Archive for crime

I wrote a book. Does that make me a writer yet?

Posted in Crime fiction, Works Published Elsewhere with tags , , , , , on April 9, 2017 by stantonmccaffery

So after about a year and a half of writing and sending manuscripts, and begging people to read, and editing, and some procrastinating, I finished and published my first novel, Into the Ocean. It came out in March through New Pulp Press. (Check it out: https://www.amazon.com/Into-Ocean-Stanton-McCaffery/dp/1945734108/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491764844&sr=8-1&keywords=stanton+mccaffery).

Into the Ocean cover

I loved the process of writing this – though it was painful at times. I kept thinking throughout the thing that I was a moron for even trying to write a novel. I think the highpoint for the whole thing was learning that it would be published, but after that I have to be honest and say that it’s been a little anti-climactic. My life is completely the same after I had the book published as it was before. It’s probably naïve to expect anything else. Budding writers, keep this in mind.

All of this is to say – in case you didn’t know – that writing is really fucking hard and if you don’t find some intrinsic value in doing it there is absolutely no point. Every step of the way takes incredible amounts of effort and self-talk. It was an everyday struggle for me to convince myself that I should keep going and every day it was exhausting.

That’s just the self-doubt, which I found nearly crippling. The next thing is the damn time. I work…a lot. My wife works and we both try to be the best parents we can be to our son. Also in the time of Trump, I’ve tried to be a better activist and citizen. So, the writing time has lots of competition.

And that was just for the first novel. From my experience at least, it doesn’t get any goddamn easier. Actually, it gets harder. See, the first book was almost an experiment. I was like – in part of my self-talk, you see – just give it a shot, if it sucks it sucks. After all, it was my first time. That thought relieved some of the mental pressure.

But on the second book, no. I’ve made an outline and I have characters and I have a few chapters, but the thing just isn’t going anywhere. I don’t think the problem is the story. I think the problem is me. That whole this is an experiment thing isn’t working. I have to find something else. I keep thinking that this one has to be better than the first, which is slowing me down even more than normal.

Well, anyway, I’ve written a novel. If you’re reading this, it’d be really cool if you checked it out and let me know what you thought.

If you asked me what I was, I’m not sure yet that I’d say a writer, but I suppose that doesn’t matter. Does it?

-SM

The People at the Bottom

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2016 by stantonmccaffery

 

Shit I’ve Gotten Published Elsewhere

I had a fun story published this month on Out of the Gutter Online’s Flash Fiction Offensive called We Got a Winner.  For the first time I wrote a character based off of myself. I’ve read that that’s not recommended, but whatever, I had fun with it. I just sat at the computer and said to myself, ‘What would I do if?’ and the result is what you’ll find.

Now, the funny thing about this story is that although it’s about a guy going to the liquor store to buy a scratch-off, I’ve actually never bought one. But after reading the story, my wife went and bought me one. She actually got it for me for father’s day and said, “No matter what you’ll always be a winner to me.” You’ll understand that line more after you read the story. So, anyway, I play the scratch-off, and guess what, I win a hundred dollars off the thing. I wanted to go out and buy another one, but everyone tells me that was a total fluke.

Shit I’ve Watched

A friend of mine got me into an early screening of the horror film Don’t BreatheThis is a bit of a twist on your standard home invasion film. The invaders are the protagonists and the home-owner is the villain. Plus, there’s a totally warped third act that actually had me biting on my knuckles in the theater.

I’m typically more of a fan of horror films that are heavy on theme, message, and atmosphere, like The Witch or The Babadook, but I’ll enjoy a movie like this as long as it isn’t completely reliant on jump scares and offers the audience something new and creative. And this movie does that in spades. Trust me.

The one complaint that I’ve heard about the film is that the protagonists aren’t sympathetic, that the audience can’t invest in them because they’re sort of reprehensible people. I don’t think that’s the case. Certainly, one of the three robbers is pretty cold and unsympathetic, but for the other two, it was clear to me that they were doing what they were doing because they had to. One was doing it to get enough cash so her and her little sister could move away from their abusive mother and the other was doing it only because he had a crush on the girl and wanted to help her out.

I find myself on the side of unsympathetic protagonists a lot though, so maybe that says more about me than the movie.

Shit I’ve Listened To

I recently started listening to Drive-By Truckers. They’ve got a ton of good songs, a number of which have poetic socially conscious lyrics.

But nothing is as amazing as their newest song, What It Means. 

Here’s some of the lyrics:

Then I guess there was protesting
And some looting in some stores
And someone was reminded that
They ain’t called colored folks no more
I mean we try to be politically
Correct when we call names
But what’s the point of post-racial
When old prejudice remains?
And that guy who killed that kid
Down in Florida standing ground
Is free to beat up on his girlfriend
And wave his brand new gun around
While some kid is dead and buried
And laying in the ground
With a pocket full of skittles

Shit I’ve Read

People tell me all the time about books I should read. Sometimes I get around to reading them and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes it takes me a long, long time. Such was the case with the classic The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins. Not until someone let me borrow their copy did I actually get around to it. But I’m glad I did.

Now, with a lot of crime fiction, there’s a ton of characters and a ton going on. It’s mostly dialogue driven and the author doesn’t hold the reader’s hand. It’s easy to get lost. I had to read it twice to fully understand it. I’m okay with that though.I like books that I have to read twice in order to understand. They’re intriguing, like a puzzle.

The same went for the other book I read this past month, Donnybrook, by Frank Bill. Aside from having a ton of characters and a lot going on, Donnybrook is a violent book about people at the bottom, people who I always think are more interesting than people at the top. Maybe the same could be said about Donnybrook as has been said about Don’t Breathe, that the characters aren’t sympathetic, that they’re too violent, their actions too nefarious. I don’t think so. I also think that as readers, we should be challenged by authors to care about people that normally we wouldn’t consider or think twice about. In the case of Don’t Breathe it’s the home invaders and in the case of Donnybrook it’s the bare knuckle boxing meth head. If the point of reading fiction is to expand our empathy, then we need to read works with unsympathetic leads and characters.

Shit I’ve Been Thinking About/Politics

When I think about issues outside of my own life, I try as much as I can to think about the people on the bottom. It’s how I was raised. It’s part of the faith I grew up with. But also, it seems that few others do, particularly those with power.

Here’s an article from the New York Times about how little the poor have been mentioned in this year’s presidential election. I’m not convinced the New York Times cares too much about the poor either, but whatever.

As poverty continues to grow in the U.S. it seems to me like it’s something we should be talking more about, not something we should ignore like we always have in the past.

My hopes for this changing aren’t high. We had Bernie Sanders, but I’m skeptical the movement he helped to birth will continue. Movements inspired around elections don’t tend to survive them. I’m fearful that once we avoid the disaster that is Donald Trump, people will be complacent with whatever non-progress we get from Clinton. The status quo is indeed better than the regression we would get with Trump, but it’s not enough. Certainly not for the people on the bottom.

Anyway, I think about all this as I drive around my town and I see flags lowered at half staff. I’m not always sure who they’re lowered for, but I’m pretty sure they’re not lowered for the people killed by police. And they’re not lowered for people that died because they didn’t have health insurance and couldn’t afford whatever treatment they needed to treat whatever medical condition they had. They’re not lowered for the people at the bottom.

Broken Glass

Posted in Crime fiction with tags , , , on October 14, 2013 by stantonmccaffery

(Short Story)

 

John pressed the pedal to the floor, using so much pressure that the seams on his sneaker nearly exploded. Even his toes were flexing. He let off the gas suddenly and then stomped on it again as if he were trying to kill his Toyota. The car pulsed along the road in tune with his rage; tires screeching and begging for mercy.

His knuckles were as white as the pillow he wanted to smother his wife’s face with for spending all his money and sleeping with other men and the tips of his fingers pounded with blood. Every few seconds he took one hand off the wheel and pounded it on the dashboard. On his shoulders sat his angry head, spitting obscenities and saliva all over the window shield.

He sped along the main road, passed the liquor store and the Quick Check. People turned their heads to see who was driving so fast, like a goddamn maniac. He saw them look. He felt their stares on the back of his neck. Pesky mosquitoes. He flipped them the bird and told them all they could rot in a fiery Hell were they belonged.

He shook his head violently back and forth, flinging dandruff and loose hair around the car. He could feel the car rock with his bodies’ jerks and gyrations.

I’m being an asshole. That’s what he thought even though he barely knew he thought it. It was like a tiny quiver in the spaghetti bowl of his brain. All he was conscious of was the red steaming anger that boiled under his skin. All those bills, all that pressure. And he was the only one that cared. He’d had enough. He was gone. Done.

The light ahead turned red but he didn’t notice. He kept on flying. An eighteen-wheeler came through from the other side, itself speeding. Glass went into John’s eyes. His head cracked the side window and then swung to the other side. The seatbelt lacerated his neck and chest. The frame of the car crumpled like a cardboard box as the people John had just verbally assaulted stood with their mouths agape.

The eighteen-wheeler and the sedan screeched across the sidewalk into a light post. The metal post teetered for a second and then came crashing with all its weight onto the top of the truck. Ronnie jumped out with his fat belly exposed by a ripped shirt. He took off his mesh baseball hat to wipe the sweat out of his eyes. That’s when he saw the flames come out of that bastard’s hood.

“Stupid son of bitch,” he yelled. “You dumb motherfucker.”

He wanted to pummel John, and had every right to, but first he had to pull him from the wreckage before he burned alive. Like it or not, he had to do something or this prick and his crying family would be visiting him in his dreams for the rest of his life and he didn’t need more guilt weighing him down, not after his recent adventures at the rest area over in PA. He waddled quickly to the driver’s side door of the sedan.

“Oh Hell,” he spat.

The car was bent so obscenely that none of the doors would budge. Ronnie looked at broken window and the shards of glass. He took his shirt off and lined the rim of the door with it. He reached into the vehicle. John was out; didn’t respond. The metal of the crumpled car was starting to cook.

He picked up a piece of broken glass and used it to cut off the seatbelt. His hand was drenched in red. He grabbed John under the armpits and pulled as the plastic of the dashboard started to sizzle. The old T-shirt that Ronnie had draped over the door was little protection against the jagged sharp edges of the old window as he pulled John’s limp body over it. Deeps cuts were being carved into his flesh.

“Better than being roasted alive you asshole,” said Ronnie, exasperated.

He dragged John a good distance away from the burning metal, but not so far he couldn’t feel the heat. Despite that heat and the wounds he endured, Ronnie felt a little better than he had in days. He just saved somebody’s life. He probably saved somebody’s family too. That was good, because a few days ago he had taken somebody’s life and probably shattered their family too.

He was on the road that night about a week ago, as always. He wanted more coke. Shit, he needed it. Snorting that white candy was the only thing that kept him alive, even as it was killing him. He knew a dealer right outside of Easton but he had no cash. He spent it all on shit food and junk he didn’t need.

He was going to stick somebody up at knife point and shake them down for their wallet or purse.  That was it. He didn’t plan on killing anybody. But when that bitch called him a looser and laughed at him, he lost it. It was grade school all over again, like when the kids hiked up his underwear and called him fatty and spat in his lunch.

It was late, dark. He sat and waited in the truck when this girl, white and blonde, pulled up in her little Jetta and got out to take a pee. He crossed in front of her and held out his blade. He hand was shaking so bad. He hadn’t done something like this in years and even then he was with other guys, more experienced guys.

“You’re a loser,” said the girl in a sharp tone that made her words even more condescending. She was drunk and probably had experience being a cunt. “What is that a butter knife?”

“Just gimme your purse,” said Ronnie in a pathetic whisper.

“Go fuck yourself you fat worthless prick.” She looked up at his hat and then back down to his face. “Maybe when you learn how to be a little intimidating you can hold someone up, get some money, and buy yourself a better hat.”

She stepped around him and continued on to the bathroom.

“Fucking redneck,” she muttered while opening the bathroom door.

The fear and the wanting of the nose candy left Ronnie. All he felt was heat. The heat that made you do bad things and wake up with regrets.

He followed her into the ladies bathroom. When he came in she was bent over the sink and looking into a mirror, applying lipstick. Her thong hung out the back of her jeans. He walked so fast she didn’t even notice him come in. He had never walked so fast in his whole life because he was always so goddamn fat, but his anger and humiliation propelled him through his sickening fatness.

He put one hand on her back and grabbed her hair with the other. She dropped the lipstick onto the floor and reached back in a panic. She started to claw at his neck the second he started to slam her head into the mirror. Twenty-two times he smashed her into it. That sounds like a lot, but to Ronnie, who didn’t feel like he was in his own body at the moment, it wasn’t. He felt like he could keep going. He enjoyed watching the broken glass cut her pretty face.

He didn’t fully regret it until he sat on the sidewalk next to the car wreck with John laid out on a stretcher in an ambulance across the street. The cop that asked him what happened said he was a hero. The bystanders said the same thing. He didn’t feel like a hero. He felt like a redneck piece of trash.

Some People Don’t Understand Common Fucking Decency

Posted in Crime fiction with tags , , , , , , , on September 25, 2013 by stantonmccaffery

Short Story

“Can you sit somewhere else, please?” asked the man.

His arms were folded and he sat bunched up uncomfortably against the wall of the train.

“Why?” said the woman, who didn’t realize she had cream-cheese dangling from her mouth. “I…I don’t understand.”

“You see,” he said, tight-faced, looking straight ahead instead of at the woman, “You’re simply too fat. The sight of you is unsettling.”

She gasped in shock.

“Oh it’s not only that,” he said. He turned his head to face her and continued. “Your thighs, they are touching mine and I really don’t care for that. I don’t care for that at all.” He pursed his lips. “I need you to get up and find another seat.”

“The train’s crowded,” she said, as if this was a man who would listen to reason. “There are no other seats.”

“Stand then. It will do your fat ass some good, but listen, I don’t care if you lay down in the aisle, you’re going to get the fuck away from me right now.”

She turned red. “No, you don’t own this train. You don’t own this train.”

The sound of the train’s brakes screeching could be heard overhead.

“I don’t know why you think you can speak to another person like that,” she said. She started to wag her finger in the man’s face. “But you can’t. I’m staying right..”

Crack.

That was the sound of her nose breaking when the man hammer fisted her face.

Thud.

That was the sound of her falling to the floor when he pushed her off of the seat and into the aisle.

He stood over her and yelled to the other passengers on the train. “Some people don’t understand common fucking decency.”

He stepped over her bloody face and walked to the train’s opening doors and got out.

Why You Shouldn’t Bully a Fish Expert

Posted in Crime fiction with tags , , , , , on August 22, 2013 by stantonmccaffery

Ronnie was an eleven year-old boy who was obsessed with fish. He was not only a member of Fish Experts International; he was the President of the local chapter. He wore fish tee-shirts, fish shorts, and fish sox, every day. He knew the name, breeding ritual, and diet of every fish on earth.

Because of his nerdery, he had to take what he could get when it came to friends his age, even if one such friend named Harvey wasn’t particularly nice to him. Harvey would punch Ronnie unexpectedly for no reason, steal his lunch money while Ronnie wasn’t looking and then deny it, and tell hurtful untruths about him to girls at school. Ronnie put up with it because Harvey allowed him to say they were friends, and, at age eleven, being abused seems more bearable than being friendless.

After months of wedgies and humiliating rumors however, Ronnie’s feelings on the value of Harvey’s “friendship” began to change. Maybe the shame of being a lone wolf was easier to handle?

The last straw came over the summer when they were riding their mountain bikes in the woods, near the pond. Harvey asked Ronnie if he could see his bike.

“Just for a sec,” he pleaded.

Ronnie acquiesced. In the blink of an eye, Harvey rolled the bike forcefully into the lake. Ronnie gave out a pathetic whimper and he was ashamed of the sound as soon as he heard it. Harvey cackled insanely and sped off on his own bike, leaving Ronnie to retrieve his from the middle of the fetid, stagnant water. Ronnie may have had a fondness for fish and all other things aquatic, but the walk into the lake made him boil with rage from the inside. He’d been fooled. For the last time.

When he got home, wet and enraged, he went online and requested the assistance of his associates from Fish Experts International. He told them his plight and easily enrolled them in his plot for vengeance. Specifically, he contracted the services of members who worked for the Brazilian Forestry Service, Virgin Airlines, ICE, the FAA, and UPS. They’d get him what he needed and make sure the law didn’t interfere.

Less than a week later, a package arrived at his doorstep.

“It’s another fish, honey,” said his mom, lovingly. It was.

That night he went to the pond in the woods, opened the box, and slid out the tank from within. A fish no larger than a juvenile sun fish swam innocently inside. He popped the top and dumped it in the water. He knew what kind of fish it was and he knew what it was capable of doing. He didn’t know that the fish came carrying a passenger, a stow-away.

The next day, just as Ronnie had guessed, he and Harvey went to the lake. It was the only place Harvey could smoke the cigarette’s he’d lifted from his mother’s nightstand without being spotted.

“You’re a pussy,” blurted Ronnie, out of nowhere.

Harvey stammered at first and then punched Ronnie square in the nose.

“What’s wrong with you?” said Harvey. “Don’t call me a pussy!”

Ronnie whipped the blood from his face. “I won’t call you a pussy if you prove to me that you’re not a pussy,” he retorted.

“Fine,” shot Harvey. “What do I need to do?”

“Strip naked and swim to the middle of the pond,” said Ronnie.

“That’s it. Yeah, whatever. Fine.”

Harvey pulled off his shirt, flung off his shoes and socks and took off his pants and underwear. He plunged head first into the pond. He reached the approximate middle and turned to look at Ronnie. He raised his hands over his head as a gesture of triumph. He was about to say something when suddenly he froze and stuck his hands under water. He went pale.

Ronnie could see his arm muscles flexing. He gave a feigned look of terror and surprise.

Harvey was struggling to pull off the fish. Through the murkiness of the water he could see the creature chewing on one of his testicles. He panicked and tore it from his manhood. He pulled the fish above water and held it adjacent to his face. The fish had strong teeth that looked like human molars. Harvey screamed and the fish opened its mouth. Out shot a termite-looking parasite that clung to Harvey’s face. It began to chew vigorously on his nose.

When the blood started to fly, Ronnie knew he succeeded. He ran  away and cackled just like Harvey had done when he pushed Ronnie’s bike into the very same pond.

*The fish in this story is not fictional. There is a fish native to South America called the Pacu that has been known to attack skinny-dipper’s testicles. The Pacu often has a termite-looking parasite living inside its mouth.Image

Don’t Dogs Do the Strangest Things?

Posted in Crime fiction, Horror Fiction with tags , , , , , on August 20, 2013 by stantonmccaffery

Their second day in the house was when she found the skulls.

17 Brian Street had been on the market for two years before John and Susan Myers moved in. With the depressed credit market, it was hard for them to get a mortgage. They persisted and eventually prevailed even if the neighborhood they moved into was a bit odd – there were cat ladies, women in moo moos that sat on their porches all day, and crazy men that cursed obscenities at the sky when it rained.

Susan didn’t care. She had her own home, and more importantly, she had her own yard. At last, she could garden without having to get approval from some stuck up nosey-ass landlord. The day after the closing, Susan woke up and went to Home Depot. She picked up shovels, trowels, a hoe, fertilizer, some flowery gardening gloves, and tomato seeds.

She sped home like a demon, put on her new gloves, got on her knees, and stuck the trowel into the ground. The soil smelled just like it should have, like dirt. She stirred it up. She smiled. Just when she had made the dirt soft enough to sift through her fingers, she stuck her hand into the ground. She hit something hard.

She tapped on it with her finger. It wasn’t a rock. She got her hand around it and pulled out a white, dirty oval. She brushed it off. It was a dog’s skull. A little creepy, but still quaint. Someone had loved their dog so much they buried them in their front yard to keep them close.

She shook her head and thought that even though she’d be disturbing someone else’s memories, she had to dig up the rest of the skeleton. Her tomatoes wouldn’t grow with the dead dog there. What she pulled out of the ground next is what gave her the stroke. It was another skull, but this one didn’t belong to a dog. This one belonged to a human, an infant human.

The dog’s name was Farrah, but no one knew the baby’s name. Farrah’s owner Mitchell was the last person to see the baby before he buried it underground and even then it was already dead.

Mitchell was a drunk and beat Farrah daily, usually with a mop handle for peeing in the house. Farrah never attacked Mitchell, but she growled at him constantly and every once and a while during walks, she would come to a dead stop for no reason. She’d lock her legs and refuse to budge. She was a Doberman, and a strong Doberman.

One day, Farrah pulled this stunt on the way home from the liquor store. Mitchell had already guzzled his weight in alcohol before he went out to restock and didn’t have the strength to pull Farrah or the patience to try to persuade her to walk. He dropped the leash, told his dog she could find her own fucking way home, and walked away.

When Farrah came home she had a dead baby in her mouth. She was carrying it softly and hadn’t left even the tiniest tooth mark in its flesh. She rested the body on the front lawn and sat down next to it. She started to whimper.

When Mitchell saw what Farrah had brought home, he freaked. He tried to grab the baby and stuff it in a garbage bag but Farrah barked and twitched as if she’d contracted rabies. She lunged at his hand and showed her white dagger-like teeth and pink gums. Mitchell ran into the house and came back out with a shovel.

“Come here Farrah,” he said softly with the shovel behind him. “I’m sorry honey,” he said, alcohol steaming from his mouth.

With her head down she walked closer. When she was within an arm’s length, he came down hard on the top of her head. Her teeth crunched and her skull cracked. She bled from her eye sockets. He gave her a few more solid whacks to make sure she was dead.

He dug a deep hole and threw in the baby and then the dog.

“Some poor asshole is gonna go to dig a garden and give themselves a fuckin’ stroke,” he said.