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Payment in Kind by Roxy Matthews

April 24, 2019 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley tagged as , , ,

Last month in the Facebook Group, The Charmed Connection, members of Charmed Writers posted some flash fiction short stories in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Charmed Connection members voted for their favorite stories. The top four stories will be published this month on A Slice of Orange.

Roxy Mathews | Jann Says | A Slice of Orange

Our third story in this collection is by Roxy Matthews.

Roxy Matthews is the author of several self published novels, McBride’s Gem, Numb, and Second Time Sam, with several others due out this year. She’s also a contributor to Charmed Writers Presents: Flash Fiction 2019

In addition, you can read more about Roxy in the interview she did with Jann Ryan here on A Slice of Orange.

Payment in Kind

Nightmares were a thing Joey Scallone knew much about. His family was the toughest mob family in all of Chicago and surrounding cities. They were widely known and feared. Yet there were always those who thought they could outsmart and outgun a Scallone. He watched many a man perish gruesome deaths at the hands of his old man and two older brothers trying to prove themselves worthy. And they’d always left in body bags.

Joey never partook in the beatings or slayings, but he had dumped the tarp wrapped bodies when the smoke cleared, helped clean up any evidence that a Scallone had been in the vicinity. Because of his crimes, he’d been plagued with the visions of those unlucky men nightly. One in particular. Just the memories of the old man’s final words sent a shiver down his spine.

Joey tried to convince himself that he deserved what he’d gotten. Old Man Bishop could not ‘order’ his family, no one could. That big mistake would have dire consequences in the end. But his own excuses for his family’s actions did little to dissuade the nightmares that woke him from his sleep in a cold sweat, his sheets soaked, clinging to his bare flesh. Nor could it drive the old man’s words from his mind. “Since you won’t pay for the work I did for you, I’ll be back for that gold. Mark my words.”

Joey shivered, nervously ran his tongue along the three gold teeth Old Man Bishop had fit him with after a brawl with a local barkeep. His old man had promised to pay Bishop handsomely for the work and as far as Joey’d ever known, payment had been made. But with the old man’s words, Joey knew otherwise. In his darkened bedroom save the flickering lights of the bar across the street, Joey searched the shadows. His heart hammered in his chest, sweat gleamed on his skin, hands trembled at his sides. This was no way for a Scallone to act. To fear a dead man, let alone one alive was as blasphemous to the family name as beating your woman. Yet here Joey sat, on his stained mattress, arms wrapped around his legs, knees pulled up to his chest, fearing words of a dead man.

Joey scoffed at himself, lowered his legs, dropped back to the mattress, one arm beneath his head. “Get with the program, Scallone,” he cursed himself until his lids felt heavy, sleep inevitable.

As darkness began to take hold, Joey heard shuffling from the corner of his room followed by a soft voice.

“Where’s my gold?”

Joey bolted up in bed, eyes wide, breath held.

He looked left. Right. Nothing. Joey sighed. “Goddamnit, Scallone,” he cursed.

“That’s right, Scallone. Goddammit, give me my gold.”

Before Joey could comprehend how close the voice was, the mattress before him depressed and the outline of a hunched over old man came into view.

Joey gasped, jumped back until he was trapped between his cold bedroom wall and his visitor. He blinked several times, pinched his thigh all in the hopes of pulling himself from the nightmare. But he stayed in it. Eye to eye with a dead man. The wrinkled face surrounded by thick bushy grey hair leaned closer, he grinned a toothless grin as eyes as dark as a tarpit peered into Joey’s soul. Give me my gold, boy.”

Joey squeezed his eyes shut, shook his head. As much as he wanted to look his foe in the eye, battle the demons of his own mind, as his old man and brothers had taught him, he could not. “You’re not real, you’re not real.”

“Oh, you don’t think so, huh,” Old Man Bishop’s voice croaked, followed by a sinister laugh that turned Joey’s blood to ice.

Cold fingers reached for his lips, strength in the grip opened his mouth wide.

Joey’s eyes whipped open onto the spectral vision of the old man, a sinister grin on his thin lips. In his terror, he panicked, fought to pull himself free from the grip. Shaken hands reached to push the old man away, yet instead of his fists filled with the old man’s tattered dental jacket, they came away with nothing. The old man reached a wrinkled hand inside Joey’s mouth, gripped one of his gold teeth like a vise and yanked. Joey screamed, flailed about on sheets barely covering the mattress. Blood splattered in his mouth, dripped down his chin as one by one, the gold teeth were yanked from his jaw.


When Joey awoke several days later in the hospital screaming about his golden teeth, ripped from his jaw by a ghost seeking his payment in kind, the nurses could only shake their heads.

“The poor boy, such a young age for such a horrific incident,” one whispered.

“Yeah, to be the innocent victim of gang violence like that.” Another added, shook her head. “Those boys should be ashamed of the beating they gave him.”

The first nurse nodded her head. “I agree, thankfully they were able to reconstruct his jaw.” She paused, then added. “But his poor teeth.”

We hoped you enjoyed Roxy’s story. Check in tomorrow for Jaclyn Roche’s “Kiss Me, I’m Irish. While you’re waiting, you can also read Veronica Jorge’s Fiona Malone’s Fesh or Angela Pryce’s The Last Serpent.

Books by Roxy Matthews

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