“American Tan” by Gareth Spark

Digger is a soldier who has returned from a tour of Afghanistan to find his partner has left him. Returning to his family farmhouse in the English countryside, he is persuaded into a ‘fool-proof’ plan to get some quick money by his brother Jimmy, an alcoholic who owes money to loan sharks. But Jimmy’s plan is far from fool-proof, and the encounter ends in disaster.

About the Author

Gareth Spark writes dark fiction from and about the moors and rust belts of the North East where grudges are savoured, shotguns are cheap and people get by in the economic meltdown any way they can. His work has appeared at Near 2 The Knuckle, Out Of The Gutter, Line Zero Shotgun Honey, and many more journals/zines. Gareth Spark was born in the middle of a blizzard on New Year’s day, 1979. He grew up in Whitby and published his first book, a collection of poetry called “At The Breakwater” at age 22. He has since published two further collections “Ramraid” (Skrev Press) and “Rain in a dry land” (Mudfog) as well as the crime thriller, “Black Rain” (Skrev Press, 2004), the collection of short stories “Snake Farm” (2015) and the novel, “Marwick’s Reckoning” (NTTK 2016). He reviews fiction and poetry for various on-line journals.


Coppers surround a farmhouse in the English countryside. Two brothers, Digger and Jimmy, are in the bedroom. Jimmy lies dead on the floor, shot through the window by a police marksman. ‘He was always a touch crazy’. He’d started shooting at them from the window with dad’s old shotgun. He was born and died in this same room, Digger reflects.

The picture of Mam and Dad sits on the bedside cabinet, catching the sun. He has a stab wound from the man in the Post Office. He lights a ciggie, thinking back to last week and Jimmy’s idea to get the loan sharks off his back. They’d worn American Tan tights over their heads, the sort he used to fetch for Mam from the shops when he was a kid. He’d waited outside the Post Office on the dirt bike they used around the farm. He’d gone in when he’d heard the shotgun go off. Jimmy had shot a man who’d come at him with an old bayonet. Digger, a former soldier who has recently returned from Afghanistan, shot the man in the skull with a pistol when he stabbed the bayonet into his side, without a second thought. He doesn’t feel the pain of the bayonet until he gets outside and onto the bike. They escape with some money and he plans to go up to Beulah Woods where there is a tent already pitched.

Sitting on the floor of the bedroom in the farmhouse, Jimmy dead beside him, Digger reflects on his ex Judy who left him during his last Afghan tour. He couldn’t face going back after what happened there. He tries to focus on their last happy day, one August lying in the long grass, the sky empty and the world calm.

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