Standing in the vacant store's doorway in a puddle of his own urine, Stan licked his parched lips. His hand trembled as he grasped the handle of the switchblade. He watched the man with the wrinkled suit come out of the saloon and walk the other direction and disappear into the darkness a block away. A few minutes later the woman came out and stood in the red glow of the neon sign for a moment then started his direction. He stepped back into complete darkness.

Her heels clicked like small exploding firecrackers on the hot cement. When she stepped in front of the doorway, Stan jumped out and grabbed her and pulled her back into the shadows of the doorway. He clasped his hand over her mouth and held the knife to her throat. The tip of it pierced her skin. Blood trickled down her neck and into her blouse.

“How much are those earrings worth?" he said.

“Nothing. They're costume jewelry," she mumbled into his hand.

“Liar," he hissed into her right ear. “You have money written all over you."

“I have ten dollars in my purse you can have," she said.

“Ten dollars isn't going to pay my rent," he said. “If you would have kept your mouth shut in the saloon I might have made some real money."

She opened her mouth wide and bit hard into his hand. More surprised than hurt, he let go of her. In the moment that she hesitated to run out of the doorway, he put his arm around her neck and pulled her to him. Very quickly he sliced off one ear, then the next. Screaming, she managed to turn around and stared into his rage-filled eyes. He shoved the knife into her open mouth and slashed up and down and side to side. Blood gushed out of her mouth as she fell to her knees, choking on pieces of her tongue and gasping for air.

He flung the ring at her. “Next time keep your mouth shut," he said as he scooped up her ears and ran across Kitchen Street. Running into his building he tripped over a bucket of mop water left at the base of the stairs and fell on the floor in a pool of sour smelling water. Cursing, he rose up and dashed up the stairs, not stopping until he reached his door. Holding the woman's ears in one hand he opened his door and stepped into the still, foul scented heat of his apartment. The fan had stopped working.

He closed the door and turned on the light and put the ears on a rickety card table then emptied his back pockets of Candy's fingers, placing them next to the ears.

Dripping mop water formed a small puddle around his boots as he took off his boots and clothes and threw them on a mound of other clothes sitting near the window. He went into the bathroom and turned on the cold water in the sink. The smell of rotten eggs came out of the faucet first, followed by rust colored warm water. He rinsed the blood from his hands and watched it slowly swirl around the clogged drain before it disappeared down the pipe. Then he splashed water under his arms and onto his hairy chest. When he came out of the bathroom, Monster was taking a crap on the Murphy bed.

“Damned cat," he yelled as he picked up a beer can and threw it at Monster.

Monster hissed and leapt from the bed and onto the card table.

As police sirens echoed on the street and down the alley, Stan brushed the cat poop from the mattress, then laid down. Within minutes he was sound asleep and snoring loudly.