by KC Ball
read by Dani Cutler
Links for this episode:
about the author…
I live in Seattle, a stone’s throw from Puget Sound, with my life partner, Rachael.
I began writing fiction professionally in 2008 and now write full-time. I’ve sold almost fifty short stories, for publication in various print and online magazines, including Analog, Lightspeed, Flash Fiction Online and Murky Depths, the award-winning but now defunct British fantasy magazine.
In addition, my novel, Lifting Up Veronica, was published in January 2012 by Every Day Publishers as an online serial. E-book and print versions are forthcoming. My first short-story collection, Snapshots from a Black Hole & Other Oddities, was published in January 2012 by Hydra House Books.
I won the 2009 Writers of the Future competition with my short story,Coward’s Steel, graduated the Clarion West writers workshop July 2010 and attended Mike Brotherton’s Launch Pad workshop July 2011 at the University of Wyoming. I have also studied with SFWA Grand Master Jim Gunn.
I am fanatic about the written word, oral story-telling, corny jokes, traditional jazz, open water, lighthouses, sad country songs and all things to do with motion pictures.
about the narrator…
Narrator Dani Cutler
Dani Cutler last narrated for EP in 389: Keeping Tabs. She has been part of the podcasting community since 2006, hosting and producing her own podcast through 2013. She currently works for KWSS independent radio in Phoenix as their midday announcer, and also organizes a technology conference each year for Phoenix residents to connect with others in the podcast, video, and online community.
Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One
by KC Ball
Lori Meeker pushed her hair out of her eyes and leaned back against the sink. She squeezed the cold porcelain edge to still her trembling hands and focused on the pair of plainclothes cops shoehorned into the women’s can with her.
The space was hardly bigger than a closet but the restrooms were the only private spaces in the bar, and the detectives had insisted on questioning her alone.
“The restrooms always this clean?” Detective Gayle asked.
“Yeah. Augie’s bat-shit crazy about dirt and germs.”
Gayle raised an eyebrow. “Bat-shit crazy, huh? Is that your professional opinion?”
“Pardon my French,” Lori snapped.
Lori had met women just like Gayle. Always judging, always pretending they could do anything a man could do. Always looking down their perfect nose at girls who had to work in joints like Augie’s Bar & Grill.
And Augie was bat-shit crazy about germs. A damned phobia, that’s what she should have said. It was a bar, for god’s sake, not some fancy restaurant. The place was cleaner than it had any need to be.
“Tell us what you saw and heard,” Detective Osbourne said.
Osbourne looked like a nice man, the kind of guy who would listen without judging. Lori decided to talk to him. She weighed how much to tell him, though. She was afraid he might call her crazy, might laugh and stop listening to her, if she said she didn’t think the dead body out on the bar floor was human.
Lori fished her cigarettes from her sweater pocket, shook a fresh one from the pack and sparked it with her butane lighter. Gayle turned her head away and coughed. Lori smiled.
“You going to talk to us?” Gayle asked.
Lori blew more smoke toward Gayle and focused on Osbourne’s big, brown hound-dog eyes.
“I unlocked the door at eleven,” she said. “Right off, this little guy strolled in, just like he owned the place. Augie gave him the once over, went back to stocking the cooler with a case of Red Hook.”
“What did you make of him?” Osbourne asked.
“I saw right off that he was slumming. I can tell the type. But Augie always says it doesn’t matter where a customer is from or what they look like, long as they have money.”
Gayle jumped in. “And this guy had money?”
Lori nodded. “A wad of bills would choke a horse.”
“Did he sit at the bar?” Osbourne asked.
“Uh huh,” she said. “He crawled up on one of the stools. Could barely see over the edge. If we had booster seats I think I would’a offered him one.”
Her cigarette had burned down to the filter. Lori flipped it into the toilet, listened to it hiss, and popped her butane lighter to spark another one. A skinny job with lots of filter and not much tobacco. Her mother called them coffin tacks.
“What did the fellow look like?” Osbourne asked.
“Bald, a big head. Glasses on a little nose, not much chin. He ordered one drink. Straight-up scotch. Never touched it. Most times, that sets Augie off. This time he never say a word.”
“Any idea why?” Osbourne asked.
“They told each other jokes.”
Lori nodded. “Augie loves jokes, can tell them all night and not repeat himself. This little guy could tell them, too.”
“What sort of jokes?” Detective Gayle asked.
“All kinds. The one about the farmer’s daughter and the salesman. The golfer and the dead priest. The special pig. That one makes me laugh, but I can’t remember it to save my life.”
Gayle leaned in close now, ignoring the cigarette smoke. “Tell us what happened at the end.”
“I’d almost finished setting up the tables, when I heard the guy say, ‘Augie, you ever heard the one about the little green man that walked into the bar?’”
She could feel tears welling. She tried to push them back.
“Go on, Lori.” Osbourne said, kindness in his voice.
Lori closed her eyes, held on to his words. “Augie yelled, then I heard the shotgun. Almost peed myself. When I looked, the little guy was on the floor, his face shot all to pieces.”