3 Flash Pieces by Michael O’Brien

4058012881_1b9ec4fcb9_o.jpg

sack of meat netflix special

The producer, the camera man and the sound guy start to shove the meat into a see through bag. The meat is unidentified; none of them know which animal or what part of the animal it came from. They don’t discuss this. The sound guy picks up his sound equipment. The camera man goes to his camera. The producer picks up the sack of meat and props it on a chair behind a desk in front of the camera. The producer makes sure he is out of shot and starts to prod the sack of meat with a stick. It squelches and other sack of meat noises leave the bag mass. They non-verbally decide to put a grey suit on the sack of meat. The producer starts the prodding routine again. Squelch. Sack of meat noises. Five minutes pass. Then fifteen. Another fifteen. And then words start to come out of the sack of meat. All three of them smile reassuringly. The prodding continues. And the words continues.

 

 

 

the earth IS flat, bro

So you are unemployed for six and a half years and then you finally get a job. The job is in advertising for some big burger chain. Anyway your first major task is to draw an earth. You ask about the concept behind it but you space out and don’t hear what they want. So you just draw the earth as if it was flat for the lols. Strangely everyone loves it and you get promoted to prince of the burger advertisers. WOw! But slowly you become mad with power and a flat earth fetish grows deep inside. Firstly you spend all your free time drawing flat earths. Then you spend your free time looking for the end of the earth. And as if by magic, one sunday while sunday driving, you find the end of the earth in Bolton, Lancashire. But you accidentally drive off the earth and fall into space and die. And now people still say the earth is round. Fucking losers. I think your ghost would be pissed at all these round earthers and their horizons but ghosts aren’t real. Bro.

 

 

feeling like shit in the happiest place on earth

I had scheduled an interview with the post office but I couldn’t make it due to the fact I’m finding it hard to breath. Likely story. Anyway, I’m at the doctors now – more accurately I’m in a queue to see a receptionist. My number comes up. She gives me a torturous time. I am sweating and dying. Wonderful. On one side of her cubicle are two pictures of cats. One is smiling in a photoshop kinda way. The other is a cat in a more natural pose. Seems like it might be her cat. Maybe her cat that died. I don’t really know.
She thumps away at her keyboard. She thumps away at me with questions. All I say is here is my European health-card. I am sick. Let me see a doctor, please. On the other cubicle wall is a picture of a woodpecker in a lovely pastoral setting feeding its young. I get the sense the receptionist is not into woodpeckers. I get through the questions and forms. I see a nurse first and she takes bloods and that kind of thing. Finally get to see the doctor. He is thorough, competent and polite. A good boy. He doesn’t waste words and tells me little. He sends me for more bloods and a throat swab. I head back to my flat. At the flat I take a nap. Wake up and drink coffee. I wait for blood results. I hear the woodpecker. I think he is smacking against the lampposts again. It’s also raining.

Michael O’Brien is the author of, most recently, Silent Age (Alien Buddha Press). His writing has been published widely in print and on the internet, and translated into other languages. An extensive list of these publications can be found here. He is also the curator of Weird Laburnum. You can follow him on twitter @michaelobrien22

“I Wanna Go Shooting” by Kyle Kirshbom

24304800938_bb2b2d617d_o.jpg

Tom Levy ran out his house waving his dad’s .45 in the air. On top of the hill, I was in my driveway scratching my belly and looking for a quarter I dropped. I looked around embarrassed someone was watching the ridiculous scene. At school last week Tom bragged how he knew the combination to his dad’s safe. Tom never took a math test he never failed, so the thought of him being able to memorize even 3 numbers was cute, at best. Yet, towards me he ran with the piece in hand—his stupid crooked smile shined brighter than the gun. 

As he ran I thought about a couple weeks ago when I was talking to Samantha outside school when Tom yelled, “Just fuck her already,” in front of everyone. Samantha walked away with red on her face. Tom flashed his crooked teeth and ran off. 

A month earlier Tom came over and handed me a bottle of amyl nitrate. 

Anal nitrate?” 

“No, Amyl nitrate, not anal. But it does loosen your asshole.” 

“Why would I want that?” 

“It’s for buttfucking.” 

“I’m never doing that…it’s gay…”

“Yeah it’s pretty fucking gay. Wanna do some?”

“What do you do?”

“Sniff it. Take a big whiff and you’ll feel like you’re flying.”

I put the bottle under my nose and sniffed like he told me to, passed it back and laid down on my bed; feeling lifted. Tom strongly inhaled and released a big sigh before cracking his neck like an actor playing a deranged person. He looked around my room he’s been in a hundred times as if it were his first, and then at me with the same vaguely menacing look. He jumped on top of me and began grabbing at my hips and pinning my body with his weight with his mouth pressed against my face. I pushed him off and said, “What the fuck Tom,” but Tom got up and ran away without saying anything.

A few years ago Tom slept over. We’d met at camp and got along okay. We joked about girls and liked the same death metal bands. After my parents went to sleep I flipped the channel to find the late night soft-core porn. We watched, then I asked if he minded if I jerked off a bit. He said, “Yeah I don’t care, but could I do it too?” I told him sure and grabbed a pillow. 

“I’m going to create a barrier so we can do it without looking at each other.”

“Yeah, cool.”

Three women fondled each other in a bathtub. I couldn’t tell what Tom was seeing, if it was the same thing I saw.

A half hour later I limped up to use the bathroom. When I came back, Tom was asleep on the floor with his cock still out. I put a blanket over him, turned the tv off, and went to bed. I didn’t see Tom again until the end of summer when we both walked into the same middle school. We didn’t talk about what happened for the rest of our lives. 

Tom’s curly brown hair bounced as he ran up the grassy hill—his eyes barely open. I stood and watched as he got closer. Right before he reached the driveway he tripped on a rock, pulled the trigger and shot himself in the head. His skull landed on the pavement. Blood poured out from his curls, flowing down and around the quarter I thought I lost. I walked over and his eyes were already shut; I couldn’t reach him. 

An ambulance picked him up, the sky was black. Tom’s dad looked at me like I took his son and planted the gun. I wanted to yell what the fuck do you think is going on here? A game? Something passionate? Something psychotic? Like accidents don’t happen? That there’s a reason for this? He got into the ambulance with his son and I got in a police car with a couple cops.

I got questioned by police for a few hours. I told them what happened. They said I could be in trouble. They talked about cooperation, the truth. They asked if I was upset with Tom, or ever thought about hurting him. I knew by telling the truth they’d put pieces together that didn’t actually fit. So I told them he was my best friend. Told them he never mentioned the gun. Told them I never wanted to hurt him. I even cried a little bit out of self-preservation. They carefully studied me, and in my pocket I rubbed my fingers against the quarter with Tom’s blood while I lied through my teeth. 

After waiting in the room by myself they came back to say that judging by the placement of the bullet and the way he fell and where the gun in his hand fell that there was no way I could have planted the gun. A million in one chance. They let me go with my parents. We walked out of the police station, got in the car, and drove home—I never knew a night could be so silent.

I planned on skipping the shiva. Technically I wasn’t invited, but my mom said that Tom’s dad didn’t mind if I was there, which was a good enough message I immediately picked up on. But I still wanted to go to the burial. 

It was overcast, and a good sized crowd. I hadn’t realized all the people Tom knew. Family, friends of family, people from school and their families. So many people, an eventful mourning. I walked into the crowd from the back, making my way to the front. Tom’s dad was delivering his speech when he saw me, paused, and continued. I stared at him, then at the casket Tom was in. The rabbi said a few prayers, then Tom’s dad and the other pallbearers lowered Tom into the ground. The rabbi said a final prayer, and everyone threw bits of dry dirt into the grave. People left to sit shiva at Tom’s house and suddenly I was alone. It began to rain. I reached into my pocket and tossed the quarter to lay with Tom. I called heads, but couldn’t tell what it landed on. 

As I walked home in the rain, stepping on cracks in the sidewalk, I felt like a movie was being played in an order that didn’t make sense; I couldn’t shake it, but my life up to this point hadn’t felt the slightest bit linear (instantly I craved something to soothe me out, something that’ll focus everything on a fixed frame that has no backwards or forwards, just to exist without existing, be, but not continue) then my fucking phone started buzzing; it was mom, asking where I was. I told her I was going for a walk, that I didn’t know when I’d be back, she  said she put money in my bank if I got hungry, “ thanks,” I said and that I’d see her maybe later, and she told me she loved me and so I said it back, then all at once, after hanging up, I remembered Tom without a firm grasp on any single memory we may have shared together, and in the haze of this memory collapse I dropped my phone and felt the screen crack and shatter. I tried walking, but couldn’t lift my legs, I tried standing, just couldn’t, I tried bending over to reach for the broken phone, and couldn’t, so, and as the wind picked up and the acidic rain pelted my coat, blurred my vision, and all the street detritus carried off the ground, whipping itself in a gust away in the distance, finally, a sinking, I sunk to the ground, into the cracks of the sidewalk, my body melting and spreading itself into the seams of the broken concrete where everybody walked on or over, and suddenly felt everything I am and everything I’ve encountered becoming increasingly connected, and permanent. When the city paves me over with fresh crushed rock and sand mixed with water and cement I’ll drown into oblivion like every spider’s web that’s washed away by a storm that seems to never end. The end is a deletion, an edit. Cemented.

Kyle Kirshbom is an American writer. He recently broke down and published his entire manuscript onto its own instagram page @DogShitPoems. His writing has been featured in SCAB, Holler Presents, and Sybil Journal. 

“The Skylight” by Abigail Stewart

39970426861_898a5c35e0_o.jpg

Her new job was a quiet place, exactly what she wanted after five years in food service — the soft tapping of keyboards, muted music piped through ear buds, an occasional outburst of laughter, undertones of conversation. 

She answered email queries and took her shoes off under her desk. She ate turkey sandwiches on white bread in the break room. She drank the free coffee. 

At first, the office seemed too bright, sunlit where she expected shadows cast by fluorescent tubes. Until she noticed the skylight. A 3’x3’ cutout of outrageous blue against a cream ceiling, light beamed down onto her wood composite desk like a beacon. She felt beatific, a barefoot saint tending to the needs of the disembodied masses. 

Clack, clack, clack. 

Someone had left a jade plant, discarded, at an empty corner desk. She brought it with her into the light, watched it straighten and lift its arms up toward the sun. 

She dutifully checked her inbox.

“Are you a boot?” an emailer inquired. 

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand your question. Please refer to our FAQ here,” she responded, per company guidelines. 

“Are you a bot? Are you real? I’m not giving my information to some Russian hacker.” 

“Yes, I’m real. How can I help you today?” 

The contact went quiet, as they so often did, the invisible lines of cyberspace irrevocably severed. Perhaps she had given them the assurance they needed in order to sleep that night. 

Clack, clack, clack. 

Keyboards, as always, and an undertone of something new, more insistent. 

Her eyes trained upwards. Two pigeons were scrabbling against the plastic covering of her skylight – she thought of it was hers now. From underneath they were inflated rafts, bug eyed, overstuffed, and grappling on a clear ocean. One had a piece of twine wrapped around his tiny, orange foot, buried deep into the flesh, a functional part of him now. 

She watched. 

His other foot, the good one, shot out like a gasp, vengeful and quick. The smaller pigeon fell, his bug-eyes pressed against the glass, looking down at her. A small rivulet of blood trailed from his chest. The other pigeon, no stranger to pain, gave one last nip to the neck of his deceased enemy before disappearing. 

The lifeless bird cast a long shadow on her desk. 

Her email pinged, a response from the emailer: “Russian hackers interfered with the election, so I need a picture of you to prove you aren’t a bot. Hold up three fingers.

No one else noticed the dead pigeon until it began to smell, only then did maintenance remove it. 

Abigail Stewart is a writer from Berkeley, California. She lives in an apartment filled with plants and books and breakable things. Her poetry has appeared in literary magazines, but mostly on bathroom walls. She writes a blog about books and dungeons & dragons: http://www.ageektragedy.net. She tweets at @abby_writes. 

“APHORISM REVIEW: GIVE A MAN A FISH…” by Ferdison Cayetano

15435572367_64e303e1d1_o.jpg

Complete it! Go on. It’s 100% true, and definitely one of my favorite sayings!

I don’t know what the big deal is, though. Giving men fish. What’s the harm, if you have the fish, and he does not? Generosity is a virtue. Teaching? Teaching takes time, effort. It could take years. Taking a fish out of your front jacket pocket and slapping it into a man’s hand, however, happens in an instant. You can keep giving him fish and giving him fish, for weeks and weeks and weeks. For ever.

It’s no problem, you say, even as you see his enthusiasm for fish and the light in his eyes dim with each passing day. His family can’t remember the last time they didn’t have fish for dinner, he says, and they tire. But you do not tire. You never tire. His polite attempts at refusal turn into outright attempts at avoidance. But you find him anyways. 

You always find him.

One day he sees you on the street and he runs the other way, but you run faster still. He trips, and on his knees he begs for mercy that will never come. You stuff a flounder down the front of his shirt. He limps away, sobbing. No matter. He’ll appreciate the next one more.

You open your mailbox and find a restraining order. A couple of hours later you are on the grassy slopes behind his house, exactly three hundred yards and one inch away from his back porch. You aim a jury-rigged t-shirt gun into the sky and fire, again and again and again. Fish arc through the sky. 

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. 

Tilapia shatter his windows. A light breeze carries the screams of his children.

Fish delivered to his workplace. Fish ordered to his table at restaurants. Fish in his bathtub. Fish in his son’s cradle. Fish in the trunk of his car. Tiny guppies come pouring out of his cereal box instead of Wheaties. He looks in the mirror and he’s greeted by the dead-eyed stare of a mackerel tuna. 

The months of fish stretch into years, and you never miss a day.

It’s too much. It’s tearing his family apart. His wife takes the children out of state while he’s at work, and when he comes home that day he finds a rainbow trout on his living room table, twitching on top of the divorce papers.

Forty or fifty years into the future, on the very second of his death, you slash your wrists open and bleed out on your kitchen floor. 

In the formless void between worlds you flare your nostrils and catch the scent of his soul, which is ascending to Heaven. He’s almost there. He’s so close, but now you have him by the ankle, and he kicks helplessly as you drag him away from the light. You haul him into the black depths of the ocean, and you haul him deeper still, down into the earth. The darkness and the cold and the pressure, a million million tons of dark and cold and pressure– it all would have broken him, if he were not already broken. 

And in that suffocating madness something is pressed into his hand.

Give a man a fish, and he’ll scream. He’ll scream forever.

 

Ferdison Cayetano is a current student at the College of William & Mary. You can connect with him on LinkedIn and give him a real job before he commits to being a writer

“Noon at the Chicken Factory” by Sam Machell

7775343906_924eebb259_o.jpg
Solder
R u still at the chicken factory? Ive just finished conducting the autopsy so im gonna send a bunch of info. Call me when u can

 

Solder
The arsenic content found in the chicken itself was negligible and the contents of the stomach had barely begun to digest at the time of death. It was a botch job, they just sprinkled it in with the breadcrumb mix. Like this is barely even attempted murder – would’ve just given him some stomach ache

 

Solder
I also tested the chicken, fries, and gravy for any other kind of bacteria/contamination but found nothing

 

Solder
There are no contusions on the skin, suggesting he was alone in his car and there was no struggle or awareness

 

Solder
Cause of death seems 2 b asphyxiation. The trachea and lungs are bruised and blackened indicating smoke inhalation. Otherwise critical burns across the limbs, torso and neck but all below the surface? The burns seem to have affected the interior tissue and muscle, specifically the areas around the joints, but not the skin. If I didn’t know the circumstances I would say he died in a fire

 

Solder
But get this as well, his lungs were punctured from the inside. Black from smoke but one large gushing hole torn open, still red. The tear is smooth and precise. Almost as if something inside burned its way out. It’s v hard to explain i dont know if ive ever seen anything like it. Sorry being a bit unprofessional here im just a little freaked out

 

Solder
Im thinking it must have been something he ate?

 

Ramuli
Hmmmmm

 

Ramuli
im still here yeah

 

Ramuli
But youre not gonna like my theory

 

He returns his phone to his pocket and flicks a feather from his arm.

 

The factory floor is sprawling and brown and rattles like a steel cage where he stands alone, dressed sharp in that old coat, 6’ 3” and all, his commanding presence with gun bulge pointing the way like a dowsing rod, huffing, fingers on his chin. The workers all scurried when he asked for time to think. There flickles right now that tang on the tongue: his salivating sour guilt. But he enjoys the power and smiles. Huffs. On his hip the warmth of steel coffee raises heat.

 

Although devoid of life, the floor heaves like a lung wall or a wheat field when the ancient ventilation conjures up and rustles the years of defecation and cannibalism past, pecked raw feathers, rose-tinted glasses. The residue has been trampled flat by the thousands of claws over the years and the years, the poor swarms of concentration, but that doesn’t seem to have stopped the smell.

 

Strips of steel rods suspend intermittent feeding stations – wire domes that hold the grain and hormones like his office lamp holding fragile the light across his framed degree and crumpled conspiracies. This is free range and they get away with it. 100% British meat. Huffs up some gristle. He got KFC on the way. Irony never lost on him. They charge him when he’s not in uniform. It didn’t taste like he remembered. A blood vessel got lodged snapped electric between a canine and incisor plus mayo down his shirt.

 

He visualises the space to reconstruct the ordinary, eyes closed, detective instincts tuned: darker than he expected: bodies so close they merge as one, an organism… screaming, swelling, pecking, clucking… individual motion a mystery. Assuming of course these birds have capacity for such thought? Does it matter? The muscles swelling and screaming from hormones and pecking. He doesn’t eat beef but once tried a bite of a girlfriend’s steak.

 

He crunch paces across the shit stained feathers.

 

Ramuli
the chickens have vanished

 

Solder
what?

 

Ramuli
across the whole factory, Solder

 

Ramuli
est time of death?

 

Solder
Just after midnight

 

Ramuli
I asked to view the CCTV footage

 

Ramuli
at 23:30 the chickens are there

 

Ramuli
at 00:30 they’ve gone

 

Solder
???

 

Ramuli
and between 23:30 and 00:30 the footage is corrupted. It’s just a white screen

 

Crunching steps bring legs to the corner where the breezeblocks begin to slope. The camera is mounted 11 oclock facing his feathered absence expanse. In the fisheyed dark he notices other hangers on, threatening to fall. Bringing hands automatic he dusts his coat again and it snows, slowly; fast forward.

 

Darker stains on the floor sign the presence of blood. As always, his suspicions are confirmed. He’s a genius of course. These chickens were not debeaked. And that would be written on a poster with pride. Spits disgusted.

 

Without the brooding of a hen chickens do not learn what not to peck:

 

breasts become boneless bites
wings under heat
gristle molten gravy
bit dippedive fries to
sweetness soaked clothes
and celluloid ovals
rosypinned through the nose.

 

He doesn’t have to tiptoe to find the roots, where the wires enter the wall like parasitic spinal worms, partway melted where it must get hot. Acrylic camera casing seems spotless… but he finds evidence of tampering with the connection: beneath the socket a distinct mark, about two inches in length, three scars scratched deep. An accidental trace? Curiously animal in intent. Could a chicken have really carved concrete so sharply?

 

Where he then takes a rubbing

 

and somewhere sonorous
a rooster sounds.

Ramuli
I’m going to be here a little longer

 

Ramuli
looking for a certain witness…

 

She removes the latex gloves once she’s closed the car door. Her father insisted it when she flew the family Focus through medical school, when post-dissection blood prints pinched at the handles or wheel, and it has since become ritual. A man obsessed with cleanliness. He threw a highchair across the room when her mother once spilt gravy.

 

In the rear view she reapplies lipstick and halfway wedges her paperwork into the passenger seat.

 

PRES HER

 

Truth manifests in void.

 

Yesterday wasn’t a whole lot clearer, either. Where did sense go? Never in her career had she seen household bleach behave in such a way. To corrode the organs to a coagulated curd? And the smell! The smell! In what could have only been a few hours? Chemically impossible… let alone the husband whose cause of death remains a mystery.

 

The 9-5 corpses’ mutilated material seem more alien than ever – fumbling with her keys – one day smeared into the next dismembered sliced fat layer peeled back across the weekend.

 

More bodies wheeled in throughout the rest of the week too:

 

frozen
shot
hung
dissolved
spent
dessicated
deep fried
chewed

 

And however many days ago she had to scream down the phone at her superior when some deranged picnic basket pork chop cannibal came knocking at the windows of the morgue with ketchup round his mouth. The pharmacy shut down. Her husband’s medication slipped into her handbag from the stockroom. Everything sweating. A tower beginning to bow. Plus the paperwork incomplete and near nonsensical not to mention her psychological / physical suitability checks just around the corner…

 

She clutches the silver crucifix through her lab coat

 

and her draining image of self rumbles as a truck rolls by: pig snouts snuffling from between the slats, and straw in the wind spread West down the road.

 

Solder
Catch up with me tomorrow my head is all sorts of messed up

 

Solder
I really don’t know if I can keep doing this Ramuli

 

Solder
This is beyond me now

 

Solder
I’ve been losing hair at an increasing rate

 

Solder
It’s not just a streak anymore I’m grey

 

Ramuli
Hey come on I need you you can’t quit

 

Ramuli
What would I do without you?

 

Ramuli
And I think I’m onto something anyway

 

But what though? What this time? As always? This is what he always says before dragging her, shedding, into some glistening/puffy room of weirdos. Pray to God it won’t be aliens this time.

 

She pushes down the handbrake and lets the car roll back into the grassy knoll where it softens still. The car park like an unfilled form dissects the tarmac into boxes. No insects anywhere. The titanic pylons across the fields buzz and crackle. The land drops away. She can’t stand those piercing LED headlights, violent blue. Like the one facing her from a few boxes away, engine idling with a menace she imagines she can hear through the windows. The car practically trembling with predatory adrenaline. Metal veins pumping gas and fumes. No flies on the windscreen…

 

revving…

 

revving…

 

She feels obliged to reorganise the facts.

Solder
I’m heading home

 

He breaks into a run.
Sam Machell is a multidisciplinary artist based in Plymouth, UK. He’s interested in post internet confusion, the eerie projected self, and collapse.

“Guilt Trip” by Zack Peercy

16058281216_98bccccb36_o.jpg

My train of thought is derailed as the emergency door swings wide for a man shaking a cup of change. He drags his bloated leg along the walkway; pants ripped to accommodate the bruised appendage’s girth. He speaks labored breaths. His eyes cast down.

A renegade with his gut hanging over sweatpants man-spreading across two seats points to the leg and says to a female stranger, “See that’s what happens when you don’t take care of yourself.”

He moves to the next car and I drift again. But he’ll circle back through, ignoring my warning signage, until I acknowledge him.


Zack Peercy is a legally blind playwright based in Chicago. He has work in Memoir Mixtapes, XRAY, Occulum Journal, formercactus, and others. He is a resident playwright at Three Brothers Theater where his full-length play “That’s Fucked Up” premiered in May 2019. His plays are available on New Play Exchange. Audio versions of his published prose can be found on soundcloud.com/zpreads. This specific piece can be found here.

“Trailer Park Bandits” by William Falo

3086649873_ae9c332aee_o.jpg

Nobody wanted to deliver mail to the trailer park, but I got stuck with it. There was a reason nobody wanted it. Danger lurked here; I was already robbed twice, bitten three times by stray dogs, and I also saw overdoses, fights, possible fugitives, a lot of guns, old missing children posters hanging on telephone poles, numerous rats, and the worst raccoons in the world. 

I was at war with the raccoons. They chewed up letters, ripped open packages, destroyed mailboxes, and caused me all kind of trouble. They often out-smarted me.

I drove down the street and a few kids hit the mail truck with eggs, which smeared across the windshield when I ran the wipers. I sighed.

If I could find a mutual transfer, I planned to move far away from here. Maybe Alaska, I could be alone there. My health has deteriorated here, my stomach hurt, my hands went numb from carpal tunnel, and I was flirting with depression. I couldn’t remember the last time I laughed or even cried for that matter.

I stopped to eat lunch then heard a scratching sound coming from the back of the truck. I got out and checked, but nothing was there. 

When I turned to go back, a raccoon ran out of the truck with my sandwich. It ran under an old fence and rumbled into the woods.  They tricked me and it wasn’t the first time.

Now hungry and angry, my blood boiled over. 

I passed a few rusted out cars and saw a gang of raccoons. They watched me and I swore they were laughing. I gritted my teeth and stormed after them with my dog spray canister in my hand. They scattered into the woods, but this time I kept going. I was so determined to get them; I lost track of how far I went. 

I noticed an old shack covered with branches. Why was nobody else here? I knew the answer; fear. I wasn’t that smart. My mind drifted to a possible horrific discovery like a body or a hidden chamber holding missing children. I remembered the missing posters. I yanked the door open. Inside, I saw a bunch of packages and when I lifted one up it slipped out of my hand. When it hit the ground, white powder spilled out. Drugs. I dropped it and went into a panic; I turned and tripped over a loose piece of wood spreading the white powder around the floor. There was no way to hide it, I could be killed. My hands shook as I tried to hide the powder, but it still showed, outside of the shed I erased all my footprints, but I missed some since I was in such a hurry. Drug traffickers would kill me if they knew I was here, then I heard voices getting closer.

I ran back to the truck. Later, I realized something was missing. My dog spray was nowhere in sight. I might have dropped it in the shed and it clearly states it was for a letter carrier on it. I could call the police but snitches usually ended up in a grave and I would be easy to find. I hoped it fell on the street somewhere.

I passed two girls on skateboards, one of them grabbed the bumper of the truck to get more speed. Suddenly, a black jeep stopped in front of me and two men got out. I noticed the black metal of gun handles at their waists. One of them held out my dog spray.

“Did you lose something?”

I looked around. I really didn’t care if they shot me. What did I have to lose? Nobody would miss me, but the two girls on skateboards could be in danger. I ran away from the truck knowing the traffickers would follow me. I heard their footsteps pounding behind me. 

I turned the corner and a raccoon I recognized as one that is usually aggressive let me run by, then jumped on the trafficker closest to me. A gun went off and pain shot through my leg and I collapsed. I heard one of the traffickers cry out then another gunshot. I stopped running and looked back. The raccoon was on the ground and not moving. The traffickers walked toward me. 

“There they are.” The two skateboard girls pointed at the men. A group of residents flooded into the area, some of them carried bats, some knives, and one pumped a shotgun. It was a stand-off until a siren in the distance got closer and the two men ran away. 

One of the skateboarders held a rag to my leg.

“Thank you. What’re your names?” My eyes began to blur.

“I’m Sophie and that’s Melissa.” She pointed at her friend. “You saved us.”

“No, you saved me.” I managed to say. “What about the raccoon?”

Sophie shook her head then I blacked out.

♦♦♦

The hospital made me feel isolated, nobody visited me. Why should they? Having a rural a mail route in a small post office limited your coworkers to a minuscule number. I needed

surgery to remove the bullet and would be here a while but will be okay in the long run. The police told me that the traffickers were still on the run and the drugs were gone.

The next day, I heard wheels rolling down the hallway.

“No skateboards in the hospital.” Someone yelled.

Sophie and Melissa came in followed by their parents along with a few other people I recognized as residents of the trailer park. 

They handed me a box of cookies and a pile of cards. 

“We have a picture to show you.” Sophie handed me her phone, and I stared at the picture then laughed for the first time in years. 

“I can’t believe it.”

It showed a group of raccoons under a mailbox. One of them looked like it was eating a sandwich. She added the words, Trailer Park Bandits. 

“I think they’re waiting for you,” Melissa said and then she laughed.

I couldn’t stop laughing then I fought to hold back tears. The raccoon that died saved my life. It moved the shooter’s arm just enough to prevent a lethal shot.

“We buried the one who got killed.”

“Thank you. That raccoon was a hero.”

“So are you.” 

“No, I’m not.” I wasn’t.

“I’ll save the picture for you. Hurry back.”

They both hugged me and left. I cried for the first time in years, but it wasn’t only because of sadness. 

 

William Falo writes fiction. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Newfound, Back Patio Press, Vamp Cat Magazine, Elephants Never, Clover & White, and other literary journals.