Friday, February 26, 2010

Jack Was Here - FFF #22

This week at Friday Flash Fiction, just for something different, Cormac offered us up four words, to be included in our stories, rather than a starter sentence. These words were Panic, Manic, Organic and Non-corrosive. A different challenge but one I was happy to take up. My story is below.

Jack Was Here

Carrie stood in the doorway; well-tanned arms resting on her well-rounded hips. Her posture announced to anyone unfortunate enough to pass her that she was in a foul mood. Her alabaster skin seemingly shimmered in the light cast by the single lacklustre bulb that lit the hallway and threw indistinct shadows on the walls around her. Dressed only in a negligee, pert breasts straining against the white satin, she was the epitome of the phrase all dressed up with no one to blow.


She had made his acquaintance downstairs at the blackjack table, where he had been throwing fifty dollar chips around like a child would throw bread crumbs to ducks. She had always been a sucker for a man with some coin so she had eased up next to him at the table, surreptitiously rubbing her bosom across his arm to capture his attention. And capture it she did, if only for a moment. He sized her up in an instant before returning his interest to the game before him.

“What’s the matter, Sugar, don’t like what you see?”

“Darlin’, you look mighty fine but can’t you see I’m in the middle of something?” was his only reply. He barely even glanced her way, his attention solely focussed on the cards in his hand.

“I can see you are in the middle of something,” she had answered, “but wouldn’t you rather be in the middle of something else.” Carrie fluttered her eyebrows like she had seen some of the older girls do. She also added a few seductive deep breaths – another trait she had learned from the long-termers. On the spur of the moment, she had taken one of his hands and placed it against her bosom.

“What do you think of them?” she had whispered into his ear.

He hastily withdrew his hand. “I think they are a magnificent pair, but nowhere near as good as the pair I have in my other hand.”

Carrie had stared at him. “Oh, you men, you always have something else clouding your brains when you are gambling. Don’t you think I am pretty?” Carrie flashed him a come-hither look, pouting and gyrating against his hip. “Don’t you want some of this? Wouldn’t you like to accompany me to my quarters later and we can get to know each other just a little better? Here, let me start: my name is Carrie. See? That wasn’t so hard, was it?”

“The difficulty isn’t the issue here, Carrie...that’s what you said you’re name was, am I correct?” Without waiting for confirmation, he continued. “You have come down here, dripping with sexual intentions and interrupting what had been a profitable evening. No, it’s a matter of manners, dear woman. I never said I wasn’t interested – just that I was otherwise engaged.”

Carrie leapt on that remark like a shearer on a sheep. “So, you are interested in a little getting-to-know-you session, then? That makes me so happy.” Carrie ran the tip of her index finger across her lipstick-laden bottom lip. “Come and make me even happier, sugar.”

“It doesn’t appear that I will be able to say no to you, so, let me finish up here and I will meet you upstairs.” He bedazzled her with a smile full of perfectly white teeth. The casino was open all night and he didn’t plan on being with her for the duration.

“That would be wonderful. I am in Room 16. Look forward to getting to know you more...umm...”

“Jack, the name is Jack.”


Carrie now observed Jack sauntering up the hallway toward her. Her anger at his dilly-dallying had abated, sensing that he had made himself a bit of a profit; money that she could easily relieve him of if things went according to plan.

“I thought you must have had a moment of panic and contemplated making a run for it, Sugar.” Carrie said, casually extending her arms towards him. “I had hoped the tables would not have been too much of a lure for you. You were attacking those cards like a maniac.”

“Not a maniac, sweetie. It is true that the lights and sounds excite me and that I zone out into some sort of a manic state when the dice or cards are in front of me, but that certainly doesn’t make me a maniac.”

“Yeah, whatever, honey,” Carrie replied, inching closer to him, until the bare skin of their arms touched, setting of a thrill in Carrie that she couldn’t describe. Something about his character was drawing her; his reckless nature at the tables, his obvious wealth, and his unbeatable good looks. But what really did it for her was the obvious bulge beginning to appear in the front of Jack’s pants.

“Shall we go inside and take care of that?” She asked him, smiling impishly, nodding into the room the whole time. “I may not be a doctor but I know a sure-fire way of bringing down that swelling.”
Carrie followed Jack inside. She noticed as he brushed past that he was carrying a half-full bottle of Evian. Good thinking, Sugar, she thought to herself, you’re going to need to keep your fluids up. We are gonna sweat up a storm tonight.

“Why don’t you put that bottle down and make your hands more useful? I sure could use a bit of a squeeze in the all right places, if you know what I mean?”

Removing his tie and undoing the top button of his shirt, Jack held the bottle out to Carrie. “Fancy a bit of Dutch courage – not that you really need it?” A grin broke out on Carrie’s face as she took the proffered bottle from his hand.

“Shit, Jack, this smells weird. What the hell is it, baby?”

“That is one of the most expensive gins in the entire world. It is awfully costly but I figured that if you were going to offer up to me your own heady wine, I could do nothing but reciprocate.”

Carrie shrugged her shoulders, tipped the bottle back and took a large swig of the contents. Immediately, she started to gag and gasp for air. Her face contorted in agony. She started clawing at her throat, her long nails peeling layers of skin until blood started to stream down her neck and onto her chest, staining her elegant camisole.

“Actually, I may have lied to you, Sugar,” Jack said, sarcasm dripping heavily from each word, “As a matter of fact, that is sulphuric acid – one of the more nastier liquids going around. I used to deal with the non-corrosive stuff but it just didn’t have the same zing, if you know what I mean?” Jack stared at the writhing form on the floor; vomit and blood quickly staining the plush white rug beneath. “My God, girl, don’t you watch the news broadcasts? There is a serial killer in town and you continue to offer your services – such as they are – to any man who looks your way. I know your type and I know that you had lied to me about your intentions. You wanted to do me out of my winnings and that’s fine – as far as it goes.”

Jack glanced a final time at Carrie.

“Unfortunately for you, this isn’t as far as it goes. The next step – and the beauty of this method - is to wait for the acids to reduce your earthly body back down to an organic matter, which then simply gets returned from whence it came – in your case, probably a garbage tip or a swamp. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say.”

Jack dipped his finger in the decaying matter that was once Carrie and roughly daubed his calling card on the wall:

“Jack Was Here.”

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Do Yourself A Favour! Check This Out!

Today, I read a story that has caused me to create a "Do Yourself A Favour" section on my blog. It absolutely grabbed me and I wondered how I could share this with others. Hence the new section.
Each and every time I find a piece of writing that makes me think 'Holy crap, I wish I had written that!", I will add it to the list. You can find it on the right hand column of my page.

So, to the story...

Pamila Payne, writer of dark fiction and the fantastic Bella Vista Motel series of stories, makes the first on this list with a story entitled "Before She Was A Ghost", a story as breathtaking and beautiful as any I have ever read, be it flash or full length fiction. Please, do yourself a favour and check out this brilliant story.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Someone Hand Me The Extractors...

He looked at the tooth in his hand and shuddered. He couldn’t believe it had come to this. Such lengths he now went to, just to stay above the poverty line. There has to be more to it than this, he thought, this can’t be what I have become.


Finishing ‘school’ had been a major achievement in his life. Various family members had tried – and failed, all for various reasons; too difficult, too demanding, too disgusting. He, too, had almost pulled out after the second-to-last course. There was something not quite right about putting your hands in someone’s mouth. But he got through it alright, and graduated with extremely good marks and his diploma to go on the wall at home.

Following grad school, he had been employed in multiple locations around the world; Texas, Beijing, Melbourne and Paris, to name a few. But he found the work dull and mundane, even though he made quite a decent living from it. Then came the big squeeze. All of the employees were forced to make a quota every week, which at first hadn’t been too demanding but with the amount of employees that were involved in the company, things slowly became a bit tougher. Keeping ahead of the game was getting harder by the week.

Worse was unfortunately to follow. He got into a nasty fight with a fellow employee over the last job in Venice, which lead to his arrest and imprisonment. He was promptly shown the door by his boss, claiming that the company didn’t need that kind of publicity and that he had signed a pre-employment document stating that he agreed that the company had the right to dismissal on grounds of felony crimes. His days with the corporation were over.

Since his release from prison, he had not been able to find steady work as the only job he was qualified for was run by only one company, and he had no chance of being accepted by them again. So he did the only thing he knew how – he went independent; a mercenary, if you will. But even that wasn’t entirely profitable. He found some extra work in the poorer parts of European towns, where his previous workmates wouldn’t dare to tread, but these jobs soon dried up. He was only left with one option: take what wasn’t his to take.

So, here he found himself, standing in the rain on a balmy evening in the middle of Madrid, staring at the tooth in his palm. It was a good tooth; a strong tooth, as it had turned out. But for renegade tooth fairies, every single molar and incisor is up for grabs.

(This piece came from a Friday Flash Fiction starter sentence that wasn't used, so I thought I would give it a go. Hope you liked it.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Father Knows Best - FFF #21

This is my story for Friday Flash Fiction. A big thanks to Cormac Brown for hosting this weekly challenge. The starter sentence this week is in italics. I hope you enjoy. It was rushed and may be a bit convoluted and grammatically shit, but I liked the idea of the story.

In matters of life and death, one could not forever rely on the judgment of his fellow man. This was the last thing Father Jacobs had said to me as he hung up the phone. I stared at the receiver, wondering what he had meant. I grabbed my jacket and headed for the car. I wanted to know the meaning behind this cryptic message.

I headed for St. Augustine’s on the corner of Wiltshire and Jackson. The traffic was heavy and the god-awful weather wasn’t helping my mood. I spotted a gap in the traffic and threw the car across both oncoming lanes and headed down a side street that would take me around the back of the church. Pulling into the parking lot, I grabbed my coat from the backseat, shrugged it on and headed for the rectory door; head down, trying to avoid getting soaked from the heavy rain.
Knocking softly on the front door, I was greeted by silence. I rapped on the wooden door again and was about to give up when a gap appeared and Father Jacobs’ wife appeared. She looked a mess; her usually well-groomed hair looked more like a rat’s nest, her face was devoid of the any hint of make-up and she looked absolutely distraught.

“Mrs Jacobs? Are you okay? Is Father Jacobs in?”

She stared at me, seemingly unaware of my identity. Which was rather strange as my family had known the Jacobs’ for over half a century. Father Jacobs had married my parents and he had baptised me thirty two years ago. I couldn’t understand the confusion that was evident on his wife’s face.

“Oh, Jimmy, it’s you.” This was almost a whisper. “Do you want to come in?”

She removed the safety catch and opened the door wide, gesturing for me to come in. I removed my boots and left them on the front porch, took of my wet coat and placed it down next to my boots. My mother used to get very angry when my brothers and I would march through our house with wet and muddy shoes, so it has become a habit now to take them off before entering someone’s home, whether they were wet or not.

“Sit down, Jimmy. Make yourself comfortable. Do you want some coffee? Maybe a cold drink?”

“A coffee would be lovely,” I replied, “But only if you are making one.”

She smiled thinly and left me sitting in the lounge room and headed for the kitchen. I could hear the rattling of teaspoons in ceramic cups but I also could hear Mrs Jacobs sobbing as well. I hurried into the kitchen.

“Hey, what’s the matter?” I gently placed my hand on her shoulder. The look on her face when she turned to face me was one of pure distress.

“He is in the hospital. I don’t know if he is going to make it.” And with that, she burst into tears and threw herself into my arms. I could feel her racking sobs and I pushed her away, feeling just a little self-conscious and a lot concerned.

“What happened?”

She looked at me again, as if weighing up just how much she should tell me.

“He is at St. Vincent’s. Go and ask him yourself. I am sure he would be pleased to see you.” She turned on her heel and walked into what I supposed was the bedroom and closed the door behind her. I guessed that the conversation was over so I left her to her grief and went back outside, put on my boots and jacket and headed for the hospital.


Father Jacobs looked like hell. Tubes ran from every orifice in his head, thick bandages covered his forehead but it was the ugly bruising that shocked me the most. Someone had done a number on him, of that there was no doubt.
I approached the bed, thinking he was sleeping, when he turned his head toward me and smiled that million dollar smile of his. It was a smile I had seen every Sunday morning at church but this time it seemed strained and somewhat painful. He beckoned to me with his left hand and I could see that it too had a tube running from it to an IV drip that sat silently nearby, steadily pumping painkillers into his system.
I sat on the leather chair that was provided for visitors and he reached out to me. I took his hand in mine; it was the hand of a feeble old man, an experience I had never had before. Father Jacobs was a strong man, both physically and spiritually. His handshake was like crossing the palm of God. It was full of warm cheer and blessing. This felt like the shaking hands with a dead man.

“Jimmy Bertolli, what a pleasant surprise.” He swallowed hard; talking was obviously difficult for him. “How did you know I was here?”

I explained to him that after the odd phone call I wanted to know the meaning of the cryptic last line. I told him of my visit to his wife and that she had directed me here.

“How is Betty?” I could see a faint spark in his eyes; his love for his wife was as strong as his love for God.

“She’s not doing too well, but obviously better than you. Tell me what happened, Father.” I squeezed his hand to show him that I cared. “Take your time; I don’t have anywhere to be.”

Father Jacobs withdrew his hand from mine and reached for the glass of ice chips beside the bed. After sucking on them for a few seconds, he wiped his mouth and gestured for me to come a little closer.

“Son, I have known you for a long time, haven’t I? Our families go back quite a ways. So I will dispense with the preamble and just get right to it, shall I?”

I nodded, not wanting to interrupt with speech.

“During the morning service I was attacked by an unknown person. I was beaten, kicked and...” He pulled up his hospital gown to show three sets of stitches. “...I was stabbed a few times.”

I was in shock. Father Jacobs was one of the most generous, caring men I had ever met. Why someone would want to do this was beyond my comprehension. His breathing became more laboured so I encouraged him to wait for a few moments before continuing. He waved me off with a quick flick of his hand.

“Son, I have seen much violence in my life – always against my fellow man. I knew that, with the growing violence in our society that this was going to happen to me someday. I am an easy target; soft perhaps. And it has happened now. I will live, thanks to the wonderful people here at this hospital. They are good people.”
I was beginning to understand what the message meant. It was obviously directed at the bastard who had carried out such a cowardly act.

“Anyway, what I want to tell you is this. Do not be angry with my attacker. He knows not what he does.”

I stared furiously at the priest. “What do you mean do not be angry? This man attacked you in the house of God. Can there be a lower act perpetrated by one human on another?

Father Jacobs sighed deeply before continuing. “Son, I am afraid there is. You see, although you may despise the man who did this to me, there is a much worse crime to be reported.”

I couldn’t believe what he was telling me. There was more? “What, Father, could be worse than that? Is this not the judgement you were referring to in our phone conversation?”

“No, son, I am afraid not. The worst part of this sorry affair is that my congregation – my flock – sat idly by and watched what happened to me and not one person did a thing. No one saw fit to come to my aid, no one stood up and tried to help me in any way. Like I said to you on the phone: In matters of life and death, one could not forever rely on the judgment of his fellow man.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Garage Days

“Aren’t you coming, Daddy?” Her voice reached him in the garage, more insistent this time around. Her sing-song refrain drifted down the breezeway; it filled his heart with love and his eyes with tears and, in an attempt to deceive himself that she was not calling to him, he reached for the Bakelite radio on the shelf she had given him for his birthday and turned the volume higher, an act which had been successful many times in the past.

She suddenly appeared in the doorway; her face a mirror image of the one he dwelt upon following the car accident that had taken her life more than fifteen years ago. He broke down and shed bitter tears; with his whole heart and soul he sobbed for the mistakes he had made until, finally, he took down the shotgun he kept on cast iron brackets on an otherwise blank wall. Yes dear, he thought, Daddy’s coming.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Devil's In The Details - FFF #20

My first attempt at taking part in Friday Flash Fiction, currently hosted by Cormac Brown. The premise is simple. We are provided with an opening sentence on Friday and post a story or poem by the following Tuesday. So, here is my piece, entitled "The Devil's In The Details". The starter sentence is in italics.

The Devil’s In The Details

His life would have been a lot simpler if he'd just said no. Not that I am the easiest person to say no to. I can be very persuasive; I could tell you some damn scary stories about what I have made people agree to through the ages. I can sense your disbelief and hesitancy to believe what I am saying. Do I have to prove this to you?

Oh, very well.

Are you comfortable?

Let me give you just one example...

George Tarpin was a frequent visitor to the Donny’s. Every afternoon after work, he would come in the front door, usually accompanied by a few workmates and pull up a chair at the bar and order a beer. He drank Cooper’s Light; not enough alcohol content to stop him from driving home but enough to help wear off the rigours of the day - working in the high-rise office block and staring at clients tax records was enough to make George thirst for a drink. He generally appeared to be a happy and content man. As happy as he could be, being an accountant and all.
The day I met George, he bustled in alone, looking agitated and ordered himself a full-strength brew. He threw his briefcase on the corner table and put his head in his hands. This got my attention and aroused my natural curiosity. I continued to observe his unusual demeanour; he seemed stressed and was drinking far heavier than normal. His usually wrinkle-free attire of button-down shirt and business suit was crumpled and dirty. He raised his head again and I saw he was also unshaven. His lips moved soundlessly and he bowed his head once again. He began alternately nodding and shaking his head, as if having an internal argument with himself (which he was).

Did I mention I can read minds? Obviously not, judging by that mental frown you are currently wearing (I told you I could read minds – it’s what we demons do). Just take my word for it.

Good for you.

Anyway, back to the story. George was deep in thought...

I made my way over to George’s booth and introduced myself. George stared up at me through red eyes and nodded towards the seat opposite. I sat down slowly, never taking my eyes from him. We spoke about a lot of things that day - many things which I can’t divulge to you – it’s not just lawyers who have confidentiality issues (and, just for the record, lawyers are demons too. Makes sense when you think about it. Go on, think about it.)

“George – I can call you George, right? I couldn’t help but notice you, George. I have seen you come into this place most afternoons. You are always upbeat and in a good frame of mind. Don’t ask me how I know that, you wouldn’t want to know the answer.”
George stared blankly across the table. He simply nodded in acceptance, and I took that as an invitation to continue.
“Now, George, it appears that something is decidedly wrong and I wish to offer my assistance.”
“There is nothing you can do.” It came out as a whisper and I nearly missed it.
“See, that’s the thing, George, I think I can.” I flashed him my Better-The-Devil-You-Know smile. “I think I can help you a lot. Would you like my help?” I sat back, arms open in a gesture of well, what do you say?
George’s eyes swam into focus, as if seeing me for the first time. “What do you mean? How can you help? She is sick, dammit, and there is nothing that the doctor’s can do.” A pause here, a silent sob then he continued. “I don’t know who you are or how you think you can help.”
I reached across the table and put my hand on this forearm. “George, all I will say is that I can fix this problem. I can make it go away. All I need is your permission. All you have to do is say yes.”


I waited until George and I had finished the meal we had ordered to celebrate our new agreement before returning to the business at hand. He still seemed a little wary but I think he realised he had no choice (or maybe it would be better to say he had no other options – either way, he was screwed without me). While we ate, we spoke about his wife’s cancer and how it was going to be hard to keep working and still raise his young daughter. We spoke about his wife being unable to have any more children after the birth of the daughter, and how he now realised the blessing he had been given with her arrival.

When we got back to the agreement, I whipped a piece of paper out of my top pocket (here’s one I prepared earlier) and spread it flat against the wooden top of the diner’s poor excuse for an eating surface. The bottom section of the page was folded under. George looked up at me in surprise.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“Just the standard form, stating your particulars and setting out the list of services I will provide. Also, at the bottom of the page is the confirmation of the charges and costs to you for me to provide said service. It’s all very plain and ordinary. Just wanted to show you – part of the rules.”
“But...but...where did it come from?”
“Didn’t you get my email?” I replied, trying hard to keep that evil smirk from appearing on my face – which is my normal face but let’s not split hairs here, shall we?.
“No...I didn’t...what email?”
“Never mind that now. All the information you need is contained in this...contract.” (I hate that word – it sounds so...lawyerly.)

It took a few minutes for George to read through the particulars. He seemed agreeable, for the most part. He suddenly sat bolt upright, hands trembling and a sweat rapidly breaking across his forehead.
“What the hell is this?”
“What would that be, George?” I asked casually, knowing full well what he was referring to.
“These so-called charges. I won’t pay it. They are ridiculous and, well, sick. I will not do that to my daughter. I will not.”
I shook my head slowly, waiting to see if the reality of the situation would sink in. It didn’t. I may have to produce the match-winning field goal (I love football metaphors).
“That’s it. The deal is off. I don’t agree to this shit. There is nothing you can do to change my mind. Now, if you will excuse me, I must be going – and I hope to never see your fucking face again. You can take your contract and shove it up your...”
“Just a minute, George. Before you go, may I show you just one more thing?”
George spun around quickly, his head snapping towards me.
“What is it?”
“This,” I replied and unfolded the bottom section of the contract. (Standard operating procedure, naturally. No withholding information here.)
George’s face seemed to sag as he asked me the question that he surely knew the answer to. “What is it?”
I gave him my game-winning smile. “That, George, is your signature. Don’t you recognise it?”

That Sinking Feeling up at MicroHorror

I have a new piece up on one of my favourite sites: MicroHorror.

My piece is entitled "That Sinking Feeling".

Thanks to Nathan Rosen for his continued support of my writing.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Shock Therapy - 3WW Post

Treading water full of worry
This frantic tick tick talk of hurry

“How many times do I have to tell you? Turn that shit down, son. For God’s sake, it way too fucking loud for this time of the morning.”

I looked at my step-father. As usual, the veins in his forehead are bulging, his face a deep scarlet and he is shaking. He doesn’t seem to appreciate me or my taste in music, which is just fine with me.

Fred came into our lives several years ago, marrying my mother after my father died. He had married mum based on her looks and bank balance. She married him, apparently, for sex. I have heard them numerous times as my bedroom backs onto theirs, the bed head banging against the wall behind me.

Mum is beautiful; Fred is a deadshit. I don’t understand her attraction to him but I certainly understand his attraction to her. If she wasn’t my mother...

“...and what is that smell?”

Dragged back to the present, I looked at Fred innocently. “Sorry? What was that?”

“What is that odor...that fucking stench? What is it?”

I was watching Fred closely, waiting for the right time. I knew he had a bad ticker. He knew that I knew he had a bad ticker. I also think he knew I purposely tried to set him off so he would just leave me alone. I accidentally increased the volume on the stereo.

His eyes started to glaze over and I could sense that this may very well be the day. He reached out his hand for the door frame, lurching from side to side. He missed the door and collapsed onto the floor; his head hitting the brass bed end on the way down. I considered calling out to Mum but thought better of it. Just make sure the bastard is dead first.

I think Freud was right.