Archive for flash

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.

Advertisements

Working and Breathing and Living and Dying

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 31, 2014 by stantonmccaffery

(Short Story)

You wake up in a tent and you can see soft puffs of your own breath floating above your sleeping bag.

Standing over you is your former boss just as you remember her, sipping on coffee and asking what you’ll be working on today.

You run out the tent because you can’t stand to be around the cunt for another fucking second, but when you get outside you step into a white void, oblivion. It’s not even curious blackness that you could wander and get lost in. You know too well the loneliness of this nothing.

You go back inside the tent because maybe being around that witch is better than dying alone, but she’s not there anymore because even she has found something else. Instead you’re joined by yet another former boss who tells you that you need to prove yourself if you want that raise you so richly deserve. That bastard, you think, he’s been here two fucking months and I’ve got five years on the job and a master’s degree. He can go to Hell, but then, then you realize he’s not their either. It’s just you and all you’ve got are some shitty memories of how hard you worked but how at the end of the day none of it mattered one iota.

This is terror.

 

Everyone has it

Posted in Horror Fiction with tags , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2014 by stantonmccaffery

I had the idea for this short piece while sitting in a doctor’s office for yet another case of poison ivy.

(Short Story)

He walked into the doctor’s office concealing his wounds with a sweatshirt despite the heat of the day. The waiting room was filled with other patients, all entranced by a T.V. positioned in the corner. When called forward by the receptionist he walked silently from the room without attracting any attention to himself.

His wounds were bubbling under his clothes. Only thin fabric hid his condition, which grew each second in size and pain. The pain of a public eye on his shame, he believed, would be even worse.

A nurse asked what brought him in and he responded by rolling up a small portion of his sleeve, showing her only the least offensive sign of his illness. The nurse reacted with pity and said the doctor would be in to see him shortly. She left and went to the bathroom to tend to her own wounds, also hidden from other’s eyes.

In a mirror in the room he inspected his face while he waited for the doctor, who was late because he was inspecting his own face in a mirror. The man held tightly the sides of the mirror and gritted his teeth instead of screaming just as the doctor did the same. When the doctor entered the room he too reacted with pity.

His injuries bubbled into one another as he waited for the doctor to return with a prescription. In seconds he became only one mass of sickness, no longer displaying any signs of life other than suffering. Soon, he evaporated. The doctor returned to an empty room.

The next patient called up by the receptionist concealed her unsightliness with a purple scarf on her neck and an extra layer of foundation on her face. She pulled back only an inch of her scarf to show the nurse why she made an appointment. As she waited for the doctor she too evaporated into only a fleeting memory.

Attendants of the man-eater

Posted in Horror Fiction with tags , , , , on March 18, 2014 by stantonmccaffery

The plane was a beast. The flight attendants its servants. The airport its lair, a façade used to lure prey.

Passengers are welcomed aboard daily and shown to their seats. Overhead compartments are filled and closed. An attendant displays the safety protocol and another smiles and greets the flight’s youngest passengers, asking the names of their stuffed animals.

A sound is heard; a deep rumble. The plane has finished digesting its last meal. The passengers believe it only to be the engine starting.

When the planes takes off a man pricks his finger on his seat and it starts to bleed. An attendant brings the man a band aid and says she has no idea what could have cut him. She lied. It was a tooth, the plane’s tooth.

Up high in the air, before the seatbelt lights come off, all the seats grow teeth. With its many mouths, the plane eats all the passengers. At 30,000 feet, only the attendants hear them scream.

Ah, the Power of Prayer

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 15, 2014 by stantonmccaffery

I wrote this little story on my train ride home.

-SM

Simon spent Thursday night praying to a God that he only occasionally believed in. Staring at the ceiling above his bed, he silently petitioned his deity to vanquish his enemies. He had a meeting with them in the morning and the thought of it lit his nerves with anxiety.

As he pulled out of his driveway on Friday morning, his hands shook on the steering wheel. He had to tighten his grip to make them stop. He arrived and stepped out of his car with his thoughts heavily occupied by the impending foreclosure of his home. When he looked up expecting to see his bank, he saw nothing but an empty lot. There was no rubble and there were no signs. It was like the bank had never been there at all.

He drove home and tried to call the banker that managed his account. An old lady answered and told him there had never been no fucking bank at this number. He half expected his house to vaporize around him, but it never did.

He spent Saturday in front of the TV in a daze while his wife took their children on errands. Sitting on the toilet in the afternoon, he broke out in tears. He wasn’t sure why. Was he relieved or was he scared?

On Sunday, Simon woke up early, put on his dress clothes that had been hanging untouched in his closet since he had been laid off and grabbed the car keys from the window-sill. His wife asked him where he was going and he told her he was going to church, to pray.

Into Hell

Posted in Horror Fiction with tags , , , , , on October 3, 2013 by stantonmccaffery

“I told you, I ain’t sellin’ and I ain’t movin’,” said Joe-John Watley, as he chewed on a scraggily piece of his unkempt grey beard. He sat on a rickety chair at his rickety kitchen table in his rickety shot-gun house. Across from him was the uneasy and uncomfortable Eugene Zansky, a mid-level representative from Walton Natural Gas.

“I ain’t gone sue ya neither, I ain’t like that,” Joe-John went on. “Way I see it is Lucifer got hisself thrown outta Heaven and inta Hell and now it’s you businessmen and lawyers that let him out to dwell on earth with us, and I ain’t dealing with neither of you no matter how much money you wave in frona me. You understand?”

As they spoke another tree not far from them was sucked into the earth. The dirt underneath fell away as well, into the abyss. Into Hell.

“Mr. Watley,” said Eugene, trying to sound polite, with one eye on his watch. “We will compensate you handsomely.” He paused and looked around at the four cracked walls surrounding him. “You can get yourself a new place to live.”

“Now you listen here,” said Joe-John as he slapped the table. His hand hit so hard some of the dirt crumbled out from under his finger nails. “This house has been in my family for generations and that means something to me. I worked off that river just as my father and grandfather did before you went and ruined it with your drillin’ and brought about that damn hole. I got nothing left, no livelihood, nothing but these walls and the ground underneath em’. And I ain’t leavin’. No sir Mr. Zansky. I am not.”

“Mr. Watley,” said Eugene. “I am going to leave my card with you. You think on it and give me a call.”

He pulled a business card out of his shirt pocket and put it face up across from Joe-John who picked it up without hesitation, crumpled it into a ball, and tossed it over his shoulder onto the floor.

“Nothing to think on,” he said. “Now nothin’ personal Mr. Zansky, but I’m done talkin’ with you so I believe you can show yourself out.”

“Okay,” said Eugene, with a sigh. He stood and walked a few feet to the front door. He didn’t even know why the hell the company had sent him here in the first place. The land would come out from underneath the old bastard anyway. They’d just drill into the remaining land from an angle , like the Iraqis did in Kuwait, back in ’91.

When he walked outside and closed the door behind him he teetered on the edge of the earth. The sinkhole must have grown another few miles wide while he was inside. He quickly took a step back. He’d have to walk around the little shack of a house to make his way back to his office.

When he turned around, with his foot in mid-step, a grey hand reached out from under the earth. It was dry and cracked and had dirty bone-looking finger nails. The hand grabbed the bottom of his pant leg and pulled so quickly Eugene didn’t even have time to scream. Once he was below ground, the demons, the ones unleashed by the gas drilling and the sinkhole that resulted, began to devour him alive, starting with his face.

© Stanton McCaffery, October 2013

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.