absk group story - week 1 entries

Apologies for starring out a few expletives. I'm sure you can guess what word is meant to be there... I still have to comply with regulations...


Luke stared at the television. He was done channel surfing and nothing had caught his eye, but nothing outside of the house presented any more entertainment than what "Mr. Ed" was offering. He lit a Marlboro and left it there in his fingers while he watched Mr. Ed try on glasses. It had been a long night.

Kim had been on his nerves again. He knew he shouldn't have gone over to her house that evening, she was in a mood to fight. The fighting was always the worst. Her face would contort into a mess of popping veins and spittle while she screamed obscenities at him. Normally Luke would sit on the sofa and take it all in. But tonight had been different. He supposed he would be explaining this to the police soon enough, but wondered if they would believe it themselves.

There frantic scratching from behind the basement door. Luke looked away from the television and remembered his dog was in the basement. The pooch had been locked up since 6:00 o'clock that morning when Luke had left for work. It was almost 10:00 at night. He put out his cigarette and crossed the living room over to the basement door.

"Topper," Luke opened the door for the dog, "it's been a hell of a day, let's go for a walk." The dog limped up the last stair and waited for Luke to bring over the leash. As soon as Luke fastened the leather leash to the dog's collar, Topper made a move for the front door.

While Topper took a well-deserved piss on his favorite tree, Luke stared into the night sky. One of his mother's boyfriends had tried to teach him about the constellations, but it had been a futile lesson. Luke could never recognize anything but the North Star. The sky was filled with more stars than Luke had remembered seeing. "Maybe it's a side-effect," he mused, really not speaking to anyone in particular.

Luke was now trying to remember just what had happened his mother's star-gazing boyfriend. He remembered him being there one day and gone the next. He could not even remember his mother mentioning the reason for his departure. Luke did remember getting the nameless boyfriend's telescope about a week later. His mother had set up the telescope in his room while he was at school. When Luke asked about it, she had simply said, "he left it behind, now it's yours."

Fumbling through his pants, he found Kim's pearl bracelet. It had always been big for her wrist. Luke supposed he had grabbed her arm and the bracelet had followed his hands as he let go of her. He tried to remember if he had grabbed her arm. Nothing came.

Topper whimpered for attention.

"Are you all done boy," Luke kneeled before the mutt and scratched his ears with both hands. "You know that I didn't mean to leave you for so long."

The dog grunted in appreciation.

"It's strange, Topper," Luke stopped scratching and started back towards his house with the dog, "but I really don't know what happened to the time tonight. Truth is, I really am not sure what happened at all. All I do know is that Kim won't be around anymore." They walked the rest of the way in silence.

As Luke approached his house, he expected to see the Lincoln Township Sheriff's car waiting for him. He didn't know if it would be Ed or Spider, but he was sure one of the guys would be waiting to ask him just what he knew about Kim's disappearance. But no one was there.

"Maybe they're waiting for us inside, boy," Luke looked to Topper for support, but Topper paid no attention. As Luke opened the door, the dog ran past him for a seat on the sofa. No one was waiting for Luke inside.

As soon as he shut the door, Luke lit up another Marlboro. This time he smoked it, drawing the smoke deep into his lungs. He tried to envision just where the smoke would travel in his lungs, imagining the nicotine finding direct routes into the bloodstream. "Zen and the Art of Smoking," Derek would have called it.

Derek? Was that the name of his mother's boyfriend? Or was Derek someone from school? Luke was sure that he had known a Derek, but was not quite sure where the name came from.

He had a sudden urge to call Kim. To call her and say that he was sorry for all of the **** that had gone on that afternoon. To say that it would never happen again, and that they would go into town tomorrow for a real dinner. A sit-down dinner with no two-for-one dinner deal. Kim would like that. He picked up the phone and dialed her number...

"The number you have reached is no longer in service," the computer-voice repeated for nearly the thirtieth time. Luke redialed Kim's number again. "The number you have..." he hung up the phone.

Luke dialed directory assistance, a friendly voice answered, "city and listing, please."

"Kingston. Kim Davies," Luke replied.

"I have no listing for a Kim Davies in Kingston, do you have an address?"

Luke was stunned, "Davies, Kim. D-A-V-I-E-S. On St. John's Avenue."

After the faint tapping of computer keys stopped, the voice came on again, "I'm sorry. I have no listing for Kim Davies in Kingston. There are no Davies on St. John's Avenue. Is there another listing I can check for you?"

Luke hung up the phone. He remembered who Derek was now. He knew why he couldn't reach Kim on the phone. He remembered why it had been ten years since he had spoken to his mother.

Luke went over to his kitchen table and picked up that week's mail. He found the aqua envelope that had been coming to his house every week for ten years. He had never opened the envelopes, because they were from his mother. He opened the envelope. Typed, on a 3x5 notecard, was the following message:


Red Dog

The baby lay in his crib. He wasn't much to look at as far as babies go. It wasn't that he was an ugly baby, or even a pretty baby. He was simply an average baby. His chubby feet kicked madly about at the world that he was so rudely thrust into, trying to inflict some of the pain he felt onto someone else, preferably the individual responsible for his current discomfort, whoever that would happen to be. New pink SKIN Gathered in a bunch on his brow, then smoothed and bunched again. The tiny chest hitched once, twice, three times before finally letting forth a mighty (for a baby, anyway) cry declaring to anyone within listening distance that he was not a happy camper. No, not one little bit.

The only person to hear the baby's scream walked briskly to his crib amid a rustling of starched white skirt and peered down at him.

"What be your problem now, little one?" she asked of the noisy bundle before her. "Ya ain't wet, but ya are a loud one. Loudest little bastid to come through here in a long while. M-O-O-N, that spells bastid." The nurse's brow was now also bunched, but in puzzlement.

"What possessed me to say such a foolish thing as that?" she muttered to herself before glancing down at the baby once more and swishing away.

It wasn't the baby's outside that was of concern. He was, after all, just an average baby. Inside, that was another story. Behind that little screwed up forehead he was far from average. Thoughts and ideas bounced back and forth in tiny, fresh skull.
Trashcan Man, big dog, Umney, TAK, Dolan, Flagg, Flagg, twas Flaaaag!

These thoughts and so, so many more swirled about in the small bit of gray matter
(jelly that looked like a man, and leaving a trail of slime behind it)
that lay behind his eyes.
(dragon eyes)

Of course, he didn't recognize these thoughts as such. After all, as has been stated, he was just a baby. These things in his head weren't organized or categorized or any other ized. They were simply there. Floating
(float? They float, Georgie, and when you're down here with me, you'll float, too-----)
around, working their strange and wonderful magic.

Jake, Eddie, Susannah, Oy, Roland (gunslinger).Rolaaaand. These, (Ka-tet) more than any others, filled his head. In fact, if possible, these were more than just in his head. They were part of his head. The were part of him. His brow smoothed once again and a quiet gurgle escaped his throat. When these figures danced about inside him he was almost...content.

IT, Flagg, TAK, Blaine, the Walkin Dude. They came rushing into his mind like a dark, hot wind. These were not happy thoughts and they most certainly did not make him feel content. He felt hot and stifled. He felt... he felt... like something was wrong. Like his little world and everything in it had changed (moved on...) somehow. His chest spasmed yet again to announce his displeasure. It caught once, hitched again and stopped. Now something was wrong, most assuredly and without a doubt wrong. He could not breathe.

Across the room, the nurse was changing the diaper of another baby. A nice, quiet baby she thought. Not a baby that screamed all hours of her shift. Or filled his drawers with unreal amounts of ****. Or had a scary ability to hit her in the face with a warm spray every time (well, almost every time) she changed his diaper, no matter how she twisted and turned him. Or any other amount of ors that unnerved her whenever she got close to the little guy.

"Mean little ****, that's what he is," she muttered to herself as she finished up with the babe in front of her, the quiet one that acted like a baby should.

Walking back to the nurses' station to dispose of the soiled diaper it occurred to her that he was being quiet for a change. Thank goodness, she thought. Mayhap I can have a bit o' peace today. Passing by his crib, she glanced down at the object of so much misery

(I swear to God I'll be good please give me a chance to be good OH ANNIE PLEASE LET ME BE GOOD------)

in her life the past two days. Forgotten were the shots of hot piss in her face and the quiet uneasy feeling she had when she was near him and forgotten was the diaper she grasped in her hand. It slipped from her now loose grip and fell to the floor with a wet SPLAT!

He was so blue! How could he be so blue and still be alive? Indeed, he was still alive for his feet kicked about with more effort than ever. A small, clenched fist rose (Madder Rose Madder--- of course I'm mad, you stupid bitch, I'M CHOKING) up and shook in her face as if to say, Don't just stand there, cow. Do something.

Do something she did. She was a nurse and this was not the first baby she had ever seen choking. He was not even the second or third but he was the bluest baby she had ever seen and that is what finally pushed her into action. Reaching down and sliding her left hand under his belly, she flipped him over in one swift motion and patted him gently on the back with the heel of her right hand. The whooping of sucked in air that she expected was not forthcoming so she pushed on his back once again with more urgency. And again. Her fourth effort was more akin to a pound than a pat and she knew any harder and something in his soft, little body would break.

Laying him down, she turned to run and find a doctor. Any doctor. Doctors as a general rule did not frequent the nursery but it was the only course of action she knew to pursue at this point. Before she had even completed her turn, a white sleeved arm reached around her and a voice said so close to her ear, "Let me have him, nurse. Got just the ticket to fix the little bugger. Yes I do." The waft of breath that accompanied this near whisper reeked of something sour and wet. Then the arm pushed her. No, it shoved her to the side where she crashed into a neighboring crib, which was thankfully vacant seeing as how it went to the floor with the nurse.

Climbing up from the floor, she turned to see the doctor (for that is what she believed him to be) hunched over the child, one white gloved hand resting on his forehead. The thumb and forefinger of the other hand were on either side of the baby's jaw, forcing his mouth open. Amazingly, the doctor then put his lips to those of the child and kissed him. He straightened slightly, obviously looking for some reaction and, not getting any, bent to join his lips to those of the crib's inhabitant once more. Now she saw he was not kissing the infant at all, but blowing into his mouth. The tiny chest expanded with each exhale of foul air. Even from where she stood grasping the wall for support, the nurse could smell the odor emanating from the doctor's mouth. Odor was not even the proper word for what her nose detected. It was a stench. A stench pregnant with death and decay.

The doctor stood erect and glanced over at the nurse standing there with the heel of her thumb filling her mouth. Only later that night as she lay in bed unable to sleep, as she would for many nights to come, did she examine her hand and find that she had bitten it hard enough to draw blood.

For the briefest moment his eyes looked silver
(dead the dead lights that's what they look like, she thought)
and then they were just eyes again.

"That ought to do ya, fella," the doctor, if that is what he was (she was no longer so sure) tittered. "Oh yeah, you're just fine and damn dandy now. Hehehehe."

Her gaze drifted down from the man's (dead silver) eyes, stopping when her own eyes encountered the tag on his white coat. He was at least dressed as a doctor even if she didn't recognize him and she believed herself to be familiar with every doctor in the hospital. The slip of silver (like his eyes so much like his eyes) pinned to his left breast pocket had two words on it. No Dr. No M.D. Just two words. Bob Gray. She unlocked her eyes from this with some difficulty and dropped them to the baby. His face was still blue, but not as alarmingly as before, and he was pulling in great drafts of air kept company by a deep whoop with each inhalation.

"Don't worry, nurse, he's going to be fine," the man with tag that proclaimed him to be Bob Gray said. "In fact, I'd say he has a long and fruitful life ahead of him. Apparently it isn't his time to die" and with this he paused. "At least not yet" he finished. He then spun and was almost out the door when the nurse gathered her wits enough to stop him.

"Wait," she cried. "Doct-- uhh, sir, please wait!"

"What is it, nurse Stern?" he asked without turning, half in and half out of the doorway. Good lord, she thought, he knows my name. Did he have time to read my nametag during those brief moments when he had faced her? She didn't think so.

"Thank you," she gasped.

"Don't mention it, just doing my job," the man named Bob Gray said. She at least believed his name was what his tag stated it to be. She believed this man's (thing's) name was Bob Gray with every bit of her being.

"Couldn't have the little tyke kicking off before he had a chance to do some creative writing now could we?" It was more of a statement than a question to Nurse Stern's ears. He then stepped fully out the door and continued on his way to wherever he had to go. In the short instant that she saw him in profile she saw that his coat was not white. It was silver. And going down the front of it in colorful formation were fluffy orange balls instead of buttons. Pompoms-- that's what they were, fluffy pompoms.

A bit of song drifted back to her. My God, the man is singing. After everything that just happened, the man (IT) is singing. She strained to hear.

Baby, can you dig your man?
He's a riiighteous man
Tell me baby, can you dig your man?

Behind her, the baby still shouted his displeasure with a world that would let such a thing happen to him. But his cries didn't really matter. Like the man said, he had a long and wonderful life ahead of him.

Steve Milligan


Everyone has a needle. A need they feed. Priest or prisoner, saint or sinner, everyone has one. My needle is death.

The rush I get feeling life ebb from a human body is incredible. It defines the word ecstasy, yet the word comes nowhere near explaining the burning bright purity of the moment. Death is better than booze, better than drugs, better than sex. A shot of Jack Daniels is damn fine, the white hot high of a speedball a crazy high, and orgasm is ... well orgasm just is. But death? That's another level all together.

I was seventeen the first time I killed. It was pure chance that led me to it. I keep telling myself it was chance, anyway. I wonder sometimes, but I try not to go too far down that road 'cause I'm not sure I really want to know.

I was raised in the church, and taught to do for others. I worked summers at a downtown mission when I was in school, and one of my jobs was delivering Meals On Wheels to old folks who couldn't get out.

I had a regular route to run, and I got to know most of the old cranks pretty well. They liked me because I took the time to talk to them. I never acted like it was work for me to be there. I guess I'm a pretty good actor.

Some of those places smelled like sewers, and some of those biddies were more than a few bricks short. But I smiled, and chattered away with them about the weather, and the world, and the bad old days. They loved me like I was there son, and nobody ever doubted me when I said I found Miss Cashun dead.

She was the third last call on my route, and the biggest 'Crazy Mary' of the bunch. She was eighty if she was a day, and she dressed and made herself up like she was eighteen. Blonde wigs, heavy eye makeup, and bright pink lipstick. She wanted me in her bed. That's the truth, and it's what brought push to shove the day I took my first hit off the death needle.

It was a sunny July day, and everything was just fine. It was Friday and I was thinking about the weekend, hoping the weather would hold, because I had tickets for an outdoor concert. I had the radio on in the van, and they were playing summer time rock and roll. 'Dancing in the Streets', and 'Summer in the City'. 'ZZ Top' and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

I was singing as I bopped up to the old farts doors with their meals in hand. A couple of the more sprightly biddies, come to the door to meet me, even caught me singing. They loved it. Here's this happy young fella come to visit them with a meal and a smile. What more could they ask?

I was groovin' to the radio, and soakin' up the summer vibe as I worked my way through the route. By the time I pulled up in front of Miss Cashun's house, I'd just heard the forecast for the weekend. Nothing but sunshine. I pulled Miss C.'s meal out of the van, singing the old 'Mungo Jerry' classic, 'In The Summer Time'.

The inside door was open when I got there, and I could smell the overpowering scent of her perfume. I swear she must have bathed in the stuff. It was all I could do not to retch most days, but it barely bothered me this time. It was like I was buzzed on something smooth and mellow.

I've wondered more than once about that. Wondered whether there wasn't something controlling things that day, setting the mood, setting me up for the rush. Hookers have their tricks to keep the johns coming back for more, and the pusher seems to know just when to offer a free sample to the fish that's ready to take the hook and run.

Do you think death's got a pimp talkin' the talk and setting the mood? I don't know about that, but I've thought about it more than once, mostly when I remember how damn good I felt as I knocked on Miss C's door that morning.

I rang the bell and heard her call for me to come in, the door was open. She was in the living room, and as I popped the meal into the kitchen, which was just inside the front door, she called for me not to forget my end of the month tip.

We weren't supposed to take money from the old crazies, but I was damned if I was going to insult them by turning down what they offered. Besides, I never had any trouble finding a use for the extra money. I headed into the living room, figuring to kill a few minutes with 'Crazy Mary', pick up my tip, and be on my way.

I remember the rest like it was yesterday. I can see it like a movie running on a screen.

Glen Miller was playing 'String of Pearls' on Miss C's stereo as I started out of the kitchen. She loved that old music, said it reminded her of when she was eighteen, out dancing every weekend to Miller, and the Dorseys and the rest. The musical pearls were no surprise at all, but what I wasn't ready for was what I saw as I came around the corner, out of the hallway and into the living room.

The curtains were drawn, there were candles burning all around the room, and the old girl was lying on the couch wearing nothing but a double strand of pearls. It was so disgusting, that I came within inches of turning around and running. But there was a voice whispering in my head.

"The pillow Brad, do her with the pillow."

Or maybe I just decided to kill her on my own.
Which do you think is more likely?
Did I jump, or was I pushed?
Did I buy the needle, or did someone sell it to me?

All I know for sure is that I took it, and the hit sent me flying so damn high.


part the first : kurt takes a walk

1 - house street Down, past the needlepoint colossal high-rises, frozen in lockstep with the blinding uniform glare of the glazed-up sun at their backs, down through the grimy crooked streets, those little motorways where the lost and forgotten and ignored scuttle from outpost to outpost -- that is, from one humorless beacon of order and air-conditioning to the next -- in desperate somnolent flight, down under the boardwalks and the overpasses, the garbage-heaps and the seagulls, down there where the roads bottom out in a rugged slope to meet the sands, and the sands the ocean, Kurt Voegelin took a walk.

He walked with a constant and conscious effort to walk just like everyone else, and there were a few to serve as faceless examples, scrabbling up the walkways and back to the Cluster, the gnarled monument of cement and glorious steel. The people who walked through these streets were the ones the tide left behind, abandoned as too tiny and already too broken. An old, old man, shambling with the dull gait of those who have no clear memory reaching back beyond homelessness, dragged a beaten beige bag behind him. It scuffled mutedly while he walked. As Kurt brushed past, the man's eyes turned up to look at him, or they would have, they would have perhaps seen the gaunt and empty shock of disbelief on the young man's blotched face, had the man's eyes been there at all. In their place, hollowed-out sunken spots, skin long since crawled over, took in the shadows like a pair of fleshy, toothless mouths. As Kurt hurried away, the man's voice bored through the pale air and into his ears: "Hello? Hello? Yes, I'm here. I'd like some breakfast now . . ." and that was all. The scuffling of his shoes, made back before shoes even had brands, clung to the pavement. The wind blew, putrid and stale, and Kurt picked up the pace of his steps. He needed to think clearly now. Very clearly indeed.

There was an alleyway up ahead. The gap between the dead brick buildings, the last things out here before the beach walkway, yawned as if there once had been another warehouse between those two, another building that had simply sunken in onto itself, and down into the weary depths of rubble and darkness and grey cyclone fence that spun themselves a stiffened nest in its place. Shadows fell out of the alley, poured there. Or dropped, and spilled. Kurt had hated the city more than he had hated his profession, his shameless piddling work, and was he walked into the barren spot where the alley interstected the broken street running perpendicular to the waterfront, he hated it with a shuddering, repulsed exasperation.

A pair of young boys bolted from the alleyway, moon-eyed and scrawny. Their shirts seemed identically wasted, yellowed and torn. Old pink stains clung to the front. They rotated in mid-run and jittered to a halt in front of Kurt, where the taller of the two wiped his chin. The shorter simply wiped his nose, with a hand bearing five chewed fingernails on each finger.

"Your grandma can suck my chitters," the little boy sneered, in a high, uneven voice. "She can suck down acres of 'em." Down in the alley, Kurt thought he could hear a young voice, a girl, send out a high ugly moan. The taller boy spit a clump of redness into the empty lot beside them. He looked up at Kurt with soupy, lost eyes. They seemed to be loose in their sockets. He turned to his younger companion. "Let's wrap that kitty up," he drawled. The speed of his voice changed by the word. "Let's bag her." They turned back to the alley, considered it awkwardly, and hurried off into its darkness again.

Kurt's stomach rotated in its place. He stuffed his hands futher down into his pockets, clipped his heels along the sidewalk at an even faster pace (but not too fast, please), and thought of what a godforsaken idiot he still was. Twenty thousand dollars. Jesus. He was clipping down House Street, mixing with the wildlife, still a good mile from the beach, with twenty thousand dollars in his wallet. He squeezed the thing with one sweaty palm to make sure it was still there. Damn.

He had to get to the beach. Get there and do some heavy thinking.

2 - the lunchdoctors Kurt Voegelin was not a famous man. He was not even infamous, which in his opinion was better than nothing. He had done the one thing that writers were not supposed to do, ever, not under even the most desperate of cirumstances, and that thing was Stay Home. He had coined the title in his own head, however little sense it made to the outside world, because, by and large, Kurt Voegelin had precious little to say about the outside world. He had spent his last ten years in the city, out of drab necessity, and he had done the other thing that writers were never supposed to do during his tenure in the urban sprawl. He had written to please himself.

His first book, his first attempt at a novel, was entitled The Lunchdoctors. The book was written in between stints as a customer service representative at his Bank of America. The job brought him money, and only just enough, and by and large he realized that The Lunchdoctors had once been a fairly uplifting book but had turned into a cynical, palsied version of its former self after three weeks on the job.

The B of A was a magnet for creeping mediocrity. It was a mediocrity worse even than the destitution and lackluster crumbling of House street's inhabitants. This mediocrity was happy-faced, emotionless, piss-shallow, and infectious. He heard stories of people's deadbeat neighbors, tired men who left doors unlocked and fell drunk from their first-story windows onto their piebald lawns. The highlight of his second week was Rick Niles' story about his screwed-up second cousin Art who vanished after nosing around in the B of A down in New Orleans. Rick Niles was a decent guy . . . but hell, they all were decent guys. They lived their lives as if they were running out the clock. They got with women who weren't attractive, but "good in bed." They were too cheap to smoke. They went out and had lunch in big anonymous clusters and talked about nothing and ordered the omelet and the American beer and got Kurt so pissed off about the crumbling monotony of his aching unpublished writer's life that he took the generally optimistic novel of The Lunchdoctors and turned it into a cruel tragedy. The protagonist, Spenser Drayson (always he thought of it as a hopelessly stupid name, as early as Page Five) died before the second half of the book even got started; his love interest ate the shrimp one evening with Spenser's brother during a secret date, choked on the wooden toothpick, and died in her booth; and the head cook, Michael Gracey, went from noting with distress that an unfortunate number of customers at the Spinnerette Grill developed health problems, to taking a morbid interest in those problems, to helping them along with cyanide and rubbing alcohol and industrial fertilizer.

At the end of The Lunchdoctors, Michael Gracey broke into his local bank so that he could start up his own business. He moved out of state and married his first cousin, whose parents died at the Spinerette Grill right before Michael moved out. Together they ran the new place, keeping it tidy, attracting customers, and poisoning the ones they didn't like.

It was a bad, bad novel.
Kurt sent it to three literary agencies.
He was turned down by all of them.

The worst part about The Lunchdoctors was that Kurt began to sympathize more with Michael Gracey than Spenser Drayson. He altered his plot mid-story to accomodate his growing sickness of the people around him. When the self-addressed, stamped envelopes came back with rejection slips in all of them, Kurt felt a dim tide of relief wash over him. The guilt was almost overpowering. If they had taken the manuscript, his anger would have been validated. It would have been . . . a good thing. And who knows where it might have taken him.

So Kurt canned The Lunchdoctors, though a copy of it still floated around somewhere on his pitifully insufficient computer, and he Stayed Home. Hey, Kurt, wanna go out with the guys for a drink tonight? No thanks, Rick, I'll Stay Home. Hey, Kurt, let's hit the nudie bar. No, that's all right, I think I might want to Stay Home tonight. Hey, Kurt --

He Stayed Home, and experienced nothing. He tried writing again, hoping to clear his head of the dehumanized babble of work (make that "The Workplace," he thought), but he found that in its place he was faced with a giant gaping hole. He simply had not lived, he had not done enough and felt enough to be a writer worth his salt. He had, in reality, nothing to write about. People think that creativity is a bottomless pit of bounty from which the writer can extract any number of goodies, but in fact at least half of everything a writer turns out is in some way based on his own damn life. Kurt realized this about the same time that he realized his writing career was headed for the toilet. In desperation, he tried writing about not having anything to write. He compiled an anthology of nihilist poetry and unhinged love sonnets, and he even started a new novel about, of all things, cannibalism, and entitled it Chikken Bones. Kurt went out on a limb with Chikken Bones, writing about unrequited love and voodoo and bird anatomy and all sorts of things he hadn't a flying idea about. In Kurt's opinion, Chapter One was absolute refuse, Chapter Two was a slight step up, and Chapter Three was . . .

. . . Chapter Three was a little frightening. Writing Chapter Three had been about as difficult as staring at the computer monitor, which was what he usually did for a good hour before typing. With the third chapter, it was different. The thing seemed to write itself. He had already reached something of a climax, already in the third chapter, and Kurt gradually began to think that perhaps Chikken Bones would make a better short story . . . or a play . . . or a screenplay. He cast the roles in his head: Tim Roth, Brad Pitt (in a slight replay of his 12 Monkeys role), and Alice McBride as the lead. The more of Chapter Three he wrote, the more convinced he became that Chikken Bones was really just a fleshed-out screenplay, and Alice McBride was made to star in the movie.

When Kurt got to the actual cannibalsim (he'd only been making obtuse allusions until then), the story got away from him. It became something that he'd never believe he could write. He doubted that Alice McBride would even want to star in Chikken Bones: the movie after some of the things that happened at the close of Chapter Three.

Kurt put the manuscript for Chikken Bones in the same dusty file as The Lunchdoctors.

He thought he would never return to it again.

3 - the waterfront Kurt made his way across the half-gone crosswalk to the waterfront. He had the deserted spot where he now stood in mind when he set out for the beach, for the place where he would sort out the twenty thousand bucks and how it got into his pocket, and so he had taken House Street. The road he had crossed just now was named simply A Street. There was no B Street or C Street (the street names in this damn city played by no rules he knew), and so all the locals referred to it as if they were saying, "Let's look outside and see if we can find a street." If House Street was in good repair, A Street was a little shabby. It was so bad, in fact, that its residents didn't even venture outside their homes (one man had to be cut out of his house last month, Kurt remembered grimly); the end result was that A Street was always deserted, a miniature ghost town, and if you wanted some peace you wanted to spend some time on the part of the beach adjacent to A Street.

That was where Kurt Voegelin was right now.

He leaned up against the fence post and gazed off at the scummy, green ocean.

Twenty thousand dollars.
Alice McBride.
And once he had thought about smashing his computer into little bits.
Funny how things happen.


The man drew a sharp breath as the first bolt of pain lanced his head. The second make him involuntarily cry out. Instinctively he clamped his eyes shut, in a futile attempt to eliminate the vision that invariably accompanied an attack of such magnitude. But still it came. Only a split second, no prophetic epic, but crude snapshots. The bare hillsides, cold and menecing and always the face at the window, always in his peripheral vision. The image was impossibly out of proportion but the haunting glimpse of the face stayed embedded in the dark depth of his mind. In the place his nightmares dragged him. If there was a hell then it came from within. The bars on the windows, the sullen faces of the other inmatess, the brutality of the wardens, none could ever match the sheer terror his mind could invoke.

For he knew the face, by God he knew it. Hadn't he watched the life run from her. Hadn't his hands closed around the tiny white neck. He had drank in the confusion and blind terror on the face like a connoiseur revels in the delight of a fine wine. He knew that face as he knew his own. He had watched that face for six years, the tears and laughter, the wonderous changes brought about as the years passed. FOR IT WAS THE FACE OF HIS DAUGHTER!

The backs of his eyes stung as the lightning from within his head raged. The sound of the howling wind made his ears drums ache. But above all else was the feeling of betrayal. His guardian angel had told him he had to kill . The ever present guide that lived in his head talked to him guided him (controlled him ?) So it wasn't the first kill he had made, killing the young was natural to him. It had always been his way. Yes he killed for pleasure, the young was there for his entertainment, the angel told him that, so it could only be right. (But was there only one voice, sometimes it seemed as if there was another, but that could only be a part of him that denied the truth, only the angel spoke to him.) The angel had shown him the future (but was it his angel, still a part of him questioned) and that future was one he wanted no part in. A woman with the power to control the world. Not a political (one who has sway other the the puny minds of men), but one who could control the very essence of nature itself. The rain, the tides, the very flow of the earths natual energy. In short a god. But one with the mind of Satan. He saw world held to ransom...

His angel had shown him all of this, and had told him what he had to do. He had been shown the child that would become the God/Devil and told that he must kill her. But his daughter for Christ's sake ("Christ", why did he invoke that name?) He had questioned his angel time and again, but always the same answer. He had to kill her, (But was the voice that of his angel, why that crazy nagging doubt?) It was a chance to redeem himself (or if not to redeem, then to do something (right?) that had to be done). All he knew was that he was the chosen one. Chosen by his angel (angel?, then if not his angel whom. Why did he do this to himself, why. Only the angel could talk to him in this way. He had to stop doubting the voice. But why had the angel not spoken to him lately???)

The death of the flawed messiah sends her into the world that would have been. Thus she exist as a child in the world that she would have created as a adult. Sees the error of her way (as will be). Now how does she get back.

Laura OS

The house sat malevolently up on the hill, waiting for its next victim.

Crap. Not too cliche. Genny hit the backspace button a couple of times, deleting the sentence. She paused, then typed, no--pounded is more like it. Ragged fingernails brushed the keys of the PC keyboard.

The headlights on the car shone, their evil gleam reflected off the wet pavement.

Evaluating, she read. Didn't that sound familiar? Oh, yeah, Christine. Been there, done that. Genny smiled ruefully -- had she come to plagiarism? Delete, pause, type:

It was a dark and stormy night.

Genevieve Cottrell leaned back in the chair and sighed. If her monitor had been a sheet from a legal pad, she would have promptly crumpled it up and tossed it in the wastebasket, home to all the other lined, yellow, wadded sheets. That would have at least felt somewhat satisfying-- a graceful lob for two points. As it was, giving the computer a good smack didn't quite have the same edge to it.

She did it anyway. BAM! The computer, tenuously held together by a series of loose connections, groaned and died.

Well, wasn't that just fine. Genny got up from the desk and went to the window. Pulling aside the drapes, she looked out onto the street. Although it was past midnight, shadows of people drifted in and out of doorways and alleys, and sounds of false laughter or very real anger were never far away. Years ago, her rowhouse had been located in one of the wealthier sections of Philadelphia. Now, the downstairs entry door was locked five times over, and Genny made regular trips to the hardware store for anti-graffiti paint and materials to repair the downstairs windows, smashed again, She had broken down last year and had iron grates installed over her windows. Genny saw this as a major tragedy.

What the hell am I doing trying to write about a haunted house. Look where I live - every house, every _person_ in this place is haunted. Why should they care about make-believe witches and werewolves when they already _know_ the wolf lives in a vial of crack, and can just as easily show up at your door, in your house. And the witch next door, the one who only hits her kids on the back or chest so the bruises won't show...

Genny rubbed her eyes and shuddered, her cynicism getting to her. She felt so _old_, ancient, even at 35. She had an original idea, once. That book seemed to write itself --a fictional novel about the rise of a cult and the struggle for one member to leave and inform the public of its evil intentions and actions. Incredibly, it had been accepted for publication on her first submission. Moderate fame followed the decent reviews and a nice nest egg developed from the resulting sales, enough for Genny to quit her job teaching science to 4th graders in the Philadelphia public school system. On a local tour of book stores for talks and autograph sessions, she even met her fiance. Kurt was smart, funny, blue-collar, and she fell for him like a large pine tree in logging country.

Life was good. Then Kurt died, and she remembered that life wasn't good, not really.

The driver swore that he had only had one beer, honest, that the empties in his car were just bottles going to recycling. Congratulations, give that man the prize for creativity under duress. Well, one beer or many, the result was the same: Kurt's Toyota Tercel crunched into an unrecognizable heap, the Jaws of Life not used in too much of a hurry, thank you, not necessary for a dead guy. In the back seat was the box of wedding invitations Kurt had said he would pick up. He had, not that it mattered much.

Staring out into space, she fast-forwarded through the time since then. The funeral, money intended to be spent on a honeymoon but instead paying for a casket, flowers for memorials instead of bouquets, her dark blue suit instead of the white taffeta dress. Somewhere she read that in another culture, white is the color of mourning; that struck Genny as quite ironic. The dress hung in her attic, unused.

The block hit then, too--a second book never came. Genny sat at her computer for long hours, a sentence here, a paragraph there, always self-edited to oblivion. She tried different genres, romance, drama, mystery, espionage (that was particularly, spectacularly bad, writing of things she knew nothing about). Then she started on horror, having already gone back to her old job and moved from a condo in Elkins Park to the city. She figured horror was closer to her life than anything-- the horror of Kurt's death, bad financial decisions, life outside her window.

She'd lived there for almost five years now. Well, _resided_ there was probably more appropriate, since Genny didn't really remember what living was. Had it really been almost seven years since Kurt died? Drifting back into memory, Genny's eyes didn't catch the glint of the small flame as he lit the cigarette, standing beneath her window.

Several moments later, the knock on the door startled Genny out of her stupor. This late? Probably not a good sign. Genny walked to the stairs, debated even going downstairs to the door, then went to the bedroom, grabbed the Louisville Slugger she kept next to the bed, and went downstairs.

Looking through the peephole, she knew the face. Genny set the bat aside, unlocked the four deadbolts, and opened the door.

The wolf had arrived.

Adam Swanner

He shook her hand and led her to the door. She couldn't help but notice the fly buzzing around his dark hair. She thought it would probably get stuck in the hairspray he obviously poured onto his head to maintain the fine sculpture that was his hair.

"Thank you for your time, but we really need someone with a bit more experience." he said as if he practiced saying it into the mirror every day.

"Sure" she mumbled.

Tammi had been looking for a job ever since she found out her hubbie had been less than faithful, more than two months ago. She had quit her last job at the local Get-N-Go when she was two weeks from the expected birth date of her child. Her beautiful, perfect child.

Oh, but it wasn't perfect, not at all. Especially now.

She couldn't think about that now. Not now after her umpteenth let down in the field of jobs. She was only twenty-five and she couldn't find a job to sustain herself. Tommy had really stuck it in and broke it off. She filed for divorce because he couldn't keep it in his pants when he was away, and he agreed to give her the apartment and the dog, and damn near everything else. But the papers she signed didn't say anything about giving her the friends, or a job, or even the self-esteem she had once had. No, he took all that.

She had lost contact with all her friends from high school when she married him, replacing her friends with his, which became "theirs". So, naturally now they wouldn't speak to her (how dare she file for divorce). She was alone, unless you counted her mom who live on the other side of the country and could only offer help through the phone. No hugs or reassuring kisses on the cheek, just a dry, tinny voice from thousands of miles away. Tammi had considered moving back to California to be with her mom, but then everything truly would be gone. At least she still had her city. She loved New York as much now as she had when she moved there with her new husband (bastard) six years ago. She considered it her city. She loved the dirt, the bums and the fountains. She loved central park and couldn't get enough of the people. All kinds, all kinds.

All kinds. Bastards. Just like her husband (ex).

She was bitter and she knew it. How could she not be? He ****s a co-worker (slut) and gets caught. Did he just expect her to forgive and forget? Never. She could never forgive or forget, and the bastard is lucky she doesn't hunt him down and remove his inadequate member.

She walked the few blocks back to her apartment and opened the door, smelling last night's buttered popcorn before she got the door completely open. Ralph, her little mutt-dog was sitting on the couch looking at her as she entered.

"Hey Ralphie." she said tiredly.

She went to the answering machine and pushed the "review" button. There was a beep, followed by the deep voice of a middle-age sounding man.

"This is Rudolph Jeter, calling for Tammi Harris regarding her application at Farther Heights, Incorporated. I would like to schedule you an appointment for an interview sometime tomorrow, if possible..."

Tammi reached for the pen and pad she kept beside the answering machine and jotted down the number he gave. She quickly grabbed up the phone (green, Tommy's favorite color) and dialed the number.

A female voice answered "Farther Heights Incorporated, may I help you?"

Tammi stated her business and was quickly transferred to Mr. Jeter. After a minute of conversation she had an interview at eight o'clock AM the following day.

Burning Daylight

After tonight, he never wanted to close his eyes again, but if he wanted to stay alive, he knew that he must. Only hours ago he had been sitting in the bar, sipping his whiskey and chasing it with a swig of beer. The game was on the TV, and he had been watching until his attention turned to the people dancing. The music was a little too loud for him. It confused his thoughts and added stress to his mind, but he was counting on the alcohol to soon remedy the loud music.

Dreams about them had entered his mind before. He knew that they existed, but he never guessed he would ACTUALLY see them, or rather, see their work. The dreams that he did have about them were now rotten and fragmented in his mind. He had never actually seen them in a dream, at least not that he could remember. He had seen the destruction they caused and the death that they brought, but never had he expected them to actually exist here and now.

Weeks before, he had received an invitation to a lecture on space theories, he decided to go and while attending the lecture, he realized a few things. He realized that, compared to human comprehension, and the size of the human brain, the universe was so immense that no one, not even the greatest of minds, could imagine everything that is out there. This thought led to the idea that, if that was true, then it should also be true that everything conceivable by the human mind DID exist somewhere in the incomprehensible size of the universe. He thought this through, reasoning that every science fiction creature, every creature drawn, every creature that has been thought of, did in fact hold a place in this universe. He thought of little green men, running around in some distant place, Superman, flying dogs, the "3218 space modulator" cartoon alien from Bugs bunny, and he even thought that all of the beasts from his dreams could exist somewhere, maybe even them. Of course, not here and not now, but somewhere or sometime.

He realized, while considering himself intelligent, pondering the universe, that he couldn't place them anywhere. All of the other beasts and fictional characters, he could see on grass or walking on smooth fluorescent pavement, but not them. This thought passed on quickly. He simply couldn't place them. If he had given it more thought, he might have realized why he couldn't place them. In the depths of his simple mind he could even imagine people with their skulls removed, waddling around with their jelly like heads flapping back and forth. These other beasts, the ones that he could not place in a setting, made the other demons pretty by comparison. Perhaps they seemed less real because he wasn't able to see them in his dreams, or even imagine them on a far away planet, but if he had given them more consideration, he would have realized that made all the difference. Maybe he would have come to the conclusion that they were not just alcohol induced nightmares like all of the others.

Tonight, he had been lucky enough to sense them coming, before it was too late. It was a shame that he was the only lucky one.

The bar was alive with chatter, dancing, music and the television. One of his friends, Scott, had just introduced him to his new girlfriend.

'Hey Eric, we're eating over in the corner, but I thought you'd like to meet my friend Cara.'

Eric politely said hello and made the necessary small talk. Scott ordered two drinks while Cara and Eric became acquainted, and then they said goodbye to Eric and returned to their table.

There was a group across the bar that were celebrating some happy event. Eric guessed it was a birthday, but he wasn't sure. He watched as they sucked down shot after shot of Tequila and Yeagermeister. In the group there was a short woman with a tattoo of a dolphin. It was made to look like it was diving out from between her breasts. She looked very professional, and he guessed that she usually wore higher shirts to cover the two dimensional creature. Beside her, a man that was very muscular, but had a tiny head for his size, stared at her and smiled. He seemed to be trying to open his eyes to attract the women more, perhaps he thought that it made him look more lively. Eric thought the guy was only succeeding in making himself look like a phycotic moron.

A couple came in and sat themselves in the bar stools next to Eric. He recognized them, they came in this bar often. He had talked to them once, but he had been drunk, and it wasn't really a conversation. That talk only consisted of him slobbering out words in their direction. He vaguely remembered them telling him their names, at this moment, he had no notion of anything they had said. He caught himself staring at them, and gave a painful looking smile. The woman returned an awkward smile and the man gave a hint of a nod. A few minutes later the couple spotted a less crowded space on the bar and moved. Eric thought it was because of his past performance, but didn't care. He decided to light a cigarette. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his Newports, but he couldn't find his lighter. After several minutes of waving down the bartender he received a pack of matches. Looking up at the TV, Eric noticed that the Colts had just scored a touchdown and then the inevitable commercials started. He placed the cigarette in his mouth, tore off a match, struck it, and lit his cigarette. During this mechanical procedure, some of the sulfur smoke drifted into Eric's eyes from the match. It burned and he squinted in pain. He closed his eyes tightly and rubbed them softly with his left hand. While his eyes were closed, he saw the bar. On the TV the colts were lining up for the return kick. He looked around the bar, everyone was dead. There was blood still dripping out of some of the bodies, but most of the blood had already started to turn a little brown. He couldn't tell how they had been killed. Some of the bodies looked like they were cut a thousand times, some lay on the floor with curled appendages, as if every bone in the body had been pulverized. Others had their necks stretched out and their arms hanging by shreds of skin. He saw Scott's head. It looked like it had a halo of holes around the top, and it seemed more the shape of a pear then the shape of a head.

Eric jumped away from his rubbing hand and gasped. He looked around the bar, saw everyone alive and let out a sigh of relief. He thought, ' I'm reallying losing it. Nope, I'm already lost.' with a smile.

While slowly shaking his head back and forth and worrying about his mental state, the TV caught his eye. Then he remembered the TV he had just seen. His eyes popped open and his jaw dropped, but his lips were dry and sticky, and it only managed to shrink his lips to a small 'o' and stretch his cheeks.

'It's still a commercial.' he thought. 'I can stand this, time for bed.' He took a heavy drag off of his cigarette then pushed his stool out so fast it almost fell over. Leaving everyone that he had seen in the bar. He headed for the door, opened it and as it was closing he heard the sports announcer say, 'WELCOME BACK FOLKS WE'RE HERE...'

Eric had to walk around the other side of the bar to be headed on his way home. The bar had large picture windows all the way around it. He couldn't help but look through the half open Venetian blinds on his way past. As he walked, he continued to slow down, until he stopped completely. The people in the bar seemed to blinked into different positions. Their were lines, comparable only to the static lines on a bad video recording, dancing all around the bar. The blood would start running after one of the statics passed a person, and the person would become more and more disfigured. A few times, only for a split second, Eric saw grinning, scarred faces with one waving arm, shoot out from some of the lines. It looked more like a cardboard cutout spinning on a pole for a brief moment, and then the static would continue it's horrific dance.

By this time, Eric had backed into the brick wall building across the alley from the bar. Then, as soon as it had started, the static disappeared. The bar was left in the same horrific state he had foreseen. Scott's head was crushed into the shape of a pear as if he had been torchered for days, with bolts slowly being tightened all the way around his skull. The others looked like they had been torchered too, and it also seemed like they must have been killed hours ago. Standing there in terror, he caught something out the corner of his eye. He jerked his head to see what it was, to see if it was one of 'them', but it wasn't, it was the woman with the dolphin tattoo. She was poking her head around the corner, and when she saw that he was looking, she disappeared back around the corner.

Jon Ramstad


Hi there. Don't you remember me? I'm sure we've met. Oh well. Since you seem so insecure, please allow me to introduce myself. (Heh.) Excuse me, a small joke.

I am a street. Not just any old street, mind you: I am The Good Street. That's not my real name, of course, if by real you're thinking of what my sign says. Right now it says Cow Street, although there hasn't been any cows around these parts since the fall of '67, when old Milligan forgot to close the back of his truck downtown and several walking hamburgers got out to raze the flowerbeds all over town.

Up through the years my signs have changed; I've been named Oak Street, Hanson Road, West Street and a couple of others, but I've always been called Good Street by those who matter. My inhabitants.

Frankly, I don't really care about most people, but my job in this world is to be a Good Street to live in for the chosen ones. And I do my best. If my people have problems, I try to help them out. If they are happy, I make that last as long as possible. If someone from the outside moves in, I'll help them adapt to life in The Good Street - or make their stay a short one if they're misfits.

And if someone I like try to move, I make them stay.


A noisy moving van was driving slowly down Good Street, waking up the Vincent's cat in the process. The fat old animal wasn't used to any road activity on Sunday afternoons, and only reluctantly gave up its favourite spot in the middle of the road when it became clear that the unknown car was not going to reconsider and come back another day. The cat crept under Frank Spencer's white fence without exhibiting much grace.

- Nice pussy, daddy!

A little boy, about three years of age squeezed his nose flat against the car window. His father in the front seat had barely registered the cat, what with that van in front of them and all, but he could scarcely avoid hearing the chuckling from the other passenger in the back seat. His eleven year old daughter had apparently come to that age where every single word that could be slang for some unmentionable bodypart or use of same, was a punchline in a sort of humour he didn't understand at all. And what word held no sexual connotations whatsoever these days? Seemed like the kid was giggling all the time, without any reason. Hopefully, she would stop in a year or so. If nothing else, then just to draw breath.

The moving van and the Volvo following it was observed from lots of kitchen windows.

- A Volvo? A ****ing Volvo? In our street? God, I just hope they ain't Norwegians. I knew one once, you know. I...
- Swedes.
- Huh? What the hell do you mean?
- Volvo is a Swedish car, although the name is latin. It means...
- Sweden, Norway, bloody Finland! What's the difference? Same big oafs.
- I'm spinning round.
- You lost what little brains you had, woman? Or is it a headache again?
- "Volvo" means "I'm spinning round".
- Oh, shut up. Can't you see I'm trying to see what's happening here?

- Daaaad! The new neighbours are coming!
- So it seems, son. So it seems.
- Is all their furniture in that van? Do they have kids? My age? Maybe a dog? Why can't we have a dog, daddy?
- Let's wait and see, buddy. We'll go over and say hello when you've eaten your carrots.
- Why can't we go now?
- Carrots first.

- Oh, yes!
- What? What do you see?
- She's removing her clothes! She's unbuttoning her blouse...
- Lemme see too!
- Buy your own binoculars. Oh yes, no she's...NO! ****! That damn van _had_ to park right there. Of course it did. It's so bloody typical.
- You should have lent me the 'scope, Ted.
- Oh, shut up. Here, have a look at the new neighbours if you like.
- Nah. Who cares about stupid neighbours?
- Who indeed? Wanna go grab a soda?


I'm sure you can imagine other conversations like these without me telling you all about them. For my part, I supplied the weather. I wonder if I had bothered if I had known how it was going to turn out.

I probably would. Meddling may not be what it's cranked up to be, but it's what I do. And I'm good. The best street there is. Now lean back and let me tell you some more.

Spacey Wench (Traci)

The old woman sat in the darkness of the cave and waited. Patiently waiting for the spirits to contact her. "Soon," she thought ," very soon I will have the answers to my questions." Carefully she scooped up her prized posession wih her arthritic old fingers and cradled it lovingly to her dry and withered old breasts. The source of all of her powers, the object was the size of a softball. The drawings on the sides of the object was that of a billard ball. The object even had her favorite number written on it. Who can say if it was written on the ball because it was her favorite or if 8 was her favorite number because it was written on her favorite object.

"Now is the time!", she cried into the darkness. "Now I will have my answers." With trembling hands she raised the object to eye level and asked her first question. "Will I find the Child?" As she asked her question, she shook her magic ball. And the object, The Magic 8 Ball, answered......


David was eight years old when he fell.

He always walked his sister, Maggie, home from school. He was in third grade, and Maggie was in first, and he was a Big Boy now. He had to Watch Out and be Responsible. So when the other third grade boys ran out to the parking lot behind JFK Middle School, hollaring and throwing their baseball mitts up in the air, David slouched over to the first grade door, where Maggie was waiting for him.

She was sucking on her thumb, and her pink and yellow back pack hung from one shoulder, half open. When she saw him approaching, she pulled her thumb out of her mouth with a loud *pop* and yelled, "Davey! I wanna go by the apple trees! Cindy Miller says we can get apples if Mr. Tannen isn't looking. I wanna apple."

David rolled his eyes. "I *ain't* taking you by Tannen's orchard, Hag-face. We're going home, and then I'm coming back to play ball." He roughly turned her around and zipped up her pack. "And stop sucking your thumb. Only stupid babies suck their thumbs."

Maggie glowered over her shoulder at him. "I'm gonna tell Ma you called me Hag-face. I'm gonna tell her you called me Hag-face and a stupid baby and you're gonna be in *trouble*." She began walking out to the school yard. "She's gonna ground you," She threw back before pushing open the doors and walking out into the September sun.

"Shhhhh....." He didn't dare finish the word in the school building. He headed out the door at a half job to catch up with his sister. The sunlight hit him right in the eyes and when he could see again, he saw Maggie walking out of the schoolyard, turning in the direction away from home, towards Tannen's farm. This time he did finish the word, looking around guiltily to make sure no one heard him. "Maggie! Hey Maggie, wait!" he called, breaking into a full run. She heard him behind her, and started running, too. He was older and stronger, but she was faster, and she disappeared around the corner. He turned the corner in time to see her wiggling through a hole in the stone wall surrounding Tannen's orchard.

The wall was higher than most stone walls in town. It was pretty much as tall as David, and it was topped with sharp stones. He knelt down by the hole. He could only see Maggie's patent leather shoes and frilly white socks folded down over her ankles. He could hear her catching her breath. "Maggie," he called through the wall. "Come on, come back out before Tannen catches you."

He heard her snort behind the wall. "You couldn't catch me, and he's an old man." Her feet suddenly disappeared from his sight.

"He's an old man with a *gun*, Maggie," he yelled through the opening. He laid down on his stomach, trying to see where she had gone. The hole was just too small for him to squeeze through. He stood back up, and looked over the wall.


Hi, I'm Shawn Lambert. Before last week rolled around, I was the football coach at Jessup High School down here in Wilson County, 'bout an hour southwest of San Antonio. We had a good team last year, goin' seven and three. We lost to Presidio in the first round of the playoffs, a town thirty minutes closer to Corpus Christi, and where my son Eric's girlfriend Lori lives. Jessup's a real nice little town, with seven thousand people, the county offices, and one of the rowdiest bars on the Corridor. Caddy's Shack , the saloon in question, is owned by Danny "Cadillac" Duvall, my best friend and old Army buddy from the 82nd. He keeps it open until three AM, even though the state says he can't push booze past two. Mayor Escobar hates him, Sheriff Yanta hates him, and half the community would love nothing better than to run him outta town. It's been more than once though when the first two men's wives were there with the other half of town. Both of us bein' the single types, and outcasts in a place where generations of families have lived since the turn of the century, we manage to get together Sunday nights for a coupla drinks at my house. Eric works for Caddy, and barbacks Saturday thru Wednesday till midnight.

We were watching the Sunday night football game with a case Caddy pilfered from his bar when the phone rings. Being the football coach in a small town in Texas, you damn well better believe I have an unlisted number. At ten-thirty on a Sunday night, I can't think of why Eric would call from work; and the young lady I'm seein', Alison, was in Houston visiting her mother. Caddy rushed to grab it, muttering somethin' 'bout "those damn Steelers". On hindsight, I still can't figure out why he answered it. From the other room, I hear his deep voice drop to a hushed whisper, catching bits and pieces. "Oh ****, buddy"..."Where are you?"..."Why?"..."Why?"...I finally can't take what this is all about and go to the kitchen.

I've known Caddy since high school. We joined the Army together, went to the same college back in Oklahoma, and furthermore, I was his little sister's first bedmate. Jackie's now married to a Canadian lawyer, but our relationship my senior year of high school produced a son. I'm almost ashamed to say this, but Caddy might be closer to his nephew than I am. If you were sixteen and your uncle owned a bar and was the scourge of town, you'd be pretty tight too. In the eighteen years I've known this man, I have never seen him in tears. This was pretty close. When I took the phone from him and heard what my son told me, I didn't have the same restraint.

My truck is exactly what a Texas small-town type should drive, an eight-year-old Ford with a Jessup Stallions sticker on the bumper and caked mud all over everything else. I move over enough of my scouting reports and Health tests so Caddy can plant his two hundred thirty pounds. He's bitchin' and moanin' under his breath, and only raises his voice to tell me where to go. When we get to where Eric's Eclipse is, my eyes well up again, so much that Caddy has to grab the wheel as we drive past it. When we get to the Exxon station right outside Presidio five minutes later, I see my son.

Eric looks a lot like I did at sixteen, except for his mother's brown hair instead of my blonde. He's got broad shoulders, and a big grin most of the time. He's also got a tattoo on his left ankle that he keeps thinking I haven't seen yet. Well, when I get out of the truck I see the blue barbed wire and no smile. Caddy rushes up and grabs him before I can, but not quick enough to mask the smell. Now, I like to have a few beers, and maybe I drink too much. But Eric smelled like a brewery. I've known for the last three months that Caddy lets Eric have one or two after work back in the office, and I thought that was fine. I know he gets drunk when he goes out with his buddies instead of Lori. But he had school the next day, and he looked like boiled crap. When I embrace him and ask if he's OK, he replies, "Yeah, but I think we better check on the Sheriff."

Harry Yanta was what my daddy woulda called "one bona-fide sumbitch". He raises hell over what he can't change and doesn't do a damn thing about what he can. I always despised the sorry bastard, and when I see his car down in the ditch, I almost felt sorry for him. Then I thought about what he did to my son. The tan and white Ford Taurus was well hidden by the mesquite trees on the fenceline and Eric's green hatchback. Caddy was on his cell-phone as me and my boy went to look at this scene. Eric had the keys to the cruiser,and went to unlock the trunk. I spit on the screaming figure inside as Eric told the whole story.

i didn't know that Kendra, the Sunday bartender, had instructions to let Eric go every Sunday at nine so he could go see Lori. Eric asked Caddy a while back if this was OK, since I wouldn't let him on a school night, especially if he was supposed to be working. Caddy was fine with it, so he snuck out a bottle of the well bourbon and drove to Presidio. Eric was driving a little fast and his young body wasn't handling the liquor that well. So when he saw the cherries flash on the car behind him, he got scared. He put the half-empty bottle under his bookbag in the back seat, and pulled over on the shoulder, next to the mileage sign to Corpus.

Yanta comes up to the window and yells at Eric, "Roll down that gaddamn window!" Eric responds and Yanta demended his license and insurance. Eric complies yet again, and is scared out of his mind. He's had his car and his license for less than three months, and now he's drunk and the cops got him. After Yanta reads it over , he invites Eric out of the car. When Eric is spread against his Eclipse, Yanya spent a little too much time searching the area beneath the belt line. Eric is told to sit on the side of the road while his car is searched. When his bottle of Old Crow comes up, Eric head sinks and he starts murmuring, "Oh ****...oh ****!" That sorry-ass Sheriff hears this and realizes what he considers a golden opportunity.

"Do you want your Daddy to know about this? How about when we book you for the night? What do you think about that, hotshot?", Yanta roars at him. "No, sir", Eric mumbles. "You'll be kicked off Daddy's football team, and suspended at the school. You're in deep ****, hotshot!" screamed Yanta. "Yes,sir." Yanta looks and him and the bottle. "Now that's a good answer, hotshot." Yanta starts to smile and takes a long pull at the bottle. He puts in on the ground and pulls out his service .45. Holding it at Eric's head, he slowly unzips his pants and motions with ths gun. Eric whimpers, "No, no, please God no!" Yanta replies smoothly, " Say another word and I'll blow your ****in' head off."

Now, I've never been a huge gun collector, but Eric's Uncle Danny is. Caddy's got German WWII sidearms, Russian guns, and of course American firearms. He's even got a .45. And Eric's fired it a coupla dozen times. But Eric realizes something from that day a coupla tears ago when Caddy taught him how to fire it.

The hammer has to be back.

Eric sees the .45 in his face through the tears and the pain in his jaw and decided to take a gamble. He bit down with all the force he could muster and picked up the gun as it hit the ground. Now, cocking back the hammer, he takes one shot and destroys the Sheriff's genital region. Then he took the keys from Yanta, loaded the bleeding piece-of-**** in the trunk, locked the cruisers doors, and ran like hell. We drove up to the phone at the Exxon twenty minutes later.

A black Chevy pickup pulls up and the window reveals Kendra, the girl from the 'Shack. She drives well, and takes six different farm-to-market roads to Austin Eric and I sleep like the dead all the way there. but before I go under I see Caddy and her lock hands. Incredibly enough, I fall asleep smiling. At eight o'clock Monday morning, a young salesman in a purple suit sold two new trucks, cash to a Alex Donnell of San Antonio. Alex looked a helluva lot like Daniel Duvall of Jessup, Texas. Alex announced that we were going to New Mexico to visit his winter house at the ski resort in Ruidoso. Kendra decides to come with us, and we sell her black truck right next door.

Now, Caddy's my best friend, and I knew he was involved in skimming at the 'Shack, but I had no idea he was loaded. Oh yeah, and him having another name and identity threw me off too. But then again, I thought, I'll ask him about that later. The man's no saint, but as I said earlier, he might care more about Eric than I do. And recently I learned how much that really is. Another thing I'll ask Caddy later. Let's get out of the state first.

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