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One Bad Night

by Valerie Brook


Sometimes, one bad night is all it takes to change your life forever.

That’s what happens to teenage wrestler, Cuba, when he’s the victim of a brutal hate crime. It’s going to take every bit of endurance this elite athlete’s got to stay in the match, and survive this adrenaline-packed fight during the one night he will never forget.

Copyright © 2019 by Valerie Brook. All rights reserved.

First Published in Fiction River Magazine: Issue 29 © 2018

Published by Kickit Press/

Cover and Layout Copyright © 2019 by Kickit Press

Cover Art: Anton Atanasov/

This is a work of fiction. Name, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual events or locals or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction, in whole or in part in any form.



CUBA’S WHOLE BODY THUDS with each pounding footfall in the night. 

Blood sprays off his face. 

He sucks in air through his wide open mouth and the taste of hot copper washes up his nose.

Sprinting lopsided with one bare foot and one yellow Nike high-top, he races down the center white line of the barren country road.

Slap-thud. Slap-thud. 

In the dark, the shadowy concrete spins underneath him like a too-fast treadmill trying to tilt up and smack his chin, and his legs stumble, trying to push the road back down.

His arms flash ghostly white under a streetlight. Then bam! he has no arms anymore because the inky dark jumps in all around. 

Slap-thud. Slap-thud.

There, in the shadows—the gravel entrance for the boat dock. 

Cuba turns sharply, his bare foot skidding out from under him on the little rocks, the teeth of a bottle cap snapping into the flesh of his arch like a biting dog.

The bottle cap flies off and Cuba’s still upright and running.

His raw throat tightens like a chokehold. He spits something hard out. It’s a little rock that was stuck in his cheek.

Blood’s in his eye now, squishing out.

There’s a growl far behind him, an engine revving up. 

Now the hairs shoot up his neck like a kill volt of electricity. He tries to run faster on the unstable gravel. The dark shoulders of pine trees loom over him, reaching down to grab him with hairy arms. 

A pine bough slaps his face. Whap!

Suddenly the big toe on his bare foot bends underneath him, crushed under the weight of his Missouri Huskers high-school wrestler’s leg, his tendon screaming no. Pain explodes. Even up through the back of his skull as his teeth snap.

Then he is weightless, flying in the dark. 

The air smells like wintergreen. Then a bright warm flash of light on impact.

Total stillness.

Total quiet.

* * *

Cuba can’t find his arms. 


Copyright © 2019 by Valerie Brook. All rights reserved.

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