Backstage

Joey didn’t need money, he needed proximity. When the boss asked if he wanted to work the night shift, he jumped at the chance. With Halloween right around the corner, the park pulled in hundreds of thousands more each weekend by turning some lots into themed haunted houses for the adults who would spend much more on booze and black and gray t-shirts.
+++++These scary nights at the park had started two weekends back and that was when Violeta swept into his world. They were both working the section where extras were dressed in rubber masks, brandishing fake chainsaws like that movie where all crime is legal for one night. They were part of a fifteen minute bit where a white van parked at a different spot every hour and Joey chased Violeta, caught her, and dragged her inside the back of the van. She begged the audience to please help, call the cops, “somebody do something.” She pulled that line off each time with such sentiment, Joey wanted to drop the fake knife and kiss her.
+++++The crowd cheered as he held the knife to the soft spot of her throat and Tomas, also dressed as a vandal, closed the van’s doors. The crowd ate the scene up like a pumpkin pancake special at the local greasy spoon.
+++++Joey and Violeta talked that night and ended up at JB’s brewery, open until 5 a.m., catering to the hospitality crowd. She drank the nut brown ale. Five beers in, she admitted to having a thing with Tomas for a few weekends up until last Saturday when they all went out and he brought his fiancé.
+++++Violeta looked at Joey with moist eyes and whispered, “Why didn’t you go?”
+++++“Nobody invited me.”
+++++“We barely know you,” she laughed, slapping the edge of the table. “Nobody knows who you are, but they should. Because you’re such a nice guy, everybody should know a guy like you.”
+++++She asked if he could drive her home because she was “beyond tipsy.” He laid her on the couch and she pulled in for a kiss. By sun up, they’d had sex four times. After the last, she hugged him, kissed his shoulder, and whispered how happy she was; much more lucid than hours before.
+++++This made him happy. He kissed her forehead, hugged her, and they went out for a pumpkin pancake breakfast.

******

Violeta felt bad about the thing with Joey but she just needed company for that night. Tomas had been a real shit for embarrassing her. Who fucks around with someone else for almost a month and doesn’t mention one thing about a fiancé until he brings her to a work gathering where everyone knows their dalliances? Violeta needed something to erase it all and she hated drinking alone. When she brought Joey back home and made him smile ear to ear, it made her feel better for him and for her.
+++++Joey brought her flowers the next day. He was pretty low key about it but she knew a guy who brought flowers that quick was the type to linger. She didn’t need—want—that in her life.
+++++“I hope we can still remain friends,” she said. “I’m hung up on someone that doesn’t love me. You’re a good guy. You don’t need someone like me in your life.” She motioned to hand back the flowers but he insisted she keep them.

******

The crowd cheered as Joey pierced the soft spot under Violeta’s earlobe and made a smile of an incision across to her other ear. Blood spurted from her throat as she hit the ground. A couple guys at the front raised over-priced beers in the air.
+++++Tomas looked down at the floor and muffled through his rubber mask. “What the fuck?”
+++++Joey pulled the gun from the small of his back, aimed it at the middle of the infidel’s forehead, and squeezed out two shots to be sure. This time of year, they ate the stuff up. A month later, they’d sit around their ample dinner tables and thank the Lord for such an abundance of food and one more year of good health.
+++++As Joey brought the gun to his chest, a woman at the front covered her small daughter’s eyes and yelled, “She’s gurgling. He really cut her.”
+++++Faces became confused staring at the two bodies in the van. Some at the back, who had to tiptoe to watch the scene over taller heads, shouted for more, amazed at the convincing effects. Some at the front dropped their beers. A man at the middle pointed at Violeta. “This is bull shit. Look, her stomach’s moving,” he said, trudging off to the nearest beer cart.
+++++Some watched Joey press the barrel over his heart and pull the trigger. The spray of red commanded a roar of elation from the crowd.

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Hector Duarte Jr

Hector Duarte Jr

Hector Duarte Jr. is a writer who works as a high school English/ELL teacher and is currently finishing his thesis at Florida International University's MFA program.
+++++His work has appeared on Bewildering Stories, Flash: The International Short Story Magazine, Sliver of Stone, Flash Fiction Offensive, Foliate Oak, Rockwell's Camera Phone, and Shotgun Honey.
+++++ He loves his cat Felina.
Hector Duarte Jr

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