Jessica Wright

Jessica Wright’s Double Vision (short story and opportunity)

Jessica Wright is victim #7 in my morbid project I Will Kill You for $5. And she didn’t go down easy. I offered to write this story for her as payback for her boyfriend, Josef, recording my standup comedy gig last October. And thus began the longest, longest, longest short story I’ve ever written. Not even sure it qualifies anymore as such. Continue reading “Jessica Wright’s Double Vision (short story and opportunity)”

Looking back over my book Hardboil High: Freshman

Several years ago, almost eight, I spent 2 days in my family’s cabin on the lake writing the next, great American novel. Sounds like a horror film, right?

Well, nothing scary happened, except for a lot of cabin fever. But not that kind of cabin fever.

What I did do was pretty much what I was aiming for… I wrote an entire complete first draft of my novel. Was it perfect? Far from it. Was it there? Yeah. Did I feel like I’d made a mistake? Mostly. Did I have a lot of fun? Absolutely.

Today, I went back and started putting the numbers together, and looking at what I had. I was feeling more positive about my work, and feeling like maybe there was something there to brag about, if I’d just get back on it.

A book by the numbers.

Turns out that a) I wrote more words in 2 days than I remembered, b) I had a higher wordcount than I recalled as well. That definitely left me feeling better about the whole experience.

In the near future, I will probably be revisiting those chapters and rewriting a lot, and adding more. As you can see from the numbers, a lot of my chapters are pretty short. The result of moving so fast through writing. But the bulk of what needs to be there is there, just need to get back in and get my hands dirty. And work on those chapters.

How fast can you write? Do you have a habit of skimming on the narrative when trying to cram writing? What’s the most you’ve ever accomplished over a small amount of time?

This post was originally shared on Google+ here:

The Order of the Dragon, “That’s not a Cross…” (excerpt)

(excerpt from The Order of the Dragon)

Tom Bradshaw sat at a table near the windows that looked out to the beach and Lake Huron. With the morning fog covering the lake, he couldn’t see Mackinac Island. But he knew it was out there, and in the back of his mind he was hoping another body hadn’t been added to the count of violent crimes being committed on its pleasant shores. Continue reading “The Order of the Dragon, “That’s not a Cross…” (excerpt)”

Get eBook of Fatal Flaws FREE for limited time

Fatal Flaws cover

For a limited time, until May 1, you can get an eBook copy of Fatal Flaws at Smashwords for FREE.

  • Use this code on checkout: QW65S

Fatal Flaws is the first in a series of collaborative novels among myself and several other indie authors. It was loads of fun to work on. The second book is complete, edited, and being shopped for a publisher at the moment, so now is a good time to read the first book. No, the second isn’t a sequel, but there is talk of a sequel amongst the authors (but no guarantees on that). You can learn more on Fatal Flaws here.

For now, enjoy the first on us!

Claim your free copy here:

Bootsy Hambone

Bootsy Hambone’s Grease Monkey and Encore (short story and opportunity)

People just can’t wait to be killed, I guess. My next contestant is someone I actually know in real life. In REAL life, people!

If you’re seeing this post, and aren’t sure what in the world I’m talking about, go to the first post where I explain it a bit. And check out the Fiverr gig here.

You can read the previous 3 entries here.

Download the Files

Click here to download the files from Dropbox (epub, mobi, PDF and DRM free)

Bootsy Hambone

So her real name isn’t Bootsy Hambone. And normally, I wouldn’t except that for this gig, but because I know her in real life and know she uses the name quite a bit as a stage and radio name, I made an exception.

Yes, stage and radio name, you heard (read?) me right. Bootsy is a bassist and also does a radio show for independent artists every Sunday evening with her husband, who is a guitarist and vocalist. They both adore rock ‘n’ roll and blues, and have been making such music for quite a while. I won’t bother to guess how many years. I’ve known them for far less than they’ve played, and they are great. So, killing her was pretty fun. I got to incorporate her love of music, her sense of style when she performs, and so on. It meant I got to write a pretty cool character. Especially, when you consider the character’s name in the story is Bootsy Hambone.

image of Bootsy Hambone
The real Bootsy Hambone.

The above image is of the real Bootsy Hambone playing her left-handed bass. Stylistically this image also gives you a glimpse of the character you’re about to read.

And now, without further ado, I give you the story. Enjoy.

Bootsy Hambone’s Grease Monkey and Encore

Bootsy Hambone stepped outside the backdoor of the Grease Monkey, a blues jive she’d inherited from her mother ten years before. She stood under the rusty awning, letting it catch the rain and deposit it on the broken alley around her. She slid her black jacket over her white T-shirt and black jeans. Her ash blonde hair was cut off just under the ears and stood a harsh contrast to her dark attire. She adjusted the square, black sunglasses on her nose. The shades rarely came off. She went by the name Bootsy Hambone, which was a stage name her mother had given her at an early age. She put an electric bass in her hand as soon as she could hold it, which turned out to be age three, and said, “Play rock ‘n’ roll or the blues. Nothing else will do.”

Over time there were few people who knew her real name, and those that did eventually died off, like her mother. The name had stuck. Only those who were close to her could call her by her off stage nickname, Black Coffee. She liked her coffee like her clothes, black.

She ruffled her collar up, blocking the wind and stuck a cigarette between them. She lit it and shoved the lighter back in her jacket. She stuck her left foot in the door, so she could hear Rainy Day by Sandy Nelson play on the jukebox inside. She leaned against the rail of the stairs and tapped her right foot on the step below.

She was killing time. Biding time.

She always needed to let it roll off before a killing.

The door opened and out stepped Johnny, he nodded, “Black Coffee. He’s here.”

She saw that his knuckles were busted and bloodied. “Did he give you any trouble?” She took one final inhale of the drag before flicking it across the alley into the rain.

“No more than usual,” Johnny said, “It’s his kid you gotta worry about.”

“Fair enough,” she said and stepped into the back of the Grease Monkey.

They walked through the dirty, run down kitchen that smelled of cheap beer and dirty dishes. Her dishwasher, newly hired, was flirting with a cocktail waitress. She stopped and lowered her shades to glare at him. He spun around and started cleaning the dishes that had piled up in the sink from the night before. The cocktail scurried off.

“Remind me to fire him,” she said to Johnny. “And kill the music.”

“Right,” he said.

“And one more thing,” she stopped at the door to the lounge, “Get me the usual.”

“It’s done, on the front of the stage,” he said, and pointed through the round window of the kitchen doors. Sitting on the edge of the small stage was a glass of red wine, her usual.

“Am I that predictable?” She asked. He didn’t respond, just smiled.

She stepped through the doors and walked across the empty lounge. It was dark, except for a few lights installed above the booths along the walls. Each table in the middle of the floor had a simple candle, but those candles weren’t lit until just before opening time. They didn’t open for another hour, so the candles were cold. On the floor, just below the stage, were two men. One was Alexes Gartner, a small business owner who had been fronting her drug sales in the neighborhood for several years. Suddenly, he’d had a change of heart, and now he was quitting the business. He refused to accept deliveries of goods or sell them, either. An example had to be made.

She walked in front of him and looked down at him. He was looking at the floor, and blood dripped from his lips. He was panting. He had a horseshoe style haircut on the top of his head, and what little hair he had left was greying. She looked over at the younger gentleman, who she assumed was his son. He was looking up at her defiantly, and while he looked rather mangled in the face, he still tried to be brave and strong. She smirked at him.

She sat down on the front of the stage, her legs hanging over the side and swung her boots back and forth like a child might, and then crossed them. She picked up her wine and took a sip. She looked to the son, “You his son?” She pointed to Alexes.

“I am his son,” he said proudly, “And you have no…”

“Yeah, sure,” she interrupted, “Look, your father made a contract with me, and he’s honored that contract for many years. And I respect that. I respected him. Until,” she stopped to take a sip of the wine. “Until one day he decides to stop fulfilling that contract. I’m a business person and a musician. I’m simple, I’m easily pleased. Things run smoothly? I’m a happy business person. Things sound great? I’m a happy musician. It’s that simple. But your father,” she sighed and took another sip, “Your father interrupted something beautiful. It would be like pushing Ray Charles out of the way in a concert to pound on his keys with untrained hands. You just don’t do that.” She nodded with a look of understanding and disappointment. “That’s what your father did… to me. And I don’t let people pound on my keys. Actually, I’m a bassist, and I don’t mind letting someone play my instrument. I’m pretty laid back, but if you don’t know what you’re doing and you mess with my instrument? My instrument?” She took a gulp of the wine and finished it off. “You just don’t do that to a player’s instrument.”

“It was my idea, Ms. Hambone,” the son said, “I told him to quit, that he was going to get into trouble with the law. My dad is old, he can’t be doing this. He’s not a criminal. He’s just a store clerk. Always has been. He can’t survive in prison, and let’s face it, if things go belly up you’re not gonna care for my father.”

Bootsy looked at Johnny, as if to ask him something, but without a word he knew the question. She wanted to know what he thought of the boy’s admonition. “It’s the same as he said when we first arrived to pick up Alexes.” He said. “Seems legit. At least he’s sticking to it, Black Coffee.”

Bootsy looked at the son, who still looked confident he could talk his way out of the situation. This only aggravated her more. She wasn’t going to let both of them walk out of the Grease Monkey, and Johnny knew that as well. Only Alexes and his son were unaware that someone had to die. Someone had to pay the price. It was only a matter of who she felt deserved the greater punishment, or perhaps who was the better servant.

“So, if I understand you correctly,” she started, “You are telling me that you talked, or coerced, your father into abandoning his contract?”

“No, wait…” Alexes tried to speak up and interfere, afraid of where it was headed for his son.

“Dad, don’t speak, I got this,” the son chastised. “Yes. It was my idea, but he stands with me, too. We will not sell your drugs anymore, Black Coffee.”

Bootsy jumped from the stage and punched him across the face. “Don’t you ever, ever call me that.” She backed up and tossed her hair back with a twitch of the neck. “Alright, you’re free to go.”

Both Alexes and his son started thanking her over and over. Johnny stepped up behind Alexes and cut him loose. He helped him up to his feet, doing most of the work for him, and setting him on his feet. The son looked around, worried, no one was moving to untie him or help him up. Johnny reached into his leather jacket and pulled out a 9 millimeter handgun and tossed it to Bootsy. She caught it one handed, and quickly cocked it. She placed the barrel against the son’s forehead.

“You would make a lousy business partner,” she told him.

“But you said…” he tried to defend himself.

“I can’t have some hotshot changing the contract at will, you’re out.” She told him, and then pulled the trigger.

It had all happened so fast, Alexes hadn’t even had time to react and defend his son’s life. After the trigger had been pulled, the gun roared, and the son crashed to the floor in a pool of blood. Alexes put out his hand and shouted, “Take me!”

“Oops,” she tilted her head and shrugged in mock sincerity, “Too slow.” She walked over to Alexes and held the gun to his head and met face to face with him for the first time. “I don’t ever want something like this to happen again. Do you?” Alexes stood, frozen. “Do you, Alexes?”

He looked at her and made eye contact. “No.”

“I didn’t think so,” she said, “Now get out of here. Deliveries will return to normal on Tuesdays.”

“What about my son’s body?” He asked her.

“No,” was all she said.

A few moments later, he was gone and she was sitting alone on the edge of the stage once more. She had another glass of wine, and sipped on it to calm the nerves. There was only one other thing that calmed her nerves more than a glass of wine, and that was playing the bass. She looked at the glass in her hand, and it shook. Murder didn’t bother her emotionally anymore, that had passed a long time ago with the nightmares. But the adrenaline was always there, and it always took a certain calm to kill without going gun crazy and another calm to come down from that. She stood up and walked over to her bass. She picked it up by the neck and stepped around to the front of the stage. She leaned on a barstool and pulled another stool over with her foot. She sat the glass of wine on it. She had a wowing factor when she was seen playing for the first time. She was a female bassist and left handed.

She thought for a moment about what to play. She closed her eyes and a familiar tune resonated in the back of her mind. She could hear the bassline. She started to pluck the Peter Gunn theme by Henry Mancini. It didn’t take long for Johnny to come in from the kitchen, he had a Rueben on rye in one hand, and a cigarette in the other. He sat the sandwich down on a nearby table and stuck the cigarette in his mouth, which was still chewing a mouthful. He hurried to the stage and hopped up onto it. He found a guitar and a stereo cable, plugged into an amp and joined in. He picked up on the melody. Johnny was a well-versed and accomplished guitarist, and Bootsy often worried that all the fist work might eventually pay a toll on his ability to play.

They kept playing and trading solos, building the two-minute long song into a much longer and larger than life piece. They were so busy rocking and rolling that they didn’t notice Alexes come running back into the lounge, breaking a tackle from one of her henchmen and tossing a homemade grenade at them. It wasn’t until landed in the pile of stereo cables between them, that they looked up and realized what was happening.

One of the henchmen shot Alexes in the back just as he released the grenade, and he hit the floor. Dead instantly as the bullet cut through his back and carved around his already weak heart.

Bootsy and Johnny tried to untangle themselves quickly from their instruments, and Johnny leapt off the stage and looked back to his boss. She dropped the bass and went to take into a run, but her boot heel caught in a tangle of stereo cables and it pulled her down. She rolled over and tried to unloosen the knot. Johnny grabbed her under her arms.

“Tell me when, and I’ll pull!” He yelled.

“NOW.” She shouted back.

He gave a hard tug, but the grenade exploded before she could even reach the edge of the stage. The entire stage of instruments and cables went shattering and soaring into shrapnel. She saw a microphone stand fly over her and rip across Johnny, whose grip let go at that point. She felt her legs fly over her head and she crashed into table sixteen. She was lying face down, and felt a tremendous pain in her stomach. She propped herself up with her elbows to look underneath her, slipping on the flow of blood. Shrapnel from microphone stands, guitars and even her own bass were cut into her torso. She looked up and saw a large cloud of smoke where the stage once had been. She saw Johnny lying on the floor not far from where he had fallen, and she called out to him, but then realized it was useless. The microphone stand was piercing out of his head. There was no way he had survived it.

Some of the men gathered in front of her, she looked up and they were just staring at her. “What?” She asked. “I’ll make it. Just a little shrapnel.” She looked down, the pain of lifting was too much. The smoke had cleared some and she could see a pair of legs hanging off the edge of the stage. The legs were dressed in a pair of black jeans. They slowly slid and fell off onto Johnny’s body. “Oh,” she said, “That’s not good.” Her elbows gave out and she dropped her head, face first.


Babylon skyline

Mystery Box

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Mystery Box.”

Journalist Thomas Bradshaw woke up at 10:45am without an alarm, as was his custom. He grimaced at the sunlight forcing its way through the closed shades. He cursed himself for the millionth time for not buying big, thick and black curtains for his window. Though, he figured he’d never get out of bed if he ever did. He pulled his phone from the nightstand without looking and saw he had two text messages. Continue reading “Mystery Box”

cover image for Cafe de Mort

Cafe de Mort

George sipped his espresso, and gently laid it to rest on the saucer.  The cafe he had come to know so well in the previous weeks had always made the perfect espresso, and he was going to miss it dearly.  The weeks leading to today had seemed very surreal, almost like a vacation for the mind.  The closer he got to today, the clearer his mind became, and for the first time in years he was feeling very content.  He felt fresh.  He was on the edge of rebirth.  He let himself enjoy the sun’s warmth, the cafe and view.
    To his left, several tables over, sat a man with his daughters.  One was a teenager and the other was much younger.  They had been here most days in the weeks George had, and were finishing up there usual breakfast and it seemed the daughters were especially hyper this morning.  They spoke rapid-French and George could rarely keep up with the conversations when eavesdropping.  The teen was quite a beautiful girl and often had an impact on passing boys her age.  The father was in his fifties, and smiled proudly, spoiling them every morning at the cafe.  And as was their custom the two girls talked him into letting them cross the cobblestone road to the jewelry store.  He ordered a refill on his coffee from the waiter, and watched with glee as they ran across the stones and into the old building with the wooden sign hanging above the door.  A biker leaning against the wall of the shop for a break moved his position to the other side of the door and watched the girls casually through the display window.
    There was a jogger sitting at a far table at the edge of the outside cafe, sipping on some water and resting his hand on his fanny pack.  He wasn’t sweating and looked too big to be a jogger.  He wore his hood up on his jacket, covering half of his face, but anyone could see that his eyes were constantly darting back and forth.  He was constantly people watching.
    George glanced at his watch, and finished his espresso.  He rose to his feet and walked to the father’s table.  He stood several steps back from it, but leaned his head forward and spoke to the man, “Pardon, monsieur?”
    The father’s eyes looked at him worriedly, and his smile faded.  “Bonjour.”
    George licked his lips as he prepared to ask the question he had memorized.  “Etes-vous Jean-Claude Batiste?”
    This seemed to get the father’s attention, and he looked at him very seriously as he answered.  “Oui.”
    “My French is rough, pardon moi.  Parlez-vous anglais?”
    “I do.”
    Now that George could speak English, he could say exactly what he wanted to say with confidence.  “I believe you knew my father.”
    Batiste squinted at him, as if trying to see a resemblance to someone he might know.  “Who is your father?”
    “Alexander Lamarck.”
    Batiste instantly snapped his finger at the jogger, who got up so fast that his chair fell over.  He shoved his hand into his fanny pack and gripped a Walther PPk, but kept it hidden.
    George’s blue eyes appeared to glaze over black and his voice lowered.  “I’m not going to kill you.”  He let him chew on this for a moment, and a soft breeze came through the old village, sending chills down the spine of Batiste.  George took one step forward and whispered.  “Je vais ter vos filles.  I’m going to kill your daughters.”
    Batiste’s eyes shot to the shop across the street just in time to see an explosion knock out the entire front wall of the building.  The blast knocked the jogger across a table, and Batiste fell over backwards in his chair, crashing against the hard rock.  The ceiling also gave way and dumped several thousand pounds of rock and tile onto the biker who had been leaning against the wall  
    George took the blast and the confusion immediately following to make his planned exit.  He darted through the cafe’s small kitchen, out the back door and down the old wooden stairs behind it.  He found his strategically placed scooter, jumped onto it, started its engine and sped off down the cobblestone streets towards the edge of town.   
cover image for Hardboil High

Hardboil High: Auschwitz

Mercedes and Vega were doing what they normally did in their sixth hour class, Pre-Algebra with Mrs. Braxton; they were passing notes back and forth. They’d start with one sheet of paper and jot a note, then pass it on and jot a response, and then it would pass back. It started off with Vega this period,

“You got a date to the dance?”

“No,” was Mercedes’ response.

“Has anyone asked, have you asked anyone?” Vega followed up.

“No. Well, except Lawrence, but I told him to get lost. And when he wouldn’t leave me alone, I told him his mom was gay. That seemed to do the trick. That tard smells like feet.”

Vega held the note for a while this time, stewing over her response. She fiddled with her bleached hair, that used to be black or brunette or something. It was red last week. She was always doing bizarre things with her hair, and sometimes her lip ring coordinated with her hair color. Her piercing was on the left corner, lower lip of her mouth and was turquoise today. She finally scribbled something and waited for Mrs. Braxton to face the chalkboard. It read, “You going out tonight?”

“Like I ever go out on Friday nights. What would I do? Whatchya got in mind?”

Vega wrote the following upside down and on top of the page, “You can’t say anything to anyone, but I’m taking you to Auschwitz tonight. Tell your mom we’re going to the mall or a movie or something stupid.”

Mercedes read the last response by Vega several times, then she pencil-circled Auschwitz?

“You coming or not?” Was all that Vega replied with.

“Sure,” Mercedes tossed her brown hair over her shoulders, as it fell down across her face while she wrote, “What about you—you gotta date?”

“I’m not going, the rents decided to go on a family trip that weekend. Dumb rents. Going to visit my aunt and uncle, I hate ‘em. All we do is sit around and play board games until the time is up, and then we come home. That, and my rents are always going on and on about when they were kids and how they did this stupid thing and that retarded thing. It’s gay. Can you get the Nova?”

It was a few minutes past eight; the sun had just decided to call it a night, and then Mercedes pulled up at Vega’s home in the Nova. It was gray, probably had color at one time, but time had not smiled on it. And the Mastersons rarely had enough money to get by, much less to spend pimpin’ the family clunker. It was a 1976 Nova Coupe, not the best year by any means. Not the kind you saw gangsters cruising in, either.

Mercedes was only fourteen years old, but her mom was single and had a hard enough time keeping things in line as it was. To remedy having to transport her two children to and fro all the time, she decided instead to teach them how to drive when they turned thirteen. Obviously, getting caught meant getting busted pretty bad. Or if you were really unlucky, you got raped—the cops in Babylon were known to take physical bribes for traffic violations quite frequently.

Unfortunately, to her dismay, an argument had erupted over the dinner table between her and her brother Johnny. He was two years her senior, and a junior in high school. He already had plans to be taking the Nova for the night. As is often the case, neither of the teenagers once considered whether their mother would need it. She didn’t of course; she had become a recluse and a workaholic for the sake of her children. Eventually, Mercedes resigned and finished a light dinner, per Vega’s strange request. She then slyly slithered into the living room, snatched the rabbit’s foot key chain and crept out the door. Johnny came running out moments later, as she was backing out of the driveway to their mobile home. He was screaming at her and managed to slam his fists down on the trunk as she peeled out of Granger Trailer Park. As she watched Johnny give up in her review mirror while going 45 in a 25, she twisted the radio knob over to the oldies station that was playing Disco in honor of its 20 year death.

After picking up Vega, lying to her parents and stopping for a pop with the money Vega stole from her dad, they were heading out of town. Vega still refused to tell her anything about Auschwitz.

“What is this gay music you listen to, anyway?” Vega inquired condescendingly.

“It’s Disco,” Mercedes cranked the volume up a little more; “You’ve never heard it?”

“PUL-LEEZ,” Vega grabbed the knob and turned it back down, “You drive, and I’ll DJ.”

Naturally, Mercedes just had to cut eyes at her when they turned onto a gravel farm road, “I fought for the Nova tonight and you’re taking me to a stinking rodeo, aren’t you? I hate you.”

“No,” Vega was laughing hard, “Not a rodeo, dude. Far from it.”

The sun was fast asleep now, and dark had veiled its face. There was little to see, just some gravel on either side of a patch of grass in front of the headlights and grass on both sides of them. It was either drive on the two white lines or drive in the grass. Beyond the grass on either side were trees that gave way suddenly, revealing an open field that the road cut a path through. In the distance to the left, were cars and a bonfire of sorts.

“Oh, even better,” Mercedes mocked, “A hayride.”

“Shut up and go park over there.”

Obeying properly, she drove into the field and parked three rows back from the firelight. It was a short walk, filled with more mockery. That soon stopped though when they passed through the hay bales, not the small rectangular ones but the big round ones. All around were familiar faces, but in different lights. Jocks, preps, rebels, nerds, geeks, the band, the choir, thespians—every clique from high school was represented in the shadows. They were all gathered around in a circle; in the middle of the circle were a huge bonfire and two boys. They were both lying on the ground; one was slowly crawling towards the fire as the other rolled over from his back and onto all fours. He rose from the ground, stammering as he did. They were fighters, this was Auschwitz and it was a fight club.

“I’ll be right back,” Vega said and then quickly vanished into the crowd.

Mercedes tried to recognize the two boys, but the shadows were too harsh. The boy now standing, having gained his balance, turned and faced the boy on the ground. He looked down at him and screamed something unintelligible and charged. The boy on the ground reached the fire and grabbed a log from the fire and spun over onto his back, jabbing the scorching hot log into the charging boy’s stomach. It burned straight through his shirt and straight to his torso. Screams were heard from both boys, and the boy that charged fell. The other threw the log back into the fire and rose, holding his now burned hands. Another boy entered, this one she recognized as Luke Preston, “And the winner is… Masterson!”

She recognized him now, it was hard to do so before, but now she could see that it was Johnny. He raised his arms in victory, the crowd cheered and he unwittingly zigzagged towards her. They bumped shoulders and she looked him the eye, “Hey, bro.”

He stopped, squinted and mumbled, “Whore.”

With that he zigzagged away into the crowd and Vega returned with two plastic cups, red ones. They were filled with beer, and it hit the spot for Mercedes. She hadn’t had a beer since dad left; mom had cracked down on the drinking in the family. Like that was going to make everything better. Nothing makes anything better, she had determined, you just find new and imaginative ways to deafen the pain. To distract.

Mercedes and Vega walked with their beers outside of the hay bales. Mercedes looked into the distance and up the hill, at the top of it laid a grand house that was all lit up. It was a beacon of light in the night. She turned to Vega and gestured with her beer and an index finger, “What’s up there?”

“Oh, that,” Vega started, “That’s the Johnston’s home.”

“It’s nice.”

“Yeah, from a distance,” she explained, “Down here, in the dark, you’re respected for your accomplishments. Up there, in the light, it’s like high school. It’s all about status. You have to either have money or be part of the team.”

“Come on, Vega, let’s take a look.”

“All you can do is look, because up there everybody is better than you.”

Mercedes’ eyes were reflecting the light of the house as she stared sternly at it, “No one’s better than me.”

Vega laughed and took the last swig of her beer, “Now you’re starting to sound like a jock.”

Mercedes turned and looked at her, “I’m going up. You coming or not?”

“I’ll stay in the shadows, thank you.” She turned and became a silhouette instantly; and reentered Auschwitz and became one with the silhouettes about her.

Mercedes tossed the red, plastic cup and the remainder of its contents to the grass and started up the path that leads to the house. As she got closer, the path illuminated. Two guys came running up from behind her and bumped her out of the way; they were laughing and spilling their beers. One guy had a bong, and it was clear that the other guy wanted a puff. She smirked a little when she determined that if the house was high school, than surely the path she walked was its hallway.

The closer she came to the house; she could hear the thumping of pop music.Probably pop rap, that’s what all the jocks and preps were getting into lately.Pop wasn’t what it used to be, that was for sure in her mind.Her heart was in awe as she gazed upon a lovely home, a ranch style home with a long deck and balcony that stretched all around the house.The side closest to her, as she came up the hill, stretched out over the hill.It was like Caesar’s private box, from here he monitored the gladiators below and either gave the thumbs up or the thumbs down.She walked up a few steps onto the deck, and as she passed a half open window she verified that the music was indeed pop rap.Caesar was not in his thrown, a white rocking chair.She came around to the front of the house and decided she could live here forever, anything would be better than Granger and the stench of trailer trash—but this, this was heaven on earth.She opened the southern-style screen door and it quickly spanked her on the way over the threshold.

She passed a dining room; it was eloquent beyond anything she’d ever seen. There were preps and jocks gathered around its table. They were drinking things, smoking things and cutting up. Suddenly one of them shouted and gestured with his arms to silent everyone. Their eyes slowly slid up to the tops of their lids and their heads cocked in the northern direction as well. They were looking at the chandelier above the table; it had diamond links and candles in it. It was vibrating about aimlessly, and you could hear muffled sounds of moaning coming from the floor above. The preps and jocks burst into an uproar at the perversion that was transpiring upstairs. They clapped and shouted back, they began to root and egg on the private matter above them. She continued on past the perverts and entered the kitchen. The floor and countertops were both finished in marble; the cabinets were white and blinding with beauty. The pots and pans hung above an island in the middle of the kitchen, they were glistening with cleanliness. She could see her face in a frying pan and she smiled.

The sound of a toilet flushing became evident when a door opened around the corner on the opposite end of the kitchen, and from that door appeared Cooper Johnston. When he saw her he stopped, and anger became him, “What are you doing in here?”

“Came up for a dump,” she said, “And now that I know where the bathroom is, I think I’ll do so.”

“You can take your dump in the woods,” he came towards her, as he passed the pots and pans he batted a pot with his left hand and left smudge marks on it, “Now beat it.” He spoke directly into her face, he smelled of beer and drugs. For an instant, she got the munchies. He bumped shoulders with her and went on into the dining room.

She then noticed something she’d only seen in catalogues—a marble bread roller. She walked to the edge of the counter where it lay and picked it up, it was heavier than she imagined and it was more gorgeous than the pictures she’d seen of it. On the corner of her eye, she saw the bathroom door slowly swinging open more. She sat the bread roller down and entered the bathroom and did her business. It was a simple bathroom, just a place to get the job done right between the kitchen and laundry. She came out and reentered the kitchen; at the other end was Cooper. He had the perverts from the dining room standing behind him, “I told you to do your business in the woods.”

“I know.” She defied him both with actions and words now; she stepped around in front of the edge of the counter.

“You need to learn to listen.” His eyes were locked into hers; he reached with his hands, unzipped and unbuttoned his pants.

Her eyes stayed on his, “Put it in your pants, Perky.”

He slowly moved in towards the island, and then around it and towards her. The perverts filed in on both sides of the island, but they all kept behind him—not daring to cross some invisible line of authority that obviously existed. He stood in front of her now; she could smell his breath again. She leaned back away from him and against the counter. She rested her hands behind her back and atop the cold, marble countertop.

“Make your move,” she said. They sat there in silence still, no one moving. No one talking, only breathing. But even the breathing was quiet and kept to a minimum. The tension was as thick as bread and any action would be the knife to cut it. Their eyes were still locked in on each other.

“Boo,” he whispered and then lunged at her, pelvis first.

She quickly grabbed the bread roller behind her and kicked him in the knee, knocking him back a step. She slid the roller off the counter and followed through with the momentum, gripping with two hands and hitting him in his manhood with her hardest golf swing. He screeched loudly, like a virgin, and fell to the floor. He cupped his privates with his hands and she could see that he was bleeding. She held the roller out with one hand, aiming at the perverts, “Anyone else want some action?!”

The perverts, without speaking, parted and made a path to the hallway. They were the Red Sea, she was Moses and the bread roller was her rod. She walked through and the only sounds in the house were being made by Cooper on the floor and the dirty blonde that ran by up the hallway crying. In the hallway, she saw the dirty blonde run straight through the screen door, knocking it off its hinges and she fell onto the porch but quickly recovered and leapt off into the grass. Outside Mercedes watched as the dirty blonde ran down the rocky driveway, she was barefoot and over time she began to limp but it didn’t slow her down any. Mercedes pulled her cell phone from her jeans and speed-dialed Vega; with her right hand she tossed the roller into the bushes.

“Sup?” Vega answered.

“Meet me at the Nova, we’re bustin’ outta here.”

cover image for Jason Richard Wright

Jason Richard Wright, Chapter 1

Jason Richard Wright was a modest, young man. He was shy and had a smile that cracked under pressure of use. He was harmless to the eyes, ears and was easily offended. But, he seldom lost his cool. He was notorious for taking insults with a shy turn of the head and bashful lower of the eyes.

Jason Richard Wright was a hopeless romantic. He kept his eyes peeled for that one girl who would change his world. He knew that somewhere out there, amidst the cosmos, was a girl with his name carved into her forehead. They were both just waiting for that chance encounter, that moment. The moment when they would cross paths and they would just know.

Her name was Cassie. He overheard one of her girlfriends call her by such one afternoon and he knew within his heart that this was the one. He was emptying a library can into a larger can for dumping outback. Jason Richard Wright was a custodian for the university and he didn’t mind, after all, “A little dirt never hurt no one,” his mom often instructed him as a child. The hours were few, but the pay was decent enough for living. For Jason Richard Wright this was enough.

Cassie was a student, maybe 21 maybe 19. In these days, it’s hard to tell the difference. She had medium-length, wavy dusty blond hair and a frame that was fragile and petite but sent a message of independence and strength. Jason Richard Wright was smitten with the love bug.

He was never much with speech, but he tried so. He once followed Cassie and a group of her girlfriends halfway across campus just trying to summon the courage to walk up and say, “Hello.” In the end, she entered a classroom and spoke to a boy more her age and he turned and left. It was after this that it began to become a nasty habit. He’d be mopping a floor, turn and see Cassie walking. He would then set his broom down and pursue her, then she’d turn into a classroom or a bathroom and Jason Richard Wright would go back to the mop.

One night, Jason Richard Wright had endured all he could take. He abandoned his custodial duties and made his way to Jenkins Hall. It was there he waited for Cassie’s class to end, she came out talking with two girlfriends and a boy. They headed out and Jason Richard Wright followed from a distance. In the McHammon Memorial courtyard, the two girlfriends departed from Cassie and the boy and went into another direction. Jason Richard Wright continued to pursue Cassie and the boy. There’s a walkway which goes beneath a business intersection, it’s decorated with gravity of the vulgar kind. At night, the walkway is barely lit with one light bulb in the center of it. Cassie and the boy entered the walkway, Jason Richard Wright stood without. The boy reached above his head, standing on his heels. Cassie giggled as the boy turned the light bulb, loosening it so that the light goes out. Jason Richard Wright bent down, using the angle to place the street light out the other end of the tunnel to make silhouettes of the two. He watched their dark figures lean into each other and against the wall, they kissed passionately. As they embraced and kissed, Jason Richard Wright felt a cold touch scrape his spine and there was a tingle in the base of his neck. This was followed with a queer warm feeling that immersed from his feet and flooded upward to his head. He felt his eyebrows lower into a scolding fashion. His jaw locked and began to grind. He watched as the boy began to touch Cassie in, as Jason Richard Wright would later say, “inappropriate places.” His left fist clinched and he involuntarily punched the concrete wall near him, it sent a smacking sound through the walkway. Cassie and the boy became startled, she giggled and the boy laughed. They turn and ran into the night.

Some time had passed, how much Jason Richard Wright was unaware of. He was depressed, he was upset. It was late and he sat in the custodian closet of the library, it was located in the basement and offered a retreat to him. He worked alone in the library custodian duties and few students came to the basement, as it was mostly comprised of newspapers from other eras. He sat in a chair that was tall, skinny and on wheels. It was red. He stared into his bulletin of reminders before him.

There was a gentle knock on the door, it then slowly opened.

“Hello,” her voice called out softly, “Hello, you here, man?”

Jason Richard Wright recognized the voice in an instant, he tightly gripped a yellow-handled flat blade screwdriver on his table in front of him. He slid it onto his right thigh and turned around on the pivot of the chair. He looked at Cassie, she stood just inside the door with an empty coke bottle in her hand.

“Hey, I got this bottle, but I couldn’t find any recycle bins to put them in.”

“Please close the door,” Jason Richard Wright spoke with all nerves removed, “I like to keep the closet warm.”

“Okay,” she replied; she complied by shutting the door, “Where do you want this?”

“I’ve got the recycle bins over here,” he explains, “I was cleaning the soda stains out.”

“Oh, thanks, man,” she walks towards him and the bins with the bottle in hand.

Jason Richard Wright felt his eyebrows lower, his jaw locked and it began to grind. Much later he would tell Cassie where to put the bottle.