stay tuned for a temporary flash preview
of my latest foray beyond flash fiction '33 1/3rd rpm'
(2,467 words)
© 2017
by Shaun Lawton

Sick Story Time

The Three Brazen Cowards

illustration by jesse stevens

A lone car skated on the edge of oblivion.

It was a wood-paneled PT Cruiser with three burros in it.

The elder burro was driving. His right hoof pressed against the steering wheel, with his left elbow resting on the open window sill. The stub of a lit Cuban cigar was wedged between two lower side teeth.

Vultures circled slowly in the skies beyond, forming a lazy halo, targeting yet another dead thing below.

The lead burro could barely keep the car on the road. Skidding out of control every now and again, he yanked hard on the steering wheel in an attempt to avoid some jackhammers left lying next to newly dug potholes.

"Where's the damn music in this tin machine?" barked the distracted driver through the slot between his huge front teeth.

The burro in the passenger seat—a gray, forlorn looking jack—leaned forward and began twisting the radio knob, seeking through static and white noise, pausing at each new song or jingle that came warbling through, until he had completed a full round of all three available stations.

"Use tha FM signal jackstump—"

The donkey in the back seat just stared ahead through the windshield at the oncoming scenery slowly washing over them.

The voice behind the one lone working speaker morphed into a porcine squeal.

"—Rifefullamatics in a French regime intransigence maneuvers..."

The jack in the front seat twisted a knob.


"...uprising in Southwesthamshire..."


He twisted the knob again.

*—warble* "...introducing a constant and noble...

*knob-twist* of lost knowledge—".

Barkey slapped the radio off himself with a cuff and a bray, knockin' the jack's hoof off the dashboard.

"Where's the Rolling Stones when ya need em? Got any of that wild Willy Wonkastic left? We gotta find us some mares."

He clenched the Cuban cigar between his teeth and drove on.

Cornrows began passing by on either side of them.

Two police cruisers could be seen parked a quarter mile ahead on the left shoulder—each with their own snared victim.

Barkey pressed a hoof against the accelerator—it was a matter of chance, but the timing was crucial in a situation like this.

Either one of those Clydesdales could be finishing his business and ready to spring-release himself on the next passing vehicle.

It was a matter of perfect timing to avoid getting nabbed, on account of the fact that every commuter without exception was speeding—and well over twenty miles past the limit, mind you.

For the Clydesdales, it was shooting fish in a barrel.

Better speed now and get past them, or with their luck—Woot—they'd be nabbed sure as shingles.

Rain began pattering against the windshield. Smoke whipped out of the driver's window in steadily vacuumed gusts.

They were cruising along at around an even ninety miles an hour. It was high summer alongside a midwestern mountain range.

No one was prepared to die that day. Least of all, the Clydesdales.

The PT Cruiser with the three burros slipped past both parked police vehicles while the Clydesdales were mounting back into them.

The rain stopped. Barkey switched off the wipers. He crushed out his cigar butt in the pop-out ashtray.

"Strap on." He accelerated the vehicle up to 100mph.

Blue lights flashed on behind them, accompanied by the familiar yowling of the police sirens.

Both of them cruisers were in the rearview mirror now.

How'd they nab us so suddenly?

Barkey looked over at his jackmate in the passenger seat.

All three burros stared straight ahead through the bug spattered windshield.

"You pullin' over boss?" asked the jack in the passenger seat.

After a quick verification in the rearview, Barkey grit his large teeth and hissed through them.

"Ya damn straight I'm pullin' over. Now both of ya shaddup and lemme do the talkin'."

He eased the vehicle nice and steadily down to 90mph, and with a practiced self assurance, slowly brought her down to 80...until he reached the speed limit of 75mph, at which point he put on his right blinker, and began easing over into the next lane, in preparation to pull over onto the shoulder.

Directly ahead lay the entrance to a bridge. There wasn't enough distance to pull over safely. He'd have to wait until they were passed the bridge, now.

A 55mph sign flashed by. Barkey eased his rear right hoof off the gas. Another glance in the rearview revealed the Clydesdale at the wheel to be frantically gesturing with his hooves for him to pull over.

At that moment they plunged through and onto the bridge. The last opportunity to pull over disappeared behind them in an instant. The Clydesdale chasing them behind the wheel only seemed to become more agitated and flamboyant, he could be seen in the rearview gesturing rudely with his right hoof.

The second police car nudged up alongside them. This second driver was casually loading a gigantic-muzzled old fashioned snub-nosed revolver in his lap, with one hoof on the wheel and a sardonic grin on his muzzle.

Panic flashed through Barkey's mind—but after flaring out, it dissolved away into so much acrid smoke streaming out the window—and grim resolve set itself in its place.

The dogged donkey continued to drive 55mph, determined to complete the 12-mile bridge's distance without breaking a sweat nor going over the speed limit.

The second cruiser with the revolver fell back alongside his partner. Now both police cars appeared almost frantic in their chase, lights flashing and sirens blaring into the distance.

The burro in the back seat of the escape car coughed.

"I'm feeling nauseous again—d'ya think—"

Before he could finish his sentence, pink bubblegum-like tendrils whiplashed from both police cars behind them, ensnaring their speeding vehicle in a giant sticky-stringed spiderweb netting.

The next thing any of the burros knew, the cruisers continued on a trajectory above and over them, pulling the pink and semi-elastic webbing taut until it hauled their moving PT cruiser up off the road and into the blinding blue of the afternoon sky.

Over the radio station, wind blasted through the lowered windows in the escape car. All three burros stared directly ahead through the windshield into the glaring sunlight.

They couldn't even see the helicops ahead and above them, hauling their asses back to the Grain Compound.

The two sidekick burros were nothing more than mules, really. They didn't even know they were—that was the sad and funny thing. They were no hinnies, that's for sure. Barkey brayed out with sudden laughter.

All he wanted, all he dreamed of, his entire life while incarcerated in the Moonshine Pits over at the Grain Compound, was to eat heated-up beans out of a can. Over a real campfire.

To wake up alongside the rails of the tracks turned blood red by the setting sun. To learn how to play the drums. Or the banjo.

Barkey looked up one last time at the overhead sprawled out clouds, reeling by on their journey back Home.

This is what we get for attempting to go against the Grain.

He sighed. A burro can always dream.


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  2. Perhaps I should continue this tale, then, Anonymous.