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The Crookedness of Being


Darren Speegle

My piss fled back into my organ. At the foot of the wall opposite, on the ground, lay a body--a woman. I stepped over, knowing she was dead, turned away at the sight of the dark fluid that surrounded her, so much of it the scent forced its way up my nostrils. She'd been shot.

Sometimes the strangest part about being there is being there. That was damn well the case that night in ‘The Whaler’ as I sipped my hard Scotch and wondered how many years it had been since I'd had a genuine ‘déjà vu’. The feeling had hit me the moment I walked in out of the December night, and hung with me well after I was obliged to answer the ‘Whuddya have’? of the embittered bartender, who wanted nothing better than to have the greasy glass in front of me so he wouldn't have to think about my patch of counter again for awhile. Not that he had a booming business tonight. It was Christmas Eve, and only the most pathetic of us were out.

Christmas Eve. It was why I was here, actually. My regular haunts were closed-as any self-respecting dive should have been-so I'd come down Waterfront to see what was about. Now common sense says that a man who enjoys his meagre existence does his best to stay away from the Waterfront. I wish I'd had some of that, instead of the blues, that Friday night couple years back, wish I'd had even a snifter of that. Cause I was ripe for the undoing the moment I first stepped foot in that godforsaken hole. Goddamn all of us, I say, but bring us home again when you're finished, old man.

‘Deja’-everloving-’vu’. Can you believe that? I think drink or age or both takes away our ability to tap into the recesses, you know, into the deeper. Oh hell, I was never much for philosophy. Fact was, if I hadn't been here before, I'd damn sure as hell dreamed I had, and the whiskey glass and the tinkle of ice and the lazy drone of Bang Crosby through the cheap speaker boxes, dreaming his own dreams, White Christmases my ass. When you're married to your misery, and the Scotch on ice, all the Christmases are the same dull shade of bleak. Take it from me, folks.

Six customers besides myself, three at the bar, three at tables, all isolated, each cupping his or her drink as if it were the last, or better yet, some mind-opening eggnog surprise, with the secrets of the cosmos spinning in its milky depths. Occasionally we looked at each other wondering what the other was thinking, what the other was doing here, if the other were drifting on that same wave of ‘déjà vu’. I remembered clearly remembering that before. You'd think I would have known better than to get up and saunter over to the nearest of my lonely cousins at the bar.

"May I sit?" I said, and hoped my expression elaborated, ‘Is it really an intrusion when it has already happened’?

"Not at all." Coldly.

I offered her a drink, which she accepted, the bartender refreshed her glass, frowning, and we were old friends now, chestnuts and snugly blankets.

"They call me Jock," I said apologetically.


"Miriam is really nice."

I would have sworn I'd said it before.

"I'm not Miriam," she said.


"Oh, never mind. Never mind, Jock."

What was I supposed to say now? I'm not Jock? This isn't the Whaler? We are not on the Waterfront?

She pointed at the wall, a fishnet, wheel and anchor adorning the aged wood.

"My father was a fisherman. But you know that, I guess."

‘I remember your telling me’.

Perhaps I had been drunk. "Yes, of course, Miriam. I mean."

She smiled sort of a crooked smile, a humourless smile.

The bartender was passing. "The bathroom?" I requested.

"Out of order."

"Out of order? But this is a bar."

"Go out back." And moved on. To nowhere.

I glanced over my shoulder at a door in the back of the place, metal affair, emergency bar. It appeared to be ajar. No bells, no alarms, good.

I told the lady I'd be back and fired up a Winston as I parted with the stool, dragging deeply as you might, worrying a lot, wishing it weren't Christmas. Wishing the feeling would go.

The door was waiting for me, heavy, plodding on its works. A wall came into view. The seedy side of the city and its alleyways.

I stepped over by a big dumpster, unzipped, freed the thing, and as men are prone to do, looked around, whistling. My piss fled back into my organ. At the foot of the wall opposite, on the ground, lay a body--a woman. I stepped over, knowing she was dead, turned away at the sight of the dark fluid that surrounded her, so much of it the scent forced its way up my nostrils. She'd been shot. In the head, in the face, the rest was hidden to me. She was belly-down in the alley, long fox coat spread about her like a blanket, its fur saturated.

I backed all the way to the door, which I had left ajar, slipped inside, that feeling of ‘déjà vu’ so strong now I might have myself scripted the events of the night.

I didn't wait till I was seated. "John--Whiskey John!"

The bartender was not pleased. He'd offered his handle as a matter of routine only.

"But she's dead," I said, gesturing backwards with my thumb.

"Who is dead?"

"Miriam," said the lady.

I turned towards the lady. She was so very familiar, I felt as if we were both from another planet, and everyone else, the vignette of a Christmas Eve on the Waterfront. Funny, none of them were in the least bit concerned about my proclamation of death. Perhaps they hadn't heard.

"There is a woman lying back there in the alley with her brains blown out. Does that concern any of you?"

The bartender pointed at me hard. "You are really beginning to fuck up the peace."

I was nearly dumbstruck. "Fuck. Fuck up the peace?!"

"Fuck up the fucking peace, yes."

"There is-"

"Yeah, yeah, a woman with her brains blown out. I'm sure we've never seen ‘that’ before. Look, if it's what you're worrying about, I can get you another fur. How'd you like that, Wanda?"

She looked straight at me. "I think that's up to Jock." As she twirled the hem of her synthetic with the nose of her revolver.


A resident of Germany, Darren Speegle's work has been published, or accepted for publication, by various magazines, including CHIAROSCURO, 5_TROPE, WRITER ONLINE, DARK MUSE, BLUE MURDER, FUTURES, INFERNAL and REDSINE. A collection of his short stories titled "That Old World Gothic" is now available from RENAISSANCE E BOOKS. Darren may be contacted at

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