“You always smell like french fries, Putter. I can’t take it anymore.”

“Give me a few minutes, Nat. I’ll shower.”

“It doesn’t matter if you shower, baby. It’s in your pores or something. When you get out of the shower, you smell like Axe-scented french fries. Not an improvement.”

“I’ll scrub, I’ll do, I’ll … what do they call it … I’ll … exfornicate.”

A grin from Natalie. “Exfoliate. Look, I love you. I just can’t stand the odor right now. Take a few days off, you’ll smell great again. Call me.”

With that, she was gone.

Putter’s buddy Eli had come up with the idea to steal barrels of used cooking oil from restaurants. And Putter had to admit it was good money despite the fact it made him stink and he didn’t understand why people wanted to buy the stuff. Something about biodiesel fuel. Eli said even jets can use it. Crazy shit.

But if the side effect was not getting any from his girl? No money was worth that.

Although … it was nearly 11 o’clock on Sunday night, and in rural Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, that meant the restaurants were all closed. Maybe one last big score before he found a no-stink way to earn some cash.

Putter grabbed his cell and dialed. “Eli? Hey, it’s me …”


It turned out to be a great night, a dozen barrels from seven restaurants – all full and all with oil clean enough to earn serious cash. Probably a couple thousand bucks total.

“Fortune’s just a day away,” Eli said as they lifted the final barrel into the plain white box truck, a beast of a vehicle that he originally bought for what turned out to be a remarkably unsuccessful attempt at a legitimate moving business.

With his battery-powered lantern, Putter climbed into the back where his job was to make sure none of the barrels tipped over. Eli lowered the door but left it unlatched, always did, so Putter wouldn’t spaz.

Minutes later, Putter heard what sounded like a police siren. Eli pulled the truck to a stop on the side of the road.

Slamming his fist on the metal wall behind Eli’s head, Putter yelled, “What the hell? That a cop?”

Eli yelled back, “Don’t panic! I’ll handle this.”

Putter panicked.

He had done time once, just a few months but long enough to know he couldn’t handle going back.

“Shit, shit, shit,” he muttered. “Shit.”

He turned off the lantern and tried not to make any noise.


Officer Bill Evans approached the driver’s side door. “License and registration, please.”

“Of course, officer. I have them right here.” Evans could tell the driver was struggling to keep his voice calm.

“What’s in the back of the truck?”

“It’s … it’s empty.” The driver handed him the documents.

“Stay here,” Evans said.

Walking back to his patrol car, Evans knew he had one for the chief county detective. Apparently some yahoos had been stealing used cooking oil from restaurants. Local police departments had been notified earlier in the week to look out for an unmarked delivery truck, probably smelling like french fries. This truck reeked.

A rhythmic noise from inside the truck caught Evans’ attention. He pounded on the back door, yelling, “Police! Who’s there?”


Sudden silence. Putter realized he had been oblivious to his own foot tap-tap-tapping on the floor. His body tensed. “Shit,” he whispered.

The cop banged on the door again.

“I’m opening this door! Whoever’s inside, I want to see your hands in the air!”

Putter said to himself, “I can’t go back. I can’t …”

He knew he had to run for it, at least give himself a chance to escape. He crouched in the dark, ready to sprint.

As soon as the door started rolling up, Putter ran forward. His knee hit one barrel, then he lost his balance and slammed headfirst into another. Dizzy, he fell to the floor as the second barrel tipped over, spilling 55 gallons of used cooking oil all over him.

“Ah, fuck me,” Putter said, losing consciousness. “I’m never getting laid again.”

~ fin ~

Erik Arneson lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and editor, Elizabeth. His short stories have appeared in Thuglit, Needle, Akashic Books' Mondays Are Murder, and many other places. His comic book Fortune is available from Comixology, Indy Planet, and NoiseTrade. He hosts the Title 18: Word Crimes podcast. Find him at and on Twitter @ErikArneson.