Phillip McCollum

A gunshot or a backfire?

Didn’t matter.

The odds were fifty-fifty in a Las Vegas ghetto east of the glittery Strip.

All that mattered was that it caused Chris Blankenship to contemplate the time projected across the ceiling by his alarm clock.

1:03 AM.

…and then…

1:04 AM.

…slowly followed by…

1:05 AM.

Sweat built up across every inch of his body. A brief wave of nausea threatened to send him head-first into the toilet, so he bolted up and rubbed his face. He reached across the nightstand to turn on the lamp, knocking over an empty Dos Equis bottle in the process. It thumped onto the carpet and rolled beneath his short twin bed.

Chris didn’t have to man the flat top grill or fry station until swing-shift, but sleep was a fading prospect.

He placed his feet on the ground and stood, thankful that the wave of sickness seemed to have passed. Like a cat that stops meowing and starts purring, it was as if his body recognized it was going to get what it needed. Still, he knew it was only momentary.

The walk to his studio apartment ‘living room’ was a short five feet. Chris leaned over the aluminum lawn chair propped in front of an old tube television and grabbed the remote control. The TV zapped to life. Lucille Ball was going on and on with a woman about tulips.

On the floor beside the chair, almost everything was in its place–a new needle, some cotton balls, a piece of kite string, his Mickey Mouse Zippo lighter, and a plastic bag holding a tiny black rock that resembled a candied fig.

Chris walked another four feet into the ‘kitchen’ and pulled out all three drawers, scouring every nook for a clean spoon. There were butter knives, forks, even cheap take-out chopsticks. But for the life of him, he couldn’t find one goddamn spoon.

His stomach lurched a little.

“Fuck!” he screamed. “Where the fuck are all of the spoons?”

He groaned and looked at a half-eaten can of Spaghettios with a utensil sticking out. He smiled and yanked it out, only to find another fork. The fork flew violently into the sink and the back wall almost took on a coat of Campbell’s red sauce before Chris calmed down, noticing the lid hanging on by a tiny strand of metal.

If he could carefully bend the edges and form a trough, it would probably work.

No, it would most definitely work.

He grabbed the lid, twisting it from the can when someone knocked on his door.

If you’d like to finish reading this story, along with many others, I’d be ecstatic if you’d consider purchasing one of my books.

2 thoughts on “Penpals

  1. Lots of emotion here. Love the way it all crashes together at the end, the narrative speeding up, the prose tightening. Didn’t know where it was going, and that’s a good thing. Another corker.

    1. Thanks, Col! The writing seemed to flow a bit easier for me on this one compared to the previous couple, so I guess my brain was ready to write it.

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