THE NIGHTLY CHILL
By Steve Arviso
Something Old, Something New.
FIGHT THE DAWN!
As the sunlit sanity of the waking world burns the night to ash,
embrace the unbound madness of your wildest dreams,
laugh into the endless abyss of your darkest fantasies,
and rage against the coming dawn.
The Nightly Chill is the unstable experience of the mind and madness of Steve Arviso (@AmoralCrackpot). Mon-Fri. Ish.
- WE ARE THE LOST
- THE TRAGEDY OF MR. JENKINS
- TONIGHT’S TALE…
- LAUGH THE PAIN AWAY
I had hoped to have this issue ready yesterday, but I suppose even mistakes can’t be rushed.
Some version of the story presented tonight has been bouncing around in my head for a couple years now. Recently, I wrote and shared the teaser for an episode of THE MIDNIGHT HOUR, “An Unearthly Silence.” It features a tired, aged gunslinger by the name of JAMES RILEY finding and baring his soul to the mother of a young boy he killed. Riley’s story started as something very different, but was always the first episode of The Midnight Hour. And I’ve been trying to get his story out there in some fashion or another. The Midnight Hour version is one way, a (tele)play with arguably a bit more depth, detail, and sentimentality. But tonight’s version, THE TRAGEDY OF MR. JENKINS, is something a bit different. Something a bit more personal, if shorter.
Tonight, we present the first draft of new original tale of tragedy, in which a stranger shares his story of a quiet place that haunts him. Read “The Tragedy of Mr. Jenkins” below, or find this and other works at AmoralCrackpot.com. Or you can listen to me perform it live on Mixer, Instagram, and wherever else I can think to do so. Follow The Nightly Chill on Twitter and elsewhere to catch the next live performance!
WE ARE THE LOST
The Nightly Chill wants to show some love to a variety of cool shit from local and other independent artists, performers, and assorted creative types!
Hit us up if you make:
- Music, audio dramas
- Genre fiction, poetry, films, etc!
The weirder, the better!
We are The Lost. And together, we’ll make sure the world sees and hears us.
JASON IS UP LATE
Comedy by Jason King, who is up late.
VIRAL LOAD PODCAST
PulpBusters is a collection of original genre-fiction audio plays inspired by classic pulp radio serials and anthologies.
“THE TRAGEDY OF MR. JENKINS”
A stranger shares the tragic tale of a quiet place that haunts him.
SCENE 1. A QUIET PLACE.
THE STRANGER SITS BY A CRACKLING CAMPFIRE BENEATH A QUIET SOUTHWESTERN SKY. HE SPEAKS TO AN AUDIENCE WE CANNOT SEE OR HEAR.
Truth is, the boy was dead before I ever eyed their wagon rolling through the canyon.
It was a brisk morning in early October. The sky above Henry Ballard’s cattle ranch looking like a bad bruise…and still filled with stars. The ranch itself sits right between where the canyon opens wide…and the foothills rise from the clay. Bramble, weed, and grass so thick it’ll choke the life out of the Earth if ya let it.
I stood there by the gate, watching the wagon roll down that winding trail, beyond where the river thins and little grows. I still remember the way the cold sharpened the wind to a fine blade–cut right through my coat and gloves. But it wasn’t until we could hear Mr. Webber cursing into the wind that Mr. Ballard saw fit to step out from that house of his and join me.
Now. The thing you need to know about Henry Ballard…is that he was about as good a businessman as he was chickenshit. He paid well enough. But the man…insisted on putting a scare into whoever he did business with. For me, that meant threatening to speak with the Sheriff for a supposed bit of horse thievery that I have no recollection of. And for Mr. Webber…well, that meant me standing nearby with a loaded rifle in my hands until their transaction concluded.
John Webber, on the other hand, was a large, red-bearded man I’d sooner forget. The sort of man whose eyes had seen too much. His hands thick and calloused from a life of farming, drinking, and punching things even bigger than him. And the boy seated beside him…he couldn’t have been much older than fifteen, trembling with a shotgun full of buckshot in his lap. Neither said much to the other as Mr. Webber brought the wagon to a stop.
Meanwhile…as Mr. Ballard approached Mr. Webber, he couldn’t help but whisper in my ear one last time…reminding me yet again to put a scare into the both of ‘em. I looked over at the boy, saw the way he struggled to hold that shotgun in his small, unsteady hands…and then informed my employer that such a request should not and would not prove difficult.
Mr. Ballard greeted the two with the same friendly smile and song in his voice he often used to sell his low-grade shoveled shit to old women for their tulips and peppers. At first, it’s the voice of a man who has you believing he can be trusted. That he and you are just about the best of friends. And friends don’t do each other no wrong, do they?
But after twenty-odd years of putting up with Henry Ballard’s other sort of bullshit…Mr. Webber heard Mr. Ballard for who he really was…a man whose father sold snake oil…and whose mother read palms and sold lies about dead parents, love-to-be, and a fortune always out of reach. He also spoke to Mr. Ballard with the voice of a man doing so only out of obligation and necessity–short, to the point, and as if Mr. Ballard were charging him by the word…which was likely something that crossed Henry Ballard’s mind at least once.
THE STRANGER SHIFTS UNCOMFORTABLY. HIS NEXT WORDS WEIGH HEAVY ON HIM. HE’S SHARED THIS STORY BEFORE, BUT IT NEVER GETS ANY EASIER.
There are few things more dangerous in this life than a boy with a loaded weapon. Hell…you can’t trust most grown men either. And I said as much to Ballard and Webber both when they thought to ask me my opinion on the matter. Not that either man cared much what I thought…seeing as both walked away and began their negotiations before I finished speaking my peace.
For a moment, it really looked like everything might go better than I had anticipated. Mr. Ballard and Mr. Webber were sorting out their business fine enough on their own. And the boy preoccupied himself with a business transaction he had no understanding of, and paid little attention to me or the shotgun in his lap.
And then…the moment passed.
Lots of rumors and half-truths spread about that morning. I suppose that shouldn’t surprise me. Mr. Ballard was not the most respected man I ever met. He could be a greedy little son of a bitch when that itch got to be too much for him. Hired some expensive East Coast lawyer to have his own brother cut out of their inheritance…which is how he got rights to that ranch in the first place…or so I hear. And most I knew never cared to do much more than avert their eyes whenever they come across Mr. Webber in town. Rumors tend to cling to men like that, like fleas on a stray. And they make great stories to tell around a fire, sure. But they’re often just that–rumors and stories.
I can’t say what exactly was said or done to light that fuse. To be perfectly honest, I was too damned cold and sick of the smell of cattle to do anything but stand there and wait for it all to be over with. But what I do know is that no more than five minutes passed before negotiations abruptly concluded…with Mr. Webber knocking Mr. Ballard flat on his ass with one punch.
In a better world with better men, perhaps things would have ended there. And I wouldn’t be here telling you this instead of getting myself a good night’s rest. But that ain’t the world we live in.
As Mr. Webber walked back to his wagon, Mr. Ballard called Mrs. Webber a “two-bit whore.” Funny how those sorts of things always manage to be heard when everything else is getting lost in the wind and cold. And Mr. Webber must’ve heard Mr. Ballard just as clear as I did, because he pivoted mid-stride and turned back to Henry with murder in his eyes. And Henry must’ve seen this too, because that’s exactly when he shot John Webber dead in his tracks.
I never saw the boy raise his shotgun. I only heard him crying out for Mr. Webber…then a loud ringing…and then the pained cries of Mr. Ballard as he hit the ground with a belly full of buckshot. And before the boy could even take his finger off the trigger…I turned to him…and fired one shot into his heart.
THE STRANGER COMPOSES HIMSELF, THEN…
I stood there as the sun rose…and an unearthly silence fell upon everything. And on nights like this, when the world gets to be too cold and quiet…I find myself right back there again. Maybe one day I’ll find myself out of that canyon. But not tonight.
THE SOUND OF THE CAMPFIRE RISES AS WE FADE OUT.
READ THE LATEST (VERSION) HERE.
Tonight, CHILL with an absurd twisted romance between a photographer, a housewife, and her husband–a surgeon who enjoys getting a little blood on his hands! READ “Pale Horse,” a pulp-inspired play of tragedy and supernatural justice.
LAUGH THE PAIN AWAY
Bits of original nonsense from a moron.
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YOU ARE NOT ALONE
THE NIGHTLY CHILL