“Meal Ticket”

For your reading pleasure. Here’s a racy piece of noir flash fiction I did a couple years ago, run by a site called Shotgun Honey. Language and violence warning applies.

“¡Myra, dos rellenos!” called the cook.

Gillian grabbed hot plates with bare hands and carried them to the only couple in the dining room. She’d never been with a Mexican, but the young man smelled like money, and she was due a new meal ticket.

“Dos rellenos,” announced Gillian in heavily accented Spanish. “¿Algo más?

“Not now, pretty lady,” said the man. “Later, maybe.”

Gillian smiled. “My name’s Myra. I’ll be here when you’re ready.” She winked. “Enjoy, Darlin’.”

The little brass bell on the door rang as two large men entered the little restaurant. Americans. Big city accents. A chill ran up her spine. They wore light jackets, despite the Chihuahua City heat outside. She watched them sit in the corner booth.

“Some fucking service over here?”

Oh, Fuck me.

She put a hand on her hip and turned, face blank as a bullet. The one facing her leered scanned her from sandals to freckled tits, but never looked at her face. A gold tooth flashed. One of Vinnie’s “associates.” She’d seen him from the windows of the house in Staten Island where Vinnie had kept her.

“Gillian,” said the one with his back to her. “Just when we we’re gonna quit looking, we hear about a pretty white girl hustling tables in this shithole town.” He threw up his hands and turned in his seat. For a bad moment, she thought the face was Vinnie’s.

“My name’s Myra.”

“Myra, Gillian, whatever. We got you.”

“Don’t know what you’re talkin’ about. Y’all want somethin’?”

Gold-tooth grinned. The Vinnie look-alike approached. “That’s some mouth on you.” He grabbed Gillian’s face in a right hand like a butcher’s block and squeezed until her full red lips protruded like strawberries. She didn’t bother to struggle. Gold-Tooth chuckled.

“I’m Joey. Vinnie’s cousin. From Philly. He never mentioned me?”

He released her, patted her cheek.

“Look, Joey…”

The hand shot up again, and Gillian’s head snapped back. Blood from her split lower lip spattered on the Mexican tough’s white shirt behind her.

The Mexican was out of his seat in a flash, his face twisted in outrage. The girlfriend tried to grab his wrist.
“Mi vida, no!” she said.

“You like hitting women, cabrón?” The Mexican advanced on Joey, big in the shoulders but still a head shorter than the gangster.

The cook rushed though the flapping doors into the dining room. “¿Qué pasa aquí?”

Gold-Tooth reached into his windbreaker and brought out a flat black Glock. The cook vanished.

Gold-Tooth fired two rounds into the kid’s chest, watched him fall. His feet drummed a tiny flamenco on the floorboards.

Gillian held her apron against the split lip and stood her ground. Nowhere to run anyway. A pistol appeared in Joey’s hand. Gold-Tooth, still seated, scanned out the window.

“I hear Vinnie got a little rough with you, but that ain’t cause to spray his fucking brains on the ceiling.” Joey looked at Gold-Tooth and motioned toward the sobbing girl. “Such a mess somebody had to clean up.”

“How ‘bout some beers?” Gillian dropped the apron and let the blood run down her chin. Joey paused to watch it run down her neck into the space between her tits. “Cooler heads and all.”

Gold-Tooth had the Mexican girl by the arm. He raised his eyebrows and jerked his head toward the door.
“Relax. The chief of policía is still counting his money.” Joey pointed his weapon at the ceiling and stepped toward Gillian. She parted her broken mouth and gave Joey the look that, once upon a time, made Vinnie so manageable.

Stupid wannabe Sicilian fuck.

He weighed a breast in his left hand, and probed inside her bra with the muzzle of his gun. Gillian released a calculated, barely-audible sigh.

Gold-Tooth had the Mexican girl laid on the table between two plates of chile rellenos. He’d stuck the gun in his waistband and had both hands full of young Azteca flesh. The girl’s breathing was rapid and shallow, and she stared unblinking at the ceiling.

“The day I drink Mexican beer, just put a fucking bullet in my head. Bring tequila. We’ll get acquainted first, talk business after.” He holstered his weapon. “You must have a good reason for whacking a Family boss. You play nice, I let you tell me.”

Gillian went to the bar, bent and reached underneath, closed her fingers over the sawed-off 12-gauge hanging above the shot glasses.

“Y’all want a single or a double shot?”


The Sound of My Own Voice

I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to narrate a story for Tony C. Smith’s District of Wonders array of fiction podcasts. The current edition of Protecting Project Pulp features my reading of E. Hoffman Price’s 1934 pulp story “Live Bait.” Reading for the podcast was a lot of fun, and I hope to do more narrating in the future.
What surprised me was how much work narration can be. It seems I can’t get five words from my lips to the microphone without slurring, spitting, or stammering. Aside from my own speaking challenges, noises from the environment constantly intruded. Passing traffic, lawnmowers, and even sweet little tweety-birds caused me to have to re-do many parts of the reading. Getting it right was incredibly time consuming, but worth the effort.
I tried at first to record using my Mac’s internal microphone, but instantly learned that wasn’t going to cut it, so I went shopping for something better. (‘One that’s nice, but not too expensive.’) I eventually settled on a Blue Snowball mic, and I think it worked out fairly well.
If you love genre fiction and haven’t checked out the District of Wonders podcasts, you’re missing out. I’ve been listening to Starship Sofa for years, and I’m ‘chuffed to bits’ to see that ‘cast not only thriving, but spinning off sister podcasts that show a lot of promise.
I realize I should stop screwing around with side projects if I ever expect to have some of my writing published, but I think the narration thing has me hooked. It’s just too much fun. I’ll be looking for more opportunities to narrate fiction.
So give it a listen. I hope you enjoy the story.

I’m a Voice Actor!

If you’re into vintage audio fiction,I’ll be narrating a couple of stories for Protecting Project Pulp in the next two weeks. (So the editor tells me). These stories are the kind of thing you might have heard on the radio in the ’30s and ’40s. Let me know if you think I have a future as a voice actor…or not. (Be kind.) The stories I narrate are  “Live Bait” and “The Game of Rat and Dragon.” One is noir. The other is science-fiction. Both are pulpy as can be.

Also, check out District of Wonders. “A story for everyone.”

Kickass Space Opera, Anyone?

J.D. Salinger is known to have said,“You think of the book you’d most like to be reading, and then you sit down and shamelessly write it.”
I think that is what James S.A. Corey (aka Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck)must have been doing with LEVIATHAN WAKES because the world their characters inhabit is so beautifully, fully-realized.

What happens after humanity expands into the solar system, but before we reach the stars? Science doesn’t give much hope for a Star Trek-style ‘warp drive,’ but that’s not going to stop us from going after the mountains of valuable minerals floating around in our own solar system. LEVIATHAN WAKES explores a likely future in which this has been going on for a long time. Humanity has expanded out to the asteroid belt and the outer planets, established permanent settlements, and begun to physically adapt (one of the more amazing ideas in the book) to the new environment.

Space opera, especially of the military variety, is so often hard, sterile, and emotionless–all about hardware, revenge and flying debris. Though there is certainly plenty of that in this book, Corey doesn’t neglect the ‘opera’ side of the equation. That is to say, the characters’ emotions are present for duty. It’s not an overly sentimental book, but it is clear in every scene that these people want something. Some want to make their mark, some to make some money, and some want each other. It works, and it leaves me craving more.

This book is a seamless mashup of space opera, military sci-fi, horror, and detective noir. Now that I’ve read it, the book I’d most like to be reading is the second doorstop-sized book of the Expanse series, CALIBAN’s WAR. LEVIATHAN WAKES is the new standard in my mind for space opera.