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Flash Fiction Friday: A Textbook Killing

by Bix Skahill

“I don’t know nothing about Mr. Pedersen’s truck.”

“You don’t know anything about Mr. Pedersen’s truck.”

“That’s what I said.”

Glaring down at the man kneeling and shaking on the abandoned warehouse floor, Muller sighed and shifted the bloody, bulky textbook to his left hand, then back. “What you said was a double negative, which really pisses me off. Just like when people lie to me. Now, tell me what happened to Mr. Pedersen’s truck before I get angry and go all textbook on your ass.”

The huddled man, Kramer, looked up at Muller. His thin face was thick with tears.

Kramer had good reason to be scared shitless. It was a well-known fact that Muller was the most dangerous (and best read) hitman in all of Keokuk, Iowa.

“But I swear, I didn’t have nothing, I mean, I didn’t have anything to do with Mr. Pedersen’s truck going missing. Me and Clams was playing poker all night.”

“Clams and I, we were playing poker all night.”

“No, that ain’t true, Clams was with me.”

Muller rubbed the back of his neck. “I was simply correcting… forget it. Also, please keep in mind that ‘ain’t’ isn’t a word in our language. I should know, I used to teach English at Our Mother of Peace High School.”

It was a surprisingly lateral move from high school teacher to hitman. Just a few years prior Muller was Mr. Muller, textbook English teacher: thick glasses, thin corduroys, empty wallet. Then, one fateful afternoon, Michael Bradley, a student in his language arts class, came swaggering into his classroom after the final bell had tolled. The young man came to complain about the grade he’d received on his Ethan Frome paper, which, although he couldn’t prove this, Mr. Muller was fairly certain someone else had penned. Though he kept that opinion to himself. He also kept to himself the fact that he violently despised Michael Bradley. The boy was everything Mr. Muller wasn’t as a teen. Popular and muscular with tons of shiny white teeth and shiny blonde hair. He wore a letter jacket overburdened with accolades and his sole form of locomotion was to swagger. But the most egregious thing about Bradley was the woeful way in which he treated the English language. He communicated exclusively with grunts, shrugs, acyrologia, mumbling, malapropisms, spoonerisms, slang and the occasional snarl.

For a few minutes Mr. Muller sat there and listened to the boy carp about his grade (while butchering the Mother Tongue) when, finally, Mr. Muller simply snapped. He stood, screamed Here’s a gift from Noah Webster, and struck Bradley across the forehead with a handy copy of the class textbook Language Arts Today!

A ballet of blood sprayed as the moronic jock crumpled, dead before he hit the floor. As the teacher surveyed the carnage at his feet, instinct sat down in Mr. Muller’s driver’s seat. He felt no panic, no rush of fear. He knew exactly what had to be done and he did it. After mopping up the copious blood with the boy’s letter jacket, he dragged the body through the vacant halls of the school and down to the janitor’s “office”. He folded the corpse into the massive furnace and turned up the heat. Watching the body burn, burn.

Not only did Mr. Muller get away with the crime scot-free, he wasn’t even question in connection to the boy’s disappearance.

Realizing that he had a talent for this killing thing (and tired of trying to make ends meet on a teacher’s salary), Mr. Muller contacted his cousin Rocco, who had some ties to the vast and violent Keokuk underworld. Within weeks, the teacher became a gun for hire, though he never used a gun.

Waving his arms above his head as if he were fighting off an invasion of invisible bats, Kramer said, “Sorry, sorry, I’ll never use the word ‘ain’t’ again.”

“That’s more like it. So, let us return to your alibi.”

“Yeah, sure, like I said, Clams and I were playing poker in the back room at Manelli’s.”

“And if I were to call Manelli and inquire about this supposed poker game, he’d corroborate your story?”



“Well, sure, but irregardless of what he says, it’s the truth.”

“’Regardless’ means ‘despite the prevailing circumstances,’ you clod. When you use the word ‘irregardless,’ you’re basically saying ‘despite despite the prevailing circumstances’.”

Shifting his weight from foot to foot, Muller sighed heavily. He thumbed the pages of his bloodstained copy of Language Arts Today! The pages fell like paper guillotines. Some killers were knife lovers, some gun nuts, but Muller strongly believed in the power of the word. It was a well-whispered secret in the Keokuk underworld that that bloodied, battered textbook had ended fourteen lives, Michael Bradley having just been the first.

“Okay, okay, Jesus, Muller, you’re a tough grader.”

The killer let out a mirthless laugh, which echoed around the abandoned warehouse; the same thing had been said about him back in his distant Our Mother of Peace days.

Kramer continued, “Yes, if you ask Manelli, he should corroborate the fuck out of my story. But, despite the prevailing circumstances, if he don’t–.”


“Right, right. If he doesn’t, then he’s the one lying, not me.”

“So, all these rumors I’ve been hearing about you switching sides and going to work for Tommy Cho, those are all lies too?”

“Yeah! I ain’t working, I mean, I’m not working for that dirty chink. Regardless of what anyone says, Mr. Pedersen is my penultimate boss.”

Muller literally growled. “Oh Kramer, you’ve just made another very common but annoying mistake. ‘Penultimate’ doesn’t mean the last one, it means the second to the last one. The word you’re looking for, I believe, is ‘ultimate’.”

“No, teach, I ain’t wrong, I got the right word.”

Somehow, Kramer suddenly had a gun in his hand. Small, dark, deadly. Before Muller could even raise Language Arts Today! in defense, Kramer fired. Light filled the darkened warehouse, pigeons in the rafters took flight.

The bullet, unconcerned by avian reaction, ripped through the textbook and still had the audacity to tear into Muller’s stomach.

The killer, gravely wounded, stumbled backward. Punched and shocked. He so wanted to criticize Kramer for using ‘ain’t’ although he had specifically told him not to, but found that he’d lost the ability, and perhaps even the will, to speak.

Now smiling a crooked smile, Kramer stood. The gun, cooling, floated before him.

“You don’t even remember me, do you, Mr. Muller?”

The former teacher studied the man who’d shot him but there was not much light left in his eyes.

Kramer continued, “Kramer ain’t my real name, it’s Sealing, Kenny Sealing. I was in your homeroom. I had braces, real bad acne. I idolized Michael Bradley, he was my first crush. I even wrote his Ethan Frome paper. That’s why I was just outside your room when you done him in with that damned textbook. I was fucking devastated to say the least. But I decided to not go to the cops cause I wanted to take care of you myself. And now, after all these years of the long con, I’ve finally got revenge for the love of my life.”

Using the last of his strength, Muller looked down and saw that his stomach and beloved, murderous textbook were soaked with his own blood. “I ain’t… I ain’t gonna make it.”

“No, you ain’t. This here is for Michael Bradley!”

And with the howl, Kramer put one in Muller’s brain. A textbook killing.

Bix Skahill got shot in the face in Fargo. He wrote a book called Babes in Gangland, which is a title he evidently appropriated from the Penthouse Hot Talk Magazine, January /February 1990 issue. He also has great hair.

Twisted Tuesdays: Semana Santa


Also known as “Holy Week” this Catholic festival takes place before Easter every year in parts of Spain and Latin America.

If you have watched “American Horror Story: Coven” the creepy pointed hoods in the intro will be familiar:

Referred to as capirotes, these cloaks are used by Nazarenos which are chosen penitents of a sacred Catholic brotherhood. The color of their vestments and the sigil they wear depends on which brotherhood they belong to.


by Carlos Márquez

by Carlos Márquez

The Semana Santa procession is grand to say the least, with thousands of people gathering around the churches, holding up elaborate religious floats, Jesus on a cross, and an army of pointed hooded figures holding candles and scepters…it’s like a scene from some medieval Illuminati movie or Holy Mountain.


semana santa procession

by Josef Koudelka

by Josef Koudelka


tumblr_mkqiibnaEo1s8g35mo1_500 tumblr_mv19i2MZNh1r4z8elo1_500



Jose Ortiz Echague, 1940

Jose Ortiz Echague, 1940

This year Semana Santa takes place April 13-20.

Dilation Exercise 100

Below you’ll find Alan M. Clark’s weekly Dilation Exercise. Please look at the picture, read the caption, above and below the image, and allow your imagination to go to work on it. If the artwork inspires an idea, please use the comment feature to tell us something about it. Need a further explanation? Go to Imagination Workout—The Dilation Exercises.

Pricilla’s father saw himself as a macho ranch-hand and was insecure without the trappings of his vocation.

Unaware of her hydrocephalic condition as she prepared for her dance recital, she placed his hat upon her head as a lark, and the mistake almost cost Pricilla her life.

—Alan M. Clark
Eugene, Oregon

If you like Alan M. Clark’s artwork, please try his writing in both short fiction and novels.

Artwork: “Screaming Handful’” copyright © 1980 Alan M. Clark. Unpublished.

Flash Fiction Friday: Mutagon II (Excerpt)

by Jamie Grefe

Ned is at the Chevy-Levy coffee house, hidden among those night alleys, between chicken-on-a-stick standing bars, shady karaoke joints, porn shops, and used vinyl bins. He likes it here. Other than the desert, here a man can still think.

Grime on the tabletop, white dust. The smell of roast beans. He tucks himself into a table by the window, slams three of the best espressos in Troilus and scans the room for his contact. He’s waiting for The Shingle, one of Floyd’s top admin goons, to show up and waste more of his time. He runs a fingertip across the rim of the leftmost cup.

Vinyl clicks, blurts sheets of guitar fuzz, coats the dive in a wet rumble. Xu Fan, the man with a television for every freak to get their rocks off on; he mime-points a remote at the sky. “Power off,” Ned says. “Lay it down, lay it down,” he sings, not noticing the vintage set in the corner of the coffee shop, the one broadcasting an unmoving shot of a single palm tree on a stormy morning, just swaying there, before it cuts to—bugs breeding, writhing, chewing skin.

Three men argue in a foreign tongue from a corner table. A guy they call Brown throws a busted Operation board game to the ground. His arms flail like a chicken mime. The board game’s innards clack, click and the fool pulls at his own hair, howls, too lit up on crack or smack or windowpane to care.

“Hi, Suzie, how’s the water?” someone says in a warbled voice, too slow. A tattooed woman in a nurse’s uniform waters tulips outside the joint, smock covered in checkered streaks like lines of spattered grace. She grins like a vampire, curtsies in front of the window. Ned looks away, folds his hands in prayer, closes his eyes.

One second later, those eyes blink. The Shingle sits across from him: portly pig of a man, ratty goatee down to his gut, bad suit and tie with a scar running from cheek to hairline as if a leech smacked his face and never left. He places a manila envelope on the table, pushes it toward the three empty espresso cups.

“Days like this are meant for hosing. Don’t you think so, Houston?” he says. “Ever hosed on the DarkGil dime?”

“I keep myself occupied,” Ned says, opening the envelope, sliding out a black and white glossy of Xu Fan bending to get in a limousine. Pose, frozen, quiet. Ned studies, digests the image. Got it. From the photograph, Xu Fan looks old, wispy mustache old: chin wrinkles, a debonair elder shot stiff in the frame of some secret paparazzi flare. Ned lets a slip of paper drop from the envelope.

The Shingle’s finger stabs it, says: “Johnny H. on the line, compadre.”

Ned deadpans The Shingle, trying not to disappear in that pigface visage. The Shingle holds out a ball pen. Ned thumbs it from him like magic, twirls and lets it hit the dotted line. He doesn’t sign.

“Understand these new terms, yes?” The Shingle says. “Updated and unabated.”

“What new terms?” Ned says, scanning fine print, ignoring the howls of a man across the room with a chunk of Troilus lodged in his gut. “Wasn’t told about no new terms.”

The Shingle leans back, meaty hands spider to his lapels, push open his suit coat. A katana, black handled grip, juts out his side—evil music swells. “This,” he says, stroking the hilt, “is my cute Japanese girlfriend. I keep her here for when things go,” he chuckles, says this with the most annoying clarity, “awry.”


“I got her from Mr. Floyd. Kind of a company perk.” He’s stroking her now, flicks his tongue. “She wrangles folks. Prevents them from not fulfilling an operation or having second thoughts like not finishing an operation or cutting short an operation. She’s a sucker for operations.”

“Second thoughts—?”

“Floyd advised me to introduce my girl when one’s operation is of the utmost, and I mean the utmost, importance to DarkGil interests. You understand, a man of the proverbial cloth, ever faithful to the kill, ever fulfilling of employment obligations, as you are, Ned Houston.”

Ned keeps eyes locked on The Shingle, scribbles a squiggly on the dotted line, sets the pen on the table. “Here,” he says, “are your new terms.” But, at that moment, a city breeze—or a potent nostril gust from Ned—whisks the paper to the floor, just inches from The Shingle’s stupid loafers. “Pardon me,” Ned says. “Drafty in here, isn’t it?” A tiny plastic heart from the board game skitters under the table, vanishes.

“Should stick you just for making me bend—” and The Shingle, reaching down, grunts for the signature, has no time to react. Ned fistfuls his hair, shoves face to tabletop, pinning him there, pressing hard, forearm to the side of his head. With his other hand, Ned jams an empty espresso cup into The Shingle’s eye, pulls up on the eyelid, so the dirty cup mashes soft pulp. He pushes. No one in the joint notices, but someone is singing a lullaby in Dutch, something about unrequited love, perhaps.

Ned: “Try and scream, pig. I’ll turn your eye into French drip.” Silence. The Shingle wheezes, chokes. “If I catch you flashing your girlfriend in front of me again—indecent exposure—I’m going to make sure she spends the rest of her pathetic life on a journey from your ass to the tip of your tongue, then we’ll all be mute, licking steam.”

The Shingle writhes his pig-body, but Ned has him in a bind, is bent so close to him each whispered word sounds like a death scream: “It’s been quite a ride. With stains like you going around intimidating DarkGil talent, the company is sure to stink a fart to Friday. And, yes, I’m gone, sucker. Unabated.”

Bam—Ned shoves The Shingle, rises from the table. Snatch envelope, snatch photo, and head for the exit.


Jamie Grefe is the author of THE MONDO VIXEN MASSACRE (Eraserhead Press, 2013). His second novella, MUTAGON II, is forthcoming from Holy Mountain Outreach, an imprint of Dynatox Ministries. Grefe’s short fiction appears in New Dead Families, elimae, and other fine places. Find him at:

Twisted Tuesdays: Bizarro News Roundup, April Fools’ Edition!

butt stabbing


What’s fake and what’s real? Does it even make a difference? Here’s the latest weird news, hot off the internet!

  • NETFLIX unveils awesome “Cage Mode” films!


  • Darth Vader is running for president of the Ukraine!

glow trees

Speaking of Florida



  • The spaghetti harvest goes forward in Switzerland!

Happy April Fools’ Day, Bizarros! Do you have a favorite prank or hoax?

This is definitely a classic:

The Tea House: On Organization and Planning: Guest Post by S. T. Cartledge

Today’s Tea House post is brought to you by a good old fashioned Irish Breakfast tea. It’s nothing fancy, it’s just a good, reliable tea. It’s a great way to start the morning.

I recently moved house, and there’s been a period of about a week where I’ve been moving things from one house to another, and I’ve only just now had the time to set my computer back up and resume my daily writing habits.

I’ll admit, my previous habits have been pretty poor. I’ll admit I don’t have a fantastic track record. Even while I’ve been writing every day, the amount of projects which I’ve finished compared to the amount of projects which I’ve started is a sad number.

But don’t be sad for me. I’m happy. I’m excited. I’ve had a hectic week off from writing, and I’m back and I’m writing a new advice column and I don’t care if people think advice columns are best left to the professionals.

I’d like to dwell on a few pieces of advice I hear all the time, how they work for me, and how they relate to progress and becoming a better writer.

The first piece of advice is: Write every day. Chuck Palahniuk does it. Stephen King writes a certain amount of pages before breakfast. My goal is to write an average of 1,000 words a day. Aside from situations like moving house and taking holidays and having a short break after finishing a major project, I should be writing every day. Always pushing towards that 1,000 word a day average.

If I can manage 7,000 words a week, that’s great. If I can do 30,000 words a month, that’s awesome. 365,000 words in a year would be fantastic. These are the incremental goals I’m shooting for. Sometimes it means 500 words a day before work. Sometimes it means 1,500 words on a Saturday. Sometimes it means 2,000 words and up on a day off.

The thing that’s been working for me is that I’ve been taking the “write every day” challenge and molding it around my day-to-day life, finding out the most feasible way to obtain my goals, and when I reach them, making them a little bigger.

In January I was trying to get used to things, so I wrote about 25,000 words that month. February was a little more. About 66 days into the year I had written and documented over 60,000 words of new writing.

I’ve given myself a lot of freedom with what I count as writing. It’s anything I type down which could potentially be published some time in the future in print or online. This includes novels, novellas, short stories, poems – the standard fictions – but also non-fiction articles and reviews, things like this. Even drafts of stories so horrible they will probably never amount to anything, they still become part of the writing process, therefore they’re a learning experience. Count it.

The next piece of advice is: Take notes. Some people carry notebooks all the time or pieces of paper or note pads which can fit in their pockets or wallets which they can write down anything that springs to their mind at any point in time. I love that. I’m not that organised. I used to wake up in the middle of the night and scribble down a handful of random words on a piece of rubbish, and then months later I’d find it and it would still vaguely make sense. But I never used to have much at my disposal for note taking when I was at work or just out of the house.

One little device has made this issue infinitely easier. The smartphone. Any ideas I have, I can not only jot it down, but I can refer to it at any time and I have the space to flesh it out. And it’s not like the good old days where my scrap paper notes would just lie around doing nothing. When I return home and sit at my computer, depending on what I feel like writing, I can either continue with something which I’ve been fleshing out already, or I can crack open a fresh stack of notes and begin creating something new.

Or, even, sometimes my notes are about my most recent works in progress, so they help me to get straight into it when I sit down. The more notes you take, and the better you organize your time, the more productive your writing time will be. It becomes easier to hit my targets earlier on in the day, to see projects through to the end, and to move on to other things.

I’ve also been keeping track of things at home in my diary. I got a 2014 diary specifically to track my writing and plan my days and weeks and months so I can write every day and track my progress throughout the year, so I can plan time to write and time for other things. To keep it managed and track progress on specific projects as they pick up or drop off.

The last piece of advice I have is one which I follow religiously: Do what works best for you. I write as much as I can in order to improve my writing skills. I take notes so that I always have something to write about whenever I sit down to write. I only think about editing and revising once the first draft is done. Editing mid-draft used to be the thing which held me back and now it’s a non-issue.

Leaving projects a few thousand words in used to be a problem, but now it’s just a matter of pushing through until I find something which works. I may not finish a novella or short story all that often, but I’ve done more on that front in the first few months of this year than I did throughout all of last year. Writing more articles and reviews has also helped break the monotony of constantly trying to churn out the next masterpiece. It’s the small successes which keep the momentum going. It’s knowing that all the unfinished works and falling short of my goals and not having a market for my work aren’t failures. They’re experiments, testing what can and can’t be done, what should or shouldn’t.

Some people spend years on one thing. Some people seem to be constantly pumping out books. Some people can plan and plan and plan and then write everything in three days. With the right amount of planning, note taking, and with at least a little bit of writing every day (no matter what it is) you can make a lifestyle of your writing. Even if you’re like me, trying to find out what your next big step will be, knowing your own habits and working towards improving them is the hardest part. Once you’ve got that figured out, you’re all set.

What works best for you? Is there anything here you really agree with or disagree with? Do you have a set schedule, or do you like to try new things all the time? Are there any specific organisation and planning tips you have found useful?
S.T. Cartledge is the author of the 2012 New Bizarro Author Series book, House Hunter. In 2013, he graduated from Curtin University with a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing (first class honours). He loves bizarro, manga, anime, robots, dragons, wizards, heroes, monsters, dinosaurs, and any combination/mutation of these things.

Dilation Exercise 99

Below you’ll find Alan M. Clark’s weekly Dilation Exercise. Please look at the picture, read the caption, above and below the image, and allow your imagination to go to work on it. If the artwork inspires an idea, please use the comment feature to tell us something about it. Need a further explanation? Go to Imagination Workout—The Dilation Exercises.

As hard as it was, getting the barbed wire out of her was the easy part.

If she survived the first round of surgery, and the surgeons found a way to remove the greedy ranchers, the stubborn cowboys, and the hired guns that kept the range war going, there would still be herds of cattle to deal with and all those strays to round up.

—Alan M. Clark
Eugene, Oregon

If you like Alan M. Clark’s artwork, please try his writing in both short fiction and novels.

Artwork: “Study for ‘Hemogoblins’” copyright © 2000 Alan M. Clark. Unpublished.


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