The Look by Keith Rawson

You stare at him with the same vulnerable, searching glance you used when you met him at the McDonald’s off 44th and the I-10. It’s the kind of look lost four-year-olds and bugshit old people use when their memories go on the blink.

It’s the victim look.

It’s the dead and floating face down in an aqueduct look.

It’s the look you’ve cultivated and mastered over the last three years.

Most of the time, the look does exactly what you want it to do, especially as you’ve grown older and you’ve started to vibe Lolita.

Pink cherry lips.

Pale, creamy skin.

Long, sun-bleached blonde hair.

Budding B-cups.

Bare, tanned legs with scabby tomboy knees.

Baby blues glistening with barely contained sadness and confusion.

When you were younger, the look got you attention from all the wrong people: Women.

Soccer moms, kind old ladies watching their grandchildren, working moms grabbing a quick lunch and feeling guilty about their kids being stuck in daycare and picturing their little girls lost and alone at some filthy burger place. In those early days, you would respond to their kindness with tears and allow them to buy you lunch and drive you back to your mom’s apartment complex even though you hadn’t seen or spoken with your mom in five years. But you couldn’t very well have them take you back to your real home.

Mom’s apartment complex was dirtbag central, it played into the latchkey image.

Dad’s six-thousand square feet of stucco and air-conditioned comfort did nothing but scream entitled little rich girl playing victim.

When women approached you these days, your look changed. It became hard, glassed over, ready to shred their faces with your dull, chipped pink polish nails. You let them know you were a predator, but they weren’t the prey you were hunting.

They were background noise; extras in your ongoing tragedy of lust and revenge.

Well, maybe revenge was too strong of a word?

And lust? That one didn’t fit either.

Hobby was closer, but it didn’t have enough oomph. It made her seem like she spent her free time painting watercolors or scrapbooking.

The men who approached you usually weren’t the bad sort. They weren’t chatroom creepers, or the kind of guys who kept an eye out for gloryholes anytime they went into a public bathroom. They weren’t even they types who had hundreds of hours of kiddie porn stored on their home computers.

That was you.

No, these men were just like the soccer moms and put upon grandmothers. They were husbands and fathers and grandfathers and business owners who took their families to church every Sunday and volunteered down at the local homeless shelter at least once a month. They were they type of men who made this world of shit just a little more bearable.

You can’t exactly say you hate them.

You can’t exactly say you like them, either.

But then again, you don’t like much of anything.

Except for this.

Except for these moments when the men you meet wake up in their tidy suburban homes or immaculate condos that they bring you to so you could use their phone to call for a ride (You always wonder why they just don’t pull out their $800 smartphones and let you call right then and there? The move played into your theory that all men were natural liars and pervs), or give you a cool, safe place to stay until you could get a hold of your mom.

As they woke, their left arms sore from where you jabbed them and ejected them full of your dad’s doctor prescribed dope, you loved to see their bodies tense as they realize they’re naked and ducted taped to one of the dining room chairs their wives debated months over before buying them.

The real terror comes when they realize they have thumb drives superglued to their chests, their foreheads, their knees, their shrunken cocks, their rank balls. They have no idea what are on the thumb drives, nor do they realize what you’ve been doing to their computers after you stripped and strapped them.

All told, you own a hair over three terabytes of child pornography. It’s surprisingly easy to find. Plus, over the years you’ve bullied the neighborhood kids into posing for you and promising not to tell because they all know what you’ll do to them. Katie Moran even stuck a plastic coke bottle in herself. It was a truth or dare thing, the little dyke wanted to see you splayed open, too, but for entirely different reasons than you wanted.

It’s when their panic truly goes into high gear is when you really turn on the vulnerability. Your eyes soften, the barely contained tears dig runnels through your make-up, your lips tremble and pull down at the corners as you pick up the phone and dial 911, your voice a panicky squelch of tears and lost innocence.

When you hang up, you never look back. You walk out the front door and down the quiet sidewalk, hail an Uber from your phone, and quietly hope the driver doesn’t show up before the cops.

Shotgun Honey Presents: Locked and Loaded

Today we launch the third volume of the Both Barrels series with Shotgun Honey Presents: Locked and Loaded.

Featuring 25 stories by:

  • “A Boy Like Billy” by Patricia Abbott
  • “Border Crossing” by Michael McGlade
  • “Looking for the Death Trick” by Bracken MacLeod
  • “Maybelle’s Last Stand” by Travis Richardson
  • “Predators” by Marie S. Crosswell
  • “Twenty to Life” by Frank Byrns
  • “So Much Love” by Keith Rawson
  • “Running Late” by Tess Makovesky
  • “Last Supper” by Katanie Duarte
  • “Danny” by Michael Bracken
  • “The Plot” by Jedidiah Ayres
  • “What Alva Wants” by Timothy Friend
  • “Time Enough to Kill” by Kent Gowran
  • “Copas” by Hector Acosta
  • “Yellow Car Punch” by Nigel Bird
  • “Love at First Fight” by Angel Luis Colón
  • “Traps” by Owen Laukkanen
  • “Down the Rickety Stairs” by Alan Orloff
  • “Blackmailer’s Pep Talk” by Chris Rhatigan
  • “With a Little bit of Luck” by Bill Baber
  • “As Cute as a Speckled Pup Under a Red Wagon” by Tony Conaway
  • “Chipping off the Old Block” by Nick Kolakowski
  • “Young Turks and Old Wives” by Shane Simmons
  • “The Hangover Cure” by Seth Lynch
  • “Highway Six” by John L. Thompson

Available in paperback and Kindle editions. Buy your copy today!

The Boyfriend Solution by Keith Rawson

Clara threw up for what seemed like the thousandth time. Her guts clenching, surging up her throat, beads of sweat popping on her forehead.

She’d always laughed herself silly at the Family Guy episode where the characters all take ipecac to see who gets the last piece of cherry pie.

Fucking hilarious, that episode.

She doesn’t think it’s all that funny anymore.

Not.

One.

Goddamn.

Bit.

Clara threw up for what seemed like the thousandth time. Her guts clenching, surging up her throat, beads of sweat popping on her forehead.

She’d always laughed herself silly at the Family Guy episode where the characters all take ipecac to see who gets the last piece of cherry pie.

Fucking hilarious, that episode.

She doesn’t think it’s all that funny anymore.

Not.

One.

Goddamn.

Bit.

“Come on, darling, give it up already. I don’t want to have to give you an enema.”

Urariah.

Asshole.

Clara had spent what seemed like a couple of lifetimes dating nothing but assholes:

Steve was a tweaker who slept only once the entire six month they were together.

Mike was an abusive drunk.

Derek was sexually abused as a child, so sex was something dirty. But, thankfully, oh so gentle and loving when it did happen.

Paul was gay, but pretended not to be. They had wonderful conversations and he was an excellent chef, but screwing meant she was behind him working his sphincter over with a strap-on.

Neal was a panty waste who was completely incapable of making a decision for himself and needed her to hold his hand from brushing his teeth-to-which route he should take to work.

Urariah, though, he was a step above all of them. He was funny, gentle, kind, handsome—and he had a job (joblessness was another trait most of her boyfriends shared).

Police.

Not exactly conducive to her overall lifestyle, not at all.

Clara was the first to admit she wasn’t always the best girlfriend.

She liked to party.

She liked the bars.

She liked drinking all night and dancing.

She liked bumps of coke and the occasional line of speed to keep her going, moving.

She’d lived this way for years.

She’d lived this way so long and had done so many things that if she didn’t bury them so deep she would wake up every night shaking and in tears, never able to leave her apartment out of shame. When she met Urariah—on a night she was railed to the heavens with eight margaritas sloshing around in her belly—he  pulled her off the dance floor, out of the club, and into the booth of an all night greasy spoon, listening to her rattle on about her work gripes, her boyfriend troubles, her complicated relationship with her parents. He just let her talk, never interrupting her, never breaking eye contact.

By the time the sun came up, she was convinced they were soul mates and begged him to come up to her apartment when he dropped her off, but did nothing but kiss her deeply and tell her that he’d call her tomorrow.

She was a bit disappointed because she didn’t remember giving him her phone number. But he called. He called when he said he would. He asked her out on a proper date. Picked her promptly up at 7 PM on a Friday night. They had dinner at a restaurant with a dress code and the average plate cost $25. Urariah paid. He paid for the movie they went to after. He paid for the drinks after the movie. He still didn’t try to fuck her when he dropped her off.

They didn’t fuck until two weeks into their relationship. He was gentle and shy at first, but he was hard. But not kinky hard, just hard enough to get her off.

Her beloved Urariah. He seemed so damn perfect.

Until tonight.

Tonight, he said he had to stop at a friend’s house before dinner. A quick stop, 15-minutes tops.

Clara said sure. She said it with a beaming smile. A smile of total devotion.

They pulled up in front of a townhouse. They went up to the front door, rang the bell. Waited, rang again. Urariah shrugged and said: “They said they’d be here, let me see if they left a key.”

They key was a rock that he put through the stained glass window. He reached in and unlocked the door. He said: “No, really, they won’t mind.”

They rushed inside.

They found themselves in the kitchen and in front of a pile of condoms. There were thirty or forty  of them, all of them filled with some kind of powder. She didn’t want to think about what the powder was. Urariah said: “Babe, would you mind?”

Babe would you mind meant would she mind swallowing some of the condoms.

Okay, no point in sugar coating it: Swallowing all of them.

She’d gulped down at least twenty of them. It was easy, just like deep throating, a skill she mastered in her sophomore year. She was going for twenty-one when she heard the explosion and felt what was left of Urariah splash across her back and neck.

Urariah’s “friend” had come home.

He tried sticking his finger down her throat first. She didn’t resist, but it was a no go. Then he fed her the ipecac and within ten minutes she was letting it fly all over Urariah’s friend’s kitchen.

She vomited again.

1001.

Finally a condom made it out with the bile.

“That a girl! Keep ‘em coming!”

She stared up at him and noticed for the first time that he was kind of cute.

Maybe after this was all said and done, and if he didn’t kill her, they could hit the clubs?

Maybe it was time to start dating assholes again?

Elbow Deep by Keith Rawson

There are only three things you should ever go into debt for:

Your house, because let’s face it, who the hell has 200 grand just sitting around?

A new car, I never borrowed money on one of those until I got sick of driving around in ten year old beaters with no air conditioning or CD player or nothing. You get to certain age where you want comfort, you want reliability. So, yeah, take five years to pay off a car loan. And cars have gotten to be just like houses, who the fuck has 30 grand sitting around to blow on a car?

Education, fuck that noise, it’s not like that shit’s going to get you anywhere. But let the kids figure that out when after they graduate and find out all their bullshit degree gets them is a job bussing tables at a Denny’s and hoping one of the waiters quits so they can move up into their position. But still, I guess it’s kinda important.

Everything else, use cash.

Don’t go into debt for jewelry for your wife, because chances are she’ll leave you when she finds out you’ve been buying the blonde, eastern European piece of ass you’ve had on the side for ten years better, more expensive jewelry.

Don’t go into debt buying jewelry for the blonde, eastern European piece of ass you’ve had on the side for the past ten years, because blonde eastern European pieces of ass are nothing but whores who have dozens of guys just like you buying her equally expensive pieces of jewelry.

Don’t go into debt buying a drum kit for your awkward, hyperactive 16-year-old son, because all that little shit is going to do is try and beat the shit out of you when he finds out that you’ve been cheating on his mother for ten years.

Don’t go into debt buying drinks for your work buddies, because all those fuckers are going to do is drink their drinks, never pick up a round, and try to throw you under the bus to save their own careers when internal affairs catches them shaking down a crack dealer for a couple of thousand bucks and a couple of grams of uncut powder.

Don’t go into debt to crack dealers, because they’ll have you bringing the hammer down on their competitors once a week and raiding evidence lockers so much that the pricks from internal affairs will start taking an even harder look at you.

Don’t go into debt bribing internal affairs, because those fuckers keep coming back wanting more and more until they’re taking a clear 40% and hinting around for an even bigger chunk.

But most important of all, don’t go into debt for the Bears vs. the Packers; the Angels vs. the Yankees; the Lakers vs. the Suns—Hell, make that any team out of Arizona, they’re nothing but a losing proposition, because if you do find yourself neck deep from the losing ways of your favorite teams and their inability to cover the spread, you may find yourself in the handicap bathroom stall of terminal 4 at Sky Harbor airport elbow deep in some Mexican national because your bookie swears the kid is hauling fifty grand worth of precious stones up in his colon, and that’ll just about cover your debt.

Avoid all those things and you’re sure to live a successful, fulfilling life.

Girls Around a Campfire by Keith Rawson

Motherfucker ain’t talkin’

 

I don’t get this loyalty shit? Seriously, that greasy motherfucker would sell that little asshole out for five hundred bucks and a blow job!

 

It’s that whole code of silence thing the Italians have going on. None of the old school guys live by it anymore, but most of these young guys buy into it.

 

The kid’s got balls, I’ll give him that.

 

Not anymore. Little Stevie jammed ice picks into ‘em a couple of hours ago.

 

Little Stevie? Who told you to bring that sick motherfucker in?

 

Ronnie sent him down….

 

Ronnie? Man, fuck Ronnie! That queer bitch don’t have nothing to do with this. Last I heard he was up shit creek with the Mexicans and was on the run.

 

That’s what I heard, too. Heard he was shacked up somewhere in Tucson and the beaners tracked him down, sent in a hit squad and Ronnie took ‘em all out.

 

Bullshit, man! That shit’s a laugh. Ronnie don’t even carry! The guy’s a fucking lawyer fer Christsake!

 

Just ‘cause he’s a lawyer doesn’t mean he don’t know how to take care of himself.

 

That’s exactly what it means. All he does is beg Clyde to get him out of his jams or he brings guys in like Little Stevie to get dirty. Fucking Ronnie wouldn’t ruin his manicure doing that kind of thing.

 

You heard about little Stevie, right?

 

What’d’ya say about Little Stevie?

 

Shut the fuck up, man, he’s right in the next room.

 

Like he’s paying attention! The guy’s probably got the kid hooked up to the battery and getting his nut off listening to him beg.

 

Whatever. But you heard about him, though, right?

 

What?

 

You fuckin’ asshole, just lean in here.

 

What are we, little girls? Jesus, man…

 

Just shut up and listen…. Shaw told me Little Stevie’s got AIDS.

 

What?

 

Yeah, seriously, man. You know how he used to go and do those jobs for Clyde where he’d do a break in in the middle of the night and terrorize the fuck out of the family until they’d give Clyde what he wanted?

 

Yeah, I remember….That was some fucked up business. I always thought Clyde was losing it when he was ordering that shit.

 

I know, I know, I wasn’t into either. But Clyde’s Clyde, ya know?  He gets a little weird sometimes…

 

Whatever, man, what about this AIDS shit, I’m tired of smelling your breath, so get talking.

 

Like yours smells any better ….Your ass needs to quit smoking.

 

Shut the fuck up! Get with the story….

 

Yeah, okay. So I guess one of these women Little Stevie fucked during one of these break ins, she was out at a club in Scottsdale somewhere and she just drops dead while she’s dancing. No warning, just BOOM, ya know.

 

Yeah…

 

So everybody thinks it’s a heart attack, ya know? These skinny little Russian bitches, don’t ever eat and got their faces buried in a plate fulla coke most of the time, so it’s gotta be a heart attack. But her old man, he wants to know what happens, so he pays for a doctor to open her up and run tests on the body and shit. Well, the tests come back and they find out what killed her was the fucking AIDS shut down her body.

 

What? So your telling me this bitch didn’t know she had AIDS? How the fuck do you not know that shit?

 

Fuck if I know? Like I said, Russian girls. She probably felt like shit most of the time and just blew it off. But from what I heard, Clyde gets wind of it, asks little Stevie if he remembers fucking this girl and then tells him to go and get tested and the test came back saying Little Stevie’s dick was rotting off.

 

Well if he’s got AIDS then a lot more than his dick’s rotting off.

 

Yeah, no shit…

 

Well, I guess it’s true what they say, you reap what you sow…

 

Still fucking sucks. You don’t like seeing guys go out like that.

 

I don’t know about that shit …. I mean, fuck, Little Stevie’s a serious asshole. That guy’s done shit that I don’t even want to think about, let alone talk about. So as far as I’m concerned, the fucking deserves it… By the way, he’s wearing cover alls, right? I don’t want to go mucking around in no dirty blood.

 

Of course, you know that little don’t like fucking up his suits. He’s wearing gloves and booties, too.

 

Good …. Good … Now what the fuck are we going to do about this kid?

 

I don’t know, man…Maybe take him to the kennels?

 

Hell, I’m outta smokes…go have one of the guys go pick me a pack while I’m figuring this shit out

 

The Floating Man by Keith Rawson

Nelson stared out the box window of his mother’s 2nd floor apartment trying to find the moon. The glare of the orange street lamps and dim white florescent glare of car headlamps made finding anything other than police helicopter spotlights close to impossible—even the moon. He remembered when he was 9 or 10 staring out this same window and being able to see stars and planets, the moon seeming impossibly large.

But doesn’t everything seem so much larger and full of life when you’re 9? The sights, the sounds…..all the possibilities of life. At age 9, sitting at this window was his ritual while waiting on dinner, his nostrils filled with the steamy, rich smells coming from his mother’s kitchen, the feel of her soft hand on his face when she would come and tell him it was time for dinner.

His mother’s apartment was his entire world.

No, not was, is…

Is his entire world.

And he needed to stop calling it his mother’s apartment, it was his now.

His and his alone.

She’d been gone a month now, buried next to his long dead father. He wasn’t able to go to the funeral. Of course, he hasn’t been able to leave the house in nearly twenty years. Not that he doesn’t want to leave the house–he’d like nothing better than to take a long walk in the park or go to a movie–but his 700 pounds of body wasn’t able to fit through the front door and hadn’t been able to since he turned 18 and managed to squeeze himself into the suit his mother had bought him to wear to his high school graduation. After that, the closest he came to stepping outside was staring out the custom box window his father had installed in the apartment a few months before he died from a massive aneurism.

He had been sitting at the window the afternoon his mother was killed. He’d watched it happen. His poor elderly mother trundling down the sidewalk behind a shopping cart stuffed to overflowing with a weeks worth of groceries. The two boys in the hooded sweet shirts approached her right below his window. Neither of them said a word, they simply pulled lead pipes from their sleeves and started hitting her in the face.

She didn’t see the blows coming, but Nelson did. He spider webbed the glass pounding his fists against it trying to warn her. It took him fifteen minutes to make it to his bedroom, where he’d stupidly left his cell, so he could call 911 for her. By the time he dialed he was out of breath, rivers of sweat coursing down his body, and someone else had already called the police.

Since the attack, he spent his evenings at the ruined window, keeping an eye on the street in front of his building waiting for the attackers to come back, his cell phone tightly gripped in his thick fingers, ready to dial if he saw something suspicious. There’d been nothing but false alarms—his paranoia working over time—and over a hundred wasted 911 calls.

Tonight had been no different. The 911 operators made fun of him when ever called now. They knew his high nasal voice and imitated him like school yard bullies. He was nearly in tears, but he managed to sniff them back.

He needed to be strong, be vigilant.
He watched Cindy Monahan come down the street. Nelson had known her since she was a toddler and his mother would occasionally babysat her. Such a sweet little girl who turned into a brooding, black clad teenager. He knew this look was temporary and she’d become a sweet young woman once she left the neighborhood and went off to college. She walked up to the stoop, hand digging through her jeans for keys and then he spotted them.

The same men in hoods.

They crept up behind Cindy and grabbed her. They were trying to drag her away and do God knows what to her. Nelson stared down at the cell phone. He knew it was useless and crushed it to powder. On trembling legs he stepped up onto the small ledge, his lungs a blast furnace.

He knew this was the only way to stop them so they would never hurt anyone again.

He stared down at the stoop and somehow Cindy had managed to push the men away and at this moment he threw all 700 pounds of himself against the glass and tumbled, becoming momentarily weightless.

A floating man in a rain of glass.