Category Archives: Shotgun Honey

Short, Sharp Interview: Tom Pitts

american static

PDB: What’s going on?

Other than signs of the apocalypse flaring up in the headlines every day? I’m out there hitting the circuit, promoting my new novel American Static.

PDB: Do you listen to music when you work?

Fuck no! I can’t do it. I think perhaps I could when I was younger, but these days my attention span is terrible. I’ve been known to stuff toilet paper in my ears so I can focus. I see writer’s talking about playlists for their novels, and I think, wow, my playlist is silence. No, actually, mine is the dream of silence. I’ve got barking dogs, loud neighbors, sirens, and squealing tires.

PDB: What makes you laugh?

Just about anything. I’ve had a long history of whistling through the graveyard. Making the horrific hilarious is my favorite coping mechanism.  When they say laughter is the best medicine, they might as well say it’s the best opiate too.

PDB: What’s the best cure for a hangover?

Easy, more booze. Even as I write this I’m comforting myself with a medicinal beer.

PDB: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Hell of a question to answer honestly. I think right now that’d be L.A.. I’m doing my damnedest to bust into the movie business and it’s the only place to be for that. Christ, a San Franciscan admitting he wants to live in Los Angeles? They might throw me outta this town!

PDB: Do you have a bucket list? If so, what’s on it?

I don’t. I feel like a bucket list would only bring me closer to kicking the bucket.

PDB: What’s on the cards?

I’ve got two more novels edited and ready to submit. I guess I have sit down and start another. It’s been nearly a year since I’ve actually done any new writing—as opposed to editing and rewriting. I’m looking forward to getting lost in that world again.

tom pittsPDB: Anything else?

Yes, American Static. Buy it, love it, review it. And thanks, Paul. It’s always a pleasure.

Bio: Tom Pitts received his education on the streets of San Francisco. He remains there, working, writing, and trying to survive. He is the author of American Static (Down & Out Books) HUSTLE (Down & Out Books) and the novellas Piggyback (Snubnose Press) and Knuckleball (One Eye Press.) Find links to more of his work at: TomPittsAuthor.com

Submissions

Book submissions are currently open at ALL DUE RESPECT, the splendid publishers who’ve put out books by the likes of Rob Pierce, Paul Heatley, Eric Beetner, Marietta Miles, Alec Cizak, and even me.

They say:

Submissions are open. What we want: low-life literature. Criminals, thugs, douchebags, cheaters, gamblers, pickpockets, ne’er-do-wells, guns, cigarettes, bath salts, booze, beer, strippers, whores, wheelers, dealers, schemers, robbers, adulterers, embezzlers, loan sharks, losers, and lottery winners (who are, of course, losers).

All at 100 mph with the brake lines cut and a shitload of speed running through its veins.’

There’s more information HERE.

THE FLASH FICTION OFFENSIVE are looking for stories under 1000 words to publish at OUT OF THE GUTTER ONLINE.

‘We are looking for, as the old Gutter guidelines put it, “well-written, fucked up stuff.” This means nicely constructed stories in which things–that is, bad things–happen; stories that test boundaries and give readers something to think about while taking readers from A to B without getting lost.’

There’s more information HERE.

SHOTGUN HONEY are open for flash fiction and books submissions.

They say:

‘Since 2011, Shotgun Honey has been a steady outlet for crime, noir, and hard-boiled flash fiction. Our prominent website has featured over 400 writers and has published nearly a thousand stories all told within a mere 700 words. If you feel you have what it takes to beat our gauntlet of editors, submit your story today. We’re look something new and fresh, and we hope that it’ll come from you.

If you want to be part of our growing imprint and have a novella or short novel between 25,000 and 50,000 words, or a collection of short stories with a crime fiction slant, we want to read from you.’

There’s more information HERE. 

And you can find loads more submission calls at Sandra Seamans’ MY LITTLE CORNER.     

Keep It Simple. Keep It Short.

4 picsI think I’ve always liked singles more than LPs. Preferred the short, sharp burst of a 45 rpm vinyl to 33 and 1/3 rpm of a few decent tunes padded out with fillers. And maybe that’s why I was drawn to flash fiction.

I started off my crime writing ‘career’ – arf – submitting yarns to the late lamented Six Sentences website – short stories in just six sentences. Indeed, my first writing to appear in print was in the 6S volume 2 anthology.

Here’s an example of a 6S yarn:

A Cold Day in Helsinki

The January night had long since waned when Mika blasted Aki’s brains over the snow covered street, producing a more than passable Rorschach test. A murder of crows sliced through the whiteness as the purr of the passing motorcycle grew to a roar, masking the sound of the shotgun. When day eventually melted into night, the moon hung fat and gibbous, the bloodstains now black in the moonlight. Mika draped Aki’s cold, dead skin over his own pallid flesh as, shivering, he breathed in the scent of cheap aftershave, cigarettes and booze. Sour memories trampled over his thoughts with bloodstained feet. Together forever he rasped, as tears filled his bloodshot eyes.

Or:

Snap, Crackle & Pop! 

Snap went Larry’s index finger when Mo bent it back. Crackle went the cigar that Mo slammed into Larry’s face. Pop went the pistol that Mo shoved under Larry’s chin. Snap went the paparazzi when Mo was led into court. Crackle went the electric chair when Mo was sent to meet his maker. Pop went the champagne cork in Curly and Shemp’s hotel room.

And I’ve also enjoyed writing a few other forms of flash and micro fiction too, such as 6word stories a la Ernest Hemingway.

Quentin.

Blah blah. Bang bang. Ha ha.

Or there are stories limited to fifty words for magazines such as Blink Ink.

Old Town, midnight.

The moonlight oozed across the dank cobblestones like quicksilver; creeping between the cracks, crawling into the gutters. Howls sliced the silence. Lara shivered, pulling the fur close to her flesh. Each heartbeat was like the tick of a clock. As the limousine growled into view, heavy footsteps shuffled closer.

And flash fiction in 100 words, which is known as Drabble.

Swamplands

Elvis awoke in a cold, dank sweat, hungover from bourbon and bad dreams. The nightmares had consisted of him being hunted through a swamp by the murderous spectre of Jesse, his stillborn twin. His pounding heartbeat seemed to echo through the mansion. He stumbled into the bathroom, splashed cold water on his face and looked in the mirror, only to be confronted by his own ashen reflection and that of his grinning doppelganger. Jesse tightly wrapped the umbilical cord around Elvis’ throat and pulled it until Elvis breathed no more. The king is dead, long live the king, he muttered.

Indeed, if you feel the urge to take the plunge into writing but just want to test the water, there are plenty of flash fiction sites online. Spelk Fiction, for example,’ limit you to 500 words and Shotgun Honey have a 700 word limit.  And it’s a great way for more experienced writers to practice disciplining their writing too.

So why not get flashing!

This post first appeared over at Debbi Mack’s blog.

Small Town Creed at Shotgun Honey

shotgun-honey-5-yearsI’m over at SHOTGUN HONEY again with a little yarn called SMALL TOWN CREED.

‘A golf club slammed into the side of Sammy Lee’s face. He fell to the ground and looked up at Crispin.

 ‘Is that the best you’ve got? You soft Southern shite,’ he said through broken teeth. He spat blood as he spoke and laughed, although he really felt like screaming.’

YOU CAN CHECK OUT THE REST HERE.

Updates, News Etc

There’s a lot of it about.

First up, the paperback of TOO MANY CROOKS is out now! You can grab it at BARNES&NOBLE, AMAZON, and a few other places, I’m sure,

Also, the paperback of COLD LONDON BLUES is now available from Amazon.com 

A CASE OF NOIR will soon be given a reboot from those classy folk at NEAR TO THE KNUCKLE. It should be out early on in March.

SHOTGUN HONEY will be publishing one of my yarns in early March. It’s called SMALL TOWN CREED.

NICK SWEENEY is over at POLSKI NOIR  at the moment.

My latest BRIT GRIT ALLEY column is up at OUT OF THE GUTTER ONLINE.

And I currently have a guest blog – and eBook giveaway – over at DEBBI MACK’s CRIME CAFE where I talk about flash fiction. Check out KISS.

#FRIDAY FLASH: DEAD PIMP IN A TRUNK

last laugh new (1)
The Last Laugh

I WAS GOING to tell you about why I killed Lewis Quad and how he’d had it coming to him. How he’d asked for it and deserved everything he got. Tell you what an evil bastard he was and how many lives he’d destroyed over the years. All the shitty little things he’d done just because he could. Justify my actions, and the like. But then I realised that, well, if you knew Lewis Quad you’d know all of that anyway and if you didn’t know Lewis there was no way in heaven, hell or purgatory that I was ever  going to be able to explain the whole thing to you. So I thought I’d just tell you what happened next.

***

I wasn’t even close to Cyrus White’s farm when I realised I was running low on fuel. The last few hours had been a blur. I’d been so wrapped up in replaying the events of the last few days I’d been smothered by them, truth be told.

As I drove through the night, the streetlamps were yellow streaks across the pallet of darkness. I’d been listening to a phone-in talk show about ghosts, hauntings and such, and though I’d never been superstitious, I sure was glad when the dawn eventually broke on through.

I saw a sign for a gas station off of a side road and turned off the radio so that I could concentrate. I followed the directions until I reached a small disused general store with a dusty, rusted gas pump in front and a battered old station wagon parked beside it. I parked my Dodge, lay my head on the steering wheel and groaned.

After a moment or so, I switched on the radio to wake myself up but it was as dead as the corpse in my trunk. I lay back in the seat and pulled out a quarter bottle of Wild Turkey. Sipped. As I watched the sun rise like a gold doubloon, I started to relax.

Then I heard the bang.

***

She was old, in her eighties or something like that, carrying a sawn-off shotgun and wearing a ragged green-velvet ball gown. She staggered out of the store, tripping over her high heeled shoes and pulling a red beehive wig from her head as she raced toward the station wagon. I guessed she didn’t notice me at first because she threw the gun into the car and crawled in after it. She started up the station wagon with a struggle and reversed. Right into my car.

***

The sunny morning had hardened into a granite gray day and the non-stop drizzle failed to wash away the pain in my head. It wasn’t the impact of the cars so much or even the hangover that was kicking in. It was Mathilda and the way she talked. And how much she talked.

I pulled up outside White’s farmhouse just as Mathilda was telling some long and winding anecdote about unpaid alimony, jailbait whores and a pawn shop.

‘And, you know, what would you do, if you were unlucky enough to have found yourself in my situation?’ she said. She scratched her bald head. Glared at me.

‘I know what you mean,’ I said. ‘I know exactly what you mean.’

Although I most certainly did not.

Cyrus came out of the door cradling a crossbow that I knew he had made himself. He was tall and gaunt, with a long white beard and a bald head. He was wearing a frayed black suit. He swayed a little as he walked toward the car.

‘You took your time,’ he said. ‘My babies are getting hungry.’

I heard the pigs scream and a chill skewered my soul.

‘Don’t worry,’ I said, as I got out of the Dodge. ‘I have a little extra snack for them.’

‘Then come on in, ladies,’ said Cyrus. He opened up the passenger door and winked at Mathilda. ‘You’re just in time for tiffin.’

I picked up my purse and slammed the car door. Straightened my skirt.

Mathilda was already hobbling alongside Cyrus, arm in arm with him.

It was going to be a long day.

fin

Dedicated to The Soska Sisters.

Dead Pimp In A Trunk first appeared online at Shotgun Honey and is included in my short story collection The Last Laugh, which is published by All Due Respect and currently on sale for 99p.

#FRIDAY FLASH: In The Devil’s Name

Isabelle told the man with the porkpie hat that she had only stopped off at the bar for a couple of drinks to drown her sorrows and that it really wasn’t the sort of establishment that she usually frequented.

‘My father’s funeral, you know?’ she croaked, eyes down, as if she were playing bingo.

Since Spencer was a stranger in town, he was unaware that James Gowdie’s apparent burial was, in fact, pretty much a monthly occurrence. A fabricated sob story – stained with wishful thinking –  that regularly coincided with Isabelle having boozed away most of her salary, teetering on the precipice of sobriety and the horrors that entailed. So, he took off his hat, placed it against his chest and offered her his condolences and, most importantly, a drink.

A Martini or ten later, the night corroded and he awoke in the wan light of an unfamiliar hotel room listening to the rumble of trucks from outside the window and the ghost of a blues song leak in from the next room. He expected to find Isabelle and his wallet gone, his bank account cleared out but the toilet flushed loudly and she walked out of the bathroom looking more than somewhat frayed around the edges but – he was relieved to find- not that bad looking at all.

‘Ready for another round, Trigger?’ she said.

She picked up a bottle of wine from a bedside table and finished it as she unsteadily plonked herself on the edge of the bed.

‘A little early for me,’ said Spencer, his voice like broken glass. ‘And I have a meeting in …’

‘Fair enough,’ she said, waving a hand dismissively.

Isabelle pulled on her long, black dress and pushed her swollen feet into her red, high-heeled shoes.

‘See you around,’ she said. She picked up her handbag and tottered through the door, leaving it open and letting in a cold, autumn breeze.

***

Rivulets of rain ponderously trailed down the windscreen as James Gowdie watched his daughter stagger out of the taxi and tumble toward The Swampsnake’s blinking neon sign. James lit a Marlborough with his Zippo as Isabelle headed down the steps and opened the metal door, a blast of hard rock bursting free for a moment. He slowly smoked his cigarette, his heart pounding.

A truck pulled into the car park and a skinhead in a tartan shirt got out of the truck and rushed into the bar.

James felt frozen. Trapped like one of the wasps he used to catch in jam jars when he was a kid. He eventually got out of his car and opened up the boot. He pulled out a long black leather coat and draped it over his paint splattered overalls. Put on a denim cap and took out a sawn-off shotgun.

***

Vambo could feel last night’s Vindaloo slicing through his guts. He rushed into The Swampsnake , through the crowded bar and straight into the graffiti splattered toilets. An old, wire-haired man leaned unsteadily against the urinals, smoking a pin-size roll up.

‘It’s a good life if you don’t weaken,’ he said.

Vambo growled.

There were two cubicles and Vambo slammed hard against the first one. Locked.

‘Get a move on will you. I’m touching cloth here,’ he shouted.

Two male voices giggled and Vambo squirmed. He smashed a massive paw against the second door and it flew wide open. A woman was on her hands and knees, her face in the toilet bowl. Vambo dragged her by the hair and pulled her backwards, letting her slide on her back across the toilet’s sticky floor. Then he saw she wasn’t breathing.

As he leaned over and gave the woman CPR, his jeans filled with toxic smelling shit,

‘That is fucking foul,’ said the old man. He rushed out of the toilets, gagging.

The sound of Isabelle’s gasps melded with the sound of her father’s gunshot as he blasted Vambo’s brains like a Rorschach test across the toilet floor. She dragged herself into consciousness in time to see her father turn the gun on himself and then she closed her eyes and slept the sleep of the just.

(c) Paul D. Brazill.

This yarn first appeared over at SHOTGUN HONEY.

 

 

Short, Sharp Interview: Marie S. Crosswell

Texas-Hold-Your-Queens-Front-Cover-largePDB: What’s going on now?

My novella, Texas, Hold Your Queens just came out a couple weeks ago. This is my first formally published book, so that’s pretty cool. I have another novella, Lone Star on a Cowboy Heart, coming out at the end of July from a different press.

PDB: How did you research your latest book?

The way I do research for all of my writing: a lot of online reading, with some video watching thrown in.

PDB: What’s your favourite film/ book/ song/ television programme of 2016?

Film – My favorite movie I watched for the first time this year is the documentary Unbranded, available on Netflix. It’s a phenomenal little film about these four guys who ride and lead a bunch of mustangs from the Mexican to the Canadian border over a period of several months. Made me fall in love more deeply with the West.

Book – Sexual Politics by Kate Millett. Originally published in 1970 but I’m reading it for the first time and it’s blowing my mind.

Song – Bryson Tiller’s “Exchange” (technically released in 2015)

TV Show – Grace and Frankie, also on Netflix. It’s funny, light-hearted, and centers a female friendship that has a narrative and purpose of its own. It’s so nice to see older women be the main characters of a story, not to mention single older women! A story that’s well-told, entertaining, and makes those women interesting, multi-dimensional people who demonstrate that there is, in fact, life after 70 worth living. I didn’t even know I wanted that until I watched this show, and I did not expect to like it as much as I did, before I started watching.

PDB: Is location important to your writing?

Yes but it’s somewhat unconscious. I haven’t put too much thought into it, but I have a pattern with locations in my fiction. Thus far, I stay in the West or the Southeast (in the United States) and typically in rural areas. I feel particularly drawn to the American West, which happens to be my home region, and specifically to the states that can be thought of as classically Western in its history and culture: Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Nevada. Texas counts too, being an iconic cowboy state, although geographically it’s more middle America than West. I usually write stories set in the rural West or South because of the atmosphere it creates and the kind of people who live there. If I’m not writing about big city cops, PIs, and bounty hunters, I like writing about blue collar workers, cowboys, and sheriff’s deputies. Cormac McCarthy and the Coen BrothersNo Country for Old Men pretty much sums up what I like in terms of setting, characters, and mood in the lion’s share of my crime fiction.

The exception is my first novel, which I plan on publishing and following up with a series. It’s set in Los Angeles, because that’s the classic big American city of noir and hard-boiled detective fiction. I don’t think you can write hard-boiled detective/private eye fiction set anywhere besides LA and NYC, if it’s set in the USA. You can certainly set noir in rural America—there’s a whole subgenre of “grit lit” set in the Deep South—and you can put a detective or private eye anywhere. But once you take them to the suburbs or the country, you enter a variation on the classic hardboiled or noir category. It feels different than the original LA noir/hard-boiled fiction we usually credit to Chandler and Hammett. I want my detective/PI fiction to feel like Chinatown or Ellroy’s LA Quartet set in the 21st century. So I keep it in Los Angeles.

PDB: What’s next?

I’m working on a book that was originally supposed to be a novella, but it’s looking like it’ll end up being a short novel. To challenge myself, I decided to write a story that is not crime fiction, so this book doesn’t have any murder or otherwise violent crime, no cops or PIs. The closest I get to crime in my current project is the stalking/harassment of one of the female main characters.

The story is about a combination of things: coming to terms with who you are and what you want in life, being non-heterosexual in rural America, the experience of rejecting a traditional lifestyle for something weird when you belong to a very conventional community. It’s about family and the kind of love between blood family that can eclipse everything else, every other possible relationship, which is the way I like my sibling and cousin relationships. It’s about owning who you are publicly, after hiding yourself and living with the consequences of that secrecy. And yeah, in terms of concrete plot lines, it’s also about a woman being stalked by a man who feels entitled to her attention just because he wants her.

I’m about halfway through it now, so we’ll see how the final product turns out.  mariescrosswell-300x300

Bio: Marie S. Crosswell is a novelist, short story writer, and poet. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, where she concentrated on creative writing and friendship studies. Her short crime fiction has previously appeared in Thuglit, Plots with Guns, Flash Fiction Offensive, Beat to a Pulp, Betty Fedora, Dark Corners, and Locked and Loaded: Both Barrels Vol. 3. Her novella LONE STAR ON A COWBOY HEART is forthcoming from Less Than Three Press (July 2016). She lives in Arizona with her black cat.

 

A Story For Sunday: Just Like Dillinger by Bill Baber

locked and loaded‘Don’t ask.  Don’t, because I couldn’t tell you. What I can tell you is that killing two junkies in a Tucson alley for the cash they had just gotten from cashing some paltry government check wasn’t worth the needle ride it might cost us. Jimmy and me must have been stupid. It was the kind of thing that always happened when we took a couple of downs mixed with a forty or two.’

Read the rest here at the well-smashing SHOTGUN HONEY.

Gareth And Fiona Go Abroad By Paul D. Brazill​ is at Jeanette Cheezum​’s Cavalcade Of Stars

cheezy‘Fiona was dragged from the depths of a murky sleep as the rooster in the nearby farm started to crow. As she peeled back her eyelids, she noticed that Gareth, had already showered and dressed in a pair of neatly ironed Marks & Spencer’s jeans, and his lucky plaid shirt.

In the wan light, she watched him as he took the soft boiled eggs from the pan and put them in the candy-striped egg cups. He took the lightly toasted bread from the toaster and carefully cut it into soldiers. Then he poured two cups of tea.
He was still a good looking man, she thought. And as fit as a fiddle as he approached his mid-fifties. She was sure he’d been for his regular morning jog while she’d been asleep. He’d been a bundle of nervous energy since the redundancy. He’d even tidied the motor home and had hung the wash on the line outside.’

Read the rest here.

Halloween Read: 3 Shots Of The Dark Stuff

cropped-cropped-kasianor1a.jpgSince it’s Halloween, here’s a drabble and some micro/ flash fiction for your delectation …

Swamplands

Elvis awoke in a cold, dank sweat, hungover from bourbon and bad dreams. The nightmares had consisted of him being hunted through a swamp by the murderous spectre of Jesse, his stillborn twin. His pounding heartbeat seemed to echo through the mansion. He stumbled into the bathroom, splashed cold water on his face and looked in the mirror, only to be confronted by his own ashen reflection and that of his grinning doppelganger. Jesse tightly wrapped the umbilical cord around Elvis’ throat and pulled it until his brother breathed no more. The king is dead, long live the king, he muttered.

The End.

The Return Of The Tingler

As the bright spring afternoon melted into evening, Dr Shearing’s office grew darker. As did Lee Madison’s thoughts.

“13 Ghosts?” said Dr Shearing. He pulled sharply at his shirt cuffs. “I can’t say that I’m familiar with that particular film, or Mr William Castle’s oeuvre as a director, to be honest.”

Lee Madison cringed as Shearing spoke. The psychiatrist whistled when he pronounced the letter‘s’ and the sound almost perforated Lee’s ear drums.

“Oh it was massively popular at the time. There was even a remake a while back,” said Lee. “All flash-trash and CGI, though.”

The egg stain on Dr Shearing’s paisley tie had distracted Lee so much he’d had to turn away to look at the silent television in the corner of the room. Images of corn fields rolled across the screen.

“But The Tingler was his most famous film,” continued Lee. “He set up a gadget in the cinema seats that gave people little electric shocks when The Tingler appeared on the screen,” He turned to Shearing and grinned, beaming.

“A monster that lives on fear, you say? Quite clever actually,” said Dr Shearing, who was sweating even more than usual. “A slightly Freudian shadow cast, eh?”

He took his ballpoint pen and scribbled on a yellow post-it-note that he then stuck inside his worn brown briefcase. He clicked the briefcase closed and looked at Lee.

“So, you said you were about seven when your own particular ‘Tingler’ appeared?”

Lee nodded to himself. Glanced at Shearing.

“I think so. We were on a school day out. I was running down the side of a cliff with a group of other kids when I started to panic. Imagined myself crashing down to the ground below. My head smashed to pieces. And then the panic took control of me. So, I decided to see what would happen if I just let myself fall.”

“And?”

“Everything went black and red. I came to near a swimming pool and a teacher was shouting at me while she bathed my face in chlorine stinking water. I was off school for weeks. Never really got into the habit of going to school after that, to be honest.”

“And The Tingle returned when?”

“Off and on. When I saw the school bus turn the corner, for example. I just wanted to throw myself under it. Or if I saw a sharp knife, I felt the urge to run it across my tongue.”

Shearing repressed a grimace.

“And when did this stop?”

“Well, it didn’t. It got worse when I was a teenager. The Tingler was like a cowl wrapping itself around my head. Smothering my brain. My thoughts.”

“And nothing could stop it? Ease it?”

“Sex took the edge off for a while. But that didn’t last long.”

“So, that is when you started drinking?”

“Yes, the booze helped. And then the drugs.”

“But …”

“Their affects wore off pretty quickly. And then, one night, just after Christmas, I was walking down a path, late at night. It was freezing. I saw an old man shuffling in front of me. Almost slipping over on the ice. In a flash, I realised that I could just kill him. And it wouldn’t matter. No one would know. I could get away with it without a problem. The Tingler almost strangled me.”

“And.”

“And so I picked up a brick, ran up to him and smashed his head to pieces like a soft boiled egg.”

Shearing gulped. His mouth arid.

“And what happened to The Tingler after that,” said Shearing, looking uncomfortable.

“It was gone for quite a long time after that. But, it was always lurking somewhere in the back of my mind. Of course, it crept further forward. Until eventually it was at the front of my brain.”

“And now?”

“A singular truth, Doctor. There truly are no consequences.”

Lee swept up a pencil and stabbed it into Dr Shearing’s eye. Again and again. Pushing it up toward his brain.

And The Tingler slipped away from his body like a shadow during night time. Only waiting for the break of dawn.

The End.

The Tut

After enduring forty-five years of a marriage that was, at best, like wading through treacle, Oliver Robinson eventually had enough and smothered his wife with the beige corduroy cushion that he’d accidentally burned with a cigarette two fraught days before.

Oliver had been, for most of his life, a temperate man and he had survived the sexless marriage – its colourless cuisine and half-hearted holidays – with a stoicism that bordered on indifference. But his patience had been stretched to the breaking point by Gloria’s constant disapproval of almost everything he did.

And then there was the “tut.”

The tut invariably accompanied Gloria’s scowl whenever Oliver poured himself an evening drink or smoked a cigarette. She would tut loudly if he spilled the salt. Or swore. Or stayed up late to watch the snooker. The tut, tut, tut was like the rattle of a machine gun that seemed to echo through their West London home from dusk till dawn until he reached the end of his tether.

Wrapping his wife’s body in the fluffy white bedroom rug, Oliver supposed that he should have felt guilty, depressed or scared – but he didn’t. Far from it. In fact, he felt as free and as light as a multi-coloured helium balloon that had been set adrift to float above a brightly lit fun fair.

Oliver fastened the rug with gaffer tape and dragged the corpse down the steps to the basement. As the head bounced from every step, it made a sound not unlike a tut and he had to fight the urge to say sorry.

He’d done enough apologising.

***

Oliver poured himself a whisky – at eight o’clock in the morning! – and it tasted better than any whisky he had ever tasted before. Looking around his antiseptic home, the sofa still wrapped in the plastic coating that it came in, he smiled.

Savouring the silence, he resisted the temptation to clean Gloria’s puke from the scarred cushion that had been the catalyst of her death. Taking a Marlboro full strength from the secret supply that was hidden in a hollowed-out hardback copy of Jaws – Gloria didn’t approve of fiction and would never have found the stash there – he proceeded to burn holes in every cushion in the house.

And then he started on the sofa.

Oliver’s brief burst of pyromania was interrupted when he thought he heard a tut, tut, tut from the hallway. His heart seemed to skip a beat or two, but then he gave a relieved laugh when it was just the sound of the letter box, flapping in the wind.

***

Disposal of Gloria’s body proved much easier than Oliver would have expected. On a bright Sunday morning in April he hauled Gloria’s corpse into the back of his car, keeping an eye out for nosy neighbours, and drove towards Jed Bramble’s rundown farm, and the village of Innersmouth.

Jed was an old school friend and fellow Territorial Army member whom Oliver occasionally used to meet for a sly drink in the Innersmouth Arms’ smoky, pokey snug. He was also a phenomenal lush. The plan was to get him comatose and then feed Gloria’s body to his pigs. Oliver knew the farm was on its last legs, along with most of the livestock, so he felt sure that the poor emaciated creatures would be more than happy to tuck in to Gloria’s cadaver.

Perched on the passenger seat Oliver had a Sainsbury’s bag stuffed with six bottles of Grant’s Whisky. Just in case, he had a bottle of diazepam in his pocket, which he’d used to drug Gloria.

Just outside Innersmouth it started to rain. Tut, tut went the rain on the windscreen. At first it was only a shower but then it fell down in sheets. Tut, tut, tut, tut, tut.

Oliver switched on the windscreen wipers but every swish seemed to be replaced by a tut. He opened up a bottle of whisky and drank until the rain resumed sounding like rain.

Outside the dilapidated farmhouse, Jed stood with a rifle over his arm, looking more than a little weather-beaten himself. His straggly hair was long and greasy and his red eyes lit up like Xmas tree lights when he saw Oliver’s booze.

***

The cold Monday morning air tasted like tin to Oliver as, hungover and wheezing, he pulled Gloria’s body from the car and dumped it in the big sty. The starving wretches took to their meal with relish. Watching, Oliver vomited, but he didn’t try to stop the proceedings.

Back at the farmhouse Jed was still slumped over the kitchen table, snoring heavily. Oliver collapsed into a battered armchair and started to sweat and shake. He’d decided to stay with Jed for a few days, keeping him safely inebriated until Gloria’s remains were completely consumed. But as the days grew dark the tut returned.

The tick tock of Jed’s grandfather clock, for instance, was replaced by a tut, tut. The drip, drip, drip of the leaking tap kept him awake at night and became a tut, tut, tut. The postman’s bright and breezy rat-a-tat-tat on the front door seemed to pull the fillings right from his teeth. He turned on the radio but even Bob Dylan was tut, tut, tutting on heaven’s door.

***

The usually bustling Innersmouth High Street was almost deserted now. The majority of the local people were cowering indoors – in shops, pubs, fast food joints. Oliver walked down the street with Jed’s rifle over his shoulder. No matter how many people he shot he still couldn’t seem to escape the sound of Gloria’s disapprobation.

Tut went the gun when he shot the postman.

Tut, tut when he pressed the trigger and blew Harry the milkman’s brains out.

Tut, tut, tut when he blasted fat PC Thompson to smithereens as he attempted to escape by climbing over the infant school wall.

Oliver heard the sirens of approaching police cars in the distance and realised there was only one thing left to do.

Pushing the gun into his mouth he squeezed the trigger.

The last sound that he heard was a resounding TUT!

The End.

(c) Paul D. Brazill 

These yarns first appeared online at Flashshots, Shotgun Honey and Beat To A Pulp respectively.Pic (fragment) (c) Kasia Martell.