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Dogcatcher

The crank key looks like the ones on old tin windup toys, except this one detaches when you’re done. Crane pops it out, and sets the ambulance chaser next to the dark red puddle (not on top; don’t want to gum up the jonnenry). It peels out with a whine, leaving a hot magnet stripe.

“You’re sure it’ll find him?” asks Dogcatcher. Crane’s silent. She tests a spearpoint. “I don’t like these gadgets. Still weather and an arm to twist… I mean, what are you charging for, if it does all the work?”

“We don’t win,” grunts Crane, “you don’t pay.”

Bollweevil

“Bollweevil?” gasps Salem, surprised and joyful.

Bollweevil screams raw and tries to get away. His legs aren’t working. He grabs a bench and scrambles.

“What a fortuitous encounter!” says Salem. He hooks fingers into Bollweevil’s nostrils and pulls up, and Bollweevil’s legs do work, then. Salem grabs his hair, then presses their lips together and puffs hot stale air.

Bollweevil’s unsure whose breath is worse.

“Say thank you.” Salem wipes his mouth.

“Thank you,” mutters Bollweevil. They’re the first words he’s been able to speak since Crane. “Thank you, thank you,” and he silently counts one-one. Two-two. Three-three.

Bollweevil

“Mister Crane!” manages Bollweevil, startled. “A delightful surprise! How–how long were…?”

“Been waiting,” says Crane quietly. Crane’s always quiet. “Saving up.”

“Yes, you’ve taken great advantage of our rollover–”

“Never liked you.” Crane moves closer. “Word-counting, extortion, this little basement tyranny.”

“Not another word, Crane,” says Bollweevil coldly. He brushes the shotgun under the desk.

“Been saving,” says Crane, and brings his arm up.

Bollweevil’s jerking at the gun, but the fistful of exclamation marks is already exploding around him: a thunder of percussive silences. There’s blood in his ears. Crane walks forward, smiling, and Bollweevil’s screams are soundless.

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