Black Out


First time I saw the little shit, he was posted up on the side of the liquor store. I pulled in, threw the Olds in park, and stared at the runt while the radio DJ went on about a murder that happened last night outside a local bar I used to frequent. Someone was stabbed a few dozen times with an electric turkey carver. Happy Thanksgiving, huh?

I was only half listening to the details. The other half of me was soaking in this kid. Dressed in his Sunday best, rusty blonde hair blowing in the November breeze. Must’ve been 15 or so. There was a murkiness about him.

I’ve seen some characters outside of the liquor store. The lowlife clowns of this city stuck to the side of its walls like flypaper. But a kid? That’s a new one.

As I walked past he said, “Pint of whiskey?”

I stopped and looked down at the runt. I had about three feet on him, but something about his confident posture gave me the creeps.

“Sure,” I said. “How ‘bout I get ya some rolling papers while I’m at it. And here,” I flicked him a quarter. “Payphone’s right over there. Call the cops now so they’re waiting for me when I come out.”

“Don’t have to be a dick about it.”

The mouth on this one, huh? “What’s you’re name, pilgrim?”

“Harry. You a cop?”

“Naw, but that’s funny. My name’s Harry too.”

“I know.”

“Whaddya mean…”

“Listen you buying or not? I got $20.”

It was the holidays, so I figured what the hell. I bought the kid a pint of Canadian Club. I was picking up some cheap wine for Kim anyway. I don’t drink anymore. I got the alcoholic bug. Used to black out so bad, when I came to I couldn’t even remember drinking.

Pulling out, I looked back and the kid was gone.


The second time I saw the little shit, he was on my front porch.

It was the next day, Thanksgiving. My wife was out picking up last minute items before her parents came over.

“Harry!” the kid said when I opened the door, pushing past my legs. He was wearing the same clothes as yesterday.

“What the hell, kid?”

“Harry, it’s Thanksgiving!” There was a sarcastic undercurrent to the pleasantry of his voice. “We’ve got work to do before Kim’s folks show up. I hope Margret waxed her upper lip since last year, huh?”

Harry moved into the kitchen. I heard dishes and silverware rattling around.

“Where does Kim keep the turkey carver?” he said. “I swear she’s always moving everything around.”

“Get the hell outta my house!”

The kid peeked his head out of the kitchen. “You’re not drinking already, are you? The itch always was bad around holidays.”

“What? I haven’t had a drink in…”

“After what happened the other night, Harry, I think you need to get your ass into AA again. Get another shiny white chip. What’ll that be? Your eighth?”

I heard Kim pull up. I launched myself on to the porch.

“Hon?” Kim said.

“This is gonna sound nuts, but there’s a kid in the house with the same name as me. He won’t leave!”

“Kid in our house? Oh Harry.” She walked past me dismissively, an armful of groceries.

“Kim! Wait!”

I ran behind her and shot into the kitchen. No one was there. No kid.

She put the groceries down on the counter. “You still scare me sometimes, hon. You’ve been staying out late. And your eyes look bloodshot. You know I love you, but promise me you haven’t been drinking.”

“I’m not…”

“Well, try and rest before my parents arrive.”

“He was just here…”

“Take a nap, hon. I’m going to move your car so my parents don’t have to park in the street.”

I lied down on the couch, my head doing the catch-up cartwheels like it used to coming out of a black out. Was the kid a hallucination? But I haven’t…

“Fuck you, Harry!” Kim said storming back into the house. “You promised!”

She was holding an empty Canadian Club and a bloody turkey carver.

~ fin ~

Patrick Cooper lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and dog. His short stories have appeared in Thuglit, Akashic Books, Spinetingler, Near to the Knuckle, Dark Corners, Out of the Gutter, and more, as well as a few print anthologies. Find more at and follow him on Twitter @PatrickGeCooper