All My Exes

📅 Published on August 11, 2022

“All My Exes”

Written by Eli Pope
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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Shad Hankins pushed the tavern’s shutters open, and stepped through, leaving them swinging behind, as he stopped just inside. His dirty off-white canvas riding coat hung nearly to the floor, dripping rainwater from the cold wet storm he’d been riding in. While his eyes adjusted to the darker interior of the room, the shadow cast across his face from the large, brimmed hat pulled low over his brow, kept his harsh anger held hidden in the black. A catchy tune of a familiar song willowing out across the room did little to squelch the fiery heat in his soul. He saw the bastard, though, through the dust and smoke that hovered above those sitting at the tables, cards in hand, guns lying beside their chips. There at the bar sat the son-of-a-bitch that shattered his world.

All my exes live in Texas… the steel guitar whined as the piano plinked out a melodic chorus. The keys on the player piano dipped and rose quickly in a mad dance from left to right, back and forth. Invisible as a ghost’s hands appearing to plunk them to the tune of the repetitive song.

After gaining better focus and surveying the lay of the room’s interior, Shad took account of how many of Frank’s men were there, and what positions they stood or sat. Two at the bar, one on either side of Frank. A group of five sat around a table to the left, where poker cards and small piles of bills and coins lay scattered amongst the whiskey glasses. Two more stood to the right in shadows several steps to Shad’s right-hand side. And of course, on the floor at Frank’s feet, lie Clyde, Frank’s tired old American bulldog warning him of impending danger in a low methodic growl rising slightly in volume when their eyes locked. An aging short-haired dog with yellowed long fangs and skin stretched drooping down around him on the floor. Not much of a threat these days as he’d once been. He and Clyde never like one another, even though Shad was a friend of the canine members of this world.

The song continued… all my ex’es live in Texas

Frank cleared his throat before beginning to slowly turn, “Funny I can always smell your stench before I can see you—Shadley. Apparently, Clyde can too, of course, he being a dog…” His long, thick mustache attempted to hide the gritty smile widening enough to show his rotting teeth. “Your sweet little Anne Marie sure had a pretty “oh” face I was doin’ the dirty deed to her a couple hour ago—I kinda doubt you’ve ever seen it though, not bein’ able to satisfy that deep of an itch I was a scratchin’.” His grin widened even more, knowing how much Shad loved her.

Clyde cocked his head back and forth as if to ask Shad, ‘whatcha gonna do now partner?’

The tune continued to play, all my ex’es…the keys on the player piano still danced from fingers invisible to plunking them to the swing beat of George Strait’s tune.

Shadley Gerald Hankins’ left eye twitched at the nasty comment spat from Frank’s foul mouth. “I reckon I know where I’ll be headin’ after I’m finished here. Shame you felt the need to taint such a pretty thang as Anne Marie.”

Frank’s sidekicks spun their backs to the bar as each dropped a hand to their pistol grips dangling from their sides. Shad saw the two in the shadows make movement toward their holsters as well as hands began to drop below the poker table to his left. He’d shown his cards and they knew his play now. Their slight movements of aggression enacted a mental chain reaction from Shad in a mere flash of a millisecond. Once triggered, it began a mechanical action which could not be undone or reversed.

The keys on the piano stopped on cue when Shad’s hands both maneuvered across his front, left hand clasping the pistol grip facing backwards on his right and vice versa with his opposite hand. The action came quick and quiet until the silence was loudly shattered. A thunderous crack followed by another came seconds before sending the two men sitting on either side of Frank, tumbling backwards against the bar top. Before they had time to hit the ground, Shad pulled his right hand in an arc as he pulled the trigger of his Colt 45 twice, causing a blur of stumbled motion bouncing against the wall ending in a tangled pile of the two men gasping to refill their lungs with air as they lay coughing and sputtering in growing pools of blood.

The snappy tune restarted and continued to fill the background through the chaos-filled room. Like the fluid action of a pocket watches gears and springs, Shad’s left hand swung over to the poker table in a riddle of loud bangs from the click of the trigger causing each man to fall backwards from their chairs and landing them sprawled to the floor in agonizing groans and splatters of red liquid. Thick smoke filled the room along with the scent of spent sulphury gunpowder. Shad pulled his dominant hand gripping his second silver revolver back at Frank, its warm barrel drawing a bead on the dirty fucker’s forehead of the man that defiled his wife, Anne Marie. “I take pleasure in killin’ you, Frank,” and before Frank’s expression had a chance to react, a loud bang rang out in a thunderous pop as a dark red spot instantly appeared dead center above his nose. He stood like a statue for several seconds as if his brain were attempting to conceive what just happened. And then like a curtain being drawn closed, the lights went out without adieu, and he fell backwards from his stool against the bar tumbling onto the dead men that seconds ago were sitting on either side sharing a bottle of cheap house whiskey.

The entire human content of the room was either dead or dying on the floor with nary a soul left standing except for himself and the barkeep who’s head slowly rose from beneath the bar’s top, hands shaking above his head waving a white napkin in surrender.

As if scripted in a theatrical playwright, the piano restarted the song back up from the beginning and the sound of the steel guitar whined out as the violin lulled the way for the opening vocals, all my exe’s live in Texas….

“Could somebody please, kill that fucking insidious song….”

A loud crack instantly rang out and the player piano’s tune slowly wound down to a dying whirl in a garbled groggy death. Silence swallowed the last groans and gasps of the dying bodies laid out in blood-soaked piles of dirt and dull red carnage. Shad glanced over at the bartender as if expecting a thank you for executing the piano, the same as he’d just done to the bar’s customers.

“You dumb asshole. It’s me talking to you.”

Shad slowly twisted his stance and peered down to the aged mutt who’d not stirred a single muscle from where he was lying when he first walked into the bar through the swinging doors.

“You should see the idiotic fuckin’ look on your face, Shad. It’s quite comical.” Clyde continued. “Yeah, go ahead and say it, I hear it all the damn time. ‘You’re just a dog, you can’t talk.’” his sloppy lips flopped, and drool rolled out with his words. “Well, guess what? You’d be wrong as hell if you did say it, cause it’s sure as shit me talking.” Clyde’s head lifted, followed by the slow action upward leading into a long arduous stretch morphing into the full upright position. “Guess you’re the one responsible for—feeding me now—beings how you just killed my fuckin’ meal ticket and best damned friend in the world—even though Frank was too fucking dense to carry on much of a conversation.” His nose shot snot from its holes as he snorted a gravely canine laugh.

Shad’s eyes stared with hesitation, but trailed his left hand to the right, drawing the hammer back before stopping it in a dead aim at the tired dog’s forehead. “You have a foul mouth for a lower lifeform. Say another word, you dumbass mutt, and the bar behind you will be wearing your insides—shit, bones, blood, and your last damned meal.” He then turned to the barkeep, “Whiskey. Straight up, and make it the good stuff, none of that rock gut house crap Frank drinks. I have higher standards.

He walked forward and bent down, slipping his hand into Frank’s vest; reaching into his inside pocket, he retrieved a long thin leather wallet. “You won’t be needing this, asshole.” Shad spoke to Frank’s lifeless body.

Clyde’s eyes followed Shad’s movements as he walked back over and pulled a couple of paper bills from his previous master and laid them on the bar. After Shad eyed the dusty bottle of light tan liquid that the bartender sat on the table, he poured it into what appeared to be a dirty shot glass and began to speak an odd toast or creed.

“Here’s to the wives you diddled and the whiskey you drank, the songs that were fiddled, the money stole from my bank. I raise this piss-pour drink to the bright blue sky, in this joy-filled memory of the day you died.” Shad paused and swallowed down the bitter shot, enduring the burn in his throat before slamming the empty glass back onto the bar. “Fuck you, Frank—and the horse you rode in on.” He then turned and without another word, headed back towards the swinging shutters.

Just before he crossed the threshold of where the saloon ended and the boardwalk began, he turned to the black and white bulldog sitting beside his master’s cooling body, as rigor mortis had already gone to work stiffening the carcass. The storm subsided as the sun shined a brilliant beam into the otherwise dim lit saloon that highlighted the comical looking dog as he tilted his head, ears perked, yet flopped in the middle. He looked like a mix between a spotted Holstein cow and round bellied pig. So funny looking, it caused Shad to laugh out loud. He cleared his dry throat that had just been scorched by the whiskey. Shad spat towards the tarnished brass spittoon nestled against the bar. A tiny thud pinged as it hit the opening. “You coming with—Clyde? Ain’t nuthin’ here for ya anymore. Wanna watch him die again?” he grinned.

As Shad’s leg crossed over to the boardwalk, Clyde’s chubby body shot through behind him just in time. Nothing left but the sound of the shutter’s squeaky hinges movement back and forth as the tune started back up—again.

“All my ex’s live in….”




Sirens loudly blared as the door slammed closed with a bang. It sounded like a shot fired.

Clyde panted as his stubby legs attempted to keep up with Shad’s long strides down the sidewalk, the sound of his long jacket swooshing as his legs kept pushing forward.

“Hey, Shad! You have a plan to maybe slow down… maybe… huh hum…” he sucked deep in between pants and endeavors to fill his lungs with much needed oxygen. “Come on, Shad, a short-legged and full-bodied physique like mine needs a break! Maybe a dog treat or two to prod me along. Even that assbag Frank used to….”

Shad stopped abruptly and spun his feet on a dime. Literally. He looked down to the sidewalk and there at the tip of his square-toed boot sat a shiny face of Franklin D. Roosevelt staring up at him. He turned his attention to Clyde. “I didn’t bring you along for your conversation or your complaints. You’re free to either shut the hell up and follow like a poodle—or you can go find a bitch in heat and see what that does for ya. Makes no difference to me, Clyde. The only promise I’ll make—is that you’ll be able to watch Frank die—again.”

Shad spun back around ignoring the Roosevelt’s plea to pick him up and pocket him along with any other jingle-jangle coins in Shad’s pocket. Clyde sat and watched Shad return to his purpose-driven stride down the sidewalk, his ears folded in that inquisitive bent-in-the-middle perk that previously drew a grin across Shad’s somber face. Clyde stood up and shuffled over to the shiny dime on the sidewalk. He sniffed at it a moment or two before stepping a half-step forward and then hiking his right leg and sprinkling urine over a small spot missing Roosevelt’s tiny face with poor aim. Satisfied he marked it well enough, Clyde sped his pace up to a trot, working at catching up to his new master, hoping food and rest were next on the agenda.

As soon as Clyde came within a few footsteps behind Shad, the two made a hard right at the corner and Shad stopped abruptly. Clyde unable to slow his trot quick enough, bumped his head into Shad’s leg. It was in that moment he noticed Shad’s attire was completely different. He looked up and down, clearly exploring Shad’s new wardrobe change. When had he had time for an outfit change? He wondered. He looked himself over as well as he could. His fat head had nearly no neck leaving his ability to see much past his portly chest and belly nearly impossible. He knew he had hind legs behind him, but damned if he could actually see them. Unless he was on his side licking his junk. He looked around at the brick lined sidewalk. Nope, not soft enough to lay down for a good cleaning here! He thought to himself. Besides, he’d seen enough to know he was still sporting the same black spotted white undercoat as always. No fashion change for him.

“When did you change, Shad? By the way, you look good in black pinstripes, way better than that drugstore cowboy look you was sportin’ before. That double breasted jacket really rocks your deep inset eyes. Scary as hell, in fact.”

Shad turned and asked Clyde a question. “Do you remember the Oasis Bar?”

Clyde looked up at Shad’s face and instantly saw the familiar sign that was brightly lit in red neon letters that read, The Oasis, surrounded by a green neon out of round circle that flashed on and off. “Yeah, I been there. Why?”

“Did Frank sit at the bar like in the saloon?”

Clyde’s ears perked again in crumpled fashion. “Um, let me think…” his head tilted back and forth and then back again, mocking a curious puppy in the window of a pet store attempting a cuteness to attract a taker.

“Enough with the bullshit, Clyde! Where would Frank be inside? Where’s his usual?”

Clyde’s tongue flopped from his mouth before he licked his lips and responded. “We gonna get a steak in there? They’re mighty tasty!”

“Frank! Goddamn it! Where does he sit? How many goons around him?”

“Round table at the very back, left side from the door. Maybe five or six gun-toting slingers spread out and around in front. Won’t be nobody else near him unless he’s in the middle of a meet.”  Clyde couldn’t help but continue off subject. “Awe, meat. That reminds me of the New York Strip they have…” He licked his lips again as his stomach gurgled a sloppy belch up from the depths of his now starving pipeworks. “Delicious. We gonna get one?”

Shad opened his double-breasted jacket and pulled out his Thompson M1928 “Tommy gun” commonly known as a Chicago typewriter. The round “C” drum magazine held a hundred rounds. Plenty of tools to paint the walls red and get his vengeance from Frank, the son-of-a-bitch that slept with his wife. He’d take pleasure in killing him again. He’d follow him through time after time as long as it took. Chasing that bastard that deflowered the woman and only thing he ever loved. It had become his one and only pleasure in life now that she was gone.

He pulled the lever on the right side, charging a round into the chamber with a snap. He let it swing back under his coat, the sling nestling it close to his body and easy to access.

“Stay behind me, Clyde, but you’d best lock your jaws on the calf of any SOB that I miss and draws a bead on me. You got that? It’ll be the difference between enjoying a big ole steak—or becoming one.” Shad said with a serious firmness in his tone.

“You got it, boss. Frank treated me like shit anyway. Happy to oblige!”

Shad swore he could almost see the image of KC strips floating in Clyde’s pupils. He continued to push through the crowd and cross the threshold from the outside in. His eyes scanned immediately to the left as he focused his vision through the smoke-filled room. Poker tables spotlighted, brimmed hats covering the players eyes as cigar smoke rolled up from the ashtrays and mouths of patrons puffing away. It stunk. It smelled of arrogance and greed. Shad detested everything about bars, with the exception of the aroma and flavor of a good whiskey. Okay—any whiskey. It was the burn felt deep in his throat that drove him to drink. The reminder that he wasn’t there to protect Anne Marie in her time of need.

The moment abruptly changed when the all too obtrusive song began once more. The one he knew too well. The song that set the mood for killin’. Good ole George Strait’s tune about Texas and Tennessee and all the women in between. The steel guitar rang out odd in this gangster’s nest that he’d pushed his way into. He wondered if Frank had become accustomed to dying every time the familiar tune began. It didn’t matter. Frank’s body would soon become riddled with holes like Swiss cheese. It was inevitable. Revenge wins over rape every time. Kind of an endless love sort of thing. Shad’s heart warmed from normal chill it held with the thought. His eyes still actively alert and looking for the dark cruel eyes that belonged to his nemesis. He briefly wondered if it had been worth it to Frank. Those few minutes of invading his wife’s pleasure spot while she surely wrestled to be free from his nasty invasive penetration. Would he have perpetrated the crime had he known he’d pay for it over and over again through eternity? One second of stolen pleasure, traded for a lifetime of being hunted down like a wild animal and murdered. Each encounter ending riddled with bullet holes and left cold on the floor in a splatter of red goo only to be replayed in a different era of time. Over and over again like a movie reel looped in a continuous circle.

Shad spied his target and quickened his walk through the crowd as his hands moved to his weapon swinging behind his jacket. His heartrate never elevated, pulse remained steady and calm. He was now a fine-tuned and well-practiced killer with trained muscle memory to punch his targets without fail. He moved like a finely tuned, oiled mechanical mechanism. It was almost as if Shad no longer felt the pleasure of the kill anymore, the hunt almost becoming mundane. It was more like a job now, punching in at the timeclock, working on the production line of retribution in the form of murder.

Clyde’s short stocky legs moved double-time with a swish, swish sound attempting to keep up. He wanted that fucking steak Shad had promised if he succeeded. His round belly rolled left and then right in cadence with his fancy footwork, burning calories he didn’t feel he could spend. Steak, pant -pant, juicy meat, was all he could think about as his glands oozed saliva onto his outer jowls before flying off and splattering sticky drops of slime dripping down every surface it hit.

All my ex’es live in….” the music repeated on an endless spooled loop.

Shad didn’t even hear it anymore. It played loudly, yet his ears rarely heard its musical notes or vocalized lyrics. Too focused on the mission. Locate Frank and eliminate him. If a timer had been started from the moment Shad crossed the establishments threshold, it would have read less than thirty-five seconds until Shad and Frank’s eyes locked. Add fifteen seconds filled with multiple bursts of 45 caliber rounds popping along with the muffled moans and groans of bodies catching lead and falling in clumps across the floor, out of chairs and across tables being overturned and you have less than fifty seconds before a cloud of spent gunpowder leaves the stench of sulfur and smoke.

Frank’s mouth spoke nary a word before his evening ended with empty eyes devoid of any life. A scattered pile of bodies laid out in abstract painted pools of red slowly filling the open floor between the motionless clumps of silent death.

Clyde trotted around the assorted mayhem stopping and sniffing before moving on to the next. When he finally reached Frank’s body, Clyde shoved his muzzle into his chest and the snorts and sniffs quietly echoed out and spread through the fog. He stepped forward and abruptly stopped for a brief moment, backing up and then side-stepping before his right leg lifted out at an angle that gave him perfect aim for his urine to mark his spot-on Frank’s chin. He looked back at Shad, his mouth spreading into a smile that allowed his snaggle tooth to be seen. “What? Never seen a canine mark territory before?” His nose went back to the ground briefly followed by another quick sniff. His short neck stretched enough to allow his fat head to peer back up at Shad. “Smells like a KC strip comin’ my way, don’t it?” He trotted back over and sat next to where Shad stood surveying the now quiet scene. He walked up to where Frank’s body lay, and he lifted the Tommy gun’s muzzle to Frank’s forehead. A quick two or three round burst insured that he’d completed the task he’d come for.

“Was it worth it, Frank?” Shad guffawed. “I loved her you son-of-a-bitch. She had value to me. What was she to you? Another notch on your belt.” Shad shook his head and glanced back out across the room. Heads ducked behind game tables and back around corners as the gun’s muzzle painted the area he scanned. Frightened sighs and cautioned breaths could be heard from the now placid scene. Just before he turned to walk back across the threshold and on to the next portal. He looked down at Frank and said, “See you in the future, Frank.” And then he walked away.

“Huh hum, KC strip!” Clyde bellowed out.

“Who’s stopping you, boy?” Shad replied. “I got another decade to head to…”

“You lying son-of-a….GRrrrrrrrrrrrr”

Shad turned slowly around and lifted his Chicago typewriter up, checked the drum magazine and slowly leveled it a Clyde. “Problem, Clyde?” he paused to about a five count. “…didn’t think so.” Shad’s patent leather shoes clicked across the tiled floor to an odd tune as he stepped over bodies towards the front entryway. Hidden eyes peered at him from darkened corners and from under tabletops that held scattered poker hands and chips surrounded by empty and overturned chairs from quick exits into hiding when the chaos began.

That damn repetitive steel guitar and violin tune droned on again as Shad’s heel made the click from tile to the thud of the bricked sidewalk that led into the night. Four paws jumped through the threshold just in time, and the neon sign’s bright colors reflected the flashing glow onto the damp street and white undercoat of Clyde’s furry ass as he waddled behind Shad’s dark silhouette disappearing into the shadows of the night.

“All… my …ex’s… live in Texas….”

Shad looked back to see Clyde’s disgusted sneer across his flopping jowls as he appeared to double-time his trot to catch up. “Always and again with that incessant damned song. Is it on your last frickin’ nerve too, Clyde? I swear I’d shoot every “got danged “jukebox that I crossed paths with if I figured it would do anything.”

Clyde looked up. “What the hell are you talking about Shadley? I haven’t heard shit since you’ve been blasting every damn kinda gun at every damn outlaw you claim wronged your mean old ass!” He trotted up beside him. “Seriously, all I pick up is a damn ringing in my ears.” He started whistling the familiar tune.

Shad looked down, “I knew you were a liar, Clyde. I oughta shave your ass bald and call you Rat!”




Shad and Clyde continued to walk down the sidewalk. The scenery looked practically the same with the exception of more aerodynamic lines on the automobiles. Shad stopped in his tracks; his face appeared to change from one of determination to one painted with relief.

“Awe.” He sighed. “Maybe the end is near.” A smile slowly transformed from cheek to cheek. “You hear that, Clyde?”

“What? I don’t hear a damn thing.”

“Exactly. No George Strait! Wonder what it means? Maybe this hellish journey is close to ending. It’s like it’s not even fun anymore.”

“What’s that mean? You ain’t gonna desert me, are you? I mean, you can’t keep killing my master, Frank, and then just up and disappear on me—can you? Will you?” he asked with sad worry in his droopy eyes that appeared to ooze real tears instead of just eye boogers sliding out from the corners.

“Do you really think I know what the hell is going on or when it’s all going to cease existence? I’m almost looking forward to being alone again!”

“That’s just damned hurtful, Shad. And just when I was beginning to get used to your smell.”

Shad looked over and sneered with a grimace as he pulled his red jacket back to see what weapon he was sent with this time. “Well, I’ll be jiggered. A Remington 870 side folder tactical with extended shell tube. “Six plus one. Sweet, that oughta paint the wall red with pieces of that fornicatin’ Frank!”

“I assume this means, here we go again?”

“You know what you do when you ‘assume’ don’t you?”

“Yeah, yeah. You’ve informed me before teacher. I don’t mind makin’ an ass out of you though!” he guffawed. “I’m still waitin’ on that steak you promised, which already makes an ass outta me.”

“In due time, Clyde—due time.”

“So, you ain’t forgotten or lying?” Clyde smacked his lips as his jowls pushed air out from underneath them.

“Come on, let’s do this again…” Shad closed his jacket and pushed through the doorway of the club, his eyes intently scanned the surroundings. It took only seconds before he spotted the all-too-familiar face in the crowd. Having grown tired of the never-ending ritual of spotting Frank’s cohorts and quickly planning which to take out first, he felt as if there was no mistake that could change his fate. So, instead, he opened his jacket and unfolded the stock on his shotgun. He pumped a round into its chamber and fired into the ceiling, sending debris falling all around as pellets scattered out in a tight pattern into the light fixture above. The crowd began running as the lights flickered and pieces of the chandelier falling sent some diving for cover underneath tables. The screams swelled as the crowd quickly thinned, leaving only six or seven men dressed in dark clothing and reaching for what Shad assumed were weapons. And there Frank sat at the bar, as usual, his hand reaching for his whiskey—neat.

“Shadley Gerald Hankins,” he stated as he pulled the glass towards him before lifting it up while turning in his stool to face his opponent. “Don’t we ever grow tired of this endless game we play?” He took a sip of the caramel-colored drink and then sucked air as if the burn in his mouth and throat needed cooled by a smooth wisp of breath.

Shad looked around at the other men who had already drawn weapons and held them aimed at his head, awaiting his misguided move or Frank’s word to erase the problem within their sights.

“It appears—Shad—that you should have thought this one out a little more thoroughly. Winning can become so repetitive that we eventually lose the ability to believe we can—indeed—lose. Your thoughts on this subject?”

“Maybe, just maybe, I’ve become so knackered of spilling your blood in every goddamned level of play that I decided to give you a sporting chance this time. The muscle-memory of killing you so easily has brought me to a point I no longer look forward to it anymore.”

Frank swilled down the remainder of his whiskey and then slammed it on the bar top. “Something about you, Shad, has always chapped my ass. I guess it’s why I enjoyed banging your sweet little Miss Anne Marie. The way she squealed still plays over and over in my mind.” His grin widened, showing his yellowed teeth. “I swear I cut her throat too quickly. I should have given her another go-round before helping her depart this cold and cruel world.”

Shad found it difficult to keep his anger in at hearing how Frank had assaulted his wife and then ‘killing her too soon’ before satisfying himself again. His blood began to boil, his hand started to shake for the first time—ever.

“Awe, boys—looky, looky, Shad’s beginning to shake in his boots.” He returned his stare back across the hushed room until his eyes locked onto Shad’s. “Boo-frickety-fuckin’-who. I’m so sorry to see you upset at knowing your wife was finally satisfied in her lady parts by a man who knows the inner workings so well of a woman of the night. That’s what she was, Shadley, nothin’ but a two-bit whore who begged for more right down to her bitter end.”

Shad lifted his Remington and in one fluid motion, pumped its grip, charging another shell into the chamber, and firing across the room at Frank. Pellets fell short from the distance and merely grazed his head and body but failed to drop him in his tracks. Frank drew his hand to his face and swiped it across his forehead, and then pulled it away to see red.

Shad pumped another shell into the shotgun’s chamber simultaneously to Frank’s quickly calling out orders to his boys, “Nail his fuckin’ ass!”

Shad’s body jerked and twisted in a death dance as multiple rounds hit him from about every direction in the room. Frank watched in what surely felt like slow-motion as Shad’s jacket became riddled with holes and stains of a darker crimson red mixed with the red fabric of what he wore. He tumbled and stumbled to the ground at Clyde’s trembling paws. Shad’s eyes found Clyde’s and they stared blankly at each other for a moment. A stream of blood began to flow from the corner of Shad’s lip, his eyes becoming fogged over in a slow blur.

“I’m… I’m… sorry to… leave… leave… you before… I… got… you that… steak, Clyde….”

Frank slowly stepped from his stool and meandered over to where his nemesis now quietly lay. Shad’s eyes rolled up to see Frank’s silhouette above him, his pistol pointed at his head. He couldn’t make himself utter even a single word.

“Cat got your tongue, Shad? It’s okay, I got two little bullets here—one for you—” and he pulled the trigger, ending Shad’s rule over himself—and the game. He then moved the smoking barrel over to Clyde’s wide forehead. Right to the spot where the black point of the black fur broke through the white at the bridge of his wet nose giving him the perfect target. “—and one for you, you fat fucking traitor and shit example of a man’s best friend…” He pulled the trigger once more, ending with the faint sound of a short-lived yelp. He looked up at his unharmed gang. “Welp—that’s the way the cookie crumbles, boys—game over and done.”




The masked doctor leaned over the patient who was strapped to the gurney. He pulled his mask down and called out the time of death. His yellowed teeth became visible as he called out, “10:32 pm, nurse Anne Marie. Mark it in the books.”

“Yes sir, Dr. Frank, 10:32 pm.” She began to pull the sheet over his head. “Do you think he saw it coming? I mean, his eyes seemed to stare so intently into mine, as if he knew me or something?”

“It’s hard to tell, Anne Marie. We tried our best to revive him, but it was like his soul refused to accept the electroshock or the epinephrine. His heart just refused to restart as if it were just too broken. Sometimes, it’s just game-over, no matter what we do.” His eyes dropped down to Anne Marie’s scrubs and the way they fit so tightly, outlining her heart-shaped ass. His grin revealed an even wider exposure of his nasty teeth.



Nurse Anne Marie turned just in time to catch the doctor’s stare that felt as if it would penetrate her pants with an unwanted invasion that instantly made her feel dirty and violated.




In a game room tucked away in the farthest, darkest corner of a back room in a small-town bowling alley, sat an electronic game with a teenager’s attention fixated on playing. Dueling the game’s evil nemesis in a new level of difficulty.

Tommy had become obsessed with beating the game- Infinite Kill, an older video-based game created by Frank-O-Vision. The virtual first-person shooter-style console game had been retired several years ago from the mainstream as technology and visual graphic enhancements became more and more lifelike. The game’s violence and depiction had come under fire and questioned from parents along with public concern groups who focused on the effects of such graphic violence on the nation’s youth.

Tommy’s initials had replaced every high score spot on the consoles leader board except for the number one position. His parents bowled in a league every Wednesday night, allowing Tommy the unsupervised time for his gameplay. He loved the battle between good and evil. The major difference between this game and others at the time of release, was the ability for the player to choose who to be. The good guy who was wronged, Shadley Gerald Hankins, or the evil wrongdoer, only known as Frank, along with his sidekick, Clyde, an American Bulldog.

Tommy always chose to be Frank, the evil nemesis who’d raped and killed Shad’s wife. He fed another dollar bill into the console’s reader. The time on the wall clock showed him it was 9:17 pm as the bill reader sucked in his dollar to the machine’s interior bank. George Strait’s famous song, All My Ex’es Live in Texas began with the whine of a steel guitar, country fiddle, and tingy piano playing.

Tommy’s concentration was intense. He’d heard the bowling alleys owner was soon returning Infinite Kill back to the game distributor. If he was gonna hold the entire gambit of winning slots, he needed to win the game tonight. There would be no other chance. The thought of failing drove his desire beyond anything else he’d ever attempted.

He battled his way up through the levels with speed and accuracy never missing a beat. His score was so close to the winning spot on the leader board after little more than an hour and ten minutes. His best time so far without dying, as he had so many other times. He’d already taken the first eight spots below the highest ranking. The rumble of screams, yelling and gunfire loudly raged from the console’s speakers as Tommy worked the mounted plastic weapons toward the screen as the repetitive but catchy song continued to drone on in the background. All my ex’s live in Texas….

At precisely 10:29 pm, with only thirty-one minutes left until the bowling alley’s closing time and final attempt to set the record, the screams from Tommy’s mouth loudly echoed out from the game room, spilling into the bowling alley. Spectators and bowlers alike rushed the amusement game room to see what the ruckus was. Tommy was now on the last level programmed into the game’s memory. This was the moment he had worked so hard to get to.  Shad fired his shotgun into the air and a hush quickly fell over the screen and the room he stood facing the Frank-O-Vision game’s likely final play.

As Tommy directed his character, Frank, calmly over to Shadley’s dying body now lying next to Clyde, he delivered the final two shots bringing all the lights to flash while buzzers and bells sounded loudly over the George Strait tune. Tommy typed his initials into the number one spot, TIM, Tommy Israel Mitchel, and turned to face the hoops, hollers, and applause.

His mom and dad had heard all the hoopla and turned to witness the alleys empty out towards the room that held the pinball machines and video games in the back of the building, so they followed. They pushed their way through the crowd of spectators still clapping, wondering if it was somehow their son was at the center of. His mom’s growing concern as they came closer to the game was correct. Tommy was at the game she’d forbid him from playing after catching him several weeks earlier. She had watched long enough to realize that this was the game at the media’s focal point several years back.

“Tommy! That game is an affront on the lack of value placed on women and the graphic violence displayed is abhorrent! You most certainly will NOT be playing a game like that!” She’d made her feelings very clear on the subject. But as the people parted like Moses at the Red Sea, her son had apparently ignored her demands, and now he’d gained local fame for apparently beating the game. Upon further exploration of the matter, she also realized he’d been playing the part of the bad guy, Frank, who had perpetrated the horrible violence against the better character’s wife.

She looked over at her husband and quickly noticed his bold display of pride with his son’s accomplishment over the game. She shook her head and turned feeling every bit as defeated as Shadley was. Disgusted with her son, her husband, and the whole damned place—she pushed her way through all the building’s patrons and walked out into the quiet of the parking lot.

The only sound she could hear was a vaguely familiar tune spilling out into the parking lot—All my ex’s live in Texas….

She hummed the tune inside her head and then finished by singing, “…in Tennessee.”

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Eli Pope
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Eli Pope

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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