Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Interlude Stories: Larry Strattner


Elmer and Sylvia visited the place two or three times before they made an offer. Elmer low-balled the owners. The downside; a house only three hundred feet back off County Trunk Q. The upside; forty acres out back. He sensed the old couple had no money and fewer prospects. He figured he could snare the place for a song.

He hated his name; Elmer. He told everyone in his old neighborhood his name was Buzz; as in the astronaut. His wife Sylvia; Sil. Buzz and Sil. Mysterious. Sexual. Inaccessible. Adventurous.

In reality Sylvia would balk like some stupid horse at the sun reflecting off a discarded gum wrapper. She didn’t like the dark and incessantly read Sylvia Brown books. She wondered, were their identical first names fate? Elmer told her 273,000 other women in the United States were named Sylvia. Even so she was spooked by her connection with Sylvia Brown. Elmer felt the need to get out of their current neighborhood before someone outed them. His solution; forty acres off County Q.

One acre abutted Q on either side of his new house. No one lived across the road. No house on either side was close. He might not ever have to deal with a neighbor. None looked like he’d have to go through any Buzz bullshit with them either.

Since no neighbor was close by Elmer hadn’t really studied the neighbors before he made his offer. All except one lived east, down the road; downwind. He knew at least one downwind person raised pigs but he couldn’t smell any pig odors up at his place.

After the sale closed he found out the pig guy, named Kade Neusteader, three houses down, part of a big local family, had some trouble with Child Services after chaining his son Ivan to a ring cemented into his cellar floor.

When County Child Services caught up to Neusteader he claimed, “I’m not the asshole here. You try having a kid drooling around and muttering behind you all day every day and see what you do. I would have put him in the attic but we don’t have an attic and the cellar is cooler in the summer. He throws a fit down there now and then but the pig pens are close to the house. They drown him out.”

Pig fits and kid fits, apparently, sound a lot alike. Even so the son, Ivan, scared Neusteader about having another kid. He was quoted as saying, “There’s no more room in the cellar.”

Neusteader also noted, “I picked my wife, Lily, to marry because she wasn’t a drooler or a mouth breather. Then we have one kid and I get Ivan.

“Lily’s father had a brother like Ivan. His father tripped him inside the pig pens one day and the pigs ate him. I think they filed a missing persons report. A chicken moved into the house to fill his spot.”

Fortunately for Lily’s dad, he had passed away the year before the County officials talked with Kade.

Elmer began to worry maybe an acre didn’t give him enough separation. The back forty went on forever and was bordered by a swamp. But Sylvia didn’t have all her marbles anyway. She mostly watched daytime television, stayed inside. Elmer guessed she hadn’t caught wind of the shenanigans down the road.

Down at the Seven Eleven buying beer, Elmer heard a conversation between two guys in dirty Carhart bib overalls leading him to believe pigs would eat anything. One manure spattered guy confided to the other, “Heard a rumor Clevis Starling caught a Fuller Brush guy with his wife. When Clevis got done the pigs ate what was left of the brush-bastard along with his sample case. Don’t know if it’s true. Big price for the brush fellow to pay if it is. Clevis’ wife would fit right in out in the pens. A real oinker. I never have seen a Fuller Brush man around here. I ran off the Mary Kay bitch. She wanted a lot of money for face paint. If I wanted someone with paint all over their face I would’ve married fucking Rembrandt.”

Elmer instituted a new policy. No friendly waves at anybody dressed in Carharts. No conversation with anybody in a neighboring yard. He kept his head down. Kept to himself. Decided to get a few horses to ride on his forty acres. Never said a word of his Buzz bullshit to anyone either.

While cutting out some brush behind the house to make a corral for his horse program Elmer discovered his first hunk of scrap metal. Hunk probably calls up a picture of something a bit smaller than what he dug up. The twisted sheets were more the size of a wall from those metal sheds you use to store equipment out in the yard. It was all crushed, like a herd of cows and a few tractors had run it over. Elmer hauled it out of the ground using a heavy chain hooked to his pickup truck.

Hard on the heels of the mangled shed he struck and hauled out crushed cars, broken farm machinery, sheet metal, rebar, windmill blades and a few TV antennas. Soon Elmer had a pile of scrap metal big enough to call the junkyard down in Atlanta. This Atlanta, by the way, is not that Atlanta. This Atlanta has a population of 300, is on a rusty rail line and a train runs once a week, maybe, and nobody in this Atlanta knows anything about peaches.

The old guy from the junkyard gave Elmer a low bid, he said because of the dirt all over everything. Even so, Elmer made a good dollar on his buried treasure. He used the cash to sink a new well. The old well was running slow and he felt he needed to step it up for the horses. The well driller went down a long way before water sprung clear. The well guy also said something about leaching Elmer didn’t understand. He fenced off the corral and bought three horses. One horse was white, one brown, one black; so he could tell them apart.

One day, after a couple of months as a country gentleman, Elmer decided to soak his weary feet in warm water. Sylvia boiled some up and Elmer sat back to relax. In exactly one hour all his toes were gone. There was no blood, no nothing. Toes were gone, stubs cauterized over. It’s difficult to walk with no toes. The EMTs who came to the house said he was lucky he took his feet out of the hot water when he did.

The County came over and tested his well. More shit in the water than a Mumbai restroom. Metal finishing chemicals from the big manufacturing plant a half mile over, liquid manure, weird growth hormones and god knew what else from Neusteader’s pig farm, salt and asphalt tracings from the highway and whatever the previous owners left. all leached into the water. The previous owners didn’t look quite so stupid anymore.
Down at the Seven Eleven they said, “Elmer should have known the goddamn place was a Superfund site. Supposed to have a disclosure on the property.” Elmer had never seen one.

He would’ve liked to blame the manufacturing plant. They put a restraining order on him and wouldn’t let him on the property. His lawyer said Elmer could look forward to about ten years of motions, if anything happened at all. Elmer found some special shoes to help him walk without toes.

Elmer got really pissed off at Kade Neusteader as well. He cornered Kade one day down at Seven Eleven. “You goddamn redneck, pig fucking, child beating asshole. Your goddamn pig shit, growth hormone, antibiotic runoff did this to me. You’re going to regret this for a long time.” He stumped off, laboriously got into his van and drove away in a spray of gravel.

Kade Neusteader never said a word during the whole thing. Stood there. Took it. Later a couple guys in dirty Carharts were talking. One said, “Some people get all upset about what they call our conditions out on County Q. But you know what? I see all this bullshit on the TV about the economy and taxes and free lunches and I’ll tell you one thing. You don’t see any of that out here on County Q. There’s no drag on the tax base out here. Anybody gives us any shit out here it’s into the pig pen with the fucker. All done. All through. It doesn’t matter how much of an asshole a person is. Pigs’ll eat anything.”

This last Seven Eleven conversation took place after Elmer Mallard had been missing for two weeks. Sylvia didn’t report him gone for the first week. She got wrapped up in a few soap operas and didn’t notice. State Patrol caught wind of the pigs comment at the Seven Eleven. Two Troopers drove by and visited Kade Neusteader. Nothing came of it. There wasn’t one shred of evidence.

Elmer’s place was condemned; the well plugged. Sylvia took the television and her Sylvia Brown books and moved back to live with her mother in Eustaceville.

BIO: Larry Strattner formerly wrote out of a small room in northern Wisconsin. He has relocated to a small room in Eureka, California and released a good, shoot-em-up book on Kindle ebooks in January "The Geek Assassin". Since he’s not famous, it is a thirty dollar story for only four bucks. Currently it is only available on Kindle.

Interlude Stories: Joshua L. Swainston


Phil passed away last winter from a cheeseburger and since then the office hasn’t been the same. Shit, it took me three months just to open the front door. You work with someone as long as Phil and I had and it’s bound to happen. I think they call it a “bromance” or maybe a professional thing, I’m not sure. The front door reads PRIVATE EYES and under it Phil’s name is stenciled just above mine. Do I keep it up as a memorial? I’ve been debating it for months now. At first it didn’t seem right taking it down. Then it didn’t seem right leaving it up. But it’s kinda nice to see that some things don’t change.

I was there when it happened, over at Patty’s on 8th. It was lunch, maybe closer to two. When I was in the service, a lifetime ago, I had to go through a first aid class. They teach you how to put pressure on cuts and help treat shock victims. The class didn’t prepare me for what happened. I hadn’t seen anything like it before. I thought people fought when they choked on something. Like they made noise and went blue first. Phil took one bite of the burger and fell over. The ambulance came and went. Then Phil was gone.

I wish his mail would stop coming. Stacks of the shit come every day: Reader Digest promos, Field and Stream, credit card applications. It doesn’t stop. I asked Betty, she’s the gal that delivers the post, and she said she’d put in a stop request. No luck. Still getting piles of the stuff. Some weeks I’m taking out the trash bin just for his mail.

I was working late three nights ago. That is to say I’d been working on a cheating husband case. All those cases involve late nights. My Canon ate a whole roll of Kodachrome and I had to clean out the gunk before going back to the apartment where this guy was doing his wife’s baby sister. Anyway, I was at the office and this letter popped in through the mail slot. It was about eleven at night. I knew Betty hadn’t dropped it off. By the time the letter registered and I got to the door, the hallway was deserted.

The letter was addressed to Phil. The handwriting on the envelope was this sweet bubbly crap that could only have come from a young woman. The flowing arches of the “P” and “H” in Phil’s name carried whimsy. There wasn’t any return address. I tossed it into the bin and continued working on the camera. I had to get over to catch the cheating husband so I could wrap up this deal and collect the check. The camera got working again, but before I ran out the door to snap the incriminating shots, something stopped me. I can’t say it was a power greater than myself because, shit, when did anything spiritual help me? But I stayed. The cheating husband would have to wait. That letter was bugging me.

When you’re in the private dick game you get used to strange messages dropped on you. Anonymous calls, clandestine meetings, and random letters showing up in the middle of the night. Sometimes evidence that no one wants to admit they have. Other times it’s from people who want to hire you, but don’t know if it’s the right thing to do. Most of the time it’s lonely people who think the government is tracking them through robots in their teeth. You learn to ignore it. But this letter dug into me. If it was from a personal friend or someone related to Phil, then they would have known he was dead. If it was from a client, then why didn’t they just leave the envelope blank or just put the obligatory “to private eye”? No, Phil’s name was written out, along with the office address. The damn thing even had a stamp on it. Someone wanted this letter read, and now. I had to give it a look.

I took the little blade of my Swiss Army Knife and surgically slit the top of the envelope. Inside rested a pink lined sheet of paper. The note said something about a missing person. Cousin lost. Came all the way from Kansas. Tried to make it in the big city. I could almost hear her Mid-western accent in the gate of her penmanship. I’ve read this one before. Shit, I have a whole filing cabinet full of this exact letter. The part that made the case jump, made it interesting or, should I say, made it irresistible was this: “I know you are not Phil.”

If she knew Phil wouldn’t be getting the letter then why didn’t she address it to me? My name is scrawled on the door too. The ad is still listed in the phone book with both names. It’s not like I’m invisible. How did she know Phil wouldn’t be getting the letter?

At the end of the pink note there was an address. I knew it well. The Riverside Motel, a dive made famous for being cut-rate with little police involvement. I’d say an honest third of the missing person cases, and most of the surveillance gigs, have some run-in there. Definitely not the sort of place for a girl with bubbly handwriting.

Riverside Motel reeked of desperation and chaos this time of night so I wanted to put it off until morning. But the note, the entire idea of it, wasn’t going to let me go until I checked it out. So I hopped into the Chevy and cruised down towards the docks. The summer’s night air helped clear my head before I got there.

When I rolled up, the motel was all lit up like Christmas for the unwashed. A neon sign showcased local cheap beer. A woman in a red mini skirt asked, “Baby, wanna go around the world?” I wasn’t sure if that was a reference to drugs or sex.

The room number specified in the note led me to a door on the second floor. From the peep hole I could see that the light was on inside. I knocked. Shuffling sounds on the other side of the door. The peep hole went dark. A gruff male voice coughed, “What the fuck you want asshole?”

This was not the voice of a person with bubbly handwriting. I didn’t answer. Bust, I guess. If she’d been at the joint earlier, then she wasn’t there now. It happens. I had played a long shot, or a random shot, or a shot in the dark. Whatever, it hadn’t paid off.

I got into the Chevy and drove. It wasn’t hard to convince myself to get out of the shithole as fast as I could. Not too late yet, so I headed back to the office to snag my camera. Might still be able to get a few scathing photos of the cheating couple.

When I returned to the office I got that crimp in the back of my neck that tells me something’s fishy. It’s like when old guys can tell you if it’s going to rain by their bum knee.

From the sight of the office door I could tell this was going to be a very long night. The door frame had been manhandled by a crowbar. Funny, I was pretty sure I hadn’t locked up when I left.

She was thirty, maybe younger. I had never been good at telling ages. She dressed in an expensive get up. A long black evening gown like Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. A black trench coat draped around her shoulders flowed around her like a cape as she searched my office. She rooted through a section of files that I hadn’t thought about since Phil died. Just old cases. Nothing special. Well maybe not special to me, but special enough to stage a ruse and break in to an unlocked office. There was a methodical quality about the whole thing that made me want to observe the specimen rather than barge in right away. I stood in the doorway and watched. She was so intent on what she was looking for she didn’t see me.

“What you looking for? I could help and make it loads easier on both of us.”

She stopped. “Oh, I didn’t expect you back so soon.”

“Well, that’s the thing about a red herring. When they don’t pan out there isn’t much to keep it going.”

“You’re going to call the cops, I guess.” I could tell she was eyeing the door.

“Not yet. Why don’t you tell me what you’re looking for first?”

She let out a big sigh. Her eyes fell to the floor. I could tell whatever she was going to say it was going to be a lie. “It’s a paternity case. Phil helped me out a few years a back. I need the medical records that prove all of it.”

“Did the case get wrapped up? You should have any information my partner found for you.”

“I had it, but I lost it.” She started to scratch under her left ear. The nervous tick reminded me of late night televised poker players. They call it a “tell”, I think.

“Let me see what I can do for you. When was the case?” She knew something more than she let on.

“April, three years ago.”

I started over to the file cabinet and was immediately shocked that she didn’t rocket out of the room. “April. Well there’s your problem. You’ve been looking in November.”

“Did I say April? I must have meant November.” She scratched her ear again.

I pulled the entire month of November of that year and set it on the desk. A six-inch stack of paper and manila file folders. Taking a seat at my desk, I started from the beginning. She stood on the other side leaning over me.

As I worked, I made small talk. “What’d you say your name was again?”

“I didn’t. You can call me Ashley.”

“That was a pretty good trick writing that fake note.”

“I wasn’t sure that it’d get your attention.”

“It did.” I flipped through the files one by one. Missing persons. Insurance fraud. Infidelity. The occasional high-end theft. A lot of pictures of a lot of people doing unscrupulous things. “You know, the door wasn’t locked.”

“It wasn’t? Oh that’s all right. I always wanted to bust into a place. Haven’t had many opportunities. It always looks fun in the movies.”

“Sure does.” I smiled at her. She was different from the regular chicks that come around here. It was refreshing. “But now I gotta get a guy down here tomorrow. So, why the fancy get up?”

“Passersby don’t question a woman in an evening gown. If I wore a ski mask while prying open your door, then someone might get suspicious. A dress like this, no one cares what I’m doing. It makes it look legitimate.”

“Makes sense.”

“What was that?” She pointed at an eight-by-ten still of Phil scoping out a torn up hotel room.

“That’s Phil.”

“I know that. What’s the picture for?”

I scanned the rest of the papers in the file. “It’s from a case where a stripper tossed a room after a drug binge and split on the tab. Looks like we went after the room fees for the owners. No evidence per se. Just a fake credit card. A few descriptions from the other guests. Standard stuff.”

“Did you ever get a look at the girl?” She scratched her ear again.

“The stripper? Not that I remember.”



Ashley’s back and neck went ridged. She took a step back. Out of her matching handbag she pulled a Luger P08. Don’t ask how I know that. Even though I was in the service, I can only pick out maybe three handguns by sight. This just happened to be one of them. She didn’t hold the gun limp wristed like an amateur. No, she held the weapon firm and straight. She had it trained on my center mass.

“What’s that for?”

“This is nothing.”

“Looks like a gun.”

“You’re smart. Why don’t you figure the rest out?”

I leaned back in my desk chair. “You could be the stripper in question. But with those clothes, I wouldn’t bet on it.”


“Yeah. Girls that trash up hotel rooms on a drug binge usually don’t wear cocktail dresses or carry German handguns. But then again, women dressed like you are capable of some strange things.”

“You’re right. I’m not the stripper.”

“I figure you were sent by someone. Maybe someone connected.”

“Right. You know I’m not going to like killing you.”

“So what’s the story? I’ve been a good boy. I’ve played along. Give me the run down.”

“Hired by a prominent family. They want to clean up all the records of their daughter’s earlier, let’s call them, mishaps.” She flashed a smile. “Just tying up loose ends.”

“Is daddy running for president or something?”

“Something like that.”

It was three o’clock. I could hear the bells from St. Anthony’s on “I” street. “The next move?”

“I take the file. Probably burn it.”

“But there isn’t any evidence. The file has nothing.”

“It has eyewitness accounts. It has pictures. That’s enough for my client to be concerned.”

“I’m still not getting all this. Why all the trouble? The deception? The old file?”

“I was hoping my little trick would throw you off for a while but you came back before I could get what I needed. Everything else is simple really. See, we all have a job to do. I’m just a hired hand like you.”

“Huh. You’re not going to let me just hand you the file, are you? There isn’t any way you’re not going to shoot me?”

“No. Having told you all this, you’re now a loose end.”

“That blows. I thought you were kinda cute.”

“Thanks.” And with that gesture of gratitude the lying bitch shot me, the bullet smashing into my right shoulder.

I faded in and out for a long while. I might have pissed myself or it might have been blood running down the front of my slacks. Either way it was wet where it shouldn’t have been.

The sun came up and the room took on the hum of natural morning light. At some point I was shaken awake and I remember seeing Betty hovering above me in her blue postwoman’s get up. She looked like an angel. That’s how I knew I was still kicking. I’m pretty sure after I die, if there is an afterlife for me, it’s going to be some place without angels.

I’ve been sitting in the hospital since then. One of the nurses tells me I’m at Harbor View. The whole time I lay here in the bed with tubes hanging out of me, I’m thinking that Ashley could have killed me if she wanted. I guess I should be thankful.

There might be more to the story. I can’t be too sure. I’ve lost a lot of blood.

BIO: Half the year Joshua lives in Tacoma, Washington, with his wonderful wife and child. The other half of the year he works on tug boats in Alaska. Frequently he writes for the Weekly Volcano, Tacoma’s local arts paper, as a features writer. His fiction work can be seen in the spring 2012 edition of The First Line. For fun he also posts a monthly blog Purge.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Interlude Stories: Dana C. Kabel


Schiff got the gun and I got the knife, cause that was what they threw in the center of the ring and the knife was the quickest thing I could grab onto.

Course, a gun ain’t nothing but a club when there’s no bullets in it, and old Schiff found that out the hard way when it made that empty clicking sound in his hand. Just steel on steel and the dog fart dry gasp that came out of his mouth when he realized he grabbed the shitty end of the stick.

Mr. Mason started laughing hard in the gallery up above us. I knew that it was him because he has a loud bark...what some people might call a guffaw...and he laughs at a lot of things that most people wouldn’t find so funny.

Even in the life and death situation I was in, I could picture Mr. Mason in his Sam’s Club suit chomping on a fat cigar and grabbing his trophy girlfriend’s pretty little ass while he watched us go about killing each other.

“Kill that pussy sonofabitch!” An angry voice shouted. “Stab him in the neck!”

I looked at Schiff and truly felt guilty about the scared look in his eyes because that was exactly what I was thinking about doing. He started backpedaling as I charged forward with the long blade held high above my head, ready to stab him.

Schiff backed himself against the wall as I closed in and squinted his eyes as he clenched up, cause he thought he was done for. But thinking about putting a knife in someone and actually doing it are two different things entirely, so I guess when it came down to the moment of truth I closed my own eyes up pretty good, too.

Our bodies smacked together and a sharp pain rang up my arm and I heard the knife clang to the floor. That was because I stabbed the block wall behind Schiff and the blade just bounced off.

We opened our eyes at the same time and Schiff pushed me off and came at me with the gun in his hand like the little club it had become. Something snapped in me then and the fear went right out of me.

I guess I was mad that I had missed my chance and now old Schiff was gonna get his turn at me because of it. It didn’t help none that Mr. Mason was shouting all sorts of obscenities at me, calling me a worthless piece of shit and what not.

And it wasn’t just the words he was throwing at me. Mr. Mason had called me lots worse lots of other times. But the fact he was putting me down like that in front of that little gal...

Well, tell the truth that little gal was the prettiest damned girl I’d ever seen in my life and it gulled me from the start to see her under Mr. Mason’s thumb the way she was.

Her name was Sherry, and she was too pretty and young to be with a fat old ugly man like Mr. Mason. Sherry should have been some place nice and clean with someone nice and good who would treat her right. was an abomination that he was in her life the way he was.

I probably shouldn’t have been thinking about all that when there was a man trying to bludgeon me to death with the butt end of an eight inch .44 magnum. If you never held one of those before, I can tell you it’s a heavy piece of iron.

I snapped out of my own head almost a second too late and dodged just enough so that the butt of that pistol just glanced off my thick skull. Even so, that was enough of a slap to bring my mind back to Earth all the way.

After I staggered back in line, I saw Schiff coming in with another swing and I come up under his chin with my hard elbow and knocked him on his ass.

The wind went right outta him when he hit the ground, but old Schiff held right onto that Smith. That was until I healed back and kicked it away from him like Charlie Brown connecting with Lucy’s football for the first time.

There was a loud crack as Schiff’s wrist broke and the gun went skittering across the floor.

Schiff howled like a gut shot coon hound and old Mr. Mason started his disgusting pig-donkey laugh again.

Schiff got to his feet again, cause giving up ain’t an option in the game we were playing. Mr. Mason makes it clear to anyone going in the ring that one way or another only one man comes out alive. Even if one fella just gives out or gives up, Mr. Mason’s men make sure they don’t crawl out of the pit.

The fella that comes out of that pit alive gets one hundred thousand dollars, which ain’t peanuts from Mr. Mason takes in from all the wagers. But it’s enough for a guy like me to steal away a pretty little thing like Sherry and dust out of town.

If I could have afforded to feel bad for old Schiff I would have. I did give him some room though, while he pulled his sorry self up to his feet with his broke wrist cradled to his body like a lame wing.

“Let’s make it interesting,” Mr. Mason shouted. Then one of his men threw a handful of bullets out onto the floor.

Schiff dove for those bullets like he was trying to cover ‘em all up with his body. I went for the gun.

He was scrambling them all together with his one good arm when I walked up to him with the Smith in my hand. Schiff grinned as he showed me the handful of bullets he had gathered up before he dropped them into his pocket.

Then I showed him the one bullet I had snatched up on my way to getting the gun and his grin went away.

Schiff fell back and closed his eyes and started breathing quick and shallow. Mr. Mason brayed like a damned fool as I held the bullet high above my head for the cheering crowd to see.

I snapped the Smith open and put that lone bullet in the cylinder and snapped it shut again.

“Say your prayers, Schiff,” I said.

He started weeping. I cocked the gun and pointed it at his head.

Then I looked up at Mr. Mason with his fat cigar sticking out of his fat headed grin. He had a drink in one hand and his other dirty hand all over that sweet looking Sherry, who was looking away from it all.

That pig owned that poor girl the same as he owned me and Schiff. Only, Sherry was like his fancy car or boat or plane and me and Schiff was like his dogs.

Mason gave the girl that big shot look of his and I pictured him doing a thousand filthy things to her in my mind and knew that it just wasn’t right. When she turned her head up to look back at him, Sherry gave that pig the darndest little grin and nuzzled tight to him under his fat arm. I knew right then that pretty gal would never go off with me cause that bastard ruint her.

Then he put his drink down and raised his thumb up like a emperor in the Coliseum.

The crowd roared. They all had money put on it one way or the other.

Mason turned his thumb over and pointed it down and the crowd went bat shit crazy with blood lust. Like he was pulling the trigger his own self.

And just like that, I swung the Smith up and fired.

That sweet young girl’s head snapped back and blood sprayed outta the back of her skull. There was one great gasp from the crowd and everything went so quiet I could hear the death fart go outta Sherry’s body. I knew that at that moment the stink of her dead body shitting itself was filling Mason’s nostrils.

He recoiled away from her just as the crowd snapped out of their shock and started mobbing for the exits.

I sat down on the ground next to old Schiff and closed my eyes and waited for Mason’s goon squad. In another minute me and Schiff would be free like Sherry.

BIO: Dana C. Kabel’s stories have appeared in A Twist of Noir, Black Heart Magazine, Darkest Before The Dawn, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Muzzleflash, Mysterical-E, Out of the Gutter, Powder Flash Burn, and Yellow Mama. He blogs at

Interlude Stories: Steve Prusky



“Sam.” The cellmates do not shake hands.

“Rules: I drive this bus. You ride. Stay quiet. Snore, I’ll slap you. No beating off. Don’t fuck with my shit. Top bunk is mine.”

“Whatever’s clever.”

“What’s your crime?”

“Probation violation; Bigamy.”

Chauncey--amused--coughs, spits up phlegm. “Bigamy! Your first conviction?”

“Possession with Intent to Sell.”

“You don’t divorce wife one before you marry wife two. You’re already on paper. Two snoops some and voilĂ ; home is jail--‘Club Vegas’ we call it. Yup, you’re a crass criminal all right; foot in the gutter, foot in the grave... Scared a you.”

“Wife one lives in Wyoming. State needs her testimony or the judge will dismiss. She won’t. She’s mother to my kids. I’m violated anyway; dishonorable discharge from probation--Two years in Carson City all over a farce comedy for a case.”

“Been to Carson City; Indian Springs, Ely, too. They took my previous cellmate to Ely. Trafficking. Twenty-five to life. Twenty-three hour lock-down. They’ll let us out for dinner soon. You take his seat across from me at chow. At the table we got each other’s back.”

“Eyes in our backs, huh.”

“Smart man!”

An oriental trustee trots cell-to-cell, chimes “CHOW-TINE... CHOW TINE... CHOW TINE.” Chow Tine nods to the bull he is done. Fifty cell door locks simultaneously click open. The detainees form a line on the central floor for their plastic trays heaped with 600 calories of quality soup kitchen nutrition.

“They let us out on the floor eight hours a day. Sometimes fights start for the phone. Gang bangers mostly. They won’t fuck with we unaffiliated ones, though. We’re locked down sixteen hours daily; longer if there‘s trouble.”

“Why’er you here?”

“Forgery. Cashed a bad check. DA’s going for the ‘Big Bitch’. My public defender’s lost in the sauce; hasn’t done shit but help keep me locked up here with asinine motions to discover. Hired a real lawyer. I appear tomorrow; case dismissed--easy. Been shuffling through the system four months. Soon you’ll drive this bus... Oh shit, lamb. I can’t eat lamb. Eating lamb’s as close to eating human flesh as you can get.”

“There’s a little bitch?”

“Habitual Criminal Act. Two parts. Get convicted on the ‘Little Bitch’ it’s seven years minimum, fifteen max. The ‘Big Bitch’? Twenty-five to life. You gotta do the ‘Little Bitch’ to qualify for the ‘Big Bitch’. I’m eligible for the ‘Big Bitch’. Combined, that’s thirty-two years. Here, take my lamb and bread. Makes two sandwiches. Gimme your dessert.”

Sam wishes for mustard to liven the taste of the over processed ash grey fleshy slabs of meat.

“Nevada got the death penalty, too, in case you’re thinking of offing number two over this.”

They convict Chauncey--more so for wasting his life than kiting paper.


Sam offers his hand in friendship. “Sam,” he says to his new cellmate.

The stranger ignores Sam’s gesture. “Look, I been to ‘Club Vegas’ before, so listen good; I own this bus...”

BIO: Steve writes, lives and works in Las Vegas. His work has appeared in The Legendary, Flash Fiction Offensive, Whistling Fire, Short, Fast and Deadly and others. All his previously published work can be found at

Interlude: Submissions Closed

I have to take the step to shut submissions to A Twist Of Noir at this time, due to a gigantic backlog. I want to get to those stories and give them their due respect, as well as finish out the 600 To 700 Challenge.

So if you've recently submitted a story, please bear with me and know that I will get to your story in as short a time as possible.