Gerald pushes glasses up his long nose. It makes him look distinguished. Bushy uni-brows complete the look. So what if he is bald? Isn't bald sexy these days anyway? He'd read it on the cover of Red Book magazine while waiting in line at the grocery store the other day. It is respectable at the very least.

Respect. Where is the respect these days? The grocer had handed him the little piece of paper with DECLINED written on it when he tried to buy a loaf of bread, bologna, and a quart of milk. Just cause a guy is down on luck and a couple bucks doesn’t grant the grocer the right to snicker and exchange Ain’t this guy a loser look with the next person in line. Yes, he’d almost squeezed the trigger.

He keeps the nice little pistol in his pocket, just in case. Never know when one might need a gun. It is the answer to all his problems. It is.

Your boss fires you? Bam you shoot him.

Your banker says your money's flushed down the john? Bam you shoot him.

The grocer refuses your credit card? Bam you shoot him.

Gerald had never so much as flashed his gun at anyone before. But he thought about it. He daydreamed about it. No one truly understood who he was, what he could do, including the hooker he picked up and brought home this evening. She demanded her money before the service. I mean, come on now, Gerald had read up on what’s hot and what’s not. Bald is sexy, remember? he’d asked Blondie Hooker as he kicked her stomach over and over again. Distinguished glasses are sexy, right? Another kick to the ribs. Gerald knew Blondie Hooker had read all this in Red Book magazine. That’s what those kind of girls do. They knew all about sexy. If you’re sexy you get it for free. Remember? He’d asked her, you give it for free.

Before Blondie Hooker passed out she’d screamed too much. Police were called. Now. Tonight. He’d get what was due him. Respect. Respect is what he wants. You can’t buy that with a twenty, but Blondie Hooker could have offered it with a free blowjob. Aretha. R-e-s-p-e-c-t. She knew how to get respect and it is damn well time he got his slice of the cake. Gerald doesn't care the price.

The police bang on the door asking him to open up. Gerald giggles, pushes his glasses up again, and gives a thumbs up to waking Blondie Hooker. She is duct-taped to the folding chair. Pointing at her blonde head is the barrel of a rifle. The trigger is rigged to twine rigged to the door. The second police ram through – Bam! That’ll be last the time someone says no to him.

Blondie Hooker struggles and makes muffled noises. Gerald isn’t sure, but she sounds like she is throwing up. A piece of gray tape seals her mouth, a dribble of orange creeps from the corner. Serves her right for turning him down. What is the world coming to? You bring a hooker home – you expect some action.

“Right?” he asks puking Blondie hooker. He watches her bruised adam’s apple rise and fall. He knew what she was swallowing. It made for a good enough answer.

He cocks his pistol. “Right.”

“Open up. Police!” Another hard knock on the door.

Gerald crouches behind the piano. Waiting.

The knocking stops. Silence.

He’s waiting for the door to break in. The twine pulls the trigger, puking Blondie Hooker is dead –he’ll get his respect when the police realize what they’ve done. They’ve done mind you. They’ve killed an innocent victim. Oh, the irony. Who will be the respectable authority now?

R-e-s-p-e-c-t, Aretha Franklin knew what she was talking about. The song plays over and over in his head. He wished he hadn’t smashed the radio in the other night when it wouldn’t stop playing Ghost Riders In The Sky. He hated that song. There are no Ghost riders in the sky or anywhere else. Everyone knows that. Even the stupid hooker.

He waits. The silence carries on longer than it should. Blondie Hooker keeps making muffled noises, which makes it hard to hear their footsteps.

Gerald stands and points the pistol at her head. “Shut up. Just shut up. You’ll ruin everything.” More orange leaks from under the tape, only it’s looking reddish now, like blood. He squints to get a better look.

Something smashes through the window. A slight pop - hiss. Gerald’s eyes begin to sting. Loud shouts. He can’t breathe. It stings. He points the pistol everywhere, first at her, then at them, then at her.

“Police. Drop the weapon.”

How’d they do that? How’d they get in? It isn’t fair. Life isn’t fair. “All I want is some respect! That’s all I want.”

“Drop the weapon.”

Gerald opens his eyes against the sting. Points at Blondie Hooker. Shoots.

Pain erupts in his leg. Police shout. Another pain in chest. Gerald falls to the floor, but not before opening his eyes and looking at Blondie Hooker. Red dribbles from her slouching cheek, down the length of her arm, down her fingertips to the hardwood floor.

There. Now. Finally. R-e-s-p-e-

One last bang interrupts Aretha’s song.

Copyright: © 2009 Jodi MacArthur
Jodi MacArthur serves imagination raw on an open flame. Her work is influenced by all things Grimm and carnival. To learn more, please visit her website at:


  1. Wonderful, Jodi! Great tension in this piece. Makes you wonder how many like him are out there, just waiting to be set off.

  2. Hell-fire, that was some taut writing. Great work!

  3. Bam! This is a twist from your usual and I enjoyed it much.
    When do you sleep girl?

  4. This flash has climbed to the top of my list of Jodi favorites. Very different voice for you. You kept it gritty and focused. It's actually a great piece of noir. Reminds me of something George Pelecanos would scribe. Will we be seeing more of this style from the verstatile frog queen of speculative fiction?

  5. This really had me trying to read it as fast as I could it was so good. The tension was high, and the events just so sickening and horrible as to be fascinating. It's good to see such a great example of how to write a main character who's the bad guy. I love the ending: R-E-S-P-E-C ... brains splattered on the floor.

  6. Ooooh, as grim as it gets, Jodi! Love the way you spiraled us right into your protag's delusions. Nice job!

  7. Damn, nice job, Jodi! Loved it!

  8. bang

    loved the pace you acheived with this, and the flow of info setting the scene

    now off to dig out the song

  9. Cool. Great to see the bad guy doesn’t win, but it’s not an easy ride for the good ones either.

    Very well written. The style matched the on-the-edge mood of Gerald.

  10. Thanks so much for reading everybody. I'm tickled everyone enjoyed this crazy evil piece.

  11. Jodi, Jodi, went and did it again. That was amazing. I love your writing. LOVE IT! Thank you.

  12. Gerald is a naughty boy. And incompetent. But that's no longer a problem, is it?

    Nice ride in this deranged guy's head, Jodi. You held the point of view perfectly all the way through. I loved the interruption of the song at the end.

    Nicely done.

  13. Love it. Shades of Jim Thompson and James Ellroy.

  14. Damn! This was a change from your usual style, but did you ever rock it. By the time I finished reading my nose was practically touching the monitor. Awesome job.

  15. Thank you so much! I had no idea this would get such a great reaction. Those rewrites pay off.

  16. Wonderfully pacy and wonderfully dislikeable main character! Great job on moving from the grocer to the hooker!

  17. Creepy peek inside a monster's head! Writing from this perspective isn't an easy thing and you pulled it off brilliantly!

  18. Dark and downright dirty! Excellent story.

  19. Other than all that I bet he's really a nice fellow underneath..really raw and nasty Jodes..oh soo good!

  20. Jodi,

    I think this is my fave of yours so far. I was reading as fast as I possibly could. Couldn't wait to see what was going to happen. Nice write.

    Kathleen Gilbert

  21. Tight, clever, totally assured and witty as ever Jodi. I really enjoyed this.