prompts: murder, wealth, red tape
Ben Mankowicz was dead, no two ways about it. Can’t split a head like that and expect the poor sumbitch to live. I’d seen more in-depth anatomy lookin’ at his noggin than I ever wanted to see.
Normally, a murder like this? Act of passion. A hatchet to the head’s messy, and from the look of things, it had taken more than one blow.
Knives are easier, guns are easier.
So, crime of passion, no premeditation.
Someone had found Ben Mankowicz’s hatchet, and gone batshit crazy on Ben’s head.
I had forensics dusting everything. The hatchet’s handle had been wiped clean, maybe we’d get lucky elsewhere.
I can hear Liz, Ben’s wife, wailing in the front yard. She weighs 98 pounds soaking wet, doubt he has the strength to do this.
Nobody’s seen Ray, their son, in the last week or so. He’s tentatively at the top of the suspect list.
“Detective, you might want to see this …”
Ray’s in a closet, strangled with an electrical cord.
Guess he’s off the suspect list …
prompt: a sewing accessory – pin cushion, thread spindles, small drawers with a puzzle lock
we were cleaning out mom’s house.
it had been four-and-a-half, five months, and neither of us had felt up to doing it before, just refused to think about it, and my sister couldn’t approach the front door without breaking down. she’d spent more time crying in her car than was healthy.
but she’d called me, and it was time, so i made the drive down. we had breakfast at Carly’s that saturday morning, then driven over to mom’s.
“i’m glad you hired someone to clean out the fridge,” i said as we walked into the front hall.
“yeah, this place would’ve stunk worse than when the cat died under the house my senior year,” Beth said.
she chuckled, and i pretended i didn’t hear the tears she was holding in.
a lot of clothes to sort, cheap jewelry to get rid of. furniture to either split between us, or have auctioned off.
i held it together until we got to the sewing room.
a Singer, older than me, thread, bolts of cloth, pin cushions, needles … my childhood wardrobe came from that room, and my
prompts: despair, ignorance, injustice
ignorance of the law is no excuse …
absolute bullshit, far as i’m concerned. case in point – i’m in the Clusterfuck County jail, no, it’s not really Clusterfuck County, but Clusterfuck better suits this place than Cooley County.
now, if your county judges have decided an Obama bumper sticker is a felony … well, they’re crazier than shithouse rats to begin with. and since no sign warns travelers through this little slice of Alabama, i tend to take it personally when your brave law enforcement officers pull me over to arrest me for felony mischief – like that’s really a thing – and throw me in the clink.
hell of way to fuck up my scenic drive from Jacksonville to Oklahoma City.
“i want my phone call!”
“hell, boy, that’s some tv shit right there. you ain’t guaranteed a phone call.”
he’s six hundred pounds of redneck asshole stuffed into a three hundred pound uniform. you could boil him down for oil … smelly oil, but oil all the same.
“officer, two hundred dollars for a phone call.”
“we don’t take checks or plastic, prisoner.”
“you don’t need to. i have more than that in my wallet!”
“uh uh, bubba … there weren’t no money in that wallet.”
i am fucked … so fucked.
looking at my cell-mate, that might be literally, as well as figuratively.
late friday night, and no judge til monday morning.
prompts: demolition, health, lust
“doctor … why’d i want to be a doctor again?”
“lots of money,” my favorite nurse replied.
it’s an old routine with us.
this time it was more truth than joke.
i addressed my patient.
“mr. carpenter, what possessed you to …”
“uh huh … tequila convinced you to stick a roman candle in your bottom?”
“well, we were lighting farts, and hal, my friend hal, thought it would be funny if a fart made its way out around a roman candle, and lit it.”
“drunk … lighting farts … fireworks.”
“yeah, doc, shouldn’t have been a problem. i’ve held ’em in my hands. they get a little warm, but that’s it.”
“so, this candle was defective?”
“you’re the one lookin’ at the crater what used to be my asshole – what do you think?”
i think you’re a goddamned moron and i hope you never breed.
i kept that to myself.
“i think you’re going to need reconstructive surgery to keep your shit from just falling out,” i replied. “i’ve done all i can, mr. carpenter. i’ve packed it with gel-foam, and i’m going to ship you upstairs now.”
ER duty. gotta love it.
prompts: relapse, identity, virtue
it was inevitable … we’d all drop acid, and i’d end up in a corner somewhere, pondering cosmic truth or somesuch bullshit.
i mean, i’d hang around with the others for a couple of hours, but the fun part of our trips lasted a good 8 hours, and i wasn’t the only one to split from the herd.
danny & kate would go to their room to fuck after 2 or 3 hours, and we wouldn’t see them again.
we kept the music loud so we wouldn’t hear them either.
one time we didn’t and fuck near died laughing … obviously we couldn’t stop, and our facial muscles were cramping something fierce.
then there’s phil – he goes wandering in the apartment complex. he generally made it back before the end of the trip … but on occasion, we wouldn’t see him for days afterward.
so yeah, about 5, 6 hours in, i’d grab my notebook, go find a quiet corner, and write while i questioned my place in the universe, or if reality is a shared gestalt construct as opposed to having independent existence.
what i write is very rarely coherent the next morning.
that’s okay. i keep writing anyway.
it beats staring at the walls while they breathe, or listening to 3 minute songs stretch into hour-long songs.
i don’t think it beats what danny and kate are doing. i’ll have to try that some time.
prompts: potato, running, lonely, secretly (this is a “noun, verb, adjective, adverb” prompt)
“feeling lonely, cowboy?”
it had been a hard six weeks, driving the herd north to omaha, and i was so horny i didn’t know whether to shit or go blind. but mostly i was hungry.
“sweetheart, i been runnin’ on beans an’ taters for a month and a half. you mind keepin’ me company while i get a real meal?”
“you buy me a drink, and you’re on.”
i waved my hat at the boy who served as a waiter.
“a drink for the little lady, an’ as much steak as you can pile on a platter for me.”
she watched me go through four plates full, her eyes wide, drink forgotten.
i think she was secretly happy for the long break from her business.
when i was finished, she asked, “you ready now, cowboy?”
i just belched, and nodded.
prompt: haiku – ‘butter’ as a part of it
no butter necessary
now for some coffee
you called them my buns.
butter as a lubricant,
God knows we’ve used worse.
fuck the margarine
give me butter or nothing.
who eats oil-based foods?
butter up the boss.
you’re living in a box, Bob,
no raise in six years.
she is the Divine.
psychotic as hell, crazy.
but her lips? oh god!
prompts: a list of words, one per minute, integrated into the narrative
i’d overcooked the roast … again.
“barbara, this shit is burnt.”
it wasn’t that bad, no matter what harv said, but i’d given up arguing with him years before.
i heard him undo the bolt on the door, as he stomped out to eat at the chinese restaurant on the corner.
cheap bastard was always coming up with schemes to charge his meals on his company expense account.
i keep burning the roast, and executing other culinary disasters, so he’ll have plenty of chances to get caught.
i told him, he loses another job, and i’m out of here, across the bridge to the mainland, and living with my sister as far away from him as i can get.
maybe if they find out all the times he’s cheated them, they’ll lock him up.
prompt: don’t remember
“is it hot enough for you?”
i wanted to punch him, but he wasn’t asking rhetorically.
“almost,” i groaned.
i could feel the worms writhing in my body, whipped to a frenzy by the heat. the were crawling toward my head, just under my skin, trying to escape the heat in the therapeutic pool.
“a little more,” I said, lips between my teeth as i tried not to scream.
the first worm, oily and red, erupted from my cheek, and fell out beside the tub.
denny crushed it with his shoe.
“disgusting fucker …”
as more of them forced their way through my flesh, i did scream.
most of them fell into the tub with me, cooking and dying.
“jack … jack the heat up …”
i moaned, feeling the last of them crawling up my arms.
prompt: vice, loss, the counselor
“kill her, dump her in a shallow grave.”
“well shit, bob, how do you really feel about her.”
i’d married ellen after she and bob got divorced. neither of us had ever told him about our affair while they were married.
now, ellen and i were headed for divorce as well.
no big surprise, she was cheating on me. like my mother always said, “if she cheats on one man, why wouldn’t she cheat on another?”
i’m glad mom wasn’t able to see how right she’d been.
“bob, i don’t want her dead …”
“bullshit. listen, ed, something i’ve never told anyone before. she was cheating on me, too, before the divorce, and if i ever find out who it was, i’ll kill them.
“i been there,” he continued. “and if you don’t think you want her dead, you’re in denial. hell, it’s been four years, three months, and … twelve days since our divorce was final, and i still want her dead.”
i remained silent, the beginning of a plan forming in my mind.
could i talk ed into killing his ex without getting my own hands dirty?
prompt: delusion, madness, the gamble
“you know, freak, you’re the craziest sumbitch in here.”
earl, one of the night orderlies, is an animal. not dumb, he’s just cruel as a hobby.
and he really loves his hobbies.
he shoves my head in the stopped-up toilet again, holds me under for almost three minutes by my count.
i’m gasping and crying as he pulls me out.
“how ya like be being crazy now?”
i sputter, spit, and mumble, “you do this out of love. they don’t want you to, but you’re my friend, earl. you do this out of love.”
he gets a good laugh out of that, and drags me into the showers.
ice-cold water sluices the shit off my head and i scream. the water feels like it’s maybe a degree above freezing.
he holds me there forever … i doubt it’s over five minutes.
with a gentle, for earl, kick in my ass, he turns me loose.
“back to your room, squirrel chow.”
i stumble away, not letting him see the hate in my eyes.
if you ask the doctors here, i have a habit of cold showers, in my clothes, late at night. that’s how earl writes these incidents up.
i don’t say any different. last inmate that disputed earl’s side of the story took a dive off the roof.
suicide, earl reported.
the rest of us know better.
prompt: power, fear, injustice
if you keep people scared, they’re easier to control.
the local sheriff, clint thomas, wouldn’t put it so eloquently, but he understands the concept quite well.
he owns almost all of harmony, texas. give him another few years, he’ll own it all.
even the harmony herald, my newspaper.
it’s an old scam, but a good one.
you pay the sheriff and his men for protection. arguments about his salary from the city get your beaten.
so you pay the sheriff’s tax … and at some point, an honest-to-god accident happens … with the sheriff’s help.
your business burns down, or as happened with mccrory’s general store, bandits hold up supplies coming to restock the shelves.
you don’t make any money, you can’t pay the sheriff, and he ends up owning your business, or the land it was on.
i sleep in my office, alongside buckets of sand, with a loaded shotgun.
some day, my luck will run out, all the same.
prompts: the officer, marriage, addiction
“carl, you won’t know when to shit or when to eat.”
twenty-three years in the army, karen wasn’t lying, and she wasn’t wrong.
if i’d spent the time in prison, they’d say i was institutionalized. years spent in the ‘passing on orders from above’ business… i wasn’t looking forward to life as a civilian.
“don’t worry about it, carl. i’ll take care of you.”
and that prospect is terrifying as well. long deployments overseas have kept our marriage intact. hell, karen and i are on good terms with each other in direct proportion to our distance from each other. when i’m on the other side of the planet we’re best fucking friends.
looking at the rest of my life in close proximity to her makes me want to chew my ring finger off.
what can i possibly do to keep myself out of the house almost all day, every day?
golf? only if i spend most of my time in the clubhouse, at the bar.
chasing little white balls around strikes me as almost as frustrating as being around Karen.
prompts: the investor, cruelty, disbelief
chance of a lifetime, my fat white ass.
you’d have to know my brother walter as well as his family does to catch the faintest whiff of what a scoundrel he really is. i mean, he’s very slick, very charming, and as unremittingly crooked as a prison full of thieves.
and knowing all that, i bought into his latest con.
a resort … in mississippi. now, you’re thinking on the coast, beach front, gambling in the ocean breezes.
no. north mississippi, in wamaloosa county, which will never be known for anything but heat, mud, humidity, mud, mosquitoes the size of fucking st. bernards, and mud.
oh, i still take out the promotional materials he gave all his investors. i look at the photos, the blueprints, the magnificent artists depictions of the what-was-supposed-to-be …
and then i hit myself in the head with a hammer.
i didn’t invest money i couldn’t afford to lose, like almost everyone else in our family did.
i just want to hurt him.
they’re scraping together the money to have him killed.
prompt: Animal Farm
all animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
story of my fucking life. my mother worked in the kitchens at Bennington School, so i had a free ride at a prestigious school, starting in first grade, on through high school.
yeah, hell of an opportunity. i could have forgotten my name in those twelve years, because all my classmates called me ‘lunch lady’ … real embarrassing for a boy. it was pretty much every ‘rich kid/poor kid’ cliche you’ve ever heard of, but worse, because when it’s you, when it’s real? cliches come with bruises and tears.
but hey, first-class education … got me a scholarship to whalen, second-tier ivy league.
well, they didn’t call me ‘lunch lady’ at whalen, but otherwise it was more of the same, while my classmates could afford a social life, my time was eaten by student work programs. what little non-study time i had left … nowhere i could afford to go, and damn few people who’d talk to me to do it with.
the exception, the blessed angel in my hell, was carla, and her twisted acceptance of me.
prompts: humility, stasis, fame
“no one can be that humble,” vanessa said, wiping her face in the hellish coastal heat.
“while i’d normally agree with you,” i said, chugging deep on my corona, “he refuses any credit at all. let his boss take all the credit for the idea, didn’t bat an eyelash.”
“probably secretly plotting to fuck the whole project, make it look like the boss’s screw-up.”
“vanny, you’re an evil cynic with low morals.”
“you’re going to complain about my low morals?” she says, caressing my leg.
“no, not complaining, simply commenting. besides, only way evan would fuck up this project is if he has a self-destructive streak. this thing goes belly-up, our whole division will be filing for unemployment.”
she studies me for a while, oddly silent, and i think about our easy habit of each other. no real commitment, no rules, we just drifted together five years ago, and to both our surprise, haven’t drifted apart yet.
i don’t understand it, but as lovely as she is, i’m not going to question it too hard, afraid she’ll wake up, and move on.
prompts: Sometimes A Great Notion
“god didn’t put this swamp here just for the hell of it,” earl said, legs swinging as he sat on the tailgate of his truck.
“yeah, but … i don’t want to kill her. i just want her to get her own damn life, quit leeching off me and carol.”
beau wished he’d never mentioned the problems he was having with his sister, bobbie kay. once earl got the bit between his teeth, it took an act of god, or hard liquor, for him to turn it loose.
“beau, i’ve seen snappin’ turtles with more sense than you. bobbie kaye ain’t never gonna get her own life. she’s stupider than you, and them two brain cells bumped each other just right for her to figure out you and carol are easy marks. what was it she stole and sold this time?”
“stereo out of carol’s car.”
“uh huh … what lame-ass excuse?”
“needed money to pay off her visa card, and could bear to ask us for another loan.”
“so she stole the fuckin’ radio and tried to lie about it. while it was still in her purse, wires hangin’ out the side …”
“slit the dumb bitch’s throat an’ feed her to the gators.”
prompts: safety, the secret, power
“don’t talk about bobbie kay that way!”
i didn’t know i could snarl like that.
earl looked at me like i’d grown another head and started performing a george jones/tammy wynette duet.
“beau, the girl’s been bad news since she fell out your mama.”
i wanted to hit him, but i know earl can kick my ass, and besides, he was right.
i couldn’t tell earl the hold bobbie kay had over me an’ carol.
it’s funny, but even here in swamp country, some things ain’t tolerated … and nobody left alive ‘sides the three of us knew about mama’s stay with our cousins in oklahoma, and the little girl she’d given birth to … long before mama had married daddy.
officially, carol and me were third cousins.
really, she’s my half-sister.
didn’t know it when we met at a family reunion, took a likin’ to each other.
third cousins … ain’t nowhere they can’t marry.
wasn’t until after we’d run off and got married mama told us.
talk about a shock! damn near split us up, that did. as it is, i just got my tubes snipped to keep us from makin’ a monster or somethin’.
prompt: Stranger in a Strange Land
i didn’t have anything left to on to where i came from, so soon as i could, i left. a lot of people might’ve done that whole ‘work/save money/finance your getaway’ thing, but i just couldn’t. i hit 18, and threw my clothes in the duffle i inherited from my uncle ed. i ran, not walked, to the highway, stuck my thumb out.
okay, there are a lot of bad stories about hitchhiking … some of them are true. i got picked up by a nasty old fucker who wanted a blowjob. i figured right then was a good time to jump out of a moving car, sprain my ankle, wrench my knee, and lose a shirt sleeve, and some skin, to road rash.
i was a pitiful sight when i limped into town.
magda’s diner was the first place i saw, so i went in, got a cup of coffee, and asked if they needed a dish washer.
magda looked to be six foot six, 80 pounds soaking wet.
“what the hell happened to you?” she asked once raylene delivered my coffee.
i debated lying to her, then decided i wasn’t going to start a new life by lying.
“he wanted a blow job, would’ve settled for a hand job, and i exited the car real sudden-like.”
prompt: epiphany, addiction, greed
once you’ve done a deca-hit of laboratory-grade lsd, you really don’t have any choice – your reality is going to be altered, no two ways about it.
van had hit that plateau before his sixteenth birthday, and moved on into even greater dosages of hallucinogens.
after a deca-hit, a double deca-hit. then a triple … by this point, most of us were pretty sure van wasn’t human anymore, strictly speaking.
he spoke in his own language most of the time, and if it wasn’t for a very manager of his trust fund, who knows what he would have done with his money?
i know at one time he was seriously talking about dosing the austin water supply with three-thousand gallons of pure, lab-grade acid … he said cost wasn’t an issue.
we tried not to mooch off him too much, but whether he was tripping or not, he had a tendency to enjoy good times, and to crave company, so there were about twelve of us that would be around most of the time. he called us his disciples, and there’s a picture of us doing the whole “last supper” thing – at a luby’s.
why luby’s? when he was tripping, he’d latch onto words, and thought ‘luby’s’ was the funniest thing he’d ever heard, so we ate there – a lot.
prompt: run, sly, horn, coquettishly (noun, verb, adjective, adverb – guess which word i supplied)
“i don’t find a life on the run attractive,” betty said. “i dream of a penthouse and a live-in masseur.”
“then you should’ve hooked up with someone who was born rich,” eddie replied. “i intend to make my fortune the american way – i’m gonna fucking steal it!”
below them in the street, car horns sang a song of rush hour through the seedy apartment’s open windows.
“don’t you want to see me in pearls, eddie?” she asked coquettishly.
“babe, i want to see you in nothing at all,” he answered, a sly look on his face.
he pulled his zippo, lit it, and threw it in her open suitcase.
“looks like i’m going to get my wish.”
prompt: haiku, using ‘robot’
between thin and stained bed sheets
sex doll rendezvous
she spat out the food
“olive oil, not motor oil!”
fucking robot chef.
i recognized him
he was dancing the robot
fuck this blind date shit
from dr. rotwang,
maria of the workers,
prompt: “i don’t care”
you can always work in an icepick.
not just figuratively either. i’m talking jamming one into a soft spot, letting it make itself to home.
i don’t care for knives, fancy throwing stars, fucking hatchets for fuck’s sake! gimme an ice pick, wooden handle so i can take it out to the garage, use a lathe to take the handle down in size about two-thirds, still enough to hold, but not so easy to spot, you get me?
lotsa places in a suit you can hide one, with a little alteration. we got this tailor, he and his father been handling that kinda business for us goin’ on sixty years. no sense ruinin’ the lines of your coat just to carry a pick.
i like the eyes. pop ’em like fuckin’ grapes. i tell you what, i don’t care who you are, i slide the pick in your left eye, you’ll tell me whatever i want to know before it gets close to your right eye.
prompt: quarry, engage, sewer, yard, perfume, retract, research
we dumped the body in the old stone quarry outside of town. bodybag elsie pilfered from the emts, two cinder blocks to weight the son of a bitch down, no more arranged engagement for elsie.
i was glad to help her. we’ve been besties since she asked to borrow my perfume in sixth grade. eau de bubble gum. i got it in some cheap dimestore makeup kit. i only wore it once, i thought it smelled like cotton-candy puke, but she loved it.
“i guess they’ll retract their proposal now,” she cackled. “no son, no marriage. i need to check out his social media, research where he might’ve run off to.”
“have i told you lately i love you?” i said.
“no, why this time?” elsie replied.
“you chose the quarry over the sewer this time.”
“well, i was younger then,” she laughed. “i didn’t know he was such a shit when i started dating him. i wouldn’t come within a hundred yards of dating someone like him now.
“and i love you, too.”
prompt: the quick and the damned (one i came up with on the fly)
somehow, i thought it would go differently.
more fool i.
i loved her like i loved breathing – i wouldn’t live without her, either.
i loved her like i love the sun and moon – she was my light.
but if you love something, need something, you’re telling the world to take it away.
of course she knew my friends.
yeah, rick was always more charming, more handsome than me.
i was stupid enough to be happy when he’d keep her company all the times i was delayed by work.
more fool i.
i walked into the apartment, and smelled them from the moment i walked in the door. i tried to deny the smells of sweat, and sex, as i walked to the bedroom, but while i may have had some question as to the who, i knew very well the what.
ruined a lamp, killing the two of them. inherited it from my mother.
i miss the lamp.
not that they’d let me have it here.
not a lot of personal decorations in death row cells.
i don’t miss rick, or her, anymore. the years will do that when pieces of your heart are lost.
but i still miss that lamp.
more fool i.
listening to: “The Kyin Escape”, “Guardians of the Galaxy” score
mood: pretty good … and hungry