Immolation

Tomorrow I will burn a man. Burnt wool and blackened skin, the freckled face peeled away in a fire, closing into itself like moonflowers. I will burn the corpse until it crumbles to nothing. Then his wife will be mine, the wife, who cannot know a love like the one I harbor for her. Surely she will know, surely, when the man is gone.

I will think about the man, the burning man, when I follow him to the grocery store, a dim shadow flickering behind carts of watermelon. He will look like me. His hair will be black rather than dark brown, and his nose bigger, and he will have put on the cozy weight of a husband. But the similarities—impeccable. Scarred brow. A slight limp in his left leg. Oh, how I will perfect that limp.

And he will choose a watermelon, the one I recommend. I will stalk him to a side street that filters into the suburbs, thinking about a life with his wife, and about the sound that flesh makes when it is burning. A soft sizzle, perhaps, like whispering.

No, I will correct myself as I reach for the man’s arm, rather, it will sound like the brush of autumn leaves against gravel. Orange leaves, freckled face, burnt face: in the end, it matters not, only that I leave no trace of ourselves.

Sometimes burning and loving are the same. I will kneel before the wife’s doorstep with a bright, blooming face and promise her anything. My fists will uncurl and a wraith of ash will spill out onto the porch. And when she says burn, I will close myself into the flame, a black-orange blossom, and crumble to nothing.


In the Know: Hardway

Today, Shotgun Honey celebrates its publishing relaunch with the release of Hardway by Hector Acosta. Hector as he’ll reiterate below has contributed to both our flash fiction site content and the Both Barrels anthology series. His first anthology story featured Thursday Malone, a character I immediately gravitated, and considered with much potential. When we branched out into publishing longer works under One Eye Press, I hounded Hector for a Thursday Malone story until he finally submitted Hardway. My first reaction was Where is Thursday? And what am I supposed to do with a story about a hormonal kid with fantasies about wrestling? Instead of throwing it back and demanding Thursday, I dug in, and to my surprise I enjoyed what Hector submitted. It’s not typical OEP/SH stuff, but it was a story with heart, about family, and about the adolescent fantasies that lead to becoming an adult.

Let’s pulled down the mic, and get this event started.

So today is the big day, HARDWAY is entering the ring. What is the music blaring on the PA?

I have to preface this by saying that I’ve been accused of having HORRIBLE music taste. Most the stuff I listen to is either taken from wrestling (shocker), or musicals.

That out of the way, Hardway totally comes out to My Chemical Romance’s Welcome to the Black Parade, partly because I always thought that song would make a great wrestling intro, and also because there’s something about the way the song is structured that mirrors Hardway‘s story. It has a slow, melancholic start, but halfway through the tempo picks up and doesn’t let up for the rest for the song.

Every great wrestler has a great backstory, what’s the backstory for HARDWAY?

The idea of Hardway came after I fell down a Youtube hole and ended up watching a bunch of backyard wrestling videos. Backyard wrestling has a not entirely undeserved bad rap. But as I watched matches where teenagers beat the holy hell out of each, and crash through elaborate set ups even the WWE wouldn’t perform, I realized how much the kids also had to love wrestling. You don’t get thrown off a ladder and into hard concrete if you only sort of like something.

And that’s when Hardway popped into my head. I’d written a couple of stories involving wrestling before, usually from the perspective of a wrestler. And as much as Spencer, Billy, and the rest of their friends would like to think so, they are more fans than wrestlers. I conceived the first version of Hardway as a short story, but after being finished with it, I found I had more to say about Spencer and the RBWL and got to reworking it.

You’ve got Welcome to the Black Parade playing, the fans are rallied behind your backstory, what’s the signature move? What’s going to get fans rooting for HARDWAY?

If Hardway is in the ring, mounting a comeback and preparing end the match, I could hear the announcers (Jim Ross in this perfect, fantasy world of mine) screaming “THE KID HAS HEART,” in that great, Southern drawl of his.

Hardway is a book that ends up wearing its heart on its sleeve. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a crime, there’s people doing stupid things for stupid reasons, and ending up getting mired in violence because of it, but more than anything, it’s about Spencer, a kid who doesn’t quite fit in and is feeling more and more like an island. About the love he has for wrestling, for his brother, and for his brother’s girlfriend. Which is largely what gets him in trouble with a psychotic drug dealer and apartment over.

Being the man behind the mask, the great puppeteer, tell the fans about Hector Acosta.

I live in New York with an understanding wife who allows me to watch way more wrestling than any human being should and a dog which I have a love/hate relationship with. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and have a bunch of half finished vampire detective books to prove it. I became more serious about it when I discovered two things: Twitter, and Shotgun Honey. Both opened my eyes to an insane amount of talented, welcoming writers and their nasty (in the best way) stories. My first thing I ever submitted in fact was a flash fiction piece for Shotgun Honey, and I’ve been–too slowly lately–writing ever since.

HARDWAY has the title and the belt, and the brass wants you for a big tag team event, who do you want in your corner?

Short answer? Just just on my twitter (@Hexican) and pick up the book from everyone I follow.

Longer answer:

I’ve mentioned him before, but Gabino Iglesias needs to be read by more people. His barrior/supernatural/noir book Zero Saints was a game changer.

Angel Colon is one messed up guy, and I say that in the nicest way possible. No Happy Endings has probably one of the most shocking opening chapters I’ve read in a while. Plus the dude writes for the WWE comic, so I gotta say nice things.

I’m really looking forward to Thomas Pluck‘s Bad Boy Boogie. Really dig his short stories, and if you want a noir/superhero mashup, you have to read his Denny the Dent collection.

Dave White writes of New Jersey so well I basically have no reason to ever go there.

I’m still bummed Chris Irvin‘s wrestling opus hasn’t come out, but I’ll make do with his great short story collection.

Sheesh, this turned into a ten match didn’t it?

A regular Royal Rumble, for sure. As a fan for wrestling, what is your favorite moment, event, or match up?

Smackdown- August 28, 2003.

This will probably seem like a random choice to most, but it holds a special place for me for a couple of reasons. First, this was at what probably was my peak wrestling fandom. We’re talking ‘takes part in online wrestling roleplay’ level here. Secondly, the show was in El Paso, Texas, my hometown, so I got to experience it live with a bunch of friends. And finally, and probably most importantly, we got to watch the hometown hero Eddie Guerrero make a glorious, twenty minute entrance.

It’s funny, if you ask me what matches were on that show, I couldn’t tell you. All I remember is how the entire arena exploded at Eddie’s theme song, and how we hung at every word he said.

You’ve got the fans going crazy like Eddie with your entrance, what are you going to do for an encore?

I have a couple things I’m working on at the moment.

First up I’m looking to finish a crime story set in a border factory town. It’s the first piece of fiction where I’ve actually gone out of my way to do some research, as it not only takes place in factory town, but also in the 1960’s.

I’m in the revising stages of a horror novella right now. I’m hesitant to speak too much about because I’m not sure if it’ll see the light of day, so we’ll see. I will say that the thing which got me writing it is because for once, I came up with what I thought was a great, fitting title for it.

And finally there’s Thursday Malone. He’s a character who’s shown up in the Shotgun Honey anthologies and one of my favorites to write, and I’m not going to lie, a big part of it just because of the name itself. If everything goes as plan, I should have a new tale before the end of the year with him.

We definitely hope to see these get to the ring. What move would recommend other wannabe wrestlers have in their arsenal?

In a wrestling match, we often only remember the big moves- the finisher that knock a wrestler out, or allows their opponent to get the pin. But the reality is that very few matches would work if the wrestlers did their big moves over and over again. A good match needs to have a sense of rhythm, a back and forth that pulls the audience in.

In writing, sometimes we focus too much on the ‘big moves’. On making sure that the writing is perfect, that we have that great opening line, or that our dialogue sounds just right. And yeah, those are important, but what’s more important is the most basic of things– just showing up to write.

More talented writers have said this than I, and I”ll be the first to admit I don’t always follow this advise, but if you don’t sit down to do the work and build a writing routine, the rest isn’t going to matter. Just like a wrestler who can pull off a 450 off the top rope but doesn’t know how to run the ropes will probably not get anywhere.

Unless you’re Roman Reigns (kidding!)

Praise for HARDWAY by Hector Acosta

Hardway hits like a chair to the back of the head, but underneath all the bone-cracking action there’s also a surprisingly sweet story about a boy trying to make his way in the world. If you’re a fan of noir or wrestling – or both – this is one show you’ll want to buy a ticket to.”

Nick Kolakowski, author of A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps

“Witty, touching, and as melodramatic as any classic pro wrestling story, Hardway stands as an excellent debut from Hector Acosta.”

Angel Luis Colón, author of No Happy Endings and The Fury of Blacky Jaguar

“Hector Acosta delivers a fitting tribute to the passion of pro wrestling. Parts coming-of-age, crime, and nostalgia – with a bit of an 80’s vibe to boot – Hardway hits all the right notes.”

Christopher Irvin, author of Burn Cards and Safe Inside the Violence

“A novella that hits you where it hurts, forces you to grapple with your desires and defeat, but ultimately leaves you panting and begging for more.”

D.G. Sutter, author of La Maquina Oscura

Buy Hardway Today!


Dick Tracy (Dirty Jobs)

That ass looked familiar. And as I worked to place the booty—the dancer raised her arms. Soon as I spotted the tats, I recognized my wife: “What the hell you doin’, Tracy?”

“Never mind,” she whispered, spinnin’ on six-inch heels. “What are you doing here?”

“Gotta meet a guy.” (She had me whisperin’, too.)

“Meeting here was your only option?”

“Yeah, the guy insisted. Least I’m wearin’ clothes. What is your excuse?”

Caressin’ my tie she sidled closer: “Told you a month ago, honey, I was going undercover.”

“Breaking news then, baby: You got no freakin’ cover.”

Blue eyes darted left-n-right: then she snatched my hand. “Give me 100-bucks.”

“Why?”

Tracy goosed my ass, tugged me toward a curtain. “Cuz I’m giving you a lap dance.”

“If you’re giving me a lap dance, why give you 100-bucks?”

“Gotta look legit—or you could blow my cover.”

“Why do I hafta remind ya: Your cover don’t exist.”

Yankin’ the curtain closed, she cradled my leery hips. The AC blastin’ overhead tweaked her nipples good-n-hard. But I couldn’t fight the sinkin’ feelin’ … this cover-job cranked her heater.

Snaggin’ my lapels—she rappelled me to her tits. Breath laced with weed and brandy … ripplin’ my ears. Wild blonde-n-tangled hair danglin’ on our shoulders.

“We’re going after Tito Ortega. The guy’s always been bad news. But now he’s running guns—and engaged in Human Trafficking. We’ve got three dead Russian girls. And his goons are the likely perps.

“BTW Jack, you never heard this stuff from me.”

“No shit, Dick Tracy. (Though given her new career-choice, poorly-chosen words.)

“So what’s your stage name for this gig?”

She snaked a pink-wet-tongue full-circle round her lips: “Skull Candy.”

“That better mean Dream-n-Look. Not actual oral action.”

“I don’t need your emissions, Jack. Don’t tell me how to do my job.”

“Which job you talkin’, lady? This lap dance totally sucks.”

“I’m a good fucking cop, Jack. I’m going to bust Ortega—and I’ll do whatever that takes.”

“So good cops suck on weed. An God only knows what else. While drinkin’ on the job an arousin’ cocks for money. An if it helps their cause, they’ll gladly fuck your brains out…. What’s a bad cop do?”

Still clutchin’ my pilfered-hundred, Tracy bobbed-n-sucked three fingers. Then boldly jammed the bill: up ’er white G-string’s lacy crotch. Sassily she stomped off—in silver Fuck-Me pump stilettos; those familiar ass-cheeks waggin’—as if wavin’ me goodbye: after six roller-coaster-years. While f’uggly dead Ben Franklin smacked his lips against her snatch.

(The thought off a hundred Washingtons was absolutely gross.)

I slid into the VIP-booth. Knuckle-tapped waiting Tito; then nodded center-stage: “That chick, Skull Candy?”

“New dancer. What about ’er?”

“It’s obvious she ain’t wired—but that bitch is a fucking cop.”

Tito eyed Raul: Raul left the booth. His eyes never blink. Guys who work-a-blade are like that. Audios, Dick Tracy—I’m a maggot journalist. Who’s gotta protect my sources. But for the record, baby: I don’t suck at my job.


Never A Chance

Maya’s teeth gnashed against each other, her hand trying to stop the bleeding that seeped out of the wound on her side. She wanted to cry out in pain, but it wouldn’t have mattered. Maya couldn’t quit; she still wasn’t fucking finished yet. The living room of the Beverly Hills mansion was dotted with holes and spattered with blood, like a chaotic connect-the-dots picture some kid decided to bleed all over. Three bodies in suits laid crumpled on the floor among the shell casings. Maya walked, her legs moving like she downed a bottle of Grey Goose; each step less assured, less force. She just wanted to hang on for a little while longer.

A bullet smacked the wall, plaster hitting Maya’s face. She dropped and turned, another fool emptying his gun like a stormtrooper. Maya raised her gun, steady aim with a hand slick with blood. She fired twice. The guy fell like a rag doll.

“Gotta do better than that, Robert,” Maya yelled. She walked towards the stairs; she could see the door to the office was opened. She climbed up, slowly; her shoulders started to feel heavy like she was carrying a weighted bag.

“Come on, Robert,” Maya said. “You don’t wanna see the cunt you tried to drop? Yeah, I know that’s what you called me. I wasn’t out of it when your thugs attacked me.” The legs were heavy now, each step like climbing through snow.

“Set me up, right? Do your dirty work and then kill the girl, leave her on the street.” Maya made it to the top of the carpeted summit. “Got it wrong, motherfucker.” She went towards the open door; everything was slightly leaning now. The office looked out at the Los Angeles skyline, the twinkling lights of the City of Angels burned brightly tonight. Robert stood there, tall and majestic in his dark blue suit and red tie. No matter the moment he always believed that you gotta look good- first impressions were always key.

“Here I am,” Maya said. “Nice welcoming party you had downstairs.” Robert fished out his cigarette case, gold platted, and lit one with a gold zippo.

“I have to say congrats; didn’t think you actually make it back.”

“A girl wants what she wants.”

“And what do you want?”

Maya didn’t speak, her eyes stayed lock on Robert’s grey eyes.

Robert said, “Your dumbass should’ve known it was a set-up. Would I honestly send a barfly wash-up to snuff a two-bit no dick piece of garbage and just walk away like that? Your ass was mine the moment you got in over ninety-grand with me. Better to just have you whack a guy and be taken out of your misery.”

“That no-dick was your fucking rival. ‘The heaviest cat on the west coast’, one of your boys said after they put a bullet in me. And you’re right, I’m a barfly wash-up, that’s why I didn’t piece it together until I got there, in the shit.”

Robert took a drag and blew a thick stream of smoke. “I guess not all jarheads are dumb. You’re still not walking out of here.”

Maya moved forward, a trail of red behind her. “I never had a chance, did I?”

Robert shook his head and took in another gulp of smoke. “We never really have a chance. Gotta pay the piper when he comes knockin. Guess it’s time to finish this.” Robert crushed his cigarette and sighed.

Maya fired, the bullet went straight through Robert’s gut. His face turned from shock to resignation. Each bullet tore through him and his nice suit. Maya emptied her gun into him, still pulling the trigger long after he fell dead on the ground. The world was turning white now, the legs buckled. Maya fell, all sound faded away, she felt lighter now. Robert was right, there never was a chance.


Operation Prosciutto

We were holed up in a no-frills motel just outside of Philly in a room that smelled of bacon farts. We had stopped to eat at a diner off Route 1, but I had no appetite.  Except for a salad of wilted lettuce and a grainy, decidedly non-organic tomato, the rawest thing on the menu was the waitress’s attitude when I asked for the vegan options. The room didn’t have a mini-fridge to store the ingredients for my goji berry-spirulina-chia seed cleanse and the bedding was made from toxic fibers that made me break out in hives.

I couldn’t sleep anyway. The police were closing in and I had a decision to make.

They’d tracked Butch and me to a rest stop in South Jersey, then lost our trail. We had the shades drawn and the television on mute, for the news. My NoMad restaurant, “The Golden Beet,” had been the go-to raw foods spot for celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Alec Baldwin and his yoga instructor (now wife). (See, ladies, there’s hope for us all!) Gwyneth even said she was going to feature me on Goop, her lifestyle blog.

How did I get from being the darling of foodies to the fleeing subject of an all-points bulletin?

I blame it on the prosciutto.

Those gleaming pink, salty curls packed with flavor; the buttery lard that melts in your mouth.

Butch was an Uber driver who’d dropped off a group at the restaurant and asked if I had an outlet where he could charge his phone. Our eyes locked: I knew this guy, or guys like him, the ones from my Staten Island neighborhood. It turned out he looked familiar because he was a friend of my ex’s. He worked in catering and drove on the side. We chatted about the old neighborhood and when his phone was charged he left to pick up another fare. I didn’t give him a second thought.

Until he showed up again, with a quarter pound of prosciutto, wrapped in wax paper.

It was after hours and all the staff had gone home. We were alone in the kitchen, which up until then had been virginal of meat products.

He dangled a piece over my mouth and I lunged for it like a starved animal.

I finished the package. Then we had sex on the sous chef’s station.

Okay, it was a slip, but I wasn’t going back to that life. I’d put my blood, sweat and tears into this restaurant, not to mention losing fifty pounds on a raw foods diet.

But there’s something about testosterone and meat eaters, I guess, because I couldn’t quit him.

At first he just wanted a loan, so he could stop Ubering entitled millennials around the city. He said he wanted to open a comedy club.

But he was treating my restaurant like his personal ATM. When I tried to put my foot down, he blackmailed me, saying he would tell The Golden Beet patrons about my ham habit. He even had pictures.

Before I knew it, I was dipping into the operating account and falling short of payroll. An employee reported us and I was slapped with embezzlement and fraud charges. I was up against the wall, so when he offered me a way out, I took it.

Living on the run soon lost its thrill. Butch expected me to pay for everything and kept yakking about his stupid comedy club, which he planned to open with his casino winnings. That’s where he was while I watched daytime TV and cursed his carnivorous hide.

Then I got a text message from a detective. He was offering me a deal. That night I told Butch I knew I’d been a five star bitch lately and wanted to make it up to him. I was going to order a pie loaded with our favorite topping from the local pizzeria.

I dialed the last incoming number on my cell and gave my order to the detective who answered: a large pie with extra prosciutto to be delivered to Room 305 at the Red Roof Inn.

I hope they have a vegan meal option at Rikers.


Frozen Out

Any illusion Delmar harboured he was family evaporated when Bertie told him she’d sooner see her punk-ass brother run the deli than sell it to a beaner.

“I got a legacy to think of.” She hacked into a bloodstained napkin. “I may be dying, but I ain’t losing my marbles.”

Delmar handed her warm apple juice and stood, ready to head downstairs to the shop.

“Someone’s gotta look after Cliff when I’m gone,” Bertie said. “He’ll be boss, sure, but you’ll still run things. I’ll see you’re taken care of. Give you a raise. Sixty more a week?” She coughed so hard, she folded upright in bed, as if the idea of parting with what amounted to a buck an hour nearly did her in then and there.

Delmar didn’t tell her he’d quit sooner than work for Cliff. It was her store to do with as she wished, even if she’d hadn’t hauled her carcass downstairs since Easter.

Cliff arrived right at closing, same as always. He wandered the store with a hand basket, loading up on imported pickles and charcuterie he couldn’t pronounce. “You’re outta Rockfort,” he said, digging for something deep in his ear with a nicotine-stained fingertip.

“Try Stilton,” Delmar suggested. “Or we’ve got some new Cabrales.”

“Count on you to push spic cheese.” Cliff jabbed his waxy finger at the meat cooler glass, leaving a yellow streak where Delmar had polished minutes before. “Gimme half a pound. Not the cooked crap. Black Forest. And some pepper sticks.”

Delmar loaded the ham onto the pristine slicer, shaving it near translucent. He’d clean the machine again after Cliff left, with the same care as the first time. Cliff had this thing about being the last one in his sister’s store. Like a dog, last on the hydrant—a territorial claim. Nothing like Delmar’s pride, in the store and everything in it these seventeen years.

Cliff wandered to the ice cream display, returning with a quart of Hagen Daaz. “What’s this?”

“Black cherry.” Delmar snatched the tub from the top of the meat counter, wiping the sticky ring it left there.

“Smart ass.” Cliff pointed. “It’s dented.”

Delmar said he’d get another, but Cliff followed him into the back freezer. “I’ll get my own,” he said, reaching for a crate that had come in that morning, perched on a top shelf. Delmar was finicky about stocking product in the order it arrived. Before he could say something, Cliff had the box in his hands, leaning across stacks of fishcakes and veggie burritos. The weight pulled him off balance and he slammed his forehead on a metal shelf edge as he went down.

Lying there, his tongue half out his mouth, he looked like he was trying to lick the floor. Delmar knew he could, even in the freezer, even with spillage, because that’s how he rolled.

He offered a hand. Cliff took it, but sat down again as soon as he stood, ass on the floor, his back flat against a gross of frozen pizza. “Gimme a minute,” he said, eyes droopy, breath thin and raspy.

“I’ll get you water.”

When he said it, he meant it.

But when he heard the door click shut behind him, Delmar looked at the lock he’d installed last summer after the break-in. Pointless, he’d argued at the time. “What kind of thief steals frozen fruit?”

Cliff had insisted, saying it was crated goods needed protecting. One more in a long line of orders Delmar had swallowed, expecting one day the store would be his, freezer locks and all.

He turned the key, spun the thermostat to deep freeze, and headed upstairs. He took Bertie Cabrales and Black Forest, spoon fed her Black Cherry from the tub. “It was dented,” he said, when she protested at the extravagance. “I would’ve had to toss it.”

“You could’ve given it to Cliff,” she said.

“I would’ve, but he didn’t show up tonight.”

“You’ll take care of him, won’t you.” Bertie stuck two fingers in the ice cream and dug out a cherry.

“I promise,” said Delmar, wondering how long exactly it would take for two hundred forty pounds of fresh meat to freeze solid.


Dairy of Destruction

“See that cow?”

Officer Angus Buford had been daydreaming about Florida State football and was befuddled by Police Chief Earl Rayner’s comment. “What?”

Rayner spoke slowly: “Behold the bovine.”

Buford looked out the passenger-side window to ascertain what the hell his boss was talking about. “I’m beholding, but which one? There’s like a hundred.”

“Off by herself,” Rayner said. “Down there, by the creek.” He pronounced it “crick.”

Buford shrugged. “It’s a normal cow.”

“Normal? Hell, no. She wants to kill me.”

Rayner continued the police cruiser’s southerly course on Ham Pond Road, outside Sneads, Florida, across the Apalachicola River from Chattahoochee.

Buford had spent more than enough hours with Rayner to know the man had no sense of humor, so he scrutinized the black-and-white Holstein as she sipped water from a tiny tributary of the Apalachicola.

“You sure it’s that one?”

“When a cow wants to extinguish your life, son, you know it. They’re not subtle.”

* * *

Buford had trouble sleeping that night, his mind on the cow. Rayner was a lot of things, few of them pleasant. But crazy he was not.

About three o’clock, Buford gave up on shuteye. He was glad he got sober two years earlier because what he was about to do felt like something only a drunk would even consider. If there was a chance that someone – or some animal – wanted to kill his boss, he had to look into it.

* * *

The driveway gravel crackled under the tires of Buford’s lime green 1975 Ford Ranchero as he turned into the lane leading to Harry Halstead’s farm. A white sign at the open metal gate declared it to be a “Dairy of Distinction.”

Buford parked next to Halstead’s pickup and noted that the farmhouse was dark, not even the air conditioner running despite the oppressive heat and humidity. He grabbed his flashlight from the glove box, confirmed that his personal handgun was holstered on his belt, and walked to the barn.

Inside, the cows were lying on the hay, asleep. Buford stepped between them, searching for the one Rayner had identified earlier. Halfway through the barn, he found her. Reflexively, he unbuttoned his holster and rested his hand on the grip of his pistol. The cow lifted her head and Buford stared into her eyes like he would any suspect. And, after some 15 seconds, recognized a flicker of malicious intent.

“Moo,” said the cow. “Moooo.”

Was there a “v” on the end of that? Buford realized it was impossible, but he couldn’t help believing he’d heard it.

“Moooove.”

There, again.

“You telling me to move?” Buford asked the cow, thinking, Why am I talking to a cow?

The cow stood quickly, surprising Buford with her agility. With no hesitation, every other cow in the barn – had to be more than 200 – did likewise. The cows moved with the singular purpose and focused discipline of an ant colony, surrounding Buford and steering him toward the end of the barn that led into the adjoining field.

“Stop,” Buford said, packed too tightly between two Holsteins to draw his weapon. “Freeze!” Still thinking, Why am I talking to the cows?

He considered falling to the floor and trying to crawl out, but fear of being trampled by a thousand bovine hooves kept him upright.

Once they had forced him into the field, the cows separated from Buford. Other animals milled about: horses, sheep, goats, chickens, llamas, ducks, and pigs. Buford, vaguely aware of the fact that all these animals being in the same field was odd, stood face-to-face with the cow that wanted Rayner dead. He drew his pistol and pointed it between the Holstein’s eyes.

“I don’t know if you can understand me,” he said. “And I sure as hell don’t know what’s going on, but …”

At that moment, a goat – and this was unseen by Buford but nonetheless a spectacular display of interspecies cooperation – got a running start and jumped onto the back of a sheep. The goat launched himself, rounded horns first, into the area between Buford’s shoulder blades.

Buford dropped his gun and crumpled to his knees, which is when a second goat rammed his head.

* * *

Buford regained consciousness as the sun was rising. He discovered instantly – and terrifyingly – that he couldn’t move his arms or legs, seeing as how both were buried in the heavy mud at the edge of the field near the driveway. Only thing he could do was turn his neck, and barely.

A cat – a skinny, white cat – paced the roof of Buford’s Ranchero. And, God help him, Buford would’ve sworn he heard the cat say, “The revolution has begun!”

Turning his neck in the opposite direction, Buford’s eyes widened as he spied the slow, steady approach of a passel of hungry hogs.


Debut of Writer Types with Eric Beetner and S.W. Lauden: Episode 1

Something pretty cool happened. What? The debut of a new podcast produced by Shotgun Honey alums Eric Beetner and S.W. Lauden. It features interviews, reviews, banter, and a reading from the Shotgun Honey archives. This episode Eric and Steve talk to Megan Abbott, Lou Berney, Steph Post. The dynamic duo (not Eric and Steve, or Batman and Robin) Dan and Kate Malmon with Crimespree Magazine and from balmy Minnesota look back at 2016 with a top 5 list, and a look forward at 2017 releases. This episode’s reading is from Nick Kolakowski reading “Whoops!” Plus there are some bookstore shout-outs from Gary Phillips, S.G. Redling, and Jay Stringer. They even let Shotgun Honey’s imprint publisher Down & Out Books head honcho Eric Campbell give insight into publishing.

Listen to it now (or save for later) at:

 


Bloater

Midnight. The Slop Shop.

The woman onstage looks around 60. She is wearing purple sequinned bikini bottoms and mismatched shoes. Her skin is tanned brown like leather. It reminds me of the suitcase my mother packed when she walked out on me and my pederast father all those years ago. Her stomach is swollen, and it looks like she is pregnant, but she can’t be, can she?

I keep staring at her, hoping it will help me blot out what Banyan is saying, but it doesn’t. Not really.

*  * *

Donald Fuck waddles back to our booth, clutching a tray of drinks. The cocktail he passes me is the color of lung-blood. I first met Donald Furkovski – Donald Fuck to his friends – when he was peddling his huckster shtick down in Orlando, trawling tourist hotel cocktail bars for marks.

He is a British ex-pat – wider than he is tall. When we met, his wallet was full of stolen credit cards and gas station business cards. Back then, he had a crummy side-line charging tourists $10 a pop to watch an ex-wrestler named Freddie Regal train at a strip-mall gym called Knuckle Town. Freddie didn’t train very hard – his double hip-replacement saw to that. His face was swollen, his hairline further back than it was when he was still on TV. He would strut around, do a few squat thrusts, and then let the kids try on his grubby old title belt.

Knuckle Town was shut down after the cops realised that it was a front for a high-stakes poker ring. I was manning the door when they arrived. The sawed-off shotgun with pistol grip they found holstered beneath my jacket bought me a three-year jolt in the Big House. Donald, predictably, was nowhere to be seen.

* * *

I was surprised when Donald picked me up this afternoon, outside Santa Rosa Correctional Institution. Told me he owed me. Told me he would make me rich.

I’m still wearing the same grey suit and black silk shirt I wore in court. Even in a dive like the Slop Shop I am conscious about the clumsy teardrop tattoos on my cheeks… the thick-lensed coke bottle glasses the state provided… my patchy buzz-cut.

Banyan sips at his cream liqueur.

“Donald says you can procure me a boy.”

I drink my cocktail and stare at the dancer. She stumbles and her glasses slip off her face, onto the floor. A man in the front row – wearing a camouflage jacket with the sleeves hacked off – steps forward and tries to grab her pussy.

“No older than 9,” Banyan drawls.

The dancer slaps him across the face.

“I need him by Friday night.”

The redneck shatters her jaw with one punch.

Banyan grins woozily at me. I feel hot sick rising in my throat as I nod my agreement.

Donald squeezes my shoulder.

“Atta boy!”

* * *

Friday night. 7pm.

I arranged to collect my fee from Donald on the way to Banyan’s gated community. He wanted to inspect the boy before delivery.

Cheap bastard told me that he would deduct $100 from my $1,000 finder’s fee for every year that he suspected the boy was over the age of 9.

We meet in the far corner of the Slop Shop parking lot. Under the sodium glare of the cracked streetlight Donald looks pale and hollow-eyed.

“Any trouble?”

“Not much.”

He flashes me a queasy grin.

I pop the trunk, and the stink of dead flesh oozes out. The broken body has started to bloat. Banyan’s asshole gapes open preposterously, and a chunk of his lower spine is missing.

Donald turns to me, incredulously, and I damn near take his head off with my shovel.

I found Banyan last night, cruising for rough trade in the labyrinthine concrete sprawl around Testament Heights. I dragged him out of his SUV and beat him like a rented mule. When I was done I stuck my father’s shotgun in Banyan’s asshole and blew a hole right through the sick fuck.

I heave Donald’s lumpy body on top of Banyan’s bloated corpse and struggle to shut the trunk.

Time to work up a sweat.

It’s going to be a deep fucking grave.


Returning to Schedule Monday

Hi Folks!

You may have noticed that Shotgun Honey hasn’t updated over the last week. Ol’ Uncle Ron has been under the weather and playing catch. We also noticed serious issues with our hosting and made an abrupt change to a new host. It looks like everything is running smooth, and quicker than it has in a while.

Apologies to writers who has spots scheduled over the last week. We’ll reach out individually and let you know when those stories will be rescheduled.

Catch you later.

Ron Earl Phillips
Publisher, Managing Editor