy.” Wake up, swim, eat, gun range, eat, go to sleep. That was every day of my life for the past three years.
+++++“Well that’s good to hear. You ever visit Mom?”
+++++“She’s dead, son.”
+++++He gave me a look like I was dumbest man in the world. “Yeah, Dad, I know. I meant her grave.”
+++++“Well, then you should have said that.”
+++++The girl came back with our food and put it in front of us. We thanked her, smiled, and waited for her to walk away.
+++++“Can we just be civil for one meal, Dad?”
+++++“Alright.” I bit into my sandwich and took a sip of water. While we ate I looked around at the other people. Strangely enough they all seemed happy. Whether they were looking at their phones or each other. “You sure you haven’t left a trail behind?”
+++++“100 percent? Nah, I’m not sure of that.”
+++++“Well that’s real comforting, son.” I rolled my eyes and felt at the Glock under my jacket. I glanced over at the window, the parking lot was full but it seemed to just be the customer’s vehicles. Aside from my truck, it was just a whole load of family soccer vans and midget cars, nothing you’d wanna look twice at.
+++++“They’re idiots. They won’t realize I’m gone until it’s way too late.”
+++++“You should know better than to underestimate folks.”
+++++“They’re skinheads. I think I’m alright.”
+++++“You think because someone’s an asshole that makes them dumb?” I chuckled. “If only that were the case.”
+++++After my sandwich was gone I watched my son for a moment. He had already finished his burger and was now dipping his french fries in the milkshake. My thirty-year old son, Charlie, was dipping his food in a chocolate milkshake. I couldn’t help but laugh.
+++++“What?” He asked.
+++++“You know.”
+++++“Don’t judge, it’s good. You wanna try one?” He held out a fry dripping chocolate goop.
+++++“I’d rather die.”
+++++Charlie smiled and kept on eating. Then his phone rang. He looked at the screen then at me, he wasn’t smiling anymore. “Hello?” He answered it. I don’t know why he did that.
+++++As he talked and tried to act normal, the waitress came back over with the check. Before I even thought to shush her, she said, “So how has The Burger Barrel treated you two today? Happy with your meals? Want me to rustle up some desert for you two outlaws?”
+++++“Can we get a minute?”
+++++“Sure thing,” she said smiling and walked away.
+++++Charlie put the phone down on the table and stared out the window. “They’re two blocks away. They know we’re here.”
+++++“How!?”
+++++“They heard the waitress.”
+++++“Jesus Christ.”
+++++“You said it.”
+++++“Okay, Charlie. You need to get up.”
+++++“And do what? They know my car, they’ll see it drive away.”
+++++“They don’t know my truck. Here, take my keys and keep your head down. I’ll keep them busy until you’re safe.”
+++++“Dad, I don’t-”
+++++“Shut your mouth and do what your father tells you to do.”
+++++He took the key and started walking out. Last thing he said was, “There will be two of them, they’ll have guns.”
+++++Since Charlie had my Chevy, I was in no hurry to leave. I took a sip of water and stared out the window.
+++++It didn’t take long for them to arrive. They drove a black Volkswagen sedan and burst through the front door like they owned the place. If it wasn’t for the difference in their height, they would’ve looked like twins. They scanned the room and then the taller of the two yelled, “Have any of you shits seen this man?” He held out his phone with a picture of Charlie on it.
+++++The customers looked uncomfortable and those with children tried to cover them. One family left through the back door.
+++++“That guy just left. You missed him by a minute,” said a young looking cashier.
+++++“Bullshit, pizzaface. His Toyota is in the parking lot.”
+++++“No, I’m telling yo-”
+++++“Covering for strangers ain’t a habit you wanna get into, boy. Now shut your mouth,” said the shorter guy. Sometimes the truth smells the same as bullshit. I was glad this was one of those times.
+++++“You two need to either order something or get out,” said the waitress while blocking them from moving towards the customers.
+++++“Yeah, I’ll order something,” started the taller of the two. He was wearing ACUs without any patches and a Black Flag T-shirt “I’d like this motherfucker on the phone here, a diet coke, and maybe…Hmm, yeah. And a side of your ass, little lady.”
+++++“Okay, get out. Get the hell out right this goddamn minute.” The waitress tried to keep calm, but she wasn’t backing down and I knew what was coming next.
+++++“I saw him,” I said. I didn’t need to stick my neck out. Charlie was already safe. But I wanted to play the hero, I’d never done that before.
+++++The girl looked at me and shook her head as if I should’ve known better. She was right, I should’ve.
+++++“Say what, grampa?”
+++++“I said, I saw him. Now why don’t you come talk to me instead of her?”
+++++They pushed past the waitress and stood over my table. “Where’d he go?” asked the shorter one. He was dressed in a zipped up leather jacket, dark blue jeans, and wore Doc Martens on his feet.
+++++“Into the restroom there. He seemed real worried.” I needed to get them as far away from the customers as possible.
+++++“Stay with the old man, Thomas. I’m gonna go see if this fucker’s leading us on. Also make sure none of these fine individuals here leave. Wouldn’t wanna upset anyone’s meal now,” said the shorter one as he went into the restroom.
+++++“You got it, Hal.” Thomas licked his lips and winked at the waitress.
+++++She walked over to the table, and looked like she was going to spill the truth about Charlie. Thankfully, something else had Thomas’ attention.
+++++“You can’t keep us here,” said a customer with a family. He started to stand up from his seat. Then Thomas pulled out a Beretta and in two quick motions, gut punched the man and drove the hilt of his pistol into the guy’s nose. The man crumpled into his seat and his family shrieked.
+++++“We can do whatever the fuck we want. For the next 10 minutes we own this joint.” Thomas surveyed the room while giving his commands. “Now hands up, all of you. If I see anyone touch their phone they’re gonna get a bullet. You read?”
+++++“Maybe you ought to go help your friend, a desperate man is known to lash out if it’s his only choice.” At that point I was winging it, maybe I was winging it from the start.
+++++“Well then I guess that desperate man will have to contend with Hal’s Colt. Tell me, grampa, can desperation stop a bullet?”
+++++“You think you’re going to get away with this? You think you own the world?” My fingers were itching to grab my gun, but I needed something to draw his eyes. If I tried to pull it, he’d blow me away.
+++++“I think, if that man we’re looking for ain’t in the toilets over there, I’m gonna get to waste your sorry ass. What are you, 100 or something? Your face looks like a scrotum, old man.”
+++++Right then I knew there was no way out of this situation for me. I was never a good negotiator and these bastards were crazy. That’s when Hal returned from the restrooms, he pushed open the door with his gun already pointed at me.
+++++I crouched behind the waitress and drew my Glock.
+++++Hal started shooting and the girl took most of it.
+++++I fired back, hitting Hal in the shoulder. He dropped his pistol and screamed. It was a good shot, a lucky shot, but the only one I got.
+++++Thomas unloaded his entire clip in my direction. One bullet hit me and the rest hit nearly everything else. My left ear was giving me nothing but ringing from the gunfire, but even half-deaf I could hear the screams and cries of those hurt and those trying to escape.
+++++Thomas grabbed a knife off one of the tables and started walking towards me, only to be stopped by Hal. “Forget him, we need to go. I ain’t taking the heat for this shit.”
+++++Thomas howled and grabbed a soda cup off an abandoned table. “Don’t forget your piece, Hal.” Thomas pointed to the revolver which lay on the floor.
+++++“You take it.” Hal’s hand was preoccupied with applying pressure to his wound.
+++++“Shit, alright.” Thomas tossed the soda and grabbed the gun.
+++++I lay in a pool of blood. Some of it mine, most of it belonging to the waitress and the innocent bystanders who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I had taken a shot to the chest and it was getting harder to breathe by the second. I wasn’t going to die a hero, that was a fact. I was too far from anything that would even be in the same sentence as hero. If I just kept my mouth shut they would have left, maybe slapped someone around, but no one had to die. That said, I sure as hell wasn’t going to go laying down, either.
+++++I used my left elbow to prop myself up against that barrel of a chair, then grabbed my Glock. My hand shaking I aimed for the back of their heads as they went out the door. I pulled that trigger three times before the gun flew out of my hand. The first two shots missed, the third hit Hal in the back of the head.
+++++It wasn’t justice and it didn’t have to be. I’d done my bit and was ready to face judgment, the rest was in the Lord’s hands. As Thomas snarled and took aim, I closed my eyes.

Amateur Outlaw

Listen instead!
Listen instead!

Dollar stores, smoke shops, and gas stations. Those were my marks in high school.
+++++A thief is what I called myself. While not a lie, shitheel would’ve been a better way to put it. There was no discipline to what I did, just poor impulse control and sheer luck. But that wasn’t it, I’d also play the part of salesman. Stealing lighters from the Dollar Tree then pushing them at an inflated price to stoners. It was a good system. I made money, made friends, and best of all the girls thought it was sexy. Yeah, they were trashy girls, but they put out. So you can understand, I had no intention of giving it all up.
+++++What changed that was Melody. A dark-haired girl who had a way with words. Or maybe just a way with me. Can’t say I remember all the lines she used, although I do remember the curve of her ass.
+++++She found me during lunch. I was at the baseball field, sitting in an empty dugout with my feet up and a microwaveable burrito in hand. Sun was high up in the sky and giving off that hue which makes everything look just a little bit better.
+++++“Hey there, you’re Enrique. Right?” she asked, while standing in my light. She was dressed in a white tank-top, light blue jeans, and a pair of all white Nikes. Hanging from her ears were some real ugly looking hoops, on anyone else they would’ve been bad, but somehow she pulled the whole, Latina valley girl, thing off.
+++++I stared, ate my food, and didn’t speak.
+++++“Not a talker, huh, that’s okay. It’s not really your voice I’m interested in. What I need from you is more exciting than that.”
+++++“You need to slow down.” While I wasn’t processing every word she said, I didn’t mind looking at her. I could do that for a bit longer. “You want a burrito, or maybe a chicken sandwich?” I pointed towards my gym bag. Inside it were roughly a dozen school lunches. The way our school had set up the security cameras in the lunch room allowed for you to sneak a meal or two off the trays if you were with a crowd. It was so easy I didn’t even consider it a crime.
+++++“Oh, I’m not hungry, and slow isn’t really my style. Thanks, though, but I came to talk business and that’s what I mean to do.”
+++++“Bitch, I don’t even know who you are.”
+++++“Bitch? They told me you were smart, but you’re talking real stupid. I’m Melody, you’ve probably heard people mention me.” She gave me a look like she was the Princess of Peru or something. In hindsight, that probably should’ve been a sign for me to figure out who this chick was. At the moment, I thought she was just another spoiled bitch.
+++++I snorted and took another bite of my burrito.
+++++She walked down into the dugout and sat next to me on the bench. I don’t know if it was just the mixture of shadow and light inside the dugout or what, but right then she looked like something special.
+++++I gave her a smile and then began to take another bite, before I could she grabbed my wrist.
+++++“You wanna listen to what I have to say.” She moved her fingers to my forearm and started talking quiet. “Trust me.”
+++++Over the next few minutes she convinced me to help her. She convinced me to steal a pound of weed. She did it with a strategic use of her body and a breath that smelled like mint.  The specifics of what she actually said are a blur to me. It wasn’t exactly the target of my attention. It seemed to be something about a drop-off and pick-up location used by local growers and sellers. A period of time between the grower picking up the money, and the seller picking up the package.
+++++I don’t know if I really trusted her, but right then I would’ve stole the Mona Lisa for a better look at her tits. What can I say? Push-up bras are my thing.
+++++The rest of the day I only thought about one thing. And it wasn’t stealing that weed.
+++++I ended up where I needed to be around 7 PM, clouds were over the mountains at that point. I had to walk down into the flood control channel behind the shopping center I usually stole from. For safety reasons one road had tunnels underneath connecting to the channel, so water could flow without covering it.
+++++The tunnels were where I was heading. As I walked through the channel, pointing my flashlight at abandoned shopping carts and asinine graffiti, little drops of water hit my nose. Within seconds those little drops became big goddamn balls. It was coming down like a thousand firehouses.
+++++I ran my ass to those tunnels as fast as I could. Once inside I pulled out the box of Camels I had knicked from a 7/11 a couple days back.  They taste like shit, but man do I love the way I look when I smoke them.
+++++With my nerves sated I looked around the tunnel. It was full of trash and had more graffiti  on its walls. It was all dumb shit like wannabe gang names and dicks with top hats. Only thing that made me pause was one finely detailed owl. It had those type eyes which seem to follow you.
+++++Then I found what I was looking for. It was all like she said: buried underneath some cardboard and empty soda cans was a box containing one pound of reefer. It was locked. Luckily, Melody provided a key. She told me her cousin was the seller and that he was prone to losing things. That he’d assume he lost it, and not realize it was stolen for quite some time. I didn’t think to ask why she needed me to walk into a tunnel and open a box. I had just stared at her pretty face and nodded.
+++++The only real trouble I faced was getting my feet wet.
+++++So I took the weed and headed out of the tunnel. Stepping back into the rain I was greeted with the blinding flash of two floodlights. When my eyesight returned there were two sheriff’s deputies waiting for me. The dicks were leaning against their car like they’d rather be somewhere else. I wished the same.
+++++I flicked my cigarette into a puddle and held my hands up.
+++++I wasn’t 18, and the cops were rather certain I wasn’t a drug kingpin, so all things considered it could have been worse. I got expelled, did some time in a juvenile facility, and got one hell of a beating from my father.
+++++I never told them about Melody, though. I still hadn’t put it together. Once my time was up and I got back on the streets, things started to make sense. One of the stoners I used to hang with painted the picture pretty nicely for me.
+++++The girl I took the fall for was Melody Fierro. While I was playing at being a criminal, she was a real one. Blackmail, drug hook-ups, and information gathering was what she specialized in. When she heard about me she discovered a way to kill two birds with one stone. First, she needed to get rid of a pound of weed that a narc was trying to pin on her, second, she was always on the lookout for new business opportunities. With the cops thinking the weed was mine, and me no longer in business, her problems were solved. She even had one of her pussy-whipped lackeys pick up my scam before the cops knew what to do with me.
+++++After I digested all of that, and worked out my stress with an ex-girlfriend, I decided to give it up. I was done thieving. Not because I felt guilty or had regrets. If anything I was embarrassed. I was out of my depth.
+++++How the do you compete with a girl like that? Nah, the dynamic between a guy like me and a girl like her is simple: I get fucked and she gets away.

Sometimes learning you’re a chump is the best thing for you.

The Last Laugh

Listen instead
Listen instead

It was a classic sort of a club. A real hole in the wall. You know the place. Bad food, bad beer, and terrible patrons. Type of people you wouldn’t mind seeing in the obituaries.
+++++So why’d anyone ever go to that dump? I’ll tell you why. Cause of me. Cause of Jimmy Orlean. I made those yokels hack up their chili dogs and watered-down liqueur with every punchline. I was the man.
+++++This ain’t me bragging, this is the truth. My truth. No difference between the two, either. They’re one and the same. Cause I’m a straight shooter.
+++++I’d been doing my thing there for 41 years. Seen legends come and go. Seen ’em get lured away to go be on the idiot box. Got some offers myself. Turned ’em down. It’s called integrity. Course you don’t know what that means, no one does these days.
+++++‘Specially not that hack Nick Stock. What kinda name is that, huh? He thought he was shit so hot it would melt the sun. Guy worked out everyday and had a tan in December.
+++++Normally those guys make my day. The delusion about who and what they are makes me giddy. But this guy, this guy wanted to be a comedian. This 25 year-old bodybuilder wanted to tell jokes.
+++++Fit ain’t funny. Don’t care who you are or where you from. Success ain’t funny. You don’t get funny by fucking the cheerleader and her twin sister. You get funny by getting your teeth knocked out by the one who did.
+++++The audience didn’t know this. Within three weeks of his debut he was getting more laughs than me. He was getting belly laughs. Faces got red, people had trouble breathing, and they’d be slapping their paws together between every joke.
+++++It irked me, sure. But I’d been upstaged before. It never lasted long. Soon the newbies gimmicks would get old. They never had the work ethic to keep it up and grow with the times.
+++++With Nick it never got old. He was batting 1000 every night. When the owner realized that, the changes came. First my time got shaved. Just a minute or two in the beginning. But by the end of it I was lucky to have a minute or two on stage at all.
+++++I’d always been a drinker. But during that time I drank as much as I had in the last 60 years combined.
+++++After I began to shit blood on a daily basis, I went to the doctor. Thought maybe I had a problem, I don’t know, it was a hunch. He told me I was done for. No beating around the bush. No possible solutions. I was a dead man walking.
+++++So, day after hearing that, I did one last set. Didn’t tell anyone about my health. Just took the five minutes I had on stage and made the audience laugh. Felt exactly like when I was just starting out. When all I had was my wit and my charisma, no fancy rep to get the audience riled up. It was a good crowd, no hecklers or frat boys that night.
+++++Afterwards I sat at the bar. Waiting for Nick’s set. I wasn’t even his opener. As he worked I wrote down what he was saying. Word for word, fart noise for fart noise. I put it down on paper. I got this this thing where if I write something down I never forget it, don’t matter if I read it again or not, the stuff just sticks with me.
+++++When he was done he came over to the bar. I bought him a drink and gave him a talk. I complimented his shtick and played with his ego. I pandered to him. He listened and laughed. I bought him another drink, and kept on doing so until he was drunk. When the club closed I brought him over to my place.
+++++I showed him some photos of me back in the day. I looked so young in those photos, I had a full head of black hair and was actually pretty trim. Standing in that apartment I was a balding old man with a pot belly.
+++++Nick ended up telling me he’d always been a fan. So I offered him something special. A once in a lifetime chance to see my original 30 minute set live. A re-enactment of sorts. He said he had to hear it.
+++++I got my prop bag I used for parties from under my bed, then came back and started. Telling those jokes was like slipping on a perfect pair of slippers. Nick laughed his ass off.
+++++But halfway through, I stopped telling my jokes. I started telling his instead. That’s when he stopped laughing. Not because he realized what I was doing, he was too wasted for that. Nope, the jokes just weren’t funny. He knew it. He gave polite chuckles, but he knew it wasn’t good comedy.
+++++After I had enough of the horseshit run around, I decided I’d do some physical jokes. I was never much into those, thought they were kiddy shit, but I felt they were right for Nick. I pulled out the big dildo, that got a laugh. Pulled out Alan the Anti-semitic Puppet and did some cheesy German accent, even that shit got a laugh.
+++++Finally I had enough. I told him to wait one second while I got the best prop I had. It was in my bedroom, in the top dresser drawer hidden under some socks and inside a wooden box. I brought it out to show him. It looked just like a real life revolver. I told him I used to psych out the audience by acting real depressed and saying I was gonna kill myself. Then once I got them to convince me not to, I’d turn it on them and pull the trigger. They’d nearly have a heart attack, then they’d laugh their guts out. I showed him the inside of the chamber where I put “blanks.” He told me they were very realistic looking. I pointed it at his handsome face and smiled, he smiled back. Then I pulled the trigger.
+++++That prop blew his brains out.
+++++I told my final joke, suppose it was more of a gag. The police didn’t find it too funny, though. Neither did the judge.
+++++But I think once I kick the bucket in their custody they will. After all, who wouldn’t laugh at a dead man on death row?

The Girl You Don’t Cross

Jed

The party was chill as hell. Specially for Bumfuck, Nowhere. It was happening at the abandoned football field on the edge of town. Hipsters and hillbillies alike came to get drunk, talk shit, and maybe even get laid.
+++++Last time anyone played there had to be back in the 80s, at least. The field had trees and shrubs growing from the 50-yard line all the way to both 30-yard lines. Viewed from the bleachers it would look like a nature park, if you ignored the rusty old goal posts.
+++++When I got there I turned my phone off and took a beer from one of the coolers. I didn’t want to be bothered. That’s what August was now, a bother.
+++++This night was meant to be a relaxing time at the drive-in. They were doing a marathon of my favorite director. I was real excited, but damn did August ruin that for me. Whenever I talked about it, she’d get a condescending tone of voice in her throat and give me a mocking smile. I wanted to slap it off her face, but I didn’t do that anymore.
+++++I had started going to church. I didn’t necessarily believe in all the magic shit, but I liked some of the ideas behind it. Redemption, I liked that. When I told August I wanted her to come sometime, she laughed the hardest I’d ever heard. Still didn’t hit her, though.
+++++Right as I was going to get a second beer, some asshole put Miley Cyrus on through the sound system. Everyone started yelling to change the song. That’s when I bumped into Tabitha. Crazy bitch materialized out of thin air.
+++++“Looking for a drink, friend?” she asked. She was dressed in her typical goth shit, hadn’t changed her style in over a decade, pathetic really. In her hands were two beers, both already opened.
+++++“Nah, I just wanted to stare at the ice chest. It’s one of my favorite hobbies.” I hoped being a dick would be enough to get her off my case.
+++++“There’s that sarcasm August always talked about. Here, take one of mine.” She held one of the drinks up to my face.
+++++I eyeballed the bottle. “What happened to the cap?”
+++++“What?”
+++++“Why did you open both of them?”
+++++“Cuz’ I’m drinking out of both.”
+++++“I’ll get my own. I’m not really interested in getting AIDS, or is that only a fag thing? Do dykes get it too?”
+++++“Fuck you,” she said.
+++++I pushed past and went towards the cooler. Then I felt liquid running down my back. She poured both drinks on me. I turned around and stared her in the face. “Thank you. Just so happens I forgot to shower today and I love the smell of Pabst.”
+++++She guffawed then hit me across the face with one of the empty bottles. It didn’t break, but I bled. “You got a snappy come back for that, limp-dick?”
+++++I wanted to hit her. But I had redemption on my mind. “No, I’m done for the night.” I pressed my sleeve to my head and walked back to the lonely dirt road where I parked.
+++++My Jeep was still waiting for me beneath an old oak tree. As I stuck the key in to unlock it, a wet cloth covered my mouth. I squirmed then felt someone’s legs wrap around my stomach. The weight of someone on my back was too much and I fell to the dirt.
+++++I struggled for a minute or two. Then it got hard to breath with the soaked rag on my face. I got sleepy and closed my eyes to the sight of a woman’s boot with three buckles across the laces.

***
Tabitha

Bitches Brew was playing on the radio. You could barely hear his screams.
+++++I picked him up around eleven, now it was twelve. Drove around for half an hour just thinking. But I had to go through with it, I had gone too far. I gave him chloroform, don’t remember how much. I wanted to roofie him, would have been easier, but that didn’t work out.
+++++Hard part was getting him into the trunk. Asshole was heavier than he looked. Now he was lucid, kicking away.
+++++It wasn’t the fact that she cheated on me, it was the fact that she did it with a guy. Not even an impressive guy, just a guy. She told me she wasn’t going through a phase and I believed her.
+++++We got together in college, having never talked in grade school. Of course the moment I asked her who the Jed she was always texting was, she dumped my ass. Fortunately I moved onto medical school not long after.
+++++But whenever I had a break from classes or my internship I’d check up on August. Online and in real life. She never found out of course, I kept my distance. The more I watched them the angrier I got.
+++++So I made a decision that Friday night. I was done watching from the sidelines. I’d take care of Jed and then August. The only thing left to say is what happened.
+++++Him waking up so fast meant I didn’t have much time.
+++++I pulled the car off the road. Got out and stood over the trunk, moonlight reflecting up at me. Everything felt surreal in a beautiful melancholy way. I opened the trunk and stared at him. He wasn’t much to look at. Brown hair, brown eyes, he seemed like every other asshole.
+++++He tried to get out.
+++++I slammed the trunk door on his elbows. Then again. Then for a third time just to make sure he wouldn’t be any trouble.
+++++He cried, and he screamed, and he kept on kicking.
+++++I pulled out my stiletto and took a deep breath.

***
August

It was three in the morning when I got Jed’s text. He had been ignoring me all night and I was worried. We were supposed to go see a marathon of David Cronenberg films at the drive-in. I didn’t care for it, but Jed had been talking about it for weeks. He told me all his favorite films in order of best to worst. He said his favorite thing about Cronenberg was his use of “body horror,” or something like that. I had no idea what he was talking about.
+++++“Come outside. I’ve got a surprise for you,” it read. I thought that was odd, normally he used abbreviations, poor spelling, and emoticons. But I was too tired to think twice. So I got out of bed, pulled a sweater over me and put my shoes on. I hoped it wouldn’t be cold out. I was too lazy to change my pajama bottoms for jeans.
+++++My parents were dead asleep, so I had no trouble sneaking out. But when I stepped out the front door and walked into the driveway there was no one around. The empty suburban street was colored sepia by the streetlamps. I pulled out my phone and started typing a message only to be interrupted by a new text.
+++++“Come to the mail box.” Even when I’m sleep deprived I’m not that stupid. My heart started racing and I headed back towards my house. Something was wrong. But then I felt a sharp pain in my neck and I was pulled to the ground. The last thing I saw was Tabby’s dead eyed face.
+++++I woke in the dark. My clothes were wet and sticky. I screamed and tried to stand up. There wasn’t enough space. I was in some sort of box.
+++++I reached for my phone. I had it. I checked for a signal. I had it. But before I called for help I had to see where I was. I used the dim screen light and held my phone against the ground.
+++++Sticky black liquid pooled on the floor. I wanted to look away, but instead I kept going. It was Jed. His body, if you could call it that, was strewn about the floor of what I later learned was a welded shut dumpster. Where once he had hazel brown eyes, now there were hollow sockets.
+++++The cops got me three hours later. I stayed on the line with 911 the whole time. It took them awhile to find the right dumpster.
+++++They never caught Tabitha, though. The hospital at where she volunteered reported several different types of anesthetics and surgical tools missing. They say she most likely fled the state and then the country.
+++++In every shadow I see her. In every dream she finds me. She could be a world away, or even dead, and I wouldn’t know the difference. She left her mark and I doubt I’ll ever get rid of it.
+++++It isn’t the gore of what she did that haunts me. It’s the fact that her face looked the same as it ever did. The same as when she used to kiss me.

The Burglar and The Bat

“When did your family buy a pedo van?” asked Kyler, while he sipped his soda. We were driving up the street towards my home.
+++++I lived at the end of a cul-de-sac with two other houses on it. They were all big two-story things built from the same model, the only visual difference between them was color.
+++++“What are you talking about?” I asked back, using one hand to steer the wheel and the other to clench my burger. We were straight out of school and our first stop was for fast food. The we was me: Logan Shaw, my buddy: Kyler McEwan, and my cousin: Ryan Shaw.
+++++“The white child molester van in your drive way,” he said laughing. Kyler was about six feet tall, with buzz cut blonde hair. He almost always dressed in a hoodie and board shorts. The stank of weed often clung to him.
+++++“What the…” It was a Ford Econoline with no windows, parked on my driveway with its back doors open. My garage door was open as well.
+++++“Isn’t your family supposed to be in Oregon or something?” asked Ryan from the back seat. Ryan was someone who had lost the genetic lottery. He had bad skin, greasy brown hair, a hook nose, weak arms, and a permanent gut.
+++++“They are in Oregon. Left on Wednesday,” I told him. Looking at my neighbors’ driveways, I could tell no one was home. It was around three in the afternoon and my neighbors didn’t have kids. The two living in the house to my left were newly weds who both worked, and the guy living to my right was a salesman always on the move.
+++++“So is that your sister or something?” he asked, then began slurping through the straw in his milkshake.
+++++“She’s in Oregon too.” I tried to think of any reason why a shady looking van would be parked in my driveway.
+++++“So…”
+++++“Yeah.” I came up with nil.
+++++“What does that mean?”
+++++“Dude, you’re getting fucking robbed, bro!” yelled Kyler, sounding very amused with the idea. Normally I took anything that came out of his mouth with a large grain of salt, but right then it seemed like he was right.
+++++“Burglarized is actually the correct term,” Ryan mumbled.
+++++“Who the fuck cares? His shit’s gettin’ stolen!”
+++++“Yeah, but words have meaning. You should use the right words.”
+++++“If you know what I mean, it doesn’t fucking matter.”
+++++“Just because I’ve learned how to understand you doesn’t mean everyone ha-”
+++++“Both of you shut it!” I yelled. I had no idea what to do, but my heart was pounding. I parked the car and unbuckled my seat belt. “I’m calling the cops,” I said pulling out my phone.
+++++“Bro, don’t do that!” Kyler protested.
+++++“Why the hell not?”
+++++“What if he has one of those scanners, like to listen in on police stuff.”
+++++“I’m pretty sure they don’t work like that. Even if they did, so what?”
+++++“Then he’ll know the cops are coming and he’ll fucking book it, bro!”
+++++“He’s not Spider-Man, Kyler!”
+++++“You don’t know that.”
+++++“I don’t know if he’s Spider-Man!?”
+++++“Well, you don’t.”
+++++“Are you fucking high?”
+++++Kyler started giggling “Yeah, I lit up in the bathroom while you guys were ordering.”
+++++“Wow, okay. Please do me a favor and don’t talk while I call 911.” I tried calling, that’s when my phone told me I was low on power. “Fuck! Is it possible to text 911?’
+++++“Nah, dude.”
+++++“Shut it, Kyler! Ryan, give me your phone.”
+++++“I didn’t bring it,” Ryan said, while nervously chewing a french fry.
+++++“Kyler?”
+++++“I left mine with Ashley.”
+++++“No one has a phone? No one has a fucking phone?! Is this 2000 and fucking five? Are you kidding me?”
+++++“Nah, dude, it’s 2015.”
+++++“Fucking shut it, Kyler!”
+++++“Dude, chill.”
+++++“Everyone out of the car,” I said, unbuckling my seat belt and shoving the remnants of my hamburger into one of the grease-stained paper bags that littered the floor.
+++++“Why?” asked Ryan, as he copied my actions.
+++++“We’re going to corner this asshole.” I stepped out of my car and went towards the trunk. It was the last school day of the week, so Kyler and I’s sporting gear was back there. We weren’t allowed to use lockers over the weekend.
+++++“That’s a really bad idea. I can’t even put into words how dumb that is.”
+++++“This gonna be dope!” Yelled Kyler. He started stretching on the sidewalk as if waking from a nap.
+++++“This is not going to be dope!” Ryan started breathing heavily. “If that’s actually a burglar in there, we all run a serious risk of bodily harm. I mean, criminals are usually dangerous, you know?”
+++++“Why do you gotta be so fucking basic, Ryan?”
+++++At that point Ryan just stopped talking. Not because he was offended, more like flabbergasted.
+++++“Both of you keep quiet, so he doesn’t hear us,” I said while looking up at the house windows, they were all open. About a month ago my house’s air conditioning unit blew out.
+++++“What if it’s a she? Bro, what if she’s hot? Like one of those sexy criminal ladies.”
+++++“Kyler, if you don’t shut it I’m seriously going to kick your ass.” I opened the trunk and looked inside. There wasn’t much to work with. The most dangerous things we had were: my tennis racket, Kyler’s lacrosse stick, and Ryan’s laptop. “I’m taking the racket. You guys grab something hard. Hell, get a rock off my lawn if you want. This is how we’re going to do this. I go in the front door, Ryan goes in the garage, and Kyler goes around back. That way there will be no escape, we converge then beat the shit out of him.”
+++++“What if she has a gun, will I have to seduce her into dropping it?” asked Kyler.
+++++“It’s not a she. If he has a gun and you try to seduce him, he’ll probably shoot your dick off. So be my guest and seduce him, Kyler. I’m sure it will work out great.”
+++++“I’m just putting all our options on the table, bro.”
+++++“Fantastic, now shut it and please don’t fuck this up. Okay, I’m going in now. Hurry up and grab your shit.”
+++++I tightened both hands around my tennis racket, then crouched down. High in the sky, the sun was shining bright, whole street was lit up like a movie set. There wasn’t a chance the crouching would do anything, but that’s what I did.
+++++As I crept around the car and onto the sidewalk, Kyler picked up a stone frog statue off my neighbors lawn and Ryan looked around nervously. I motioned for both of them to do their job and they followed behind me. Three white kids crouching outside a suburban home. Hell, we were practically invisible.
+++++As we got onto the driveway, Kyler went towards the back fence gate, while Ryan moved into the shadows of the garage behind a box of old comic books.
+++++I nodded to them in a meaningless gesture, then went around the van, and towards my front door.
+++++The neighbor’s cat, a golden-haired fat one, sat on the doormat. I nudged it in an attempt to clear the way. It just started rubbing its head against my foot. I kicked it and it hissed. As I tried to push it off the porch with my racket, it jumped on me. Clawing and scratching at my chest, I threw it towards the lawn.
+++++Like a creature from a horror movie it flipped to its feet and started charging me.
+++++I quickly opened the front door, ran in, and slammed it shut.
+++++Then I heard a deep and concerned voice say, “Hola…” I didn’t respond. It sounded like it was coming from my parents’ bedroom. “…Ernesto?” Then I heard footsteps moving slowly but surely towards the staircase. My heart felt like it could burst at any second.
+++++Then Ryan was next to me, he had moved through the clutter of the garage and then the laundry room within seconds. In his hands was my old baseball bat, I felt like an idiot for not grabbing it myself, but I had my racket and that had to be enough. I took a second to look down the hallway for Kyler, but it looked like he wasn’t inside yet. So I decided Ryan and I were enough.
+++++We both began to creep up the staircase. We moved up each step together, bumping our shoulders every so often. Above us, but out of sight, we could hear the burglar trying to be quiet. Then there was a loud crash.
+++++The sound of broken glass and cracked floor. “We’re gonna fucking kill you, bro!” It was Kyler from downstairs. I later learned, that he had thrown the stone frog through the kitchen window, because the dipshit didn’t know how to open a sliding glass door.
+++++With that noise and the threat on his life, the burglar ran away from the stairs and back towards my parents’ bedroom.
+++++“Go!” I shouted to Ryan, while pushing him forward.
+++++He got up the stairs and into the main hallway then charged towards my parents’ bedroom.
+++++The burglar slammed the door in his face.
+++++“He closed it!” Ryan said, while trying to pull it open.
+++++I ran up next to him and pushed it forward. It wasn’t locked, Ryan just wasn’t going in the right direction. We both fell through the door and over a mattress which the burglar tried to ply it shut with.
+++++“Please, you can have everything I own!” The burglar shouted. He was an average looking guy. Latino, with short hair and a mustache. Not fat, but not thin either.
+++++We ignored his pleas and began whaling on him.
+++++I hit him in the chest with the racket and he waved his arms around trying to stop me. After my third or fourth hit he managed to grab the racket out of my hands and throw it in a corner.
+++++Then Ryan pulled back like he was going to hit a home run and cracked the guy over the skull. The guy fell to the floor but Ryan kept swinging. The steady whacking sound of metal against skin and bone, echoed through my ears.
+++++By the time Kyler got upstairs, the burglar’s brain was nothing more than paste.
+++++“Oh shit. Did Ryan kill him?” Kyler asked, his eyes as wide as a cat’s. He finally sounded concerned, his voice dropping from a high pitched squeal to low hushing. Although that didn’t stop him from pilfering the dead guy’s pockets. He pulled out a phone and a wallet.
+++++“Yeah,” I said, catching my breath. I didn’t know if he actually had, but how else do you answer that? The man’s head looked like a cracked watermelon. It was still mostly intact, but if we picked it up, I was sure it would fall apart.
+++++Ryan’s hands were shaking now, the bat wavering out of control. Then he let go and it fell to the floor. The aluminum thing was dented beyond repair, and coated in reddish brown. Strands of black hair stuck to the blood.
+++++Then it sounded like someone was farting and we realized the burglar just shit himself.
+++++We all ran out the room.
+++++Ryan started spazzing out and just kept repeating, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Over and over again.
+++++I tried to comfort him by patting his shoulder. Although now the adrenaline was wearing off and I wasn’t in the best state of mind either.
+++++Then Kyler said something. “Alejandro Gonzalez, air conditioning repair.” He was holding a business card he pulled from the wallet.
+++++That’s when I felt a pain in my chest. It was like a mix between regret and embarrassment. “…Is today March 6th?” I asked after a long pause.
+++++“Yeah,” answered Kyler.
+++++The memory of my Mom saying, “Your father scheduled a repairman to come in on March 6th, that’s Friday. And please water my plants while we’re away.” as she and the rest of my family piled into her mini-van, played through my head.
+++++That’s when we all had a moment of realization. We quickly glanced at each other, then Kyler and I stared at Ryan.
+++++“Ryan, You’re a fucking murderer, bro,” said Kyler.
+++++Ryan looked at me for some sort of comfort, but I had nothing to offer him. Then he started hyperventilating and passed out.
+++++“What do we do now?” I asked.
+++++“Don’t ask me, bro. This is some fucked up shit.” Kyler held his chin for a moment and stared at Ryan. Then after what looked like a good deal of thought, he said, “Hey, at least your family didn’t get robbed. You know, silver linings and all.”

Try Not To Forget

I’ve never been one to double check things. Most of the time I can’t even remember to check the first time. I tell you though, laying there with a bullet in my gut, boy did I fucking regret that.
+++++Night before it happened it was on me to close up shop. I work in a small convenience store called The Silver-Leaf. Don’t know why though, not a thing silver in the whole place.
+++++Before my boss left he had told me something that I needed to do, “Be sure and…check the…before you lock up.”
+++++I forgot what he said the second I heard it. But I just gave him a “Yes sir, thank you sir,” and he went on his way. The guy was always bitching about one thing or another, so I usually didn’t listen.
+++++After he left we got a couple more customers. One of them was real shady looking, like a surfer dude hooked on meth. He wandered around the store aimlessly, examining bottles of water like they were foreign objects. Then he came to the counter and put down a pack of gum. I scanned it.
+++++“That’s a quarter.”
+++++“Is it now?” He was staring at my eyes. The longer he stared the less human I felt.
+++++“Yes. Do you have a quarter?”
+++++“Let me…” He started digging around the pockets of his over-sized hoodie. “Check.” He pulled out a bunch of coins and dropped them on the counter. I counted them: three nickels, a dime, and seven pennies.
+++++“You can keep the pennies.” I handed him the gum.
+++++“No. That’s a donation.”
+++++“…Thanks.” Couple minutes later I locked up.
+++++When I got home my sister was tearing the place up. “Where the hell is my phone?”
+++++“How should I know. It’s your phone.”
+++++“Big help you are!”
+++++“Well-”
+++++“Shut up and just give me your phone!”
+++++“What?”
+++++“I need a phone I’m going out to meet Cindy for minigolf and I don’t know the directions.”
+++++“Just use a map-”
+++++“GIVE ME THE PHONE!”
+++++“Fine, Jesus Christ, Sally.” I pulled out my phone, she immediately snatched it then left. I fell asleep remembering I had forgotten something.
+++++I dreamt of the crash. Twisted metal and broken bones. What could life have been like if they made it? That question was always with me. I saw the backs of their heads, Mom’s long blonde hair and Dad’s short red curls. But just as I was about to see their faces one last time, the dream ended.
+++++In the morning I forgot there was anything to remember. It was a Monday so my shift was a long one. My boss showed up to say hello then shuffled on back out. I dealt with few customers that day. Mainly just people in search of a quick meal or a lottery ticket. Eventually the bum showed up.
+++++“Another pack of gum?” I asked, hoping he would just walk out. But no, he did the same routine. Walked around, stared at the refrigerator for a moment, then put down a pack of gum.
+++++“Well you know the price,” I said.
+++++“Yep.” He reached into his hoodie and I waited for the coins. Instead I got a loud bang and a .45 to the stomach. I fell down and watched the man empty the register. Then in a flash he was gone. I crawled across the floor and looked out the door. No one was there. I reached for my phone only to remember Sally had it.
+++++The store used to have a land line, but I told my boss it was a waste of money. I wished he had paid me the same courtesy I usually gave him.
+++++I needed to get someone’s attention fast. Outside the store was a parking lot. As I moved along the ground like a slug, a trail of blood following me, I thought on my mistakes. I pushed through the door and onto the sidewalk. I fell off the sidewalk and into the parking lot. A Prius nearly ran me over, stopping an inch from my head while three teenagers came out yelling. Then I remembered.
+++++The cameras. Before I passed out my thoughts were of that meth addled fuck getting high. He would get away with murder because I forgot to setup the new system.
+++++But that wasn’t the only thing I forgot. My whole life was full of forgotten lessons and ancient memories. Forgetting to apply to college. Forgetting my parent’s faces after the crash. Forgetting Sally’s birthday.
+++++The pain got worse when the teenagers picked me up and tried to put me in the prius. Then everything went away, the pain and the world around me. I missed my sister, I missed my boss, I even missed my minimum wage job. It was all going dark, then I remembered.
+++++Everything gets forgotten in the end.

A Good Meal

The place was empty. Of course that wasn’t counting the folks who worked there and the two of us.
+++++“Couldn’t we go to In-N-Out instead?” I begged. “A burger sounds so good right now, man.”
+++++“No, you idiot. We set the meeting here. The food doesn’t matter,” said Clancy. He was a short stocky fellow with a shaved head that looked a bit like a rotten grapefruit.
+++++“The food always matters. The situation we’re in can’t change the value of a good meal.”
+++++“Just shut the fuck up and get some noodles,” He snapped. “You’re a real prick. You know that, Todd?”
+++++“Um, no. No I’m not,” I muttered as I walked over to the cash register. The place we were at was called Pho 17. It was one of those Vietnamese noodle joints that got real popular around 2012, least they did in SoCal. The place was decorated with faux oriental plants and paintings. It even had the obligatory waving cat clock.
+++++The girl at the register was short, fat, and Asian. Her coal black hair was tied back in a bun. “Would you like to order something?” She asked unenthusiastically.
+++++“Yeah, could I get one of those tea drinks with the little black balls?”
+++++“Boba?”
+++++“Yeah, yeah, that’s it. Like the Star Wars guy.”
+++++“What?”
+++++“The bounty hunter, you know.”
+++++“I don’t know, sir.” She had a shit attitude, that was for sure. “What type of drink do you want the boba in?”
+++++“The normal kind?”
+++++“There is no normal kind.”
+++++“The most popular then.”
+++++“Alright, Milk Tea it is.”
+++++“Also do you guys have any meat or anything?”
+++++“…Yes.” She was glaring at me now.
+++++“What type?”
+++++Clancy yelled, “Read the fucking menu, Todd!” He sort of cut short the conversation, so I ordered a beef bowl and went back to my seat.
+++++“How long ’till Carl gets here?” I asked. “You think he’ll be angry?”
+++++“Do I think he’ll be angry…yeah, Todd. I think he’ll be angry.”
+++++“Well it’s just a little bit of money. He shouldn’t be too upset.”
+++++“Just a little money? Just a little money!? Ten thousand dollars, you ape!”
+++++“Hey that’s racist, man!”
+++++“You’re not black! It’s only racist if you’re black, you stupid fucking…goddammit! Just shut up, that’s all I’m asking for. And when Carl gets here, do not say a word.”
+++++“Okay, okay. Calm down man, it’s gonna be okay.”
+++++“Todd, there is a 50 percent chance that he shoots us right here, in this gook palace. Do you remember what happened to that spic Lopez, huh?”
+++++“Tone down the racism man! That’s fucked up. I’m not gonna associate with a racist.”
+++++“We’re going to die, Todd. Fuck your racism.”
+++++“It’s not my racism, bro.”
+++++It was awkwardly silent for a few minutes. Then the girl brought out my food and drink. Before walking away she leaned up to Clancy and said, “I heard that shit you spit out of your mouth. You do it again, and I will fuck you up.”
+++++As big as Clancy talked, he was a bit of a bitch. He just nodded his head and whispered a “Sorry, I uh, I didn’t mean anything by it.”
+++++“You’re damn right you didn’t,” she said as she made her way back towards the register.
+++++Clancy grabbed my shoulder.“Just please promise me that you won’t talk.”
+++++“Okay. Just don’t worry man.” Clancy nodded his head, his eyes twitching from the strain of holding back tears.
+++++I turned my attention back to the food. It looked amazing, steaming hot shredded beef artistically laid upon fresh white rice. I had no idea what sauce they used, but it smelled like heaven. I took a sip from the drink, it was a sweet milky blend of ecstasy. The little balls of tapioca moved into my mouth and I chewed them eagerly. But before I could move my fork to the bowl and try the beef, Carl came in like a hurricane. Door slamming, the silver bell attached to it rang loudly as he rushed towards us.
+++++Carl was a tall guy, about 6’4” with long black hair that he always kept tied back in a ponytail. He claimed to be Native American, but I’m pretty sure he was just tan. “You got food, huh?” He asked as he pulled out a chair and sat down.
+++++“Yeah, it smells great, man. Would you like some?” I asked. Then I remembered my promise and turned to Clancy, his face was…unpleasant to say the least.
+++++“No,” said Carl. “I would like to discuss business though. After all, that’s why I’m here!”
+++++“Listen Carl, this is all just a huge misunderstanding,” pleaded Clancy.
+++++“Oh it is? That’s a relief. I’m glad you didn’t actually lose my money.”
+++++“Well no, we did lose your money. But we can get it back. You see Todd just swapped backpacks with a bum down by the lake, total mistake. Anyone could have done it.”
+++++“A bum…” Carl leaned his head down and ran both his hands through his hair.
+++++“Yeah, you know how all the vagrants camp around there.”
+++++“What did this bum look like?”
+++++“Uh, he was white, white hair, had a weird scar down the side of his face like he was burned or something.”
+++++“Alright, I’ll find him myself. I don’t need any more of your help, that’s for sure. But our relationship, professional and personal is over, Clancy. I’m not protecting you from Mexico anymore.”
+++++“That’s fair. Thank you.” Clancy’s skin turned white as a sheet, his voice cracked.
+++++“Don’t thank me, thank God,” said Carl as he kissed the cross that hung around his neck. “He looks after us all, even the sinners.”
+++++Clancy rolled his eyes at that, and Carl tensed. Then it all happened in the blink of an eye.
+++++Carl grabbed the table and threw it over, knocking my beef bowl and everything else to the floor. The sound of broken dishes and metallic clinging echoed throughout the restaurant.
+++++Next thing I knew, Carl was on top of Clancy. He pulled back and punched forward his fist like a sewing machine would a needle. Clancy’s face bloodied and swelled, while I fell back on my ass and tried to crawl away.
+++++Back towards the kitchen, I heard arguing in what must have been Vietnamese.
+++++The waitress came running out of the back room, clutching what looked like a long metal chopstick in her hand. She glided behind Carl then grabbed his hair, pulling back his head to expose the neck. She shoved the metal pick deep into his jugular. Carl looked at me for a moment his eyes bulging, he had no idea what just happened. Then the girl harshly ripped it out and let go of him. He fell to the floor, clutching his neck in a pitiful attempt to stop the bleeding. He crawled forward and eventually stopped right above the remnants of my beef bowl. Blood and meat mixed together. I gagged.
+++++I coughed up what little was in my stomach and began to cry.
+++++“Get out!” yelled the girl, pointing the weapon at me. She didn’t even flinch.
+++++I scrambled to my feet and ran for the door. As I came out into the parking lot, the sun warmed me, giving me a nauseous feeling.
+++++I wasn’t hungry anymore, and I wouldn’t be for quite some time.

Caramel Macchiato

“Hey!” The kid came walking back in with a sour look on his face. He was about 5’9” with slicked back blonde hair and some dumb ass sunglasses on. “You fucked up my drink. It’s supposed to be caramel, this is some chocolate shit.”
+++++“What?”
+++++“My drink douchebag, you fucked it up!” He slammed it down on the counter in front of me, bits of whip cream splattered across my chest. I picked it up and took a sip. It tasted pretty good, don’t know what he was bitching about.
+++++“Nah, this is caramel,” I said. The kid spasmed in what looked like something a cat would do if you dropped it in water.
+++++“The fuck it is!”
+++++“You should really watch your mouth kid. This is a family friendly restaurant. Also at the very least you could spice up your words a bit. Honestly, fuck is just such a boring word.”
+++++“Okay asshole, I’d like to speak to the manager. Does that work for you?”
+++++“Don’t have one.”
+++++“What? You know what.  Fuck you.” He took a deep breath then yelled at the top of his lungs, “MANAGER!” Right then an old black lady walked in, looked at the both of us, rolled her eyes and walked out. The kid paced back and forth for a second waiting for the nonexistent manager to show up. His face was growing redder by the second and I couldn’t help but laugh. “What are you laughing at!?”
+++++“Oh come on. You know I’m laughing at you.” He stood dead still, took off his sunglasses and looked me in the eyes. He had ice blue irises and as he stared directly at me his eyelids began to twitch. If he wasn’t such a pussy someone might actually find him attractive. I tried to hold back my laughter but it only came out louder.
+++++“That’s it I’m calling the cops. My dad’s a lawyer and I know my rights. You can’t take someone’s money and not give them what they payed for.” Now I was getting pissed off. This little piss-ant actually thought a couple of working class cops would side with some spoiled rich kid over an actual human being. Not to mention cops have better shit to do.
+++++“Okay put away your phone, you’ve had your fun.”
+++++“Fuck you bitch.” The kid’s voice cracked when he said that.
+++++“I’ll make you a new goddamn drink. Just calm the fuck down and put away the phone.” The kid looked at me and slowly moved the phone away from his ear. Like magic a shit-eating grin appeared where before there was only butthurt.
+++++“Make it two macchiatos and then I’ll put the phone away.” I clenched my fists. Damn did I want to hit him. But he had me in a corner and it wasn’t my money paying for the coffee so I calmed down and said okay.
+++++“Alright just let me go get the caramel flavoring out from the back.” I walked into the backroom while that smug son of a bitch nodded his head.
+++++Inside the supply room little Ronny Gordon was still tied and gagged. I grabbed the sap I had left on the table opposite from him and gave him a good hit across the arm. He started crying so I grabbed his hair and made him look at me. I put my finger in front of my mouth and shushed him, then pulled out the gag. “Where’s the caramel flavoring?”
+++++“Wh-what?” he cried.
+++++“You heard me, where the fuck is it.”
+++++“Same place as always?”
+++++“Don’t fuck with me Ronny there’s a customer out front who wants to call the cops over a messed up order. Unless you want him dead because of your fuck up, you tell me how to make a goddamn caramel macchiato.” Right then the real shit happened, Richboy came walking in the backroom.
+++++“What are you jerking off or some-” He stopped mid sentence when he saw me stand up with the sap in my hand. He looked at Ronny for a second then he looked at me. He did a full 360 and tried to get away but I grabbed him by the back of his 400 dollar shirt collar and pulled him onto the ground.
+++++He cried and he squirmed but it didn’t help him any. I slammed that sap into his face until he looked like Mussolini post 1945. When I was done I did what I should have when I came for Ronny and locked the shop up.
+++++Now I had a dead rich kid and a terrified Ronny. “Why couldn’t you just pay your debts. It’s that simple. When you take a loan, you pay it back. You don’t go blow it all on coke.”
+++++“Please Robert, I’ll pay it back. You gotta give me a chance.”
+++++“Oh I gave you a chance, you fucked it up. Now you’re better off dead.” I reached into my bag and pulled out my .38 S&W. He pleaded a bit more then I pulled the trigger and let his brains leave his head.
+++++When I was done cleaning up the place I set the scene. One of Ronny’s employees would most likely find his body first. He would be propped up underneath the counter with the gun in his hand. The employee would freak out then wonder what the white stuff all over the floor was. He would discover it was cocaine, then he would discover Richboy in the back. Richboy would be clinging onto some incriminating evidence about Ronny’s illegal dealings. It would look like blackmail gone wrong and a coke-head with a guilty conscience. I wiped the sap clean of prints. Grabbed my bag and started on my way out.
+++++Then I saw the drink. I grabbed it and took another sip. It was caramel. Richboy didn’t know shit.