This issue brings you an international mix of writers and their attention grabbing pieces. From childhood memories to addiction and universal love to the last stop truck stop, I hope you like these as much as I did. As the new kid on the block here at GC, I welcome your comments on prose issue #110. Kick up your feet and enjoy the inspiring words of N. God Savage, Rebecca J. Lower, Robert Morschel, and Richard Godwin.
N. God Savage
I watched the ’94 Formula One Season with my father. I’d like to say we watched every race together, but I don’t think we did. We watched it in a south-facing room, and we were a Hopper painting – bathed in a shaft of blue light.
My father rarely sat down, but ferried to and fro – kitchen to living room, living room to kitchen. He stood in the centre of the room, left hand on his hip, the right cradling a succession of foodstuffs – cheese on crackers, messy, oil-dipped bread, dry Spanish wine in the early afternoon.
I was fascinated by the shimmering ships, rocketing past a shuddering camera, snaking through a chicane. My father patiently explained everything to me and I loved to hear the exotic names – Senna, Häkkinen, Ratzenberger. He had a grand way of pronouncing foreign words and phrases, each syllable an intrinsic song, the result a brief flash of music.
We watched the San Marino grand prix together. Ratzenberger was killed during qualifying, Senna during the race. Murray Walker’s voice fell two octaves between sentences, as horrified hysteria at Senna’s crash gave way to sombre realisation of its severity. I remember thinking it was two different people, so marked was the contrast in pitch and tone.
Fifteen years on and I still watch the races – alone now, as nobody else is interested. My wife looks at me with exasperation when I switch the television on at twelve on a Sunday.
“It’s so boring,” she says. “I can’t understand why you are not bored by it.”
She goes out to visit her uncle and I stay home to watch the race. Much is the same – the sunlight, the metallic flash of the mechanical beasts as they roar from their concrete cages. There are some new names, and I whisper them musically to myself – Buemi, Vettel, Kovalainen. I graze on snacks while I watch each race, just like my father. But I am seated throughout – I lay out all the food I will require before the start.
Some things have changed – I no longer feel the innocent thrill of sunlight on silver. The shadow of it remains, but bleached – washed out. I persevere with this sport because it means something to me, because it is the string that binds a collection of fading memories.
I watch the races in our north-facing lounge and I am a Monet sketch – dispersed in a cloud of grey smoke.
Perhaps things would be different if I had a son.
N. God is a writer and philosopher from Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The hunger came back, gnawing at the edges. It was familiar to her mind, the impulse, the sensation. Today was the six- month anniversary of Mary’s bariatric surgery. She’d followed the guidelines to the letter: no more than a half to three-quarters of a cup of food at a time, moderate intake of alcohol, moderate exercise. But something wasn’t right. The hunger stayed on, and she couldn’t blot it out.
A chiming sound, far away, caught her attention. It stopped, then began again. Her cellphone. She stood up from the bed and dashed to the hall closet, where she’d stashed her purse.
“You need to leave me alone.” It was Samuel.
“You heard what I said, bitch. I don’t have the patience to repeat it.”
“I don’t understand. You didn’t like my email?”
“Email? You sent me ten of them, before lunchtime. And they ain’t exactly safe for work, girl.”
Mary started sobbing, the cellphone clutched tightly in her left hand.
“I’m sorry, Samuel. I just can’t stop thinking about how your body feels next to mine, how you touch me. Please tell me you’ll stay here tonight.”
At the word tonight, the other end went silent. He’d hung up. But the hunger spun on in her mind, pulling her into the comfort and pain of the spiral. She scrolled through her phone, found an entry, then hit send.
Rebecca writes from the midwest United States, where she has scribed poems for Outside Writers and Zygote in My Coffee.
The little craft settled slowly in to the dust as its engines whined to a reluctant halt.
“I told you to take a left,” Eva said scornfully, “but no, you always know better. Bloody men. All the same.”
Harry gazed at his wife, still so very beautiful after their many years together. He loved the fiery spark in her eyes when she was angry; it was how they had met: he’d seen her arguing with a shuttle steward, pointing her little finger indignantly up at the hapless man towering over her. He fell in love.
As usual she was right, but Harry wasn’t about to admit it as he avoided her piercing stare in an attempt at salvaging his pride. He knew he should have taken Joe’s advice and bought a StellaNav for this trip. Joe reckoned it saved his marriage and was worth every penny, but Harry disagreed – why did galactic travel require more than some elementary trigonometry?
Still, he and Eva argued about navigation every trip they took and in hindsight it would have been worth the money just to have some peace and quiet.
“Where are we anyway?” he asked.
“I think they call it the Moon,” Eva replied, turning the pages of their Rough Guide to the Milky Way, “which is stunningly stupid in this instance as a proper noun, don’t you think? Oh, what shall we call that moon that orbits our planet? Hmm, let’s see. Aha! The Moon. Though I suppose if you only have one then there is no point in getting imaginative, is there?”
Harry chuckled nervously, allowing her to rant on, dreading the next question he had to ask.
“By the way, did you bring your communicator?”
She looked at him sharply. “What for? Just take off and we’ll be on our way.” He looked dejected and suddenly it dawned on her. “You’ve run out of fuel, haven’t you?”
Harry didn’t answer, bracing himself against the imminent storm. Years of marriage to this woman had taught him essential survival skills.
“You blithering idiot!” Eva screamed. “I told you to get fuel at Rigel, but no, he always fucking knows best!”
“There’s no need for obscenity, dear,” he placated, “particularly when it would have been fine if you hadn’t got us lost.”
She looked at him aghast, her mouth open, her face rapidly turning choleric with apoplectic anger, when she noticed the twinkle in his eye and the implied apology. She sighed deeply, the anger ebbing with her breath.
“So what do we do now?”
He shrugged. “We could try that planet over there. Let’s see.” He took the guidebook from her hands. “It’s called Earth, another insanely self-centred name. Don’t they know they’re not alone in the universe?”
He continued to read. “Oh crap.”
“They won’t be able to help.”
“Early space age,” he said dejectedly. “We are well and truly stranded. There’s nothing for it – we’ll just have to turn on the SOS beacon and wait for some passerby to rescue us. Shouldn’t be long though. This is a fairly busy route.”
“Or,” she interjected with barely constrained sarcasm, “we could have called Galaxy Rescue if you had not been such a tight know-it-all.”
“Oh, just shut up.”
They sat in silence while the beacon beeped silently into the ether. Around them the stark lunar landscape shone with solar brilliance while in the distance, slowly and majestically, the funny little planet called Earth rose in a haze of cloud-bedecked blue glory.
“It’s getting cold,” Eva said after a few minutes, starting to shiver.
Harry looked at her tenderly and leaned over, putting his arm around her. She nestled into his shoulder.
“You know,” he said, “this might not be so bad.”
“Oh?” she replied, “And why not?”
“Well,” he continued, “we scarcely get a chance to talk any more, what with the kids and work. Life is so busy. It’s nice to just sit, and that is quite a view.”
She looked at the rising planet and then up at him with bemusement. “Harry Smith, you are full of surprises,” she said as she leaned up and kissed him tenderly.
Harry smiled to himself. Perhaps some of Joe’s notions weren’t worth listening to after all.
Robert writes from Kent, United Kingdom, where he’s finishing his first novel and blogs at mulledvine.com
She sat in the corner by the vending machine. After last night she found its lights strangely comforting. The diner was empty apart from the guy in the corner. He had been leaning over his paper for an hour or more and she wondered if he had a cigarette.
This coffee ain’t gonna last much longer.
The waitress bristled past, all swish of starched uniform and the click of over chewed gum. She looked at Patty out of the corner of her eye, a slight curl of her lip.
Fuckin’ bitch, she ain’t no better’n me, who wants to work nights in a motorway stop-off anyway? Maybe she enjoys being felt up by the truckers with their hard-ons.
She stirred the coffee with the brown spoon, and drank some of it, cold now.
“Excuse me miss, I seem to have run out of matches, I don’t suppose you could spare a light?”
It was the guy from the corner.
Up close he didn’t look quite so washed out. All the night hawks had a used look about them, as if they’d stepped off desperation taxi and landed at border control with no visa.
“Sure. Think this still works,” Patty said, flicking her lighter and quickly extinguishing the blue flame that smouldered briefly in her hand.
She noticed he was looking at her gloves, black lace.
“Mind if I borrow it?” he said.
“Tell you what. I’ll give you a light if you can spare a cigarette.”
She stepped outside into the mix of ice cold and diesel fumes. After the initial silence, they started the smokers’ chat. Weather, journeys, directions, bitching about this and that, and then he said it. Just like that. No interlude, no build up. As if he was ordering a pizza.
“Last night I killed a man.”
Patty looked at him.
He winding me up? Doesn’t look like a fruitcake. But then, who am I to judge after that last bastard?
He took a deep drag and blew it skywards then turned and looking her right in the eyes, said, “A guy got smart. He was nobody, really. I shot him. Twice.”
Silence. And just two burning cigarette ends in the cold and the smog. A truck whizzed by.
“Why you telling me this?” she said.
“Cause there’s one thing I always feel like doing after I kill someone.”
“Yeah. An’ that’s fuck a sweet young thing like you. You looked good to me in there sitting over that coffee. Thought you was gonna hit that waitress. First I thought maybe you was a dike, seein’ how you kept lookin’ at her, but I figured what would you want with a used up old whore like that? Then I saw those little gloves you’re wearin’ and I knew for sure you ain’t no dike. Those hands are made for one thing, sweetheart, and that’s whipping up its head in my pants. That coffee must have been colder than a frigid ass. Nother smoke?”
He held up the cigarette packet.
“Thanks. Though, I ain’t gonna sleep with you.”
“No. I ain’t askin’ you to sleep with me, honey.”
“Just so’s we understand that.”
“How old are you anyway, out here alone on the highway?”
“I always looked younger’n my years.”
“Well, younger or not, there’s some bad dudes out here. Much badder’n old Uncle Jim. I don’t kill ladies, by the way, just fuck ‘em.”
“I can look after myself.”
“Heard one young lady got herself into a real jam the other night. Out here, alone, just her thumb in the air and only her poontang to pay. Yeah, some trucker picked her up and fucked her and chopped her up and threw all little bitty bits of her all along the highway. Whooee! Jesus! Them po-lice officers were chasing bits of raw meat up’n down the state line for days, all sweatin’ n bendin’ down, ever see a fat man bend too much, darling? It’s a sight to behold, and can set a fellow laughing. They’re calling him the maniac trucker, although I hear this particular guy drives a pick up. What’s your name by the way?”
“Look, let’s get one thing straight. I only came out here for a smoke. Not a fuck, not to get spooked by you. I ain’t a little girl. After this I’m going back in and then I’m gonna hitch a ride.”
“Aw, don’t take on, darling, I’m only teasin’.”
She took a drag and looked long and hard at him.
Probably looked okay when he was younger, seen better days. I’ve fucked worse.
“Thank you for the smokes,” she said and walked back in.
The warmth made her feel drowsy, and she ordered another coffee from the waitress who chewed gum at her and said nothing.
Fuckin’ bitch, I’ll show her.
The coffee took so long in arriving, Patty was nodding off when it arrived. She noticed Jim sat back down, this time two tables away. She drank her coffee and ignored him. But the whole time he was giving her the eye and tittering to himself.
I’ll wait till daybreak and leave.
Finally she said to him, “What’s funny?”
He got up and walked over to where she sat and, leaning across the cheap plastic table, set his hands right down, all knuckles and tattoos right in front of her.
“You. I know you need the money.”
She looked away and stirred her coffee with the same brown spoon, shaking something off its edge. When she looked up at him he hadn’t moved, and was staring down her top.
“Come on, darling, we can do it in the john. I know you’s done worse’n me, ain’t that what you’re thinkin’?”
I’m gonna fuckin’ hit him, or take him in there and squeeze his dick so fuckin’ hard it falls off. Wonder how much dough he’s carryin’?
Her stomach rumbled. Jim straightened up.
“Just think about it.”
As he was walking off the waitress came over to her.
“I want you out of here.”
“This ain’t no knockin’ shop you fuckin’ ho. Get your little ass out of my place.”
Patty stood up.
“I ain’t hookin’ you old bitch. I’ve paid for my coffee and I’m stayin’ till I’ve finished.”
“When you’ve done, get, or I’m callin’ the po-lice,” she said and marched off. Two tables away Jim sat tittering.
Fuck her. I ain’t gonna let no bitch push me around.
The waitress went out back and Patty walked over to Jim’s table.
“All right, how much you got?”
“Whooee!” He rubbed his hands. “I knew you were a pick up. What with those cute little gloves, I knew you liked dick. What are you, one of them Goths?”
“Used to be. How much you got?”
“I reckon a hot young thing like you’s worth a hundred and I’ll give you–”
“Hundred and fifty and we do it now and that’s it, no funny stuff.”
“Now, I don’t know what you be meanin’ by funny stuff, but I’m a straight in and out man with a little mouth action maybe thrown in.”
“One suck, one fuck, money on the table now.” Jim looked at her. “Take it or leave it.”
“Done.” He peeled a stack of tens out of his wallet, which had some nasty stain on it.
“I’ll meet you in the john,” she said and walked away before the waitress returned.
After a few minutes Jim made his way there. She waited at the back, past the urinals and outside the only clean looking cubicle.
Jesus! Why can’t men pee straight?
She listened for footfalls, checking her switchblade in her pocket. The door opened and in walked Jim. He put a broom handle up against it.
“Well, hallafuckinlooya baby, I can smell your sweet li’l pussy from over here. You got my money, and I want it.”
“Come on then”, she said and watched as he walked straight through the puddles of piss that lay scattered all across the floor.
“I ain’t lying down in this john, it’s against the wall or in there,” she said pointing to the cubicle.
Jim just shrugged and unzipped his flies.
“Don’t bother me, darling, so long’s I get what I paid for.”
She walked into the cubicle and started taking her clothes off.
When she turned round Jim was right next to her and he closed the door.
“You’re as sweet as cherry pie, ain’t you?” he said, running his hands down her body to her crotch.
She felt calluses and cuts. She knelt down and felt him press his hand against the back of her head. She thought she heard someone trying the door.
“OK darling, now.”
She stood against the wall and looked over his shoulder at a fly crawling across the graffiti. Sally’s a ho and Tammy’ll do it for nothin’ written in a childish hand. She followed the scrawl of the letters with her eyes. She could feel her buttocks knocking against the cold wall and then Jim stopped.
After he left she waited and washed at one of the sinks, hoping no one would come in.
I knew he’d be all right. All mouth.
She spat into the sink, watching the saliva, thick and glutinous squirm its way down the cracked porcelain, holding onto the sides and leaving a trail behind it. Outside she heard a truck start up and drive off. She fumbled in her pocket.
Run out of fuckin’ mints.
She checked herself in the mirror. Her blade was hurting her in her pocket, so she transferred it to her coat, noticing the mark it had left against her thigh.
I’ll get a room for the night, a good meal, some cigarettes, Jesus, I could use a smoke.
She spat in the sink again and started towards the door when it opened. It was the waitress.
“I fuckin’ knew it”, she said. “Knew you was a hooker. I’m callin’ the po-lice.”
“Why the fuck you such a bitch?”
The waitress stood there chewing, opening her mouth wide and slowly chomping down on that piece of gum she must have had in there all day. Patty could see her cracked make-up beneath the fluorescent lights and the hard lines around her eyes.
“You just made a big mistake.”
“You don’t get to call me no hooker; you’re just a fuckin’ waitress.”
She turned and started to open the door, but Patty grabbed her from behind, yanking her backwards by her hair. The waitress squealed.
“Get off me you fuckin’ little bitch!”
She turned round and struck Patty hard across the face, making a bright red mark burn there.
“You been checkin’ me out all night, what are you a fuckin’ dike or somethin’? All you do is serve up fuckin’ coffee!”
“I’m gonna serve you up to the law.”
“Oh no you’re not.”
Patty grabbed her, yanking her starched white uniform so hard the buttons flew off as she pulled her switchblade from her coat. Flicking it open, she hacked through the cheap bra, slashing first her breast and then upwards catching her throat in a sharp shower of blood that shot its lot in a quick spurt up against the wall and graffiti that covered it like the piss lying all over the floor.
The waitress staggered and reeled backwards, all popping eyes and shock, her mouth moving but uttering no sound. Patty stood and watched her fall, one hand on the floor, one to her throat, reaching for something she never found because she just toppled into the piss and laid there shaking and trembling until it stopped. Then she stepped over the body and hailed a passing pickup truck.
Travelling out of the state, she didn’t see the police cars.
Jim went back to the diner a while later and heard the waitress had been killed by the maniac trucker. Every time he took a piss there, he thought of the hot little thing in the black gloves as the steam rose from the urinal like a mist and circled the stained men’s room.
Richard writes from London, where his dark satire, The Cure-All, was produced on the London stage.