Monday, May 31, 2010

Plain Wrapper by Mary Long (Last Story for Round One: Trucker Slang)

He was drunk and feeling rational.

“Ssarge,” Joe said, slurring the “s” only slightly, “Ssarge, I gotta get outta this outfit.”

Sarge looked down at him, one eyebrow raised in an indifference that almost bordered curiosity.

“Joe, think about it; where are you going to go? You were made for this outfit. You were made for this job.”

Joe cleared his throat. His body swayed back and forth, back and forth. “I—,” he started, stopped, started again. “I need to do something else. You can’t expect me to do this job forever, Sir.”

“Can’t I,” Sarge said. “You’re an American hero, you know. At least, you were. Once.”

“That was a long time ago,” Joe said, a little sadly. “Now I’m just…”

“Just what, Soldier? Just another guy in uniform? That’s not enough for you anymore?”

The room reeked of vodka, sweat, and mothballs. He wished they could have met somewhere else.

“ I—I have another life. A light inside me, if you will.” Joe sounded ridiculous, but he kept going. “At night, I’m a performer. I get to be a whole other person. I go by Louisiana Bayou. I sing, mostly covers. I dance. The guys love it. I love it. I know you probably can’t understand what it’s like. To be under a spotlight, instead of under fire. To wear satin or sequins instead of fatigues. To drink umbrellaed drinks instead of stale canteen water. To be adored.”

“You were adored.”

“By you, once. I know. I remember. But you’ve moved on…” Joe stopped.

Sarge took a breath. “It couldn’t last forever,” he said. “Nothing does.”

“Please,” Joe said.

“It’s outta my hands now,” Sarge replied.

“But don’t you think…?”

Sarge couldn’t bring himself to give Joe hope, even though he hoped for him that one day, even if only for one day, Louisiana Bayou could live in the light.

“Ah, well,” Joe said in voice that had reestablished a position behind sandbags and barbed wire.

“Well,” Sarge replied. His head thumped dully, the dust feeling thick in his nose.

He took a last look at Joe, and then slid him back into his plain wrapper, and placed him back in the box, which he looked at the contents of for one moment longer before gentling on the lid.

Sarge staggered to the attic ladder and climbed slowly back down.

“Find anything you want, son?” his mother asked, coming around a corner in the hall, her arms heaped with neatly folded towels.

“Nah,” he said, wiping his brow with the back of his hand. “Give it all to Vi’s girls. What they don’t want, they can deal with getting rid of.”

“Okay, dear. Okay,” his mother said, a little concerned that her son was so clearly intoxicated this early in the day. “You want me to make you some lunch?”

“Nah,” he said, grabbing a towel off the top of her stack, and giving her cheek an earnest but dry kiss. “I’m gonna run a bath. Get the attic dust off me.”

“Okay, dear,” his mother said, thinking a long soak in the tub would do him good.

“Dad’s shaving kit in there?”

“Oh yes. Under the counter. Don’t cut yourself, now. That razor is sharp as dickens.”

“Dickens,” he said.

“Would you rather I swear?”

He thought about it. “No. Of course not, Mom. Gimme those towels. I’ll put them away,” he said, putting the towel he had previously taken back on top, then taking the entire stack out of her arms.

“Thank you,” she said.

“Well,” he said.

“Your bath. Right. I’ll see you in a little bit.” She smiled at her son.

“Sure.” He watched her walk down the hall, to the stairs that led down to the kitchen, to make the lunch that he had told her he didn’t want.

He put the stack of towels into the tidy, sage-scented linen closet. Took one, thought again, put it back.

He walked toward the bathroom, intent, again, on peeling away his own plain wrapper.


Mary Long swept down into our literary e-cave where we were rubbing our hands together like three Mr. Burns' and she took us to task on our mission. She challenged our virtues and inspired our souls. This is all we know about her.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Heading for a Hole by Cameron Ashley (Trucker Slang Late Entry)

The worst day of Gary McPhee’s life was the day they put Caroline Dwyer in the ground.

The worst day of Mark Bullock’s life was also the day they put Caroline Dwyer in the ground.

Caroline was many things to many men, but chief amongst these things was a good time. She was fair and young and spirited and blessed with skin as soft as warm satin, as any man who did as little as hold her hand will attest to. Gary and Mark fared better than most of her suitors. They were both quick-witted and handsome and free with whatever cash they had. They both courted her like serious, love-struck men, and they both felt stung by her rejections of their calls for monogamy. They each went out with her twenty-six times, and they each can tell you every single moment of every single date. Particularly the sexy parts.

Gary always figured the reason Caroline was never really his was Mark. Mark always figured it was Gary. To them both, every other guy that Caroline spent any time with was just a way for her to while away hours that would otherwise be spent staring at the television or into a bottle. The other guys were entertainment. Gary and Mark: they were serious prospects for her heart. That’s what they told themselves, at least.

Gary and Mark’s resentment for each other built slowly but bitterly over the years. It never boiled over nor got ugly, until that day Caroline’s coffin disappeared into the ground. Then there was shoving over who got to throw the first flower into the open grave. There was bickering and name-calling. There was good scotch at the wake, imbibed by Gary and Mark at such heroic levels that it caused a rapid melting of good sense, some epic trash talk and a flurry of thrown fists. The brawl spilled out of the funeral home and into the graveyard, where the two men, entwined, rolled over graves, tore each other’s finest suits, split each other’s lips and swelled each other’s eyes shut. By the time Caroline’s weeping mother and uncle separated the men, they looked like horror movie versions of themselves. It didn’t help that the local hospital was so full they were forced to share adjoining beds like skinny, hayseed versions of Rocky and Apollo, and tempers subsequently flared again.

Cooler heads remarkably prevailed, however, under the influence of strong pain medication and threats of jail time, and things took a turn to the philosophical. They discussed the nature of love and the meaning of their lives now that Caroline was gone and realized that the only reason they had left for living was one that was dark and old and as pure as the love they had felt for her – revenge.

And revenge, they realized, was a dish like tapas – best served with company.


Arnold Ketter stood behind the bar of The Butcher’s Arms, his hairy tattooed forearms folded across his beer gut.

“What are you two fucksticks doing here?”

Mark put a five dollar bill on the bar.

“We want some information.”

Arnold glared at the crumpled bill. He picked it up, un-crumpled it, blew his nose on it and stuffed it back into Mark’s top pocket.

“Heard you two dipshits busted up Caroline Dwyer’s funeral. Classy.”

Gary leaned over the bar. “Yeah, well, that’s in the past now. We’re here because we know Caroline was here the night she…the night it happened. We want to know who she was with.”

Arnold laughed so hard a button popped off the belly of his check shirt and into the beer glass of another barfly.

“Wait…wait…what is this? Super Nerd Team-Up? Go back to the fucking video store or wherever it is you work again.”

Gary worked at 7-11. Mark at Mini Mart. Brand rivalry was another source of conflict between the two in the past.

It is, at this point, that perhaps some physical descriptions are in order before we proceed. Mark and Gary were lithe but soft men, built for academia and other learned pursuits. Not combat. Never combat. The reason their graveyard tussle was so competitive was that they were so evenly matched in their physical uselessness. Arnold the barkeep, inversely, resembled a partially-shaved bear from some un-enlightened, communist hell-hole circus just itching for a chance to mete out some righteous violence on his captors.

Gary produced a twenty and slid it across the bar. Arnold glanced at it, unbuckled his XXXL jeans, picked up the twenty, stuck it down his ass-crack and removed sweat and rogue fecal matter from his butt-dreads with it. He rolled the bill into a ball, bounced it off Gary’s nose and buckled his pants.

“Take a hike, losers.”

The barfly with the button in his beer, sensing an epic forthcoming wave of blood-spatter, wisely moved to a table at the rear of The Arms. The move was a wise one, but not in the way he was expecting.

Under the counter at Mini Mart there once was a baseball bat and an illegally-procured .357 Magnum, the consequences of the possible use of which the store manager lacked the foresight to see. Mark had lifted both bat and gun during his first shift back at the convenience store following his hospital discharge. He’d given the gun to Gary, being mistrustful of firearms, and had sewn a ragged scabbard of sorts into the lining of the leather trenchcoat he now wore – you know the sort, the kind that only high-school spree killers or horribly inadequate, socially-maladjusted men wear when attempting to appear “cool.” This scabbard may have been ragged, but it was surprisingly functional and Mark drew his slugger forth smoothly.

Arnold stood, mouth agape.

“Fuck me. I wondered why you looked so hunchbacked.”

Ever since Caroline’s death, Mark had had re-occurring dreams of his beloved. Dressed only in a skimpy, diaphanous negligee, Caroline would beckon him into her bedroom. Getting there was like navigating some gothic maze designed by Freud, but get there he would, only to find her cold and dead to his touch. Each time, he contemplated doing the deed with her anyway, but would always awaken at that moment, sickened at the sight of his own hard-on.

It’s this image (Caroline as corpse, not his boner) that he held in his mind as he stared Arnold down and proceeded to beat the man-bear’s face in with his bat. They weren’t great swings, what with the puny arms doing the swinging and all, but they were enough to smash Arnold’s nose and send spurts of hot blood raining down on the bar.

Gary, gun drawn, leapt the bar whilst Mark chased the remaining patrons from The Butcher’s Arms with insane bellows and berserker swings of the bat. Gary proceeded to pistol-whip the ever-loving shit out of Arnold, who slumped back into some empty beer kegs. Gary also said some things at this point, the gist of which, stripping as much cliché from the dialogue as possible, was,

“Talk, you hairy fuck!”

Talk Arnold did, revealing that Caroline was indeed out at The Butcher’s Arms, in her lowest cut top, on the night of her death, with Deputy Charlie K. Cain.


Forensic digression:

Caroline Dwyer was found by the side of a lonely and bleak stretch of highway with nothing but ugly shrubbery and empty, dented beer cans for company. She was found by a passing motorist. Her autopsy revealed, aside from the obvious strangulation marks, a still-wrapped, Japanese-brand condom shoved into her pussy. She was not pregnant, for those thinking it, there was no signs of semen present, nor any other penetration aside from the digitally inserted rubber. Her stomach contained beer, bourbon, beer, more bourbon and some nacho cheese Combos.

Digression over. Now, onward with our tale.


Charlie K. Cain opened the door of his trailer with his Deputy hat on, a beer in one hand and the other stuffed down the front of his Batman boxer shorts.

“What the fuck do you two dweebs want?”

Mark conked Charlie on the head with the slugger. He and Gary stepped over Charlie’s unconscious body and entered the trailer.

A rapid ransacking of Charlie’s home followed whilst the man himself made weird unconscious-guy groans and snorts upon his filthy linoleum floor. The boys didn’t turn up a lot, until, as they helped themselves to Charlie’s beers, Gary scanned Charlie’s DVD collection. He discovered a fairly sick stash of Japanese pornography centered on substances best expelled from the body and then thoughtfully disposed of.

Next to this rather unsavory collection – pictures of Caroline Dwyer on the toilet.


Out in the woods, lit by the headlights of his own truck, Charlie, a knot on his head the size of a fist, kept on digging the hole. He paused for a moment, touched the lump on his head.

“Guys, come on. I didn’t do nothin’.”

Gary and Mark were pretty tipsy by this point. They looked at each other and swigged some more beer.

Mark belched loudly.

Gary said, “That hole there you’re digging? We’re putting you in it. We’re putting you in it unless you give us a reason not to. Why do you have pictures of Caroline on the toilet? Next to your collection of Asian shit-porn?”

Charlie’s shovel made an earthy chunk sound as he wedged it into the ground and leaned on it.

“She gave them to me.”


“Boys, you need to really, like, use those nerd-brains you’ve been squandering working at fucking 7-11.”

Mark belched again, “I work at Mini Mart.”

“Whatever. Who the fuck cares, okay? Did it look like I, uh, coerced Caroline into doing something she didn’t want to do? Did it?”

Gary and Mark shot each other a glance.

Charlie played with the handle of the shovel.

“You boys….you don’t. You don’t know how Caroline paid the bills, huh?”

Gary took a step forward, his grip on the gun clammy.

“She didn’t have a job. She lived with her mom and her uncle and…”

Charlie laughed. It was oddly high-pitched. Like a little girl being tickled.

“All Apple pie and church on Sundays, huh? Listen up, dipshits. Caroline sold certain….things online. Her dirty panties, her fingernail clippings, her used tampons, her shit. I, yeah, I bought a bunch of her turds and she sent me pictures of her laying that cable down. We decided to start meeting at The Butcher’s Arms because, well, fuck, why post it across town when you can just deliver it by hand? She liked the personal touch, that gal. I never, look I didn’t love her, I didn’t hurt her, but I didn’t love her either. Where’s my motivation to kill her? As you saw from my DVDs, my tastes generally run to the more…exotic. Look, I know it’s not like, the most wholesome of, uh, kinks, or whatever, but there’s no law against it and I should fucking know, as I am a fucking deputy of the law and you two obsessed geeks have assaulted and abducted an officer of the law and you are forcing him to dig his own –“

Gary fired the gun into the air, bringing conversation to a total, abrupt halt. He practically threw his shoulder out as the gun went off.

“So who did it?”

“How the fuck do I know? I was at home, sealing her poop into Tupperware and refrigerating it. You know, as vigilantes, you both suck. Didn’t you never read Batman? You need clues and you need deductive reasoning. You guys, you get a gun…from somewhere…and hear that I met up with her and go off on a rampage. This is not how bad guys get caught.”

Gary sat down on the ground. His ass immediately dampened upon contact with the wet grass.

“So what do we do? How do we catch the killer?”

Charlie smiled weakly.

“Sometimes, kid. Sometimes the killer just comes to you.”

Charlie pointed at a large figure coming through the scrub:


His busted nose made him look like a cubist portrait of himself. He clutched a roughly cut sawed-off. He scratched at poison ivy scrapes he’d managed to accrue whilst getting the drop on Mark and Gary. He smiled, put both hands on the shotgun and unloaded it.


Arnold gave Charlie shit about his Batman drawers, but it was all cool as far as Charlie was concerned; at least the big douchebag had showed. Arnold even apologized for dropping his name to Gary and Mark, but they were some psycho nerds, and he’d needed the breathing room.

They spent a few hours in shifts, widening and deepening the hole that Charlie had begun the excavation of and then rolled Mark and Gary into it. Then they filled it and pissed upon it. They shook hands and went their separate ways, a pact made to go straight home and delete from their hard drives the snuff movie they’d made for some rich Japanese pervert that Charlie swapped DVDs with.


Cameron Ashley is the co-editor of CRIME FACTORY, which can be found here: . He'd like to thank, and we would too, Jimmy Callaway for threatening him with physical violence if he didn’t finish this.

"Heading for a Hole," in trucker speak, means heading for a place with poor reception. Who would've thought it didn't mean terrible, violent death?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Round 2

Title Fighters,

Starting June 1st, Title Fights will be taking Round 2 submissions. The title theme is “Twitter Posts from Famous People.” People like Tracy Morgan, Barack Obama, Oprah, Conan O’Brien, Lady Gaga and many more. (It would be more apt to call this one “Small, Interesting Bits of Otherwise Incredibly Mundane Twitter Posts from Famous People Taken Totally Out of Context,” but that just doesn’t ring right, ya know?)

Anyway, if you want a title, email us at

Come join the fight!

-Title Fights

Monday, May 3, 2010

Well, ahem.

That concludes our regularly scheduled broadcasting. However, we will be posting late submissions throughout the month if you'd still like to send them in. We'd like to thank everyone who said they'd participate, for that early spring of hope, but not as much as the two badasses who actually did participate - and how. Both Josh and Jimmy got us off to a great start by bringing their pro game to this wily upstart.

We will be announcing/taking names for Round 2 pretty soon - here and on the Facebook. Feel free to e-mail us anytime at for a title for the upcoming round.

Thank you,

Title Fights

Baby Bear by Josh Converse

For his own safety, the police led him out. Jeers erupted from the stands.

“Way to go, asshole!”

“You fuckin’ idiot!”

“G’wan! Get the fuck outta here!”

Beer and ice and peanuts and Cracker Jack rained down as he descended the staircase. At the bottom, a camera swung in his direction. The spotlight blinded him. He held his jacket in front of his face. Everything sank.

A drunk took a swing at him. Event security wrapped the man up.

“You stupid fuck!”

A cop leaned in, grinning.

“How’s it feel to be a celebrity?”

Not so good.


Communications stopped. Ajza slept in the van for three nights.

The first night, no word. That meant they had Yuri.

Nothing the second night, either. They had Sergei.

Night three, nothing. They had everyone.

Everyone but her.

She drove the Econoline out at three in the morning. In back, Baby Bear slept. Ajza came to complete stops at intersections, signaled turns and lane changes, took curves at posted speed. By the time the sun went down again, she was in Cincinnati.

Good a place as any.

The self-storage facility took assumed names and cash. Ajza dropped a grand on the counter, enough to cover three years’ fees. She watched the clerk. He never even looked up at her.

She put Baby Bear at the back of the storage unit, covered her in blankets.

Ajza put her identification and cellphone in the glove box and torched the van on the bank of the Ohio River.

The sun came up. She went out looking for a new life.


The years went by.


“There’s somebody I want you to meet.”

Steve set his ham on rye down on its wrapper. Gordon was peering at him over the top of the Tribune. Sylvia from sales walked into the break room clutching her empty Cubs mug and stopped short. Recognizing it would just be her and Gordon and him, she spun around and walked out.

“Meet?” Steve said.

“She’s new,” Gordon said, lifting the paper up again. “Helps out Lannie in HR. Her name’s Andrea. Hot little number. European, I think. Maybe Russian?”

Eyes rolling, Steve grabbed his sandwich and took another bite.

“I asked her about you,” Gordon said.

Sandwich down. “Asked her what about me?”

“Y’know, like what does she think of you?”

Steve’s lips tightened into a frown. “Why would she think anything of me?”

Gordon leafed a page over. “She doesn’t. Doesn’t know a thing about you.”

Steve digested this last comment.


Gordon peeked over top of the Tribune again and smiled.


“Comin’ through! Watch your asses,” Harvey barked. “Pardon me, Miss.”

The woman seated at the end of row eight pulled her knees up without taking her eyes off the field. Harvey and the clan McCoy slid past.

“It was that seat, right fuckin’ there. Aisle four, row eight, seat…” Harvey bent down. “One eleven!” He mussed his son’s hair. “Your gonna be two seats away from the biggest goddamned disgrace this city has ever seen, Ernie. And believe me, it’s seen plenty, heh.”

Cynthia grimaced. She covered young Ernie’s ears. “Harvey, language.”

Harvey’s face twisted up. “Langu—we’re in the fuckin’ grandstands, lighten up! Hey, pal.” Harvey nudged the man sitting in the one of the seats behind them. “Did shithead come up here yet?”

The man shook his head. “Not yet. Somebody said not ‘til the eighth.”

Harvey chuckled and pointed at his son. “Kid’s first trip to the fuckin’ park.”

“Well, he picked a heck of a night.”

Harvey pulled his camera from his pocket. “Alright, hop up there, Ern.”

Ernie straddled over seat 112. The next seat, 113, was covered completely with stickers. Just as he was about to plant his foot on it, a voice boomed out from the end of the aisle.

“Sir! You’re gonna have to keep that seat clear.”

Harvey looked back. It was event security. “Whaddya mean?”

“Just what I said. Keep the kid outta that seat, or we’ll have to toss you outta here.”

Ernie got down immediately. He pulled the bill of his cap down to hide his eyes. Harvey pulled him close and yelled at the guard. “That’s nice, asshole! You wanna get my kid upset?”

Cynthia grabbed Harvey’s arm. “Harvey, please just sit down.”

“Guy’s a fuckin’ asshole.” Harvey lifted Ernie up onto seat 111 and then sat down himself.

Soriano popped one up into shallow right. One down.


“Got a minute, chief?”

“Yeah, Wilson,” the Director groaned as he leaned back in his seat.

Wilson placed a manila folder in front of the Director, who picked it up and thumbed it through. There were some photos of a man and a woman, arm in arm.

“Those faces ring a bell at all?”

The Director frowned and snapped up his reading glasses. He tilted his head back and rotated his chair for better light. “The fella does. I don’t recognize the woman.”

“Remember ’02? The Chechen hostage thing?”


“After that thing goes down all the spooks go nuts running background on all those dead gunmen, seeing if they’re connected to any of our rivals in the sand. This broad comes up. Sister to one of the gunmen.”


“She’s no separatist revolutionary, though. Opposite, actually. Lives in Moscow, kind of a nightclub girl. Half a whore, really.” Wilson reached across the desk and flipped the folder open to a recon close-up of a buzzcut heavy in a turtleneck. “She gets hooked up with this guy—Sergei. Russian mob muscle.”


“I don’t know. I’m not up on all that Russian mob shit. But that photo came out of the Reed/Creedmore file, from around the same time.”

The Director sighed. “Here we go…”

“I know, follow me. So, Ajza’s brother dies with all the other gunmen.”

The Director shook his head with vigor. “You know, Reed and Creedmore spent three years looking for those goddamned things, and never brought me back anything but a goddmaned migraine.”

“I know. But hang on--”

“That’s why those two are gone, you know. Those goddamned things are a goddamned urban legend. If I showed you the goddamned dollar figure--”

“I know, but listen.” Wilson leaned forward, and spoke in a whisper. “This appears to overlap with Operation Knuckleball.”

“Operation Knuckleball?”

“Do you…know anything about something called Operation Knuckleball?”

“I’ve never heard of anything called Operation Knuckleball. How is it that you’ve heard of something called Operation Knuckleball and I haven’t?”

“I haven’t heard of anything called Operation Knuckleball, either.”

The Director nodded. “You shouldn’t ask me questions about things that you don’t know to exist, Wilson. And you certainly shouldn’t be asking me questions about things that I don’t know to exist.”

“Understood, sir.”

The Director frowned and slapped the folder shut. “Glad one of us does.”


“Dad, what’s a knuckleball?”

Harvey was on the edge of his seat, intently watching as Soto stepped into the box to face Haeger. “It’s a kind of slow pitch. Not many guys throw it.”

“Why do they throw a slow pitch?”

Harvey squinted. “It’s real hard to hit.”

Cynthia smiled, thumbing through another Nicholas Sparks book.

“If it’s so hard to hit, then why doesn’t everybody throw it?”

“It’s also real hard to throw and real hard to catch.”

“How come?”

“Because it doesn’t spin, so the air hits it funny. So it can go right or left or up or down. So a perfect knuckleball can drift out of the strike zone or bounce off the plate and then the catcher flubs it, or it can hang in the air and get knocked right out of the park. Mainly, nobody teaches it anymore.”

“So why would anybody throw it?”

“Because so few guys throw it, not many batters are ready for it.”

“Oh,” Ernie said. He fidgeted with his scorecard, rolling it and unrolling it. “Can I have some of your beer?”

Harvey looked down at his son, and his belly shook with laughter. “Sure, kid. Heh. Drink up.”


“C’mon. Bottom’s up, sweetie.”

Misty pushed the shot glass away. Cuervo spilled on her naked thigh. “I think…I think I’m wasted, Ron.”

The phone rang from Ron’s pants, hanging over the chair in the corner. “Fuck,” he said, putting the bottle and salt shaker on the end table. Misty clawed after him as he jumped out of bed.

“Come back here.”

Ron fished the phone out of his pants pocket. It was Wilson. “Not ‘til you down that shot.”

Misty bared her teeth in mock ferocity and then tossed her shot back.

He answered. “Creedmore here. Hey. Yeah, I’m alone.”

She wrapped herself in the bedsheet and shuffled off to the bathroom. The room tilted and lurched with every step. She caught her balance near the door, taking a moment to familiarize herself with the fire exits in the building. Then with a sudden lunge followed by a fortuitous stagger, she found herself facing her reflection in the toilet water, an image she immediately decimated with an explosion of vomit.

She felt better as she came back into the room, clutching the bed sheet to her mouth. Then she saw Ron seated on the edge of the bed, lighting a cigarette, looking rattled.

“Ever see a bad car wreck happen?” he said, staring straight ahead.

She sat next to him. He didn’t seem to notice. “I saw a semi flip over a median once during the winter.”

“Did you see it coming? Did you see things lining up, and then it happened? Or did it just happen?”

Misty moaned and tipped over backwards onto the bed. “I just puked.”

“I used to be able to make things happen. And see them coming.”

“You’re bumming out, Ron. I think I’m gonna go.”

“Used to be I could get a wiretap in two seconds if I really wanted to. Now I couldn’t get a black n’ white to drive by my house if I had Bin Laden trapped in my goddamned freezer.”

Misty got up and started fishing around the floor for her clothes. “The road was super icy. The wind where I’m from is crazy. Where’s my suitcase? Anyways, I saw the back wheels of the trailer drifting back and forth, and then the car up ahead slammed on the brakes, and then, you know, liftoff.”

“Where are you going?”

She pulled a pink tank top over her head and checked herself in the mirror above the dresser. She sighed. “I used to be able to make things happen, too.”

Ron flipped on the TV. A baseball game was on. “You should drink some water if you’re feeling sick. Must be dehydrated.”

Misty moved in front of the screen. “I don’t care what you used to be able to do, Ron. It’s like, what can you do now, you know?”

He stared through her. “Sorry I’m bumming you out, Misty.”

She started crisscrossing the room, tossing things around. “Where’s my fucking suitcase?”

Ron grabbed her forearm as she walked by.

“That’s enough talk about suitcases.”


“Suitcases…suitcases…suitcases…” Clay was cycling through it again, rocking back and forth in his seat. The sun shone bright into the activity room. Outside, an orderly chased another one of the loonies across the courtyard.

Gordon shook his head and put his shades on. “Always fun to come down and spend time with you, Clay.”


“Exactly,” Gordon smiled. “Got laid off last week. You hear about that?”


“Probably don’t get so many updates in here.”


Gordon rolled his eyes to the ceiling. “Got any other places you can recommend me to, Clay? Any other hot prospects? That whole real estate market thing really didn’t work out that great.”


“Duly noted. Don’t worry about it. Probably take some time for myself, anyways. Maybe take a cruise or a safari or something.”

The orderly from the yard walked past. Gordon flagged him down.

“Hey, brother. That T.V. come on during visiting hours?”

He shrugged. “Name’s Dwayne. Sometimes. Why?”


Gordon lowered his voice. “Is it possible to turn on a ballgame? I don’t mean to be all McMurphy or anything.”

Dwayne snorted out half a laugh. He grabbed the remote from under the pile of very evenly shredded napkins that Mrs. Winters was working on. “They can watch baseball, man. Who’s playing?”

“Dodgers at Cubs.”


“Oh, that’s right. That’s tonight?””

“Want to catch that seventh inning stretch. It was in the sixth when I came in here. Should be a hell of a scene.”

Dwayne flipped the TV on and scrolled through the guide. “There it is. Hey, there he is! Hell, I can’t believe they let him in the gate.”

“I used to work with that guy. You believe that?”


“No shit. And he’s gonna sing ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame,’ right?”

“Yeah, for his birthday. There’s Andrea. I introduced them to each other. Jesus, it’s been years.”

Clay sat up straight in his seat, pointed at the screen. “SUITCASES!”

“Easy, Mr. Reed. Do we need to see the nurse?” Dwayne said. He put a hand on Clay’s shoulder and looked back up at the screen. “They look miserable. Like they’re at a funeral or something.”


Gordon shrugged. “Probably know they’re about to get booed out of the park.”


Ernie watched the man come to the window of the press box overlooking Wrigley. He was holding a microphone in his hand. His father jumped up and started booing the second he came into view. A lot of other people did, too.

A voice echoed through the stadium. “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome back to Wrigley Field, Chicago’s own Steve Bartman.”

The place went nuts. Ernie had to cover his ears. He could feel the floor shake. His dad nearly stepped on him, screaming.

“Get the fuck outta here!”

Ernie’s mom was seated, covering her ears. The man with the microphone was leaning out the window. He was saying something, but it was impossible to hear.

The two seats next to Ernie were still empty. Ernie stepped over so he could stand on the seats without his dad knocking him over.

People were starting to throw things down onto the field. A big plastic beer bottle went flying overhead. Ernie ducked and covered and jumped down off the seat, but he landed funny and found himself stuck to a drying puddle of soda. His dad went on yelling, shaking his fists.

As Ernie started to get up, he noticed something wedged under seat 113, the seat two down from his. The one with the stickers all over it.

He got up and yanked at the hem of his dad’s shirt. Dad didn’t notice.

Ernie tapped his mother on the knee. He tried to tell her, but that noise, jeez.

His mom leaned forward. “What, honey?” she shouted.

Ernie tried again. His mother shook her head again. Ernie crawled up on the seat and got his mouth right up next to her ear.

“I said somebody left a suitcase under that seat.”


Ajza leaned against the wall outside the press box, clutching her cellphone. The song had ended. The booing had not.

It didn’t matter. Baby Bear was in position. A phone call away.

The door to the press box opened. A man led Steve out into the hall. He was pale, sweaty. He took off his glasses and rubbed his nose.

Steve looked up and saw Ajza waiting. “They hate me, Andrea. They still hate me. What do I have to do? I don’t understand.”

Ajza wrapped her arms around his waist. This was not the first time she had heard these questions over the past couple of years. She patted the back of his head with her left hand, kept control of the phone with her right.

“To hell with them, sweetie.”

Steve pulled back and looked into those deep blues eyes and smiled. “Hell with ‘em.”

Ajza pushed pound.


Josh Converse is all over the Web. I found out a lot of useful information at:

Baby Bear, as far as Trucker Slang goes, means Young Cop or Cop in Training. Anywhere you see/hear 'bear' it apparently means 'cop' like how 'Beaver' always means woman, so, yes - a Baby Beaver Bear is a distinct possibility.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

T.R. Switch by Jimmy Callaway

If life is short, then the short con is the only one that makes any sense. The long con involves a lotta p’s: planning, preparation, partners. There may be a bigger pay-off, but it’s also a bigger pain-in-the-ass.

The Transmitter-Receiver Switch, also known as the T.R. Switch or the Mississippi Switch, is your basic reliable short con. Here’s what you do:

Take your bum paycheck from your shit job down to the liquor store and cash it. Banks leave a paper and/or computer trail for the family courts; Sam’s Liquor takes only 2% of your meager earnings. Ask for twenties mostly, but make sure you have at least one single.

Go to 7-Eleven. Or AM/PM, or Circle K, or some sorta chain like that. Your mom-and-pop joints are a little quicker on the up-take generally, but these convenience stores are mostly staffed by people who don’t even care enough about themselves to get a better job, much less any shenanigans you may be up to.

Walk into the 7-Eleven (or what-have-you). Smile, but don’t beam. Don’t avoid eye contact, but don’t make it if you don’t have to. Basically, don’t be so inconspicuous that you become conspicuous.

Make your selection. A bottle of Sprite. A coffee. A Snickers bar. Nothing over two bucks. Try and keep the clerk’s back to you. If the candy’s in front of the register, go back to the soda cooler, for example.

Go to the counter. When the clerk rings you up, hand him/her a twenty.

As he/she is counting back your change, interrupt and say, “Hey, where is the nearest McDonald’s?” Or Burger King, or Blockbuster Video, or wherever. Try and make it someplace you actually know, behind where the cashier is facing.

Without realizing it, most people will turn and look in the direction they want you to go: “Oh, there’s one down Main, over near blah blah blah.”

Meanwhile, take the dollar bill in your pocket and switch it with the ten you’ve just been handed. If you’ve just gotten two fives, you can give that a shot, but a ten will work much better. This switch is crucial, obviously, and fluidity is the key here. So more relevant p’s: practice, practice, practice. Stand in front of the dirty bathroom mirror in your rathole apartment and practice until you’ve fooled your own eye.

Interrupt the clerk and say, “Hey, you gave me the wrong change.”

The clerk will look confused, apologize, and replace the one with another ten.

Thank the clerk and leave. Enjoy your soda or candy bar. Or just throw it out down the block.

Repeat as necessary.

About once every five times, you’ll get a clerk who’s wise to this, a clerk who knows he/she gave you the right change. When this happens, try playing the indignation card—“What, do you wanna search my pockets?” But this usually only works once every ten times or so.

Best thing to do in a case like this is to concede defeat: “Okay, man, you got me.” Smile at him/her, maybe wink, and then quickly (but not hurriedly) get the hell out of there. Not only is it simply right that you acquiesce the victory to the clerk, but also by catering to his/her ego, you lower the chances of him/her calling for a manager or a cop.

Once you’ve killed the afternoon doing this all over town, go to the grocery store and buy diapers, formula, baby food, what-have-you. Pay the full price and get a receipt. This will make it more difficult for the family courts to prove that you are reneging on your child support, even if you haven’t made a full payment for months. It also makes it more difficult for the mother of your only child to snort said child support up her nose.

Visit with your only child for the time allotted to you by the family courts. Make nice with the visitation supervisor. Repeat as necessary.

And that’s about it. You ought to be able to adapt these basics to your own style and then be able to play with the variants from there. But above all, remember:

Life is short. The shortest con of them all.


Jimmy Callaway is officially the first author to contribute to Title Fights with no affiliation to SMSU. Jimmy Callaway is awesome.

A T.R. Switch is, actually, a Transmit / Receive switch found primarily on older CB radios.

They're Comin' In

We'll start posting the Trucker Slang Stories tomorrow.

No need to type out the excitement, it's implicit.