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by Jeb Harrison

The following story won 3rd place in our Scary Short Story Contest! Enjoy…

For days all he had been able to think about was how badly he had fucked everything up. How anyone could have conjured a life so bleak and then have the gall to live it and keep living it–despite new mornings, attitudes of gratitude, and today being the first day of the rest of his life–puke! Rancid sauce, all of it. If in truth the universe was equal parts yin and yang, drunk and sober, fat and thin, happy and sad, light and dark, life and death, God and devil, he was all yang drunk fat sad dark death devil.

Now all he wanted was for her to be quiet. But she was all racket, all sauce queued round ‘n’ through, all full of holes. Plug them, but still no good. How much duct tape was it going to take, lashed to an antique Shaker sliding sideways across the metal floor with every turn, all so much crash and whimper? So he pulled the van into a holler drive, small lights distant through black winter sticks, and fell flat on fat ass and skull crack, not funny, don’t laugh. Don’t you dare laugh. Up then steady though slippery he circled round back, opened the hatch on her. Her all racket and sauce, whimper whimper. More duct tape, he lashed her in her chair to side door handles to stop sliding side-to-side, more duct tape over fat trap, around sausage wrists and naked blue ankles, over fat naked tits, big fat naked tits, plugged in holes.

God allowed it. God was quiet. And now she was, too.

On he drove north through Pikeville over iced bridge and frozen river and again and again like road kill snake until the street lamps and snow-glazed sidewalks gave way to all dark and quiet twisted road. Tomorrow would begin again, the first day in the light, but tonight she was still all racket, even now lashed naked, her hippo juice blubber ass raw pink under two rolls of gray, shining tape, bulging out like gorilla glue when it dries, a drowning fish of snuffling pig fat. But the sun would rise tomorrow and changes would be made.

He smiled, cold blue lip sneer over tooth rot. It was warm in the cab, meat locker in the back. White road coiled through and around frozen hollers, the Lord Jesus Christ waiting for him there. He would be saved by the grace and the love of Jesus Christ our Lord. The abomination of his own flesh he would at last be rid of to stand in judgment before the Lord–he would be born again and his life would begin anew. Seventy-three years he had waited, fifty-three years of donkey face pizza Mcnugget Jumbo Jack Benson & Hedges French fried Ding Dong ho ho ho–his abomination, a slick glistening casing of whale blubber pig fat diabetic nightmare, she all racket and her mother dead and gone in the making and no wonder, no wonder God took her before she even seen what she made. For fifty-three years his monster grew–no, not his monster–how could he all withered coal gray skin chafed rattled round bones and blackened lung bloodshot stumbling heart have planted such a poisoned seed? No, but with his shift done, home there his creature waited all yellow drool on her wheelchair, the bloated monster gut, through snot and piss and blood and shit and piss and shit and vomit and blood on her hands face hair surrounded by pizza box chip bowl burger bun, she all racket and sauce, watching the word of the Lord, hearing the word of the Lord, praying with the TV preacher, all Hail Mary Mother of God Hosanna in the Highest and I’ll take Lamb of God medium-rare, if you please.

But all this would soon be over. He lit another Camel straight, squeezing it between blistered raw thumb and forestub, now between cracked tooth grin, eye white reflection of shining chartreuse radio call letters “WBDK Prestonville, bringing you the Word of our Lord Jesus Christ in Heaven twenty-four seven.” To the east over the twisted innards of Appalachia, a strip of black gave way to gray, and the van angled toward a wide pullout above a riverbend fishing hole. A deer, goddammit, slid then fell on black ice in the headlights but too late, the van fishtailed perpendicular to the road and started rolling side over side over side, all racket and sauce, over the rocky snow bank until the side doors swung open and she came bursting out, a massive naked ball of flab hurtling upwards into the gray light that bordered the round peaks of the ancient mountains to the east, the antique shaker shattering into pieces and clattering onto the ice flows in the river below. Airbag suffocating he struggled until the van roof crashed through the river ice and slowly began to sink. And though he could not see her as she continued her ascent east into the dawn he could hear her unceasing racket, could smell her fetid sauce as she screamed, forever and ever until he could hear no more.

* * * * * *

A crack of white lightning split the spring Pikeville dawn with an explosion so powerful the wooden crucifix above his headboard fell off the wall, smacked his skull then bounced to the floor beside the bed where he lie. It did not wake him. He had been awake already, too terrified to move, frozen with fear from the nightmare. But the thunder woke his fifty-three-year-old daughter in the room next door, already all racket and whimper. Dream fresh, he pulled his mottled, sore-spattered legs over the edge of the bed and pushed up, started for the door, then stopped. A new day had begun with the wrath of the Lord himself on high, another first day of the rest of his life, another chance to worship and give thanks. He turned, cast his eyes upward, and whispered, “I have heard your call, oh Christ almighty. Your will be done.He stepped once, twice, thrice to his bedside table, slowly slid open the drawer, slowly, quietly withdrew Smith and Wesson, silently checked the chamber. Another crack sent a couple of old family photographs crashing to the floor, and she whimpered, wailed, all racket and sauce now, all needing, wanting, sucking dry. He paused, crossed himself, then opened his door, stepped once, twice, thrice to her door and threw it open. “Good morning,” he growled, aimed, and fired.

God allowed it. God was quiet. And now she was, too.

Jeb Harrison is a freelance writer, songwriter, musician, and painter in Stinson Beach, California. After many years as an ad agency copywriter, writer/producer, creative director, and director of marketing communications, Jeb now writes fiction and creative nonfiction, along with commercial blogs, websites, emails, and other works for hire. Jeb’s debut novel, Hack, was published by Harper Davis Publishers in August 2012. His MFA creative thesis, The Healing of Howard Brown, is next. He records and performs with the popular instrumental combo The Treblemakers, as well as Bay Area favorites Call Me Bwana. Jeb was born and raised in Kentfield, California, and has lived in Boulder, CO; Missoula, MT; Hollywood, CA; Scottsdale, AZ; Indianapolis, IN and Ridgefield, CT.

Lead image: “delusion of religion” (via Flickr user matthias lueger)


  1. Inside the head of crazy…I like it.

  2. This story is a wide pool of adjectives! Great!
    And I love the timeline shifts, too.
    Thank you for this story!

  3. Disturbing, but fascinating and wonderfully written. The stacato inner voice carries you along and you soon know something is very wrong with the head you’re in. Great story.

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