Short Changed

Reads: 139  | Likes: 1  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 1

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksiesilk Classic Group

Two juvenile fuckups can't make the right change.




Marvin D. Bibby


They knelt head-to-head in the dead grass and scuffed dirt, their hands busy between them, while a dilapidated fence, gray and weathered, leaned over them on rotted posts, feigning interest in their silent struggle.

The screwdriver slipped out of the slot and skittered across the black enamel, narrowly missing Whitey's thumb. Whitey jerked his hand back and held it protectively against his chest.

"Hold it still." Forrest glared at Whitey, then scrubbed sweat from his eyes with the back of a hand that clutched an ancient brick. Dark, with an athletic build and brown hair spilling over his forehead, he was handsome in a wild sort of way.

"I'm holdin it, man," Whitey whined, unable to meet his eyes. Average height, with pasty skin and a build like the Pillsbury Doughboy, he needed a center pole to keep him upright.

He gripped the black case with both hands and shoved it down into the dirt. "Watch what you're doing. You damn near stuck me."

Forrest worked the edge of the screwdriver under the lip of the chrome plated box set into the middle of the case. He steadied the screwdriver with his left hand, then brought the brick down hard against the base of the handle with his right. A chunk of bakelite exploded from the case and flew past Whitey's head. Whitey frowned and gripped the case harder.

"We got it now," Whitey said. "Pry that mother out."

Forrest set the brick down, stuck the screwdriver blade in the crater, worked it under the box, then placed the handle beneath the palms of his hands and bore down with all of his weight. The case groaned. A spider web of cracks spread across the bakelite. Muscles corded from the strain, heads almost touching, they struggled for control. With a final groan the bakelite released its grip and the chrome box popped free.

They grinned at each other, then Forrest turned the box upside down and dumped a small pile of coins into Whitey's cupped palms.

"How much?"

Whitey poked at the coins with a dirty forefinger, his lips moving while he counted. "Two nickels, two dimes and five quarters." He frowned, his head nodding. "A buck thirty-five, I think." He paused, then bobbed his head with certainty. "Yeah. A buck thirty-five."

"What about the phone?"

Forrest stood up and nudged it with a toe. Then turned to look back at the house.

"Fucking group home and all their rules. They'll be on us in a hot minute when they see it laying here like this."

Whitey knelt in the dirt and frowned at the phone box. He grabbed the silver cable extending from the back and tried to stuff it under the case, then struggled to his feet and looked around. 

"Give me the screwdriver, dude. I'll bury it."




Brian Scott was an asshole. Everybody agreed on that. He did not deny it; in fact, truth be told, he kind of liked it.

He was never sure how he had got that way, or even whether he really was one, but by and large the label worked more for him, than against him. He thought that being a parole agent had something to do with it, except that the rest of the agents thought he was an asshole, too. In fact, they were the first to notice, nicknaming him, ‘Nasty’, and he really liked that.

"Scott, here," he barked into the phone, glancing at his watch, thinking that he needed to get moving or he would be late.


His mind had been on the party and he had only been half listening. He frowned in concentration, then looked at his watch again.

"Goddamn it. What do we pay you for? And what in the fuck do you want me to do about it?"

He drew in a breath and closed his eyes, shaking his head as the voice droned on.

"OK. OK. Enough said. They stole your fucking telephone and buried it in the backyard. Get a new one. I don't know what else to tell you. I didn't take the goddamn thing. And for that matter, you don't have proof who did. It's late. If they show up there, hold them 'till tomorrow and I'll talk to 'em, then."

He held the phone away from his ear with one hand, distancing the voice, the fingers of his other hand beating a steady drumbeat on the top of his head.

"Sit on them. Tie their dicks to a doorknob. Shit, lie to 'em," he shouted into the phone. "I'll take care of it tomorrow."

 He slammed the phone down and stared at it for a moment, then got up and kicked the desk.




They sat in an alley with their backs against a brick wall and argued about it while they took turns stuffing their heads into a paper bag. Whitey had spotted it on the table next to a pile of old books, but Forrest had grabbed it while Whitey was paying the old man his dime and would not give it up.

Their words were slurred and muffled, black lacquer staining both nose and lips.

"Let's get some beer. Paint sucks. Glue's better."

Forrest threw the empty spray can at a dumpster stationed a few yards away, then got to his feet. He swayed back and forth over Whitey, holding it by the spike, squinting at the handle.

'Diamond Ice' was stamped in black on the stained brown wood. 

Whitey blinked up at him, then made a half-hearted grab for the ice pick.

Forrest pulled the pick away.

"Let's go, dude. I'm thirsty."




The pick went in so easy. But it came out hard. In fact, it did not come out at all.

Forrest had a balled-up bunch of shirt in one hand, while the other gripped the wooden handle jutting out from the man's ribs.

"Help me out here. Hold this fucker up. I can't get it out."

Whitey shuffled forward grabbed an arm and held the man up with one hand while trying to stuff a twenty-dollar bill into his pants pocket with the other. The bill fluttered away, and he let go of the man's arm to pounce on it.

The body slipped sideways, and Forrest tried to lever it back, but the pick snapped off and the man sprawled to the pavement.

Forrest looked at the handle for a moment, then threw it at Whitey's head.

"You broke my fucking spike, dude. I loved that pick. I was gonna keep it forever."




Scott took one look and knew they were all in trouble.

"What brings the City's finest out? Must be more than a telephone."

Seated with their hands cuffed behind them, Whitey and Forrest stared at an array of evidence bags scattered across the kitchen table. A small block of wood visible in one, a cardboard beer carton in another and several crushed beer cans in a third. Black paint streaked their faces and the fronts of their shirts.

"Or sniffing paint."

"A lot more, Nasty. A lot more. They killed a guy."

The detective was named Padovan. And he looked like his name. A flat face and green eyes under a balding head. A body big and blocky and running to fat.

"What happened, Paddy? Who died?"

"They stuck a guy in front of the gay bar down the street. Got three eyewitnesses. Victim bought them a six pack in the bar. Then they met outside. Argued for a minute, then your boy, Forrest, puts an ice pick between the victim's ribs."

"Why call me out? It's my son's birthday. We were having a nice little party."

"Sorry, Nasty." Padovan shrugged. "Thought I might save some court action, here. Your boy won't talk to me. Said he'd only talk to you. If we get a statement, might not have to do the whole nine yards. You know how I hate that standing around at court."




Scott picked up the evidence bag and studied the stained brown wood, 'Diamond Ice' barely visible. He glanced through the open doorway at Padovan, then threw it on the table and sat back in his chair.

"Where'd you get the pick?"



"Bought it." Forrest mumbled.

"How much?"

"A dime."

"You bought it for ten cents?"

"Not me. Him." Forrest jerked his head at Whitey.

"It was his pick." Whitey spluttered. "I paid for it but he wouldn't let me touch it."

"Where'd the money come from?"


"Got a call from the supervisor, here, this afternoon. Said you tore the pay phone off the wall and buried it in the back yard."

"Fucking phone box. Fucking group home. Fucking rules." Forrest looked up and glared at Scott. "If you'd have given us our cash advance like we asked, we wouldn't be in this trouble."

"What kind of trouble?"

"Just wanted to party, some."

"That paint will kill you, sniffing it like that."

"Paint was some badass shit, for sure." Forrest wrinkled his nose and frowned. "Fuckin’ head's killing me."

"What happened after the paint?"

Whitey squirmed in his chair, licked his lips then glanced at Forrest out of the corners of his eyes.

"We were just hustling queers is all and it was his fault."

"How's that?"

"He wanted me to go down on him. Offered me twenty bucks. Got mean when I said no."

"So you stuck him?"


"He shanked himself?"



"Don't know." Whitey darted a look at Forrest.

"What do you know?"

"That there weren't no change in the fucking phone. That ain't right, you know."

"Who shanked him?"

"We wouldn't have been fucking with no queer if we'd had some change." Forrest's voice was sullen. "Just wanted a beer."

"Look. Fess up. Make it easy. A trial's gonna be messy. Takes time. Fess up. Get your program and be cool."

"Hate the Hall. Won't let us smoke." Forrest mumbled. "TV's lousy. Kids are all punks." He sighed, then looked up. "You gonna put a hold on us?"

"Have to," Scott nodded. "You violated. And you've only been out two days."

"Gonna lock us down, then." Forrest sighed. "No TV. No smokes. If we cop a plea, where you think we'll go?"

"Preston, maybe."

"How much time?"

"Deuce, minimum." Scott thought a minute. "Maybe a nickel or a dime. Either of you jumped out, yet?"

Eyes wide in fright, Whitey shook his head, no.

Forrest grinned and shrugged a shoulder.

"North? South?” Scott thought a minute. “Aryan Brotherhood?" 

"Two years best. Nickel. A dime at worst. That’s it?" Forrest cocked his head and looked at Scott. "That's cold. Real cold, Mr. Scott. Just a fuckin’ queer."

Scott shrugged.

"How 'bout I go straight to the joint? Tired of this kiddy jail crap. Can you fix it?"

"Not at fourteen. Too young. Be housed as a juvenile even if you get bound over to adult court."

"Bunch of shit. My ol' man is A.B. all the way. Doin’ twenty to life. Brotherhood be waitin' on me to come up."

"Why'd you do it?"

"Fucker was hitting on Whitey, here. Wantin' him to cop his joint. That wasn't the deal."

"What was?"

"Dude could flog my mule. That's it. We ain't queer."

"You ice him?"

Forrest was silent for a long minute, then shrugged.

"Will you make a statement to the detectives?"

Forrest shrugged again.

"Will you state that you stabbed the victim?"

"If he gives me a smoke."

"Downtown. You can smoke there."

"Cuffs in front of me so I can work the smoke?"

Scott looked at Padovan, then nodded.

"A fucking nickel. Maybe a dime. Ten fuckin’ years." Forrest shook his head. "Goddam queer. I liked that pick a lot."

Submitted: March 22, 2023

© Copyright 2023 Marvin Bibby. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:



Gritty. Well-paced. A broody read.

Thu, March 23rd, 2023 9:16pm


Thanks for the feedback. m

Fri, March 24th, 2023 10:08am

Other Content by Marvin Bibby

Short Story / Mystery and Crime