Choppers by Matthew C. Funk...

The kids of Desire didn't know they were born to tear each other apart. They made it through childhood on the faith that they would always hold together. But there were five of them, and that was four too many to survive.

Cyrus kept them serious and ran their game by a science of paper bags and throwaway cell phones. Petey Pink played with spinning coins on the cracks of his corners but never played around on his girl. Bebe, Petey's baby mama at fourteen, kept her daughter, Bella, on her knee and only had eyes for Petey. Crush cocked a University of Tennessee Volunteers cap at the top of his towering head as a reminder that once, someone from elsewhere cared about New Orleans. Will Clementine whistled Dixieland through his grin like there wasn't a care in the world.

The Desire Projects were their home-locked in windowless brick and bathed in hot sirens. The corners of Desire were where they lived. The corners' angles aimed at somewhere else-edges stuck in the flank of some place better for them to bleed a living from.

They pushed drugs and pulled in survival. Cocaine won their rent. Weed let them eat better than eggs and rice. Pills came and went like movie tickets to something other than the horror film they knew.

They knew the kind of hunger that kept them awake with thoughts of licking the walls just to taste something. They knew terror of midnight knocking and windows pried silent after hours. They knew growing up was the same thing as being taken from.

They never lost each other. Until the choppers arrived.

The choppers came in a crate that smelled of dust and fry oil and high places. It was marked with an alien alphabet and it was thick with violence. A man named Vicious sold it to them with golden words and a straight razor for a smile.

"This is our ticket out," Cyrus promised as he lifted a chopper-the AK-47 assault rifle feeling like some heavy vehicle too fast for anyone to catch.

"This will make 'em all listen up good," Crush said and counted the bullets.

"This is the big time right here," Petey said, a clip locking home sounding like a lock unlatching. And Bebe put on a smile for him, stitched strong with hope. And Will whistled that the Saints would be Marching In.

Then came the silence of planning. Then there was thunder. From the eyes of the five, the choppers opened a storm that blew blood and loose cocaine across the Ninth Ward.

They broke Eagle Street into an avalanche of crack rock. They hit Florida District until the pills bounced out of the corpses. They chopped up boys' bodies and they stepped on the flake they took from them.

As they picked up the pieces, their whispers of suspicion spread with the smoke. Petey whispered that Cyrus was hiding a thicker cut of the stolen coke for himself. Crush whispered to Will that Petey was looking to play them all. Will stopped whistling and started to listen to the cracks opening among the five.

They each came to Vicious, stoop-shouldered in his jazz-club backroom, their mixed drinks as strange to their hands as magic potions. And they asked his stainless smile if their suspicions were right.

"Yes," Vicious said. To each question of violence, he answered, "Yes."

And he was right. The five made sure of it.

Cyrus was the first to be broken up by the choppers. Petey cracked him open at the Shell station on St. Claude and mixed the pieces with three of his cousins. What was left of Cyrus in his Ford Explorer was a mass of meat that the shape of a friend couldn't be found in.

They weren't friends anymore after that. They were trigger fingers and opportunity. They were cuts of flesh for the waiting choppers.

Bebe broke first. Even in bathtub of ice cubes, she sweated out the story of Petey killing Cyrus to Crush. Crush hung up on Bebe for the last time and made a call to Will.

Will's chopper left the coins from Petey's pockets spinning in the torn plum of his body. The NOPD took five hours picking the bullets from the slime, chunks and glinting change. In four hours, Bebe found Crush.

When the paramedics found Crush, he was still breathing. He'd lost blood and he'd lost use of his bowels. He'd lost most of his teeth. Will found them and made a necklace while he made a list of the places Bebe would hide.

Bebe and Will took their choppers to the streets and took apart every place that belonged to them.

Bebe's house burned with her older brother spine-shot in its bullet-ridden kitchen. Will's mother didn't have a head to kiss goodbye in her closed casket. Their choppers splintered school rooms, church socials, supermarkets, and the Upper Ninth smoked with sawdust and cordite and loss.

The Upper Ninth breathed a week of relief when Will clapped duct-tape over Bebe's sleeping mouth and woke her up in his basement.

He razed her nerves with wire and lit cigarettes. He robbed her right eye with his fingers. He cracked open her body with his and he whispered what he'd do to her daughter.

What was left of Bebe scarred over and closed ugly.

Vicious pulled her from the basement while Will was nodding on purple drank. He brought Bebe to his white-washed backroom and he sat her at a table with Crush. Crush sported a new smile made of solid gold. Vicious filled their hands with umbrella drinks and their heads with promises.

Crush asked if Vicious really cared about Crush's New Orleans. Bebe asked if they would get her daughter back.

"Yes," Vicious said. To load their clips and keep the choppers firing, he said, "Yes."

The choppers roared until no one was left to answer.

Matthew C. Funk is a social media consultant, professional marketing copywriter and writing mentor. He is the editor of the Genre section of the critically acclaimed zine, FictionDaily, and a writer for FangirlTastic and Spinetingler Magazine. M. C. Funk's work features at numerous sites online and in print with Needle Magazine, Howl, 6S and Crimefactory. He is represented by Stacia J. N. Decker of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.

Two Burgers with Fries and Coke by Erin Cole...

We stopped at an old café, one of those with chipped pastel paint and an old, angry woman sitting out front eating a corndog.

I crawled from the passenger’s side of Antoine’s red Firebird, took a drag from my smoke, and flicked it toward a rusted-out gas pump—that was just the bitch in me.

Antoine shot me a glare.

I slammed the door, looking at him like, What?

“Can you stay the fuck cool, Lily?”

“Like you do so well?” I replied, surely with mocking blue eyes. But Antoine loved my spirit—and the cherry-red pumps I wore that day, the ones that were shinier than greased leather…the ones he liked me to prop up on his shoulders—and he smacked me hard on the ass.

So, we go into this café—I was hungrier than the devil.

“Welcome to Sandie’s Sundaes,” a short, homely gal said. “What can I get you?” Her smile looked at odds with her odd self, and I hoped the grease in her hair wasn’t from the food.

“A burger and fries,” I said.

“Do you want a milkshake with that?”

“Do I look twelve?”

Her smile stiffened, as if she were having gastric pain.

Antoine stepped up to the counter. “You got any beer?”

Her smile went as flat as her backside. “No sir. We only have soda and ice-cream.”

“Then two burgers with fries and coke.”

“Is that for here or to go?”

“To go,” I said in unison with Antoine’s, “For here.”

He turned to me, pointing a stiff finger. “There’s no way you’re eatin’ in my car, woman.”

I put both hands on my hips and leaned over with cleavage to maximize my point (they say it’s all in the delivery, you know). “Oh, but it’s okay to stick Manny in the trunk, is it?”

Antoine let out his practiced laughed. He turned to the woman behind the counter. “Manny is our stuffed pig.”

Now that had me laughing, because that was a pretty accurate description of that gluttonous fat-fuck, who was now chillin’ in Antoine’s trunk from a couple’a bullet holes to his chest.

“Fine…for here then,” I agreed. “And put extra onions on one of those burgers.”

“I guess he won’t be kissing you for awhile,” the woman snickered.

I leaned over the counter, clicking my nails to exploit my position again. “Say, you wouldn’t happen to be Sandie, would ya? Cuz if ya are, I’m gonna give you one sundae you’ll never forget, right between yer big fuckin’ mouth.”

Antoine tapped me on the butt. I crooked my head his direction. He held up three fingers, reminding me to keep it cool because of the three mill’ we had zipped up in the backseat cushion of his Firebird, which we’d stolen from that stuffed pig in the trunk.

I turned back around when a man bigger than night stepped up to the counter. His overalls could have covered the back of a horse.

“I am Sandie,” he said real slow, an effective delivery because it gave Antoine and me more time to panic. “Who gives a shit?”

I sure as shit did, but Antoine wouldn’t have it. He flipped out his bad-boy Glock, G30. “I give a shit, Sandie,” he said all cocky. “Now why don’t you open that register and give me all your shit.” Antoine could smile like a crocodile, and when he put his eyes into it, he looked crazy too.

“I think we’ll take those burgers to go after all,” I told the woman.

“O yeah?” Sandie said to Antoine’s barrel, something that I knew must have unnerved Antoine.

In one blurred motion, Sandie reached his hand up to a strap crossing his chest, tugged once, and dropped a sawed-off shotgun into his beefy palm, faster than Antoine could think, Holy Mother of Fuck?

“I think it’s high time you leave, little man. And take your cheap horror with you.”

Whatever, I thought—I’d been called worse by my own father.

The woman stuffed napkins into our bag and handed it to me. “Bye-bye now,” she said with a side of sarcasm.

Antoine was pissed. He didn’t want to let down his gun.

“C’mon, don’t be a dumb-ass, Antoine. Let’s go!”

But it seemed we were too late. Outside, sirens howled and police cars from all angles shot toward the front door of Sandie’s Sundaes.

“Oh shit…,” Antoine blurted, stuffing his gun back into his pants. Sandie adjusted his aim, red-faced ready to blow the place up.

Men in black shields busted through all the doors at the same time. Antoine ducked to the floor with his hands up, while me and homely gal froze in place. The cops jumped over Antoine and charged Sandie. He fired his gun, but a blow from behind to his shoulder rammed the barrel toward the ceiling. Shards of plasterboard and paneling blasted into the air, followed by white powder that billowed down like fairy dust—tasted like it too. Black, duct-taped bags toppled from the hole in the ceiling. Sandie’s Sundaes, for sure. But Sandie’s strength paralleled his height and it took all five officers to bust him down—they weren’t going to give him the easy route like Manny got.

Antoine and I slipped out the front door with two burgers, fries, and coke dusted over us like ash. The old, angry woman was still sitting on the steps eating her corndog, either oblivious or hardened by the redundancy of pandemonium in her neighborhood.

Antoine heaved Manny’s body into the back of Sandies’ Chevy (so the license plate said) and jumped in the car. I was already chowin’ down on my burger, because ‘member, I was hungrier than the devil and not even a little lead can interfere with an appetite like that.

“Don’t you dare slop anything on my seats,” Antoine growled at me as he sped off.

“I’m not fuckin’ twelve.”

Once on the freeway, we laughed, realizing we’d forgotten our cokes.

Erin Cole usually writes mystery and horror, but is often lured by the dark angel's curled finger to sex, drugs, and violence.  It is a shame, but you can support her through these rough times at her blog or website.  Her work has appeared in various print anthologies (Static Movement, Lame Goat Press, Pill Hill Press, Red Skies Press) and online magazines (Pulp Metal Magazine, Flashes in the Dark, The New Flesh, Negative Suck, and Fantastic Horror).  Currently, she is working on the sequel to her novel, Grave Echoes: A Kate Waters Mystery, and total world domination.

Do Unto Buzz by Jim Harrington

I parked an outhouse in Buzz's front yard late last night and blew it up. I suppose I should feel bad, but I don't. In fact, I think I strained something trying not to laugh out loud as I watched the contents of the crapper spatter all over the front of Buzz's house.

Buzz'll know who did it. He ain't that dense. We been pulling stunts on each other since high school.

Martha, that's my wife, says I need to grow up. If I really want to get to her, I raise my arms and fly around the house like I'm Peter fucking Pan. If it's close to supper time, I simply duck my head and say, "He did it to me last." That argument usually gets me this pose from Martha, like Superman staring down some bad guy, but I keep trying.

Buzz's pranks almost always have something to do with my truck. He probably figures it's in such bad shape he can't do it much harm. Once he hid a hornet's nest under the seat. I never bailed out of anything as fast as I did that beat-up Ford. Ran into the neighbor's driveway and nearly got run over by Old Lady Moss heading to church. I couldn't believe the language coming outta her mouth.

Martha reminded me about the time her daddy caught us in the barn. Said I ran fast then, also. Too bad he didn't get there sooner. Maybe I wouldn't of had to marry Martha before she birthed Jesse.

I tried to talk to Buzz about stopping, but all he wanted to do was argue. Didn't surprise me. He can be a mean son of a bitch. Kinda like a billy goat left alone too long in a pasture.

The argument turned into a real scorcher of a fight, and the best time I had with Buzz. I got to use all my cuss words without Martha saying something.

We ended up on the ground rolling around and beating on each other. He was winning, until I landed a hard punch on his liver.

I know someday we'll have to stop, probably soon. Martha's right. It's time for me to grow up. Jesse is five and needs a better example of how to be a man. Martha deserves better for putting up with me, too.

Buzz is coming down the street. I can't see his face, but he's not using his happy walk. He's carrying one of those fancy squirt guns with the big tank. I suppose now would be good time to tell him I pulled my last prank, but I want to see what he does to my truck this time. Besides, I still got a stick of dynamite left. It'd be a shame to waste it on some old tree.

Jim discovered flash fiction in 2007, and he’s read, written, studied, and agonized over the form since. His recent stories have appeared in Flashshot, A Twist of Noir, The Short Humour Site, Dew on the Kudzu, and others. Jim's Six Questions For blog ( provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.”

Cold Storage by Michael J. Solender...

“Bet you I could fry an egg in here, yours too?” The guy was wearing a faded Jerry Garcia T-shirt, had more chins than a New York City phonebook, and sucked on one of those God awful Swisher Sweets, the kind that had the plastic white tips and cost two bucks for a package of five.

He was easing much too close to my unit, looking in my storage shed which shared a wall with his. In the fifteen years I’d been at EZStore, I’d never seen anybody even on the same row as my unit before today.

I don’t like neighbors. I really didn’t like him.

“It’s July and we’re in five acres of asphalt, what do you expect?” I didn’t make eye contact and got my small frame between his prying eyes and my unit, where I pulled the crinkled aluminum roller door all the way down.

Sweat mixed with sun-block was burning my eyes and the LA smog, viscous and practically spreadable, wasn’t helping any. The tone in my voice made it pretty clear I didn’t want to chat.

“You got yours fixed with power? Whatcha running in there?” Those were two questions more than I wanted to answer and I started scanning the lot to see if we were alone. Usually I made my visits to EZStore late at night but the electrical storm this morning left me uneasy.

Way too many people during the day. I wouldn’t have come had I not been worried about the freezer.

Open doors on multiple units in my field of view looked like spring break at the dorms at State. Boxes and clothes strewn about, busted up bicycles and crap that husbands try and hide from their wives. Without storage rental units, the divorce rate in this country would be twice what it is today.

“It’s a generator. I’m keeping a generator here and I just wanted to see if it is still working.” This time I looked him straight in his nosy eyes and shot him the meanest back off look I could muster. I had not as yet had the opportunity to check on the freezer and see if my packages survived the power outage.

I could hardly go back in with this shit-bird hanging out.

“Say buddy, you don’t think you could give me a hand, do you? I got this box in my truck..” I was cutting this off right now.

“No! Look, pal, I got stuff I need to do and I ain’t got time to talk or help you out, sorry but no.” I decided right there to split and go get breakfast. The freezer was humming and, while I didn’t get a chance to check, my packages were probably just fine. I wasn’t hanging out here anymore, with mister chatty/nosy, I would come back after breakfast.


Huevos Rancheros at Dianna’s always leaves me in a better mood and that’s exactly where I was ‘till I rounded the corner at EZStore and saw that my neighbor was not only still hanging around, he had my unit door half way open and was staring, transfixed at my freezer.

“What the shit is going on?” I pulled my car between him and the door, he was practically penned in.

“Hey now, pal..” He was hemming and I could tell that he could tell this scene didn’t bode well for him.

“I’m not your pal, now suppose you tell me why you’re in my shit here.”

“Look man, you split and didn’t lock your unit, I was only trying to help.” He was sweating and he was lying. I really despise sweaty liars.

By now I was out of the truck and even though I was smaller than him, I pushed him into the unit, spun around, and quickly pulled the door down. The dusty, haze made way in through the top cracks in the unit and it there was enough light in there to see what I needed to see.

“Hey, pal..what’s going on, what are you doing, wait a minute, I was just trying to help you out. I thought you might need a hand.”

“Like I told you partner, I’m not your pal and I don’t need a hand, I got plenty.” With that, I cold cocked him, the palm of my hand coming up swift under his nose which splintered like taffy into the soft fleshy tissue surrounding his septum. Blood, the deep oxygenated purple kind, came out in clumps from the fleshy mass that used to be his nose.

While this wasn’t my normal work space, it would have to do now that I had him here. I get him froze up for a few days and take him back to my workshop at home one evening next week. I pulled his keys and would ditch his truck later.

I spun the combo lock on the freezer. A good thing, I’d had a barbeque last weekend as I had just enough space for him to fit.

A little bleach and a roll of paper towels and I got most of it cleaned up.

I had no trouble getting him up-top the rest of the roasts. One of the benefits of volunteer fire fighting is learning technique for firemen’s carry and keeping fit enough to execute when need be.


I hadn’t been back to EZStore since ditching his truck at LAX and leaving him chill up into a fetal shaped ice cube a week earlier.

I couldn’t even believe my misfortune upon pulling up to my unit. The sumbitch on the other side of my unit is there and give me a big “howdy-do.”

Wants to know if it’s hot enough for me.

I say nothing and don’t even unlock my unit. I head back to my truck.

“Where ya going pal? You forget something?” He says as I start it up.

El-Ay. Suburbs in search of a city. 9 million Angelenos most who don’t give a shit about their next door neighbors or who their kids play with. I’ve been on the same block for 14 years and don’t even so much as get a wave from anyone who eats, sleeps and craps 20 yards from me.

Now, in the span of two weeks I’ve got two storage neighbors who think I’m their pal. I’m NOT anyone’s pal. I look neighbor two in the face and tell him where I’m going.

“I need to pick up another freezer. I’ll be back soon.”

Michael J. Solender is the editor of Full of Crow’s nonfiction magazine,  On The Wing. You can find more of his work at his website and also at the NOT.

A Visit From Mr. Spike by Jesse Lee...

The young officer picked up a note written in green crayon off the kitchen table. He handed it to the detective.

"Sir, looks like a page from the daughter's diary, or something."

The detective moved into a better light and read the words scrawled on the crumpled page...

Mr. Spike visits Daddy everyday to bring him candy, sometimes even two times a day. It's my job to get him all full up with the candy before Daddy meets him. Mr. Spike sure is a funny lookin' fella: he's all thin and clear and made of plastic with a long silver nose which he uses to kiss Daddy with. He looks like that pin-pricker thing what the Doctor gives you when you a young'n so you don't get sick. Sometimes when I push on him real hard he squirts his guts out his nose! But Daddy get awful angry if I do that before he meets him.

"Don't you go short changin' Daddy, little one."

I didn't hear Daddy's voice no more after he told me that. He done took his candy what I gave him then went to sleep in his big ole' chair like he always does. I think short changin' means not skimpin' on how much candy I give Mr. Spike. Last time I didn't give him as much as he liked and he gave me a terrible bad beatin'! I couldn't sit down for a week! My friends at school thought that was helluh funny! So tonight I made positive to give Mr. Spike more than what's normal.

I use the spoon Daddy gives me to cook up his candy mostly, but tonight I though it was a right good idea to use that big spoon in the 2nd drawer - the one what Mamma used to use to mix up cakes before she went away. Daddy's candy filled it up real nice like. He sure ain't gonna hit me around tonight!

Slap! Slap! Slap! The mosquitoes were on Daddy's arm again. Them little blood suckers are always on Daddy's arm after I take Mr. Spike over to meet him. But he makes it better soon, they fly away and don't bite his arm no more after he takes the candy out of Mr. Spike.

Anyways, tonight after Mr. Spike's visit Daddy didn't wake up. I had me a bad dream about monsters and tried to wake Daddy up to read me a happy story but he still sleepin'. Even a cup of cold water didn't wake him up. I slapped him like Mamma used to but he didn't move nothin'. No smelly air comin' out his nose no more neither, and his belly don't go in-out in-out none. Yep, I think Daddy done went to Jesus' house now. That ain't good coz Mamma gonna come home soon and see Daddy here sleepin' again. I gotta hide Daddy and I gotta take Mr. Spike away too coz he still got his long pointy nose stuck in Daddy's arm.

I tried pullin' Daddy off the chair and rollin' him up somewhere like under the table, but he love eatin' them hamburgers too much and he too heavy to move! I had to make him small so I could carry him off somewhere. This one time we had a big ole' tree in our backyard that Mamma wanted to use for firewood, she don't like payin' money for firewood, so to get it inside the house we had to cut it up into teensy little pieces. Sure was hard, all that cuttin' and sawin', but we had a terrible easy time movin' it. I thought maybe I could pretend Daddy is like the tree and make him into small bits then hide him. Hot Damn!

Just like cuttin' up a Christmas ham or that big Turkey bird we had at the church last Thanksgivin'. The knife goes in alright, just hard to take it out. Some of Daddy's soft parts cut up real nice, and lots of strawberry jam come out and makes my hands real sticky! Daddy's neck looked like a soda can that been shook up when I poked at it with the cutter. There was strawberry jam flyin' all over the place and makin' the walls all red'n black. Mamma ain't gonna like that one bit!

Daddy spittin' strawberry jam and makin' my eyes sting so hard to keep writin'. Plus it tastes awful bad!

I took the big bits to the pig shack out back and put the small bits in the trash muncher in the kitchen sink. Them porkers eat any ole' thing so they started to eat Daddy up real good, some even fightin' over over the tasty pieces of Daddy's belly. Theys always been greedy.

I best hide Mr. Spike in the pig shack too. If someone is readin' this and you find Mr. Spike, tell him this from me: sorry Mr. Spike. Don't feel bad. Daddy really likes you. Sometimes you make him mad but I know he ain't really mad at you. It's OK. He don't get angry no more, coz now he's dead.

The detective folded the page in half and made his way out to the pig pen.

Jesse Lee lives in Southern Osaka, Japan. Through his flash fiction tales, he teaches English to bemused High School students.

A Message from Arcon by Andrew Dawson...

I wasn’t drinking, I swear. And that craft was no trick of my imagination. The thing was egg-shaped and lit up like a stadium scoreboard, blinding my eyes. It floated down from the sky and hovered a couple of inches above the dirt in front of my pick-up truck.

I was at the waste ground to be alone – to count money, if you really want to know – and the last thing I needed was some government agent getting out of some super-secret, experimental-type plane to check up on me.

When a door appeared in the side of the egg, and that thing got out, I knew I wasn’t dealing with nothing made by no ordinary human folk. Wide eyes, big head, lollipop-stick of a body – it was an alien, no other word for it. And that plane was a spacecraft.

Getting out, I grabbed my Glock and stuffed it down my pants. Good thing I’d just been out on a job, else I wouldn’t have brought protection.

The alien raised all three fingers of its right hand. ‘GREETINGS, EARTHLING.’

I smiled and waved hello, all friendly-like. Soon as I got close enough, I pulled out my piece and aimed. ‘Get down on the floor, motherfucker!’


‘Understand this.’ I pressed the barrel of the Glock right up against the alien’s fat forehead, letting him get a good feel of cold metal against flesh. ‘I’m robbing your ass.’


‘Give me all your money. Now!’


‘Can you spend them in K-Mart?’


‘Then, no.’ My finger tensed against the trigger. He was buying time. I’d seen it so often before. ‘What else you got?’


‘Fuck Arcon.’ I flipped the Glock round in my hand and slammed the handle against the side of his head.

My alien friend thudded to the ground.

The inside of his spacecraft was nothing like I expected. It was a cave – that’s the only way I can describe it – with all these crystals growing out of the walls. There was no steering wheel, gears, pedals or anything, not even a chair. I almost felt sorry for the alien, travelling all this way in such an uncomfortable ride. Almost. What kind of douchebag buys a car or spaceship or whatever that doesn’t have a stereo? Using the Glock handle as a hammer, I chipped away at the wall.

That’s how I come to be in possession of this here crystal that I’m selling today. Look, if you shake it, it starts to glow. For you? Thirty dollars. But first, let me get back to my story.

When I got outside, the alien was back on his feet. But he didn’t look so good. He was holding his head where I had hit him. Green stuff was gushing out between those spindly fingers of his.

I showed him the crystal and said, ‘Thanks a bunch, buddy.’

His voice went all high-pitched. ‘MY FUEL CELLS!’

‘No, my fuel cells.’ I slipped the crystal into my pocket and took aim. ‘Now, either you get going under your own steam or I blow you the fuck away.’

The alien hobbled into his spacecraft and the door wheezed shut behind him. Bright lights flashed as he flew off, back to wherever he came from. And good riddance. We wouldn’t want him bleeding his green gunk all over our planet, now would we?

Originally from South Africa, Andrew Dawson lives in North East England. More of his writing can be found at

How to Survive by Richard W. Carr II

Bobby sat cross-legged in the center of his self-made fallout shelter. Beneath his house, he wore flannel pajama pants, and with knuckles white, he gripped a rifle as he rocked back and forth with his eyes closed, talking to himself. He was surrounded by thick metal walls of canned goods. One wall stood floor to ceiling but showed evidence of a diminishing assault with an obvious divot, thievery. A few cans had rolled and spread to a stop around the floor like a family of opossums playing dead at the impending threat of bright lights. As he rocked, he repeated through gritted teeth, “Go away. Leave us alone. Go away. Leave us alone,” over and over again, and in his head, he beat himself up over the loss of every individual can.

A few minutes earlier, he was standing in his bunker, angry that someone had figured out what he was doing and found their way inside like rodents in the pantry. Prior to that, he heard the rustle of leaves in the barren woods behind his home accompanied by voices screaming, “He’s got a gun!”

Previously, he stood on his porch, aimed for the night sky, and squeezed the trigger, warning all who dared upon the property that he had no reason to be afraid.

Two minutes before the gunshot, his four year old daughter was wailing, “There’s a monster!”

But first, he had awoken abruptly to his wife’s panicked eyes glinting in the dark, his daughter’s fear, and a knocking that sounded like old pipes settling beneath the house.

One year earlier, Bobby glanced up the street and saw little lumps like blobs of tar as far as the eye could see. They lay across the suburban landscape of roads, cars, and rooftops like blots of ink from a leaky pen altering the canvas of a perfect painting. They made him think about survival.

Ten seconds prior to that thought, Bobby broke the silence and asked his neighbor if he could borrow her broom to do the same. Before breaking the silence, he watched his neighbor use the old broom to sweep the corpses of blackbirds from the roof and hood of her car. Moments earlier, he looked at his own car and knew he had to do something. A few minutes prior, he walked out his front door to go to work, but instead, he slowly froze like cooling wax and noticed his neighbors were all outside in silence slowly aiming their astonished faces in every conceivable direction.

Earlier, at four in the morning, he stood barefoot in his bathrobe on his front lawn and stared up at his roof. A couple of minutes before he ventured outside, he woke up to the sound of thump, thump above his bed.

Two years before the thumping, Bobby told the real estate agent, “We’ll take it.” Five minutes prior to the acquisition, in the empty echoing foyer of their soon-to-be new home, Bobby and his wife smiled, embracing each other, sandwiching their one-year-old daughter between them with love.

A year and three months earlier, the happy couple stood holding each other in their small one bedroom apartment, celebrating the great news. Thirty seconds before the celebration, Bobby felt a wave of joy so strong it made his face hot and his eyes water like melting ice cubes.

Preceding that moment, Bobby’s wife sobbed, “I’m pregnant.”

Ten seconds previous to that, Bobby’s face was confused when he asked, “What is it?”

One minute before he asked, Bobby’s wife hysterically cried and said, “I’m so sorry I’ve been such a mess lately. I’ve just been so scared about money and everything, and there is something I haven’t told you.”

A minute before that, they cried out, smiled, and embraced one another.

Three minutes before the embrace, Bobby received a phone call that said, “We’d like to hire you for the teaching position.”

Fifty-nine minutes prior to the offer, Bobby blinked maniacally, quickly disregarded the breaking news on TV reporting that the bee population was critically low, turned his attention to his wife and with frustration replied, “Somehow, I will always take care of you. I don’t give a shit what I have to do.”

One minute before his vow, with a shaking voice accompanied by shaking hands, Bobby’s wife asked, “If this doesn’t work out, how are we going to survive?”

Rick Carr works as a Learning Assistant for a community college in New Jersey. Previously, he has had work published at He attained his BA from New School University in 2005, and is currently working on his MFA through the Solstice Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program of Pine Manor College in Massachusetts. At the moment, Rick is working on two novels and a collection of short stories titled, “The American Nightmare.” Rick has also been making music for more than half of his life. He sang and wrote lyrics for the experimental band T.W.i.NE. from 1997 to 2009, and he is presently beginning a new musical project. You can follow Rick at

Alexa and the Japs by Daniel Beaudoin

I was lucky once already today. I hope fortune strikes again.

The Japanese are coming in for the third time, bringing in the big guns this time. Senior management is shitting bricks and this time I am the designated point man to baby-sit the sales meeting.

With five minutes left to go before the delegates arrive, I apply the final touches to our company's proposal and go over my notes one last time just to double check that I get their names right. God forbid I shame our guests over miss-pronounced names. We don't want to start a third world war, right?

I move to the elevators to welcome them, and the men surge forward in dark grey uniforms, the women shuffle obediently behind, smiling. I target their head honcho and respond with the rituals of smiles and head nodding. Our guests will be secretly amused as we go through our 101 on Japanese business ethics: we receive the cards in both hands and look at them with fierce and respectful concentration as if we are just about to take the dump of our lives. They will do the same, we will bow a couple of times and I'll pray that my fucking back doesn’t pull out again as it did last month in Tokyo.

In the conference room, the introductions seem to carry on for a lifetime. Shit, it's not as we've never met. With everyone finally in their seats, and 14 pairs of eyes turned to me as if I was the Messiah incarnate, I open with my presentation and come straight to the point: "We realize you want us to be sincere with this project, but we too have our reservations and want to make sure that everyone is on board and not dragging their feet".

My pager vibrates against my hip and while I wait for the translator to finish I sneak a glance. It's Alexa. And when the fuck can I meet her at the bar?

My boss picks up from my introduction. It felt pleasantly cool suddenly. I welcome the moment and sit down; and think of this morning.

Only two hours ago. Alexa, sitting on her haunches, her sex folded outward like an over-ripe pomegranate. The way she smiled lazily as she rolled the joint, her cunt barely touching the tip of my cock. The way she inhaled and gently moves up and down the head of my shaft. In the background, I hang on to the sound of the bells from Police’s Synchronicity as they toiled from one corner of my mind to the other. And she takes me inside her.

The tidy clapping of hands startles me. My boss has finished his pitch and I look around to see if I had missed anything. It is time to regroup and herd the group back to the elevators. More smiles, more nods and bows and I take the fucking elevator down with them.

Alexa is waiting for me at the bar.

Daniel Beaudoin a business man and university lecturer and manages to conceal the fact that he is a demented crazy man.

10 Drunk People in a House (rerun) by Benjamin Sobieck...

"They call the reality TV show, '10 Drunk People in a House.' The title is also the premise. Ten young men and women are locked in a large house. They drink. They say 'bitch' and 'disrespected' a lot. They fight. That is the show.

It is on cable. It has high ratings. It reruns over and over again.

All 10 will hire agents. All 10 will get book deals. All 10 will buy new sweatpants.

That is what the man with big sunglasses tells me. He calls me one day.

He says, 'No one likes this show. But everyone watches it. Because there's nothing else on. We must break the cycle. For the children.'

I say, 'I don't have children. But I hate that fucking show.'

He says, 'Good. Come down to the set.'

I show up later that day. The man with big sunglasses gives me a script and a gun.

He says, 'Read the script. The gun is fake. Hide in the attic. Come out on cue.'

I wait in the attic. I get my cue. I come down the stairs. I shoot all 10 drunks. The special effects stain the wall red. I keep shooting. Very realistic.

I shoot and shoot. And shoot. Again and again.

The man with big sunglasses runs out to me. 'You can stop shooting now,' he says.

I can't stop. Guards rush out. They take the gun from my hands.

One of them says, 'You weren't supposed to actually kill them. Just scare them. Didn't you read the script?'

I say, 'What's the difference? The gun is fake, isn't it?'

The guard says, 'No, asshole, you killed them. All 10 of them.'

The guards put me in handcuffs. Then the police come.

And now here I am. In prison on 11 life sentences.

That's right. Eleven. Don't forget about the one before this."

* * *

"You've got a natural gift for voice-overs," the man with big sunglasses said. A thick pane of glass divided him and I. We talked through a set of telephones.

"Are you sure it will sound OK? It was recorded over a prison telephone, after all," I said. A guard tapped me on the shoulder of my blaze orange jumpsuit. He pointed to his watch.

"That just adds to the realism of the voice-over, since we're filming from your perspective. It'll go great at the beginning of '10 Drunk People in a House.' I smell a new reality TV hit," the man with big sunglasses said.

"So do I," I said.


The guard tapped me on the shoulder again. This time I nodded.

"Well, it's time for me to go," I said to the man with big sunglasses.

"OK. I'll see you when the ratings come in," he said.

* * *

I press "Stop" on the DVD player. The TV screen goes blue.

"And that's the first two scenes from the pilot of my TV show. It's a reality show about a life sentence inmate who is tapped to murder trashy drunk people on a reality show. What do you think, Mr. Regibald?" I say.

The camera man behind me moves in for a closer shot. He's been filming me as I explain my pitch. It's part of the behind-the-scenes footage for "10 Drunk People in a House." It'll run after the pilot airs, assuming the network buys the show.

Mr. Regibald, vice president of programming, leans back in his chair. He looks at the camera, then at me. He says, "It's a helluva concept, Benjamin. But I don't think today's audiences will accept killing 10 people for the sake of entertainment. Those were actual murders, right? Those 10 people are dead?"

"That depends. Whether reality TV is real-real or fake-real is up to the viewer. Perception is reality TV," I say.

"I don't get it," he says.

"Then get this. If viewers find reasons to think 10 people were actually murdered on the show, the ratings would be huge. They'd rerun that episode over and over."

Mr. Regibald rubs his jaw. He says, "I suppose it's worth a shot."

"Really? You'll buy it?" I say. My big sunglasses nearly fall off my face.

"You bet," he says.

We shake hands. Production begins that day.

They call the reality TV show, "10 Drunk People in a House." The title is also the premise. Ten young men and women are locked in a large house. They drink. They say "bitch" and "disrespected" a lot. They fight. That is the show.

It is on cable. It has high ratings. It reruns over and over again...

This is Benjamin Sobieck’s fifth piece of flash fiction published on The Flash Fiction Offensive. His website is

He recently started an online journal of flash non-fiction, with a focus on crime. It’s called Fingerprints, and you can find it at

Another "Forced" Update.....

For some reason a very courageous person has been leaving malicious comments on recent posts.

He/she goes by the name of.....wait for it.....ANONYMOUS.  Yes, that most infamous of characters.  That brave individual that isn't willing to leave their name.


Apologies to contributors who may have had malicious comments.  I can only do so much.


The Ballad of Snake Bit Jimmy by Kurt Newton...

Too many times it’s the good guys that get all the glory. All those sweet talking fuckers, those honesty is the best policy pricks, and all those go to church love your mother wash your hands after you wipe your ass smug-faced shits...just for once I wanted to see it happen for one of us. That's why I hatched the plan to break Jimmy "Snake Bit" Maroney out of County and make him a hero.

You see -- Jimmy was shit out of luck since the day he was born. Never had a decent thing go right for him in his entire miserable life. His name speaks for itself. And this latest time was no different. Same old shit. Wrong place, wrong time. Jimmy attracted trouble the way money attracts hookers. Only this time he was looking at hard time.

The way I heard it, Jimmy was walking past the liquor store last Thursday minding his business when out runs this guy -- blam! -- slams into Jimmy. Money goes flying, gun pops out of the guy's jacket, stays at the scene. Jimmy's knocked on his ass, hits his head, sleeps it off for a few. When he wakes up cops are cuffing him and telling him anything he says can be used against him.

Of course there's no witnesses -- at least none that would come forward. Of course they don't believe Jimmy's story about the mystery thief. Jimmy's got a rap sheet longer than his dick, so of course they throw him in County to wait trial. So, being Jimmy's one and only friend, and sick and tired of the injustices in the world, here's where I come in.

I happen to be standing on the corner thinking about what I could do to help poor Jimmy when one of those TV vans -- the kind with the satellite dish on top -- pulls up outside the jail. While they're setting up, I walk over and ask what's the news? A cameraman tells me they're doing a spot on some program for troubled kids that takes teens on a jail tour to show them what their future looks like if they don't straighten up. I had to laugh at that one, because sometimes it doesn't matter if you're as straight as the line on a field sobriety test, bad has a way of finding you if it wants to. It just depends on what side of the bed bad woke up on that particular day.

I tell the cameraman there's an even better story inside about a friend of mine who's totally innocent...wrong place, wrong time, and how the cops are playing tag you're it with crimes and criminals out there because it makes their job easier. Of course, the guy wasn't hearing it. In fact, that's when he told me he had to get back to work.

Fuck him, I thought to myself. And fuck the world for not giving a damn. But then an idea went off in my head like a roadside bomb. There'd be a film crew, teens, probably some of them girls...a plan started to rise up out of the smoldering drug-abused ruin of my brain like one of those giant snakes down in the jungle swamps. Snakes.

I hit the streets, aiming my feet in the direction of an exotic pet store I knew of a few blocks over. When I got there some scrawny kid behind the counter with tattoos and piercings tells me it's illegal to sell rattlesnakes. Wouldn't you know? But what about this guy over here? I ask. There's a snake that looks just like a rattler in one of the terrariums. "That's a Gopher Snake," the kid says. Gopher Snake, huh...and my brain gets to thinking...yes, even better. Problem is I don't have any money. All I've got is a dime bag of weed and a couple rocks I was looking to sell in case I needed the cash. Well, what are friends for?

I make the kid a deal and he looks at the mini-bags in my palm like they're the Holy Grail. He puts the snake in a box and tells me good luck. I could tell the kid was already thinking how fucked up he was going to get tonight.

You see -- being shit out of luck wasn't the only thing Jimmy was good at. He had a thing for snakes, and snakes must have had a thing for him. It must have been his I don't give a fuck attitude 'cause he had no fear of the legless beasts, and they seemed to sense it, felt right at home in his hands, around his neck.

So, just as the teens arrived for their tour, I went around back of the jail and found a window that was cracked open. Must have been a bathroom window by the smell of it. I opened the box and lifted Mr. Snake out by his tail. He was pretty fucking mellow for something that looked so dangerous. His tongue flicked at me as I lifted him up to the window and fed him in. Then I went back to my corner and watched the drama unfold.

All I wanted was for them to find the snake and maybe, just maybe, Jimmy would be in a position to do something right for once in his miserable life. Jimmy to the rescue. He'd tell the cops he had a way with snakes, and maybe the cops would let him catch it, save the day. And it would all be on film for the world to see. As luck would have it all hell broke loose, but none of the kind of hell I'd planned. There were screams. There were gunshots. When the dust finally cleared two teens were dead and so was Jimmy.

The official story was Jimmy broke out of his cell, and in an attempt to escape, killed two of the kids before he was put down by the cops. I didn't fucking believe that for a minute. And something else looked funny. It looked as if the cops were shaking down that TV crew, confiscating things.

So as the crew was packing up, I went to that cameraman I'd talked to earlier and asked him what went down. He just looked at me like he wished this day had never started. But then he said something I didn't expect. He leaned in and told me I was right. "Tag you're it," he said, then he handed me a video card, one of those flash memory cards they use for digital cameras, only this one was bigger.

So, after finally seeing what really went down -- how cops overreacted when Jimmy found the snake in his cell, telling him, with weapons drawn, to drop it like it was some kind of weapon, and how when Jimmy held the snake out to them, knowing it was harmless, one eager young rookie with a nervous trigger finger started shooting, bullets ricocheting off cell bars, spraying like sparks from a grinding wheel, hitting two kids in the process -- I knew what I had to do.

A friend of mine had internet, so we emailed the file to all the local television stations and the major networks. But it wasn't until we uploaded it to YouTube that the real shit hit the fan. For once, the good guys got screwed and one of the bad guys got to play hero.

Jimmy would have liked how things turned out. God rest his sorry-assed soul.

Kurt's stories have appeared in Dark Discoveries, Shroud and Polluto.  He lives in rural Connecticut where the only crime is how boring it is.

Kurt also has a novella out called Breaking Eggs that he co-wrote with L.L. Soares.  It was published last October by Sideshow Press and is available to buy here



OK, you guys have been amazing.  I've only been doing this a couple of months and I've been inundated with work that I think has been awesome and going from the feedback, the readers are enjoying it too.

The thing is, I've got about 12 stories that are waiting to be published and my in-box is getting pretty busy again.  So, as from today, submissions will be closed for a month.  It's only temporary and I'm not going to disappear into the Scotch Mist, never to be seen again. 

New stories will be going up every few days so please keep stopping by to have a read and leave a comment.  Anyone who was thinking of submitting, please come back in a month or so and submit then.

Thanks for your understanding and keep stopping by.

Good luck and keep on writing!


The Expired Meter by Stephen Obler...

We were on our third of five evenings during this set of 4pm x 12am tours.

Back then NYPD worked around the clock.

No steady tours or Steady RDO’s (Regular Days Off).

They called it “The Nine Squad Chart”.

It really fucked up your body.

And it probably fucked up your head as well.

But then again, what kind of normal person becomes a cop?

Anyway, me and Jimmy were sitting in RMP (Radio Motor Patrol) 1715.

RMP 1715 was a blue and white Plymouth that knew every bump and pothole that existed within the confines of Manhattan’s 13th Pct.

That was us, our sector: known on the police radio as 13 Edward, aka “Lowlife”.

We were facing west parked on West 23rd Street west of Madison Square Park.

Back then Madison Square Park was a cruising stroll for Rectal Rangers.

I believe we were eating Ray’s Famous Pizza and drinking Coke.

I guess Jimmy had his Rum and Coke.

We had just responded to a 10-8 from the Lieutenant on the desk.

Translation: 10-2 meant return to command.

Translation: 10-8 meant 10-2 with a six pack.

We went to the Bodega for the six pack where everything was on the arm (Free).

The Lieutenant was an old, miserable, drunk, shanty Irish fuck.

But what do you expect; he was doing five midnight tours every three weeks.


It was a quiet Tuesday in the late spring of 1984, warm enough to have the windows open, but not hot enough to make the smells of the street unbearable.

Back then this area of Chelsea was dead weekdays after 9 pm.

Chelsea was not yet overrun with Liberal Douche Bag Yuppie Cock Breathes.

The radio was quiet and we were just chillin’ until we could take a slow mope back to the station house and go EOT (End of Tour).

I remember the quiet of the radio was broken by the monotone voice of the civilian dispatcher.

Emanating from One Police Plaza, Radio Zone Two, he spoke with total disinterest:

“In the 10th precinct, man with a rifle in the projects West 26 street & 9th Avenue, no callback…10 George?”  Then an anxious voice responded, “10 George, we’re around the corner and will take it.”

There were a few moments of dead air; then crackling over the radio as 10 George transmitted:

“He’s goin’ down 9th Avenue in a blue van.”  The radio transmission was punctuated by a loud whoop whoop of the siren.

“He’s makin’ a left on to 23rd Street.”  I then looked up and saw a van coming towards us followed by an RMP with the turret lights ablaze.

They’re about three blocks away.

Jimmy threw his pizza and “Coke” out the window, put RMP 1715 into drive and slammed on the gas in one swift and fluid move.

I switched on the turret lights, and finished my pizza (YUM).

We watched as the van made a right turn going downtown the wrong way on 6th Avenue.

10 George followed.

As we raced down 6th Avenue, the pursuit then turned east on West 20th Street.

As we turned on to West 20th Street, we noticed the van and the 10 Pct. RMP empty, with doors open.

Jimmy pointed out that there’s a guy running towards 5th Avenue.

We raced and jumped out of the car as he turned and ran uptown on 5th Avenue.

I tackled him and he started to resist, I cuffed his right hand.

Jimmy called over the radio “13 Edward has one perp at 21 and 5.” (West 21 Street & 5th Avenue).

Then we heard three loud booms coming from back where the van and the 10 George RMP were.

I looked at Jimmy, the perp was still resisting us, and so I clocked him with my radio and cuffed him to the parking meter.

Back then the radios were made of heavy metal, not plastic.

We then ran back to see what was going on.

10 George chased the other asshole into an alley, jumped him and diverted M-16 rifle as he pulled the trigger.

Turns out both these assholes were high on Angel Dust.

The adrenalin was pumpin’, as more units showed up.

Someone said to me, “Hey Lowlife, the 13 Sergeant is looking for you.”

Jimmy said to me, “Oh shit, the bonehead at 21 & 5.”

We got back to 21 & 5 and standing there besides the bonehead cuffed to the parking meter stood Sergeant Dicks.

Sergeant Dicks wore a tie and long sleeved shirt all year round.

Sergeant Dicks did not have a sense of humor.

Sergeant Dicks especially didn’t like us.

Sergeant Dicks thought “the job” (NYPD) was on the level.

Me and Jimmy believed the job was on the level like professional wrestling is on the level.

Most cops thought Sergeant Dicks was a congenital asshole.

As the Sergeant screamed at me and Jimmy, the cuffed asshole was rubbing his head and crying.

“You guys have done it now, wait until the Captain hears about this,” the sergeant said. 

I said, “Excuse me, Sarge."

I then held up my left hand, got a quarter out of my pocket with my right hand and put it into the parking meter the angel dusted asshole was cuffed to.

The Sergeant’s operator (driver) fell to the sidewalk laughing.

The Sergeant’s face turned red as he stormed back to his car.


We got called into the Captain’s office the next day we were back on day tours.

He knew Sergeant Dicks was L.O.S.T. (Lack of Sensation/Testicles)

Translation: A real numb nutz.

He had a big smile on his face and said…………….

“Steve, I hope you don’t get 10 guys like you in your squad when you become a Sergeant.”

Just another day in the 13th Pct.
Stephen Obler is a retired NYPD officer who is currently a security consultant, private investigator and an adjunct professor at a small New York area college. His work has appeared in SNM Horror Magazine, Death Head Grin and The Flash Fiction Offensive. He is currently working on a pilot for a reality show and a screenplay for an action drama television series.

Burning Nostrils by Cory Bennet.....

Shot, strangled and stabbed. Disemboweled and decapitated. Hanging from trees, eyes bulging out of blue skin and stretched too thin. Face down in the dirt, the fear of death frozen in the eyes. Ravens squawking while pecking the corpses, stealing eyes and flying away, wings beating against the gray sky, feathers sticky with blood. Gnarled steel slouching toward the past. Smoke stacks that once pumped shit clouds into the atmosphere were now silent. Jagged peaks of metal and asphalt.

And the Scum. That shit really got me down. Usually, I still had something that resembled hope in my heart. Somewhere in a shadowy corner it lurks, no doubt. Obscured by the terror. I can feel them though. Stalking through the gloom with boils seeping off their mutated heads shaped like a pumpkin beaten brutally. Creatures! Still human, but not quite. And that is all it takes, just a little modification. They walked on two feet and all that other scientific mumbo jumbo that makes something a human, but there was something missing. Something in the eyes. I tried not to look into those eyes for too long. It can turn the soul of a man. And no matter how deep you burrowed into yourself, those damn eyes, those demon eyes, could still find you and break you. Crush your already delicate spirit. But once in a while, when we got our hands on one of those hu-mans, we’d bring our anger and terror with us. I guess you could say we weren’t human for what we did to those sons of bitches but I couldn't give a damn about what you think. Nothing lives here but the skeleton remains of a time we’d much rather forget. Yet there they were, forcing us to see what a human really is. A disgusting rotting corpse from the day of birth.

So make it count. I’d tell myself that while enduring a scum storm or after a raid on the hu-man encampment, I said it aloud, so nobody misses out. No one else got the irony or maybe they did and it was just too morbid to acknowledge the humor of our situation and laugh. But fuck all that, says I. This is hell; we are in the inferno, man. Get hip to that and you’ll live longer. Everyday we see dozens of ripe human bodies, the terror of that moment stuck in the one eye that hasn’t been plucked clean from their skull. So I tried to make jokes, but thats all we had.

The others kept going, but I stayed behind in a house we came upon a few months ago. It’s a beautiful Victorian way out in the country, so beautiful it could only be a hallucination, and I’ve taken enough drugs to be onto the brink of madness.

Cory Bennet lives here and there, but mostly in Northern California where he attends school and lays around with his Rottweiler. This is his second publication on Flash Faction Offensive.

Cross Country by Bill Baber.....

She turned off of I -84 somewhere west of Twin Falls. Drove a couple miles and turned on to a two lane that seemed to go in the same direction she wanted to. But after sitting on the side of that road for an hour without anyone going by, she was having second thoughts about her decision.

The sun had gone down and even though it had been a bright, warm day the evening air was chilly. October was half over. It wouldn’t be long before snow covered the drab countryside. The far off ridge lines were shifting from blue to purple. Lights were starting to twinkle on at ranches scattered across the lonely landscape.

She had left Buffalo a week ago. Now, she might be late getting into Boise. She wanted to make Portland the next day then decide what to do next. Every night along the way, she had stayed in a fine hotel, ate a wonderful meal. Except that night in the middle of Iowa when she came up short, she cringed at the memory of the crappy Rodeway Inn and the smell of the half – eaten crap from Taco Bell. Now she faced the prospect of sleeping in her car. Only God knew what could happen to a woman alone out here. She checked her cell again- just like before - there was still no signal.

A slight flicker caught her attention. Headlights. A distance away yet but coming toward her. She turned on the emergency flashers and waited. The lights were getting closer in her rear view. She sensed the approaching vehicle starting to slow as it neared.

It wasn’t quite dark although the first stars were starting to appear. A pick-up, looked like a newer Ford with a double cab pulled in behind her.

She watched in the mirror as the driver’s door opened. He was alone. The man wore a short brimmed Stetson and a denim jacket. Must be a rancher she thought. She heard his boots crunch in the gravel on the side of the road. Then, he was at the window.

“Howdy, Mam. You Lost?”

He was tall, well built and maybe sixty.

“Not really,” she replied,”Thank you for stopping.”

“I got tired of the traffic on the Interstate and wanted to see some scenery. I pulled over to check my map and the car died and won’t start.”

“Well,” he said, "This road goes another two miles or so, far as my ranch. Then it runs into government land and the pavement ends. So you couldn’t have gotten much further. Good thing I came by,” he continued, “It’s gonna get cold tonight.”

Already she could see little wisps of steam as he spoke.

“Let’s see if we can get you back on your way. Why don’t you pop the hood while I grab a flashlight and take a look?”

He leaned into the engine well, a round circle of light illuminating it. She stood behind him and just to the right. The chrome plated little derringer came out of her back pocket of her jeans. The rancher was fiddling with spark plug wires when she placed the gun near a spot just inside of his right ear and pulled both triggers. He fell, draped across the engine, his hat bouncing toward the ditch on the side of the road.

The thin noise made by the .22 rolled off across the emptiness. With a hankie, she extracted his wallet from his hip pocket. Eight nearly new hundred dollar bills, a twenty and four singles.

Grabbing his legs, she pulled him free of the car, shut the hood then made a U-turn. Minutes later, she is back on the interstate headed west. Her travel book says The Grove in Boise is a grand hotel. She begins to think about a big steak with a baked potato, after all, it is Idaho. Oh, and maybe a good bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir.

It has been three years since she came west. That trip, it was hitchhikers on the way out and long haul truckers on the way back. She starts thinking about her options for the trip home. Maybe gas station attendants or cyclists. She liked thinking about the steak better.

There would be plenty of time to consider the possibilities tomorrow on the way to Portland.

Bill Baber’s fiction and poetry have appeared in “The Source,” “Literary Harvest,” “The Flash Fiction Offensive” and the online edition of “The High Desert Journal.” His stories have also appeared on “Powder Burn Flash” and “Darkest before the Dawn.” A book featuring his poetry will be published by Berberis Press this spring. He lives in Bend, Or. with his wife Robin and a very spoiled dog.