by Dino Laserbeam

“Was that our turn?”

Mary turned her head in response to her husband’s question, trying to read the street sign we’d just passed. “No. That’s Mulberry.”

“What are we looking for again?”

“Oak. Jesus, Tom, how many times have you asked me that? Why can’t we get one of those navigation systems, like everyone else?”

“What, like a GPS?”

“Yes, a GPS. Can we please get a GPS?”

“Waste of money. That’s what maps are for.”

“And when was the last time you looked at a map?”

“Hush. I’m trying to pay attention to the road.”

Mary snorted.

I sank lower into the leather of the backseat, shifting the weight of my jacket. I tried to ignore them. Had they ever had a conversation where they weren’t arguing? I loved my sister to death, but sometimes, mainly when Tom was around, I wanted to hold my hand over her mouth until she stopped breathing–just fell asleep and couldn’t talk anymore.

That’s not normal, is it?

I shrugged.

I looked to my left at my nephew. He had his thumb in his mouth, and he was staring out the window. A seven year-old sucking his thumb. Maybe if his parents paid more attention to him, instead of who was right in their latest irrelevant fight, he’d have stopped sooner.

As I watched, little Jimmy’s sucking turned to chewing. I thought it was weird, but hey, he probably did it all the time, right? I watched with fascination as his teeth ground against his thumb, and his face showed no reaction.

The chewing became gnawing, and blood trickled out around his lips. His teeth squished against his finger. As he broke through the skin, red dripped down his hand, past his wrist, and toward his elbow. Expressionless, Jimmy kept chewing.

I knew I should say something, stop him, call out to his parents, but instead I stared on with morbid curiosity.

As the blood continued to flow, the sound changed. His teeth hit bone. I heard them sawing through. I turned toward the front of the van, allowing other sounds to flood back in.

“It’s not my fault you can’t get a better job, Mary. Maybe you should have stayed in school.”

“Stayed in school? Tom, I was pregnant with your son! I couldn’t stay in school.”

“Well that’s a decision you made.”

“Oh god, not that again. You’re damn right it’s a decision I made. It was my decision to make!”

I glanced at Jimmy again. His thumb was gone.

No, I don’t mean he’d stopped sucking or chewing on it; I mean it was gone. He sat there in the back seat, buckled in, with his hand in his lap. Blood covered his face, arm, shirt, and pants. And his thumb was missing.

My first thought was, How cool.

That’s not normal, either, is it?

“Uh, Mary?”

“Your decision? Your decision? Don’t you mean our decision?”

“You are unbelievable, Tom!”


She turned to face me. “Not now, Connor.” Looking back at her husband, she said, “Look. It was my body, my decision.”

“Mary?” I tried again.

She spun around, her face red. “What is it, Connor?”

“I think you ought to take a look at this.” I pointed at Jimmy, who sat calmly gazing out the window.

Her glare followed my finger, and the color drained from her face.

“Mary, what’s wrong?” Tom asked.

Mary didn’t speak.

“Mary? What’s happening?”

Finally, something registered on her face. Shock? Disgust? She screamed.

“Mary! What the hell is going on?”

I yelled over my sister’s screams. “Tom, I think you need to pull over.”

He listened, directing the car onto the right shoulder. He climbed out of the front seat and opened the back door.

Mary stopped screaming. As soon as he saw his son, Tom fainted.

Right into oncoming traffic.

An eighteen-wheeler ran over his head, killing him instantly.

Mary screamed again.

I laughed.

Now, that’s really not normal, is it?

Mary just kept screaming. I couldn’t take it anymore.

I took the nine millimeter out of my jacket pocket, and I shot my sister in the mouth.

I shot her in the scream.

Maybe it was the sound of the gun, or seeing his father killed, or seeing his mother killed, but Jimmy broke out of his trance. He screamed.

I laughed again, and then shot him in the mouth.

I shot him in the scream.

I’d always wanted the make them shut the fuck up.

I put the gun back, climbed out of the back seat, and walked east on Interstate 32, wondering where the hell I was.

Man, I really wish I had a GPS.

Dino Laserbeam runs freeze frame fiction, a quarterly flash fiction publication—or an excuse to boss writers around. An engineer by trade, Dino can typically be found staring at blank pages, hoping for bizarre stories to appear.