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“Keep up asshole.”


“I’m trying, Rog. Jesus Christ, what’s the big hurry?”


Vern struggled to keep up with Roger’s, distance-eating stride, huffing and puffing along behind the bigger man.


“Seriously, Vern. You got to hit the gym. Work the cardio or something. Swear to God, if I  knew someone with a better phone, I’d have a different fucking cameraman.”


I wish you did, Vern thought. He said “What if we can’t find any?”


“We will.”


“But what if we don’t?” Vern tried to keep from whining, but it crept into his tone anyway. Roger rounded on him so fast Vern nearly bounced off his chest.


“Then maybe I say fuck the live demonstration and just whack the shit out of you with it. Post a few ‘after’ pics. Do a little voice-over.”


He deepened his tone, affecting an announcer’s voice.


“The Tater-Sock: Effective?”


Hs hand described a brief arc: an empty sock slapped across Vern’s face. Vern fell back with a short, girlish shriek. Roger grinned.

“Jesus Christ you’re a pussy. Time to man up, fuckball.”


He slipped a ski mask over his head, settling it quickly into place to allow him to see and talk.


“Run the camera and keep up. Don’t try to keep up. Do it. Understand?”


Vern nodded.


“Then let’s get this shitball rolling. Start her up.”


How did I get into this?


Vern raised his iPhone, starting the camera function.


Better yet, how do I get out of it?


On the small screen, Roger stood framed in the shot, dark clothes and a black ski mask, athletic sock dangling from one gloved hand. No signs or other landmarks were in view: just an unidentifiable man in front of a nondescript brick wall, an alley mouth off to his right.


Vern nodded.


“Welcome to a new episode of Urban Sport-Hunting,” Roger said. If you’re new to our show you can find more videos on our YouTube channel. Look for Hobo Rodeo, and Bum Branding, and remember to hit that ‘Subscribe’ button. The more subscribers, the more of these videos we’ll be making.


But enough about that— on to tonight’s episode!”


He held up the flaccid tube-sock.


“The ‘Tater-sock. What the hell is a ‘tater-sock? Well I’ll tell you.”


He fished in his pocket and came out with a fist-sized, raw potato.


“You take a sock, just a regular sock, and you slide in a potato.”


He did so, jiggling the sock to slip the tuber down into the toe.


“Any old potato will do. Now what you‘ve got— ”


He swung the sock about his head, like a cowboy with a lariat. The potato-lump sock-toe swung in a wide circle, like the business end of a medieval morningstar.


“ —is a weapon. Don’t laugh, you can open a serious can of whup-ass with one of these things. It’s like hitting someone with a club. But here’s the thing: the potato breaks up a bit in the sock and acts like a shock absorber. You can seriously fuck somebody up with this, but you’re probably not gonna kill ‘em. Probably won’t even break a bone.”


He slung the sock over one shoulder, and Vern could tell he was offering up a winning smile, though no one would see it through that mask.


“And the best part is, if a cop stops you for some reason before you have your fun, what’s he gonna do? Arrest you for a fucking potato?”


He laughed.


“So, if you want to go out and have some fun with the homeless fucking drecks in your town, but don’t want the cops freaking out about ‘murder rates’ and all that bullshit, then the Tater-Sock is the absolute shit. And now…”


He crept along the wall and peeked into the alley, nodded, then slipped around the corner, fast and low. Vern followed, trying not to trip on anything as he kept his eye on the phone’s screen to keep Roger in the frame. He wanted less and less to do with this, but wasn’t sure how serious Roger was about whipping his ass. He didn’t really want to find out.


On the small screen Roger was just a dark patch in the night, the white sock draped over his fist the only thing to see.


“Okay boys,” came Roger’s voice from the dark. “Who wants to play?”


The sock, practically the only thing really visible in the dim, flashed in a quick, horizontal arc. A flat thud terminated in a startled cry. Vern fumbled with the iPhone, looking for the NightVision setting.


I missed it. Roger’s gonna be pissed.


“Hey!” Roger sounded surprised and amused. “I know you guys.”


“We know you too, fucker.”


The voice was rough, like an old man who’d started a two-pack a day habit while in the womb. There was another thud, then another, each capped by a short shriek of pain. Where the first thud had sounded flat, however, these sounded somehow… wet. Even through his concentration on the iPhone controls, the screaming voice sounded familiar to Vern.


What the fuck…?


The iPhone’s NightVision setting suddenly popped on, just as Roger toppled out of the alley to land on his back.


The handle of a hunting knife stuck up out of his right eye, a steel flower sprouting from some odd pot.


“Holy shit!”


A human scarecrow lurched out of the alley, plucking the knife from Roger’s socket, deft hands and a limp combining in an awkward grace. He looked up, spotting Vern, who was already backing away, staring at the rough UH scar clearly visible on one cheek.


A brand.


On the small screen, the NightVision showed motion in the alley: two more thin, twisted shapes shambling his way.

“Can we eat it?” whispered a voice from the alley.


Vern didn’t think they were asking about the potato.


The scarecrow-man grinned, a picket fence of tooth and gum, and started forward.


Cardio or no cardio, Vern ran.



Homicidal Hobo Revenge reached three million hits before YouTube pulled the video.

~ ~ * * ~ ~

Author's Note:
When trying to think of a story for this week, I was stumped for a jumping-off point. Looking for an easy way out, I approached my eleven-year-old son. 
"I need a knife story," I said. "Help me out. What do you think of when I say 'knife'?"
He looked at me, round-eyed. 
"Potato," he said.
"Potato?" I said. "Seriously?"
He nodded. I sighed.

A potato-knife story. Thanks, kid. Thanks a lot.

I gave it a shot.

How did I do? Please, leave a comment -- I won't know what you think unless you tell me!

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FRIDAY FRIGHTS



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The first book in the Seasons of the Dead quartet. Ghosts and spirits manifest for various reasons and in many different ways.


An invisible intruder.

 An invading memory.

 A soft voice in the snow. 


“The Dead of Winter” is a collection of three very different ghost stories. a novella and two novellettes, each taking place during one of the months of Winter.

The dead of winter: The coldest part of winter.

 ~The Oxford English Dictionary

Dead of Winter: A trio of ghostly tales to chill your blood on those cold winter nights. 

~Rob Smales