In our Apostrophes section, (614) Magazine attempts to highlight some of the incredible literary talent that lives, works, and writes in Columbus. If you are an interested writer, please direct your submissions (1,000 words max for prose, 300 words max for poetry,) along with a brief bio, to apostrophes@614columbus.com

Cold Steel by Justin Golak

The blade slid into McCallister’s belly sideways with ease. Precision design – of both dagger and wielder – and homicidal passion was the callous cocktail which led way to the simplicity. A sharp twist brought the tip of the knife northerly, sending it on a trek towards McCallister’s trachea.

Shane Douglas. That was the name printed on the discharge papers. That were inside the box. That were on top of the knife. That was now inside the belly of a foe.

As Shane reached into the box and waded through the dark waters of the past, his eyes caught site of the discharge papers en route to the knife. An undertow of emotions pulled him back to the day he received them. A bunk mate happened upon a photo of Shane and his long time lover Christopher. The sensual, open mouth kiss captured on a beach in Cabo eliminated the possibility of explaining it away as two buddies hanging out. Shane was discharged under the edict of the day. Shane always had an internal, sorrowful chuckle over the whole thing. That beautiful memory, captured in pixels, would be his downfall – while the memories, the ones that haunted his slumber like specters, of charred children and the mothers that lay weeping over them, were the parts of his past that gained him medals and commendations from the same conclave that was now severing ties with him.

As the knife slid upwards through McCallister’s body, blood and bile swirled into a brutal stew.

When Shane was released, he returned home to Christopher but little else. He assembled a small private investigator business. Over a year of SEAL training to track down wayward wives and scumbags husbands was like lighting a Camel Blue with a blowtorch. But Shane liked it. It was inclusive. No boss. No one to answer to. To judge him. To take what he had worked for.

An old armed-forces buddy of Shane was slumming it in the State Police Department. He was heading up a “Drug Crimes Task Force.” Told Shane if he used his P.I. skills, he could slide him some extra cash. 

“This guy, McCallister. Here’s his file. Follow him for a week. Brief me after. I’ll cut you a check. Easy money,” his buddy said. Easy. As if money, or anything in this life, ever was.

Two days into the week-long gig, a mole inside the Task Force reported Shane’s involvement to McCallister.

“Some P.I… Shane Douglas is his name. I don’t know. I just know he’s on the payroll, but off the books, and he’s tailing you.”

Four days into the week-long gig, Shane returned home in the evening to find Christopher swimming in a savage pool of his own blood. Bullet holes. One in the head. Two in the chest. A message sent murderously enough was clarified in a note that lay beside the lifeless body.

“Find A New Client.”

A crimson lake was starting to form on the floorboards of McCallister’s office as the blade traveled further up his solar plexus.

Shane had approached McCallister’s estate minutes before. One guard out front. Shane flanked to the side, stalked the goon from behind, and attacked. Shane’s left hand over the man’s mouth, his right over his throat. Shane crushed his larynx like a brittle sugar cone and let the man quickly collapse to the dirt.

Shane stealthily moved towards the rear of the estate. A cracked backed window greeted him like a welcome mat. As Shane quietly pried the window open, and moved silently inside, he spotted three guards in the front foyer near the main entrance and at the bottom of a winding staircase. They were all facing away from Shane – guarding an entrance only an enemy who was equal parts fool would choose to use.

Shane drew his shoulder-holstered SIG Sauer and took aim. The guards were all clipped before they could turn around to face the agent of their demise. Shane approached the three guards, now slathered in red on the ground. Two were motionless. One struggled to eek out a plea for mercy like a trembling, wheezing piece of Swiss cheese. Shane placed his pistol beside the lone survivors head and poured out what was left of his clip in a vicious torrent of lead.

The heaving Jackson Pollock painting now made his way up the winding staircase to the room that set atop the steps—McCallister’s office.

As Shane entered, a shocked, quivering McCallister sat behind his desk. Instinctively, McCallister fumbled for the loaded .38 he had stashed in one of the desk drawers. With quicker intuition, staying low, Shane slid across the room, placed his boot on the front of the desk, and shoved it into McCallister and against the wall, pinning his quarry painfully between desk and drywall. Shane reached in the holster hidden behind him and drew his blade.

As life fluttered away from McCallister’s body, Shane got close to McCallister’s ear and quietly questioned, “How do you feel?”

Words stowed away on a shivering McCallister’s final breaths, “Cold. Inside.”

“Good. Now we’re even.”

Justin Golak is a professional joke slinger and a less than professional writer. His love of story telling and Jean Claude Van Damme along with his current goal of penning and directing a gay-led action movie put him on the road to write the short story “Cold Steel.”

Die Like Hemingway by James Dryden

I want to shoot the lights out in Key West, Get mixed in the local fray

get a bad tattoo on my chest and die like Hemingway

Tell every girl she is my only muse, scratch drunken poems in the sand

I want to WRITE my wrongs, make up some songs

black out and do it again

All ego and id in old Madrid, spill some blood on the floor

I want to root for the Taurus, that is wounded before us

to gore the Matador

Go hunting for love with an elephant gun

my own safari of sin

throw her down on a bear skin rug

with kisses that taste like gin.

I want to win over the night –\ lose a bar fight

whatever the tab I pay

but most of all, I just want to grow old and

Die like Hemingway.

James Dryden was born and raised in Columbus; but for a six-month lost weekend in Las Vegas, he’s lived here all his life. He brought his wife and the mother of his child here from Las Vegas 22 years ago. He never attended college; he knew the same girls, and misspent his youth on High Street. He cuts limestone for Lang Stone, where he dreams up most of what he writes down.

January 15 by A.E. Urban

What does it feel like

when my name fills the silence?

When the touch of our skin changes

the feel of the cold,

lost in the abyss of blankets.

Tell me, does it startle your soul?

When your lips find mine

in the breathtaking quiet.

A.E. Urban is currently a student studying creative writing and journalism; she also writes for (614)’s sister publication, UWeekly. Urban, who does not title her poetry but identifies her work with the date on which it was written, has lived in Columbus her entire life, and hopes to be a professional author one day.