12/31/13

Afloat
By G. K. Adams


Absurd, that’s what was. Absurd as sticking a funnel up a piggy-wigs’ ass. But here they were, in a pea-green boat seesawing across the ocean.

“Catherine, darling,” he said. “Pass the honey.”

“Al, dear, reach it yourself.”

“You’re closer than I.”

“You’re taller than I,” she said, “and you didn’t polish the anchor yesterday as you promised.”

“What use is polish?”

“What use is an anchor out here?” she asked, waving her hand. “Just an ornament – to be polished.”

“Your logic is twisted,” he said.

“At least I have logic. I’m not the one who wanted to set to sea with nothing but love and tea and honey.”

“And quince jam,” he said. “Don’t forget the quince jam.”

“I hate quince jam.”

“I had no idea, darling.”

“You never asked. You never ask anything.”

“Foul! And untrue.”

“True!” she retorted. Then she added, “A year and a day! A YEAR and a day! That’s how long it’s been.”

“Now, dear, we’ll reach harbor soon.”

Catherine preened her soft brown hair, then drew a jeweled compact from her purse and freshened her hot magenta lipstick. “What time is it?” she asked.

He studied the boat’s little mast and its shadow. “Quarter past four,” he replied. “Time for tea.”

She snarled in his direction, but fetched the kettle and teapot, and began to heat the water. She spread white linen on the table and measured tea into the pot. When the kettle came to a boil, she transported the pot to the kettle and carefully poured.

“Tea will be ready shortly,” she said.

“Thank you, dear. You’re such a pussy. Speaking of which . . . .”

“Not til after tea.”

The tea was brewed and drunk; the dishes washed and stowed. The sun began to sink toward the horizon. Long lavender and pink clouds stretched starboard and port.

“Now?” he asked.

“Now,” she said.

He carefully untied her sailor’s knot and slipped the blouse from her shoulders, which he kissed.

Soon a full moon rose above the sea. And they fucked by the light of the moon, moon, moon.


- - -
My fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in a number of journals, including The Legendary, Orion headless, Flashquake, The Linnet’s Wings and Foliate Oak Literary Magazine. I have served on the editorial staff of an allied health journal in the District of Columbia and as a technical editor for industry. My husband and I live on the Texas Gulf Coast.

12/24/13

Climbing the Woman Tree
By Mark McKee


Climbing the Woman Tree for a new (pri)mate. Practice genuflecting to mother Earth.

Adam's apple peels slowly to see the fruit velvet within, so we take a rocket ride into Jupiter's eye.

The cyclops lies hungry.

Sepherin-sephiroth takes a nap on Jaundice, and we lie hungry, waiting to get born.


- - -
I'm Mark, from Dyersburg, TN. I have stories published or forthcoming in Eyeshot, Treehouse, and Menacing Hedge. I try to review most of the books I read at goodreads.com/markmckeejr

12/17/13

Henry Showed Wendy His Paintings
By: Donal Mahoney

- -
Henry and Wendy Throckmorton had been married a week when Henry took Wendy to his garret 100 miles south of their estate in posh Kenilworth, a suburb of Chicago. Wendy thought she was going on a delayed honeymoon. Henry had never told her that he was a painter by avocation. She knew only that he was a successful patent attorney and had a large, profitable practice.

There was a heavy snowfall that evening and it made the trip for Wendy, looking out the window of the car, all the more beautiful. They arrived at the garret around midnight and walked up three flights of stairs in the dark. It was good that Henry had brought his flashlight. He used three keys on a long silver chain to open three locks on the steel door. Once inside the garret, Henry turned on the light with triumph.

"Voila!" he said as he turned slowly in a circle with arms outstretched.

Wendy was certainly surprised. There were paintings all over the walls. Other paintings, half completed, sat on their easels waiting for Henry. He explained to Wendy that she was the first person to see his work--his work of a lifetime. He had never shown his work to anyone before but now that they were married, he felt she had a right to see it.

"Wendy, you are the one person I know who is qualified to see my work and I am very happy about that."

Wendy had been curator of several art collections at prestigious museums in a number of cities. As soon as she was settled in her new home, she planned to seek similar employment in Chicago, perhaps at a small private gallery so she would have less pressure and more time to make a nice home for Henry who had been a bachelor for a long time.

Wendy was an expert in watercolors, Henry's medium of choice. With his encouragement, she walked around the garret slowly, looking at every painting on the walls and even those on the easels before she said anything.

Finally, choosing her words carefully, she told Henry his work was "interesting." She did not praise or condemn any particular painting. She spoke quietly, trying her best to say something nice when her professional assessment told her just the opposite--the work was mediocre, mundane at best. Later on, Henry thought to himself that Wendy had looked bemused after reviewing his life's work.

Henry Throckmorton earned his living as an attorney but that was simply to buy the time necessary to paint. Before marrying Wendy he had spent weekends, holidays and vacations at his garret, painting night and day for many years. He had done well as an attorney but painting was his passion. He knew now, however, that the canvases he thought so highly of had failed to impress his young wife.

Henry drove home alone that night and told everyone at work the next day that Wendy had left him without notice. He called her parents and cried on the telephone about her sudden departure. He begged them to ask Wendy to call him if they heard from her and he said he would call them if she called him. He asked her mother if Wendy had ever gone off on her own before and she assured him that Wendy had not.

No one ever saw Wendy Throckmorton again. Over the years, her parents had died, still worried about Wendy. Since she had been an only child, there were no siblings to ask about her. It was obvious to the staff in Henry's office that he was in no mood to discuss her. They felt the man was brokenhearted.

Once again, Henry was spending weekends, holidays and vacations at his garret painting in watercolors. No one since Wendy had seen his work nor had anyone else visited his garret. Paintings were still everywhere, their number increasing as a result of Henry's ever-increasing frenzy for painting.

A wonderful cook, Henry still stored a few steaks in a small refrigerator in the kitchen but he no longer hung big cuts of beef from hooks in the walk-in freezer at the back of the garret. That freezer had been a selling point when Henry bought the place from a retired butcher many years ago. But now Henry never went into the freezer. In fact, he didn't know where he had put the keys to the locks he himself had installed on the freezer door after Wendy had disappeared.

In addition to being good at the law and enjoying painting, Henry Throckmorton had always been handy with tools. He had hoped some day to try his hand at ice sculpture but he would have to do that outside now and not in the freezer as he had once planned.


- - -
Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

12/10/13

The Clearing
By Mike MacConnell


The snow crunched under Danny’s feet as he carried the last armful of firewood inside. The air was icy, yet oddly inviting. The cabin’s door was heavy; it opened with a rusty swing that reminded him of the high pitched cry of a loon. After stacking the last three logs, he peeled off his boots and propped his feet up by the warm and crackling fire. He shivered momentarily as he eyed the full moon in the window. Finally, he would be able to relax. Between his job, his wife, and the high demands of everyday life, he hadn’t truly been able to relax.
Now, with a warm glass of bourbon in his hand, the crackling fire filling his ears and nose, Danny sighed and sank into his chair. This is great. Dropped the cell phone off at the house and left all my anxiety on this doorstep.  Danny happily sipped at his glass, savoring the warm and smoky flavor of the rusty colored bourbon. Mmm, this hits many spots, Danny wistfully thought.
Before he could take another pull off his glass, a thunderous crash sent Danny tumbling over backwards.  He shot up like a bottle rocket and raced to the window; his footsteps pounding the hardwood floor like an out of tune bass drum. He could see a bright glow no more than fifty yards away. There seemed to be a small trail surrounding it. One thought ripped across his mind—plane crash! Danny pulled on his boots, grabbed his hatchet and ran out the door, barely closing it behind him. Danny’s breath spilled out in ragged puffs as he raced to the site of the crash. The closer he got, the heavier the smell of fuel became. The scent hung inside his nostrils thickly; at one point Danny gagged.
He pulled a handkerchief and wrapped it around his nose. Like an outlaw. Look out, Mister, here comes Jesse James to the rescue, Danny fleetingly thought. Upon his approach, Danny crept further to the wreckage. No sign of any bodies—plenty of debris. Maybe some poor soul is trapped under the fuselage or something,he reckoned. He twisted, hacked and struggled with some shards of the plane, but he got nowhere. Too heavy, he thought. The dull roar of the flames swirled all around him as a crisp wind began to blow, causing Danny to back away. The heat seared at his face, causing him to flinch away. As he wheeled away, he saw the tracks—half-footstep, half dragged. Danny looked closer and noted a small dark trail along the trail. Blood, he thought. Jesus, I hope they’re alright.
Danny followed the trail into the trees where the tree line began, around roughly twenty feet to the east. If they got this far, they’ve gotta be alright,Danny thought. Danny headed down through the tree, branches popping and the icy ground crushing under his feet. The thick smell of pine filled the air—Danny pulled off his handkerchief and took a deep breath as he trudged on. From a distance, a small muffled pop could be heard. The plane? He wondered. Danny crunched onward. There’s a clearing here somewhere—before he could continue his thought, he saw it. Just ahead, he could see the clearing. Danny stepped out; he breath caught in his chest. The clearing was huge; it instantly reminded him of some forgotten Tolkien tale. The low pine branches were covered with the soft powder of a fresh fallen snow.
The moon was bright and full in the sky. Its reflected light caused the clearing to glow softly and brightly—almost creating a magical cast to the natural scene. There, at the north edge of the clearing, Danny spotted him. There was a shape huddled against the tree. A small but growing puddle of blood surrounded the base of the tree. Danny hurried to the shape, fearing the worst. He crouched down, checking for a pulse. The man appeared to be in his seventies—a wise old face, crisscrossed with wrinkles. His forehead was split at the left eyebrow. His face was battered and bruised almost beyond normalcy. The man sat up sharply, coughing out a small stream of blood. Danny reeled back with a shout.
“I—I’m sorry…” the person said.
Danny wiped his hand across his cheek quickly.
     “It’s alright, sir. Can you tell me your name?”
     “It’s Win—Winston…Winston—hic—Green.
     “Ok, Winston, I’m Danny. You’ve been in a plane crash—was there anyone else on board?”
     “No. Just…me.”
     “OK, Winston, I’m gonna check your wound, if that’s ok.”
     “You a…a doctor?”
     “EMT, sir.”
 Danny pulled Winston’s heavy coat back. He gasped—he could see three of Winston’s rib bones—and a sharp metallic fragment rammed in between. The blood was gushing in steady pulsing currents. This guy’s an endgame, Danny thought. Nothing to do now but keep him comfortable.
     “Winston,” Danny said.
Winston slowly turned his head. The moonlight was making his pale face glow.
     “Yeah?” Winston croaked.
     “You have any kids? Any loved ones?”
Winston lightly groaned and struggled to breathe for a second.
     “It’s alright, Winston. Take your time.” Winston grabbed Danny’s hand and drew him in close.
     “My wife is gone…” Winston whispered.
     “I’m sorry, Winston.”
     “It’s alright…I’m gonna…gonna get to see her soon.”
    
Danny’s clenched his jaw. What am I gonna say? Thanks for the conversation—would ya put in a good word for me when you see God?

     “You…you’re a good man,” Winston began. “You have a good soul. Thanks for trying, son.”

Danny felt a lump in his throat. Winston struggled and coughed, sending up more blood.

“Danny,” Winston whispered.
“Yes?”
“Cherish her…cherish your time.”
“I will.”
“Take care of Sarah…show her that you love her.”

Danny’s eyes widened. How did he know her name?  Winston took one last breath, then sagged lifelessly against the tree. Danny clutched Winston’s hand as tears streamed down his cheeks.

Only then did he hear the distant crackle of the flames.


- - -
I'm a student, father, husband, destroyer of pizzas, lover of the guitar, friend to animals, and a serious student of the absurd.

12/3/13

Carlos
By Nicholas Slade


I was walking home after a long day at work. “Man, I need a drink”. Luckily, I spotted a local convenience store and walked in. I went to the back of the store and got a soda from the cooler. I was walking up to the cash register when I spotted a strange looking fellow working the register.

“Hello, my name is Carlos,” said the cashier. “How can I help you today, my dude?”

I put the soda on the counter. “Just this, thanks.”

“Whoa,” he said.

“What?”

“You like soda?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“No way, I like soda too.”

“That’s fascinating.”

“So, why do you like soda?”

“I don’t know, because it’s soda, I guess.”

“Whoa, that’s deep man, I think you just, like, blew my mind.”

“Thanks, I guess. Now, are you going to scan my…”

“Hey, what’s your name?”

“It’s Ian, but what about the…”

“Ian, dude, that such a rad name.”

“Thanks, now about the…”

“Hey, do you like rice and chicken?”

“What?”

“Because my Grandma makes awesome rice and chicken, it’s like, the best on the whole island, bro.”

“That’s great.”

“Man, now I’m getting hungry, are you hungry?”

“Yes, actually. That’s why I need to get out of here so I can go meet my girlfriend for some seafood and…”

“Ah man, seafood, I love seafood. You know who has awesome seafood?”

I put my head in my hand. “Who?”

“El Jatito. They have, like, the best lobster I have ever had, like ever.”

I reached into my pocket for my crucifix.

“Hey, are you going to the Three Kings Ceremony this Christmas?”

“I don’t know.”

“Man, you gotta go, it’s like one of the best events here in Cabo Rojo, dude.”

“I’m sure it is.”

He went on and on and at one point, I just tuned him out and nodded my head. I think he was talking about the local mayoral race at one point, but I’m not sure. The sound of a scanner snapped me out of my daze.

“Hey man, I almost forgot about your soda. That’ll be two dollars, dude.”

I’m saved. “Okay, here you go.”

“Man, it looks like we’ve been talking a while. There’s just not much of a chance for conversation lately, you know. We don’t get that many costumers around here.”

As I was walking out, I turned my head.


- - -
Nicholas is a writer currently living in Florida. Originally from Mississippi, he moved to Florida in 2012 and is currently studying for his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing. He has previously been published in Farther Stars Than These and Yesteryear Fiction.

11/26/13

Joey Fatone's Castle Mystery
By Jamey Strathman


The guests make their way through the treasure-filled lair only to encounter a sleeping Joey Fatone. Lightning strikes as Fatone stirs and awakens. His eyes are gentle but determined and he speaks with a voice that intrudes on the guests' minds. He says, "Hey everyone, I know it's been a long time, but there is nothing wrong with being addicted to parenthood."
The guide translates Fatone's foreign tongue. "Joey Fatone, the evil lord, will use the black cauldron to manipulate and control the soldiers of death."
Fatone says, "The meeting with Robert Englund and William Forsythe was collaborative as we defined ways to move our business relationship forward." Fatone then gouges his neck against the corner of a wall and collapses to the floor. The guests hear the sound of a whirring jet engine impacting, and then exploding somewhere.
Another door opens to an eerie hall that has the Cauldron Born lying on the floor in a pile of goo/ash. The guests are prompted to enter the hall. The sword of light is to the right and the Black Cauldron is at the center atop a pedestal. Fatone's silhouette materializes in a haze above the Black Cauldron. He whispers, "Sure, hey, I know what it's like being young. You're going to have fun. You're going to lash out. You're going to make mistakes. Everybody does."
The guide again explains Fatone's meaning: "Don't be afraid. It will all be over shortly. No one can escape from here and you'll be sacrificed to the Black Cauldron. Oh Satan's kiln... awaken and resurrect the soldiers of death! Rebuild an army without rivals! The Army of Death... rise!"
Fatone proceeds to summon the Cauldron Born, threatening to kill the guests and use the cauldron to make them join his army. "Looking at a gorgeous lady laying out at a beach can look like heaven to you. It's all about how you define heaven!" Fatone roars. The fear in the air and on the guests' faces is tangible.
A special guest is picked to wield the sword of light toward Fatone and destroy him with a powerful beam of heaven's energy. It is then directed at Fatone, who is ripped in half by its power. He lies crumpled up in a heap on the floor. He is bleeding from the mouth and his eyes are open but he is still dead. Fatone's corpse says, "I just feel like... humans are just a small speck in the universe," and is carried upward by a subatomic force.
The guests exit the cavern and walk to a nearby lawn. The guide makes a special presentation to the new hero, proclaiming that God is an infinite dimensional being and heaven is an infinite dimensional space. The guests feel obliged to quietly applaud.


- - -
Jamey Strathman is a huge piece of shit, and is inherently without worth. Other than that, he's homeless and doesn't really care about the upcoming cold season. Other than that, he lives in Portland, OR and doesn't know how to drive. Other than that, you've wasted your emotional energy on him.

11/19/13

The Reviled
By Tony Conaway


You would think that, when both sides of a contentious issue are screaming for your head, you must be doing something right.
But when both sides have the influence to have your book pulled off the shelves, recalled, and pulped - well, it really doesn’t matter who was right. Publishing is a business, and all that the publishers care about is money. Nowadays, the big publishing houses are owned by multi-national corporations. As multi-national corporations, they have far more areas of vulnerability than the old, family-owned publishers ever did. And a boycott of their corporation in Germany or China would cost far more than their publishing subsidiary could possibly earn from a controversial book about the Middle East.
So they pulp the book and throw the author to the wolves.
Where do you go when they pulp your book? Home. The home you grew up in. Your mother’s house.

#

The sounds of the party downstairs barely reached Casey in her old bedroom.
Not that it even looked like a bedroom any more. Her ruthlessly efficient mother had turned it into an exercise room. Her bed, her vanity, her desk were gone: sold off. Her clothes and other boxable possessions were stored away.
There wasn’t a single chair in the room. Casey sat on the treadmill. It made an uncomfortably low seat, but, in the part of the world she just came from, she had often sat on floors. She finished her drink and put the glass down beside her. It made a ring of condensation on the rubbery treadmill surface.
Footsteps on the staircase.
An old high school boyfriend stuck his head in the door. Ted? No, Tad. They had rarely seen each other in the years since graduation. She had gone as far away as possible. Tad stayed. In a way, he never left high school; now he worked there as a phys-ed teacher and coach.
“Wondered where you’d gotten to,” he said.
“Now you know.”
Tad had always had a self-satisfied affect. He still looked like an athlete. He looked good.
He sat down beside her on the treadmill. She wasn’t surprised that he carried a full bottle of champagne. He filled her glass. “You hiding from your party?”
“Getting used to being back home. Culture shock, being out of the Muslim world.” She raised her glass. “I can use my left hand again to eat or drink.”
“Here’s to left hands, then. Cheers.” They drank, she from her glass, Tad straight out of the champagne bottle.
Tad wasn’t comfortable sitting on so low a purchase. He shifted. Or maybe it was just a ploy to sit closer to her.
“Did you have to wear one of those tent-like outfits?”
“A burka? No, but I often had to dress differently. You know what’s a relief? Just sitting here, cross-legged. When I was in the field, in a camp, in a cave in Afghanistan - if I sat cross-legged while wearing jeans, I had to pull a shirt-tail over my crotch. Otherwise, the crotch seam of my jeans would remind the men that I had a vagina, and that wasn’t acceptable.”
“Here’s to vaginas, then.” They toasted. Casey wasn’t used to alcohol, not any more.
Tad sprawled across the treadmill, behind her. He started massaging her shoulders.
“I should be having a book release party in Manhattan. But with this…controversy, no one in the business wants to have anything to do with me.” She felt the need to justify her work, herself, to Tad. “My book reports on the entire Muslim world. Only two chapters are on the Israelis and the Palestineans. And the words ’compromise or genocide’ only appear a few times, in those chapters. But thanks to the protests, the publicity, that’s all that the book is about now.”
“If the Palestineans hate you, don’t the Jews – “
“No, both sides are protesting. The Palestineans accuse me of supporting genocide, the Israelis of making them look like potential mass murderers.”
“Bad publicity.”
“Yes. It’s not a subject you want to get on the wrong side of.” Tad’s hands started roaming down her back. “You know, when I was in college, a creative writing professor wrote a short story called ‘Four Arguments for the Destruction of Jerusalem.’ That was just a work of fiction, but it raised such a furor that they denied him tenure.”
She saw that he didn’t really understand. Tad probably hadn’t read a book since he graduated from the local community college. But his hands felt nice. He was married now, though, wife and kids. Would he still come on to her?
Yes. His hands slipped around from her back to her breasts. It felt good, so she left them there.
“Well, you’re home now. Among people that love you.”
She didn’t know if that was true at all. She hadn’t gotten along with her mother for years. She was about to say something, but as she turned her head, Tad kissed her.
The treadmill really wasn’t comfortable, with its hard rollers under the flexible surface. They stood to undress. She unrolled her mother’s yoga mat, and lay down upon it. Tad closed the door, locked it. It had been a bedroom, after all – it still had a lock.
There was a tinge of guilt, knowing that there was a Mrs. Tad, and a pack of little Tadletts. It didn’t overcome her need.
And as he entered her, she thought of her mother’s advice: anyone worth having probably belongs to someone else.


- - -
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Tony Conaway has written, co-written, and ghostwritten everything from blogs to books. His fiction has been published in two anthologies and numerous publications, including Clever, Danse Macabre, qarrtsiluni, and the Rusty Nail.
His story "Bustles Went Out of Fashion by 1905" appeared in Linguistic Erosion on Thursday, August 8 of this year, and generated 11 comments.

11/12/13

The Boy in the Box
By Daniel Gonzalez


She put me in a drawer, a silverware drawer, which was odd because little boys did not belong inside drawers. She lowered me gently into a sectioned chamber full of butter knives with slight, serrated edges and curved, almost feminine length. I preferred them to the more beastly collection of pointed knives with thick handles, honed edges and the capability to commit brutality. As a young boy, I found it difficult to fit in with knives.

Occasionally, some of the children’s silverware pieces would nest together like a puzzle and form a frog -- missing a leg, a lost spoon -- and tickle me. They didn’t have sharp edges. They’d been used to haul small pieces of meat or pasta to a child’s mouth, but they’d also been lost under dollhouses. They’d been inserted experimentally into noses and ears, used to stir “soup” of mud and rocks and grass and twigs and pine cones. But most of all, they were sure that they would never hurt anyone. The sharp knives had only one job -- to cut.

I was a little relieved when she removed me from the drawer and placed me atop a pile of papers on a roll top desk. My protests that a little boy doesn’t belong in a stack of papers on a desk felt hollow as I uttered them. The desk was old and although the roll top still worked, it was frequently left open. I could watch the seasons through a dirty window. The occasional bird or squirrel peaked through the glass and then bounded off, disinterested. The pile beneath me contained a child’s drawings. Long, triangular bodies with crookedly smiling heads stacked on top. No limbs. I had a sense inside me that I may have been the artist, that I once understood the purpose of scratching out these shapes. But that purpose was lost on me now and as time went on it bothered me more and more to look them without understanding what they were for. I was almost glad to move on to the cardboard box.

Inside were books. Some had even been read. As a little boy, I had trouble explaining myself to them, what I was for. The books relished the fingers that had tickled through their pages, the eyes scanning their guts, hoping for something. Next to the books lay instruction manuals. I didn’t like them much as they had only one topic of conversation. Worse, they really wanted you to understand them in a way that silverware or novels did not. They prided themselves on communicating clearly and were relentless in their efforts to get you to understand every aspect of what they had to offer.

Under the manuals and a layer of dust, photographs lingered in an envelope. They peeked out now and again and sometimes tried to convince me that they knew who I was. They were so insistent that I eventually came to believe them and so I asked them why a little boy like me would live in a cardboard box? They didn’t know, but said they would always remember me fondly.

The privacy of the basement made it the scene of arguments. I overheard all kinds of things a boy should not hear and came to see the darkness of the box as not a bad thing. The arguing increased all the time, until finally it exhausted itself. A tense silence took its place. Then she unfolded the top of the box, shoved me carelessly to the side and removed the envelope of pictures. The photos became palpably excited, even as heads were cut from shoulders. They seemed to consider this simple rearrangement, not violence. I was shoved in an adjacent box of toys.

I shifted on top of old dolls with dirty hair and half broken limbs, erector sets missing so many parts as to be unable to erect anything, board games in crushed boxes. These toys had been buried next to dead pets and resurrected. They’d spent hours floating in baths as their limbs fell off and their paint disintegrated. They’d spent months hidden between a mattress and a wall. They never asked me why a little boy was in the box with them.

So I played with them, and my favorite toy became death.


- - -
Dan’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Pravic, The Fiddleback, Icebox, Hobo Pancakes, Defenestration and Eunoia Review. He lives in Evanston where he sometimes brews his own beer.

11/5/13

A Gathering of Generations
By: Donal Mahoney

- -
An old man, a poet of the generation of Kerouac, Corso and Ginsburg, is at the lectern tonight in the auditorium of a small college nestled in the Ozarks of Arkansas. Although widely published for many years, both in the United States and abroad, he has never done a reading of his work. He attended a reading once, back in the Fifties. It was held in San Francisco and given by Gregory Corso. All the literati of the day were there, a number of them under the influence of one thing or another. But the reader tonight was so bored he swore he would never do a reading himself.

Not one to fraternize with other writers, the poet usually stays home with his African Grey parrots and Scarlet macaws. He writes at an old roll-top desk in what a romantic might call a garret, which he says is just a drafty attic over his old garage, part of an estate he inherited from his parents. He writes, off and on, day and night because he sleeps very little--two hours here, two hours there. He disdains liquor and dope but is a souse when it comes to milkshakes.

Tonight his friend of many years, an old professor at a local college, has asked him to read. The professor, almost as old as the poet, assumed the man had read his work often at various venues. The old poet for some reason agreed to do the reading. Maybe the money was attractive, although the honorarium was small. Long ago the poet's four books had been remaindered and now money in any amount helps. Seed for the parrots and macaws adds up. He lives on Social Security and an annuity given to him by his parents long ago because they figured he would never be able to earn a living. They were right.

"I can't do a thing other than write verse," he has often admitted. "Maybe a little prose if no poem pops into my mind. Sometimes I find a poem works better as a short story. An editor tipped me off to that not long ago and I make the switch when it's obviously the right thing to do."

At the lectern tonight, however, the poet is in his Sunday best--bib overalls and a stovepipe hat set off by a white beard that drops far south of his crotch. He is--as his first and only wife once said--a sight to see but not too often.

"I would never have married the man," she said in an article in 1962, "had I any idea of his habits. He can write but that's about it."

Many of the students in the audience, almost six decades the poet's junior, have never heard of him nor have they read his work. If they had Googled his name with quotation marks around it, they would probably have been amazed at the number of major journals his poems have appeared in since the Fifties.

His work has been published more than a few times with those major writers now remembered as The Beatniks. Most of them are dead now but this man continues to write and publish not only in print but also online. Hundreds of his poems, first published in print years ago, can be found swimming on the web because he sends them out by email when he can't sleep.

"Print is in hospice now," he told the professor. "Maybe if I get enough work out on the web, a hundred years from now someone might bump into one of my old poems."

The students in the audience are there because the old professor who arranged the reading asked them to attend. Besides there are other professors in the front row the students want to impress. Could be the difference between an A-minus or a B-plus.

After being introduced by the professor, the old poet begins to read in a voice laryngitis would enhance. Since the students do not have a copy of his poems in front of them, they can't follow him and they remain unimpressed. Some nod off as the hour wears on.

At the end of the reading, the reader says he understands that many students in the audience write poetry and he wants to tell them something someone told him when he was young and new to writing poetry.

Clearing his throat, he removes his stovepipe hat, leans into the microphone and says in a loud, clear voice absent during his reading:

"A noun is nothing more than a limousine waiting for the right verb to drive it where it needs to go. Without the right verb the noun goes nowhere.

"Adjectives and adverbs are dead weight, unnecessary freight, a drag on fuel economy, an impediment to any poem in gestation or out and about as an adult.

"Worse, adjectives and adverbs are cyanide ingested to any writer hoping to create art.

"The secret, if there is one, is to write the first draft of a poem and then dive back into the text like a surgeon and excise adjectives and adverbs no matter how much you want them to stay there.

"Next, replace any impotent verb with one that has muscle, a verb that can move its noun forward until the noun ahead of it is almost forced off the page.

"Remember, a poem is not an essay for rhetoric class or a report in a newspaper. A poem is a living thing. The first draft is a fetus no one should abort. You should work on that draft nine months if you have to and then bring it to term."

When the old man finished speaking, applause broke out among students and faculty alike. The poet bowed and smiled. And then he stepped back from the microphone, put on his stovepipe hat, turned his wheel chair around and rode off the stage. On this night he would have two milkshakes before going home to feed his parrots and macaws.


- - -
Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

10/29/13

A Bosom's Booty
By Kosative D.


“Folie à Deux – a psychiatric syndrome in which symptoms of a delusional belief are transmitted from one individual to another. A madness shared by two.”

-Wikipedia



Pesky, pickled, sobered bound
A lock, a key, a bosom found.
A stature, broken hearts pursue—
A madness deathly shared by two.

I tied her up—she nodded in desperate approval. Desire tightening her bosoms—her nipples fluidly dripped blood and pus. Reaping the benefits of a Vodka doused beverage, her tied up limbs screeched passion and excitement.

We’d been reclused in the house for months—ordering meals and liquids from a nearby delivery station. Our sanity dripped the walls with paint—paint of our poetry we’d written on the dry walls brigade.

We’d spoken about this moment for as long as we could fathom—our minds lost in our oblivion. She kept the secrets we’d been searching for in her chest—a chest oh so similar to that of a pirate’s booty. It’d been locked away too long now. Sudden representation of pathogens lined the crevice—time was no worry—temporal irrelevance.

It had been ages perhaps, ensued in a moment—a minute gone rancid with eternity. A rot so deep it drove us mad. Yet how mad was a bosom’s booty?

She prepared herself—breathing deep. I laughed—she mimicked its insanity—echoing its voltage with intensity—her own laughter sounding as original as my first.

She outstretched her breasts—hands tied behind her back, stuck to the chairs wooden frame. Stretch marks lined her thinned stomach—thin from our reclusion—thinned from our repulsion. Ribs poking through the vintage anatomical lining, the epidermal dress.

I slithered to her uptight pressed out presence—hair standing up on her delicate skin—just as an irked, indignant witch’s cats might when egged on.

As my tongue licked and slurped in radiant desire, I latched the rusted knife behind my back—the key to the finest of fine. Her eyes rang crisp with approval.

I flipped the knife, gripped its neck, and plunged its glory into the middle of her bosom. She squealed with joy—an orgasm of pleasant appraisal!

I turned the knife counter clockwise as blood gush—an artery tangled in its metallic glaze, its web of fine descent.

The knife was the key—as I pulled it out, I reached my hands into her skeletal opening—the bone felt weakened and raw—a milky hardness, like malice milk gone bad.

I ripped her chest plate apart and there it shown! The gold coins of glory. They shone with radiance—gold coins that rested in her bosom for millennia.

The light that reflected off the doubloons transfixed their beauty onto me—an elegance to graze my present mentality—a bosom’s booty indeed!

Her eyes lost that life-ridden glow, each muscle fading its awakened presence to the universe, molecules vacuumed through the nonsensical space that ensued.

And though she gazed at the cosmos, death lining her pores, she smiled. She knew the treasure to be worth her loss—for her gain was eternity in golden glory—treasure engulfing both our freedoms.


- - -
My name is Kyle D'Amico, I write under the pseudonym Kosative D. In my middle school years I was struck with noetic power, the desire to create poems in everything. From this point on I just wrote and wrote and loved each second of it, though this was just a "hobby" of mine, I decided it was absolutely what I was destined for during my third year of college--I had traveled through many universities majoring in philosophy, creative writing, and film before I came to the conclusion that writing is just my thing. I love creating stories of madness and troubles and I try to be as poetic as possible in the midst; horrific strife in beautiful waves.

10/22/13

Vowel Movement
By Donal Mahoney


When a writer lacks
verbs and nouns
he's the victim of
writer's block.
His mind may house
too many consonants,
too few vowels.

Without vowels,
his consonants congeal
and become a mass.
The result is
verbal constipation.
The only cure,
some doctors say,
is a very big

vowel movement,
larger than a loaf
of pumpernickel
or a Seinfeld
marble rye.
Some writers,
desperate for

a very big
vowel movement,
try dynamite.
Not good.
Other writers tout
Agent Orange,
Monsanto's legacy
in Vietnam
dropped off
half a century ago.

But Agent Orange
is not the answer
for writer's block.
It melts a writer
slowly and melts
as well
generations of
his descendants
as it has for years
In Vietnam where

the great-grandchildren
of innocent farmers
whose crops
were sprayed
with Agent Orange
are born deformed.
They are the new lepers
from Monsanto,
not from Molokai.

On the streets
the children startle tourists
from Boston and New York
who are munching on
delightful spring rolls
dipped in lovely sauces
at outdoor cafe tables
under big umbrellas
that ward off
the burning
noonday sun.


- - -
Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

10/15/13

My Secret Life As A Garden Gnome
By Allen Taylor


It started as an ailment to curiosity.

I was walking home from school one spring day when I saw a statue of a little bearded man standing happily in Mrs. Crenshaw's garden. I ventured into her yard for a closer look and he stood there in an unmoving, unflinching happy pose. Wondering how it would feel, I slid gracefully into the garden and stood beside him, doing my best to mimic his contentedness with a version of my own.

It was a five-minute jaunt. No more. Harmless, as far as I could tell.

When I stepped out of the garden I felt a rush unlike any feeling I'd ever felt. I looked around to see if anyone had noticed me. To my knowledge, no one had.

Taking my path again, I made my way home, quickening my pace so as not to arouse any suspicions from my mother regarding my tardiness. When nothing came of my indiscretion I felt relieved. A full week commenced before I got up the nerve to try it again.

The rain felt as good as the sunshine. Mrs. Crenshaw was not one of those 1950s women who stayed home and kept house. She was more like the women who left the house alone during the day showing themselves every bit as capable of joyful employment as the men they love. With no one home, I managed to take advantage of the opportunity.

As I stepped into Mrs. Crenshaw's garden the second time, I felt the soft ground sink beneath my overly shod feet. It had rained for most of the day. The drizzle at that moment made the adventure all the more exciting. The little man seemed as happy in the rain as he had been in the sun.

I was at first apprehensive about the weather, but upon assuming the most trance-like pose I could imagine I realized that I was living the best ten minutes of my life. The rain blasting my face made me a new boy. My life had new meaning.

I soon found myself in Mrs. Crenshaw's garden every day. Sometimes it was for a quick two-minute fix. Other times I lingered for a full half hour. But I always managed to make it home in time for dinner. If my dalliances aroused Mother's suspicions she never voiced any concerns.

It wasn't long before my short daily stints as Mrs. Crenshaw's garden gnome weren't enough. I had to have more. I snuck out of the house one night impelled by an urge I could not control.

I waited until my parents went to bed at quarter after midnight. Then I quietly pulled myself from the bed, traded my pajamas for day clothes and crept my way to Mrs. Crenshaw's house in the dark. It was the most mood-enhancing three hours of my existence.

It then became my nightly mission to be the best garden gnome in the city. Mrs. Crenshaw's garden wasn't enough. I found myself taking different paths home from school every day to scout the locations of other gardens. At night after my parents retired to sleep in their cozy sheets, I would make my way to a different garden and personify myself as the resident garden gnome. I eventually did so without divesting myself of my pajamas.

At Old Man Johnson's house, I got jealous. The permanent garden gnome didn't seem to like me being there. I removed him and set him on the front porch with his back toward me. It was the greatest pleasure I'd ever known. A whole garden all to myself for five straight hours.

I liked full moon nights best. The rays of hope upon my face made me the happiest garden gnome in any garden on any night. But I always enjoyed the garden under any unchangeable conditions.

It mattered not what plants, what fruit, what vegetables, what flora may have been occupying a garden, or whose house, church, school, business, or government building hosted it. My life as a garden gnome was the most fulfilling it could have been. I was happiest when standing without movement under the moon and stars. But soon, standing under the moon became a monotonous chore. I looked for ways to make it more interesting, to bring back that waning exhilaration that once made my life complete.

I removed my pajamas, standing naked in whatever natural or unnatural light, if any, might be present. I posed with cigarettes in my mouth, which had to be lifted from my parents' nightstand while they slept. I stood with one leg raised. I sampled various poses – the sailor pose, the schoolboy pose, the hard worker pose, and poses which had no name. My life as a garden gnome took on a whole new level of satisfaction. But even then I would eventually grow weary again, seeking new challenges.

My grades began to slide. Sharply. I fell asleep in class. Miss Pataki once threw a book at me to stop me from snoring. My parents had a conference with the school principal. They grounded me. I was even suspended from school for one week due to a lunchtime lack of judgment that found me in the school's Japanese garden behind the automotive shop. Another student caught me sneaking in, taking off my clothes, and inserting one of Mr. Brondshell's cigars into my mouth before taking up a pose as a merchant marine. My secret was out.

Eventually, I turned to a life of crime. It was the only recourse I had. No one understood the pleasure I derived from standing in gardens. I couldn't get anyone's permission to be their unpaid garden gnome. Garden owners didn't understand what beauty I found standing motionless and without purpose in their well-kept gardens. I was forced to slink into gardens when no one could detect me. I became a hapless cur. It became a never ending passion and I soon found myself standing in gardens every minute of the day. Even at the local police precinct.

The chief wasn't happy. He cuffed me. He took me inside, booked me, put me behind bars. And thus was the beginning of my career as a criminal garden gnome. Today I am in prison. Minimum security. Nonetheless, I am a prisoner of my own addiction. I am blessed that the prison staff let me stand in the warden's oft-neglected garden unabated by guilt or their attempts to rehabilitate me.


- - -
Allen Taylor is the author a collection of poetry, "Rumsfeld's Sandbox," available at Amazon for the Kindle and Smashwords in other e-book formats, and the short story, "The Saddest Tale Ever Told," which is available at Amazon for the Kindle. He is the owner/publisher of Garden Gnome Publications, which specializes in short speculative fiction in the digital format. He teaches a course on blog marketing for writers.

10/8/13

Obsession
By Nikita Gill


It takes 14 minutes and twelve seconds to walk to your home from mine every day. Your mother never fails to smile at me when she opens the door. I never fail to notice that it doesn't reach her eyes anymore.

You leave your door open an exact two point three centimeters. I don't think you do it on purpose. There is something wrong with the wood that has left it that way. I pause one foot outside the door and listen to you cough, trying to determine how sick you feel today. I hate that every time I think you are particularly ill, I am always right.

Six months, seventeen days and fourteen hours. That is how long its been since the doctors told us you had an illness. I sat there with your parents, listening to a man who said words like 'terminal' and 'leukemia', and counted the number of times he said 'patient' as if it were your name (Seventeen).

The blood bank says one unit is four hundred and fifty milliliters and I watch as they put the needle into my arm to pump out the blood into a little plastic bag. It takes exactly five minutes twenty one seconds, because I'm holding my arm so tight. If I could give you all my blood so you could feel better for just a day, I would.

It has been seven days, twelve hours and fourteen minutes since the ambulance came for you. Six days, fifteen hours and seven minutes since the doctors told us they couldn't help you anymore. I am counting the drips of the glucose as it goes into your arm, my body wrapped around yours, trying to pretend this is a bad dream.

You say noisily, a laugh escaping your parched mouth, that I am obsessed with numbers. I want to tell you you're wrong. My obsession is you. I say nothing. This is the first time you have laughed in one month, three weeks and two days.

*

Did you know that when someone dies their body weight drops quite suddenly? It is not really noticeable unless you have held them close whilst they are dying, praying to every god that you won't lose them. It is just a touch. But it's there when they leave you.

21 grams. That is the weight of a human soul.


- - -
Nikita Gill is a 25 year old madness who once wrote a unknown book called Your Body is an Ocean and now is editor of a literary magazine called Modern Day Fairytales. A long time ago, she wrote a six sentence story for Monkeybicycle.net and was featured there.

10/1/13

Love Choices
By Jerry Guarino


“So, who do you choose? Would you rather be with someone you are in love with or someone that is in love with you?”
“Why can’t I have both?”
“That isn’t the question. It can be with a woman who is in love with you or one that isn’t but that you are in love with. You can only have one woman. Which one do you want?”
“Is this a temporary relationship or permanent?”
“Permanent. Life partner. Marriage and kids.”
The two college friends had come to this final question after years of looking for the perfect mate. Jeff and Bob were both from good families, graduated from New England medical schools and had good careers as doctors. But they found themselves on opposite sides of this question.
“What about other factors? Looks, brains, sexual compatibility?”
“We’ve been through all this. The only difference is that one woman can’t live without you and you can’t live without the other one, but she doesn’t feel the same way.”
Jeff was first to compare. “So for me it’s Pam or Beth?”
“Yes.”
“But we’ve been through this.”
“I know, last year. Time changes a person. Start again.”
“All right. Pam is perfect. She always has been. I wouldn’t change anything about her. Except.”
“Except?”
“Except she doesn’t feel the same way about me. We date, but it doesn’t progress into anything serious.”
“What have you done to move the relationship forward?”
“Everything short of proposing. Whenever it looks like we’re going to be exclusive, she has a way of backing off. Not breaking up, just not evolving. She’s beautiful and we have great chemistry; she’s just a little aloof.”
“Aloof?”
“Yes. You know I have to carry the conversation. A woman that lets the man do all the talking is not serious about him.”
“Hmm. And Beth?”
“Beth. Well, the situation is flipped. Beth is gorgeous and we have great chemistry, but I don’t feel like committing to her.”
“Why?”
“That’s just it. I don’t know. Beth is everything I should want, until I compare her to Pam.”
“That’s sad, my friend. You have great sex with two beautiful women and you have found a problem with it.”
“Well, everyone has to settle down sometime. I just can’t decide with who.”
“Jeff that’s exactly why I decided to choose between Sara and Linda.”
“You’ve made a decision?”
“Yes, I’m going to propose to Linda. She’s crazy about me and I do love her.”
“You do? I thought you weren’t in love with her.”
“I’m not Jeff. But I do love her. There’s a fine difference.”
“Bob. What happens when you start comparing Linda to Sara?”
“I’ve been doing that for a year now. I can’t convince Sara to love me the way Linda does. So while you wait for Pam to come around, I’ll be coaching my kid’s soccer team. You’re still my best man, yes?”
“Of course. Don’t tell me you have a date already?”
“I already know Linda wants a June wedding. I’m proposing next week, so you have six months to be ready.”
“So you’re ready to give up on Sara?”
“I’ve tried for two years. It’s not going to happen. I’ll be very happy with Linda. She is totally in love with me, in every way.”
“I’ll see you next June then.”
“Hopefully, you’ll have decided between Pam and Beth before then.”
“I hope so too.”

***

Jeff arrived at Legal Sea Foods on Thursday night, the day before the rehearsal dinner. He saw Bob at the bar. They hugged and sat down for a drink.
“You’re a man of your word Bob. I wish you and Linda a lifetime of happiness.”
“I am happy. It’s funny. Once I made a commitment, I felt myself falling in love with her. I have no regrets now.”
“That’s great. Maybe there’s hope for me too.”
“Why? Have you made any progress with Pam and Beth?”
Just then they were interrupted by Sara, who rushed to the bar and gave Bob a hug and kiss. “Bob, I’m so happy for you. I only wish I could go to your wedding.”
Bob gave Jeff a look. “Sara, you haven’t met my friend Jeff. He went to Dartmouth med and practices in New Hampshire.”
Sara inspected the tall, athletic friend and gave him a friendly kiss. “Bob, how long have you been keeping this one away from me?”
Jeff caught Bob’s eye over Sara’s shoulder and mimed out a question. Bob just shrugged. “Sara, at the time I thought you and I had a future.”
“You know I’ll always love you Bob. But Linda’s a better fit for you.” Can I steal him for a private drink over there?”
Bob shook his head. “Sure, have your way with him.”
“Just give me a minute to go to the ladies room Jeff.” She winked at Jeff and left.
“Well Jeff. I don’t believe it. Two minutes with her and she’s ready to bed you. How do you do it?”
“I’m a doctor Bob. We have this aura.”
“Very funny.”
“Bob, you think I could bring Sara to the wedding as my plus one?”
“OK, why the hell not. We already had a place for a guest.”
“Hey you never told me about Pam and Beth. What’s the story?”
“They’re running a bakery in Vermont. I just got an invitation to their wedding.”
Bob was stunned with his mouth open.
Then Sara came back from the ladies room. “Ready for that drink Jeff? Or maybe we should have dinner.” She put her arm inside his and they walked into the dining room.
Jeff glanced over his shoulder and winked at Bob who just threw up his hands.


- - -
Jerry Guarino’s short stories have been published by dozens of magazines in the United States, Canada, Australia and Great Britain. His latest book, "50 Italian Pastries", is available on Amazon.com and as a Kindle eBook. Please visit his website at http://cafestories.net

9/24/13

At The Hospital
By Saul Jennings


I'd first noticed something felt wrong At The Hotel. The receptionist and I exchanged pleasantries and I asked for my room. The girl on the desk confirmed it was available and gave me the keys. The whole thing was smooth but rather soulless and it got me thinking. At first I assumed the hotel had trained its staff to be friendly but bland. But then I recalled the odd conversation On The Plane. The man sitting next to me and I had exchanged pleasantries, both said our name, where we came from and then said what we did for a living. Then we didn't speak again for the remainder of the flight. It seemed odd.

It was still on my mind At The Restaurant, especially when the waiter suggested I ordered one first course, two main courses and several desserts. Just a small thing and I intended to raise it In The Reception with the couple I met. But after we'd explained who we were, what city we were from, what we were doing for a living and where we were going tomorrow, the conversation dried up.

It was still worrying me In The Office too, but my colleagues were not interested. Instead they explained what projects they were on, whether they had been a success or failure and which city they came from. When I pressed them for further information, they looked confused and just repeated a list of nouns.

It was In The Bookshop when I first got a clue as to what may be happening. After exchanging pleasantries and saying our names, I asked the shopkeeper for a book that might me help learn the language of the city I'm in. He explained that he would need to order one. I could see copies on the shelves so I pointed to them. He continued to take my order as I opened them up, read the text and panicked.

I decide to have a drink At The Bar and that was when I certain what was occurring. I had the same conversation twenty seven times with the barman. Each time I asked about his greatest fears, his first kiss or his life's ambitions but he refused to change his script. He told me about cities he had visited and cities he intended to visit. He looked more nervous each time we spoke.

I decided I could cope no longer. At The Gun shop I nearly faltered, until the man said that the gun had not been used in the past, but might be used in the future. I snarled at him and told him I was using it now.

I ran out the shop wild and crazy. I refused to accept my fate, forever re-enacting vapid conversations. I saw a cop, who was explaining he was a policeman as I let the gun roar. Then more cops arrived At The Shootout. We exchanged pleasantries and bullets for half an hour before I was overwhelmed. They all bade me a good night as the bullets ripped into me.

Now I lie In The Hospital, life ebbing away. A man and a woman approach. They explain to each other that they live in this city and that they are doctors. As I close my eyes for the final time, they begin to refer to me in the past tense.


- - -
Saul lives in Greece and Switzerland and earns money doing undefinable things "with computers". After several decades of having unusual ideas that seemed like they might make interesting stories, he has taken the step of writing them down and letting them loose. So far five of the ideas have been re­homed in Corvus, Linguistic Erosion, the Mustache Factor, Abstraction and Apocrypha and Bartleby Snopes.

9/17/13

Habit rip (Abel Ferrara mix)
By Steve Isaak


gonna power pen drill
pod bromide minds
and buck wild nuns,
like Ferrara did, post-’79,
addictive dangerous invasions
lurid red
bluesy steel catharsis in
sleazy sub/urban disease cycles
and abrupt


- - -
Steve Isaak, sometimes published under the nom de plume Nikki Isaak and Chuck Lovepoe, is the author of several poetry anthologies. He is the editor of the Reading & Writing By Pub Light site.

9/10/13

Providence
By Mike Epifani


Joe led me out of his house, into his back yard, and took a turn for The Worst.

He was wearing his grey zipper-down sweatshirt, hood over head, spray cans in both hands he had tucked into his pockets. Through the fabric, behind the bulges of his knuckles, I could see the curve of the metal cans.

He had texted me to come over as soon as possible.

We hadn’t been down to The Worst since the night we found Stevie’s body hanging like a flag in the aftermath of war. He graffitied the word Peace on the ground before he pushed off the ledge of the old elevated tracks. The word was still there as a sort of shrine.

The local paper spun it as a cry for world peace and labeling Stevie as some kind of dramatic protester. Like a Buddhist monk lighting himself on fire. Joe and I knew better. Stevie always said Peace before we split up at Cornelia Road. That was just how he said goodbye.

Dad said that the train used to rush over The Worst and would throw off your heartbeat. He also said that it would scare a hesitant fish back under a rock before the stream said Peace and dried up.

The stream left graffiti too. Flowing strands in a subtle indent that turned back and forth like the images on a heartbeat monitor.

“Listen, man,” Joe said without turning around, leading the way through the uncut grass and brambles of field that went from Joe’s backyard to The Worst. “Stevie always came off as the type that really appreciated life, you know? Almost as if he knew something we didn’t.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“I was thinking,” he continued. “Fuck that article. Screw the Peace tees, the vigils and the flowers and the stupid fucking memorial video with him throwing up the peace sign in slow motion at the end. He was just saying goodbye.”

“Yeah,” I said.

“I’m looking out my back window today, watching this hummingbird drink out of the feeder, and past this thing’s wings I can see the tracks, you know, through a couple of the trees, off in the distance. And I swear to you I can see this yellow glow and I just know it’s that fucking word. Like it’s signaling to me or something. I don’t know.”

We reached the dried stream bed and the tracks as he finished talking. He started up the left side of the hill, closest to the side of the tracks where Stevie had been.

I followed.

He stopped at the Peace and waited for me to catch up the few paces behind.

I stood next to him and looked down at the word. I blinked a few times to be sure, but it really was glowing. It was dim, not nearly bright enough to be spotted from Joe’s back window 300 yards away in broad daylight, but it was glowing, penetrating the dusk with a bright and fluttering reverberation.

“Holy shit,” I said. Peripherally, I could see Joe whip out a spray can and start shaking it. “What are you doing?”

“It’s so obvious, dude. It’s so fucking obvious what needs to happen here.”

“Dude, what...” I started but Joe squatted down and started covering up the glowing tombstone with black paint. I lunged to stop him but he tossed me over his back and continued. I wrestled with him, struggling to grab the paint, even attempting to block it with my hands, but he covered Stevie’s Peace up so that just a few sparkles remained.

“What the fuck, man!” I screamed at him. My voice echoed into the emptiness. He pushed me away and covered the last few specks of light before standing back up, throwing the can off the other side of the bridge, and retracing his steps back down the slope.

I followed but seethed with anger and confusion.

He approached the bank of the stream, knelt again, and got the second paint can out and shook it. He sprayed into the dirt carefully, approaching each letter like a second grader.

When he finished the word, he stood up. Peace glowed in yellow like it had at the peak of The Worst.

He stepped slightly to his right, knelt again, and wrote peace a second time, it glowing too.

He continued his path down the bank, writing peace in that same careful way, and I watched him and the line of peace beacons in their winding path across The Worst. Then he started a second line away from the stream bed and headed back to where I stood and waited.

When he reached a foot in front of the first Peace he had put down, he stood and tossed me the can. I caught it and stood without moving for a moment, staring into his unreadable eyes.

I knelt down and started the third line, each peace written glowing in that neon shade of yellow. I made my way down the path he had started and then back again. The fifty or so feet of the bank was outlined on one side by four rows of the word peace and the shine would have made us squint if our eyes hadn’t already adjusted.

We continued the rows all night, lining both sides of the dried bed, covering the four hills and the entirety of the bridge that they led up to. The only spot beside the stream we didn’t touch with lit words was the blacked out Peace Stevie had scrawled to say goodbye.

When we finished, we stood where Stevie must have crouched, right in front of the blacked out spot, and stared out over the massive glow that made the curves of the stream stand out with new prominence.

“He just knew something we didn’t, you know?” Joe said and threw the empty spray can into the newly dawned field.

“Yeah,” I said.

And I did.


- - -
Mike Epifani is a starving writer and comic in Chicago. He is a Syracuse native and graduate of Columbia College's Creative Writing program. He loves living vicariously through his imagination and the imagination of others.

9/3/13

Raspberry Hives
By Donal Mahoney


The ancient man
with raspberry hives
on his cheeks
since childhood
will live alone
no longer.
He’ll marry, he says,
the first woman who’ll have him.
Till now
he has wanted
to die
as he’s lived,
alone in his room
with the radio playing,
the water in the bathtub
dripping.
The drone of hours,
however, has become
the drone of years
and the ancient man
with raspberry hives
on his cheeks
since childhood
fears death will convert
his hives into pocks,
take his body
but reject his soul.
For reasons
he can’t articulate,
he believes
if he weds
the first woman
who’ll have him,
death will have reason,
for the first time,
to do the job right.


- - -
Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

8/27/13

Two Bodies, One Heart
By E.S. Wynn


In the night, I reach out, hold her close.

We're sailing on the edge of an abyss, circling a black hole from which there is no return. We're committed to our course, but the darkness is so close, so palpable that every day, one of us breaks down in tears. Her arms reach for me whenever I turn away, just as my arms reach for her. Hands catch reaching hands, gently guide, and then we are one again. Claws of despair reach out and tear at our hearts in the long nights, so we push them together, try to brave each darkness knowing that the strength of the other is nearby. Pressed together, our wounded hearts beat as one, share the same blood, the same hopes, the same fears.

In that moment we have solace for a little while.

In that moment, she is my world, and I am hers.

The only thing to cling to in a dark, wide, swirling, swallowing sea.


- - -
E.S. Wynn is the author of over forty books.

8/20/13

Virgin Wars
By David Edward Nell


Lilica dropped to her bed and smiled seductively at a boy she'd picked up at a night club. "I want you, Harry," she said. "Do you want me?"

"Phwoar, lass," he remarked, and without a moment's hesitation, Harry took off his jacket and draped his body across hers.

But then she interrupted the moment. "Do I look fat?"

"No, babe, you look fit."

"Do you like me?" she asked him.

"Very much so," he said, excitedly.

"What do you like about me?"

"You're hot, and I really like your personality, too."

"So you think I'm attractive?"

"Bloody gorgeous," he said, brushing back her red hair.

"If I had an accident and became disfigured, would you still go out with me?"

"Of course I would," Harry forced out his answer.

"Would you go out with someone else if I died in said accident?"

"No," he lied.

"Would you marry me?"

Harry paused. "Yes."

"Would you give me your whole salary every month after we get married?"

Harry bit his lip. "Okay, sure." He went for the buttons on her blouse, but she held his hand.

"What would you do if I cheated on you?" Lilica asked.

"I'd still be loyal to you, I guess," he said.

"Harry, what's the best sex you ever had?"

Harry's face went red. "You're my first, to be honest."

"Ever had a girlfriend?"

"Yes. Once."

"Was she prettier than me?"

"No, you're so much prettier, gorgeous." He went for her buttons again. Again she stopped him.

"What are you thinking right now?" she asked. "Be honest."

"I'm thinking of getting into your pants."

"How much do you really love me, Harry?"

"I'll love you until the end of time, in'it? Or at least, until this is done."

"Then say your name," she whispered to him.

"Harry," he replied.

"Say it backwards," she insisted.

"Yrrah," he said.

"Say it in the voice of Darth Vader," she said.

Harry put on a deep voice, "Harry."

"Say it in a really squeaky voice."

Harry did so. "Harry."

"Now say my name, but without putting your tongue against the top of your mouth, and do that while solving a complex equation in your head," she said.

Harry was able to do it.

"Tell me about the Azusa Street Revival," she ordered.

"The Azusa Street Revival was a Pentecostal meeting that took place in California between rival spiritual movements, and is known to be the origin of the Pentecostal movement. Led by William Seymour, it began with a meeting in 1906 and continued until 1915. The revival was notorious for incorporating dramatic worship services with speaking in tongues and supposed miracles. The spiritual revolutionaries of this movement were heavily criticised by Christian theologians and the secular media for their unorthodox behaviour, especially for its period. The revival--"

She put her finger to his lips. "Why isn't phonetic spelled the way it sounds?"

"It is," he replied.

"How would you map pure nothingness in space?"

"To map something you must have reference and observation. There must be a predefined, agreed-upon, non-fluctuating unit of measure. For example, since the curvature of space is a fold, and because the speed of transfer bends beyond physically observed speed of light, we can conclude that between a pair of twin photons, there is nothing. Therefore, nothingness can be mapped."

"What is the most difficult thing in the world?" she asked.

Harry thought about it for a minute, then replied, "Well, to understand the self would certainly be the most difficult. Once a person understands oneself, most of one's difficulties would be over since one would then have a clear and true path to walk. By fully understanding oneself, one would understand others and live comfortably. However, it could also be said that in order to understand the self, one would first need to understand others."

She growled playfully. "Charcoal or gas grills?"

"Charcoal, because the food tastes better, and that smoked flavour is impossible to replicate with gas grills. Charcoal grills are also less expensive. It's easier to find portable charcoal grills for trips. And cooking over charcoal becomes a family event."

"I disagree," she said. "Starting a charcoal fire can be difficult on rainy days. Charcoal grills are messy. I'd say gas grills are far better. Starting a gas grill is as easy as merely pushing a button. Also, flames and temperatures can be fine-tuned, and it's really easy to clean up."

"And yet the food doesn't taste the same as compared to charcoal grilling; gas grills are more expensive; and if you run out of gas, you're screwed, in'it?"

"In the end, gas grills are more environmentally friendly."

"Maybe, but nothing compares to charcoal grilling, in my humble opinion."

He reached for her buttons.

"Wait," she told him. "Liberal or conservative?"

"Conservative."

She scoffed. "Liberals support people being socially free, and have a greater willingness to work towards reforms which help improve humanity and preserve the planet."

"But Liberals do not support economic freedom, with your heavy-handed regulations that don't make the people or market safer, while Conservatives take fiscal responsibility, and--"

"Conservatives don't support social freedom."

"Conservatives tolerate people," he spat.

"Tolerate yet restrict rights," she corrected.

"Let's leave the argument there," he reasoned.

Lilica commanded him, "Become older."

Harry became a more mature man with a balding head.

"Grow a moustache," she said.

Harry snapped his head back and returned with a thick moustache.

"Smaller," she said.

Harry's moustache became thinner.

"That's how I like it. Now meet my family."

Harry turned to his right, where Lilica's parents were smiling and waving. "Hello," he greeted them.

"Now do a magic trick," she said.

Harry jumped up to the front of the bed and presented a black box. Waving his wand and reciting a spell, he opened the black box, and a woman in glittering apparel leapt forth. "Tada," Harry said. Then he quickly rejoined Lilica, slobbering and staring at her buttons. Finally, he had a chance to undo them. Four buttons, then three buttons, then two buttons were left. But before he could continue, Lilica stopped him once more.

"Wait," she said.

"What now?"

"Do you really want to get into my pants?"

"Yes."

"At what speed do you think you'll be able to pull out in time?"

"I'll keep it in manual control for a while, slow and steady."

"Just don't go to the south entrance."

"I don't intend to."

"So take off my pants instead."

Harry did as she said and found a pair of panties with a face of Luke Skywalker on it. "I didn't think you were that big of a fan," he frowned.

"Do you have a problem with that, Harry?"

"Actually, yes. Luke Skywalker? Star Wars? Bah."

"Hope you aren't put off. I thought you wanted this," she said.

"I do."

"So make Luke go, Harry."

"Are you sure?" he asked.

"One thing, though. It's dangerous."

"I don't care. I can't stand to see his face anymore."

"Do it, then."

Harry did away with Luke Skywalker. But it wasn't what he expected. Eyes bulging out in horror, Harry fell off the bed as one of her semi-sentient tentacles rubbed against his hand. "What the bloody hell is that?" he said.

"I told you it would be dangerous," she said. "Sarlacc doesn't like visitors."

Harry fumbled for one of her toy light sabers and pointed it at her.

"It's not long enough, Harry," she said. "You'll never defeat Sarlacc with that measly thing."

"No, you know what? I don't need this saber," Harry threw it aside, "because I'm a Star Trek guy."

She laughed mockingly. "As if this gives you power over Sarlacc."

"I know the Vulcan Nerve Pinch," he said.

Lilica gasped, dreading what was to come.


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David Edward Nell writes from Cape Town, South Africa and can be touched at http://davidedwardnell.blogspot.com .

The Reboot Is Nigh!















Smashed Cat Magazine is going live again! Start sending in those stories, because we’re coming back strong on August 20th, 2013!

No matter who tries to cut you down, keep writing!
-E


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The Cat Is Smashed




Smashed Cat Magazine is a weekly experimental lit magazine and part of Thunderune Publishing's free fiction lineup.

Though this magazine is currently closed to submissions, you can still read some great stories in the archives by picking an author name from the drop down menu on the left or by picking a date from the menu at the bottom of the page.




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3/26/13

Stargazing
By Ian Kappos


The Kid wasn’t really a kid. He was maybe sixteen; that was my guess. We still called him the Kid.

We all sat around the living room: Ludo, in his breakers and a dark mood, but always generous with a crooked smile; Leo, shaving the roughness from a pair of chopsticks (he’d finished his Chinese food hours before, but insisted on being prepared for his next take-out); Lonnie, who, for all intents and purposes, was trying not to keel over from the line of whatever it was that he’d just put up his nose (it had been one of many); and Lit, who catered to a customer. I sat next to Lit, fussing with my beard.

The Kid was in the Hole.

“Here,” said Lit to the customer, and handed over something. This was procedure.

“Thanks,” said the customer, receiving what Lit handed over and also handing something over to Lit. This, too, was consistent with procedure.

The customer left.

We sat in silence for a minute or two, save for Lonnie, who had evidently recovered from his battle with gravity and now hunched over a pile of white, dividing it into geometrically immaculate smaller portions of white. He breathed very loudly, did Lonnie.

Ludo, his voice baritone, said, “I’m bored. What’s up with the Kid.”

So we checked the Kid out.

The Kid was up to his chest in urine. The Hole was porcelain and there was no drain, so the urine had nowhere to go but up. A stain of urine around the circumference of the hole indicated that the Kid had drunk some of the urine. What a kick this Kid was.

Lonnie was reading the newspaper now. It was a few days old. He looked up from the newspaper, down at the Kid, an eye lazy: “Hey, Kid,” he said. “They’re lookin for you, Kid.”

Well, now, at least someone was staying up-to-date.

Ludo proffered his crooked smile. “You’re famous, Kid.”

We all got a kick out of that. Except for Lit. He was taking a call.

“No,” he said (Lit). “No--hey, listen, no. Not interested. Nope. Not interested. Listen, listen--the sooner, look… Look, he ain’t shit to me. He ain’t shit. Naw. Hey, that’s his problem. Look--I ain’t gunna talk about this no more. Shit, well, that’s what he gets. Glad someone did the right thing.”

Lit was a real moral champion. We all trusted Lit. Lit was good people.

Meanwhile, I fussed with my beard. I tended to fuss with my beard a lot.

Leo, who’d remained pretty quiet up until now, asked me, “What’s up, Lillard? You worried or something? You seem worried.”

Leo was definitely the sweetest of the group.

“Well,” I said, shuffling my feet. Everyone was looking at me now, the Kid included. He gripped the edge of the Hole with his fingertips, peering over. Nonchalantly, Ludo scuffed the Kid’s fingers with the edge of his running shoe and the Kid fell back into the Hole. “Well,” I said again. Lit was off the phone now, and looking at me with the rest of them.

“Yeah?” they all said. They all were very patient with me. I was grateful for such good friends.

“Well,” I said. “It’s just that there’s supposed to be a meteor shower tonight, at eleven, I think. I was really planning on seeing it, but I don’t know the time. I lost my watch.”

Lonnie released an atonal whistle. Ludo kicked at the Kid’s fingertips again (this Kid was real persistent). Leo patted me on the back consolingly. Lit said, “I’ll check my phone,” and he did. He looked up at me. “It’s 10:58,” he said.

I smiled. Leo clapped. Lonnie and Ludo leapt over to the window, Ludo jogging, Lonnie swaying. Lit and Leo and I joined them at the window. We pulled back the blinds. The sky twinkled, not unusually. Then there emerged from some clouds a vanguard of meteors, but these meteors had wings. As they flew past, gradually descending, I was able to make out some of their finer details.

“Hey,” said Lonnie. “They’ve got tits.”

“Yeah,” I breathed. “They sure do.”

We all watched, mesmerized.

Then Ludo said, “Hey, we should let the Kid check this out.”

“Yeah,” we agreed, and Leo went to retrieve the handheld telescope to give to the Kid.

But when we turned around the Kid was not in the Hole. The urine rippled slightly, adjusting to the Kid’s absence. From the edge of the Hole began a trail of drops that led to a window at the other end of the room. The urine was bright orange.

“We gave him too much coffee,” said Leo, and we all agreed.

“Well,” said Lit, and for once he sounded like he was out of ideas.

“Well,” we all said.

“He’s famous now,” said Ludo, and we all nodded.

After a while we all retreated back to the window to catch the last trickling of the meteor shower, but when we did there was nothing left in its wake but a faint cloud of bright orange that read: You like what you see, don’t you?


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Ian Kappos's short fiction has appeared most recently in Crossed Out Magazine and Grim Corps Magazine. An art school dropout, he lives and attends community college in Sacramento, California.

3/19/13

Warding Off All Predators
By Patrick Hueller


When it was all said and done, and it was determined that their little girl had taken her last unassisted steps, and Hoern Health Insurance had repeated the phrase “pre-existing condition” for the last time, and their agent had repeated Sorry for the last time, when their debt had become so heavy that it bowed their backs and prevented them from seeing more than a few feet or minutes ahead, Tom and Sarah didn’t—couldn’t—blame their health insurance, or their health insurance agent, or even the doctors (who, really, had done all they could).

           
Instead, they blamed the horned toad.

           
They blamed the horned toad for continuing to plug their so-called health insurance on TV. They blamed the horned toad for making promises he couldn’t keep. They blamed the horned toad for not being what he said he was (according to their research he wasn’t actually a toad but part of the lizard family). They blamed the horned toad for behaving like a human being who had human feelings, when clearly he wasn’t and didn’t. They blamed the horned toad for acting as though he was warm-blooded when in fact he was cold-blooded. They blamed the horned toad for being cuter than the rest of his horned toad brethren. They blamed the horned toad for taking some struggling human actor’s big break. They blamed the horned toad for spelling his name differently than the product he represented (horn was not the same thing as Hoern; were they the only ones who could see that?). They blamed the horned toad for eating restaurant food instead of ants. They blamed the horned toad for having a human-sized wallet with a big wad of discretionary spending money inside. They blamed the horned toad for having better vision than they did, for being able to pick up ultraviolet light, for being able to foresee technicalities and loopholes that they had previously overlooked. They blamed the horned toad for being able to stand on two legs.


They simply couldn’t forgive him for being able to stand on two legs.


Until, that is, they realized that that’s how they’d find him.


Sure.


They would wait for him in the parking lot in front of his studio. At some point, they knew, he would have to emerge. At some point, he would have to be alone. He’d feel comfortable on the hot asphalt parking lot. They were counting on that. He’d feel at home, and let his guard down, and in that moment his life would be snatched away. One second he’d be strolling around on two feet as though it was the most natural thing in the world; the next he’d be lying flat in an emptied out Kleenex box, bouncing around in the backseat and then up the still-unfinished ramp leading to their front door, into the living room where the video camera was set up and ready to go.


They could just see it.


The camera would be on, the tape running. What do you want from me? he’d ask, blindfolded, scared.


Whatever you have to give, they’d say.


Money? he’d say. I have money. I have lots of money.


More, they’d say. Because while this was definitely a ransom video, money wasn’t all that they were owed.


Stock options?


More.


A house? Property? A company position?


More. More. More.


Nothing would be enough, of course. They knew that. Everything, after all, was limited to the present and the future. It didn’t, it couldn’t, include the past.


Or could it?


After the video, they would return the horned toad to the desert where he originally came from. They would strip him of his human clothes.


Better yet, they’d let him strip himself. Sooner or later he’d have to.


In order to fit in with his fellow reptiles, in order to avoid detection by predators patrolling from above, he’d have to cut the whole human act. He’d have to chirp instead of talk. He’d have to spurt blood from his eyes. He’d have to walk on all fours.


The horned toad, for once and forever more, would have to do all the things his given life required of him, and hope against reason that it was enough.


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Patrick Hueller has an MFA from the University of Minnesota. He's against instant replay in sports.


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