Authors: Buster Willoughby,Katherine Tomlinson,Justin Porter,Mike MacLean,Patrick J. Lambe,Mark E. Fitch,Nik Korpon,Jen Conley
These are works of fiction. Names, characters, corporations, institutions, organizations, events, or locales in the works are either the product of the author’s imagination or, if real, used fictitiously. The resemblance of any character to actual persons (living or dead) is entirely coincidental.
THUGLIT: Issue Two
Stories by the authors: ©Todd Robinson, ©Nik Korpon, ©Jen Conley, ©
cLean, ©Mark E. Fitch, ©Katherine Tomlinson, ©Justin Porter, ©
Patrick J. L
ambe, ©Buster Willoughby
Published by THUGLIT Publishing
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission of the Author(s).
Table of Contents
y Nik Korpon
by Jen Conley
Just Like Maria
by Marc E. Fitch
by Katherine Tomlinson
The Carriage Thieves
y Justin Porter
The Name Between the Talons
y Patrick J. Lambe
Spelled With a K
Hard Bounce Preview
Welcome back to Issue Two, where you may be reading this message from the graaaaaaaave! And the spookiness is only appropriate since not only is Halloween three days away, but NYC is getting ready for Hurricane Sandy—which, if were one to believe the forecast, is primed to give Manhattan a size-nine poopchute.
I’m just going to make sure that I’m not bending over to tie a loose shoelace when those 50mph winds hit the local Dildo Emporium. Fool me once…
Now that we’ve cleared out our rectal disfigurement/dildo joke of the month, let’s get down to bidness. And if you’re new to THUGLIT, welcome! We crack wise about violent gale-force anal play around here. To steal a grammatically horrible phrase from Lil’ Wayne, it’s how we do. Get used to it, or get the fuck gone, Mary Purepants.
IN THIS ISSUE OF THUGLIT:
Bigoted rednecks and sexual deviants! Two great tastes that…actually, those go terribly together.
Booo khaki! Booooo khaki!!! (Note: this is even funnier when you read the story. Trust me.)
Smoke and a pancake? Flapjack and a cigarette? Pipe upside your head?
BUS-ted! (Save your breath. I’ll just boo myself on that one. Fuck off,
be clever eight times an issue!)
Remember the VOTE OR DIE campaign? That shit ain’t so funny anymore.
She’s a blaaack magik wooooomaaaaaan! (apologies to Santana)
And the smack’s in the cradle and the greeeeasy spoon. (apologies to Harry Chapin)
Maaaariiiaaaa! That girl she looks just like Maaaria!!! (apologies to Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim)
And lastly, put your han
for our new Editor
Julie McCarron—THE BLUE DAHLIA! I know, some of you don’t have two good hands…at least one of you has flippers, so just smack together whatever it is you have dangling on the end of your arms for the lady. I’ve always said, a good editor will make you feel stupid. This comma-natrix makes me feel like I could star in an early 90’s feel-good drama with Patti LuPone playing my mother.
Figure it out.
SEE YOU IN SIXTY, FUCKOS!
Todd Robinson (Big Daddy Thug) 10/27/12
y Nik Korpon
Slumped against the counter of Reilly’s Deli, his hands pressing against the belly wound, trying to push the blood back in, Sal wasn’t thinking about much. Across the cracked tile floor, Reilly was piled against the wall, the bloody cleaver clutched in his purple hand and a bullet sunk in his forehead.
“Why did you start caring?” Sal yelled at Reilly.
He eased up the pressure on his stomach and tried to stand, but the blood kept coming and his head started swimming, so he fell back against the counter and closed his eyes, just concentrated on breathing. By now, Sal Junior and Mel should be almost to the tunnel, on their way to her folks’ place on the shore. He hoped those two idiots actually took the tunnel and not been cheap and tried to save a couple bucks by cutting through the city. Lord knows traffic on Lombard would be murder around this time.
The breeze blew through the hole in front door, broken glass glittered with splashes of red. A couple bills fluttered across the floor. Sal dropped his heel on one, pulled it toward him and shoved it in his pocket. He lifted his foot to snag another when a twinkle caught his eye. Dragging himself forward, he flung out his hand and picked up the twinkle. A gold chain hung between his finger and thumb, a Star of David dangling in the center.
Sal swallowed hard, felt the darkness spread through his skull. Dead or not, he wouldn’t let Reilly see him cry.
They’d knocked on his door as he was getting ready for work, cutting the crust off his bologna sandwich. Junior sported an eye like an eggplant left out in the sun. His little girlfriend seemed unscathed but rattled.
“I’ve invited you for dinner before.” Sal pointed at the eye, looked at the girl. “You didn’t need to clock him for an excuse to come over.”
“We need help.” Junior’s knees wobbled.
“That much, I can see.” He checked his watch, then pushed the door open and let them in.
The girl—it was either Lori or Sandy, Sal couldn’t remember which—helped Junior down on the couch, swung his feet up without taking off his shoes. Sal pulled a bag of frozen peas from the yellowed fridge, tossed it to the girl. He poured the dregs of coffee into his mug, blew off the steam and took a sip. It’d been sitting on the burner for a good three hours and was stiff enough to beat a dog with. He dropped two apples into the paper bag with his sandwich and wrote SAL in huge letters with several underscores. Just in case anyone was confused as to whose lunch it was.
Sal notched the handle of his mug behind the nub where his ring finger had been, went into the living room and took a seat on the coffee table beside his son and the girl.
“So,” he said.
“You got any more of that coffee?” she said. There was the ghost of a scab on her lip.
“Sal, be cool. You know Mel.”
“No.” He tipped his mug to Mel, thinking he’d apparently missed a girlfriend or two. “But thank you.”
The girl turned her attention back to her injured boyfriend, adjusting the frozen vegetables and whispering reassurances to him.
“Look, I’ve got work in fifteen minutes. You want to help me out here?”
Mel started to speak but Junior grabbed her hand. “We got into some trouble.”
“You’ve said that.”
Junior worked his way up to his elbows, dragging the soles of his tennis shoes over the ratty upholstery. Sal leaned over and brushed off the dirt.
“There’s some guys—”
“Are,” Sal said.
“There are some guys who want money and we don’t have it.”
Sal sipped his coffee. “Is it their money?”
The two looked at each other.
“Okay. Is this Pimlico money or corner money?”
Junior blurted horses almost before Sal could finish his sentence. “I’m sorry, Sal. I didn’t want to come over like this but I didn’t know what else to do.”
Raising himself from the coffee table, Sal smoothed the wrinkles out of his wool work pants and went to put his mug in the kitchen sink. He picked up his bag-lunch and returned to the two on the couch.
“I’d suggest you give them back their money before they bruise up the rest of you.” He pointed at the bag on Junior’s face. “Those are for dinner so make sure you put them back in the freezer when you leave.”
A cold hand grabbed his. He looked down at the girl’s face. Her eyes shimmered, the frigid little hand trembling in his.
“Please, Mister Sal.” Junior tried to shush her but she ignored him. “Mister Harry said he’ll kill us if we don’t bring him something.”
The paper bag crinkled in his hands. He exhaled until he thought his lungs would collapse.
“So give him what you owe or give him back his product.”
They looked at each other. Sal wanted to punch both of them in the face.
“Empty your pockets.”
She dropped some change, two bobby-pins, a stained filter and a crumpled Lotto ticket on the table.
He pointed at Junior. “You too.”
A pack of USA menthols and a parking ticket were all he had. Interesting, as Sal couldn’t remember him owning a car in at least two years.
Sal picked up the cigarettes, tapped them in his palm, then peeled back the lid, his eyes never leaving Junior’s. Inside the box, only three loose smokes and a pink lighter. No straws, no glass tubes, no folded foil.
“I’ve got fifty on me.”
Sal laughed and tossed the pack on Junior’s lap. “I’ve got to go.”
It wasn’t so much the handle that’d been dormant for so many years, the title Junior hadn’t used since the night his mother ran out of the house to go to the bar, drinking away the thought of her husband who’d made her so angry with his unexplained comings-and-goings that she had to have another three tequilas before facing him again, the tequilas blurring together white headlights and yellow dividing lines and red lights and turning them all into a shape that the responding officer said looked like balled-up paper but made of metal and glass. No, it wasn’t the three letters D-A-D that cut through Sal, but the way he said it. That desperate plea, that bone-deep pain, that tone he hadn’t heard since they’d exchanged words over her casket.
“Dad,” Junior said again. “I’m scared. Please.”
Sal took another few breaths while looking down at his son, that name still vibrating through him. Mel moved her legs aside when he knelt beside the couch.
“You should know I stopped all that foolishness years ago. Got myself a real gig.” He smoothed the collar of his shirt. “I’m a postman. I deliver letters and parcels. That’s it.”
Junior sniffed hard, wincing.
Sal stood again, laid his hand on his son’s shoulder.
“There’s brisket in the fridge if you’re hungry.”
Every stop on his route brought back images of Junior from the morning. Denny and Sons Glass Repair. Henry and Henry Plumbing. Sun House Florists. Hell, he even saw three businesses with Jenson he’d never noticed. When he passed by the officers scuttling around the liquor store on Conkling, he had to blink his eyes and double-take to make sure the yellow tape cordoning off the crime scene didn’t read Caution: Estranged Son. This is just getting ridiculous, Sal thought.
Sal’d almost wished his wife had died when Junior was only a year or two—before forming the cognitive processes to understand his father was a bad man, but not have them developed enough to navigate the intricacies of what constituted bad. Junior had always blamed his mother’s death on Sal and it didn’t matter how many times he’d explained it to the boy that his mother had an affinity for the bottle, it never made a difference to Junior. Dad yelled, Mom left, Mom died. Junior didn’t need to finish high school to make sense of such simple logic.
Sal gave a short wave as he opened the door to Reilly’s Deli. Ari stood behind the counter, wrapping a couple inches of peppered pastrami in butcher’s paper for a shrunken woman.
“What happened across the street?”
Ari shrugged. “Someone wanted to be a hero. It makes no sense, I say. I say, they come in, you give them money, you go home to your family.”
Sal dropped a clutch of envelopes bound with a rubber band on the counter. He smiled at the woman, who adjusted the kerchief around her head.
Sal could never discuss The Argument with Junior. She was planning on leaving him for a coworker at the phone company. Sal wasn’t furious at her infidelity, but at her breaking up his son’s family. He’d figured out how to coexist with her years ago and thought she should have the decency to do the same. When he told her this, she stormed out the door, saying she was going to The Pine Box to clear her head. Junior waited for her on the stairs for five hours and opened the door to an officer asking for Mr. Bleaker, instead of his mother.
“Why should a man give up what’s his to someone else?” Sal said.
“Because if you run your business right, there is always business. You run a gun wrong, there is no you.”
“Interesting business strategy.”
Ari handed the meat to the little woman and smiled goodbye. “Not business strategy, life strategy.”
He ducked into the display case, pulled out a knish and handed it to Sal.
“Many thanks, Ari.”
“You look hungry.”
Sal breathed a laugh. “Got a son who just moved back in with his girlfriend. Be surprised if I ever eat again.”
Ari pulled out four more, dropped them in a paper bag. “Always provide for your family, I say. Always.”
Sal tucked his mail
bag between his body and the payphone as he searched through his pockets for change. He dug at a piece of knish dough between his teeth, dropped some coins in the slot. Staring at the keypad, he couldnt bring the number to mind and had to close his eyes and point his finger in the air, dialing it more by rote action than actual memory.
He hoped Harry hadn’t changed the number in the last six years.
“Jones Auto Dealers.”
“Harry Jones,” Sal said. “It’s me.”
A rushing over the phone, a long exhale that could be laugh or sigh.
“Sal the fucking Beak,” Harry said. “Gimme five.”
“Just a figure of speech, Beak. Still sorry I had to do that but—”
“Cut the talk, Harry.” Sal looked around, lowered his voice. “What’s my son owe you?”
“Can you really put a number on everything?”
Sal could hear the smile in Harry’s voice and wanted to break the phone against his own forehead.
“Does this mean he’s using again?”
“It’s not the farmer’s job to know what his chickens are eating, just which ones are laying eggs and which ones are ready for the oven.”
The little woman from the deli passed by Sal and waved. He curved his mouth into a smile. “I need to take a marker on him.”
Harry’s laugh echoed in the phone. Sal could imagine his great belly rolling with each laugh.
“You know I’ll cover.”
“When you leave the life, you lose the privileges,” Harry said, aftershocks punctuating his voice. “And you left in spectacular fashion.”
“Harry, come on now—”
“You know how this works, Sal.” His voice dropped, the rounded contours of mocking laughs now folded into sharp corners. “And you know what happens.”
“Look, you fat son of a bitch. You put one greasy finger on him and I’ll chop your arm off and shove it up your own asshole. If I even see you on my fucking street, I will wrap you in chicken wire and toss your fat ass in the Chesapeake. Mark my words, you asshole motherfucker.” Sal’s chest heaved, his arms tingling, something unearthing itself deep within his guts, something hidden for years beneath blood and dirt and bile. “Harry, I will end you.”
All he heard was dial tone.
He opened the door to his row
home to labored breathing and a thin whistle. Junior was stretched across the couch with one leg thrown over the back and cupping Mel’s socked feet, Mel stretched the opposite way with her leg bracing against the ground to keep her from rolling off. Junior hadn’t had the decency to keep his socks on, but judging by the stains on the bottom of her socks, Sal called it even money.
He set his things on the kitchen table and crept to the bedroom. In the back of his closet sat a wooden panel, the access point for the bathroom’s plumbing. He set the panel aside and pulled out the shoebox from beneath copper piping. Half a dozen spots decorated the box top, probably from the pipes sweating.
Sitting down on the bed, Sal opened up the box, withdrew his Sig P220R and a knot of bills. He wiped the gun down with his shirt, running his finger over Don’t Tread on Me engraved into the barrel, the coiled snake carved in the handle. Been a long time since he held it, but muscle memory took over once it was in his grip. Fingers wrapped around it, he squinted an eye, aimed at his reflection in the mirror, clucked his tongue. He double-checked the mag and chambered a round.