Posts Tagged ‘Smile’

A Messy Divorce (Short Story Excerpt)

January 18, 2017

1.

Happy birthday to me, James Jefferson Ruddock—“J.J.” to his friends, “Jimmy” to his family, and “James” to his soon-to-be-ex-wife—hummed to himself, setting a small cake on his kitchen table. Happy birthday to me—

Scowling, J.J. let out an awful belch.

Haaappy biiirthday, dear J.J….

Another pause, this time to let out a long, mournful sigh. J.J.’s wide chest rose and fell with the effort. His shoulders twitched. His chin drooped. He stood there, all alone. A great big bear of a man, half drunk, feeling every wretched moment of his age, trying like hell to find one thing—just one—to feel happy about. Anything at all.

Happy birthday…to meee!

“Alright,” J.J. grumbled, clapping his large, calloused hands. He reached for his half-full—or half-empty, in J.J.’s current state of mind—bottle of Wild Turkey, swallowed a good-sized knock, and belched again.

“Another year older, J.J., ol’ buddy! An all by yourself on your birthday. How fantastic is that?”

Quivering with rage, J.J. cast his eyes to the dark ceiling and ran his free hand through his thick, black, forelocks. He wore his hair long, and at the end of its swoop J.J.’s hand closed around the rear length and tossed it from his shoulders. That felt better. Not much, but less disheveled. The wayward hand then swung around and smoothed the front of his beard. He kept that long, too. Long, but well-manicured. Not bushy. J.J. couldn’t stand the sight of wild facial hair.

Huh! Call me an animal, after all I did for her!

J.J.’s left hand tightened around the bottle. His right hand curled into a white-knuckled fist. His jaw clenched. His lips twisted into a feral moue. At that moment he would’ve given anything to have his soon-to-be-ex-wife there with him, bound and gagged, just within arm’s length.

Sneering at his own pain, J.J. grunted. “Damn you, Brenda.”

Sighing, the bitter celebrant lowered his chin, took another swig of whiskey, and paused to admire his dessert. A plain, round, German chocolate cake, frosted with coconut. He’d bought it at the grocery store along with a pack of blood-red birthday candles, then arranged the candles to show his age. It had taken eight of them to form the 3, and another eight to form the 9. With the lights out, the flickering flames spelled out the exact number of years he’d been alive to the shadows and anyone else who cared to know:

39

And beside that glowing cake sat a plain business envelope, addressed to James Ruddock, with the words:

OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS

stamped in red ink across its face.

J.J looked from the cake to the envelope, then back again. “Some birthday present,” he muttered, raising the bottle to his lips. The whiskey stung the tip of his tongue, creating a shaft of pleasant heat which ran from the top of his gullet to the depths of his large belly. He took in half a mouthful, but didn’t swallow. Relishing the flavor. The sting. The heat. The approaching stupor.

Damn that woman, anyway…

Standing there, swaying on his feet, J.J. stared into the candles on his birthday cake. Their hypnotic glow soothed him almost as much as the whiskey, leaving him oblivious to the surrounding shadows. Beneath his beard, a grin formed. The urge to spit that cheekful of Wild Turkey at the flames came on strong, and in his mind he pictured a majestic fireball erupting from the wanton act.

But, no; that wouldn’t do anything except ruin the moment and the cake.

Flicking his eyes back to that loathsome envelope, J.J. felt another wild urge. Why not just snatch the damned thing up and hold it over the candles until it caught fire? Why not just stand there and watch his troubles go up in smoke?

But, no; that wouldn’t do anything except delay the inevitable.

Pondering those sad facts, J.J.’s eyes began to glisten. From the whiskey, of course. Not the searing heartbreak. Not the dull pain in his uncompromising heart. Not that.

No way.

Screw it! J.J. thought, throwing his head back and gulping the whiskey into his stomach. “An screw her!” he finished aloud, slamming the bottle down beside the envelope—

Thunk!

J.J. grimaced from the knock, then leant forward, planting his rough palms on each end of the small fold-up table. The ring on his left hand glimmered in the candlelight.

Whoo-eee! Strong stuff!”

It took a moment for J.J.’s mind to clear. Eyes shut, face bunched, he shook his head, causing hair and beard to splay as if hit by a sudden gust of wind, then belched again, causing the miniature flames to dance as if hit by the same gust. “Now,” he said with all seriousness, his glassy eyes open and alert and fixed upon the blazing 39…

“What should I wish for?”

J.J. lived in a doublewide trailer home, parked in a shabby trailer court. He’d lived there since dropping out of college due to a severe meniscus tear. Up to that point, from the age of six, football had been his entire life. He’d played all through elementary, middle, and high school. How he’d loved slamming his shoulder pads into the wannabe tough guys at every high school in the state. And he’d found it even more satisfying on the college level. The rush of adrenaline, the roar of the crowd, the thrill of victory after battering everything in his path; it all made him feel like a winner. A gladiator. A true beast among men.

Then, on one cold autumn night many years ago, another beast had slammed into him at a bad angle, causing him to fall the wrong way. And with all that weight toppling down…

“Son,” Dr. Tolbert said after the surgery, “you’ll be able to play again, but you won’t be as fast. And another injury to that same knee might leave you with permanent damage. Get me?”

Yeah. J.J. got him, alright. When a man’s forced to swallow all his pride in one gulp he’s always afraid he might choke. But J.J., in true bestial fashion, chewed his up real well before turning in his helmet and cleats. And there went his football scholarship, too. Still, he couldn’t complain. The construction business had been good to him over the years. He owned his trailer free and clear, owned his truck, and felt comfortable knowing that he had no debts.

Except one.

Brenda Rose Galway. He owed her a broken heart.

So. The time had come at last. What the hell should he wish for?

Still leaning over the small table, still staring into the ornate row of hot, orange-yellow tongues lapping the air, J.J. sighed, trying to focus his beer—and whiskey—addled mind. Brow furrowed, lips pursed, his cold blue eyes took on an odd gleam; catlike; reflecting a fire within, and the fire below. He looked deep into those tiny flames, past them, and into the murky haze of his dying marriage…

J.J. remembered the moment he first met Brenda Galway; walking into the Quickie-Mart near downtown to buy a six-pack and fill up his truck. She’d worked there as a cashier, and smiled as he came in. How young and sweet and innocent she’d seemed back then…

J.J remembered one night in the throes of passion when, quite to his surprise, Brenda had made a strange and unnerving request. “Bite me, lover!” she’d whispered, clutching his thick neck with both arms and burying his mouth into her shoulder. “Bite me hard!” At first, he’d been reluctant…but her insistence overcame his timidity. So he’d bitten her. Just hard enough to leave marks in her pale flesh for a day or so. And from then on that strange act became a semi-regular part of their lovemaking.

An what a sucker I was for not bitin’ her throat out when I had the chance!

Shaking his head, J.J. remembered the day when it all began to unravel. The day he’d found out what Brenda had been doing behind his back. The day he’d found those pills in her purse and confronted her in the very kitchen in which he now stood. Oh, God, that long, miserable, contentious day when he’d found out what a lying, conniving, heartless, woman he’d married all those years ago—

“Yeah, I found out, alright. Found out a lotta things. I found out what you really are. An I found out what I really am, too. Nothin’ but a big goddamn dummy.”

The bear grunted, bared his sharp shiny teeth at the birthday cake.

“Yeah, Brenda, why don’tcha come on over now? I’ll be more than happy to clamp my jaws on your…warm…throat…”
J.J. paused, letting his words drift off like the smoke trails from the candles below. A moment passed, gravid with possibility, then he grinned.

“That’s it! That’s my wish!”

Then he laughed. Long, loud, and hearty. A cruel, vengeful, satisfied sound which shook his massive frame and brought tears of a different sort to his eyes. The culmination of eight years’ rage and regret. And when the last chuckle and snort passed over his lips, J.J. Ruddock closed his wet eyes and made his thirty-ninth birthday wish:

“Hey, uh, God? It’s me, J.J. I prayed to you a lot as a boy. I prayed before every game, remember? But seein’ as how it’s my birthday an my wish ain’t too holy, an seein as how it’s Halloween an all…well, I guess I better direct this prayer to the other guy. The guy with the horns an the pitchfork, ya know…

“Please forgive me. Just this once…”

An now, here’s goes nothin’.

“So, uh, anyway. Devil, can ya hear me? I’m callin’ out to you tonight, an it ain’t the whiskey talkin’, neither! I’m aimin’ to get your evil, undivided attention. You hear? It’s your night, ain’t it? Halloween? Spooks an ghosts an witches an vampires, an who knows what all roamin’ around?

“Well, it’s my night, too, goddamnit! My birthday! An I want my wish!

“Do ya hear me, son? I WANT MY WISH!”

Coughing, shaking from the fury in his words, J.J. squeezed his eyelids as tight as he could, afraid that if he opened them even for a second the feeling would be lost and the spell would be broken.

“Alright, Devil. I’m sure ya got my point so I’ll get on with it. What I want, what I need, is to somehow get Brenda back in my clutches…so I can bite her one last time. So I can sink my teeth deep into her fleshy ass an chew it up to my heart’s content. Raw an bloody, just like that steak I ate tonight—”

Again, this bear of a man laughed. Again, he belched. And with each exhalation the flickering flames danced ever higher, as if reaching for J.J.’s breath; as if wanting to be extinguished so his wish could be fulfilled.

“So let it be written, so let it be done! Be it known that on this day, October thirty-first, All Hallows Eve, my birthday, The Year Of Our Lord, Two Thousand an Thirteen, beneath a full moon, I, James Jefferson Ruddock, do hereby wish for vicious, awful, blood-drenched vengeance upon my soon-to-be-ex-wife, Brenda Rose Galway-Ruddock!”

Another pause, but no laughter, no belch. Just silence. Solemn. Dreadful. The sound of judgment passed; of verdict given; after the gavel falls but before it strikes the pad.

“Amen,” J.J. finished. “Amen.”

And with that, this great big bear huffed, and puffed, and blew his whiskey-breath over the cake, over the shimmering 39, flexing his belly, straining his lungs, trying with all his heart to extinguish every last flame in one symbolic act.

But J.J. needn’t have worried or strained. The candles went out with ease, one by one, as if they wanted to die. As if their deaths had been ordained by some higher—or lower—force.

And…as the last candle shuddered out, a single tear fell from J.J.’s left eye.

2.

With the candles extinguished, J.J. found himself in darkness. Not total, unrelenting darkness, but shadowy, phantasmal darkness. The glow of a streetlamp bled through the kitchen window, and pale moonlight shone through the cracks in the blinds in the living room. Just enough radiance to make out shapes of things around him, yet just enough to play endless tricks on his whiskey-burdened mind.

But darkness didn’t scare J.J.

Never had, never would.

Still leaning over the table, the big bear shook his head as if he’d just been whacked on the jaw. Gotta be the booze, he decided, blinking the sudden grogginess away.

That, an gettin’ myself all worked up…

Thin tendrils of smoke wafted up from the spent candles. J.J. coughed, then straightened to his full, monstrous height. In silhouette he looked like a great, hairy ogre standing in the kitchen of an ordinary man’s house. Indeed, the top of his head almost touched the ceiling.

“Well,” J.J. grumbled, snatching his Wild Turkey from the table, “here’s to gettin’ all worked up!”

He took a slug from the bottle and grinned as sweet flames lit up his throat.

“Goddamn, that’s good! An now, nothin’ left to do but cut the—”

Thump-thump-thump-thump-thump!

J.J. jerked and jumped at the jolting sound. He wheeled around, swaying on his bare feet, and faced the living room. Whiskey sloshed in the bottle at his side. His hand tightened around the neck.

“WHAT THE—?”

Thump-thump-thump!

And then he understood. Halloween night. A tiny fist knocking at his abode. A tiny fist attached to a tiny boy or girl craving something sweet and good to eat. Trick-or-treaters! J.J. realized, grinning a more satisfied—and malicious—grin than when he’d cursed his soon-to-be-ex-wife…and began creeping toward the front door.

3.

Ugh!” Colin Ryerson sighed, knocking for the second time—

Thump-thump-thump!

—and suppressing a yawn. How had he, of all the rotten luck, gotten stuck chaperoning his younger sister and even younger cousin? Easy. Lame parents. Lame parents who insisted he come along to visit his grandparents at their ghetto trailer court, and, oh, gosh, wouldn’t it be great if he’d take the girls around while the grownups sat around yapping about nothing?

Yeah, great. I could be home right now, making out with Audrey “B.J Queen” Lang and actually enjoying life. But nooo. Mom’s gotta have a shit-fit over the girls’ costumes and go see Nanny and Poppy.

“Maybe no one’s home,” Nina Ryerson said, turning to her brother. She’d dressed up as an 80s glam-rocker; frizzy pink wig, big yellow Elton John sunglasses, a neon blue leotard, and to complete the ensemble, a plastic guitar; hot pink, hanging from her shoulder by a rainbow strap.

“Duh!” Colin answered. “That’s a good bet since the lights are off, geekazoid.”

“Well, you don’t hafta be mean about it! You’re just mad cuz you couldn’t stay home and play kissy-face with you’re bimbo girlfr—”

“Audrey ain’t my girlfriend, dork.”

“God! I swear, you think you’re sooo cool just cause you’re fourteen.”

Colin shook his head. “Aw, shut up. Let’s go.”

Gertie Torino, Colin and Nina’s seven year old cousin, frowned at them. Why did they have to fight so much? The little girl had worn a tutu and dancing shoes, her soft auburn hair in pigtails, and at that moment looked like the saddest ballerina in the world.

“Come on, guys. Stop arguing. There’s only one more house left on this row, anyways.”
Nina turned to her cousin and smiled. Both girls clutched orange plastic bags decorated with cartoonish vampire bats, and looked forward to sharing their bounty once they got back home.

“Okay, Gertie. Let’s go.”

“Great idea.” Colin stepped between them, left hand falling upon Nina’s left shoulder, right hand upon Gertie’s right shoulder. “Now move it.”

But just as they turned to leave, the front door swung inward and something leapt from the darkness onto the porch—

RAAAHHHWRRR!

Perched on the bottom step, all three children flinched, screamed, and fell backward. Going down, the girls flung their precious bags into the night and wrapped themselves around Colin. The boy hugged them close, still thinking of their safety despite his own panic, and tried to cushion the fall for all of them—

Thud!

The startled children landed in a heap. Colin felt the impact on his tailbone, both girls scraped their elbows, but nothing serious. The resultant cacophony of squeals, shrieks, and yells echoed down the dark street.

“Jesus, girls! Run!”

Nina and Gertie scrambled to their feet, both now bawling in terror. Poor little Gertie had almost wet herself from the shock. That growl hadn’t sounded human! So bestial, so sinister; something like the buzz of a chainsaw crossed with a lion’s roar. Enough to send two small girls scampering for their very lives.

Holy shit!

Eyes wide, heart hammering, Colin rolled to his knees, scuffing up his designer jeans. He saw the shape on the porch, outlined in shadow, standing very still. A man, after all. A big man. Either wearing a wig or possessing quite a mane of hair. Getting to his feet, the boy’s temper exploded:

“Hey! Just what is wrong with you, mister? You just scared the crap outta my sister and cousin!”

“An you, too, I bet,” the giant shadow replied in a deep, truculent voice. Then it began to laugh. A big, satisfied, belly-laugh; too loud; too long; the guffaw of a dumb redneck who’s had way too much whiskey.

Maddening to the indignant boy’s ears.

“Yeah, real funny, jerk! I oughtta call the cops on your retarded ass right now!”

“Jerk?” the ominous shadow repeated, snorting more laughter. “Cops? You really need to get a sense of humor, kid…”

Okay, moron.

Smirking, Colin reached into his pocket to retrieve his phone. He had two numbers on speed-dial: Audrey “B.J. Queen” Lang, and 911. “Oh, I got your sense of humor…right…here…”

But the threat—which he’d meant to enforce—never left Colin’s mouth. Because the man had just stepped forward into the light, exposing a face Colin wished he’d never seen.

Oh, shit!

“That’s right, kid. Just what I thought. Now get on home before I jerk you up by the throat an spank your narrow ass. Hear me? An tell your ol’ man he better not come a-knockin’ or else I’ll do the same to him, only ten times worse.”
Then the savage man smiled. An awful, demonic smile which Colin never forgot.

“Trick-or-treat, huh, kid? Whaddya say?”

Oh, screw this!

With an odd exhalation—not quite a groan, not quite a whimper—Colin Ryerson forgot about calling the cops and started running. What he’d just seen had frightened him to the marrow and he couldn’t get away fast enough. Away from that crazed, evil-looking man who liked to scare little kids. Whose eyes had glittered like yellow diamonds in the moonlight; like a feral cat he’d once seen in his backyard. Whose teeth had looked like razor sharp fangs; not fake vampire teeth, either. And whose hands looked more like claws, capable of cleaving him in two with one swat.

4.

Aw, hell! J.J. thought, feeling a sudden pang of regret at his cruel prank. Poor little girls lost all their hard-earned candy…

Nice move, jerk.

The big man had taken one step down his porch when it began. His bare right foot emerged from shadow, looking very much like a mastiff’s paw; twice as much hair as before. But J.J. didn’t notice his foot—or the extra hair which had sprouted on his forearms—because he’d begun to itch all over. A deep, burning itch, far beneath the skin. J.J. wanted to scratch, to tear, at his own flesh as a sudden dizziness came over him.

“What the…?”

J.J. groaned, staggered, and caught himself in the doorway. In his newfound agony he also didn’t notice the extra length of his fingernails.

“Christ!”

Now a fever set in to compliment the burning itch, as if J.J.’s internal temperature had shot up into the danger zone. Much hotter than he’d ever felt before. Like being roasted from the inside out.

“What…what’s happening?”

The bear took a deep breath, felt his stomach clench as if rejecting the crisp night air. He grunted, falling to his butt in the threshold of the doorway. For a moment J.J. thought—and hoped—he’d puke up whatever had caused the pain.

I’m screwed here! Royally! Gonna need an ambulance!

But screwed didn’t quite do J.J.’s situation justice. Every bone in his body ached. The muscles in his arms and legs burned. He itched from head to toe. Pain stabbed at his eyes. His teeth throbbed. His tongue felt thick and useless. Every inch of the big man suffered in some way; steeped in misery, right down to his very soul.

Oh, for Christ’s sake! What in God’s name is…?

But the thought died away, replaced by a dreadful certainty. J.J knew what had happened, and why. After all, he’d called out to the darkness—

Do you hear me, son? I WANT MY WISH!

—he’dmade that vengeful plea—

Raw an bloody, just like that steak I had tonight.

—and he’d blown out the candles, sealing his own fate.

“Oh, no! No, no, no! I’m crazy but I ain’t that cra—”

Again, J.J.’s stomach clenched, cutting off his useless appeal for mercy and making him scream.

“JESUS! Please stop this! I-I cant take no mo—”

Another spasm. Another scream. Another worthless prayer.

“Naw! This ain’t how I meant it! This ain’t even—

GRRRAAAHHH!

This time, J.J. rocked back, falling into the shadowy recesses of his home. Snarling. Whimpering. Tearing at his clothes and writhing like a rabid dog. But before he collapsed, J.J. saw the last thing he’d see with human eyes on this soon-to-be-gory evening:

The moon.

Full and bright, peering at him from the darkness like some lidless, alien eye. Silent. Stoic. Not passing judgment, yet working the malignant will of hell.


“A Messy Divorce” is part of the collection: Living The Nightmare.

Available for digital download @ https://books2read.com/u/4NR629

Available in paperback through Amazon.com @ https://www.amazon.com/dp/1986415325

Thank you for reading!

JLR

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Freeway Park (Short Story Excerpt)

January 18, 2017

1.

January 17th, 2008.
Seattle, Washington.
11:23 p.m.

Here I sit in a dingy lil’ diner on Capitol Hill, a half-smoked cigarette in one hand, an a cup uh steamin’ hot coffee in front uh me. The place—Cassie’s it’s called—ain’t too bad. It’s got decent coffee; not the gourmet shit ya find on every fuckin’ corner round here, but I’ve had worse. The food’s alright, ’cept the goddamn cooks bathe everythin’ on the grill in margarine. Cassie’s is one uh five restaurants in the Seattle-metro area that’re open twenty-four hours, an it’s the cheapest. I guess that’s why I go there. It sure as fuck ain’t for the service or the atmosphere.

I take a sip uh my coffee an look at my watch.

Almost time to go meet Pat.

2.

Man, last night was bad. I met up with this sweet lil’ honey round nine o’clock. Rhonda. Short, dark hair, big titties. Nice gal, for a junkie. She got hit by a car last year an fin’ly got her settlement. Been partyin’ her ass off ever since. Last night, so happens, she wanted to party. And since she had the dope, I damn sure had the time.

Now, there’s a few girls in the picture, but suffice to say that lately I ain’t too keen on junkie-pussy. I just go to work, come home, an do what I gotta do to feed my habit. But Rhonda, she likes to fuck, an she’s gotta way uh gettin’ what she wants. Dumb broad wouldn’t give me a taste ’less I got it up an kept it up. So I did what I could, thinkin’ bout those other girls to get revved up, an we was goin’ half the night.

That’s why I slept all goddamn day.

Man, I feel pretty shitty…woke up just as the sun was goin’ down an snorted the last uh my stash. I pushed off for a lil’ while, then came back to life only to find my nose was bleedin’. Got blood all over my goddamn couch, too. I came down pretty fuckin’ hard but I got through it alright. My head’s killin’ me, though. Feels like a fuckin’ jackhammer in the middle uh my brain.

Shit, least my hands aren’t shakin’ anymore.

3.

I look round an the scene’s fairly typical. Just a few people in here, most uh’m loners like me. I insisted on sittin’ in the rear corner booth, my favorite spot, even though the light above the table’s broken. Hell, I like it better that way.

Kinda like hidin’ in the shadows like some villain in a bad movie.

The waitress walks past without lookin’ over an it pisses me off a lil’. Her name’s Lisa. Skinny lil’ girl, but she’s gotta nice shape to her. I wouldn’t mind hangin’ out with her even though she’s got that freaky Capitol Hill vibe. Piercin’s all over her face, tattoos everywhere, red streak in her hair, all that shit. She’s got yin-yang symbols in red ink on the inside uh her forearms, an for some reason that turns me on. She walks by again an I stare right at her tight lil’ ass. I don’t give a shit if she catches me or not. I’ll bet she fucks better’n Rhonda, an she ain’t no junkie.

So I watch Lisa for a bit, smokin’ an dreamin’, wishin’ I was someone else. Before I know it, my watch says: 11:29.

Time to get the fuck outta here.

My coffee’s still hot so I take three quick sips, slide outta the seat, an go to the register. Great. Lisa’s there. “Hi, sweetness,” I say as I stroll over.

She doesn’t even bother looking up—just asks what I had.

I tell her all I had was coffee, but in my mind I wanna shout: Coffee! Ya stupid bitch, cantcha remember coffee? But I don’t cause I’d still like to take her home one uh these nights.

“Oh, yeah,” she says, an rings it up.

I pay an throw her a buck for a tip. A whole buck, even though she only had to refill my goddamn cup one time. And she still doesn’t look up as she pockets the buck with a sarcastic, “Thanks.”

I turn to leave, but for some reason I just can’t let this shit go tonight. I really don’t have time for this broad’s attitude, but I tell myself: Fuck it, an put my hands down on the counter. I clear my throat an lean over the register, hopin’ to get her attention.

Lisa sighs real dramatic-like an says, “Is there anything else I can help you with?”

Goddamn, she sounds so young an snotty. Just makes me hornier. “Look, baby,” I say, “why don’t you an me go out for a drink sometime? You’re the cutest lil’ thing on Capitol Hill.”

Then I give her a wink an a smile for good measure.

She don’t say nothin’ for at least thirty seconds, maybe more, but I don’t budge. Then she looks up, an I’ll be damned if there ain’t a tear runnin’ down her cheek. For the first time she looks me square in the eye. Then she sticks out her right arm. She’s always wearin’ a leather collar on that arm, not with spikes, but lil’ metal studs on it. But it’s too wide for her skinny lil’ arm, makes it seem like some gauntlet from the dark ages. She unbuckles it an peels it off right there. I’m confused ’til she holds her wrist up to my face. At first, all I see are the reddish lines where the collar bites into her pale skin, but then I see what she wants me to see. Lil’ slash marks, crisscrossin’ from her wrist up to the edge of the yin-yang tattoo. They aren’t deep; just enough to bleed, I’d say. But they’re very fresh.

So what the hell do I say to that?

Exactly. Nothin’.

That’s when she says, “People like you are the reason I do this,” an runs away through the swingin’ door to the kitchen.

Shit, man. That ain’t what I wanted, but I ain’t got time for it, anyhow. Have to get movin’.

Sorry, Lisa.

4.

I step into the cold winter air an immedit’ly start to shiverin’. All I have on are these ragged ol’ blue jeans, this thin tee-shirt, an my black zip-up sweater. I’m also wearin’ a black beanie and gloves, but it’s still freezin’ ass cold. That damp kinda cold that I don’t like. It seeps into your bones an makes it feel like the fuckin’ marrow’s gonna freeze.

Anyhow, I head up the side street Cassie’s is on, take a left, an walk right in the middle uh the biggest freak show on this side uh the country: Broadway Avenue. What a fuckin’ treat. Used record stores, used book stores, used clothin’ stores; anythin’ someone didn’t want no more, ya can buy. Lots uh places to eat, too. Mexican. Thai. Hell, even Ethiopian. With all that shit, ya got college kids runnin’ round with their backpacks an cell phones, ya got guys in drag, dudes holdin’ hands, broads with facial hair, an some uh these fuckers look like they’re right outta some vampire movie—all pale an dressed in black.

An the bums. Fuck, there’s an asshole with a sign on every corner beggin’ for change. Every sign has some hard luck story on it, but don’t be fooled. They’re just a bunch uh tweakers like me.

Sure, I get high, too, but at least I got me a job.

I don’t really mind all that, though. What gets me are the smells. I’ll be strollin’ along an all the sudden—BAM!—I’ll get a big whiff uh some fucker ain’t bathed in a week. Or I’ll pass some corner they been pissin’ in all day. I even seen some uh those bastards takin’ a shit ‘longside the street.

Welcome to Broadway, baby.

Make ya self right at home.

5.

So, I’m headed downtown. Freeway Park; right next to the Convention Center to meet up with Pat. Interstate Five runs right by it. I guess that’s how the place got its name. Nice lil’ park, but too many bums like to camp out. I figure they’ll be there tonight, huddled up beneath the overpass, or over in the bushes. I ain’t worried bout em gettin’ in the way, though. Most uh’m’re piss drunk, passed out, an dead to the world.

Pat. I guess ya could say he’s a friend. But lemme tell ya how it really is with us junkies. We ain’t got no friends; just people we use, an people we use with. Pat’s a guy I use to get my stuff sometimes. I never use with him, though. The guy’s a fag an I ain’t gettin’ high with no fag. He asked me once if I’d let him suck my cock an I almost belted him, but I didn’t wanna lose him as a connection. I only go to him when it’s an emergency. When my usual guy ain’t got no blow on hand.

Tonight’s a lil’ different. Pat called me in for a favor. I norm’ly don’t get involved in this type uh shit, but I need the money an the blow. Pat gets good shit from this black kid, Shelton. Shelton’s only seventeen; just an errand boy for his older brother, who happens to be an up-an-comin’ dealer on the West Coast. Straight from L.A., apparen’ly.

Anyhow, Pat gotta meetin’ set up with Shelton tonight, only Shelton don’t know I’m gonna be there, too. Me an Pat’re gonna jack him an take his stash. I’m s’posed to get half the stash—enough to keep me wired like I was hooked up to a car battery for a week—an a hundred bucks to go along with it. Pat already has a bus ticket to Denver for tomorrow mornin’ so he’s got nothin’ to worry bout. He’ll be long gone by the time Shelton’s brother finds out. The kid’ll never even see me comin’ so I ain’t got nothin’ to worry bout, either. I am a lil’ nervous, though.

Shit can always go wrong.

I still wonder why Shelton’s brother would let him make a drop all by himself at this time uh night. But then again, Pat’s a big pussy. The kid prob’ly told his brother he could kick Pat’s ass with one hand tied behind his back. And he wouldn’ta been lyin’.

Sounds like a great setup, don’t it? But even so, I gotta ask myself: Why am I doin’ this? Hell, I don’t know. I need the money an I need the stuff, but that ain’t all. Maybe it’s the thrill, too. Maybe it’s just that once ya start doin’ shit ya never thought ya would, ya just keep goin’.

What’s next? I gotta wonder. Muggin’ people? Robbin’ houses? I’ve already sold everythin’ I own to feed my habit. And that’s really the bottom line. I need to feel that kick so bad I really could kill somebody. Maybe I’ve lost it. No sane person would do the shit I’m bout to do.

But, hey, what’s the worst that could happen? Shelton’s brother shows up an blows my head off? That really wouldn’t be so bad. This life’s turnin’ out to be a bunch uh bullshit, anyhow.

Fuck it.

I reach Seneca street just as the wind starts pickin’ up, an turn right.


“A Messy Divorce” is part of the collection: Living The Nightmare.

Available for digital download @ https://books2read.com/u/4NR629

Available in paperback through Amazon.com @ https://www.amazon.com/dp/1986415325

Thank you for reading!

JLR

As If Nothing Ever Happened (Short Story Excerpt)

January 17, 2017

December 26th, 2017.

Stark City, Oregon.

1:11 p.m.

“I don’t care who you are to anyone else,” he said, fists clenched at his side. Restraining himself. “You’re nothing to me anymore.”

She looked hurt. Once, she’d been the world to him; everything. His eyes sparkled when he looked at her. Now, his eyes looked hollow; reflecting something she couldn’t understand. “But…it’s been three years.”

“I don’t care if it’s been ten. Or a hundred. Or a thousand.”

They stood on the vaunted Stark City archway. Above them, the dismal sky threatened rain. Below them, Stark Boulevard pulsed like an artery through the heart of downtown. This chance meeting had ruined an otherwise mellow day. He’d seen her on the archway and averted his eyes, determined to pass without a word. But she’d called out to him in a jovial tone. Called his name and walked over to him.

Grinning.

As if nothing ever happened.

He exhaled. Not a sigh, but a sharp, sudden eruption. Almost a warning. Just the sight of her brought everything back.

All the angst.

All the anguish.

All the anger.

“Look,” she said, offering a conciliatory smile, “I’m sorry about how things ended between us.”

He glared at her. The her from his dark, sordid past. The her which almost every man has once known and left behind. The her he associates with pain.


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JLR

Epicenter (Short Story Excerpt)

January 19, 2016

author-1

September 1st, 2016.
Stark City, Oregon.
7:09 a.m.
On his way to the bus stop, Martin Jericho decided to have breakfast at The Stark City Cafe. The tired old man knew he’d been under constant surveillance since the last incident—which resulted in several broken windows—but refused to live his life like a hunted animal. Besides, it had been almost two years.
Just a quick bite before I go home, damnit. In public. Like a normal person.
Of course, the P.O.P. team in the van across the street wouldn’t be too thrilled, but Martin didn’t care. They could always deduct the cost of his meal from his next isolation check.
“Miss?” Martin asked for the third time, prompting the teenage hostess to raise her finger like a disapproving schoolmarm.
“We’re full right now. It’ll be at least a ten minute wait.”
Would it be asking too much for you to look up from your phone tablet or whatever it is while we talk?
“Alright.”
“Name and number of people in your party?”
“Jericho. Party of one.”
“Jericho, okay. You can wait over by the door.”
“Thank you.”
Sighing, Martin turned and walked to the waiting area. Two wooden benches faced the restaurant, both already taken by customers. Martin smiled. No one smiled back as Martin leant against the wall. Feeling self conscious, he reached into the front pocket of his gray parka and extracted a small book of classical poetry. Soothing, comforting; just what he needed.
Good old Longfellow…
All in all, Martin had a pretty good life. Not a life he’d ever envisioned for himself, but a decent one, nonetheless. He worked for the government as a nightwatchman downtown. He had his own office in an empty building surrounded by a chain-link, barbwire-topped fence. The place didn’t need a guard, which made it ideal for Martin. He didn’t even have to patrol the floors, though he often did for the exercise. From eleven at night to seven in the morning, Monday through Friday, Martin sat in his cozy office, reading or watching T.V. The P.O.P. paid him well for this and gave him premium insurance. At first, they’d insisted on giving Martin an armed escort to and from work each night. But after eighteen disaster-free months, Martin had begged for the autonomy to ride the bus like a grown, free man. Wanting to keep Martin content, the P.O.P. acquiesced. He’d earned it, they felt, and Martin agreed.
“Jericho, party of one. Table’s ready.”
Martin looked up, smiled, and walked toward the hostess.
“Hey, wait a minute!” a young woman called. “We’ve been waiting longer than that guy!”
Finger raised, the hostess looked past Martin. “Sorry, but this guy’s by himself. You have three people in your party, and a two-seater just opened up.”
“Well, give us the table and grab another chair from somewhere! It’s not rocket science!”
The hostess gave Martin a weary look. Embarrassed, Martin looked down.
“Just hold on. I’m sure a three-seater will be ready soon.”
The angry young woman snickered. “This is bullshit!”
“You don’t like it,” the hostess replied, “go to McDonald’s.” Then, to Martin, “Come on.”
“Thank you, miss,” Martin muttered, following the hostess through a maze of tables. Behind him, the young woman cussed and argued with her friends about whether or not to leave. But Martin hadn’t meant to cause any trouble, and wished the hostess would’ve given them the table instead.
Too late now, I guess.
Before this decent yet isolated life, Martin had lived an ideal one. He’d met and married his high school sweetheart, Alma Rankin, in Eugene, then moved to Stark City after Alma got hired as a librarian for the Stark County School District. Martin also worked for the school district as a bus driver. He and Alma loved children, and had two of their own. Dennis and Dianna, who both married in their twenties and blessed them with grandchildren. They’d lived in a beautiful brick house in the Dibert District, the children and grandchildren visited often, and their golden years had indeed seemed golden. Then Alma got sick, and the luster began to fade.
“Here ya go,” the hostess said, gesturing at a table in the middle of the restaurant.
“Thank you.”
The hostess didn’t reply as she plopped a menu down and walked away. Sighing, Martin peeled off his parka, draped it over the chair, and sat facing the entrance. Waiters and waitresses bustled around him. To his left sat a married couple; she heavyset and fussing with their three children, he sullen and cowed. One of the kids had smeared grape jelly all over her face, one had begun banging a fork on the table, and the third screamed for no apparent reason. Resisting the urge to smile at the parents, Martin looked away. He knew how they felt, but they didn’t seem too agreeable at the moment. To his right sat a couple in their thirties; both slender, well dressed, and somehow detached from their surroundings. The din of rattling silverware, idle banter, and smacking lips filled the cafe.
“Good morning. What’ll it be?”
Martin looked up to see a thin young man standing beside him. Flushed. Out of sorts. Pen and notebook in hand. Picking up the menu, Martin smiled.
“Hello. How are you this morning?”
“Busy.”
Martin’s smile faded. “Oh. I see. Well, I’ll start with coffee, please.”
“And for breakfast?”
“I just sat down, sir. I’ll need a minute.”
“Right.” Rolling his eyes, the waiter left.
Guess I’ll just order the special, whatever it is.
Feeling somewhat guilty, Martin set his menu aside and moved his cup to the edge of the table. Trying to make this harried young waiter’s life a little easier, whether he appreciated it or not. Ahead of Martin sat two large bearded men wearing dirty overalls. They looked like farmhands; mean and hungry in the soft light. Martin looked down, reached into his coat pocket.
“Okay, coffee…”
Martin smiled as the waiter began to pour. “Thank you, sir. I’ll have the breakfast special.”
“Sure.” The waiter didn’t make eye contact as he walked away.
Martin frowned at the table. This was a mistake, he decided, pulling a small, framed photo from the pocket. I should’ve just went home and made my own damn breakfast. Or sent the P.O.P guys to get me something. It’s not like they’d ever say no…
Martin stood the photo against the condiment rack. In it, Alma smiled, frozen in time at age thirty-one. Her hair hung in dark blonde curls, her blue eyes sparkled with delight. Remembering, Martin’s frown became a grin. Whenever he felt stressed or anxious, Martin either read poetry or gazed at Alma. It always helped, just as his doctors had assured him.
Good old Alma. Always there for me...
Gazing at his late wife, Martin warmed his hands around the steaming cup.
The world is so cold nowadays, Alma. People are too damn busy with their gizmos to just sit and talk anymore. And they can be so rude. It’s like they’ve forgotten how to be decent to each other...


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A revised version of “Epicenter” was featured in Empty Sink Publishing, Issue #18.

Read it here: http://emptysinkpublishing.com/fiction/epicenter/


“Epicenter” was reprinted by The Rye Whiskey Review @ http://ryethewhiskeyreview.blogspot.com/2018/06/epicenter-by-jesse-lynn-rucilez.html


Thank you for reading!

JLR

What Came Over Her (Short Story Excerpt)

September 2, 2015

author-1

1.

June 3rd, 2016.

Stark City, Oregon.

11:57 p.m.

Smiling, Wendy Marie Hunicutt stepped onto the pentagram. “Now it begins,” she whispered, sinking to her knees.

“Payback’s a bitch, Kara!”

The pale, flabby girl had drawn a crude circle on the floor in chalk. Within this circle, she’d drawn a five-pointed star. At each point of the star, she’d placed a small black candle. Five tiny flames now lit the empty room; flickering, twisting the darkness around Wendy’s naked body. The azure ring on her left hand glimmered in the soft light. The initials carved into the gold band read:

K.L.V.

“You’ve fucked with me for the last time!”

Kneeling in the star’s central pentagon, Wendy closed her eyes. Blood spurted from her wrists, splattering against her legs, pooling around her knees. The razor she’d used to slit her veins lay outside the circle, next to an open tome of ancient writing. Beneath the razor lay a portrait of Kara Vance. Blonde, dimpled, and buxom. The All-American High School Cheerleader Goddess. Her blue eyes had been slashed by the razor. Black candle wax hid her perfect smile.

“And now I’m free…”

Ignoring the hot sting in her forearms, Wendy concentrated, forming a vivid mental portrait of Kara. Her favorite portrait:

Kara, resplendent in her cheerleader uniform, falling from a great height. Hurtling into darkness.

Crying.

Shrieking.

Thrashing.

All the way to her death.

I’m gonna make you suffer worse than I ever have!

Still, Wendy’s blood spurted. Her jaw quivered. Gooseflesh rose on her arms and legs. Beginning to feel faint, she bit down hard, took a deep breath, and began her ominous chant:

Possideo

The memory of that fateful first encounter resurfaced. Walking into the Robert Sloan High School cafeteria for the first time. Seeing Kara Vance, daughter of Stark City Councilman, Kirk Vance, in the flesh. Everyone knew Kara. Everyone wanted to be her friend. There’d been an empty spot at Kara’s table, and Wendy had committed the sin of sitting down, and the mortal sin of speaking to her.

“Why are you talking to me?” Kara had asked, much to the delight of her squealing sophomore posse. “You’re freshman trash. Even worse, you’re Meyer trash. We live in Hinckley, honey. Our parents can buy and sell your parents…”

Then came the laughter. Brutal. Haunting. Unrelenting.

“Deleo

Nude, bleeding, bathed in candlelight, Wendy remembered the utter confusion, anger, and shame as complete strangers ridiculed her. People she hadn’t harmed…people she didn’t even know.

“Supero…

And from there, everything escalated.

“Possideo…”

Dirty notes on her locker. Insulting texts to her phone. Obscene messages on her Facebook page. The unfortunate nickname: Windy Huni-cunt.

“Deleo…”

Condescending looks in the halls. Snide remarks in class. Prank phone calls in the middle of the night.

“Supero…”

Threats. Shoves. Bubblegum in her hair. Key marks on her mother’s car the first and last time Wendy drove it to school.

“Possideo…

The time three friends of Kara’s friends—since Kara’s posse would never sully their own hands—jumped Wendy in the bathroom, resulting in a black eye, bruised ribs, and a sprained ankle.

“Deleo…

And the rumors. The filthy, vicious rumors. The least cruel being that Wendy had blown several of her male teachers for passing grades. The worst being that she’d molested a boy she’d once babysat.

“Supero…

Dying, Wendy recalled how at first her parents hadn’t believed her. How they’d told her that everyone deals with bullying at some point, and to tough it out. But when the abuse became undeniable, they’d gotten involved. Or tried to, at least. The teachers, the principal, the entire school system; no one could help.

Maybe they just didn’t want to.

“Possideo

Changing their landline had gotten their house egged. Getting a new phone increased the online harassment. Shutting down her Facebook caused a bag of dog shit to appear in her locker. Kara and her friends just created a fake Windy Huni-cunt profile, anyway. And there they posted the vilest messages and pictures the real Wendy had ever seen.

“Deleo

For three years, Wendy has endured this torment. Three long, miserable years.

“Supero

With no end of suffering in sight.

“Possideo

Three times she’d applied for a school transfer, and three times she’d been refused due to overcrowding.

“Deleo

And lest she take comfort in the fact that her last year at Robert Sloan would be Kara-free, Wendy received an anonymous typewritten note in her backpack:

Dear Ms. Huni-cunt,

Don’t think for a second that just because someone graduates their influence can’t be felt.

Good luck in your senior year.

Sincerely,

A Friend

“Supero

Thus, hopeless, harrowed, and untouched by any boy she’d ever liked, Wendy Hunicutt came to this abandoned boathouse overlooking Stark Reservoir, armed with a book, a razor, and a raging thirst for vengeance.

“Possideo…deleo…supero…

And there, at last, Wendy found peace…

Read “What Came Over Her” compliments of The Abyss E-zine @ http://theabyssmag.blogspot.com/2018/07/what-came-over-her-by-jesse-lynn-rucilez.html


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JLR

Driftwood (Short Story)

March 13, 2015

March 4th, 2016.
Stark City, Oregon.
7:33 a.m.

Last night, Lareyn fell asleep with her hand on my back. Lareyn, of course, is my wife. My beautiful, elegant, gracious wife. I say this as if I’m just now finding out how beautiful, elegant, and gracious she is; as if I’d somehow forgotten and have only begun to remember. Well, rest assured, I have always known. Since the first time I looked into the bewitching pools of her eyes, since I first heard her sultry voice, I have known. But I must now confess to at times being a rather dense man, easily distracted, which causes this knowledge to lose its way. Like lonesome driftwood upon a frothing sea. Simply put–and much to my discredit–my appreciation often wanes for my dear, tender wife. I can, at least, honestly say that I’ve never neglected Lareyn, nor have I ever treated her badly. It’s just that I don’t always express my admiration for her as much as she deserves.

In this respect, I suppose, I’m a typical husband.

But last night…that hand. Her hand. My wife’s warm, gentle, reassuring hand upon my back. The simplest of gestures, which nonetheless brought my regard for Lareyn back to the fore–not just of my brain, but of my very being. Do you know that mental contraction you feel when something or someone you see and experience every day suddenly seems brand new? Like a picture with a new frame, an orchestra with a new conductor? Well, that’s what I felt last night. That’s what I feel right now. That’s what compels me to write these words.

Once again, my view of Lareyn has sharpened, narrowed, and I feel the same way I did the night we first met. Only now my appreciation is tinged with nostalgia; a deep layer of warmth and intimacy which spans two decades.

What can I say?

The driftwood has returned to shore, and I love my wife.

I love Lareyn as she lays on our sofa in the den of our home, still asleep, curled up on her side. Her dark hair tangled around her soft cheeks. A slight smile on her lips as if she’s in the midst of some contented dream. Sunlight streams from the window above our sofa, giving her olive skin an angelic glow. During the night, Lareyn must’ve gotten up and slipped off the thin black skirt which now lies on the carpet. One bare leg has slid from beneath the blanket, revealing her shapely and manicured foot. If only she could see herself lying there through my eyes. Then, Lareyn would understand the true meaning of beauty.

Ah, if only…

Our get together last night was nothing special. Just a few friends who’d come over for dinner, drinks, and relaxation. Lareyn had wanted to cook, but I insisted on ordering takeout. Had a craving for Indian cuisine, and felt Lareyn deserved a night off. Our friends arrived in due time, and I opened a bottle of Pinot Noir to go with the curried feast. One of our guests brought homemade cheesecake, which topped everything off nicely.

After dessert, Lareyn and I cleared the coffee table and set up the Monopoly board. The game lasted well into the night, with Lareyn going bankrupt second. She didn’t seem to mind, though, and curled up beside me as I continued to roll the dice and renovate property. Around ten o’clock, two of our friends left, leaving a merry band of five. Shortly thereafter, Lareyn leant back, closed her bewitching eyes, and drifted off. Her hand, which she’d slipped under my shirt to massage my lower back, became still…but didn’t fall away. As if some part of her, though fast asleep, still craved to be in contact with her husband. Of course, I was in the midst of a financial battle with three of our friends, and couldn’t let on how touched I felt at that moment; how I relished the warmth of her soft, unmoving hand. It was with a heavy heart that I rose an hour later to hug two more friends goodbye, then sat back down to finish the game. It had come down to me and a bright young man named Mark, whom I work with.

The spot on my back where Lareyn’s hand had been tingled and felt naked, and I craved its return. But I soldiered through the rest of the game with the proverbial stiff upper lip.

Well, Mark finally won when I had the misfortune of landing on three of his highest priced properties in a row. But he was gracious in victory, and left quietly so as not to disturb Lareyn. For that, I was grateful, and returned from seeing Mark outside with a growing sense of desire for the beautiful creature lying before me. For a moment, I pondered waking Lareyn to make love, but decided against it. That would’ve been selfish. So I just sat there for a long while, admiring her in the bright moonlight. She lay so still, so calm, so comfortable. Her earrings sparkled. Her lips glistened.

Finally, I began to nod off myself.

Now, a decision had to be made. Though I longed for the warmth and solace of our bed, I also longed for the warmth and solace of my wife. To have the best of both worlds, I would’ve had to rouse Lareyn, thereby ruining her tranquility. That, I could not do. So I slipped upstairs, peeled our comforter from our bed, and returned to the den. Lareyn hadn’t moved, and looked more gorgeous than I could ever remember.

Outside, it was cold. Inside, it was perfect. I stripped to my boxers, left my socks on, and draped the comforter over us. I confess that the couch barely contained us, but I held Lareyn close to prevent her from slipping off. Her soft flesh melted in my arms. Our breathing fell into a steady rhythm, and her scent–not her perfume, mind you, but the smell that is specifically Lareyn–left me more intoxicated that the wine ever could.

And that’s how I fell asleep last night. With my wife, Lareyn, in my loving embrace. A satisfied grin on my face. Tears pricking my eyes from the memory of her hand upon my back. I did not dream, and it was the best sleep I’ve had in years.

When I woke, Lareyn was still in my arms; exactly where I wanted her. Reluctantly, I rose and stretched in the morning light. A slight chill pervaded our home, but it felt refreshing. I don’t work today, so I took my time brewing a pot of coffee and making ready everything I’ll need to cook. When Lareyn wakes, I’ll surprise her with a long kiss, a steaming cup, and the declaration that breakfast will be served shortly. If all goes to plan, we’ll spend most of our day on the sofa, laughing, loving, and dozing.

A perfect day.

But for now…

For now, I’m content to sit here. Just sit and write and gaze upon Lareyn. My beautiful, elegant, gracious wife. Lareyn, who is also my life. My love. My heartbeat. I’ll sit and watch over her until she awakens. ’Til then, there’s no place I’d rather be.

What can I say?

The driftwood has returned to shore, and I love my wife.

–March 12th, 2015


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