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Literary Fiction, Noir, Pulp Fiction, Short Stories

Excerpt from

Psychopaths Ltd.
Ben Cheetham

I first met Jimmy Cullen at a party. He was off his head on whatever he’d gotten his hands on. He told me straight out that I shouldn’t believe a word he said. When I asked why not he grinned and said that he was a compulsive liar.

“I’ve seen more psychologists and psychiatrists than you’ve seen weekends,” he boasted. “The guy I’m seeing at the moment wants to put me in a book. He says I’m one of a kind.”

Uncertain how to respond to this, I said lamely, “Good party, isn’t it.”

Jimmy pulled a face as though he’d smelt something nasty. “I’ve seen more action in a graveyard.” Eyes twinkling, he leant in close. “Have you ever blown up a hamster?”

“Have you?”

“Sure. It’s easy. All you need is a microwave and a live hamster.”

I clicked my fingers. “Shit, I’m all out of hamsters.”

“No problem,” Jimmy motioned for me to follow him into the kitchen, “here’s one I prepared earlier.”

I laughed when I saw the hamster pressing its pink nose against the inside of the microwave door. “Where did that come from?”

“There’s a bunch of them in a hutch in the back garden. I reckon about five minutes on full power should do it.”

I looked at Jimmy doubtfully, trying to work out whether or not he was serious. No trace of a smile showed on his face as he said, “Go on then.”

I decided to call his bluff. “Five minutes, you say.” I twisted the dial. My finger hovered over the start button.

“What you waiting for? Do it quick before someone comes.”

I knew from the way Jimmy said it that he wasn’t joking. My adrenaline started pumping as for the first time I seriously considered cooking the hamster. I won’t deny that I was curious to see what would happen. Even so, I had a horrible feeling in my stomach as I pressed the button. A light came on inside the microwave and the hamster started to turn round and round. I half-expected Jimmy to snatch open the oven door but instead he took out a video-phone and focused it on the hamster. After a few seconds the poor creature started squeaking and scratching at the walls. Its agitation increased as steam rose from its fur.

“Here it comes,” Jimmy said excitedly. I watched through narrowed eyes, ready to turn away quickly like a kid at a scary movie.

A sudden scream made me jump. “What are you doing to Henry?” cried a young girl, rushing between me and Jimmy and wrenching open the microwave door. Finding that the hamster was too hot to handle, she squealed and dropped it. “Henry, come back!” she wailed as it scuttled away.

Jimmy tugged at my arm. “I think it’s time for us to leave.”

We ran out of the house and hopped over some railings into a graveyard at the end of the street. “Man, that’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen,” laughed Jimmy as he watched some grainy footage of the hamster being cooked. “I could sell this for a fortune.”

“Do you think the hamster’ll die?”

Jimmy shrugged. “Who cares?” Squinting at the phone, he went on, “Look, you can see its brains bubbling out of its ears. Jesus, I’ve never seen anything like that before.”

“But you said you’d blown up loads of hamsters.”

“Did I?”

“Yeah you did.” I suddenly felt like I’d been tricked.

“Maybe I did. So what?”

“You lying fucker!”

“C’mon Ryan, don’t be like that,” Jimmy called as I stormed off, “I told you not to believe a word I said.”

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