Showing posts with label s.a. cosby. Show all posts
Showing posts with label s.a. cosby. Show all posts

Monday, April 5, 2021

Sugar, fiction by S.A. Cosby

My phone vibrated so hard it fell off the night stand. I rolled over and let my arm slide from around Mara’s waist. Cursing, I reached blindly for the phone. When I finally felt the slick hard plastic rectangle, I realized it wasn’t my work phone. That one has a heavy-duty rubber case on the off chance I drop it when I’m climbing out of my tow truck. It was my personal phone that was currently dancing across the floor. 

I picked it up and stared at the glowing name on the screen. 


“Fuck.” I whispered. Mara let out a soft groan then turned over on her belly. I knew she’d let out a hellacious fart in about five seconds. It’s funny the things you learn when lust turns to love and you find yourself with the same person for ten years, the last five spent as husband and wife. 

I touched the screen. 

“It’s three  in the morning. “ I said. 

“Hey brother. Glad to see you can still tell time. I’m in a little bit of a situation here. I was wondering if I could get you to come pull me out of the swamp. I ran off the road near the West River bridge,” Sugar said. His deep radio DJ voice slithered over the airwaves like a snake coated in honey.
I didn’t respond. Not at first. 

My brother’s given name is Samuel but my Mama called him Sugar Son because she said he was her miracle baby and he was just so damn sweet.  Born eight years after me. Eight years after the doctor told her she couldn’t have any more children. Her miracle boy. The sweetest little boy who ever lived. And just like overripe fruit he spoiled quick as a hiccup. 

I was just a regular baby. Nothing special about me. 

“You always in a situation Sugar.” I said finally. Now it was his turn to be quiet. If his rage was a fire I could have seen the first plumes of smoke. 

“I’m in a bind here man. And you just happen to have a fucking tow truck. You can’t help your brother?  Mama always said we supposed to look out for each other. “ Sugar said. 
Our mama did indeed say that. But anybody worth asking would have told you that road only went one way. But he was my brother. 

Anyway, the sooner I got him out the weeds the sooner he could disappear again. 

I got up , kissed Mara on the forehead and climbed in my tow truck. I turned onto Rt .624 and headed for West End River bridge. The “river” was more like a deep-ass creek and the bridge was only twenty feet long. Just a little concrete spit of a thing to get you from one side of the creek to other. It was so narrow two cars couldn’t pass on it. If you saw  somebody coming you gotta pull over and let them go by. If you’re  inclined to be nice. My brother Sugar never pulled over. 

My Mama saw things in Sugar that weren’t there. Illusions and hallucinations that she embraced instead of seeing him for who he really was. Sugar wasn’t the kind of kid to pull the wings off of flies. He was the kind of kid that would collect grasshoppers in a coffee can then put the can over a fire and watch them try to hop out. 

Then crush the ones that escaped. 

My Mama might have seen him as an angel but our Daddy knew he had a devil in him and a hornet’s nest where his heart was supposed to be. Mama coddled him. In my mama’s eyes  Sugar could do no wrong. Every girl who said he beat her had lied on him and ever boy who he whupped was jealous of him.  The funny thing was the boys probably were jealous of him. As we both grew he got more and more handsome on the outside even as he got more and more rancid on the inside. Sugar never picked up a dumbbell in his whole life but he had a six pack when he was fifteen. He was the best of my mama’s cafĂ© au lait Indian and black family tree and my daddy’s ebony nightshade Virginia country DNA.
I turned down Stamper’s Creek Rd. Red Hill was a small county that rolled up the sidewalks in town when it got dark. This time of night in this part of the county the only people I encountered on the road were ghosts. 

My daddy didn’t let Sugar slide one inch because our mama had already him a mile. As Sugar got bigger and Daddy older they seemed to circle around each other like two rabid lions. 

When I was around 25 and Sugar was 17 he got mad because Mama didn’t have enough money to pay for his prom tux and Daddy wouldn’t give him the rest because he had just bailed him out of the jail the week before for trying to burn down Linwood Lester’s shed. Why had Sugar tried to burn down the shed?  Same reason he did most things. Because he wanted to. I was living in a trailer with Mara by then out near the soon to be closed ice plant. So I wasn’t there to see what happened but from what little Mama told me Sugar had gotten that look and when she said no again with tears in her eyes , that she just didn’t have the money and Daddy wasn’t gonna ask for an advance from his boss at the paper mill Sugar backhanded her so hard it sound like a rifle shot. 

When Mama told me the story she swore it was an accident. 


Daddy got up from the table where he was eating his dinner . He went to the closet and pulled out an axe handle. A good hickory handle he said he was gonna fix with a new axe head one day, and proceeded to beat the everlovin shit out of Sugar. He kicked him out and told him don’t ever come back. 

Two weeks later my Daddy got locked in his work shed behind the house with a beehive the size of a basketball. My daddy was deathly allergic to bees. 

I’d been in that shed a week earlier and I hadn’t seen no hive but my mama swore on a stack of bibles ten feet tall that she had asked my Daddy to get rid of the bee hive weeks earlier.
Sugar faded for awhile after that. I didn’t see him for four years. You know how water takes the shape of whatever you pour it in? Sugar’s like that. He just twist himself into whatever shape suits him best. The next time I saw him he was driving an Escalade and working for Luther Barnes out of Norfolk. 

“What you do for him?” I asked him once. 

“I’m a garbage man.” He said flashing me a pearl-white smile. I figured he’d finally found a use for that wicked storm that live inside him. Whenever I saw a murder on the news that was suspected of being drug-related out in the city that was especially horrific or brutal I always thought of Sugar and them grasshoppers.

My headlights illuminated him like some ethereal being as I came down to where the road narrows at West End river bridge.  An old big body Bonneville, banana-yellow, had slid off the side the road. The front and rear passenger tires were up to the middle of their hubcaps in the muck. I stopped the truck and killed the engine. 

When I climbed out Sugar came strutting on over and gave me a hug. It felt like something he thought he should do not something he wanted to do. 

“Johnny Boy. You a life saver, brother. “
“Hey Sugar. “ I said. I was taller than him but he was still built like an African god cut from obsidian with light greenish eyes that shined like chips of peridot. 

“What you doing in town?” I asked.  He smiled at me. It made my belly feel like a mouse had run across it. He didn’t speak for a long time.

“How long you think it’s gonna take to get me out?” he said finally. 

I latched a hook on the frame of the Bonneville just behind the rear bumper. As I worked the winch, Sugar played with his phone. The Bonneville was a big old piece of American muscle. Despite the mud and sludge, I could see it had been well-cared for. It was heavy as hell so I pushed the hydraulic switch a little harder than I intended. The car lurched out of the mud like a demon released from the Pit. The rear wheels came up then slammed back down on the asphalt. 

The trunk popped open but the car was free. I started for it to unlatch the hook but Sugar cut me off.
“Let me  close the trunk, “ he said. The look was there in his eyes. It wasn’t  evil or scary. It was the absence of. . . anything. A blankness that seemed to stare through you. 
But I’d seen. I’d seen what was in the trunk.
A blue tarp wrapped around two forms. One had a large pair of brown Timberland boots on their feet.
The other form was smaller. The feet were tiny, clad in sneakers. Pink sneakers with a floral print. The light in the trunk was painfully bright.
“Why are you in town? Who the fuck is that,  Sugar?” I said. 

“You don’t wanna know. In fact, you gonna forget this. All of it. “ he said. He stepped closer to me and I could almost smell the crazy coming off of him like the stench of a dog that’s crawled under the porch to die. 

“I don’t wanna come see you and Mara one night Johnny Boy.” He said and I know without a shadow of a doubt he meant every word he was saying. I took a deep breath. 

“Close the trunk and unlatch the hook.”  I said finally. He went over to the car and slammed the trunk down. He dropped to his knees to undo the hook. 

I grabbed a yellow tie-down strap off the back of my truck. The strap itself wasn’t very wide. About the width of a ruler you used in school, but they were  unbelievably strong. 
Sugar unlatched the hook but before he could stand up to his full height I looped the strap around his neck and pulled it tight. He tried to buck loose but I fell back against the blacktop and pulled it the strap even tighter. He scratched at my hands but my oil-stained work gloves gave him no purchase. He kicked his feet and scuffed his Gucci loafers against the road.

I closed my eyes and saw my Daddy’s face float up out the darkness. 

I thought of him in that shed as the opening in his throat winnowed down to the size of the eye of a needle. 

I thought of that man in the trunk and what he must have felt watching Sugar do whatever it was he’d done to his daughter because I sure as shit knew he did her first. 

I held on until I he stopped kicking. Then I held on a little while longer. 

I popped the trunk and put Sugar inside on top of the tarp. I shut it, hooked it up to my truck and drove to Burkes Mill Pond. I pushed the car down the embankment. I watched it sink until the bubbles stopped breaking the surface. Burkes Mill Pond is really an empty quarry. People say no one really knows how far it is to the bottom. 

I hope it’s deep as they say. 

God let it be deep. 

S.A. Cosby is the award-winning author of BLACKTOP WASTELAND and the upcoming RAZORBLADE TEARS.

He resides in southeastern Virginia.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Whiskey Made Us Brave, ficton by S.A. Cosby

The sign above the bar said “Billy Boy’s Blues Shack” in bright neon indigo letters that had been crafted in an exaggerated 80’s font. Bricks came back with two more Jack’s on the rocks. He sat one squat little glass in front of me and kept one for himself. I craned my head around taking in everything Billy Boy’s had to offer. That list was short.

I thought we might have to sneak in but the white guy with the sleepy eyes sitting on a weathered old wooden stool at the door just waved us on when we paused at the bottom step. I’d never been in a bar before let alone a ramshackle juke joint in the hills just outside of Charlotte. I’d come in here with big ideas and wild dreams. I imagined myself striding through the door, coolly tossing back a shot of liquor before making out with some trailer park beauty queen looking for some chocolate as the band played some Marvin Sease or some Willie Clayton, the type of shit my daddy used to play while he sat on the back porch getting drunk.

In reality the bar smelled like piss and vomit. The women had faces like hatchets that had been used to chop down a redwood. My first sip of Jack made me gag and cough like I was having an asthma attack. But I kept drinking it sip by miserable sip. I snuck a glance at Bricks. He had finished his drink in one big gulp. I choked mine down too.

We had a man to kill tonight and I didn’t think I could do it sober.

“How we gonna know who he is?” I leaned over and shouted into Brick’s ear. Instead of a band the music in the bar was supplied by an old jukebox with two speakers mounted in the ceiling. The speakers were attached by some raggedy ass looking wires that hung down in a series of undulating loops.

“We’ll know.” Bricks said. He shook the ice cubes from his glass into his mouth and crunched them into bits. Bricks was only a year older than me but he was twice as big. All rough angles and backyard muscles. Beads of sweat were popping up on his midnight colored skin like new houses on the waterfront. We’d done four years in the same juvie center. He’d gotten out six months before I did. When I’d landed back in Red Hill county my mom wouldn’t let me move back in so I hooked up with Bricks in Richmond. Bricks ran with a crew from the southside that pushed for Luther Walsh and the River City Boys.

“Yeah but how gonna know? You got a picture or something?” I asked. Bricks stared at me. I sipped my drink and studied the table.

“Why the fuck would I have a picture on me? Stop talking stupid man. We’ll know who it is when we see him cuz we know him.” Bricks said. My stomach roiled and not from the sour mash I was drinking. My throat went bone dry.

“Oh, now you ain’t got no questions? “Bricks asked.

“Didn’t know it was gonna be somebody we knew.” I said.

“That’s why he ain’t gonna see it coming.” Bricks said

I guzzled my drink and scanned the room again, this time with new eyes. There were some women standing next to bar wearing Daisy Dukes two sizes too small. Pink and red shirts emblazoned with words like JUICY and SEXY spelled out with glitter. The feeble fluorescent lights in the ceiling gave their outfits an otherworldly glow. Magically trashy with oiled up brown thighs and full breasts that made the J and the Y jut out like a 3D image. My brain searched for a familiar face in the crowd. The known tilt of a head or a recognizable lazy gait. A dead man who thought we were his homies. I made the mistake of letting one of the women at the bar catch my eyes. I looked away but not quickly enough. She sauntered over to our table on wobbly legs. Silky Brazilian hair weaved into her own coarser grade flowed down her back and ran away from her edges. Her outfit said 21 but her face said 45 the hard way.

“Timmy you ain’t gonna speak to me?” She said. Her words slipped out crooked and slurred. Her nipples were hard as bullets under her tight t-shirt. Against my wishes my dick started to get harder than Sudoku with fractions. She slipped one meaty arm around my neck while one of her heavy breasts pressed against my head. She was trying to sit on my lap but I wasn’t giving her much room. She smelled like sweat and bad decisions. A lifetime of them. I couldn’t believe she was making my dick hard. What was wrong with me? She was old enough to be my mama.

“My name ain’t Timmy. It’s Desean.” I said. Bricks kicked under the table hard enough to fracture my tibia. The woman hadn’t heard me or was pretending she hadn’t which amounted to about the same thing.

“What you say Timmy?” She sputtered.

“He said he ain’t Timmy. His name is Slim Red.” A voice said. I turned and saw a tall lean man standing near our table. He was wearing jeans and a black t-shirt with a white Punisher emblem on it. He had thick ropey dreads that fell to his broad shoulders.

“He ain’t Timmy? Shit he got a fat dick like Timmy.” The woman tittered. She reached under the table and gripped my shit like it was the throttle on a Ducati.

“Lawanda go on now. I got to talk to my boys for a minute,” the man in the Punisher shirt said.

“Don’t’ leave without saying goodbye Not Timmy.” Lawanda said. She bent over and gave me a sloppy wet kiss on the cheek. Her greasy lipstick left a stain that felt like she’d spilled glue on my face.

“Bricks, Slim Red what y’all motherfuckers doing in North Cackalacky? You still running with Luther?”

“What up Ennis. Ain’t seen you since juvie. Nah man I ain’t with L anymore. Doing my own thing. Had to drop some shit off and decided to get a drink while we was in town. “Bricks said. He slipped his left hand under the table. His right played with his empty glass. Ennis grabbed a chair spun it around and sat with his arms folded over the back rest. Ennis was a few years older than either of us. He’d graduated from Gatewood to Coldwater State Prison to finish out his sentence. He’d led the cops on a five county high speed chase after robbing a pawn shop with an axe.

“Shit it been what five years? I heard you was moving that big weight for the River City boys. Now you and Slim Red independent operators huh?” “Ennis asked. He grinned and the neon sign above the bar made his gold fronts glow blue like sapphires. The music had been turned up to eleven. It was like a living thing, a monster’s heartbeat. A monster that lived off liquor and lust. Both of those were flowing freely at Billy’s tonight.

“I’m just along for the ride tonight.” I said. Ennis grinned again.

“Man, I remember when you hit the floor at Gatewood. You was scared of every damn thing. You jumped if the hand dryer came on too loud.”

“Yeah. I had to get over that quick. If it won’t for you and Bricks I don’t what would have happened.” As soon as the words entered the air between us I felt a wave of nausea roll over me like combine.

“I know what would’ve happened. Case Mitchells would have fucked you in the ass til your turds rolled out like ball bearings down a funnel.” Ennis said.

He laughed loud and hard. I felt heat working its way up my neck to my face. He was right of course. There was no denying that. Case was a devil in a cage full of demons. Bricks and Ennis and Mofo and the rest of their set took me in and hipped me to the game inside Gatewood. They taught me the ins and outs. Do’s and don’ts. They even gave me the shank I used to slice Case from his neck to his navel. I think it was equal parts pity, piety and a general dislike for Case. I didn’t kill him just gave him a nasty jagged scar and an involuntary hitch in his step whenever he saw me.

Back then I couldn’t kill anybody. Throw knuckles, slice’em up, crack’em in the head with a poker from the wood stove like I did my daddy. Yeah I could do that all day long. The me from back then didn’t have it in him to kill anybody. Now here I was sitting across from a brother who had kept me from being Case Mitchell’s bitch planning to put two in his head.

I joined Ennis in his laughter and soon so did Bricks. We sounded like a bunch of donkeys braying. Bricks kept his hand under the table near the gun in his front pocket. A small .38 with a rubber grip. My gun was in the car. Bricks had passed it to me once we’d gotten on the road. I had stuck it in the glove box. It had a clip and one in the chamber but I couldn’t tell you the name of it if my life depended on it.

A fat brother in a green tank top approached our table but stopped two feet shy of my chair. His eyes darted side to side and his upper lip was slathered in sweat but I didn’t think it was from the heat.

“Hey E- Money can I talk at you at you for a minute,” the man said.

“Hey let me get at you later Hype I’m talking to some of my boys from back home,” Ennis said.

“Aw man I’m sorry I’m just trying to see if you got something,” the fat man said. “Yo Hype I said I’d holla at you in a minute all right? “Ennis said. I felt the menace in those words. Violence radiated from them like the heat from a wood stove. Hype dropped his head and melted back into the crowd.

“Damn you the man like that round here?” Bricks asked. Ennis smiled. Just like that the ferocity around him evaporated.

“I do a little something something. Yo let’s get some shots. For old times’ sake. Y’all want some Jose?”

“Yeah that’s cool.” Bricks said answering for the both of us.

“That’s what’s up! My boys down in the NC! I be right back.” He held out his fists to Bricks then me. We bumped knuckles then watched as Ennis headed for the bar. As soon as I thought he was out of ear shot I whirled on Bricks.

“When was you gonna tell me it was Ennis? “I said.

“I figured you’d find out when he showed up. Luther said this was his spot," Bricks said. His voice was as smooth as a pane of glass.

“Bricks it’s Ennis man. Ennis. We done come all the way down 95 to put somebody in the ground and it’s one of our best friends from Gatewood. Ennis saved me from Case. He took a nightstick to the face when them guards was trying to drown you in that toilet. You knew the whole time it was him and you didn’t say shit." Bricks played with his empty glass. He ran his finger around the rim like it was a dulcimer.

“Here’s the thing cuz. What I knew or didn’t know don’t’ matter. You came to me remember? You said you wanted to run with Luther Walsh and the River City Boys. You the one that wanted to be down. Well this is how the fuck we get down. You trying to run with them big dogs cuz? Then you gotta get your ass off the porch.” Bricks said. My chest felt like I had gargled with barbwire. Tremors ran up and down my esophagus like I was being tickled from the inside out.

“I… I don’t if I can do this. It’s Ennis man.” I said his name again like it was my new mantra. Bricks flat dirty brown eyes lit on me like a fly.

“Nah cuz. It’s you or Ennis. That’s how this rolls. Luther know for a fact he done hit four of his stash house down here. Done took the product and the money. Put three of ours to sleep. So, you ain’t riding? That’s cool. I’ll just go back to the Cap City alone. You feeling me?” He asked.

I didn’t hesitate. I told him of course I was feeling him. Anything less than that was guaranteeing me a bullet to the face. I didn’t really know what I was feeling. The people I’d hurt in the past had hurt me first. That included my daddy and his quick hands. This was different. Could I kill Ennis because he’d ripped off Luther Walsh? People say pulling the trigger is the easiest thing in the world. Right then it felt like climbing a mountain barefoot. Possible but painful as hell.

“Here drink this shit man. It’ll put hair on your chest and your balls.” Ennis said. He slid a couple shot glasses across the table. He held his aloft.

“To getting out of Gatewood!” He yelled. We clinked our glasses together. The tequila was worse than the Jack. It tasted the way gasoline smelled. Ennis gasped, closed his eyes tight then slammed the glass down on the table.

“Hey man since y’all my boys and you in my town I feel like I gotta take you to the real spot man. Like where the dime pieces at not these nickels and pennies here.” Ennis said.

“Where’s that?” Bricks asked.

“Place out on 234. Homemade strip club man. Girls out there so thick they got USDA stamped on their ass.” Ennis said. He smiled and I felt myself smiling back. I couldn’t help it.

“They gonna be cool with us coming out there?” Bricks said.

“Y’all got some ones on you?”

“If I can get some change I’ll have a hundred in ones.” Bricks said. Ennis smiled again.

“Well damn negro they gonna be really cool with you coming out there.” Ennis said. Bricks thought it over for a second.

“All right let’s go.”


A light fog came rolling in as we sailed down the narrow roads that took us out of Raleigh proper and into the countryside. The moonless black sky seemed to meet the dark horizon as we sliced through the night. Ennis was in the back seat while I sat up front with Bricks.

“Hey man you remember that white dude from Red Hill? The one who tried doing a Columbine at his school?” Ennis said.

“The one they called Toddler because his teeth was so big it looked like he had a mouthful of baby shoes?” Bricks said. Ennis tittered.

“Yeah. Man, you know that motherfucker is running for town councilman now? “

“Bullshit.” Bricks said.

“Nope no bullshit. I saw his ass on the news trying to keep them Confederate statues up in Red Hill.”

“So that motherfucker still an asshole.” Bricks said. Ennis guffawed.

“Yeah. Hey man can you pull over for a second. I gotta piss bad as a racehorse.” Ennis said.

“You gonna pee on the side the road?” I asked.

“Yep. How many cars you seen since we got on this road? I could take a shit out here if I had to.” Ennis said. Bricks eased his foot onto the brake and the car coasted to the shoulder. He put it in park and let the engine idle.

“Hey man how much further to this place?” Bricks asked as Ennis climbed out the backseat.

“Like ten minutes man but I can’t hold it bruh. When you gotta go you gotta go.” Ennis said. He climbed out, closed the door and disappeared into the night.

“Get your piece and get in the back seat.” Bricks said. I did as I was told. The gun felt like it weighed five hundred pounds. I almost asked him why I had to get in the back seat. I almost asked him how we would explain the blood if we got stopped. But like they say almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Instead I took the coward's way out and said nothing.

“You ready?” Bricks asked.

“Not really.” I mumbled.

“What the fuck you say?” Bricks said. He turned around in the driver’s seat to glare at me. Before I could drop my eyes and whisper an apology his window exploded in a shower of glass. The top of Bricks’ head disintegrated as the inside of the car was painted in a violent shade of crimson. Bricks slumped to his right leaking vital fluids all over his leather interior. The rear passenger window shattered and I felt something hot slam into my cheek. As I fell back against the seat my mouth began to fill with a warm and coppery liquid. Sharp bits of bone sluiced down my throat. I realized almost absentmindedly that they were pieces of my teeth. My tongue squirmed in my mouth like a scalded dog.

The rear driver side door opened and Ennis leaned inside. He was holding a big ass chrome plated pistol. He wasn’t smiling or laughing.

“I knew y’all was down here for me soon as I laid eyes on y’all. For what it’s worth I wish they hadn’t sent you man. Bricks was always a shady motherfucker but you was always cool. “Ennis said. He put the barrel of his pistol against my temple.

I still had the gun in my left hand. I turned it towards Ennis and pulled the trigger. The sound of the gunshot was everything. It made my ears pop and my remaining teeth ache. Ennis fell backwards and landed on his ass. Blood flowed from his gut and spilled across his lap. It looked oily against his jeans. I fell over on my belly and aimed the gun at him. He tried to raise his pistol but before he could I shot him again. The bullet caught him in the throat and he collapsed onto his side on the cracked asphalt.


From the moment I had seen Ennis walk up to our table in that shitty ass bar I had asked myself a thousand times how hard would it be to pull the trigger? What would it take for me to kill someone I’d once considered a brother? As I lay there bleeding out I realized it wasn’t really hard at all.

All it took was enough whiskey to make you brave and a gun to your fucking head.

S.A. Cosby is a writer from southeastern Virginia. His work has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. His story THE GRASS BENEATH MY FEET( originally published in TOUGH) was recently nominated for an Anthony award. His first novel MY DARKEST PRAYER was published earlier this year by Intrigue Publishing. His next novel BLACKTOP WASTELAND was recently acquired by Flatiron Books.