Tag: Balm

FP273 – Coffin: Balm, Part 3 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and seventy-three.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Balm, Part 3 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp273.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)


This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Way of the Buffalo Podcast.


Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, Will Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny, his mouthy companion, escort a ghost into Las Vegas.


Coffin: Balm, Part 3 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May


CoffinAt noon Bunny was sitting in a bar named Jimbo’s, at the southern end of Vegas.

Despite having run dry of whiskey while north of the city, she had not intended on entering the establishment.

An hour earlier, while parked across from a squat pink-plastered bungalow, Will had pushed her out of the rented Focus with fifty bucks and a request that she purchase a shovel. The bored looking teen behind the nearest 7-11 counter had given her the most likely location to find the tool: A Home Depot, some five blocks away.

Except for the occasional liquor run, Bunny had rarely been left to wander in the real world since meeting Coffin. Still, the nature of their current business had her wanting nothing more than to be done with it, and she’d moved quickly along the heat-baked sidewalk while providing a mumbled, yet foul-mouthed, commentary on her surroundings.

Almost as if to spite her mood, the stroll had revealed a surprisingly nice suburb, and the hardware store appeared freshly planted. She’d departed the checkout line with a solid shovel, and a twenty for change.

It was only then that she noticed the sports bar hanging from the end of a neighbouring plaza, and encountered a series of entwined coincidences that would change the trajectory of her life.

The first stepped from his dusty chevy to pull wide the watering hole’s glass-fronted door. Thin-faced and slouch shouldered, Bunny’s distant eye had convinced her he was a perfect match for her dead husband, Tim.

With the tool in one hand, and the other sweating heavily around the Jackson in her pocket, she’d followed him inside.

There, with a beer cooling her palms, and air conditioning on her face, she observed the nodding back of the stranger’s head from the depths of a cavernous booth. She’d been doing fine until he’d started tapping the bar’s trim along to Bob Seger’s declaration of love for old time rock and roll.

“Exactly your sort of bull####,” she said to no one but herself.

Her eyes stung as she staggered to her feet, and every step she took spanned a memory.

The early days came first: Dancing to this very song while ducking to avoid the low hanging ceiling in their first apartment’s basement living room; Sharing bottles of Smirnoff and smoking joints on the balcony of their second place, while watching the sun sink away and rise again.

Her vision was a blur when she halved the distance to the bar, but her focus was solely on the time Tim had climbed a fence to defend her honour against a hooligan kid who’d been badmouthing her from the far side.

It had been gallant, even if the idiot had accidentally broken his leg on the way down.

She touched the Tim-a-like’s shoulder, and suddenly her mind returned to the kitchen of their final apartment, with the smell of iron and sulphur in the air, and her belly burning from a knife wound.

Without wanting to, she remembered the blade in her own hand, and the heavy thud of his fall after she’d buried it in his brow.

She’d cried then too.

“The fuck’s your problem?” demanded the startled stranger, as he spun on his stool.

A coincidental choice of words, but the same response she’d received whenever Tim had found her weeping – usually due to his own handiwork.

If there was anything familiar in the man’s face, it was the drunk’s common hunger to be left alone with their can of Busch, and nothing more.

Leaving her glass half-full on the counter, Bunny made for the exit.

* * *

Will Coffin, standing on the cement doorstep of the bungalow with the silver chain in his hand, was being questioned by the specter at the tip of his occult leash.

Allison was asking, “shouldn’t we wait till your partner gets back?”

The dead girl had directed them to the right home easily enough, and the parked stretch-Hummer, with its custom hot tub, had reassured Coffin that her meth-craving ex-boyfriend was indeed living there, and home.

After Bunny’s departure, however, the phantom had provided endless excuses as to why the visitation was a bad idea.

In the end he’d had to pull her from the car.

He knocked again.

“No,” he replied. “There’s too much chance at play in this kind of surprise party, and Bunny tends to startle people.”

Coffin had never been a fan of the heat, and his leather jacket was little help under the relentless sun. He was eager to be on his way, but he made conversation as he measured the entry’s thickness against the weight of his boot. “How did he manage to afford this place?”

“It’s a rental, but between the limo and the drugs he makes decent bank. You’re definitely not going to kick your way in, he’s got a bunch of deadbolts.”

“Well then,” said the shaman, as he jiggled the arcane links, “how about you spook on in there and open them from the other side?”

* * *

As it happened, Shane was expecting a different sort of company. His long term habit had finally pushed him into unmanageable depths, and he’d barely been able to park his technically-still-on-the-job limo before he’d bolted shut his front door and took to his couch with a pilfered supply of his addiction, and an abruptly-shortened shotgun.

He couldn’t tell if the banging from outside was real or not, but he’d cracked a window to let out any errant fumes, and crept into the hallway.

Upon arrival, he was fairly convinced that the translucent arm which came reaching for the locks was a hallucination.

The sleight fingers worked the chains and knobs, and there was something he recognized in those chewed, but somehow delicate, nails.

“Hell, this must be the best I’ve ever had,” he said, but the flood of chemically induced paranoia made it a hollow victory.

As the entrance swung wide to reveal the girl he’d buried deep and a lanky man in a biker jacket, Shane’s mind continued to argue it was all a figment of his imagination – but his hand raised high the barrel of his gun.

Coffin took a single step into the shadows of the home’s interior, then froze when he realized he was caught in the line of fire behind Allison’s insubstantial form – but, before the junkie could shoot, Allison began to babble.

“You killed me! You left me beneath the sand to rot!”

“How can you be pissed that I killed you if you’re here complaining at me?” replied Shane.

“I’m a ghost, asshole!

“- or you’re just my fucking delusion – whatever the case, it can’t be that bad if you’re here bitching.”

The girl was wailing now, and the fist with which she held the entrance’s handle slammed the slab’s weight repeatedly against the jamb. “You don’t know what it is being locked in the sun like that, lying like I’m dying forever.”

Shane’s trigger hand steadied, though his voice did not. “What the fuck is your problem!? I may as well kill you twice, you fu-”

“#### gobbling donkey fondler!”

Bunny didn’t give the gunman a chance to respond. With the momentum of five blocks of growing anger behind her swing, she lay the flat of the shovel across the peak of his skull.

The murderer reeled, and dropped his weapon, but he briefly kept his feet.

“MY problem!?” asked Bunny, as she set her grip wide behind her shoulders, “I’ll give you a ####ing problem.”

Her second stroke snapped the metal scoop from the wooden shaft, and left Shane unconscious on the floor.

It was only once Will touched her neck that she stopped beating the man with the shattered stem.

For a moment there was just the sound of ragged breathing, then Bunny turned to face her traveling companion.

“I’m impressed,” said Coffin.

“Hell, I know a couple fighting from five-hundred ####ing yards,” she replied. “and I could see your back at the door. Figured you must be in trouble to be letting them carry on like that.

“From there – well, Christ, every one of these idiots I’ve known is the same: They’ve got a thousand latches, but they crack the glass to vent their stink – and there ain’t a drunk alive who hasn’t mastered crawling through a window from having locked their keys inside their place so often.”

Though her cheeks were wet, she couldn’t help but let out a laugh. She dropped her club.

“####, I couldn’t just let him kill you. I’m all the ####ing friends you got, and I can’t afford the funeral.”

Will smiled.

Behind him, at the chain’s furthest length, waited Allison.

The spirit sniffed, and Coffin sighed.

“I’m sorry this wasn’t your solution, but I hope there’s a little satisfaction in it for you,” he said. “I think it’s best if you take a bit to gather yourself, and you’ll likely want a some privacy with your cowboy.

“We’ll be there soon.“

As he finished Will let go of the talisman, and, before the phantom might resist, the returned pull of her resting place overcame her.

“You thought pummeling this douche jockey would bring her closure and let her go?” asked Bunny, as her roommate retrieved a pair of gloves from the interior of his coat, and stooped towards the unconscious body.

“Nah, but I’ll certainly feel better when we dig up her corpse and lock it in his trunk for the highway patrol to find.” Coffin pulled the Hummer’s keys from Shane’s pocket. “We’re going to need another shovel, though.”

“Might have been easier to just drive her home.”

“Oh, we’ll try that too, but It won’t help – it never does. Person like that longs to go back, but they didn’t get dead by having a family that cared. They know what they want, but they don’t know what they need. Like I’ve said, often the best I can do is provide a distraction.”

* * *

They were nearly out of the city before Bunny spoke again.

“I think we should get some ice – a big pile of ice.” As she said it, she pointed at a passing gas station whose freezer brimmed with white bags.

“Ice?” asked Will.

“Yeah. Maybe it’s just another of your distractions, but – well, the girl and her bronco buster seem to complain a lot about the heat. Might be nice to fill the hot tub for them, at least till it all melts. Besides – I dunno, I have this idea that maybe what they’re looking for is each other. Is that a possibility? I don’t know all the Casper rules yet.”

“Now there’s an interesting thought,” said Coffin, as he pulled the wheel around.

It would be a long time before she would let him forget how right she was.


(Part 1Part 2Part 3)


Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP272 – Coffin: Balm, Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and seventy-two.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Balm, Part 2 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp272.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)


This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Way of the Buffalo Podcast.


Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, Will Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny, his tipsy companion, exchange tales of, and with, the dead.


Coffin: Balm, Part 2 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May


CoffinThe phantasmic cowhand, having been exhausted from the effort required to stand tall, had returned to the awkward sprawl of his death.

It seemed impolite, to Bunny, to loiter around a man with his face pinned to the dirt, and so she’d drifted, with her whiskey bottle, to sit on the hood of the gray rented Ford.

With a shrug, Coffin followed.

“What’s his deal? Why’s he here?” asked the drunk, in a tone meant to be covert.

“That’s the question,” replied Coffin. “Ambrose is from a time when men were supposed to be wrasslin’ bears and chewing iron, not dealing with their emotions and having any idea why they were constantly looking moodily at the horizon. Something’s keeping him here, but he’s not talking about it – may not even be aware of what it is.

”He’s an aberration. No ghost should be able to linger so long. His water ran dry a over a century ahead of anyone considering running a highway by here, but he hasn’t gotten any less stubborn since.

“I’ve researched his genealogy, tracked down the burial site of the man who killed his brother, brought out some cold beer. Way back in the day, we even tried a horse. Had to rent the beast, and a trailer to haul it in. The guy only let us go with his stuff because Sandy hinted we were filming a version of Lady Godiva’s naked ride.”

Bunny snorted, and Will allowed himself a grin.

“We were young, and it was the ‘70s,” he continued, “people did that sort of thing. ”

The mention of his dead wife, and his introduction of the ghost, was as close to opening up to Bunny as Will had ever come, and this was perhaps why she suddenly found herself speaking of the husband she’d been forced to kill.

“One time Tim borrowed a camcorder from a pal of his; Wanted to make a home movie he was already calling Tail from the Darkside. I won’t get into the details of his plan, but that #### wasn’t happening. I may’ve failed high school biology and physics, but even I know the human body wasn’t meant to twist like that.

“Still, I didn’t want to get my ass kicked, because I didn’t think giving me a wallop would do much more than make it worse before he’d even begun, so I did the only thing I could think of.

“I licked his armpit.”

Coffin’s brow peaked.

“Yeah, sure.” said Bunny, “You’ve gotta realize three things – One: No one expects an armpit lick; Two: It’s tough not to laugh at having your armpit licked; Three: It’s also just as tough to turn around and try and #### your armpit licker.

“Hell, I’d been drinking Wild Turkey all day anyway, so my mouth was too numb to notice how ####ty he tasted.”

Her shaking hand, which had once held a bloody frying pan, now raised the spiced liquor.

The desert had dried Bunny’s lips, but it could not keep the moisture from her eyes.

“Where’s this girl anyhow?” she finally asked, as she ran her denim jacket’s forearm across her cheeks.

“Well,” said Coffin, “you’ve probably heard the old story about the quiet hitchhiker who gets picked up in the middle of nowhere? The next day the driver has to go back to where they dropped off their passenger, and they discover a forlorn parent who tells them that it was their kid who’d died, tragically, the year previous?”

“Sure,” replied Bunny, from around the mouth of her drink.

”Yeah, that actually happens sometimes. She’s out cruising at the moment. A depressed phantom gets the energy together to thumb a ride, then they’ve got to remain intensely focused and hope they manage to make it home. It’s a painful process for them, and most snap back to their death site sooner than the ride’s done. Certainly confuses the good samaritan.”

The sun had gained height and heat, and the two dozen feet of brush and sand that lay between themselves and the prone apparition had begun to shimmer.

Without further discussion, the trio sank into their own considerations.

* * *

They were still silently staring into the haze when a shadow flickered past Bunny’s vision, and a second form came to be abruptly lying between the Focus and the cattleman. The twenty-something was wearing an unzipped black sweater, a blue tank top, and black stretch pants. Everything below her neck was slick with blood.

Will was quick to unfurl the silver chain from his pocket and let the intricate hook at its end dangle, but, before he might use the talisman to lift the newcomer from her resting place, the stolid oldtimer rose. Approaching the woman, he bowed low, and offered his hand.

She took it in her translucent own, and the two stood together briefly as she whispered something in his ear which neither Will, nor Bunny, could make out. Ambrose’s reply was clear enough, however: “No, no, Allison, it’s just this blasted warmth is all. Have a safe journey home – and think of me, when you might.”

The strain of remaining upright so soon after her attempted escape was obvious on the girl’s face as she turned away from her companion, so Coffin deftly brushed the arcane charm against her wrist.

They exchanged introductions as he lead her to the car.

* * *

Twenty minutes later, Allison was cheerily taking questions from Bunny, who had taken a seat in the back so that Coffin could maintain a grip on his occult tool while driving.

“How the #### do you manage to hitchhike while looking like you caught a Heinz factory explosion to the chest?” asked the lush.

“I learned to only try it at night,” replied the spectre. “I can zip my sweater and cover most of the mess. The guys – it’s always guys – need to keep their eyes on the road mostly anyhow. There was an evening where a geezer tried to get fresh with me, but I gave him have a gory peek, then let myself fall away. I thought it might stop some poor woman from being stuck in a jam in the future.”

As she spoke, the pattern of slashes across the meat of her neck seeped and shifted.

Bunny prodded further. “Why you trying so hard to find a ride?”

“I just want to go home. See my parents. I left on bad terms – well, I was never on good terms with them, I suppose, but I still miss them.

“Ever make it?”

“Nope. The further I went, the harder it got. I never made it much beyond halfway to Elko. I can’t even tell you how much I appreciate you guys giving me a lift.”

Bunny finished her whiskey and asked, “what were you doin’ out in the middle of nowhere?”

Allison’s grin deflated.

“I was with my man, Shane. I thought he was magic – but, really, I was an idiot. We weren’t living together, but I was considering it. He drove a limo for the Shaved Kitty Cabaret – a strip club in the south end of Vegas. To keep things fresh a lot of peeler establishments shuffle their dancers around, and Shane spent most of his working hours driving between there and L.A. or San Fran.

“He wasn’t supposed to have anyone with him while he was chauffeuring, but the talent were generally too busy enjoying the complimentary champagne to complain about us being upfront listening to old Tupac live recordings.

“Shane had convinced me that he was a man on his way. He’d gotten the ear of some big money in Los Angeles, and was running trailer crystal into the city. I know how bad that sounds, but – well, death gives you a perspective you maybe didn’t have when you were alive.

“Truly, I didn’t fully understand how deeply he was in it – all I could see was a guy with hot abs and a wallet full of cash. Well, usually full of cash. I only realized how huge his own meth habit had become when we were fighting during the drive back because he couldn’t afford to stop for a Big Mac on the way.

“Tired out, and refusing to talk to him further, I fell asleep with my head against the window, and then we were stopped, and Shane was laughing and laughing. Half unconscious, I stumbled from the car, and he was calling me over to a big pile of nothing. I wanted to leave, but part of me was just glad he wasn’t still mad, because he’d been so quick to get angry. Should have put two and two together there as well, I guess. Anyhow, when I realize there was nothing to see in the dark, I tried to leave, but he – he didn’t let me.

“After I was dead, I couldn’t stop crying.

“Ambrose had to walk over and hold me, and I was too much of a mess to help him lift me, so it couldn’t have been easy. He waited there till dawn, and even when he went back to his spot, he kept talking to me. He explained my situation, and tried to guess at what might free me. He was so formal – but so sweet.

“It wasn’t the last time I blubbered. Sometimes we’d crawl across the ten or so feet of sand and grab each other like we were drowning – it was easier to keep from falling back when we were wrapped together.”

The shade was so lost in her retelling that she failed to notice as Coffin adjusted his course away from her original destination, and towards Las Vegas.

Nor did she note that the knuckles he’d wrapped around his mystic trinket were white with strain.

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)


Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

FP271 – Coffin: Balm, Part 1 of 3

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode two hundred and seventy-one.

Flash PulpTonight we present Coffin: Balm, Part 1 of 3
(Part 1Part 2Part 3)
[audio:http://traffic.libsyn.com/skinner/FlashPulp271.mp3]Download MP3
(RSS / iTunes)


This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Way of the Buffalo Podcast.


Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Tonight, Will Coffin, urban shaman, and Bunny, his drunken roommate, find themselves speaking with a dead man beside a lonely Nevada highway.


Coffin: Balm, Part 1 of 3

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May


Coffin: Balm“Keep an eye out for landmarks,” said Coffin.

“Landmarks?” replied his tispy traveling companion, Bunny, “It’s a goddamn desert! Take a left at the sand and bushes, but be sure to stop when you hit the sand and bushes – careful, though: If you see the ####ing sand and bushes, you’ve gone too far.”

The pair’s temporary escape from Capital City had continued southward onto the morning-lit highways of Nevada. Coffin, behind the wheel of the rented Ford Focus, frowned at her response.

“You’ve been more of a smartass than usual lately, something you want to talk about?” he asked.

“Yeah, the same two things I’ve been nagging you about since we got on the jet plane – where the #### are we going, and why the #### are we going there?”

As he’d done each previous time she’d asked, Coffin began chewing at his thumbnail.

“Fine,” he replied, ”you’re going to meet my first.”

“What? Christ, I don’t need to know that much about your sex life.”

“No, my first ghost.”


Though she’d met many of Will’s acquaintances, Bunny could hardly call any of them close friends of his – at least not in the traditional sense. Receiving calls from distant family was one of the few times he had the courtesy to leave the room when answering the phone, and, on those occasions, he was sure to shut himself away in his room.

The personal nature of his confession, and the unusually soft tone in which he’d delivered it, left her silent.

A few miles later she waved a hand at the faded red pole that marked their turn, but Will had already seen it.

The Focus wasn’t built for off-roading, but they hadn’t gone far into the scrub when Coffin cut the engine. His rough-seamed leather jacket creaked as he turned towards Bunny, and his eyes locked on hers.

“Listen, this fellow’s from another time. He can get – excited.”

“Are you seriously ####ing telling me to be a good girl while we’re at Grandpa’s house?” asked Bunny.

Will’s lips twitched.

“No, this guy has been solidly of the same disposition for two hundred years, he could use a dose of modern habits. Just try to be patient.”

With that, one of Will’s hands went to the car door, and the other touched the silver chained talisman which rested within his well-worn pocket.

The man in the stetson had already righted himself by the time they exited the car.

Before she could complain about the unseasonal heat, Bunny found herself laughing.

“It’s a ghost! It’s a cowboy! It’s a friggin’ ghost cowboy!”

If her left hand hadn’t been occupied by a bottle of Fireball whiskey, she might have clapped.

The phantasm wore a close cropped beard, and a gun belt under his stained shirt and ragged vest.

“Hey pardner!” shouted Bunny.

“Simmer down,” said Coffin.

“You the rootin’ tootin’-est?” she asked. “How’s your fast draw?”

The apparition wiped at his chin with a gloved hand and gave her a hard look.

“Holy ####, you’ve got a lot of jingle in your jangle, pilgrim,” she continued, as she staggered closer. The motion, however, seemed to interfere with her commentary.

“Shit, I’m out of Roy Rogers jibber-jabber,” she confessed.

Despite the admission, the dead cattleman drew his weapon.

Suddenly, Bunny was no longer smiling.

She raised the bottle to her lips and swallowed hard. “Hey buffalo ####er, you keep pointing that spook gun at me and you’ll wish you’d died a pacifist.”

It was then that Coffin stepped in. “Ambrose, I’m surprised you’d draw on a lady.”

“Lady?” asked the spectre, as he holstered his weapon, “only a lady of pleasure, at best. To what do I owe the intrusion? Have you returned to once again attempt to solve my problems?”

“Yes,” said Will. “Though, this time, you apparently actually asked for it – or so I was told by the northerners.”

“I suppose I did.”

The cowpuncher paused to tip his brim to Bunny, and the lush raised her drink in reply, though she didn’t meet his stare.

“Coffin,” began the shade, “I’ve seen many things from my resting place – I’ve seen ‘em light the sky with nuclear fire, and neon. I’ve seen pavement pressed over the landscape, and I’ve seen men and women on their last legs as their debt-ridden husks carried them out of Vegas.

“Last spring, though, I was witness to a happening worse than any other I’ve encountered in my long camp.

“A beast of a car pulled up – bigger than any I’ve seen so close. Out pops a wiry maniac – a lad of twenty-five, cackling like he’s just made his fortune in the city. Except, of course, this is the middle of nowhere, and the girl following him out onto the dirt isn’t so sure about his attitude.

“I figured at first I might be about to witness one of the few acts of human congress that hasn’t changed much since my time, but, once they’re at my feet, the lass ain’t so sure. Her boy won’t stop laughing, and no one’s telling any jokes.

“She took a step back towards their vehicle, but he wrapped his hand in her blond hair, and threw her in the dirt.

“Then he had a knife in his hand.” Ambrose cleared his throat. “Hell, I drew on ‘em. Yelled a bunch and kicked sand. Course, he saw none of it, just kept sawing that wicked blade across her throat and rambling about the police.

“Eventually he jumped up, like he’d finished a good night’s sleep, and started digging. About halfway through, though, he started weeping and accusing her of abandoning him.”

Bunny exhaled cinnamon into the morning air, but held her tongue.

It was a moment before the shade found his own.

He raised his milky gaze to the blazing sun.

“She’s been here with me since,” he finally said, ”and I need you to take her home.”

(Part 1Part 2Part 3)


Flash Pulp is presented by http://skinner.fm, and is released under the Canadian Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 License.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.