Victor Cass

Big Killa

There was once a rapper so crazy that he would shoot a member of his crew on stage at every show. Big Killa was his name and he would literally pull out a gun at some point during his performance and actually shoot one of his homies right there, live, in front of everyone. And the people ate this shit up! They’d come from all around to watch Big Killa on the mic, rapping about bitches, hoes, fuck the police, and all that poetry of the streets stuff, then whip out his strap and BAM!—shoot some fool who was dancing and flailing his arms with him. Big Killa offered $5,000 to any young gee who would agree to perform with him. Kids from the streets, aspiring rappers, artists, students, even actual gang members jumped at the chance to score five Gs and be up there with Big Killa, even though they all knew they might get shot. I mean, this was nuts! I couldn’t believe it. Who would do that? Who would allow this? Where were the police?

Turns out, the police were after Big Killa. Right? The dude was shooting people, after all, with like, hundreds of witnesses all around. Forget Fight Club! This was Murder Incorporated, live at the Shoot-em-up Rap Festival! Big Killa’s sick fans would pay $1,000 a ticket to go see someone get shot on stage. And no one snitched on him. No one told the cops where Big Killa was, or where he’d play next. Everything was deep, deep, deep underground! Like a gore-mongering Roman citizen of old, jockeying for the best view in the stands at the Coliseum, I had to know more! I had to see this for myself to believe it. I had to score a ticket to Big Killa’s next show.

I had the money. I had the stomach for it (so I thought). I was pretty pro-police, so who knew if I would turn Big Killa in to the cops or not, once I found out where he would play next, but, man, I just had to know! Was this guy for real? More importantly for me, at the moment was, where would I get a ticket? How would a Wall Street, financial dude like myself, white, privileged, driving a Mercedes, gain entry into one of Big Killa’s kill fests? Did they even let rich white dudes into his shows?

Well, surprise, surprise, come to find out that most of the people going to Big Killa’s shows were rich white people. How do you like that? The Man was paying big money to see Black people killing other Black people, up on stage no less! How do I know? One of my financial colleagues, clearly “in the scene” asked me to go with her to see Big Killa. You should have heard this lady, Hannah Zipp, with her short, auburn bob and bright red lips: “You like rap?” I played coy: “It’s okay.” Hannah’s blue eyes slid around under her eyelashes like a hockey puck. You would have thought the CIA was coming up behind her the way she was looking around. “Ever heard of Big Killa?” Playing dumb, I went along: “Nah, who’s he?” Her eyes widened as she said: “He’s the big black guy that shoots people on stage.” I thought Hannah was going to wet her shorts. “Sounds pretty sick,” I replied, “I’m in.”

“Meet me at Union Square at 8:00 tonight? Outside Coffee Shop Bar,” she practically whispered.

“He’s playing at Union Square?”

“No!” she snapped. “They give you the location later, along with the code word.”

“Speakeasy style.” I got it.

I couldn’t wait until work was over. What was I getting myself into? I was going to a concert where the bullets would be flying! Wait a minute? Did Big Killa ever miss?

Did I need a bulletproof vest? Should I tell my mom where I was going? Make out my will? Ours was a sick culture, but I couldn’t resist it.

Finally, the time had come. It was raining and I was without an umbrella, but I sacked up and made my way on the train to Union Square. I found Hannah arguing with some homeless guy. Was he the Big Killa connection?

“Hey, what’s going on?” I asked. I thought she was gonna take off one of her Jimmy Choo’s and throw it at him.

“Bastard wouldn’t take the food I was offering,” Hannah huffed, throwing a McDonald’s bag into the trash. “He just wanted money! He’s just gonna drink it all up, or get high.”

“You’re going to go see someone get shot and you’re complaining about some hobo’s morals? I wouldn’t have taken that McDonald’s crap, either. Maybe he wanted money for Whole Foods?”

“Maybe you’d like to find Big Killa’s show all by yourself!” Hannah retorted.

I put my hands up.

“Awright, awright! My bad!”

Hannah got the code word, and soon we were in a cab headed to a dark, off-the beaten-path part of the Lower East Side, where there was this large, brick warehouse, with big, burly, Russian-looking security guards outside. Hannah told me I would have to turn in my cell phone at the door. No cell phones allowed. No one was permitted to make calls, text, take photos, video, etc., for obvious reasons. I played along, turning in my cell phone, which they checked to make sure it was a real, working cell phone that was mine—I had to like show them my photos, Facebook, and stuff. I totally did…But what I didn’t tell Hannah or anyone, was that I had smuggled in another, smaller smartphone—that belonged to my niece, a junior at NYU—in my shoe (we were patted down and had a metal detector wand waved over our junk). I had to give her $100 bucks to borrow it for a night.

It was dark as we walked through several doors. I hadn’t seen this many white people in one place since a family reunion in Ocala, Florida. You would have thought we were all about to see Hamilton the way everyone was dressed. I was aghast at all the privilege I was surrounded by. I was white and I felt oppressed, micro-aggressed. I never knew there were this many people like me, seemingly good people, with college degrees and families, that were this cruel, bloodthirsty. We were going to potentially see some poor, underprivileged soul get shot for chrissakes! Well, I wasn’t gonna just stand by and watch this idly. I had a college buddy who was a Detective with the NYPD. Yeah, that’s right! I had secretly stiffed in a tip with the cops. I was turning Big Killa in! I was gonna do the right thing and save a life tonight! My “tricky” cell phone’s GPS was up and running, and I knew that the cops would be raiding the joint at any minute.

I hoped Hannah wouldn’t notice how nervous I was, looking toward the doors and exits, while also sneaking glances at her cleavage. Damn, I didn’t know her boobs were that big.

Anyway…

The lights turned down low. Then a bunch of other, colored lights started flashing, and a chest-thumping beat silenced the room as the stage was illuminated, revealing a bunch of homies filling the stage from behind a dark curtain like they were coming out of a clown car. My heart nearly skipped a beat as I breathlessly looked for Big Killa. What would he look like? Would he be decked out in baggy, gangsta clothing, a Kangol hat at a jaunty tilt on his head? Did I even know what gangsta clothes looked like? Would there be bicycle chain-like gold jewelry swinging from his neck? Would his teeth be gripped with bedazzled jewels and gold letters spelling KILLA, as he whipped out a MAC-10 and started blasting on fools?

I started to get queasy and had a bad feeling that this wouldn’t end well.

Then…he emerged in all his criminal glory: Big Killa!

He was big…and menacing! But there was no gold jewelry, no Kangol hats, bling in his grill, powder blue sweat suits, baggy clothes, thousand-dollar Jordans he had jacked from some kid on the streets, no…Big Killa came out in an all-black, three-piece suit: black shirt, black tie, coat and pants, with a NY Yankees cap on. He was a darker-skinned brother, with an intense gaze and an etched scowl. There was no flash, no cussing or bitches and hoes. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Who was this Big Killa?

I was gripped.

“NEW YORK CITY!” he shouted into his mic, throwing up in his arms. “WHITE New York City! Welcome to my show! Big Killa is in the house, SUCKAS! And I’m here to get you WOKE! I got rappers on my stage! Artists and performers tryin’ to come up in the Man’s world. I’m gonna have fine ass African Queens shaking their big, black booties on stage! But that’s not why you’re here, is it?”

“NOOOOOO!” everyone shouted, jumping and screaming in joy and ecstasy.

“You all want to see another BLACK MAN pull out a STRAP and SHOOT a BLACK BODY!”

“YESSSSSS!” People were jumping up and down, cheering and screaming like the Yankees had just won the pennant.

Then…the music started bumping, and the beats started thumpin,’ and the lights

started blaring, and the women started staring, at the black women pouring out from behind the curtains. The rappers started singing, their jewelry started blinging, and my phone started pinging!

But wait…

This wasn’t what I expected. I wanted to hear what Big Killa had to say. He was a force bigger than life. He took to the edge of the stage like a man about to jump from the Brooklyn Bridge onto the gentrified concrete of DUMBO down below.

“We wasn’t invited—we was forced!” Big Killa started. “Brought us here to instill FEAR! Break our bodies, break our souls, or so you thought! Didn’t know we secretly FOUGHT! Spoke our language, sung our songs, formed families you never thought, grew our leaders in the fields, and wrought, the future you left us for naught! We rose above, learned your lingo and grew our minds, raised our children in a new America, newly free, we got Booker T., W-E-B, Malcolm, who didn’t live to say, neither MLK! We fought your wars and hoped for more, told no, got Jim Crow, pushed through Selma, Little Rock, Detroit, Chicago, LA, and Crack, you think we just about RAP, guns, and killin’ fools, some of us do, the world is cruel, but for white America, the only rule is know your place and suffer through, the schools we left for you, never leave your hood, buy your weave, and struggle for food, well I’ve got news for YOU…”

That’s when Big Killa did what I realized I had forgotten he’d do. He pulled out a GUN! He started shooting at his fellow band mates!

POP-POP-POP!

NO! I thought. But wait! I suddenly realized that the gun was firing blanks! The band members were all in on it! What? Big Killa had given us a clue earlier…

Performers!

NO! This was a performance art piece! All along, it was a statement! The gun, the legend of Big Killa shooting people…it was all a show! How could I not have known?

“Someday this barrel might be pointed at YOU! Not the barrel of a GUN, but the barrel of accountability, responsibility, for the loss of aspirations, the dream of reparations…”

That’s when, to my utter shock and horror, the black helmet-clad SWAT team members of the NYPD burst in through the doors of the underground club, cutting through the stunned onlookers with their AR-15s as they advanced on the stage, shouting for everyone to get down get down.

Big Killa, staying true to himself and to his message, stood defiantly on the edge of the stage. With his outstretched arm, he pointed that gun at the cops, at us all, as if an accusatory finger…

…and we all looked on in horror, as the American tragedy repeated once again.

Shot By Baker: May Pow Pow

Mina wall boob grab

Ahegao: The Overwhelming Urge to Cum
Photographer: @shotbybaker
Model: @maypowpow

The female orgasm is the holy grail of sexual experience. Women’s partners have sought it out for as long as we know, worshiped it and tried every combination of rubbing, touching, licking, and sucking to behold its magic that some describe as a momentous earthquake of tension release that sends waves of ecstasy from the solar plexus to every part of the body and lasts several moments, leaving the woman to resemble a starfish having a heart attack, depleted of all energy and yet… satisfied. All a woman can do in that state simply just experience it.

Mina chair_3

Have you ever observed your partners facial expression when she starts to reach that moment when the sudden but slow warming sensation starts in the centre of her body, spreading like waves caused by a casual yet romantic wind as it extends throughout her body increasing in intensity? Did you notice her protruding tongue, flushed cheeks, and crossed eyes that roll so far back into her head that all you can see is the crescent of an iris? This expression, or better put, loss of musculoskeletal control of facial organs, in the erotic world is referred to as ahegao… the overwhelming urge to cum.

Mina ahegao on chair

Ahegao, a term created by men but embraced by women.

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According to experts in the Manga and Asian Studies, the original purpose of ahegao was to exaggerate the orgasmic facial expression to show that the character is receiving an orgasm beyond normative notions of pleasure.

Mina bedside ahegao 6 copy

There are three things that make for a memorable ahegao face:

  1. Her mouth must be wide open and her tongue should dangle out.
  2. Various bodily liquids are to emerge from her face, ranging from tears, drool, sweat and even snot
  3. Her eyes must be rolled back so far that the pupils are barely visible.

Mina_Ahegao 1

There are those who find this act to be sexist and degrading, but there is a growing female community who have taken deliberate strides to achieve the ahegao expression in modern adult films stars and cam girls. In so doing, they merely accentuate the natural loss of facial control inherent in the orgasm, emphasizing how these women experience the overwhelming pleasure.

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For the HST community, in this shoot featuring the captivating Japanese model, May Pow Pow, we aimed to mimic and pay homage to the historical ahegao expression that has emerged in the Western world in recent times. Enjoy!

https://onlyfans.com/maypowpow

Donna Dallas

A Bullet Was Best

We thought she was off since
that time the shower ran and ran
and we came to find her
sitting propped up doll-like
a burnt down cig smoldering
on the edge of the sink

She’d shit in the shower
she was coherent
then somewhat later that year
her legs gave
they were well covered
as her track marks were

We didn’t notice her ankles
swollen like tree trunks
purpled to almost black
a vein burst into a firework
of mini blood clots
causing a stroke

In December she went missing
we found her sprawled out
on a door step
she was catatonic
wheelchair pushed to the curb
next to a garbage can
someone placed a bag
on the seat of it

We wheeled her
oozing
drooling
leaning
bag of a body home

We were happy with her
her wheelchair
her stamps that we used
to pay for milk and cereal
she couldn’t keep track
of them anyhow
and we were always so hungry
as long as she made it
home we were ok

June came
her veins so weak and polluted
she asked us to search
the back of her neck
we stared in sickened silence
yet she always found
a new vein
hidden
in the dry crevices
of her once lovely
curvy
bouncy
body

The following December
she went missing again
we searched frantically
it started to snow
endless velvety flakes
enormous and wondrous
walking in them felt magical
and surreal
the snow persisted
with heavy drifts

The teenager in the apartment
next door
found her wheelchair
near the steps that led
to the building’s rooftop

How in God’s name
did she ever manage to get up there
the effort she put into this

We still talk about it decades later
think always the same
a bullet was best

There’d been a loaded gun in the drawer
from some crazed boyfriend
who felt a single mother
with four kids
should have some kind of protection
we never went near it

Why she threw herself off the roof
to plummet five stories
and lay for 38 hours blanketed
under a glorious winter wonderland
when the bullet would have been
so much easier

 

Originally published in Anti-Heroin Chic

Bogdan Dragos

how can you be such a monster?

he spent four weeks
away from his family
in a rented apartment
somewhere on
the outskirts
of town

he told them that
he needed this
he was a writer
needed to focus on his work
conducting his research
undistracted

his little girl would call
from time to time
asking daddy to hold his
phone against his forehead
while she made a kissing sound
on the other line

very wholesome
except he lied about
holding the phone
against his forehead

“How can you be
such a monster?”
asked the naked prostitute
sitting on the edge of his bed

“Shut up,” he said
tossed his phone on the desk
and unbuckled

Nick Watts

Death, Dating, and Donuts

To be honest, I like being dead.

It took awhile for me to get to that point. I mean I ate my wife, my dog, and my son Georgie, who was only two years old. I hated myself, wanted to kill myself, but for some reason I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I wondered what that meant. Wondered if I was a bad person.

The stench of my rotting flesh was what helped to distract my mind from thinking of what I had done. But every time I opened the fridge, there she was: Julie, my wife. Leftovers.

The smell and taste of her flesh was exquisite. I couldn’t help myself. She tasted as sweet now as she had before. Her toes were the last of her. After that, she would be gone forever.

Tears turned into maddening laughter as I put her digits into my mouth. On top of everything else, now I was going insane. I took my 9mm beretta from the bedroom closet and put it to my head, but then I thought of getting into Heaven, and being with them again. If there was a heaven, I likely wasn’t getting in. And if I did, my family would probably not take me back. Would it even be considered suicide at this point?

I wasn’t a gun person, It was a gift from a buddy of mine, who had taken me too seriously when I told him over a course of a few beers that I needed one, in case of the “you know what” apocalypse. The irony; I couldn’t pull the trigger.

What kind of man was I? I ate my family and couldn’t pull the goddamn trigger. That must make me a bad person, right? A coward maybe? Or a monster. I was really starting to look the part.

I shambled the streets outside in hopes a sniper; defending his house, would put a bullet through my head. No luck, the living had moved on. All that was left of the neighborhood was us dead folks. We became a community. We held classes to help us walk normally again, to stop drooling blood on to ourselves and to stop moaning. There were speech classes to help us talk again.

We all went to church and prayed. If there was no more room in hell, maybe heaven would have us. I started a band, we all became vegetarians; not that we had much choice outside of the random stray cat. And I wasn’t going to eat a pussy, well not that kind anyway. I liked cats, but loved dogs. But I couldn’t take in another; the heartbreak after eating my mutt kept me sure of that. And I wouldn’t want to put another animal at risk.

When I met Mary, I fell hard- harder than the time I slipped on my own bile and hit the kitchen floor so hard my eye popped out of its socket.

Mary was beautiful, despite the nose thing-she didn’t have one.

We walked the dead walk and talked. I asked about her family. She had no child, just a husband. He’d wanted to stay, but after she bit an ear off, he bolted.

Mary and I enjoyed meeting up at Thelma’s diner. Thelma made the best cherry pie.

Once my eye popped out and fell into Mary’s coffee. She took my hand and we laughed. She told me after all that had happened, and with our current state of affairs, that we needed to laugh. We laughed a lot. I felt I was betraying my wife, but rationalized that this betrayal was probably small potatoes when compared to the fact that I ate her. I told Mary I was married, and that I had killed my family.

Mary said that we must forgive ourselves and move on. She believed that we had a purpose. “Why else,” she told me, “would god keep us on earth? Why didn’t he let us pass on?”

She took my hand and placed it to her bosom. I felt a flutter between my legs. Hadn’t felt that in a long time- didn’t know it was still possible. She must have felt something too, because her nipples hardened and pressed against her blouse.

We looked around the diner to see if anyone had noticed. We smiled to ourselves and then raced back to my place. Well not exactly raced, but hurried along as quickly as possible.

Anyhow, we must have been going at it pretty hard, because I broke off inside her ass.

I had been so excited when we made it into the bedroom I stuck it in the wrong hole. She told me to leave it there, so I did. Her ass was tight and gave my cock a bear hug. I thought I would explode as soon as I entered, but maybe it was a zombie thing. It was hard to cum, even when I felt her vagina pressing back and forth against my balls. I took advantage of it though, as before I was always pretty quick on the release. I fucked Mary’s ass for a good hour before it happened.

We were both scared at first, not saying anything to one another. She turned to me and we both stared down at my cock nub, below it my balls swung free as if they were released into the wild-no longer weighed down. Mary was the first to crack up. I don’t know why, but I followed.

She pulled what once was attached to me out of her ass and slapped me in the face with it. It was strange that I now had no self esteem about my size when being slapped with it. It carried weight and wished I had used it to slap with before- before when it was still attached. I told her this and we laughed even harder.

Our laughter gained the attention of the dead outside. No one knew why, but the hardest thing to kick was the constant gatherings in the streets, under the moonlight.

They came to the bedroom window and stared through. We gave ‘em a show.

She slapped me in the face with my cock again. We took turns slapping each other in the face with it. It was pretty kinky. We noticed the crowd outside, rubbing and jerking themselves off. I thought about inviting them inside, but Mary told me we should practice distancing.

We used my severed penis in ways I could never have used it before. Mary took my cock and stuck it up my ass-which made me question my sexuality.

She shoved it in and out, which made me bleed. She then took my cock out of my bloodied asshole and made a place for it in my sock drawer. It didn’t matter having blood on my socks, I was constantly peeing and shitting down my leg anyhow. Lots of people used diapers to remedy this issue, but fuck, I still wanted to hold on to some form of dignity. We bowed to the audience assembled outside, then shut the curtains.

Sunday morning came and we repented for our sins. The church coffee was good, donuts were even better…

I love donuts, especially the ones with sprinkles on top.

John D Robinson

The Beauty & Obsession

It was the promise of fondling
a big pair of breasts that led me
to get arrested:
my father laughed his ass off
when I explained that she’d
given me an obviously
forged prescription to
present at the chemist
and that when I came
back with the goods, I’d
have ten minutes of
handling, sucking and
licking and caressing
and loving her lovely breasts:
he nodded, grinned and
then he said:
‘I would have done the
same’
we lifted our drinks:
‘To the beauty and the
obsession men
have with women’s
breasts’ he said:
we drank deep as his
wife looked on through
codeine smudged eyes,
shaking her head and
playfully cupping her
breasts as if
protecting them
like babies.

Hank Kirton

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

My lubricated thoughts take me back to the summer of 1994. I was living in a tent and riding my bike everywhere. I was attempting to be free, searching for the ineffable formula for existence. I lived like an amateur naturalist, seeing insects and plants as they really were, finally. I studied the dark little worlds under rocks and rotted logs. Salamanders and baby snakes. Creepy, trilobite-looking bugs. I hated those scurrying little motherfuckers. I would sit and stare at trembling leaves until multi-dimensional portals opened before my crying eyes. I read Lovecraft and Castaneda and believed them both.

I could walk to a small dairy farm on the outskirts of the woods and collect the psilocybe mushrooms that sprouted from the cow shit after a rain. I had to sneak over an electric fence and slither into the pasture like a jewel thief. I practically lived on those fucking mushrooms, man, for true. I had a Sterno stove and made all kinds of mushroom dishes. Whatever I could heat up in my lone pan. The secret ingredient in everything I cooked was always mushrooms. I relied on them but grew to hate them as they mutated my brain. It was like constantly moving through a miasma of gently twisting images. I had to learn to navigate through the hallucinations and dismiss the visions after I’d learned from them. I honestly believed I was entering a new phase of human evolution. I tripped myself silly for five shining psychoactive months.

There was this old drifter named Dan who would visit my camp to mooch food once in a while. He had a big white beard and lived in the woods too. He looked like John Muir. I told him that once and he nearly slapped me to death. Dan slept in a lean-to and was preoccupied with drinking himself to death. I offered him shrooms and he offered me vodka and we both said, “No.” We held to our personal poisons. Sometimes he drank so much he stopped making sense. He’d begin babbling incoherently. I didn’t mind because I was always tripping and he made perfect sense to my grasping, breathing, outer-space brain. He once told me he’d murdered his wife in 1958 and I had no reason to doubt him. Dan was scary. Being seen as a fugitive was an important part of his persona. He was a man running from a murderous past, drinking to damage the horrors of his memory.

When the frost fell in the fall I scurried back home to my family in New Orleans and then returned to the woods after the spring thaw. The first thing I did was look for old Dan. He had been bent on remaining through the winter. I found his lean-to had collapsed into a loose pile of logs. Dan wasn’t around. I never saw him again or learned what became of him.

I pitched my tent behind a stream and returned to fishing and foraging. I’d worked through the winter so I had a small sum of money for store-bought food and sundries. I also purchased a backpack. Things were working out well, especially after the season got hot and I started plucking mushrooms from manure again. I felt content, getting closer to the very Eye of the Universe.

And then it all came crashing down when I got arrested for trespassing, vagrancy and possession of a class-A drug. The first two charges were vague and arbitrary but they had me dead-to-rights on the possession charge. Damn mushrooms.

Varinia Rodriguez

The Princess Builds a Castle

The tarot reader says
“You need to be the princess”

I build a castle.

The hot dog man says
“Do not fall in love today.”

I build a moat.

You tell me
“You are stunning.”

I put barb wire around the tower
to see how far you climb.

When you reach me
I throw out my thighs
to distract you from all
the pain.

I pray against your hips
to ask me to slow down.

As you sleep,
I crawl out of bed to
ask the corner store clerk
“How to love again?”

He stares at me blankly
and hands me my cigarettes.

When you and I smoke them
I can’t brake my tongue
long enough for you
to catch your breath
to ask about my castle.

You left exhausted.
I’ve been exhausted.

Joe Surkiewicz

Breakfast Is the Most Important Meal of the Day

Bear slid into the booth opposite Ed—known far and wide as Ed the Head for his waist-length brown hair, tinged with gray, and his proclivity for drug dealing—and arranged a steaming mug of coffee and a gigantic cinnamon bun with white icing in front of him.

“They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” Bear said, unfolding a paper napkin.

Ed had no reply. He contemplated his cup of green tea and watched Bear dig into the plate-sized bun, warmed in the microwave behind the coffee shop’s front counter.

It was their morning ritual—and Ed was sick of it. Bear always with the coronary-inducing pastry, the inane comment about breakfast blah blah, the way he dug into the bun with a knife and fork.

Real men eat pastry with their hands.

“Do you have any idea how much fat is in that thing?”

Bear put down the utensils. “Thank you. Thank you very much,” he said. “I’m just trying to enjoy the one fucking meal of the day–”

“Heart surgeons are probably the ones pushing the myth that breakfast is so goddam important,” Ed said. “I can hear your arteries clogging from over here.”

Bear resumed eating. “Hear about Tommy Ford?”

“Tommy who?”

“Ford, like Chevy.”

“Don’t know him,” Ed said, and sipped his tea.

“Yes you do. Becca’s brother, skinny kid with a skin thing. His face.”

“Becca has a brother?”

“At the beach, he’d go in the water and you’d pilfer his wallet.”

“That asshole,” Ed said. “Did he drown?”

Bear made a face. “Cops beat the shit out of him. Traffic stop. Claimed he ran a red light. Tommy started to argue.”

“There you go.”

“What the fuck, ‘There you go,’” Bear said. “All he said was he didn’t run–”

“Where?”

“Merritt Boulevard, Dundalk, heading towards the steel mill,” Bear said. “Three in the fucking afternoon, broad daylight. Fucking cop pulled him out of the car and pistol whipped him. He’s in the hospital.”

“He’s not black, right?”

Bear rolled his eyes. “How the fuck could he be black if he’s Becca’s brother? Don’t tell me”—fork waving in the air—“coulda been adopted. You got an answer for everything.”

Ed leaned forward, hands in front, fingertips touching. “That dipshit Tommy Ford could piss off Mother Teresa. And he’s stupid enough to lip a cop, so I’m not feeling particularly sympathetic.”

“Just trying to make conversation,” Bear said.

Ed pulled his wallet out and looked. “Got any money?”

Bear stopped chewing. “It’s your turn. I’m broke.”

Ed put his wallet away and slid out of the booth. “Right back.”

Bear didn’t look up when a tray of dishes hit the floor, followed by a loud thump. From around the corner, near the counter.

Ed slid back in the booth and pulled out a wad of green. “How much tip?”

“I thought you were broke.”

Ed counted out six ones and shoved the wad in his pocket. “That enough?”

Bear slammed his fork and knife on the table. “You stickup our regular coffee shop and you’re gonna leave a tip?”

“Fuck you and the boat you came in on,” Ed snarled, scooping up the money. “I figured you’re on the side of the working stiff. Guess I figured wrong.”

“This probably a good time to leave,” Bear said.

“I think I hear a siren.”