Today I’m working with Close To The Bone Publishing to promote their forthcoming title Mean Business by Mark Slade. Released on 25th October this new book boasts a host of short stories and I’m thrilled to be able to share an exclusive excerpt with you today.
About The Book
London woke up. He rubbed the blurriness from his eyes, feeling a piece of hay sticking in his ear. He sat up, looked around. The whole floor of the barn was made up of hay. Old hay from the looks of it. All of it brown, smelling sour.
London heard movement under the hay. He followed the moving strands all the way to his feet. What the hell could that be? Mouse? Rats? Bugs of some kind? He didn’t know. London was a city dweller. His only contact was hayride when he was fourteen and Mandy Von Bara sat on his lap while he copped a feel.
He heard the hissing.
Ohhhh shit, London thought. A snake is in here.
London hated snakes. Again, he was not used to the country and all of the creatures that coexist with everyone else. One bored night, London watched a program on American snakes. This would be a test of what he learned, since he watched the show two or three years ago.
The snake popped his head up. Bright orange patterns surrounded the snake’s head. A corn snake, London remembered them being called. Harmless. Used to cut down rat and other pests population. London let out a sigh of relief when the corn snake slithered away from him toward another bale of hay.
As soon as he felt a moment of comfort, he heard other sighs. Then more slithering. Suddenly, the entire floor of hay began to move, and soon the other inhabitants showed who they were and what snake kingdom they came from. Copperhead. Pinewoods Snake. Pygmy Rattler. Eastern Diamondback. Red Belly Snake.
The Diamondback popped up on the left side of London’s face. The Diamondback’s face was at his cheek, tongue slipping in and out. London stayed still. His heart was beating so fast he felt the vibrations in his toes. He fought the urge to piss himself. London kept his eyes straight ahead, not blinking. He felt the snake’s dry, scaly skin crawl across his face, slither down his neck and across his belly, and to an old tractor tire.
Why the hell were there so many different kinds in here?! London panicked in his head. He didn’t know if he said that out loud or just thought it.
“Because my cousin used this barn to study snakes for his Doctrine at the University Georgia State,” Carla stood in the doorway. “He don’t study no more. Lou shot him for smokin’ the Meth he was supposed to be selling.”
“That’s a helluva story, lady. But can you get me the fuck out of here!” London said. He tried to contain his fear and nervousness, but his voice betrayed him.
Carla laughed, snorted. “Just stand up and walk out.”
“I don’t want to get bit,” London told her.
“I walked in, didn’t I? And I’m barefoot.”
Sure enough, Carla had no shoes on. Her feet were almost suntanned like the rest of her, and for some reason, paleness collided with the tan and made her pink toenails stand out.
“Just take a chance,” Carla said. “Fifty-fifty you won’t get bit I’ll leave you here to die. Hmph! You got shoes on.”
London decided to put his fears in his back pocket and decided to tempt it. He stood slowly, and paced his steps as if he didn’t care what was crawling on the hay floor. Luckily, he didn’t step on any snakes.
Carla stepped out of the barn door. London followed, saw one Lou Stills boys and pushed her to the ground. Carla fell with a whimper, rolled to the right side of the barn behind a hedge. London dropped to his belly and crawled to her. He gripped her neck and squeezed just enough.
“You scream,” London whispered. “I’ll break your neck. Nod if you understand.”
Her blue eyes were wide and wild. She bobbed her head up and down quickly, those blonde tresses did the same. She wasn’t out of danger yet. London squeezed again to make a point. He had one more demand.
“Get me out of here. Nod your head if you understand.”
Carla swallowed back loud sobs, and nodded.
London removed his hand from her neck. Her chest heaved until her breathing became normal. She sat up, slowly pointed to an old beat up, grey Sierra pickup with a white shell. No one was around the vehicles. Carla stood, took a few steps to wait for London to get to his feet. She ran to the truck and opened the driver’s side. She let London hop in first, before slamming the door.
One of Lou Stills boys waddled over. He was big and thick bearded, armed with an assault rifle. Curiously, he wore a Roll Tide T shirt and an Alabama cap. He lived in Georgia. Why didn’t he represent the Bulldogs? London ducked to the floorboard and the blonde tossed a blanket over him.
“Where you goin’, Carla?” He said.
Carla turned the charm on. She stuck her tits out, smiled big and sighed. “Lou wants some chicken,” she tossed her hair out of her eyes. “Guess I’m goin’ to Wendell’s super store.”
“Well, alright! Can you geta batch with Sriracha on it?”
“You got it, Alva,” Carla fluttered her eyes.
The man’s eyes fell from her face to her heaving breasts under that white cotton dress. He began to salivate. She felt a smack on her ankle. That was definitely a signal from London to drive on and quit flirting.
“Well,” Carla giggled. “I’ll git. Chicken and Pabst blue ribbon coming up!” She turned the ignition, the pickup sputtered, then roared. She moved the gear shift to Drive and hit the gas. The pickup sped off down the wooded lane, kicking up gravel behind it.
About The Author
Mark Slade’s works have appeared in Switchblade magazine #7 and 9, Econoclash Review #4, Weirdbook #32, Mystery Tribune, and other publications. He is the author of A Witch for Hire, Mr. Zero, and Blackout City Confidential. He wrote and produced audiodramas The sundowners (Blood Noir, Para-X radio) and Daniel Dread (Chronosphere Fiction). Mark lives in Williamsburg, VA with his wife and daughter.
Author Links: Twitter