Archive for short story

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.

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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.

Always Around

Posted in Sad with tags , , , , , , , on January 25, 2014 by stantonmccaffery

Image

 

(Very Short Story)

Little Dorothy sat in the car next to Uncle Edward on the ride back to his home, where she would be living now that her parents were dead. She said nothing during their funeral, but now had something on her mind.

“Mother and Father will always be with me.”

Edward turned his head, a little surprised. “Yes,” he said, “that is right, Dorothy.” He looked back at the road.

Dorothy continued speaking while she looked down at the frills on her dress. “They will be in the air and the ground and the trees and in everything. That is what Mother said.”

Edward pulled the car into his driveway and looked back at Dorothy when he stopped the car. “Okay, time to go inside.”

Dorothy was shown to her new room. It had a large window that overlooked a park across the street. The park had a neatly trimmed lawn and many tall old trees. Dorothy stood at the sill and stared at the park all afternoon until she was called downstairs for suppertime.

Together, Edward and his niece ate meatloaf at the kitchen table. Dorothy missed her mother’s meatloaf. She missed the sound her father made when he ate it.

“Do you like your new room?” asked Edward.

Dorothy nodded her head. “Yes,” she answered, “I do, Uncle Edward.”

“That’s a good girl. Now, go wash up and get ready for bed.”

As the sun started to rise the next morning, Dorothy lay with her head on the pillow, her new pillow. It was soft and it was clean. But it didn’t smell like her pillow and it didn’t feel like her pillow. She missed her bed too. She wanted to be in her old room, living her old life. Her mother said they would always be with her, but she couldn’t see her around and couldn’t feel her in the air.

She sat up. Maybe she could feel her parents outside, with the trees and the fresh air. She put her feet on the ground and, in her night-gown, walked downstairs and outside. She walked across the street with the cold early morning air teasing goose bumps out of her skin. She walked to the biggest tree she could find.

Edward went to wake Dorothy for morning oatmeal and found her bed empty, but still warm. The door to the bathroom was open, so he peeked inside: she wasn’t there. He quickly checked all the other rooms. Then he looked out the front window and saw a small figure over in the park across the stree. He ran outside in his bathrobe and slippers.

“Dorothy! Honey, what are you doing?”

Dorothy turned around and looked at her uncle. “I want Mother and Father.” Her eyes were wet and pink with tears. Her bare feet were dirty.

Edward ran to her and picked her up. He put his hand on the top of her hair; it was damp from the morning fog.

“I know. I know.”

Edward stood holding her for a minute, rocking her gently back and forth, and thought about what she had said on their way home from the funeral. He looked up at the trees and wondered about his sister and her husband.

Machinations of the God-Like

Posted in Horror Fiction, Works Published Elsewhere with tags , , , , , on November 25, 2013 by stantonmccaffery

Excerpts. The full story was published on Schlock Webzine and can be found here: http://www.schlock.co.uk/pb/wp_426dc0be/wp_426dc0be.html.

“I’m writing from the city of Frankfurt, Kentucky, alone, far from any large body of water and far from the meddling influence of whales. I did not always despise whales. Indeed, for most of my life I wasn’t even aware of how they manipulate our free will. I considered them benign, majestic creatures. I believed the whaling traditions of 19th century New England to be excessive and barbaric. I now consider it a travesty that such whaling did not continue until every one of them was wiped from the planet.”

***

“Elena Peldritch, also hearing the shot, ran from her front door. When she entered the Peterson’s I heard an indescribable scream. It was a sound that belied what the poor woman saw. In that second I knew she had found the body of her dead son. I saw in my head his blood splattered on the white wall, spotted with white brain matter. A gun had accidentally gone off in his hands and sent a bullet through him.”

***

“Gradually, Abraham’s ideas and thoughts about the Cetaceans – as whales are called by experts – became more fantastic and bizarre. He said they were God-like. He’d read blogs claiming whales came from outer-space to inhabit the earth. God abandoned the earth, leaving it to them, not to mankind. There was a precedent for God trusting man to whales: the story of Jonah and the Whale in the Old Testament of the Bible.”

***

“When we came to Queequeg’s address, we found the door ajar. Abraham shouted hello, but since no answer was given, we entered uninvited. Inside, we found a dead man lying on the kitchen floor. His face was covered in fake tattoos that had been drawn on with black permanent marker. An old- fashioned harpoon was plunged through his chest. On the counter was a severed and shrunken human head.”

 

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.

The Tongue

Posted in Works Published Elsewhere with tags , , , , , on August 30, 2013 by stantonmccaffery

– Published on DeathThroes.net available here.