The Tracks

A runaway and his best friend prepare to spend the night in an abandoned boxcar. It will be a night that will change their lives forever.

Written by Gregory Patrick Travers

By the time that I left my house and headed down Conway Street to meet Tommy, the sun was low in the sky and the evening had cooled right down from the irregularly warm late September day. Mom had yelled at me as I left to take a jacket. I thought she was crazy. About two blocks into my walk I started to think maybe a jacket wouldn’t have been that bad an idea.

Tommy didn’t say why he wanted me to meet him at the Hasty Market but he had that disappointed tone in his voice again, the one that usually followed with a story about his old man getting drunk and beating on him or his mom. It was around the time that his dad usually got home from the bar, so I figured that’s what it was.

I felt sorry for Tommy, even though Tommy was not the type of person anyone needed to feel sorry for. He was a street smart, resourceful and headstrong kid. Some people couldn’t believe he was only fourteen. But life was always throwing him a curve ball. His mom was a pill popper, his dad was a drunk. If that wasn’t enough, the teachers at school considered him a write off and a waste, though I can be the first to say that he didn’t give them much reason not to. The town cops were always pulling him over and giving him the business. Even my mom didn’t like us hanging out together. She said he was a bad apple. But she didn’t know Tommy like I did. Sure, he had a temper and a loud mouth. But he had to put up those walls to keep the kids at school from ripping on him about being short, poor, and the son of a couple good-for-nothing parents. He had to build those walls to keep his dad from having the satisfaction of seeing him cry when he was laying the buckle on him. So, yeah, I felt sorry for him. But he didn’t need it.

When I got to the Hasty Market he was out front perched up on a bike rack, sipping the last sips from a can out of Lucky Lager before he tossed it into the corner. His dad had an endless supply in the cold cellar. Tommy saw me and smiled. His palm ran over his buzz cut, his white XL t-shirt draping loosely over his skinny arms. His t-shirts were always vibrantly bright. His jeans were scuffed and ripped, shoes covered in mud, but his t-shirts were constantly Tide commercial white. I stuck out my wrist and he clocked it with his own.

“Sup?” I asked.

“Fucking ol’ man is wasted again,” answered Tommy.

“I figured,” I replied. “So, where to? The tracks?”

“Guess so,” he shrugged. “I’m fucking starving. How much money you got on you?”

“Not much,” I said. I pulled out my chain wallet and ripped open the Velcro strap, peeking inside and doing an inventory of the assorted coins. “I got, like, a buck fifty.”

“Do the looky-loo. I’ll make a candy run.”

I rolled my eyes and started towards the door. Tommy sat still, awaiting my response.

I looked back at him. “Come on then, you felon.”

A wide grin stretched across Tommy’s face. He hopped off the bike rack and followed me into the store.

Inside, I walked straight over to the Indian guy at the register while Tommy disappeared into the isles of chips and chocolate bars. I watched the clerks eyes follow Tommy on the bubble mirrors.

“Excuse me,” I said. The clerk’s eyes now shifted over to me. I placed a pack of gum on the counter along with the buck fifty I had in my wallet. “Do I have enough for this?”

The clerk’s eyes moved down to the mess of change scattered on his counter and after doing a quick scan and some math he said, “No.”

“That sucks,” I said. I put the pack of gum back on the display and collected my coins. Tommy was behind me when I turned around.

I started walking for the door and I was halfway out of the store when I heard Tommy mutter, “Fuck…”

That’s when I turned around and saw one of the candy bars Tommy had stuffed in his waistline lying on the floor. I looked up, the Indian guy had seen everything. “Hey!” he yelled. He started to come out from behind the counter.

Tommy looked to him, then to me. Then his eyes lit up and he yelled, “Run!”

I ran out of that store and across the parking lot faster than I’ve ever ran in my life. And me and Tommy weren’t strangers to finding ourselves in situations where we need to run like hell to save our asses. When we got to the road we didn’t stop. We had to dodge a few cars; one of them almost beaned Tommy. But once we got across the road the clerk had stopped chasing us. He couldn’t keep up, no doubt. We were pretty fast. Tommy always said we would be great at track if track wasn’t for pussies.

It didn’t take us long to get to the school. We slowed down as we jogged through the soccer field, laughing. I say ‘soccer field’ but that thing was more like a dirt pit. We’d come back in from Phys Ed. looking like we were out there digging for dinosaur bones.

We had slowed down to a walk when Tommy lifted up his shirt and showed me our score. Minus the one that dropped in the store, we had six chocolate bars. I caught a glimpse of Tommy’s abs as he handed me a Mars bar. He had a whole six pack. I didn’t have anything. I wasn’t fat or anything like that; I was just soft around the edges. I always envied people who had good abs.

I opened up the candy bar and said, “Guess we won’t be going back there anytime soon.”

Tommy shrugged, in the middle of chewing off his first big mouthful of a jumbo Mr. Big.

We walked in silence for a bit as we ate, kicking up dust as we went. Finally, I said, “Oh! Shit! I got some news.”

Tommy nodded, interested.

“I got into Cawthra School for the Arts! I’m transferring there next semester.”

He threw the wrapper to his jumbo Mr. Big behind him and patted me on the back. “You fucking actor. Good job, Ethe. You’re one step closer to getting famous and leaving this shit hole.”

Tommy had always been my biggest supporter in my dream of becoming a Hollywood actor. He said if anyone could make it out of Streetsville, it was me. But still, I knew it would be tough for him once we were separated. Everyone knew Tommy but there were only a select few who really knew Tommy, you get me? We had never been apart from each other before.

“Look at this ugly piece of shit,” said Tommy, pointing to a poster taped to a lamppost.

I threw my wrapper on the ground and walked over to see what ugly piece of shit Tommy was referring to.

The poster said “Wanted” and it had the picture and description of an escaped child molester named Francis Montgomery. He was ugly, that’s for sure. He had a long, narrow face and a crooked nose, as well as a severe under bite that made him look like a horse. And he was bald with long, stringy strands of brittle hair hanging off the sides of his head.

“Damn, man,” I said, shaking my head. “Why do child molesters always have to look so much like child molesters?”

Tommy laughed. He had this deep chuckle which was pretty contagious. I guess since Tommy rarely laughed, whenever he did, it was nice to hear. You wanted to be part of it. I couldn’t help but laugh too.

“Fuck this guy,” said Tommy. He spit on the page. “Come on. Let’s go.”

*******************

As we passed the baseball diamond we saw Derek Scott and George McNally leaning on Derek’s Accord. They were two years ahead of us in high school, a couple of real cool jocks. Their parents had money and all the girls drooled over them. They were the type of guys that Tommy hated.

Tommy pointed to them, or the two girls who were with them rather, and said, “Isn’t that Melony and Heather?”

I squinted at the blonde and ginger haired girls in the distance. It was them. They were in our grade; we had been in the same school since kindergarten. I had a crush on Heather since we were kids. I never told anyone, but I think Tommy knew. He was always bragging about my acting accomplishments to her. “Yeah, that’s them,” I said.

Tommy laughed again. “Should be those dudes faces on that poster,” he said. “Grade eleven’s trying to fuck grade nine’s…fucking losers, man.”

I didn’t much like Derek or George either, but I wasn’t about to go around saying that out of fear of the repercussions. But Tommy wasn’t afraid to get beat up. He’d say anything to anyone.

“Let’s go a different way,” I suggested.

“Fuck that,” said Tommy. “Come on.”

I huffed and followed him down the path to where the four of them were hanging out. Heather and Melony smiled when they saw us. Derek and George didn’t.

“Ethan and Tommy,” said Heather with a smile. “What are you two goons up to?”

The two boys sneers remained locked on us. Tommy fed off it, oozing with confidence as he said, “Just out for a stroll, ladies. Enjoying this beautiful evening.”

Derek pointed to Tommy’s muddy shoes and said, “Looks like you could use some new shoes, skid mark.”

Tommy shot back immediately, cool as a cucumber, saying, “Sweet, I’ll let your mom know to pick some up for me.”

Melony and Heather giggled.

Derek turned red. “What did you just say to me, you little shit?” He took a step closer but George put his arm out to stop him. His eyes were fixed on something behind us. Derek’s eyes shifted that way too. Heather and Melony’s too. Something had humbled the four of them on a button. Me and Tommy turned around to see what it was.

It was Dion Terrell and his boys. Dion was a black kid that mostly everyone in town feared. He sold drugs, was in a gang, carried weapons, he had been in and out of juvenile correction facilities since he was twelve. Dion and his crew moved like lions around Streetsville. No one fucked around with them.

As they paraded through us Dion scanned us slowly, one by one. I’m pretty sure Tommy was the only one not staring at his shoes. George put out his hand as a sign of friendship. “Hey, Dion,” he said. “What’s up?”

Dion looked him up and down. “You got a smoke?”

George lowered his hand and reached into his pocket for a pack of Player’s. He opened it up and took out three, handing them to Dion. “Take three,” he said.

In my peripheral I could see Tommy rolling his eyes dramatically.

Dion nodded, took the smokes and then he and his boys continued walking down the path, into the catwalk and out of sight. Once they were gone Derek and George returned to their asshole selves.

“Why don’t you two fuck off now,” said George. His hand slid around Heather’s waist as he glared at me. “We’re busy.”

Tommy looked at me and smiled. I didn’t understand why at first. Then I saw him snatch the pack of cigarettes from George’s hand. “Run!” he yelled.

We took off hard towards the catwalk. Derek took a swipe at me, but missed. I didn’t look back, I just kept running. I could hear Heather and Melony laughing behind me. We took off down the catwalk which opened up to a residential street, I could hear George’s feet smacking against the pavement after us. Like we had done many times before, Tommy and I high-tailed it in between a pair of houses and hopped the fence into a backyard, crushing a bed of daisies as we came to the ground. The backyard was empty. We ran through a maze of laundry lines and bedsheets, hopped another fence and found ourselves on a court that led us out to a main road. George had stopped chasing us.

We stopped at the gas station, out of breath from both running and laughing so hard. “I can’t believe you did that,” I said, huffing and puffing.

“Fuck those guys,” said Tommy, grabbing his chest as he wheezed. We caught our breath for a second and then he handed me a smoke from the pack of Player’s while taking one out for him as well.

We sat on the curb and smoked our cigarettes. The sun was sinking beneath the horizon, dimming the sky in an orangey-pink glow. It was starting to get cold. I flicked my smoke as the ember touched the filter and rubbed my arms. Should have brought that jacket, I thought.

A black Pontiac that had been getting gas slowed down as it passed us until it came to a stop. The windows rolled down and a middle aged white guy poked his head out of the driver’s side. He smiled at us. “Aren’t you kids a little young to be smoking?”

Tommy looked right back at the man and, with the straightest face, said, “Aren’t you a little old to be starting conversations with little kids?”

*****************

By the time we got to our boxcar at the train yard it was dark out. We were glad to be within the warmer confines of our car, away from the winds howling against the steel walls. It wasn’t very big and it was completely empty, but the boxcar was like a second home to me and Tommy. It was our hideaway. We’d pass the time playing cards, twenty questions, nickel football, or just smoking cigarettes. That and making fun of guys like George and Derek.

We were just starting to nod off when the noise of footsteps on gravel woke us up. There were people passing by outside. I quietly crept to the air holes and peeked out into the yard. It was Dion Terrell and his boys.

“You fully shot that motherfucker,” said one of his boys. He sounded giddy and excited.

“Shoulda had my money,” Dion answered plainly.

“Better stash that heater, my nigga,” said another.

The rest of the conversation became muffled as they walked out of earshot. Moments later I heard the reverberated clunk of something being dropped in a steel trash barrel.

“What was that?” whispered Tommy.

“Dion and his boys,” I whispered back. I couldn’t help but wonder if that clunk was them ‘stashing the heater’. My curiosity ended up getting the best of me. I got up and headed for the door. “Hold up,” I said to Tommy. “I want to check something out.”

Tommy nodded and rolled over, drifting back to sleep.

Once I was sure Dion and his boys were gone, I slid the door to the boxcar open just enough so that I could squeeze out. Those things are rusty and squeal like all hell when they’re opened. I squeezed out and jumped down onto the gravel. It was still cold, but the wind had died down. I took a second to look around. The yard was empty. I quietly crept along the tracks to the garbage bin and looked inside. Sitting on top of some crumpled paper and some dirt, was a gun. Dion’s gun.

I reached into the barrel and picked it up by the handle. I was extremely careful. I didn’t know much about guns but Tommy knew a bit. His dad had one. I smiled. Tommy was going to flip when I showed him. I walked back to the boxcar, slowly and carefully. I was scared I was going to trip over a track or a piece of gravel and shoot my face off.

As I climbed into the boxcar I noticed that Tommy had moved from out of the light and into the shadows. I knew he was still in the car because I could hear him shuffling around. I was about to call out to him when I heard a voice. It wasn’t Tommy.

“Touch it,” the voice commanded. I could hear Tommy too. But his voice was muffled like someone had a hand over his mouth. “Touch it and I’ll let you go,” the voice said again. “Lick your hand and touch it…Come on, boy. Be nice. Touch it.”

“Hey, asshole!” I yelled into the shadows, raising the gun. “Get off him before I fucking kill you, you sick fuck!”

There was silence. I could hear footsteps and he stepped out of the shadows into the light, taking cover behind Tommy. One hand covered Tommy’s mouth and the other held a pocket knife to his neck. Then I saw his face. It was the escaped molester from the poster we saw earlier.

I pointed the gun at him and he ducked behind Tommy. “Careful, now,” he snarled. “You don’t want anything to happen to your little friend, friend here…”

Tommy bit down on the man’s hand that covered his mouth and kicked back like a donkey, as hard as he could. The old man stumbled back.

“Shoot this faggot, Ethe!” yelled Tommy.

I pulled the trigger but it wouldn’t budge.

“Shoot him!” repeated Tommy.

I yelled back, “It’s not working!”

The old man was now back on his feet and coming for me.

“The safety!” yelled Tommy. “Side of the gun!”

I did as he told me and clicked the safety off and tried again. This time the gun fired and sent me back a few steps. An intense flash of light lit up the boxcar like a camera snapping a picture. The old man dropped to the floor, his knife falling out of his hands. It went dark once more.

Tommy ran over to me and squeezed me in a bear hug. When he let go, he motioned for the gun. I handed it to him.

“Now get out of here,” he said.

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

Sirens could now be heard in the distance. They were getting louder by the minute. Tommy gave me a nudge to the door. “Get out of here,” he repeated. “Run!”

“I’m not going to leave you,” I said.

“You know my dad won’t give a shit,” he said. Then he smiled, “Enjoy Cawthra, Ethe. Make us proud.”

The sirens were blaring now. I jumped out of the car onto the gravel and ran off into the night as fast as I could. I didn’t stop or slow down until I had reached my front porch…

The next day the story was all over the local news and in the papers. The escaped child molester, Francis Montgomery, had been found and taken into custody with a gunshot wound to the torso. The article said the police ruled the shooting as self defense but charged a minor with illegal possession of a firearm. Tommy was sentenced to a year in a juvenile correction facility.

I never told anyone about what happened that night. I transferred to Cawthra School of Arts and began to chase my dream to be an actor. After Tommy got out, we didn’t see much of each other. I heard he had been seen kicking around with Dion Terrell and his boys. After I graduated from Cawthra I moved out to New York and I got an agent. Nights in the boxcar have been replaced with cocktail chatter and frienemies at some hot bar downtown.

Though I love my life, I miss having Tommy around. My social circle has expanded, I rub elbows with all kinds of high society and schmooze with the hottest rising stars in the industry…but I have yet to come across anyone more loyal than Tommy. I’ll never forget the sacrifice he made for me. He was my best friend. And I’ll never forget him.

 

The End

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PRIDE

A high school student who was beaten up for bringing a male date to prom comes back to the  20 year reunion with revenge on the mind.

Written by Gregory Patrick Travers

Lisa put her freshly streaked hair that had been done earlier at the salon behind her shoulders and lowered her head.  She put the rolled up twenty bill to her nose and sniffed back the line of coke set out for her on the “50 Cent” Cd Case.  Her head came up, she threw it back and her blonde streaks fell softly on her shoulder.  In the mirror she could see Luca sitting on the hotel bed looking back at her.

“What are you looking at?” she asked defensively.

He smiled.  “You,” he said.  “You’re sexy.”

He was not the trim all-star athlete that he was in high school; his firm chest had deflated and his flat stomach now protruded under his black cotton V-neck. His distinguished jaw line had softened to the point it was hard to tell where his face ended and his neck began. But still, there was something charming about him.  His green eyes still twinkled in the light and his smile was still mischievous and inviting.

She ran her slender finger over the dusty remanence on the Cd case and put it in her mouth to suck on it.  “Perv…” she said, a smile half-cocked.

Luca licked his lips and in a playful tone said, “You know it.”

Just then the bathroom door swung open violently.  Mellissa stumbled out from the bathroom holding a bottle of wine in her hand and dropped onto the other twin bed.  Her dress sailed down slowly over her thick, milky thighs.   “Oh my god!” she cried out. “I am so drunk!”

Lisa scowled at her long time best friend.  “Slow your ass, bitch!” she warned. “We still have a reunion to go to…”

“I am so getting laid,” Melissa replied, squirming on the bed.

Marco sat on the corner of the bed flipping through their high school year book he had been glancing at between sips of his Bacardi forty-ounce.  “I don’t know, Mel,” he said.  “You’ve put on a lot of weight since the baby.”

She frowned and pulled her dress over her knees, embarrassed.  “Oh yeah?” she mocked.  “Well you’ve lost a lot of hair!”

This was not a lie and Marco knew it.  It wasn’t the first time someone from the old crew poked fun at him for it either.  He scrunched up his face and, in a very animated and unflattering way, mimicked how he thought she sounded.

“Shut up, you faggots,” said Luca.  He got up from the bed and made his way over to Lisa at the desk.  He massaged her exposed shoulders and said, “You’re starting to harsh my buzz…”

“I can’t believe it’s been twenty years,” Marco said, still flipping through the pages of their yearbook.  He stopped at a picture of Lisa and Mellissa at their prom.  “I don’t remember this picture,” he said.  “Where were we?”

Lisa released herself from Luca’s grasp and sat down beside Marco, snatching the yearbook from his hands.  She glanced at the picture.  “Oh,” she said with a sniffle.  “This was taken when you two were beating up that gay kid and his date.  What was his name?”

Luca turned from the desk.  “Raymond,” he answered.  A heavy silence hung over the room.

Melissa sat up on the bed, her head of curls spread out on the headboard as she leaned back.  “Shit,” she said, lost in her memories.  “You really fucked him up that night…”

Luca’s eye’s looked down at the “50 Cent” CD case.  He didn’t say anything.

Lisa turned to Marco.  “Didn’t you go to the Pride parade this year?”

Marco grabbed the yearbook from Lisa’s hands and shut it.  “Shut up, you cokehead.”

*******************************

A blue Volkswagen Beetle pulled into the front drive of St. Michael’s Catholic School.  It came to a slow stop and parked in succession behind a line of minivans and four-seat sedans.  Inside the Beetle sat Raymond Jackson and his partner Jeremy Wellington.  They watched the front entrance as couple by couple and group by group of penguin suits and night dresses trickled into their old high school.

“They look so nice,” said Jeremy.

Raymond took the keys out of the ignition and grinned, showing his pearl-whites.  “Not as good as us.”

Jeremy grinned. He had a point.  Those department store clearance sale rags had nothing on their matching Hugo Boss olive three-pieces.  But that was nothing new to the two. St. Michael’s had always been behind the ball.  Fashion, ethics, humanity.

Jeremy lit a cigarette and opened the glove box between his legs.  From inside it he pulled out a small black case about the size of a shoebox, wrapped in a red bow.  He handed it to his lover, watching for his reaction.  He would be the first to say that Raymond looked absolutely magnificent when he was pleasantly surprised.

“What’s this?” gasped Raymond.  As usual, he didn’t disappoint.

“A gift,” Jeremy replied.  He looked out his window up at the night sky.  “Full moon tonight.”

“Destiny, I suppose,” Raymond said.  He untied the bow and opened the box.  Another gasp followed.

His hand perched up and rested on his chest, playing faint.  He could feel the tears coming.  “You are the absolute best,” he whispered.  He reached in the case and pulled out a leather handled snub nose .38 with a chrome finish.  Sleek, compact, beautiful.

“It’s loaded,” said Jeremy.  He reached into the backseat and picked up his baby; a pink 9mm pistol.  He gazed upon it, every bit as in love with it as the day he bought it.  Now they both had one.

“It’s beautiful,” said Raymond, still admiring his gift.  He took a pause to lean in and kiss his lover on the lips.  “Thank you, Jeremy Wellington.”

Jeremy tucked his pink 9mm into the holster hidden under his olive suit jacket and checked his slicked ginger brush cut in the rear view mirror.  “Are you ready?”

Raymond nodded.  “For twenty years now.”

****************************

A paper banner stretched across the width of the freshly polished front foyer with “Welcome Class of ‘97” painted in big, bold letters.  Underneath it stretched a long line of St. Michael’s alumni looking around their old high school with fond memories as they waited to hand in their invitations and receive their nametags.  The mood was cheerful, buzzing with the excitement of those who rarely got a night out anymore.

At the ticket table, made up of two cafeteria benches pushed together, was Principal Malone.  Though remembered to most as a stern, joyless educator, tonight it seemed you couldn’t take the smile of his prune like face.  Age had humbled the old pupils, many of them just as wrinkled and bald now as he was.

Beside him sat one of the newer teachers just out of college, a sweet brunette by the name of Ms. Martin.  Though she was not old enough to have known the Reunionese, she couldn’t help but get swept away by their excited smiles and lavish formal wear.  One by one they handed off nametags and the students broke off into the cafeteria.  Raymond and Jeremy stood in line, exchanging polite nods and smiles with some of their old classmates.

“Everyone’s gotten so old,” whispered Raymond.

Jeremy squeezed his hip.  “Stop it. You’re terrible.”

As they stepped to the ticket table Principal Malone’s unbreakable smile went flat.  His eyeballs darted quickly to the clipboard with the guest list and they remained there, stuck on the paper.  When the principal finally stole a glance he was surprised that the two had not noticed him.  Their eyes were fixed on Ms. Martin, admiring her.

Raymond handed her his invitation.  “You are so pretty,” he said.

Ms. Martin blushed and handed them a pair of nametags.  “Oh, you’re just being nice,” she said.

“You look far too young to have been teaching when Raymond went to school here,” said Jeremy.

She bowed her head modestly, pulling on the sleeve of her fleece sweater.  “I’m just helping out,” she said.  “The school was a little short staffed.”

“How selfless,” said Jeremy, touched.

“The world needs more people like you,” said Raymond.  His eyes drifted over to Principal Malone who jumped in his seat like he had been caught peeping in a tree.  “Hello, Principal Malone,” smiled Raymond.  The principal nodded and quickly returned his eyes to the guest list in front of him.

“Have a great time, you two,” said Ms. Martin.

***********************

Inside the cafeteria was dark.  A revolving globe shot out color patterns across the walls, stars and moons and things like that.  The walls were lined with an assortment of streamers and balloons.  And while a few spirited guests had taken an early spot on the dance floor, most of those already inside had congregated in different spots along the cafeteria walls with their respective social circles of the past.  The football team was gathered on the opposite side, the cast of the play in another and a few of the old council found refuge by the stage.  In the far corner, a DJ booth had been set up where a younger man, a student perhaps, was intently focused on the glow of his laptop.

“Ugh. Matthew Good Band,” said Jeremy as they entered from the foyer.

“You know St. Michael’s loved its New Wave,” said Raymond.  “Long sleeve shirts under short sleeved shirts and a pair of Oakley’s.”

“Purple hair and Billabong,” Jeremy added with a gag.

A voice from behind them said, “Raymond! Wow! You haven’t aged a day!”

The two of them turned around.  Though he had lost most of his hair, Raymond had no problem recognizing Lindle Stratts, the old class clown.  Though he seemed humbled by age, the famous Lindle smile was very much intact.  How could Raymond forget that smile?  It was there in the locker room when the kids used to towel whip him and scream, “Raymond Gaymond!”   Lindle would join in, dancing around like a crazed Indian.  That very same smile was there looking down on him on Prom Night when Raymond lied on that very cafeteria floor bleeding.  Lindle bent over and screamed, “You got knocked the fuck out!” and then laughed with his distinct hyena-like cackle.  Such an exuberant smile that Lindle.

“It’s me, Lindle!” he said, pointing to his nametag.

Raymond smiled wide.  “Hey, Lindle! Long time!”

“Can you believe it’s been twenty years?” asked Lindle.  He pointed to his head.  “I sure can.”

The three of them shared a gentle laugh at his expense.

“Oh, how rude of me,” said Raymond.  He pointed to his date.  “This is Jeremy.”

Lindle looked up to Jeremy who had a good foot and a half on him and gave a small bow.  “Very nice to meet you,” said Lindle.

“A pleasure,” Jeremy replied.

There was a brief break in conversation and then Lindle said, “I really think it’s great; all the progress that has been made for the gay community.  You guys looks like a very happy couple.”  Then he laughed in his cackle-like way.  “Heck! Maybe I should be gay! It’s obvious the ladies aren’t taking!”

Raymond and Jeremy smiled politely.  Then Lindle’s smile faded and he became quite serious.  “I was kind of a dick to you in high school,” he said.  “I just want to apologize.  I’ve grown up.  I’ve seen how cruel the world can be and you didn’t deserve all that.  Sure, I was young.  But that’s no excuse.  I hope you can forgive me.”

Jeremy squeezed Raymond’s arm.  “Aw! He apologized. Isn’t that mature of him?”

*****************************

Marco and Luca stepped into the front foyer of St. Michaels followed by Melissa and Lisa, whom the door had almost closed on.  “Thanks for holding the door, asshole,” Lisa scoffed.

“Equal rights,” replied Luca. His eyes scanned his old stomping ground.  The best times of his life had been in that building.  He could not help but feel a dull sadness fall over him.

As they approached the ticket counter Principal Malone leant back in his seat and looked the four of them over with much content.  He shook his head, “Look at the four of you.  Still coming in late, smelling of reefer. I see not much has changed.”

Luca gave the old man a courtesy nod, glancing into the cafeteria where the celebration was in full swing.  “Hey, Mr. Malone. Long time.”

Lisa met eyes with the young woman sitting beside Principal Malone.  “Hi! Welcome!” said the woman.  “I’m Ms. Martin!”

Congratulations,” said Lisa.  She hated fake bitches.

********************

The four of them walked into the cafeteria to a popular Backstreet Boys single playing on the speakers, much like they had twenty years ago.  Back then the whole school turned to watch them enter.  Tonight there were only two.

“Look how fat everyone is,” noted Lisa, amused.

Marco gave Melissa a playful nudge.  “You’re not alone, Lis!”

She pushed back, less playfully.  “Fuck off, Marco! I’m serious!”

Luca paused from scanning the room to bark, “Will you two just fuck and get it over with?”

Just then Lindle Stratts came dancing over.  Luca, Marco and Lisa all groaned immediately.  Not Mellissa though.  She had always thought him cute in that wounded puppy sort of way.

“Hey, guys!” Lindle shouted over the music.

Mellissa was the only one to return the greeting.  “Hey, Lindle! How have you been?”

He pointed to his head.  “Oh, you know. A little older. A little balder.”

“Yeah, I noticed,” said Luca.  His eyes remained on the dancefloor, watching intently.  Then it happened. He met eyes with Raymond staring back at him from beside the DJ booth.

Lindle noticed the exchange and looked back at Luca.  “Yeah, Raymond Gaymond came,” he said with a little cackle.  “You guys aren’t going to beat him up again, are you?”

“Shut up, Lindle,” said Marco.  He turned to Mellissa.  “Let’s go see who’s around.”

She nodded and the two of them headed towards the football team near the far exit.  For a moment Lindle stood with Luca and Lisa but nothing was said and it became very awkward, very quickly and so Lindle said his goodbyes and went off to mingle some more.

“This party is lame,” said Luca, finally breaking eye contact with Raymond across the room.  Lisa didn’t disagree.  He smiled and gave her his attention.  Placing his hand on her hip he said, “I still got some coke. You want to do a line and fuck in the bathroom like old times?”

Now he had her attention.

Raymond and Jeremy watched from beside the DJ booth as Luca and Lisa headed out into the foyer and Marco and Melissa headed over to the old football team.  “Everyone’s here now,” said Raymond, casually sipping his punch.

Jeremy rested his plastic cup on the DJ’s table.  “Shall we begin?”

Raymond placed his cup down next to Jeremy’s.  “We shall.”

As the two of them started walking towards Marco and Mellissa and the football team Lindle Stratts appeared and stopped them in their stride.  “Hey guys, guess what?!” he said.  The two of them waited for a response.  It took a moment but then Lindle said, “I just requested the Macarena!  That’s Ricky Martin, right?  You like him, right?”

Raymond reached behind him, pushed aside his suit jacket and pulled out his new leather handled snub nose .38 with the chrome finish.  He pressed the gun against Lindle’s forehead and pulled the trigger.  A deafening blast rang out.  Lindle’s head flung back, splashing open. He collapsed to the floor like a marionette.  Heads turned.  Screams and shrieks followed.  Raymond and Jeremy stared down at Lindle Stratts body and exhaled, relaxed.

“God, he just goes on forever,” said Jeremy.

Raymond agreed.  “I know, right?”

**************************

Principal Malone had started to drift off into sleep right there in his chair when a sudden bang from inside the cafeteria woke him up.  The noise was followed by panicked screams and chilling cries.  He shot up in his seat, ripe with anger. He slid his seat from out underneath him and marched to the cafeteria, encouraging the young teacher beside him not to worry as it was probably just that prankster, Lindle Stratts, lighting off fireworks again.  Would these kids ever grow up?

As he marched towards the cafeteria three more bangs rang out.  The screams intensified.  Suddenly the cafeteria doors blew open and a stampede of penguin suits and dresses came storming out running frantically for the exit.  Their looks were haunting.  There were tears streaming down their cheeks. Principal Malone felt his stomach sink.  This wasn’t fireworks.

He entered the cafeteria and saw the body of Lindle Stratts bleeding out on the ground.  Two more bodies lied in the far corner.  By the time he saw Raymond’s date holding a pink pistol at the football team, Marco Helmsman and Mellissa Clarkinson it was too late.  An arm came from behind him and wrapped around his throat.  He heard the voice…it was Raymond Jackson, the homosexual.

“Principal Malone,” Raymond said into his ear.  His voice lacked its usual flamboyant inflection.  It was flat and cold like the steel the crazed homosexual had pressed against the back of his head.

Principal Malone spoke with a seldom heard shakiness in his speech, “You are in irreparable trouble, young man.”

“No,” said Raymond.  “The trouble is being handled.”

For a second Principal Malone broke and wept, but he caught himself quickly and regained his composure.  “You’re making a mistake,” he said.

“You let them beat me,” Raymond said back.  “Right here in this room twenty years ago.”

“Come off it,” said the principal.  “It was just a little bullying.”

“A bit?” Raymond returned.  He called over to the football team, “Hey! Remember Raymond Gaymond? Remember locking me in the bathroom with a stink bomb?”

The football team looked at their feet.  Jeremy glared at their cowardice, disgusted.  He pulled the trigger on his pink pistol and a black man in a letterman jacket dropped to the floor, dead.  Shot in the heart.  Then he shot one of the white boys.  Racial equality was very important to him.  Another one of the letterman jackets ran for the door.  Jeremy grinned.  He liked the runners.  With precision aiming he pulled the trigger and the bullet whizzed through the back of the coward’s head.  He dropped to the floor just short of the door.

By this point Principal Malone was blubbering like a baby where he stood.  Raymond was embarrassed for him. He was disgusted by how someone who portrayed themselves as so strong could become so desperate so quick in the face of danger.  It reminded Raymond of his father earlier that night. Right before Raymond stuck a kitchen knife through his throat.

“Relax,” said Raymond.  “I’m not going to shoot you…”

“Oh, thank you!” sobbed the principal.  “You are a good man, Raymond.”

Raymond reached behind him and from out his slacks slid out the bloody kitchen knife he had used to get rid of his father.  “Oh, I don’t know about that…” he sighed.  He drove the knife deep into Principal Malone’s back.  First once, then again, and then another, and then again.  The more he pierced the skin, the easier the blade sunk into the flesh.  Principal Malone coughed up a ball of blood and collapsed, uttering one final death murmur before he expired.

Those who had not escaped the cafeteria, too scared to run, screamed out in terror at the sight of Raymond’s blood soaked hands.  Jeremy watched; proud of his lover.  Raymond smiled and ran his crimson fingers under his eyes, staining his face with the principal’s blood like war paint.  He looked up to his former peers and pointed.  “Each one of you is responsible for this,” he said, looking each and every one of them in the eye while he spoke.  “There are those who deserve this more than others but you all let it happen.  The way you stood back, much like you are now, the way you watched us be terrorized, the way you sat silent and thankful that it wasn’t you they were coming for…” Raymond laughed and licked the blood from his index finger.  “Well, I’m here now,” he said.  “And I’m coming for you…”

While Jeremy was distracted Marco leaped forward and swung a hard right that connected beautifully with the gunman’s jaw, sending him twisted to the floor. The pink pistol went sliding out of reach.  Without a moment’s hesitation Marco bolted for the doors.  From across the cafeteria Raymond fired off two shots at him from his snub nose, but he missed and Marco escaped into the halls.  Mellissa was now all alone.  She decided that she too was going to make a run for it.  But by the time she had reached the doors Jeremy had gotten back to his feet and his pink pistol was back in his grip.  He grabbed her by her frizzy curls and she screamed.  “Please!” she begged.  “I have a son!”

His face remained still and unbothered as he raised the pistol to her temple and pulled the trigger.  The shot rang out and screams followed.  Even as the side of her head blew open and blood spackled across his face, Jeremy barely blinked.  He watched her on the floor for a moment and then looked back up to his lover across the room—proud.

But Raymond was not happy.  He pointed to the doors and, in a voice almost unrecognizable, growled, “Get him! Now!

***************************

Luca opened the door to the janitor’s closet and took a peek out into the hallway to see if the coast was clear while Lisa shimmied up her panties between a shelf of toilet paper and a shelf of Windex and Drain-O.  “Did you hear that?” asked Luca.

“What?” replied Lisa.

“I heard banging,” he said.

She laughed.  “Duh…”

He spun his head back to her and glared.  “Quit fucking around.  I’m serious.”

Just then Marco came whipping around the corner at full speed.  His face was pale and shining with perspiration.  The terrified look in his eyes made the hairs on the back of Luca’s neck stand up.  “What the hell is wrong with you?” asked Luca.

Marco came to a squeaking halt.  “We gotta get the fuck out of here!” he ordered.  He had tears in his eyes.  Marco never cried.

Lisa exited the janitor’s closet and closed it shut.  She fixed her hair and joined the boys.  “Calm the fuck down, Marco. Geeze,” she said, glancing at her watch.

Marco continued, “He killed them! Lindle, the football team, Principal Malone—“

Luca grabbed him and gave him a shake.  “Who? Who killed them?”

“Raymond!” Marco shot back.  “Him and his date are shooting everybody! We gotta get the fuck out of here! Come on!”

Luca’s eyes became focused.  The reality of what he was being told settled in.  He grabbed Lisa by the hand and pulled her towards the doors leading out to the foyer.  “Come on, let’s go.”

Marco didn’t move.  “Where are you going?” he asked.  “They’re out there! Let’s go out through the teachers’ parking lot!”

“We’re parked out front,” Lisa snapped.

“Who gives a fuck?” Marco answered.  “We need to get out of this building now!”  He shook his head and waved it off.  “Whatever. Fuck it. I’m out…”   Then he turned his back and took off around the corner.

Down the dimly lit stretch of lockers he ran, passed the vending machines, passed the attendance office, and passed the trophy case.  He pulled opened the first set of doors to the stairwell. Through the doors leading to the staff parking lot he could see the red and blue’s flashing on police cruisers racing into the property.  The shrill pitched whine of their sirens was music to his ears.  He smiled, relaxed and walked passed the stairwell, throwing open the doors to the parking lot.  A cool breeze splashed against his face.  He was home free.

“Hold it right there,” said a voice behind him.  The command was followed the click of a safety being disarmed.  The voice was familiar; flamboyant and terrifying.  Marco slowly turned around to see Raymond’s date holding a pink pistol to his head.

The doors to the police cruisers flung open and out came the officers, guns drawn.  “Freeze, asshole!” yelled one of the uniformed men.

“You shoot him, we shoot you!” hollered another.

Raymond’s date smiled, winked at Marco and said, “Worth it.”  Then he pulled the trigger and put a bullet through Marco’s head.  The police fired back and put six quick holes into the gunman.  He and Marco hit the concrete at the same time, sprawled out under a lamplight in a pool of their own blood.  The night was quiet once again.

***************************

Luca and Lisa carefully stepped out into the foyer.  Across the hall the cafeteria doors were open, the strobe globe was still spinning, the music was still blaring, but no one was in there.  Seeing the coast was clear, they made a break for the front entrance.  Lisa ran in those high heels like she had done it before.   That’s when Raymond stepped out from behind a column, his snub nose .38 pointed right at Luca’s head.   Luca and Lisa stopped in their tracks and Lisa immediately broke into tears.  “Please, Raymond,” she begged.  “Don’t do this…”

Raymond didn’t respond.  His eyes stayed glued to Luca as he said, “I’ve been waiting for this moment for twenty years…” His thumb brought down the hammer on the gun.  His aim remained steady.

Luca started to cry.  A sight not Raymond or Lisa had ever seen before.  He was a blubberer.  It was hard to watch.  “I’m sorry, okay?” he sobbed.  “Please….Please don’t…I’m sorry…”

A grin stretched across Raymond’s blood speckled face.  “There’s the fear! Not a very good feeling is it, to be scared?  Welcome to my world, Luca.  Now it’s your turn to feel what I felt.”  He took a step closer.

 

Lisa grabbed on to Luca, burying her head in his chest.  They both had completely lost control, crying like infants.  The words “stop” and “please” could be heard though their tears.  Raymond found joy in their despair.  But, as he was focused on them, he failed to notice the young teacher who had volunteered to help with the event, Miss Martin, sneak up behind him with a fire extinguisher clutched in her hands.   She raised the heavy red cylinder over her head and brought it down hard on Raymond’s crown.   Raymond fell to his knees. Miss Martin looked at the two hostages and yelled, “Run!”

Without hesitation, Luca and Lisa obliged.  They were out the front door in seconds.

Raymond got to his feet and pointed his weapon at the young teacher.  “Why? Why would you do that?”

She raised her hands as a white flag.  “I’m sorry,” she said.  “I’m not homophobic, I swear. But…It’s not right.  Murder is wrong.  You’re better than that.  You’re better than them.”

Raymond stared at her.  Or perhaps through her.

“Please don’t kill me…” she whispered.

Raymond clicked back into reality and smiled.  “Come on now, sweetheart. I’m not a monster.”  Then he pointed the gun under his chin and squeezed down on the trigger.

“No!” screamed Miss Martin.  But it was too late.  The blast rang out, a stream of blood shot up to the ceiling and Raymond fell to the floor under the “Welcome Class of ‘97” banner, dead.

The End

 

Mike & Peter on Internet Dating

The ins and outs of internet dating brought to you by our favorite underachievers, Mike and Peter.

Written by Gregory Patrick Travers

The sun was beating down on the seawall as Mike and Peter sat on a bench watching the usual parade of joggers, dog walkers and happy couples on a Saturday stroll pass them by. And while Peter was sneaking peeks behind his sunglasses at the girls running by in their sports bras and yoga pants, Mike’s eyes were glued to the screen of his smart phone.

“Slipknot fucking sucks,” said Peter. “Stone Sour was alright.”

Mike was too busy swiping his finger across the screen of his smart phone to actually turn and acknowledge his friend, but he did answer. “You are completely fucked,” he said, crouched over, gazing down at his phone. “That’s the total opposite. Stone Sour sucks. Slipknot was hella sick.”

“Whatever,” said Peter. He took a long sip from his 711 root beer Slurpee and leaned back on the bench. “Those masks are like something out of a child abuse victim’s nightmare…You find one yet?”

“Traveling…” Mike scoffed under his breath.

Peter, whose eyes had now been staring at a young sporty read head who was in the midst of picking up her tiny poodles poop with a plastic bag, turned to his friend and said, “Huh?”

“Traveling,” Mike repeated. “All these girls on Plenty of Fish, that’s all they like to do. Every single god damn profile. Traveling.”  He pointed to his phone with his free hand to reference. “Take this girl—Lindsay…” As he read her profile Mike did his best worst impression of what he thought she might sound like. “Hi, my name’s Lindsay. I really like to travel and explore new places. I’d much rather spend my money on going somewhere exotic than on something like a car.”

Mike swiped again and began to read another profile. Again, he did his best impression of what he imagined she might sound like. “My name’s Sarah. I’m a travel junkie. I love to explore new places with great people who have a ‘lust for life’. And I hate drama.”

Peter whistled and shook his head with a half-cocked grin. “Girls who say they hate drama usually love drama. That just means some dude stopped calling them—probably for being too dramatic. So what? Girls like to travel. Big deal.”

“I hate traveling,” Mike replied. “Why would I want to go to a place where no one speaks my language? I already live in Vancouver.”

“That’s true,” said Peter. “Why don’t you just find a girl who is into stuff besides traveling?”

“Every moderately attractive girl on Plenty of Fish is into traveling. If not traveling, hiking.”

Peter waved it off. “They just say that to attract guys that are financially stable enough to go on a trip and fit enough to go hiking. Plus, you need a car for all that. None of which you have going for you…plus, you’re bald.”

Mike frowned and ran his palm over his smooth crown. “I know, right? What kind of beautiful girl is going to be on my shit?”

At that moment a slender young brunette in a sports bra and tights stopped in the midst of her jog right in front of the boys. She was breathing quick and heavy and had worked up quite a sweat. Beads of perspiration ran down her neck to her collar bone. She bent over to stretch, touching her toes. When she returned upright she took out her earphones and walked over to the boys—more specifically, to Mike.

“Hey,” she said, still trying to catch her breath. “Do you have the time?”

Mike looked down at his phone. “Yeah. It’s three thirty,” he answered.

She giggled, as if embarrassed. “Damn,” she said. “I was supposed to meet someone for a drink at three. Woops. Must have lost track of time.”

“That sucks,” said Mike.

“I know, right?” she replied, now humored by her forgetfulness. “I’m still in the mood for that drink though. God, I’m so stupid.”

Mike was busy with his phone. “Well, good luck,” he answered.

“Yeah, er, okay…” said the girl. “Thanks.”

She smiled and jogged off. When she was gone Mike sighed and turned to Peter. He pointed down to his phone. “I just know if one of these hot girls gave me a chance I could woo them with my charm. You can’t see charm on these dating apps. People judge you completely on your looks, it’s not fair. They just see an average looking bald dude and nothing deeper. The only messages I get are from fat girls. If not the fatties it’s the girls with no jobs who sit around smoking weed all day.”

“Don’t you sit around smoking weed all day?” asked Peter.

“That’s not the point,” snapped Mike. “I need a girl that’s ambitious. A girl with goals. Someone who will inspire me to be better as a man. At least a girl with a fucking job.” He sighed and sunk on the bench. “Who am I kidding? A girl like that would not be into a guy like me…”

At that moment they heard the cries of a woman in the distance. “Help!” cried the woman. “Stop him!”

The boys turned their heads and saw a golden retriever barreling down the seawall path, his leash dragging wildly on the pavement behind him. In the distance the owner, a shorter woman dressed in heels and a business suit, struggled to chase down her runaway pet. Mike hopped off the bench just in time to grab the dragging leash before it was out of reach. The dog yelped as the leash tightened and stopped his momentum. The golden retriever looked up to Mike and then lowered its head, knowing it was in trouble.

The click-clack of heels on the pavement came to a halt as the woman, now quite out of breath, finally caught up to them. Her face was flush, both from exhaustion and embarrassment. “Thank you so much,” she said. She blew a few renegade blond strands from her face and smiled. “Poor guy’s been cooped up in the condo all day while I was at work. I really should get a dog sitter.”

“No problem,” said Mike.

She took back the leash from Mike and extended her hand. “I’m Riley.”

Mike gently shook her hand. “Mike.”

She sighed, now relaxed. “What a day I’ve had,” she said. “First it was absolute hell at the office all day and now this! I could definitely use a drink.”

Mike smiled. “What a coincidence.”

Her blue eyes widened. “Oh yeah?”

“Yeah,” answered Mike. “There was a girl that was just here that was saying she was in the mood to drink today too!” He shook his head. “It must be something in the air. I guess it’s just one of those days, huh? The bars will be packed tonight!”

Her smile flattened as she nodded, looking somewhat confused. “Okay…well, thanks again.”

As the woman click-clacked away down the pavement Mike headed back to Peter on the bench. He gave a loud exhale as he sat back down beside his friend. “Why can’t any girls like that respond to my messages?”

“I think you think too much,” said Peter. He was lost in a trance, staring across the pathway at beams of light breaking through the branches of a tree.

Mike’s attention turned back to his phone. Minutes went by as he scrolled and swiped through more faces and more profiles. Finally his head lifted back up. “I think you’re right,” he said to his friend.

“I’m always right,” Peter replied. “…What are we talking about?”

“I shouldn’t be looking for the pretty girl, or the successful girl. I should be looking for someone more like me. Like someone who smokes weed and is chill. Someone that likes the stuff I like. Why am I trying to change myself into someone I never even wanted to be?”

“Preach, brother.”

Just then a curly haired girl in a UBC sweatshirt came over to the boys. “Hey,” she said. “Do you guys have a lighter? My joint went out and my lighter is dunst.”

“Like Kirsten,” said Mike.

She laughed a bit. “Yeah, exactly.”

Peter pulled a lighter from his pocket and handed it to the girl. As she was lighting her roach she noticed Mike’s Slipknot T-Shirt. “Cool shirt,” she said. “I fucking love Slipknot.” She took a puff and held it in for a moment. Then she exhaled a long, thin stream of smoke. “Not Stone Sour though,” she added. “That was pussy shit.”

Mike couldn’t believe it. “We were just talking about that,” he said. “I totally agree.”

She gave the roach another haul and with cloudy exhale she said, “I’m just hanging out with some friends over there by the grass. You guys are welcome to join.”

Peter didn’t hesitate. “Sure,” he said.

Mike winced, unsure. “I don’t know,” he said to Peter. “I should probably keep a clear head. What if I get a message back? I don’t want to be all baked.”

The curly haired girl shrugged and handed Peter back his lighter. “Okay, well, thanks for the light,” she said. And with that, she headed down the path towards the grassy hill.

Peter turned to his friend. “I hate you…”

“I’m sorry,” Mike replied. “I promise I will meet someone eventually.”

 

The End.

 

The Downside of Infidelity

A young woman recalls how a perfect relationship turned into one of lies and deceit as she prepares to come clean with her boyfriend about her infidelities.

Written by Gregory Patrick Travers

I left Nick’s house that night and got in my car. I felt a lump in my throat as I checked my phone to see another missed call from John. This can’t go on, I thought to myself.

I needed to come clean and tell John the truth. Not just for him, but for me too. Keeping this secret, running around behind his back and covering my tracks…it was utterly exhausting.

I can’t pin point exactly when I fell out of love with him, but I can remember the day I first met Nick. He came into the bar by himself; I had never seen him around before. He was shy for someone so cute. Usually the guys around the bar act as guys do, horny and a little too honest with their desires…Not him though. He just smiled and watched the sports highlights on the bar screen. Maybe that was the reason I kept coming back to check on him.

He had just moved to the city from Vancouver for work. He did lighting work for movie sets; a job most might find without interest, but I loved movies…Lights, make-up, sound, whatever—if it had to do with film, I was all ears. I don’t know if it was the stories about being on set or his blue eyes and dimples, but when I got home that night he was all I could think about.

In all the five years that John and I had been a couple, I never once thought about cheating. When we got together in high school it was this magical thing, like something out of a romance comedy. He was this funny, quirky guy who everyone seemed to like and I was swept away by him. In the first years I was thankful every day that I was the one he chose to call his girlfriend. I would get mad when he talked to other girls and I would be on needles all day until he was back home with me, cuddling on the couch and watching Seinfeld, our favorite show. My heart would race when he sent me a text message, even if it was just a smiley face or an “LOL”. The sex was great; we had this connection like we knew exactly what the other person wanted without even saying a word…

But we were young and I suppose we weren’t really sure who we really were as individuals. He maintains he did, but I know I didn’t. Back then all I wanted to do was get married, have kids and live this fairy tale life with the man I loved. College really made me mature…or immature. I loosened up and stopped taking life so serious. The idea of being tied down to one spot with one person sounded more like a prison sentence than a dream. Slowly I began to have subtle resentments towards him. Where once I saw him as sweet, now he was kind of over-sensitive. The sex that had been so magical became routine and left me uninspired and unsatisfied.

At this point Nick had been coming into the bar more, which always made my night. Every time the front door opened I would prop my head up in hopes to see him walk through the door. I felt like such a goof but at the same time, the fact that I felt this electric attraction made me feel alive again and I wanted more of it. Lots more.

I found myself getting off shift and, instead of going home to John, staying for a drink with Nick. First it started out as one, then two, then three…Then came the night he invited me back to his place for the fourth. He laid me and his bed and kissed my neck, his hands were rough but I wanted them on me. I was wet even before he shuffled my jeans off me and threw them to the floor. He made me shake and quiver…He made me cum.

Six months later I was juggling both of them. At first the affair made me feel dangerous and sexy but when John and I began to fight, I failed to see the reason as to why I was keeping up this charade. I guess I didn’t want to see the hurt in his eyes when I told him there was someone I wanted more than him. Knowing John, he’d probably start crying or something. Maybe in some way I as well didn’t want to see all those years go to waste…but there was no denying we weren’t the same couple we were in high school.

As I drove home, I heard a Barenaked Ladies song on the radio that John and I used to dance to. That combined with passing by the park we used to hang out at was too much for me. I pulled over and started crying right there on the side of the road.

How could I be such a bitch? I thought. How could I break his heart like this? Maybe if I had told him about my concerns with our relationship then he would try to change, try to compromise…I hadn’t even bothered to try. I got myself together and wiped my eyes. Be strong, I told myself.

I sat in the underground parking of our building for about fifteen minutes before I mustered up the courage to do what I had to do. As I entered our apartment I heard the Barenaked Ladies playing and was hit in the face with the distinct smell of garlic. I walked into the kitchen to see John setting the dinner table. He looked up at me and smiled, “Hey, babe.”

“You made dinner?”

“Spaghetti and meatballs, your favorite. I wanted to do something nice, I know I’ve been kind of preoccupied lately.” Then he noticed my eyes, “What’s wrong, it looks like you’ve been crying.”

I straightened up, “Oh, no…Nothing. Allergies…”

“Well it’s almost ready.”

“Okay…I’m just going to get changed.”

I walked to the bathroom and shut the door behind me. Tomorrow, I told myself. You’ll tell him tomorrow.

 

Whacked!

A mob story about finding inner peace.

Written by Gregory Patrick Travers

The glaring sun beat down on a dry patch of grass right next to the old, abandoned railroad. The area was silent with the exception of the warm breeze breathing through the long, brittle blades swaying side by side. This forgotten industrial block had been abandoned for close to a decade now, rarely seeing any visitors besides your usual tramps and vagabonds looking for a dry place to sleep. But today, a new traveler had arrived. A lone coyote weaved through the grass patch, hot on the scent of fresh dead flesh. He had followed his snout on this trail for hours and he was close now. His heart raced with anticipation, his eyes darted back and forth, his wet nose fluttered violently whilst his tongue wagged heavily back and forth with each dry pant.

He stopped at the top of the hill and looked down at four black town cars parked in the old abandoned lot next to the old abandoned factory. The sun beamed off the chrome lining around the town cars’ tinted windows. The scent was coming from the trunk compartment. From the trunk compartment of all of them. The coyote wiggled his nose. No. Just three of them.

His tail wagging, the four-legged traveller raced down the hill, kicking up dirt clouds as he went. He had to be quick! Soon the flesh would rot and be of no use. Once at the foot of the hill he pawed at the first town car, but it was no use. It was locked shut. The delicious meat was trapped in there. He let out a soft whimper and tried his luck at the second car. The same problem occurred.  Then he tried the third. No luck. All of them were locked shut. The coyote somberly realized that he was wasting his time and decided it would be a better idea to head back into the bush before the humans that owned those town cars returned. He could smell them near. They were in the factory…they were predators.

****************************

Four men in suits sat around a long table dead in the center of the old abandoned factory. Each of them were impeccably dressed in Italian designer three piece suits and well-jeweled in gleaming gold and silver. These were tough men. Vicious men. The vast space between them and the rows of shattered windows remained silent, echoing every clink of a Rolex, every face scratch, every shift in a seat.

Donny JeBroni sat at the head of the table. He was the eldest of the four and the head of the infamous crime syndicate. After taking a sip of his water he placed the slender glass down on the table. He picked up his satin napkin and dabbed the bead of sweat rolling down his bald head. His took his time, cleared his throat and then spoke, “Welcome and respect to the three families from the east, west and south, for coming to this monthly congregation. As we all remember, at last month’s meeting I swore vengeance on my enemy, Joey Twinkle Toes. I am happy to announce, as of last Thursday, Joey Twinkle Toes has been whacked.”

Two of the men surrounding him rapt softly on the table, nodding their heads. They approved of this.

Next to Don Donny sat Vinnie Malone of the east side. He was short but built sturdy and strong. After adjusting his tie he leaned in and spoke, “At the last meeting I too vowed vengeance on my enemy—on that no-good rat, Jimmy the Rat. As of this morning, Jimmy the Rat has been whacked.”

Once again the other men rapt on the table gently, nodding their heads. They approved of this also.

Next to Don Vinnie sat Southy Joe from the south. His face was long and thin like the rest of his body. The emerald green suit seemed more draped on him than tailor fitted. His expression of discontent matched the discontent he felt about his tailor’s work. This was not new. Even the highest paid tailor found it a near impossibility to fit his odd angled, slender figure. Many of them had quit, given up. Needless to say, there were a lot of missing tailors in the south. He crouched over the table, eager to for his turn to speak. “And as we all know, I had some problems with my most recent tailor. That Polish hack couldn’t dress a salad! Look at me! Such disrespect! So you know what I did? I strangled him with a wire and then I shot him in the head! Bing! Then I cut him up into little tiny pieces and I buried him in a cornfield!”

The other three stared at Southy Joe, leant in. He looked back at them wondering what they were waiting for. Then it came to him. “Whacked,” he said, rolling his eyes. “He got whacked.”

The three men relaxed, nodded and rapt against the table. They approved.

Donny JeBroni raised his hand for silence and extended his arm towards Willy the Bodybag from the west. “And Willy the Bodybag! What about the vengeance you swore at last month’s meeting?”

Willy the Bodybag adjusted the cufflinks on his brown suit, cleared his throat and pulled in his chair. He ran his ringed fingers through his silver-fox head of hair and spoke in a tone of voice that wasn’t the usual cold, merciless Willy. His voice was lighter now, not timid but very much apprehensive.  “Yes. Um, last week I did do that. I did swear vengeance on my enemy from the competing family in the west, Don Fazool. The truth is, is I saw Don Fazool face to face just the other day. We were both at the orange stand buying oranges. I had the chance to whack him and I didn’t whack him.”

Southy Joe cleaned out his ear with his pinky. “I’m sorry, I must have not heard you so good. Did you say you didn’t whack him?”

Donny JeBroni raised his hand for silence. “Please, Southy Joe. Some respect. Bill Bodybags is a cold-hearted killer. To suggest that he would forego a chance at vengeance is an insult. You must have heard him wrong.”

“No,” said Willy, somewhat embarrassed. “He heard right. I didn’t whack him. He was right there and I didn’t whack him.”

“Why not?” asked Vinnie Malone. “Were you out of bullets? Was it the cops? I hate those fucking cops.”

“Fucking cops…” muttered Southy Joe.

Willy the Bodybag shook his head. “No, I had bullets. Wasn’t the cops either…I just had a change of heart.”

Don Donny looked back at him, lost. “A change of heart? What do you mean ‘a change of heart’?”

“I mean, I changed my mind,” answered Willy. “You see as I was looking over to him, reaching for my gun, I realized something. It occurred to me how many people I’ve whacked over the years to get to where I am. And when I looked inside myself and saw what kind of person I have become…well, it made my stomach turn just a bit. Not with regret, not with remorse; it was like when you’ve eaten the same thing every single day for ten years and one day you decide, that’s it. I never want to eat this again. I’m sick of it. I’m tired and worn from it. It no longer satisfies me. Even the smell is enough to make me nauseous. That’s how I feel about all this whacking.

You see, when I was younger I thought maybe I would have to kill ten, twenty people max to assert my place and be safe from my enemies but, the truth is, it never stops. There’s always someone else that needs to be whacked. They’re out to whack me before I whack them; I’m out to whack them before they whack me. I’ve become a lonely, untrusting and paranoid old man. And all of this leaves me feeling very tired and unfulfilled. Will there ever be a day that I don’t have to look over my shoulder? Will there ever be a day I can stop whacking all these shmucks and settle down? A time where I can enjoy my life rather than fighting for it? A time of peace?”

Vinnie Malone’s face went cautious. “You ain’t going soft on us, is ya, Bodybag?”

“If wanting to live a life free of looking over my shoulder, free of greed and of pride is called soft. Well, it doesn’t sound so bad. It sounds kind of nice actually. In fact, I would be willing to give away my fortunes to obtain it.”

“But if we stop killin’ people, howz we gonna punish those no-good-stinkin’ rats when they go to the cops?” asked Southy Joe.

“Our lifestyle invites all kinds of conflict,” said Willy. “I mean, the cops want to set us up, informants want to give us up for reduced sentences. And so what do we do? We whack the cops and we whack the informants. We whack everybody. The guilt of all the people I’ve whacked just sits right here on my chest and, guys, it’s suffocating. Really.”

“I think Willy the Bodybag is on to something. The more people we kill, the more enemies we make. Maybe, instead of whacking our enemies in the territories we are looking to take over, we can buy them out. And then, if they still refuse, then we whack them.”

“Hey, ya,” said Vinne Malone. He appeared as though he had just had a revelation. “Give them a chance to join us before we whack them! That’s pretty smart, Willy.”

“Yeah,” agreed Southy Joe. “Good plan, Willy! We can expand our numbers and grow our syndicate by buying out the competition. Merging, like corporations! That way we can take over more territories!”

A soft applause went around the table but stopped at Willy the Bodybag.

“That’s not what I was getting at,” said Willy. “Why do we always need to expand? To take over more and more territories? Why is it never enough?”

“It’s simple math,” answered Donny JeBroni. “More territories mean more money rolling in. More money rolling in means more politicians in our pocket, which means the cops ain’t hassling us for putting the drugs and the girls out on the street.”

Vinnie Malone and Southy Joe agreed.

“Okay,” said Willy the Bodybag. “But if we stopped putting drugs and girls on the street we wouldn’t need to worry about the cops, which means we wouldn’t need to pay off politicians which means we would have to spend less money and would be financially secure with less territories.”

Southy Joe pet his pencil moustache. “So then what are we selling if we ain’t selling drugs and girls?”

“How about shoes?” said Willy.

Southy Joe recoiled. “Sorry, I don’t think I hears you right…did you say fucking shoes?”

“Everybody needs shoes,” explained Willy the Bodybag. “And we would be helping people get to where they need to go. We would be a positive contribution to our community.”

Donny JeBroni took a calm sip of his water and placed the glass down. “I think Willy the Bodybag has a point,” he said. “It’s time we focused our efforts away from drugs, guns, prostitution and gambling. These things have poisoned our communities for too long. Familia, destroyed. With our fortune and our political friends we should be investing in a future for the next generation. Things like clean, renewable energy and better schools for the children. And shoes for the people’s feet so that they can walk around the town without stepping on glass or rigid stones.”

“That’s what I’m talking about!” Willy exclaimed.

Don Donny continued on, “Starting immediately our organization will cut our ties in the narcotics business and go completely legitimate. We will make our fortunes by crafting high quality shoes for other legitimate business men like ourselves is. Not one more man shall be whacked, does everyone understand?”

Willy nodded, satisfied. Southy Joe and Vinnie Malone,though reluctant and confused, nodded as well.

“And in closing,” said JeBroni. “I would like to thank Willy the Bodybag for having the bravery and the respect to bring up these issues to the family.”

Willy stood up from his chair and gave a small bow to the Don, Vinnie Malone and Southy Joe. “You have always been reasonable men,” he said. “You won’t regret this, I promise! Thank you and respect to you all. Now I must take my leave. I’m trying out this new thing called Yoga. I hear it really helps center your energies. Ciao.”

And with that, Willy the Bodybag walked out of the old abandoned factory with the weight on his chest lifted and a new hope for the future.

For a moment the other three men sat in silence around the table, casually sneaking peeks at their shoes while they thought the others weren’t looking. Finally, Donnie JeBroni looked up and said, “Someone needs to whack Willy the Bodybag.”

Vinnie Malone and Southy Joe both let out a sigh of relief.

“I was just thinking that,” said Vinnie.

“The guy’s talking about shoes…” said Southy Joe.

The End

Sailor Dee’s Rehab Center for Awkward Adults

When Max is videotaped fiddling with himself at work, it seems the whole world is out to get him. But a trip to the Rehab Center for Awkward Adults might help put things into perspective.

Written by Gregory Patrick Travers

When a video of Max fiddling himself in the staff bathroom of his work showed up on the internet there were many questions to be asked. And while Max had been asking himself things like “Who would put a camera in a bathroom?” and “Is that even legal?” most of the internet was wondering what kind of creeper-pervert would give himself an orgasm while he was on the clock. Max had become somewhat of a celebrity around his city of Vancouver. Everywhere he went he was met with snickers and cold glares of disgust from the people he passed. Some even went so far as to cross the street at the sight of him. Max didn’t have many friends to begin with but with this popular scandal making the rounds it had completely cleared his social schedule. All the servers at Burger Barn that used to say hi now completely ignored him, going out of their way to avoid even the briefest of eye contact. And his boss, Chef Jason, didn’t make it any easier for him. Even in the middle of a complete kitchen white-out he would tease him.

“Nice dick,” Chef Jason would say loudly in Max’s ear. “I’ve watched that video like ten times! It keeps getting funnier! My baby sister has a bigger dick than you!”

Max would hang his head and go back to his work in silence.

One day Max sat on a dock at the peer. His legs dangled off the ledge while he tossed pebbles out into the ocean. As a kid he could never really get them to skip so he just kind of gave up on it. Now he just liked to hear the sound the stone made as it breached the water’s surface. In a way Max envied those stones, sinking down to the unknown depths of the sea, engulfed in its embrace, falling comfortably away from the chaos of the world above. He stared down at the water below; his distorted reflection looked back at him waving back and forth—completely undone.

When he looked up he saw a silhouette of a sailboat approaching, drifting out of the sunset like some painting in a dentist’s office. As it came towards him it seemed to be heading right for him. He pushed off the wood planks and got to his feet. He could see well now. There was a single man at the helm, thin framed and wrapped in a pink striped t-shirt with an exceptionally deep collar. His eyes were as blue as the ocean and his smile was cheerful and inviting. He stood proud with one knee on the nose of the boat, his fists against his hips, looking much like how you would imagine an explorer in the olden days. As the boat pulled up to Max, the sailor brushed the blonde curls from his forehead and dropped the heavy anchor into the shore. He gave an eager wave over to Max who was not quite sure what was happening. “Are you lost?” asked Max. “The marina is over that way.”

The flamboyant stranger smiled and shook his head. “No, Max. I think it is you who is feeling a little lost right now, am I right?”

“Maybe,” Max replied. “But how do you know my name?”

“You’re famous, are you not?” asked the Sailor. “The viral video of you jerkin’ your gerkin’ in the staff bathroom of the Burger Barn?”

Max frowned and looked back down to the water. “Oh. You’re one of them…Look, could you just leave me alone?”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that,” the stranger said. “You see, I’m here for you. And so that being the case, leaving you alone would be quite counterproductive. And to answer your first, rather rude, assumption. No, I am not one of them. I am something much, much better.”

“Are you, like, a lawyer or something?”

The Sailor stuck out his palm and as he shook Max’s hand he introduced himself, “I am Sailor Dee! And I am here to take you with me on a journey to the fourth dimension where resides my ever-enjoyable, always-educational, Rehab Center for Awkward Adults!”

Max scratched the blonde shag on top of his head. “Uh, is this a joke or something?”

Sailor Dee’s smile dropped. “No, it’s not a joke. Now can you hurry up and get in the boat? These people over at the seawall are looking at me like I’m trying to kidnap you and rape you.”

“Those people are looking at me,” Max sighed. He tossed another pebble out into the water.

The Sailor leaned in and whispered, “Max, if you don’t get into this boat right now I swear to beautiful baby Jesus that I will pull up this anchor and beat you to death with it, do you understand me? It is of the utmost importance we get sailing before nightfall.”

“Why’s that?” asked Max.

Sailor Dee huffed, “Because then the day will be gone. And once the day is gone that means a new one is on its way. Today won’t matter anymore.”

“Pff! Says you!” laughed Max. He stepped into the sailboat. “Alright,” said Max. “I’ll go. It can’t be much worse than this.”

The Sailor took the anchor hoisted above his head and placed it gently down on the floor. “Good choice.”

The sun was almost halfway under the horizon when the two of them sailed off into the vast Pacific with nothing but the whoosh of the waves and the squawks of seagulls in their ear while a gentle evening breeze kissed upon their face.

They sailed all night and had come to shore by morning. Max had walked the shoreline many times but didn’t recognize where they were. There were no people, no dogs, there was no litter, no pop cans, no plastic bags or even cigarette butts. The beach sand was pristine and untouched. From there it turned into plush, grassy hills for as far as the eye can see.

“Where are we?” asked Max. “I don’t think I’ve ever been to this part of the beach before.”

Sailor Dee docked the anchor and stepped out onto the sand. He wore white loafers with exposed ankles. “You’ve never been anywhere like this before, pumpkin. You won’t find this place on any fairy tour. Not unless I’m the fairy giving the tour!” He laughed gently at his cleverness.

Max got out of the boat and followed the Sailor up the hill where a large wood cabin stood at the top. The closer that they got to the cabin the more Max got a look at its intricate carpentry and decorative windows. It was something out of an old fairy tale about dwarves and a princess. This was a comforting sight and made Max feel it was less likely this man had brought him here to kill and/or rape him.

As they got even closer still, Max noticed two other people waiting at the circular entrance to the architecture. They both seemed about his age. There was a girl; she was short and stalky, draped in a baggy green sweater with a game controller printed on the center of it. A frizzy, orange mane fell on her shoulders and thick spectacles rested on her freckled button nose. The other was a boy; dark skinned, tall and lanky. The sides of his head were shaved and on top he had long purple bangs that hung over his brow like eye curtains. His T-shirt was black with a white skull in the center and on his wrists were bracelets with spikes coming out of them. Not real metal spikes, plastic ones painted silver.

“It’s about time you got back here,” said the girl, her arms crossed and a pout on her face. “We’ve been bored out of our trees!”

Sailor Dee replied, “I told you I had to get one more, my sweet. This is Max.”

The girl looked Max up and down. “He doesn’t look so awkward,” she said. “But he does look really familiar…” She continued to examine him for a moment but failed to make her desired connection.

Sailor Dee opened up the cabin door and ushered them inside.
Besides a long couch draped with colorful quilts and some chairs around a wooden coffee table, furnishing in the cabin was sparse. A thin layer of dust and settled over the cracked hardwood floor that creaked under their feet as they entered. The dust combined with the beaming sunlight coming in through the window illuminated a soft glow throughout the main sitting room but much of the rest of the cabin remained hidden in shadow.

The girl walked over to the far wall and pulled down a crossbow from the center of a rack that also held a long sword and a spear. “While we were waiting for you we couldn’t help but notice your nice collection of murder weapons,” she said accusingly. “What’s going on here? Do you, like, hunt humans or something?”

Sailor Dee chuckled. “Heavens no, my sweet. Those are not my weapons…they are yours.”

A wide smile broke on the girl’s face. “Really?”

“Come now,” said Sailor Dee, motioning to the chairs around the coffee table. “Take a seat.”

The girl put the crossbow back on the rack and joined Max and the other boy at the table.

Sailor Dee clapped his hands together. “So! Here we are! Welcome to Sailor Dee’s Rehab Center for Awkward Adults! Each one of you has been out casted by your respective social circles. We are here to find out what can be done about that. Before we begin, does anyone have any questions?”

The purple haired boy raised his hand. “Where is this place?”

“You have come to an island of the fourth dimension. For the most part, this island is a beautiful place. Here in the fourth dimension, consciousness and emotion are allowed to run free without the rules and confines of your dimension.”

Max raised his hand. “Well, if this is such a beautiful place then why do we need weapons?”

“It is better to have them and not need them than to need them and not have them,” Sailor Dee replied. “Now why don’t we go around the group and introduce ourselves.” He pointed to the purple-haired boy. “You first.”

The boy sunk in his seat, embarrassed to have been singled out. “I’m Darron. There’s a million reason why the guys in my neighborhood don’t like me. See, in my neighborhood all the guys think they’re real gangsters. They sell coke and smoke weed, I don’t do drugs. They listen to Trap music, I listen to emo. With all the stories in the news recently about kids getting shot by police in America there’s been a real anti-white movement. The call it black unity, but when I didn’t want to protest a bunch of them jumped me. They call me cracker-jacker and Oreo.”

“Oreo?” asked the girl.

Darron sighed. “Black on the outside, white on the inside…Anyway, the only reason I didn’t protest is because we don’t have those problems in our city. Half the cops are black. There’s no racial tension, or at least there wasn’t until all these news stories started coming on the news. But that’s America. There are a lot of things wrong with America. Why are we going to let their problems poison our neighborhood? If we’re going to get mad about that, why aren’t we getting mad about famine in Somalia? Or child soldiers in Africa? There is so much pain all over the world…I just end up blocking everything out and playing video games online at home.”

“Good call,” said the girl.

“Well, I think it was very brave of you to stand up for your beliefs even if it made you unpopular…more unpopular. And this brings us to the first step of rehabilitation.”

“What’s that?” asked Max.

“Never believe that just because it is the popular view that it is the correct view. It has been proven throughout history that this is far from the case. Most people just agree with whatever the popular view is to avoid being singled out or persecuted as you have been. From flat earth theory, to civil rights, to laws on abortion and yes, even homosexuality! There was a point in time where if you were to say something positive about homosexuality you would be hanged! And in today’s world, if you say something negative about homosexuality you would also be hanged; maybe not from a rope, but from the judgements of your peers around you. All the general population has done is switched sides on who they hate.
It is the individual that incites social change, not the general population. The individual stands forward and says he will no longer be part of the way things are. Many agree with him, but do not speak up out of the fear of persecution. The individual is mocked, ostracized and rejected by the “respectful” people of society to the point where the people who share his belief can no longer watch him suffer alone. Inspired by his bravery they join his side.
Then the sympathetic see this and decide that, even if they do not agree with the choices and beliefs of these people, it is better to peacefully disagree than to continue to humiliate them. They too join the other side. It is only after they have become the minority in their hatred that the general population switches sides, playing as if they had been there all along. And so the cycle goes on and on, from the way we see Muslims, to global warming, to even the consumption of meat!”

A small smile broke from Darron’s nervous facade. “Thanks,” he said. “I never really thought of myself as brave before.”

“Is it my turn?” asked the girl, throwing her frizzy ends behind her shoulder.

“Of course, my sweet,” the Sailor smiled.

She took a deep breath. “Okay…I am an outcast because my friends are fucking assholes. All they do is go out every night, get hammered, do coke and have sex with a bunch of random dudes. So I stopped going out with them. I started playing this online game, it’s so cool, it’s called Soul Sniper—“

“Oh, man! I love that game!” Darron blurted out.

“Awesome game,” Amy replied. “Anyway now my friends call me a nerd and a spaz. Like just because I don’t want to piss my life away on coke and booze I don’t matter anymore!”

“Hmmm,” hummed Sailor Dee. “Do you ever miss the social aspect of going out?”

“Not really,” said Amy. “It’s the same thing every night. Getting belligerent, grabbing coke and then sitting there flapping our gums about utter nonsense for hours. I can’t live like that. But it’s not like I don’t talk to people. I talk to the gamers online. They’re funny, we joke around. Everyone except for this one guy D. FenderBender. He’s a real dick!”

Darron’s eyes went wide under the purple curtains hanging over his eyes. “I’m D. FenderBender!” he said. “You’re not AimShort, are you?”

Amy was flabbergasted. “Get the fuck…You’re D. FenderBender?! The avatar that follows me around killing me all the time?!”

Darron gave a goofy giggle. “Yup…”

She scowled. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fantasised about killing you…choking the life from you with my hands around your neck—“

“Whoa, whoa,” Sailor Dee butted in. “What a wonderful coincidence! But let’s not forget about Max over here.” He pointed to Max who stared down at his shoelaces and asked, “What made you an outcast?”

“I’m an outcast because someone put a hidden camera in the staff bathroom of my work and filmed me jerking off.”

Amy’s eyes lit up behind her thick spectacles. “I knew you looked familiar! You’re the jerk off guy!” She laughed. “Damn, dude. You got a small dick.”

Max sighed. “Thanks…”

“You masturbated at work?” asked Darron. He was torn between being disgusted and being intrigued. “Why?”

“Boredom, I guess,” answered Max. “Whenever I work at a job too long I start to get destructive. At the job before this one I started stealing the wine and getting hammered on shift. The job before that one I just stopped showing up. I guess when it really comes down to it: I hate where I am in life. I’ve been working in restaurants for over ten years and I’m sick of it. I hate the work, I hate the shit money, I hate the people…I hate myself for still doing it.”

Sailor Dee thought about it and asked, “But if you don’t like the people you work with then why do you care what they think?”

Max shrugged. “No one wants to be known as the creepy pervert.”

Sailor Dee docked his fists on his hips. “And who says that you’re a creepy pervert? The people who put a hidden camera in a private bathroom and then uploaded a video of you to the internet for everyone to see?”

“He’s right,” said Amy. “You may be weird and you may have a small dick but I would say filming a person jerking off without them knowing and then putting it on the internet is way creepier than the act of jerking off. People jerk off. I have three older brothers. The house is sixty percent cum. They don’t do it at work though, that’s crazy. You need to get laid, man.”

“Oh, fuck you!” Max shot back. “You stay at home and play video games all day. What kind of a life is that?”

“Hey!” yelled Darron. “You don’t talk to her like that!”

“Don’t tell me what to do, asshole!” barked Max. “What about you? With that chick haircut! And who the hell still listens to emo?!”

“Now, now!” the Sailor intervened. “This is a perfect time to introduce the second step of your rehabilitation!” He stepped into the shadows and emerged with a large chalkboard on legs and wheels. He picked up a piece of chalk and began to write.

When he was done, Amy read it out loud, “Mind Ya Business.”

Sailor Dee put down the chalk and dusted off his hands. “Three words that will keep you out of enormous amounts of unnecessary drama. You see, we all have different likes and dislikes, we are bound to disagree with one another eventually. And when this happens you can let it get the best of you or you can…” He tapped against the chalkboard.

“Mind Ya Business,” they answered.

“Very good,” replied Sailor Dee.

“But I was minding my own business,” Darron objected. “That’s why I got jumped in the first place!”

“My friends could use to mind their business,” Amy added.

“Mine too,” agreed Max.

“Controlling the actions of others is a futile cause. This step is not for them. It is for you. Just as you must be free to do things they do not favor, so must they be free to do things that you might not like. Even if that includes judging you.”

Amy’s head retreated into the collar of her sweater like a turtle. “Wow,” she said. “That’s pretty deep.”

“But what happens when they go out of the way to fuck with you?” asked Max. “When they make it so you can’t mind your own business?”

Suddenly there was a shift in light in the cabin as outside the glass the beaming sunlight was suffocated by a stream of troublesome black clouds rolling in. The sky turned cold and grey. Sailor Dee ran over to the window and looked out to the hills. “I was afraid of this…” he said.

The three of them joined Sailor Dee at the window and saw what he saw. Approaching through the valley was a large crowd, they were disgruntled and looking for trouble.

“Who are those people?” asked Darron.

There was a shakiness in the Sailor’s voice when he answered, “They are the bitter army. The bringers of misery. Victims turned agents of the evil King Fearandoubt!”

The crowd was thick and made up of many, men and woman alike. From forty-year old bartenders, to failed musicians, to scorned lovers and many others who never found their happiness.

“What do they want?” asked Max.

“They want to drag you down to the depths of their misery,” said Sailor Dee. “And unfortunately each one of you is at a risk of becoming one of them!”

“What can we do to stop it?” asked Darron frantically.

“The third and final step to your rehabilitation,” said Sailor Dee. “If you want your happiness—you have to be willing to fight for it!”

Max headed for the rack of weapons on the wall.

“Where are you going?” asked Amy.

Max took the crossbow from off the rack. “Sailor Dee is right. If we don’t fight these fucks, we’ll become these fucks! We have to take a stand!”

Amy looked to Darron, “What do you say? Join up for a kill streak?”

Darron smiled. “Let’s do it.”

They took their weapons; Amy the sword and Darron the spear. Max kicked open the door to the cabin and the three of them headed out into the hills towards the crowd—the battle had begun!

One by one the arrows Max flung
Whilst the soldiers of misery kicked and they swung
A spear in Darron’s hand pierced through the lung
Of a woman who’s prudish and mad she’s not young
And Amy’s broad sword jabbed and spilt blood
Of insecure thugs mad at what had not become
And when all had been slayed and the battle was won
They looked down at the bodies, proud of all they had done

From behind them came a slow clap from the soft, slender palms of Sailor Dee. He gazed at the fallen soldiers of misery with a proud smile. “You did not disappoint,” he said.

Amy had a grin cemented to her face. “That was better than any video game I’ve ever played…”

“That felt good,” smiled Darron. “Long overdue…”

Max smiled quietly to himself as if an answer had struck him. “I think I finally know what I need to do…”

********************************

“I quit.”

Chef Jason smiled back at Max, unconvinced. “Yeah, right!”

“I’m serious,” said Max, packing up his clothes from his locker. “I’m done.”

“Is this because of the video?” laughed Chef.

“It’s more than that,” Max replied. “I’m worth more than this shitty job, these shitty people. It’s time I started believing that.”

Chef Jason was speechless. “So…what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know,” admitted Max with relief. “But anything is better than this bullshit.”

“You think this is going to stop the video from going around? I’ve been showing everybody!”

“I don’t care,” grinned Max. “Have fun watching me jerk off with the rest of your faggot friends.”
And with that, he walked out. As he was leaving Chef Jason called out, “Yeah, well, you have the smallest dick I’ve ever seen!”

Max continued on. He didn’t have a snappy comeback and he didn’t get the last word, but all that didn’t matter. Chef Jason, or any chef for that matter, just wasn’t his business anymore. And it felt good.

Outside Amy and Darron sat on the bench while Sailor Dee stood in the sailboat parked in the handicap spot. Their heads perked up when they saw Max approaching. “Did you do it?” asked Amy.

Max nodded.

“How do you feel?” asked Darron.

Max laughed despite himself. “Good, actually…Really good.”

Sailor Dee twirled the keys to his sailboat around his finger. “Well, it seems my work here is done. Does anyone need a ride?”

“I don’t know if that’s gay humor or not, but we’re fine,” said Amy. She smiled at Darron and slid her hand into his. “We’re going to play some Soul Sniper.”

The two of them said goodbye and walked on into the day, hand in hand.

“Well, it looks like they are going to be alright,” said Max. “You think there is someone out there for everybody?”

Sailor Dee smiled, “Sometimes there’s two.”

Max chuckled under his breath. “Alright, Dee. I’ll see ya.”

“Let’s hope not,” said the Sailor. And then he and his sailboat floated off into the sky, further and further until they were completely out of sight.

Max continued to walk through the strip mall parking lot, kicking a small pebble along as he went. On his way he came across a young woman crying on a bench in front of another restaurant. Her head was buried in her palms and her hair hung over her face. “What’s wrong?” asked Max.

She shook her head, still buried in her hands. “I don’t want to talk about it,” she said. “You’ll think I’m gross…”

He sat down beside her. “Try me…”

She sniffled and wiped her nose, running her hands through her hair. She sat up a little straighter now, but still looked down at her shoes. “Fine, fuck it. Who cares, anyway?” she said. “My boyfriend just broke up with me because we were out to dinner and when I came back from the bathroom I told them they had these new gizmos in the toilets in the girls’ bathroom that shot water up into your bottom region when you flushed. Anyway, I told him I stayed in there a little longer than I should have because it felt kinda good and he flipped on me. He was all like, ‘What, I’m not good enough for you? You have to masturbate?” And I’m like, ‘It’s just an orgasm! Masturbating is like shaving my legs. It has nothing to do with love!…I don’t know. I must sound crazy to you…” She started sobbing again and buried her face back into her hands.

Max smiled. “You don’t sound crazy at all.” He extended his palm to shake her hand. “My name’s Max,” he said.

She lifted her head and clumsily brushed her bangs away from her face. When she finally got a good look at Max she smiled, “I’m Jennifer,” she said, shaking his hand. “It’s nice to meet you.”

The End

Timestopper

An inventor and his brother attempt to stop the hands of time in order to save their mother.

Written by Gregory Patrick Travers

Tom Needly stood by his mother’s hospital bed looking down on her frail figure wrapped in thin sheets of cotton. The room was quiet now that the hospital security had made those pesky reporters wait outside the building. Tom thought they acted like Vultures; all trying to get a pick at a wounded piece of meat.

Uncle Maury sat in the chair by the window. He cleared his throat loudly while he flipped through the channels on the in-room television bolted to the ceiling. He stopped at the local news and gave a raspy chuckle between wet coughs. “It’s us!” He said, pointing to the screen where local bronzed-skin newsman Terry Aiden stood at the entrance to the hospital dressed in one of his usual well-tailored suits, holding a long stemmed microphone. Behind him the rest of the vultures had gathered and they looked anxious, waiting for something—or someone, to arrive.

Todd Needly bowed his head and rubbed the bridge of his nose between his thumb and his index finger letting out a long, disgruntled sigh. “Turn it off,” he said.

His uncle appeared deaf to the request, his eyes still locked on the screen, his mouth hanging open in the form of a loose, childish grin. He put down the remote on the coffee table and lent back in his chair. As he did his gut drooped out from his worn “Green Bay Packers” t-shirt and settled over his belt buckle. He looked over to Todd and said, almost teasingly, “I bet they’re talking about your brother…” Then he reached back over to the coffee table with a cough and a grunt, picking up the remote and turning up the volume on the television to drown out the systematic beeps of his sister’s heart monitor. Todd resigned and joined his uncle by the television as Terry Aiden spoke into the camera.

“It has been four years since Alan Shaman, commonly known in the pharmaceutical world as ‘The Shaman’ went into hiding with the promise that when he returned he would have with him an invention so ground-breaking that it would, quote, ‘change the world forever’…”

Uncle Maury pointed to the picture of Alan they had framed on the screen. “You guys really look alike,” he said. He used his pinky finger to dig in his ear like a dog trying to scratch out a flea.

“Everyone says that…” muttered Todd. Their eye’s remained with Terry Aiden on the television as he continued on.

“Shaman is, of course, famous for his work done with corporate pharmaceutical giant PharmTech including, but not limited to the popular “Dat!”; a lovable hybrid of both the feline and canine genome. Shaman was also the engineer of the highly controversial sperm count accelerator “Spackletine”. Although the product highly increased the counts in low-sperm patients it was also responsible for a 10% autism rate which sparked outrage all over America by the families affected. Many people accused Shaman of “playing god”. But, despite the protests and the lawsuits, these scientific discoveries made Alan Shaman the first billionaire ever to come out of Normanview Falls—“

Click! The screen went black. Uncle Maury looked up to Todd who held the remote with a grip so tight the blood had rushed from his palm leaving it a ghostly pale white.

“I guess he’s not in a big rush to get his inheritance then,” Uncle Maury joked.

“I don’t know why he’s even coming back at all,” Todd sighed under his breath. He walked back to his mother and watched her as she slept. A silence hung in the room that seemed to intensify with every beep that came from her heart monitor.

Beep…..beep…..beep….

“Holy shit!” cried Uncle Maury suddenly. Todd’s head sprang up to see Uncle Maury kneeling on his chair looking out the window down towards the hospital entrance, his hands and face pressed against the glass like a fifth grader on a school bus.

“What is it?” asked Todd, quickly coming to see what all the fuss was about.

Outside, the reporters gathered by the entrance began a mad-dash swarm over to a slowly approaching pearl white stretch limousine. From up on the ninth floor it looked more like ants swarming a sugar cube. Uncle Maury looked to his nephew and grinned from ear to ear. Todd jerked away at the sight of his uncle’s yellow stained teeth. “He’s baaaack,” sung Uncle Maury.

Todd hung his head and groaned.

********************************

Alan Shaman took the last sips of his 7 & 7 and placed his rock glass back on the side bar counter of the limousine. The leather seat crunched as he sat back against it. He looked out at the crowd of press trying unsuccessfully to get a glimpse inside the tinted windows and, with a grin, looked over to his driver and said, “Hey, James. You know what would be funny? You should roll down your window and have your dick hanging out so when they come rushing over they get smacked in the face with a creamy old penis!”

The driver’s eyes met Alan’s through the rear-view mirror with his usual solemn expression. “I don’t think so, sir…”

“Aw, c’mon! It’ll be funny!” coaxed Alan.

“I would still rather not, sir,” the driver repeated.

Alan groaned. “Fine! Have it your way. But I’m rolling up the privacy glass on the way home.”

Alan reached over to the door and pressed down on a button. The tinted window that separated the driver from the rest of the limo slowly buzzed upwards until the driver could no longer be seen. He grabbed his Ray Ban sunglasses sitting by the ice bucket and put them on. “Okay,” he sighed. “Let’s do this…”

As the back door to the limo swung open the mob of reporters came swarming over followed by their camera man and photographers trying to hurry the best they could while lugging their heavy hardware with them. “Mr. Shaman! Mr. Shaman!” They cried over the harsh clicks and whooshes of pictures being snapped. The flashes lit up the front steps of the hospital as if it were the red carpet at the Oscars.

Alan put on his widely publicized magazine cover smile as he moved through the crowd, up the steps to the hospital entrance. At the top of the steps he turned to them and said, “Thank you all for coming! It’s great to be back home.” His smile remained wide and stiff.

Paula Jean from the Normanview News called out, “Alan, where have you been?”
Donald Jacobs from Channel 8 yelled, “Is it true about the rumors that you have been collaborating with the military?”

Terry Aiden stood at the front of the pack, “Alan, can you tell us anything about the new invention you’ve been working on?”

Alan put his hands up, signaling the crowd for silence. The crowd obliged.

“Yes, it’s true!” said Alan. “It’s true that I have been collaborating with the government and, while the details of the project are still classified, I can tell you that this invention will forever change the world we live in. This invention will be my legacy!”

The crowd of reporters came back at him with an onslaught of inaudible barks and hollers as he entered the hospital. They chased him all the way to the front entrance where they were stopped by two security guards who looked almost frightened by the mob. After all, Normanview Falls was a small town and rarely saw such excitement within its borders.

**********************************

Back in the hospital room Todd Needly’s head looked up to see his wife, Maggie, come rushing into the room holding little baby Thomas close to her breast. Behind her followed his thirteen year old daughter Julia who dragged her feet as she walked, a droopy pout hanging from her face.

“I’m so sorry,” Mrs. Needly said to her husband. She wrapped her free hand around his neck and stroked his hair lovingly. “I came as soon as I got your message. Is she okay?”

“The doctor says she’s stable for now,” answered Todd. He looked over to his daughter sulking by the bathroom, kicking up imaginary dust. “What’s the matter with Julia?”

His wife rolled her eyes. “She was supposed to go to the mall with Steve today, so she’s upset. Were we that selfish when we were kids?” She motioned to baby Thomas. “Can you take him?”

Little Thomas squirmed and whined as Mrs. Needly handed him off to his father but soon, with a little rocking, went back to the comfort of sucking on his pacifier. Mrs. Needly took off her trench coat and hung it on the coat rack. She pulled down on her sweater which had been slowly riding up her stomach while she was holding Thomas and gave herself a quick pat down to remove food, formula, or any other foreign objects that seem to magically appear among the company of small children. You wouldn’t know it by her tangled hair or the stress bags forming under her eyes but in high school, when her and Todd had started dating, Maggie was one of the most sought after prizes in all of Normanview Falls. Now it was her thirteen year old daughter, Julia, who was quickly growing into a beautiful young woman. Something that her father was less than ready to admit.

“Hey there, Maggie,” said Uncle Maury from his seat.

“Hey, Maury,” she returned, forcing a smile the best that she could. “I’m so sorry. Are you alright?”

Uncle Maury responded with an empathetic nod and turned his attention back outside the window. Suddenly his eyes became wide as, through the reflection in the glass, he saw a familiar figure enter the room. A grin spread across Uncle Maury’s face. He turned around from the window to see his billionaire nephew at the doorway. By this time the other members of the family had noticed his presence also.

Alan stared back at them behind his Ray Bans wearing the same magazine cover smile he gave the reporters outside. “Well, don’t all say hello at once…”

Todd lifted his eyes from where his mother lye and met eyes with his brother but only for a quick second before his eyes sank back downward. “Hey, Alan,” said Todd, his eyes locked on his mother. “It’s good to see you…”

“Take of those sunglasses,” said Uncle Maury. “You’re inside. It’s rude.”

Alan chuckled softly and removed his Ray Bans. “Good to see you, Maury. I see you haven’t changed.” He shifted his focus to Julia standing by the bathrooms with her arms crossed. He gave a small wave to which she returned with a quick smile, gone as soon as it arrived. “Wow,” said Alan, now looking over to Maggie. “Her fake smile is almost as good as yours.”

Maggie’s hair fell on her shoulders as she tilted her head and smiled, the grip on her husband’s arm seemingly tightening. “Good to see you again,” she said. “It’s been a long time.”

“I was wrong,” said Alan, his grin stretching upward. “Yours is still much more convincing.” But Maggie didn’t hear him or at least that is how she made it seem.

Alan’s eyes shifted to his mother under the covers of the hospital bed. Tubes stuck out of her arms connected to the multiple blinking, buzzing machines that surrounded her. His smile was gone now. He walked over to the bed and looked down at his mother. He couldn’t help but notice how much she had aged since they had last seen each other. It made his stomach turn just a bit. Four years was a long time to be away. He lifted up her hand, tied with a bulky pulse reader, and held it. It scared him a little. He felt that all it would take would be one hard squeeze and her frail bones would turn to dust. The skin sagged between her fingers like a bat wing, veins and spots made her skinny arms look like a road maps. It was not the same hand he used to hold as a child; the hand that would keep him safe when they crossed the street, the hand that would hand him presents on Christmas morning and smile as she watched him with a look of excitement on her face that would match, if not trump, his own. It was the same hand that smacked him in the face the first time he ever told her to fuck off. She had struck fear into him that day. But she was not scary anymore. She was sick. She was dying.

He watched as her chest struggled to expand and then collapsed. He met eyes with Todd at the other side of the bed and, for a moment, the confident facade and dropped from Alan’s face and he was just the little boy looking to his older brother for answers. Though he was hard pressed to admit it, Alan always envied Todd’s ability to stay calm when things went wrong. Todd gave him a reassuring nod. Though they had their fights, though they disagreed on practically everything—they were family.

Beep…..beep….beep….

“I need to talk to you,” said Alan to his brother. Uncle Maury’s and Maggie’s eyes darted in their direction. “…in the hallway,” he finished. Alan’s confident facade had returned.

****************************
Out in the hallway Alan pulled his brother to the confines of the water fountain. His eyes darted all around looking for any press that had managed to slip through security. Maybe they were impersonating visitors. Maybe they were impersonating doctors. But there was no one around, except for an old lady with a walker about a hundred meters away at the service desk. She didn’t seem to pose any harm.

Todd pulled himself from Alan’s grip. “What’s all this about?”

Alan looked at his brother, his eyes glimmered as he said, “I think I can save her.”

“Who? Mom?”

Alan nodded eagerly.

Todd laughed it off. “You’re not a doctor, Alan. You’re a circus pharmacist at best…”

Alan’s ears started get red, as they did when he was upset. “I’m going to forget you said that,” he said. “Especially when I tell you what I’ve been working on all these years.” His eyes widened as he indulged the dramatic pause and then, finally, he said, “Todd…I found a way to stop time.

By this point Todd had dealt with just about enough. “What the hell are you talking about?” he asked. As quick as he did, he regretted it. When it came to Alan, Todd usually ended up sorry he encouraged him.

But Alan was not one to be deterred by skepticism. “Time is movement, right? There is twenty four hours in a day which is an equal division of the time it takes the earth to complete one full rotation. And a year is measured by the time it takes the earth to revolve around the sun. But what if you could stop the movement? If you could do that than you could stop time. You could remove yourself from the current of the universe and remain in that same moment—forever. And guess what?…”

Todd couldn’t help but bite. He always bit. “What?”

“We created a program…a system of satellites rather, that could do just that. Stop the hands of time!”

It was such an unbelievable proposal and yet, coming out of Alan’s mouth, Todd had a hard time doubting it. Still, he tried his best. “You can’t just stop time.”

Todd’s pessimistic attitude was nothing new to Alan. He was ready with a response before Todd’s contradiction had even left his lips. “Yes, we can. We did already. Once. For twenty-four hours.”

Todd’s curiosity once again got the better of him. “You did? And what happened?”

Alan bowed his head and bit his lip. “You, uh, remember those earthquakes and tsunami’s that fucked up Fukushima?”

Todd shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Are you saying you caused the nuclear disaster at Fukushima?”

Alan shrugged innocently. “Well, something has to be said for the poor planning of the Japanese. I mean, have you ever looked at Japan on a map? The last place you should be putting a nuclear power plant is on that little turd in the ocean.”

Todd let out a tense sigh. “Jesus Christ, Alan…”

Alan’s fingers beat against Todd’s chest. “But it works! Everyone on earth got one more day of life thanks to us.”

“And how many people had to die for that?” asked Todd.

Alan put his hand up apologetically. “Okay, yeah. There were some casualties. But Todd, we can save mom’s life! And none of us would ever age, or grow old, or even die!”

Todd stood silent. Despite his moral objections to the consequences of his brother’s actions, the thought of saving his mother from death could not be ignored. But there was something else. “You know how many nights I wished that I could stop my daughter from growing up? Julia used to adore me. Now she just puts up with me. Soon enough she’ll meet a guy, get married…she won’t need me anymore.”

“We can stop all that,” Alan said. “And save mom in the process.”

“So…How do we do this?” Todd asked. He was embarrassed for even humoring the idea.

“The control center is not too far from here. If we take the jet we can get back in twelve hours, tops.”

“Alright, fine!” Todd broke. “But we have to be quick.”

*****************************

Todd stared out the window of Alan’s private jet looking down at the cotton candy clouds. It was calm and peaceful up there alone in the sky. People didn’t even exist from that height. A sharp jingle in his ear brought Todd back to reality. He darted his head away from a rock’s glass filled with two fingers of aged scotch and ice. Alan gave it one more little shake for good measure. Todd could not resist. He took the offering and sat back in his seat. He stirred the drink carefully in his hand. Smelling it. Savoring it. “Haven’t had one of these in a while,” he admitted.

“Seriously? It’s the drink of the Shamans. But I guess you’re not a Shaman anymore, huh?”

“I only took the Needly name because the press wouldn’t leave me alone. Not to mention the protesters showing up at our door. What about you? Are you even a Shaman anymore? We haven’t seen you around in over six Christmases and God knows how many Thanksgivings. We don’t even set a place for you anymore.”

Alan rolled his eyes. “Oh, please. What am I really missing anyway? Everyone sitting around twiddling their thumbs, relying on baby Thomas to do something cute to take attention off the fact that we have nothing to say to each other? Or Uncle Maury’s endless lectures on all the reasons I’m not a real man. Like, Jesus Christ, I’m a billionaire! I’m sorry I don’t know how to build a fucking birdhouse! I’m out here making real change in the world!”

Now it was Todd’s turn to roll his eyes. “Oh yeah, the Dat was a real important scientific discovery. Forget AIDS and cancer; let’s make a cat-dog.”

“It was important!” Alan shot back. “Cat people and Dog people have been at war for years! I created the bridge to peace!”

“Yeah, you’re a real Gandhi when it comes to pets,” Todd snickered, gulping the rest of his whiskey.

Alan’s ears started to get hot. “Yeah, well, only one of us has his own private jet, so…”

Todd slammed his rocks glass down into the cup holder. “That’s always what it comes down to doesn’t it? You have money and I don’t!”

Alan became defensive. “Hey, it’s not my fault you stayed in Normanview. You had all the same advantages that I did.”

“I stayed in Normanview to be close to my family! Because family means something to me!” He gave a short, broken laugh. “And what really gets me is I know you’re still mom’s favorite. And you were a horrible son to her. As a kid you gave her nothing but grief and as an adult you are practically non-existent. And she still talks about you like you’re this—this—this perfect guy! But you’re not perfect, Alan. Not even close.”

Alan gazed down at the quickly melting ice cubes in his glass. His eyes remained there as Todd waited for one of his usual smart ass replies…but there was nothing.

********************************

As the jet touched down Todd got a glimpse of the compound through the window. It was a cold steel octagon in the middle of the wavy grasslands. Besides the armed guard at the entrance-way, there was no one for miles and miles. He started to fidget, rubbing his knuckles and tapping his feet. “I don’t know about this Alan,” he said. By this time he was almost squirming in his seat.

Alan laughed like he had seen this before. “Will you relax?” he said. “It’s no problem.”

Todd let out a long sigh of relief. “So, I’m allowed in with you then.”

Alan laughed even harder. “No, not at all. This is federal top secret shit. They’ll kill you.”

They exited the jet, clanking down the steel steps. Todd’s eye’s remained fixed on the guard. The more he tried not to look, the more he ended up looking. He leaned into his brother and whispered to the back of his head. “So what the hell are we supposed to do?”

“Remember when we used to sneak into movies at the Cineplex on Winfield?”

Todd’s face scrunched up. “The ticket drop? Are you insane?”

Alan continued down the stairs, unmoved. “What’s the problem?” he asked. “I drop the ticket and you follow me in.”

Todd began to lecture him in a whisper, “That was a movie theater! This is a federal top-secret research lab!”

Alan couldn’t help but crack his famous cocky grin. “Tomato, tomato,” he said. “Besides you look just like me. These guys can’t tell the difference, they’re fucking jar-heads.”

“We do not look alike,” said Todd, offering up one final contradiction. They were on the final stretch now, there was no going back. The guard seemed to have his eyes locked on Todd. Does he know? Todd wondered. Can he hear my heart racing? Even when he looked away he could feel the guard’s eyes staring at him, burning a hole through his back. Alan swiped his card and was welcomed with the green light over the swipe pad. The doors parted open and he walked in. Todd looked to the guard. The guard looked back at Todd. In his peripherals Todd could see Alan’s access card lying among some pebbles and weeds.

“Excuse me, sir,” said the guard. His voice was commanding and sharp.

Todd gulped. “Um…yes?”

The guard took two steps forward and bent over. When he re-aligned he was holding Alan’s access card in his hands. He looked at the picture on the ID, then back at Todd. After what seemed to Todd like a year of silence the guard said, “You dropped your card, sir.” He handed it to Todd and returned to his post.

Todd nodded respectfully, trying to pass off his shaking legs as him just being cold. “Thank you,” he said, blowing into his fist and rubbing his hands together. He swiped the card and light went green. The door parted opened and Todd entered the fortress. There stood Alan, waiting for him, wearing that cocky grin like he knew there had been nothing to worry about the whole time. Just like he used to at the Cineplex.

The door closed behind them. Now they were in a long hallway; white, glaring. It was narrow and empty. Their steps echoed as they walked. They passed two doors on the way, both Alan ignored. But when they reached the third door he stopped and put his hand on the gold plated handle. As he gently pushed it open he said, “Welcome…to Jurassic Park.”

Inside the room were more white walls. In the center a long white table held up multiple radar screens and hubs with blinking buttons, switches and L.E.D. lights. At the foot of the table, at each end, there was a pedal. And above each pedal, just below the table’s ledge, there was a lever saluting upwards.

“So, it’s pretty easy,” said Alan. “We step on the foot pedal, pull down on the lever and boom, time stops.”

Todd took a deep breath, staring down the lever. “Okay,” he said. “Let’s do it.”

The two of them took their places at each end of the table. Alan stepped on his pedal
first. Todd followed. Alan then reached for his lever and that’s when Todd cried, “Wait! Stop!”

Alan took his hand off the lever. “What? What is it?”

Todd took his foot off the pedal. “We can’t do this,” he said. “It’s not right.”

Alan stepped off his pedal. “What are you talking about, man? We’re going to save mom’s life! I thought you were up for this? I thought you wanted to keep Julia your daughter for a little longer?”

“Julia will always be my daughter,” said Todd. “Sure, I wish she needed me a bit more and I wish she said “I love you” as much as she used to…but at what cost? You said the last time you used this thing you caused earthquakes and tsunami’s…You caused Fukushima!”

“Yeah, but that’s in Japan!” was Alan’s rebuttal. “We’ll be safe!”

“That’s not the point!” Todd exclaimed. “Just because it’s not you who is getting fucked over, doesn’t make it right! Japanese people have families too! They have mothers they care about too! What makes us more special than them? I don’t want to lose mom either, okay? But are we going to stop the whole world from turning just so we can have our way?”

“Yes!” shouted Alan.

“Why?!” shouted Todd.

“Because you’re right!” Alan yelled with a volume that climaxed their back and forth. The statement seem to knock the wind out of them both, for Alan admitting Todd was right was something that in all their years together had never taken place. When Alan spoke again he seemed weaker, exhausted even, from his admission. “You’re right,” he repeated. “I am a shitty son. I was never around, I never called…God, I don’t even know when’s mom birthday is. Whenever she would call me I would always be in a rush to get back to my work. Now it’s too late and I can’t take it back. That’s why I wanted to stop time, Todd. So I could spend some time with her. So I could give her back some of the love that she gave me.”

Todd had not seen tears fall from his brothers since he fell of his bike in the forest when they were just kids. But even after all the years that had passed Todd’s reaction didn’t change. He walked over to his little brother and brought him into his chest, hugging him. “You can’t change the past, Alan.” He said. “But there is still a family waiting for you in Normanview. That never changed, Alan. That never changed.”

Just then Todd’s cell phone began to vibrate in the breast pocket of his sports jacket. He let go of his brother and took it out. It was Maggie. He answered, “Hey, baby. What’s up?”

“Where the hell are you?” his wife asked frantically from the other end.

Todd took a look around at the radar screens and blinking hubs. “I don’t even know,” he replied.

“Well, you better hurry up and get your asses back here. Your mom just had another stroke. The doctor says she’s barely hanging on. Todd…she can be gone any minute.”

“We’re on our way,” said Todd. “Just hold on!” He hung up the phone and turned to Alan. “Mom had another stroke. She’s not expected to recover…”

Alan’s face become hot and his fists clenched. He spun around and punched the wall as hard as he could. “Fuck!”

***********************************

The elevator doors had barely begun to open before Alan squeezed his way through and raced down the hallway of the hospital towards his mother’s room. Todd was there close behind him. At the end of the hallway the rest of the family waited; Uncle Maury, Julia and Maggie rocking little baby Thomas in her arms. And there was one more person: A man in a lab coat talking to Uncle Maury by the door to their mother’s room that was now closed. Alan’s heel squeaked against the floor as he came to a hard hockey stop. Maggie ran to her husband and threw her free arm around his neck. She sobbed into his chest.

“Where is she?” demanded Alan.

“Calm down, Alan,” said Uncle Maury. His tone was soft and nurturing. Alan knew something was very wrong.

“Where is she?!” he repeated, increasing his intensity. He was starting to shake now. The room was starting to spin. A hand came towards him; it belonged to the man in the lab coat. Alan swatted it away and pushed open the door to his mother’s room.

Inside the room was now silent. The machines had stopped buzzing, the lights had stopped blinking and the heart monitor had stopped beeping. In the corner of the room his mother laid in the bed, under the sheets. She looked up at the ceiling, her eyes closed in peaceful rest. He thought back to the Christmas mornings as a child when he would barge into her room and jump on her until she woke up and took him by the hand to the tree downstairs. But this time she wasn’t waking up. She was never waking up ever again. He dropped to her bedside and a stream of tears rolled freely down his cheeks, the bed sheet crinkled and creased in the locked grip of his fists. “I’m sorry, mom,” he cried. “I swear to God, I’m so sorry! I should have been here! I should have been with you!….I’m so sorry, ma…”

A hand on his shoulder pulled him up from his knees; it was the same hand that picked him up whenever he would fall off his bike as a kid. A hand that no amount of money, no amount of press and no amount of success had ever replaced the need for. He heard the calming voice of his big brother behind him, “It’s okay, Alan. It’s okay…”

*****************************************

After the funeral Todd gave Alan a ride back to the landing strip where his private jet was waiting.

“So you’re not upset that Julie is going to continue to get older? Y’know, ‘find someone’ and all that?” asked Alan.

“I think I can live with it,” said Todd. “I’m kind of excited actually. I have about a decade of scaring the shit out of a bunch of horny boys ahead of me. It won’t be so bad. What about you? What’s next for the famous Alan Shaman?”

“I have a few things left to take care of on this government contract,” said Alan. “But when it’s up I think I’m going to take a little break. I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving in ages…Think you could set a spot at the table for me this year?”

Todd smiled. “You sure? Even with Uncle Maury undervaluing your manhood?”

Alan returned a smirk. “Ah, he’s not so bad.”

Todd put his hand out. “So, I guess this is goodbye?”

Alan put his hand into his brother’s and shook it. “Let’s call it: see ya later.”

The End

Retarded

Two slackers plan to use a boy with savant syndrome to help then steal an original copy of Amazing Fantasy #15

Written by Gregory Patrick Travers

A pair of stubby, blistered hands hovered over the keyboard at the computer hub of the Central Library. Eight fingers and two lazy thumbs were arched at the ready and yet…they did not move. Brett Furlong watched the blinking text bar flashing back at him from the monitor, prompting for an e-mail address. He glanced to his left where sat a scruffy old native man. The beaten-looking man mumbled to himself, his head buried low into his chest and his keyboard untouched. He hadn’t even logged in. Then he looked to his right, where sat a young man watching a Jonas brother music video. He had a blank stare and a goofy smile. There was something off with him; Brett just couldn’t put his finger on what. His bloodshot eyes shifted back to the blinking bar on the monitor prompting him for an e-mail address. Then he looked down to his hands hovering over the keyboard, afraid to begin, for if he started he knew that he would be one of them–the public internet crowd. Ugh. What a bunch of freaks. How had he ever gotten so low as to be among the likes of them?

No time for that now, he thought. Just get this over with and get the fuck out of here!

His fingers went to work.

USERNAME: sexmachine69@gmail.com
PASSWORD: bigtitties

Brett scratched his bald head. With the exception of a few lonely hairs looking like cacti in the desert, its surface was as smooth and glowing as a lane in a bowling alley, wrapped around its sides was a patch of dark stubble that looked like worn Velcro. His free hand rubbed motherly on his rumbling gut. He felt old. There was no question that the sexually adventurous rock star persona of his youth had long since decomposed, leaving this loose lump of hair and skin in its wake. The boy that spawned that sultry handle was dead and gone. And even though Brett new he was long overdue for an e-mail address update, even though he knew that sexmachine69@gmail.com was not helping him in the job market…he never changed it.

Why, you ask? Well, as stupid as it may sound to you, that handle was the only lasting testament to his lustful, exuberant youth. A time in his life he desperately yearned to relive. But here he was: The band, split. The girl, gone. Hair, gone. Life, shitty. If he did get a new e-mail address, no one would ever remember that fun loving goof who could play the shit out of a guitar and go shot for shot with the best of them. That boy, that…sexmachine69, would be lost forever, buried in the ever falling sands of time. Today would not be that day. Brett had more important business to attend to.

Upon signing in he was greeted with a new message notification from Tinder. Its subject read Congratulations, Brett! You have a new match!

Matches for Brett now and days were rare. And when they did occur he usually wasn’t very happy with the results. He had imagined that if he threw out a big enough net and liked as many photos as possible, that he was likely to catch a greater number of fish. But sadly, most of the fish he caught were ones that he was eager to give back to the sea.

But not this one. She was something else.

Arlene. She had this free spirited, party girl thing about her. But also she looked innocent, like the partying hadn’t got the best of her yet. He couldn’t quite nail down her nationality though. She looked mixed. Maybe Asian/white or black/Mexican…but she was flawless. Once again his fingers went to work.

> Hey Arlene! Look at us—we matched!!

Brett stared at the screen for a moment…Delete. Delete.

Maybe just Hey to start, he decided.

He typed the three letters, said one last goodbye to Arlene’s beautiful, racially ambiguous face and logged off from Tinder, heading quickly to his Royal Bank online banking account. There, another homepage prompted him for his card number and password. No matter how many times he punched in his account number, he never did manage to memorize it. He sat there, his eyes darted at the card in his hands, clicking away at the keyboard, sounding more like the second hand on a grandfather clock than a human typing on a computer. Once passed the security questions, he hastily transferred twenty dollars from his savings into his checking account so he could grab a few after work joints. Tonight he was getting high but, with any luck, tomorrow he’d be getting laid.

*****************************************

The next day, after he clocked out, Brett headed straight back to the library to see if Arlene had replied. He was in such a rush that he didn’t even change out of his steel toes and dusty work cargo’s. As he opened the door into the mezzanine he heard someone behind him say, “Brett Furlong? Is that you?”

He could see the man’s reflection in the glass. It was a scene kid no doubt; the tight jeans, the vintage rock shirt with the name of the band that they don’t listen to, the leather jacket and of course, the wool toque. Brett just couldn’t identify with the kids who thought looking like a cat burglar was hip. But underneath all the trend and fashion, there was a face that he recognized. But who was it?

The monochromatic stranger stretched his arms out, his tiny, pale wrists shooting out of the sleeves on his leather jacket as he boasted, “It’s me! Steve Collins! From high school!”

Brett looked him up and down. Steve Collins? Steve the dweeb? Could it really have been him? After all, Steve had been quite the loser in those days. Then Brett became suddenly aware of how much he had changed himself over the years. While Steve had been losing his gut, Brett had been putting one on. While Steve had been growing out his hair, Brett had been shedding his. And while Steve was looking sharp and fashionable, Brett looked like an old Polish painter. It seemed as though the two of them had swapped destinies. Brett had not been the kindest to Steve in those years, now he was a little embarrassed by it. It was hard to look him eye to eye but, out of pride, he did.

“Oh, hey Steve,” said Brett. “Long time, huh?”

Steve’s smile grew wider. “I know!” He laughed. “Wow. You…You look different.”

Brett let out a heavy sigh, his gut sunk over his waistband. “Yeah, I know.”

Steve’s eyes blew open like he had just remembered he left the stove on. “Hey, you want to go grab a coffee and catch up real quick?

Brett thought about Arlene’s reply waiting for him on Tinder. He bet it was something cute like Hey or Hey, winky face. “I don’think so,” said Brett. “I have to get some work done.”

Steve pressed on. “Aw, come on. You can’t be that busy. Just a quick one. I know a place around the corner.”

It was strange to Brett that Steve was so intent on catching up. They were hardly friends in high school. Brett was in a popular rock band and Steve watched anime and did math. But he agreed anyway, feeling sorry for the way he had treated Steve in the past. Maybe, he thought, An act of kindness might help turn around his karma, if there ever were such a thing.

Once inside the coffee shop Brett turned to Steve in the line and asked, “So, why were you at the library?”

“Research,” said Steve with a grin. “So, you still in that band?”

“No,” answered Brett. “We split up a few years ago.”

“That’s too bad,” said Steve. “You guys were good.”

“Thanks,” Brett replied.

“So, what are you up to these days?”

Brett pointed to his chalky steel toed boots. “Construction. You?”

Steve opened his mouth to speak, but just as he did the barista shouted, “Next in line, please!”

Brett turned to her. “Hey, can I get a small medium. No room.”

“$2.50,” she answered.

Brett removed his debit card from his wallet and the barista handed him the machine. He looked over his shoulder quickly as he punched in his password and then handed it back to the girl at the counter. “I’m sorry, it didn’t go through,” she said. The machine gave that embarrassing shrill buzz of a denied transaction as the receipt printed out.

“Impossible,” said Brett. He tried again, holding on to the device this time in case the girl had been doing something to mess with it. The buzz came again and ‘Insufficient funds’ flashed on the screen as another denied receipt spewed out of the machine.

“Everything okay?” asked Steve, poking his head over Brett’s shoulder.

“Yeah,” said Brett. He looked up at the cashier and winced. “Sorry, can we just try one more time?”

By now the line was starting to grow and people were beginning to become restless and annoyed. To be safe, Brett used his savings account this time. He knew there was still seven hundred and fifty dollars in that account. But again “Insufficient funds” flashed on the screen. Another receipt buzzed out mockingly.

Steve’s arm came from behind and dropped a ten dollar bill on the counter. “Make that two and keep the change, darling,” he said with a wink.

“Wow,” said the barista. “Thank you, mister!”

By the time the two of them sat down, Brett was starting to panic. “There has to be some mistake,” he said. “I know I have money it that account.”

Steve reached into the inner breast pocket of his leather jacket and pulled out a small pile of crisp tens and twenties, neatly stacking them on the table. “What’s that?” asked Brett.

“That is seven hundred and fifty dollars. It’s what was in your savings account. Well, seven hundred and forty dollars now, after the coffee’s and the big tip you gave the cashier.”

Brett leaned back in his chair, “What are you talking about? How do you know how much was in my savings account?”

“I robbed you,” Steve replied. “This is your money. That’s why your card got rejected.”

Brett’s lips sunk into a frown and his eyes became cold and angry. He leaned in and grabbed Steve by the collar, twisting the shirt with his fist. “Listen, Steve the dweeb,” he growled. “You better start making sense—and quick!”

Some of the other patrons had started to look over to their table. Steve offered them a reassuring smile and a friendly chuckle. “It’s okay,” he said. “My friend is just extremely caffeine sensitive.” Brett let go and Steve tried to press out the wrinkles on his collar with his hand unsuccessfully. When he had given up he looked up to Brett and said, “Come with me. There’s someone I want you to meet…And take that money off the table before people start to think we’re coke dealers.”

*****************************

When they returned back to the library Steve led them to the study tables right by the computer labs and they sat down. “So, where’s this person you want me to meet?” asked Brett. Steve pointed over to the computers, where the same young man that sat beside him the day before sat watching that same Jonas brother video with the same glazed look on his eyes and that droopy smile. “Him?” asked Brett, in more of an absurdity than a question. “Isn’t he…y’know…one of those “special” people?”

“Oh, he’s special alright,” said Steve. “But you meant: is he retarded? And the answer to that is yes. Very. But, like a Transformer, there is more to him than meets the eye.”

Brett stared blankly back at Steve.

“Okay,” Steve said finally, shooting off a couple of finger guns. “Have you ever seen Rain Man?”

Brett perched up in his seat now that there was a familiar topic. “That movie with Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman?”

Steve’s eyes lit up. “Yeah, yeah!” he nodded. “You know it…So remember when Tom Cruise figures out that even though Dustin Hoffman is retarded he has an amazing ability for retaining information? Like numbers? And then they go to Las Vegas to count cards?” Brett nodded fondly and Steve continued full barrel, “That’s what is called ‘Savant Syndrome’, which is basically the case in where, though most of the parts of the brain that make us our social selves are inactive in these people, another part of the brain, one that us ‘normal’ folk do not have access to, is awakened.”

Brett was started to gain interest. He pulled his seat closer and asked, “What kind of part?…of the brain.”

Steve shrugged. “It’s different all the time. Kim Peek; the guy that Dustin Hoffman’s character is based on had the unique ability of increased memory. He could memorize everything! Books! People’s conversations! Black Jack cards!”

“No shit, eh?”

Steve continued on, “This other guy, Stephen Wiltshire, took a helicopter ride over the city of London and when he got back home he drew an identical image of the view from the ‘copter. Every building, every street, ever car, every lamp post…it was fixed to memory.” Then he pointed to the young man at the computer. “Wally over there has his own mutant powers. Much like Peek, he can retain information at lightning fast speeds; reading lips, counting keys, counting cards—“

“Get the fuck of out of here,” whispered Brett with childish excitement. “So, have you, like, taken him to Vegas? Like in the movie?”

“Unfortunately that Scientologist bastard ruined it for the rest of us. I’d be outed the second I brought Wally into one of those places. But here, at the library, people don’t give a fuck. And that’s how we cash in. Everyday people come here to use the computers; they enter e-mail addresses, passwords, credit card numbers—all of it!”

It suddenly hit Brett like a punch in the face. “Are you saying…that guy stole my banking information when I came in here yesterday?”

Steve leaned in and whispered, but his eyes looked like they were going to pop out of his skull. “That’s exactly what I’m saying.”

Brett found it hard to hold onto his anger. After all, the story was so crazy…it was kind of cool. He found himself wanting to know more. “So, how much have you, y’know, made off him?”

Steve darted back, offended. “Made off him? Brett, I’m not his pimp. I’m not his slave master. He makes forty bucks a week. His mom thinks I give him it to help around the house with chores and learn responsibility, bullshit like that.”

“His mom?”

“Yeah, I’m his Big Brother. I signed up thinking it would be good for my resume…but now that I have Wally, why would I work? This is my job. And it fucking pays.”

Brett ran his hands across the smooth surface of his head, taking it all in. “How did you…how did you discover this?”

“I was logging into my PornHub account, I like to troll the message boards, and I typed in my password. That’s when Wally, at the other end of the couch, shouts out my password at the top of his lungs! While his mom was right downstairs! It wouldn’t have been so bad had the password not been so vulgar.”

“What was the password?”

Steve grinned. “The same as your e-mail password.”

“bigtitties?”

Steve nodded. “Yes. It was bigtitties.”

“Wait a second,” said Brett, his index finger up for pause. “Are you telling me you were on PornHub when you were supposed to be babysitting a dude that’s mentally challenged?”

Steve was again put on the offensive. “Mentally challenged? That kid is a fucking super hero! He’s a cash cow! You’re missing the point, *cough*, uh, to the story…What I was trying to say is…I want to offer you a job. It pays $10,000.”

Brett’s ears perked up like a dog hearing the jingling of a leash being taken off the rack. “What exactly are we talking about here?”

Steve took the green light and began to lay it all down, “The other day Wally was doing his usual run of the labs when this guy sits down beside him and logs into his e-mail. He’s nothing special, generic chubby bald guy—no offense—Later, when I got the codes from Wally, I wasn’t even going to bother checking his account. Guys like him usually have inboxes filled with final notices from collection agencies and Craigslist reply notices from transvestites. Anyway, I’m glad I checked because this guy was the fucking whale of all fucking whales. You ready for this? Right now he is in a bid war for an original copy of Amazing Fantasy #15. I know what you’re thinking: how does a fat bald guy like that have the money to bid on such a rare and expensive comic book?—again, no offense. Well, I dug a little deeper into his e-mails and found a whole bunch of condolence messages from relatives and friends. His mom died and she left him a butt-load of money. I went through the insurance e-mails and everything. Instead of investing the money in GIC’s or RRSP’s or even a high interest savings account, he’s chosen to invest in an original print of one of the most influential comic books of our time!… We’re going to steal it from him. Well…You are going to steal it from him. From his minimum security townhouse in the burbs.”

“You want me to break into this guys’ house?”

“For ten thousand dollars.”

Brett became lost for a moment, day dreaming about what he might do with ten thousand dollars, then he snapped back to reality. He shook his head, “I don’t get it. Why all this for a stupid comic book?”

Steve groaned and buried his face in his hands; knocking his wool toque halfway off his head. “I know you were a sexy, dark disturbed rocker in your youth but please tell me that you managed to learn what Amazing Fantasy #15 was!”

Brett had that blank look in his eyes again.

Steve collapsed dramatically on the desk, causing some of the Asian girls studying in the corner to turn their heads and giggle. Finally, after Steve had shook off his disbelief and recomposed himself he said, “It’s the origin of Spider-Man. His first appearance—ever!” And for the next part Steve made sure he whispered extra softly, “It’s worth half a million dollars!”

Brett’s tongue nearly fell out of his mouth like some sort of 1930’s cartoon. He wanted to scream but, being in the confines of the public library, he had to settle for whispering really, really loud. “Holy shit! That’s nuts!”

Steve nodded eagerly. “It’s a hot fudge sundae covered in nuts!”

He noticed Brett’s eyes shift from left to right, back and forth. “Wait a sec,” said Brett. “If that comic is worth half a mill than why am I only getting ten grand? If I’m the one sticking my neck out, I want a bigger cut.”

“Twenty grand,” said Steve. His voice was firm and his poker face strong. “That’s as high as I’m willing to go. I have expenses and debts, debts more than expenses but we all play our parts right in this and we’ll all walk away with a nice chunk of cash. What do you say?”

Brett nodded in agreement. He pointed over to Wally, wandering aimlessly around the labs as he often did.“And Wally?”

“Wally will get his usual forty bucks a week.”

They both grinned.

******************************************

On the day of the robbery Brett arrived early, sat on a green electrical box down the street from the house they were robbing and opened up a fresh pack of Pall Mall cigarettes he bought at the 7/11 on the way over. He hadn’t had a smoke in over a year; it was one of the few things that had been going well for him in life as of late. But today he made an exception.

The long suburban street was quiet; the bread winners all at work, the kids at school and the wives out of their daily routines or inside busy with laundry and small children. As he smoked Brett watched a pair of playful crows chasing each other about, occasionally landing on a branch to rest their wings before they went at it again. The sun shined down on the road, warming it and warming Brett. He found himself jealous of the crows’ freedom, of how they got to hang around in the sun all day and play. He hoped that with the twenty thousand dollars he was going to make off the caper that he might be able to afford his wings, to fly far, far away from it all. And, if he was lucky, take Arlene with him.

He was torn from his fantasies when Steve puttered up in an old, bulky cargo van. Brett flicked his smoke and pushed off the green box, meeting Steve on the driver side as he was getting out. “You made it,” said Steve.

“Yup,” said Brett. He got a look in the van and saw Wally sitting there in the passenger seat, mumbling to himself. Fish in a barrel, he kept saying. “What’s he doing here?” Brett asked.

“Relax,” Steve sighed. “He’s here to help you grab the comic. Plus, if things go wrong, he makes an excellent fall guy.”

Brett looked over to Wally still buckled up in the passenger seat. Fish in a barrel. Fish in a barrel. “You’re going to pin the robbery on him? But he’s in your care; it will lead right back to you.”

Steve put his hand up for silence, “I told you already, his mom thinks I have him doing chores. I’ll just say he wondered off from cutting the grass while I was taking a dump. I only live a few blocks away. Its believable, trust me.”

“Okay, whatever. Let’s just do this,” said Brett. “How am I getting inside?”

“Well, I’ve been watching this guy through his Roger’s home security feed. I got the codes in his e-mail, hacked in without much problems. Best I can tell the package was delivered yesterday and he is keeping it in a storage closet under the stairs. I’ve also learned that every morning after a coffee he spends about twenty five minutes in the shitter and cracks the window just a tad to air out his filth until he comes home for lunch. Today was no different.”

“Even with a comic in there worth half a million dollars?”

Steve laughed. “I know, right? This geek is more retarded than Wally,” he said, jerking his thumb towards Wally in the passenger seat. “So,” he continued. “Are you ready to get fucking rich?”

Brett took a deep breath. “Let’s do this.”

******************************************

The gate to the side of the house creaked loudly. Brett assumed that if he opened it slow, it would make less noise. This was not the case. The rusty hinges grinding against each other sounded like an elephant blowing a battle cry out its trunk. Someone had to of heard that, he thought. He hadn’t even broken in yet and already he was having regrets. This wasn’t like him, he didn’t do stuff like this. He couldn’t turn back now though. That would just be one more thing Steve the dweeb could rub in his face.

He decided to keep on, but every few steps he would have to turn and signal to Wally to hurry up and get a move on. Wally didn’t much react to verbal commands; Brett found more luck with a snap or a wave. These signals became more and more dramatic each time he had to repeat himself. It was all very frustrating. By the time they got to the bathroom window, left open just a tad as Steve said it would be, Brett had come to terms that he was not going to get much help from his autistic assailant. “I’m ditching Wally,” he said into the walkie-talkie that Steve had given him before they separated.

There was a brief silence from the other end and then, with a pop of static, Steve’s choppy and distorted voice returned, “It’s your call, bud. He can be the look out. If anyone finds him there, they’ll just think he wondered in. The cameras have been cut so you are clear to go. Get in there and let’s get this over with…”

Brett turned to Wally, “You stay here, okay?”

The young boy looked down at his shoes, muttering. Fish in a barrel. Fish in a barrel.

“Forget it,” sighed Brett.

**********************************

The window slid open in a pale blue, modestly decorated bathroom and a pair of black runners pushed their way inside knocking figurines of The Hulk and Captain America off the window sill and into the toilet with a plunk! The shoes became legs, the legs became a body and then, after the intruders’ pudgy gut had squeezed its way through, there came a shiny bald head glowing red from both exhaustion and embarrassment. The intruder, however discombobulated, was in. He used his walkie-talkie to notify his accomplice back in the van.

A sigh of elation came from the other end, “Yes! Great news, Brett! The comic is in the storage room under the stairs to your right when you exit the bathroom. Go get that sucker and we’re out of here!”

Brett took a deep breath, opened the bathroom door and crept into the hallway. His heart pounded so hard he thought it was going to tip off the neighbors. With each step he half-expected someone to jump out at him; the police, the guy who owned the house, the Texas chainsaw massacre guy, a fucking two-headed tiger, who knew what unseen danger was waiting for him…

The hallway opened up into the main living room and Brett’s eyes fixed on the storage closet under the stairs. On the right, just as Steve had said. The comic seemed to call to him from behind the wooden door; its energy grabbed hold of him and started to pull him in like a tractor beam. In his trance he managed to walk into a small coffee table where sat a framed picture of the homeowner on his trip to the Grand Canyon. Both the picture and table were sent to the floor with a loud crash!, sending little shards of ceramic all across the tile flooring.

“Fuck!” he gasped, frozen still, waiting for the two-headed tiger to jump out and rip his face off. But there was no tiger, only an angry Steve shouting from the other end of the walkie-talkie.

“What the hell was that?” the distorted voice demanded. “You can’t be walking into tables like that!”

Brett’s face twisted as he brought the walkie-talkie to his lips. “I thought you said you cut the camera feed…”

There was a long pause before Steve returned. “I did,” he said. “But I could hear the smash from outside! You need to hurry up and grab that shit before we all get arrested!”

That was a sentiment to which Brett could not agree to more. He dashed to the closet and swung open the door like a madman. There it was, staring back at him in all its nerdy glory, sitting in its plastic wrap packaging on a packed box labelled VHS, was Amazing Fantasy #15.The familiar superhero in red and blue tights swung high over the city on a web. The cartoon text read, “Introducing Spider-Man”. The top right corner boasted its original sale price—twelve cents. Brett swiped it from the top of the box and barreled out of that house like a freight train.

**********************************

After parting ways with Steve and Wally, Brett rushed over to the library so he could finally see if Arlene had replied to his message. He sat down next to an older, white man with pop bottle glasses and a comb over. As he logged into his Tinder account he found himself hiding his password from the old man. After all, he knew what kind of crazy people were out there. Once logged in he saw that Arlene had replied. His day was getting better and better. The message read:

>Hey, Cutie!

Fireworks blasted off in his belly and a small smile crept further and further upwards until it seemed his face had split in half. He couldn’t remember the last time someone referred to him as ‘cute’. That Arlene, she sure was a gem. But Brett had never found much luck with the ‘gems’ in the past strictly for the reason that those kinds of girls are all looking for men with money. But now, with the twenty grand coming his way after Steve found a buyer on the black market, he would be one of those guys. And he was going to spoil this girl, he decided; limo rides, fancy dinners with steak and lobster, maybe even dessert. You know you’ve made it when you can think about getting dessert. He opened up a chat box and typed:

>Do you like Steak and Lobster, Arlene?

His heart nearly skipped a beat when he saw she was replying just then. A moment passed, and then two, and then…

🙂

She used an emoticon! That was a sure sign of flirtation. His fingers danced across the keyboard as he punched in his next question:

>Would you like to get some Steak and Lobster with me?

There was a pause, one that to Brett seemed like forever and then, finally, she replied:

>Sure. Where?

She said yes! Brett was ecstatic. He gave her his number so she could text him on Friday to let him know where the limo should pick her up and said goodbye, signed out from the computer and headed back out into the city streets. He probably could have flown home that day, gliding softly on the wings of new love, just like the crows from earlier…

As Brett fiddled with his keys in front of his apartment building he noticed there was man by the mailbox, smiling at him. He had never seen the man around the building before but even still, the man seemed to recognize him. He smiled at Brett like they were old friends and even started to make his way over. He gave a neighborly wave and said, “Brett Furlong? Brett Furlong is that really you?”

Here we go, thought Brett. Another old fan about to comment on how much hair I’ve lost. “Yes, that’s me.” He said. “May I help you?”

The smile dropped from the strangers face as he pulled out a badge from the inner pocket of his jacket. “My name is Detective Mallory Heinz,” said the man. “Brett Furlong, you are under arrest for breaking and entering and theft over five thousand dollars—“

Brett swallowed hard and turned to run, but it was no use. Police in riot gear began to reveal themselves from the sides of houses, behind cars and trees; all of them pointing their weapons directly at Brett’s head. In one last Hail Mary effort, Brett turned back to the detective and with his most innocent face said, “There must be some kind of misunderstanding. I didn’t do any of that.”

Two large policemen grabbed him; one to hold him still, the other to put him into handcuffs. The cold steel closed tightly around his wrists. “I hate to tell you this,” said the detective, taking his time in reproaching. “But we have the whole thing on film. The homeowner had a security system in the house. You didn’t even wear a mask. Your fingerprints are everywhere. Brett…exactly how stupid are you?”

The detective had to have been lying. He had to. Otherwise that would mean Steve had lied about cutting the camera feed. And that would mean Steve had been setting him up to take the fall all along…

******************************

A satisfied smile smeared across Steve’s face as he sat back in the driver’s seat of the van parked in the driveway of Wally’s mother’s house. He had just left an anonymous tip with the local Crime Stoppers Hotline, reporting he had seen a bald man creeping around a house over on Landen Avenue, leaving with what looked to be a comic book. Brett, that poor sap, had fallen for it hook, line, and sinker. How pleasant, Steve thought, that not only did he find someone to take the fall for the caper but also got to get a little revenge on one of the many “cool” kids from high school that never gave him the time of day.

He had been so lost in his day dreams he almost forgot that Wally was still in the van with him, only coming back to reality when he saw the boy pick the comic up from the center consol. He felt a sudden panic, as one would when a toddler picked up a glass vase. “Easy there, bud,” said Steve. He talked calm and slow, as one would to a jumper out on the ledge of a skyscraper. He slowly started to lean in, careful not to make any sudden movements, careful not to trigger one of Wally’s wild fits. His hand reached to snatch it back when suddenly…

BAM! A bang on the driver side door.

Steve turned around expecting to see the pretty Mrs. Henderson standing there in that floral dress he liked, asking how her son’s day was and then taking him inside for dinner with a smile and a thank you and a wave goodbye. He wasn’t expecting a gun and a badge belonging to Detective Mallory Heinz to be pointed directly at his face as the man yelled through the glass, “Get the fuck out of the car, asshole!”

******************************

The interrogation room was small and hot. The chairs were stiff and hurt your back. It was the kind of conditioning the cops used to break down suspects, Steve knew that. But Steve had a plan. He had a fail-safe. Detective Heinz walked in the room holding a coffee in a Styrofoam cup and a file folder. He sat down across from Steve and gave him a good stare, the kind of stare where you almost squint. That’s what they do to make you nervous, Steve knew that.

“You’re probably wondering why I dragged you down here,” said the detective. He gave his coffee a stir and a sip.

“I would say so!” said Steve. His voice cracked just a little. It hadn’t done that since high school. “I was just dropping off my autistic little brother. You see, I’m in the Big Brother program. What’s…what’s all this about?”

“Well, I’ll tell you Steve,” the detective started. “There have been a string of fraud cases in the area lately. Mainly funds being taken out of accounts, emptying of savings, things like that. It was really driving us nuts over here at the station. After all, a serial fraudster is like a serial rapist. They’re not going to stop until they fuck and destroy everything in their path. And like a serial rapist we have to figure out how this fraudster picks his victims. What do all these people have in common? And can you guess what we found?”

Steve shook his head. But he knew. He had planned for this.

The detective continued, “They had all recently been to the library to use their computers. So we pulled up the camera feed and can you guess what we saw?”

Steve knew that Wally was the one who would be in that feed next to those people, not him. Now he could pin the whole thing on Wally and walk away Scot free. He gave a long, dramatic exhale and then an empathetic head bow. “I think so,” Steve said. “I had suspected Wally, the boy from the program, might be using the computers for things other than YouTube. You see, he has what is called savant syndrome and he is capable of retaining a lot of information at remarkable speeds. If he wanted to, he could know what someone was typing into a computer just by watching the movements of their hands…Are you saying that Wally did this?”

Detective Heinz laughed quietly to himself. “Wow, Steve,” he said. “Trying to pin these crimes on a mentally challenged boy? I’ve heard some excuses in my day but…wow…ain’t that something.”

Steve raised his voice, “I’m serious! Check the cameras, you’ll see!”

The detective opened up the file folder and revealed a small stack of surveillance photos from the computer labs at the library. “That’s exactly what we did,” said the detective. “And little Wally, he wasn’t in them. But you were.”

Impossible, Steve thought. He scrambled through the pictures, picked one up and said, “Look! He’s right beside him!”

But Wally was hard to see. The way the camera was angled, the other man blocked Wally’s face completely; all you could see were his arms.

“That’s what you say,” said Detective Heinz. “But he’s pretty hard to identify in that picture. But you know who isn’t hard to identify?” The detective pointed to the picture where Steve stood by the water fountains looking incredibly watchful and guilty.

Steve scoffed and flipped through the next one, and then the next and then a next. In every picture Wally had been completely unidentifiable, blocked by a homeless man standing around doing nothing, a security guard standing around doing nothing, some post, some lens flare, some shadow. And in every one there stood Steve modelling varying shades of guilt. How, he thought. How is this possible?

And then it hit him.

Stephen Wiltshire, a twenty-two year old autistic savant, took a helicopter ride over London and when he returned home was able to draw an exact replica of the landscape down to every street, ever car, every mailbox. With the capacity to retain that amount of information at a glance then could it not be possible for Wally to have taken one look at the computer labs and have known exactly where each camera was, where they were pointing, and where he would have to sit to not be seen. It made sense now why sometimes he would see Wally walk around aimlessly before settling at a computer. Wally had outsmarted him. He had been dooped…by a retard.

************************************

Mrs. Henderson cleared the dishes from the table. It was a late dinner tonight, with all the commotion, the police, and the questions, poor Wally must have been scared half-to-death. It was nice now that things had calmed down. The police didn’t tell her much. But it was scary to think that the man she had left in charge of her poor son was not the man he claimed to be. “Aren’t you going to eat your cake?” she asked her son Wally sitting at the table.

“I can eat cake in my room,” said Wally.

Mrs. Henderson smiled. “I suppose that would be fine, dear. Bring your plate back when you’re done, okay sweetie?”

“I’ll bring my plate back when I’m done. I’ll bring my plate back,” said the boy, shuffling off to his room.
Wally went upstairs and closed his bedroom door behind him. He placed his plate of cake on his dresser beside the lamp, sat down on the bed and lifted up his shirt, removing a comic book wrapped in a shiny coat from his waistband. He stared at it for a moment before he took it out from its shiny coat and held it in his hands. He liked the funny pictures. Eating his messy cake, he flipped through the pages under the lamplight. The red and blue guy was funny, but the old man died at the end and that was sad.

When he was done, he tossed the picture book under his bed and licked the chocolate off his fingers. He lay back on his pillow and stared up at the roof. He laughed softly, as to not be heard by his mother. Like fish in a barrel.

The End

The Dick

Stuck in the rain, a private detective tracks down his clients cheating wife while mulling over the many downfalls of his chosen profession.

Written by Gregory Patrick Travers

There’s a hole in my shoe, I know it. My socks are fucking soaked. I can’t find it, but it’s there, that sneaky bastard…

Rain. Always with the rain in this town, even at Christmas. Just once I’d like to have a gentle snowfall. Like in that movie Home Alone, when his mother finally comes back for him and that emotional soundtrack music kicks in. I can hear it in my head despite the heavy claps of raindrops against the concrete. God, I love that flick. Every year, when it comes on during the holidays, I watch it. Well, I used to anyway. Before I became a fucking dick. Now I spend my nights creeping around the city taking pictures of infidelities to which I return to curious parties for a nominal fee.

Over the years though, this business has really taken its tole on me. When you’re constantly around the worst in people, you start to turn into one of them. You inherit both the paranoia and the desire for lustful acts of deceit, you inherit the self-loathing.That’s why Susan left. She said I’d changed. I don’t think she’s wrong.

This hole in my shoe is driving me fucking nuts. It’s like the titanic in there. I wish Mrs.Bronson would hurry up and get on her knees, slide off her panties or anything that would make a good picture to bring back to poor old Mr.Bronson, who is probably back at home in his recliner, rocking back and forth in a desperate panic. Sorry, old chum. It seems your worries were justified. I wish it wasn’t me who had to give the news to ya. I hate that part. There’s always a fountain of tears and sobs, followed by a complete breakdown of motor skills…Poor saps. They spend a fortune on these girls and this is how they’re repaid. I don’t know if I trust a single one of these dames anymore…

That’s what this job has done to me; turned me into a cold, untrusting pessimist. All I really want is some snow outside my window while I’m sitting on the couch in an ugly Christmas sweater watching Home Alone. Maybe even just a shoe that didn’t have a fucking hole in it would be nice. I’m walking on water like I’m Jesus over here! Fuck…the world needs that guy back like nobody’s business.

Oh! Here we go! Mrs.Bronson is taking off her top. She’s got a pretty nice rack for an older broad. I guess its time to burst in and snap my bread and butter. I’ll let these two guys walking towards me pass first.

I hear one of them say, “So, you want to go grab a beer or something?”

“Nah,” said the other one. “Home Alone is on cable tonight, I’m gonna sit on the couch in my ugly Christmas sweater and watch that shit. I fuckin’ love that movie.”

I sigh and pull out my camera. “Fuck,” I mutter to my feet. “I hate my job.”

 

Calvin: Die for something

A dark tale that shows its never too late for redemption. Even for a wayward vagabond like Calvin.

Written by Gregory Patrick Travers

I stabbed him. I don’t know if he’s dead, but I know I stabbed him pretty damn good. I felt the pressure release as the tip of the blade punctured his skin…then it sunk right in there. I hope he’s not dead…someone has to tell these cops that they shot the wrong guy. I’m the hero, here.

That punk Officer Needs has been dying to pull the trigger on me since he got on this beat. He finally did it, that little shit-fuck. Coming around the downtown east side like fucking RoboCop, gettin’ in everyone’s business–who the fuck does he think he is? I saved that little girl. Fuckin’ prick…fresh out of the academy, prick. I swear to Christ I saw him smile when he did it too. Like he was proud of himself. I saved that little girl. Lars, that sick, child-molesting, fuck was headed straight for her. What was that woman doing bringing her little kid around these parts of town anyway? People shooting up, smoking crack, selling themselves…Who am I kidding? That little girl has probably spent her life watching that kind of stuff, what, with a mom like that, scoring dope with her little kid…

Fuck. I’m bleeding pretty bad here. I’m wrapped tighter than one of those fucking Egyptian mummies and still I’m bleeding. I didn’t even know I had this much blood. I real nice sight I am, aren’t I? Good thing you aren’t alive to see this, ma. You never did like when I came home with cuts and bruises from sports…mainly fights. I could really use your nursing skills right about now, ma. No foolin’.

It’s okay. Three more blocks and I’ll be at Winky’s. He’ll stitch me up. He’ll fix me. His set up ain’t nuthin’ like the hospital…but Winky ain’t ask no questions. Things are going to be okay. They are. Just get to Winky’s.

I really got myself in a bind here, didn’t I? I guess I’m gonna have to hop a boxcar out of the city and keep movin’. That’s okay, ain’t nuthin’ keepin’ me here anyway. I’ll just start over. I’ll start fresh. Yeah, ma–again. Last time I saw you alive you said I needed to stop drifting, that I needed to live for something. Maybe after Winky gets me back to normal, I’ll move somewhere far. Move somewhere peaceful. Maybe get a job on a farm, really get back to the roots of human nature. That would be living. No laws, no class…No Officer Needs. Maybe I’ll meet a girl out there too. A real nice girl, pretty and soft-spoken…but funny too. Not so plain and boring. Heck, maybe plain and boring wouldn’t be so bad.

I wonder what that little girl will grow up to be? She has a chance now. Lars, that fuck, he would have fucked that little girl and then he woulda killed her. From the first time I saw him in the shelter, I knew he was bad news. His eyes are what scare me the most about him, always did. I take back what I said about wanting him to be alive. I don’t care if I go to jail, I hope I killed him. I’m glad he’s fucking dead, the world is better for it. I don’t mind what they say about me, what they do to me. My whole life people been throwin’ dirt on me. It ain’t hurt like it used to.

This bullet, though. This hurts. Only two more blocks and I’m there…but every step is like being scalded with hot coffee. Worse even. Maybe I’ll just sit down on this curb and rest for a minute. I need to take the pressure off….Gee, the night sure is quiet tonight. No more sirens, I guess they forgot about me. Heh, just like everyone else in my life. Ah, who can blame ’em. I ain’t never been no good for nobody.

There’s a funny taste in my mouth. Tastes like metal. I have to remind myself to ask Winky about this. I should get back on my way, this bed sheet is soaked in blood. Come on, get up…

Please, get up. Please….Not like this. I can’t go like this! For fuck sake, I saved that little girl! I can’t die here on this street corner alone! Please, I haven’t done enough! I can do better just…just give me one more chance. Please, get up!

No. This is it. Is it going to be okay, ma? Does it hurt much when it happens? You would have been so proud of me, ma. I saved that little girl tonight. I saved her…

The End