Situation Normal. Atmosphere Breathable. Brainstem Injected. Dialogue Engaged.
Thursday, September 15, 2005

Penny Dreadful Part Three

“What are you gonna do if a nickel shoots me in the stomach, Clay?”

“That ain’t gonna happen.”

“But what if it does? That’s why you brought me, right? To stand real close.”

“I said it ain’t gonna happen, shrimp.”

From the horizon a mighty whistle blew, masking the constant chirp of woodland sparrows. Clay stood on the railroad ties laying coins on both rails. His line of coins grew in size on one rail, dimes closest to the engine’s approach, quarters furthest from. On the opposite rail he built a stack from the bottom up: quarter, nickel, penny, dime.

“Why’d you do that, Clay?"

“That one’s special. Four together. I’m gonna keep it for me.”

“I want one, too!”

“Not enough time. Here comes the train! I’m gonna hide in those weeds. You stay there.”

“Um. Ooo-kay.”

Clay retreated to a patch of weeds beyond the edge of the gravel. Gregory stood six feet from the edge of the wooden ties and gazed up the rails to the approaching train. Even in daylight he could see beams of light spraying from the engine’s big single headlight. He looked at the coins arrayed before him. The stretching and flattening of coins failed to excite him as greatly as the notion of firing a gun. He was impatient for the train to roar past and perform its strongman magic. He clenched his fists and held his breath.

On came the train. The chug of massive wheel trucks huffed and puffed, cycles of thunder eating the silence. The procession shot by Gregory, velocity blending boxcar panels together, a streaking tapestry of rust and yellow, of gunmetal grey and florescent graffiti.

Under the roar rang a high sharp sound: SSPING!

Gregory felt a hot knife burn through his pocket and across his hip. Shocked and dumbfounded, he sat hard on the gravel. He reached and looked down at himself at the same moment, and as his hand and eyes landed on his left pocket, he saw blood seep from the ripped shorts, staining a thin line across his side. It didn’t hurt yet, but between the blood and pounding noise, Gregory began to cry anyways.

“Clay, I’m hit! It got me! I’m bleedin! Help! I’m gonna die! But I’m gonna get grounded first! Oh jeez….


Gregory thought perhaps Clay couldn’t hear him over the passing train racket. He discovered he could move and craned his head to the weeds behind him. Clay was not rushing forth to help Gregory. Nor was he crouching, peeking through the weeds, greedily awaiting his bounty. He was lying flat on his back, two hands to his throat, little waterfalls of red trickling from between his chubby little fingers.


Gregory hoisted himself up and scrambled to the weeds. A caboose marked the end of the train, and the freight escaped south, leaving a shocking quiet for Gregory and Clay.

“Clay, oh my god! What happened? Did it get you too?

"Move your hands, I can’t see it. We need band-aids Clay, maybe even stitches. My mom is gonna kill me.

"Come on Clay. Clay?”

Clay’s eyes bulged. He hitched for each breath, wet noises thickening with each stabbing intake of air. As the sound began to resemble a straw in a nearly empty cup, Clay began to roll and buck. He loosened his double-palmed clutch and tried to speak.

“Ulgk! In… mby… droat.”

After the words, which sounded both wet and dry at once, a great wave of blood gurgled forth from Clay’s mouth, washing his entire face red. It even got in his hair. As his drowning commenced, blood bubbles grew from his gaping mouth, where they met with smaller bubbles from his nostrils. Then all would pop and start anew.

“Oh no! No no no! I gotta get help! What do I do?”

Gregory paced, jumped, and squeezed his meager wound all at once, freaking out and totally bewildered. Terrified, too.

Clay still struggled with his neck. A puddle grew under his head. He waved from side to side in it, a jackhammer seesaw in the blood. As his lungs filled up, he began to convulse more violently. Desperate for air, he let go of his throat, his arms waving wildly about pawing at nonexistent wisps.

From a nickel wide diagonal slit in his exposed throat, air began to rush in and out, a sprinkler farting wet raspberry rain with merry immaturity. Clay sat up and then stood, wobbly and unbalanced, his eyes nearing explosion. He looked for Gregory and reached out to him. Gregory stood still, out of reach, looking dumb.

Clay’s eyes rolled up. He pitched forward, dead. Blood kept leaking.

Gregory looked at Clay’s facedown corpse. Under the skin at the back of the neck, he could see the sharp edge of a coin pushing out, stretching the skin nearly to breaking point. The penny had stopped there after ricocheting off the spine.

Gregory thought about his parents.
8:15 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm


September 16, 2005 8:40 AM, Blogger Dave Morris said...

Poor Clay needed change in his life, perhaps fate took it a little too literally.

Great story, worth the wait. Now I will go in my closet and cry for children, trains and pennies.

September 16, 2005 11:29 AM, Blogger Other Brother said...

Very good. Made me remember leaving pennies on the tracks and going back to look for them the next day.

September 16, 2005 3:05 PM, Blogger Nobody special said...

"a sprinkler farting wet raspberry rain with merry immaturity."

God that's sick but great stuff.

September 16, 2005 3:54 PM, Blogger Bobby said...


September 16, 2005 7:34 PM, Blogger Mishka said...


September 18, 2005 2:45 AM, Blogger The Everglades said...

It's no wonder people are buying your stories and publishing them.


September 18, 2005 11:26 PM, Blogger Latigo Flint said...

"...cycles of thunder eating the silence."

This is good stuff, all of it. I am better for having read it.

September 21, 2005 9:54 AM, Blogger Kerouaced said...

That was freaky. Have you ever heard of somethibng like that actually happening?

September 21, 2005 10:19 AM, Blogger Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm said...

Nopem can't say I have. That's why I had Clay build a stack. Made the whole scenario plausible in my head.


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