Saturday, August 28, 2010

Issue #3: September, 2010

by JJ Kinni

When I was ten I took off. The wind scooped me up and took me clear from the backwaters of Louisiana, and propelled me on a path rarely traveled. Just ten and I was already taking to my own way of living. Of course my more formative years were spent running from all sorts of establishment people. Truant officers who attempted to throw me behind a desk and have me learn my sums, Preachers, Priests, Rabbis, Policemen, the Phillips family from South Kansas, a whole gang of social workers, and let us not forget all the rest of the saps stuck in a life they never imagined would be theirs.

You can see it in their eyes. That tired, estranged to the world look in their mechanical faces, going through the motions of life with little to show for it. Checking their monies in the bank weekly, regular check ups for the children, church on Sunday, and a shit boss that gives them no respect and even less pay. They cling to these ideas of a bright future, yet they refuse to leave from under the black cloud amassed above them. They tread through life, hoping for a fortune to land in their lap, or some old aunt out west to die so they can collect her inheritance. Mother was a Preachers daughter, Father was a drunk.

Mother would go to church for forgiveness everyday, Father would go to church to sleep off the night before. They loved each other. Mother wanted to name me Gabriel, Father wanted to name me Boy. They chose Madden, Madden Delacroix.

I was young but I could tell it wasn’t enough for me, that sitting, waiting to die. I was only ten and the world was far too big for me to sit, ponder my existence, and have no say on how my stars turned out. I didn’t know what I wanted, who does at ten, but I knew I wanted out of where I was. So as I said earlier, and I shall say many times, that great wind that came blustering off the Gulf scooped me up and sent me on a path just for yours truly. It has been twenty years since I’ve seen home. That wind hasn’t stopped blowing since.

. . .

I started out as most wanderlings do, the stick and the sack all tied and over my shoulder. I was a real stinking bum back then, a gangly kid, fresh out the bayou marsh, and into a world of unknown adventure and sought after life. Not even shoes for the feet that carried me. Father sold them for a fifth of bourbon; Mother told me Jesus wouldn’t have complained. I told them, “Goodbye” and never saw them again.

A couple of years go by. I spend most of my time stealing from homes. You know, Apple Pies cooling on windowsills, stuff of that nature, nothing bad, just doing my part to stay alive and be my own. I mean sure there were instances that I don’t think were good, and maybe I shouldn’t have done certain things at certain times, but since being on my own, certain laws just didn’t seem to have much control over my behavior. We all have good and bad in us. What happens if we completely bottle up that more dangerous side? I don’t know, but I can tell you I don’t want to find out. That’s why when I have an issue, I act how I act. Whatever it takes to get that poison out. Sometimes I feel bad for the poor bastards who have to deal with me, but that passes like the days in the week.

By thirteen I managed to steal an old rusted out bike just sitting inside some Good ol’ Boy’s garage. This old piece of World War II history just sat there. It was May thirteenth, nineteen fifty and it was three o’clock in the afternoon. The bike was old and beat up. The kickstand straining to hold up the steel bird that’s perched against it. I saw some greasy Patriot riding on one a lot like it. He looked free, and happy. I couldn’t tell by the beard that he brandished, but I could see that his eyes, when they stared at me, had content in them. I wanted to get a hold of something like he had. Father once crashed into a motorcyclist, Mother prayed for the dead in church on Sunday.

That bike may have been rusted and looking rather broken, but I knew it could still sing. I took to the road like I was born of steel and rubber, gasoline coursing through my veins. Sure that Good ol’ Boy came running from his shanty when he heard me give life to the Freebird. But sometimes that’s how it goes. Sometimes a thirteen year old steals your motorcycle. I popped it into first and flew from that garage. The Good ol’ Boy took a shot at me with his scattergun, but that bird was my guardian. I fed it more throttle, and it gave me wings. I didn’t stop for three states. I weaved through Tennessee, winded around Kentucky, and made a beeline across Illinois. I stopped in Chicago to siphon a few gallons off this hot shot gassing up his Cadillac. He was a real smooth cat, reminded me of Slick Eddie, a local hustler and bookmaker from New Orleans. He had a felt hat with the three-inch lapel, pinstriped from head to toe, and boy did he have some serious shoes. I stole three gallons from him on the sly. Mother always put money in the collection plate, Father stole from the church.

. . .

It’s been a long haul since that uncertain time. I’ve been through several different hogs. Like a special lady, they’re all close to my heart. I’ve seen every state in the U.S. I’ve barreled through Canada, and stopped several times to fight Mounties. I’ve got dames from San Francisco to New York City. Been shot twice, ended up in the hospital and spent five years in a work camp for sodomy of a police officer with his baton. Got out, got thrown back in for another eight months, for being seen with “undesirables”. Those “undesirables” were a couple of Hog heads I ran into on the way into Humble, Texas just outside of Houston. We painted up the town. Damned beautiful too. The one guy was named Russell or something. Mothers first love was named Russell, Father shot him in a bar one night.

The other “undesirable” I can’t remember his name. Let’s just call him Smith. Well Russell, Smith, and I met up on our way into this Texas town. They had been coming from Missouri, where they were wanted for sleeping with the Governor’s daughter. Governor’s daughters always have a reputation for slumming. It was the smell of gasoline and white lightning that attracted this particular Philly to these two Rough Riders. At least that’s what they told me.

We hit the city like a carnival troop. People stared crossly as we cruised their streets. Primal in our appearance, they didn’t know what to make of us. Big Stetson’s and cowboy ties lined the strip. One look made the toughest Humble Cowboy quake in his rattle skins. We were a different breed. We didn’t stay put in a shit town, running the race that takes you nowhere. We were the ones who made their lives shake. It shook at the bedrock and reverberated through the minds of their children. They were honestly in awe of us, disgusted and shocked. We also resembled to the people of Humble, and all over this godforsaken country, an old way, a way that is true, a way that doesn’t live by laws made by people no better than ourselves. Mother used to pray for peace, Father used to drink to war.

War came to Humble some would say. They would say that we brought havoc to a quiet and just town, that we did all sorts of disorderly things. But that is what we are, disorderly.

Howie’s is where it started. We were unwelcome the minute we stepped inside. Just three ruffians looking for a couple of cold ones and some good laughs. Texans of all shapes and sizes greeted us with silence and general dislike. They didn’t know us, they had never spoken to us, and up until that point we had done nothing wrong. But they hated us nonetheless. So we gave them reason to hate, reason to envy, and reason to love us.

During a rack of billiards, whispers and devilish hisses were constant. The people of these little towns hate outsiders, especially if they ride a bike. They think we’re Jesse James coming to rob their bank.

So to combat the looks and whispers we slammed back the beers, faster and faster. Russell, turned out, was a proficient pool shark. He could handle a pool cue like it was a blonde. Smith watched on as Russell gave me a lesson in billiards.

“Can I get you guys another round?” the waitress in a Shirley Ann nametag asked.

“Yea, I’m gonna need something to put these flames out. Turns out Russell here can do a little hustling,” I replied.

The bags beneath the waitress’ eyes showed a hard life. She went to the bar for another round, and Smith added a round of bourbon as well. The night got damp, outside and in. We were on our forth game when I noticed drunken men with glass for eyes bend and twist their way over to us. Dutch courage made them all He-men. They thought they found themselves a nice little work out. What they found were a couple men with pool cue’s, who were used to wielding them. Fat slovenly hicks, Tobacco spit oozing from their mouths. Cattle rustlers thinking they found a couple of loose calf’s to brand. Russell saw them; Smith was already out with his knife. We caught them fast and they went down easy. Smith knifed one who turned out to be the cousin of the Sheriff. Smith is dead now. Russell cracked several yokels with his pool cue so hard that they lost teeth and courage all in one swish. Me, I threw a few swings and knocked out a couple. Nothing special; it was Smith and Russell who did most of the heavy lifting. We ran for the bikes. The law was on its way.

We headed downtown and looked for a quiet place to relax and lay low. A whorehouse is what we found. Asian prostitutes fresh from Japan or some place, who’ll step on your back for a buck, and suck you dry for a few more. We got more drinks at the Asian parlor, or as Smith called it, the Asian Station. I picked a real cutie for my massage. I’m not sure of her name, but she went by Luki. She had small feet and big tits. Enough for any man, I always say. She walked on me all night. I paid her extra to talk. She spoke English very well and told me of her home in Japan. She called me her Samurai. I called her a beautiful idiot. Told her I was no Samurai, just a loner who had an affinity for the women of her trade. She was looking for a ride out of town and away from her Madame. I left her an extra five for what she did with her tongue.

Russell and Smith were outside waiting. They had been thrown out for disorderly conduct. Even in bordellos there are rules. We passed some of Smith’s grass and got nice and toasty while we devised where to go next. Mother drank the blood of Christ, Father shot heroine twice.

. . . .

Titty Bar, three in the morning. The boys and I are up for anything. Miss Asia gave me a taste of the night that made me want more. Russell had some bird in the back. Smith was in the corner like Smith always was, watching. Old Mad Dog Coos Hound was chomping at the bits. Dollars and deadbeats, it was a sea of degenerate mugs sitting in roller chairs or circling the stage with Washington’s peaking from their pockets, and fists full of cash. Tassels on nipples, girls with Leopard print, truckers breaking from all-nighters, divorcee’s missing the comfort of their former Lovers, alcoholics, addicts, deviants, all normal people. The joint showed how close we really are to one another. We differ only in what we portray to the public outside the doors of Briar Patch Titty Bar. Some have children, some are loners, and others just need a good stiff drink and a stiff something or other as well.

Those beautiful dancers applied their hustle gently with their hips. God love them for what they give us. Russell walked out of the back. Lipstick on his collar, he grinned and zipped up his britches. Mother didn’t believe in fornication, Father fucked whores.

If you didn’t see it coming you should have. I know Smith saw it. Smith saw everything. Damned Russell seemed to have gotten his hands on some white powder. Went at it, and forgot to pay. Now we had some big burly cowboys itching to give us a trouncing. But like I said, Smith saw it. Well a brew-ha began and we once again found ourselves running (well at this point stumbling would be more appropriate) out to our bikes. Bouncers, strippers, boozers, and cooks all wanting a piece. There must have been fifty people in the club, and all fifty were looking for a fight. We got out okay, and we were down the road before they had a chance at us. Like I said, always a step ahead.

Red lights flash outside a gas station on the outskirts of Humble. Russell, Smith and I were inside. The three of us (well me and Russell, Smith just watched) laughed and knew what this meant. Sheriff John Q. Law stood with his hometown boys and their deer rifles, ready to unload on the three devils they made us for.

Smith lit a joint and walked outside. The bell rung on the door. Russell and I followed behind. The bell rung twice more. Mother prayed for sinners, Father played the horses.

“You boys have run your course. Now either you get inside the squad car or—” hometown boys with hometown hearts cocked there guns in unison, “Or we dance right here. You boys are going to learn some manners, even if it kills you.”

Smith continued puffing his joint. Russell looked ready for death. I enjoyed the night’s breeze with its nighttime blow. No one moved. Smith spit.

The Sheriff spat back. His bullet blew through Smith’s forehead. “That was my nephew you stabbed, boy.”

Russell didn’t move. He didn’t blink. He died with Smith. His path ended there. That part of him was gone. A true rebel for the cause had died by the law, and now Russell had to mourn part of himself. They threw the both of us in their squad car and left Smith to bleed out at the station. Mother helped at the church, Father went to Angola Prison.

. . . .

Now I’m supposed to tell you about my time in Prison and how I handled it like I handle life. But I hated it. It’s a bad place and bad places bring bad people and bad people bring out the worst in me. It’s my Mother taking over when I’m in those places. She always had a devil of a temper. She used to beat me with a bible if I didn’t clean the kitchen after the Preacher ate over. Meanwhile my Father was off being a good old Dad. He punished a bottle if it got close by. He always drank when the Preacher came calling. Mother took guidance, Father found his own. Sam Driskle was the Preacher to my Fathers perfect religion. He called it perfect, because Sam only sold one-hundred proof. “Blessed be his name,” Father would say. He was a crazy old cook who didn’t have much to him. But my Mother loved him all the same. They would smile, hold hands, and go to dinner at Driskle’s every Wednesday. Mother would drive, Father would drink his dinner. There were no set rules to that home. I was stuck there with false sunlight. I told you I wouldn’t tell you about prison.

. . . .

I got out of prison and sort of kept low for a few years. I traveled and kept on the move, but in the summer of ‘65 I found this real farmers daughter of a redhead out in Wyoming. She was a spitfire and she loved the Duster. That’s one of my other ladies. She kept me smooth and straight for a good while. Matilda (this redhead,) she got real generous when she saw my lady. We played in her Daddy’s barn all afternoon. She served me lemonade, while I ate Apples in the shade. Matilda was barely seventeen, but she sure did love me. Kept my belly full all summer while I hid out on her fathers land. I took her for rides when she was done with her chores. We would take off to this river that I called my Matilda, because like this fiery redhead, it too was full of life and had all sorts of time ahead of it. Mother gave herself only for procreation, Father was lonely with his bottle.

Matilda would usually pack a nice lunch, sandwiches, fruit, pie, and a jug of her Poppa’s Moonshine. Did I mention she drank? We would trade shots between loving, eating, and swimming. We’d be loaded on the ride back and she loved to put her hands over my eyes. She was my muse and my poison. And I could have loved her.

But her Poppa found out and chased me off his land. Once again the wind blew and sent me on my way. I kept Matilda’s panties and a few dollars she stole from her Poppa. The law chased me, but I made it safe out of that prairie. Took the road down to San Francisco. Heard of the Warlocks and how they were welcoming all. Haight Ashbury called me. They said it was free, a little utopia devouring a whole city.

Cruising over the rolling streets of the Bay City was constant anticipation for what was ahead. With every block the storefronts began to change. Pet shops became Pot villas. Jeans ballooned at the bottom. The straight-laced Spade’s loosened their ties as they crossed into the colorful. Entire groups of women became sexual panthers after passing the expanding barrier. Everyone and everything changed. A growing revolution that was destined to shake the earth, making waves, and leaving destruction and love in its wake. It was a mix that I needed.

This sweet old Duster roared between my legs, rumbling past the pools of people. They saw me and they know what I’ve come for. They sympathized with me, they had seen so many like me, pilgrims on a last ditch effort for peace of mind, and a holy land that could thrive. We all were real optimistic. God bless us.

This old Joe that I bunked with for a time during my eight months spent as a guest of the state, told me of a friend he had out in San Francisco, and how that’s where he planned to go if he ever got out. He was doing fifteen years for manslaughter. He would miss Haight-Ashbury. Well, Joe told me that he would drop a line to his friend out there. All I knew was the guy’s name and a place were I might have a chance at finding him. Rex Gillespie turned out to be the guy’s name and I was told to look for Dr. Lazarus Lucidities Looking Glass. There I would find a blind man who knew everyone in the Haight-Ashbury district. I knew no more, but it was better than nothing at all.

To get to Dr. Lazarus’ I had to cruise through a good portion of Haight. There were people younger than me, and some my own age. They all had starry eyes. Glimmers of hope and serenity they all seemed to be. Dancing down the streets paved in colorful flowers thrown in the air by buxom and beautifully complacent women. Free of the walls that blocked them in everywhere else. It was a living parade that was full of life, and inevitable death. It was too good for anyone to enjoy forever. I loved my new home.

. . . .

The good Doctors’ shop was on Staryan Street just before you come to Golden Gate Park. It was a sight to behold: a band playing on his rooftop, people hanging out front of this peculiar shop, droves of them, all outer worldly, and an entirety of bliss. Love everywhere. They were in Happy Land, and the Doctor seemed to be a mayor of sorts. Women dressed as cherubs dropped flower pedals from the roof falling splendidly on top of locals and outsiders alike. Everyone felt the love.

Mixed in were tweakers, benders, puffs, and scallywags. Many of the dropped out teens missed these types. I knew them too well. They blended in and put on a good mask, but I could see their villainy. They were like me.

I parked the Duster in front of the storefront and headed into the bizarre world that Dr. Lazarus ruled. A very pretty young flower girl stuck a Sunflower in my nappy hair and gave me a passionate kiss to welcome me to this enchanting place. She did the same to every person (man or woman) that entered. It was free love.

Inside there were all types of books, records, a large collection of ukulele’s, spun glass pipes to smoke the Doctors magic, Hemp clothing on display, young adults dancing in the aisle’s of merchandise, and a man who must have been Dr. Lazarus himself. Around him on the floor sat close to a dozen young people listening to him and the music he strummed from his ukulele.

As I passed by the circle Lazarus said, “Please come and sit with us, take up Nana and feel her aura, she is waiting for you traveler.”

Nana was lying back in the circle looking up at me, offering herself up; it was doctors orders after all. She moved and arched beneath me. She purred as only the most seductive temptress could.

“You are among others. Be as we are and you shall be at peace. Drink in that feeling that pulls you. It is glorious light and freedom. There is so much beauty in you and this world. You are the world. Be a part of this universe for a time.”

I sat for a time and Nana caressed me. She scaled my road-worn body with her delicate touch. The good Doctor gave me some of his good medicine. The crazy Shaman had me drink from the cup that was passed in the circle, followed by some very intoxicating smoke. The music in my head took over completely. Lazarus played his ukulele while synthesizer sounds came over me from the speakers projecting music from heaven. I was at peace with Nana in my arms, as the room pulsed, and the good Doctor kept strumming.

“Don’t fear the purple people. They are pacifists and delicate like love bugs on evening dew. Caught in the same web that we all try to see our way through. Open your heart to them and let them fill your mind. They need nothing, and you need nothing. You need only to be and be you shall. Love.”

Hours passed and the world kept turning. I made love to Nana in a back bungalow of the good Doctor’s. She washed me and then we made love again. She was the sexual panther that other sexual panthers wanted to be. She was free and full of life and ready to accept what passion I had. She fell asleep fully, curled up like a newborn. She even purred when she dreamt. Mother loved the Holy Spirit, Father was second to him.

The thought of Rex was deep into some space in my mind. The medicine had put him off. He was no longer what mattered. Just being here, that is all that mattered. I awoke to a round mother moon shining in from between the hanging drapes. Nana kissed and rubbed my scars, battle wounds from different days than this, and a different time.

“The Warlocks are having a show tonight,” she kissed me. “They are going to blow the minds of the dropped out masses,” a lick. “Let me take you,” kiss.

. . . .

The house of the Warlocks was the cornerstone of this world. It was the White House, the Vatican, and Alcatraz living together in chaotic harmony. Nana and I walked with some of her friends. The good Doctor never left his Looking Glass.

Thousands flocked to the home of the Warlocks. The show went on in their basement, but speakers were run throughout. On the porch, in the living room, up the stairs, they found every crevice of the grounds. The good Doctor’s medicine was in the punch. Cups for everyone and people shared everything. They were communal in their survival. Mother was greedy with her lover; Father never caught the Holy Spirit.

The sounds from underground grew as Nana, I, and the rest of the good Doctor’s congregation arrived at the riotous occasion. Women under the night’s moon glimmered with a sweet air, young and full grown men howled at the sight. It was sure to be a feast unlike any I’d experienced. A few people swung from the trees with acid pops in there hands. Everyone tugging at the night like petulant children hoping for some extra candy. And the good Doctor always gave treats to the kids.

The basement spanned an eternity. The cosmos erupted on the walls and on the people floating in space around me. Nana was off twisted into a mix of love and magic while a light show propelled the space with a band that came from a different universe. They were the Gods being looked to for guidance. I liked the singer’s chops. He reminded me of Smith. Mother sung in the choir, Father was a blues man.

More of the good Doctor’s brew; a potion for the ages. We all were being bent by the music the Warlock’s gave us. Some Merry Pranksters were shifting about among the crowd handing out candy and spliffs to all. This underground venue shook and rattled as these Gods of the future battled to breakthrough to the wind swept youth. The medicine kicked in.

. . . .

Heaven was around me. Dark, yet, perfect heaven. I was in a sea of others. We were fluid. We splashed every which way. These perfect ladies mixed with the awestruck men. We were all in love.

I saw my Mother. She was burning a bible with a smile. My Father sung into the microphone. He cried words that rocked the bedrock of our minds. I haven’t cried since I left home. His words cradled me in his arms. With Mother beside, Father showed me to the masses.

Lost now on the country miles in his Cadillac. I can tell by the way you smile he's rolling back. The world swayed. We felt passion you could never get from any Presley. We were a part of something new. There was peace.

Come wash the nighttime clean, Come grow this scorched ground green,

I was born again into the arms of a band that opened me up. We all were open vessels dangling in a threshold suspended over a new day. The times were changing. The medicine was working.

Blow the horn, tap the tambourine Close the gap of the dark years in between You and me, Cassidy...*

I smiled. Euphoria grabbed me and so did Nana. We danced with open arms to the world. I had found a home. Everything was together and separated all at once. People molded together and spread apart. There were close times and there were alone times. But together we were, like the grass under a naked redhead and the brotherhood of a couple of outlaws. Nana and I merged with others. We moved to the music, letting the words burn us. We were perfect the way we were. Neal would be proud.

*Bob Weir (The Warlocks aka Grateful Dead)

In the author's own words:

My name is J.J. Kinni I’m a writer who is always attempting to challenge myself. I started out writing fiction in college. It came very naturally and almost immediately I had found what I wanted to do with my life. Plus I’m horrible when it comes to math. I currently reside in Chicago. I grew up in South Florida, and have spent time abroad in the UK where I spent several months working on a novel that remains unfinished. I also am an MC who goes by the name of FolkRhym and have been making my bones in the Underground Hip Hop Scene of Chicago for over a year now. I have a solo EP coming out soon and used to belong to the Hip Hop group Awe N Compass. Recently I have started a blog entitled The Events of Simon Lovelace, which is where I (Simon Lovelace) write reviews of all things that interest me and that are local to Chicago.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Issue #2: August 2010

by David Cranmer

“Remember, Frank, we have very little oxygen left. So this will have to be the final run-through of your act.” He paused, looking at the magician, “You sure you don’t want me to go down with you again?”

“I love the way you practice your lines, Jay, even when there’s no audience present.” Frank Oliver eyed the brown-haired, muscle-bound assistant with a smirk. “I’ll be fine.”

Jay Wiedlin ignored his boss’s condescension as he wrapped the showman’s feet in chains and snapped the padlock in place. “Sure, whatever, but bear in mind, you don’t want to live up to your stage name.”

Frank cringed at the thought of the paper’s headline if he drowned. Early in his career, an envious fellow conjurer had nicknamed him The Great Whydini as in “why’d he do that?” and the moniker stuck.

The magician looked at the air tank leaning up against the boat’s starboard side. “Nope, you can forget about that one. It’s pretty much spent, and the others are dead. So, for safety, this is the last rehearsal until tomorrow morning when I can get all the tanks refilled. Then we can hit it hard and heavy again.”

“Save your breath, Jay. The Little Whydini never listens and that’s why we will always be third rung,” a voice sang out from behind.

Both men turned to face Angela, Whydini’s wife—and Jay’s lover. At forty-two she was holding admirably onto twenty-nine with her shoulder-length blonde hair and wrinkle-free skin. Her voluptuous, tan physique had graced the current men’s magazines like Wink and Frolic more than once.

She sauntered over in her band aid of a bikini and presented her husband with a key.

“Don’t forget this or you will have one hell of a time.”

Whydini sneered and plucked the key from her hand, their eyes met and held in recognition of the love that was long gone. The beginning of the end had been clear to both—a drunken threesome with Jay after a successful late night show. Jay’s toned body and prowess had tipped the scale until wife and assistant began stealing more meaningful moments alone.

The magician turned back to the matter at hand. The boat floated above twenty feet of water on Cayuga Lake, Whydini’s favorite New York retreat to test new death-defying tricks. He slipped the key in his mouth and rhythmically swallowed it. Jay handcuffed the magician’s wrists together in front of him and then helped lower his boss chained to cinder blocks overboard, letting gravity do the rest.

As Whydini plummeted through the clear blue water, he considered his dilemma with his wife. He had never been a sex hound like Angela—his career had always been his main priority and he knew his wife was a big part of that success. The public lapped up the image of the sexy couple deeply in love with each other. He couldn’t leave her, their image together was too important to his success. And yet he had been unable to keep her happy. They were just too different. As his feet landed on the rocky bottom he realized that for better or worse Angie and he were locked together like the chains that bound his feet.

He checked his water-resistant watch counting down the minutes. Time to retrieve the key to unlock the handcuffs and then the chains securing his feet. During the last practice, the clock had run down to the last available second so he knew he had no time to spare this rehearsal. Right now, breath-control and getting used to the weight and descent were most important.

He cleared his mind and used his throat muscles to regurgitate the key. After several sinuous waves, he felt the metal crown up into his mouth. He passed it between his lips and watched the key drift to the lake bottom.


On deck Angie pulled Jay aside and wrapped her arms around him.

“Not here.” He started to pull away but she embraced harder, grabbing his crotch.

“Yes, here.”

“We need to be watching in case...”

“Oh, c’mon. You have time for a blowjob.”

Jay peered at the stopwatch, the seconds ticking away, and nervously looked around.

“Make it quick.”


Whydini inserted the key in the lock but it wouldn’t turn. He jiggled it back and forth. He tried again. Fuck! He looked up at the boat. Where was Jay? Usually his assistant’s undulating silhouette could be seen draped over the side of the boat.

Dread raced through his body as he looked at the key in his hand and back to the surface. So this was her play. In twenty-two years of marriage, Angie had never made a mistake in their act. But he should have seen the signs especially when she had pushed for an increase in their insurance policy. Just in case, she had assured.


Jay pulled up his trunks and headed to the boat’s edge.

“Wham bam, huh?” Angie said wiping her mouth with her hand.

Jay vaguely made out Whydini fiddling with the lock.

“He’s in trouble!”

He dove overboard and in a few strokes reached the struggling magician. He went for the key but Whydini shook his head that it was no use. Jay jabbed a finger to the surface gesturing that he would be back and ascended. Damn, he thought as he neared the boat, they shouldn’t have tried this without a full tank available. The concrete weights were too heavy to lift and he would have to use the winch and cable.

“What’s wrong?” Angie shouted as Jay scaled the ladder.

“It’s the wrong fucking key!”

“Oh my God!” She scrambled through her handbag. “The right one must be at the cottage on the dining room table.”

Jay turned on the winch and swung the hook over the water. The motor rattled and sputtered until thick dark smoke plumed out.

“Shit!” He thrust a life ring and the remaining tank at Angie. “This one has a few minutes left. Get it to him. You said the key is on the table?”

She nodded, tying off the end of the lengthy rope attached to the orange ring to herself, and then hooking an arm through the oxygen tank strap. She stepped off into the water. Jay angled the motorboat to shore and sped off in the direction of the cottage.


Angie dove down several feet, put the oxygen tube in her mouth and began circling over her husband’s head like a shark. She knew it would take Jay five minutes to reach the shore, five to ten minutes to search for the key that wouldn’t be found followed by something to cut the chain, plus another five back. No one could hold their breath that long.

She watched Whydini yanking on the chain to create some slack to slip a foot through. In all their years of practice, he had never allowed for ‘backdoor’ escapes. He was tied securely to the cinder blocks.

And by now, his lungs were almost out of air. As if on cue, his body arched sharply and then relaxed, adrift, like he was sleeping.

She smiled. Tampering with the winch was child’s play for a woman who had spent decades with endless mechanical devices. She even took a further precaution by hiding any cutting tools in the attic crawlspace. One can never be to sure when murdering one’s spouse she mused.

Angie swam toward the back of her motionless husband, his hands outstretched in a ghostly scene. Everyone would believe she had mistakenly brought the wrong key—after all, they were the romantic couple bar none to the public. Though she would still lay it on thick, maybe even make a suicide attempt look real enough to divert any last suspicions.

She inched closer to his right side about five feet away. His eyes open but lifeless. She swallowed an extra breath in a sigh of relief that now she could live her life in peace without ever having to see another damn card trick or, the hardest part, gaze longingly at her husband while the cameras flashed.

She looked to the surface. The boat wasn’t back yet. Another smirk crossed her face. She would use up the rest of the oxygen meant for her husband in the next few moments, place the tube in his mouth and then retreat to the surface to wait for Jay.


His eyes flicked on with revulsion. Whydini lunged at his wife, grabbing a handful of hair and dragging her to the lake’s floor. He snatched the tube from her mouth and wrapped the slack chain around her neck by spinning in a single crocodile death roll. She kicked and clawed at him.

He was running out of time but it didn’t matter. The extra weeks of practicing breath control had paid off. Angie could only hold her breath for a solid minute under calm conditions and with all her struggling she’d never make it that long.

Still, there was enough time in this final act to relish her body’s convulsions and watch them subside before the lights dimmed.

David Cranmer is part of the team responisble for Beat to a Pulp, an outstanding site that showcases a new story each week by some of the best writers working today.  He also maintains a personal blog, The Education of a Pulp Writer, which is an excellent source for news on any pulp fiction happenings on the Internet and elsewhere.  He is currently putting the finishing touches to Beat to a Pulp's first anthology.