In the men’s room of a bar called Sonny’s Quail worked the soap tap and looked up and found a boy he’d killed back East regarding him bloodied and sneering from the mirror.  Quail heard himself make a thin anguished sound, half whimper, half groan.  When he turned no one was there.

“To think this was a border town,” an old man said.  Four stools down he hunched over his beer, shook his head sadly.  How far we have fallen.  Quail uncaring but welcoming other voice supposed Secession times.  No.

“Not them you mean,” the old man said.  “Mormon times is what they was.  Laid claim to everthin’ here‒” he gestured vaguely‒  “allaway out to the Coast.  Called it Deseret.  Bigger’n Alaska.  Wouldn’t do, a course.  They was war for awhile.  You won’t hear that on your Histry Channel.  Shame they couldn’t hold it.  This’d be a port a call.”

“How you figure?” Quail said.

“Last booze ‘til the beach,” the old man said.  He laughed rattly and emphysemic and a coughing fit wracked him.  Quail looked for the barkeep.

They sat on a crumbling loading dock where no trucks had come in years.  In Quail’s lap three nights’ lodging pissed away on a bottle bought dear from the barkeep.  Maybe four.  Fuck it.  Warm this cold from my bones.  Numb me number.  The boy persisted.

“They’ll find me,” he said.  “I’ll wash up on some sandbar.  All swole up an’ shit.”  He coughed and spat.  “First one comes lookin’, I got me a new ride.”

Quail supposing he understood what must be inferred from this snorted.   “Bullshit.  You’re a fuckup and you fucked up and died.”

The boy showed him a sidelong smirk.  “Wonder what I’m doin’ here then?”

“Not much,” Quail said.  He drank some whiskey.  Too little left.  He capped the bottle carefully.  Stood, swayed a little.  “You’re shit,” he said.  “You’re shit I stepped in and I’m tired a lookin’ back at you.  Layin’ awake nights tryin’ to think what else I coulda done.  You piece a fuckin’ shit.  I’d do it again.”

He was standing over the old man.  Wet boozer’s eyes wide with simple honest fear.  Cowering and flinching.  What had he done.  Quail stepped back, heart thudding.  “I’m sorry.  I thought–” He waved aimlessly.  Shook his head.  The night wheeled.

The old man was eying him warily.  Could he rise and flee he would.  Quail turned away, thrust bottle into pocket.  Stumbled down steps.  Around a corner.  Glass crunching underfoot.  Was this dark the way?  Emboldened by his flight the old man called after him.  Something about an angry spirit.  I was you I wouldn’t let it have no more whiskey.


Mark Reep is an artist, writer, and editor of Ramshackle Review ( His work has appeared in numerous online and print publications including American Art Collector, Endicott Journal, Word Riot, Prick of the Spindle, Blue Fifth Review, Metazen, A-Minor, Moon Milk Review, Smash Cake, Used Furniture Review. Visit his website ( and blog (


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