THE NINE O’GLOCK SHUFFLE by Lindsey Pharr

“There’s a gun in the road.” Sunny points. 

Their voice is flat, dead casual. They could be pointing at a roadkill squirrel squashed flat as a pancake or a genuine diamond necklace in the middle of the street and the enthusiasm would be identical. They’re on some pretty hefty meds these days.

Your eyes follow their tiny finger and, sure enough, there’s a nine-millimeter handgun lying in the middle of your neighborhood street at eight in the morning on Fat Tuesday. 

“Fuck,” you say. 

Your little group huddles around Sunny, whose hands have returned to the pockets of their oversized gray hoodie. Sunny’s walk-in closet looks like the unholy marriage bed of Lisa Frank and Hieronymus Bosch, so today’s Mardi Gras costume of a hoodie and ripped jeans is decidedly ironic. 

Critter jogged a few blocks ahead to blow off some psychedelic jitters and has started skipping his way back towards you. He skids to a halt when he spots what you’re all looking at. He tilts his head like a baffled retriever.
“Is that a gun?” he asks.

Sunny pops their bubblegum and nods sagely. 

Next to you a voice like a landslide booms.

“DO YOU THINK WE SHOULD CALL THE COPS?” 

You jump but you’re glad somebody said it and you’re doubly glad that that somebody was The Biblically Accurate Angel. Standing at about seven and a half feet tall, The Biblically Accurate Angel is a swirling nexus of wings and eyeballs that navigates the broken sidewalks in towering lucite stripper heels with practiced ease. 

Baby comes up to where The Biblically Accurate Angel’s navel theoretically would be and is topless and muscular in Pampers and thigh-high white go-go boots. Baby snarls up at her celestial companion, showing every one of her square teeth like little pieces of Chiclet gum.

“What the hell is wrong with you, Karen? Nobody is calling the fucking cops, okay?” She cocks a crinkly diaper-clad hip and taps the ash from her cigar. 

Critter watches the ashes float slowly into the gutter, spellbound. He spray-painted his sneakers gold with his feet already inside them, and now he’s starting to stick a little to the warming sidewalk. 

You’re anxious to get away from the deadly little piece of black plastic lying in the road, but you’ve never been a leader and have no idea how to pry this many eyes away. 

Sunny pops their gum again.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” Baby sighs. She tosses her cigar at you and steps into the street.

“What?” you squeak, and you juggle the burning cigar for an awkward second before dropping it. Critter dives under you and catches it in his mouth, closes his eyes blissfully and puffs.

Baby click-clacks over to the handgun and gives it a little kick towards the opposite gutter. It skids directly into the path of a freshly waxed, lime green Buick LeSabre. The driver is too close to swerve and the left front tire rolls right over the gun. The gun goes under the left rear tire before it kicks up and flips, end over end in slow motion, and you find yourself staring into the gun’s muzzle as you throw your arms around Critter and heave backwards, toppling you both into The Biblically Accurate Angel. This feels like slamming into a feathered wall. 

Baby throws her hands up at the driver, who cranes his neck to see what he’d just run over before turning back to glare at her.

“Did you just kick a gun at me?”

Baby jerks her chin up. 

“No.”

The driver looks past her at The Biblically Accurate Angel on the sidewalk. His eyes go wide as he rolls up his window and eases his car away slowly. 

The gun is still lying in the middle of the street, but its muzzle now points the way ahead towards the parade route. Critter ducks out of your arms and straightens his rumpled checkerboard jacket. He bows deeply to Baby before flipping the still lit cigar out of his mouth and onto his extended tongue for her to take. She leans in grinning and picks up the butt of it with her square teeth. 

Sunny squints at the sky. 

“It’s gonna rain soon.” 

You look up just as a huge raindrop splats onto your cheek and makes Sunny laugh, and it is the most beautiful sound in the world.

“LET’S GET BEIGNETS.” booms the Biblically Accurate Angel and you all agree that this is an excellent idea, except for Baby, who has sworn off both gluten and sugar but will make an exception just this once. Critter has scampered ahead again, and your little group follows a trail of sticky gold footprints off towards the river.


Lindsey Pharr (she/her) lives in a cabin in the woods outside of Asheville, NC. Her work has appeared in Ghost Parachute, Longleaf Review, Bending Genres, and elsewhere. She's on Twitter @lindsey_a_pharr.

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

Read Next: SKINK by aureleo sans