Joseph A. Pinto

author of horror & poetic prose

The sandwich remains uneaten and forgotten, long since ravaged by mold.  Beside it, the milk in the glass is nothing but crusty, yellow mud.  The lunch now a mockery of what once was.

He leans against the doorway, peering into the fruitless dark of his son’s room.  Clothes cling to his skin.  Thirty minutes prior, he stood within the foyer, dripping in static silence after stumbling in from the rain.  He realizes that nothing carries weight anymore.  Except maybe his sodden clothes.

He wavers.  A car passes somewhere in the night.  Light cuts rudely through the room; shadows jump stiffly about the walls, scurrying into corners.  Stuffed animals squat atop the bed, solemn smiles unflinching across their faces.  A sliver of headlight touches the uneaten sandwich, illuminating the plate like a stage.  It fades away—the show over, curtain drawn on yet another day.  He hesitates, breath snagging in his throat.  Eventually, he backs away.

He forgets to take his loafers off and like frightened mice, they squeak across the wood floor.  In the hallway, he freezes and absently touches his cheek.  Something vague flits pass his eyes.  He blinks and peers through it—too busy grieving to take notice.

His wife’s hand, barely perceptible upon his elbow, leads him into his bedroom.  A time existed when her touch soothed him; now she is nothing but a phantom, much like everything else.  She peels the clothes from his skin; they fall heavy to the floor.  He stands naked, shivering in his loafers, her eyes unable to warm him.  “Come,” she whispers and pulls the covers back from the bed.

He plummets face first into his pillow and dreams, still wearing his loafers.

***

He drowns under the bridge, tied in cord, wrapped in linen, weighted with stones.  A rush of icy fluid fills his nose and mouth as he submerges, singing him like liquid fire.  The linen entangles and constricts his limbs.  Crystalline patterns soon flutter within his tomb; quickly he realizes that he will never again be able to grasp his own tears.  He thumps the bottom of the river, stones sharp into his back, ice in his lungs lending an odd, displaced sort of serenity.  How he wishes to slip his eyes shut a final time, but his linen tomb suddenly jerks back to the surface.  The fire within his lungs burns out; his cords somehow undone, the linen and stones stripped free.  He finds himself drifting upon the river’s surface now, under that dark and brooding bridge.  The shapes flutter before his eyes again.  This time, he snatches those tears into his palm.  Something breaks the surface alongside him; he gropes for its swollen form.  The tears, however, leave his grip slick, and he watches it float away.  Its misshapen head bobs the river.  Water fills its blackened mouth.

He chokes.

***

He chokes upon the memory of his languishing dream—along with the ice water in his lungs.  Limbs spasm, desperate to stay afloat in the current of his reverie.  A coffee cup shatters, bringing him back around.  Eyes snap—the crystalline tears gone, replaced by the image of his wife.  He gasps, clutching at the linen blanket hanging from his shoulders.  Still naked beneath it, still in his loafers.  Brain dull.  “How did I get here?”  Words equally laggard.

His wife scrutinizes him, then rises from the table to get a dustpan and broom.  The shards littering his feet sweep easily into the pan; the remainder of their life, not so much.  “I woke you nearly half an hour ago.  You walked into the kitchen without saying a word and fell asleep at the table again.  Then you had another bad dream.”  She glances at the floor.  “You twitched around pretty good.  Thankfully your cup was empty.”

He says nothing.  Listens to the scrape of broken ceramic against tile, its sad plunk into plastic.

“Aren’t you concerned about this?” she asks, not bothering to lift her eyes.  Shards are much more important when nothing else remains.

His throat constricts, full of icy water.  “About falling asleep that way or…the dream?”  The last word lingers, thick and black.

“You tell me.”  But she knows a real answer will never follow.

He shudders.  “I couldn’t save him again,” and wraps himself in his linen shroud.

***

Her fingers entwining his own are meant to soothe; sandpaper against his skin, they instead scratch.  He fidgets until his wife turns to him, her weak smile like a smudge across the chalkboard of her face.  She used to glow, he thinks, but now her color has been robbed.  He cannot bear to look anymore.

“Robert?  Do you appreciate watching your son suffer a dull aching pain?” their therapist prods.

He tosses his wife’s hand aside.  “What?”

“Robert?  I asked if your wife appreciates you walking in the rain.”

The therapist’s office spins a moment.  “I don’t know,” his mouth puckers.  “I just…walk.  I don’t know how else to answer that.”

“Perhaps you can start by addressing it with your wife.”

He watches the therapist flatten the frill of her skirt, her fingers slender, smooth.  He wonders how scratchy they might be.  “I suppose she doesn’t appreciate it,” voice trailing like vapor along the walls.  His eyes roaming, cloudy.  “She’s always left drying the foyer after me.”

“That’s hardly the point,” his wife whispers.

***

Back home, and the afternoon presses down upon his shoulders.  His wife leaves wordlessly for the market—their therapy session tragically useless.  He has no intention of attending another.

He starts a shower, the hot water blinding.  Soon the stall fills with the steam of a shattered life.  A cerulean sky swirls down the drain along with every vestige of happiness once held in his eyes.  He cries, allowing soap and hot water to steal it away.  When he hears his son’s voice, his knees buckle.

Daddy don’t leave me alone

The gurgle of the drain creates its own resonance in unison with the rush of water; the white noise floods his brain.  He cringes as a voice surrounds him, reverberating against the slick tile, echoing in the mist.  With a trembling hand, he pushes the shower door open.  Silence, save the pitter-patter of water; silence, save the slow throb in his head. “Karen?”

Closing the door, the white noise plays with his ears once more.

Daddy don’t leave me alone

Water fills his screaming mouth.  He slams the door open this time, stumbling out from the bathroom into the hallway.  Drops to a knee, retching bile hotter than the water he just escaped.  Through blurry eyes, he glimpses something vague flit pass.

This time, he takes full notice.

The formless shadow dissipates inside his son’s room.  He staggers forward, skin feeling heavy on his bones, halting at the doorway, unable to cross its threshold.  He gawks at the ruined sandwich, so lonely atop its plate, and the diseased milk.  The voice in his son’s room ratchets in strength; a thousand dissonant shrieks rip through his head.

He chokes.

***

They sit face to face.  She wishes to touch him, realizing what once remained of him is gone.  A delusion, much like everything else.  “So what happened?” Karen’s tone thick with exasperation.  She wraps her arms around her chest.

Robert shrugs.  “I heard him.”

“Him?  You mean Sean?”

“Yes, of course.  Sean.  Who else?”

She grimaces, the stifled breath within her chest unbearable.  “Robert, our son is dead.”

He shudders, wishing himself wrapped in linen.  “I heard him, Karen.  He can’t be dead if I heard him,” he says matter-of-factly.

She carefully considers her next words, wondering when he will realize their life has been mercilessly hanging by a thread the past six months.  “He isn’t coming back to us, Robert.  No matter how much we want it otherwise, how much our heart tells us he’s still here…no matter what you thought you heard…he’s not coming back to us.”

He blinks, eyes glazing over; he wishes he could walk in the rain.  “He was always a good swimmer.  The river, it—”

Her stifled breath explodes; a wall juts between them.  “Dammit, let it go!  Sean is gone.  He isn’t coming back to us.  It was an accident.  He slipped on a rock, struck his head.  You said you couldn’t reach him in time.  Even if you could have…you can’t swim.  You could do nothing!”

“There it is.”

Karen withdrew.  “There what is?  Do you think I’m saying I blame you?”

“You don’t have to.  We could go to that shrink forever and she wouldn’t be able to extract what you just spat out.  You do blame me.  It’s in your eyes.  Questioning why I allowed Sean to walk those icy rocks.  The disgust you have that I’ve never learned to swim.  It’s all there.  It’s always been there.”

“No, Robert, I blame you for not letting go!  I blame you for turning our son’s bedroom into a memorial.  His belongings…pack them away.  Just do it already.  The constant reminder…is it really needed?  Isn’t it already painful enough?”  She sobs, thick, rolling.  “For God’s sake, Robert, throw away that miserable sandwich!  I understand not doing it the first few days after it happened…but it’s been months now.  He’s not coming back to eat it.  Sean is not coming back to eat that fucking sandwich or drink that fucking milk!  What has happened to you, Robert?  Instead of picking up the pieces, you’ve become the pieces.”

He stares off into the hallway.  A vaporous blob hesitates in the center, almost as if in waiting.  Just the right height for a little boy.  Just the right spot where his son would sometimes kiss him goodnight.  He touches his cheek, allowing his fingers to linger.  “He can’t be dead if I heard him.”

***

He refuses to do it, refuses to discard the sandwich or dispose of the milk.  He has become oblivious to the fetid stench poisoning his son’s room.  His senses, much like his mind, shut down a long time ago.

His wife goes on with therapy over the weeks that follow.  Without him.  He believes that a shrink should not go probing around inside his head.  Not when his dead son speaks to him every day.

He hears his son in the morning, above the sizzle of bacon in the pan.  Above the long drip of coffee into its pot.

He hears his son in the thick of night as heat pings the baseboards, and boughs outside the window creak and sway.  Always a whisper.  Close; still so far away.

He hears his son most from the memorial once the boy’s room.  Wispy verbiage, here then gone; a cursed hymn echoing dolefully inside his brain.

Daddy don’t leave me alone

The more his dead son speaks, the more Robert loses his mind.

***

“Are you going for a walk tonight?”

The rain pelts the glass, turning the street into a twinkling kaleidoscope.  Its chill permeates straight through into Robert’s core.  “Yes.  I believe so.”

His wife’s exhalation is sharp and taut, something his mind used to be.  Her reflection trembles in the glass.  He looks away, eventually slipping into his loafers.  “If you step out that door, Robert, it’ll all be gone.  I’ll throw it away.  The fact I’ve respected your wishes this long is sheer madness.  Our lives need to move forward.”

His hand hovers above the knob.  “You wouldn’t dare do that to him.”

“No, I wouldn’t.  Not to our son.  I’d do that to you.”

“You’re so cruel,” he says through clenched teeth.

“Only as much as you’ve been to us.”

The door slams; a cold rain swallows him, sluicing his face with biting truths.  He walks and does not stop.  He drifts like mist between street blocks, flickering in and out beneath the tremulous glow of streetlamps, his wife’s threat long forgotten.  Eventually, he comes upon the river, jumping the railing along its banks.  His loafers sink into muck.

Tonight the river grumbles, slapping the shore.  Rain riddles its churning surface like bullet holes from an unseen marksman.  The high grass yields to him, the angry congregation of the river filling his ears.

Daddy don’t leave me alone

His son’s voice is here yet should not be.  It belongs in his room, where the heat pings through the baseboards, where scores of stuffed animals keep hollow-eyed vigil while he is away.  His son’s voice belongs there; where one day he will thank his father for making that sandwich.  Where one day the boy will eat it in appreciation, without the need to hurry along.

Tonight the river grumbles while his little boy cries.

Rain fills his mouth.

He chokes.

***

He peers through the clotted dark, struggling to keep his balance in the foyer—his sodden clothes dripping.

This time, he pries his loafers from his feet and shambles through the hallway.  A chill raises his flesh; a figure wafts beside him, grotesquely swollen, lips crudely blue.  Robert brings his fingers to his cheek, waiting for his kiss.  But it does not come.  The silhouette gazes at him with eyes long devoured by the river and nods toward his son’s bedroom.  Robert stumbles to its threshold.

A car screams in the night.  Light rips through the room; shadows pounce, rending the stuffed animals lining the bed, strewing their innards in cotton shreds.  He gapes, wondering if what he sees is real.  Then he notices it…a ring staining the dresser’s surface.

And the sandwich…gone.

He storms into his own bedroom, roughly shoving through the phantom.  “What have you done?”

Karen waits coolly, sitting cross-legged at the end of the bed.  “I’ve moved our lives along.  Don’t act so surprised.”

He shivers, aching for his linen tomb.  “He never touched his lunch.  He never touched his lunch!  He’s going to be hungry when he gets home.”

Her eyes churn.  “Goddamn you.”

“Our son could never slow down, could he?  I took time to make his lunch.  He could’ve taken the time to eat it.”

“You need help, Robert.  Please…oh please, listen to me.”

“But Sean never listened to me.  Did he?  Did he, Karen?”

The rain drums upon the roof.  The ghost in the hallway moans.

Daddy don’t leave me alone

“If he ate his lunch, maybe things would’ve been different.  But he was in a rush to meet his friends that day.”

Karen’s brow wrinkles.

“No one ever listens to me in this house.  Not you.  Not Sean.  He never ate his lunch.  He rushed out…and I followed after him.”

She rises from the bed.

“I asked him to stop, Karen.  Asked him to slow down.  Nine years old.  He should’ve shown more respect.  But he ignored the lunch I made him.  He rushed to be with his friends.  They were more important.”

She covers her mouth with shaking hands.

“I followed him down to the river.  He always used the bridge as a shortcut.  We always used the bridge as a shortcut.  All I asked of him was to stop.  All I asked of him was to eat the lunch I’d made.”

“What are you saying, Robert?  Jesus Christ, what are you saying?”

He hears the river grumbling in his ears.

“I grabbed him by the elbow, but he tried to pull away from me.  My own son.”

“Robert?”

He glances solemnly at his wife.  “He tried to pull away.”

“Robert?!”

He hears his son crying in his head.

Daddy don’t leave me alone

“I don’t ever remember picking up the stone.”  He raises a trembling hand above his head…and drives it down toward the floor.  Again, and again, and again.

Daddy don’t!

LEAVE ME ALONE!!

She collapses to her knees, sobbing.  The truth looms before her, now a grey, shadowy wisp of the man she used to love.  She cannot find air for her lungs.  She cannot breathe life to the grief upon her lips.  Robert’s hands wrap around her throat.  “I’m sorry, Karen,” he whispers as his grip tightens.  He gazes upon the vaporous blob watching from the hallway.  Just the right height for a little boy.  “Tell him I never meant to do it.”

© Copyright 2013 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.

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MEMORIAL

Treat yourself for under a buck to dark horror fiction perfect for the haunting season now on your Kindle.

EXCERPT:

“I believe it’s pointless to ask, Anthony. Those days have long past. Plainly you can see this.” With mournful eyes, the man sipped his bourbon, while into his chest, as if some wounded animal, burrowed a mercilessly bandaged hand.

Anthony’s hand lingered across the tacky remnants of liquor upon the table; within balled fist, a cold wad of bills. He glared upon the sullen man seated before him. “See? Yes, I can.” Fist inched forward, awkward in its urgency. “And as you can plainly see, a job well done will be rewarded.”

“What I do…what I did…never constituted a job. A job does nothing to stir the soul. Only passion achieves such a state of grace.” The man inhaled deeply—of the bourbon or the proposal, left to dangle in air—Anthony was not sure. But he did not appreciate the smooth impassiveness across the man’s alabaster face. Did not appreciate it in the least.

“Passion?”

“Yes. A job is measured by hours. But passion’s hours are timeless.”

“It seems your passion has nearly left you a cripple, while my job has left me a wealthy, wealthy man,” Anthony sneered.

“You are my brother, Anthony. And had you not been, I’d find your gaffe of words truly insulting.”

“At last, bravado found at the bottom of your glass. Is that the residue of passion, Nicholas, or merely passion’s inspiration?”

A thread’s breadth parted Nicholas’ lips as bourbon drizzled tongue. Eyes danced but to the song of another day, transfixed by noiseless, ghostly chords. “Some people wish to choose their vice. But for others, the vice chooses them.”

“Killing yourself slowly with alcohol now, then.”

“It’s not alcohol of which I speak.” The words hung between them.

Hesitation. Eventually Anthony loomed over the table. “She’s gone, Nicholas,” and instantly the music ceased; a blackened veil draped his features. Hand plummeted to the table, the snifter nearly shattering atop the sticky grain. Bourbon splashed Anthony’s knuckles, but fast his posture remained. He studied his brother with dulled satisfaction. Slowly, by inches, he lowered his considerable frame, pouring his bulk into the opposite seat. Watching intently. Silence, broken only by Nicholas’ strangled mewls.

Nicholas dabbed at the corner of his trembling lips. “When?” his voice a hoarse murmur.

“Six months ago. You’ve changed your haunts. It’s made finding you difficult, but not impossible. I thought you had fallen from the face of the earth, too. Like Catarina.”

Stinging, the words. Nicholas winced, eyes searching. Searching.

“The illness…came on suddenly. The doctors could do nothing. Her body already rampant with disease, but Catarina, she said little. You should know well of my wife’s strength.” Anthony’s back stiffened in anticipation, but his brother, snared within the throes of paralysis, offered nothing. “You should know well of many things concerning my wife.”

Memorial_Front_Cover_JosephAPinto

MEMORIAL

Nicholas is a sculptor, renowned throughout the land.

But now he suffers from a ruined hand; worse yet, a fractured soul.

When his brother hires his talents for a final time, however, Nicholas suddenly finds himself at a crossroads: sculpt the only love he has ever known – his own brother’s wife.

Or carve a memorial for her heart…

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© Copyright 2015 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.

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Enter.

Sit before the Tale Weaver.

Be still; your incessant fidgeting only diminishes your concentration. Do you not hear it? There. There. Aah, stark terror glazes your eyes…but it should not be so. Relish instead, such a strange and horrid note, that awful baying from beyond the window sash. Silence yourself! I share with you now what knowledge I possess of the beast.

Yes, beast I say, but beast quite not. An unspeakably magnificent specimen of what should not be yet most certainly is. Born to walk this earth of two legs, but through the nether, hunts upon four. A most fascinating creature of wretched beauty, resigned in its existence of perpetual condemnation between its own genesis of dawn and gloam. Humanity its filthy cage. Bestiality its cherished home. Torn and ravaged by the tumult within its sorrowful soul.

You gaze upon me in naked incredulity, yet persistent your hands do wring; aye, even you cannot deny the awful splendor laced within the hoarseness of its throaty howls. Be attentive! Open not only ears but your narrow mind…listen beyond the ferocity of the echoes in the valley. Tis true, this abhorrence of nature will rend of you flesh and bone as a child strips wrappings from a gift if its disposition should see fit. The hunt it relishes, for only then does it truly live, the timbre of its environment razor-sharp, ally to its preternatural senses. You cannot outrun this thing, for how do you outrun that which already resides within you?

Swift, powerful, majestic…a wholly somber and evil thing. But I inquire of you – what is the gist of evil? The unnatural to your eyes; the obscene to your senses? Or is evil some broken yet unbowed pet, unwilling to yield to the shackles that seek it bound? If you should learn one thing from me this moonlit night, then heed this—true evil is the fiend that hides behind man’s mask, not the beast that allows its mask known.

Listen closely to that mourning song, that pitiful melody lamenting of deprived freedom from behind unseen bars, for tis the true conflict deep within its dark, fated core, and so it starves. Longing for the wild. Longing for the matte of fresh dew beneath its pads and the sparkle-slivered caress of Mother Moon across its rippled back. Longing…forever longing…this beast so much more than man.

Leave now then, but be mindful to keep a hastened pace along the timber’s fringe. Pull tight the collar to your neck, and do not afford yourself a moment to pause. For if the long howl of a doleful ballad plucks at your heartstrings, and the hapless allure of eye shine keeps measure with your gait, pray to your god that on this night the beast remains satiated.

And the man within it holds fast to its rein.

Until next I summon you, be gone.

So the Tale Weaver speaks.

~ Joseph A. Pinto as the Tale Weaver

© Copyright 2012 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.

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*’BEAST’ first appeared in Pen of the Damned June 2012

Hello!  I hope you’ve all been well since last we met.

The dog days of summer are upon us, so what better way to cool off than by actually getting hotter: courtesy of horror fiction, that is.  I offer for your reading pleasure my latest tale to appear on Pen of the Damned titled It Drives Me Mad.

If you love short horror fiction, remember to stop by the Pen of the Damned blog each Tuesday as a different member of our writer’s group proffers their talent for your reading pleasure.  There aren’t many things that are free in this world, but we, the Damned, offer our conjurings free of charge – if you don’t count the small bit of soul we siphon in exchange!😉

Kick back, relax and allow my latest yarn to drive you mad…

 

IT DRIVES ME MAD

It drives me mad.

That wet smack.

It is all I ever hear.

I watch them in my shower. Wispy bodies through beaded glass.

He is a strong man. Muscle fibers twitch, bounce within his thighs. The fog does not hide everything; not yet.

I see his face, his head thrown back, eyes clenched as if he is in pain. But I know he is not in pain.

Not yet.

That wet smack drives me mad.

It used to be me in the shower. My wife clings to him now. Legs wrapped around his hips, her perfect feet locked together. Locking her; locking them. He holds her, supports her effortlessly the way I once did; the way I want to.

That wet smack intensifies. His urgent groans fill the stall; my wife remains silent. Fog steals them from me. I am allowed the occasional glimpse of her breast pressed against his chest, the way she used to press against mine.

I am not jealous. I cannot be. This is our lifestyle. We share then come back to one another. But I can no longer come back. I cannot have my wife anymore. Not that way, no longer.

I watch them. Wispy bodies within the billowy fog; within the concealing vapor.

That wet smack.

That wet smack.

Then a thud.

The shower stall erupts in a geyser of red. The glass trickles red; all is red. Now that wet smack turns into a moist suckling.

Moist suckling.

I turn away.

***

The doorbell rings.

I am prepared; I am always prepared.

I greet him, make eye contact as always. It excites them. The eye contact. Knowing you offer your wife so willingly; knowing you offer your wife with such confidence. I lead him upstairs. I lead him to the shower. I watch him undress; he knows the rules. They all know the rules. I watch—I must always watch.

She waits for him in the shower. Perfect body glistening, hair dripping along her back; expectant Goddess. How I once loved to pull that hair; how I once loved to ball it within my fist.

She cracks the stall door open for him, beckoning. Her knowing smile arouses him; her knowing smile cuts me at the knees. He steps inside. The fog claims him; claims them. Water splattering the door as I watch. Beaded bodies through beaded glass. That smack.

That wet smack.

The man is anxious, too anxious. My wife is not pleased.

She ends him.

***

Months.

It has been months since my wife has been mine.

I have lost much sleep wondering how; I have lost much sleep wondering why.

I hear her, the same way I hear her every night; night after night. Her voice echoing down the hall; her voice echoing down my spine. Sweet as ever; suggestive as ever. She does not come out of the shower anymore.

Not anymore.

Tonight as she turns the water on, I imagine her perfect body moving through it. I imagine the water sluicing over her skin. She likes the water hot; she always did. Hot water; hot flesh. It disguises the cold, clammy death she has become.

I hear her calling.

Calling.

But she is not my wife. Not anymore.

I pull the covers over my head; she croons to me.

please

pleeeeeease

I no longer trust who she is; I no longer trust what she has become. I know that if I enter the shower, I am lost.

I will get through this night, somehow. I will get through.

When the doorbell rings tomorrow, I will feed her again.

Even as that wet smack drives me mad.
~ Joseph A. Pinto

© Copyright 2015 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.

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Hi everyone!

I’m prone to quiet spells when it comes to social media and posting; I don’t like bludgeoning people with my work.  Sometimes it’s a necessary evil, I know.  Still, it’s not my style.  My silence doesn’t mean I haven’t been crafting, however.  I’m currently putting together my first poetry collection, as well working on a new horror novel.

Speaking of horror, I’d like to share my latest short story, WHITE, which was recently published on Pen of the Damned.  My partner Nina D’Arcangela and I have changed Pen of the Damned‘s format; all stories must now contain a maximum of 1,500 words, down from 2,500.  You should visit our site if you’re not familiar with us; a new story featuring a different Damned author goes live every Tuesday.  And even if you do know who we are, come on down and visit the Damned!

So without further ado, please enjoy my tale, WHITE.

WHITE

They preferred the angry gnash of the storm over the silence.

Like nervous teeth, the panes chattered. The rafters creaked; dust floated down upon their heads.

The man—the man who had been taken in—spoke in a hoarse whisper. “I’ll go. I’ll do it. If it wasn’t for your family, I’d still be out there. Or worse.”

No one answered. No one argued his point, either. Finally, the father spoke. “The shed is about twenty yards back. It’s unlocked.”

The man massaged his crooked chin. “Door swing in or out?”

The father believed it was a good question to ask; this man was sharp. Pride swelled within him. It had been harrowing, but his family had done good, risking their wellbeing to drag the man in from the outside. But a pit burned the father’s stomach. The man had gotten lucky once. Luck would not prevail a second time. “In.”

“Long as the wind didn’t bang it open, I’m good.”

The father pressed his hand against the pane, its surface cooling his fever within. He could see nothing beyond the glass, however. “The generator is in the back, set on blocks. It should be deep enough into the shed to be protected. When you stand in front of it, look down to your right. The gas can will be there.”

“Only one?”

The father felt his family press behind him. Mother’s face stooped lower than the boughs of the snow-laden trees. What remained of them, anyway. She clutched their children—son and daughter—under breasts that hadn’t been touched in years. “Yes.”

“Mm-hmm.” The man knew what that meant. The generator would power the house for another full day, at most. “I won’t allow your family to grow cold. I’ll fill it. When it runs out, we’ll figure out what’s next. Together.”

The man shrugged into his coat, careful not to worsen the tear along the shoulder seam. He tugged his wool hat until it hung low over his brow. He looked at the children, the souls-sucked-dry children. “Together,” the man repeated, not sure for whose benefit he’d said it, and cradled his rifle in his arm.

He reached for the door, but the father seized his hand. “Keep low. Don’t stop.”

The man grunted and was ready. The father twisted the knob. The wind shoved the door aside, and immediately the shrieking swallowed the man as well the snow, the blinding snow. The father threw his back into the door, snaring the blizzard’s icy tendrils in the jam. The storm howled; the panes rattled like tormented bones. “He’ll make it,” the father said, talking to the walls. “He’ll make it.”

The father watched as the man sunk thigh deep into the drift, watched and lost him to the white. The blizzard erased his footprints in one exhale. Then he waited. The minutes passed. “We needed him,” he said to the mother. “It could’ve been me instead.”

“It should have been you instead.”

He exhaled icy smoke, then chewed the inside of his mouth. He slowly turned around, keeping vigil at the pane. Snowflakes clung, mounting and growing ever deeper, white locusts of a great plague. Minutes. Minutes. Minutes passed.

“Gas can’s emptied by now.” The father visualized the man’s progress, the man’s steps. “Priming it…cranking it over…he knows what he’s doing…he knows…”

The children sniffled on the hardened snot clotting their noses. And their mother hugged them close to a heart that had long grown cold.

The father clutched the knob. Waiting. It vibrated in his hand. “Any minute.”

A gust charged the house, a mighty bull outside the walls. The rafters groaned; dust danced upon their heads; small, ghostly marionettes. “Any time now…”

He heard a distant crack. Another trunk snapping. Another tree succumbing to the storm. He thought of his neighbors, the elderly neighbors, for whom he’d once mowed their lawns. “Any…time…now…”

A spirit beckoned from the nether; the man emerged, white, spectral white, coat and hat and legs white, face and brow crusted in wind-driven snow. The rifle slung like a long ice shard over his shoulder. “I told you,” the father said, voice rising like the wind, “I told you!”

The man, mere feet from the door, polluted the drift with a crimson spray. The father jerked from the window as if struck. But his eyes stuck to the pane.

They swirled round the man, the needle teeth, the razor claws, unnatural piranhas of winter’s blight, tearing and cutting as the gale disguised their intentions. The wind kept the man upright, and the drift kept him mired. And they swirled, swirled till the man was no more.

The crimson spray disappeared, the drift a new blank canvas from which to paint. The man’s entrails clung briefly to the pane before slipping away.

He shuddered, the father did, but he would not cry. He covered his mouth. “We lost a good man.”

Then a loud click in the father’s ear. “We lost a good man,” the mother said, “and now we have none.”

The father felt the cold metal against the back of his head. It pushed forward, forcing him toward the door. “We have power now. When it runs out, we’ll figure out what’s next. Together,” the mother said to her children.

“You won’t survive without me.”

“Maybe not. But I sure as hell won’t die with you.”

The rifle burrowed into the base of his skull. He clutched the knob. He would freeze to death without a coat, without the proper clothes. He prayed that would be the best thing to come.

The father stumbled into the maw of the blizzard. It chewed him alive.

“There, there, my babies,” the mother cooed to her children, watching as their father filled the pane. “There, there.”
~ Joseph A. Pinto

© Copyright 2015 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.

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I came for the benefit of a sick woman

this way, I was told
and I paused

I do not see a sick woman, I said
there, look, I was told

and I did

but I saw no one
save a radiant beauty
eyes cut from gems
sparkling
she twisted to rhythm
and good vibes
of joy
and smiled like a newborn

I came for the benefit of a sick woman,
I repeated

you’re in the right place, I was told

so I sat
ate
hugged
became witness to something

transcendent.

it came time for me to go

are you certain I’m at the right place, I said
yes, of course, I was told, and
we all joined in song

I left
full stomach
fuller heart
no longer counting the seconds
I’m dying
but rejoicing in the breaths
I’m reborn.

(for my cousin Paula)

~ Joseph A. Pinto

© Copyright 2015 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.

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You stole the moon for me.

I lost myself in the constellations
I traced along your skin
the night becoming a vacuum;
something ours alone.

I bottled your sweet sighs
while you weren’t watching,
memorized the flutter of your eyes
and the songs we kissed to
will play over and over again in my head;

like you.

~ Joseph A. Pinto

© Copyright 2015 Joseph A. Pinto. All Rights Reserved.

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