Tom Mahony


Tom Mahony is a biological consultant in California with an M.S. degree from Humboldt State University. His fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in dozens of online and print publications, including Surfer Magazine, Flashquake, The Rose & Thorn, Pindeldyboz, In Posse Review,
Diddledog, LITnIMAGE, Boston Literary Magazine, 34th Parallel, and Decomp. His short fiction collection, Slow Entropy, was published by Thumbscrews Press in 2009. His first novel, Imperfect Solitude, is forthcoming from Casperian Books in 2011. Visit him at

The Compliment

Twenty Bucks



The Compliment (December 20, 2010. Issue 23.)

My buddy and I watched a muscled guy chat with a gorgeous woman at the end of the bar.

“That’s the dude that interviewed me for the job in Ireland,” my buddy said. “I really need that job, but I doubt I’ll get it. Too much competition. I’d take his hot wife as a consolation prize, though. There’s nothing like shagging a married woman.” He bit his lower lip and did a sort of pelvic thrust under the bar. “The pure thrill of it, romping in bed while the poor bastard of a husband is slaving away at the office. Feels like I’m sticking it to The Man, you know?”

“Go tell him,” I said.

“That I want to have sex with his wife? Are you crazy?”

“It’s a compliment in Irish culture. Trust me, I’m Irish.”


“You don’t believe that I’m Irish?”

“No. That it’s a compliment.”

“I’m dead serious. Look it up if you don’t believe me. Obviously he’s not going to let you sleep with her, but it’s a sign of respect. You’re telling him how lucky he is to have such a beautiful wife.”

“Quit being an idiot.”

“Try it. That’s your leg up on the competition, might just score you the job. If he gets upset, I’ll give you fifty bucks, but he won’t. Either way, you win.”

He looked from the woman to the man to me. “Okay.”

He drained his beer, stood, and walked over. A minute later he returned with a bloody nose.

“You jerk,” he said.

I forked over fifty bucks. Best money I ever spent.

Table of Contents

Twenty Bucks (June 20, 2010. Issue 18.)

After surfing the reef for two hours, Seth and Billy lounged on the beach. An elephant seal dozed nearby.

“So,” Billy said. “You gonna loan me the money or not?”

“Why don’t you get a job like everyone else?”

“I told you, I got fired.”

“For something you didn’t even do.”

Billy shrugged. “They won’t hire me back, and I need the cash today.”

“You’re pathetic. When are you gonna stand up for yourself? Grow some balls, man.”

“Just loan me the money. I’ll pay you back.”

“On one condition.”


Seth nodded at the elephant seal. “You ride that thing like a bull.”

Billy grunted. “Why do you always act like such a dickhead?”

“I want to see what you’re made of. You want the money or not?”

Billy studied the seal and cursed under his breath. “Fine, but you better not flake on me. I need that money.”

“I won’t.”

Billy approached the seal. It opened an eye and watched him. The thing was massive, a dozen feet long and nearly as wide. He walked behind it, hesitated, then leapt onto its back. The seal flailed and bucked. Billy gripped the flesh and screamed, his body rising and crashing, rising and crashing. He hung on for a few seconds before launching facedown into the sand.

The seal turned and, surprisingly quick for a butterball, charged him. Billy stood, tripped, and fell. As he regained footing, the seal slammed into him, knocking him back down. He floundered for a moment, blinded by sand. The creature charged again, but Billy scrambled up a bluff, out of reach. The seal reared and bellowed, then returned to its bed and fell asleep.

Billy climbed down, giving the seal a wide berth. He approached Seth, wheezing, wiping sand from his eyes. Seth doubled over with laughter.

“Man,” Seth said, regaining composure. “That was hilarious. The look on your face ...” He laughed again.

Billy hacked up chunks of sand and spit them out. “Just give me the money.”

Seth removed a twenty-dollar bill from his wallet and dangled it like a lure. When Billy reached for it, Seth dropped it to the sand. Billy glared at him.

Seth smirked. “I didn’t say I’d stick it in your pocket, pervert.”

Billy grabbed the bill, straightened up, cocked his fist, and belted Seth. A flat dull crack echoed over the sand. Seth folded to the ground, blood gushing from his mouth.

Billy stood over Seth, hands shaking, and stuffed the twenty bucks into his pocket.

Seth lay on the sand, coughing up blood, groaning and cursing. Then he glanced up and smiled, his teeth smeared with red. “About fucking time.”

Table of Contents

Capitalism (February 20, 2009. Issue 15.)

We sit in the pub downtown after a hard day at work, craving a beer and burger. The surrounding tables are filled with patrons munching and guzzling. We stare at each other, drumming our fingers on the sticky table, tapping our feet on the dirty floor. Our waiter loafs in the corner, chatting with a co-worker, but apparently hasn’t yet “found his motivation” to take our order. As he strolls past us to smoke a cigarette on the sidewalk, we politely ask for menus. He grunts, grabs two from the bar, and shoves them over.

Sorry to bother you, bro, by dining at the pub this evening.

We’re ready to order, but there’s nobody around to hear it. The waiter has disappeared again. We wait, drum our fingers, tap our toes, watch other patrons munch and guzzle, munch and guzzle. Our throats rage with thirst for a tankard of ale, our stomachs churn for grilled beef and wedge-cut fries.

We track down the waiter in the back corner and request two burgers and two pints of Fat Tire. He stares at us blankly, apparently confused about the scope of his duties. About the basic tenets of the waiter-customer relationship. About the very nature of capitalism.

He manages to pull it together, but when our order finally arrives, the food is cold and the beer warm. And worse, not only is it the wrong brand, it’s light beer. We are tolerant and compassionate people, accepting of a man’s limitations. But we also accept a sacred truth dating back to the dawn of civilization: never, ever, fuck with a man’s beer order after he’s had a tough day at work.

Time to act.

Minutes later we watch the manager tear the waiter a new bunghole, perhaps a good place to store his beloved cigarettes. The food suddenly tastes better. As we stand to leave, we are unable to find our motivation to leave a tip, and we think that capitalism is a beautiful thing.

A beautiful thing indeed.

Table of Contents

The Legendary