Community Man (6 minute read)

Community Man (short story)

6 minute read

By Larissa Thomas, © 2019

Chadwick Pick - known to some as Chaddy boy, known to others as “Ew, mom look at him!” - was a real community man. If you encountered Chadwick, you’d notice the constant lip-licking and misting of spittle when he talked. The distinct scent of Irish Springs soap competing with garlicky butt sweat. You might also notice that his lazy eye - or was it his good eye? - seemed to drift to the nearest breast. Or did it? Regardless, folks smiled and waved when they saw him. He was local, after all.

People living between Little India and the Beach Triangle thought of Chadwick as eccentric. Some claimed that he added an air of authenticity to an embarrassingly gentrified neighbourhood. The people who felt that way were usually white and middle-class and often made a show of taking part in the neighbourhood’s annual Festival of South Asia. They were also the same crowd that humoured Laurie the crosswalk crackwhore. Laurie had taken it upon herself to act as Gerrard and Coxwell’s crossing guard, even though she wasn’t qualified and had caused seventeen accidents to date.

It was a drizzly April Sunday and Chadwick was on a mission to spring clean his grease-spotted, fly-paper festooned apartment. His plan was to gift his not-so-gently used items to his favourite neighbourhood hotspots. He wanted to drum up some good will. “Share and share alike,” Chadwick enjoyed saying and spraying, as he donned his galoshes and hauled a canvas bag of old books to drop off at his local parish.

En route, he passed his favourite Little Free Library, a decked-out birdhouse designed to borrow books from. It looked a little lonely, so Chadwick placed two dog-eared V.C. Andrews’ incest thrillers he was sure someone else would enjoy (Lord knows, he did) between some Judy Blumes. The women at the church would have to make do with his Danielle Steele’s and leftover copies of his self-published time travel sex trilogy.

Chadwick made it inside the humble house of worship, greeted by Gladys, a hunched over neighbourhood fixture. She was shilling her signature knock-off Barbie toilet paper cozies for twenty-five dollars. Chadwick loudly lamented to Gladys that whoops, he’d left his wallet at home. He always had the worst luck . Regardless, Gladys happily took his tattered novels, her milky gaze lingering on several curious stains. She cleared out her lungs and thrust a container of cooked, breaded chicken into Chadwick’s hands as thanks. She patted him on the shoulder and told him not to starve.

Chadwick trotted home and devoured the re-homed meat with a swig of orange juice. A bit gamey, he thought but nothing a gratuitous helping of sriracha couldn’t take care of. He tossed the tupperware in his overflowing sink and set out with a bag of men’s sweaters for Frugal Fashionistas, the used clothing store.

He knew that the profits from his donation lined the pockets of the corporate swine at Walmart, but he chose to believe it’s what helped keep their prices so low. He was part of the fabric of the Canadian economy, even if he was just giving back the items he had stolen from them earlier in the year.

Sally-Anne, the Frugal Fashionistas steam ambassador, scratched at a goatee of toothpaste drool as she stared out at the streets, longing for freedom. Chadwick disrupted her reverie with his garbage bag of clothing. Sally-Anne took his mite-eaten cardigans and pullovers and waited for him to leave so that she could toss them out, sight unseen. But he waited for her to unpack every garment, smiling from hairy mole to hairy mole.

“Anything else?” Sally-Anne wearily asked. He shook his head and rested his chin on braided fingers, watching her. She made a show of pumping the steamer, hoping he’d go away. It spurted lukewarm liquid all over the wall, then wheezed. She muttered to herself and unloaded Chadwick’s last season’s wardrobe.

“Fascinating process,” he murmured.

Sally-Anne exhaled a deep, minty sigh. After giving Chadwick’s clothes a once over and a not-so-subtle sniff, she put them on hangers to go out. Sally-Anne didn’t deal well with crisis situations.

Chadwick tipped his blood-stained Bluejays cap to her and skipped home to retrieve a pile of decorative pillows for the last stop on his feel-good tour. The pillows were for the café down the street which featured well-worn couches, red walls with mustard crown moulding, local artists’ impasto impressions of sunflowers, and Picasso-styled portraits of Frida Kahlo.

The Purple Palomino was full of people sipping from quirky pottery that wasn’t actually safe to drink out of. The cafe sold fresh coffee and sort-of fresh muffins and croissants out in the open - even during flu season. It was cute, Chadwick thought, smiling and coughing over the various offerings.

“Brought you some pillows,” Chadwick smiled, his lip catching on a piece of poultry that had been wedged up in his gums for the past hour.

The barista grinned and shook her head excitedly, knocking loose lint from her beanie into the ice bucket.

An older gentleman, napping on a loveseat, gratefully accepted one of Chadwick’s faux fur pillows and commented on how stiff his back was. A woman cradling her bichon like a baby reluctantly accepted Chadwick’s sweat-stained gift. After watching her adjust the dog around her imposing bosom to make room for the pillow, Chadwick asked if she was nursing.

The woman didn’t like that so much and reached for her scalding hot chai latte. Chaddy darted for the door to avoid getting parboiled, and tossed the remaining knit and velvet pillows at a twenty-something couple disagreeing over whether or not it was ok to call yourself African American if you recently discovered you’re 2% Congolese on Ancestry.com.

Chadwick mentally patted himself on the back for his heroic acts of charity and walked back to his apartment, smiling at Laurie the crosswalk crackwhore as she punted the neighborhood drunk little person into traffic.

Chadwick’s digs overlooked a daycare, and as he sauntered up the street, he observed a blonde creature pressing her nostrils against the window. She blew so hard it sent her tumbling backward. As Chadwick looked at the mucus wad on the glass, he wondered if the daycare could use any blankets.

Chadwick did one last spring clean recon for blankets and emerged from his apartment carrying a pile of old bedding. Just as he stepped into the street, the exterminator got out of a rusty truck with his equipment. The man, annoyed, relayed to Chadwick that all fabrics needed to be heat-treated, bagged and sealed in order to prevent spread of his bed bug infestation. Chadwick nodded and let him know that anything he intended to keep had been laundered and bagged up. And anything else, well, that had beengotten rid of. He winked at the pest control worker and tossed him his spare pair of keys.

The man watched Chadwick weave through oncoming traffic with his untreated, uncovered linens. He shook his head in disbelief but was appreciative that he’d likely have more work in ten days and made a mental note to put up a flyer outside of the daycare.

Once Chadwick had made it across the street, he doubled over on the sidewalk. Gladys’ breaded meat was having unexpected effects on his stomach. He blew chunks all over the pavement and blankets in front of the toddler grotto. Several children peered at him in disgusted enchantment. He paid them no mind, his thoughts elsewhere.

He groaned at the realization that the old bitty, Gladys, had given him food poisoning. And as he emptied his guts of rancid flesh and orange Tang, he wondered if she did it on purpose or was just a fucking idiot.

The Stuff (7 minute read)

The Stuff (short story)

7 minute read

By Larissa Thomas, © 2019

Helena, pronounced Helaina but known online as “_ɐuǝlǝH_”, carefully applied liquid liner to her eyelids. She had seen another girl in her feed using the same brand. Yes, it was a brand from an anti-vaxxer, but Helena was willing to put her murky values on hold for the perfect cat-eye. Helena wasn’t vain, she’d just happened to notice the guy who was on his way over for their first date liked a lot of the horror model’s Instagram selfies. And Helena knew she could pull the look off, too. She was confident this would make her just as pretty—if not prettier—than the girl whose feed she saw it featured on.

Helena tittered with excitement for her rendez-vous with Michael Adam. He’d made a short film about a warthog from a Hell dimension on Jupiter that Helena fucking loved. Michael Adam looked as you’d expect. Every single T-shirt he owned was black and had a movie or TV reference of some kind on it. He wore relaxed fit jeans and dressy casual shoes. Was always on time. Introverted. Sometimes he forgot to put on deodorant, but Michael Adam was very comfortable being Michael Adam.

Helena, however, was slowly being existentially crushed under the expectations of the Miss Nostalgia Porn sash she’d constructed out of old R.L. Stines and B movie covers. She was a cherry slushie thirst trap for dweebs and dorks, but if they had ever sucked their way to the bottom of her Jurassic Park collector’s cup, they would realize they were actually sipping their own psychic guts through a fat, plastic spoon-straw. Luckily for Helena, she’d only been found out once, before horror became her thing. She’d tried on philosophy and psychology for size, but it was way too draining having to remember all of those dumb theories. She’d had to move cities when her liberal arts student boyfriend realized half her collection of Nietzsche were actually first editions she’d stolen from his apartment, and sloppily scrawled her name in - in permanent marker.

Helena had a personality deficit. A mental bulimia. Hoovering up culture, spewing it back out. The problem was that she was never full. There would never be enough action figures, obscure cartoon references, or ironic 80s movies to fill the constantly hungry tardigrade floating in the void that is her soul.

For tonight, Helena had shaped her pubic hair into a pentagram, but it resembled more of a deconstructed pizza. Either way, she felt that it would be pleasing to Michael Adam. She knew he liked pizza from scrolling through six years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles memes on his Instagram feed.

She wondered if he’d scrolled through her feed yet. He must have.

Helena’s apartment was like a well-organized hoarder’s play chest. Ebay wins. Thrift store finds. Retro reboots from Urban Outfitters that guys were too stupid to know were vetted by a large corporation vs discovered via a genuine childhood affection. So far Helena had spent over $43, 000 on her curated personality. If you asked Helena about the books on her bookshelf, she could tell you a powerpoint of base facts, but if you asked her anything more, she’d change the subject. Of course Helena didn’t have time to read all of those books or watch all of those movies or listen to all of those records she claimed to love. Bitch had to sleep.

After she finished shelacking her face and teasing out her hair, she fastidiously spread the ‘Final Girl’ lotion endorsed by her favourite gore-whore insta-star all over her pale body. Helena wasn’t sure that it smelled so great, but she’d been told it captured the empowered essence of Laurie Strode. To basics, it smelled more like Creature from the Patchouli Lagoon. But they were basics.

Glancing at her Tetris watch, she realized she only had a few minutes left to finish getting ready. She knocked back a minithin with two shots of vodka, and did one last dusting off of her 80s tchotchkes, lighting and relighting the living room with candles and lamps. She positioned each VHS cover and board game so their titles were clear and ready to become talking points, depending on what Michael Adam was into, assuming the interests he shared online were genuine and not just lures for nerdgirls.

Helena was ready. She took a deep breath and waited on the vintage velour couch in her living room. She adjusted her Evil Dead bodysuit. Her floppy tits barely contained in the fabric clearly sized for someone much smaller, possibly even a child. And as she smoothed out her black, pleated skirt she noticed her signed Linnea Quigley horror work-out tape on the top shelf of her book case wasn’t visible enough. She knew Michael Adam would be impressed by it because he loved Night of the Demons.

The top of her book shelf was a good six and a half feet high, and Helena was already tired out from getting ready. But what if this was the dealbreaker? What if Michael Adam wouldn’t realize that Helena was his soulmate if he didn’t see that she owned this tape?

She stacked a couple of Rubbermaids (full of the books she actually read - Kelly Armstrong’s Bitten series and Lilly Singh’s How to Be a Bawse) and teetered upward. She strained against the weight of her ironic baubles and jewelry—

And she pulled--



And the VHS fell--

Its corner jabbing her right in the fucking eye--

She blindly grabbed for something to hold onto…

And brought the entire book shelf, filled with her endless trinkets, on top of herself… The Switchblade Sisters DVD that Tarantino had re-issued and her Star Wars light saber and her Stranger Things pin-up demogorgon-

The hoards of shit fell on top of Helena, pulverizing her knick knack knockers, bric-a-brac breasts. Squishing her Pinhead pinhead. Crushing her Elvira red painted toes. The weight of the book shelf on her belly caused her IUD to punctured her stomach. There would be no dressing up like the family from The Shining for Halloween in Helena’s future.

As she lay on the floor, staring upward, she wondered why she hadn’t thought to decorate her ceiling. There was still so much space to fill.

And then there was a knock at the door.

Helena tried to call for help. But all she could muster was a wet cough.

Michael Adam didn’t have much of an attention span, so after about five seconds, he let himself into Helena’s apartment, holding the cheapest bottle of whisky you can buy. Not J&B like Helena had been fantasizing about, just run of the mill Black Velvet Reserve. She was offended.

“Woah, cool,” he exclaimed as he took in the tragic museum of Helena’s desperate need to be adored.

He didn’t even notice the gasping, dying young woman lying on the Spaceballs ring-spun rug, featuring John Candy’s eager face painted like a dog. Helena gasped and rasped, trying to draw Michael Adam’s attention to her, as the Lite Brite magical shining light dimmed in her eyes.

A single tear rolled down her cheek, ruining her flawless cat-eye. Her maroon-lined lips parted as she exhaled her final breath.

Michael Adam put down the whisky, still oblivious, and began fingering all of Helena’s acquisitions as if they could become his, should they pair. He uttered a few more “woah”s and snapped photos for his Instagram. He giggled at her pizza-shaped landline phone. He really did love pizza.

He finally spotted Helena.

The quiet, paralyzing horror he felt looking at her corpse quickly gave way to delight as he began stuffing her most hard-to-finds into his He-Man backpack. After he’d picked out his faves, he attempted to call 911 on her landline, but of course it wasn’t hooked up to an actual connection. So he stuffed the pizza phone in his bag, and left her apartment before an anxiety attack set in. Not many people knew this, but Michael Adam had a fear of real death and gore. He’d have to call from outside on his cell phone, which was annoying as he still had to wait fifteen minutes before his free calls kicked in.

The Neighbor (8 minute read)

The Neighbor

By Larissa Thomas, © 2012, 2018

I hear you.

Been an unwilling eavesdropper since I slammed balls-deep into the dripping, hard maleness of my pubescent voyage. One day outta nowhere, and I suddenly knew that Mr. Burke, my history teacher, intentionally left his trousers unzipped during tests. I knew that Sarah Lye contemplated suicide over a boy not loving her, and that same boy planned on opening fire on a bathhouse years later but changed his mind when he got promoted at McDonald's. The things about your mother that you want people to think you think—I don’t hear those. I hear the things you think about your mother and her stretched-out beige panties. The tampon you dug out of her garbage. That time you sprayed your balls with her Aqua Net and made your girlfriend go down on you.

You’re phony. Not like, Catcher in the Rye phony. It’s on a DNA level. Your thoughts don’t match your mouth phony. You walk through life doing the things you think you have to do, to tell yourself you’re a good person. You’ve become good at letting your thoughts flow like water from a sewage treatment plant. It’s a perfect system with very little upkeep. The bad thoughts go in, and purified filth comes out. No one’s any wiser.

Except me. I hear all of the bad things. The bats inside of your head, shriek and shit, and it echoes and bounces around in my brain.

And three weeks ago, everything got worse.

After the old woman occupying the apartment next to mine - whose thoughts were quiet and sporadic worried loops about her negligent daughter’s parenting skills - died and someone else moved in.

The woman in apartment 3C.

I don’t hear the drag-clomp of her uneven legs as she enters the building, one shoe with a leaden platform-sole. What I hear are the rat-maggots writhing around in her coppery, moist darkness.

I hear her coming, and I run.

Two steps to avoid the book pile that's been there since Grandma Jean died and left me this one-room cookie tin--

3C’s home early. Told her boss she wasn’t feeling well. She was lying.

I can taste 3C’s mind like a stale piece of bubblegum tucked up behind a rotting tooth. Six more steps to the hill of unfolded clothes. Three steps, turn to avoid the edge of the table.

--and where can she get mealworms--

--and does she have packing tape--

--and that old bitch, Mrs. Kranick, not holding open the door for her a minute ago--

She’s mad at Leslie with the big knockers in the office. She fuckin’ hates that maniac nitwit kid in 2D and his stupid toy fire truck that’s always under foot, and she’s pissed at her pud foot cuz she wants a pair of purple open-toe heels.

Gogogo fast as I can. But the thing about living inside walls with furniture piled on dust piled on furniture is it makes it real hard to escape. Fire? I’m fucked. Earthquake? Dead in the time it takes to wake from a nightmare.

I wedge my feet inside beat-up blue sneakers, fist a pile of change from the dish atop the coffee table Jenga, and get halfway down the first flight of stairs before--

--I'm free-falling through her mind. I’m a strawberry floating in a bowl of fruit punch. She’s been spiked, pissed in, and left to bog over. In the murky pink liquid, I see that one time when her brother tried to pour chlorine down her throat. That time when she pulled a hibernating frog from a snowbank and peeled its skin from its bones while it was still--

I’m outside, on the back pathway. Exhale. I spit her out onto the pavement, where she pops and hisses and fades with each footstep in the opposite direction. When she first moved in, I considered abandoning my rent-controlled birthright, but long-term unemployment coupled with depression—I’m waiting her out. People like her, they can’t stay happy in one place for long.

At first, I’d sit at a greasy spoon four blocks away. Then, three blocks at a laundromat. Now a comfortable one-and-a-quarter, in a vegetarian cafe.

I enter the warmth of the Generous Helping. A Pinterest curation of sandpapered whites and pewters. It smells like health, and it feels like safety. The Hummus-eaters and the Mock Meat Jocks and the Yoga Pants, they’re elevated. They’re better than me, they’re better than you, and they’re certainly better than 3C. The bad thoughts in here are a different brand—Terrible Lite.

...Shut up about how veganism has transformed your complexion, Becky. We all know you shovel BBQ chicken into your mouth while watching The Bachelorette-- If only I had married Mark, I gua-ran-tee my child wouldn’t be autistic-- I’ve gone through three plastic bags and four plastic bottles this week and I don’t give a shit--


Count to ten.


And they’re all good people again.

I watch 3C through her window while picking at a Quixotic Quinoa Carrot Muffin and sipping Feeling Grounded Matcha Meditation Tea. I’m getting centered in my hunger and thinking of the freezer-burned shrimp ring waiting for me at home.

3C's ritual is always the same: Orchestrate, execute, reward. This process takes anywhere from twenty minutes to six hours.

She gathers her Dollarama paper bows and ribbons, and then she's gone. Out of frame.

Back in frame, she peels out of the lot in her Honda. A black beetle scuttling across the bathroom tile.

Phase one: Complete.

I finish my muffin and wait. And wait. Tired from a long day of masturbating to the big-titted chicks of Tumblr, and applying to jobs I don’t want. I give up. I wave and thank Mavis the barista. Thank you, Mavis, for the pleasant service. Thank you for being a happy, well-adjusted person whose only blah thoughts are directed at espresso machines and sticky trays.

It’s raining and dark. I pull my T-shirt up to my ears. My sneakers already soaked through by the time I get to the parking lot. Squish. Squash.

Four steps to the edge of the concrete slab, a two-inch rise, then—

Down I go.

As I hit the ground, my body twists in a Shavasana or Lotus or Panting Horny Humping Dog pose. I look to the Generous Helping storefront as if it will tell me. Then to my left: A red fire truck.


The boy in 2D.

The rain feels nice for a while, but the plum around my ankle begins to ache. Time to go back to my cave full of tarnished silver stalagmites and jumbo-sized No-Name pork rinds. I roll over, crawling toward the six-step walk up, one spaghetti noodle, two spaghetti noodle. I reach for the rusted handrail, the asphalt shredding my skin. Just a few—


I blink.

A cough, not twenty yards behind me. Jangling keys.


Hate that kid. Want to rip his fucking eyeballs out, spoon-feed them to oh look, oh look, oh look—

I turn. Chin over shoulder, nose over chin, eyes over nose.

It’s 3B, it’s 3B, it’s 3B, it’s 3B--


There she stands with a jack-o-lantern smile.


“I knew someone was gonna trip on that. I was gonna move it, but then I thought I’d get lucky and the mom in 2D would slip and break her neck. That would really teach that kid a lesson.” Apartment 3C says, then stomps on the truck with her short leg, quartering the plastic. “Little fucker.”

I play dead.

She reaches for me, her other hand clasping a package addressed to Mrs. Kranick. “You’re bleeding.”

My forearms are scarlet.

She moves closer. I let it happen. I put my cold wet in her warm dry, and she clomps and I limp. We’re twins. She guides me through the hallway that smells like curry in one breath and tuna casserole in another. I watch as she places the box outside of 1B.

Phase two complete.

She chuckles, then we’re up the stairwell full of ‘no smoking’ signs. It smells like cigarettes.

She pauses to light a Du Maurier. Inhales. Blows the smoke in my face. Smiles when I cough. “Sorry.”

“I’ve seen you watching me from across the street,” she says. “You’re 3B.”

I watch 3C and listen. But I can’t hear a thing.

“You don’t look vegetarian.” She squints at me.

We reach the third floor.

“You know,” she says, turning, her cotton dress giving way to rolling hips. “I think you’re cute, too.”

We stop outside of her chipped, warped door. She unlocks it.

“Wanna come in? My place is dirty, so don’t worry about getting blood on stuff. By the way, my name is Sarah.” Releasing my hand, she backs inside, beckoning to me. She'd be a big hit on Tumblr.

I choke on my words, “I'm Carl.”

“I’ve got choco-peanut butter ice cream.”

And now it’s time for phase three: The reward.

She waits.

I wait too. I wait for her to think those terrible thoughts about how she wants to boil me alive for being a pig-man vermin ruining her night. How rotten smells waft under my door and into her home. How I play my Collective Soul album too loud and she can tell I probably have a small cock.

But there’s nothing.

Just the pleasant din of static.

She laughs. Her throat nicotine-hardened. Unfiltered. Untreated. She is what she is. Her filtration system is flawed, one pipe in and straight out the other side. Her sewage smells authentic, teeming with sulfur and bacteria. She is perfection.

“So, you wanna come in?”

Yeah, I guess I kind of do want to come in. Plus, I’m still hungry.

© Larissa Thomas, 2018

The River Stynx (9 minute read)

The River Stynx (short story)

9 minute read

By Larissa Thomas, © 2012

Dave was a ferryman. Dave was the ferryman; ye olde hooded one, the humble gatekeeper of Hades, yadda, yadda. Corey, the original ferryman, had fallen overboard and didn't know how to swim.

Or so the story went.

Dave’s boat was decades overdue for an upgrade. He still didn’t have a motor, and had to make do with slimy, splintery paddles. The powers at be had never even given him so much as a cushion for his lower back. And don’t get Dave started on smoke breaks and workplace temperature. The River Styx, a sexy, sunsetty Chris de Burgh music video, it was not.

Dave wondered who his next passenger would be. A drug lord with the blood of hundreds on his hands? A CEO of a fast food company? A Christian rap-rocker with a taste youngins? Or his favorite; the average Joe, run-of-the-mill asshole who didn't quite grasp why he was there. It was a complete toss-up if those ones ended up at the River Styx or the Pearly Gates; nepotism, luck of the draw, politics. You know how it goes.

Dave’s patrons rarely messed with him; he was the mysterious figure in the velvety, moth-eaten robe with sunken black holes for eyes, and they were the new kid in school. Uncomfortable. Worried they’d fart, get a boner, or be torn to shreds by one of Satan’s minions.

The ones that knew why they were there, weren't so much for the talking. Occasionally someone would try and barter with Dave or make a run for it, but mostly they just wanted a head’s up on whatever atrocities lay ahead. Dave actually didn’t know, so he just made shit up. He found striking terror in their hearts made the ride unbearable, so he’d keep it sparse and only mention the funner things he’d heard of over the years - like the skeleton key parties, Coca Cola jacuzzis, and sex pterodactyls.

But today -- or tonight, he was never quite sure -- Dave was in a chatty mood. He was itching to shake it up. Every single day, all day, he did his job. Point A to point B. It was simple. The route was well-worn; rarely any hiccups. Occasionally, a teeth-gnashing, River Hell Serpent would torpedo the boat, but within the first century Dave was pretty sure he’d harpooned all of those fuckers into the next dimension, if there was a next dimension. Dave didn’t like to think about that.

But Dave was bored. He was so over his job. He wanted to rip off his robe, let his skin scraps hang out. Jitter-bug. Sky-dive. Go to a concert. See a movie. But, what Dave really wanted more than anything, was a companion. Someone to talk to. Someone to hold his clammy phalanges and tell him that he was all they'd ever dreamed of. Maybe give him a little river head every now and then.

He’d heard of orgies deep into the mainland, but Dave was never invited. Not even as someone’s plus one. Not that that was his scene, but it would still be nice to be included once in a while.

Dave had spent years archiving his feelings in the dusty bins of whatever remained of his grey matter. But sometimes he couldn’t control his thoughts. And quite frankly he was sick of it. He wanted more out of his afterlife. He nervously sipped on a goblet filled with regurgitated Southern Comfort as he waited for his next appointment.

Then, through the brume, he saw her. The thick air seemed to part for the woman approaching his boat, as if trying to move out of her way, so as not to get her dirty. Her thick curls backlit by the ethereal glow of phosphorous feces and radioactive livers and spleens.

As she drew closer to the briney shoreline, the calcified stone that was Dave's heart twitched with the remnants of life. Or maybe it was indigestion from SoCo on a bottomless stomach. Whatever it was, it was far from boring.

The woman reached out to him with a coin in her hand. He couldn't speak. He was mesmerized. As he took the coin, he felt her warm skin, still so pink and full of blood. She bent over and climbed into the boat, giving Dave a real socketful. She had an ass Dave could drop a load of maggots into for days.

What could a gorgeous being like her have done to deserve such a fate? Maybe it was all just a misunderstanding; she accidentally ran over her neighbor’s unruly cat, or left her straightener on and set fire to a family living in the apartment above hers. But with legs like that, he guessed she was a lady of the night. A provider of passion. Perhaps she had murdered a violent John and was a hero to women everywhere. But she was so hot, Dave really didn’t care what she did.

He weighed his options; nothing said misery like a case of eternity venereal disease, and he’d had a pretty lengthy and traumatic mortal death from Syphilis, but everlasting boredom came a close second. Maybe together they could transcend damnation, and enter a heightened state of felicity.

He helped her take her seat, as she teetered on her platform shoes. She didn't shudder when she caught a whiff of the stinking tendrils of cadaver flopping off his bones. She just smiled.

VD, be damned.

Once she was seated, Dave asked, "Where would you like to go?"

"I get to choose?" She giggled. Her voice was both girlish and hoarse. A young Virgin Mary and a knowledgeable whore. Every man’s dream.

Dave smiled. "Not usually. But I'm feeling adventurous today. We could go anywhere, do anything.”

"Isn't that against the rules? You’re naughty." She batted her lashes and looked around. She pointed toward a soft orange glow on the distant horizon, that Dave hadn’t really noticed before. "You ever been in that direction?"

He shook his head and pushed off from shore, “I’m Dave, by the way.”

“Dave the Ferryman. Has a nice ring to it. I’m Odessa. Nice to meet you.” She crossed her feet under the plank of wood she was sitting on, like a lady.

If Dave had a pulse it would be racing. He didn’t know what to ask her. What’s your favourite colour? Seen anything good recently? So he went for the obvious. "How did you find yourself at the River Styx? If you feel comfortable talking about it."

"A cliché. My boyfriend was cheating and I got jealous." She gripped the edge of her seat tightly, her knuckles turning white. “And then, I accidentally killed myself overdosing on sleeping pills. I assume. I was trying to make it look like someone came in and killed him and I slept through it because I took too many sleeping pills. That was gonna be my alibi.”

"More common than you think. I can’t imagine what a fool he must have been to cheat on someone like you. Hopefully when we make it to the other side, I can show you a nice time over some mead and make up for my gender’s misdeeds."

"I still hate him. He was such a piece of shit. You know, this one time he was staring at my sister's breasts right at the family dinner table. Even my grandmother noticed. It was humiliating. And he was always hitting on my customers. And my co-workers. I don’t even know if he officially left his previous girlfriend when we started dating. But I love him. You know how it is. I love him so much that I hate him. Or is it, that I hate him so much that I love him?”

“I wouldn’t know,” Dave said. “So what did you do for work?”

“I was a hairdresser. That’s how I met my ex. Or is he still my boyfriend? We didn’t officially break up before I stabbed him to death with a cuticle pusher. He had such beautiful hair. God, what a waste.”

Dave cleared the remnants of his throat, hoping to restart the conversation. "You see land, or anything?"

"No land at all." She dragged her finger in the water.

“You might not want to put your hand in there,” Dave cautioned before trying to get the conversation back on track. “Anywhere in Hades you’ve ever been curious about? Not sure what they’ve been saying up there, lately.”

“I don’t know much about this stuff. I’m not, like, religious. My ex-boyfriend’s family was pretty religious. It’s always the religious ones that raise the real fuckers, you know. They fuck them up with all that bad boys go to Hell stuff. And then it’s like, they’re incapable of committing to the best thing that’s ever happened to them.”

“Uh huh. Well, there’s some cool stuff to do here. Lots of bogs to go hiking in. Volcanoes to watch kill villages. Orgies…” He trailed off, looking for a reaction.

"What kinds of people get sent here? Is it only murderers, or are there other kinds of sinners, too? Like say, cheaters?" Odessa said, barely looking at him.

"Depends," Dave said. His face expressionless. It's easy to hide emotion when most of your muscle tissue has wasted away.

"Have you ever taken a man named Hyde Burnish across?" she asked, staring intently at Dave.

Dave shrugged. This wasn't going as planned.

"Dark hair, tattoos on his arm? When he talks, he kind of--"

Dave's bones were weary, rickety even, but rigor mortis couldn’t slow him down, as he pushed Odessa overboard.

“Swim that way,” he feebly gestured towards the nearest shoreline, as she glared up at him with a soaking wet face.

“Dave, please!” she called out.

He glanced at his wrist-compass; he'd be on schedule for the next appointment if he backtracked now.

Odessa screamed and thrashed. “Dave! You can’t leave me here!”

As he began paddling away, her blood-curdling scream was cut short as she was pulled into the murky deep by twelve-inch fangs.

Dave snorted. Guess he didn't kill all of the River Hell Serpents after all.

Scream of a Time (17 minute read)

Scream of a Time (short story)

17 minute read

By Larissa Thomas, © 2018, 2019

If you saw Freya in the workplace you’d think, “Wow she looks so relaxed, what’s her secret?” Then you’d think, “Probably weed.” But then you’d study her longer and think, “No, no, no, there’s no way she can be that put together and high all the time.”

If you saw how Freya keeps her cool in the face of visiting babies that screech more than they gurgle, Ken's constant tea-slurping, George’s ogling, and Julie's too-loud humming - you'd be wow'ed. And I really mean that. Or maybe those kinds of things don't bother you. Good for you. This isn't about you, though.

So you might think, “Freya's boyfriend must have a monster cock and he gives it to her real good,” but Freya hasn’t been with a man in over three years. And no, she’s not a lesbian - even after a few glasses of wine. “Lorazepam? A cottage by the lake? What is her goddamn secret?"

What you don’t see is that every day on her way home from work, Freya passes a forest. So, she pulls over by this forest, same place, same time. She turns off her favourite podcast on pug life (she's testing the waters of pedigree pet ownership), and she gets out of her leased car. She strips down to a tasteful sports bra, swaps her Dr. Scholl’s-lined stilettos for orthopedic footwear, trades her polyester flares for yoga leggings, and walks into the thicket a good twenty-six hundred steps deep and fifty percent of her daily walking goal.

Once on the path - a path no one really uses except maybe the odd teenager desperate to stumble upon someone's marijuana stash - she's pretty alone. The nearest house is miles and miles away. Kilometers, if you’re Canadian.

Then, Freya screams.

She screams like she’s being murdered. The kind of scream you only find in an 80’s De Palma film.

The first time she screamed in the forest, she ran back to her car, worried the police would charge her with disturbing the peace. She vowed never do it again. Who does that shit? What was she thinking?

But she went back. And it felt good. It felt fucking great. That whole week she felt alive - but in a good way. As work and life stress escalated, a once a week timid retreat became a Monday to Friday necessity. She’d go back to that same spot and let ‘er rip.

A fuck-up in accounting that meant her cheque was late and she'd have to eat credit card interest if she wanted to buy that leather couch in time for her birthday party? Two minutes of screaming.

Bossy client who made her do twelve arduous revisions only to circle back to Freya's original concept? Three minutes.

Jessie, the office hippie, took a big, sludgy, Komubcha-y shit in Freya's favourite bathroom stall AND left major debris in the bowl RUINING IT FOREVER BECAUSE NO BLEACH CAN ERASE THE MEMORY? Four minutes of screaming.

Louder and longer. In fact, her lungs and vocal chords adapted. Freya could hit those Whitney notes now. Freya was damn near giddy thinking about her annual mandatory office karaoke party - which she had bombed the year before, singing Heart's “Alone.”

Not this year, bitches.

She fuckin' lived to scream into the abyss, with no one listening or doing anything about it. She would leave the woods each night transformed. Hell, the fact that she was even thinking about getting a pet pug proved that through the healing power of screaming she was levelling up in the world. She was becoming Mother Nature.

But on this day- coincidentally, #TransformationTuesday - Freya got out of her car, went to her sweet spot and something... happened.

So, Freya is belting it the fuck out. She’s feeling good - like, if her coworkers could see her in the moments post-scream, they’d be out there every night too, ruining it for Freya. By the time she’s done she’s all dewy, rosy-cheeked, hard-nipped, contracted and expanded.

Now, here’s where you might think, “Ok, I see where this is headed. So we cut to like, someone in their house hearing Freya scream, thinks she’s being murdered, loads their gun, and then some cockamamie antics unravel and they both shoot each other and die, or whatever."


On this night, someone screams back.

Freya’s body seizes up in a frozen state of herniation and possible lactation. Everything feels like it’s leaking. Her adrenal glands thump with a rush of cortisol.

She barely breathes or moves for several minutes, waiting for something else to happen. But It doesn’t. She decides it must’ve been an echo. Must’ve been, right? She wishes she had eaten lunch, but that meant passing Rachel's desk and Rachel really wanted to hang out. So Freya’s thinking maybe she's just feeling faint. Just a little glycemic.

It might not have been a real scream, but it killed the vibe. So she heads back to her car and drives home with this pit in her stomach. Later, she'll have to re-listen to the pug podcast episode because she didn't retain anything about dietary restrictions, mucus, or alleviating breathing issues. She fills the pit in her stomach with some low-fat Michelina’s and two steins of rosé, and forgets it ever happened.

Then it’s Wednesday, and as her ritual dictates, Freya pulls over again. Today, she'll be screaming for the cheap office TP and the dude who microwaved fried cod. Who does that? Only this time, she has this feeling in her gut. That feeling you get when you want to go to a restaurant with all these on star Yelp reviews. Don't do it, Freya. Yelp reviews don't lie.

But it was probably nothing.

She shakes it off and goes back to her mystical patch in the forest. And right as she’s about to give ‘er stink - she hears that scream again. Only this one doesn’t sound like an echo, this one is like, close. Too close. Freya looks around, freaked out, as you would be. She thinks, “Fuck this noise,” literally - and bolts.

She darts through the brambles, and triple-jumps the rotten logs. Except, she seems to have diverted from the path she knows like the back of her hand. And when she thinks about the back of her hand, she realizes she doesn't even know what the back of her hand looks like. She assumed she did, but which hand has the freckle that looks like a liver spot? She doesn't even know what color nail polish she's wearing until she looks in that moment of panic. It's dusty violet, btw. She doesn't know shit about this path even though she comes out here five nights a week. Doesn't know shit.

And now she hears footsteps.


Or maybe it's just the wind. A cute, hungry little deer?

Either way, Freya has no fucking idea where she is.

Freya's thinking she must've run in the wrong direction, so she tries to course correct and keeps going. Only now she’s even more lost, and it’s getting dark.

Then, the clouds part, and she thinks, "God?"

But almost immediately they roll back over and it's dark-ish again.

At this point you’re thinking, "What is this, like a Babadook kind of thing? Like she made a monster with all of her anguish?" You’d be wrong again - fuck man, you’re exhausting me.

Anyway, so she’s zipping through the trees and feeling grateful for doing all of those leg lifts under her desk at work for the past three months. No real end goal for doing them, us women - we always feel fat.

-- And she sees a shanty in the distance.

A shanty with a smokestack. Some real Deliverance shit. Or what someone imagines is real Deliverance shit. I don’t know, I don’t watch anything made before 1986. And, like an idiot, she runs to this shanty and starts banging away like a lunatic on the door.

“Help! Help!” she shouts, waving her arms around and stuff.

Unbeknownst to our heroine, this wild-eyed hick (see Deliverance reference) inches up behind her licking his frothy chops and fingering some oily glob that seems orificial in origins. When he’s four inches from the back of her butterfly clip he screams.

Same scream. As in the same scream as the one before, in case you didn't pick up on that.

For all of that youth and vitality Freya gained those evenings yodeling amongst the plants, within mere seconds she loses a good decade. The best decade. With pure instinct as her compass, Freya runs.

And damned if he doesn't start chasing her. Screaming and chasing and licking and fingering those chip-chops. Waving a stick around. Screaming his goddamn head off. And it's not like a guttural, sexual, B-movie scream like Freya's. It's some Xena battle-cry "I'm gonna wear your fuckin' face while pile-driving my dick into a moose I sewed to a mountain lion" kind of shit.

Freya wonders if this is it for her. The price of peace. Torn to shreds before she's in a financial position to get a mortgage, become proficient enough in the kitchen to be considered "wife material," go on vacations that don't include all-you-can-drink rum cocktails and a bottle of permethrin.

But on the horizon, she sees her puce-colored car parked on the shoulder of the road and scrambles to it, fumbling to unlock the door. She drops the keys, because of course she does.

And the hillbilly dude stops twelve feet short of her.

“Ya comin’ on to my property hootin' and hollerin' like some goddamn mad woman. I've had enough!”

“What?” Frey mouths.

“Ya upset my squirrels!” he screams at her. “Interrupting my reverie! Five times a goddamn week, I hear yer naggin' and screamin'. I left my wife'n moved to the middle of Buttfuck, Nowherezville for a goddamn reason! Get the fuck out of here and never come back! "

Freya pauses to reflect on how close to this man she feels in the moment. Kindred spirits? "I’m sorry, I thought this was public property. I didn't see--"

"Well open yer goddamn eyes! There're goddamn signs everywhere!"

Freya looks around and, yes, indeed there are goddamn signs everywhere. She can't quite figure out how she missed those. She picks up her keys and unlocks her car door, taking in one last woeful look over her vista of bliss.

"Scat!" the man screeches.

She hurries into her car and speeds off.

The man spits on the ground, and walks away with a skip in his step. "Women."

The next day, Freya returns to work like nothing happened, because what can she really do? Complain to Melissa Mothballs in HR that her benefits don’t cover scream therapy? Whine to George the Office Sexual Harasser through her cleavage while she brews a K-Cup?

Freya tries to remain optimistic But after one week, she’s stressed the fuck out again. Everyone smells like patchouli or sweaty genitals or sour milk. Everything's too loud. Ken and his day-long s-s-s-slurp-sipping. Julie and her happy-happy-humming. The sound of Peggy’s baby wailing to the rhythm of her breast pump. And by the way, the baby’s not cute. It looks exactly like what it is - a creature that clawed its way out of someone’s crotch.

Freya's barely keeping it together, and then the company hires a new chick. Katy Something. A twenty-year-old idiot with an obnoxious half-up topknot and a wardrobe way beyond her salary's means, who clearly only has the job because her parents want to "teach her some responsibility." And she has this HONK of a fucking laugh. It's jarring. Inescapable. Un-drown-out-able.

Freya tries to get back to her zen. She starts using an app that replicates nature sounds. She fucks the marginally hot janitor on the second floor. She gets some plants. A stress ball shaped like Peggy's baby's head. A pillow she says is for her back, but she actually uses to muffle her anguished sobbing.

But fucking Katy Something and her fucking donkey honk.

If you saw Freya in the workplace now, you’d think, "Wow, that bitch needs to get laid." Or, "Boy, someone could use an all-inclusive vacation to one of those rum cocktail destinations." Or you might crack a "More like Freya-d nerves, am I right?"

Now, every day Freya mentally bores a hole through her office wall at her co-workers on the other side. She attempts to manifest a giant lead safe that falls through the ceiling and crushes Katy and the retro Furby on her desk. She fantasizes about Katy's guts splashing into Ken's tea as he sips it unawares - only to choke in horror once he realizes. A shard of Katy’s projectile rib spears Peggy, her husband, and her baby in one powerful motion. Katy's rectum prolapses with the excessive force of the safe, slapping Julie right in her humming mouth. George walks in, snaps a photo of the carnage with his cell phone, but his exhausted-from-sending- excessive-unwanted-sexts phone battery explodes in his hand, setting him on fire.

That's what Freya thinks about as she suffers through weeks of stress-indigestion and stress-diarrhea, and leaves work early from stress-headaches, and secretly drinks vodka at ten a.m. because this Katy Something bitch and her fuckin laugh is messing' with Freya’s hanging-by-a-thread sanity.

And today happens to not only be #WellnessWednesday, but it’s also the one-month anniversary of Freya's only source of joy coming to an end. Freya would be in the mood to celebrate but she just ended an argumentative client call, and her computer crashed, and right as Freya takes a deep breath Katy starts honk-laughin' at videos of cats dressed like people and recapping The Big Bang theory and

Freya gets up and throws her Scholl's-lined stilettos across the impressionist ikea painting on the wall. So what if she steps on a thumb tack? Maybe she’d like it.

Freya kicks her office door open and catwalks into the shared workspace. She begins her journey with an escalating peacockery of honk-laughing directed at Katy. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery - not. Freya chases her across the office.

"People are trying to work. People have giant amounts of money at stake. Do you even have a job? Or are you just here to laugh at literally everything?” Freya shrieks through gritted teeth.

No one does anything. They're just like, taking it in. Looking up from their phones and realizing there's life happening that doesn't specifically revolve around them.

Freya strips off her blazer, all the while frothing at the chip-chops and circling the teary-eyed Katy. Freya peels off another layer. Then another. Soon she’s just wearing pantyhose and a bra. Focused and panting.

Then, in the eye of the storm, Ken audibly sips on his fuckin' tea-- and Freya goes right off on everyone, but really mostly Katy--

“Sharing an office with you is giving me an ulcer and the dental plan at this shithole doesn't cover acid reflux damage!"

"I'm sorry," Katy Something whispers. "I didn't know I was bothering anyone."

"How could you not be bothering anyone? Everyone is bothered!" Freya stomps, and looks around. She'll be getting no show of solidarity from these traitors.

Freya follows George's eyeline, fixed on Katy's big, glittery tits, and suddenly Freya's outraged about the sexism in the workplace, she's outraged by the lack of healthy options in the vending machine, and she's fucking outraged that this goddamn bitch can get her version of her scream- rocks off right in Freya's space when she has nowhere to get her own rocks off and no one is going to have fun if she's not and Freya belts out the loudest scream you’ve ever heard--

Louder than her forest-screams. This is like, in labor-for-fourteen-hours-and-just-felt-the-last-remaining-membrane-in-her-lower-body-rip kind of scream.

Katy attempts to flee the scene in terror, tripping on Freya’s discarded garments, and wow - that's what it's all about. As Katy squirms on the outdated carpet, clasping her ankle, hope returns to Freya’s face. She feels so much better. She inhales the shocked faces - Ken spills his tea all over the floor - and she wonders why she didn't bring the ruckus to the office before. This is true catharsis. No hour-long hike necessary. Freya can feel her glow returning. Her vagina twinges in a post-orgasmic, gaspy “thank you.”

Freya takes a deep breath, smiles, and announces that she's taking an extended fifteen.

She goes back to her office, reboots her computer, nibbles on a box of thin mints, and looks up jiu-jitsu classes in the area. Doesn’t bother getting dressed. She’s in the zone. She’s so in the zone that she doesn’t even notice the ten minutes of nonstop calls on line one from Martha Mothballs in HR. She summons a petrified intern to see if he can procure her some weed, maybe book a cottage by the lake for the weekend. And is he legal yet? Mommy could use a massage. She puts on her headphones and kicks back her stockinged feet on a stack of client papers and places bids on one player board games and mocasins on Ebay with the company card.

Freya is finally doing great.

Forty minutes later, she’s being walked out of the building by two security guards, but she’s over it. She’s sure she can get one of her old ex-boyfriends to move back into her condo and unemployment will cover the rest.

Katy's still crying as George tends to her injury. Cops a feel as he comforts her, wonders if today will be his lucky day.

Money For Nothing (30 minute read)

Part One

I roll the twenty between my fingers and out from underneath a stack of bills. In one fluid gesture, it’s inside the cuff of my sweater, and the register is closed. I exhale through my teeth. My pulse slows.

Mrs. Sisson approaches the checkout counter with a plastic basket. Her white hair in an immaculate bun. Her face carefully powdered and spackled.

“How are you tonight, Mrs. Sisson? Quick Pick with Encore?” I say, all smiles and nods.

I eyeball the total of her pantyhose, nuts, and hard candies to be about ten dollars.

She shakes her head, “I’m fine, dear. And no, Bob already picked up tickets for tonight’s draw. Are you playing? It’s a big one.”

I type in the items as a return, then place her money in the till.

“Not me, I never win.”

And just like that, my ass is covered. Even if those cameras above the cash area work, which I suspect they don’t, I’m very discreet.

I’m not a bad person; it’s just that I refuse to accept that what I have is all I get. I’m white. I come from a middle-class background. I should’ve done something with my life. Still got time, but I’m not good at anything. So I steal.

Scribbling a fake signature and stuffing the receipt under the plastic clamp, my eyes remain fixed on the elderly woman's. It won't be until she’s sitting at home knitting unwanted sweaters for grandchildren that she might wonder about the receipt.

“Send my regards to your husband,” I say, stepping out from behind the register to flip off the first set of lights and begin shutting down the store.

She stuffs some wayward tissues into her giant purse. A small money clip falls from her pocket and lands softly on one of the runner mats.

I step on it.

Mrs. Sisson squeezes my hand with a squeaky leather glove, then waves goodbye. I wait until she’s passed through the second set of glass doors, then bend down, tying up an already tied shoe. I pocket what is probably thirty bucks. Love it when I don't have to work for my free money.

I remove the billfold, about to toss the clip when I notice its weight. Silver. The name Mary engraved on it and a small pearl inset on the edge. Probably worth something. Slide that into my cuff too as I lock the door.

Patrick “The Cunt” watches me from across the store. The fluorescent lights bounce off his chrome, bald pate. If it weren't for his crouton-like complexion, he would blend in seamlessly with the polished metal racks and mannequins. You can't see the whites of his eyes unless he’s looking to his extreme left or right.

He’s not called The Cunt because he’s a jerk, though he is a jerk. It’s because he has twenty-four/seven vagina breath. While you may not have consciously acknowledged this phenomenon, you've most definitely encountered it. Sweet, sour, and hot, with notes of rich cheese and fermenting citrus. Not to say that my vag has ever smelled like that because it hasn't.

I never pull my shell game in front of employees, but after the first few weeks of working in Litman's Department Store, I realized Patrick was just creepy window dressing. Milium-spotted drapery, barely observing. Barely alive. He’s the assistant supervisor, which is a fake job title if I ever heard one. “Well, Bob, we certainly can't promote The Cunt that's been here for eight years to a position of power, but we gotta throw the guy a bone if we don’t want to have to hire and train some jack-off fresh out of high school.”

It’s five minutes to close, and it’s just me and The Cunt. I let him deal with the change rooms and toilets, and take my sweet time counting and recounting the last register. When I’m sure he’s done all of the duties I don’t want to do, I fill out the slip, drop the deposit in the zip pouch, organize the float, and slide it through the mailbox-sized slot of the janky old safe. And yes, I have thought about breaking into it and taking off with the night’s deposit. There’s always tomorrow.

We each have a small cubby located at the back of the store in the lunchroom. In the eight months that I’ve worked at the department store, I’ve stolen from at least three of my coworkers – only food, mind you. The fourth I merely tampered with, but I can speak for everyone at Litman’s when I say that Tammy's salmon sandwiches made us all want to wretch and the bitch had it coming.

I transfer my take from the day into my purse. Forty-eight dollars and a money clip. Could've been worse. By the time I come out of the staff room, the store is pitch black, and Patrick jingles the keys by the door in his tan fleece.

Our exit is always the same; wait for the alarms and locks, then head to the back parking lot. On nights when I’m feeling particularly good – usually because I’ve pulled in a hundred, I’ll make small talk with The Cunt. On nights when I walk away with nothing, I go the long way to avoid Patrick.

“Chill in the air tonight,” The Cunt says.

“It's winter.” My eyes flutter. They never roll. A couple of summers ago I got vertigo for a few weeks when I was working at a coffee shop. My doctor told me it was from rolling my eyes too much. Asshole. Could've been right though. Hated working at that coffee shop even more than I hate the department store. Coffee shops, as a broad rule, are funnels for every insufferable person in the Western world.

When the wind is blowing east, the air in Devil Falls has an eggy tang to it. When it's hot, it's like wading through rotten egg salad. I tuck my face in my humid scarf, which doesn't smell much better but at least it's my own brand. The Cunt heads toward his red Jetta and I begin my passage through the alley that leads to Swift and Main. I start thinking about dinner. I could make KD, but don't know if I even have any butter or margarine. Could use mayo, I always have mayo.

The Cunt starts his car, half-drives out of the parking lot, then stops.

“Martha!” The Cunt's shrill voice pierces my ear, an unwelcome and unlubed entry.

Slowly turning, “What?”

The Cunt shifts from side to side, his mouth opening and closing without making a sound. Maybe he isn't a pig, more of a strangled guppy. He scratches the back of his neck, waiting for me to come toward him before he says anything else.

It's this kind of passive-aggressive bullshit that makes me smug about robbing people.


“I forgot to lock the inner doors before I engaged the security system.” Patrick glistens in the lone streetlight.

“So?” What an idiot. I lean toward the heat of his car.

“Could you watch my car for a minute?”

I’m about to respond with - “Just turn it off, you asshat” - when from the corner of my well-trained eye I spot a twenty haphazardly wedged between a pair of Patrick's indoor shoes and a pile of scrunched up plastic bags. He probably doesn’t even know it’s there.

“Just go,” I say. “Chop, chop.”

Patrick scampers off into the darkness, and I slip fingers through the driver's seat belt and pull the plastic peg lock upward. I open the back door, and a pile of empty Faygos and a jumbo tub of antacids spill out onto my feet. That just earned The Cunt a second robbing. I toss the cans and Tums into the mess on the bottom of his car floor and retrieve the money.

It’s wet.

I squeal, holding the tiniest edge of the paper with my thumb and forefinger. Now, this is the real test. How much does Martha Bagshaw—

Everything goes black.

Part Two

My parents aren't mad at me; they keep repeating. My mom's hair has changed. So has her nose. Something isn't right about them. I’m on a TV show. Oprah? No, Oprah’s only reruns now. People clap. I’m not the baby's mother! Thank God. A wave of relief washes over me. How on earth did I even get this stupid baby in the first place? I look down, and the baby in my arms vomits. At first just a slug of drool, then black, oily clam chowder--

Dear God, that breath. This baby has the worst breath. The father must be The Cunt. That's where it came from, it all makes sense and--

“Martha,” the phlegmy voice repeats the word. Over and over. “Marthaaa.” Turning the name over a spit, roasting it to coal black, drying up the last bit of pink, juicy meat inside. “Martha!”

I jump. For an eighth of a moment, I’m back in grade ten history class, my head jerks forward, waking me up. The kid behind me smirks and whispers, “You farted while you were asleep.”

But I'm not in history class.

My eyes roll over the walls of the steamy, thirteen-by-thirteen bedroom. He comes into focus.


Soon I can see every grey pore, every nodule, every tiny black hair. God, I hope he doesn't rape me.

Bound wrists. Bound ankles. Cheap yellow nylon rope, the waxy kind that’s less likely to tear flesh. Not gagged. Could scream. I could scream loud, but then he might stuff something in my mouth. Something that was just touching his skin.

Fortunately, I still have my clothes on. Not my coat. But all my shirt buttons are done up. My breasts don’t hurt, so if I was fondled, at least it was gently. My back hurts though. Who would buy an awful chair like this? Probably came from Litman’s.

Yanking every limb in unison, I rock the chair forward.

“Stop that now,” he gets up.

“Let me go, Patrick.”

I’m in a bedroom in a house. Nicotine-yellowed wallpaper, even the pattern of roses seems to be wilting from The Cunt's oppression. The faint smell of human-generated ammonia creeps toward me from hard-to-clean crevices and corners. A single, lumpy bed with a stuffed bear on it sits in the far right beside a night table stained with water rings. Framed photographs of a woman through various stages of aging on the walls. A crab figurine made of shells and stones. A giant bookshelf. No classics. All self-help. Therapy. Mind Control. More self-help. And a device on the table beside my chair.

A device.

This is probably where Patrick conducts unspeakable acts of beastiality, autonepiophilia, gerontophilia… All kinds of philias. And I’m next. Beautiful, vibrant and young. A pressed flower in The Marquis de Cunt’s memoir.

He stands in front of me, a formal presentation, hands folded, a grave expression. “I brought you here to help you. To get to the root of your problem so that you can break free of it.”

This is an intervention.

“Do you know why you’re here, Martha.”

“Because you hit me over the head and tied me up.” I refuse to make eye contact. Acknowledgement is half the thrill for these guys.

“Actually, I didn't hit you over the head. I injected you with a sedative.”

Is this how it all ends? A dirty needle. I shift my weight in the chair, back and forth. You have seventy-two hours to get to a hospital if you suspect you've been infected with one of the for-lifer blood viruses, and then they flush you out with vitamins. Or at least that's what someone who couldn’t remember if they had unprotected anal sex at a rave in Barrie told me. I have a bad immune system. Always sick. I probably won’t even last twenty-four.

“You’re here because—“

“You’ve seen me stealing, and now you’re going to live out some amateur psychologist fantasy. For the record, I would rather go to prison than suck your dick, if that’s where this is headed. And I’m a biter.”

Patrick did what I can only describe as “gasp.” He grabs onto the chair adjacent to mine for support.

“Who’s room is this?” I ask.

“It was my mother’s," Patrick says this without blinking. But not in a natural way. He’s hiding pain.


“Do you want to talk about your mother, Patrick?” I smile.

He takes a deep breath, thankfully in the opposite direction, then sits down in a ratty office chair across from me. He unfurls the device’s accessories. Pretty sure it’s a polygraph unit. He plugs me in. Wraps the blood pressure thing around my arm. Puts the other thingy on my fingers. I’m too lazy to bother fighting it.

I look at the clock on the wall and realize I’m missing one of my Gordon Ramsay shows. The one where he yells at people for having semen on the sheets in their crappy hotel.

He straps tubes around my chest, nervously trying to avoid touching my breasts. Probably not gonna rape me then.

“Is this a lie detector?” I ask.

Patrick smiles. He thinks he’s impressed me. “Got it off eBay a while back.

“I don’t care enough about what you think to lie to you.”

The Cunt begins a rehearsed monologue. “Resistance is natural but you can relax, Martha. You’re in good hands. You’ve been feeling apathetic. Stealing makes you feel alive. But the more you do it, the bigger the crime you’re going to need to commit to get that same feeling. Until you end up in jail, Martha.”

He pulls out a notebook. A fucking notebook.

“I decided not to approach the head cheese about this because I knew it would result in your firing and you wouldn’t learn anything. You would probably go out the next day and find another job and do the same thing over again. Or perhaps you'd sweet-talk your way out of the situation, as I've seen you do. You may even turn the tables on me, and get me fired. But I can help you. I understand now what I did wrong in trying to help mother--… But I can fix you, Martha. This I am confident of.” Patrick’s hand shakes as he wipes a bead of sweat from his face. “Please state your name.”


“Alright, well… Is your birthday April fourth, nineteen-eighty eight? Yes or no.”

“I don’t remember.”

“Do you live in Devil Falls, yes or no?”

“I have no idea where I am. I’m so high from those sedatives you injected me with.”

He looks over to his bookshelf for reassuring buzz phrases like, “life is a gift” and “if you want security, go to prison.”

“I want you to tell me about the first time you stole. I want you to detail why you did it and how it made you feel.”

Jesus. The first time I stole? I can’t remember something like that, but I can remember the first time I stole and it felt really fucking good.

Part Three

I was eight years old and attending my last in a long line of sleepovers. I wasn’t invited by anyone in particular. My mom always seemed to have agreements with other children’s mothers. She’d organize a bake sale if one of them pleasefortheloveoffuckingGod took her “spirited” daughter off her hands for one night.

This particular slumber party was themed - the annoying ones always are. At the time, there was some popular cartoon about a teenage girl band or a bunch of teen girls who drove motorcycles. I don’t remember. My mother had gone out and bought me a doll specifically for the occasion.

I didn’t want to go and ripped my doll’s head off. My mother, used to this behavior, simply shoved the head back on. But it didn’t do that articulated neck thing anymore. My doll, Jerissa, was now neckless with a squashed head. She was the ugly doll. And every girl at that slumber party alienated me for it. Especially Gillian Mann, the hostess with the mostess, and in possession of the same doll - hers with a swan-like neck and dainty jawline.

Your doll is stupid. Your mom bought it at the poor barn that’s why it looks like that. It looks like you. You’re ugly, Martha.

As a youngster, I got anxiety diarrhea. And the more anxious I got about the potential for diarrhea, the more likely it was that my ass would explode. So of course, after relentless nitpicking, my ass indeed exploded.

I stunk out the bathroom and Gillian wouldn’t let me rejoin the sleepover. I ended up hanging out in her basement with the family beagle for several hours looking through her older brother’s hidden Penthouses. Finally, Gillian’s mother noticed that there was one less sweetie-pie at the party and marched me back upstairs.

In the still of night, I took my Jerissa doll and dragged her arms and legs up my tiny diarrhea-crusted butt crack. I slid out of my sleeping bag and swapped my doll for Gillian’s. Then I snuck out.

I lived two blocks away and nobody locked their doors in my neighborhood. I broke off the head of my fancy new Jerissa so that I could never be blamed for what happened. The mothers couldn’t “prove” that I switched them, but I never had to go to another slumber party after that.

“Well?” Patrick rasps in a gentle tone. He’s mistaken my reminiscing for some kind of emotional obstacle that I’m trying to overcome in my mind.

“I stole candy from a corner store when I was five,” I say.

He stares at me for a few moments, then shuffles over to the bookshelf. He sits back down and holds tightly to the self-help book as if he’s a preacher with a bible and I’m the damned soul he’s exorcising. Keep trying, Cunt.

“And what is your relationship like with your mother?”

“Haven’t talked to her in years. Neither of us wants to.”

He examines me. “Why do you think your mother doesn’t want to talk to you?”

“She has self-loathing issues,” I say.

“Or maybe it’s because of your problem. Why do you steal, Martha? Let’s identify the root of this deviancy. Do you need the money?”

I sigh.

“Is it for attention?”

“Let me make this is easy for you, Patrick.” I try to put my hands behind my head and lean back in my chair. Impossible. “I steal because I almost never get caught, I hate everyone - including you. I don’t give a shit, and I want more than I have but without having to work for it. I’m a product of my generation. You wouldn’t get it. You kinda had to be there.”

Biting his lip, he takes a few notes.

“If I hadn’t come along and sedated you by the car, would you have put back the twenty dollars back or kept it?”

“I would’ve put it back.”

He glances at the polygraph read-out as if it means anything.

“Because you admire and trust me?” He asks.

“Because it felt contagious. It was wet.”

His face falls.

“What was your relationship with your mother like? Were you there for her in her final moments?” I ask.

He looks over at the cot. Sinks into himself. “Of course.”

“But she didn’t care, did she?”

“I don’t know.”

“You tried to fix her. Didn’t you, Pat?”

The Cunt lifts his head and locks eyes with me. “You’re a smart girl, Martha. You don’t belong in a department store. Maybe I don’t either.”

You definitely do, Pat.

His rotting patent leather slippers slide across the gristly carpet as he heads to the warped old dresser. “I can’t fix you, same way I couldn’t fix mum. She wasn’t a thief like you, but boy she liked to lie,” he continues, as he forages through what appears to be a drawer full of craft supplies. “She lied about who my father was, she lied about girls calling me… Lied about everything.”

A soft breeze pushes at my back. The door opens a crack. A draft, maybe.

A pet.

The Cunt pulls out a pair of polished steel scissors, the kind dressmakers use to cut precisely on chalk outlines. “Even her last days. She was hiding pills under that pillow, right over there.”

The cot willingly gives way to Patrick’s pear-shaped behind. He wields the pair of scissors like a serial killer, plunging them into the thick marshmallow pillow. I wriggle again. It's useless. I’ll give the guy credit for one thing; he knows how to tie a knot. This is what I get for bringing up his mother.

“She wasn’t hiding her pills because she didn’t want to take them. She was taking plenty of those. She could barely walk, but she would get out of bed while I was at work and hide my prescription pills. So I thought, she’s addicted to meds, she just can’t stop. Not true. She didn’t ingest a single one. She just wanted to hide mine to fuck with me. Do you know what she did when I asked her about it?”

A small grey kitten has woven its way into the room unnoticed by Patrick. Its little body rubs against the backs of my jeans, oblivious to the emotional storm.

“She defecated herself, Martha. My mother had been too proud and too in control to do anything like that before. I spent thousands on this wheely toilet, so she could spend her last days expelling what little waste was left inside her like a lady. Only for her to shove it in my face - not literally. But, guess who had to clean it up? I did.”

That’s when I notice the dried blood on the lie detector. On the blood pressure armlet, the finger cup, even the machine. Faint against the black plastic, but there. He killed his fucking mother, the fucking liar. And now he is going to kill fucking Martha, the fucking thief.

“Not to get graphic, but I’ve really needed to talk about this. It wasn’t even normal stool. It was like tar. It was almost like her body was finally so full of lies that she was just… well, frankly, she was just shitting them out!” Patrick claps, finally looking in my direction. “Do you know what it’s like to clean the waste from your mother’s—“

“I’ll kill your cat if you don’t let me go.” The kitten picked the worst time to wedge its little triangle head between my meaty (but sexy) calves. I (gently - I’m not a monster) turn my body into a kitten pillory.

The Cunt clutches the giant scissors to his chest. “But Specter is just a little kitten.”

“I’m gonna rip it’s fucking head off!”

“No! Stop! Let her go, and I’ll untie you.” A tiny stream runs down Patrick’s cheek. “Just let her go.”

“Untie me first.”

“Just wait. I’m not done yet,” Patrick whimpers.

“If you don’t untie me right away, I will choke the life out of your cat, and then start screaming. When the cops arrive, I’ll say that you made me wear your mother's frocks while raping me. I'll say that you held up a picture of Mr. Litman's youngest daughter while you did it. And that you kept saying over and over, ‘This is just the warm-up!’”

“Enough!” The Cunt curls over and sobs into the crook of his arm. “I was trying to help you. Don't you see? Oh, God. What have I done? I’ll be sent to prison.”

“Tell you what, Patrick, I won't tell anyone that you captured me.”

He crawls over to the chair, still weeping. He cuts the ropes from my feet, then my hands. I release the kitten.

“On one condition,” I say, putting distance between myself and the pair of scissors.

His face falls.

“Five hundred bucks.” I hold my smile. “Pain and suffering.”

“Five hundred dollars? But that's a quarter of my monthly wage.”

“I might have an infection from this.” I point at the sore spot on my neck where I assume The Cunt jabbed me with the syringe. “Maybe I should also factor in medical expenses. And that could be, oh-- I might need to talk to a lawyer.”

“No, no. Five hundred. I have it. Tucked away... Be right back.” Patrick bundles Specter into this arms and leaves the room.

I relax some, rubbing the raw indents on my wrists. Totally worth it for five hundy. I wonder how many more people I could trick into kidnapping me to teach me a lesson.

After several minutes of shuffling and sighing, Patrick finally hands me my money, which I slip into my new antique money clip. Mary. Martha. Close enough. Five hundred and forty-eight in total.

“Okay, well bye.” Patrick waits.

“Uh, I'm not walking home with this much cash in my purse. You can drive me.”

Part Four

We drive in silence, save for the odd directive grunt, until we pull up in front of my apartment building. The Cunt's breath has hotboxed the car by the time we arrive. Patrick yawns an achingly long yawn and stretches his hand toward me.

“You won't say anything to anyone, right?”

“No, Patrick. I won't. But if I catch you watching me steal again, I'm telling everyone what you did.”

Patrick's expression is that of an utterly defeated man. I feel a tinge of pity, then remember he drugged and kidnapped me.

“I hope you’ve learned your lesson.” I slam the door and smile. Perhaps the first genuine smile I’ve smiled in months. Years. Someone up above is watching over me and wants me to succeed--

A siren bleats from the dark west wall of the brick prison I call home. It’s a sketchy neighborhood, it happens. I gather my thoughts and think about the two Mooseheads in my fridge as I race toward my building.

The squad car pulls up in front of me.

An officer steps out of the vehicle. I look around, mystified. Did the cops see the whole thing? Was The Cunt going to get arrested?

“Are you Martha Bagshaw, cashier at Litman's Department Store?” The officer walks toward me.

“Yeah. Did I win something?”

A second officer opens the back passenger door and helps Mrs. Sisson out.

“Ma'am, is this the woman you said robbed you?”


In the distance, I hear The Cunt's Jetta peeling off down the street.

The old witch rattles over in her polyester and acrylic wool fountain. “Oh yes, that's her. She stuck her hand in my purse and stole my money and my money clip. She said she'd kill me if I told.”


“Miss, give us the bag.” The first cop gestures for my purse.

“No, I know my rights. You're not allowed to look in my bag without a warrant.”

Just then the nasty old wart lunges at me, using those pointy bones as weapons, gnashing dentures like a rabid terrier – and she snatches the purse right out of my fingers. Before I can react, she roots through my belongings. Her tongue wags back and forth in excitement.

And there it is; Mary. Her fucking clip with my five hundred and forty-eight dollars.

“Oh no, you don't! Only thirty of that is yours, bitch!”

“See officers! My clip with my money. ”

I growl and charge at her, very dramatically.

The first officer sticks out an arm and grabs me by the wrists.

“Only thirty of that is hers, you gotta believe me. I found Mrs. Sisson’s clip with the money on the ground and I was going to give it back to her the next time I saw her. But five twenty of it is mine.”

“Where’d you get five hundred from?” The officer eyes me in the darkness. The street lamp lights his face in such a way that it looks like he has a small crystal forest of peach fuzz on his cheek. Kind of beautiful.

"It’s mine. I just have it. Can’t I just have money? I have a job.”

“Why did you put it in a money clip that you were intending on returning?” The first officer asks.

“Well, I’ve been thinking about buying one for myself, and I wanted to give it a test drive before I commit. You know what I mean? Like a car. Or a woman - right, officer?” I wink.

The officer roughly ushers me into the back seat of the patrol vehicle. “Jacobs, will you see that the kind lady here gets home nice and safe without getting jumped by any more hooligans?”

The second officer nods.

“But that’s my money!” I scream. “This is a fucking outrage! I’ll sue! I’ll sue all of you!”

Some guy on the third floor screams at me to shut up. You just made my shit-list too, asshole.

“Why a young woman would do such a thing—“ Mrs. Sisson trails off.

“Who knows why people do what they do. You know what I mean?” The second officer says.

The banshee sneers at me as the officer pushes my head inside the car. Her flat, black coal eyes remind me of The Cunt's. Only hers are different. Plucked straight from the head of a Great White.

“Hey, Mrs. Sisson,” I say, straining to push my head back up to the car roof. “Hope you lost on that lottery ticket.”

As we drive off in the cop car, I wonder who the fuck I can call to bail me out of jail.

Patrick, maybe?

© Larissa Thomas 2017/2018

Plagiarize me and you will fucking perish.