Saturday, December 1, 2012

Issue #41 -- December, 2012

By Matthew C. Funk

It wasn’t until Carson aimed the gun at the girl’s face that Ron began to panic.
“If I need to tell you one more time, gas man,” Carson’s white-rimmed lips sped, “I’ll send her brains into your fucking Beer Cave.”
 Ron quit inching toward the alarm under the counter. He quit breathing. His mind choked on the idea of a world where such a thing could happen to the girl.
Not just any girl. Jenny. His Jenny.
“Alright, son.” Ron tried shuffling toward the lockbox. His legs were ice. Just like Jenny’s blue stare, lost in the gun barrel.
“Don’t ‘son’ me, old man! Put your safe’s cash in my hand!” Carson thumbed the Colt’s hammer.
None of this was alright.
Hold-ups did not happen in the universe of Ron’s Cotham Mercantile. Boys like Carson went on to jobs as tobacco field foremen, not meth-starved felons. And girls like Jenny were heaven on Earth.
Nobody should be able to hurt heaven.
A glance at Jenny’s face showed Ron she was more than hurting. She was shaking like she’d been stitched out of insects.
That got Ron moving. He had to make it better, soon as he could.
“There’s a good boy.” Carson sneered. He stepped closer to Jenny. Ron shook his head.
“Just don’t.”
“I will.”

Ron couldn’t imagine how anyone could.
“Just please don’t.” Insistence ran out of gas in Ron’s tone. He’d thought he knew Carson.
Ron had sold Carson his first Sports Illustrated—the NFL preview, 2004—and had seen the excitement leaping in the boy’s features. Carson had always dropped spare pennies from his change in the counter dish. Carson had bought packs of energy drinks and never snuck smokes and always paid for what he opened and ate in the store.
“I so fucking will.” Carson brushed a chestnut strand of Jenny’s hair from her temple with the gun barrel.
Ron had known Carson. But not nearly as well as he knew Jenny.
He studied her face, as if he’d not already memorized it: The cherubic softness of her cheeks. The eye makeup, swept sloppy by her inexpert hand. That pink ribbon mouth.
That mouth could make a smile that would crack a Devil’s heart: Full and immaculate, but for one crimped end, like a bow on a present that’d been handled too roughly.
That mouth was a pale line now.
Those lively blue eyes were empty lamps.
Ron’s hands were wrestling with the lockbox before he knew what they were doing.
“Hurry it up,” Carson hissed. His hand slid over Jenny’s neck.
That neck wasn’t meant for fingers like that, nails bitten to a moist saw. It was meant for kisses.
“I am.” And Ron was, for Jenny’s sake he was, but his fingers wouldn’t work the lock.
“No, Ron.” Carson set the barrel in a direct line against Jenny’s brain. “Is that your name? Ron?”
And Jenny flinched. Ron wondered if it was because she knew his name: She used it every time she came in—every time since she was still in a training bra. Always his name and always that little crinkled smile.
“Ron, what you’re doing now is called fucking around.” Carson sneered at his joke. “I’ll give you five to quit it, then I let the air out of her head.”
Ron’s face set serious. His fingers firmed. They turned the combination on the lock.
Jenny’s head wasn’t full of air, Ron wanted to yell. It was full of talk of angels in the clouds and faeries in the trees. It wondered aloud about rock concerts and big cities. It was a font of wonder.
Ron would have given all he had to know what else was in that head—to hold her one evening and just listen.
“There’s a good man.” Carson nodded. His Colt only dented deeper in Jenny.
She wasn’t making a sound now.
Ron coughed out a frustrated breath.
“Just ease off her.”
“Just fuck yourself.”
Jenny was quiet as a work of glass.
There was a lot she hid, Ron knew. Jenny needed listening.

She needed holding. Tending.

Her jeans were always tattered. Ron had given her patches for them, but still they found places to split. Her jewelry’s random scheme spoke of discount binges at the Flea Market. Jenny always paid with change.

And Jenny sometimes had bruises—peeking through her jeans’ gaps, glowing just below the long sleeves she always wore.

Jenny wanted for much and needed more.

Right now, she needed saving. Ron popped the safe, waved the wad of cash.

“Right here, son.”

“What did I say about the ‘son’ shit?” Carson jabbed Jenny’s head to a sharp angle.

She still made no sound. Ron looked for pain on her face. It was blank.

He saw her hand skirting for a beer bottle set in the cooler door.

Ron waved the cash again. “Here! Here it is. Take it.”

“You come and give it.”


“Quit playing!”

“Here, Carson!”

Matches struck behind Carson’s glare. His jaw shoved as if to take the blow of his name on the chin. The Colt’s aim took Ron.

Ron smiled. Jenny was safe.

Not safe from her bruises’ source. Not safe from having to forage for good things. Not safe from whatever made those blue eyes shine so bright, but safe for now.

“You know me?” Carson shook his head. “Not fucking smart, Ron.”

Jenny snatched the bottle and whipped it into Carson’s head in a single motion. 

Carson fell. Jenny went down atop him. Her lithe little form hunkered, chest heaving.

Ron dashed around the counter. Jenny was pulling a knife from Carson’s belt.

“Quick, Ron!” Jenny’s voice was wind chimes in a summer storm. “Quick!”

“It’s alright now, Jenny,” Ron ran down the aisle, desperate to see relief welling in the eyes Jenny’s mane of brown hair screened.

“It will be.” Jenny flipped open the knife.

She lanced its point into Carson’s neck. Metal separated muscle, jerky with Jenny’s fevered sawing. A ragged gap opened. Blood fled, sputtered, shot wild on the aisle stacks.

“Jenny.” Ron called her. Even at four feet distant, she seemed a world away.

“Got to finish him off! He’ll come back, like in the movies! They always come back.” 

Carson bucked, fought, settled. Jenny’s slicing clacked the linoleum.

The eyes Jenny locked on Ron had never seemed so full of brightness. Her face was calm again. Her voice was just crystal and breeze.

“Okay,” Jenny said as Ron squatted beside her. “Help me pull his head off. Then we can be sure.”

“Jenny,” Ron’s arms reached to do what they’d always hungered for—to hold her. They couldn’t. They could no more embrace her than they could molten metal.


“Jenny, you’re out of control.”

Jenny stared. Ron searched it. They were the same eyes as ever.

“Me?” Jenny beamed with crimped lips. “I’ve never felt more in control.”

The smile fled.

“You’re the one who seems out of control, Ron!” Jenny’s eyes leapt over Ron like fleas. “I see you—I see the way you look at me. I know what that look means!”

“Jenny, no.” Ron trembled out the words.

Jenny snorted. The knife point tented the skin under Ron’s jaw.

“At least my uncle doesn’t lie about what that look means.” Jenny’s tone took on an animal arch. “I don’t like lies.”

“I’m not…”



“You’re totally out of control; you can’t even form a sentence!” Jenny leaned her brow to nearly touch Ron’s. Her breath raked his quaking face. Out came that smile, same as ever, ready to crack any heart. “I know how control works, though.”

Ron didn’t know how anything worked anymore. He could only stare as Jenny whisked his thin hair, gathered, seized with a rude lover’s passion.

“It’s like uncle says: There are rules,” Jenny said. “Some rules you can break. Some rules break you.”

Jenny tugged. Ron nearly spilled back. The blade opened his skin; a blaze of pain to him, not even worth a flinch from Jenny.
“Jenny, I need…” Ron began, almost toppling.

“No.” Her chimes were caked in something rough now: Another voice of motor oil and pig blood and soiled bedsheets. “I’ll tell you what you need, Ron.”

The knife sailed through the skin of his face and blue eyes sunk straight through to the rear bone of his skull.

“You need to give me that cash, Ron,” Jenny grinned. “Then you need to lie face down like a good little girl.”

Ron’s wounds and Jenny’s smile split wider.

“Do it for me,” she said.

Matthew C. Funk is an editor of Needle Magazine, editor of the Genre section of the critically acclaimed zine FictionDaily, and a staff writer for Planet Fury and Criminal Complex. Winner of the 2010 Spinetingler Award for Best Short Story on the Web, Funk has online work indexed on his Web domain and printed work in Pulp Modern, Grift, NeedleSpeedloader, Off the RecordPulp Ink and D*CKED.


  1. Sometimes a girl is not what she seems. Nice story, Matthew. But they all are.

  2. Did I have to die? Good stuff Matt, as always.