Washed in the Blood ~ A Short Story

Agnus by Konstantin Korobov
Washed in the Blood
~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp ~

He heard a car out front. Who could it be? He wasn’t used to impromptu visitors. He tried to see out the separation in the curtain, but all he saw was the sun glaring off a white car. It was probably nobody, just somebody looking for the way back to the main highway.

When the urgent knock came at the door, his heart jumped inside his chest. He didn’t want to answer, but he was standing just a few feet away, so he felt compelled to answer. When he opened the door he saw a large, pink-faced man standing there smiling at him.

“Yes?” he said, looking around the edge of the door like a frightened mouse.

“Mr. Whitson?” the large man said.

“Yes.”

“Mr. Wolfram Whitson?”

“Yes?”

“I’m Reverend Rayford Kennerly. I’m the pastor at your mother’s church.”

“Yes?”

“I was wondering if I might have a little talk with you.”

“What about?”

“I promise you it won’t take long. If you’re busy, I can come back tomorrow or the day after.”

“No, it’s all right.”

“Might I come in?”

He stood back and let the large man enter the house. They looked at each other awkwardly and then Wolfram pointed to the couch, indicating it as a suitable place for the reverend to sit.

“What was it you wanted to talk to me about?” Wolfram asked, sitting in the chair across from the couch.

“I wanted to express my condolences at the passing of your mother.”

“That was a month ago,” Wolfram said.

“I know, and I apologize for not making the call sooner.”

“What can I do for you?”

“I wanted to ask if there was anything I might do for you.”

“Like what? Dig a hole in the back yard?”

The reverend laughed when he saw that Wolfram was making a joke. “That’s not quite what I meant,” he said. “I meant more of a spiritual nature.”

“No, there isn’t anything,” Wolfram said. “I’m fine.”

“Are you aware that we now offer grief counseling at the church?”

Grief counseling? What’s that?”

“It’s to help people like you who have recently lost a loved one: a parent, a husband or wife, a child, or even a dog or a cat. You share your feelings of loss in a group setting with others who are going through the same thing. The group meets twice a month, on alternating Fridays. I believe this coming Friday, the day after tomorrow, is their night to meet. Please feel free to attend if you feel you’re up to it. The meeting begins at seven o’clock. Dress is casual.”

“I don’t like sharing my feelings. I wouldn’t know what to say.”

“Wouldn’t you like to give it a try?”

“I don’t think so.”

“It helps to keep an open mind, doesn’t it?”

“I suppose some people think it does.”

Reverend Kennerly cleared his throat and looked down at the worn carpet, shifted his big legs to a more comfortable position. “I knew your mother for many years. Not only was I her pastor; I was also her friend and spiritual advisor. She spoke often of you.”

“Spoke of me? Why?”

“She worried that you would be alone after her passing.”

“Oh, that doesn’t bother me. And I’m not really alone. I have lots of friends.”

“Well, you see, Wolfram, the thing is that most men get themselves a wife by the time they’re your age.”

“Oh, a wife!”

“Yes, a man needs a wife.”

“I don’t have one.”

“Wouldn’t you like to have one?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I just wouldn’t.”

“There are any number of lovely, single young women in your age category in our congregation who would be happy to get to know you.”

“Why would they be happy to know me?”

“We have casual get-togethers called mixers in the basement at the church. It’s a chance for the members to meet and get to know each other.”

“But I’m not a member.”

“That doesn’t matter. The mixers are for anybody.”

“I don’t think so. I don’t mix well with other people. I never have.”

“The point is, it’s not too late for you to have a family of your own.”

“If I wanted a family of my own, don’t you think I would have had it by now?”

“Well, it’s something for you to think about.”

“Yeah, I’ll think about it.”

“Well, let me ask you this. Are you eating a healthy diet?”

“Sure. I go into town about once a week to buy groceries.”

“Are you managing the household chores on your own? Laundry and housecleaning”

“Sure, I do those things. I’ve always done them. My mother didn’t do everything. After she fell and broke her leg that time, I did just about everything on my own.”

“I just want you to know that if you need help we have ladies in the church, volunteers, who will come in a morning or two a week and help out with laundry or household chores.”

“Ladies?”

“Yes, they’re older women, retired, with plenty of time on their hands. They like to help out bachelors and widowers. People like yourself.”

“Do they get paid by the hour?”

“They don’t get paid at all. They’re Christian ladies. They like to help out where help is needed.”

“Like Superman?”

“Well, not quite like Superman. Superman’s a fictional character. These are real people.”

“Real people in real life. Not super heroes.”

“Yes, that’s it. Shall I send someone out for you? Wouldn’t you like some help?”

“No, I don’t think so.

“Well, you’re very lucky, then. Most men are helpless without a woman around.”

“That’s largely a myth and a stereotype perpetrated by women.”

“May I be honest, Wolfram?”

“Of course.”

“You’re not an easy man. I’m trying to reach out to you in a Christian way and you haven’t been receptive to anything I’ve said.”

“Just being honest. My mother always said I’m a hard-nosed bastard. A lot like her, I’m afraid.”

“I think it’s more than that. I think you’re grieving for your mother. I think you’re in a fragile emotional state and I think you need help getting out of the hole you’re in.”

“I don’t need any help. I’m not in a fragile emotional state. I’m not in any hole.”

“With your mother gone, you need to ask yourself this question: Where do I go from here?”

“I don’t ask myself questions. Only crazy people ask themselves questions.”

“Come, now, Wolfram! You must want something out of life.”

“I can’t think of a thing. Air to breathe, I suppose.”

“Your mother would be so happy smiling down on you from heaven if you were to become a church member and start attending church services regularly.”

“If you want to know the truth, Mr. Whatever-Your-Name-Is, I tried church when I was younger and it left me feeling sad and hollow.”

“We’re having a special prayer meeting on Saturday evening that you might find enlightening. The theme will be ‘succor for the lonely’.”

“Sucker?”

“Yes, ‘succor for the lonely’. The meeting starts at seven o’clock. We’d be happy to have you join us. Dress is casual.”

“Am I the sucker?”

“What?”

“Never mind.”

“So, will we see you at the prayer meeting on Saturday evening?”

“I’m afraid not. I have a previous engagement that evening.”

 “Wolfram, sir, if you’ll pardon my saying so! Having known your mother as the devout Christian that she was, I find your resistance a little difficult to understand.”

“She wasn’t really a devout Christian. She pretended to be devout because she was afraid of dying and going to hell. When she was younger, she was a big-time hypocrite and liar. She smoked and drank and cursed like a bar on fire. She was a crook too.”

“Well, I don’t know of that part of her life, of course, but I can assure you she confessed all her transgressions to the Lord Jesus Christ, whatever her transgressions were, and she was forgiven. She was washed in the Blood of the Lamb.”

“Do you think she believed that?”

“I’m sure of it.”

“Then she had you fooled too.”

The reverend Kennerly took a handkerchief out of his pocket and blew his nose loudly. There were tears of frustration and failure in his eyes.

“There is one more topic I wanted to broach with you today, Wolfram, but I don’t know if now is the proper time.”

“Sure, lay all your cards on the table.”

“I’m going to make you a proposition and I ask that you give it serious consideration.”

“What kind of proposition?”

“You live all alone in this big house. It has how many rooms?”

“Fifteen.”

“And how many bedrooms?”

“Eight.”

“Why does one young man living alone need a house with fifteen rooms and eight bedrooms?”

“I’m beginning to see the light now,” Wolfram said.

“There’s no other way to say it than to just come right out and say it,” the reverend Kennerly said.

“You want me to donate my house to the church.”

“It would make an excellent halfway house.”

“A what?”

“Halfway house. A place for troubled young offenders to stay while they’re getting their lives in order.”

“What are you saying? I don’t want people like that living in my house!”

“Oh, no, no, no, Wolfram! You don’t understand! You wouldn’t still live here! We’d swap you for a smaller, more modern house or a nice apartment in town.”

“Well, you’ve got some nerve, you know that? You want me to believe you’re truly concerned about my welfare, and all along you only want my house.”

“That’s not true, Wolfram! We are concerned about you. When I look at you, I see a lost lamb. I only want to help in any way I can.”

“I warned my mother about you church people, but she wouldn’t listen. They’re always thinking of what they can get out of you!”

“That’s very unkind of you, young man! Having known your mother, I would have thought you were made of sterner stuff. I have nothing but the best intentions toward you. I just thought we might come to a mutually beneficial arrangement. I merely wanted to propose the idea to you and see if you might be receptive.”

“Well, the answer is no!”

“Very well. I see where we stand. I thank you for taking the time to talk to me today and I apologize if I offended you. Would you like to pray with me before I go?”

“No!”

“Well, I’ll be running along, then. I’ll leave you my card in case you have any questions about any of the things we discussed today.”

The reverend Kennerly took a card out of his wallet and put it on the lamp table by the couch and then stood up and quietly went out the door.

After the reverend Kennerly was gone, Wolfram triple-locked the door, closed all the curtains and went upstairs. At the top of the stairs was the room that had been his bedroom all his life. He went inside and closed the door and locked it.

The room had always been his own and nobody else’s. He had spent uncountable hours in that room, from the time he was old enough to have an upstairs room of his own. There was the huge bed in the middle of the room that belonged to somebody in his family who died long before he was born. His mother let him use the bed but always made sure he knew that if he ever left home the bed stayed where it was.

There was the desk where he did his homework when he was in high school. He used to sit at the desk and write awful themes for English class. Any time he had to sit still and do his school work, he was easily distracted by other things.

In his bookcase were all the books he had growing up. Sometimes he would get a book or two at Christmas. Some of them he had read and some not. He didn’t want to start a book like The Count of Monte Cristo because it was so long and he figured he would never stick with it long enough to finish it. Other books he had found or somehow come by in a way he didn’t quite remember. His great-grandmother had given him a big book in German before she died. He couldn’t read it, but he thought it made a good keepsake.

Along one entire wall was the closet that contained all the clothes he had ever worn from the time he started to school. If he took the time to go through all the stuff in the closet and all the boxes pushed against the back wall inside the closet, he was sure he would find things that would surprise him. He or his mother never threw anything away.

In the bottom drawer of the dresser was where he used to keep books and magazines he didn’t want his mother to know he had. Detective stories with pictures of big-bosomed women on the front. Magazines he had carried away from the public library. All so innocent now.

His small-caliber handgun was in the middle drawer of the dresser. He had had the gun for a dozen years and still kept it in the mail-order box it came in. He had only fired it one time, when his mother was away for eight days.

He took the gun out of its box and, seeing it was still loaded, went and stood in front of the dresser mirror where he could see himself. He pointed the gun at the middle of his chest and fired one shot. Since it was such a small gun, he thought one shot might not be sufficient, so he fired again. He watched his face in the mirror as he fired both times.

There was a lot of blood. He knew there would be. It soaked his shirt and his pants and his shoes and socks. He was surprised that his body contained that much blood. As for pain, it hurt, but not as much as he thought it would.

He wanted to remain standing but he staggered and then fell back on the floor by the bed. He tried to pull himself to a standing position but realized he was better off on the floor. There was nothing to do now but wait.

The blood continued to pour out of him. Breathing became more difficult. His vision blurred. He heard voices, but he didn’t know where they were coming from. One of the voices he was certain belonged to his mother. She would have plenty to say about what he did.

His heart sputtered like a piece of broken machinery. He turned his face to the left and looked under the bed. He grasped his left hand in his right hand. He took a few more shuddering breaths, and then the thing that he knew as his life was finished.

Copyright © 2022 by Allen Kopp   

Young Mungo ~ A Capsule Book Review

Young Mungo cover
Young Mungo
~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp ~

Mungo Hamilton is named after a saint. He lives in a tenement in present-day Glasgow, Scotland, with his irresponsible mother, Maureen Buchanan (Mo-Maw); his sympathetic but odd sister, Jodie; and his thuggish brother, Hamish (nicknamed “Ha-Ha.”)

Mungo is sixteen. He and his brother and sister frequently have to fend for themselves because Mo-Maw isn’t any kind of a mother at all. She is frequently absent, an unrepentant alcoholic. She is a slattern who cares more about attracting men than taking care of her three children. The men she attracts, of course, are hardly worth having. Her latest boyfriend’s name is Jocko.

Mungo’s sister, Jodie, is a sort of surrogate mother to Mungo. She cuddles Mungo as if he was a baby. She despises her mother, with good reason, and tries to protect Mungo from her ignorance.

Hamish, Mungo’s brother, is eighteen and a junior-league criminal. He is the head of a gang of boys who wreak havoc in the streets. He is violent, unpredictable, unsettling. It is easy for the reader to imagine that he will soon end up dead or behind bars. He is the father of a small child with his fifteen-year-old girlfriend. Mungo is afraid of Hamish and doesn’t want to be like him.

Mo-Maw gets a couple of men from her alcoholics’ group to take Mungo on a hellish weekend fishing trip. She hardly knows the two, so she couldn’t know that they are convicted child molesters. This is just one example of her egregious parenting skills. The fishing trip turns out to be predictably traumatic for Mungo.

Mungo meets an older boy in his neighborhood named James Jamieson. James owns a “doocot” (a large pen or a small shed for keeping pigeons) and welcomes Mungo’s friendship. They begin spending a lot of time together at the doocot and make plans after a while to run off and effectively escape their unhappy lives. With James, Mungo experiences happiness for the first time in his life.

Young Mungo is a coming-of-age story that might be set anywhere, in any country, but this one happens to be set in Scotland. It features a young protagonist who is better, finer somehow, than the circumstances of his life. He has a sensitive nature but is misunderstood by all those around him, who only believe he should be more like other boys. The only person who understands Mungo is his sister Jodie, and she has problems of her own, including getting pregnant by one of her teachers.

Young Mungo is a very effective, very readable, novel by Scottish writer Douglas Stuart. One of the most remarkable things about Young Mungo is that it comes just a year or so after Douglas Stuart’s previous novel, Shuggie Bain. They are a most impressive one-two punch by a new, young writer. (My review of Shuggie Bain is here: https://literaryfictions.com/2021/12/09/shuggie-bain-a-capsule-book-review/)

Copyright © 2022 by Allen Kopp

State Hospital ~ A Short Story

State Hospital
~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp ~

(I posted this short story before in a slightly different version.)

Claude slept heavily and when he awoke he didn’t know where he was. He was in a bed with a blanket and sheet folded over his chest, wearing pajamas that belonged to somebody else. When he tried to raise himself, he saw that his wrists were tied to the bed frame with short, leather-like strips that allowed him to move only about six inches in any one direction. He didn’t like being tied down—he saw himself dying in a fire—and called out for somebody to come and help him but no one came.

The room was small and besides the bed there wasn’t much in it; only a metal cabinet near the bed. The walls were covered with green tiles, each one about four inches square. He began counting the green tiles that he could see from the bed; he had counted to thirty-seven when the door opened and a man in a white doctor’s coat entered the little room. He carried a clipboard and wore a red-white-and-blue striped tie peeking out of his white coat.

“Hello. How are you?” the man in the white coat said. “I’m Dr. Argyle. And who might you be?”

“I’ll bet you already know my name. I’ll bet it’s written in your notes on that clipboard.”

“I want to hear you say it.”

“I don’t like my name and I don’t like saying it.”

“I need you to say it, just so I’m sure I’m talking to the right person.”

“All right. If you must know. My name is Ramon Navarro.”

“No, it’s not.”

“I’m Pig-Eye Tatum and I’m very pleased to make your acquaintance.”

“Try again.”

“Lord Leopold Plumtree.”

“No.”

“Claude Wheeler?”

“Finally, that’s the name that gets the prize!”

Good! Mission accomplished! Can I go home now?”

“Well, I’m afraid not. You do understand where you are, don’t you?”

“I’m in the Nervous Hospital.”

“Why do you call it that?”

“That’s one of the more refined names for it, isn’t it? Isn’t this the place where you remove the bad parts of people’s brains?”

“I don’t remove anything. I’m not a surgeon.”

“All right, now let me ask you a question. Why are my wrists tied to the bed?”

“It’s for your own protection.”

“How do you mean?”

“You’re just waking up from treatment. We secure the wrists of patients who receive a particular kind of treatment.”

“What kind of treatment?”

“Treatment that will eventually make you better.”

“There’s nothing wrong with me.”

“If there’s not, we’ll find out.”

“How long will it take before you find out there’s nothing wrong with me and release me into the wild?”

“You don’t need to worry about that now. Tell me your age. How old are you?”

“I bet you already know that.”

“Just answer the question, please, Claude.”

“I’m twenty-three, unless I’ve lost track of an awful lot of time.”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“How old are you, doctor?”

“Forty-one.”

“No longer a young man, but not old either.”

“I think that’s enough about me.”

“Are you married?”

“No more personal questions, please.”

“No, I think it’s interesting. A person’s age, I mean, and whether or not he’s married.”

“No, I’m not married. I was married but my wife and I got divorced.”

“Do you have children?”

“No, I was never blessed in that way.”

“Do you think children are a blessing?”

“Yes.”

“Aren’t they sometimes a curse?”

“I suppose so. Depending on how you look at it. No more personal questions, please.”

“When are you going to untie me?”

“The nurse will be along in a minute. She will undo your restraints and take you back to your room.”

“I don’t like my room, but I especially don’t like my roommate.”

“Why not?”

“I think he might be insane. If he doesn’t kill me, I believe I’m going to kill him.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“I’d like a private room, please, with a private bath and a view of those big trees that you can see from the highway when you’re driving past.”

“We have very few rooms like that and they’re all taken.”

“They’re all taken by the really important patients. Isn’t that right?”

“That I wouldn’t know.”

“Do you know how long I’ve been here, doctor?”

“According to your chart, you’ve been with us almost three months.”

“That’s not right! They got it wrong! I’ve been here three years already!”

“It might seem like three years to you, but it’s been three months.”

“Do you know how I came to be here?”

“It’s getting late. I think we might save that…”

“I lived with my parents. Living with your parents in your early twenties is not that unusual, but I should have moved out when I was eighteen.”

“Don’t you like your parents?”

“No! Nobody likes their parents and mine are particularly ghoulish. I’m going to kill them when I get out of here.”

“No, you’re not. You say there’s nothing wrong with you, but wanting to kill your parents is not a sign of mental health.”

“Well, you’re the doctor. You ought to know. As I was saying, when you live with your parents, you don’t have as much privacy as you’d like.”

“It’s always better to move away from your parents after a certain age.”

“Well, the thing is, I have a deep, dark secret, doctor.”

“What is it?”

“If I told you my secret, then it would no longer be a secret, would it?”

“You don’t have to tell me your secret if you don’t want to. I thought you wanted to tell me.”

“You see, I’ve known since eighth grade that I was gay. It is an especially odious secret to have to keep from your parents when they’re religious fundamentalists.”

“They’re what?”

“They should have known my secret, but they never picked up on it, because, well, that’s just the way they are. They aren’t even aware of themselves, so how could they be aware of me?”

“So, they found out your secret? Is that it?”

“Yes, they found out my secret the hard way. They found me in bed with another man. They believe there is no greater sin than two men lying together. It’s an abomination unto the Lord.”

“All right,” Dr. Argyle, said, “It’s getting late. I believe we can pick up on this in our next scheduled office session.”

“They were gone for the weekend and weren’t supposed to be home until Sunday night. Believing I had the house to myself, I invited my friend Alban over on Saturday night. Alban and I had known each other for a long time and we were, you might say, compatible. We were in my bedroom with the door closed. Now, you have to understand, a bedroom—especially with the door closed—is supposed to be private. A closed door would suggest privacy to anybody in the world but my mother.”

“Point well taken.”

“Well, they returned unexpectedly on Saturday night, twenty-four hours early. They could have called to let me know they were coming home on Saturday night instead of Sunday night, but that would have spoiled their fun.”

“So, you believe they came home early just to catch you in the act with another man?”

“Of course they did! So, Al and I were alone in my room. There was no reason to believe we were not alone in the house and, then, the door to my room burst open—pow!—and both of my parents—both of them!—were standing at the foot of the bed looking at us.”

“What did they do?”

“My mother clapped her hands over her mouth and started screaming and speaking in tongues. She said she saw Satan standing over me and that I was going to burn in hell through all eternity. My father just looked at me and vomited on the floor. That’s the effect I always had on him.”

“What did Alban do?”

“He ran! Can you blame him? Who wouldn’t run?”

“He was embarrassed, of course.”

“He ran downstairs and out of the house. I haven’t seen him since. Poor Alban! I’m sure he thinks my whole family is crazy.”

“Poor Alban,” Dr. Argyle said.

“Well, my parents didn’t know what to do with a son as terrible as me. My mother wanted to call the police and have me thrown in jail, but you see, it’s not a crime for two men to be in bed together, so she had to take a different approach. The next day my father enlisted the aid of his doctor and his lawyer, both religious fundamentalists like himself, and the four of them—my mother, my father, the doctor and the lawyer—came up with the plan to draw up the papers to have me committed. The idea was not only to cure me and cleanse me, but also to punish me.”

“Sounds medieval,” Dr. Argyle said.

“Every word of it is true.”

“Do they come to visit you in the hospital?”

“Not once! I’m sure they’re hoping I’ll die in here so they won’t have to be bothered with me anymore.”

“Where will you go when you’re released?”

“To a place far away where I can be by myself. I’ll know when the time comes.”

“Well!” Dr. Argyle said, looking down at his watch. “I have to go now, but we’ve had a most informative first talk.”

“One more question, doctor. You know deep down in your heart that I don’t belong here.”

“That’s not a question.”

“You couldn’t unlock the front door for me and let me slip out unnoticed into the ether?”

“I’d have to go before the medical board if I did that. I could lose my license.”

“Nobody has to know. Just between us.”

“What would I tell people when they ask what happened to you?”

“Tell them I disappeared. I was here and then I wasn’t. Just one of those things.”

“They’re never believe me, I’m afraid.”

The doctor made a couple of notes and then he patted Claude on the shoulder and left the room.

“Still waiting to be untied!” Claude called to anybody who might hear him.

When Nurse Esther came in, she looked at him like he was something that came up out of the sewer.

“What’s the matter with you?”

“Please untie me,” he said in his most pitiful voice.

She made a couple of deft twists and the restraints fell away.

“I could give you a big kiss for that.”

“Don’t bother.”

“You have awfully big breasts for a nurse! Don’t they get in the way of your daily duties?”

“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.”

He could have walked down the hallway to his room, but she insisted on pushing him in the wheelchair.

He turned around in the wheelchair and looked at her slyly over his shoulder. “I’ll give you fifty dollars if you take me to the front door and let me escape into the night.”

“Where would you get fifty dollars?” she asked.

“I could go as high as seventy-five.”

“Don’t make me have to tie you up again.”

His roommate, Victor Hugo, was lying sprawled on his bed. The sheet that was supposed to cover him was down around his ankles and his hospital gown was in a wad underneath his head.

“If the scientific community ever wants to know what happened to the missing link, he’s right here,” Claude said.

“When he wakes up, you’ll wish he’d go back to sleep,” Nurse Esther said.

She helped Claude out of the wheelchair and into the bed. She tucked him in like a grumpy nanny and turned off the light and left, her crepe soles squeaking on the tile floor.

He lay on his back without moving for thirty minutes or more, but sleep wouldn’t come. He would never be able to go to sleep as long as Victor Hugo was snoring and snorting, gasping, and making clicking sounds with his teeth and tongue. He had to face the facts: he was locked up in a room with a crazy man where he himself didn’t belong. He felt a choking resentment against his mother and father, their cultish church, the hospital, and against the entire world. He never wanted any part of it.

He got out of bed, thankful at least he wasn’t tied up, found the switch on the wall and turned on the light. He looked over at Victor Hugo to see if the light had made him come awake, but he slept on, oblivious to all.

Victor,” he said in a loud whisper. “Victor Hugo! Why don’t you wake up and talk to me? Together you and I are going to break out of this place. I don’t know where we’ll go, but anyplace will be better than here. Don’t you agree? I can free you from your miserable existence if you will only let me. The two of us will soar the heavens together.”

Victor Hugo made a wet-sounding spluttery sound with this lips as though trying to speak but he didn’t speak; he kept on sleeping. Claude moved around to the side of the bed and leaned over it, his face inches from Victor Hugo’s. He put his arm around Victor Hugo’s head, his hand touching his right ear.

“You are my only friend,” he said. “How did the two of us happen to be here, together in this moment? I wish I had a good answer to that question, but I don’t.”

On the floor in the corner, between a cabinet and the wall, was a length of rope that some workman had left behind. Claude spotted it from across the room, not because it was obvious, but because he was meant to spot it. It was left there just so he would see it.

He picked up the rope, flexing it in his hands, letting the dust on it fall to the floor. It went easily around Victor Hugo’s neck. He had never strangled anybody before, with a rope or with anything else. It was easier than he thought it would be.

Finally Victor Hugo was quiet. The snoring stopped. The horrible gurgling sound in his throat ceased. He was at peace. The whole world was at peace. Nothing before was ever so sweet.

Copyright © 2022 by Allen Kopp