the hair cut

It fluttered for a moment, magnificent in its struggle, then wilted and lay still. I looked down near my Docs then up into the mirror to gauge Margo’s reaction. There wasn’t one. The other girls seemed to be watching for one, too. Instead, silence suffocated the salon.

“Is that okay?” I said, my voice feeling like monstrous thunder in the still of the salon. I retrieved the five inch thick curl of hair from the floor and held it up for Margo to view.

“I s’pose,” Margo hummed. “But I may want even more cut off after yer done, okay?”

“Of course.”

I continued cutting Margo’s silver and black hair and wondered why she was wanting such a change. This was her first time with me. Actually, it was her first time in the salon. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been in a salon to get her hair done, but she needed a change. “Desperately,” Margo added, dropping her eyes from mine.

She wanted a little life put back into her hair, she told me. Something that wouldn’t require her to color it, nor require much maintenance. She couldn’t afford to do either, and I was pretty sure she wasn’t referring to just money.

There was something about Margo that intrigued me more-so than most first time clients, and I found myself trying to get her to talk more.

“I bet you’ll be a lot cooler with shorter hair,” I smiled, focusing on cutting.

“That’d be nice.”

“Has it ever been short?”

“Not since I was a kid.”

What was it about this woman that I needed to know?

“Have you ever tried blowing your hair out?”

Margo shifted in her seat before answering, “It’s just too much work. I’d love it straight, but we all want what we don’t have.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” I snickered.

I looked at the mirror and found Margo’s eyes and immediately felt something that I really don’t know how to describe. A connection of sorts, perhaps? I’m not sure, but I needed to keep this woman talking. It felt necessary.

“What?” she softly asked when our eyes met. “What is it you want that you don’t have?”

Love…happiness…peace, my brain shouted, but instead I smiled and said, “Oh ya know, the usual stuff: my own home, a new car n stuff.”

“Hmm,” a grin washed across Margo’s face. “That’s just ‘stuff’ though. Is there anything you want that doesn’t cost money?”

“Of course,” I replied, trying to focus on more cutting; Margo had a lot of hair.

With another grin washing across her face, Margo continued: “One of my favorite quotes is from Picasso: ‘Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.’”

Our eyes met again, and again there was that… spark.

I thought about what she said for a moment and her eyes dropped back down into her lap like they had done when she first sat down with me. I continued cutting her hair when suddenly I blurted out, “Is that why you’re cutting off all this hair?”

Immediately I wished it back. I don’t know why I had become so defensive. But when I finally looked back at Margo, she was grinning again. And she was looking into my eyes again with so much kindness.

“My hair, for me,” she said smiling, “is just more ‘stuff’. It doesn’t really matter in the long run, ya know?”

I returned her smile and noticed her blue eyes started to shine and that, in turn, made me start to well up as well.

I finished cutting her hair and when it was all said and done, she smiled big again, shook her head and curls and thanked me, telling me I did a great job, that I was right to start cutting it longer.

A couple weeks later, I got a card in the mail at the salon. It was from Margo with no last name, no return address. The front of the card had an image of someone sitting on a bench watching the sunset. Inside the card was a handwritten note:

John Steinbeck said, “I wonder how many people
I’ve looked at all my life and never seen.”
I want you to know that I saw you,
the REAL you and you deserve love and happiness.
You just got to believe that. Truly believe it.
Thanks for the great hair cut!





well, this was new for me… i’m not one to generally go sappy when writing fiction. hope it was still enjoyable.

excerpts from Phun’s Blog


Winter seemed reluctant to release its hold, making the tiny blond toddler cry out even louder. Like a vicious circle, the girl’s crying made Winter clamp down even harder on her leg. It all happened so fast and within seconds people swarmed around tossing sticks, bags, rocks, even cell phones; but nobody could make the dog release its hold on the girl’s leg.


Finally a tall man in a blue baseball cap squeezed his way through the crowd and injected the mad dog with something that enabled him to put it into a headlock and lock it into a cage.

It was the craziest thing I’d ever seen.


The poor little girl laid on the ground, blood oozing into a puddle below her, turning her into a stop sign. She stopped crying and screaming by then. In fact, the girl seemed to have lost consciousness.

Stupid fucking dogs.

“Winter!” A woman’s voice called out in a bit of a panic. “Winter?!”

“Tell me you’re not calling after your dog,” I said, peering over the top of my sunglasses.

She looked at me. “Have you see him? He’s got yellow—“

Who the fuck names their dog Winter?

“Yeah he just fucking took a chunk outta that poor girl’s leg,” I nodded my head in the direction of the girl still lying motionless in a pool of her own blood.


“Dude, yer dog’s as good as dead. If not by animal control, by these people who had to witness the horror of all that bullshit.”

“I… I….”

“That kinda dog doesn’t belong in the city, lady; what the fuck is wrong with you?”

The lady looked at me, tears streaming from her eyes. “Winter’s not a dog,” she managed to spit out through her tears. She looked past me and started running toward the animal control truck.

The fuck is wrong with people?


Blog title: Clearly I Am Not a Dog Person
Author: Phun E. Joak


So I was watching the news last night after witnessing that crazy shit with the dog attacking the little girl… Seems there’s a story that’s been released about a woman who kept her son locked in a cage from the time he was born until he escaped the other day. The boy was six years old. She kept him locked in a cage for six years, treating him like a fucking animal. The boy’s name is Winter.


Blog title: Holy shit
Author: Phun E. Joak





Slicing him open wasn’t really an option; Marissa couldn’t stand the sight of blood. In fact, she cringed anytime she saw a sharp knife, so the thought of shoving a blade into someone over and over again to kill them was one that sent her to the bathroom to vomit.

Shooting him would be just too chaotic, she figured. Plus with her luck, the bullet wouldn’t hit him properly and he wouldn’t die. And Marissa knew if there was anything she had to get done right, it was killing her husband Stan.

She plotted for days, months. She thought about all the movies and TV shows she’d seen, all the books she’d read that involved a killer. She was going to become one: a killer. It’s not that she was going to go around killing all men named Stan; but she knew she would go to prison, she knew she’d be labeled as a killer once she did it.

Killer. Marissa Mercoli, killer. Husband killer.

The idea of going to prison frightened her, but the idea of living her life knowing that her own fucking husband raped her when she was a child… Marissa felt submerged in a deep black hole. She felt trapped. The only light she could see and grasp was that which would come after killing the prick who raped her when she was only 9 years old.

“The gig is up, fucker,” she thought, squeezing out a bottle of eye drops into his carton of orange juice he always finished within three days.


Poor, poor Stan.

Marissa looked down at him, pants around his ankles as he lay in a fetal position on the blue tile floor next to the toilet.

“Did you really think I’d never figure it out?” she asked him, shaking her head. “Stupid fuck.” She kicked at his feet.

The paramedics came first, quickly followed by the police. Marissa was handcuffed and put into the back seat of a squad car.

At the station, Marissa was pushed into a cell until a gruff female guard finally came to unlock the gate and called to her: “Mercoli?”

The guard took Marissa to a secluded room and told her to take off her clothes. “Underwear too,” the guard barked.

Standing in the dank room, Marissa was ordered to raise her arms as the female guard snapped on a pair of latex gloves and started feeling around her naked body to see if anything was hidden.

“Open your mouth,” the guard ordered next. “Flip the top lip… the bottom… lift up the tongue.”

Marissa kept thinking about when she was 9–if she could survive that, she could survive this.

“Lemme see the souls of your feet.”

Marissa lifted a foot behind her.

“Other one.”

Marissa eyed the orange uniform neatly folded on the bench and prayed for the guard to tell her to put it on.

“Bend over for me, please.”

Marissa started thinking that maybe she should’ve called 9-1-1 sooner and gone into hysterics over finding her husband passed out on the floor of the bathroom, instead of nonchalantly calling hours after he died and shedding no tears.


Tears seeped from Marissa’s eyes as she let out a whimper of a cough.

“Put on your uniform and lessgo.”

Marissa draped herself in the orange uniform and shuffled down the hall back into the cell where she waited for someone to tell her what to do next.



if interested, you can find more from Marissa’s story HERE.


It doesn’t take long after losing a ton of weight when you get into a funk of sorts… when the high you get from people telling you how great you look wears off after your loss starts stalling. You want to lose more, of course, but you just can’t. (Dammit. Now what?) You want to revert back to your old ways of dealing with a funk—food. Glorious food: chips, burgers, fries, pizza, cookies, ice cream. But if you do that you won’t be able to stop, and then you’ll start gaining all that fucking weight back. (At least it will fill in the sagging skin?) Instead of eating away at the funk, you start drinking. Not enough to become a drunk, but enough to feel good. (All the time.) You start calling into work because you just can’t get out of bed; because when you do, you’ll need a drink and then another. Just enough to feel good, to feel that high you once had when people stopped you to tell you how awesome you were looking before the stall.

Soon you start noticing the creases in your forehead are getting deeper. You think about getting onto one of those makeover shows where they, for free, surgically remove the flabby loose skin from the weight loss and shoot the creases in your forehead up with Botox. (What are the chances of you getting chosen for something like that though?) It’s maddening to you because all you want is to feel good, to feel content with your body, your face.

But the skin. The flab. The creases. They get more and more noticeable, and, by god, one morning when looking at your face in the mirror, the creases on your forehead start taunting you. Motherfuckers. You grab the scissors kept in the medicine cabinet and start slicing into those creases. Blood starts pouring from your incisions, clouding your vision. But you keep going.

Anything to get out of this funk.


{a little piece of flash fiction inspired by the FUNK word prompt at trifecta}


why not?

“No one could ever know what happened here,” I told her as she grabbed her clothes from the floor and put them on. She didn’t say anything, just grabbed all her stuff and walked out the door. Just the way I like it.

A week later, I saw her again. Same bar, same bar stool. Drinking another dirty martini, she started groping at me, asking me to take her back to my place again. I knew I could get what I wanted from her so I was game. Why not? This time, I entered from behind, pushing her against the couch, shoving her face into the couch pillows to smother the screams. Stupid little whore wants to play with me, she can take it in the ass.

After, I told her I was going to bed and she could show herself out. She did.

I really thought that would be the end of seeing her; clearly she wouldn’t go back to O’Reilly’s Pub on South Street the following week.

I was wrong.

Barely in from off the street, I immediately noticed the back of her curly hair. Quickly, I snuck into a booth and watched her a bit. I wanted to see if she’d let someone else pick her up. A couple different guys approached, but left almost immediately. I was going to just leave, not wanting her to get the wrong idea if she saw me, but meh, why not?

“Back for more?” I said, while looking at the bartender to order a drink of my own.

She didn’t say anything but I was pretty sure she was smiling. With a drink in my hand, I started to leave and she grabbed my arm. “Wait,” she said.

“This is what you want?” I asked her.

This time I saw the smile to know for sure. She looked so young in that moment. Too young. And I immediately got hard.

“Fine,” I said, tossing back the Johnny Walker. Oh the warmth.

I slipped the glass onto the bar and grabbed her hand. When we got outside I pushed her against the door of the next building  and kissed her hard.

“You gotta do something for me though.”


“I’m gonna give you some money,” I told her, finding the big bills in my wallet. “A-lotta money. And you’re gonna go where I tell you to and tell them I sent you. They’re gonna give you a paper bag, like a lunch bag, and you’re gonna give them the money an’ come back out here to me.”


“Don’t look in the fucking bag alright? An’ don’t look around much when you get in there. Just go in, find the guy behind the counter, tell him my name and leave with the bag.”

I looked at her and she looked different. Even younger than before.

“How old are you again?”

“Twenty eight, why?”

“You gonna be able to do this or what?”

“Um, yeah. I guess. Sure.”

We walked around the corner to the Chinese take-out joint and I sent her in and waited and not more than a minute or two later, she came out holding the bag.

“Is there at least some food in here?” she asked.

I couldn’t help but laugh. I took her back to my place and fucked her before I showed her what was in the bag—an eight ball of coke. We snorted a couple of lines and fucked again and I realized I was in a fucking relationship with someone I didn’t really care about who I couldn’t shake. And she was okay with me doing whatever the fuck I wanted to do to her. The kinkier the better it seemed. So why not?

Had I known I’d be trying to hide her fucking body a couple months later, I would’ve known why not.


This piece of FICTION is inspired from this week’s speakeasy prompt as well as the unbelievably true and disturbing story of the missing woman from Milwaukee, Kelly Dwyer.

more from the interview

“I have spent years chasing the tail of my darkness.”

“Yes?” Dr Axelrod responds, lifting his eyes from the notebook he feverishly writes into. “And what have you discovered?” His eyes lock with Marissa’s. He needs her to spell it out for him so that it’s on record.

Marissa smiles again, then looks down at the floor before continuing. “I didn’t even remember I was raped. I blocked it out. I blocked out a lot of my youth, but there was always something inside me that ached so bad. The sun would be shining, people would be singin’ and dancin’, but something felt dead in me for so long.”

She looks at Dr. Axelrod again. “When I met Stan,” she continues. “Something changed. It was like things weren’t so fuckin’ dark anymore. It was like the sun was shining down on me, too, and I could finally sing and dance with everyone else.”


“I know it sounds corny and cliché but it’s how I felt; things were just so fuckin’ great between us.”

“Marrisa,” Dr. Axelrod says. “When did you remember being raped? What happened to make you remember?”

“Oh doc,” Marissa sighs. “Can I have a smoke first?”

“Not allowed.”

“Of fuckin’ course,” Marissa snaps. “Fine.”

Marissa shifts, bringing her knees into her chest so that she hugs herself on the chair. “I didn’t remember till after me and Stan got married, obviously. I mean, who’s gonna marry their rapist? That’s just sick. So one night we went out to the bar and had some drinks and stuff, and when we got home, we started going at it. You know. And we’re both kinda drunk and it’s getting really heated and stuff and all of a sudden, he pulls at my hair.” Marrisa closes her eyes again and holds her hands to her head. “He yanks at my hair and just kinda snaps my head back a bit and just holds it there for a second too long and that’s when it comes back to me like a motherfuckin’ semi runnin’ me over.”

She opens her eyes and looks at Dr. Axelrod who’s writing in his notebook. “I let him keep drillin’ me and when he finally came and released my hair, I looked at him and it was like I was nine again. It was like I was laying on that cold stinky clammy garage floor. In the dark. All alone.”

Marissa inhales deeply before resting her chin down atop her knees and exhaling. “He rolled over and outta bed and went to the bathroom, and I re-lived the nightmare from twenty years ago in my head. I started shaking bad and he came back to bed and saw me shaking and went and turned the heat warmer. I started screaming like mad but I don’t think it happened outta my head, ya know? Because he just turned the notch on the thermostat and went and sat by the computer.”

“Did Stan rape you when you were nine?”


“Did you confront him after remembering?”

Marissa didn’t answer. She just sat in the chair hugging herself, rocking a bit.

“Did you confront him about the rape after remembering?” Dr. Axelrod prodded again.

“Not until I killed the motherfucker.”



Daddy named her Lucy the day he gave her to me. We were at a carnival and he won her for me by shooting water onto a tiny target to make a small horse win a race against other shooters—mainly me and my brothers Andrew and Mark. From all the toys he could’ve picked, he chose the little rag doll with the orange dress, and as soon as the attendant gave her to him he smiled and handed her down to me.

“What’s her name?” I asked while hugging her.

“How about Lucy?” Daddy answered, whistling and singing an old Beatles song.

“I love her so much, Daddy!”

Lucy’s arms and legs fit perfectly in my hand so that I could drag her around with me wherever I went. She had this long gold curly hair and she wore an orange and green dress. I tried changing her clothes more than once but it never worked; the dress was just a part of Lucy. Sometimes I’d put other clothes on top of the dress but after a while, I just let Lucy be who she was.

I was seven when Daddy gave her to me. I remember a lot about that time. We all went camping and stayed in a pop-up camper with no running water or electricity. But we had so much fun. Lucy was at one of the carnivals near the campground we stayed at. That was also the vacation when I learned how to swim because my older brother Andrew pushed me into the pool. I wasn’t so happy about that and it took me a day before I’d go back near the water but then when I did, I wasn’t so afraid of going underwater anymore, and I started swimming through the water with my whole body submerged. It was pretty awesome the way the whole world just kind of turned into a blur as soon as I was under the water. I loved pushing the water away in front of me and kicking my legs at the same time to glide along. I imagined myself up in the sky, finding my way through a big white fluffy cloud.

That was the best summer vacation ever.

Mommy made french toast over a campfire for breakfast one morning, then fried some fish we caught one day for dinner one night. We went on hikes through the forest and slapped our skin to rid itself of bug bites. We ran and hopped on the hot sand dunes to get into cool water to go for a swim in the lake. We ate ice cream and ice cones like it was our job.

I don’t remember a lot from my youth but some things can’t be forgotten. And every time I see Lucy on the shelf next to some of my favorite books in the world, I always think of that summer and smile.

Life was really good then.




There was a loud crash in the hallway and Marissa slammed her face into a pillow to stifle a scream. She lay still for a minute, ears listening for any little thing while her mind thought of what she would do—pretend to be asleep? try to attack? try to hide?—when the intruder found the door to her room.

This was Marissa; she was always afraid. Irrationally so. Ever since she could remember she always heard noises and saw things. When she was in one room, she was sure she’d see shadows quickly darting about in another room or down the hallway. Not all the time, not every day, but she saw these shadows and she heard strange noises quite often. Like the crash in the hallway.

There was never anything to come from the sights and sounds other than maybe an elevated blood pressure or a premature gray hair. Noises generally were a result of something getting knocked down from the vibrations of the trucks on the street she lived on, for example; shadows were just a result of her overactive imagination.

Nevertheless, Marissa always envisioned the worst.

When she was younger, Marissa was sure the car door would suddenly fly open and she’d be sucked out of the car as her mom and dad and brothers drove down the highway to visit family. She hated sitting against the door because of this, but she hated the middle seat more. At least if she was by the door, the chances of her little brother Mark puking on her were slimmer than if she was in the middle since her older brother Andrew refused to give up his seat behind their dad. Of course if the door did finally fly open, she’d be a goner for sure, but she figured that since the door never opened she’d stick with the safety of being able to rush out of the car when Mark puked. Because with Mark, it wasn’t a case of If he would puke in the car, it was always When.

Even when she was a child, it annoyed Marissa how paralyzed she became by fear, but as soon as the fear subsided, she wouldn’t give it another thought until the next time she was paralyzed.

Paralyzed by fear.

It was getting so bad she wondered if she’d ever live a normal life. At 23, and still living at home, Marissa let fear control her. It was like an abusive boyfriend, but of course Marissa couldn’t see this. And because she wasn’t ever the one amidst her peers to shine, even a little bit, Marissa felt doomed for a life of solitude as a result.

And then she met Stan.


six small words

All day long I had envisioned stopping off at the CVS on the corner of Franklin and Lake Street to pick up a bottle of Rumchata. It was on the way to picking up Sophie and I was in dire need of a drink. And Rumchata was such a drink I could drink without any problems. None whatsoever. (Oh could I drink and drink that milky goodness.)

Just as I picked up the white bottle, my phone vibrated. I looked at the message from my mom: Hospice is saying any day now.

Instantaneously, I was suffocating inside that corner CVS store. I unzipped my jacket and looked at the message again. Six small fucking words that said so much. My heart started beating fast, the burn of vomit crept into my throat, tears fell from my eyes.

Take a deep breath, I told myself over and over again wiping away the tears.

I walked around the store cradling the bottle of Rumchata, trying to tell myself to remain calm, trying to remind myself I was inside a store and not in my car or home where I could react any way I wanted. I tried reminding myself that this wasn’t completely unexpected news. Clearly. Hospice had been visiting my grandmother for nearly a month at that point so I knew the news would come one day when I would learn there were days left.

I guess I just didn’t think I’d be inside a fucking CVS store buying Rumchata to drown my sorrows in whilst my four year old watched Dora that night.

Once I gathered enough strength and hid enough tears, I went to the counter by the door and purchased the Rumchata. I wasn’t carded, of course, because my hair had become quite silver the past several months.

I walked out of that corner CVS store and so badly wanted to open that bottle right then and there and take a swig.

Or ten.

But I had my sweet Sophie yet to pick up from daycare right down the street.


“Is everything okay,” Miss Carrie, the director at Sophie’s daycare asked when she saw me. I quickly averted my eyes to the log-in sheet and just nodded my head.

Sophie yammered on the whole ride home, but I’m not sure what she said. All I could think of was the impending holidays. Thanksgiving to be exact. It was Grams favorite holiday and I just couldn’t imagine it without her. It was the one time every year when everyone would gather together to feast, fight, and fart around. We laughed and cried on Thanksgiving. Voices and eyebrows were raised quite often. But we were all there, in one place, together as a family.

That was all going to change and realizing that made me nearly have to pull the car to the side of the road.

Gram was dying and so was our family.


Gram always remained a constant in my heart and thoughts, but I couldn’t have ever imagined a corner store having such a hold on me… but it did. Because from that day forward, every time I drove past that street corner, I thought of her.


The smell of smoke lingered in the air, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find the source.

As we walked around the crowded house, a pillow of smoke appeared down a hall that I thought lead to the front door. The closer I got to the pillow, I could see through and beyond it and into the room where the smoke erupted from. A half dozen people sat in a circle on the floor of the otherwise barren room, candles burning outside of the circle, taking hits off a bong and passing it around. One girl caught my eyes and smiled and nodded as if to ask if I wanted some. I mouthed no thanks and kept walking like I knew what was happening, where I was going.

It was just like a scene from a teen flick where all the underage kids gather in someone’s home whose parents went away for the weekend and partied partied partied. Music bounced from every surface. You had to shout to talk to someone and you had to really pay attention if you wanted to hear what someone else was saying. Everyone had a cup or a can or a bottle in one hand and a cigarette in the other. The house soon became the inside of a smoking cigarette, and we were all the itty pieces of tobacco on fire or about to be set on fire and inhaled into someone’s system.

I don’t know what the fuck I was thinking going along with my cousin to this damn party. It’s just not who I am, even if I think it’s what I want. Still, I went along. Stupid girl that I am. I hoped maybe someone would notice me. I hoped I’d make eye contact with a guy who wanted to keep looking at me. I hoped he’d approach me and we’d talk and sneak away to a more private area. I hoped we’d get along fantastically and he’d want my number and we’d start dating. I hoped I’d finally find out what it was like to make out with someone.

None of that happened though. It never did.

I just followed Shayla around the party like my little sister toddles after Ma, telling her, in my mind, that we should leave: Let’s just go to White Castle and have some sliders. 

“Did you see him?” Shayla asked as soon as the cold air from outside smacked us in the face. “He was leaning against the sink in the kitchen. He’s wearing a black leather jacket.”

“I didn’t, sorry.”

“How could you miss him? He’s beautiful!”

Our feet crunched the dead leaves on the ground as we shuffled through the grass toward the back of the house.

“Where are we going now?” I asked.

“There has to be another entrance near the kitchen,” Shayla said with a smile.

Just then I thought I would vomit. I didn’t think I could go through with going in the house again. I started breathing heavily and forced myself to think of something other than feeling the tears well inside and the burn in my throat. How I wished I hadn’t let Shayla talk me into going out with her. How I wished I could be anywhere but there.