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FP433 – The Sad Death of Lord Northrop Saggyface

Welcome to Flash Pulp, episode four hundred and thirty-three.

Flash PulpTonight we present The Sad Death of Lord Northrop Saggyface

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This week’s episodes are brought to you by The Human Echoes Podcast!


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 tell a tale of friendship and terror, in the classic style.


The Sad Death of Lord Northrop Saggyface

Written by J.R.D. Skinner
Art and Narration by Opopanax
and Audio produced by Jessica May


The first time Titus Bitok noticed something was amiss, he was conducting a sweeping battle across his room’s rug and into the cliff faces of his rumpled bed. The empire’s forces had been hiding beneath the comforter all along, and the small band of rebels in their shag-floored fortress had little hope of surviving unless Johnny Strongarm could use his bit of twine to repel down the sheets and warn his friends.

That’s when Lord Northrop Saggyface entered the scene. The dog, taller than the boy despite the fact that both were the same age of five, brought a quick end to the wall of hard-backed novels that formed the resistance force’s compound’s western defenses, then the beast was into the crawlspace and out of sight.

Seconds later Ayah Bitok, Titus’ mother, burst through the door. Her hair was free of the scarf she’d left the house in, and her mouth had taken up the tight line that usually meant Dad had said something mean that she wanted to pretend hadn’t happened.

She asked, “are you okay?”

In truth he was a little annoyed at having to repair his base, but the boy commander shrugged it off. He owed Lord Saggyface a few favours, and he could see no gain in getting the mutt in trouble.

“Yep,” he replied.

He did not notice that she was sweating as she departed – nor that she took the unusual step of closing the door behind her.

The invasion resumed.

* * *

That Saturday night, Titus slipped his babysitter’s dozing gaze and crept into his bedroom.

Generally the race to see if she’d fall asleep before thinking to put him to bed resulted in his treating himself to a movie starring aliens, people with laser cannons, or car chases – all three if he was especially lucky – but this evening he’d set himself a special goal.

FP433 - The Sad Death of Lord Northrop SaggyfaceThough his mother had done away with most of the traces of his father about the house, she’d set aside a stack of ancient horror comics, noting that they were actually intended to be the child’s by way of grandfather.

“A much better man, and it is only too bad you did not have the chance to meet him before his passing. He was always eager to hold you,” she’d said.

Still, though she’d fanned the ghoulish covers of his inheritance, she’d set his estate high on her closet’s shelf, deeming them too terrifying for a youth his age.

This had been no obstacle at all once Cynthia had arrived. Dragging her to the park, to the store, to the ducks, and then home again, he knew he’d exhaust the chain-smoking woman who lived in the other half of their duplex.

He’d been patient through a half-dozen dragging snores, then, with a cat’s stealth, he’d shifted a chair and retrieved his prizes.

It was just after midnight of that evening that Lord Saggyface stepped from the cubby and stood, the bulk of his broad gray fluff projecting into the room, while his head joined Titus beneath the glow-lit sheet that hid the undertaking from any who might stumble through the door.

Titus spent some fifteen minutes softly reading aloud to the dog’s bobbing tongue, then a noise the reading boy could not make out drew Northrop’s attention to the window.

With childhood reflexes, the light was extinguished and the the exterior darkness flooded the room. Saggyface’s gentle panting became the only sound, then came the grind of a shifting pane, and a grunt from beyond.

The beast opened his throat and took to roaring, and Titus began to shout for him to be quiet while attempting to collect his stolen goods.

Cynthia, roused from her nap, burst through the entry with ragged lungs, inundating the room with light and kicking off a week’s grounding.

* * *

Titus could not help but notice the tension creeping into the quiet moments of the next seven days. When Cynthia had come around for Sunday tea, the boredom of the afternoon had been broken up by the first fight the boy had ever witnessed between the woman and his mother.

They did not speak throughout the march of days, and more than once Titus caught Ayah closing the blinds against the sound of their neighbour coughing and lighting another cigarette out on the sidewalk.

A mere fifteen minutes after his Thursday night bedtime, the screen door swung against the outer wall, and the house fell silent. Titus, taut with the boredom of his punishment and the pacing of his mother, had been already been hard-pressed to fall asleep, but now, with the child’s increasing surety that he was alone in his home, his feet began to wiggle.

He wandered into the bathroom, Lord Saggyface shuffling along behind him, and no voice raised an objection against the fact that he was out of bed.

He wandered into the kitchen, his mouth half-open and ready to deliver his excuse of needing a glass of water, but again no objections came.

Through the glass patio door that looked onto over the yellow grass of their back lawn, Titus noticed movement in the shadows.

It was his mother, and she was hoisting a shovel.

His curiousity suddenly outweighing his caution, Titus slid back the exit.

Stepping onto the turf with barefeet, he approached the short trench that had been dug alongside the rear fence.

“Mum?” he asked.

Ayah turned, clearly startled, and the boy wondered briefly if her raised brows might avalanche into anger over his violation of curfew.

Instead she seemed to take his measure, then sighed.

“My Love,” she said, “did you hear the dog bark the night Cynthia was over?”

She dropped a load of muck on her growing pile as she spoke.

“Yes,” replied Titus. He hated to rat out his friend, but he also knew he wasn’t the only witness.

The digging stopped.

“You heard Saggyface?”

“Yes, Mum, he was crazy over whatever was at the window. He was jumping and barking, that’s why I was busted with my – uh – those comics.”

Somewhere on the street a car door slammed. Neither noticed.

“You’re saying you saw Lord Northrop?”

“Yeah, I think he liked the smell of the old pages so he was sort of reading with me.”

“Did – did Cynthia mention any of this to you? Ask you to say it?”

“What? No, I just – I just heard the dog barking? I mean, it’s like the only thing he’s good at anyhow, what’s the surprise?”

A third voice joined the conversation then, and not a welcome one.

It’s tone was thick and slurred.

“Oh, I heard the barking Ayah, it’s why I left. Not tonight though, not tonight. I’m surprised you were so quick to get another mutt – figured you as more sentimental, but then, look how quickly you forgot me, eh?”

“Dad?” asked Titus, but he did not mean it as a question of identity – he knew perfectly well who the man was – he meant it more as an inquiry into why his father was holding a broad-hilted knife.

“I was trying to do you a favour by not going to the police, you heartless butcher,” said Ayah

It was the most directly the boy had ever heard his mother speak against her ex-husband.

Titus, however, had long grown sick of the old man’s habits.

“Dad,” he said, “everytime you come around, someone cries. I cry, mom cries – I’ve even seen the lady next door cry over some of the things you’ve said and done.

“I can’t let you do it anymore. Go away, or I’ll make YOU cry.”

Though it was an effort to keep his knees from knocking, Titus worked hard to take on his best Johnny Strongarm stance. He needed Dad to believe, because he really wasn’t sure how he could make good on this threat otherwise.

His father raised his knife and smiled.

“No more tears – come here, boy,” he said.

That’s when Lord Northrop Saggyface gave his final charge. He held no form on this occasion, his assault consisted of only howls and barks long reserved for the man who’d too often silenced him with a boot, but it was enough.

It was a small back yard – barely ten feet between Cynthia’s privacy fence and that belonging to the Mainas next door – and the shovel’s long handle made it easy to close the distance when their assailant turned to try and catch sight of the beast.

Ayah did not stop swinging until Titus had grabbed the dropped knife and tossed it clear of the melee.

An hour later, with all safe, it would be up to the police to find it where it fell: Atop Lord Northrop Saggyface’s already decaying corpse.


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.

Freesound.org credits:

Text and audio commentaries can be sent to comments@flashpulp.com – but be aware that it may appear in the FlashCast.

– and thanks to you, for reading. If you enjoyed the story, tell your friends.

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Letter to my Kids: Dog Day Afternoon


Let me tell you about your grandfather a bit. No, the other one. No, the other other one. No, not that one either.

I’m talking about my dad – I know you never had a chance to meet him, his accident robbed us all of a lot of time, but that just means I have to work a little harder to bridge the gap.

His name was Rockwell, though most called him Rocky, and if your own pa has a twisted sense of cosmic justice you can perhaps blame him for it.

I worked this into a story at one point, so if you’re hearing it twice, well, too bad. Sit down and listen, I’m your father dammit.

Now, I have to admit, this isn’t even my memory of the incident, which happened three decades ago. This is a story I believe I picked up from one of your great uncles, and, though I love them all, they can be the best (and worst) sort of tale spinners.

Still, let me tell you about the Springer Spaniel we had when I was a kid, and a lesson both about being kind and what assumptions will land you.

See, there was this hooligan in the neighbourhood – for the sake of this conversation we’ll call him Kris, because that was his name – and he was one of those mooks who could smile like an angel while holding a dead baby behind his back.

We were summer friends, or, more specifically, his sister and I were – he was older than us both by a few years, and bored easily of our childish tree forts and treasure hunts. He had bigger game in mind.

The dog in his retirement yearsYou’ve got to understand, however, that this was the 1980s, and things were a little different back then. Dad had grown up on a farm, and, as you know from visiting your Memere, the hamlet I was raised in is a small town where everyone mostly minds their own business. Outside dogs were common, and this beloved Spaniel was originally bought, I believe, to help Dad in retrieving the ducks he hunted.

Beyond that the mutt’s life was largely spent gorging himself while chained up in the backyard and pacing a large half-circle into the grass or napping in the shade of his dog house.

I loved that beast, and argued on occasion to let him be allowed inside, but he was a shaggy monster with a barbarian’s manners and Mom knew it.

One day however, Kris got to testing the boundaries of the canine’s captivity.

Now, as I recall it, the dog had never been particularly fond of the punk. Years later I found him to be a nice guy, but, for whatever reason, Kris was a miserable kid.

Realizing it was possible to safely stand at the very edge of the worn groove that marked the boundary of the dog’s territory, the tiny tormentor wandered about the yard in search of a thick branch (as his sister and I likely chased imagined fairies through the trees.)

With the sort of snide disregard for life that only a child can muster, Kris began mocking the dog – and when the poor mutt came close enough to be in range, he swung his club. This, of course, did little for the animal’s mood.

Eventually Dad came out – he might have been working nights at that point, which meant a midday kerfuffle wouldn’t do much for his mood – yet the tormentor was quick to hide his weapon and claim innocence.

You’ll find though, as you get older, that those sorts of bullies aren’t content to stop with a near miss.

The second time it happened, a few days later, I suspect Dad simply hung back and watched things play out, presenting himself just long enough to break up the action once he knew what was going on. I seem to recall shouting at Kris myself, but every memory is suspect thirty years on.

The third time was the last time it happened.

You’ve got to understand two things: The dog had come to hate that kid. He was perhaps the friendliest mutt I have ever encountered, but he knew his tormentor on sight.

The other thing is that the combination of time and the chain that held him had left his captive space clearly defined as a dirt patch where the grass didn’t grow. Knowing exactly where the leash ended meant the child could safely mock from a distance.

On that last day, Kris stood just beyond the line, stick in hand, and called to the dog. The mutt refused to come out from the shade of his house. Kris threw a rock. The dog growled. The boy chuckled.

Moving at a dead run, the beast bolted from his home, and the child, thinking the fun had begun, raised his timber.

What Kris could not have known, however, was that you are the descendants of a long line of smart asses.

Dad had moved the post holding his hunting dog’s chain up a foot.

I can’t say for sure that the pee-stained pants I was told about are a true memory, but I have no doubt Kris would recall if I could find him to ask. Given the terror of the situation, I sometimes wonder if he still dreams of the incident.

He escaped without injury, but that was the last time he ever raised a stick to your grandfather’s dog.

Love you all,                       

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