A Piece of Good Luck

Tracy Cross

1st place winner of The Accent Prize

 

        

            Hugh and Floyd sat in the dive bar, drinking. They were excited to be out of prison, but happy was not how they felt about their new living arrangements. It seemed that while they were going in and out of prison, time had moved forward and things had changed. Perpetrators of violent crimes were sent to specific sections of the country and locked behind walls and gates called Quads. There were eight Quads; the higher the number, the richer the Quad. Middle-class people lived in Quads 5 & 6; the rich lived 7 & 8. The criminal Quads2 and 3were filled with abandoned warehouses that had been converted to apartments. Some warehouses were the only businesses in the Quad assembly lines. Within the Quad, each person was given a small efficiency apartment to live in, which consisted of a bed, night table, one light bulb, one lamp, and a kitchenette. Everything else they needed was gotten on a barter system at the weekend markets.

            Once every few months, there was an opportunity to earn extra money: a race through their Quad. Winners became police officersif they made it through to the end. If a racer was able to capture a competitor alive, they would receive credits. Credits allowed them to buy goods or to have nicer things sent from other Quads, like better food or nicer clothes. Buying nice things was also dangerous because people robbed each other in the streets. Delivered packages were always stolen.

###

            Hugh and Floyd always had a way with bad luck. Before the Quads, they had lived near each other in the countryside. They were the "bad boys" mothers warned their children about: stealing cars, smoking weed, drinking and hanging out with the bad girls from a town or two over. By the time they graduated from high school, they’d spent most of their free time locked up or sent off to juvenile centers. They earned half their diplomas "on the road," as they would describe with a hearty laugh. They would escape the juvenile centers, come back to what they knew, and would pick up where they had left off. 

###

            Hugh’d left, hoping to find employment in the big city. He had no luck finding a job, except as a handyman of sorts. He lived in the worst part of the city, in a rundown hellhole and tried not to commit crime; but the rent was due. Working as a handyman in exchange for a portion of rent was his saving grace; also, being the only handyman in town didn't hurt his opportunity. However, eventually, there was nothing for it: needing to pay his rent, he robbed a convenience store. 

###

            "Hey Hugh! Remember that botched bank robbery years ago that you did?  Man, when I heard about that madness, I was almost committed to the looney bin for laughing for days." Floyd tossed the remainder of his beer back and beckoned the bartender for another.

            "Man, looking back, it was not funny then, but now that we're older...yeah, I could see how funny it was shooting myself in the foot, having the getaway driver leave me and have the dye packs explode as I walked out of the bank. Yeah, that's real funny." Hugh tapped the counter acerbically before the bartender walked away. His mug was refilled. The bartender left the pitcher.

            "Hey, Floyd, whatever happened to that drug you made...HPF?"

            "The drug I made? I called it HNFP: Hugh and Floyd Productions? Even when you were locked up, I thought of you." Hugh turned to Floyd and jokingly pointed a finger in his face. "Well, those were the days of making some of the best stuff ever. Now, this synthetic crap they’re making these days has nothing on my stuff."

            "All right," Hugh leveled his hands and turned back to the bar, "Come off the soapbox, man. They make what they can with what's available."

            "I guess." Floyd sighed, "Anyway, I was making insane loot and no one knew my formula, but it was inevitable that some chem grad would figure it out. And when they did, their stuff was so pure, like manna from heaven! My stuff became the crap stuff, so I switched and ran drugs for the new guys. And even after being a drug runner for those shits, they still set me up."

            "Sucks, man," Hugh shook his head, "really sucks."

            "Heeeeyyyy, this guy got a life sentence, beat that! Technicalities got me out. Then, I was put in this shithole 'Quad.' I had no clue what a Quad was."  

            They nursed their watered-down beer at the long, stained bar. The bartender flung a towel over his shoulder, walked over to the television and turned up the volume, "Hey, check this out!"

            "Good news for the residents of Quad Three! Edward "The Sphinx" Maccoli made a successful run through 'The Gauntlet' and is now an Official Police Officer. He made it through Quad Three with Christina Vasquez of Quad Four and..." the voice continued as pictures of the new recruits flashed across the screen.

            "Sphinx! That’s Joey Maccoli's kid! Is he a cop now? Damn, I taught that kid everything he knows. But look at his face: looks like it was smashed into a brick wall." They both paused and looked at the T.V. "Well, with a man 'inside,' maybe we won't get jacked as much. You know, things will get easier."

            “Things will be easier!" a voice yelled from across the room.

            "Yup, shoulda thought of that before you tried to kill him. 'Sphinx' don't forget a face," another voice yelled.

###

            Floyd and Hugh looked at each other, paid their tab, and left. They walked out of the basement bar and up the stairs to Hugh's apartment.  Hugh opened the door and flipped on the light.  Floyd's apartment was across the hall from Hugh's.  

            "I can't believe it. I taught that kid everything he knows." Hugh sighed as he flipped on a lamp. He’d managed to procure some nice artwork and a plant for his apartment. He also had a small table and two chairs next to the window; he’d made them while he was in prison. It was the one set of things he kept when he was released. He walked over, sat down and shuffled a deck of cards on the table.

            "Hey, bud, you look lower than a bowlegged toad, what gives?" Floyd asked as he sat across from him, "Maybe that kid will come to town and remember you and help you out or something."

            "Doubt it. What we need is a piece of good luck, like a four-leaf clover or something."

            "What we gonna do with a piece of good luck? We are two old guys from a past that doesn't exist. We lucky to have these crap shacks the 'benevolent government' has given us."

            "No, man, look, we get us some good luck and maybe we can get out of here and move into one of the nicer Quads." Hugh walked over to the sink and turned on the tap, "Water?"

            Floyd shook his head.

            "Look, all I'm saying is things are bound to change for us. We are due." Hugh tossed his water back.

            Floyd scratched at his graying stubble, "Like a genie’s lamp or somethin'?"

            "I'm thinking bigger!"

            "Two four-leaf clovers?"

            "Don't be a dick, Floyd. The bigger, the betterand the more luck! Okay, so imagine something with a lot of good luck symbols on it." Hugh held his hands up for emphasis, "We can pull it out, rub it and ba-boom, we got good luck! I'm telling you, I'm so sure we are gonna get lucky that I put in an application to move Quads. I've been checking in with my parole officer and I did some community work with the delinquents here; all good things. All I need to do is get this one piece of good luck and I'm moving on up!" Hugh spoke with a twinkle in his eye.

            Floyd sat back and rubbed his stubble, "Sounds like you've got a plan and you've been working it." He pushed back from the table. "We can talk about it tomorrow. I gotta get some sleep; work tomorrow at the factory. I'll see you at the bar at about six? We can talk about luck."

            "Uh, I may be a little late tomorrow. I'm gonna go for that luck and I just feel once it's in my hands, I'll get the letter moving me to a better Quad. Things will change for me, you'll see. Man, I'm going places."  Hugh clapped his hands and stood, saying, "Things are about to change for this old man."

            "Good night, 'Lucky.'" Floyd walked over to the door, "Just remember me when ya get it and don't be disappointed if you don't."

            "Yeah, yeah."  Floyd heard Hugh lock the door behind him as he left.

###

            Floyd worked the assembly line on one side of one of the nondescript warehouses in the Quad. His job was simple: some days he sorted things like circuit boards or bolts, some days he drilled. He never knew where the things he was working on would go but he was glad to have work.

            He met Hugh for lunch. They both carried the standard issue metal lunch boxes or they could eat the standard lunch from the cafeteria: cold cut sandwiches, an apple, milk and a bag of chips. They joked the food they were fed at the warehouse was the same in prison. They never ate the standard-issue lunch.

            Floyd looked around, "You ever wonder where that meat comes from?"

            "Oh no, not the 'soylent green' business again!" Hugh laughed.

            "It's always the same every day. It's a good population control technique." Floyd swirled his ramen in his thermos, "So, Hugh, I've been thinking about this luck. What's the deal?"

            "Lean in," Hugh whispered, "it's gonna blow your mind."

            "Dude, as long as no one gets hurt, I got your back. You know this, right?"  Floyd slurped some of his ramen broth from the thermos he bought from home.

            "Look at where we live, man. Felons, thugs, rapists; do you think any life is worth anything in this Quad? As soon as one of us kicks the bucket, their apartment is emptied, scrubbed clean and set up for the next person, okay?

            "Remember how there was a library here years ago? Folks got too smart and started breaking out; faking IDs to get into other Quads, or making bombs. The powers that be in the Eighth Quad decided it was enough and the library was gone. We are meant to rot here. That's why I'm getting that luck! I'm not going to just live and die here, like nobody." Hugh sat back in his chair and nodded at Floyd.

            "Do what you think is right. Just…no one should get hurt in your quest, Lancelot." Floyd slowly stood and gave him a pat him on the back.

            There was an announcement for an extra four-hour shift. Hugh and Floyd looked at each other.

            "Guess I'll see you at the bar in four hours," Floyd laughed.

            Hugh gave him two thumbs up and walked away.    

###

            If he had not promised Hugh to meet later, Floyd would have gone home and passed out.  His body was too old to continue working twelve-hour shifts, but he enjoyed getting the paychecks.

            He punched out and joined the drones as they left the warehouse, each heading down their separate paths. Tonight was particularly loud: there were lots of street workers for pay, lots of gambling, and in some alleys there were robberies. Floyd held his lunchbox handle and strolled past the women, down the streets with the crumbling warehouses with signs that promised new apartments or new places of employment. He laughed to himself; the signs were so old, they were yellowing and falling off. There were sounds of kids playing among the rubble of bombed out warehouses. He never saw them; only heard them, like they were ghosts of the past. He walked by the enclosed areas where the gardens were kept by the gardeners.  There was always one living in the shack on the land with a shotgun leveled at anyone that tried to climb over the gate. Floyd remembered turning them down when they asked him to join; he didn't have as much of a green thumb as he thought.

            Surprisingly, some streetlights were lit as he neared the central area of town where most of the shops and bars were, and the Quad looked alive. He checked his watch; it was almost seven. He had a few minutes to run up to his apartment to get a quick shower and leave his lunchbox. As he strolled inside the building, there were old mailboxes along the wall. He ascended the steps and heard a few televisions blasting, babies screaming and ran into a few kids playing in the hall. Ironically, he'd never seen the kids outside the apartment building. Once, he had spoken to one of the mothers and she had told him that it was simply not safe for them to go out. 

            "Good evening, Mr. Floyd." A little snaggle-toothed girl with two pigtails walked up to him and sang as he put his key in the lock.

            "Look, Cindy Lou, don't try to rip me off today. I'll give you a piece if you leave me alone. Next time your ma wants money, have her come get it from me." He laughed and flicked a silver coin in the air.

            "My name's not Cindy Lou; it's Rebecca." She tossed over her shoulder as she caught the coin.

            He made it inside as he heard the little girl's footsteps race down the hall and another door slammed shut. He had to stop giving his money away like that. "They will all look at me as some idiot donor. I'm not rich." He laughed as he took his clothes off and jumped in the shower.

            He bounded down the stairs and headed to the bar to wait for Hugh. He held his finger up for one beer. The bartender limped over with a glass, "Evening sir, where's your friend?"

            "Late, I guess." Floyd looked around and didn't see Hugh. "Just one tonight, Damon. I think he should be here any minute."

            "Sure, Mr. Floyd." Damon wore a white apron and had a heavy Irish accent. He also had a pronounced limp. When he returned with the beer, Floyd asked him how he ended up here in the Quads.

            "Well," he leaned back and wiped his hands with a towel, "Everything was fine with me wife and such. Kids were grown and off to school, ya know. The wife asked if her mum could stay in the extra room we had. I wanted wifey happy, so I agreed. But I'll tell ya', damned if her mum didn't ride my ass everyday about any and everything. 'Dayyy-mon' is how she said me name, 'Oye need...' and it just went on. I mean, I tried to talk to her but I may as well ha been whistlin jigs to a milestone. So, one day, the wife goes ta work and I'm alone with this old bag. She asked me for one simple thing; I can't remember and I walks out to the yard, gets me favorite axe, come in and chop her up. I had her buried and the house cleaned before the wife came home and oh was she a mess when I told her. But let me tell ya' boy, she looked relieved, she did. There was a twinkle in her eye and she smiled a little before she called the coppers. Visited me ev'ry day in prison too until she died some years later. Rest her soul."

            Hugh stormed in like a tornado and pulled up a stool next to Floyd, "Aye, one for me Damon. How's it goin'?"

            "Slow and steady, sir. Was just chatting with yer bud here. I'll get that beer for ya." Damon limped away as Floyd whispered, "I like Damon and his Irish accent. The other bartender, I don't like as much." Floyd took a huge gulp of his beer.

            "So, I found it." Hugh leaned in, "and I wanna show it to you." Hugh took a swig of beer from the glass Damon set down.

            "What'd you find? This piece of luck?" Floyd finished his beer and took out a few bills to pay for it.

            "Yep, and we're going to see it tonight. Right now," Hugh turned up his glass and poured the beer down his throat, "after I finish my beer of course."  He put the glass on the bar and left a few bills, "Let's go."

            As they left, they saw "Sphinx" on T.V. talking about how rewarding it was being a police officer after his rough childhood and hard work.  Everyone in the bar applauded except Hugh. He was headed straight for the door. Floyd felt his muscles ache as he tried to catch up with his friend. Hugh led them down a street and around the complex maze of warehouses to a tattoo shop. The shop was above ground and well lit; it occupied one of the nicer locations in the warehouses. Hugh opened the doors and a friendly girl with a high black Mohawk and golden brown skin walked over; her arms covered in tattoos.

            "What's the good good, Hugh?" She smiled behind the counter. She wore black leather pants, biker boots and a black shirt that stopped above her pierced navel. She had perfect white teeth and a happy demeanor for a girl living and working in such a bad place.

            "Hey, Terra! This is my friend, Floyd. He's my best buddy; we've been buds forever."  Hugh took off his green baseball cap and rubbed his salt-and-pepper hair with his dirty tanned hand.

            "Are we still talking about 'luck'?" She smiled, put her elbows on the counter and cupped her face in her hands.

            Floyd noticed the tattoos covered her body; excluding her face, "So, uh, what's all them tattoos stand for?"

            "Well, my left arm," she extended, "is like all the evil and bad I've done. See, here's a gun-held up a liquor store, some dudes I beat up-those are the Day of the Dead faces with the mouths stitched: snitches," she snorted. "Some chick I didn't like, so I took care of her: the doll with the sewed up mouth.  But this, this one is my favorite: my spider web on my elbow. If you know what that means, well, you wouldn't want to mess with me outside these walls, you know?"  She winked.

            "What's the spider web on the elbow mean?" Floyd leaned in closer to look at her arm.

            "Mmmm," she hummed, "I killed someone in prison. But don't tell them that, I could lose my job."  She laughed.

            Floyd pulled back, intrigued, "But the other arm, what's that all about?"

            "See, with everything that is good, there is bad and vice versa. These tattoos on my right arm are my good luck symbols. For every bad tattoo representing my past, I got a good one representing my future: like the Buddha, his hands, some Tibetan script, koi swimming upstream and my favorite that my boy just finished, a hamsa on my inner arm with the warning eye. It's for protection and good luck."  She held her arm out and outlined it for them.

            "So all this good luck negates the bad luck and bad things you've done?" Floyd asked as he tilted his head to look closer at her tattoos.

            "You could say. I mean I'm trying to bank on some good karma as well; good deeds and all that. Hey, Hugh, decide on some ink yet? I'm always ready to get started."

            A tall white guy lumbered up behind her and smacked her on the butt. His face was a series of ridges and tattoos. His arms were as thick as baseball bats and covered with tattoos; he had the same spiderweb on his elbow like Terra. He shot a quick glance at Floyd and Hugh. He grunted and stood next to Terra, "You gents lookin fer something particular?"

            "I think we found it. Terra, have a great night." Hugh smiled and backed out the door, followed by Floyd.

###

            They walked along in silence until they got to Floyd's apartment. 

            "So, ah," Floyd began, "We are getting all sleeved up for luck? This is your idea of good luck? I think I'll take my chances with a rabbit's foot or something. Besides, I tried to get some tattoos in prison and almost had my arm amputated because they got infected. India ink and a needle, my ass."

            "You just don't see it, do you?" Hugh held his head down and laughed, "We ain't getting' tattoos. We takin' 'em."

            Floyd's eyes were noticeably larger than they’d been a second ago. "Wait, what?"  He thought for a moment, "No, not what I think. We could....we could...man, I just..."

            "Pal, let me show you something, over here in my place. I've finished it today, worked on it for a while."

            They walked across the hall to Hugh's place. Hugh flipped the light switch, "Bathroom." He pointed.

            Floyd walked into the bathroom. It was covered in plastic drop cloths, "We're taking that chick's arm and we're gonna skin it. See, I've read about how these Japanese people sold their fully tattooed skin after they died; like willed it to someone. It was treated like a prized possession. So, when they died, it was part of the will for them to be skinned and the skin was sold and preserved. It's a black market thing now, but it got so popular theythe Japanesewere making offers to bikers, here in the US; or what was the US. Now, we steal that chick’s arm and skin it. How else are we gonna get that much good luck?"

            "You can't be serious."

            Hugh pulled a chainsaw from behind the curtain in the bathtub, "Did you think I was joking? I told you, man, one way or another, I'm getting out of here." He laughed and started the chainsaw. "Purrs like a kitten."

            "Really? You are going to take some girl’s arm?  That has to be the stupidest thing I've heard!  Think about it; I mean, what are you going to do, whip out her arm when you're buying a lottery ticket and start rubbing it?  This is some serious shit, man!  I do not want to have someone looking to exact justice on me in this Quad. Lives here are worth nothing.  But you do that and your life will be less than nothing.  You may even be moved into a worse Quad, and I don't think you'd survive there at all."

            "So, now you don't support me in my endeavor?"

            "Why would I support murder? Sure, her tatts were cool. Sure, she was a nice-looking girl who wouldn't give an old man like me the time of day, but this is wrong. Besides, did you see ol' boy standing behind her? He looks like he eats guys like us for breakfast, lunch and dinner!"

            "Meh, I'm not worried about him. I just need to get her alone and get it done. So, again, I'm asking if you are going to support me in my endeavor of acquiring some good luck." Hugh stood up straight, lifted his chin and crossed his arms.

            They stood face to face. Hugh firmly held his ground. Floyd sighed and shook his head. He stepped out of the bathroom, "Good luck with that."

            He only saw Hugh one more time.

###

            Floyd sat in the bar after another shift at the factory, days after he’d tried to convince Hugh he was wrong. The idea was ludicrous, but every time he knocked on his door to talk about it, Hugh either wasn't home or didn't answer. He couldn't find him at work. Eventually, he gave up trying.

            After a few hours of T.V. and small talk with Damon and the other patrons, he settled his tab and walked home. He went inside, flopped on the couch and turned on his new, very small, black market, black and white T.V. to watch the news. He decided that he would watch until he fell asleep. At the sight of Hugh's face, Floyd sat up and leaned forward to turn up the volume. He managed to hear the word ‘murder.’ He sat up and focused on the screen. Even though they lived in one of the worst Quads, there were reporters from the richer Quads that would sneak in and film footage, just to show the world how awful the people in the poorer and more dangerous Quads were. The hope was to abolish all of the dangerous Quads because the rich were running out of space in theirs. 

            Hugh's face was on the screen and there was a voice-over. They spoke about the murder; they’d managed to get into the apartment the night of the murder and had filmed it.

            There was blood all over the bathroom. There was Terra, one of her arms handcuffed to the shower curtain rod. Her legs were spread and cuffed to something unseen. She had on her leather pants and black shirt. The only odd thing, excluding the blood all over the walls and floor, was her missing right arm. There was a bone and some muscle in the bathtub and Floyd heard the word, "Skinned." He shook his head and mumbled beneath his breath that he couldn’t believe that his friend had actually gone through with a plan so macabre. He sat up, put his head in his hands, and shook his head: “I can’t believe he was that desperate. He actually did it. Damn, Hugh.” 

            He thought back to that last night he had seen his friend. It all began with a banging on his door. He looked through the peephole and saw Hugh, grinning. He peeled the door open and began to speak before Hugh cut him off.

            "I did it! And I bought something over for you!" Hugh looked antsy as he pushed his way into Floyd's apartment. 

            "Man, is that why you weren't at work today? You didn't do it, did you?" Floyd closed the door as Hugh giddily paced around with a small, folded item in his hand. He looked at Hugh's shoes and saw that they were covered with blood. He felt his stomach drop and his skin lost all color.

            "I can't believe you did it." He felt as though someone punched him in the stomach. Hugh had the eyes of a madman.

            "This is for you." Hugh held the small folded item out and motioned to Floyd. Floyd stood by the door and slowly locked it. "Come closer," Hugh beckoned.

            Floyd stepped back. Hugh lumbered over to him and pushed it in his hands. Floyd slowly opened the layers of plastic and tissue paper. Inside was something small and very oily.

            Hugh nodded with approval, like a mad scientist. "Luck will change tomorrow! I promise you that! I told you I would do it!" He walked around in circles, tapping his fingers together. "I gotta get back, and it's all still fresh. Gotta start saving it, preserving it. Not a lot of books on preserving this type of thing, but I think I got it figured."

            Just like that, Hugh was out the door.

###

            Living in such a dangerous Quad, justice was handled internally: no court or trial. For Hugh, justice meant two fully tattooed guys with baseball bats kicking in his door a few days later. Floyd heard a loud boom as they kicked Hugh’s door in. One of them was the bald guy from the tattoo studio.  There was a big brown-skinned guy, covered in tattoos, bald and stocky and wearing sunglasses. who stood in front of Hugh's door. The big guy had to sense something because he held his finger up and shook it very slowly from side to side, saying "No" toward Floyd's peephole. Floyd nervously stepped back, his heartbeat so hard in his chest; he was sure the stocky guy heard it.

            He walked to his sink and grabbed a bottled water. He ripped it open and drank it. Part of the problem with these old buildings was that some of the apartments were soundproof and some weren't. Hugh lived in an apartment covered with brick walls, so any sound coming from within was muffled. Floyd dropped the empty bottle when he heard noises in the hallway. He ran over and peeked out the peephole and saw Hugh trying to run.  Someone grabbed him from behind and Hugh held onto Floyd’s door frame with all the strength he had as someone yanked him away. The door closed, and then there wasn't any more sound.

            Ironically, the guy at the door pulled out a bottle of cleaning solution and a towel. He sprayed and wiped the bloody fingerprints off the door frame. He put the bottle on the floor and folded the bloody towel and put it in his pocket. 

            Floyd sat on the couch in a daze. He heard thumping sounds and knew things were not going in Hugh’s favor. Petrified, he looked out the peephole to see women standing outside the door. Once the other guys left, the big guy at the door nodded and they rushed inside with their elbow-length gloves and plastic suits to clean the apartment. The next day, the local news reporters asked Floyd and his neighbors if they knew what had happened in the apartment.            

            Later, they broadcasted the footage, "We have obtained exclusive footage from inside the killer's apartment. We believe he was practicing some type of voodoo ritual..."

###

            A knock at his door snapped him out of his thoughts. Floyd walked over and looked out the peephole. There was a man in a suit. He nervously looked around as the two very-armed police officers stepped back and blocked the hall with their stature. The knock was persistent. Where was his good for nothing lawyer now?

            "Yes?"

            "Sir, would you please open up? It's of a personal nature."

            "What kinda nature?"  Floyd asked.

            "A monetary nature. Now please, open the door or these two lovely officers will kick the door in. Trust me, sir, I don't want to be out here as much as you don't want me out here broadcasting your news to your neighbors."

            Floyd undid the chains and opened the door. The man fixed his tie and walked in. One officer stood at the door and another came inside and closed the door. The man in the suit walked over to the table in Floyd's apartment and sat down. He was sweating profusely and had a nasty comb-over. His suit was a work of art: brown and polyester. Floyd thought the suit looked like something his father wore. The man smoothed his hair down, took a deep breath, and pulled out a folder. He opened it and put a pen on the papers. He motioned for Floyd to sit down.

            "Sir, Mr...ah..." The man shuffled the papers, looking for a name.

            "Floyd. Just Floyd."

            "Yes, then...ah, Mr. Floyd, I'm not sure if you knew, but you were the prime beneficiary of a Mr. Hughefort Neville. Please sign these documents and I will have the credits transferred to your account immediately. Because of your exemplary behavior and high work ethic, we are offering you a one-time transfer to the edges of Quad 5. It's a lower-middle-class place, but there is a small house on the edge, near the perimeter fence that needs to be fixed up. A person like you doesn't deserve to be in here. You've paid your debt to society. And, to be frank, you're old; who are you really going to harm?" The officer laughed a bit.

            "What about work?" Floyd looked at the paperwork and put the pen down.

            "I'm not sure you saw the insurance amount." The man's tone changed; he lowered his voice. "You don't need to work anymore. You can spend your last years in peace, living on that small plot of land, fixing up the shithouse in a halfway-decent Quad, or you can stay here with your credits and get robbed or killed. The choice is yours. News like this travels fast in these parts. You know, with you not opening the door, and all."

            Floyd looked at the paper. He hadn't seen that many zeroes in a while. He laughed a bit and signed as the man pointed to certain spots on the papers. He also had to initial here and here and here. When he was done, he put the pen down and asked, "When do I move?"

            "The officer will be stationed outside your door tonight. There will be two more downstairs, so we can move you whenever you are ready." The man looked over the paperwork, stacked the pages together neatly, and put them in a briefcase. He pulled out a device and clicked a few buttons, "Money is in your account. I'd like to thank you for your time, Mr...Floyd. I imagine you don't have a lot of belongings. Hopefully, you can leave tonight.  Remember, word travels fast around here. Have a great night." He stood and extended his hand.

            Floyd shook it and the man was out the door. The officer stood outside and asked Floyd if he knew when he would be ready to go.

            "I need about a half hour, is that okay?"

            The officer nodded and Floyd closed the door.

###

            Floyd exhaled.  For the first time, he smiled. What luck! He was getting out! He walked into his bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed. He opened the nightstand and pulled out his Bible. Inside was something wrapped in plastic; he pulled it out and peeled the plastic open. It was the hamsa from Terra's arm. "I don't know if this works: if Hugh was onto something, or maybe it was just my time. Either way, thanks for the luck, baby.  Tomorrow's gonna be a better day."

            He wrapped the tattoo and put it back in the Bible, grabbed his bag from beneath his bed, and packed his few belongings.

 

 

Check Out OUR interview with Tracy Cross.

 


Tracy Cross has a degree in Photography from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. She chose photography because stick figure reproductions were not a viable career. Inspired by Richard Matheson’s short story, “Blood Son,” she began writing short stories as a teen. Her other literary inspirations include: Charles Beaumont, Rod Serling, Matt Haig and, of course, Richard Matheson. She loves to write short stories about dystopias, the supernatural, and thrillers. One of her stories, “the crossroads demon” was published in Devolution Z Magazine. She self-published her book, Sonder, on Amazon in July 2016. Tracy has also had work published in the anthology, Summer Shorts. She was recently rewarded the Accent Prize 2016 held by Boston Accent Lit. An active participant in National Novel Writer’s Month, she has just completed her second book, monachopsis.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio she moved to Washington, DC in 2006. She works as a Technician for DC Public Library, where she hoards thrillers and graphic novels. When she isn’t writing after midnight, Tracy enjoys cooking food with lots of butter, comic book debates, and going on misadventures planned by her daughter. She also has a penchant for memorizing movies like Aliens and Excalibur, along with the rest of her family.