Marcus leaned his salt-and-pepper head back while he sat on the park bench and took in the fresh spring air through his mashed nostrils. For a moment, he closed his eyes and let the morning sunlight filter through his lids, blocking out the broken concrete and graffiti-scrawled walls. In that moment, he was lost in his little urban oasis.

No working proles passing through on their weekday hustle.

No young punks up early after their snort and fuck from the night before.

Just Marcus and some stunted saplings and pigeons amongst the gray bastions.

“You’d might get a crick in your neck and lose your chuke,” an old feminine voice said.

Marcus’ eyes shot open to be greeted by a piece of graffiti on the wall in front of him: “Skeet ‘n Yeet on ya boys meat.”

Lovely, who the fuck is yakking me up now? he thought.

She was behind him, a woman, someone whose auburn hair was showing the first streaks of white.

He looked at her, a little more than cross.

“Lovely morning, doncha think? Reminds me of Saturday mornings when I was a kid,” she continued.

“I guess,” Marcus replied, shrugging and looking away.

“Well, I’m Denise. I just moved to the block.”

And it was such a quiet block, Marcus thought as he looked at her blank expression fixed on his face.

“And you are?”

“Me,” he said.

She sat at a bench off to the side. Some inquisitive pigeons waddled towards her.

Denise broke up some crackers from her pocket and scattered them before her new friends. “Some people don’t like pigeons, but I think they are just fine birds.”

Marcus pulled out his phone and fiddled with it. “Yeah, a little more bird shit would improve this park.”

“Are you always so cheerful?”

“Sometimes I break out the kazoo and jerk off while I play John Philip Sousa.” Marcus stood up and left.

As he was sometimes wont to do, Marcus strolled through the back alleys and side streets to burn off some of his fury.

He descended the steps into the shadows between two apartment buildings. He loitered in the cool, bracing shade, looking this way and that, before disappearing into the back entrance to his block.

The tenancy had dropped after the war. At one time, the two adjoining buildings housed hundreds of families.

Now there were just derelicts tied to the past, too tired to move on, or transient workers seeking some kind of hold on normalcy. A home. The buildings soared up in ten stories of Brutalist concrete, steel, and glass. The management company put in the barest of work: there was electricity, a few leaks, running water that was sometimes hot at least in the winter, and glass in most of the windows.

That didn’t mean if your neighbor smoked madak they would be evicted. Just as long as they were quiet and you didn’t mind the smell of heavy tobacco smoke at all hours.

At least my new neighbors use cherry-flavored paste in their pipes, Marcus mused to himself as he mounted the back steps, grimacing at the sharp tang of piss.

He refused to give into advancing years and took the steps straight-backed, exerting himself at a decent clip.

Until he heard the stream of piss one flight above him.

Then he got silent.

On the next landing, he saw a youth of indeterminate ethnicity marking “his” territory.

Marcus cleared his throat. “Ahem!”

The youth turned, mumbled something in wet sibilants, and turned back to his dick and the corner he was wetting.

Marcus puffed up his chest and grasped that cold hard thing in his pocket. “Hey, fuckhead. I didn’t read you there.”

“I said, ‘Shut ya old pinky bitch mouth, old man.’ Ya me hear now?” the youth answered.

“Turn the fuck around,” Marcus ordered.

“Don’t be no fucking ordering me, pinky!” the youth said, zipping his fly up with a yank. He turned and faced Marcus, looming over the diminutive older man.

“I’ll fucking talk to any pissing dog any fucking way I want!” Marcus belted out.

The youth reached in his pocket, “I got ta get muh phone out for this shit, old pinky. Like—”

His words cut out when the brass knuckles shattered his jaw; the jagged remains of his teeth severed half his tongue.

Stunned, the youth could only operate on autopilot. His thumb still reached for the ‘record’ button on the screen of his phone.

A hook drove the brass knuckles into his temple, sending his brain bouncing around in his thick skull.

Marcus watched in amusement as the idiot stood for a moment, phone in hand, ready for action that had come and went, eyes rolling back into his head, and then dropping to the floor of the landing like a sack of shit.

In a moment of bloodlust, Marcus drew his karambit, contemplating slitting the youth’s throat and letting him bleed out.

Nah. The police would take an interest in that. Maybe even if no one gave a shit about this fuck. Cold-blooded murder is still a thing. Unfortunate.

So Marcus settled for rifling through the youth’s pockets, finding only a pouch of madak, a .25 pocket pistol, and three half-ounce copper reais. Marcus took the pistol and reais, dumped the madak in the puddle of piss, and smashed the kid’s phone against the wall.

For the cherry on top, Marcus dragged the kid and dropped him face down in his own urine.

“Sweat dreams, fag.”


Marcus placed his take on his dresser. He did a function check on the pistol, a Beretta Jetfire.

Nice. Classic, he thought.

Marcus returned to his living room. Eyeing up the triple locks on his front door, he thought about what to do with the rest of his day.

I could go to Ryder’s Diner. Or the rec center. The American Legion. Maybe the library. Or just stay in and cruise the Internet, maybe see what comes over the shortwave.

He mulled over his options as he warmed and poured a sake.

Tuning his shortwave set, Marcus sat in a worn-out easy chair facing his display wall. Somewhere over the horizon, someone was broadcasting a song. Something old, something from Marcus’ own youth. My Chemical Romance, “Welcome to the Black Parade.”

He listened, drawn in deeper to memory, gazing at the flags displayed on his wall: the old U.S. flag, the Gadsden, and his former unit’s flag, the 11th Ohio River Valley Volunteer Battery. The Dragon Guns.

The golden eyes of the serpentine, jade-green Japanese dragon met his.

He fired up his tablet and caught a signal from one of the URAR towers. The reason was unknown to him why he started checking deep web search engines, why he was scanning through archived pages from thefacebook.com circa 2004-2005. Then, he knew; he didn’t want to, but he kept diving deeper until he found it.

The pictures uploaded from a digital camera to a defunct college page. There was a series of photos of young people, some lame on-campus Halloween party. Kids in costumes. Slutty cops, some ironic, like the guy who dressed up like George W. Bush. Some show a dark-haired young man with his arm around the shoulder of a cute redhead.

Names he hadn’t heard or thought about in decades, from a time and place that might as well have been a half-remembered fantasy novel set on another planet.

“Remember what a big deal it was?” Marcus said to the evening’s growing shadows, falling asleep in his chair next to his sake.


The M102 Howitzer bellowed, sending shells across the Delaware River. Five of its brothers joined in quick succession, filling the fire support base with smoke and filling the air with iron. The night crackled and roared with batteries unloading from the ruins of Camden into Philadelphia. The 11th Dragon Guns were doing their part; Lieutenant Sears saw to that. He could see the men grinding away in the fire-lit twilight. Sweat, smoke, and dust had turned them into demonic caricatures. Lt. Sears wiped the sweat from his brow; his hand came away black.

The guns fell silent. Someone was cackling.

“No one ordered you to cease firing! What’s the problem? Colonel Remarque needs fucking artie to soften the fuckers up,” Lieutenant Sears shouted.

Only then did he notice everything was quiet on the eastern front.

Across the river, there seemed to be the sound of leaves crackling in a fire.

A rangy man, Staff Sergeant Phillips, approached him. “No, sir, everything’s fine; guns dialed in, half our ammunition left, plus the ‘spicy specials.’ It’s just that we’re all damned.”

“Excuse me, Sergeant?”

“You heard me, Lieutenant. We’re damned and done at first light.” Sergeant Phillips smiled through charred flesh, half his mouth blasted away. “Me and the boys jus’ don’ think it’s worth the trouble no more. You see?”

Lieutenant Sears looked at the men who were circled around him. Private First Class Walker, usually so tall, as a good loader should be, nodded a head that wasn’t there. Private Shaw stood at attention on two stumps, like the loyal soldier he was. One soldier who might have been Lee swayed back and forth holding his guts in his arms, agreeing. “Sir, we’re pretty fucked. We’ve been firing all night and jus’ dead tired. And yeah, damned, we’re damned alright and we need you to lead us down.”

Marcus awoke screaming, clutching his balled fists to his chest, to his empty apartment.

At least the dopeheads next door are too spaced out to care.


“Hi, stranger!” she said, “I didn’t get your name last time.”

Marcus squinted at her through the morning sun. “Yeah, I know.”

“That’s not too friendly,” Denise told him.

Marcus said, “I don’t need friends. We’re just two strangers in the park.”

“We don’t have to be.”

“Be what?”



Frustrated, Denise sat down across from Marcus, “Well, we’re neighbors, we’re about the same age, and—” She paused.

“And what?” Marcus asked.

“And I just don’t know. I figured we’d have some things in common,” she finished.

Marcus crossed his legs and leaned back,.“I’ll finish for you: you were born sometime in the 1980’s, like me. Grew up during the Clinton years watching Saturday morning cartoons and playing Nintendo. You lived through 9/11, the War on Terror, the first black president, and the first orange president of the former United States. Went to college, dealt with the Great Recession, had a Facebook, and fucked around on with Tinder on your smartphone. Right? Then the Boogaloo. And we both happen to be white.”

Denise smiled and nodded her head. “Yeah…so I thought—”

“You thought wrong. We have nothing in common except a chronological coincidence.”

They said nothing after that, the silence filled by the coos of pigeons and the whoosh of distance traffic.

Denise scrolled through her smartphone and dropped the occasional cracker to the assembled pigeons.

In a low, troubled voice she ventured to say something, reading from her phone, “Domestic house cats and tigers share 96 percent of their DNA,” she sobbed. “So interesting.”

“I guess,” Marcus said and left.


For all installments of “The Untouchable,” click here.