MIKE BOCKOVEN

Short Story: Double Zero

Oct
23

Who’s up for a nasty little short story in time for Halloween? Content warning: gore, language, gambling, moderate torture.

I know what you’re going to say. 

Every single argument, I get it. I know them too. Personal responsibility, that’s a big one. People need to be responsible for their actions. You can’t control what people do, right? It’s legal. That’s another one. It’s legal and if it’s legal that means what you’re doing doesn’t have consequences, at least not consequences like this. The law washes you clean as the driven snow from any consequences of your actions, am I right? Am I close?

Let me run down your other excuses. It’s entertainment. It’s luck. I didn’t have to come into your casino. I didn’t have to put my money down. Nothing forced me to do any of this AS IF that somehow absolves you and your giant fucking obscene, gaudy monument from responsibility. I’m sure you give to charity. Just a matter of time before you throw that one out there. It’s the old “yes, I have money in my hands but money in my hands means charity and good works while money in the hands of people means drugs and misery and…”. Bullshit, bullshit bullshit. All of it. 

The truth is you decided, over all the other things you could have done with your life, to do this. To run a casino. And you had to know, in the back of your head somewhere, that gambling can cause misery. And, somewhere back there, you knew that eventually you’d run into a guy like me. 

Oh, who the fuck am I to tell you about your business? I have a very specialized set of perspectives to bring to your business, actually.  I could go on for a while, but I won’t. Let’s just say, I’ve suffered because of your business. I’ve lost everything. And now you’re going to lose something. Seems only fair.

Don’t believe me. OK. Let’s get one of those fingers off.

Ahhhh. Yep. Here it is. Oh, man, you know, you jam your fingers or sprain your fingers and it’s just pain, pain, pain all day long and you think those fingers are on there good and proper, but I am surprised at how easy it was to get this off. Just a snip, really. Not hard at all. Even the bone wasn’t that hard to clip if you do it fast enough. Good job keeping that elevated. You look like you’re losing a some blood there.

What do I want? Let’s talk about that.

My life is over. I knew that from the second I lost all that money at your place. Roulette, right? She’s a bitch. It’s that double green that always gets me. I’m sure you know this, but the green spots on the roulette wheel, they were invented to tip the odds in the house’s favor. Like the house needs a tip in its favor, am I right? Anyway, the moment I hit double zero, I knew life was over. Done. I was going to go to my favorite spot downtown, climb on the roof, watch the sun rise and off myself. That hasn’t changed. Nothing can change that, even if you gave me the money back. I’m done, which is why you are here.

It’s the lack of consequences that gets me. Always has. I rememberer once I saw a woman lose all her money in a casino and the guards ushered her to a back room where she wouldn’t have a break down on the gaming floor. See, to me that means this happens so often that there’s a protocol. Probably a code on the floor, right? Code “sad bastard” or something. You ruin people’s lives but the wheels keep spinning. It’s happened for so long it probably doesn’t even register in that big ole’ brain of yours. That business brain. That woman who was hustled off, she’s just a number and you hide behind the charity and the personal responsibility arguments and everything else. 

But you owe, motherfucker. I know you don’t believe it, but you owe.

You asked me what I want? Here’s what I want. I want you to play a game with me and here’s how it’ll go. 

You ain’t walking out of here with all your fingers, but I’m not going to kill you. That’s off the table. I’m not offing myself with a murder on my conscience. That ain’t me. But how many fingers you walk out of her with, and what condition the rest of you is in is up to you. I figure you need to go through something uniquely unpleasant, so I’m gonna take this finger here, the one I already cut off, and I’m gonna cook it up real nice for ya.

Then you’re gonna eat it.

Well, not eating any of it is certainly an option, but let me lay it out. I figure I can cook this into three pretty good bites. I’ll season them and everything. Get ya some fucking catchup if you want. But if you eat none of it, you walk out of here with two bloody stumps with no fingers attached. Maybe you bleed to death, I don’t fuckin’ know. You eat one piece, you keep all the fingers on one hand, lose all the fingers on the other. You eat two pieces, I beat the shit out of you and leave you here. The cleaning crew will find you in the morning. Eat all three pieces I give you my phone and you’re home by supper with nine fingers on your hands and another well on it’s way to becoming shit.

What’s it gonna be?

Didn’t you hear me? Did you not fucking listen to a word I said? I’m not after your money. My life is done. I fucked it up beyond repair. Even if you gave me every dollar your casino made in a year I’d still be offing myself in a couple hours. Nothing can stop that and nothing can stop this. You’re fucking doing it. Figure it out. I’m gonna start the burner. 

No, I’m not going to make you eat a bone. I’m not a savage.

Man, I didn’t think about the fingernail. Trying to cook this up and the top part isn’t cooking because of the fingernail. The things you don’t think about, huh? The things that don’t occur to you, am I right? I know you’ve got that really fancy place in your casino. I bet the head chef would have thought to pull the fingernail off, huh? Asshole probably makes more in a weekend than I’ve ever made in my life. 

All right, here we go. Three pieces, just like I told ya. Doesn’t even look like a finger. Could be anything. Here we go.

I figured you’d try threats, but man, you are convincing. A real screamer. Man. That threat sounded real, but do me a favor. No, just listen. Do me a favor. Turn your brain back on for me, OK, because…yeah…OK. It’s gonna go this way, then.

Oh, Jesus, you crying now? Never been hit in the face? Not once? God, what a privileged fucking life you must lead. I’ve been hit in the face, all my friends have been hit in the face. Shit, I bet each and every one of your employees on your casino floor right now have been hit in the face. Your security, they damn sure have been hit in the face. No question. You know what, let’s do that again.

There we go. Got some blood going from the nose, hair all out of place. You’ve never had to deal with anything like this in your life, have ya? Now we’re cooking. Speaking of cooking, it’s time. Start chowing down or I’m going to start chopping fingers. Yeah, sure. I’ll give you a minute but no more stalling. It’s time.

Keep it down. Keep it down. Don’t do it. Don’t…

Ah man. That’s nasty. What the fuck is that? Smoothie? It’s green. I’m not a sympathetic puker at all but, damn, that’s enough to get me going. Ha! You lost it right away. No hope of keeping it down. Well, let…me…just grab this. Don’t worry, I’ll rinse it off for you. 

Well, yeah, you’re still eating it. This ain’t gym class. You don’t get out of it just because of a little puke. Just be glad after all the shit you put me through I’m rinsing it off for you. You personally made fourteen million dollars last year. I should make you eat your own puke you greedy fucking pig.

Yeah, we can save that piece for last. You got your legs under ya? All right and open wide, here’s the first one.

Nah, that’s fine. Swallowing it like a pill is fine. There aren’t rules to this. Ain’t no double zeros here that I know of. You kept it down. Let me know when you’re ready for round two. Ready now? All right here we go. This piece is a little bigger, but not by much. Ought to be able to keep it down. 

Man, must get easier after you start, huh? That first one, that’s the rough one. That one was fine. All right, two down, one to go. 

Ahhh, you’re thinking about it. What’s worse, choking this down or getting a beating and spending the night with your hands and feet cuffed to a chair, right? Doing the math in your head, right? Well, let’s see if I can make it easier for you. 

That one, that’s for my house that I sold.

That, that’s for the look on my wife’s face when she found out.

That, and…fuck you, this! This was for the look on my daughter’s face when she left.

This? For the bullshit signs you put in your casino about gambling addiction. I called that number. A lot. Didn’t do shit.

And this? Yeah, this? This one’s for double zero you motherfucker.

Yeah, I know. I never gave you the choice but, let’s be fair. I was always going to beat you. You’re lucky it wasn’t worse or I didn’t have anything heavier handy. Smashing your head in doesn’t sound too bad right about now but then you’re pain’s over. Your pain has just started, my man. Just started. 

In fact, let’s do this.

Now I got the matching set. Two middle fingers. You gave me the double bird and then I cut them off. Not so bad for this life, if you ask me. 

Well, enjoy your time waiting for the cleaning crew, my man. Tell Rachel hi for me. She’s a good egg. Got a great singing voice. 

Well.

You know…

I was gonna let you go before you said that. I was going to be a man of my word. I was going to do exactly what I said I was going to do. Then you had to go and say that.

Now I’m going to have to do something else.

Now you aren’t getting out of this place.

Now I’m not getting out of this place.

Fucking double zero.

Everything Hidden Will Rise

Aug
03

I recorded an interview a few weeks ago with my friend Carla Hufstedler of the “There Might Be Cupcakes” podcast where we discussed my books, Glenn Hetrick, my mother’s advice, Tilda Swindon, demented domiciles and much more. It turned out really well and Carla is a thoughtful and studious fan of horror movies and books. I was glad to be part of it.

You can listen at www.theremightbecupcakes.podbean.com.

Old Shoes and Rejection Blues

Jun
10

Very few people know this about me, but I’m a runner.

Not the “post about the half marathon on my Instagram” “stickers on my car” “attractively fit” “know how long it takes me to run a 5K” kind of a runner. I respect people who do that while being simultaneously irritated by them. I’m a specific sort. I have a treadmill, I put in my time (usually watching a TV show or listening to music) and I keep to myself about it. It’s a solitary activity and I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years.

Check out these shoes if you don’t believe me. They are beat to shit.

Running has also not yielded any sort of desired result. I’m still a tubby guy with high blood pressure. I don’t have that fit, runners physique. The one and only time anyone has ever said “you must be a runner” was a nurse who told me I had a slow pulse. Other than that, I’ve been gaining and losing the same 20 pounds for a long, long time.

But, lack of “results” aside, nearly every single day I strap on my shoes and put in the time (45 minutes, 6.9 MPH, 5.175 miles). That’s the sort of person I am in exercise, and, as it turns out, in writing. Results aren’t that important. It’s not about that. It’s about me.

I’ll be the first to admit when my first novel came out, the moment was nothing short of amazing for me. Then the great reviews came in (and keep coming in!). Feedback was almost universally positive. My next novel, things were muted a bit. The reviews weren’t as good (but sales are going well) but I still felt a pretty inflated sense of pride.

Then, in the past few months my third novel was left homeless due to a number of circumstances, two ideas I was pretty high on got shot down in the development stage and I’m still having a lot of trouble cracking my next project. Creatively, things are frustrating. Success wise, things are in a holding pattern. The “results” aren’t there right now. Last week I deleted 3,000 words because they were headed in the wrong direction. It’s that sort of stretch – long, bumpy and hard.

But, last week I wrote much more than I deleted. This weekend I’ve sort of been on a tear. Today, on the treadmill, I cracked part of a story I wasn’t even sure I was working on. In other words I’m deep in the grind and it made me realize something.

FantasticLand might be a filmed property someday soon. Pack might sell a few thousand more copies. My third novel (which I really like) might find a home tomorrow. Or none of that may happen and regardless of the results, this is part of who I am now. My goal was always to put books on my bookshelf with my name on them and I’m not done with that yet.

It’s not about results. I am immensely, insanely grateful to everyone who reads my work, but you’re all gravy. I’m writing for the same reason I’m running and it ain’t results.

It’s because I want to. It’s because I love it. It’s because it makes me feel accomplished and satisfied and happy. It’s because it’s part of who I’ve become and it’s on the way to the person I want to be.

I’ll let you all know if any results are forthcoming. Thanks for the well wishes and the reviews.

-Mike