Thursday, December 23, 2010

Grotto Joe

By Richard Godwin

The witchdoctor came down the stairs coughing blood.

Beneath the saturated wall of graffiti the shards of broken glass winked with menace in the lurid glow cast by the flickering strip light that hissed and fizzed overhead.

I’d never seen his scar look like that before. The jagged white grin in his flesh had turned golden and issued a strange surreal glow.

‘I hears you can helps me’, he said.

‘How so?’

‘This man he’s been doing some tings.’

‘And what things might they be?’

‘Rape, murder, bloodshed, mayhem, he don’t like me, and he’s in disguise.’

‘Well it’s an honour that you come to me.’

‘You’s the deal on this business, it’s Grotto Joe.’

‘A job’s a job, I’ll visit him.’

Down on Second Avenue where the winos spat at you as you passed, the line of kids to the grotto was like a trail of litter on the puke strewn pavement. I waited and watched as the shoppers bought their ton of crap and headed home.

And there he was, Grotto Joe.

Fat and obscene as a dirty joke in church, clutching the kids and giving them a box of tat while he whistled.

I could smell him and he stank of piss and corruption.

It had been a while since that incident when he cut the lady in the shop, sliced her from ear to ear for short-changing him and he was doing what he always did this time of year, dress up and hand out gifts. Beneath the beard lay a world of lies.

While Bing Crosby dreamed of a white Christmas I thought of painting the town red.


People wonder what Father Christmas does the rest of the year, well this one burgles shops and specialises in aggravated sexual assault on the side.

He ho-hoed and acted out the part of the dear old guy with the gifts and maybe had them all fooled but not anyone who knew what lay beneath the mask.

Christmas songs echoed into the night time air like some threnody for Santa Claus.

I knew that this one kept a switchblade beneath his costume, like a shard of glass in the birthday jelly.

His heavily decorated tree hung with lurid baubles, shiny reds and golds winking at me with an attendant malice that gave little cheer as I watched families take their gifts home.

I waited until the throng had thinned and the last few stragglers were wending their way past the debris outside and I went in.

He had his back to me and was removing his beard when he heard me and turned.

There was a crackle of hatred that burned the air as Diana Ross jingled her bells at us.

Grotto Joe was about to open his mouth and say something smart when I pulled my baby from my pocket. She’s as sharp as they come and I can open a can of tomatoes with her.

I hit him right in the neck, a shower of blood opening up and spraying the grotto in some grim ejaculation that left him reeling. He clutched at himself and staggered about like a blind man but I wasn’t finished.

I wanted to peel the skin from that Christmas and hang a little trophy on the wall.

You could say it was my personal form of decoration, being unaccustomed to these enforced merriments.

I wanted to skewer Santa like a kebab and burn him up a little.

And I wanted to blow a hole in the Grotto lie.

I knew what Joe had in his baubles, he filled them with an infected syringe each year.

Some say he drank from them when everyone had left, speaking in tongues with red lips into the booze fractured dawn.

I knew what dark things he did as he handed out gifts.

As Joe reeled and bled I took out my Luger and shot his decorations to shit.

The baubles were full of blood and they exploded in some orgasm of unholy menses as if he was living in the belly of a bleeding whale.

The golds faded to red and the place was awash with it.

The tree was hung with the skin of his victims and looked like a severed artery.

His reindeer were dripping by the time I’d finished. Beneath the boxes of gifts lay his rusting machete. Ho fucking ho.

So I scalped him while a slow drizzle pattered the canvas sheeting that hemmed us in and I took it home to the witchdoctor who looked down at it and said:

‘Dat father Christmas he sure was into some bad shit.’

‘It’s a pleasure doing business.’

Joe lay in Christmas’s dark alley, a peeled and rotund gargoyle reduced to some carnival of butchery while I made potato skins.

I nailed his scalp to a wall beside a rotting poster advertising Carols.

It hung there like a ruined flag.

I saw the midnight revellers stagger home.

I watched the sky turn black.

Then I wiped off my baby and made love to a bottle of Jim Beam.

The drizzle turned to snow. The streets were hushed beneath the polluted blanket it cast over the town’s corpse.


Richard Godwin writes dark crime fiction, and he lets it slip the net like wash into horror. His work has appeared in many publications, places like A Twist Of Noir and Pulp Metal Magazine, as well as in three anthologies. His story 'Pike N Flytrap' is in this issue of Needle Magazine magazine and his story 'Face Off' is in Issue #5 of Crime Factory. His play ‘The Cure-All’ has been produced on the London stage. His first crime novel ‘Apostle Rising’ is about to be published and will be released for sale onto the market on March 10th 2011. You can pre-order it here. You can watch a video ad of ‘Apostle Rising’ here .
All his published works can be found at his site.


Paul D Brazill said...

Yo! Ho ho. Loads of great lines there.

Author said...

Lovely stuff - really enjoyed that. Cheers!

Kristin Fouquet said...

A perfect holiday tale. Happy Christmas.

Michael Solender said...

Happy Holidays indeed!

Eileen Schuh: said...

Oh, my. That's...ghoulish AND gruesome. Wow. Blood in the baubles. Christmas will never quite look the same to me.

Have a great Christmas, everyone!
Eileen Schuh, Author

Evan Lewis said...

Rips the Merry off of Christmas and leaves it bleeding in the snow.

Nigel Bird said...

who turned the lights out?

AJ Hayes said...

Ah you Brits. You really know how to give the gift that keeps on giving . . . in my nightmares. Nice one, my friend. A Bloody bauble indeed!

Al Tucher said...

Now that's the way to handle this Christmas business.

callan said...

No stabbing like a Godwin Stabbing
merry christmas

Charles Gramlich said...

I agree. There are some real scalpels for lines in this piece.

Joyce said...

'Did I ever tell you you're my hero?' Well, your guy is certainly no Spiderman. But, then again, Grotto Joe is certainly no Green Goblin. Definitely somebody you want on your side though. Great story, Richard. Nasty and dark and bloody--perfect holiday fare. Merry Christmas.

Salvatore Buttaci said...

Nobody writes crime fiction like the Godwin!

Quin Browne said...

God rest ye Merry Gentlemen--and God rest poor Joe.

Jodi MacArthur said...

I heard those SLAY bells rings and Santa's startled scream. Secrets peeled from his soul- ho hoho

TO be honest, this reminds me of the rude awakening of being a child and realizing that there is no such thing as magic or santa or rudolph. It is all a bloody lie. Santa is dead.

Way to get us in the spirit, R. ;-) Lovely prose. Merry Christmas.

Unknown said...

Bad Santa, Bad!!

Superbly & seaonally twisted.

Kate Pilarcik ~ absolutely said...

You had me on ~ "I could smell him and he stank of piss and corruption."

After that Mr Godwin, "Ho fucking ho" -- you and Santa's baby sure the hell brought out the red and glean in Christmas. The Grinch don't know gruesome til he's slung wit' Grotto Joe. ~ Absolutely*Kate

Alan Griffiths said...

It doesn’t get much darker than that! A terrific, seasonal horror tale, Richard.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sharp as a tack, Richard. Have a great holiday.

Chris Rhatigan said...

There's a dude you don't fuck with. Cracking tale, Richard. Piercing and vile.

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for your comments. I'm glad you liked it.

seana graham said...

Over the top! Definitely pushing the dark end of noir out into whole new territory.