New Pulp Press

"Bullets, Booze and Bastards"

Sample story from Into The Ocean

Brett stomps holes in the mud. He kicks downed branches out of his way. His hammer is in his hand, held to his side. Flies and mosquitos are buzzing around him, getting in his eyes and his ears, fueling his rage even more. His skin is sticky with sweat and grime left over from his workday.
The Jersey swamp weather is one more thing that reminds him of his childhood, how his father would complain about it and say it made him feel like he was in the tropics instead of the northeast. There’s the Turnpike too, and the constant buzz of traffic and horns, the industrial smells. There’s the fence topped with razor wire at the edge of the wooded park. And ten feet in front of him, tripping on roots and occasionally running full speed into trees, there’s the bloodied teenage boy trying to escape.
Carved into the wooden handle of Brett’s hammer, towards the top, are the initials “J.B.” Towards the bottom, on the same side, are the initials “B.B.” The hammer’s held so tightly in his hands that his fingers are pink. He uses the tool during the day for work, fixing things. He uses it at night to fix people.
The kid falls again and looks behind him at Brett who’s approaching patiently like he’s a masked villain from a slasher movie. Brett finds satisfaction in his terror. The look on the kid’s face tells him that it’s working. It usually does.
Edging closer now, Brett’s only a few steps away. The kid has flopped on his back and is trying to get as far away as possible. He’s kicking his feet and mud is flying everywhere, some of it into his own mouth. His Rutgers football T-shirt has mud on it. Brett can see the team logo illuminated in the dark by lights from the Turnpike and remembers hearing how the kid is some star athlete, that he has already been picked up for college ball. Now is the perfect time to teach him how to act, before he gets too out of control, too big to handle even for Brett.
There’s a trickle of blood running down from the kid’s mouth to his chin. He must have cut himself on a tree branch or hit his face on something when he fell. There’s a thick red cut in the middle of his lip that makes Brett think of the scar on his own face. It’s a pink strip of bumpy flesh that starts at his right cheekbone and works its way straight down to the top of his jaw line. During the day, and in most of his interactions with people, Brett’s so conscious of the scar. He worries that people are staring at it, mocking him to themselves. But during these activities, whether he’s alone or with Nate, he doesn’t try to hide it. He uses the tool on his face given to him by the past to build their fear. They should be afraid of him, he wants the scar to say. They should be afraid of the consequences of their actions.
“Who are you?” the kid says. His adult body would have anyone believe he’s on the manhood side of puberty, but the cracking of his voice says there’s still growing left to do. There’s a tree behind him that he backs into. Nowhere to run to, baby. Nowhere to hide.
Brett takes slow motion steps forward, attempting to make the kid so afraid he’s on the brink of passing out. But Brett’s not going to let him. A message needs to get across.
“I’m what happens when you fuck with people,” says Brett. He deliberately deepens his voice, makes it gravely. “Now I want you to tell me where the pictures are at.”
Squinting his eyes, the kid says, in his shaking leaf voice, ”W…what pictures?” He shakes his head so hard it looks ready to spin around on his neck. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, man.”
A crow squawks loudly on a tree branch and the kid looks up, startled. Brett keeps his eyes in front of him. On the Turnpike, nearby, a tractor-trailer rides over the rumble strip. The kid tries to kick him in the crotch but Brett catches his

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