Categorical Slips into Bliss
By Bob Carlton

1. Honest cheese smells awful.

2. Bacon fat makes excellent soap.

3. Dandelion wine inspires wondrous mirth.

4. My lady is fair beyond reckoning.

These statements add up to what we call “the good life.” On any given day, one or more, and frequently all of the propositions will prove true. If i is a complex number, and we let l be life, then il will be a complex life. In this calculus, “division by zero” is a necessary sign. Which is to say with mathematical precision what can only be rendered ambiguously by conventional discourse as “nothing can come between us”. The logical consistency of a closed axiomatic system becomes irrelevant to the pursuit of unbounded joy. I am no mathematician, but this sounds pretty good to me.

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Bob Carlton lives and works in Leander, TX.


A Trip to the Moon
By Cathy S. Ulrich

When I knock at the door, your mother says you’ve gone to the moon. She speaks through the wood so she doesn’t have to see me. I get down on my stomach and direct my questions to the crack between the door and the jamb. I can see your mother has polished the toes of one foot, but not the other. Her little toes are crooked and ugly.
Did he say when he’d be back?
There’s a hesitation, and then your mother has gotten down on her stomach too, her plump lips filling my view.
He’s not coming back. Go away.
I scratch my fingers along the bottom of your door until your mother rolls up a towel and sticks it in the crack. I think she says again that I should go away, but it’s hard to tell with the towel in there. Anyway, I don’t go away. I go round to the back of your house, where your father keeps his things in piles. I hop up and down on a broken refrigerator until the handle comes off. Inside your house, your mother flicks the kitchen light on and then off again after I’ve held real still, so she thinks I’ve gone away, like she said.
There are pieces missing from your father’s things that we used to make our rocket. We were going to go to the moon together. I see my helmet hanging from the handlebars of a bike with a missing front wheel. Your helmet is gone, just like our rocket. My helmet goes on my head and the bike flips over backward. I want to kick it, but the last time I did, my foot got tangled up in the spokes of the remaining wheel and bent up my pretty toes. Now they’re ugly, like your mother’s little toes.
I wonder if you wouldn’t have gone without me if both my feet still looked nice like they did when we went wading in the puddles between your father’s things. They’re always dripping, like he got them out of a lake.
When we sat inside our rocket, it smelled damp, and you found a mushroom growing under the seat. The mushroom was going to come to the moon with us. It was going to be our baby. Mushrooms are better than real babies, you said.
Get it taken care of, you said, and I got mad and kicked the bike.
I rummage through your father’s things until I find a working flashlight. I pull off my shoes and go up on top of your house, one ugly foot, one pretty foot, empty on the inside, like you wanted me to be, and then I’m on the roof. I aim the flashlight into the sky and flick it on and off, and wait for you to see my message, and come back for me.

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Cathy Ulrich doesn't really like looking at the stars, but she has always enjoyed the moon.


We-sters English Frictionary
By Adrian Fort

Oh, we roll, don’t we? Yeah, we jazz, you and I. We. Us. We jazz. We come together to swig ideas and pounce on rhythms. We loll on feelings and reel on beats. We jazz together and cum together and go back to our others. We jazz, you and I. We. Us. And then we other until we can we again. Tap-tap-tap slap-slap-slap on the forearm and I’m the needle, you’re the sweet, I’m the cold, you’re the burn. We’re the forearm, then the arm, then the thud-thump-thud-thump blasting we through the rest of the body. We we we.
Jazz man roll.
Spazz man loll.
And while we us, while we roll, while we jazz, there is no othering going. Yeah, while we swig and pounce, while we loll and reel, there is no outside to unjive.
And when you leave, when you un-us, I have to us with my other and I wonder if you do the same. Do you us with him? Them? Do you have others that you we with?
I’m in to it. You can do all the you you want when you other, but I’m always us-ing. You can you all the damn day long, but don’t you ever us with them, don’t you ever we without we. Because when I us while you other, I know how we I can make my other, and I don’t trust him to me. And I don’t own us, I didn’t patent we, but without me there is no us like you can we with me. Like we can. Because when we roll, when we rhythm, there is no bass like I beat. So while you can’t we, I skip
until our tack jazzes again.

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I am a writer from Kansas City, Missouri. My previous credits include Existere, decomP magazinE, The Bluest Aye, and Bareback Magazine, as well as upcoming issues of Gadfly ONLINE, Chrome Baby and Eunoia Review.


Death Cues
By Kelly Kusumoto

Max was damn good at a game of 9-Ball. When he stared down at the table, his eyes would fine-tune his hands as if they were mechanized tools. A missed shot was like wisdom in youth. He was so good he would forego the lag and let his opponent choose whether or not to break.

He never played for money and he never played intoxicated. If a challenger offered a wager, Max would forfeit. If the opposition offered to buy him a drink, he would pocket the 9-Ball mid-game and wipe the chalk from the tip of his cue. Cigars and cigarettes would prompt the same response. As he walked away from the table he would always hear, “What the hell is his problem?”

“Ah, don’t worry about him,” another would say. Then they’d wait until he was gone before saying what they really thought.

“Guy’s a stuck-up prick…” Tom, the house referee said. “…But he’s the best prick who ever played a game of 9-Ball, so we put up with it.”

“Why,” asked the challenger?

“He don’t play for money, so’s the same as havin’ a free lesson. You don’t need to buy him drinks an’ you don’t need no conversation. We lose every game but it’s a win-win if you ask me. He’s awkward to boot but he’s harmless.”

Max stood outside the pool hall. He was staring blankly at the wet street. Light from the lampposts reflected into Max’s eyes. The delicate, almost floating rain was dancing more than falling and seemed to put Max into a catatonic state.

“Hey partner,” said a man in an all black suit. “I’ve been watching you play.”

Max gave a nod as if acknowledging the man’s presence but did little else to engage.

“You’re damn good at a game of 9-Ball.”

“Suppose I am,” said Max.

“Your hands are like machines.”

Max looked up at the man for the first time and saw how out of place he looked.

“I’m sorry. Where are my manners,” the man said. “My name is Grimson.” He held out his hand.

“Max,” he said avoiding Grimson’s hand.

Grimson’s eyes were slow and methodical as if he were peering into Max’s soul. Max looked back down into the collected rainwater. Grimson stood there as if waiting for something. It was Max who now felt awkward.

“Don’t have a lot to say, do you?” asked Grimson.

Max shook his head and tapped his foot. Little did anyone know that Max was always the one who felt awkward.

Grimson lit a cigarette and let the smoke rise up into his nose. He had the appearance of a well-refined man; a man of culture and education, a man raised a world away from Spring, Texas. Yet here he was in a pool hall in the middle of nowhere on a Friday night.

“You aren’t from around here,” said Max.

“I’m from everywhere,” Grimson said.

“What are you doing here,” said Max?

“I heard about a kid in Spring, Texas who was the best 9-Ball player since Teddy Fitz.”

“Teddy who?”

“Teddy Fitz. Everyone says Alfred Mejia is the best but Teddy was right there with him in terms of skill. It was Teddy’s tact that put him on top, in my opinion. So when someone I heard some kid was knocking on the door, I get a little interested.”

“You play,” asked Max?

“I beat Teddy. Then he shot himself.”

Max looked up quite quick as if the thought of real competition roused a sense of drama he hadn’t felt since grade school. Grimson’s eyes were slowly peering into Max’s. Max felt exposed and vulnerable. He could feel his heart pounding from the inside of his chest like a new prisoner pounds the bars of his jail cell. His foot tapped faster than an up-tempo jazz hi-hat.

“You come from wherever you come from to play me,” said Max?


“I don’t play smokers.”

Grimson let his cigarette fall to the floor. The embers fizzled from the rain and smoke rose from underneath his foot. “I know.”

“I don’t play with drinkers.”

“I know.”

“And I don’t make wagers.”

“That’s what I’ve heard,” said Grimson.

“But,” asked Max?

Grimson pulled out a nickel-plated, thirty-eight caliber pistol from his jacket pocket. Max noticed he was wearing white gloves like the ones the Marines wear in full uniform. “If I win,” he said, “You meet Teddy tonight.”

Max could feel a knot in his throat but did not want to swallow. He did not want to give any indication that he was intimidated or even interested in taking this offer.

The funny thing was that Max was tired. He felt his existence futile, his life meaningless. This moment in time was the most alive he had felt in his entire life. He pulled out a black, nine-millimeter pistol of his own and held it out for Grimson to see.

“And if I win,” Max asked?

Grimson smiled. He looked up into the dark and cloudy sky. Raindrops landed diaphanously on his face. Methodically and very slowly, Grimson fixed his gaze back upon Max’s, his smile long gone. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Teddy. I guess tonight’s as good as any for a reunion.”

The two men walked inside. There might as well have been a spotlight on them. By now their weapons were again concealed, but the prospect of death was not. Patrons of the hall became onlookers. There was a weight carried with each step closer to the player’s table.

Grimson handed the cue ball to Max. “I insist,” he said.

Max took the ball and placed it behind the head string. He pocketed the one-ball, then the two. After pocketing the three-ball he said, “Tonight’s a good night.”

Grimson smiled and winked. “Sure is,” he said.

Max missed the four-ball. His heart sank. His skin went pale.

Grimson leaned over to aim and said, “There is no wisdom in youth.”

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Currently a Marketing Associate/Graphic Designer, Kelly Kusumoto is studying at Full Sail University where he is pursuing a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing for Entertainment.
He has written articles for a handful of Los Angeles-based magazines and has recently published flash fiction stories on various websites around the world.
He continues to hone his craft, creating stories that accurately display the human experience.


Those with Faith, Their Reward (A Triptych)
By Jude Conlee

I went into the back room for what waited for me. Something there always waited for me. Never for you. It does not come for you because it senses inside you the impurity like necrotic flesh in your brain. But I, faithful with fewer such things in my brain and those few being worked at, will get what I will get. Never you, though. Never you, not ever. I get the things allotted the faithful, and you are allotted that which you can find outside the spaces of true reward.
But I. I will always find something if I go to that room, and sometimes it is tiny, fills the room itself. Sometimes I can hold it in my hand and sometimes it holds me in its own. Sometimes it fills me so I cannot see what is real and what is my reward. Usually it comes in the boxes. The boxes are made for that purpose; I set them there for that reason. And sometimes the rewards are words on scraps of paper, which I store in my pockets and treasure as Psalmic poetry. Always, though. Always a reward.
I work hard and then I work harder. There is nothing to do but to constantly do as you must. Do as you are told. Do what that which is greater than you tells you do to. Work with no expectation of reward. Only the faithfulest servants receive so much as praise. But I am faithful and receive reward. Always. Always.

Imagine a tree of life with three tiers,
little fruit but longwide branches
Life, and the Knowledge of Life and Death
it is the way humanity must damn itself
but it is considered glory, only when
we close our eyes
but we paint it for our cathedrals that
die and die but the holy live on
in eye-gouged spaces for worship is blind

we worship the gods that are not buried in whose burial fields lie no headstones
and whose orders are carried in strange glyph and whose orders are all there are
the deathless gods, above all others, all others are dead through metaphor nonexistence

the space allocated their burial is still, windless; sometimes one imagines a stirring sound
no man can bear it to stay very long, but it is never a place of exile for we know what honor is
we honor our men and we worship our gods and we never sacrilege their empty grounds

worships supplant scripture but proverbs remain, remnants of when words sufficed as faith
faith must be accompanied by it; war is one and a warship becomes worship, we are there
we are always there when what must be committed is done; we are only of action of only ever

They of the vineless branches,
drink and thou shalt not thirst,
eat and thou shalt not hunger,
toil and pray and grind thyselves to nothing,
thy reward is on this earth, but meager;
thy reward is in the after-all
and it flashes and stings and
excruciates and your
martyrdom is mundane in its sight

You are the faithless, so don’t bother searching the boxes for a gift-wrapped present with your name on it. There are ones given a faithful eyeless servant, but a godless many-eyed worshipper of the now and known gets nothing. You were always so, like a kid at Christmas, caught by shiny wrappers but always in regards to what they hid. I knew only patience and admiration for the package itself.
Crammed in spaces of paper I find what my god and gods dictate and all I can know is what they have told me, and it says eviscerate my mind and find what they take out and put back into jars, and if you wish to freeze in what is our makers’ cosmic sight, you will choose, you will go on as you always have but I choose to burn for burning is of the gods and I shall never die, I shall sear inside for always and I am becoming that, for today in the back room there was fire in the boxes and they burned not but I burned with them, and you saw and screamed but I laughed in holy joy and it shall be so again, it shall someday be so for always and ever.
My rewards will cease one day and I will rejoice, for my rooms overflow with both trinket and treasure, and I have swallowed all the praise, and my innards are scraped and emptied by both my servitude and its reward. I shall burn, as our gods burn, and if I am the mightiest in faith, I may be buried where the gods were never buried.

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Jude Conlee puts words together and is fascinated by things like human minds, the universe, and other irregular subjects. The intersection of these two facts often leads to the creation of fiction and poetry, which has appeared in several publications including The Fast-Forward Festival, Otoliths, and The Inflectionist Review.

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