Thursday, 3 February 2011


TKnC welcomes Matt with this humorous crime tale. 

Worst in Show 
On the way to Milt Woczniak’s No Fuss Carpet Cleaners, Hattie's head
was full of veal parmesan and puppies. Not Taser burns or bloody
clumps of hair or the smell of sex.

Hattie was bringing lunch for her husband. Italian take-out. For two.
She’d drink gasoline before bringing food for Milt’s receptionist
That was the excuse, anyway. What Hattie really cared about was her
little dog Ferguson.

“Settle down, Little Boy Blue,” she said as she walked. “We’re almost there.” 
Ferguson was a tea cup poodle, bred with powder blue fur. He yipped at
the cuffs of Hattie’s pantsuit as they walked. 
She found the front door unlocked but an unattended store. She did not
concern herself with Milt’s whereabouts.

“Great,” she said. “We have the place to ourselves.” 
In the middle of the room were two circular stands covered in off
white carpet. One was labeled “before” and the other was labeled
“after.” The before stand was covered in stains—red wine, mustard,
something that looked like blue razz Kool Aid—and the after stand was
immaculate. Just like the winner’s platform at the American Kennel
She placed the take-out boxes on the reception counter and guided
Ferguson onto the after platform. “Stay, Ferguson. That’s a good boy.”
She went into her purse and took out her eleven megapixel digital
camera and began to snaps shots of her little champion from all the
most flattering angles. 
Hattie imagined Photoshopping a Kennel Club background into the
background. She hit the review button and went through the photos
she’d taken so far.

“Fudge,” she said, noticing that her camera was low on power. “I
forgot my battery charger.”
Hattie tethered Ferguson to the reception desk and wandered in past
the display where Milt’s slogan was displayed proudly on the wall:
“There’s no mess we won’t stick our nose into.” She went toward the
plastic drapery that separated the supply room from the storefront
area. Milt sometimes kept double-A batteries in back office. 
slowed when she heard the echo of giggling off concrete walls. 
Hattie rounded the corner to the image of Milt Woczniak, No Fuss
Carpet Cleaner, sticking his nose into Ronette’s mess. 
“Oh my God!” Hattie cried, betraying her presence to the entwined lovers.
“Sweetie!” Milt said. “It’s not what you think!” 
Her arms flailing, Ronette lunged toward her dress and stockings,
which were hanging haphazardly from Milt’s Roll-o-Matic 5000 office
chair. Hattie backed away. 
“You son of a bitch!” Hattie clutched her chest. “I brought you veal parmesan!” 
She stormed back to the reception area. Ferguson had somehow found his
way onto the desk and was sniffing at the take-out boxes.

“No! Bad doggie!” tears were streaming from Hattie face. “Bad, bad dog!”

She pulled Ferguson away from the boxes. 
Milt emerged from the back room, his naked shoulder and chest showing
under a half-on flannel shirt.

“Baby!” Milt tried. “Oh, baby. C’mon, I know I screwed up. I’m an
asshole, I know it.” 
“Shut up. Just shut your fat face. I swear to God—” 
“But I love you!” 
“I will cut off your fucking dick!”

Hattie searched the reception area for a box cutter, a pair of
scissors, anything. No luck. Finally, she reached for the take-out box and
carried it to the after platform. 
“Not tomato sauce!” Milt cried. “That’s gonna take me forever to clean.” 
“God forbid you do your job for ten minutes instead of grabbing
Lucinda von Carpet Slut’s ass all day.” 
Milt stood helpless as she upended the canister. Marinara flowed onto
the carpeted surface.

A now-dressed Ronette emerged from the store room to witness the
pouring motion. 
“You bitch!” Ronette screamed. “I’m gonna rip your face off!” 
Ronette flew at Hattie in a wild fury. Hattie hands went up in
defense, but her late response was no match for Ronette’s full force
tackle. Both women fell to the floor in a chaotic muddle of hair
extensions, press-on nails, and pink pantsuit. 
“Ladies! Ladies!” Milt said. “Settle down. There’s enough of me for
both of you.”
Ronette tried to find Hattie’s neck with her outstretched hands.
Hattie drove an elbow into Ronette’s midsection. They grappled on the
floor until neither could continue. Ferguson yipped wildly. 
“You stupid whore,” Ronette said, breathing heavily. “He’s divorcing
your ass and marrying me.” 
“Look, ladies,” Milt tried again. “Let’s just calm down.” 
“What?” Ronette glared at Milt. 
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves is all I mean.” 
“Milt. Tell your wife you’re leaving her. Tell her.” 
“I mean, hey, let’s just take things one step at a time, right?” 
Ronette’s grip on Hattie’s hair loosened. Hattie pulled away from the
padded shoulder she’d been attempting, unsuccessfully, to bite into.
They both turned toward Milt. 
“You told me you loved me,” Ronette said. “You’re not leaving her, are you?” 
Hattie saw Milt’s bashful shrug, then looked back at Ronette. She’d
climbed to her feet and was cracking her knuckles.

Hattie stood and brushed herself off. She pulled a red press-on nail
out from a crevice in her suit coat and let in drop lightly on the
floor. “Ronette, you want a hand kicking this guy’s face in?” 
“Yeah, why not?” 
Milt began to back way but soon ran out of floor space. Ronette
reached behind the counter and grabbed the thick, heavy Maglite she
kept for nights when she closed up alone. Hattie brought out her
pocket Taser. 
Ferguson looked left, then right, and left again. No one seemed to
notice his presence. He crept toward the after platform, where the
smell of something irresistible was calling him. In the distance, he
could hear the sounds of a Taser firing, a heavyset carpet wizard
falling to ground, and a Maglite landing blow after blow against soft
human flesh. None of it mattered to Hattie’s little champion. He knew
only the overwhelming truth of veal parmesan.

Contributor Bio: Matt Lavin is a doctoral candidate in English at the
University of Iowa. He has a bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence
University in Canton, NY and a master’s degree in American Studies
from Utah State University in Logan, UT. His fiction and creative
nonfiction have appeared in “Boston Literary Magazine,” “Broome
Review,” “Elimae,” “Foliate Oak,” “Paradigm,” and “Prick of the


  1. That was a excellent, well written, very amusing, and had lots of clever lines throughout. The dog's name completely killed me. Those dog show people are a breed of their own.

  2. It's a dog's life and Ferguson's livin' it. I rate this one at 100 milkbones. And I take the lesson about the hazards of colliding noses and messes . . . particularly of the wife/girl friend kind. Maglights HURT! Cool.

  3. Great fun, really enjoyed it. Nice work!

  4. I kinda regretted the loss of the pristine carpet (just kidding--it had to go), but love the story. And little Fergie.

  5. Funny stuff. I think my favorite line is "Not the tomato sauce! That's going to take forever to clean!" Ha!