A Wallet Missed Pt. 4

by: M. R. Vega

The car, loaded with an excessive amount, of an impressive array of hard and soft-covered books, had Lucy and Harold nearing a range of concerns that brought an unspoken regret, especially within Luce. She was so fueled with a fit of anger, a riling and fileting type of pitiful rage when looking at it. It was a vexing thought Luce that brought the need to make him pay, but feeling the car wane and a lack of an efficient speed had her shooting a concerned and almost peevish glance over to Harold. He now found himself clenching his teeth and whispering in tongues at the car, gripping the steering wheel with a mercilessness that he’d hope have them back to the small apartment safely. He’d pay for the damages to the axel and likely find himself needing new rims but that was aside the point. His outrageous behaviour and near laughable disregard for a collection he’d even found pride in seeing day after day growing with sheer tenacity. He regrettably erased that and saw it only right to repay what was taken away and all for the stupid wallet. But then again that wallet meant something more than the both of them, but that wouldn’t be enough to state so nonchalantly when Lucy would inquire to explain himself. How would he simply and with a resolute explanation provide ample details as to what the wallet; or what was within that wallet was so damn important.

He could see himself later that evening nearing midnight sighing heavily with his shit-eating remorse at the corner of a cowering smile as he inched slowly releasing what it all meant that the wallet was never lost. He shook the idea away, then thought over a cone of Jamoca Almond Fudge would perhaps suffice, though he shook that away as well and all this within seconds of each idea, disregarding Luce beside him. Not realizing she had noticed his shaking head and pained look cropping the profile of his face. She wouldn’t ask though, knew better to keep her lips tight and unmoving as he worked through the internal fracas he’d likely overcome. ‘Gosh, what can it be that’s messing him up, can’t be the weight of what we’re carrying, least it shouldn’t be’ she thought and hesitantly looked out the window. She shied away from the shaking head of Harold’s hoping food would be something on his mind but expected they’d likely end up just carrying the books up flights of concrete steps to yet again start her dear collection.

While she gazed over the old city and its river walk in the distance, let out a small sigh and inhaled quietly so as not to distract Harold. Instead tried to order the books in her head. She knew alphabetically would be outrageous as there was nearly an equal amount of both the soft and hard covers and she preferred an ‘Ordo ab Chao’ style knowing the chaotic realm it insured brought a more steady ground to her mind. With a smile settling on her maw, she’d already determined the books would be flush as best as possible but have little regard for what was and wasn’t read. She had a plethora of markers and tabs to mark each one and if she wanted to mitigate a minor order she’d color code them afterward.

Harold cleared his throat, knowing what to say, figuring out where to take her in his anxious relinquishing of the secret meanings behind the wallet, and took a left at Northern Blvd. Lucy came to from her ordering of the books and asked where they were going as her stomach gripped at her spine in hopes for something to ingest and devour. ‘Lota Burger sound good?’ and the smile he felt echo from Lucy gave him the answer he expected and pulled into the parking lot of their favorite stop for grub. She quickly jumped out of the car before he even had the keys out of the ignition and smiled at him through the car’s front window ushering him to be quick and get to her before she opened the door. He listened. Removing keys and himself while being sure to lock the car up he followed suit in jumping over to her with a matching smile and grabbed at the door for her prior to laying a kiss on her forehead. She patted at his butt pocket and pinched him gently and they both walked in together holding hands and immediately went to the cashier. Already knowing the menu by heart they both issued their favorite numbers and size. Harold paid quickly, they filled up their drinks with the cool sweet tea they had both reveled for since childhood and found a booth for two. After settling down, sticking straws into their cups, they smiled at one another and Harold took a large swig debating how exactly to open up the floor to the topic of his wallet. He breathed in, turned his head, let out a swift and heavy sigh, smiled at her with endearing compassion and started to open up.

‘I assume you have questions, if not a myriad of them with sub-references and notions to the meanings of what I’m about to tell you, all I ask is give me time and whenever your curiosity is at the brim of your tongue let me have it and I’ll answer, as quickly and with as much to the whole as I know for myself.’ He sighed, feeling a small amount of weight at the pit of his stomach, and waited for a nod or their ticket number to be mentioned behind their table but his ears only met silence but the hum and incessant sizzling and chatter of the restaurant. He continued ‘Now, please don’t laugh, because I mean what I say, at least I know, because of what I’ve seen for myself and will do, like I said, what I can to show you that truth. It’s not the wallet per se, it’s actually the coin that’s inside of it. You’ve likely seen me twirl it between my fingers when you’ve gone so deep into your readings in the past, but that was always frowned upon and it’s why I buried it into the wallet, even made a small and near secret pouch to hold it safely. But it’s magick. Where the magick stems from, what it is, that I don’t know but it’s what made that possible.’ While finishing that phrase he nodded toward the car and alluded to the books that awaited their new home. Lucy smiled, holding back from the smug feeling she could feel creeping up from below, and waited for Harold to continue but the order was shouted out to them and he quickly bolted to the counter bringing the piping hot seasoned fries and steaming burgers to the table.

The Blue Chair Pt. 4

The Blue Chair Pt. 4 by: M. R. Vega

Jacob was solemn with the fretting from the day before now trying to figure out the necessary steps to have Emily; the family pet, a proper end. He didn’t dare deal with the H.O.A., knowing their neighbourhood had numerous Glady Kravits feining for any opportunity to shout foul play and bring more worry and trouble to his family. It was bad enough having Emily stinking up the back patio, the Humane Service Department was closed for the next week due to a water pipe issue. He didn’t care to ask and had hung up wishing there was a six-foot deep pit to place her in if only he thought. Of course, it couldn’t be that easy and he grumbled, thinking of a friend that’d help with a ‘maybe illegal dig’ at the park they used to bring her to on Sunday Fun Days through the year but sadly came toe to toe with his acknowledging that they had no family and the last friend they did have happened to pass away two years ago in a car crash. It goes, doesn’t it? 

His gritting and grinding had abruptly come back with a vengeance adding the spontaneous but dully noted migraines that trailed behind. He went to the kitchen cupboard where the Tylenol was waiting and popped three oversized capsules without a drink and thought of what had happened last night while they all slept. His deja vus were becoming more vivid, more like an elongated trailer of what was to come unlike the many prior that were scattered like a shredded magazine or a remembered green and forever falling characters illegible to an unaware eye. Knowing what was to be done next, at least assuming what steps he was to take, he scurried to the garage and grabbed a round-point shovel, an old over-sized duffel bag that had seen too many years and packed Emily as gently and cautiously as he could while avoiding spewing over the foul stench her body was emitting. Its flooding stench brought odd thoughts of long-sitting protein drinks, rotting fruit, veggies, and refried beans left in the fridge. He swallowed the bit of muffin he’d scruffed down earlier and was happy the taste of bile didn’t torch his throat and zipped up the bag with a weighted heart.

He dragged his body in through the house, lamenting over what was to come next, and quickly went to the car trying to discreetly put, what looked like a body bag, into the trunk. Upon finally getting Emily’s corpse in, he ran back to grab the shovel and kissed his wife as well as their child that she was clutching to. They both stared aimlessly at the moving screen that he just realized was muted and said he’d be right back. His wife though snapped to it and reached out to his hands delicately bringing his knuckles to her nose and whispered something he couldn’t quite catch an told them both he loved them, that he’d show them Em’s new resting place later tonight. His wife nearly glared at him with silent animosity he felt coaxed his everything and shook her head waving her hand at him as if to shoo-shoo like he was a fly.

‘So it begins’ he thought almost angrily and slammed his body down onto the driver’s seat after locking the front door of their house. He found that he was hoping they’d still be awake and willing to react to living after he shared news of Em having a safe place to rest for eternity. Shamefully though he found he was more or less appreciative of not having her body stink up the house or back patio. Even a dead dog, though heartbreaking, was a terrible smell to have dealt and he’d heard many a story of how difficult it was to remove such an organic scent from wherever Em’s body sat. 

He drove in silence, regretting his abilities, regretting his knowledge and abundant collection of what he’d seen while he rested and realized, essentially he hadn’t successfully slept through the night quietly or dreamlessly for too long. His graying and unshaven beard brought to light the age he was and he regretted not telling his wife the harrowing capability still unsure of how to address what it was, how it was, and what it meant.

He didn’t feel like a soothsayer, Nostradamus, Southeil, or Baba Vanga could’ve choked on this ability for all he cared, he just wanted to feel typical again, plain, simple, and let it be boring. He couldn’t stand the nightmare of seeing what is to come, it wasn’t something that had been trained like a movie shows, the recollections came in a shattered mirror type of form that made his assuming near detrimental and he’d kept his lips tight to sharing what he could do with anyone, say but Em. That realization whacked against his mind leaving a rattling of woe and sorrow that had him wanting to be right back at home starting at the muted screen with his family. That’d have to wait if ever happen, as he pulled up through the long winding roads of the City Park. 

He finally came to the older portion of the park grounds, it was an odd portion. One of curved, jutting shale, dirt, and pavement where the daring frisbee golfers practiced their trick shots but due to a murder or five, it hadn’t been graced by many if only to smoke the devil weed in what looked like years. The tree at the knoll heading back to where the large parking lot was so happened to be Em’s favorite marking ground and the stained burned grass showed that. Grabbing the round-point shovel he headed to the spot where his son and Em were captured every year by his wife. There was a branching collage of photos showing that very spot splashed against the fridge, the family room, and even his office, he smiled remembering those times with glee. Pushing down quickly with the tip of that heavy shovel into soft ground while trying to think of anything but why he was there. He’d known she was going to die, knew that and so many other tragedies that’d quickly be piling up but for the life of him, couldn’t do anything but shovel and shovel with tears streaming past his cheeks. They burned at his retinas and collected in a large hanging droplet in his scruffed beard until losing grip dropping into the hole where the blade ricocheted off the large roots throwing him off balance. He patted at his now blistered hands ignoring the sharp pain, looked at the dark hole in silence but his quiet sniffing at the remaining tears, and walked back listlessly to the car to grab that damn duffel bag. 

But he couldn’t, Jacob was overcome by a grief he already thought was released and pushed absently away, he could barely stand and leaned against the car not aware that the trunk was already open and his jean pocket was rubbing against the bumper. The tears weren’t enough while he dug, now he struggled to breathe, strained to see the trunk of his car where Emily was waiting and he’d begged there was a way to had been able to prevent the next moments as well as the coming harrowing months. The anxiety had been waxing on his soul, tearing at the heart he kept strong for the only two he’d strived to bring light to and already he was starting to see the fraying of something within his wife. Emily’s passing was just the start.

Finally recuperating, he wiped the wetness from his face aggressively and lugged out the duffel bag. She’d gained weight since the beginning of this small expedition from house to grave or perhaps it was a weight of his that shared with the weakness he started to feel, not knowing how to take the appropriate steps in making everything better after covering her with the soil of the park grounds. Before taking the bag and slowly dropping her in, Jacob made a curious choice in jumping in alone and kneeling down as low as he could to see what the coolness may feel like for her, trying to gain a perspective on being dead and buried but even that was a silly joke, to think he could comprehend what death is to anyone. ‘We all die alone huh?’ he asked Emily while pulling himself out of the deep shoveled hole. Before shimmying her down he unzipped the bag, patted her head, looked at her grayed muzzle, nearly forgetting the collar and making sure to unclip and quickly pocket it before he kissed her crown. He zipped her back up, slowly straining to not have her break on entry and quickly set to push the soil over the bag.

He packed it down with a whack that became an almost cathartic cleanse of anger and futile remorse before realizing he had an audience now. A small crowd of four teens or college students were fifty yards away chuckling quietly to each other, while one was trying to shoosh them and wave them away. Instead, they shook the request away and waited for Jacob to pack up and drive away. Before doing so though he knelt on the newly packed dirt and whispered to Emily. ‘May I see you at the clearing when all is done old girl.’ and slowly got up, leaving the shovel behind, he got into the car, and drove back home with the windows rolled down, his music softly careening his loss.

Pulling up to the house felt surreal, knowing Emily wouldn’t be waiting, her tail wagging in anxious relinquishing of her bladder in the backyard as she did every other time upon arrival was something he needed to prepare himself for and breathed in a silent resolve for more moments than he’d care to admit. But then there was more to that he thought. Like watching a car accident at an intersection and how it seems to happen so slowly knowing that it was a mere blip of a fraction of a second. He thought this to himself, slowly getting out of the car, not feeling any lighter, taking each step with a leaded weight in his shoe, he thought how can he curtail what was to come and avoid the tragedies he’d been presented in those dire dreams? Seeing proof time and again that he wasn’t losing it, that somewhere through his time of experiencing these moments time and again with death, loss, family strife, and struggle among other lighter points, the deja vus never seemed to miss a truth or more than one. He shook his head, brought on a smile, and figured, he’d at least take it day by day, for now, and start his downward spiral tomorrow. Now he saw a moment of grace where he can share the grief he and his family all shared and have this time together, if only for this moment.

Rabbit for Brunch Pt. 3

Rabbits for Brunch Pt. 3 by: M. R. Vega

That thinning of chaos didn’t seem to ease. Fires and what became an incessant screaming, dying, with an addition of wild maddening swarmed around the truck, littered not only her visual senses but the skies and everywhere about her and the large truck she found to be her weapon and shell. Fifty miles and still the chaos consumed all she could see, after another hundred miles she started to feel an overwhelming weight of dire wanting for fresh water and smacked at her forehead with anguish and seeing herself as a fool. 

She hadn’t the time before Dave’s bloody and likely already rotting body had barreled in through the house leaving her no choice but to run to the truck and flee. The water bottle she always had filled remained in the fridge, the little food she usually ate in the morning was likely on the floor of the kitchen now scattered and squashed and she licked at her lips remembering the plumpness of the blackberries Timothy and Nick had given her days before. They, with the store bought blueberries and strawberries were all that was out on the counter before chaos began earlier that morning and she knew it’d be a fool’s errand to go back but it was enticing enough to dream and keep the screams at bay, if only for a moment.

A loud thud came from the side paneling, its cacophony brought her back quickly while she whipped a side glance to the window and mirror only to see a young woman close in age ripped from the lifted step while still screaming to get in. The screaming echoed into the small crack allowing air from the window she finally gave herself. As she watched in horror the young woman’s arms were being shredded by multiple unknown and bloodied people all with enraged gluttony about their eyes. She hit the pedal harder with a stomp and went back to avoiding as many people running wild and losing their lives, During which she clipped a car or two and almost lost control until a large RV having the same idea somewhat saved her from tipping and she increased her speed getting in front of the RV and whoever was driving the blood-drenched RV leaving it behind. She couldn’t look around anymore, let alone waste the time with the distractions of havoc, encompassing her every direction. She needed to get the hell out of here, needed to find a tanker, gas station, anything to fill the truck up as it was starting to get low until she smiled with an almost maniacal grin remembering the second tank. ‘Oh, David’ she whispered and flipped the little node that allowed that second tank to start trickling into the remaining and almost empty first chamber for fuel. And to think of the fight that came from her inquiry about what need Dave would ever have for a secondary fuel tank now all made sense. The stupid almost monotonous man she loved had always imagined something such as what she was fleeing from to come eventually, regardless of how sick of a dream or fantasy it was, she was more than grateful at the moment that there was enough gas to at least get her to Louisiana, maybe Georgia, either one was better than where she was. At least she thought it’d be.

The morning left quickly as did the exhaust from her larger-than-life truck while it barreled through bodies alive or dead and all she could do was close her eyes while she mowed through what likely was the walking infected. Regardless she screamed that she was sorry, turned her mouth up to the sky, and choked on her tearing and sobbing ashamed of every move she’d been so willing to make and all for a life she wasn’t sure was worth anything anymore. The disgust swarmed over her while she thought of how many she’d driven by while they begged for her to stop or tried jumping on the truck to get a ride. How many had she killed by simply turning away or neglecting to slow, even for a moment to help them get into the bay of the truck? How many had she clipped or full-on collided with in avoiding certain death disregarding any knowing if whom or what was infected, if infected at all?

What had she become? To think she was doing Tai Chi fourteen hours ago, stretching to the rising sun and smiling at the gulls overhead while listening to the two men happily bicker next door over what to make for breakfast. Now she’d lost count of how many she left for dead, how many she’d piled through, and how many snapping bones she knew beyond a doubt she was responsible for while pressing on the gas pedal all to run away. She didn’t know where and if there was safety anywhere. She wasn’t an epidemiologist, and she wasn’t military trained, aside from knowing the truck took diesel fuel and how to use lint traps from dryers to start a fire, she felt that life was nearly pointless. But still, she kept her foot on the gas, didn’t turn to look anywhere but the distance to the next town while she begged within that she had enough energy to stay alive. 

She was tired, more than exhausted, and after soiling the seat with filth and realizing there was no other option but to sleep, she found a parking garage that looked nearly empty and took the truck to the top level. Making sure to lock the doors, she pulled herself to the cab where thankfully there was an old jacket of Dave’s. Folding it up as a makeshift pillow she did what she could to sleep and was met by a flood of demons that egged her on with furthering and continuing the terrors she tried so diligently to escape if only for an hour or two.

I watched your throat get ripped from your body watched as the viscera was filleted from your head which you, then quickly drifted to the black. The blood quickly drenched my body and splayed about the ground. I screamed, l turned to run away from your pouring dead body while the world around us had died and was quickly enveloped by the gnashing and thrashing of what had become a dire fate. I’m writing to you while your body rises and wriggles with complete agony as you’re dying fate aches for another bite of flesh dying for the blood that is us and sure I am writing in what most would call pitch black but somehow I can see the paper that my pen is touching.

I’d say this is a journal but really this is the last testimony of the dying. The sheep would call this a ploy by the Democrats, the foolish would call this an act of God however would I call this is the world calling to tell us no more and shouting for us to be done? I watch your body wriggle and rise one more time until you then jump up with an erratic and ecstatic maniacal bout, my body trembles as I watch you struggle and walk. I look at you and ponder whether it be better to be like you or struggle to survive but when I look at myself being here on the third floor watching you beneath me watching the world crumble and rot I think this may be better.

I have a speaker on quietly Portishead is playing in the background their singer bouts out of wrangled and dying breath while she flies for her last love. I find myself moved and still here I am watching you beneath me watching as you stumble about stupidly idiotically looking for another bite of flesh looking for another virgin of the zombie world that you live in and here I am above you loving you and wishing you were here or… Wishing you were above with me holding me letting me become a part of you let me become a part of what this reality is now.

The days have become repetitive and monotonous where I find myself dying to be like you a zombified abomination of what humanity can be or apparently is those that were living with me or around me or now dead as well while they go and reach out for those that they loved not realizing that they’re not there anymore just like you aren’t there anymore you’re more of a memory. Not only are you more of a memory but you have become that of which is my nightmare I via to become you however I die to be everything unlike you. There’s this grasp of humanity that still alive Force still I love and here again I find myself staring down at you biting my bottom lip looking for you in the midst of the Dead looking for you among The crawling and the weeping will I slowly, slowly become so much like you we are nearly the same however my heart is still pumping.

Hello and goodbye here I sit stand crawl and die a lonely woman, hating you hitting a need hitting my need for water, for love I laugh at myself thinking how foolish how stupid that I am still here. I could have ran I could have moved myself I could have I could have sneakily drifted away from everything that this is now. And somehow even while dying while choking on my last breath I look at you my stupid Love gnashing and nine at the air while I above I’m quickly falling to the ground to feed you a last time know that my body though you may not remember is something of yours something of mind something that we share something that I call a testament of love a testament of grief and a vying for you and I hope that somewhere deep there comes A memory of me.

The Scream Pt. 3

The Scream Pt. 3 by: M. R. Vega

‘Grab your gun from the safe Pops!’ Angela hollered through the screen at the front door of her house. Luckily the old man had just arrived not moments ago, the smell of the heat from the ‘88 Dodge Ram and its radiating heat was the telling of what was waiting inside. And she knew he’d still be up with enough energy to help the ordeal she’d found herself possibly facing. The smell was a comfort of that smell and the hard day’s sweat was quickly snuffed with the knowledge that the scream needed to be addressed and hopefully saved soon. She barged into the screen almost pushing it off the hinges and looked at the old man who agonizingly failed at looking perplexed. She chuckled at that, waiving his play of idiocy, ‘Yeah dad, I know about the safe under mom and your bed, it’s pretty easy to see plus you use so much gun oil, it reeks for days.’

The man smiles proudly at her and brushes off his knees before using them to push up needing minor momentum in heading to the bedroom. However he was taken aback that he didn’t need to ask her a reason for the demand, he saw the worry and urgency on her face. That sufficed enough to hurry with his code entry and was back in the living room with a clip of 18 rounds that he slid into the Glock. Angela cocked her head with a shrug and asked where the revolver went, it was the only gun she believed was still a sterling weapon that should be permitted for use and not wanting to show disappointment in his choice of a typical and cliche of his handgun, she waved her hand and told him to follow her.

Now her heart started to be felt within her head, the pounding came to a deafening point until she started explaining the worry and reason behind her shaking hands. Pops followed and nodded as she mentioned the scream heard before picking up the boys ending with the two she heard after getting back home and waiting for either him or her ma getting home. Pops believed the story and didn’t show otherwise following close by awaiting a sign to click the safety off. He started shaking his head with disappointment to the dissolving of the neighbourhood as well as the city. It was always death on the news nowadays, always disasters and school shootings and shitty people he thought so why couldn’t it be happening down the street. It wasn’t a surprise any longer, death had become so frequent that he didn’t know if there was anywhere else here in town that hadn’t met its face and shrouding of blotting the light his town once had. Of course, that was more than decades ago. Something about an old story, something to do with Timequakes popped into his head that left him thinking of the writer’s name and what his own steps were going to meet, whether they would be rewound or perhaps rewritten. He grimaced with a meek smile disgusted with the hope wouldn’t come then Angela put a hand up and pointed to a large shrub when they both heard the screaming and a sickening chuckle.

Angela was pleased she wasn’t losing her wits but horrified that such an atrocious thing was happening so close to where her babies slept and gritted at her back molars till she tasted iron. Pops did the same, they could both hear one another and looked at each other with dismay and nodded solemnly. They each heavily moved with a determination to have whatever it was solved, perhaps closed with sirens and proper work. However, neither were vigilantes but knew sirens now would have the screams ended with death, they both couldn’t do that, especially Pops, there was a fire within that started to purge at the doubts of what was needed or not and he clicked the safety off. He patted at Angel and pointed behind himself, hoping she’d understand his meaning.

She did, quickly pulled herself behind his back and placed a cold and shaking hand on his quivering bony back and slowly trod with him getting closer to the screaming and angry chuckles of someone disgustingly designed. Pops paused and gazed at the house the sounds were emitting from and nudged the gun toward it…it was a foreclosed building, with multiple warnings of danger taped to the doors and its few windows that were left. The other spaces’ glass would be had large wooden panels hammered over them. A putrid smell hit both Angela’s and Pops’ nostrils offending the senses and having their eyes quickly drain with tears. Flagrant muck was wafting into the air from the basement of the building and the obvious conclusion was it was being used as a large latrine. Its fumes were causing both to grasp at their stomachs and try not to lurch out whatever was left inside but they both needed to get sight of what the sounds were from and who was causing such atrocious actions to be felt by the screaming source. Angela used her sleeves to blot the tearing and cover her nose whereas her dad just waved the stink and putrid fragrances away whenever he’d get dizzy. He inched closer to a door or one of the few windows that had sight inside of the building. Trying not to have his baby subjected to the vileness of man he gave her a steely look, saddened by what he was sure they’d likely have to do and puffed up his chest. He patted her head gently and kissed her on the temple, at that soft warm spot that brought a youthful spirit of being her dad flood back from when she was the age of her boys and quickened his steps while standing up. 

‘Don’t make a sound Ange, I’m nervous that if we spook whoever is inside they’ll likely kill whomever it is screaming and we’ll end up just calling the cops to a dead body and not a citizen’s arrest. Don’t make a sound.’ Pops whispered this and winked at her while again, inching toward the small opening he found in a busted-up window. Ashamed that he wasn’t surprised with what he saw, he clenched at the grunt and guffaw he wanted to issue, pulled in a quick breath, and tried to see where the assailant was standing. Luckily the sun was down enough, neither Angela nor he was casting shadows and he started to choke down his tears at what was seen. A young woman, perhaps in her late teens was barefoot and wrapped in paracord, her face was bloody and bruised, her pants were pulled down and blood was slowly falling down her legs. She was bound and tied to the ceiling of the room he was looking into. The young woman had soiled herself, puddles of her own bile and urine were all around her decorating her old messed kicks and ankles. The monster was an older man, white grizzly hair shrouded his beard and face, an old and tired dachshund was dead in a corner of the room and the old man spit on the dog while pulling at the paracord that pulled at the arms of the young woman. She let out a muffled scream through cracked and broken lips and blood trickled down her chin mixing with the tears that had pulled to the same spot. 

Pops could barely breathe and tried so diligently to get a good angle with his pistol to shoot the man but his eyes, clouded with a red and burning anger made it hard to focus. He couldn’t fathom what would make someone do something so dark and wretched. It was one thing to see such actions in war, from what he remembered war made pillars of men and women crumble to ash with their ridiculous and inexcusable actions, but again war made people of all creeds dangerous and stupid. This wasn’t war, this wasn’t just brutality, this was horrific in all forms and he could think of only one thing to do. 

He turned to Angela and told her to get the police, demanded it, and told her to run home and call them, mentioning to her not to have them come with sirens blaring as that’d likely get the woman killed and told her to run as quickly as possible. She gave him a look that said she knew he was going to do more than just wait but she also was one to listen and turned on her heels disappearing behind the trees. Pops could hear her shoes slapping at the pavement and knew he’d have less than fifteen minutes to do what was needed and took one more shallow breath before going to try at a door.

A Wallet Missed Pt. 3

A Wallet Missed Pt. 3 by: M. R. Vega

Lucy was grinding at her teeth aggressively enough that Harold looked at her with a near neurotic assumption that it had to do with him, surely he was right as to the reason they were steering to the bookstore at 75 mph down the freeway. Back at the apartment, there was the haunting reminder of broken piles of books and likely still flapping pages with the A/C still on. He knew he was the ass in the picture and anyone looking in from a scope would shame his behaviours as well as scream for Lucy to kick him to the curb. But, there was something there, of course, the obvious want in bringing her collection back to life, but something about that damn wallet. Such a cheap wallet, Lucy only remembering there was an amount near two hundred dollars if that, and all the trouble tears and sweat didn’t amount to a cheap, velcro-clad wallet. It didn’t track and while still stewing in Lucy’s mind she found that the grinding of her teeth kept her from jabbing her nails into Harold’s face. Luckily, Harold didn’t need to know and would never come to find that what she wanted was to rip him like he did her collection, pluck the facial hair and the chispas at the nape of his neck. However, Lucy was gracious and calmer than her sister and mother and would refrain from having the cops called on her, at least that’s what she swore to herself growing up. It didn’t mean the thought never crossed her mind.

Nearing the bookstore, they saw a lack of cars parked nearby and hoped the store was still open. Harold crossed his chest and looked up at the mirror praying he’d have the opportunity to at least pay back the minor fortune tonight if the store had the ones he knew Lucy was checking off in her mind. The fact was true, the list was getting large, large enough that Lucy secretly hoped they had multiple employees to help bring the books to the car, and at that thought she sped up and skidded into the lot, tossing the keys at Harold and telling him to keep up. Once she had her legs out of the car she nearly pounced like a feline and ran to the door and to her delight the cool air of the door swinging open brought a jubilation she wasn’t sure would be felt for months. Looking at the hours of operations that hung near the entrance she realized she’d have less than an hour to do her spree and grinned maniacally with a near peevish glee of retribution back at Harold, he knew this smile he caught meant ‘you’re carrying it all’.

He shamefully nodded at the smile knowing what it meant and quickened his steps keeping his hands ready to catch whatever was collected from the frenzied woman he awoke. She took him to the classics starting with Homer and her favorites of the stoics, then came Bronte, Milton, Goethe, Plathe, Morrison, King, Vonnegut, King again, (more than she thought would be available), some Palahnuik, Bradbury, short story anthologies, Poe, Twain, Muir, Dick, Perreti, Sagan, Kundera, Alexie, Atwood, Shelley, O’Connor, Lee, Angelou, Hurston, and she had to pause and collect her thoughts, knowing she wasn’t being fair and grabbed some Dekker, Ellison, and Coben.

She then cackled like a banshee, having the staff that was left in the store, looking at one another with anxious apprehensions as they shuffled about, wondering how would this girl pay for all of this. The cashier at the front was rolling an eye thinking there was no way the man following behind and quickly stacking book after book didn’t seem to have enough. He was sweating with a nervousness that was certainly understood by the cashier and that of the staff as they were sure they’d all have to put every book back within their time left before closing and the plans tonight were for the bar, not reshelving over a hundred books so far.

Finally, Lucy stopped, bent over to catch a breath and told Harold to find some graphic novels to round up the final hull, Harold grinned and grabbed some classics of his teenhood and a few newer artists that he’d recently been following on the ‘gram’. He then grabbed a favorite of his; Gaiman and Harris and sheepishly walked up to the cashier with a shit-eating grin and asked for it to be all tallied up with a near-guilty chortle and squeak. The look of anguish and ridicule he was met with had him take a step back but the cashier obliged. After finally counting each one with a beep and scan, they had over 130+ novels, anthologies, and graphic novels, the total was nearly $6,400. Harold showed nothing but assured confidence and whipped out a velcro-clad wallet. The cashier almost laughed but there it was the exact total. Harold confidently pulled out the total, almost as though he knew he’d have enough and with whatever was remaining he left on the counter after asking the staff if they’d mind helping get the books to the car. None of them denied the request as most of the staff were aghast with a shocking horror that there was enough to pay for such an astonishing hull.

Lucy though was nearly floored, she knew, not knew, was certain that there were only 200 dollars in that wallet the other day. Nothing more at least, and nowhere near the thousands he’d just shelled out. Her mouth hung open for a moment as she watched the man who’d made the promise and showed he meant to keep it carry the first large pile to the car while he asked for her to unlock the trunk. She shook her head and closed her mouth, still astonished and perplexed at the oddity of the cheap wallet and needed to understand what the hell just happened and how, after finishing up loading the car, there were 130+ books being driven back to the apartment. How?

The Blue Chair Pt.3

Blue Chair Pt. 3 by: M. R. Vega

Jacob and his small family had finally pulled up to the house, the rain had become a heavy drenching matching their grief and he did what he could to cover them both as they wearily came to the door. The patio and its tin-roofed awning cracked through their senses and brought them all to an alertness that none but maybe Jacob could bear as he struggled to find the right key to gain entrance to their domain and the slowly decaying Emily. Once inside, their son shed off his jacket and backpack with a careless demeanor that matched the withdrawal he’d already started to show, almost as though he felt it was coming as Jacob did. 

Jacob’s wife though was nearly unconsolable, her shaking had brought her to her knees before she had a chance to strip her boots off while she asked where her puppy was through tears and soaking snot. Jacob pointed to the mass atop her dog bed while he knelt down and unzipped the boots from her feet and slowly pulled them from her hot feet. The jacket stayed though as she quickly darted to the mass of what was Em with Jacob’s arms slowly missing the hood and dropping at his hips. He hung his head, shook it, tried to wipe the tears away but knew it was a hopeless endeavor and just followed her motion and fell at the foot of Em’s bed. He put an arm over his wife’s shoulder and pulled at her gently as she turned toward his armpit and wept uncontrollably, flooding his shirt and soul with the misery she felt and Jacob could only absorb it as he knew he’d have to.

He struggled though, as he kept wanting to relinquish the knowledge behind Em’s foretold passing, wanting to unfold all of the nights before for the last few years. But of course, now wouldn’t be the time. He rummaged through his mind library and debated how, when, and what would be told to his darling that wouldn’t make him look like a loon and have her screaming for help or calling a psychiatrist instantly. His past was already wrapped up in a flummoxed tragedy of suicide attempts as a teen, a psychotic break right before they were engaged, shortly followed by his mid-life crisis that she so eloquently avoided ever discussing. She always happened to see him in his best light and at points, this drove a wedge between them. He was a talker, the communicator, whether it was for the better, it helped and she was quite the contrary. Her lips consistently lay pressed tightly keeping the intrapersonal as she deemed it right. It didn’t matter though, least Jacob didn’t think it was, assuming at some point, rather soon than the latter she’d to know about the coming accident at her school and so many other moments that could possibly be avoided if completely halted. He signed heavily as the thinking became weighted and brought a mental fatigue through him that shook his head and disrupted his wife’s emotional flurry. 

Luckily their son was nonverbal, and brilliant in his ways of communication, especially with his assistive tech but with this and the loss of his only pet, the family’s only pet, he didn’t grab his device. He just slowly and quietly whined emitting an almost numbing and hollow high hum that echoed throughout the house bringing a hollowing that each member of the household felt. Both Jacob and his wife looked at him and felt that pit deepen with seeing the tears collect at the corner of his solemn eyes and they both waved at him to come and be held. He was apprehensive at first, shifted in his comfortable and memorized spot on the cushion finally hoisting himself to the two, and began to cry with both of them. None of the family could hold it in any longer and they all sobbed loudly petting the sherpa-adorned family pet, kissing the slowly stinking and decaying body of Emily while saying goodbye. Jacob felt not only moved but crushed, walloped by the weight of seeing both of them remorseful in agony with this loss, and only wished there was a way of making this moment better. But knowing that wasn’t a feasible nor manageable feat he continued to cry with both of them kissing their head.

No Skin Pt. 2

No Skin Pt. 2 by: M. R. Vega

Yaretzi only knew how to play roulette based on the comedies often found on the t.v shared with her dad while she grew up. Seeing a young Chevy Chase with that well-remembered maniacal grin at a donning of a win to quickly see it diminish with an almost felt grieving and regret of not walking away. Yaretzi didn’t think her trusting lies and tricks with the idea of cards and counting was an immediate win. It didn’t seem necessary to take such a risk, her diminished cash load was pure salt on the wounds many in Vegas are privy to facing. She knew all she needed was five hundred, and that’d be enough for the ticket back home.

At the table of five for roulette, she casually held back and watched a few rounds before throwing in. She watched the outside line, the odds/evens, black/red, lows/highs. This seemed to be a comfortable place not only to find that quick amount but with a timid withdrawal expected she’d be left alone by casino staff egging on further funds and fun she knew she needed to keep at bay.

She rummaged through the chips and counted 25 dollars worth of chips for both blacks and odds then made herself comfortable. While waiting for the dealer to take the remaining bets, most seemed to be favorite numbers chosen, consistent winners, at least so they stated loud and drunken. She herself hoped she didn’t reek like the players around her, the liquor almost leaked from their pores and it quickly deterred any call to the bar for an after-party or parting drink if she had happened to win. Fingers crossed, wishing her dad was there or anyone that was considered a friend but she left impulsively with a baggage of emotion and rawly growled at the world. This was on her and no one else, and maybe that was the worst of it. Maybe that idea of being alone for the sake of herself because she knew it to be the best decision had her regretting buying that plane ticket, cussing at her father, and ghosting of her few remaining friends while she drove to the airport. Losing with someone would at least have a decent camaraderie, that whole idea of misery loves company trickled into the back of her mind and she shook her head at the stupidity of herself.

The dealer called out to everyone at the table, “Last bets!” and awaited for anyone to make a last-minute addition…aside from the winners and slots ringing behind them all, they all kept stiff and held a breath till the wheel began to spin. She inhaled a quick breath and looked around while some bit their bottom lip, some picked at their nails, and others kept their hands over their eyes awaiting the winning number to be called out. She knew clearly that she didn’t know what she was doing, and didn’t even understand how to appropriately calculate the win if she happened to get it.

The spinning became dizzying in her incessant watching of the turnstile and turned her focus on the thick clap of the ball while it decided which slot to fit into. “Black, One!” She pulled in the rest of that breath and exhaled deeply while she waved her hands not believing she just won at least the fifty in a total of what she had put down. She at least didn’t lose anything, not yet she thought and bit at her tongue, unaware she was already being watched by the staff. And put another 25 on black and odds. Why not, she thought. Crossed a finger and awaited the results, this time with her head down, feeling embarrassed that she was playing a game she didn’t understand and knew if her dad was watching. imagining he’d be chuckling with a giddy grin and puffing out his cheeks like he did when he knew there was a goof at play. She chuckled to herself unaware that it was audible and covered her lips with the thick of her bicep and awaited a call of her loss.

Again she won, inhaled slowly thinking two more risky plays should bring the fortune she awaited and played those two more. The first one was another win dropping another fifty at her feet though the last lost and her spinning like that turnstile began but instead of holding back like she wanted to, a deep flutter called to raise the risk and throw it all, ‘piss in the wind’ as her dad like to mutter when he made a bad call or risked too much with either their eating choice for the weekend or stayed up past his allotted time leaving him groggy and useless as she grew up tending to her self as a growing youth. So with those thoughts running through her mind, she paid tribute to the old man and dropped the remaining chips on 23 and odds.

The last call for bets went, the spin and the clic-clak at the turnstile raised edges while that hard marble rolled, bounced and spun like her drunken woozy mind and she held her breath long enough she couldn’t keep her body straight nor rigid any longer and began to get squeamish with worry that this risk was too much. Her thoughts immediately went to becoming a lady of the night turning tricks for cash enough just to get to the next day and all she could do was clench her eyelids tightly. They burned. Her chest burned with the alcohol bubbling within and she just wished there was a glass of water in front of her but couldn’t risk opening an eye, no instead she pulled her shoulders up and awaited the dreaded loss that she felt was coming and let her breathing out slowly.

No Skin Pt. 1

No Skin Pt. 1 by: M. R, Vega

Yaretzi had two hundred to her name, it was left to burn a hole through the Vegas strip not teaching her a thing but to try again. The original three grand she flew into the city with had quickly been slapped against the green tables of the random casino after casino after bar and buffet. Now she found herself nearly broke, tear-soaked with a drunkenness and lingering flavor of something vile and bile ridden. The little she had won before finding herself looking at two solitary hundred dollar bills were quickly flushed away to glasses of overpriced liquor and buttered shellfish. ‘Of course, you were right’ she thought to herself acknowledging the argument she had with a disappointed father before heading to the airport. The echoing of his warning and how the idea of her solution after the breakup being ill thought was coming back and she scratched at her ears with intentions of striking away the talk four days ago away but nothing is ever that easy. She had already canceled the return trip with the idea of riches coming to her after winning a decent pull at a solitary slot machine shortly after landing in Vegas.

‘It was all a rouse wasn’t it?’ she thought with a scoff and looked around unaware of how close or far she was to a possible car, not sure of how’d she’d make it back to Pueblo. The year 2023 was too much to have made the impulsive move and she found herself kicking her own ass with shame and knowing she was a fool. She couldn’t imagine what pulling a trick would do to her, though she respected the ladies for doing so, she knew she’d never be able to look at herself nor be near her father after something like that and thought of any other way to get back…the phone she came with was lost on day two. Knowing that’d never pop up again, she took to walking, gazing at the nearby casinos, assuming one of these sites had to have a fluke to her winning and would grab big enough she’d be able to make it back home. But which one? she thought to herself. Which casino could offer a win big enough without the call and overly enticing solutions that offered more riches that she recently and stupidly fell for the day before? Her mind spinning, her idea of how casinos talked to each other, sharing the suckers of the strip and passing out pics like pokemon cards. She laughed aloud at the thought and shook it away with a wave of her head.

Whichever casino she chose had to have limited flashing signs, a lack of cars without people waltzing in and out so lackadaisical. The one in front of her had lights too bright, the blinding effect of its strobes and security had her thinking it was a place of too many ripoffs that’d end up placing her in a desert hole. The other two she mozied by were nearly the same just with minor color differences and too much Elvis blaring from the speakers near the valet stops. The last wasn’t even a casino, least she didn’t think it was and she skipped the option of looking in and instead turned around to look at the Pyramid and see if she could still see the rollercoaster atop one of the popular casinos but had lost direction and turned back around.

Upon that near immediate turnabout, the lame building she thought was shuttered looked to have a sheen, a glimmer or sparkle, one could say. She looked around, unsure if her eyes were tricking her, and thought she couldn’t be that wrecked with the liquor and headed to the door. Its doors slid open silently and she was astonished to see people inside. She quickly took a double take to the parking lot, able to count the few cars outside, and hesitated on going in any further but there was a call within her feet that carried her to the counter. Whether the drink was quickly shedding from her or helping her choice, she’d think about it later. No, instead she pulled out the last of her cash and asked for two hundred in chips, waited for the solemn clerk to tally up the amount and slide her back what was asked for. The smile came, quickly wiped away by her hand, trying to show more confidence and she slowly went about looking at the game options, deciding to stay clear of the slots and figured she’d likely be able to pull in close to five hundred before morning at one of the tables. Blackjack was out of the question, as was craps. Instead, she saw the spinning wheel, heard the clik-clak and cheer of “Come on Red!” and plopped down in the only remaining chair at the roulette table and crossed a finger.

The Body

The Body by: M. R. Vega

The incessant and grizzly alarm went off like a banshee. Gerald adamantly settled his drool-soaked pillow over it and nestled over the blaring time. Bringing it to a muffled blurb of noise that was comparable to a trash truck hauling waste. ‘trash truck? Thought Gerald in a blind and sleeping stupor. His eyes were wide and opened in a blink of a moment’s breath. “Trash Truck! Fuck! Work!” He grabbed the alarm and saw that it had only been blaring for a matter of minutes and quickly jumped into the nearly still wet one piece with ‘Waste Management’ printed on both sleeves and the back. He cringed and clammed up while slipping the suit over his, what was dry a moment ago, and let out an angry grunt hoping his nethers gained temperature again and quickly. He looked at the tall and long mirror, thinking this must be what a wetsuit feels like while he angrily scrunched his face at himself shaking the image away with a brisk walk to the back of the house. The smell of mildew, though not manifested yet was all he could think about while grabbing his cap.

He’d already checked on his dad, his dad’s respirator and heart monitor were all in check. He also knew the morning nurse, JJ, who’d be in early to bathe the old geezer. Gerald had intended on bringing lunch for the nurse and him to share. But probably would cower from doing so like he always did. JJ was always sweet, always gentle no matter the day who’d happen to carry a curious look of gentleness that was shared with Gerald. He swore she gave him an eye. Secretly Gerald hoped it was one with wanting and an aspiring light behind the iris, maybe a wanting of something tender. Then again, maybe Gerald thought himself to be crazy.

This was usual of his mindless hopeful endeavors, an incurable hesitance that always seemed to manifest a negative contribution to his already loaded life. He shook the silly thought still keeping his fingers crossed for good intentions and hustled to the urn sitting atop the back counter near the door. It was narrow, flask like and near the same thickness. Though its weight was an absolute hull in that it was complete obsidian stone. What was within the sacred urn of Gerald’s was his Mi’ma. An old shrew, a woman who only shared her heart and kindness among love and care with Gerald. Little would she have ever thought it’d translate into him hoisting her dead soul with him everywhere. He kissed the stone gently with admiration and nestled it in a breast pocket of the jacket sticking to the damp jumpsuit he wore. He then walked out the door with a sigh of deep relief and jumped into his beaten sedan. Today he’d get to haul the shit, the cans, the mess of it all. He had the gloves, the boots, and the face mask in case and prepped for the foulest. Gerald drove quickly to the plant. Clocked in, grabbed the truck keys, route checklist, and clipboard. He threw the keys up at the awaiting driver; Eddie Viego. Their manager thought drivers and baggage handlers should be shifted, that way they all knew one another and helped with establishing a community camaraderie. It was gradually aiding in Gerald’s growing ambivalence to work communities. He begrudgingly jumped in the passenger chair gave a fist bump and kept his mouth tight. Thankfully he’d be hanging on the back end of the rig within twenty minutes. It was one of the luxuries of the job.

He came to realize he was vehement in his dislike of contact with others let alone the genuine niceties he was expected to relinquish through the day. He cringed at the thought of ‘chatting’ with another man, nodding at a woman bidding them a good day, or smiling at an elder, he felt he was always over the top and didn’t know when to zip his lip. Therefore he enjoyed not having to need those attributes ready to share at a call. The drive alone to the route’s start was a good beginning of the day, if he could only disregard the blaring alarms and wheezing machinery his father needed to breathe. Gerald grasped at the stone urn sitting in his chest pocket and smiled faintly. Eddie, as it so happened, had managed to weasel his way into riding this specific route for the last three weeks and made it where Gerald was always his trash hauler.

Gerald didn’t ask only assumed as he was likely right in the request. Eddie was one of those types, the ‘hands clean’ characters where even if a boss did see him tweak the system, they’d let it slide. Gerald didn’t mind. As long as Eddie didn’t burn his ears it’d be a peachy start to the beginning of the month.

They drove on and once at the starting spot, Eddie gave Gerald a tough tap and stated the “machine can’t feed if it doesn’t have a feeder bruh” then cackled softly to himself more than to Gerald and sipped at his 44oz plastic mug filled with likely coffee. Gerald smirked and hopped to the back going about his way. He jumped atop an anchor meant for his arm and kicked at the side making a loud echoing thud.

The weather was pleasant thought Gerald, his father was hopefully being tended appropriately and Eddie wasn’t all that bad a driver. Long as they didn’t deal with oversized hauls, today’s work looked as though it’d be wrapping up early. He smiled a big grin and nodded at the driver behind their rig. This surprised him and immediately he thought of JJ. Being aware of the ridiculous hope he laughed at himself and jumped off at the next house. The sun was barely making its appearance, the driveway’s lights were both on and bright. The extended drive curved to a three-car garage and Gerald scoffed. ‘If only’ he thought. The bushes were trimmed, the garden recently watered and the trash at the drive’s curve was abundant. Eddie opened his window and hollered ‘good luck!’ before sipping away at his coffee again. The boxes were nearly crushed and folded in a manageable spread that made hoisting them to the truck easy, the two company buckets also easy. The large garden green trash bag though was too much. He gave it a try and plopped on his back end with bad footing. Eddie ripped the door open, jumped out laughing, and came to give a hand. “You good? He laughed with riotous glee and apologized, “That was too funny Ger, your ass alright?” Eddie smiled nervously and helped Gerald up. Gerald brushed himself off and thanked Eddie to which Eddie brushed a fictitious foul critter off, letting Gerald know it was good. “Let’s get this lug to the compactor Ger.” Eddie said. He bent down to grab one end of the bag before quickly stepping back and waving the air around him. “Oh god! You smell that?” Gerald didn’t, his nose had grown blind to the smells wafting about and bent down with a quick jump regretting the choice “What is the hell is that?”

“How’d you not notice before Ger, fuck?” Gerald stammered and looked at the oversized bag, then shrugged and tried moving it again before gagging and almost wretching his morning coffee. “Don’t do that again! Whatever’s in there, moving it, makes it worse. Don’t touch.” Eddie straightened up and tapped his shoe on the driveway.”I’m just gonna rip it open and we’ll transfer it to more bags. Go get the bags behind my seat.” Gerald abided and was back in an instant where he found Eddie further from the bag on the floor pointing in horror at the bag.

Gerald slowly turned to look at the green trash and with an equivalent horror like Eddie’s shuddered at what he was looking at. “What do we do?” Gerald asked cautiously and softly. “That’s a dead body Ed, we can’t just throw it in the rig and crush it, we gotta call the cops man.” Eddie looked at Gerald with a grimace and wide eyes, he then got closer to Gerald’s face, scooting his rump closer “No.” He stated and slowly got up. “We’re gonna fold ‘em, bag ‘em in those” he pointed at the bags Gerald was holding. “and toss ’em into the rig. Kapeesh?” Gerald looked at him in horror and stepped back now far enough he could smell the cut grass of the neighbourhood and looked around in terror “What the fuck Ed? That’s insane, I’m not ‘folding a dead body’, we need to report this. I’m gonna grab the walkie.” Eddie puffed his chest a bit and stepped in front of Gerald aggressively and gritted. “You’re not calling anybody. You can’t. Plus its trash isn’t it? It looks like an old frail man or lady, Ger. I don’t think it’d take much.” Eddie shrugged clamping one arm over the other expressing ease.”Stop, shut it you filthy wretched Fuck! Ed, I’m not bending some old body, they deserve more.” Eddie angrily stomped a foot and hit the green bag with a boot. “I’m not losing my job for this, let’s just get rid of the body.”

Gerald gave a look of terror as he grabbed at the lump inside his jacket. “I won’t,” Gerald says while aggressively shaking his head back and forth, “and there’s got to be a better way of dealing with this Ed, come one man, let’s just put the bag and all in the passenger spot.” Eddie threw his hands up cussing and clenched a fist before glaring at Gerald again. “I said no to the cops, I’m saying no to it sitting with me while I drive, and I’m gonna clock you one if you don’t just help me out it into the rigs teeth…Got Me!”Eddie’s casual demeanor had evaporated and what stood before Gerald, was a brute. Ed reminded Gerald of his dad before the sick came. All that was missing was a gut and beer, he choked before letting the smirk and scoff emit from his throat.”Ed we just need to walkie this in man, they’ll tell us to leave it as is, call the cops and bingo. We’re outta here and back on to working tomorrow. I’ve read the manual through and through. Hell “if you think it’s too shocking” you could even get some personal time Ed. Go on a binger and breathe? You know?” He said as he tried playing his nerves off and smiled an excruciatingly difficult grin at Eddie shaking his head with absolute and adamant approval. He almost shouted “Sounds great don’t it!?”Eddie sighed a bit and let his fists loose. Gerald quietly whooped and slowly headed to the rig before Eddie clocked him in the back of the head, hard. Gerald felt each separate knuckle collide with the back of his neck right below his skull. He squinted as his legs buckled and fell to his knees while Eddie started for the green bag and once nabbed, dragged it toward the rig as diligently as he could. Eddie hoped Gerald’s dazed self would hopefully have passed out while he heaved and struggled moving the rotting dead to the awaiting rig. He managed to move it about twelve feet and was quickly surprised to hear a heavy grunt and feel the slap of a clenched hand against the flat of his back. Gerald stood there teeth clenched and teetered between wanting to smash a fist in Eddie’s face or just haul him to the rig and make Eddie use the radio himself. “Stop being a fucking idiot Ed!”

“Fuck you Ger, you don’t know how long it took me to get signed on this, especially after getting out, I’m not doing this. People die every day, hell ain’t your pops on the outs? At least getting closer and closer, yeah?” Eddie stood there clenching his jaw as though there was gum and shrugged his shoulders anxiously. Gerald looked at him dumbfounded. He thought to himself, ‘it’s that simple, just radio it in, and ta-dah!’. He looked at the open bag, and smelled it’s reeking, covering his nose all while still trying to figure out the gender of what was in the bag, rotting. He knelt down, patted the breasts pocket of his jacket, and lifted the bag a bit to see clearly.

It was an old bloodied woman, probably 140 pounds, black hair, graying, wrinkled, and bruised. She was clothed but probably broken, Gerald could see an ulna sticking from the forearm and saw the neck looked peculiar, surreal, he thought it’d probably be found to be broken. He was enveloped by a morose notion and looked at Eddie with a saddened general look at nodded at the bag.

“We gotta call the cops man, somebody brutalized her, look!” Gerald said as he pulled the bag open further and made sure Eddie saw the broken bone and neck.”I told you, I’m not doing it Ger, I’d rather toss you and the bitch in the rigs teeth and tell ’em you just walked off.” Eddie growled through grimy teeth and checked Gerald who quickly slid back on the driveway and looked around for anything to use.

Eddie took another step toward him continuing. “It’s not like anyone will miss you Ger, you’re a droll, your fathers been stuck in a bed since I met you, no one sees you bru. You’re like a fly on the wall man. And now you’re trying to be high and mighty, does this make you better? You think it will get you stardom bitch? It’s an old dead hag, she just needs to be dumped, she’s fucking trash Germ.”

He took another step toward Gerald, which Gerald copied toward Ed. Eddie scoffed at Gerald and smirked while taking an empty swing at him who was too far to meet with skin. With the miss and Ed nearly losing his balance Gerald charged quickly and pounced on Ed who yelped and fell to the ground. His face hit the concrete hard and Gerald saw the blood first before seeing a tooth loudly clatter as it hit the hard ground. Gerald pushed off of Ed and quickly stood up with his hands rolled into fists and awaited a banshee of force. Gerald looked at Ed, he still was on the ground, almost crumpled and unmoved. “Ed? Come on Ed, get up! Ed!” Eddie didn’t move and Gerald swooped down to the ground on hands and knees checking the vitals on Eddie’s wrist. He felt nothing and Ed’s arm moved fluidly at the grasp, he went to move Ed and felt a crack within the body and was sure something snapped. He breathed heavily and nudged a shoulder of Ed’s while looking at the green bag. He nudged Ed’s foot, looked at the time, nudged Ed’s body again, stood up wiping his hands off on his thighs. He breathed a heavily weighted sigh and walked to the two bodies. He gazed at them for a long time before seeing the sun was almost fully up and grabbed the green bag. The hydraulics could be heard squealing their agonizing screams as the trash loader compacted the remaining trash while Gerald placed the green body bag into the passenger seat. He waited to hear the hydraulics release and lift then hopped over to the driver’s seat. He patted at the lump in his breast pocket, gave a subtle smile to the mirror, thought of asking JJ out for a drink before shifting the truck to first gear and heading to the next pickup.

Rabbit for Brunch Pt. 2

Rabbits for Brunch Pt. 2 by: M. R. Vega

“Oh my god, oh my fecking god, this isn’t, this can’t be real! What the hell did I miss, there’d be news about whats happening, right? What about David? Oh my god!!! I need to get to the house, I need to get to my car and drive off, they’ll see me, I know it, what the feck do I do? What about David, He should’ve been pulling up if not already here. The boys are gonna rip me limb from limb and I’ll end up being their dessert while they engorge on my eyes and intestines! Fuck me!!!”

The internal argument of Josie’s was a reflection of an inner truth she’d faced when watching the myriad of horror flicks David insisted on having her watch with him. She didn’t mind a good thriller, C.H.U.D. being a favorite, and the select few intellectual and enthralling horror pieces but the zombie route was getting old. David always stated it would end like this. They’d get ripped apart by mindless hordes somewhere down the line. She’d roll her eyes toward him and say he was silly, cuddle into his nook; right at his pit where he smelled of work, sweat, and their loving. Her eyes got wide, having the thought of David and his body molting, rotting, acquiring the odor of the walking dead within a week’s time became too sick to bear. She started to cry. Hand over her mouth, still hugging the grass and waiting while the boys devoured the lot of their rabbits. She could hear the squelching of the rabbit’s bodies being torn and gnawed and an eerie yelping and squawking of the terrified rabbits still breathing awaiting their doom.

She held her breathing and slowed it as much as she could without choking at the terror she was succumbing to. The sounds reminded her of the revolting scenes David would get gitty with watching George Romero’s collections; this was worse and had her holding in gagging and a sampling of her own bile a time or a few. She looked at the sliding door and slowly started to crawl or slide along the grass not wanting to move too abruptly. Hoping she’d not bump into one of the few pink flamingos or stone cairns she had decorating the grounds, her silent prayers were for both her neighbours to be too enthralled with their morning feast. Her biggest wish though was that once she was close enough she could hop in the building, latch the door, and run to the car without anything being aware. ‘Fingers crossed’

After her slow-going slide and pause that nearly lasted thirty minutes, she found that she was almost there, she was sure that the last of the rabbits had been ingested now. She didn’t care to inspect or for that matter even know. She just wanted inside, somewhere safe…safe?

That word had a new meaning now, didn’t it? she thought to herself before coming to terms with how quickly and quietly this next move would have to go or she’d likely have teeth jutting into her flesh. She inhaled quietly, gulped slowly, feeling her heart palpitate and almost silently slid the door open and swooped in without anyone or thing recognizing her movement. She slid the door slowly and once she felt it stop, latched it quickly and turned on her heel, grabbed the keys to her car and ran to the garage. Grabbing a phone hadn’t registered, let alone her thought of phones seemed likely more of a trap to any issue if she survived getting out of town. It’d be her luck that a forgotten phone alarm would end up blaring and letting anyone know exactly where she was in her distant future and the thoughts needed to be about survival not getting ripped to shreds.

The garage was already open…and David’s truck was idling with the driver’s door open. She could even hear his crap music playing on the radio quietly and with the door to the garage open gasped quietly. She whipped her head around and whispered into the house. “David…David…Dave, where the fuck are you?” She said this all within the decibel of a whisper and debated whether turning back into the house and searching would be an enlightening or detrimental choice. Hearing a crash and incoherent jabber of gnashing teeth told her to run. The truck though was blocking her car so she took her chance with the open door of Dave’s stupid truck and jumped in. There was blood everywhere, the seat had a puddle that her butt became accustomed to quickly and she threw the vehicle into reverse before giving a moment to the sound she ran from. It was surely David but it wasn’t worth the risk of getting her body ripped up for and drove away recklessly bashing through her mailbox and nearly hitting the neighbour’s silver Miata while speeding out of the cozy neighborhood she’d grown to love within the last couple years. Before getting to the stop sign though she made the idiotic choice of looking at the rearview mirror and saw a bloody, stumbling David lurching out of the garage, holding Timothy by the hair and flinging an arm of someone across the pavement. She screamed, swiping her sweat from her brow and tears from her eyes, she kept her foot planted to the pedal and refused to let up till the chaos around her started to thin out.

A Wallet Missed Pt. 2

A Wallet Missed Pt. 2 by: M. R. Vega

Harold had nearly stripped the apartment as though the two bedrooms, living space, and bathroom were a renovation. Lucy had left, taking the keys with her after cursing at him while he grabbed all the items from the boxes and closet still unpacked and rummaged through every orifice and nook. Whether it was a purse, backpack, gift box, jewelry case, or anything that he could envision holding that wallet he’d peek through.

However, now he sat defeated. He grabbed at the hairs laying against the nape of his neck and tugged angrily, plucking at himself like a peeved gardener does at weeds, and continued to do so until he felt blood trickling down his neck. Once that dripping was flowing he got up shaking his head. He’d already pushed the one person away that mattered most to him, the whole of his family was either gone or dead, and he found not peace but destruction to be his vice. Still feeling the trickling droplets slide down his sweating neck, starting to feel the burn from his self-mutilation he walked to the bathroom sulking and crying at the foolish man he’d become in a matter of the few hours he’d wrestled with this dilemma. Once in there, he gazed at the mirror, eyes bloodshot, and tear-soaked, seeing the blood start to stain the neckline of his shirt he started to mockingly laugh. Almost going about to punch the mirror, he held back his fist and shook a finger at himself, coming to terms that anyone watching what he was doing would call the cops, he took to the porcelain seat. He cried for a moment and in that innocuous moment of complete but coincidental randomosity flushed the toilet. With the lid closed the sound was muted but at that crucial pulse of a moment he heard a soft fabric thud to the ground.

He quickly turned, almost hopping with excitement and crouched reaching behind the toilet at the black wallet and pulling it to his chest sighed with great relief. He went to call Lucy, thinking of how he’d protest and convince her to their apartment. After crushing her noteworthy collection of wondrous reads, why would she come back? He asked himself silently and sent a text instead of begging her back with a call that read simply ‘I FOUND the wallet, come back, let’s get you to the book stores and I’ll replace em all. I’m sorry…and I’ll show you the wallet and explain my idiotic and infantile behaviour.’

After pressing send on his phone he waited anxiously but with a convincing to himself that she wouldn’t be stepping inside this place again. Hoping he’d hear a door close from the car they shared or hear her breathing a heavy sigh through the open window of the front of the apartment. However, he was astonished to find that she was sitting out there the entire time, just waiting. Her favorite wicker chair that she’d wished and jokingly begged for months ago was adorned with a cushion that she now used as her support sitting on the concrete step of their second-floor apartment. Luckily it was an odd and quiet night so only a few of the neighbours were either at the complex or even cared to open a door or walk about the area. This meant that she had all the time to listen to his fit throwing, rolling an eye at the idiocy, snickering and sticking a tongue our at the manchild behaviours she’d come to see from brothers plenty. Until today sadly, this was a first for her in being witness to his stupidity but she shrugged and figured, ‘that’s love, putting up with the stupid.’ Oddly there was a sense within that told her not only would he confess and relinquish so much that he’d never alluded to before, but tonight was going to be something of a special night.

And deep down she knew she’d be cleaning the shelves of the two book stores the lame town had available and she was starting to get antsy waiting for that text to come.

Upon finding the text at the same time Howard stuck his head out, she grimaced and then gave him a meek smile with a hand out, obviously awaiting the fated wallet to be placed in her hand. Howard grumbled a peevish and embarrassed apology looking her deep in the eyes and set the wallet firmly in her hand.

“Let’s go.” She said and they mozied down to the car with keys and wallet in hand.

The Red Planet, a Blanket, and You

by: M. R. Vega

People speak, the voices assume, unaware of the whole, and come to their own preconceived notions. They rarely take a moment to listen or watch, feeling as if they’re overstepping in being an observer, but god forbid, they come to a baseless assumption and put their two sense to object of the little they actually know.

The woman you loathe made that blanket you drape yourself in day and night when you’re cold, tired, or feeling that you need to be covered by peering eyes. Though we both know the only eyes watching you are mine. My eyes gaze in admiration and with a partial scarcity of spite depending on the issues at hand. Fifteen years and that blanket is showing its age. Fifteen years and half the planets were so delicately sewn into its long black fabric. Now they hang loosely or have been torn in frustration, or hurry. More likely it was frustration.

You permitted me access to your dwelling that fifteen years ago. I came with a few books, two pairs of jeans, too many black shirts, and that blanket. But I came with a flurry of tenacity and energy that didn’t equate to what either of us could assume would become what we are now. The blanket was something I held dear as it was a gift for my 18th year of living. I felt honored that the woman who stitched it and had sewn those precious planets in took the time to show me such consideration, such ample time to bring a warmth and graceful cool when I found it suitable. Fifteen years ago, I gave it to you as I had no money, had little but a couple hundred to my name, and since I had been accepted as your family, I only found it right to give you that careful gift to adorn you and drape over your shivering body in the dead of winter.

Little did I know that it’d become a testament to our love and the falling apart of what we once were. Fate has a funny way of showing that, doesn’t it? At first, I saw a thread come loose, near our first big fight, didn’t think much of it as I was so absolved within myself that I couldn’t do such maddening and stupid things.

That next year it became a constant found on the futon, then the loveseat, and then the couch we purchased together with our child. Ten years together and still the blanket survived, draped on the arm of your favorite corner, but little did anyone see that those threads of the blanket were showing more and more. Regardless of the evolution and the growth or disarray we each brought to one another. That blanket was a consistent reminder that our love was strong, formidable, and commendable. Fate started showing that may be something to be reconsidered and quickly, surely, the planets started to fall. Space and the incessant splashing of planets sewn across the whole of that dark blanket fell. The red planet, somehow stayed, resolute and stubborn, it was nearly etched and twice stitched into its fabric unlike the rest of the space-strewn pieces, therefore was the last to go until there could be nothing but darkness.

We lost our touch, forgot who we were to one another and that blanket started sharing that reality as it became nothing but a reflection in how we saw what we had become. Sadly, shamefully, I neglected you. Like a coward, watching the blanket we both were so proud of fall apart, I ignored the blatant realism in its fraying edges and the planets missing. Knowing it was that of how our relationship had shattered, like a wine glass to never be reconfigured the same as it was before the fall, I turned the other way. But you knew it too didn’t you? You rarely used it anymore, shoved it behind the bedroom door to collect dust and be replaced by a sherpa woven serape.

Well, what doesn’t kill or break can be made anew, can become something stronger. I saved those torn and frayed pieces…I collected the red planets strewn under the couch and rounded up all the remaining suns and Saturns that found themselves new places of residence within the couch seams or tucked under our son’s bed. They’re slowly being patched, slowly being reconfigured to bring us to a new light. There’s a beauty there huh? An unrequited love that neither you nor I care to push away and with that knowledge, I can see that hope…so I make a new blanket, not forgetting what we were, but pushing through to the new becoming that makes us, us. That blanket still is there but it’s making is of something stronger, something stoic and refined that reflects the growth of you, the growing of us, and the becoming of what we can forever be.

Rabbit for Brunch Pt. 1

Rabbits for Brunch Pt. 1 by: M. R. Vega

Josie found comfort in hearing the neighbors squabble in the early mornings day after day while she would do her morning stretches. Timothy and Nicky were two loud and vivacious spirits who sang their worries while the hummingbirds fed at Josie’s garden sugar feeder. They’d argue outside about foods and music then would make amends inside behind the shaking blinders. Josie blushed to herself and tried with an anxious itch to hear anything but. As men, they mimicked her mother’s elegance and reflected the shine they each saw within one another, however, not only was Josie envious of what they shared she begged within, that David her busy-body man would take note and show her such care.That was merely a wish that she often shook off and tended to the bushes, roses, tulips, and daffodils. When the men sharing a wall in the backyards weren’t outside jousting with one another verbally, she’d chitter to the squirrels and whisper to the birds her deeper wishes. She’d stretch toward the sun-splashed sky and yawn in the gentle dew as it coated her lungs with an energy of a thousand blades of grass at every inhale. She’d then exhaust the grief of being lonely and having to wait til later in the night for a touch, even if it was David’s hand at her back for but a moment. Sadly, she sighed that want away and finished her yoga or tai-chi each morning. Looking off into the neighbor’s yard for but a glimpse of two that loved one another more than she could wish and vied daily for her man to burst through the doors with a want that called to her heart. Though it was only a dream, it was a dream enough that kept her waiting.Timothy and Nicky would call to Josie each morning, showing her their rabbits, and examining her fruitful garden while they’d trade spices for her peaches, tangerines, or tomatoes. They’d share recipes and stories of how they met their partners. Her story was generic, something any Hallmark movie shared but Tim and Nicky’s was explosive and a powerful storm to be jealous of. Each of the men would smile, with pity behind the crow’s feet, and caress her hand with a pat before going back in to love up on each other. Josie would exhale heavily, shaking her head, aim toward the shower after texting David wishing him home, wishing him love. But often to no avail. She’d express often in text, and usually only in text how she wanted him. 

Now, sadly David was daft and nearly empty of a tenacity that wanted love and only mimicked what he’d seen in film, he’d followed the characters he had grown up seeing and tried almost effortlessly in being a carbon copy of those testosterone-fueled men. He felt that it was cruel but deeply wanted to make Josie happy, and making him an image she’d wanted was something that fueled his advances at work. Being a contractor for Florida’s biggest construction company, brought him access to being busy and keeping his profit up to par, never having to explain why he’d leave so often. In his eyes giving her all she wanted was something that filled him, and only him with satisfaction. If only he knew…

Josie unaware of who David truly was still dreamt of them frolicking in the sheets til the sun came up, still woke to an empty bed. Today though her phone was buzzing non-stop, she looked at the message handle and saw fifteen missed calls and thirty texts all from David. The window was wide open, she could feel the cool beach air wafting into the room and smell a salt all too familiar and breathed in with a smile. She didn’t look at the messages or listen to the calls, she could hear the two neighbors making their odd noises as they often did in the morning and rolled her eyes, quickly walking to the bathroom to clean up anticipating David arriving momentarily, and hurried her lather and rinse.

Once clothed in some shorts and a sweater, her hair still wet she went to the back to stretch away her worry and anxiety while she awaited the sound of David’s truck pulling up to the garage. However, there was a silence that haunted the air around her and she peered around first at the neighbor’s house, sure she’d see their blinds shaking but nothing moved. The birds didn’t flutter, traffic was lacking except for what she swore was a horn honking incessantly and called out to Timothy and Nicky. Neither of them answered, their age and them being retired, she knew this was odd and thought of maybe hopping the stone wall to knock on their sliding door but then saw Timothy stumbling past the window, he didn’t look her way as she gazed through their window. Instead, she watched in horror while she watched a rabbit of theirs tossing in the clutches of Timothy’s. She called out for an answer to what it was Tim was doing and still, neither Nicky nor Tim responded. She could feel that there was something wrong, she could hear the silence encroaching on her heart and then saw Timothy open his maw with a veracity that she’d only seen on national geographic documentaries from childhood and muffled a scream while she watched in horror Timothy clamping his teeth into a rabbit, Snooks, a rabbit she’d nicknamed Thumper and quickly hit the grass of her own yard when she realized Nicky was grabbing at the rabbits in their pens. She pulled in a breath not daring to move and prayed silently, quivering and wishing her back door was closer than the 100 feet it seemed like it was.

The Blue Chair Pt. 2

The Blue Chair Pt. 2 by: M. R. Vega

Jacob woke before the rest of the home did, as he often did, and went about doing his morning routine. Jacob packed the lunch for his son, the assistive tech device, and nestled that into the convenient pouch with a peanut-butter cup in the tiny hide-a-hole. He prepped the iced protein coffee for his wife and sliced some fruits & veggies for her knowing the day would be long and grueling while making sure to pack an extra protein drink in her lunch sack. After that was done he grabbed his favorite mug, a white and black dog head capable of holding 28 ounces of coffee, and started his personal prep before hitting the office.

The second, no the third alarm for his wife and son, had just gone off and with a smile, he kissed her gently giving her a bit of a nudge telling her he’d turned the shower on. After that he egged his son out of bed with a chiming of his name that had the young boy pad into the parent’s bed. There he pulled the blanket up to guard him against the light and Jacob left a pair of jeans and the boy’s school shirt along with some fresh socks, on his wife’s side of the bed he left a pair of rolled panties and long socks for her, a pair of gray slacks and a tank-top. He kissed them both gently knowing they’d still likely lay in bed for an additional ten minutes but knew he couldn’t just gaze in wonder at them and hustled to the office across the house. His piping hot coffee and a water bottle in hand, he gently plopped in his office chair and got settled for the day. Headset already atop his crown and the coffee pad warmer on, he got his computer warmed up and put in the needed keycodes, waited for admittance and while that took a moment longer as it usually did, he ran back to his bedroom, kissed his wife and son one last time and wished them a good day.

He hadn’t looked at Emily, their dog, hadn’t noticed the rotting scent yet and plopped down at his chair, entered in the appropriate codes for the VPN, got the virtual desktop going, and started his morning with a cheery “Good morning, my name is Jacob Vincente. Thank you for calling…” and went his next two hours uninterrupted while he punched in credentials and policies over and again, patching this client to this team and this agent to the third-party group and so on till his first break.

When he came out of the room to freshen up with a fresh cup of coffee, the house was empty and quiet. Thinking his son or maybe his wife had forgotten to flush he checked the bathroom but already knew the smell wasn’t emitting from that room. He looked at the dog bed, and gazed at Emily hesitantly inching toward her as though she had turned into a feral beast but once he stepped a foot closer was walloped by her dying body’s reeking mass and inhaled through his shirt, already bunched and at his lips. The tears were pouring uncontrollably while he grabbed at the nearest blanket that was left draped across one of the couches. He knew, or at the least, hoped his wife wouldn’t get sully about a sherpa being used to adorn their dog with but knew she’d ladle gold over the old girl if it was deemed appropriate.

He saw this moment, many times through the last few months, and had assumed he’d carry this weight more adequately, he couldn’t contain his grief however and curled next to Emily’s decaying old body for far too long. If it wasn’t for his landline ringing thirty minutes after he began swaddling her he’d have stayed there til his wife and son got home. He jolted in horror at the ringing but quickly came to realize it was likely a team member or TL trying to find out if he’d fallen or worse. Grabbing the phone, he first looked at the caller I.D. and was heartbroken that it was actually his wife calling. He’d done this so many times, but still in every dream never found the words right to tell her, never knew how to console the situation in a manner that wouldn’t have her getting weak at the knees and being able to hear the tears drop over the line.

“Hey Babe, everything okay? I tried texting you to let you know our boy and I are at the school, and just in time too, you gotta really shake me up sometimes Boo, you know how I get when it’s cold. Everything okay?” His wife had such a cheerful disposition and all Jacob could do was inhale as silently as he could and put a knuckle to his teeth trying so hard to not elude to the saddening development but knew the next thing he’d utter would tell her something was definitely not right.

“I’m sorry Honey, she’s gone…Emily passed away sometime through the night…I couldn’t bring… myself to call you when I realized…I just fell to the ground and cradled her til you called…I’m sorry Honey.” Jacob stated it all through sobs and sniffling, doing what he could not to choke, and was at the least, thankful that he had the words now. Regardless of the dreams he’d walked through night after night, at least he finally had something to say with emotion and a steeling of recollection to the moments before just blurting out that their dog was dead. He could hear his wife sniffling through the phone, asked if she was okay, and said he was sorry again. He could hear her start to sob and felt wretched that he didn’t see Emily earlier in the morning, or god forbid, smell her before his wife and son left for the day.

He didn’t want her driving in this state of grief, the last year alone hadn’t been all that kind as his wife lost her mother early the year before and then near Cabrini Day lost her Grandmother as well. Those were the last of her family and many times had she uttered to Emily not to take that path for at least another year. She begged to have a year, at the least to gain her feet, but no Emily chose her own time…and Jacob could feel a deepening pit inside as the monumental loss was likely hitting his wife in the heart heavier than anything he could equate an understanding to.

“Leave the car, we’ll pick it up later, I’m going to call my boss and ride over to the school and get both you and our boy okay? Honey? Just stay there, if you can tell your Trina what just happened and I’m sure she’ll cover your room. I’ll be there within twenty minutes, I love you.”

He could hear her sob a gobbed and wet love you too and okay into the phone before hanging up, afterward he quickly grabbed his keys and hustled to the car. He was thankful that they at least got two vehicles as one of those nightmares he wrestled with had shown his wife dealing with tears flooding her eyes and losing both his wife and child in a horrific accident, at the least, he was able to turn the finger to fate and say it wasn’t taking them today. He pressed on the gas and barely noticed getting to the school with all the chaos that was flooding his head and how he needed to start reconsidering some of the recurring dreams that have been following him through the nights as of late.

That wasn’t something to think about now. He needed to get his wife and kid from the school, thankfully and tragically they were outside waiting under an umbrella while the morning rains were starting to come in, he ushered them into the car, thanked Trina for the assistance, and consoled them while he sped there as legally as possible. She gave him a tight hug and pressed her hand against the passenger window blowing kisses at his wife and boy while he got back in and headed back home to dig Emily’s grave. His head burned with worry and dread as he last night knew this was going to happen. But unlike all the other times this dream had happened, it came to a full fruition, what had changed, or what was it that Jacob had done or not done that made it happen? Was it something so easy to consider that a lack of action made this happen? Did this mean that fate caught up, that his path was turning to point of fitting the nightmares that kept him sweating through the night and restless every other?

He drove through the soft rains, hearing both his wife and son sniffing quietly, the radio was muted and all that could be heard was the pattering of droplets from up above while they drove home…to say goodbye to dear Emily.

The Scream Pt. 2

The Scream Pt. 2 by: M. R. Vega

Luca and Tyler Sykes were playing monkey in the middle with a friend while anxiously awaiting their mom to pull up post haste. She’d reminded them to be ready so they can get to the fairgrounds quickly and get in before the lines were beyond a patient wait time. However, once again, Angela neglected them, as she so often did when she’d sounded so collected and ready to have all set.

Luca, the oldest of the two, kicked the grass of the green that wrapped around the pickup lane and peered past parents already waiting for their own children to file in like any other day. Most of the kids for both his 7th-grade and Tyler’s 6th-grade class were all cheering for the rides and elated that it was Friday. Most bragged about how much they’d likely be given for the Ag Palace; known by all to have the best candy grabs a kid could find in town and embarrassingly neither of the boys had even known if they’d had enough for tickets to the rides let alone candy to lug back home after. They’d skirt the inquiries as they both so often had to, knowing they came from little money and it showed every year when they’d come to school wearing shirts from the year before or Tyler would be seen gluing his sole of the Adidas he treasured so much, again. They didn’t like drawing attention to themselves and both were happy that they managed to get some part-time jobs cleaning up the alleys around the neighborhood and the park. The crap of the matter though was that neither of them started until next weekend after the fair was gone. So they both made sure to dress in the cleanest and best clothes they did have for their excursion to the fair. Luca figured it wouldn’t matter how good they looked if they ended up missing out on the startup like their mom had promised would be taken care of perfectly. He kicked at the grass again and gritted his teeth when Angela blared her horn, rolled the window down, and told them to run to the side of the school and jump in.

Both the boys looked at each other with shock and a smile and quickly adhered to the demand made by their mom.

“Hurry it up you two, get in get in.” she said, ashamed of her lateness but elated to grace them each with an additional 40 dollars to split aside from the amount she scrounged from the couches and cleanup earlier that day. Turned out her parents had set aside some funds for this very day to make sure they could be kids without the worry of making ends meet as they usually did every other day and week. “Open the glove compartment Luca, give half to your brother, and make sure to keep that for you. Let’s get you two to the fair, make sure you have your tickets too, and I’m sure you’ll both have more than enough to get those ride bands so you can be having a blast till it’s shutdown time.” Angela was excited for them and didn’t think bringing up her reason for being late would need to be shared, her intention was to get the boys to the fair, and her investigation would be her own, even if her pops had eluded to hearing something too after sliding her that 40 dollars for the kids before she peeled out on the pavement and sped off to pick them up moments ago.

Luca, with a smile and grimace, said thank you while passing Tyler his portion and asked her what had been the hold-up.

“Don’t worry bout that son, let’s get you boys to the fair so you could have a good time, but don’t you two forget to thank your grandparents when we all come to get you tonight. Maybe we’ll even cap the night with a stop at DQ before crashing for the night. Sound like a plan Lu and Ty?” They both smiled at the idea and grumbled at thanking their grandparents, they never would dare to forget or else they’d get a chonkla, they’d both learned that lesson the hard way and didn’t want their mom to fret any more than she already does and had.

Angela swerved and faired a good time after all and found that she was just in time to drop them off before the rides were starting to rev up. They both happily wished her a thank you and kissed her curly-haired head avoiding a lip print she loves to leave them. She waved at them and told them to keep track of time and to be ready for pickup, same spot at 10:30 tonight.

“Me and your Gramps will be waiting for you. I love you boys, be safe!” they quickly thanked her, scrunched their faces up to hers, and shimmied out of the car. She watched them shuffle in, get stamped, and disappear into the crowds with smiles. She was elated to have been able to do that at the least, whispered a secret thank you to her Pops, again, and drove off back to the shanty home. It had only been a bit over 45 minutes since she heard the scream and god forbid there were screams still, but she had a tug at her heart that something was afoot. She pulled up slowly to the house while peering around at the familiar houses she’d grown up watching. She knew most of the houses were old and filled with elders. Only a few had new residents, mostly young and loud groups of college-fueled ideals needing to make noise or cause a ruckus for the sake of attention. Her assumption was that the scream came from a house with the younger renters in lieu of an elder who’d likely not have the strength to hurt anything but kick a dog away or push a cat off a couch.

She pulled into the driveway, slowly rolling the windows closed and anticipating a curdled scream like she heard before she ran to get the boys. It was silent, eerily quiet except for the man pulling that dog again and avoiding eye contact as she waived again and walked up the steps to the front door. Once in the house, she peeked through the blinds to see if the neighbor and dog were in view and decided to go on a small walk up and down the block to see if she was just losing her mind or making things up for the joy of dismantling the monotony she’d come to know so frequently. She took off her slides and grabbed an old pair of sneakers, put her bare feet in them, and went looking for anything out of place. Realizing she’d have an hour if not more before her parents would need a pickup she decided to make it a three-block walk and took her time. Trying not to be a Gladys Kravits, but still needing to know if there was someone begging for help, she mozied about glancing through yards, looked for broken windows perhaps. She felt crazy doing what she was doing and blamed her decision on the old joint that brought her curiosity to this point.

Once she hit that third block, she rolled an eye inwardly at herself and chuckled at her mere stupidity, turning tail to go back home and get cleaned up. She decided she needed to clean up, her feet were already sweating in the shoes tore-up shoes and she could feel the squish between her toes but then came a loud crack and what sounded like a gagged scream, or was that just the shoes she thought.

She turned her head slowly, pinched her eyes shut knowing she likely looked like a mad woman, and waited to hear something out of the normal everyday hum of the city. The cars rumbled by, echoing in her ears, the critters, birds, and televisions within the block could be faintly heard but then there was a faint muffled whine and an angry growl. But it was further back, closer to the house and she clenched her knuckles tightly thanking her intuition. She straightened back up, faced her house, and slowly stepped forward quickly. She knew she couldn’t run, she had to find the source of where the trouble came from, but also knew most of the neighbors were bored and either starting to come out to watch the sun head down or cool off with a beer. Her assumption was that it was only houses away and likely in a shed or a basement. Most of her side of the neighborhood was either falling apart, broken down, or barely hanging together. Meaning that the structures thankfully had cracks enough that the sounds were audible. Even to her. She prayed for her tenacious endeavor and hoped she’d be quick enough to find whoever it was being harmed. She couldn’t tell, not yet.

A Scream Pt:1

A Scream Pt:1 by: M. R. Vega

The roads were busy, the heat lingered atop the pavement and the fair was starting with a flurry of the city’s energy. Its enthralling, reverberating, and tenacious emotion lay just shy beneath the skin of Pueblo. The incessant chatter and hollers could be heard echoing off the slabs of pavement around the fairgrounds. It was a rejoicing time for the youth, an inpatient length of noise and mess for the elders while it coaxed the restless and weary keeping their minds deterred from work or off of the monotonous schemes of clock in-clock out. After all, it was a mimic of the same, reminding everyone of last year, the year before, and before…

Angela Sykes was on her weekly mission for her boys while she slowly yearned for a ticket to anywhere else. She scrounged up the change of the kiddos left in the jeans, thrown on the counter, and shook the couches and loveseat to their little divets she made them, allowing all the loose change that was inevitably going to be there to fall to the floor with a clang and chime. Along with the school’s fair tickets given every year, she had acquired enough to pay for two ride bands and maybe a basket of fries for them to share. It’d likely go to something like candy or a cheap lemonade but that was up to the boys. They were finally old enough that she could drop them off at the gate and come hours later to pick ’em up and shuttle ‘em back to the shanty house she and her old folks still managed to own.

Aside from the one drawer of her own with old clothes and perhaps a dish set or two, that run-down house was the only thing her parents and her owned, the lease on the car was late on payments, likely to get seized before the fair was packed up and she knew it was either the car or food enough to feed the family. It was bad enough that the two boys were nearing adulthood and lacked control when they ate. Like locusts, they consumed most of what was bought for the week before Wednesday had come around. Luckily they started part-time jobs in a week, and to say she was proud was an understatement, knowing how hard it was to even get an interview in this town, she could clap and holler a ‘yippee’ if she knew it wouldn’t make them blush and deny her the gratitude a mom deserves.

After cleaning up the muck and dust from finding all the loose change, taking it to the nearest Coinstar machine, and cashing it out, she had an hour to herself before having to pick the boys up from Pitts Middle School. She rinsed off her dust-covered face, embarrassed realizing that she walked into the Soopers store like that, and dabbed at her face with a dry rag. Being 29, she was starting to see the years hang on the corners of her eyes and damned her Abuela for the lazy eye she managed to get as it apparently skipped her mom and decided she was beautiful enough still, makeup could wait for a rainy day. She’d rather use up the last of her mascara, foundation, and highlight for work. Maybe she’d be able to stretch it out the next week and treat herself to the E.L.F line they had at Walmart. She rolled her eyes, scoffing at the idea and knowing, likely her boys would need something more important, at least for them. 45 minutes left and she ran to the closet of the room her parents and she shared, reaching up to a nook that saved an old and drying joint, now all she needed was a lighter and prayed her dada still had one in the silverware drawer in the kitchen.

Luckily, the red Bic was still there, still moderately full and she went out to the patio to sit and bask in the sun for the next ten minutes, knowing she’d need to pull up to the school earlier than later if she didn’t want mouth and drama from her two boys.

She closed her eyes, pursed her lips to the dry paper, flicked at the lighter, and took a long drag. It eased her senses, or clouded them, she had met a point in life now where either or, was better than nothing and shrugged it off while she exhaled slowly and stared out past the yard and waved at an old man walking his aging dog. The man ignored the gentle wave and hurried his steps, nearly choking the dog trying to get out of eyeshot. She snickered and smiled, knowing how the people were these days, she shrugged it away while taking a second and last drag until maybe tonight after the boys were in bed. She hid the remainder of the joint on the corner of the porch banister, put an old rock atop it afterward ran inside to grab her shoes.

She grabbed the money from her small Coinstar stop and the fair tickets for her kids, got the keys and her purse, locked up the house then jumped in the car. The school was minutes away so she took her backing up seriously, not wanting to muck up the car. She had already messed up the backend bumper once or twice before and didn’t want an extra, exorbitant fee hitting her later. While backing up though Angela, knowing the radio wasn’t on yet heard a muffled scream. It was almost blood-curdling, however, she figured it came from a neighbour watching a film with the windows open. Still backing up and turning the wheel to steer her towards the school she heard it again. The fair was too far away for that to be it, she peered about the neighborhood, didn’t see anything amiss, and shrugged it away…

A Wallet Missed By: M. R. Vega

A Wallet Missed Part 1 by: M. R. Vega

The laundry had been tossed across the master room, the sopping washer load had been strewn across the linoleum leaving puddles to be traipsed over and across. Harold looked at his girlfriend Lucy with an ambivalence that could have anyone else’s skin molt and wither. Lucy wasn’t that type of woman though as she continued with a tenacity admirable even to the grump of a man glaring at her as he followed the wreck left behind going through pairs of sweats and jeans to no avail in a search of a wallet. A velcro-sealed wallet so easily purchased at any Wal-Mart from their city to each coast of the states. They both knew this. They both ignored the beguilement one another felt as they tore through the bedsheets, the hamper, the couches, and the rest of the small apartment. Harold went to the bookcases after soaking up a good amount of moisture in the socks he continued to wear on his stinking feet with an indistinguishable grumbling that neighbours under and above can hear but not even Harold was aware of. They needed this wallet.

Harold needed it, and at the moment could care less if Lucy was in the apartment or was attesting to his pulling the books down lazily and so carelessly. Lucy’s cries and wallowing were ignored as Harold; the brute began tossing them over his shoulder unabashed by where or how they landed. They had no difference to him than that of the sopping and likely still seeping wet load of laundry aside the washer. These were wastes of space in Harold’s eye, an argument that had continued since they moved in together. He didn’t get the sense of such a collection if she just let them bask atop a shelf. Rarely did he see her open them let alone know or share what they were about, but that was Lucy’s secret and not something she cared to waste his time discussing. Luckily for her, until today, her covering rent while he was still job searching kept them safe, kept her secrets and loves untainted.

Gibran, Dumas, Bradbury, Vonnegut, Morris, Christie, and many more met their fate to a blind toss with a flutter of pages let loose from their bindings. Tolstoy and the older collections she most treasured were luckily tucked in a footlocker hidden in the back of a closet but still, Lucy raged on. Lucy infuriated, screamed for Harold to stop, and begged for him to quit his childish fit and look at what he was doing all for a silly wallet. It was just money, something a week’s worth of working and slouched behind a counter or stocking shelves could replace, but unbeknown to Lucy that wasn’t the full truth.

Harold, only knowing Lucy for but two years of his thirty lived, felt that minute aspects of his life needed to be told. Histories of his family and what they carried were to be kept to sealed lips until he chose to wed if ever that came to be his choice. He whipped his head around and started to shout at her, baring down on her with ridicule only an idiot man can stoop to. Kicking and stomping on Palahnuik and King, shredding Tolkein and Yeats with his teeth and a smile. He spit out the papers with a grin, told her she couldn’t understand and continued looking through the shelves while throwing the last of the books to the floor with a behooving and dripping in vile sweaty anger.

“It’s not just a wallet Luce! It’s not just money! It’s my family’s legacy!”

Lucy wide-eyed and starting to quiver began to give him a look of curious audacity, an almost incredulous expression wanting to pull that statement yelled at her, still feeling the spittle on her cheeks, she wanted to know exactly what that meant. She mocked him with a meek scoff and rolled an eye pulling herself to the wall, knowing, more unsure if the books would be the only thing abused and shrugged.

“Meaning? Your family legacy, really Harry. You damage most of my books all for a velcro-sealed wallet cheaper than a joint on the street and you state it’s a family legacy!” Lucy looks at the torn and tattered smashed books she’d taken years to collect and slumps to the floor with tears falling quicker than her knees gave out.

“And you do this?” Luce waves her hand across the living room, looking up at Harold with hate he’s never seen protrude from her tear-strewn eyes.

He looks at her remorsefully, ashamed and confused of how he got so angry and so quickly.

“You can’t understand, Okay? I’m not excusing this bullcrap, I know, I fucked up, I’ll replace them all okay? I just need that wallet. It’s not a foolish want, I need it Luce, that wallet has so much and I can only show you if we find it.”

Lucy scoffs again and slowly, ignoring Harold now, crawls delicately to the broken collection and starts stacking them while tracing her finger across the spines. She sniffs at the nasal drip pouring from her nose and almost chokes.

“Find that fecking wallet then Harry! Get out of this room and find that stupid wallet and then you’re going to show me what’s so special and allow you some shit excuse for damaging these. She holds up Stephen Kings Carrie, its binding nearly torn in half, a first-edition hardback she bought after getting her first grant for college, and starts to cry. Harold still stupidly negligent to the emotions flooding her senses nods and goes about the apartment continuing his search in silence. All he hears aside from his movement and the slapping of his still wet socks is Lucy’s sniffing and begins to feel a heat exude from the woman he owes an explanation to.

The Blue Chair Pt. 1

The Blue Chair Pt. One by: M. R. Vega

The t.v still rings with that familiar hum we’ve all come to know. A warning of the impending shutdown at the bottom of the screen eludes the remaining minutes before its screen shares nothing till another person comes to stare at the box the next day. The souls within the house are tired and restless and Jacob stares at the dog. An ailing pet of fifteen years now, if not longer, can’t but help to stink and rumble unknowingly. Jacob grimaces at the smell that wafts slowly to his nose and he gazes to his right to see his wife scrunch her nose unconsciously as she’s already in her dream realm parkouring over stairs and saving humanity or their son from dire darkness. His dreams never mimic such dramatics. He’d be so lucky.

However, the tales of the night’s endeavours always bring a smile when they ready themselves the next day. If asked what he dreamed, he grimaces and states nothing per usual, and leaves it there. He grabs the lunches, packs the car, kisses both their child and wife goodbye before moseying on back to the office, day after day to punch in policies, daydream silently, and hate the decisions that have brought him pounding in number after number, coaxing angry clients to a cool zen mood while he clenches at his teeth with a smile.

To Dream… : Dream by Wombo

The remote life, in comparison to his usual nightmare, keeps his soul regulated. Keeps his demeanor casual and more coagulated than he cares to admit, however, his wife would say otherwise as she feels the heat radiate from his body in the night once they find themselves in bed later than planned each night. What she doesn’t know or neglects to inquire about is what it is that truly digs within her husband. A couple of years now and he’s not had a night’s rest that hasn’t been interrupted by his bladder needing draining, his legs needing movement, or the nuanced repetition of reading yet another chapter of another book. If only he’d open his mouth if only he’d mention the shit that tramples his dreams or drowns his thoughts giving him foresight. A thing he never asked for, though, knowing him, the wife wouldn’t be amiss to think he’d had wished to have a power of a similar type as a kid.

Jacob the angered man still glaring at his dog starts to cry, it’s subtle, almost ignored even by him until the treading tear tickles at his nose and he wipes the moistness away. Matter of fact is, this dog, the ailing pet, is dying. It’ll be quick, the heart will stop, and her body will give a last shudder in an attempt to wake one last time. Her brain will have clicked off, her eyes will flutter, her oversized torso will give one last heave of hot breath, and slowly but surely the stink of her already rotting body will begin to deteriorate. Jacob will phone his wife in a day or two that Emily is no longer, but still can’t think of the proper way to drop such a heavy note while she teaches her students about important figures of Black History Month. This is the dream of the last month, just like the one a couple months back of the grandmother saying goodbye for the last time and him not knowing what to say or how to tell her the love she brought will never be matched. How the drive for the week after and the coming funeral won’t amount to the silent grief his wife feels quietly unanswered because that’s how she is and just to be held will be all she wishes for and like usual he’ll be there but still will never know how truly lost she is now. These are the nightmares he feels and sees, these are the silent missiles he carries throughout the days and he mentions little if ever at all.

He’s learned painfully that mentioning anything of the preordained only sullies the truth and takes fate out of it’s motion. Atop that he’s found that making certain strides, and the little nuances within those of his dreams can tell him if it’s this life or a life of another plain that will soon be lost. How can one determine where and when it’s right to warn if even Jacob can’t tell, will never be able to tell or truly know when it’ll happen?

But then again…there goes Emily, whimpering, grappling at the last of her life and this he’s certain will be her last night. So it goes.

First day of the rest of my Life…38 years and counting down…

February 4th, 2023

The books tower around the halls, most collecting dust the few being read sit close if not directly in hand via an app on his phone. He tells those around him, he’s read at least half but the number is slowly shrinking to less and less as he acquires more every week at the used book store; Books Again. It’s a solace where he finds regard to his vice, a last one he holds onto so dear as the world around him crumbles away and he can’t help but not adapt.

The green smoke he once reveled in, by a code name: devil’s weed, he has found lost its effect, and taste and the smell makes him woozy with frustrations as he giggles at how stupid and irreprehensible he’s been to regard it a friend. As most do, as so many cradles their bottles, pipes, and joints to aid the weary head while they numb the senses years ago was lit asunder. He used to metaphorically spit at those beside and around him that would take to the spoils of such and mocked the choices left by them…thirteen years later and he’s finally waking up. A timequake one may call it, Kilgore Trout would certainly state it was a matter of losing of what we all hold dear; our free will. The books are losing their dust, the job is being scraped and his blood is starting to feel warm again, and yet, there’s a wakefulness that makes him see the world anew. There’s still an idea he has, a burning within that tells him, 38 years left, Memento Mori echoes on repeat in a whisper again and again and the neglected NTI that he once lived by screams at him like a banshee in the night. He often wakes in a sweat with the middle of the night haunting him and the shadows nearing his soul ever closer, ever more haunting with fangs and jagged blades digging into what he made himself.

The computer, this very computer calls to him in the night, yells at him to stretch out the days and stop neglecting the self within that can reach many but you refuse…why?

Is it fear? Is it a juxtaposition in regard to what was and what is? He’s a father, a dear and focused man wanting to give all to the nonverbal little one, a husband that wants to give all he can to the one he hurt so furiously through years of confusion and lack of faith still, she hangs on…still she smiles with apprehension and love, and what does he do? He buys another book, calls off work disregarding the knowing that he can only move mountains with money…but is it that difficult to make amends? Is it so?

Or can he, can the man pounding on the soft keys pull in a breath and type out his heart to reflect the ideas that he holds dear? Can he manifest a hope to what we all can become in regard to what is written and what will be written, can words still take such an effect on humanity that we start regarding one another as separate entities all deserving that reflection we each see in ourselves? May I say…Love? Is this something still important as the man writing he feels that it is, he feels that the manifestation of what he sees and feels through media, through news, through loss in his family, reconciliations in friendships, and the regaining in momentum can not only bring a flourishing but a growth to what will make him whole and those he touches closer to themselves as well as the world? Is that naive? Is it utter stupidity to have a hope so loud that he’s let this ideology reflect in his writing for school and the discussions within the classes when he takes the time to pay attention?

I feel that I’ve been sleeping the last decade, that I’ve let my life coast on without regard to what I am and how I can move my world around to make matters better not just for myself but for everyone I meet, this may not be a truth, it may be the only truth. What I do know is that I need to do more than wallow and grieve, what I can muster is the energy enough to write and put my efforts into what I see and what I know and that is that relationships are rough, assumptions can be deadly and that the heart is not only a fickle thing but a muscle that needs more than just the body to keep it in line. We each need a team, a party, and perhaps a village to aid in the endeavours we find in life that can not only help fuel us but stoke the motivations that become us.

From the start I cannot state that I’m a great man, nor can I mention that I’ve been a stately father at all times, but I can say I’ve made the effort and the reconciliation within myself and those I love beyond myself to make matters known that my heart is here and isn’t going to leave. May I write within this time and space to reflect the vision I see and the dream I hope we can all fulfill. Truth is that we are all dying and no one lives forever. I’ve got 38 years and a matter of six months left for my life. My biggest hope is that I not leave a memoir for my children, but a lesson in the manifestation in that idea of the self and how we can create what we want to see with the issuing of virtue and love to those around us.

This last year has been hell and I’ve let it disrupt so much of my life and take it to a direction that lessened who I am and how I see myself, this disregard, however, it did help me become a sober adult who no longer takes to flame and grass in hopes I numb my fears and ignore the trivial things that I know can be done but choose to shove it all under the sopping rug. As I take my days forward I try to laugh at the stupidity and shy away from the thought that it’d hello in any way knowing it’ll just make me slower and less of a hand to what I want to achieve in success for my family and our future together. 38 years and this is all I can do, or better yet, this is how I can take that first step in making me a better peer to those I call family and friends and the one I know is the only love I’ll ever want in my life. Life is too precious to waste it, life is too damn important to let the idea of money drive me ass as I have the tools that can drive me to my destination. Do I need the security of a place that disregards my being who I am MS and all, or do I see the benefit of what my wife offers and my son shows as the tools that can help me strive toward success for the better of the latter of success I know I can reach?


One thing I wish anyone told me, though I’m sure it was stated, I wish it was engraved where scars rest and slowly lighten to take away the memories of a darkness I wish and hope I’ll quickly forget and move past. Don’t count those eggs, nor the baskets they’re put in, just do it. Just write, just create, just make and make and make and take accountability for the failures you partake in.

Take accountability because no one else is going to and the more the world sees you shy away from what it is you’ve done or didn’t do the less they’ll want to aid in your betterment seeing only selfishness and a disregard for those around you or I.

M. R. Vega

Nosce Te Ipsum