Sally Cameron


Sally Cameron, prose writer (short stories & novels) from Arizona, US. Graduated from Arizona State University in 2014 with a BA in English Literature.

View as PDF: Sally Cameron - Feast


Night shifts irritated Henry least. Clear black skies have a way of making lonely men feel connected to each other, in the same way Death Row must. He tapped the end of his Marlboro Light against the edge of the plastic counter and flipped a few pages forward in the magazine resting against the register.There was some hash from the previous night stashed under the counter, and he began rolling some into cigarette paper, Marlboro between his teeth.When the parking lot was empty, he would smoke hash right in front of the store. He knew a total of twenty five constellations and three planets that he could find just by squinting right. On longer shifts, he’d sit there for hours making up stories about the culture of human life on Mars or Mercury or beyond the Milky Way. The chimes above the entrance door stirred.

“You still open?”

Henry nodded, his concentration still fixed on the hash under the counter. “The floodlights will shut off,” Henry glanced at the Limited Edition Terminator 2 analog clock with Real Laser Action mounted on the back wall, “in half an hour. We’ll close then.”

“Well, ain’t that convenient? I guess that’s why they call it a Convenience Store.” He laughed from the throat – thick and greased like a fresh apple. “Hard to tell with that shitty Welcome sign of yours. You ought to get that fixed.”

Henry raised his eyes to meet the slack jawed stare of the man sweating in the doorway and stubbed out his cigarette on the counter. “If you say so.”

The man chuckled and thumbed back his hat – ten gallons of pure bullshit. He tucked the remaining thumb behind his straining belt buckle and turned to peruse the Video Rental section. “Hey, do you guys got any of those American Gladiator recordings? They’re my wife’s favorite.”

“Next to the window,” Henry gestured to a large display of bright plastic boxes mounted atop an American flag tablecloth. The man trotted over, leaning in to survey the tapes. “Boy, she gets such a kick out of this stuff. I think it’s a primal thing, you know?”

Primal. The ball and chain of man’s morality. Henry hated the word. All those well-to-dos with their back-to-basics views of the world. Humans are so much more than wild beasts of the animal kingdom, eating and killing and fucking.

Denim haunches hunched over the New Releases bin. “You’ve got some top-notch shit here! Army of Darkness, A Few Good Men....” He swiveled his porky face toward Henry’s. “How much for Basic Instinct?”

“Four ninety-nine.”

“Jesus Christ, five bucks? You serious?”


The man leaned back on his spine and rubbed both palms across his denim-clad stomach. “Damn. I was going to get some liquor, too, but I’m not sure I can afford it now.” He pointed his eyes at the Wild Turkey bottles in shelves behind Henry and the plastic counter. “My wife’s going to kill me. She loves whiskey. It’s her favorite.” He stared intently at Henry, who eventually sighed and nodded.

Henry spun around in the chair and procured the copper bottle. “All right. Here’s what I’ll do. You buy the Turkey and I’ll throw in Basic Instinct for free. Boss is only concerned about moving bottles, anyway. Thinks he’s a goddamn club promoter.”

“Well, ain’t that just sweet as apple pie? And to think I had you pegged as one of those irresponsible young hippie types, smoking joints and going to college and whatnot.”

It was true, really; Henry was every part the ideal of his previous generation. His hands were hardly visible under mood rings and rubbings of fresh dirt, and the hip length hair he had been cultivating since birth stood testament to the sort of new age, drug-fucking, wind chime youth mentality that had produced hits such as Yellow Submarine and Purple Haze. Truth was, Henry hated those people – crystals, circle groups, homeopathy, hugs and smiles: it was all bullshit. People were bothersome and sloppy and sad, but he was a human and so were they, and that had to count for something.

“Say, think you could do me another favor and let me use your john?”

“Back corner, between the soda and the cereal.”

“You’re a real pal! Oh, and do you think I could borrow that?” He gestured to Henry’s magazine. With visible horror, Henry handed it over. “Gee, thanks. You’re a real good guy, buddy. I can tell.” He winked; Henry recoiled. After another tip of the hat, he disappeared between the aisles.

Henry turned his gaze to the front windows that overlooked the parking lot; perhaps the dark would soothe him, the solitude of space.

The customer had parked in the middle of the lot. There was a Mexican rosary hanging from the rearview mirror, Santa Flora. Across the lot, a vast expanse of desert simmered in the late heat, lizards and dirt melting into the darkness. He had taken acid with some college friends out by Piestewa Peak on a night not unlike this the year before; or was it MDMA? Either way, the thought comforted him. Alone in his mind he had seen the thick vines that bind humanity together as one, hot and gold and glittering. He relaxed into the warm notion.

The chimes above the door jostled. All at once, the doorway held the heaving vision of a tall, slender man printed bonnet to boots in black snakeskin. Bastard had kicked the damn door in. The spurs on his heels were still rotating, slow and steady.

“Honey, I’m home!” He strode manfully into the room, and despite his boyish weight seemed to somehow fill the space completely. “What’s for dinner, babe?” He hoisted a heavy gold revolver to rest on his right shoulder.

Henry said nothing, mouth agape. The man drew forward, the scent of dirt and heavy metals with him. He stopped right in front of Henry, his metallic structure bearing down on Henry’s lank head.

“Well, what is it?” The man leaned in close to Henry, surveying the terror in his pupils. “Chicken or fish?”

Henry blinked. “I don’t know. What?”

The man seemed not to hear. “I think I prefer veal myself. I mean, if you’re going to kill the beast, it might as well be bred for taste.” He licked his bottom lip and pawed lazily at the revolver. “So, what’ll it be? Chicken or fish?”

Henry panicked. He hated guns. “Jesus, I don’t know. Chicken?”

The man hung his head. “That’s disappointing. I was hoping that you would’ve said fish. I have quite a few rather interesting anecdotes about fish, you see. Quite a few. And I’m afraid that I hate telling my chicken stories, I simply do. Detestable things, chickens. Clumsy, uncouth.” He slammed a fist onto the counter. “So now you’ll have to pay the price!” Henry flinched. What had he done? If he made it out of this alive, he’d never order another goddamn chicken again.

The man continued, “Everything you got in that register, to be exact,” he tapped the gold gun on the cash drawer. He laughed again – a low hiss, like acid rain. “What, you thought I was going to shoot you? Sorry babe, but you’ll have to buy me a drink first.” An arm like an anaconda made for the bottles behind Henry, who snapped his head back onto his shoulders.

Something shattered in a back room. Henry and the man both turned to face the back corner, near the soda and the cereal. The revolver was raised and steadied with both arms. “What the fuck was that?” Gun locked onto the corner, the man snaked his eyes toward Henry. “You’d better start talking, babe.”

Henry didn’t think to stop himself from speaking or even that it might’ve been a good idea to do so. He didn’t want to die; his life had value. He was part of the cosmos. It was all instinct. “A guy; some guy. I don’t know his name. Just came in to buy some video tapes and booze. I let him use the bathroom. Didn’t like hippies.”

The man stared at him a minute, expressionless. With a sudden jolt, he lowered his gun and crossed to the front windows. Henry fantasized about him leaving, just walking right out the front door and leaving him to panic in peace. That didn’t happen.

The man turned back to Henry. “You said you didn’t know his name?”


“Who do you think, Pumpkin? James Dean? That bastard back there!”

“Oh. Yeah. Yes. I mean no. No, he didn’t tell me his name.”

“Well don’t think I would be so impolite. The name’s Cobra Jack, kid; most wicked venom in the West.” Cobra Jack pressed himself onto the plastic counter and rested the revolver against the register. “Now what name have you got cooking, Sugar Plum?” Henry swallowed, but his throat was dry. “H-Henry, sir.” Cobra Jack tugged back his head and laughed. “A fine name, Honey Pie, a fine name indeed. Now you get cozy. I’ll go greet the party guests.” He advanced to the back corner and kicked in the bathroom door.

Henry grabbed onto the edges of his chair and closed his eyes. He let his eyes hang upon a copy of Schaffner’s Planet of the Apes. The world was always too worried about the faces of their statues, never enough about the sculpture itself. Damn them all to Hell.

A shot sounded from the back; silence hung like a sour scent. After a thick moment, Cobra Jack’s head emerged from behind the bathroom door, bobbing horizontally. A few tugs and Henry could make out the quivering form of the man he’d waxed cinematic with. Blood covered him like a shroud, but he was breathing and struggled a little, unlucky bastard. Cobra Jack yelled from across the room, panting; “Sunshine here was trying to escape out the goddamn window! Must have heard you cooking in the kitchen, babe. Fat fuck couldn’t make it through, though.” The man’s shivering body was dragged through an aisle to the front entryway, a trail of blood oozing behind him like a slug.

His body was dropped cold onto the linoleum floor. Cobra Jack turned to Henry; he was grinning from ear to ear, fangs bared. “It’s story time!” He clapped his sopping hands together. “You chose chicken, but the decision has been overruled. Today we will learn about fish: floppy, wet and tasty with wine. Did you know that the Chinese have a dish called Yin Yang Fish, where the fish is cooked but still alive?”

Planted firm to the chair positioned graciously behind the counter, Henry watched in silence as the man wriggled and moaned on the cold tile. Cobra Jack continued; “What they do is they dip these little guys throat-deep in boiling batter until they crisp up real nice, just enough so it won’t be fatal. Then they flop the poor bastard onto a plate and the damn thing’s still gasping away, getting to spend its last moments staring up at a slobbering Chinese businessman.”

Cobra Jack pointed the revolver at the lump of quivering flesh on the floor, roving over the body for a point of entry, like worms looking to burrow in a rotten apple. Henry balked; he could taste bile simmering up from the stomach. “Stop! Don’t shoot!”

Without lowering the weapon, Cobra Jack tossed his head toward Henry. “What was that, Pumpkin? Don’t shoot? What for; did he borrow your Grateful Dead record and not give it back or something?”

Henry swayed with his undulating guts. Addressing an armed man poised to kill may have, possibly, been a slight faux pas. He gulped. “W-Well, I mean,” he prodded at the forgotten hash. It would’ve been the perfect night to see Orion, a monument claimed by man that rested millions of miles away, separated by nothing. “He’s a human being. Maybe he’s got kids. He mentioned having a wife. What is there to gain from killing him? You’ve already got the cash in the drawer.” Henry had pushed the money into plastic “Thank You” bags and piled it on the counter. Yeah, a big thank you for robbing us, Jack.

Cobra Jack frowned. “What is there to gain? Sure money makes the world go ‘round, but Sunshine here has gone and pissed me off.” He tipped the golden revolver toward the man’s forehead, between the eyes. “I can’t stand cowards, you see. Never could. Fleeing from their death like it’s some big tragedy.”

Henry licked his dry lips. “Isn’t it, though? A tragedy, I mean.”

“Listen up, kiddo, ‘cause you’re about to learn something here. A tragedy,” he stated, matter-of-fact, “is when something of value is lost.”

With that, Henry looked at his feet, tucked against the silver rim of the chair beneath him. He felt sick. Who was this man to make such blasphemous declarations? But Henry had watched Carl Sagan’s Cosmos in its original run. He knew better. “Humans are valuable,” he blurted, voice aflutter. “We are catalysts for consciousness. We allow the Universe to know itself.” He breathed heavy, fleetingly empowered by cosmic knowledge, the weight of fact.

“What the fuck is that, kiddo? Something you picked up off the Discovery channel?” Cobra Jack spit raw onto the floor. “We’re living in a real world here, Honey, and it’s not all Christmas carols and scentless shits. You think humans are born pure? Think again. God is dead and Heaven’s just a cheap motel for tight-assed bastards. Look around, Princess. It’s just you and me and this fat fuck.” He nodded at the groaning mess of meat curled into a sweaty ball on the tile. The customer’s curdled form was undeniably revolting: curved on his spine in a half-fetal gesture, the man shivered in cold congeals of his own blood and sweat. His breath had become shallow, trapped in the throat and choking through bubbles of frothy red milk. Like a broken beetle, Henry thought, or a stuck pig. Oink, oink.

Wincing at his own kneejerk apathy, Henry leaned toward the counter to inspect the man below. He looked deep into the black puddled skull of the man whose facial appearance, Henry realized in horror, he couldn’t recall. The man’s eyes were wild and wide, darting around in vacant panic – all instinct. The shadow Henry cast over his pale body seemed to snag the man’s vision.


Both Henry and Cobra Jack turned, startled at the sound. The man had spoken; words gurgling forth in big wet lumps, snorting and spluttering and popping.


Henry clung to the plastic counter, greedy with anticipation. This was it, this was life. This was honest, this would prove it. Henry licked his lips.

“Go on, mister. What are you trying to say? What do you want?” Ignoring Cobra Jack’s golden gun, Henry waited with baited breath.

“… a last meal.”

Choking, Henry closed his eyes. Orion – the Hunter. Each star that outlined the celestial hero was a million light years apart, a million years from Earth’s reality. Just meaningless dots in a finite sky. The image burned the insides of his eyelids. Henry opened his eyes hoping to see an empty room, but Cobra Jack had had enough.

“A belly full of greed, a belly full of waste,” he spat at the man. He aligned the tip of the gun with the flesh on the floor, eyes blazing. “Pease pudding hot, Pease pudding cold, Pease pudding in the pot, nine days old.” He cocked the gun. “Some like it hot, some like it cold, some like it in the pot, nine days old!” Golden bullets tunneled through the man’s core. The flabby folds of his stomach burst open, frothing up a heady red soup. Organs and guts tumbled out like apples in a barrel.

Cobra Jack cheered. “Apple pie!” There was fruit everywhere – enough for a whole tart.

Henry sat motionless atop the metal stool. The room rang with a silent tinnitus, basking in the incarnadine glow of the ground. He expected the clocks to stop, the world to melt like a Salvador Dali painting; he expected riots and helicopters and flashing lights. But the world was silent, and the Universe kept swimming silently toward oblivion. Nothing stirred, nothing was changed. A Universe full of emotionless gas, connected by nothingness.

Hoisting the plastic bags of cash from their mount beside the register, Cobra Jack turned to the door. “Thanks for dinner, Honey. But next time, don’t burn the vegetables.” He crossed to the front door and exited. Henry watched him pass the length of the storefront windows, his black snakeskin glittering with blood and flesh.

The floodlights clicked off. Henry sat at his chair behind the plastic counter. With an unsteady hand he fumbled for a Marlboro. Shoved it into his mouth, lit it. The harsh neon from the Welcome sign flickered on and off, bathing the whole room in blue light, ambient and indistinct. The fleshy lump of mind and matter hung in its heady glow, swimming like planets in an endless galaxy.