A collection of horror, mystery, and science fiction tales, with contributions from fellow writers, James Darko and Dexter Lynch. If you wish to contribute, I'd be happy to showcase your writing. Just send me a message. The stories are free to read and always will be. Some are better than others (I'm speaking only for myself), but I can't give all my best ideas away for free, ha ha. Feel free to share any stories, but please be sure to give credit where credit is due.
Saturday, July 18, 2015
“These hamburgers are overcooked,” Dennis Larson bitched
to his wife.
“No, they’re not,” Amy said, minding her tone of voice.
She wanted to remain as diplomatic as possible. Dennis has a short fuse. So
short that Amy wasn’t even sure if fuse was the applicable word. It was more
like a wall switch he could flip on at any given moment.
“Yes, they are,” Dennis fired back. “I feel like I’m
munching on charcoal. The thing is like a frigging hockey puck.”
“They taste fine to me,” Amy said in her defense. “And I
thought you liked them well done?”
“Not this well
done. This is super well done. Well done isn’t even the correct term to
“May I be excused?” their son, Evan, requested.
“No, you may not,” Dennis growled. “Finish your food.
Your mom says it’s fine. Then it’s fine. Now eat.”
Evan’s head sank and he stuffed a few golden brown French
fries in his mouth, hoping it was appease his father enough to excuse him from
the table. He had already eaten his burger and he couldn’t tell what his dad
was complaining about. It tasted fine to him, but he didn’t dare argue over it.
Evan knew better than to intentionally provoke his father’s wrath.
They finished their dinner in silence, with the exception
of a sporadic sigh or groan of disgust that came from Dennis as he paused
between bites. When they were done, Evan placed his dish in the sink and
dismissed himself as he headed upstairs to his bedroom.
“Can you believe the nerve of that boy?” Dennis asked
when Evan was gone. “Asking to be excused during dinner.”
“It’s that computer of his,” Amy said. “He spends his
whole day on that laptop.”
“Well, he better be talking with some girls on there or
I’ll belt him good. Kid’s fourteen years old and he doesn’t even have a steady
girlfriend. I’m beginning to wonder about him. Not to mention that frigging
laptop cost me a fortune.”
Amy offered no rebuttal, but instead turned her attention
to the dishes in the hopes that Dennis would end this conversation. Sure
enough, he lost interest and wandered off to the living room, where Roscoe was
just waking up from his nap.
Dennis had not touched Amy in six months. Not so much as
a pat on the back or a kiss on the cheek. And though she took this lack of
affection as a personal insult, she was also relieved he hadn’t raised his
hands to her either.
Six months before, if Amy had spilled even a drop of
coffee on the carpet, Dennis would’ve blackened her eye faster than she could
grab something to clean up the stain.
But with Roscoe added to the picture, Dennis was too
preoccupied to acknowledge his family’s existence beyond the dinner table. Amy
would swear her husband loved that dog more than he loved her or Evan.
Roscoe was a Saint Bernard that Dennis had adopted from
the Greenville shelter; looked just like the dog from the Beethoven movies.
Basically he went down to the shelter and made the cheapest donation allowable
to take Roscoe home with him. But Dennis preferred the term rescue dog. He
liked to think that his actions made a difference and that he was a hero of
some kind, at least in his own mind.
was an enormous dog with a thick coat and a bushy, broad tail. Every time
Dennis returned from work, Roscoe would slide across the floor in excitement towards
the front door and slobber all over him. The week Dennis brought Roscoe home
from the shelter, he spent over five hundred dollars on a doghouse, bed, food,
leash, toys, and a personalized collar.
often let Roscoe roam free, which angered some of the neighbors. But none of
them came forward. They were too intimidated by Dennis and his awful temper to
voice their grievances. When it rained, Roscoe would trot in with mud and grass
clinging to his tousled coat. He’d track mud all over the floor and shake
himself off in the living room, soaking the furniture and whoever was
unfortunate enough to be standing in the vicinity. Dennis found this act to be
adorable. And Amy found it to be a pain in the ass considering she was the one
expected to clean up the mess.
finished the dishes and contemplated joining Dennis and Roscoe in the living
room. But she thought better of it, grabbed a book she’d just started reading,
and headed off to bed.
It was a grey October morning when Amy Larson was called
into the principal’s office. Evan was sitting on the bench in the main office.
His brown jacket was stained red, and his knuckles were raw and crusted with
Amy knew what this was about before the principal even
had a chance to open his mouth. Evan had been in another fight. Fourteen years
old and the boy was already taking on kids twice his size.
This latest incident had occurred during gym class, where
a boy named Ronnie Henderson intentionally pegged Evan in his lower back with a
football. Evan got right back up and threw the first punch, which crushed
Ronnie’s nose. When the gym coach and several other teachers were able to pry
Evan off of Ronnie, thy discovered he had beaten the boy unconscious. Kids were
going around school saying that when it was over, Ronnie’s face looked like raw
hamburger meat, all mashed and bloody.
The verdict was in on Evan: Permanent expulsion. The
doors of Greenville High School were closed to him forever. The principal
informed her that no amount of detention could correct or make up for Evan’s
actions and that this was the only option. And the principal couldn’t promise
Amy that the Henderson’s wouldn’t press charges either.
Evan Larson had his mother’s pale green eyes and rosy
cheeks, but he had begun to inherit his father’s uncontrollable temper as well.
Evan would stay up late on Saturday nights to watch amateur boxing on the
sports network. He had taken such an interest in the sport that on his
thirteenth birthday, Dennis treated him to a punching bag and a set of gloves.
Amy preferred him wailing on the heavy bag as opposed to
wailing on his fellow classmates, and she hoped maybe the exercise would work
all the aggression out of her son. But it had quite the opposite effect. The
bag didn’t quell Evan’s rage, it only seemed to amplify it.
“What were you thinking?” Dennis screamed at the top of
his lungs, getting right up in Evan’s face. He was ready to blow a gasket when
he got home from work and Amy had the unfortunate duty of telling him what
their son had done.
“What made you think you could pull a stunt like this and
get away with it?” Dennis continued his tirade. “What the hell were you
thinking? Where do you get the balls to pull something like this? Do you have
any brains at all? I should’ve smacked some sense into you years ago.”
Dennis could not restrain his anger and his tone was
sharp and vehement, and Amy feared the neighbors might overhear. So she went
into the kitchen and made sure the windows were closed as they were in the
living room, and then she started working on dinner, trying her best to remain
neutral in this scenario.
“Do you know how hard it’s going to be to find another
school now?” Roscoe was getting so worked up at the sight his masters fury that
he started barking up a storm, his barks accompanying Dennis’s screams. “And
how about the boy you sent to the hospital? His family could sue us. Did you
think of that?”
“It’s not that big of a deal,” Evan shrugged it off,
shaking his hands to alleviate the throbbing pain in his knuckles. “I’ll enroll
in another school and everything will be fine. Besides, that kid’s a pussy.
He’s not going to press charges or let his family sue. He’ll be a laughing
stock if he did.”
“Watch your language around here, boy,” Dennis chided.
“What, only you get to curse in this house?”
“Listen to me and listen good, boy. You can’t go around
just beating people up. That won’t solve all your problems.”
“It seems to work with mom.” That snide remark finally
pushed Dennis into the red. Amy was still preparing supper in the kitchen when
she heard the crinkle of leather as Dennis slid his belt from the loops on his
“Boy, I’m going to give you the thrashing of a lifetime.
I’m going to whip the skin right off your ass.”
“Just go ahead and try,” Evan dared him. Amy turned her
back in the kitchen and pretended she didn’t hear a thing, fearing that Dennis
would belt her too if she tried to interject.
As Dennis raised his belt, Evan landed the first punch,
planting his fist in his father’s ample beer belly. Dennis dropped to one knee
and Evan struck him again, this time catching him with a right hook to the jaw.
Roscoe growled, biting and tugging at the leg of Evan’s
pants, which distracted him momentarily until he was able to shake himself
free. In that time, Dennis had made it back to his feet. Evan came swinging
again, but this time Dennis anticipated it and ducked. Evan missed and mashed
his tender knuckles into the wall, letting out a brief grunt of pain.
Dennis raised his belt overhead and brought it down
across Evan’s back. Roscoe backed away as Dennis’s belt whipped through the air
again and snapped across Evan’s lower back.
“That’s two,” Dennis snarled. “Eight more to go.”
Evan took ten lashes from his dad’s belt. When it was
over, the skin of his back was as raw and swollen as his knuckles. But not once
did Evan scream. He wouldn’t give his father that satisfaction. He took every
lash in silent apathy.
“Now get your worthless ass upstairs, boy. If you thought
that was bad, let’s see how you like going to bed without your supper."
“You can’t send me to bed without dinner,” Evan protested
while trying to mask the stinging pain of his wounds. “I’m starving.”
“Tough shit. Until we find you another school, I forbid
you to eat anything inside this house. You want food? Go out and buy some…oh
wait, you don’t have any money because you don’t work and you depend on me for
everything. Well, this’ll teach you a listen you’ll never forget. Now move it!
Defeated, Evan retreated from the living room without
further resistance. When he was out of sight, Dennis kneeled down to pet Roscoe
and give him a treat for coming to his aid.
the kitchen, Amy trembled like the last leaf on a dying tree. Dennis and her
son had their squabbles in the past, but never before had it come to blows. As
many times as Dennis raised his hands to her, he never once raised his hands to
Evan. Not until that night. And though she had seen Evan throw the first punch,
she believed Dennis to be the true instigator.
fight had been brewing for quite some time. Amy had noticed the looks of
disgust and disappointment Evan would make every time his father cussed or raised
his hands to her. She knew it was only a matter of time. She just hadn’t
mentally prepared herself enough for it.
once the fight had concluded, the silence was so unsettling Amy found herself
humming nervously just to fill the void of sound. The worst seemed to be over,
but that knot forming in her stomach told her otherwise. It told her the worst
was yet to come.
night, Evan rearranged his room looking for a source of food. A stale bag of
chips or stray candy bar he had brought up and forgotten about. A whole night
without food and even the church shoes in his closet were starting to look
midnight, Evan gave up any hope of having dinner and went to bed feeling both
famished and defeated. He can’t starve me
forever, Evan thought. Can he?
next morning, Amy hesitantly brought up the idea of filling out applications
for private school. The scowl on Dennis’s face was enough to nip that thought
in the bud. She knew realistically that private school wasn’t a luxury they
could afford. Not with the money they brought in and not with the way Dennis
was spoiling Roscoe.
was lying beside his feet, chewing on stray strips of bacon that Dennis would
pass him under the table. Roscoe turned his head and growled when Evan entered
the kitchen, his flappy ears curved past the sides as he showed Evan his teeth.
skin was purple and welted. Dennis admired the bruises of his son the way an
art connoisseur might admire a significant painting or priceless sculpture. He
was disturbingly pleased with his handiwork.
sat at the table and watched his father scarf down eggs, ham, sausage, and
bacon and wash it down with a tall glass of orange juice. His stomach was
rumbling, crying out for food. He’d have taken the scraps Roscoe was eating off
the floor at this point. Halfway through breakfast he asked if he could be
father banished him with a dismissive nod. He marched up the stairs to his room
while he rubbed at his tummy anxiously. Dennis Larson was a firm, strict man.
But he could be a sensible man, too. And Evan was certain he’d break before
this went too far.
was starting to see red. He felt the rage boiling inside of him, ready to
bubble its way to the surface and be unleashed. He wanted to punch holes in
every wall of his room. He wanted to smash everything in his room to pieces.
he hadn’t the first clue what all this would accomplish. It just felt good to
think about it, picture it mentally. It provided an odd release to his tension,
an outlet for his aggression.
what he really enjoyed visualizing was knocking his dads teeth in. Giving him
the beating of a lifetime. Bashing his face in like he had with Ronnie
all else, the thing he envisioned the most was a steaming plate of food in
front of him. Evan wrapped his hands, put his gloves on, and started working
over the heavy bag, but stopped five minutes in. The lack of food was already
starting to have an adverse effect on him.
was losing his strength and his focus. Amy toyed with the idea of sneaking him
some food, but she didn’t want to chance it. If Dennis found out, he’d be
was off that day, and drove Evan to several schools to try and enroll him, but
it didn’t look promising. Especially after Evan’s most recent incident. The
Henderson family was already talking about suing not only the Larson family,
but Greenville High School as well.
Dennis sent him off to bed that night without his supper
again. How much longer will he keep this
up? Evan wondered.
On the third day, Evan didn’t bother to join his parents
at the breakfast table. He knew nothing would be waiting for him and he wasn’t
just going to sit there and watch his dad stuff his face and feed Roscoe under
the table. In fact, he barely had the energy to roll himself out of bed.
Dennis made sure to taunt Evan about how delicious
breakfast was when he sauntered past his room. “Glad you enjoyed it,” Evan said
through gritted teeth.
When dinnertime came, he could smell the food all the way
in his room. It was maddening. Three days without food was enough to drive most
people insane. And Evan was starting to crack.
day passed and another day without as much as a crumb or speck of food for Evan
to digest. He had been rejected or turned down by every public he had applied to.
Once the school districts got wind of the Henderson incident, Evan was branded
as a liability and finding a school that would accept him now seemed
lack of food made him weak, exhausted, disoriented. Soon his body would begin
the process of devouring itself, consuming his fat, muscle, and connective
tissue. But Dennis wouldn’t let it go that far, would he? Not even Amy was
spent most of the day curled up in bed sleeping. Waking only once when his mom
barged in without knocking and removed a hunk of tinfoil from her pocket. Wrapped
inside was a ham sandwich on rye, one of Evan’s favorites.
say anything,” Amy whispered. “Just take it and don’t tell your father.”
Evan’s taste buds could gear up to devour this offering, Dennis barged in, his hands
clenched in fists of rage. Roscoe trotted in behind him, flashing his teeth
again at the sight of Evan.
stormed across the room, snatched the sandwich from Amy’s hand, threw it down to
the floor, and stomped it into the carpet. His hand raised to the air and his palm
came down across Amy’s cheek. She recoiled from the slap, both hands pressed
against the stinging side of her face.
Dennis then snatched Evan’s Lenovo laptop from his desk
and snapped it over his knee, splitting the screen and the keyboard. He tossed
the remains aside and stood tall over Amy, almost daring her to get up and
tempt him again.
sat up in bed, defenseless. He couldn’t raise a hand to his father again
without gaining further punishment. He couldn’t even risk speaking up for his
mother. He just had to bite his tongue and pray silently for his father to
this be a lesson to both of you. Don’t cross me again.” He stomped out of
Evan’s room and Roscoe followed.
so sorry,” Amy said, holding back the tears.
be sorry,” Evan told her. “He’s the one who’s going to be sorry.”
sat awake in bed, reading quietly. The palm of Dennis’s hand was imprinted
across the side of her face, leaving one solid red streak that had begun to
never once mentioned the incident. She didn’t even bother to ask Dennis why
Roscoe wasn’t planted at the foot of the bed like usual. She just enjoyed the silence,
took it as a brief reprieve from the misery that had become her life.
retired that evening with a big smile plastered across his chubby face. His son
had stepped out of line with him, and he had remedied the situation in his own
savage way. Was it any wonder where Evan got his anger and violent tendencies
room was right next-door to his parent’s bedroom. Dennis pressed his ear to the
wall, expecting to hear his boy snoring away. Instead, he could hear Evan
chewing softly, slowly. His taste buds savored every bite he took.
“You’ve got to be shitting me,”
Dennis yelled, making Amy twitch slightly. “I think he’s eating in there. I’ll
teach him, that little bastard. Where’s my belt?”
the heck could he be eating?” Amy wondered. “There are no leftovers. And
there’s nothing else in the fridge. I haven’t been shopping since Sunday.”
Larson’s eyes widened and his lower jaw sank. “Roscoe,” he whispered, and a
single tear sprawled down his cheek.