Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode three hundred and sixty-five.
Tonight we present Coffin: Misfire, The Very Brief Tale of the Romance of Josephine Hart and Edward Love, Part 1 of 1
This week’s episodes are brought to you by Tales from the Archive
Flash Pulp is an experiment in broadcasting fresh pulp stories in the modern age – three to ten minutes of fiction brought to you Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
Tonight, we hear a tale of feverish love as told by a feverish, but sobering, drunk.
Coffin: Misfire, The Very Brief Tale of the Romance of Josephine Hart and Edward Love
Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May
Between the snow and Bunny’s ongoing withdrawal, Coffin was pretty much done with February.
As a younger man he’d taken every chance he could to be in a warm locale during the month, but the duties of his office, and the sort of entanglements that settle around old men, now limited his travel.
He’d once faced a headless goblin whose flesh was speckled with writhing tongues, but even a shaman of his experience did not relish moving from the heat of his blankets on so bleak a morning.
It had not helped that his dead wife had spent the evening slapping the remnants of her bloodied hands on the glass balcony door at the far end of the apartment. He’d denied her the satisfaction of a confrontation, but he’d lain awake most of the night staring at the shadows on the ceiling, and he knew she knew it.
Coffin was surprised, then, to discover Bunny sitting on the counter reading when he finally managed to touch down on the floor and enter the kitchen to swat at his ancient coffee maker.
He was doubly stunned to find there was also already coffee made.
“What’s that?” he asked in an attempt to fill the time until his mug cooled.
“A Blackhall book,” answered Bunny without looking up, “‘Frontier Magic: An Occult Journey Through the Canadas During the ‘30s and ‘40s.’”
She was wearing a clean Led Zeppelin t-shirt and a pair of jeans that were probably threadbare intentionally. Her box-dyed hair, weeks overdue, was pulled back in a ponytail, and she’d managed not to drop any abrasive language through the entirety of her first sentence of the day.
With a nod, Coffin considered that she might just be finding her feet.
Taking a leaning position against the stove, he said, “I skimmed it way back. It’s not really a book of magical instruction, it’s more like a travel journal about things he encountered. I think he maybe briefly actually considering publishing – but of course he couldn’t. Maybe he was hoping he could do it after solving the problems he caused.
“Anyhow, I thought you found his Victorian stylings painful?”
“Those long ass titles remain ####in’ ridiculous, but – well, it’s a lot easier to understand if I read everything in Dick Van Dyke’s #### accent from Mary Poppins.
“Do you remember the bit about Josephine Hart and Edward Love?”
Before answering Will blinked twice – slowly. “I’ve only been standing for five minutes and all of the caffeine I possess remains outside of my body. You’ll have to remind me.”
Bunny pulled her legs out from under her and let them dangle from her countertop seat, then began the tale.
“She’s traveling west and he’s headed east when they meet at this, you know, hotel. Not a sneakin’ in the back door so you can sneak it in the back door sorta place, though – a classy ####in’ joint.
“They didn’t know each other, had never met, and would only be in the same place one night.
“Now, apparently back then Cupid was an actual thing? Like, there was this armed semi-invisible imp wandering around Hunger Games-ing people into bed?
“Blackhall seems to think that in his old age the love-dispensing little bugger was either growing lazy, senile, or sentimental – whatever the case, he got to firing away because he thought their names looked real ####in’ cute together.
“I swear I’ve met ####in’ yuppies who’ve married for the same reason. The little ####-sack wearing arrow chucker probably thought it was poetic.
“It’s the Victorian era though, so things start slow. They eye-fondle from across the parlour. He moves to a table closer to hers, she drops a hanky so he has an excuse to begin a conversation. She had a head of black hair so thick she could tie a man up in it, and he had the body of a farm boy used to carrying stubborn calves from the barn to the dinner table.
“They sit around chit chatting a while, and Josephine’s head is swimming. Thing is, she’s not much of a go-with-the flow kinda lady. Her brain is telling her that a fellow who spends the exciting moments at the opening of an apparent relationship discussing the finer details of horse maintenance is not the sort she would normally be interested in, and somehow she manages to pull herself away to her room.
“Fully consumed by her, however, Eddie followed looking for a little make-out action.
“She couldn’t help herself, but, again, Victorian era in a proper proper spot, so they tongue wrestle for a minute at her door and then she locks herself inside, alone.
“They go to bed, both probably wank furiously, then, the next day, they decide to elope.
“It’s not what she wants, but, without Edward on hand to ruin his own chances, her imagination has spent the night being pushed by the mind-controlling prick of that little ####in’, uh, #####.
“First, though, she’s gotta go meet his parents. Worse, he pretty quickly starts yelling at her.
“I guess love has a different definition for different people.
“They’d decided that the pony he rode in on wasn’t going to cut the entrance they were looking to make, so they pitched in equally to hire a wagon and driver who could bring them out to the Loves. To keep costs down, though, they agree to share the space with another fellow who’s headed about half the distance in the same direction. While they’re waiting, Josephine starts chatting with the guy about how late their ride is – you know, the small talk any strangers make – but Ed puts a hand on her elbow and pulls her aside.
“He gives her the speech – I guess it hasn’t changed much from then till when Tim gave it to me.
“Thing is, sure, Edward’s a dick – but he’s also kind of right. There’s a knife on the man’s hip and he smells of quality whiskey, which makes him exactly the sort of gent that Josephine usually prefers.
“She almost says something, but the carriage arrives and he basically shoves her in; hurts her ribs squishing her into the corner, and sets their stuff on the opposite bench so that the supposed competition has to sit at the furthest possible distance.
“Cupid’s poison is still doing its damndest, but she’s having none of it. They start whisper fighting and it quickly escalates. She shouts, he shouts harder. She sticks a finger in his face, he slaps her. You know how it goes – same ####, different year.
“The driver is chuckling to himself about it, but the other passenger, Mordecai Brown – a name the baby archer would’ve seen no ####ing poetry in at all – tells Edward to lay off.
“Edward responds with a suggestion involving the man’s mother and an array of farm animals, and Mordecai just shrugs.
“By then Eddie’s pissed, but he’s taken to trying to subtly squeeze the #### out of her arm while hissing at her to shut the #### up.
“He’d told her he had a nickname back at home: The Bull. He’d made some awkward #### jokes about it during their short courtship, but with his thick fingers around her wrist she understands how he really got the name.
“‘Haw haw,’ laugh’s the driver, holding out his lash, ‘trouble with the new bride? You outta try one of these – always fixes my missus.’
“Well, that’s it, she’d had about e-####in’-nough.
“See, Josephine had a nickname too: Death’s Duchess.
“They also had classier names for their serial killers back then, I guess.
“She had these panels she’d carefully crafted into her dress, almost like big pockets, that were held closed by magnets. Underneath, holstered below the frame of her crinoline, were a ####ton of monster pistols. She’d used them plenty to rob carriages, at least until she became uncomfortably well known on the far side of the ocean.
“Now, you gotta remember the era – these weren’t Glocks, they weren’t even six-shooters, they were single shot pistols with howling dog mouths – and she always strapped on eight of them.
“She used four on Edward – the first two out of a lover’s rage, the second two because he was killed instantly, the spell was broken, and she was generally in a ####ty mood.
“Josephine was surprised to discover Mordecai covering the driver, who had a blunderbuss held loosely to his chest and the tip of Brown’s knife under his left eye.
“‘There are a couple ponies pulling,’ Brown says, ‘I’m happy to surrender my comfortable ride if you want to split ‘em.’
“They didn’t though, they took the whole god#### wagon and left the wagonman with piss down his legs and the corpse at his feet.
“By the time Blackhall heard their story they’d taken to inviting well bankrolled man-hunters north, with news of recaptured slaves, then murdering them for their money.
“####ed up, but still kinda romantic.”
Coffin nodded, but said little. In truth, his attentions had drifted away mid-telling.
The slapping at the glass had begun again.
Flash Pulp is presented by https://www.skinner.fm, and is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Intro and outro work provided by Jay Langejans of The New Fiction Writers podcast.
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